Thursday, April 28, 2011

42. Deep breaths.

Gah, alright.  This blog is a bit personal, but hey.  I trust you all to "do no harm".
So in my gradual weaning off the Klonopin (the anti-seizure, tranquilizing drug that had been "easing" my nerve deal), I have encountered, er, difficulties at each stage.  Both physiological and psychological hiccups. 
Physiologically, each time I cut back, I enjoy multiple sequential sleepless restless nights, followed by several days of general jitteriness and creepy drug withdrawal feelings.
Psychologically, it's a whole horror show inside my head.  First, not sleeping, as we have learned, makes me emotionally labile.  Add that to feeling jittery, and my need to attribute this jitteriness to something actually happening in my life, and I am practically seeking out things that perhaps ordinarily would upset me, and assuming that's why I'm jittery and antsy and otherwise edgy/irritable.  For example, last night we had our annual HOA meeting.  Husband is the President of the board, making me First Lady, and requiring my presence.  Booo.  These meetings are just an opportunity for home owners to show up and yell about this or that, hear a satisfactory answer, then repeat themselves ad nauseum until eventually, the meeting is adjourned.  Not excited about it.  Feeling generally meh about it, but turning into some bigger deal than it needs to be in my head, because I am already in like, junkie medication withdrawal and feel like poop.
But then, I get there, and although there was one brief moment with several people yelling at once about the inefficient snow removal we experienced this past winter where I wanted to die, it really wasn't too bad.  I practiced self-calm techniques.  Which for me, are not some highly sophisticated technique of relaxation, or cognitive behavioral therapy of some kind.  They involve seeking out the humor in the situation (perhaps by judging others in my head, yes, I admit it), and realizing that eventually this meeting will be over, and I can share my funny thoughts with my neighbors later.  So, the table with all the yelling Grumpy Gills, suddenly became known to me as "the HumDrum-V", whereas the table I sat at (with the board members) was "the Fun-V".  This is from Iron Man, a pun about the Hum-Vs they were riding in.  Hah hah hhhah.
But back to more of what else is going on in my head.  I'm completely off the Klonopin as of two nights ago.  I've been hoping to be able to do this for MONTHS.  What's stopped me?  Fear.  Fear that if I stop, I'll feel worse and have to get back on.  Fear of what that might mean if I do feel worse, will I ever fucking just get better?  But you know, it hasn't been too bad.  At least, it's better than it was this time last year.  And for as incredibly impatient as I am, calculating recovery time in months or seasons is almost offensive an idea.  But, it's the only measurement in which I can see an improvement, so I have to accept it.  I would've loved to have said, yeah, just the other day my nerves were doing this crazy weird numb/tingly thing and it was kinda annoying, but this week it's completely gone and I feel awesome.  Instead, I'm stuck with, last April I had a spinal tap and my brain leaked fluid for a week.  I feel better than that now.  Even slightly better is that, last July I said I'd be OK if this was as good as it got for me, because at least I feel better than I did two months ago, and I feel better now than I did in July.  I can EVEN say that I feel better now than I did in March.  And that's almost miraculous.
And somehow, through all this crap, I can still enjoy a nice puffy cloud in the sky.

So, please, keep your fingers crossed I make it through this week on sub-par sleep without totally flipping out.  And that I don't start to feel worse.  And that I can adjust to life without the constant sedation I've experienced the last 13 months.  And, please, be impressed that I have made all these incredible observations about myself and shared them all with you (self-mocking tone there).

Sunday, April 24, 2011

No. 41

Alright, so although these topics may seem inane and superficial, I'm going to try and tie them into mindfulness and gratitude anyway.
First, I've been into getting manicures lately.  It was a luxury I couldn't really indulge in with my previous job, as not only were long nails not allowed in my profession, they would've been ruined within days.  So on a whim, I went to the salon where I've gotten many pedicures and asked for a manicure.  Husband had requested "those French tips" (it actually still baffles me that he knew what those were), so that is what I requested.  The manicurist suggested I try the "gel" polish, since it was new and would last longer.  I'm convinced, sure, what the hell.  Gel it up.
And honestly, I didn't really realize how nice manicures are.  Or that I apparently have really nice natural nails.  The few times I've gone, the other women in the salon have commented on them, and the manicurists there just rave about them.  Actually, there have been several similar conversations that were a bit strange to me: "are those yours?" (in reference to my nails), which gave me pause "whose else would they be, seriously?" and to which the manicurist replied, almost proudly, "yes, those are her real nails".  Which is received with something like awe, and nods of approval.  So, I guess my "real" nails are a bit of a rarity in salons where most are acrylic. 
So, one day when I was just buzzing with nervous tension and restlessness, I went in after work for a manicure.  I struggled with it for awhile, because they are expensive and I didn't really need one for another few days, but I just wanted to indulge myself.  And it was lovely.  I was pampered and complimented for over an hour.  I was called "honey", all my fingerly flaws were tended to (some polish chips, cleaned up cuticles, nails reshaped, etc.), and I left after a nice hand and forearm massage with beautiful nails and higher spirits, and less of that "bleck" feeling.  I was thankful for that, and mindful of the pampering and self-care I had allowed myself.
And one more thing: I'd like to give a "shout out" to Tylenol PM.  I sort of feel like it's a bit magical.  I don't know if it's because when I take it, I can sleep forever, or if it has anything to do with the "PM" part (which is an anti-histamine; Benadryl), but the mornings after I take it, I wake up feeling almost healed.  As if, during the night, the anti-histamine has gone into my body, sought out and healed all the inflamed and irritated parts, and let me sleep for ten hours to wake up restored.  It's like a magic bean, coated in EZ swallow blue. 

Friday, April 15, 2011

Forty? Who knew I had that much to say...

I'm still a little hung up on my little union of gratitude and meaning that came to me last week.  So much so, that I am merging in a third idea: mindfulness.
This word has been the topic of much discussion at home lately.  I can't claim to know very much about the idea, but I can share a little bit about what it means to me.
First, mindfulness in regards to eating.  A mindful eating experience would include being aware of how the food feels and smells as you prepare it.  The sensation of the food in your hands, the aromas of it cooking, the sight of it on your counter/in your pot/etc.  Using all your senses before it even gets to your mouth.  Then, mindfulness of the food on your fork, or in your hands; feeling it's weight, noting the texture, inhaling it's scent as it nears your mouth. 
Once you take a bite, be aware of all the sensations you're experiencing.  How good it smells, the feel of the food in your mouth, how it tastes.  Maybe even enjoy the subtle mixing of flavors as you chew and enjoy, using all your senses.
This donut, for which I was very grateful last week, was an example of a mindful eating experience.  First, it sat on my desk for some time before I ate it.  So I could smell the sugary coconut for awhile.  Then, I picked it up, noted it's weight, the feel of the coconut flakes kind of smashing into the icing as I held it, then took a bite.  The awesome and kind of surprising thing, was that it tasted much like it looked (heavenly), but with a hint of lemon.  Interesting, right?

So, let's bring mindfulness into this marriage of gratitude and meaning. What do you think?  I think it's fantastic.  Feeling more present in your moment, more aware.  Experiencing your gratitude with all your senses.  Finding meaning in that moment.
And, eating coconut donuts.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Blog no. 39

I'm apologizing for the length between blogs.  I've meant to everyday, but just didn't.  No reason, other than maybe now I'm feeling more self-conscious than usual, because I have some new followers?  Maybe not, maybe I've just been lazy.
I did have some moments this week of self-awareness that were a bit insightful.  The first one having to do with being tired.  Since I've been weaning myself off the Klonopin, I haven't been sleeping well.  Worse than usual, even.  This insomnia has been the, hard to fall asleep, wake up earlier and earlier each day kind.  So last week, Wednesday night, I barely slept at all.  I had to wake up early Thursday for a doctor's appointment, and I was thinking, "Great!  Since I'm so tired, I'll be really relaxed for this appointment.  Perfect." 
It occurred to me a bit later, while walking across the breezeway from my office building to the hospital where my appointment was, that tired and relaxed are two ENTIRELY different states of being.  Tired is like, the opposite of relaxed.  (These are thoughts I'm having across the breezeway). 
Tired is thin, fragile, weak, and unsupported.  Events that occur while tired are magnified on a logarithmic scale, amplified by a brain that just can't process them correctly.  Things feel personal that aren't.  Stressful things are just too much, leading to tears or fits of anger that are entirely inappropriate to the situation.  Tired does NOT equal relaxed.  It's SO obvious now.  Like, hit your head with your hand obvious.  Duh!  But up until then, I think I forced myself to relate the two states (tired = relaxed) so that I could function better while exhausted and sleep-deprived.  But it was actually just making things worse!  Why am I crying?  Why am I so hungry?  Why does nothing sound good to eat except M&Ms?  Why can't I sleep?  Why are all these awful horrible things happening to me? (read: awful horrible things such as, I forgot my fork and/or water bottle at work, so must use plastic fork and/or plastic cup).
When really, I must just acknowledge, I am *tired*.  Things are harder when I'm tired.  But, I *know* this, and can deal with being tired.  I can also try to feel more relaxed about being tired.  One does not equal the other, yet one can occur within the framework of the other.  Meaning, I can be tired, and become relaxed.
Anyway, like I said, duh.  And yet, profound to me, on a Thursday morning, on the breezeway, to the hospital.  A life lesson learned.
So thank you, Moment of Clarity. 
And here, a quote from the author of the preface to my gratitude journal, Catherine Price; "...I felt something deeper inside me begin to change: I was training myself to appreciate the everyday beauty and joy that already existed in my life, and I was beginning to understand how I could create more of those experiences."
So this week, I feel like I have united two ideas - the original blog idea of finding meaning in the everyday, and gratitude.  I will find meaning in what already exists in my life, feel grateful, and learn how to continue to practice this idea.

(I just like this picture because my hair looks really red (it's brown) and I have makeup on.)  So here's me, looking into the future with a mindset to be more forgiving of myself when I am tired, and to find gratitude in my pretty amazing life.

Monday, April 4, 2011

38 blogs! Wow.

This will be a summary of events from Friday afternoon through this evening, for which I am thankful.
Friday afternoon I was invited by my co-worker to hang out with her while she got a patient enrolled in one of the clinical trials going on at our center.  One of the enrollment criteria required a "6 minute walk" (6MW) test.  This is an important measure for patients with pulmonary hypertension, because they often become out of breath during actitivity, so the farther they can walk in 6 minutes, the better they're doing.  It's used in clinical trials and clinical practice as a measure of improvement/worsening.
So this wonderful woman set out on her 6MW in the hallway.  We mark each end of the corridor with orange cones, and distance in meters is marked on the walls.  I'm at one end, making sure the path stays clear of foot traffic, and the study nurse is at the other.  The patient sets off at an impressive clip, carrying her portable oxygen tank with her.  Back and forth, doing great.  She starts to slow down, gets to my end to rest a moment.  Now, we're not supposed to coach or interfere with the walk in any way.  But when she looks at me, and I notice she's not really seeing me anymore, and her oxygen tank falls off her arm, I go over to her.  Just in time to barely help her slide down the wall into a crumpled heap on the floor.  The study nurse is running towards us with the wheelchair, and I can barely hold her up.  Anyway, brief drama as I fetch the doctor, and the patient is fine.  Just had a "pre-syncopal epidsode".  Don't I know it.  Having had several recently myself, I get it. 
Thankful that I interfered with the 6MW and kept her from totally keeling over.  Thankful that I got to talk with the doctor that came to help, I've only spoken with him once or twice since I was hired.  And he's funny!  I asked later that afternoon him if I could go into his University physician profile to add "pulmonary hypertension" to his list of specialties, and he suggested I also add "male model" and "humanitarian".  I quickly replied I had been coming up with a list of things to add to embelish/enhance his profile, and just had been waiting for the "green light". 

The weekend starts off nicely.  It's a crazy warm morning, so I get to ride my "mycycle" wearing the least amount of clothes ever!  It felt like flying, as usual, but this time it felt like flying...neked *tee-hee*.  Until I reached my turn-around point and rode 15 miles home uphill into the wind.  Boooooo.  Then it felt like, uh, like I was going to enjoy the hell of the bacon cheeseburger I was going to eat that night.  That's right, thank you, Smashburger.
Sunday took a turn and dropped over 50 degrees and snowed.  Still a productive day, re-learning movie editing software I hadn't used in months.  Today was also a fine day.  During the lunch meeting where I was supposed to show off the changes I had the web-guy make to our website, my supervisor did instead, so I could just hang out.  Then the funny doc kept making jokes about his profile picture, that was taken er, awhile ago, and was the only one in black and white.  So he looked "pasty", everyone else looked "healthy and vibrant", and finally, what made me laugh quite a bit, that "he looked like one of those Twilight guys".  Ha ha haha!! 
And this afternoon, while gathering ingredients for the Barefoot Contessa's mocha icebox cake at the grocery (man, mascarpone cheese is expensive), I snoop at the coupons the previous self-checker-outer left behind, I find a $10 off your next grocery trip!!! coupon.  So thanks, Coupon-Rejecter, for saving us $10!  The Morehouse in me was tickled pink.
And for the record, I *will* be thankful when this wretched, awful wind stops blowing.  On my bike ride into 40mph gusts of it, I thought of it as "the devil's breath".  Yeah.

Friday, April 1, 2011

It's April!! Thanks for that.

It felt weird to not be posting daily Items of Gratitude.  I know it's only been a few days, but it seemed longer. 
I had a fun week.  I got slices of pizza for lunch *twice*.  Both times with friends.  The first time with a group of the Good Apples from my old job.  Sooo nice to see them.  The second slice was with a girlfriend who also works on campus.
We were invited over to dinner this week as well.  Delicious, authentic fish and shrimp tacos.  And an introduction to the newly available in Colorado "Blue Bell" ice cream, with Nutella and crushed up cookies.  And last night, over for the pastry-chef's "Chocolate Dream Cake".  This was a chocolate cake, with mousse filling, in a chocolate cookie crumb crust, that she dreamt about, and then created.  Hooray for dream cakes!  And hooray for leftovers of this in my fridge.
I lifted weights again this week as well.  It had been awhile, because I was taking a dance class that somehow threw off my workout routine.  It was an intense dance class!  I lifted on Wednesday.  My body has been making it fairly clear to me that it was not pleased with this decision.  "Oh, you didn't think you had a muscle there?  Well, you do.  And it hurts, and it's going to ache whenever you move.  And how about this muscle here?  This one is going to hurt even if you just sit there.  Don't even think about trying to rub it because it's going to feel like you got punched there.  And yeah, you're being punished." (That's my body talking to me).
So this morning, 48 hours after this really wussy weight lifting session that still managed to leave me damaged, I decided I'm going to punish back and trot out for 3 miles.  Take that"Oh hell no, this isn't going to work for you at all.  All those muscles in your legs that serve only to move your body forward?  Well, those are going to be weak and wobbly.  And all the other ones that just seem to jiggle with your momentum?  Yeah, that jiggling is going to hurt."  Oooooof.  Jog jog wince jog ow jog....and then endorphins.  Thanks endorphins.  It's all good til I stop.  Then..."REVENGE!!!!  What were you thinking???? You suck. Prepare to suffer the rest of the day.  And now your back hurts too, way to slack off on buying new running shoes.  Jerk." I am thankful for: inner dialogues, Tylenol, that it's Friday, that I know my body is just talking sassy but that it actually appreciates the efforts, and that it's Friday.  And that I have new running shoes on their way to me in the mail.  And that I get to eat more of that Dream Cake tonight.  And that I have two new blog followers that hopefully enjoy my stories.  And that I have good friends to eat pizza with!  And good friends to eat fish tacos and dessert with.  But my ass is still sore.  Good lord.
And that my cat seems to like Disney Princess movies.  She's so damn cute.