Buddhism – an anchor in the midst of depression.

 

Lo and behold, I found myself there again.

It was in between those drifting days in the space within Christmas and New Year, that bizarre time of the year when time slows down yet everything speeds up and the meaning to life is yet to be caught up with. Except my meaning, which had gone AWOL again, and had been in a place somewhere other than where it should have been for quite a few months.

It all started somewhere in between my car breaking down and a family member dying; I never had the strength to trace back and pin point exactly when. 2018 was hours away, a new year, new start! But my energies were lying in every single negative incident that made up 2017, every single one, which i’m sure there was something in the fine print that these major mess up moves were supposed to be spread out during the course of ones lifetime not in a single year, I wouldn’t have signed up for it otherwise, surely?

Anyway, the new year was set to be a write off. And then my mind made a flip move on to one that most people with bipolar or some other severe mental health issues do one in their lives; I started practicing Buddhism.

The past few months have been a blur, yet a positive enriched blur. I have followed closely the words of the Dharma, engaged in mindfulness and meditation, a whole lot of books, even more podcasts, taken up the precepts and signed up to my second Buddhist course of the year and attended classes where a lot of tears and a lot of hugs were exchanged (and only two months have passed). My perception on life as it was has pointed itself in the opposite direction. And what a life saver it has all been. I am 10 week medication free for the first time in four years (though I am not so immune and past it all to believe I won’t need them again somewhere down the line!).

To sum up the year so far, I am okay (even though I am still walking through a wreckage of a life that is not yet okay).

For anyone interested, I have listed below my recommendations for some beginners reading in to buddhism. Happy reading 🙂

 

Buddhist Bootcamp – Timber Hawkeye 

Buddhism for Busy people – David Michie

Teachings of the Buddha – Jack Kornfield

Buddhism for beginners – Jack Kornfield

When things fall apart – Pema Chödrön

   Buddhism is not what you think – Steve Hagen 

 

 

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Tackling ANXIETY – A Proactive Approach

Relapses are inevitable in mental illness, particularly in Bipolar disorder. They come as Seasonal shifts, the sunny hypomanic spark and the cold winters of depression. And then you have the weather changes in between; the bad days, the good days, the sleepless nights, the medication side effects, the bad choices and the days in bed.

One of the symptoms that I seem to be battling with at present is Anxiety. One of my worst enemies, the one who has won me over time and time again. My anxiety presents itself in many forms; this time it has been brought to me by the change in psychiatric medication. There is a huge problem with this, my anxiety has not come through worry or a difficult time in my life. So when there is nothing particularly wrong with your days, how on earth do you even attempt to tackle it? This time I have taken myself out of the sit-and-wallow approach, and become more proactive instead – Here’s a short list of the changes that seem to be working out for me…

 

Acceptance

That’s right. I am not fighting against something that cannot be fought against. I have said hello to my company, welcomed it as a dear friend and I have told myself that it might be here to stay for some time. There have been many, many times in my life where it has broken me, I have pitied myself and I have knelt down on my knees and prayed to god to take it away. This time, I am sucking it up and trying my hardest to live side by side until it decides to rest for another time.

 

Routine

Having a rock solid routine has been a savior. Whether that is in getting up earlier in the day than usual, going to bed in a timely manner, what time of the day I eat… Predictability has brought along stability. The amount of times I have gone to the doctors and they have thrown the ‘Make sure you get yourself in to a good routine!’ suggestion at me. News flash: IT ACTUALLY WORKS. I think the hardest part will be trying to stick to it, but I’m doing a pretty good job for now.

 

Keeping active

I have always viewed as anxiety as some form of unwanted energy, and so the more active I keep myself the more it seems to burn away. Whereas some anxious episodes have kept me bedridden and housebound (I know, it’s extremely difficult to get out in public when you keep having attacks), this time I have taken the more productive approach and do you know what? It is helping. I have upped the walks, and taken on swimming – the more I do, the quicker time goes by – and I feel so much better, mind and body, in doing so. There is something about that water when I go for a swim that has the magic to melt away all that niggling harvested energy form the day; and it helps me sleep at night to. Bonus.

 

Distraction

Desperate to pass the time, I have found myself this week picking up my phone and spending a questionable amount of time playing… games. I am not a games person at all, (I prefer to be more productive with my time!) but as I have been dallying about catching Pokémon, battling people with trivia and popping bubbles; I have realized that when I am in the moment my anxiety disperses. So in that light I will be carrying on, for as long as it takes, sitting out time being unsociable (I have an excuse, right??).

 

Having Zen time

Ever since I got diagnosed I have, without fail, used hypnosis on a daily basis. It is one of the tools I use to battle insomnia (it works!!), and along with it I have gone from spending hours tossing and turning restlessly in bed, to a peaceful night by my mind drifting away to soothing words and sounds. Since my anxiety has taken hold of me, I have ramped up the daily Zen time; whether that be a ten minute meditation on my dinner break at work, talking a quick silent walk in the fresh air, or switching my music to the more classical variety in the car. My Zen is slowly transforming from a necessity to a luxury, and I have found mini breaks of this throughout the day (when I find the time!) has developed its ability to reset my body time and time again from that buzzing energy to a silent calm.

 

Anxiety, however unpleasant it may be, will always persistent in my life. It comes with the package of having a long term mental illness. So in the meantime, I will be walking side by side with it, and taking it one day at a time until it decides to give me a much needed rest.

 

A note to myself.

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It’s Friday evening. Usually the weekends are the hardest to cope with, especially if it means being by myself. But tonight something is different.

I’m in my room on my bed, by myself and doing my own thing and it feels… easier. I’m enjoying this. I had a glass of wine, then I stopped. No need to have the full bottle and self soothe. One glass is enough.

The anxiety is easing off a little (again, usually a lot stronger and harder to deal with at the weekend!), and when it does come on, I feel that teensy bit stronger to be able to tackle it successfully. Whether its physically through exercise or by mentally diverting my thoughts. Somehow, it doesn’t seem as vicious, almost like it has shrunk.

I’m getting better at dealing with my bad energy. I’m tacking that before it spirals out of control in to a bad self destructive urge. It feels good not to be fighting some of the bigger demons for a change.

I’m going to complete an exercise I’ve set myself, just to let myself know how i’m truly progressing. It probably wont make sense, but i’m just going to type whatever comes in to my mind, no matter if it hurts. I have been avoiding some of my thoughts that are too painful to let out, so this has become the dedicated safe haven to release them. Apologies in advance. Just go for it Megan.

Here goes.

“This is hard. But you are doing it. You are fighting and giving 110% for the first time in years. Keep going. You are stronger than you could ever imagine. There is no need to let others influence your decision making, or control your life. Letting go is so hard, but you have to keep at it. Be strong. You are worth so much more than being someone’s second best. You made the decision to get in to trouble, you knew it would hurt eventually and you are paying the price – but so what? Everyone makes mistakes. Keep at it, forgive yourself and let it go. Step aside. Seek people in your life who are worthy of your time and your precious energy. I know you think that you will never find somebody like that but you will. Be your own best friend for the time being. You are good enough – you just have to see it for yourself before it can truly shine through to others. Let the hurt and the anxiety drive you – indulge in it, and use it. You can build your life up now from scratch and fill it with people who don’t just make you happy, but who value you as much as you value them.

You are WORTH it. Just keep going.”

That hit home hard and I let the anxiety I have been trying to mask and avoid dealing with come out. I need to let it go.