Red Flag, Green Flag

Today during Seeking Safety therapy, we discussed “warning flags” of the red and green variety. The red flags are the ones that are destructive and generally lead to things like inpatient stays or suicide. The green flags are the type where we realize that we’re going through a crisis, but we’re coping with it before things get too difficult. It was an interesting session, but I was horribly anxious during it, which was due, in part, to the fact that there were two interns in there with us. I guess that the psychiatrist visit back in 2007 where my professors were there has completely ruined outsiders-sitting-in-on-mental-health-sessions for me. I could have voiced this concern, but I didn’t.

I know that attending our session is an important part of their education, so I decided before the session started that I just wouldn’t say much. That isn’t really a proactive way to deal, but it was going to be easier on me. Well, I ended up interacting anyway. I just had to pretend that they weren’t there, so instead of looking at our therapist Mary, who they were sitting next to, I just focused on the other group members when I would talk.

Isolating was at the top of the list of red-flag behaviors, thus I couldn’t not participate. I isolate myself. I even mentioned this behavior yesterday when I was talking about what a shit-job I do of being a friend. There were other negative things that I noticed (i.e. feeling stuck, cancelling sessions, “why bother?” feelings, cynical/negative tendencies, stop caring/stop trying, etc.) and there were positive things that I felt had been negatives for me (i.e. honesty and “being able to get along” with others). Of course, because of the added stress of the strangers being in there, I sobbed like crazy. I was crying so much that I felt like I was back in third grade, and I hated that I. And when people who’ve been suicidal very recently are having to comfort you because you’re sobbing about isolating yourself, well, it made me feel like a shitty person. I knew they needed more comforting than I did, but I just had trouble stopping the tears.

I’ve been in so many different groups over the years. I’m almost never comfortable in them. The fact that I even talk to people regularly in this one is strange. Normally, I would feel like one of the people in the group who had the worst issues, but in this one I feel like I’m not fucked up enough to be with these people. I feel like my problems are not big enough to be there. I feel like I’m blowing my issues out of proportion. That’s just me trying to avoid getting help because, in reality, their problems are the same as mine, but I don’t want to completely accept that. Don’t get me wrong. I want to get better, but getting better scares me shitless. Getting better is terrifying. Admitting that I have some issues that have held me back for years that can be helped terrifies me and it pisses me off. Knowing that my life could have been better if I had known that it was okay to talk about certain things upsets me. It frustrates me a lot. And thinking about that is actually a red flag for me, because making that realization makes me go into the whole “I’ve been like this way too long” and “it just isn’t worth changing at this point” types of thinking, which generally wind up with me thinking of hurting myself. So I have to stop thinking like that, but that’s totally easier said than done.

Anyway, writing, even like this, is one of the coping methods that I promised I would use in case I was in a situation where the negative thinking patterns started. As my weekly commitment, I promised I would work on my safety plan, which will also mention writing in it. So this is me coping and trying to get better, even if my patheticness does cause me to run people off.1

  1. And I talked about my feeling like when relationships I have fall apart that I’m the only one to blame for that happening. Apparently, this is not healthy thinking, and I know that when it applies to other people. But for me? It’s always on me. 

About Janet Morris

I'm from Huntsville, Alabama. I've got as many college credits as a doctorate candidate, and the GPA of some of them, too. I have a boss by the name of Amy Pond. She's a dachshund. My parents both grew up in Alabama.