Alone and Full of Questions

I’m going to admit, I am struggling this week. It’s times like this, I really miss my dad. He and I would talk in ways I haven’t found anyone else I can speak openly with. It was easier to keep it between the two of us, basically only to avoid frustrating other people, facing their dismissal of our point of view or hearing their opinion of how we are crazy to have questions. But I still do have questions, I still am curious, I miss my confidant to share this perspective and so I struggle. I struggle with the hesitation to bring it up to anyone else but it’s a lonely place.
 
I don’t understand when it became unintelligent to ask questions. It’s curious to me how it is disrespectful to seek the truth. It’s frustrating to me when their is no accountability and total acceptance for news reports changing or omitting facts and filling with hours of persuasive commentary rather than providing actual details.
 
What happened in Las Vegas this week is concerning and confusing to me. The narrative being given has no logic and does not match what witnesses at the concert reported immediately following the event. The “facts” of the story are not static, more answers only lead me to to more questions. This event has many more people than usual scratching their heads to make sense of why things are not adding up. And I, like many of them are not tin foil hat wearing, Alex Jones following, conspiracy theorists – all things my dad and I despised being identified with. We simply have questions.
 
Questions are not disrespectful to victims, in fact it’s the opposite. If my loved one were injured or worse, I would demand justice. And based on the state of media in the United States and the corporate ownership, it would be foolish not to question why they can’t clearly articulate details and stick to them. Mark Twain said it best, “It’s easier to fool people than to convince them that they have been fooled.”
 
If you have read this far, I appreciate you. Please for one minute, drop your feelings of why my opinion is all wrong and sit in a place of being curious. What if I am right and there is more than we are being told.

The Vacuum of Vacuums

I wish I were talking about the greatest vacuum in the world, the most reliable engineered home-cleaning system.  Sadly, I’m talking about my home literally sucking the life out of vacuum cleaners.

The day we brought my daughter home from the hospital my husband went to purchase a new vacuum cleaner.  Funny to think I remember it so clearly, maybe it was because he felt the urgency for a momentary escape from the emotional magnitude of bringing home a baby.  Maybe it was feeling like we needed an exceptionally clean start for the new precious being.  Or maybe it was an errand he could contribute because this new tiny creature was infinitely latched to my boobs.

I can’t even think of what we had been using prior to the new vacuum, probably a hand-me-down appliance like most others throughout our home.  I do know, the purchase began our spiral of irreparable cleaning apparatuses.  Thankfully, since the purchase was made at Costco we have been able to lug in our dusty useless equipment, no box and no receipt and walk out with a fresh start.  Over the years we have seen the same model in a variety of colors and minimal improvements, at no cost except the gas and time it takes to make the transaction.  In the last four years we have had a revolving door of vacuums making this exchange at least once and sometimes twice per year.

One might think a consumer is being too hard on the vacuum, how could it really break that often?  Our square footage of carpet isn’t even too great in our little home, a few rugs, two carpeted bedrooms and one living space.  Regular usage to rid our home of shed dog hair, kid messes and typical traffic, I don’t think it’s more than an average home.  And I certainly haven’t dropped it down the stairs, thrown objects at it or beaten it in any way – at least thoughts of raging on the machines don’t cause physical harm. vacuum5 People say things aren’t made like they used to be and claim the investment is worth it for a machine from the door to door variety.  Then again, I’d hate to think of my home sucking the life out of antique or ultra expensive vacuum, a risk I’m not willing to take as long as they keep taking broken ones at Costco.

Still, it doesn’t take long in our home to go from “just out of the box” condition to slowly loosing it’s suction.  A vacuuming job quickly ends up sucking time out of my day to take bits of it apart, cleaning it and cutting out threads and hairs trying to get back to working condition.  When a recent exchange failed in less than three months, I borrowed a spare vacuum my mom had in her home.  All I could do was laugh when the whole upper half of the machine came off with the mere pull of the handle, of course in my home the Vacuum of Vacuums.

And last week I had the time to do one of my favorite floor cleaning rituals… Steam cleaning rugs.  I poured the appropriate measurements of solution and water into the machine, plenty of which made it evenly dispersed onto the rugs.  Very little of it ended up suctioned back into the steam cleaner, and it was only its second use.  Out of the time it took me to steam clean the rugs, most it was sucked into squatting on the floor trying to find out why it wasn’t sucking.

Yesterday I made the official return to Costco (again) and this time opted to upgrade to the more expensive model vacuum.  I’ll try to stay optimistic and believe it will become my faithful tool, my companion for cleaning for decades.  Let’s hope the shark will not fall victim to the Vacuum of Vacuums or our only choice will be to move to a home with no carpet.

clean-house

 

The Best Monday

A typical Monday usually starts with hitting snooze.  Lately, by the time the alarm sounds, I have already been alert and consciously dreading the days events ahead.  Mentally trying to psych myself up to conquer the world.  My mind looms over the tasks of the day, appointments scheduled, people to contact, issues to deal with and the limitless amount of illogical distractions associated with middle management.  I hit snooze again and sometimes even a third time doing the exact opposite of what I encourage others to do and stress over all the improbable situations that may potentially go wrong.

With my body aching, partially due to not taking care of myself physically and also from the toll my emotions has taken on my body, I roll out of bed and begin a hurried preparation for the day.  I stand in front of my closet aimlessly waiting for pants and a coordinating top to leap off the hanger, inevitably I settle on an outfit and sluggishly shower and dress.  My hair and make-up routine go quick and end with a “Well, good enough,” attitude because my mind is already consumed with imaginary conversations I will have to have later at work today.

The best part of my mornings are rousing my sleeping beauty for her day at pre-school.  Amazingly the child who always pops out of bed ready to play in the mornings every Saturday and Sunday chooses Mondays to try to sleep in.  We rush to get dressed.  This can be taxing for a four year old who wants to express her own independence and pick out an outrageous wardrobe or one which doesn’t suit the weather and can easily spur an early morning tantrum.  Breakfast in itself can even cause frustration when the oatmeal is too hot, the milk spilled from the cereal or she only wants bacon when there is no bacon.  As she is headed out the door with Daddy there can be up to four times we have to stop for something else forgotten…  The share box, the water bottle, a sleep sack, the leotard for ballet class today, oh and don’t forget the folder…

Today has been different.  This morning I woke up refreshed and not stressed about what lies ahead in a department I am responsible for and yet have no control over.  This morning I was free of the dreaded conversations, problems and people who had previously consumed my life.  This Monday I was able to be excited about the projects and organizing I have neglected in my house for eleven months.  Today I was able to be the first instead of the last to pick my daughter up from school and cherish a mid-afternoon dance off.  This afternoon I was able to grocery shop earlier than 5:00 when we typically battle a child’s growing dinner appetite, and instead thoughtfully plan out some weekday dinner meals I will actually have time to prepare.  Today I was able to write a blog post, something I haven’t done since I started working full time last fall.

I took a leap of faith last week and quit my job.  It was not planned nor was it a method I would have chosen.  I quickly came to realize despite the stress, my dedication to the position, to the team and the community I was working with; the corporation did not appreciate my advocacy or questions and it was best we parted ways.  The uncertainty of what it means to be unemployed in society at this time is concerning and I am optimistic about how my path lead me to this and I know my purpose will be fulfilled elsewhere.  So I can happily say, this is the best Monday I have had in a long time.
wings

Going to Prison

“Can you watch my daughter when I go to prison?”

In hindsight, maybe I shouldn’t have phrased the question to my mom in this way.  As if any mom would plan on their offspring going to prison, a law-abiding, mid-western,  suburban mother of three adult children with no criminal history might have an immediate stroke at the image of their beloved going to lock-up.  So I quickly backtracked to explain, “Only for one dinner.”

Llama Chuck teaches my Basic of Buddhism class and facilitates Buddhism for prisoners too, once a year he gets to invite others to attend a dinner with the prison participants.  He mentioned this outing for several weeks at class and encouraged people to sign up to come.  I had considered it, thought it would be an interesting experience, though I wasn’t sure it would fit in my busy schedule of motherhood.

Class seven was about Equanimity and The Eight Worldly Concerns.  Equanimity is the power of the mind being able to experience change and remain unmoved.  As a mountain remains stable through snow, wind and lightning; equanimity can maintain the mind through trauma, accidents and emotional pain.  In the Buddhist perspective it means accepting things as they are and not how you want them to be.  In the moment of crisis it would be difficult to engage my Buddha mind even though I understand the concept.  What is more challenging for me to grasp is how you can accept circumstances of the world and avoid apathy, indifference or detachment.  How do you care, without caring to be truly identifying with equanimity?

The usual rhythm of the class discusses the chapter and then breaks into smaller groups to talk about discussion questions.  The question of the day related to situations where equanimity would be best utilized and asked “How do you feel about inviting pain into your life?”  No one in our group admitted to masochism and struggled with the term inviting pain.  Once we agreed to think in terms of accepting pain as a part of life our group shared different sides of the spectrum, one individual reporting she avoids pain by keeping people at a distance in her life and not maintaining relationships while another woman stated she has noticed being ultra sensitive and feels she is in pain more than necessary.  Our discussion turned to opportunities we do “invite pain” when we put ourselves in uncomfortable situations like helping struggling friends or volunteering.  Spending time working at a soup kitchen or with hospice patients could be a way to practice equanimity, accepting things as they are without being apathetic.

At the end of class Llama Chuck reiterated his invitation to prison stating it was the last day to sign up.  Going to prison prisonsounded like a practice of equanimity for me.  I am angered at the prison system in our country and the rate of incarceration for petty and nonviolent crimes, and because of my feelings towards the system I have detached myself in many ways.  After his closing people began gathering their belongings.  In that moment I knew it would be an opportunity to practice caring without caring.  I needed one final push to nudge me all the way in to my decision.  I looked forward to a classmate who I had socialized with for the last several weeks, a Spanish teacher at a local college.  “Do you want to go to prison with me?”  I nonchalantly inquired knowing if she denied I was not signing up alone.

“I don’t have to teach a class that night,”  she thought for a second, “Sure.”  And within seconds we were jotting our names on the sign-up sheet.  (Sorry Mom, I’m locked-in to attend the prison dinner but I am not going to lock-up.)

The prison dinner is later this month and I will try to multiply my meditation practice to prepare to be equanimitable in prison.  Afterall I am only going for a few hours as a guest, equanimity as a true prisoner would take much more strength of the mind.

Time to Take a Stand

Political crap you don’t want to read about, right?  Just hear me out.  Avoidance develops ignorance and reflects as tolerance.

Guantanamo Bay is not a place I think about on a regular basis, as I am sure most American’s can relate.  I know it was constructed to detain terrorists and protect the world from their lethal plots.  I know there has been controversy surrounding who is actually being held there and how they are being treated.  I know, and still Guantanamo Bay is not in my mind.  The individuals residing there for over ten years have no face, no name and no presence in my life.

Until the other day I was struck by a news story on the radio about a hunger strike taking place at Guantanamo Bay.  The story was brief, explaining several dozen prisoners had chosen to withhold eating starting back in February as a means to draw attention to the fact they have been held without trial for eleven years.  Immediately it reminded me of hearing cases of men who had been farmers, cooks and drivers with nothing to do with acts of terrorism who had been sent to Guantanamo Bay.  HELD WITHOUT TRIAL FOR ELEVEN YEARS.  The news story reflected the government’s position as downplaying the severity of the hunger strike despite admitting eight inmates had been placed on feeding tubes due to their declining health.

I researched more on the situation going on at Guantanamo Bay and was saddened to find there weren’t many news sources reporting on it.  What I was able to discover is of the 166 prisoners the majority have been participating in the hunger strike, most of them have not been Camp_x-ray_detaineestried (85 prisoners there today have been cleared for release since December 2011),  and over 80% of the prisoners had not been captured by the U.S. military in combat.  Of the 779 detainees brought to Guantanamo 80+% had been turned in by Pakistanis and Afghans in exchange for a $5,000 bounty provided by none other than your United States government.  This means no proof, no evidence, just one man’s word over another who was in the wrong place and the wrong time to be turned in as a terrorist.  My stance is not all prisoner’s at Guantanamo Bay are innocent, there are likely some who have bad intentions and justifiably should be punished.  However, for those who have been captured, interrogated, locked up and not allowed an opportunity to return to their homes – it’s sickening.  And this is without even mentioning the reports of beating, torture, abuse and humiliation which the U.S. denies despite claims be substantiated by other investigative agencies.  This has been an eleven year nightmare I have turned a blind eye to, demonstrating tolerance in allowing this to continue.

A hunger strike by the detainees represents a means to an end of the suffering.  An effort to draw attention to the injustice of criminalizing innocent people we have accepted as part of the conditions of being at war or to die and slow and miserable death by starvation.  It is tragic the American people have not been offered the honest facts happening at Guantanamo.  Or is it more related to our judgement and fear related to terrorism which is publicized and overshadows the terror our military has imposed on others?  In either case, this has to end.

We have more to fear in the United States about violent acts of crime committed by other desperate Americans.  Americans cope with poor education, sexual and physical abuse, lack of proper medical care, astronomical rates of mental illness, addictions and the inability to sustain themselves financially.  We are constantly faced with situations to condition fear, anger and hatred of others.  The terror is happening at home with Americans in conflict with each other, yet trillions of our tax dollars have been spent overseas to fight a war with no end in sight and to imprison innocent men at Guantanamo Bay.  Our American troops are terrorized too, their lives and their families lives are forever impacted by the missions they have been ordered to carry out.  Soldiers are returning home carrying the stress of fear and guilt, causing depression, addiction, violence and suicide.  We are more at risk of an act of violence by an American then by an “act of terrorism” from overseas.

I’d like my tax dollars to focus on making America safe by providing for the next generation to learn to love, ensuring everyone has a proper standard of living, education is a priority, healthcare is affordable and social services are easily accessible for those who need it.  Enough is enough, it’s time to take a stand.

If you agree and want to take a stand with me, please share, voice what you know to others especially when you hear someone making judgments without the proper facts.  Silence is acceptance of the status quo, please don’t accept the crimes against humanity happening for the last eleven years.  It’s time to release them from their suffering and to bring our tax dollars home.

stand

Drinking the Kool-Aid

Some memories stand out as critical turning points in one’s life. In my life I can remember a significant time period of discovery and learning and it was the impressionable late adolescence/early teen years when I, for good or bad, faced lessons in trust. This is an awkward stage in life for most, the values provided from home compete with the necessity to be cool in school and on the social scene. At the time I don’t think I had much thought about what I believed to be right for how to behave, I was caught in the drama of keeping up and nothing else mattered.

Keeping up in middle school meant talking about friends behind their backs, ironically to try to prevent others from talking about me behind my back. There was a lot of best friends who didn’t speak for weeks and would be reunited again by someone else’s falling out later. It was a constant need to confide ugliness in others and repeating shock and devastation when the confidant divulged the secrets. Like a dog chasing it’s tail and gets hurt when she finally reaches it. This cycle of manipulation was vicious and isolating at that age.

By eighth grade I was well conditioned as a mean girl. I had a core group of friends who had withstood rips and tears into our relationships, and one friend of the group I shared the closest bond with. Beth and I had met the previous year and quickly grew tight, by 8th grade we had given up passing cleverly folded notes between class and began passing a notebook. (If only our notebook was staring Ryan Gosling this story could be so much more attractive.) Our notebook contained our diary of events, doodles, gossip and trash talk. We wrote during class, in the halls and even at home to each other. I drew a lot of pictures; cartoons mocking peers in my class, funny characters and my own imitation of my teacher as her alma mater mascot a razorback. We made jokes about our teachers – how they looked, what they taught and how they spent their free time. We shared middle school news of who was “going out” and our own crushes. And we talked even more personally about things happening outside of school and with our own families.

One morning Beth and I were in a class together sitting at separate tables, I could see she was writing to me when the razorback approached her and asked for the notebook. Attempting to be a reasonable 13-year-old, I respectfully went to the teacher’s desk and communicated an apology for not staying focused, understanding the need to be punished and how important it is for the notebook to stay private. I turned to go back to my seat and by the time I sat and turned to face the teacher’s desk the notebook was open in front of her. My mind raced to consider all the hateful things which had erupted from my adolescent head to my sloppy pen. I was enraged at the teacher for disrespecting me and my friend. Even more, the razorback took our notebook to the other teachers to encourage them to read our messages. When my mom, school social worker and principal all were involved the razorback pleaded to keep the notebook until after lunch. She was obviously very entertained by what we had to say, maybe she wanted to make photocopies?

On to high school only a few months later, friendships continued to evolve and my difficulty with trust remained. Except after the incident with the notebook I also became weary of trusting authority figures. Instead of making the naive assumption school faculty were there to help all students, I became increasingly aware of hidden agendas, personal priorities and governing rules which directed what happened in the classrooms. I tried to be polite in school and still I wasn’t afraid to call bullshit when I felt it necessary or lie to avoid trouble later. In high school I withdrew from joining activities, didn’t socialize much and put just enough work in to graduate and get into college. I didn’t make the connection about who I was becoming and why until years later when a college class required me to make a timeline of major life events and that 8th grade day came to mind as significant.

The realization of how the teacher violated my trust in her authority carried on to all authority figures, my eyes were wide open to understand the deeper meaning and not take for granted what I was told. This served me well in many areas of my life, to speak up for what I felt was right despite the popular opinion. To question for the facts and find what is missing from the explanation. And to advocate for individuals who don’t have the skills to speak for themselves. Over the years I have learned to differentiate discussions worth being had and battles worth fighting for. When I worked for state mental health it only took me a little over two years to realize there were too many illogical battles for me to take on and I couldn’t numb my ethics enough to continue to be a part of the system.

The other day I heard a remark my uncle said to my mom regarding me “drinking the kool-aid.” I respect my uncle greatly, I know that he loves me and appreciates who I am and not just because I am his first niece. My uncle and I have a wonderful relationship despite having very diverse images of the world, politics and religion. And I suppose the mere fact I would question major national events and the government’s involvement puts me in the category of loosing my marbles in my uncle’s mind. It would be absolutely impossible to imagine, given our government’s perfect tracked record of honest behavior, national situations which have happened in my lifetime could be reported to the public wrong. Because in my lifetime, I have already learned when there are hidden agendas, personal priorities and higher controls which dictate what happens. This is often not in sync with what is right, what is fair or what is true. When you consider the perspective of what one stands to gain and lose from the truth; power, control and profit. These are not the motives for truth seekers who question facts contrasting public perceptions. Those individuals deal with ostrification from family, friends and the majority of society. Valid questions go unanswered and most people continue on with their days unaware of what lies are making impressions on our lives.

Two of my uncles, my mom's brothers

Two of my uncles, my mom’s brothers

So yes, if you must look at it this way. I have been drinking the kool-aid, and I like it. Funny thing is, back in the 70’s my uncle appeared to be the guy mixing the kool-aid. I imagined him being the kid who always questioned authority and challenged what he was told in a puff of jolly green smoke. Makes me wonder if he had a similar yet opposite defining moment in his life. Perhaps a major governing official came to my uncle’s rescue, provided him safety and security in a way he never knew before. Maybe my uncle was reassured in his faith for authority figures and he learned to listen, obey and not question the facts which don’t correlate with the story.

This blog is where I focus on living inspired, finding appreciation for the ordinary and being aware of people, places and events which have shaped who I am. There is purpose in every experience, good or bad. The lesson I learned back in eighth grade helped program me to be aware. I can’t change everything I see wrong with the world, right now I can be at peace with really seeing what’s happening.

Borderline – An Outside Perspective

blogformentalhealth2013
“Borderline individuals are the psychological equivalent of third-degree-burn patients. They simply have, so to speak, no emotional skin. Even the slightest touch or movement can create immense suffering.”
-Marsha Linehan

I am human, I have emotions like all humans and at times I could reflect many of the diagnoses in the DSM manual for the behavior I exhibit to deal with my emotions – we ALL could. I currently do not identify with a mental illness, though I know plenty of people who do. Long before I started working in this field I felt a calling to try to help, protect and educate others for the mentally ill who could not do it on their own. This post is for people who want to better understand their friend, colleague or family member who have a borderline diagnosis.

Borderline personality disorder is diagnosed twice as often as schizophrenia and bipolar disorders combined, effecting six to ten million Americans. From experience, I know mental hospitals would prefer to treat a true diagnosis of schizophrenia or bipolar over an individual with BPD. The reason is – medication is the form of treatment for schizophrenia and bipolar. Once the correct cocktail of prescriptions is discovered, symptoms subside and a discharge is planned. Personality disorders cannot be medicated away, medication can only reduce symptoms associated like depression or anxiety, what is left is a continued thought disturbances. What’s more, the stressors which likely caused an individual with borderline to have a mental breakdown are still problems which will be present during and after a hospitalization (ie relationships, legal issues, financial crisis etc).

Personality disorders can arise in individuals for various reasons and no single person will have the same story or exhibit the same symptoms. Typically borderline personality disorder begins with a combination of mental and environmental factors. The mental side being a family history of mental illness, developmental problems or early severe neglect in infancy. And related to environmental problems, an individual has been subjected to invalidating environments throughout their life. In other words, past emotionally charged relationships, places and events were not properly recognized for the effect it had on an individual. Consider a child hearing “stop crying,” “you shouldn’t feel that way” or “it’s not that big of a deal.” After months or years of having emotions belittled, an individual internalizes these thoughts as their own. The conflict of feeling their emotions are wrong and not knowing how to cope effectively creates chaos in the mind of someone with BPD.

“The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders fourth edition (DSM-IV-TR) defines borderline personality disorder… Five (or more) of the following:
-Frantic efforts to avoid real or imagined abandonment
-A pattern of unstable and intense interpersonal relationships characterized by alternating between extremes of idealization and devaluation.
-Identity disturbance: markedly and persistently unstable self-image or sense of self.
-Impulsivity in at least two areas that are potentially self-damaging (e.g., promiscuous sex, excessive spending, eating disorders, binge eating, substance abuse, reckless driving).
-Recurrent suicidal behavior, gestures, threats or self-injuring behavior such as cutting, interfering with the healing of scars or picking at oneself (excoriation).
-Affective instability due to a marked reactivity of mood (e.g., intense episodic dysphoria, irritability or anxiety usually lasting a few hours and only rarely more than a few days).
-Chronic feelings of emptiness
-Inappropriate anger or difficulty controlling anger (e.g., frequent displays of temper, constant anger, recurrent physical fights).
-Transient, stress-related paranoid ideation, delusions or severe dissociative symptoms”

It would be really difficult for a typical person with stable mental health to imagine the suffering a person with borderline might be feeling to engage in these types of behaviors. So I will offer you a mild metaphor some might be able to relate to. The game of golf is much more a mental game than physical, and those who play understand a round can be disasterous or successful depending on this condition. A golfer who begins a round with a stroke of bad luck can easily AngryGolferbegin judging each shot more critically. With each bad swing, missed opportunity and hazard found on the course a golfer’s frustration continues to grow. A golfer might resort to comparisons to others, feel they don’t have the proper equipment to be effective or disconnect from the others they are playing with to keep their misery to themselves. Golfers have broken clubs, cursed and yelled, thrown whole bags into ponds and even walked off the course giving up for the day.

Again this metaphor is mild compared to living with borderline personality disorder, the point is, the golfer is stuck in the emotional suffering of being defeated. Much like BPD, there is not separation from one event to the next, there is no rational thinking in an emotional state and there are actions taken one regrets when their mental game is not together. Now if the metaphor helped, imagine it’s not just a round of golf and it’s your life. Everywhere you go, everyone you encounter and everything you do can consume you with the same erratic thinking. Individuals with BPD are desperate for relief from the suffering, and from the outside we can sometimes see their actions making their situation worse. And for the individual with BPD they are doing the best they can with how they have learned to handle life.

If you know someone who is diagnosed with borderline personality disorder or who you believe exhibits some of the criteria listed above there is treatment which has proven to be successful for improving the quality of life for people with BPD and has been shown to reduce and eliminate many of the symptoms of the disorder. Dialectical Behavioral Therapy, or DBT, was created by Marsha Linehan who was quoted at the start of this post. DBT has been used effectively to treat a number of mental illnesses by teaching and practicing skills in the following sections: Mindfulness, Emotion Regulation, Distress Tolerance and Interpersonal Effectiveness. There is a big commitment to treatment for individuals to follow including individual and group therapy. Additionally, participants are required to record developing awareness of their thoughts, behaviors and applicable skills on a daily basis. The skills help with problem solving, coping with emotions and learning to communicate.

And if the person you know suffering from BPD is someone who is very close to you in your life you might have been deeply effected by the words or actions of the individual. You might have engaged in conflicts with this person, got wrapped up in the chaos of their world or unknowingly contributed to making the situation worse. Knowing what you know now, maybe you can approach with a greater sense of empathy for where the individual is coming from. It is also reasonable for you to set healthy limits and boundaries with the individual to maintain your own personal mental health. And in the situations when you feel blindsided by the emotional outburst of someone with BPD, don’t jump into the emotional state with them.

Not escalating to meet someone else’s anger is vitally important and can be an emotionally taxing skill to practice, yet critical for maintaining relationships with people who have BPD. In place of trying to argue your point of view, trying to fix the situation or threatening the individual. (Think of the golfer’s response to another player adding jokes or belittling the game during the bad round.) The best practice to help defuse an emotional crisis is to validate the individual’s emotional state. This simply means reflecting what they are feeling, verbally repeating what they are saying and letting them know you see them suffering. You don’t have to agree with them or even understand their point of view. Validation will not fix the situation and it won’t treat the disorder. Validation will help deescalate an emotional state and prevent a situation from getting worse.

Finally, encourage the person you know to get help. Existence doesn’t have to be painful, life can get better.

If you are living in the Kansas City area there are many community mental health providers who facilitate DBT programs.
Lilac Center (KCMO) is specifically designed as a DBT program and can be contacted at 816-221-0305 or go to http://www.lilaccenter.org/
Synergy Services (Parkville, MO) offers a range of theraputic services including DBT. 816-587-4100 or go to http://www.synergyservices.org/
Johnson County Mental Health (Offices in Mission, Olathe & Shawnee KS) 913-826-4200 http://mentalhealth.jocogov.org/

Thorns From My Husband

Last week I came up with an idea for a post I wanted to write about the irritating statements my husband makes.  It’s incredible how a short concoctions of words can send me into a whirlwind of irrational, over-emotional turmoil.

I cleaned up.

I have a surprise for you.

Are you feeling better yet?

These are just three examples of phrases I hear from him which begin a cycle of madness in my mind, how to react, what to say next, what does this mean, etc…  It sounds insane, right?  Those three statements appear to be so innocent, even thoughtful perhaps.  Well lemme just fill you in on the context with which these endearing words are uttered.

First, speaking of cleaning up is generally stated because it would be entirely impossible to know otherwise any cleaning had taken place.  I’m guessing the majority of women can relate to being the cleaner one of their couple set, with the exception of my friend Crystal.  Crystal and her husband, Buck, are equally anal about their cleaning.  I would give a sliver of an edge to Crystal since she recently had lasik eye surgery and swears she can see the cobwebs on her ceiling I could not find with binoculars.

Unless your relationship is like Crystal and Buck or by some freak chance your partner is a better housekeeper, you can relate.  For example, a few weeks ago my daughter and I went up north and left my husband with the house to himself for three days.  Upon returning home I noticed additional clutter and a distinct odor.  Maybe my facial expression gave away my disgust even though I had already anticipated needing to clean when I got home.  “I cleaned up.”  He said.

And this is where my mind begins stirring – What did he clean?  And if he cleaned how bad did the house get over the weekend?  Do I praise him to encourage this behavior or would this demonstrate complacency with a lack of effort?  “OK, thanks.”  I mutter heading to the broom closet.  Maybe I should just be thankful he didn’t wipe out the Tupperware collection like my dad did when my mom went out of town one weekend in an effort to be helpful.

When my husband tells me he has a surprise, naturally I want to feel excited.  He tends to spring this on me rather often because he enjoys watching me squirm about it.  Instead of excitement in the anticipation, I find myself being bothered with trying to imagine what it could be.  There have been times I imagined some rather fantastic surprises, special dates and lavish gifts to come home to find my favorite juice in the fridge “SURPRISE.”  Now rather than creating a spectacular surprise in my mind I try not to even remember he spoke the word so I cannot be disappointed.  He is rather thoughtful and talented with his ideas, I just wish they came without the preemptive news flash to warn it’s coming.

And finally the questions “Are you feeling better yet.”  This is not a sincere curiosity of if I am under the weather.  This question is directed at me when he thinks I am upset with him for no good reason.  It seems like a stab at my perspective in a disagreement, as if I had no reason to be bitter towards him.  As if the whole disagreement was related to my mood rather then something he contributed to.  “Are you feeling better yet,” can almost always lengthen the duration of my anger about a situation and on the rare occasion I wasn’t upset this statement can just as easily put me there.

So…  Like I said, I intended to post about these phrases and end it there.  Except earlier this week I caught up with an episode of Super Soul Sunday when Oprah interviewed the author Michael Singer.  He wrote The Untethered Soul about finding inner peace and strength.  The following clip is a segment out of the show directly related to the issues I have had with things my husband says.

I haven’t read the book, though, now I know I need to.  There are many thorns I have with people and being irritated by what is said.  Seeing this part of the interview I recognized I have been making the choice to be disturbed.  I understand for the rest of my life I could be having internal conflicts about what to say when he mentions cleaning, no matter how many times I say “Don’t surprise me,” there will likely be another surprise, and the question of feeling better yet will probably not be put to rest either.  So damn Super Soul Sunday – to point out my wasted energy on waiting for others to change around me.  It doesn’t matter who is right or wrong, joking or flat out disrespectful – it’s my own thorn.  Next time I get the sensation of being bothered, my hands sweat, my thoughts turn to irrational questioning, my shoulders tighten and I’m ready to react… I will practice making the choice not to be disturbed.  Growth is hard and no one else can do it for me.

Healthcare Reform, Too Little Too Late.

When I signed up to study abroad in Australia I had to pay a tax to their socialized healthcare system since my health insurance would be exempt for the semester.  At the time a gawked at the fee and saw it as a waste, which luckily most students going abroad don’t end up needing.  Two months into my travels I ended up in the emergency room one night and a few days later took an ambulance ride back.  I spent two nights in the hospital after being diagnosed with pneumonia.  During my stay I had chest x-rays, doctor’s visits, respiratory therapy and was given medication to which I never received a statement of what the total cost of my illness was.  The experience did leave me with a very pro-socialized healthcare mentality.   So you might think I am pro-Obamacare as well…  and I have to say it confuses me a great deal.   

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Towards the end of June my mom asked me for some advice about her friend.  Gayle and her husband are exactly the kind of family meant to be targeted in the Obamacare package.  They are a hard-working blue color family with no healthcare benefits and no extra spending cash for medical expenses.  Gayle told my mom she had been in a great deal of pain with her hip and needed medical attention she couldn’t afford.  The concern in my mom’s voice when she talked about how Gayle slurred her words on the phone made me wonder if she feared Gayle was inappropriately medicating her pain somehow.

After talking with me about Gayle’s situation, my mom passed along information she gathered about The Kansas City Free Health Clinic.  (http://www.kcfree.org/)  This organization was established in 1971 to support Kansas City residents who have no insurance or are under-insured.  They provide basic health and wellness services for medical, dental and mental health.  While I didn’t know if they would be able to cure an ailing hip, at least she would be able to see a doctor and take a step in addressing the pain.

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Ironically, the crisis Gayle was experiencing fell at a time when our United States government is in crisis over our health care system.  To vote for or against a repeal of a healthcare package meant to bring assistance to people like Gayle, her family and 34 million other individuals in similar situations without proper healthcare coverage.

The debates about healthcare reform still seems to skirt around the real problem with our health care system.  I believe everyone should have access to affordable healthcare.  There in lies the problem which Obamacare doesn’t seem to be addressing – the affordability issue.  Why is healthcare in the United States so expensive?  Our country spends exceedingly higher rates per capita on healthcare than any other nation, yet the overall health of our country does not reflect this.  Circulatory diseases, respiratory diseases, mental health issues, diabetes and musculoskeletal system diseases are all treated/maintained and cured at higher rates elsewhere in the world.  It’s like we are paying for the lease on a new Cadillac yet driving a Ford Focus.  It will get you around town, maybe, though it’s no Cadillac.

In my common sense ideas of healthcare reform, the target would be to eliminate the power given to insurance providers and pharmaceuticals.  Stop allowing the healthcare system to be a business of making money and return the CARE back to healthcare by allowing it to be a service.

Medicine, in it’s intended purpose, is necessary.  In the cloud of drugs becoming a get rich quick scheme for companies to legally market and distribute with horrendous side effects and prices to match – is out of control.

In my common sense mind the profitability of drug companies needs to be eliminated.  There should be caps on the amount medication costs, rather than the expense being a reflection of its novelty, recency to the market, or availability of generic brands.

Penalties would be great for drug companies who “accidentally” released a medicine which was later found out to be too dangerous or risky.  It seems all too often, pharmaceutical companies are in a rush to release a product and build their bank instead of ensuring safety.

Those who are driven in this field to line their pockets would likely move on.  Those left working in this industry would be in it because they cared about making people well and curing illness.

And the other evil of the industry being ignored by healthcare reform is insurance providers.  It’s hard to pinpoint which industry is most responsible for the increase in expenses since they seem to feed off of each other in a competitive manner and both are equally out of control.

Insurance companies have all the power of who, where, how much and if they will cover your health.  Those who can afford insurance pay too much in premiums to not get a say in how they want to receive it.

Insurance companies hinder how providers would provide services because everything revolves around the cost.  Preventative measures are avoided due to billing and often lead to even greater, more expensive problems later.

To me, there is no sense in allowing the health insurance industry to continue having so much power and control.  Insurance should be a service, not a money-making business.  This would ensure healthcare to be affordable for all.

Healthcare reform seems to be opening up 34 million Americans to a corrupt and flawed system.  Insurance and pharmaceutical companies will continue to take advantage of opportunities to profit and 34 million more of us will be subject to the stresses of what it takes to “get well” in American healthcare.

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As for Gayle, my mom called me within days after our phone conversation.  She reported Gayle didn’t make it to KC Free and instead had to go to the emergency room over the weekend.  They found her hip was fractured and she was diagnosed with breast cancer.  With such a fear over the medical expenses and being uninsured she hadn’t been to a doctor in years.  Gayle never left the hospital, she was placed on hospice and passed the night of Forth of July.

Her four-year old grandson, who she was helping to raise, struggled to understand where his GiGi went.  When his family tried to console him and tell him she wouldn’t be coming back he verbalized anger towards doctors and hospitals as if they were the ones responsible for her death.  For him and his family, their lives are forever changed because of a disease untreated.  A wife, a mother of 3, a grandmother and a friend is gone because of the lack of affordable healthcare.

For Gayle, healthcare reform in the United States was too little too late.  What I hope Americans realize and demand politicians to address is access to doctors and hospitals is a symptom of the greater problem.

If My Dogs Attended School, They’d Be In Special Ed.

I love our dogs, they are a part of our family.  And they are oh so special.  Macy is a mid-sized terrier, loyal, agile, anxious and stubborn x10.  Harper is nearly 90 pounds and although he just turned 3 he seems all puppy, also extremely loyal.  This week’s walk in the park is a prime example of the nut bag behavior I deal with for these lovable clowns.

In lue of getting a work out in at home, pilates with a toddler on the hip is impossible, I figured an escape to nature would serve the same purpose and be fun for all.  I loaded up baby and pups for a ride to our favorite dog park – Shawnee Mission Park.  The parking lot was rather empty on this Tuesday morning, which worked out fine for me I was able to open the back and let the dogs run straight to the gate without leashes.

The dog park area is large in comparison to other parks we have gone to, there is a long wide path down the middle flanked with grassy areas on either side and wooded areas beyond that.  Although there are paths down towards the wooded areas, we have always seemed to stay in the middle as it is the quickest way to the water.  My dogs love to be social with other dogs, although they lack social etiquette and don’t quite get it when other dogs are annoyed with their jovial nosiness.  My husband and I haven’t dedicated adequate time to training our dogs, although, we are pretty proud of them coming when we call (eventually).  On our last trip to the dog park another dog accidentally knocked Parker to the ground, the shock made her cry and our dogs immediately retreated from their playful fun to lay down in front of their baby to protect her.

The dogs and Parker were so happy to be out free to run, Parker calling out to her dogs and laughing when they would coming running back towards her.  She alternated between running after them and breaking to be carried.  Needless to say the toddler toddling was not moving fast enough for the dogs.  There were not many other park goers when we first arrived, the dogs greeted fellow pedestrians and pets who passed then happily continued down the path.  Long down the path reaches a wooded area and the trail forks, both sides leading circling to a beach area.  The dogs had been racing forward and back to us until we neared the fork, at this point Macy couldn’t contain her excitement and ran straight out of view towards the water.

Slightly annoyed at her irregular disappearance, I figured no need to worry we would catch up to her.  The beach time was the real purpose of going all the way to Shawnee Mission Park anyway, bringing the dogs out in the heat I knew they would need some time to cool off.  Harper stayed near us, whether to look after the baby or because he is a baby himself – he stayed close.  We took our time and descended the hill down the path I thought was the shortest towards the water.  My memory served me wrong, though the twists and turns eventually got us in sight of the beach to which my daughter exclaimed “Wa wa!”  And finally I was back in sight of my little white terrier sprinting along the shore after a boxer.  A couple more turns and we were at the beach with no sign of Macy.  I called and whistled, no Macy, no boxer and no people.

I knew my anxious mutt probably followed the other park goer and his pooch back up the opposite path when she realized she would be abandoned alone on the beach.  I pleaded with Harper, as if he could suddenly exhibit Lassie’s intelligence, “Go get Macy.”  to no response…  Lugging extra 30lbs on my hip, and a good for nothing beast at my side we began to climb the opposite path, where Macy had apparently gone to join another family.  By the time I reached the spot back where the fork rejoins at the top my cell phone was ringing and I knew someone was calling from the tag on my dog.

A girl with a rottweiler had Macy leashed and was waiting for me up the path, when she realized Macy didn’t belong to the people she was following she stopped to help.  THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU to the stranger who interviened.  She even said Macy was looking around nervously, of course I knew this was between the mindless bounding over the other dogs…  Want to play with me, where’s my mom, I’m so excited, I’m so scared.  

With our group finally reunited we headed back to the water and Macy dove right in.

Parker was dressed in a swimsuit, I assumed it would be wet and messy on the beach even though I didn’t intend on us actually getting deep in the water.  Therefore, I came without a swim suit and felt comfortable in light summer clothes until Harper made me think I might actually have to dive in for him.

Shawnee Mission Park

Despite being half golden retriever sometimes I wonder if he really has any of that blood in him, he doesn’t retrieve and he is scared to swim.  Harper will run along the water and take advantage of the splashes to cool is black furry body, he doesn’t generally go deep enough to even let the water touch his chest.  On this morning he stood in the water facing the shore when some seaweed must have brushed up against his leg.  Panic set in for my giant and he scooted his body back further into the water.  At this point fear increased more because not only was he feeling something on his leg, now he was getting into deeper water.  I called sympathetic and encouraging calls for him to come to me.  I knew if he continued his backward motion I would have to forego my plan of not getting wet in order to save him.  Yet, back further he went until the water was over his back and he appeared petrified putting his head underwater as if to bite at the lake creature pulling him out.

Just before I could leap forward and make the 10 soaked steps it would have taken to reach him, Macy swam out in front of me and snapped Harper to attention.  It was as if in a split second she taught him how to doggy paddle and he could finally make a forward motion in the water again.  She lead him to the shore and as soon as he could reach he practically leapt over her to get to dry ground again.  Macy suddenly made up for her earlier run off and became the Lassie for the day to save Harper from drowning.  Yea, like I said – they are “special” dogs.

Harper refereed a game of Tug-A-War and stayed close to the shore after his terrifying ordeal.