b a r e

writing is healing. ask me anything.

Tag: meditation

What thoughts bring the greatest peace to your mind? How do you use them?

Peace. So elusive. Like reaching out to catch the wind, or fog. If I could trap it in a bottle and carry it with me, then I could guarantee having it when I need it. But behind glass I cannot feel it, I cannot experience it. All I have is this cold, smooth surface. And when I open the bottle up, it evaporates. But maybe peace isn’t a thing you hold in your hands. At the beach, warm sand, cool breeze, crashing of waves. Here, yes, this place brings me peace. My body is solid, heavy, sinking and relaxed. But then I leave, and go back into the world. How do I bring this peace with me? Maybe peace isn’t external. I close my eyes and return to the beach. It is a capsule of time, gleaming, inside my mind. Not always accessible, especially when I need it. That’s why I meditate. I practice separating from the world of chaos and ego and demands. I return to the core of my being. My true self. The light that shines bright no matter what. Though sometimes I forget it’s there, or forget the power of its light. I go back there, and I am. I exist in the I am for however long I can. Before the flood gates of thoughts, worries, doubts and insecurities fall open and wash over me. And somehow, that light has recharged me. Refilled my sanity gauge, even just a little helps. And I am not flattened by the onslaught. I stand there, I’m soaked, but I’m standing. My jeans are weighed down, and it takes effort to walk forward, but I walk forward. And each time I am still standing, each time I am still moving forward, shows me that I am strong. Proves to me that I don’t have to drown again. That I can, I will, I am at peace.

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what brings me peace and balance

This is my third time falling. One might say I’ve gotten good at this. And my third time picking up the pieces and putting myself back together again. This time my recovery is faster. I’m still not sleeping, but I’m not drowning in despair. The anxiety is debilitating and crushing, but it’s not constant – just early mornings, and late afternoons to evenings. I know what I’m doing this time. I’m proficient at recovery. I have my bag of tools that I know work and I can rely on.

For my worst case scenarios, when all other tools fail, I give myself permission to use ativan. I used to tell myself that I can’t/shouldn’t, and trying to hold it together by eliminating that option was a nightmare. Knowing I can, if I need to, makes it easier to hold on without it. But before it gets that bad, I have some other options. I have my meditations. When I start I’m agitated, but over the 15-20 minutes I become still, as if floating. A perfect escape-the-world snack. A brief respite that refills my mental tank just a little bit. If I need to, I will listen to meditations back to back. They work.

Walking. Even when I’m dragging and every step is a monumental effort. Even when my anxiety is high and every minute is filled with panic. Even when I’m feeling devastated and I cry the whole way. By the time I’m done my leg muscles are humming and the endorphins have lifted me out of my mind. My body feels stronger. I sit on my front steps, I watch the tree branches sway, I breath the cool air, and I feel a sense of peace. It may not last. But in that moment I memorize all the sensations. I will put this memory in my pocket and carry it with me.

Journaling. When my brain is full, swirling with thoughts that attack like birds, and I can’t quiet it and I can’t escape, I run to my bedroom and shut the door and I pull out my journal. Then I purge. I vomit up every nasty, horrible thought I have no matter how humiliating. I smear the pages with my words and my tears. No restraint. And when it’s all out and I finally feel emptied, a calm comes over me. And I am able to sort and sift through the situation, and understand it. And once I understand the why, I am able to counter the negative thoughts with realistic and positive solutions. I can see more clearly. I can see my value and my strengths and I can come up with a plan. And once I have a plan I feel stabilized and confident again. And I am ready to open the door and return to my life, my family, and my responsibilities again.

Exodus

It’s Passover today. One of my favorite holidays. The holiday where we tell the story of the Hebrews in slavery and bondage in Egypt and their escape to freedom, to Mount Sinai, and to the Holy Land. We are all slaves to something in our lives. Our cell phones. Unhealthy foods. A job. Unhealthy thoughts or feelings. We enslave ourselves. We are both the prisoner and the guard. We trap ourselves with “shoulds” and unrealistic expectations. I am enslaved by my anxiety.

It sits heavy on my chest like a large parasite, its claws digging deeply through my flesh and wrapped around muscle, tendon and bone. It’s not quite visible. I can see the reflection of its hard shell out of the corner of my eye. It is a physical sensation of weight and pressure. Sometimes it extends to my throat, choking me, gagging me. I can’t breath. I can’t eat. I’m overwhelmed with nausea, struggling for air. When I try to pull it off of me my hands meet with air. It paralyzes me from taking action. I can sit for hours, immobile, waiting for it to leave. But I don’t, not this time.

I force myself to get up and to move, to do. I try to ignore its heaviness. If I can focus elsewhere I can distract myself and I can almost not feel it. How do I escape you? How do I get rid of you? I have a trick.

When I’m at my worst and every muscle is rigid and electrified and my brain is unable to focus on anything but my complete and utter discomfort, instead of rejecting I accept. Who would want to accept this torture?? But I tell it, in my mind, “I accept you. I accept you. I accept you.” That’s the key somehow. My muscles relax and my brain has something positive to focus on. I keep repeating it, it’s my mantra, until my breathing has slowed. It’s still there, that mass, that creature, attached to my chest. But now it’s manageable. I can function again. One foot in front of the other. I will not let it win.

what is

I am not sleeping. I did not sleep. I have not slept. I can’t think. A wall. A wall of exhaustion. I am trapped. I am so tired. But I can not sleep. I pass out each night after taking my meds. Then a couple of hours later it begins. Startled awake. Adrenaline. Fire in my limbs. Heart beating so loud in my ears, so hard in my chest. Focus. Narrow my focus. Don’t let the thoughts start. Concentrate on my breathing. In. Out. In. Out. I start to drift off. Startled awake. Adrenaline. Fire in my limbs. Heart beating so loud in my ears, so hard in my chest. Focus. Narrow my focus. Don’t let the thoughts start. Concentrate on my breathing. In. Out. In. Out. I start to fall asleep. Startled awake. Over and over and over and over. I won’t look at the clock. Because then I start calculating. I keep my eyes shut under my eye mask. I wait. Is the sky light enough yet? Is it close enough to ‘morning’ to reasonably get up. I lay there and focus on my breathing. At least I could stay calm this night. I’m not always so lucky.

What would you say has been the most difficult situation you have gone through during your illness? Why?

Everything.

  • Coming to consciousness in bed, but the weight of existence makes it impossible to move, let alone get out of bed.
  • Trying to pick something to wear, eat, do. None of it is interesting. Nothing inspires enthusiasm.
  • Stasis. Total paralysis. Even just being is exhausting.

But on good days –

  • Trying to wrangle focus or concentration to accomplish at least one thing on my to-do list.
  • Sucking up my full body anxiety to leave the house and go somewhere. Especially if it’s somewhere I haven’t been before. That’s its own extra special level of anxiety.
  • Trying to make small talk with someone. Can they tell I’m having a hard time hearing them over my racing heartbeat. Do they see me sweating. Nothing they’re saying means anything at all. I don’t care about their weather forecast. Are we done yet. Did I smile at all. Did I nod at the right places. When they ask what I’ve been up to, I can’t tell them, “misery and hell.” This is exhausting.
  • Going to an interview. Can they tell I had a nervous breakdown before I got here. Can they tell I’m wearing a wig. Do they know that I hate dressing up, wearing makeup. Can they tell there’s no way in hell I want to be here. I’m scared of failing, but even more scared of succeeding.
  • Being a parent. Can she tell I don’t want to do this. Does she think that I don’t love her because I don’t want to play with her. Does she think that my sadness and fatigue is her fault. Am I scarring her for life when I lose my patience.
  • Accepting love. I can’t imagine how you could love me. I don’t feel like I deserve it. I’m sure I’m screwing up this relationship with an amazing person.
  • Trying to sleep. If I just hold still maybe it will come. My heartbeat is so loud it is overwhelming. I’m cold, shivering. Then I start getting adrenaline jolts. Fire shooting through my body. Now I’m sweating, overheating. My thoughts are racing. The same terrible images or conversations or events keep cycling through my mind, over and over. I’m taking deep breaths, damnnit. Why isn’t this working. Should I get up. Should I take meds. Maybe if I just lay here I’ll finally fall asleep. How many hours until morning. I hate this. Why does everything have to be so hard.

Dead.

Finally. Fully. Completely.

My heart raced as I read the email, “I regret to inform you your father is dead.” Just a few minutes ago, I told a longtime friend that I just had to accept that you would never die. You’d cling to life with your fingernails, being around to scare us forever. And then, just like that, you expired. I was elated. I called my mom and we shouted and laughed. The world outside seemed brighter, the leaves greener, everything was sharper and in focus. I went with another friend to the coroner’s office to pick up your keys. She said you had died the morning before, around 11:30 AM. I liked to imagine you woke up early, like you always do, and lay there suffering, paralyzed, until your shriveled, black heart finally gave up hours later. I want to imagine that I gave a speech at your funeral where I told everyone the ugly truth about you. I like to plan going to your grave and pouring urine over it. But this isn’t making me feel the justified anger and superiority it used to. I don’t feel good about these thoughts. I just feel sick to my stomach, nauseated. And I didn’t just cry. I sobbed. I sat there in my car after leaving your apartment and I sobbed and my shoulders heaved and I screamed. I felt like a crazy woman. And as I sobbed I’d start smiling, and then my heart was filled with so much pain that I screamed again.

You’d love to know your trustee and full beneficiary showed up. She gave you an honored man’s burial, whereas I’d have had you cremated and flushed you, or unceremoniously dumped you in the trash (which is where I put your 30-day memorial candle, by the way). I don’t care that she gets all your crap. I cut ties with you long ago. That Will I found where you said I get “NOTHING!” I laughed. Of course. But her stories about how wonderful you were made me want to vomit. That’s what made me sick. You loved her children in the non-violent ways you never loved us. I wanted to yell at her to shut up. I wanted to tell her my stories. How you told me every night that if we ever tried to leave you’d chop off our heads and burn down the house. And then finally, during those 4 torturous hours at the mortuary, she finally let me tell her. I didn’t see her face, I was so lost in my pain.

I did a releasing meditation. The first step was to imagine the situation(s) that brought me pain. I was lost in the primal child’s experience of “please don’t hurt me” and “I’m so afraid.” Then the second step was to confront you, and boy I let you have it. Then, during the third step, I pushed you off my cloud and cut the rope and said, “I forgive you. I release you. I let go.” But it was too late. That box, those boxes, that I had shelved long ago, that I had built justified anger around, they tumbled off the shelf and it all spilled out. An ocean of pain. Every last drop. And I sobbed. I sobbed till I was wrung out, like a towel, dry and twisted.

And when I stopped, I started to be filled again, slowly at first, then so fast I was completely soaked with joy and gratitude. My life, my husband, my daughter, my friends who are my family – they love me so much. They would do anything for me. They are healthy (oh yes you are!) and positive and caring and so, so loving. And I am so lucky, so blessed, so grateful that this is my life now. So relieved and thankful of the decisions and choices I have made, not despite his torture, but because of it. This day and every day is so bright and beautiful because we can and will continue to bring in love and laughter to our lives. And we never have to live as he did or torture as he did or suffer as he did.

I can move forward now, untethered.

I leave the past behind me. And I walk forward with strength and gratitude and a new love for life.

where I find peace

When I’m working on my garden, my busy busy thoughts fade away. It’s not a very pretty garden, but I think it’s beautiful. All dark greens and dark soil. It is a big pit full of dirt that used to be home to the owner’s jacuzzi. He pulled it out, we filled it with dirt. The first things that started growing were the tomatoes. And they’re still the most active plant. I love pruning them, their leave get so out of control. I might be pruning too much. There’s genuine enjoyment in the cut, cut, cutting. A satisfying crunch and snap. Cleaning and clearing. The body working, the mind on standby. But I’m doing something right, we have more tomatoes than I know what to do with. I keep a bowl of them on the kitchen counter, and my daughter walks by and pops them into her mouth. I planted my aloe vera plant, it is spreading beautifully. No pruning there. I planted a small parsley and small celery plant side by side, they are both taller than my daughter now. Those are some very happy plants. I planted a bunch of garlic, but only a couple of them remain. I think it’s too hot outside for them. Inside on the kitchen window sill I have mint, cilantro and snap peas growing happily. And I just planted some radishes and beets, and they’ve already burst forth from the soil. Tending to, and watching these plants grow relaxes me so much. A noisy part of me settles, relaxes and is able to just be. A solid calm comes over me, and it can last for many hours afterwards. Order has been created, in one small corner of my life.

What things can you stop doing to simply your life?

Every day I listen to the same guided meditation. Nermala says to take a deep breath, and as I exhale, let go of one non-nourishing behavior. Let go. There are so many things I need to let go of. My two favorites are guilt and shame. Every day I try to let go of them. Yesterday I tried to let go of control. If I could really let go of control I would be free of my anxiety. Control is the noose around my neck. Control is sister to my mean, punishing thoughts. They hold hands and skip together as I crumple, crumble and cry. They dance together on my face, my heart, and my soul. I’d love to be rid of you, control. You’re a nasty habit. You’re a tightness and tension in my shoulders and neck. You’re a bed of nails. If I could let you go, I could enjoy my time with my daughter. That is something I would like most of all. To fully experience and appreciate her delight, creativity, enthusiasm and love. I want to be close with her, to connect with her. Control is the wall separating us. It’s cold and barbed, it’s so self-assured. It insists it’s right where it belongs. But it’s not. It’s not necessary, and it’s definitely not wanted. F*** you, control. I want you gone! Of course, pushing it away just makes the grip stronger. It won’t budge, it digs its heels in. So how do I get rid of you. Let go. How do I let go. I take a deep breath…and I let go. I don’t need you, control. I’m just going to relax over here (for as long as I can). And every day I will take more deep breaths, and let go. One of these days it’ll work, I know it. I can create new habits that don’t involve control. It took me 30+ years of wielding control as a habit, I give myself permission to take a while – a long while, if necessary – to let go of control. No, you’re not gone yet. But that’s ok, little by little we will part ways. Every day I will wander a little further away from you.