Monday, March 29, 2010

Anxiety Land Two Year Anniversary AND 50th Post!

Hello Friends:

Well, wow. Two years and finally, fifty posts. Two milestones to celebrate for Adventures in Anxiety Land.

Thanks to readers who've been along the whole time, and thanks to those who just started following. Knowing there are people out there reading makes this both a lot of fun and a great way to try to keep myself honest with my own healing.

I'm glad I have been able to keep the blog alive all this time. I'm glad I've been able to keep me alive. The hardest thing to do, and one of the most valuable things I've gotten from this blog, is forcing myself to come back after not posting for a while. You imagine you've ruined it, that you ought to scrap it and start over, rather than deal with the messy reality. Instead, you rev the engine and keep driving.

And speaking of the messy reality, there is data! I love data ...  check this out ...

X axis - months from March 2008 to March 2010. Y axis - Number of posts per month for that month.

When I plotted this, I knew I'd see the huge gaps from when I wasn't feeling up to posting anything. I should have realized that what that means is that this is, literally, a plot of my ups and downs. When I'm happy, I post more. When I'm depressed I post less. Of course there are other factors like travel and such which effect my posting regularity. In fact, there are a few times when I posted because I didn't feel up to doing anything else. Still, I think this is adequate as a rough sketch of how the last two years have gone.

As far as posting, my lowest per month was zero and highest was eight, two posts per week. The total of 50 posts in two years is only 0.48 posts per week on average. At first I was going to get rid of any month with no posts so that I could calculate my 'true' posting average. But then I realized that was, once again, thinking that being depressed wasn't real life. That somehow the down times shouldn't be represented; instead they should be dismissed or hidden. Heck with that. This is my life, such as it is, and it is all 'real life'. So the average is a half a post a week.

When I started blogging, I was hoping to average at least one post a week, even with all my ups and downs. Off by a factor of two, but not an order of magnitude. I'm going to take this as a general 'win', and use this data to target a goal for this year of an average of 1.5 posts per week, including depressed times, travel, and all that stuff there. That would be an intermediate goal heading to my target of two posts per week. I don't want to do more than that because I have a desire to write longer, more involved posts rather than posts that look like tweets. Just my style, and who is going to have time to read more than two of these a week, on average, let alone the time for me to write them?  :)

Other things of note.  The second half of 2008 was clearly a bad time. Also, March is my most prolific posting month. I'm wondering if that has to do with the advent of spring, or with finally getting over of the holidays from the previous year. I can also see reflections of a tough time around some international travel in May 2009, and then around a conference in October 2009. Certainly this last hiatus in the beginning of 2010 was due to backlash from the holiday, and a number of family related issues that got stirred up.

One thing I see looking at this plot is, naturally, the complete lack of any regularity. Not that I want to force myself into anything, but I'm beginning to wonder if some kind of weekly regular feature might not be a good thing to try to institute. Perhaps a weekly look at a paper in a research journal about mental health, or a posting of mental illness terms or trivia? What do you, as a reader, hope to see? No promises, but suggestions are always welcome.

Anyway, thanks again for coming along for the ride. I hope you continue to hang out here in Anxiety Land with me (until that glorious day when none of us feel like we are living there anymore at all!)

Your Hostess With Neuroses

Image credit: / CC BY 2.0

Plot credit:  Me and my excel program

Friday, March 26, 2010

A Successful Visit to the OBGYN

Hello Friends:

Visit is done! Yeah! And hopefully all tests will be negative and I won't have to go back for a year! I said I'd report out on the visit. If you don't know what I'm talking about, check out Part One and Part Two of White Coat Anxiety.

One of the first things that helped was that I'd made a field trip to the office two weeks before the visit. I'd scouted the location of the building, where the office was inside the building, had checked out the waiting room, and had dropped off the forms I had downloaded from the web. So no worries about where we were going day-of-visit, or what the place would look like when we got there.

I took my Ativan as planned, and gave it time to kick in. I wore what I said I would, took music, a book, and Stitch. Stitch is the curious sort and generally likes strange new things and places, so he was game to come along. He also liked the idea that if anyone was mean to me, he'd get to bite them.

The place is big; sort of a factory, really. In my head I was calling it Tw@ts-R-us. There are sixty five chairs in the waiting room (yes, I counted, since what's an OCD person supposed to do in a waiting room, anyway?), with a lot of floor space. Big room. There are sixteen doctors listed on the various signs, and arrows pointing you to stand in the correct line based on doctor. Factory.

But a nice one, pretty comfortable. Friendly receptionist.  Here's where I got my first small surprise. There is no chance you can get all the paperwork filled out ahead of time, even if you ask for it all. They had 'secret' forms waiting for me, which must somehow be special since when I asked two weeks ago if I'd filled out all the forms, they'd said yes. So hubby had to deal with them, since I don't do forms at visits. But I had managed to get the biggest and longest forms finished ahead of time, and dropping those off gave me a chance to see the place. So, not perfect, but better.

The wait was only ten minutes, and we were in. Hubby was with me. The alcohol smell in doctor's offices always puts me on edge. Very triggery, and unless I'm careful it can bring up a flashback. I have to keep telling myself where I am, NOW, right now, so I don't slip out to another incident in the past. But the smell wasn't as bad as at the general doctor, and there were not nearly as many people coughing and all that. So in a way it was easier than gdoc.

This doctor was very nice. Talked to us beforehand, and was very understanding about my diagnoses and what I needed to do to stay comfortable (like hold hubby's hand, have Stitch threaten to bite them, etc.) And then, well, there was the exam itself. There is nothing that makes that part better. It hurts like hell, mentally and physically.  For others, I'm sure it isn't like this.  But with the endometriosis this procedure is terribly painful.  And having to be in that pain, there, when you were abused is nearly insupportable, no matter how much positive-cognitive whatever you've been telling yourself.  I always cry hysterically, and this time was in so much pain I bit my hand until it nearly bled.  But two minutes of torture, and it was over.  I was shaking and had tears all over my face.  The doctor did a good job of walking the line between being sympathetic and acting as if this was all normal.  Then she gave us a few forms, and we could leave.

There is always that moment after the the obgyn doc has left, and you are standing there in a half-open, too-small robe, in a cold room, 'alone' (hubby was behind curtain at that point). There is no getting over the sensation that you've just been violated and then abandoned. Left to sort of clean yourself up, get dressed, and then go back out into the world as if nothing has happened. That it is all a big secret, like your past. But the sensation went away and I pulled myself together. Then I started to feel pretty happy, because, well, first of all I was going to blog all about it, so it was hardly a secret. That felt good.  And second, I had actually done it. All over.

Almost. Of course now that I'm 'of an age' I have to get a mammogram. Haven't had one since I was about 24 years old, when they were looking to see what the cause of my chest pains might be. I certainly remember that having my frontal chest parts shoved between two collapsing plates was really pretty damn painful. And any x-ray procedures make my contamination issues flare. But still, I'll bet it will be easier than having metal shoved up my tw@t.

A few other items of note. I need to bring something I can bite on next time. The place on my hand where I bit myself is a painful, bruised lump the size of a quarter. Also, another success, I didn't have to wash my clothes or purse after I got back. I felt pretty uncontaminated, overall, and only needed to use my towelettes once. And of course, when I got home I asked for flowers and chocolates.  So hubby went to the grocery store and came back with flowers and chocolates.

Overall, 100% mission success. Except Stitch was disappointed that the only biting that went on was me biting myself.`

Your Hostess With Neuroses

Image credit/info:  My Stitch.  Him eyeing my chocolates.  Or knowing him, he's thinking of eating my flowers.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Going to the Doctor Part II of II - The Visit (or More Tips for Dealing with White Coat Anxiety)

 Hello Friends:

Well, today I go to the doctor for my 'yearly' check of my womanly bits, as I noted yesterday in my post Going to the Doctor Part I of II.  I can't tell you how very badly I do not want to do this.  I really don't want to go.  But I am going.  I am going to put on my brave persona, and I'm going to do this.  First of all, because I need to get this done.  Second of all, because if I let myself be frightened away I won't be able to test how well my suggestions worked.

And then I won't be able to post about it.  Blog as motivation.  Whatever works.

Anyway, here are my tips for the day of the doctor visit. Assume you already did what you could from my list of tips on yesterday's post, and now you have an actual appointment to go to.  (Like, say, I do.)  Again, all of these tips might not work for you, but some might be of use.

Some preparation the day of the visit:
  • If you are, in fact, experiencing anxiety about the visit (har) try to put your finger on exactly what you are concerned about.  Claustrophobia from the small rooms?  Afraid of needles, contamination, germs?  Maybe it is a sense of violation or that someone will take advantage of you.  Some people are afraid they will get bad news about their health.  One of my fears based in past trauma and PTSD is the fear of being yelled at, put down, told I am irresponsible and such.  If you can identify the things that are causing your anxiety, you can work to try to accommodate them yourself, or to get the doctor's staff to do so.  You can also be proactive simply by naming your fears and doing some cognitive self talk to mitigate them before you go.
  • Do you have a med you can take as needed for anxiety?  If so, take it.  In my case I have a prescription for Ativan to take when I travel, to deal with crowds, and in case of a sudden panic situation.  If you don't have a med like this, you can always talk to your doctor about getting something to help you through tough situations.  I will be taking my Ativan an hour before I go.
  • If you know you need to have a blood test done, drink water.  Dehydration makes it more difficult to spot those hidden veins, and water will increase your overall blood mass.  Naturally, you'll need some water for that urine test, too, huh?
  • If there are specific issues you want to bring up with your doctor, write them all out ahead of time.  I can't think in that office with my anxiety running so high.  If your support person will be in the exam room with you, give them a copy, too, so they can help keep the visit on track for you.
What to wear:
  • Comfortable clothes that are easy to get on and off.  
  • Short sleeves in case of blood pressure test, etc.
  • Socks to keep feet away from cold floors and cold, ahem, stirrups.  
  • Shoes that slip on and off (in my case that is critical since I can't tie shoelaces that have touched the floor of a doctor's office.)
  • A sweater to keep warm in chilly examination rooms.
  • I'll note that sometimes I wear something very specific to make me feel safer or more powerful.  I have a necklace with a dragon on it that I use for 'protection'.  Sometimes I will wear a suit jacket to the doctor because it makes me feel like people take me more seriously.  Consider what might make you feel more at ease, or more in control.
  • Also in my case, I don't wear anything that can't immediately be stuffed into the washing machine when I get home.  Doctor's offices feel contaminated to me, and I want those things off and washed as soon as possible.
What to bring:
  • Bring spouse/friend.  My hubby will be driving me there, sitting with me in the waiting room, and will probably be in the exam room with me, depending on how I feel.
  • Bring bottled water and a protein bar to munch immediately after the visit, especially if you had to fast beforehand.  My blood sugar plummets in stress situations as adrenaline spikes and then wanes.  A little food and water help me a lot.
  • Bring your OCD coping items.  Normally I try hard to keep from overusing things like disposable hand towels, but a doctor's visit is not the time to be stingy with coping mechanisms.  So I bring my own towelettes, hand sanitizer, pen, and even tissues.
  • Take a really engrossing book for the wait around.  
  • Take a purse or bag that you can wash.  This is a big one for me.  I put my things into the bag, and then when I get home I dump them out.  My book is 'clean' and I put the bag into the washer along with all my 'contaminated' clothes.  Whew.
  • Do you need a comfort object?  They do it for kids, and really, all of us have wounded inner children.  Kids might bring a favorite toy, story book, or stuffed animal.  Treat yourself the way you would have wanted to be treated as a child in this position, and bring a symbol of comfort.  I'm taking my stuffed Stitch 'animal'!  (He'll bite the bad guys.)
At the visit:
  • Ask for the accommodations you need from the staff.  They might not be able to do everything, but sometimes a little is all you need to know that people are looking out for you.
  • Stay as relaxed as possible by distracting yourself with your book, talking with your friend, meditating, listening to ipod, whatever.
  • Keep reminding yourself that you are at the doctor for very good reasons.  Tell yourself about how the tests are a necessary part of health care, and that doing them is important.  You are taking control of your own life, health, and well being.
  • Remind the staff and doctor about your mental health issues.
  • Ask the doctor what to expect during any procedure.  How long will it last?  Will it hurt -  how much and how long?  Where will you have to touch me?  Will I be in this room alone with stuff attached to me?  Will anything like alcohol or another substance be spread on my skin?  Ask about anything that concerns you.
  • Refer to your list of questions, and have your friend help make sure you get all of your issues addressed.  Don't let yourself be rushed.  You are paying for this visit.
  • If necessary, have you or your friend write down comments and suggestions from the doctor so you can refer to them later.  This takes the pressure off of having to remember the whole conversation while trying to ignore that small drop on the floor that might be ... who knows what.
After the visit:
  • Give yourself a big cheer, you deserve it!
  • Reward yourself.  If you had to fast for a test, maybe a great breakfast or lunch would be a good reward.  Personally, I like flowers and chocolate.  Anytime.
  • Be especially gentle with yourself for the rest of the day.  The visit might have been tough, no matter how well you prepared.  Give yourself the slack to relax, take a nap or a hot bath, read a book, play video games, have a glass of wine in front of the fire, or whatever works for you. 
And that's what I have to offer, today.  I'll be doing a lot of this myself, obviously, and I'll let you know how it went.  Please send comments on this list, or more suggestions for stuff I might have missed.

Your Hostess With Neuroses

Image credit/info: Photoxpress

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Going to the Doctor Part I of II - The Background Work (or Tips for Dealing with White Coat Anxiety)

Hello Friends:

I stumbled over a site today that was talking about the "little known or ignored sources of trauma" that can result in PTSD.  One of them was "hospitalization before the age of three."  I already knew my childhood medical history was a source of trauma, but had never seen it called out quite so specifically.  It is both validating and scary.  Doctors do suck, especially when you are a kid.

And Thursday, I have my first ob/gyn appointment in four years.  Yippie.

As you know I've posted occasionally about the fun you and I have dealing with health care.  It is hard enough these days getting decent insurance, finding a provider, scheduling appointments, and then actually showing up for them even if you are a 'normal' person.  The challenges are magnified when you have a history of abuse, never get enough sleep, are too afraid to leave the house, are terrified of needles, and on and on.  For me, visits to the doctor have always, always been terrifying.

One of the main reasons for that is, of course, that I was very sick as a kid.  I had a near fatal childhood illness that put me into the hospital at the age of two and a half.  A boy who was hospitalized for the same thing as I didn't make it through the week.  So I certainly caught the vibe, even then, that Something Was Very Wrong With Me.

In those days care for children was pretty barbaric; nobody was worried about traumatizing kids, just getting them out of the hospital in acceptable physical condition.  I was in the hospital for about a week or so the first time, and then had to go back again and again for the next nine years to have scar tissue removed and such.  From 2.5 to 11.5, I was on meds, dealing with visits to the urologist, hospitalizations, and the occasional bladder and kidney infections that were both painful and scary.  I was lied to by doctors, nurses, and lab techs about: how long procedures would last, if my parents would be in the room or not, if there would be needles, how much it would hurt, what I was or was not supposed to do, and more.  So I have some good reasons to hate going to the doctor, and good reasons why doctor's visits cause me some of the worst anxiety I have to deal with, along with great fodder for flashbacks.

Dealing with health care specific to female needs is the worst, at least for me.  In addition to the childhood illness, there was the abuse, and then I lived with an abusive boyfriend for five years just to make sure I had myself really, really messed up.  I'll also mention the painful endometriosis, polyps, and fibroids that went undiagnosed and untreated for more than a decade.  So I'm a bit touchy about my 'female areas' shall we say.  But for some reason, I got it into my head that it really was time to go back to the ob/gyn and get a check up.  And I actually managed to schedule it myself.  What was I thinking ...

So for the rest of this post, I'm going to write up some of the tips and strategies I've collected about how to be as comfortable as possible with your doctor, whatever the specialty in question.  I'll do the general stuff in this post, and then tomorrow I'll post about the specific stuff one can do on the actual day of the visit.

So first of all, "White Coat Anxiety" is apparently the general term for people who really do not like going to the doctor, any doctor, including the dentist.  It is pervasive, and as I noted in a previous post, I have no idea how it is doctors don't realize how badly people suffer just trying to take care of their health in a responsible fashion.  I'll mention that "White Coat Anxiety" is not the same as "White Coat Syndrome / White Coat Effect" which is the syndrome where some people's blood pressure skyrockets in the doctor's office, and they can't get a good reading.

These tips are not going to be useful for everyone, especially if you are in a deep depression right now or live in another country with different heath care rules.  But this is what I gots to give ya ...
  • Recast the idea of a doctor from someone who has control over you to someone who you are paying to provide a service for you.  You are the customer, and you can "fire" any doctor any time you want, and find another one.  Ah yes, power.
  • Find a provider of the gender you need.  I'm seeing a female ob/gyn, female dentist, female dermatologist, female optometrist and female general doctor.  My therapist is male.  All these were conscious decisions on my part.
  • Try to do some "interviewing" to find the doctor you like.  Find one who is in a clean, non-threatening facility.  One who has staff and nurses who are friendly, relaxed, and competent.  If you don't like the "interview" don't go back.  Get recommendations from people you know, and even from the doctors you visit; they will be happy to recommend their colleagues.
  • If it is right for you, tell your doctors about your mental illnesses up front.  When I called to schedule this particular visit, I made my history clear and requested a doctor who could deal with it.
  • Be kind to yourself and remember how hard all this is.  Pat yourself on the back any time you schedule an appointment.
  • If necessary, have a friend help you schedule and keep track of appointments.  And then perhaps that friend or another can help you actually get to and from those appointments.  If you have help set up ahead of time, the visits will be easier to handle.
  • Try to show up for every appointment you schedule, rather than canceling or postponing.  It will only cause more anxiety and hassle in the long run.
  • If possible, download forms ahead of time from their website, or get them faxed.  I hate filling out forms in a doctor's office with their disease-ridden pen, and with my anxiety-addled brain.  Filling the forms out at home relieves some of the stress.
  • Establish a relationship not just with the doctor, but with the staff.  If necessary, request to see just one staff person for having vitals taken, blood drawn, etc., and then only make appointments when that person is available.
  • Get all the help you can from your health advocates.  That's everybody: your spouse, family, friends, and especially your therapist.  Have your therapist call your doctor and make your needs clear.  Discuss possible accommodations with your therapist and make sure your doctor is on board with it.  I think advocacy is the strongest tool for making health care more manageable.  
Nuff for now.  More later when I'm contemplating how I'm going to make this next visit go as easily as possible.  Got any ideas for me, or for this list?

Your Hostess With Neuroses

Image credit/info:

Friday, March 19, 2010

Book Review: The Year of Living Biblically by A.J. Jacobs

Hello Friends:

This book gets three out of five 'wings' from your Adventure Hostess.

Rating this was nearly impossible.  Three or four?  I went back and forth.  I ended up giving it a three.  I can see that someone else would like it quite a bit more, and give it a four or higher.  But ratings are subjective ... I just couldn't give it a four.  As you'll see below, in spite of plenty of good stuff the book had to offer, there were a few things that drove me nuts.

Before I get into the details of the review, I need to tell you why I read this book, and why it is relevant for this blog.  It goes back to the post OCD's and Scrupulosity: Obsessive Religion.  There I discussed some of my confusion and pain over trying to figure out what commands in the bible had to be followed to be saved, and which ones didn't.  That is part of the reason I gave up on the bible entirely.  There is always another person showing you how what you are doing is wrong, and how their version is right.  My OCDs make this situation intolerable for me.  I need an unequivocal answer.

For example, most Christian women in the US do not cover their heads in church.  And yet in 1st Corinthians it says, "But every woman who has her head uncovered while praying or prophesying disgraces her head."  Even in the fundamentalist church I used to frequent, women did not cover their heads unless it was with a massive Sunday-best sort of hat.  So isn't that picking and choosing what commands to follow and which to ignore?  And yet the bible also says, "You shall not add to the word that I am commanding you, nor take away from it."  (Deuteronomy 4:2)

So I discussed this with my therapist.  And I'm making this sound like it was a nice, happy little conversation.  But this subject gets me really bent.  Very sad and very scared.  My therapist said, "Nobody follows the bible literally.  Nobody.  No matter how fundamentalist or orthodox, everyone chooses what commands they follow, and how they interpret them."  I wasn't sure I believed that, so he suggested I read this book and see if it offered a little perspective.

Right.  Onto the review.

The Year of Living Bibically by A.J. Jacobs was published in September of 2008.  The premise is that the author spends a little over a year of his life trying to follow the bible as literally as he possibly can.  In practice, he realizes immediately that such a task is impossible, but he tries hard to follow each rule at least once, no matter how strange or obscure.  It is largely a book of humor, and that's probably the section you'd find it in if looking in the bookstore.  But it has poignant aspects, as well as some not-too-shabby religious scholarship.

Some of What's in the Book

The book is written like a dairy, with short entries, each dated, and then compiled into chapters.  Every entry is accompanied by a relevant passage from the Bible.  The author does not have an entry for each and every day, but he does try to keep a chronological record of his attempts to live the bible literally.  Each entry highlights one command, experience, or lesson learned.  He spends most of his time attempting to follow the Old Testament (Torah) where most of the bible's commands are found.  And then he adds on a few months to attempt to include the New Testament commands.

What I Liked

The author has OCD issues, and he admits this up front.  They are pronounced enough that his wife has developed a code phrase for when the author is trying too hard to shield their son from the contagious and pointy aspects of life.  She says "helmet" and he knows he needs to back off.  His OCDs play into his own reasons for wanting to investigate the commands of the bible, and bear some resemblance to my own.  So this made the subject and the author immediately sympathetic to me.

The book is simply enjoyable to read, well written, and entertaining.  The author's style is conversational and low stress.  One thing leads into another, and you find yourself not putting the book down.

What I most needed from the book was found early, a passage on page nineteen that helped me see more clearly what we all really mean by 'following the bible literally.'  "In fact, the very first command that God gives to Adam is 'Be fruitful and multiply.'  It's the Alpha Rule of the Bible.  Now, if I were taking the Bible absolutely literally, I could be 'fruitful' by loading up on peaches at Whole Foods Market and 'multiply' by helping my niece with her algebra homework."  "This hammers home a simple but profound lesson:  When it comes to the Bible, there is always - but always - some level of interpretation, even on the most seemingly basic rules.  In this case, I'm pretty sure that the Bible was talking about fertility, not math, so that's what I'll continue to pursue."  It's where he says "I'm pretty sure ..." that it comes home most strongly.  No one would disagree with him in his interpretation, but it is, in fact, interpretation.  This all might seem silly and obvious to you, but honestly, it was useful for me to read.

What I Didn't Like

The author writes very short chapters/sections.  He gets into an idea and then drops it before he really flushes it out or explores the consequences.  This is my major gripe with the book, that it could have been profound, but instead was often sadly shallow.

The tone of the book is a little cynical; not always, it is sometimes very moving.  But one gets the distinct impression that aside from the author's OCDs, the main reason he took on this project was so that he'd have something to write another book about.  Because of this, he intentionally puts himself in 'interesting' situations, things that might be considered very bizarre or controversial, so that his book will be interesting.  He does this instead of developing some of the aspects of his search that would have naturally been very interesting and not at all contrived.  One small example comes from his attempts to always tell the truth.  He sometimes uses this as an excuse to say something biting or off the wall, rather than finding a way to demure.

As far as genre, the book just does not know what it wants to be.  Is this a book of humor?  A memoir?  A travel essay?  A religious or inspirational work?  It is all of these things at one time or another.  For some this might be a plus, but it didn't work for me.  It was humorous in places, but not funny enough to be a book of humor.  It was moving in places, but not compelling enough to be a memoir.  It was scholarly in places, but not developed enough to be taken seriously from a religious standpoint.  I was glad I read it, but yet when I put the book down I felt vaguely unsatisfied.

Summary and Final Comments

The book does make the point that one cannot follow the bible completely literally.  No one can follow each and every command of the bible in the original sense it was intended, and on a daily basis.  There must be some sort of picking and choosing about what commands are more important than others.  Our current culture (which denounces rape, which tries to protect animals from abuse, etc.) is not welcoming to ritual sacrifices, nor to the idea that 'you raped her, but it's okay as long as you marry her'.  And this is good; some of the bible is barbaric.  I think we have a more compassionate idea of human (and animal) rights, including rights for women, minorities, and more.  This does beg the question of how to determine for one's self which commands to follow, and in what priority.  But that's a different problem.  I recommend the book for anyone who enjoys ironic humor, who does not mind irreverence in their literature, and who has the same curiosity I did about what it might mean to try to live the bible literally.

Your Hostess With Neuroses

Monday, March 15, 2010

Shattered Girl and The Sound of Breaking Glass

Hello Friends:

The inevitable preamble to this post is this; I had a rough day today.  The kind where I'm in bed and not really functional.  It was rough enough that I couldn't find anything to eat, since my OCDs were running too high to open the fridge.  So I was not only depressed, but low blood sugar, not enough sleep depressed.

This is a very bad state for the Morpho, let me tell you.

When spouse came home he found me in bed, still in jammies, working on my computer.  And the fact I was actually working on the computer was a big plus.  I felt useless and worthless and blah blah, you know it yourself.  He agreed to make emergency oatmeal just to get something in me.  He brought it up, and then went back downstairs.

And now the post ...

Just as I was finishing my oatmeal, I heard a crash.  Not a super loud crash.  Not a dangerous crash plus yelp of pain.  Not a multi-smash that might indicate the dropping of a tray or the failure of tables or cabinets.  Just a smash like the shattering of a single ceramic dish.

I was instantly out of bed, panicked.  I was not thinking at all.  Only reacting.  I crept downstairs in my nightgown slowly, looking over the railing.  I was terrified, arms wrapped around myself like you'd imagine a cold child would do.  I stopped a few steps up, looking into the kitchen where I could see my husband shaking his head and picking up the pieces of a broken tea cup.

He looked up and saw me, and realized immediately that Something Was Wrong.  He tried to be reassuring, "I have all the pieces.  It broke cleanly.  Sorry I busted one of the tea cups."  This made absolutely no sense to me.  And yet, part of me processed it, and thought, "Good.  No small pieces of glass hiding around.  Check."  But OCD was apparently not the issue.

I shot out, "I don't care.  Are you okay?  Are you mad at me?  Was it my fault?"  He looked at me strangely, "I'm fine.  No, I'm not mad."  He walked over to the bottom of the stairs and held up the pieces, "See, they fit together.  I have them all.  There's no problem."

I was shaking a little, "I don't care.  Are you mad?  Did I do something wrong?"  He tipped his head and took two steps up to stand next to me, and said, "Are you reacting to something?  Something else?"  I thought that this was his bizarre sense of humor in action again until I realized what he was really saying was, "Are you having a flashback?"

It took a few seconds, standing there and breathing, to realize I could hear someone screaming.  A woman yelling hysterically.  It was a 'real' sound.  I knew it was in my head, but I could hear it for 'real.'  I tried to articulate, "I ... if she broke something, it was never her fault.  It was my fault.  Our fault.  You would be in your room playing, or more likely hiding, and then a smash.  You would hear it and then the yelling would start."  He nodded, being all nice the way he is, and letting me talk.

I closed my eyes and spoke the words I was hearing, words from many, many incidents all overlapping, "Get down here right now!  Who put this cup here?  This doesn't go here!  Who was supposed to clean the kitchen?  What is all this mess doing here?  I told you never to leave these on the counter!  Why are you wasting time?  What are you doing?  You should have been down here!  Now clean this mess up!  This is your fault!  Do I have to do everything around here?  You're old enough to see when something needs to be done!  If this had been put away it wouldn't have broken!  You never listen!  You aren't cleaning that up right, get down on your knees.  That had better be cleaned properly; if I find one piece of glass on this floor ..."

I stopped and opened my eyes.  He was nodding.  I felt shakier, but better.  I couldn't hear the voice for 'real' anymore.  I sat on the stairs because I was feeling light headed.  He said, "You don't think that any of that is rational, do you?  You realize she was crazy, right?"  I said, "Yes, I do.  She was wrong.  She treated us badly.  If someone did that now I'd be angry, I'd get them out of my life."  He said, "You don't really expect I'd feel that way, say those things, do you?"  I thought about it, "No.  I don't.  But I'm still afraid you will.  But if you did, I would get mad.  I'd see you were acting badly.  I would get really, really pissed off at you.  It is just a cup for crying out loud, getting as bent about it as she did is completely irrational."

Then he said, "Did it help to talk about it?"  I nodded, "Yes.  I'm freaked out, but I do sort of feel better."  Then I said, "You and I, we don't want to be the kind of people who care so much about a broken cup that we'll get upset over it.  What's one cup, more or less?  And yet I know sometimes you break things because you are not thinking ahead.  You always try to carry too much.  You just ... don't think."

But then I said, "Of course, the other option is to be afraid of breaking cups, and then spending extra time thinking about the process of getting them out and filling them and carrying them.  I'm always doing that kind of thing.  Over and over and over."  He said, "So you make a choice, break more cups and do less thinking, or fewer cups and more thinking."

So we agreed that we are both the kind of people who would rather not do so much thinking about cups.  He succeeds, and occasionally breaks one.  I still ruminate over cups, and break them less often.  Still, they break.  And I would rather, much rather, stop worrying about it.

And then I went back upstairs and he brought me tea.

Observations from me:
1) Dear God, I love my husband.  Marriage choice = 100% mission success.
2) When will her voice ever shut the $#&% up, anyway?
3) Once again blindsided by flashback because mine are almost never visual.  This one was auditory.  Hubby spotted it before I did.
4) Can I just get over my childhood, please?

Observations from you?

Your Hostess With Neuroses

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Thursday, March 11, 2010

PTSD and the Crisis of Faith: Part Two of Two

 Hello Friends:

I promised a post to follow up on PTSD and the Crisis of Faith: Part One of Two, where I talked about why a loss of faith is part of the whole PTSD package of symptoms.  And here it is ... much later ... my attempt to synthesize the basis of the loss of faith and how to reclaim it.  Jumping in where I left off, the general stages of recovery from PTSD (again, as taken from Trauma and Recovery by Judith Lewis Herman) are:  (1) establishing safety, (2) reconstructing the traumatic story (which includes remembrance and mourning), and (3) restoring the connection between the survivor and her community (reconnecting with ordinary life)

To add a little more information to stage three, our topic of the day, here's what Herman calls the "Role of the Community", which boils down to recognition and restitution"Sharing the traumatic experience with others is a precondition for the restitution of a meaningful world.  Once it is publicly recognized that that person has been harmed, the community must take action to assign responsibility for the harm and to repair the injury."

Now this is where it gets a little murky for me.  I do not think that "community" has to mean a panel of people from the grocery store, the PTA, the local church, your condo association, and the guys who salt your driveway in winter.  These people are certainly "community" in the largest definition, but there are a vast number of relationships that could define a person's community.  Your community includes your family, your friends, your therapist, your coworkers, your bowling league, and ... you guessed it ... your on-line blog buddies!  While many of us would love to have the people who caused our trauma be denounced publicly, made to own up in a court of law, fined, imprisoned or what have you, that is only one possible scenario for how the community could acknowledge our trauma, and work towards restitution.  At least in my view.  Assuming my interpretation of community is correct, then this is how recognition and restitution might play out ...

Recognition.  The role of the community is to listen to your story, to believe it, and to validate it.  You might only share the long version of your story with your therapist, your SO, or your sibling.  Then you might write an article, create art, or write poetry, and thereby share some part of the story with people on-line, in a class, or at a workshop.  You can do like me and blab at length in a blog format.  Ideally, people respond with appropriate emotions, either anger or sadness or what have you, and let you know they believe your story.  On some level, these people need to let you know that they realize you were hurt, and they recognize your pain.  Now obviously, everyone is not going to do each part of this.  This is the feedback you get from your community as a group.  Hopefully, after going through this process in our own unique ways, you and I will feel like our story was recognized and validated in some fashion by those we chose to share it with.

Restitution.  The community needs to acknowledge who is responsible for the trauma, and then somehow try to work to repair the damage.  So first, as I see it, the community must make it clear that they understand who is responsible, and that you and I are not to blame.  Just hearing those words from my therapist was a help, but then to get them echoed from my SO, sibling, a close friend, a few people in a chat room, and even more, is what really helped me solidify the idea that I as a child did not deserve to be abused.  I think the "community" then needs to respond with some sense that, having seen our hurt and knowing the cause, they desire some kind of fairness or justice, just like we do.  One possibility is having the community contribute to our healing in some way (by supporting our choice of doctors, our choice to use or not use medicine, allowing time off or leave for recovery, by being there with an ear, lending a hand when needed, or whatever support looks like to you and me).  Restitution might also be something bigger; a relative dedicating their 10K run to a domestic abuse shelter in honor of you, or your friends attending a march to raise awareness for child abuse, etc.  Whatever form it takes, it shows us, the survivors, that our community intends to see the injury repaired, however that might be possible.

Finally, finally, I come back to the actual point of the post.  So what, indeed, is the relationship between that recognition/restitution and our relationship with our higher power of choice?  As I noted in my previous post, part of what deconstructed the survivor's faith to begin with was a sense that the world does not have (for C-PTSD) or no longer has (for PTSD) any true justice, any real order, or any deeper meaning. Whatever "system of meaning" was in place was dismantled. "Why me? The arbitrary, random quality of her fate defies the basic human faith in a just or even predictable world order. She is faced with the double task of rebuilding her own "shattered assumptions" about meaning, order, and justice in the world and also finding a way to resolve her differences with those who beliefs she can no longer share.  Recognition and restitution are necessary to rebuild the survivor's sense of order and justice."
And there you go.  And this is essentially where I gotta stop because my brain hurts.  I can now see how connecting to the community will get recognition and restitution to happen, and I can see that these would indeed help rebuild my sense of order and justice.  But will this naturally lead to a redevelopment of a sustaining faith?  Exactly how does that happen?  Oh crap, I think I'm going to have to hit the books and come up with a part three, aren't I?  Part three of two.  Snort.

I would love love love your comments on this post.  What does recognition mean to you?  What would restitution look like?  Do you think any of this would help you reconstruct a more meaningful world view?  Would that positively impact your developing a 'sustaining faith'?  How?  Very curious.

Your Hostess With Neuroses

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Monday, March 8, 2010

Finding the Surface ... Again

Hello Friends:

The cycle of sinking and surfacing is so tedious.  I'm sure you know the drill ... feel better, lighter, see some sun, then maybe too much sun, get feeling down, feel heavier, sink, stay down awhile, then start looking for sun again.  Over and over.

Not sure what exactly triggered this particular depressive episode, but I have a few ideas.  Probably a combination of dealing with the projectile V* lady at the airport in December, and then usual holiday blues, and then some family issues.  And there was more travel thrown in there, which always takes me days to recover from.  You don't see "hey, I'm about to go non-functional" creeping up on you, but then the next thing you know you are completely overwhelmed, without even the resources left to turn your computer on, let alone post to your blog.  Back at the bottom of the ocean.

At least this time my inability to deal with email/internet/blogs and stuff only lasted for two and a half months.  I think my longest was eight months.  I'm still feeling very bruised and shaky.  But I managed to get myself to go through some email, read a few blogs and a forum I like, and now even this post.  It's these little victories ...

You know me, normally I won't post unless I have enough to fill "War and Peace, the Trilogy" but for today, at least, I'm just putting in an update.  I know I owe you a second and final post to my "PTSD and The Crisis of Faith" theme, as well as a book review for a book on meditation and depression that I actually liked.  These are in the works, and hopefully will come out this week, as disorders continue to allow.

Anyway, thanks for your patience and support.  Again.

Oh, did I mention I have to go to the dentist tomorrow?  Sigh.

Your Hostess With Neuroses

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