Whenever the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and all living creatures of every kind on the earth." Genesis 9:13

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Growth. Interesting.

So my last post was something I worked on for literally hours. I fell asleep the night before I wrote it thinking about it. And then I spent most of the day working on it off and on, and thinking when I was writing or deleting.

That post was the single most fulfilling I have ever written. The only other time I felt really strongly about a post was this, about finding really good medical care.

This recent post though taught me a lot about myself. I finally got into words some of what I've not been able to say in the 100 conversations acknowleding how incredibly well I'm doing and all sorts of reasons why. And anyone who is around me can see that I'm at peace now, something I just wasn't, ever, mere months ago.

I'm still thinking. A lot. So I'll be around, but it may be a few days because I have to think my way through this a little more.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

To: Christians Re: Therapy

First, this post may hit nerves for some people. Normally I'd not even think of saying this, but I will delete any comments that come up about this which I find inflammatory. This is not about blasting Christianity, even conservative Christianity (and in case this isn't clear that is what I am), it's about revealing a truth. A truth in my opinion. But if you feel this is an example of all that is wrong with Christianity, please don't post here. Alternatively, if you think this is a good example of why I and half the people who treat me are going to go to hell, that's also not constructive.

Last night I read a disturbing sentiment on someone's blog. In effect, she said she doesn't support therapy because there is nothing therapy can provide that can't be provided through a relationship with God. This disturbs me because so many Christians feel this way or similar, and it is essentially a way of saying that all mental illness or emotional issues are a result of a broken relationship with God or a failure of faith. I can't tell you how hard it is to hear this; I lost my best friend to this conclusion on her part. I also spent a good part of my college years totally isolated because I was depressed in a place where depression was a failing. During those years counseling and antidepressants were something only my closest friends and my support group knew about. Since I was severely depressed for a large portion of college and in counseling for nearly the whole thing, you can see how I had few friends by the end. Even professors sometimes were jerks about it; I once had to go to the dean of women for assistance because I was barely making it to get out of bed each day, my father was in jail, the psychologist was out of town, and my professor was trying to make me take a test when I hadn't stopped crying in 36 hours because he didn't feel depression was a good excuse and he was sure the psychologist would agree.

The first thing to be said here is that yes, God can and does have the ability to heal anything. Read this blog if you doubt that. Yes, my hard work and new variations of meds and finding the right (and strange) combination of meds matters, along with many other things like vitamins and diet and sunshine, but that I'm in remission (partial or otherwise) is nothing less than a miracle.

However, I firmly believe that God uses tools to heal. For those with mental illness, one of those tools can be therapy. I don't know a single therapists (even the really bad ones I've had and there were several of those) who have claimed to be a cure for anything just by themselves. Instead, therapy provides support while you do what needs done, just like a cast supports a fractured arm.

Bipolar illness damages my relationship with God. I am not good at connecting with anyone and I need help to do so. That's one place therapy comes into play. I also need help with things that should be basic. Reading the Bible and understanding it is one of them. I can't follow a "real" Bible. I use a children's version when I can, but truthfully that's not a lot. I just have a lot of emotions surrounding the inability to handle the real Bible that make it hard to stomach my watered down one. Maybe a better person wouldn't struggle with the anger that I can't be an adult in all things, but I do. It's a side effect of an illness that took away so much of what I wanted in life.

I do think for a Christian that having a therapist who is Christian matters a great deal. I am saying this only from my own experiences, but here's my numbers. In the last 14 years I've seen around 10 therapists. I managed to progress and stick with only 3 of those for any useful time period (a total of around 12 years). Each of these was a pronounced Christian therapist. In contrast the non-Christian ones never worked for me because they had very different versions of what "normal life" was than I did. One of them in particular traumatized me much more than she helped because she tried to force me to operate "her way" in a world that wasn't much like the way I want to live. (I was trying to work on dating with her. Her approach was essentially to just throw myself into party school life and soon I'd find myself dating, having sex, and moving on because "it's not a big deal". My ideas of dating are a bit different and with my history none of that stuff is "not a big deal".)

In contrast, the Christian counselors have never pushed me to be different than my basic beliefs. What I believe hasn't always totally matched them (this year in particular, I branched out a bit and voted for Obama for reasons I don't feel like getting into), but I'm treated with respect.

My relationship with my Christian counselors has let me work out some of the most difficult and painful parts of this illness: I can't often do things that I believe are very important. (ie, reading the Bible, attending church/church activities, speaking up about my faith, etc). Until 9 months ago I thought that my inability to do these things meant that not only was I mentally ill I was totally unable to maintain things that were supposed to be basics. Finally I learned that my inabilities are part of the illness and I started to forgive myself. Eventually I even started to forgive myself for my acting out behaviors, like swearing when I'm manic. I'm not a swearer, but when manic I can't help it. In fact I've learned to listen for swearing because it means mania is coming. Or the intense anger that those close to me have been hurt by, time and time again (but not for a while!). These things have tried to destroy me, but now that I understand that it's not just some untamed part of me doing what I don't believe, but is truly something that is part of the illness and something that is deserving of grace and forgiveness I am able to live with the illness so much better.

Learning about grace has been a huge thing in the last year. It's been so extremely hard for me to just trust that even when my illness makes not act the way I would choose, that God forgives this. For years I lived with the belief that so much of what I did was so wrong and that all God could possibly see of my life was the wrongness. It took many, many hours of crying and hard work to learn that God KNOWS I'm sick and God sees me without my illness and knows what my illness does to me. There is no way that I could have learned that without help, because I also have been (still am) working on having enough trust that I can have a more "normal" relationship with God. I trust God, but I also am still working on trusting at all. What I call trust is pretty limited in comparison to other people. Yet I've come a long, long way. And how have I done this? Mainly because in the many years of therapy I've had, and probably especially in the last year (plus another year or two of this in college) trust has been a huge issue. Even now we're working on trusting random people not to hurt me just because I'm standing near them. Sad, but true.

For me my therapist has been a conduit of sorts. I need someone to help me build a relationship with God. It's not a failure of my faith, it's how I was made and the result of being abused. The whole premise of Christianity is having a relationship with Christ through faith (ie trust) and I don't have much trust in my body. So I need help to gain that and maintain it. And that help doesn't come from "normal" relationships because it has to be someone who I can see as on my side but objective. I know Dr. Mind cares. I also know that if he thinks I'm unsafe he will fight with me until he wins, no matter how safe I say I am. I don't manipulate that situation much, if at all. A friend or family member couldn't maintain that role.

As I said above, my experience has shown that for me I needed a Christian therapist. Even though we don't always talk specifically about faith, that is vital for me. With one Christian therapist I prayed weekly; with the other two I didn't. It's so vital that I drive an hour each way each week to see Dr. Mind. I've gone to that practice for almost 7 years now, covering 2 therapists, and since there are very limited (1-2) places to get Christian therapy around here I'll be going there very long-term. Dr. Brain is Jewish and that works out fine. Dr. Body is a Christian and this helps with some of the trust issues required for me to let him check me out.

Anyway, if a Christian "shouldn't" need a therapist then a Christian shouldn't get mentally illness. A Christian shouldn't have to experience abuse or other things that are most easily discussed-sometimes confessed to God with someone present (which honestly I think is what happens half the time) to make it easier-behind closed doors. Therapy makes it safe to be me, including to be the Christian parts of me. God doesn't give these things out preferentially to non-believers.

I don't know how to end this. I'm not even sure I expressed my point well. I'm open for questions, especially if you don't agree with what I'm saying and would like to hear more of my experiences. I don't (can't) quote Bible verses to support my every point, but that's got less to do with what the Bible says and a lot more to do with my cognitive impairments.

Just remember, be respectful. Please.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Quick changes

Please note I altered my links list to the side. One site wasn't working anymore (Emilijia? you closed?) and the other was a product I no longer want to "advertise".

The one I don't want to advertise was the company that I purchased my dawn/dusk simulator from. I love the whole idea and I need it to fall asleep and then to awaken. The problem is that the quality was a bit questionable. For one thing, these things are expensive. All versions are, and it's understandable, it's got a lot of computer chips. They come cheaper if you only want dawn simulation, but for me the dusk is possibly even more important. (Surprise, surprise, I'm backward!) But when you pay $150 for a clock you tend to expect quality. The first one broke within a year. They replaced it free of charge and I was happy. Until the 2nd one broke the same way, this time maybe 18 months later.

So I bought one from the place I got my light therapy box, which I was thrilled with. We'll see how the clock works out, but I'm expecting good things. For those considering a light box, here's a few fun facts: the one this place sells is more specific in the light frequency than standard boxes. This makes it very small and you only have to do it 15 minutes per day. It has diodes rather than bulbs and the diodes are supposed to last 30 years. So for $169 or something like that it's way worth it. Plus, this code DRDU0108 gets you $30 off. It still works; I used it last night when I ordered the dawn/dusk simulator. So I've saved $60 with them. Oh, and my light box, I ordered it on Sunday night and it was on my porch Tuesday evening.

Another change: I'll email those of you who this is relevant to and will post it on the sidebar thing, but I'll have a new email in the next few days. I decided to trial giving up TV because I wasn't even watching it. I reduced my cable to basics 6 months ago and haven't even connected the TV. So I'm switching to DSL later this week which is WAY cheaper and doesn't involve dealing with Roadrunner, who I really don't like. Plus it's one less bill to mess up paying.

So more later. I'm finally starting to feel a bit better, although I didn't sleep well at all last night. I forgot that too much vicodin makes me itchy. That's ok though, I have to run to the pharmacy (where else?) then it's nap time.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Tis a small miracle

I'm still really sick. I went back to the dr. today and got a much stronger antibiotic, liquid gold (vicodin cough syrup that lets me SLEEP! and is the only cough syrup I can have), nasal spray, and a netti pot like thing. I have to say I was pretty skeptical about that, but if my doctor hands me something none medication-y as a freebie I certainly will try it. I LOVE that he isn't all prescriptions.

Anyway, I slept for 4 hours, woke up for more cough syrup and decided to do the sinus flush because I have to stay up for an hour after and I wanted supper too. I was scared because I tend to gag so easily, and I was afraid it would hurt. A few years ago I flew to Florida with a sinus infection and was told to use Afrin before the flight to clear things out. It did, but it was the most painful thing that has ever happened to me because this huge blob of gunk detached and came out and it hurt so badly we had to stop driving to the airport to get me hot tea to soothe things. But it was painless. Weird, but painless. And it did get some of the ick out.

And so for now I actually am breathing through my nose some for the first time in a week, and I just ate soup and TASTED it. I have not tasted more than a bite of anything in all this time. It wasn't exactly the way it is "supposed to be", but something beats everything tasting like nothing.

I may live after all. I even get to go back to work Wednesday. I didn't really intend to take a week off just after vacation....

Friday, March 20, 2009

Grrr....

So I seem to have strep. I missed 2 days of work this week thanks to this, and I really feel lousy. I'll be spending my weekend sleeping. Or not. Today I've been wide awake all day. I think this has to do with being very awake very early with some serious nightmares. I didn't even do anything to trigger them; usually it's from therapy but since I could barely speak yesterday we kept therapy pretty light. (I only went because I don't think late cancellations are free and I had to leave the house to go to urgent care anyway).

Funny story: Dr. Body's name is a very odd ethnic name which includes things like 2 sets of 3 vowels in a row. He goes by Dr. First Name to make it easy. I have learned that I need to know how to spell his name for other doctors and urgent care, so I know it. I also know how to pronounce it, just because I've been his patient a long time. So they asked who my doctor was and I said his name. The woman looked at me and I spelled it. Twice. Finally she found it and said "oh, some other guy had him yesterday. He couldn't pronounce that either". Um, no? I pronounced it and spelled it just fine. You, lady, didn't believe me nor listen. And I'm sorry I'm not talking loudly (this was annoying her) but MY THROAT HURTS.

Sheesh.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Never before

I kind of wimped out on work after yesterday. I truly didn't feel good (bad headache yesterday that may have been a migraine) and I just couldn't handle it. So I'll work Saturday. It's not ideal, but it had to happen. And my dental appointment was a bit late and I would have arrived later than would easily work out.

I think I realized I don't just have my basic PTSD from my childhood anymore. I also have work PTSD, from my last job where everything I did was wrong, and where I got yelled at for everything I did.

Now I'm battling major anxiety about getting in trouble for calling off. But I always feel that way if I take a sick day or whatever. I have had that issue my entire life.

I need to get to bed. I have to get through tomorrow and then Dr. Mind can help make it better Thursday. I hope.

Monday, March 16, 2009

PTSD: The Gift that Keeps on Giving

I've been diagnosed with PTSD, but usually it's not an issue. Right now it is because of all the things I'm dredging up, and I've been more touchy. Lots of nightmares (the foundation of the diagnosis for me), but that's about it. Until today.

I messed something up. I really don't think it was major and my boss wasn't upset about it; I did something without knowing this place has different procedures than I'm used to. Nobody died, nobody got hurt, and in many respects nobody cares. But this one nurse did, immensely.

Rather than just let my supervisor handle it she made me and my supervisor sit in her office while she yelled at me me at good 15 minutes. This is the 3rd time she did this, except the first two times were in public. She has done this to other people too. Because I don't like the way she treats me I avoid her. So she yelled at me for that too, that after incident 2 (which I would barely remember except that I was humiliated) according to her I was so mad I couldn't talk (which isn't true, I was trying not to cry) and that since then I won't even make eye contact. I don't make eye contact because I NEVER make eye contact with people I'm scared are going to yell at me. She threw out plenty of other accusations, including one about my not doing something she apparently defines as part of my job (it's not) and essentially she accused me of potentially hurting a patient through my mistake (huh?) but the whole thing just was too much.

I can't even explain what being yelled at unfairly does to me. It just brings back way too much, no matter how much I know I'm internally overreacting. And now I'm all upset about the eye contact thing because I feel like I'm failing. Little does she know I'm not good with eye contact because I'm bipolar. I have worked extremely hard on this and as long as I'm comfortable with people I can do it pretty well, but if I'm scared of you or upset I can't. And I'm scared of her, whether I like it or not.

So then I spent over an hour crying. Such a waste of time, but it was just too much. She has no right to yell at me; she is not my supervisor or superior in any capacity, and regardless the way she talked to me was totally inappropriate. My supervisor has informed her boss of this, but the truth is nothing can or will happen because contract therapists don't rock boats. Ever.

I don't want to go back tomorrow. I really, really just want the week off now........

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Still working hard

So this week I actually spoke of my past with Dr. Mind. It was hard, and I am certain I could not have done it one day sooner because it took a lot of advance preparation. But I did it. And it was the first time I have ever spoken of much of it, because the other time I went through this stuff in therapy it was with me writing everything down.

I'm not done, and I'm still having nightmares every night. So I'm still not the happiest, easiest person around. And I don't have a lot to talk about because well, some things don't belong on the internet. (Not to mention I'm barely doing this in a closed, quiet room where I know the two of us are the only people on the floor of the building and I should be able to assume relative safety. (Although once someone DID walk in on us talking....But that's another story)).

I will be glad when this complusion to talk about this one ends.

Friday, March 13, 2009

How Not to Treat Your Mother's Therapist

I'm pretty easy-going as a therapist. My assistants never think so because I have a rather precise view of how I like things done, but I kind of NEED that structure with them so I can function. But with patients, I'm relaxed. I don't like family confrontations a ton, but I do them fine and as is part of my job, sometimes (this week) frequently. I make a huge point of helping the nursing assistants out as often as I can; that's the key to success in nursing home work.

But......this one family member did something I can't stop thinking about. First, it made me realize that I could never be an aide because they get treated like that all the time. By me included.

First, she walked up and demanded I get her mother a pillow and a pain pill. I told her I'd get the pillow and tell the nurse. I came in, fixed her mom up, and in 2 minutes she demanded four times I get a pain pill. Finally I explained in stunning detail what the nurse was doing, when she would be available, and that I'm not licensed to pass pills. She was still irritated.

Then a bit later an aide asked me to help toilet the mother. I was giving the mother directions to keep her safe when the daughter yelled over my precise steps. I wound up totally lifting the woman (who did not require that, so the aide wasn't in position to help), while she scratched me because she was panicked by her daughter's yelling and reached up the back of my shirt. Germy scratches (trust me, they were very germy) don't make me loveable. The entire time I was holding her mother's entire weight she yelled at me for things I couldn't help or asked questions.

I'm not sure anyone has been that rude to me who wasn't the actual patient ever. I've never had a family member be so out of control that I was hurt, no matter how minor. (And scratches from fingernails have been known to turn into fungal infections, bacterial infections, etc. Not everyone practices good personal hygiene.)

Most importantly, she compromised rather severely her mother's safety. Which to me is the whole reason her mom is there: we can keep her safe.

Much deep breathing ensued.