Saturday, April 04, 2015

ANOTHER ONE BITES THE DUST

Pain is something we all experience and deal with in various ways and those ways are as individual as each of us is.  Over the past year, I've found myself in a few situations of having to deal with some major pain and disappointment due to the collapse of three close relationships...all were filled with negative aspects and no longer brought me the joy they once did.  Letting go and stepping away from any close relationship is not only difficult, it's scary as well.  I must have asked myself a hundred times if I made the right decisions, but in my heart I know that removing myself from the negativity and thinking about what's best for me was the right thing to do.  Some people have speculated that the pain from ending those relationships helped start the emotional avalanche I've been experiencing as of late.  What I think is many things great and small have brought me to my knees lately, but not to pray.

Now, I'm faced with yet another relationship to assess.  When I was at the height of my crisis, I received a card in the mail from a friend who I haven't heard from in ages.  She stated she had read what I had posted on Facebook about my current situation.  Instead of responding to what I had written either in a comment there or a private message or by picking up the phone and calling me, she chose to do so with a handwritten card.  As I read her words that directed me to throw away my meds and to pray instead, I remember asking my son over and over again who would write something like that to someone so fragile.  I cried and paced and just couldn't wrap my mind around the carelessness of such a statement.  The more I thought about it the crazier I got. 

I really had no idea that she read anything I posted on Facebook because she never comments on anything I write.  The times I've written comments on her Facebook page regarding things she posts, my comments would go unanswered while she responded to everyone else who made comments.  In the past I would call her and leave messages on her voicemail, but she would never call me back. I may be hardheaded, but I'm not blind and I certainly can see when someone isn't interested in staying in touch with me so I simply stopped putting myself in the position of being ignored.  I felt like I deserved to be treated better than that especially by someone who claims to be my friend. 

Yes, you read the part right that she suggested that I throw away my meds and pray instead.  Let me say that I respect anyone's religion and I appreciate any prayers my family and friends want to send my way, BUT  and it's a huge BUT, I personally don't pray.  I really hate to label people because that seems so backwards, so I'll just say where religions are concerned I have my doubts and skepticism.  My close friends may not like or understand what I believe to be true, but they all respect it just like I respect their opinions and beliefs.  I guess I should say they all respect it EXCEPT her.  She has always preached to me and claims to be a Christian yet she can't find it in her heart to try to mend the torn relationship she has with her sister.  Her jealousy and mean spirit reminds me of her elderly mother who is filled with nothing but bitterness towards everyone.  The older she gets the more like her mother she becomes.  What I see I can liken to someone thinking they're a mechanic just because they stand in a garage.  People who claim to be Christians should be more Christ-like, be less judgmental, more forgiving, more compassionate, more love-inspiring and most of all they should lead by example. 

Seriously, where does anyone get off telling someone to throw away their meds and pray?  I can appreciate the fact that many people have panic attacks and that maybe the prescribed meds give them an adverse reaction, but that doesn't mean the meds are bad.  I keep thinking how she would have felt if I had taken her wonderful advice and stopped taking the anti-anxiety meds that had been prescribed to me and then tragically, I took my own life because I could no longer cope.  Would she have felt any responsibility or would it have been just a big oops on her part?  People need to stop and think about what they say to others especially in times of crisis.  Their words can really impact a person.  It's okay to share your experiences with someone who is going through something similar.  It's usually comforting to know you're not alone, but remember that each person is different and what works for one person doesn't necessarily work for all people. I'm glad my "friend" was healed through prayer, but I think I'll use a psychiatrist, a good therapist and take some meds to help me through my rough spot. 

Now, I need to decide whether or not to post this link on Facebook so she can read all about how I feel and what I think.  What would you do?

Thursday, April 02, 2015

LET GO AND LET IT HAPPEN

Sometimes we have to let go and just let it happen in order to get past the difficult times and ultimately move to the other side where inner peace can be reached.  I know letting go is a frightening thing.  I also know how putting your life in other people's hands or trusting someone else's judgment is equally frightening.  I just spent a few days at a psychiatric facility.  I want to write about that experience and will do so as the words come to me.  I also want to write about the people who were instrumental in helping me through my crisis. 

I'd like to start with thanking an old boyfriend for reaching out to me shortly before I was admitted to Baptist Hospital's Behavioral Medicine Center.  I think it was his words that initially let me know that letting go was the right thing to do.  I had done it many years before at a time when I had retreated into a very dark place.  It was a time he had viewed firsthand. Due to the pain I had suppressed for many years as a child I finally lost my ability to function normally as a teenager.  I eventually found drugs numbed my pain and allowed me to live in a void absent of all feeling-both good and bad. Outwardly, it was a "safe" place to reside, but inwardly I was slowly headed towards total annihilation.  When I finally let go, I came close to dying, but I can honestly say that without letting go back then I would have definitely died at a very young age.  As defiant and hardheaded as I was way back then, on some level I allowed myself to trust people enough to pull me through so I could go on living and eventually learn to thrive.

Most people know my life is pretty much an open book no matter where I am.  I share things that most people try to keep tucked safely away in some dark, cozy closet.  I share things that cause others much angst and shame.  I use Facebook in much the same way as I use my blog only to a lesser degree because most people there don't like to read lengthy updates from people.  Somehow social media seems to have created a population of ADHD-minded people who like to "skim" through their friend's and their family's lives.  They get all the highlights without any real substance most of the time.

Sometimes I post links from my blog on Facebook so that my friends and family (those people who aren't in my everyday life) can remain "with" me.  I learned long ago that shutting people out is a very damaging thing to do and that relationships don't thrive on neglect.  Yes, I have slipped into becoming a hermit in the last 10 years or so, but my hermitude isn't completely void of people.  My problem seems to be that the people I'm closest to live the farthest from me with the exception of my children who live close by.  Through my written words I manage to stay connected to the people in my life who are most important to me and they never lack knowing what's up in Mildred's life.  

About two weeks ago I posted a very lengthy update on Facebook (or at least lengthy for Facebook standards) that clearly let people know I was in emotional crisis and headed towards a place I should avoid.  I ended that Facebook update with what I thought was a little humor, a very "Mildred" thing to do... 
"One last thing...do I get a gold star for the longest Facebook status update?" 
 
I didn't expect anyone to address my question due to the nature of the rest of my update, but I received confirmation from a blast from my past that indeed the update was a little on the lengthy side.  That confirmation also came with many thought-provoking items.  Although relationships can change and people come and go from our lives, some bonds/connections/friendships are meant to last in strange, unexplainable ways. The private messages he sent me brought me to tears for several reasons.  The most important one was that he cared enough about me to reach out to me in my time of need.  For that, I am truly thankful.  Without knowing it his words were the catalyst that opened the floodgates that needed to be opened so I could finally let go and just let it happen in order to get past this difficult time and ultimately move to the other side where inner peace could be reached once again.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

WHILE OTHERS SLEEP, I WEEP

Since my asthma attack that landed me in the ER a few weeks ago, I've had ongoing, daily panic attacks.  My mental state has deteriorated and sleeping has become an increasingly difficult task. In the past my bouts of insomnia always seem to cycle themselves out, but this time it seems stuck on high gear with no end in sight. I keep asking myself where did these panic attacks come from. I've never had them in the past and why I'm I dwelling on death.  It never bothered me before and now I can't seem to escape its clutches. These panic attack seem to come out of the blue with no apparent trigger and when they hit, I lose all ability to calm myself down or to think rationally.  My thoughts are completely focused on the panic attack like an obsession...it's as if I'm wearing blinders and what I see is a very narrow, scary view of life.  I weep, shake and pace.  I'm overwhelmed with the fear of losing control and slipping away forever in some psychotic world. I am, however, one of the fortunate ones because I have people who love me and who will help me regardless of what that help entails.  I know it's no fun sitting with me in ER's at all hours of the day and night and at doctor's offices.  By the way, why don't any doctor's offices have comfortable chairs or better reading material?  I try very hard to keep telling myself that I'm not being a burden to anyone.  My family loves me and wants to see me get well, but it's hard not to listen to all the negative dialog going on inside my head.  I wish I had an on/off switch and since I don't I'm at the mercy of going through some rather agonizing episodes of negativity.


In the last few weeks I've learned many things...most of them are things I'd rather have been kept in the dark about than to have learned them through first hand experience. 
  1. It seems anything regarding mental health facilities are a huge clusterfuck.  Shouldn't it be organized and welcoming to set the patients minds at ease? Yet the places seem oppressive and upon entering it sucks the life from you.  Everything seems so sterile right down to the color schemes and layout of the rooms. Everything about it screams, "RUN!"
  2. People using mental health facilities are scared, anxious and filled with many negative things and need friendly, helpful people working at the facility they use.  While Nurse Ratched was an integral part to the One Flew Over The Cuckoos Nest story, she has no place in real life and shouldn't be working at any place involving mental illness.   
  3. People using mental health facilities seem to too easily lose their "human" status as soon as they become a patient. Why is suffering from a mental illness any different than suffering from a physical illness? The difference I believe is in the eyes and attitude of the beholder and of the caretakers.
  4. Because mental illness carries such a stigma, it's easy to become just a diagnosis, a case number and nothing more.  People too easily lose their identity and become a page from the DSM-V.  Too many mentally ill people have lost their ability to fight or stand up for themselves.  When I look at myself I don't see the person I was 20 years ago...a person who had wind in her sails and was going places. 
  5. Regardless of what mental state a person is in, unless they have a specific, detailed plan for suicide, the person will be sent home and referred back to their primary care doctor who in turn is supposed to refer them to a psychiatrist. The process for help is way too long and complicated!
  6. Help for someone in crisis is not immediate and because it isn't immediate it makes holding on all the harder.  It makes having faith in the system nonexistent. 
  7. It's difficult to believe and trust others especially strangers who don't seem sincerely interested in your welfare.
  8. Things that happened 40 years ago can seem like they just happened. Grief, fear and pain comes in waves and sometimes those waves are like a tsunami.
  9. While primary care doctors are good at what they do, treating mental issues is not their forte and they seem to be clueless as to what the person really needs and how to help them.
  10. Public mental health facilities run by state or county agencies usually are a scene right out of One Flew Over The Cuckoos Nest.  At best, my first impression was  dismal and scary and I really did keep looking for Mildred Ratched until I found her. 
  11. It's very easy to feel like one of the cows being herded through a system that seems surreal at best.  I kept finding myself wanting to "Moo"....really!
  12. Keeping a medication diary has been a blessing for me.  It's the only way I've been able to keep track of what meds I take and when I take them. Simple tasks have become confusing and meaningless for the most part.  I'm afraid it would be too easy to take an accidental overdose because I can't think straight most of the time.
  13. If you're able to find something that helps calm you down, regardless of what it is, go with it and use it...self-help sometimes is a person's strongest ally.  For me and I know this probably makes no sense, my son takes me for a drive when I'm having a panic attack.  Somehow the combination of that and an Ativan helps. 
  14. I've denied, ignored and covered up being depressed for years until it's gotten to the point of me losing the ability to function normally and do daily tasks like brush my hair, get dressed, go outside (I have to force myself to go places), take a shower and interact with people face to face in a meaningful way.  I've become a hermit because it feels safe being a hermit, but I hate being a hermit because it's not who I am.
It's daylight now...it's time to go take more meds and let the dogs out.  At least they like going outside.  Maybe I need to become a dog so I can feel normal once again. 

Saturday, March 14, 2015

I CAN'T BREATHE!

When dealing with a chronic illness or illnesses, that condition slowly becomes a person's entire life and effects everything a person does and doesn't do.  Sadly, it's how you identify yourself because all the other parts even the outstanding, wonderful parts seem to dwarf in its presence.  Since 2002, my list of illnesses has grown immensely.  It's as if my body and its functions have been kidnapped and ransacked by some perverse domino effect.  I jokingly tell people that I've inherited all the worst genes from both sides of my family, but the truth is that it isn't a joke at all.

A few years ago after a returning from a trip to Central America, I came down with the swine flu.  It was at a time when the flu was just gaining momentum and was in the news everywhere.  The swine flu itself wasn't that bad, but it left me with a cough so bad that it hung on for 3 months after all the other flu symptoms subsided.  After countless rounds of ineffective antibiotics, I was finally diagnosed with adult onset asthma.  I was told that sometimes a virus like the flu will bring on asthma in an adult.  Although I was relieved to find out what was wrong with me, struggling to breathe on a regular basis wasn't something I wanted to deal with, but I have to admit it was better than thinking I had something far worse than asthma.  During my 3 month fiasco, I had many breathing treatments because the cough I had was so bad at times I couldn't catch my breath.  It felt like I was trying to cough up a lung and because the cough was so severe I even broke a rib from the strain coughing put on my chest.  When this episode finally passed, I rarely had to use my inhalers and I got to the point that I questioned if my diagnosis had been accurate.

I questioned that diagnosis right up until Tuesday night.  I had gone upstairs to get ready for bed which included taking all my nighttime meds.  Shortly after doing my normal routine, I started feeling a tightness around my mid-section.  That tightness increased and as it increased my breathing became more labored.  My son and I scurried to find my inhalers.  Oh my God, (not an OMG, but a full blown OH MY GOD) where had I put them?  It had been so long since the last time I had to use them.  I religiously to carried them in my purse, but I had failed to put them in my new purse when I had bought it a few months earlier.  Thank goodness, I had unopened ones in my nightstand.  By this time, I was in a full blown panic and I was really struggling to breathe, but the 2 inhalers (Symbicort and Pro Air) didn't seem to be do anything to relive my symptoms.

It became obvious that I needed medical attention because nothing I did was helping.  As I struggled to breathe, the anxiety I felt deepened.  I had lost all ability to calm myself down.  My son finally made the decision to call 911 and by the time the EMT's arrived my heart rate was over 130 and my vision had stars in it...I'm assuming that was from lack of oxygen.  But regardless of my condition, I was unable to sit down or lay down.  All I could do was pace and walk in circles while talking and flapping my arms so nothing could get close to me.  I insisted that I walk to the ambulance because laying on a gurney seemed to be an impossible task to accomplish.  Once inside I felt trapped, but the EMT's were versed in how to deal with difficult people making little to no sense. 

They convinced me to at least sit on the gurney while they examined me, hooked me up to oxygen and started an IV.  Before reaching the ER, I received a breathing treatment which helped open everything up and improved my oxygen levels. By the time I reached the ER, I had both feet on the gurney and although I couldn't lay flat and relax, I had lost that overwhelming need to pace and act like a crazy person.  As my anxiety started to subsided, the albuterol left me wired up and dried out so I still was having trouble relaxing.  After being released from the ER in a stable condition and being told I had most likely experienced an asthma attack and a panic attack on top of it, I was left with the difficult task of winding down enough to go to sleep for the remainder of the night.  One might think after all I had been through, I'd be totally worn out and ready to sleep, but you see, leading up to this attack I hadn't slept for over 2 nights.  Insomnia and I have a quite intimate, ongoing abusive relationship.  It's not one that I like or want, but like any person in an abusive relationship, it's a situation I feel trapped in without any clear way out. 

I stayed awake until sometime into the next day when I just couldn't keep my eyes open any longer.  Since then I've struggled with sleeping, eating and staying calm.  I have to admit I'm frightened a lot of the time and start to feel anxious, but one good thing has come from this experience and that's that it's left me more in-tuned to what my body is trying to tell me. In the past, I have continually ignored all the indicators that I was doing things the wrong way.  Just call me stubborn, foolish and hard-headed! Because I have to push myself to eat now, my blood sugar has been better than it has been in awhile.  Also, actually sleeping has helped bring my blood sugar down.  Most people don't realize that many factors effect a person's blood sugar. Yes, a proper diet is essential, but stress, sleep, exercise, medications and other factors effect a person's blood sugar as well.  The trick is to get everything in harmony so your body can function normally.  Although the "N" word is normally negative, NORMAL in regards to body functions is a good thing and in this area normalcy is something I need to strive harder to obtain.  With that said, it's 9:03pm and I'm going to get ready for bed. Let the sheep counting begin...

Thursday, February 26, 2015

50 SHADES OF MILDRED

When I think of how far I've come from the person I once was it not only amazes me, but at times, I don't recognize myself at all.  Yes, it's as if someone else once resided in my shoes.  I was a person who lived on the edge, had poor impulse control and didn't know the definition of doing anything the safe or moral way.  One might surmise that the fast lane caught up with me and maybe it has...maybe this "slowdown" I feel is in some sense an atonement period or the simple, but harsh realization that much of the time I wasn't a good person.  Although in the past I longed for love, I never found it...now...well, let's just say I don't feel equipped for it.  The Mr. Wonderful I recently had in my life turned out to be not so wonderful, but I was okay with that.  I think I knew going in that it wasn't meant to be, but I have to admit it was nice to have someone show some interest in me even if it didn't last very long.  When the moment of truth came, it didn't hurt.  It actually felt like a weight had been lifted off my shoulders and the feathers had been scattered.

I think back to when I flitted from man to man in reckless abandonment.  I often lived the tasteless joke: "What's the difference between being kinky and being perverted?"  A kinky person uses feathers and a pervert uses the whole chicken.  I'm not saying I was abusive to my feathered friends, but if I remember correctly a few of my many lovers clucked or quacked a time or two in utter delight.

After my first legitimate heartbreak, I never seemed to let myself fully believe in the forever after kind of love.  I allowed that experience to confirm that true love was a figment of the weak-minded and emotionally feeble. I believed in the here and now type of relationships.  I believed in mind blowing sex with all the wrong people and yes, I lived dangerously where sex was concerned.  I'm often amazed that never came back to bite me in the ass...or maybe it has because now I'm a hermit satisfied with life without a significant other.  I live life with a huge bag of feathers and no one to tickle!

The other night I tried to compose a list of ex-lovers and I couldn't do it...too many were faces with no names. What I composed was a disjointed, unpleasing melody...an anthem for the promiscuous. I suppose at the time I knew their names, but who they were obviously wasn't important enough to remember.  I cringed when I thought about how close I came to trying out the oldest profession in the world.  What stopped me still is a mystery...I remember the hotel room and the gentlemen with a heavy French accent, but when it came time to get paid for my services I just couldn't do it.  I was hungry and homeless and living on the streets.  I was young...barely 15, but I knew what I was doing and that it was wrong.  I suppose even though I was desperate I still had moral fibers holding me together.  Now, those moral fibers seemed to have choked the life from me and keep Mildred from being an old, worn-out feather in anyone's hat.  Now, I am, but a gnarly feather duster to be kept in the hallway closet!