Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Time for Dentists to Talk to Doctors

Hello Friends:

So this is something of an experiment. Not the dentist - I've done that before. The experiment is trying to blog when really depressed. Up to this point I've blogged at the moderately depressed level, and then punted when truly in the dark land. I'm trying to keep the tone here in Anxiety Land sort of upbeat, and I'll admit that for most of the time that is actually how I feel. I had this idea that I shouldn't blog depressed since I'd sound stupifyingly stupified. Or maybe just pathetic. Or too emo. I like a little emo, being a closet goth, but too much emo makes me feel like I'm still a teenager. I hated being a teenager. More than twenty years later and I still hate it.

Anyway, the point is this. As it stands, if I don't blog depressed you might not hear from me again for another two months (which may or may not be a bad thing). So here goes.


The dentists really need to get the doctors up to speed about how to deal with freaked out people. I made a point of talking about 'dealing with the crazed' when I was at the dentist on Monday. The receptionists, hygenists, and the dentist herself all have had some level of training, however informal, in dealing with scared people. Apparently, the idea that 'nobody likes dentists' is well known. Axiomatic. We all know it, they know it, and they work hard to get and keep clients in spite of it. And that means learning how to deal with anxiety disorders in patients.

I wonder how it is the doctors have not figured out that nobody likes them.

From the time I walk in the door at my dentist, everyone is smiling. The receptionist knows my name, and remembers I have 'issues'. They all say lots of soothing things as I go back to 'the chair'. Here is some of the conversation, assuming you define that word loosely.

- "Can I take your purse?" "Ah, yes, if you don't put it on the floor." (No problem)
- "We'll be using this room right there." "I can't touch the door knob." (No problem)
- "Anything we can do to make you more comfortable?" "Yeah, I need breaks sometimes, I want that topical anesthetic you use on the five year-olds, you need to constantly be telling me what you are going to do before you do it, and I want to control that suction-thingy myself. And by the way, point that x-ray machine away from me." (All no problem)
- "I'm going to floss your teeth now." "Nope, nobody flosses my teeth but me." (No problem)

And then, after much of this, I get to leave. Everyone tells me how great I did. And even though I have to come back for another cleaning in three months, I'm feeling dramatically better about making the appointment. It has taken them only a few visits to gain a certain amount of trust and confidence from me. When I say I want something, it happens. No matter how wacky it sounds, or how baffling my behavior, they all make it seem totally normal, and take me seriously.

So, again, why is it so very different at the doctor? The dentist pokes in your mouth, sure, but the doctors are constantly taking blood, prodding intimate places, and asking personal questions. How is it they don't try three times as hard as the dentists to make up for this? Is it simply because people can put off the dentist for ages, if they want, but everyone ends up at the doctor, eventually?

Well, not sure. And I don't have any witty words to end with, either. I just wish really hard that someone would close the gap on this. If there is a whole profession (dentistry) that accommodates anxious people with ease and normalcy, there is no reason for any other profession to fall behind. And those same skills make the place nice for everyone, not just us crazy people. You'd think it would just be market driven.

Oh, wait. I do have something to say in closing. Would you check out that pic up there? Pictures of women in corsets never cease to amaze me. I thought it had to be fake and then I saw her waist. Yes, I've forced my kidneys into my lungs, and my intestines are now in my uterus, but I keep my teeth all pearly white. Yep.

Dear God, talk about body issues. How did men feel it was safe to even touch creatures that looked like that? They look like they'd snap right across the middle. The news reel, "A local woman sneezed tonight while brushing her teeth. Distraught husband finds upper half still smiling." When I'm feeling bad about all the stupid things I do to try to meet some stupid society's stupid idea of beauty, I'll think of her. What I'm doing will still be stupid, but I won't feel so alone.

Your Hostess With Neuroses

Friday, July 17, 2009

Research as Friend and Foe

Hello Friends:

So I wasn't exactly truthful in my previous post
Is it Safe to Come Out Yet? when I said I'd tried the somatic-energy therapy without doing any research ahead of time. I always do research. About everything. I get the vaguest interest in any new topic and then I'm on the internet for three solid days and I've ordered eight books from Barnes and Noble. Those get read in two nights. Being trained as a researcher has its up and down side ...

So in my post, when I said I hadn't done research, what I meant was I hadn't done so much research that I looked like the image above. My usual. I had, in fact, looked at two or three websites just to convince myself I wasn't headed into something without experimental basis. Or into one of those things that has a trademark symbol after it, and was developed by a single person and now evangelized by their personality cultists.

One if the sites I found was at - Body-Mind Mental Health Therapies - which has some definitions of several kinds of related therapies. One of the reasons it's hard to describe exactly the therapy I'm getting is that it seems to overlap a few categories. But it definitely includes aspects of energy manipulation, touch, and talk. It is centered on the idea that the body 'remembers' trauma, and can be both a part of the problem of PTSD and the solution.

I'm pretty much convinced that I have stored 'memories' in places in my body. Kind of like how you never forget how to ride a bicycle because your body remembers how to do it for you. Or also how I can pick up drumsticks after years of not playing the drums and still keep a reasonable beat. I don't know why or how the body might store trauma, really, but I, at least, am finding some use in paying more attention to my body and how sensations and tensions relate to my emotions. And then how those emotions relate to memories.

The trick in my case is trying to sort of bypass my overly analytical brain. Again, all that training to do research, find trends, and explain things in a coherent manner is both useful and a barrier. Some of the things I'm experiencing in therapy don't make easy sense. There does not always have to be a reason (or at least a reason I'll ever know) for how a certain touch makes me feel. Why would I get a sudden shiver of deep fear when someone holds my head? Why would I feel sad if someone touches my neck? Why would I get angry if someone touches my hip? Instead, I have to learn to accept the emotions and sensations as they are. To acknowledge them and let them move wherever and however it is they 'want' to do that.

I'm not sure yet how this might really play into all the other types of therapy I'm doing, but I'm hoping they can feed off of one another. For the first time in many years I'm feeling like things are moving inside. The 'stuck' is getting more unstuck. And I will also say that the somatic-energy therapy is exciting, even fun, if you don't mind that your fun can be scary, painful, and frustrating. It really is exciting to find so many new things inside yourself. I thought I knew me so well, but I have tons of things to tell me, to show me, that I never knew.

It's research, and I'm the experiment. I really, really wish there was a book on this one.

Your Hostess With Neuroses

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

The Nurses Can Be Nice

Hello Friends:

In December I had my yearly physical, which included a need to get follow up blood work three months later. (A great way to fill a nice three months with an increased sense of dread). I wrote about my attempt to do the follow up in The Nurses Can Be Crazy, which details how I had a rather inconveniently timed, yet ultimately unsurprising flashback episode, resulting in my leaving before they got any blood from me (other than what was oozing out my pores).

My lessons learned from that, as well as other wonderful and inspiring encounters with the medical profession, emphasize the importance of advocates. It is so hard to ask for help, but when it comes to this medical stuff, I either get help or it just does not happen.

After the whole 'wife leaves the doctor's office in a fit of madness and then winds up at my place of work in hysterics' event, my hubby was understandably concerned that I'd never go back to the doctor again. He's the number one person in the support network, the captain of crazy wrangling, so he was on call to try to make this happen, anyway. But he couldn't get me to make another appointment. There was always some very good reason to put it off. Really there was.

And then I ran out of my mind meds. Naturally, the doc wasn't going to refill the prescription for a patient who was AWOL, so I was sort of forced to confront the need to go back. Hubby agreed both to make the appointment, and to come along to be sure they didn't get out the spear guns or any other torture devices. And because I wanted his help trying to explain to my doc why it is that nurses who need me to interpret my own 'quick dip' urine data inspire very little confidence.

Snippet of conversation from previous visit with crazy nurse:
Me - "I'm sure you'll note the specific gravity is pretty high. I know I'm dehydrated."
Her - "There is a lot of blood in this sample."
Me - "Really? Oh, that's bad. I don't have any symptoms of a UTI at all. Are you sure?"
Her - "Yes, it says right here on this strip that ... oh, wait, that's the specific gravity."
Yes. Really.

Anyway, we did go back, and I did sit down with my nice doctor and try to explain. She was great about it, actually. She absolutely agreed that a person with a history of trauma needs to see as few different people in the office as possible so that a trusting relationship can be developed and maintained. She asked me who I liked, and made it clear that they, and only they, would do my blood work. She told me to call that person specifically and finally set up the appointment to get the follow up work done.

I couldn't quite bring myself to do it. So even after that encouraging visit, I had to have, yep, the hubby, do it for me. He set up the appointment, and then had to take a half a day off of work to make sure I got there and then got fed afterwards. Getting blood drawn is an event for more than just the possibility of hysterical trauma-drama. I also am a bit hypoglycemic, so can't be trusted to drive on an empty stomach. And I'm about the furthest thing from a morning person imaginable (I became an astronomer for a reason, you know). The combination of all these factors creates, shall we say, a somewhat volatile situation that has to be dealt with with compassion and then a great breakfast buffet.

Today was the day. So this morning I got up. Early. Didn't eat, of course. And then got driven to the doctor's office. I tried hard to maintain an upbeat and non-bitchy attitude, which was easier with my husband there. We get along really well, and so it is nice to have the excuse, any excuse, to spend more time together. We got called to go back, and the nice nurse I like was there, and smiling. Mostly at my husband, who they seem to remember well from his physicals. Probably a result of his always having had some success in charming the ladies. The nurse listened to me when I told her of the one - the one and only - place you can drill me in the arm and get a gusher on the first try. And she didn't need to be told to use a butterfly needle, either. I was also let off the hook of 'trying to act normal' since my husband was entertaining her with conversation through the whole thing, and I could just sort of shake, bounce, sweat, or whatever and not feel like I was the star of the show. And then she believed me when I said was allergic to bandaids (I really am) and needed paper tape instead.

By the time we walked out, I was already back down to Defcon 3, which is almost my 'normal' level. The whole thing went off nearly flawlessly, as far as I am concerned. And then I got that great breakfast. Which I almost remember eating.

This to me is all reinforcement of the support network and advocacy ideas. I can't believe I need this kind of help to get blood drawn, but I really do. And feeling bad about it does not change anything (not that it stops me from feeling bad, but at least there is perspective). It was worth all the hassle of trying to find a good primary care person; it is really paying off now. And it is definitely worth the hassle to resist the urge to 'knuckle down', 'take it on the chin', and do it all myself. To resist the voices that say asking for help is weak, childish, and why would anyone want to help me, anyway?

Oh, hubby also made me a dentist appointment.


Your Hostess With Neuroses

Image is a promotional pic from the Dutch 2002 film "Yes Nurse, No Nurse"

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Is it Safe to Come Out Yet?

Hello Friends:

I've been in my cave for the last two months or so, trying to find my way back to that mental place that lets me use my computer to check email, post to my blog, and basically do anything that might put me in touch with other people. Scary.

But here I am, managing another post, and it doesn't feel too bad. Maybe I can get myself back into some quasi-regular posting schedule. But that's thinking too far ahead. How about I finish this post, first? Yeah. That's the ticket.

These last two months have seen attacks from that particular monster we all know so well that gets you thinking 'everyone hates me, including me'. This monster successfully beat me into a state of semi-paralyzed disability. What is it inside a person (i.e. me) that gets so convinced they are nothing more than a waste of other people's air? I mean I really think that - not all the time, but often. Other people have a right to be here, and I don't. You need to ... I don't know ... contribute or something in order to have that right. And I don't contribute much more (especially when I'm sealed in the cave) than increasing the local entropy of the universe by radiation of body heat and conversion of tea into pee.

My new general strategy (as of this year) for attaining wellness is to conduct experiments and do whatever works. One of my recent experiments seems to be giving me results from the get go. This experiment might be part of what is responsible for my finding the ability to step a little out of the cave into the brutal light of day, and actually write a post.

This therapy is very hard to describe, especially if your mind tends to scientific critical thinking, like mine does. Well, on on the outside it is easy to describe and what is actually happening inside is a complete mystery to me. This therapy is a kind of somatic-energy work that deals with past trauma 'memory' in the body. What this looks like is that I lay on a massage table for about an hour while someone simply puts their hands on my body, occasionally moving them to different places, and mentally directs or encourages energy into/out of me. They follow what they perceive are my needs, and use this energy to help old emotions and injuries, mental and physical, get unstuck, cleared and on the way to healing. During this, we talk about what I'm feeling in my body, and sometimes about how this might relate to my emotional state. Then I put my shoes on and leave.

Sounds absolutely bananas, doesn't it? I don't happen to believe in psychic phenomena, magic, New Age philosophy, energy meridians or any of that stuff. And I know nothing about the theory of this somatic therapy at all. In a very uncharacteristic move, I didn't bother to do a ton a research about before I made an appointment. My primary care doctor, who I have some respect for, suggested it, and I was so impressed with the non-Western nature of the recommendation that I tried it basically sight unseen.

None of that matters, really, because - for me - it is working. Could be totally 'in my mind', a result of the touch-phobic nature of our society, or who knows what. Again, doesn't matter, since I'm seeing immediate results. These results are not fun, and include me in tears, angry, frustrated, and even in physical pain. I haven't left a session yet and not had substantial aching from this 'energy cyst' in my pelvis. Mind you, I'm not doing anything in these sessions. I am not moving, and there is no massage. Just a hand below/above my hip for say fifteen minutes. I can actually feel heat pouring up and down, through the area. It aches, and then feels good, and then feels like a spiky rock, and then aches again. Meanwhile I go from feeling angry, to terrified, to calm and all sorts of things. I've also experienced this now when having energy directed in the chest, throat, stomach, and forehead, as well.

Makes no sense. Sounds crazier than I am, actually. But there it is. The sessions are stirring up emotions I can't seem to get to through regular talk therapy, nor through any cognitive technique at all. Seems as though for OCD and panic, you can think your way through to a certain amount of relief through CBT. Trauma, at least for me, is very resistant to this. I can use cognitive tools to deal with a panic attack. My trauma flashbacks, however, steamroll right past my cognitive ability and slam through to emotional reaction. This somatic energy work seems to be accessing a body/emotional memory or response that other therapies are not reaching. I can't say I've seen a reduction in flashbacks or my general dread and self hatred. But I've only been doing this for five or six sessions so far. And what I am feeling is this sense that at the end of each session something important has happened. Someone heard something I felt or said. Maybe it is me hearing myself.

Doesn't matter. What matters for the time being is this sense of hope. Something is moving and changing. And change is definitely good.

Your Hostess With Neuroses

Image is 'Peek a booh' by Persifonie via Creative Commons

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