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.

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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.

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.

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.

A Hurdle

Yesterday was bleak. I awoke with anxiety, and it stayed with me all day.

Maybe it’s because I’ve come so far in the years I’ve been recovering from bipolar disorder, but I really feel my dysfunctional habits. I live with a lot of anxiety and fear. I fixate on the future instead of living in the present, which means I worry. I concentrate on ideas of how to fix my life instead of enjoying the wonderful stuff I have going on.

There’s a lot of good in my life. After years on disability, I have a good job. I live in a nice townhouse that has good furniture. I eat food that’s really good for me. I’m 99% vegetarian only eating fish when there are no other choices. I eat very little refined sugar. I exercise 4 or 5 mornings every week by speed walking 3 miles. I lost 55 pounds in the last 17 months.

I have friends. I have sexual liaisons. I get along well with the people I work with.

But there are times the anxiety is overpowering. It just comes.

A lot of memories are surfacing these days. I was raised in an authoritarian religion that traumatized me. From my earliest memories, I heard preachers say I was evil and going to hell simply for being alive. When I got older and began to feel different but didn’t know why, I remember hearing that gay men were irredeemable. There was no salvation for them, and I suspected they were talking about me. Soon enough I knew they were talking about me.

All this is coming up now for whatever reason, and it hurts. Yesterday it was a storm in my head. I tried to meditate once, but it was furtive. In the evening, I did my whole meditative ritual which helped. It at least gave me a chance to name what it was that was happening. I was grieving my childhood traumas.

I think grief is important. It’s a recognition that bad stuff happened. It’s necessary to mark it and spend some time in it. The grief will end. I will choose to come out of it, but I get to decide when that happens.

At bedtime, I took an anti-anxiety pill that also puts me to sleep, so this morning, I feel better. I’ve also contacted my therapist asking about an extra session. I walked this morning, too. My meditation was fairly good.

I’m using my tools. I’ll get over this hurdle.

Still Dreaming

In my last post, I mentioned I like to dream. I’m still dreaming, and it’s delicious. I’m eating it up. When I meditate, I spend extra time doing a grounding technique, because my mind is flying. Must keep my feet on the ground.

I told my therapist I was angry at him, and he immediately replied that he wasn’t surprised. My previous session had been a difficult one. I said what I wanted to say, and then we moved on to other topics.

I told him I wanted him to grade me. I have no way of telling how I’m doing. He’s thinking about an answer. I told him I want to hear what I’m doing well at and what needs improvement.

He immediately told me something helpful. He said I could improve the way I talk to myself by not using language that induces anxiety, and we came up with a good mantra to use with myself. At times of stress, I say, “I handle this with equanimity.” It’s a way to tell myself that I’m capable of handling a difficult situation and not freaking out about it.

I had a difficult situation last week, and it made my anxiety skyrocket. Anxiety is my most debilitating symptom these days. I’ve talked to him about it at every session. Every suggestion helps, and I’m grateful to learn this new one.

So far today, my dreams are delightful. No reason – yet – to use my new mantra.