Archive | February, 2015

Self Care: The canary in the coal mine of crazy

22 Feb

I didn’t brush my teeth last night.

It’s been two days since I showered (but new underwear/socks today).

I haven’t had breakfast or lunch since Wednesday.

Why am I sharing these (some would say too) personal details?  Because one of the first things they teach you in rehab and recovery programs is to start with the basics; start taking care of yourself, really taking care of yourself – daily showers, changing clothes, eating three semi-healthy meals – and the rest will follow.

In my experience, it works.

I’ve also found a corollary to this approach; that signs of self care neglect should be seen as an early warning system, a canary in the coal mine of your mind. I’ve had my own experiences, and heard many more at church, when a harsh slide in mood – or substance relapse – follows on the heels of letting even a few self care habits slide.

At least I’m in new clothes today.  And I’m seeing a baby tomorrow so I’ve got to shower before then.

Skipping church and other signs of trouble

18 Feb

It’s been a little over 36 hours since my return from the long weekend and, as expected, it’s been a brutal, depressing and anxiety-ridden road back to my own reality. Since I’ve been back I:

…had another B2C (straight from bed to couch) day yesterday, paralyzed by anxiety and lack of confidence with even the smallest of tasks.

…feel even more overwhelmed than I expected, mainly because our water pipes froze while we were away, adding another major task to the ever growing to do list.

…skipped church (group therapy) last night, probably when I needed it most, and in itself a warning sign that I’m neglecting my own self-care (more on this topic to come).

…let my own judgemental, pessimistic outlook on my return become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

The good news? I’ve been looking after my 2-year old nephew who’s home sick from daycare, so I’m out of the house and being (to my mind) productive. What’s more, I’m feeling the proven therapeutic effects of spending quality time with a toddler.

Anxiety peaking as long weekend ends

17 Feb

My wife’s at the wheel as we make our final approach back into the city from the long weekend away. I’m in the passenger seat, teeth clenched in a mild panic attack as I think of the weekend behind us and the week that lays ahead.

It doesn’t help that we’ve spent 12 hours in the car over the last three days, or that I’ve been totally out of any routine.

I know, welcome to the real world, right? Nobody likes going back to work after a long weekend. But that’s life. Suck it up buttercup.

Well, it’s just not that easy when you’re crazy. For every day I’m away from my routine – during which my meds, meals and more can go untouched – it takes me at least as many to get back into it.

While tomorrow morning may bring a harsh return to reality for most, I fear with near certainty it will bring me a harsher, overwhelming return to anxiety. That I feel this way already almost makes it a forgone conclusion, another self-fulfilling prophecy.

Fuck me: I just found God in Axl Rose

14 Feb

Well, not God or gods exactly; more like inspiration, faith (in myself), and like any religious text, prophetic words I desperately want to prove wrong.

After hunting it down with the six words I remembered from the lyrics, I was listening to a favourite song from my high school days, Estranged, by the metal rock gods Guns n’ Roses. It’s long one, deeply personal as metal ballads go, with lyrics I found both relatable and prophetic at the time. Predictably, I saw the song as foreshadowing the breakup I knew was inevitable with with my high school sweetheart:

When I find out all the reasons
Maybe I’ll find another way
Find another day
With all the changing seasons of my life
Maybe I’ll get it right next time
An now that you’ve been broken down
Got your head out of the clouds
You’re back down on the ground
And you don’t talk so loud
An you don’t walk so proud
Any more, and what for.

Now as I listen to it some 20 years later I still love the tune and find its lyrics moving…but in a different way. This time around I’m afraid they’ll be prophetic, not resigned to the fact. I don’t want to find another way. I don’t want there to be a next time. I don’t want to be out here drifting all alone:

Well I jumped into the river
Too many times to make it home
I’m out here on my own, drifting all alone
If it doesn’t show give it time
To read between the lines
‘Cause I see the storm getting closer
And the waves they get so high
Seems everything We’ve ever known’s here
Why must it drift away and die?

Today I hear these words with a mixture of fear, dread, drive and (I hope, just enough) faith. Faith in myself. Faith that I can stay on track to recovery and return to the real adult world. And most of all, faith that Estranged is a just words on a page, not a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Cut a great bargain…with myself

11 Feb

Right off the top, let me say that I did not meet the expectations I set for myself last time I wrote, going on three days now. I did my writing in time but didn’t finish the cover letter.

By my own and no uncertain terms I was in my rights to declare the week a a failure. My inner critic was chomping at the bit and tempting old habits – like self criticism and sabotage – circled like vultures.

But I didn’t give in to temptation or my typically harsh judgement. I stopped.

Taking a page from Daniel Kahneman’s excellent bookThinking Fast and SlowThinking Fast and Slow, I stopped. To breathe, to find calm, to think rationally. I caught myself in time with three anchors of reason:

1) Life’s not black and white, all or nothing. Everything in life is painted shades of grey. Yes I missed one goal, an important one but immediately urgent only to me. What’s I tend to forget is that I met the other 80% of my goals and did even more. How can I give myself a failing grade? Would I judge someone else through the same harsh eyes? Bottom line….I give myself a solid B+.

2) This old catastrophizing, self-sabotaging habit of mine is a stubborn bugger. Getting past it, accepting what I did instead of dwelling on what I didn’t, even giving myself a pat on the back…these are precisely the things I need to learn how to do again. They pose the biggest, toughest challenges in my life right now.

3) Through smart choices, a healthy attitude and the right meds, I’ve been on a bit of a run lately. I’m taking all my meds, I’m doing more and I’m keeping myself busy all day long. B2C days (bed to couch) are rare when they used to be daily. It’s too easy for me to forget the progress I’ve made, big picture progress. I need reminding that my worst days now are better than my best days in December.

So there you have it.

Maybe I’m finally starting to learn how to appreciate myself as is…that, or I just bargained myself off the hook for putting off an increasingly urgent task that I’ve been avoiding for ages.

Procrastination or appreciation? Crazy or lazy…thoughts?

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