Struggling with Meditation

This morning was the first meditation session that felt good in many weeks. I’ve been struggling to concentrate. I mentioned in a recent post that I’ve had to revert to visiting My Happy Place. It’s a way of walking toward a place of peaceful concentration. I only had to do the initial stages of that process this morning before I was able to sit and breathe and just concentrate on my breath. It felt so good.

Also, my meditations have been very brief lately, but this morning was back to a good length. It’s not great, but it was better.

Regular readers know that there are a lot of changes happening at work, in April I broke up with the man I was dating, and I’m trying to establish a new relationship with another man. All this happened at the change of seasons which is a time when bipolar disorder can destabilize. It happened to me. I was able to take some time off work and then ease back into the routine, but it was not fun.

Taking time off work for illness including mental illness is not the same as a vacation. When you’re sick, all your energy goes into managing the illness and getting well. There’s no time to relax.

I’ve got lots to do at work, and I need some guidance with how to proceed. I’m hoping for the best.

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Alternative realities

Things at work are improving, but they are still shaky. Things with the man I’m hoping to be seriously dating are moving along.

Because these things are still developing, I don’t feel settled. The result is that my mind plays games. This morning, I’ve been having strong fantasies of an alternative reality to what I’m living. Thoughts about turning back time and making different choices are really strong. Really really strong.

I have found myself ruminating on the choice I made almost four years ago to accept the job I have and leave disability behind. These thoughts are very strong.

I know that what I have now is better than the life I had while I was on disability. The uncertainty I live with now would have only been replaced with a different uncertainty had I stayed in that life. The programs I was reliant on could have been changed easily by the government.

Working is good for my recovery. It gives me so much good self-esteem and increases my feelings of self-worth. The bureaucratic challenges I face in my job cause me stress, and I handle it with meditation and exercise. I’ve gained so much more inner strength by working. I often tell my story as part of the work that I do, and just telling my story reminds me each time of how far I’ve come.

I moved to a different city when I started working, and I’ve made many new friends. They are good people, and I’m glad to know them. Obviously, I would have never met them had I stayed in my old life. I wouldn’t be on the cusp of what I hope is a long-lasting relationship.

I’ve got a few things beginning at work with the potential to make things run very smoothly. I’m positive that once things move more easily, the flashes of fantasies of my old life will disappear.

Writing about this helps. I feel better.

Returning to My Happy Place

A very long time ago, I wrote about My Happy Place on this blog. It’s a safe place I go to in meditation. It has changed a great deal over the years I’ve been going there, but the constant is that it’s safe.

Meditation is an important part of my recovery, and I’d got to a place where I was just sitting and breathing, but for some reason in the past few weeks, I’ve needed the structure of returning to My Happy Place. I’ve needed the steps in how I get to this place. I’ve needed the process. It’s a journey, and I’ve needed that to feel better.

I start by closing my eyes and breathing. I walk to a door in my mind and open it. This is the entrance to My Happy Place. There is a simple rule about this place. It has to be pleasant. I opened the door one day when I was feeling a lot of turmoil, and it was blustery in My Happy Place. I refused to accept this, snapped my fingers, and changed it to pleasantness. The sun shone, there was a cool breeze, and birds were singing.

I walk across grass to a fountain of light. There is a cup by the fountain I can fill and drink the light. It gives me energy. Next I walk across a bridge, up a slope, and enter a building of light. Inside the building, I can pray, sing, or dance. It’s a free space I can use to do anything I want. Sometimes I leave this space and walk into a dark room where I just sit and breathe in meditation.

The important thing here is that I made this space. It is completely from my imagination. It’s what I want and need. The idea is to create a place where I can be completely safe. Anyone can create A Happy Place.

For reasons that I need to figure out with my therapist, I’ve returned to using My Happy Place. I suppose I will get back to simply sitting and breathing, but for now I’m really enjoying how good it feels to be back in a place that’s so comforting.

There’s hope!

I haven’t been friend-zoned after all! Hooray for me! The man I thought who’d friend-zoned me has been over to my place twice since I wrote that, and we’ve had a good time both evenings. We have good conversations in person and on the phone. I’m very hopeful that this will develop into something romantic.

There’s more reason to hope on the recovery front. This past weekend, I received a message from an old friend thanking me for my candid posts on this blog and on Facebook about my recovery from both mental illness and alcoholism. He told me he has just passed two years alcohol-free, and he said my posts helped. It does me so much good to hear that.

I’ve had several notes from readers here also thanking me, and those kinds of words are so valuable to me. It really makes a difference to me to hear that my experience resonates with others.

I am full of so much gratitude for the people who take the time to read this blog. I am full of so much gratitude for my recovery. I have so much good support. I have a good psychiatrist, an excellent psychologist, a wonderful best friend, and amazing friends. I’ve had really good teachers along the way who have helped me develop the good tools (medication, meditation, therapy, exercise, sleep, and diet) I use to keep myself stable.

I started this blog nine years ago. I’ve come a long way, and I’m so grateful.

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.

Getting Help

I left work early yesterday for two reasons. The first reason was that I called my psychologist and got an appointment that day to go talk to him about something troubling me. The second reason I left work early was because that thing troubling me grew too large in my head to effectively cope.

There are a lot of changes going on at my workplace, and I am using every tool in my toolbox to cope. The feelings I’m getting from the changes are helplessness and fear. The anxiety they give rise to is sometimes overwhelming. I took some days off work not too long ago due to all this change. It helped.

Yesterday, I had that anxiety again. I was faced with a new reality, and my insides rebelled. I’m really lucky. I work where we have adequate sick time, and I was able to use it.

At my therapy session, I gave vent to my anger at the situation, and I was able to speak directly to my psychologist and tell him emphatically that I don’t think he takes my level of anxiety seriously enough. He heard me. I was able to advocate for myself really well, and it felt good. The result was that I left feeling much better than when I arrived. I felt heard.

At home, I did a quick meditation, and that felt really good, too. Meditation is such an important tool for me. I just sit and breathe and imagine anxiety being pulled out of me. The visualization really helps me feel relief. The sitting and breathing is such a good way to give myself a calm center.

I slept well last night and woke up feeling good this morning. I took extra time in meditation this morning just to breathe. When I meditate, my mind wanders. I don’t fight it. I let it wander, and when I notice it, I calmly bring it back to the breath. I do this over and over. A wandering mind is not failure. Wandering is what the mind it supposed to do. That’s what it’s built for. I just recognize the wandering and calmly bring my attention back to my breathing.

I’m not trying to reach enlightenment. I’m just using a tool to help my overwrought brain gain some peace. It works. I recommend it.

Meditation isn’t hard. Sit comfortably. Relax, and breathe. When your mind wanders, bring your attention back to your breathing. Do this as many times as you want. That’s it. Just keep trying.

Healing

Healing takes time. Grief comes in waves. Work is not easy right now.

I’m sad about the break up, but I’m not in pain like I was the first time. This time was completely my decision, and it was amicable.

I went out with a man Friday night whom I’m interested in. I hesitate to call it a date, but we had a good time. And we’ve made plans to see each other again.

Yesterday, I was sad. I ran an errand in the morning, and then I stayed home all day. I tried listening to classical music, but the day just called for sad music, so I put that on. I lay on my bed and chatted with my best friend by text. I dozed for a while.

Then my best friend suggested I switch the music to some easy guitar, which I did. It was a good suggestion. My mood lightened.

I opened Tinder, which I hadn’t opened in many long months. There was a profile still on some page there that had evidently met the requirements to be some kind of match. It had sat there for months. I messaged him recognizing his picture from some of the gay dating apps.

I don’t know how Tinder works really well, so I went to the dating app and messaged him there. Some hours later in the afternoon, he replied. We had a good chat, and I’m sure we’ll chat again. He’s also very interested in meditation, so that’s a strong connection.

The other thing I did all day was read a new book of poetry from Walt Whitman: Live Oak, With Moss. It had new illustrations and was really very lovely. The cluster of poems as Whitman called them was about sexual love between men. It was very moving. Whitman never published this cluster as a separate group. He rearranged them and used them as part of the Catullus poems in Leaves of Grass. The illustrations, the poetry, and the included essay all made me feel very good.

I’ve been to therapy a few times since the break up, and I’m going again today.

I can see light at the end of the tunnel. I’m not sure how far away the light is, but it’s there.