Consider “turtling”—like a tortoise that pulls inside for protection—as a method for righting ourselves by a self-induced time-out from pressures and worries
By Susan Reinhardt
Growing up southern, mama had quite a few sayings when it came to describing issues affecting mental health and wellbeing.
One such phrase has stuck with me since I was young enough to slip teeth under the pillow and dream of fairies. I was eavesdropping on a conversation between my mother and the neighbor lady and heard her say, “Poor thing. She’s just taken to her bed…”
It sounded so dramatic almost cinema-worthy. At the time, I didn’t realize the seriousness of such episodes. Decades later, I would.
In the past few months, the pressures of a temp job ending, family issues, and financial uncertainty slammed into me like blows to the gut.
I felt as if I couldn’t take in enough air, and I unleashed all the usual suspects in my get-back-on-track arsenal: hiking, yoga, getting to bed at an earlier hour.
Nothing was working. I tried to sleep and couldn’t. I showed up at work but felt as if I wasn’t fully present. I had to force myself to eat, which is unlike my typically voracious appetite.
Even taking a proper shower seemed a monumental effort. I knew depression, that unwanted visitor, had returned.
My mama also used to say, “Bad things come in threes.” She’d counter such dire prognostications with references to the children’s book, The Little Engine that Could, which taught the value of optimism and hard work with the oft-repeated quote, “I think I can, I think I can, I think I have a plan.”
So I got a plan. And that plan meant “taking to the bed”—but only for 24 hours and not to wallow in misery. A therapist had once given me a handout on “turtling” as a method of tucking back into our shells, our inner core, and righting ourselves. Consider it a brief time-out from pressures and worries, like sandbagging when floods threaten.
I would go inward for preservation and tune out all distractions except those that bring joy and affirmation. Like the “Little Engine That Could,” I’d come up with a game plan and shore my strength to face a trio of losses.
First, I made my bed with beautiful pillows, a plush down comforter, a quilt stitched by my late great-grandmother that still held the smells of her old clapboard house and the dampness in every thread and square.
I placed atop the bed my charged Kindle, two new novels downloaded and ready. I also feathered my nest with a laptop, a yellow legal pad for jotting notes, and an assortment of comfort foods that included potato chips. If crumbs hit my satin sheets, so be it—I owned a DustBuster.
With Netflix and Hulu accounts paid and up to date, I settled in. And just like the boxed turtle or tortoise that pulls all inside as protection from predators, I did the same. As I watched comedies and various movies, original shows and documentaries, I experienced a lightness as my depression broke apart into manageable pieces.
Several hours in, and no escapes other than bathroom breaks, I’d become lost in a book, a show or even a brief nap. In between my rather hedonistic pursuits, I took pen to paper and outlined a plan of self-improvement and the ABC’s of getting my little train back on the tracks. I logged onto the computer, updated my resume, and applied for several jobs. By perusing jobs, and yes, even Latin dance classes, I realized life does exist—and flourish—beyond my self-created borders.
It’s like being in a traffic jam and not seeing anything but the stagnant pileup. Once that first car moves, a chain reaction occurs and everyone inches forward. After a short but effective round of turtling, my mind is clearer, almost buoyant with ideas I otherwise might never have considered. I have emerged from my nest.
Printed as: Viewpoint: Self-nurture Through Nesting
via Esperanza – Hope To Cope
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