Wordlessly Zen Wednesday

Pictures are all taken in QoB’s backyard.  After a hard day yesterday, I knew I needed to take a time-out and appreciate the world around me.  Along with an excellent mom-visit, I was able to enjoy sitting outside in her backyard oasis:

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Before I know it, this whole area will be in bloom.  My mom can make anything grow, and has the patience and knowledge and creativity to make a beautiful space out of anything.  I can’t wait to post pictures again in just a few weeks.

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.

Moments of Willingness

namaste

 

We can choose to react to any one thing, any one person, any one task with either willingness or willfulness.  We can greet people, ideas, solutions with open arms, giving at least one first open-minded chance (as in willingness).  Or we can refuse to get up, refuse to examine our reality, and refusing mostly, well, for the sake of refusing.

There is generally little rhyme or reason to willfulness, and when you think you can put a reason or an explanation to it, it is still wrong and any explanation doesn’t “fix it.”  You are staying closed-off, staying silent (or being really loud), you are complaining instead of accepting your fate or listening to the advice that might make it better.  You are not giving anyone or anything (including yourself) a fair shake.

Having spent most of my life in a willful state, I had a huge breakthrough in an intensive DBT program.  I think this particular breakthrough was in the neighborhood of 2007, but I’m not sure — because DBT has saved my skin over and over, and there is always a new realization, it is difficult to keep track of the specific “when’s” which is really fine, because why and how matter much more than when, as it comes time to freeing yourself from negative coping patters and interjecting brand new ideas into your mind about how you could possibly cope, if you tried.

My particular breakthrough was simply this:  willfulness made my life dark and painful and difficult, and mindfulness set all that negativity free, made me a happier person.

Unfortunately, these lessons don’t always stay stuck in the brain, so every now and again, GoM gives a gentle nudge or QoB will say something or I will read something that sets my chest to loosening.  And I remember, just how much happier I, Rosa, am, when I set my heart and mind on being willing, becoming willing, practicing willingness.

Freeing myself from willfulness is perhaps as easy as just practicing.  It’s not hard, and now that I’ve been quite willful for the last several months, it is time to make that tiny adjustment, and tweak my mind and heart back to willingness, back to progress, back to believing that I can save my own emotional skin with the power of mindfulness, meditation, and for me, writing.

Yesterday’s goal, to blog every day no matter what, was validated by several  commenters and I really do appreciate that.  I think it will be helpful, and can actually already feel it helping.  If you can just get the awkwardness out of the way, and start to write what you believe in your mind, you can go places.

Having been heavy into not accomplishing and not working on goals lately, it struck me that I wasn’t listing anything that I personally felt was important.  They were the goals of other people.  From today forward, all new goals will ones that I personally desire to achieve.

In keeping with the necessity of mindfulness practice in DBT, and the importance of practicing practicing practicing, I am making the small goal of setting aside at least ten minutes every day for mindfulness exercise.  I know it will grow larger than that on its own, but it’s where I wanted to start.

cherry blossoms mindfulness

When Things End

I do not even know how to start this post, I have been doing it so infrequently.  It doesn’t help that my mind is racing and I am doing my oh.so.very.best to ignore, block, avoid.  Ignore, block, avoid, repeat.  And so on and so on.  It just seems like there has been so much going on, and I haven’t been able to handle it all at once.

Two things can be true:  1) You can have an ended relationship and know it is for the best, while at the same time, 2) not be able to get your shit together, your new routine going, your scattered life to come back to one piece again.  That is how I feel, I think.  I feel like I have been broken into a million pieces and I am trying to put them all together again, and it is too painful/hard/irritating/overwhelming, so I just sit around, still functional, but in pieces.

I don’t think it helped that I went through another rough spot this winter right before Dr. Love and I broke up.  I hadn’t exactly recovered when we did break up, and, while sometimes things seem much brighter, there is this lingering and poisonous fog that hover.  And the mind can play tricks on you.  I am up and down, up and down — life is great/life is shit, I can’t deal/I can do anything, I want to quit smoking/I’ll never quit, feels great to be healthy/feels like home to throw self-control out the window.

I have been doing better about taking my Cymbalta, but nowhere near perfect.  I have this huge mental block around it, and try as I do to go through it, over it, under it, around it, I just keep getting stuck.  Sometimes I have this thought:

If I feel good, I might start doing more, and I might meet someone, and then they will break me in two.

Ok, so it’s not sometimes I have this thought, it’s all the time.  I absolutely do not want another relationship and the thought that someday I might feel up to it again terrifies me.  Yet, I sometime seek out these situations where I might meet someone.

I am lonely/I am terrified

QoB keeps on telling me that I’ve spent a lot of time alone in my life, so she knows I can do it again.  I don’t remember many alone times.  I was thinking about it, and I don’t think I have been without a boyfriend for longer than five months since early in high school.  It’s hard and it’s scary and lonely as hell.  The thought of being with someone though, makes me feel sick to my stomach and I whisper t0 myself over and over again that I don’t need love, and I don’t need kindness.  All I need is myself.

And you know, that’s just not true.  It’s a nice thought, that humans can be totally an island unto themselves, never needing, never seeking.  People can practice their lives that way, but true happiness does not shine through.  There is always a special friendship, caring family, someone that brings light into the life of that person.

I have my people and they know who they are.  Sometimes it is hard for me to reach out, but when I do, I feel relief.  And I continue to reach out to God, and sometimes I feel like He hears me and sees me.  Other times, I feel an oppressive weight upon myself and I feel that there is no hope for any change, so depressed that there are no gifts to be happy for, so agitated that all I can do is curl up in bed and hope I can fall asleep so the world will become silent to me.

I saw Goddess of Mindfulness yesterday.  I have goals for the week, although I am not sure I was able to process this therapy session appropriately because my mind was wrapped so tight.  I have not embraced these goals, but I know that I will try, because I said I would, and because I feel like I must constantly try and pry myself open and let new ideas and thoughts in.  But it hurts, so I am not getting too excited about it.

Sometimes I sit out in my backyard and repeat prayers and loving-kindness meditations, mixing them, and whispering them to myself in some attempt to connect with God, to connect with my own soul, to remember people I love who are no longer here, and try to forgive, forgive, accept, accept.  Sometimes it helps, sometimes it doesn’t.  I do this sometimes when I am driving from place to place, as well.  One might think that driving a car down the highway, or the boulevard, or wherever, would really limit one’s ability to connect to anything other than the highway, but I know that I have found myself over and over again, wandering out there on that road.

Dashboard Confessional, Vindicated

You’ll have to just click the link.  Apparently YouTube hates my blog and has decided that, because of me, they must ban embedding.  Either that or I have fallen behind the technology.

Permission to Abort Operation Anxiety

Today has been a week of realizing and, eventually, accepting that my general anxiety level has risen to ridiculous levels over the past few weeks.  For a little while, around the time that Sondra started getting sick I started having a lot of problems with depression — lack of motivation, feelings of hopelessness, extreme sadness, problems with food/eating, extreme moodiness and irritation, so on and so on.  Of course I couldn’t just accept it as that, as some situational issues going on — I had to wallow and moan about how life was just so AWFUL. 

As that depression started to lift, my anxiety became more noticeable, at least to other people.  To Dr. Love, especially, because he’s the one who has to deal with my not-exactly-rare erratic behavior day in and day out.  I’m not proud or happy to say that I really get bossy, controlling, and mean with him when I’m anxious.  I work all day long and, if I come home and there are a couple of dishes in the sink, or some project isn’t done, I’ll go off.  If it isn’t apparent to me that he’s been busy all day doing different things, I get irrational. 

Little things set me off.  I have an obsession/compulsion about the bed being made, in EXACTLY the “right” way, all of the dishes being done and put away, the kitchen being spotless, clothes put away in closets in dressers, the living room devoid of clutter.  When I’m in my right mind, and even sometimes when I’m in the moment, I know that all of these little things aren’t super-important in the grand scheme of life, and I’m usually a little bit (sometimes a lot) embarrassed by the time I’m done throwing my temper tantrum. 

And sometimes I’ll just come home in a mood and I will sit and pick things to death.  It can get really obscene sometimes — I will sit and obsess about Dr. Love possibly leaving me or not loving me or not being attracted to me and it is a very slippery slope in my mind until it is to the point that I’m asking him ridiculous questions like, “Do you ever think about breaking up with me?”  This really pisses him off to no end and he really doesn’t like it when I go on and on about how his parents hate me, especially when I go into such detail about certain instances that I am SURE prove just how much they dislike me.  He usually ends up walking away when I start really getting into this “no one loves me, everyone is going to leave me, everyone hates me” topic matter, just because he can’t deal with how irrational I am being.  I can’t really blame him, although it really REALLY pisses me off at the time.  The problem is that, in that very moment, he can’t stop my bad behavior.  Only I can. 

Basically, my anxiety can lead to some very intense moments and I consider myself extremely lucky that Dr. Love takes these situations and generally turns them around, not getting angry or holding a grudge.  He’s really good about trying to make me laugh and get my mind off things by acting silly or distracting me with something else.  Unfortunately, there have been many days where nothing can snap me out of it.

As I said, I have been thinking a lot the past week about my ridiculous anxiety level and have decided that I really need to do something pro-active about it.  I had therapy with Goddess of Mindfulness today and we talked about what I could do to feel less anxious.  I pinpointed that my anxiety really gets ramped up after I get off work and this is when I’m most likely to go home and blow up.

During times of less anxiety, I spent a lot of time sitting on my back porch, meditating and doing mindfulness exercises.  I don’t do that anymore.  At all.  During that time, I also cooked a healthy dinner almost every night, whereas most nights now it’s just whatever I can microwave.  I’m tired of coming home from work, getting pissed off at Dr. Love, yelling at him, then eating something out of the microwave and watching TV for the rest of the night to block out (usually ineffective) how anxious I am feeling.  It’s no wonder I don’t sleep well, when I’ve been revved all evening.

As a response to fear about losing Dr. Love, I have it in my head that we have to spend every second together and I realize now that is not the case.  Dr. Love gets his “me” time while I am at work, and I come home to him every night and weekend, never having even a moment where he’s not around.  This is completely not his fault, but mine. 

I don’t take any time to meditate, practice mindfulness, cook, exercise, paint my toenails, or anything else that would make me feel good.  I’m (wrongly) driven to sit by his side, even if we’re not doing anything and are just staring at the TV together (which doesn’t usually happen because he gets tired of watching). 

I talked with him about it last night and he agrees that I need to be taking time out to do things for myself to feel better, to feel good.  When I talked with Goddess of Mindfulness about it this morning, she suggested that I need to find a way to relax at the end of the day.  When I was doing my best, I was in a routine of coming home, going for a walk, cooking dinner, and then maybe watching about an hour of TV or spending some time on the computer. 

When I come home now, my anxiety is at an unreal level and I’m so overwhelmed.  GoM suggested that, as soon as I get home, I go sit out on the porch and listen to some mindfulness exercises on CD.  She gave me a few suggestions of ones to try out and a workbook also that may be helpful.  I’m going to Amazon later tonight and will give them a try and report back, if they’re any good. 

My hope is that, with beginning to relax myself through meditation and mindfulness the moment I get home, I will have a less anxious evening and will be more amenable to cooking, exercising, blogging, LIVING.  Fingers crossed.

So this song is repetitive, but the lyrics (comments) get stuck in my head and I’m always singing it to Dr. Love.  Enjoy. 

Plain White T’s, 1 2 3 4

Fuzzy Wuzzy

I have discovered the key to being happy at work — I have to be busy.  When I have a “paperwork day,” I end up goofing around and not getting anything done.  When I have inmates scheduled all day, I’m all over it and get everything on my “to-do” list done.  That overwhelmed feeling that happens when I have a bunch of paperwork to do and also a lot of inmates to see will happen and I just have to accept that.  I have to accept that I don’t do well with unstructured time — especially not an entire eight hours of unstructured time.  It may be somewhat stressful some days to do all of my paperwork AND see inmates all day, but it usually means that I feel good at the end of the day, like I have been productive, and it’s totally do-able.  I have found that if I see people every half hour, that leaves me about ten minutes at the end of every appointment to do the note and post it, and I can get my other paperwork done when the inmates are on lockdown.  I wish it hadn’t taken this long to figure it out, but I’m glad that I did.  Giving myself an entire day to just to paperwork = extreme laziness and goofing off.  Duh.  😀

Dr. Love has been in MB since Monday night and I am soooo ready for him to come home!  We went there this past weekend (as I posted before), and his dad was telling me on Saturday morning that he was going to give Dr. Love a bunch of money.  I suggested to him that he do it as a loan and not just give it to Dr. Love, as this causes Dr. Love to feel bad, having money thrown at him instead of giving him real help.  I suggested that Dr. Love’s self-esteem would be well-served if he wasn’t getting money for nothing, that he should know he is expected to pay it back.  Well, that went way over his dad’s head — he said there was no way he could ever “loan” money, that it was his “responsibility” to be sure that Dr. Love is taken care of.  I didn’t get into it with him like I would have liked to, but I made it clear that this type of situation doesn’t make Dr. Love feel better, it makes him feel worse.  Long story short, the next day his dad told Dr. Love that he had some work that needed to be done around the house and he would like for Matt to come up for a few days each week and get it done. 

Okay, not exactly what I had hoped for, Dr. Love being in MB for a three-day stretch, doing chores at his parents’ house when there is plenty to be done around here, but I suppose that I can begrudgingly admit that this solves the problem, at least somewhat, of his parents just throwing money at him with nothing expected in return.  To be selfish, I would like Dr. Love to stick around here and just pay his parents back, so that he’s not away and I have to miss him.  However, absence does make the heart grow fonder, and I believe that has happened on both sides. 

It has also given me some reassurance that I can survive “on my own,” which I was unsure of.  Granted, it has only been a few days, but I have really come to depend on Dr. Love for a lot of things, especially emotional support.  It is perfectly normal to not want someone to be away that you really care about and to worry about what you will do without them.  I have spent a lot of time “on my own” for years, months, weeks at a time and have done just fine.  But I am so used to having Dr. Love around that I think I needed to be reminded that I can still take care of business if left to my own devices.  Of course, I am much happier when he is around, but at least I know I can make it without losing my sanity when he is not around. 

I have noticed myself slipping into some bad habits to numb myself, to slip away from reality while still appearing to be engaged in reality.  When I go for long periods without eating, or go for long periods without sleeping, or wait until late at night to take my meds, my head gets pretty fuzzy.  To me, it’s a pleasant sensation, one that I seek out.  I can just hide out inside my head and not be connected to what is going on around me — I can be totally oblivious.  This is not healthy for me mentally or physically, I realize.  With the not eating, I walk a fine line around my eating habits become more disordered than they already are.  With the not sleeping, I take a gamble on my mental health, and when I don’t take my meds until late, I mess up my schedule.  I am working at being engaged in the moment as an opposite-to-emotion practice.  In fact, I have been doing a lot of opposite-to-emotion, when I am not busy being willful. 

Over the past little bit that Dr. Love has been gone, I have filled up my time with things that I used to do all of the time that I enjoy — blogging, reading my favorite blogs, surfing the Internet, spending time with QoB and the Big Dog, meditating — it’s something I’d like to keep up with when Dr. Love returns.  It’s one thing to want to spend time together, but, as Dr. Love is always quick to point out, we don’t have to spend every single moment together.  I think I have realized that more since he has been gone, and am going to go back to doing things that I like to do, things that we can’t necessarily do together.  It’s always good to have “me” time, and I have been neglecting to do that, especially because it is hard to do when we are always at home at the same time. 

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, Learning to Fly