Meditation

On most days, I find meditation to be very helpful for anxiety and I try to include a time for it every day. I’m not really into the “ommm” type of meditation; instead, I usually focus on my breathing or progressive muscle relaxation to do the trick.

There are times when meditation doesn’t work well for me. For example, when I’m hearing voices, meditation can be problematic (and even tortuous). Similarly, if I’m in over my head with anxiety, it can be difficult to calm the crowd in my head enough to get any benefits.

When it does work, however, I find it works well. It’s like a cool mist settling down over a raging forest fire – it doesn’t put out the flames, but it makes them more manageable, which can help tip the balance towards a good day instead of a bad one.

I find that to meditate successfully, I must be in a room where the light is pretty constant and there is very little sound or some white noise. The sound of a distant thunderstorm is nice, too, but in the city it’s difficult to separate that from other sounds like traffic, construction, or lawnmowers.

Even if I can’t completely get into the meditation, I find that sitting still with my eyes closed for a while helps recharge my batteries – as long as the anxiety or voices don’t come storming in.

The Anxiety Disorders Association of Manitoba (ADAM) has downloadable audio files that I have found helpful for both breathing and muscle relaxation exercises. You can find them here: (http://www.adam.mb.ca/audio-relaxation).

Stay safe!

Good Friends Are Priceless

I didn’t sleep all that well last night and I couldn’t sleep in because FA was coming over. I hauled myself out of bed when J got up and we had breakfast together before she left for work. I tidied up the kitchen and sat down for a couple of minutes to close my eyes. I woke up half an hour later and in a bit of a panic. I texted FA to ask if we could meet 30 minutes later and she replied that that worked well for her.

She arrived and we sat down in the living room to chat. We were going to work on her Raspberry Pi camera project but she’d forgotten it at home. Not a big deal, we always have lots to talk about. As we talked, I could feel my spirits lifting. With FA, there’s no judgment or attempts to dig into things. She is a great friend through and through and hanging out with her is a treat.

We talked for about two hours and then went to the local burrito place for lunch. For the first time since I got out of the hospital, I drove. The restaurant was quite loud so I had some trouble with nerves and locked myself out of my credit card. After we sat down to eat, the place started to empty out; between that and some grounding techniques, I was able to cope ok.

After lunch, we went to the nearby hardware store and did an aisle crawl. This particular store is really quite amazing – there’s always something different on the shelves every time we go. Lots of surplus stuff that FA and I look at and try to think of uses for. I picked up some rope to hang my welding screens, a couple of notebooks, a spray bottle, and some socket holders for my garage tool box.

When we were done there, we headed to the nearest Canadian Tire store and did an aisle crawl there, too. When we were both going to university, we were in the same residence and would frequently go to Canadian Tire to get away from the books and unwind for a little while. Some people go to the bar, some people go to the movies, FA and I went to Canadian Tire. We found a few neat things there but only picked up a windshield wiper blade refill for FA’s car.

By the time we got back to the house, we’d been out for over six hours and J was home. I invited FA in again and she and J had a good little chat before FA had to go.

Man, I was EXHAUSTED. I haven’t been on my feet and done that much walking in… I don’t know. Years? But I had a wonderful time and my mood has finally lifted!

This evening J read a book while I took a nap on the couch, and then we played some cribbage, each of us winning one game. I think we’ll have to play the tiebreaker tomorrow. I enjoy playing crib with J, it’s fun and we don’t take it too seriously. It’s also nice to get away from the computer or tablet or phone screen for a while and play something that’s kind of old school.

I really want to do some welding but I need to get the motorcycle filled back up with the proper juices and put off to the side before I can do that. I’m hoping to finish the bike up tomorrow afternoon and maybe do some welding on Sunday. Fingers crossed!

Have a good weekend and stay safe!

A Little Better Today

When I woke up this morning, I tried as hard as I could but I just couldn’t get out of bed. I stayed there from about 7:00AM until I finally managed to get moving at about 12:30PM.

I felt awful. All I wanted to do was go back to bed and pretend I was invisible. I can definitely hear voices again. They’re not at the front of my mind, but they’re there, the same two as before, muttering abuse and demanding I provide some paperwork that I’d do if I were still at work. I don’t think I’ve been sleeping all that well lately; with luck, that’s what’s causing it and a couple of good nights will solve things.

I forced myself to go for a shower, then headed off to my Dr C appointment. It was very nice outside today, probably around 20C or so with blue skies and just the barest breath of wind. I drove with the air conditioning on all the way just to see how well it was working and it’s definitely fixed.

My appointment with Dr C was difficult at the start. I can’t really hide things from her – she’s able to see when I’m uncomfortable with something and she got how I was feeling out of me. I guess it’s good that she’s able to do that, but I sometimes find it difficult and unpleasant to talk about my feelings. After that, we worked on a “safe place” exercise where I focused on a place where I feel comfortable and happy and then do breathing and mindfulness exercises. Here’s my safe place:

I found the first time through quite difficult – I realized that I may never be able to physically go back there again – but the second time was quite a bit easier.

One of the things I find very interesting about therapy is that it can dig down past the level where I normally “feel” things and find other emotions or thoughts simmering below the surface. Poking at those emotions and thoughts can be very unpleasant but I find that I feel better after addressing them.

I left Dr C’s office feeling considerably better than when I’d arrived. Still not great, but better – and I’ll certainly take better over the same (or worse). Next week we’re going to really get into the EMDR stuff. I’m both dreading and looking forward to digging down into my psyche to find the various bad memories I’ve collected over the years and re-filing them properly so they don’t bother me as much.

Once I got home, I cranked up some good high-tempo music and read a couple of articles out of a motorcycling magazine that J picked up for me the other day (thank you!). I found I had the energy and brainpower to make supper so I started in on it and had it ready just as J got home.

I fell asleep on the couch after supper, which also makes me think I’m not sleeping as well at night. I am still having nightmares that wake me up and sometimes it’s a lot harder to get back to sleep – especially when my mind keeps hitting the EMERGENCY button when there’s nothing wrong.

This evening I need to tidy the house up a bit because FA is coming over tomorrow morning. I’m really looking forward to her visit, I have a lot of fun hanging out with her and going on capers.

So I think I can say that I’m feeling better than I have the last few days. I still don’t feel normal, but things are a lot better. I can live with that.

Stay safe!

Tales From The Ward, Part II

Day 8

Didn’t get quite as much sleep last night – there was yelling and thumping at about 11PM that woke me up. I was able to get back to sleep and finally woke up at around 6:20AM. Makes for about seven and a half hours of sleep. Not too bad.

My eyes feel like someone poured salty sand into them this morning. Plus, I have a giant pimple on my forehead. Ouch.

Had some nightmares last night – all about work. Need to talk to someone about that I think.

A is my nurse again this morning. That’s good.

Sounds like a lot of people are back from passes. Much louder and more bustle around here this morning.

Another freak-out by that same guy. I must admit that those incidents bother me quite a bit.

Having some bad thoughts. Spoke with A, she was very helpful as always.

Group this morning was about what we wanted to challenge ourselves with this week. I said I’d like to recognize panic attacks sooner so I can stop them.

Feeling pretty down today. Looking forward to J and Mom visiting.

Pollock for lunch. Choked half of it down. Man, I hate fish. I can always ask them to put me on a no-fish diet but I’ll try it for a bit longer.

Group this afternoon was about the KonMari method of organizing. Worth a look!

The guy doing all the yelling lately was transferred out during group. I hope he gets the help he needs.

Supper was veal, mashed potato, peas, and mango pieces for dessert.

Meeting with Dr W went well. He says I need to get the work stuff figured out. I agree.

Feeling quite down.

Evening nurse is P. Seems pretty laid-back.

Had a difficult but very good visit with J and Mom. Spent most of it crying but it was so good to talk and the hugs were very therapeutic. I’m so lucky to have such a supportive family!

 

Stay safe!

It’s Going To Get Better

Today was pretty rough and much like yesterday. I woke up from two nightmares last night that had me sitting on the edge of the bed, doing my best to fight off waves of panic and not wake J. It’s been a while since I’ve had two nightmares that were that vivid in a single night.

I think I’m also starting to hear things again. It’s just out in my periphery but there’s definitely something there that wasn’t there a few days ago. Voices used to be a problem for me so I’m really REALLY hoping this just goes away on its own.

I managed to take the truck to the neighbourhood auto shop this morning and they fixed the air conditioner. I’ve never been there before so I gave the guy a test – I told him to take a look around the truck and if he saw anything else that needed doing to let me know. All he did was the A/C and said he didn’t find anything wrong with the truck. That’s good.

I feel pretty rotten. Tough to do anything today. I have my Dr C appointment tomorrow, maybe she’ll be able to figure out what’s going on with me.

Stay safe!

Feeling Rough

I’m sorry but this is going to be a short post. I’m still feeling pretty bad – very anxious like I’m a spring being wound tighter and tighter. I didn’t sleep very well last night and had no luck taking a nap today either. I had my Dr W appointment today and it was much more difficult than usual but on the way out to the elevator, the patient care manager that I sent that letter to stopped me in the hallway and thanked me for it, which was nice.

I had to dip into my PRN lorazepam supply today. I always feel guilty about that because it feels like a step backwards but I have to remember that it’s okay to have bad days and it’s okay to take PRNs – that’s what they’re for. With luck, I’ll be able to get a good sleep tonight and tomorrow will be a better day.

Stay safe!

An Anxious Day

I’ve been feeling anxious and jumpy all day. I had two small panic attacks this afternoon and I can’t stop thinking about who I am, who I should be, and how to make sure that I’m a good person. I wasn’t getting anywhere with it so I tried to put it out of my head but I haven’t had much luck. I can feel myself winding up, tighter and tighter. I hate it.

J took me to the nearby hospital early in the morning for a CT scan appointment so now that’s done and over with. They injected a contrast that made me feel like I’d just wet myself; fortunately, they warned me about it first. After that, we headed home. J is still not feeling very well so she took today off and we hung out for a lot of the day.

The air conditioner in the truck isn’t working. I did some troubleshooting today and figured out enough to say I need to take it into a shop to get a professional to look at it. The fuses and everything look good but the clutch isn’t engaging to turn on the compressor. Could be that there’s not enough refrigerant left in the system, could be that there’s something wrong with the clutch solenoid or the clutch itself. On the upside, I spent about an hour out in the beautiful sunshine we had today.

J signed us both up for a pointillism class next week. It’s just a one evening thing but it will be nice to get out of the house and do something different.

Argh… I hate how I’m feeling right now. I may have to break down and take one of my PRN medications if it gets any worse. Mass Effect didn’t divert my attention enough (which is weird) – maybe I’ll go downstairs and listen to some music. Hopefully that will help.

Stay safe!

Doing A Lot Of Thinking

I spent a lot of the weekend thinking about where I am and where I want to be. I’ve been off work for over a year and my stomach still twists whenever I think about that. I can’t go back to my old job – there’s no way I can do that anymore and preserve my mental health (regardless of the state it’s in). I keep thinking to myself that this is an opportunity to reinvent myself, but reinvent myself as what? I’m over 40 and have pretty specialized training and experience – unfortunately, it’s training and experience in what I can no longer do. I need to get away from IM/IT work and do something else.

I really enjoy welding, but who is going to hire a 40+ year old apprentice welder when there are tons of 18 or 19 year olds trying for the same jobs? It would be the same with pretty much any trade. I have supervisory experience, but that pretty much dried up in 2012, so I don’t have anything recent. I enjoy writing, but there’s not a lot of technical writing work out there and I don’t have specific training in it anyway.

I’ve heard some people say that there’s a job out there that’s a perfect match, you just have to find it. Well, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking and looking and I have yet to find anything that I think would work. Compounding the issue is that even thinking about that stuff makes me feel like I’m going to throw up.

J has been really helpful, both bouncing ideas off me and telling me that I should stop thinking about this stuff and keep working on getting better. It’s hard for me to not think about work – I want, more than anything, to help people – but I feel like I’m balancing on the edge of a cliff, and I really, REALLY don’t want to fall again.

Another thing I’m wondering about is how can I tell when I’m ready to go back to work? What about if I’m ready to volunteer somewhere one day a week? What about take a course or two? I’m hamstrung by how my brain is working right now. Some days I feel like I’m ready to try, but other days I can’t pull myself out of bed. Who is going to hire a 40+ year old apprentice anything who will have bad days but can’t tell what the pattern or magnitude will be?

When I was still working, I felt trapped – stuck in a job that was slowly grinding me down to nothing. I still feel trapped because I’m really scared that I’ll have to go back to where I was, and where nothing has changed. I just can’t do it.

How do I reinvent myself? How can I go to bed and not be scared that the insurance company is going to call tomorrow and tell me I have to go back to work?

God, I hate having this stuff hanging over my head. I don’t even know where to begin to fix it. Baby steps, I guess.

Stay safe!

All Ready For The Weekend

I slept pretty well last night. I had a couple of bad dreams but I don’t think they woke me up.

Poor J was home today, the bug she picked up (which was probably the one I had… sorry about that) is really kicking the crap out of her. I feel very sorry for her – she looks miserable. I tried to make her comfortable but there’s only so much that tea and a blanket can do when your whole body aches and it feels like your sinuses are trying to force their way out through your forehead.

I spent a fair amount of time today playing with that new Pi camera. I managed to get the camera in pretty good focus but I think I must have broken the cable. Fortunately, I have a few spares so it wasn’t a big deal. I was more worried that I had wrecked the entire camera module. I have lofty plans for that particular Pi and a camera. Mind you, I’ve had lofty plans before for a Pi but they didn’t pan out. I always seem to be afraid to actually use one in a manner where it might get broken. It’s silly – they’re not very expensive and I have a couple of them so there’s no reason why I shouldn’t commit one to a “permanent” installation. I need to just say to heck with it and USE it.

I put the tomatoes and other plants out on the deck today so they could get some more sun. The air was cool but the sun felt pleasantly warm on my skin. I stood outside for a minute and just enjoyed how it felt. It’s interesting how the little things can give a person a boost.

I played some more Mass Effect today. I’m really enjoying that game. I’m afraid to spend too much time on it all at once – I don’t want to burn through the whole thing too quickly. So far I think it has a fair amount of replay value so I will have to keep it on my list of things to do when I’m feeling bad.

WG called this evening and we spent a while chatting. He can’t go to the record store on Monday, which actually works out for me as I have to go and get a test done in the morning. It was really good to talk to him – one of the things I miss about work is working with him. We made a pretty good team.

This weekend is supposed to be quite a bit warmer than it’s been lately. I hope to get out in the garage and do some cleanup and work on the bike again. If I get the bike done, I may even do some welding. That would be a great way to spend some time and practice concentrating on something.

Have a good weekend and stay safe!

Hobby Focus: Music

Hobby: Music

Cost: Starts at zero, goes to $$$$$ depending on what you want to do

Time Required: Completely up to you

I don’t know anyone who doesn’t like at least some kind of music. For me, music can be fun, it can be uplifting, it can be emotional, and it can be a distraction from things that are bothering me. Just listening to some high-tempo music from almost any section of the music store can help cheer me up and get me moving a bit when I’d rather just sit in a chair like a lump.

When I hear a new song, I’ll listen to it normally the first few times. After that, I start to concentrate on the song and see if I can tease out particular melodies or instruments. I used to play trumpet and I “play” the bass guitar and for me, one of my favourite things to figure out is the bass line to a song. Even if I can only hum or whistle or think it to myself, I’ll always try to figure out the bass line first. To be honest, I don’t often pay attention to the lyrics – I just treat the vocals like another instrument and listen to the pitches and progressions. Every song is a multitude of pieces that have to work together to sound right and I find it rewarding to figure out each part.

When I was young, I was raised on country music and 60s rock. I didn’t listen to metal or pop, just the dusties and the oldies. When I moved away from home, I worked in a computer store that was upstairs from a music store. They played music all the time, and that’s where I was exposed to a lot of new genres that I really liked. Then, I met WG and he introduced me to all kinds of new music that I didn’t even know existed. I like everything from classical to punk to EDM. I’m not a huge fan of really, REALLY heavy metal, but I can sit through it without clawing my eyes out.

I’ve probably mentioned it in another post somewhere (possibly more than once) but I’m really into the late-70s/early-80s punk. The Monks, The Undertones, The Bureaucrats, Gorilla Angreb, The Ramones, The Angry Samoans… I like a lot of the stuff from that period. Lots of it is really fast moving so it gets my toes tapping, too.

I’m having a little bit of trouble doing it now because my hands are a little shaky, but something that really helped pass the time was picking up the bass and playing along with a song or figuring out how the bass line went. I find it quite rewarding when I’ve finally figured it out and can play along. It makes me feel good, helps me concentrate, and, like I said, it passes the time. I keep thinking that someday I’ll dig out the trumpet and blow the spiders out of it but it’ll take a lot of TLC to get the trumpet ready to play. It’s been, somewhere around a dozen years since I last took the trumpet out of its case. Maybe I’ll try to make a goal of fixing it up and trying it sometime soon. We’ll see.

For me, music isn’t just music. It’s a tool that often helps me forget the things that are bothering me – if only for just a short while. There’s no shortage of it, and it’s always easy to find. It’s not as good as a therapist, but it helps in a pinch.

Stay safe!