Six Steps to Take Back Our Control: Part Two of Three

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Good morning. ūüôā If you are just tuning in, you can find steps one and two written in the previous blog post.

3. Politely listen but don’t necessarily follow well-meaning advice from family and friends.¬†It’s human nature to want to tell someone or share with that person our ideas about what we think should be done in certain situations. In some cases, this helpful advice comes from family members who have heard us sound entirely different than usual. In my case, it was other siblings who heard me on the phone coming off slurred, drugged, or very sleepy. That’s alarming. I agree. It was disturbing to me as well, even as it happened. Others, including friends who are still on medication and doctors who don’t believe it can be done in your case, offer entirely different words of advice.

4. Visualize all possible outcomes of your choices. I did not do this before I chose to wean myself off my psych meds, but I wish someone had suggested it. I like to play the “What if” game in my head these days. It helps me with most situations. If I’d played this game before I weaned off my psych meds, it might look like this:

  • What if I get anxious?¬†Coming off bipolar and meds for anxiety (specifically Ativan 2mg tablets 3x daily), this is a pretty likely event and concern. So, if I get anxious, I’ll have to cope.
  • What if I can’t cope?¬†What if I *can’t* cope? What do I mean here with this fear? What if I don’t have the *ability* to cope, or I do have the ability, but I’m afraid I won’t want to deal? Suss out those meanings for yourself. I might have to ask for help.
  • What if I ask for help and I’m turned away, or the person I call isn’t home?¬†Then I keep asking. If I have to call the suicide hotline for help, I’ll do that.
  • What if whoever I ask for help that person tells me I need to be admitted to a psych ward?¬†So, is this a terrible thing? It’s *incredibly* difficult to wean off meds by oneself. I’m sure I did it more quickly than I should’ve.

Anyway, you get the idea. Play devil’s advocate on this step.

Peace. xoxo

Chrissy

Six Simple Steps to Take Back Our Control: Part One of Three

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I’ve been having the most difficult time putting my words down here. It can’t be because I’m afraid I’ll get it wrong. It’s my story, my life. How wrong could I get it?

It seems that my most effective/popular blog posts have been when there is a specific list to help change something in one’s life. Hey, who doesn’t like lists, right?

Six Simple Steps to Take Back Control

1. Question everything, and don’t be afraid of your doctor.¬†When we lose or think we lose control of our lives, it’s not always with a crash and broken bones. It’s sometimes pretty subtle. For me, it starts with my doctor says that I need Prozac because I am in a major depression. I’m 27 years old at the time. I can say no, but he’s a¬†doctor.¬†If I didn’t need a pill, surely he wouldn’t suggest it? What I learned years later, something most of you probably know but I will share anyway, is this: doctors have to dx¬†something¬†in your chart in order for the insurance to pay. It’s not as important as Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life, but for some reason it scared me when he said that. So, being a little shell-shocked, I would have agreed to anything short of a lobotomy. Here’s the thing. Our doctors stumble in the darkness too. They aren’t perfect. Don’t be afraid. Honestly, I still get fearful, and have to tell myself over and over before an appointment: “He may have more medical knowledge, but I know myself¬†better.”

2. Trust your instincts.¬†I have been on psychiatric medications for over 30 years, and I’ve written before about trusting our instincts, especially with health concerns. I think I wasn’t absorbing¬†for me¬†what this actually meant. It means knowing how my body feels on drugs, identifying side effects you are absolutely not willing to live with, and letting that be okay. I’ve had two different reactions to my objection to side effects which made me so light-headed and clumsy that I fell twice in six weeks, once spraining my wrist. “You have to weigh the cost of living with the side effects on one hand or living with the symptoms of your illness on the other.” That was my psychiatrist.

I’ve gone on and on. Important things to ponder. I’ll cover steps three and four tomorrow.

Peace. xoxo

Christina

Are You Happy? You’ll Live Longer!

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May is Mental Health Month, so Рwhile I most likely will not post every day Рwhen I post, the date will coincide with the letter of the alphabet from A-Z. Today is May 8th so we will focus on a mental health trait starting with the letter H.

According to this article from the¬†National Institution for Mental Health, ¬†life expectancy in the U.S. has definitively increased. This should not be surprising, if we consider medical treatments, technology, and vaccines available today that weren’t in the early 20th century. The article states that longevity has increased “from 51 years in 1910 to nearly 79 years (81 years in women, 76 years in men) in 2010.”

Since I know my perception changes with my attitude toward any problem situation in my life, I’m often curious about how others deal with illness (in general, not just those with mental health issues). Does anyone know of the “belly laugh” experiment by¬†Dr. Norman Cousins¬†in 1964? It’s an amazing story. After returning from a stressful time in Russia, Dr. Cousins “was diagnosed with ankylosing spondylitis (a degenerative disease causing the breakdown of collagen), which left him in almost constant pain and motivated his doctor to say he would die within a few months.”

Instead of giving up, Dr. Cousins dug deep. He watched humorous shows on TV and read funny books, comics, and so forth. He claimed that a mere 10 minutes of belly laughs would allow him two hours of sleep without pain when even morphine¬†couldn’t help. Defying all odds, he was able to return to work full-time within two years! In 1979 Cousins wrote a book,¬†Anatomy of An Illness, in which he shared the astonishing results of his experiment.

Though I can’t say that we all should try the doctor’s method, it certainly ought to give us pause. Although striving for more happiness to boost our mental health does not guarantee a longer life, it is said that people who are mentally ill tend to die at least 10 years earlier than their more healthy peers.

How happy are you? ūüôā

Peace,

Chris

Gaslighted? Five Steps to Help

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According to Dictionary.com, the loaded word¬†gaslight¬†means “to¬†cause¬†(a¬†person)¬†to¬†doubt¬†his¬†or¬†her¬†sanity¬†through¬†the¬†use¬†of psychological¬†manipulation.” If you’ve ever seen¬†¬†Gaslight the movie then you might relate to Ingrid Bergman’s character, Paula Alquist Anton.¬†

If you have been gaslighted, here are five things that I hope might help:

You are not insane. You might¬†feel¬†like you are, but you’re not.

Gaslighting is powerful. Do not think of yourself as weak. It takes someone quite strong to overcome such manipulation. If someone says things like: “You’re too sensitive; that’s not what happened; no, that’s not what I said, you must’ve misunderstood; you’re overreacting; I never said that; you must be confused again,”nine times out of ten you’re being psychologically¬†manipulated for the purpose of causing you to doubt yourself.

Trust yourself. Your manipulator may dump shame on you for doubting him. The gaslighter hopes all this will cause you want to check yourself all the time, scrutinizing your own beliefs to the point you almost have none of your own.

Reach out and get support. Even if it’s just someone to be a sounding board for you, it’s important to connect with others as much as you can. Because the gaslighter wants you to feel unworthy, this will be hard. Do it anyway. Don’t let yourself isolate.

You are worthy.¬†If you take away this one thing, this one thought, it may save your sanity.¬†¬† Speak your truth¬†to¬†a¬†close friend or confidant who doesn’t have a stake in what seems like a very¬†high-priced game of cat and mouse, It helps immeasurably to hear the words:¬†I believe you. I’m here. You are not crazy.

Peace. Stay cool.

Chris xoxo

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Juvi Syed‚Äé Cognitive Care Center P.C

Are You a Mono- or Multitasker?

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courtesy of Cathy Thorne Everyday Comics

I have a confession to make. I’ve never been a good multitasker. I envied my friends who could, especially if they had kids or other distractions. I mean, I even have trouble listening to the radio and driving at once. Usually, I drive in complete silence, at least within my control. Rain lends itself to the patter on the window, the wipers going back and forth, not to mention thunder. I love a good storm, but only from the inside looking out. The only inside sound I will (need to) put up with for a while is Stella, my VZ Navigator. After getting lost going to familiar places, she became my new best friend.

If I do get distracted from the moment, it’s usually my ADD or OCD kicking in. When I’m reading, my absolute favorite activity, I do get distracted because I have this obsession with not stopping until I was at a page which had a period, or, better yet, a complete end to the chapter. I have suspicions about ending or beginning a chapter on 50, 100, 150, you the idea. Nothing bad would happen if I didn’t, except I would get so annoyed. If¬†I¬†did¬†happen to land on those “lucky” pages, I looked for something good to happen to people I care about, or even myself. My ADD will cause me to want to look through FB, then – oh – I wanted to look up this thing before I for… – what was I just thinking? ūüôā

I’m not perfect at it, for certain, but I try to monotask as much as I can. When I’m writing, even though I hate it, I will do it offline, or set a distraction-free mode on my writing software. Or, when I¬†really¬†want to be mindful, I’ll handwrite on a notebook and type the words in later.

We live in a world that has evolved at an alarming rate in technology. I keep waiting for hovercars to come on the horizon. But how many people do you notice answering texts even in the company of others? Rude. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love some tech things, like the new¬†Spire.¬†It’s just a little thing, I can clip it to the pocket of the jeans I’m wearing, or clip it to my bra say if I were wearing a dress. It recognizes the stress in my body and helps me with your breathing until I’m a bit more settled. Then, I can take note of the times my heart rate increases or my breath is unsteady and make a plan to cope ahead for those occasions.

So, yeah. I’m mostly immersed in one activity at a time. If I’m writing, I’m writing, which is why I probably get so irritable when interrupted. If I’m watching a movie, I easily lose the plot if I’m not focused. When I walk, I notice things around me, marveling at how beautiful it all is, but mostly stay focused on my steps to keep going, like a drill sergeant – “left, left, left, right, left.” ūüėÄ

What about you? Do you need to focus on one thing? How does that make you feel? Or, can you multi-task, and again – how does it make you feel? For both mono- and multitaskers, do you feel calm or frenzied much of the time?

Peace

Chris xo

 

 

Desperation, Tears, Laughter, Hope

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This is the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. I swear on my beloved dog Lucy’s grave in the backyard.

Tuesday, my shrink’s nurse notified me that she had called ahead to (hospital), explaining the situation, that I needed to be taken off all the psych meds I was currently on. Then I would be moved to (psych hospital) to start fresh, a clean slate, to see what would work to make me happier.

But let me backtrack just a little. My family physician promised me that he would basically look into every nook and cranny until I was doing better, happier.

When I get to the hospital, I was told to go through the ED. I registered, hugged my mom goodbye, and waited to be called back. But, instead of sending me onto a floor or into a room, they did an x-ray of my lungs. I’m grateful, because they found fluid on the left lung, an indication of possible pneumonia. They confirmed it, I was admitted to a room, and spent three days there on an IV for dehydration, also for antibiotics.

While I was there, a psych tech came into the room, informed me she had spoken with my shrink. She then told me they can’t take me off my meds there. Neither could any psych hospital. They could¬†tweak¬†the meds, sure, something that has been happening to me since I first started taking psychotropic meds in 1993. Did that help? Hmmm. Don’t think so, because if they had, I would be a much more happy and productive person than I am today. And yes, I got emotional and sort of raised my voice to the tech, who wasn’t responsible for the hospital’s policy. I’m actually angry at my shrink and my primary care physician for giving me hope, then snatching it away – like Snoopy with Linus’s blanket. I may be on the meds for the rest of my life, and deal with these severe side effects (cognitive issues), but I can practice

Radical Acceptance which means completely and totally accepting something from the depths of your soul, with your heart and your mind. You stop fighting reality. When you stop fighting ¬†you suffer less. That means you don’t feel hot¬†anger¬†in your stomach whenever you see the person who got the promotion you deserved and you don’t seethe with resentment when you see your best friend who is now¬†dating¬†your boyfriend. You accept ¬†what is, learn and go forward.

So I was sent home yesterday, still somewhat sick with pneumonia. The doctor gave me antibiotics and raised the mg on my Lisinopril since my blood pressure was so high at the hospital. At one point, it was 200 over 100, and when I looked at it, I was afraid I might have a stroke! I have a hospital follow-up appt with my PC physician on Tuesday. Mom is coming, since she was there the day I told him my voice had been hoarse for the last 4 weeks, that I had trouble swallowing and shortness of breath.

But I’m alive, and that’s the most important thing. My emotions are still all over the place. When I got home, knowing Pookie wouldn’t be there to greet me when I opened the door, something that was building inside me came out in a rush, and I sobbed while Mom put her arm around me. Then, later, I was laughing so hard at a rom/com that I surprised myself!

Life. What a mysterious, sometimes tricky, but always worthwhile endeavor. ūüôā

Peace,

Chris

Self-conscious much? Do something!

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Probably each of us has, at one time or another, felt self-conscious about ourselves. I’m sure even actors (John Cusack), and people in high-powered positions have those times when they’d really rather not be there. It’s too hard sometimes to be with other people you’re¬†sure¬†are better than you; a better person, better wife/husband, daughter/son, mother/daughter, people in¬†general.¬†

I’ll tell you something about myself, but you have to promise to keep it secret. “Three may keep a secret if two of them are dead.” There are many things I do ritualistically and some things I can’t do at all.¬†IF¬†I go to Starbucks, I first look online to see what the slowest time will be, go then, even if it’s¬†not uil 7:00 at night. I’m sure to take the garbage out when it is still dark, and that’s when I pick up yesterday’s mail as well (I don’t like to be seen walking down the driveway during the day — too many eyes on me). It’s not a narcissistic thing. It’s paranoia and huge, insurmountable fear. I walked my¬†dog Pookie once, it was the most natural and most pleasurable walk I’d ever had (not because I forgot about myself for a change) but because I had the perfect harness and leash so that my dog walked right next to me.

Still, I looked down at the ground a lot. When I looked up, I was careful not to focus on anything too much, because someone might notice. I counted steps, and when I wasn’t counting, I was saying to myself, “left, right, left, right.” Anything to get through it and be sure the dog got some exercise. Sometimes (seriously) I’d rather have a root canal than put myself through all this bullshit.

How can anyone get through something like this? The only words that have ever helped me are from my 90-year-old mother.

She said two things that have¬†just begun¬†to take hold. The first wise, experienced words she said were, “Chris if you knew how much people didn’t think about you at all, you’d be surprised.” And she’s¬†right,¬†you know? When on the porch smoking, I might glance up and see someone walking, either alone or with a dog, I might say “Good morning, nice day,” or whatever, then go straight back to book. It doesn’t register on my radar. It’s something I see people do every day.

The other thing is this: “All you can do is try. If you fail, try again, and keep trying. That’s all you can do, the best you have in you.”

Love you, Mom,

Chris

 

NEW! BOOK POST! Dear Kindle,

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“How do I love thee? Let me count the ways…”–from a sonnet by Elizabeth Barett Browning

Oh my goodness, Kindle. My affair with you has been on again/off again. I was highbrow and holier-than-thou.

“Kindles? Oh, I rarely read them. I like the feel of the pages as I turn them. I love the smell of new and old books…I love the smell period.”

I was that person. Also, I was the kind of person who would “go along to get along,” so when someone would say “Oh dear. I would¬†never¬†dog-ear a book. And cracking¬†the binding of a paperback? You’ve¬†got¬†to be kidding? Who¬†does¬†that?” I’d be right along, sniffing my upturned nose.

Well, I’m not a book snob anymore. Yes, when I was young until after college (and sometimes if I can’t find a scrap of paper to bookmark the page), I dog-eared. And yes, thirty flogs with a wet noodle, I still crack the spines of paperbacks. It’s an OCD thing. I break the binding at specific intervals: p. 50, p. 100…It feels like – symmetrical, something I am compelled to do. I also write in my books and underline passages.¬†Bad, bad me.¬†

Currently, dear Kindle, you hold 2,929 books for me! That’s astonishing. I can read you in the dark, on the porch, long ashes growing forgotten from my cigarette, oblivious of everything except the stray lightning bug that lands in my hair. Even then, unless it stays there, I’m immersed. My actual hard copy books can’t compete. I easily slip you into my purse, so that – if a social gathering gets too intense – I can pop outside and read a few pages, taking myself far, far away.

Sweet, unassuming Kindle, I might surely die before I read all the books you hold for me. If that happens, I’ll request they bury you with me and I’ll finish in Heaven.

Love,

Chris

TV addict? 5 Ways to Know

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Hey, look. My hands aren’t exactly clean¬†either. ūüė¶ I just thought it would be a good idea that¬†if¬†there is a problem, we can identify it and fix it. So, here are, counting down from the least addicted to the most addicted:

5.The dining room table is used to store bills, homework, coloring books, and every amount of anything except the purpose it was built for: people eating.

4. You are bleary-eyed at work from binge-watching (imagine that term compared to binge-eating….I know right? Seriously a problem here.) Accidentally, coffee is somehow brewed without any coffee grounds in the filter. “Whoa. Not me.” ūüôā

3. Your guilty secret is The Real “Housewives” of any city. Hey, who doesn’t love some of that Beverly Hills reality? “There’s gold in them there hills. Black gold. Texas tea.”

2. You start to forget the names of your loved ones. Maybe you run through a few names before you hit your intended.

1. Your Roku breaks down at a time that Best Buy is actually closed. A nervous breakdown ensues.

Deal With The Devil – Insidious Steps

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“[Jabez Stone is examining Mr. Scratch’s contract]
Jabez Stone: What does it mean here, about my soul?
Mr. Scratch: Why should that worry you? A soul? A soul is nothing. Can you see it, smell it, touch it? No. This soul, *your* soul, are nothing against seven years of good luck. You’ll have money and all that money can buy.”
When this film first came out, one of the ways it is described on a movie site, is as a comedy. When I watched it, a few months ago, it absolutely¬†terrified¬†me. Every time “Mr. Scratch” chuckled or palmed his chin, thinking his evil thoughts, I shivered. But, we all know that deals in the movies also happen in real life. These are the innocent,¬†insidious,¬†steps to how it plays out, at least in my life.
1. My first hospitalization in Chandler, Arizona, where I stayed for five weeks. Because of my fear of authority, I questioned nothing, didn’t know I had other options, so when they wanted to give me Prozac, I said, “Okay.” That’s the beginning. The first ignorance, the first taking whatever comes your way. I’m depressed? Okay, I’ll take Prozac and I’ll get all better. Ha!
2. Switch scene to years later, actually this year. My psychiatrist looks at me and tells me I’m a difficult patient. I, thinking she meant behaviorally, immediately asked what I was doing. “I mean you have been on so many different medications by this point it is hard to know what to try with you that will work.” It’s true. I’ve been on just about everything except MAO inhibitors, because I don’t think I could deal with all the restrictions.
3. It’s no secret on this blog that I have severe anxiety. I’ve been on benzodiazepenes, which only work halfway, then stop working altogether and have to be replaced with another one. What I didn’t do, or no one told me, was to check the side effects: loss of balance and coordination, dizziness, short term memory loss, searching for words, etc. When I told my shrink I was having a really hard time with the side effects, then came¬†my¬†deal with the devil.
4. She said, using her hands, like the lady of justice: “Well, you can either live with the side effects on one hand,” she lifted her other hand, “or just deal with being sick.”¬†Wow.
5. Now, after I made that deal with the devil, to put up with the side effects, I’m potentially very sick. I went to my primary doctor because I had fallen three times in six weeks, and all sort of other difficulties. He told me he would do everything he could, and would not stop until this was figured out and I was better. He ordered an MRI on my brain last Friday, and I have the results: It was an MRI Brain WO Contrast. The summary findings sort of terrify me. Even though I don’t completely understand, because I’m not a doctor (but I play one on TV), it’s startling.
“Mild T2 hyperintense signal is seen within the central and left aspect
of the pons on FLAIR and T2-weighted sequences.
A few very small focal areas of faint hyperintensity identified within
the white matter of the cerebral hemispheres bilaterally.”
“Impression:

1. Findings to suggest mild chronic ischemic changes within the pons
and cerebral hemispheric white matter bilaterally. No acute
intracranial process is seen.”

What’s the moral? Be very careful about your health, because it is immensely precious. Ask questions. Don’t be afraid; it’s your life. Oh. And the last caveat:

Don’t ever make a deal with the devil.¬†

Peace. Chris xo

Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?

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Let’s be honest. We all want/need to be loved. Newborn babies who are not held or touched, actually die. We all want someone to say “I love you and I always will. You are important. I’ll try my hardest to never let you down. I’m here.”

I’ve learned in the last four months that animals have many of the same emotions as human beings. That shouldn’t really surprise us. I mean, my previous dog suffered from pancreatitis,¬† so we know they share at least one biological, internal organ as do we. But it is fascinating to read something like this:¬†Brain Scans Show Striking Similarities between dogs and humans

A little over four months ago, I adopted a dog who had been through the hurricane in Flordia. So he most likely suffered PTSD, as humans do when we suffer something horrific. He lost his family and was moved from place to place to place until he came to live with me. I think intellectually I knew it would be difficult, but was terribly unprepared emotionally for all the emotions and behaviors he expressed that worried me. To be honest, three weeks ago I seriously thought about placing him with another owner, because I wanted a better life for him, and I didn’t think he could have that with me. I’m still in contemplation. Don’t judge me.

I’ve learned some things during this time with my little man (an affectionate nickname), some things that pertain to both anxious humans and dogs both:

1,¬†Be patient.¬†This is maybe the most basic and most difficult practice, patience. Things happen in their own time, and if we try to rush them we most likely will end up mucking it all up, left with feelings of frustration and irritation. PTSD is essentially a form of anxiety. There are all kinds of theories about a dog’s memory. Some people would say my dog has gotten over his anxiety, fear, skittishness, isolation, or whatever else. Others would say it takes a while to move from that feeling. Forgetting isn’t always easy for dogs. They remember when they’ve been abused. And how do we explain the reaction and memory of a dog who would completely knock down his owner and lavish her with kisses after she’s done a year-long tour of duty? Which bring me to number two.

2.¬†It’s not about you.¬†It’s rough not to take things personally when dealing with animals. Don’t we all have that picture in our minds of the lab laying his paw on his owner’s head, the man on his porch, complete with the breathless sunset? Ha ha. Yeah. It’s a beautiful image, but it’s not always that way, and even if it is, it takes¬†work and patience.¬†But maybe, like me, you’ve taken into your home an animal that mostly distrusts you (you think), but then jumps on you when you come home. It’s puzzling¬† and sometimes heartbreaking.

3.¬†It is what it is.¬†This is a rough translation for “radical acceptance,” which means accepting what is in front of us completely, absolutely, without taking away or adding to. It means we¬†stop¬†fighting what’s real, and in doing so, we hurt less. We don’t hold on so tightly. We try to remind ourselves that nothing stays the same: good times don’t last, or bad, or complicated, or simple. They just are. Like a drowning person, we won’t survive our rescue until we accept the fact we’re drowning and someone has come to save us.

5.¬†Be calm.¬†I’ve heard it said, when “growing” a dog, that they often take on the personality of their owner. So if we are calm and happy, our dogs/cats might also become calm and happy – again, depending on the circumstance.¬† So if we are Woody Allen stereotype anxious or worried, our animals might be the same. My mother always says to me if I didn’t have something to worry about, I’d make one (I’m worried that I’m not worried? lol). A happy medium is probably best.

7.¬†Give yourself a break.¬†I’m quick to judge myself’ and I assume I’m not the only one to do so. I’ve made many mistakes working with my little man Pookie. I’ve not always been consistent, which I understand is crucial for training. Sometimes I say, “Pookie, come,” in the happiest, cheerful tone I can manage. When Pookie sits there at the top of the steps musing his options, I say (probably a little louder) “Come on, Pookie!” accompanied by an inviting pat to my knee. Finally, I give in to “Pookie Stachura, come here right now. I mean it.” In which case he eventually comes. Or, when none of that works (he can be as stubborn aattention¬†s me!), I’ll try waving my hands down the stairs, calling “Hurry hurry hurry!” Yet, he’s gotten away from me four times – three by just pulling hard, and one when he slipped out of his collar. Each time, my frantic “Pookie, come!”brings him back, where he sits, calmly, usually behind me.*sigh* My point is, we need to cut ourselves some slack. Puppies have the span of a gnat. Three-to-five minutes five times a day is the most to hope for, and that might even be too much. Ending on a good note, where he actually gets the command, is jackpot. Go easy. Keep it simple. And remind yourself that two steps forward, one step back is still one step forward. ūüôā

This has been my first post in quite a while. I try my very best to supply information in a fun, sometimes funny manner.

Have a great day.

Chris

Bullies, Be Gone

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I like documentaries, usually. I enjoy learning new things. I even watched a heartbreaking documentary that some of you might be familiar with about how elephants are treated in the circus. An elephant named Tyke had escaped and ran through the streets, desperate to get away from abuse before he was shot – I can’t even remember how many times. It profoundly affected me, and still does, so I try to stay away from the really difficult ones.

One day last week, though, I watched what I thought was a documentary about bullying. It actually was a movie. I’m not certain of the name now (don’tcha¬†hate getting older?), but I think it was something like “Just a Girl.” Actually it was about two girls in two different states who had been bullied, both in school with verbal comments, cornering, shoves in the hallway and – something I never had to deal with – cyberbullying.

The first high school girl ended up committing suicide because it was all too much to handle for her. She had gone to a party and had too much to drink. She blacked out, and a male student took advantage of the blackout, posting all over social media that he had had sex with her, how hot she was, and how she “put out.” That morning, the morning after the party, she had frantically texted her friends, telling them she couldn’t remember the previous evening, and needed to know what happened.

This young girl had a wonderful reputation, ruined by one unfortunate evening. Some would say it was her fault because she was drinking. In fact, that opinion goes back years, just like “She was asking for it. Look how she dressed.”

Because of all the attention, the student couldn’t even make herself go¬† back to school. The last text she left to a friend said, “My reputation is ruined. My life is over.”¬† Then she killed herself.

Bullying doesn’t just happen in high schools. It happens in grade school, middle school, college, and on into supposedly “fully mature” adults. The thing about bullying that those who have never been bullied don’t know is that it sticks with you for life. Those words, once they’re out there, can never be taken back. Even apologizing, trying to make amends, doesn’t usually work. Sure, bullied people might appear perfectly fine on the outside. Someone who was told she had fat thighs in high school might be a colleague you work with. She doesn’t mention it aloud, but thinks of herself as ugly and alwayso tries to dress so that her thighs are less noticeable.

I’m known in my family for being sensitive, sometimes too much so. In fact, sensitivity involves many factors, and is now viewed to be as¬†personality trait, even socio-biological. It’s evidenced in both animals and humans. For instance, my newest addition to our house, a rescue dog named Pookie, has what many of us have – selective memory. Although I pick him up and hold him for many reasons – to cuddle, to give him kisses, to carry him across to the backyard when the snow is too deep for him to walk in. But I also pick him up when I have to go somewhere, therefore putting him in his crate – for his safety as well as keeping him from destroying the house. Now, why do you think he often backs away from me when I go to pick him up? One would think he’d remember all the good reasons, the cuddling and so forth. But – just like you and me – he remembers going into the crate, which is still a highly stressful situation for him.

We’ve all been bullied at one time or another. Some of us manage to let it go. Others – us “overly” sensitive types – have memories like elephants. I have always suffered from severe anxiety, and developed a nervous habit of licking my lips in high school. One of my friends at the time said, “Why do you lick your lips like that all the time?” Here I was, thinking no one noticed me. I couldn’t say it was because I was anxious, so instead I said nothing, but still remember that comment. Another time, in college, a roommate said to me, “Open your¬†eyes!” which was really innocuous and probably due to drinking too much the night before. But ever since then, when I see my eyes in the mirror, they look too small, the color is indefinable to me, and my lids seem droopy. Whether that’s true or not doesn’t really matter. What matters is how I interpreted what was said to me at my sensitivity level.

This is getting long. My apologies. And I’m sorry for any misspelled words or grammar errors; I didn’t take the time to proofread. It’s just that there are so many other ways to bully now, and others join in with “likes” or “comments” on social media, not to mention texting.

Try to remember to think before you speak. Once it’s been said, it can’t be unsaid. There are no do-overs.

Peace,

Chris

Social Media CON-nections

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So okay. First I want to explain my choice of title for this post. Social media connections have many positive effects on people and individuals. What bothers me is it seems a little – like chocolate (for chocolate lovers). So if you love chocolate, you’d at least want to taste it, right? It would be weird not to.

Then suddenly, there is more and more chocolate, as far as the eye can see. And it’s still tasty, sure, but there’s starting to be kind of a chalky after-taste, like the chocolate “mouse” in Rosemary’s Baby. If you ever saw that movie, you’d remember how her actual satanic neighbors drew her in with kindness. But it still seemed strange to Rosemary, who brought it to her husband Guy’s attention. He laughed it off, telling her it was because of her pregnancy, or she was paranoid. When all the while, he had already been accepted into the circle.

Apparently, social media isn’t satanic (unless I’ve missed something in my research). But do you actually realize how many there are out there, and how many individuals join on a daily basis? Here is a graph of¬†just¬†the top fifteen social media websites of 2017:

Top social media sites in 2017

Taken from The 15 most popular social networking tabs in 2017

This is absolutely incredible to me. Most of these social networking sites I have never even heard of. And, contrary to popular opinion, I was not born under a rock. Let me just go on record as saying there are several good reasons for a person to spend hours on these sites. One, the person may be homebound in some way, or agoraphobic. Some people, struggle as they might to overcome that particularly difficult form of anxiety, cannot make it happen. For that person, social media is truly needed, plus it’s “open all night,” so there’s usually a friendly person to text with. I’m purposely using the term¬†text because as much as we might try to convince ourselves, we aren’t¬†speaking with anyone in particular.

When you see someone’s picture of FaceBook or any of these other sites, how much do you trust that photo? It could be a man or woman posing as the opposite sex, or even a teenager trying to sound more grown up.

For Pete’s sake, if I met someone in an online dating service, thought he was gorgeous and said all the right things, I would¬†still¬†ask to meet him in a very public place. If he or she is not who they say they are, they either won’t show up or fend me off with some lame excuse.

When did we become a country where social media websites have become like food to order on a menu. If I lived completely alone on an island, but was miraculously wealthy and could afford electricity, I would limit my time on social networks to one or two hours a day.

There are just so many other things to do in the world. It’s only my opinion, but I feel I can speak about it with some expertise because I’ve been there. Feel free to disagree.

Buyer beware. There are “con” (short for confidence) people everywhere.

Peace,

Chris

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Choices, Choices Everywhere, and Not a One to Make

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I just ate an orange. Some¬†choices are easy. I haven’t had much of an appetite lately. The only tough part was peeling it. ūüėõ I also bought one of those Reese’s Peanut Butter Eggs, even though I really haven’t had a yen for chocolate much. It’s like — too rich or something.

Being indecisive, being unsure of what I want or need is so frustrating. Yesterday on the way home from getting my cast put on, Mom and I settled on a restaurant for brunch. That was also easy: The Honey Tree, within walking distance of our home. Even so, I stared at the computer for ten minutes or so before I decided on corned beef hash with over easy eggs. Whew. Plus, nobody makes corned beef hash like The Honey Tree.

Today, though, it’s been harder, and I’m not sure why. Part of it is I have so much on my mind. Things are bad in some of my relationships, I keep rewinding things in my head to figure out what I could have done differently — for God’s sake, choosing a t-shirt or sweatshirt has become a minefield. So, I was on Netflix (instead of writing) looking for a movie I might like: thriller or horror. In dialectical behavior therapy, they tell us to use opposite-to-emotion thinking when problems arise.

So, because I felt overwhelmed and sad, horror or thriller, I thought, might bring me out of a funk. Except that there were too many choices, and too many movies looked good. I’d pick one, start to watch it, get bored after about 15 minutes, try another one, ad nauseum. Finally, I just turned it off. The silence felt good, and I took a nap without feeling a lick of guilt, because I know we heal more quickly in our sleep.

What sorts of decisions are hard for you to make? 

 

Is There a Doctor in the House?

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Everyone who’s reading this, I’m sure, has experienced some hurt in their lives. If it’s physical, it might be more visible, like a broken nose, limb, a person an a wheelchair. Some hurts, instead, aren’t visually noticeable. Even if a person is crying, we can’t¬† even know with¬†confidence whether those are tears of sadness or tears of joy. Have you ever laughed so hard, a deep belly laugh, that made practically your whole face wet, until you, “Stop, stop, my stomach hurts!”

A gentleman may pass me by, smile, and I’ll say “Good morning!” He replies the same. But how do I know what’s really going on behind that smile, behind his easy-breezy response to me?

He may have lost a child. Maybe he lost his wife, or his mother, father, or another member of the family has just passed away. Why is he smiling? Perhaps he has a loving partner to help him through; the camaraderie of friendship, the real kind that is there in good times and challenging; or he escapes in reading and is just on his way to the bookstore when I pass him.

I’m not perfect. Sometimes in hard times, I get self-involved, believing¬†(not wondering, not thinking) that no one else is suffering as much as me. It’s too easy for me to get self-indulgent, self-pitying, someone that might make a person yell, “Ah, get over yourself already!”

All this just to say it’s important to pay¬†attention:¬†we might not have the same skin color, perhaps some of us are thin and some portly; long hair, short hair, good teeth, bad teeth, more affluent, more impoverished, republican¬†or democrat . . . We all¬†bleed¬†the same color.

Ciao,

Chris

For Love of a Dog

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I recently rescued a shorkie (Shih Tzu¬†plus Yorkie), who I call Pookie. Well, actually, it’s not been so recent now. We adopted/rescued him on September 29th of last year.

There has never been a more beloved dog. When he feels safe enough to come near, he is¬†showered¬†in hugs and kisses. The only way I can get him to come to me freely, is when I first come in the house from being gone, or when¬† I lure him with a treat. When he finally comes, I tell him (even though all he understands is my reassuring tone), “Pookie, Mamusha (Polish for Mom) would¬†never¬†hurt you. I love you¬† so much.”

I don’t know if you can tell by this picture, but the dog, besides cowering, has one paw lifted. Pookie does the same thing, only when he raises his paw it’s more in a sitting position, and his paw goes forward, sort of covering his mouth and submitting at the same time.

This upsets me so much. I don’t know what to do. If I go to pick him up, he runs behind the chair, and then behind the couch, where he’s virtually unreasonable. I started crying yesterday, telling him I didn’t know what to do, and he jumped up next to me, licking my tears away.

Lately, like when I go to put his leash on, I approach him very slowly, and he stands still instead of running around the room until he’s out of energy. Also recently, I have told him when I’m with him, “You can go anywhere you want. You can go in Pookie’s bed, or Pookie’s chair, or “Pookie’s” couch .” And if he’s cuddling next to me, I always tell him he can leave whenever he wants, or stay just as long as he wants. “You can go whenever you want to. You don’t have to stay. You’re a good boy.”

Me? As for me, I feel like the world’s worst dog owner. Any hints? At this point, I’m starting to believe he would be better off away from me, in another home. Yeah, as hard as it would be, I’ve seriously been contemplating it.

How Are You Taking Care of Yourself?

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Happy New Year, one and all. I hope you are doing well so far as we approach the half-way mark of January. Did you make any resolutions/promises to yourself? How’s it going? Were they realistic, or did you shoot for the moon? Have you kept them? If not, don’t lose heart. You might need to¬†lower¬†your expectations. For many of us, the word “lower” is negative, and sounds an awful lot like “loser.”

Is that how you feel? Well, I haven’t managed to keep my promises to myself, totally, yet. Sometimes I might hit one or two. But I figured out today that – yes – I was shooting for the moon, hoping to at least reach the stars.

As I’ve mentioned before, I finally came to the realization after, literally¬†years¬†of bitching about my alcoholic sister or father or what have you– Sob, sob. Poor me–the truth of the matter is codependency has to be all about me, or I will never change.

Dictionary.com has this to say about two (or more) sick people:

adjective

1.

Of or relating to a relationship in which one person is physically or psychologically addicted, as to alcohol or gambling, and the other person is psychologically dependent on the first in an unhealthy way.
To my understanding, that means not only is the alcoholic sick, but my bonding/relationship/behavior toward that person also makes me ill. It also means, even when the alcoholic gets better it doesn’t necessarily mean I will too.¬† Whether or not I change and grow is entirely a separate thing.

I have to take care of myself first, in all things. Which brings me to the title of my post:¬†How are you taking care of yourself? I recently enrolled in a year-long (or more, depending on how much progress I’ve made) course of DBT (Dialectical Behavior Therapy).

According to Marsha Linehan¬† ‚Äúdialectical‚Ä̬†means¬†a synthesis or integration of opposites. The primary dialectic¬†within¬†DBT¬†is between the seemingly opposite strategies of acceptance and change. For example,¬†DBT therapists¬†accept clients as they are while also acknowledging that they need to change in order to reach their goals.

There are many phases of DBT, which is why it is a year-long course. The core of the whole thing is mindfulness;  learning to connect the extremes of emotion mind and logic mind into a center called wise mind, a mid-point which takes all those thoughts and emotions into consideration when making a decision.
There are also acronyms in DBT which help us to remember what we need to do, especially under stress. The acronym to make sure we are taking care of ourselves is PLEASE, and it stands for this:
  • Treat¬†Physical Illness
  • Balanced¬†Eating
  • Avoid Mood-Altering¬†Drugs
  • Balanced¬†Sleep
  • Exercise
So, risking repetition, I’ll ask one more time: How are you taking care of¬†yourself (not anyone else)?
For any loyal readers who are still out there, I’ll be posting three days a week from now on: Sundays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays. ūüėÄ
Peace out,
Chris

To Video Log or Not: That is the question.

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Okay, besides working on my short story, crocheting, and struggling with a surprise gift for my mom’s 90th birthday, I’m hoping to start a Video Blog on November 1st. Of this year. Yep, that will be the same month as NaNoWriMo, but – hey! It – hopefully – won’t take me all day every day to write 50k by November 30th. So, after talking with my therapist, I decided to make a pro and con list about it.

See, my therapist thinks that because I¬†had¬† and sometimes still have terrible self-consciousness while walking Pookie, it might not be the best thing for me; vlogging, that is. I walk Pookie daily (unless it rains too freaking long like it did yesterday) and it’s better. If I focus on what I’m doing, walking Pookie, I don’t really have time to wonder what everyone else is thinking.

So, here’s the list:

Pros:

  • I could possibly help raise awareness about mental illness and all that it entails
  • It’s been said, and (even though I love to write) it’s sometimes right; a¬†picture speaks a thousand words.
  • It would challenge my vulnerability
  • If just¬†one¬†person is made to feel not so alone, it will beat all the negative replies I might get
  • Being my authentic self, not worrying whether my hair is a mess, or not worrying about the scars on my face and hands, will be a massive breath of fresh air
  • Nothing is more real than the truth staring you (the watcher – lol) in the face

Cons:

  • I might not raise any awareness at all. People might be saturated with mental illness and just “change the channel.”
  • Maybe a picture does speak a thousand words, but my writing is kinda decent, right?
  • I would be completely vulnerable, like those nightmares when you wake up, walk in late for an exam, and just then realize you’re entirely naked.
  • Everyone I know and even people I hardly know at all will see me.
  • What if I totally fudge it?
  • I’m too¬†ugly.¬†What if I make people gag just looking at my face?
So, that’s it. I still have some time to think about it until November. Thoughts?