Smoking

I am an ex-smoker. I quit about thirteen and a half years ago, and it was one of the best things I’ve ever done for myself. I don’t think about it very much, but I’m thinking about it more these days, because I’m talking about it at work. In meetings with my peers, I talk about quitting, hoping to spark interest in others who smoke.

I just read a good first-person account from someone who lives with bipolar disorder about why they smoke. They have one important reason: it gives them a break. Often times that person is able to spend some time alone while they smoke, and that time alone is valuable.

I smoked as a coping mechanism, believe it or not. I thought it helped me with my feelings. Of course, I was wrong, but that’s the truth. It wasn’t a good coping skill, but it was still a skill.

I quit several times. Finally, I quit and stayed quit. Since then I’ve learned that what happened to me is very typical. It’s usual to quit and restart and quit and restart several times. The trick is to keep trying. I kept trying, and finally it worked.

If you’re thinking of quitting, give it a shot. If it doesn’t work, don’t beat yourself up. Try again.

I found meditation to use as a better coping mechanism. Smoking is doing something for you, but it’s probably not a good way to do whatever that is. Search for something better to use instead. Give it a shot.

Honestly, I feel so much better not smoking.

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Feeling Good

The transition at work I mentioned in my last post continues. I met my new supervisor, and there are lots of exciting changes going on. I’m going to like a lot of them, but it’s still a change. My bipolar brain doesn’t change on a dime. It takes time to adjust.

I had an incident in a parking lot with another driver last Saturday that upset me a great deal, and I’m only just today back to normal. I used meditation and medication the day it occurred to get over the tumult. I’ve used meditation to deal with the residual feelings since then. In this morning’s meditation, I think I released the last of the ill feelings.

I confronted a lot of fear in my meditation this morning. There’s the normal fears of having a relationship. Is this the right relationship? Is it going to last for a long time? Is our relationship healthy? I think they’re all normal questions, but I don’t react to ambiguity in completely health ways.

Another fear that came up has to do with finances. That’s a longstanding fear of mine. I’m OK. I can pay my bills.

The last fear was about work and all the changes happening. There’s so much going on. Lots of personnel changes are happening, and they affect me directly.

Meditation is such a wonderful tool. I’m so grateful for it. Truly grateful.

Yesterday, I walked away from a fight online. It feels so good to just let that go. Some idiots were spewing homophobic nonsense. I engaged for a bit but realized the futility of the situation. These people honestly don’t matter in my life at all. Not one iota, so I turned off the website and left it.

I’m doing extremely well for a person who lives with bipolar disorder. I am reminding myself of my triumphs as I type this post. I’m independent, I have good food in my cupboard, I’m dating a good man, I have a good job, my car is paid for, and I have a very nice apartment. I’m doing extremely well.

Work Stress

My boss retired today. He was a good boss. We weren’t close; there was no reason for us to be. It was simply a professional relationship, and he was always fair.

There are three people handling his responsibilities while there is a search to hire someone new. Searches of this nature take time for various reasons. I am answering to someone new, and the transition means that I have to start over with one project I was working on for a year. Yes, I have to start over. It might not be too bad. My new boss says she has ideas. I’m open to new ideas.

But there’s stress. There are rumors in the office, and they are interfering with my serenity. It really upsets me.

I have therapy today, so I’ll be able to talk about it and get some ideas of how to walk through this time of change. I’ve got antianxiety medication that I haven’t needed for a while, but I will start taking again. The weather has been cold, so I haven’t been going for my morning walks. I’m going to restart that in the morning. I’m still eating healthy food, so that’s good. My sleep has been affected detrimentally. I think the antianxiety medicine will help with that. I am using meditation a lot. I’ve even done some at my desk.

I’m not happy, but I have a plan to get through this period of change. I will walk through it. I’m walking through the stress.

Sleep Psychology Works!

I went to the sleep psychologist about a month ago, and I started keeping a sleep diary. I have gone from sleeping only about 6 hours to now getting a solid 7 hours of sleep the majority of nights. On some weekend nights, I sleep longer. I’m really happy about this.

Sleep is one of the pillars of my recovery, and getting adequate slumber time helps keep me stable.

One thing the psychologist did that gave me great relief was to teach me how to recognize anxiety by how I’m breathing. Without realizing it, I was breathing in my chest. She taught me that’s a sign of anxiety and to switch to belly breathing to relieve it. It worked!

We also did a worksheet based on Cognitive Behavioral Therapy about a problem I had a work. Using the worksheet revealed to me that I have a unique set of requirements around my job, and that I should go easy on myself. This helped enormously. I was judging myself harshly about some trouble at work.

So I’m sleeping much better, and it’s making a marked improvement in my days.

Seeing a Sleep Psychologist

Sleep is a very important part of my mental health recovery, and I’ve been having trouble getting good quality sleep for a few years. I spoke to my psychiatrist about it, and he referred me to a sleep doctor. I went to see her, but I don’t have any of the symptoms of disrupted sleep due to a physical problem. She referred me to a sleep psychologist.

I saw that person last Saturday. We talked about the cycles of sleep, and how my anxiety may disrupt good quality sleep. She gave me a good breathing technique for alleviating my anxiety. She had me place a hand on my upper chest and one on my belly. I discovered the hand on my upper chest was rising and falling with each breath, meaning I was anxious. When we’re anxious, we take shallow breaths. It’s at these times, we should consciously breathe from our bellies and get more oxygen into our bodies.

The sleep psychologist also gave me a sleep diary to keep for two weeks. I’m writing down when I drink anything with caffeine, when I take any medicine, and when I get exercise, as well as noting when I sleep.

All this feels good. I feel like I’m doing something good for my health.

Healing Anxiety

I live with a lot of anxiety. It’s coming to the surface now, because I’m uncovering it in therapy. It hurts now, but I know that it can be healed. I’ve healed other pain in therapy, so this can be healed, too.

Anxiety is a way of acknowledging that there is something amiss. It’s often telling us that we’re facing a lack of appropriate interaction with people who are close to us or who were close to us in the past. It can be a lack of stable love, abandonment of some kind, or actual abuse. When these things occurred to us as children, we don’t have the ability to cope well, so we create coping mechanisms that aren’t healthy in the long run. It can manifest in many ways like drinking or eating excessively, overworking, oversleeping, or so many more possibilities.

The unhealthy coping mechanisms may work for many years, but eventually they fail, and we have to find effective means to heal the underlying pain. I drank excessively for many years, but that stopped calming the pain after a while, and I had to face the pain and do the work to heal it.

As adults we can choose to heal the pain we have with healthy means. I use meditation and exercise. There are many more ways too. There are hobbies like gardening or knitting. Anything that can add serenity can work to help soothe the pain from the past.

I was very anxious yesterday about some things, and I did a good job of soothing myself. Writing that is one of the things I’m working on: acknowledging that I’m really doing a pretty good job at this thing called life. I have a nice apartment and car. I have a good job. Most importantly, I have a group of good friends, and I’m dating a good man.

Future Forward

Today feels good. I’m thinking about the future. That’s a really good sign. Instead of ruminating about issues that I’m experiencing today, I’m dreaming about good things I hope are coming. This is a change of perception for me.

I’m not fixated on any present problem. I have hope.

I don’t think this happened overnight. I think this is the result of many years of practicing some simple ways of making each day a little better.

Those things I practice are seeing my doctor regularly and taking the medicine he prescribes, meditating on a daily basis, talking openly about all areas of my life to a therapist, eating food that is good for me, getting good sleep, and exercising regularly.

To put it simply:

Medicine.

Meditation.

Therapy.

Diet.

Sleep.

Exercise.

I’ve paid attention to these things for many years, and the result is that I have fewer days when I don’t feel good due to mental health. I had a bad day Wednesday, but in the middle of it, I concentrated on the tools, because it’s become a habit. That habit saw me through, and Thursday I felt completely better. Today I’m back to dreaming about good things in the future.

My habits started with a desire to feel better. Years ago, I was depressed and often had suicidal thoughts. I searched for ways to rise from that malaise, and that led to habits that help me feel good about myself and my life. At the time I didn’t know I was forming good habits. It just happened on its own.