Fear

How I Survived A Life-Threatening Illness


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.

Happy Holidailies!!

christmas-tree-griswoldSo, hi! Here’s the thing; I feel like I should be apologizing, since I haven’t blogged, or written at all, since my dramatic farewell post on April 8th of this year. ¬†What can I say? It seemed like a good idea at the time. I didn’t blog, even though I tried prompts to help me write, I tried freewriting, I even signed up for¬†National Novel Writing Month, but I couldn’t get myself to write a thing. Ah, well, it’s a hard time of year for me. Sixteen years ago this moth my dad died. This year, instead of getting easier, you know, to let go, it’s weird. I think I can sense him, like, around me, and sometimes I hear whispers that I’m sure are him. It doesn’t scare me or anything, it’s just a little freakish.

Enough of that, though! If you are not familiar with¬†Holidailies and December, it’s the month where each blogger who signs up endeavors to write one post each day of the month. Radical, right? ūüôā I’m encouraging you right now, if you want to join this crazy holiday fun, I don’t think it’s too late! But, even if you don’t want to commit, it’s great to read others’ posts.

I’m trying something new for this month. I ordered a writing game from¬†Bas Bleu, an entertaining web store, and it’s called¬†Writer’s Prompt Sticks: Memoirs–Life Stories. I bought for NaNo, actually, because I thought it might assist me with my temporary (?) block. I was meant to be writing a memoir, just a slice of my life, not much really. But it seems I’m super at¬†reading¬†books about writing, and talking with others, and listening to podcasts about writing, just not so hot at the writing itself.

Anyway, each stick has two prompts on it, and I’m meant to pick one and write for eight minutes. I already know I’m shortening the time for the sake of this challenge, because when I¬†do write,¬†I write like¬†Taz, and I don’t want you to end up with 8k words you just skim or close the page on.

Here we go. Setting up my timer now. The two blog prompts to choose from are:

1) Write about a time when you had a spiritual awakening.

2) Write about a time when you were in a religious or spiritual situation and you felt nothing or it felt ludicrous. 

They just get right down to it, huh? I think I’ll combine the two because the first prompt won’t take me very long. 1) I was raised¬†Roman Catholic¬†and I went to church every Sunday as a kid, you know, it meant something to me when I made my confirmation at 13, my brother Jimmy being Godfather. But I was very naive, and gullible (are they the same?), expecting the Church to be¬†everything¬†to me, to make up for every single thing I ever felt I was lacking. Feelings are fickle things, not to be trusted most of the time, because they can change on a dime and are severely disloyal. One minute they pretend to be your best friend, and the next thing you know you’re hiding your heads under the cover because you’re too scared to let yourself think, let alone feel.

Then in the summer before I turned 19, this was 1980, an exceptionally good year–except for this one thing. I had just finished my freshman year at college and was home before my sophomore year, hanging out with my best friend, Cathy Bruske. We were in a park near home, and we started talking to some guys on motorcycles. We felt that daring rush only familiar to late teens: anything could and would happen, and we were open to it all. The guys were sweet, and semi-cute, so we ended up following them back to one’s place.

The exact details of what all happened, I don’t really remember. I know I was drinking a could beers with them and Cathy, and somebody had pot, I might have smoked. I can’t really figure out why something so traumatic is such a blur to me, but there you have it–and maybe it’s a blessing, meant to protect my psyche from something I don’t wish to revisit.

One of the guys invited me into his bedroom. I don’t want to go into what all happened because I don’t know who may or may not be reading this. I guess I was sexually assaulted. I guess it’s iffy, a few counselors tell me it wasn’t an assault, at least not sexual, because there wasn’t any actual intercourse. You know what I say to that, to them, the naysayers?¬†BULLSHIT.¬†Maybe you hadda be there, but this is one time I trusted my feelings.

santas-coming

Somehow in that haze I got split up from Cathy, and I don’t know how in the hell I found my way back to our home in Detroit. Just lucky, I guess. I don’t know how, I felt torn apart and lost, and ended up at our parish church. This is the church I had grown up in, went to all those masses in, recited the¬†Apostle’s Creed. I don’t know if they still do, but back then the priests lived right next to the church, in a rectory. It must have been the wee hours of the morning and I can’t imagine what my parents were thinking, but instead of going home, I went to church, parked, and walked up to the rectory door. I knocked, and rang the door bell, and banged with my fist and yelled, but no one came. I’m sure, if you’re with me as my wiser self, you can think of many reasons why that door wasn’t answered–logical, helpful reasons. But all I could feel at the time was that my church and God had turned their backs on me, that I was ruined. I didn’t cry, and still haven’t shed a tear about what happened all those years ago. It took me a long time to tell anyone, because of shame, and–well, the believability factor. There you have it.¬†My answer to prompt #2.

That’s about all I have to say for today. Oh, that and I’m one of¬†The Deplorables. Except I’m educated, I’m not racist nor xenophobic, and I’m certainly not a misogynist. But you can decide now whether or not that’ll keep you from reading any of my posts.

Peace out, friends…..stay thirsty. ūüėČ clark-griswold

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 ‚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 . . . “

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

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.

 

Xanthophobia

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

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

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.'

 

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

O (1)Most people, when they think of OCD, imagine the comedic detective,¬†Monk.¬†While he shows some of the fears, obsessions and compulsions that may indeed be typical, I think it’s mainly a caricature. It was still a wonderful way for people to be exposed to this particular illness.

The obsessive part of OCD symptoms usually includes: fear of contamination, having things in order or symmetrical, strong or horrible thoughts about harming yourself or someone else, and unwanted thoughts, especially sexual.

The compulsive part of OCD symptoms usually includes: washing or cleaning, counting, checking, asking for reassurances, following a strict routine, and being very orderly.

The two main treatments for OCD are psychotherapy and medications. Obviously, the best treatment would be a combination of the two.

I have never heard it called this, but ERP (Exposure and Response Prevention) therapy is supposed to be the most effective treatment. It involves gradually exposing the person to the feared object (dirt, etc.) and talking about whatever comes up as you go; being in the anxiety and not running away.

Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS) has also been suggested for individuals who don’t respond well to either psychotherapy or medications. People should be warned it hasn’t been thoroughly tested.

Coping with OCD can be difficult. There are things we can do to help us get through, such as: join a support group, find a healthy outlet (like a hobby), or learn relaxation and stress management.

Hope this was helpful. Have a wonderful Friday!!

Ciao, Bella.
bother you

Keenness And Learned

K (1)Today’s post is brought to you by the letters “K” and “L.” Please forgive yesterday’s lapse; it was not a good day for me. As described in¬†Definitions.com,¬†keenness’ 3rd definition is: “characterized by strength and distinctness of perception; extremely¬†sensitive or responsive.” I think again, we see the double-edged sword, where perception and sensitivity can be either a strength or a hindrance when taken to the extreme.¬†

I think if we dig hard enough, we can see that that’s true. It’s very true for me, I know that much. My sensitivity allows me to know when someone is feeling upset or out of sorts, or maybe carrying a secret–bursting at the seams with it, and yet this same sensitivity can be ¬†downright agony when I allow it to go to the extreme. I get my feelings hurt so easily, my heart is broken time and time again, and I’m devastated when I’ve taken things too personally (thought people were talking about me), because, you know, it’s¬†always¬†about me. Not.

There are ways to overcome our sensitivity. I gathered up my research and decided on the best things that would help. Here they are:

1. Admit you have a problem. Until you admit you’re overly sensitive, you can’t change.
2. Explore your sensitivity. Ask yourself questions, like are you sensitive to a particular person or a group of people?
3. Look for a particular trigger for your sensitivity, like an image, color, scent, sound, or sensation.
4. Take your time. Be sure to go over the exploration and trigger steps as many times as you need to until you have a complete understanding of your sensitivity.
5. Be brave and start to unpack the sensitivity. Study it compassionately. Admit that you don’t find that this particular sensitivity helps you, each time it comes up.
6. Build strength. Finally, you will just “know” sensitivity for what it is whenever it comes up. You’ll be reminded that you have no interest in being that way and you can let it go quickly without becoming upset.

L (1)It seems just a few days ago we were talking about how anxiety was hardwired. Now we’re going to a whole different perspective, which says that being anxious is a learned behavior. In fact, this article is so interesting that I’m just going to include the link so you can read it for yourself:¬† Unhealthy behaviors cause anxiety disorder, not genes. ¬†The basic idea is that anxiety is learned, and that, if so, it can be unlearned through various techniques. I’d be interested in your thoughts after reading the article.

Well, I know the “L” post is especially short, but I don’t want to go on any further. I believe I’ve given you enough to think about, especially if you read that article.

Have a great day/evening!

Ciao, bella.
food

Nothing is permanent in this wicked world‚ÄĒnot even our troubles. –Charlie Chaplin

Generalized Anxiety Disorder

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

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

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

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

That’s¬†GAD, in a nutshell.

Cheers to an anxiety-less day!

Peace out.

Fear

F (1)is for fear. Fear can be a good thing. It keeps us from touching a hot stove, or walking down a dark alley (hopefully!). It’s a protective, survival instinct. There are three other types of fear that we might not think about all the time:

1.¬†First, we can’t forget the sort of fun, oogedy-boogedy chiller fear we get when we watch horror flicks or go to a haunted house around Halloween. That scares us for a bit, but we get over it because we know it’s not real, it can’t hurt us.

2. Internal fears. These are usually triggered by things or events outside of you. But, they are caused by internal emotions, which can make them hard to recognize. They show up as our fear of failure, fear of success, fear of rejection, lack of self worth and doubt.

3. Subconscious fears.¬†Our fears become so internal that we start to believe them, and this truly limits us. An example of a limiting belief (or subconscious fear) is thinking you’ll never get a job because every job you’ve ever had was terrible. Or thinking you’ll never get married because really you’re truly worthless.

Here are five steps from the University of Florida’s Counseling and Wellness center on how to handle fears:

  1. Get clear in your mind what it is that you’re afraid of. Ask questions like, “What about that scares me?”
  2. Become aware of your self-talk. What are you saying to yourself that scares you?
  3. Exaggerate the bad consequences you fear. Begin to recognize that you were probably already exaggerating and didn’t know it and that what you feared is indeed and exaggeration already.
  4. Visualize yourself still being afraid, but handling the situation in an acceptable manner.
  5. Gradually expose yourself to the feared situation by doing things that more and more closely approximate what you fear.

Here’s to a wonderful day!

Peace out.
262

Exposure Is Like A Four-Letter Word

exposureOr at least, it should be, and that’s the word¬†fear.¬†In the book I’m reading about social anxiety disorder, Dying of Embarrassment, there is lots of talk about¬†exposure¬†as the main solution to dealing with most anxious and troubling situations.

The first part of the book helps one figure out what exactly is distressing and anxiety provoking. It’s all very individual, of course. Then we’re supposed to put it in a hierarchy, like from least anxiety-provoking, to moderately anxiety-provoking to severely anxiety-provoking. I’m just reading this book to read it for now. When I sit down to really look at situations and make a list it’s going to take me a while, because my knee-jerk reaction is always “It’s¬†all¬†severely anxiety-provoking! What do you think got me¬†into¬†this mess?!”

Exposure therapy (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Exposure_therapy) as a form of torture began in the 1950s. It’s also known as¬†flooding.¬†Of course, I’m kidding about the torture part (a little). I only say that because I’m actually considering it and I’m afraid. The next section of the book (I forgot the part about the coping skills and changing cognitive distortions) is actually doing it. Exposures take two forms:¬†in vivo¬†(real life) and¬†imaginal¬†(in the imagination). Before we do an actual in vivo exposure, we’re supposed to take ourselves through a few imaginal exposures.

In imaginal exposures, everything is imagined as detailed as possible. All the smells, the sounds, are people sweating, etc., get as detailed as possible. Then go through the situation and let your anxiety rise as you sit through it. Go through the anxiety and stay with it because it will go down again the longer you stay with it, as you remember your breathing exercises and so on.  You might imagine absolute success or you might imagine marginal failure and how you would come at your cognitive distortions in the imaginal exposure.

In¬†in vivo¬†exposures everything is real. The book never mentions this, but to me it is like taking someone who is afraid of snakes and throwing them into a pit of vipers! Of course, it’s not that dramatic, because there’s the hierarchy list; the list of lesser anxiety-provokers and higher anxiety-provokers. So it’s much more within the control of the person with social anxiety disorder. For example, let’s say you’re afraid of public speaking. You might start with saying hello to your neighbor when you’re both working in your backyards. Then a medium task might be giving a talk at the high school. A severe task would be giving the baccalaureate speech for your daughter’s friend’s graduation.

If you read this far, God bless you, Geshundheit, please place your trays in their upright positions, and thank you for not smoking.

coffee

The Reality About Anxiety

fine

Take a long look at this sort of Justine Bateman Look-alike (or maybe it really is her). Do you think she has sand in her eye, or do think maybe she’s crying? Yet the message she’s sending out “to the world” is “I’m fine.” Have you ever been there, done that? I know I have, in the middle of tears, great big sobbing-blubbering-get-that-girl-a-hanky tears . . . I’m like “It’s o-o-okay. I’m fine.”

Then we have this fellow, some sort of coach, but I don’t follow sports all that¬†chewing lipmuch, so… But unless you’re also someone who gets anxious, you might not notice this when you look at him. He chews the inside of his mouth. It’s something I do when I get stressed, too, because it’s the least obvious of picking on my fingernails or pacing. He really looks worried, though. I say, if it helps him in this moment (until he can find something that doesn’t hurt the inside of his cheek), there are worse things he could be doing.

mailboxShe’s being funny, of course, and referring to getting enough exercise walking back and forth to pick up the mail. But I’ve mentioned how difficult it is for me to pick up the mail, right? Sometimes my mom and I have to wait a few days for me to get up the courage, like I’ll pick up three days worth of mail at the same time. Ugh. Such an idiot, not being able to do such a supposedly simple thing. Well, agoraphobia can be like that.
Generalized Anxiety Disorder is excessive, uncontrollable and often irrational worry about pretty much everything. So the cartoon¬†dreadof the hammer about to come down on the nail actually did make me chuckle a little because it’s how I so often feel and I was like, “Yes! That’s it!” Especially the fact he’s so self-absorbed he doesn’t think enough to look down and see what happened to the other nail. That happens, we get so caught up in our own anxiety it can affect our relationships.deep breathingI hope this ecard doesn’t offend anyone. The fact is, anxiety–all forms of it–is a serious matter that deserves care and needs to be understood. In fact, during April’s Blogging from A-Z I plan to do a whole series on anxiety, which I hope will be both educational and fun(funny?). If you’ve read this far, God bless you, Gesundheit, and thank you for not smoking.

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

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. ūüėÄ My brain also recently lit on¬†zentangle, because it’s supposed to be so good for stress. I bought books and everything. I’ve only made one so far, but my mind is studying and learning (which I think is the opposite of what it’s supposed to do). How is a¬†brain¬†like that supposed to do anything except make it through the day? LOL¬†strongest

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

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

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

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

Peace out. xxlifer

Putting On That Other Pair Of Shoes

forgivingGentle readers,

I’ve been trying and trying to write this blog, wanting it to be gentle and light, to bring you good vibes so you’ll come back and keep reading. But my mind and heart are heavy with all the colossal blunders I’m making that I keep wanting to slough off onto my illness. A mixed episode of bipolar disorder is nothing to laugh about. It’s like a modern version of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. My loved ones never know who they’re going to be speaking to from one minute to the next.

Until I got into Al-Anon, I used to get¬†so mad¬†at my sister when she wold blame her absurd or borderline abusive drunken behavior on her disease. Even after becoming a regular around the tables, it took me a long time to¬†get¬†that being a drunk is a disease and not a choice. I know, ridiculous right? Who in their right mind would choose the humiliation and shame attached with being an alcoholic? She is responsible for any¬†fallout,¬†and she has to try to amend as much as she truly can, but she has to love herself first and foremost. That’s why it’s called a selfish program.

I wish there was such a thing as a teleporter, so I could teleport myself to a tiny, solitary island far, far away from any living people until I Get Better. Until then, I keep apologizing, then praying and trying again. I’ve started taking my Flexeril (20mg per pill, a muscle relaxant), which I had a WHOLE¬†bunch left over from when I initially hurt my back years ago along with 3x daily dose of Xanax. It makes me sleepy, and a little loopy, which is a weird trip to be on with all the racing thoughts and flighty ideas in my brain. But it makes me a little less prone to blurt out the first thing I’m thinking—I would do anything to not hurt my mom or my sister. Go ahead. Let me have it. Tell me I’m using, that I’ll become a drug addict. I’m already addicted to prescribed Xanax, what’s a little Flexeril thrown in?

I better stop now, because I’m very tired, and I know I’m not making sense. I guess the take-away from this is: be very careful when we go to judge or feel resentful of someone else. We never know when we’re going to be the one struggling with a problem which can easily be judged and resented. But only when we accept ourselves and love ourselves where we are can true change begin to happen.

When I talk to my sister now, and I hear her go into “beat up on Carol” mode, I try to jump in and get real logical with her. She did the best she could at that time with the information that she had. Now she knows better, she can do better.

This is my first ever dysphoric mania episode. I feel so lost at sea. And it’s¬†super hard¬†to take that same advice and apply it to myself. All I keep thinking is “Idiot. Stupid. Mean. Jerk. Way to go, jackass.” It is probably the reason that I still have suicidal ideation and that many with this type of mania¬†attempt¬†suicide.

Argh. I’m blabbing and I’m getting totally incoherent. Please be gentle with yourselves today, no matter where you are on your journeys.

Peace out. xx better

Learning

standing

Distraction, distraction everywhere and not a point to land on.

bipolar-bear-meme-6014The good news is I’m sleeping better. Five and a half hours of sleep last night.

Bad news is I’m still flitting from thing to thing to thing like a bird in a cage who can’t decide on a perch to settle. As I’m writing this post, I am surrounded on the table by origami papers (for the 1,001 paper cranes, of which I have yet to make one), a jigsaw puzzle, and a book on anxiety. I’m reading all at the same time (picking whichever book fits my fancy at the moment):¬†The Husband’s Secret,¬†When Panic Attacks,¬†The Mayo Clinic Guide to Stress-Free Living, and¬†The Most Beautiful Girl¬†(for¬†Netgalley). What are you reading?

I have another appt with my psychiatrist at 3:15 tomorrow afternoon. I made an appointment with a therapist (it’s been soooo long since I really got to talk to someone professional) for Wednesday at 12:45. Oh. Oh look, shiny! (I’m joking because otherwise I’d be crying.)

That’s all she wrote. Wish me luck.m

Have a safe and happy Monday. Peace out. xo

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

 

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