A journal of healing

Archive for the ‘alternative medicine’ Category

Frustrations

I was going to add an image here, but after looking through clip art I was so offended and insulted that I decided I would not put a picture in. Google images for obesity and take a look at the insulting and sarcastic images out there.

A two second look was all he gave it. A brief glimpse into the Internet and he declared his ruling. “It is not a reported side effect.” He had gone to the manufacturer’s website and true, it is not listed. I had scoured the internet for information before taking the drug. But here I was, three months after starting this new shot and 16 pounds heavier. He deduced it must be due to my consumption. I looked at him through tears and said, “Do you know how much food I would have to eat to gain that much weight that quickly?” He could not respond. I sat there, tears streaming down my face and said, “You are calling me a liar.”

Here I was again with a follow up visit to the rheumatologist office. At the December visit, I was having such a terrible reaction to the medication, Humira, that they thought I had damaged my heart. I was sent through many tests and had to visit a cardiologist. The results of the tests were my heart was fine and strong. I was taken off the medication and improved immediately. But there was an impact on my kidney function again. Once off the drug, I immediately started to take the few pounds off I had put on.

One month later, in January, I was on a new shot called Stelara. This shot is outrageously expensive and not everyone is approved for it. I was only because there was not much left for me to take. I have taken within the last three years Enbrel, Simponi, Cimzia, Avara, Otezla, and Humira. When I first went on medication thirteen years ago, I was put on methotrexate (MTX) and prednisone. Six months in I was peeing blood. I told my doctors who said it was because I was on Coumadin. I stayed on this drug for a year and a half. My glucose A1C went from 5.6 to 13. My blood pressure went up and I gain thirty pounds.

They took me off the drug and sent me to a specialist because my kidneys were damaged. One kidney seemed to not be working at all. The nephrologist intern said to lose weight. That was the extent of the visit. The damage was there and there was nothing they were going to do. My kidney did get better over time and my output levels improved. I also dropped the weight and then some and lowered my glucose levels too. It never returned to the 5.6 but stayed around 6, which at that time was ok.

Then, I started having kidney stones. I passed and collect over 32 stones. They were big and they were small. Some hurt terribly, others not so much. I never went into the hospital and I probably should have for the last one back in 2015. It was so big that I struggled to pass it. The labs results showed dangerous levels of uric acid in my blood plus other indicators that the kidney was not working. But no one did anything. I even showed the stone to my doctor after I birthed it and he cringed. My kidney labs never went back to normal. But I also have not passed stones because he put me on allopurinol. Kidney issues are now commonly reported now for people with psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis and they are beginning to do research on it. But no one has admitted that the medication exacerbated this situation or this correlation.

Here I was again, sitting in a doctor’s office being told to go on Weight Watchers. I have been on WW so many times I know the points for just about everything I eat. Last time on WW, I gained weight. Then the discussion about bariatric surgery came up again. I just gave up and sat there crying. I am so weary of all this. I told him I put on 3.4 pounds from the reading I did yesterday in the morning to checking the scale at night when I got home from work. It went back down the next morning but was about a ½ a pound more from the previous days. I have watched in horror this slow creeping. And yet, I have done everything I can to be careful in my consumption. Nothing changes with me in my diet. I eat the same breakfast and lunch as I have for years. Dinner is always chicken and veggies or salad most week days. I have cut out salty things including my beloved cheese.

On top of the weight, my blood pressure sored to dangerous levels right after the first shot. This is a common side effect of the shot and reported in the material. My kidney output again indicated there was a serious issue. My labs were terrible and the levels indicated were now in stage four CKD. My PCP was so concerned he called me in to the office. Again, he gave me medication for the BP. But again, the weight issue was my fault. After a week on this new BP medication, my once skinny ankles looked like Barney Rubble’s. The BP came down a bit but not enough. I was so puffed out that there were nights by feet hurt. I finally said enough of this and he put me on something else. Too soon to say what will be that outcome.

I will admit I am terribly afraid. The weight issue is such a horrible thing for me. Trying to convince people that I do not eat what they think I do is a never ending battle for me. Both doctors have recommended bariatric surgery and both doctors admit it would be very high risk for me. No one sees my health issues past the fat. I am not a person; I am a morbidly obese non-compliant patient.

I went to the patient portals for people with PsA and Psoriasis. In less than an hour, I had four pages of patient’s quotes who reported large weight gain on Stelara. It’s out there. I am not alone. And the frustration is not mine alone either.

And then I got it. The biggest selling point of Otezla is that people lose weight on it. It is true documented fact that you will lose weight on it. It is from being so sick. Those who lose weight reported diarrhea, nausea and other gastric issues. I was on it for a short time and it made me terribly sick. I could not walk straight. I felt like I was falling over all the time. It was like living with the worse hangover. It did nothing for my PsA or P.

This Stelara is a fairly new drug. It is expensive. It costs over $20,000.00 a shot. That is why most people do not get it as insurance companies do not want to pay that. It IS amazing. My psoriasis is almost gone. My ability to move is much improved. My pain levels have not been this low in years. I am grateful for this. But would people even try it if they knew there was a good probability they would gain weight on it? No, they won’t because being fat in America is the worst thing possibly you can have wrong with you.

I read somewhere that people would rather face debilitating depression and face suicide than take medication that would help, but had the side effect of significant weight gain.

I write this for people who have medical issues that may be similar in hope there is some comfort to know it is not just you. I found over fifty people who are on the same medication as I who took the time to write about it in post on a patient board somewhere. It is a small percentage of users? I do not know but I have to think it is more prevalent than that because not many people use or will write on these patient boards. Does it matter? Yes, because if we do not advocate for better treatment we will become slaves to drug companies selling poison. Doctors need to be aware that not all obesity is caused by consumption. I will probably never in my life be able to prove that. But I am going to try.

Risky business

ashwagandha

If you knew that doing one thing in the hopes of a better situation would automatically cause another difficult situation to occur, would you take the risk. If you take any form of medicine, you do that daily. There is not one chemical drug out there that does not have some risk when you take it. They even put this in writing now on the drug pamphlets that come with the prescribed drugs. “Your doctor has prescribed this medication because he or she has judged that the benefit to you is greater than the risk of side effects.” Are you willing to take those odds?

Sometimes there is no choice. You have to live with the side effects. I have gone through a series of drugs and have come up with some real doozie side effects. I took a drug and after four days it covered me with painful hives from head to toe. The answer from the doctor was stop taking the drug. But I was taking it to fight off an infection. I have gone through three major biologics and now a pill for my psoriatic arthritis in less than a year and half. I reacted to one with blood pressure readings that were stroke level. “Stop the drug.” The next one put my glucose over 350. “Stop the drug.” The newest one causes incredibly leg cramps. But I am sticking with it because it is helping my arthritis and my skin is clearing. But I only take half a dose.

In my research to find out more about the side effects of the Otezla I started reading about natural remedies. I have always preferred a holistic approach to my wellness. I have dabbled in alternative medicine now for years. I even worked with a homeopath, but got concerned with the lack of certification requirements for that approach. I have participated in energy therapy training. I have been interested in green medicine or herb tinctures for years.

I have been learning about Ayurveda medicine and find it fascinating. There is so much about it that it makes great sense to me. I like that the practice really delves into the body makeup and the whole person from the on-set. I have never had a doctor ask me if I like or tolerate spicy foods. But in Ayurveda, everything about you from the foods you eat, to how you relate to the world is important and part of the symptom management.

What started me looking was the horrendous leg cramps I was getting. I also noticed I had an eye twitch and was experiencing sleep issues. The solution was magnesium. I have been taking 400 mg at night and the leg cramps have all but gone. But I was also waking up in the middle of the night with anxiety attacks and only sleeping for four hours or so and not getting a good night’s sleep. I added melatonin for sleep but I was worried because you are not supposed to take melatonin for long periods of time. I also started to have really bad nightmares.

In my research I came across an herb that is supposed to be a wonder remedy. Everything I have read about this herb is amazing. But I do not go by the ad information; I go to patient user boards and medical evidence based journals. What I find amazing is that this herb and so many have been around for thousands of years. You want to talk about evidence based time studies. We do not have that amount of prescribed time on any man made drug. Right there is reason to get interested.

The herb I am trying is Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera). It proposed to do so much for so many areas of wellness, many symptoms I experience. It helps with sleep issues, boosts the immune system, can lower blood glucose and also blood pressure. I encourage you to look it up because there is a lot out there on this herb and I do not want to sound like an ad.

I am fascinated with the possibilities of getting off as many man made drugs and all their rotten side effects as I can. When the drug I took that raised my glucose A1C to 9.3, the remedy was to take another drug at night to bring it back down. The second drug costs $421.00 a month (without insurance). It can cause pancreatic cancer. Wahooo…. Just what I want. I truly cannot tell if it lowered the levels, or getting off the drug that caused the higher level is what is lowering the levels. I would have to go off it and see what happens. Another risk, but I think I have to try it. I cannot take certain cheaper meds like metformin because my kidney was compromised years ago when I was prescribed a pharmaceutical nightmare. This is a never ending circle that many folks get caught in as the body ages and they start taking more and more drugs to feel better.

My cholesterol was normally low most of my life, again surprising the doctors. It has steadily increased over the years to the point of being 238. My doctor wants me on a statin to bring it down. I tried it and had an immediate reaction and said no. I started taking fish oil religiously this winter. My last lab showed my reading at 188. I dropped 50 points in two months with taking the fish oil which costs nothing. My husband also got off his prescribed statin and took fish oil and lowered his back down significantly as well. Fish oil has no side effect and is a cheap OTC solution.

The issue with non-prescribed and non-regulated herbs is dosage and interactions. A prime example is teas. Chamomile is a very popular one for calming and sleep. It can significantly thin your blood if consumed in quantity. What is that amount, I do not know. Many herbs and minerals can become toxic to the body and do more harm than good if taken in large doses, and that matters by the individual. If the government steps in to regulate this area of health, the cost will skyrocket. The Ashwagandha could possibly aide me in getting off two drugs, cost together over $650.00 a month (uninsured). A bottle of 60 capsules cost me $16.50 and that was a high end product and an expensive store.

I will share with my GP doctor next week when I see him my viewpoint on delving into more natural remedies. He is going to be surprised with the lab results as my A1C dropped over two points also in two months. He is a young Indian doctor and we have talked about natural remedies. I am not sure if this is a conflict of interest for him, but I want him to be aware. He did not prescribe the arthritis medications and was upset with the reactions I was having.

I also want to be clear that your wellness is a team effort. Unless you are a doctor, self-prescribing can be dangerous. But I also feel very strongly about forced care plans. I am very warry of any practitioner who promises the world or threatens patients who they deem non-compliant. “If you do not take this medicine I will not see you.” But patient centered care is my vocation and a whole other topic.

 

 

 

Getting old is not for sissies.

Azalea 2

The statement of getting old is not for sissies was never more apparent to my in-laws as it was this week. Also true as demonstrated by this past week is that no matter the age, children prefer to remain in that role no matter how old the parent becomes.

Two weeks ago, my father in law (FIL) became quite sick and was hospitalized. His wife, my MIL, has dementia. None of this is a new situation. He has a bad heart and kidneys and is 95 and she has been progressively getting worse.

My MIL should have been put into a facility to help care for her years ago. If nothing else, daycare would have benefitted everyone. What I mean by this is that she would have received the medical help and personal maintenance that my FIL could no longer support her with. She did not have a shower in almost three weeks. She smelled, the apartment smelled and her clothes were stinky as she did not want to change her outfit either. For my MIL, it was a sense of control in a world where nothing else made much sense. My FIL was too overwhelmed and too guilty to do anything. A few years back, my BIL had set up something and my SIL squashed it as it was too much money.

They were extremely active up until the last decade. My FIL still wanted to be, but having to take my MIL anywhere was a nightmare. They sat and watched TV. Their inactivity was the worst thing for either of them, and my FIL had a pressure ulcer from sitting. The lack of stimulation and movement exacerbated my MIL’s condition.

On Friday, my MIL was admitted to a memory care unit. My BIL and SIL had a very difficult time of leaving her there, but I think for two different reasons. My BIL was heartbroken that his parents were going to end up separated and that she was in a “home.” My SIL was upset about the money which is substantial. My husband was relieved and thrilled because he understood the ramifications and possibilities.

She is in a program called Eden Alternative http://www.edenalt.org/. The facility is a circle of houses or cottages. Each one supports about ten residents and they all become a family of sorts. In the center of the facility is a large open outdoor area where residents can garden, play outdoor games, eat and just chat. There are other recreational facilities also. The residents are free to do whatever they want and are also guided to activities that are appropriate. There is also a beauty salon on site. They are free to go and do, except out of the facility, which is good as my MIL wandered every night. As I write this, it sounds like jail. But where they lived before was actually hell.

Dr. Al Power, who is one of the founding members of this program, once spoke at my work. He is amazing. He brought a gentleman with him who if you did not know him personally, you would not think anything about him. But he has dementia. One of the guiding principles of Eden Alternative is that all people change. The gentleman spoke about how he had this young man visit him every Sunday and brought a photo book with him. He showed him pictures of people and would nod and say yes about the stories he was told of each person in the photos. The visitor was his son and they were photos of his family. When asked if he really know who they were he said no. But, he said, it made the young man visiting him so happy he went along with it.

My MIL had changed so drastically and no one in the family got it. I did, and met her where she was. She was always happy to see me and “talk.” I have little history with her. Her kids could not accept that the mother they knew was not here anymore and everyone would get frustrated. She would talk about her children and how they were never there or lived somewhere else and they would be sitting right there. She never asked about her husband when he went into the hospital. She is in a different world and they wanted her back.

Yesterday my husband got a text and photo from the lady who is in charge at Cottage Grove. It was his mother. She looks ten years younger. Her hair had been washed and styled. When she was younger, she went to the hair dresser every week. She was in a colorful top she has not worn in a long time. He face was bright and she was smiling from ear to ear. The note said she was doing extremely well, sleeping through the night and participating in activities.

Once my FIL is up and better, he will be moving in with my BIL in their house. It was the original plan many years ago except that MIL was going to be in a facility five minutes from him and they could be together as much as possible. That is no longer feasible and we have my cheap ass SIL to thank for that. On top of her incredibly hording of the money left in her charge as Power of Attorney, she refused to stay with her mother in the last weeks. That responsibility was left to the boys, who could not help with personal things. She stated she could not stand to be around her. I find that so unacceptable but the boys put up with it. I am sure she saw a mirror every time she saw her mother. I think she also resented that her care was going to eat up her future hopes of a retirement plan in the way of an inheritance. Because of her delaying the process years ago, the cost of care for MIL is much more costly and the ability for my FIL to spend his last months with his wife is going to be difficult. Hopefully, my BIL will wrangle the advanced directives out of her hands.

I am thrilled for my MIL who has a future different than others had wanted for her, but has the possibilities of a good outcome. My FIL will be taken care of in his last year of his life surrounded by my BIL’s family, his grandchildren and great grandchildren. He is only an hour away from us and we will come up as invited. MY BIL owns his own business, is semi-retired and his wife adores him. He will be well taken care of.

 

 

 

Birthday wishes for me

roses

On turning 61

I am not sure how and when, but tomorrow I turn 61. My last birthday at 60 was terrible. I am more used to the number but still overwhelmed with the swift passing of time. As the years accumulate, the time seems to expedite like traveling down a slope, picking up speed as I tumble and slide. There are no brakes.  I can see how the feeling of hopelessness can accompany someone as they age but that is not how I am feeling. Ok, well not all the time.

My dearest friend and I spent Friday night sitting in the garden and talking about our lives. We asked each other what we would do if we could do anything in our golden years of retirement. Her dream is to get into an RV and drive the country taken pictures and blogging about them. What a wonderful idea. My brain immediately went to all the reasons why I would not be able to do that. Fear is the biggest road block to happiness.

I have no clue what I would do. I could only see myself as I am now, working where I am and in my current home. That is not the real desire, but I could not put myself to the future and relinquish the controlled life I have now.  It spoke volumes about the level of stress I am in right now.

I am a believer of the power of vision. We all have the ability to close our eyes and “see” things, but you have to be ready and you have to really concentrate. The concept of the third eye and dream visions and so forth are real and has been around forever. I am not gifted like some with the power of vision, but I have an amazing empathic sense of the current situation. This is not to say I haven’t ever had visions or knowledge of something without tangible proof.

I find the lack of a plan for the future unsettling. I like to have a direction or path with a destination of some sort even if it is only a stopping point to the next place. Some say it is the journey not the destination that counts. Not having a plan is making me feel a bit lost and hitting this marker of my birthday had caused this concern to resurface.

I know every day is a blessing for me at this point. I watched my parents and many friends and family depart this plane of existence too early. I have always said I want to leave this world a better place because of my influence. I thought it would be through my own children, and that was not to be. I thought teaching was my contribution, but my level of influence in that area is negligible.

There is something  deep within me that says there is something I am supposed to do that will make a bigger difference in the world. I really only became aware of this in the past few years. It is like a simmering pot that has been turned up. We all have a calling, but many people do not hear it. For me, it burns within and shouts in my head. But it is unclear as to what it is supposed to be. It is very frustrating and being so adds to the noise and muddles the resolution. Meanwhile, time keeps ticking away.

I spent a lot of time studying many spiritual things. I read about neuroscience and the workings of the brain. I have done energy work and spent a small fortune on taking classes in Healing Touch and Reiki and Mindfulness. I have read volumes from the nonsense of Doreen Virtue, the science of many doctors like Peter Levin, and Robert Scaer to the prophecies of Eckhart Tolle, Brene Brown, Eric Pepin and Don Ruiz. I have over sixty or so spiritual books in my Kindle alone. My newest author is Stuart Wilde and I am devouring his books like candy.  I have studied Christian, Buddhist, Zen and Pagan methodologies and teachings. I lean more to a Pantheist viewpoint with rituals and the Craft.   I have taken classes in trauma treatment and may work on another certification in the fall.  It all is leading somewhere.

On this eve of this birthday, I am sending birthday wishes for a few things. I need a guide. I have known this for a while and have been asking every night for a guide. I had a dream about a friend of mine at work who is the Spiritual Chaplin for hospice. The next day, he stopped by at my desk. Was that the opportunity and I blew it? We talked about Weight Watchers as he was part of the group who was taking it at work. Not all is lost, but I am not sure about his connection. But that’s the point.

Am I supposed to take this next certification? It will cost me but the result will be a certification as a Trauma Specialist. I can work as a consultant for providers and schools. Do I  make this investment of time and money at this point? Not sure… So I wish for clarity of my path.

And my other wish is the health and strength to be physically able to do whatever is next. Some say if it is to be, I will be strong enough. I was lucky that there were other drugs to take when the Enbrel stopped working. The Simponi I am on is finally working. My 25 year old step daughter cannot keep up with me when we go shopping or work around the house. Granted, she is in terrible shape for a 25 year old. But I seem to have regrouped some of my energy and strength. I am so much better than I was a year ago at this time. Although I have stopped being extreme on my diet, I am still holding off the weight I lost. This month is not one for diets. We start celebrating the first week of June, and it goes right on until Father’s day when we celebrate that. You can never have enough birthday cake. We also are heading for The River for a while and I am going to enjoy myself. (I have a whole post brewing about being on a diet and how people can be so invasive of your life.)

I am hoping my time at The River will help me focus and find my footing again.  I am off to sit in my garden, give thanks for all I have received in my life, and acknowledge my gratitude to the Goddess for all she has given me and the world.  I am so blessed in so many ways. And I will again ask for guidance and direction.

So mote it be.

 

 

To Boldly go where no man has gone before…….

Potty I had so many titles for this post.  “Which end is up?” “Danger, blast site!” “It’s all water in the end.” All’s well that ends well.”  “Up periscope!”  Can anyone guess what I am prepping for? I have been perseverating about this for about a month.

I have been having some digestive issues…well actually my whole life. It started when I was a kid. My mom’s remedy was horrible and she used it frequently. I think this is one of the reasons I am having such a hard time. It was quite common in the fifties before they had prepared medicine you could get at the store. (If they had them, my mother never used them) Instead it was a humiliating process with hot soapy water. Ghad! Even now I cringe.

I cannot believe I have shared this memory as it had lurked in my head hidden for years. But there it is. I am usually not bothered by tests such as scans, scopes and so forth as I have had several. I was diagnosed about seven years ago with diverticulitis. It is highly probably that it is part of the disease process from my psoriatic arthritis.

About three years ago, I started having real issues. Scary, “I hope I can make it and no one is in the bathroom” moments, that are the nightmare of anyone who has an issue like this. People with IBS and Crohn’s know of what I speak.

When I was a younger woman, it was the fear of a monthly accident.  And I had some horrible moments that including leaving my uterus in a chair in a conference once. I escaped with blood pouring down my legs. “Gee, I hope no one saw.”  Yeah right. I was so prolific that I used carry a drug store of protection with me everywhere along with a change of clothes. Instead of the riding the cotton pony, I would eye ball sheep!

When I had my period medically stopped, it was like a new lease on life. My last period lasted for three months. I was heading for a transfusion when they decided to stop it at first with a shot and then with a procedure. Lucky for me, I went into menopause and never had an issue again with that.

And now, I still am tied to being near a bathroom for a completely different reason. I joked with my friend that we are only changing the need of protection but we came in wearing diapers, went to pads for different reasons and back to diapers, I am sure.

So I am hopeful that the colonoscopy will not discover anything that can’t be easily fixed. I am also hoping to get some help with the digestive issues that are part of the problem.  I am talking about that food comes and goes almost in the same form. I normally eat a high fiber diet: salad, veggies and fruits. Now,  I can eat like that for only so long before I have an issue. Then, the opposite occurs for a while and on it goes in a cycle of on again and then off. Either way, I am in pain much of the time. I am almost used to it.

Like an idiot, I have done research…. It’s what I do. Unfortunately, I have discovered and now it is haunting me that I have every symptom of colon cancer except bleeding, which is fascinating because I am on a blood thinner.  The one that is weird is feeling cold. I never have felt as cold as I have in the past months. It is an internal chill that does not dissipate with warmer clothes or even tea.  The other symptom is losing weight. I have lost about 23 pounds. But I am trying to lose weight. But in all honesty, I am not trying all that hard. And it is coming off.

So I am off from work tomorrow to drink the Kool-Aid, so to speak. I am scheduled early Friday morning for the actual procedure. I took off not only because of the shared bathroom issue, but because I have been a blithering idiot the last two days. Some people know why, but not everyone. I am frightened also that the prep may cause damage. I am actually scared I will have a blowout. And although I am sounding like I am joking, I am not. I won’t sleep much tonight. I just hope everything comes out alright….. literally.

Trauma Informed Organziations

crystal light

I am currently working on a certification from the University of Buffalo on Trauma Informed Organizations.  I have been studying trauma related materials for a while. It has been fascinating and helpful  healing for me.

What is a Trauma Informed organization? It is an organization that has taught trauma informed care from the person who answers the phone to the CEO. It is the basis for policy and procedures. Trauma informed agencies and organizations are totally aware that every contact with a patient makes a difference in their reaction to the care being offered and also in their ability to get well.

For example, a person with mild PTSD is coming to see a doctor for stomach upset. The admission person snarls at them because they are lacking some information on their admission form. She tosses the clip board at the patient and says snottily, “you need to fill out all of the information!” She is line with several people behind her. (Having people behind you is a big trigger for trauma patients.) The client/patient did not fill out all the information on purpose because she is not ready to share her details yet. She will once she sees the clinician but not with everyone else. It is her right. Her stomach issues are actually a response to the stress from domestic violence, but she is not going to share that easily. A trauma informed organization treats everyone like they have a trauma. The clinician who she eventually works with should request a trauma screen once the patient is comfortable with the plan of care. By doing a root cause analysis, then, and only then, will the real healing begin.

Trust is huge along with safety for someone who is traumatized. Just walking into a new environment is bad enough, let alone in a waiting room with strangers, standing in line  and having to answering questions to someone who does not give a rats-ass about why your there.

Another perfect example of a non-informed practice is the process of getting vitals. This is me: I am sitting way too long in the waiting room. Other patients are called before me. I start to worry why I am not getting called back. Did they forget me? (Blood pressure begins to rise) Finally someone swings the door open, and even though I have been coming to this practice for years, and they all know me, they bark my name from across the room. I get my stuff and in a cadence for jogging, we go back to where all the rooms are. They stop and bark “get on the scale.” I am immediately humiliated. Blood pressure is really rising. Then we trundle off to the little room where she asks questions about meds. She pulls a cuff from the drawer and puts it on over my sweater. The pressure is high.  She sharply asks me why I am there. Of course by this point I am upset.

This is how I dealt with this. I sit near the door so they do not have to yell across the room. I refuse the scale….which used to be a fight. But it is your right and the trauma issues getting weighed causes me…well, they know now not to ask. I tell the doctor because I weigh myself every day. In winter, the clothes you have on can add many pounds.  I make them use the right sized cuff and on my skin. It bothers me that they don’t wipe it down afterwards. Surprisingly since I started doing this my blood pressure readings have been wonderful. When they ask why I am there to see the doctor, I simply and nicely say, “I will tell the doctor” or I say “follow-up.” They have no reason to know. If I need a shot, the doctor has to order it and he will tell them.

Being a trauma informed organization can only improve healthcare across the board. Non-adherence and non-compliance are huge issues. Patients need to want to take their medicine and follow their plan of care to improve their health. Our medical system in the USA is totally reactive. We spend millions on after-the-crisis care. Being trauma informed and using methods such as trauma screenings and motivational interviewing can only improve patient care.

Being trauma informed is for all health organizations. The scenario I described about myself is my GP at a family practice. Even though I work in homecare, being trauma informed can be practiced there as well. It can be used in every environment where there is a community. When we see people who seem out of it, or stand-offish or short tempered, it would be mindful to remember: You do not know the whole story.

 

 

 

Releasing

osprey

Most mornings, when I lay in bed for a moment, I sense fear. It is not a pleasant sensation. I have tried to explain this to many people, therapists and such. They  responded with a “get over it” attitude. It is a very real phenomenon for me. I do not enjoy it. I do not manufacture it by will and it often colors the rest of my day. Most of the time, the preoccupation with tasks and duties of the day helps to dissipate it in short course. But it often lingers in a physical reaction in my body, even if my mind has moved on.

The sensation is not about any one thing. It is so general; I do not think I can describe it well. But it comes over me like a heavy blanket as I lay there. It happened again this morning.

Last week, I spent some time listening to Hal Dwoskin talk about the Sedona Method. He has the greatest laugh by the way. His technique is to feel whatever feeling you are feeling. Really embrace it. Then you ask yourself a series of questions, which paraphrased is basically giving yourself permission to first acknowledge the feeling in all its intensity and then just for the present moment, letting it go. He demonstrates this by holding on very tightly to a pen, and then dropping the pen. You can pick the pen back up if you want or let it roll away.

At first I thought as I listen that this was the biggest pile of doo doo I had ever heard. But I listened to a series of six programs and then a movie. All this was a promo to buy the DVDs for his program. So for six nights while I was painting I listened and enjoyed his stories.

But I though what the heck, how hard can this be. I researched the Sedona Method, because that is what I do. It has been around for a very long time originating with Lester Levenson. There is a ton of material out there on the process and I also became aware of how many of the other programs are just modification of his method.

I have been trying it. I do it on the way to work when I have time to focus on what transpired since waking up. I have to admit this works. By really feeling whatever is going on, really being in the present moment and then just letting it go, there is a small shift every time. If I keep repeating it until the feeling is not apparent, and then I simply move on. The key is really acknowledging the feeling. People like me are riddled with guilt and so when we have a negative feeling, guilt comes along for the ride. We often suppress our anger or sadness as part of the conditioning we received. This process gives permission to me to really be mad or sad…. But then, let it go. I trick my brain by saying for only this moment. If I want to, I can come back to this. I never seem to.

I may have to repeat the process a couple of times to really drop it, but I do. The interesting part is that the body chemically shifts. I find my breathing returns to a deeper, calmer pattern. My muscles release and relax. I can get myself into a tight little ball in a NY minute. My gut eventually calms down. It is not like euphoria comes over me. It is all very subtle.

The brain can be a nasty beast. I found myself the other day coming up with something horrendous in my mind. I was so upset by what was transpiring out of my own creation that I was crying on my drive in. I did the method and by the time I was almost to work, it was gone. I cannot tell you what it was I created now. Gone. This has happened now a couple of times.

This is all very new. I am trying it when I get frustrated with people, which is often. I am trying it in situations where I would have in the past held on so tightly that I would get muscle cramps. I am far from 100% successful. But every time I let something go, I feel better and so it is becoming the preferred state.  More neural pathways of pleasant things are being created pushing the old nasty ones out of service.

Maybe this is why this method has been around for so long. It is so simple anyone can do it. Here are some links with more information.

http://lesterlevenson.org/   http://www.sedona.com/programs.asp

 

 

Slaying the Dragon

bw dragon1

This post is in honor of all the dragon slayers I have met along my path. Through the act of blogging, I have met many wonderful writers whose words have carried me over trenches and moats filled with dangerous fears.

I never could have imagined where I am right now in my life. I am so glad I took the time to sit down and start penning my thoughts over three years ago.  Granted my first audience was one. But it was a powerful one. And he taught me so much. And from him, I reached out to others who taught me as well.

There is a lot of comfort to read and share our intimate fears and also our joys. I may not know you if you were to walk up to me on the street, but there is a camaraderie established by our shared words.

I highly recommend writing as a therapeutic method for healing. It does not matter actually if anyone else reads your words. But there is something to knowing someone out “there” is actually reading and listening to you. The act of getting thoughts and word down also helps to see them for what they are.

So keep writing, keep reading and keep sharing……And then let the dragon go….

I am  participating in the Black and White Challenge from Cordelia’s Mom. This is Day #2.  I am supposed to nominate someone. I would like to nominate Bert, who is an incredible photographer.

http://whoisbert.wordpress.com/

 

Negativity bias and forgiveness

rain clouds'

The negativity bias[1] (also known as the negativity effect) refers to the notion that, even when of equal intensity, things of a more negative nature (e.g. unpleasant thoughts, emotions, or social interactions; harmful/traumatic events) have a greater effect on one’s psychological state and processes than do neutral or positive things.[2][3][4] In other words, something very positive will generally have less of an impact on a person’s behavior and cognition than something equally emotional but negative.

When asked to recall a recent emotional event, people tend to report negative events more often than they report positive events,[38] and this is thought to be because these negative memories are more salient than are the positive memories. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Negativity_bias

If you were to ask fifty people in a group that is face to face, “are you happy?” most people will answer quickly that they are. But underneath, you will find that most people are not happy as happiness is one of those elusive feelings. We think we are happy, but if you start to think you are happy, these nasty little negative thoughts worm their way into your frame of reference. Couple that with the fact that most people have experience a disproportional amount of unpleasantness, and for some trauma, by the time they reach early adulthood. We are the walking wounded.

But not everyone is a negative-Nellie. I have been searching for so many answers in the last years. This includes my question of how is that some people just seem naturally happy? Are they oblivious to the world, which by the way is not very nice? My inquiry has led me to conclusion that it is a choice. It takes focus, patience and a lot of fortitude to have a quiet, calm and pleasant demeanor.

It also takes solitude and time to process input because negativity comes at you without your choice. We are flooded with input which is judgmental, sadistic and hateful. Information is disguised as humor is measured in the failure of others and how quick we are to place blame for their mistakes. In actuality, the humor comes from the relief that we are not the victim of the joke.

When I think of someone who is truly happy and content, the only people I think who really reach that state are people who are cloistered. It is easy to be happy and content when you live unaffected and separate yourself from the reality of the world. Peace comes from having all your needs being met in a secluded and secure environment. (This is one reason why recidivism is so high.)

I am striving to change many things in my life for the better. I know I do not have a lot of time to turn around sixty years. I also do not want to be one of those people who are so guru-like that they become annoying. I doubt my demeanor will ever reach that state. I have too much of a sense of humor not to see the idiocies of humans as amusing, including myself. I do not watch TV. I rarely listen or look at the news. I figure I surround myself with enough catastrophe proclaimers that if something really awful was coming they would tell me. Not that there would be much I could do about it, so why worry? I admit that I have isolated myself these past months. I even moved my office to a much more secluded area at work, which has been wonderful. I only see the people who have intent to see me. My other office was like being on display all the time. I stopped seeing anyone connected to “working on myself.” I found that it was like being tethered to my past and that I was never going to get on with it if I kept dragging up issues that I cannot change now. Besides, I am the only one who can really have an impact on my being.

Instead of being stuck in the past, I am trying to improve the future. I have ideas of what I would like to achieve in the future, but I am not putting a goal on them. I do not want to be intimidated by a point of measure. It sort of defeats the purpose. Instead, I think of it as a pathway, a direction to go in.

I am also including a huge amount of forgiveness in my work. I hold on to things. That is the basis for the negativity bias. We all automatically process in the negative domain. It takes time to reprogram our pathways to find alternative reactions. It is hard work.

An example of this is my health and weight issues. I am stuck in a cycle that I may never actually break. It is horrendous. (I know that is a big word) Seems that being fat creates being fat. There is a condition called metabolic syndrome which has many implications, but basically it is the construct that some people are predisposed to being fat. (I hate the word fat and it triggers all sort of things in me, btw) It also seems that there is a hormone called Adiponectin which is secreted in the blood which helps to regulate metabolism. However, the heavier you are, the more body fat you have, the less of this adiponectin you have circulating in your blood. Adiponectin has been postulated to play an important role in the modulation of glucose and lipid metabolism in insulin-sensitive tissues in both humans and animals. Decreased circulating adiponectin levels have been demonstrated in genetic and diet-induced murine models of obesity. http://care.diabetesjournals.org/content/26/8/2442.full

It seems that this also is a marker for inflammation. In other words, the less adiponectin flowing, the more inflammation you have. How this pans out is that you can eat the same amount of calories as a skinny person, and the heavy person will gain weight no matter what. Add to the fact that your body is coursing with inflammation, which also adds water weight and will stop anyone from moving and viola….you have the perfect storm.

Here is an example of how negativity bias works: I took a break from writing at this point. I started going down this path of “Gee, people who read this will think I am looking for an excuse…” and down the negative path I skipped. It took a pause to realize, “I don’t care. I am writing this piece in hopes someone else might find something good in it. The facts are I am facing a pretty big mountain (no pun intended) but it is totally my choice how and what I do. I know in my head that I am not going to give up, so it does not matter what people think. They already judge me for being fat so, who cares?”  The last line makes me smile and I move on…….

My point is that we all face hardships in our world. It is being human. How we face them is also our choice. Some call on a Deity for help, others look to science. I am somewhere in between. When I said I was working on forgiveness, it was not in relationship to others. It is totally in relationship to me. If I don’t forgive my own trespasses against myself, I will be permanently mired in the muck of life. Only through this freedom can I really forgive others.

 

 

 

Creating New neuropathways

bush

I cracked my eyes open a bit, struggling in the weird morning light. I looked at the clock and thought, geeze, it should be brighter. The cat had been pulling on my covers and the dogs stirred. It was time to get up. I pulled back the curtain to reveal the street lights still on and a blinding snow storm raging outside. The snow is coming down so hard that it is hard to see across the street. This was not at all expected and certainly not welcome. The only good thing about it is that it is Sunday and I do not have to drive to work in it. But my enthusiasm for being positive was gone and it was going to be a struggle not to feel trapped in the house and worried about the weight of the snow on some of the budding trees. March is a mean month around here.

I want to share something I using. I have been practicing meditation for some time. Some days I can get quiet and really go deep. Most days it is very difficult to quiet my mind and retain that quiet for any length of time. I have learned that even a few moments are good. I find some days that trying to focus on nothing produces a worse effect of perseveration. When I find myself digging in on something that is bothering me, trying to get quiet is like trying to hold on to water with a sieve. It won’t work.

But I do have something that does work. It takes time to develop especially if you have PTSD. Being hypervigilant makes it very near impossible to quiet the mind. I have to be in a place that I feel very secure. This spot where I write is one. But I am often interrupted by an animal that thinks because I am quiet I need to pet them. My favorite place, and the place I am the happiest, is outside in my garden. I realized yesterday as I was sitting in the sun, that this was the tonic that I needed. Being inside for over five months has depleted me.

I am working on something else to help calm me and make me feel less like I am going to explode. I have been trying to do this for a couple of years. It has taken me all this time to make this successful. Serendipitously, someone sent me an email talking about the very thing I was doing.

When you are hypervigilant or suffering from some form of PTSD, your mind has been trained to go to a place of fear. That happens in milliseconds. Something triggers you, and there you are. When you are not aware or do not have the ability to feel and see when it happens, it is extremely hard to not go there. And what happens is you build your fear base exponentially. One little trigger sets off a chain reaction and down you go. For me, it gets compounded with a physical reaction producing pain and immobility.

When I am in the throes of a panic attack, trying to calm myself is not happening. Matter of fact it exacerbates it. It’s like not trying to look at an accident when you drive by. Instead you’re drawn to it.

My new practice, which is really helping, is to do “spot ahh” moments. It has taken sometime to feel what that is. When we are children, we do this naturally. It is when someone does something or we see something that is miraculous. We sometimes hold our breath as if to breathe would disrupt the moment.  It is finding the joy and wonder in small, inconsequential things. They are everywhere. But if you are spending your life in fear, the darkness shields your eyes and plugs your ears.

Why is this good medicine? Our brains are constantly learning and developing new neuropathways. We get wired every time we do something and we print this as a memory. For children and adults who are subject to constant horrors and trauma, the brain prints neuropathways that will enable them to be safe. One must remember that trauma is based on the perception of the victim. We learn early on basic dos and don’ts in order to survive. Things like not trusting people, being quick on your feet, being defensive, never having your back to someone are methods used to survive. This type of protection has to be hardwired and impulsive. That is what makes it so hard to change. On top of that, our brain builds negative reactions faster and holds on to them harder than positive ones. It goes beyond just thinking. It is a chemical reaction occurring spontaneously to a trigger whether real or perceived.

Trying to “talk someone” down is near impossible. Imagine how difficult it is for the individual to try to “talk them self down”.  It does not work. Things like affirmations and listening to just words is not enough. Trying to meditate to calm is like swimming in a pool with a shark. You know it is there and you are trying to enjoy the water, but something is lurking and threatening you. You cannot think safe. It needs an all-encompassing mind-printing, neuropathway-generating situation. Mediation is an excellent tool to calm down a bit. The breathing and relaxing is a great way to calm physically. But you need both the brain and body to connect.

I am trying this method. When I start to feel something nice… that soft glowy feeling of “ahh”, I stop and totally focus on it. I print it. I feel what my body feels which is usually deep and soft breathing, my skin almost tingles, and for a brief moment, I have no pain. I pay attention to the perception of no fear. Time stops for a moment and I am lost in a sea of pleasure. Sometimes I say in my head “print this”. Pay attention. The sensation goes very deep. I can feel it coming on and I have to stop and focus.

An example of this is what I experienced yesterday. I had several “moments of ahh”. One was outside. The birds were singing, the wind was gently ringing my wind chimes, the sun was on my face and warm and it was blissful. Later, I was sitting in my recliner reading a good book. I stopped and paid attention to how I felt. I was bundled in a comforter which made me feel like I was floating in a cloud. The light was streaming in the uncurtained windows and through my plants creating a lovely array of shapes and colors and I had a dog curled up with me.  I was totally safe. I deeply felt it. I can actually draw it back up as a memory now. I am building an arsenal of those moments.

This is what will make the difference. I will create a system over time of these memories. And because they are new and very strong, they are slowly replacing the fear based ones. Someone once asked me why I struggle so much. I said because I did not know what safe was. The memories were obliterated with years of fear which grew stronger with each infliction. I am sure there were happy times in my past, but I honestly struggle to be able to pull them out. So I have to create new ones. I have to teach my brain to be able to go to a happy place…..seriously.

Paying attention to the world around you is not new. It is called Mindfulness. There is tons of work being done in this field. I have taken classes and read tons on it. I have actually brought into my workplace and have a class in my orientation program. There is no real skill other than a decision to work at it. And it takes work. In our hurry-up, instant gratification world, it takes dedication to this practice.  I am not talking about running around in a Zen like trance. No one can teach this to someone. It has to be embraced by the individual. Just take a moment to stop and pay attention to the environment and your place in it. An added bonus to this practice is that it makes me aware of how lucky I am, how wonderful things can be in my world and I am grateful. Feeling gratitude is also very beneficial to your well-being.