Soxtober

Robot Brain

The Red Sox beat the Yankees in a one game play-off. I’m not sure if that has ever happened. I was surprised my mom stayed up until midnight to watch it. She usually doesn’t make it that long. I fell asleep shortly after. I woke up again at 2:20. I’m not sure what I did after that. There is nothing on television, I think I pretended it was a regular day. Cooked some lentils, had an apple and orange. I had to do everything in the mirror since I sliced my thumb this weekend. The only thing I can’t do backwards is scissors and my thumb won’t fit through the whole with the bandage on it. I use scissors all day.

I think I added to my gratitude list Is started about a month ago. It’s something I always thought would be a waste of time; I can remember what makes me happy. But I think everything is a waste of time. But it does help a lot to see it typed out. A few times I read it and I don’t believe it but not often. I realized I hadn’t written anything on it for 7 days. I added a good one. At the beginning of the summer I was trying to counter my automatic negative thoughts. I was trying to do that in my head also. It wasn’t working so well. This morning I wanted it to be absolutely believable. I had 7 or 8 items. I thought it was a pretty good start.

It was still early and I was still hungry. I googled breakfast places near me. Fucking Panera? There is nowhere within walking distance. Okay, what do I eat at Panera. They had a few good looking sandwiches on their menu. Except for the Avacado and eggwhite. I took a walk. I’m an old man. I’ll fit right in.

I walked in and it was me and the girl who worked there. She was about ten feet away from me fucking with a loaf of bread and just staring at me. I”m like, is she allowed to talk to customers? She made it over to the register and asked what I wanted. I said, a coffee and whatever you think is the best breakfast sandwich. She told me she doesn’t eat breakfast. Fucking troll… I was only being friendly. I even would have eaten the egg white if that is what she said. Waste of time. I ate, went home and eventually fell asleep.

I woke up confused but figured out it was time for a meditation with the Community Meditation Project. The subject was “gratitude”, another coincidence. People told their stories, big things, little things. I even said I was very excited to have water coming out of a tap in my kitchen. We wasted an hour.

I can’t remember what I did all afternoon. I was getting discouraged. Looking for a book that would help me but not be a “self-help” book if that makes any sense. It didn’t work. I decided to narrow down my positive list to 5 items because 2 didn’t really fit on there. Then I just didn’t believe any of them. I had a qualifier for every statement. Now I remember! I went for another walk to Panera and got a coffee. Only $3. I can’t afford to buy lunch everytime. Still a waste. I threw half my coffee in the trash.

I just wanted to give up on everything. I had no will to do anything. I went on youtube and searched motivation meditation. Maybe turn my head around. A couple rotted. But one sounded okay. But I guessed wrong. The woman was telling me to focus on my worst memory but in some kind of meditation way. Now I”m really fucking depressed but it won’t last much longer and I think she is going wrap it up with something uplifting. Something about Self Care and Self Compassion. Two things I don’t have right now. I looked it up and it made sense. I just couldn’t fathom it.

I still wanted to give up. There was another CMP meditation at 7 but I didn’t want to be crying when I logged on. I cleaned myself up. This one was focused on “Emotions”. WTF? I couldn’t do it at all. My emotions were, I started this summer losing fucking everyone I knew but I still had a good attitude and thought I had a good plan to create something new in the outside world. Then I really stepped in a huge pile of shit. Now winter is less than a month away and I’m going to be stuck inside still living my life online. I thought I panicked on August 1st, now it’s fucking October.

I was enthusiastic this morning. Now I want to go to bed and not wake up. The few other people online had a quick little talk about how good they felt after the meditation. I said, I don’t want to bring everyone down but that sucked for me. But then everyone started talking to me. I don’t go to them for their meditations. I go because they are the only people who are friendly. The org. is professional but a lot of the time is spent talking. I guess it’s what I”m doing because my friggin’ health center still won’t give me a therapist. They were trying to tell me meditation isn’t about solving your problems. I know that. I do it on my own and I usually get something out of it. It was just the whole fucking day. Even if it could solve my problems, it wouldn’t, I couldn’t even begin doing it. I almost bailed early.

Now what do I do? It’s 9:30. I don’t care about the Dodgers. I’m still in a shitty mood. Writing is still my best outlet. Do you all want me to keep going on for 3 more hours? I don’t.

You Get Me Closer to God

“You can have my isolation
You can have the hate that it brings
You can have my absence of faith
You can have my everything”

“Closer” Nine Inch Nails

What a long couple of fucking days! It feels like forever since I saw my daughter and that was noon yesterday (Saturday). She is fabulous. She finally realized Panera sucks too. She wanted to go but said it was like she remembered before the shutdown.

I’m not sure if I’m happy about downloading Zoom. I can’t handle the rejection. I don’t mean dating site rejection or I was hitting on someone. I mean being rejected as a human. I’ve been putting pressure on myself feeling winter coming on and I can’t go too far anyway. I’m going to be spending a lot more time indoors. They have an inordinate amount of online meditation groups on meetup .com. I think they are pigeon holing me now that I attended one because that is all that shows in my searches. I did a couple yesterday and the people were nice. I didn’t tell them I thought it was kinda fucking weird how all these WASP’s from New England became devout Buddhists. I kept myself to a minimum talking. Said I’ve been doing meditation on my own and I’m just trying new things to see what works for me. I didn’t follow the whole way through but when she asked how I liked it I said good, thanks.

About 10:30pm last night I got an email from the head of the group saying it was nice to meet me, something getting the rooms back or Idk? Then she said they are having a meeting on WhatsApp and if I wanted to join she could send me an invite. I thought it was weird, I hadn’t heard of meetings on WhatsApp and I don’t have it. I looked to put it on my iPad and it’s not available. Only for phones. I searched why and saw something about going over cell data limit and thought I don’t want that. I was busy trying to do 3 things at once and mailed her back, nice meeting you too, not sure about whatsapp… something, something. Then I realized, duh! People use WhatsApp cause it is free over wifi. I wrote back, Sorry, I was confused. I’d like to join. Still haven’t heard back. What was she doing up at 11pm on Saturday? Was she asking for my number? Am I an idiot?

One of the things I was busy doing was listening to an Online SMART meeting. I’m not sure how wise that was with how Zoom handles your data. But I am well documented as an alcoholic so who cares, I guess. The reason I was doing that was because all day while I was looking for anything to do online, it kept popping into my head to go join one of these groups at a bar. I wasn’t going to do it but I saw one group for hiking, canoeing and kayaking which I’m not running out the door to do but the meeting they announced was, “Happy Hour! at (whatever bar). WTF? All weekend I’m seeking out people I assume aren’t drinking. Why do I keep thinking I want to drink?

I don’t have anyone I trust to talk about it and I know a tiny bit about smart. I looked up their schedule clicked to join a meeting. Oh no. You have to register first. No personal info but it was a lot and the site is super uptight. It took me 4 tries. First my passwords didn’t match, I typed lemon but it was actually a picture of an Orange? I didn’t check the box to agree to terms. That happened twice but no because I was very careful to check the 2nd time. No big deal they say hit the back button to correct it. Oh no. You go back and all your info is gone and you have to start over. I’m really going to get drunk now. I got it done.

I start listening and thinking, fuck, this is just like AA. They have there special sayings and acronyms. They swear theirs is the only program that works. They even did the same thing. One guy is talking and says, “unlike another program with 2 letters that I won’t mention by name.” You just spelled it out asshole! Who cares how someone does it? If it works for them and they aren’t drinking, leave them the fuck alone. Listening to people’s horror stories makes me want to drink. But I did like when people went on about their past, the facilitators would let them do it but quickly change the subject to what they are doing right now to change and what they can do in the future. That was a bonus. It last an hour and a half. I stayed but I was doing other shit on the computer.

One good thing I saw was a graphic set up like a flow chart, Are you happy?>Yes>Then keep doing whatever you are doing… >No?>Do you want to be happy?>Yes>Change something… >No>Then keep doing whatever you are doing.

I didn’t sleep and Saturday night is not a good night to stay awake. Nothing for me to do. Maybe a little. Finally morning comes and I look to find another online meditation. Really? They are all fucking whacked. I don’t do it because I think it’s going to raise vibration. I can listen to almost any meditation on YouTube. Most of the time I don’t pay attention to what they are saying. It’s all about staying still and regulating my breath. The only reason I’m trying to find all this shit online is because I do it all day anyway, I might as well find other people who like to do it. Which is funny because when I joined the site I was trying to get offline.

The whole day was a mess. I got depressed and the more I tried the worse I got. I had already put a couple things on my gratitude list. I haven’t been going overboard with it. I only repeat something if there is specifically something different about it. Usually, I can read through it real quick and I actually have a lot to be happy about. Today I went to it and I couldn’t make myself believe any of it. This is wrong. Still nothing online. Fuck it there was another meeting. It was better in the morning. One of the guys had a lot of good answers for people who were struggling. The best thing I heard was when people started talking about treating that voice in your head that tells you to use like the enemy. A young guy said he had a problem with that. He said, that voice telling me to drink is my voice. I have to show it some compassion. Otherwise I’m just hating myself. So that was worth it. I’m always trashing myself when my brain makes a quick plan on how to drink. But that’s my brain. That’s me. I’m the one that wants to drink. I can’t bash myself all day, it will just make me feel worse and want to drink more.

Finally football but I also set my alarm for another meditation group in the afternoon. I didn’t think I would like it because it was about bathing yourself in a golden light. But same thing. If it’s working for them, I don’t care what they say. Good thing I did it. I was surprised because I usually have to wait for the group to begin but as soon as I logged on I saw the woman on video. She looked the part, older with grey hair to her shoulders, (not sure why she looked the part?) and she didn’t notice I was on so I didn’t know if I should say anything. She saw me and it was just the 2 of us. She asked me where I was from and why I was there. I told her I’ve been meditating on my own and I am just looking around for something that works for me. I think 7 people showed up. One woman had been doing it for 5 years.

Before she started she asked everyone to intro and why they were there. I said why and added I had to meditate before I started the meeting because my mind is flying, that is how much I need to meditate. My favorite person was this guy my age, Sitting on the dock on Alton Bay in NH. My state. He said, he does it because it is the only thing that gets him out of his head. I wanted to say, fuckin right, that’s me! Her favorite was a woman originally from Nepal of course. Which was funny because when the woman asked if we had any questions the woman from Nepal asked, why is it a golden light and not some other color? She stumped her! Ha ha. she started rambling. I did get a little pissed because there was a woman, probably 80, lying on her side in bed and I could tell immediately she was very depressed. She said she was there to calm down her mind and she had to pray to get closer to god. That’s not why I got pissed. The woman told her she couldn’t lie down and meditate. Sit upright, spine straight, etc… That’s bullshit! I’ve listened to meditations say, sit in a chair, lie on a flat surface, whatever, I don’t listen to them. I just do the meditation wherever I am comfortable. You can stand on your head if you want. It still helps. How does she know the poor old woman was capable of sitting up? Whatever. I will probably do that one again because it was the only one you got to know a little about the other people there. That’s the whole point of Meetup, right?

Believe it or not, I did another one! Only because it was called breathwork. I thought finally just normal meditation. Oh no. It was 2 women from Australia and me. I think I was the first new person but it was audio only. It was weird. 2 quick bursts of breath into your belly and let it out quick. 4 minutes of that and then hold your breath for a full minute. 20 minutes! I didn’t think I could do it but I did. I’m not sure what it was supposed to do. She made a lot of claims on her page. It did keep me from thinking of anything else for 20 minutes.

What do you know? Football, music and writing and I made it to 9:30.

Oh, No! It’s Devo-(lution)

Robot Brain

My mind wasn’t blown to find out my brain seeks out foods that are good for me. My mind is blown that it could be so specific. I know all life on earth evolved to seek out the nutrients they need to stay alive or else they would not be here today. But humans can survive eating any foods available anywhere on the planet. Aleutians thrive on a diet of almost exclusively blubber. So out of the 10, 000 food items available in the grocery store, how the fuck did I unintentionally end up eating a shitload of foods that years later are good for bipolar. Like, was mania so prevalent it was was going to kill off the human race?

Most of the foods I eat make sense. But I eat an abnormally large amount of foods that are good for the brain. Fruits and vegetables, no surprise. But, yeah, I like apples, okay, not my favorite. But once I started eating them regulatory, I’m waking up in the morning and making coffee and before I can finish my first cup, I’m getting all worked up thinking about that apple! And after that the orange. Oranges are okay but I always thought they were a pain in the ass to peel and then your fingers get all sticky. But now I’m thinking, Yeah! Let that juice drip!

Whatever… Reading about that makes sense. What surprised me was lentils. I started eating them because I found they were the most efficient source of protein and fiber. All I’m thinking is protein for muscle. I would never guess they did anything for the brain. I mean, I’ve been fucking eating them every day for years. I can eat anything I want for breakfast. I can walk 1 minute to the store next door and get a big tasty sausage egg sandwich for 2 bucks and love it. But everyday, first thing I do is put on a pot of lentils. I can’t wait for them to get cooked. Let me let you in on a little secret, lentils are pretty fucking gross.

Since I found out about these foods I’ve been eating, I didn’t want to go down the Google rabbit hole. So I’ve been restraining myself from searches. But the few searches I did, lentlis kept popping up. Like what the fuck? Okay, that’s unusual. I never would have guessed. But, you want to hear something really fucked up? I didn’t type anything in for foods or shit or anything. My mind was flying and I did a search, “slow down brain activity”. Up comes GABA. Okay, heard of it. I don’t know much about it. I read about it, it makes sense. I’m not going to buy every supplement on the shelf when I don’t know what is in it or what it does. Obviously, given recent discoveries, I was curious. I typed in, “natural ways to increase GABA”. Fucking lentils!

You think that’s fucked up? That’s not even the fucked up part. A few months ago when I started getting super manic, I don’t remember making a conscious decision, but I thought I’ll put some red lentils in my chili. A fucking pound! I know I don’t need more protein. I know I don’t need more fiber. I’ve been cooking chili for years. I never thought it needed lentils. I’ve never heard of anyone else putting lentils in their chili. Never saw a recipe.

I still have no idea why I did it. I didn’t think twice about it until now. Yeah, I like to cook but part of my cooking philosophy is to make it as easy as possible. So why did I go from putting the chili on the burner, setting the timer and sitting down until it was done. Now I have to get up, Add water, add lentils, stand there and stir it so they don’t stick to the bottom. Doesn’t change the flavor. But I’m all excited, this is the best chili I’ve ever had! I’m eating 5 pounds of fucking lentils a month! What the fuck is going on? That’s not even close to normal!

Another way to increase GABA in your brain is diaphragm breathing. I accidentally found out about it but I’ve been doing it for about the same amount of time. I’m telling you it works! I’ve had all these fucking therapists talk about mindfulness, mindfulness, mindfulness, What the fuck are they talking about? I don’t know what that word means. My last therapist; any problem I had, she said, “Just stay in the moment”. I’d say, What if the moment sucks so much you would do anything to get out of the moment? Crickets.

I used to do the meditation like they said but it only worked while I was doing it. As soon as I stopped, my anxiety came back. I’m doing meditations for an hour, like wtf? I’m here on the floor. Half the fucking time, I’m thinking, all this mystical shit is bullshit. After fucking years, I find diaphragm breathing and it works! I look into it. It’s no fucking secret. It’s no fucking mysticism . It’s fucking science! It’s fucking evolution. When it is safe to lie down and breathe deeply it turns on your para sympathetic nervous system and it is time to relax and go to sleep. It’s not fucking fairy tale shit. It’s measurable. You start doing it, your heart rate slows down (measurable) blood pressure drops (measurable) brain slows down (measurable).

I’m fucking pissed! Nobody fucking clued me in? This fucking simple fucking thing? Like right now, I’m super fucking manic but I know all I gotta do it go lie down and belly breathe for ten minutes and I’ll be sleeping. All my fucking life I can’t fucking sleep, I’m fucking running around 24/7 for weeks, they giving me more and more meds. Fucking ambien? I’ll be caught dead before I try that again!

Oh shit, this guy has to lie down and breathe 4 times a day. Let’s put him in the hospital!

Mindlessness

Robot Brain

A week ago I was the happiest I have ever been in my life seeing my daughter get her license. I was so happy for her I actually started crying. I’m not sure if that has ever happened before. She is like a different person. She is so much more confident. I don’t just mean driving. I mean everything. Her whole approach to life seems to have changed.

I’m still happy for her but something changed for me. My anxiety suddenly went almost completely out of control. It hadn’t been much of a problem for the couple of months while I was freaking out about the akathisia. I was completely stressed out but that is not the same kind of anxiety I take medication to help.

I’m not sure what is going on now. Maybe it is a bounce back. Medication isn’t very effective for me anymore. I do best when I can lie down and get my breathing under control and catch my mind when it starts tripping on things they teach about in CBT.

What I have the most trouble with is imaginary anxiety. My mind comes up with impossible scenarios and adds to them and I am certain that is what will happen. I’m been doing this since last week and driving myself crazy. The more I try to calm myself down and tell myself I am being ridiculous, the more worked up I get. My anxiety mind has a seemingly plausible argument for everything I say.

The weather hasn’t been the best this summer but Thursday was a perfect day and I forced myself to go for a bike ride. I went for 2 and a half hours and it was fantastic but my mind still wouldn’t quit. I was calmer when I got home though. Saturday was the exact same weather. Even though my daughter just got her license I told her I wanted to bike to her house and meet her. I knew I needed to burn off something before I got there. I was surprised she didn’t want to drive somewhere. The whole time my mind and my stomach were churning and I felt like I was trying my best just to act “normal.” I’m glad I went though.

Yesterday I couldn’t stop ruminating and keeping myself on the edge of panic. Finally about 9pm I tried a guided body scan meditation. I set my sights high and chose a 40 minute session. I really didn’t think I would last 5 minutes but I did the whole thing and didn’t want it to end. Anxiety was still high but settled down to a simmer. I liked it but I can’t just lie there listening 24/7. I was able to fall asleep for a few hours and I realized a mistake I had been making. Usually I would jump out of bed and it would be a new day. I forced myself to stay there and slept a couple more, woke up, rolled over, slept a couple more. My mind never stopped working but at least it was some rest.

My cat knows when I am in trouble. The whole night he stayed close enough to be touching. When I rolled over he would move to my front side and just lie there. I would keep one hand in contact with him and that is how I made it through the night. I didn’t add up the hours but it was much more sleep than I’ve had in a long time.

Once I had a therapist tell me to do the opposite of what I wanted. I didn’t know what the hell she meant but it makes sense now. I didn’t want to leave the house and go on bicycle tours but I felt better when I made myself do it. Today, the last thing I wanted to do was sit here at the computer and write this but it’s helping. Just the thought of getting on the internet has been triggering me. But again, I can’t type all day.

Meditation by Distraction

Rubic's cube

I stumbled upon this technique after my weight ballooned to over 260lbs. I ignored the warning on my medication that listed weight gain as the main side effect. Instead I went to the gym. I didn’t really know what to do at the gym since I had been naturally athletic my whole life before I started taking meds. I knew walking was a good form of exercise so I started with the treadmill. That is where I accidentally found my kind of mindfulness meditation. My therapist had been trying to get me into mindfulness but I couldn’t grasp the concept. My brain was too chaotic.

Here is how it happened. I set the treadmill at a faster than normal walking speed with a slight incline and doing that caused me to exert myself to the point of sweating my balls off. Even though the gym had air conditioning. I also had to concentrate on walking fast enough so I wouldn’t slide off the end of the treadmill. While I was doing that I listened to my favorite playlist with earphones in at a pretty good volume. In front of me were 10 televisions suspended from the ceiling in a row. They were all muted with subtitles and I would pick a channel to read. Along with all this were the other people working out. I didn’t like that there was only one other fat guy there in the pretty large gym. A lot of people seemed to go there to socialize. They didn’t need to work out, they were in perfect shape. But it was good eye candy for during the television commercials.

With all the above happening at the same time, I would get into a zone. There was so much external noise it took away the noise in my head. It seems unorthodox but with the treadmill in the back of the room and all the action going on inside my body and directly in front of me, I could really focus. I would do the treadmill for about 45 minutes then switch to the weight machines. I did light weights but concentrated on the muscle movements and the music. It usually took me about 45 minutes to do all the machines I liked. Then it was back to the treadmill and another 45 minutes of pure distraction. I forgot to mention that during this gym phase I was manic so I never got tired. Lucky me.

After the gym I would drive home and I could enjoy about 3 hours of peace. I was calm enough to eat lunch and sit still on the couch. I didn’t know I was practicing mindfulness at the time (I did associate it with a kind of Zen) but it was the only time in my life that any form of meditation worked for me.

I enjoyed all this for about 6 months until I had to move and could no longer get to a gym. At least not the cheap one at $10 a month. I was still manic and still felt the urge to keep moving. Luckily I had a bicycle to burn off some excess energy. It wasn’t until I started doing long 2 hour bike trips that I discovered it was happening again. I would get a respite from the voices and be calm enough to take care of myself for a few hours.

Biking is different than the treadmill but I have a lot of the same methods; just different distractions. I have to concentrate on my leg muscles propelling me forward, keeping the bike upright and avoiding cars. I live near the seacoast so there is a lot of wind to struggle against. Because of all the traffic in my area I don’t dare to wear earphones but I have a constant earworm repeating in my head. This is all enough to give me the distraction I need.

I could never do the traditional forms of meditation where you focus inward. It caused intense anxiety and made everything in my brain worse. Now that I am no longer manic and slightly on the depressed side, I only ride about once a week to my daughter’s house. But that is a 2 hour round trip and I get the extra external stimulus of talking to people and the happiness of being around my daughter. These days are markedly different than my usual routine of just sitting around the house. After a day of riding I find I need less of my anxiety medication as my mood is naturally lifted.

Writing this with music or television in the background is another form of mindfulness I practice while I am stuck at home. It only works in the moment and doesn’t give me a lasting effect. I need a lot of external distractions to get me into the zone. It seems like it doesn’t make any sense. Everything I’ve been taught about meditation has been about being quiet and focusing inward. I don’t know why but I never get a better natural calm than I do after these exercises.

If this wasn’t long enough for you, I found another blog post from Amy with The Bridge that explains it better than I do.

Mindfulness

I can’t meditate for shit. Most times I’ve been hospitalized, they start the day in group with a meditation. The first thing they say is to concentrate on your breathing. That’s when my anxiety starts. Am I breathing too fast? Am I breathing too slow? Why am I holding my breath? Am I going to suffocate? I know you can’t hold your breath until you die, that is just one of my irrational fears. That is the point where I have to get up and leave the room.

The only time I had success with one of these meditations was a long time ago. It was different. The nurse leading did a guided mental imagery meditation. She didn’t mention breathing. She just told us to close our eyes and imagine the scenes as she described them. I tried but couldn’t follow, so I opened my eyes and that was when it started. The room looked like a giant fish tank. The other members of the group were still there but there were large, colorful fish swimming through the air, even though she was saying nothing about fish. I had an incredible sense of calm and peacefulness. After it was over I found the nurse to describe what happened. She said she was glad it helped but she didn’t seem to want to listen. She just thought I was another crazy person in the ward. I was.

I never tried again for years until my therapist gave me a link to the M.I.T. website. On there I found a guided body scan meditation I tried it because it was the shortest one. About 20 minutes. In it, a woman tells you to focus on your foot and then guides you through different parts of your body. I can’t concentrate so I would keep losing it and coming back to it 5 minutes later, realizing I had skipped whole sections of my body. That worked to calm me down a little but nothing like the experience of being in an aquarium.

You can search for “guided meditation” or “guided body scan” on YouTube and find tons of them. I tried out a lot and eventually got to where I could sit still and listen for about an hour. Still didn’t compare to my one good time but it did help a little with anxiety. I have never tried the apps for your phone but I can’t imagine they are much better. I recommend searching online where there are millions of them for free.

I did have one strange experience for about a week. I was interested in finding out what Tai Chi was all about. Again I searched YouTube and found a video that looked interesting. I had trouble following the motions but I really liked the calming music that went along with it. I’m not sure how I came up with the idea but I started doing my own version of Tai Chi. Whenever I was alone in my apartment, I would put on the music and move very slowly and deliberately every time I got up from my chair. Everything I did was like a Tai Chi pose. Walking to the kitchen to fill my water bottle, retrieving something from my bedroom, even a trip to the bathroom. Everything I did was done slowly with purpose. After a week my body was sore like I had overdone it at the gym but it did help to calm my mind. But after a week I couldn’t do it again. I’ve tried several times but I guess I don’t have the same discipline.

That is my experience with meditation. All the times it worked, at least. Most times I have to give up after the first few minutes because of the intense anxiety. If anyone has any suggestions I am open. With one caveat. I am not into anything new age or spiritual or having to do with chakras. I’ve also tried white noises like bubbling brooks or rain falling but those kinds of noises cause me to hear voices and it’s not very pleasant.