Category Archives: Health

There are risks involved

I’ve been noticeably absent from this blog for a bit. A few months ago I started to be in pain and the pain only got worse. It’s prevented me from working, socializing, and at times just walking across my apartment to get myself water. This isn’t a “new” pain and the only course of action to remedy the situation is surgery.

I go in tomorrow morning for surgery.

For the past 2+ months, I’ve not been able to lead my life the way I want. Specifically, it’s prevented me from physical activities and requires me to spend enormous amounts of time hibernating in my bed under a hot water bottle. When your body fails you, it leaves you plenty of time to think. Thinking can be both a good thing and a negative thing. In general, it’s easy for me to get lost in my thoughts. When all I’m surrounded by is my thoughts, it’s really important to be kind to myself.

There are, of course, risks with surgery. Speaking honestly, there are a lot of risks with my life. Fire spinning comes with multiple risks. Fire breathing comes with even more. Even choosing to drive cross country in the winter by myself comes with risks. I’m fine with risks.

It’s been a tough few months with managing to keep my spirits up and trying my best to function. Some things, specifically career wise, have fallen to the sidelines. Prioritizing my health has not been easy, but it’s been necessary. If I want be be active and do the things I love for another 50+ years, I do need to make my health my #1 priority. I owe it to myself and to the people who care about me.

So tomorrow, if you have any spare thoughts I’d appreciate one being sent my way.

Anatomy of a meltdown

A child’s resting heartbeat can be as low as 60 beats per minute.

One of my earliest medical memories is standing in a cold white room learning how to attach electrodes to my skin with words like ”heart defect ” hanging in the air. Doctors had no idea how a young child could go from a very low resting heart rate to over 240 beats per minute while simply sitting in a chair. Walking across the room at home, I’d simply drop to the ground with pain shooting up my left arm. This happened seemingly randomly and later on these carried the simple label of “panic attack” so it was just a part of my life. This was years before my Autism diagnosis when I was simply referred to then as a “hypersensitive child”.

As I grew up, these panic attacks began to take a shape and a clear pattern emerged.

The word meltdown sometimes gets thrown around with people thinking it is equivalent to a temper tantrum. That could not be more wrong. Children (and adults) throw tantrums to get something. Meltdowns are your body’s way of saying it is overloaded. The human body is capable of taking in millions of pieces of sensory information a day, however there is a limit. This limit changes based on a myriad of variables and can be different from day to day.

Even years later, I’m still trying to figure out my warning signs of a meltdown before I’m in one. The biggest warning sign I’ve been trying to push past is exhaustion. It doesn’t matter if I eat well, hydrate, am in limited physical pain, or anything else as there is a clear tipping point for me. The tipping point is related to my Achilles’s heel.

Social skills.

I’ve spent my entire life trying to study social skills through movies, TV shows, books, observation, and imitation. Inside my head lives hundreds of social scripts for thousands of life situations other people simply experience. It’s only very recently I’ve felt comfortable enough to build my own scripts in public or with people I don’t know too well. People who do know me well have a better idea of how my mind works and know I sometimes “cycle” or repeat conversations without intending to. They also know my conversations can jump around from topic to topic seemingly randomly.

My meltdowns look like that scene in the remake of Stepford Wives when Faith Hill starts misfiring and sparking on the dancefloor. My emotions bring me to an anxiety loop where I go from calm to crying repeatedly. My left arm  stops behaving like an arm and my heart races. My hearing sharpens and so does my sense of smell. My eyes become very sensitive to light. The worst part is feeling trapped unable to speak.

My words tend to fail me and often I can only mutter “help, please help.” My mind races, but perseverates on either real or imaginary flaws. It’s my own personal torture and one I strive to keep behind closed doors. It’s a combination of fear that has me try to hide these struggles. I am afraid of others seeing my weakness in moments where I am my most vulnerable. In these moments of being completely overwhelmed in the world, there is a thought floating in my mind that this is The End.

My meltdowns pass and I always survive, even though I never think I will at the time. When I was a kid, the heart monitor I wore would upload the recordings over the phone line once a week when it was plugged in. I would sit next to the machine for almost an hour as meltdowns were a frequent part of my life. Now they are further apart, but are still a part of who I am.

Life has struggles and everyone goes through them differently. The kindness shown to me by friends when I’m struggling with meltdowns is overwhelming to me. Even something as simple as a smile or asking if I am okay helps me. I am so thankful for having kind people in my life who understand I do get overwhelmed. I do try to hide my weaknesses, but I’m lucky enough to have people not who don’t run away when they see me looking like a hot mess.

I remind myself tomorrow is always a new day and a day to try again. A meltdown one day simply means I need to change something the next day. I will survive and be stronger, personally and in my relationships with others, the next day.

System Maintenance Required

At the end of last week, I was asking the Powers That Be to please let my body make it until I finish my grant writing course. The final due date was Sunday. So Sunday I got up early, finished my grant proposal, and went to rehearsal. Things were pretty fine until a few hours later.

I’ve spoken about being hyposensitive before and how it means I’m not always aware of my body is experiencing in that exact moment. Sunday evening, I just knew I needed to lay down and rest.

Cue to me having very weird dreams with a temperature of over 102. By the time I woke up on Monday, I could not see straight, my head felt like it was exploding, I could not swallow or breath without excruciating pain, and had to drive myself to urgent care because I had no idea what was going on with my body.

When I get sick, I get REALLY sick. Part of this because when I start to experience symptoms, it is very normal for my to just shrug them off and continue like nothing is wrong. I have a very high pain threshold so it take me being in a significant amount of pain (above normal) for it to begin to impact my daily life. Once my arm was broken for 3 days before I had it set because it “was only swollen and I can still pick things up with only a little pain.” So to say this pain was a 9 on my scale may give you an idea of how bad it was.

I’m confined to my bed eating copious amount of Popsicles to stay hydrated and watching The Office as I’m trying to recover. I’m so thankful my 20 lb full size weighted blanket arrived yesterday because it feels so relaxing. This is one of those very few times I wish I had a robot servant to bring me Popsicles and the occasional piece of toast. 

Let’s get physical!

If you can infer from things, or the fact that I’ve said as much, it’s been a rough few months. I’ve been in a bad place and it’s affected my health. The biggest hurdle for me recently has been the depression. It feels like I’m trapped in my body and unable to do the fun things I want to do and it’s a struggle through the things I need to do. Seriously, let’s not talk about the epic mountain of doom that is the pile of clothing in my room.

So as a way to improve my overall health, I’ve gone back and started working out heavy duty again. I’ve been working to try to create lifelong healthy habits and exercising on a daily basis is a huge one. It’s right up there with eating healthy and not smoking. It’s that whole “My body is a temple” thing I’m trying to do. Again, everything is totally a work in process.

Anyway, as I was cross-train-er-ing watching Community I began to feel better. In fact, once I was done I looked like a drowned red-headed rat. As I dripped over to the water fountain, the endorphins raced through me. It’s been said five million times, but exercise does make you feel better. Cardio is an easy one to do, but I actually prefer weightlifting because it is a deep pressure sensation.

I’ve taken pharmaceuticals before for depression, in fact I did it for years. For me, the side effects were not worth it. My chemical and neurological system is so sensitive, drugs really tend to mess me up. Now that I’m not in the middle of crisis, it is the perfect time to work with natural and holistic approaches. I use catnip (insert joke here) for pain relief and helping get to sleep.  So as I work to get back on my life track, exercise is going to be key for me.

Hey, when I get back from my Midwest adventures there is a new physical activity I’m going to be doing. This new activity is going to take things in a fun new direction when it comes to daily exercise.
Hint: I’ll still be spinning, but not on the ground!

Let the floods come in

There’s a snap that happens. Maybe it’s just me, but I doubt it’s only me. My snaps just ring silently under the skin until they leak out.
This is the peak when overwhelmed greets anxious.
It’s these times when I wonder how something so loud can be so silent.
These are the days where the last stone finally slips out of place and the floods race in.
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This snap is very familiar to me and I’ve experienced it since I was a child. It’s the snap of anxiety when it finally takes your breath away. As a former friend once said, it can reduce me to “a crying ball of useless-ness on the floor“. Yeah, I’ll forever remember those words as a warning to stay away from a person who I once considered a dear friend.

As much as I try to manage my anxiety, yesterday was the breaking point.

I’d been seeing my warning signs written on the walls, but I had been trying to ignore them. I’ve been too forgetful. I’d walk into rooms and not even know why I was there and forgetting important things. My appetite has been non-existent while leaving me with a nausea feeling. Bruises have once again randomly appeared because I have not been paying enough attention to my body and I don’t always realize something is wrong physically. And then there’s the emotions which just cap off the everything.

My overwhelm sessions don’t scare me any more because I know what they mean now.

Some people come home from a stressful day and they take a hot bath or have a drink to unwind. I don’t do that. I just keep going. I process my stress and anxiety internally so it affects me physically. This leads to the number one thing I’ve heard for my entire life and I heard it again yesterday.

This seemed to come out of no where. One minute you were fine and the next you were crying.”

THIS is anxiety on the spectrum. It’s not just that there is a difficulty separating ourselves from anxiety, we literally get stuck in an anxiety loop. It’s a real thing and terribly ironic that I had to grade an assignment on it this morning.

I’ve stopped looking at my crashes as a negative thing or as if there is something wrong with me. The jerk who thought he could make me feel worse about my own mental health issues underestimated me. I am vulnerable, but not useless. I am fragile, but not delicate. I am strong and I am also weak. Unfortunately, I need to reach my crash point when enough things aren’t working in my life. For me, this is just a sign to rebuild and make things stronger.

I’ve been slipping into ‘unhealthy’ the past few months and it’s time for a bit of a reboot. I’m not ashamed of my struggles because I know other people face them. When I posted the poetry/reality at the top of the page, 3 of the 4 people who responded with messages are on the spectrum. This type of anxiety and meltdown is something we know all too well.

Oh Doctor, my Doctor!

“He’s the best physician that knows the worthlessness of the most medicines.”– Benjamin Franklin

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I’m a person who has struggled with health issues for most of my life. Endometriosis, Lyme Disease, Thyroid Issues, and Seizures are some of the big ones that have affected my life but there have been others. Growing up as the daughter of a medical advertiser, my family was also well versed in medical knowledge. They sought doctors not just for their fancy initials, but for their quality of care. The best relationships I’ve had with medical professionals are the ones who look at the entire person when it comes to diagnosing a medical condition. They are the ones who know how much environmental factors and other life factors can affect a person’s health.

Today I had the unfortunate experience of dealing with a medical professional who was so arrogant, it was dangerous for me.

I spent a lot of my life on medication for various ailments. There were times when biological functions were not quite functioning in my body and the only way to correct them was through the use of medication. I’m in no way anti-medication because I know without some I have taken, my quality of life right now would be significantly impaired and so would the lives of some people I love. One of the greatest things about the world we live in now is the amazing advancements in medicine and some of these advancements could never have been dreamed of even one hundred years ago.

BUT, I don’t think the first reaction from a doctor is to push medication on a patient as a form of treatment.

In my youth, my father would give me catnip tincture to help me sleep or reduce pain. When my mother was pregnant with my brother, she worked closely with a Chinese herbalist in Chicago and her doctor to make sure she had a healthy pregnancy. Now some of my close friends are midwives, Reiki practitioners, massage therapists, music therapists, equestrian therapists, and lots of other professions focusing on the person as a whole to work on individual challenges.

As I’ve spent almost an entire year living on my own and “being an adult”, I’ve been able to adopt some healthy habits. Healthy habits are things that can impact your life in the long run and it did take me some stumbling to get on track with some of these things. With my life as stressful as it was, healthy eating habits got thrown to the sideline with my unfolded laundry. Although my laundry currently sits in a nice cozy pile next to my bed, I cooked fish not from a can for myself for the first time in ever. Recipes normally forgotten on my Bookmarks menu are being cooked up because there is actually time in the week. The biggest part of my healthier life has been reducing my stress load overall. Having time to do things tomorrow if there is not enough time today is truly a blessing.

I’m a person who needs big neon signs from the universe to properly understand the direction of life. Lucky enough, this is one of those neon signs. I’ve spend almost a year working towards being the healthiest person I can be and this is just another push in the same direction. Eating healthy, exercise, getting enough sleep, laughter, and most importantly reducing stress are the right prescriptions for me.  Within one hour I had contacted my doctor, who shares my hesitancy with over-medication, and we are working on a new game plan. This plan will be more holistic and natural with less side effects.

Being healthy is not easy and it does take time. Some days are rougher than others and it is important to have a team who has your back, however the team my be assembled (capes optional). Today my team was my Primary Care Professional, my mother, myself, and my cats. Yes, after my morning stresses I relaxed with my feline counterparts. What better way to enjoy a beautiful fall afternoon than with a catnap in the sun? It’s exactly what the doctor ordered.