Just stay present. It sounds so simple, doesn’t it? I’ve been trying to practice mindfulness throughout all aspects of my life and each moment of the day. As soon as I wake up, I meditate. I try to apply it when I walk, eat, talk, and just be. It’s working. It really helps. I notice that as each day passes, I improve. That’s not to say I don’t struggle with getting carried away by negative thoughts and unregulated emotions that risk me acting impulsively and then regretting my actions…but I’m now more aware of it. And as a result, I’m able to respond more effectively to the circumstances at hand – be it my stress or anxiety, as I’m more readily able to catch myself when I feel my mind wander and redirect my thoughts to the present. I know when I need to take deep breaths to calm any strong emotions that arise. I know how important it is to not dwell on what’s passed and to not worry too much about what’s to come because in most cases, there isn’t much I can do about it; especially in the case of the past. There’s no going back. All I can do is make peace with it. So the only moments I have are those that are occurring right now. That’s all we have, really. The now. But many of us (and I myself am included) are guilty of living at any of the other times. We long for either the past or the future (whichever appears more ideal to us) and look to it as a time where we were happy or think we’d be happier. We completely take the present for granted. And this is such a great shame, because this is where our life unfolds. This is where I journey takes place. And so I think it’s important to remind ourselves of that, for we often let life sweep us away. Stay present. Be aware. Accept where you are right now and be thankful for what you do have. Life is precious and impermanent. Don’t waste it. Live in the now.
I don’t know how it happened, but somehow…I lost touch with myself and the world over the year. I guess I just let life sweep me away. I don’t know. At some point…I just disconnected. I stopped…feeling in the way that I used to. Before, I used to feel as if I was a part of a whole…if that makes any sense. But right now, I feel lost. It’s as if I’m standing in the middle of a road in the early hours of the morning (think 2/3 am), and there’s no one to be seen. I’m on my own, save for a streetlamp that shines its light on me…but strangely…it does so without illuminating the rest my surroundings. It’s pitch black in every direction. I’ve no clue where to go. There’s no telling where I’d be heading. I look down to my feet and then up again into the dark void. I’m afraid. This spot I’m standing on is the only source of light. It’s lonely but it’s familiar. I’m reluctant to chance a trip. I close my eyes and take a deep breath. I think back to where I was before coming to this spot on the street. Then, it was much worse. Then, I was just…falling…indefinitely. I felt as if I was being flung around violently as the dark swallowed me up…as attack after attack came. And as each one came, I was presented with another hurdle of horrors. It was…unbearable. I thought it would never end. I was afraid for my life. I genuinely believed that the constant piercing stabs I felt in my heart would eventually cause it to stop. Even as I write this now, I have to remind myself to take deep breaths and note that isn’t where I am at present. I think I’ll skip on the specifics on how bad it got…the important thing is that I got out. I look around and take in the room as I take another deep breath. Out. I’m out. This…is where I am right now. I’m okay. Although, I can’t exactly remember how I managed that. I think…I just…stopped resisting at a point. I hit a threshold and just sort of gave in. And slowly, I started to accept and work with the circumstances. Or, at least I tried and continue to try to. I’m not completely panic free. I have to work and tend to my anxiety and negative thinking each and every moment of the day by staying aware, practicing mindfulness, and relaxation techniques, among other measures. It’s not perfect, but it’s more manageable than it’s been. Some days…are easier than others. The trickiest thing is not knowing when or what is going to be the next trigger. Sometimes I wake up with a jolt in the middle of the night. Sometimes it’s midday and I’m just going about my usual business…nothing seems amiss and I’m just suddenly hit with nausea, feel like my throat is closing up on me, my blood pressure plummets…and so on with all the uncomfortable symptoms and negative thoughts. The last bad one lasted several hours. I marvel at how my heart endured it. Breathe. Stay present. That’s not what’s happening now, I remind myself. Again, I look around the room and take another deep breath to check in with myself. I’m doing all I can. Consciousness (or awareness) really is key when dealing with the unexpected surges of anxiety or attacks. Also, exposure therapy seems to help once I pinpoint a trigger. Can’t say I enjoy the process though. I feel like I’m walking into a heart attack each time I manage to somehow convince myself to face my fears. But I realize the more I attempt it, the less intense the fear becomes. The more confident I become in managing and regulating my thoughts and emotions when it hits. Breathe. But I’m trying. I want to get better. I’m doing all I can. I’m exploring my spirituality, new hobbies, trying to stay connected with loved ones while fighting the urge to pull away, and attempting as best as I can to reinforce positive thoughts in place of the negative. It takes work. A lot of it. And sometimes I struggle with staying motivated with recovery. But the few strands of hope I clung to in my worst moments are beginning to strengthen and expand. This propels me to continue to move forward. I try to remind myself that while at times I might seem like my own worst enemy, I’m also capable of being my strongest supporter. Tap into the resource in yourself, I heard my counselor in my head as I wrote that last sentence. Just keep swimming. Oh, and there’s Dory! Reminds me of something the psychiatrist said too. I can’t remember the exact words but it was something along the lines of: just keep paddling towards your destination. Eventually, you’ll weather the storm and come upon the shore. Despite the suggestion from my counselor, a psychiatrist and my social worker, I made the decision to not take the medication – though I accepted it in the event of emergencies. Just knowing it’s stashed nearby helps in a way. But as the monastics at the temple said on my visit last Sunday, they only help alleviate the physical symptoms. They don’t deal with the root cause, which is what I aim to tackle. I don’t want to depend on medication as my crutch but again, I’m still comforted from knowing it’s there. Just gotta be careful because it’s short acting (I opted out of long term treatment seeing as I didn’t want to make it a habit) and therefore faces a higher risk of dependency if I do take it. I have faith in myself though, which is more than I could say previously. What else…I’ve completely cut out caffeine and alcohol for the time being. Gotta refrain from excessive sugar too. Learned that today after having an extremely sweet cup of hot chocolate. The sugar rush elicits certain anxiety symptoms in me and so unnerves me because it tricks my mind into thinking I’m on the verge of another attack. So I spent the ferry home doing my best to keep calm as all the uncomfortable mental images and thoughts flicked rapidly and intensely through my head. Reading Eckhart Tolle’s novels has helped me a lot with this – not letting thoughts possess me. It sounds so simple but it helps a lot to realize that thoughts are simply just that – thoughts; that they aren’t a true reflection of who I am and so I shouldn’t misidentify with them. That they have no power over me unless I give it to them. This reminds me of another quote! This time not from a mental health professional or a cartoon fish! Phew, I’m glad I can still laugh at my own humor. Ha-ha! It’s supposed to be from an old Cherokee legend…only I’m going to condense it into a few sentences: You’ve two wolves inside you. One is good and the other is evil. The one you feed is the one who wins. Seems about right. I’d like to write more but I’m getting sleepy now. Think I’ll skip over exercise today in favor of maintaining a regular bedtime routine. I want to get in a few more pages of Tolle’s A New Earth and meditate before I turn in. Typhoon 3 has just been hoisted and 8 might hit tomorrow (no work if that’s the case, whoop! Ferries don’t run!). I sleep a bit better when there’s a typhoon out. I find them oddly calming. It’s comforting to know that not all storms rage within me. So anyway, I’m not sure what the next step is or where it’ll lead me. But one thing I know for sure is that I can’t stay on that same spot simply because it’s all I know. I’ve gotta take a leap of faith. Simply thinking only gets you so far. Yawn. Goodnight.