Long Road to Recovery

I’ve had some bleak days, but I’ve also had periods of calm. If you wonder what has happened, see my last post.

I’ve been using my recovery tools.

I’ve been using the medication my doctor gave me to help with the situation, and I’m grateful to have it. It honestly helps a great deal.

I’ve been meditating. I had a very long one this morning.

I’ve been to therapy, and I have another appointment coming up next week. I’ve also been to some AA meetings. They’ve been helpful. Most importantly, I’ve got some good friends checking on my daily. I cannot adequately express how good that feels.

I have walked some. Not daily, but I have walked. Exercise is a good idea when I’m feeling low.

I’m eating good food. Yesterday, I actually cooked for myself, which is something I rarely do. That’s real self-care. I took the time to wash mushrooms and cook them and eat them over toast. I did it for myself.

I’m making sure I get good, restorative sleep.

Medication, meditation, therapy, exercise, diet, and sleep are the important tools I use to stay stable.

This morning, I’m battling negative self-talk. I know it’s lies, but it’s so loud. Pain in a situation like this comes and goes in waves, and today I’m in a wave. It will pass. Soon, I hope.

My Parents Disowned Me

When I was a teenager, my father threatened to kick me out of the house if I was gay. This trauma forced me deeper into the closet for many years and greatly affected my alcoholism when that happened.

When I got sober twenty years ago, I came out to my mother. She was not supportive. I always assumed she told my dad. In these past twenty years, I haven’t really done anything to hide my sexual orientation from my parents, but I live 5000 miles away from them. When I talked to them on the phone, I never talked about men in order to keep the peace. It never occurred to me that my dad didn’t know.

Yesterday morning, my phone rang. It was my dad. He quickly got to the point. He said he’d discovered that I am gay, and therefore, he and my mother never wanted to hear from me again.

During the call, my heart was pounding. I was shaking. I felt like I was being physically attacked.

I said nothing to try to change the outcome. My dad asked if he’d made himself clear. I simply said yes and hung up.

I spent the day in shock yesterday. I told my children, a sister, some close friends. I texted my therapist. He responded helpfully. I texted my psychiatrist to alert him, and he acknowledged the news.

Everyone was helpful except for one friend who wrongly thought it would be helpful for me to try to see it from my parents’ point of view. Everyone else was very supportive. My children have been a source of great love.

The next thing I knew I would need was to go to an AA meeting. I did that in the evening. It wasn’t a great meeting, but it helped me. I wrote an email to a good friend who has been sober a very long time. I spoke to him this morning. He is a gem. So kind. I had to cut that call short to get to another AA meeting, and this one was really good. I’m so glad I went. I met a man there I’ve met under other circumstances, and he and I are going to meet at the big LGBT meeting Monday night. I’m looking forward to it.

I am hurting. A lot.

My greatest fear is that this will trigger a mood episode. Specifically depression. I’ve been having depressed thoughts all day. I’m using the medication the doctor gave me as prescribed to try to prevent a depressive relapse.

I am using my recovery tools to stay stable. Only time will tell if this will work.

One thing is very clear. I feel like I’m officially gay now.

Busy

Work is changing a great deal. There has been a change of management and a restructuring of the organization. Not only did my boss change, but my place in the structure was rearranged. The new big boss is proving to be good. She’s very vocal about praise for what we’re doing.

One of the things we’re doing is trying to pull off a training that I’m supposed to run in less than a month. This is a process that we would put six months into in the past because of needing various approvals. Doing it in a month is exciting and stressful. I’m excited to do the training, but all the planning is overwhelming. Thankfully, the new bosses understand this can’t be done alone. A team is working on it. That helps my peace of mind a great deal.

I’ve been in this job for almost four years. I basically worked alone for three and a half years. This new team environment is welcomed. I like the idea that there are people helping me to get projects moving.

All this is affecting my sleep, one of the pillars of my recovery. I’m taking some medicine to give me good nights, but it’s less than ideal. It’s not a sleep medicine. It’s simply one that has a side effect of causing sleepiness. I need good sleep, and it really upsets me when I don’t get it.

I have been doubling up on my meditation. I used to meditate only in the mornings, but I’ve added a time late in the afternoon or evening before bed. This helps me feel better. It keeps my mind clear.

I’ve also been seeing my therapist weekly. These sessions give me the opportunity to say a lot of stuff out loud that I keep within. All that keeps my mind clear, too.

My diet is unchanged. It’s mostly vegetarian with very little refined sugar. My birthday was last week, and the man I’m dating baked a cake, but he only put in half the sugar. It was still just as good.

The one area I’ve really slacked off on is exercise. I’ve basically quit. It’s not ideal, but there’s so much stuff going on in my life right now, and I’m not even going to think about it. Things will settle down in a few months, and I’ll restart my speed walking routine. I refuse to berate myself for this one point.

All in all, I suppose things are pretty good right now.

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.

It Works!

With a sigh of relief, I can say the tools for getting back into a better frame of mind work. Yesterday, I was struggling, as I wrote. It was not a good day at all. I was stressed and not dealing with it well at all. I used the tools that I know work. I meditated early and went for a good speed walk to get my self moving. I went to the cathedral down the street for a break and for my lunch break. I was able to meditate very briefly once, but the rest of the time I just sat. I made an extra appointment to see my therapist, and luckily he had an opening in the late afternoon.

Before that session, I chatted with my best friend about my turmoil. I could easily say that I understood the cause of my discontent was in me. I knew it was. I’ve been doing all this too long to try to blame it on something around me. An AA text The 12 and 12 states it correctly: whenever we are disturbed no matter what the cause, the problem lies in us.

I really was disturbed. My negative self-talk was working overtime. The voice in my head was saying I’d ruined my life and I was worthless. I was feeling really bad.

A very important tool for me is chatting with my best friend. He’s smart about these things. I was able to tell him that I knew I was the source of all the discord inside, and he invited me to look at all the good ways I was using my tools to feel better. He was absolutely right. I was doing a lot of good for myself. I was doing a good job of taking care of myself, but I couldn’t seem to say it.

My therapist has been helping me see the exact same thing, and he is now helping me change some of the things I say to myself. Instead of saying that I’m nuts, I can say I’m feeling a lot of stress. I like this a lot more than saying happy things while looking at myself in the mirror. That never worked for me. I know it works for some people, but I couldn’t get it to stick for me. So I’m going to take the reality of the situation, but instead of using words that demean me, I’m going to rephrase it into truth that is not degrading.

Last night I took an antianxiety medicine that I have for situations just like this, and I got a good night’s sleep. My meditation this morning was really good. I got some good breaths in between the wandering thoughts, and I went for a good speed walk. On the bus this morning, I was able to chat briefly with the man I’m dating, who was my ex and now is not my ex. It felt good. It wasn’t important stuff, but the connection felt good.

There are many things we can use as tools to help us through our difficult times when we feel bad about ourselves and our lives and the world around us. These are some of the things that work for me. I hope you can find little activities that work for you.

Walking Through a Day

I had extremely high stress at work yesterday. That is in addition to sleeping very poorly the night before. My sleep has not been very good since the break up, and that very break up does not make it easy to be stable.

After work, I thought of getting some exercise by going for a speed walk. I also thought about just taking it easy and recognizing the difficulty I’d been going through. The urge to exercise in this one case was a misplaced desire to deny the truth that my body needed rest.

I chose rest.

Not only did I give myself an easy evening, I also decided to take an antianxiety medication at bedtime. As a result, I slept very well. I awoke this morning with good energy, and I went for a long speed walk before work. It felt very good.

Sometimes the right decision is to rest.

Healing Demons

I have now seen a meme twice. A meme is a viral phenomenon that spreads an idea from person to person in a given population. It’s also the slang term used to describe a trite saying usually accompanied by a picture on the internet.

This particular meme says, “We never lose our demons. We only learn to live above them.”

I can happily report that we can heal them. We do not have to simply learn to tolerate their rude behavior as they live downstairs. It is possible to completely heal them, releasing ourselves from their power. Why can I say this? Because I healed mine.

It’s popular to talk about our baggage, the stuff we carry with us from the past that weighs us down. Baggage is something we talk about with a therapist. In the early days of going to AA, I heard a lot about baggage, and I realized that I don’t simply have baggage. I had a freight train.

Indeed I did. I had so much junk attached to myself on many different subjects: homosexuality, religion, being an American male from the South, parental expectations, etc. The list is very long.

I started therapy when I was 23. The first big item I tackled was anger. It may surprise you to learn that I actually had to teach myself how to be angry. I remember it quite well. I had to keep a small notepad in my pocket and write down every time I felt angry. It took many months before I was able to recognize my real anger. I suppressed it before. I didn’t know that I was allowed to be angry. It was an enormously unhealthy way to live.

I haven’t thought about that episode in my attempts to unpack my freight train in a very long time. My anger is healthy now. I feel it. If necessary, I act on it. I let it pass. It flows like it’s supposed to.

That is a perfect example of healing a demon, and that’s what bugs me about that meme. Saying that the best we can hope for is to merely live above them does us all a disservice. We can indeed heal them. We can completely disarm them and free ourselves from their grip.

I have healed many demons. I don’t live above anything unpleasant.

I am free!

I am very happy to be a gay man now, but I used to loathe myself. I healed the loathing. I did the necessary self-care that led to a very happy realization that I like being gay. I live completely out now. It was a difficult journey fraught with upset, but I did it. I did it!

I am free!

If you think you have pain that can only be tolerated and never healed, you are wrong. If I can heal the trauma of growing up gay in a time and place that abhorred it, you can heal, too. You can. I promise.

The question becomes how to start. Therapy worked for me. I know that it works for a great many people, because they’ve told me it works. It’s also important to do some work on our own.

Meditation is an amazing habit to form. It teaches us to find our calm center. We each have one. Most of us need help to find it. Meditation doesn’t have to be scary. Sit quietly doing nothing. Don’t sit and rock. Don’t sit and drink water. Sit. Just sit. Let your mind wander, and look for the spaces between the wandering thoughts. Try to enlarge those spaces in between. Don’t judge yourself as your mind wanders. Just watch it.

Exercise is important for me, too. I powerwalk. It’s something I enjoy, and it only requires good shoes. It doesn’t take any other special equipment. Think about what you enjoy, and do it.

There are many ways we each can begin the journey of healing. What do you want to look like after you have healed? Think about it, and think about the ways you want to get to that place. Find the help you need, and use it.

You can be free, too. I promise.