Dealing with Death

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Yesterday my best friend’s dad passed away. We went to visit her family over Christmas, and it was clear that he would not live much longer. I am going with her to the funeral.

I’ve never been close to death — never wanted to be. I avoided being near my family members when they were dying. I guess it frightened me, or at least my emotions frightened me.

Sometimes it was due to an issue I had with the individual. For example, I had hard feelings towards my paternal grandmother due to a variety of seemingly small incidents (and a couple of big ones)
that had accumulated over the years. When she was close to dying, I was living in another city attending graduate school. I could have gone home sooner, but I waited, and by the time I reached home, she had already died. I was greatly relieved.

But that was 21 years ago, and I have changed in those years. Two years ago, my maternal grandmother passed. I am living in another city again, and I was not there when she died, but I had visited several times over the preceding year, and I had no issues with her. I wish I had been there. I don’t know if it would have made any difference to her, but it would have made a difference to me.

 

Word for 2017: Holistic

I just read a post on Colline’s Blog in which she discussed her word for 2017, discipline. This is her theme for the year. She described how the word discipline relates to her goals for the year.

The idea intrigued me, so I looked inside myself for a word that could be my theme for the year. I thought of spirituality at first,  but I finally decided on “holistic.”

I tend to focus on just one area of my life at a time, a habit which is probably related to my bipolar disorder. In spite of medication, I still have episodes of depression, hypomania, and mixed states. During these times I may obsess over my physical health, compulsively work on my writing, or ruminate about my relationships, to the exclusion of everything else.

In 2017, I want to keep in mind the “big picture.” All areas of my life are important: spirituality, physical and emotional health, family and friends, relaxation and leisure, writing, housework and cooking. I often feel overwhelmed when I think about doing all that! But part of the overwhelm is that I think of it as doing everything at once and doing it perfectly. I will need to remind myself that I am human and that’s okay. Trying to be aware of my whole self may feel like herding kittens sometimes, but I think it’s worth a try!

Baby Steps Part 2

by Emilio Garcia
Brainade! The Brain Grenade by Emilio Garcia

In the last post, I mentioned the poisonous thoughts that arise when I try to ask other people for help. I’ve been thinking about this idea. Are there Deadly Elements (e.g. grenades) in my brain that can get triggered by my thoughts, feelings, or actions? If so, how can I find and destroy those pockets while simultaneously employing the baby steps concept?

Clearly, this is an area in which I need help…. no irony intended! Where can I get it? Continue reading Baby Steps Part 2

Baby Steps? Part 1

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Aren’t babies cute? There is nothing more adorable and exciting as watching babies take their first steps.

Twelve Step and other recovery groups often emphasize the need to take “baby steps” as we move along our journeys towards growth. But what does that even mean? When I think of baby steps, I see several crucial facets that can be applied to my personal journey.

First, no one expects a baby to run a marathon when she takes her first steps, yet I often expect too much of myself when I begin something new.  Continue reading Baby Steps? Part 1

Facing Fears

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It is quite possible that I have social phobia or social anxiety disorder. On the other hand, maybe I am shy in a way that is completely normal. Either way, the difficulty I have being around people gets in the way of my enjoyment and happiness. Many days I don’t step foot outside of the house, even to get the mail. I just let my roommate get it when she comes home. I sometimes walk to the grocery store or the pharmacy where I get my meds (I don’t drive). I smile and say hello if someone speaks to me, but I am terrified that they might want to converse, so I leave as soon as possible. I don’t look over my grocery bill because if there is a wrong price I will have to take the item back. I would never ask a store worker where to find something, and I get embarrassed when they say, “Can I help you find something?”

You get the picture. Continue reading Facing Fears

Why Tolerate Distress?

Many people with mental health issues tend to go to extremes with their emotions because they are unable to regulate them successfully. When I go to extremes, I add another problem on top of the one I’m already dealing with. It’s not just the situation itself,  it’s also the fact that my extreme emotions are running the show.

I relate this to what happens in the body when something irritates it — a splinter, a “scratch” on the inside of an artery, a bacterium such as N. meningitidis (meningococcus). The irritating factor is bad enough, but what happens next can be worse, as the body’s inflammatory responses kick in. The use of immunosuppressants such as steroid to treat bacterial meningitis is counterintuitive, but it works, because inflammation is part of the problem.

Distress tolerance skills give me a way to handle inflamed emotions without hurting myself or other people (hopefully, I don’t destroy property either). Continue reading Why Tolerate Distress?

One Breath at a Time

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I lost my temper today. It was primarily caused by my feelings of shame. I’m not sure why, but I’ve been having more trouble with shame lately. My therapist said that maybe I am moving to a new level of recovery and the “old me” is fighting back. The me that feels like a horrible person. The me that gets uncomfortable when my life is going too smoothly. The me that looks for a way to sabotage any success.

Regardless of the cause, I lost my temper. I felt like crying, screaming, banging the wall, and cursing. I actually did a bit of it.

But then I stopped myself. I was seriously white-knuckling it. All I could think of was “breathe in, breathe out, breathe in, breathe out.” If I tried to think of anything else my feelings started to take over again.

After awhile I was able to relax my muscles instead of being so tense. I still felt bad, and I knew I was still fragile. The smallest thing could knock me over the edge again. My stomach was still churning, my jaws were still clenching, but if I could just hang on long enough, I knew that the awful feelings would end.

Sometimes I forget that feelings change. Especially I forget that I can make an effort to change them. Sometimes the only effort needed is to NOT do things that will make the situation worst — to get quiet inside, focus on my breath, and let peace into my mind.

namaste

Anticonvulsant effects of valproic acid uncovered: Research reveals new underlying factor of seizures; ScienceDaily

Researchers have identified the mechanism by which valproic acid controls epileptic seizures, and by doing so, also revealed an underlying factor of seizures.

The drug protects the flow of potassium between neurons which is called the m current. During a seizure, the m current is inhibited, which allow the neurons to become too excitable. A seizure is the result.

Many people with bipolar disorder (including myself) also take valproic acid (divalproex/Depakote). The new mechanism explains how the drug helps with manic episodes, when neurons are hyperexcitable. But what about depression?

If manic episodes result from too little m current, perhaps depressive episodes occur due to too much m current. In that case, Depakote would work by limiting the m current.

This may sound contradictory, but if it is true, it is just one more example of homeostasis in the human body. Most conditions of the body — sleep, temperature, heart rate, growth of new cells, availability of nutrients such as protein — are best kept within a range of values that is generally the same for all people. One can have too much vitamin A or too little. Body temperature can be too low or too high.

Bipolar disorder results when the underlying factors (such as the m current) are not kept in balance, but swing wildly from one extreme to another. Drugs that adjust those underlying factors are potential treatments for bipolar.

Source: Anticonvulsant effects of valproic acid uncovered: Research reveals new underlying factor of seizures; points to new drug discovery approach — ScienceDaily