Mindful Monday – Mental Illness

Today’s Mindfulness Monday is not really quotes on mindfulness, they are mindful quotes on mental health.  There are more quotes than usual, I actually found over 30 that I liked and finally cut it down to these 7.  After each quote I will explain why I chose that particular quote.  I hope you will bare with me, as most of you know I’m working through a mental health crisis of my own, and working on this post has helped me feel not so alone.  ***Please note that this post contains a frank discussion on mental health issues including suicide ideation.

“Beautiful fake smile.

All it takes is a beautiful fake smile

 to hide an injured soul and

they will never notice how broken you really are.”

~Robin Williams

I chose this quote because we I often use a fake smile to get through the day.  Whether it be because of my physical or mental illnesses, that fake smile makes others believe I’m okay, and that makes dealing with the general public, and sometimes even those closest to me, easier.  I don’t have to explain, I don’t have to deal with the awkwardness…..the fake smile, is a shield I use to deflect the judgments from others.  

“Be proud of every step

you take towards stability,

no matter how big or small.”

~Jessica AnnHardy

I have been feeling like all the work I’ve been doing to overcome this crisis has shown little improvement.  I chose this quote because it reminded me that even the smallest steps toward my stability are worth being proud of.

“I’m still me no matter

my mental health”

~Niki McBain

Earlier today I texted a friend how afraid I am that this is my new normal, all the anger, and simply being a bitch all the time.  I’m no longer a nice person.  I told her, “I feel like I’ve lost Wendy”  I chose this quote simply because it reassured me that Wendy is still in there somewhere.

“It’s exhausting to fight a war

inside your head

every single day.”

~Mickie Ann

If you don’t have a mental illness I don’t think you can ever understand this quote, if you do, I doubt I have to explain why I included it.  This constant battle going on in my head is driving me insane….or perhaps I’m insane is why I have the battle in the first place….these are the kind of questions that bombard me all the time lately.  Every… Single….Day

“Surviving a psychiatric crisis is one thing.

Overcoming one is something completely different.”

~Chris Curry

I hope to somehow understand this, and hopefully so will my husband.  Right now we are in survival mode, overcoming it is going to be a long, hard process.  (I’m not sure it will ever happen completely)

“The bravest thing I ever did

was continuing my life

when I wanted to die.”

~Juliette Lewis

Okay, I’m admitting something here so other’s my hear my pain, and will perhaps not feel so alone.  Each day since this crisis began has been a fight for my life.  More than once I’ve thought it would be best if I were not here.  I’m not being selfish, of looking for the easy way out.  I’m hurting the person I love most, over, and over, and over again.  When I’m having the most severe emotions, rage, despair….and the psychosis (auditory hallucinations)  I cannot see that removing myself from this world would hurt him worse, I can only see that I’m causing him so much pain, and at that moment I believe that if I’m wasn’t here it would be better for him…and others I love.  I want to remove myself from the situation.  Actually, that’s exactly it, I am simply trying my hardest to get away from the war inside me, I simply need to escape.  The pain is just too great.  Please do not judge me, if you do, keep it to yourself, my psyche can’t handle it right now.  I am not in danger, my husband and my psychiatrist know about this and I’m being watched….like a child….I hate it.

”You know when you’re in a bad dream

and you’re trying to run, punch, kick, or scream,

 and your body just won’t move?

You open your mouth and nothing comes out.

You feel frozen or in slow motion,

 and no matter how hard you try to fight it,

nothing changes.

That’s how it feels to battle mental illness.”

~Evyenia

When I read this quote I thought….Yes!!  It is often like that.  I feel like I scream and scream and even when I’m making noise it makes no sense.  I’m stuck, I can’t get out.  I just want me back again!  There are so many people who feel like they aren’t themselves after they start their psychiatric medication, especially those who are bipolar I, like me.  I will admit, when I first started my meds I wondered if the changes in my moods were making me less….me.  I was losing part of who I identified as me, but after I was stable for a while I realized that the real me was the stable person.  I no longer had times of extreme mood swings, I no longer did so many dangerous things, I felt more in control.  Yes, I missed being able to pain for days on end, I don’t feel I’ve been as creative, and I miss the times I could read 2-3 books in one day, but I don’t miss buying a car I couldn’t afford, or having sex with someone and not remembering it, or losing days that I don’t remember.  That wasn’t me.  When I’d relapse, which has never been as bad as this crisis, I’d run to my doctor immediately for help.  I didn’t like that feeling at all, I was suddenly not me.  And suddenly after 20+ years, I’m having a severe crisis.  It scares the hell out of me.  I will say, I think I’m better today than I was 2 weeks ago, but I still have a long way to go.

I just want to be Wendy again.

***by the way, the photo above is a self portrait I took a few years ago.  I haven’t been in the mood to take many pictures lately, and I felt this photo was appropriate.  (all right’s reserved)

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I had a little DQ.

DQ

No, I didn’t have this DQ!  Darnit!

In February sometime I started having wrist pain.  On the inside of the wrist right below the thumb, I would have sharp pain with certain movements.  It especially hurt to hold my phone or tablet.  That caused a big issue since I draw on my tablet and I had a pet portrait I was working on.  Luckily the portrait is for a friend who is also chronically ill, so she understands these things.

While at Urgent Care for another matter, a suspected UTI, I had the doctor take a look at my wrist and she said I had tendinitis and needed to rest it and it should be fine in a couple of weeks.  I put it in a brace and waited.  The pain and swelling got worse.  After about 3 weeks, I went to see my primary care doctor.  She took x-rays and they didn’t show anything.  She referred me to a Hand Clinic.  Of course, it took a couple of weeks to get in there and during that time, the pain got worse.  The brace was not helping.  The brace stopped me from flexing my wrist up and down, but not side to side, and that’s what was causing the most pain.

While I waited I kept doing research to try to figure out what was wrong.  If you search for wrist pain, you will find carpel tunnel, and not much else., and I did not have the symptoms of carpel tunnel.  You really have to dig to find other causes.  Finally I found something that fit my symptoms – De Quervain’s tenosynovitis.  There was even a simple little test to diagnosis it.

deQuervain_Fig2A2B

Finklestein test for De Quervain’s tenosynovitis  (image source)

The Finkelstein test is performed by placing your thumb against your hand, making a fist with your fingers closed over your thumb, and then bending your wrist toward your little finger.  If you have severe pain, you probably have De Quervain’s tenosynovits.

 

 

 

 

 

De Quervain’s tenosynovitis is inflammation of tendons on the side of the wrist at the base of the thumb. (see image left)  So yes, a type of tendinitis, but not one that will get better with a brace.

Last week I saw the hand specialist and he confirmed my suspicions.  I have DQ.  He even drew a little picture explaining it.  He told me the brace was useless, to just get rid of it. (freedom!) He said that a steroid injection in the affected area cures the condition 80% of the time, some people need a second injection, and very rarely it requires surgery to open the tunnel and make more room for the tendons.

20180408_151815.jpg So I got a shot.  He tried to be gentle but, Oh boy did that hurt!  He said I should feel some relief immediately because the shot has some numbing medication, and I would feel lasting relief in a day or two.  If the pain comes back after a couple of months, I’ll need another injection.  If it comes back after that, then I’ll need surgery.

I didn’t really feel the immediate relief he spoke of, but the next day it was like a light switch cut off.  The pain was almost completely gone.  By day two, I barely felt pain at all.  Now, I’m still barely feeling any pain, every once in a while I’ll get a twinge, but that’s all.  I’m amazed!  After 2 months of intense pain, I had one shot and it’s gone!  Wow, if only everything I had could be cured so easily.  Yes, I know the pain could come back, but I’m taking this as a win!

What causes this?  They aren’t exactly sure.  It can be from repetitive motion using the wrist, like picking up a baby (I can’t tell you the last time I picked up a baby).  It is often seen in new mothers and middle aged women.  It could be caused by hormonal fluctuations, or other conditions like arthritis.  Anything that causes swelling really.  I’m thinking mine was caused by the way I was holding my tablet while drawing, it put a lot of pressure on my thumb and bent my wrist.  I’ve since gotten a new computer and I don’t hold it like I was holding my tablet, so I’m hoping I don’t have a repeat of this.

Last night I was even able to finish my latest pet portrait.

kermit4

What do you think?

 

* painting by W. Holcombe.  All rights reserved.  Do not use without permission.

 

 

Some things are hard to talk about. Pocrescophobia

I’ve been struggling with something for a while and I’m not actually sure I feel comfortable talking about it, but there may be someone else out there struggling with the same thing who needs to know they aren’t alone.   I have an intense fear of gaining weight.

*****this post talks about eating disorders, this may be a trigger for some of you, please take care of yourself and read (or not) accordingly*********

As many of you may know, I lost 45 pounds in 2017.  This is something I have been trying to do for a long time.  I gained a lot of weight when I first got sick, on top of losing my independence, suddenly my body no longer felt like mine.  I weighed 225 pounds at my heaviest, and I didn’t recognize myself.  (I’m barely 5’5″ tall)  A few years ago I found out that I have Fructose Malabsorption and went on the appropriate diet to help with that, and at that time I lost 45 pounds, and kept it off.  However, I was not happy with my weight.  I was still overweight and it ate at my self esteem.  I tried and tried to lose weight over the last few years, but it just didn’t come off.  I had my yearly physical last year on December 30th, and at that time I weighed 182 pounds.  I was determined to lose weight, but I really wasn’t sure I could do it, and I was ashamed that I hadn’t been able to do it before.  Then I was put on a medication for my migraines that reduced my appetite.  Suddenly I was able eat much less and not feel hungry.  (Normally I feel hungry often.)  I lost weight, it came off slowly, but it steadily came off.  By the time I had my yearly physical last month I weighed 140 pounds.  (140 lbs at the doctor’s office, at home I weighed 135lbs)  The medication stopped curbing my appetite, now I’m fighting hard not to gain all that weight back.  I was able to bake for the holidays this year for the first time in many years, but I didn’t just bake, I ate, and I have been terrified that I’m going to gain….and gain…and gain, yet I can’t seem to stop eating.  I’ve gained about 5 pounds.  I know how quickly those 5 pounds could turn into 80+ pounds, and I’m desperate to not let that happen.  So many people will say that 5 pounds is nothing when you gain weight, they tell you not to worry about it, it’s really not that much, but those same people will tell you how great it is when you lose 5 pounds, how that’s a lot of weight to loose….  How can both of these be true?

When I lost the weight this year I found myself in love with my body for the first time since I can remember, if I ever felt that way at all.  I accepted that this body was not as I wished it would be.  Let’s face it, a 54 year old’s skin doesn’t really shrink back when you lose weight, but I was happy with what I saw, I loved all of me, saggy skin, cellulite, and all.  However, even though I felt that way, I was still terrified of gaining the weight back.  At one point, I went to the grocery store and started to buy some gluten free flat bread to make a pizza with, when I saw the amount of calories it had per serving I broke down in tears.  I was paralyzed with fear.  I simply stood there and cried.

Now, I see myself as fat.  I can see that I’ve lost weight, but I also see where I’ve gained some, and how much more I need to lose.  (10 pounds seems to be as hard to lose as 50)  I see photos of me and I think I look pretty good, then I look in the mirror and know that isn’t true; it takes a lot of effort to look good for the photos, on a day to day basis, I don’t look like that.  I look down at my body when I’m sitting in the living room and I’m appalled by the rolls of fat on my stomach, the bulges I feel under my arms, (back fat is not attractive), and the drooping of my breast.

I feel better since I’ve lost the weight.  I can get up from the floor easily.  I can walk further than before.  I go out with more confidence (most days).  I love wearing smaller sizes.  I think I look good…..sometimes.  Other times…well I covered that haven’t I?

I’m scared.  I’m terrified of gaining weight.  This is an intense fear, yet I can’t seem to stop eating.  I’m hungry all the time.  I’ve had a love/hate relationship with food for a very long time, my whole life really, I don’t want to go into detail about my past, but I need to let you know this isn’t the first time I’ve struggled.  Now it is even more confusing.  My weight seems to always be in a state of flux.  Since I was able to keep most of the 45 pounds I lost, I was encouraged that I would be able to this time, I’m afraid that isn’t the case.  I’m afraid I will need to track every thing I eat to make sure I don’t over eat or under eat.  I’m afraid I’ll need to exercise as much as possible in order to keep the weight off, but that is physically impossible because of my health, and I hate myself because of it.  I’m afraid I’ll fail and the weight will come back.

I’ve been trying hard to not eat as much, and to eat nutritionally dense foods; this hasn’t happened, instead I’ve been going overboard on sweets and cereal, and I beat myself up over it.  The guilt and fear is so great that I have tried many times to make myself throw up. (I can put my finger all the way down my throat and not throw up.)  If I could just get it out when I eat too much, I know I would feel better, I would be back in control.  No, it wouldn’t take away the guilt (I’m sure it would cause more guilt), but the fear is stronger than the guilt.  I’ve exercised to the point of absolute exhaustion (not regularly).  I have taken laxatives when I feel I’ve over eaten (not often, but I have).  I suffer from chronic constipation and get obsessed with how much that makes me weigh (how much extra weight is in me), laxatives help.  I try hard not to have them in the house, so I won’t abuse them.  I’ve actually been happy when I’ve had intestinal distress, because it’s a sure way to lose weight.  I’ve wanted surgery to make me look better.  These actions and thoughts scare me.

I will work on these things.  I may go back into therapy, but first I am going to try to deal with it on my own.  As many of you know I can’t drive because of the sudden attacks of vertigo I have, this makes it very difficult to get to therapy sessions.  Stuart has to juggle his work schedule to drive me places so we try to keep my appointments to one a week, two at the most; if I have therapy every week how can I go to any other appointments?  I just want to handle this by myself if possible.

I don’t think I have a full fledged eating disorder, yet.  I do not avoid meals.  I eat when I’m hungry, even if I feel I shouldn’t be hungry.  I have not been tracking every calorie I put in my mouth. However, I do plan to, to make sure I’m not over or under eating, and I will admit, to loose a few pounds.  I’m not avoiding foods, I do plan to cut sugar out of my diet for a while, but that’s not a bad thing, right?).  I normally do not eat so much that others would find it unusual. (however, I feel it is)  I do not purge, but I do admit, sometimes I would if I could.  I have a lot of fears and I can see that my actions have been changing because of these fears.

I have Pocrescophobia (the fear of gaining weight); I know this fear could lead to serious health issues, I know it is causing extreme anxiety for me, and I know it is hurting the people who care about me.  I will get a handle on it, if I can’t do it alone, I will start seeing a therapist and talk to my doctor.  (I promise)  Right now, I’m simply trying to be open and honest about this.  I’m asking you to not judge, or worry about me, I simply ask you to be witness to my fear and support me while I deal with this.

I do wonder how many people who have a chronic illness struggle with these feelings.

For further information, or help, I’ve listed a few organizations that deal with eating disorders:

 

Thoughts on Migraine Hypersensitivity

Thoughts on migraine hypersensitivity

I found a post on Hearing Health and Technology Matters that I felt would be of interest to many of you.

Thoughts on Migraine Hypersensitivity By On July 18, 2016

“As the director of a balance and vestibular clinic, I see many patients with complaints of dizziness, disorientation, and motion sensitivity related to migraine. We work closely with our neurology colleagues in managing these patients. The International Headache Society has an official classification of “vestibular migraine.”

to continue reading this article please follow this link: http://hearinghealthmatters.org/dizzinessdepot/2016/thoughts-migraine-hypersensitivity/

I Give Myself Permission to …

I’ve been participating in a Chronic Pain and Illness photo project.  I participated in the same group last year, you can see those photos on these posts: Chronic Pain/Illness Photo Project, Chronic Pain/Illness Photo Project 2015 Week 2 , and Chronic Pain/Illness Photo Project 2015 Week 3.  This year I’m sharing a few photos here and there, not the whole project.

I’d love to hear your take on this topic.  What do you give yourself permission to???

Today – I give myself permission to Cry.

My x-rays showed more degeneration in my neck. C5-C6
The pain is intense. It just hit me that this is only going to get worse. The pain will always be there.

My father is in the hospital. I can’t go. I can’t ever go.

Today I give myself permission to cry.

(photo taken today, I manipulated it with photoshop, but the tear is real.)

crying

STOP

This photo symbolizes what I need to do…
STOP.
Stop and listen to what my body says.
Stop and look, really look at everything.
Stop and smell, and see, and taste…
Stop and breathe.
Remember to STOP and be mindful.

stop sign

this was part of the Chronic Pain and Illness Photo Project 2016

The theme for today was Mindfulness.

Grief and Acceptance

When people think of grief they often think of death, they don’t think about grieving over other significant losses.  Those of us who have had major losses due to chronic illness know all too well that we grieve those losses.

The five stages of normal grief that were first proposed by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross in her 1969 book “On Death and Dying” are: Denial, Bargaining, Depression, Anger, and Acceptance.  Kübler-Ross describes these stages as being progressive, you needed to resolve one stage before moving on to the next.  This is no longer thought to be true.  It is accepted that most people who have loss go through states of grief but it is not linear nor is it finite.

The 

Eckhart Tolle Quote

Often people think of acceptance as being okay with what happened.  That is not the case. Most people never feel completely okay about a great loss.  Acceptance is about accepting a new reality. This is the way life is now, it is the new norm, our lives have been forever changed and we must adjust accordingly.  At first finding acceptance could be just having more good days than bad.  We can never replace what has been lost.  However, we must listen to our needs; we change, we evolve, we accept.

Once you have reached a good level of acceptance this doesn’t mean you can’t feel sad again.  We are constantly reminded of our losses, when these reminders arise we can find ourselves feeling grief again.  It’s at these times that our acceptance is most helpful.  We may feel our losses, but we know there is life after.

I accepted my losses long ago, however, feelings of grief do come flooding back from time to time, especially if I lose something else.  When one is chronically ill, we often find we lose more things as time goes on, even when those losses have nothing to do with our illness it can bring back all the emotions from our previous losses.

For example, in the last 2 years I’ve had a number of new losses.  We had to move because my husband found a job in a new city.  This move caused me to lose my home, my neighbors, more friends, and my doctors.  Then a new diagnosis that causes more pain and loss of range of motion was another huge loss.  The losses just seemed to keep adding up.  I have more grief that I have to work through.  Simply because we dealt with our previous losses does not mean our new losses hurt less, or that we don’t need to grieve.  However, it does mean that we now know that acceptance will help us deal with our losses, and give us the ability to move on.

I should point out here that prolonged intense grief can produce a physical or Prolonged Grief Disorder.  “Prolonged grief disorder require bereaved individuals to have severe levels of yearning, and five of the following nine symptoms for ≥6 months post-loss: disbelief and bitterness over the loss, confusion about one’s identity, an inability to trust others, numbness … and feeling that life is empty and meaningless since the loss, difficulty accepting the loss and moving on with life, and feeling stunned by the loss.” (Holly G. Prigerson, Paul K. Maciejewski – 
 Based on numerous findings of maladaptive effects of prolonged grief, diagnostic criteria for Prolonged Grief Disorder have been proposed for inclusion in the DSM-5 and ICD-11. 
There is a great article at Psych Central on the 5 Stages of Loss and Grief, here you can also find a quiz to help you decide if you are suffering from complicated grief.
If you feel you are suffering from complicated grief I urge you to seek professional help.  It can get better.