health

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.

What Could Be Scarier Than a Great White Shark??

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

 

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.'

 

Expectations

E (1)is for expectations.¬†An expectation is a belief or a thought that is about an anticipated outcome, not necessarily about what might really happen. Man, oh man, have I had my share of those, with disastrous results! Seriously, I could write a book about how¬†not¬†to have expectations. Forget that, I could star in my own movie. I either worry too much about it (the situation), thinking it’s going to be horrible, or I’ll think something’s going to be easy and it turns out it’s super difficult. You know?

The reason we create expectations is because of the uncertainty in life. We want some certainty so we decide what’s going to happen or how things should be, whether with ourselves or other people. But—when they keep messing up our lives (and other peoples’ lives tangentially), why do we hold onto them? I mean, like a dog with a bone.

The hardest part for¬†me¬†is trying to quiet the noise in my head, whether I’m with family, my best (and only) friend, or strangers. Thoughts run through my mind like, “Oh God, that was¬†brilliant,¬†” “Why can’t I just shut up now?” “Why did I wear these jeans? I should have worn my other ones—these are too tight.” “I just know everyone’s staring at me.” “How do I get out of here?” And on and on and on until I feel like I want to stick my head in a freezer or something. It’s awful.

In the article “Great Expectations=Great Disappointments,” by Bradley Foster in the Huffington Post, he offers eight steps to help create¬†realistic expectations¬†(what a concept!):

1. Become aware of expectations you are creating.
2. Understand the beliefs behind your expectations.
3. What are your needs in the situation? Are there other ways to meet them?
4. Is your expectation a reasonable or a likely outcome?
5. When your expectation turns out to be incorrect, notice and adjust accordingly.
6. When you are disappointed, don’t take it personally.
7. Stay flexible: What other options do you have?
8. Be okay with “what is.”

Hope you have an absolutely wonderful anxiety-free day!

Peace out. ‚̧
change-your-expectations1

Double-Edged Sword

D (1)Okay. First, I just have to say that I’m writing this on my new HP Mini Laptop Stream, which is¬†pink,¬†so very light, and so gosh darn cute!

Picture this: a professional runner at her mark. Her head is down, her feet set at the blocks, waiting for the starter’s signal. She quickly brushes away something you can’t see with the tips of her fingers. As the camera zeroes in on her, you see a few drops of perspiration slide from the runner’s forehead, nose, chin, and hit the ground below. She licks her dry lips. She checks the runner on her left and right. She turns her head straight out in front of her toward the path ahead, then hears the starter’s signal go off and kicks off the blocks.

What exactly is that? Is it stress, anxiety? But–at least for me—when I’m overcome with anxiety, I’m a hot mess, curled up in a ball somewhere, or on the phone with my best friend. Hence, the double-edged sword. It cuts both ways. Anxiety can work for us or it can overwhelm us. In the case of the pro runner, she has found a way to make it work for her. The challenge is to¬†always¬†manage to find a way to do that, emphasis on the word¬†challenge.¬†

For instance, I shared with my therapy group that I was super proud of myself that I had gotten the mail during the day¬†two¬†times that past week. Instead of¬†just¬†being happy for me, I’ve been challenged to do it again this week. *le sigh* I only have Monday and Tuesday left to go to accomplish this task, as the group meets Tuesday afternoon.

Do something brave, just because you can!

Peace out.
double edged sword

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 Reality About Anxiety

fine

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

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

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

Just Relax

RelaxThere must be quite a few things that a hot bath won’t cure, but I don’t know many of them. ~Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar

Tension is who you think you should be. Relaxation is who you are. ~Chinese proverb

Life should be touched, not strangled. You’ve got to relax, let it happen at times, and at other times move forward with it. ~Ray Bradbury

It seems like everywhere I go people are talking about relaxation these days. My therapist asks me about my stress level, like it’s something that can be quantified, measured on a daily basis.¬†lying down

I probably mentioned already that I’m participating in an study for bipolar disordered people on a site called Optimism. I love the name, but the site is both complicated and ambiguous.

The site tracks your mood every day, how well you coped, hours slept, quality of sleep, whether or not you exercised, and took medications, if relevant (here’s where I find some ambiguity. It doesn’t ask if your meds make you feel like you’re on auto-pilot, or so thirsty you could drink a gallon of water and it wouldn’t be enough, so tired you’d just run a marathon…only you hadn’t). It then goes into three different categories:¬†stay well strategies, triggers,¬†and¬†symptoms.¬†

Relaxation fits under the¬†Stay well strategies,¬†along with adequate sleep, plenty of water, and routine, just to name a few. I use a relaxation cd daily. One of the choices on the cd is¬†A Walk on the Beach.¬†The narrator uses the elevator technique to take me¬†deeper down,¬†until I’m so relaxed I’m actually somewhere way in the basement. Ha ha ha

If only it would stay. Not minutes after that, I checked my email, and there was something from an editor or promoter of a book I’ve signed up to read on¬†Netgalley.¬†Now, I love reading more than anything, and I just finished my third book for them. I have three more books in the queue before the book this promoter spoke of. All the relaxation I’d just had given to me went right out the window. I had no idea what to say to this person, so I took my usual route. Say nothing, and keep plodding along. My dog, Lucy, would have peed on the email and gone on her happy way. ūüėÄ We should all be so lucky.

dog

Gambling on Goals

goalsGoals are so crazy popular, aren’t they? I mean, I went looking for one quote on goals for this post, just¬†one,¬†and they were all so contradictory. Some said set your goals high and don’t stop ’til you achieve them. Others said it starts with the spirit, and if that wasn’t true, forget about it. Then there’s the one who says to set¬†small¬†goals and build upon them. So even the meaning of the word¬†goal¬†is somewhat sketchy.

I know of a famous, at least famous on my terms, writing website, which has a whole¬†board¬†(forum) dedicated to the topic of goals and the achievement (or not) thereof. I belonged to it at one time. I did find it somewhat useful, but mostly I felt bad about myself for not achieving the goals I’d set out for the week. I might or might not have been the only person who felt that way, but it’s interesting to note, don’t you think?¬†dont-worry-about-goals

Now, I know I could be feeling this way because I’m still coming off a manic phase and it’s hard for me to focus on any one thing. At¬†Goodreads¬†I’m reading five books at a time still, one of which is a book I’m reviewing for¬†Netgalley. If you haven’t checked out Netgalley, you really should. And then there is¬†Optimism, and the six month’s study I voluntarily upped for. Don’t forget the origami cranes. ūüėÄ My brain also recently lit on¬†zentangle, because it’s supposed to be so good for stress. I bought books and everything. I’ve only made one so far, but my mind is studying and learning (which I think is the opposite of what it’s supposed to do). How is a¬†brain¬†like that supposed to do anything except make it through the day? LOL¬†strongest

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

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

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

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

Peace out. xxlifer

5 Things Not to Say to Someone in a Mixed State

conversationThe art¬†of¬†conversation¬†is fraught with land mines on a good day. When you have to deal with someone in a¬†mixed state, you’d better be sure to speak to your higher power too. ūüėČ

Now, I can joke about this, because I’m the one in the mixed state. Not that it’s funny to be in a mixed state, but you know the saying “If you can’t laugh about it you’ll go crazy.”

But this experience, I think, helps me to know a little about what may be more appropriate and productive as opposed to—well inappropriate.

Without further adieu, here are five things so not to say to that poor sap in a mixed state:

1. It’s all in your head.

2. You really need help.

3. Do you speak to your mother with that mouth?

4. You’re making a mountain out of a mole hill.

5. I need to take a step back in our friendship.

There ya go. I’ll be the first to admit mixed state bipolar is a¬†whole lotta crazy,¬†but I also know it’s not voluntary. It’s a¬†sickness.¬†I look back on the days in June of 2013 when¬†all¬†I had to deal with was severe depression with tender fondness.

We’re all in this screwball thing called life together, and we only get one go around. I think we need as many mates as we can get.

That said, take care of you. If you really can’t deal, you can’t deal. Some people, I’ve learned the hard way, can¬†understand¬†a manic episode, but they can’t stick around and¬†deal¬†with it. Those are two very different definitions, and it doesn’t reflect badly on the person at all.

Love you madly, dolls. Peace out. xx biploar twofor

Recovery Never Ends (long post, sorry)

inspirational-quote-saying-no-claudia-blackSo sorry I have been quiet on here. I have another blog, another passion that has torn me away, Hooker With Yarn, Strings Attached, which is, as you may have guessed, about crochet and all things related to crochet. I have given up my first love, writing, because I’ve decided I’m not good at it, and why torture yourself to try to become something you¬†think¬†you should be? Fiber art is still creative art. It is simply a different medium.

But that’s not what this post is about. I just thought you should know that if you don’t see me on here, you might want to see what I’m up to over there. ūüėČ

Lately, I’ve been struggling with my nephew, and by extension, his mother my sister. My sister is doing fine, by the way. She has been clean and sober for several months and is living in her own apartment in Ann Arbor. It just goes to show you though, that for the Al-Anon, recovery really never ends. I have to stay on my toes. Just because she’s sober (less than a year) it doesn’t mean she doesn’t still try to be manipulative, or lay guilt trips, or get selfish and narcissistic. I have to work hard at taking care of myself, and it’s a full-time job.

My nephew is a paranoid schizophrenic, and he usually comes over to our (my Mom’s and mine) house once a week to do his laundry. For two weeks in a row, each time he came, he was talking crazy. About parasites in the water, and people controlling his thoughts from on the street, etc. This hadn’t happened since before he was hospitalized over two years ago. I asked him if he was taking his meds, to which he of course answered yes he was. I asked him if he was taking them correctly (he sometimes runs out before the month is up, which means he’s taking too much of something), and again he replied in the affirmative. But he also admitted to drinking off and on.

My sister was visiting from Ann Arbor one of the weekends he happened to “go off the deep end.” She talked to him (or at least listened to him rant) for nearly a half hour in my car in the garage while he smoked. She then decided to call his psychiatrist and let him know the symptoms she had been seeing, as an FYI. I didn’t know you could do that, but my uber T. told me that was a very good thing to do.

But when my nephew saw his psychiatrist, he made his mother out to be the crazy person, saying she was “homeless” in Ann Arbor, a “drunk,’ and didn’t know what she was talking about. He had just been under stress. Since then, he has come over one time. I asked him beforehand how he was feeling, because if he wasn’t feeling well I didn’t want him to come over (I myself take anti-anxiety medication, and it really put me in a tailspin both times). He said he was fine. I asked him if he was experiencing parasites in the water. He texted me back: “Parasites? LOL No. No parasites.” So I let him come over and he was fine.

That was one week ago. Then, this past Sunday, the day before my brother and sister-in-law were due to arrive from SF for a week, he didn’t respond to calls or texts. I felt angry. I’m used to people having the common decency of at least calling if they are not coming over, especially if I’m the one who has to go and pick them up.

He didn’t call until the next day, and then it was to say he had been sick and turned the phone off. Whether he was hung over over well and truly sick doesn’t really matter. Don’t people usually call the person that’s expecting them to say they are sick? He called to ask me if I would bring him some cigarettes.

I said no.¬†I felt a twinge of guilt when he said, “Oh, you’re concerned for my welfare, but only to a point, is that it?” He learned manipulation from a master, after all.

He texted me again yesterday to ask me to take him to the grocery store, that he had no cash on him. I know for a fact that grocery stores accept checks.

So I ignored it. I said no. 

It was a beautiful day yesterday, 65 for the high, and he lives right across the street from Meijers.

Was I wrong? What would you have done?

Peace out. xx

We’ll Take A Cup Of Nyquil Yet

auld-lang-syne-1 I give up. I was actually trying to write a post every day this month for the Holidailies¬†December challenge. You don’t have to have a theme, but I did, and my theme was – wait for it – holidays. ūüėČ

Then, the day before yesterday, I got sick. I don’t know what it is, but it’s not just a cold. Sometimes I think it’s bronchitis (I’ve had that before) and sometimes I think it’s something worse. And my doctor is on vacation until next Wednesday. Fortunately, this morning his office phoned in an antibiotic for me, so we’ll see if that works.

But I feel like I’ve been hit by a Mack truck and then some.

I can’t finish.

I. Quit.

So sorry for the ones who were following me through the challenge. I just can’t do it.

Celebrate the Underdog!

thriving through the holidays Today is National Underdog Day. Established in 1976, National Underdog  day keeps our unsung heroes in mind. The term underdog is believed to have come from the shipbuilding industry. Planks of wood were called dogs. Two men were assigned to supervise the placing of these dogs; one from up top, and one from under, in the pit, where he got covered in sawdust and mud. So today we tip our hats to the underdogs, the unsung heroes who are never expected to make it out of the pit.

I’m a big movie buff, and the greatest movie underdog of all time (in my humble opinion) is¬†Rocky Balboa. No one ever saw this guy coming. Who would’ve expected a nowhere nobody to come from left field and win the way he did? He had¬†many¬†obstacles against him, but he plugged away. Nobody believed in him, but he kept going.

To say that these times, right now today, are tough for people around the world, is largely an understatement. I’m confused, feeling unsafe, and unsure of an environment I thought I knew pretty well. As one who (I hate the word “suffers” but I never know what to say) struggles with several mental health problems, I¬†know¬†in my heart that we need better resources out there for people who are mentally ill. That’s what we need. That is all. (That is all¬†period,¬†not That is all as in “oh, piece of cake!”)

In the meantime, I hope you will take to heart the 10 things listed in this picture. Are you an underdog? *gasp* Then there’s two of us. Maybe we should start a club. ūüėČ Are you having a hard time wrapping your mind around what happened on the 14th? I think there’s a club for that, too. It’s collective grief, and it’s not a sign of weakness to cry (as some of us were raised to believe). Rather, it takes immense strength to show one’s heart to others. Tears, sobbing, crying . . . all of that discharges pent up feelings and helps us heal. Only then can we truly let go.

Peace out.

 

Take A Nap!

pooped Things can get pretty hurried and fast-paced during this time of year. Although taking a nap is generally a good idea under normal circumstances, during the holiday season it should be a¬†rule. ūüėȬ†

I posted earlier this month about dogs, and how we should try to be more like them. Animals know intuitively when they need a break. Dogs are not far removed from their wolf ancestors, who needed to conserve energy for hunting and gathering. When I take my Lucy out for a walk, you would think she’s on a hunt. Her nose is constantly to the ground, unless she hears a noise. Then she has to see what’s going on. ūüėČ But when she’s not playing, walking, eating, or otherwise occupied, she sleeps.

I find it difficult to sleep during the day due to some of the meds I take for bipolar disorder and CFS. But this is what I do when I know I absolutely need a nap and I’m having trouble. I go into my bedroom, close the blinds, get a light blanket, and turn on a cd, maybe¬†Sleepy Rain: With Delta Brainwave Pulses. I have other cds I listen to, including a Brahms Lullaby for babies. ūüėÄ Hey, whatever works.

Just be sure to get lots of rest this holiday season. It helps your immune system fight off these nasty colds and flu that are making the rounds.

Peace out.

Getting Through The Holiday Blues

holidayattitudeEver feel like this cartoon? That if you had to turn on the radio and hear one more freaking Christmas carol you would hurl the bleepety-bleep thing across the room? You’re not alone.

Getting together with family members we haven’t seen in a while and expecting perfection can bring us down, especially afterward when the holiday meal wasn’t at all what we had hoped for.

Too much advertising can be depressing, and put added pressure on us to buy more, decorate bigger. We can get through this by donating to a charity, focusing on our traditions, zeroing in on our beliefs, or spending time with people we love.

The shorter days and lack of sunlight for some folk really does affect their moods. “About ten-percent (now up to 20%, at least – note added by me) of adults living where snow follows fallen leaves, experience a rather serious depression professionally labeled as seasonal affective disorder. Those who experience this seasonal depression tend to have a mixed sense of anxiety and depression and agitation.” (Dr. Bill Knass, “Beating the Holiday Blues and Depression,” 2006) Just getting outside for ten minutes can make a big difference, or use light box therapy. Always,¬†always,¬†seek professional help.

Also, if you happen to celebrate Christmas and are feeling down, type in Blue Christmas Service in your area to attend one of these.

Whew, long-winded today!

Hope your day is lovely.

Peace out.

 

 

Five Ways To Harness Holiday Stress!

SG_HolidayStress Sometimes it can feel like if we look up the word “holiday” in the dictionary, we’ll find the word “stress” next to it. It’s like a given.

But it doesn’t have to be, and today I’m going to list five ways to avoid holiday stress.

1.¬†MEDITATE.¬†¬†Meditation is different things for each individual. ¬†I don’t think of it as necessarily getting into the lotus position and chanting an “oooohm”, although this does work for millions of people (truth is, I couldn’t¬†get¬†in the lotus position if my life depended on it – lol). For me, I remember what I was taught in¬†DBT, which is based on mindfulness. I try to train my eyes on something. Then I focus on my breathing. That’s it. I might even say the words to myself as I breath: “iiiiin,” and “ouuuut.” Thoughts will come into my head while I’m trying to focus on my breathing, but I let them pass like clouds in the sky (this takes practice). Try it.

2.¬†BREATHE.¬†I am generally an anxious person, as a rule. If there is nothing to worry about, I will find something. Trust me. And sometimes, under stress, I think we can forget to take the deep breaths we need. We get oxygen-deprived. It leads to fatigue and irritability. It’s one of the reasons you find yourself yawning and thinking, “What’s wrong with me? I got a perfectly good night’s sleep!”

3.¬†SHOP ONLINE.¬†Monday, December 17th is Free Shipping Day online! That’s pretty fantastic. Over 1,000 merchants are on board right now to ship packages right to your door free of charge so you can stay at home and shop in your pajamas. No need to fight the crowds at the malls, no need to go out in the cold/heat/snow/rain. ¬†How cool is that? Just click on¬†Free Shipping Day, say “I want to stay home!” and there you have it: the magic ingredients to a happy ending.

4.¬†LIGHT A CANDLE.¬†Aromatherapy is excellent for calming frayed nerves. Try Vanilla, jasmine, and patchouli especially. Right now there are candles that smell like evergreen trees at¬†Bed, Bath and Beyond. Go crazy, just be sure to keep them away from anything flammable and blow them out before you leave the house or go to sleep. ūüėČ

5.¬†GO EASY ON YOURSELF.¬†There is¬†no such thing¬†as a perfect¬†anything,¬†most especially a perfect holiday. Someone is always late, or early, a recipe doesn’t look like the picture, or doesn’t taste like great grandma Edna’s, the dog gets into the snacks that are set out for company, and you don’t have enough time to do everything you wanted to do… There are many things that can go wrong. There is¬†one¬†thing that can go right. How you respond to all the things that go wrong. How you take it in. Go easy on yourself . . . don’t internalize. It’s NOT the end of the world. It’s one day, or one of eight days, or one of six days or whatever . . . it’s a moment in a bajillion moments in time. You will always be you. Fantastic, a miracle, one in a million.

Peace out.

Let Go of Expectations and Outcomes

quote_expectations-are-premed-resentments I’m learning there’s a reason “Let go” comes before “Let God” in that particular recovery slogan. Have you ever watched a baby just before she falls asleep, if you happen to be blessed enough to hold her in your arms? The eyelids fight to stay open. They flutter closed, the tiny hands begin to relax . . . and then boom! The legs kick out again, the hands clench into little fists and the eyelids struggle sooo hard to stay open. Just¬†one more minute.¬†Not ready for sleep quite yet. Might miss something.¬†Yawn.¬†

Finally, the battle ends and the eyes close and stay shut.

I’ve been there. Yep. But as a grownup. Not wanting to let go, wanting to control the outcome, wanting to make sure everything is perfect, just so . . .

Until we let go of this fantasy we have of the perfect whatever,¬†whether it’s a person, a thing, a place . . . a holiday? ¬†we will never have the chance to see what can happen when our Higher Power gets a hold of that person, thing, place, or holiday. Whatever circumstance, whatever struggle, whatever relationship . . . until¬†I¬†take my hands¬†off¬†and let God have the reins, nothing really fantastic can happen.

Last night was our final Christmas concert. Oy, were my expectations high. My nerves were strained, I was kaput and on fire at the same time. And I flubbed up¬†twice.¬†ūüė¶ But the thing about a choir, a whole chorus of voices, is that not only do they surround you, they support you. I knew they probably heard my mistake, my mates did, the other tenors, and possibly the basses. But it’s doubtful the audience did. Like if you are playing a beautiful piano piece, and¬†you¬†know you made a terrible error, but if you don’t stop and call attention to it, no one knows? And hey – we got a standing O! How ’bout them apples? Look what God did when I got out of the way…

I’ll miss it. *sigh*

But on to caroling, which is this afternoon and next weekend. No expectations this time. No nerves, I promise. Just hoping for fun and fellowship and to bring some good tidings. ūüôā

Peace out.

It’s A Dog’s Life–Copy It!

credited to Charles M. Schulz

credited to Charles M. Schulz

Let’s face it. It really is a dog’s life. But what does that exactly mean? On the face of it, I think when people say that, they mean that dogs primarily eat, sleep, and – well – take care of business. ūüėČ

But here in this hectic holiday season, when you may have so much to do your head is spinning, I would like to take this opportunity to remind you to perhaps live like a dog. Here are some ways you might accomplish this:

1. Exercise (translated: PLAY)! When my schnorkie Lucy first got home with us (a rescue), she didn’t know how to play. We got toys, all different kinds, and she would sniff them and walk away. Finally we found one that clicked with her. SQUEAKY toys. Now she can’t get enough of them. Secretly? I think she thinks they’re alive. ūüėČ

2. Rest! When dogs need to sleep, or when they are bored, they conserve their energy for when something exciting comes along. As humans being and doing, I myself will testify to the fact that I don’t get nearly enough rest. I get¬†maybe¬†4-5 hours of sleep a night and I rarely nap during the day. I’m going to work on making it a dog’s life in 2013.

3. Eat! When they’re hungry, dogs eat. When you tell them it’s “all gone,” they’re pretty much satisfied and can deal. It’s a good policy to adopt.

4. Drink! Lucy is constantly drinking and I think she has a bladder the size of a pea.¬†Literally.¬†Hence the 4-5 hours of sleep a night, because of early rising. I try to drink 8-10 glasses of water a day, but when my nephew stayed with me for a few days, and then a few days more, it kicked back in a Pepsi addiction, so I’m back to that. ūüė¶ Water flushes toxins out of our bodies, it’s good for our skin, it aids the digestive process, eases back fatigue, there are so many reasons to drink water.

5. Stretch! Ever notice, you who own dogs, that they stretch before they do anything? There you are in a hurry to take them out to do their thing, and they just¬†have¬†to stretch before they can make it up the stairs. Lucy is 3 1/2 years old, and you’d think she was geriatric the way she gets ready to head out somewhere. But stretching is important. It keeps us limber, and it relaxes otherwise tense muscles.

6. Yawn! If I counted the number of times Lucy yawned in a day, I’d have no time for anything else. Now, dogs have all kinds of reasons they yawn. Did you know sometimes it’s a sign of stress? But sometimes it’s just plain ol’ fatigue, and sometimes it’s lack of oxygen, just like with us. So yawn, exercise those jaw muscles.

Happy Wednesday.

Peace out.

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