Tag Archives: daily fears

All you can may not be enough (don’t beat on yourself)

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(This post is heavy on religion/faith)

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There’s a Michael Mclean song that I sometimes listen to over and over called “Gentle.”

Like a gentle wind can blow the clouds from the sky,
Like a gentle touch can ease the pain of goodbye,
Like a gentle smile embraces empty souls in lonely places,
We should be more gentle with ourselves.

Like the friend who gently builds us up when we’re down,
Like a gentle kiss can turn our world all around,
We’ve been hurt by others often,
We’ve forgiven and forgotten,
We should be more gentle with ourselves.

Life can be hard but
we need not be so hard
on ourselves,
If we will see

Like the Shepherd leads his flock with gentle commands.
With his gentle voice that only hearts understand.
One thing we can know for certain, He has borne the awful burdens
so we can be more gentle with ourselves.

One thing that I know for certain:
He will bear my every burden,
So I can be gentle with myself.

Sometimes I do everything I can to rest up so that I can make it somewhere (like today, to church) and I still end up not feeling well enough. I caught myself running through all the things I could have done or could have missed so that I could have made it, and I couldn’t come up with anything. It was a desperate grasp, yet again, to want to believe that I can control life more than I can. But not only can’t I control everything, Heavenly Father and my Savior are there for me. Even if life keeps throwing me curve balls (the small and the not so small) it doesn’t mean they don’t care.

One of my closest friends had a birthday party last night. It was a bonfire up in the canyon and the wind had been blowing hard all day and still hadn’t let up. The pollen count was high and the air was dry and I knew it might cause problems with my allergies, so I didn’t go. I had things to keep me busy (laundry, cleaning, phone calls, Netflix) but of course I was also disappointed. But even missing out on things doesn’t mean you’ll get a ticket to the next thing you don’t want to miss. And I am wishing that I had gone, knowing that in hindsight I’d end up missing church anyway.

The First Presidency Message on lds.org helped me out today, though not what some might think was in the most encouraging of ways (but it was). This is President Eyring speaking of when his father was dying of cancer:

When the pain became intense, we found him in the morning on his knees by the bed. He had been too weak to get back into bed. He told us he had been praying to ask his Heavenly Father why he had to suffer so much when he had always tried to be good. He said a kindly answer came: “God needs brave sons.”

And so he soldiered on to the end, trusting that God loved him, listened to him, and would lift him up. He was blessed to have known early and to never forget that a loving God is as close as a prayer.

I remember well several friends telling me frequently about 8 years ago that I was “stronger than I realized.” And the things I’ve been through since have helped to teach me that they were right, and to understand what they meant. I don’t think that I have to go through these things because I’m being punished.  I know that from past experience that eventually the downs in life turn around into the ups in life. It’s been a hard lesson to learn that I will eventually learn from the pain and I become a better person because of it. And there are others who could say this much more eloquently than I could, or with worse experiences. I’ve been through much worse than just missing out on things: it’s the missing out on things over and over again over years that gets to me. I don’t remember where it was recently that I heard this (but I really wish I did remember) that it’s possible that no one else other than the Savior will ever truly understand what our trials are like for us as individuals.

Anyway, I get to go to a fireside tonight. Perhaps the upswing will begin there. My nightmares last night weren’t at their worse. I can be grateful for that. And I can be grateful for a lot more: got to talk with my daughter on the phone last night. I got to pet my roommate’s dog this afternoon (she’s not here much….the roommate, and the dog…roommate is very busy.) Likely this will be one of my boring-est entries. I can deal with that.

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Establishing Healing Habits

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I was so proud to report how I’m getting better at finding the best coping/healing techniques each day as I go to write in my journal, or at the times of the day when I realize what is bothering me. Today, however, got wrapped up in digestive issues (leaky gut). I’ve had two nights and days of that now, but it’s been at least two weeks since the last time, so I call that a success. For a while I was dealing with it nearly every day in some way or another, for a period of months. I’m blaming it on the blue cheese dressing (full of soybean oil) and thus not FODMAP free. On the good side, dark chocolate, small amounts of onion and garlic don’t seem to be issues for me. Those are the findings for now. I have gained more patience for not knowing all the answers all the time.flower-329587_640

I will write more about different DBT and other cognitive “healing methods” tomorrow perhaps. They are working. It’s taken some time for some of the newer techniques be more second nature when I’m writing. The older techniques from the Feeling Good Handbook became second nature years ago, before I got married. Not to say that I’m perfect at that, either (and I could use a review) but I’m pretty sure that if I tried to use that method alone, on its own, it would drive me nutty. Oh wait, it has. 😉 I think there can come a time in almost any type of therapy where one has “learned that, lessons no longer helping, time to move on…..”

As for the two days of IBS….I’ve lost my appetite and mostly feel like I need a lot of water. It just feels like my body needs to cleanse itself of whatever it was (soybean oil in dressing??). I get kind of funny, meaning actually humorous, when I’m not getting enough to eat and I’m stuck at home and then I finally get out to see people. My filter seems gone and it feels like I’m mumbling slightly incoherently about my kids and my latest insomnia obsession (Hawaii 5-0, never version.) I think I’m starting to think that I’ve actually been to Hawaii….

I have a therapy appointment tomorrow and while I think I’ll be able to get up for it, I’m a little worried that I’ll be able to get down there without constantly running into bathrooms along the bus route.  Maybe I should leave early. 🙂 And no more salad dressing containing high amounts of soybean oil…

Rock Band and PTSD. Yup.

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Rockband-drumsetI don’t know that I ever would have guessed this, but someone at church started providing their Rock Band game during our weekly volleyball/game night, and I can’t think of a better way to say this: it kicks my anxiety’s bu*t! Every week after playing, my anxiety is practically gone, enough so that after just the first week I was thinking, “If I get disability and my disability back pay, I’m going to buy Rock Band!” Can you imagine my recovery? “Take one hour of Rock Band drums, vocals, and a little guitar a day, and your anxiety level will be low enough to get rid of at least half of your PTSD symptoms…..”  I don’t know if it would be as dramatic as that, but it’s been a long time since I’ve found anything that made that much of a difference, aside from time with friends and my therapist and doctor.

I’ve been singing my whole life. I have a minor in music, I’ve conducted several church choirs and got to conduct my college choir once out of a stroke of luck (and maybe some hard work, but there was luck involved), and growing up my favorite thing to do at home was to sit at the piano and play and sing. For some reason it’s not the stress reliever now that it once was. If I get to help out by accompanying our church choir when my hands aren’t shaking too much, I really enjoy it, even though I get excited when the better piano  player shows up.  I like to be able to be helpful, but I prefer the other person. When singing, I love to get to sight-read the hard parts. I’ve been able to sing, on and off, in more rigorous community choirs over the past years since college, but sometimes after a semester or two (what they call it, even though they’re not college choirs) if my anxiety levels get too high again, it gets to be an anxiety producer instead of an anxiety-buster. One strange thing about anxiety is that something that is helpful can turn into too much.audio-2202_640

In the most recent large choir I was in, it could be the level of the noise (even if beautiful) or the mood of the director or a sudden burst of claustrophobia with so many people in the room (or a combination of all of it) that would get to me. I’d be doing breathing or inner meditation exercises, but my hands would start to shake harder and I’d start to get dizzy and suddenly I’m overwhelmed too much to stay in the room. The most recent choir directors didn’t like us to sit down, but sometimes I’d sit anyway, because….health issues. But I still felt like a failure. I felt comfortable discussing it with the choir president, but I wasn’t sure that the directors would think it was such a good idea for me to be there, and eventually it got to be too much, so that I knew it was too much, too. So choir, the thing that helped me keep my sanity through my first two years of college, had to go again. I couldn’t sing in choir my junior and senior years of college, either, which is a very long story in and of itself. And yes, it was anxiety/fatigue. One of the hardest times of my life, when it all became serious.

So in the same way that Rutter, Fauré, Mozart, and John Jacob Niles helped me in college: it looks like Queen, Bon Jovi, Green Day and Pat Benatar may help me out of my current funk. When I’m around others, I tend to have a sense of humor and joke around a lot: but when I’m at home, I seem to be too serious, and perhaps more my “over-thinking” self. It’s so exciting to find things that work, no matter how odd it may seem. Rock Band’s drums seem to be especially effective.  They just make me happy, even if I get a terrible score. 🙂  I can live with this!

Exercise, a healthy diet, and…..Rock Band.

On that note, the FODMAP diet has been helping, but true again to my over-thinking nature, I get to where I worry about it and then my stomach hurts from the worry, and not just from what I eat. My therapist and doctor both smiled and said that was really common. The cherry on top of that info? My new primary care doctor (new insurance) has IBS as well! I was hit with a feeling of peace when she told me and I knew that she understood.

cooking-chocolate-674508_640So my stomach was bothering me a LOT yesterday. On the 1-10 pain scale, I was probably at a 6 or 7. I had some paperwork that I had to finish though, so I had to get on the bus and get back to the library to print some things out. So, what did I do? I forgot the notebook with the information in it that I needed to log into the website where I needed to print out the forms. I tried to make myself feel a little better by checking out a couple of library books. I then called several friends to see if they could help me out. The situation was getting a little ridiculous. I have had a ton of paperwork to do lately, but three weeks of bus rides just to get it done was frustrating me, because it feels like I haven’t gotten much of anything else done during the day.

On the way home, I knew it was getting time for dinner, and I just didn’t want to eat anything. It came to my mind my favorite treat that is allowed on my diet, but that I try not to eat too often, a Lindt Intense Mint bar. I thought, “I could eat one of those,” and suddenly my stomach pain was gone. Completely gone. Like that, I went from a 6 to a 0, just from the idea that I could eat one (so of course I did). I wish anxiety and physical symptoms always worked that way! (Believe me, I’ve tried….thousands of time). I was so happy that I was almost giddy.

Many, many blessings

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Huntington_Pier_TerminusMy anxiety over the wait for my disability court date (which decides if I receive disability or not) has been wreaking havoc with my body and my mind, but it’s also given me an opportunity to dig deeper, have more hope, and see more blessings: not to mention come to terms with some emotions that have been buried pretty deep. This blog has been lots of serious, so today I list the positive. (My sense of humor still seems a little broken tonight, so that may not make it in. We’ll see.)

  1. We had snow yesterday! Utah is in a drought, and my home state of CA has been in a drought: we had snow, Huntington Beach and Long Beach both had so much hail that people built little “snowmen” out of the hail. I love the snow. It make the cold more bearable. Watching it from my window was magical. Getting to go for a walk in lightly falling snow a few days before that was also very healing. I love walking, I love nature. It’s amazing. I also love that these days we can see what’s happening in other parts of the world with a click of the mouse: beach covered with hail! I didn’t have to miss it.Orem_Campus_Winter_Shots_(2312922549)_(2)
  2. I had my first ever SimplyHealed™ session with the extremely talented Katie Buhler. She had a drawing for a free session, and another friend of mine won it, then said that she wanted to give it to me. So kind of her. I’m still trying to decide what kind of fun thing I want to do for this friend as a thank you. I did not know what to expect for the session. I’ve read about the Emotion Code, which is similar: and several people have recommended SimplyHealed™ to me. It was quite the experience, and difficult to describe. I’ll be doing more sessions with her for sure. *When* I get disability. I’m going to get it. I’m putting that “out to the universe.” I highly recommend Katie. Her sister in law, Holly Buhler, also does SimplyHealed™.
  3. I have had an interesting life when it comes to trials (like everyone….). One thing I have been very blessed with throughout most of my life is kind, amazing friends. I had amazing friends in high school that I’m grateful that I can still hear from on Facebook. I’ve been able to reconnect with college friends since moving to Utah. Friends from when I was married and my ex was in grad school are also still easy to get a hold of and catch up with. Friends from my most recent ward (church congregation) are also easy to catch up with on Facebook. What did people do if they had to stay at home a lot before modern technology?  🙂  They say that Facebook makes people less happy with their lives, and I’ve caught myself feeling that way a few times, but mostly it’s been a good reminder to me of the people I’ve been blessed to interact with and that life isn’t always hard.
  4. I’m grateful that I love to be around people. I can be sensitive to a lot of noise, but I usually love company. Once a week our single’s group has a volleyball/game night. I was playing a fun game last night with friends on the stage at church while volleyball was going on. The game was an app you can get on a smart phone, and you choose a category (animals, 70’s stuff, 80’s stuff, celebrities, movies…) and put it on your forehead similar to the game Hedbanz and have others describe it and see if you can guess it. Some of my favorite, most relaxed, easy to get along with friends were there playing: one of those “small things/huge blessings” that you want to catch in your memory and remember for the harder times. If I wasn’t willing to reach out and trust others, I wouldn’t have those small but significant blessings that come from good friends. I was also able to talk with a friend early yesterday evening over some things that were bothering me that I had a feeling she was uniquely qualified to be able to help me out with. We are all so different and have such unique abilities in the ways we are able to connect with and help heal each other.
  5. My kids are my greatest blessings. My greatest trial has been to not be able to take care of them and be around them like I want to. Heavenly Father has made this turn out in ways that have been unexpectedly positive, but it’s certainly not what I ever would have wanted. But watching them learn and seeing them be okay while living with their dad and step mom has strengthened my faith that Heavenly Father loves us and wants us to be okay.
  6. And what have I learned from having PTSD? A whole lot of patience in learning how to wait for answers, how to search for answers, how to ask help from others: seeing that scary things can happen and that people come out the other side, and that I’m far from alone. I’m still in this process and probably always will be. I imagine that someday, when I’ve processed this all a lot more, it will be easier to write about. I love that I’ve met so many people who have been through difficulties who are so different from mine, and yet we have a connection, even though it may have come through things we’d never want to go through again.

Fixing the Thinking

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***PLEASE NOTE: I am not trained or qualified to diagnose or give medical advice on any type of psychological or psychiatric condition.*** The purpose of this blog is simply for me to share my experiences.
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I always experience a downer when I come back from visiting my kids. I live in Utah because I came here to try to finish my degree, which didn’t work out due to my health: then I ended up staying because my parents are helping me out until I get disability (hopefully) and Utah is cheaper than California. It is quieter here than the L.A./Orange County area, and the pace of life is blessedly slower, but….my kids aren’t here.

Not getting to spend Christmas with them thanks to the flu has given me the opportunity to work harder on my thinking patterns. Now, as a warning, I’ve heard several different terms applied to what I’m going to talk about: and not being a professional, I don’t think I can adequately distinguish between them. Years ago I was taught “Cognitive Behavioral Therapy,” then about 8 years ago “Dialectical Behavioral Therapy,” or “DBT,” and I have a friend who is a therapist who refers to it as cognitive distortions, or thinking distortions. I’ll have to ask him again.

So, how to make this short…

22 years ago I was loaned a copy of the book Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy by David Burns. I highly recommend it if you have issues with anxiety or depression, or really just for anyone. He talks about distorted thoughts and shows a method to work on getting rid of them by writing them down and then identifying what types of “distortion” they are according to a list he made (which was very handy) and then writing next to each thought what the reality really is, which is almost always better. It helped a great deal, once I stopped beating myself every time I caught a “distorted thought.” I was pretty much the queen of hard on myself at the time. I’m a lot better at it now, but I still struggle.

Just after my divorce, I became a patient at an anxiety clinic at a university that I love, but won’t name here, due to a bad experience I’m mentioning.  I would see a resident there (who was great) and then one of several supervising psychiatrists. One of the doctors didn’t seem happy that I was seeing my own therapist (who had specialized in anxiety for her dissertation), and seemed a bit upset when I mentioned my religion, and that my therapist was also that same religion, and that someone close to me had been addicted to pornography. He didn’t seem to think that certain addiction was possible. It had been the source of a great deal of trauma to me and my kids, mostly because of how this family member had acted because of it: increased temper and less of an ability to be aware of the feelings of those around him.

Anyway, they insisted that I do “DBT” (which is good) but in a way that was just like the lists I’d done from the book years before. They had the resident sit next to me and go through it slowly, and make me think of things to write down. They were already feelings I was aware of and had been working on a long time. I don’t know how to explain why, but it was extremely traumatizing. They weren’t things I needed to work on, and it felt like they were twisting a screw in my back psychologically. I ended up leaving in tears one day. The one doctor that I’d had a bad vibe from, I found out later (when I wasn’t supposed to, but certain people had a feeling it would be helpful to me emotionally/mentally) was dropped from my case. Years later, when I heard that “DBT” was found to be helpful to those with PTSD, I felt discouraged, as if it was yet another things to check off my list of things that I’d “already done.”
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Then last year I was blessed to be assigned to a therapist who had specialized in trauma, and to be able to attend a trauma support group. The therapist explained to me that there is now more to DBT than “just” those lists. In the group we learned quite a few techniques that were different from the lists, and quite a bit more helpful to me at this point. Also, up until about two years ago, when my anxiety would be at its worst and I was struggling (like I still do) to talk and function and think clearly, I could name, perhaps, the trigger that got me there, and the overall larger problems I was dealing with, but I couldn’t tell you what was bothering me. Sometimes I could sit and write down what was going on, but more frequently I felt extremely confused and like I just needed some sleep so I could function again.

As the time is getting closer that (hopefully) my disability hearing will come, and has winter has set in, I’ve been having a lot more problems with deep depression than I usually do. I ran into my friend who is a therapist (but not my therapist) and he asked me if I was doing my positive thinking exercises, and I realized that that weekend I hadn’t been. I took it as an important reminder. At first, I realized, the thought came into my head that “but I don’t know what’s bothering me….” but unlike in the more distant past, when I got home and sat down to write, I kept going and going. It just came out. I’m taking this as a good sign that, just maybe, some of this depression is the old emotions, stuffed in down deep, finally coming out and being dealt with. It’s not that I haven’t had to deal with things before, but these are things that came in too much at a time, that I wasn’t ready to deal with, due to trauma, and perhaps this is another step in filing those thoughts and emotions in their proper places in my mind, and healing more.

A few weeks ago, someone also randomly posted on Facebook a link to a BYU devotional by Elaine Marshall, of the school of nursing, several years ago. I really needed this quote and saw it as a blessing that I noticed the link and happened to click on it:

I have learned that healing is a process of restoring and becoming whole. This morning I would like to share six lessons I have learned about the healer’s art.

First, healing hurts. When I was a young nurse in the hospital, hardly a day went by that a patient did not ask, “Will it hurt?” If I had been truthful, the whispered answer would nearly always have been, “Yes, it will hurt.” I have learned that healing hurts. Life hurts. Healing really only begins when we face the hurt in its full force and then grow through it with all the strength of our soul. For every reward of learning and growing, some degree of pain is always the price. Author M. Scott Peck reminds us that if you do not want love or pain, you “must do without many things” (M. Scott Peck, The Road Less Traveled [New York: Simon and Schuster, 1978]: 133). I think you would do without dating, graduating, getting married, or having children.

Sometime in your life you will know a crashing crisis or heavy heartache that will threaten all sense of logic or hope or certainty—from which, no matter how you emerge, nothing will ever be the same. Hurts come as unique losses, unwelcome surprises, fading hope, or grief.

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Conquering the Volleyball Fear, Part 2

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I talked a little bit about learning to overcome one of my fears (volleyball) here.  I’ll also repeat why I’m doing it here:

So, when it comes to PTSD and anxiety, doing things that you’re afraid of can be very healing overall. The tricky part? It needs to be scary enough, but not too scary. The whole “need not run faster than you have strength” still applies. (Mosiah 4:27)

Last week went a lot better. I paced myself and I didn’t come even close to being disoriented. I even had fun playing, and went and played a couple more games on and off throughout the night. This “pacing yourself” applies to just about everything in life, apparently. But if I start to get dizzy or have other issues that won’t go away by relaxation techniques (breathing, self-talk), and someone says “but we really need players,” I will make the wise choice and sit down anyway.

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Volleyball-Induced Panic

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This is just a harmless, cheerful-looking volleyball, ready for play. In theory. I think that’s even how I see it, but if I have to be in front of that net, with people all around me, those people (and especially that ball) fill me with dread.

There are plenty of things I am good at: school, music, socializing, French, getting to know new people. But when it comes to sports, the ones I love to participate in are swimming, running (if it weren’t for my knees), hiking, and capture the flag. Capture the flag can involve spying and subterfuge. The rest do not involve a ball. Why it is that I have good coordination on the piano and not with a ball, I’m not sure. Oh, and the big exception: soccer is fun. That involves my leg muscles and my feet. Completely different. And football? I have a hard time watching it, but I actually like to play it. Tackling people can be fun. Growing up, though, volleyball was the sport I feared the most at school.

When I worked at the Grand Canyon one summer between years at college, we used to play huge games of volleyball with all the employees. A couple of patient guys decided to help out those of us who really struggled. The motto that they had us repeat? “The ball….is your friend.” (It’s not the same without the dramatic pause in the middle.) I actually made a lot of progress that summer. I haven’t had much of a desire to play since, though, but I love to watch others play.

So, when it comes to PTSD and anxiety, doing things that you’re afraid of can be very healing overall. The tricky part? It needs to be scary enough, but not too scary. The whole “need not run faster than you have strength” still applies. (Mosiah 4:27)

I’ve been going to our single’s group’s “volleyball and board game” night one and off for a couple of years now. Yes, I’ve been invited to join in with the volleyball game many times. I finally decided last week that maybe I should give it a try. People were mostly just warming up. I didn’t stay in very long, but I was proud of myself. Then this past week, I decided to try again. I stayed in longer. But then they “really needed people,” so I stayed in even longer. For several games. Those of you who have never experienced this kind of anxiety may not understand this, but I could feel my anxiety level getting higher. I kept thinking (how many times have I been through this?) that if I breathed in and breathed out and tried not to panic, I’d be okay. But I’d stayed in too long. I’ts not like the kind of panic that you can hold off for a while, or make feel better: it takes over, completely. I was telling myself that I was fine, but I was intermittently forgetting where I was and what I was doing. It’s disorientation at its finest. It only lasted a split second each time, but it wasn’t good. The game ended, and I was sitting out in the hall trying to get my bearings back.

I had fun, but I need to honor the limits that I know work. When I first was dealing with these high levels of anxiety, it seemed like it took forever for me to figure out what those limits were and to learn how to stand by them to both myself and others. I guess while I’m trying to heal, it’s not much different.

The people I was playing volleyball with were all extremely supportive and kind, so it had nothing to do with that. And I have not given up: I’ll just honor my limits better.