It’s Monday.

I briefly mentioned that mindfulness was part of my mental health strategy. I shall elaborate.

I’ve been on a path for nearly three years.

I quietly suffered from an unhealthy mind for almost 20 years. I made half-assed attempts to seek help but never fully admitted I had a problem until March 2013.

A sadness that overwhelms the body and mind is a sadness needing professional help.

I like to envision my path at times. Reflect on my personal growth.

It’s in the woods.

I’m usually walking on it during a sun filled fall morning. It’s easier to reflect when the sun is shining. I can smell the leaves transitioning from life and the air is… rejuvenating. I look ahead, it’s so bright I can barely see, the halo from the sun warms my cheeks. But I feel slightly overwhelmed, the next bench is far off in the distance. I’ve been walking for days. I’m tired. But then I look back and see how far I’ve come. I can still see the start of the path, down a steep hill. It’s very dark, storm clouds hang low. I see flowers start to bloom as my eyes move from the bottom of that hill to the midpoint rise of earth and rocks. I had to climb a few rocks. Some were smooth and slippery, others jagged and sharp. I’ve been cut, I’ve bled for days, and I have cried a lot.

It has been a long path but a path worth taking. I’ve got a ways to go and I imagine I will be on this path until the end of my days. People, myself included, who suffer from clinical depression and anxiety do not get the luxury of it just “going away” one day. It’s there forever. It is part of me. But it is not all of me.

Accepting that it’s here to stay is the first step to managing it. Not control it, because that’s impossible, but to manage it. That’s possible.

Acceptance is a jagged pill.

There is a tremendous amount of work involved in retraining your brain. I have had to climb those rocks, move some, and replace others. I have to mend the wounds from hard labor.

Mindfulness. A simple yet challenging skill. More often than not I can leverage it and move through a moment. And in other times I simply cannot. Part of managing anxiety, as mentioned, is accepting it. So when the curtain falls and the skills don’t work then I must accept the darkness for what it is. Let it escape my pores, beat heavy in my chest and run down my cheeks. Fighting it will make it last longer. Accepting it will allow it to last as long as it needs to. There is a saying “It’s just a bad day, not a bad life”. When my curtain falls this is what I tell myself. Everyone can have bad days. So even in these moments I try to be mindful.

Mindfulness. Staying in the moment you are in. Not living in yesterday’s moments. Not longing for tomorrow’s moments. Being present today, in this moment. Even if THIS moment is super shitty or painfully boring. THIS moment and living it will keep the mind calm and stop it from going into overdrive. Learning to be mindful is time-consuming. I kept notes, held myself accountable, I posted reminders all around me. I was determined to retrain my brain.

But still.

I had an anxiety attack the other night while lying in bed. It came out of nowhere which is the beauty of an anxiety attack. I think my brain tried to begin its nightly ritual of cataloging the days work but failed to wait until I was asleep. Brains can be assholes.

I tried everything, redirecting, breathing, mindfulness, meditation and NOTHING worked. I got up, took my situational medication and laid back down. I counted my breaths until I fell asleep. The next day wasn’t great. I was discouraged. “I’ve done so well” I thought. Then I remembered what my therapist said about anxiety, that it isn’t ME who brings it on, it is my brain and I can’t control my brain 100% of the time. So, I accepted it for what it was, allowed the day to be what it was (which was not awesome by the way). I cried a few times, got overwhelmed with life more than twice and was short fused and snappy towards my children. Yet, I laid in bed that night and gave myself credit because in all reality the day could have been worse. I was gentle with myself.

It was a bad day, it is not a bad life.

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