A mini breakdown and recovery

Today I had an important test I knew I could ace, and yet I mismanaged my time and wasn’t able to finish. I was so frustrated and angry with myself, and I had a mini breakdown.

I cracked. I cancelled everything planned later in the day and buried myself in bed. I wanted to cry, I wanted to hide, I wanted the relief of sleep. I slept for hours. Constructive, I know.

But then I woke up. And I felt a bit more compassionate towards myself. Yes, I didn’t do as well as I could have, but I had been exhausted from lack of sleep. Also, it is still good practice for other tests and maybe I will do better than I thought. Nothing I can do about it now. Just learn for next time.

And I had a surge of energy and started to tackle a lot of things I’d left half done. I got rid of clothes that didn’t fit, purged clutter in my room and completely organized my closet. It felt so nice as these were things I’d been wanting to do for quite a while and the clutter always weighed on me.

So at the end of the day, I’m feeling more neutral — not upset over the test as that is finished and there is nothing to do but wait for the results, and satisfied with my decluttering progress. I was triggered for the potential of crashing, but managed a bit of compassion to reenergize and inspire myself in other ways.

A new year, mantras and compassion

Wow, it’s been over a month since my last post! My WordPress 2014 Year in Review report shows a definite drop in activity, from posting nearly daily last winter and spring to once month or so in the fall. I’ve missed blogging and this great community so I will try to be more active again. 🙂

With the new year, it is of course time for resolutions. But instead, I heard about another idea that I would like to try: making new year mantras. I like the idea because it’s not so absolute as a resolution — I will always do this or never do that. Instead it’s like regularly reaffirming an intention — much better for my perfectionist self, who avoids anything with the potential for failure. (And who sees the first small mistake as failure…)

I have yet to create my mantras, but it’s something I intend to put my mind to this week. A year or two ago my therapist recommended I do the same, so I think it will be a good step.

Speaking of perfectionism, I’ve been listening to an interesting e-book while doing some boring tasks. It’s called The Compassionate Mind by Paul Gilbert. I’ll write more on this once I’ve finished it, but it looks at the following:

  • the evolution of the human brain
  • how our brains and bodies are programmed to work and their discord with modern life
  • perfectionism and criticism and how they contribute to anxiety and depression
  • what compassion is and how it can be used in daily life
  • how a compassionate approach can help those with depression and anxiety, anger and other issues.

The section on criticism, perfectionism and anxiety made me realize that I focus a lot on my depression, but not so much on the anxiety that (I think) causes it. Most of what he says really resonates and I’m interested in trying out some of the compassion exercises he recommends in order to develop compassion skills. He says it’s all about practice and exercise, just like with building physical fitness. We’ll see if I can teach this old brain some new tricks!

Have any of you read some interesting thoughts on compassion? Do you have a mantra that really works for you?

Struggling to create a new path

I’ve read that when you repeat the same responses to certain situations, your brain forges pathways that make it more and more likely that you will keep repeating this action. It’s like you’ve created a path through the jungle and it’s easiest to follow it. You can choose to make a different path, but that involves hacking your way through the thick vegetation, so it is hard to resist taking the well established path.

Today, I’ve been struggling to create a new path. I have a first date tonight, my first date in a couple years and I’ve been feeling sick with anxiety. I have almost cancelled several times. I’m scratching my psoriasis like crazy and tempted to forget it all and hide under my covers, trying to sleep my stress away.

That would be the established path. I’m trying to resist the lure and to start making my way into the woods. But I keep getting scratched and hit in the face by the branches.

I was at the precipice – do I nap and hope I feel better and make the call later? Or do I try something different. Have a nice bath, get ready early and try to meditate or relax somewhere outside until it’s time for my date?

Two things prompted me towards the bath. My desire to stop sabotaging myself. And something my neighbour said to me in passing last week:

Life begins outside of your comfort zone.

This may be a well established quote, but it was new to me and just what I needed to hear. I stay so often within my comfort zone, but that means that I am missing out on life.

Do I want to miss out on this chance for a relationship with a great guy? Because of my fear of discomfort? Do I want to keep repeating the same mistakes that leave me all alone at the end of the day?

No.

So I’m trying to leave the path behind and step into the wilderness. It’s taking a while for me to get somewhere, but I’m trying. Fingers crossed, I’ll make it out to my date and have a lovely time.

De-dustifying

I slept in late today (i.e. past lunch) and worried I’d be in for another depressive weekend. I’m supposed to get some work done this weekend, so that was hardly the best start.

The good news is that I’m starting to get over my nasty summer cold. But it’s still lingering a bit and today I was struck by a major urge to clean. No need to succumb to allergies right after the cold!

So after showering and going out for coffee, I really went at it. Removed all the clutter I’d piled in my apartment as I was moving things around between my two storage units. Took down the recycling that had piled up. Found that something is wrong with the attachment on my vacuum so I actually went around my bedroom on my hands and knees with just the hose, vacuuming up every speck of dust, cat hair and dust bunnies. I did so much cleaning I actually worked up a sweat, so I’m feeling more energized. Might finally be ready to work soon.

This seems to be quite a routine for me, established in university. I have something I need to study or work on and first thing I have to do? Clean, rearrange furniture, make everything just so. I’m glad to have gotten the urge today, as I really tackled some of the cleaning I’d left half-finished for a awhile. It feels nice to clear those burdens.

Now I’m pausing for a break and some lemonade, but I think this has turned the tide for the weekend and I should be able to stay productive.

Have a great weekend!

Back to running: Step one

This year, I really want to start running again. Before depression and injuries hit, I was able to run half marathons!

Today, I took the first step: I walked home from work on what was our first nice sunny spring day this year.

The walk was a brisk walk of thirty minutes, and a little less than 3 km. But it’s the first step for many reasons.

1) My biggest issue is always just getting out there and doing it. I love it when I do get out, but that is always a problem because I build it up to this big mountainous task in my head.

2) I never even got out my bike last summer, let alone ran, so this is the opportunity to scope things out, find the best paths and be inspired by all the other runners I see along the way. I think exposure will be key.

3) I’ve been doing lots of yoga but no other exercise. And you really do need to walk before you run. This was a good walk, and it had hills too! So it’s a good warm-up for my leg muscles.

Let’s hope today’s success inspires a second step! 🙂

Tests and anxiety

Today I had my language test. It was an oral exam and I’ve been procrastinating on it for five years since I always messed up in the interviews and was stressed that I’d do so again.

I passed! More than that, my evaluation was that I had near-native speaker abilities. 🙂

Just another example of how worry can be so harmful and unnecessary.

I’m so relieved!

The Self-Saboteur Strikes Again

Despite my fine plans yesterday, I’ve done nothing today. Nothing but sleep and read a novel.

Why? I don’t know. I suspect it is my inner self-saboteur. I have a job interview tomorrow (for a permanent job) and I think it’s underlying worry over that which is putting a wrench in things. Part of my plans for today were to prepare for tomorrow’s test and interview. But I haven’t. And because I haven’t done that, I haven’t done anything on my list. The good old “all or nothing” attitude.

Well. What’s done is done. The best I can hope for is that I treat tomorrow like the new day that it is and just get on with it.

Time will tell.