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Friday, October 28, 2011

Emotional Whirlwind

I'm sorry for not posting.  I really haven't felt up to it.  I'm still dealing with a swirl of emotions left over from the emotional "perfect storm" that occurred last week.  Besides watching the Dan Wheldon Memorial Service on Sunday as a way to get a sense of closure, I've also had to take my mom to the cardiologist to go over what happened at the neurologist and what her 24-hour heart monitor showed.

Everything went smoothly with both things.  The Memorial Service was beautiful, sorrowful, and funny.  (Who knew Dan Wheldon had OCD???)  I really did feel better for watching it.  I had debated with myself for days.  I felt I needed to watch it as I was still having a difficult time believing he was really gone.  I felt nervous though as I don't tend to deal well with funerals or wakes.  I was worried that it would set off an entirely new set of emotions that I just didn't want to deal with.  Finally, I made the decision to watch it and record it as well, in case I wasn't yet ready to actually watch the entire thing.  Then I could watch it in bits and pieces as I felt ready.  I did get through the entire service.  I still feel some deep sadness (depression???) over the situation (and all it reminds me of), but I've come more to terms with it.  I no longer feel that doubt and uncertainty I felt before.

The trip to the cardiologist was nerve racking.  I always hate going to any doctor, but knowing I was taking my mom to find out why she had the episode she did at the neurologist, the one that landed her in the ER for six hours, had my anxiety level sky high.  I knew that there was the possibility that her Long QT or her mitral valve prolapse had worsened.  I also knew that it very well could be nothing, but just the thought that something could be seriously wrong had my mind racing.  Would she need surgery???  This thought kept whirling through my mind, as did other darker ones I don't want to revisit.  I did my best to hide all of this from everyone, to act as if it was no big deal, but a did let out a silent sigh of relief from deep in my soul when the doctor said that the monitor didn't show anything very interesting.  Her heart rate and blood pressure have been running slightly low, but there were no abnormally rapid arrhythmias which was good.  He took her off her beta blocker and reduced her water pill.  He also asked her to record her BP twice a day, and she is to go back in two weeks.  Despite this good news, I still feel overwhelmed and scared by the entire situation.

The worst thing is that my moods have been all over the place.  From day to day or even hour to hour, I can go from sad, to anxious, to giddy, to fearless, to angry at the world, or even to just plain numb and apathetic.  It is this last one that has me the most concerned.  I can figure out where all the others come from, what causes them, and even how to deal with them.  The numbness makes me fear that I'm simply checking out, because I can't deal with things.  This is usually what happens when I hit my darkest times, when things become the most overwhelming.  I simply don't care at all.  Nothing matters.  Nothing affects me.  I'm simply not feeling.  I recognize this when it's happening, I just can't figure out how to bring myself out of it.  This brings about feelings of failure on top of everything else.  ARGH!

I think this is why I haven't felt like blogging, or really doing much of anything, because I can't figure out these emotions, and at times, I just don't care.  I know I'll have to discuss all of this with Rachel today during therapy.  Perhaps she can pull out some of her special Rachel power and figure it all out.  She has a tendency to do that.  Sometimes, it's quite annoying, especially when it's something I just don't want to deal with.  LOL

Also, I have an appointment with the doctor on Monday.  We will be reviewing meds and hopefully figuring out what to do with these stupid allergies.  This has me nervous as it is a trip to the doc, time out of the house, and a possible/probable change, but I've been trying to keep in mind that it is a good thing.  Dealing with the allergies and tweaking my meds should make me feel much better.  I'm going to try to continue to focus on this and hope that I can make it through without too much anxiety.  I will try to keep you all informed of what changes we make and how they affect my anxiety level.

I also want to say a huge thank you to all those who have sent me support during the last couple of weeks and even before.  Your support really makes a greater impact than you could even imagine.  Thank you.  Virtual hugs.

Friday, October 21, 2011

The Universe Has Gone Trigger Happy

I'm sorry it has been so long since my last post and since I've been able to read through everyone else's posts.  It seems that in the last week, all H-E-Double Hockey Sticks broke loose for me.  Where to begin......

Let's start at the beginning.  Saturday, we received a phone call from my sister.  A twenty-year old boy I used to babysit and have known since he was born, died.  He was born with a severe heart defect.  The doctors weren't even sure if he'd ever make it home from the hospital.  After multiple reconstructive surgeries, pacemakers, and even a heart transplant, Clinton's health issues finally became too much for his body to handle.  He was found by his uncle, laying in one of the family's fields.  What makes this even harder for me is that Clinton was the child of two of my oldest brother's best friends.  Clinton was even named after my brother.  His parents gave him the middle name "Scott" as a tribute to their friend who had struggled for years against his own body during his struggle with cancer and had won.  This was shortly before my brother's death in an automobile accident.

Those of you who have read past posts know how difficult my brother's death has been for me.  It is something I've always felt guilty about and struggled with.  So, Clinton's death, coming less than a month after the twentieth anniversary of Scott's, was a real blow.  Especially when combined with the fact that in a few weeks, it will be the anniversary of the death of one of my former students who was killed crossing the street to get to a birthday party.  Everything just keeps piling up.

But, wait!!!  The universe wasn't done with me yet.  Those who know me well know that I LOVE Indy Car Racing.  Being a Hoosier, I almost consider it my duty.  I've always loved Indy Cars.  Over the last few years, that love has grown.  I've found that it is something I can turn to no matter my mood and find completely encompassing and destressing.  At least I did until Sunday.  Everyone who really knows my love of Indy Cars knows I have five favorites who I adore.  One of those was Dan Wheldon.

So, imagine how Sunday went when I tuned into the final Indy Car race of the season, hoping to enjoy it and destress a little from everything swirling in my head and heart.  Then, only a few laps into the race, a fiery crash claims fifteen cars and the life of Dan Wheldon.  Not only is this heartbreaking in itself, but once the news of Dan Wheldon's death was announced, my mind was immediately shifted back to my brother's death. (the second such trigger in as many days.)  Dan Wheldon's car hit a second car that he couldn't avoid and went airborne, cockpit first, into the catch fence, bursting into flames.  The protective roll bar was sheared from the car and when the car came down on the edge of the wall, upside down, Dan Wheldon's helmet struck the wall causing unsurvivable head injuries.  My brother lost control while going too fast on wet roads and went airborne.  He struck an electrical pole with the driver's side door, shearing off the pole and crushing the side of the truck.  The truck then proceeded to roll and flip several times.  The impact of the accident caused unsurvivable internal injuries and a broken neck.  So, while the accidents weren't anywhere close to identical, there were enough similarities to immediately send me back to that 4 am call.

The universe didn't stop when the weekend ended...noooooo....not by a long shot....

I already had a therapy session schedule for 9:00 Monday morning.  Normally, I have them scheduled for the afternoon.  First, I have to wait until my mom is off work to borrow her car to get to the therapist.  Second, I don't do well with mornings.  I'm usually running around like crazy trying to make sure everything is taken care of and prepared for the day.  I had scheduled the morning appointment though as my mom was off school for Fall Break, and I had scheduled an appointment with an oral surgeon for the afternoon.  Because I was already stressed, I decided to go to all my appointments alone, rather than take my mom with me.  Having her with me would just make me feel as if I had to be even more careful and protective.  I just didn't think I could deal with it.

So, I showed up for my 9:00 am appointment with Rachel.  I told her all about the aftereffects of our last session as well as all the stress and anxiety that had cropped up throughout the weekend.  I also told her how Monday and Tuesday promised to be stressful as there were lots of appointments and lots of driving and time out of the house to deal with.  Monday had a therapy appointment, a quick breakfast, a trip to the library, a 45 minute drive to the oral surgeon to discuss removal of my impacted wisdom teeth, grocery shopping and a 45 minute drive home.  Tuesday was supposed to have a 7:00 am drop off of the dog at the groomer, a 45 minute drive to a neurologist for my mom to have some tests done for her polymialgia rheumatica, a 45 minute drive home, and eventually picking up the dog at the groomer.  Rachel helped me go through and set up a plan for the two days as well as coping mechanisms to help me through the rougher parts.  We also discussed the events of the weekend, eventually working through my brother's death and into more about my father and his abuse, something that has been on my mind a lot lately.  Needless to say, it was a rough, tear-filled session.  Thankfully, Rachel did not assign "homework".

After therapy, the quick breakfast and stop and the library went well.  I made it down to Lafayette just fine, avoiding the interstate as I knew I wouldn't be able to handle the speeds and traffic.  I picked up most of the items on my shopping list before the appointment with the oral surgeon.  (Nothing that needed kept cold of course.)  Then I spent 90 minutes at the oral surgeon.....waiting and waiting and find out that my oral surgery would be slightly more difficult than planned (as they would have to cut the top part off one tooth, sliding alongside and under it to push it up where they could pull it, being careful of the nerve so they didn't cause numbness and paralysis that could last weeks or even months), that I needed cleared by my doctor before I could have the surgery (meaning another doctor's appointment), that they may be limited on the amount of numbing agent they could use but knocking me out would mean that it would have to be done in a hospital OR given my heart condition, and that my insurance would pay for less than half the cost (leaving me with nearly $400 to come up with on my own).

Needless to say, I was not feeling all that confident or peaceful when I left.  Still, I had a few more things to pick up at the store before I went home....including meat.  Yeah, my old nemesis, raw meat.  Before I went into the store, I called my mom to double check that there wasn't anything else I needed to pick up that wasn't on my list.  She proceeded to tell me that she had gotten a call from the Sheriff's office that morning while I was at therapy.  It seems that the parents of a pair of girls she tutors had seen a picture of a child molester and thought it looked similar to my mom.  The deputy knew my mom and knew it wasn't her so was calling to get her driver's license number to pull a picture to prove to the parents that it wasn't my mom.  (I'm still not sure how they thought it looked like my mom.  The woman didn't look much like her at all  had a longer face, different color hair and eyes, was ten years older, seven inches taller, forty pounds lighter, and lived in a different county!!!!)  Thankfully, that whole mess has since been cleaned up.

Still......I managed to get through Monday.  I was exhausted, stressed, and a little depressed.  I went to bed early and looked toward making it through Tuesday.  Needless to say, I didn't sleep well that night.  Actually, I hadn't slept well in several days by that point.  I woke up slightly earlier than I needed to.  I walked and fed the dog, fed the cats, etc. to get prepared for an early and long day.  I was starting to freak out when my mom didn't get up and didn't get up.  Finally she woke up, just as I was ready to go pound on the door and wake her up.  It appears her alarm didn't go off.  So, we were running late.  On top of that, the dog was so excited to go to the groomer that she didn't want to eat.  I had to sit right next to her bowl to get her to eat.

Finally, we got on the road and made it to the groomer....ten minutes late.  No big deal, I left a little extra time in the schedule.....until I got back in the car and started to drive and smell something.  Yes, on the way out of the vet's office where my dog gets groomed, I stepped in dog poop.  It was all over my shoe and the floor of the car.  We tried to use wet wipes to clean it up, but it just wasn't working.  So I had to race back home, driving with no shoe, to change shoes and Clorox wipe the car, all the while thinking about how I touched dog poop and hadn't washed my hands.

Running 45 minutes late, we finally got on the road to my mom's neurology appointment....and we hit construction.  We called ahead and let the doctor's office know we were running about five minutes late.  We finally got there, got signed in, they took my mom back for her test, and I sat in the waiting room with a book.  Thirty minutes later, the doctor came out to get me.  She let me know that there was a little problem, that my mom had a bit of an "episode", and they would have to reschedule the test.  Come to find out, the nurse placed my mom's foot, leg, and hand into pails of hot water (which weren't even clean come to find out) and left her, saying she'd be back in ten minutes or so.  Twenty minutes later, no one had come back.  My mom has the same genetic arrhythmia that I have and is on a beta blocker as well.  She also has mitral valve prolapse and her pulse runs low.  Putting her in the hot water dilated the blood pressure and set off the arrhythmia.  She started feeling dizzy, faint, and nauseous.  She screamed and pounded trying to get help.  No one came.

Finally, near blacking out, my mom crawled to the door, opened it and started screaming for help.  It was then that they finally found her.  She was gray, hyperventilating (which no one noticed or helped her stop until I came into the room), and her pulse and blood pressure were fluctuating all over the place.  They ended up calling an ambulance and sending her to the ER to get checked out.

Four-and-a-half hours later, my mom's pulse and heart rate had finally started to stabilize.  Her chest x-ray, blood tests, etc. had all come back clean, but the ER doc was still waiting to hear back from my mom's cardiologist to find out whether she should be kept overnight or sent home with a heart monitor.  Neither she nor I had eaten or drank anything since 8:00 am.  It was 3:00 pm.

My sister had called while we were in the ER to tell us that she had gotten flowers for Clinton's funeral.  I explained that we were in the ER.  She said she would leave her phone on if we needed anything.  When 2:30 rolled around, I knew I wasn't going to be able to make it back to pick up the dog from the groomer before they closed unless I left my mom by herself in the ER, which I didn't want to do given the circumstances.  So, I tried to call my sister, but she didn't pick up.  Her children are in college, so I called my nephew asking him if he could pick up the dog, explaining I was in the ER with "Grandma".  He made an excuse about not having gas in the car.  He never asked about "Grandma" or offered to get money from his mom or friends for gas or offer to try to catch a ride from a friend.  So, I called my niece.  She said she was rearranging the furniture and had to go into work in an hour.  She also did not ask about "Grandma".  So, I called my sister again, who was at work.  She said she would try to find someone and get back to me.  Twenty minutes later, she still had not called back.  I had to rush off, leave my mom in the ER, drive like a bat out of Hades through pouring rain, to try to get to the groomer before they closed.  My nephew called just as I was getting on the interstate, 30 minutes after I had talked to my sister.  I told him to nevermind, I was already on my way and I'd take care of everything myself as no one had seemed to want to help and I hadn't heard back any differently and couldn't wait any longer.  Needless to say, I wasn't very pleasant.  This is a constant in my family.  Everyone expects me to drop everything to take care of everything for them, but no one ever wants to help me or my mom or even just be there for us.

I called the groomer, in tears, and explained the situation.  She very kindly offered to stay late if she needed to.  I picked up the dog, tried to rush home through the rain with the dog on my lap (as I wasn't prepared to pick her up by myself), fed her quickly, prepared her crate, crated her, and flew back down to pick my mom up from the ER. She had called when I was halfway to the groomer, saying that they were going to send her home with a heart monitor.  By this time, I was sobbing hysterically, overcome by anger and stress, having a full blown anxiety attack and possibly emotional breakdown.  It was so bad, the nurse in the room with my mom could hear me through the phone.  The nurse was great.  She found out that my mom had not eaten since breakfast and quickly got her a menu to order food from the cafeteria.  (Thankfully, the cafeteria at that hospital has great food.).  By the time I got back, an hour-and-a-half later, my mom had been dressed, fed, outfitted with her heart monitor, and was waiting for me at the door, ending a six hour ER visit.  I still had to drive home, again, another 45 minutes, through pouring rain, in the dark.

Finally, at 7:00 pm, I had my mom settled, making a multitude of phone calls to be sure everything was taken care of for her classroom the following day, and I was able to grab something to eat and drink for the first time since 8:00 am.  I was physically and emotionally exhausted, yet still so amped up, anxious, and angry that I couldn't sleep.

I took my mom back to the hospital (another two hours of driving) to get her heart monitor removed on Wednesday.  She has an appointment with her cardiologist next week to go over the info from the monitor.  For now, she has canceled the neurology appointments and is waiting to find out what the cardiologist has to say.  She is tired, but otherwise fine, and went back to work Thursday.  I'm still trying to bring down all of the anxiety accrued over the weekend and first half of the week.  I was finally able to get a half-way decent sleep last night.  I'm hoping to get back on track and be able to read through everyone's back posts soon.  It should be interesting to go through all this with Rachel next week.  ; )

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Help! My Therapist Has Morphed Into Nancy Reagan!!!!

Ugh!!!  So Tuesday's therapy session set me off a little.  Yes, it has taken me two days to even get to the point where I can blog about it.  It started off with the construction in the parking lot.  I couldn't park where I normally do, and there was only one space available.  The problem was that the cars parked on either side of the empty space were hugging the line.  Once I finally got squeezed into the skinny strip of asphalt available, I had a new problem.  I could barely get out of the car!  UGH!!!  Don't people know you're supposed to park in the middle of the space???  Come on people!  Show some courtesy!

Once I finally made it inside, less than five minutes before my scheduled time, the waiting room was crowded.  There was a college student near the door (blowing his nose for five minutes straight) and a flock of other people spread around the room.  I had to wait in line behind a woman who must have thought she had all the time in the world, just so I could sign in.  I finally took a seat as far away from everyone as possible (without being near the bathroom).  Unfortunately, this was right by the reception desk, at which the woman with the temporal issues was still standing.  So, of course, my body automatically leans toward the right and the other empty seats.  But wait...this can't be the end of the ordeal.  In walks a snotty-nosed, hyperactive little boy who immediately leaps into the chairs next to me.  HELLO!!!  On top of all this, my therapist was running late....fifteen minutes late to be exact.

By the time I finally got back to my therapist's office, my head was spinning, my pulse was racing, and I was ready to throw up and run away screaming all at the same time.  Just thinking about it now has my pulse rising.  Whew.....Breathe....Okay.....

So, I finally start my session...fifteen minutes late....and my therapist asks me how I've been doing and what I want to talk about.  The problem is, I can't think straight, because my mind is still out in the waiting room.  So,  I tell her that.  Which sets off a whole, "Why didn't you ask to wait in the back?" thing.  Yes, I get that plenty of people wait in the back.  Yes, I get that it is an accepted thing for them.  Yes, I get that it is more than okay with the staff, that they even expect it.  Still, it's not acceptable for me.  I try to explain this to Rachel, but I'm not sure if she gets it.  Yes,  the waiting room sent my anxiety sky high, but for me, waiting in the back (which I've never done) sets of an entirely different set of worries and anxieties as well as a feeling of failure and "why can't I just suck it up and wait in the waiting room like a "normal" person?".

Rachel tries to explain that waiting in the back is normal, accepted, and even expected and that removing myself from a situation that makes my anxiety flare is not failure, but a positive step.  Cognitively, I get that, but emotionally, I'm not there.  The entire idea of waiting in the back raises my anxiety even more than just waiting it out.  Why in the world is something so simple so difficult???!!!

Anyway...this brings the entire session to the good old conversation that I feel I've had a thousand times within the last few months...putting myself and my needs first.  I just can't seem to get this.  Rachel and I have been over this time and again.  We've talked about voicing my needs and setting boundaries, etc.   I get the need.  I just can't seem to do it.

It is so complicated.  I can't seem to reconcile the idea that putting some focus on my need is not the same as being selfish.  We're always taught to share, to eat what you are served, to give to others who are less fortunate, to be a good sport, to be there for your friends and family when they need you, etc.  Not doing so is equivalent to being selfish.  If this is true, then how is it not selfish when I say, "No, I can't babysit my niece and nephew this weekend" and do so for no other reason than I simply don't want to, that babysitting them drives up my anxiety until I am physically ill?  How is it not selfish to say, "No, I understand that you really want chili for dinner tonight, but I don't.  Let's have something else"?  To me, being unselfish means giving others what they want and need and making them happy.  Taking away what they want simply because I don't would then make me selfish.

I'm sure this is all just some warped idea my brain has conjured up.  I just can't find my way out of it's mess right now.  Rachel asked a question.  Do I give in because it's easier, or do I give in because I don't think I deserve to be happy and have what I want as much as others deserve to be happy and have what they want?  My blunt, truthful answer???  Both.  Yes, it is easier to give in, especially with family.  My family knows how to bully and manipulate to get what they want.  When they do so, they prey on things that make me feel worse about myself.  Of course, I want to avoid this.  If the purpose of "Saying No" and setting boundaries is to avoid things that make me anxious and to make myself happy, then how is submitting to their bullying and manipulation helping???   It definitely doesn't help me avoid things that make me feel worse.

I know that this is more of my mind's messed up thought process.  I can't keep everyone happy, and I can't keep everyone safe.  It's not possible.  I don't have that kind of control over the world.  Still, I can't wrap my mind around the thought of not doing everything possible.  I can't wrap my mind around the fact that my saying, "No, I can't go shopping today.  I know it's better for you, but I'm just not in a place, mentally, to do it.  Let's go tomorrow instead..." isn't going to hurt someone's feelings and make them upset at me, or if it does, then that's their problem, not mine.  That getting upset over something as little as that is their problem to deal with and doesn't reflect on me.  That they are adults who can deal with it themselves and make their own decisions.  That they'll either get over it and move on, or they won't, and that if they can't respect my needs, then maybe it's better I'm not around them.

All of this has made this week's "homework" overwhelming.  I'm supposed to focus on putting my needs first and setting boundaries.  I'm supposed to work on "Just Say No".  The thought of doing so makes me physically ill.  I literally started crying at the thought of this as Rachel and I discussed it during my session.  Rachel noticed and asked if we needed to back off.  Of course, I couldn't even say no to that.  I smiled, wiped away the tears, and told her I was fine, but for the last two days, I've been in a whirl of thoughts and emotions, sick to my stomach, and just an overall mess.  I know this is something I need to work on.  I know it will be hard.  I know it will eventually be possible.  I'm just not sure how I can do this, if I can do this, especially right now.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Am I Worth the Investment???

Today is World Mental Health Day, a day dedicated to promoting awareness and open discussion of mental health issues.  This year's them is "Investing in Mental Health".

I think that this is the hardest thing about therapy for me.  I have never thought of myself as worthy of an investment.  My focus has always been on making everyone else happy, doing for others as I would never do for myself.  Holidays dinners had to include all my nieces' and nephews' favorite foods.  It didn't matter how many hours I stood over the stove to do it.  It didn't matter how stressed and tired I was or whether there was anything I liked to eat.

School was always about getting the best grades.  Making my teachers and my mom happy.  In high school I felt the necessity to become involved in every activity I thought might impress a college administrator.  It didn't matter whether I chose the classes or paths I enjoyed.  It didn't matter how stressed or overwhelmed I became.

This same idea that I didn't matter spilled over into all my relationships.  I wasn't worthy of good relationships so it didn't matter how friends, family, or lovers treated me.  Because I knew that I wasn't worthy of good relationships, I never really became fully attached to anyone.  I kept a small part of me separate, knowing that in the end, people would hurt me and/or leave me.  That had always been the way my relationships had worked in the past.

Moving past these ideas and realizing that I am worthy has been the toughest thing.  The idea of my limited worth has been so ingrained for so long.  It wasn't until my mom insisted that I take time to get help through Disability Medicaid so that I could receive treatment that I even considered the option.  I had never considered therapy, because I had never considered myself worthy of it.  I didn't consider myself worthy of it, but my mom did.  It took someone else showing me that they saw my worth before I could even begin to see my own.

Through therapy, I have begun to look at this.  I have begun to see that others, not just my mom, do see worth in me.  If they see worth in me, how can I not see the worth in myself?  This has been one of the major eye-opening moments for me, simply realizing I'm worth investing in.  Realizing that investing in my own wants and needs doesn't mean that I don't care about the wants and needs of others.  Realizing that investing in my own needs is a requirement if I truly want to be there for my friends and family rather than be detached from relationships.  Therefore, for me, the first step in investing in my mental health has simply been realizing that I'm worthy of being invested in.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

World Mental Health Day: Investing In Mental Health

October 10, 2011 is World Mental Health Day, a day to "raise public awareness of mental health issues" and "promote open discussions about mental disorders".  This year's theme is "Investing in Mental Health".  This obviously has multiple connotations.

The first is obviously about financially investing in mental health services.  According to the World Health Organization (WHO), mental health services are highly underfunded around the world, especially in low or middle income countries who focus less than 2% of their health care budgets on mental health care.  Many countries have less than one mental health care specialist for every one million people (in population).  When you calculate that much of these funds and many of these specialists are allocated to large mental hospitals, how much is left for smaller community services?  It is obvious that more funding is needed for mental health care in order to fund personalized and effective care for those dealing with mental health issues.

Another connotation of "Investing in Mental Health" is more personal.  It is the time, energy, and emotion that those dealing with mental health issues invest every day.  It is also the understanding and support that family and friends invest in these individuals.  People don't always realize how much dealing with a mental health issue is like investing in the stock market.  Those of use dealing with these types of issues may invest money in our therapy, our medications, etc., but even more so, we invest ourselves, our whole selves, in our therapy.  We invest countless hours digging though thoughts and memories, understanding triggers, focusing on being mindful and staying present.  We invest energy finding outlets for our stress and discovering coping mechanisms.  We blog.  We craft.  We meditate.  We invest in relationships with our therapists and our doctors, trusting them with our deepest emotions, our darkest thoughts, and our happiest triumphs.  We invest all that we can in order to help ourselves in our struggles with our disorders.

Like the stock market, struggling with mental health issues has it's ups and downs.  Just when you think your investment is starting to pay off, something comes and knocks you back down.  Just like investing in the stock market, investing in your mental health is most successful when you invest long term.  You can't be frightened by the ups and downs and bail out, no matter how much you might want to.  You have to ride it out.  Eventually, it will turn back around and regain its upward trend.  Whether you are investing in your mental health or the stock market, the key is the same.  If you invest enough and stick it out long enough, fighting through the ups and downs and never giving into the panic that the ups and downs cause, it eventually pays off in dividends, and you can become wealthy beyond your wildest dreams.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Power Over Poultry

For those who don't know, I have huge food contamination issues.  One of my worst has to do with uncooked meat.  I don't even like to touch the packages in the store.  I've been know to go into full panic attack mode if I do.  Hyperventilating, sobbing, the full nine yards, right in the middle of the supermarket.

I do love to cook, and this has made it really hard for me to do so in the recent years.  I'm the wash the hands several times, every minute or two, kind of girl.  Crack out the Clorox wipes and scrub down the kitchen a few times as well.  Yes, it makes sense and is important to wash your hands and disinfect surfaces when working with raw meat, but for goodness sake, it takes me 45 minutes to prepare a meatloaf for the oven!???

I understand why I have these food issues.  It's a complex combination of things.  We had to be extra careful with cleanliness and food prep when my brother had cancer.  On top of that, I have had food poisoning three times (thanks to two restaurants and a boxed food item).  One of those times, I ended up in the ER and my mom ended up hospitalized.  I've also had an uncle get E.Coli from a restaurant in Chicago.  It nearly killed him and he hasn't been the same since.  So, you can easily see where my food issues come from.

Last night, I decided to make roasted chicken legs for dinner.  It was a challenge to myself.  About a week and a half ago, I roasted a whole chicken.  Poultry is usually a HUGE issue for me.  As soon as I know I'm going to work with poultry, the OCD voice in my head starts chanting "SALMONELLA...SALMONELLA".  It starts out slowly and quietly at first and builds in both speed and volume.  Usually, by the time I finally get the bird (or bird parts) in the oven, I'm frantic and hyperventilating.  Still, I go through it, because I love chicken.

Preparing that whole chicken a week and a half ago was different though.  I prepped in advance as Rachel and I had discussed I should do when working with raw meat.  I had the oven preheated, dish out and sprayed, everything ready in advance.  All I had to do was open the chicken, remove the giblets, and get it into the dish before I could wash my hands.  All of this went off without a hitch.  The first part of Battle Poultry went as planned.  (I will admit one squeamish moment when trying to tuck back the wings.  The stupid things just didn't want to cooperate, and I felt as if I was torturing the poor creature.)  Next, I prepared the olive oil and my homemade seasoning salt by removing the lids and setting them to one side.  This allowed me to pour and season with one clean hand while rubbing the olive oil and seasoning into the bird with my second hand.  Once that was done, I used my clean hand to open the oven and stick in the bird.  Done!

All that was left, was cleaning up the mess.  I resisted the urge to wash my hands first before picking up the chicken wrappings that were laying in the sink and tossing them in the garbage.  Why I ever thought I needed clean hands to do so is beyond me.  Once the mess was out of the sink, I washed my hands, washed the kitchen shears used to open the bird, and wiped down the sink, faucet, countertop, etc. with a Clorox wipe.  I washed my hands again for good measure and left the kitchen.  I didn't return until the bird was done.  : )

You might still think that is a lot of hand washing, but really it is greatly pared down for me.  Only one Clorox wipe to boot!  That's not the biggest deal, however.  The biggest deal is that there was no panic mode, no hyperventilating.  I think the OCD voice must have taken a vacation that day, or possibly had a sore throat.  I'm not sure.  Either way, there was no chanting of "SALMONELLA...SALMONELLA".

Needless to say, I was so proud of myself that I did a little happy dance.  When I told Rachel during our last session, she said that I had every right to be proud of myself.  It is a big deal.  Yet, my OCD voice (obviously fully recovered and/or back from vacay) kicked in and told me, "It's just a one time thing.  There's no way you can do that again.  You're not strong enough."

So, last night's chicken legs were a challenge to myself and my OCD voice, a way to prove it wrong.  I'm happy to say, it went relatively well.  Was there panic?  No.  There was a moment when one of the drumsticks flipped out of my hand, flew across the counter, and came to a rest on the lid of the container to my homemade seasoning salt.  (The seasoning salt itself remained unaffected as I'd opened the container earlier.)  My first thought was, "CRAP!!!  Now the entire counter is dirty and full of germs, and I'll definitely have to wash that lid.  Will the lid dry enough to be able to put back on the seasoning salt without making the seasoning salt clump???"  Still, that was the extent of it.  They were valid thoughts.  They were reasonable and there was no repetitive chant of "SALMONELLA...SALMONELLA" and no panic.  Just annoyance at having to wash the lid and deal with the mess.