Tag Archive: Health


Pain, Pain, Go Away…

Day 37 - Pain

Day 37 – Pain (Photo credit: DJorgensen)

I haven’t been writing lately, maybe because I feel like I should be doing better than I am, which is really nothing more than pride. I do not look down on others when they are having a rough time, but me? I am supposed to be the inspiration for others! I am supposed to be enlightened!

Forget that. I am in horrible pain with  fibromyalgia and I am mad at myself and fate.  I don’t want this. Last night I tried to make my body go numb to help stop the physical pain. It is a spontaneous thing I have done at times when mental pain has gotten too bad, a form of checking out. It actually helped this time, but only for a little while. My nerves are sensitized to pain and I figure that maybe through my mind I can “unsensitize” them.  I try to envision waves of light healing me, but it doesn’t help.

I am trying aromatherapy baths with Lavender oil and sometimes it helps and other times it doesn’t. Or it only helps for a little while. I have bought other essential oils to try, but they can be expensive. I have just made a call to set up an appointment with a massage therapist, another expense I don’t want to pay, but I am desperate right now.

The combination of having a mental disorder and a chronic pain and fatigue condition is overwhelming. A favorite author of mine, Kathleen Crowley knows about this first hand. I became familiar with her writing when I worked at a mental health social center. We used her book, The Power of Procovery in Healing Mental Illness, in one of our classes. Her first book, The Day Room: A Memoir of Madness and Mending, chronicles her journey through dealing with the effects of nerve damage due to medical malpractice. Nothing helped the pain and she ended up with a mental breakdown. Somehow this woman managed to recover her sanity and deal with the pain, which she has to this day. Although I found her book an inspiring read, I still feel something is missing because she really did not get into specifics about how she learned to deal with her physical pain. I actually met her a long time ago, at a mental health training I went to, and I wish I had ask her about that, but then I was not in bad pain at that time.

Still both books I recommend, especially The Power of Procovery. “Procovery” is a word she coined to express the idea that we need to let go of our old life in order to move forward and it’s mantra is “Just Start Anywhere!” This is good to remember now when I need to remember that I just need to take small steps to help myself instead of being completely helpless.

I have to confess that while I am very good at teaching others, I am often a bad student. I need to get back to the basics. It is hard though, because I want that magic formula that will give me my life back.

I hate having to push myself to do anything at all. Going to the mental health center where I get support is a challenge when I am hurting physically and mentally. But what other choice do I have? I am not going down the road of self-destruction again. if not for myself, at least for my family.

The truth is that I really don’t want to die, I just don’t want to live like this anymore. But there is a part of me that knows that my time here is not finished and that I am meant to accomplish more tasks. Last week I was sobbing to my therapist, saying “I want to matter!” Of course the truth is that I do matter, in some small way to others and my work isn’t done. But there is fear, a lot of fear, not only about my physical condition but because I am afraid of life, of reaching out. I hide my pain because I do not want to burden others and also because I am afraid of rejection. Even rejection by my readers, whom I think will condemn me for not being “spiritual enough.”

Okay I tell myself “You are human. Get over yourself!”

Any thoughts and advice would be welcome. 😉

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English: My turtle ZuZu(red slider) taking my ...

English: My turtle ZuZu(red slider) taking my snail Garry for a ride :)) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

English: The white-lipped snail (Cepaea horten...

English: The white-lipped snail (Cepaea hortensis). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

I used to think that I was like a turtle when I saw others race by me. But I realize now that the turtles are racing by me, so I guess I am a snail. A snail who would love to hitch a ride on a turtle.

The main reason why I am a snail is that I have chronic fatigue and fibromyalgia. I had to quit my job. I can’t even drive anymore because I was too tired and I got into accidents. Even shopping is difficult, and I rarely do a full grocery trip.

I am doing something positive with my blog. I pretty much lost my purpose to live when I quit my job. Doing this blog is a lifesaver for me. However it is frustrating to not be able to do more. I would like to earn a living with my writing. I do have the talent, but I am simply too exhausted to do much with it.

The other problem I have is that it takes forever to do anything and my brain is so foggy that I make simple mistakes. My spelling ability has gone completely out the window. I used to be a good speller but now I have trouble even spelling simple words. My grammar is bad, too. Don’t ask me to diagram a sentence! Basically without word and grammar check I would be lost.

I am trying to push myself to do more but basically the only way I can do that is by taking baby-steps. It is hard because I am finally tapping into my writing ability and I feel motivated to see how far I can take it.  I know there are writing opportunities out there even if I don’t have a formal education. I am thinking of starting a separate blog to do book reviews. But I do not want to start something that I can’t finish. I don’t have the reading comprehension or the memory that I used to have. Maybe I could write down notes while I am reading.

But just because I am a snail that doesn’t mean that I can’t do something. So I guess I’ll keep creeping along and hopefully that will take me somewhere.

Day 18.01 needed:

Day 18.01 needed: (Photo credit: Frerieke)

For mental health consumers and their psychiatrists, medication compliance is a big issue. We often do not want to take a medication which we feel is not helping or that has undesirable side effects. Many doctors react to this by treating us like idiots when we are actually talking about legitimate concerns, at least most of the time.  This creates a polarization on both sides, which unfortunately may actually cause the client to be less compliant or even drop the treatment altogether.

Doctors tend to use the word non-compliance as an epithet and an insult. Once I was in the hospital for a serious infection. I heard a doctor nearby talking on his cell phone. He practically spit the words out, “She’s an idiot, she is non-compliant.” Now I cannot judge whether she was or was not an idiot, but what I can say is that it is likely that she had a legitimate concern about the treatment and just wanted the doctor to work with her on that.

The word non-compliance has no negative meaning whatsoever. It means simply this:

noncompliance n. Failure or refusal to comply.

Here, for contrast, is the definition of compliance:

com·pli·ance

1. the act of conforming, acquiescing, or yielding.

2. a tendency to yield readily to others, especially in a weak and subservient way.

3. conformity; accordance: in compliance with orders.

4. cooperation or obedience: Compliance with the law is expected of all.

Here is how doctors usually define it:

In medicine, compliance (also adherence or concordance) describes the degree to which a patient correctly follows medical advice.

Neither of these terms have a completely negative or a completely positive definition. They are statements of fact, not value judgments.

Although general conformity can be a good thing on the job, with a doctor and in society in general, we also should consider the number two definition from above:

a tendency to yield readily to others, especially in a weak and subservient way.

For most of us mental health consumers, the best way we can get well and stay well is to take charge of our recovery instead of expecting others to fix everything. To treat doctors as gods does nothing to achieve that goal.

There may of course be those who are out of touch with reality to the point that they are incapable of making rational decisions, but that is a separate issue altogether and I am not addressing that in this article.

Returning to the medical definition of compliance there is a word here that a lot of doctors would rather not acknowledge:

In medicine, compliance (also adherence or concordance) describes the degree to which a patient correctly follows medical advice.

Yeah, that’s right, advice. Not orders.

Most people consider that medicine is a totally hard science. It isn’t simply because we are still learning how the body works. Not only that, but because we are not biochemically identical no doctor can predict what effects a particular medication will have on us, whether it be good or bad. Finally with many medications (not just psychiatric) they don’t even know exactly how a medication works. The fact that they don’t know does not usually affect the efficacy of the medication, but it does mean that it is not fully understood and therefore I do not consider the practice of medicine to be wholly sacrosanct. For instance, there are still disagreements as to how antidepressants help depression.

After saying all that, I think that it is a bad idea to chuck medications down the toilet. I have witnessed the damages that happen when people do that. I have not only experienced it myself, but also fairly recently with a friend who decided to go off his meds and had a serious schizophrenic relapse.

My solution is to educate myself and look at the pros and cons of taking a particular medication. After all, even something as innocuous as aspirin can kill you. It can cause bleeding ulcers or aggravate bleeding disorders. One man’s medicine can be another’s poison, which is why it is important to talk with your doctor.

Which brings me back to my original point. Doctors of any specialty need to treat their clients with dignity and respect, and address their concerns about their treatment fairly and without condemnation. The doctor is performing a service for us, not the other way around.

In my next post I will get into my personal experiences with some doctors and what I believe are unproductive attitudes on their part.

* I use the term “musical medications” comparing them to the child’s game of musical chairs. The random process of trying one drug after another and waiting for them to work is a hard one to deal with. So don’t worry, I am not “crazy” LOL  😉

Hating the Haters

Religion overthrowing Heresy and Hatred I

Religion overthrowing Heresy and Hatred I (Photo credit: Nick in exsilio)

This has been an emotional election year for me. Normally I do not get sucked into the drama. In fact I pretty much hate politics because of all the dishonesty and mud-slinging on both sides. Now I am sure that there are good, honest, and reasonable politicians out there. But it seem that the idiots are the ones that speak the loudest, no matter which party they speak for. That also seems to be true of many of their supporters.

The kind of hatred and vitriol that I have seen this year has boggled me to the point that yes, I have been sucked in. Because I don’t like bullies.

I will fight for the underdog every time, even if it is not my fight. There is a certain breed of person who simply likes to hate. Of course these people have been around always, but they have gotten a lot louder lately. Why? Because they are using the economic situation as an excuse to blame people that they have always hated anyway. It doesn’t matter that these people are no threat to them or anyone else.

Who are they blaming? The poor, the disabled, the person who cannot find a job, the person of a different faith, the person of a different color, the person of a different gender, the person of a different sexual orientation. And also anybody who disagrees with them.

They have a variety of epithets for people like me that speak out: Heretics, muslim collaborators, blood-suckers, communists, socialists, evil-doers, enemies of God, haters of morality, haters of God.

Ironically, I have even been accused of TRYING TO OVERTHROW THE UNITED STATES CONSTITUTION. The very document that gives me the right to disagree with them.

As someone who has dealt with being the victim of those who judge me for both my mental and physical disabilities, plus having worked with a government-funded organization that helps mental health consumers get needed health care, housing, income, and jobs I am very sensitive to those who have been stigmatized and abandoned by society. I am not ashamed to say that yes, I CRY FOR THESE PEOPLE’S PAIN.

AND I AM NOT ASHAMED TO SAY THAT I CRY FOR OTHER PEOPLE’S PAIN ALSO. EVEN IF THEY DON’T BELONG TO MY IN-GROUP.

Which means that I can cry  for the homosexuals who are being BLAMED FOR HURRICANE SANDY.

I can cry  for the people who end up homeless because they can’t find jobs.

I can cry for the person who is persecuted for being of a different faith, ethnicity or gender.

A lot of this hatred is coming from people who say they are Christians.

All I can say to these people is:

JESUS UNDERSTOOD YOUR PAIN. WHY CAN’T YOU UNDERSTAND THE PAIN OF OTHERS?

Finding Hope

English: Total Solar eclipse 1999 in France. *...

English: Total Solar eclipse 1999 in France. * Additional noise reduction performed by Diliff. Original image by Luc Viatour. Français : L’éclipse totale de soleil en 1999 faite en France. * Réduction du bruit réalisée par Diliff. Image d’origine Luc Viatour. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It is very frightening to fall into the abyss of bipolar depression. It is like the eclipse of the sun, plunging us into darkness and chaos. Suddenly nothing seems certain. Our dreams and hopes for the future are shattered. We wonder if we will ever be the same again. We may be so lost that we end up in hospitals and institutions, receiving frightening treatments and medicated to the hilt. We feel like freaks, isolated from society and often rejected and misunderstood by our family and friends. We may even attempt suicide as a way to end our pain. How then can we find hope? How do we make sense of what has happened to us? Hope and faith in something are the cornerstones for recovery. The way we gain that is by observing the cycles of death and rebirth in nature, joining a support group and meeting others who have overcome similar challenges, and developing a faith in something bigger than ourselves, such as a Higher Power. We may find that we can help others through our own experiences. We realize we have more compassion for others who have suffered the same trials we have. Can we go back to where we were before? No, we still have an illness. But we can learn to take care of ourselves by taking medication, getting therapy to learn to better handle our illness, and most importantly, by not isolating ourselves. We can learn to see ourselves and our sufferings as a spiritual process, one of death and rebirth, grieve our losses and move on. We can recognize that everybody has challenges to overcome, some less obvious than others. We gain a greater appreciation  and admiration of the strength of those who have overcome obstacles in their paths and realize that we have the same strengths. We need no longer  beat up on ourselves, mental illness is not a moral failing. And we can see life as more of a journey than a destination, in the final analysis it is how we cope with our challenges that matters, not our achievements. We can turn our losses into gains.

Ask yourself: What have I learned from my experiences? Have I learned to take better care of myself? Have I learned to ask for help when I need it?

The Meaning in Suffering

3 candles

3 candles (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Whatever is to give light must endure burning
Victor Frankl

There is no doubt that as people with bipolar disorder we have suffered greatly, a suffering that most people cannot understand. We have stood on the pinnacle of life and also in the depths of hell. It is not self-pity to recognize where we have come from, but we cannot stay there. Being a helpless victim is a form of living death. We must take the lessons we have learned from our experiences and move forward. There is a reason for everything that happens to us, even if we can’t see it at the time. Before we were ever born we were given certain challenges to overcome. It may seem strange at first to believe that we agreed to live this particular life. But if you see this life as a “school” where we learn certain lessons, it makes our suffering bearable. Does that mean that we “deserve” what has happened to us? Of course not. But our suffering can bring about a sense of compassion that we might otherwise have lacked, a desire to help others who have suffered the way we have. It may bring forth certain gifts that we didn’t know we had, and a desire to live a more meaningful life. We can take heart from others who have suffered as well. Psychiatrist Victor Frankl spent time in a Nazi concentration camp. Not only did he survive, but he authored several books on the psychology of survival, and came up with a new type of therapy based on his experiences. This shows that however bad our suffering has been, we can use our experiences to help ourselves and others. We don’t have to do anything grand, small kindnesses toward others can go a long way.

Ask yourself, “What have I gained from my experiences? What hidden talents have been uncovered by my suffering? How can I use my experiences to help myself and others?

illness

illness (Photo credit: cambiodefractal)

Every blade of grass has its’ angel that bends over it and whispers, ‘Grow, grow.’
The Talmud

Every one of us has that divine spark of life that strives for fulfillment. Just because we have an illness does not mean that we have to give up our dreams and crawl under the covers. A diagnosis is not a life-sentence. Rather it is a step towards recovery. Like the alcoholic, once we know what is wrong with us we can take steps to remedy  it. Many of us have lost jobs and careers due to our bipolar illness. We are demoralized by both our experiences and the stigmas against us. However, if we remember that life is a growth process first, destination second, then we may be able to see value in what was once the incomprehensible twists and turns of our lives. Maybe the Divine is steering us into directions we never thought of before.  Ask yourself, “What have I learned from my experiences? How can I use these experiences to set new goals in my life?”  It may be that your experiences may be of value to others. Start small: maybe before your illness you wanted to be a lawyer.  Maybe now you may want to be a mental health patient’s rights advocate and help others jump through the legal and bureaucratic hurdles that you once did.  And this can still lead to your bigger dream, so don’t give up. If you are drawn towards the helping professions, you can run support groups or become a peer counselor  (some mental health organizations pay consumers for both of these services). Brainstorm. There are a myriad of ways that you can use your experiences, both positive and negative, in service to humanity.

We all have a purpose in this life. Ask your angels and your Higher Power to reveal it to you.

Abstract Colorful Universe Wallpaper - TTdesign

Abstract Colorful Universe Wallpaper – TTdesign (Photo credit: tomt6788)

I found that the nature of life is joyful, that deep within the core of each one of us is the joy that indeed surpasses understanding. This is a joy beyond polarity—a joy that includes sorrow, a hope that embraces despair.

Dorothy Maclean

In the tapestry of our lives there is a poetic theme. Often it is hard to see the beauty behind the pain. For many of us life has often been in a state of constant upheaval due to our illness. It is hard to see a sense of order or the Divine in it. Yet the Universe is designed to bring beauty out of chaos. Everything you see around you was once in a chaotic state. From the birth of a new star to the birth of a new baby there is pain and suffering and beauty. We must trust that there is an implicit order in our lives that belies our surface difficulties, a purpose to our sufferings. Are we simply a victim of the random genetic influences that brought on our bipolar disorder or is there something deeper going on here? Perhaps we choose our life challenges before we come onto this planet in order to bring out the beauty that is in our souls. A sense of compassion may be born out of our trials, a desire to help others. We may find our lives redirected into new areas, perhaps leaving a dead end job for something that engages our minds and hearts. We may gain a sense of the spiritual sense of things beyond the material.

If you doubt that there is beauty and purpose in life let me ask you this: What is the purpose of a flower? Does it have bright colors and a wonderful scent just to attract the bee? Or is it beautiful in it’s own right? We are the only creatures on this planet who are capable of perceiving beauty. Beauty and joy are the essence of the Universe! We are co-creators in this pageantry of life, creating beauty out of pain.

Affirmation: I take my pain and sorrow and ask the Divine to spread it’s light over and through it and transform it into something beautiful. I ask to be shown how to use my suffering to benefit others.

Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar Disorder (Photo credit: SheriW1223)

In the midst of winter I finally learned that there was in me an invincible summer.

Albert Camu

For those of us who experience the terrible mood swings of bipolar disorder, the idea of experiencing normal human emotion seems almost laughable. How do we know what “real” happiness is when the ecstasy of mania turns just as easily to despondency? How do we find that center of being within us to weather the storms of our unpredictable emotional life?

There is that point of being within all of us that the mystics call “I Am.” Simply put, this is the part of us that has never lost touch with the sublime, our “God-Center.” This is our “Higher-Self“, our ” Buddha nature” or “Christ-consciousness.” It is the part of ourselves that simply sits back and observes the storms of life, judging them as neither good nor bad, right or wrong. It is the part that accepts the cyclical nature of life, the pendulum moving back and forth. And it is the part that sees through the essential “maya” or illusion of our experiences.

By learning to see through this center of being we can learn to accept our mood swings as the unreality that they are. Does this mean we have to roll over and allow ourselves to be tormented? Of course not. Medication is essential, so is therapy, and a strong base of social support. But for many of us we still experience mood swings, though hopefully not as bad as before treatment. This is where a strong spiritual base is important, a belief in a Higher Reality that can carry us through the “maya” of our ups and downs. What is that higher reality? All the major religions agree that it is love. By that realization we can find that “invincible summer” within us.

Person on a sign

Person on a sign (Photo credit: KB35)

I have stopped trying to be a good person. And I feel good about it.

A radical statement I know. Maybe even heretical. But it is the right thing to do.

And it is the moral thing to do.

Like most people, I have regrets about the past. I have made many mistakes and have hurt the people I love. I have tried to make things right with them. Sometimes they have responded well. Other times they have not and I have been on the receiving end of a lot of bitter emotions from them.

In the past I have victimized others with my out-of-control Bipolar Disorder. I acknowledge that and I take responsibility for how my actions affected them at the time.  In recent years I have been working on recognizing when my emotions are out of control to the point of hurting others and have prayed to see where my perceptions have been wrong.

To me, the experience of having Bipolar Disorder is like living in a fun house (only without the fun!) My perception of life is skewed and I often misinterpret situations around me.  Someone might say something that I take the wrong way and I lash out in anger, hurting their feelings. I often swing back and forth between thinking it is all their fault or it is all my fault. I have carried a heavy weight of guilt for years.

My response to this is that in recent years is to make myself wrong when I am feeling angry at someone. I tend to feel that I am overreacting and so I will acquiesce to whatever they want. This has caused me to be in co-dependent relationships where I was always second-guessing myself, whether I had a right to be angry with them. Because I didn’t speak up, I ended up being a doormat. After having a “friend” as a roommate who took over my house and my life, and who expected me to take care of him, I was as confused as ever.

It didn’t occur to me until later that I had the right to ask him to leave at any time because it was my house. The issue was never about whether I was right or wrong in my assessment of the situation. The issue was about boundaries and my right to be treated the way I wanted in my own house. The truth be told I never wanted him to move in in the first place. He had quit his job, recklessly spent the rest of his money on extravagances without looking for another one, and then expected me to rescue him from his own bad choices.

I let all this happen because I wanted to be a “good person.”

In August of last year I had been trying to work out some problems with a family member that I know I have hurt deeply with my past behavior.  She seemed very open to discussing these things with me and I thought we were making progress. We were in the middle of tackling a thorny issue when a personal crisis came up for her with another family member and she asked me if we could put our discussion on hold until it was resolved. I agreed.

Then in January I made an innocent comment to her and the next thing I knew I was being bombarded with angry e-mails from her and her husband. It seemed that I had inadvertently triggered a resentment related to our discussion that we had put on hold. They both were accusing me of saying something that I had not meant when I had made that remark. Now, I was willing to try and resolve this situation because I really did want to make up for my past behavior towards them.
However, every attempt I made simply resulted in more anger from them. And with that anger came a lot of verbal abuse. In their eyes, I was a completely worthless human being.  I was devoid of any redeeming characteristics whatsoever. I was completely selfish and had never done anything for anyone in my entire life. In fact, anything good that I had done was used as a weapon against me.  If I treated them nicely, then it was “proof” that I only used my illness to manipulate them.

This truly broke my heart. I was devastated. All the work that I had done in the past few years to improve our relationship meant absolutely nothing to them at all.  My fragile self-esteem hit an all-time low.  I blamed myself for not being able to make things right.

As I prayed for guidance, I came across an article which completely changed my perspective on the situation. A sentence leaped out at me.  It said, “You are not responsible for another person’s healing.”
Wow! I was stunned. I realized that I could forgive myself, even though they could not forgive me. I did my part, the rest was up to them.  The choice to heal was entirely their responsibility, not mine. The fact is I don’t have to make up for the past. I acknowledge it, but I don’t have to live my life under a cloud of shame anymore.  It is what it is.

My dad, who is my biggest supporter, has told me that he refuses to let the past interfere with our relationship now. And I realize that anyone who can’t accept me as I am now, I don’t really need in my life anyway.

So I have stopped trying to be a good person because I am already a good person. A person who makes mistakes and can always do better, but still a good person.