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Connecting the Dots

I currently have two seemingly unrelated thoughts swirling around in my head. Now to see if I can connect the dots. I beg encourage you to read until the end, no matter how much you want to run away … I want your opinions!

I just recently started going to a therapist. I decided that I deserve to be happy. Before my first session, I had many doubts. Doubts that she could make sense of my jumbled thoughts. Doubts that she could help me. But, I am just beginning to see the light. And, it feels good.

I have some depression and unresolved grief. That part is easy for me to understand the why’s of … even if I cannot exactly figure out how to help myself. (My therapist … let’s call her C, said we will get to that part later.) But, how I went from a competent, confident nurse to someone unable to hold a job of any kind due to anxiety is really beyond my comprehension. By breaking down my life into pieces, C has helped me to identify when it all started and how it all began to control me. A bunch of tears & a few panic attacks later, I learned that THAT was the simple part.

In the quest to find out my underlying issues, C has decided that due to some very negative influences in my life by some very judgmental (keep that word in mind because we will get back to that) people, followed by things that I see as “failures” in my life, I have begun to let their thoughts and actions sway my confidence, let their comments form my new negative self image and my supposed failures are all my anxiety needed to prove to me that these people are right. Wow!

So here is where I am at. (If you could care less where I am at and want to get on with the next part of this post, go to ** below) I have one central theme that begins controlling my thoughts. These thoughts are recurring but can change from day to day. As I obsess on these thoughts, my anxiety increases. In my home environment, my “safe” place, getting a handle on those thoughts turned out to be relatively quick. When my thought of the day began, I would acknowledge it and then write it all down. I call it giving the thought a voice. I would also write out my counter argument and then I give myself permission to let that thought go. For me, that has worked pretty well. One example from this past week, I had a best friend from the time that I was able to climb over the fence to her house. We were in the same grade and we were inseparable … until 6th grade. Out of the blue, she dumped me for a new best friend. It was tough for me. I guess I never really got over that hurt. I have often questioned what I did wrong. Was I not good enough? I still have dreams to this day of her talking to me and then in the middle she will just walk off and join a large group of people talking and laughing. I can feel the same childhood hurt all over again. So, for this scenario, I wrote down in detail the events surrounding the ending of our friendship. I wrote down how it made me feel. I wrote down the questions I would love to ask her ( but don’t really want to know the answers to). And then I wrote about all of the fun that we had and the joys that I had from being her friend. When I think of her now, I try to focus on the great parts of our friendship instead of the hurt. So far, so good.

The process involved in the environment outside of my home, more specifically job related, has not been so easy. Let’s say my mind is focused on a job as a cashier. My thoughts may cycle around “What if my drawer is short cash?” C’s answer is “So what?” When I tried my hand at working behind a seafood counter, I had a lot of problems hearing anyone due to the noise levels of all of the equipment. I felt like the other employees were watching my every move, judging me. C’s answer, “So what?” The answers to the question, “So what?” should not be so anxiety inducing when the stakes are not life or death. But, what about with nursing? What happens if I give the wrong medication? What happens if I treat the wrong patient? What happens if I make a mistake that I cannot fix? What if someone dies because of me? We are human, we make mistakes. But in all of those cases, “so what?” is a big deal! I know as a nurse, I am conscientious. I know that I do all of my double and triple checks. I know that I truly care about my patients. I know that I would never knowingly do something to hurt someone. But, “what if?’ has plagued my thoughts. It has shaken my confidence. It has made me question my purpose now that nursing seems like a lifetime ago.

** Now back to our word … judgmental. Before we go on, I feel a definition is in order. Miriam – Webster defines it as …

:tending to judge people too quickly and critically :of, relating to, or involving judgment

Recently in the news, there was a story about a Mom being photographed breastfeeding her baby in a restaurant. The poster of the picture made a comment about having to see this while eating his meal and with kids around. (I am not debating the issue of breastfeeding in public. I am also not debating the posting of a photo of a minor.) This Mom apparently was very adamant about receiving an apology for posting the photo and about the photo being removed. I cannot even begin to explain how I would have felt if this picture had been of me. But, how is this different from facebook friends posting photos of random people they see that are acting weird, dressed crazy or doing something extreme while they are out & about in their daily life? Or what about all of those People of Walmart posts? When did it become ok to judge people with or without all of the facts and then publicly call them out on it? Maybe people are dirty because they used their last dollar to buy their child food instead of a bar of soap. Maybe someone’s clothes are too small because their clothes burned in a fire and that is all that was donated to them. Maybe when you went out thinking you were dressed nicely someone else thought you looked hideous and posted your photo?

I will admit that I am guilty of occasionally forming negative opinions about those I come in contact with. But, before I speak or act on those thoughts, I try to determine if my thoughts need action or are they better off remaining just thoughts. I fail sometimes. But, I vow to never knowingly cause someone else undue anxiety or embarrassment for my own amusement.

If you made it this far, thank you! Now, for discussion … Most people form ideas or have opinions about other’s based on their dress or their speech or their actions. But what turns a seemingly harmless thought in your mind into a harsh judgment? When is it ok to speak whatever is on your mind without thought to the other person’s well being? Without thought to what is legally allowed, do you think it’s ok to post people’s photos without their knowledge on social media sites with your seemingly funny or negative comments? Would you be mad or think it was funny if you found a unflattering photo of yourself with a harsh comment on a facebook post?

Writing 101: Unlock the Mind

Unlocking the mind is easy for me. Random, freely I can do. Closing it back up is the hard part.

Nights are worse for me. I think over the daily chaos. The wouldashouldscoulda’s haunt me. One little thought grows. It morphs into a non-reality. The panic builds. The fight or flight takes over. I want to run.

I cannot do stillness. Quiet world equals an unquiet mind.

I can’t turn it off. I bite my nails. I tap my foot.

Diving into a good book can often divert my mind. While I take on the life of the character in the story, I can forget my own. Sometimes, I pray.

I must keep busy in mind or body until exhaustion overcomes the demons. Some nights this is early and sometimes sleep never comes.

Salvation Is Here

We were lost out here
Broken, children of fear
You came to bring us life
Illuminate the darkest of nights

Come on, come on
Salvation is here
Come on, come on
Salvation is here

Now by faith we sing
The Light has come, give praise to the King
In Him we find our life
Illuminate the darkest of nights

Hallelujah

ST Lyrics

Take Care of the Caregiver

I had recently started a new nursing job (after my second time declaring that I am retired). Key word “had.”

Every! Single! Day! was a struggle!

It’s not the job specifically, it’s me. Now that truly sounds like a “Dear John” letter to my job. “Dear Job, I want to break up with you. It’s not you, it’s me.”

I think back through my professional career and I think about all of the new jobs that I started without issue, without doubts. It has been so long ago.

In 2007, I knew that my professional façade was cracking. I began to have thoughts of heading to work as normal but to just keep on driving … in essence, running away. I hated going to work. It was hard to focus. I began to need more “prompting” from my team when an emergency situation occurred. Not good when working in an OB department … well, in any healthcare field, really. And something I had never had happen before that time. Unfortunately, that would become my norm on some days. Thankfully, I worked with some great people! I knew that the unit was closing in a few short months. I couldn’t let my friends and co-workers, our doctors or our patient’s down. So, I held on!

I took FMLA when the unit closed so that I could have a procedure done that I had put off. When I returned to nursing in the Geriatric Psych unit, I literally could not understand what they were saying in report one day. They could have just as easily been speaking French as far as I was concerned. That was my last day in nursing for 3 years.

Then the downward spiral began …

For the first bit of time I was off work, I tried to hide what was going on with me. While we lost our house, our car and many worldly possessions, I put on a happy face and glorified it all as I was retiring. The stigma from what was happening in my mind was hard to face. When the panic attacks started and my children became scared, my husband insisted on treatment. Diagnosis … PTSD, anxiety, depression & some traits of bipolar. But, how do you pay for hundreds of dollars of medication a month, and therapy that costs $100 per week when you have children to care for and are losing everything around you. Well, you don’t…  or at least not for long. I made it two months. Maybe I would have fought harder for my treatment if I had actually felt better. The meds for me made me feel like I was living a lie. I didn’t feel well. My husband commented one day that since I had started the meds, I actually looked happy. All I could say to him was, it is a lie. I was not happy, no matter what I looked like on the outside. Now, I know there are great therapists out there, but I just did not get lucky enough to find one. She actually asked me at one of my visits if I cried all the time or just in her office. I think she thought I was putting on a show. Nope, I am a crier! That very visit, she deemed me well enough to see her every two weeks. That was my last visit.

And, of course my spiral continued. I can remember one particular panic attack in the middle of the night where I literally thought I was going to die. I actually prayed for death to come and relieve my suffering.

During this dark time for me, I cried, I got angry, I hurt my family… a lot!

I also felt guilty. Like a loser. Like a quitter.

My NP (nurse practitioner) was great. She made sure that I understood that it was like a switch in my brain that had gone haywire. She told me that I wasn’t a quitter when I had been a practicing nurse for so long. She encouraged me to look at it as if that path had come to an end and I was choosing a different path. That all sounds perfect to a normal brain. But, most days it is really hard to convince myself of those things.

Despite being off the meds and not seeing a therapist, I was determined to get better. And, by the Grace of God, I was able to pull myself up out of those pits for several years. I went back to work in nursing and was doing well. Oh, don’t get me wrong, I struggled some days. But, I had a supportive boss, great co-workers and a job that I loved.

But, with each passing day, my struggle became a little more difficult. With one situation at work, my mind took over, the actual events got distorted for me and I literally had a week long panic attack. We had the week off for Christmas and it went by in a blur! I couldn’t eat. I couldn’t sleep. I couldn’t focus or achieve any task. I just paced my house for hours every day. I even called my co-workers often with extreme requests (That they thankfully indulged to get me better) to ease my mind. My friend & co-worker finally convinced me to try meds again. I went back to my NP, confessed about why I stopped the meds before and we tried something new. Thankfully, I was able to continue working. Thankfully, I actually felt better for once in my adult life.

But, after about a year, we had a change in management at work. (not for the good!) The workload increased. My hours at work increased. And, so did my issues. With a heavy heart, I left my co-workers & my job to be proactive for me.

My husband and I decided that I would take the holidays off & just take care of me. While I am in my own cocoon, doing my own thing, in my “safe” world, I am fine most days. When I venture out, my world crumbles so easily. I know that I need to get out there and to not hide. But, I want to hide. It is not easy to face the demons.

After this last break from working, I began looking for jobs outside of nursing. Virtually impossible to get any employer to even give you a chance with an interview in my small town. Even harder to convince my brain that I can do anything at all.

So, back to nursing. I understand that every person starting a new job has the nervous jitters. This is more than that. This is not normal. The anxiety rears it’s ugly head. The desire to run far away from home returns. I get angry at the world. It takes all of my emotional energy just to get myself to go to work. I work through the panic attack as I am walking into the building. I force myself to focus, to use my brain. I make myself make it through one shift to only begin immediately to dread the next one. I can sit here and tell myself that I like the people that work there. I can tell myself that I am fully capable of doing the job. I can come home from work and know that everything is ok. I can tell myself that I can do this. But, I cannot make myself believe that. And for those naysayers that think that I am too lazy to work, that is not the issue! I am a good worker. But, when faced with fight or flight, flight will always win out with me. I wish I could bring back that confident, strong nurse that I once was. The one that loved her job and did not hate going in to work.

My husband tries to understand. He tries to be supportive. But, as an extrovert, he just doesn’t get it. He thinks that I don’t want to be happy. He would say that this quote describes me …

Most of the shadows of this life are caused by our standing in our own sunshine – author unknown

Of course, our lifestyle changed dramatically since I first left nursing. We set up our new norm to consist of things that did not take my nursing salary to maintain … just in case. Setting myself up for the next failure that I knew would come … eventually.

What disappoints me most in myself is that I am a big chicken. I cannot face people when I know that I am going to let them down by telling them the truth about myself. And, phone calls are not my “thing.” (I remember as a teenage girl, the phone was basically attached to my ear. Now, I do good to be able to call my family sometimes) I know I let my new employer down. But, flight this time involved a no show, no call. It was safer for me. I took the easy way out. I was still on orientation. I knew that no patient’s or other employees would be affected by my absence. Another bridge burnt on my trail of fear.

Back when I first knew something was truly wrong, I wondered why all of a sudden this was happening to me. Truth is, if I really stop and think about it, it was there all along. I was a really moody child. I can remember trips that we took where I would remain in the car because I did not want to interact with others. I was well into adulthood before I ever went through a drive-thru. I went through school covering my mouth as I ate lunch because I did not want other kids to see me eating. And, in my senior year, I dropped out of all of the activities that I loved because I suddenly just didn’t feel like I belonged. When I married, my husband would often push my buttons. I would get so angry that I would throw things, etc.  Sometimes during these episodes, I unknowing put myself in harm’s way. Like the time I couldn’t take it anymore and I left a shopping center in downtown Pittsburgh on foot. We were visiting. I had no idea where I was. I just kept walking. I apparently ended up in a really bad part of town. My husband found me sometime later. I was still so upset when he found me that I did not want to go with him. He forced me to. I could keep listing my issues, but I think you get the point. We can chalk these up to temper tantrums, being spoiled, or whatever you want to call it.  But, I was always a rule follower. I did not like to get in trouble. I have never even experimented with smoking or recreational drugs of any sort. I never drank alcohol until I was well into adulthood. I did not skip school. I did not sneak out at night as a teen. It even makes me uneasy when my husband wants to go through the doctor’s cabinets while we wait. 😮 In truth, I was a good kid. But, during these episodes, I felt as though I was on the outside of my body looking back at me, unable to control what I was doing even though I wanted to. That is what I think, for me, makes these episodes outside of normal.

When I started writing this a couple days ago, it was more to vent about my latest job fiasco. To just work out some of my thoughts here. But, now, I feel more burdened to say that I have let my fear of what other people may think of me or say about me stand in the way of how I have dealt with my situation. I delayed treatment, which could have resulted in horrible, irreversible consequences. People with mental illness do not choose to be sick, no more so than someone with heart disease chooses it. If you or someone that you love has symptoms of a mental illness, seek treatment. Don’t delay!

As for me, I am nowhere near as close to the bottom of the pits as I was before. But, I will be heading back to my NP to see what we can do for me because I never want to be there again. Prevention. Tweaking the regimen. I have to take care of me before I can take care of others.

Side note: This song has been playing through my mind as I have been finishing up this post. So, I wanted to share it with you.

Betting on Me

Have you heard of Dietbetter? The game where you bet on yourself to lose weight in a specified time frame. If you win a round you are guaranteed to win back your initial bet and possibly more. Count! Me! In!

When I joined Mama Laughlin’s DietBet scheduled to start on January 1st, the pot had in it approx. $40,000ish & 1000 some odd people playing. To date, the pot has grown to $158,200 and 4520 players with a reported “unofficial” 12,823lbs lost thus far. Wow! I can account for only 3.8lbs of that.

We are down to 16 days left of the game. I faltered for about 4 days … ate a big fatty, salty meal out on Saturday and had to finish it off with dessert AND I didn’t exercise all weekend. But I am back again & going to finish strong!

In reality, this is not my finish, it is only my beginning. Actually beginning number 584,000 plus. At this point, I have at least 50 pounds to lose. I can always lose weight. But, I can never keep it off. I am definitely a yo-yoer!

I am 5’2 1/2 (and please don’t forget that half!) And I weighed in at 187.2. A mere 5 pounds less than my heaviest weight ever! I joke that I am a happy eater, a sad eater, a bored eater, a stressed eater. I just love to eat! I rarely drink alcohol. I have never smoked and I have never experimented with drugs. Good food that is bad for you is my only vice. That and sweet tea! What can I say, I am a Southern girl!

I can chronicle how I have gotten to this point. If you were one of my whopping three followers and have ever read my old blog before, you may have seen my story. But, I feel the need to tell it again, here and now.

I graduated high school (well over 20 years ago) weighing 127 pounds & 5’4. I went to college and married. And as is somewhat the “norm,” I gained weight. I was 145lbs when I got pregnant the first time around. When my OB came in my exam room after a large weight gain, he held up a Vogue magazine with a beautiful model on the front and asked me, “Do you ever want to look like this again?” I cried, “I didn’t look like that before!” And I cried some more! Needless to say, he never tried that tactic again on me.

In 1992 and pregnant with my 3rd child, we found out that she had died in utero. I delivered my beautiful little girl in December. Everyone else was celebrating and I just wanted to crawl in a hole! My weight dropped to my lowest adult weight ever of 117lbs.

After the fog started lifting and our life got back to routine, we decided to try one more time to have a child. Bam! Infertility! I was treated for depression in hopes that that was the culprit. I was treated with hormones to make my cycles more normal. And then clomid to stimulate the ovulation. And, the pounds started adding up. After my husband had a vivid dream about God talking of our next son and me declaring I would not try to get pregnant after my 30th birthday, I got pregnant on the clomid. One baby, our son. I weighed 160ish lbs.

After my last delivery in 1997, I breastfed and got down to 145lbs during a contest at work called “Lose Your Lumps.” I won the contest and kept the weight off for a little while.

Around 1999, I settled at 172lbs for many years. Sure, I would lose a few and gain a few here and there. But, 172 was my norm.

Then came my diagnosis of polycystic ovarian syndrome in 2002. When I am good and following my diet and exercise and taking my metformin, I settle around 160. When I am not, I find myself right back to where I am now … struggling to get it all back together.

Then, in 2008, I suffered a bout of extreme anxiety and depression after the hospital closed the unit that I was working on. I did not seek treatment until 2009. And, did not truly feel well again until 2011. It took years to find the light again. But, I did! With God’s help! Later (2013), my NP started me on a new med, Fetzima. It has been a complete miracle for me!

Just 6 months ago, I was 162lbs. So easy to gain and so much harder to lose!

Currently, I have gone back to the basics … making sure to drink at least 8 glasses of my most un-favorite thing … water! Adding lemon and other fruits has helped me to actually love my water! If I do this, I still allow myself to have a lightly sweetened tea. For now. I am exercising on the treadmill at least 3 days a week with 1 day of yoga, some time on the stationary bike and a little strength training. I know I will have to ramp that up soon. But, if I go too fast too soon, I will just quit. I know me! I have been making better choices in my foods … eating way more vegetables, fruit, less white bread, less sweats, less sodium. Again, I will have to make more radical changes on that soon, too if I want to see more results. And, I am taking my meds.

And, I keep track old school.

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It is a rough road for anyone trying to lose weight, to begin exercising and to get healthier. But, I am betting on me. Are you betting on you?

Disclaimer: I am in no way affiliated with Dietbetter or the pharmaceutical company which makes Fetzima. I am a current user and am speaking of my experiences only. Always seek your doctor’s medical advice before starting any new medications or diet and exercise program.

Chris Martin Writes

Life is a great big canvas, throw all the paint on it you can. - Danny Kaye

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