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?

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.

Heaviness

My heart is heavy. I had two real traumas in January. The first was when my dad called to disown me. The second came much later in the month, and it had to do with my job.

The agency where I work is being reorganized. As part of that reorganization, my job is being reclassified, and the little office I run is being made part of a new office. The result is that my salary is being slashed by a lot. The reorganization takes place July 1. At that time, the new office will come into effect. It will have a new office manager, and I will be eligible to apply for it, but there is no way to know in advance if I will be successful.

I spent much of last week reeling with this news. There were days my anxiety was so high I had to take sick leave at work. The slash to my income is too high for me to manage. If my application for the new management position is unsuccessful, I will have to take a roommate to afford my rent. I have analyzed my budget, and I can’t make ends meet by simply cutting expenses.

I have done several things to prepare. I have immediately slashed spending. I still have a number of months to go at my current salary. I will save every stray penny that I can.

I just feel very heavy.

Through it all, I realize that I’m quite strong. I have weathered two real traumas, but I’m still standing. I haven’t isolated. I’ve been out on two dates. One man came to my house, and I made him a cup of very good coffee. I met another man for coffee. I was able to tell both about my troubles and demonstrate that I’m resilient.

I’ve been seeing my therapist weekly.

I’ve been sleeping a lot, which can be a sign of depression, but sleep is one of my recovery tools, so I take this as a good sign. I say “a lot,” but it really just is a healthy amount. It’s not too much.

I’m taking all my medications as prescribed, and I have made an extra appointment with my psychiatrist to tell him what’s going on. He needs to know about these things to help me monitor myself for signs of debilitating relapse into depression or hypomania.

I’m meditating as much as I can. I’ve started walking down to the cathedral during work breaks and getting some even breathing in that time.

My diet is unchanged. I eat healthy food. I don’t drink soda. The only thing that is close to junk food I’m eating these days is trail mix, which is mostly nuts and raisins with a few M&Ms.

I’m going to AA meetings when I can. That’s about two or three times each week. It’s good to be around other people working on improving themselves.

One thing I’m not doing is exercising. I’m just not doing it, and I’m not going to beat myself up about it.

Despite two real traumas, I’m going to be OK. Right now, I’m allowing myself to feel heavy. This is grief.

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.

Sleep Psychology Works!

I went to the sleep psychologist about a month ago, and I started keeping a sleep diary. I have gone from sleeping only about 6 hours to now getting a solid 7 hours of sleep the majority of nights. On some weekend nights, I sleep longer. I’m really happy about this.

Sleep is one of the pillars of my recovery, and getting adequate slumber time helps keep me stable.

One thing the psychologist did that gave me great relief was to teach me how to recognize anxiety by how I’m breathing. Without realizing it, I was breathing in my chest. She taught me that’s a sign of anxiety and to switch to belly breathing to relieve it. It worked!

We also did a worksheet based on Cognitive Behavioral Therapy about a problem I had a work. Using the worksheet revealed to me that I have a unique set of requirements around my job, and that I should go easy on myself. This helped enormously. I was judging myself harshly about some trouble at work.

So I’m sleeping much better, and it’s making a marked improvement in my days.

Seeing a Sleep Psychologist

Sleep is a very important part of my mental health recovery, and I’ve been having trouble getting good quality sleep for a few years. I spoke to my psychiatrist about it, and he referred me to a sleep doctor. I went to see her, but I don’t have any of the symptoms of disrupted sleep due to a physical problem. She referred me to a sleep psychologist.

I saw that person last Saturday. We talked about the cycles of sleep, and how my anxiety may disrupt good quality sleep. She gave me a good breathing technique for alleviating my anxiety. She had me place a hand on my upper chest and one on my belly. I discovered the hand on my upper chest was rising and falling with each breath, meaning I was anxious. When we’re anxious, we take shallow breaths. It’s at these times, we should consciously breathe from our bellies and get more oxygen into our bodies.

The sleep psychologist also gave me a sleep diary to keep for two weeks. I’m writing down when I drink anything with caffeine, when I take any medicine, and when I get exercise, as well as noting when I sleep.

All this feels good. I feel like I’m doing something good for my health.