Busy

Work is changing a great deal. There has been a change of management and a restructuring of the organization. Not only did my boss change, but my place in the structure was rearranged. The new big boss is proving to be good. She’s very vocal about praise for what we’re doing.

One of the things we’re doing is trying to pull off a training that I’m supposed to run in less than a month. This is a process that we would put six months into in the past because of needing various approvals. Doing it in a month is exciting and stressful. I’m excited to do the training, but all the planning is overwhelming. Thankfully, the new bosses understand this can’t be done alone. A team is working on it. That helps my peace of mind a great deal.

I’ve been in this job for almost four years. I basically worked alone for three and a half years. This new team environment is welcomed. I like the idea that there are people helping me to get projects moving.

All this is affecting my sleep, one of the pillars of my recovery. I’m taking some medicine to give me good nights, but it’s less than ideal. It’s not a sleep medicine. It’s simply one that has a side effect of causing sleepiness. I need good sleep, and it really upsets me when I don’t get it.

I have been doubling up on my meditation. I used to meditate only in the mornings, but I’ve added a time late in the afternoon or evening before bed. This helps me feel better. It keeps my mind clear.

I’ve also been seeing my therapist weekly. These sessions give me the opportunity to say a lot of stuff out loud that I keep within. All that keeps my mind clear, too.

My diet is unchanged. It’s mostly vegetarian with very little refined sugar. My birthday was last week, and the man I’m dating baked a cake, but he only put in half the sugar. It was still just as good.

The one area I’ve really slacked off on is exercise. I’ve basically quit. It’s not ideal, but there’s so much stuff going on in my life right now, and I’m not even going to think about it. Things will settle down in a few months, and I’ll restart my speed walking routine. I refuse to berate myself for this one point.

All in all, I suppose things are pretty good right now.

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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.

The Day After

Yesterday, I was feeling very low because I broke up with the man I was dating. Last night, I went out to eat with two very close friends. They allowed me to dominate the conversation. I was able to say everything I wanted to say and process the whole experience. The result is that today I feel refreshed.

I love the way the process works. For this low spot, I used meditation, medication, and conversation.

In meditation before the break up when I was feeling particularly bad, I used visualization. I imagined myself actually vomiting up all the anxiety I was feeling. It was remarkably helpful, and I felt better. While I was feeling so low after the break up, I was able to imagine myself receiving light and positive energy. It helped.

I have an anti-anxiety medicine that I use as needed. With all the chaos at work the past month and with my doctor’s approval, I’ve been using it daily. It really helped during the break up, too.

I used conversation in therapy to help me know how best to manage the actual conversation of the break up, and last night, the conversation with two close friends really helped me get all the crap out. I’m so grateful to them.

All of this reinforces what I already knew. Get it out. Whatever is troubling me loses its power when I speak it. It really works. Speak it to a trusted person. That’s key.

Recovery

Recovery is an ongoing process. There is no end. It’s often day by day. At times, it can be hour to hour.

As outlined in my last two posts, I’ve been in a bit of a bad way. Bipolar disorder manifests in me in a seasonal way, and when the seasons change, I often get symptoms. These have been quite mild for years lasting only a few days. This time was different, and I think it was caused by all the changes happening at work that I’ve also written about.

I was hypomanic for a while, and then just simply unstable with various symptoms like rage, extreme irritability, hypersexuality, speedy thoughts, etc. I am lucky to have the job I do, and I was given time off, and then last week, I only worked half days. I am happy to say it worked. I’m back at work full-time today, and I feel normal. I don’t feel amped up or depressed. I just feel normal. I’m experiencing normal emotions today, and I’m extremely grateful for that.

Here’s what worked for me:

  • I meditated a lot while I was home not working. They were short bursts of time to clear my head from all the speedy thoughts.
  • I continued speed walking for exercise.
  • I used anti-anxiety medication daily at my doctor’s insistence that had been prescribed for use as needed. He decided this was a period when it was needed regularly. My doctor also increased the dosage of the main medication I take for the bipolar disorder.
  • I have increased my therapy to weekly, and last week, I was able to talk to my therapist by phone twice when I needed to quickly debrief about a situation.

Today, I feel like I’ve made it through the worst. I’m going to stick with weekly therapy for a bit, and I have a follow-up appointment with my psychiatrist this week to reassess where things stand. I am really grateful for all the tools I have to use when I need them.