Walking Through It

In my last post, I wrote about my recent break up. I’m still experiencing varied moods due to the end of that romantic relationship. I have good days and bad ones.

I’m happy to say I’m using the tools I have, and they help a great deal.

My most important tool is meditation. I am able to release a lot of difficult emotions very quickly and thoroughly by doing some simple meditative techniques I’ve learned over the years. I wrote about one technique in that last post.

I’ve used medication, too. I have some medicine I can take for anxiety. I have used them occasionally. I used them daily just after the break up.

I’ve spoken to my therapist often, and that helps give me clarity.

I’ve chatted with my best friend multiple times each day. He’s a rock in this situation, and I’m grateful for his love and support.

I’ve exercised a lot, too. I’ve walked and walked. I enjoy speed walking, so I do it daily these days.

I’ve been careful with what I eat. I allow myself some junk every once in a while, but I’m careful. I eat an almost completely vegetarian diet. It feels like the right thing for me to do.

I’ve been getting good sleep most nights, which is an enormous help. Sleep resets me, so I can start fresh every morning.

Yesterday was a rough day, but I used the tools, and I survived. Today feels better except for the fact I didn’t get enough sleep for some unknown reason. I’ll be fine.

I can see light at the end of the tunnel.

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Surviving a Break Up

Yeah. It happened.

He got very angry at me, and I asserted that I was not deserving of his anger, so he left. I’m glad he left. I didn’t feel frightened, but he clearly could not control his anger.

I had decided that I would require couples counseling to move forward with the relationship, but he chose not to contact me again. I was uncomfortable with that lack of closure. It left too much up in the air. It meant I was unsure whether he would choose to contact me at some point in the future. Being unsure was causing me anxiety. So I took control of the part that I was capable of and blocked his number.

That’s the first point I would like to draw attention to. I did not have control of the whole situation, and I think that’s completely normal. There are two people involved, after all. Each participant has some control over some aspects of the situation. I looked at the situation, and I studied what part I could control, and I used it.

It’s quite possible that choosing not to contact me after he stormed out was his way of breaking up. It’s not a clean way of doing it. It leaves too many strings dangling.

The second point I’d like to stress is that I did not avoid the sadness. I allowed it to wash over me. The grief came in waves. There were times I ached. I would meditate and release it. It worked for me.

If you want to try it, find a place to sit comfortably. Begin by stating that you want to work through the highest light for the greatest good for all concerned. This sets a nice intention of keeping things as clear as possible with as little animosity involved as possible. Shut your eyes, and breathe deeply for as many breaths as you can. Simultaneously, relax. Try relaxing from head to toe or vice versa. Do the best you can. Now imagine you have a layer of energy on your body where the bad feelings are located. Call on an angel to remove this layer. Breathe deeply while the angel removes the layer of energy. Just breathe. Give it some time. It may take a few seconds or a few minutes. Let it take however long it takes. If your heart aches tremendously, ask the angel to bathe it in purple light. When you feel like it’s complete, thank the angel, and then breathe and open your eyes.

I had to do this many times over the course of about 3 days, and it worked for me, I felt relief each time. Repeating it after the grief returned is not a sign it’s not working. Grief comes in waves. It’s not a failure. That’s just how it works. Allow the sadness its space each time it comes. Allow and release. There is no limit to how many times you can do this exercise. It’s not finite. It’s limitless.

The third point I’d like to mention is that I always kept in mind that this sadness was temporary. No matter how strong the sadness was, I reminded myself it would pass, and it did each time.

The fourth point is that I reached out for help. I chatted long with my best friend. He’s a rock at times like these, and he listened to me without judgment. He offered virtual hugs, and he reminded me of my own strength.

The fifth point is that I used medication. I live with a mental illness, and I took the antianxiety medicine my psychiatrist gave me just for times like these. It worked to help me sleep well.

The final point is that I used professional tools. I saw my therapist twice in 3 days. The second time I saw him, I was assertive and told him that in his office I sometimes felt like he was suggesting some of the anger that was directed at me by my then boyfriend was my responsibility. We had a frank discussion about these feelings, and I was clear that any assertion his anger was my doing was false. My therapist agreed. What he was trying to direct me to was seeing that all encounters are a two-way street. I am responsible for being clear in my communication and being open to hearing clear words. I agree.

In closing, I’ve got to say that breaking up a romantic relationship is not fun. I went through about 3 days when I honestly did not know what day of the week it was. I had to repeatedly look at my phone to see, and even then it often did not register. My thinking was very disoriented.

Today, I know what day of the week it is. There is a sadness in the background, but I can recognize I’m healing.

I don’t know what the future will bring, but I am stepping into it one step at a time. I have tickets to see a play this weekend. I bought two, and now I’m wondering whom to invite to go with me…

Walking Through It

Edit to add: We have talked. We have both acknowledged our mistakes, and we are moving forward. I am not blameless, and I took responsibility for my part.

***

I went away on a trip, and my boyfriend took care of some things at my house for me while I was gone. When I got home, I discovered he had not done a good job, and there are problems because of it. The damage done to some things at my home is not the issue. It’s the broken trust. I relied on him, and he let me down.

We have not had a chance to talk face to face about the issue, but we may be able to meet tonight.

The remarkable thing about this whole situation is that I feel okay. I have no idea what’s going to happen. In the past, not knowing would cause my anxiety to skyrocket.

At least for today, I’m okay not knowing. I’ve been using a lot of meditation. I’ve used anti-anxiety medicine twice in the last week, which is very little. My therapist is on vacation, so I have to wait to talk to him until next week. Instead, I’ve been chatting with a very good friend a lot, and he helps me. I’m using the tools to stay stable.

That’s a victory. Using tools to stay stable is a great triumph.

I live with a chronic mental illness, and I use tools to manage it. A number of years ago, it managed me. Now, it’s reversed.

I’m walking through the not knowing.

More About Dating and Bipolar Disorder

As mentioned a month ago, I’m dating. I didn’t plan it, but I mentioned my diagnosis the first time we met. He heard me, but he didn’t say anything. I think he realizes it has an affect, because I have to be careful with how involved I allow myself to get. I have to be conscious of how much time I’m giving him and how much I’m giving my recovery by keeping the routine that my stability is based on.

(Here’s a well-read post about dating and bipolar I wrote a number of years ago.)

So that I think is the key for me as a person with bipolar disorder when I date. My first priority has to be maintaining my stability. Without it, I’m not a good partner.

My partner has a part to play, too. He gives me the space I need to follow my routine. Encouragement from him means a great deal. Words that tell me he knows I’m working on myself are like gold.

I have certain things that are vital to my recovery: meditation, medication, therapy, exercise, and sleep. He can help me most not by monitoring those activities but by praising me for doing them.

I am devoting more energy to those activities these days. I’m going to therapy weekly, because this relationship is new, and it’s bringing up a lot of stuff that needs to be dealt with. My therapist is a disinterested third party and gives me honest, impartial feedback.

I’m taking my medication as prescribed. I have a problem with my feet, so I’m not exercising. My sleep is not good, so I’m going to make an appointment with a specialist.

Meditation is the most important thing I do without a doubt. I can sit and breathe and release energy that feels like it’s weighing me down. I can clear out so much in a short session. It’s not hard or complex. A friend asked me how to do it yesterday. I explained all you have to do is create a happy place in your mind where you can go and walk around and feel stuff in your body and then release the bad stuff. It’s that simple. Close your eyes, and breathe deeply. Walk through a door to a place that you create that’s happy for you. In that place, pay attention to your body, and release anything that is uncomfortable. That’s it.

My partner can help me the most by being open and by talking a lot about how he feels about what I’m doing. It doesn’t take much. As long as I know the lines of communication are open, I can walk through almost anything. Once I feel like I’m being dictated to or preached to or not being heard, I have a very different reaction.

Dating works when both parties work on it. I do my part by maintaining my recovery first and being attentive to him second. He does his part in a very similar fashion. He cares for himself and is then attentive to me.

Where to Next?

Today is Tuesday, October 10, 2017, and it is World Mental Health Day. I can’t write about mental health as it exists all over the world, but I can write about my experiences with challenging mental health.

Much of this year, I’ve been wondering about my story. I really can’t explain it. I recovered, and I don’t know why. I have a slight grasp on how, but why eludes me completely.

I like to sum up the how in just five little words:

  1. medication
  2. meditation
  3. therapy
  4. exercise
  5. sleep

I think WRAP has something to do with it too, but I’ve pretty much internalized that and rarely actually look at the written document. (You can search for WRAP on this blog in the tags on the right side of the screen of your computer. I’m not sure where the tags are, if you’re on a mobile device. There’s also a little place where you can enter search items. Just type in WRAP.)

But, why?

Why did I recover?

I work in mental health now. I talk on the phone to my peers as part of my job, and it’s quite eye-opening. I hear about the difficulties others are having with many different types of situations. Each caller is doing their best to overcome whatever may be happening that is disagreeable. Sometimes, reaching out to me is one of the ways they’re trying to overcome problems. Other times, they just want someone to listen. It’s usually very clear right from the very beginning what the caller wants from the conversation.

What’s unclear to me is myself. My own story baffles me. You can search the archives of this blog going back more than 7.5 years. I came through some dark times. When I remember those times, I’m amazed I made it through and got to where I am today.

I think I’m spending so much time thinking about the why, because it has something to do with healing. I want to share healing with my peers.

But that’s off. The healing is what happened. Does it matter why it happened, or is the how it happened more vital?

There’s one more point about how that may hold the key: one. I kept it to one step. I concentrated on just the one step I was taking. I never thought ahead to a second step. I thought only of the one. Then, I would take one more step. Then one more. It was always just one.

When I was bedridden with depression, I would do one nice thing for myself for one day. Some days that one nice thing was brushing my teeth. It was one little reminder that I was worth just that tiny bit of self-care. Some days, it was making one healthy thing to eat, or just eating one piece of healthy food like an apple.

Taking only one step. Doing one nice thing for myself. One.

Life is complex. When you add mental illness to it, it can be chaotic. There is so much to think about that it’s overwhelming. Concentrating on only one thing relieves the chaos.

One.

By concentrating on one step, I made many steps. I got from there to here. It took years. I had a lot of help along the way, but I was the one doing the walking. I was the one taking just one step. I want to share that with others.

And now I ask where to next?

Healing Demons

I have now seen a meme twice. A meme is a viral phenomenon that spreads an idea from person to person in a given population. It’s also the slang term used to describe a trite saying usually accompanied by a picture on the internet.

This particular meme says, “We never lose our demons. We only learn to live above them.”

I can happily report that we can heal them. We do not have to simply learn to tolerate their rude behavior as they live downstairs. It is possible to completely heal them, releasing ourselves from their power. Why can I say this? Because I healed mine.

It’s popular to talk about our baggage, the stuff we carry with us from the past that weighs us down. Baggage is something we talk about with a therapist. In the early days of going to AA, I heard a lot about baggage, and I realized that I don’t simply have baggage. I had a freight train.

Indeed I did. I had so much junk attached to myself on many different subjects: homosexuality, religion, being an American male from the South, parental expectations, etc. The list is very long.

I started therapy when I was 23. The first big item I tackled was anger. It may surprise you to learn that I actually had to teach myself how to be angry. I remember it quite well. I had to keep a small notepad in my pocket and write down every time I felt angry. It took many months before I was able to recognize my real anger. I suppressed it before. I didn’t know that I was allowed to be angry. It was an enormously unhealthy way to live.

I haven’t thought about that episode in my attempts to unpack my freight train in a very long time. My anger is healthy now. I feel it. If necessary, I act on it. I let it pass. It flows like it’s supposed to.

That is a perfect example of healing a demon, and that’s what bugs me about that meme. Saying that the best we can hope for is to merely live above them does us all a disservice. We can indeed heal them. We can completely disarm them and free ourselves from their grip.

I have healed many demons. I don’t live above anything unpleasant.

I am free!

I am very happy to be a gay man now, but I used to loathe myself. I healed the loathing. I did the necessary self-care that led to a very happy realization that I like being gay. I live completely out now. It was a difficult journey fraught with upset, but I did it. I did it!

I am free!

If you think you have pain that can only be tolerated and never healed, you are wrong. If I can heal the trauma of growing up gay in a time and place that abhorred it, you can heal, too. You can. I promise.

The question becomes how to start. Therapy worked for me. I know that it works for a great many people, because they’ve told me it works. It’s also important to do some work on our own.

Meditation is an amazing habit to form. It teaches us to find our calm center. We each have one. Most of us need help to find it. Meditation doesn’t have to be scary. Sit quietly doing nothing. Don’t sit and rock. Don’t sit and drink water. Sit. Just sit. Let your mind wander, and look for the spaces between the wandering thoughts. Try to enlarge those spaces in between. Don’t judge yourself as your mind wanders. Just watch it.

Exercise is important for me, too. I powerwalk. It’s something I enjoy, and it only requires good shoes. It doesn’t take any other special equipment. Think about what you enjoy, and do it.

There are many ways we each can begin the journey of healing. What do you want to look like after you have healed? Think about it, and think about the ways you want to get to that place. Find the help you need, and use it.

You can be free, too. I promise.

Staying Calm in the Midst of Chaos

It’s no secret that there is a great deal of turmoil in the world at present. There are large protests in the US. Many countries in Europe are experiencing difficulties related to the large numbers of refugees coming in. I don’t know about yours, but my news is full of stories of upheaval and tumult.

It’s very easy to become overwhelmed when the headlines are shouting about mayhem. Those of us with mental illness know the importance of remaining calm and maintaining equilibrium.

Here’s my plan.

First, I remember the Serenity Prayer:

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.

There is a great deal in the world that I cannot change, and it is important for me to recognize where I can have an effect and where I need to release. For example, I have a vote, but I only have one vote. It is important for me to exercise my choice by voting, but I must release the outcome since my single vote will not determine any winners. I am one voice in a sea of many. I do my part and release the rest.

Second, I simply do not read all of the news. I pick and choose. I have a few topics that I am passionate about, so I read that news. I skip over the rest. As a solitary individual, there is little I can do to affect the vast majority of situations. I choose to invest my energy in only a couple of major issues. I keep myself basically informed of some of the other major issues in the news, but I simply skip over a great deal. I’m not hiding from the news. I’m editing my consumption. I act this way to maintain my sense of inner peace. I had a friend who tried to stay abreast of all the news a few months ago, and it had a disastrous affect on her mind. She was quickly overwhelmed. I protect my personal calm by limiting what I ingest from the news.

Next, I give a small amount of money to causes that I believe in. I have limited money at my disposal. I cannot give great sums to every worthy cause, so I have chosen a few that I feel the most strongly about, and I donate there. It makes me feel good that I’m helping organizations who are battling for ideas that I believe in. Helping these organizations makes me feel like I’m a part of the fight, and in actuality, I am. I am very active in theatre in my city, so I support those organizations that bring live theatre to brighten our lives. Giving them small donations helps me feel good.

Finally, I take care of myself. This is my greatest contribution to making the planet a better place for all of us. When I concentrate on being the best possible me that I can, I know that my little bit of humanity is running smoothly. Honestly, isn’t that a great gift to give the world? I like being me, and I like making me a happy member of the world. I do it by living in recovery. I have a few pillars of my recovery that I work diligently to maintain: medication, meditation, exercise, therapy, and sleep.

I am lucky in that medicine works for me, so I take my medicine as prescribed. I have friends in recovery who maintain themselves other ways than medicine.

I am also an avid meditator. I have a set routine that includes a period of meditation, and I do it every morning without fail. Meditation gives me a calm center to cling to. When I feel emotions that encroach on my calm, I know I can return to the even feelings by just doing some simple breathing techniques.

Exercise is an important part of my recovery, too. I enjoy powerwalking, so I go out for a vigorous walk 4 mornings every week. I feel exhilarated each time. It’s such a joy!

I believe wholeheartedly in talk therapy. I’ve been involved with it for 30 years. I have a therapist that I tell absolutely everything to. I tell him about all the little things in my life that arise, and we talk about how they make me feel. I’ve discovered a lot of people don’t really understand the nature of a therapeutic relationship. A therapist is not like a medical doctor who assesses symptoms and administers a cure. Therapists cure no one. Instead, they listen to my situations, and then they guide me through a discussion, until I settle on my own cure. In essence, a therapist is a guide while I cure myself.

Finally, sleep is an amazing balm for me. I am adamant that I get adequate and high quality sleep every night. It resets all my inner world, and I can start each day fresh.

These things work for me. I hope you can find the pillars of your own recovery.