A footnote on mindfulness … or ‘being in the moment’

How many of us don’t at some point feel worried about the future or dwell on some element of our past?

And yet the past, while it may influence our present, is utterly unalterable. Our actions in the present may yield future favour, but we cannot predict the future.

All any of us has is the present … to be lived, as far as possible, moment by moment.

I’m finding that difficult right now, because I don’t know how I’m going to pay the rent this month, but let’s face it … worry isn’t going to pay it! I could get hit by the proverbial bus tomorrow. It could be curtains. I may never need to make that rent payment.

I don’t have a death wish right now so let’s work on the premise that I will see the end of the month. I can’t magically erase my money problems but I can boost my ability to deal with them. 

Mindfulness can help. Some find it easy to ‘live in the moment’, others find it more difficult to achieve. It takes practice. Even, as I discovered when I first tried it, just 10 minutes a day can make a difference … lowering stress levels … calming a busy mind … providing much needed breathing space. 

Mindfulness is not a panacea for trauma nor even a cure-all for everyday ills, but, for me at least, the benefits on offer are worth the effort I must put in to my practice. It’s worth noting that it is an effort but not a strain, and that there is a difference. 

And with that, I think I’ve just got myself a mantra of the moment, something to help me to curb the hyper-drive tendency and make peace of mind rather more tangible than nebulous. 

Effort Not Strain 

 

Trauma Therapy – Session #1 Friday, 4th November, 2016

This post concerns Trauma Counselling provided by a voluntary sector organisation free of charge via weekly 50 minute telephone sessions (free call) initially for 12 weeks, with the option to extend for up to 12 months. For the purposes of this blog, I’ll refer to my therapist as ‘Pea’.
See this post for a brief round-up of my therapy history. 

therapy

I rang in at 1pm only to hear a message informing me that all counsellors were busy. I should have got straight through to my counsellor at that time. I panicked momentarily, then tried again and got through.

This is my first experience of therapy delivered via the telephone. I would prefer face-to-face sessions because I believe body language is an important part of communication. The only other slight drawback is that my therapist is Italian and has a strong accent, which sometimes leads to misunderstandings on my part. I need to learn to be assertive and it will do me good to learn to ask her to repeat herself. I currently find this excruciating to do. Drawbacks aside, this is what is available to me right now and I am very much in need of therapy and so grateful to have it. On the plus side, as a #spoonie, if I am unwell I need go no further than my own phone and could have a session in my pyjamas if necessary!

I had missed my session the previous week, which should have been my first, as I was in crisis and feeling beyond help. Pea explained that while some of my previous therapists had asserted that they were in no way a ‘crisis service’, she has no such qualms. She said,
“My intention is to meet people where they are.”
I found this statement encouraging and scribbled it down into my bullet journal (I’m a recent convert) in order that I could remind myself of it.

I don’t remember quite how we got there but we moved on to speaking about my sense of my life having always been built on quicksand, and how that fuels my natural drive turbo-changing it to top speed. She commented that I was speaking quickly. I explained that I hadn’t been aware of that but that I felt my speech reflected my racing thoughts. I feel such pressure to change things, to do so much to improve my situation, to fully recover and thrive, and put firm foundations in place. I feel so overwhelmed by it all and so alone with it. I’m tired of always battling so very hard. However, the fear of being swallowed up by the quicksand ensures I remain hyper-vigilant and in ‘hyper-drive’!

Pea asked if I would like to try to put some foundations in place there and then. I readily agreed. She proceeded to lead me gently through what I immediately recognised to be a guided meditation/mindfulness exercise (See Take10 for free here to try a similar exercise for yourself). I was to concentrate on my body and its relationship with the chair on which I sat and, particularly, my feet on my wooden floor. Pea asked if I could feel the firm foundation beneath my feet. I thought yes and said so, but I also immediately felt a rapid fire thought – with the power of an immense wave – that, because my flat is rented, I could lose it at any time …

big-wave-surfing-1

I persisted and ultimately, by keeping my focus on the moment … myself sitting on my chair … my feet, I was able to slow my breathing and my thoughts. The new thoughts that came felt like light clouds gently drifting by … I found myself thinking that yes I could feel that firm foundation, that solid foundation beneath my feet. Furthermore, that while I acknowledged that I have little money, do not own my home and there is a sense of insecurity in that, that right now in this moment it is my home and it is secure … and this moment is all that any of us have.

light-clouds-drifting

I’ve previously found mindfulness to be very beneficial but I’ve struggled to maintain consistent practice. I’m taking steps to change that.

This was the first time I’d felt at all able to shed the forever sense of peril due to the quicksand. I couldn’t believe that I could so quickly feel a sense of firm foundations! I said ‘Wow’ … and felt it. I also felt a sense of peace – which has hitherto been as scarce as hen’s teeth in my life.

Pea asked if I might like to take a piece of paper and draw something to represent that peace as we continued to chat. I already had pen and paper in front of me (they’re ever present). She also suggested using some colour and I (a very arty sort) instantly reached for fat crayons. What fun! I drew the word peace and shafts of yellow and orange light radiating from it while light clouds drifted by.

Soon Pea remarked on the time and we discussed how we would draw the session to a close and then did so. I felt that the 50 minutes had whizzed by but I also felt that we had connected well and that our first session had been both productive and valuable.

Much as last week, I have no idea where we will begin next session. There still seems to me to be so much to tackle and I can struggle to prioritise it. However, I shall aim not to worry about it, remain ‘in the moment’ and trust that it will come together as it did last week.

 

 

Operation Fight Back: Day 8 – Part 2

I’m listening to, and really enjoying, tracks by the Brazilian singer and composer Caetano Veloso after receiving a recommendation from a friend yesterday.

I’m doing OK today. I’m not dancing on the ceiling but my mood is nice and steady. In the terms of the mood app that I’m trialling at the moment, today began at less than OK (OK-), with the help of my routine and strenuous efforts to stay in the moment it quickly progressed to better than OK (OK+) before settling at pretty good. I certainly felt pretty good yesterday and I’m feeling pretty bloody marvellous to have progressed from being actively suicidal (actively in this case meaning making plans) to feeling pretty good in seven days, by way of mindfulness, exercise and a strict routine. That’s not to say that anyone who is experiencing suicidal feelings can ‘just turn it around’. If you’re not familiar with what it is to be suicidal then I’d ask that you please do not run away with that idea. I’ve been dealing mental and physical health problems and recovering from the effects of abuse for many years. I’ve learned a huge amount along the way and I’ve been lucky enough to have been able to apply a lot of it this week. That is gratifying, but doing so is also exceedingly hard work. It is, in my view and that of many others I’ve spoken to, a battle to recover.

Today’s treadmill stats: 12mins 35 = 10mins run (I upped the tread speed another notch today) 0.68 distance and 63.1cals. I enjoyed it today too.

Today’s further aims:

  • Make a vegetarian stew & this paté – except I’ll be using butternut squash instead of sweet potato – both variants are lovely!
  • Write a letter which cannot be put off any longer!
  • Give myself a manicure and pedicure
  • Take out the bins
  • Some further writing and/or creative journaling
  • Continue to build on yesterday’s eating really well achievement!

 

Operation Fight Back: Day 8 – Part 1

I had a really good day yesterday. I was productive, active and communicative 🙂 .

I remembered that when I woke late this morning feeling wretched after another disturbed night. I’m going to keep remembering it AND the fact the ‘staying in the moment’ really helps me, as I plough through my morning routine. It’s 10.22am, 135 reps and treadmill here I come!

 

Operation Fight Back: Day 7

The last 24 hours or so have, I think, been my most challenging since Operation Fight Back began.

I’m still sleeping badly and that’s making things difficult. I’ve woken each day feeling progressively more awful as the week has worn on. I’m tired of nightmares and waking feeling wretched. Despite that I’ve stuck to my O-F-B routine; it feels like a lifeline… an anchor, a tether to the right side of the tracks.

Getting through my exercises yesterday and this morning was hard. I find the treadmill easier than 30 reps of each of four exercises and as many as I can manage of the fifth, only attempted for the first time this week; today I managed 15.

Today’s treadmill stats: 12 mins 32 including 10 minute run = 0.65 distance and 60.5 cals.

I ate badly yesterday, not ‘bad’ stuff just too much. Tiredness leaves me at risk of overeating.

Today’s main further aim is to get out. I need some groceries. I’m also supposed to be meeting someone for coffee later, I’m just waiting for confirmation. I know it will be restorative.

Other aims for the rest of the day: Write an email and a letter (both have been on my list for three days, both are pretty important), clean the bathroom and cook something for dinner.

I have many scribbled notes in my notebook for potential blog posts. I hope soon to make the time to write them.

Operation Fight Back: Day 5

Day 5 … already?

I ran (gently jogged!) on my treadmill for a whole 10 minutes this morning with a cry of ‘yessss’ upon completion :-D. I upped the speed a little too meaning I went further, faster. Today’s stats: 12mins 37, 0.64 distance and 60.6 cals. I aim to stay with a ten minute daily run for some weeks and will resist the temptation to keep pushing to improve every day. I’d like to be running for 20 minutes every day by the end of this year. That seems like a sensible and healthy goal.

I woke at 9.35am this morning feeling pretty rubbish. I got to sleep quickly last night which is progress but still found myself waking during the night variously due to a night sweat, nightmares and pain. I immediately felt disappointed this morning that I hadn’t got up by 9am this morning as on every other day this week. I determined to put that thought aside, focus on being in the blithering moment and plough on through my morning routine! Loo, medication, dress in exercise gear, clean teeth, ‘wake up the house’ (make bed, open blinds etc), physio exercises and treadmill, breakfast, blog and so on.

I’m off to breakfast and shower now but will blog more later.

Operation Fight Back: Day 4

I can’t quite believe that I’ve just completed my fourth consecutive run … well it’s a jog really but run sounds so good :-D.

Today’s treadmill stats:

12mins 39 = 2mins brisk walk, 9mins jog, 1min brisk walk – 0.62 distance and 58.8cals

*

Reading this headline on my phone this morning I gave an exclamatory “YES”. Reading a comment on a similar article which suggested that no-one is’ trapped’ into domestic abuse but chooses be there was less positive 😦 .

I’ll come back to the headline in a later post.

*

I had such a LOVELY time yesterday meeting two friends of mine, who hadn’t previously met each other, for coffee. It’s so wonderful to have friendship in my life again; exploring the delights … and the many challenges it presents me, warrants a separate post.

Today’s further aims:

  • Get out again – this time to resume voluntary work
  • Complete an application form
  • Make appt. to see doctor
  • Write and post a thank you note

I didn’t sleep well again last night due to in part to pain but mostly nightmares. I’m pleased I still managed to get up at 9am. I focused on staying in the moment and only the immediate task in hand – go to the loo, take medication, dress in exercise clothing, clean teeth, do physio exercises, drink water, get onto treadmill, blog, breakfast and so on step by step by step. Thinking not that I feel terrible and that I’m worried I won’t be able to get out later or that I’m frightened by ongoing health concerns or whatever. Instead thinking of what I can do/am doing right now and that I am OK in each moment.