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.

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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.

Struggling

I’m struggling today. I want to go home and crawl in bed.

Not going home is the first thing I’m doing to help myself feel better.

The second thing is I meditated early this morning.

Then I walked for exercise.

I’ve also visited the cathedral. I wasn’t able to meditate, but I made myself say a positive thing to myself.

Finally, I got an extra session with my therapist late this afternoon after work.

In between now and then, I will eat a healthy lunch.

I’m using the tools to feel better. I’m not taking this feeling down as permanent. I’m actively working to feel better.

Beauty in the Ugly

Life is messy. Specifically, my life is messy.

I have a good job, but I haven’t managed my finances well. For years, I had nothing to manage, so I went a little crazy when I got this job. But I can get by, and there is an end to paying for that mistake.

There is stress in my job. All jobs have it. Mine is no exception. Since I live with bipolar disorder, I am highly sensitive to stress. I think I’m allergic to it.

Psychologically, I’m a wreck. My mind races. It invents lots of catastrophes that won’t happen, but my gut reacts to the imagined disasters like they’re happening now creating a lot of anxiety.

Romantically, this year has been tumultuous. I dated a man and fell in love and then broke up and went through heartache and now we’re dating again. It feels good right now, but there’s been a lot of upheaval.

Despite all this, I wake every morning and get up out of bed. I have a morning routine that I really like. I drink a cup of tea and briefly scroll through Facebook, and then I meditate. This morning’s meditation was a good example of the beauty in the midst of the turmoil. My mind was racing, so I started counting my breaths on my fingers. The counting aided my concentration, and I was soon simply breathing.

Of course, my mind still wandered, but it wasn’t racing. I was able to bring it back to the breath easily. Then it would wander again, and I’d bring it back to my breath. It’s a very beautiful process. Wandering. Breathing. Wandering. Breathing. Over and over.

Despite the fear I have of rejection, I’m still pursuing a romantic partnership. I put effort into cultivating a good relationship. Last Friday, I was honestly terrified waiting for him to come to dinner, but I didn’t cancel it. I walked through the fear. I was rewarded with a delightful evening, and last night, I was rewarded again with an easy chat by text. It feels good knowing I’m walking through my fear.

I am an imperfect man. I have emotions that get out of control. I’m not always able to react with equanimity to life events. I have a lot of fear and anxiety that almost – almost – debilitates me.

The way I walk through my imperfections is very beautiful. In my head, I’m leaping over them, but in reality, I’m taking just one step at a time. There is real beauty in a single step. Sometimes there is enormous courage in a single step, and courage is beautiful. One single courageous step is the most beautiful thing in the world.

Feeling It

I had dinner last night with my ex. We talked for an hour and a half about all sorts of things. The topic of my childhood trauma came up. It felt very tender for me, but I talked. We discussed a lot of pleasant things, too. There was talk of current affairs and the tragic fires in California.

It’s too early to say we’re dating again. We both enjoyed last night a lot. We both said so, and he said he wants to do it again.

Now comes the tricky part for me. My nature is to rush in and flood him with love. I want to wash over him with goodness – with what I perceive as goodness. That’s my attachment style. I’m like a wave from the book I read recently – Wired for Dating by Stan Tatkin.

Now is when I get to practice a bit more patience. I get to breathe and pace myself. What does going slow look like? I think I’m going to be answering that question over the next weeks and months. I’m going to be breathing and walking through the feelings.

Breathing.

My meditation has changed this week. I’m doing less and breathing more. The words still pass through. They’re always there. My goal each time is to get just three good breaths, but while I’m concentrating on the rise and fall of my diaphragm, the words are still there. It’s quite humorous. They’re mostly words about whether or not this one is a good breath, or I’m counting this breath. They’re very quiet words, but they are there nonetheless.

I wonder what it’s like to breathe with a still mind. To be fully present in the breath. Even one would be a great accomplishment for me.

My mind is definitely quieter than years ago, but it still chases thoughts. It’s fine. It’s not a worry. It’s doing its job. I just want it to be a little quieter.

Feeling Good

Being me is a full-time job. (That is unrelated to this post, but it’s something I’ve been thinking a lot about.)

I had a good meditation this morning. My meditation is changing a little. I have no idea if this is a permanent change or something that’s just happening because I need it right now.

When I meditate, I process stuff from my life. I release a lot of fear by visualizing myself gently pulling it out. I also get a good indication of what my daily energy feels like.

Lately, I’ve been doing less of the processing, and I’ve been spending more time just trying to concentrate on the breathing. Of course, my mind wanders, which is what it’s meant to do. I let it wander and then bring it back to the breathing without judging the fact it wandered. Letting go of the judging is key. It’s just wandering. It’s meaningless, so why get upset about it?

That’s trite to write it like that. I don’t remember when I was able to release the judgment, but it happened. I just kept returning my concentration to the breathing, and over time, the judgment attached to the wandering mind dissipated.

When I think about it, the mind is actually quite beautiful. It’s always busy trying to figure out what’s going on around me. Mine has a lot to do figuring out what’s going on inside me.

But the mind is not the most important thing I have going for me. Somehow being able to get a few good breaths with good concentration is more important than what the mind is doing. And when I’m in the middle of those breaths, I absolutely love my mind deeply. I love its wanderings.

Roller Coaster

Today, I am calmly anxious. Is that possible? I am functioning and getting work done, but I’m waiting for some news. I’ve been waiting for five days, and I have to continue to wait, and that makes me anxious.

Anxiety is part of bipolar disorder that is the most difficult for me to deal with these days. The medication keeps me stable, so I don’t have the swings of depression and mania. The anxiety is different. I talk about it at every therapy session.

The current anxiety is related to something I did last week. I reached out to my ex asking if he would like to talk. Reaching out to him was a decision that took me a long time to consider. A few days later, he replied asking what I wanted to talk about, and I answered that I wished to discuss whether or not reconciliation might be possible.

There are three possible outcomes. He may not reply at all, he may say he doesn’t wish to talk, or he may say that he would like to talk. The first possibility will take longer for me to process. The other two give firmer feelings for me. Right now, I’m living in the ambiguity of waiting, which is not a space I’m comfortable in. Actually, writing about it here has helped release a lot of anxiety. That’s always true for me. Whenever I speak about a worry, it loses its power.

I’m at peace with any outcome. I’ve meditated about this numerous times and will probably repeat it more. Meditation is free and easy. It gives me clarity in the midst of the anxiety. My favorite part of it is that it is limitless. I can use it as often as necessary.

After writing, I’m calm. For the moment, I’m no longer anxious. I’m grateful for this moment.