ponedeljek, 28. december 2009

No Pain No Gain

Some weeks ago I ran into an old friend of mine. We have known each other for a long time. We got to know each other in a locked ward of a psychiatric hospital in the previous millennium. When I ran into her the other day, I told her about my book. She was very happy to hear that the book is nearly finished. She said: “I wish I finished something for a change. For the last 10 years I have never finished anything I started.”

Well, it’s not easy to live with a mental illness. However if you do something to improve your moods and your self-image, you will pretty soon find out you are capable of a lot of things.

I remember back in 2004 when I read a book written by L. Hay* that I didn’t know HOW TO START. Her book is full of affirmations and visualizations you can do, yet I didn’t know how to start. It felt odd back then. However, today I know why I felt that way. It’s called resistance. Our mind resists in a very weird way. As if our mind was saying: “But no! I don’t want to change anything. I got used to the way things are. If I get happy, I won’t know how to live anymore!”

As stupid as it might seem, that was the way my mind reacted. Yet there was a little desperate voice in my head saying: “Look. You are constantly wishing you were dead. It cannot get any worse. Do something.”

And I did. I read one chapter of the book each evening. When I got to the end of the book, I started with the first chapter again. I was doing this for half a year, so you can imagine how many times I read the same chapter over and over again. On one hand I was too reluctant to start doing the mental exercises described in the book. On the other hand I didn’t want to give up and forget about the book. So I kept reading it.

After half a year I decided it was time to start the real mental work. I picked 3 exercises from the book and promised myself to do them twice a day. I chose the 3 exercises that felt the least unpleasant. They took me only 10 to 20 minutes — depending on my level of concentration. I was doing them in the morning on the bus to work and again in the evening in bed before falling asleep. I am not sure, but I think I picked the following exercises: 1. The one when you visualize the person that has hurt you on the stage. Then you let the person experience all the good. It’s an act of forgiving. 2. The one when you visualize how your life should be. It’s an act of allowing you to be happy. 3. And the one when you visualize yourself as a five year old child and hug yourself. It’s an act of accepting yourself and loving yourself the way you are. Then you do the same with your parents — you imagine them when they were five and hug them. It’s an act of accepting and loving your parents.

The wish to finish something we have started is not enough. We have to push ourselves to work. And don’t worry — the first mental work is the most difficult. Anything else in life — any kind of work, not just the mental — will be easier to accomplish, if you hang on. It’s like starting a car in extreme cold. The beginning is always the toughest. And remember: No Pain No Gain.

*: The book is called
You Can Heal Your Life and I have mentioned it in several blogs.

You can ask me more about my experience with mental work:

ponedeljek, 21. december 2009

At the ambassador's

I was standing in front of the fireplace in the ambassador’s house. A woman who was also invited, seemed genuinely interested in my story. I told her I was writing a book about my life. “So young and already writing a book about your life?” she wondered. I said: “Yes, you now, after a month in Germany I got seriously ill. I ended in a hospital.” At that point the protective glass in front of the fireplace broke into a million of pieces. It was the kind of glass that cars have in front.

I was only shocked for a split of a second, right afterwards I felt relieved. The glass broke at precisely the right time. I would have gotten too personal, if it hadn’t broken. I felt safe. As if the universe was taking good care of me.

13 years ago I was about to spend a semester studying abroad. I chose Göttingen, Northern Germany. After a month I got a full blown psychotic episode with all kinds of delusions and I heard sounds that weren’t there. I ended in the locked ward of the psychiatric hospital. A week ago the German ambassador held a reception at his residence for the former students that have been granted various scholarships to study in Germany. I couldn’t have entered his house, if I hadn’t overcome the pain that such memories bring. Now I feel I have made the final reconciliation with my past in Göttingen.

ponedeljek, 14. december 2009

Your daily routine

Some people find “a daily routine” boring. What I experienced today shows the contrary.

I have this daily routine habit that I try to keep regardless of weather. I go for a walk. Some days I prefer the forest by the river close to where I live. I call it a magical forest, since it is so quiet. All you can hear is the river, dry branches falling to the ground and the beautiful songs of birds. The path is only reachable by foot, so there is no traffic.

If I have more energy I ascend a hill nearby and enjoy the great view of the town beneath and of the Alps in the distance. I walk past isolated farms, fields, forest patches, meadows and pastures. Sometimes the sound of a farm tractor interrupts the silence but most of the time it is quiet.

Despite this mild beauty of my solitude in the nature — on some days I prefer to take a walk towards the centre of the town I live in. It’s usually when I don’t have any appointments. I work at home, so if there is no meeting, I start missing company a bit.

Despite these three variations it might get a boring routine, if I wasn’t paying interest to details. I notice all kind of changes in the nature: the level of the water in the river, the color of the leaves, the new blossoms, the color of clouds, the moods in people passing by etc.

However today I experienced something anyone would notice. It was the first snow. I was happy as a child. Snow makes my joy for life surface. I do feel a lot like a child, when the first snow covers the streets and gardens. There’s nothing like the creaking of the snow under one’s shoes. And the beauty of the snowflakes that come in all sorts of shapes is just marvelous. All the worries of every-day life seem to be covered. The world seems to have fallen asleep. After a while one starts freezing and then there’s nothing nicer than sitting inside a warm home and watching the snowflakes slowly falling to the ground.

There are some days, when I don’t want to go for a walk, because I think I have to do some more work. I always regret it, for the next day I wake up with a headache. I could see my sensitive brain as my drawback, but I choose not to. I see it as my jewel enabling me to marvel at the nature’s beauty every day or to run into an acquaintance in the town centre and have a nice chat.

How different from the times years ago when I was so depressed that I wouldn’t even get out of bed the whole day. I remember struggling for hours to get me up, put on my shoes and go for a 10-minute-walk. I think it wasn’t even half a mile. I felt like a loser, because prior to the depression I had done some really long hikes and I had even run the 26-mile-marathon. Yes I felt like a real loser back then, when I was only able to walk for 10 minutes very slowly. But if I think of it today — it wasn’t in vain. Every step counts. Whatever you do — never give up totally.

ponedeljek, 07. december 2009

Why worry - we only last a split of a second

Yesterday my husband and I went for a 4-hour-long walk along an Alpine valley. The path was covered with snow. There were icicles hanging from a very special rock-formation called “spodmol”. From a distance a “spodmol” looks like a large opened mouth. The path led us through this mouth from one corner of the lips to the other. So when we were in this rock-formation, it felt like a nice shelter over our heads with a great view into a mountain creek below. The icicles looked like curtains over the upper third of our “window” that was offering us the great view. There was an information-plate telling us about the history of this rock formation. When we saw the millions of years it took for the stone to become such a nice “mouth”, we suddenly became aware of the age of the universe. And we thought of ourselves as being just a shooting star in comparison with the rocks surrounding us.

Well, the upper paragraph might seem as a very useless imagery. However it might actually be put to some use, when you are desperate or very angry. First think of those rocks that have patiently waited for you to appear and marvel at their beauty. They don’t mind the rain, the cold, the heat. They don’t mind the forces of time changing them. They don’t even care if some day they break, fall off the creek-bank and end up being some insignificant pebbles nobody notices. We – human beings – on the other hand worry too much about our short existence. We only last a split of a second compared to rocks. Yes I know it seems like eternity when you are in pain. Nonetheless it might relieve some of the pain, if you think our existence is nothing compared to the infinity and eternity of the universe.

I forgot my camera so the picture is of another “spodmol” taken this summer.

If you would like me to write about something very specific regarding my life with the schizoaffective disorder, please feel free to send me your questions to the following e-mail-address: bb.bukle@gmail.com.