Limbo

Can’t go back to the way things were and the new is yet to materialise, and here I am in a state of exhaustion, marinating.

At this time, lasting many months now, there are ways I can nurture myself, and keep my inner love bank filled. Gentle quiet ways of looking after myself. This is where the small things in life are a big support and salve for the weariness.

  • I walked slowly in the park today, through gardens of flowers, paused to watch a bee. Deeply taking in the beauty and simplicity of the moment
  • Throwing the ball for the dog, enjoying her beauty and her fun
  • Lying down when I need to, learning not to feel guilty about that
  • Doing what I need to do to keep the business going and no more.
  • Not beating myself up for being in this state. I don’t often succeed in this, I have many should’s trying to barge in hourly. This is an uncreative time for me, that’s been hard.
  • Sleeping well by going to bed early, 9pm most nights, often asleep by 9.30. Average sleep this year according to the Fitbit is 7.5 hours, compared to the average 2 years ago which was 6.5 hours.
  • No alcohol. No point in interfering with my brain chemistry at this time and muddying the waters and maybe interfering with my recovery
  • Eating little, but enough to stop sugar levels dropping. I’m going to reappraise my intake of sugar too
  • Watching the thoughts I allow to remain in my mind. Noticing stress producing thoughts and letting them go as soon as they are noticed. There are many unknowns ahead and this can tamps worry thoughts, so extra love and care here.
  • Listening to uplifting or moving music, and even having a little dance here and there.
  • Maintaining a clean house, doing much of it myself, but also have the help of a cleaner once a week. And leaning on other help too, like the dog walker some days and having my hair washed once a week at the hairdresser. Nails done every 2 weeks. Looking after myself in these ways makes me feel nurtured.
  • Really enjoying the gifting and receiving love from the dog.
  • Feeling gratitude that I have a beautiful apartment, that is safe and quiet and watertight
  • Being around a few unexausting people. I appreciate them. Clare’s group is a big support.
  • Gratitude that I’m going into my final year of training to be a psychotherapist. This is an interesting journey that may lead, well I don’t know, but new possibilities beckon.

I have a lot of emotions arising and quietening. There is a sadness that it has taken me this long to allow myself to have things in life which for so many others is just normal. Like a nice house.

I feel envy at times when I witness so many people not lonely at all, living successful lives with a supportive loving partner and working as a team to bring up their kids, grow their social lives, prepare for a secure old age. All of that has been an alien to me and yet it’s the norm out there.

And so I have done it alone much of the time. And yes I’ve done well and achieved a lot, running a business and being a single parent, doing courses, but wow, I see now that it has been so much harder this way. And for my son too. Yes well done to me. I’ve done the best I could.

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Reframing the Past

I have written a lot about the less than ideal aspects of my past and their effect on me. Looking back is like a prism with different views. While not invalidating experiences, it useful I have found not to get stuck in one storyline.

I was blessed to be born into an educated relatively well off family, and I grew up in a beautiful area in a 100 year old house with a large garden full of old fruit trees and flowers. It wasn’t the perfect family by any means (mother prone to anger outbursts, distant father, sister I didn’t relate to) but with my fairy godmother like grandmother and fun uncles, it was good enough.

I was given enough confidence and support to try different avenues out in life. Freedom to wander and explore. Plenty of support to bring up a child as a single parent. Enough aspiration to want to get a degree and have a successful career I enjoy. Enough forgiveness to make mistakes and to forgive myself.

An awareness of aesthetics was part of my upbringing, including nature, interior design and architecture. My mum encouraged my art ability. My dad encouraged a love of music, values of fairness and helping others.

What a blessing this has been and led to the degree in landscape architecture and a lifelong love of nature and architecture and good design in general.

I thank those that provided all this for me. It has given me many strengths to build a decent life full of quality every day.

Ps and coincidentally a couple of days after I wrote this I read this

“There are two emotions that inform and animate the human animal; fear and a gratitude-love-awe mix that might best be called agape. As fear goes out, agape comes in. More accurately, a pure white light of consciousness hits the prism of self and splits outward to become the universe as we experience it. If the prism of self is gray and murky with ignorance, choked with fear, contaminated with ego, then so becomes the universe that radiates out from it. It’s that simple. As the prism becomes free of such flaws, then the whole universe changes with it. It resolves into clarity, becomes brighter, more playful and magical. Because we are the lens through which it is projected, we are participants in its shape and motion; co-creators of our own universe.”- Jed McKenna, Spiritual Warfare

Maintenance Diet

Sometimes life is like being in the birthing room having a long painless labour. A time of waiting patiently. While gently cleaning up a little inside and outside.

I’m using this recovery time to de stress and just let myself off the hook of as many ‘shoulds’ and ‘shouldn’t s as I can.

I’m maintaining things, keeping the place clean and tidy, eating well and not too much, drinking lots of water, no alcohol, getting into nature several times a day with the dog. Having regular social interactions, my friend E yesterday who is always very interesting and a veg cafe lunch with my dear old friend S then a bonus hour when her delightful son K joined us in the car for some good chat. And then there’s the various dog walking park people I bump into and counselling clients. My final year is going to restart in about a month.

I have no idea what lies ahead. At 54 it is an age for taking stock. Energy use is more important as there is less of it available. Discovering where it is is being wasted and where it is best spent. That may change once I recover from this burnout. I’m aware it could take time, and that is fine. Life is good and trundling along.

Hope you have a fruitful relaxed day x

A New Day for Gratitude

Each of these new days is an opportunity to make choices. What thoughts do I choose to entertain and allow to linger today?

Will today be coloured by what’s wrong in the world and my life or what’s right.

What I worry about or what I am grateful for?

What is in the present or what’s in the past which is gone or the future which is just imagination?

I read the news and I felt sad about those shootings, and I accepted that and let it go.

Here are things I can change and those I can’t, and no point in lingering in the latter.

Today I choose abundance and thanks.

  • I am healthy and well
  • My son is healthy and well and doing what he loves
  • The dog is happy, healthy and well !
  • I enjoying this alcohol free experiment and not feeling the need to squelch down anxiety.
  • Because the anxiety has subsided considerably, that I’m very grateful to be free from. I wonder if even a few drinks could have caused it
  • I’m delighted to have a 300 hectare wooded park next to where I live and enjoy
  • I have a car that carries me around reliably and comfortably
  • My relationships are harmonious
  • I’m enjoying learning to be kind to myself and be my friend
  • The neighbours here in this area are friendly and welcoming and I enjoy stopping for a little chat with them, it’s a pleasant feeling of community
  • The weather is warm
  • I am physically safe
  • I’m enjoying counselling people and being of help to them
  • I am grateful to have the space this weekend to totally relax, take naps when I like, read, watch films and not feel the need to do anything
  • I love the amazing technology I’m surrounded by which gives me access to the world of knowledge, to connect with others around the world, to play the music I like
  • I love this apartment, and feel lucky to have bought such a big place for such a cheap price
  • I feel grateful to my mum who is always there for me. My uncle too I feel grateful to have him in my life. My friend Steph who also is always there as a warm positive loving presence. A sister that I admire that shows me what being happy looks like. Winnie, we are each other’s fans and much love is expressed openly between us. The group I go to where we can express ourselves honestly and openly.
  • I have a lovely comfortable apartment
  • I have quiet neighbours
  • I have money to feed myself and the dog
  • I am surrounded by lovely plants
  • I am drinking beautiful cool orange juice
  • I have clients lined up till new year

I could go on and on.

Riding Worry

I ride the potentially fear producing thoughts these days with greater ease than before.

This is what I do.

‘Oh there’s a scary thought, hello I see you, smile, goodbye’, poof, gone! Gently quietly, no fuss, no drama, no story. Carry on, feel at ease.

And then there are some thoughts that get in. This morning that happened.

A thought arrives that I give attention to, then that turns into a group of them in quick succession that sound really really convincing.

Maybe there is even some evidence that there’s a danger of some kind to be avoided in one of them.

For me, armed with only partial knowledge of what I owe HMRC, I imagine that I can’t pay them. I imagine the hostility I will receive from them and the demands and threats. I look at what I have and what I think I owe and I don’t have enough.

As I’ve downsized my business, even though my bills are going to be lower going ahead, there’s some previous VAT owed, that was based on a much higher turnover than I have now. My smaller income needs to pay those big bills. I feel scared right now!

I am writing this partially so that I can look back on this in a month or two and see that it is now history and that I survived. And contrast that with the ‘threat to life’ feelings I’m experiencing right now!

Oh the mind. Yes fear does have a purpose. We are wired for it to protect us when real dangers to our existence were all around. That’s been for most of our evolution.

Even 100 years ago a women could not walk through a city herself at night safely. Even now actually to an extent.

So while we live these lives of relative ease, the wiring is in there. We perceive threats when the threat is so very often not real. Our brains are ‘trigger happy’ when it comes to perceiving danger.

So I’m going for a walk in the park across the field along the river with the dog. Then I’ll dye my hair, get milk and dog food at the shop, go to the hairdresser and drop off my van for a service and walk home.

Life goes on. I may ask my accountant what I owe so I know, even though I’m scared of finding out that it’s even more than I imagine. Once I know I can make a plan and do my juggling act that I’ve been doing for 15 years.

And a further observation that this has come the day after I publicly announce here that I am feeling happy and well. Noted.

Compassion towards myself and to us all on this journey xxx

“Our ancestors could make two kinds of mistakes: (1) thinking there was a tiger in the bushes when there wasn’t one, and (2) thinking there was no tiger in the bushes when there actually was one.

The cost of the first mistake was needless anxiety, while the cost of the second one was death. Consequently, we evolved to make the first mistake a thousand times to avoid making the second mistake even once.”

~Rick Hanson, Ph.D.

P.S. I just braved asking the accountant what I owe and it’s not as much as I thought. She also said HMRC are having big delays so there’s no rush to pay it, whew. So there is the evidence that tormenting ourselves with worry thoughts is pointless!

Well and Happy!

After so many many months of daily managing of anxiety, it has subsided for the last few weeks. And wow does life look and feel different. Smoother. Freer. Sleeping more soundly.

I made the risky decision to halve my business and reduce staff, and that helped a lot. Less pressure on me, fewer things that can go wrong, more control over projects, more attention to detail as my attention is not split. Just less to tempt worry thoughts.

I couldn’t keep going, I ground to a halt inside and outside. Never imagined that would happen. Thought I was invincible. Felt an obligation to others over my own wellbeing. I was so locked into the habit – it’s been 15 years I’ve been doing this.

It’s still stressful, there’s problems to solve, mistakes to fix and pay for, money to juggle, tax and bills to pay, but it’s manageable.

No amount of nature walks, mindfulness practice, eating well could help me sustain that stress level for a minute longer. It’s been building for years and years.

So now it’s new territory again. I’m still in recovery and resting a lot, doing pretty much what I feel to do every day and very little forcing myself to do anything. Such freedom I feel tremendously grateful for.

I have no idea if a much smaller business will be enough to pay me a salary, that I’ll have to see in the months to come. I feel optimistic though, and watching the figures on the accounts carefully. Reducing expenses. Not spending much. Downsizing. This is what it looks like.

I’ve noticed the last couple of days that I’ve completed some long overdue tasks, mostly boring paperwork, that I’ve put off for months. That has been my default setting during this stressful time, constant procrastination. It just added to the low level background stress of knowing the tasks were still sitting there on the ‘to do’ list.

And of course no desire or urge for my couple of gins in the evenings. Remove the cause of the stress and there’s no need to self medicate the anxiety away. On day 12.

This no alcohol experiment has given me an opportunity to stand outside an activity that the majority engage in regularly and to consider the effects on us all, on society of a self medicated population.

The more I’ve been open with people about my high stress level, others have shared that they are also very stressed. It’s the norm out there it seems. It explains the self medication going on with various substances.

So I’m full of curiosity to see where this new phase takes me. Aware of the old self sabotage habits when life gets better than I’m used to, and the fear of happiness. All very interesting.

No Alcohol Experiment – Day 9

As I mentioned in my last post, I’m experimenting with cutting out alcohol for a while to see what happens and if and how it effects my life. I’ve been cutting it out for 4 or 5 days a week the last few weeks and today I’m on 9 consecutive days without it.

I want to treat myself with kid gloves and kindness.

At the moment I am my own patient recovering from stress burnout and I want to do everything I can to restore my energy, health, peace, wellbeing and contentment. I got so fed up feeling high anxiety every day as things came to a head.

I thought that my end of the day tipple was helping my anxiety. It was a little ‘treat’ for getting through another day.

I want to report that so far it has been a JOY not drinking.

Easy too, as the rewards are high and the negatives of drinking are more apparent.

Nobody really ever talks about negative side I realise, that even relatively moderate drinking regularly is really really bad for your body and mood. The negatives are usually only ever discussed in the context of the out of control wrecked lives of extreme drinking.

I am surrounded by functional well off middle class people who drink daily and often much more than me. A bottle of wine a night is very common and it is normalised.

I was reading what drinking even low amounts regularly does to your body and mind. I was shocked to discover that emotional instability goes hand in hand with drinking regularly, including increased anxiety and depression. And also the amount of multiple diseases that go along with it. I wondered how it was effecting me, and impeding my recovery from my stress train-smash.

It astounds me that we live in a society that engages in, promotes and almost revolves around a toxic highly addictive drug that kills many more people than any other drug.

It’s bizarre when you think about it. I wonder if in the future alcohol will be regarded like heroin or cigarettes and become less socially acceptable. I read that over 80% of adults drink regularly. It’s amazing!

In the UK they recommend no more than 14 units for women a week, and I was easily around 30 units a week, and sometimes more if there was a usually once a month dinner party at my friends place when we drank all evening.

So the gin equivalent of half a bottle of red wine a day until a few weeks ago when I started experiencing the benefits of having days off during the week. Why not go the whole way and have a break even at weekends.

What would that look like, feel like….how would it effect my (pretty quiet already) social life.

So a while back I went to my boozy friends house for dinner and offered wine or Prosecco, and asked for a soft drink. And noticed I was slightly concerned about being seen as a party pooper. Then the hostess herself decided to join me and not drink that evening either. Interesting. We still had just as nice an evening.

Then my close friend was staying over last week as she often does on a Thursday night. We normally have 4 standard measures of gin each over the evening. I asked her just to bring gin for herself as I was having a break.

She arrived without any, decided she would have a night off too. We had just as pleasant an evening as we always do, and maybe even better.

Then I was at my (party animal) hairdresser and she said she is on day 200 of no drinking. Wow. I was astonished. It didn’t even occur to me that non alcoholics might choose to do that. Her reasons were all about health and fitness. She told me that it started as a 30 day bet. And she had experienced such benefits that she just carried on and so did her boyfriend.

If I ever did overdo it and get a hangover I’d be devastated by guilt and remorse. That happened a couple of times a month. Now that I’m not drinking I see that guilt and shame were present even when drinking amounts that don’t even result in a hangover.

I only noticed by trying out this abstinence experiment.

I don’t have it at all without drinking. My mood has been better, more buoyant and the lack of guilt and remorse is an added bonus. I like myself more for not doing something harmful to myself.

Today I give myself permission to drink any time I want to.

I’m not using willpower here so don’t feel any conflict about it or that I’m missing my ‘treat’. I’m experimenting with what I have in my life and what I don’t to see how it effects me.

PS. I did remove a massive amount of stress by cutting my business back, so think that has helped make the need for a drink at the end of the day less ‘required’. I don’t want to undermine anyone who is struggling to give up here, by how easy I’m finding it. I know it’s not the same for everyone and some people find it tougher.

Feeling grateful. Enjoyable 🙂