Normal

This past Friday, the prompt for Five Minute Friday was “normal”. I didn’t have anything to write on the topic then, but I do now. Here goes.

Today I listened to a meditation on Insight Timer. The teacher said your observing self is like the sky (or heavens), while your thoughts, feelings etc. are like the weather. No matter how bad the weather gets, the sky remains the same. It can withstand even the darkest thunderclouds.

This is maybe how we need to look at ourselves in this time of COVID-19. We are told to adjust to the “new normal”. Even though our “intelligent” lockdown or stay at home order ended last week, I still cannot have visitors at the care facility and just found out the day center won’t reopen till October. I’m not sure how I feel about this. Well, about the day center. I know how I feel about the no-visitors policy, but that one might change this week.

Like Kate, the FMF hostess, I somehow settled in. I actually love being at the home for day activities and don’t mind not seeing people from other homes that much. I miss my husband, but I’m adjusting to that too.

This is where the meditation comes in again. I mean, no matter how hard life gets, I’ll manage. My thoughts may be dark, my feelings bleak, but I will ultimately be able to keep going.

Dancing Through Darkness #WotW

Okay, I’m supposed to be in bed already, but I can’t sleep. What better thing there is to do than write a blog post, right? I’m joining in with Anne’s Word of the Week for the first time in forever. The idea is to sum up your week in a word or phrase.

This week wasn’t the best mental health-wise. Yesterday, I landed in a full-on crisis. I didn’t express my dark thoughts right then, but I did to my staff this evening. It isn’t the first time I’ve experienced acute suicidality, but the intrusive thoughts and images I get then shock me everytime. Thankfully, I was able to calm down after taking a PRN lorazepam. I will be calling my nurse practitioner at mental health tomorrow, since my community psychiatric nurse is on vacation. I know I’m not clinically depressed (yet), but I do want my treatment team to know about my crisis.

The rest of the week I pretty much saw it coming. On Monday and Tuesday, I was still pretty much in my normal mood. Not euphoric, but not depressed either. In fact, I signed up for the Bout of Books readathon on Tuesday fully intending to spend the better part of the week reading or talking about books. I didn’t. The first day, I got through 23% of Five Feet Apart by Rachael Lippincott. I abandoned the book for the rest of the week though.

Particularly Friday, Saturday and today were hard. I did try to remain active. Like I mentioned several times already this past week, I tried to dance. Today I actually sort of succeeded. I also managed slightly more steps and active minutes as recorded by my Fitbit this week than the week before.

I have been trying to be more mindful of myself this week too. By this I mean I’ve started up meditating again. I use Insight Timer, which has like thousands of free meditations. If meditating becomes a regular habit, and I sure hope it does, I may pay for the premium plan. Honestly, though I was still close to crisis today, the affirmation in one of the meditations I’ve been listening to, helped me.

I also started exploring some ways of getting my eating and ultimately my weight under control. This is where dancing comes in handy again.

To sum it all up, I’m choosing “Dancing Through Darkness” as my phrase for the week. I feel depressed, but I’m also trying to actively do something about it.

How was your week?

Word of the Week linky

Gratitude List (May 16, 2020) #TToT

Goodnight everyone. It’s past 11PM here and I can’t sleep. I’m feeling rather hopeless. To cheer myself up, I’m joining in with Ten Things of Thankful. It feels like forever since I last did a gratitude list, even though I did one two weeks ago. Anyway, here goes.

1. Spotify playlists. I already mentioned the Cardio playlist on Thursday. Today, I discovered the Harp Music for Sleep playlist. It wasn’t created by Spotify staff, but whoever created it is awesome! I just tried falling asleep to it. That didn’t work yet, but it definitely helped me relax.

2. Lorazepam. As we speak, I’m recovering from a rather bad crisis. After an hour-long crying fit, I finally asked the staff to give me a PRN lorazepam and it helps at least a little.

3. Dancing. I mentioned this already on Thursday. Today I was in a rather low place and felt like lying in bed all day. I did manage to fit some dancing in though.

4. Pretty good food this past week. I had boiled potatoes only once and the pasta with tuna sauce I had today was truly delicious.

5. Whipped cream custard. To top it off, we had whipped cream custard for dessert today.

6. Insight Timer. Like I said earlier today, I plan on making meditation part of my daily routine. I listened to a body love meditation this evening. The instructor’s voice was a little off to me, but it was a great meditation.

7. A lovely card. Last Thursday, I got another card from the friend who lives in another home in our care facility. She had previously given me an Easter card. Now the card had written in it that she hopes to see me soon. (For context: due to COVID-19, we are currently only allowed to interact with clients and staff for our own homes.) The card was handmade and truly lovely. I will send her one (though not handmade) probably tomorrow.

8. Possibly seeing my husband soon. Currently, we are not allowed visitors at all due to COVID-19. Management though has said they’ll work out a plan on visiting next week. This may mean we need to see our visitors in an assigned room and may need to keep our distance, but anything is better than no visits at all.

This is all I can come up with right now, but it already helps. What have you been thankful for lately?

I Want to Feel Better #SoCS

SoCS Badge 2019-2020

I want to feel better. Or maybe I need to feel better. No, that’s not correct. Feeling normal mentally may be a want, but I cannot need to feel it everyday.

I’ve been really in a depressed funk over the past week. Maybe, like I said on Thursday, it’s just that I was feeling so well over the past six weeks or so. Now that it’s passed, at least for now, I feel frustrated and depressed. I feel tired too. I’ve been lying in bed most of the morning and part of the afternoon today.

So what am I going to do about it? I’m writing now at least. That’s better than lying in bed. I still at least have some writing mojo left. In this sense, it helps that this writing exercise is stream of consciousness so that I don’t need to worry about structure.

What else can I do? I could be forcing myself to stay out of bed, but this is hard especially on weekends. So I’m not doing that.

I will be going for daily walks unless the staff have no time to take me on a walk all day (which is rare). Then, I will dance in my room for at least 15 minutes and/or go on the elliptical.

I will continue to write everyday. If it isn’t “blog-worthy”, so be it, but I’ll at least try.

I will meditate. It doesn’t need to be a long guided meditation or anything. A few minutes is enough. But I’ll make sure to incorporate mindfulness into my day.

Hopefully, committing to these will help me keep depression at bay. And if it doesn’t, then at least I’ll know that I’ve tried.

This post was written for Stream of Consciousness Saturday, for which the prompt today is “want”.

Breathe: Using Meditation for Self-Care #AtoZChallenge

I originally intended to write today’s post for the #AtoZChallenge yesterday and schedule it for this morning, but somehow I didn’t get down to writing it at all. I hadn’t even decided on a topic yet, although several floated through my mind. Eventually, I decided to continue with the self-care theme. B is for “breathe”.

Deep breathing is often hard for people at the best of times. It can be a real challenge if you’re anxious. That’s why you may benefit from breathing exercises while you’re calm. Then you will train your body to breathe properly, so that it comes more naturally when you’re stressed.

That being said, the first step to learning to breathe deeply into your belly is to be aware of your breathing. You can use meditation for this.

Beginner’s guided meditations often focus on being aware of your breathing without the need to change anything about it. You will learn to notice each inhale and exhale without judgment.

Once you are aware of your breathing, you can learn to control your breathing more consciously. Often, it is recommended that you take a long, but not too long, inbreath through your nose. Then you are advised to hold your breath for a few seconds and then do a long outbreath through your mouth.

Another common meditation practice is the body scan. This allows you to feel each sensation in your body systematically without judgment. Start by feeling your toes, feet and ankles. Then gradually move up through your legs, lower abdomen, upper abdomen and chest, hands and arms, shoulders, neck and finally your head. Most body scan meditations have you check in with your mental processes at the end. Remember, this is a check-in. You don’t need to change anything.

You can add other aspects of meditation to your practice, such as mantras or visualizations. I like to use affirmations as mantras. I also love visualizations, such as visualizing the colors of the rainbow.

There are tons of good meditation apps out there that offer guided meditations and often a timer to practise on your own. I have tried a few and must say my favorite is Insight Timer. This app has thousands of guided meditations by a variety of teachers. Most guided meditations are free. The premium plan offers additional content, such as courses. Right now, the app has a specific category called For Uncertain Times that’s geared towards coping with the COVID-19 crisis.

Gratitude List (March 20, 2020) #TToT

It’s Friday and that means the Ten Things of Thankful (#TToT) linkup is open again. I haven’t participated in a while, but in these weird times, we need gratitude more than ever. Here are the things I’ve been thankful for lately.

1. Relatively tasty dinners. Here at the care facility, we get our dinners from a meal delivery company. Last week or the week before, I complained that we got boiled potatoes like four times a week and that I’d like rice, pasta or the like more often. Thankfully they customize the meals for each resident, so it’s not like if I want pasta, everyone gets pasta. I think my assigned staff told the company. In any case, I’ve had pretty varied meals lately. On Saturday, we got tuna macaroni and I loved it!

2. The sensory room. The real one at the day center and the makeshift one at the home. The day center was still open on Monday and Tuesday, so I was able to use the snoezelen® room then. On Thursday, some of the staff created a makeshift sensory room in the currently empty bedroom at our home.

3. Walking. Yay, we’re not in complete lockdown (yet)! I’ve been grateful for walks often before, but in these weird times, I get to appreciate it even more. I managed to get over 9000 steps everyday this week so far except for today (and I’m not going to make it today either).

4. Getting day activities at the home. I was a little scared that, once the day center closed, we’d get no activities at all. Thankfully, that’s not true. I brought some games from the day center to the home with me and we have enough staff to do activities with us.

5. Going on the elliptical. I went on Tuesday, thinking I wouldn’t be able to use it for three weeks after that. However, two staff members transferred the elliptical to the empty room in our home, so that it’s now a combined sensory and gym room. I went on it for like 20 minutes yesterday.

6. Modern technology. I’m so glad this pandemic is happening now that we have the Internet and smartphones and the like. Otherwise I wouldn’t be able to connect to my husband, my family or the wider community at all. I’m so happy this thing does connect us all in a weird kind of way.

7. Meditation. I use an app called Insight Timer on my phone for meditating, but I hadn’t used it in a while. Then I checked it out and saw they have a whole section devoted to overcoming fear in these weird times. I loved listening to some guided meditations.

8. A phone appt with my CPN from mental health. We had a pretty good session. We actually did get started on some cognitive behavior therapy like we were planning on. She’s also going to get me signed up for the eHealth module with the agency.

9. My husband. Yesterday I was suddenly overcome with fear that I’d never see my husband again or that he’d want to divorce me due to our inability to be together in this crisis. My husband reassured me that I won’t lose him. He’s so lovely!

10. My health. I almost forgot that this thing is about a viral disease that takes actual lives. I so far haven’t had symptoms of COVID-19, but I’m confident that when (yes, it’s most likely a “when”) I do get the disease, I’ll survive.

What have you been grateful for lately?

Gratitude List (March 23, 2019) #TToT

This week was better than last week. Still, when I filled out a check-in questionnaire on an app called Pacifica, it said I scored as severely depressed. Well, apparently that’s my normal state.

Today, I am feeling pretty good. I want to share the things I’m grateful for, so I’m once again joining in with #TToT.

1. A full Monday at day activities. Like I mentioned last week, from this week on, I’ll be going to day activities three full days (Monday, Tuesday and Friday) plus Wednesday morning. I liked it on Monday afternoon.

2. Lorazepam. On Tuesday, I was pretty unquiet all day. Thankfully, I’d taken my PRN tranquilizer with me to day activities. I took it in the afternoon. At first, it just made me feel drowsy, but I eventually calmed down too.

3. Stuffed animals. I spent some time Tuesday afternoon at another group at day activities, where I tried to relax in a recliner. They have a large stuffed dog, which I was allowed to hold.

Also, last Thursday before leaving for work at 5AM, my husband covered me in stuffed animals as I went back to sleep. That’s so awesome!

4. Two long walks with my support coordinator. On both Wednesday and Thursday, we took an hour-long walk.

5. Yoga. On Thursday, I tried to do some yoga on my bed, because I couldn’t find my yoga mat. Turned out it had disintegrated and my husband had thrown it out. I ordered a new yoga mat on Thursday, which arrived at my in-laws on Friday. I picked it up today and it is great. It is not as thick as the one I used to have, but thick enough at 1.5cm. I tried some yoga again today.

6. Mindfulness apps. I tried meditating regularly using Insight Timer this week. It was good. I also, like I said, got an app called Pacifica, which helps me track my mood and health habits. I like it.

7. Beautiful weather yesterday. The temperature reached 19 degrees Celsius, which meant we could have coffee outside in the afternoon at day activities. The staff also put up the cocoon swing, which I always love.

8. Sleep. Yesterday, I was feeling exhausted and had a headache. My husband noticed an dtold me to go to bed. I slept for over twelve hours last night. Though my quality of sleep could be better, since I snore awfully, I feel okay now energy-wise.

What are you grateful for?

Self-Care: Doing Absolutely Nothing

Sienna over at Therapy Bits wrote about self-care today. She had a day of doing absolutely nothing, as she worded it. I loved the idea. Too often, my attempts at “self-care” include making all kinds of resolutions to do things for myself and not doing anything at all. Like, I’ve been starting and restarting blog posts for today at least half a dozen times, thinking I needed and wanted to write. However, then I quickly deleted the post again, thinking it was pointless. Maybe it is, but maybe that’s the point.

Self-care, to me, means listening to your own body and mind without judgment. It means not considering what others will think of your attempts to care for yourself (within ethical and legal limits, of course).

I consider writing an important act of self-care, but I also often judge my blogging attempts. I don’t write often enough, or my writing isn’t good enough, or whatever. Today, I am setting these limiting beliefs aside and just taking care of myself.

Besides writing, another good self-care practice is meditation. I often find myself judging myself over not doing it enough too, or not being focused enough when doing it. At other times, when I do successfully meditate, I find that the effect wears off quickly and I end up beating myself up over that.

Today, I have been looking at affirmations and inspirational quotes. I love them, but I still find myself wanting to do something “productive” with them. Like, several of these blog posts I started then deleted, were quote-of-the-day posts that I deleted for being pointless.

Maybe the point of self-care, of this blog and of my life in general is not to fulfill other people’s expectations of me, but to be who I am. To be who we are. There, Sienna’s “doing absolutely nothing” sounds appealing. I do “nothing” much of the time, but then I’m usually beating myself up over it. What if I could stop judging myself and start being in the present?

Activities That Give Me Inner Peace

I’ve been feeling a bit low again, but not as low as I was early last month. I’m not even really depressed, but just rather uninspired. I’d rather play games on my iPHone than do something productive, like blogging. To get myself writing again, I looked at The Self Exploration Journal once again. One of the prompts is about activities that give you inner peace. Here goes.

1. Yoga. I really need to do this more often. I don’t practice yoga much, as it feels like exercise yet doesn’t lead to weight loss. However, it does have other benefits. For example, it can help with my flexibility. It can also definitely help me find inner peace.

2. Meditation. I have Insight Timer, a free meditation app, on my phone. I love it, but I don’t practice meditation nearly enough. I tried it again yesterday, but when I was in the middle of a guided meditation, my husband came home.

3. Listening to soothing music. I used to always have calming whale sounds on when in the snoezelen (sensory) room at my old day activities. Unfortunately, I couldn’t copy the CD when moving day activities and it’s no longer being sold. I have yet to try to listen to my own soothing music on Spotify when in the sensory room. I really want to do more imagery-based activities using soothing music too.

4. Walking. I love going for walks. It truly helps me process my thoughts and move towards greater inner peace. It’s a more active way of creating inner balance, whereas the above three activities are more passive. I mean, yes, yoga requires movement, but it doesn’t require as much movement as does walking.

5. Exercise. Going on the elliptical has the same effect as walking, but amplified. I do this alone, whereas I always go on walks with other people. This means that I can quietly process my thoughts when on the elliptical, while at the same time getting my much-needed activity.

6. Writing. I really want to do this everyday, like I did when starting this blog. I really want to do more freewrites or diary entries too. This should definitely help me process my thoughts and gain inner peace.

What activities give you inner peace?