Six Steps: Part III

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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

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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

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

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

 

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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No Problems Here! ;)

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How I Survived A Life-Threatening Illness

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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.

Should I Stay, Or Should I Go?

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bigmacI almost closed/deleted/whatever my blog yesterday, which I’ve kept since (I think) May of 2007. Anyway, it’s a pretty long time. It’s just getting to be like FaceBook to me, which is why I mostly stay away from FB these days. FB is all about the houses to me. The big ones, the prettiest ones, the ones with adorable kids on swing sets in the backyards, handsome couples walking hand-in-hand down the neighborhood for all to see. Most of the rest of us stand there and admire, whistle, and applaud. Oh, and we can’t forget the likes. The more likes you get, it means more¬†people¬†like hearing about your pretty house, husband, wife, kids, pets . . . and not simply friends but total¬†strangers.¬†Someone you have never ever met in your entire life likes your dog, Fido. :/ What, and now there are¬†love¬†buttons, in case one can’t like the person enough. Am I the only living soul who finds this a little surreal? No, you needn’t argue with me about the difference between liking the poster and liking what the poster posts.

Anyway, blogging is getting to be like that, like FB. It’s been that way for a while for me. I just don’t “like” myself waiting and worrying over . . . likes. If you know me at all, I don’t need to explain that sentence to you, and if you¬†don’t¬†know me, there’s not enough time to educate you. ¬†I suppose I could keep writing, for myself (it’s the only time I write anymore), while disabling the likes and comments. That way I might wonder who would’ve liked it, but I don’t have to torture myself over why no one liked it.

Nobody realizes the power they wield. I¬†know¬†I don’t have any power. I’m¬†nobody.¬†But not you, nope, not to me. Okay, there’s a lot more rolling around in this old head, you know, but I’m going to stop now. See you.¬†okay

Broken?

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beI’ll be taking a break from writing for a while, I’m not sure how how long. Could be weeks, could be months.

I’m feeling completely empty. Besides the fact I only have three squares left to do out of 88 in the granny square blanket I’ve been working on, I have absolutely nothing good to show for my life. When I look at this photo, it makes me feel more than wistful, it parks a huge lump in my throat that refuses to budge.

Fearless¬†is who I used to be. Shoot, after graduating from college, I drove myself from here (Michigan) to Wisconsin and over to Georgia for job interviews. Then I went again to an interview in Burlington, VT by way of Boston (stopping at Cheers–which is¬†so¬†a tourist trap—and the duck pond for a ride)¬†BY MYSELF.¬† I was so confident and relaxed that I was offered the jobs in Vermont and Georgia and was forced to make a choice. I didn’t consider the fact that Burlington was probably used to dealing with lots of snow, and the fact my job was as an itinerant teacher factored a lot into my choice for Georgia. I can still smell the magnolia blooms years later. –sigh–

Now, today, I’m a nearly 53-yr-old woman on disability who is¬†riddled¬†with fears. I can’t even take my dog for a walk for God’s sake, and I have seriously psych myself out before I can go down the driveway to get the mail. Yesterday I went to the Recovery Int.¬†meeting in the morning and actually had¬†tears¬†because someone told me I broke a rule and couldn’t talk about something. Sheesh. Talk about needing thicker skin! When I go somewhere I can’t answer the question “What do you do for a living?” because I don’t¬†do anything.¬†

I know this seems like a self-pitying rant, but I am working on all this in therapy. It may not seem like it, but I am. And I’m going to start journaling again. I just need some time, and I felt it only fair to let you know why.

Namaste.

Performance Anxiety Redux

2

wpid-20150526_080944.jpgAll right. This is not an apology, this is an explanation. There’s a reason I have been so flaky lately with my posts . . . well, this whole entire month, specifically.

Last year, when I tried to crochet Christmas presents, I didn’t start working until like October or even November, and of course didn’t get finished in time. I have a large family. So this year I began in January. So far I have two granny square blankets crocheted. I just have to put them together. I’m working on my third (pictured above) which looks like snowflakes! I have 30 out of 88 squares done.

Anyway, we’re here to talk about performance anxiety, and the causes and helps for it. The three main causes of PA are:

  • Mild social anxiety.
  • Inexperience in public.
  • Strong distaste for failure

As with most anxiety problems, it’s hard to know the exact cause, but performance anxiety is also self-sustaining, because it creates a mindset that focuses only on mistakes and seeing others as judging you. One small mistake, even if no one notices, or one person in the audience that looks unhappy and all of your fears are reinforced, causing more performance anxiety to happen later.¬†No matter the effects of anxiety, there is no denying that anxiety itself can create more anxiety. The more you are worried about your performance, the more your performance suffers.

Some strategies which can help in overcoming performance anxiety are:

  • Pre- and Post- Presentation Positive Writing Exercises ‚Äď Since anxiety is a problem with negative thinking, one way to combat anxiety is to force yourself to think positively. An example of this type of exercise includes writing out 10 or 20 genuinely positive thoughts about how you performed or will perform. It’s not perfect, but it will stop you from focusing only on the negative.
  • Positive Support ‚Äď You also need support from others. It’s easy to think about the negatives when you mess up ‚Äď or when you have the possibility of messing up. But if you can find people in your life that are always supportive, you won’t care as much about any mistakes because others in your life will make things easier. Positive support is very helpful for this type of anxiety.
  • Happy Distractions ‚Äď Much of performance anxiety is not what happens at the time of the event, but what occurs before and after it. This is when the mind can wander into negative thoughts. Keeping yourself mentally active and busy prevents the mind from focusing on the negatives, especially if you can focus on more positive activities like going outdoors and spending fun time with friends.
  • Practicing Under Pressure ‚Äď It is often hard to practice under pressure, because practice itself rarely has that much pressure. But if you can get used to being under pressure situations, then when you actually face some type of pressure it won’t cause as much anxiety. For example, if you are giving a speech, do it in front of smaller crowds and work your way up to the bigger ones. If you are playing sports, practice playing where people challenge you with noise and energy ‚Äď just like you would experience in a big game. This will help you get used to some of the components of pressure situations, even if it doesn’t resemble it completely.

 

Fino a domani, I miei amici! Mwah!

 

“All The World’s A Stage . . . “

6

anxiety-memeI just had to post this anxiety meme, and like larger than life, because as soon as I saw it I laughed so hard I almost choked on my¬†coffee. It’s¬†so totally¬†true. Every time I’m ever with my therapist and we’re talking about something that makes me anxious, or we try to do something on the fear ladder and I get anxious, she immedately goes for the “Okay. start your breathing. Try to take yourself down to at least a three.” Right. I must’ve been breathing wrong before! ¬†If that worked all the time, psychiatrists would be completely out of business.

Anyway, that’s beside the point. I would be a court reporter right now if it weren’t for perforance anxiety. ¬†And, I absolutely¬†loved¬†that job, even more than teaching, and teaching was pretty darn cool. See, the skill of stenography came pretty easily to me because I also knew the skill of braille from when I was a teacher for visually challenged K-12 students in Columbus, GA. Braille is a combination of keys on a machine that amount to much like chords, piano chords is what it made me think of. Court reporting shorthand is similar, so I was able to adapt quickly.

When I graduated, I worked on a temporary license until I could pass the state exam. Only . . . that day never came. Although I did very well in school and often surprised both teachers and students with my speed and accuracy, when it came time to take the test, I felt lost. We were given three five minute timed tests and one hour each test to transcribe them afterwards: 225 wpm for testimony, 200 wpm jury charge, and 175 wpm hard literary. I froze. I just froze.

It didn’t matter how much prep time I had given myself before I walked through those doors. It didn’t matter what I told myself about others who had gone before me and passed. ¬†The first two times I made it through all three timed tests and tried to transcribe all three parts. The second time I managed to transcribe two parts. The third time, although I took all three tests as per usual, I was too disgusted with myself to even read through what I had taken down. Mind you, each time I entered the test in Lansing, it cost fifty dollars; not exactly something to sneeze at. ¬†After the third time I resigned myself to performance anxiety and gave up. I gave up a chance at a career I know I would absolutely love for the rest of my life.

Any time I walked in those doors in Lansing, Michigan, even before the actual test began, my heart would start beating faster, I’d start sweating, I’d get this¬†horrible, unshakable feeling¬†that every other person in the room is staring at me, my hands would shake, and I’d have trouble catching my breath. I talked to psychiatrists and therapists about possible hypnotherapy for this so that maybe I¬†could¬†take the test and pass it, but so far no one has been able to help me.

I’m so sorry this has gone on so long. There are causes and solutions for performance anxiety. I’ll write about those next time.

Until then, be well and be happy!

good performance
Fino a domani, I miei amici!

The Bystander Effect

2

bystander effectAccording to Wikipedia, the bystander effect, a.k.a. bystander apathy, “is a social psychological phenomenon that refers to cases in which individuals do not offer any means of help to a victim when other people are present. The probability of help is inversely related to the number of bystanders.”

The first case that caused research into this “effect” took place in 1964. At that time, 28-yr-old Kitty Genovese¬†was raped and stabbed to death in front of her apartment.

The attack lasted over 30 minutes and was witnessed by several dozen people (at least, it was reported, but later found to be not quite accurate–only about a dozen people actually witnessed the crime.) who failed to report the incident. Some didn’t know an actual crime was happening, claiming they thought it was a “lover’s quarrel,” while others knew a crime was happening but didn’t report it because they assumed someone else already called the police. My only question is, how do you confuse someone being raped and stabbed with a “lover’s quarrel?” Right?

Remember the movie “The Accused,” with Jodie Foster?¬†I think she might have won an Academy Award for her role as a women who was raped by a bunch of men on a pool table in front of several witnesses who did nothing. ¬†Some even clapped and cheered. The actual incident took place in New Bedford, MA in 1983.

There are more incidents of The Bystander Effect, probably many more than are reported, but I will not cite them all here. I can tell you about something that happened to me and my mother years ago in front of our own house. My brother Greg has a penchant for Packards. One day he was over, visiting, and he couldn’t get it to start. He told my mom and I that if we gave him a push start, he was sure he’d be able to start it. So (foolishly) we started pushing, and got sort of running, not thinking we should let go of the car once it started.

We both fell in the street, my mom flat on her face. She could’ve broken her nose, but thankfully didn’t. Of course there was a lot of blood, and my brother and I helped her stop the blood while she sat on the porch. She didn’t want to go to the ER. My point is, we fell right in front of my “across-the-street” neighbor’s house. They had their screen door on, so I’m sure they heard and saw everything that happened. There was also the neighbor kitty corner from us. Not one person bothered to see if we were all right, even as my mother sat on the porch bleeding. No one checked in on her later to make sure she was okay.

Are these bad neighbors and friends? Not at all. They most likely didn’t want to get involved or assumed someone else would help. Neighbors aren’t like they used to be, after all. It’s not an easy world to live in any more. And if we could ask Kitty Genovese, she might reply, “Was it ever?”

Hope you enjoyed this late late blog post. I’m really very sorry. It’s not my intention for them to be late. I get caught up in things and forget, which is not to say you are not just as important! Please stay tuned for tomorrow’s blog post, which will most certainly NOT be late. ūüėČ

Ciao Bella.

 

Zany

10

Z (1)I don’t like the word zany as it applies to mentally ill or anxious people. It’s the same as saying “crazy,” and it’s placing a stigma on a population that has enough to deal with on a day-to-day basis. I’m not even sure I like “mentally ill.”

Sure, I have three separate anxiety problems, and bipolar disorder, but does that make me mentally ill? Does someone with diabetes say that she is physically ill? Of course not. She has a problem with her sugar, and she’s hopefully taking care of it.

We all of us exhibit crazy¬†behaviors¬†now and then. None of us are immune. Shouting at someone who cuts us off in traffic is not exactly normal.¬†Talking¬†to the driver in front of you (come on, I know you’ve done it, so have I) when you know s/he can’t hear you, is pretty crazy behavior. Once, when I still had borderline personality disorder (I have since¬†aged¬†out of it, thank God) I laid down in front of my niece’s car because we were in the middle of an argument, she was trying to leave, and I didn’t want her to. I’m still that way, needing to resolve things, but I don’t lie down in front of peoples’ cars any longer. lol¬†That’s¬†crazy.

Today, let’s remember to use the words “zany” and “crazy” judiciously, when talking about events and things, rather than people. It will go a long way toward reducing stigma in the world at large.

Well, everyone, that’s the end of the alphabet. I have thoroughly enjoyed my time with you, and hope you have the same. Stay tuned for Mental Health Month in May, where anything can happen and we aren’t constrained by the letters of the alphabet!

Ciao, Bella.

Yesterday

0

Y (1)Although we’ve talked a lot about living in the present moment, the fact is most people with anxiety either live in the future or, more likely, in the past. The future living sounds more like a lot of “What-ifs,” and can get very scary very quickly.

Living in yesterday sounds like this: I know I hurt my friend’s feelings when I said that that particular way. She seemed funny after that. It couldn’t have been just because she was dealing with her own issues. I¬†know¬†it was my fault.

Or: I looked so stupid buying groceries yesterday. I’m sure everyone could tell my hands were shaking when I was trying to get the correct change. I didn’t even say thank you or good bye because I was afraid I might break out in tears, for crying out loud. What’s wrong with me? I’m such a spaz and an idiot!

Yet again: Why did I tell my mom I would pick up her meds at the store for her? It’s been really hard for me to leave the house at all lately. Twice I tried yesterday. I got all the way to the parking lot of the store, the first time, but I couldn’t get out of the car. The second time I only made it into my car in the garage, but I couldn’t back out. I am¬†such¬†a loser!

These are all examples of distorted thoughts brought on by panic and anxiety. They can easily be changed by different, more rational, compassionate thinking.

Once the thinking is changed, staying in the moment is so important.

Have a terrific day! I’m going to lunch with my friend Molly!

Ciao, Bella.Paper Fortune Teller

Xanthophobia

4

X (1)Today is brought to you by the letter “X.” Your first instinct, when you hear about today’s subject matter, might be to laugh, but I urge you not to. It’s a very serious matter, and I think, if we suffered with it, we would not be laughing, not one bit.

Xanthophobia is an intense, irrational fear of the color yellow. It is very real to the person or persons impacted by this phobia. Taken to its extreme, the xanthophobic person may even feel an overwhelming fear of the very word yellow. Xanthophobia comes from the Greek word “Xanthous”, meaning yellow and “phobos” which means fear.

Just like all fears and phobias, xanthophobia is created by unconscious thoughts as protection. At some point in the person’s past, something probably happened bringing together the color or word yellow and emotional trauma, like PTSD. This might have been a real life scare, but this condition can also be triggered by movies, TV, or seeing someone else experience trauma. The person attaches negative feelings to any situation where the color or word yellow is present, and therefore xanthophobia is born.

I really understand this. I have a thing about escalators (I’m sure there’s a name for that particular phobia). I will avoid them whenever possible. When it’s not possible, it takes me about a half hour to make myself step on. But think about it. They’re actually dangerous. People have been hurt on them before. They’re not very safe. Some people walk up them instead of holding still, so they’re inconsistent. I like things to be the same, all the time. But that’s just me, and we all know I’m a little crazy. lol

Have a great evening. Next month is Mental Health Month, and I’m already planning some of my blog posts!

Ciao, Bella.parents-rights-cartoonphobia

Worrying

6

W (1)“Don’t worry about the world coming to an end today. It is already tomorrow in Australia.” –Charles Schulz

Charles Schulz is great. My dad was a cop, and he had a cop friend who was friend who was friends with Schulz, so for Halloween, instead of passing out candy, my older brother and I would pass out old comic books with the covers torn off. Of course, we always sat around and read them first. It was a sheer blast. I related to both Charlie Brown (with all his worrying) and Linus (with his security blanket–I had one until I was like six lol).

Despite what my mom says about worry being like a rocking chair and therefore useless, I’m a worrier. From the time I wake up until the time I go to sleep I’m worried about something. And truthfully, if I don’t have something¬†real¬†to worry about, I imagine a “what if” scenario, because I guess I’m just a worry junkie. Now that’s just sick, right? Because who would¬†want¬†to be worrying all the time? Because let’s face it. Too much worry leads to anxiety, and nobody likes anxiety, not even me.

Worry works like this. Imagine you’re walking along a cliff. Your mind might think, “I might fall.” That’s helpful, because it keeps you careful, a thought like that.¬†But,¬†if you’re hiking along the same cliff and your anxiety is¬†high,¬†instead of thinking “I might fall,” you might think “I¬†will¬†fall.” We experience the thought as reality, almost inevitability.

There are ways to reduce worry thoughts, like letting go of control, and staying in the present moment.
So sorry again that this is so late. You only have to put up with me a few more days!
Ciao, Bella.
98worrying99problems