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Getting better each day

Things are certainly feeling better than my last post. I’d say they couldn’t get worse, but I know better than to tempt fate. I’ve lived through too much “worse” and know better.

My younger daughter is coping well and, thanks to her counselor and psychiatrist, getting healthier progressively. She is having a sleepover here tonight with her BFF, who has many of the same issues. They’re good for each other. 

My older daughter is also healing. She has regular counseling and since the weather finally warmed up, she has been getting outside and kicks a ball around to let off steam.  Her new BFF is quiet and grounded,  which is a good complement to her personality.

My husband is back to his normal playful self. I know he’s avoiding talking with his parents, but trust that he will handle the situation in his own way and time. 

I’m getting there. Family counseling has helped, and stress levels have abated a bit. I’ve had to adjust my work-life balance a little, but that’s a good thing. We have a few houses we’re considering as our new home, so I’m optimistic that we will land in just they right place at the right time.

What surprised me during the whole situation was how much more tightly we have all bonded. I feel like a family of super heroes. But we use our powers to save each other more than anything else. It makes us stronger to face the challenges that the world throws us.

I finally know why I had to become strong and why I had to have my own anxiety and depression battles. It all prepared me to be strong for these darling children.

Between all that and the recent lovely spring weather, I couldn’t ask for more. 

 
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Posted by on 04/17/2015 in Motivation

 

When the glue fails

Sometimes it’s hard to be the glue that holds things together. Other times, it’s as easy as breathing. I’ve mastered the art of being the glue at work,  and share the responsibility with my darling husband on the home front.

But what happens when the glue is too stressed to be strong?

We just went through a very difficult time at home. The long version is too hard for me to write about. In a nutshell,   we all are suffering from moderate PTSD. My girls’ version was sparked by the horrible holiday trauma from December. Mine was triggered then, but goes deeper, and my husband’s. ..well, I’m not sure, but he handles a case of lifelong abuse well.  Kind of a normal day in paradise here.

About two weeks ago is when it all unraveled.  I received a call from the school counselor that my younger girl was actively suicidal. On top of this, we learned that we need to find a different place to live as of August, and since no decent homes are available for sale, it will need to be a rental.

My world stopped in that moment. My sweet, happy girl. How on earth could she be in that much distress?

My husband and I reached out for help, and got it. The upshot is that my younger one has a new doc to manage her meds, and the four of us are in family counseling. 

As for me, I’m dealing with traumatic memories of my own and working to keep things together through the current situation.  Some days I feel like I’m barely hanging on, and pasting a smile on my face is an accomplishment.

I keep telling myself that this will all pass, but it’s not very convincing sometimes. The four of us have bonded even more tightly over this,  which is wonderful. 

Please, God, let it be enough. My glue needs to be strong enough again. Too many people need me for me to fall apart.

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Posted by on 04/07/2015 in Motivation

 

Wait– I’m the Doctor!

I’ve been going another metaphysical growth spurt lately. Unlike my 12-year-old, for whom it seems like we are having to obtain clothing in the next size up every two months or so, this was more of a growing in to myself.

It started a week or so ago, when a trusted colleague pointed out that I have had a bad habit of interrupting other people. I wasn’t aware enough of the habit to notice that it was occurring in all facets of my life, and I found myself humbled and quite abashed. The new growth started right then, when I became introspective instead of hurt. I turned inward to seek when the behavior occurred and what triggered it. What I found was a little disheartening, but could be remedied to an extent: I found that I process what I hear a little more slowly than other people around me. Who me — an auditory processing issue? I’m smart and an excellent student, so how could that be?  So I considered many scenarios.

For example, my family and I were watching a show on television, and I commented that the presenter was talking awfully fast. They teasingly told me that they could understand the speech with no problems. Those comments brought me back a few months ago, when I met Ben Foss, an expert about dyslexia, who demonstrated a reader app available on Apple devices. He played back a section of text at varying speeds, and I noticed that I was among perhaps 10% of the audience who rated a certain dictation speed as being too fast to understand comfortably. I considered my own comments about being a lousy classroom student (which I am– I do much better with self-directed learning), especially since I’m taking a small handful of on-ground classes right now. I have a teacher right now who is very knowledgeable, but talks so fast that I feel exhausted after listening to her lecture because I feel like I’m hanging off the back of a speeding train. The same goes with colleagues in meetings when they start speaking quickly: I have to take notes to capture the salient points because I simply cannot focus on what they are saying because it’s too fast for me to process in the moment.

Alright, so I have to allow myself more time to process what I hear. What else could be causing the issue? I have a moderate anxiety issue that is prevalent enough to be diagnosed. I sometimes feel that if I don’t say what is on my mind, I will not have another opportunity to do so. I also have a gregarious family who likes to talk through their problems, sometimes talking over one another. If you layer my experiences with anxiety and a slightly slower auditory processing speed, my tendency to interrupt people makes sense.

Great. Everyone is right and I need to solve this problem, not now but right now.

I found myself with two primary choices: Chastise myself and use something like a rubber band to snap against my wrist so that the pain would cause me to avoid the behavior, or use positive affirmations to tell myself what I must become. I’ve taught classes about positive motivation, so I chose the latter route. Looking for resources, I found a phone app that sent me customized positive affirmations throughout the day, so I loaded it up with affirmations about how I want to be and set it to repeat a few times each day. I’ll keep using this affirmation set until I firmly have the behavior under control.

Alright, one problem with a working solution, so onto the next step of today’s epiphany.

One way that I have chosen to use my doctoral skills is to edit dissertations of up-and-coming doctors from my alma mater. It makes me a few extra bucks here and there, and I tend to attract clients who have all but given up on themselves because they have such difficulty expressing their ideas in writing. One of my clients is approaching the end of her doctoral journey, and asked me for a thorough, candid review of her work. At first, I was a little intimidated by her request, because I wasn’t sure if I knew enough to offer that type of feedback. (I have not been esteemed as a doctoral mentor by my alma mater, but that is only because their accreditation expressly forbids it.) In my advice to her this morning, I told her to imagine herself as being a medical doctor with a patient who has a complex problem that she has now studied and is ready to present her findings, recommendations, and specific prescription.

So here’s the epiphany: I am a doctor, just as much as one who wears a white lab coat and treats sick patients. The difference is that I’m not limited in my choice of apparel and my “patients” are not physically ill; instead, they have a complex problem and need an expert to prescribe a solution.

With that epiphany, I suddenly saw myself in a completely different light. My students all have extraordinarily complex problems and our educational system, while it has done the best it can, has only offered a short-term remedy for their symptoms. It is my job to look more deeply for the cause and determine a longer-term solution. It means that I have to us all my critical and creative skills to find solutions that don’t yet exist, and then communicate those solutions to other practitioners. It is my responsibility to listen fully and to think carefully about each student’s needs and determine the best course of action.

If that sounds like a lot of work, that’s because it is. It would be enough to scare me if I wasn’t so sure about myself, which includes all my talents, skills, training, and experiences. I need every bit of it — even the not-so-wonderful parts — because I can draw inspiration and compassion from everything I am to present the expert recommendations that the world needs from me.

It places my self-image in an entirely different frame, one that is completely unique but utterly necessary. And one from which I can no longer run, no longer hide, and simply cannot deny is mine. Like Christopher Reeve’s portrayal of Superman, I am the new bridge to fix, not simply band-aid, what is broken. I’m glad I’m strong!

DISCLAIMER: SUPERMAN and all related elements are the property of DC Comics. TM & © 2015

DISCLAIMER: SUPERMAN and all related elements are the property of DC Comics. TM & © 2015

 
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Posted by on 03/20/2015 in Growth, Insight

 

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What Kind of Mother Am I?

I reflect on this question from time to time, and when I do I often find that I compare myself to my mother. Don’t get me wrong: This is not a mom-bashing blog post in any way. My mom, who I know will read this because I have the great good fortune to still have her in my life, is and was a terrific mother.  She is a main reason why I have pushed myself as hard as I have to become who I am. I love you, mom, and appreciate all that you have done on my behalf.

Back to the question at hand.

Last night was Buffy night at home. This means that the girls and I settled in with a season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and immersed ourselves in the characters that are now old friends for us. I had a bunch of work to do, so I had my laptop glued to my lap and was quietly working while we watched, enjoying just being together. We have no real rules about being together except that it is not alright to disrupt others’ enjoyment of a movie or other show by talking, standing in front of the TV, etc. Electronic devices are totally alright (go ahead and throw stones if you want…they can’t hit me through the internet and this is my blog, my rules). This is how we relax together.

Some times I wonder if my children perceive me as a sort of Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde person. As a general rule, I am rational, smart, logical, affectionate, and happy. With my rheumatoid arthritis and its comorbid anxiety disorder (which I think is my evil twin), I know that my moods can be a little unpredictable. When I’m in pain — that never comes with a warning and always strikes out of the blue — I can be pretty shouty and negative. I feel awful when these events occur because my rational mind knows that I am not that shouty, negative person that emerges at those times. However, my rational mind gets hijacked by my amygdala and I cannot be my usual self when I experience the pain and anxiety that occurs. Hence, the Jekyll/Hyde concern.

My kids (and husband, too) have adapted to this weirdness in me and are compassionate. This usually makes my rational mind feel worse when I’m in an RA attach because I feel as though I am hurting them inadvertently by something that, despite my best efforts, sometimes eludes the medications and my long-practiced coping strategies. A couple of nights ago, I had a terrible RA flare-up that made me unable to lift more than 4 ounces, and they made sure that I was comfortably resting and quiet to alleviate the pain as much as possible.

So again I ask the question: What kind of mother am I?

  • I am like my mom in many ways, but I am not her in many other ways.
  • I am affectionate and loving but also unpredictable and moody
  • I am smart, caring, and generally reasonable, but have a disease that impedes those abilities intermittently.

I am me. Flaws and all.

 
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Posted by on 03/08/2015 in Motivation

 

7 Ways To Show Love To Someone With Anxiety/Depression

7 Ways To Show Love To Someone With Anxiety/Depression

renplus:

Good advice!

Originally posted on Be Brave, and Talk:

The hardest people to love are the ones who need it most.

In honour of Valentine’s Day, here are some ideas for showing love to friends and family members with anxiety/ depression:

1.) Give Compliments:

Chances are, someone who suffers from anxiety/depression also struggles with self esteem. Help her challenge her feelings of self loathing by giving her sincere, specific compliments. Being specific is really important, because it will make her more likely to remember what you said later. It will also make her more likely to believe you. For example, instead of saying, “You’re a good mom,” you could say something more meaningful: “You are so patient with your children. I love how you encourage them to keep trying. They are so lucky to have you.”
One thoughtful, genuine compliment has more power than 10 careless comments that feel like flattery. Put your heart into what you say.

2.)…

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Posted by on 02/24/2015 in Motivation

 

Things are well, so how can I feel so afraid?

The days are lengthening, and despite the -10 degree wind chill and the 4 feet of snow piled up outside, I feel spring coming. I just know it’s there. Although I look forward to seeing the color green on the ground again, I find myself confronted by my old friend: anxiety. This is the spring during which we will finally purchase a home for our family. I have laid the financial groundwork throughout the winter and we will be meeting next week with the bank to begin the loan process, right on time for the schedule that we set last fall. We have started touring some of the houses in our area, and my husband is diligently working toward completing the broker-licensing process with the state.

So why on earth am I anxious? I asked myself that, because my rational mind knows that life is going so well for all of us and I have no reason to fear or to be unhappy.

I was diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder some years ago, and I’ve kind of dismissed what that diagnosis means because I don’t feel anxious most of the time because of exercise and medication. I ran across an infographic last night, and realized why I can’t quite shake the anxiety. It is part of who I am, like it or not. It is a reflection of my genetics and upbringing (although I do not disparage my parents in any way– they did a fantastic job!) as well as many adult years of disappointments, setbacks, and shattered dreams.

It is part of what keeps me human. It also is part of why I am a card-carrying overachiever and sometimes develop friendships that aren’t the healthiest for me. As much as I would like my logical, powerful brain to dismiss the anxieties, which are truly irrational, logic cannot defeat brain chemistry. It can only slow down the process and allow me to use other coping mechanisms — when I have the presence of mind to think around the fear, which is not always the case.

In one of the blogs that I follow, I found a story by Thích Nhât Hanh, one of my favorite contemporary philosophers, that described anxiety as a galloping horse. The story resonated with me because now, even though one of our long-held dreams is about to come to fruition, I am really frightened that something will happen to derail us. Logically, I know that everything is in motion. I have done all I must to prepare, and my husband is doing his part of the task.

So what’s the takeaway here? I think that anxiety is a product of both genetics and experience (the old nature/nurture debate) and that once the brain has enough of both pieces, the disorder manifests. Once it’s there, all a person can do is:

  • Treat it like any other chronic disease and follow the directions of a medical professional (or in my case, a team of them).
  • Be gentle with yourself and realize that the disorder is not something you brought on yourself. You didn’t one day wake up and say, “Hmm…I think I want an anxiety disorder.” No one wants a chronic ailment — at least no sane person I’ve ever met.
  • Realize that when the anxiety attacks come (and they will), they are only temporary and will end. Your brain, specifically the amygdala, is hijacking your reason and eventually it will stop so you can become the rational person that you know you are.
  • Allow yourself the space to be human and set boundaries so that you can cope with the disorder without compromising any part of your life that you value. In other words, allow yourself to take breaks when you need them, like reading a good trashy novel when everything seems too heavy to handle.
  • Finally, know that you are not alone. This is a common disorder, and I think it’s partially a product of our modern world and the demands for instant gratification and communication that have become ubiquitous.

As for me and my process, I’m going to breathe, get another cup of coffee and get some exercise for the morning to establish my tried-and-true coping strategies. And focus on the good outcome — my family and I moving into our own home — that we all need.

This is not my image, and I do not claim any rights to its use. Obtained from happynews.com

This is not my image, and I do not claim any rights to its use. Copyright happynews.com

 
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Posted by on 02/20/2015 in Motivation

 

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“…Tomorrow will be ANOTHER snow day…”

This was the message that just arrived via my cell phone. Rah. For crying out lout– it’s just snow! It’s winter, and snow happens. Yes, we have a lot of it. Yes, it’s wet. Yes, it’s cold.

My kids are excited because it means that they can chill tomorrow and have another three-day weekend. If I were in their place, I would be excited too. As a teacher, it’s another matter entirely. More time away from class means less content I can deliver and less my students will learn. They’re paying a lot of money for the privilege of getting an education, and i’m sure their parents would agree. I’ve already informed my students that as long as the roads are passable (which they should be), we will be having class.  I’d say “take that, mother nature,” but I know the result. She always wins.

You realize that my insistence on going to work is a sure sign that I’m overworked and desperately in need of a vacation, right?

So do I.

 
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Posted by on 02/08/2015 in Motivation

 
 
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