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Wednesday, October 29, 2008

The seduction of soma

For a few weeks now I have felt like I am starting to come back from the abyss of mental darkness I had succumbed to. This is not to say that everything has been peachy, but I seem to have ditched a large portion of my anxiety. I am no longer faced by the question, "why live?" It does not mean that I really know all the reasons why I want to live, or that I am filled with inspiration. I just don't long for death. It's not quite as hard to get myself to do things now or at least I don't suffer the way I did a month ago. Still, I am bogged down by a moderate degree of blues and an enormous lack of motivation. I used to hate procrastination, I still do, but now I can't seem to help myself.

Lately, my greatest allure is sleep. I like the all-consuming kind in my own comfortable bed. Sometimes I feel like I could just stay there for eternity if I could just stop waking up with thoughts of tasks undone. I often get little gratification from the tasks when I do them but once I have done at least something, I don't feel so bad about sleeping some more. When I have a day before me I think of what I want/need to do and in the back of my mind, no matter how hard I try to banish the thought is: "When can I take a nap?" The nap is like my reward. I am not sure if this is because I feel so tired most of the time or if I feel so tired because I'm still a bit depressed. I don't feel crushed by life anymore but I am overwhelmed by all the obstacles in my nap schedule (Lol).

I have called in sick for the last two days because like it or not, my body finally seemed to succumb completely to the exhaustion. I awoke on Tuesday morning with a bout of vertigo that left me dizzy, unsteady and nauseaous. At the last minute I called in, knowing I couldn't drive with my disoriented vision, growing panic and unsteadiness. When I went to puke, my nose bled. I got back into bed to find the room spinning. I took some Dramamine and after a few hours, the vertigo cleared. I was left feeling weak, sore, tired and headachy. Numbness and tingles still continue to flash through my hands and feet at intervals but I have not found this incapacitating.

When I finally spoke to my doctor, I was trying to decide about going to work today. I was ready to do it, having conquered the vertigo but he said to take the day to rest and watch my symptoms. I was releived to hear that because I can rarely give myself permission to back off. I am pulled between two poles, the desire to sleep and lay around and the guilt that makes me ask, "Why does everything have to seem so overwhelming? I used to do all this before with no problem." When I go back to work, I will inevitably think these thoughts. I will be overwhelmed by the work I allowed to idle in my absence. I will question if it was worth it to use two days of emergency sub plans because now I'll have to give my weekend to my usual work and to getting new plans made up in case this happens again.

Even knowing that I have MS does not free me from the guilt. I should be doing more at home, more at work and more for "fun." I don't want to struggle under low grade depression. Without the MS, I really have nothing to be upset about and even crying about the MS is like crying over spilled milk. So I have pretty much stopped the whining but I can't seem to resist the seduction of sleep. When I embrace it without guilt, it is amazing. When I try to enjoy it and the guilt creeps in, the pleasure is tainted for me. Even at home, sick, I feel guilty about my desire to sleep and sleep and sleep. I hope my two day recovery hiatus in dreamland minimizes my desire for sleep because I expect a butt-kicking when I go back to work.

Monday, October 27, 2008

There's "a little something every day."

I spoke to my mother earlier and she asked how I was doing. I responded with, "Some days are good and some days are tougher." Overall, I feel much better both physically and mentally.

I remember the words of the first fellow MSer I ever met in person. I asked her about living with MS and how it affected her life. She said that overall things were good. She excercised, went to work and did weekly injections of Avonex. The Avonex always left her a little ill the next day but generally she felt pretty decent. One thing she did say that has stuck with me is: "There's a little something every day." She said you learn to deal with it. You find out what you can and can't do. You learn when to take breaks or take a rest. You may never be able to do the things you did before but you learn what you can do.

I am finding her words very true. Most of the time I feel pretty good. My balance is solid and I continue to make it through my work day with little physical trouble. Still, there are little issues just about every day. Sometimes it's just fatigue. Other times its irritable bowels, nausea or a headache. There is sometimes achiness in my body. Lately I have noticed short bouts of numbness and tingling in my fingers and feet. Fortunately, it passes after a short time and does not cause major discomfort. Sometimes these things are mellow enough I want to pretend that they are not happening. I keep hoping that just by giving up gluten I will become symptom-free. It has been two weeks now and I must admit that so far I have no real evidence to support my wish. I guess the good news is that I am learning to manage the "little somethings." I have not had a major panic attack in a few weeks. I am learning to identify the physical and mental triggers for my anxiety. When I identify a trigger I react quickly to calm myself and quiet my mind and breath. Now the "little somethings" don't get me as down.

Saturday, October 25, 2008


I have never been one for mediocrity in the past but now I am trying to make peace with just that. My sister suggested that the key to contentment might be lowering one's standards as far as one can and still feeling ok about it. I suspect that this attitude might help my overall outlook on life. Although I have backed off on the number of things I am doing in general, I have still been getting most of my boost from my little achievements. Now I think I need to find my boost elsewhere.

Yesterday I got an evaluation from a Thursday walk through of my classroom. Things actually went well during the walk through and I expected some decent feedback but when I read my review, it was poorer than what I had hoped for. I really took it to heart. For nearly 24 hours I wracked my brain for how to do better. I was angry at myself for not doing more. I was also guilty that I don't even want to try making any major changes to my modus operandi at work. As I thought more about work, I did think of little ways to do things better but I also concluded that if what I am dishing out is mediocre, I must learn to accept this too. I know how many hours I put in after work and at home. I know how hard I have been trying to give the kids and my lessons the best of myself. I also know just how exhausting it is to get one kid to focus and take care of business, let alone 20. While I never want to be mediocre, I realize that I also need to be less hard on myself or I am going to drive myself nuts.

Sometimes it seems that my job is all-consuming. Even when I am not doing it, work is all I think about. I realize I really need to find balance, not work more or try harder. Perhaps if I can connect with what I really want, what gives me joy, what really makes life worthwhile, I can stop stressing so much about my job. I am tired of being angry at myself and of judging myself. I am tired of being tired all the time and feeling bad because when the day ends, all I really want is to sit at home and do nothing. I want to look forward to things again, not just make it through the day. I want to feel good about what I have done and not the things I have not done.

There is often great pleasure in a single moment but I am often too busy thinking about tomorrow to enjoy now. I want to learn to enjoy now again. I remember what it felt like to take a high dose of steroids. I dream of feeling more like that naturally. I felt so sharp, capable, focused and present. Things took as long as they took and I didn't worry about how I should be doing something else at any given moment. It can be a big challenge but that is how I want to feel. That feeling, of course, was not mediocre but I wonder if I could be mediocre and still find a way to feel like that.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Nobody promised all peaches and cream

Ever since Monday I have been working hard on my intention to focus on "what I have and not what I stand to lose." It helps. Even the tough stuff like sorting out personal finances has not been as challenging. Nevertheless, it's not peaches and cream either.

Work is still my biggest challenge. I am having a hard time focusing or getting myself to buckle down and really get things done. For the first time in my life, I feel totally scattered. The kids are scattered as well so I wonder if we are egging each other on. It seems the minute I focus on one kid, the rest go nuts. I have never taught a group with so little sense of boundaries. They constantly touch everything on my desk while I talk to them. If I tell a kid, "Just a minute" and then turn back to the kid I am working with, the kid waiting will get on a computer without permission and turn on You Tube. Where do these kids come from? Is it them, me or both? As I feel better and more confident, I keep resolving, "Today will be better, I'll be more on top of things." Then, later on, it's chaos as usual.

According to my own calculations, here's "what I have." I make a pretty decent salary. I get a lot of vacation. I have health insurance. We are still covering our mortgage, car payments and student loans in a time where many people are losing everything. Right now we are both in decent health and so are our pets. I also get my check whether the kids learn or not and whether they behave. This said, I always want to do a good job. What I do have though is job security and that is a lot in these times. It might not be peaches and cream but it's also not Top Ramen so 10 points Nadja, zero points naughty kids.

Monday, October 20, 2008


Well, I felt another life update was in order right about now so here it goes. I stopped taking the Celexa on Thursday after my doctor's partner noted that it might be causing my bowel symptoms. Friday I felt even worse. I was tired, headachy and nauseaous. On Saturday, I felt rotten too and I also felt really down. Lo and behold, I awoke on Sunday feeling much better. I didn't even have to get out of bed for the first time until 7:00 am. I was not nauseaous and as the day progressed, I realized that I felt the best I had in a month. Today I also felt pretty good so it may be that the Celexa was responsible for much of my anguish of late.

I just got back from therapy and I must say I really do like my therapist. She suggested that we build a "tool kit" of ideas and things I could do when I feel down or anxious. She actually told me that for homework I should go buy a kid's tool kit and start putting ideas in there to bring to my next session. Good idea!

I thought I could start brainstorming ideas here.
1) yoga is always helpful
2) breath practice helps
3) Listening to my new guided meditation CD "Breaking Through Pain" by Shinzen Young
4) teaching yoga
5) visualizing myself in the yoga room
6) Telling myself, "Everything you need for a beautiful life is inside you"
7) Remembering I promised my husband that I "wouldn't give up"
8) Listening to good music
9) Living in the moment and one bit at a time
10) Giving myself credit for what I have done, not what I haven't
11) Remembering what I "have," not what I stand to lose
12) Remembering my accomplishments (even small ones) and not dwelling on my failures
13) Focusing on what I "can do" not on what I "can't"
14) My family (especially my husband)
15) My friends
16) My pets
17) Looking ahead but not worrying about the future, just doing what I can when I can
18) Viewing myself through my own eyes instead of the lens I perceive others might view me through
19) Remembering that in April "I lived" and I was grateful
20) Remembering that I still have many things to offer even if my life has changed

I will try to keep adding to this as I think of ideas. I'm not sure if all of this is what my therapist had in mind but it felt good to do it.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Gratitude with Attitude

I just received this award from Lisa along with the following instructions:
Here are the rules:

* Put the logo on your blog or post.
* Nominate at least 10 blogs which show great Attitude and/or Gratitude!
* Be sure to link to your nominees within your post.
* Let them know that they have received this award by commenting on their blog.
* Share the love and link to this post and to the person from whom you received your award.

Thanks again Lisa: I hope I got the tech part of this right. Here's my list.

Joan's Short in the Cord
Diane's A Stellar Life
Bugs, Bikes and Brains
Serina's Blog
The Life of BMW
Sunshine and Moonlight
Merely Me's Multiple Synchronicities and Sclerosis
Lazy Julie
One Life
Curioser and Curioser

happy reading,

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Brief Update

It seems I am still on the mental mend. I realized the other day that once I get through the morning, the day always gets easier so I have been using that fact to psyche myself up. I am still having morning stomach troubles but I just emailed my doctor again. I usually first awake at 3:30 or 4:00 with insistent bowels and have to go at least 3 times before 10:30 (I know TMI). Unfortunately, things get so insistent I have to keep getting out of bed. This leaves me really tired. I also have been getting nauseated during these early morning hours and it takes a while for things to settle down so mornings are pretty rough. I guess the biggest change is that I have not been getting overly anxious about it even though it's hard. I also have been much less depressed.

Work is still a huge pain. New kids from Mexico keep enrolling. I have never had so many newcomers in my life. I have assistance at times with my awful sophomore class but so far it has been little help. I think the biggest change has been in my attitude. I keep trying my hardest and doing my best with the kids but I am owning fewer of the problems. I figure my best is all I can do. I can keep trying to be a better teacher but it is not all my fault that the kids are scattered and ill-behaved. I did call some parents tonight and put some of the ownership back on them. At least the kids will know I'm serious...

Monday, October 13, 2008

Trying to turn a new leaf

One day at a time, one day at a time, I'm trying to turn the corner and forget the darkness that has long been clouding my mind. Today is better than yesterday and yesterday was better than the day before so perhaps I'm on my way.

There have been times where I have railed against this thing with claws and teeth... I have succumbed to moments of near madness. Sometimes the anger has consumed me. Other times it has seemed that the anxiety would eat me alive yet here I stand, one woman warring against the darkness. When I pause here, I remember that through it all I have met my most pressing obligations. I have gone to work and tried my hardest. I have continued to teach yoga. I have gone to yoga myself as much as possible and I have faced it all with little except the faith that this to shall pass.

Some say that the path to transformation is pathed with suffering. Perhaps I have been putting in my dues. It seems that in my toughest moments, I have found words and a voice to soothe others. I taught yoga today while I was sick and yet I found the tranquility it takes to guide a beautiful class. My voice was calm, my breath was full and steady and from my discomfort, a peace emerged. In longer moments, I have been finding this peace again. I imagine that the hardest may yet be in front of me but I am trying to fill my mind and soul with a rememberance of the peace I feel when I do and teach yoga.

I am starting to read a book my mother sent me called "Break Through Pain" by Shinzen Young. It also has a CD of guided practice. I listened to it a bit today and found myself soothed. I was thinking I could listen to it on the way to work when I often feel the worst. It may not free me of my morning nausea but perhaps it will help me continue to calm my mind in ways that allow me to face my day with grace. I want so badly to learn from the difficult times of late. I want to learn to accept myself and my limitations more. I want to better know myself. I want to move beyond the place where I can only think of now to a place where I can be in the now but view the future without anxiety. Right now I am ok. I want to remember that even during the hard times. Everything I need for a beautiful life is already inside of me.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Some Days...

I have made it this far and this long through one of the hardest times in my life just by living one day at a time. Somehow I keep finding the ability to keep going when I most need to. Sometimes it seems like I can hardly do it, either my head is in the way or my body is but one way or another, I keep on keeping on at least enough to meet my obligations. I am grateful that most of the times when I feel the roughest do not coincide with anything I need to do. Luckily, today is one of those days.

Physically I am feeling awful. My neck aches, my head aches, my stomach is upset and I have been fighting nausea all morning. It seems I may have a touch of migraine but maybe I'm just feeling really crappy. So far I have not found the tonic to take away my syptoms but up to this point luck has always propelled me to feeling better when I need to so I trust that if I lay low today, I'll feel fine tomorrow.

I feel like my exacerbation is behind me so I think that the way I am feeling must just be the result of other factors. I felt sick on Friday too after working over twelve hours on Thursday and last night, I stayed out late so maybe that did it. Anyway, no use second guessing this. I am just going to focus my energy on feeling better for tomorrow because I have quite a bit planned.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

A light beyond the tunnel...

I see it, I do. Things are still a little hard but I think they are getting better. I am learning to calm myself without taking anxiety meds. I am taking the pressure off and using the help that comes my way.

My acupuncturist commented that I was holding myself differently than in the past. That made me think I need to make a change and find my self confidence and assurance again. Maybe the kids have seen my sweat and that is why they are taking advantage. Now I am using my breath, authority and reason to reign us all back in.

I like to help others and lend them strength. That makes me feel good. I am going to try to do more of that. My new mantra is: "This is a marathon, not a sprint so stop, slow down and breath." Some days may be harder than others but I remember now that it is good to be alive!

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Tunnel Vision

I am lost in my own labyrinth and completely self-absorbed. I just want to take a moment to thank everyone who has reached out to me lately. I imagine many of my responses have been less than satisfactory. For that, I must apologize. Thanks to all my friends and family who keep reaching out even though I have so little to offer right now. You are all in my thoughts even if I seem to have disappeared.

Pat left me a beautiful quote that inspires me to fight on towards a better state of mind and a greater goal. - ““To be a warrior is not a simple matter of wishing to be one. It is rather an endless struggle that will go on to the very last moment of our lives. Nobody is born a warrior, in exactly the same way that nobody is born an average man. We make ourselves into one or the other.””
Carlos Castaneda

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Sunday Blues

I slept until 5:45 without interruption (a record of late) but as soon as I got up to go to the bathroom it was as though a weight had settled on my chest. Again I was completely filled by the sorrow I had spent most of Saturday trying to squelch. I burrowed back under the convers and tried to forget.

I was up again within two hours, just as miserable. I repeated this cycle several times, telling myself I should quit dwelling, go to yoga and try to forget this silliness. And still it lingered.

My husband went off to canvass for Obama and still I lay in bed. It had now been almost twelve hours and more than one klonopin since I lay down and still I was not ready to venture out. I set an alarm for 11:00 am and planned to go to yoga. The alarm sounded and still I lingered. It was not a luxuriating linger, it was a tortured knife in my heart lingering. My husband returned at about 11:45 and tried to talk me out of bed and yet still, I could not rouse myself. I lay there tortured, knowing that at some point I must arise...

My husband's plans and presence at last pulled me out of bed. I determined not to waste any more of the day. I decided to go to a yoga class. Ultimately, I did many things today. The more I did, the better my mental state. I still fear for tomorrow because my stomach still has yet to settle but it's not as bad as it was and physically I am starting to feel quite a bit better. I am trying to set more realistic goals for myself and my students, reminding myself that one way or another, they will learn.

When I am anxious and sad I have been trying to visualize a place or a thing that makes me feel happy and peaceful. Up until now I have had little success but I realized that in yoga both yesterday and today that when I lay in the warm yoga room and closed my eyes, I was filled with peace. I am going to try imagining that space the next time I find myself filled with sorrow. It seems there are a few more moments now where I can find a place of content without my own mental torture for a few hours. A few hours today, a few tomorrow and maybe soon the day will come when I refind and redefine myself in ways that I can accept.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

We all need somebody to lean on

Being unhealthy both physically and mentally is teaching me new things. I have been holding on to control for so long that I don't even know how to take or receive help. It's actually rather pathetic considering I spend most of my time giving to others but there's my pathology in a nutshell. I always have to be able to take care of all my committments and responsibilities alone. It is not ok to bend and it is certainly not ok to break. Yet I find my barriers are now worn to tatters and just a mere acquaintance asking, "How are you?" brings me to tears. I am so vulnerable. I am a tiny, rootless leaf on the wind and I am easily blown into a tumultuous state. I have held on so hard and so long and taken on so much and now I am seeing that I just cannot do this anymore. It doesn't mean that I will never be competent again. It means that I need to accept all the help and offers being made to me without feeling guilty.

I had a complete breakdown at work today. Actually I had two mini-breaks and one big one. I went in late and skipped my plan period because my anxiety was out of control. Everything I eat has been rushing through me and I frequently dry heave in the morning. It feels horrific. I did make it to work but this was one of those days I probably should have just taken the day off.

First, I cried over my lunch to my sister in law. Then, when kids came in I dropped a tear or two when they asked if I was angry. Then, I dropped another tear or two at their compassion. I was a soggy wreck and PMS was not helping.

During the next class the big meltdown came. I caught a student throwing paper and when I tried to send him to the class next door, the rest of the class got out of control. They started making a ton of noise and then giant balls of paper whizzed through the air. They even threw a couple dictionaries. It was like a war zone with me in the center. Rather than assuming control, I just started crying and cleaning up the mess. Two of my students went for adult back up at that point. Security showed up and I sobbed to him about how embarassed I was and how awful the situation had become. He called the assistant principal and the dean and they came in and restored order with sterness and threats. I was mortified. Never in my whole career has it come to this...

Now when I look back, I am not sorry or ashamed that any of this happened because others around me saw I needed help and came to the rescue. The dean said she was going to start coming in to help me here and there. My assistant principal was very understanding and said I need to take care of myself. He got my friend to ask the principal if it's ok for me to start work an hour late when I need to since I have first block plan and feel the worst in the morning. My principal agreed. My friend also helped me solve some other work issues and my department head also asked how she could support me. All the caring and support I got today went a long way. I am glad to know I am not in this alone. Now I just need to learn to manage my anxiety and ask for help when I need it instead of waiting until I have a crisis.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Wednesday to Wednesday- A week in review

Last Tuesday night I noticed that my cat Apollo seemed ill. He was not eating and had puked several times. My neighbor(who works for a vet)came by and evaluated his condition. She determined he had a UTI and said we should get him to the vet as soon as possible. I needed to go to work so I scheduled him in for 5:00 pm the next day.

Wednesday dawned and I found my cat huddled in the bathroom under a table looking near death. I started to cry. I realized I could never live with the guilt if I came home to find him dead so I called in for work the morning at the last minute. I was a mess!

I finally got him to the vet and they said I had brought him just in time. They kept him there all day on an IV and gave him medicine. When I finally picked him up, he was much better. $500.00 later I got to take my pet home. It was worth every penny.

Throughout the week, his health continued to improve. I was proud of giving him his medicine without any help (I know it's not a big deal but I was proud).

Today we had his follow up and he is healthy. Yeah! I bought him a healthcare plan so he can get his teeth cleaned and get his vaccinations. Total kitty costs will come to about $900.00 for the year. This is rather ironic, because that's exactly the amount I have in a medical savings plan for my own health care costs beyond insurance. Still, heatlhy cat= mentally healthy cat's mom.