It Works!

With a sigh of relief, I can say the tools for getting back into a better frame of mind work. Yesterday, I was struggling, as I wrote. It was not a good day at all. I was stressed and not dealing with it well at all. I used the tools that I know work. I meditated early and went for a good speed walk to get my self moving. I went to the cathedral down the street for a break and for my lunch break. I was able to meditate very briefly once, but the rest of the time I just sat. I made an extra appointment to see my therapist, and luckily he had an opening in the late afternoon.

Before that session, I chatted with my best friend about my turmoil. I could easily say that I understood the cause of my discontent was in me. I knew it was. I’ve been doing all this too long to try to blame it on something around me. An AA text The 12 and 12 states it correctly: whenever we are disturbed no matter what the cause, the problem lies in us.

I really was disturbed. My negative self-talk was working overtime. The voice in my head was saying I’d ruined my life and I was worthless. I was feeling really bad.

A very important tool for me is chatting with my best friend. He’s smart about these things. I was able to tell him that I knew I was the source of all the discord inside, and he invited me to look at all the good ways I was using my tools to feel better. He was absolutely right. I was doing a lot of good for myself. I was doing a good job of taking care of myself, but I couldn’t seem to say it.

My therapist has been helping me see the exact same thing, and he is now helping me change some of the things I say to myself. Instead of saying that I’m nuts, I can say I’m feeling a lot of stress. I like this a lot more than saying happy things while looking at myself in the mirror. That never worked for me. I know it works for some people, but I couldn’t get it to stick for me. So I’m going to take the reality of the situation, but instead of using words that demean me, I’m going to rephrase it into truth that is not degrading.

Last night I took an antianxiety medicine that I have for situations just like this, and I got a good night’s sleep. My meditation this morning was really good. I got some good breaths in between the wandering thoughts, and I went for a good speed walk. On the bus this morning, I was able to chat briefly with the man I’m dating, who was my ex and now is not my ex. It felt good. It wasn’t important stuff, but the connection felt good.

There are many things we can use as tools to help us through our difficult times when we feel bad about ourselves and our lives and the world around us. These are some of the things that work for me. I hope you can find little activities that work for you.

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Struggling

I’m struggling today. I want to go home and crawl in bed.

Not going home is the first thing I’m doing to help myself feel better.

The second thing is I meditated early this morning.

Then I walked for exercise.

I’ve also visited the cathedral. I wasn’t able to meditate, but I made myself say a positive thing to myself.

Finally, I got an extra session with my therapist late this afternoon after work.

In between now and then, I will eat a healthy lunch.

I’m using the tools to feel better. I’m not taking this feeling down as permanent. I’m actively working to feel better.

Beauty in the Ugly

Life is messy. Specifically, my life is messy.

I have a good job, but I haven’t managed my finances well. For years, I had nothing to manage, so I went a little crazy when I got this job. But I can get by, and there is an end to paying for that mistake.

There is stress in my job. All jobs have it. Mine is no exception. Since I live with bipolar disorder, I am highly sensitive to stress. I think I’m allergic to it.

Psychologically, I’m a wreck. My mind races. It invents lots of catastrophes that won’t happen, but my gut reacts to the imagined disasters like they’re happening now creating a lot of anxiety.

Romantically, this year has been tumultuous. I dated a man and fell in love and then broke up and went through heartache and now we’re dating again. It feels good right now, but there’s been a lot of upheaval.

Despite all this, I wake every morning and get up out of bed. I have a morning routine that I really like. I drink a cup of tea and briefly scroll through Facebook, and then I meditate. This morning’s meditation was a good example of the beauty in the midst of the turmoil. My mind was racing, so I started counting my breaths on my fingers. The counting aided my concentration, and I was soon simply breathing.

Of course, my mind still wandered, but it wasn’t racing. I was able to bring it back to the breath easily. Then it would wander again, and I’d bring it back to my breath. It’s a very beautiful process. Wandering. Breathing. Wandering. Breathing. Over and over.

Despite the fear I have of rejection, I’m still pursuing a romantic partnership. I put effort into cultivating a good relationship. Last Friday, I was honestly terrified waiting for him to come to dinner, but I didn’t cancel it. I walked through the fear. I was rewarded with a delightful evening, and last night, I was rewarded again with an easy chat by text. It feels good knowing I’m walking through my fear.

I am an imperfect man. I have emotions that get out of control. I’m not always able to react with equanimity to life events. I have a lot of fear and anxiety that almost – almost – debilitates me.

The way I walk through my imperfections is very beautiful. In my head, I’m leaping over them, but in reality, I’m taking just one step at a time. There is real beauty in a single step. Sometimes there is enormous courage in a single step, and courage is beautiful. One single courageous step is the most beautiful thing in the world.

Am I a Fake?

I’ve been at my job for three years and four months. I was on disability for eight years before that, and before that, I was hardly working for about five years. That was a long time in which my main occupation was taking care of my mental health.

It’s no surprise that all this time back on the job, I’ve felt like I was not quite here. Actually, I felt like I wasn’t really supposed to be here. The strange part is that I didn’t question the thoughts that I was out of place at my job.

It’s only been the past month or two that I’ve really felt firm in my job. I’m not faking it on the inside or outside. It took a long time for me to get to a point where I didn’t feel like I was waiting for someone to tell me I didn’t really belong here.

I’ve heard it called Impostor Syndrome. I haven’t really read anything about this pop-psychology idea, but I’ve heard of it. Basically, it’s the notion that one doesn’t really fit in with one’s surroundings. I understand that.

I can say that today I really feel like this is my life. This is what I’m doing. This is where I belong.

The feeling that I was somehow not leading a real life is not new to me. I’ve felt it for many years. Perhaps for my whole life. I always felt like I needed to prove myself. Like I needed to be something more in order to be accepted into the world. I had to work doubly hard to simply have the right to exist.

It’s exhausting. I was constantly struggling to get others to approve of my right to be here. Of course, I now realize I was fighting for my own idea of approval. Maybe what’s happened in the past month is that I realize I do approve of myself. In any event, it feels good. I feel like I can relax a little.

Today, I’m whole. I can breathe easy.

Stability

This afternoon, an old friend arrives to stay for a week. I’m really looking forward to seeing him after eleven years. It will be fun. I have to work while he’s here, but we’ll have evenings together and one weekend.

I was thinking this morning about how quiet my life is right now. I’m really happy with that. I don’t have a lot of stuff going on. I wake early and meditate and exercise and go to work. I relax when I get home from work.

My sleep is not the best, but it seems to be adequate. I’m limiting my caffeine to two cups of tea each day.

I have some good friends that bring me joy. My children are all doing well at the moment, so that feels really good.

My ex is slowly becoming not-an-ex. We’ve only been on one date because of his schedule, but I’m not worried about it. The right thing will happen.

My meditation is good these days. Years ago I used guided visualization, and I highly recommend it. I’ve evolved to something closer to traditional meditation where I just concentrate on my breath. My mind wanders naturally, but I don’t judge it. I just calmly bring it back to my breath. I do it as often as necessary.

My life is quite boring right now. I feels really good.

Self Study

I should probably call this “Studying My Self.” I’ve been in therapy for 32 years. Off and on. More on than off, but there were some short periods when it wasn’t possible. Therapy is basically the study of self.

I’ve learned a lot, and therapy has helped me put some demons to rest that were the result of a messy childhood and adolescence. It has been very valuable.

I tried to cope with all the crap in my head by drinking to excess. That did not work, and I eventually had to get help to quit drinking. AA taught me well, but it did nothing for the demons. Therapy helped me unmask those and take their power away. After 19 years of sobriety and 32 years of therapy, I can honestly say I never think about drinking. During the pain of the break up last summer, drinking never once crossed my mind. I’m grateful that’s over.

I saw my ex yesterday, and it brought up a lot of emotions that I didn’t know what to do with. I had therapy this morning and was able to talk about them.

Last week, my therapist recommended a book that I bought and devoured: Wired for Dating by Stan Tatkin. I highly recommend it. It talks some about the biochemical processes that happen during dating, but the bulk of the book is about how we attach to people in our lives. I learned a lot about my way of attaching, and I was able to see my ex’s way, too.

In therapy this morning, I was able to see how I had triggered my ex, even though that was not my intention. I was also able to practice some ways of saying things that won’t be as triggering.

I was also able to see that I tend to get very hot in the early stages of the relationship, and that might scare a partner. Since my ex and I are talking again, I’ll get to practice moving slowly. We’ll see what happens. It might work out; it might not. I can’t predict.

I am really grateful to have my best friend who reminded me yesterday that emotions aren’t permanent. I’m grateful to have a good therapist who helped me work through how I can trigger other people. I’m grateful to have meditation that lets me release so much fear. I’m grateful for all my tools.

I’m grateful for you readers. I’ve had some comments in the past few weeks, and it really is nice to know that a few people really connect with some of the stuff that gets written here. Thank you.

How to Meditate

I was just reminded talking to a friend how our preconceptions of meditation are wrong. It is not emptying the mind.

Meditation is breathing.

Sit comfortably. I sit on a stool with a cushion. Relax. Try to relax as much as you can while maintaining yourself in the seated posture.

Now simply concentrate on the motion of your diaphragm as you breathe. It rises when you inhale, and falls on the exhale.

Thoughts will come. It’s completely natural, and you cannot stop it. When you realize your mind has wandered, tell the thought that it has had its time, but now you’re going to go back to concentrating on your breath and diaphragm. Return your concentration to that.

Give yourself a small goal of trying to concentrate for 3 breaths. Then you’re mind will wander again, and you will return it to your breathing.

Don’t judge the thoughts. Don’t judge the fact that your mind wandered. Just allow it. If you find that you do judge it when your mind wanders, ask yourself why you’re judging. Then return your thoughts to your breathing again.

Concentrate on breathing. Allow the wandering mind. Return to concentrating on breathing. Over and over.

That’s it. That’s all meditation is. Nothing more.