letting go

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.

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

Is It Giving Up Or Letting Go?

 

1.¬†decide it’s okay to let go:¬†When I walked away from Maybury Farms, when I let that go, I breathed a huge sigh of relief. You have to know that whatever you are holding onto does not belong to you, living or inanimate. It is¬†not yours.¬†That makes it easier to let go.

2. don’t hold on so hard: ¬†I was holding on so hard to the farm that I couldn’t enjoy myself. I mostly had panic attacks, anxiety so bad that I had to take pills before each tour. I couldn’t even enjoy the children. How do you enjoy tours with 50 children each? I was overwhelmed, too low self-esteem and way little voice projection. If we hold on too hard, all we come away with are empty fists and tense shoulders.

3.¬†decide what you truly want:¬†I know I still want to give back to the community somehow, I just learned that this is not the way. Sometimes we fall many times before we find our way. I know I want animals; farm animals may not be them. I may walk dogs for exercise for a veterinarian or something. When we know what we want, it’s easier to let go of what we don’t want.

4.¬†don’t ask too many people for advice:¬†I only called one person when I was about to leave the farm, and that was my counselor. I called him twice and he didn’t get back to me in time. So I made the decision on my own. The problem with asking multiple people what they think is we often get multiple answers and it muddies up the water. Yuck. No one wants that. ūüôā

5.¬†don’t listen to what others say after you let go:¬†You’ll get all kinds of opinions after you make your decision to let go, but really—what do you care? All that matters is how you feel. Do you feel happy, relaxed, free? Then ignore them all.

6.¬†celebrate your freedom: ¬†You just¬†have¬†to do something to celebrate your new found freedom, even if it’s something as simple as going to the DQ. You. Are. Free. It’s not usually simple, and it’s not usually easy, so make a huge freakin’ deal out of this. ‚̧

Ciao, Bella. xx

What To Do With Lousy Self-Esteem

calvin and self esteemI’m sort of an expert at lousy self-esteem. I’ve carried this weight for at least twenty years and probably then some. So I know a thing or two about what to do with it.

But first; what is self-esteem, really? According to Merriam-Webster.com it means “¬†a confidence and satisfaction in oneself.”¬†

Synonyms for self-respect include: confidence, dignity, morale, self-respect, self-assurance, self-regard, self-satisfaction, worth, and self-content.

My favorite is worth. ūüôā I like it better than self-esteem. Self-worth. How much do you value yourself? How much are you worth? Your self. What’s it worth, really?

If you find yourself coming up short, try these steps:

1.¬†Sleep on it.¬†Most often, when we are feeling low about ourselves, we’re tired and drained. A good night’s sleep may help you feel better.

2.¬†Talk it through.¬†If you have a trusted friend to talk to, excellent. Talk it out. There’s nothing like bouncing off ideas. You tell your friend what sucks about you, he tells you what really stands out. Yin/yang. It’s the perfect balance. If you don’t have that kind of a friend, reason it through with yourself or write it out.

3. Go for a walk.¬†The best thoughts can come while you’re walking, and besides the exercise will lift your spirits. If you have a dog, bring him/her.

4.¬†Do something nice for yourself.¬†We’re taught to do nice and help others, but I want you to do something nice for yourself! Treat yourself to a movie, buy yourself a book, or some jewelry, whatever would make you feel¬†happy.

5.¬†Find a way to be needed.¬†I just said to make yourself happy, but one of the best ways to feel happy is to be needed. It’s weird but true. As long as it’s not overwhelming for you, help somebody out.

I hope some of these steps helped you feel a little bit less lousy about yourself. These are just a few things you can try. I’m sure I haven’t exhausted them all. Sometimes I scan¬†Positively Positive, and it’s really hard to stay down after being their a while.

Ciao, bella. xx

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

The Fine Art of Letting Go

holding_on_and_letting_go_by_klcarr-d4mh2l9 In my last post I said I was going to write about the worry over my mom and my sister. I also said I was going to write it the next day. Now you know not to trust anything I say. ūüėČ

But seriously, I went to an amazing meeting this morning. And it wasn’t just because it was called the Sunday morning Amazing Grace Al-Anon meeting, either. We read from today’s reading in¬†Hope for Today, and what I¬†heard¬†most of all was about letting go.

Boy, do I need to let go. I’ve been ashamed to talk about this here, but since I talked with my sponsor and with my friend Sherrie, who guest posted here and writes here, at¬†Sherrie Theriault’s Blog, I feel better. My uber sponsor bolstered my spirits by speaking of a few small resentments she had rattling around in her head.

But what was most important was what Sherrie did. First, she made me laugh. Laughter is very important for the soul. 2. She let me know that I have a double standard, one for myself and one for everybody else, and I’m much harder an myself. 3. That resentments sometimes have layers, and if my sister just stopped drinking seven months ago, it’s not surprising I still have resentment left; and 4. That it’s okay, even¬†good¬†to let readers know other seasons of your soul. You need to know that there was a whole season I did not go to meetings. More importantly, you needed to hear from me¬†during¬†that time, that I was still here, what I was doing,¬†how¬†I was doing, so that you too could read and perhaps say, “Oh yes, that’s me.” or “Gosh, I don’t ever want to go there.”

It was great to see my sponsor. We hadn’t seen each other in a while, what with one thing and another, and we just held each other for the longest time. “Look at you!” she said. “Look at you!” said I. We made a time to get together on Wednesday.

Peace out.

What Happens When We Try To Change Too Quickly?

Good morning! It’s good to be back after such a long time away. I’ve been really busy with an extended birthday celebration, and then my Senior Choral production of The Bright Lights of Broadway.

Which brings me to our topic. What happens when we try to change things in our lives too quickly? In The Bright Lights of Broadway, we have cast members who are as young as me and as old as 96. Seven of the cast members this year are from an independent living facility. They are usually in the audience, but love it so much, this year they wanted to participate.

Like any other Broadway performance, we have a lot of costume changes in “Bright Lights.” For me specifically, there are three I have to pay attention to, and I miss some of the “all choir” songs because of it, which sort of bums me out, especially Ascotte Gavotte, which is from the musical My Fair Lady.

Anyway, the costume changes can get a little hairy even on good days. Joanne (from Independence Village), who is one of the plates in Be Our Guest, like me, and also one of the dancers in Wash That Man, also like me, got a little confused during our third performance and came out all dressed for¬†Wash That Man¬†when it was time for¬†Be our Guest.¬†So, she had on capri pants and a t-shirt, keds… And Gladys and I were wearing our black pants, white long-sleeved dress shirts, red vests, red bow ties, and hefting our plates on our backs. Not that the plates are heavy, just bulky and cumbersome. ūüėČ

That performance we went out with two plates instead of three, and it was just fine.

I think it can safely be said in life it happens often enough, when we try to rush change, we inevitably end up with something far different from what we expected, or we end up in a confused muddle.

Fortunately, we are usually more in control of our change than costume changes in between scene set-ups. We have time to plan, to think, to take a breath. We have time to pray, to tuck into our Higher Power for some much needed help.

I pray you are all well. Change just happens gradually sometimes, and we can move it along with help from God.

Peace out.

 

Seriously, Sometimes You Gotta Laugh

When people are laughing, they’re generally not killing each other. ~Alan Alda

I am thankful for laughter, except when milk comes out of my nose. ~Woody Allen

Here’s the thing. I’m a perfectionist. I never would have thought of myself that way before yesterday. But when I came home from the Saturday meeting, and Mom wanted to watch a movie on Lifetime with me while I really¬†needed¬†to post to this blog, I almost cried. About a post to a blog! What would I do if I got sick? Post from my sickbed?

Seriously. Sometimes you gotta laugh.

At the meeting yesterday, we talked more about detachment, because two of the women at the meeting know my sister and love her too. They understand all about detachment from the perspective not only of Al-Anoners but as alcoholics. As they shared, these beautiful women, they laughed. They shared memories from their own drinking days, and looking back on it, they laughed at the insanity of it. Everyone else laughed with them.

Finally, through my tears after just sharing my own worries, I laughed too.

Because sometimes you gotta laugh.

Seriously.

Peace out

.

Get Off The Train!

Learn to detach…Don’t cling to things, because everything is impermanent… But detachment doesn’t mean you don’t let the experience penetrate you. On the contrary, you let it penetrate fully. That’s how you are able to leave it… Take any emotion–love for a woman, or grief for a loved one, or what I’m going through, fear and pain from a deadly illness. If you hold back on the emotions–if you don’t allow yourself to go all the way through them–you can never get to being detached, you’re too busy being afraid. You’re afraid of the pain, you’re afraid of the grief. You’re afraid of the vulnerability that love entails. But by throwing yourself into these emotions, by allowing yourself to dive in, all the way, over your head even, you experience them fully and completely. You know what pain is. You know what love is. You know what grief is. And only then can you say, ‘All right. I have experienced that emotion. I recognize that emotion. Now I need to detach from that emotion for a moment.~ Mitch Albom, Tuesdays with Morrie

Give up the feeling of responsibility, let go your hold, resign the care of your destiny to higher powers, be genuinely indifferent as to what becomes of it all and you will find not only that you gain a perfect inward relief, but often also, in addition, the particular goods you sincerely thought you were renouncing.~ William James

Confession: I have felt shrouded in a heavy cloak of despair since Friday, or maybe even before. Walking is difficult, because it’s so heavy. I’ve contemplated taking my very life. ūüė¶

This morning I saw my therapist, because I realize that is not an option, and I needed her help figuring this out. Heather is wise and, although younger than I in chronological years, she has an old soul. She listened to me spill everything that had been happening, all that had gone on in the past while.

“Chris,” she observed, “You have detached somewhat from your sister but not all the way. It’s good you are saying no to her, but you are still carrying her¬†and¬†the worry of your mother around. It’s like you and your sister are on the same train. Even though you’ve moved about five cars down from her, giving you some breathing space, you are¬†still on the train.”

That was eye-opening. That means that if my sister, on her self-destructive path right now, should crash . . . I’ll get hit right along with her. I’ll fall right off the tracks.

I AM GETTING OFF THE TRAIN. I love you, my sweet. I carry you in my heart always . . . but I will not go down with you.

Peace out.


Withdrawal

Withdrawal sucks. No two . . . okay, well maybe two words about it.

It’s been over 24 hours since I checked my blog stats. Now, before you start snorting Pepsi out your nose and all over your computer screen, please realize this is a very big deal for me. In the not-too-distant past, I’ve been known to check my stats anywhere from 1-8 times a day, to see how many likes I’ve been getting, what posts are most read, etc.

Even now, my fingers ache oh-so-bad to just click over and see how things are going.

Knowing where this comes from doesn’t make it any easier. Who do you know that had a fairy tale childhood, with a happily ever after ending?¬†KNOWING¬†is useless. I deal with it, I’ve forgiven it, let it go, “over with, done with, gone” . . .

Then stuff like this crops up, like a weed among the flowers, or . . . better yet, a flower that suddenly sprouts up through a crack in the sidewalk. Ever see one of those? I have. They are little miracles. They remind me that I’m not quite finished, and maybe I never will be.

But you know what? It’s okay. I’ve got plenty of time. Acceptance will carry me through for now.

It’s just okay.

Peace out.

My God Box

I have a God Box.

In it I put things like…peace of mind, acceptance, courage, certain weird prayers.

Today I finally put my sister in the God box and I closed it.

I generally don’t revisit the God box unless a prayer has been answered, and then I open it to write a thank you to God.

Tomorrow is court date.

We leave at 12:00, have to be there at 1:30 p.m.

Do you have a God Box? What kinds of things do you add to your box? Is it hard for you to leave it closed?

Peace out.

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