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Tuesday, March 13, 2012

My Newest Outlet

Rachel has been telling me since the beginning of therapy that I need to find outlets for my excess energy, both physical and mental.  We've tried many things, some which have worked, some which have BOMBED.  For some people, running or other forms of exercise work.  With my sciatica, bursitis, and asthma, that doesn't always work well.  Many times, it makes my body ache which makes my depression and anxiety worse.  I have found a wonderful yoga DVD that works wonderfully though.

I've also found that music, books, and cooking all give me ways to focus my energy on something much healthier than the ruminations that would occur otherwise and also give me a sense that I'm accomplishing something.  Still, I'm the type that gets bored easily.  Sometimes, I just need a different outlet.  So, I'm always looking for something, something to keep my mind busy and off all the negative thoughts, some way to channel that mental energy into something good when my body just can't keep up with it.

My newest outlet is Colourlovers.  It is a website that lets you create patterns or color existing patterns.  It keeps my mind focused while allowing me to feel creative.  Also, I can use those patterns to create backgrounds for Twitter and even this blog.  (Yes, this new background is one that I personally created from scratch using Colourlovers.)  Because I can create so many different patterns and styles in so many colors, it keeps me from getting bored as easily.  Also, I love getting messages that others have "loved" my patterns or even used them in their own new colored backgrounds.  It gives me a sense that I'm being helpful, useful, and doing something that brings a smile to the faces of others.

Will Colourlovers stay one of my major outlets?  I'm not sure, but for right now, I'm greatly enjoying it.

So, what are your favorite outlets?

(To find me at Colourlovers, look for Hoosier_Kat.)

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

The Importance of Perspective

I'm not a religious person.  I consider myself more humanistic, sometimes agnostic, sometimes more Buddhist, or even Universalist.  I grew up in and out of Christian churches.  I went to a Catholic college (and attended more masses than most of my Catholic friends due to my participation in choir).  Still, despite my lack of religiosity, this clip from the movie "Soul Surfer" really speaks to me.

It is set during a session of a night time youth group and ends with a Bible verse, but the important message is still universal.  It's about perspective.  It's about the fact that sometimes, we try so hard to make sense of things that we miss the big picture.  It's about the fact that sometimes we just need to take a step back and look at things in a different way.  That by doing so, we are able to gain a different understanding, a better understanding.

I find this very true in dealing with my anxiety and depression.  Sometimes, it just seems like so much, so overwhelming.  Sometimes, I just can't understand the "why"s, the "what"s, and the "how"s that go along with it and with my CBT.  So, sometimes, I just need to take a step back and look at things from a different perspective.  It may not be that my actions were wrong, that I "failed".  It may just be that I was acting on a false understanding.

When I first started therapy, we started with ERP.  ERP totally didn't work for me at the time.  Why?  Because when I couldn't wait thirty seconds before washing my hands, every time, I felt like a failure.  It didn't matter that I was able to do so 50% of the time.  It was the 50% that I wasn't able that mattered.  I failed to wait to wash my hands.  I didn't realize it at the time, but that's not what the purpose of the exercise was.  It wasn't about waiting to wash my hands.  It was about showing myself and my brain that I was able to stand up against my OCD thoughts.  Was I able to stand up against them?  Not always, but yes, I did, 50% of the time.  That's 50% more than I did before, 50% more than I thought I could, 50% more than I realized at the time.  Why didn't I realize it?  I didn't realize it, because I was looking at the exercise from the wrong perspective.  This happens to me A LOT, but I'm working on it.

So, next time you're struggling with the rituals, the obsessive thoughts, the ERP or CBT, try taking a step back and looking at it from a different perspective.  Sometimes it's about the forest.  Sometimes it's about the trees.  Sometimes it's about something else entirely.  You just have to take some time to process it and figure it out.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Riding the Waves

So, this week has been a bit crazy.  My mom has been sick with a horrible flu, so bad that I truly thought she might have pneumonia.  (She is 66, has asthma, and has had pneumonia twice before.)  Just so you don't think that was simply my anxiety talking, I was finally able to convince her to go to the doctor on Tuesday (as she had been sick since the previous Thursday).  The doctor did and chest x-ray and sent home a container for a sputum sample.  He also proscribe a cough syrup and a very strong antibiotic to fight the lung infection.  Unfortunately, he didn't look at the precautions for the antibiotic first.

At lunch, my mom took the first dose of that antibiotic.  About 20 minutes later, I read the package insert only to find that my mom should NEVER have been prescribed this medication.  My mom has a heart condition called Long QT Syndrome which is a type of arrhythmia.  It's something we both have.  This antibiotic she was prescribed has a tendency to worsen this, which can lead to fainting, abnormal heart rhythm, and even death.  Also, this antibiotic was not to be used by anyone on diuretics (she's on two), anyone with low potassium levels (which she has to take potassium for), or anyone on corticosteroids as the combination can contribute to tendon rupture (and she's on steroids for a muscle disorder and also has a patellar tendon that was rebuilt less than two years ago).

Needless to say, I made my mom call in immediately and talk to the nurse about it.  She only told them about the heart issue and asked if this was safe for her to take.  The nurse said she'd speak to the doctor and get back to us.  About twenty minutes later, my mom started to feel very sick.  She tried to go lay down in bed, but started to feel very dizzy, nearly passing out.  These are signs of issues with the Long QT Syndrome.  I've had these before.

I helped her to bed, and stayed in the living room where I would be able to hear her if she needed anything or tried to get up.  About 90 minutes later, she was starting to feel slightly better.  I wasn't!  The nurse still hadn't called back.  When the nurse finally did call back, hours later, she said the doctor wanted to change the medicine.  My mom told her it was a good thing and described the symptoms she'd had.  The nurse made sure she wasn't alone and told her if she had any more of those symptoms to go to the ER immediately.

So, I had to run into town to get the new prescription, all the while worried about my mom at home alone.

That wasn't the only stress of the week.  That same day, my dog was sick, waking me up at 5:30 am and causing me to have to strip and wash my bedding.  When I went to take her out, a neighbor's massive dog was in our yard.  I had to immediately grab my little poodle as soon as we came around a set of plantings.  She was going nuts, I was trying to get the neighbor's dog out of our yard, and the neighbor's dog just kept coming toward us!!!  (For someone who was bit by a neighbor's dog at age six, this definitely sets off a whole set of fears.)  Finally, the dog starts across the road, but then stops, right in the middle, with a semi coming.  So, I get the "Don't let the dog get hit by that truck.  If it gets hit it's all my fault being I was chasing it out of our yard." thing going.  Luckily, the semi honked it's horn and the dog moved before the truck got to the point where it had been standing.  Still, it wouldn't leave from that spot.  So, my sick dog couldn't go to the bathroom in our own yard!  And all the commotion woke up my poor sick mom!

And....I was dealing with all this while fighting yet another two week migraine!

So, it's been a tough week.  Then, Rachel canceled my therapy appointment, because she came down sick.  It's already been three weeks since my last appointment being I'd had to cancel the week before due to the migraine.  Now, due to scheduling issues, it will be five weeks between session.

Still, with all this, I felt relatively good, happy, much better than I'd usually have been.  Until yesterday afternoon when I was finally hit with the wave of emotions that comes after that much suppressed anxiety.  I was feeling sick, battling the same bug my mom had, and was getting ready to take a nap when I knocked a glass of water out of my own hand, spilling it all over the floor, and covering myself with water in the process. That was all it took for the flood gates to open.  I just couldn't hold it back anymore and the wave just came crashing over me.

This isn't unusual for me being I'm a stuffer.  What was different this time is that I knew exactly what was going on and why it was happening, which makes it much easier to accept.  The emotions are still there and knowing me, they'll probably be there for awhile, but I'm able to deal with them, to cope with them.

 I will get through it, and I'll come out the other side with a better understanding of myself and the way my emotions work.  So, I've come to the conclusion that when the waves come and the surf's up, there's not much I can do but hang ten and enjoy the ride.

Friday, February 24, 2012

What Can I Say???

It's been a LONG time since I've blogged.  Things have been insane.  Between holiday issues, two visits from my dad, wisdom tooth extractions, multiple viruses and migraines.......well, the list goes on.....I just haven't felt much like blogging.  I've felt more like wrapping my self up in a warm blankie and hiding from the world.  I didn't mind you.  I felt like it, but I didn't.  I just focused on getting through it all however I could.  "Survival mode" as Rachel calls it.

I've felt guilty for not blogging, but I know that in the long run, taking a break from it to focus on other things was what I needed to do.  I just needed to slow down and focus on a few small things that helped me through.  As Ashley Turner would say, I needed to slow down and move into the slow lane.  In doing so, I really have come to understand more about myself, my family, my friends, and my life in general.  I really feel like I'm doing quite well, better than I've done in a long time.  Overall, I feel happier, stronger, and calmer, and I feel ready to finally return to my blog and all my blog buddies.  I've missed you all!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

I Burnt My Bagel

So....This may seem like a ridiculous post, but today I burnt my bagel while making breakfast.  Normally, this would send me into a mental assault on myself.  Normally, my brain would be telling me how I messed up and couldn't even toast a freaking bagel correctly.  How I should have been paying more attention and taken it out sooner.  How worthless of a person I am if I can't even make breakfast without screwing it up.

Don't get me wrong, my brain started it's normal belittling mental chatter, but then I remembered my "assignment" to fail.  I thought to myself, "Self, is this a failure?  Is this my chance to put this assignment to use?"

While burning a bagel may not seem like a failure to most, it does often feel like one to me.  So, I decided to go with it.  I stopped and thought to myself, "Self, you burnt your bagel.  Wow!  What a big deal!  Yes, you could have popped it out sooner.  Of course, that may have been a little difficult seeing as you were across the house doing something else at the same time.  It's just a bagel.  It's not the end of the world.  It may be a little extra crispy, but oh well.  We'll hide it under a little low-fat cream cheese.  Let's move on and enjoy the rest of the day."

It took me a little while to process it all and really come to terms with it, but halfway through crunching on my extra crispy bagel, I really started believing that my burnt bagel was no big deal.  Go figure!  Now I can't wait until my next failure!  : )

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Fear of Failure

I woke up this morning in a good mood.  The sun was shining brightly after what was a dark and stormy day yesterday.  I thought it was such a beautiful day.

Then, the thoughts and anxiety started to intrude....

I haven't been in the best of places recently anyway.  This was something I addressed yesterday with Rachel.  My thoughts have been wrapped up in the holidays as well as the anniversary of the death of a former student of mine who was killed two years ago while crossing the street.  She was only eleven.

After delving into things, we soon realized that one of the main roots of the anxiety and depression was the thought of seeing my father if I went to the holiday dinners at my brother's.

At first, we simply thought it was my anxiety about my need to be perfect and make everyone happy.  The need to create that Norman Rockwell kind of holiday.  Perfectionism is a constant issue with me.  We address it almost every therapy session.  I'm trying to chisel away at it little by little, but it's so ingrained for so many reasons.  Rachel gave me an "assignment" this session.  The "assignment" was to try to fail.  Well, not exactly to try to fail, but to allow myself to fail and not to judge myself for it.  She doesn't want me to try to create failure.  She just wants me to accept it if it happens.  She wants me to allow myself to be human, something I never do.

There are two main reasons I strive for perfection.  The first is to keep everyone happy.  In my childhood world, when things weren't perfect, my dad could get angry, and then people got hurt.  After my parents' divorce, if things weren't perfect, my brother could get angry and take his anger out on me.  Even after we all grew up, if things weren't perfect, if I wasn't perfect, my siblings would be unhappy.  They may be a lot less likely to take it out on me physically, but they have no problem taking it out on me verbally.  My need to be perfect stems from me trying to protect myself and my family from making anyone unhappy, to protect anyone from being hurt, physically or emotionally.

The second reasons for my perfectionism also leads back to my father.  This is what we really discovered yesterday.  It is another reason I don't want to be around my father, at all.  This reason is that I'm scared of being like my father, of turning into someone like him.  He also had OCD tendencies.  He especially had food contamination issues.  Some of the anxieties I have, some of my obsessions and compulsions remind me so much of his when I was a child, and this scares me.  This scares me because if I have his OCD tendencies, can I also have inherited, and eventually develop, his other tendencies???

I don't want to be the kind of person who would beat their spouse until I cracked their skull.  I don't want to be the kind of person who would hit their children with a hammer or chase them through the fields with their pick-up truck.  I don't want to be the kind of person who would put their four-year-old in the bucket loader of their tractor, raise it twenty feet above the ground, and dump it hoping that their child would fall twenty feet and land in pain.  I don't want to be the kind of person who would kill their child's pet right in front of them just to see the anguish on their face.  I don't want to be the kind of person who would torment the people who loved them just to get pleasure for their pain.

I'm so scared that if I inherited his genetic predisposition for the OCD, that I could have inherited his genetic predisposition for this as well.  I'm scared that if I'm not perfect, that if I lose control, that this could slip out.  I'm scared I'll hurt someone I love, that I'll become the kind of monster my father was.

Rachel pointed out that the fact that I even worry about this shows that I am NOTHING like him.  People with issues like my dad's would never think twice about it.  She said that I am not him, I will never be like him.  The fact that I am willing to put myself through so much, to make myself so miserable to prevent it, just for everyone else, shows that I would never be like him.

Still, the entire idea of failing, of being less than perfect, of being human, being fallible, terrifies me.  It fills me with so much anxiety, so much paralyzing fear.  It fills me with anger toward my father for doing the things he did, for putting me in this position.  It fills me sadness and depression for the child I used to be, the one who endured all this.  It fills my mind with so many racing thoughts and images, past, present, and future...of things that were, of things that maybe, of things I wish weren't and things I pray never will be.  I'm just so overwhelmed by all the thoughts and emotions, by all the fear and anger, that I'm not sure how to dig myself out and move past it all.  I'm sure that after a few days, my poor mind will be able to process everything and figure it all out, but right now, I just feel stuck and helpless, and I just feel scared.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Trying to Scrape the Barnacles Off My Mayflower....

I've been reading everyone's lists of what they're thankful for.  It reminds me of all the great things we have in this world, of all the things to be thankful for myself.  Unfortunately, my mind is currently in a place where every good memory, everything I'm thankful for, brings up something I'm NOT thankful for, something I'm angry about, aggravated by, or just want to forget.  This just makes me feel SO ungrateful...which I'm not!  It also makes me feel like a brooding misfit for not being able to move past those negatives that come to mind and focus on the good things.

Holidays are never a good time for me.  They bring on so much anxiety.  We used to have family holidays at my house.  I would cook and clean for days, and spend more money than I had trying to make sure everything was perfect.  I wanted everyone to have their holiday favorites.  I wanted the kids to enjoy themselves and the family to play games together, but I also wanted a formal table.  I wanted the best of both worlds.  I wanted tradition and casual fun.

The trouble would start with the scheduling of holiday gatherings.  Between my sister's ex-husband and my sister-in-laws family, we never got to have a Christmas on a Christmas Day or even a Christmas Eve.  Thanksgiving was always done late in the afternoon or early in the evening.  Everyone was already stuffed on food.  They would show up long enough to put me down, scarf the food, put me down a little more, then take off leaving me to clean everything up.  Most of the time, I would have to take care of getting the kids' plates filled and getting them settled as well as cleaning them up when they were finished.  Usually, everyone else was almost done with their dinners before I even got a chance to sit down.  I don't know how many holiday meals I finished sitting by myself.

Of course, there were also those holidays when my sister would have a major fight with her ex and take it out on her children, me, or my mom.  I seriously don't remember a truly happy holiday in my household.  Sure, I still tried each year to make them perfect and make everyone happy.  I still slaved for days trying to make the house and the menu perfect.  I always struggled to ignore the passive aggressive, belittling comments my family throughout.  Still, none of this can make up for an unhappy, dysfunctional family.

The death blow for holidays came a few years ago when, after our traditionally terrible Christmas actually celebrated on Christmas Eve for the first time EVER, scheduled by my sister and sister-in-law, my sister got into a fight with her ex-husband on her cell phone.  It had to do with the time he thought he was supposed to get the kids that night.  She got angry and ended up throwing her cell phone across the living room, filled with family members, shattering the phone against our bookshelves.  She then proceeded to storm out of the house, ending the not so festive festivities.  Oh....but she wasn't done yet.  My sister proceeded to call my mom the next morning, on Christmas Day, and yell at her about how her Christmas was terrible because of her fight with her ex and how it was all my mom's fault for having our Christmas celebration the night before.  (I guess she had forgotten that she and my sister-in-law had scheduled it.  My mom had had nothing to do with that.  She was NEVER given a choice on when we celebrated.)  My mom ended up breaking down in tears when she hung up the phone.

That was it for me.  I ended up sending out a not so friendly e-mail later that day, telling my brother and sister that I was DONE with holidays with them.  I was no longer spending my time trying to make them all happy when they constantly put me down and then ended up making my mom miserable as well.  (Rachel says that I may not realize it, but this was a HUGE deal for me.  A very positive step.)

I haven't celebrated with them since.  In recent years, my brother and sister-in-law have begun to have celebrations at their house.  My sister and nieces and nephews are all there.  My father is there as well.  I don't go.  My mom and I celebrate our holidays at home, then my mom spends the afternoon or evening at my brother's with the rest of the family.  I still refuse to go.  I just don't want to deal with all that crap again.  I know that I would be miserable.  I know that they would pick up on that and just make things worse.  I really don't want to have to deal with all that.  Still, it's hard to say no.  I feel guilty doing so.  This battle of emotions starts weeks in advance.

I've been talking to Rachel about this for weeks.  She always reminds me that I'm an adult and get to make my own choices.  If I don't want to go, I don't have to go, and I don't owe them an explanation.  They're adults and can just deal with it.  I shouldn't have to make myself feel like crap in order to make them happy.  I can love my family and still not like them, and if I don't like them, I shouldn't have to spend my holidays with them.  Still, I feel this mix of anxiety, guilt, anger, annoyance, sadness, etc., and it gets worse and worse as the holidays approach.