Tuesday, November 5, 2019

Talking Myself Out of Suicide

Don't be alarmed... I am out of the woods. What I'd like to write about is the turning point when I stopped thinking about death as a way out of pain and despair.

For a brief recap, I've had suicidal urges twice. When I was 43, the pain in my body became so overwhelming, I could no longer work. I had no one who could take care of me, and I lost all hope. I was a single mom of a teenage boy. How would I support him? In addition to the usual amount of depression I endured, I decided I couldn't live with intense muscular-skeletal pain, and my son was independent and could survive without me.

I never got as far as figuring out how I would end my life. I just had a death wish. The new pain management doctor I found nipped this in the bud with a cocktail of medication. The trouble was, without a sense of purpose besides being a patient to my doctors, and without meaningful relationships which I lacked the skills to develop, I lost the will to live on this planet in a physical body. Medication could not provide those for me. They only sedated me, further separating me from the people I wanted to be in relationship with.

In 2011, the year after I stopped taking 11 medications cold turkey, I began to accept medication again. After swallowing the first Cymbalta tablet, I disassociated and became suicidal in addition to everything else. All I could think about was walking up to the road at night and getting hit by a truck. (I was able to walk at the time.) The only thing that stopped me was the possibility I might survive and be in worse pain than I already was.

With bouts of depression consuming huge chunks of my life with no access to adequate counseling or solutions along with relentless chronic pain, I began a personal quest for solutions of my own in 2013, once I became aware there was another way of BEing.

I could not forget how I felt during the three-month manic high I experienced in 2010, when I felt no pain, could walk, enjoyed going to social events, and saw a vision of the amazing life I could have... one that provided me with PURPOSE. I could not forget the spiritual voice that telepathically told me to use the talents I was blessed with, and I've been writing about what I discover ever since. I also could not forget the experience I had when I totaled my GMC Sonoma (more below).

That rare and only manic high I experienced included a huge vision that dissipated after a few months and hasn't returned. In my big dream mind, I was going to be a famous (well-known) author who traveled, got paid to speak, met other famous people like Louise Hay and Greg Braden, had the ability to donate to many different charity foundations, and was a catalyst for enriching the lives of many people. The vision also included meeting famous singers who wanted to sing the songs I wrote. I yearned to do much more in making a difference on the planet.

Stress, depression, pain, and fatigue put the breaks on. Losing my ability to walk again did, too. Lack of adequate transportation didn't help, so I became isolated. As time went by, I withdrew into myself and developed phobias of the outside world.

In the meantime, because I am a perfectionist and have unrealistic expectations, I've been hard on myself for being a 'slow learner.' I have at my fingertips a wealth of knowledge to absorb via the internet and all the books I read and have read... all of which I can do from the comfort of home. Perhaps there is an alternative vision I am to pursue. What will I do with all this knowledge besides blogging about it?

In 2014, I found the book, God Is A Verb: Kabbalah and the Practice of Mystical Judaism. What I still remember in this book is the part about our purpose: RAISE HOLY SPARKS... in any way we can. Even one person can do this. Even me. Even from bed. But how?

Meditation.

In 2015, I found Dr. David Burns' book, Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy which gave me an introduction to psychology with the ten cognitive distortions. I learned how to challenge my thoughts once I became aware of them and reframe, but it didn't help with pain, fatigue, and the limitations I was faced with. Maybe there would be something I could do that didn't require as much energy.

Meditation.

At some point I realized I had guardian angels who were keeping me alive... so I concluded I must have a purpose for being here. But what? Religion didn't give me reasons to be here... and most described heaven as the place I'd rather be. No amount of medication alleviated the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual pain I was suffering from. No amount of medication alleviated the isolation and loss of purpose when I spent most of my life in bed.

In 2018, I came across the book, How to Be Sick: A Buddhist-Inspired Guide for the Chronically Ill and Their Caregivers. I found a new friend who was experiencing what I had been experiencing. She had learned Buddhist principles which helped her deal with her challenges. I learned more about acceptance and surrendering through...

Meditation.

(By the way, I resisted meditating in case you haven't figured that out yet. I only did relaxation exercises to fall asleep at night and fall back to sleep when I woke up in the middle of the night.)

When I found videos on YouTube by Abraham-Hicks, followed by reading two of their books, I came across this reason for being here:

"It is with clear and deliberate intent that you decide to project Consciousness into this time-space reality--and it is with great enthusiasm that you come forth into these bodies. You are filled with eager anticipation for a number of reasons: (including) You are a master creator, and you know it. You like the experience of creating. You know that this is an environment with a tremendous variety of interesting components. You enjoy the sensation of a fresh new desire. You know that is is through your interaction with contrast and variety that your own desires will be formulated."

I must admit, I do enjoy creating and how it feels when I manage to complete something. And every so often, I experience creative explosions. Words such as clear and deliberate intent; with great enthusiasm; eager anticipation; master creator; tremendous variety of interesting components; enjoying the sensation of a fresh new desire all resonated true for me. There was also the part that because of these reasons, if we commit suicide, we will just choose to come right back again. Sigh.

If I'm going to come right back again after I die, I might as well study, learn, and evolve as much as I possibly can, so when I DO come back, I don't have to start in the same place I am now, or worse, all over again from scratch. Even if reincarnation isn't real, I'm not going to take a chance.

Making this decision was followed by new books, new courses, more videos, meeting new people, and taking on new uplifting volunteer assignments I can do from home at my own pace... so I can continue to feel like I can make a difference in small ways between creating.

I completed the iRest Yoga Nidra program which includes...

Meditation.

It alerted me to the disconnect I still have between my body and my emotions. The task of differentiating the difference between feelings and emotions... and coming up with its opposite has me feeling like I am trying to learn physics. I wanted to reach beyond the examples listed in the workbook. I still don't get it. I sense this concept is a key to cut through the anxiety I experience... so I am determined to figure out what it is. But I couldn't figure out the difference between a feeling and an emotion, so I Googled it. I found:


So far, the explanation is just words. Between iRest and this article, I got that feelings are created by the senses; learned behaviors that are usually in hibernation until triggered by an external event. Emotions are physically measurable, physically-based reactions (like when my pulse starts racing, and I am so anxious I can't think straight). 

"An emotion is a physiological experience (or state of awareness) that gives you information about the world, and a feeling is your conscious awareness of the emotion itself."

"Many people are honestly unaware that they're having an emotion. For them, the emotion and the consciousness of it are not strongly connected, and they don't even realize that they're fearful, or angry, or depressed. Their emotional state has to become so persistent that it drags them into a severe mood, and then they can realize, 'Oh, I guess I've been really sad about...'"

I downloaded Your Emotional Vocabulary List from this site. You experience the emotion first, then determine what feelings are involved (naming), and act on the information the emotion provides. 

Intrigued? Read the rest of the article.

I suspect this is the missing link for me as I would just get overwhelmed with the emotion and haven't been able to 'name' the feelings involved in order to act on the information the emotion provides, never mind identify where in my body I feel it.

Like a treasure hunter, I 'felt' the anticipation of stumbling on a new clue to what to seek next. My goal is to name what comes up for the sake of information vs. shutting down (with overwhelm, illness, and adrenal fatigue). I've only listed the ones I identify on the list pertaining to Depression and Suicidal Urges: 

Soft Depression and Suicidal Urges: Apathetic; Depressed; Discouraged; Disinterested; Feeling Worthless; Helpless; Isolated; Purposeless; Withdrawn
Medium (or Mood-State) Depression and Suicidal Urges: Desolate; Empty; Hopeless; Miserable; Overwhelmed
Intense Suicidal Urges: Anguished; Bleak; Devastated; Suicidal

Noted at the end of this section: "If you can learn to catch your suicidal urges when they're in the soft state, you can often stop yourself from falling into the pit of anguish. In the territory of the suicidal urge, your capacity for emotional awareness and sensitivity can literally save your life!"

In the meantime, I've been reading, Lessons from the Light: What We Can Learn from the Near-Death Experience. I don't think I've had any NDEs as defined in books of when you remember leaving your body when you die and see what is going on from the ceiling... such as when a surgery goes wrong... or you've been a car accident... or suffer a fatal heart attack... followed by a decision you make to come back after you're told by a divine being it is not your time. I wondered if I could have been close to dying during one of many apnea episodes... or one of several surgeries I've had. 

While reading about NDEs, I thought about the trip to somewhere I went to when I totaled my GMC Sonoma in 2008. At the time of the accident, I was depressed as well as lethargic due to being over-medicated. There was the block of time that disappeared while I went from being in motion on the road to resting in the ravine. When the truck came to a full stop, everything in it came flying at me... and I was filled with a sense of awe, surprise, and joy. I felt like I had gone somewhere in another dimension... I felt like I was told everything would be OK. If I had a life review, I felt like I had seen an amazing future. The truck was totaled, but I didn't even get a scratch. Was this some type of NDE? If so, why can't I remember where I went? What I do know is I didn't lose consciousness... at least the physical kind. 

After writing this draft, I continued to read more of the book. Something told me I might find an explanation in one of the next chapters. There on page 229, I found what I needed to read:

"It is important to realize, however, that the healing balm of the Light is available not just to NDErs, of course, but to anyone who finds him or herself in a deep spiritual crisis or on the verge of suicide. In my years of researching NDEs, I have in fact heard from many persons who, though they clearly were not physically near death, nevertheless had a kind of NDE, which in its properties and effects was indistinguishable from those that are triggered by an actual condition in which one's life is at risk. Thus, the Light seems to come to those who need it, regardless of the individual's physical state."

Then this in a letter the author received... "My experience happened at a time in my life when I wanted to die."

Bingo. At the time of the accident, I did. But unlike the time before, this time something magical happened. I wish I knew where I went.

I believe I have learned enough with all my studying to keep myself out of getting suicide urges again in the future. In the meantime, what if my life purpose is merely to learn how to be HUMAN? 

Thursday, October 31, 2019

Haunted

About two weeks ago, I felt haunted... by the spirits, emotions, and voices of many children tugging on my invisible sleeves. The sensation began to overwhelm me. 

In the meantime, I continued to do the work of recovering from past trauma, wrote about the discovery of parts, and did an iRest Yoga Nidra program for two months. The meditations were different than other meditations I had done. 

Based on Buddhist principles, everything in life--both joy and sorrow--are impermanent. The goal is to refrain from getting attached to either one... and stop the cycle of making up stories about your experiences. In the practice, you identify feelings, emotions, beliefs, and images along with their opposite, somehow feel each one, then merge these opposites together while meditating. 

The spirits and voices of these children got louder. In a moment of exasperation, I asked them how many they were... and felt the answer of 9. OK. I asked how old they were... and felt the answer of 5. Five is a good age. I have a photo of myself when I was 5 on my bedside table. I asked if any of them had died... and felt the answer of 4. How sad.

Suddenly, I felt the urge to take down the box of little dolls and other doll-house size objects I had been saving for my grand-daughter... and for my inner child. I counted them out... and found I had exactly 9 of them! 

My intention was for each doll to represent one of the feelings (or emotions) I had suppressed, to allow them the freedom to express themselves... and to find a way to love and accept them. I could pretend I was in charge of a class of kindergarteners. 

 And yet... I even wondered if it was possible these 9 dolls simply wanted out of their box.


They are now sitting in a circle in a red plastic open-top container facing each other with a little cat in the middle.

It amazes me how much better I felt after I did this. With all my inner children out of their box, free to BE with both joy and sadness and a cat to play with, all is well. When something comes up from the deep abyss, I look and ask who is upset and what they need to feel better.

Happy Halloween!

Monday, October 14, 2019

The Let-Down Effect and Expansion

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Which comes first? The chicken or the egg?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, October 6, 2019

Parts: Internal Family Systems

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

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

What if?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

WHAT ABOUT US?

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

Miracles


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

New Release!!!


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

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

Monday, June 24, 2019

Making Friends With The Storm

Image from Shutterstock

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, June 16, 2019

Spider Web

Copyright © 2019 Renee Alter


SPIDER WEB

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Maybe spiders have personalities, too.

Copyright © 2019 Renee Alter

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

Sunday, June 9, 2019

Lessons from Occupational Therapy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

CLICK HERE TO VIEW OR BUY

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

CLICK HERE TO VIEW OR BUY

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

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

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

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

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

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.)