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

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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

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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

Gaslighted? Five Steps to Help

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According to Dictionary.com, the loaded word¬†gaslight¬†means “to¬†cause¬†(a¬†person)¬†to¬†doubt¬†his¬†or¬†her¬†sanity¬†through¬†the¬†use¬†of psychological¬†manipulation.” If you’ve ever seen¬†¬†Gaslight the movie then you might relate to Ingrid Bergman’s character, Paula Alquist Anton.¬†

If you have been gaslighted, here are five things that I hope might help:

You are not insane. You might¬†feel¬†like you are, but you’re not.

Gaslighting is powerful. Do not think of yourself as weak. It takes someone quite strong to overcome such manipulation. If someone says things like: “You’re too sensitive; that’s not what happened; no, that’s not what I said, you must’ve misunderstood; you’re overreacting; I never said that; you must be confused again,”nine times out of ten you’re being psychologically¬†manipulated for the purpose of causing you to doubt yourself.

Trust yourself. Your manipulator may dump shame on you for doubting him. The gaslighter hopes all this will cause you want to check yourself all the time, scrutinizing your own beliefs to the point you almost have none of your own.

Reach out and get support. Even if it’s just someone to be a sounding board for you, it’s important to connect with others as much as you can. Because the gaslighter wants you to feel unworthy, this will be hard. Do it anyway. Don’t let yourself isolate.

You are worthy.¬†If you take away this one thing, this one thought, it may save your sanity.¬†¬† Speak your truth¬†to¬†a¬†close friend or confidant who doesn’t have a stake in what seems like a very¬†high-priced game of cat and mouse, It helps immeasurably to hear the words:¬†I believe you. I’m here. You are not crazy.

Peace. Stay cool.

Chris xoxo

Desperation, Tears, Laughter, Hope

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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!

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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

 

NEW! BOOK POST! Dear Kindle,

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“How do I love thee? Let me count the ways…”–from a sonnet by Elizabeth Barett Browning

Oh my goodness, Kindle. My affair with you has been on again/off again. I was highbrow and holier-than-thou.

“Kindles? Oh, I rarely read them. I like the feel of the pages as I turn them. I love the smell of new and old books…I love the smell period.”

I was that person. Also, I was the kind of person who would “go along to get along,” so when someone would say “Oh dear. I would¬†never¬†dog-ear a book. And cracking¬†the binding of a paperback? You’ve¬†got¬†to be kidding? Who¬†does¬†that?” I’d be right along, sniffing my upturned nose.

Well, I’m not a book snob anymore. Yes, when I was young until after college (and sometimes if I can’t find a scrap of paper to bookmark the page), I dog-eared. And yes, thirty flogs with a wet noodle, I still crack the spines of paperbacks. It’s an OCD thing. I break the binding at specific intervals: p. 50, p. 100…It feels like – symmetrical, something I am compelled to do. I also write in my books and underline passages.¬†Bad, bad me.¬†

Currently, dear Kindle, you hold 2,929 books for me! That’s astonishing. I can read you in the dark, on the porch, long ashes growing forgotten from my cigarette, oblivious of everything except the stray lightning bug that lands in my hair. Even then, unless it stays there, I’m immersed. My actual hard copy books can’t compete. I easily slip you into my purse, so that – if a social gathering gets too intense – I can pop outside and read a few pages, taking myself far, far away.

Sweet, unassuming Kindle, I might surely die before I read all the books you hold for me. If that happens, I’ll request they bury you with me and I’ll finish in Heaven.

Love,

Chris

Social Media CON-nections

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So okay. First I want to explain my choice of title for this post. Social media connections have many positive effects on people and individuals. What bothers me is it seems a little – like chocolate (for chocolate lovers). So if you love chocolate, you’d at least want to taste it, right? It would be weird not to.

Then suddenly, there is more and more chocolate, as far as the eye can see. And it’s still tasty, sure, but there’s starting to be kind of a chalky after-taste, like the chocolate “mouse” in Rosemary’s Baby. If you ever saw that movie, you’d remember how her actual satanic neighbors drew her in with kindness. But it still seemed strange to Rosemary, who brought it to her husband Guy’s attention. He laughed it off, telling her it was because of her pregnancy, or she was paranoid. When all the while, he had already been accepted into the circle.

Apparently, social media isn’t satanic (unless I’ve missed something in my research). But do you actually realize how many there are out there, and how many individuals join on a daily basis? Here is a graph of¬†just¬†the top fifteen social media websites of 2017:

Top social media sites in 2017

Taken from The 15 most popular social networking tabs in 2017

This is absolutely incredible to me. Most of these social networking sites I have never even heard of. And, contrary to popular opinion, I was not born under a rock. Let me just go on record as saying there are several good reasons for a person to spend hours on these sites. One, the person may be homebound in some way, or agoraphobic. Some people, struggle as they might to overcome that particularly difficult form of anxiety, cannot make it happen. For that person, social media is truly needed, plus it’s “open all night,” so there’s usually a friendly person to text with. I’m purposely using the term¬†text because as much as we might try to convince ourselves, we aren’t¬†speaking with anyone in particular.

When you see someone’s picture of FaceBook or any of these other sites, how much do you trust that photo? It could be a man or woman posing as the opposite sex, or even a teenager trying to sound more grown up.

For Pete’s sake, if I met someone in an online dating service, thought he was gorgeous and said all the right things, I would¬†still¬†ask to meet him in a very public place. If he or she is not who they say they are, they either won’t show up or fend me off with some lame excuse.

When did we become a country where social media websites have become like food to order on a menu. If I lived completely alone on an island, but was miraculously wealthy and could afford electricity, I would limit my time on social networks to one or two hours a day.

There are just so many other things to do in the world. It’s only my opinion, but I feel I can speak about it with some expertise because I’ve been there. Feel free to disagree.

Buyer beware. There are “con” (short for confidence) people everywhere.

Peace,

Chris

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Choices, Choices Everywhere, and Not a One to Make

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

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

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

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

What sorts of decisions are hard for you to make? 

 

How Are You Taking Care of Yourself?

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

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

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

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

adjective

1.

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

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

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

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

B is for Blaming

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My sister’s three children, who are grown adults now — the eldest is forty, and the younger two are in their late thirties — like to blame her for the way their lives are now, drawing on countless stories of a “horrific” childhood raised by a sometimes absent practicing alcoholic. This is always heartbreaking for Carol but she has learned to say “Goodbye, I’m hanging up now,” when it gets redundant and too difficult.  I’m sure their childhoods were indeed difficult, but at what point does one say, “What’s happening in my life now is up to me. These are my choices. No one else is responsible and no one can change those choices except me.” 

It’s easier to blame, though. It hurts less, and pointing that sharp finger at ourselves takes blind courage. I know, because for years I went to Al-Anon meetings missing the point. I talked about the alcoholics in my life: my dad and my sister, and how they had wronged me; how screwed up my life was now because of them. Sound familiar? ūüėČ I reasoned that since Carol had started drinking when she was 16 and I was an impressionable three, my childhood was essentially taken away from me. I vacillated between the placater/pleaser and the lost child/adjuster in Claudia Black’s family roles  For those of you from alcoholic families, which role(s) did you play?

Naturally, I felt tons of victimization in these roles, and I played it to the hilt. Poor me, poor me, I cried at the meetings, and — I love them so much — no one at  those meetings ever  once stopped me, trusting the process.

It has taken years, and I mean years, for me to get to the place where I can sit down at an Al-Anon meeting and know I’m going to talk about some facet of my life that I need help with. Because that’s what it’s all about. Al-Anon is for me. AA is for the alcoholic.

Not that I still don’t play  the blame game every now and then. Who doesn’t? It’s  like something that almost rolls off my tongue and I have to consciously stop myself. Oh wait —noooo, what happened  was my own choice! ūüôā

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.

What Could Be Scarier Than a Great White Shark??

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epiphanybatman Happy ninth day of Twelvetide. I wish you health and prosperity this day, and a modicum of sanity as we go and be with various family and friends that we may have a genuine love it or leave it sort of ambivalence toward. Living with ambivalence is not for sissies.

Let’s assume for a bit that you¬†don’t¬†live in or anywhere near¬†Flint, Michigan, and as far as you¬†know¬†it’s safer than it’s ever been (since that great white shark in the 70s) to dip your toe back in the water. I give you three simple words.

NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTIONS

If your heart beats a little quicker than usual at seeing those three words, or you feel your shirt getting damp and wonder to yourself, “Did it just get hot in here?” … I am here to tell you that you are never alone. Don’t get up and check your thermostat. Don’t worry you might have a heart attack if you even allow the thought of those three words to linger in your mind.

You are absolutely fine. After all, they’re just words, right? Still, if you’re like me, the past 365 days of your life flashed through your mind’s eye on New Year’s Eve. Also, if you are¬†hopefully¬†like me, you’ll find some peaks and valleys in the past year along with maybe one¬†terrific thing¬†you did for yourself or someone else (or both). There will be those times we wish we could take back something we might have done or said. But no, Virginia, there are no takesie-backsies, regardless of how much you wish there were. And it’s useless to go back and wish we stuck with our diets, exercised more, quit smoking, read better literature, or whatever else happens to pass through your mind. That time’s gone; say bye-bye and face today with unflinchingly optimistic hearts. I have a few guidelines, as we go through this next year:

Be yourself:¬†I don’t think I can stress this one enough. Always, always be your best self in any situation you find yourself. For me, if I have a bad time at a party or gathering, the largest reason I can trace it back to is that in some way I wasn’t being genuine to myself. When we work too achingly hard at pretending to be other than who we really are, when we strive to always be prettier, smarter, more interesting…than everyone else at the party, it falls flat. After all, we wouldn’t be invited in the first place if we weren’t so beloved by being exactly who we were meant to be. So, whatever happens, take a breath, square your shoulders, and open the door. You are wanted.

Be kind:¬†I didn’t think this up, but it’s a great question to keep asking ourselves this year. That is, “What is the kindest thing I can do/say?”

Be forgiving:¬†Forgive quickly and often, beginning with ourselves. Try not to be too quick to judge, because–well, we know what that feels like. Try, though surely we won’t¬†often¬†always be successful, to give the benefit of the doubt, to those you cherish, as well as yourself.

Be goal-oriented:¬†This is essentially quite different from resolutions. Goals are infinitely good to have, for without them, we despair and languish. If your only goal is to make it through the day unscathed, and when you collapse into bed that night, having counted all fingers and toes and found none missing, then that’s a good day’s work.

Most of all, don’t live back there. You can’t get there from¬†anywhere¬†in the rational world that isn’t met with opaque glasses, never seen quite clearly. And for all the goodness in the world, don’t spend too much time in the future. You might start finding yourself too old for this or that, that it’s inevitably too late. I’m of the opinion it’s never too late. Not for marriage, not for love, for education, etc. It’s not even too late to have children, regardless of age–one can always adopt, or be a stupendous aunt or uncle.

I sincerely hope you have had nothing but happiness this past Christmas, and that Santa Claus was good to you. You deserve it. Moving forward, let’s join hands and step into 2017, with our eyes on trying hard to be better in every way. Here’s to you, plus a cartoon to make you laugh:¬†bear-snowman

 

20 Ways To Get Yourself Out Of That Rut

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stuck-in-a-rutAll of us get “stuck in a rut” at some point. What we do to get out is the important thing. Here are some¬†suggestions.They’re not researched, or written in stone, or anything like that. They’re just guidelines, from me to you.

1. Change the way you normally workout.
2. When you drive home after work or school, try a different way.
3. Clean out your desk drawers, or your glove box in the car.
4. Wash your car yourself instead of taking it to the car wash.
5. Change up your food choices when you go grocery shopping.
6. Make a list of things you’d like to get done this week (just the act of making the list is uplifting itself).
7. Rearrange your work area.
8. Sleep on the other side of the bed.
9. Change the status picture on your Facebook page.
10. Make deadlines for things you want to get done (No. 6 part two).
11. Do at least one thing on the list right now.
12. Call a friend or relation whom you haven’t spoken to in a while.
13. Buy a different brand of shampoo.
14. Surf the internet, with the intention of finding new websites to explore.
15. Read a book you might not have even considered picking up in the past.
16. Ask the grocery clerk how his day is going.
17. Try a new bedspread for your bed, maybe something in shocking pink. ūüėČ
18. Write yourself a letter about where you want to be in the next six months.
19. Go to that restaurant you’ve been wanting to try.
20. Change around the furniture in your apartment or house.

 

Performance Anxiety Redux

2

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!

 

Follow The Leader

4

l-Follow-the-leaderMost of us remember the game “Follow¬†The Leader,”¬†which involves a child being the leader of a line of other children. The children are supposed to copy everything the leader does. Those who fail to do so are out of the line, until one is left standing behind the leader, who then ¬†becomes the new leader.

It’s similar to the game Simon Says,¬†¬†which requires a group of at least three children, preferably more. The leader gives directions to the other participants, trying to catch them out. If they follow the directions starting with “Simon says touch your toes,” for instance, they are still in play. But if the leader says,¬†simply,¬†(ha ha) “Touch your toes,” and they are caught out touching their toes, they are out of play.

In sheep behavior, when one sheep moves, the rest will follow, even if it is not a good idea. The following instinct of sheep is so strong that it caused the death of 400 sheep in 2006 in eastern Turkey. The sheep plunged to their death after one of the sheep tried to cross a 15-meter deep ravine, and the rest of the flock followed.

Even from birth, lambs are taught to follow the older members of the flock. Ewes encourage their lambs to follow. The dominant members of the flock usually lead, followed by the submissive ones. If there is a ram in the flock, he usually leads.

As for people, and in terms of crowd behavior, we are more apt to follow “leaders” who stay at the edge of the crowd rather than the center of the action. In one instance, a research team¬†asked groups of eight students to walk around continuously in a specified area and stay together as a group without speaking or gesturing to one another.

One person in one of the groups was asked to move towards a target, while remaining a member of the group, without letting the others know that he was leading them to a target. In another group, the students were told to follow “the leader,” but not told who the leader was.

In the second group, it was found that those leaders who remained on the edge of the group were able to move their group towards a target much more quickly than the leaders that chose to remain in the center.

Interesting! Any thoughts?

Have a wonderful rest of the day.

 

Ciao Bella.

The Bystander Effect

2

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.

 

Positive Psychology

2

comic-positive-psychologyTo prepare for this blog post, I read Martin Seligman’s Authentic Happiness¬†in two days. It was a pretty major feat for me, since I’m usually a slow reader, especially when it comes to nonfiction material. This book, minus the index pages, notes, and acknowledgements, came to 260 pp. But I was excited about it, especially since my sister had recently begun therapy again with someone who used only positive psychology techniques. She had recommended this book to Carol, and when I tried to get two copies at B&N, they only had one, so I read it as fast as I could.

I have a few criticisms, mostly that it’s so non-measurable. Positive psychology believes in emphasizing a person’s signature strengths, rather than focusing on weaknesses, and I can get behind that for sure. There are 24 signature strengths, but if you take the test, which you can, at the Authentic Happiness¬†website, you’ll find 250 separate questions. It takes some time, but be as honest as you can. When you are all done, it will spit back your strengths to you. For instance, mine are: appreciation of beauty and excellence, kindness and generosity, creativity, ingenuity, and originality, humor and playfulness, and forgiveness and mercy. My top strength is appreciation of beauty, so I’m supposed to use that as much as I can, but all of them really.

“Authentic happiness comes from identifying and cultivating your most fundamental strengths and using them every day in work, love, play, and parenting.” — Martin Seligman

What I really didn’t like was the chapter on love. It was all about romantic love. Now, honestly, I’m not against romantic love, truly, I’m¬†all¬†for that, you know? But there are other kinds of love that deserve mentioning. What about familial love? What about mother daughter love? Or Father son love? What about friendship?

And Seligman seems to believe the bedrock of all this is some sort of faith. Sorry, but faith and I parted ways a while ago. I’ve been Roman Catholic, then Protestant by way of Presbyterian and lastly Southern Baptist. I haven’t been to any church at all in years. I don’t even think I remember how to pray. If I have any faith at all, it’s in nature, that the sun will rise every morning and set every night.

According to Seligman, we can’t blame our past for the fact that we are on welfare, or that we have become unemployed, alcoholic, or whatever. If we were abused, or our parents divorced, it’s history. What we make of our lives today is¬†on us.¬†

In the end, I think we could all do with a little more positivity in our lives. I’ve been to too many therapists where the first question out of their mouths was, “What can you tell me about your childhood?” AAAUUUGGHH!

Have a great and productive day!

Ciao Bella.

Yesterday

0

Y (1)Although we’ve talked a lot about living in the present moment, the fact is most people with anxiety either live in the future or, more likely, in the past. The future living sounds more like a lot of “What-ifs,” and can get very scary very quickly.

Living in yesterday sounds like this: I know I hurt my friend’s feelings when I said that that particular way. She seemed funny after that. It couldn’t have been just because she was dealing with her own issues. I¬†know¬†it was my fault.

Or: I looked so stupid buying groceries yesterday. I’m sure everyone could tell my hands were shaking when I was trying to get the correct change. I didn’t even say thank you or good bye because I was afraid I might break out in tears, for crying out loud. What’s wrong with me? I’m such a spaz and an idiot!

Yet again: Why did I tell my mom I would pick up her meds at the store for her? It’s been really hard for me to leave the house at all lately. Twice I tried yesterday. I got all the way to the parking lot of the store, the first time, but I couldn’t get out of the car. The second time I only made it into my car in the garage, but I couldn’t back out. I am¬†such¬†a loser!

These are all examples of distorted thoughts brought on by panic and anxiety. They can easily be changed by different, more rational, compassionate thinking.

Once the thinking is changed, staying in the moment is so important.

Have a terrific day! I’m going to lunch with my friend Molly!

Ciao, Bella.Paper Fortune Teller

Worrying

6

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

Managing

6

`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