Powerless Over What?

“Our pressures and anxieties don’t disappear just because we are sober.” –Living With Sobriety, p. 18

My father was an alcoholic. Though he never missed a day of his job as a police officer, he drank daily, and it sometimes caused him a problem. For me as his daughter, I was powerless over his mood swings, harsh criticism and belittling comments. When I got older, I couldn’t understand why I felt so defensive whenever I was criticized.

Because of the alcoholic environment, I had developed defenses that somewhat protected me as a child. As an adult, these defenses got in the way. The threat wasn’t there anymore, but I still reacted as though it was. There was no reason to be afraid, but I felt plenty scared.

In Al-Anon, I learned that even as I grew older, I was still powerless over the effects of my father’s disease. I was powerless over the effects of his behavior while he was drinking.

Six Steps to Take Back Our Control: Part Two of Three

Good morning. ūüôā If you are just tuning in, you can find steps one and two written in the previous blog post.

3. Politely listen but don’t necessarily follow well-meaning advice from family and friends.¬†It’s human nature to want to tell someone or share with that person our ideas about what we think should be done in certain situations. In some cases, this helpful advice comes from family members who have heard us sound entirely different than usual. In my case, it was other siblings who heard me on the phone coming off slurred, drugged, or very sleepy. That’s alarming. I agree. It was disturbing to me as well, even as it happened. Others, including friends who are still on medication and doctors who don’t believe it can be done in your case, offer entirely different words of advice.

4. Visualize all possible outcomes of your choices. I did not do this before I chose to wean myself off my psych meds, but I wish someone had suggested it. I like to play the “What if” game in my head these days. It helps me with most situations. If I’d played this game before I weaned off my psych meds, it might look like this:

  • What if I get anxious?¬†Coming off bipolar and meds for anxiety (specifically Ativan 2mg tablets 3x daily), this is a pretty likely event and concern. So, if I get anxious, I’ll have to cope.
  • What if I can’t cope?¬†What if I *can’t* cope? What do I mean here with this fear? What if I don’t have the *ability* to cope, or I do have the ability, but I’m afraid I won’t want to deal? Suss out those meanings for yourself. I might have to ask for help.
  • What if I ask for help and I’m turned away, or the person I call isn’t home?¬†Then I keep asking. If I have to call the suicide hotline for help, I’ll do that.
  • What if whoever I ask for help that person tells me I need to be admitted to a psych ward?¬†So, is this a terrible thing? It’s *incredibly* difficult to wean off meds by oneself. I’m sure I did it more quickly than I should’ve.

Anyway, you get the idea. Play devil’s advocate on this step.

Peace. xoxo

Chrissy

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

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

Desperation, Tears, Laughter, Hope

This is the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. I swear on my beloved dog Lucy’s grave in the backyard.

Tuesday, my shrink’s nurse notified me that she had called ahead to (hospital), explaining the situation, that I needed to be taken off all the psych meds I was currently on. Then I would be moved to (psych hospital) to start fresh, a clean slate, to see what would work to make me happier.

But let me backtrack just a little. My family physician promised me that he would basically look into every nook and cranny until I was doing better, happier.

When I get to the hospital, I was told to go through the ED. I registered, hugged my mom goodbye, and waited to be called back. But, instead of sending me onto a floor or into a room, they did an x-ray of my lungs. I’m grateful, because they found fluid on the left lung, an indication of possible pneumonia. They confirmed it, I was admitted to a room, and spent three days there on an IV for dehydration, also for antibiotics.

While I was there, a psych tech came into the room, informed me she had spoken with my shrink. She then told me they can’t take me off my meds there. Neither could any psych hospital. They could¬†tweak¬†the meds, sure, something that has been happening to me since I first started taking psychotropic meds in 1993. Did that help? Hmmm. Don’t think so, because if they had, I would be a much more happy and productive person than I am today. And yes, I got emotional and sort of raised my voice to the tech, who wasn’t responsible for the hospital’s policy. I’m actually angry at my shrink and my primary care physician for giving me hope, then snatching it away – like Snoopy with Linus’s blanket. I may be on the meds for the rest of my life, and deal with these severe side effects (cognitive issues), but I can practice

Radical Acceptance which means completely and totally accepting something from the depths of your soul, with your heart and your mind. You stop fighting reality. When you stop fighting ¬†you suffer less. That means you don’t feel hot¬†anger¬†in your stomach whenever you see the person who got the promotion you deserved and you don’t seethe with resentment when you see your best friend who is now¬†dating¬†your boyfriend. You accept ¬†what is, learn and go forward.

So I was sent home yesterday, still somewhat sick with pneumonia. The doctor gave me antibiotics and raised the mg on my Lisinopril since my blood pressure was so high at the hospital. At one point, it was 200 over 100, and when I looked at it, I was afraid I might have a stroke! I have a hospital follow-up appt with my PC physician on Tuesday. Mom is coming, since she was there the day I told him my voice had been hoarse for the last 4 weeks, that I had trouble swallowing and shortness of breath.

But I’m alive, and that’s the most important thing. My emotions are still all over the place. When I got home, knowing Pookie wouldn’t be there to greet me when I opened the door, something that was building inside me came out in a rush, and I sobbed while Mom put her arm around me. Then, later, I was laughing so hard at a rom/com that I surprised myself!

Life. What a mysterious, sometimes tricky, but always worthwhile endeavor. ūüôā

Peace,

Chris

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