Six Steps: Part III

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Six Simple Steps to Take Back Control

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

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

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

Peace. xoxo

Christina

Are You a Mono- or Multitasker?

courtesy of Cathy Thorne Everyday Comics

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

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

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

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

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

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

Peace

Chris xo

 

 

Self-conscious much? Do something!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Love you, Mom,

Chris

 

Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Have a great day.

Chris

Choices, Choices Everywhere, and Not a One to Make

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

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

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

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

What sorts of decisions are hard for you to make? 

 

How Are You Taking Care of Yourself?

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

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

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

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

adjective

1.

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

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

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

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