A journal of healing

Posts tagged ‘genetics’

What is PsA and P?

Psoriatic Arthritis: PsA is an insidious disease. It is very misunderstood even by the medical community. It is hard to find a specialist who can really guide you. There is no cure and it is progressive. PsA has a partner, Psoriasis or P. They are not mutually exclusive. Each has their own issues and pathology. It is rare to have PsA without P but you can have P without PsA. Both are considered auto-immune diseases and often have other co-morbidities. All this is evidence based information.

And much like other diseases, they are triggered by stress and trauma. If you understand the ACE Study, it all makes sense why diseases like this are becoming more prevalent. It seems lately more and more people are being diagnosed with some form of chronic auto-immune disease. Is it because so many of the baby-boomers are of an age where disease is a common part of life? Or is it because there are more studies done and better research as to causes of crippling diseases in senior citizens.  I think it is both.

I have been involved in two research projects. One was for P and the other for PsA. The one for P was fascinating. They were looking for the correlation of outbreaks on the skin and stress. We were divided into two groups. One was given only exercise and nutritional information and asked to make lifestyle changes. Fortunately, I was chosen to go into the other group. We were going to be trained on Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction techniques. MBSR is now a more common approach for people dealing with issues such as pain. Back then, it was pretty new and out there. Jon Kabat-Zinn developed the program for people with cancer and pain.

The program was several months long. We met once a week. We talked about our week, our disease, anything we wanted. Then we meditated. Sometimes we did yoga. This was a several years ago. The instructor was the Chief MD in charge of the Oncology Department at the Medical Center. He was very progressive for the times. Now, there is a requirement that all med students take MBSR. Everywhere you look they are courses on Mindfulness and stress reduction of some kind. This is progress. But I live and work for a very large medical center that is also a teaching hospital, a university and a research institute.

But with all that, they still do not know much about PsA and P. We do not have a lot of doctors who are rheumatologist in the area. I am fortunate to have a good one. But even he will admit it is trial and error. And we have had some egregious errors. The course of action is to put the patient on a drug regiment which often includes steroids and progressively stronger biologics. Even the manufactures say there is high risk associated with their drugs. It is also known that they only work for so long and the body becomes immune to the drug. Then you have to start over.

In North America and Europe, between 18 and 42 percent of people with psoriasis, an inflammatory skin disease, also have psoriatic arthritis. In the United States, psoriasis affects about 2.2 percent of the population (7.5 million people), making it the most prevalent autoimmune disease in the US. (http://blog.arthritis.org/psoriatic-arthritis/psoriatic-arthritis-psoriasis/)

Nothing is more terrifying than knowing there is nothing you can really do to stop the progression of a disease that is ravaging your body. And there is nothing more frustrating as seeing the deterioration of your body and your ability to be independent. The medications all have side effects and some of them include cancer.

I have always had this disease. It got much worse when I went through my divorce. I believe the stress triggered the eruption on my skin. Doctors, including a dermatologist, could not diagnose why I had this rash everywhere because it did not look like “normal” psoriasis. It was though. I had always had issues with my joints, but was told it was because I was fat. But when my hands curled into claws and I could not hold on to anything, I finally was sent for testing.

PsA is possibly genetic. I had psoriasis as a baby but they called it eczema back then. You cannot catch PsA and P is not spreadable. There is no cure but you can put it into remission. I have been blessed to do that several times including right now. I have only a few skin lesions.

But from all the drug switching and the use of such powerful drugs, I have diabetes. My pancreas is whooped. My insulin levels are normal in the afternoon, but in the middle of the night they drastically peak. I am on medication now for it that adds a lot of weight….. Makes no sense because as you gain weight, you insulin resistance goes higher. The shot I am for the PsA also puts on weight and also increases your glucose levels significantly. It also causes high blood pressure, which is also not good.

But the main comorbid with PsA is actually coronary issues and kidney issues. The inflammation that causes the P and PsA also attacks the heart, arteries and other organs, especially the kidneys.  So far, I do not have coronary issues. However, my kidneys are in imminent danger of failing. Diabetes also impacts kidneys and so does high blood pressure. It is a circle of what is worse. Much like most auto-immune diseases, you do not die of the disease, but of the comorbidities.

I wrote this blog this morning because of a couple of reasons. One, people need to fight for better testing and more awareness of the PsA and P. The symptoms can vary as much as the way the rash presents itself. Two, we need better treatment that does not cause more issues than the disease. Three, we need more research as to see if there may ever be a cure for PsA and P and further studies related to trauma like the ACE study.

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Making it count

shipwreck

Every year we live is a good year and I am grateful for it. My parents both had short lives, especially my mother who passed at 57.  I have lived longer than she did. I often think of how scared she must have been at the end when she knew there was no future. She was diagnosed with end stage lung cancer and there was nothing they could do for her. She died six months after being diagnosed.

My father had Factor V Leiden which he inherited from his mother’s side of the family. She too had issues with phlebitis but was never diagnosed. I remember by the time my father was 45, having to have his legs wrapped in warm washcloths to help with what was probably a DVT ( blood clot). I remember as a teen borrowing his compression socks to wear as knee socks. I had no understanding of what he was going through. When he was 53 he had to have his leg amputated. I thought he was so old. He spent his remaining years in and out of the hospitals with bypass surgeries and other complications and passed with a heart failure at 71. In reflection, I am amazed at how he managed to get through it all. He made my life hell with his demands after my mother passed, which made it hard to have compassion for him at the time.

Both my grandmothers lived healthy way into their 90’s. My Nana never worked a day in her life. She was a gracious woman from a bygone era. Her husband was a very young man when he died. He never heard the train that he drove in front of. My uncle, who was three, also perished in the accident. It was never spoken of other than that bit of information. My Gram was well taken care of by my aunt and she too had lost two husbands. The first one, my mother’s father, was so changed from fighting in WWII that he returned to the states a broken man. He died in a sanitarium several years later after leaving my Gram when my mother was 15. Again, we never spoke of this. I found letters and clippings in my mother’s trunk of stuff after she passed.

My father’s remaining sister lived very well. My uncle, her husband, however died of ALS. I cannot imagine how terrible that had to have been. Uncle Bob was a vibrant man. My Aunt Louise also did not work in the sense of a  9-5 job. However, when she was in her fifties, she became the Mayor of her town on Long Island. She remarried and traveled with her second husband until she was stricken with bone cancer.

My other aunt lived also into her nineties. She died of a broken heart. Her beloved husband literally fell over in their living room of their vacation condo after driving from Michigan to Texas. He was 90. They were devoted to each other and my aunt never recovered from his death. She just gave up living. She could have done anything as they were multimillionaires. But for her, life without my Uncle Larry was not worth living.

Why the morbid litany of my family history? Because the last year has been the unhealthiest one I have ever had. Truth be told, I am not sure of what the outcome is going to be for me. None of us really do. I have been very scared. I finally went to my PCP, who blew off my symptoms as just being fat, even though lab worked showed some major changes. I went to my rheumatologist who thought completely otherwise. Last week I went to see a Cardiologist. They did an EKG but then refused to give me much of an explanation of what they saw. I am scheduled for a series of tests next week to see what is going on with me.

I had to fight for anyone to listen to me. I know something is not right. It is not that I am wishing for there to be something wrong. Oh no, just the opposite. But I know how I feel and it is not right. I do not have a lot of faith in the cardiologist who actually never saw me until the end of the visit. He had another very young impatient MD do the exam. She said something about my T waves being inverted, when I questioned her and that was it. The head cardiologist never looked at anything because he recommended I take a statin. My cholesterol is below 100 consistently.

I have been taken off of everything. I cannot even take Advil, which really was messing me up, but dampening the pain. OTC drugs can be very dangerous. I had taken 1800mg of Advil for months back thirteen years ago before they put me on a biologic and I was diagnosed with PsA. I was taking under 1000 for the last couple of months just to be able to move and sleep. It was making me very sick.

I will admit that I have had thoughts this past month that I was going to croak. I have never felt so consistently awful. This made me think of what my relatives must have gone through when they knew they were facing horrible futures racked with disease without hope. I am afraid of dying. No lie there. But more important, I do not feel I am done with whatever I am supposed to do with my life. There is something so profoundly sad as thinking you have wasted your life. Not that I think my life is a total waste….but that I want to do something more with whatever time I have left.

I just do not know what that is or how to accomplish it. I hope I will figure it out.

I wish everyone a blessed New Year.

 

 

Too sweet

rhoda 1 2015

I read a post on Facebook this week that made me think. It was the concept that someone’s mother had spent a lifetime devoted to her health with balanced eating and exercise and covering herself with SPF and clothing to protect her skin. And now she had multiple health issues including diabetes and skin cancer. The post encouraged you to enjoy life and not restrict yourself in anyway. I am paraphrasing. The first response to the post was to eat more bacon.

One of my battles has always around diabetes. Since I was in my early twenties, doctors have tested me for diabetes and been stumped that my levels were always low.

10 years ago, I was crippled up with Psoriatic Arthritis. PsA (Psoriatic Arthritis) can hit anyone at any time. The result was I was put on tons of medications to help bring the incredibly high inflammation down. It did, but not without major repercussions. One of the drugs they put me on was prednisone. It shot my A1C glucose levels to 13. The fix at that time was to put me on metformin, which eventually crashed my kidneys. One will never be better than working at 41%.

Azalea 2

I am able to see “My Chart” via the intranet going back to 2011. They put me on a biologic called Enbrel and I was on it for many years. There is a steady incline in my glucose levels for those years.  My weight has not fluctuated in reflection of the A1C levels. When the Enbrel failed (you build up an immunity to it and it stops working) they took me off of it, and my levels started to go back down. I was then put on another biological this early summer, and the levels start to creep up again. That drug caused my blood pressure to go through the roof and so I was taken off of it. And again, the A1C came down. My blood pressure has returned to 120/80.

Three months later, I was put on another drug called Cimzia. I had to give myself injections every two weeks in my gut. I knew after the second week of shots, I was in big trouble. The day after the last shots I decided to take my glucose reading at home and it was 365. I was terribly upset. I monitored the levels for the next weeks and the readings were all over the place with many over 350 but never came back down no matter what I did below 225. I had also gained 11 pounds in less than four weeks.

I stopped the shots. I stopped eating any and all sweets. This was horrible as it was the holidays and I normally bake and make candy. I cut out all bread. I did not eat much pasta and if I did I measured it. No cookies, no candy, no cakes. I lost the 11 pounds faster than it went on. But my glucose or sugars were still horribly high. I discovered that my readings in the morning were the highest. In the afternoon, I was coming down significantly. I had my labs taken and the A1C was 9.3. That was from 7.2 when I was coming off of the Enbrel earlier in the year.

Chives

I will be fighting this diabetic battle for the rest of my life. MY GP is hoping that by putting me on a small dose of Januvia at night, we can lower the morning readings and maybe kick-start my pancreas. He feels the drug(s) may have caused impaired glucose function and the pancreas stops working at night. If I stray from my restrictive diet, I see it immediately in the readings. It is not worth it. I thought I would drop a ton of weight. I am not eating any bread at all and very limited other carbs. I read labels for sugar and discovered that many low fat items have added sugar. For example I eat cottage cheese in the morning instead of no fat yogurt which has a ton of sugar and carbs. My weight has not changed since I loss the 11 pounds. BUT….I am not gaining either.

My point is that we cannot ignore our health like the before mentioned post. If you are over 60 and have no major illnesses, you are truly blessed. Doctors try to help with medicines and many patients will readily pop something in their mouth in order to remedy a malady. But too often drugs do not fix, they mask symptoms. One fix often causes another issue. I am resigned that there probably will be a diagnosis added that will include diabetes mellitus no matter what I do. I am going to fight what I can until my quality of life is such crap that I don’t care. But I am beginning to understand why old people can get crotchety!

 

Being controlled

Kitty

Ever have a dream just before you get up in the morning and know that it is going to stick with you for the rest of the day? I had a doozie this morning. The dream demonstrated my issue of not having control in my life and the reality that we never really do have control. And the best thing any of us can do is to stop fighting that very thing and trust that things will come out ok.

And for the most part of my life, this has been true. But, it does not always seem like it when I am in the clutches of something that has me wrapped so tight that I snap at things and I am not a very peasant person. I do not think there is a being in the world that does well being captured and under the control of something that seems beyond their ability to change.

And that brings me to a situation that I have along with many other people and that is being under the control of having to have a medication in order to survive. It goes hand in hand with having a disease that is inherited or brought on by no fault of the being. There is a lot of that out there. And until you have something like this or know and love someone who is in that situation, it is hard to understand what it does to the person.

I am writing about this because of something that happened recently. I have friend who has MS. She is well controlled most of the time. But she has flares and when she is in the clutches of a flare, she has a tendency to be a bit sharp. Normally, she is bubbly and personable. The last year has been terrible for her and I have seen the decline in her over the last couple of years.  She is on very expensive drugs to help her maintain. She just recently lost her job and it was due to her inability to get the work done and in her inability at times to get along with her team. No one on her team seemed to be able to look past her anger and forgive her for being nasty. She was letting the disease control her and she really needed some help with that anger.

I also do not think people understand the warrior she is. Every day she got up and came to work, even when the pain was so great she would have tears. No understood her humiliation when she had an accident at work because she could not get to the bathroom in time. It became a joke around the “watercooler”. And yet, she would come back to being her funny self when the pain was less and make jokes about her situation. Now, she has no insurance and no income and I pray she will find help.

I realize now why old people sometimes are just very nasty. As the body deteriorates and pain becomes your constant companion, it is very hard to pleasant all the time. Alcohol is a method for many in pain which then leads to alcohol issues. Sometimes, anything will do as long as it takes the pain away.

And this brings me to the point of being controlled because you rely on a drug to survive. We live in an amazing time that there are so many drugs and procedures to keep people going who in past times have died painful deaths. I am grateful for the medicine I have available that twenty years ago did not exist.

But at what cost?  Along with thousands of people, I am in the control of these drugs. I will need them for life. One keeps my blood from clotting. The cost is I can easily bleed to death. The others are for my Psoriatic Arthritis and the side effect possibilities also include a higher probability of death due to cancer. The most recent drug I am on is causing me to gain weight, which is the last thing I need. But it is a side effect and out of my control. The drug I was one before, allowed me to lose weight and the one before that put weight on. This new drug is not doing anything for my psoriasis, and so I am beginning to break out again and it also doing little for the pain in my joints. But it is working on my gut issues. I have to stick with it for at least six months before we try something else. Unless like the last one, I have an emergent issue like an inflated blood pressure or some other reaction. Again, all out of my control.

There are so many debilitating diseases out there and more everyday being diagnosed. It is an amazing world we are in if you can get the medicine you need in order to survive. This brings up the huge topic of insurance which is the king of control. I will never understand how an insurance company can refuse their insured drugs prescribed by a doctor. Who the hell are they to make that decision?  I have often had to wait months for a decision on a drug that my rheumatologist wants me on and all the time there is deterioration going on in my joints. This last time while waiting for my approval, my two toes started to curl up so bad that shoes were becoming a problem.

I am writing about this in hopes that someone will read this and be kinder to someone who is in pain. I am hoping this will help people to see past the nastiness and be patient and understanding. When someone is pain, it is easy to react in hurtful ways without even being aware. But it is not about you. It is like being a captured animal and the cage is pain.

very close kitty

Family that sticks…..

little girl

You can pick your nose. You can pick your seat. But you can’t pick your family. Some people hold that you pick your family prior to coming to earth

When I met my husband his daughter was 12 and going through all the drama and crap that comes with that age. My husband had sole custody of her. Her mother was alive but lived on the other side of the continent. By the time I was on the scene her mother had married a wonderful gentleman. Stepdaughter (SD) went to see them at least twice a year, paid for by them. The whole relationship between all of us was actually quite pleasant and friendly. I actually worked for her mother for a while when I was back in college full time.

After living together, SD and I started to bond. The phone calls to her mother were filled with things we were doing and she often would say things that I had said. This made Mom pretty upset and she started to insert herself in our situation. I would say, “SD, please do this chore” and she would come back with the “You’re not my Mother” crap. She started to lie. She skipped classes. She spent a lot of time in her room. Some of this was just being 15. The rest of it was her mother.

After living with us for almost two years, she decided she wanted to stay with her mother. We were more than fine with it.

It turned out to be exactly what was supposed to happen. Her mother’s husband ended up having a brain tumor and dying. He did everything for those two. And he had money. It was a mess when he died and no one was there to take care of them.

Fast forward to fall last year and ten years after SD had left… We get a call from SD saying her mother was in the hospital and it was not good. She passed away this December. She left SD in a difficult situation. The ties of SD and her father and I were pretty strained. So SD moved back and is living with her mother’s relatives downstate.

This weekend she came here to stay for the weekend only. She is a mess. Her weight, which is a family issue, is very bad. She is in need of serious dental work. She has not seen a doctor in years. She has no direction and an inflated sense of what she is capable of.

Fortunately, she is also independently wealthy….she thinks. This is where it gets messy and it makes me angry.

SD is a 25 year old who has no idea of how to take care of herself. She has never worked a day in her life. Not even babysitting.

She has no idea of her trust fund and how to protect it. A friend of her mother is the executor. Yikes!

SD does not drive.

And she does not take care of herself. She has no health insurance. She could not even keep up with me when we went shopping for a bit yesterday. I am 60 and have PsA.

But as we chatted last night, SD opened up a bit. I had asked her why had her mother died so suddenly and we were not aware of her being so sick. It was not sudden. Her mother, a long time diabetic (II) never took her insulin or even read her BG. It was like this when she was married to my husband over 20 years ago. This transferred to kidney issues and then serious heart problems. Her mother smoked and her idea of walking was to come down three steps from the office in the house (she worked remotely) to the recliner where they ate and watched TV.

As SD sat at our table, she started to cry. She is angry. Her mother expected her to take care of her and yet, never provided her with the knowledge of how. Her mother was told many years ago that she was on a path of an early death. She needed to lose weight and exercise. SD used to fight with her to take better care of herself. Her mother needed to take her meds and she needed to monitor her BG. She did none of it. The progression of deterioration went to her liver. At that point they said she was not a candidate for a liver transplant because she was so non-adherent. There was no DNR, no advanced directive and we had to tell SD how to become the health proxy so she could do what needed to be done. Her liver failed and SD had to make the decision to have the medical apparatus that was keeping her alive removed. I also cannot fathom how that must have made SD feel.

She spoke about how her mother was so impaired that she could not get her out of her chair at night. You could hear the anger in SD’s voice as she spoke of how her mother made no effort to help herself.

And so, of course, SD has no clue at 25 of how to take care of herself. I chastise myself a bit that we let her go out there. Her life would have been very different. But even deeper inside of me is my own anger at her mother. SD has her faults as we all do. She is also a product of her childhood and the lack of parenting. But she was a child. I did have my own children and it is my greatest regret. It was not my choice either. I am angry that her mother did not cherish her life enough to honor this wonderful youngster and allowed this all to happen.

This is a very smart young woman who is a disaster and who is afraid.  SD has an amazing sense of humor and for all that she has been through, she is pretty resilient. I am hoping in time we can get her up and going in a healthy and better way. I think that this might be also incentive for my husband to be a better role model, too. I can only hope.
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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