I believe in mindfulness at all times for just about everything but for me mindfulness is a lifesaving self care practice, and it’s a good one for everyone to have in their toolbasket for hard times.
As I have written often on this blog and I’m sure you all know it by now I am bi polar. I am Bi Polar Type II which is the depressive side of things, and I have a severe anxiety disorder. I am also agoraphobic and have had a dickens of a time with that for the last several months. Most days my medication handles everything but the agoraphobia pretty well but I can get swept up at a moment’s notice by a funnel cloud of depression or wake up so afraid and anxious I can barely get out of bed. The pugs are my saving grace. They help me sleep and they give me a reason to get up. But there are days that I am nearly paralyzed and save taking care of the animals I can barely do anything at all. But then…
I make myself pull self care practices out of my basket which is always at hand. Gardening is one, walking outside with the dogs helps, but my mindfulness practice helps most of all.
The thing for people who suffer from mental health challenges is that staying in the present moment is just about the last place we end up without conscious effort. Getting lost in the past and dwelling on it, or worrying about the future which can feel so overwhelming that a litany of all of the terrible things that might go wrong or are “probably going to happen” screams in our heads like operatic arias loud enough to fill a stadium never mind a concert hall.
But it’s not just us. I used to think it was. When you are always struggling in deep dark places you imagine that everyone else is doing well while you are just always circling the drain about to go down. The day I realized that this simply wasn’t the case I was kind of shocked, and in awe. Do you mean other people get scared, and feel anxious, and helpless, and hopeless, and…
Well of course, everyone does, at least sometimes. For whatever reason, in whatever way, no matter how it manifests at whatever time of life, of the day, in whatever season, everyone is going to have hard times, and some days are going to just be humdingers when it seems that survival isn’t a possibility. I’m not talking about being suicidal, I’m talking about whatever we might be going through at the moment has only one possible outcome and it isn’t good. That’s what our busy brain is telling us at it sweeps us along as if we were whitewater rafting without the raft and headed to the most dangerous place in the river.
This is where mindfulness comes in. One of the most helpful things a psychiatrist ever told me was that I had “Anticipatory Anxiety.” I had never heard of that but when she explained it it was kind of a knockout moment. I never understood it in this way. A.A. is when you become extremely anxious to the point of being paralyzed, maybe having panic attacks, or generally wanting to hide under the covers and never come out before an upcoming event. I am feeling that way about a dental appointment tomorrow. Now I have never minded the dentist at all, and I am just going for a teeth cleaning, and I really like to get my teeth cleaned, it is just the business of getting from here to there. I often cancel a number of appointments before I ever actually make it to one, calling and making excuses, sometimes outright lying or making things up, preferably after hours when I can leave a message on the machine, to get out of going. I nearly fall back on the couch with relief after making the call and feel as though I have just escaped with my life. I hope I don’t do that tonight but I think I might feel a flu coming on. My ears feel funny. I think. And my throat might almost maybe just be a tad scratchy. And it’s raining. And it might be raining tomorrow. Oh Lord. I hope I don’t call. I might call. I’ll let you know tomorrow if I went. The thing is if you can just make yourself do the dreaded thing you usually feel just fine. It’s the anticipation of it that nearly does you in.
So, mindfulness. I am sitting here working very hard to pull myself back into this. moment. right. now.
Breathing in and out.
Relaxing my body.
Ah. Okay. I am here, right now, in this chair, with a tiny girl pug in my lap, and 3 boys pugs in beds around me and they are snoring. I love the snoring. See! There. I smiled. I am relaxing. I am here, right now, in this moment. And in the next moment I will just be there then. And I will keep on. I bet I DO go to the dentist tomorrow. Yes, I can almost possibly say with a fair degree of certainty that I just might.
It helps me a lot to have prayer beads next to the bed. I think there is a reason that prayer beads whether rosaries, or malas, or the like have been around so long. You can certainly pray, or meditate, without them, but the soothing feeling of holding the beads in your hands, fingering one particular bead, rubbing it between your fingers while you pray or recite a mantra, is very soothing. I will have my mala next to the bed tonight. If I wake up I will just pick it up and let my fingers follow those beads around, moment by moment.
Deep breath. I’m okay. Right now, in this very moment I am okay.
Try this. Remember this. When you become afraid, anxious, whatever emotion is sweeping over you, make yourself consciously stop and check in where you are. Right now. In this moment. Not tomorrow, or ten minutes from now. And don’t dwell on what happened yesterday, or an hour ago. It’s gone.
We are here, together, in this moment. I am here when I am writing it. You are here when you are reading this. Right. Now. You. Are. Reading. This. Word. You. Are. Right. Here. And. You. Are. Okay. It works, see?
So, I’m okay, and you’re okay. And… I’m going to the dentist.
Stay in the moment. It’s a good place to be.