Reflections on Life Thus Far

My life. My story: Exploring mental health, spirituality, meditation & random thoughts I have


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Changes

Discouraged. That pretty much sums up how I have been feeling lately. I think I am overwhelmed because I have been going through my possessions trying to become more minimalist; but in the process I have felt a mixture of emotions. Most recently, I parted with a garbage bag full of treasured books destined for charity and in doing so I wanted to pull some out and ‘save’ them…but I resisted. It feels like a loss to me because I love books and they’ve been my ‘significant other’ since I have never let real people close to me. So in parting with so many books I felt attachment to I went through a series of grief related feelings. Maybe not all of the grief related feelings/stages but definitely some anyway.

When you use books to satisfy your need for relationships giving away a large quantity of them feels horrendous. It’s not like I hoard books but I definitely value my books more than a person ought to. They aren’t historic relics suited to an archives department either so I don’t have any objective reason to view them so fondly. Perhaps it’s the fact I parted with books that had served as valuable references and comfort when I needed them; now I’m forced to either let go of anything I can’t remember or trust I will be able to call upon my brain to give me the knowledge when I need it. That’s scary given I dissociated for so much of my life to avoid pain. What if I can’t remember everything I read in the books I gave away?! Now I must trust myself to survive and have greater acceptance of my innate fallibility which also makes me face the fact I am imperfect. You see all these things connect to my sense of lovability and self-worth and that is terrifying territory. There’s little comfort in what I’m experiencing.

I want to crawl under my bed covers and not have to face the world. Maybe I am depressed but more than likely I am afraid of the fact I have nothing solid to stand on. All of my worldly identifiers are gone and I’m struggling to not concoct a new identity for myself knowing such a thing would be a production of my ego anyway. Part of the reason I fear social interaction is I’m afraid someone will ask me about myself and I don’t have any tidy, pat answers on tap to reduce my discomfort and the other person’s. The other reason for my social anxiety is I simply have trouble easily relating to everyone. Maybe most people don’t easily relate to others either and just hide it better than I do. Or maybe it’s a problem of ‘how’ I relate. I can relate at a human level but not at the social/surface level. After all, I don’t have a paid job, sports don’t interest me and I don’t have a husband or kids. So right there I am starting off from a disadvantaged position. Then again maybe I just overthink these things and should try to ‘relax’ more! Ha, if it were that easy I’d have done it by now. In some ways I have learned to relax about it a little bit but other times I get triggered by things like giving away some of my precious books. Who knew parting with a garbage bag full of my books would trigger me? Certainly, if I’d known it, I might have chosen to part with fewer books to ease the discomfort. The way I have done it feels like I just had a Band-Aid ripped from a tender sore spot. I suppose I shall have to go easy on myself. Trying to bulldoze my way through the pain won’t help me any if past experiences are anything to go on.

On a more positive note I did manage to dust my computer desk and tidy up my messy cords from my electronic devices. Well that’s it for now. Tomorrow I see my counsellor.

©Natalya, 2014. Reflections On Life Thus Far®

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Did The Writing Exercise (Day 1)

So I did my first day of writing for the writing exercise my counsellor gave me. You can see my post from yesterday to read about it more if you like. Anyway, I didn’t want to do it at first but decided to go ahead and try it and found myself writing about being infantilised by my mother. Surprisingly I didn’t feel angry but I did feel sad. I think this is fine because it was a sad experience and I’m still dealing with its lingering effects (I did feel briefly like I was a child but thankfully that has passed since coming back to the present). Tomorrow may be the same or different-don’t know yet. Either way I’ll do my writing for tomorrow.

When I’ve completed the four days I’ll know better about whether I’ve dealt with all the emotions surrounding my past traumatic experiences or not. For today I am proud I overcame my apprehension and settled on an issue that turned out to be just the thing for me to address.

©Natalya, 2014.


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Avoidance…

When it comes to avoiding I am a master of sorts. For the purposes of this post I’ll stick to one issue though. My counsellor gave me an exercise to help me get started writing in a way that includes my emotions. I’d mentioned I wanted to write a memoir but I have a tendency to write from my head instead of my heart so she gave me a writing exercise. But I’ve been avoiding it since I saw her last (May 20) because it requires me to write about something traumatic then reflect on how I feel after writing it. There’s four days of exercises I’m supposed to do and each day requires me to monitor how I am feeling but I just can’t seem to do it. Also, I’m supposed to do it consecutively so no breaks between the four days. That is probably another reason I’ve been putting it off because I dislike the thought of having to write about painful experiences from my life in a concentrated manner with need for focusing on my emotions.

Another reason I am probably avoiding the writing exercise is because I feel reasonably well and don’t want to feel miserable because I wrote about something traumatic and had to stay with my emotions. It’s perfectly normal to want our positive feelings to last and our ‘negative’ ones to be short lived; but avoiding our negative feelings regularly isn’t healthy. For the most part I don’t ignore my less favoured feelings it’s just the idea of having to illicit them intentionally isn’t really appealing. Of course I might not experience the glut of negative emotion I’m anticipating yet I could also experience much worse and be ‘knocked flat on my back’ so to speak. So what to do? Bite the bullet and be done with the exercise before my next counselling appointment this Tuesday, or put it off and get around to it when I feel ready? The second option is kinder but my natural impulse is to simply do what needs to be done and ignore the detrimental effects on me.

Perhaps I’ll sleep on it and have a clearer idea in the morning on what to do.

©Natalya, 2014. Reflections On Life Thus Far®


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Diagnostic Labels

A couple of nights ago my dad mentioned my diagnosis thinking it was bipolar disorder. This upset me because I didn’t get diagnosed as bipolar but Borderline personality disordered (BPD) in 2000. Not that BPD is better than bipolar-it’s not but his tendency to forget what diagnosis I got annoyed me since I’d have been treated better if I had bipolar instead of BPD. Also, I sometimes wonder if I do have bipolar and the suggestion, I suppose, scares me. Why I don’t know since I’ve not tried to kill myself in 13+ years and haven’t been in a mental hospital/ward for 10 or 11 years now. Still, the idea of having bipolar does concern me. My mom’s side of the family is definitely the moody/creative/driven side and mom was likely bipolar (although not diagnosed). She never saw a psychiatrist or anyone concerning her mental health though so I can’t say anything for sure.

I suppose the reason I started thinking about bipolar disorder again is I was watching a couple of Stephen Fry’s documentaries on mental health. He has bipolar and gets quite manic (when not depressed) but I don’t remember ever having been anything close to manic. Even recalling a time when I might have been hypomanic is difficult. I’ve never really done anything over the top probably because I am a very quiet person normally and don’t do much to draw attention to myself. So hypomanic for me could have looked like normal behaviour to most people. There have been times when I’ve felt more confident and ambitious but I can’t say they qualified me as hypomanic. Perhaps being such a quiet person normally is a good thing! When I recall any periods where I felt more sociable and energetic it was only noticeable to me and any close friends I had.

The part I identified with most with Stephen Fry is his depressions and seeming ‘fine’ on the outside but feeling ‘hellish’ on the inside. Like Stephen Fry I am quite good at maintaining my manners and consideration for others’ wellbeing while wanting to die or crawl into a hole. It is not necessarily a good thing that I am so adept at appearing normal when on the verge of suicide or deeply depressed. Fortunately, it’s been a few years since my last serious depression but even then I could still look normal. Fry said a friend of his told him his politeness would kill him; I think I can identify with that. When you have such a strong awareness of others’ and social norms/manners it becomes difficult to let yourself fall apart openly.

Of course I have learnt to express myself overtly when I feel horrible so others are aware, otherwise nobody can tell

Just because it was too good to NOT share with you! 😉 (Stephen Fry & Lady Gaga have tea together).

I am not well. In some ways I am forced to ‘perform’ my sickness or else I remain reasonably normal looking. This is uncomfortable for me though because then I feel that I am being ‘phony’ and rude to boot!  Likely this arose out of a childhood where it wasn’t permissible to express emotions openly so I learnt to conceal my emotions and ‘look normal’. If I had continued to show my pain I merely would have experienced more for not keeping myself together.

Like Stephen Fry, I have a British background (I am Canadian though) where being ‘proper’ was important and showing emotion wasn’t encouraged. I imagine it is the concern with being ‘proper’ that is the reason Fry and I are capable of being suicidally depressed yet normal looking. He described a time where he had just attended a party and decided after it was finished to attempt suicide. In a similar manner I attempted suicide after a formal banquet for residents of the dormitory I’d been living in at the time. Photos of me prior to the banquet revealed little of my inner turmoil. In some ways I envy those depressed people who look totally the part with unkempt clothes and hair, lack of concern about social standards and all the rest of it. At least they don’t have to ‘perform’ their depression if they wish for people to know they’re depressed.

Thankfully I have learned to tolerate experiencing my emotions as they occur and do not think about suicide or death all the time anymore. Yes, I can be moody but I try to be mindful of it and reflect on any contributing factors I might be capable of altering. There’s a lot to be said for mindfulness and healthy living. I think it’s been called mental hygiene before as well. Mindfulness is not mental hygiene per se but helps in many ways so it doesn’t hurt to practice it. Mental hygiene is of course those healthy things we do to keep ourselves in balance, such as getting enough sleep, exercise and healthy food etc.. On their own they are not enough for everyone if your illness is severe but it will prevent unnecessary illness to some extent (if not totally for some anyway).

What has helped me most in achieving a sense of balance and wellness is mindfulness and meditation. Without those two things I would be reliant upon my medication and counselling to be my supports. I feel it is best to do as many different things as I can to maintain wellness. You can’t have too many tools in your arsenal when it comes to coping with mental health issues. In addition to those things I also listen to music designed to heal and relax you. Creative endeavours are also helpful even if you aren’t ‘talented’. The idea is to have fun and express yourself not to produce a masterpiece!

What do you do to stay well or help yourself be healthy?

©Natalya, 2014. Reflections On Life Thus Far®

 


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Validating Personal Experience

Mindfulness

Mindfulness (Photo credit: kenleyneufeld)

I have found it is all too easy to moan (to myself) about my own experiences not being validated then recognize I am judging somebody else’s experience; in essence invalidating their unique suffering because it isn’t something I immediately understand. The positive thing is I recognized I was doing it and my hypocrisy even if I never stated any of my thoughts out loud or anywhere else besides inside my head. Thankfully, I usually don’t say the stuff I’m thinking for the most part but I still don’t like thinking it in the first place.

Being mindful in our daily life requires us to look at/reflect upon/ and or examine our thoughts and actions and how they are affecting us, as well as others. I have become much more aware of my thoughts over the years and what patterns to watch out for if I want to stay healthy. Keeping a mindful watch on our thoughts is a good way to prevent depression and anxiety. It also helps us to avoid saying things we might regret upon further reflection. So although it isn’t always comfortable I am pleased that I can witness my thoughts and actions in a mindful manner. I’m not always mindful though and in those instances where I’ve ‘slipped up’ I simply note that and try to return to the present moment (without beating myself up for it).

It’s been my experience, since becoming more mindful in my life, that I can pause long enough to try understanding another person‘s behaviours and their reactions. This has helped me be less defensive in return. I find myself stopping and asking myself how the other person may be thinking. When I do this I discharge any anger or negativity much quicker than if I merely assumed the other person to be wrong for not doing/saying what I would like. It doesn’t take away the initial frustration all the time, but minor incidences can be handled far more easily now. I may still get annoyed someone did something I didn’t like but it isn’t all consuming either. The annoyance passes and I’m able to return to a baseline state of contentment or equanimity.

Taking into consideration other people’s personalities and experiences before I make a judgement has helped me greatly. I used to get quite agitated by certain people’s behaviours but I have come to find it more useful to pause and reflect on why the person may have behaved as they did. This tends to engender a sense of compassion too as I am not solely focused on myself. By bringing our awareness to the lives of others it allows for a certain spaciousness to develop between our mind and the outside events taking place. If I can make room for a certain mental curiosity it helps me stop reacting in a knee-jerk fashion all the time. This has taken me a number of years to cultivate but I am proud of myself for the place I have reached.

My teenage years and early 20s were marked by a sense of moral superiority and personal piety despite being an Agnostic at the time. I guess one need not be religious to be pious but it does seem to occur more within that context. At any rate, I felt myself qualified to negatively appraise other people’s lives when they didn’t fit my idea of a ‘proper lifestyle’. Now I should mention I was never a bigot or racist or homophobic or anything but I had prudish beliefs around sexuality (despite being a feminist!). I also found it easy to condemn people when they hadn’t measured up to my expectations. In short I wasn’t a whole lot of fun to be with. My ability to take another person’s perspective was poor so I viewed everyone through the same lens. I was short on empathy and certainly didn’t have any compassion. Thankfully all that changed.

Mindfulness changed my life. Mindfulness meditation even more so. I don’t know where I’d be if I hadn’t been introduced to those two things. They helped me achieve an open mindedness that I didn’t think was possible. There were some growing pains as would be expected. I passed judgement on small minded people failing to initially see the irony in that situation. Fortunately, I did not hold onto that judgement for long and grew past that particular limitation.

I am in no way perfect or cured of all my worldly problems but I feel better equipped to deal with them. I feel better about who I am and how far I’ve come since entering therapy, especially mindfulness and meditation. My personal advice to anyone who wants it would be to read up on mindfulness and mindfulness meditation. It’s been implemented into many mainstream hospital programmes for stress and used for depression and anxiety”off label”. You can find many books on mindfulness in your local bookstore focused on it in a general way or targeted toward various disorders.

To have peace in one’s life requires some changes in our behavior for most of us. But it needn’t be terribly difficult. If we all simply *tried* to be more aware of what we say and do I think our world would be a better place. It’s something we can all do regardless of religion or culture. The idea is fairly simple and straight forward, although not always easy. Peace comes from within and starts with you (me). As each of us changes our ways focusing on the thoughts we think and words we speak, it creates a domino effect. Haven’t we all experienced something similar with kindness? Someone is kind to us and we in turn do something nice for someone else without even thinking about it. Similarly, when we’re mindful and aware of how we are around others we tend to be more peaceful, less reactive.

What do you do to encourage peace in your life? Are you trying to be more mindful or less judgmental?  This has been my attempt at participating in Bloggers 4 Peace. See the badge on the right hand side of my blog in the side panel of widgets to join in.

©Natalya, 2013.

 

Awareness With an Aw!

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Awareness With an Aw!

Very cute mouse/mole? with Thich Nhat Hanh quote 🙂 Picture is from facebook page “Effortless Peace”.


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Last Confidence Building Session Coming Up Tomorrow

Clinical research shows Buddhist mindfulness t...

Clinical research shows Buddhist mindfulness techniques can help alleviate anxiety , stress , and depression (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’m feeling a tad let down by tomorrow being my last confidence building session. Not too sure I’m loads more

confident than when I started. I think I have more confidence now than a couple of weeks ago but it’s hard to tell. Perhaps I can work on it on my own time if I find a self help workbook kind of thing. Anyone have experience (successful) with confidence building/increasing workbooks? Or even just self help books on confidence? I think a fellow blogger tried this route but I didn’t get to ask them what the outcome was.

Anyway, I was supposed to have worked on doing meaningful activities all week(for the workshop) but I didn’t really manage it. At best I was able to do several days but certainly not the entire week. I’d planned on getting outdoors but it rained a lot last week and I am not very ‘outdoorsy’ so felt a disinclination toward venturing out. Friday was alright but I just wasted it not managing anything more meaningful than a 40 min. mindfulness meditation which I do regularly anyhow (or try to).

The thought has occurred to me that I’m a bit ‘sluggish’ from the decreased daylight and steady stretch of rain and gray skies we’ve been having here. Every year I develop Seasonal Affective Disorder (S.A.D.) so it might be that, although it isn’t even October yet officially! Normally I think I can make it a bit further than the end of September before the S.A.D. hits. Oh, I don’t know. Hopefully the rain goes away for a little while. I am starting to feel like I’m living on the other side of the country where it typically rains more often than where I’m at. It could be the tropical storm moving up the coast giving us the lousy weather.

Maybe I should find myself a S.A.D. lamp and try that. I hate feeling unmotivated to do anything. Right now I

English: A 30 kHz bright light therapy lamp (I...

English: A 30 kHz bright light therapy lamp (Innosol Rondo) used to treat seasonal affective disorder. Provides 10,000 lux at a distance of 25 cm. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

can blame it on the crap weather but if it is like this when the sun returns I won’t be doing well! Sorry for complaining. Tomorrow I promise my post will be more positive!

© Zen Lady Meditating and Reflections On Life Thus Far, 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Zen Lady Meditating and Reflections On Life Thus Far with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.


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The Courage to Change

Change is hard for everyone no matter who you are. Some handle change better than others but that’s not my

Dorothy meets the Cowardly Lion, from The Wond...

Dorothy meets the Cowardly Lion, from The Wonderful Wizard of Oz first edition. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

point. My point is everyone has some degree of trouble accepting/adjusting to change in their life, however that manifests itself. If any of you reading have experienced trauma or abuse in your life you know that moving past the pain is a huge effort. To not stay stuck in the memories and negative beliefs from our past can really challenge the best of us. Some of us get trapped in self limiting ‘stories’ about who we are as people identity wise. Our pain becomes our identity to the degree we can’t see any other way of being in the world apart from ‘damaged’ (or insert your word of choice you use to describe yourself negatively).

What we must do is not let our present slip through our fingers as we find ourselves in safer contexts but stuck in the past. This is at the heart of dissociation. It doesn’t matter if you have a diagnosis of DID, PTSD, BPD, or whatever, it only matters that you are wasting precious moments in the here and now thinking of your haunted memories. I realize the memories aren’t always in our control until we’ve learnt techniques to manage them from our therapist but assuming you know enough now to manage unpleasant/scary memories, isn’t it better we employ all of our strength to stay present in the present?

I am aware of the enormity of the challenge for some people to change and realize everyone needs to go at their own pace, so to speak, so I’m not going to lecture. When I was attempting to stop dissociating on a constant basis in 2010 I found it frightening at times. But ultimately, once I’d achieved some mastery over myself the reward was how liberated I felt. It was rocky at first and I stumbled, fell, swore and then got back up again. My eating disorder decided to return for a bit of fun just so I could delay progress by being engrossed in calorie counting and weigh ins; yet my spirit prevailed and I kicked my ED to the curb. I struggled to regain myself (literally and figuratively) after being beaten down by my food restrictions, weight loss and my self-esteem bottoming out. I wasn’t going to stay in the trap my ED had set for me. Sure it snared me but I wedged free.

Thanks to my compassionate and patient psychologist, I made it back to the land of the living. She could have dropped me but kept me on as her patient even after I’d stopped being a registered student (she worked in the university’s counselling services) and saw me ’til I stabilized. I owe her a debt of gratitude for not abandoning me when she had no reason to keep seeing me (we were well past the 8-10 session allotment they allowed students). Some therapists really are gems. I wasn’t paying her so she was seeing me on a purely altruistic basis. With her there to support me I was able to finally quit my constant mood shifts and stay in my body for longer periods of time. The anxiety lessened and my desire for escaping was replaced by a desire for staying present. Thank you to my psychologist and mindfulness meditation! I highly recommend it(the meditation) by the way.

Cowardly Lion's Courage Medal

Cowardly Lion’s Courage Medal (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

These days I could use some courage! I don’t have a therapist and am trying to deal with figuring out which direction to go in my life. Now that I’m actually in my body long enough to have consistent thoughts I find myself struggling to hear my own voice above society’s. I never used to give a crap about what other people thought but now I am conflicted. Pleasing everyone isn’t possible so why do I feel like I should have to do so? Why am I torn between what I want to do and what I think is least likely to receive doubt and criticism?

At one time I just followed my own will but now I think I’m turning it over to others. I’m worried what people will think of me. It doesn’t sit well with me that I might be considered too idealistic or ‘dreamy’ just because my dreams don’t fit into a box. I’m 30 for pity’s sake! Surely, I can ignore other people’s opinions. I’ve spent my entire life trying to be perfect though. Perfectionism doesn’t let go easily. Its grasp on me is far less now than it used to be but it hasn’t eliminated perfectionist associated thoughts completely. This is what I need the courage to change for! Telling my perfectionist mind to go f**k itself!

I started off this post thinking I’d expound on all my ‘worldly wisdom’ and ended up bemoaning my own struggles. Irony, I loathe you. Oh well now you have a bit of my advice mixed up with my own need for it! 😛

Related link: My other blog I wrote a post on:

http://findinghealthafterillness.wordpress.com/2012/09/29/the-transcendent-child-tales-of-triumph-over-the-past-lillian-b-rubin/

 © Zen Lady Meditating and Reflections On Life Thus Far, 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Zen Lady Meditating and Reflections On Life Thus Far with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.