Tag Archives: mindfulness

Exceptional

Today has been an exceptional day. Not exceptional in that anything particular has happened. I haven’t won the lottery or landed my dream job (not even sure what that would be tbh). I’ve not done anything particularly exciting or achieved a huge gold star of accomplishment. It was a Monday, it was a non working day and it was a day I spent (mostly) alone. So why exceptional?

Our kitchen floor was being taken up, re-surfaced and prepared for new flooring later in the week. I couldn’t really make any plans so I didn’t. Once the boys went off to school, I settled down to do a 40 minute yoga session. It was tough and my legs ached but it felt really good. I pottered around a little, catching up with blogs and the news. I had an errand to run and because I’d not been able to grab a coffee this morning, I decided to buy a takeout one and head to the park. Weatherwise it was a beautiful day. Sunny and warm. I found a bench and sat with my cuppa and some nuts (don’t ask), watching birds fly about and ducks paddle on the lake. It was an extremely pleasant half an hour.

I managed to clean bathrooms and bedrooms in the afternoon but we still couldn’t go into the kitchen and therefore the garden. I wasn’t sure what to do with myself. I decided once the boys were in and doing homework to go for a long walk alone. I took my earphones and listened to a Brené Brown podcast. It was fascinating. I discovered that in times of anxiety I ‘do’ to avoid feeling and that ‘calm’ needs to be practised. It doesn’t always come naturally but it can be developed. I learnt some great strategies for practicing calm. It was a great feeling to walk, listen and learn.

Since we couldn’t cook due to not having a functioning oven I ordered pizza for the boys and my husband. I rustled something else up for me … still trying to reduce those carbs! We watched a little of the Tour De France. I started to think about work which triggered some anxiety. The outstanding job situation remains unresolved and I have been avoiding addressing it. Instead of allowing the thoughts and feelings to spiral, I decided to try a short yoga session. More of a relaxing one which ended with some really structured deep breathing at the end, whilst lying down with my head on a pillow and my legs wrapped in a blanket. Oh boy, it was bliss. I felt so relaxed on that mat I could’ve stayed there for hours. I didn’t want to get back up. I was so lost in the moment.

So right now it’s just past 9.30pm and I’m in my pyjamas and in bed. I’ve had limited social contact today. The day has instead been one of self learning, self care and (dare I say it) self love. That’s what made it exceptional. I have never before spent a day in this way and it was wonderful.

Claire x

The most social contact I had today!

Resilience

I have been thinking today about sobriety and what it has given me. It can be difficult to hold onto the positives of giving up alcohol as it becomes the norm. In the initial months of becoming sober the fantastic changes I felt inside and huge improvements in my mental health were a daily occurrence and realisation. I spent every day thankful and grateful for all sorts of impacts it had on my life. Better sleep; waking up feeling well; less anxiety; increased self esteem; a feeling of peace; more hours in my day; respect from my teenage boys; less internal and external conflict; less guilt; resilience; more focus; improved memory; better self control; and so on and so on.

The list is endless and is all a direct result of removing alcohol from my life. Awareness of these changes and positives fades as they become part of the status quo. Surely I was always this resilient? I never had problems with self esteem and setting boundaries did I? Calm and peace is not new is it? Nope I wasn’t, yes I did and yes it is. Personally I think it’s really, really important, as we clock up the sober days, months and then eventually years, to remind ourselves about the reality of what life was like BS (before sobriety).

BS, I was fragile and vulnerable. I was teetering on the edge, in a constant state of ‘fight or flight’. The slightest issue, event or comment could send me over that edge, into conflict or despair. I had absolutely zero resilience. Zilch, nada, nil. Resilience is such an important thing to have in life. How we achieve it I don’t know. Where it comes from is still an enigma to me. Maybe different people build it in different ways. What I do know is, when you have the internal strength resilience gives you, life is much more doable and challenges are not insurmountable. Sure, you still feel low, fed up or downright miserable some days. At times people can offend, upset and infuriate you. Situations don’t always go your way. Resilience helps you move through all this without falling apart. Sobriety provides us with that resilience.

I notice now that my vulnerability has lessened, I’m less affected by what others think about me. I want them to like me, of course, but I know that stuff happens around me that I can’t control and people will form opinions that have no bearing on the truth or facts. This has come with sobriety and this brings more resilience. Life is pretty tough when you feel constantly fragile. Like at any moment you might break or shatter. I am the opposite of that now. I actually feel strength inside and out. The first step towards this change was saying ‘bye’ to booze. Practicing yoga and mindfulness have built on the foundations laid down by being alcohol free. I knew I wanted to try these and the advice from my sober tribe when I wrote my post ‘Musing over mindfulness, meditation and mereally gave me a push to give them a go. I am now addressing my diet and ensuring I am eating for positive physical and mental health. Continuing to build, brick by brick, my own personal wall of resilience.

Tomorrow it will have been 9 months since I put a glass of wine to my lips and every day of those 9 months has made me stronger, tougher and more resilient. That’s why I am sober and that’s why I will stay that way.

Love Claire x

Today

I have a mindfulness journal. I found it in a cheap bookshop and art store. It was £3. I have almost filled it with thoughts and emotions. There are exercises and prompts to help focus my writing and one of the final questions was …

What do I want to do today?

I’m not a writer by any stretch of the imagination but this is what I wrote ..

Today I want to move forward 
Today I want to feel acceptance and gratitude
Today I want love, peace and kindness
Today I want calm
Today is a day for people who love, respect and care for me
Today I want to let go
Today I want mindfulness, joy and laughter
Today I want nature and fresh air
Today I want family
Today I want friends
Today I want to look in the mirror and say ‘I like you, you’re ok’
Today I want to breathe
Today is the day it happens
Today I will move forward

The instruction was to write down one thing but as always I went rogue and created a huge ‘to do list!’ I won’t accomplish it all today, but TODAY is where it begins.

Love Claire xx

Finding Zen

I’m just going to start writing and maybe add things as the day progresses. If I don’t start somewhere, it’ll never happen and I’ll basically be a very lazy blogger. One who just reads and comments but never creates anything of their own. That will never do. Though I do love to keep up with people’s blogs and give my four penneth worth, busy body that I am!

Life has not changed very much since the ‘easing’ of some restrictions. Not for me anyway. Clearly for many others it meant no more social distancing, hanging out with friends and throwing any caution to the wind. Not helped by the total confusion caused by the government’s mixed messages. As far as I could make out it was chaos and bedlam. So I stayed home. Worked from my bedroom (which I’ve come to hate doing) and ate shed loads of chocolate. Think I’ll let the others who appear to have either no fear or sense be the guinea pigs in this little trial.

I’m trying hard to find ways to relax and de-stress when I’m not working. It’s difficult sometimes and on Saturday morning I completely lost my cool. Shame really as I’d just completed my very first ever yoga session and the lovely relaxed and positive feeling lasted a grand total of 5 minutes. It all started when I noticed chunks taken out of the sideboard, a smashed Xbox controller, random mess and crap everywhere and …. wait for it …. no milk left for my mid morning coffee!! Yup, that’s right. I saw red, blew my top, the proverbial hit the fan, I went bat shit crazy. When that happens in our house the boys tend to know it’s a very bad situation. I yelled, shouted, stomped around and there were even tears and a few words the children should not have heard. In the end I had a new office space set up in a warm corner of the back room overlooking the garden. Said room and kitchen were cleaned and hoovered. My bedroom was reestablished as a bedroom. Milk was purchased and coffee drank. Calmness ensued and Mum was chilled once again.

I have persevered with the yoga app and actually do enjoy it. It’s very basic and short but it’s what I need right now. I’ve managed a few runs too, still not kicking it’s ass yet but I get out. That’s enoogh. Anxiety, and particularly depression, is always lurking, never far away. It takes hard work to keep them both at bay. I have a much better understanding of myself and my triggers but some days I just want to hide away. That’s ok though. Just as long as I don’t hide for too long I guess.

Sadly it would appear I am better at demolishing and destroying the garden than nurturing or growing it. Two plants are already looking decidedly dodgy yet the weeds respond well to my green fingered attempts. We have become quite friendly with two sets of neighbours as we can now practically walk into their garden. They thought they had an intruder the other day, but it was my eldest son picking up his football. There are plans for fencing very soon so I will be safe to hang the washing out dressed only in pjs once again.

The most amazing thing about all of the above, the quiet calm, the loss of temper, the anxiety and low moods and the gardening, is this. I am doing it 100% sober. I reached my 6 month sober milestone yesterday and it felt like a regular, everyday thing. No booze for 6 months. So what? Easy peasy. Except those of you on this journey of sobriety know it’s not. It wasn’t for me anyway. It involved a lot of change. It meant becoming a different person to the one I had been for many years. I had to challenge my identity and adjust my view. I’m still changing now, 6 months on. For the better I hope. No, scrap that last comment. For the better I’m sure. I am the happiest I have been in a long time. Not with the global situation as it is, not necessarily with some aspects of my life but with myself and who I am. That might sound intense and dramatic but it is also true.

Right, time for session 3 of yoga, lunch and swotting up on some new vocabulary for my word feud scrabble challenge.

Just a pose I learnt yesterday

Love Claire xx

Bubble

I’m sitting out in my garden, in the beautiful weather, taking a teeny break from work and my laptop. I’m tapping this out on my lovely new iPad and feeling very much at peace with the world today. Not a cloud in the sky. The birds are tweeting and singing in the background and the boys have (reluctantly) embarked on a bike ride with their dad.

Firstly, thank you to the nominated bloggers who answered the questions in my last post. I know these things aren’t everyone’s cup of tea so please don’t feel any pressure to respond if you were nominated and don’t want to take part. It was, however, great to read more about those of you that did follow up with a post.

Secondly, I’m making the most of this week as I have a feeling that, once again, life is about to be turned upside down. Certainly for the UK anyway. I’m not sure how much longer I’ll be able to work from home. The lockdown rules look set to be relaxed or altered, with schools possibly returning etc etc. I have no idea what it will all look like and the idea does worry and concern me. I have become used to less people and isolation. My birthday was probably one of my favourites for a good few years. No pressure to organise anything and no need to try and meet up with various family and friends. It was simply a day to do exactly what I wanted with no side order of guilt. Maybe that’s selfish but I really enjoyed myself.

I have become anxious around groups of people. Those ‘space invaders’ are increasing in numbers daily and I find myself feeling like an alien in their world. I think I’ve even made an art out of social distancing … I’m an antisocial distancer! I think about crowded bars and restaurants and have absolutely no desire to go back into them once they reopen. The thought of my train commute to work and the walk through the city centre fills me with horror. Am I becoming agoraphobic? I don’t think so. I still love to be outside and I want to see and spend time with certain people. Just not lots of people, in one place, all at once. Is that the definition of agoraphobia? Maybe.

I’m sure I’ll become used to hustle and bustle again. Busy places and crowds. It’s likely to be gradual I guess. A few more people here and there each day. I’ll have to get used to it in order to carry on doing my job. No choice. I suspect many people will decide to be ‘homebodies’ even when lockdown is eased. Slowly dipping their toe in the social pool. Holding onto the side and keeping a float to hand as opposed to jumping in with a dive bomb straight off. It will be strange to watch and experience society re-engaging with each other. Testing out human contact outside their home bubbles once again.

Yet again we are about to face many changes and new rules for living. More challenges and the unknown and uncontrollable. Which is why, for now, I am going to remain in the moment, in my bubble, in the sun. At peace.

Love Claire xx

No respect for social distancing …

In the midst of social distancing and self isolation I still get two visitors knocking on my door. They don’t stick to guidelines or obey rules. Nope, they let themselves in and take over.

Anxiety has been here for a couple of days now. I kind of know how to deal with him (or is it a her?). I’ll refer to it as male for ease. He winds me up, throws all sorts of questions and ‘what ifs’ in my way. Dishes out problems I can’t solve and situations I can’t control. When I come up with a solution, he won’t accept it. Like a toddler repetitively asking ‘why?’ and ‘when?’.

I can handle anxiety. I use techniques to bring me to the present and the strategies do work, now that my body and brain are no longer muddled and confused with alcohol. Yesterday morning was particularly bad but I persevered. I cleaned, I ran and I listened to my buddhify app. So far so good. Or so I thought.

With a huge hit of anxiety I can sometimes have a visit from depression. She (I’ll switch genders in the name of equality) hasn’t been in my life for well over 6 months. I haven’t missed her, not one bit. I thought I was rid of her but like the proverbial bad penny, here she is! I could feel her coming late last night. I know that sounds weird but I know the signs now. Sure enough, 3am there I was. Wide awake and hanging out with two old ‘friends’.

This morning, anxiety had moved on for a break but not depression. She’s moved in, feet right under the table. That awful feeling of no feeling. Knowing there is so much you can do to help yourself and so much to be personally grateful for but absolutely no way to reach through the black fog and grab it. Not even a desire to do that. No energy, no interest in things that made you buzz with excitement only a few days ago. Most of all, no bloody reason. There is nothing in my life that others aren’t struggling with right now. Many many struggling with more challenges than I am.

At the moment I don’t have a positive, inspiring ending to my post today. I wanted to describe the feelings and emotions to try and depersonalise them. I’m furious that they, particularly depression, have returned to this extent and I’m praying it lifts quickly. I need to face what we are all going through as ‘Claire’ with my friends, family and loved ones by my side. There is no room for anxiety or depression. Quite frankly they can both fuck off!

Stay safe all

Claire xx

To go or not to go …

Today I am anxious. I have had slow growing anxiety over the past couple of days and now it’s reached the level where I am lying in bed because I’m not sure how best to manage it.

Those of you that have read past posts of mine will know that I have had some tricky situations with friendships and relationships over past months. One friend (I will call her Di) has disappeared from my life completely after a couple of intense years of friendship. Following the final ‘split’ I gave up alcohol. It was one of the ways a managed the whole fall out. I’m not going to go into the in and outs of what happened, mainly because to this day I’m not really sure. There was lots of made up stuff about me which hurt a great deal but I don’t know why she said it or behaved as she did.

Anyways, tonight I am attending a mutual friend’s 50th birthday celebrations. This friend (B), I have known for 40 years. I met Di through her. I haven’t discussed Di with her or even so much as mentioned her name in 3 months. They are exceptionally close. I know Di and all her friends will be there later. I know I’m going to be catapulted back to teenage angst and playground ‘mean girl’ bullying. I know I could just not go, but my long standing friend B would be sad about that. My family (brother and parents) were invited but can’t attend. My husband will come with me so I’m not totally alone (although Di and her ‘was married but now estranged’ boyfriend hate him too for some unknown reason). The whole situation is petty, ridiculous and frankly boring but seeing her and having to stand in a room and be pointedly ignored fills me with dread.

Luckily I’m not drinking which means I won’t lose control and say something I’ll regret. Plus I’ll be driving and we can show our faces and then quickly get the hell out of dodge. Still, I’ve told myself all this over and over but it doesn’t help me. People keep saying it’ll be fine but I’m tipping into unmanageable anxiety which then descends into ‘switch off’ and disengage because I can’t handle how it feels.

Wow, this is the first time I’ve actually described my anxiety and subsequent low mood as it happens, in real time. Blogging is good for that, right? I have an appointment to get to in an hour’s time and I’ve already tried to think up excuses how to avoid going. It’s a work based commitment but the overwhelming feeling at the moment is to just stay here, in the safety of my bedroom!! What to do? Should I not go this evening, just bail out totally which will stop the anxiety. Or is that not facing difficult emotions and pure avoidance.

Before sobriety I would drink. I’d start at 5 ish to give me courage. I’d be totally wasted by the end of the night but I’d survive it. I don’t have that crutch now so I need to either not go or find a way through this. I think writing it down has helped a little. I will go to my work appointment. I’ll force myself to achieve at least that today. One thing at a time.

Agh! I hate anxiety and I just want it to leave me alone.

Claire xx

Fed-up Friday Feelings

Struggling tonight folks. Really have found today hard and I’m trying to think about why that might be the case.

This weekend I’m approaching my 3 month sober milestone. My head tells me that’s a huge achievement but my heart doesn’t feel the same. Tonight I just feel exhausted. Overwhelmed by life and shit. There isn’t really anything specific I can blame it on. I’ve just lost my mojo. I actually sat on the train on the way home from work and really fancied coming home and pouring a large glass of Shiraz. For the first time in a while I thought ‘fuck it, I want to experience that first sip on a Friday night feeling’. I didn’t. I poured a glass of AF wine and drank that instead, whilst taking a bath with bubbles, candles and classical chill tunes on Alexa.

I wonder if I’m spending too much time alone when I’m not at work. Without alcohol I have felt far more at ease in my own company and less inclined to go out and socialise. I still have lots of contact with friends. I’m just not instigating evenings out and they therefore don’t happen as much. I’m fine with that but maybe there is only so much ‘alone’ time one can tolerate.

I suspect myself and my husband often spent our Friday evenings drinking together. Now I just start to get bored of the TV very quickly and tired much earlier. I think our relationship has changed and we aren’t as close because alcohol isn’t there to glue us together. It was what we did. What we’ve always done. Now I’m not drinking the cracks are beginning to show. To be honest they were appearing before but alcohol just papered over them. I can’t address that at the moment though. It’s too big. Just too scary.

I don’t ever regret giving up alcohol though. In spite of evenings and days like today, it was without a doubt the best decision I ever made. If it means I’m going to have to face tough challenges that I have been denying exist or ignoring then so be it. I’ll be better for it. For each ‘bad’ day there are now countless ‘good’ days. I am grateful for that. I’ll start my journal tomorrow. I think it will help. Thoughts still whizz around. I’m learning to pay attention to them but not to hold onto them. Meditation is still new to me but I’m practicing.

It’s hard work isn’t it? Changing, developing, managing without our crutch. Stopping addiction. I’ve become more introverted and introspective than I ever believed I could be. I like being that way but I guess I forget how much I effort this takes and that there will be times where it’s emotionally draining. Tonight I don’t feel there’s much left in the tank. I don’t want to appear negative because none of this journey has been negative. Challenging yes, negative no. It’s important to write about the tough stuff too.

So my lovely sober gang, I’ll go to sleep feeling a little better that I’ve shared with friends how I’m feeling. As we all know, sometimes all we can do is sleep it off. Tomorrow is a new day.

Claire xx

Photo of one of my favourite places just to cheer myself up 😊

Can I be an Avenger now?

It’s Friday and after a lot of soul searching and navel gazing at the end of last week and beginning of this one I am delighted to say, I feel pretty darn fabulous tonight.

I have had a great few days. Nothing to mention specifically. I just find myself appreciating the really important people in my life. I am also no longer grieving for those people I have had to leave behind. In fact on Wednesday I was able to engage with a work colleague after over a year of a ‘difficult’ relationship and stand up for myself in a calm and considered manner. I didn’t try to impress, cajole, ‘win’ him over and I didn’t get upset, angry or take his remarks personally. I felt like I had some form of invisible protection, a shield that ensured barbed or suggestive comments bounced off. I stood back, processed, said what I needed to and left politely. HUGE step for me.

I have to admit. This shield, cloak, bubble (not sure how to name it!) of protection is existing more and more for me. Don’t worry, it isn’t a barrier I put up. It momentarily deflects situations and comments. It allows me breathing space to think about how I feel. It’s only a split second but boy does it help! It provides me with resilience and reduces my vulnerability.

Where has it come from? It certainly wasn’t there a few months back and hasn’t been there for a number of years. I’m not even sure I’ve ever held it in my possession. Not as it is at this moment. Is that sobriety? Is it knowing that the company I now keep value and love me? Is it the support and kindness I have received from the community on this blog? Is it one very special person who has helped me see I’m worth so much more than I thought or could believe? Likely it’s all of it and it all mixes together in one big pot to create strength and build self esteem.

I know the first step was stopping drinking. If you stumble across this post and you are wondering if you drink too much and if you should give it the old heave ho …. DO IT! Don’t say it’s forever, but start. You too could have an invisible protective shield just like mine 😉

Claire xxx