Tag Archives: meditation

The Seven Minute Itch


Recently I’ve noticed that I’m incredibly sleep-deprived. I’ve always been somebody who skimped on sleep with the intention of fitting so much more into my waking hours. Despite this inevitably always backfiring, with me ending up too exhausted to do all the fun/important things I’d planned, I never stopped trying to burn the candle at both ends.

I just cannot ignore that this type of lifestyle is not working for me anymore. It’s totally unhealthy to have some sort of vague, unspecified bed time. More often than not I’ll end up lying down for “five minutes”, just to “rest my eyes”, and I’ll wake up hours later in the wee small hours with all my clothes on, my eyes glued shut because I didn’t remove my contact lenses, and without having brushed my teeth.

So, I’ve decided that this needs to change. There are four things I would like to happen every day. The first two are things that the average person doesn’t even think about out, and just takes for granted, but somehow I find them incredibly difficult:

(1) Get 7.5-8 hours sleep a night (This means going to bed at 10:00 a.m., maybe reading to 10:30 p.m., and getting up at 6:00 a.m.)

(2) Eat three consistent meals.

The other two things are goals related more to spirituality and creativity:

(1) Meditate every day

(2) Blog every day

And I want to do both of these things even if I only have a few minutes to spare, like tonight.

I’m sure that this blog post (written in 8 minutes – I cheated) isn’t exactly entertaining, but the point is to get into the habit of writing every day, even if I don’t have the time to knock out an amazingly analytical work of art.

And now….I’m off to meditate for 10 minutes. Then bed, and reading.

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Free Pass


Free PassI went to see my psychiatrist yesterday, and it turns out that the 20mg of Prozac I had been taking for the last month or so was nowhere near enough. Back then she had given me a second prescription for 40mg, and I was supposed to start taking that after a week of being on the 20mg dosage, but I forgot about that, and just continued taking the 20mg capsules. Oops.

I went home, and immediately took a second 20mg capsule, and I have to say I am feeling so much better today. It could be entirely unrelated, and perhaps it’s just the placebo effect of having the hope that an increased dosage will make me feel better. But who the fuck cares what it is. All I know is that when I woke up this morning, I didn’t have a horrible sinking feeling. I actually wanted to  get out of bed and do things. I actually feel hopeful! All the household chores that I have to do today don’t feel insurmountable. Unpleasant, yes, but not insurmountable.

When I first started meditating again, and going to the Zen center, I had been on Zoloft for a couple of months, and I didn’t think it was working because I was still struggling with a lot of perfectionism-related issues (which may or may not be a symptom of OCD or OCPD). However, I did notice that I was much better disposed towards my fellow human beings. I wasn’t thinking so much in terms of “us” and “them”, or judging other people in a black and white way. I felt more connected to other people, and less inclined to distance myself. At the time, I put this down to my newfound interest in Buddhism and meditation, but, in retrospect, I think the tiny buds of my “spiritual awakening” were only able to grow because I was on the Zoloft.

Now, I’m absolutely not saying that Zoloft (or any other antidepressant) can actually cause somebody to embark on a spiritual path completely out of the blue. What I am saying is that antidepressants can allow depressed people who are already spiritually inclined to find the motivation and energy to explore their spiritual side. Before taking Zoloft I was still interested in spiritual matters, but I would often lose interest after being unable to find a satisfying intellectual answer to certain issues that I would ruminate over obsessively e.g. “How can I put my trust in a God/Higher Power/whatever the fuck you want to call and believe that He/She/It has my best interest at heart when such terrible things happen to other people?!” These questions still interest me, but, right now, I don’t have an obsessive need to analyze them to death in the vain attempt to find an answer. I’m more comfortable with grey areas.

What the fuck has this got to do with the title of this blog post – “Free Pass” – you might ask? Well, yesterday I wrote about how people should stop hating on poor Amy Bouzaglo because she clearly has some serious mental health issues. Xul, who actually managed to drag herself away from watching Game of Thrones, posted this response in the comments section:

As someone who also has parent issues, it’s sometimes hard for me to sympathize with the negative behaviors. I find myself vacillating between the notion that they can’t help the behaviors because they are disordered and the fact that they are willful and deliberate in their actions and can damn well choose to behave the way they do.

I think that there comes a time when you have to make a conscious decision about your life. Yes, I had a screwed up childhood. Yes, I had my own disordered behavior. Yes, I reached the point in my life where I no longer wanted to be that person and I’ve done the introspection and self-work that it took to be better. It’s still a work in progress. It’s hard for me to give a pass to someone else when I’m proof positive that change is possible.

I’ve struggled with such thoughts myself because, like Xul, I grew up with a mother who was a controlling, critical bitch. My mother had an awful childhood, and so, intellectually, I understand why she is the way she is. She’s a victim of child abuse. She’s also a working-class woman who grew up in a time and place where mental health issues were never discussed, and where it would have been taboo for her to acknowledge she had an issue and to seek help, and take medication. Unlike me, she did not have access to the internet and the ability to google non-stop to try to find answers. Unlike me, she is also a mother, and it must be so hard for a mother to admit that her mental health issues made her, at times, that most unsocially-acceptable of all things – A Bad Mother. Because then it’s not just about admitting you have a mental health issue, it’s about having to re-construct your own identity and sense of self. Can you really blame her – or any mother like her – for just burying her head in the sand?

It’s easy for me to have compassion for my mother, though. When you haven’t seen or spoken to somebody for eight years, the jagged edges get worn down, and it’s easier for compassion to grow. I don’t think I would be so understanding if I had to deal with her criticisms and put-downs again . I’m pretty sure I would just react like a hurt child, who doesn’t understand how a person who’s supposed to offer unconditional love can be so fucking cruel.

As I said above, I’m not a mother, so I’ve never been a Bad Mother. But, oh, I have been a Bad Wife, and this is something I also struggle to understand in terms of the “free pass” I’ve been discussing. I don’t think that I’m a “bad” person, but I did a lot of bad things to my ex-husband: hit him; kicked him; spat on him; smashed his things and told him he was a worthless piece of shit. How much of this was “me”, and how much of this was mental illness – and does it even matter at the end of the day when then cause of the harm doesn’t lesson its effects?

Am I trying to let myself off the hook when I mention that I do feel more capable of being calm, rational and loving when taking an antidepressant? Is this just me saying: “It weren’t me, guv. Honest! It was my brain chemistry!”

I do feel terribly sorry for the things I did to MM but, sometimes, honestly it’s really hard to feel remorse when he sends me mean texts telling me that I am “barely human”, “a demon”, ” a fucking monster” and “I’m sad, because you’ll drown in that”. He told me all the time during the relationship that I was a “bad person”, and, even though I don’t blame him for having that reaction, how on earth did this make it possible for me to change? And, you know what, I didn’t want to change then because I was sick of being the crazy one, the “identified patient” who was to blame for everything. Why didn’t he have to change his drinking? Why was it apparently my fault that he’d started drinking more? When he started being violent towards me, and I pointed out that it was only a matter of time before he broke one of my bones, why didn’t he care and why was it me who had “provoked” him? When I told him that he scared me when he got drunk, why did he say that I was such a bully that being drunk was the only time he had the courage to say what he really thought? People have told me that MM was abusive to me, too, and I have a hard time wrapping my head around this because I am deathly afraid of giving myself one of those “free passes”.

When the relationship was over, I felt horrific pain, but there was also this little tiny voice deep inside me that said excitedly “You can change now!”. If I was still married, I would still be stuck in the role of the “bad person” and I don’t think I would now be meditating and interested in finding out more about Buddhism. It’s like there was a terrible hurricane, which stripped all the trees of their leaves, but there’s one tiny bud sprouting hopefully on a branch.

I’m sad, though. Whatever happened to “Until Death Do Us Part”? Maybe the pain I caused was just too much, I get that, but I don’t feel that MM ever wanted to help me change or support me through it. It was me who bought him the book Stop Walking on Eggshells: Taking Your Life Back When Someone You Love Has Borderline Personality Disorder. He read it, and his attitude appeared to be “OK, cool. Now off you go and – change!”. He never did any internet research about how to cope with having a partner who was mentally ill. In fact, the only research he ever did appeared to be after the break-up when he “diagnosed” me with Narcissistic Personality Disorder.

Oh, how things could have been different. We loved each other, and it didn’t need to turn to shit. I could spend a lifetime regretting this, and obsessing over what went wrong. But I’m not going to. I just need to accept that neither one of us was ready or right for the other. He wasn’t “the one” and I wasn’t “the one” for him. It’s that simple.

All I can do is remember that, and work hard to be a better, kinder person in the future. And I don’t think that’s giving myself a free pass.

Is it?

You’re So Vain (Part 2)


It’s one of those days, folks – a day when I haven’t got a single intelligent thing to say. But I’ve promised myself I’ll write every day in this blog even if this means that I just write crap. This was a personal goal of mine, but, hell, even Leo Babauta over at Zen Habits says it’s a good idea. I’m sitting at the airport now, waiting for my flight back home, and I really didn’t feel like writing anything but then “You’re So Vain” started playing, and that seemed like too much of a coincidence to ignore.

I’m depressed to be heading back. It seems like nothing in my life is going well. Professionally, personally, emotionally and spiritually I feel adrift. I work up feeling depressed, and then felt better later, but the depression hit me again later as I was having lunch with my friend in a café. I’m not sure if the Prozac is working, but, well, I’ve only been on it for a week, so I guess I should give it more of a chance.

I bought a pair of expensive jeans today, and I was depressed looking at myself in the mirror in the store. Yeah, I know, first world problems, right? But, well, I never claimed that I wasn’t superficial with a head filled only with vapid thoughts. I’m attractive, but I think I could be a lot more toned. I seem to have put on weight over the last few weeks. Then again, it’s really hard for me to know whether I look good or not, as I probably have Body Dysmorphic Disorder. Any time I think I look good, people say I look unhealthily thin. After seeing myself in the mirror, I decided that I would start training for another marathon again to get more toned, but I don’t know if that’s a good idea. I’m so fucking busy – I’ll be starting work on the SLAA steps next week, and meeting with my sponsor weekly; attending the Zen center at least once a week; going to at least one SLAA meeting once a week; meditating daily; looking after my ten pets; singing in my band; blogging daily and, oh yeah, working forty hours per week. Do I really have time to train for a marathon as well?

I can’t believe I’m about to quote a Radiohead lyric from 1992 (clearly, I never outgrew my emo phase), but “I want a perfect body; I want a perfect soul”. Marathon running and honing my body probably shouldn’t be a priority in my life right now. I should probably be focusing on my recovery. But I just can’t stand the idea of growing older, and not being attractive anymore.

I want to be a Buddha, but, well, a really fucking hot Buddha.

 

Habit


I don’t have much to report today. But I’ve decided to write anyway since my two “top lines” in SLAA are  to mediate and write every day. I’m sure that it’s common to have far more than two top lines, but my life has always consisted of a big list of “shoulds”, so I decided to keep it simple, as there’s less chance of my freaking out that way, and self-sabotaging. My pattern is to impose a lot of rigid rules on myself, and then panic, break them all on purpose, and hate myself for doing so. I’m not quite sure where that comes from, but I’m sure it’s got something to do with my overbearing, over-controlling mother. I feel like I have two people inside me – my mother who’s telling me to do something and me, as a child, who wants to yell – and sometimes does – “Fuck you, mother!”

The biggest challenge for me is not getting to my meditation cushion or to my desk; the challenge for me is believing that there’s a point in writing or meditation if I can’t do it “properly”. Meditating “properly” means sitting down for at least thirty minutes and, ideally, I’d do that twice a day – once in the morning, and once in the evening – but that has yet to happen. I do usually manage to sit for thirty minutes once a day.

When I was twenty-one, I went on a ten-day, silent Vipassana retreat in France, where I had to get up at 4:30 a.m. every morning, and practically meditated the whole way through until 9:00 p.m. I’m not sure I ever want to go on a silent retreat again (actually I didn’t mind the not talking part – although my friends would be astounded given that I’m known for not being able to shut up for more than two seconds – but the no-reading/no-writing rule really got to me!) but I will forever be grateful for my first introduction to mediation and Buddhism. However, the one bad thing about the retreat was that we were told that we needed to continue our practice at home by meditating for an hour in the morning and an hour in the evening. Two hours of mediation a day!? Well, I’m sure this is indeed optimal, but how many people have that kind of time to spare? I managed to keep up the two-hour meditation rule for the first couple of weeks at home, but it became too much after that. A healthier person wouldn’t have beaten themselves up for this slip, and would have simply tried to do what they could, but ever the black-and-white thinker, I couldn’t tolerate such compromise. I either meditated for two hours a day, or I thought “Fuck it!” and did nothing at all. Soon I just stopped meditating altogether.

To be honest, I still don’t really see how meditating for just five minutes a day (if that’s all I can manage) is going to help me at all. But I guess the idea is to just develop a meditation habit, and take it from there. Research shows apparently that if you stick to a new activity for twenty-one days, then you form a habit.

As for writing, my dilemma is very similar to the one I have with meditation. “What is the fucking point of just writing in a blog about the pitiful, little, self-obsessed dramas of your life?” my bitchy mother’s voice asks me. “That’s not going to help you start a career as a freelance writer!”. My bitchy mother is right in a way, of course, as I really would like to do some “real” writing, but I do think it’s important to write here every day. I’m incredibly lonely, and it’s nice to write something and say “Hello, world! I’m here! I have a voice!”. And again, it’s back to the matter of creating a habit. I shouldn’t feel that I can only write something when the muse strikes.

It doesn’t matter how unimportant, uninspired, uninteresting or short a blog post might be, I just need to do it!

Just fucking do it!

Handing It Over


letgoThe good thing about getting older is that I’ve learned what my bad patterns and habits are. Unfortunately, there is a huge difference between knowing what they are, and knowing how to stay the fuck away from people/situations that trigger my patterns and habits.

This is just a fancier way of saying that I will still be going on a date with the Arab (which is not good) but I’ve more or less stopped obsessing about him constantly (which is good). When I start to obsess about him, I know I’m doing it, and I’m able to get outside my head a little and observe the obsession, and ask myself what it means.

The only downside to this is that I then start to obsess about the fact that I’m obsessing, if that makes sense. I’ll catch myself obsessing, and then I’ll try to think and analyze my way out of it. For most situations in life, I would say that intelligence and intellect come in handy, but I’ve learned the hard way that both these attributes are utterly fucking useless when it comes to addiction and obsession. You absolutely cannot think yourself better.

A few days ago I found myself on my meditation cushion obsessing about the Arab; and then I found myself obsessing about the obsession, beating myself up for not being able to control my thoughts better. I was disconsolate, but then I decided to ask God/My Higher Power/the Universe – whatever the hell you want to call it – to take this obsession away. I actually spoke the words out loud. There wasn’t a huge flash of lightening, and the obsessive thoughts in my head didn’t – poof! – disappear to be replaced for evermore by serene, happy ones. But my thoughts did quieten down considerably.

This is what people mean by “letting go”, I guess, and by “handing it over to your Higher Power”. Before I truly understood what “handing it over” meant, I always thought it was a bit of a cop-out really. It seemed to me to be just an excuse for bad behaviour, a way not to take responsibility for yourself. I still think that sometimes but, honestly, I’ve reached a point where I don’t really fucking care about the million and one intellectual arguments I could come up with against the concept of “handing it over”. I’ve reached rock bottom, and I have no option but to try it.

The interesting thing about the situation with the Arab is that I’ve spiralled in and out of obsession with him for about three months now. There was a time when I’d come into work, and I’d be literally holding my breath as I logged into my computer to see whether he’d chatted me yet. If I did receive a chat message from him, I would then spend ages agonizing over what would be an appropriate amount of time to wait before chatting back. At a certain point, however, I lost interest in him, and the obsession disappeared. The fact that it has ebbed and waned has taught me that it is not fucking real. I am not genuinely interested in him as a person.

What is it then that I get out of these obsessions? It’s hard to say exactly but I guess I use certain men the way alcoholics use booze – to forget about the present moment. Most of the strongest obsessions I’ve had have been with men who have something about them that hints at adventure and excitement  – something that allows me to escape from the humdrum drudgery of my daily life.  I wasn’t obsessed with MM because, well, it’s hard to get lost in a fantasy about somebody where you are whisked off to the…..Midwest. But, well, the Arab….I see myself flying myself flying across the Sahara with him on horseback, his dark eyes flashing in the sunlight.

Keep in mind that the dude, like me, works in a fucking cubicle, but that little inconvenient fact doesn’t get in the way of my obsessive thoughts. Poor guy. When I think about how much I’ve built him up and how much he’s going to disappoint me when we finally meet, I actually feel sorry for him.

It makes me sad that I am not able to connect with men (or at least those men who are potential love interests) as real human beings. I wonder if I’ll ever be able to have a committed, honest, open relationship?

I don’t know the answer to that question. All I know is that right now I am going to meditate for thirty minutes and put all such thoughts out of my head.

Powerless


Well, hello, little blog. It’s been a while, hasn’t it? I didn’t mean to stay away for so long, but it’s so hard for me to untangle the twisted knots of perfectionism and procrastination in my life to get anything done. And when I don’t do what I set out to do, I beat myself up, which, naturally, just makes my perfectionism and procrastination worse…and this leads to more self-hatred and self-judgement. It’s a vicious cycle I can’t seem to break.

The only reason I’m here this morning is sheer guilt. Yesterday I complained again to my therapist about how I desperately want to write and be more creative, but that I’m paralyzed with fear. She made me agree to go home and write, and then text her that I’d done so. I had every intention of doing so, but, instead, I went home, lay down for a “few moments” and fell asleep for hours. The writing never got done. I felt so guilty that I sent my therapist a text in which I lied that I’d written for an hour. This morning she sent me a text which asked perkily, “Yay! How did it go?”.  Blogging this morning makes me feel less guilty for lying.

Part of the reason I blog so infrequently is because I feel that so very little ever changes in my life, and writing makes that painfully clear. All I’ve ever done is write and complain about being depressed, anxious and paralyzed by perfectionism and procrastination. I’ve started to bore myself. This time, however, you might be pleased to learn that I have made some changes to my life. First of all, I’ve started to attend a Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous meeting every Saturday morning. In fact, I will have to log off here in the next fifteen minutes to get ready. I haven’t started to work the steps yet, but I do have a sponsor, and it is helpful to be able to reach out to somebody who has very similar issues to my own.

I’ve also started to attend beginner Zen meditation classes because I know that I need to meditate to silence all the negative, anxious, obsessive thoughts that run through my head 24/7. Sadly, it’s been hard for me to actually sit down and meditate because my perfectionism comes into play. If I can’t meditate for at least thirty minutes, I say “Ach, fuck it!” and I don’t do anything at all. Story of my life right there. Let me make myself accountable to you all right now, then. When I get home from the meeting, I will mediate immediately for as long or as short a period as I want to.

The above steps I’ve taken to get better aren’t really anything new for me really. Hell, I’ve been trying to heal myself since my late teens,  but I’ve never gotten anywhere. I always fall back into the same old patterns. But this time, I feel something is different. I feel like I’ve reached my rock bottom. I am so incredibly fucking miserable that I just can’t take it anymore. I can’t continue to live a life which has had every last ounce of joy sucked out of it because I am constantly trying to attain perfection and hating myself when I naturally fail. I can’t continue to feel so desperately lonely and to crave connection and yet to attach myself to unavailable men because I am terrified of intimacy.

I am so fucking tired of it all.

I have realized that I cannot fix myself. I can’t believe how fucking “twelve-steppy” I am about to sound, but I have finally realized that I am completely powerless to change on my own. I have been praying to a Higher Power* to help me and, hell, sometimes I actually feel hopeful. In the past, the fact that I only “sometimes” felt connected to a Higher Power was my excuse to just give up. I think I expected the hand of God to come down and touch me on the shoulder or something and to hear a loud, booming voice say “Child, you are healed. Go forth!” Of course, that never happened, so I would just tell myself “See, this doesn’t work!”. It never occurred to me that if you want to be on a spiritual path, you, um, have to work at it. You can’t just sit back on your laurels and expect faith to come to you.

Like my sponsor said yesterday, your relationship with your Higher Power is just like any other relationship. You need to work at it!

* I’m not sure how I define my Higher Power. I certainly don’t believe in an old dude with a long, white beard sitting up on a cloud somewhere. I suppose I think of being in touch with a Higher Power as being “at one” with the universe and everything and everybody in it.