Nineteen Years

Today, I celebrate nineteen years of sobriety. A friend reminded me that’s a long time. At first I thought about the fact that it’s only a string of single days all put together, but you know what? It is indeed a long time, and it’s a big deal.

It’s easy to live through the single successive days and lose sight of the larger picture. In that string of single days, I’ve built up a lot of really good stuff. A lot has happened that was truly good. There was some bad, too. I remember the bad, but today, I feel the good more.

The best is that I healed. I drank because I was broken. Sobriety helped me know how important it was to reach out and get the help I needed to heal. I did that, and it worked. Read some of the past posts on this blog to understand how I’ve used therapy, medication, meditation, exercise, and sleep in my recovery from mental illness and substance abuse.

And today I celebrate nineteen years! Hooray!

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More About Dating and Bipolar Disorder

As mentioned a month ago, I’m dating. I didn’t plan it, but I mentioned my diagnosis the first time we met. He heard me, but he didn’t say anything. I think he realizes it has an affect, because I have to be careful with how involved I allow myself to get. I have to be conscious of how much time I’m giving him and how much I’m giving my recovery by keeping the routine that my stability is based on.

(Here’s a well-read post about dating and bipolar I wrote a number of years ago.)

So that I think is the key for me as a person with bipolar disorder when I date. My first priority has to be maintaining my stability. Without it, I’m not a good partner.

My partner has a part to play, too. He gives me the space I need to follow my routine. Encouragement from him means a great deal. Words that tell me he knows I’m working on myself are like gold.

I have certain things that are vital to my recovery: meditation, medication, therapy, exercise, and sleep. He can help me most not by monitoring those activities but by praising me for doing them.

I am devoting more energy to those activities these days. I’m going to therapy weekly, because this relationship is new, and it’s bringing up a lot of stuff that needs to be dealt with. My therapist is a disinterested third party and gives me honest, impartial feedback.

I’m taking my medication as prescribed. I have a problem with my feet, so I’m not exercising. My sleep is not good, so I’m going to make an appointment with a specialist.

Meditation is the most important thing I do without a doubt. I can sit and breathe and release energy that feels like it’s weighing me down. I can clear out so much in a short session. It’s not hard or complex. A friend asked me how to do it yesterday. I explained all you have to do is create a happy place in your mind where you can go and walk around and feel stuff in your body and then release the bad stuff. It’s that simple. Close your eyes, and breathe deeply. Walk through a door to a place that you create that’s happy for you. In that place, pay attention to your body, and release anything that is uncomfortable. That’s it.

My partner can help me the most by being open and by talking a lot about how he feels about what I’m doing. It doesn’t take much. As long as I know the lines of communication are open, I can walk through almost anything. Once I feel like I’m being dictated to or preached to or not being heard, I have a very different reaction.

Dating works when both parties work on it. I do my part by maintaining my recovery first and being attentive to him second. He does his part in a very similar fashion. He cares for himself and is then attentive to me.

Using Tools

For about the past 4 or 5 days, I was feeling really good. I was having to concentrate hard on staying “in the now,” but it was working. I could meditate and concentrate on walking through my day until I would have another chance to meditate and refresh. At that next meditation, I could do the same thing.

Yesterday, I woke up agitated. I was not in the mood to allow life to flow. I wanted answers to my questions. I wanted to know the outcomes of present situations. I wanted. I needed.

I was not in a good mind space.

My strength is that I recognized it. I knew I needed help, so I reached out for it. I called my therapist, and he happened to have an opening. I jumped on it. I saw him late in the afternoon after work, and I was able to talk about what was going on.

There are a lot of changes happening in my life. I’m dating as I’ve written about here, and it’s the first time I’ve been dating in an extremely long time. There’s lots of new energy surging through my life. All this affects my equilibrium, and I know how important it is for me to stay on an even keel.

I am so grateful for the tools I have as part of my recovery. Yesterday, I recognized I was off balance, and I used a tool to help me regain it. It worked. I left the psychologist’s office much calmer.

My life is changing. Normally, that’s scary. Right now, I’m walking through it.

I’m Dating

Yes, you read that right. I’m dating. It happened quickly. I’m elated at times. Other times, I’m shaking.

The man is wonderful. We met for coffee one Saturday morning after chatting on a dating app for several days. I didn’t plan it this way, but my diagnosis came out during that first meeting, and he didn’t run screaming from the room.

He’s actually very supportive. For a week, we texted often, and we saw each other in the evenings a few times. It all got quite overwhelming for me. I was having a lot of trouble concentrating, and I had to leave work early one day because I was simply not able to function. Luckily, I was able to see my therapist that day. The result has been that we’re being more careful about texting, and I’m doing more grounding exercises during my morning meditations.

The grounding exercises are key. They give me a stable foundation to each day. In my meditations, I’ve been concentrating on staying stable just one day at a time. I’m trying not to think past today.

I’ve been enjoying myself a lot. It’s been a lot of fun honestly. I’ve been alone for a very long time, so this all feels so new. I’m just walking through it one step at a time. I just keep walking.

Living with Ambiguity

Life is full of times when we don’t know exactly what to expect. Many times it’s simple things like how much mayonnaise the deli clerk will put on a sandwich. Will it be too much or just right? Sometimes the ambiguity will be about major topics like finances.

The weather can be a source of ambiguity. Will tomorrow by sunny as predicted? Will it rain this afternoon?

People can bring ambiguity into our lives, and our relationships can be a source of it.

I have not been good with ambiguity in my life. I feel great stress by having so many unknown things going on. I want certainty. I want to remove the guesswork. The result has been that I have felt great stress at so many things.

I have transferred my stress at ambiguous situations to other areas in order to imagine I was creating certainty. I have used shopping as one means to cope with ambiguity. It’s simple. I can decide some item will add value to my life. I search for the item. I find it. I search for the best price, and then I buy it. The whole process is a means to control this one aspect of my life while so much of my life is unknown.

I also use other means to cope with ambiguity. I want to remove the uncertainty.

Today, I can recognize when I’m trying to cope with my dislike of ambiguity. I can talk about these things in therapy, which relieves a lot of the stress. I can also meditate and release my need to control. I used to walk, but I have plantar fasciitis in my right heel preventing me from getting that kind of exercise to relieve myself.

I am grateful I can recognize when I’m uneasy today and take steps to help myself feel better.

Life is getting better

Therapy is one of the pillars of my recovery. I have been in therapy for the majority of the past 30 years. I was even in therapy for some of the years I lived abroad.

I don’t remember when it happened, but at some point, I learned to be radically open with my psychologists. I tell them everything. There’s an important benefit from this habit: everything has a chance to heal. My darkest secrets can come up and see the light and either transform or vanish.

I had a session last night, and I had an important breakthrough. It sounds simple, but it was quite profound for me. It amounts to:

I’m okay.

It’s that simple. I have many desires, and many times I allow them to become obsessive. I have one desire that has been dominating my life for more than a year. I realized in therapy last night that even if that desire is never realized in the way my imagination is demanding, I’m okay.

I have a lot of fear surrounding finances, but you know what? I’m okay. I’m better off than 95% of the people on the planet actually. I have a roof over my head. I have a car. I have a job. When I go to the grocery store, I buy anything I want without worrying about the price.

Relationships? I’m okay. I have been making new friends. It took a while after moving to this city for my new job two years ago, but I’m making new friends now. I have a good romantic life, too. It’s not what I want in the long run, but it’s good for now.

The most important point is that I’m okay in my own skin. I’m better than okay actually. I like being me. I could not say that just a few years ago.

Go back through the archives of this blog seven years ago. I lived in a dark place. Fear ruled me. What changed? Me. I healed.

Recovery from mental illness is real. It happened to me.

Tolerance for Ambiguity

I have a lot of difficulty right now. There is a situation at work that I’ve been working on all year. It appeared that all the pieces were in place to make it happen, and then I got word that one important piece has gone awry.

My first response in situations like this is to end it. I want the situation to be cut and dried, but that doesn’t seem to be the best response. The situation can’t go on for many days, because there are deadlines. So I’m giving it just a bit of time. I’m allowing ambiguity into the situation.

Strangely, I’m rather comfortable with this ambiguity. I am allowing there to be uncertainty, and I am choosing to walk through it. I am concentrating very specifically on only one task at a time. If I can do just one thing at a time, those one-things will line up to some kind of conclusion. I don’t know what the conclusion will be at this point, and I’m sitting in that uncertainty and allowing it to have its space.

All this is very strange for me. I’m having more reaction to the strangeness than I am to uncertainty.

I had a good session with my psychologist last night talking about this. He told me to add a phrase to “tolerance for ambiguity.” He said, “You’re tolerating the ambiguity and learning to make friends with it.” That seems key. I’m learning to make friends with not knowing.

Not knowing usually causes me great anxiety – tremendous anxiety – but I’ve been meditating a lot these past months releasing my anxiety surrounding the uncertainty in my personal life. I’ve come to a place of peace with the ambiguity there. Perhaps I can learn to live with ambiguity at work, too.

I feel the anxiety, but it’s much less than past events have caused.

A decision will be made today, because there are deadlines. One possible decision may be to give it just one more day.

I’ll deal with that ambiguity when it happens.