Tag Archives: therapy

Thinking about Brains

No, not about zombies, sorry. Though, if current statistics apply, one in four zombies may suffer from a mental illness, and may want to seek help.

It occurred to me that today is a sort of interesting and complicated day emotionally, travel-wise.

My boyfriend is flying back home today, where he went for the weekend to see a brilliant man. A man who used to be as loquacious as I am (believe it or not) and would talk to everyone he met. Talk and really listen to what they had to say. He enjoyed my sense of humor, which made us cohorts as soon as we met for the first time. He was witty, quick, and curious about everything. And if we were someplace and what he was curious about was local, he would ask until he found someone local and ask them about it. It was an endearing and sometimes embarrassing trait, but when he wanted to know something, he didn’t mess around. He always wore two pair of glasses, three if he had his sunglasses on as well, and inevitably lost the pair he stuck on the top of his head.

What does this have to do with brains? Summer before last we took a vacation together in Victoria, B.C., in July 2012. In was unseasonably cool. The weather always does strange things when we visit. This was only the second vacation in my life where we’d gone somewhere either in another state or out of the country, so this was a big deal. For me. My three traveling companions had been all over the place (well, many more places). He (I’ll just say S., it’s easier, and L. is his wife) had been having a little trouble with his memory, L said, so we were keeping an eye on him a little.

There were only a couple of times he got turned around or a little flustered. Even then, at one of those points, his sense of humor and remembering the situation makes me giggle. We were at the Royal BC Museum, and the loudspeaker came on and called my boyfriend to the information desk. S. had gotten separated from the rest of us, and instead of getting flustered, went to the information desk. He told them that he seemed to have misplaced his son. They asked how old his son was. S. replied, “41.” Apparently he had a nice conversation with them until my boyfriend got there, and no big deal was made of it, but S. did tell the story as a funny thing.

We returned home, me hopelessly in love with British Columbia, and not just because it was the first place in Canada I’d been–I’m not that kind of girl. Ah-hem.

By September of 2012 S. had been diagnosed with a type of dementia I had never heard of. I know people don’t like to use the word “dementia.” But it wasn’t Alzheimer’s, and I’m not going to put the two in the same category. It was a rapidly degenerative kind, the cruelest part for him, I think, when he knew what was happening when he was forgetting things and the anger and frustration that came with that. I know to a small extent what that feels like, but nothing like he must have experienced. L is a sweet, loving, caring person, one of the nicest people I have ever met, and her husband was falling apart in front of her. I can’t imagine that. I can’t imagine the strength she’s had to have, to live with a man you still love who lives in his own world. The family decided it was finally time to move him into a home specifically met to meet his needs.

As my boyfriend flies home today, I don’t know how the visit went. There were only short visits with his father. I just know that he’s quiet, keeps to himself, and doesn’t talk to anyone very much. He can’t walk without help, and they’re getting him a wheelchair. It’s only a matter of time. Less than two years since that vacation in Victoria.

At the same time, my best friend is on a train to where he’s having an interview at the Clinic he is trying to get admitted to for his difficult to treat diagnosis. Not a physical illness, a mental one. A 7 hour trip for an interview tomorrow. This clinic has the kind of treatment he needs, and I’m not sure if the interview determines that (along with all of his paperwork) or not. It shouldn’t. He needs the therapy they offer, in that environment. He’s a brilliant man as well; I would say he’s a genius but he’d probably refute me. He’s an artist–he can do anything he touches. Theater directing, set design, costume design, drawing, sculpture, animation–he did that for a longer while, restore signs on buildings, make puppets… painting is what he thinks he’s like to do, he’s an excellent photographer. He is amazing with words. We understand each other, don’t have to explain things. This is a diagnosis that, with a good treatment regimen, the symptoms can go into remission for years. That amazes me, and I want this so much for him. More than I want anything for me to get sorted out mentally. I’m okay, I get along, except for the not having a job thing. I have episodes every now and then. Usually when my meds are off. His diagnosis is very resistant to medications. He needs hope that this really will get better someday.

But compare the two. One brilliant man fading, who has touched so many lives. Another who has so far refused to fade, also a brilliant man, who needs to start this therapy and stick with it. And to continue on doing whatever wonderful thing he decides to do next, which will come to him in time–you can’t rush ideas.

There are things other people can do, things that can help. Stop making mental illness a stigma. If you can, give money for research on issues like these. Yes, the brain is relatively small, but exploring it is like unlocking the secrets in the ocean, or the universe. New things are discovered every day. New paths can be formed in time to perform functions thought lost. Nerves are amazing things, and the brain tells all of them what to do. Recognize there are invisible disabilities that are just as difficult for a person to live with as other disabilities. Just because you can’t see them doesn’t mean they aren’t there.

And most importantly, love. If there’s someone in your family with a mental illness, learn about it. It doesn’t change who they are. They are a person with (          ), not the other way around. Love them the way they are, because that is the way they are. They are not their mental illness. Love them and don’t hold them at arm’s length. Know that sometimes they have very low self-esteems, and don’t believe when you give them a compliment, but don’t stop. Tell them specifically what you like. Sometimes they are perfectionists. Tell them whatever they are doing looks great. Sometimes that’s a part of the diagnosis. Talk to them about what they’d like you to do in specific situations. Every person is different. My advice here, the specifics, other people could think is really stupid. That’s okay. It won’t stop me from loving people the way they are, or trying to learn how to help. This is a weird paragraph, I don’t want to end on this.

So instead, my almost getting eaten by a bear in Victoria. Not really. And for those who know the sign “DO NOT TOUCH THE BEAR” is there…well, sometimes I’m just a rebel, what can I say?

Undisclosed Location Tall, Dark, and Handsome

Undisclosed Location
Tall, Dark, and Handsome

I was just barely, barely holding his paw. While watching for security guards. Bearly holding his paw?

 

If S’s family, as this was a spur of the moment thing, thinking about both people traveling and why, would rather this not be up, I understand, and I’ll take it down.

 

 

 

 

 

Peridot Dragon Garnet eye

 

 

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I’m Still Me Under All This (Part 2)

I never have felt like I fit in. People often don’t get my sense of humor, I do think in strange tangents, I’m odd. I’ve always looked, then, for that place I felt I belonged. I found one once online, which turned out to be completely artificial and ended quite disastrously. Many people were hurt emotionally. I wasn’t used to groups on the internet, or the way people took on personas and played ‘games,’ so I was just myself, because I can’t be anyone else, I’ve tried, with results that were just about as catastrophic. There was another person in this groups that had figured this out about me—that I wasn’t pretending and was more vulnerable because of my naiveté. The two of us had sort of slowly started talking. I thought he was funny, but was intimidated (he thought that was funny later) because he was very smart and witty. He finally did something silly, an alliteration or something, and I decided he wasn’t so scary after all, and started to talk to him. He’s now another reason I believe that there is a reason for the way life unfolds the way it does. The two of us are more similar than I would have thought I could be to someone without them being a twin, or, putting this tentatively forward, since I don’t know how he feels about it, a soul mate. I hope I offer him a quarter of the amount of comfort his advice and friendship gives me. He has patiently listened to everything I’ve been going through, while going through many of the same mental processes himself, dealing with his own hassles of a different health system than I’m familiar with—he lives in Berlin, he was born in Germany. In some ways our mental issues are very much alike. He just found a therapist that he thinks will work for him, an art therapist, and I started thinking, maybe that would work for me, too. Once I’m finished working with the therapist I am working with now (it’s through vocational rehabilitation), I need a new therapist. I need to do something different than I was. I need to process. Especially issues with my parents.

Let’s pretend, just for a minute, that we’re in biology, and we are going to dissect something (a very real looking 3D animation, not the real thing). The first is my little child kidney. It’s healthy, it hasn’t been around long enough to be damaged or hurt, given that I wasn’t born with any kidney abnormality (which I can safely say I wasn’t, given that I’ve had CTs and ultrasounds of my kidneys). The second is my adult kidney—me—with something damaged that needs to be figured out. It’s not working right. I’m not working right at the moment either. The two have a direct correlation. What happened between that first, child’s kidney, and the second one, my current one? I laugh and make jokes at the lab when I get tests done. As I’m handed the bag of equipment I need to take home with me to collect my 24-hour specimen, “Oh, look, it’s just like Christmas!”

Because what else can I do? I didn’t ask for any of this, mental or physical. All the issues that go along with kidney conditions—high blood pressure (last time I had it checked, 120/80), diabetes, being overweight—my weight has bounced around from the low end of my BMI two years ago to the high end, and now because of side effects of a new medication it’s going down again—none of them. I don’t have any of them. I did use a lot of Ibuprofen. I’m on prescription medications. I don’t drink, I don’t smoke, I never did drugs when I was younger. Not out of trying to please anyone. I just didn’t want to. So why? Stress? Some days at work I may as well have been as pressure cooker. So I keep myself in a stressed state in my search for acceptance and approval.

I was looking for a nephrite pendant because it’s first healing property is with the kidneys, and found a stone I’d never seen before. Eudialyte. It’s an amazingly beautiful stone, and I liked it immediately, but was drawn to one pendant in particular. The healing properties include healing and purifying the blood. Sounds good to me. It balances the root and the heart chakra (I really do need to learn more about those, but I think those are good things). “It can helps one to separate oneself from the anger, guilt, resentment, hostility, animosity, despondency, depression, anguish, and sorrow which limits ones self-love and the ability to give love to others; it is said to dispel jealousy and notifies us when our paths cross with our “soul mates”. My boyfriend thought anything to help re-establish self-love was a good idea. The whole perfection thing is very good for beating yourself over the head with. Hm. The site I found the quote from also mentioned something I didn’t find at any of the other sites—that it’s mildly radioactive. I’m not sure about the legitimacy of that. If I start to glow at night, I’ll know. I played with the test cores the US Corps of Engineers drilled out when they were looking for uranium on the reservation. That could explain some things.

I also saw mentioned on one page that Eudialyte was a good stone in terms of coincidences. Something along those lines. I received it in the mail yesterday and started wearing it. I started looking that evening for an art therapist, with increasing frustration, and finally found some listed under ‘play therapy’ instead of ‘art therapy.’ I found a woman I’m interested in meeting, who, strangely enough, has her BA in Art/German. She sounds like someone who would match my temperament, and she makes some really beautiful art.

Link is for Eudialyte quote.

http://zoultier.com/gem-historical-metaphysic-zoultier/eudialyte-historical-metaphysical-healing-properties

What are we, if not

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Peridot Dragon Garnet eye

I’m Still Me Under All This (Part 1)

What do you do when the fuzzy mess that has been your memory breaks open and things you thought you had put behind you years ago come rushing back to hit you in a tangled mass, bringing with them emotional chaos and feelings that suddenly your medications can’t deal with adequately? When you feel like you’ve been reincarnated but you haven’t died, and you have to live through the mistakes, circumstances, events from your childhood all over again in your adult life in an attempt to find some clue, some hint, anything that will link when your brain broke to the present moment. All to find out why you are making the same mistakes in this second half of your life. How do we go from being innocent, guileless, guiltless children to the insecure, self-doubting adult we are today, punishing ourselves for unknown crimes by attempting to be perfect, do everything just right, so things will be okay? The fear of not doing a good job, the fear of letting people down who are depending on you, like the ones waiting for you to edit their manuscripts.

The manuscripts. This was the job you wanted to do, for a long time, and now I can’t even begin to work on them. I look and the words make no sense. What used to be my natural ability to sense their flow is gone. It all sounds wrong, yet I can’t find the words through the void in my brain to give the advice on how to make it better. Take out this word. Replace this. Awkward. I can manage those. Deadlines loom. I’ve been working for months and I’m destitute, completely dependent on someone else to take care of me. Maybe it’s not a surprise I’m having a hard time finding the motivation, when I have to ask for everything I need, just like a child. There’s that child again. She keeps coming back.

I had a dream I was drowning yesterday. There was another person there. I don’t remember who. I didn’t drown. I was fine. Buoyancy, I suppose you could call it. In my dream I had it. Where is it now? Resiliency? I don’t know where that went, either. It’s lurking in my sometimes inappropriately gallows sense of humor, I suppose.

So many things are happening right now I’m spinning. I hate spinning, it makes me dizzy and I don’t like feeling dizzy. I’m clumsy enough as it is, always running into walls and doorjambs. I’ve perfected a maneuver for avoiding the doorjambs, most of the time. I’ve done a better job at avoiding them than my beloved cat, who just slides into them head first at full tilt, then sits there looking stunned before shaking his head and walking away. That’s resiliency. With the wall, it’s my arms that take the brunt of the force, to at least keep me from walking completely into them. My arm stops me before the rest of me follows. At least I’m not a zombie—I would have disintegrated into bits by now from all of my architectural collisions.

But why, then, after living forty one years, am I falling apart? First my accidentally self-inflicted editing injury, pulverizing my left ulnar nerve into neuropathy and my left hand into atrophy before surgery. My first surgery since childhood when I had tubes put in my ears. My parents thought I was ignoring them. I just couldn’t hear. Then my gallbladder decided it was ready to part ways and take its polyps with it. Next was a kidney stone, blasted into bits by laser like an asteroid. That one had to be done twice because of sneaky fragments that hid away, deciding my kidney was more inviting than wherever biohazardous medical detritus goes (probably an incinerator—I won’t tell it that). Between those were white blood cells in samples where they shouldn’t be, and a round of antibiotics. Finally, I thought, done with those things.

My kidneys have decided otherwise, determined to keep my life interesting. I learned about nerves with my elbow. Now I’m learning about creatinine levels, glomerular filtration rate (GFR), and stages of chronic kidney disease. My GFR last time, after a 24-hour sample, was 53. That puts me in Stage 3. It’s a very clever thing, this disease. It has a silent phase that can last for as long as 20 or more years. But it may not be CKD—I don’t know exactly what is causing this. Neither does my PCP or one of the other doctors at my clinic, so I’m going to see a Nephrologist. That sounds very scary and like something to do with death. Or Egyptology. It just means someone who specializes in kidneys. They’re actually fascinating organs, and do amazing things for the body. They filter your blood and keep it clean, basically. The lower your GFR, the more damage your kidneys have, so mine come in at, “kidney damage with moderately low GFR,” (taken from WebMD, which has a lot of good information on kidneys). It’s a figure out what’s going on and watch and wait stage. You can go down to a GFR of 30 and stay at Stage 3.

Whatever the case, I need to change my lifestyle. That means exercise. If I were a heroine in a novel, that would be my fatal flaw, my Achilles heel, the area I need to grow. I need to eat better. I’ll learn more about that—I’m learning now, but it’s a little tricky for a vegetarian to find protein that isn’t high in  phosphorus, who isn’t my friend.

My mind and my kidneys are unraveling comorbidly then. All the things I don’t want coming back are, and what I want to be healthy isn’t. My therapy for Self-Defeating Behaviors suddenly turned into my life cracking open over determining how perfection interferes with my life. A smaller thing, I thought. I have been in therapy for years and years, many different therapists. This one, though, she is a little like me. She’s the first therapist I felt actually could empathize with me, and wasn’t just nodding her head to encourage me to keep talking. She listens, and she asks hard questions. She made me start to think, and now I can’t stop. The timing isn’t very good—it’s like a one-two punch, but considering how much my thinking is bringing up, revealing, hooking together with little claws like Velcro, the events in my childhood to the events of my adult life—it had to be done. It’s similar to pulling off a band-aid, only it feels more like duct tape.

My search for perfection didn’t just start with the difficulties I was having at work for the past couple of years. Or, as I reflected, quite a few of the jobs I’ve had, once I stopped to think about it. My reincarnated adult self started making connections, and then couldn’t stop. The overused cliché that hindsight is 20/20 isn’t always right. For one thing, I wear progressives, and even then my eyesight can’t be corrected to 20/20, so things are still a little fuzzy. Maybe that’s all right, though, because things don’t repeat themselves in exactly the same way. The way we do things as children and the way we do them as adults changes, which is why, when you first look back, similarities might not seem obvious. It’s not precisely the way we do them that’s always the important thing, though, it’s our motivations behind what we do that are the penultimate answer. Why do I try to do things perfectly? And why do I keep trying, when I never get the result I want? I’m still working on that. “Why,” as my counselor asked, “do I feel the need to keep that level of stress in my life?”

My boyfriend believes strongly in the healing powers and properties of stones and crystals. I want to. When things are already set in motion, can belief in something stop them? I believe some people are so closely attuned to things they do react immediately—a little boy I worked with who had autism loved being outside, so I started showing him different stones. I’d bring a new one every day. He would put them, unerringly, exactly on the chakra they aligned with. I asked my boyfriend about it afterward, out of curiosity because I don’t know much about chakras, and he confirmed it. This little nonverbal eight year old boy innately knew about the stones from the metaphysical level. One day he took one and wouldn’t give it back. I thought, if he feels that strongly about it, he can keep it. It was a stone listed as being very good for people with autism.