Monthly Archives: January 2024

Phone a friend

For a long time now, as part of my mental health difficulties I’ve struggled to initiate time with friends and generally keep in touch with people. There are a lot of negative thoughts that happen inside my head when I think about calling someone. It’s one of the many ironies of anxiety and depression that it causes you to struggle to maintain relationships, when having regular contact with friends is one of the most beneficial things for your mental health.

For quite a few years I regularly attended Changes Bristol peer support groups. One feature of these groups is that at the end of the meeting you’re encouraged to set a goal. I lost count of how many times my goal was “phone a friend” and I think it was rare that I’d actually managed to do it by the following week. Towards the end of 2022 I had a series of one-to-one (video) CBT sessions through the NHS. It took a few sessions to work out what were were going to focus on, and we settled on trying to get me to phone friends. I said if there was one thing I thought would make a big difference to my mental health recovery that would be it. We talked quite a bit about the negative thoughts that happen in my head when I think about contacting someone or initiating a group activity with friends. It felt helpful to have those conversations but ultimately I don’t think it made any difference to how often I was contacting people.

My latest effort to move forward with this issue followed the advice of someone I know, which was to write a list of all the people I want to be in regular contact with. This is now written on a page in the back of my Legend Planner. In addition to that I’ve changed the 4th item on my daily tracker from “Social” which would get a tick or a zero depending on whether I’d seen any friends that day to “Phone a Friend”. The other 3 items are Walk, Meditate and Journal which are all actions. Whether I have seen friends on a certain day isn’t an action I can do on that day, it’s likely the effect of an action I’ve done on a previous day. It’s the same reason why I removed Sleep (quality rated out of 10) from my daily tracker because it’s a result rather than an action.

Now I’ve made this item on my tracker a specific action I will hopefully phone people more, and see people more as a result. Using my phone to actually ring people is also something I think of more now I’ve switched to a dumbphone. If I’m sitting at my desk with just my journal and my dumbphone there are only 3 things I can do: write, text or call someone.

2nd January

It’s 02:18 so I guess technically that makes it 3rd January.

I went to a NYE party and stayed up til stupid o’clock in the morning, getting home about 8am. I had a lovely time. There were a lot of people there. Most of them I knew, and some of them I hadn’t seen for a long time. I’m still trying to catch up on sleep and get back to a sensible pattern. The reason I’m awake right now, is that I had quite a big lapse this evening and spent about 3 hours until just before midnight swiping dating apps. So my brain was very awake and full of junk. Until a couple of weeks ago I’d managed not to go on them at all since my detox weekend in Tewkesbury in the middle of October.

I seem to have reverted to state I’ve been in before where I’m not in constant lapse but I’m flip flopping between spending half a day or a whole day abstaining to spending several hours lapsing. My intention was to spend most of my week off over Christmas off devices, but it didn’t really work. I think I managed a continuous day and a half in the middle. Maybe it’s time to plan another weekend away. I had a weekend away about a month after my trip to Tewkesbury, but at that point I didn’t need it, so it wasn’t really of any benefit. By the way, if you’re looking for a nice seaside town, don’t go to Dawlish. Because the railway line runs so close to the coast , it doesn’t really have a seafront, just a humungous sea wall that looks like the outside wall of the dystopian megacity in Judge Dredd (1995).

Tomorrow is the second meeting in recent months of the Device Addiction Support group I started to help myself and others with this issue. So in a way it seems sort of well timed that I’ve lapsed today. Last time no-one came, but sitting in a room on my own for a couple of hours without my phone is no bad thing. No-one has signed up to come this time but I’ve had a few people get in touch about it since last time so that’s encouraging. I think with a lot of things like this, you just need to be persistent and do something regularly and after a while it will work. “If You Build It They Will Come”. With my singles group, the first event I did two people came. I was pretty disheartened but kept at it and a year later about 40 people were coming every month. I think a singles group is a much easier sell than a support group about device addiction, so I’m sure growth is going to be much slower but I’m sure if I keep at it it will grow.