Sunday, June 16, 2019

Spider Web

Copyright © 2019 Renee Alter


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 as a whole is much stronger than it appears.
And even though it feels like pieces of my body are falling apart,
my body as a whole is much stronger than it feels.

Even though we may think each of us is 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 (network) of my own.

Even though the web appears to be woven unevenly,
much like my life, it is still a masterpiece of perfection.
Keeping a gratitude journal showed me evidence
that my life is a masterpiece of perfection.
I just have to accept all the fragments of nature
that also get caught in the web (like in the photo).

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 safety of the divine plan.


And maybe the purpose of a web is more than it appears.
Maybe the spider wanted to catch more than bugs (a meal)
in its web… 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

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.

Thursday, June 6, 2019

Difficulty Swallowing

For the last several months, I've been dealing with difficulty swallowing:

  • both liquids and solid food. (I lost about 8 lbs but most of it was belly fat I am happy doing without anyway.)
  • the additional work and energy required to liquefy and combine foods to get enough nutrition in me... and all the work and energy required to clean up after I make a mess.
  • the frustration I feel when I spill stuff on my counters, floors, and clothes.
  • the discouragement I feel because, despite everything I've learned, I am still sick, in pain, and dealing with bouts of fatigue.
  • having the knowledge that (trauma recovery) therapies exist which could help me feel better but I don't have access to (at least yet).
  • the increase of throbbing neuralgia pain on the top my right foot toward the toes from spinal nerve compression. (It feels like I dropped something heavy on it in addition to the cramping.)
  • that the only way I can get pain relief right now is to sleep, listen to guided meditations, and be distracted by having meaningful conversations with people. (I suppose I could feel grateful this pain distracts me from discomfort in the rest of my body.)
  • that PCPs (managers of your healthcare) are limited in what they can do, therefore, they can only, hopefully, determine what you need and refer you out to specialists... who order procedures... as they don't have the means to see inside your body without them... and the procedures, like the EGD (Esophagogastroduodenoscopy) I just had felt more like torture. (They put the needle into my very sensitive hand. Then the anesthesiologist said when they turned on the anesthesia, I'd feel a little sting. It felt like they smacked my whole hand with a sledgehammer. I groaned in pain until it took effect, and I was out. And my throat was sore before the scopy but after was about five times sorer.)
  • the circumstantial changes such as meeting new doctors, specialists, and their staff, and repeating my symptoms (stories) over and over when all I want to do is focus on more positive thoughts.
  • aggravation when I see clerical errors in my medical records. (The first one, was when dysphasia--difficulty speaking--was written instead of dysphagia--difficulty swallowing. The 2nd one was the letter I received denying more than four P.T.  visits which had the diagnosis of multiple sclerosis on it instead of spondylolisthesis. After several phone calls, I found out it was a clerical error by the insurance company employee who typed up the letter. Once this was corrected, I was approved for the additional P.T.)
  • all the wasted time and energy waiting--for the referred specialists to call me, being on hold when I call to talk to insurance or doctor's office, appointments, in waiting rooms, in exam rooms, for transportation. (Yes, I avoided going to doctors as long as I could. I suppose I must be grateful that my health challenges are not nearly as severe as some of the other people I know... some of who do not have insurance... or their insurance was canceled due to clerical errors.)
  • the additional expenses of co-pays such as $250 to have an EGD in addition to $35 each time I see a specialist. (I do realize this is not much compared to what others will owe because they don't have satisfactory insurance. And I did manage to adopt the attitude that these are only numbers... and in my philanthropist spirit, willingly donate to their organizations.) 
  • that I must take a break from more enjoyable activities I had been previously participating in. (I suppose I could be grateful for additional experiences, even unwanted ones, and all the people I meet along the way. I do take advantage of learning as much as I can from new people I meet and enjoy offering them information they can use, too.)


(Note: I got the new Medicare Advantage Plan effective March 1, didn't receive my ID card until the end of March, couldn't get an appointment with the new PCP at the new clinic until April 23. The referral process took forever. On May 28, I met my new Gastroenterologist. And yesterday, I had an EGD.)

Out of the above list, I will elaborate on the progression of getting enough nutrition. At first, I was eating a little of this and a little of that often throughout the day... like 1/2 sweet potato warm with coconut oil or cold, some steamed veggies with butter, 1/2 - a whole hard-boiled egg, a small piece of salmon cooked in water with added dehydrated veggies and some butter, some mushrooms with Basil Pesto, 1/2 apple and a small piece of cheese, etc. The food went down way too slow, and I felt full before I could get much down. 

I had also been swallowing a variety of nutritional supplements recommended by the ACN/HHP I'd been going to (Bri) but finally gave up on this and told her I had to have more nutrition in something that could be liquified. 

On May 9, I purchased Chiropractor's Blend PH50-GF Protein Greens--Gluten and Dairy Free. The instructions are to use a whole (tiny) scoop. I could open up the two supplements which came in capsules to add to this (l-Lysine and Cal-Mag-D). At first, I tried a variety of ways to blend this powder: it worked OK in applesauce, not so OK with plain water, and the Hamilton Beach little blender wouldn't process additional foods I wanted to add. I also experienced some stomach and intentional cramps... and wondered if there was something in it I had a sensitivity to just like other powders I had tried in the past.

On May 16, I was blessed with an advance barter of a Vitamix Space Saver unit. You put a washer on the base and screw the bowl on. Before realizing my error, I put all kinds of ingredients into the bowl (some pistachio nuts, a Wholly Avocado packet, an entire apple)... and watched it leak out the bottom. I panicked and made a bigger mess as I tried to rescue the precious content. In trying to turn the base tighter with my right hand, spasms shot up my arm. Even using a rubber gripper didn't help. And you can't just wash the thing out... you have to remove the base. (BTW, the instructions tell you NOT to make it too tight as it will leak.) 

As suggested by Bri's receptionist, I tried wrapping it in a towel and putting it between my knees so I could use both hands to turn it. Successful but often left contents on my pants anyway even though I had a towel on it... which I then had to wash out immediately. After a few days of struggling with it, I eventually figured out how to get it tight enough so it wouldn't leak... but couldn't get the base back off. I realized I could take it down to the office and ask someone to unscrew the base for me. I also got smarter and checked for leaking with just water before adding the rest of the ingredients.

Within a few more days, when I placed the unit with the base still on into the sink, I watched as it slipped into the drain hole... almost the exact same size... and wondered if I put a piece of green scrubby into the drain hole if the base would stay put. It did!!! I could now successfully tighten it and remove it. After I poked a finger with the tip of the blade the first try of removing the base out of the drain, I got smart enough to only unscrew it enough to get unstuck and lift the entire unit out to do the rest.

I thought maybe the issue was defective washers, contacted the company, and they shipped out newly improved ones. Same result. I continue to use the drain hole in the sink and green scrubby for assistance.

On May 21, at my next visit, I told Bri my concern about the cramping. She determined an entire scoop at once was too much for me and an entire apple was overkill on top of the ingredients in the powder. (I'm such a lightweight!) My new instructions were to only take 1/2 scoop at a time... up to four times a day... and only add 1/4 of an apple if I use apple. In the meantime, I was thinking $45.90 a canister, 30 scoops per canister, maybe I can get by with only 1/2 to 1 scoop a day. It was so much work to make a smoothie and clean up after it, I only wanted to deal with it once in a day.

Then came yesterday when I had a conversation with my sister who lives out in California. She lovingly reprimanded me for further limiting the amount of nutrition I was giving my body... recommending 3-4 smoothies a day... adding foods like sweet potato vs. eating just a little on its own... making each smoothie a complete meal to include protein and healthy fats... healthy fats in addition to the fats in the avocado and nuts. Only 6 packets of avocado come in a packet and I fussed about it being $5 a box. 

She replied STOP FUSSING AND WORRYING ABOUT COST AND GET THE NUTRITION IN YOU! STOP PLAYING THE VICTIM! Ouch! Tough love. 

So far, I've only come up with two recipes for smoothies I like which I am listing in order of how you add them to the container. I am in the process of figuring out what other variations I can try.

1) Cold water, 1/4 cup raw pistachios, 1/2 scoop powder, contents of capsules, 1 avocado packet, a small amount of frozen fruit (peaches or melon), a teaspoon of coconut oil.

2) Cold water, 1/4 cup almonds (when I don't have almond butter), 1/2 scoop powder, contents of capsule if I hadn't already done this earlier in the day, 1/2 a cooked sweet potato, a small amount of frozen fruit.

If you're interested in seeing the ingredients of this powder, go to: 


If you're interested in getting your own Vitamix Space Saver S30, Amazon has a good price:

https://www.amazon.com/Vitamix-063373-S50-Blender-Black/dp/B00V9ZOWI6/

And if you have other suggestions for smoothies you have tried (gluten, grain, and dairy free), please let me know! I steer away from most fresh produce as I can't eat enough of it before it goes bad. 

Monday, May 27, 2019

Lessons from Physical Therapy

Amerigroup expanded into Lampasas County where I live, providing me with a Medicare Advantage plan which included many of the services I have been needing for little or no co-pays: Physical Therapy (Home), Occupational Therapy (Home), Home Nurse Visits, and online Psychological Counseling. In this post, I will focus on what I've been taught by physical therapists... which includes fall prevention... as another fall could jar L5-S1, causing additional damage. I've already slipped a little further from Grade 2 to Grade 2-3, just over 50 percent.

DON'T ROCK THE BOAT: NO TWISTING OR SHEARING

With unstable spondylolisthesis, rocking the pelvis forward and back or twisting is a no-no. I knew I had been doing some exercises that were aggravating the condition, but didn't realize just how many.

Pelvic tilts? No! Instead, pull my belly button to my spine for 5 seconds (abdominal bracing) x 10 or more times. In addition to doing these multiple times a day, whenever I do anything like standing up, transferring in and out of the wheelchair, on and off the toilet, do ab bracing! Squeeze buttocks (bottom squeezes) for 5 seconds x 20 three-four times per day.

Therapy Ball? No! The therapy ball, because it is a ball, is too dangerous. I must not do anything that can 'rock the boat' of spondy which can happen each time I lose my balance even a tiny bit.

Kicking legs back? No. In other words, no leg extensions.

Spinal stretch twist? No. Not when lying down or sitting in a chair or reaching over to the left or the right.

TRACTION?

Never! Just like chiropractic on this part of the spine when you have unstable spondy, traction on an already unstable area is a no-no. I just sold my inversion device.

WHEELCHAIRS (MANUAL ONES) ARE ADJUSTABLE

All this time I've been using a manual wheelchair in my apartment (and to local medical appointments if I was going to a small building), I didn't know it could be lowered. I just knew it was too high. Now that it is lowered, I can sit on my favorite seat cushion and can get around easier with my feet which can now sit flat on the floor... and my arms get a rest from trying to turn the wheels. With C5-C6 radiculitis going down both arms plus carpal tunnel pain, this was a challenge.

THINGS WITH WHEELS ARE DANGEROUS

I thought I had a great idea about using stools with wheels to get around on... and on and off of. However, just like the office chair that rolled to the left when I sat back down on it in February 2018, resulting in my slamming on my right hip as I hit the floor (and jarring my spine), transferring on and off other things with wheels is risky, too. I am safer using the wheelchair which has brakes and applying these brakes whenever I am transferring to something else or standing to reach for something.

WALKERS CAN'T BE USED LIKE A WHEELCHAIR

I had been using my walker for transportation as much as possible... while sitting on the seat. I was warned they weren't designed for this, and two different therapists told me they have witnessed the frame breaking while a patient was doing this... even someone as small and as lightweight as I am. Of course, this meant I could no longer go to some of the places I had been going to... like Toastmasters meetings... which are held in the back room of a large restaurant. The person who was giving me rides can't accommodate my wheelchair.

DON'T LIFT THE WALKER IN AND OUT OF THE CAR

I asked the therapist to help me with the logistics of getting to and from my car with either canes or my walker... and how my hatchback door was heavy. As for the canes, it is too dangerous as I can still lose my balance and fall. Even though it only weighs 11 pounds (I used to have one that weighed 22 pounds), I was told to never lift it. My back is too unstable.

AB BRACING... AB BRACING... AB BRACING...

I must learn to be my own girdle and back brace. The therapist must have told me to do this about 50 times during my last visit as I kept forgetting to.

STANDING MARCH

This exercise was given to me, but the therapist can't climb inside my body to understand what happens everywhere when I stand up. I modified this one by marching in my chair.

HOW TO ACCOMMODATE LAMPS AND CEILING LIGHTS

I have a ceiling fan/light combo in each of my main rooms. When it is warm, I like having the ceiling fans on 24 hours a day. The wall switch turns them on and off along with the lights, so when I want to turn lights off, I had to stand to reach for the light chain. Fall risk. The simple solution (why didn't I think of this?) was to buy chain extenders. I even got fancy and found some with a one-inch crystal.

While I have mostly ceiling lights on wall switches, I still needed two standing lamps for additional lighting. With the one by my work station, I had to stand up to reach up and over to the switch. Fall risk. For the bedroom, the lamp was clear back by the head of my bed, the main light was with the fan which went on and off with the light switch... and the pull chain for the light was over the bed. Fall risk and frustration with getting around in the dark. The simple solution (why didn't I think of this?) was to buy a set of outlets you plug the lamps into which plug into the wall outlets which operate from a remote control device. Now, from the doorway of my bedroom, I can turn on the lamp by the bed and turn the lamp by my work station off.

HOW TO REACH CLOTHES HANGING IN THE CLOSET

...with a Shepherd's hook!! I did buy one, but I had an...

EPIPHANY!

I realized I could take most of my clothes off the hangers, fold them, and move them to the cabinet with doors I have in the bathroom... where another stool lives... and brighter lights are. Of course, in order to do this, I spent hours trying to find new locations for what was in the cabinet.

But what to do with my blouses? Ahhh... I saw that if I removed the lower shelf in the built-in cabinet by the sink and put up a tension rod, I could hang my blouses! Of course, in order to do this, I spent hours trying to find new locations for what was in the cabinet.

Now, I can dress and undress in comfort without dealing with hangers and a closet. The closet can get used for STORAGE.

PACING

With chronic fatigue syndrome and fibromyalgia on top of spondy, I have yet to learn how to properly pace myself. All that work taking down clothes, taking them off hangers, folding them, and placing them into the bathroom cabinets wore me out. On top of that, the therapist had recommended I do the exercises every day--even twice a day--unless I have a fibro flare. Gung ho with now knowing the proper way to move, after being dormant for over a month, I did too much all at once. I climbed back on the recumbent stationary bike (which, by the way, I had moved from where it was because it was a fall risk to climb back into it) for about 15 minutes (with rest stops in between) and did a series of band exercises for my arms and legs. I also washed 2 shirts and 2 pair of capris in my mini Wonder Wash, prepared some food in addition to using the Vitamix which required it all get cleaned up, and did additional exercise picking up everything off the floor I had dropped. The following day, my body was screaming with major fatigue for dessert... and I found myself in the midst of a major fibro flare.

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Adventures in Medicine

I am self-proclaimed OCD when it comes to an obsession with words and spending hours-days-weeks typing them up in the correct order so everything makes sense--rereading what I wrote many many times because I can’t remember what I wrote. I have self-published many books that few people read but maybe they will one day. In the meantime, I like having them like an artist has their art.

I now have an Amerigroup Medicare Advantage HMO plan that gives me access to much more than I had access to on Traditional Medicare. The first thing I did was look into switching over to the Seton Clinic and their network of providers.

And each time I have an appointment with a doctor or other practitioner, especially a new one, knowing I don’t have much time for the visit, I hand them a typewritten report. If I have multiple visits with different doctors/practitioners, I type a different report for each one of them. Some people just write down the questions they want to ask on paper, I type a report that includes known conditions, my symptoms, the purpose of the visit, and my specific requests.

I will report to you on the appointment I had with my new PCP last Tuesday--who I think is amazing. The first thing he did was walk up to me, shake my hand, smile, and say, “Hi, I’m Corey, it’s nice to meet you.” I’ve never had a doctor do that. But he’s not a doctor, he’s a nurse practitioner. The best doctor I ever had when I lived in California was an NP. Corey spent over 30 minutes with me. When my blood pressure was taken with him in the room (and shot up to 200--IKES!), he asked if I had white coat fever--YES--and apologized for not taking off his white coat.

First, I complained that my left ear and left side of my face had been feeling congested, and the sound of my own voice was muffled. He identified my left ear had so much impacted wax, he couldn’t see my eardrum. I was instructed to soften it up and return in two days to get it cleaned out... which I did... and I feel much better.

Second, I’d been dealing with wicked sore throats for longer than I can remember and difficulty swallowing for over two months. I thought maybe I had mono again or it was allergies, but he asked me if I ever was diagnosed with esophagitis. He said the esophagus goes all the way up the throat. My eyes went wide as I remember that in 2006, I was diagnosed with an eroded esophagus. He asked if I ever had a 5-year follow up. Didn’t know I was supposed to and didn’t realize I’d have to keep babying it. I am getting a referral to a gastroenterologist to get a current endoscopy.

Third, I have really dry eyes, dry mouth, and dry throat which I had been previously blaming on the medications used to take, followed by my CPAP machine. He asked me if I had been tested for Sjogren’s. Nope.

Fourth, just the same, I had found out I could continue to go the same sleep specialist/cardiologist if I get a referral for a continuation of care. When I got home, because I now know I have esophagitis, I Googled CPAP and esophagitis. Lo and behold, CPAP machines can blow air down the esophagus if there is something dysfunctional which is called aerophagia. It was obvious during my first year when the air pressure was set too high... but apparently, additional adjustments need to be made.

Fifth, I filled him in on the situation with my spine and asked if I can get referred to the right doctor who can refer me to the right physical therapist. I also asked if I could get referred for a home health aide (covered by my new plan) and hopefully a physical therapist that will come to my home.

I went for blood work yesterday (Corey ordered tests for just about everything--watch it all come back normal), and I will have several appointments with specialists who are up to 60 miles away. This involves taking my mobility scooter with The HOP van transportation which my new insurance will pay for. I’ll have to pack food to take with me... something to do to keep me busy... and navigate the scooter in and out of restrooms and new environments. Note to self: bring a blanket. I froze in the lab.

In the meantime, I’ve been slowly digesting everything I’ve read and know about how suppressed emotions manifest as physiological symptoms and have concluded that my repressed emotions are suffocating me.
  • Sleep apnea
  • Inflammation of my esophagus, so it is hard to swallow.
  • Sometimes, it’s hard to breathe.
I wonder if I am choking on all the things I’ve never had the courage to say.

I also had with this new insurance two online virtual psychological counseling sessions so far and will be able to continue as long as I want to. I had been worried about zoning and dissociating from the part of me that felt good when I feel bad and vice versa when I don’t feel good, I can't relate to the part of me that felt good. 

My counselor began to tell me about the trauma a woman has when she is giving birth to a baby, yet she won't remember it and will have one or more children due to what is called 'containment.' I have to do more reading/research on this, but all I can say is it is something the brain does to protect you. Ahhh... my brain is protecting me.

I will be thinking about how traumatic memories of giving birth to my son no longer affect me, yet many other incidents of traumas still do. I am asking myself what MEANING did I put on those other experiences that were different than giving birth? My homework is to look into EMDR therapy and call to see if a therapist with this specialty is available.

I have often wondered if the reason pain medication has never worked for me is because if the pain is emotional vs. physical, it wouldn’t. If the pain is in my brain and not my body, it wouldn’t. Analysis paralysis. While some people drink or eat or take illegal drugs or have other addictions, maybe I am addicted to figuring myself out... and everyone else, too.

I’ve read lots of books, subscribed to The Mighty and NICABM, and listened to lots of videos and webinars by Teal Swan, Abraham Hicks, Dr. David Burns, Dr. Joe Dispenza, Rebecca Hintze, Bruce Lipton, Dr. Keesha Ewers, Dr. Mark Hyman, and more.

Between fatigue, brain fog, ADHD, and a brain that won’t do what I want it to do because thoughts keep vanishing which is frustrating when I am trying to do self-care tasks, I suffer from information overload.

According to all the following people, I should be able to get better if I do what they have been able to do. It could be an unreasonable expectation, but what if it isn’t? Overall, I am not experiencing as much physical pain as I did in past years.

Dr. Keesha Ewers had autoimmune diseases until she freed herself of repressed emotions--then became an integrative medicine expert. (Solving the Autoimmune Puzzle: The Woman’s Guide to Reclaiming Emotional Freedom and Vibrant Health

This morning I had a flashback of going on two 3-day mountain climbing trips when I was 16-17 years old... in the White Mountains... New Hampshire... where ticks carrying Lyme Disease populate. I looked it up and saw in addition to swollen lymph glands and fever, one of the symptoms is Bell's Palsy type paralysis on one side of the face and another an enlarged Spleen. 

Wait! I developed all this! Is it possible I was misdiagnosed as having mono when I actually had Lyme? I don't remember getting blood tests--only being diagnosed with the symptoms. If so, Dr. Keesha and other doctors have solutions for dealing with autoimmune diseases.

Teal Swan overcame much worse childhood abuse and torture than I dealt with. She now travels all over the world doing seminars. She says depression happens when we resist our emotions and the futility of life situations. (The Sculptor in the Sky and The Completion Process)

Abraham Hicks talked about contrast--with emotions being your compass vs. your enemy. And she says we incarnated because Earth is the only place we can create and manifest--that we’re supposed to have fun doing it. And if we commit suicide, we’d just come right back again for the same reason. (The Amazing Power of Deliberate Intent: Living the Art of Allowing)

Dr. Joe Dispenza says we create our future from our past emotions and memories, and unless we figure out how to break this cycle, we’ll stay sick and in pain. We must learn to set a new intention with an elevated emotion and our body/brain will follow. (Becoming Supernatural)

Rebecca Hintze is a life coach and emotional-wellness counselor who promotes essential oils to create new neural pathways in the brain, and yes, I have some essential oils. (Essential Oils for Happy Living and Healing Your Family History)

Nick Ortner promotes tapping, and I’ve tried that, too. (The Tapping Solution)

Dr. Mark Hyman, a doctor of functional medicine, said his brain broke twice--first from mercury toxicity while he was in medical school and the second time two years ago from black mold he didn’t realize was in his house. He went from one doctor to the next with undiagnosed mercury toxicity until he found a functional medicine doctor who identified it and treated it. He then went back to medical school and changed his focus to functional medicine. I watched his two documentary series: Broken Brain and Broken Brain 2.

Bri, my holistic nutritionist, did a presentation that included her background and how she recovered from numerous health issues after she got a job with a functional medicine doctor who treated her. When she got well, he trained her to do what he does. She strongly suggests I get all my mercury fillings taken out. (And Dr. Hyman says some people do not have the ability to handle the load.) She says it's the mercury aggravating my throat.

Information overload. Can you relate?

I just want technology I can plug into that runs an analysis and comes up with the current state of my physical, mental, and emotional state as well as suggested solutions. Is that too much to ask?

Sunday, April 7, 2019

Continued Education

I've been very busy! Even if one is sick one is busy... taking care of yourself and resting.

First, there was a week of figuring out how to overcome my own PTSD to figure out how to help someone else who was dealing with their own mental health crisis. Once I had the initial adrenaline rush when my neighbor banged on my door at 2:30 in the morning on Monday, March 11, just as it has done in the past, my sympathetic nervous system wouldn't calm back down. I felt the ongoing survival stress response all during the week... hoping that improved self-talk would calm me back down. I had to search my subconscious mind to figure out what exactly 'triggered' me. A memory? Or just an adrenaline rush? What was I telling myself? (Why can't you act like a grown-up?)

That Wednesday afternoon, there was a continuation of Monday night's drama. I was feeling powerless. At least I had company at the time who offered support.

On Thursday, I decided to face (unrealistic) fears and report the incident so I could find out what action I needed to take should it happen again. After all, I did go to the one-day seminar on Mental Health First Aid, and I desperately wanted to 'feel' like a grownup! In the course, we were told if someone you know (or yourself) is having a mental health crisis, to call the police department. Many of them have been trained on how to handle this type of crisis. I did, indeed, get the answers I needed, but my sympathetic nervous system wouldn't calm back down. (I find it interesting that it is called sympathetic as it wasn't being sympathetic to my plight.)

The following Monday, I felt sick. My body hurt all over, especially with intensified sensations of sharp points sticking into my upper back. My chronic sore throat got worse--to the point I couldn't swallow (and I thought about my inability to speak up when I needed to). The fatigue was a literal killer, and I often found comfort in my bed throughout the day... for 10 days. I had to sum up the courage to miss a monthly meeting for one of the organizations I belong to. In the midst of making that decision, I had a flashback of not being allowed to miss school when I didn't feel good. But now I'm a grownup and can make that decision for myself. Yes? I requested that someone else take the minutes for the meeting.

I got some energy back just in time for the morning of March 28, when I attended the first of 5 sessions of Master of Memory--Am I Losing My Mind? facilitated by the County Extension Agent. Since we all seem to have memory issues, I am sharing what I am learning... which, of course, is filtered through my perspective (haha).

I found out I am not as bad as I thought I was memory wise. There are 3 basic types of memory: Sensory (momentary sensations and impressions), Short-term (holds information for several seconds while we decide what to do with it), and Long-term (can last forever--even if it takes time to retrieve info). We talked about how we go blank when trying to remember something then wake up in the middle of the night remembering or recalling the following day a piece of information we couldn't remember the day before. I'M NORMAL! Unless you LEARN what is being processed in short-term memory, you won't retain the information.

Three types of learners: Auditory, Visual, and Kinesthetic. I learned that I am mostly a kinesthetic learner--one who learns best by doing--needing to experience something "hands on" to learn how to do it. Visual? There was a sentence with six 'F's in it, and I only could find TWO. How trippy! The class had a good laugh because I am not the only one. It was to prove if you are not a visual learner, you wouldn't see them all.

Why can't I remember? All kinds of reasons. One of these is stress (overactive sympathetic nervous system), and one of these is habits. Losing your keys (or anything else) when you put them in a different place is not a memory problem... it is due to breaking a habit. I think my life runs mostly on auto-pilot based on habits... including where I 'file' physical pieces of information. When I go back to look for something, many times, it isn't where I thought I put it. This happens in your brain, too?

The best learner blends the three types to maximize performance. You must exercise the brain regularly just like you need to exercise the body. If you do the same brain exercises every day, you will lose other parts of the brain's ability as if you are only exercising your legs vs. your whole body. Suggestions: do things with the non-dominant hand, word games, brain teasers, trying new and different learning methods, conversation, and continuing education. I prefer the continuing education part. Use it or lose it! It's been a while since I've played my guitar or keyboard. Maybe it's time I start again... motivated or not... so that part of my brain won't atrophy. Subsequent modules will address other aspects of memory.

The fatigue lifted, but I still had pain and that awful sensation in my upper back and felt desperate for relief. On the afternoon of March 28, I went to see Bri (holistic nutritionist) and explained to her what happened with my dysregulated nervous system. (Feeling pleased that I now have the knowledge and terminology to understand and explain this concept.) I went home with instructions to increase a few of the homeopathic potions I already had along with a number of new ones, including supplements. I had to also 'allow' these to support my body's recovery.

I began to feel much better in a few days... just in time to get the energy I needed to listen to two new documentary series both of which launched on May 3: Broken Brain 2 and Eastern Medicine. So far, I've been able to watch all of them. My ears perked up each time the topic of the dysregulated nervous system was discussed as well as how chronic stress affects your overall health.

In between, I received an email from Rebecca Hintze on her newly released Emotions Mentor Podcasts. I listened to Key Steps to Developing Resilience, The Plague of Anxiety, and Mental Health & Where it Starts.

On May 4, I went to session 2 of Master of Memory--Memory Strategies. Strategies include Concentration, Association, Repetition, and Relaxation. I have some homework to do...

Sunday, March 17, 2019

Sensory Overload

It was Friday morning. I woke up, took a shower, got dressed, ate breakfast, and got ready to go to a Toastmasters meeting. I love going to these meetings. It is generally an uplifting environment... but then I deal with sensory overload when I get home. Many times I feel like I picked up everyone's thoughts and emotions empathically as well, adding to my own.

On a Friday night, I attended Art After Dark at Frames and Things to support some author friends as well as visit with them. Another person who was in the same car wore perfume and/or hairspray which assaulted my sensitive receptors. Sometimes, it may be other smells I am sensitive to. The music was louder than what I am comfortable with. I have never liked parties, nor have I liked going to concerts. I never liked the noise. This place is not much bigger than my apartment, doesn't fit a lot of people, and is enjoyable... until it isn't... when I begin to experience another layer of sensory overload.

A group of people I know decided we should go eat out at a local restaurant... where multiple conversations take place depending on where individuals are seated... and the smell of food I don't like permeates my sensitive receptors. I went once but declined to go again. "Why?" they ask. But they don't understand the meaning of sensory overload.

It was a simple trip to my local Walmart store. Thank goodness it is a much smaller store because this is a small town, so there are usually fewer people, and it is somewhat quiet. Until it isn't. Before I know it, over an hour had passed, and I head home... with sensory overload. Now, I order as much as I can online or pick it up at a Curbside service or ask someone to go to the store for me.

I talked to someone on the phone (a friend or family member) for an hour and more. What a great conversation!!! (Which is why it lasted so long.) But then I couldn't turn the conversation off after I hung up. My head began to hurt with all the words that continued to get louder inside my head... as I experienced sensory overload.

I go on Facebook to catch up with everyone I am friends with and see posts from all the pages I have liked. Within a short time, I feel overwhelmed. Too much information too fast. I get uncomfortable as sensations of agitation begin to increase, adding to the agitation of sensations of pain in my body.

I volunteer as a secretary for an organization which meets once a month. Usually, 17-23 people attend. When everyone first arrives, there are a lot of separate conversations. These conversations echo off the walls. Before the meeting even starts, I experience sensory overload. When the meeting starts, the voices get quiet, and I work at focusing on the one or two speakers I need to take notes for. After I get home, I rebel against doing this task. I struggle with my need to have an important role by attending and providing this service vs. the sensory overload I deal with for sometimes days afterward.

I go to the monthly potluck at my apartment complex. The same situation exists with multiple separate conversations bouncing off the walls of the community room. And I can't hear the person in front of me talking to me.

But if I don't go anywhere, isolation will consume me and swallow me whole.

If you know me and visit with me, I need you to understand why I need a lot of quiet time alone at home to recover. I may rebel for a few days and feel like not going to the next event. I often rebel against doing any more volunteering.

When I'm in a room with many other people in it, I can't hear individual voices -- even the one directly in front of me -- if other people in the room are speaking. The other voices seem to bounce off the ceiling and walls, making their way back to my ears with overwhelming sounds and sensations. My brain has difficulty focusing due to competing sensory input.

When I get home, I hear what feels like hundreds of conversations in my head competing for my attention. When it is intense, I can experience restlessness and irritability... which may spill over into triggering survival reactions in my body. As exhausted as I am when I climb into bed, even if I manage to fall asleep, I wake up in the middle of the night (to pee) but can't go back to sleep.

Knowing I will most likely experience sensory overload in many different environments produces anxiety to the point I decide not to go. The next time someone asks me 'why' I don't want to go, I'll send them the link to this post.

In addition to 'social' sensory overload, other types of sensory overload I experience can include:

I put on one of my favorite shirts, however, this time, I feel a lot of pinpricks on my back as if the threads are made of thin wire and the seams are highly irritating. The fabric itself may feel irritating, too. The pinpricks become an itch, and the itch continues to spread. I can't stand the feeling of labels and cut all of them out. I finally found the term for this is tactile allodynia.

My fingertips on the hand I hold my computer mouse with feels like I burned them on something hot. I Googled this issue and found that some people are extra sensitive to the EMFs of WiFi. If it is because it is a wireless mouse, I will try using one with a USB cord.

The computer monitor is too bright for me. Fortunately, I found an inexpensive pair of blue-blocker glasses to wear over my prescription glasses.

The good news is that I found out sensory overload is a known 'symptom' of fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, generalized anxiety disorder, ADHD, and PTSD from past traumatic experiences... when it's difficult to focus and think straight because there is so much 'noise' inside your head.

I used to take medication to calm down. I used to take medication to knock me out at night. However, I learned this is not a good long-term solution, and the medications have unpleasant side effects. I especially became aware that with sleep apnea, I do not want to be sedated through apneas.

These days, I try to unwind before bed by applying Lavender oil on my spine and bottoms of my feet. After I climb into bed, I will 'upload' all the conversations and thoughts into what I call the 'mastermind' -- where everything exists -- a holding tank for all the thoughts and voices of the entire planet. Just like I turn off my computer every night, this is my way of turning off my mind. Most of the time I am successful.

I know when I turn the computer on again the following day, all my work will still be there. I don't have to keep the computer on all night with all my files open, fearful that I will lose any of my work if I close the files and turn the computer off. I know my files are 'SAFE.'

I don't have to keep my mind on all night fearful I will forget something important or worry myself into further despair. All my appointments are written down on my calendar. Important tasks are on the Task app of my phone. Inspiration always comes from a divine source. Problems eventually sort themselves out. The aftermath of a disaster will eventually calm down, and many people will discover strengths they didn't know they had and can even become heroes.

I remind myself that I am a vehicle for the Creator of all that is to express itself through. "I" don't have to hold onto anything. "I" am not writing this post. "I" can go to sleep and let this expression decide what it wants to do in the morning... which all depends on how much energy I wake up with.

As I get warm under my down comforter, I practice a meditation technique in which I climb inside my body and focus on visualizing brain synapses, nerve impulses, cells interacting, and blood flowing instead of all the voices I was overwhelmed with during the day. I will repeat this process in the middle of the night and early in the morning if necessary. Sometimes, I have to visualize thoughts, words, and concerns flowing down the creek outside my apartment. The water is always flowing... doesn't get caught up in staying in one place, holding onto thoughts, words, and worries.

And to overcome feelings of powerlessness when people I know are struggling with their own life situations, I try to remember to let go of my own anxiety and consciously dispatch angels to guide them and get them through. After all, there came a day when I realized angels/guides had always been there for me. They just waited to see if I could handle those situations on my own before stepping in. (Miracles Sandwiched Between The Challenges.)