Cochlear Implants Are Different

Most of us have seen the videos of a someone who has been deaf their whole life who  receives a cochlear implant and can suddenly hear. (or maybe people just send those to me)  The wonder on the their face is very touching and can be described as miraculous.  I will not get into the debate over whether or not a child, a person who has been deaf since birth, or a person who has lost their hearing should be implanted, that is a very personal decision that I have no right to weigh in on.

I do want to talk about how not everyone with a cochlear implant hears the same.   Recently I read an article that talked about having a cochlear implant, the person writing the article has been deaf his whole life, does not have a cochlear implant, and has chosen not to get one, I respect that decision.  Many of the commentors did not.  The comments on that article were argumentative and down right rude.  I found it very interesting, and a bit disturbing, that so many people assume that the experience they have with their cochlear implant is the same experience everyone would have. That simply is not true.

Yes, it is a miraculous thing to suddenly be able to hear.  (for some for the first time, for others to hear again, like me.)  The thing is, we have no idea what those people are hearing.  It could be words, or it could be clicks and whistles or a combination of many sounds.  If you never heard a sound before, would your face not show amazement?  We cannot judge what they are hearing by a simple video.  My audiologist told me that they she cannot understand what I hear, because she doesn’t have a cochlear implant and if she did, it could be totally different.  Some people who only hear little bits might be able to hear more later, some will not.  I met a lady at the Hearing Loss Association meeting who has cochlear implants and she can hear very little.  She cannot hear speech.  Her cochlear implants allow her to hear emergency signals, and not much else.  I am amazed at how well she gets by with reading lips, but she does get lost, and I do wonder how much she misses.  Often she simply smiles and nods, something I find myself doing way too often.  But she is very grateful for the hearing she has. I can’t imagine.  There are some people who hear almost as well as a normal hearing person, I can’t imagine that one either. 

So many people assume that cochlear implants are like hearing aids,  They are not!  Hearing aids amplify sound, but the person can still hear the way they are supposed to, just not as well.  In other words, no one had to implant something in their head to help them hear sounds.  “a cochlear implant bypasses damaged portions of the ear to deliver sound signals to the auditory (hearing) nerve.” (WebMD)  I have a device that was surgically implanted in my head and through the cochlea of my ear to deliver sound to my brain.  I do not hear with my ears.  No matter how high I put the volume on my cochlear implants it will not improve my hearing.  I know it’s confusing, but trust me, I’ve had both, a hearing aid and a cochlear implant, they are not the same in any way.

With my hearing aids I could turn up the volume and hear, no they were not perfect, I still had trouble with wind, noisy situations….all kinds of things.  The point is that the only thing that a hearing aid can do is amplify sound, if that will help you, that’s great.  I honestly wish I could still be helped with hearing aids.  I was not deaf without them, without my cochlear implants I hear nothing.

When I started losing my hearing I asked my doctor if I should learn sign language, he said, “You will never be deaf”  I realize now that he meant that even if I lost my hearing, he would simply give me a cochlear implant.  Which he did.  In hindsight I should have learned ASL (American Sign Language) before I started needing it.  I do not believe he understands the limits of the device

My audiologist warned me that some people do not hear speech with their CI’s, some only hear arbitrary sounds (clicks, whistles…)  She told me that people who have had hearing often do better than those who have never heard.  Their brains simply do not have anything to relate the sounds to, that isn’t always the case though.  (again, I know it’s confusing, we’re just different)  I heard speech immediately, but it sounded strange.  Everyone sounded like Mickey Mouse, luckily I like the Mouse, but it did get a bit annoying.  Gradually I began to hear people the way I remembered they sounded.  It’s a little funny that still sometimes when I meet someone new they will sound a bit like a cartoon.  And do not ever ask me to understand an accent.  

In the comments connected to this article people talked about how they could talk on the phone, play music, go to plays….and they spoke of them as if everyone with a cochlear implant can do those things.  I can’t.  I cannot talk on the phone, and those caption phones are a joke.  They don’t keep up with the caller and they get a lot of stuff wrong.  It’s more annoying than simply saying, “I can’t do it”  and that’s sad.  I miss music.  I miss music so much.  I am literally tearing up just writing those words.  I sing often, but I can’t remember the words to many of the songs, so I make them up.  I want to be playing carols this time of year, but alas it will not be.  I can’t hear it.  I can hear the melody, but the words, nope.  And that makes it just sound garbled.  I do so miss music.  I have been able to go to the movies thanks to the caption boxes, but it is difficult.  There is one theater close to me that is looped, (A  hearing loop (sometimes called an audio induction loop) is a special type of sound system for use by people with hearing aids and cochlear implants. The hearing loop provides a magnetic, wireless signal that is picked up by the hearing device when it is set to ‘T’ (Telecoil) setting.)  So the sound is piped right in my ears.  You would think this would be perfect, but it’s not, I still needed the caption box, but I didn’t use it near as much.  It’s an independent theater though, so I’m still out of luck when I want to see a popular movie.  I cannot imagine going to a live event that has not captions. 

Being deaf is very isolating, even with a cochlear implant.  It’s very hard for me to go out alone, to attend a party, to take a class, go to a restaurant, or…well, so may things.  I’m lucky I have a husband who helps keep me active, and understands my fears, many people do not have this.  If you know someone with hearing loss, reach out, they need all the friends they can get who understand their challenges.

This post got to be a bit longer than I intended, but I hope I’ve helped some of you understand a little bit more about how differently those of us with cochlear implants can hear.  Just because you know me, and my struggles doesn’t mean that the next person you meet with a cochlear implant will have the same issues I do.

 

If you’d like to know more about me and my cochlear implants you might enjoy this post  What it’s like to have a cochlear implant  Just remember, it’s only my story.

*The photo above is of me with my CI taken a couple of years ago.  Yes, it really is orange

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Infection – because Zombies are wussies.

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On November 20th, I had a cyst removed from my scalp that was pressing on my cochlear implant.  I’d had another cyst, in a different area of my scalp, removed the month before without complications, so I felt I knew what to expect, I was wrong.  The cysts are made of Keratin and aren’t a big deal, but they can get rather large and I have 5 that have been bothering me for a long time.  The first one I had removed was visible through my hair…yes I know my hair is much thinner than it used to be, but it was really big.  (measured over 2cm when they took it out)  The recovery from the first removal was uncomfortable, but nothing big.  The recovery of the second cyst started out much more painful, and I still can’t wear my cochlear implant for that ear.  So I’ve been completely deaf, 100% of the time, in my right ear for over a month, and the new psychiatric medication I’m on now causes my tinnitus to increase greatly, the noise is driving me mad!  If I could wear my CI, I would at least have some sound that would help drown out this constant buzzing, chirping, chattering, NOISE!

On the Monday after Thanksgiving (November 26th) I had my annual physical.  During this visit I mentioned that my back was hurting around the kidney area and my bladder had been bothering me a little, so it might be a good idea to check my pee.  I honestly didn’t think they’d find anything.  I had strained my back, so that could explain that pain; and I have irritable bladder that flares up way too often, so these were the obvious culprits, I honestly didn’t expect anything to come of it.  The next day the doctor called to inform me that I have a UTI (Urinary Tract Infection)  They felt they caught it early, so one round of an antibiotic should knock it out.  Sounded like a plan to me.

A week later, I was finishing up my antibiotics and I was in much more pain than I was in before I started them.  Off to the doctor for another urine sample, and it came back positive, I still had a UTI, but it was worse.  So I started Cipro.

During all of this the wound from the cyst removal had swollen three times the size of the original cyst and was getting red.  I was getting concerned, but I was scheduled for another cyst to be removed so I thought I’d just ask then.  But on the day I was supposed to go, my fever was too high and I was having vertigo, so we canceled the procedure and scheduled a wound check.  The night before the appointment the wound started to weep.  It was gross.  I reached up and touched the area and thought, “hey, it’s gone down some”, then I noticed my hand was all wet and gooey.  Ewww.  Off we went to have my wound checked and yes, it’s infected too.  I had one day left on Cipro, but I had to start a Zpack of the new antibiotic because it works better on this type of infection.

That brings us to yesterday, when I was just finishing the Cipro, and my bladder and kidneys still hurt.  I’ve also been running a low grade fever for weeks.  I started yet another antibiotic today!  Yes, this is the THIRD antibiotic I’ve been put on over the last month.  I can’t tell you the last time I needed an antibiotic, and suddenly I have to be on three?  Wow.  Mind officially blown.

One thing though, I don’t think zombies would be brave enough to touch me.

Monday Musings on Bipolar Disorder

Once again, I’m stepping away from the normal Mindfulness Monday format.  As many of you know, I’ve been going through a psychiatric crisis due to a bipolar mixed episode.  At this time, I am beginning to see the light.  I won’t say I’m “stable” yet, but I haven’t had the intense rage for a few days now.  Stuart even said to me that he thinks my new medication is working because I spilled something oily all over my shirt and didn’t completely lose it.  I was actually very calm, I simply took the shirt off, got some other clothes together and threw them in the wash.  HA…I just remembered, they are still in the washer!  Hope I remember to put them in the dryer in the morning.  LOL

As I looked for quotes that showed hope at surviving with bipolar disorder, I was amazed at how many focused on the use of Lithium, and other medications. I’m the first to admit that I take medication for my illness, just as I would for any other illness, but it is not a cure all. We can’t just take a pill and suddenly be a “normal” person. It takes a lot of hard work, and we must be on guard for the rest of our lives to try to keep our moods in check. By “in check” I do not mean stifled, I simply mean, not exploding to the extremes that can cause me or others danger. I would never want to lose me, in all of this. I am a beautifully complex woman who feels deeply. It has been said that I’m “too sensitive”, to that I wonder, do they not feel the joy and sadness in the world? I do, and I’m glad I do. But I digress, the quotes that act as if you can just take your medication and will be well, they are simply ignorant of the total picture. Not only do the people who respond well to medication also have to work hard, there are many people who are medication resistant. No matter how much medication they take, no matter what drug they are given, they will never be free of their mood disorder. This is not addressed enough. I am very grateful that we seemed to have found a combination of medications that are working for me. But we must all be aware that just because someone suffers it does not mean they aren’t taking their medication, or that they refuse treatment, often they have no choice. I’ll try to talk more about that in an upcoming post. For now, I hope you enjoy these quotes by people you might recognized who also have bipolar disorder.


“Though I am often in the depths of misery, there is still calmness, pure harmony and music inside me.”

~Vincent Van Gogh (Dutch Painter)

“I think when people refer to me as being bipolar, it’s something that is true—I am bipolar—but I don’t like people to use it as a label. It’s something that I have, it’s not who I am.”

~Demi Lavato (American Singer/Songwriter)

“You can have manic-depression without having an ounce of creativity”.
– PATTY DUKE (American Actress )

Bipolar disorder can be a great teacher. It’s a challenge, but it can set you up to be able to do almost anything else in your life.

– CARRIE FISHER (American Actress)

“Even when I’m in a really great, steady and stable place…I’m clinically bipolar, so that always exists – a darkness always exists.”

~Mary Lambert (American Singer/Songwriter)

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)

A Really Long Update

water droplet on sage leaf

I’ve been saying that I’m “working on a post” for a while now, but I haven’t.  I’m not sure why.  I haven’t been too busy.  I think I’ve just been avoiding talking about things.

My bipolar episode has lasted much longer than I ever anticipated.  I’ve been stable for over 20 years and suddenly I had this awful episode that left me feeling like I didn’t deserve the life I’ve built for myself. I knew if things didn’t change soon, I wouldn’t be able to carry on.  After trying to get my medication working and failing, we decided to go back old school, I’m on Lithium again.  This is the first drug I was put on when I was first diagnosed.  It worked for a very long time, but it damaged my thyroid and we decided to try something else.  Fortunately, at the time, I responded well to the alternative medication.  Since the damage to my thyroid as already happened, there is really no reason for me not to take it, and fortunately, it works really fast.  After being on it for about a week I could tell a huge difference.  I’m still having that low hum that makes me feel like I’m going to explode at any moment.  But I don’t explode, I might get angry, but I don’t have the rage I was experiencing. I just increased my dose, so I’m hopeful that anger hum will diminish soon.

That is the good news. I’m leaving out all the rage episodes, the night I was actively seeking for a treatment center to commit myself because I was very afraid I was going to harm myself or someone else, the anger I felt toward my psychiatrist because I can’t hear a word she says and I have to have my husband in there to help me.  At this last appointment I was so distraught by everything I couldn’t really talk at all, he had to tell her everything.  Before we left I asked where I should go if I were in crisis, she asked if I felt suicidal, I told her how I had been feeling, she simply told me which facility I should go to, but I didn’t feel like she took me seriously.  Perhaps I’m being overly sensitive and she understands that hubby will be here to monitor me and see me through this trying time. It’s very hard to get to know a doctor when you are in the throws of a  (disphoric mania) mixed stated bipolar episode.   Yes, I did say, mixed state.  I’ve only talked about the rage here, but I’ve been bouncing around from extreme anger, severe depression, and wanting to jump my husband’s bones….all in the same day. Sound a little crazy?  Yep, I felt that way too.  Thankfully, it’s calming down and I’m feeling more like myself.

Unfortunately, I can’t say the same for my health.  The vertigo, migraines, and hypoglycemia have had me pretty sick, most of the time. Last Saturday we went out to breakfast with my father-in-law, shortly after getting our food the world started to spin.  I lowered my head, took my meds,  and told them to continue.  I was sure it was going to be a quick attack and I’d be okay in just a little bit.  I might not be able to eat, but I could take it with me.  I was wrong. The spinning got worse and I was afraid I was going to vomit right therein the middle of the restaurant.  I got Stuart to get me a throw up bag from my purse and I clutched it tight.  I told him it was BAD, REALLY BAD, and I needed to go home.  I motioned for him to get the food to go.  Hey, I wanted my pancake!  I really didn’t think about how hard it would be for me to walk out.  I couldn’t focus and I felt like my body was moving in ways that my brain really wasn’t telling it to.  The sensation of  being moved from forces that no one else sees is very disturbing. I used to think I had gotten to the point that I was okay with all of this, but I really,really hate it.  I knew my feet weren’t going straight, I kept trying to compensate, that seemed to make it worse.  I clutched on to Stuart for dear life.  It was absolutely mortifying.  The only thing that would have made it worse,is if I had thrown up too.  I will say,my brain seems to deal with the episodes better than it used to, I rarely throw up anymore.  Of course, I did get a Phenergan in me at the very first sign of the attack, and as soon as we got outside Iused my vape pen that’s 4:1 CBD:THC just a little and it calmed my stomach right down.  I also never feel the psychoactive effects with this ratio.  Itis still illegal to use medicinals in public, under normal circumstances I’d never do it, but we were away from other people, and since people use those cigarette vape pens, no one knows what I’m doing. But as I said, normally, I’d never use that in public.  I thought about using an infused candy or tincture, but they simply don’t start working fast enough to help stop vomiting.  But I digress….  This was the first time my father-in-law has seen this, that was hard, but I’m relieved he does understand some of what I go through before he moves in with us.  He also handled it with grace and was very helpful to Stuart.  Not that I really noticed at the time.

I’ve had a lot of challenged with my balance this past month.  Kinda regretting buy a car, but even if I can’t drive it, it’s nice to have a convertible in the family.  I am very disappointed that I can’t drive though, having that feeling of independence was nice.  I was still having vertigo occasionally, but it didn’t last long, it was mild in intensity, and I always had signals that twas about to happen, so I wasn’t afraid to drive.  That all changed.  I accept it, but it makes me sad.

I found a new ENT and I really like his so far.  He admitted that I’ve had all the treatments that he could recommend, yep, I’ve had it all really.  He did say he could give me steroids to try to help with this flare, but since I had Avascular Necrosis that they think was caused by steroid use, I don’t use them if at all possible.  He understood.  He suggested trying Benedryl everyday because it’s a vestibular suppressant.  I never knew that.  I tried it for over a week and didn’t get the results we’d hoped for. So I asked if I could take diazepam for a week or two to try to calm itdown and he said yes.  Also, the Audiologist there called and said she isn’t as experienced working with my brand of cochlear implants so they are having the Advanced Bionics specialist come in to do the adjustment to my CI’s (mapping).  I was so very impressed with that.

I’m also working on getting a new migraine specialist, I really don’t like the guy I’ve been seeing. So cross your fingers I like the new lady.

I’ve done something that I’m afraid I may have a very hard time pulling off.  We had planned to be in our house by now and we planned to host Christmas there.  Well….I decided we still needed to do it, but man is it going to be a lot of work.  I’ve invited the whole family, and one friend. That’s 6 adults and 2 children.. 

But this is the first Christmas that Stuart’s step-mother will not be home.  I feel it’s important for his father to be surrounded by all of his family for a Christmas celebration.  We are having it on the 22nd so Dad can spend Christmas day with his wife. We have been thinking about joining them, but it’s a busy time at the home, and her daughter and her significant other will be there.  So, I think it will be good to go have dinner with her between Christmas and Thanksgiving.

I’ve been trying to make cookies, the kind you decorate all pretty with royal icing.  I decided they were WAY too sweet with the icing, since it is just a sugar cookie, so I’ve been trying to make the icing less sweet.  Problem is, as I have been working on a new recipe I have to keep tasting it.  This stuff is super sweet…cloyingly sweet.  So twice now, I’ve had a hypoglycemic crash.  Feeling dizzy, light headed, sick to my stomach….ok so none of that is new….cold sweats, shakes, stomach cramps….I even threw up.   Yep, blood sugar drop.  Now I’m not even sure I ever want to decorate cookies.  My back always hurts when I do it anyway.

Oh…other challenges this week.  I had my physical on Monday.  All my numbers were good!  Even my triglycerides, they have only been normal one other time in my life. Shockers!   However, I was having a slight pain in my kidney area and asked if she’d check my urine.  I’m so glad I did!  By the next day I was in severe pain, still am if I’m honest, and the nurse called and said that I have a UTI.  HAHAHA I found that amusing because I really had no idea when I asked for the test.  My back has been hurting so I thought it was just that, it was obvious the next day that is wasn’t.  So now I’m taking antibiotics…eww.  Can you imagine how much worse it would have gotten if I had needed to go back to the doctor for a test?  Phew!  that was lucky.

I also got a pneumonia vaccine, I had to have one when I got my cochlear implants, and I was supposed to get a booster in a few years, I’m about a year late, but I got it done. (it is supposed to reduce the chance of meningitis)   1% of the people who get this vaccine have a reaction to it.  Yes, I am that special!  The injection site swelled up and turned read.  It measured about 3” in diameter, and it was so painful.  If I moved my arm a very sharp pain would shoot through, not as if the muscle was sore, a very sharp pain.  I couldn’t lie on that side for over 3 days.  Finally it is feeling almost back to normal.   Golly, that was an experience.

There I think I’ve caught you up on all things Wendy for now.

I hope you are having a joyful holiday season.  Try not to overdo, as you can see I probably am…..big dummy.  😊

*photo, “Water Droplet on Sage Leaf” taken by W. Holcombe.  Please do not use without permission.  All rights reserved

Mindfully seeing

“The best way to capture moments

is to pay attention.

This is how we cultivate mindfulness.”

~Jon Kabat-Zinn

 

This week I decided to try to get back to the basics of my mindfulness practice.  When I first started learning about being mindful I would take time to really look at things up close and see all the little things about them. I tried to keep my attention on the object and discover as much as I could about it, is it smooth? bumpy? soft? scratchy? colorful? alive?…… just trying to mindfully seeing the world, one piece at a time.  At one point I took my camera and took a ton of pictures of one object, seeing it through the camera lens made me pay even more attention to it.  This week I did that same exercise.  I’d like to share some of the photos I took.  These are all objects you might see in day to day life, I just got up close and personal with them.  I’m only sharing one photo from each object I looked at instead of a ton of one item, I thought it’d be fun to see if you can guess what each object is?  **answers can be found at the bottom of this post

20181109_08550820181109_08523720181109_08521820181109_08515420181109_102757

I challenge you to go out in your world today and pay attention to the world around you, one piece at a time.

What did you see today?

 

I hope you liked this version of Mindfulness Monday.

**The photos above are of a Dust mop, a plastic bowl on my kitchen counter, the shutters in my living room, the metal grating on my front door (like a super duper screen door, but with heavy metal), and the refection of the pool shining on my ceiling dancing with the shadow of the fencing.  (I have to say the last one isn’t nearly as interesting as it is when you see it literally dancing on the ceiling.)

All photos are the sole property of W. Holcombe.  Please do not use without permission.

 

Unsteadily Unstable

For the past month or so I’ve been filled with an inner rage and desperation that has been screaming for help.  I was hearing all the anger, fear, and sadness, but I couldn’t hear the call for help.  This week I finally heard it.  I finally understand that I haven’t been just reacting poorly to the stress in my life, or having mood swings because of a hormones, no, I’ve been having a bipolar episode.  I still know my moods aren’t where they should be, but it’s better than it was, and I will be seeing my doctor about it very soon.

I have so many things I want to say, I don’t know where to start.  hmmmm.

I have been reading about bipolar symptoms, specifically rage, and saw many things that are too familiar.  The rage can be set off by the smallest of things, often something I would never even consider getting mad about on a normal day.  The anger starts and builds quickly to a full blown rage!  After all the screaming and throwing things, and who knows what else, is over I feel better for about 2 minutes then I suddenly think, “Oh my god, What have I just done?”  Bipolar rage if often associated with mania,  but can also manifest during depression.  For me if the rage is from a manic episode I blow up fast and furious, but it burns out as quick as it started, leaving only the guilt and hurt behind.  When the rage comes during a depression episode I will have a huge blow up and it will go down, but he anger is still there, and I will blow up again, or I just stay angry for a long time.  The rage inside wanting to break through the surface.  So rage during mania is like a short burst, the rage during depression is a short burst followed by underlying anger and possibly another burst or two.  Both can cause everlasting damage, but the later is much harder for me to deal with.  When the anger doesn’t just go away after a rage episode I start to think it’s not caused by my mood disorder I’m just a bitch, and I start getting angry at myself.  So much anger, that is so hard for me.  I’m not normally an angry person.

Sometimes I will get angry about something, but I don’t let it get to me, just slough it off – at least I thought I did.  Often when the rage hits it’s after I’ve had a few things happen that have caused me to get mad, but I didn’t feel like it was a big deal, I thought I was just letting it go.  It seems to me that it will often be a little thing that sets it off, but it’s like the last straw kind of thing, all those little things I have gotten mad about suddenly rise to the surface and that one little event that made me blow up was fueled by all those other small flames.

Rage can damage even the closest relationships.  It can cause trouble at work, with your family, friends, authorities….rage can really mess up your life.  I’m so very lucky that my husband understands that my rage may seem focused on him, but it really has nothing to do with him.  Sometimes it does spark conversations and we fix all those little things that built up, but honestly the rage is never deserved. Even though he knows all this, it is still very, very hard on him.  When I get to the breaking point I often leave.  I will pack a bag and set off.  I have no idea where I’m going, and I just get madder because I feel I have no where to go.  When I leave like that it hurts and scares Stuart so much.  During this last episode I made him cry.  My husband does not cry often.

I was mostly stable for over 20 years, but over the last few years I’ve had more than one break through episode.  I’ve needed to change medications too many times.  I’m afraid we are going to get to the point where nothing works.  In addition to Bipolar I disorder, I also have generalized anxiety disorder.  Trying to find medications that treat both and I can tolerate has been a challenge.  I’m hoping the gene test I did will help with that.  I can  definitely say, that the new medication she put me on is not working, we have to find something else.

For over a month now I’ve been dealing with severe anger mixed with depression and anxiety.  I have also been getting tickled over the stupidest stuff and laugh until it hurts, but that doesn’t last long and I return to the negative moods quickly.

I think the rage has also been triggered by the return of my vertigo.  I’m back to having attacks multiple times a day.  I do think many of them are caused by migraine instead of Meniere’s because with some attacks I’ve been having aura right before it starts.  The fear has been real.  Not just the fear that it is coming back, I’m actually starting to accept that I am having a relapse, but I know the is a possibility for a remission.  However, I fear for my safety.  I’ve fallen 3 times in the past 2 weeks.  I’m back to using my walker in the house and sometimes when we go out.  (often when we go out I can use a shopping cart, or Stuart’s arm to steady me enough that I can get by for a bit)  For the most part I’ve been confined to the house, without the ability to do much of anything except watch TV.  I did sit outside once this week, but I had vertigo outside without anyone home, I had a very difficult time getting back inside.  I don’t think I’ll be going outside when I’m home alone any time soon.  I did ask my landlord yesterday if he would be a backup for me if I fell and needed someone and Stuart couldn’t get home, gratefully he said he would.  Of course, he also might not be available, but I’m relieved to know there is someone can call if I need it.

I think that’s enough for today.

I’ll leave you with a few photos I took yesterday of the flowers around my yard.  I miss seeing the leaves change colors, but I’m seeing a different beauty in the desert.  (most of these are Lantanas, technically a weed from Mexico.  It is very pretty and drought resistant. You will find them all over the area.  I’m thrilled to see this gorgeous native plant almost everywhere I go)

 

Mindfulness Monday – Life as it is

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“What would it be like if I could accept life

– accept this moment –

exactly as it is?”

– Tara Brach

 

“How you look at it is

pretty much how you’ll see it.”

 – Rasheed Ogunlaru

 

“Every experience,

no matter how bad it seems,

holds within it a blessing of some kind.

The goal is to find it.”

– Buddha

 

“Don’t let life harden your heart.”

 – Pema Chödrön

 

Today I searched for quotes to help me simply accept life has it is right now, and change my thought process about it all.  I promised someone recently, “Don’t worry I won’t let her steal my joy”, but by the time I said that, I realize I had already allowed that to happen.

The serenity prayer states, “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, Courage to change the things I can, And wisdom to know the difference.”  My biggest problem right now is that I don’t feel I have the wisdom to know the difference.   I’m spinning my wheels trying to figure out what I can change, and if I can’t change things, how can I just accept that?  What blessing do I find in it?  The greatest comfort I have right now is knowing that everything changes.  This is just a blip in my life, it will change…..right??  Please tell me it will change.  Between the stress in my personal life and the stress of politics right now, I just feel overwhelmed.

The holidays are coming up.  I was really looking forward to having the holidays with family, but it is way too complicated for me.  I’m ready to run away and hide for the next couple of months.  Anyone want to come with?

 

*photo by W. Holcombe, all rights reserved.  October Sunset in Tucson.

It’s challenging

I have no idea where to start this post.

I guess I’ll start first by apologizing for having to have Lorraine do Mindfulness Monday for me again this week (thank you Lorraine, you awesome) I have been feeling like a fraud.  I have been talking about mindfulness for a few years now and I simply haven’t been able to live the life.  My life seems out of control right now and I haven’t been able to accept that this is the way it will be and be okay with it.  My meditation practice has never been as regular as I’d like, but lately it has been non existent.  Why is it when I need this the most, I have been unable to simply let that shit go.

Living  in close proximity to family has been more stressful than I thought it would be.  We haven’t been able to help my father-in-law as much as we thought we would.  He simply wants to keep doing as much as he can in addition to caring for his wife, so he has some semblance of normalcy.  We do try to see him at least once a week, but that doesn’t seem like enough to me, and we haven’t been seeing as much of M as I thought we would.  She has no idea who we are and I’m afraid that is making her a little frustrated.  I’m not sure about that though.  She is very pleasant to be with, she talks and talks, I just wish I could hear her better.  Now that I’ve been more symptomatic, it’s hard to do much to help anyway.

My hearing loss has been much more of a challenge here than I thought it would be.  Not only do I have trouble hearing M, I can barely understand anything my niece and nephew say, and my new psychiatrist…well, let’s just say, I won’t be going there without Stuart with me to help translate.  She is very soft spoken and has an accent so she enunciates her words differently, it makes it extremely hard to read her lips.  I wish I knew sign language so I could request an interpreter.  I could request CART, but that’s really hard to set up, so it could make it very hard for me to get an appointment when needed.  I also don’t understand my headache doctor, he also has an accent, he talks fast, and really has no idea how to talk with someone who has profound hearing loss.  That kind of amazes me.  This city has a large elderly population, that means there are more people here who have late onset hearing loss, doctors should know how to communicate with us.  Oh who am I kidding, many doctors don’t know how to communicate with anyone, hearing or not.

The vertigo has gotten worse.  Ironic thing, I just received a letter saying my Medicare benefits are being reviewed, right after that my vertigo started going crazy!  When I finally got Medicare my symptoms started getting better, not immediately, gradually, but it was better.  Was it the extreme stress of feeling like a burden, and the fear that if something happened to Stuart I wouldn’t have insurance or any income, causing my vertigo to be worse?  I have no idea, all I know is that I’m having vertigo again, often, and I’m really upset about it.  I’m even using my walker again, not every day, but I’m definitely getting use out of it again.  I think buying a car was tempting fate, the last time I got a car I got worse….you can see how my mind is just spiraling.  I’m so tired.

To top it all off, I’ve been dealing with some of the worst rage episodes I’ve had in a long time.  I started taking estrogen about 2 weeks ago for menopausal symptoms, I’m thinking that could be it, but since I have Bipolar Disorder it always concerns me.  I do have a call into the doctor, let’s hope we can figure this out before I kill someone.

Speaking of my mental health, my psychiatrist had gene testing done to help determine which drugs are best for me.  The results are very interesting.  I want to share a lot of that with you, but this post is getting long, so I’ll save that for another day.  If you’d like to read more about the test I had, it’s called Genesight, here’s the link to their site.   https://genesight.com/

My back has started seizing again, the muscle spasms stop me from doing a lot of the things I’d like to.  Like baking!

But I was able to do a little celebrating for Halloween (after a complete meltdown on Halloween day, the night turned out pretty good.)

Here’s a few photos of my makeup, one from a festival we went to on Friday and the other for Halloween night to give out treats.  Halloween night wasn’t very inventive, it was the end of a very long and emotional day, so my makeup was not what I had planned.

 

I hope your Halloween was a hauntingly good time.

I’ve been having a hard time writing lately, I may be writing more journal type post, I think I need to get more of this stuff out.

 

 

Mindfulness Monday – Thich Nhat Hanh On Fear

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When I am in need of comfort, and have a desire for knowledge, I often turn to the teachings of Thich Nhat Hanh.  His words resonate with me and make me feel understood.  I hope you find his words as compelling as I do.  (Thich Nhat Hanh is often referred to as Thầy, meaning Teacher, throughout this post I will also refer to him as Thầy)

Below you will find quotes by Thích Nhất Hạnh, from his book Fear: Essential Wisdom for Getting Through the Storm. with comments by me on how these quotes reflect my life right now and help give me peace.

 

“The only way to ease our fear and be truly happy is to acknowledge our fear and look deeply at its source. Instead of trying to escape from our fear, we can invite it up to our awareness and look at it clearly and deeply.”
― Thích Nhất Hạnh

During the past week I have been having vertigo again, even though I’m feeling much better now, the fear of the possibility that things could get worse has been creeping up.  My first instinct is to run from this fear, or push it down and refuse its validity.   After reading this quote I realized how much I have been trying to escape from my fear, I now understand that I need to investigate it’s cause and think about it rationally.

“When we recognize that we have a habit of replaying old events and reacting to new events as if they were the old ones, we can begin to notice when that habit energy comes up. We can then gently remind ourselves that we have another choice. We can look at the moment as it is, a fresh moment, and leave the past for a time when we can look at it compassionately.”
― Thích Nhất Hạnh

Thầy really hit the nail on the head with this one.  For the sake of this post I will only talk about what has presently caused me to replay old events – a vertigo attack.  My automatic response to this attack was a flash back to my worst days experiencing vertigo.  The many days where I could do nothing but watch the world spin were suddenly replaying themselves in my mind.  It is refreshing to know that I have another choice.  I can take this attack as it is, a singular event, it is not part of my past  (well it is now…hopefully you get what I’m saying).  What happened this week was new, yes I’ve had thousands of vertigo attacks, but this was a different one, it was not one that I had already experienced, it was new.  It’s time to let the past go, to look at that time with compassion, especially for myself.

“We are very afraid of being powerless. But we have the power to look deeply at our fears, and then fear cannot control us.”
― Thích Nhất Hạnh

How liberating this quote is!  I often feel that everything in my life is out of my control, that I am powerless.  I lost so much of my independence and then got some back, the vertigo attack brought back all the times that I was so dependent on others for everything.  It’s that loss of control (power) that scares me.  Thầy teaches that we always have power over our fear, yes we will always feel fear, but if we look closely at our fears and really get to the root of it, we can then see that our fear does not control us, we control it.

 

I hope you enjoyed this variation on Mindfulness Monday, if it is well received I may do this type of post more often.  

*photo by W. Holcombe – night sky…yes it really is the moon..in Tucson.  Please do not use without permission.  All rights reserved.  ©