A journal of healing

Posts tagged ‘therapy’

Negativity bias and forgiveness

rain clouds'

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

Creating New neuropathways

bush

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

Jane’s Day off

osprey

I took a day off on Friday. The weather was somewhat cooperative as the day reached 50 degrees. I do not focus on myself easily and I need to do that more often. I also encourage people to spend a day focused on one’s own good as it is healthy.

I got up almost two hours later. I had the house to myself as my husband went to work. This was a requirement to have the place and day to myself. When he is around, it changes the whole dynamic. I made my coffee and checked into my work email. I needed to do that. Otherwise I would perseverate on what was in there. This allowed me the freedom to move on.

One of the big issues I have, and I know I am not alone in this, is focusing on my own needs. I think in general, women struggle with this. Because of my history, making time for me often comes with a big helping of guilt. But I am not happy when I am martyring myself. I get angry and defensive. I have to really dig deep to understand that my anger is because I am allowing the world to dictate my life again. I need to step back and take control. This does not mean I throw a hissy fit. I just declare in my head to treat myself like I would treat someone else.

I had a hairdresser appointment. This was another big deal in the “treat myself better day”. I have long multicolored hair that I have colored since I was 14. It has grown in with many different shades as I aged. It is dark in the back where it has grown out. But it has this awful shade of silver running through it. In front, I am totally white. I let it grow out a bit to see what was happening and there were too many varying degrees of color. So I had it professionally done to be more blonde so the white will not be so apparent. I did not know the hairdresser at all but she did a lovely job. I was uncomfortable for most of the two hour appointment until I saw the finished color and then relaxed. I actually enjoyed her drying it with a soft brush and it totally relaxed me. That is also unusual. I do not do well with people I do not know touching me.

I do other things that are totally selfish and a gift to me from me. I buy flowers to have next to me in my writing spot. I have someone come walk the dogs most days I work so they are calmer when I get home. I have a housecleaner who comes every other week. That was a big decision and one I do not regret now. I cannot breathe when I dust. I struggle with activity and I have to measure my day so I am not in great pain. Cleaning is not something I enjoy so I pay someone who does like it to do it. They get money and I get a break. I had to come to a point where I saw it as a totally fair and good deal all around. It took quieting the voice in my head that put a failure judgement on not being able to take care of my own house.

This week was also frustrating because of my Weight Watchers (WW) project. I have been steadily losing a bit every week. Monday I got on the scale and was up 2.8 pounds. Up! Yikes. Next day I was up 5.8 pounds. Talk about putting yourself into a bad mood. That was over 8 pounds. It did not help that I felt terrible on top of it because my shot is at its end. But I did not have edema at all. Tuesday is my WW meeting and I lost a .5 pound for the week according to her scale. I do terrible with the weigh in at the meetings so I do not get worked up. I had been doing WW for six weeks before the meetings started so I go by my home weigh in. The stress from the weigh in at the meetings has been an issue every time I have done WW. I finally figured out the scale at home was broken. I got a new scale, same WW model as before, and stepped up. As I figured, I was down my usual amount making a total of 20.5 pounds lost. That pleases me. I do not feel like I have lost that much and it is a drop in the bucket so to speak. But it is a project that will be part of my life. This too is also treating me better.

All of this is basic self-compassion. I need to work on doing good things for myself. In truth, no one else will treat you any different than the way you treat yourself. And in the end of time, the only person who is accountable for your welfare is you.

 

 

 

 

The Wind beneath my ……

open roses

I am connected to a couple of organizations for Psoriasis and Psoriatic Arthritis. I was going through my emails tonight and there was a post that got my dander up…. And if you know anyone with Psoriasis, that is not a pleasant thing. They do not need help getting their dander up.

The article was talking about how there is a connection to the microbiome in our bodies and Psoriatic Arthritis (PsA). What this means is there is good bacterial in and on our bodies that do many things. When your system is sick, and you have a bacterial infection, you have too many of the bad ones. Other symptoms caused by bacteria out of whack are athlete’s feet and yeast infections, the plague of being a woman. Cellulitis is also a common and very prolific bacterial infection.

When people are often diagnosed for skin rashes, they think they are bacterial. Psoriasis is NOT bacterial. It is a reaction to the immune system being out of order and the skin over produces cells which build up plaques. That is what the rash is. I did not present “normally” with plaque but with little raised circular dotted configurations. It was several years before they figured out what my weird head to toe rash was.  (I was diagnosed with the PsA and they then connected the dots…so to speak.) They thought hives, and I was pretty sure that was it too. I have had hives off and on for my whole life. I was put on antibiotics. Guess what…that was the worst thing they could have done.

My immune system went absolutely haywire. I went through a series of strange symptoms that would show up in labs.  I would rush around being given all kinds of tests; all to find an anomaly, but then nothing would be done. I was tested for parathyroid issues, Hasimoto’s thyroid disease, saw all sort of endocrine doctors, saw nephrologists when my one kidney crashed, I became diabetic with an A1C of 13 from my normal 5. But no one could figure this skin thing. I would itch so much at night I would bleed. My sheets looked like I was attacked by a knife.

Finally, they tested for the RA markers and did a SED test. It was definite for PsA. Finally, (slap your head) the rash was figured out to be psoriasis. By that time, I had some hefty plaque on my scalp which confirmed it.

I have always had gut issues. I will try to not be too graphic. In my family, farting was an art. I was a Picasso. (Ok, I have to stop laughing at this) But in seriousness, this “ability” was not something I thought about much. I also have a loud gut. My bowel sounds do not need a stethoscope to be heard. Matter of fact, my dear friend wants to record them and make a record out of it. As I got older, my digestion became pretty erratic. I think it is one cause of my weight issues. Most often what comes in, goes out the same; no digestion. So…(in honor of the good Doc), I no longer practice my “art” for fear of a big oops, especially in public.

This article I was reading tonight shed light on something. The article talked about the gut having missing bacteria could be a factor in people having PsA. http://www.psoriasis.org/advance/features/microbiome-how-your-bacteria-affects-psoriasis-psoriatic-arthritis

I wanted to scream. NO SHIT!  Totally inappropriate, but truthful. I think about how my gut situation has steadily gotten worse over the years. Most times, I have to eat and have access to a facility pretty pronto. I have has some serious miscalculations (yes Doc, you are not alone) I will have a series of days like that and then just the opposite. Being blocked up is more painful I think. But I am 97% of the time in some form of discomfort all the time.

I was diagnosed with diverticulitis and was hospitalized for it five years ago. The course of meds included IV-antibiotics. My reaction was so bad, that they thought I had C-diff. It came back negative. But I was allergic to the Cipro and presented with real hives head to toe. I was also hospitalized with pancreatitis, hospitalized….given pain meds that locked me up tighter than Fort Knox. We had to blast. That was caused by an infected…. INFECTED gallbladder, which was removed and more drugs were given. Anyone catching on here????

So this article goes on about the investigation to the link of inflammation and the bacterial count in our system. It talks about probiotics.  On my GP’s recommendation, I went on probiotics. ONCE! My reaction was the worst case of almost not making it to the potty ever. Talk about a bowel cleansing. Yikes! I was sick as a dog for several days. I obviously stopped them. However, for the past two years, I have suffered from chronic issues that have ramped up to be like having Crohn’s. Last year, the Enbrel I had been on for eight years stopped working. My immune system had become “numb” to its affects. The result is my PsA is in full bloom and my gut is also blossoming and it ain’t pretty. I have days when the pain is so great and the reaction to food is so violent that it is amazing there is a bathroom left. You would think I would lose weight. But no; just the opposite. I put on thirteen pounds since last May. Fortunately, I have now lost 18 being on Weight Watchers. But it is extremely hard. For one thing, my ability to eat raw veggies is absolutely gone. I cannot tolerate carrots at all. Too many luncheons of salad and I am in extreme pain. I love veggies and I do not eat meat. But I cannot eat a lot of other things now. I also feel just terrible, tired, and irritable and gassy…. And not in that order.

But in the article at the end, it explains that the OTC, or everyday currently available probiotics are not the answer to the solving the connection with PsA. I will gladly volunteer to trial a product. The article leaves the possible cure for this terrible disease just hanging. It infuriates me. If they would spend one day with me in a small, warm room with no breeze…..that cure would be on the market pronto.

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.

 

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.

This is not so easy

I have been absent from writing this week. It has been busy, but that is not the reason. I am just going through one of those things and one of those times. January is not a favorite month for me at all. I am the type of person who loves having a million projects going all at once. That is one of the things I like about December. It is so busy. But there is an anticlimactic feeling when it is all over. I don’t want to do anything.

But I am also in the process now of changing my lifestyle and it is becoming apparent to me how necessary this is. I am not sure of the outcome. But in typical fashion I have overdone things.

I went on Weight Watchers. This is my third try with this program. I love it only because it really is a good product to use as a tool. That is all it is. A tool. The thing that will make it work or not is between my ears more than any place. I have to re-evaluate what I do all day.

Fortunately for me I love vegetables. I am very satisfied with a plate full of broccoli. It has not been hard to swing into eating good things. I get into trouble when I am bored. My body sends a message that I can relieve my boredom by munching. This is very common. Good news…veggies are crunchy. Bad news is what happened last week. I had a major diverticulitis attack. Inflammation runs rampant in my body because of the Psoriatic Arthritis. Because of that, about four years ago, I ended up in the hospital and was diagnosed with diverticulitis. I have had a few mild attacks since. Once you have it, you get it again and again. The one last week was terrible. There is nothing much to do about it except switch to soft foods and broth for a while. That is what I did and I was better. But it was brought on because I put too much fiber in.

The other reason it happened is that I sit at my desk all week. Sitting is terrible for this condition and just not helpful for losing weight. I am trying now to walk around inside our square building a couple of times. I am not the only one so no one says anything when they see you go by several times in a row. But it is something I have to be mindful to do because the day does get away from me. Friday was a perfect example. Every time I went to go walk, someone came in to chat. My Fridays were (operative word: were) my day to catch up because I had no meetings. I had three this Friday. Many people came to grouse because the payroll was messed up and no one in our division got paid. (This is another story) So the tension was high all day and people wanted to kibitz. This happens often that my intention of walking gets waylaid. By the time I get home I am exhausted and have no desire to go out in the subzero cold.

I have to change my thinking on this though. I have to make time for me and I know this. But I also have to realize Rome was not built in a day. For example, Saturday is our shopping day. Once a month, we do a huge shopping. Because I wanted healthier choices in the house we decided to go to the Mecca of stores, Wegmans. Now, there are grocery stores and then there is Wegmans. Their produce is divine. You pay a bit more but it is worth it. It was a nice day so I said lets go to the Mother ship, their premier store in Pittsford. This Wegmans takes up the whole end of a shopping mall. When Cher was here, this is where she wanted to go. It is huge. I wanted the walk. It is like going to a bazaar in India. Bright and colorful and there are people handing out samples everywhere. I do not like the crowds but the store was reasonable. So we walked the store and every isle. Two hours later, and almost to the end and checkout, my legs began to hurt horribly. This is not just muscle pain. I do not mind hurting muscles because it means you are doing something. This is a deep in the bone ache brought on by the PsA. We pushed on and by the time I got home I was ok. It was just too much.

This is what I do. I do too much. I grab on to something and go hog wild and overdo it. I have to slow this down and make it part of my lifestyle. But if you know me, I am not patient. This whole thing has been a bit frustrating.

One of the things people do not get with this type of arthritis is that it is a reaction to stimulation. It is a bad reaction. When I exercise, especially if it is a movement that I have not done or I repeated it a lot my body says. “Oh look, she has a boo boo” and swarms the area with inflammation. Because of that, I have really stopped moving. To add to this, I have extreme charlie horses. I know why I get them, and it is not for any of the physical reasons like dehydration. It is a chemical imbalance and they are triggered because I am in a total body clench most of the time. When I sleep and relax, they go off. I am working on that and have been pretty successful in lessening that response. But, I get them also if I move a certain way and that way can be anytime. I discovered the medicine I am on causes these types of charlies. These muscle cramps are not just in my calves. They are in my thighs and the worse ones are in my gut and abdomen. I get them in my shoulders and back also. Just moving slightly the wrong way and I am writhing in pain.

This is adds to the frustration because I want to move. I sat down the other night to work with my yoga DVD and set off a charlie that hurt into the next day.

In my head, I am trying to not let this all get to me. It would be easier to just say f**k it and let nature takes it course with me. But that would really be stupid and I am not stupid. Nothing I have ever done in my life has been easy. But that’s the point. There have been many roadblocks and obstacles in my life and I have overcome them. I do not remember the things that had me tweaked five years ago. I do not remember things had me tweaked five months ago. Point is we do get over things if we work at it. I cherish what I do have in my life because I worked so hard for it. I have to make my mind up what do I want and then go for it. And then “I need to cut me some slack, Jack!”

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

 

Not giving up

This blog post took me several times to start it. There has been a lot going on in my head. I have not shared all of it, but I think it is time. I am scared shitless of dying. Every day I wake up and wonder if this is the day. This started about two years ago when I was beginning to face turning 59. My Mom died at that age. She got sick when she was 58 and within six months, she was gone. She had lung cancer. So as I approached that age, it started nagging at me. Then I turned 59 and woke up still alive. Then I was facing 60. And that was horrible. I do not know why, but this has been an awful time for me.

I stopped a lot of the introspective work I was doing because it was actually making things worse. Ever twinge, every muscle cramp signaled to me that my body was failing. I have NEVER been connected to my body. And the result is why I am so overweight. I never felt fat until recently. And the realization of my body mass coupled with my progress towards old age has plummeted me into an abyss. I admit it. I have been more depressed than ever…. And truthfully, I hate being depressed.

So what is feeding this? Well, on top of my Mom’s early demise, my father died at 71. That is only 10 years more for me. I also have a weird habit. On Sundays, I look at the obits. I think it is my duty to read the last thing people have said about them. It may only be their only tribute too. You never read “John Smith was an a-hole who beat his wife.” I started the habit in my 20’s. When I got divorced, it upset me so much that I would die and not be the loving wife of someone. Sad, I know…but I am confessing here. Now I read the obits and often I am older than the deceased.

I get very upset when we visit Joe’s parents. They do nothing but watch TV and fight. He is 94 and she is 90 and has dementia. It is terrible to see such vibrant souls trapped in their own hell. This is what the future is? I see all the geriatric patients housed in our affiliate nursing facilities and think: What -ho….what a grand life….NOT! I have taken Hospice training and although I think Hospice is wonderful, it has added to my unnerving.

I decided that maybe taking a look at losing weight might add to my longevity. I struggle so much with this because I LOVE food. I love to cook and love baking even more. I also confess that this last year I ate like crap and I gained weight. I knew better. But nothing is going to change unless I take the reins. So what did I do? I met up with that jerk of a counselor who wanted me to get bariatric surgery without even talking to me. She added to my angst so much. I wrote about it but I do not think I went into the level of how much she really upset me. This weekend, I pursued another avenue. I signed up for the program called NYFatLoss.com. The website again sounded fabulous. They balance your hormones, your body makeup and balance your intake and so forth. Sounded perfect, but the website was extremely vague with any details such as cost. My BBF sent me a link to a user’s blog and what an eye opener. The cost was over a thousand dollars to several thousands. It is a 500 calorie diet for forty days. And when that is up, you ante up again. The promise is 35 pounds in 40 days. Of course, if you are eating 500 calories, you are on the Auschwitz diet and you WILL lose. I told my husband you get a choice of two veggies, two fruits and two servings of meat. He thought it was for one meal. That’s it for the day and only certain fruits and meat. You will lose, but when you go back to eating normal you will be right back again and probably worse off because your set point will be so screwed up. You have to pound several vitamins and their supplements which include products that raise your blood pressure and will thin your blood. Not a good combination for someone on Coumadin for a hereditary complication. Again, I hit the wall.

Today in my class I teach, I had two students who both have had bariatric surgery. One was heavy and the other one was thin. They both were eating fast food. They shared that they both have gained weight back. One of them confessed she gained all her weight back and then some. Both said they had complications including being very sick. The thinner girl said she still gets sick. As I walked past her and eyeballed her mayonnaise covered sub with the bag of nachos and sweet tea. I said, “I would get sick too.” I served her a heaping helping of shame with her lunch. I felt terrible and I did not get a chance to apologize. I spoke the truth. I do not eat fast food hardly ever because it does make me sick. Some things that are prepared commercially really get me. McDonald is death and I have not eaten it since 1986. I do not eat red meat either since 1986….well the list is quite long of what I do not eat.

I am so sick of all this. The depression, the frustration, the anger and mostly the additional self-loathing I seem to be heaping on myself. I secretly started planning this weekend to make some changes. I spent much of my time cooking. And I am cooking things for my health. If I have the right things in the house, I will eat them. I eat “bad” things when I am bored. After my disappointment with NYFATLOSS, (what a hose job) I had a choice. I could give up and just continue being this way, or do something. If you know me, option one is not a choice.

So I joined Weight Watchers. All I am going to say about it for now. I am doing this for me because no one else’s opinion matters. If I am successful and take off some weight, wonderful. I am determined. If I don’t, I will start again. I had to get up a walk away from my computer after I typed this. This has been an dreadful or dread-filled time for me and I am worn down to a nub of humiliation covered in fear.

I am stopping for tonight. I have a lot more to share on this topic. Not about swapping recipes for losing weight, but on the humiliation, shame and condemnation people cast on others. I know I have mounted a beaten old nag of a white horse. But I think this is important because body image issues are not about just weight at all. But for now, I am tired.

Holiday images 2014

I woke up this morning having a panic attack. This happens to me quite often. Someone once said to me to just stop doing it. Like I have a choice. I just wake up, feel like there is a mountain of doom sitting on my chest and feel this pervasive malaise. I think the trigger is from a movie we watched last night where the main female character is a famous artist who goes to teach at a very high end private school. Her issue is she has rheumatoid arthritis, is on crutches and in pain. They did a nice job portraying what it feels like to have a flare. But she has this line where the hero is about to kiss her and she says she is going for it because she never knows what life is going to take from her next. It hit home.

So instead of fueling it, I decided to post pictures from the past week. We drove around one night. This is our Main street and some homes in the neighborhood.

Our Village     Christmas vacation house

Holiday Flamingos   Nothing says Christmas like flamingos.

This is my house and my little doggies in the windows.A green Christmas

Waiting for Santa Paws         Christmas 2014 1

I like pink.   This is the family crèche.       creche

But now that the celebrations are over, I am looking forward to getting on to Spring. So are my animals. Spring is somewhere in there         Magoo in the sun

And these fellows were warm in their outfits.  Winter walkies

And the final word on winter comes from my boy. yellow snow