Tag Archives: parenting

So many possible (good) changes

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There really are so many possible good changes coming up for me: the possibility of finishing my B.A. via independent study (waiting on my acceptance letter), the possibility of getting out of this rut I’ve been in since my awful Risperdall/Fanapt med change by upping the Fanapt. I’m on a really low dose of Fanapt, so it’s a good possibility for change. I was so nervous from the shock of the med change itself (the six weeks after) the last time I saw my psychiatrist that I wasn’t ready emotionally to try anything else.

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I may not be getting my Utah geography correctly, but I think this photo is of the light coming down in a slot canyon (?) in Utah. In any case, I know the places even if I don’t know the terminology, and the simple terminology for it is beauty: with God’s creations and his light shining down. Some days I may be (theoretically) down in one of these slot canyons and even though it’s beautiful, I feel so stuck and alone, until I find a way out; often with help. I feel like I’m getting there. I feel like, even though it’s been hard the past couple months feeling like I have no “good days” physically and I’m only feeling “okay” on some evenings, at least I know there’s more to try and I do feel deep down in my bones and my gut or however you might say it that things are looking up.

I do need to get through some difficult things with my family first, but by a month from now that should all be taken care of. Now I just need to say a prayer that I find a way down to CA and have the money to see my kids during the time when it’s convenient for their summer schedule.

I am feeling  positive. This will work out. And I still need a lot of patience!

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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.

Day and Night, Stop getting confused…

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day night I started dealing with insomnia in 1993. For those who haven’t ever dealt with it, it’s about like you’d imagine. I could be exhausted, but I still couldn’t fall asleep. After a couple of months, it could last until the next morning. I was a missionary at the time, and my mission president happened to be a doctor. He said “sleep when you can.” That was a relief, because I was big on guilting myself at the time.

When both my kids were small, and in their first year of life, I would get so “jacked up” trying to stay awake during the day with them that I would end up like a robot but still unable to sleep. I’d read about Scandinavian royalty years ago that had a strange disease that would leave them unable to sleep, so eventually they’d die of exhaustion. (So comforting, but at least I knew I wasn’t alone???)

Somehow, at least for me, I think it paired up “nicely” with the extreme fatigue that started around the same time. Also while a missionary, I fell asleep on my bike several times. I was so tired once while riding home with my companions on the Promenade Des Anglais in Nice, France, that I’d stop my bike for just a second, put my head down, and sleep a bit. Then I’d start out again.

Both during my divorce (about 10 years ago) and ever since, if I’ve tried to do too much, I end up exhausted, and at least a dozen times I’ve ended up sleeping for more than 30 hours at a stretch. Anytime I woke, I’d still be what the French would call “crevé,” or spent and exhausted, as if it were still 3am and I’d been hit by a truck the day before. This started again when I tried to go back to school three years ago.

A doctor tried to put me on a sleep medication (that I don’t remember the name of) during my divorce that knocked me out for 24 hours and made me feel glued to my bed and unable to get up. Obviously that didn’t work. Since that time I’ve been too afraid of trying any sleep meds. Finally, last April (2014), when my doctor was changing my meds, I asked if we could just try a sleep medication. So, he did. And it’s worked. I still get insomnia sometimes, but nothing like the past 20 years. It was hard to get used to, and my right eye twitched for the first couple of weeks, then stopped. I felt like a zombie the first week.zombie-156138_640

Somehow the last time I saw him I either misplaced my prescription for my sleep med, or I forgot to ask him for one. Sometimes he calls it in instead. I had to do without it this past weekend, but I was okay. In the past, if I didn’t have it, I didn’t sleep. But I did sleep. I was….normal? 🙂 Then when I was at the clinic on Wednesday, I found out that they had accidentally printed it out at a different clinic. So I decided to try to go without it until my next appointment. Oops. I didn’t sleep last night. My days and nights are mixed up again.

So, the classic way to get over it when you mix up your days and nights is to either

  1. After being up all night, stay up all day to, then in theory you’re back to normal
  2. After being up all night, sleep through the day and then the next night. Then you’re back to normal.

In theory, these work pretty well. Of course, even when they work, your body is a little confused and you feel sort of funky. The second (sleep all day and all night) has worked for me when I’ve been extremely tired. The first has been the strategy that’s worked best for me when my mind is just off. Unfortunately, sometimes (like last week or the week before, forgot which it was) after being up all night and all day, I still couldn’t sleep the next night: then when I feel asleep the next morning, I had really intense nightmares all day.

However, I blame myself for this for not keeping better track of whether or not I had a refill for my sleep medication. And who knows, maybe I’ll fall asleep within a few hours. I’m not going to try until I feel sleepy, though. Ever lay in bed for an entire night without sleeping? Not fun. Better to get out of bed and do something.

I’m still kicking

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I may have mentioned that for some reason I have had pretty bad depression and anxiety the past couple of weeks. At first I attributed it to

  1. Not getting to be with my kids for Christmas because I had the flu (would have been a two week trip)
  2. Getting to finally see them for one day during a quick three day trip (one day traveling there, one day with them, one day back) and then the subsequent let down
  3. Realizing that I’ve been here (a couple states away) almost four years when I thought it would be 6 months to 1 year
  4. Waiting on my disability hearing, which is supposed to happen this month….but I’m thinking it may not. It’s been a two year wait. I just want it over. I have a lot of emotional work to do on this one, I’m realizing, and I need patience badly.

My stomach has been hurting for days, I got my days and nights all mixed up last week (but not in any kind of “regular “order) and yesterday I just couldn’t eat anything. I didn’t sleep at all the night before, and I was hoping that would get my sleep schedule back in order (something people who know me really well have probably heard 100 times, especially before I got put on sleep meds). I fell very happily asleep early last night, after a fun singles home evening at our place. I woke up at some point to use the restroom in the morning, then slept fitfully with lots of nightmares until….5pm. Yup. I will do another post sometime about my fatigue and sleep issues over the past 23 years. It could be a long one.

So, between not having eaten much yesterday and then sleeping for a really long time, I woke up with really low blood sugar and unable to speak much. A good friend brought me McDonald’s (I eat the hamburgers without the buns….gluten free) and it helped a lot. I had no desire to try to go anywhere, but my roommate came home and said that she was going to volleyball/game night at the church and was only going to stay to play a few games. With as little as I saw anyone last week, I figured that maybe I should go. It was perfect. No one had turned on any music during the amount of time we were there, so it was quiet, and I was able to just sit and watch and realize that the world is still moving along and that I’ll be okay. I joke with people that my brain isn’t functioning enough to do certain things sometimes, which of course people laugh at because they relate, but I need to say it less often, I think, because it’s so very true for me so often. I didn’t try to play board games because I knew that I couldn’t. There was no way I was up to volleyball. I can just imagine the ball coming towards me and me ducking and saying, “Help!” which is kind of funny but possibly a little disturbing.

One of the PTSD support groups I’m in was rather helpful today. There can be so many posts in that group that it seems like most of them go unanswered, but in reply to someone asking a question, someone replied with this great post on a website that is a lot more informative than most that I’ve been on. It seems like most web pages about PTSD (or other mental illnesses) are really general and don’t give any hint of how complicated each illness/category is and how everyone experiences it in so many different ways. I’m going to use it for another post that explains more how my PTSD is the same and different from some of the things they mention. It really made me happy. I feel like it was the direct result to a prayer, as well.

I have so many blessings, and it can be easy to forget them when I’m experiencing things that just seem way too much. My home teacher mentioned a few days ago that that’s when he needs to look at the past for all the ways the Lord helped him then, so that he remembers that things will get better again, and that he’ll get through. Such a good reminder.

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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You mean I’m not okay? Self awareness…

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Today was one of those days. I really needed to mail a package to my daughter. I thought, “If I just get dressed and get going, I should be okay, right? Then I’ll be so happy that I got this done.” So I got ready and got on the bus with my package, got off at the right stop, and made it to the Post Office. The weather was nice for this time of year. I really wasn’t doing so well, though. I’m still not 100% sure what’s bothering me, though. I thought I was doing okay. I don’t know how we people with anxiety (or depression) manage to convince ourselves that we’re all right when we’re not. For me, it usually comes after a day when people who aren’t around me and aware (or sometimes who are, but not usually) are wondering when I’m going to get something done.

So the man at the post office is helping me out, and the first thing he says to me is: “Are you okay!?” “Um, yeah.”
A minute later: “Are you sure you’re okay, because you’re really worrying me. Are you really okay?”
Me (embarrassed, there’s a line behind me): *sigh* “Yes, I have an anxiety disorder. I’ll be all right.”
Then as I leave, he says, “You take care, okay?”

So, I decide that I’ll feel better after I eat something. I get my food and sit down and check for a phone call I’m waiting for. The girl working there comes up to me, “Are you okay?”  (This time I’m flummoxed. I really think that I *look* okay, but obviously I’m not hiding it well.)  I realize my head is in my hands. “I’m fine, thanks,” as I quickly resume eating.

After eating, I’m still not feeling great. I sat there for a while, savoring a song that I really like that is playing. I had planned on walking a few blocks north to the Dollar Tree, but I realize on my way to the bus stop that all I want to do is go home.

I much prefer the days where I get dressed and get out and feel invigorated, even if my energy level may or may not be where I’d like it to be: not these days where I’m in denial because I’m tired of not getting things done.

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The Holidays and Anxiety/PTSD

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I know that this isn’t relegated just to those of us with anxiety and/or PTSD: the holidays tend to bring up my anxiety to the worst levels of the year. On the good side, it’s usually for good things. (See my post on good anxiety and bad anxiety here.)  This year I have added to it that it’s been harder than in the past few years to find a way to get down to CA to spend it with my kids, and to find a place to stay: and also looming, again, is the supposed-to-be soon Disability Hearing.

I also have a December birthday. When I lived at home with my kids, I don’t think it bothered me. Several years I even forgot about it until family reminded me that day. Away from my kids and with the “bad stress” of this year (Disability Hearing) or even without that, I have to admit that I haven’t looked forward to my birthday since moving to Utah almost 4 years ago.gift-2677_640

My friends have gone out of their way this year to make sure that I’ve had a good birthday. It’s actually not until a few days from today, but I’ve already been sung to twice, received a boatload of clothes from my parents, been taken out to lunch by my amazing little sister, and on my birthday I get to go to a choir concert with one of my oldest friends. I’m a huge choral music geek, and I sang with this choral organization for several years, and my daughter sang with them one semester, and their concerts are amazing, so I’m pretty excited.

I got to do a white elephant party last night with friends, in just the style I’ve needed lately: small, laid back, not crowded, and mellow: and lots of laughs. And singing. I was kind of a mess before the party (holiday PTSD, hello) much more unorganized than I’d like to be, wrapping white elephant gifts at the last minute even though they were planned ahead, forgetting to eat dinner, not getting to the pharmacy, forgetting what I was doing every other minute (squirrel…)   (squirrel…..). But I decided that although “good anxiety” is still anxiety, and still makes you tired, at least it improves your mood. I had insomnia after, and then slept for 16 hours (ugh) and had weird, complicated dreams that were thankfully only partly-nightmarish. I still had some “super hero” abilities in the dreams, which for me I think is a sign that I’m not feeling like things are completely out of my control. And this is why I haven’t been doing things on Saturday nights: ruins my Sundays.

As usual, I will miss my daughter’s band/orchestra concert, because it’s in CA and I’m in UT. I’m going to see if I can bribe someone to record at least a few seconds of it.holiday music

My step mother is yet again on another kick of asking me “why can’t you at least take a part time job? You know, at McDonald’s or something?”  I’m still so flabbergasted that she asks, even after having seen me at my worst so many times, that I just have to remind myself how worried she is about my Dad getting older (he’s in his mid 80’s, she’s younger) and ignore it. I think this is one of those things that worries me the most about my upcoming Disability Hearing: I’m kind of a disaster. I need to get out sometimes to help keep my sanity and my sense of hope alive. I can barely handle planning a trip to CA and inexpensive gifts for my family. There seems to be a huge contingent of people who think that if you can breather, you can work. When I work, both my employer and customers (if the job involves customers) catch it quite easily when my mind goes blank (which is frequent) and wonder why I’m trying to work. I had a group of holiday shoppers once completely freak out, and several of them insist on going to find managers to tell them I needed to go home and rest, when I was subconsciously channeling “I’m okay, I’m okay” in my head. When I try to work, (or do school, even, unfortunately), everything goes downhill. Even when I’m not working, I’m struggling. I have a really hard time not feeling anger for people who don’t understand.  I try to remember what another family member said, that “people just don’t know.” If they have someone in their lives who is dealing with mental illness, especially (but not just if) it is debilitating, I wish they would make more of an effort to read up on it, especially the latest research. Sticking one’s head in the sand and being determined to stay in the denial and anger stages of grief over a loved one having a mental illness can be so detrimental to the health of everyone involved.  I still am trying to be understanding, though. When I don’t just let it go, it consumes me. However, when I start to trust too much, it often ends up biting me again.

“Good” Anxiety and “Bad” Anxiety

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The therapist I saw in L.A. did her Ph.D. specializing in anxiety. One of the things she taught me was that anxiety makes you tired, whether it’s “good” anxiety or “bad.”  I can’t claim to understand everything behind this, except that I do know that those who suffer from large amounts of anxiety tend to be more tired than most people. It made the fatigue I’ve experienced since my mission make a lot more sense.poinsettia-490853_640

I have to be careful yet again lately what I do on Saturday or Saturday nights, or I can’t wake up on Sunday mornings, or if I do manage to wake up, I’m shaking too hard to be able to go anywhere. I went through at least a good six months where I didn’t have to worry about it, so it’s frustrating. Last year around this time I only made it to church maybe 3 or 4 times in a period of 4 months. I think that’s the worst that particular problem has ever been.

On Sunday night I was able to go with my roommate to the First Presidency Christmas Devotional at the LDS Conference Center. Her parents are currently church service missionaries and live across from the Conference Center, and near Temple Square. I didn’t want to pass up the opportunity. We left just after church and drove to Salt Lake. I was okay, but by the end was pretty tired. I joked that I’d see what time I woke up the next day. It ended up being 5pm.  We had home evening last night and there was no way I felt up to it. I ate and went back to bed, waking up around 2am and 5am to eat. I’m still feeling overwhelmed. I think I need a good, big meal. On the good side? I had made it to church. It makes a huge difference in my week if I can make it to church on Sundays.

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If getting tired and anxious from a devotional isn’t “good anxiety,” I don’t know what is. I’m also getting nervous about the rest of the Christmas season. I’m just going to have to take it easy at least half the time. Meaning, not going somewhere every night, even if it’s mellow. Which, with my PTSD, it’s pretty much always “mellow.” I’m no party girl. I’ve been blessed to have found a ride home to be with my kids, now I just need to work on where I’ll be staying. I know that a lot of the stress I’m feeling is still over the unpredictability of my coming disability hearing: both when it will be, and how it will turn out. They only will give me two weeks’ notice. For something so stressful that can change my future so much (I really am in a lot of trouble if I don’t get accepted), I wish it could just be over with. The courts are backed up, so…been waiting almost two years now.

Trigger Tales: the Helicopter

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I had been told several times during my twenties that I probably had some form of PTSD, but since it didn’t hit me in the same way as it did war veterans, I took a strange comfort that it wasn’t the “same kind of ” PTSD that I’d heard about. In fact, it’s a common misconception when people hear about mental illnesses that everyone who has PTSD has it the same way, that everyone who is bipolar has it the same way, etc. It makes sense to order it in our minds that way when we’re fortunate enough to not be having to deal with it. Mental illnesses are like any other type of illness in that they manifest in as many ways as the people who have them.

Starting in about Jr. High, friends in one of my classes figured out that I had an exaggerated startle response. In other words, when they would do some sort of game like waving their hands in someone else’s peripheral vision, the person might move a little. I, however, jumped. I’m not sure why I remember this. In some strange way it was comforting to me, because they hadn’t teased me about it (I guess they thought it was some kind of superhuman reflex) and it was also some kind of proof to me that I wasn’t okay, even if my parents tried to pretend everything was normal at home. Jr. High was also a difficult time for me, probably the worst of my growing up years at home, which translated easier into difficulties feeling like I fit in at school. I went from “brainy” and mostly normal to “struggling socially.” Not too different from a lot of kids in that stage, unfortunately. I found out later that out of my siblings, only one enjoyed Jr. High.helicopter-390488_640

I have two kids, about 4 years apart. My daughter is the youngest and was born in Los Angeles not long after 9/11. My former husband and I had gone through a couple really hard years, followed by a small amount of peace (during which time my daughter came to be) and we moved to L.A. for him to finish graduate school. I was going through severe postpartum depression and constantly on myself, thinking I was doing everything wrong. As my ex once put it, “Do you think you’re responsible for everything that goes wrong in the world?”  At which time I realized that I did, and that it was odd, but I couldn’t seem to make the feeling go away.

We lived in student housing next to the 405 freeway, and not far from the intersection with the 10, and about 10 miles south of what they said was then (and still may be) the “busiest freeway intersection in the country.” It was a nice neighborhood. West L.A. is a nice area. It is still L.A., though, and we frequently heard traffic and news helicopters outside. Once I was walking back from a friend’s place in the student housing complex, and a helicopter passed overhead and on a loudspeaker someone said something similar to, “please stay indoors, suspect is in the area, on foot. Police are in pursuit.”  Not terribly comforting. Needless to say I quickened my pace and told my family.

The kicker for me in realizing that it wasn’t “just” Postpartum Depression (which is not a “just” for anyone, of course) and anxiety was when I was feeling overwhelmed, which was what I’d come to believe my life would just have to be like, and my kids were watching tv or playing in the family room and my ex husband was either walking by or sitting there. A helicopter passed nearby, and in a split second a felt a HUGE adrenaline rush, and I fell to the floor and covered my neck like we used to do in earthquake drills in CA in elementary school. It felt like there was a war right there, like the terrorists had come to Los Angeles and we were about to die. Then in another split second I realized what had happened: that I was “okay” and we were okay, and that it was just a helicopter (and I have never been in a “literal” war zone), but I was not okay. I just started to cry, wondering what was going to happen to me.

“You Seem So Capable….”

Standard

superman-295328_640This is something I’ve heard more than once. Frankly, it’s something that frequently goes through my head, so I understand where it’s coming from.

In my inexpert non-doctor but “I live with myself every day” opinion, these seem to be my biggest issues with being able to work:

  1. I can’t guarantee that I can be somewhere at any specific time
  2. I deal with debilitating fatigue
  3. When you see me, I’m *usually* at my best
  4. I still don’t understand all of my “triggers” or where they come from, so I have a lot to work on
  5. When bombarded with unexpected or expected triggers that take over quickly in an unexpected way, my mind just “shuts off.”
  6. I have both a “genetic tremor” that, when combined with the shaking from the anxiety, kind of freaks out employers. They want me to go to the doctor to get it “fixed.”

 

Things that throw people seems to be that

  • I usually have higher than average abilities socially (with some quirks thrown in, but who doesn’t have that…)
  • I have (supposedly) a high I.Q.
  • I have a lot of people skills, writing skills, networking skills, etc.

However, I also need a lot of sleep. My son asked a really good question of me one time when he said, “But if you work out, will you eventually work through the fatigue and build up more resistance and be able to sleep less?”  I wish this were the case. I’ve been dealing with the fatigue for twenty years now. Sometimes I can do more than others. Somehow it seems tied to my anxiety. I can walk 3-5 miles several days a week and I’m just fine. If I try to up the amount of just about anything I do, though, and I keep pushing it, my ability to endure doesn’t increase.  Instead, my body “crashes.” The most common thing that happens in that case is that I end up sleeping for about 30 hours, and you couldn’t wake me up if you wanted to or if I wanted to. If there was a fire in the building and someone didn’t carry me out or lead me by the hand, I’d probably die. It’s just a fact, not asking anyone to feel sorry for me.

When my son (now 17 years old) was an infant, I experienced extreme sleep deprivation. I was put on anti-depressants after that, and changed my diet quite a bit (I went gluten-free before he was born) and slowly gained more stamina. When my daughter was born four years later, I was doing a lot better, but it wasn’t hard to tell that I didn’t have the stamina that other moms had. I either felt like I needed to go to bed around 6pm, or I felt “wired” like I just needed a few hours to myself after everyone else was asleep. I was also so tired that I would forget to eat enough during the day, so just before bed I’d be shoveling in food during a time when I didn’t need to worry if everyone else was getting enough.

I didn’t take my kids many places, compared to the the other moms we knew in the graduate student family housing where we lived. If I started to think, “hey, maybe I am normal….” I’d have either friends or random strangers ask me if I was okay. The general consensus of the other moms was that I always seemed more tired than other moms. I supposed that, coming from other moms of small children, that was saying something.

I think that, more than anything, the way my mind will just “turn off” is the scariest symptom I have. I look normal (I think) when it happens, but if people try to talk to me, I can’t speak back. It can take a lot of effort to remember what is going on around me.

I think the mind turning off started towards the end of my marriage. I don’t mean to be negative towards my ex-husband, who has made a lot of progress and is a good dad and provider and (thankfully) remarried several years ago. He was in graduate school, trying to finish a PhD., and at least three or four years before that had just gotten tired of my anxiety issues. I had had several doctors and therapists tell me that I needed more time to relax, or things would get worse. He didn’t like that because he wasn’t sure how we’d accomplish it. He often took the kids to school, took them to the grocery store with him, or to visit his parents. But towards the end of the marriage and during the divorce, I could be completely wiped out, and he’d just leave. My kids watched a lot of t.v. and movies. More and more I had difficulties sleeping, no matter how tired I was. I felt like a zombie. I wanted to talk about other things we could do, maybe talk to people at church for ideas, and I was seeing a psychiatrist at a Post-Partum Clinic who after a year or two had me transfer to the Anxiety Clinic.

There was a lot more to it, but probably not worth sharing. I asked him if maybe the kids and I could go live with his parents, but he didn’t want that. My psychiatrist there (and the ones where I’ve lived since) said that I already had PTSD at that point, but that my marriage had made it a lot worse. The anxiety seems to have started when I was about 9 or 10 years old. It’s a very long story how I figured out that part.