Friday, January 11, 2019

New Release!

In 2005, Just before I turned 50, I found out I had Grade 2 Spondylolisthesis at L5-S1 which had been the source of most of the discomfort, pain, and problems I had with my back, hips, knees, and legs over the years. To date, I haven't had surgery. It is now 2018. I've been researching, studying, reading, taking classes, watching pain summits, listening to interviews by specialists, and putting into practice all that I've learned in pursuit of becoming my own advocate. I cover the multi-faceted topics I have learned and put into practice in memoir-style narration to serve as my personal survival guide as well as a book that others who have spondy can read and relate to. Photos included.

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Notes inspired by doing Word-Finds

Sometimes words not listed as options appear. (Sometimes you will find your answers when you least expect to in unexpected ways.)

If you can’t find a word from the first letter to the last, try looking from last to first or from one of the middle options. (Sometimes the solution to a problem is found when you look at it at another angle.)

Everything changes including moods. (I must become OK with the crazy fluctuations in my moods vs. expecting consistency. Nothing in this world is constant. Change is a fact of life... regardless of how difficult it is for me to accept.)

All the answers can eventually be found… sometimes you have to look away for a while and then look back again. (Self-explanatory.)

Sometimes what you think is a word turns out to be something else--a different word entirely. (Question your assumptions.)

When you stop trying so hard to find a word and put the book down or look away, the answer appears when you look at it again. (If something seems hard, put it down for a while, and give your brain a rest. Then look into it again.)

When you’re tired, it’s much more difficult to find what you’re looking for. (It's impossible for me to do anything when I'm tired... including Word-Finds.)

Some letters are easier to find than others. (Some solutions are easier to find than others.)

Do you do Word-Find puzzles? Can you think of something else besides what I've listed here?

Sunday, December 2, 2018

Preface of Love, Life, & God: Getting Past the Pain

On February 15, 2012, (I was 56), I met a man I will refer to as Wayne, as he wishes to remain anonymous. We were both looking for an available check-out line at the grocery store. When he commented that the situation was as bad as being stuck in traffic on the Mopac and the 35, I knew he was talking about Austin, where I had lived back in 1997. I swung around with a sense of excitement, and asked: “you were in Austin?” He replied that he had been working there. I had to know where. He said a recording studio. BINGO. I retained him in lengthy conversation which continued in the lobby and out in the parking lot. He had someplace else he needed to go, so we exchanged phone numbers. Later I texted something in the line of “did I tell you I write songs?” He ended up coming to where I lived to see the guitar I had and listened to a couple of my songs. It turned out that he had played in several bands and had lots of experience in the music industry as a songwriter, musician, and a sound engineer. It was a life-changing event for me.

You see, at the time I met him, I was just starting to recover from falling into what one of my Facebook friends referred to as “THE BLACK HOLE”—a state of severe depression which included feeling completely hopeless and abandoned. My self-esteem had shattered. Memories of past traumatic events had re-surfaced and I had been feeling an odd sense of detachment and amnesia. All of this started about six months after doing a very dangerous thing. In July 2010, after being told “YOU‘RE ASLEEP—IT’S TIME TO WAKE UP,” I stopped taking the 11 medications I had been prescribed by my doctors cold turkey. I did it at home, alone. The withdrawal was wicked and lasted about six days.

When it was over, I experienced one of the most exciting time periods of my life, after receiving my ‘life instructions,’ which included writing… books, songs, poetry, etc. Barely six months later, I began to experience ‘crashes,’ PTSD, anxiety attacks and depression because I really DID need to stay on a few of those medications. But I’ll tell you more about that later. I knew I needed psychological counseling. However, because I was on Medicare, the free clinic here in town declined me. At the clinic that DID accept Medicare, the sizable co-pays were more than what I could afford and I wouldn’t have money for gas to get there and back. I wasn’t willing to add financial debt to the stress I was already dealing with.

My son still lived in California and was to get married on March 25, (2012). I felt too emotionally, mentally, and physically messed up to go. Then I flat out told God (and I don’t know why sometimes I get what I tell him I need and other times I don’t) “IF YOU WANT ME TO GO, SEND SOMEONE TO HELP ME AND GIVE ME A REASON TO COME BACK!!!!”

That’s when Wayne showed up. At first, I was a bit shocked. Did God just send someone to help me? One of the first days he visited, I was about to go for a walk so I invited him to join me. During that walk, he pulled up a pant leg to show me the tattoo of a Scorpion. My first reaction to seeing it was that we were destined to meet because that Scorpion is my astrological sign. It was also his deceased father’s. It was as though he had shown up as a guide to direct me back onto the life path I had been given just after I went through the withdrawal.

Wayne remained in my life until the following year, helping me to remember who I was before I developed that strange sense of amnesia. He raved about my poetry, songwriting, and talent, helping me to gain a renewed sense of courage to step forward into life again as though emerging from a state of hibernation. He continuously told me both verbally and in texts things such as: “you’re a beautiful soul,” “you’re caring, considerate,” “you’re a positive energy,” “you’re a decent honest person,” “you’re extremely talented,” “you’re sweet and thoughtful,” “you have an awesome, unique sense of humor,” “you always have interesting things to talk about,” and after he read my book, Appearances: A Journey of Self-Discovery, he told me that “the poetry is outstanding, precious, and phenomenal.” I believed him. He helped me to get stronger in many different ways AND he gave me a lot of reasons to come back.

Metaphorically, Wayne planted flowers I didn’t know existed in the mental/emotional garden I thought I had already cultivated. I was also able to get closure on the last 16 years of my life to enter into a new one. And it was time to write this book, Part II of my life story.

This book is available in Paperback, Kindle, and Audible.

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Holiday Reminiscing

With Thanksgiving around the corner, followed by Christmas, I am reminiscing about childhood memories… and some adult ones, too. As poor as I thought I was (surviving on Social Security Disability on my own), I now know I was still wealthier than a huge percentage of the population on the planet. After all, I always had a roof over my head, food to eat, clothes and shoes to wear, and at least a sofa or pad to sleep on. Where I was the poorest was in my faith that circumstances would ever get better. It took keeping a gratitude journal over the last few years to see all the ways my life WAS getting better.

Growing up, with six of us children (all blood siblings), we usually got one large Chanukah/Christmas present to be shared by all. I remember one year getting lincoln logs, another year tinker toys, and another year blocks. In the meantime, the neighbors across the street set out a display of deer (reindeer) on their front lawn each year. Now I live in a place where LIVE BREATHING deer walk around.

Mom had many talents, one of those painting nature in realistic detail. Somehow, the neighbor found out and asked Mom to repaint the facial features of her deer. The neighbor then offered to pay Mom, but Mom refused to take the money. Perhaps it was a matter of pride and unwillingness to admit that we could have used it. And that year, Santa Claus came. I will never forget waking up one morning to find wrapped gifts for each of us. I don’t remember what everyone else got, but I got my very own white-haired life-size baby doll and took my new motherhood seriously.

I was able to learn how to play the viola in school because someone had donated an instrument I could borrow. Music remains an important part of my life.

I didn’t work for the first few years after my son was born, partly due to chronic fatigue after being in bed for six months during the pregnancy due to complications, partly because there was no way I was leaving my son, my world, with a complete stranger to take care of. Besides, after the cost of childcare, especially for a baby in diapers, I wouldn’t have much to live on even if I did work.

Along the way, I somehow found out about food banks, where unbeknownst to me, I was getting just about every type of food that was making my health condition worse than it already was (hot dogs, bread, huge blocks of cheese, pasta). I also somehow found out about a non-profit organization called ‘Parent Help,’ a resource for single parents. It was nice (and yet not so nice) to find out there were many other single parents besides me. Sometimes, I was graciously surprised when I received an unexpected gift card from someone who was more affluent than I was… and still appreciate receiving them to this day.

I had a few good years of making enough income (once I returned to work) to do well, get what my son and I needed, and live on our own in nice apartments vs. renting rooms. Dreams of marrying someone who would provide the financial support never came to pass. As intelligent as I was, due to childhood ‘programming,’ I was blind when it came to red flags, choosing many of the ‘wrong’ partners who manipulated me into supporting them instead of them supporting me and my son… or at the least, contribution to household expenses.

Anyway, on the road to surviving, I found many non-profits along with the volunteers who ran them… volunteers with the passion and energy to help others. At the time, my self-esteem was too low to do anything other than show up to accept whatever services they offered. However, psychological support was not one of them, something I could have benefited in from the very beginning… especially in the field of positive psychology.

Today, I would still accept the generosity of food banks, community holiday meals, etc., however, I’ve made my health a priority… something I learned to do as I learned how to love myself. (What would someone who loves themselves do? Nourish my cells.) I feel much better than in years past when I ate just to satiate hunger vs. nourish my cells.

Now that I have learned there is very little offered in a feast that actually supports health, I prefer not to participate (unless I bring my own plate or dish to contribute to a potluck). Occasionally, when I do… telling myself just this once, it will be OK… it never is. My body knows the difference. I prayed over that turkey and candied yam that was on my plate before I ate it on Wednesday… and afterward, felt like I had food poisoning… intestinal cramps, headache, muscle pain, and more.

I can’t bear to watch others eat what they eat… the sweets made with sugar (or artificial sugar), corn syrup, etc. I prefer a fresh piece of non-pesticide sprayed fruit. I can’t bear to watch others eat ham and turkey that was processed from animals grown in crowded horrific conditions, injected with hormones to grow quickly, doused with antibiotics to cut down on disease… disease because they live in their own feces. I can’t bear to see healthy vegetables made into salads with mayonnaise made with canola oil and eggs from chickens that were also raised in crowded, diseased pens, and fed GMO corn and soy. I can’t bear to watch others eat bread I know has been made with wheat that was doused with Roundup and processed with the neurotoxin bromine. (I’m ‘educated’ now.)

I would like to be in a position to help others less fortunate than me, but my body needs all the energy I have to take care of myself. What I learn from taking care of myself, especially in the way of mental health and nutrition, could grow into helping others, so I am open to the possibility of this happening. We’ll see. I’ve discovered that education in topics I have been learning increase my sense of value in what I have to offer others.

I see more news about all the volunteers who help out where there are wildfires and floods than helping those who are less fortunate in my own neighborhood, city, state, and country. Why does there have to be a major disaster for this to happen? Donations of clothes and food aren’t enough when you are mentally and emotionally bankrupt. Those who have lived that way for too long, don’t know of any other way to be. Fear, as well as loss of hope, can annihilate the soul. The more resilient ones will recover quickly.

This year, the main question on my mind was, “How can I pay the generosity I’ve received forward?”

Perhaps I can teach my granddaughter at the tender age of 5, going on 6, to become aware of those less fortunate than she is… and figure out a way to help another child or family in need. I received a gift card that I forwarded to her parents with instructions. I’ve watched the children of The Copperas Cove Five Hills Scholarship Pageant come up with ways to ‘pay it forward,’ establishing various fund-raising activities to support various causes. I find this impressive… starting children out with this in mind from a very early age. I also watched a video about children in school ‘adopting’ a lonely, special needs child into their group.

I wonder how life could have been different for me if I had been exposed to these opportunities when I was young… instead of sitting on the sidelines as a lonely, empathic introvert. I’ll just have to come up with ways to do it now.

Happy Holidays!

Sunday, October 7, 2018

Finding My Way

Once upon a time, I felt isolated.
I didn’t feel comfortable in my own skin.
As years went by, and I cried my cries,
I finally learned how to swim.

I learned words like empath and introvert,
providing me with new understanding.
I battled with the questions like, “Who am I?”
Boarded a new boat to a new landing.

Decades went by while I diligently searched
for answers to the meaning of life;
searching for a place to comfortably fit in
which included being somebody’s wife.

But who WAS I? The question remained,
and what is my purpose in the world?
My sense of direction was pretty poor…
and I didn’t mature from being a teen-aged girl.

Searching for love had been my priority.
I didn’t feel safe or secure at home.
But I took all false beliefs with me into life
and wherever I managed to roam.

More years went by and I cried my cries…
depression was just a fact of life.
I didn’t realize how skilled I was manifesting
and manifested a lot of trials and strife.

Here I am today, almost 63 years old.
I finally met others who are just like me.
We are writers, poets, empaths, and introverts
all different, special, experienced, and unique.

I found meaning in new skills I learned
and passed these skills on with a sense of purpose.
An introvert I still remain, but now
wisdom commands I contribute to the life of the planet.

Positive psychology provided many answers
to ruminating about what I couldn’t change.
I learned the art of gratitude…
the compass that guides me through growing pains.

Every time I find myself judging,
I recognize I am also judging myself.
We are all miraculous beings so I must be, too…
one of many special books on a bookshelf.

The longer I live, the easier life seems to get. I wonder if everyone could get a glimpse of their future possible selves if this would make a difference in the time they are living now.

Sunday, September 30, 2018

Pain: Sensations vs. Danger

As I notice numerous sensations traveling through my lower body, I acknowledge they are only sensations... the pain, burning, tingling, numbness in my glutes, legs, and feet are not dangerous... just uncomfortable.

When I think of danger, my fight or flight response kicks in... and this could lead to danger as blood pressure goes up and adrenaline kicks in. With an adrenaline rush, I don't necessarily make good decisions. (Nobody does.)

It would be so nice if I can really convince myself I am not in danger. I am doing a lot better job of it these days... controlling anxious thoughts and reactions. However, my fight or flight kicks in (White Coat Fever) every time I go see an allopathic doctor ... terrorized by memories of what they might decide to do with me. I do not experience this when I see a chiropractor or my holistic nutritionist. With them, I feel calm and safe. How can I get to feeling safe with allopathic?

What part of it all could be dangerous, I wonder?

I am wiser and more informed... so I have more knowledge to base decisions on instead of allowing procedures to be done to me or pharmaceuticals to be prescribed without knowing the whole picture... the risks vs. benefits. The trouble is, I have seen when children are taken away from parents who decline allopathic treatment and seek out holistic treatment instead. Just knowing this is happening... that those parents are not given choices... I don't feel safe that I will always be able to make my own choices.

I suppose danger would be a matter of perception... what I tell myself the discomfort means. I've fallen into the black hole of depression before... not a safe place to be. And this is in my medical records. Also what is in my medical records is my refusal to take anti-depressants again.

I am clumsy on my feet and fall over like a toddler who has just learned to walk... so I use a walker. The danger here is that I could hurt myself when I fall... which I have done on numerous occasions. There are places I go without using the said walker.

Two weeks ago, my ears perked up when Annie (a new acquaintance) told me about compounding creams she is prescribed for her back pain. I had not heard of them before. This led to me finding out the doctor she sees (pain management) who comes to my town every Tuesday.

I avoid going to my GP as long as possible while getting chiropractic and holistic care (which she is not exactly in favor of). In order to get a referral to someone new, I had to go. First, since the last MRIs were taken 11 years ago, she wanted me to get new ones. Then she referred me to Annie's doctor at Capitol Pain Institute.

I go to doctors prepared... with type-written reports. After all, doctors, in general, only have 15 minutes at the most to evaluate your situation and make recommendations. (Maybe this is why I have adrenaline rushes? There is so much to do in just 15 minutes!) I had typed up a report for my GP and a separate one for Dr. Desai. (I got 15 minutes with the GP and 30 minutes first visit with Dr. Desai.)

Just like it takes me weeks-months to work on a speech for Toastmasters, it takes me weeks-months to write this report. You should try this sometime. I have revised these reports numerous times... and worry that I will miss noting an important detail. In reality, the physician is going to speed-read it and not pay attention to each and every detail.

Capitol Pain Institute has intake forms you download ahead of time to fill out. Half of page 2 was an extensive summary of all the dangers and side effects of pharmaceutical drugs... including ones I had been prescribed in the past. I felt relieved to know they cared and were aware. I also noted they are INTEGRATIVE which is different than past experiences. I am hopeful.

I now wait to receive: compounding cream (was told it would be mailed to me), a new back brace (the one I purchased on Amazon is not suitable), and the results of the new MRIs. I also have to get new x-rays for flexion and extension.

Information, I tell myself. It is just for information. Don't make up stories and meanings about what these images will show or what they might want to do to you.

The only thing that is broken is pars connection to L5.

As many times as I have fallen or have been in car accidents, none of my body parts have ever fractured. And I'm still here. Yes, the other thing I tell myself often is there must BE a reason I am still here. I must have PURPOSE.

Saturday, September 1, 2018

Late Bloomer

Copyright (c) 2018 Renee Alter

This is a photo of a tree in my neighborhood that was the last to come back to life this last Spring. I thought it was dead. What a surprise when it began to bloom as Summer arrived. This tree inspired me to contemplate on the subject of being a late bloomer... and not giving up on what appears to be dead... like my health and my spirit.

I was, indeed, a late bloomer. My mother reported that I never crawled on all fours... I just pulled myself along like a Comanche. All these years later, I decided to look up what this word meant.

A Comanche is a member of an American Indian people ranging from Wyoming and Nebraska south into New Mexico and northwestern Texas.

Mom loved Westerns and must have been thinking about how Indians dropped to the ground and quietly pulled themselves around on their bellies just before attacking their target, whether it was a human or an animal. Yes, this must be what she meant. I was also very quiet.

I was a late bloomer when it came to walking, too, finally finding my 'balance' at 15 months of age, although, I am still challenged with finding my balance. I'm sure the bifocals I used to wear and the medications I used to take affected my depth perception and balance as well. Finding a balance in life has always been challenging as well. In trying to prove my worthiness to others, I often pushed myself too hard, suffering the consequences later. Now I know I only need to prove worthiness to myself.

In life, I was a late bloomer in many more ways. While all the other girls were growing mounds on their chests, I didn't sprout any until much later. For a fearful, introverted, shy female, this didn't go well when I was 'assaulted' by the sneers and bullying of other students while in school. I didn't fit in anywhere (in school). I also continued to look like a middle schooler well on after I graduated high school. While my skin stayed young throughout my years, I can't say the same for my body. Autoimmune issues can do that to you.

In relationships, I was a late bloomer when relating to others. I was a good listener, felt compassion for others, but had no clue how to actually communicate. Instead, I withdrew into my own inner world, while my body turned against itself. As I read and studied more about human behavior and psychology over the last seven years, I began to understand both myself and others. I finally began to bloom.

All these years later, I realize I am a "normal" introvert with some extrovert tendencies. There is even a term for this: Ambivert. I spend most of my time in solitude, will not step foot into an event with a lot of people--preferring small groups, and after I am with a group of people, I need downtime to recover from the energy drain. Knowing there are many others who are similar makes a huge difference.

The term “ambivert” may be new to you, but it may also define and shed some light on your own personality traits. To simplify it, an ambivert is a person who has both introvert and extrovert qualities and may bounce between the two.