Posted in Mental Health, prayer, Recovery

How God Talks

I’ve often wished that God would just text me.

Hey, girl, turn around and say something to that silent person you just passed. She needs a smile. And while you’re at it, tell her she has beautiful hands, because that will make her think of playing her piano, and she’s been missing her music without realizing it. Oh, and by the way, I’ve lined up your next motorcycle for you—you’ll find out about it when you talk to Carrie during book-study. You’re welcome. Love, God

Wouldn’t that be convenient? None of this praying-for-guidance or listening for subtle answers. I’m a literal-minded person; I want instructions dammit! Surely the Almighty Creator of All Things could tap into my cell-service without any problem.

20140131-003602So okay, God has NOT been blowing up my phone. But you know what? He HAS been blowing up my life lately in all kinds of ways. And the guy can make himself heard!

I found myself telling a total stranger (except now he’s not a total stranger anymore—he’s my friend Anne’s landlord) that “God had told me” to ask him about rental properties. While he was buying tile and I was giving him his veteran’s discount at Home Depot. That’s just crazy. What’s crazier is that he didn’t call me crazy. His response? “I believe.”

Now I’ve just finished saying that I don’t have some special dialed-in bat-channel to God. I’m only just Me.

So Anne asked me yesterday, “HOW does God talk to you? How do you know?” Well, all I have to offer are stories. And she knows some of them—they’re about her.

Anne and I used to hang out two and a half years ago, when Jon and I were just married and she and I were both struggling to get Sober again. Her number has stayed in my phone—but we hadn’t talked, or even messaged, for a couple years. Until I took a nap recently and dreamed she called me. And woke up feeling convicted that I needed to reach out. No logic to that impulse, but I texted her. Got nothing back. Kept texting. Again, no logical reason to keep pinging someone who wasn’t responding—but something was telling me to. It was weeks later that she did call me, checking herself into a crisis center with nowhere to go afterward and no one to pick up her calls.

She’s Clean. But she’s broken. And my text messages were the only recent incoming activity on her phone. Left to myself, I had no reason to contact her. So I can only figure God told me to.

Let me take a moment here to tell you (with her permission) a little about Anne. She’s just 31 years old, a disabled combat vet whose complex PTSD and social anxieties stem from horrific traumas in her childhood and her civilian adult life, some of those very fresh. She has lived under bridges, she has thrown herself off a bridge in Portland, she has drowned in her own life countless times and is still (however reluctantly) here to tell the tale. She jumps out of her skin if anyone touches her or makes a sudden move in her direction, rendering her miserably frazzled and disconnected in settings like our church, where everyone wants to welcome her by hugging. One side of her sports an impish smile and a from-the-gut laugh you can’t help but join, while another side of her manifests in stricken expressions and panicked breathing in the face of the overwhelming requirements of simple daily living. She lives in a constant state of fear and anxiety, and sometimes only her OCD (with its attendant attention-to-details) keeps her going with any semblance of togetherness. Her outlook combines deep thinking and childlike curiosity—when we read Bible together I walk away feeling sheepish that I’d never thought to ask the questions she does.

If I had to pick out one defining characteristic that shapes Anne’s life, it would be the fact that she does NOT. Trust. Anyone. No one feels safe to her. Not counselors. Not pastors. Not medical professionals. Not the VA. Not acquaintances. Not family. It’s not “paranoia” on her part; her life experiences have trained her that not even a mother can be trusted to be safe.

That’s Anne. Traumatized, broken, barely functioning, and absolutely alone. Even her service dog was separated from her when she lost her housing in early July.

So when she asked me yesterday how God “talks” to me, I reminded her of the odd impulse that started me texting her in mid-June. Like God was setting something up when he knew she was about to need it.

Even as she acknowledged the point, she was frowning that she doesn’t think God sends her that kind of message. “You don’t think so?” I challenged her. “Then tell me why you decided to trust me.”

That trust has grown with baby-steps, each promise-from-me coming with a reminder that I haven’t broken a promise yet. They’ve mostly been small promises (“I’ll stay with you in the ER,” “I’ll find out how your dog is doing,” “I’ll call you on my lunch break”) but she started out so sure she couldn’t believe them…

IMG-2408
She won’t let me share her smile… Just her story.

The other day she let me stand behind her and braid her hair. If you know Anne, you know that’s an even bigger deal than the Power of Attorney she signed authorizing me to help her straighten out some issues with the VA. So: “Tell me why you decided to trust me,” I demanded in yesterday’s conversation.

She drew her eyebrows down and looked at me sideways and admitted, “Something just told me I should trust you.”

“Well there you go. God told me to call you, and told you to trust me, and here we are.”

Where-we-are includes that she’s been living in the garage section of our fifth wheel for several weeks while we’ve been searching high and low for new housing for her. It’s not a “renter’s market” here, and although she has a perfect rental-history and guaranteed income (disability), her credit sucks. We couldn’t find her anything.

Enter Ed, chatting me up while buying tile from me at Home Depot. I inexplicably asked him what he knows about rental properties (thank you, God, for the nudge) and he answered that he has one. He’s just finishing up renovating it (hence the tile) and it would be available in about a week. So I told him about Anne. And I’m thinking God told him something, because the next day we were meeting him at his sweet little rental-house with hardwood floors and bright open windows and sturdy old trees lining the front. No credit-check necessary. She can have her service dog back with her.

Anne is still raw, and fresh to the practice of trusting people (or God, for that matter). She won’t fully believe it until she has the keys in hand. But she’s trying to. And she’s tentatively “letting in” some people besides me. Not all the way in, but she’s opening that door and building a belief that maybe there ARE some people who can be trusted. It wouldn’t take much to make her snap those doors shut… But I’m trusting God has this in hand. I still wish he’d text and TELL me so… But he seems to know what he’s doing.

Advertisements
Posted in Mental Health, Motorcycle

Go, Go, Glow

Red Bike Red House
Red bike at the Red House (my AA home group)

I joked in a post last year that “you never see a motorcycle parked outside a psychiatrist’s office,” but last week that’s exactly where I parked my bike. So okay—riding a motorcycle doesn’t actually cancel out my need for mental-health meds, but it sure does put a grin on my face.  A manager said this week that I’ve been glowing since I started showing up to work with helmet in hand.

We made the decision a few months ago to trade in my BMW1200 for a smaller, lighter bike, so I’m the tickled new owner of a shiny red Yamaha V-Star 650. The Beemer (beauty though it was, and as sweet as my hubby was to buy it for me) was just too much bike for this Rookie Rider. I never got over being scared of the bike, and I never “graduated” to riding by myself. Jon tailed after me like a security blanket every time I took it out, and it felt like a big production every time. I was starting to associate a feeling of dread with pulling on my motorcycle boots, which is never how I’d felt about riding before!

bike Starbucks
To Starbucks.

So we posted the BMW on Craigslist this spring, and I was sitting with a friend when a text came in inquiring about it. I apologized for interrupting our conversation to respond, and explained the situation… Whereupon she asked me if I were looking for a bike! She’s a missionary in Thailand, just back in the states to visit her daughters, and her bike has been in storage for a few years. Not running—but hey, I’m married to a mechanic. Long story short, we trailered this bike home from her storage a week later.

I came home from work the next day to find her stripped to her frame, and my kitchen counter strewn with bike-bits.  Mr. Mechanic worked his magic, and days later I was testing her out, up and down the rows of our RV park. Days later we had her registered and I took her out on the road. Days later, after Jon had followed me to church and work, I went to work by myself. Days later I was pulling up across town in front of my AA home group. With a shit-eating grin beneath the helmet.

I’m still a rookie, but I’m riding now! To work. To AA. To the dentist. To church. To Starbucks.  And yes, to the psychiatrist.

Yesterday we hit triple-digit temperatures, and the parking-lot pavement still radiated heat when I came out of Home Depot at ten p.m. The first breath of cool air I’d felt all day was the wind on my face at fifty miles an hour riding home under the moon. I’m just about ready to bet it wasn’t my lights or my reflective gear that made me visible as I rode. I’m pretty sure it was my GLOW.

bike Emmett

 

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.

image
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.

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…)

image
“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.

crazy2
…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!)”