Being Gentle

I woke up after sleeping seven and a half hours in a panic. I was suddenly awake and afraid. I wanted to stay in bed, but it was useless. I was unavoidably awake.

I struggled through my morning routine. I didn’t just sit and breathe for my morning meditation, but I reverted to guided visualization. I needed the steps of walking through the door into My Happy Place and the continued steps to the place of just breathing.

I reached out to the love that I feel when I get to the place of just breathing and felt it soothe me, but I was just not able to stay in that feeling.

There is so much tumult in my life right now.

I ended up having to stay home from work today. I took medicine for anxiety and went back to bed for another two hours.

I called my therapist and was able to see him this morning. That was helpful. I’m using the tools I have that I know have worked in the past: medication, meditation, therapy, etc, and I’m being gentle with myself.

One of the things I’ve learned about myself through 33 years of therapy is that I am not good at handling uncertainty. I have a lot of that in my life right now, so I’m going to be gentle with myself today.

I really wish I could cry. I can’t. Years of forced repression of my emotions and my homosexuality inhibits my ability to show distress.

At least for today, I don’t feel good. I know this will pass, but I’m feeling it today. I’m using the tools that I know work. I will be OK, but for today, I’m going to be gentle with myself and stay home and read.

Ten Years Blogging

I started blogging ten years ago today. Wow! Where has the time gone?

When I look at old entries, I’m amazed at the change. Ten years ago, I was beset by despair. Today, I live in hope of things getting better.

As regular readers know, January was hellish for me. On January 4, my dad called me telling me – much to my surprise – that he’d recently discovered I was gay and therefore he and my mother were disowning me. I say I was surprised, because I’d come out to my mother more than twenty years before. I always assumed she’d told my dad, but obviously she didn’t.

Then in late January, I found out that in the reorganization at my work, I was being demoted and would have my salary slashed. January was plain hell for me.

Ten years ago, I would have had dire reactions to these events. This year, I had some strong emotions, I took some days off work, but I never thought of giving up. I have tools today to help me in times of trouble: medication, meditation, therapy, exercise, diet, and sleep. I used all but exercise to get myself through the pain of those events, and I’m not beating myself up about not exercising.

Ten years ago, I wrote about living in the hell that was my head. Today, my head is pretty calm. It’s not great, but it’s not scary. In all honesty, I have to admit that the thought of being unlovable since my parents disowned me did occur to me just this past weekend. I talked about it in therapy yesterday. It’s a false notion. My parents are warped. Hopefully, I won’t date warped men.

I have one thing to say about this anniversary: recovery is real. People who live with serious mental illness can and do recover and lead meaningful lives. If I recovered, other people can, too.

Hurting and Angry

Yesterday, I experienced high anxiety all day long. I had to rely on a medication I have for those kinds of days. I also took a nap and restarted my day. When I woke up from the nap, I did all my regular morning routine including meditation. It helped enormously.

However, by the evening my negative self-talk was blaring lies in my head. They only stopped when I went to sleep. I woke up feeling better this morning. I had a wonderful meditation. I didn’t time it today, but it was a really good one.

I am back to feeling lousy, though. I feel just awful, and my negative self-talk is screaming at me.

The title of this blog has the word winning in it. I am not winning this morning. I hurt, and I’m angry.

And I don’t feel like talking about it. That’s true for right now. I have therapy this afternoon. I’ll definitely talk about all this then.

But for now, forget it.

Heaviness

My heart is heavy. I had two real traumas in January. The first was when my dad called to disown me. The second came much later in the month, and it had to do with my job.

The agency where I work is being reorganized. As part of that reorganization, my job is being reclassified, and the little office I run is being made part of a new office. The result is that my salary is being slashed by a lot. The reorganization takes place July 1. At that time, the new office will come into effect. It will have a new office manager, and I will be eligible to apply for it, but there is no way to know in advance if I will be successful.

I spent much of last week reeling with this news. There were days my anxiety was so high I had to take sick leave at work. The slash to my income is too high for me to manage. If my application for the new management position is unsuccessful, I will have to take a roommate to afford my rent. I have analyzed my budget, and I can’t make ends meet by simply cutting expenses.

I have done several things to prepare. I have immediately slashed spending. I still have a number of months to go at my current salary. I will save every stray penny that I can.

I just feel very heavy.

Through it all, I realize that I’m quite strong. I have weathered two real traumas, but I’m still standing. I haven’t isolated. I’ve been out on two dates. One man came to my house, and I made him a cup of very good coffee. I met another man for coffee. I was able to tell both about my troubles and demonstrate that I’m resilient.

I’ve been seeing my therapist weekly.

I’ve been sleeping a lot, which can be a sign of depression, but sleep is one of my recovery tools, so I take this as a good sign. I say “a lot,” but it really just is a healthy amount. It’s not too much.

I’m taking all my medications as prescribed, and I have made an extra appointment with my psychiatrist to tell him what’s going on. He needs to know about these things to help me monitor myself for signs of debilitating relapse into depression or hypomania.

I’m meditating as much as I can. I’ve started walking down to the cathedral during work breaks and getting some even breathing in that time.

My diet is unchanged. I eat healthy food. I don’t drink soda. The only thing that is close to junk food I’m eating these days is trail mix, which is mostly nuts and raisins with a few M&Ms.

I’m going to AA meetings when I can. That’s about two or three times each week. It’s good to be around other people working on improving themselves.

One thing I’m not doing is exercising. I’m just not doing it, and I’m not going to beat myself up about it.

Despite two real traumas, I’m going to be OK. Right now, I’m allowing myself to feel heavy. This is grief.

Recovery in Action

Recovery works. Over the past week, I have weathered a maelstrom that could have easily set me back. I could have easily slipped back into depression and spiraled out of the life I’ve created.

Ten years ago, my day was a success if I brushed my teeth. That was it. That’s the point I was at. I could have reverted to that.

But that created life includes recovery tools that I’ve made a habit to use. I have constantly preached in this blog and in my life that I take medicine as prescribed by my psychiatrist, I meditate daily to give myself a calm center to retreat to when things are out of kilter, I see my therapist regularly and tell him everything, I get exercise, I eat wholesome food, and I get good sleep.

Medication.

Meditation.

Therapy.

Exercise.

Diet.

Sleep.

I have stayed stable in the face of being abandoned by my parents because I’m gay, because my recovery tools are habitual.

Am I tooting my own horn? Yes. Am I showing arrogance? Not if it’s the truth.

My reason for writing this blog has always been to show that it’s possible to lead a good life even while living with a mental illness. It’s not an easy thing to do. I have proven that it’s possible.

If I can do it, others can, too.

Long Road to Recovery

I’ve had some bleak days, but I’ve also had periods of calm. If you wonder what has happened, see my last post.

I’ve been using my recovery tools.

I’ve been using the medication my doctor gave me to help with the situation, and I’m grateful to have it. It honestly helps a great deal.

I’ve been meditating. I had a very long one this morning.

I’ve been to therapy, and I have another appointment coming up next week. I’ve also been to some AA meetings. They’ve been helpful. Most importantly, I’ve got some good friends checking on my daily. I cannot adequately express how good that feels.

I have walked some. Not daily, but I have walked. Exercise is a good idea when I’m feeling low.

I’m eating good food. Yesterday, I actually cooked for myself, which is something I rarely do. That’s real self-care. I took the time to wash mushrooms and cook them and eat them over toast. I did it for myself.

I’m making sure I get good, restorative sleep.

Medication, meditation, therapy, exercise, diet, and sleep are the important tools I use to stay stable.

This morning, I’m battling negative self-talk. I know it’s lies, but it’s so loud. Pain in a situation like this comes and goes in waves, and today I’m in a wave. It will pass. Soon, I hope.

My Parents Disowned Me

When I was a teenager, my father threatened to kick me out of the house if I was gay. This trauma forced me deeper into the closet for many years and greatly affected my alcoholism when that happened.

When I got sober twenty years ago, I came out to my mother. She was not supportive. I always assumed she told my dad. In these past twenty years, I haven’t really done anything to hide my sexual orientation from my parents, but I live 5000 miles away from them. When I talked to them on the phone, I never talked about men in order to keep the peace. It never occurred to me that my dad didn’t know.

Yesterday morning, my phone rang. It was my dad. He quickly got to the point. He said he’d discovered that I am gay, and therefore, he and my mother never wanted to hear from me again.

During the call, my heart was pounding. I was shaking. I felt like I was being physically attacked.

I said nothing to try to change the outcome. My dad asked if he’d made himself clear. I simply said yes and hung up.

I spent the day in shock yesterday. I told my children, a sister, some close friends. I texted my therapist. He responded helpfully. I texted my psychiatrist to alert him, and he acknowledged the news.

Everyone was helpful except for one friend who wrongly thought it would be helpful for me to try to see it from my parents’ point of view. Everyone else was very supportive. My children have been a source of great love.

The next thing I knew I would need was to go to an AA meeting. I did that in the evening. It wasn’t a great meeting, but it helped me. I wrote an email to a good friend who has been sober a very long time. I spoke to him this morning. He is a gem. So kind. I had to cut that call short to get to another AA meeting, and this one was really good. I’m so glad I went. I met a man there I’ve met under other circumstances, and he and I are going to meet at the big LGBT meeting Monday night. I’m looking forward to it.

I am hurting. A lot.

My greatest fear is that this will trigger a mood episode. Specifically depression. I’ve been having depressed thoughts all day. I’m using the medication the doctor gave me as prescribed to try to prevent a depressive relapse.

I am using my recovery tools to stay stable. Only time will tell if this will work.

One thing is very clear. I feel like I’m officially gay now.