Does Better Mental Health Equal an Easier Quit?

You know, when you get ready to quit smoking, you can find some of the most unbelievable “facts” and opinions on the Internet.  Everything from “the only way to quit and stay quit is xyz” to “blood pressure returns to normal within 24 hours” to “the first few weeks are the hardest.”

Well, it might end up, further into my journey, that I call the first few weeks the hardest, but that just isn’t how its going for me right now.  I am on Day 12 and counting, and I am finding it to be so much easier than any of the other times I tried to quit, and much more similar to the last time I quit for an extended period of time (1.5 years).  It just feels easy, it just feels right.

Maybe it is because my mental health is in such a place, that I’m learning once again to focus on the moment, to not dwell on negativity, and to do the things that I know keep me well.  Although over the past month, things have been hit or miss with my mood, I have had several straight solid days, where I felt great, happy even.  Not manic, mind you, just centered and at peace with things, in general, in my life.

I owe a lot of that to be open, willing, mindful, and completing meditation practice every day.  It is amazing how much all of that opens you up to a more beautiful world than you see when feeling poorly.  It feels like the sun is shining down into my brain, my heart, and like any problem I am having right now, is a problem that can be put away, worked through, or I can be made to realize it isn’t as important as I thought it was.

I know I have quit smoking, temporarily before, and I realize I am at 12 days only, and while I will obviously be much more comfortable when I am months or even years from my quit date, I can’t help but feel super confident that this will last.  I have had so many new “revelations” since I quit, so much has already changed, and I just keep waiting for the next surprise to come up.

Before quitting, I was always (no exaggeration) very out of breath.  Even just sitting, I had a wheezy pant going.  Walking across a parking lot was difficult, and walking around a grocery store or any store for that matter, was next to impossible.  I barely moved at home, sitting for long periods of time and neglecting daily chores.  Of course, it didn’t help that I have been sick for the longest time, but I’m talking the most extreme inactivity.

I had forgotten how bad certain things smelled, and now my sense of smell is coming back.  Burnt popcorn smell all throughout the house, stinky fish smell coming from garbage, the smell of smoke steeped into the whole house from years of smoking inside.  It’s all really terrible and, while I am grateful that I can smell these things now so that I can address them before they become a real problem, it’s really kind of gross right now and has been making me quite nauseous  here in the last couple of days.

When I find myself wanting a cigarette, usually after a meal or when driving, I tell myself to wait five minutes, and if after those five minutes are up, I still want a cigarette, I can go buy a pack and have one.  And quite honestly, usually by 2 or 3 minutes, I can’t believe that I was actually entertaining the idea of having one.  Mindfulness really helps with cravings as well, along with deep breathing or rhythmic breathing.

Feeling all that clean air push through my lungs, the irritating cough I have right now while getting all that stuff out my chest, and the ability to smell both good smells and bad smells — well, all in all, I’m loving it.  It is that immediate positive reinforcement for breaking bad behavior that works so well, and I know I would be able to do any of this if my mental health were in poor shape, and for that I thank DBT, mindfulness, and Loving-Kindness.

 

The Beauty of the Loving-Kindness Meditation

I have some good, and perhaps unexpected news tonight.  I, Rosa, have had a GOOD day here this 19th day of September.  Really an all-around good day.  Physically, I woke up feeling relatively fine and only had issues with some crazy awful nausea during the day.  I find that if I sit very very still, this helps.

In the not-too-distant future, I can see myself functioning again.  I can see it and I can believe it and I have taken that photograph with me in my mind’s eye, so that I can keep referring back.  When I meditated this morning, it was a sort-of loving-kindness meditation that I had adapted to do what I wanted it to (my favorite kind).

My words for myself were:

May my body heal.

May my soul straighten.

May my mind be free from other’s drama.

May I live my life today, easy and carefree.

My words for others were:

May you be at ease with your  pain and suffering

May a great joy come to you today.

May you realize I always forgive you.

May you be free from the pain of life, if just for a moment

 

You can really make a meditation into anything you want it to, save that it is helpful to you and/or someone else.  I like the loving-kindness meditations, because “to self” words always soothe.  You must pick them out as particular to you.  These words you are putting into the world, they find people and knock them down and pick them back up again and set everything on course because, well, you are using these words to express love to yourself, which will set everything else afire.

The “to others” words can be particularly strong and powerful, to someone else and to YOU.  The best thing I like to do when starting “to others” words, is to picture a person I don’t much care for, or, even better, one who has caused me pain.  You say these words over and over, to a flawed but perhaps, deep inside, tortured person.  Your words may never mean anything to them, but the words help you to see this person in a different light.

My apologies for interrupting the status update with a little note on mindfulness, meditation, and loving-kindness meditation.  I still have quite the fog circling my brain, but I think I am coming through it.

My Apologies for the Disorganization Contained Within

Here recently, I have done a lot of reading of other blogs.  I’ve read some beautiful, horrible, raw, fascinating, plagiarized, well-written, and under-developed posts.  Underneath all of that, however, there is always a story that is being told.  It isn’t up to me to judge, but I can choose to “like” the post.  I can choose to comment.  I can choose to follow that blogger.  With two weeks worth of nothing-ness at work, I have followed a lot of new bloggers.  And by new, I don’t necessarily mean new, just new-to-me.  My goal for this period in which I have a great deal of time to read and ponder, was to comment whenever I could.

Now lemme tell ya, there are many bloggers that I have been following, some for months, some longer, that I absolutely love but never comment on.  It may sound silly, but when I type out a comment, I look at it and think that it’s: a) poorly written, b) not witty enough to keep up with the rest of the commenters or the person who posted, c) just plain dumb.  So, many times, I don’t comment.  Well in these past two weeks, I have been a commenting fool.  I have said what is in my heart, what a particular post makes me feel, a thank-you to the author, trying for originality, and, watch out world, Rosa is commenting.  Fiercely.

I’m hoping that by commenting, I will work my way back into posting more regularly.  I have always written for myself, but there is still a piece of me that says, “Good gawd, Rosa!  That’s a piece of crappy drivel…you can’t publish that!”  Because I don’t want to embarrass myself, you know.  I know I’m far from being a great writer, but I’m not a terrible one, either.  I read these fascinating, well-written posts by talented, but seemingly-human bloggers, who appear to be able to churn out one hand-clapping-worthy post a day, and then I look at the draft I am writing, and I vow not to publish such crap into existence.

Part of the whole problema that is Rosa is that I am much too hard on myself.  I am sharper and meaner with myself than my worst critic could ever be.  This is why I am saying three daily loving-kindness meditations, why I am doing one kind thing for a stranger every day, for a loved one every day, and (am supposed to be doing) one for myself.  Every day.  It was a therapy assignment.  I am most stellar at saying my loving-kindness meditations, as I always have been, because I can so fully feel the community and the connectedness in my heart when I do.  Unlike I am able to at any other time.  Amazing.  It is easy to do one kind thing for a stranger and a loved one every day.  I think I was probably doing that before, just not as mindfully or with such intent.

And the third therapy assignment is the topic of my next blog post:  How do I start being nice to myself?  It’s the next blog post because this one’s already getting a bit long, and also because I will have to do some deep introspection.  I’m not really that good at being kind to myself, but I’m all about growing together.

 

Dusting Off Old Skills

So happy today that it’s the weekend.  This week almost killed me off, between being sick from a new medication and having major random mood swings.  I decided to stop taking the medicine and actually slept better without it than with it.  Oh, and no more vomiting or stomach pains, a huge plus. 

I think the mood swings are something I have to just be mindful of and let pass.  I can quickly swing from devastated to joyful to my version of normal.  If I can just make fewer pit stops in the desert of depression, all will be good.  I know what I need to do to make that happen, a lot of it hinging on being effective  — doing what works without fighting fighting fighting. 

I once had a therapist who said:

Being depressed is like being in the middle of the ocean without a lifeboat.  If you struggle, you drown.  If you float, you live.

The whole idea of DBT mindfulness, letting thoughts and emotions flow over you, floating with them, noticing and not judging, always noticing, never judging…it really works, when you remember to practice it.  I tried to start a new meditation series a few weeks ago that my therapist had recommended and I absolutely hated it.  Hated the voice, hated the words.  I tried to roll with it for a little while, but I just couldn’t take it and it wasn’t getting any better.

So I’m going back, have been going back within the last day or two to what I know to be effective — listening to certain music albums, blogging, sitting on my back porch drinking coffee, saying a loving-kindness meditation to forgive and forget.  Practicing loving myself and not judging myself.  It’s all those little things that make my life enjoyable.

A piece that really calms me…

The Fear You Won’t Fall, Joshua Radin