Sweaty and Worried – Generalized Anxiety Disorder

Hank had to sing an Italian song for his tests.

His music instructor did not believe that he had been practicing two hours a day. When Hank asked his voice teacher to sign off on those hours, his voice teacher still did not believe him.  He had nothing to feel shame about.  “Then why did I?” Hank wondered.  Card in his hand, signed off, Hank resentfully kicked at the rocks covering the path back to administration.

Looking out over mostly empty hard wooden seating in the music hall, Hank slaughtered the song. Even so, it was still the best performance he had ever done.  His father was there in his stained tie and largeness.  His mother in her too many colors, smiled loudly.  She was tone deaf.  Frank’s shame followed him.  He had practiced.

Hank’s older brother dressed in silk shirts, a big gold medallion, a tuft of hair coming out of his barely suppressed neckline.  When they prayed, Hank heard these smacking noises, and thought, “Pray for my nausea,” hoping they would stop kissing.  His brother always had a girlfriend.  The girlfriend was at his recital.  There were noises.

Everyone was scared Hank’s brother would marry too early and maybe marry for the wrong reasons.  His dad was always like, “Wait, wait!” But with Angie, Dad was like, “Get married now!”  Angie was the best in a long line of noisy kissers.

They asked Hank to sing at their wedding.  They insisted.  His brother, his brother’s girlfriend, his parents – they spoke in harmonics all at once.  “Hank!  You sing like Sinatra! Don’t worry so much! You should sing!”

In a rented tuxedo, Hank sang.  The mike didn’t work.  Aunt Augusta told him to sing louder.  Aunt Augusta didn’t hear well, even if there was a mike.  Hank forgot his words and had to start over.  Sweat filled his shirt and he thought about the dry cleaning.

Hank has never had a girlfriend and he is almost twenty-five.  Standing in front of all those people without the song lyrics, the only words that came to him were, “I am like a sweaty doorknob.”  His brother, facing a battle of his own between his ruffled shirt and his manliness, did not help.  Hank thought, “He is probably waiting for prayer so he can start kissing.”

The second year of college, Hank got caught with pornography.  “Hank!” His mother pulled his ear, towing him while she shook the fisted magazine through the house.  He didn’t listen to her words.  He only listened to his memories asking his music instructor for his signature. Was it as bad as the wedding?  Talking to Sarah or walking across the campus greens were bad. He fingered his worries like a beaded necklace.  He worried a lot.  Worry and shame.  He wished he could have a girlfriend but thought that was a hopeless cause.  Hank was already planning on buying a new magazine before Mom had thrown that one in the garbage.

It is so easy to explain away why Hank is the way he is.  We have heard enough to say, his parents, his brother, his isolation, his treatment from teachers.  We can use these to say, “Who wouldn’t be anxious, worried, down, and isolated, when going through these experiences?”  If we did though, we might miss the generalized anxiety disorder, the medical.  Conceptualizing the medical in this way can be so difficult.  We could call it, “the un-reasons why” we feel and do what we do.  So then we don’t have to deny it.  The un-reasons why don’t have to make sense.  They are un-reasons, after all. We don’t have to deny them by our inherent need to point at the cause and effect, or explain into uselessness the reason we are this way.  We don’t have avoid eye contact just because they can’t be seen.

Hank, like so many of us, is included in the statistics that generalized anxiety disorder, or GAD, is one of the top reasons why we don’t get intimate with others.  The anxiety is distracting.  It isolates us.  It preoccupies our thoughts.  It fills us with self-doubt and develops over time, almost inevitably if not treated, into depression.

Getting by with something as subtle as GAD, or other brain illnesses such as degrees of depression, have potentially devastating effects on what occupies our life-line.  The moments that construct the overall devastation may be explained away by one injustice or another, by what are thought to be personality quirks, or simply by neglect of self. But they could be different. The moments, the otherwise same moments, could be different.  The same rude, distrustful teacher, the rejection from Sarah, the quiet mike – those moments could have been different with the same guy, different only in his brain health.  Brain health makes the sameness different.

As Nancy A. Payne, of New York University (NYU) Silver School of Social Work, wrote about treating brain illness,

“There is tremendous satisfaction gained from facilitating the transition from profound illness to equally profound recovery.”

The life-line takes courage to look at.  It takes courage to believe that the effect of our negative thoughts and distorted perceptions could indeed have that pervasively profound effect.  It takes courage to consider that medical treatment can likewise, profoundly change our quality of life.

Hank tried to take his life with a rope before we met.  I’m so glad he didn’t break his neck or die.  He is now well treated and his disease is in remission.  His life-line has changed.Bo-J0zyIEAA_Y3h

Questions:  What are you brave with?  What do you spend your courage on?  Tell us about it.  We gain so much from community and connection.  Keep on.

Self-Care Tip:  Look also at the un-reasons, at the reasons less apparent, at what isn’t seen – look  into those reasons of why we feel and do.

Between Me and Thee While We Are Apart

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I woke up and thought, I love and am loved. I heard the birds. I recognized different songs. I know “our” birds outside our door. So grateful. The morning noises in the house, kids – This is what I pray about when I pray, “Be between me and thee while we are apart one from another.”

Every day takes us.  We go toward and away.  We connect and disconnect.  What do you hope stays close when you weave your pattern?  When you are taken into your day?

It may be a day.  It may be education.  It may be divorce, bankruptcy, or a change in condos that takes you.  It may be as simple as getting a haircut.

As hairstylist Jane said, “I see people come in here all day trying so hard to be unique, and I can’t believe that they don’t see just how un-unique they are.”  She was noticing that “unique” implies disconnect. Those of us in this condition may be grooming toward disconnectedness and missing that even the pursuit of this is inherently a connecting force between me and thee.

Let us acknowledge the connections, not fear them.

Back in the day, there was Laban and Jacob, who had shared space for many years.  When they separated, they artfully practiced connection.

Now therefore come thou, let us make a covenant, I and thou; and let it be for a witness between me and thee.And Jacob took a stone, and set it up for a pillar.And Jacob said unto his brethren, Gather stones; and they took stones, and made an heap: and they did eat there upon the heap….And Laban said, This heap is a witness between me and thee this day. And Mizpah (“watchtower”); for he said, The LORD watch between me and thee, when we are absent one from another.

Here, many centuries later, we remember our declaration of independence from Great Britain on July 4, 1776.  It is our watchtower of sorts, a time when we celebrate our freedom, beautifully crafted into what brings us together.  Freedom is not synonymous with disconnection.  It is the ability to choose, to move in and out, to live with boundaries that are made of ribbons rather than walls, to have distance and still remain close to where our heart is.

Questions:  What connections over Independence Day weekend are you celebrating?  Please speak out.  We need to hear you.

Self-Care Tip:  Let your uniqueness and freedom be a connecting force in your life.  Be a friend to yourself.

Media Used Educates

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Me:

Jasmine, I’m so honored to collaborate with you on this important post juxtaposing the various ways media shapes stigma and your own testimony.

Guest Post from Jasmine:

I love old ads, Victorian, retro, apothecaries…  not only are they works of art, but are full of the funniest jokes.

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It would be a lot easier to laugh at the ad agencies if it wasn’t for the fact that we buy it.  These ads are proof that our health depends on our willingness to look at more than media.  Just because we read it on the internet, see a commercial on TV, it doesn’t mean it’s the right path.

I look at my bottles of pills.  “Of course it’s safe, otherwise they wouldn’t be aloud to sell it in the grocery store”, I think to myself.  Or, “they must be okay because my doctor said so.  Somebody would have gotten in trouble for it by now, if it was bad”.

That kind of thinking gives away our power.  We are no longer responsible when we make it everyone else’s fault if something bad happens to us.  Even if the doctors and companies get sued, it is Me who will suffer the most.  There is nothing more important than our health.  How can we deal with life when we are distracted with health issues?  How will we treat people the way they deserve, when we’re not feeling well?

The point is that what we see in popular culture isn’t there to educate us.  It is there to entertain. Or make a sale.  Or push its other entrepreneurial agenda.

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I’m trying to focus on smoking because there is no way anyone could deny they hurt you in some way.  Pills are different because there is a different mindset with that, and I’m saving that for another day…  But smoking clearly isn’t healthy.  My dad was one of those people who smoked 1-3 packs a day and said that it’s a myth that people are getting lung cancer from cigarettes.  He jogged everyday and worked out… with a cigarette in his mouth.  If he was alive, I would like to ask him if he thought he would be a better athlete with more stamina if he at least didn’t smoke while working out.  I know the times are different and we know more now than we did back then… But I smoked enough cigarettes in my day to know that I would hack up a lung every morning and had a regular cough, until I quit.

Questions:  How do we tell people what to listen to?  Not just listen to other dramatic people and what we want to hear… not kid ourselves and run away from the real solution, whatever it may be?

-Jasmine (I’m 39, a wife, a mother and I’m cRaZy!)

 http://lakeelsinorelife.com 

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Self-Care Tip:  Use media material for entertainment and look in better places for education and counsel.

Twitter chat – PTSD

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#yourMH chat on PTSD 12-1 pmET

Best Practices & Tools

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Use http://twubs.com/YourMH and sign in using your Twitter handle to participate. This tool has a lot of great features including:

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Have fun and remember you don’t have to reply to everyone!

Love comes out of that?!

hope

Hello Friends.

I write to you so many times “in my mind,” which makes me a great writer! Wink.  But even there, I am grateful to have you to write to.

I just got done watching, Fault in Our Stars, with our local hospice team and, oh my word!  I had to breathe through it.  I was terrified I would lose it several times there.  Not being one of those damsels who cries pretty, I was seriously grateful to be sitting in darkness.

So where have I been?  Trying to figure out this friend to yourself thing.  Still.

I had one of my favorite discussions with a patient the other day on where and why good comes out of bad.  Do I love this conversation because it is about an epic force, an energy and a Truth that wins and kicks bad stuff, like, fungus armpits, dead children, divorce, broken friendships, finding yourself alone in a huge space, depression and a brain that you’d rather not be living?  Do I love this discussion because I feel so freaking right?  I do.  Do l love it because I need to participate in it one more time, now, and now?

Probably.

I’m hoping I’m not right though.  I’m pretty sure that even these eyes see dimly and the Truth is even better.  I’ve been told I don’t know it all.

The chat goes something like this,

(Context is status post some real, personal, bleak disclosure.  I’m facing them, and sometimes they look at me.  I sit in an erect chair with a lap desk and laptop computer between us.  Just enough.  Sometimes my service dog, Timothy is present.

One of us inevitably brings up a curving effort toward hope.  Maybe,)

…Love is stronger.

Yeah…

But I don’t know if there is a question mark or a period at the end.  It sits there in the room with us, like it is a squirrel scratching at its whiskers.  It can go in different directions.

Where would it go for you?

Does Love bring good out of bad as if it needs the bad, like dirt around its roots?  Does Love turn the bad into fertilizer, and grow into some apple tree?  We know Love is stronger than bad.  We know Love wins.  But we think, do I have to be loved like this?!  Rather not.

Love is and Love brings good out of us in any context because where Love is, there it is.  Think about presence.  Honest self-awareness.  When you found it was more important to still be able to walk than care if your t-shirt was inside out.  Love is more true than that.  It is more true than looking into her eyes, than hot water over skin.  Love is.

As Green says in the voice of Hazel Grace, “I hope this enough for you.  This is your life. And I love you.”

Question:  What is stronger in your life?  Why?  What happened to disclose such honesty?  Please tell us your story.

Self-Care Tip:  Love wins, even for you.  Keep on.

Sending a message to the hope out there, to the love I know exists, to the friend who knows me, the place I can always call part home, part critique, part play-fellow, counselor, walking stick.  Hello.

Baby Nurse, Day One

The very first day I put on my scrubs I knew they were the right fit. I  look forward to connecting with patients. I find it to be a true honor and privilege to care for them at a difficult time in their life. I care for patients in pain. I advocate for the mentally ill. Most importantly, I make it my priority to make people feel like they matter. 

Below is a guest post…a small piece of my own blog at  theloshow.weebly.com

Keeping with ‘Friend To Yourself’ tips, remember to believe in yourself enough to make the smallest difference in someone’s day. The rewards are shared. 

 

It was orientation day. My family had taken a flight out ahead of me to attend wedding ceremonies. I stayed behind, pressed my clothes, prepared notebooks, and set out for a day I had been waiting for, for a long time.
Approximately 50 eager nursing students sat behind desks and quieted as the lights were lowered. The instructor played a film, introducing us to our chosen field and wanted to fill our bodies with motivation and inspiration.
You will have an opportunity to care for people that do not have the means or capacity to ever repay you.’
The film ended and my eyes were heavy with tears. I tried to open them wide, hoping the air conditioning would dry them up before my neighbors noticed.
I was so very grateful. I was excited and hopeful. I would live out my life being so very proud of my job. I couldn’t wait.
I was terrified. I barely slept the night before. I sat in my car watching the clock, hoping time would barely pass by if I watched every minute tic. It was my first patient interaction. I was at a skilled nursing facility and I was to interview an elderly patient, and gain experience obtaining a thorough health history.

What was I so afraid of?

I didn’t know what to expect.
I watched “Fried Green Tomatoes” one too many times, and had images of a mean old lady screaming at me, throwing me out of her room, and cursing my ill experience while throwing donuts.
I delayed no more and walked in with confidence. My name badge and clip board screamed target practice. The employed nurses love to watch you squirm.
My instructor gave me my patient’s chart and told me to go to her room and introduce myself after I gathered all the appropriate data. Her binder was thick with life’s journey. Medications, disease processes, and lab work now defined her within those walls.
“Where’s the tab in here that tells me who comes to visit her? Who takes her to the beauty parlor and church? Who tells her Happy Mothers Day?”
No such tab existed.
I walked in her room. She shared it with another lonely woman that mumbled something as I passed the curtain.
She looked old. She looked confused. She looked happy to have someone to talk to.

“Ms. Walker, may I ask you some questions about your health?”

I worked my way down the list that my instructor prepared for me.
Question 11: Do you have any STD’s?
Question 12: How many partners have you been with?
Are you kidding me? What kind of sick bastard wrote these questions for a nursing home? Can I let this lonely old woman have some secrets and dignity please?
Formalities get in the way the sometimes.
I put the clipboard down and just started to talk. I asked her questions like we were sipping tea by the shore.
We laughed. She told me stories about her life that I couldn’t possibly fit onto any sheet of paper.
I knew I’d have to make up some of my material to turn my paper in for a grade. I didn’t care, and knew my instructor wouldn’t care either.

The video your institution showed me on my first day didn’t say anything about caring more about a clip board than a person.
It was about how I made someone feel that day. She wanted to talk to a person that genuinely cared about her answers.
I left that day laughing at myself for being so nervous. I chose this profession because it allowed me to be free of clipboards and formalities. It’s about making people feel good.
In the spirit of Nurse’s Week…Remember how the profession began. It’s about being at a person’s bedside when their loved ones cannot. It’s about giving your attention when someone needs it most.
Be that person, and protect the integrity of the initials that follow your name.

{Nurse Leslie}

Caregiving and Selfcare

Fallen_tree2Being a caregiver is, well, …giving!  There is a need.  We respond to the need.  We give.  There is taking from what we give.

When we talk about this, some of us hear the tap, tap of a bookkeeper balancing ins-and-outs.  Tap, tap, take, take.  We feel dangerously close to objectifying what is Magical.  Objectifying what we get from giving loses at this point in our thoughts the bigger circle of love that motivates us.  Let’s acknowledge and respect that.  The bigger reasons are so worth aspiring to and treasuring.  You who believe in what is more than the numbers of our motives and behaviors, please continue to nurture us with this wisdom.  Be patient as we wander in the corners and cracks and in the places we don’t understand so well.

The point of giving, others pursuing the caregiver’s story later respond, is what we receive.  The love, the satisfaction of observing what our efforts contributed to in another’s rescue.  Perhaps, knowing we participated in saving a life.

Am I a caregiver?  Are you?  Well, maybe we think we are excluded from this category because we don’t liaison between one suffering life-being with the world around.  But are!  We all are caregivers by the definition of what is means to be living.  Living is connection.  We, each of us, are connected to the Universe and the different points from there to here where we stand.  Connection is inherent to living.  To live is to be connected.  To disconnect is to die.

This is somewhere along the philosophical thought experiment of, “If a tree falls and no one hears it, does it exist?”  I am told by those who might be wiser that it does not.  I don’t get it and what does that say about me? ;)

Observation vs. reality.

Connection is like that.  It is not perceived sometimes, and sometimes it is perceived.  This is important to Me.  To the part of each of us that is more than our senses.  More than Time and the condition of our health.  More than brain illness.  This is important to caregiving because by increasing our self-awareness of our role in connection, and thereby caregiving, we have an opportunity to increase our ability to combine the Magic of it with the “accounting ins-and-outs.”  Thereafter, we are lead to increase our transparency to others, increase our connectivity and increase our experience in Life Quality.

Magic is compatible with that which is known.  More even, they are not divided, whether we know it or not.  Magic and that which is known, just are.  We are arrogant people any way we turn the talk, of course.  None of us without agenda.  None of us without projectile pride.  But despite this, we have Grace and whether we hear the tree or not, Magic and knowledge have made allowance for us.

Caregiving comes with connection.  We give, we receive, and we do it with agendas.  Increasing our self-awareness through the process, although it feels at times like ringing out a cash register, and feels soiled by the sound of that which taking brings, – self-awareness of our agendas brings more freedom.  We are more free to give by choice rather than martyrdom.  We give without perceiving ourselves the victim to those to whom we give.  We are more free to give to our other agendas.  We are more free to consider our own needs as needs-of-value from one who is also Loved and valued, Me.

Question:  Might increasing our consideration of our “Me” increase our giving well to others?

Do you consider yourself a caregiver?  How so?  Please tell us your story.

Self-Care Tip:  Give well to yourself to give well to others.  Keep on.