Monthly Archives: January 2015

Final Thoughts on the January Challenge – I am a zen master and a teller of cheeky lies (only one of these statements is true)

Ok, I’m not a zen master, it’s only been a couple of weeks, but I do feel a little more calm and collected.  Here are my five best and worst discoveries, realisations and cogitations from Challenge 1 – a meander through meditation and mindfulness

Jpeg

First is Best

  1. I have remembered that am not a brain in a jar.  Forgive the cheesiness of the forthcoming statement – I feel more in touch with my physical self.  Although not enough to have stopped walking into door frames and table edges, my spatial awareness still does not seem to extend to registering  where  my shoulders and knees end and other objects begin.

    My brain.  The Platypus situation needs some explanation.  Another time I promise.

    My brain. The Platypus situation needs some explanation. Another time I promise.

  2. I have learned that there are loads of meditation techniques out there.  Since my natural cynicism is generally outweighed by my curiosity (the kind that did for the cat)  I’ve tried to reserve judgement until I’ve learned a bit more/tried it out.  There have of course been times when I should have listened to my inner cynic, but y’know,  it’s been a learning curve.
  3. It is wonderful to not think about anything, even if I’ve only managed it for about ten seconds of a day.  I can’t think of a time before now when my brain has shut-the-*@£!-up.  Even when it’s all mushy and miserable it likes to go on about it.  A bit of not-thinking is bliss and worth the surprising amount of effort.
  4. I have noticed little and lovely things more, although I stopped to photograph a spotlight of sunshine falling across some grass the other day and decided that it was possible to take things too far.  Plus I am a pretty terrible photographer.

    A step too far?

    A step too far?

  5. This blog has got me writing and doodling again.  And I have been inspired, informed and entertained by other blogs, articles and essays along the way.  Long may that continue.

Worst

  1. My boss is never going to think that stopping to be in the moment is a valid reason for being late to work.  No matter how lovely the birdsong/ river sparkle or angle of sunlight I have been enjoying.
  2. Mindfulness is a discipline really, and that takes work.  Which is fine, it’s just a bit tougher than I realised.
  3. It can be hard to stay awake during some of the exercises.  You’re supposed to stay awake to benefit.  Sigh.
  4. I have an aversion to pipe-music.  Just sayin’.
  5. There are individuals and organisations out there offering theories, resources and services that involve parting with a lot of money.  And  they are targeting a demographic (ie. me) that is often vulnerable to promises of psychological relief. Maybe some of these truly are brilliant and life changing (I admit, I didn’t spend any hard cash finding outbecause I am a cynical, wallet full-of-moths creature)  and I am horribly wrong.  But in my humble opinion there’s a world of difference between spending a bit of cash on an App, CD (they still make them you know) DVD or book that will teach you something and signing up to an expensive course that promises to make you a wealthy and healthy zen master if you invest in various talismans along the way.  Unless you’re loaded, in which case…well, have a go and let me know.

To conclude: I’m going to try to continue investing a little time in mindfulness and other forms of meditation.  Even the guided sort involving tinkly bells and waterfall sounds in the background.  I think I’ve discovered a few things to store away for the dark days too – if I can be bothered to remember.  Depression makes you forget to be bothered to remember things doesn’t it?  Like how to get dressed or form sentences.

layering

But, like I seem to keep saying, I am going to try.

Namaste.

Catfink – he’s a good chap really.

You know where you stand with cats.

You know where you are with cats.

I’m currently putting together my January Challenge Best and Worst.  But in the meantime I thought I’d share an old-ish doodle since I have had one or two things to  say recently on the subject.  I love my cat.  But he has caused me as much heartache as joy – accidentally leaving home because he got his addresses mixed up, getting into a cat-fight and subsequently losing an eye, getting stuck in numerous cupboards and drawers during his obligatory cat investigations, and being a constant trip hazard.  However, at times when I am low he does tend to follow me about the house and sleep curled up on my chest, rather than doing his usual daily cat-things such as tormenting other cats and frightening the birds.  And I like to think he wouldn’t try to eat me if I were to stay still for too long.  Yeah, he’s a good chap really.

Being Mindful? Mind the cat…

 I both judge and blame you.

I both judge and blame you.

After a nice cosy 10 minutes with headspace I decide to pop downstairs to make myself a cup of tea before getting an early night.

Whilst I’ve been zoning out my cat has been doing the same, having decided that being jet black and lying across the stairs in the dark is perfectly reasonable.

Well, it’s obvious what happens next.

Catastrophe! (sorry, couldn’t help myself there)

Falling, swearing and general be-daze-ment.  Oh yes, and pain.

Of course, to add insult to injury, said cat is now glaring at me in a way which insinuates that 1)  he is the injured party and 2) that the blame for this hiatus lies entirely with me.

In the interests of health and safety (both mine and his) I’m considering painting him illuminous green, buying a head-lamp or moving to a flat.

I think I might need to meditate again.

*No cats were harmed during the making of this blog.  Just humans.

A not so brief aside – and why February will be a workout

I’d just stepped out of the shower when I heard one of those sorry-you-were-out -enjoy-your-lengthy-trek-to-collect-your-parcel cards slide through the letterbox.  That’s why, when the mental-health-assessment lady arrived for our appointment, I was running after the postman in a towel.

After apologising to the postman and my visitor, I threw on some clothes and then listened as she, somewhat apologetically, explained the reason for our meeting.  Restructuring in the local MH services meant that all outpatients were being re-assessed and that meant that, since I was well, I would no longer be automatically seen by a consultant but referred back to my GP and assigned to a care cluster.

And on a beautifully sunny April day, bouncing right back up from a wintery depression, that seemed perfectly reasonable. Besides I’d only seen a psychiatrist a handful of times and one of them had almost nodded off mid-appointment.   I suppose when you work with inpatients in crisis I’m a very dull prospect…

…but the trouble is I’m working half the hours I should due to regular episodes so I’m financially screwed.  I’ve given up any propect of career progression for the forseeable future.   Each episode leaves me on the back foot in every corner of my life, and the bleakness of a crash, especially when it follows a high, is unbearably grim.    I’m reasonably good at hanging in there through those times because I know that they have to pass eventually. But the moments of desperation are as frightening as ever, even after 20 years.

And, as if irked by my Spring optimism, the Summer brought with it a protracted slide into miserablism which lasted until December was well underway.

So I’ll soon be sitting in front of another yawning consultant, after a long and winding road of GP visits and re-referrals, to review my medication, which is so far failing to adequately squash my depression.

Ironically I’m well now, and as always I’m rather excited to be alive.   And I’m grateful.  And, at the same time, ashamed because I know that there are people battling awful things and staying upright whereas I periodically crumble, seemingly for no reason.

So I have to keep trying.  Meditation won’t fix me, nor the next thing, but it at least makes me feel that I am doing something.  Not to mention the fact that I’ve made some interesting – and weird- discoveries so far 🙂 which might keep me occupied should the black dog return.  And if I hit a spike I’ll have a whole raft of ideas to obsess over and then abandon.

With new meds on the horizon I have a nasty feeling that February is going to mean a gym challenge.  Plus a reduction in my ice-cream intake.  Man I love ice-cream.

*It hasn’t surpassed my notice that this whole post could easily have been nailed in just that last paragraph.  Oh well.  Why use 50 words when 500 will do.

Here’s to not giving in.  Mostly.

Peace.

Learning to be less easily distracte…ooh look, pretty lights…

Being distracted by a good cause- Letters Against Depression

My 10 minutes meditation was lovely this morning, it felt relatively easy to tune out, although I hadn’t had much sleep so that might have helped.   See, upon finding myself sleepless last night I chose not to listen to a guided meditation or hypnosis track (why go for something that’s proven to work?)  instead I thought I’d go retro & deal with my dash of insomnia by reading a book and doing a bit of investigation into possibilities for February’s challenge (so much for living in the moment).

So, whilst yawning my way around the early-morning internet I remembered a conversation with my partner-in-crime about blue light and how it can mess with your circadian rhythm (and who wants their circadian rhythm messed with?).  Anyway, he was showing off the blue-light-filter on his phone so I decided I needed a blue-light filter too – obviously that’s not the only reason I wanted one, y’know there’s all those mental health reasons and stuff (ok, it was a key factor.  I am essentially a massive child).

Being a bit more low tech I had to find some software compatible with my ancient laptop.  After a brief search I stumbled into f.lux and it is now giving my screen a pretty pinkish glow. Which is, er, really exciting for me.

Still awake, I then turned to twitter to find out if there was anything I needed to be outraged about.  In the process I wandered across a tweet about  lettersagainstdepression.com and was curious enough to check it out.   It’s a very simple idea –  you are sent a list of people who have requested a letter and you write them a little note.   The main message being you are not alone.  All of the details are on the website.  I’m putting pen to paper when I get a few spare moments but I’m finding it tricky to work out what to say.  It’s so easy to be trite.  This got me to thinking – if I struggle to know what to say to someone who is depressed, being a depression-veteran and all, it’s little wonder that people who’ve never experienced it regularly bumble about also not knowing what to say, or saying all the wrong stuff.  Hmm. I might become more tolerant and accepting of such things.  But I’m not making any promises.

Anyway, the upshot of this whole post is that, thoroughly distracted by all of the above in spite of my best meditative efforts, I am no closer to deciding what February’s challenge should be.

And I still haven’t done any  yoga.

I had a stretch this morning, does that count?

To err is human, but to give yourself a migraine is stupid.

I put myself to bed early last night with the beginnings of a migraine, I rarely suffer from these headaches but the fact that I remember each one I’ve had oh-s0-vividily is an indicator of how horrible they are. Those little sparkles at the edges of your vision, the blinding terror of daylight, the confusion over whether to be sick or die …argh… If you get them regularly, woah do I feel for you.

Anyway, as you can see I didn’t die.  I wasn’t sick either but I do feel like I took a swinging punch to the face yesterday.

But what does this have to do with meditation?  Stay with me now.

The last time I had a migraine was following an accident which mangled a disc in my neck.  Cause and effect.  I’m supposed to do little exercises to ease the referred pain this squishy little disc causes.  Ha.  I never remember to do those.  I’ve got used to the faint buzz of it.  I’m barely aware of it. Until now..

Yesterday during meditation Hmm what’s this?  Is it…Pain? What if I just move my head…*crunch-yelp* Yes, that’s pain alright.  Argh.  

So, I carefully said some swears to ease it, then I thought that might not be enough better do that funny neck -thing the nice physio lady showed me. *snap-click-crunch-yelp-argh*

Cue slowly intensifying pain in head.

There is a strong possibility  I was a bit over-zealous and re-introduced migraine into my life, which means I need to be more careful.  Damn. it’s that balance thing again isn’t it.

See, as much as I was hoping to zen out and get all transcendental, mindfulness is not an incense, love and peace thing.  Although you can have that too – you just have to bring your own.  It’s about awareness.  And awareness can be painful.   Physically (check)  and mentally.  But if I’m aware that something is amiss then I can not only go poking about and making it worse (oops) but  I can probably make it better too.  Probably.

For what it’s worth, I took some painkillers after meditating today.  This is called learning from your mistakes.  It is the way I have learned most things I know. Eventually.  Peace.

Shhh…I’m not thinking

Ok, that’s a lie.  I did quite well with my meditation this morning until about halfway through. On the headspace site there’s a counter which tells you how many people are meditating when you log-in, and about five minutes into the exercise a little ponder popped into my mind  and off it went… Who are all those meditating people?  What are they trying to not-think about? I wonder where they are.  I hope they’re not driving.  Do their cats understand the phrase ‘do not disturb’?  I read somewhere that pet owners are supposed to be more relaxed… and so on.  I had to stop, make a cup of tea and start all over again.  I did better the second time.  Honest.

Taking time to ‘stand and stare’… can make you late for work

Leisure

Actually enjoyed my 10 minute headspace  this morning, found it easier to recognise when my thoughts were wandering (regularly) and felt more refreshed than sleepy once I’d finished.  A first.

Buoyed up by this I headed to work in a much better frame of mind than the one I found myself in yesterday.  A very pretty frost was covering the hawthorn along the river path and I spied a cheery little robin perching on a branch, so I paused to take in the scene (I am a bit of a nature nerd; once, on the way to a friend’s wedding rehearsal I tripped and shredded my knees  trying to avoid stepping on a beetle – leading my daughter to announce to the congregation that I had ‘fallen over a ladybird’)  Anyway, I digress, the point is I do try to take notice of the little things and appreciate them.  Which is, y’know, mindful. Unfortunately this morning my mindful moment went on a bit too long and I was almost late for work.   And it got me to thinking that ‘being in the moment’ is fine when the moment is all lovely & nice and you’ve got time to ‘be’ in it.  But not all moments are lovely & nice ( Any takers for the moment you tell your boss you’re late because you were ‘looking at a robin’? No?) and running late is stressful, which kind of defeats the object.

A fine balance is required.

Achieving a fine balance is another thing I don’t excel at.

Ah well.  I’ll keep trying.

If you want to go on a short nature-kick, without being late for stuff, you could try this meditation.  It’s not for me to be honest, but the music and sounds are quite sweet   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eVnEfC8YSpI

If you can’t shake it off, sleep it off

Mondays

When I woke up there were birds singing, there was even some sunshine.  I felt pretty chipper as I made some coffee. I did 10 minutes of meditation with headspace.com and then answered some emails, got some work done and read the news for a while.  I had plans to search out a local yoga session.  But somewhere between morning and afternoon my good mood sneakily snuck off and left me really grumpy (am I that afraid of yoga? 🙂 )  I went for a wander but couldn’t walk it off so I turned to a worn-out but much-loved strategy; sleep.  Which is lazy, considering I am trying to find new ways of dealing with moods.  But it did leave me feeling a bit less horrible, and stopped me biting anyone’s head off.  So.  A success.  Better get back to it zzzz

*PS – I suppose should have read this earlier  http://tinybuddha.com/blog/10-ways-to-let-go-and-overcome-a-bad-mood/   but it turns out I did number three anyway...’I will feel better when…I’ve had a sleep’

A Mindful Success (& an unusual encounter with wind-chimes and whispers)

I finally managed to to see this ‘Mindful Body Scan’ exercise through to the end  http://www.freemindfulness.org/download   (Body Scan, 45 minute version).

It is very restful (which is why I kept drifting off to sleep initially) but the best thing about it is that makes you focus on your body.  Now, I might think about my body if I stub my toe, or if I’m cursing my pathetic muscles at the gym, or if I have a sore throat…you get the picture –  I live in my head most of the time.   Getting out of my mind is good for me and this is a nice calm  (not to mention legal) way to do that.

The audio on the download is a bit fuzzy, but I liked that, less clinical.  There are lots of versions of this exercise out there though.  There are shorter clips on the site I link to above and you can convert Youtube versions into mp3 using http://www.listentoyoutube.com/index.php  as long as you are careful to dodge all the annoying ads.

Now, in my quest for meditation information I did a lot of googling, as you can imagine, and wandered around YouTube – at times lost, at times afraid.  And it was during this time that I wandered upon a thing called ASMR which I had never heard of before.  This article kind of sums up some of the concerns about it as a Youtube pheomenon http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-30412358  There is definitely  something kind of fetish-y about some of it.  You can go through a whole ASMR spa experience, an ear-cleaning… No really.  It’s true.  For reals.  With videos.  And lip gloss.

BPDOESNTKNOW

And yet, although I was too timid to go near anything labelled ‘role play’, I did listen to some  popular ASMR sounds and overall it put me in mind of my mum brushing my hair when I was small (without the nasty tangle ouches) ultimately a very comforting and non-fetish-y experience .   And I suppose, in the midst of a depressive episode, you might struggle to find someone prepared to brush your hair whilst you pace/weep/slump attractively.  Or to just chatter and eat chocolate at you without expecting any active human responses. It’s not the same thing, but it could make you feel a bit less awful.  Or it might just be really creepy.  Who can say.  But anyway, it’s out there.  So here’s a whisper-y man who’ll ask how your day went

 http://asmrer.asmr.fm/?v=yAbKYzQy5VE

And a whispy-voiced lady who’ll take you on a very sweet, rainy walk towards self-worth (don’t look at the pocket watch…)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8nWihEWBRAY

You can make up your own mind.  Whatever works man, whatever works.