Monday, October 14, 2019

The Let-Down Effect and Expansion

Last week, I experienced another adrenaline rush followed by what I learned is called The Let-Down Effect. On my way home from an iRest Yoga Nidra meditation held in the building that was previously the fire station, I encountered a pole extending across the side-walk while I was riding my mobility scooter... didn't see it until it was in front of my face... barely stopped in time. Two days later, I decided to call the fire department to report the hazard as it had been their building. I was told the new owner would be contacted.

As soon as I hung up from this call, my heart began racing and fireworks of shooting spasm-like pain started in my lower back and shot all the way up to my neck. BREATHE. BREATHE. You know what this is now. It's adrenaline letdown. It will pass. BREATHE. At least this time, I didn't get the exhaustion followed by getting sick.

Once it subsided, I Googled "remedies for adrenaline letdown" and found this article. (Click on the link to read more.) The Let-down Effect.

"It's long been known that stress can lead to illness but only recently has evidence emerged that some people tend to get sick after a pressure-packed period has ended." "During acute stress, the body releases key hormones – including glucocorticoids (like cortisol), catecholamines (like norepinephrine) and adrenaline – to prepare itself to fight or flee from danger and to trigger the immune system to step up certain types of surveillance. In the process, "glucocorticoids can reactivate latent viral infections such as herpes simplex 1 [which causes cold sores] and Epstein-Barr virus [which can trigger fatigue, fever, sore throat and swollen glands], for which symptoms are only obvious after a few days,"...

The Let-Down Effect explains why I have gotten sick after stressful situations occur!

Since my last post about 'parts,' my quest brought more results to add to my collection.

I had Barbara Ann Brennan's two books: Hands of Light and Light Emerging on my bookshelf. They caught my attention when I was looking for the next thing to read while peddling on my recumbent bike (30 minutes at a time). For me, reading and digesting what I read can be miles apart, but even if I get just one thing out of it, that one thing is more than I had before. Thirty minutes of reading this material is all I can handle at one time. I finished Hands of Light and opened Light Emerging.

Meanwhile, I had purchased the book Transforming Anxiety: The HeartMath Solution for Overcoming Fear and Worry and Creating Serenity. HeartMath was one of many therapies suggested in the book The Body Keeps The Score, and I wanted to learn more about what this was. In addition to a book I read (reeeed) while cycling, I always keep a book to read by my bed. (The rest of the time, I read stuff on the internet.)

"HeartMath technology is an innovative approach to improving emotional wellbeing. Learn to change your heart rhythm pattern to create physiological coherence; a scientifically measurable state characterized by increased order and harmony in our mind, emotions, and body." You can read more on heartmath.com.

I'm still reading the book. So far, I've learned about something called 'overcare' (caring too much) which results in anxiety. There are exercises and meditations to do to become AWARE of thoughts, feelings, and the stories you tell yourself about your experiences. Trauma often affects heart rhythms, and HeartMath relates to becoming aware of your heart rhythm and 'regulating' it consciously through meditation. I must have over a dozen recorded meditations so far... and can't decide which one to listen to. Sigh...

Meanwhile, someone I knew from past involvement in a writer's group contacted me about iRest Yoga Nidra. He was doing a series of four classes in my town and thought I'd be interested. YES. Especially when I learned it was a method of trauma therapy. He also provided me with a link for a four-week clinical study on iRest Yoga Nidra. I applied and was accepted into a program for aging adults. I couldn't wait to find out how to alleviate my anxiety about getting older... getting older with chronic pain. There are four videos to watch, a study guide to download, and homework to do.

In iRest, one must identify feelings and emotions AND THEIR OPPOSITES. Decide on your heartfelt desire (????), set an intention (????), and find your inner resource (????). In meditation, you go back and forth between the feelings and emotions you came up with. The goal is to sense where in the body you feel them and cease reacting to any of them... to make it all neutral. Even be OK with PAIN. We get to choose two sets of opposites in each category.


Information overload... frustration... I must figure this all out... and my brain tells me, "I feel so stupid," because I can't make the connections I'm supposed to in all of this... then I remember that this is the point of the course... to learn HOW... and now I have a negative emotion I can use in this exercise. Feeling stupid.

I'm used to doing things like this in a group where I can hear what everyone else is doing and get ideas. I could take a break and MEDITATE... and listen to what comes up... but I'm too wired to do that... the whole point of meditation is to SLOW DOWN.

In addition to Jay Shetty (found him on Facebook), who used to be a Buddhist Monk, in this iRest program, I now meet Michael Sapiro, PsyD, who also used to be a Buddhist Monk. I remembered how years ago, after meeting a woman who was studying material (can't remember exactly what) with a group who met at an Eastern Medicine doctor's house.

Meanwhile, one of the pages or friends I have on Facebook posted something by Michael Cupo. Michael wrote It's Monday in Your Mind: You Are Not Your Thoughts. I read some of the pages from Look inside on Amazon and also explored his website. He was teaching the same concept.

And meanwhile, I came across posts from Byron Katie: A Mind At Home With Yourself. I read some Look inside pages from her book on Amazon and explored her website. She was teaching this concept, too.

In 2008, I totaled my GMC Sonoma. When the truck came to rest in the ravine, everything in it came flying at me. I feel like all this information is flying at me in the same way. But the message began to get clear. One must develop the ability to observe all they experience without reacting to any of it... no matter how good it is or horrible.

Can someone like me... who can be an emotional rollercoaster... from excitement to despair and back up again... learn how to do this? Do I want to? I was just getting the gist of raising my vibration by focusing on pleasure with all of my senses... and pushing out everything else. But according to all this other material, doing so causes RESISTANCE. And resistance contributes to anxiety. Even Teal Swan teaches this.

It feels like a vicious circle. I have anxiety just thinking about the process. All the feelings and emotions have minds of their own. There are DOZENS of them. Each lives in their own little compartment. They don't even know how to be friends. All I feel is the result of resisting them when more than one decides to surface and declare war on my field (my physical body)... which contributes to anxiety. But in order to conquer the anxiety, I must be able to identify and feel where in my body each of the feelings and emotions reside.

Which comes first? The chicken or the egg?

I'm waiting for all this information to CLICK. Assimilation. It did for all the teachers who are now teaching this stuff. I know because I read their bios. Each and every one of them started out with one situation or another that resulted in trauma, anxiety, and/or depression. They found a program that helped them and are now teaching. Some have expanded the program they found into one of their own.

Maybe it is like a murder mystery... and requires an investigation... after all... I did attempt to murder my other 'parts' (read the previous blog post) when I suppressed them.

I feel like I am being followed... by a stalker... by many stalkers... parts of myself I abandoned a long time ago. Maybe I feel threatened because I have been stalked by a human stalker in the past and my brain is mixing them up.

Maybe I resist studying... and if I change the task to doing an investigation, I will enjoy it more.

I want to feel safe inside my body. I don't remember when I decided I wasn't. I want the courage to face the other parts of me that threaten my peace of mind. Perhaps these other parts have the answers I seek... I'm sure they do... but there are so MANY other parts! And I haven't learned how to listen to only one at a time... yet...

I'm good at staying busy and distracting myself... and many others do the same. We are human BEings. But very few people want to just BE. Mmmmmm. Perhaps that bee that hovered around me (I wrote a post about it) had this message for me, too. BE.

Sunday, October 6, 2019

Parts: Internal Family Systems

The journey of self-discovery continues after I read the book: The Body Keeps the Score by Bessel Van Der Kolk, M.D. This book was recommended to me by Frankie Perez of Frankie Perez's Mindgym after I commented on one of his Facebook posts regarding trauma recovery. Bessel includes information about many different therapies... including IFS... Internal Family Systems... the PARTS of us that as a whole makes us human.

As a seeker, I feel there is still much more to learn about myself and how my mind works. In understanding more about myself, I can understand more about other people, including family, which opens up my world as I realize their behaviors are/were never about me. As a seeker, intense curiosity rules. I am forever surprised at how much more there is to learn.

What if?

What if I have the potential to discover much more than what I already know? Can I stop comparing myself to others? If I could go back in time, would I have continued my formal education? Would getting a masters and doctorate degrees have made a difference? Would I still feel intimidated by people who have "Dr." in front of their name?

I often felt 'split' depending on who I was with and what was going on in my life. I've felt the bliss of being in love with either a person, a cat, an idea, a song, a book, a piece of art, and more. I've also felt the depth of despair and hopelessness... when I completely disassociated. Among other things, I've come to know I am an introvert with some extravert characteristics. I've come to know my 5-year-old still lives inside of me... both the happy girl and the frightened one.

When I read about humans being made up of PARTS, I sighed with relief. While I like the idea of being a mystery, I feel much more comfortable when I understand what is going on.

Yes, I know about arms, legs, eyes, ears, and all the internal organs as parts. I learned about the different parts of the brain. I fell in love with the term "Amygdala Hijack." The amygdala stores the emotions, and when you feel out of control, it is the amygdala that hijacks you, so you can't think clearly.

I've been learning about how various parts of the brain store different parts of memories. In the case of severe trauma, the reason we can't remember exactly what happened is the memory splits up into different parts of the brain. With the right types of therapies (vs. drugs), the fragmented parts become integrated, and a coherent story begins to form. Then with further steps, the brain can be trained that what happened took place in the past vs. memory hijacking you back into the past resulting in symptoms such as a racing heart, panic, anxiety, and more.

With each growing stage of my life: infant, toddler, grade-schooler, middle-schooler, teenager, high schooler, adult, and every role I've played, I often felt like I was different people. Hormones got their way with me as well as depressive episodes.

Parts? Yes, parts. "The mind is a mosaic. We all have parts." Now my intense curiosity leads me to investigate these parts and become familiar with them. "The mind is made up of relatively discrete subpersonalities, each with its own viewpoint and qualities." "Parts are not just feelings but distinct ways of being, with their own beliefs, agendas, and roles in the overall ecology of our lives." "Each split-off part holds different memories, beliefs, and physical sensations."

Parts include the manager, the firefighter, and the exiles.

Who is the manager? What characteristics does she have? The manager's job is to "prevent humiliation and abandonment and to keep her organized and safe." The manager part was (and still is) competent, held responsible positions, and produces quality work... all while doing an outstanding job at sending all the other parts into exile. The manager told me to grin and bear it because no one wanted to hear about my pain. If I did talk about it and felt the discomfort of the listener, there was embarrassment and shame as well as feeling invisible. The parts I sent into exile were, indeed, invisible... until an amygdala hijack brought them out from hiding.

But it wasn't just me. "It emerged that, as children, nearly all of them were supposed to be seen and not heard--safety meant keeping their needs under wraps."

Who are the exiles? "Exiles are the toxic waste dump of the system. Because they hold the memories, sensations, beliefs, and emotions associated with trauma, it is hazardous to release them." "When exiles overwhelm managers, they take us over--we are nothing but that rejected, weak, unloved, and abandoned child."

I love reading the description that shines a light on all of the unidentified suppressed confusion in my mind and emotions.

Are there any other exiles beside the happy child and the frightened one? How can I retrieve the happy child? Why did I exile her? How can I retrieve more happy memories and FEEL the happiness of those experiences? I'm sure in reality there were many happy moments, yet in one of many cognitive distortions, I discounted the positive and dwelled on the few negative experiences.

Why did I make that decision? Why does ONE demeaning statement take control of your entire life? Why does witnessing ONE act of violence do the same thing? Who is the critic I also sent into exile who is quick to judge both herself and others... and then get overwhelmed by guilt when she realizes she was thinking a critical thought?

Who is the firefighter? What does she do when a threat appears? How does she react? Is she really putting out the fire or building a tomb?

Who is my true Self: the Self that is confident, curious, and calm? The one writing this post? How do I make friends with the 5-year-old, the 9-year old, the 13-year-old, and the 17-year-old who demand attention when I want to read yet another book about recovering from past traumatic experiences that are programmed into my nervous system and feels like dead weight keeping me from going where I want to go?

Where, exactly, DO I want to go? Once I figure myself out, then what?

True Self knows the thrill of life is NOT always knowing where you are going... and take one day at a time. But... the 5, 9, 13, and 17-year-olds say...

WHAT ABOUT US?

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

Miracles


This morning when I was introducing my family to someone new (via photos) and telling her about the miracles in my family, I realized I was being reminded of additional possible miracles for myself, too.

When my brother, Jon, was born, doctors didn't expect him to live. And if he did live, they said he'd be a vegetable. Contrary to what they recommended (put him in an institution), my parents took him home after 30 days in the hospital. The large spinal fluid-filled sac at the base of his skull was removed along with part of his brain. He was supposedly a vegetable and blind. My mother figured out it was reflexes he lacked so he couldn't blink. She taught him how to blink. To make a really long story short, he lived to be 49 years old. He could laugh, play, and love even though there wasn't much he could do physically.

When I miraculously was able to walk again after five years of having two numb, heavy legs, I never imagined the possibility of becoming wheelchair dependent again. In efforts to support my weight with canes and a walker after jarring my lower spine which affected my legs, my arms (more so the right) from shoulder to fingertips became compromised. On top of all that, I developed difficulty swallowing... even water... and lost eight pounds in two months. As petite as I am, fortunately, I had excess belly fat to lose. Malnutrition weakened me further.

After many months of doing my best to maintain my independence, I decided it was time to reapply for CAS (Community Attendant Services) through Medicaid. It took a few months for all the paperwork to get processed. Relieved to finally have someone coming over every morning for companionship and to help me with laundry, cleaning, dishes, food prep, and run errands for me, I found myself telling her the miracle story about my brother.

After telling her that story (I am a self-declared storyteller), I began to tell another one. When my son was four, I went to a single parent event. The next person in line was another single mom with a precious four-year-old daughter with blond hair and huge blue eyes. While waiting in line, I learned the girl had a rare condition, and her mom was trying to get her on an organ transplant list, hoping for the transplant before the young girl died. I remember believing that Chantel would live despite what her doctors were predicting. Then I lost touch with them. I had moved out of the apartment complex about a year after meeting them. Matter of fact, I had moved quite a few times, including to Texas and back to California. But this story is about them, not me, so I will continue with the story.

Thirteen years went by. One day, I went to visit my older sister's house. There was something very familiar with the eighteen-year-old blond-haired blue-eyed girl who was hanging out with my nephew in her adorable pajamas, but I couldn’t place her. Then I heard her name.

“Chantel? Is your Mom Cheryl?” The answer was yes.

Chantel had indeed grown to be a very positive bubbly happy beautiful young woman!

About two years later, Chantel announced to my sister that she was pregnant. Then she held up a marriage certificate to prove that they had eloped two months before. They had gotten married in secret after my nephew turned 18. I don’t remember why they felt they had to elope.

Chantel’s team of doctors was not happy about Chantel being pregnant. Medically they didn’t even know how it was possible after all the surgeries she had endured over the years. They strongly prodded her to terminate the pregnancy – yes her doctors – as a pregnancy would most likely kill her. Chantel said no. I could see in her eyes that she believed everything would be OK, and she was willing to risk her life to try and have the baby.

Chantel carried her baby to term and gave birth to a beautiful healthy baby girl, without any of the predicted complications in December of 2004. Everyone celebrated the miracle. Two years later, Chantel became pregnant again. Her doctors, just like before, were apprehensive that the pregnancy could kill her. Chantel refused to terminate the pregnancy, took really good care of herself, and in September 2007, gave birth to another healthy baby girl. Chantel and her daughters are healthy and happy.

After I told both these stories... stating doctors are not God, I felt as if the words were meant to be spoken to myself. I felt inspired by telling my own inspirational story. Just like my brother could laugh, play, and love... despite his disabilities, I can, too. Maybe my condition will improve. Maybe it won't.

I now have two beautiful, amazing young attendants who love what they are doing... helping people... the aged and disabled... and caring for them. I'm glad they have a cheery person to take care of. No matter how much my body aches and how limited it is, I can still smile, laugh, love, listen... and tell stories.

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

New Release!!!


I am excited about my new book! The title is pretty much self-explanatory. Within a few days, the Look Inside feature will be activated on Amazon.

Book Description: Through many levels of spiritual and emotional growth, much time was spent in contemplation, reflection, observations, reflections, musings, and introspection of objects, wildlife, weather, pets, trees, flowers, clouds, and more. Words organized themselves into poetry and prose. Photography captured the moments.

Monday, June 24, 2019

Making Friends With The Storm

Image from Shutterstock

9 a.m. Lightning lit up the sky like fireworks. Thunder grumbled softly under its breath, gradually increasing in volume, ultimately to crack wide open at the top of its lungs, shattering the sound waves with its volume.

I put my hands over my ears and attempted to calm my racing heart.

Rain came, bashfully tiptoeing between the silence, gradually gaining the confidence to rain harder until at last, celebrating with a torrential downpour.

But… but... I planned an outing for this morning… at 10:30 a.m.!

Understanding the storm was beyond my control, (it is what it is), I managed to shift my perspective to appreciation. Storm, thank you for watering the earth and providing entertainment as you show off your potential with mastery. I shall sit here to observe every detail and appreciate your awesome wonder.

Could you please move on before my ride comes to pick me up?

I returned my focus to watching the grand show of lightning, rain, and now the wind which decided to join in and blow the rain sideward... from inside the safety of my apartment. I was grateful that I felt safe.

10:10 a.m. I am spellbound in a state of awe…
The storm responded to my appreciation and request, moving on to its next destination. The sky cleared, the rain stopped, and I am very aware weather has done this for me many times in the past… pausing, so I could get to and from my destination without getting wet.

Contemplating my increase in faith when it comes to weather, I began to wonder about my faith in healing the afflictions that had been storming in my body. What am I missing?

Perhaps I need to practice the level of appreciation for the storms in my body and observe them, too, with awe. Yes, I have been appreciating all the parts that still function, but I had not thought about appreciating the 'storms' -- places that don't feel good -- as well.

Storm, I’ve learned many lessons from people, experiences, nature, trees, cats, and squirrels… am I to learn lessons from you, too?

I observed all aspects of you without judgment, yet I judge what feels good or bad about my thoughts, my body’s afflictions, my emotions, my feelings, and what I am able to do or not do. Can I learn to just observe it all without judgment... just like I observed your beautiful storm?

Can I learn to let pain and discomfort be storms... and absence of pain and discomfort be sunshine… without judgment… and allow both to exist harmoniously… just like nature and weather?

Sunday, June 16, 2019

Spider Web

Copyright © 2019 Renee Alter


SPIDER WEB

Oh, what webs we weave.
This amazing spider’s web which I caught with my camera,
inspired a variety of thoughts and conclusions.

Even though its fine threads are white, 
the spider leaves space to 
allow both light and color to show through,
and if I try hard enough, I can find
some light and color in my circumstances.

Even though the threads look delicate,
the web is much stronger than it appears.
And even though it feels like 
pieces of my body are falling apart,
my body is much stronger than it feels.

Even though we may think 
each of us as a single thread,
we are all intricately connected 
by the physics of the Universe.
I used to think I was a single thread, 
but with effort and persistence,
I have been able to build a web of my own.

Even though the web appears 
to be woven unevenly,
much like my life, 
it is still a masterpiece of perfection.
I just have to accept all the fragments of nature
that also get caught in the web.

The uneven design of the web 
is mesmerizing,
much like the videos I’ve watched of the
neurological networks of our brain synapses
and the energetic pulses between our cells.
The web is not solid, and neither are we.

One negative thought can 
trigger another negative thought 
from my subconscious mind,
and like a spider’s web, 
is connected to many other 
similar thoughts which is
why I can feel so overwhelmed,
feeling like I have been 
caught in a spider’s web
about to be eaten alive by life.

Then again, the web can be 
seen as a safety net if I let go of 
all I am trying to grasp
and trust in the divine plan.

And maybe the purpose of a web 
is more than it appears.
Maybe the spider wanted 
to catch more than a meal
And built a web that would also catch
fragments of nature 
for the purpose of providing
beautiful decorations for its home.

Maybe spiders have personalities, too.

Copyright © 2019 Renee Alter

Note: a fellow Reiki practitioner I knew from the past read this and responded: Webs are also used for PROTECTION. Visualize it around you. In Huna, we symbolically use a web for same.

Sunday, June 9, 2019

Lessons from Occupational Therapy

To retrace my progress, with the new Medicare Advantage HMO plan I have, I learned I could get home health. REAL home health... which included physical and occupational therapy. GOOD QUALITY physical and occupational therapy.

I've been dealing with issues of pain in my right arm, wrist, and hand for over 30 years. With this last flareup of Spondylolisthesis, I aggravated it all by supporting my body weight on canes and my walker. After the fact, I found out it is not a good idea to use the canes at all or the walker as a wheelchair, but the damage was already done. I could no longer do even simple self-care tasks using my right hand/arm.

Occupational therapy would hopefully assist with troubleshooting movement challenges with my arm and teach me other living skills I needed to learn. I had four somewhat productive visits.

First, Brian informed me that my manual wheelchair could be lowered so my feet touch flat on the floor. All this time I've had it (got it from a donated equipment room at the local hospital), I had no idea. No wonder I didn't like it very much. Lowered, I can use my comfy seat cushion and backrest as well as pull myself along with my feet... and because the chair has brakes, it is less risky (less of a fall risk) to use the wheelchair at home vs. transferring on and off office chairs on wheels.

I told Brian where it hurts on my right shoulder when I lift my arm. He explained how the nerves connect, checked the alignment of my collar bone and other structure, and observed that my shoulder was out of alignment due to weak scapula muscles and possibly a rib dislocation. He gave me an exercise with a band for pulling back and strengthening these muscles.

On another visit, I told him when I raise my arms to reach for something, I get pain in my arm. He asked me to show him how I reach. I reach with my palms down. He told me to always reach up
higher than my elbows with my thumbs up. Palms down rotates the (right) shoulder in and pinches nerves. I don't know if my arm will get better, but at least I know how not to make it worse.

We also discussed during the four visits the many kitchen tasks I was having trouble doing and what adaptive equipment I could get to achieve these tasks. One major one is cutting things. Another was when my right arm hurts a lot, I needed to be able to do everything with one arm. Don't one-armed people have adaptive equipment they use?

I have ordered this cutting board because the posts will secure something round like a bowl for mixing, a jar for opening, or food to cut up, is off to the side, and the board also has (not shown in this image) spokes to put food on to hold it in place so you can cut it:

CLICK HERE TO VIEW OR BUY

Out of the different types of knives available, I chose this one. I won't have to rotate my hand to grip it nor will I have to push down from above.

CLICK HERE TO VIEW OR BUY

Note: Adaptive equipment is expensive because the manufacturers know people will pay more to have them. I balked at first, but then just ordered it all. I would really rather have someone who did all these tasks for me so I could save all my energy to do the exercises that will strengthen my body and do things I enjoy (like writing). Food prep, cooking, cleaning up after cooking, cleaning up the floor after cooking when I spill stuff, doing laundry, and cleaning, in general, have never been tasks I enjoy doing. Ask me to organize something, and I'll have some fun.

For more about how I adapted to trying to get the base on and off my Vitamix, go the previous blog post about Difficulty Swallowing.

An additional website Brian gave me (the one he looks for all his adaptive equipment on) is performancehealth.com.

And if I continue having trouble swallowing after 30 days on Proton Pump Inhibitors (PPIs), it may be a muscular issue. The GI doc had already told me this but couldn't tell me what to do about it. Brian told me speech therapists are trained to help with this. Thankfully, this same home health agency has speech therapists, too.

Postscript to the post Lessons from Physical Therapy: Tie a piece of stretch band to the outside of the door handle. Stretch band will not slip off like the last thing I tried. As I leave with the mobility scooter or wheelchair, pull the band over my shoulder which will close the door behind me.