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.

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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.

Opening Energy

Yesterday, I woke up and meditated as usual, and then I did something that’s different. I put on my swimsuit, and I went to the water. I don’t do this often, because of anxiety, but yesterday, I didn’t give myself time to think about it. I just did it.

I went in for just a short time and got completely under the water at one point. I floated for a while.

I got out and stood for some time letting the water drip off me with the sun shining on my back through some wispy clouds. I just watched the water and the people around me.

With my glasses on this time, I went back in the water and stood. I just let the feeling of the water surround me. I didn’t have any agenda. I allowed it to flow. I allowed myself to simply be there. A young man and his dog were swimming back and forth together. The dog looked like he was really enjoying himself. It was rapturous to watch. They were full of sheer joy.

I got back out, and though I’d only been there about an hour, I decided to go home. I rinsed off in the shower, and the young man and his dog were there. I told him how much joy it had given me to watch them play. He grinned widely.

As I walked back to my car, I felt amazing. I’d only been in the water a short time, but I felt exuberant. I felt elated. I felt completely open. I used that feeling throughout yesterday, and I’ve recalled it today, too.

I’ve got a lot of stress going on at work, and this feeling of openness is really helping. I can bring it up to the surface by closing my eyes and calling it to return. It’s pure joy. I’m so grateful for it.

I will be returning to the water again soon.

Moods

I had disembodied anxiety this morning. I couldn’t put my finger on where it was coming from.

I found myself using ineffective coping mechanisms to try to lessen the anxiety.

During my morning break at work, I went to a nearby cathedral where I sat for a short meditation. In that state, I realized this is the energy of a new kind of dating life that I’m wanting to experience. There are a lot of unknowns around my dating life at the moment, and my body was reading this ambiguity as anxiety.

I now recognize the energy as the creation of this new dating life. The energy is still there, but it doesn’t feel like anxiety any more. It’s just a kind of rustling in my stomach. It’s a little pleasant actually.

All of us have moods. We have to realize they’re not permanent.

Living with Ambiguity

Life is full of times when we don’t know exactly what to expect. Many times it’s simple things like how much mayonnaise the deli clerk will put on a sandwich. Will it be too much or just right? Sometimes the ambiguity will be about major topics like finances.

The weather can be a source of ambiguity. Will tomorrow by sunny as predicted? Will it rain this afternoon?

People can bring ambiguity into our lives, and our relationships can be a source of it.

I have not been good with ambiguity in my life. I feel great stress by having so many unknown things going on. I want certainty. I want to remove the guesswork. The result has been that I have felt great stress at so many things.

I have transferred my stress at ambiguous situations to other areas in order to imagine I was creating certainty. I have used shopping as one means to cope with ambiguity. It’s simple. I can decide some item will add value to my life. I search for the item. I find it. I search for the best price, and then I buy it. The whole process is a means to control this one aspect of my life while so much of my life is unknown.

I also use other means to cope with ambiguity. I want to remove the uncertainty.

Today, I can recognize when I’m trying to cope with my dislike of ambiguity. I can talk about these things in therapy, which relieves a lot of the stress. I can also meditate and release my need to control. I used to walk, but I have plantar fasciitis in my right heel preventing me from getting that kind of exercise to relieve myself.

I am grateful I can recognize when I’m uneasy today and take steps to help myself feel better.

Try

Few clichés make me angrier than Yoda’s “Do or do not. There is no try.” I sit here in my imperfection, and I want the world to know that sometimes simply trying is heroic.

I remember one bout of depression that was so profound the only effort I could make was to lie on the sofa and sing “la la la” over and over. I barely had enough energy to brush my teeth. Singing “la la la” to myself while I was prostrate and immobile was all the effort I could muster.

I will not apologize for not being a superhero.

If you try to do one simple thing to take care of yourself today, you’re my hero! If you sit up on the side of the bed and stand up and walk to the sink to brush your teeth, you’re my hero! If you put on clean clothes despite the voices in your head telling you it’s not important, you’re my hero! If you wash one dish from your pile of dirty ones so you can look at a pretty plate under your cheese sandwich, you’re my hero!

All you have to do today is try! Don’t let Hollywood tell you that if you’re not a super-model or superhero, then you’re worthless. Don’t listen to the news. Don’t listen to the internet.

Don’t listen to Yoda!

If you’re breathing despite all the anxiety or depression or mania or voices, you’re a hero!

Tolerance for Ambiguity

I have a lot of difficulty right now. There is a situation at work that I’ve been working on all year. It appeared that all the pieces were in place to make it happen, and then I got word that one important piece has gone awry.

My first response in situations like this is to end it. I want the situation to be cut and dried, but that doesn’t seem to be the best response. The situation can’t go on for many days, because there are deadlines. So I’m giving it just a bit of time. I’m allowing ambiguity into the situation.

Strangely, I’m rather comfortable with this ambiguity. I am allowing there to be uncertainty, and I am choosing to walk through it. I am concentrating very specifically on only one task at a time. If I can do just one thing at a time, those one-things will line up to some kind of conclusion. I don’t know what the conclusion will be at this point, and I’m sitting in that uncertainty and allowing it to have its space.

All this is very strange for me. I’m having more reaction to the strangeness than I am to uncertainty.

I had a good session with my psychologist last night talking about this. He told me to add a phrase to “tolerance for ambiguity.” He said, “You’re tolerating the ambiguity and learning to make friends with it.” That seems key. I’m learning to make friends with not knowing.

Not knowing usually causes me great anxiety – tremendous anxiety – but I’ve been meditating a lot these past months releasing my anxiety surrounding the uncertainty in my personal life. I’ve come to a place of peace with the ambiguity there. Perhaps I can learn to live with ambiguity at work, too.

I feel the anxiety, but it’s much less than past events have caused.

A decision will be made today, because there are deadlines. One possible decision may be to give it just one more day.

I’ll deal with that ambiguity when it happens.