Recovery and Mental Health Strategies for Xmas

Christmastime Strategy

It’s here.  Christmas.  For the next 24 hours I will work to keep myself busy and my mind occupied with friends, meetings, and support groups.  That is the strategy for today to keep my spiritual and mental health as close to 100% as possible. Here are some other tools for people to deal with today’s stress.

Have an Escape Route

Be sure that you have a way to get away from stressful situations, even if for a minute or two.   Even if you have to go into the closet for a few minutes that may be enough to give you a break from the stress.  This nay sound strange, but there are places open today.  In the past a trip to the convenience store gave me a much-needed break from the craziness swirling around me.

Reach Out To Others

I plan to spend the day reaching out to friends via phone, in-person, or text.    People are a very important part of my tool kit.   Keep your phone list handy and reach out as needed.

Don’t Be Alone

If you need a meeting or fellowship with another person, go.  Many recovery clubs have 24 hour meetings that you can go to during the holidays.  I plan to go to at least one meeting today to help keep me sane and on the beam.

Meditate and Pray

Meditation and prayer can help you when you’re feeling low.  Take some time to connect with yourself and your defined Higher Power.   If you’ve never heard of insight timer, download the app to your phone.  It has great guided meditations that you can use to help calm your mind and heart.

Feel Your Feelings

When push comes to shove, you may have to simply experience your feelings.  Be mindful of them.  If that’s the case look at them head on, accept them, and process them.  They may be painful to see and experience but facing them will get you through them quicker.

Hang in There

I wish you all the best.  I know this time of year can be tough, but there are tools you can use to survive them.   I know I’ll be using them.

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MY HOLIDAY SPIRIT IS DEAD

CHRISTMAS COUNTDOWN

As the holiday season winds down, I find myself sad.  Not depressed thank God, just sad. Yes, the holidays this year have taken their toll on me.   I’m sad that this past year was such a rough one.  I’m sad because I don’t have my normal level of Christmas cheer even though I’m trying.  I used to love Christmas – the gift giving, the cheer, the kindness, the sappy Hallmark Channel movies.

All those things I looked forward to each year now fill me with a melancholy that is strange to me.

This year was just “off”.   I let my spiritual connection with my higher power go and I got diagnosed with bipolar disorder.  Two major things that would throw anyone off, but for me they have been catastrophic.

Funny thing, my spiritual condition is really the one causing me the most issues right now.  I can deal with the bipolar, but I cannot deal with feeling so disconnected from my higher power that I call God.

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PLANNING FOR TRIGGERS

My depression will probably get triggered on Christmas Day.

Loneliness.  Yep.  That devil.

I am single and that can get me caught up in a cycle of self-pity.   I have to be prepared to do battle with that emotion.   My strategies?  I will surround myself with people to keep that loneliness from seeping into my soul and infecting everything.  I will go to a bunch of AA meetings and try to be of service to others.

Prayer and meditation will daily rituals, sitting calmly and quietly asking for God’s wisdom and guidance.  Those tools are the only way to help make sure that my mind stays off of myself as much as possible.

WORDS OF WISDOM?

My local support group had a Christmas party a few days ago.  A friend at the support group that I go to told me that it took him about 2 years to come out of the “fog” he was in after his bipolar diagnosis.   He said that it affected so much of his life that he wasn’t sure if he was coming or going at times.

Dammit!

I know he means well, and I’m glad to be informed.   But, if I have to go through two years of this feeling “off” it might be ugly.  I hope I have the strength to deal with whatever comes next.

PRAYERS FOR YOU

My best prayers for you over this holiday season.  I hope that if you suffer from depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety, PTSD or any other chronic illness or are in recovery that you find yourself surrounded by people who love you.

 

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Simple Words…Major Shift in Perspective

Weekly Meeting

On Sunday, I met my friend/advisor, Rick, and had our usual weekly meeting.  I’ve been working with this gentleman since 2008 and he knows me well.  He’s been essential to my recovery and growth since that time.  I often say things to him that I rarely could say to other people.  Sometimes, when he advises me on things, the language he uses can seem hurtful or harsh. More often than not he is simply telling me that I need to hear.

Last night was one of those nights.

Moving

I’m worried about something happening three months away.  Thank you anxiety.  Even though I was feeling pretty good, I am caught up in that fear and worry about moving in a few months and with the possibility of having to get a roommate that I don’t know or trust.   I have not had a roommate in years.  I’m worried about my my mental health and sharing a space with someone, but financially I cannot do single living in this area on my own anymore.

I’ve accepted that that is simply how my mind works.  Literature that I’ve read on anxiety says that one of the best tools that we have to deal with it is acceptance.   We have to take what comes and make the best of it.   Look it straight in the eye, claim it and our feelings, and move forward.

I’m trying.  Dammit, I’m really trying.

I try to accept things as much as I can.   But my mind still takes situations and multiplies them into massive, frightening unclimbable mountains.   Those who deal with anxiety know what I’m talking about.  I try everything to ease that constrictive feeling: meditation, prayer, or writing a  gratitude list.  They work for about 10 minutes and then I immediately snap back into anxious mode like a taut rubber band.  I told all of this to my friend and he said very lovingly and gently, “just relax.”

“Just Relax….”

After he said those words, I felt a genuine sense of relief come over me for a few minutes.   I know that I have been a ball of tension the past few weeks and have felt it in my heart and chest.

That feeling sucks.  Royally.

Imagine you are standing up against a wall and are pushing against it with all of your might.  That wall will not come down no matter how hard you push.  That’s what anxiety feels like to me – a wall that won’t go down no matter what.

Rick’s words have stayed with me.   I have to find a way to relax as best as I can.  I have to find something that brings me joy and satisfaction outside of work and meetings.   I do not want to have a heart attack at 50 for stress.  I want whatever time I have left on this planet to be fun and engaging.  I want to help others and do something creative.

I pray to my Higher Power/God that he’ll help me with these issues because I know I can’t do it alone.

Anyone else ever experience this anxiety?  How did you cope with it?

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Connecting to the Higher Power for Help

Making Contact With God/Higher Power

I have been intensely praying, meditating, trying to be of service to others, taking my medications, and seeing my therapist but my anxiety and worry about the future are still present. Why won’t they go away? I am doing everything I can to make those feelings disappear, but nothing seems to do the job.  I feel stuck behind a dark wall.

Fear

I Honestly Don’t Know What To Do….

When I think about the next few years of my life, I can’t seem to “see” anything for me.   Nothing fun, nothing exciting, nothing to look forward to and that bothers me.  I was always someone who was exited about life and lately I feel frightened that I’ll never progress.   Now, I don’t smile and I don’t laugh as much as I know I should.  There’s work that I have to do on my part, but right now I can’t “picture” what my life should be.

My sponsor keeps telling me that God will reveal more to me as I progress through my life.  Riiiggghhhtt…..There are days I believe him and days like today where I feel completely lost and scared.    Does this reflect some weakness on my part?

How Does Your God/Higher Power Speak To You?

I went to a meeting recently where a person shared that suffering and pain are God’s way of grabbing our attention about something. If that’s true, I don’t know what God is trying to tell me. Should I sit still? Should I move forward?  I’m hoping that by writing this someone else, especially others in recovery, can share some wisdom.

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Day Off for Gratitude

I had a day off today and was happy about it. I know that I’m slowly getting better. Normally days off are tough for me. All that unstructured time can be tough for me. But today was actually OK. I was able to keep myself busy and studied up on some goals that I want to achieve in the new year.

Part of my day, was a visit to see my therapist at noon and we had a wonderful talk. I’m very thankful for her. She’s always encouraging and supportive of my efforts to grow and change. She helps me to fight the negative self-talk I usually tell myself with excellent strategies and techniques. She gives me tips and tools to deal with my depression, anxiety, and worry patterns.

Our appointment today was the last one together before the year ended. When I think about the past year I can get overwhelmed. I was diagnosed as bipolar and had to incorporate that with my already shaky recovery and anxiety issues. So much happened this past year. This year has been a rough one both physically and mentally. At one time, I’d never felt so lost and I hope I don’t feel that way ever again. Again, I am thankful my therapist was around to help me bear it.

I have discovered new friends and deepened friendships with old ones. I’ve been scared out of my mind and worried sick several times. I’ve lost my connection to God and am working to reestablish it.

But the help of people, therapy, psychiatry, my blog readers, and several support groups have made it bearable. I know that I have a long way to go to return to my fully healthy self – but I will get there somehow.

I’m thankful for you too, my readers. You give me a sense of purpose in sharing about my struggles. I hope it helps you somehow.

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Helping others helps me too…

Someone that I met through a support group that I attend was recently really struggling. We exchanged numbers and he called me today. He really was having a hard time dealing with the wreckage of his past because of his bipolar disorder. He had just been recently diagnosed. We talked for a long time about this. I told him about my issues, damage that I did, and what I felt about being diagnosed with the illness. The first thing I did was to encouraged him to go easy on himself. To remind him that he was ill – not a bad person.

I told him that he could not change anything in his past, he could only go forward with acceptance and a positive attitude.

Working with him really made me feel like I was making a difference. It also took me out of my anxiety and worry for a short time which was wonderful. My recovery literature always talks about how helping others is vital to an addict’s emotional and spiritual health. But I also think it is important for a person’s mental health to be able to help others.

It’s making me think about what I can do going forward as a part-time career. I can’t go back to school again because I’m too far in debt. I’m considering spiritual coaching. I don’t want to make a lot of money from it, but I would like to help others achieve their goals and serve as a cheerleader for them. I would like to help others overcome the fears as I could not overcome mine.

Anyone had any experience with coaching? Is my idea of being a coach a crazy idea?

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Mental Health…with Roommates?

I’m sitting here with my patio door open. It’s cold but the cold air is keeping me awake and motivated. The cat is lying next to me on the couch.

I’ve been struggling lately with some issues but I am getting better each day. I will have to move in March and my panic button is on alert. The situation? I can no longer afford to live on my own. I have to get a roommate and that terrifies me for some reason. The rent here in the Raleigh area is reaching unsustainable levels for a single person. My choices are to buy, rent, or move to the outskirts of Raleigh. I don’t want to move to the boonies. All of my friends, support networks, doctors, etc are in Raleigh and I don’t want to leave that behind.

If I buy I’ll have to get one or two roommates to help defray the costs. Even if I rent, I’ll have to get a roommate to defray the costs. I can’t figure out which solution is the better one. I think it will depend on what I can get qualified for on my mortgage.

My concern is for my mental health. I have not had a roommate in years and I’m worried what it will mean for me. I have never had the best history with roommates – I’ve learned that I can be difficult. But I’m ready to be a better person. If I do get a roommate I will need to be extra vigilante and extra aware of how I act. I don’t want to create a situation where we don’t like each other and there’s tension in the space for 12 months.

I have great friends who are offering me a lot of advice. I am not as insane today as I have been about the situation. I know that I have to step in to the anxiety and take action. I’m going to pray about it a lot over the next three months and hope that God guides me. My friend Steve just told me to pray and ask for guidance and it will be answered.

Anyone else have a roommate? How do you deal with it?

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