I Don’t Feel Good

I woke in a panic attack yesterday at 4AM. As usual with these things for the past two months or so, I was having a nightmare about my dad. It set the mood for the whole day. I was on edge all day long.

I realized yesterday that since my parents disowned me, I’ve become much darker in many of my thoughts. Some of my actions are not well thought-out. They border on being self-destructive. I’m going to talk about this realization to my therapist tomorrow. I’m also going to ask him if there’s any way to have more appointments in a week. I don’t feel stable.

I’m still doing the things that I’ve done for years to stay well. I take the medication my psychiatrist gives me as prescribed. I’m meditating daily and often more than once a day, but I’ve noticed it’s really hard to concentrate and get calm during some sessions. It was that way this morning. I’m talking to my therapist weekly. We’re meeting by video for the time being during this current health crisis. I’m getting good sleep, and I’m eating healthy food. The one thing I’m not doing is exercising, and I refuse to beat myself up about it.

The current world-wide health crisis makes all this worse. I don’t mind working from home, but the news is scary. I don’t watch news on television. I read it online. I prefer to get my news from a source that I read, because it’s less sensational. There’s less a sense of entertainment to how it’s presented. It feels calmer to me.

Here’s what scares me most: I have a sense that my behavior is self-destructive. I’m worried that could play itself out to become truly so, and I could drink. I’ve been sober twenty years, ten months, and 28 days as of this writing. I do not want to drink for any reason. My drinking days were horrific. I do not want to go back there. I’m grateful that I can go to AA meetings online. I will certainly get to a meeting today.

All this makes me feel bad. I feel damaged. I was describing myself to a friend like an old dented car. I’ve done a lot of work and healed a lot of my pain, but the dents are still there. I’ve only painted over them. I just don’t feel good.

Uncertain Times

These are uncertain and scary times right now. The novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19 that is sweeping the planet is really frightening to a lot of people. If you are afraid, know that your feelings are completely normal. It’s absolutely acceptable to feel fear and anxiety.

If you are feeling those, you are not alone. Many people are scared right now.

There are some good ways to help yourself work through the fear. First, try some deep breathing. Breathe in through your nose really deep. Fill your chest and your belly with air, and then exhale through your mouth with force. Repeat this as many times as necessary to feel like you’ve cleaned all the air in your body.

There’s a technique that Tibetan monks use that I learned. When I first learned it, I thought it was backwards, but it honestly helps sometimes. Sit and relax as best you can. Then breathe in deep. While breathing in, say “fear.” Then exhale, and say “peace” or “calm.” What you’re doing is breathing in your anxiety and transforming it into calmness and releasing that back into the world to share. It really works.

Meditation really helps me. Sit, relax, and breathe. My post immediately before this one gives a good explanation of it. If you want to play some music while you try to meditate, I suggest something like the music made by Constance Demby. She’s really good. Give her a listen.

Music is also a great way to feel better. Put on whatever kind of music you like. I like a lot of different kinds of music. I listen to classical a lot. It really lifts my spirits. Erik Satie is one of my favorite composers.

You can do a Google search for releasing anxiety. You’ll get many articles you can read with lots of ideas to help.

In these scary times, we’ve all got to do our part to help us each feel better.

Staying Sane in a Pandemic

Everyone is aware that we are in a time of a pandemic due to a novel coronavirus (COVID-19). I have had anxiety related to the illness. For the most part, I’m remaining calm. I attribute this to my morning meditation. It’s only twenty minutes every morning, but its effects last throughout the day. The best part is that I can do a short meditation any time during the day to renew the effect.

If you want to try meditation, please set aside your preconceived notions first. It’s not as hard as we imagine it to be.

  1. Sit in a good chair with a comfortable seat that has a straight back.
  2. Relax. Do this in any way that works for you.
  3. Close your eyes.
  4. Take three deep breaths exhaling long and completely each time.
  5. Breathe normally, and concentrate on the feeling you get in your nose from the breath. You may feel the breath right where the air enters your nostrils, or you may feel it higher up in the nasal channel.
  6. Your mind is going to wander. Don’t get upset. This is your mind’s job. Simply recognize that your mind is wandering, and gently return your concentration to that feeling of the air entering your nose.
  7. Your mind is going to wander again. Once more, don’t get upset. This is completely normal. Once more, return your concentration to the feeling of the air in your nose.
  8. Do this over and over again for an amount of time that you decide is right for you. My meditations are about twenty minutes long.

This is all meditation is. It’s so simple. I promise that it gets easier over time. In the beginning, I struggled not getting upset that my mind wandered. It really is not a problem that your mind is wandering. Recognize it, and return your thoughts to your breath.

Give it a try. It works.

The Plan

I had a session with my psychologist after work yesterday, and it was obviously timely. I needed it badly. Anyone who read yesterday’s post will understand I was not in a good mood.

He helped me formulate a simple plan to silence The Voice that I wrote about yesterday. It is very loud, and it lies to me telling me many evil things about me and my self-worth. The grand plan is to stop The Voice and tell it to “Shut the f*ck up!” in no uncertain terms.

The Voice was put inside my head by parents who don’t love me and by a society that really doesn’t give a rat’s ass about how I’m faring in life. It only rears its ugly head when I’m stressed or feeling low due to other matters. January was not a good month for me: my parents disowned me and a reorganization at work is causing me great pain. Those were tremendous stressors, and my grief in the face of the tumult was completely understandable. Yesterday, I experienced a renewed wave of the grief.

That wave has passed. I am confident The Plan will work.

I will continue to use my tools. I slept well last night, one of my tools. My meditation this morning was a good one. I had lots of interfering wandering thoughts, but I was able to get some good breathing in. My psychologist liked hearing that I’m using the medicine I get from my psychiatrist. He said to keep it up. My diet is the same healthy food that I’ve been eating for years.

And to top it off, I went for a brisk walk this morning before work. There it was. I had an extra thirty minutes this morning with nothing really that needed to be done, so I tied on my walking shoes and went out the door. I probably walked a mile and a half, and I went at a much slower pace than I’ve done in the past, but who gives a rip? I have my fingers crossed that I’ll keep up the exercise.

Tools: medication, meditation, therapy, diet, sleep, and exercise. These things keep me on an even keel. I’ve done them today. We’ll let tomorrow take care of itself.

Now, where is that elusive boyfriend?

Panic upon Waking

I realized yesterday as I was carefully going through my day that I’ve been waking in a panic often the past six or seven weeks. It’s just a sign of the trauma my parents caused by disowning me. I know I have much to be thankful for even in that awful experience. I know that I am better off without their judgmental attitudes in my life, but I cannot escape the ideals that I hold inside.

I have ideals that American culture gave me about how parents and children are supposed to relate to each other. They’re part of my core. I can’t get rid of them, but I can hope to soften them with time and education.

Last evening, I meditated before bed, and I did not wake up panicking this morning. I have no idea if there’s causation there, but I’m going to keep doing it.

Today, I’m back at work, and I’m being very careful what I allow into my scope of consciousness. As my best friend put it, “curate” your experiences. I’m choosing what I’m giving my attention to. I’m open to surprises – I have to be – but there’s a lot I can control about what I give my time to. This is more of being gentle with myself.

My meditation this morning was medium length, and it was good. I used the guided visualization again like I’ve been doing, but it led me to a quiet place where I could sit and just breathe. It’s so healing.

If you think you want to try meditating, it’s not as difficult as most of us imagine. You don’t have to be a guru. Here’s how:

Sit in a chair with a good back. Close your eyes, and relax as best you can. Breathe in deeply, exhale forcefully three times. Then just breathe normally. Count your breaths. An inhale and its exhale are one breath the way I count.

Now, your mind is going to start wandering and maybe even bombarding you with thoughts. Don’t get upset. That’s the mind’s job. Recognize the thought. Actually give it thanks for the reminder. Then return to counting breaths starting at one again.

A new thought will interrupt your counting. This is not a failure. Recognize the thought, thank it, and return to counting breaths. Do this over and over. You may want to set a timer. Start with five minutes. Over the course of weeks or months, you can increase the time. Do what feels right for you. This is not a race. You are not in competition with anyone.

Eventually over the course of months, you can stop counting and just breathe. I’ve been meditating for years. I still get thoughts in the middle of breathing. I recognize them, thank them, and quietly return my attention to my breath.

That’s it. That’s all meditation is. It is incredibly helpful.

To keep it honest, I have to tell you that I’ve returned to using a guided visualization technique in my morning meditation because of the traumas I suffered in January. I need the structure to help me keep my mind focused and still.

A long time ago for meditation, I created My Happy Place. I wrote about it on this blog ten years ago. You can read about it here. Basically, it’s a place I can go in my mind that is required to always be pleasant. There are elements in it that allow me to refresh myself, and there are other elements where I can pass through gates, over bridges, or through doors that allow me to gradually become even more relaxed and gain more focus.

You can create your happy place and furnish it just exactly as you want. Give it a try. It’s incredibly refreshing. I always feel better after imagining a visit there.

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.