In October 2010 I broke up with my boyfriend of almost 12 years.
I realised that I had spent the entire relationship supporting him and had completely lost sight of who I was and what I wanted. I was getting ill regularly with an upper respiratory tract infection which caused all my glands to swell up and would leave me very sore and depressed for weeks at a time. I now believe that this was triggered by stress and emotional burn out.
We had gone through a rocky patch but both agreed we wanted to work through it. I told him what it was I needed to happen for it to work for me. It was probably the first time in the relationship that I had requested anything of him and I think it shocked him. He basically expected us to carry on as things had been before, without him having to make any effort or changes. So I ended it. I felt I didn’t have any other choice.
I went into a rapid downward spiral after that. I started gambling heavily (slot machine games on bingo websites), became withdrawn and depressed and in early November had an emotional meltdown at work. This brought things to a head for me and I realised I needed help.
My workplace provides a free counselling service so I signed up and had 4 counselling sessions between December 2010 – January 2011. I cried through most of these sessions. I couldn’t understand why I was so upset when it was me who ended things. I came to realise that I was grieving over the death of the relationship and for what could have been. I also had no sense of self worth whatsoever. My counsellor recommended some confidence building techniques, books and cds which I could work through after the sessions had ended.
Around this time I started attending a lunch hour meditation group that one of my colleagues went to. I loved it. This led me to book a place on a Mindfulness meditation workshop day in early March 2011. At the end of the day I was on cloud nine. I felt relaxed and calm and had a sense of being on the right path, probably for the first time in my adult life.
At the end of March I read The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin. I also read a freebie Kindle fiction book about a woman who started writing a blog as a way of getting over her marriage break up. So on 1st April I started my own mini happiness project and wrote my first blog.
I thought about what made me happy and set myself goals to work towards. My goals focused on meditation, de-cluttering, reading more, being creative, increasing my fruit, vegetable and water intake, pampering myself and exercising more. I focused on one topic each week and blogged about it. I also made a personal commandment to do what I enjoy and enjoy what I do. This meant figuring out what it was that I enjoyed as an individual, rather than as a part of couple. It also meant finding coping strategies to deal with my high stress levels.
I developed a strong feeling of contentment by the end of the project.
From April to July 2011 I continued to work on increasing my happiness levels by working through a number of training plans, life coaching books and an 8 week mindfulness programme. I also attended a Learn to be an Optimist one day workshop.
Then in Mid July 12th 2011 we discovered my Grandma had breast cancer. She was so optimistic and upbeat that it was impossible to imagine she might not be able to beat it. She had an operation to remove the lump in August and we were told a few weeks later that the operation had been successful. It would hang over us a while longer with radiotherapy and regular check-ups but the prognosis was good.
In September I came across the Momentum Gathering blog and worked through the Life Cleanse Starter Kit which was a free gift for following it. It felt like an appropriate time to review and “cleanse”.
At the end of September I wrote in my blog that all the personal development sites and books tell you what you should do or should not do in order to be happy, be motivated, be a better person… and that I was struck by the fact that I was willing to believe that the reason why I was not a bouncing up and down happy, highly motivated and better person was because I was not doing “it” right.
I went on to say that although there were a number of recurring themes there were a large number of conflicting approaches – and I asked “how do I know which is the “right one”? Is there a “right one”? Would I be better off just listening to my inner voice instead of relying on other people’s rules and methods”.
Despite this, in October 2011 I started working though the Zen Habits blog and The Effortless Life book, (Leo Babauta). I turned my focus to simplifying, de-cluttering, slowing down, single tasking, mindfulness, meditating, establishing simple routines, finding a creative outlet and filling my days with simple pleasures.
After working through these, I wrote in my blog “I have been more present than at any point since I became interested in mindfulness. I am much more centred and relaxed and possibly the most content I have been in a very, very long time”.
Part 2 to follow soon……