Codependent

Image credit: Dominik Vanyi @ Unsplash

Codependency was a word that I never fully grasped; it was something I never fully understood and something that – even now – I struggle to spell!

And yet, I was it, I was it to the letter. If anyone wanted an example of what a co-dependant person looked like, they could just bring me forward, with my phone firmly planted within my hand and my attention off elsewhere, and show me off as a good and fine specimen of someone who has fallen into that trap…

I hadn’t become this way intentionally of course, I hadn’t even become this way consciously, but I had become it all the same. It had happened over years, namely with one person, but there are little glimpses and tell-tale signs with others too. However, with this one person it was powerful, it was overwhelming and it was becoming very, very damaging.

This was a person who I had never met and who I had no real intention of meeting. He was a man who I had met online years ago, our conversations had started out regarding a shared interest in mental health and we had formed a friendship of sorts. Sometimes it is easier to talk about the hard stuff with someone if you don’t have to look them in the eye… and so, we gradually opened up to each other. He told me things that he had (allegedly) not told anyone else and I listened and advised the best that I could. When I suffered dips in my mental health, I turned not only to my husband and closest friends, but also to him. He always replied, always acknowledged my feelings… and then always reciprocated with his own.  

This isn’t a writing about how a friendship turned sour though, far from it. We don’t talk now, after a very difficult conversation we decided to have some time apart and whilst I admire him in many ways and still sometimes feel like I have lost a huge pillar of strength within my life, I also know that he has to address his own problems before we could ever hope to build a healthy relationship.

I also know that I need to address mine.

Because co-dependency doesn’t just spring up from nowhere. I became co-dependent because I had a need for something, something that was lacking and something that even now I struggle to identify. My over whelming desire within this friendship, was to fix; I wanted to make everything better, I could see the damage that was being done by my friends behaviours, but I could also see the things that would help him and I could see such potential – if only he would listen!

But he was listening, wasn’t he? We would have these long conversations; we would talk our way round the same situations day, after day, after day. He would ask me ‘What do I do?’ and I would reply with logic and compassion. I harnessed everything that I had learnt in therapy, everything that I had read about mental health and addiction. I would read articles online to try and improve my knowledge of the specific things he was struggling with. I would talk to my best friend – a qualified mental health nurse – and relay information, I would find song lyrics that resonated with his struggles and send him the music so he didn’t feel so alone. I would speak to him first thing in the morning and last thing at night, I would engage in behaviour that was damaging to my own mental health, in order to prevent him from either a) getting what he needed in that moment from someone who was potentially dangerous for his mental health or b) hurting someone else. But this was friendship, right? This was helping him, surely?

No, and no.

I remember very clearly the moment that it all clicked. It was on a day off, so I had been at home by myself all day and, yes, talking to him via text for a good part of it. I was feeling pretty tired – this was at the end of last year, so very much still combating my own medication withdrawal and Fibromyalgia symptoms. I ran a bath, loaded up Insight Timer and I saw a talk on the homepage by Michelle Chalfant about codependency…

I led in the bath and listened to her describe the behaviour I had been exhibiting, for years. Not just ‘oh, that kind of applies’ but every, single, item on that list I could identify and relate back to something I had done. I realised that I was not ok, if he was not ok – and he, was never ok.

It was like my empathy with this man had gone into overdrive, I wanted so desperately to make everything better for him that I had completely neglected myself in the process. He hadn’t specifically asked me to, he hadn’t directly put this stipulation on our friendship that I must behave in this way or he would leave – but I kind of felt that way all the same. I am learning the reasons now why I did that, I am working through my own feelings and my own motives for that behaviour – but it’s not easy.

We carried on talking for a while after that, but something had shifted. Truthfully, I was scared, I was scared to let him go because if I didn’t have him to ‘help’, then what would my purpose be? I was also very scared that actually, he wouldn’t care. That he would just say ‘ok then’ and go and I would end up with the weight of rejection upon my shoulders. I was also scared that all of this, all of these conversations, all of this kindness, this empathy, this care that I had willingly and freely given over months and years would be for nothing.

I was scared that it made me selfish.

Co-dependency is complex. My motives for my behaviour came from a number of different places – from the need to be heard, to my need for validation and also my natural desire to help and to empathise. The times that he would say ‘yes, this makes sense’ were the glimmers of light and the behaviour he continued to exhibit that went against that very same piece of advice, extinguished those sparks. But he would learn from that for next time, right? So I kept on, persevered and tried to be a good friend. In the end it just exacerbated those ingrained feelings and beliefs of being unheard, but to me, that was familiar and so it was ‘safe’. It was known behaviour so it was comforting even though it stung like ripping off a sticking plaster each and every time. I found that I couldn’t trust him, and yet I confided in him still. I found that I got angry with him, but it felt more like being angry at a child. I found that I was sinking into his problems whilst my own screamed at me from the surface…

Letting him go would also mean I didn’t have a distraction from my own problems anymore.

Eventually, it was my decision to end contact with him. It wasn’t pre-meditated, it wasn’t a thought out ‘I am going to have this conversation and it will be resolved by X, Y and Z’. It was a row – it was an insensitive comment made by him about my husband on a day when I was feeling depressed and in pain and having to brave it out at work. It was the argument that ensued and this voice that bubbled up inside me and screamed ‘this is not ok!’.  I had been ignoring this voice, my own voice that said repeatedly, for months, ‘I am done…’ but I should have listened to her; my inner child may be small and gentle but I was doing her no favours by not hearing her – eventually she screamed, a scream of pain, a scream of frustration and a scream so powerful that my decision was made in that instant. I was done.

Afterwards, it felt worse than any romantic break up that I had ever endured. I spoke to friends about it; I spoke to my husband and my therapist about it. I meditated on it, I questioned what I had done, and I checked his social media profiles to see if he was ok… but I didn’t go back.

One thing I noticed in those first couple of weeks was how much time I had! I wasn’t tied to my phone anymore. I also noticed that my confidence improved – I wasn’t hiding behind someone else’s problems. Yeah, sure, this meant all of my problems came to the surface but I could own them now. I tried to turn some of that care and affection back onto myself – and some days I manage it, some days I don’t, but at least I am trying. It’s something that will take months, if not years because it isn’t straightforward and this type of behaviour has roots that are buried deep.

I still miss him. I still wonder how he is, but hindsight is a wonderful thing. I am learning the importance of boundaries and the importance of true friendship. I am learning to listen to the voice of my inner child because she knew what was up before I had even registered it. I am learning to forgive – both him and myself and I am learning that we cannot, ever fix someone else.

We can love them, we can support them, we can validate their feelings and we can send them all the articles and song lyrics in the world.

But we cannot fix them, for that is a path they must walk alone.

Guest Post – Breathing Techniques

Today we welcome Ashley from Weidergabe.com who has written a post all about breathing techniques that she has learnt and found useful in moments not only of discomfort, but also in her day-to-day life, resulting in better sleep and generating a more positive start to the day.

Ashley’s blog is a hive of positivity, honesty and motivation – definitely worth checking out and following ❤ She will also be publishing a post written by me all about Kindness over the next couple of days so be sure to keep your eyes peeled on my social media channels for that….


Photo by Javardh on Unsplash

Breathing Techniques

Breathing is an important part of life. There are many benefits to it that are more than keeping you alive. It can help regulate emotions and raise your vibrations. Recently, I found out it can help with loosening different parts of our bodies. Here are some breathing techniques that can support you in different ways.

Abdomen Breathing

How it is done: With one hand on the chest and the other on the belly, take a deep breath in through the nose, ensuring the belly inflates with the upper lungs inflating last. Then release through the mouth. Do this for about 5-10 minutes

Why: This helps you stay calm and centered when dealing with stressful events. If you have an exam or a job interview coming up do this for 5-10 minutes before. It allows you to relax your mind and body and be in the moment.

Alternating Breathing

How it is done: Hold the right thumb over the right nostril and inhale deeply through the left nostril. At the peak of inhalation, close off the left nostril with the ring finger, then exhale through the right nostril. Continue the pattern, inhaling through the right nostril, closing it off with the right thumb and exhaling through the left nostril. Continue for 5 minutes

Why: This technique helps calm the nervous system allowing for better sleep and stimulating your digestion decreasing constipation. I recently found out this helps with softening the pelvic floor.

Relaxed Breathing:

How it is done: Lay down, and breathe normally. Be aware of your breathing and allow your thoughts to just be. When they come, just concentrate on the breaths. It may be best to do this before bed, as it may make you fall asleep.

Why: it helps you become in tune with yourself. Allowing you to make decisions coming from a place of peace rather than anxiety or fear

Circular Breathing:

How it is done: Sit in a chair comfortably. Take a deep breath in through your nose, all the way to your belly. hold for 5 seconds. Release slowly through your mouth. Feel the air moving in a circle through your body as you breathe in and out. Do this for 5-15 minutes. Best done in the morning.

Why: Breathing in through the mouth allows positive energy to enter. The moving of air in a circle releases the energy already in the body. Exhaling releasing the negative from the body.

These techniques can be done every day for the best results. The techniques are great to use whenever you need. The circular breathing I do every morning because it allows my day to start off with a positive vibration. The others I use when needed, sometimes every day, sometimes once a week.

Try them for 3 weeks every day and tell us how you feel after!

Written by Ashley Sprinkel, www.weidergabe.com

Are you interested in writing a guest post? Send me a message 🙂

Making the Bed

Photo credit: Jen P @ Unspalsh (talesbyjen.com)

I make my bed now.

I make it, because it serves me. Its my place of rest and of calm. It holds me whilst I sleep and before that, whilst I relax and read and meditate.

I make it, because it’s important. It was never really important to me before. It was just a place that I poured myself into after yet another tiring day and dragged myself out from, bleary headed in the morning. I didn’t waste time making it, I threw a cover over it maybe, if I remembered, just in case the dog got up on it whilst we were at work, but that was all. It was all effort, energy I just didn’t have.

But something has changed, something is changing, within me. I can feel it.

When I moved into where I live now, I moved in with my then boyfriend and his dad, miles from my hometown. A few weeks later, his dad decided to move in with his girlfriend (nothing I had done, we get on well, it was just the natural progression of things) In doing so, he left us with  a house full of his stuff that he couldn’t take with him because he was moving into a tiny cottage.

14 years later, he took his stuff. And we took the rest to the tip.

What was left, was our spare room. It was green – but not a nice soft green, it was green. It had pink carpet that had never been properly fitted around the outside of the room and that sat upon another pink carpet because the previous occupants had never seen the importance of underlay. A defunct – and probably dangerous – night storage heater was under the window. Damp snaked its way into the room from the corners, various pins and nails adorned the walls that someone had very kindly thrown filler on about 25 years ago and painted over the top.

We closed the door and ignored it, probably for another 6 months or so. I wasn’t very well, life got in the way – we’d poke our heads in and look at the green and grumble that we probably should paint it, but… yeah, not this weekend.

When we got around to it, it took us a whole week. The walls were worse than we had anticipated, the floor needed repairing. Paint to prevent damp takes forever to dry… we bought curtains and realised they were the wrong size, I was also coming off of an anti depressant medication I had been on for 8 years so was prone to bouts of tears, or irritability or worse, nothingness.

But when we finished, it felt wonderful. The walls are now a soft grey, there is carpet – actual proper wool mix carpet, with underlay! It’s not fully finished – we’re being a bit picky about a lightshade and we still have a mirror and pictures to go on the walls, but it’s now our bedroom. And it feels so peaceful.

It feels peaceful, because it’s not full. There is space to move around the bed, to stretch or perform yoga if so inclined in the morning. There is nowhere to pile clothes up on, the walls are light, the curtains thick and heavy. The bed is in the centre of the room, ready, waiting to give its support.

I have a candle by the bed which smells of smoke and amber. I light it when I’m reading before bed and it soothes me. I only have to have a small inhalation of it now and my racing thoughts calm, I’m reminded to take slow and deep breaths, I am reminded not to panic, that I am in a safe space, that nothing bad is going to happen here.

Meditation has definitely helped – I try to meditate in the morning when I wake and at night before sleep, usually in my bed but sometimes also in the bath. It is a daily reminder to find some quiet and some calm – even if it is just for ten minutes it is time that is put aside just for my well being. It has become a part of my routine, just as making my bed before I leave the house has become something I don’t even think twice about – it goes alongside drinking my coffee and putting my make up on – and that feels good. It feels like I’ve done something to take care of something that takes care of me.

Because taking care of myself is important.

And the realisation of that, is what is changing.

Thank you for reading 🙂 If you have enjoyed this writing, please feel free to come and join me on my following social network pages to see my new posts and daily musings:

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World Sleep Day

Image credit: Pixabay @ Pexels

I didn’t know it was a thing either, until I got a works newsletter email this morning informing me of the fact – and that there are samples of relaxing and alternative teas at my disposal if I so wish to sample them…

*Glances at strong, freshly brewed black coffee…. yawning as I do so*

It has got me thinking about sleep though; sleep hygiene to be more specific. I am no expert in this, I love sleep – I love my bed, I love napping and I love wearing ‘pjs’, which usually consist of a pair comfortable trousers and a big jumper to burrow in. I have tried to get better with my sleep hygiene over the years – depression; I think in anyone, can knock it out of whack a little and once we get ourselves into certain habits and routines, they can be very hard to break. Especially if it’s just as ‘harmless’ as having a nap for a couple of hours…

I think before we really begin though, we should look at this word: hygiene (I’m having real trouble spelling it this morning, autocorrect is my friend!)

Sleep hygiene doesn’t mean changing your sheets constantly (every 2 weeks is kind of fine, right?) It’s not about clean pyjamas or having a shower before bed every night. It’s not even about cleaning your teeth or washing your face before you get in to bed. All of these things are of course important, but sleep hygiene (seriously, why do I keep wanting to put a C in it?!) is more about our attitudes, habits and ultimately the quality of our sleep.

Let’s get into the reason why we sleep first. It’s kind of weird to think about your body silently performing lots of intricate functions whilst you are cosied up in bed dreaming (or not, as the case may be…) but it really is! Whilst we are sleeping, our minds and bodies are taking stock, repairing and consolidating everything that has happened during the day and effectively gearing us for the next day and the adventures we are going to have. Whilst we sleep, our mind takes our short-term memories, sorts through them and creates long term memories – I always tend to think of it like the admin staff sorting out all of my notes into filing cabinets (but that may just be me!). Our bodies are busy too – cells are repairing, muscles are growing, wounds are healing and tissue is reforming. Sleep is, without a doubt, very important for our mental and physical wellbeing…

Great! Lets get under that blanket and have a nap 😀

Well… hold your horses a moment. Napping is great, I don’t like to boast, but I have somewhat of a reputation for being somewhat if a napping ‘pro’ – but it’s not always healthy.

I have had times in my life where I have felt utterly exhausted, where I haven’t known where to put myself because I’m so tired, we all have. I have had frustrating conversations with my (very patient) doctor that go like this:

Me: ‘I just feel so tired… all. the. time.’

Him: ‘Are you managing to get to sleep ok?’

Me: ‘Yes’

Him: ‘Do you wake up during the night?’

Me: ‘No’

Him: ‘Do you nap during the day?’

Me: ‘I need to, I am so tired

Him: ‘Sleep less, you’ll be less tired’

Me: Are you fucking joking?

Ok, so I didn’t say that last bit, but I thought it – many a time. I had/have an illness, my mind was working overtime, I was exhausted – and all of that is true, but sleep can be a bit of a catch 22, the more you do it the more you seem to need to do it. I wasn’t physically tired, I was mentally drained and it may not sound like much of a difference, but it’s huge. If I was physically tired, I would be able to get into bed and sleep and my mind and body would do that magical repair thingy and all would be fine and dandy. But I was lacking the physical tiredness because I was sleeping all the time – my body wasn’t really doing, well, anything. So, at night all the repair functions of my body did their bit (which was less than usual) and then sat around kicking their heels whilst my mind – already exhausted from the daytime – did all the rest.

I’m not a doctor – as you can probably and plainly tell – but I have had years of falling into this trap and having to claw my way out of it.

Because the tiredness is very, very real. Depression and anxiety do make you very tired, medication makes you tired, pain makes you tired, dealing with people makes you tired, answering the phone, seeing friends, concentrating, walking the dog, going to appointments, talking, eating, breathing… everything takes so much more effort, so of course you are bound to be more tired than usual and it is important to acknowledge that and not ignore it because, yep, tiredness makes depression worse!

But habits are important, routine is important.

They are important even if you don’t suffer from a mental illness, but they are vital if you do. I am very lucky with my job – I work two and a half days a week, which gives me 2 weekday mornings at home after my husband has whirlwinded his way around the house and got out of the door for work – and on those two mornings I have to make a choice. Do I:

A)     Roll over and go back to sleep?

B)      Get up, exercise, take the dog out, have a healthy breakfast, do housework, see a friend, get dinner ready etc etc…?

C)      Read, meditate, write, get up and watch a bit of tv?

I’d love to say I always opt for B – but I don’t. Depression is worse in the mornings, if I lie there thinking about getting up and exercising then I inevitably end up doing A.

I usually end up doing C, knowing that it will inevitably lead into doing parts of B but with the proviso of ‘if I feel tired later, I will have a nap’ – and sometimes, I take that nap, because I need to. Depression may be kicking my ass that day, my fibro pain might be worse than normal, depression may have been shrouding me at work the day before and left me feeling depleted, I may know that I do have a couple of busy days coming up and I need to ‘store up’ a little bit of quiet time or sleep. But I have at least given myself a head start. If I had just gone for option A then my day has kind of half gone before I have even got out of bed, which makes me feel guilty – and guilt oils the hinges on the door that depression snakes its way in through.

Whilst adopting this attitude over sleep though, I have learnt that I need to make sure that the sleep I do get, at night, is good sleep. If I spent all night tossing and turning, being too hot, too cold, unsettled, needing to get up a few times for a wee etc then every morning would inevitably end up with me doing option A or, trying to do option C and making myself exhausted in the process.

We all know the basics – warm bath, cool room, no excessive alcohol consumption, no caffeine, no blue light from your phone or laptop screen before sleep. But I have found meditation helps tremendously – even just meditative music as I’m drifting off can remind me to slow my breathing and, in turn, my thoughts down. I personally find I sleep better with a heavy duvet or blanket (in a cool room), I try and read for a little while until my eyes become heavy and also – I kick my husband out! We sleep better apart (and get on better for it during the day) so, for us, it makes sense most nights.

Good sleep is vital, for our physical and emotional well-being – but too much of sleep, like any good thing, can have the opposite effect. Its not that napping is bad, but before you go for that nap – ask yourself is it tiredness, or it is something else? Are you napping because you are avoiding something? (It could be as small as doing the dishwasher, it could be as big as, y’know, life itself) and even then, if it’s the latter, then it may be safer to nap than to stay awake. However, the key to recovery is recognising and changing behaviours – and as we spend over 30% of our lives sleeping, recognising the healthy and unhealthy aspects of it can be pretty life changing.

Thank you for reading 🙂 If you have enjoyed this writing, please feel free to come and join me on my following social network pages to see my new posts and daily musings:

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Curator Required: Apply Within

Ok, so it’s not a job ad.

I tried doing that thing where the entire article was written like one – but I was a bit stumped when it came to ‘Location’, because this way of thinking is big and therefore hard to pin down. The ‘Salary’ I had sussed, and I even whacked the word ‘exponential’ in there, which for 08.25 on a Tuesday morning with only one coffee in my system, I figured was pretty impressive!

But yes, this is about a way of thinking and a way of living. It’s about curating your own life so that the best, possible, you can grow, think, dance, explore, laugh, sleep and eat better. Pretty big claims, huh? Well… yes, but all entirely possible.

How many times have you heard the phrase ‘You are what you eat’? And how many times have you felt that to be true? It’s no surprise that if we eat junk for a few days, we begin to feel like junk, all sluggish and tired. Change the word ‘eat’ to ‘consume’ and you can start to see how the consumption of junk anything can begin to have an impact.

And I mean literally… anything.

Social Media

In our current climate, this is perhaps the most obvious one. In 2018 adults in the UK spent the equivalent of over one whole day a week online, and I think anyone that has a Facebook account has found themselves mindlessly scrolling. It’s the same with Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIN etc etc, but because it’s perhaps the most common, I’m going to stick with Facebook.

Everyone seems to have a Facebook account, from your youngest relation to your oldest, from that person you met on holiday when you were six to your best friend – and for a long while it was the way we all connected with each other. I think my attitudes to it have changed a lot over the last eighteen months or so, and I feel that the tide is turning globally somewhat – partly because it’s kind of a vicious circle; everyone is on there so it’s great to be connected, but everyone is on there, so it’s feels like you are always connected.

However, we all still use it. I’m as guilty as the next person for scrolling down my feed whilst not really absorbing what I’m reading (not consciously anyway), and recent scientific research has shown that it is a little more complex than simply being bored or looking for a distraction. Dopamine and Opioid – two different compounds that are found in our brains neurotransmitters, have us hooked. This is an article on the subject which is quite an interesting read, but put simply – social media can give us the same hit as sex, or chocolate, or a hug. Even the ‘drive’ or the need to get those likes, messages and friend requests is driven by our innate need for dopamine.

Is it any wonder then that we spend so much time scrolling, and that we are also so undisciplined when it comes to taking time away from the site?

Recently though, I have made a little deal with myself. I am not ready (yet) to deactivate Facebook – however, what I can do is make it a nice place to be. When the option to ‘follow’ people came out, I must admit I was a little sceptical and wary – I didn’t want to be followed, I tend to keep my personal Facebook account pretty tight with security settings, so I quickly found a way to switch that option off! But, a good thing that has come out of having that option is that you can also unfollow people, people who are already on your friends list.

Now, I know that sounds terrible. Why have them on your friends list if you don’t want to see what they post? Weeeeeeeeellllll yes, I get that, but some people would be difficult to remove, for various reasons and it’s not that I dislike that person, or I’m not interested in them – it’s just that perhaps we hold wildly different views on something (that isn’t going to change), or perhaps they remind me of a part of my past that is difficult and I need to be in the right frame of mind to have those memories come up. Perhaps they are at a different place in their journey and some of their posts can be triggering to my particular sensitivities at a particular time or maybe it’s just as simple as they are obsessed with a TV series and I haven’t caught up yet and don’t want the spoilers. Maybe they constantly post memes, or cat videos, or links to sites that I don’t find interesting (these are all just examples, I have nothing against cat videos) but you get the idea. You can follow and unfollow at will and I’m not ashamed to admit that sometimes I do just that. I also only follow pages that I am interested in – the 2007 me that ‘liked’ every page going on this wonderful new site is, after all, somewhat different to 2019 me.

I see it as an act of self-care. We are each responsible for our own well-being and if I felt despair every time I scroll through Facebook because I have read 6 posts in a row about Brexit or Donald Trump, seen a few pictures of the Yulin dog festival or a fox hunt, watched an advert for new diet pills, read about a horrific murder from a news site and been reminded that I still have 3 episodes of that hour long drama that I now know the end of to catch up on then… I’m going to be feeling pretty crappy. I’m not saying we should turn a blind eye to things; the news is important, awareness is important, activism and politics – they are all important and we should all be very aware of what is going on in the world we live in. But – and this is the crux of it – if they are not on our Facebook feeds, then we can choose when we read about them. By choice, I read a newspaper and I keep up with current affairs, but at times when I choose to, when I feel like I can deal with what I am reading, and this is rarely just before I am about to go to sleep or within the first 10 minutes of waking up – I’m an awful procrastinator when my alarm goes off, let’s just check Facebook quickly, eh?.

So, learn to curate your feed, and don’t be ashamed of it or think too deeply about it. I have zero judgement for what other people post – for some, it could be informative and I am well aware that some people are sensitive to things that others are simply not. Like how some people can watch gruesome horror movies and some of us hide behind a cushion and still have nightmares! But, I am able to control what I consume from Facebook, and the rest – and so can you.

Music

Playlists… I love them, I am slightly addicted to them – and no, I’m not going to tell you to only listen to positive songs and to not listen to songs about heartbreak or loss or infidelity or confusion, because some of the best songs written are about other people’s heartbreak. But, be mindful about when you do listen to what you listen to.

Sadness, anger, fear and despair are very real emotions and we do need to feel those things, blocking them out and pretending that they don’t exist isn’t going to help us in the long term. Music can be very cathartic; it can be very cleansing and can evoke wonderful (and sometimes not so wonderful) memories. Music can make you feel less alone, it can bring comfort and joy and motivation when its needed most – many a time I have given my dog an entire rendition of Beauty and The Beast or Evita whilst cooking a Sunday roast, because it’s so much more fun to prance around the kitchen pretending to be Lumiere and offering him imaginary cheese soufflé, than it is to just hum along to the radio whilst peeling the eleventy billionth Brussell sprout.

I currently have a Power UP playlist – which is made up of songs that make me feel good and motivated; some are embarrassing, some are pretty powerful, some hold some wonderful memories – and there are a couple of power ballads and musical numbers to screech at the top of my voice in the shower. If I need to get shit done, I put this on. If all I want to do is curl up and nap but I know I need to do something, I put it on. If I’m cold, I put it on and prance about.  

I also have a Slow and Calm playlist. This has the sadder songs; the heartbroken indie boys, the music from sad movies, the instrumentals that pull at the heartstrings and songs that get you right in the feels, it also has perfectly happy songs, but ones that are a little gentler. Sometimes, I listen to this on the bus either to or from therapy; sometimes in the bath if I have had a rough day and sometimes just if I want a good cry!

I have also started to create a playlist that has more meditative music on – chants, nature sounds and gentle instrumentals. This I listen to when it’s still dark outside and I’m getting ready for work. It helps to wake me up and sets my frame of mind for the day. Power UP is too much, Slow and Calm might not put me in a great mood – but something neutral, something gentle and that I relate to relaxation and calm and setting good intentions, is a good way to wake up to the world.

You will know what works for you and when it works for you – but again, like with Facebook and social media – it comes down to options and giving ourselves the choice and knowing when we can handle certain things and when we just can’t. For me, if Mary Lamberts Sum of Our Parts’ and Phoebe Bridgers You Missed My Heart played one after each other – I’d be an emotional whirlwind!

Company

‘You are the company you keep’…. Well, yes and no. Kind of? I’m very on the fence with this saying. We are all our own people – for example, just because someone I spend time with is of one political persuasion, doesn’t mean that I am. Perhaps it is not meant quite so literally, but I like to believe that most of us have courage in our convictions and that sometimes it is our differences that bind us. However, I do know and appreciate that different people can have very positive or very negative influences on us.

This can be dependent on many factors and it can vary from situation to situation. It also won’t always be glaringly apparent, someone doesn’t have to make you feel angry, or upset for them to have had a negative impact on you. They could perhaps leave you feeling just a little unsettled, or under-confident. Perhaps you are more tired after spending time with some people than with others? Certain people may trigger uncomfortable memories or emotions – either because they are part of our past, or they exhibit behaviours and tendencies similar to those that we have experienced before. Maybe certain people encourage you to behave in ways that afterwards leave you feeling embarrassed or like you haven’t been in control…

It isn’t always possible to curate the company we keep. Workplaces, extended friendship groups, families – they all contain people who could potentially be difficult for us to spend time around. But, we can observe our own behaviour and our own reactions to uncomfortable situations with other people, also, in observing our behaviour it is also important to check in with ourselves and ensure that we are not the negative influence. It can be an easy trap to fall into, especially if we have been spending time with people of that ilk. Perhaps it’s easier to recount the six things that went wrong at work, rather than that one thing that went right (we all do it!), maybe our minds have been elsewhere and we haven’t picked up on certain cues that have told us that someone is feeling uncomfortable, or we have inadvertently spent the last 45 minutes talking about ourselves and not let anyone else get a word in edgeways.

We are all made of energy – and physics 101 tells us that we have positive and negative energy at play in the world around us, constantly. As humans, this energy is no different and it can have a big impact on us as individuals. Recently, someone who I feel has quite a negative energy about them spent some time in my home and afterwards I physically cleansed the space; I opened windows, I cleaned, I washed the clothes I had been wearing and the sheets I slept in afterwards. I used sage to clear the air and I meditated to a very calming, positive guided meditation to ground myself and take back some control over the energy in my home. It helped me feel like that encounter was fully over, it had finished and I could move on from it.

It would be wonderful if we could all float around burning sage and meditating at the drop of a hat – but, sadly, we are not there yet. However, there are small things that we can all do every day to keep our own frequencies on track and to minimise the impact of these negative emotions.

Grounding is very important – I will write more fully about this over the next couple of days, but this can be done quietly and calmly if needed. Meditation is also a very handy tool, as is just repeating certain mantras to yourself, even if it is silently. When I was  growing up, my mum had a close friend and if something was beginning to upset her, she would quietly say to herself ‘I will not receive this’ and envisage herself holding up her hand as if to halt whatever was coming her way.

But, if you can, it is perfectly ok to quietly and calmly move away from these people. Surround yourself with people who make you feel good, who want the best for you and who you can learn from – I promise you, they are out there.

What else?

Well… everything else! Once you start making positive choices and decisions about how you spend your time and who you spend it with, you will open up a whole new world of possibilities. Healthy choices are like throwing a stone into a lake – the ripples spread outwards. Just as it would be nonsensical to do an hour’s worth of cardio and then eat a burger, it would also make little sense to create positive energy around you and then go and participate in an activity that you know will drain you and leave you feeling depleted. What we read, eat, watch and say becomes us over time – and it doesn’t even have to be the things we say out loud, it can be that little internal dialogue, the curious and constant thoughts that fill our quieter moments. Curating what we consume allows the positivity to flow freely, it brightens our minds, expands our thoughts and builds our connections with others, it also helps to keep us as the wonderful individuals that we are and were always meant to be.

So do it with passion and without shame, look at it as a radical form of self-care and of protecting that little ember inside of all of us that keeps the fire going – and one day you may just find yourself ablaze with light.

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What I Have Learnt from 100 days of Meditation

Meditation… the blissful calming of the mind, the lotus position, straight backed and neck elongated. Breathing in through the nose, out through the mouth. The calming of the turbulent thoughts, the easing of the racing mind, the chakras aligned and cleansed. The one single act that instantly transforms us from irritable, hangry, frustrated mortals into enlightened, calm and mindful beings, right?

Um, no… sorry. Wrong.

Meditation isn’t a cure all, meditation isn’t the answer to all of our problems in the western world. It isn’t a secret passageway that some people take on a shortcut to enlightenment. It is hard, it can be physically, mentally and spiritually uncomfortable. It can make you cry like a baby without even knowing why, it can leave you feeling more confused than when you first started…

But it is pretty wonderful.

I have meditated on and off for the past few years. I went through a spell a couple of years ago where I tried to meditate every day (as well as doing an hour of rigorous exercise, eating healthily, drinking my protein shakes, working full time, being sociable, trying to write and maintain a perfectly ‘balanced’ lifestyle) unfortunately… something had to give, and ironically (or perhaps not) it was that time that I dedicated purely to the benefit of my own mind and self-worth that flew out of the window first.

Fast forward a couple of years and I’m sat at my desk at work, in a room where I spend 42 hours a week of my life. I am bored, I am exhausted, I am in physical pain and emotional pain. I blank out my own thoughts, fears and feelings by helping others (in particular, one other), I’m not exercising regularly, I’m not eating all that well… I am crumbling. This was last year, last summer. I wasn’t in a great place and it did all come to a head when I literally could not stop crying at work – that’s one thing when you can slip away from your desk and hide in the toilet for ten minutes, its another when you solely man reception for a company of 800+ employees.

So, for the second time in my life, I stopped. I stopped everything – work, the performance I was putting on every day. I went home, went to see my Dr, rested, talked to friends, took some time out and re-evaluated my entire life.

And it was hard. It was hard financially for a little while, it was super hard emotionally and it was hard physically as I learnt that what I was suffering from wasn’t just a recurrence of my depressive symptoms, I now had a physical condition too. My medication changed – or rather, stopped. I came off of the anti-depressants I had been on for 7 years – and let me tell you, medication withdrawal is not something I would wish on my worst enemy, if I had one. The plan was to switch to a medication that would not only treat my depression but also the Fibromyalgia that had reared its pretty nasty head. However, I am not someone who walks the easiest path, so I decided to not go on the other medication, and instead to try and find my way without it.

Let me clarify one thing here – I am not anti-medication, for anything. For mental or for physical health. I have actively encouraged others to take medication and of course, I have been on long term medication myself. I have seen and felt the benefits and I highly doubt that I would be sat here today if it wasn’t for pharmaceutical intervention earlier in my life. However, I felt I was at a crossroads and also, as a woman in her thirties, I knew that if I wanted to have children at some point, I could not do that whilst on the medication that was being prescribed for me.

I mean, I couldn’t do that if my depression symptoms were terrible either – so I picked up the prescription ‘just in case’. I decided to do a week without meds, then two, then a month…

That was 5 months ago. The meds are still in the cupboard under my stairs – if I need them, I have them, but not once have I reached for them.

And that’s not just meditation (oh yeah, lets get this writing back on track…) it’s a whole supportive network of things. It’s the vitamins and CBD I take every day, it’s the therapy I attend once a week, it’s the toxic relationship I have cut completely out of my life, it’s the different hours I’m doing at work, it’s the support of my closest friends and my husband and the snuggles I get from my dog…

But, it’s also meditation.

Ironically, it was the toxic person that I cut out of my life that suggested it to me in the first place. I know that doesn’t sound very grateful of me, but there was a lot more going on there than what it looked like on the outside and I’m sure there will be more writings about that in the near future. And I am grateful, immensely so. I thought he was fucking joking when he said to me one morning to meditate – I was in a very bad, and dark place – going through withdrawal and feeling like my world was falling apart. The thought of sitting cross legged and in silence seemed like torture, but he insisted I listened to a talk on a meditation app at least… so, I did.

I didn’t meditate regularly at all for the first few weeks. I found the odd one and put it on, half listening whilst I did something else (not always eyerolling, but sometimes) and then I listened to a talk on co-dependency, and something clicked.

I started meditating every day… sometimes for just ten minutes, sometimes for an hour. Sometimes when I woke and sometimes when I went to sleep and sometimes even both! I wasn’t entirely sure what, if anything I was getting from it, but it felt like a little glimmer of positivity in my darkest days and I was willing to grasp hold of that with both hands if I thought it would pull me through.

I listened to talks too – I listened to other people’s experiences and their journeys. If I just wanted to lie quietly, I’d listen to the sound of rain or waves crashing upon a shore and regulate my breathing. I listened in the bath, I listened in bed, rarely I listened in lotus position…

Because there is no correct way to find inner peace. For me, sitting upright hurt my back (thanks fibro) and still does on bad pain days, so I find that now I meditate best when I am lying on my bed and my mind can focus on breathing or voice, and often both, rather than being distracted by pain.

I have cried through entire meditations. I have cried even before they have fully begun! I have switched guided meditations off halfway through because they just weren’t working for me, I have found myself laughing partway though, I have found my mind wandering towards what we are having for dinner or what happened at work that day. I have meditated in the moonlight, sunlight, candlelight and pitch dark, I have meditated outdoors and in. I have meditated to past life guided mediations and I have seen myself in widows’ wares burying a child. I have fallen asleep during many meditations, I have gone for weeks where I haven’t listened to anything guided but just used gentle music or rain sounds to help me calm my breathing and get me to sleep. I have listened to meditations designed to give me more confidence, to help me connect with my inner child and to help me cut ties and find peace with people….

But I have done it every, single day.

I can’t say that I have wanted to do it every day – some days the reason I have done it is purely because I am a perfectionist and I don’t want to lose my continuous day streak! (Yes, really!) I mean – as marketing goes, it’s a pretty good incentive.

However, for what I feel I have learnt (other than perfectionism is a weirdly great motivator for inner calm) I’m not sure it can be summarised in a neat little package – but for the purpose of this writing, and because I have taken so long to get here, I will try.

I have learnt that we all need more time, we need time to just sit, and listen – and I mean really listen. I have learnt that it’s perfectly ok to take time for yourself and in fact, its more than ok, it’s vital!

Our own voice is the one we hear the most, it is in our head constantly. It’s our thoughts, it’s the way we see the world. It comes from our current form, it comes from our child selves, it comes from our family members, our friends and our ancestors – it is everything that has had a hand in creating us and it is constant. If we ignore than voice, what does it do? Does it quietly go and sit in the corner and wait until we’re a little less busy so it can have a quiet word with us?

Ha, no!

It shouts. It throws a tantrum, it knocks things over, it says things to get a rise out of us, it criticises, it makes a nuisance of itself until we are forced to pay it some attention.

And that’s what meditation does. It allows us to hear that voice within us – the child that is lost, the memories we have buried and squashed down and sat on top of for so long. It forces us to come face to face with the quiet and in the quiet, the parts of ourselves and our pasts that we fear the most. It allows us to see what is real and what matters, without the distractions that we greedily absorb day, after day, after day…

And it is, at times, terrifying. And sad, and overwhelming.

But my god, it is worth it.

Because when you see yourself, and I mean really see yourself, it triggers something within. Some primal need for understanding and authenticity. When you stop using busyness, or alcohol, or sex, or Netflix, or running, or gambling, or food, or other people to stop distracting you from yourself it is weirdly freeing and completely empowering.

I’m not saying its not hard, or that I don’t have days where all I want to do is curl up into a little ball and hide from the world – because I do. But I also know that I am working towards something bigger, something that is going to help me become a different and hopefully one day, a more enlightened version of myself. For now, I will focus on keeping my daily streak going, I will focus on learning and reading and listening and finding out more about what I have been hiding and numbing and running from  – and some days I will have the courage to face those things down, and some days I won’t, but 100 days is a start and we all have to begin somewhere.

Thank you for reading 🙂 If you have enjoyed this writing, please feel free to come and join me on my following social network pages to see my new posts and daily musings:

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