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

I’ve been having the most difficult time putting my words down here. It can’t be because I’m afraid I’ll get it wrong. It’s my story, my life. How wrong could I get it?

It seems that my most effective/popular blog posts have been when there is a specific list to help change something in one’s life. Hey, who doesn’t like lists, right?

Six Simple Steps to Take Back Control

1. Question everything, and don’t be afraid of your doctor. When we lose or think we lose control of our lives, it’s not always with a crash and broken bones. It’s sometimes pretty subtle. For me, it starts with my doctor says that I need Prozac because I am in a major depression. I’m 27 years old at the time. I can say no, but he’s a doctor. If I didn’t need a pill, surely he wouldn’t suggest it? What I learned years later, something most of you probably know but I will share anyway, is this: doctors have to dx something in your chart in order for the insurance to pay. It’s not as important as Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life, but for some reason it scared me when he said that. So, being a little shell-shocked, I would have agreed to anything short of a lobotomy. Here’s the thing. Our doctors stumble in the darkness too. They aren’t perfect. Don’t be afraid. Honestly, I still get fearful, and have to tell myself over and over before an appointment: “He may have more medical knowledge, but I know myself better.”

2. Trust your instincts. I have been on psychiatric medications for over 30 years, and I’ve written before about trusting our instincts, especially with health concerns. I think I wasn’t absorbing for me what this actually meant. It means knowing how my body feels on drugs, identifying side effects you are absolutely not willing to live with, and letting that be okay. I’ve had two different reactions to my objection to side effects which made me so light-headed and clumsy that I fell twice in six weeks, once spraining my wrist. “You have to weigh the cost of living with the side effects on one hand or living with the symptoms of your illness on the other.” That was my psychiatrist.

I’ve gone on and on. Important things to ponder. I’ll cover steps three and four tomorrow.

Peace. xoxo

Christina

B is for Blaming

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? 😉 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! 🙂

A is for Acceptance

Acceptance is a difficult concept to deal with, even if we’re not talking about alcoholism. None of us wants to be unacceptable, or excluded from a group, whether we’re small children, adolescents, or older adults. The synonyms for acceptance are many, among them approval and recognition.

I know a young woman who is gay. She has found a woman she loves, is very happy, and engaged to be married. Most people she knows are very happy for her happiness, but not all are as accepting. Some are even judgmental, saying she and her partner would always be welcome in their home, but they would never attend her wedding. This makes no sense to me, and seems more than a little hypocritical. If you accept the fact that someone is gay, you recognize it, you approve of the lifestyle she/he has chosen.

With my sister, it’s different, but somewhat the same. She’s been sober for a while now, and attended several family gatherings as a sober alcoholic. I don’t drink often, mostly at major holidays, like Thanksgiving and Christmas. In fact, my mom laughs at me, because I will see a drink recipe shown on The Chew or something, get all excited about it, buy all the ingredients, bring them home, and then the liquor sits in our cupboards, because I’ve immediately lost interest. :P)

Back to my sister. I never used to drink around her. I thought it was a sign of solidarity if I joined her in not drinking. Recently, I’ve realized it was actually codependency, and I was not allowing her a sense of self-esteem, and achievement all her own. She’s very capable, and strong in her own right. But I’m sure she feels that exclusion, that non-acceptance among non-alcoholics, even though she’s accepted by her recovering alcoholic friends. I still laugh when I remember going with her to an open talk AA meeting at Sacred Heart in downtown Detroit. I was so nervous I wouldn’t even smoke, even though I badly wanted a cigarette. One of her friends finally leaned over to me and said, “So, do you have any vices?”

“And acceptance is the answer to all my problems today. When I am disturbed, it is because I find some person, place, thing, or situation — some fact of my life — unacceptable to me, and I can find no serenity until I accept that person, place, thing, or situation as being exactly the way it is supposed to be at this moment.” (Alcoholics Anonymous, p. 417)

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? 😉 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.

Happy Holidailies!!

christmas-tree-griswoldSo, hi! Here’s the thing; I feel like I should be apologizing, since I haven’t blogged, or written at all, since my dramatic farewell post on April 8th of this year.  What can I say? It seemed like a good idea at the time. I didn’t blog, even though I tried prompts to help me write, I tried freewriting, I even signed up for National Novel Writing Month, but I couldn’t get myself to write a thing. Ah, well, it’s a hard time of year for me. Sixteen years ago this moth my dad died. This year, instead of getting easier, you know, to let go, it’s weird. I think I can sense him, like, around me, and sometimes I hear whispers that I’m sure are him. It doesn’t scare me or anything, it’s just a little freakish.

Enough of that, though! If you are not familiar with Holidailies and December, it’s the month where each blogger who signs up endeavors to write one post each day of the month. Radical, right? 🙂 I’m encouraging you right now, if you want to join this crazy holiday fun, I don’t think it’s too late! But, even if you don’t want to commit, it’s great to read others’ posts.

I’m trying something new for this month. I ordered a writing game from Bas Bleu, an entertaining web store, and it’s called Writer’s Prompt Sticks: Memoirs–Life Stories. I bought for NaNo, actually, because I thought it might assist me with my temporary (?) block. I was meant to be writing a memoir, just a slice of my life, not much really. But it seems I’m super at reading books about writing, and talking with others, and listening to podcasts about writing, just not so hot at the writing itself.

Anyway, each stick has two prompts on it, and I’m meant to pick one and write for eight minutes. I already know I’m shortening the time for the sake of this challenge, because when I do write, I write like Taz, and I don’t want you to end up with 8k words you just skim or close the page on.

Here we go. Setting up my timer now. The two blog prompts to choose from are:

1) Write about a time when you had a spiritual awakening.

2) Write about a time when you were in a religious or spiritual situation and you felt nothing or it felt ludicrous. 

They just get right down to it, huh? I think I’ll combine the two because the first prompt won’t take me very long. 1) I was raised Roman Catholic and I went to church every Sunday as a kid, you know, it meant something to me when I made my confirmation at 13, my brother Jimmy being Godfather. But I was very naive, and gullible (are they the same?), expecting the Church to be everything to me, to make up for every single thing I ever felt I was lacking. Feelings are fickle things, not to be trusted most of the time, because they can change on a dime and are severely disloyal. One minute they pretend to be your best friend, and the next thing you know you’re hiding your heads under the cover because you’re too scared to let yourself think, let alone feel.

Then in the summer before I turned 19, this was 1980, an exceptionally good year–except for this one thing. I had just finished my freshman year at college and was home before my sophomore year, hanging out with my best friend, Cathy Bruske. We were in a park near home, and we started talking to some guys on motorcycles. We felt that daring rush only familiar to late teens: anything could and would happen, and we were open to it all. The guys were sweet, and semi-cute, so we ended up following them back to one’s place.

The exact details of what all happened, I don’t really remember. I know I was drinking a could beers with them and Cathy, and somebody had pot, I might have smoked. I can’t really figure out why something so traumatic is such a blur to me, but there you have it–and maybe it’s a blessing, meant to protect my psyche from something I don’t wish to revisit.

One of the guys invited me into his bedroom. I don’t want to go into what all happened because I don’t know who may or may not be reading this. I guess I was sexually assaulted. I guess it’s iffy, a few counselors tell me it wasn’t an assault, at least not sexual, because there wasn’t any actual intercourse. You know what I say to that, to them, the naysayers? BULLSHIT. Maybe you hadda be there, but this is one time I trusted my feelings.

santas-coming

Somehow in that haze I got split up from Cathy, and I don’t know how in the hell I found my way back to our home in Detroit. Just lucky, I guess. I don’t know how, I felt torn apart and lost, and ended up at our parish church. This is the church I had grown up in, went to all those masses in, recited the Apostle’s Creed. I don’t know if they still do, but back then the priests lived right next to the church, in a rectory. It must have been the wee hours of the morning and I can’t imagine what my parents were thinking, but instead of going home, I went to church, parked, and walked up to the rectory door. I knocked, and rang the door bell, and banged with my fist and yelled, but no one came. I’m sure, if you’re with me as my wiser self, you can think of many reasons why that door wasn’t answered–logical, helpful reasons. But all I could feel at the time was that my church and God had turned their backs on me, that I was ruined. I didn’t cry, and still haven’t shed a tear about what happened all those years ago. It took me a long time to tell anyone, because of shame, and–well, the believability factor. There you have it. My answer to prompt #2.

That’s about all I have to say for today. Oh, that and I’m one of The Deplorables. Except I’m educated, I’m not racist nor xenophobic, and I’m certainly not a misogynist. But you can decide now whether or not that’ll keep you from reading any of my posts.

Peace out, friends…..stay thirsty. 😉 clark-griswold

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. 😉

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