Sunday, March 25, 2018

Falling & Lessons Learned

Do you have a FEAR of Falling?
Do you stay home and avoid being active?
Learn what YOU can DO to MANAGE your fear.

This is the header of the flyer for "A Matter of Balance."

Last year, I participated in an 8-week course presented by the Area Agency on Aging. Since I have a history of falling quite a few times -- and I fear falling -- as one incident could jar my lower spine and put me back in a wheelchair even though I've never broken anything, I was happy when this course came to my town. Topics covered: understanding your fears, staying active through easy exercises, learning to communicate with your family and healthcare team, making safety improvements at your home, delaying complications, and changing "Fall-ty" habits.

It is designed to teach seniors (and other people) about managing fears and fall prevention. We watched videos about the real causes of aging, especially inactivity. Included in the course were proven exercises shown to improve balance which would lower the likelihood of falling as well as surveying the layout of your home for safety and making necessary changes. I had been afraid of getting older and more fragile, but this course gave me peace of mind. I've been doing all the recommended exercises and then some. I've also strived to be MINDFUL of everything I do vs. "accident prone."

In the meantime, I had been following Phaedra Antioco who facilitated a Docu-Series titled Pain Treatments That Work. She had been in a horrific car accident and learned how what she told herself affected her ability to recover. She decided to become an occupational therapist -- one who also digs for the emotional and mental roots that keep people in pain. She even got to test what she learned on herself when she fell on the stairs and broke her back -- again -- describing her initial reaction and how she corrected her mindset and recovered.

On Wednesday, February 7, I stood up from the office chair I sit on to get something and wasn't being MINDFUL when I sat back down again. The chair rolled to the left and I went down on my right hip, jarring my right elbow and tapping the back of my head on the chair I keep behind me with additional projects on it that I am working on.

When I fell this time, I was immediately AWARE of the thoughts racing through my mind -- of fear, anger, and self-criticism.

  • Fear: OMG! Now I've done it! I've broken my hip!!! Just like my older sister did!
  • Anger: My reaction to falling. I was really MAD!
  • Self-Criticism: How could I have been so careless? How could I have been so stupid? I KNOW BETTER. I just took that class!

Then I heard Phaedra's voice: DON'T GIVE YOUR BRAIN A REASON TO TRIGGER THE FEAR RESPONSE which will trigger a cascade of chemical reactions which will incite a lot more pain than the injury calls for. DON'T LET YOUR BRAIN DECIDE THE PAIN IS DANGEROUS.

Now it was time to test these concepts on myself.

First and foremost, I took control and told my mind to STOP. I got up and began going through each and every exercise movement I learned in Matter of Balance and my local exercise programs. Everything still worked! (See? You panicked about nothing! You made up stories that included cognitive distortions that weren't true before you collected the evidence as to whether it was true or not.) I applied some essential oils to the hot spots knowing they would penetrate immediately to begin the healing process.

However, a headache came on that I had to troubleshoot. I was so focused on my hip (yes I bruised it), I had to retrace how I tapped the back of my head on the chair behind me and the little electrical current I felt travel down the right side of my neck. Could that little inconsequential tap have knocked something out of alignment? Nahhhh, I thought.

The headache (I wasn't about to claim it) wouldn't let up and continued through the following week. It got so intense I couldn't do much of anything (except my exercises). I used my swaying muscle testing technique (forward for yes, backward for no) asking questions such as is it from food I ate? No. Am I fighting off a virus? No. Is it discontinuation syndrome from getting off Mirtazapine? No. Is it allergies? No. Too much time on the computer? Yes. But then I asked did I knock a vertebra out of alignment? Yes. Axis? No. Atlas? Yes.

I hadn't seen my chiropractor in a year and made an appointment. Indeed, I had knocked my Atlas out of alignment. After all, the head weighs about 10 pounds. I got an "adjustment" to put it back where it belongs. I asked why he didn't adjust anything else... I usually need multiple places adjusted. He replied that nothing else was out of alignment. Really?

All the exercises I had been doing toned the muscles along my spine to keep them from slipping out so easily? Yup.

I also asked about an exercise I could do for my neck. It was very similar to one I learned from Bob and Brad (famous physical therapists on the internet) but my chiro added a resistance band to it and showed me how to do it slow and intentional.

The following day I was headache free and even when it returns it is mild compared to what it had been before.

As for the chiropractic visit... he asked when I was there last. I answered, can't remember. Check your records. It was exactly one year to the day since my last visit. And so I wondered... is there a divine plan in all of this? Involving multiple individual events that work together for the good of the whole?

Things that make me go Mmmmmm..... after all, I just wrote another post about Synchronicity in Discovering Resilience so synchronicity is on my mind...

Sunday, March 18, 2018

The Synchronicity of Discovering Resilience

Synchronicity! I love when I feel prompted to learn about something, the answers show up from multiple resources within a short amount of time. And I wonder if the recent series of events had anything to do with my recent experience of needing to go down to the police station to report someone (which took tremendous courage on my part as well as a flare of PTSD).

Because I had participated in a Women's Self-Defense program (rape prevention) in 2013 and had met and conversed with our female police chief, I finally learned what actions I needed to take should another incident occur. This time, I took action.

Within a short amount of time, a fellow tenant who is about 70 years old and is in my exercise program told me about his participation in the Citizen's Police Academy. I had seen posts about it on Facebook. He had also participated in the Active Shooter program and recommended I go to one. He said the information was valuable because it can happen anywhere. While I haven't seen when it will be offered again, I became interested in brushing up on the skills I learned in 2013.

If something more intense had unfolded with this individual, would I have remembered how to protect myself? Just when I was feeling 'safe' someone I never suspected turned out to be dangerous. A short time after I filed my complaint, he was arrested for assault with bodily injury of a family member... and it wasn't me... but could have been.

In the meantime, I received an email from Critical Bench (which I subscribe to) about Mike Gillette's self-defense program. I was curious after reading the description on this website in addition to being intrigued at the timing of receiving it and purchased the program with the promotion price. You can check it out here: Real Life Self Defense. The videos provide me with just what I wanted to know.

Also, in the meantime, I grew curious about the word resilience again. Talking to someone who is involved in Citizen's police raised questions about what makes firefighters and police officers resilient. (along with military personnel)

I last wrote a post about resilience in 2015. You can read it here. The Many Faces of Resilience When I first learned about Resilience, I was fascinated... because I realized I didn't have it. Each time something "traumatic" happened to me, I adopted the belief that I was powerless to do anything to protect myself.

I Googled "what makes firefighters and police officers resilient" and found two articles of interest. The first is Resilience among first responders

In this article, three elements were studied: Sense of Community, Collective Efficacy, and Self-efficacy.

"The results of this study outline the need of interventions aimed at the promotion of resilience factors rather than the treatment of negative health symptoms."

Mmmm. Negative health symptoms had been an issue most of my life. I must read more. I also had to look up the meaning of efficacy... "the ability to produce a desired or intended result"

"Stamm introduced the concept of Compassion satisfaction, defined as the benefits that individuals derive from working with traumatized or suffering persons. These benefits include positive feelings about helping others, finding meaning in one's effort and challenges, fulfilling one's potential, contributing to the work setting and even to the greater good of society, and the overall pleasure derived from being able to do one's work well." 

This includes all the ingredients I have developed over the last 4 years, explaining why my overall health has improved.

"Efficacy beliefs pertain to the individual beliefs in one's own capability to exercise some measure of control over in one's own functioning and environmental events." 

Yes, validating what I noted above from self-defense information.

"The results of this paper evidence the protective role of self-efficacy, collective efficacy and sense of community in emergency rescue work." "We discovered that efficacy beliefs and sense of community have an influence on work related health outcomes, especially compassion satisfaction."

Mmmm. Good information! It helped me to understand what was missing in my inability to develop resilience in my earlier years.

The second article I found is Five Ways to Promote Officer Resilience

Dr. Jarrod Sadulski, a 20-year law enforcement veteran and criminal justice professor at American Military University (AMU) wondered what I wondered:

“I’ve seen police suicides. I’ve seen stress ruin marriages and ruin officers’ lives,” he said. Still, there are many who manage to avoid such tragic outcomes, Sadulski noted. “I’ve also seen officers who are highly effective at managing stress and I’ve always wondered what the difference was.” He noted five factors.

1. Peer support through communication – Peer support allows officers to actively process their stress by talking to others who have had similar experiences.

(In another blog post I wrote about having a support structure in schools for students to get group support as well as continuous education. What we learn as children can make a huge difference.)

2. Experience – “I thought experience would be a stressor, but all participants mentioned that it actually helped build resilience,” said Sadulski. “It helped them put traumatic experiences in perspective.” Over time, experienced officers learn to develop conditioned responses to stress and are even able to view emergency calls as routine in nature. 

(Group exercises in school settings could provide a similar experience. I lived a very sheltered childhood which resulted in anxiety and powerlessness in many situations.)

3. Family Support – “Officers who are able to communicate with their spouses regarding what occurs out in the field reduces the long-term impact of stress,” said Sadulski. 

(Yes, family support makes a huge difference in growing up but unfortunately, it isn't available to many of today's families, especially when single parents or otherwise are too stressed and overwhelmed with their own lives to be a support to their children.)

4. Life and identity outside of policing – Maintaining a holistic identity separate from the badge allows officers to unwind when they’re not on the job. 

(While I worked with others for most of my adult life, I often felt left out and withdrawn, unable to relate or develop bonds with co-workers. This one shows me had I acquired "tribes" outside of my job I would have felt better about myself. Introverts will often have this issue. Moving around as much as I did meant leaving behind the few tribes I bonded with. For me, I also had to develop an identity separate from the pain and health challenges I dealt with. I had to figure out who I was outside of all that and stay in one place long enough to become comfortable with the many people I've met within the clubs I've joined.)

5. Police Training – “Stress management training should be established through the police academy and it should be a part of annual block training that is required for offices to maintain their certifications,” said Sadulski. 

(I've also written about getting stress management training while in school and I've seen the videos of teaching meditation to children who are in mainstream classes as well as the children who are sent to detention to teach them coping skills. Learning stress management skills much earlier in my life could have prevented my health from declining as quickly as it did.)

As for simulation training to prepare officers for traumatic incidents, I am watching simulation training on Mike Gillette's videos.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Death by Medicine

On March 5, I watched the documentary titled Death by Medicine. I am in shock and very grateful that I am as well as I am. I really wish I knew back then what I know now, that I could go back in time, and redo that part of my life drug-free. Yes, I had tried... Chinese Medicine and some other alternative solutions... but when I collapsed in 1998, I went to a Physiatrist (Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation) and trusted his protocol. Afterall, he set me up on permanent disability.

I can't believe I was so dumb to be a guinea pig to so many drugs (and vaccines)! I also can't believe I went to doctors who prescribed them! But I was in pain and it was all I knew. At least now I can understand what was going on with doctors and prescriptions after watching the film.

To sum up, students in medical school are taught by pharmaceutical companies which drugs to prescribe for which symptoms vs. finding the root causes. We trust our doctors to know what they are doing, but it is a guessing game when it comes to most drugs--which makes us guinea pigs. Many of the drugs were pushed through the FDA even though there was proven dangers to using them. Yikes! The sales reps and students acted (and still do) on blind trust. We don't have a healthcare system, we have a sick-care system--one that has an interest in making as much money as it can.

A lot of the drugs discussed in the film are ones I had been prescribed and took for many years. Ouch! I will just review in brief (I have a lot more detail in my memoir, Love, Life, & God: Getting Past the Pain.)

As a child, I was given Belladonna for intestinal cramps... but no one knew back then that I was allergic to milk. I have no memories of the cramps or whether the drug helped to relieve them. The doctor said it was nerves, and I could have also been reacting to the tension in the household.

When I was a teen, I was prescribed Darvon and Demerol for menstrual cramps which made me hallucinate in school. My head detached from my shoulders and I floated a foot above the stairs. The doctor then prescribed a combination of Motrin and Dexedrine. It turned out that I had polycystic ovarian disease. When I was 19, I was put on synthetic birth control pills.

When I was 18, I was given Elavil for depression. It's a good thing I didn't take it for long. I quit because it made me drowsy during the day even though I took it at bedtime and I had to go to work. I also had developed sore throats (later diagnosed as Mono) and I'm sure I had been given too many doses of antibiotics. I am grateful I didn't have the types of side effects discussed in the film.

When I was 21, I dozed at the wheel and opened my eyes just in time to see the car I was about to crash into. I began to take Valium for muscles spasms. They had a rebound effect in which every time I stopped taking them, the spasms returned.

The real problems began in 1998 which I mentioned in the first paragraph. I'm surprised I still have a brain, although I probably lost a good number of brain cells. By July 2010, I was prescribed 11 medications which I took every day.

Proton Pump Inhibitors

I had eroded my esophagus by swallowing three 200mg tablets of Motrin every 4 hours every day and the solution was antacids and PPI's. Every time I stopped taking them, the acid would come up and burn. Within the last few years, I began eating crystalized ginger which stopped the acid reflux. I also learned it is caused by not enough acid and enzymes in your stomach to digest protein. For more information on the dangers of taking these go to The Dangers of Proton Pump Inhibitors

Muscle Relaxers

Valium, Soma, then Flexeril, No wonder the muscle relaxers didn't help. They can trigger the very muscle spasms you are trying to alleviate. (Dr. John Bergman) Better are Somatic exercises to help your brain remember how to release spasms.


I am so grateful I got off of them before the recent crisis hit and people are suddenly unable to get them after being dependent on them for YEARS. The Opioids started off with Vicodin, then a Fentanyl patch which I had an immediate reaction to. Then it was Norco. Vicodin and Norco are hydrocodone combined with acetaminophen but in different doses. Now they say acetaminophen can damage your liver. After someone suggested I Google Opioid induced hyperaglasia... which I did... I knew it was time to stop taking them.


Once again, it's a miracle I still have a brain. There was the cocktail of antidepressants and antiseizure drugs even though I wasn't having seizures. These included Ativan (the nightmare drug in the film), Klonopin, and Neurontin which was later changed to the generic Gabapentin. At some point, I was switched to Lyrica and gained 30 pounds in 2 months so I quit taking it, left to deal with a bloated body.

After being on each of the anti-depressants for 2-3 years, warnings would reach my doctor so he would switch me to a new one--in this order Serzone, Seroquel, Effexor 2x day following by extended release, and Cymbalta. Cymbalta was the last one I was on when I stopped taking everything cold turkey in 2010. When I crawled (literally) back to the doctor several months later, she began to prescribe new ones--Celexa followed by Cymbalta at which point I not only felt suicidal, but I disconnected and disassociated. I could no longer relate to any of the photos of my family members. I am very grateful I didn't end up in a psych ward like the ones in the film as they would have most likely pumped me up with additional ones.

I wouldn't try any more antidepressants for another year after exhausting my efforts to try the nutritional approach. (I didn't have enough information at the time.) When I did accept another one, my doctor prescribed Paxil which made me feel sick, and finally Remeron (Mirtazapine). Are you seeing the pattern of how it is a guessing game as to which drug will actually help? Anyway, at 1/2 the lowest dose, after a week, I began to notice the sun and the clouds again along with the sound of birds--things I had been unable to notice the previous year. However, the dose was continuously increased until I reached max.

Last July, I wanted to begin weaning off Mirtazapine (the last of all the drugs) after realizing grains (whole grains, too) were contributing to pain and inflammation. Besides, I really didn't like feeling drugged 20 minutes after swallowing a pill. I slowly reduced the dose to 7.5 mg and then began skipping 1 day, 2 days, and when I got to 3, the headaches, itching, and ADD-like symptoms would begin. See further down for "Bri Linney."

The Cocktail for Metabolic Syndrome

Among the many side effects of all the medications I was taking were high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, and frozen shoulder. I was prescribed drugs for all of these, including the Metformin mentioned in the film. I don't recall Statin drugs being discussed in the film, but there is a lot on the internet about these. For the frozen shoulder, I was prescribed corticosteroids for 7 days which didn't do anything to alleviate it. Again, just a guessing game on the part of the doctor. (It was eventually sound therapy that did.)


Premarin is discussed in the film. I took this for YEARS as well! Now they say bioidentical hormones are much safer.

Osteoporosis Medicines

First, it was Boniva, then it was changed to Fosamax. After taking these for years, I began to learn they keep old bone cells from dying (the natural cycle is old cells dying and new cells birthing) which makes your bones MORE brittle vs. stronger. Several dentists told me about it affecting their patients' jaws and women were fracturing their thighs.

I really do cringe at how much I put my body through!

I recently came across a Facebook page called Cymbalta Hurts Worse and found out how dangerous it is to get off this drug once you start along with information about half-life and what happens when you skip even one day. All the symptoms I dealt with for about 2 years after I quit taking them are noted on this site.

This inspired me to check on the half-life of Mirtazapine and found it to be much better than Cymbalta--it was OK to skip the days I was skipping. At the end of November, I began going to Bri Linney of Complete Chiropractic and Wellness Center with the hope she'd be able to help me get off this drug. She had started me on homeopathy for my hypothalamus followed by one for lymph drainage. I took the last Mirtazapine on February 23. Yay!!!

When you are prescribed an antidepressant, they don't tell you what will happen when you try to stop taking them. Once you start, you must take them for life. This is true for quite a few prescription drugs. Doctors are not informed.

I hope if you haven't already, seek other means of finding the cause of your symptoms. Serotonin is produced in your gut and there are other ways of treating the root causes of your symptoms. I've also been following posts by Amen Clinics and Brain MD, learning about the brain--and watched The Broken Brain.

I don't trust ANY drugs now--not even over the counter ones, nor do I trust what is in Vaccines. Take care of your health where it begins... with nutrition, exercise, the right amount of sleep, stress management, meaningful connections with others, and a sense of purpose. I'm sure if your life depends on it, there is a drug that can save you--side effects and all. And I suppose I'd still want anesthesia if I need surgery. (Have had it a few times.) As for tense muscles, headaches, allergies, anxiety, or an arthritis flare, I've got my doTERRA essential oils.

I can be sad that I lost so many years while "doped up" and sedated on prescription meds. In addition to being a "victim" to childhood experiences which led to all the adult ones I dealt with, I was a "victim" of the allopathic medicine and pharmaceutical industry. However, it's what I do now that matters. I became my own psychologist and wellness advocate and strive to inspire in others the possibility of natural solutions to all the types of issues I used to have, with a few lingering although milder.

Watch the film: Death by Medicine

Then tell me what you think!

Sunday, March 4, 2018

When Everything Turns Green

Copyright (c) 2018 Renee Alter
On March 1, everything began to turn GREEN. Overnight! The birds began celebrating with song and gathering nest material even though Spring doesn't officially arrive until March 20. I just hope this doesn't mean Summer will kick in early, too!

According to the 2018 Groundhog prediction:

"Bad news for warm-weather fans: beloved groundhog Punxsutawney Phil has seen his shadow, therefore predicting that winter will stick around for another six weeks in 2018." (Click on the underlined words to read more.)

The trees are bursting with new buds that will sprout into leaves. A squirrel in the tree outside my window was entertaining me with its acrobatic feats while feasting on these buds. (BTW, this is the same tree that has the broken branch I wrote about in a previous post.)

Here's a photo of a large bush further down in the creek bed that is blooming WHITE.

Copyright (c) 2018 Renee Alter
Which do I believe? The Groundhog prediction or what is blooming in my backyard?

I always marvel at how Earth knows when it is time to reawaken after a long winter of hibernation... just like bears do... and sometimes just like we do.

If you have SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) you may have been hibernating all winter. Lack of sunshine means low Vitamin D which can lead to depression, and people who are depressed tend to sleep a lot more than a person who isn't. I hibernate just because I don't like it when it is cold... and everything looks so dull. I've also hibernated during extended times of illness, depression, and fibromyalgia flares.

In years past, I didn't realize it wasn't forever and often felt hopeless about never feeling better. With the help of untwisting twisted thinking (cognitive distortions), I realized my "conclusions" were false and with the "Law of Attraction" kept bringing more illness and pain vs. solutions. Then all kinds of solutions presented themselves in all kinds of surprising ways.

The downside of living in Central Texas is that it rarely snows. Now, I don't REALLY miss the snow... the shoveling... the effort it took to de-ice and clean off my car before I could go anywhere (like work or driving my son to school)... the danger of falling while on foot and skidding into things when driving... or someone else skidding into me... but I do have some pleasant memories of building snow forts in our driveway. My brother even built a huge snow dragon one year.

All winter (and I live right by a creek) everything looks so incredibly DULL. Everything looks very DEAD. The only nature I was interested in looking at was community cats, deer, and squirrels, that often provided a boost to all the dullness. I wonder if they even notice how dull it gets. (I have photos on my Renee's Photography Facebook page.)

Then you wake up one morning and it had all sprung to life GREEN. Hill Country becomes a place you can't get enough of. Soon all the wildflowers will be blooming everywhere and tourists will fill the area so they can take pictures of their loved ones in fields of these wild-flowers.

Here's the link to Texas Highways Wildflower Drives: Texas Highways

As for the broken branch, it will soon be covered over with leaves but a plastic bag that blew in the air got caught at the end of a branch and will linger. I wonder if I can find a really long pole to remove it with. Plastic is an entirely different matter and I cringe at how much I am still contributing to the landfills while some of it is ending up in the creek... in the lakes, rivers, and oceans... on the side of the roads... in the parks... and in the trees.

On the plus side, I want to give a shout out to a new Toastmaster member, Michelle Pace, who started her own business called The Green Plant, a residential and commercial composting service in Harker Heights. Hopefully, the concept will catch on and she'll be able to expand into more cities and rural communities.