Six Steps: Part III

When I spoke with my friend Jean, who hasn’t let go of me despite my absence from social media, I told her about my reticence in blogging. I’m struggling, and I had the absurd idea that I should be much further recovered before I write anything. Well, I didn’t realize how absurd it was until we spoke. ūüôā She reminded me that you all, like me with you, would want to share in the struggle. We need to know we’re not alone.

Here, then, are the last two of the six steps.

5. Your choices are yours.¬†It might be tempting to tell ourselves that we’re making a change to please someone else. That way, if it doesn’t work out the way we would like it to, we know where to place blame. “You happy now?” we shake our fists in frustration. It’s because it’s so hard, that’s my opinion. Withdrawing from my medications is the number one most difficult thing, next to my father’s death, that I’ve ever been through. Does my decision have wide consequences/rewards? Of course, it does. The difference in who I am off meds with who I was on them is like – well, like the difference between milk chocolate and dark. I’m dark chocolate now. I’m richer with my emotions, like eating the most expensive caviar, but there is a slightly bitter bit at the end. Dark chocolate is an acquired taste. I’m teary a lot, over silly movies and TV shows. And my emotions are all over the place. God bless my mother, as she accepts who I am now in all its nakedness, reassuring me I’m much better to be around without being literally sedated. I suppose in a way I’ve been sleepwalking through the last 28 years. Does my family’s happiness at my condition mean they want to see me struggle? Not at all. I think what I’m trying to say is that it’s¬†my¬†life and I made this choice. Whatever happens, good or bad, it’s my responsibility.

6. Practice loving kindness.¬†Times like these, fraught with emotion, need lots of affection and tenderness. Everyone, including ourselves, needs our loving kindness or at least the benefit of the doubt that we are all doing our very best. My mind is sharper now, which I’ve decided is not necessarily a good thing. With no buffer between my mind and the memories of nearly thirty years, I grieve for all that was lost. I grieve the loss of who I might have been. I grieve at costing my family, especially my mother, so much sadness and fright over the years as they had to deal with a shell of a human being. So, yes, I need to practice loving kindness with myself as I try to keep myself mindful and free from the gaping maw of past defeat. I’ll never do it perfectly. All I can do is my very best, and sometimes be happy with half-efforts. That’s all we can do, any of us.

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

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

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

Gaslighted? Five Steps to Help

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

Juvi Syed‚Äé Cognitive Care Center P.C

Self-conscious much? Do something!

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

 

Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?

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