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.

The Teens

In 2010, I was living on disability. My life was a mess. I was unable to cope with most things that life threw at me. I had a psychiatrist, a psychologist, and a case manager.

I got some medications that worked well, which I changed in 2013 to different medications that work better.

I learned to meditate, and that has proven strikingly valuable. I now meditate between 10 to 30 minutes every morning, and I can’t imagine starting my day without it.

I have been going to therapy regularly through thick and through thin. It has given me a safe place to go and talk about all the things that weren’t working for me and to come away with ideas to try that might work better.

I got on a regular sleep schedule that has helped.

I have been exercising by walking most of the time. I’ve had periods when I stopped, but I’ve been fairly consistent in the ten years.

I changed my diet. I now eat a mostly vegetarian diet. I try to eat as much fresh food as possible. It’s not easy, but I feel so much better.

I was accepted into a training program in 2013, and today I administer that very program. I work full time.

With the skills I learned this decade, I now live a fulfilling life. I have my own place and a car that’s paid for. I pay all my bills every month. I cope with all the stress of living a modern life. I am an out and proud gay man. I have friends.

I am excited to see what this new decade brings.

A Trip

I took a trip. I had a lot of fun visiting my children who all live far from me.

I’m not afraid of flying, but I don’t enjoy the small seats and cramped leg room in planes. For some reason I can’t explain, I was nervous before this trip. I used some deep breathing to help. (Inhale through the nose and exhale though the mouth.) It honestly helped on more than one occasion.

One child and I rented a car to drive to where another child was. That was interesting. I had to drive far on routes I had never driven on before. When we returned from that trip, I had to drive on very busy city streets. This is something that would have really caused me enormous anxiety in the past. I did it! I drove in a very big city, and I only got angry once because I missed a turn. I really managed the whole thing very well. I’m really pleased with myself.

Then I had to fly to where the other child lives to meet my granddaughter. That meant negotiating airports and sitting in small seats again, but I did fine. I was so excited to meet my granddaughter. She’s 8 months old and is honestly a good baby. She only fusses when she’s hungry. Otherwise, she was very cheerful. It was wonderful to see my son again. I haven’t seen him for two years.

I do have to do one important thing for self-care when I travel like this. I have to fly home one day before the end of my vacation to give myself a buffer of time to readjust back to my regular life. I’m happy to report that this worked well for me. I was able to unpack and do laundry and buy groceries before having to return to work today.

I’m really pleased with myself. I went on a ten-day trip, and I stayed stable.

Opening Up

After feeling poorly last weekend because of the events when I went out, I can say that friends can work miracles. First, I was able to spend most of the day Saturday with friends, and it was so much fun! We went to a local festival and saw the sights. I had two other friends who each had booths at the festival, so I connected with them and offered my support for their work.

Then Sunday, I went to hear a local chorus give a concert. It was cabaret style. We sat at a small table, and the singers moved around the room in between the tables. The songs were all mostly very lighthearted, and the whole atmosphere was so refreshing. I felt so good after eating pizza with friends after the concert. The evening was spent relaxing at home alone.

I left work early yesterday due to lingering depression. I just didn’t feel good. I’m very lucky that where I work values mental health as much as physical health. If I had a bad cold, I would easily take off work. I was no less sick yesterday with a very low mood.

Then a friend stepped in to rescue me again. She just returned to the area after five long months away, and she wanted to watch the sunset from a beautiful spot. I had been to that spot many times in the past, but it had been many long months since I’d gone to enjoy it. I sat and watched the sun disappear behind the clouds, and we had a good conversation chatting and catching up on personal news. It felt immensely gratifying to be back in that splendid location with all the beauty surrounding me. Just sitting there, I could feel my energy growing lighter and lighter. I still feel light this morning. I am completely sure that I will go back to experience that beauty again soon.

I have a best friend who lives in another city, and we chat by text multiple times each day. He is a rock to me. He listens without judgement to whatever I have to say. Sometimes he has specific recommendations. Sometimes not. He always has virtual hugs that he expresses freely. I love him dearly and hope he gets support from me in the same way he gives it to me.

My friends are very important, and I am so grateful to have them.

Just Sigh

I did something daring for myself last night. I went out. I went to a popular gay bar. I struck up a conversation with a young lady visiting from out of state. She was in town to visit a friend. I sat and watched the crowd.

There was a two-person band playing. They were fun and energetic. I got up and danced once by myself. I was invisible. Nobody looked at me. Nobody joined me. I danced the whole song.

This morning, I couldn’t meditate for the first time in four years. I think I’m angry at the Universe, but I can’t feel the anger. That’s not unusual for me.

It took courage to go out alone. It took courage to dance alone.

I went to a LGBT meditation group this week, and part of the time we shared in small groups about how we love ourselves. I shared that I loved my courage. I really do have a lot of it. I live with enormous amounts of fear, but I still get up and keep going. I don’t quit. I love my courage.

This morning I feel damaged, but I know this is just a feeling. It will pass. I have things to do today. I will do them, and I will enjoy myself. I will bravely walk through the feelings that I have right now, and I will be in good spirits.

Coming Out

I’m gay. That’s not a surprise to regular readers. I came out many years ago.

My story is complicated as most coming out stories are. I grew up in a rabidly fundamentalist household and learned at a young age attending church that God loves everyone except gays. There was no hope of salvation for LGBT people. None.

In fear, I married a woman and fathered children. The fear and dysfunction led me to become an active alcoholic. Finally, I was unable to drink enough to relieve the fear and dysfunction. After some events in late 1998, I told my wife I thought I might be gay.

That started my coming out process. It is indeed a process, and it continues for the rest of our lives. I don’t think most straight people realize that each time a gay person enters a new situation, they have to judge the safety of the people and area and decide whether to be out.

After 21 years out of the closet, I can state with confidence that out is much better than in the closet. I am free. I am authentic. I am me. What’s more, I have wonderful relationships with all my children and also with their mother. I have good friends gay and straight. I live completely out now, and it’s so energizing.

Now, I’m just looking for a man to share my life with… I’m taking applications.

Life Continues

Things have been rolling along in my life. I’ve had good days and lousy days, so that’s all normal. What I find gratifying in my recovery from bipolar disorder is that my bad days do not feel like the end of the world anymore. They used to feel like that some years ago.

These days, I just feel off when I feel low. I don’t know how to say it otherwise. In the past, I would feel horrible. I would barely be able to function.

Yesterday, I felt wonderful. It was Sunday, and I had a relaxing day. I read some. I listened to music. I wasted some time scrolling through the internet.

This morning, I feel off. I slept well, but I could have slept longer. Still, I’m awake and not really wanting to go back to bed. I feel vaguely dissatisfied with the fact I’m single. The result is that I’m thinking about my ex. Ugh. My thoughts haven’t dwelt on him in weeks. I only think about him when I feel off.

This too shall pass. It always does. I’ll feel fine soon. It may be just a few hours, or it might be tomorrow. I’m positive I’ll be fine soon.

I have hopes and dreams, and they are rolled up into expectations. I also live with a good amount of self-awareness, and when my hopes and dreams are disappointed, I blame myself. So this morning, I went out to get some exercise, and I could only think that nothing is going to work out the way I want, and it will all be my fault since I’m not perfect.

I am feeling very damaged.

Simultaneously, I know I’m fine. I’m absolutely fine.

I am a bundle of contradictory feelings, but I’m fine. I will be fine. I am fine.

I think I’ll just let life keep rolling.

I’m a Dunce

I drink a protein shake every morning. I started drinking them when I switched to being vegetarian. It’s a quick, easy way to get more protein.

I carry one to work with me every day and eat it with a handful of peanuts. I keep it in the fridge at work.

This morning, I got my shake from the fridge and shook it up as directed as I walked back to my desk. I opened it and sat it on my desk and turned my attention back to my computer.

I ate a few peanuts and reached for my shake. I picked it up to drink, but I shook it in preparation for drinking. Yes, you guessed it. I shook it up while it was open showering my desk, my pants and shirt, and the floor with protein shake.

Hahaha!

After I cleaned up my area, I settled down to work realizing I needed to pay attention to exactly what I was doing instead of trying to do two things at once.