Six Steps: Part III

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

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

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

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

Are You a Mono- or Multitasker?

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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

 

 

Bullies, Be Gone

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I like documentaries, usually. I enjoy learning new things. I even watched a heartbreaking documentary that some of you might be familiar with about how elephants are treated in the circus. An elephant named Tyke had escaped and ran through the streets, desperate to get away from abuse before he was shot – I can’t even remember how many times. It profoundly affected me, and still does, so I try to stay away from the really difficult ones.

One day last week, though, I watched what I thought was a documentary about bullying. It actually was a movie. I’m not certain of the name now (don’tcha¬†hate getting older?), but I think it was something like “Just a Girl.” Actually it was about two girls in two different states who had been bullied, both in school with verbal comments, cornering, shoves in the hallway and – something I never had to deal with – cyberbullying.

The first high school girl ended up committing suicide because it was all too much to handle for her. She had gone to a party and had too much to drink. She blacked out, and a male student took advantage of the blackout, posting all over social media that he had had sex with her, how hot she was, and how she “put out.” That morning, the morning after the party, she had frantically texted her friends, telling them she couldn’t remember the previous evening, and needed to know what happened.

This young girl had a wonderful reputation, ruined by one unfortunate evening. Some would say it was her fault because she was drinking. In fact, that opinion goes back years, just like “She was asking for it. Look how she dressed.”

Because of all the attention, the student couldn’t even make herself go¬† back to school. The last text she left to a friend said, “My reputation is ruined. My life is over.”¬† Then she killed herself.

Bullying doesn’t just happen in high schools. It happens in grade school, middle school, college, and on into supposedly “fully mature” adults. The thing about bullying that those who have never been bullied don’t know is that it sticks with you for life. Those words, once they’re out there, can never be taken back. Even apologizing, trying to make amends, doesn’t usually work. Sure, bullied people might appear perfectly fine on the outside. Someone who was told she had fat thighs in high school might be a colleague you work with. She doesn’t mention it aloud, but thinks of herself as ugly and alwayso tries to dress so that her thighs are less noticeable.

I’m known in my family for being sensitive, sometimes too much so. In fact, sensitivity involves many factors, and is now viewed to be as¬†personality trait, even socio-biological. It’s evidenced in both animals and humans. For instance, my newest addition to our house, a rescue dog named Pookie, has what many of us have – selective memory. Although I pick him up and hold him for many reasons – to cuddle, to give him kisses, to carry him across to the backyard when the snow is too deep for him to walk in. But I also pick him up when I have to go somewhere, therefore putting him in his crate – for his safety as well as keeping him from destroying the house. Now, why do you think he often backs away from me when I go to pick him up? One would think he’d remember all the good reasons, the cuddling and so forth. But – just like you and me – he remembers going into the crate, which is still a highly stressful situation for him.

We’ve all been bullied at one time or another. Some of us manage to let it go. Others – us “overly” sensitive types – have memories like elephants. I have always suffered from severe anxiety, and developed a nervous habit of licking my lips in high school. One of my friends at the time said, “Why do you lick your lips like that all the time?” Here I was, thinking no one noticed me. I couldn’t say it was because I was anxious, so instead I said nothing, but still remember that comment. Another time, in college, a roommate said to me, “Open your¬†eyes!” which was really innocuous and probably due to drinking too much the night before. But ever since then, when I see my eyes in the mirror, they look too small, the color is indefinable to me, and my lids seem droopy. Whether that’s true or not doesn’t really matter. What matters is how I interpreted what was said to me at my sensitivity level.

This is getting long. My apologies. And I’m sorry for any misspelled words or grammar errors; I didn’t take the time to proofread. It’s just that there are so many other ways to bully now, and others join in with “likes” or “comments” on social media, not to mention texting.

Try to remember to think before you speak. Once it’s been said, it can’t be unsaid. There are no do-overs.

Peace,

Chris

How I Survived A Life-Threatening Illness

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I lie awake at night, wondering what fresh hell tomorrow will bring me.

“Change is inevitable We can depend on that. By letting go of our efforts to influence the future, we become freer to experience the present, to feel all of our feelings while they are happening, and to more fully enjoy those precious moments of joy.” –Courage to Change, One Day at a Time in Al-Anon

So, you might think, as you read this, that bringing humor to the situation is insanity. But you know me and my sarcastic wit. Would you recognize me any other way? ūüėČ Besides, the alternative is too stupid to consider, and useless. Plus really, who doesn’t love a little Tina Fey?

But seriously, I have had such a hard time writing this (it’s been on my mind for a while), because I honestly don’t want to come off sounding pitiful, or elicit sorrowful responses, most of all. What has happened to me could happen to anyone–could happen to you. So please–don’t feel sorry for me. I’m here, I’m alive, and that’s a¬†good¬†thing.

It has not been the greatest year so far. Lol. First, I had to go back into a psychiatric partial day treatment program to get my bipolar meds adjusted. But what I learned shortly after I was admitted was that this therapist had noticed my hypomanic episode building since before Christmas. Why she didn’t say something earlier is still a mystery to me, but hey–at least she copped to it when my mom finally told me my agitation and irritability were getting hard to deal with. All of this explains why I ¬†had such a hard time decorating for the holidays last year. Seriously, I was like a slug, and even when I’m depressed it’s like my favorite time of year. I barely put up lights on the ceiling and yanked out the tree (with lights already on), no ornaments—voila. There. Be happy. Ha ha.

Psych partial started on January 25th. My psychiatrist there (it’s like you no longer have the shrink you had on the “outside;”¬†this¬†shrink, the one in the hospital, calls the shots) tried several different meds, at different levels, and suddenly—instead of hypomania, I started feeling incredibly depressed. Yeah, I know–I should have my own channel on Youtube, because my life is just¬†that¬†fascinating.

Then, I went home early from the program on February 13th, because my back and left leg were just killing me. All I missed was relaxation therapy, but you’d think it was chemical engineering, for all the tap dancing I had to do to get out of it. So I went home.

That night, I woke up in the wee hours freezing cold with my teeth chattering. Yikes. I can’t remember the last time my teeth chattered. So I got up, took my temp, and it was elevated; something like 101. (I’m not totally sure at this point; my baseline temp is 97. I just know I had a fever) I also noticed like a big cyst or something high up on my inner left thigh. I wasn’t too worried at this point. I took a couple aspirin, ran some hot water on a washcloth to lay on the cyst and went back to sleep under like 5 blankets.

The next I knew it was morning and I was in a sweat. Good. So my temp was down and the cyst had also diminished. But then, my fever spiked back up again at around eight. I told my mom I thought I needed to go to the ER, and she agreed.

Long story short, what started out as a simple cyst turned out to be necrotizing fasciitis, or flesh-eating bacteria. Yep. My WBC, which is supposed to be 10 or under, was 21, so I was admitted—instead of let go from the ER—on Valentine’s Day. I had three surgeries in four days in that most private of areas–whether you are a woman or a man–and spent eight days inpatient. Granted, I was on morphine, and much of the pain is now a blur, but still. My fever was up and down, up and down. They had me on I.V. antibiotics, three at a time (once I read a label, and it said 2,000 units!!)–like throwing paint on the wall–trying to see what would work. Finally the WBC came down enough that they could let me go with Amoxicillin for one week.

I had to have the surgical sites packed (with gauze) by home care nurses for¬†at least¬†two months, my surgeon said. So yes, I’m positive 2,000 people have seen my va-jay-jay at this point. I kept forgetting to charge an admission fee. I always meant to, though. At least I still had some self-respect. Just kidding. The nurses were so kind and gentle with my body and my heart. I couldn’t have asked for nicer people to care for me.

Now here’s the best part. I saw my surgeon yesterday for our weekly checkup of the surgical wound sites, right? She was SO pleased with how well everything is healing. Everything has closed (from the inside out, to prevent future infection) at least halfway, in some cases more. In fact, I’m doing so well that she said I can say goodbye to the daily nurse care and she doesn’t want to see me again for a month. After that, who knows?¬†That’s exactly¬†five weeks¬†from the day I was admitted, right?

What an incredible journey!! I wonder what the rest of the year has in store? Bring it on.

Should I Stay, Or Should I Go?

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

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

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

Is It Giving Up Or Letting Go?

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1.¬†decide 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. ūüôā

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