One thing I’ve become very aware of with my depression is the importance of self-care and safe spaces. This is undoubtedly true in all sorts of situations but I’m talking specifically from my own experience of Depression.
One of the wonderful add-ons to my depression is panic attacks. Thankfully I don’t get them too often nowadays, but used to get them quite frequently in the past – and still get them occasionally now. For those of you who’ve never had a panic attack, they’re incredibly difficult to properly explain – but the ‘fight or flight’ instinct we all have at some level, goes into overdrive towards flight. Everything becomes overwhelming, for me everything seems to close in on me and I get very claustrophobic. Every noise is 50 times louder, my vision goes funny, my head starts pounding and I just want to get out. Afterwards I tend to crash out as well – I’ve had (I think) a massive adrenalin boost and as that drains away I’m shattered – that’s certainly what it feels like.
During and after a panic attack a safe space is vital to me, but it doesn’t have to be a physical place. If it happens in the middle of a supermarket getting away can be tough, but if I can find a quiet corner, I can run through some mental exercises and give myself a safe space in my mind, to rest, relax and get back to normal.
A physical safe space is even better – the car (when parked safely, stationary) is a place I’ve made my safe space. I can sit in the car for some time and feel things returning to normal – and of course it locks me away from the outside world. Home, or pretty much anywhere with H is a safe space. They understand my panic attacks, and know that sometimes it can’t be talked through, but just having someone physically being there, being a support if needed makes wherever I am safer.
Even larger places can be safe places for me – a number of the gaming conventions I go to are safe spaces, especially those that are held in the same location every year. I’m somewhere I know, I know the layout (I know the exits) and although I won’t know every attendee I usually know enough to feel surrounded by people I trust, and supported by those who have some idea of what’s happening. The flip side of this of course is that a gaming convention can be a hard place to gain some space in, so if it isn’t a safe space for me when an attack comes on it can be very difficult (I had quite a bad panic attack at a LARP we attended last year, I knew very few of the players/organises at the time, and found it very difficult to get back into the right mind-space).
Another safe space for me is music, if I can pop in my earphones and listen to just about anything I start to feel safer.
Certain groups of people can also make a space safe. If they’re people I’m comfortable with, who know a bit about my depression, that’s great and makes me feel safe. Also spaces that are deliberately safe, a group with whom you can share as little or as much as you want without judgement, just acceptance.
Thanks for reading and stay safe all.