Live and on Location From Reality

John McManamy Health Guide
  • Last week’s sharepost, Challenging Negative Thinking - My Take, discussed cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and what I see as its pivot point, mindfulness - the mind watching the mind. Little did I realize that just a few days later I would be in the field, so to speak, putting my scribblings to the test.

    Let me explain:

    Nearly two weeks ago I returned from an east coast trip, which combined business and a family visit. I returned worn out and with a bad leg cramp. When the cramp wouldn’t go away, it became clear something was pinching on my sciatic nerve, which means I can look forward to another four weeks of shooting pains, walking around like an old man, and messed up sleep.

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    My disrupted sleep is an invitation to a mood episode, and I clearly have not been myself.

    On top of that, the family visit pushed buttons I never even knew existed. Deep, dark, resentful thoughts.

    Meantime, the summer heat has come on full bore, which has the effect of sapping me of my motivation and energy. This tends to drive me indoors, so now - ironically, I’m getting less sunlight and exercise than I normally do in winter here in southern CA.

    I strted thinking: “If this is what being an old man is like, then you can have it.”

    I was also thinking: “What if the pain never goes away? What if I need an operation? Me, with no health insurance.”

    Then: “This would be a good time to find out I have advanced pancreatic cancer and be done with it.”

    I spent all last week in a depressive trough. But these kind of slumps are not unusual for me. They are part of my normal cycling pattern, which I fully accept and which I can handle. But the trough combined with the disrupted sleep and severe pain, personal resentments, and hot weather posed special challenges. I could find myself in a major depression before I knew it.

    Let’s put it this way, if my brain were a power grid, I could see myself headed toward overload. This is where mindfulness kicks in. I could see what was developing. I could act now, before I reached overload stage. I was still able to laugh. Good sign, I reminded myself.

    Another good sign: My dark thinking was not escalating. I was managing each thought as it came up.

    On Friday, I was able to discuss various options with my psychiatrist. Light therapy was one suggestion (since the heat was driving me indoors). If things really got bad, he reminded me, we already had emergency plans in place. I left his office feeling no better, but with a sense of control. Good sign.

    Saturday is water volleyball day for me, but it required every ounce of will to get me into the car. I arrived at my venue very out of sorts, but returned in an excellent mood and feeling no pain.

    Sunday morning - extreme, incapacitating pain. No energy. But late afternoon, between lightning bolts of pain, I noticed something: The depression wasn’t there. I was miserable - but not depressed.
    Tomorrow that could change. I may wake up both miserable and depressed.

    This is John McManamy, fingers crossed, live and on location from Reality.

Published On: July 12, 2009