Monday, December 29, 2014

Then and Now

I was packing to go house sit at my sister's house for their annual anniversary trip, and started thinking about how things that are important to me have changed.

When I was younger, my drive ad desire was to try to be as "successful" as I could be.  I strove to excel in every career I held, from the military to office managers later.  I don't regret holding my country or my service to it in high regard.  I don't regret the hard work I did through all the years near or far from family.  I've lost friends in the mail, when I, they or both of us moved.  I took that in stride as just another thing that happens when you live life and are on the move from one place to another.  What I do regret from these times are the years lost that I could have spent with family that I love and who love me.  I regret not taking better care of the health problems I knew about because I was just too busy to notice they were getting worse, or just thought if I kept moving they would stay in check because a thing in motion "stays in motion".  Well, it may WANT to stay in motion, but sometimes it comes to a screeching screaming halt.

As my hearing approaches this upcoming month, I reflect on the fact that what has become important to me is my family.  It's not all I have, though sometimes it may feel like it, but it is the most precious thing I have.  I'm very glad that I can be closer to them now.  I no longer feel the need to be "successful" as society views success.  What I value is being able to applaud those in my family that can do, and are striving to do it, and also are doing their best to keep their family close to them.  I find so much happiness in seeing their successes, triumphs and happiness.  I see that we might share some of the same or similar health issues, and pray that in them they don't develop like they have in me.  I don't want to see them have to slow, or halt their lives due to things like this.

I look at my youngest brother and I'm so proud of the daddy he's become.  He is getting to be such a good father, and his daughter is a joy to be around. Success!  Just to watch his interaction with her is amazing because he was such a wild young boy and man, and now he's a DADDY!  It's just amazing to see such a transformation in him and know he's still my baby brother, who, when mom and dad would go out would refuse to go to sleep or lay down unless I lay down on the floor next to his crib.

My next younger brother is such a driven man, but he seems to also take the time to enjoy life.  I'm so happy to see him happy with his new girlfriend since I know it was quite a ramp he hit when things seemed to fall apart so badly.  He's pulled it back together and it's amazing to me to see him so happy now.  He loves his boys, and his boys love him and his girlfriend too, so I'm glad that seems to be coming together nicely.  He's had to start nearly from scratch from a hard blow going from one job to another but I'm happy that he's stuck to it and seems to be making it work for him.

My older brother, patiently patiently waited for an opening at his job, while he worked as a temporary employee.  I'm so happy to see him feeling better and more stable since he's now a full time employee there.  He set himself a goal and waited while he saw others picked before him, but yet he stuck it out, as frustrating as that can be, and I'm so proud of him for being so patient.  He's a good man, a good employee, and a good friend to those he is close to.  I'm happy he's my brother.

My sister was always a little shy.  You didn't always know it because I think she felt the need to NOT be shy since she was the oldest of us.  She had the pressure of showing us the way, and she did the very best she could.  She's always been a little high strung, because I think she sometimes held so much inside.  She had to be "fearless" for us, and so I'm sure there were times she felt torn between what she wanted to feel and what she felt she needed to feel for our sake.  I'm so happy to see that she's not only become more relaxed, but also more outgoing.  Genuinely, not like she feels she has to TRY to be that so that us younger siblings looked at her being fearless.

My mother, the most beautiful mom in the world.  She's always been gentle and kind, although she was a rough disciplinarian when we needed it.  I'm not sure if others see just how much she bears the weight of our trials on her shoulders.  She worries for us all, though I wish she wouldn't.  I for one adore her for it.  I'm not sure how much they see, I know my sister does for sure, but I'm pretty sure my brothers feel the same way too.  Everyone should have a mom as beautiful as my mom.

My stepfather takes care of mom, and I'm glad he's there to take care of her and watch over her.  Honestly, that's the most important thing, to know that mom doesn't have to have a rough life, because I think she deserves all good things.  And he's doing his best to see that she has a good life.

What is important to me?  Now, it's seeing my family succeed, being there to cheer them on.  I know I may be limited on what I can do right now, but I can be their personal cheerleader and remind them of how proud I am that they're doing so well.  I want them to always know, I'm not bitter that physically I have some issues, even though some days I think I can do more than I can and end up regretting it LOL.  I want them to always feel how proud I am of them for what they do and how they live their lives.  Being such great Dad's, Brothers, Uncles, and Aunties.  I'm so proud of them for being brave enough to reach for the goals they have set and strive to get to them.

In short, society's view of success has no hold on me any longer.  My success is loving my family as best I can so they know I will always be there to be proud of them and their achievements.

Well, I guess I've put off packing long enough LOL, back I go! :P HAPPY ANNIVERSARY SEESTER AND BROTHER IN LAW!

Friday, December 26, 2014

MERRY CHRISTMAS!!! Or whatever Holiday you observe and hopefully it was JOYFUL!

Hello all!

Thought I would do a post Christmas blog.  We had a great Christmas.  First we had a Christmas all for our little lady at my brother's house since her mother was going out of town to her family on Christmas day.  That was fun and it was great to see her get so excited about everything she got to open that day.

Then we had the family Christmas at Mom and Dad's where we got to meet my other brother's girlfriend for the first time.  I was glad to see that they both seem happy with one another, and she was relaxed with the family too.  Everyone picked out some really great and fun gifts for each other.  Our family does YaYa's for the girls and about a year or two after we started that, the boys wanted to do YoYo's for the guys.  So this year we just decided to do only the YaYa's and YoYo's.

My gift to the girls was a bag of therapy things.  I couldn't really explain too much when I told them it was a therapy kit, because I didn't want to give away what was in it, but I think mostly it's self explanatory, and I think my sister definitely gets the idea since she said she smells her sprinkles at work if she's feeling anxious or stressed.  My sister sells some really great stuff for Pink Zebra, which are cute and awesome things, so if ever you're interested in long lasting really great products let me know and I can put you in touch with her.

At any rate, I thought I would explain here what a therapy kit is about.  First I think it's important to understand that there are what are called natural emotions and manufactured emotions.  Natural emotions are what we witness in infancy, the joy, sadness, fear, all these you can see happen naturally without being taught them.  For instance a baby might see a bird or butterfly, and they might start laughing, showing happiness or joy.  They might hear a loud noise and be startled or cry showing fear in something they didn't expect or understand.  Natural emotions simply refer to those emotions that we do NOT need to be taught to feel, they are things we feel instinctively.  Manufactured emotions are emotions we are taught.  Some examples of these would be, anxiety, worry, shame, guilt etc.  The problem with these emotions isn't that they aren't important, because they are important.  The problem with them is that we as a society focus TOO much importance on them.  We are taught to feel shame about how we look, how we interact with others, feel guilt for even the slightest thing, or worry too much about details at our work that really don't matter.  How we ended up here I don't know other than to say that we see them so much more readily than our natural emotions via media, by which I am referring to television, magazines, internet etc and not simply the news agencies.

Well, as I've said in other posts, I have had some big anxiety issues, so one of the first things my therapist taught me was about self soothing when I noticed I was in high anxiety mode and my chest was hurting etc.  The idea is to take the focus OFF the manufactured emotion because it's OVER taxing you right now.  Instead focus on one of the things that soothes you.  In my kit for the girls, I included, sight, smell, touch and taste.  Sight would be any one of the items that is pleasing, from the cute little beanie babies on a carabiner or the cute little stone boxes with a flower on it.  The beanie babies are also super soft, so they would be an example of touch if touching something soft is what focuses you on that action or feeling and small enough they can be taken anywhere.  Also there was a soap stone container with a perfume in it, which you could simply open and smell, or put on and smell.  I also put in some Dove's dark chocolate and Werther's.  That way if someone wasn't partial to chocolate they can do the same with a different candy.  My mom was funny, when she saw the candy she says, wait, this is therapy too?  And I said yes, you focus on the taste, and I can't remember if it was her or someone else that said, I LIKE YOUR THERAPIST, but it cracked me up.  I also put in a little stone box that was empty with a little flower on it.

So, how this works is, say you're stressed or worried, or like me in super high anxiety mode and your chest is hurting.  What you would do to self soothe is to STOP.  Recognize what you are feeling at that moment, then stop.  Find the thing that helps to soothe you, whether it be a smell, a touch a sight, sound or taste.  It could be smelling lotion that smells nice, or it could be putting it on which FEELS nice.  It could be touching something super soft or a funny video that makes you laugh or feel happy.  Whatever the THING is, that's what you focus on in THAT moment.  Focus on that and ONLY that, then when you're done go back to whatever it was you needed to do, and you simply feel so much better.  This doesn't mean watch every video on youtube, or eat every piece of candy in a bag, or put on lotion until you're wrinkly like you were in a tub too long......which would be a LOT of lotion LOL.  When that happens it turns into avoidance, which is not a good thing either.  Too much avoidance can have adverse affects of it's own.  The idea is focus on that smell, or that piece of candy or that one video for that point in time, and when it's done go back to what you were doing.

It doesn't take long lengths of time, but BOY can it help you avoid some really nasty things.  I think we forget we can do that.  We think I have to go go go go go go go go until it's done and we just feel SO rushed, stressed or worried we finally just break down.  Taking that ONE moment can help save SO much other negativity.  That was the full point of the gift I gave.  To remind the ladies in my life that it's OK to stop and take a moment to focus on natural emotion.  Hopefully the guys get it too, because I love them also, so they can also do some similar things to avoid emotional back up, buildup, crash or whatever you want to call it or whatever it ends up being.

I can tell you, now, I MOSTLY remember that if I'm anxious and my chest hurts, I can pop in some tictacs or a piece of gum and focus on that and guess what, my chest hasn't been hurting 24/7 since I started getting better at that.  It takes practice, we are SO hardwired to be "A" type personalities in our society it seems, so practice practice practice.  If you forget one day to take your moment at a high point it's OK, you just forgot and that is OK.  So also, don't stress just because you're not perfect at instituting your therapy moment to retake your natural emotions and find your bliss LOL.  Trust me, I'm STILL not perfect at it, but I'm a heck of a lot better than I used to be.

I hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas, and I hope that you remind the people in your life, family and co workers alike, TAKE YOUR MOMENT.  I can not tell you how much of a difference this has made in my life, you simply have to see for yourself.


Sunday, November 2, 2014

LOL fun with PAINT!!!

I suck at drawing but I thought I would give a visual aid to go along with the last post.....


Just a silly illustration to give you an idea of what my spine might look like if you could see it LOL!!

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Therapy/medical care update


I bet you thought I fell of the face of the earth.  I've been doing some very in depth therapy for my PTSD in which I have lots of homework that is very difficult and emotionally taxing.  I am usually completely wiped out after a session.

The therapy I'm currently taking part in is called CPT or Cognitive Processing Therapy.  This is a 12 week program in which we try to target, identify and begin to unravel "stuck points".  A stuck point is something that happens when a trauma occurs that violates your personal belief/norm or whatever you want to call it.  Say for example you have a belief that the sky is blue, and one day you go outside, and instead of blue the sky is red.  When something like this happens, and it's in concurrence with a given trauma, the result is sometimes a stuck point that doesn't allow for you to move beyond the stuck point.  The result is avoidance, distancing and growing difficulties such as I've had.

I just had my 7th session of CPT therapy this week, and I think we're getting some results, obviously, I'm not cured, but it is reassuring to see the weekly questionnaire asking about my avoidance, dreams, etc that are a result of the PTSD, charted showing rise and falls with different types of homework.  This does make sense since some homework deals directly with restating your experience with the trauma, or trying to target specific times you noticed things happening, such as a trip to the grocery store, asking for help and the thoughts that come along with anxiety that might arise, or just a daily event etc.  Naturally, when things are targeting certain aspects of a traumatic event you will see a rise in instances of intrusive thoughts etc.

Together, my therapist and I have targeted and identified 4 pages of stuck points which is phenomenal.  Some of these that come out with different homeworks are very difficult to admit to, since you feel very little or vulnerable when you identify them because now, you own them.  But, what we're doing now is working on the stuck points to question them, I guess to really understand, it might be helpful to give an example.  Since the trauma dealt with my ex, one of mine that came out is anyone can hurt me.  My brain said, hey, husbands and wives are not supposed to do these things to one another, so if this person that I chose to be with, and love, and who is supposed to love me can do this, then anyone can.  So my personal belief that spouses should act and treat one another lovingly was violated causing that stuck point to occur.  Now this is what is called a problematic stuck point/thought etc.  So in homework we question this thought that anyone can hurt me, is it true, is it reliable etc.  if there are points for and none against a stuck point, then it holds true, however, when you're going through the process and there are points for AND points against, then this stuck point is a habit not a fact.  So for example we might say anyone can hurt me, BUT the points against this are that not everyone will or wants to.  In this way you begin to question the things your mind has been stuck on because your mind was stuck on the sky is blue.....why is it red......and simply could not get past that.

Now, I don't know how much the results will change things by week 12, but I can say this, this gives me tools to use even beyond the 12 week period to continue to utilize them to break down these stuck points and the damage that they've caused.  With tools, you can now begin to take control over the situation, instead of letting the situation control you.

Now for the news on the medical front!!!

I have been seeing a doctor that has been trying to be very thorough in helping me to try and address some of my problematic medical issues such as my insomnia, back, migraines etc.  We are trying to be proactive.  She has sent me to a chiropractor for adjustments, and when he felt the curves all the way down he was very honest about this being a temporary help.  He is a very frank and very honest man, and even though I've only been to him a few times so far, I really respect him for these qualities.  He said I've needed this for a VERY long time, which I think is obvious to me at this point since in the past I was basically told that there was nothing that could be done for me about my back since it had developed so many curves.  Anyone that has ever been to San Fransisco, think of Lombardi street, put a head on top, arms on the sides and legs on the bottom and that's my back in a nutshell.  My doctor was thinking that my back might also benefit from swim therapy, which we're looking into to see if there is anything like this in my area.  I also asked her about yoga, since I have heard of some people benefiting from that when they have problems with their backs.  She said well, that would primarily be for problems with muscles, and yours is in the bones, and then I followed up with a question well, if I can strengthen up the muscles can it stop the scoliosis from continuing to advance, or at least slow it down?  She said well, she's not sure if that might help slow or stop it since it's bones, but if I do I definitely have to go slow with it, and NOT do anything advanced.  The chiropractor said the same thing too (in fact I thought of it when I went to see him, so asked him first), so I would need to find a yoga program that had "baby yoga" where I can do the basics and nothing that might put my spine in jeopardy.  My doctor after doing a series of x-rays is now wanting to send me to do MRI/Cat scans and then on to a neurosurgeon to see if there is any procedure that might be a benefit.  I have a feeling they're going to look at my spinal x-rays and fall over before telling me that with so many curves, there's not much they could do.  Unless they develop "braces" for backs in a very short time span I'm pretty sure that there isn't.  And I mean the type for teeth, by the way.  The only issue this might pose would be that since when I was a young adult I only had a 5 degree curve in the lumbar, and I now have developed multiple  curvatures from the neck to my tailbone, they also need to identify why.  The doctor told me that wasn't her area of expertise, so she couldn't say why it was advancing, but I have a suspicion it's one of two things.  I began to develop arthritis fairly young, at 24 or so, so it's either that, or the fact that working in the medical field all the patient lifting in the hospital, on the ambulances etc, put a lot of strain on my back and it just couldn't take it, or a combination of both.

I actually had one doctor I worked with tell me scoliosis could not advance in adulthood, and I pointed at my x-ray and asked, then what is that?

My doctor has been fairly proactive on the insomnia/migraine front too.  She heard me when I told her that I was nervous about medications that are habit forming and she prescribed one that is meant to target both my migraines, my insomnia AND also may have a positive affect on my anxiety.  I like that, heck of you're going to have to take a medication, it may as well do lots of things, instead of taking lots of medicine for one thing each.

Now, where are these totally awesome therapists and doctors?  I have been very fortunate to be in the area I am in, with a VA staff like the one I have here.  My chiropractor isn't at the VA but the therapist and doctor are.  I'm not sure if the neurosurgeon will be there or elsewhere but I guess I'll find that out when we cross that bridge.  I like that she asked me if I was claustrophobic too, because I am, actually.  But I told her I've had MRI and Cat scans before, and I was fine, I focused on things further out and not the fact that I was surrounded by big machines, so even though I was nervous I got through it and I was fine and the results were able to be read as well.  I'd prefer to not have to be sedated to do a medical exam LOL.

So, now that you know I'm still on planet earth and not spinning out of control somewhere in space, you can rest easy in the knowledge that I seem to be in good, caring and capable hands at the present time, and this means a lot to me and I'm sure my family is also breathing easier knowing that I'm being taken care of.

Friday, February 28, 2014


I wanted to make a post about PTSD and what it does to you.

I don't think people that don't have it or haven't had or seen a full blown anxiety attack can fully understand.  So I thought I'd try to write a bit about it to try and explain.  My mother loves me and I love her dearly, and I know she worries a lot about me.  I think she may have some PTSD in a mild form, but I don't think she fully grasps how crippling it is for me.  A few years ago, when my husband left, and I had to leave a job because my employer was beginning to punch walls and I felt fearful of that situation, I think my PTSD took a really bad turn for the worst.

I'd had occasional anxiety attacks prior to that, but I was lucky, I had never had one in public.  So for the most part, while it was far more serious than people knew, it was not nearly as serious as it is currently.  When those things happened, I continued to try to work, I tried to continue on in the same manner trying to take each day as it comes.  I tried not to worry over much about the future or the fact that things were not their best.  I went on this way, until I was starting to have other medical complications due to other things such as my PCOD, and arthritis and it was beginning to seriously affect my life in a negative way.  It was making me very ill, there were a lot of call offs, doctor visits etc.  My sleep was affected badly, and I began to worry in hyperdrive.  I was already anxious because of the type of job I had, and because my personal life had also suffered.  I'm a worrier by nature, but this was beyond the normal typical amount of worry, where a thought about something that needed being done comes to mind, you think about how you might go about it and make a plan, this was worrying for the sake of worrying.  I was worried about my health, my job, etc.

It turned out that I had a cyst that needed surgery, and that's ok, but my sleep was worse and worse.  I was falling into a full blown state of what seems to be ongoing insomnia.  Some stemming from anxiety which can be handled in part with some over the counter herbs that help make you tired, and from keeping noise going to calm and hush a noisy mind.  The other parts that affect it are not as easily handled, such as back/arthritis pain when the weather changes or whatever the case may be.  Wet/dry, cold/hot and vice versa tends to wreak havoc on me.  And then there's the weird things going on with sinuses that causes one of my ears to sound like a kettle drum at times.  Talk about annoying, how are you supposed to sleep with a wiggly ear drum?

Well, after the surgery, and after some hard work to try and fix my sleep patterns, I thought I was on the right track, and ready to return to work.  That's when it happened.  After a few days I began to be particularly aware of the effects of the stress of having people yelling at me all the time.  Because the PTSD was in a heightened state, I would sometimes have crying fits at work, though trying to sound as if I was fine on my calls, and still take the time to be efficient at my work.  Then as this worsened, one day on my way home, the worst experience I've ever had happened.  I began to feel the tightness in my chest and between my shoulders indicating that I was about to have a full blown anxiety attack.  I was on the highway, and so I tried to breathe my way through it to keep it from happening, but it happened anyway.

I'd like to say a little bit about anxiety and the differing degrees of attacks that happen to me.  I have chestpain every single day from it.  Some days I am insanely dizzy because I'm sure I'm not breathing right or something going on.  That's mild, but still cripples you by making it so you feel you can't or don't want to chance going anywhere due to what might happen if you do.  I'd had them like this prior to the driving incident but never paid it as much attention until after that incident.  After it, the level of fear associated with the anxiety went off the charts.  You'll understand momentarily when I describe a full blown attack I'm sure.  But there are days where I might have the tightness in my chest and back but not have it go into a full blown attack.  There are few people that have ever witnessed such an attack, and the ones that did, caused me more anxiety due to the reactions to the attack.

A full blown attack for me is like this, it always starts with the chest pain, then the tightening in chest and between my shoulder blades, then if it's going to spin out of my control, my neck begins to get really tight and painful, I cease being able to feel as if I can breathe, and hyperventilate.  If I'm at home, I hang myself upside down off my bed to try and stretch out my chest and lungs as much as I can to try to both alleviate the pain and force my lungs to be able to take in good air.  If someone is present, I try to get them involved by digging their fist or elbow or whatever as hard as they can between my shoulder blades to try and alleviate the tightness in the muscles and break it up so that it will stop putting whatever pressure it's puttin on my body not allowing it to get the good air I need.  The two people that have witnessed one of these both reacted poorly the first time, I'm hangin upside down off the side of the bed, and they're running back and forth asking if I need an ambulance, and when I ask for help they look helpless and tell me they didn't know what to do.  As you can imagine, not being able to feel as if you can breathe right and giving someone directions on how to dig into your spine to try and unknot muscles and help shorten the time of the anxiety attack is definitely a tricky business.  And it causes more anxiety trying to tell them that you do NOT in fact need an ambulance because it will pass, it's just going to take a while.

Now, imagine this on the highway, alone, in the car, trying to make it home without passing out or dying.  It was one of the most terrifying experiences of my life.  It is crippling because any time you feel the warning signs that there COULD be an anxiety attack, you don't want to take the chance and go anywhere for fear that it will happen and put you or others or both in danger.

So now you know two of the ways that PTSD affects me, but there is so much more.  People tell you, don't dwell on the past, and that's very good advice.  I don't do that, I don't think they understand that.  I don't have control over the PTSD and it's not dwelling on the past that does this to me, it's just a by product of things that did happen, and then further fueled by circumstance.  Granted, I can't escape these things, because I'm to the point where this is so serious and affecting my life so much that I've had to work up the courage to call the VA in order to schedule an appointment for re evaluation of it.  This has taken me years because it causes me so much anxiety to think about doing this.  I just KNOW they're going to want to talk about what caused it etc and it's just not something I like talking about.  Obviously it's not pleasant.  Otherwise I wouldn't have PTSD in the first place, and I'm not sure if everyone with it has to dig deep to find that courage, but I do.  I know it causes me anxiety and therefore I tend to try and avoid it, not ignore it mind you because it's a bit impossible to ignore.  Something that affects your life every day of your life is not exactly something that you're able to ignore.

Of course circumstances being what they are, it's not helping things much.  Currently I'm unemployed, have no income to speak of, and recently filed my taxes, which were put somewhere else, apparently, though I have not seen any reason for that.  So while I relied on that, I also acknowledge that it's not something I had, therefore I'll have to simply deal with the fact that I don't have it still.  The end of this past month I ended with a balance of .15c in my account, and eggs and pancake mix left in the pantry.  I've turned off just about everything I can, and unplugged everything else I could find to unplug, and my electric bill still went up.  So while it's upsetting I just have to laugh because it's like the electric company knows I'm unplugging and turning everything off so they're raising the cost and charging me more.  I know that's not the case, but I have to find some humor in it all, or it will simply sweep me away.

LOL they say when life gives you lemons, make lemonade, but at this point, they forgot I don't have sugar, or water and so I have to simply eat them as is.  That's just a metaphor of course, I do have water.  The absurdity of it all does make me laugh at times, because I can't spend all my time chewing on my nails huddled in a corner.  That's not going to do me any good.  So I think up ways to poke fun at the situation.  May as well, it's poking me so I figure I'll just poke back. *poke*

I did finally work up the courage to call the VA, and so hopefully things will be headed in the right direction.