I miss you.
I have not written, continuously hoping I would not have to write about anxiety anymore. Now, I am thinking maybe anxiety is exactly what I need to write about… trying to quell the intense pain in my belly and chest from the horrible fears I feel.
If the pain didn’t go away with relaxation and meditation, I would think something was seriously wrong, but if I can make it go away, then it is not a medical problem, but a psych one.
Last I wrote, I was waiting to talk to my psychiatrist about the anxiety, hoping for benzos to take the anxiety away. He did not prescribe them, but instead prescribed Vistaril, a “cousin of Benadryl” is how he described it. I take it once a day. It doesn’t do squat for the anxiety. I took a Vistaril last night (my anxiety is much worse as the sun goes down) and was awakened several times with horrid stomach pains. I just took a Benadryl and thought that might chill things out. We’ll see.
I am sure you all are sick of my talking about meditating, but I really am finding it to be soothing enough to allow me to catch my breath when things are really bad. I learned that Alexa has a new Guided Meditation each day when I asked for a Guided Meditation this morning. Cool! I will utilize that for sure. Apparently she has several if I want more.
I’m able to do regular meditation usually, but now, during the coronavirus terror (as I think of it), I can’t let go enough to stay for more than a second or two. Guided Meditations are much easier for me to follow than just my breath. YouTube has about 8 million of them and many now are geared for the anxiety of the coronavirus. I find those the most helpful.
I had a great therapy session with my therapist the other night. She is amazing and I am so thankful to have her. I felt great after the session, but the tension crept in again soon after. My psych wants me to see a therapist in this office and I have an intake appointment online this afternoon. One can never have enough therapists, right?
If I could stay away from the news I might lose some of the anxiety. I watch like how my mom has to follow an ambulance… “just to see” what is going on. The statistics are the worst, the stories excruciatingly sad (and getting sadder). I honestly don’t know what more I can learn from the news than I already know.
I saw an OpEd piece a couple of days ago about a guy who is now addicted to HGTV since being home. I used to love HGTV even though I would never even lift a hammer. I changed my channel from the news to HGTV last night and am keeping those images in the background instead of the news always being on. I have the TV on mute, but still, the images are there.
I am flowing through books at an astounding rate. I have started several, but returned them to Audible. Thank gods they have that return policy or I would be stuck with dozens of books I’ve hated. I always buy and read new ones, so guess they are kind to me and let me return knowing I will just get new ones.
I started a new series yesterday, the Plantagenet and Tudor Novels by Philippa Gregory. I stumbled across her looking for “Books like Mists of Avalon.” I guess I am the last person in the world to know of the books since I have mentioned them in several places and people say, “Oh! There are TV series’ on them!” When I read down the series titles and saw The Other Boleyn Girl, I loved that because the movie was delicious.
So I started Lady of the Rivers yesterday and am loving it so much!
I am thinking I should write more, too. Why that didn’t dawn on me is beyond my comprehension. But here I am. Writing. Still feeling terribly anxious.
But I’ll keep writing.
Yeah, it would be me.
I have Malignant Melanoma in one area on my upper arm, a few inches from my elbow, right by my tattoo.
These pics are after the biopsy, not the spot itself.
I have another spot that is a hair-breadths from being Melanoma on my right scapula. I do not have a picture of that yet.
How Did I Get This?
Let’s see… grew up in Florida, sun tanning since I was about 12-years old, using Crisco on my skin to burn faster (and that was the goal), swimming outdoors until about 10-15 years ago, being a lifeguard and swim instructor, always outside, sun tanning nude in San Diego… and I never, never once, used sunscreen.
USE YOUR SUNSCREEN!
How Did I Find It?
Well, actually, I went in for a different spot that turned out to be a capillary thing, but the night before my appointment, I saw this place in the mirror as I was leaving the bathroom. It was flush with my skin and looked like a light cafe au latte birthmark. All the same color, but the edges were not completely solid. I forgot to get a picture, but the Derm has one, so I will get it for my records.
At the Dermatologist’s office, the PA was awesome and told me what the red spot was and then pointed to the one above and said, “Now that one I am worried about.” She also found 3 others to biopsy and 2 were in trouble, 2 were normal.
The one pictured above got infected, and my Dermatologist said she was not surprised being it was the one with the melanoma, so I am on Doxycycline and using Mupirocin ointment. 24 hours after beginning, I feel so much better already.
The PA told me that I need to have surgery (her word) on the 2 spots. I will have an almond-shaped chunk of skin removed, 4×6 inches and then sutured together again. The one on my back should be a tad smaller than the one shown above. They will be looking to see if they got it all, looking for “margins” of healthy tissue.
Blessedly, I already have an Oncologist (for my Iron Infusions) and she will get the results of the surgical chunk-ectomies, send me for an MRI or CT to look inside to see if the buggies have gone anywhere else and we will go from there.
How I Feel
I feel really positive! With a little gallows humor, I am not losing weight so it can’t be that bad, can it? I also told the PA it was good my arm was huge so they could take great gobs of flesh if they wanted to. They thought I was weird. I just laughed and laughed, wiping a couple of tears at the same time.
Make me LAUGH!
I got work to do and a book to write!
The last 2 weeks have sucked even worse than when I wrote on July 13, 2017. Tears. Tears. Never-ending tears. The suicidal ideation is coming more often and is more vivid than when I started the Paxil. And the damn hallucinations are back.
Almost all of my time is in bed, either curled in pain (another post), staring at the ceiling or sleeping. I leave I Love Lucy on in the background. Sometimes Friends. I’m listening to Mists of Avalon (a book I love), but when I listen in bed, I fall right to sleep. I’ve replayed Chapter 6 four times already.
An Odd Sorta Depression
When looking for images about depression lying, I came across several pieces like this one below:
Not sure if I’m just more familiar with my depression than when I was younger or if it has really shifted, but I do not hear the lies the girl in the image does… nothing negative about my body, how alone I am in the world, how fat/ugly/sick I am. I did when I was younger, but not anymore.
I just feel sad. An overwhelming sadness. A pall of melancholia that separates me from the rest of you. I cannot even touch what I am sad about except for the endless distress I have about our country because of 45. But this joylessness is deeper than the fear-for-our-lives kind. I feel like I’m under the thick glass of my Nana’s cake pedestal, so close to others, but unable to penetrate the barrier of dreariness to make a connection.
The psych doc upped the Paxil to 30mg after 2 weeks on 20mg. He said he still might have to increase it when I see him in 2 weeks. For fuck’s sake, can’t this stuff take effect already? I hate this waiting part.
I have weaned off the Cymbalta. Is that the reason for this huge dip? Who knows anymore. He wanted to increase my Risperdal, but I refused; the eating is out of control with more Risperdal… can’t abide by that.
An aside: I despise the new packaging that seems to be taking over the medication world. I am not stupid, can follow directions, but they are incredibly difficult for me to get into. I’ve asked the Pharmacy to open them for me and then I rip the inner blister pack out, throwing the outer box away. If you haven’t see them, let me introduce you.
I’ve had lots of suicidal thoughts. A friend stayed with me one night when they were especially bad, reminding me every few minutes that Depression is a Liar. Hearing that, knowing it for certain, is what kept (keeps) me going. Hearing that so-and-so loves me doesn’t do much for my mindset because I rationalize that away easily. Depression Lies, however, works wonders.
The thoughts of suicide are so enticing. They call to me seductively as if they were sirens on the ocean’s rocks.
I also try to find positive recovery-from-depression-and-suicidal-thoughts articles and posts online. This is one I go back to over and over:
“A suicidal person may not ask for help, but that doesn’t mean that help isn’t wanted. People who take their lives don’t want to die—they just want to stop hurting.”
When I had my first serious clinical depression in my late teens, I didn’t understand the “wanting the pain to stop” aspect and teetered really close to the edge of death.
As I got older and had some decent therapy, I was able to verbalize the inner turmoil and excruciating emotional pain that was drawing me towards dying. Understanding that I didn’t really want to die, but just to stop hurting… a pain that went so deep as to injure my soul… I was able to cling to those brief seconds of “medication will help remove the pain… hang on a little bit longer.”
Medication and therapy have not failed me yet.
Work has been nearly impossible the way I feel. I can do one call, then need 2 hours off to regroup. The calls are easy, mostly with regulars, but the energy expenditure exhausts me. Even writing this post has taken 4 days so far. Ugh. I need to be able to work!
Okay, I need to get this out to you all. It is not a cry for help, I promise. I will not hurt myself, have no plans to. It’s just those random thoughts that flow through my mind… sometimes like heavy cinder blocks and others like wafting vapors. As long as they continue moving on the conveyor belt, I think I’m okay and headed towards healing.
Thanks for listening
As you read through this and the articles I’ve shared, one of the most important things is to breathe and let go of any stress/tension you feel building because of the instructions. You do not… WILL not… be doing everything at once, so allowing yourself grace for the learning and ongoing practice (the Be-ing) of Mindfulness is really good for your spirit. Even I work at Mindfulness. Even Buddhist Monks practice (the act of learning a new skill) Mindfulness. There is no “end” to show you have completed the task for the rest of your life, no test at some tangible end. It is an ongoing experience like breathing. Seeing it as the waves in the ocean can help a lot… they come and go, unbidden, but in a rhythm that does not cease.
So it is with Mindfulness.
There are several avenues to Mindfulness. It seems each teacher has a different way of explaining how to do it. What ends up happening is we take bits and pieces from the ones that resonate, creating our own unique style. If one person’s description makes no sense, look at the next and see if that adds to your own need for information.
The Path to Mindfulness…
There is no Mindfulness without Meditation,
nor is there Meditation without Mindfulness.
Even as I said there is no end goal, there are pieces that are required (and that word can be stressful, but you will see in a moment it does not need to be). I could have put any number of these pieces together in another order, but it makes no difference as I explain because they super-impose themselves onto each other. So, in no particular order:
The “Goal” of Meditation (the Definition of Mindfulness)
The purpose of a (Stillness) Meditation session, one path into Mindfulness, is to empty one’s mind, bringing your thoughts directly to your breathing. Sounds like such a simple concept, but takes a lifetime of practice that never ends (like the ocean’s waves).
It is this attention to breath that we do in our private Meditation sessions, that we also do when we are walking down the street, when someone annoys the crap out of us, when we are scared or anxious or angry. Or when we are changing a diaper, showering ourselves or sitting and reading a book.
While it can seem like its own activity at first, taking a lot of concentration while ignoring the actual life activity at hand, it quickly becomes a soft hum in the background of our waking lives.
Even doing it (as we learn) for a very short time gives immense relief from difficulties going on around us. It brings us back to “our Center”; that which is Divine in us all. For you, that might be Allah.
Note: As you read, you will see there are a variety of types of Meditation. Typically, new folks concentrate on Mindfulness Meditation and Stillness Meditation… mostly those two combined. There is another you might find helpful that I love, and that is Guided Meditation. When I struggle with doing a solo practice, Guided Meditation often helps me to let go of the pain. There are an endless supply of Free Guided Meditations both in regular Google searches or on YouTube, Amazon Music, in Amazon Prime (tv) and Netflix. Do not think too hard on the other kinds of Meditation at the moment, just the 3 I mentioned above.
Non-Judgment is a main cornerstone of Mindfulness. I am sure you have a certain definition in your mind about what non-judgment entails. With Meditation, it takes on a broader meaning.
As you Meditate (which I will elaborate on in a moment), you’ll find your head filled with thoughts. THIS IS NORMAL! We all have our heads just stuffed full of thoughts, feelings and plans. Do not ever ever ever berate yourself for having random thoughts floating through your mind as you learn, try and practice meditation. We all have them! Forever. There is never a time thoughts are not flowing through our heads. Not even for the most practiced of Monks, ALL of us have this experience when Meditating.
Especially in the beginning, people can get very frustrated with this phenomenon, this “intrusion” of thoughts, disturbing our practice of Meditation.
The opposite, however, is true; without the thoughts, one would not have the Meditation to practice. Recognizing them is exactly what is supposed to happen! The moment you recognize a stray thought, that is the exact moment you have become Mindful. It might only last that second, but you have, for that fleeting moment, been Mindful. So beautiful!
When you recognize the random thought in your mind, instead of seeing them as annoying or terribly distracting, it serves us much more to… see the thought/feeling… say hello to it… even hold it for a moment if you need to… and then set it free to float away once again. I see the thoughts as clouds or soap bubbles floating around, some coming closer, others stay far away. As they come into my direct attention, those are the ones I admire, then release, returning to my breath.
You will, as all of us have, sometimes spend your entire Meditation session in thought. Thinking, planning, saying, “When is this over!?” to yourself. I encourage just shaking your head and laughing about how intrusive your thoughts have been and try again in a awhile.
It is the ebb and flow of thoughts, their presentation, your recognition, then their release, moving back to breath, that is the very definition of Mindfulness Meditation.
Time to Practice
You will read in most places that your Meditation should be at least 20 minutes long. 20 minutes can seem extremely daunting at first, so just shoot for 2-3 minutes and gradually, at your own pace, work your way up to 20 minutes. It could take a year to get there. Who cares!? This is your walk, no one else’s.
At least once each day, you will set aside a minimum of 10 minutes, even if you are only doing 3 minutes, setting the scene in your body and mind walks you towards the actual breathing. Those minutes are without the TV on, without answering your phone and hoping you have no one knocking at the door. If there are interruptions you have no control over, just start again when you can. No judgment, no getting angry at the interruption or person who knocked. A gentle thought of love towards them moves your practice forward.
Making time for Meditation can seem daunting at first, but if you are able to recognize the ritual as a great few minutes of Self-Love, you will soon grow to welcome the time apart from your harried life.
Timing Your Session
I’ve found several wonderful free apps for Meditation Timers. Most are bells, chimes or gongs, but there are some with music as well. Googling “Meditation Timers” brings up many choices. I have one on my computer and one on my phone.
An amusing, pretty universal, action seems to happen, especially as we are learning our way around these practices. We all seem to be intensely curious about 1) how long we have been doing the Mindfulness (thereby dragging us right out of it!) and 2) how much more time we have before we are finished. Time either flies or is interminably long. While non-judgment is important, do your best to recognize the urge to open your eyes to see the time as one of those stray and passing thoughts. This does get easier with time.
I found removing my watch and turning the clock around helpful at first, depending only on the timer. Otherwise I was half inside and half with one eye on the clock. Not so peaceful.
Where Are the Benefits Already?
In the beginning, many, many, if not most, of us find great resistance to practicing Meditation. We often look for any distraction we can find to avoid it. THIS IS ABSOLUTELY NORMAL and, I believe, a required part of the process.
Recognizing the resistance, chuckling to yourself, then doing the Meditation, is an enormous success and one to be very proud of. Each time you cross this hurdle, you remove some of the future struggle towards practicing.
Just like there is no end to practicing, no end to the intrusion of thoughts, so too is there no delineation between practicing and Mindfulness having an effect on your behavior and life. The first time you sit quietly, breathing, you have already created a monumental shift in your Universe. There may be moments of recognition (“Oh! I breathed instead of wanting to throw a book at the wall!”), but more often, the effects are subtle and cumulative. One day, you will realize things have shifted and you will probably think, “Wow! When did that happen?”
It happened when you sat quietly that first day. It’s happening this very second as you read through what I have written!
I will share a couple of articles about HOW to actually do the breathing and practice Meditation. Those are the technical parts. I wanted to share with you my own learning curve specifically so you could see what the possibilities were, but mostly, that this is an amorphous experience and to not expect any concrete outcome. Ah, but those things along with monumental changes in your life.
Does this make sense? I would be shocked if any of it did!
I love all of you so very much. Have fun with your new activity, your new thoughts, your changes in behavior and allow utter confusion to wash over you at times. It is absolutely normal… you are absolutely normal… well, actually, I think you are absolutely amazing!
If you ever have questions or want to share your thoughts or experiences, feel free to talk or write to me.
Mindfulness Meditation Successfully Treats Anxiety: Study – by The Muslim Post – January 25, 2017
How to Meditate: for Beginners – this is a wonderful step-by-step explanation/guide to the actual practice of Meditation
Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction: What it Is, How it Helps (MBSR is the 8-week class [I went for 12 weeks] I attended in San Diego to learn how to relieve pain and cope with the midwifery crisis in my life.) For those who cannot attend the course, the book A Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Workbook is brilliant.
There are hundreds of demonstrative and how-to videos on YouTube. Any Google search of “Mindfulness Meditation,” “MBSR,” or “Guided Meditation” will bring up a zillion for you.