My CALMtainer(s) 1

Today, we revisit another old post, My Wellness Toolbox. Just like my previous post, My Self-Care Plan (Crisis Plan Redux), I do this because it has evolved since the original was published. Once again, a primary part of the evolution is a growth in the use of smartphone apps.

Image by John D


My CALMtainer(s) 1

The first evolution is a change to the name of the coping tool from my Wellness Toolbox to my CALMtainer. Even though many of the elements of the CALMtainer are used daily, its purpose is first and foremost to create calm when I’m distressed. I wanted to reinforce this purpose in my choice of name.

A second evolution is that my CALMtainer has now become two distinct tools. One is a physical box which I have at home. The other is virtual, on my smartphone, and is always with me.

The physical CALMtainer contains all of the photos and mementos found in my original toolbox. They include:

  • My Form 42 and discharge papers. My suicide attempt was the low point of the major depressive episode. Paradoxically, it was also when the ceaseless chatter in my head stopped, giving me a blissful quiet that allowed hope to shine a light. That silence gave birth to my desire to heal.
  • An SD card that has photographs taken by my son and I. With each photo, I recall the fun days we shared. These memories were hidden by the Black and rediscovered as I slowly worked to better mental health. The SD card is in a digital picture frame so I see the photos daily.
  • A picture of my son as a toddler. In it he’s smiling broadly and filled with the innocent animation that only children display.
  • The business card of G.G., the counsellor who attended upon me at the hospital. I met the man three times but his impact on my recovery has been tremendous. He gave me the telephone number (actually, the fax number) for the Canadian Mental Health Association (Durham), which I continue to interact with. G.G. also used the word “mindfulness”, a practice that I have researched and implement daily.
  • The only photograph I have of my grandfather. My granda was a postman in Glasgow. Each Sunday, he and I rode the “Batman” train (the Glasgow underground) to the post-office where he would fire up the broilers to heat the building. I knew how to run that equipment when I was three. My granda also shared every cup of tea or bottle of ginger (soda pop) with me, leaving the bottom 1/2 inch or so for me. All of my relatives knew that the bottom portion was exclusively mine to enjoy. My granda is the only real male influence I had in my life. I miss him terribly.
  • My mala. This is a bead necklace I made in order to help me focus my thoughts during meditation. It’s very simple in design but it is one of the few things I made just for me. I found making it to be a very mindful exercise. The first mala I made was gifted to my mum.
  • A spiral notebook. My mind was broken back in September 2014. I relied on spiral notebooks to keep me on track. In them I recorded all of the minutiae of daily life. They kept me moving forward. I still use them today.
  • The CD from The Mindful Way Through Depression. I followed up on the word G.G. used and found a book that showed me how mindfulness could help me. The book itself is filled with highlighted passages that still influence me today. The CD contains guided meditations from Jon Kabat-Zinn, the guru on using mindfulness to treat mental health issues. I also have the mp3s from the CD on my smartphone.
  • A scroll and brown paper bag. The scroll describes a simple form of wellness kit while the paper bag contains all of the items referenced on the scroll. It was given to us in group to provide a starter kit for those who were unable or unwilling to create their own toolbox. Both are reminders of the growth I’ve experienced while in group.
  • The business card of K.S. She was the first person I met at the CMHA. She treated me with a level of compassion that I was unable to give to myself. She showed me, through her act of compassion, that I was worthy.
  • My journals. In addition to the spiral notebooks, I have a number of exercise books that are filed with my writing. They include my explorations of gratitude, my lists of successes, and the results of my research. They include my growth and my aspirations.
  • My blogs, tweets and shared story pieces. I maintain three blogs, “The 3 of ME”, “jots and thoughts”, and “My Own Worst Enemy” with the last being best viewed on your smartphone. On Twitter I use the handle @zelandroid009.
  • My colouring books. I love to colour. I find the practice to be quite mindful. The colours reflect my mood but also help to change it. Colouring, like writing, allows me to explore my creative side, something I lost during too many years of blackness.
  • My paintings (framed and hung).

The virtual CALMtainer, my smartphone, contains ebooks, audiobooks and meditations, which are all accessed through a designated home screen. I also have a number of mental health apps that are accessed through separate home screens. All play a role in promoting calm.

Please note that I’ll discuss the many apps on my smartphone in Part 2 of this article.

Many of the books I use are about mindfulness becuase has been a key tool used by me to recover from a severe depressive episode. While I’ve accumulated a number of books and ebooks on mindfulness, and on depression, at present I’ve the following ebooks on my smartphone:

  • Hyperbole and a Half
  • Reasons to Stay Alive
  • Search Inside Yourself*
  • Get Some Headspace
  • Hardwiring Happiness*
  • Buddha’s Brain*
  • The Mindful Way through Depression* **
  • The Brain That Changes Itself*
  • The Brain’s Way of Healing*

Those with an asterisk are also audiobooks on my phone. Sometimes I find it difficult to read and listening is a beneficial alternative.

Hyperbole and a Half is the first ebook I turn to. Based upon the website of the same name, it’s delightfully irreverent and filled with wit and humour. This alone makes it a worthy distraction. But there are two stories in the collection that stand out for me: Adventures in Depression and Depression Part Two. These two stories provide a glimpse into the world of depression, a world with which I’m familiar. They remind me of the darker side of my illness while the other stories in the book encourage me to heal.

Reasons to Stay Alive is a very accessible book about anxiety and depression. An autobiography, it explores the author’s years long struggle with these illnesses. Well worth the read.

The Mindful Way Through Depression was the first book I bought to help me treat my illness. The book is about the use of mindfulness to help you cope with, and heal from, depression. The principles found in the book are the basis of MBCT (Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy). The two asterisks denote the fact that I’ve saved the companion meditations CD to my smartphone. Also on my smartphone are the meditations from the related book The Mindful Way Workbook and the downloadable meditations for another related book Mindfulness. I have hard copies of all three books.  I’ve found the mindful meditations to be very beneficial to me.

Hardwiring Happiness and Buddha’s Brain are explorations of neuroplasticity and mindfulness. They show you how to use your thoughts to reshape your brain and develop increased happiness. The ideas presented in Hardwiring Happiness led me to develop my gratitude journal. In addition to the ebooks, I also have a CD of meditations suggested by the author.

I’ve yet to read the remaining books, Search Inside Yourself , Get Some Headspace, The Brain That Changes Itself or The Brain’s Way of Healing, but hope to do so soon as they explore mindfulness and neuroplasticity.

I thank you for allowing me to share this post with you. I hope that you will find it inspirational and create your own CALMtainer. Please, remember that I’ll continue this discussion in my next post when I explore the apps on my smartphone.