Posted in Mental Health

Spooks & Sparklers

I’m still a little haunted. On my psychiatrist’s chart, that condition is spelled out “P-T-S-D,” but I think “haunted” is a better descriptor of the experience.

As much as I’ve tried to process it, my brain still doesn’t entirely know what to do with some of the sights, sounds, and experience my memory contains. I’m speaking specifically of the morning my second husband committed suicide, shooting himself in the head while I stood face to face with him. That stuff-in-my-head bubbles up uncomfortably with some triggers, and surfaces in nightmares. I don’t do well with seeing people shot on television; Jon has become expert at changing the channel with just a breath of notice. And he’s great at the gentle wake-up when I’m whimpering in my sleep.

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fireworks from our RV roof last night

Jon has his own PTSD trigger, thanks to his combat role in Desert Storm. Let’s just say he’s not a fan of fireworks—especially the whistling rockets that sound “just like incoming SCUD missiles.” Our RV Park is situated right next door to a semi-pro baseball stadium, where they set off fireworks regularly after games. We have notes on the calendar about fireworks-nights, just so they don’t catch Jon off guard. Four nights this week. I think he was only half joking when he asked Monday if he could return fire.

Fireworks don’t usually cause me trouble, so I was surprised Sunday night when they caught me off guard—I had already fallen asleep, and woke panicked to what I thought was gunfire.

The next morning I tried an exorcism-by-ink. Not tattoo-ink this time, but writing. I wrote out absolutely every detail I could remember from that Sunday morning, from when I woke up until when my mom arrived (having driven 300 miles in record time) a few hours later. I wrote about every sight, sound, even smell I could dredge out of my memory, and put it all on paper. I wrote out every piece of conversation with the 911 dispatcher, emergency responders, and detectives. I wrote about my living room, after it had been released from its “crime scene” status—the man removed by EMTs and the gun removed by police, but every other bit of “evidence” still remaining. I re-lived the whole thing on purpose and wrote thousands of words. It felt therapeutic. I guess time will tell whether it helped.

imageLast night I faced the fireworks in sort of the same way. The city’s holiday display is usually staged in a park upriver from us, but this year’s flooding rendered the usual spot too soggy, so the Fourth of July fireworks were moved to the fairgrounds right next to the ballpark and our RV park. I climbed up on our RV roof when I heard them start, and washed the whole show, rockets blooming beneath the nearly-full moon.

It was beautiful. And while I was looking at the whole picture, I wasn’t bothered by the resemblance to gunfire-noise. I’m hoping my therapy-writing will serve the same purpose. Big picture: I was face to face with Keoni when he fired that bullet, but I wasn’t hit. He broke my heart that morning—but hearts have amazing capacity for healing, and my life today is filled with love and joy. Today when one of his sayings flitted through my mind, I felt amused instead of uncomfortable or angry. Maybe that writing is doing its work.

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Posted in Mental Health, People

The Science of Smiles

Okay, I have to admit my body is not yet accustomed to day-long shifts standing on concrete. Or more accurately, it’s not yet re-adjusted to that… When I owned and ran a restaurant the days were a lot longer, and sure, they wore me out—but they didn’t make my muscles sore like they are this week.

imageThat’s right, I have sore muscles from cashiering—how goofy is that?

Compared to sitting on my couch with laptop and feet up, freelance writing, Home Depot is proving to be a workout. Given the variety (and sometimes size) of the items people are bringing to my register, there’s a little bit of gymnastics involved with my hand-held scanner… And I end the day with dirt under my fingernails and a splinter or two… And that mild ache that tells me I was actually doing something with my day.

I’m actually finding that satisfying—though nowhere near as satisfying as the number of smiles I get to “collect” in a day. Some people prove a challenge, but I like a challenge—can I get a smile out of them? Usually, yes.

Home Depot plant cartWhen I don’t have a line at the register, I stand out in the aisle to let people know the register is open, smiling at the people walking past. It’s almost amusing to see the faces going by, switching on their smiles one by one as they make eye contact and respond to the smile I’m giving them. I was so intrigued I had to look this up: research says smiles actually are contagious. (Smiling reflexively and responsively to another smile is an involuntary and instinctive reaction stemming from the cingulate cortex, if you wanted to know…)

I find there’s also a scientific explanation for why I get such a charge out of smile-collecting… Seeing someone else smile at you doesn’t only trigger a responsive smile, it also directly triggers the brain’s “reward” center. And then when you smile, your body releases some of those “feel-good” chemicals that give you reason to smile. All in all, it’s a pretty nifty self-perpetuating feel-good system. (God is GOOD at design! I wonder how many more mental-health meds I’d need if I smiled less…)

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“default setting”… Yup, I’m sitting on my couch blogging and smiling

This is where I think I’m particularly suited for the job of customer service… my face’s “default setting” is a smile—not a big grin, but definitely a smile—so at least that’s one set of muscles that’s not sore from unaccustomed use.

And a default-smile definitely keeps the smile-cycle going for interactions on the job. It’s what I missed in the solitude of freelancing—I literally do sit here with my default smile, sometimes even when I’m writing about something awful (today’s topic: laser vaginal rejuvenation, ick)… but I don’t get the “charge” of return-smiles during a day at the computer. On the other hand, my feet are enjoying a break on the couch-recliner  this morning, so it’s all good!

Okay, I’d better get on with that freelance article. We’ll see if the default-smile lasts through that topic!

 

Posted in Mental Health, Recovery

On Vapors, and Vapers

who vs whomLast week CBS This Morning hosted a lexicographer from the Merriam-Webster dictionary, talking about the malleability of language and the ongoing task of incorporating new words into the dictionary. Although prescriptive grammarians (unlike descriptive ones) would have you believe that our language and its rules are static, nothing could be further from the truth. (Sure, I know when I’m supposed to say “whom”—and I sometimes even do it—but these days those rules are largely at odds with actual usage.)

Speaking to new words that have been recently incorporated, the Merriam-Webster editor gave examples like “photobomb” and “binge-watch.”  By this point, “selfie” has been in the dictionary so long it’s old news. I’m fascinated by the cultural commentary afforded by new words…  The one I’m interested in today has only been in the dictionary for a couple years, and won Oxford’s “word of the year” honor in 2014:

vape definition Oxford word of the year

The Merriam-Webster definition adds to the verb definition of vape: “like someone smoking a conventional cigarette.” That definition might already be outdated. Most of today’s vapes have so little in common with cigarettes that they’re not even getting called e-cigs anymore. Early models did look like cigarettes, but these days they range from boxy models to flashy pens—virtually no resemblance to the nasty originals.

Yup, I just called cigarettes nasty. I actually thought so even for the eight-or-so years that I was obsessively smoking them. And there you have the strange face of addiction. Cigarettes are nasty—but I liked them. They were my friends, They were a treat, every time I lit up, even though I hated the lingering ashtray-odor that clung to me afterward. Continue reading “On Vapors, and Vapers”

Posted in Mental Health

Sea Legs & Side Effects

imageYesterday morning I walked through a rainstorm to the gym we just joined—a Planet Fitness decorated in garish purple-and-mustard, and plastered with heartening signs proclaiming it a “No-Judgement Zone.” I owned a StairMaster in my twenties, but my forties-self clearly needs some shaping-up because that thing was kicking my butt after six minutes. So I thought I’d try out a treadmill.

My discovery about the treadmill: it gives you an odd form of “sea legs”… When I got off it half an hour later, I felt like I was weirdly gliding across the gym. Now, anyone who knows me knows that I don’t glide. I’m not that graceful. But I felt glidey till I was halfway home.

I’m on a mission. I already said it: I need some shaping up. I’ve been big-time frowning at the bathroom scale lately, because the dang thing insists I’m heavier than I’ve ever been, pregnancies included. Continue reading “Sea Legs & Side Effects”

Posted in Mental Health

How to Save Hundreds on Prescriptions (I don’t care if I sound like a bad TV ad… everyone should know about this!)

prescription pills RxWe’re kind of conditioned to believe that something “too good” can’t actually be true…  So when I happen on something TRUE that’s awesome…  Well, I just have to share it!

I know I’m not alone in relying on some prescriptions that are critical to my health (mental and otherwise), and I know I’m not alone in having some really expensive drugs in that line-up, and I know I’m not alone in having insufficient insurance to ease that burden… So I know I won’t be alone in my excitement at finding an actual, viable, lower-cost payment alternative! (And before I go further: no, I’m not getting paid by anyone to share this. I just couldn’t believe that I didn’t know about it till now, and I feel like everyone should!)

Jon and I just got new health insurance, and (glitch glitch) even though we met all the deadlines for coverage to start January 1, it mysteriously didn’t kick in until February 1. That was a nasty surprise when I was standing at the pharmacy on Jan 20 for a refill of my most important insanity-fixer, and a price tag of $665 (for the generic)! Now, we’re good with our budget—but that wasn’t IN the budget.  I ended up going ten days without my meds (Jon watching intently for any sign that I might be going off the deep end) and showed up again, first thing on February 1, to find that even with insurance, we’d still owe $250. Ouch. More manageable for sure, but that’s still a real dent in our monthly budget, and that’s just one of my too-many meds.

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…and THAT’s why Jon likes to keep my meds filled!

So I retreated to consider options. I could fill the scrip and we’d adjust our budget; or I could ask for a partial fill to tide me over till I see my psych-doc next week, and ask if there’s an alternative that might be as effective but less expensive; or I could just wait another 7 days without the meds and then ask… Jon made the decision for me: he wasn’t going to have me go any longer without meds. Before heading back to the pharmacy, though, we thought we’d look for any online coupons that might apply… and Jon stumbled onto BlinkHealth.com.

I’m betting your reaction will match ours: this thing has got to be in the “too-good-to-be-true” category. Download the app, find your medication, pay (a LOT less) for it through the app, then show your phone at your pharmacy and walk away with your meds. The prescription we’d been discussing was listed at $91. Yeah, right. How the heck could that work?—sounds like a scam!

But… I did my research. And felt my excitement rising as I came across news articles (not ads!) about Blink Health on the New York Times, CBS, Huffington Post, CNBC… This thing looked like it might actually be for real. Continue reading “How to Save Hundreds on Prescriptions (I don’t care if I sound like a bad TV ad… everyone should know about this!)”

Posted in Mental Health, Recovery, writing

Changing My Story

T-Rex tape
What does it take to change your story? SMART goals, and maybe T-rex tape.

Sometimes the really simple stuff is the hardest to get my hard head around… How is it, for example, that I can have a goal and know what it is and face no real impediments—yet it doesn’t materialize? When there’s not some external obstacle, why don’t I get that goal accomplished?

Well, it all comes down to ME, doesn’t it? But knowing that doesn’t magically move my goals to the “achieved” column—I still need to take action or make changes.

I was in a group therapy session last night where we were talking about changes. In this Season of Resolutions, it’s an apt topic. I tend to avoid “resolutions” with almost superstitious fervor, and even the list I made the other day was composed quickly and carelessly, comprised of things I’d already intended to be doing…

What’s on the horizon for 2017? I’m going to learn fly-fishing and rapelling, courtesy of my husband. I’m going to read a lot (as always). I’m going to keep writing, now that I’ve started again. I’m going to do some scuba diving in Idaho lakes. I’m going to enjoy hundreds of miles more on the motorcycle. I’m going to pray, and live Sober. I’m going to get new tattoos. I’m going to grin a lot.

Those hardly count as resolutions, do they? Resolutions are supposed to be game-changers, not stuff I already planned and am sure of crossing off.  I don’t “do” resolutions… And yet, here I am thinking of the fresh calendar, the fresh journal I just started, the fresh opportunity to say, “THIS year I”…)

It IS seductive, thinking of a fresh start at things. Continue reading “Changing My Story”

Posted in Lists, Mental Health

Put it on a T-Shirt: Mental Health Edition (List#2)

I hate being bipolar it's awesomeContinuing my Weird Lists project…

If you know what’s funny about these, you probably have OCD, or ADD, or … maybe you live with someone who does!

Yesterday my psych-doc seemed inclined to add A.D.D. to the alphabet-soup of my Mental Health Diagnoses… And if I’d had any doubts, I think I have my confirmation in how many of the ADD jokes hit home!

Sayings I Could Wear on a T-shirt (Mental Health Edition)

The Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder Wardrobe…

  • I have CDO. It’s like OCD, but all the letters are in alphabetical order. As they should be.
  • I don’t have OCD, I just have a very specific order in which I like to do things.
  • The only reason I check my voicemail is to get rid of the little icon on my screen.
  • OCD reptile dysfunctionI’m not really a control freak BUT… can I show you the right way to do that?
  • I adore spontaneity, providing it is carefully planned.
  • As long as everthing’s exactly the way I want it, I’m totally flexible.
  • I hate it when I plan my day and no one follows the script.
  • I could stop being a control freak if other people could stop screwing stuff up.
  • Hand sanitizer is a gateway drug for OCD
  • If you’re OCD and you know it wash your hands.
  • The first rule of OCD Club is that there must be a second rule so we have an even number of rules.

Continue reading “Put it on a T-Shirt: Mental Health Edition (List#2)”