Journal Entry January 20, 2013
I watched the sun rise today. Sleep did not come to me, so I lay in bed while the thoughts swirled inside my head. A plethora of thoughts, crowding each other out vying for my attention. Pushing and shoving each other around in a raucous manner that left my head aching. My blood pumping through my veins, seemingly slowed around my brain, throbbing in rhythmic intensity at my temples. What am I going to do now? How will I get through each day without the structure of the program I have grown accustomed to? Will I slide back down to the depths of my being? Again. How will I survive? Who can I look to when I need support? What if the black thoughts envelope me in their suffocating folds, overpowering me for once and for all, bringing an end to my miserable existence? The Beast. What if the Beast wins?
Finally I got up to get ready for this, my last day in the program. It was way to early to even think of getting out of bed, but I couldn’t attempt to fend off the army of thoughts marching about in my head any longer. I knew I had to do something to save my sanity. I went through my morning routine, acutely aware of the fact that less than three weeks ago I didn’t HAVE a morning routine. I should have stopped and celebrated that realization, but instead it left me with a sense of foreboding that hung about me like a heavy brocade curtain. If more than three weeks ago I was still in the depths of despair, where would I be in three weeks to come? Could I evoke the lessons the program promised would save me, and apply them to my real life in the next three weeks? And beyond? All by myself? And the thoughts began to tumble about my brain again, jockeying for a good position within which they could be heard.
At some point during this deluge, I looked out the window and noticed the deep salmon and scarlet brilliance on the horizon. The velvet blue of the night sky was dissipating, and replacing it were waves of rich colour that rolled forward and up, chasing the darkness away. The sun peeked its way out of its hiding spot, bringing with it rose and violet streaks that stretched up to join the clouds. As the sun began to rise, the thoughts in my head were quieted. I watched the splendour of Mother Nature unfolding in breathless silence. Once the sun had risen, I realized that only five weeks ago I would not have been able to appreciate this daily miracle. I would not have been able to get out of bed to see it. With this thought in mind, I finished getting ready and prepared to go to my first group.
The day passed like every other day had since I began the program. In a haze of activity, I moved from one session to the next feeling numb inside. Most of the therapists acknowledged that today was my last day. The responses I heard from other patients were varied. There were those who congratulated me and told me they had enjoyed watching me grow as the long weeks had been passing by. There were also patients who looked at me jealously, not offering wishes of good will. But there eyes spoke volumes to me. And then there were the newer patients who would not look at me at all, drowning in the sorrow in their souls. At the very end of the day, R came up to me and gave me his contact information. Or rather he helped me put WhatsApp on my phone so I could contact him, as he didn’t have a phone number that I could call him at. I was shocked, as R is quite a handsome man and someone I had grown to like very much in our time in the program together. Did R like me too? A faint flicker of hope flashed through my heart, as I accepted the scrap of paper he gave me. On it was a number that held potential for me. I felt a ripple of happiness, as we arranged to meet for coffee in a few days. Happiness. How long has it been since I actually felt that emotion? I almost didn’t recognize it for what it was. But niggling in the back of my head was the thought, what kind of a guy his age doesn’t have a phone? What does that say about him? What does that say about ME that I am even having this thought? Shame on me for being judgemental.
I am at my house now. The messy, cluttered space that is my home. I have finished the last day of the program, and I am standing on the threshold of new possibilities. As I look around the room I catch a reflection of myself in the mirror. I take a good, hard look. Have I really changed? Do I have a chance at a better life, equipped with the tools the program has provided for me? Will I be able to move forward, no matter how timidly I place each foot in front of the other? Is it my time to finally taste success? Will I be able to handle it if it is? And so the thoughts chase each other around my brain again. It’s almost laughable. The predictability of it. I start the day ruminating, and I finish the day ruminating. I look over at my couch. It beckons to me alluringly. It would be so nice to sink down into the comfort of its pillowed seats. But I can’t do it. That would be like taking a gigantic step backwards into my past. No. I am moving ahead. I am going forward into a realm I know little about. I am taking what I have learned and I am heading into my future via a present that invites promise.
January 29, 2017
Well. What a difference a day makes! The end of that passage does not at all mirror the day before’s angst at the prospect of a future without the program. The turnabout of attitude is almost dizzying. I don’t remember what inspired such a change, but the hopefulness in the writing is resounding.
I am still plagued with sleepless nights, sometimes many in succession. But as a person with bi-polar disorder, that fact is not too surprising. When these times occur, I flip between lying in the darkness allowing the thoughts to bombard me, and getting up and doing an activity in the hopes that doing so will keep my thoughts at bay. Unfortunately, my thoughts usually get the better of me no matter what I do. At these times, I try to shut my mind down by concentrating on my breathing. The focus on the regular inhalation and exhalation tends to quiet my thoughts momentarily. More importantly, it relaxes the muscles in my body, and the tension around my shoulders, neck, and head slackens somewhat. As these physical changes are occurring, I imagine a white space filling my head. It is as if I have given myself a blank canvas with which to paint new thoughts. As I don’t trust myself to let my thoughts run wild across the white expanse in case the black thoughts return again, I do repeated affirmations over and over until I am calm and thinking more clearly.
Does it work one hundred percent of the time? I would be lying if I claimed it did. But it settles my brain often enough that it is worthwhile to continue doing. During the moments I am hit full force with an onslaught of hateful thinking, I try and tell myself that time will elapse and these thoughts will eventually disappear. And on the occasions when my safety is at risk, I have places where I can go for help. I have yet to experience a time when I can exchange the abhorrent thoughts for delightful ones, but I believe in my future the ability to do so will become a reality.