balance

A is for Acceptance

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)

What Could Be Scarier Than a Great White Shark??

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

 

Rejoining The Human Race

first day on earth castellucciAmazingly, it’s been almost five months since I last posted to this blog. And I pay for it! LOL  I’m not sure I still remember how to do it. Have I been through some struggles in that time? Of course, but you know what? So have you, so have we all! I’ve experienced some major triumphs, too. Do tell me yours.

Here’s another thing. I don’t know how you feel about it, but I’ve really missed you guys. I’ve missed the camaraderie, the comments, the back-and-forth, and just knowing someone out there is reading silly things I’ve written.

You probably don’t know this, but there is a radio station out of Detroit (near where I live) which plays all Christmas music starting November 1st. Right? A little whacked, but I love it since it’s my favorite holiday. In fact, I was thinking of going to buy lights to put up around the ceiling. And, for the life of me, I cannot understand why it’s so important to wait until the day after Thanksgiving to put up the tree, even if it’s fake. Seriously?

Well, I won’t keep blabbing on and on. I read in a blogging book that the shorter the post the better (we’re all so busy these days!).

This will be my new schedule for posting: SU-T-TH-S. From now until just about Christmas I’ll be writing about trying to get my Christmas gifts crocheted in time. Yikes!

See you Tuesday. Until then, take care of yourself, and take care of each other.

 

Organize, Order, Originate

pig in bootsAs I started to work on my wood burning project (which I won’t be able to share with you anyway, because it’s for a family member, and I can’t take any chances online), I got this panicky ache in my chest. I started to think about everything else I have to do before Christmas. I know, it seems just too weird to think about Christmas in June, but not when you’re making all your gifts.

So I decided to write down everything I’m making; to get organized, and make a list (not including the wood burning project, since that will be done before Christmas).

Here it is:

  1. two blankets (just have to sew together)
  2. spirals rug — also easy crochet rugs
  3. crochet for charity scarf
  4. shimmery afghan
  5. easy going crochet blanket
  6. inside out blanket
  7. crochet brimmed flapper hat
  8. crocheted bookmarks
  9. circles afghan
  10. reader’s wrap
  11. snowflake ornament
  12. octie throw
  13. festive garland
  14. Christmas trees (small table top)
  15. Thai garden collar
  16. tactical squares throw
  17. Judy’s warm hugs blanket
  18. crochet basket (w/twine)

The ones that are bold and in italics are projects I have decided will be fairly simple and take much less time, maybe a day to do (I’ll make more than one snowflake ornament, of course!). My mom thinks I’m crazy and am trying to kill myself. It’s funny. I was worried about her a couple of weeks ago because of her diabetes (her sugar was going up and down). I said to her, “What am I going to do if you just don’t wake up in the morning?” And she replied, “Well, do you know where my funeral clothes are?” I was shocked, but when I share that with other people they just laugh that my mother has all her funeral clothes ready and in one place (shoes and all) so that I don’t have to deal with that  when she dies.

So when I showed this big list (plus practicing the piano to prepare two new George Winston pieces for her 88th birthday in October) she asked me, “Do I need to be planning for your funeral?” Ha ha ha.

Oh darn. I forgot the blankie I’m going to make for Henry, Geoffrey and Emily’s baby, who’ll be one around that time.

What do you think? Too much? Well, I’ll do what I can. When it gets down to the wire, I’m sure I’ll have to do some cutting and editing. 😦

Arrivederci!!

P.S. I will not be posting again until Wednesday. I will have family in town from this afternoon through Tuesday. Enjoy time off without me! LOL

How Do You Respond To Stress? Part One

saving-cry-for-help-ecard-someecardsYou’ve heard talk of Type A and Type B personalities. The first part of this two-part blog series on stress is about the Type A personality.

Here are 25 things you might not know (or might!) about this complicated personality:

1. They don’t procrastinate. They hate the idea of wasting time so they do things the moment they come to mind. Why wait and do it later when you can just do it now?

2. They always have a task list — a never-ending one. If there is another day to be lived, then there is another set of tasks to be accomplished.

3. They have several alarms set throughout the day so they always stay on top of things. They wish they could remember it all in order to save time, but this is the best next thing.

4. They have trouble understanding the stupidity of others. They don’t believe themselves to necessarily be exceptionally gifted or genius. So why is it that they are competent when almost everyone else seems like an idiot?

5. They don’t understand the concept of not being capable of doing something. To them, if something can physically be done, then why would they not be capable of doing it? If they need to learn something, they will.

6. They understand that laziness is a choice. Most people talk about laziness as if it was some sort of disease. Type A’s look at such people as idiots. Laziness isn’t more of a disease than is ignorance.

7. They often become passionate. If they are going to do something, then they are going to do something they believe to be meaningful. If it’s meaningful to them, then it deserves their fullest attention; passion is inevitable.

8. …But not always for too long. Unfortunately, because they are so passionate, and because true success takes patience, any sort of early failure easily discourages them. They are likely to pack up and change careers in a heartbeat.

9. They can be very emotional. Type A’s seem to be more strongly rooted in reality than most people. They seem to understand the world around them better, and because of this, they are more influenced by the outside world. Worse yet is that they are just as likely to be found lost in their thoughts — a very dangerous combination.

10. They’re prone to stressing. Put simply, they worry a lot. They do their best to see into the future and can’t shake the fact that things can always go wrong. Plus, being as passionate as they are makes them dread that ever possible and looming, crappy outcome.

11. Although they know they should take more time to relax, they don’t always find it appealing — and when they do, they simply can’t find the time. For them, they feel most at home working and doing their thing. It’s difficult for them to understand that getting away and slowing down is in their best interest.

12. They love sleeping, but have trouble stopping their thoughts from racing. It’s not easy to fall asleep when your mind just keeps on running through thoughts and images. Stopping them is no easy task.

13. They can muster superior focus. When things need to be done — for Type A’s, things always need to be done — they are able to focus intently and block out the rest of reality. They call it getting into their “zone.”

14. They’re perfectionists. It’s not that they are trying to be perfect, but blemishes, mistakes and inconsistencies frustrate them. They find them ugly and appalling, not being able to allow them to pass their inspection. If they could, they would – but they simply can’t.

15. Doing things efficiently is their first priority. As little time spent getting as much quality work done as humanly possible? If you just got a hard-on, then you’re a Type A personality.

16. They make plans, lots of plans. If you want to achieve something, then Type A’s only find it logical that you should know how to get there. So they make plans. Unfortunately, making plans isn’t always efficient. Once they realize this, they revert to focusing less on planning and putting even more emphasis on efficiency.

17. They center their life on their careers. Their careers are their passion, their purpose in life. Once they figure out what that is, there isn’t much else that interests them.

18. More often than not, they feel that they are too busy to be in a relationship. This is sad, but true. Type A personalities often end up alone because they don’t allow themselves to date. They feel that they don’t have the time, so they don’t bother with trying to make a relationship work.

19. They have a tendency to cut others off in conversation — not to be rude, but to be right. I mean, what’s the point of letting them yammer on with some nonsense when you can just tell them the way it really is, and then you can both move on with your lives, right?

20. They love the spotlight. Some may call them attention-whores.

21. Always having a plan for the worst-case scenario is a necessity. What’s the worst possible thing that you can possibly imagine happening to you? You losing your job? Your pet Pooky getting run over by a car? Cancer? Armageddon? Yup, they have a plan for that.

22. They walk fast and with a purpose, doing all they can to avoid lines of any sort. To them, walking is getting from point A to point B in order to do what needs to be done at point B as soon as possible so that they can move on to point C. If you’re out for a leisurely walk, then find a park.

23. They are punctual and expect others to be the same. Other peoples’ time is worth respecting. The sooner you’re in, the sooner you’re out. That’s what she said.

24. Doing things with a purpose is the only way they know how to live. If there is not purpose behind action, then Type A personalities don’t see a reason for doing it in the first place. They understand that actions are only worth the goal they are trying to achieve.

25. They love solving problems and believe there is always a solution. They believe the world to work in a logical manner – minus the illogical creatures that live in it – and therefore, believe that there must always be a solution for every problem. For the very few that may not have a solution, they should be forgotten.

Source: Paul Hudson, Elite Daily

Have a wonderful day. If you think of it, and if you pray, include me throughout the day. I had kind of a shock earlier this morning, and it’s making for a tough day. Thank you so much.

Ciao.

 

Performance Anxiety Redux

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 – 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 – You also need support from others. It’s easy to think about the negatives when you mess up – 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 – 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 – 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 – 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!

 

The Bystander Effect

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. 😉

Ciao Bella.

 

Panic Disorder

P (1)Well, I did manage to bring in the mail during the day yesterday and, as always happens, by the time I got back in the house my heart was pounding, I was sweating, I could barely catch my breath, and I had to sit on the stairs before I could take the mail either up or down (we live in a bi-level).

So, before I could celebrate that I had achieved something which was a 9 (on a scale of 1-10) on my Fear Ladder, I needed to calm myself down. I did something my therapist had taught me. I placed my right hand on my chest, my left on my stomach, and began to do my best to take deep breaths in through my nose, and out through my mouth, then eventually out through my nose as well. I kept my eyes open the whole time, so that every time I caught my chest rising when I breathed in instead of my stomach, I had to change that. I thought about how babies breathe. They’re such belly breathers! Not a care in the world as they lie on their backs wherever they are, breathing in and pushing that belly out. When we sleep at night, we’re belly breathers. We’ve just forgotten this in our hell fire hurry to get things done.

Let’s belly breathe more often. I’ll sure remember it, next time I get in a tight spot.

This is the entirety of my Fear Ladder. As you can see, it’s written for, and leading up to, a very specific reason:

3 Imagining walking the dog
3.5 Draw self walking dog
4 Look at pictures of lots of people outside
4.5 Watch video of someone walking outside
4.5 Ask for help in a store
4.5 Buy jeans
5 Putting gas in car
5 Walk with someone in a private area
5 Answering the phone
5 Driving in the car
5 Ask for directions
6 Walking into unfamiliar store or business
7 Walk with someone in public
7 Sit outside reading a book and smoking
8 Watch video of someone else with social anxiety disorder
8 Stand outside, look around
8 Taking garbage out
8 Walk with Lucy to the mailbox
9 Walk alone to the mailbox
9 Walk dog around the block
9 Walk down Meadowbrook with Lucy

Hmm. It occurs to me that I’m opening myself up for lots of ridicule by being so vulnerable and, well, open about myself. But I couldn’t think of a better example about panic disorder that didn’t sound straight out of a textbook.

So there you have it!

Ciao, Bella.'That's right! No huffing a puffing for 30 minutes on a treadmill. We've developed a new stress test that is faster and more accurate.'

 

Managing

`M (1)P.S. You’re not going to die. Here’s the white-hot truth: if you go bankrupt, you’ll still be okay. If you lose the gig, the lover, the house, you’ll still be okay. If you sing off-key, get beat by the competition, have your heart shattered, get fired…it’s not going to kill you. Ask anyone who’s been through it. —Daneille LaPorte

Well, it turns out I’m not the best sort of person to do this sort of thing—-the A-Z Blog Challenge. See, besides writing the blog post itself, we’re supposed to comment on each other’s blogs. But I can barely keep up with posting every day. It hasn’t become a habit yet. Who knew? Well, all I can do is my best, you know?

As I was reading through the articles I had marked about managing the symptoms of anxiety, I just got overwhelmed and all of it started to not make any sense at all. So I thought, what the hell? I’ll just write down what do to try and manage my own anxiety. That way, after you read it and it makes no sense to you, you can substitute in what you do! Ha ha ha.

Remember to breathe. The first thing that happens to me when I get anxious is I forget to breathe or I start to breathe really shallowly, which amounts to the same thing. So, I have to actually remind myself.

If I’m feeling worried/bad/sad/mad/frustrated, change the thought. Works every time. Change how I’m thinking, and I’ll feel differently.

Crochet/meditate through the problem. The repetitive nature of crochet lends itself to meditation very easily. While I’m crocheting I can think through a difficulty, or–better yet–let my mind empty itself and sort of rest.

Relaxation. I usually do deep breathing while I sit in a comfortable chair, eyes closed, but I breathe differently than most people tell us to. I breathe in through my nose (through the diaphragm) and back out through the nose (not the mouth).

Reading. This is just a really fun escape, because it takes me so far away from anything and anywhere I was before I started reading. It’s tough to be anxious when you’re in the middle of a thriller or a romance. Really. Try it.

Color-by-Number and Dot-to-Dot. I went to a Michael’s art store and found these intensely intricate adult color-by-number and dot-to-dot books. Except I’m too intimidated to start them, because I’m a perfectionist and I don’t want to make a mistake. LOL! How insane is that?!

Television. It goes under the escapist column, but it’s also very educational. I learn how other people act in similar situations, too. And we got the Amazon Fire Stick recently, so have been stuck on Mad Men (we’re on Season 4–there are I guess 7 seasons), for real.

Doing my best. It’s all I can do. It’s all any of us can do. ifeel

Impulsivity

I (1)I never used to think of myself as an impulsive person. I meanimpulsive, sure, sometimes I spend too much, or eat too much. Maybe I’m not too careful, and at times say the first thing that pops into my mind. But most of the time I am too careful, which is why I don’t like social situations, because I never know what’s safe or easy to talk about.

As usual, I did a bunch or research for this topic, and learned a great deal in the process.  I learned that impulsivity, as it relates to anxiety, has four separate parts:

1. Sensation seeking is when we take excessive risks and crave excitement.

2. Lack of perseverance is like no follow-through. It’s when we get really excited about taking a course, buy all the books and everything, and then they just sit there because we’ve lost interest.

3. Lack of planning is just what it sounds like; having big ideas but never getting them off the ground. Or, not making plans for the future.

4. Acting without thinking leaves one with relationships that are constantly conflicted, and reactions that are quick and rash.

I don’t know if you can relate to any of this, but I saw myself in each of them. *Le sigh*

Hope you have a fantastic afternoon or evening, wherever you are! ❤

Peace out.

Apprehension

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. 😉

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

The Anxiety-Exhaustion Tango

lie downSometimes, I’m surprisingly tired in the evenings before I go to sleep and I have to stop and figure out why. With generalized anxiety disorder, social phobia, social anxiety disorder, and obsessive-compulsive disorder (just being the anxiety issues), it’s a lot to sort through.

Usually, if it’s not a physical reason, if it’s not because I’ve helped someone move their apartment that day or something else equally taxing, I know it has to do with anxiety and emotions. So then I sift through my day.

When I was in high school my sister moved back home with her three young children for a time and we used to play a game around the dinner table. Everyone would say what they did that day, and the children took it very literally 🙂 “I woke up, I brushed my teeth, I got dressed, I had breakfast….” Like so. That’s the way I tried to relive my day to see what the culprit might be.

Usually, of course, it was people. I am still not very good with people. So it might have been a lunch with an old school mate, or a visit with a brother who came over, maybe a family gathering.

People don’t often understand how something like anxiety, something so high-keyed, can be linked to exhaustion. But–just think about what happens to all that balled up energy when it finally lets go. Sort of like a balloon deflating, you know? All around the room it goes, bouncing against the walls, until it comes to a very final end.

If you’ve read this far, God bless you, Gesundheit, please return your trays to their upright position, and thank you for not smoking.

Championing Crochet’s Comfort

feel betterFiber arts, whether knitting or crochet, have long been known to have a calming and positive affect on the people who participate in them.  In this article on Lion Brand Yarn, the author gives us several different ways to meditate using crochet.

I love to speak about one of my very favorite books, possible my favorite book entirely:  http://www.amazon.com/Crochet-Saved-My-Life-Physical/dp/1478190450/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1425224849&sr=1-1&keywords=how+crochet+saved+my+life  . (sorry this came out so messed up, but I asked for assistance from the WP wannabe helpers, and they were nowhere to be found. 😦 ) I’ll probably be all over the place, because I can’t remember where the author wrote about what, but I’ll try. She mostly spoke about crochet, and I liked that. It made me feel special, because there are so dang many books out there for knitters it’s enough to make one’s head spin, light up, and fall off.

The author went through a deep depression before she wrote the book. Plus, she didn’t yet know how to crochet. So the woman did piles and piles of scarf after scarf which she either kept or gave away. How extraordinary is that? I can barely keep track of the 3-4 projects I have going right now, and she’s whipping these off for her friends and neighbors.

Thirdly, Vercillo includes a score of other people who write about their experiences being helped by crochet, and each tale is simply awe-inspiring. I can’t remember now if it was Vercillo herself or another crocheter who introduced the “3-stitch Crochet Meditation.” It’s so simple, you’ll want to laugh but you can’t because it’s that important.

All you have to do is take your hook and your yarn and empty your mind. Then you start a chain: 1, 2, (Did I turn off the iron?) START AGAIN: 1, (I wonder if Peter’s mother will have a problem with my dress tonight.) START AGAIN.

You get the idea. It’s lovely and oh so simple to catch on to. Don’t worry. It takes lots and lots—AND lots of practice to get to be good at it. But what’s the rush, right? No hurry scurry. Take it slow, dude.

If you’ve read this far, God bless you, Gesundheit, and thank you for not smoking.

Is It Giving Up Or Letting Go?

 

1decide 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. 🙂

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

G is for: Glassy-eyed, Gone, and Drooling—Oh My!

spockSometimes, I think, if the disease doesn’t kill me, the cure will. Here you see a cartoon with Captain Kirk complaining to Spock about his mind-melding techniques; that he would have expected a little more than “the lights are on but nobody is home.”

The reason I share this is not to poke fun of people ratcheting up the electricity bill in their homes. Not by far. I’m showing you this cartoon because it helps me to talk about something near and dear to my heart; psychiatrists in the U.S. (and perhaps other countries) over-prescribe to their patients. Especially benzodiazepines. Feeling anxious? Here: Klonopin, Ativan, or Xanax should have you feeling comfortably numb in no time. I get it, okay? And this is not a complete and total indictment of psychiatrists all across the country. They are pressed for time. They have insurance issues to deal with, plus pharmacy reps coming in trying to sell them the latest and greatest drug out there.

deadhamsterSo no, this is not a slam post. That was just an observation. The title of the post is much more personal. I’m on pretty high doses of medication right now, trying to get me off a manic phase. (Yes, please God, now.) I’m thinking better, not in so many different directions at once, but I still have flights of fancy (Of course I can do the A-Z Blog month, despite not making all the flash cards for my Maybury Farms volunteer post! I can do everything). Never mind that I had no business signing up for the blog post competition. My mind, which knows me and loves me, also sees shiny things and wants to kill me. So we have this total love/hate thing going on.

When I first wake up in the morning, or even just before I go to bed at night, it’s best to not talk to me. I make absolutely no sense, even when I try my utmost. I imagine myself sounding like the teacher on the Peanuts cartoon show. So why do my closest loved ones stay by my side? Can’t they see that I’m so not worth it?

closedYesterday morning I actually turned to my mom and said, “What did you just say about pickles?”

“What?” she asked, not in a judgmental or an oh-you’ve-really-lost-it-this-time tone of voice.

I cleared my throat, tried to speak more slowly and articulate every word.

“What did you just say about pickles?” I asked again. It seemed really important to me, but—don’t ask me why.

“I didn’t say anything about pickles,” Mom responded, then she went back to her crossword puzzle, and I returned to looking at FaceBook and trying not to drool because—even though I’m constantly parched and thirsty from my meds, one of them gives me excess saliva. Oh, and it’s hard to swallow, so lots of times whatever I’m swallowing (sometimes just saliva ) will go “down the wrong pipe,” causing coughing and choking fits until I can drink enough water to get past it. I look drugged. For the better part of the day my eyes are at half mast, and it drives me crazy. I have to really work to make myself understood, and if I’m excited about a topic? Fuhgeddaboutit. 

I can count on a window of 2-2 1/2 hours in which to get any intelligible work done. That’s it. So it’s no wonder that, around 10:00, when it’s time to take my meds and my second wind starts to kick in, there’s a huge part of me that wants to scream, “I don’t want to take them and you can’t make me. Everyone is asleep, even the dog. No one is pulling at me for my attention. I could get so much done.” Which is why I stayed up past my bedtime last night, and sacrificed sleep for making more flash cards.

But—I see my shrink today, in a couple hours. I’ll go over all this with him. I don’t want to wander around in a drug-induced haze.

Hope it’s spring-like where you are. Feels wonderful here. I’ve made a commitment to go to the gym today, but I might change that up to taking Lucy for a walk.

Peace out. Take care o’ you. xx

Just Relax

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. 😀 We should all be so lucky.

dog

Gambling on Goals

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. 😀 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

Feeling Helpless? Try This!

helpEver feel helpless? When I feel that way, it’s usually because I’m feeling overwhelmed. Then I will remember one of these three things:

1. Breathe. Mmmm. There. Feel better? When I’m helpless, or when I get the thought in my head that says, “I’m helpless,” weirdness descends. Shortness of breath. My chest is tight. Constricted. It sort of feels a little like drowning. So I take a deep belly breath That’s what I call breathing through the diaphragm, because you have to push your tummy out–it seems confusing but it’s not. Do it as many times as you need until the world starts to make a little sense again. You’re not helpless, love. You have everything you’re supposed to, right now this minute.

2. Be in the moment. We are too much forward-thinking and backward-thinking and not enough right-now-thinking. Stay in the now as much as you can. If you’re reading this post, really pay attention. Read it out loud. If you’re reading it on a tablet, turn it upside down and read it that way. LOL When I was a kid and I was bored but couldn’t go to the library because I was grounded or whatever (who, me?), I would take a book I’d already read and read it upside down. 

3. Be your best self. Do the best you can and let it go. We all do the best we can with the knowledge we have at the time. When you know better, you can do better. But this is now.

Peace out. xx

A Rose by Any Other Name

pink roseI’m so incredibly nervous writing this, and at the same time . . . feels like home. I have been completely overwhelmed by the positive responses to my last blog post. Just–flabbergasted, truly. Those lovely comments came on the heels of a little over seven months of severe depression and severe anxiety, which brings me to why it’s been so long since I’ve posted.

So many times, when one grows up in an alcoholic family, or any sort of dysfunctional family, it becomes all about the alcoholic for so long, or about the person or sickness that draws the most attention from the family–not that they don’t each have difficulties, but the alcoholic or whatever stands out like a fresh pimple. You see? It has been true for me.

It is time now for my recovery to be about me. There is plenty to talk about just in my case, trust me. I have blemishes beyond blemishes. I even am an imperfectly flawed person, which I hope makes sense to some metaphorically-inclined soul out there.

Recently, as recent as last Friday, I was finally dx’d with bipolar depression and told I was in a manic episode (not hypomanic). I had only been sleeping maybe 2 1/2 hours a night, and I was unable to focus on anything; not TV, not reading (I had five books going at once, but had not finished a book through since Doctor Sleep at Christmastime, very frustrating for me, a book lover); extremely irritable; and easily startled awake from a catnap during the day.

My dazzling doctor gave me samples of a new bipolar med which is not supposed to cause weight gain (a big problem–get it? I crack myself up, truly). It’s called Latuda, and since it’s only about six months old, there’s not a chance my insurance would pay for it, and it would cost about a thousand bucks to get filled. Yeah.  *respectful pause for that number to sink in*

I’ve been on it two days, and last night I slept 4 1/2 hours straight through. w00t!

There’s a lot more I have to say, about the last seven months, and a lot I want to say about the mental health care system in the U.S.A. and Michigan in particular, but I’ll stop here. I don’t want to bog you all down too much on my first day back in forever.

My gratitude bucket overflows. Peace out. xoxochange

 

The Fine Art of Letting Go

holding_on_and_letting_go_by_klcarr-d4mh2l9 In my last post I said I was going to write about the worry over my mom and my sister. I also said I was going to write it the next day. Now you know not to trust anything I say. 😉

But seriously, I went to an amazing meeting this morning. And it wasn’t just because it was called the Sunday morning Amazing Grace Al-Anon meeting, either. We read from today’s reading in Hope for Today, and what I heard most of all was about letting go.

Boy, do I need to let go. I’ve been ashamed to talk about this here, but since I talked with my sponsor and with my friend Sherrie, who guest posted here and writes here, at Sherrie Theriault’s Blog, I feel better. My uber sponsor bolstered my spirits by speaking of a few small resentments she had rattling around in her head.

But what was most important was what Sherrie did. First, she made me laugh. Laughter is very important for the soul. 2. She let me know that I have a double standard, one for myself and one for everybody else, and I’m much harder an myself. 3. That resentments sometimes have layers, and if my sister just stopped drinking seven months ago, it’s not surprising I still have resentment left; and 4. That it’s okay, even good to let readers know other seasons of your soul. You need to know that there was a whole season I did not go to meetings. More importantly, you needed to hear from me during that time, that I was still here, what I was doing, how I was doing, so that you too could read and perhaps say, “Oh yes, that’s me.” or “Gosh, I don’t ever want to go there.”

It was great to see my sponsor. We hadn’t seen each other in a while, what with one thing and another, and we just held each other for the longest time. “Look at you!” she said. “Look at you!” said I. We made a time to get together on Wednesday.

Peace out.

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