Rocking and Rolling

I’m going through what can best be described as rocking and rolling. No, I’m not starting a band. I’m up and down.

Sometimes I feel really weirdly optimistic. I suppose “weird” is a loaded word. There’s a thought behind it that I somehow shouldn’t be optimistic. When I look at my life, however, I don’t see any reason that pessimism is called for. I’m doing OK.

I’m doing OK today. Yesterday I was struggling. That’s the down side of being up and down.

There is so much stress at work. There are multiple things all happening at once. On paper, it doesn’t look like a lot, but in my head, it occupies a large amount of space.

I had a session with my psychologist yesterday, and he reminded me that the best predictor of future behavior is past behavior. I have successfully managed to get to a very good place in my recovery from bipolar disorder by handling one difficulty after another with rest in between. That’s the key. I am a success. When I feel overwhelmed at work, I have to remind myself that I only have to do one thing at a time, and furthermore, I have a very good track record of accomplishments when I only do one thing at a time.

I also have to rest in between. Meditation helps a lot in these situations, because it gives me a little rest right in the middle of the day.

I realized two days ago that I was not resting. In fact, I’ve been struggling. I notice this most easily when I look at self-care. I am normally a tidy person. I was neglecting my house and myself. My kitchen got to be a mess, and I was struggling with basic hygiene like brushing my teeth.

What scared me when I realized I was struggling was that I had been denying the struggle. I was telling myself I was fine. I was telling everyone around me I was fine. I wasn’t.

Just giving voice to the realization helped enormously. It has proven true over and over that when I say a fear out loud, it loses its power. Every time. All I have to do is say it to another person, and the effect is immediate. I feel better.

Here’s what I’m remembering today: one thing at a time and the best predictor of the future is the past. In the past, when I concentrated on one thing at a time, I was successful. If I keep doing just one thing at a time, I can be successful now.

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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.

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.

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.

Am I a Fake?

I’ve been at my job for three years and four months. I was on disability for eight years before that, and before that, I was hardly working for about five years. That was a long time in which my main occupation was taking care of my mental health.

It’s no surprise that all this time back on the job, I’ve felt like I was not quite here. Actually, I felt like I wasn’t really supposed to be here. The strange part is that I didn’t question the thoughts that I was out of place at my job.

It’s only been the past month or two that I’ve really felt firm in my job. I’m not faking it on the inside or outside. It took a long time for me to get to a point where I didn’t feel like I was waiting for someone to tell me I didn’t really belong here.

I’ve heard it called Impostor Syndrome. I haven’t really read anything about this pop-psychology idea, but I’ve heard of it. Basically, it’s the notion that one doesn’t really fit in with one’s surroundings. I understand that.

I can say that today I really feel like this is my life. This is what I’m doing. This is where I belong.

The feeling that I was somehow not leading a real life is not new to me. I’ve felt it for many years. Perhaps for my whole life. I always felt like I needed to prove myself. Like I needed to be something more in order to be accepted into the world. I had to work doubly hard to simply have the right to exist.

It’s exhausting. I was constantly struggling to get others to approve of my right to be here. Of course, I now realize I was fighting for my own idea of approval. Maybe what’s happened in the past month is that I realize I do approve of myself. In any event, it feels good. I feel like I can relax a little.

Today, I’m whole. I can breathe easy.

Weird

I have a weird thing going on.

I have this knowledge that I am damaged. I carry a lot of pain from a less-than-wonderful childhood and a lousy adolescence. The trauma from my early life caused me enormous problems as an adult that I’ve been dealing with for three decades. It’s no wonder that I am damaged.

At the same time however, I’m not terribly worried about it. I’m not overwhelmed with grief or sorrow.

I think the lack of negativity has something to do with the years I’ve spent in therapy and the fact I meditate. I’ve overcome some truly high hurdles. For example, I quit drinking and came out of the closet when those were monumentally difficult tasks. I survived. If I managed to live through those upheavals, I can live through this stuff, too.

So, I’m not a stellar example of a well-adjusted man. So what?

I kind of like this weirdness.