What can I Learn From this?

October 6th, 2014      Email this article to a friend Email this article to a friend

After a four hour training session I walked over to my car, and tried starting it. *clunk*. Nothing. I thought maybe the battery was flat. While walking back to where the meeting was, I started to feel a bit stressed about it, but decided to go with it for now.

The person who had organized the meeting was very helpful, and together we tried jumper cables, and tried to find somebody to have a look at it. All to no avail. Car was as dead as a doornail. I now had to either join the AA, or get it towed to my mechanic. Towing was cheaper, so I chose that option.

We were in training to ask powerful questions, so I laughingly said “what’s good about this?”, and I couldn’t come up with anything good. “At least it’s not raining” I was thinking.

I had to wait quite a long time for the tow truck which gave me plenty of time to get nervous about the trip. You see I have motion sickness, and anxiety, so imagine a tow truck moving forward and backward all the time, in a tight compartment (claustrophobia), in rush hour traffic. Not good (well for me anyway).

On my anxiety checklist it says “plan ahead”, so I went to the pharmacy and bought some motion sickness pills, and some stuff to help with my anxiety. I’m glad I did, because my perception of what the trip was going to be like, was spot on, except for the traffic, which was okay. With my car behind us, it certainly was moving about quite a bit. It’s about the worse you can do to me; small space (feeling trapped), and something that causes motion sickness and causes anxiety. Planes are even worse for me.

I started to think “I’m going to get sick, I’m going to get sick” when I become aware of what I was talking myself into. I asked myself the following question: “what three ways of being do I need to be?”. That question refers to things like courageous, loving, etc. I chose “calm, courageous, and patient”. That became my new mantra. My attitude changed, and I felt much calmer after that. I had responded to the situation consciously.

At some later point I was waiting in a bus stop going home, when it started to rain. I was now confined to the bus stop, and I said to myself: “I give up, what can I learn from all this?”. Within three minutes a car came by with something written on the side. I couldn’t read it yet, but when it got close it said “ATTITUDE”. πŸ™‚

Now, in the meeting, there was a significant discussion about attitude, and how “attitude is everything”. I only heard some of it at the time, but didn’t really hear what it was about.

Now I was really interested in what it meant, so I asked the person who had helped me before, and she gave me this reply:
“Basically just use the awareness that our thoughts have UNLIMITED POWER. Eg. We could both have got stressed about your car situation… you appeared to take it in your stride (not sure of the inward process); I chose to enjoy the opportunity to support you and was grateful I had a perfect gap in appointments to do so… HOW WE THINK CHANGES THE EXPERIENCE.”

And it’s true; how we think changes the experience.

This article is of course not about attitude alone, but also about asking yourself the questions “What can I learn from this?”, “What’s good about this?”. If you do that, you’re far more likely to find some good in a seemingly bad situation. I say seemingly, because in the long-term these situations tend to turn into good stories again anyway.

“It is important to expect nothing, to take every experience, including the negative ones, as merely steps on the path, and to proceed.”
― Ram Dass

It taught me several other things as well:

  • New material for writing an article πŸ™‚
  • I got to know the training person a lot better.
  • There is still kindness in the world
  • I need to do much more work on my anxiety/stress management
  • I could have taken a taxi, rather than two late night irregular buses. I got home around 9 pm. Doh!
  • I need a better phone, or a list of important phone numbers at least
  • Becoming aware in the middle of a situation, and responding rather than reacting, works
  • That car driving by, that was no coincidence

The bill was interesting… πŸ™
(New battery, but they also found a leak in the exhaust pipe)

So I thought I’d write down my story for you to enjoy, in the hope that it will have a happy end after all. πŸ˜‰

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Medication Journal / Calendar

October 4th, 2014      Email this article to a friend Email this article to a friend

Not too long ago I was recommended to start keeping track of my medication and mood changes in a journal. I think this is such a good idea, that I wanted to share it with you.

With the journal you can keep track of what medication changes do to your mood, etc.

It doesn’t have to be complicated, all you need is one of those ruled exercise books, or alternatively a dedicated “journal” calendar.

Medication journal

My entries are something like this:
September 2014

1 “Medication X” down to zero
2 Poor sleep
3 Poor sleep πŸ™
4 “Medication X” back to 2.5 mg
7 Saw my doctor, “Medication X” down to zero, “Medication Y” up to 7.5 mg
10 Akathisia way worse
15 “Medication X” back to 2.5 mg, “Medication Y” back to 5 mg
16 Feeling stuck in medication choice. Still have insomnia.
21 Low in mood. πŸ™
30 Chat with friend. Feel a bit better.
Etc

You can record these events both on a calendar (how I started), or in a more private journal (what I have now).

I invite you to try it out, especially when your medication changes a fair bit.

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Anxiety and Meditation

October 3rd, 2014      Email this article to a friend Email this article to a friend

With anxiety there’s the very real chance that your thoughts will take you on a not so pleasant experience. Thoughts can be followed by stories, e.g. series of thoughts + emotions + pictures from memory, and before you know it you’re reliving your worse nightmare again and again making the anxiety attack stronger. For example, after a bad experience on a bus, you might say “I better not get on the bus any more, and just to be safe I might as well avoid cars as well”. This process generally comes with physical effects in the body such as tension, stress, and more anxiety as a result, etc. It’s a vicious circle.

If we can somehow prevent the upcoming anxiety, or perhaps even start to dissolve it, it’s well worth exploring different options.

I always shrugged my shoulders when people told me about meditation, but I thought I’d give it a go, and have made much progress since. I’m not only more relaxed (because of the relaxed breathing), but I’m also more able to snap out of an upcoming anxiety attack, or ride it out. It does require a little bit of practice and time though.

Here’s the low down of how I do my meditation.

  • I find a position where I’m comfortable, and can close my eyes. This can be on a chair, couch, or on your bed. As long as you’re comfortable. I just lie down on my bed flat on my back.
  • All you need to do is breathe which should come natural. πŸ˜‰
  • Just relax for a bit. Try and relax your breathing. Take a couple of deep breaths.
  • Now focus your attention on the breathing. Try and stay with the breath for as long as possible. It doesn’t really matter how you breathe at this point, because that’s not the goal of this meditation. It’s all about the focus on the breathing.
  • At some point you’ll probably find that your mind has wandered off, and is thinking of something else. That’s okay, that’s normal. The point is that you’re now aware that your mind has wandered off. That’s a major step.
  • Now bring your focus back to the breath, and repeat. When you catch your brain wandering again, bring your focus back to the breathing. That’s all you need to do.

The objective is to become aware of your (anxiety) thoughts, and being able to send your focus in a different direction. This is a crucial stepping stone, because you now you have some time to respond to the anxiety rather than react to it.

For example, when you experience anxiety, taking a deep breath is a good start as it is the first conscious signal coming from your brain to your body that it’s “okay”. The deep breath will trigger other processes in your body that will help you relax, and give you some time to think.

I was told to meditate 2 times 20 minutes per day, but it’s more like 2 times 10 minutes per day for me at the moment. It doesn’t matter. Everything you can fit into your schedule will help.

Anxiety checklist
Once you’ve become aware of your pending anxiety attack, it’s important to stay present in the moment. Try not to spend time in the past or future, e.g. “last time this didn’t go to well”, or “what if this happens, what if that happens?”. Live in the present moment.

Having an anxiety checklist (a list of things that will help you calm down) is a great tool to have. When you become aware of an impending anxiety attack, make sure to grab your anxiety checklist. Write the checklist down, because when you need it you probably won’t remember what’s on it. It doesn’t need to be a checklist by the way, it could also be a toy, or something that grounds you and calms you down. An anchor point.

Here’s my checklist:

  • BREATHE
  • Anxiety is a feeling, and won’t kill me
  • Stop! I can do this
  • I want to do this
  • I will get through this
  • Mindfulness
  • Plan ahead
  • Stop reacting

I was encouraged to write one, after reading this book.

I’d like to invite you to write your own.

Instead of reacting, you will now be responding consciously, because you’ve become aware of what’s going on. It’s like changing the rail road track so that the train will go in a different direction.

Anxiety won’t kill you
The key to anxiety, and this is going to sound stupid, is that it can’t kill you. It’s just extremely unpleasant. Fear might be there, but it’s important not to fight it (which will only make it stronger). Don’t run away, but gently face your fear. Let it do its’ worse, because it can’t kill you, and it will stop at some point. Yes, it will be uncomfortable at first, but progress can certainly be made. Just keep breathing, stay aware, and stick to your checklist.

Medication
Medication can play a big role with anxiety as well, e.g. some general medication does a good job, others not so much. Please feel free to discuss this with your doctor.

There is also medication that can help for the short-term, or as a “one off”, but they can be addictive and the body will get used to it, so they have limited use. I currently use a small dose of Lorezepam (.75 mg) to help with the Akithesia, and I am allowed to have a little more for big events that I know are coming.

Conclusion
There is of course quite a lot to anxiety, but I strongly feel that this meditation can help. It helped me, so why not give it a go. You’re going to be breathing and lying down at some point any way. πŸ˜‰

This meditation will also help you relax in general, and it will also give you an idea of what is going on inside your head, e.g. the things your mind wanders off too.

Wishing you all the best.

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