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Paramedic Nat

A Blog About My Mental Health Journey

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Mindfulness and Valentine’s Day

pink-heart-hi

Valentine’s Day…Blah! A day I’ve never been too fond of anyway has involved me finishing ‘Confessions of a Shopaholic’ at home in my pajamas with my Valentine (dog) Walter, (he totally forgot to get me flowers…but whatever, he would have eaten them anyway), drinking copious amounts of coffee and taking cold FX to hopefully ward off my sore throat…how romantic. But as this silly day of love has gone by, I’ve been very conscious not to let my emotional mind start to take over for fear of heartbreak rearing it’s ugly head 10 fold. And by being so conscious of this, I have also been thinking a lot about how important mindfulness is to recovery, and also how a day of mindlessness is equally as important when needed for sanity.

Last week in save my life grad school we discussed the topic of mindfulness quite a lot. Simply put, mindfulness is awareness in the moment, in the here-and-now. It involves being aware of what we’re doing and what we’re thinking about doing. This is a skill many people implement instinctively when they are in an upsetting situation, but not I. One of my biggest problems in the past is doing before thinking, especially while I’m in an upsetting situation. In fact, in the past when I was upset my emotional mind would tell me that the only way to feel better and to calm the demons in my head was to drink, A LOT. I used to never ‘play the tape to the end’ and be mindful of the consequences of my actions. All that mattered at that moment was getting rid of the gross feeling in the pit of my stomach or of the memories that kept me awake at night. So with today being Valentine’s Day and my heart still only partially healed, the old Natalie would have used this day’s sadness as the perfect opportunity to numb! But on February 14th, 2015, I am proud to say that the only numbness I’ve felt today is when my nose was about to fall off while walking Walter outside in what feels like winter in the Yukon Territories.

A common theme I have noticed with mental health therapies is balance. A healthy life involves taking a little from column A and mixing it with column B. (At the beginning of my recovery I called this balance, ‘confusing contradictions’). For example, while in recovery it’s very important not to isolate, BUT, it’s equally as important to take time to meditate on your own. Confession time: Us Homewood U student’s quickly learned that the secret to being able to take a nap, was to say that we were ‘meditating’. Another secret was that if you wanted chocolate milk you’d better be early for lunch because it was gone faster than a parking spot on Christmas eve…but I digress. Another example of this ‘balance’ is when we are told to practice mindfulness, BUT, to also keep ourselves occupied every day so that we don’t just sit and let our minds ruminate. Can you see how life school can be a bit confusing at times? No wonder I study every day. So on days like today a little mixture of mindfulness and mindlessness may be the perfect balance for this girl. I’m mindful that I need to keep my emotions in check, but I’m mindless enough to forget to put deodorant on. Too much information?…oh well, I’m WAY past that point anyway 😉

I’ve been mindful that I’ve been quite sad at times today, and a bit lonely. I couldn’t help but think about the good times Ian and I had and how nice it was when we first started dating. It’s difficult on Cupid’s Day to not think about the flowers he would bring me home, or the first time he told me he loved me, but I didn’t beat myself up over thinking about it. I reminded myself that the feelings I had today are normal, and that I am human. In the past, these thoughts would turn into emotions that would kick-start the perfect negative self-defeating cycle of rumination and self-pity…I was a pro at it! If I was heartbroken a year ago pre-life school, I would have been a blubbering mess. I don’t even want to think about the drunk texts I would have sent! But overall I’m super proud of myself. I’ve been managing all of my emotions in a positive way today, and reminding myself that they are only temporary and that I will feel better. I’ve been saying my prayers like I’m suppose to and asking God to keep me on my recovery path and to trust that he still has good plans for my heart. And even though I honestly was not up for a meeting tonight, I was mindful that not going is typical relapse behaviour and I got my butt out that door!

So if ‘mindfulness’ is Column A, in order to keep mental health balance today, I’ve also added a little of Column B – mindlessness. Way more fun! I’m equally as proud to say that I’ve mindlessly eaten what feels like 457 of Caroline’s Valentine’s Day chocolates, had 2 naps, ate cinnamon buns for breakfast, lunch and dinner, snuggled Walter when needed, and sang in the car louder than usual on the way to my AA meeting. BAM! How’s THAT for balance?!

So as my Valentine’s day is drawing to an end, I will mindfully remind myself that the love I have in my life is immense. There’s no need to numb, or be sad. And that even though Ian and I are apart, his love taught me more than words can say. And above all, I now have love for life every day, not just on February 14th.

Snowy Fairytale Dreaming

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Yesterday was an interesting Saturday filled with different weather, different worlds, and different ways of thinking. In the morning I woke up to the first snowfall of the year. Beautiful, soft, fluffy pieces of snow fell outside of AB’s window. And even though I’m not a fan of winter, the first snowfall is always something I look forward to…it’s sort of, magical. Wanting to experience it all, Magyver and I bundled up and went for a ‘coffee-hunt walk’ (AB doesn’t drink hot beverages so her house is coffleeless…I know, she’s nuts) and found a surprisingly good cup at the Hasty Mart…go figure. (Let’s keep in mind I was also desperate, so I could have drank ground coffee beans and I most likely would have thought it was delicious).

AB and I are addicted to the series ‘Once Upon a Time’, so after I returned with my java, we snuggled up on the couch and started a fairly substantial marathon. “When was the last time you had a day where you just relaxed and did nothing but stay comfy and watch TV?” she inquired. “Hmmmm….I’m not sure. I guess I usually have some sort of errand or cleaning to get done every day. Why?” I answered. “Really? No reason.” She turned her attention back to the TV, and let out a tiny ‘hmmm’ and I could see she was smiling from the side of her face. We then proceeded to allow ourselves to get wrapped in fairy tales like we were wrapped in our toasty blankets, and let the morning disappear as gently as the snow landing on the outside pavement.

Sadly my glorious morning bliss changed with the afternoon weather; dreary rain put me in a dreary mood. I started to feel antsy inside, so I went for another walk with Magyver to get some blood circulating in my legs. But being alone gives me busy head; aka, I tend to over think when I’m not distracting my brain. I appreciated the five episodes of Once Upon a Time distraction heaven, but quiet walks usually equalled loud thoughts for me…so I was prepared. As the ‘busyness’ started, I asked myself, what am I feeling right now?’ as my teachers have taught me to do in these situations. I need to be mindful and in the moment on this rainy walk, and discover what I’m feeling below the surface of the dripping shell of my rain coat? When this question lead to an ache in my heart, I knew the answer right away…I missed Ian. I still see him often because he checks up on me, drives me places, and visits, but it’s a double edged sword…to the heart. (I could throw in a Prince Charming analogy here…which would totally fit…but I’ll reel it in 😉 ) He’s always taken care of me, and didn’t want to leave, but my illness hurt us both and we so desperately need to heal…and now our new necessary distance between each other rips my heart out. I love anticipating seeing him. It makes me happy every time just as much as the first time we went on a date. I’ve never stopped loving him and it makes me sad to still see that look in his eye when he smiles at me. (So bitter sweet.) It’s torturous that in order for me to heal I need to be away from him. So even though the initial happiness I feel is still there every time I see him, I know the pain in my heart will always follow when he leaves…it’s inevitable…just like how the first November snowfall always turns to rain.

Fast forward to the evening. The rain has been taken over by blustery cold wind…and I have busy head again. Lovely. So I go for another walk. The wind snaps at my ears and takes my breath away. I miss the soft winter wonderland of the morning, and I think to myself, It’s funny how things that are wonderful and good can change so quickly into something that’s painful and bad. But just as things can change from good to bad, so too can they change from bad to good…eventually. Eventually my heart won’t ache as much. Eventually Ian and I will be happy again… just not together. Eventually things will settle and just be. So as I walk in the dark windy night, I reminded myself to be patient with me. My heart needs time to heal like anyone’s, and I need to not dwell on the past. So much easier said than done. I wish I had a magic wand like the fairy godmother in our show to fast forward the hands of time. But I bet even magic can’t speed up the healing of a broken heart…

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