A journal of healing

Posts tagged ‘behavioral science’

Induced Depression

falls rainbow

Last night we watched a couple of movies, like we do every Saturday night through the “can’t sit outside” time of the year. I rent all kinds of movies. Some are surprisingly good and some are so bad, you feel like you have been slapped when they are over. I rarely buy into what the Academy has touted as the best of the best. My favorites are usually love stories that end well, or animated. Anything from Pixar is a winner in my books.

But the choices seem to have narrowed. I try not to rent very violent movies. The violence stays with me for days. Any movie that has animals dying is not good and especially if it is a dog.

This post is not really movie critique but a commentary on what we are doing to ourselves. Depression is contagious. Being sad is not a good place to be. But we have surrounded ourselves with a world of death and mayhem and turmoil. We call it entertainment. What are we exposing our children to?

I no longer watch TV. Not at all. I was too disturbed by it. Funny, because that was what I did for a living and that is what I taught. But it to me is no longer entertainment. It is abusive. It sets up a world of comparison that no one can live up to. And the last thing I want to watch is people struggling and call it entertainment. I believe it desensitizes people so they are no longer shocked or empathetic. It is just someone else’s problem. Much like how images of war are no longer considered disturbing.

But I do love the escape of a good movie. I can see the art in the scenes and the pathos of a good story. I still watch for technical merit as well as looking for the quality of the finished movie.  I also love a good laugh. Best movie I have seen for a really good laugh is BFG (BIG Friendly Giant). Any movie that has a fart in it is big with me.

Last night’s choice was Manchester by the Sea followed by Beauty and the Beast. OMG, I had horrible dreams all night and feel like I was run over. Manchester has to be one of the saddest and most tragic movies out there, but I do not mean that in a good way. The hopelessness and chronic depression the main character goes through was not entertaining. It was just tragic. The story was about life and was very real in its depiction, I will give it that. But if I had known what I was going to be getting myself into viewing this, I would have not.

But the real offense was the second movie we rented; Beauty and the Beast. This was not an animated movie although there was tons of CG and special effects; it was live actors. I will say this, it was beautiful. The scenery, back grounds, dresses and sets were amazing. But it was extremely violent and filled with animals being killed. It missed the boat as far as we were concerned. But the violence was over the top and I would never let a child see that movie. The voice over did not match the mouths and it was choppy and erratically edited. It was a disappointment and again, just violent.

Even something like Pet Stories was violent. Why?

People might say that all fairy tales are violent. True as that is, they are only as violent as the reader and/or listener can conjure up in their head. When we put the stories to film, we are subjected to the movie maker’s concepts of violence.

Growing up in the 50’s and 60’s, we had a different selection of entertainment than we have now. TV was not violent or sexual at all. It was entertainment. Some of the first movies I did see as a child were musicals. They were happy and bright. The first real exposure I had to a violent movie was Clockwork Orange and to this day I still hate it.

What are we doing to ourselves as a society? We know that negative bias is a real thing. Biologically, we are designed to accept negative input more so than positive. https://www.psychologytoday.com/articles/200306/our-brains-negative-bias.

Is it just me who feels a sense of loss from such constant negative bombardment? Am I just being overly sensitive? (see past blog) This is my opinion: I think truly that the media output is by design meant to create a society that can be controlled and manipulated into accepting darkness as way of being. The results are demonstrated in the amount of bullying and just nastiness we see in our lives from our adult relationships  and the behavior of our children. I don’t find it acceptable.

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.

 

 

 

To schmooze or not

strom 1

Today was a really weird day. I felt like I was at odds with people. Ever have a day like that? I of course, was doing nothing wrong…. But it seems that every turn was an argument or discussion. It was beautiful and the temperature hit 84. I thought maybe people were angry because they were inside. I had a couple of meetings that it seemed if I said black, someone had to argue white.

Finally I got home and worked in the yard and had dinner later. As the day ended and a storm was blowing in, I sat under my tree in my garden and just thought about things. The air was beginning to swirl and I have many wind chimes that were ringing their tunes.

As the warm tempest began to build with the sky turning pink and dark I had a time to think about the day.

And like a slap to the forehead, I realized it was me. All me.

I wanted people to just instantly agree with whatever wonderful idea and concept I was pitching in the meetings. I usually have great luck with swaying people to my thoughts. Yes, I can schmooze with the best of them. I come from a family that was very good at this talent. My father made his living as a salesman of many things. My brother sells high end corporate properties. I make my living to some degree developing people, which is a form of selling people on themselves.

My issue is I want to control things. It is not so much about winning, but that is it to some degree. It is about people buying into my world, my rules and my way of thinking.

How freaking arrogant is that?

The truth is it is not about control and it is not about arrogance. It is about safety. And if people fall in line with what I need, I am safe. Arguing is not being safe. Different people’s methods of doing things creates exposure and is unsafe.

Funny how I can see this in other people, but it took a long time for me to see it in me. But recovery starts with identifying the issues and facing them.

Time to work on some releasing.

 

 

 

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

 

 

The Scarlet Letter

3-30-14 snowfall

This morning I went to work to feeling like I needed to explain myself to everyone. It has been a bad couple of days lately…well not bad…wrong word. But not great is not adequate either. I am in one of my cycles that I will eventually spin out of…and there… I apologized. I need to stop doing that. It should be enough for me to be me and that includes the not so great stuff. Somewhere, that wiring of self-compassion short circuited.

Yesterday was a perfect example of what it is like to live with PTSD. It started when the first weather alert was broadcasted on Sunday for a wintery mix. ICE…my most unfavorite weather. In 1991, our area was decimated by a catastrophe of an ice storm. We went without heat and power for 14 days. It started to lose the “gee, we’re camping in our home” around day five.  Because my husband at that time was a cop, he was gone and working 24 X 7. (Later, I found out he was not working all those hours.)  I was left to tend the home fires, so to speak.  When they call for ice, I go into hyper-worry now.

On Monday night, they moved the prediction up to Tuesday afternoon.  I had a huge workshop to facilitate and would be stuck until the last which meant after five pm. I started to become hyper.

Tuesday morning, I was a mess. I did not sleep the night before. I was up and out early. And exactly as they said, it started to snow right after lunch. It was heavy, wet snow and coming down in buckets.  My physical reaction started in earnest. I was breathing short breaths. My gut was a mess. I lost my appetite, which was ok. But by two pm, I was starving and nauseous and had to eat. It went straight through me with vengeance. My voice was higher than normal and I spoke in short abrupt sentences, when I could say a whole sentence. I could not focus. I was not nice to be around because I was looking through people.  I kept getting up and leaving the workshop to either pace or go to the bathroom.

Finally I was released from my self- inflicted prison and headed for my car. I took a lot of gruff and ridicule for being so upset. My team laughed at me at first and then became condescending. They have no idea what is really going on with me. It is not really their business.  But I normally take a lot of kidding on many things. But this was too close.

I got home. The drive was awful. It is only ten miles, but it is up and down a lot of hills. I went from abundant snow to a down pour of ice that was so loud on the metal of the car, to just rain by the time I hit my town and my driveway.  I had to peel my hands off the steering wheel. I unfolded myself out of the car and realized how unbelievably tense ever muscle in my body was.

The evening was spent watching stupid crap on Facebook. I needed to numb. I had eaten a huge meal of pasta and broccoli and cheese. In truth, that is my comfort food. I could have eaten the whole three cups of pasta, but I stopped myself and put half away for a lunch this week. This demonstrated that I can be mindful even in the worse response.  I went to bed at my normal time and fell asleep.

At 12:46, I was done. I woke up and could not get back to sleep. I laid there and felt the chemicals still surging through my body. My hands, arms and legs were vibrating. I started deep breathing which did calm me. I had a few body discharges which is not to say I passed gas. (giggle) It means I do this shudder thing with my shoulder as a method to discharge tension. It is the same principal as an animal that plays dead and then has to get up and shake after the threat is gone. I kept cycling back between full alert to a milder calm by doing guided body mediation. But I did not fall back asleep for a couple of hours. Last look at the clock was the hour before the alarm was to go off. This morning, I was exhausted and muddle-headed.

I wrote about this in detail for a couple of reasons. Many people have some form of PTSD. It comes in varying degrees. Something in the person’s life programed them for this response. NO one asks for this. The programming is intense and can come from  a long duration of exposure. It can also be a singular event. Our bodies learn from events so that we do not repeat them. Some learn and move on. Others imprint and hold the reaction which becomes more sensitive in time to fewer stimuli. Continual negative exposure hardwires the mind AND body to react uncontrollably. The threat is only perceived by the individual and the reaction is as personal as their fingerprint.

I write this because compassion is required by everyone in order to understand the effects of PTSD. I am not a war veteran. I come from a wealthy upbringing with little material needs. It is the same misunderstanding that many people have that domestic violence only happens in the inner city and trailer parks. Trust me, that is so incredible false.

But I do not want to have to explain myself. No one should. I do not want to wear a Scarlet A for abuse around my neck. There are programs now being designed to support children so they have a chance to reprogram. But for the adults of my generation who were told to shut up or else, or for women  (and men) caught in an abusive trap, there is a lot of misunderstanding.

I even heard it yesterday.  “Get over it. It’s only snow.”  Well, not for me it isn’t.

 

Storms and trauma

Heron Hill 2012  Heron Hill

Wow, this has been a week. The frozen air and deep snow has put a pall on everyone around here. Many people are having issues with their roofs leaking. We had a bit of an issue here at Heron Hill with a dripping window, but I had my contractor come and they shoveled the roof. It stopped. But one neighbor had it so bad her kid was telling us they were doing a bucket brigade the other night. One neighbor who is a young single woman had it pretty deep on her roof. She had someone shovel it off only to bury her house up to the first floor windows. She hired some schmuck who just took his truck and plowed her yard into the street and up into our yard. We have a hill which he was trying to shove it up. I was getting pissed, but I decided not to call the cops on them. It is illegal to plow snow across the street and into another’s yard. But… it’s not worth the fight and the hard feelings forever.

The girls at work are fighting like cats. We had one person swear at our front receptionist because they were following policy and would not admit this person without her badge. We slide the badge through a reader to release the doors. This caused quite a dramatic scene with some real hard feelings and stems from someone who should represent the best of the best. Our VP is extremely vigilant that her staff follows rules and regs to the letter… as it should be. The small bickering and internal fighting is everywhere.

A lot of what is happening here in the frozen tundra is threatening everyone’s safety. This is a topic is near and dear to me. I have been writing variations of posts in my head about this topic. I will be sharing them in a series of blogs for a while. They take a lot out of me to write.  It all stems from this blog post: http://healwritenow.com/weathering-extremes-mindful-ptsd-3/

I am going to take pieces of what she said and share what I felt while reading it. The first part is in relationship to our weather and her reaction to her weather.  Cissy White, the author, nailed it. She talks in this post the feeling or lack of feeling safe. She says,

I’m rattled by all the severe weather. The flood and snow drifts taller than me surrounding my home. Today, we got a blizzard warning for the coast where I am and who knows what’s coming next.

“My once sanctuary no longer feels safe or warm. 

When my home feels cold and unsafe I feel cold and unsafe. The warmth is escaping.

It’s not that I can’t see how beautiful the snow is or how powerful Mother Nature is. Those things I know. What I feel is threat and fear.”

 

I love a good storm especially thunderstorms. I like a ripsnorter of a blizzard if I am home and do not need to go anywhere. But storms are usually short in duration and cause little harm (so far for me.) However, the change in the air, the light and wind are huge triggers for me and puts me into hyper vigilance. I used to think it was like a high, but the copious years of being in that state have now taken their toll on me.

This trigger stems from one of my earliest memories. When I was around three or four, I was the last child of five at home. My mother at that point had lost her live-in domestic and was on her own for the first time in her marriage of thirteen years. She used to stick me in a playpen out on a small enclosed porch for hours. The pen was in a place where I could see out the low window of the door to the back yard. There were windows all around and they were open but what they call jalousie windows and rain did not come in.  A storm had blown in and it was a beaut. I remember being terrified at first and crouching in the corner of the pen. But as the storm raged, I got braver and actually looked out the door. There was a huge old oak tree out there and I am not sure if it got hit or what. But I only remember an electrical sound like a transformer about to blow up (and that in actuality may have been what happened.) But to this day, that sound turns me inside out. I watched in fascination and panic. It is like the high one gets from a roller coaster. Cortisol and adrenaline flows throughout me when I get like this which is poison. Now I do not have to be in an actual event for this reaction. I only have to perceive a threat and whamo.

But as long as my little house here, Heron Hill as I call it, remains warm and dry and no trees are falling on top of her I am fine. I will sit out on the back porch, either the covered one or the enclosed one I have and watch. I will often wake up with the distant flash of lightening and get up and watch the storm blow in. I spend hours storm watching.

But her comment about the warmth escaping and her sanctuary is no longer safe is something I totally understand. Any child who has lived through trauma understands.  We build our homes as a refuge, a place we can let our guard down and release the portable walls we walk around with to protect ourselves. It is exhausting to put up a brave front all the time. Some nights I climb into my soft bed and just cry from that release and overwhelming fatigue. I am safe here, surrounded in the environment I built. I own my home. Only me. It is filled with my stuff except my husband’s den downstairs. He came after I had bought Heron Hill.  It is my garden. Mine! I pay for her, protect her and keep her running. ME! It is a symbiotic relationship completely.

But the snow is piling up and it feels like we are drowning. My house is very high up on a hill. The main floor is actually the second floor if you enter through the front of the house. But this floor then exists right to the back yard on one level. My front windows are on the second floor. But the back windows overlook the deck and the snow piles are right to the window sills. We had our roof cleared and ever since we have been having this periodical very loud bangs emanating  from the cathedral ceiling, which is the roof. It is scary as hell. The ceiling in not sagging and there are huge beams that span the house. The house is 60 years old, just like me and is in great shape (not like me). I am sure it has to do with the subzero temps we have steadily suffering with. But it makes me feel unsafe in the one place, the only place on this earth, where I do not feel threatened.

Today I took the long way home to drive past a specific tree. I have no idea what it is. But in February, it sets these buds way up. This is a huge tree, at least thirty feet tall. The buds will actually unfurl to be leaves, but for now they look like unopened tulips. When the low light of morning hits this tree, the buds are pale pink. When I first saw it eight years ago I burst into tears. I used to drive that way every morning but more recently found a faster way to work. Now it is a rite of spring for me to drive by and look for this tree. Today, the buds were very tight but they were there. So….. it can’t be too long.

I hope you will take a look at Cissy’s post. I am going to make several comments about it. She was posted on ACES too HIGH, which is another blog and more about childhood trauma. All very interesting reading and I think will help people understand and have more compassion for each other.

http://healwritenow.com/weathering-extremes-mindful-ptsd-3/

 

 

 

Judgment

Goddess of the garden

Yesterday, The Good Doc, Victo Delore posted a great post on the vulnerability we all have to react to stimulus without the complete picture. Here’s her post: The Bigger Picture With shame attached, I would have reacted the same to the original situation and thought, “who dares to park in a handicap spot without the credentialing”?  I have a placard to hang from the mirror which is totally out of date. I lack the desire to be labeled handicapped but there are times when it sure makes my life easier to have less of a walk into the store. I honestly have also parked when I am in my car without the mirror handicap sign but only on really bad days and in a rush. One day I was feeling particularly cheeky and parked in the “for expectant mothers” spot. One of the few perks for being fat is you can look pregnant and people won’t ask, “hey, you preggers or just fat?”

Being judgmental is normal. We are taught it at an early age because we are judged. We are criticize and directed for correction as soon as we can voice a decision. When a baby first says, “NO”, the parent thinks, who the heck do they think they are? This is not a bad thing  because we need to learn parameters and boundaries. We also need to test the waters.  Learning what is acceptable is part of being assimilated into a culture.

I was raised by two incredibly judgmental parents who were raised by even more harshly judgmental parents. There was a code instilled in my family of needing to be perfect and that has completely messed with me and all of my siblings. This voice has been a deterrent for me at times because I do not want to face criticism and judgment. But the question begs, who is doing the judging?  When I take the time to really feel what I am thinking, I realize it is often not me; it is the old voice of my parents. It is the illogically comments from a time gone by. It was a mindset that I needed to be aware of so I could protect myself. But I also needed to play along in order to survive in the clan. I rebelled early on when I disagreed with their bigotry and hatred. I still hear their reaction to things and people that are not my real feelings.

I have a huge quantity of personal triggers that set me off. People who have PTSD react to stimulus that others cannot fathom. I have worked very hard to become aware of my triggers and try to deal with them. I am so sensitive to things that no one else can comprehend what they do to me because it is “nonsense” to them. For example, a certain color of light or a shadow on a wall used to completely upset me and bring on a sense of fear and despair. I now can explain that it is the color of light that happens at sunset and the low shadow is a marker of that same time frame. Why does this set me off? Because they are indicators of the time when my parents would begin their drinking.

People with PTSD have a bag of “stuff” to deal with that is so individualized that no one can comprehend what they are dealing with. It is that personal. Yet we hear people all the time say, get over it. We hear and feel the judgment. No one can really comprehend the pain and total suffering of others, ever. We do not have the ability to understand their triggers either. We need to have compassion. And it starts with not judging.

One challenge I am working on for myself is the “pause.” I try to take a moment and step away from the visceral reaction to something and breathe. In the second of calming I often can see a different story than the original view. Much like the good Doc says in her post about seeing the old couple and realizing the real story takes a moment of reflection. This process is hard and I often fail. But for the times when I do, it makes for a sweeter time of it. Unless it is a real jerk….and they do exist.  Ok, that was just to make you smile.

 

My mother and Weight Watchers

stone goddesses

I began Weight Watchers in January, 2015. I am strongly letting everyone know that it has nothing to do with being accepted or trying to meet anyone else’s expectations. It is about me getting my Psoriatic Arthritis under control, which it is not. I found out that inflammation changes the hormones and body chemistry making it very difficult to lose weight. In fact, most people gain. And I am like most.

In the last two years, I sat back and watched my weight steadily increase, some of it since last May when I had a horrible incident with a kidney stone that was 6mm big. It threw my chemistry completely off and within a month I had put on 8 pounds. I thought it was fluid, but it kept climbing higher, even after I passed the stone.

I did a lot of research, as I often do when I come up against something. I thought about bariatric surgery and discovered it should be called barbaric surgery. I asked around a lot and found from the mouths of people who had the surgery that it worked at first, but then MANY gained back some, if not all. And then on top of that heartbreak, they all had some form of  new issue such as diarrhea, hair loss, pain, mal-nutrition, anemia and the list went on. This to me was not an option for me because of the other complications with my blood clotting. I scratched it right off the list.

Then I looked into serious weight loss plans. Again, major rebound issues coupled with health problems. One program was good for small weight loss like 20 or so pounds, but very impossible for long term. The diet was 500 calories with multiple supplements. Really? How does that change a life for better?

So I turned back to old Faithful Weight Watchers (WW). This was my third go at it. First time I lost about 30 pounds but rebounded. Last time I gained right off the bat. This time…. well…. First my story. This is triggered by a friend’s blog I read tonight.

My weight issues began when I was very, very young. I do not remember ever not having a weight problem. I was pudgy as baby. I had severe food allergies and then that seem to not be a problem. There is one picture of me around three and I am not fat but I am not thin. I was tall though. A picture of me at five is that of a beach ball. It remains that way the rest of my life. But in truth, there is a picture I found of me standing up and I was around 13 or 14. I was fully developed, taller than any woman in my family and thick. Not fat, not thin. Shapely. I think at that time I was a size 14-16. The same size clothes now would be a 10-12. I had fabulous legs because I rode a bike everywhere and for miles. I walked, skated, swam all the time and danced. I had a bit of a gut compare to others, but I also had a shapely figure. But by then, I learned to hide, so to see a full shot of me was startling. I also realized I was not the beast my family had portrayed.

My mother, sister, aunt and both grandmothers were petite women. No one was over 5’1 and no one was over 120 pounds. In 6th grade, I was 5’5” and 117 pounds and in a DD bra. I was considered an aberration and chastised soundly by everyone. I can remember my aunt telling me to wear a girdle when I was 13.

My mother decided right about then she was going to “fix” me. She put me on this diet of green beans and Jello. I like both, but it was all I was allowed. I bought lunch at school and that was when you did not have choices, just one hot lunch for 25 cents. Our house was filled with candy and cookies. My father made his own root beer. We had store-bought bakery goodies and donuts every Sunday. Dinner was a roast or casserole with white bread, whole milk, fresh butter, and some dessert.  Crème sauces were big and on everything like fish, potatoes, veggies and meat. Veggies were lima beans, corn, peas and potatoes. I did not have a tossed salad until I was 16. Fruit was rare and often a “salad” was a canned pear on a leaf of lettuce with a glob of mayo and a maraschino cherry. Very chic! Very 50’s.

So her solution to my EATING problem was making me eat beans and Jello for a while. Now mind you, when I was younger, if you did not eat your dinner, you were severely punished. As children, we did not eat with the adults until we were older. On holidays we were allowed at the dinner table, but no talking and no messing around. Just eat and shut up.  I learned very early to eat everything. I was the kind of child who hated being scolded in any manner. Still don’t like it.

My mother could out eat us all. Her metabolism was not given to me. My siblings could eat and remained thin until much later in life. Not me. I ate what was on my plate. Rewards were foods like a special Dunkin donut covered in frosting. Birthday meals were fried chicken or lasagna. Candy lurked everywhere, dishes and bowls of the stuff. Fortunately for me, I am not a big fan of most hard candy, but in a pinch. My mother and father had buckets of Fanny Farmers’ assorted chocolates. There was always a full cookie jar on the counter in the kitchen.  Cheap soda was in the refrigerator and the famous root beer was shared on special occasions. Even alcohol was allowed early in life and on special occasions. I learned to love Cherry brandy by the time I was eight

The part as an adult that I have had to work on so very hard is to get my mother’s critical voice and disapproving looks out of my head. She would skew her face up and would look at me with such distain sometimes that it would hurt me to the core. Food was the enemy she deemed and would go on rampages to humiliate me or shame me into “doing something about my weight.”

Dinner often turned into a battlefield, especially if they had been drinking, which….. they did every night. Some nights, it was a race to be done eating to get away before something happened. Common tortures were a heavy knife handle to the elbow for having it on the table. We had these ball shaped salt shakers which my father would swipe up and pelt at you for some perceived misdoing. As time went on, and my siblings left to go to college or their own lives, I was the featured target. My father would take his dinner plate and fling it at the back of your head like a Frisbee. If he was really out of it, he would fling whatever he could reach.

But I always ate my dinner with my head down and quiet until I was around 15. Then I began to cook for myself and eat privately when I could. My parents often never got to dinner or it would be ten o’clock or so. They were so smashed it didn’t matter. My father munched on cheese and crackers and Mom smoked. But by this point in my life, my food issues were tightly engrained and my body was never going to be petite. NEVER. I ended up at 5’ 6’ inches with size 8 feet. (Mom’s were a size 5) My hip bones (pelvic area) were a good five inches wider than hers, and at her  4’9 inches, I towered over her.

But her voice never left me. is I will always see her dark hair framing her disapproving looks.

Fast forward to now, the present moment… well we will back up first. When I started working at my job there was this woman who I saw for the first time from the back and my heart skipped a beat. I swore it was my Mom.  Something about the way she held herself.  This woman and I do not get along. She is critical of everything and everyone. She has a frown on her face most of the time. She especially does not like me. I am in the position she held for ten years as head of Education. She is a nurse, I am not. This is my failing and she and a few others let me know at every opportunity they do not approve of me. It was very hard for me to get passed her and ignore her and her cryptic comments and her LOOK.

Now, present moment. What does any of this have to do with Weight Watchers? I was doing WW on line since January. But they offered a deal at work and were going to have meetings there. So I signed up and arrived early to the first meeting last week.  Who do you think walks in to join? Mind you, if she has ten pounds to lose, it is a lot. So there I am and all the old guilt, resentment, and uglies surfaced. I could barely speak in the meeting. We had to share why we were there and I wanted to stand up and scream because my mother was a mean bitch and so are you….(looking at this woman). But in a shaky voice I mumbled about being a big beautiful woman and that I was here to get healthier. I went home so upset I thought I should quit.

But I did not. Instead, I challenged her. She has four other participants and we have our own team from HR/ED. We will win. This week our team all had significant weight loss. I am doing really well, after a couple of stalls. This will happen and then I lose a few more. Right now I have lost 5% of my total body weight from where I started. It’s all numbers. I am still big. I am also still in pain. But I have not had a shot in two months. It will be interesting to see what happens once I get a shot and calm the inflammation. Right now I can barely walk so I am not exercising. But that will become necessary soon.

The team that loses the most total poundage gets a lunch provided by the other team. I will enjoy watching her serve me……hahahah. I keep holding on to that.

 

 

 

What if we had a Fattie Ghetto?

I read something earlier today in the paper which has stuck in my craw all day, festering and making me more and more angry. This was an editorial in the A section. I believe in the right to speak your mind. But when something gets published in the local paper, you better have your facts. This woman clearly did not and was out to make her stand no matter what. I got to tell you, if she was in front of me, I would have hit her. (Not really, I do not hit people) but she would have made the running for the first.

Seems she is proposing legislation to sanction overweight people. She wanted to propose a bill or mandate that people who were morbidity obese HAVE to do something about it. I am sure she is proposing surgery. Maybe she would like people to sew their mouths shut, which is pretty close to having your stomach stitched off. She said anyone who is obese would be sanctioned as well, but she did not reiterate how. She had no statistics, but spouted off like she was an authority on the cost of medical expenses incurred by fatties. (my word…because I am really getting cranked up now) She then went on to liken this legislation to be imposed and regulated the same way that cigarette smokers were sanctioned.

Here is how I see her thinking this would work: Every time a fat person wanted to buy food, they would have to step on a scale. And according to whatever weight they were, they would pay a higher percentage for their purchase. Chicken taco for a skinny mini: $3.59. For a fattie, 35.49. with taxes. Seems fair right? I mean, why should we pay for the extra health cost because this person wants to eat? Right? I mean after all, they are so fat they don’t need to eat.

GRRRRRRR….this is akin to a Nazi state. All the fatties will have to reside in a fat ghetto where they only get water and low fat Weight Watcher’s bread.

When my husband and I first met, I weighed less. We were so poor. We were going to college, working two shit jobs each and trying to keep the mortgage. That was my primary bill. That and the ten year old cars we had. When I went grocery shopping, I spent what I could. We were also feeding his 14 year old daughter who could pack it away. What do you think I bought? I bought the cheapest thing that went the farthest; pasta and sauce with cheap meat. We ate it all the time. I have discovered now for me it is the worse trigger food I have. That and white breads, which was another staple. The result of course was we put on weight.

We went shopping this weekend as I wrote earlier. We filled ¾ of the shopping cart with fruits and vegetables. The rest was a 6 pound only white meat turkey breast for $18.00, low fat ground chicken, and low fat other products like broth and some low fat cheese. No crap at all in the cart. Our bill for two people was over $200.00. We can afford that now, but that was more than I spent in a month back in the day.

When I was teaching in an urban college, I remember the mothers telling me how much they hated shopping for food for the kids. It was cheaper to get a happy meal and be done with it than shop for good healthy products. And on top of that, they were going to school and working jobs. When were they supposed to fix these fancy healthy meals?

To that point, I spent the whole weekend cooking. I made Weigh Watcher’s 1 point vegetable soup. I made buckets of the stuff. I made the turkey breast. We had haddock on Friday. $13.99 a pound. One piece of fish spilt between the two of us was almost $15.00. We bought what fruit was available. All of it was ridiculously priced because it has to be shipped in. I just cut it up to have it finger ready. I made low fat burgers for dinner on Sat and the rest will be for the week. The ground chicken was $4.49 for the package. The package is only 12 ounces, so it cost more than $5.00 a pound. Tricky aren’t they? My weekend off was spent on this effort to eat healthy. In between was spent doing wash and cleaning. Such fun!

My point is this. Here I am working so hard at this healthy life style. This B* tch has the balls to throw out there that all fat people should be penalized for being fat because the impact on the cost of medical issues. I am not going to deny that there is a high prevalence of more disease with obesity. However, not all fat people sit on their ass all day watching TV and stuffing their faces with beer and tacos. Some do. I know this. But not all.

When we were driving around this weekend, I was paying special attention to what food joints we passed. I was shocked and thought no wonder this is an epidemic. Every corner had a fast food joint from burgers to fried chicken. There were tons of pizza palaces and taco stands. There were ice cream and yogurt shops, donuts and on one street, two bake shops and a chocolate store. I did not see one salad joint although I know they exist.

And as far as medical costs: here is something to think about. I worked in the system so I know of what I speak. All people diagnosed with mental retardation or developed disabled have the opportunity to have the State and Federal government pay for everything for them from their diagnosis at infancy to death. They can get housing, food, medical treatment and in some cases full ride to school. Most do not get a degree, but the State believes they have the right to a higher education. And they cost the school systems huge dollars because they need so many services and support. And part of their genetic makeup makes them very susceptible to illness. It was rare to have someone who was MRDD live past 30. We used to institutionalize them to keep society safe. We warehoused them in droves. Then Geraldo Rivera went to Willowbrook in 1987 (not that long ago) and the rest is history. My point is that this is a population that cost taxpayers millions and millions. Lots of dollars have been spent to understand their genetic makeup in order to help them have a better life. 28 years ago people who were MRDD were cast out and ridiculed for a genetic hiccup. Maybe we should have taxed the parents for having mentally challenged children and putting a burden on society. What do you think? (By the way, if you agree with this, stop reading, I cannot help you and you should be ashamed)

See, I am sure people do not see the connection. For some reason we cannot move past that not all overweight people have a terrible lifestyle. People cannot and for some reason will not accept that because their bodies fight them constantly either with metabolism and/or some form of mobility issue some people are prone to putting on weight. I believe there is a genetic connection. If it was all up to what goes in the mouth or how much movement people do, than why are not all people fat? Some people can eat a house of food and not gain weight. Add to this fact that everything slows down as we age including our ability to process sugar. That’s why everyone is getting diabetes for their 50th birthday. Want to guess the cost of diabetic medical costs? Maybe we should put them in the fat ghetto too as they probably overweight anyways or so they say. I hope my skinny super hyper active friend who was diagnosed at 55 with diabetes reads this. She will love it!

And we have such limited choices if you want to purchase prepared foods that are healthy. Much easier to pop a big Mac and call it good. If you scrape the secret sauce off, it will save you 400 calories….. I am joking. I have not eaten McDonald in 30 years.

I cannot and will not stop fighting for this awareness until I fall on my face and suffocate myself in my largeness. That last part, by the way….was sarcasm.

Why I only see the bad in me…..

On my last post, someone asked this question and I thought it is an excellent question. I knew the answer but I went and did some research anyways. Here’s the question:” Why is it I know all I did wrong and think of nothing right? or see mistakes, not successes?”

When humans first roamed the earth they were given a very basic nervous system called the limbic system to protect them. It is a genetic piece of work that still is within us. The system is our warning system that something is wrong and to do something about it. It is fear radar. I have written before how this all works. Through time, the brain became more evolved and we developed the capacity to override the limbic system by learning in reality what is harmful. For example, we know a hot stove can hurt us, but only if we do certain actions like touch the burner. We do not walk around and every time we face a stove, we go into a panic mood or better known as fight, flight or freeze. Unless you hate to cook.

But children who are raised in trauma based environments face a different learning sequence that changes how they react to things as adult. It is not a failure in the child, it is actually another mechanism put into place to protect the child. It appears that genetics predisposes us to develop in certain ways. But our experiences, including our interactions with other people, have a significant impact on how our predispositions are expressed. In fact, research now shows that many capacities thought to be fixed at birth are actually dependent on a sequence of experiences combined with heredity. Both factors are essential for optimum development of the human brain (Shonkoff and Phillips, 2000).

I often wondered why my reactions to things seemed so much over the top. I am very sensitive. I have learned to accept this part of me as a gift, along with the desire to learn to live in peace with it. I am definitely prone to hyper arousal. I would go off and very little would sooth me even if I knew cognitively that things were not as bad as I was making it out to be. When children are exposed to chronic, traumatic stress, their brains sensitize the pathways for the fear response and create memories that automatically trigger that response without conscious thought. These children have an altered baseline for arousal, and they tend to overreact to triggers that other children find nonthreatening (Child Trauma Academy, n.d.).

We all have voices in our heads. And those voices are the echoes of conversations we have heard before since infancy. Many can override negative voices through affirmations and other verbal training. They can change the imprints of negativity. However children who grow up in violent or chaotic homes are too busy trying to survive. Consumed with a need to monitor nonverbal cues for threats, their brains are less able to interpret and respond to verbal cues, even when they are in a supposedly nonthreatening environment.- if a child’s caretakers are indifferent or hostile—the child’s brain development may be impaired. Because the brain adapts to its environment, it will adapt to a negative environment just as readily as it will adapt to a positive one. But if a child’s caregivers are unresponsive or threatening, and the attachment process is disrupted, the child’s ability to form any healthy relationships during his or her life may be impaired (Perry, 2001a).

The question is why do some people only hear the “bad” in their lives? I do not take compliments well. I always am waiting for the other shoe to drop. It is my parents voices I hear which is totally unfair since they are both long gone. Why can I not move on? But if the early environment is abusive or neglectful, our brains will create memories of these experiences that may adversely color our view of the world throughout our life. Explicit memory, which develops around age 2, refers to conscious memories and is tied to language development. Explicit memory allows children to talk about themselves in the past and future or in different places or circumstances through the process of conscious recollection (Applegate & Shapiro, 2005).

This study goes into the effect of long term negative environment. It explains that the brain continues to grow and develop with whatever stimulus the child is exposed to. One way that early maltreatment experiences may alter a child’s ability to interact positively with others is by altering brain neurochemical balance. Research on children who suffered early emotional abuse or severe deprivation indicates that such maltreatment may permanently alter the brain’s ability to use serotonin, which helps produce feelings of well-being and emotional stability (Healy, 2004).

This was an excellent study to help understand the long term impact of childhood trauma and sexual abuse. More and more information is coming out on the long term effects which will help with acceptance. But the most important acceptance is self-acceptance. Based on this study and others, the situation is daunting. If you are chemically and physically wired for hyper-arousal, self-deprecation and negativity, how do you overcome it? Can you overcome it?

Yes, I believe so. All humans have neuroplasticity, which means our brains will create new neuropathways for life. The process slows down as we age. And it takes more than just verbal input. You have to train the body as well to not react to stimulus incorrectly. You have to learn your triggers. You have to learn what is safe. And by that I mean feel within your body, mind and soul what is your place of safe. And you have to forgive….forgive your predators because if you do not, you are still giving them power. And you have to forgive yourself when things set you off course or upset you. This process takes a lot of work and I honor any who keep on trying because I know it is hard. Just as the child who repeated falls when learning to walk, they get up and keep trying. So goes our lives. You can teach an old dog new tricks.

From:

Child Welfare Information Gateway ISSUE BRIEF. November 2009, Understanding the Effects of Maltreatment on Brain Development