Finding Peace

How does one find peace?

Is it a matter of simplifying one’s life? Eliminating all avenues of fear or worry? Avoiding negative people and events? Can we find peace simply by meditating the negative away?

For the last couple of weeks, I have been experiencing anxiety at bedtime. I will lay down in bed and start intermittently and involuntarily shivering, like I’m cold. Sometimes, I am able to simply breathe through it and fall asleep. Sometimes my darling husband will wrap me up in his arms and that will soothe me enough to fall asleep.

Last night, I could not be soothed.

For the last two weeks, we have been battling an indoor mosquito problem. In general, I don’t like bugs, but I have a deep and utter loathing for mosquitoes. Ever since I was a child, I have been allergic to mosquito bites. I used to get these massive, baseball-sized red welts. Now I get much smaller welts, but they take much longer to heal than most people and I sometimes end up with these permanent lumps where I got bit. This is all by way of saying that an indoor mosquito infestation was a nightmare for me. And to make matters worse, it seemed to be concentrated in our bedroom.

So, for the last two weeks, we’ve been sleeping in our spare bedroom. Now, this spare bedroom is simple and functional. It has a queen size bed a night stand, a shelving unit and a closet. There is no other furniture, no clutter, and clean floors. This was the perfect remedy to my mosquito infested bedroom/bathroom. Nowhere for the little $%&*#@$ to hide.

While we were sleeping in the other room, we’ve been running the fans in the house non-stop (since mosquitoes have a hard time flying in moving air) and we poisoned our bedroom that first night in an attempt to kill as many of them as possible. These two methods appear to have been effective. It’s been about 48 hours since I last saw a mosquito in the house. (Hooray!)

So yesterday, we thought we’d try sleeping in our regular room again – our king size bed, our clothes, our master bathroom, etc. It’s our room. We’ve been sleeping in that room, in this house, for almost a year.

But the room is, shall we say, a disaster area. There are clothes all over the floor and not a single surface is clear. And while this bothered me before, last night it came to a fever pitch. I knew that we’d be moving back into our room soon, but I wasn’t exactly prepared for it to be last night. I had been thinking that I would clean up our room before we moved back in there. I thought I had more time.

But I wanted to accommodate my husband’s desire to get back into our regular bed. He has not been sleeping well in our temporary bedroom and misses the space and comfort of our master. Understandable.

Only one problem, I have become very attached to the simple, minimalist, and clean guest bedroom. So when we moved our stuff (phone chargers, pillows, books, bedtime paraphernalia) back into our master, I started to feel panicky. I couldn’t sleep with all of this crap everywhere. So, I started cleaning, organizing, putting away. But there was too much to do at 10 pm. I’d never get it all done. So I threw a fit, yelled at my husband, and refused to move back into our master. He could if he wanted, but I was sleeping in the guest room!!

Cut to laying in bed (in the guest room) with my patience-of-a-saint husband, and I’m shivering more than any other night. He wraps me up and promptly falls asleep (because my tantrum has made us go to bed much later than normal and he worked a twelve hour day) and I lay there shivering away. I finally fall asleep only to have two consecutive nightmares, the second of which I go back into every time I fall back to sleep. I wake up shivering, I fall back to sleep and get terrorized again.

Around 5am, I finally give up on sleep and decide to try to think happy, calming, peaceful thoughts. I try to meditate. I try to follow my breathing. I try to say affirmations to myself. But because I am so tired, I keep nodding off, which allows the anxiety to take over again.

I am trying to push away the fear. I am trying to ignore the anxiety. I am trying not to think about what it means that in both my nightmares I was being chased, caught, escaping, and being chased again. (In the second one, I was being chased by an evil Tom Cruise. What the %^&* is up with that!?)

So, around 6am I find myself wondering about peace. How do I find peace? Clearly, sleep is not an avenue to peace. At least not this night. Meditation, affirmations, avoidance doesn’t work. And then I was reminded of something my counselor said this week. “You’ve tried everything else. Maybe you need to embrace the fear.”

When she said it, it was in relationship to another issue entirely. I embraced that fear and almost immediately felt better. I’m not sure what this fear is; it feels scarier than the other fear; and I definitely don’t want to embrace it.

Which is probably why Tom Cruise is chasing me in my dreams, trying to steal my memories so he can make robot copies of me. (Was that a movie?)

So, here I am, trying to embrace my fear so I can find peace. Life is nowhere near perfect. I am terrified of failure, of not reaching my dreams. I am afraid of not being enough. I am terrified of not being in control and so I seek to control my surroundings (things and people). Today, I will embrace the unknown. I will set myself up for peace by creating a peaceful living space. I will love first, myself and my husband. I will fail, but I will do my best.

And hopefully, I will find peace.

 

The Stigma of Mental Illness isn’t Going Away

Why is the stigma of mental health so endemic? What makes otherwise intelligent, logical, non-biased people believe that mental illness completely defines a person?

Fear. Fear of the unknown, fear of personal safety, fear for the safety of our loved ones.

Recently, I’ve decided to go back to school. The first thing that happened is unexpected backlash from someone I least expected. This person expressed primary fear about my ability to handle a master’s program because of my mental health. This person enumerated all of the reasons why I should not go back to school because of my mental health. The danger to myself I could become.

My therapist suggested that I find out what kind of accommodations the school would be willing to make if my mental illness flares up. But doing that would require me to disclose my mental illness to the school. Talking to accessibility services would be confidential, but disclosing to the actual program could be detrimental to my success. It could end my new career before it begins. And this is how stigma is propagated. If I allow my fear to stop me from telling my academic adviser about my bipolar disorder, then I’m not doing everything I can to fight the stigma of mental illness. But I also risk being discriminated against.

This is how stigma maintains through fear. We have to fight the faer with facts and logic. We have to stand up to the fear and refuse to back down, refuse to give up.

dawn

Fight fear with strength and love. Be a light. And if you face discrimination, stand up for yourself and remember that your stand just might smooth the way for someone coming up behind you. You’re stand is doing the world a service.