Deliberate Choice

I had a good text conversation this morning with an old friend. I haven’t talked to her in years like that. I wish I could say it was light banter, but we both had news to give the other. I started by telling her about my parents disowning me in early January. She was quick to understand, because her father disowned her on Christmas Eve last year. She is a transwoman with a lot of trauma from family and others in her past.

We were able to discuss the trauma of the experiences. I told her about my nightmares, and she told me that it reawakened her night terrors.

She said something about her family that struck me as a deep truth. I asked her permission to share it, and here it is:

I used to believe they were doing the best they could with the information they had but I no longer believe that. It is chosen ignorance, bigotry and hatred on their behalf.

I fully understand these two sentences. My parents deliberately chose to disown me. My father deliberately chose to threaten me as a vulnerable teenager. It is willful hatred on his part.

I still experience nightmares, but I’m grateful they are fewer now than in January and February.

I still experience waves of grief. I am glad to say they come further apart now.

My friend is coping as best she can. She also has a good support system. I am so grateful for the excellent people I have around me.

Today is one more day to choose joy. I’m going to play games online with some friends.

Feeling the Regrets

It’s been a bit since I last wrote. I’m working from home. My state has a stay-at-home order, so I’m not going out except to the grocery store or the pharmacy. I do go out for some exercise by speed walking a few days a week. That feels good. There are lots of people on the trail where I hardly ever see anyone. I suppose they’re all wanting some time outdoors, too.

I’m sure all this has something to do with these very strange times we’re all living through, but I’m really feeling a lot of regrets from some choices I made in the past. I’m feeling the weight of those choices. I have fantasies about how things might have been had I made other decisions.

I once met a man who was the hiring authority for a school district. I made a favorable impression on him, and I could have become a teacher. I chose not to.

I was good friends with a man who was in a relationship that ended. That man and I started spending a lot of time together, and I could have become his boyfriend. I don’t remember my reasoning at the time, but I can see now that pairing up with a man who’d just broken up with another man would not have been a wise move, but I still regret it right now.

I chose to leave disability and take the present job I have. I had good benefits, and I was building a solid, very small life. I am positive that had I continued on that path and in today’s political climate, I would have been kicked off disability. I would have lost all my benefits. In the small town I was living in, that would have been devastating.

I am a better man for having left disability. I have greater self-confidence, I am more self-assured, and I have much higher self-worth as a result of choosing to take this job and move to a larger city. Most importantly, I believe that I have recovered. I take medication for bipolar disorder, and I will continue to do so for the rest of my life, but that disorder has little effect on my day-to-day life now.

If you live on disability, do not let my circumstances make you feel anything negative about your circumstances. I have a very good friend who lives on disability, and he is doing very well that way. He needs that life. It allows him to live as symptom-free as possible. Working would devastate his equilibrium.

A couple of years ago, I had the opportunity to date a man. I let him get away. I regret it.

As long-time readers know, I broke up with a man last year. I have very mixed feelings about that. My head knows it was definitely for the best. He was mean to me. I don’t want a reunion with him, but I still have regrets.

Before all this craziness in the world, I started seeing a new man that I’ve known socially for a few years. He’s a remarkably cheerful man, and he’s very intelligent, which I value highly. We’ve continued to communicate by text and occasional phone calls during this time of social distancing. Things are going well, but I can’t help but wish for face-to-face meetings. Nothing romantic has happened. It’s still too early, but I’m wishing for that. Missing it.

I will talk about all this with my therapist at my weekly appointment tomorrow. (The appointment is done remotely.) I will be fine. Writing in this blog is part of the way I process all these feelings. It’s a bit like writing in a journal. That’s a good exercise for people who are dealing with heavy things.

If you have recently tried meditation, I congratulate you. Keep trying. The most important thing to remember is that having thoughts during meditation is not a sign of failure. Thinking is exactly what our minds are supposed to do. Count your breaths. That’s a good way to concentrate on breathing as a beginner. Or do guided meditation like I still do. I still go to My Happy Place. You can create your own happy place. Meditation can be just about anything you want it to be.

Meditation: sit, relax, and breathe. Think about your breathing. When your mind wanders, gently return your thoughts to your breathing. Gently. When your mind wanders again, again gently return your thoughts to your breathing. Gently. A wandering mind is not a failure.

Wherever you are on the globe, I wish you all the best during this stressful time. Stay healthy.

I Have Decided

I have decided that I feel better.

Nothing has changed in my reality. I have simply decided that I’m feeling better. The decision makes me feel just a bit lighter. I’m grateful for that.

Last night, I went to an online AA meeting that was really good. I was able to say what was hurting me. I listened to other people talk about how they were coping with the crisis. The whole thing helped.

I had an unsettling dream this morning. I was in my father’s business, and it was empty. I’m relieved to say my dad wasn’t there like he has been in my nightmares. I went into the back of the place in the dream where a Japanese girl asked me for directions. I speak Japanese, so I answered her fluently impressing her. I tried to look for the place she was searching for on a map, but the map was of another location and not where we were in the dream. I woke with a feeling of emptiness.

I’ve decided I’m not empty. I’m light and feel good.

I have therapy today. That will be very helpful. I have quite a long list of things to talk to him about. I’m going to ask about even more frequent sessions.

I’m not at my best right now, and that’s OK. The negativity will pass.

Or as they say, this too shall pass.

I Don’t Feel Good

I woke in a panic attack yesterday at 4AM. As usual with these things for the past two months or so, I was having a nightmare about my dad. It set the mood for the whole day. I was on edge all day long.

I realized yesterday that since my parents disowned me, I’ve become much darker in many of my thoughts. Some of my actions are not well thought-out. They border on being self-destructive. I’m going to talk about this realization to my therapist tomorrow. I’m also going to ask him if there’s any way to have more appointments in a week. I don’t feel stable.

I’m still doing the things that I’ve done for years to stay well. I take the medication my psychiatrist gives me as prescribed. I’m meditating daily and often more than once a day, but I’ve noticed it’s really hard to concentrate and get calm during some sessions. It was that way this morning. I’m talking to my therapist weekly. We’re meeting by video for the time being during this current health crisis. I’m getting good sleep, and I’m eating healthy food. The one thing I’m not doing is exercising, and I refuse to beat myself up about it.

The current world-wide health crisis makes all this worse. I don’t mind working from home, but the news is scary. I don’t watch news on television. I read it online. I prefer to get my news from a source that I read, because it’s less sensational. There’s less a sense of entertainment to how it’s presented. It feels calmer to me.

Here’s what scares me most: I have a sense that my behavior is self-destructive. I’m worried that could play itself out to become truly so, and I could drink. I’ve been sober twenty years, ten months, and 28 days as of this writing. I do not want to drink for any reason. My drinking days were horrific. I do not want to go back there. I’m grateful that I can go to AA meetings online. I will certainly get to a meeting today.

All this makes me feel bad. I feel damaged. I was describing myself to a friend like an old dented car. I’ve done a lot of work and healed a lot of my pain, but the dents are still there. I’ve only painted over them. I just don’t feel good.

Uncertain Times

These are uncertain and scary times right now. The novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19 that is sweeping the planet is really frightening to a lot of people. If you are afraid, know that your feelings are completely normal. It’s absolutely acceptable to feel fear and anxiety.

If you are feeling those, you are not alone. Many people are scared right now.

There are some good ways to help yourself work through the fear. First, try some deep breathing. Breathe in through your nose really deep. Fill your chest and your belly with air, and then exhale through your mouth with force. Repeat this as many times as necessary to feel like you’ve cleaned all the air in your body.

There’s a technique that Tibetan monks use that I learned. When I first learned it, I thought it was backwards, but it honestly helps sometimes. Sit and relax as best you can. Then breathe in deep. While breathing in, say “fear.” Then exhale, and say “peace” or “calm.” What you’re doing is breathing in your anxiety and transforming it into calmness and releasing that back into the world to share. It really works.

Meditation really helps me. Sit, relax, and breathe. My post immediately before this one gives a good explanation of it. If you want to play some music while you try to meditate, I suggest something like the music made by Constance Demby. She’s really good. Give her a listen.

Music is also a great way to feel better. Put on whatever kind of music you like. I like a lot of different kinds of music. I listen to classical a lot. It really lifts my spirits. Erik Satie is one of my favorite composers.

You can do a Google search for releasing anxiety. You’ll get many articles you can read with lots of ideas to help.

In these scary times, we’ve all got to do our part to help us each feel better.

Staying Sane in a Pandemic

Everyone is aware that we are in a time of a pandemic due to a novel coronavirus (COVID-19). I have had anxiety related to the illness. For the most part, I’m remaining calm. I attribute this to my morning meditation. It’s only twenty minutes every morning, but its effects last throughout the day. The best part is that I can do a short meditation any time during the day to renew the effect.

If you want to try meditation, please set aside your preconceived notions first. It’s not as hard as we imagine it to be.

  1. Sit in a good chair with a comfortable seat that has a straight back.
  2. Relax. Do this in any way that works for you.
  3. Close your eyes.
  4. Take three deep breaths exhaling long and completely each time.
  5. Breathe normally, and concentrate on the feeling you get in your nose from the breath. You may feel the breath right where the air enters your nostrils, or you may feel it higher up in the nasal channel.
  6. Your mind is going to wander. Don’t get upset. This is your mind’s job. Simply recognize that your mind is wandering, and gently return your concentration to that feeling of the air entering your nose.
  7. Your mind is going to wander again. Once more, don’t get upset. This is completely normal. Once more, return your concentration to the feeling of the air in your nose.
  8. Do this over and over again for an amount of time that you decide is right for you. My meditations are about twenty minutes long.

This is all meditation is. It’s so simple. I promise that it gets easier over time. In the beginning, I struggled not getting upset that my mind wandered. It really is not a problem that your mind is wandering. Recognize it, and return your thoughts to your breath.

Give it a try. It works.

More Panic

I woke with a jolt at 1 AM last night. My heart was pounding harder than I could imagine possible. I had been dreaming that I was being executed by electric chair.

In my waking life, I feel OK. I manage to get through the days OK. When I look in the mirror, I generally feel OK. OK? Waking with a pounding heart? OK?

On one level, I’m fine. On another level, I feel awful. It’s not an unreasonable feeling after the tumultuous January I suffered through. My parents disowned me. My job is changing radically, and my salary is being slashed.

I really would like a month off.

I have no idea what else to say. I feel awful right now.