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

1

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

0

Juvi Syed‚Äé Cognitive Care Center P.C

Are You a Mono- or Multitasker?

0

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

 

 

Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?

0

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

0

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

3

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

Continue reading

How Are You Taking Care of Yourself?

0

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

A is for Acceptance

14

Acceptance is a difficult concept to deal with, even if we’re not talking about alcoholism. None of us wants to be unacceptable, or excluded from a group, whether we’re small children, adolescents, or older adults. The synonyms for¬†acceptance¬†are many, among them approval and recognition.

I know a young woman who is gay. She has found a woman she loves, is very happy, and engaged to be married. Most people she knows are very happy for her happiness, but not all are as accepting. Some are even judgmental, saying she and her partner would always be welcome in their home, but they would never attend her wedding. This makes no sense to me, and seems more than a little hypocritical. If you accept the fact that someone is gay, you recognize it, you approve of the lifestyle she/he has chosen.

With my sister, it’s different, but somewhat the same. She’s been sober for a while now, and attended several family gatherings as a sober alcoholic. I don’t drink often, mostly at major holidays, like Thanksgiving and Christmas. In fact, my mom laughs at me, because I will see a drink recipe shown on¬†The Chew¬†or something, get all excited about it, buy all the ingredients, bring them home, and then the liquor sits in our cupboards, because I’ve immediately lost interest. :P)

Back to my sister. I never used to drink around her. I thought it was a sign of solidarity if I joined her in not drinking. Recently, I’ve realized it was actually codependency, and I was not allowing her a sense of self-esteem, and achievement all her own. She’s very capable, and strong in her own right. But I’m sure she feels that exclusion, that¬†non-acceptance¬†among non-alcoholics, even though she’s accepted by her recovering alcoholic friends. I still laugh when I remember going with her to an open talk AA meeting at Sacred Heart in downtown Detroit. I was so nervous I wouldn’t even smoke, even though I badly wanted a cigarette. One of her friends finally leaned over to me and said, “So, do you have¬†any¬†vices?”

“And acceptance is the answer to¬†all¬†my problems today. When I am disturbed, it is because I find some person, place, thing, or situation — some fact of my life — unacceptable to me, and I can find no serenity until I accept that person, place, thing, or situation as being exactly the way it is supposed to be at this moment.” (Alcoholics Anonymous, p. 417)

How I Survived A Life-Threatening Illness

2


I lie awake at night, wondering what fresh hell tomorrow will bring me.

“Change is inevitable We can depend on that. By letting go of our efforts to influence the future, we become freer to experience the present, to feel all of our feelings while they are happening, and to more fully enjoy those precious moments of joy.” –Courage to Change, One Day at a Time in Al-Anon

So, you might think, as you read this, that bringing humor to the situation is insanity. But you know me and my sarcastic wit. Would you recognize me any other way? ūüėČ Besides, the alternative is too stupid to consider, and useless. Plus really, who doesn’t love a little Tina Fey?

But seriously, I have had such a hard time writing this (it’s been on my mind for a while), because I honestly don’t want to come off sounding pitiful, or elicit sorrowful responses, most of all. What has happened to me could happen to anyone–could happen to you. So please–don’t feel sorry for me. I’m here, I’m alive, and that’s a¬†good¬†thing.

It has not been the greatest year so far. Lol. First, I had to go back into a psychiatric partial day treatment program to get my bipolar meds adjusted. But what I learned shortly after I was admitted was that this therapist had noticed my hypomanic episode building since before Christmas. Why she didn’t say something earlier is still a mystery to me, but hey–at least she copped to it when my mom finally told me my agitation and irritability were getting hard to deal with. All of this explains why I ¬†had such a hard time decorating for the holidays last year. Seriously, I was like a slug, and even when I’m depressed it’s like my favorite time of year. I barely put up lights on the ceiling and yanked out the tree (with lights already on), no ornaments—voila. There. Be happy. Ha ha.

Psych partial started on January 25th. My psychiatrist there (it’s like you no longer have the shrink you had on the “outside;”¬†this¬†shrink, the one in the hospital, calls the shots) tried several different meds, at different levels, and suddenly—instead of hypomania, I started feeling incredibly depressed. Yeah, I know–I should have my own channel on Youtube, because my life is just¬†that¬†fascinating.

Then, I went home early from the program on February 13th, because my back and left leg were just killing me. All I missed was relaxation therapy, but you’d think it was chemical engineering, for all the tap dancing I had to do to get out of it. So I went home.

That night, I woke up in the wee hours freezing cold with my teeth chattering. Yikes. I can’t remember the last time my teeth chattered. So I got up, took my temp, and it was elevated; something like 101. (I’m not totally sure at this point; my baseline temp is 97. I just know I had a fever) I also noticed like a big cyst or something high up on my inner left thigh. I wasn’t too worried at this point. I took a couple aspirin, ran some hot water on a washcloth to lay on the cyst and went back to sleep under like 5 blankets.

The next I knew it was morning and I was in a sweat. Good. So my temp was down and the cyst had also diminished. But then, my fever spiked back up again at around eight. I told my mom I thought I needed to go to the ER, and she agreed.

Long story short, what started out as a simple cyst turned out to be necrotizing fasciitis, or flesh-eating bacteria. Yep. My WBC, which is supposed to be 10 or under, was 21, so I was admitted—instead of let go from the ER—on Valentine’s Day. I had three surgeries in four days in that most private of areas–whether you are a woman or a man–and spent eight days inpatient. Granted, I was on morphine, and much of the pain is now a blur, but still. My fever was up and down, up and down. They had me on I.V. antibiotics, three at a time (once I read a label, and it said 2,000 units!!)–like throwing paint on the wall–trying to see what would work. Finally the WBC came down enough that they could let me go with Amoxicillin for one week.

I had to have the surgical sites packed (with gauze) by home care nurses for¬†at least¬†two months, my surgeon said. So yes, I’m positive 2,000 people have seen my va-jay-jay at this point. I kept forgetting to charge an admission fee. I always meant to, though. At least I still had some self-respect. Just kidding. The nurses were so kind and gentle with my body and my heart. I couldn’t have asked for nicer people to care for me.

Now here’s the best part. I saw my surgeon yesterday for our weekly checkup of the surgical wound sites, right? She was SO pleased with how well everything is healing. Everything has closed (from the inside out, to prevent future infection) at least halfway, in some cases more. In fact, I’m doing so well that she said I can say goodbye to the daily nurse care and she doesn’t want to see me again for a month. After that, who knows?¬†That’s exactly¬†five weeks¬†from the day I was admitted, right?

What an incredible journey!! I wonder what the rest of the year has in store? Bring it on.

What Could Be Scarier Than a Great White Shark??

0

epiphanybatman Happy ninth day of Twelvetide. I wish you health and prosperity this day, and a modicum of sanity as we go and be with various family and friends that we may have a genuine love it or leave it sort of ambivalence toward. Living with ambivalence is not for sissies.

Let’s assume for a bit that you¬†don’t¬†live in or anywhere near¬†Flint, Michigan, and as far as you¬†know¬†it’s safer than it’s ever been (since that great white shark in the 70s) to dip your toe back in the water. I give you three simple words.

NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTIONS

If your heart beats a little quicker than usual at seeing those three words, or you feel your shirt getting damp and wonder to yourself, “Did it just get hot in here?” … I am here to tell you that you are never alone. Don’t get up and check your thermostat. Don’t worry you might have a heart attack if you even allow the thought of those three words to linger in your mind.

You are absolutely fine. After all, they’re just words, right? Still, if you’re like me, the past 365 days of your life flashed through your mind’s eye on New Year’s Eve. Also, if you are¬†hopefully¬†like me, you’ll find some peaks and valleys in the past year along with maybe one¬†terrific thing¬†you did for yourself or someone else (or both). There will be those times we wish we could take back something we might have done or said. But no, Virginia, there are no takesie-backsies, regardless of how much you wish there were. And it’s useless to go back and wish we stuck with our diets, exercised more, quit smoking, read better literature, or whatever else happens to pass through your mind. That time’s gone; say bye-bye and face today with unflinchingly optimistic hearts. I have a few guidelines, as we go through this next year:

Be yourself:¬†I don’t think I can stress this one enough. Always, always be your best self in any situation you find yourself. For me, if I have a bad time at a party or gathering, the largest reason I can trace it back to is that in some way I wasn’t being genuine to myself. When we work too achingly hard at pretending to be other than who we really are, when we strive to always be prettier, smarter, more interesting…than everyone else at the party, it falls flat. After all, we wouldn’t be invited in the first place if we weren’t so beloved by being exactly who we were meant to be. So, whatever happens, take a breath, square your shoulders, and open the door. You are wanted.

Be kind:¬†I didn’t think this up, but it’s a great question to keep asking ourselves this year. That is, “What is the kindest thing I can do/say?”

Be forgiving:¬†Forgive quickly and often, beginning with ourselves. Try not to be too quick to judge, because–well, we know what that feels like. Try, though surely we won’t¬†often¬†always be successful, to give the benefit of the doubt, to those you cherish, as well as yourself.

Be goal-oriented:¬†This is essentially quite different from resolutions. Goals are infinitely good to have, for without them, we despair and languish. If your only goal is to make it through the day unscathed, and when you collapse into bed that night, having counted all fingers and toes and found none missing, then that’s a good day’s work.

Most of all, don’t live back there. You can’t get there from¬†anywhere¬†in the rational world that isn’t met with opaque glasses, never seen quite clearly. And for all the goodness in the world, don’t spend too much time in the future. You might start finding yourself too old for this or that, that it’s inevitably too late. I’m of the opinion it’s never too late. Not for marriage, not for love, for education, etc. It’s not even too late to have children, regardless of age–one can always adopt, or be a stupendous aunt or uncle.

I sincerely hope you have had nothing but happiness this past Christmas, and that Santa Claus was good to you. You deserve it. Moving forward, let’s join hands and step into 2017, with our eyes on trying hard to be better in every way. Here’s to you, plus a cartoon to make you laugh:¬†bear-snowman

 

Birth Order

2

birth orderLast year, on one of his visits home from San Francisco, my brother Paul brought a t-shirt he’d bought which bore the saying “Mom loves me best.” He wore it to an outdoor picnic at which most of the family was in attendance; it was very funny and caused quite a lot of discussion. Even more funny, he left it with me when he went back! ūüėõ

Paul is the second to youngest of seven siblings. I’m the youngest. My sister Carol is the oldest, then there’s Greg, Steve, Jerry, Jimmy, Paul, and me.

My sister said she prayed and prayed for another little sister and when I came it was like a miracle. We’re 13 years apart, and so I was like a little doll for her, and she loved to dress me up. I sure never suffered from lying in the crib too long, with five brothers, a sister, a mom, and a dad all eager to hold or cuddle me.

Carol did get that part of being the eldest where the parents made all their “mistakes” on her, and learned on her, and on each child to come really, so that by the time Paul and I came around they had this parenting thing down pat. Carol also¬†still¬†has a huge sense of responsibility, borne out of being the oldest child. She felt more was expected of her.

I thought my brother Greg would have that as well, being the oldest boy, but he has a very laid-back personality, and is never in a hurry. A story is told of Greg when he was quite little and the lady was waiting outside to take the boys to school. Everyone else is ready, and Greg is looking out the window, one shoe off, and one shoe on, marveling “Hey look! That lady is here!” He couldn’t understand why his mom was so excited. Ha ha ha

Every one of my sibs seemed so much older to me. The closest in age was, of course, Paul, and he was still five years older. So even when they tried to play with me, it felt odd, like I was playing with much older boys. When I was in grade school, they were in high school, after all. When I was in high school, they were in college, and beyond. I played by myself a lot, and with invisible friends, until I made friends in the neighborhood. After that I was rarely home before the streetlights came on.

Anyway, there isn’t a lot of scientific evidence to support the theory that birth order affects your personality. Ultimately environmental conditions, such as socioeconomic conditions, shape who we are and what we become.

(N.B.:¬†We’re skipping neuroplasticity. Sorry for any grief this has caused.)

Have a wonderful evening!

Ciao Bella.

Generalized Anxiety Disorder

0

G (1)I saw one of my favorite therapists (of which there have been many), Heather, for two years. Each and every time I saw her, because I have been diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder, she gave me a seven-point assessment test called the GAD-7. These are the statements it included:

Feeling nervous, anxious or on edge? Not at all
Several days
More than half the days
Nearly every day
Not being able to stop or control worrying? Not at all
Several days
More than half the days
Nearly every day
Worrying too much about different things? Not at all
Several days
More than half the days
Nearly every day
Trouble relaxing? Not at all
Several days
More than half the days
Nearly every day
Being so restless that it is hard to sit still? Not at all
Several days
More than half the days
Nearly every day
Becoming easily annoyed or irritable? Not at all
Several days
More than half the days
Nearly every day
Feeling afraid as if something awful might happen?

I didn’t know it at the time, but of course now I know. It’s scored 0-3, where “not at all=0, several days =1, more than half the days=2 and nearly every day=3. So, like, the higher you score, the more challenges you are facing.
Anxiety-girlIn the beginning, when I first took the GAD-7s, ¬†I fudged my answers. I didn’t know it was for¬†my¬†benefit, and that the more¬†candid¬†I was, the better Heather was able to help me. But the weirdest thing about GAD, for me? How often it comes from out of nowhere,¬†BAM!¬†

I can be in a¬†safe¬†place, with¬†safe¬†people, feeling somewhat relaxed, and suddenly I feel my heart start to pound, I begin to perspire, and my hands tremble. I get that urge to¬†flee,¬†which is what usually happens when I get too anxious. But the worst part? There’s absolutely. No. Reason. Why. I’m. Anxious. I just know that I am, and I have to go about calming myself.

That’s¬†GAD, in a nutshell.

Cheers to an anxiety-less day!

Peace out.

Apprehension

2

apprehensive-1Writing this blog used to be easy and fun for me. Now, each time I sit down to write, I’m filled with apprehension and dread. Questions swirl through my mind, because it’s not just me or my satisfaction I think about anymore. “Will this make people happy? Will it offend anyone, even unintentionally? What’s relevant¬†for the reader?¬†What should I write about? Will it keep their interest? Will it make them shut down immediately? Or will it touch a cord so deep they wish they’d never read it in the first place?”

All this is going through my mind, especially as April draws near. April, as many of you know, is the “Blogging From A-Z” challenge. The participant (me) is expected to write a post¬†SIX days a week, getting Sundays off, making it 26 posts for the month. That’s going to be a real stretch for me, but I’m committed to it.

In order to do it, I think, I have to pretend I don’t have a readership. I know that sounds weird, but it’s the only thing that will work for me. I have to pretend I’m writing only for myself. . . and maybe for Lucy. She’s pretty nonjudgmental. ūüėČ

If you’ve read this far, God bless you, Gesundheit, please put your¬†trays in their upright positions, and thank you for not smoking. ūüôā

Changes

6

David Bowie in 1969 and 1995. I got an interesting email from WordPress in which told me they “missed me.” You and I both know that’s propaganda-esque crap, but the stats show people still visit my site even when I don’t write, which hasn’t been for months.

The problem is, I’ve changed a lot in that time. I don’t want to write about the same things. I’m not the same person anymore. I don’t go to Al-Anon, I¬†hardly¬†whine about my sister and nephew anymore, and it’s just not on my radar. They live in Ann Arbor, and I don’t see them often enough that they are a problem for me. My boundaries are intact.

What I¬†do¬†struggle with, what is the “new me” if you will, is social phobia and panic and anxiety. I’m also trying to read through the list of books in¬†1,001 Books You Must Read Before You Die. Given that I’m already 52, I realize I have to read faster. LOL

Crocheting is still a big thing for me, but I don’t want a separate blog about it. I want to talk about it here when I’ve accomplished something especially difficult, of which I’m proud.

Also, my mother is 87 now. Sometimes we get along super, just fantastic, and other times we are at each other’s throats. I can’t explain it. I might need to blog about that here.

If this new blog approach sounds like something you might be interested in, keep on coming! If not, see you on the flip side, and thank you for reading as long as you have. You are all dears.

Have a sunny-side up day.

Is It Giving Up Or Letting Go?

5

 

1.¬†decide it’s okay to let go:¬†When I walked away from Maybury Farms, when I let that go, I breathed a huge sigh of relief. You have to know that whatever you are holding onto does not belong to you, living or inanimate. It is¬†not yours.¬†That makes it easier to let go.

2. don’t hold on so hard: ¬†I was holding on so hard to the farm that I couldn’t enjoy myself. I mostly had panic attacks, anxiety so bad that I had to take pills before each tour. I couldn’t even enjoy the children. How do you enjoy tours with 50 children each? I was overwhelmed, too low self-esteem and way little voice projection. If we hold on too hard, all we come away with are empty fists and tense shoulders.

3.¬†decide what you truly want:¬†I know I still want to give back to the community somehow, I just learned that this is not the way. Sometimes we fall many times before we find our way. I know I want animals; farm animals may not be them. I may walk dogs for exercise for a veterinarian or something. When we know what we want, it’s easier to let go of what we don’t want.

4.¬†don’t ask too many people for advice:¬†I only called one person when I was about to leave the farm, and that was my counselor. I called him twice and he didn’t get back to me in time. So I made the decision on my own. The problem with asking multiple people what they think is we often get multiple answers and it muddies up the water. Yuck. No one wants that. ūüôā

5.¬†don’t listen to what others say after you let go:¬†You’ll get all kinds of opinions after you make your decision to let go, but really—what do you care? All that matters is how you feel. Do you feel happy, relaxed, free? Then ignore them all.

6.¬†celebrate your freedom: ¬†You just¬†have¬†to do something to celebrate your new found freedom, even if it’s something as simple as going to the DQ. You. Are. Free. It’s not usually simple, and it’s not usually easy, so make a huge freakin’ deal out of this. ‚̧

Ciao, Bella. xx

Ciao, Bella

4

dreamsI started this A-Z blog challenge (late) just a few days ago, with such joy and high hopes.

But then reality set in. The fact of the matter is I’m still terribly ill, and I fall asleep in the middle of writing. My brother the attorney warned me today that I shouldn’t even be driving because I could get arrested for driving under the influence of medication. I’m awfully tired¬†all the time,¬†and I think I perhaps made up that 2 1/2 hour window to make myself feel better.

I have countless flashcards to be sure to know before April 29th. Even though it’s only volunteer work, it’s still¬†work,¬†and should be treated as such. I want these children to get the¬†very best experience¬†of Maybury Farms they could possibly come away with. I’m not hoping for perfect; that’s not what I said. I said I would give them my very best. That’s all any of us can do, and it’s all that should be expected of us.

anythingI wish that I was better. I wish that I could¬†do everything. But I know that if I try to do¬†everything, something will inevitably fall through the tracks. I’m not as young as I used to be. I used to pull all-nighters and be just fine the next day. But I’ll be 52 this year, I have arthritis pretty much all down the left side of my body, and this….this damn bipolar.

I’ll still be blogging. Just not on a scheduled pace.

So. A tout a l’heure. Adios. See you on the flip side.

Peace out. Take care o’ you. xx

F is for Feelings

0

FThoughts are the shadows of our feelings–always darker, emptier, and simpler. ~Friedrich Nietzsch

. . . when we long for life without . . . difficulties, remind us that oaks grow strong in contrary winds and and diamonds are made under pressure.~Peter Marshall

I would not exchange the laughter of my heart for the fortunes of the multitudes; nor would I be content with converting my tears . . . into calm. It is my fervent hope that my whole life on this earth will ever be tears and laughter. ~Kahlil Gibran

I have sometimes been wildly, despairingly, acutely miserable . . . but through it all I still know quite certainly that just to be alive is a grand thing. ~Agatha Christie

Feelings. They are among the strongest parts of our being and they often come uninvited, without warning, and stay longer than we would allow even the best of a family member to stay in our house.

When I’m in therapy, the inevitable question comes up in response to a situation, “How did that make you feel?” or “How do you feel about that?” or some other such variation.¬†Usually I’m able to be quite glib about it or fake my way through those early questions. If I know the therapist well enough, I’ll ask back “How do you¬†think¬†I feel?” This guarantees a few minutes of off-side topic, totally¬†not¬†what my therapist had in mind. ūüėČ

unpleasantfeeling

There are really just three take-aways I want you to get from this post, if nothing else, and those are:

1.¬†Feelings are our friends.¬†Some people worry because they feel they are too emotional, too sensitive, or they “wear their heart on their sleeve.” Well I’m here to tell you that there is such a thing as a¬†numb¬†state. This is when you want to cry but you can’t, there’s a heaviness in your chest but you don’t know what’s causing it, and—if one isn’t careful—one might do almost anything to get out of that numb state and start feeling again. Feelings are our friends. They are our emotional barometer of what’s happening in the world, and we need them to survive.

2.¬†Feelings aren’t facts.¬†This kind of thinking goes like this. I¬†feel¬†like an idiot, therefore I must¬†be¬†an idiot. This is one time the “Feelings aren’t facts” rule of thumb would apply, or any other time we get stuck in situations that on the surface make sense but underneath look like sharks circling their dinner.

notupset3. Feelings don’t last forever. Even though it might not seem like it at the time, feelings definitely do have a shelf life. Just like good things don’t last forever, so it is with bad things. The world is in constant flux, and we are constantly growing and changing with it. Never fear. If you don’t like this feeling, there will soon be another one to take its place.

Peace out, strong warriors. xoxo

 

Just Relax

0

RelaxThere must be quite a few things that a hot bath won’t cure, but I don’t know many of them. ~Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar

Tension is who you think you should be. Relaxation is who you are. ~Chinese proverb

Life should be touched, not strangled. You’ve got to relax, let it happen at times, and at other times move forward with it. ~Ray Bradbury

It seems like everywhere I go people are talking about relaxation these days. My therapist asks me about my stress level, like it’s something that can be quantified, measured on a daily basis.¬†lying down

I probably mentioned already that I’m participating in an study for bipolar disordered people on a site called Optimism. I love the name, but the site is both complicated and ambiguous.

The site tracks your mood every day, how well you coped, hours slept, quality of sleep, whether or not you exercised, and took medications, if relevant (here’s where I find some ambiguity. It doesn’t ask if your meds make you feel like you’re on auto-pilot, or so thirsty you could drink a gallon of water and it wouldn’t be enough, so tired you’d just run a marathon…only you hadn’t). It then goes into three different categories:¬†stay well strategies, triggers,¬†and¬†symptoms.¬†

Relaxation fits under the¬†Stay well strategies,¬†along with adequate sleep, plenty of water, and routine, just to name a few. I use a relaxation cd daily. One of the choices on the cd is¬†A Walk on the Beach.¬†The narrator uses the elevator technique to take me¬†deeper down,¬†until I’m so relaxed I’m actually somewhere way in the basement. Ha ha ha

If only it would stay. Not minutes after that, I checked my email, and there was something from an editor or promoter of a book I’ve signed up to read on¬†Netgalley.¬†Now, I love reading more than anything, and I just finished my third book for them. I have three more books in the queue before the book this promoter spoke of. All the relaxation I’d just had given to me went right out the window. I had no idea what to say to this person, so I took my usual route. Say nothing, and keep plodding along. My dog, Lucy, would have peed on the email and gone on her happy way. ūüėÄ We should all be so lucky.

dog

Gambling on Goals

2

goalsGoals are so crazy popular, aren’t they? I mean, I went looking for one quote on goals for this post, just¬†one,¬†and they were all so contradictory. Some said set your goals high and don’t stop ’til you achieve them. Others said it starts with the spirit, and if that wasn’t true, forget about it. Then there’s the one who says to set¬†small¬†goals and build upon them. So even the meaning of the word¬†goal¬†is somewhat sketchy.

I know of a famous, at least famous on my terms, writing website, which has a whole¬†board¬†(forum) dedicated to the topic of goals and the achievement (or not) thereof. I belonged to it at one time. I did find it somewhat useful, but mostly I felt bad about myself for not achieving the goals I’d set out for the week. I might or might not have been the only person who felt that way, but it’s interesting to note, don’t you think?¬†dont-worry-about-goals

Now, I know I could be feeling this way because I’m still coming off a manic phase and it’s hard for me to focus on any one thing. At¬†Goodreads¬†I’m reading five books at a time still, one of which is a book I’m reviewing for¬†Netgalley. If you haven’t checked out Netgalley, you really should. And then there is¬†Optimism, and the six month’s study I voluntarily upped for. Don’t forget the origami cranes. ūüėÄ My brain also recently lit on¬†zentangle, because it’s supposed to be so good for stress. I bought books and everything. I’ve only made one so far, but my mind is studying and learning (which I think is the opposite of what it’s supposed to do). How is a¬†brain¬†like that supposed to do anything except make it through the day? LOL¬†strongest

With the above thought in mind, I took myself to the gym yesterday morning at 4:00 a.m. I just¬†did¬†it. My goal was to get in there, to buy a pair of headphones, sit on a cycle, and ride for at least fifteen minutes. My biggest worry about achieving the goal was, of course, the stares I might get. But–surprisingly–people didn’t even look at ¬†me; even when the gentleman behind the counter had a hard time getting the cash register to work and it took what seemed like an eternity. No one stared at me while I fumbled with the outer packaging of the headphones, or while I figured out how exactly the cycle worked. In fact no one¬†seemed quite otherwise occupied. Such a monumental surprise for the fat girl who expected finger points and taunts.

I had planned on going later that day (6-7 was a great time, because people were eating dinner) and every day after that. Then I got sick. Really suddenly, like¬†wham,¬†you had enough fun, no more fun for you. I know my thinking is distorted¬†because¬†I’m sick, so I’ll try not to take that too seriously.

Here’s my point. In between setting goals,¬†life¬†happens. So we need to become as flexible as a Gumby toy. Things can change in an instant. So, what am I saying, that I’m not going to the gym anymore? Heck no! But I couldn’t go today, and my body feels like I got hit by a Mack truck (Say, did you know there’s a r/l thing as a Mack truck? I saw one when I was driving a while back!). I’m saying sometimes it may be two steps forward one step back, but there’s always that one step forward.

Don’t forget to¬†loveyourself intensely during this process. It’s hard. You’ll want to rail against everything. But don’t. You’ll be okay. Hang in there, and trust God. Trust your friends.

Peace out. xxlifer