A Really Hard Time

I’ve been experiencing a really hard time for the past few weeks.

As regular readers know, there are many changes at work. One of the decisions of the new leadership was to move forward with a training that has been delayed for 2 years. I run this training and am excited to do it, but it means I have to rush some preparations. Some of the preparations are important.

I’m doing this one-week training on top of conducting another one-week training 2 weeks before.

I’m busy. I’m very busy.

In the middle of all this busy-ness, the bosses decided we had to move cubicles within the office taking a day away from preparation.

This sent me over the edge, and I began to experience symptoms of extreme negative self-talk. The result was that I had to take days off work due to the stress losing more valuable preparation time.

In all this I have discovered a new tool that works great! When I get an extreme reaction, I feel exactly where it is in my body. I picture its shape and color. I really get into feeling it. I then ask it what it wants me to know and what it needs from me. Every single time, it needs my attention in some way. I then give it that attention. I go further by thanking it for being brave for holding that important feeling. This always has a way of calming the whole feeling. This new tool really works!

I have no idea if the trainings are going to go well, but I’m going to show up and do my best.

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.

Struggling with Meditation

This morning was the first meditation session that felt good in many weeks. I’ve been struggling to concentrate. I mentioned in a recent post that I’ve had to revert to visiting My Happy Place. It’s a way of walking toward a place of peaceful concentration. I only had to do the initial stages of that process this morning before I was able to sit and breathe and just concentrate on my breath. It felt so good.

Also, my meditations have been very brief lately, but this morning was back to a good length. It’s not great, but it was better.

Regular readers know that there are a lot of changes happening at work, in April I broke up with the man I was dating, and I’m trying to establish a new relationship with another man. All this happened at the change of seasons which is a time when bipolar disorder can destabilize. It happened to me. I was able to take some time off work and then ease back into the routine, but it was not fun.

Taking time off work for illness including mental illness is not the same as a vacation. When you’re sick, all your energy goes into managing the illness and getting well. There’s no time to relax.

I’ve got lots to do at work, and I need some guidance with how to proceed. I’m hoping for the best.

Returning to My Happy Place

A very long time ago, I wrote about My Happy Place on this blog. It’s a safe place I go to in meditation. It has changed a great deal over the years I’ve been going there, but the constant is that it’s safe.

Meditation is an important part of my recovery, and I’d got to a place where I was just sitting and breathing, but for some reason in the past few weeks, I’ve needed the structure of returning to My Happy Place. I’ve needed the steps in how I get to this place. I’ve needed the process. It’s a journey, and I’ve needed that to feel better.

I start by closing my eyes and breathing. I walk to a door in my mind and open it. This is the entrance to My Happy Place. There is a simple rule about this place. It has to be pleasant. I opened the door one day when I was feeling a lot of turmoil, and it was blustery in My Happy Place. I refused to accept this, snapped my fingers, and changed it to pleasantness. The sun shone, there was a cool breeze, and birds were singing.

I walk across grass to a fountain of light. There is a cup by the fountain I can fill and drink the light. It gives me energy. Next I walk across a bridge, up a slope, and enter a building of light. Inside the building, I can pray, sing, or dance. It’s a free space I can use to do anything I want. Sometimes I leave this space and walk into a dark room where I just sit and breathe in meditation.

The important thing here is that I made this space. It is completely from my imagination. It’s what I want and need. The idea is to create a place where I can be completely safe. Anyone can create A Happy Place.

For reasons that I need to figure out with my therapist, I’ve returned to using My Happy Place. I suppose I will get back to simply sitting and breathing, but for now I’m really enjoying how good it feels to be back in a place that’s so comforting.

Pressure From Myself

As my last post mentioned, there are lots of changes at work, and it’s causing me a mood episode. I have been amped up for lack of a better term. I have also had greatly heightened emotional responses to minor events. I mean really extreme responses. Finally, I’ve had depressive thoughts and bouts of crying.

I took time off work for five days, and I’m only returning to work part-time for this week. At work, I’m feeling enormous self-generated pressure to be well now. I hear an internal voice to just get over it and work.

That, ladies and gentlemen, is internalized stigma. Society often tells people with mental illness that we should simply not be ill and that we should just get over it and get on with life. That is stigma, and we who live with mental illness internalize it and repeat it to ourselves. I am no different. I have it, too.

The voice inside my head that states my disease isn’t real and shouldn’t cause me to suffer is internalized stigma.

I am going to use meditation to make that unwanted voice quiet. It works for me in so many ways. I’m sure this will work too. I’m also going to take a nap this afternoon, and then I’ll go for a walk.

My therapist reminds me that this is like growing a garden. We start with seeds and give them a little water and keep the weeds away. It’s good to let the garden grow at its own pace. I’m going to let myself grow at my own pace for just a bit.

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.