breathe

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.

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!

Quivers And Quavers

Q (1)Often, medications have side effects which include shakiness. But mostly, if we have anxiety, shakiness at one time or another, sort of comes with the territory. Either our hands can shake, our voices, or both, or our whole bodies can tremble if we’re very afraid.

It’s actually extremely common, and the only way to stop it is to deal with the anxiety beforehand. If you’re already anxious and trying to prevent shaking hands, it’s too late; kinda like closing the barn door after the cows get out.

There are different types of shaking. There may be more, but these are the ones I know:

  • Short term anxiety ¬†Everyone–even people who don’t have anxiety—sometimes shake when they’re in a situation that makes them feel nervous. A first date, called to see the boss, bad thunderstorms, tests. It’s really very normal.
  • Generalized anxiety disorder ¬†Those of us¬†with GAD are in, like, super-charged “worry” mode all day, every day. Our¬†fight or flight system is firing all day long at low levels. ¬†This may cause shaking to happen for what might seem to be no reason at all.
  • Panic attacks ¬†Before, during, or after panic attacks, shaking can be very normal.¬†This type of shaking is absolutely caused by the intense fear that panic attacks cause.
  • Unexplained shaking incident (USI) ¬†Those of us with day to day anxiety may simply feel shaky or develop a tremor in our hands. Long term stress can have unusual effects on our bodies, and so it should be no surprise that we experience tremor during unusual situations.

In the times that I’ve been anxious and felt my hands begin to tremble, nothing has calmed them sooner than cuddling with my Lucy dog or holding a baby. What is it about that?

Well, I did not mean to get so long-winded! Shush me much more quickly next time! ūüėõ

I will see you tomorrow. Be good to yourselves. ūüôā

Ciao, Bella.

Panic Disorder

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

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

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

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

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

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

So there you have it!

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

 

Neutralizers

N (1)Welcome to the letter “N.” It might be easy to smile or, even, laugh at the picture I’ve included with today’s post of Will Smith from MIB holding a neutralizer. But–picture this. There you are, stuck in a panic-anxiety cycle, with no clear end in sight. Along comes handsome, sexy, Will. He flashes his neutralizer at you and suddenly you’re perfectly fine. In fact, you can’t even remember what it was you were so anxious about! Because that’s what the neutralizer does, right? It zaps your memory. I think that would be incredibly clever.

In a way, outside of the fantasy/movie world, neutralizers aren’t really very different at all. Three examples of anxiety neutralizers are:

1.¬†Understanding.¬†This includes both understanding oneself and being understood by others. How is this a neutralizer? The more we understand ourselves, the more we get to know our personalities, our core values, our bodies, our dreams, our likes and dislikes—the more compassion we will have for ourselves, and the more absolute ability we will have to come against fear. Or so I’m told. ūüėČ And, I don’t think I need to explain how much it matters when others understand us. We all know what it means when they¬†don’t,¬†right? So just imagine the opposite of that.

2.¬†Fun.¬†The extreme importance of fun is not lost on me. I surely don’t have enough of it. Lord, my mother is always telling me I’d be prettier if I’d only smile more often. I think we’re all so serious because–well anxiety is a serious business, and we spend half our lives looking over our shoulders to see where the next shock is going to come from. But you know what? Let’s not. Let’s not do that. Let’s pretend we all live in a Disney movie. One of the old ones from when Walt was still alive; an animated one, like Cinderella. You know, she comes from a bad situation but she gets out of it and she marries a prince. Right? Not too shabby! I wouldn’t mind that. Try to have some fun. Don’t be afraid to look a little stupid. Hell, I look stupid all the time. ūüėõ

3.¬†Mindfulness.¬†One of the biggest problems with anxious worriers is they spend half their time obsessing about something that happened yesterday, which they can’t change, or panicking about tomorrow, which hasn’t come yet. Mindfulness teaches us to focus on right here, right now, this moment. There is no other.

This was a little longer than I wanted it to be, but I tried to say it as succinctly as possible. I hope you found it helpful. Again, sorry for the tardiness. We were out of internet all day and, while I could have gone to Panera or something, I needed to stay for the Brighthouse guy because my mom wasn’t sure what to tell them.

Ciao, Bella. You all brighten my days so much. ūüôā

P.S. I got the mail during the day twice this week and if I do it again tomorrow that’ll make¬†three¬†times!
Bn3WRE2CYAAm7z_

Managing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Benzodiazepines

B (1)Once upon a time, a discovery was begun by a man named Leo Sternbach and finished by a co-worker named Earl Reeder. What he had was a compound which showed¬†very strong sedative,¬†anticonvulsant, and muscle relaxant¬†effects. They named it Librium and they introduced it to the world at large in 1960. A few years later, Valium came into being, the one referred to as “Mother’s Little Helper” by the Stones.

It is said that “benzos” are most effective if used in the short term, that is for about a month to six weeks. HA.

Full disclosure: I take a benzo, and it is not the first benzo I have ever taken. The first one I was on for a few years, “as needed for anxiety,” was Klonopin. I took myself off of it when the pastor in my church told me I didn’t need it. I guess I was really gullible at the time because I believed him. Well, to be truthful, he didn’t understand or believe in mental illness. So then I was on Xanax and got wildly addicted. My whole family got really scared and angry, so I had to get off of that (even though I was only taking it as directed). Now I’m on Ativan. I’m supposed to take it three times a day for all my anxiety problems. But see, I also have chronic fatigue syndrome, so I’m naturally a bit wacked out. Add to that the sedative properties of Ativan, and I might as well kiss the day goodbye. I cut myself down to one pill a day, at lunch time, and I just deal with the stress when it comes up.

I have never known anyone who was on a benzodiazepine in the short term. That’s absolutely fascinating. It’s like the tobacco companies suddenly becoming scared about the dangers of nicotine. Sort of like trying to close the barn door after the cows get out. Too little, too late. Don’t tell me you care now. For some reason I’m finding it difficult to trust you. ūüėČ

In one of the articles I read there was talk about other treatments for anxiety; such as MAOIs or other antidepressants which may have anti-anxiety-like properties in them. It’s something to think about. I take Neurontin, which is for my bipolar, but it also helps with my back pain and anxiety. It’s a¬†wonder drug!!¬†LOL

Anyway, cheers to as much of an anxiety-free day as you can get.

Peace out.anti-anxiety

Anxiety

fearA (1)is for anxiety. Anxiety is not the same as fear, which is the response to a real or imagined threat. Anxiety is a feeling of fear, worry, or unease often not focused on anything in particular and possibly an overreaction to a situation (though not seen that way by the sufferer). It often comes with physical symptoms, such as tension, fatigue, restlessness, and concentration problems. 

When anxiety gets to be too much it becomes a disorder. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, anxiety¬†disorders¬†affect 40 million people in the United States alone (or 18% of the population ). Anxiety disorders are “the most common mental illness in the U.S.” To me, that’s pretty astounding. Even more astounding, about 2/3 of those suffering don’t receive treatment for what is a highly treatable illness.¬†

Also according to the ADAA, “anxiety disorders develop from a complex set of risk factors, including genetics, brain chemistry, personality, and life events.” For me, I don’t remember my mother or dad being at all anxious growing up, except situationally, where it was warranted. I was anxious as young as eight years old, but could never figure out why. If anyone in the family was displeased or uncomfortable, it was my job to make it right, you know? At the same time, I ended up displeasing them (and feeling helpless about it) when I would hide in my bedroom during family gatherings. It’s really hard to say what caused all that, what continues to cause my difficulties around people I don’t know. . . or people I know too well.¬†

Here’s to a well-managed anxiety day. Peace out.

 

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 Art of The Avoidance Act

cant-hear-youYou wouldn’t think it, but avoidance is actually a coping skill for anxiety. It’s probably not the best one, and may be a last ditch effort to “push through” the moment.

  • There are many ways to avoid situations a person finds anxiety-filled, and here are just a few:
  • avoiding eye contact
  • playing with some small object (or keys, whatever)
  • staring off into space
  • counting the tiles in the ceiling/floor
  • daydreaming
  • doodling (not¬†all¬†people who doodle are avoiding, just perhaps anxious people)
  • leaving the situation entirely

I actually seem to have the hardest time with avoiding eye contact and leaving the situation entirely when it gets too hard. Thanks to a wonderful friend, who also contends with anxiety on a daily basis, I’m learning to push myself a little more each time, so that I know for a fact I¬†can¬†stand it.¬†small-victories-workplace-ecard-someecards

Apprehension

apprehensive-1Writing this blog used to be easy and fun for me. Now, each time I sit down to write, I’m filled with apprehension and dread. Questions swirl through my mind, because it’s not just me or my satisfaction I think about anymore. “Will this make people happy? Will it offend anyone, even unintentionally? What’s relevant¬†for the reader?¬†What should I write about? Will it keep their interest? Will it make them shut down immediately? Or will it touch a cord so deep they wish they’d never read it in the first place?”

All this is going through my mind, especially as April draws near. April, as many of you know, is the “Blogging From A-Z” challenge. The participant (me) is expected to write a post¬†SIX days a week, getting Sundays off, making it 26 posts for the month. That’s going to be a real stretch for me, but I’m committed to it.

In order to do it, I think, I have to pretend I don’t have a readership. I know that sounds weird, but it’s the only thing that will work for me. I have to pretend I’m writing only for myself. . . and maybe for Lucy. She’s pretty nonjudgmental. ūüėČ

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

The Anxiety-Exhaustion Tango

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

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

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

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

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

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

Championing Crochet’s Comfort

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Five Merry Christmas Makers!

from Clouds In My Coffee Facebook Community

from Clouds In My Coffee Facebook Community

‚ÄúIn the old days, it was not called the Holiday Season; the Christians called it ‚ÄėChristmas‚Äô and went to church; the Jews called it ‚ÄėHanukkah‚Äô and went to synagogue; the atheists went to parties and drank. People passing each other on the street would say ‚ÄėMerry Christmas!‚Äô or ‚ÄėHappy Hanukkah!‚Äô or (to the atheists) ‚ÄėLook out for the wall!‚ÄĚ
‚ÄĒDave Barry

This Christmas,¬†don’t forget to:

1. laugh: humor can help any situation, and it seems at holidays it is absolutely essential. So when you notice your uncle is once again drinking too much as he always does, try laughing about it instead of getting angry. See what that does.

2. smile:¬†I think I’ve said this before, but if so it bears repeating. It takes less muscles to smile than to frown, and it’s been said that one can actually smile her way to being happy. So if you’re not really feeling the Christmas cheer this year (hey, that rhymed!) try smiling your way there.

3. be grateful:¬†Your aunt gave you another atrocious Christmas sweater which you wouldn’t even wear once a year? So, be grateful. It’s really nice that she thought of you. (And there are starving people in China. ūüėČ )

4. breathe:¬†Take a minute to take a deep breath. So often when we are in high stress situations, and even though Christmas is fun, it’s still considered pretty stressful . . . we forget to breathe.¬†Breathe.¬†

5. meditate: This is where we remember to take things one day, or one minute at a time, and remind ourselves that this too shall pass. Take yourself off to a little corner and whip out a thought for the day book, or say the serenity prayer. Call your sponsor.

And have the Merriest Christmas!!

Peace out.

 

The Wisdom To Know The Difference

detach I went to a meeting this morning. I was so grateful there was an Al-Anon meeting on Christmas Eve morning that I could attend. The topic around the meeting was¬†taking care of ourselves,¬†but I heard a smattering of frustration and fear on the topic of holidays in general, my own included. I talked about how I was trying to remember the Three C’s: I didn’t cause it, can’t control it, and can’t cure it . . . and the Three M’s to avoid for myself: manipulation, martyrdom, and mothering.

It all comes down to the wisdom of knowing the difference between things I can change and things I can’t. It should be such a simple thing. All I can change is myself or things about myself. Period. Can’t change circumstances or other people.

Circumstances will be different for me this Christmas Eve with my family. I can’t control the outcome. I can’t control whether or not people have a good time, or are upset about something. I can control my own responses and reactions. That’s about it. There’s not a lot I can do otherwise.

When I think of the word detachment¬†it helps. If I’m too enmeshed with someone or something, I can’t possibly back off enough to even BREATHE, let alone know the difference.

Have a great day today. Whatever you do, take care of yourself. Even if you just need to go to a quiet corner and meditate, do that.

Peace out.

Six Steps To Break The Cycle Of Codependency!

Ever feel like you are handcuffed to the person next to you, or stuck in a situation you can’t get out of? That’s codependency. Here are some steps that help me, and I hope they might help you as well:

1. Breathe. ¬†I’m a notorious shallow breather, which doesn’t help my anxiety. Remember to breathe deeply, from the diaphragm. It makes everything a little easier. ¬†And it can’t hurt to say the Serenity prayer: “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”

2. Say no.¬†It’s a complete sentence. It needs no explanation, no excuse. If you can’t do something, just say no. Practice it in front of the mirror if you need to. It’s SO empowering once you get it down pat.

3. Detach.¬†Detachment is neither kind nor unkind. It¬†does not imply judgement or condemnation¬†of the person or situation from which we are¬†detaching. Separating ourselves from the¬†adverse effects of another person‚Äôs alcoholism¬†can be a means of detaching: this does¬†not necessarily require physical separation.¬†Detachment can help us look at our situations¬†realistically and objectively.¬†Alcoholism is a family disease. Living¬†with the effects of someone else‚Äôs drinking¬†is too devastating for most people to bear¬†without help.¬†In Al-Anon we learn nothing we say or do¬†can cause or stop someone else‚Äôs drinking.¬†We are not responsible for another person‚Äôs¬†disease or recovery from it.¬†Detachment allows us to let go of our¬†obsession with another‚Äôs behavior and begin¬†to lead happier and more manageable lives,¬†lives with dignity and rights, lives guided by¬†a Power greater than ourselves. We can still¬†love the person without liking the behavior. –From Al-Anon Family Groups

4. ¬†Set clear boundaries.¬†A boundary is an invisible line that tells someone where not to cross over. It could be a property line, a privacy line in your mind, whatever you wish. If you have trouble defining boundaries for yourself, an excellent book that helped me is:¬†Boundaries: Where You End and I Begin, by Anne Katherine. She’s quite readable and defines all this in simple, easy to understand terms.

5. Hula Hoop strategy.¬†Can never talk too much about the hula hoop. Buy a hula hoop to KEEP in your house. Heck, they’re cheap, buy two. ūüėČ Slip one over your head and let it drop to the ground. Now look at the space within the circle of the hula hoop around your feet, your body. Whatever is in that space is what concerns you, your business. Anything outside the hula hoop is none of your business.

6.¬†Support group.¬†Find a support group, whether it’s Al-Anon, CoDA, or another 12 step group. Get involved with others who are experiencing the same issues you are. There’s strength in numbers, no doubt about that. Two heads are always better than one, and you will find companionship and friendship at the tables.

Hope this helped. Have a wonderful day!

Peace out.

 

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