taking care of ourselves

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.

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

 

Is It Giving Up Or Letting Go?

 

1decide 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. 🙂

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. 🙂 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

Distraction, distraction everywhere and not a point to land on.

bipolar-bear-meme-6014The good news is I’m sleeping better. Five and a half hours of sleep last night.

Bad news is I’m still flitting from thing to thing to thing like a bird in a cage who can’t decide on a perch to settle. As I’m writing this post, I am surrounded on the table by origami papers (for the 1,001 paper cranes, of which I have yet to make one), a jigsaw puzzle, and a book on anxiety. I’m reading all at the same time (picking whichever book fits my fancy at the moment): The Husband’s SecretWhen Panic AttacksThe Mayo Clinic Guide to Stress-Free Living, and The Most Beautiful Girl (for Netgalley). What are you reading?

I have another appt with my psychiatrist at 3:15 tomorrow afternoon. I made an appointment with a therapist (it’s been soooo long since I really got to talk to someone professional) for Wednesday at 12:45. Oh. Oh look, shiny! (I’m joking because otherwise I’d be crying.)

That’s all she wrote. Wish me luck.m

Have a safe and happy Monday. Peace out. xo

The Wisdom To Know The Difference

detach I went to a meeting this morning. I was so grateful there was an Al-Anon meeting on Christmas Eve morning that I could attend. The topic around the meeting was taking care of ourselves, but I heard a smattering of frustration and fear on the topic of holidays in general, my own included. I talked about how I was trying to remember the Three C’s: I didn’t cause it, can’t control it, and can’t cure it . . . and the Three M’s to avoid for myself: manipulation, martyrdom, and mothering.

It all comes down to the wisdom of knowing the difference between things I can change and things I can’t. It should be such a simple thing. All I can change is myself or things about myself. Period. Can’t change circumstances or other people.

Circumstances will be different for me this Christmas Eve with my family. I can’t control the outcome. I can’t control whether or not people have a good time, or are upset about something. I can control my own responses and reactions. That’s about it. There’s not a lot I can do otherwise.

When I think of the word detachment it helps. If I’m too enmeshed with someone or something, I can’t possibly back off enough to even BREATHE, let alone know the difference.

Have a great day today. Whatever you do, take care of yourself. Even if you just need to go to a quiet corner and meditate, do that.

Peace out.

Know When To Say No

saying-no This is the perfect time of year, I’ve noticed, to practice saying “no.”  There are invitations to attend parties, little get-togethers, even old friends call at this time of year and it’s normal want to, or even feel obligated to say yes to everything.

But, there is only so much time, and only so much of us to go around. Be selective and trust that your friends will be understanding if you can’t attend each and every party this year. Or, make a decision to attend for a very limited time, say one-half hour. If you are attending with someone else, have a secret password, like “eggnog,” or “wrapping paper.” Your +1 will know that when you say that password, it’s time to go.

Practice saying no in the mirror. Try it out. All the different ways that are shown in this picture, because you’ll probably be asked more than once, especially if someone is offering you, say, a piece of pie at dessert, or seconds for dinner. “Are you sure you won’t have some more?” “No.” “Just a teeny bit?” “No thanks, not now.” Be firm. Sit up straight and look the person in the eye. 😉 We can do this!

It’s not selfish to set up limitations and boundaries. It’s self-preservation. It keeps us healthy, wealthy and wise. 😀

Are you still here? I thought you were practicing saying no! 😉

Peace out.

Filling My Cup

Is this not a beautiful picture? I couldn’t resist it when I saw it. If I could get my heart started every morning on a cup full of sparkles instead of caffeine, I’d be all over it. 🙂 That is SO pretty to me.

It made me think about what I need to fill myself with every day. Like, how does what I read, watch on TV, and look at on the internet affect me? How does who I talk to on the phone or in person affect my mood? How does what I write about or not write about make me feel? If I don’t spend time in knitting do I feel that loss of my center?

What about meetings? Sometimes who I sit with at a meeting affects my ability to share more . . . not freely, necessarily, but – without stumbling over my words? I get very nervous, and if I don’t  know at least half the people at the table pretty well I get very skittish, like a cat.

But wait–let me back up a second here. My super sponsor and I were talking about books and what we read, and she said that if she reads horror, like Stephen King and stuff like that, it affects her too much in a negative way. Now, I can read Stephen King-like stuff all the livelong day and it does not put me in a negative mood. But let me read some self-help book that tells me I’m doing something wrong — and I’m in a pissy mood the rest of the day.

So the only self-help I need in my life at this point is Al-Anon related material. That’s what I can fill my cup with.

I used to be able to watch the different Law and Order spin-offs all the time. Now I can only watch the main one and Criminal Intent (okay, okay, because I have a thing for Vincent D’Onofrio, happy now? :P) He’s married. So I have to admire from afar. I still watch The Waltons on The Hallmark Channel, and I once watched a whole 24-hour marathon of The Mary Tyler Moore Show. If you remember that, I’m your friend for life. 😉 Too much violence isn’t a good thing to fill my cup up with. Humor is great. 

My mom thinks I’m too open on here, and on FB. Psh. It’s my blog. And —okay, I’ll be more careful on FB. I don’t exactly have to say where I’m going, or where I am. I still think she worries too much. I guess that’s what Moms do. It’s one of the many ways they offer their love up.

And I’m babbling. What positive ways do you have to fill your cup on a daily basis?

Peace out.

Noticed Something Really Sad About My Readers

Okay, I admit I’m not the smartest person who ever lived, but I’m not the most stupid either. I know the ways of the world, and I’m kinda hypersensitive.

I’ve been checking my views over the last few days, and you know what’s weird?

They skyrocketed (well, went to 40 views on my busiest day, which for me is a lot) when I talked about my sister’s arrest, and continued to be fairly steady until yesterday.

Yesterday I talked about me again, and good ol’ Al-Anon, and God, and how all that’s helping me. And my views dipped all the way down to eight.

Ouch.

If you want to hear all the sad news about my sister, if you think that’s what this blog is all about, I’m really sorry. This blog is about MY recovery. I like to please just as much still, but I’m trying really hard to heed the words of my sponsor: “You have to take care of yourself first.”

God must be thoroughly upset with me (or want me to write my novel – lol) because it’s pouring rain! If it stops raining enough, I will indeed keep my pinky promise and get those pics of Tweetybird and upload them. Geeze, I don’t even know what to categorize this one. Rant, I guess. 😦

What are you doing today to take care of YOURself? 😉

Peace out.

Creativity muscles: A-Z blog challenge

Tomorrow starts the A-Z blog challenge. As of right now, there are 1,498 people signed up, which sounds really exciting to me! I haven’t written in my blog for over two weeks, so looking forward to a daily ritual.

My theme will be something I talk about as part of my blog on a regular basis, “Taking Care of Ourselves,” and I only hope and pray I can make it interesting enough for anyone who reads. 🙂

It took me a while to get to that theme. I was going to do something entirely different but chickened out at the last minute. 😛

So, who’s with me? Are we all excited?

Positive Limits For Ourselves

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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.

 

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