Tag Archives: social life

Recovering from Good Stuff

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Cinderella shoe cakeI had the opportunity to help throw a bridal shower for a friend this week. I’m paying for it, but it was worth it. There’s some more good news in that regards, but I’ll get to that later.

I had plenty of time to plan. I don’t do complicated. I also had a partner in planning who did all of the things well that I’m not very good at. If I were to be a party planner the rest of my life, I would want her for my partner. It was that much fun. She even talked me into helping her icing the cupcakes with one of those fancy icing bags. I’m better at invites and games and that sort of thing.

I have to carefully allot my time during the week, but the past three weeks have been a lot better. My doctor upped my Risperidone and it’s helped a ton! I’ve been sleepy all the time, which I think is passing as I get used to it, but I’ve been awake a lot more. I’ve had less nightmares and everything else. It’s made life so much more bearable and I’ve also been more able to count my blessings without getting as depressed. My therapist said she could tell a difference, and my friends have been remarking on it, too.

Thus, I felt I had the courage (and ability) to help throw the shower. It was also at our place. I didn’t clean much beforehand as it’s already clean here, but it could have been better, yet I survived. My “have to clean everything perfectly” anxieties were thus lessened in that area. (Our front rooms are usually clean, my room is usually messy…a lot like growing up.)

So, while we were getting ready yesterday, my mind still halted occasionally but it wasn’t bad. I could tell I was headed towards bad anxiety just a couple of times, and after either eating or taking a break I was okay again. It was such a relief! One of the things that’s difficult to explain to people about anxiety disorders is that the “usual” methods of calming oneself don’t always work. We feel “stuck” in the anxiety with very little that helps lower it.

But….not this time. Some loud music someone played briefly on their phone almost got me while everyone was talking. I was leading the game so leaving for a break would have been awkward.

I fell right asleep last night. I did, unfortunately, have a lot of nightmares last night, but they could have been worse. I still felt like I had some control of the dreams. I ended up shaky with my “insides shaking” but I had no limbs flapping. For as much as I did yesterday, that’s quite a feat. Also, I couldn’t get out of bed today until after 1pm. Considering that at times after something so large I could have been wiped out for a few days, that’s also something. I’m fully hoping to get to go for a walk later. I could really use it.

The funky algorithms of PTSD

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Euclidean_algorithm_running_time_X_Y(Speaking of which, I can’t be the first person to wonder why “algorithms” isn’t spelled “algorhythms.” It would be more inviting to us non-math people; as if it could be cured through spelling. Some day I’ll understand them better, though. I’m determined.)

So I went to the fireside. If you’re not LDS, it’s what we call “go listen to a speaker on Sunday and get to see friends.”  And be uplifted. And I was. It was very good. Comedian/entertainer Jason Hewlett was the speaker. I’ve never been to a fireside that was anything like it. My heart was uplifted, my funny bone jiggled, and the depression/loneliness cloud that was over me this afternoon is gone. I’m still a bit shaky inside (the large crowd made me nervous when my anxiety was high, but I was okay) but my anxiety is way down for now.

So, should I have gone to the birthday party/bonfire last night, knowing I might miss church? It’s that whole hindsight thing. Since I ended up missing anyway. Is there any point in even worrying about it? I think that the next time I have to have too much alone time and I have the opportunity to go do something, maybe I should do it anyway. Or should I?

If math could predict this kind of thing, I would be trying to take more math classes. Or I’d just bug my son (or friends) for the answer. Would that life could be as “easy” as my son’s Multi Vector Calculus class.

More about Jason Hewlett, from Forbes.com

On a scale of 1 to 10…

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number-10I’ve discovered that there’s sometimes still a large disconnect between what some of the people who “know” me think I’m going through, and what I’m actually going through.

Have you ever been asked by a doctor how severe the pain is that you’re going through, on a scale of 1 to 10, or 1 to 100? I finally got the courage to ask one time, “So, what is 10? Is 10 going through labor? Because it’s bad, but it’s not that bad.”  I’m still not sure how to do that with friends, or when it’s even worth it. I have just a few friends that I will try to further explain it, because they’re the friends who have felt comfortable in the past asking for more details, and who seems to mostly “get it” even if they haven’t been through it. I learned the hard way, at a more needy time of my life, that even if I think someone who absolutely doesn’t get it and doesn’t seem to want to, even if they ask me questions, I probably won’t be able to ever talk or explain enough. They’re probably not emotionally ready, and I’ll just end up getting hurt, and maybe they will, too.

I still haven’t figured out the pain scale. Doctors seem to be able to figure out what they need to without me trying to gain clarity for myself.

As for my anxiety, thus far the “10” (and worst) for me was the time I had to go to the E.R. My doctor and therapist know what that means. I don’t think that many people have seen a panic attack that’s that bad, though.cure-297557_640

So, a couple of people asked me what it was that keeps me from church sometimes. (I feel a little vulnerable on this one, for some reason, despite the irony of writing it on a blog where I’ve already revealed quite a bit.) Usually, it’s that my anxiety is so bad that my nightmares have kept me from sleeping very well and I can’t wake up. If I can wake up, it’s more tricky. I’m more likely to go to church, but nervous about how I’ll be able to handle it. Last week I managed, but I had to miss a lot because I had to sit outside of Sacrament Meeting and Relief Society because the noise and crowds were too much. This week, I managed to sit outside Sacrament Meeting okay, but by Relief Society, I just needed to lie down. Some people may think, “oh, just do some breathing techniques” or one of the many other things I’ve learned. Those things help me on a regular Sunday, or in the long run, but when my anxiety is hitting a 7 or 8 (nothing most people ever have to deal with, I don’t think) that’s not going to do it. As I said to a friend, “If you had the flu, and weren’t retaining anything you heard, and all you could think about was lying down so you could calm down and get some sleep, would you stay?” Also, I DON’T LIKE missing things. Yes, I do get embarrassed if I start to twitch or I feel stuck somewhere and my mind is about to turn off because I keep trying and trying to do calming techniques and it’s not working, because I’m “running faster than I have strength.” No one was ever promised that none of us would have to deal with a difficult mental illness in this life. I don’t want to make people have to see it. It makes people uncomfortable. On top of that (and probably more important) is that it will keep getting worse until I find a way to calm down, and sometimes the only way to do that is to be able to lie down in a quiet room, by myself, where I know no one will bother me. dice-10

I had to ask a friend to take me home early on Sunday. It was quite a bit out of her way to drive several miles to drop me off, go back to church, then come home again this way. It was extremely kind of her. When I got home, I said, “I don’t want to be here, but I need the rest. But this means I’m missing church again.”

What did I learn from this that I need to work on? I took a long nap on Saturday afternoon, that ended up being full of nightmares and thus not restful at all. I ended up afraid to go to bed on Saturday. I need to try to go to bed earlier on Saturday nights, and learn not to be afraid. Plenty of techniques I can use with that.

I understand those who mean well who think one or two simple things, applied daily, will fix all this. It’s just not that simple. It’s more like a very long list of things that will possibly work, as I go through it and pray about it and talk with my doctor and my therapist etc., will fix this. Please don’t insult the intelligence or the integrity (even if we’re not perfect….I know I’m not) of those of us dealing with serious mental health issues. And obviously I don’t have it as bad as a lot of people: no hallucinating, no long stays (or even short ones) in the mental hospital. But getting over my PTSD is like having a full-time job: but one with odd hours and no sure answers. The answers are looking a lot better than they were 5,10,20 years ago, but one of the biggest battles is yet around the still elusive corner: (will I get approved for disability?)

Hard day/Good day

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face-640435_640Today has not been a good day. I don’t know if it’s because I found out yesterday that a friend (who was young) passed away unexpectedly, but I wasn’t able to wake up completely until about 5:30 pm and had nightmares all day long and last night. They woke me up partway into the night. I was twitching most of the day while asleep and it feels like my body just won’t stop shaking. I was going to go to a Relief Society activity (women’s group at church) tonight that I’ve been looking forward to, but I’m not sure I feel up to it. Every noise outside my bedroom door makes me jump, no matter how normal. My roommate spent a lot of the morning singing, and it was helpful because it was happy, but it didn’t stop the shaking or the nightmares that I went in and out of. I did manage to get up in the early morning and turn on a BYU Devotional. General Conference talks and devotionals help calm me down and feel more connected to hope and reality. I also listen to scriptures, but I wish there was an easier way to listen to each chapter one after the other without having to get up. You know, like back when I owned a cassette player.
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So, I ended up going to the activity after all. I threw something on, didn’t have on any makeup (not the end of the world, I learned a long time ago) and went with a couple of friends. One of them has a nice, big loud voice, but it didn’t bother me. Always grateful for the small things. Maybe I’m making progress in some areas. When we got there, my shaking hadn’t stopped or even let up at all. My head was still bobbing. I’m not sure I’ve actually left the house on purpose with that still going on, but I was hoping that it would stop. Eventually it did, but it took a while. I hadn’t even told a friend that I wasn’t feeling well, but she leaned over to me and said, “Do you need me to take you home? Are you sure?” When my body is doing this, I feel a bit like I’m 93 instead of 43. Tonight that thought was a little humorous to me.

We shared books (fiction or non-fiction, children’s or young adult or for adults, etc.) and I was near the end of the order because of where I was sitting in the circle. I managed okay. I had sort of hoped that I could go earlier so that I didn’t have to sit there worrying about my ability to be able to speak, but I was okay. Afterwards, though, I struggled. One person was having a hard time hearing me, which meant that my anxiety was making it hard to speak up. Another time I was able to speak up, but my ability to come up with the right very simple words just left me.

So was it a good idea to go? I don’t know. It was wonderful to be out and to get to talk about one of my favorite things with others (books, reading). Seeing the slightly uncomfortable looks on the faces of people who don’t know me as well and haven’t been around me much, when I struggled with speaking etc., brought back bad memories of when I was so terrified to be around other people when even the smallest things with my health went wrong in public. But tonight they rallied back and talked with me again anyway. I did sit down when I knew that my ability to concentrate and function was getting worse. I don’t mind sitting by myself when I need to recover, and I don’t mind it in general, but it was a little embarrassing when someone else thought that maybe I needed some company. But isn’t it amazing that I’m around so many people who want to worry whether others need company or not?

chapel north salt lakeI don’t know if I’ll try this again very often (going out when I’m really, really unsure of my ability to function). I definitely wouldn’t try it when I’m by myself. If I hadn’t been with a good friend who is familiar with my symptoms and what I’m like, there’s no way I would have gone. I did the same thing on Sunday and went to church and had to sit in the hall for everything but our nice and small Sunday School class. (Our ward has multiple small Sunday School classes rather than one or two large ones.) I felt like I didn’t get much out of it doctrinally, but hey, I got to take the sacrament, and I felt the Spirit. I really felt like I got less out of it than the years spent chasing my kids around the building when they were small. Concentrating on much of anything was just pretty much impossible. But, a couple of people I confided in said, “yes, but you were here! Wasn’t that great?” So, I’d prefer that every Sunday I would be there and that I’d be feeling well, able to participate, help others out, and maybe even get something out of it….which I usually do. But feeling the Spirit ain’t bad.

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.

Saturdays and Sundays

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-My way of making it to church on Sunday the last few months has been by taking it easy on Saturday and Saturday night. If I do anything, it’s on Friday night, and still pretty mellow (small group of friends, games and that sort of thing.)

On doing something last Saturday night, I thought it might work. Mellow activity, started pretty early, all people I”m comfortable with, etc. By the end of the night I thought, “Hey, I’m fine! Yay!” And I probably was, mostly. Difficulty level of trying to wake up on Sunday morning was probably about a 6 or 7. The alarm didn’t help at all, and I had the “inside shaking” that didn’t seem like it would go away. Had I set three alarms in three different parts of my room (I do have three, it’s true) I may have been able to wake up and better assess the situation. I will need to reuse this tactic the next tine, but I hadn’t thought of it last night. Because….I thought I was fine.

Some unofficial ways (if I manage to wake up) I decide if I’ll be okay at church:

  1. able to speak without stuttering too much?
  2. able to speak at all?
  3. able to leave my room without running into a wall or door? (you have to have a sense of humor with this, or it just not fun.)
  4. the unknowable: when I get to church, how much noise can I take? Will I feel comfortable sitting out in the hall if I need to, and the inevitable question if I’m okay (please don’t make me answer or especially try to explain…)

So, basically, for this situation in the future, it seems like the “3 alarms” and possibly a friend calling me multiple times in the morning just might do it and get me there. Then, I could analyze the situation from there. Lots of fun. Honestly, I’m not sure how many people notice how I’m doing when I’m not doing well. The most embarrassing part for me is if I’m having trouble talking and feeling overwhelmed, and someone (or someones) seems to think that if they pester me with questions it will help pull me out of the fog, rather than what it usually does, which is pushed me farther into the fog. But at least they mean well….usually, and by that point I can tell them “wait,” walk away somewhere private and get them to leave me alone so that I can regroup. pig

I think it’s having the bravery to keep trying, no matter what I come up against when it comes to misunderstandings, that will truly help me move forward through this. People can sometimes say some pretty stupid things, but you know what? They don’t know what they’re talking about because they haven’t been there, or they’ve had a family member with a different situation and they’re trying to place that situation over mine in order to judge. Mental illnesses come in many varieties, people.

And next Saturday night I will set my clock radio, my cell phone, and my pig-shaped alarm clock that my kids so lovingly picked out for me. When I miss church, I feel like I miss a lot that would otherwise have helped get me through the week. Not that I don’t otherwise have ways to study the Gospel, but the ability to share and help others and learn from others? Not much like it in the world. I need it for my pride, my courage, humility, getting to know others and getting out of my comfort zone. Plus, I’m pretty sure that my kids worry when I haven’t made it to church, because they know what it means to me.

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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.