Real meditation

The more stressful the world becomes with politics, war, online overloading. It is ever more important that we not only de-stress, but that we find a way to build resilience to it. Because it’s a force that is going nowhere. It can affect us from the minute we wake up til the minute we hit the hay.

If like, me you are a parent you will be all too familiar with rising irritation and annoyance. No matter how well behaved the kids are they are still stressful. They test my patience daily. They are not necessarily bad; just relentless in their energy. It would be all too easy to snap and bite into anger which, let’s face it, would achieve nothing. Only fuel the fire’s and create more tension.

On my journey I have discovered a path to a life where I rarely emotionally respond to stress. It was out of necessity that I searched for solutions to my mental health conditions. I had uncontrollable emotions with Borderline Personality Disorder. I was also an alcoholic in recovery, and with resentment a poison to me, I had to learn to deal with stress. To give up anger and fear and live life on life’s terms. Meditation was the vehicle to the solution.

Now, I’m not talking about fluffy mindfulness practices. The type on you tube that have you focusing on hypnotic breathing or visualisation, like picturing yourself on sandy beaches. They are great for a temporary distraction but they only serve to suppress negativity further. Which on the long run are a bad deal. The more we suppress the greater the need for obsessive relief from the internal conflict.

Real meditation is not about seeking happiness, it isn’t a feel good exercise, we are not feeding the ego. It can be painful to begin with as you begin to consciously wake up. There may be tears. There may be a release of anger or fear but there is nothing to be frightened of. The expulsion of negative resentment energy is necessary.

And once we awaken we begin to see the world through a new lense, with a clarity we may not have experienced since childhood. Before the pressures of the world got into us and clouded our judgment. Causing us to resent. To be fearful.

Real meditation is about living consciously with a spirit of love and tolerance at the centre. In the present moment there is a power that gives us a protection against stress. It gives us the power to meet the pressures of everyday life with grace. Strengthening from abrasive encounters. Like iron sharpens iron.

I’ll leave the link here. You may or may not be ready for this. But trust me. You need this.

https://schwarzhoffmedia.com/non-contemplative-meditation/

Mental health awareness week

Mental health is an issue close to my heart. For decades it drove me to the edge – and into darkness. And I suffered with no real understanding of what was wrong with me.

My doctors notes read depression anxiety and alcohol abuse from the age of 14. I continued on a downward spiral in my teens and had already had two suicide attempts. I self harmed and my emotions ran wild. I was obsessive about certain people because I feared abandonment. At 16 the stress of it all caused my hair to fall out. At 19 I was hospitalised with suspected schizophrenia. There was never an official diagnosis.

My alcohol abuse got progressively worse into my twenties to the point of chronic alcoholism.

I destroyed everything worthwhile in my life and wound up at rock bottom on the other side of the world in New Zealand. In the last detox for alcohol I was diagnosed by a doctor with Borderline Personality Disorder. It explained my unstable emotions and obsessive behaviours. But I didn’t pay much attention or do anything with the information I got. I just carried on drinking. Stuffing down the memories and emotions that played havoc in my head.

I was diagnosed again with BPD when I returned to England. Id just like to note that both times I was diagnosed was were periods where I wasn’t drinking. You can take the brandy out of a fruitcake you still got a fruitcake. And dealing with life sober became a real issue for me over the next 6 years.

My mental health suffered badly in the last few years of my drinking career. I was medicated on anti-psycotics. My life became driven by the obsession that I would one day control my drinking. I had to drink to deal with the destructive thoughts and suicide ideation. My head was a dark space. One that sober, I would have to manage. I was riddled with resentment and fear. Marijuana helped to keep me out of lashing out but alcohol no longer worked to quieten my nerves. I did eventually discover permanent sobriety age 36.

Dialectical behavioural therapy was intense, but I gained a lot from it, and I got a better understanding of my condition. Meditation was the mainstay I took from DBT. And to this day I meditate every day without fail. It has helped regulate my emotions and quietened the negativity. I still have destructive thinking but I am no longer ruled by it  Meditation was my saving grace. Especially in sobriety. I have learned to deal with life with faith and the principles of love and tolerance.

Through meditation I was also freed from lifelong depression and anxiety. Since developing a pain condition from a car accident in 2018 my mental health and wellbeing is even more Important. There is plenty of temptation to fall back down the rabbit hole but the pain is getting more manageable, so it’s just a case of being mindful each day. And keeping out of my thoughts.

So if you are reading this and are struggling. Make it your mission to search for ways to improve your situation. Whether it’s adopting a meditation practice or taking time out for yourself each day. There is always hope for us and in the light we will find that we can manage our emotions and lives. That we don’t have to be bonded to darkness. We can be free to be who we really are – and know that we are enough.

https://schwarzhoffmedia.com/non-contemplative-meditation/

Discipline without anger

We all know the scenario. We are tired and the kids are playing up and screaming. They have been all day. They are not as they are told and your getting to the end of your rope. Your stress levels are rising along with frustration and anger. It’s at that point that how we react matters.

As someone with a past anger problem (I have borderline personality disorder). I would not have been able to contain my rising negative emotions. I would have snapped with frustration and anger, making a bad situation worse. Remember, children sense stress from us. It affects them on an unseen level.

Reacting out of anger never helps. Screaming may get results but it is also evidence that you have lost control. And children will learn thats how stressful situations are controlled. By losing their tempers. They watch us closely, we are there biggest influences

I believe there is a healthier way to deal with stressed out, fighting children. I’m not suggesting we do nothing or turn a blind eye to a stressful situation, or unruly kids. But there is a way to meet stress with grace and authority, without acting with the same behaviour you are trying to discipline them for.

Raising children takes patience. Personally I found a solution to stress a good few years ago by way of non contemplative meditation. And since mastering resentment I haven’t lost my temper in a long while. I found a way to deal with the stressful events without emotions dragging me in. I’m not the perfect parent but when it come to anger I no longer bite.

There are times I raise my voice and break up flights but I do it from a place of conscious awareness. Underneath I stay calm and don’t lose my cool. For example, when Frankie was much younger, she was having a hysterical tantrum and screaming at me. I turned to Stacey and said that I’m not angry but I’m about to raise my voice. And I did, and Frankie has never screamed at me again. So it’s possible to raise your voice and maintain authority. The minute we lose our cool we lose all authority, we cannot be respected and children will grow to resent us.

If you are someone who is quick to anger and want to approach discipline from a less stressful position give this meditation a shot. Just 10 minutes – x3 times a day and you will naturally begin dealing with stress in a way that is beneficial to you and your child. You will find a new patience that your children will grow to respect.

https://schwarzhoffmedia.com/non-contemplative-meditation/

Dog tired

It’s been a few weeks since my last post. All is well with the girls now that they have all gotten over chicken pox. We had a few night’s of broken sleep, Stacey more than me as I’m least likely to wake up. Which is the subject of this post. I am tired all the time.

I have busy days. I get up early, before the girls so I can meditate and have a quiet cup of coffee. I work in the mornings and nap when I get home. Then I pick the girls up from school, cook dinner and do the bath routine. And just lately I’ve been falling asleep around 8pm. And it’s not just the girls and work tiring me out. It’s mostly exhaustion from pain, which lately has been flaring up quite badly in my back and my face. It seems the minute I sit down I doze off.

I’m exhausted right now. Central pain syndrome is kicking my ass. Pain takes up a lot of my attention, it drags me down and tires me out. I feel every movement which draines me mentally as well as physically. I’m getting on with my days the best I can but lately it’s wiping me out.

The anticonvulsant medication I take can also make me tired but usually I make it to at least half ten before I’m struggling to keep my lids open. It’s also affecting my relationship with Stacey as the evening is our only real time together. All I want to do is curl up in a ball and sleep. Which is pretty much what I am doing right now when I have done my daily jobs.

Writing this post is making me tired

Before I developed central pain syndrome I had no problem running on 7 hours shut eye. I was bursting with energy and rarely sat still. I was always doing something. But with chronic pain all that has changed. I have become slow and sluggish. I still keep myself busy during the day but it takes it out of me, especially during flare ups.

In the pain clinic we talked about the spoon analogy. Say you have 12 spoons in a cup. Each spoon represents an energy level. And as you go through the day you remove spoons. For example i would remove 6 spoons from working. You continue to remove spoons as the day goes on. And here’s the problem. Once you have removed all the spoons, if you continue to burn up energy you are using spoons from the following day. So you may start the next day with only 9 spoons in your cup. And that’s how chronic pain works. Once it draines you – it draines you. You don’t reset after a night’s sleep.

I’m sure when my pain levels lower my energy levels will regulate again. But until then tiredness will continue to beat me down. I’m feeling sleepy writing this post so I’m going for a quick nap before I start work and I begin using up my spoons.

To the new dad

So, you’ve had the positive pregnancy test and the wheel of life is now turning whether you like it or not. It can be a daunting experience for many men who have no idea what’s coming. Mum may be elated and full of joy and you may be in a panic. Or it can be the other way around.

You may have no point of reference like I did. My relationship with my dad was a write off, I went into fatherhood with no one to get advice from, my own experience left me rudderless. I was left with the question ‘what the hell is coming?’

The day of our dating scan when we discovered that we were having triplets I burst into uncontrollable laughter, my wife the polar opposite, she was crying and shaking at the thought of carrying three babies. It was a pregnancy that took its toll on her and looking back now it was my positive attitude and show of interest that got us both through it. At least until the day they arrived.

Triple trouble

Since getting sober, and before meeting my wife, I have tried to live by the principles of love and patience. I had made the commitment to outgrow fear and face life on lifes terms. I treated the pregnancy in the same way. Rather than panic at the prospect of having three newborn’s I was excited. It meant a life changing chapter of my life was ahead of me. The more I could show my wife support and involvement the easier her life was carrying our daughters. Sure I had a few doubts and fears but my wife didn’t need to hear them. To her I had to be emotionally strong.

And my approach towards the pregnancy paid off. In staying out of stress and worry she was able to just focus on the the job at hand. She knew that from me she could rely on me in the most stressful of events. And then they were born, and I was thrown into the flames of new fatherhood. Pretty soon sleep deprivation and stress became challenges of every hour. I had to work a physical job during the day and deal with the triplets at home. It became the most stressful time of my life until the girls started sleeping through the night.

But through all the pressue and insanity of early parenting I still did my best to practice patience. I knew that stress affected the babies and that my wife still needed me to be emotionally stable. I wished I had a dad to ask questions and get support from but I was on my own. Instead I eventually found support from online communities found on Facebook. And to be honest I struggled badly in the first six months. I had financial concerns. Our house was now too small and I felt as though I was failing because of the mental state of lack of sleep and rest.

Stay involved

But I did get some things right through it all. I stayed as involved as possible. Even though my wife was breastfeeding I could still help. I stayed awake at night and pacified the baby’s that weren’t feeding. I helped with baths and dealt with the witching hour after work and allowed my wife to go upstairs and rest from her day. I did my best to support her and had the humility to ask her what I could do when I felt at a loose end. She had already done the baby deal with my step daughter. My wife had a natural motherly intuition, she knew what to do in the times I felt lost. If I didn’t know what to do I would ask her.

Life did get easier when they began sleeping through the nights. Once sleep deprivation was out of the way I could get back to daily meditation and practicing patience and tolerance. There were times in early fatherhood that I didn’t think I was going to survive it. Times I felt like a failure but I stuck at it despite the pressure on me. And my involvement payed off. It was as good for me as it was for my daughters. I bonded with them just by being present with them. Even now I do bath time and the bedtime routine on my own. It’s my chance for quality time at the end of their day. It’s precious time for me and them.

So if you are expecting, or are in the early day’s of fatherhood my advice would be to stay involved. Be a show of strength and stability for your partner. And above all practice the principles of love and tolerance under your roof and you will begin to raise a healthy family. One that will be able to rely on you.

Peace at last

Over the summer holidays home-life began to take it’s toll. Dealing with three relentless four year olds would run anyone down. They had stressed us both out to the max and we were counting down the days until they began school.

For the first time since they were born we found ourselves overwhelmed. We were going to bed with a sense of impending doom that in the morning we had to do it all again. It created a bit of guilt in me. As if I was wishing away the day’s and in truth I was. I couldn’t wait for them to start school and give us a break.

Triple trouble

My mental health took a bit of a nose dive over the last couple of months. Between the triplets and central pain syndrome flare ups I was up against it. Meditation kept me afloat; that and a sense of duty to parent our crazy kids. I had no choice but to face each day and do my best to practice love tolerance and patience.

After four weeks of alternative mornings and afternoons they have now finally started school full time. Yipskipitydoo!!! It has been a game changer for all of us. The girls needed a new routine as much as we did. And thankfully they love going to school. Stacey has got her days back to herself to take care of the home and I get an hour free after work which gives me a chance to write without distraction. It’s heaven.

Frankie and I shared a birthday recently and we all went out for a nice meal to celebrate. She’s needed to get back to school herself. Having three little sisters on her case all day has pushed her patience. But now it’s all changed for the better. We also find it easier to parent them after school instead of dealing with them the whole day through. Our tolerance is much better.

Parenting triplets takes grit and determination. It’s a tough gig at times but it is also a journey of shared love. They are a beautiful bunch and I am proud to be called daddy.

Flare up

After 3 years I am still suffering from the pain condition I developed after a car accident (central pain syndrom). It is a punishing condition that I have little control of. I learned early on that stress ramps the pain levels up. As it did which led to my recent hospital admission.

The left side of my face dropped and I lost sensation down the left side of my body and I suffered chest pains. It is why they suspected a stroke. When in fact it was just a flare up caused by the stres of dealing with home life. Which has been full on lately for both Stacey and myself.

I have been questioning my ability to be a good dad. I have also been overwhelmed by parenting triplets and balancing work life. I have had a warning to slow down. Not easy with three 4 year olds bouncing off the walls but it’s the path I have been given.
Soon they will be starting school full time and we will get some time to rest.

Having triplets and a chronic pain condition isn’t the easiest combination. But I am slowly learning deal with both. But there are times it gets the better of me. As it has done lately.

Life as dad

I thought that the first year of parenting was the toughest gig I have ever experienced in my life. I struggled badly with exhaustion, verging on depression from simply adjusting to life as a new dad with three newborn’s.

I spent a lot of time waiting for it to get easier. And it didn’t. All that happened was I got used to my new role. After the initial battering of sleep deprivation I placed my focus on being a present dad. Supporting my wife so she was less stressed whilst I worked. Taking care of the girls when I was at home and making sure I was pulling my weight.

In some ways they were easier to deal with when they were babies. For one they stayed where you put them and didn’t answer back. Now they are toddlers we are dealing with the tantrums and sass. The only man in the house I’m mostly referred to now as ‘silly daddy’. I’m outnumbered by females 5 to 1. I got my work cut out for me if I am going to remain sane.

It’s not all bad though. The triplets are great fun at this age. Everything is new to them and it’s wonderful to watch them learn and grow. There’s nothing like a triplet cuddle, they are a tight little unit that stick together and play together.

The one thing I am learning is that the more I practice patience and tolerance with them, the more confident they are growing. I rarely need to raise my voice and am mindful of my reactions around them, especially when they are playing up. It’s a test of endurance at times and a relentless way of life but it’s now our normal. I feel blessed beyond words to have the family I am now raising. My wife is an absolute legend of a mother to our daughters. She too approaches life at home with love and a sense of humour.

If you are a new father struggling to find your role. Become a man of love, patience and authority. Be a support for your partner and gradually you will find your feet. Just love your family and make them your priority. It’s a tough ride without a doubt but with the right attitude you can be the difference your family needs.

Central Pain Syndrome Foundation

I am now writing and volunteering for the Central Pain Syndrome Foundation. I am honored to be a part of the team leading this non profit charity who’s main objective is to raise awareness of CPS and to work towards a cure.

I will still post about my experience with CPS here now and then. But my aim is to now keep my blog more focused on Fatherhood and of course – Meditation.

Thank-you for putting up my ramblings about living with chronic pain over the last few years. And I thank each of you for following my blog 😉

Here is my first blog post for the CPSF. I will be writing a post weekly to be published each Friday.

https://www.cps.foundation/blog/forced-changes

Staying sober

I have no doubt that If I had become a father whilst I was an active alcoholic I would have been a deadbeat dad. I would have been incapable of dealing with a family life because I was unable to put anything in the way of the next drink.

I get asked a lot how I remain sober. Being seven and a half years away from my last drink I know a thing or two about what it takes to stay on the wagon and improve as a man and a father in the process.

I am by no means a perfect husband or parent. I have made, and still make mistakes. But I do have a willingness to own my mistakes and learn from them.

In recovering from alcoholism I got down to the cause of my drinking, which was nothing more than a symptom of my spiritual malady. Alcohol to me was a solution. It allowed me to stuff down my pain of guilt for the destructive life I was living.

My solution to my anger problem

The real cause of my alcoholism was suppressed resentment and fear. From an abusive childhood I became infected with anger. That anger drove my existence. I became a selfish, self centred man, caring only for myself and my wants and needs. Until I got free from that spirit of resentment nothing would ever change. Even without the crutch of alcohol I was the same self centred individual.

I soon discovered that If I was to find emotional stability in sobriety I would have to treat the cause. I had to find a way to stay free from anger and outgrow my fears. This would take a spiritual solution. Because being infected with anger is a spiritual problem. Believe it or not.

I needed a solid way to face the pressures of each day with a certain grace, without being rattled by stress, no matter what the cause.

If resentment (irritation, frustration, jealousy, bitterness) was my problem, then unless I had a way to face it it would eventually take me back to a drink. I have no reservations about that. I would eventually need to get relief from the constant negative chatter in my head and judgement I felt towards those in my life.

So how do I do it?

It is more simple than you would think. Painful at times as I face the fears in myself but it takes faith to overcome those nagging fears. The recovery program that initially got me sober suggests prayer and meditation as a way to remain sober and grow emotionally. I needed to find the right meditation for this vital practice.

I practice non contemplative meditation. In the morning on awakening I think about the day ahead. I ask God to give me all I need to deal with whatever may come in that day then I mediate for 15 – 20 minutes using a guided exercise. One that is in line with the spiritual path I have chosen to walk in sobriety. Then during the day I am concious to deal with any stressful events that my occurr.

I am protected against resentment from moment to moment the more I am in the present moment. Meditation makes that state of awareness possible.

I put my wellbeing and ability to parent consciously down to daily meditation, to faith. I am a man who is hard to rattle. I stay emotionally neutral to the dramas In my life, free from anger and fear. Growing as a husband and father in the stream of life. Each day moving forward and further away from the next drink.

I will leave the link here to the free meditation exercise I use. And if you are struggling with destructive obsessive symptoms. If you are constantly being battered by your own mind I hope you find here what I did all those years ago.

https://tripletdad.blog/2019/01/19/the-meditation-2/