Back in the days before I began to practise mindfulness I never really saw the point of small steps. I have always been one of those people who take on challenges that look far too big and I’ve always been able to see the way to solving a problem without having to think too hard. I’ve done jobs that I wasn’t qualified to do and done them well and so, as you may be able to tell I’ve lived my life by making terrific leaps and not tiny steps.
Having a diagnosis of Manic Depression (also known as Bipolar Disorder) far too late to slow the progression meant that, sooner or later, there would be a huge crash – what people sometimes term as a “nervous breakdown”.
When the first crash came it was at the end of a period in my life that involved six years living in a neighbourhood where I didn’t fit in and was targeted by my neighbours. I had my mail stolen and read out in front of me, they expected me to lend them my belongings and give them loans of money. The more I refused the more it happened. The police and housing officer did nothing because, as they told me, my mental health problem exaggerated things which meant, quite simply, that they thought I was lying. Eventually an enlightened manager realised what was really going on, moved me with a few days notice while writing off the rent arrears that I’d accrued because he believed that they weren’t my fault.
During this desperate time my work suffered and, as a temp, it could be hard to come by. I had periods of mania where I spent beyond my means and had a bank that pushed offers of loans and credit cards at me even though I had asked them not to. I ended up with a debt to the bank that they said was too big to write off (it was £1,500), no hope of working for a long time and very little money coming in.
I returned to work after a year and lasted a matter of weeks before I crashed once more. This time it was more spectacular. I felt that I’d had a huge electrical storm in my head and, I believe as a result of this, have a poor memory particularly when I’m stressed.
My psychiatrist dared me to try mindfulness. He was well aware that I had a scathing attitude to “airy fairy” treatments and told me to try it as an experiment. He even provided a CD of guided meditations so I really had no option but to take him up on it. I’m still practising mindfulness over a decade later so I guess it was an experiment worth trying!
A few years ago, after a very bad period of ill health, I was no longer coping and was losing control over my finances again. I appointed two people under Lasting Power of Attorney and we registered it and I began to gain control by handing it over. During this period my concentration levels dipped to such a low that I found that I could no longer read books. I was a book a day person so this really hurt me. I also found that I could no longer listen to the radio as it competed with the sounds in my head. I felt that I had lost my two best friends when that happened and gradually came to terms with the loss.
In small steps my finances came together and in a much healthier way than they’ve ever been thanks to the guidance of one of my attorneys. As money became less of a worry then my mind began to clear and I started to get tidier and the chaos I lived in became less overwhelming and that made me feel able to clear more of the chaos. I still live in chaos but it’s manageable these days and I’m happy with it most days.
Today I woke up and looked out my radio. I’ve had it on all day. I just knew that today was the day I could welcome it back in my life. To add joy to pleasure today I also knew that today would be the day I began reading again and, though I may not read a book a day anymore, it feels wonderful. I have my two best friends back.
Had I not taken small steps over 10 years ago I would not be able to welcome back the radio and books into my life. Small steps have led me to make a terrific leap once again. I leapt in slow motion but I leapt.