Are You a Mono- or Multitasker?

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courtesy of Cathy Thorne Everyday Comics

I have a confession to make. I’ve never been a good multitasker. I envied my friends who could, especially if they had kids or other distractions. I mean, I even have trouble listening to the radio and driving at once. Usually, I drive in complete silence, at least within my control. Rain lends itself to the patter on the window, the wipers going back and forth, not to mention thunder. I love a good storm, but only from the inside looking out. The only inside sound I will (need to) put up with for a while is Stella, my VZ Navigator. After getting lost going to familiar places, she became my new best friend.

If I do get distracted from the moment, it’s usually my ADD or OCD kicking in. When I’m reading, my absolute favorite activity, I do get distracted because I have this obsession with not stopping until I was at a page which had a period, or, better yet, a complete end to the chapter. I have suspicions about ending or beginning a chapter on 50, 100, 150, you the idea. Nothing bad would happen if I didn’t, except I would get so annoyed. If I did happen to land on those “lucky” pages, I looked for something good to happen to people I care about, or even myself. My ADD will cause me to want to look through FB, then – oh – I wanted to look up this thing before I for… – what was I just thinking? 🙂

I’m not perfect at it, for certain, but I try to monotask as much as I can. When I’m writing, even though I hate it, I will do it offline, or set a distraction-free mode on my writing software. Or, when I really want to be mindful, I’ll handwrite on a notebook and type the words in later.

We live in a world that has evolved at an alarming rate in technology. I keep waiting for hovercars to come on the horizon. But how many people do you notice answering texts even in the company of others? Rude. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love some tech things, like the new Spire. It’s just a little thing, I can clip it to the pocket of the jeans I’m wearing, or clip it to my bra say if I were wearing a dress. It recognizes the stress in my body and helps me with your breathing until I’m a bit more settled. Then, I can take note of the times my heart rate increases or my breath is unsteady and make a plan to cope ahead for those occasions.

So, yeah. I’m mostly immersed in one activity at a time. If I’m writing, I’m writing, which is why I probably get so irritable when interrupted. If I’m watching a movie, I easily lose the plot if I’m not focused. When I walk, I notice things around me, marveling at how beautiful it all is, but mostly stay focused on my steps to keep going, like a drill sergeant – “left, left, left, right, left.” 😀

What about you? Do you need to focus on one thing? How does that make you feel? Or, can you multi-task, and again – how does it make you feel? For both mono- and multitaskers, do you feel calm or frenzied much of the time?

Peace

Chris xo

 

 

Desperation, Tears, Laughter, Hope

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This is the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. I swear on my beloved dog Lucy’s grave in the backyard.

Tuesday, my shrink’s nurse notified me that she had called ahead to (hospital), explaining the situation, that I needed to be taken off all the psych meds I was currently on. Then I would be moved to (psych hospital) to start fresh, a clean slate, to see what would work to make me happier.

But let me backtrack just a little. My family physician promised me that he would basically look into every nook and cranny until I was doing better, happier.

When I get to the hospital, I was told to go through the ED. I registered, hugged my mom goodbye, and waited to be called back. But, instead of sending me onto a floor or into a room, they did an x-ray of my lungs. I’m grateful, because they found fluid on the left lung, an indication of possible pneumonia. They confirmed it, I was admitted to a room, and spent three days there on an IV for dehydration, also for antibiotics.

While I was there, a psych tech came into the room, informed me she had spoken with my shrink. She then told me they can’t take me off my meds there. Neither could any psych hospital. They could tweak the meds, sure, something that has been happening to me since I first started taking psychotropic meds in 1993. Did that help? Hmmm. Don’t think so, because if they had, I would be a much more happy and productive person than I am today. And yes, I got emotional and sort of raised my voice to the tech, who wasn’t responsible for the hospital’s policy. I’m actually angry at my shrink and my primary care physician for giving me hope, then snatching it away – like Snoopy with Linus’s blanket. I may be on the meds for the rest of my life, and deal with these severe side effects (cognitive issues), but I can practice

Radical Acceptance which means completely and totally accepting something from the depths of your soul, with your heart and your mind. You stop fighting reality. When you stop fighting  you suffer less. That means you don’t feel hot anger in your stomach whenever you see the person who got the promotion you deserved and you don’t seethe with resentment when you see your best friend who is now dating your boyfriend. You accept  what is, learn and go forward.

So I was sent home yesterday, still somewhat sick with pneumonia. The doctor gave me antibiotics and raised the mg on my Lisinopril since my blood pressure was so high at the hospital. At one point, it was 200 over 100, and when I looked at it, I was afraid I might have a stroke! I have a hospital follow-up appt with my PC physician on Tuesday. Mom is coming, since she was there the day I told him my voice had been hoarse for the last 4 weeks, that I had trouble swallowing and shortness of breath.

But I’m alive, and that’s the most important thing. My emotions are still all over the place. When I got home, knowing Pookie wouldn’t be there to greet me when I opened the door, something that was building inside me came out in a rush, and I sobbed while Mom put her arm around me. Then, later, I was laughing so hard at a rom/com that I surprised myself!

Life. What a mysterious, sometimes tricky, but always worthwhile endeavor. 🙂

Peace,

Chris

How Are You Taking Care of Yourself?

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

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

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

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

adjective

1.

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

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

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

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

Yesterday

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ciao, Bella.Paper Fortune Teller

Worrying

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W (1)“Don’t worry about the world coming to an end today. It is already tomorrow in Australia.” –Charles Schulz

Charles Schulz is great. My dad was a cop, and he had a cop friend who was friend who was friends with Schulz, so for Halloween, instead of passing out candy, my older brother and I would pass out old comic books with the covers torn off. Of course, we always sat around and read them first. It was a sheer blast. I related to both Charlie Brown (with all his worrying) and Linus (with his security blanket–I had one until I was like six lol).

Despite what my mom says about worry being like a rocking chair and therefore useless, I’m a worrier. From the time I wake up until the time I go to sleep I’m worried about something. And truthfully, if I don’t have something real to worry about, I imagine a “what if” scenario, because I guess I’m just a worry junkie. Now that’s just sick, right? Because who would want to be worrying all the time? Because let’s face it. Too much worry leads to anxiety, and nobody likes anxiety, not even me.

Worry works like this. Imagine you’re walking along a cliff. Your mind might think, “I might fall.” That’s helpful, because it keeps you careful, a thought like that. But, if you’re hiking along the same cliff and your anxiety is high, instead of thinking “I might fall,” you might think “I will fall.” We experience the thought as reality, almost inevitability.

There are ways to reduce worry thoughts, like letting go of control, and staying in the present moment.
So sorry again that this is so late. You only have to put up with me a few more days!
Ciao, Bella.
98worrying99problems

Neutralizers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Just Relax

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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. 😀 We should all be so lucky.

dog

Five Ways To Harness Holiday Stress!

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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. 😉

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.

In The Moment

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I think the single most difficult thing for me to learn in Al-Anon – and some days it’s something I only strive for – is to live life in the moment. It’s so much easier to fall into the pitfalls of yesterday or tomorrow.

Think about it. We can get to yesterday and tomorrow with only a daydream or two. We can get to yesterday’s mistakes and tomorrow’s worries in the time it takes to drive from work to home, something we do on autopilot. Those kind of drives leave a lot of room for daydreams about yesterdays and tomorrows.

But try this, just once. Turn off your radio and your cell phone. Really pay attention to what’s happening on the road in front of you. Drive like you’re taking the test to get your first license. Feel the steering wheel underneath your hands. Hear the sounds around you; really listen. See everything, take it all in. We are only alive for this one moment. We don’t any of us know what might happen from one moment to the next.

The members of Al-Anon I admire most are the ones who really live out the slogan: One Day At A Time. They know that they can only solve one problem at a time, and the other problems will still be there waiting. 😉 They also know that nothing lasts forever, just like each day has a beginning and an end. Sadness doesn’t last forever, nor happiness.

They make their way, in the moment, eyes wide open.

What ways are you living in the moment?

Peace out.

Positive Limits For Ourselves

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Image

As someone who has teetered on either the manic or depressive side of bipolar, I’ve never been very good with limits. I’m not good at saying no to other people, let alone myself. I’ve only recently discovered, with the help of my sister and my sponsor, that no all by itself is all that’s needed. No long, drawn-out explanations about why I can’t do this or that . . . just – no. 

So – in keeping with the theme of taking care of ourselves, I’m still in a bit of a funk and awaiting lab results on Monday that may tell me why – I’m setting some limits. They are subject to change, because I’m new at this, and it’s okay to change our minds while we’re learning.

My therapist taught me to think of all of my “stuff” as one big file cabinet. So, for instance, I’m in the “blog post” file drawer right now. All the other drawers are closed and locked. This is all I’m focused on. That’s one way I limit myself. It’s also known as mindfulness. I learned this technique when I spent two years in a Dialectical Behavioral Therapy group. I could spend a whole blog post on mindfulness; we won’t go there right now. 😉

There are seven days in the week. I am committed to post in my blog on six days right now. So far I haven’t made it all six days. That’s a work in progress. I won’t post on Sunday. Sunday is a worship and decompression day for me. Another limit.

Some people lift us up and some people – well . . . they don’t. Whether their intentions are well-meaning or not, I can’t say. I only know that my hope is to surround myself with people who lift my spirits and tell me the truth in a way that doesn’t blow me out of the water. 😛 Limits. A very good thing.

I am reading and reviewing books for a blog, the first to appear on the 20th at Readers Realm. I love to read, and I love to review, but I also need to let myself rest when I need to.

Getting at least 7-8 hours of sleep (which hasn’t happened at all lately because I’m ill), remembering to eat something, keeping hydrated, petting Lucy and staying connected with people on a regular basis are all crucial.

Attending at least 3-4 Al-Anon meetings is my most important of all issues on here. Without Al-Anon, sometimes I think I wouldn’t even be here. 

What are your limits? What are your no’s in life? How will you take care of yourself this weekend? 

Peace out.