Taking Care of Me Helps Me Find My Best “Me”

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Sometimes I feel like I am a child, stumbling along in the dark, and often directly into the path of a bright window, where love radiates and I learn a lesson.  I feel as if I have learned many lessons lately, and the most important one I have learned is this:

I need to figure out what it takes to be the best “me,” and then do THAT.

Throw myself into whatever it is that takes me furthest, whatever makes me happiest, whatever helps those I love the most, whatever serves the greater good but also grows me.

I am a seedling, growing under the care of love and the sun and I am constantly changing and growing and breaking through barriers, yet moving slowly and purposefully as so not to bruise my tender leaves.  I have to be patient with myself and I have to ask others to be patient with me, in turn.

At 35, one might think I should be all grown up and have it figured out.  Let me tell you something:

Anyone that tells you they have it all figured out at 35, they are lying to you with fingers crossed behind their back.

We ALL want to give off the impression that we have it together.  We don’t.  I don’t, you don’t, not completely.  Some parts of our lives are stronger and more figured out than others, but life is a lesson that you keep learning new things about until you are dead.  And if you stop learning, stop growing, become stagnant, your leaves fall off and you die.  You die and you walk around as a husk of a person because you had it in your head that you had to have it all figured out RIGHT NOW.

My goal this week is to be kinder and gentler with myself.  I have been criticizing myself harshly because, as of the last few weeks, I haven’t been as productive (at least traditionally so), as I may have hoped.  I’m going to cut myself some slack though, because I am needing time to heal.

I have been physically under the weather for almost three weeks now, and the mystery illness isn’t letting up.  I have a feeling that stress and strong self-criticism and not allowing myself to just rest and to just be, is what is continuing the sickness.  Not that the illness is in my head, because I think it is very real, just that I am exacerbating it by continuing to expect myself to be Wonder Woman and all things to all people and to check all sorts of things off my “to do” list every day.

So I am taking a break from the harshness of my own voice reprimanding myself.  I am going to try and take it easy.  I am going to try and figure out what makes me the best “me” that I can be, and I’m going to run with it.  Some of my very favorite people in the world are going through rough times right now, too, and I want to urge them, to urge you, to be kind to yourself this week.  To take it a little easier than normal on yourself.

It is positive to motivate yourself to do things, but when your voice turns cruel and you stop giving yourself credit and you decide you are a bad person, just stop.  It really is that simple — stop being so mean to yourself, and give yourself a break.  You will come out ahead, in the end.

 

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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.

Willingness, Floating in the Sea, and a Recommitment

For days, weeks, I have wanted to just give up.  I was wrong.  I AM ready to fight this depression.  I am ready to kick it’s scrawny little butt across my backyard so that it lands in my compost pile.  I’m ready to do what it takes.  Do you hear that, world?  I’m WILLING.  I almost forgot the word and I decided to be the poster child for willingness again after a gradual buildup of faith in myself over the past two hours (because that’s just how my mind works, ok?).

After years (like over ten) of DBT (Dialectical Behavior Therapy) training, I remembered that I have to use my skills in order to keep everything in top working condition.  Okay, let’s be honest, I didn’t remember.  Goddess of Mindfulness reminded me.  For an hour straight.  Yesterday afternoon.

Why do I always forget?  Why do I always denounce DBT as something that won’t help me?  For the past year, I have been running away from it.  And this isn’t the first time.  I’ve lost count of the times I have decided that a completely proven therapeutic program just isn’t for me.

It’s really hard to have a negative therapeutic experience with someone and continue on believing in the same basic principles that she was teaching you.  The impulse is to jump away, far away, get away from demands you deem unreasonable.  Burn that bridge.  Decide what  you need is intense trauma work.  Forget mindfulness, forget self-soothe, sacred self.  Stop saying loving-kindness meditations.  Completely give DBT the fuck up.

Forget IOP, forget all those other great therapists.  Forget hugging a tree and magically becoming the most willing person on the planet.  Literally.  Banish all those memories of getting better, too.  Tell yourself it had to have been a fluke.  Skills are for idiots.  Skills are for people who aren’t smart enough for “talk therapy.”

WOW.

I know, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that DBT will bring me up from the depths.  Again.  DBT and I have an excellent track record.  Why I keep dismissing DBT after falling down the rabbit hole, I am not sure.  I think it has to be a subconscious desire to not get better.  Or something fairly similar.

Perhaps something to discuss in my next therapy session, which I am ecstatic to announce is in two weeks.  I am really trying to embrace therapy again (after the last year of having fairly terrible therapy sessions) and all the good things it does for me, and I don’t think it could be any easier to get back all those good things without the therapist I very first started with when I was 16, and then off and on until 2012.  (If you’re new to this blog, her name is Goddess of Mindfulness, often shortened to GoM.)

At the mental health center where I now only receive medication services, there works the director of the intensive outpatient DBT program.  She is a lovely woman and I have the utmost respect for her.  She was my co-therapist (along with GoM) the first time I came to the outpatient program.  She is the one who asked me to hug a tree when it was clear that nothing else was working, and she is the one who was not surprised that the tree hug led to great, great things.  When I was really down, fighting, resisting, pulling away, she said the greatest thing to me:

“Imagine you are stranded in the ocean, no land or boat in sight.  If you struggle, as you are now, you grow weary and die.  If you float, you live.”

This therapist taught me that the best way through the stress and up/down emotions and angst was to float.  “Just float.”  You  have no idea how many people say that to me, because I have told them that story when they were struggling, or I have asked them to say it to me when I am struggling.  She was and is a powerful woman, strong words, intense, amazing in her ability to help heal even the most painful wounds.

And to float is to be mindful.  To float is to be willing.  To float is to use your skills and avoid a freak-out.  To float is to acknowledge that pain, but then watch it float on by.

I can do those things, I know, because I have done them before.  I am already feeling a great sense of calm washing over me, writing this out.  My homework of 1 act of sacred self, 1 act of loving kindness to a loved one, and 1 act of loving kindness to a stranger have all been completed for the day.  I feel like I am floating, having come to remember that DBT will save me, if I am just willing.

Understanding the Severity of the Issue

I have been giving some thought to my most recent slip-slide toward depression, and have come up with again the article I referenced yesterday.  I want to expound a bit more upon it.  An excerpt from “The Biggest Lesson I’ve Learned From Managing My Bipolar Disorder,” by Margarita Tartakovsky, M.S. is as follows:

“The biggest lesson I’ve learned is to take bipolar disorder very seriously,” said Julie A. Fast, a bestselling author of books on bipolar disorder and professional coach who works with loved ones of people with the illness. Fast was diagnosed with rapid cycling bipolar disorder II in 1995.

“It’s not like other illnesses. It’s sneaky and dangerous if you don’t watch it all of the time.” She compared it to type I diabetes. “People with diabetes one can’t mess around – ever. I can’t either.”

You can’t  mess around with bipolar disorder.  I hear that, I get that, and I forget it.  I get off my schedule, I stay up too late, socialize too much, put too many or not enough things on my to-do list, skip taking some meds, use my sunlamp too much or too little, and I am left picking up the pieces of what was once a really well held-together Rose.

I’ve been doing all of the above lately.   I need more down-time, and I know that’s a lot to ask around the holidays.  I need more time to just read or watch TV and decompress.  All of the social activity of the season drains me.  Just thinking of the two different Christmas celebrations that DSB and I will be going to makes me feel a bit faint of heart.  Do I want to go, yes.  Will I go, yes.  Will it take a Klonopin or three to get me there, probably.

Over the last few days, I have had to take Klonopin because of insurmountable anxiety.  When things are going well, I take a PRN maybe once a week, every other week.  When the anxiety bears down, it can be an everyday thing, until it’s not.  I know that I have that medication available to me to use when I need it, and I don’t feel that I use it when I don’t need it, but it still bothers me to have to regulate my emotions with a pill.  You would think I had become used to that over the years.  I sometimes see it as a personal failure that I am looking for my Klonopin bottle.

As the article references above, comparing bipolar to Type I Diabetes, you have to stay in constant check with it.  That is hard to do, and it’s even harder when you’re feeling better.  You want to forget that things were ever bad, or that they could head back that direction at the drop of a hat.  The desire to stay well has to be constantly pushed into action, by checking up on oneself.

Have I taken my meds correctly today?  Do I need to be kinder to myself?  Do I need more down time?  Am I getting enough sleep and eating properly?  These are all questions I should ask myself on a day-to-day basis, and I don’t.

Just like so many out there, I take the good times for granted and forget that things were ever bad.  It is only while quietly slipping into ambivalence and then apathy and then depression, that these things come up again.  And then we just hope it’s not too late.