Monday, March 20, 2017

Truffles and Sunshine

Get out there. Fight the fight. After all, it is the spring equinox, what better day to move forward. Seriously? I'm quite fine under my rock, thank you, enjoying myself. Like a mole in the dark, I am following life just below the surface.

It is so easy "they" say. Go forward, don't look back, enjoy life. Just step out into the sunshine. Smell the roses. 

However, in the light of a spring day (i.e. reality) I know better. But then what is the point of having a support group? Why did I bother with therapy? Why do I pay a doctor? True, I'm not going backwards, but stalling is not an option. Sure there will still be those rainy days, but after any grand flood, the sun has come out. 

Oh, geeze, now I'm waxing on about rainbows and unicorns. Forgive me, I will spare all of us from the world of Pollyanna or Strawberry Shortcake. Reality, as we all know if we are honest, is not a piece of cake. OK, I'm out metaphors.

Of course I'll get out, move forward. Who am I kidding? Truly, I enjoy the company of friends, the fellowship of family, and the wonders of the world. Life is good. It is short. I need to remember to live in the moment. But, good Lord, the light is awfully bright out there!

PS. Rereading this text, I realize many may not find this to be an uplifting piece, especially for the first day of spring. Please don't take it as negative. It is positive. It shows forward movement. After all life is a box of chocolates, I just need to select the lime truffles instead of the hard nuts. (OK, one more metaphor, but I just could not help myself.)

Saturday, March 18, 2017

I Am Here, I Think

I am now a firm believer of parallel universes. No, I am not referring to time travel or some science fiction novel by Michael Criton. Perhaps I can best describe it as my world a lot of the time. (And, no, I am not taking some hallucinagic drug, nor am I now physcotic.)

It dawned on me yesterday (I am often slow to get the memo.) that many times I am present in a situation, but not there. Let me explain, as best I can.

Yesterday, being St Patrick's day, I was with a group of friends, folks I really enjoy being with and do not get to see enough of. I found myself often just mentally and emotionally removed from the group. It wasn't as if I were "zoned out", I was participating in the lively conversation and enjoying their company. However I felt removed in a way.

It was as if all of me was not there. I was not​ preoccupied or worried about any particular thing. I was not upset or concerned about some issue in my life. It was as if I had a split personality. Part of me was at the table having a good time conversing with friends. But a good part of me was just "hovering about", totally adrift.

By now, no doubt, I am sure you are thinking - "Duh, she is in an Irish Pub on St. Patrick's Day and not feeling normal. Spare me."

But my mental absence had nothing to do with alcohol or medication. This is a frequent state of my mind. It is as if I am preoccupied with nothing, my mind is almost blank. I am staring into an abyss. All the while I am in the midst of a lively social situation. Well, part of me is participating.

My concern is not necessarily my state of mind but rather what state or city or room or time my mind is in. If it is not here and "I" am here, where is the rest of me? If "I" am split between two universes, for God sakes give me
more information about the other one.

At some point I will get it all together. However the question is, would I rather be here or there?

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Idiots and Anxiety

 Until yesterday I had never suffered from severe anxiety. Well, there was that time during my freshman year in college when I was tasked with finding a date for the Sadie Hawkins Day dance. Naturally I set my sights on a really nice looking junior boy. Oh, and then there was the last moment before a very important occasion when I realized the  dress I had chosen weeks earlier had a broken zipper. But I digress. 

Yesterday afternoon I was making my way back downtown when traffic came to halt. No one was going any where. After sitting in the middle lane on the Ashley River bridge for some time, I realized it was time for plan B. I pulled into the right lane, which was miraculously moving, and made my way across the river. Thank goodness I am familiar with Charleston and her peculiar layout of one way streets. Taking a very circuitous route through the neighborhoods, I found that the traffic nightmare was not limited to the Cross Town. There was traffic at a standstill everywhere. 

While sitting somewhere on Radcliffe Street, I pulled up Google Maps and saw that, instead of the streets on the peninsula being a lovely color of green,  the entire area looked like a basket weave pattern of red lines. On closer look, I saw that the traffic was not just indicated as "red", it was a deep "wine" color that I did not even know existed among the normal green, yellow, and orange congestion colors. This color indicated a large parking lot.

Suddenly I was feeling what I realized was anxiety. I remember reading somewhere that the three most frequent situations that trigger an anxiety attack are: having to speak before a large audience, being in the middle of a crowd of strangers, and heavy traffic. Bingo, C - Heavy Traffic. Memories of Diane, David, and Peter telling us in therapy about the anxiety attacks they suffered. Well now I could relate.

Did my anxiety bring on "Road Rage" (aggressive or angry behavior by a driver of an automobile or other road vehicle which includes rude gestures, verbal insults, physical threats or dangerous driving methods targeted toward another driver ...) ? Certainly not. I think that only applies when traffic is moving. Right?

And "Going Postal" (becoming extremely and uncontrollably angry, often to the point of violence, and usually in a workplace environment). This did not qualify simply because I was not in a workplace. Even in a state of anxiety I could justify not suffering from either of these, if nothing else due to my southern upbringing.

Whatever, these drivers were crazy and stupid. In my mind I became frustrated that I would never get home. I could see getting into a wreck (I failed to mention it was raining.)  I started talking to myself, "Idiot the light is green. Move it, it will not last long." "You have to be frigging me. You want to make a left turn here?" "I know you are not going to block that intersection? Can't you see it is imbeciles like you who are adding to this melee?" "Mister, just have some patience. Yes, I am going to turn in front of you. You don't like it? Fine, take away my birthday."

I needed a drink. That is if I ever got home. In the end, after an hour and 5 minutes for a typical 10 minute trip (in normal traffic), I reached my apartment. Through all this I learned several things (1) anxiety is a real and frightening thing, (2) there are a lot of stupid drivers down here, and (3) the exorbitant rent I pay to live downtown is worth every penny. If I had to commute every day (even without yesterday's nightmare) I would go postal and possibly develop road rage. And it would not be pretty. Then they could add "or heavy traffic" to the definition of "Going Postal".

Thursday, March 9, 2017

I've Not Enough Energy for Freud

"When no one's at home in the top of your dome,  then your head's not a head, it's a nut."
- Just a saying my father used to say.

(According to Wiki) "Psychiatrists are commonly referred to as shrinks due to the historical likening of a psychiatrist's practices to the practice of primitive tribes preserving and shrinking the heads of their enemies. The slang term "shrink" evolved from the longer term "headshrinker." "

Shouldn't a "shrink" make your problems smaller? Perhaps they remove the evils from my brain, then reduce the size of my cranium so what is left will not just roll around loose up there. If that's the case, opening my mind may be akin to Pandora's box. Do we really want to go there?

Lord help me, I do not need more devils to deal with - my cart is full now. Certainly a full "cleanse" of my head would bring out the ones that hide deep in the corners. And there in lies the problem. Drs always want delve deeper into my soul and pull out every painful memory in there.

I am not a Dr, nor do I play one on TV, but I am spending my energy going forward. Reliving the unpleasant times of my past are only going to bring on more pain. Oh, I know, I know, (according to Freud) I need to address all the unresolved  issues in my past before I can have peace and a sane life.

If I were to blame all my problems on an alcoholic mother, low self esteem in high school, Rhonda S. making my life miserable every day, and my life not turning out exactly like my Daddy said it would, I fear I would never recover. There is not enough time left in my life, energy in my soul, or emotion to fight those windmills.

Instead I will start where I am, be thankful for what there is left of me, and begin to  putting my life and pshyche back on course. Then, and only then, am I willing to lie on someone's couch, look at ink spots, recall my earliest memory of my mother, and relive every wrong done to me in 57 years.

It's not gonna happen.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Don't Mess with Stress

Stress is often not given the credit or blame for all it is responsible for. For years I have been told "That is due to stress", "You need to handle your stress better", or "Find a Stress Free Environment" (in this case mythical Shangri-la is about the only place that would meet that qualification)

It was only during the last 3 months, I have come to understand what stress is and how damaging it can be. Stress cannot only cause one to be tired and upset, but it can make handling everyday life challenging at best. I do not know enough to go into the exact medical mental/physical description, however I can tell you that stress alone can be dibilating. Often stress is brought about something inoquesios. It is not necessarily just the loss of a loved one, a new job, new situation, or new challenge.

My eureka moment came when I realized that I was being pulled into intra-family spats that I had nothing to do with - I did not have a dog in the fight. Yet both sides continually tried to drag me into the melee. I, therefore, became collateral damage. Once I announced that unless I have some skin in the game,  leave me out of it.

Stress is physical, not just emotional or mental. It will turn your hair gray, wrinkle your face, and can, possibly, lead to a heart attack or stroke. And, one person's stress may be no issue with another.

There is the southern lady who is totally stressed at the thought of not having clean white ironed napkins for her bridge club. There is the project manager who is stressed simply looking at a deadline, even though there is no reason to think that everything will not come in on time. There is the mother who is stressed to the point of hand wringing at the thought of her daughter not getting married.

One thing I learned was to rid myself of most of what stresses me out. Get rid of it, learn to handle it, fix it, or simply accept it. Then I have more energy to deal with the serious stresses in my life that I cannot easily walk away from.

I find I am asking myself "Is that really necessary?" (That all the towels match in the bathroom.) Or "So what?" (If the one dirty glass in the kitchen sink doesn't get washed forth with.) Or "What about that really brings me joy?" (Wondering why I thought that night course on Russian History was needed simply because my friends were taking it.)

Looking around I found many tasks I was doing one way simply because I have always done it that way. Instead of dreading the task, there is a simpler way to do it. There were so many little things that I could shed, put away, ignore, say "No" to, or simply accept as not necessary.

And dealing with people who stress me out? I have learned to ask myself, "What about her causes my stomach to hurt at the sound of her voice?" I always try to be polite but keep in mind that no matter who I am dealing with nor how powerful or important they are, worse case scenario - they cannot take away my birthday and, like me, they are human.

Now I am simply left with the major stresses that cannot so easily be done away with. But, like eating an elephant, one bite at a time. 

Sunday, March 5, 2017

You Take Pictures, Isn't That Special

I did have one therapy session with a group of people who were not muttering quietly to their imaginary friend, scared of their shadow, paranoid, or overly anxious.  The therapist was discussing handling every day life.

He talked about finding something to do that relaxed you, made you happy, and did not bring on anxiety, frustration, anger, or fear. Naturally he asked each of us what that activity would  be.

The first gentleman said he liked to fish. He had a small pond and a  jon boat that he could use anytime. He went on about the peace he found. The therapist was very interested and several questions.

The next gentleman said he, also, enjoyed fishing but he preferred salt water fishing from a pier. A conversation ensued among several people about fishing, equipment, boats, locations, and in one case, a tall tale.

A lady said she enjoyed gardening and went on to tell about the flowers in her yard. She described how much she enjoyed just having her hands in the dirt and the satisfaction she got from watching the fruits (or rather blooms) of her labor. Several folks had questions about what she planted, did she start with seeds or small plants. One person even asked her if she had a formal garden.

The next lady enjoyed playing the piano. She said she especially enjoyed playing at her church. There were questions about how long she had played, what was her favorite song, and did she play for weddings and such.

Another lady said she enjoyed cooking. And her favorite was to cook for her family. Naturally there were questions about what type of food she liked to cook, had she ever taken lessons, and what was her favorite dish.

Then it came to me. I said I enjoyed photography. Walking around someplace with my camera capturing the personality and beauty of the area brought me great satisfaction. No one said anything. No one asked a question. The therapist spoke up, "So you like to go around and take pictures. That's good."

With that he moved on to the gentleman next to me who said he enjoyed working on cars. There was much discussion about what type of cars he worked on, etc.

The therapist wrapped the discussion up, "This has been very valuable. Not only did each of you share your activity, but everyone was engaged and we all learned so much more about everyone's hobby. I know I learned a lot this morning."

I definitely felt as if I had been patted on the head and told - you take pictures, isn't that special. Next. 

Good thing the topic wasn't what each of us did that brought us respect and admiration from others. I would definitely be suffering from a loss of self esteem and a serious inferiority complex. But then I'm in therapy to make me feel better, right?

Friday, March 3, 2017

What's That Word?

Have you ever had one of those days when you couldn't pull a word out of your mind to finish a sentence. For example: " I'll use my _____ to send you that document." And you spend frustrating minutes struggling to think what in the hell is the name of that damn machine. (scanner)

Meanwhile my husband is saying, "Words, use words." Trust me this is not a parlor game.

Then there is, not the inability to remember a conversation, but apparently, misunderstanding what the conversation was about. And not being to able to get through the day without a list. Although, to my credit, I usually do not lose the list or forget about it.

Naturally the first fear that comes to my mind is watching Judge Williams' decline into the dark cloud of Alzheimer's. There was the total confusion, the lack of memory, and change her very large vocabulary into a simple one.

But, it is not Alzheimer's or dementia, according to my doctors, it is due to either the medication I am on or the effects of the stress I am trying to overcome. Gee, so the good news is I most likely will get better, the bad news is I may be a blathering idiot by the time I get there.

This is truly a warm and fuzzy feeling. Not!

And to make life even more fun, I now have a slight trimmer in my hands at times. Parkinson's? No, according to my doctors, once again, a side effect of my medication. 

I'll be patient right now and handle all these side effects and not let them add to my stress, especially since they are brought on by medications prescribed to me  by my doctors to relieve my stress. Ah, the miracles of modern medication. Unfortunately, I realize, the alternative could be deadly - literally.

All that said, when I start dragging my right leg, drooling, loosing my hair, or develop the nervous propensity to yell out inappropriate or obscene comments in public, I think we may revisit the list of medications prescribed for me. Just saying.

Maybe this is one of those times when having multiple personality disorder could come in handy. When you cannot think of a word, one of your other "personalities" may be able to assist and remind you. But, I digress.

After all, even though I want to get better, it is no worth losing my ____?___ in the process. (Damn it, what's that word?)

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

No, It Doesn't Hurt

I was once asked, "When you are feeling really blue, having one of your darker days, how does it feel? I mean, do you feel sick? "

"No, this is not a physical illness."

"The only thing I can relate to is being very sad or upset."

I did not respond and left it there. This was obviously coming from someone who could think of nothing else to say but most likely had good intentions. However, I was going to spare him from an answer he probably truly did not want to hear and I definitely had no desire to get into.

Truth is when one is going south and the blues are going from indigo to navy, one retreats from the world. The darker it gets, the less one "feels" pain. Rather the desperation and hopelessness starts a spin that can lead into the death spiral.

OK, that is worse case scenario. And that answer will most likely get one committed. It is hard to explain the pergatory one falls into when one realizes depression is on the horizon like a bad storm.

The trick is learning to be aware of the oncoming storm before it strikes. And if one finds themselves in the rain, do not despair. Even when it is dark, be prepared. Take action. Fear not, the river Styx is no where around.

This is where one's coping skills and support system become invaluable. From the darkness there will be light coming through the clouds. The belief that the sun will rise again returns.

So I think it is a lot easier to say,  "No, this is not a physical illness."