Rita is Back


Posted in Coping by ritaisback on December 5, 2009

When I find myself feeling down, I tend to shut out the world for as long as I need until I get back in the groove of things.  Those who know me well know that I will be back as soon as I am ready.  This can go on for a day, a week, a month or sometimes longer.  It is my way of healing myself without any outside interferences.  I will emerge when I am damn ready to do so, and not a moment sooner.  I call this process “turtling.”  I fold up into my shell and stay there.

For some reason, I don’t come out in full force.  I do it slowly.  First I will poke my head out and see how that feels.  If it doesn’t feel right, I go back into my shell.  Eventually the day will come when I poke my head out and know that I am beginning the process of healing.   Very slowly, I let an arm out to see if that feels good.  If not, the arm goes back inside the shell.  Once again, I know when the proper time will arrive when I am ready to let the arm re-emerge.   It always happens so I wait, folded up into my shell.

Slowly, at my own pace, each part of me will repeat the process.  I want to be at my best when it is once again time to go public.  When I finally feel better and am ready to halt the “turtling,”  I cast off my shell and am once again ready to face the world. 

Almost everybody has times when they are down for the count.  As many reasons as there are for that feeling, so are there are as many coping mechanisms that people use to get themselves back to feeling better.  Some are natural-born optimists.  Unfortunately, I am not one of them.  I like to call myself a realist.  Reality tells me that I don’t care to share my problems with the world.  Working through my own issues seems to suit me best,  so that is what I do to regain my strength.

I am thrilled to report that I haven’t needed to turtle in quite a long time.  Life has been good as of late.

What coping mechanisms do you use to get through the tough times?  Do you manage to throw yourself into your work and keep yourself extra busy?  Do you beat yourself up and go on to fight the pain?  Do you find a good friend and cry to him or her?  Do you crawl into bed, pull up the covers and await better days?  Am I the only “turtler” around?

What suits YOU best?

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6 Responses

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  1. Cath Lawson said, on December 6, 2009 at 8:21 am

    Hi Rita – Another turtler here. I got into the frequent habit of turtling, since having PTSD. I can do it for months – like you, I work through my own problems and I only like to see or speak to folk when I’m feeling happy and well.

    This year and quite a bit of last year has been a bad turtling year for me. Instead of working through my problems – when I get really bad, I almost completely switch myself off, become totally unproductive and think as little as possible. But now I’m on decent meds I’m starting to come out of the shell.

    I would love to get out of the turtling habit. Folk take offense and think I’m avoiding them. And I don’t mean to – I like people, but I really struggle to force myself out of that shell.

    Lets try to make 2010 a zero turtling year.

  2. ritaisback said, on December 7, 2009 at 12:51 am


    When I wrote this post, it was with you in mind. I sensed that you, too, were a “turtler” as well and know that you are a fellow PTSD sufferer. I would like to stop “turtling” but I’ve been doing it for so long that it fits me like a – well – shell.
    Perhaps some people in our lives take offense at the process, thinking that we are avoiding them. Over the years, however, I have learned that nobody likes a chronic complainer. That is the best way to lose a friend quickly.

    I would love to declare 2010 a “zero turtling year.” That gives us three weeks to come up with a different coping mechanism. Any ideas? 🙂

  3. B. Cleaver said, on December 7, 2009 at 6:23 pm

    My coping mechanism is slightly different. Due to the fact that I MUST leave the house each day to work and various other activities, ‘turtling’ is not an option for me. Since I must be around people almost constantly during the week, I’ve devised my own method whereby I ‘build a protective structure’ around my being which serves as a barrier to those around, and as a ‘dam’ to the floodgate of tears awaiting their release. Because of the ‘dam’ analogy, I call my method ‘beavering’.

    I started beavering in my adolescent years, when emotions ran rampant and when trying to figure out what life was all about was so confusing. I attribute my getting through those tough years to beavering. I have been beavering ever since and have actually gotten quite good at it over the years. I can honestly say that, without beavering, I’d not only be depressed, but quite frustrated as well.

    One might inquire as to how I finally come out of these difficult states…….Just leave it to Beaver!

  4. ritaisback said, on December 7, 2009 at 7:41 pm

    B. Cleaver,

    What a clever way that you have devised to create a coping mechanism that has worked for you over the years. “Beavering” has clearly allowed you to remain social, while still putting up walls for keeping yourself well-protecting and emotionally balanced. Though I don’t know your age, it seems that you have perfected this technique.

    One more thing that I sense helps you to cope: your incredible sense of humor.

    Thanks for the wonderful comment!

  5. Cath Lawson said, on December 8, 2009 at 11:55 pm

    Hi Rita – thanks. I hear what you’re saying about seeing folk when you’re feeling miserable – that is definitely one thing that puts me off seeing people. The beavering idea seems like a pretty good one though.

    When I wouldn’t go out of the house at all, years ago, my psychotherapist made me write down places I had to go. Then I had to rank my fear of going to those places out of 10 and write down how it made me feel. Then, when I’d been, I had to rank how I felt out of 10 and write down how I felt.

    It really helped me to realise my fears were irrational. Mind you, it’s not so much fear that keeps me turtling now, I guess it’s just a really bad habit. Lets hope we can quit it.

  6. ritaisback said, on December 9, 2009 at 1:29 am


    Yes, I’d rather be a beaver than a turtle as well. I’m glad that you got good therapeutic help. I agree that it is a habit – and a bad one at that. Can we try to break this habit together? Oh, how I would love to break that habit. In just a few short weeks, the year will turn. How about finding a better coping mechanism as a New Year’s Resolution? That would be a GREAT way to start off the new year and help us “turtlers” to cast off our shells. I’m in!
    Thanks for the great motivational comment, Cath.

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