I admit that I have fell behind in attending meditation classes, though with a revelation that came out of counselling this week I felt the need to get back to it. So when tonight’s class hit exactly the problem I’m addressing I feel calm and at ease with myself right now.
Counselling touched upon the fact that I’m searching for inner peace in the wrong ways, ways that I don’t feel able to talk about, but still searching in the wrong places. It is the peace and calmness of the mind that I crave, the stillness and ability to be quiet without the mind going a hundred miles an hour and the continual chatter interrupting every day life.
Today’s meditation class was about love and concentration. The teacher first spoke about love, which I think I’ve touched upon in previous blogs about the meditation classes. The fact that we can place happiness on non-virtuous objects and that we can hold ideas and beliefs in our mind that these objects will bring us the happiness and peace that we are looking for. Though they do not bring us the peace we are looking for, they bring us anger, hurt and pain. Say you place happiness on a non-virtuous object as another human, we believe that by making this person happy it will in turn bring us happiness. Though when this human does something that we don’t like or agree with, that is when we hurt or become angry. So instead we need to focus on virtuous objects such as love, where we learn to love ourselves from within and by bringing our own happiness we can be still and at peace. This also allows us to offer our love to other humans, so that we can wish them well and wish that they are at peace and have happiness. We are not reliant on other people to bring us the calm that we crave.
The breathing meditation really brought me into the room. It allowed calm to enter me and I could feel all the stress that has been building up inside float out of me. The tension that has been building up escaped and I could see clearly, or hear clearly, what the remainder of the class was being taught.
I feel I need to point out that the class this week was in another room as there was a rock concert on below the room that we usually use. The reason for pointing this out will become apparent later.
The main topic of the week was concentration, how to achieve it and what it means to concentrate. He started by making the connection that to find peace you need concentration, and for concentration you need mindfulness. Not a connection that I had made myself, but it does make sense.
Starting from the top; mindfulness, what is it? It’s the ability to focus on one object or project and keep that attention fixed. Though this is easier said than done. While, as he pointed out, the breathing meditation that we do at the start of the class is not your typical Buddhist meditation, as you are not focusing on virtuous objects, it is a great place to start when learning the art of mindfulness; the art of keeping your mind fixed on one object. By focusing on the breath as it enters and leaves your nostrils, it allows you to remain with one place at one time. The mind will naturally wonder off, so by bringing your attention back to the breath you can practice mindfulness. While you bring your attention away from the thoughts that enter your mind, you shouldn’t dismiss the thoughts. They are there for a reason, maybe you’re thinking about what to have for tea or the quickest journey home from work, and while they are genuine concerns that you need to consider they are not for that moment in time. By acknowledging that you will decided on what you want to eat once you’ve finished the meditation, you can then bring your mind back to the breath.
By working on your mindfulness you can then work on your concentration. The teacher likened it to when you’re doing an art project, one of those miniature art sets where you have to make sure the eyebrows are in the right place. His analogies are superb by the way. When you are fixed on making sure you have the right amount of paint on the brush, that your eyes are focused ready for such small amount of work and you are adding the eyebrows you realise that the rest of the world feels non-existent. This is because you are concentrating and it’s this concentration you need to bring to your meditation on a virtuous object. When you are wishing that all people in the rest of the world are well, healthy and happy you are doing this with the same level of concentration. While you are meditation on wishing the rest of the world well, you are not aware of the rest of the world.
Finally we moved onto peace, which is the area that I am chasing in my own world. Concentration comes with time and practice. Imagine that you are making a cup of tea and without any concentration at all the tea bag will end up in the bin and the hot water all over the stove. So there must be some level of concentration there to actually get the tea bag and the hot water in the cup. Though when you leave the tea bag to brew, the flavour of the tea leaves enhances and the taste becomes even better. Tea bag of happiness, strength and peace. This is the same for finding peace; the more you are mindful, the more you concentrate the more you will find peace. You just need to keep brewing the tea bag.
The final meditation was about wishing the rest of the world peace and happiness. As we over ran it was a very short meditation, which in a way was good for me because of the change of room it was very hot and stuffy and I was ready to fall asleep mid mediation. The object of the meditation was “I wish that all the people in all the world was happy” and when we found in our minds eye the peace and happiness we were to stay with it, to concentrate. Also even with the room change we could still hear the rock band downstairs, so rather aptly when the lead singer was shouting at the top of his lungs “Get the hell out of here” as though he was in the middle of a fight scene in a movie all my love and peace was sent in his direction. I sent him happiness and wished him well, he soon stopped shouting.
While I said previously that the mindfulness and concentration allow you to forget the outside world while you explore your own happiness, directing the happiness to the lead singer may not have been what the teacher meant. But, as he reminded us all the way through, we have just placed the tea bag in the hot water. We are in the brewing process and it takes time to perfect the art of mindful meditation.
I am glad that I went back to the classes tonight, I feel that it is something that is well over due and hopefully I can work on my own inner peace and happiness leaving behind the cravings and negative behaviours I’ve been using to find this peace.
So things have been rather difficult for me recently and I feel that is why I’ve withdrawn myself for a lot of things. Not only was there the usual seasonal depression which I get every February that I think stems from knowing that February was the month where everything changed for me 7 years ago. I’ve also had a lot of soul searching with the loss of three people who meant a lot to my recovery in the space of three weeks, and physical ailments to look after; I’ve had to go to hospital for problems with my eyes picked up by my optician, and I am also waiting to go to hospital to look further into heart problems I’ve been having.
You see my eyes are kind of important to me, yes they’re important to everyone, but knowing just how blind I am without glasses gives me that fear of losing my eyesight altogether. After going to hospital for tests I know that this isn’t going to happen in the near future, so phew. I remember a time where I was so scared of my ex and how he abused me that I was this timid little thing, but when he knocked the glasses off my face and broke them this raging anger took over and I don’t think I ever spoke to him like that before in fear of further physical hurt. He was even shocked at the anger that came out of my mouth. I think that shows how much my eyes mean to me.
With my heart I feel it’s more than just the heart problems that I face, it’s the possible root cause. One of the known side effects of the medication I take as a mood stabiliser is heart palpitations, and a quick investigation from my GP and he believes that my palpitations started roughly the same time as when I started these meds. He has referred me for further tests on the heart to see the extent of it all. I know that I shouldn’t look too far into the future, but I can’t help but question “What if the meds are causing this? What if I have to come off my mood stabilisers because of the heat problems?”
The meds have given me this lease of life that other medication simply didn’t do. Yes there are side effects to the meds that everyone I have spoken to who takes it faces everyday also; drugged up in the mornings, weight gain, uncontrollable thirst. As well as the horrid physical effects that come if you forget to take them, and the way that they control your sleep so that you’re in the land of nod for a stupid amount of time each night – I do worry that I’m that I’m so deeply knocked out that a fire alarm couldn’t wake me. But regardless of all the bad that the meds bring, they make me feel human and I can function. I really don’t know what I would do without them. So to have that risk of being taken off them and not knowing where I will be mentally really does scare me.
Though continuing on from that, if I am allowed to stay on them there faces another problem. I have a diagnosis of fibromyalgia and one of the first line of medications to treat the symptoms also happens to have contradictions with the mood stabilisers; heart palpitations. Yup, you guessed it, double dose of heart problems.
So I am left in a place where my will power really has to come into play and sort out holistic therapies, talking treatments, meditation, mindfulness and physical exercise to combat all of these symptoms and side effects. My will power is pretty much non-existent as I can’t even give up smoking right now.
One thing that smoking allows me is the space from the rest of the world. As a friend tells me it’s the ritual of preparing a roll up, standing there and having alone time with this stick. And it is, when I really think about how I smoke it is time away from the other things I am doing. But it’s also a reward, in the sense that I finish reading a really hard journal for studies and I try to get my head around what just read by having alone time with the cigarette. Recently after a two week attempt of giving up I had one almighty mood crash. I craved a smoke, I needed it and wanted it. I tried meditation, going for a walk, music and other things and it just wasn’t the same as having a smoke. So after two weeks of not smoking I jumped for the fags and hey, I still smoke.
There has been so much more happen over the last few weeks, months even. I’ve had someone come into my life that has opened my eyes up to wonderous things in the world, making me realise that there is so much more that the world can offer me, and I can offer the world. Though with that there has been heartache and pain because I’ve come to realise that I am not fixed, I’m still broken from the world that once was dark and cruel to me. I know you’re reading this, so I want to say from the bottom of my heart thank you for being you.
I started counselling a few weeks ago, and while my head was saying “I don’t like this counsellor, we won’t get on”, I still find myself telling her things that I have kept locked up for so long. I find myself in tears each week at the realisation of how bad things were, how I have changed yet how much more work I need to do for this thing called recovery. One thing that brought me to tears was hearing about my life as a full timeline, I tend to chunk my life off so it’s crappy childhood, teenage family abuse, domestic abuse in relationships, hell and the afterlife. So when she sat there and read my whole life story out from start to finish I was amazed at what I had been through, though there were moments of “If I have to do that over again then I would take my own life”. There is no way I can do all of that again.
There is one really big thing that has come out of counselling in the last week which has given me a massive wake up call. It’s made me realise that I haven’t dealt with something from my past that I really need to deal with. I’m not ready to talk about that here and now, but lets just say I’ve woken up to the fact that I can’t carry on with one certain behaviour of mine. I have to make a change, and as of today I am making that change.
So, that’s been the last few weeks. A tough little ride that I know the immediate future is going to be hard, but I have to take it and I have to make it work.
The last twelve months haven’t been the easiest for me to live with; I don’t think a lot of people could have handled what I have and continued with life. I’m not trying to big myself up about how resilient I am, but things that have happened haven’t been your run of the mill day to day challenges. It’s going through these difficulties that leave you in a position to pull back, walk away and then be content with what life gives you. If there are no expectations then there’s no disappointment, so why place expectations upon yourself? That was until I got speaking to a dear friend who has opened my eyes to the world that I pretty much gave up hope with; he has allowed me to see that there is a place for me in this thing called life and I can make it what I want it to be.
So a quick run down of what has made me withdraw from the world:
Fibromyalgia diagnosis – that in itself is bad enough, but when you get talking to people who have fibro/ME/CFS you start to wonder if this is accurate. The pain and fatigue I feel is more after exertion than randomly appearing and other factors to taken into account. So I never accepted it and I carried on with my life as before, which leads to…
Physical breakdown – after suffering a mental breakdown 10 years ago now (wow, time flies) I knew that this was something different. I had pushed myself to be a good full time student at uni while carrying on working 20 hours a week, all with this new fibromyalgia diagnosis. My body couldn’t take it anymore and one day it just failed on me. I lay on the sofa unable to move a matter of inches to pick my phone up and ask for help, I had to ride this storm out on my own. Which leads to…
Handing in my notice at work – I had to make the ultimate decision of carrying on at uni or carrying on at work. There was no way that I could carry on doing both, neither physically or mentally, so one of them had to go. The whole reason for going to uni was to get a career and not have to do admin for the rest of my life. Financially it will be bad while I’m at uni but it is do-able, so I handed in my notice, left work and became a full time student; which leads to…
Unplanned summer holidays – because of the timing of the breakdown and having to give up work I was still in recovery over the summer holidays, therefore not in the best place to find a small summer job or structured activities. Plus I felt that I deserved a break from it all. Which I suppose I did deserve the break, however as I have since found out me taking a break is all well and good as long as I can pick myself up after. Luckily I had some work for my local Mind to complete, so there was something to look forward to within the depths of self loathing that occurred; which leads to…
Fall out with a charity close to my heart – I’ve never spoke about this publicly and I still don’t feel comfortable talking about it. So let’s just say a charity close to my heart broke my heart; which leads to…
Loss of identity – I felt as though my last two years were based on lies, that this person the public see’s or reads about isn’t the real me. It was as though the world had met my persona and didn’t know anything about me. Which I think can be explained by a friend who says to me “I’d rather get to know Tracey and not EhOh”, strange but true. Which leads to…
Rejecting work opportunities –I felt lost, dark and empty, there is no drive or motivation to achieve anything and I would be happy and content staying at home, oversleeping and watching DVD’s day in and day out. So when I was successful with an interview for a voluntary position at a charity that provides similar service to Samaritans I wasn’t excited and happy as I should, I was full of dread and nerves wondering if I was able to carry this out. Which leads to…
Difficulties at uni – assignments being handed out all over the place and no idea how to complete them. Well, I knew how to complete them, I knew what I had to do to research, structure, plan and write the essays. I just had this voice I my head telling me “You don’t know what you’re doing”, and sadly I agreed with it; which leads to…
Therapy – It’s fair to say I’ve been through all sorts of counselling/therapy etc., and sadly I couldn’t get hold of my preferred therapist when I needed him, so I ended up taking advantage of the no waiting list counselling provided at uni. The first session done the job, though after that it felt as though she was clutching at straws to keep ‘therapy-ing’ me. When I explained this to my disability tutor at uni she said that I’m like a wine connoisseur, though not of wine but of therapy. S’pose that’s something I got going for me. Which leads to…
Grief – The first session of uni counselling brought it out of me, I was grieving at having my heart broken by this charity. This came as a shock to me because I had never associated the possibility of feeling grief towards anything but human/animal loss. Though what do I do with this information now? I have found that one I know what something is, emotionally, then I can very easily move on from things. Like being told by a friend a few weeks back that I have been triggered by something and once I knew I had been triggered all seemed well with the world. Which leads to…
Christmas – I don’t do Christmas. I don’t like Christmas. It doesn’t happen in this household. Well, it hasn’t happened since I had to rebuild my life nearly 7 years ago. It’s not just the bad childhood memories; it’s the bad homeless memories too. While I have people asking for me to participate in Christmas activities I find it increasingly difficult every year to wear the mask and not tell them the deep dark secrets I hold which prevent me from seeing the slightest bit of enjoyment of Christmas.
So that is really the last twelve months and there are other things that have happened which had a detrimental effect of my life but if I was to mention them here or elsewhere then it would open a massive can of worms that I really don’t want to open. Let’s just say these other ‘unmentionables’ have also shaped my position in the mental health world/community. I feel as though I have walked away from a lot of things this past year as I felt I was put in a position where I had no choice but to give them up. Though I haven’t felt any inclination to make changes to ‘replace’ these lost things with something else to give my life meaning, I have become complacent with my position in the world.
That is until I got talking with a good friend about life in general, not the difficulties he and I face every day but just a good old natter about life in general. I think that’s what has made things different; we talk about anything and everything except we rarely talk mental health. During my recovery I have surrounded myself with people who have a mental health condition because I felt I needed to be around people who understand what I’m going through. I’m sure you an appreciate that most of the conversations were about mental health, which I’m not saying is a bad thing, but once you reach a certain point in your recovery you need to be awakened and shown the rest of the world as well.
This is the point I am at in my recovery. Which is something I find strange to say out loud as I have always thought my recovery is fine and dandy, life is good blah blah blah. Though it’s not, I am still in the recovery phase and I do still have a lot to learn about myself and how to take care of myself. How can I lead a happy and fulfilling life if I am sat comfortably in the corner watching the world go by and not taking part in things myself? You need to take risks every now and then else you don’t know what you are actually able to achieve.
I believe that I am lucky to be in the position I currently am in the fact I am at uni, I have a really big interest of the science world and I do still have my place in the mental health world. It’s taking the initiative and risk to pull them all together and make something of them.
This year is going to see me take risks;
I’m going to ensure that I stay focused at motivated at uni, looking into different ways of studying which will be most effective for me.
Jump in feet first with science festivals that are coming up and I have been offered volunteering opportunities nationally and the prospect of helping organise a local science groups’ events.
I’m going to take up that opportunity I turned down at the tail end of last year as it is still open to me, and hopefully due to the anonymity of the service I can just happily do the work without comebacks I’ve previously had.
I want to make sure my friends are all part of this journey and not forget about them, they are the ones who make me smile and remind me of the beauty of life.
I’ll appreciate the little things like watching the sunrise on the way to uni each morning or the taste of freshly ground coffee.
Read more books, they are valuable resources that need full love and attention.
And one big risk is to take part in the Superhero Run in May, which brings it’s on risks due to physical health problems and finding ways to over come them.