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Category Archives: therapist

Probably TMI for most

Well, I won’t go into all kinds of details, but still, you’re forewarned.

I was talking about some anxiety in my last post. Here’s what is going on. I’ve been doing hypnotherapy during a few of my regular therapy sessions with T in order to work on my cardiophobia. We’ve actually been working both with CBT and hypnotherapy for my fear of exercise. Part of my fear is because of my heart, but part of my fear is also putting myself in more pain than my daily dose…on purpose. I’m in pain pretty much most days, but exercising means I’ll be suffering more pain because of strained muscles and such.

So part of my therapy is to exercise. Shocking, I know. We have both a treadmill and a recumbent bike in our house (the treadmill is like…oh, 15 years old, but it still works!), so I have options on what I can do for exercise with machines. The bike is newer than the treadmill and it has those little dohickies on the handles that measure heart rate, which is a no-no for me. Just watching the heart rate go up is an anxiety trigger. So many people say exercise helps their anxiety, but it’s actually a major trigger for me. I started riding the bike (I figured it was lower impact on my arthritic knees than the treadmill) every night, with the intention that I was riding it to work on my fears, not on my weight loss. It gave me permission to see the exercise as something different…not to be perfect at it, not to think that if I only ride it a few minutes every night that it was a failure because a few minutes is a waste in the weight loss world. No, it’s part of my therapy, part of my recovery, and even sitting on the damn machine is an accomplishment.

I started slow with the bike, literally and figuratively. And I met my first goal of riding the bike three days in a week…and then I just kept going. I’ve been able to increase by one minute since I started. I’ve learned not to put my hands on the heart rate dohickies…and if it is too tempting, I’m going to put socks over the handles to make them not work. I listen to a little music, I play a game or two on the iPad if I have it. I go in, I get on, I ride, I leave, I recognize the accomplishment of what I’ve done. I went ten days. Some of the days I could have talked myself out of it (the a/c upstairs died again…my knee hurt, I had another owie which I’ll explain shortly) but I didn’t talk myself out of it. My mental recovery seems to be so much easier for me to work on than my physical. I haven’t really ruminated on that very much, but I suspect that is coming in therapy soon.

Monday night I went to shower and I realize there is a redness under my right boob. I’m endowed and…droopy. I’ve been that way all of my adult life, I’ve never gotten a heat rash or sweat rash under my boobs before (I am wondering if this is because of the surgical menopause and hormone issues). I don’t sweat like normal people. My first thought was oh shit it’s breast cancer because it was only under one boob and I know that there are some breast cancers that present that way. I managed to convince myself it wasn’t cancer even before the redness showed up under my other boob. At that point I was pretty well sure it was a heat rash (or sweat rash) from riding on the bike. So now I’ve got knee pain, foot pain (stupid plantar faciitis) and underboobs rashes. *sigh* I go buy these things that go under the boobies that is supposed to help wick away sweat. The are uncomfortable and weird and they move around. Joy. I also buy some tea tree oil and a powder for rashes and fungus, in case it’s a yeast fungus under there. The under-boobie wicky thing seems to help but not make it go away altogether yet.

Wednesday night I’m on the bike again (I’ve even been able to ride when I’m home alone, which is a big deal for me because if I have a heart attack on the bike…and I’m alone… shudder) and I’m like what is that pain? It’s in the crease of my left leg where it meets my groin. And I’m thinking it’s another damn heat rash. Great. I put some gauze in the crease and try to deal with it for overnight. Next day, I put another clean bit of gauze there to keep the area from rubbing and getting worse and I go about my day. I get on the bike again last night and I’m like … unh, that hurts. I finish my predetermined ride and go shower and suddenly I’m realizing it’s not the heat rash in the crease of my leg that was hurting. I have a cyst…my guess is an infected cyst (I get sebaceous cysts under my arms sometimes, but not for a while) or it could be an ingrown hair. It’s, uh, down there. Ya’ll ladies know what I mean. It’s in an unfortunate place, making sitting, standing, walking, lying down all very very uncomfortable. Dammit.

I tell Hub about the issue (he looks somewhat horrified), I go to sleep and wake up this morning first thing to call my doctor’s office. I don’t want to mess around with this area, so I beg them to fit me in today. They do and I go see one of the other doctor’s in the practice. She says “abscess” but won’t otherwise identify if it’s from a cyst or an ingrown hair. She doesn’t want to do anything with it but suggests I see my gyno to see if they want to drain it or what. I tell her my gyno is an hour away and not likely to be able to fit me in today, so she suggests I see the gyno in their extended practice and she goes to make an appointment for me. When she comes back, she tells me I’ll be seeing the nurse practitioner that afternoon, and oh by the way here is a prescription for bactrum (antibiotics). Oh how I love pills. And ABs are my favorite.

I go back later to see the NP, who tells me she can’t drain cysts and all the doctors are booked. But she graciously offers to do a lookie loo to see if the cyst actually needs to be drained. She measures it and says it doesn’t look too big, but writes down the info for future reference in case I come back with an issue next week. “Good news!” she chirps. “I wouldn’t drain this. It’ll drain on its own. Take your ABs and use warm compresses and a sitz bath as often as you can manage.” We talk about timing for when the pain will abate and what to expect from the “draining” and I go home.

The first time I saw the cyst last night, it was white. By the time I got home and everyone was done poking at it, it was a purple-red. Yay. (I told you, TMI.) Upon getting my ABs, I come home and go look up my blog post from when I had to take these particular ABs, and I apparently have nausea, bad taste in my mouth, and dry mouth (editing to add, and dry/itchy eyes near to the end of the course of ABs) to look forward to for ten days at least. Two pills a day over ten days. The NP told me to be happy, the other option is something like 4 pills a day over 20 days or something ridiculous. But at least I have experience with this AB, so maybe I’ll be okay with taking it more easily. (Prolly not, but one can hope.)

This is what I get for exercising? One time I went to vacuum my bedroom…I plugged in the vacuum and 10 seconds later the circuit blew. I reset it, plugged the vacuum into a different outlet across the large room and 10 seconds later another circuit blew. I reset it, used a plug in the upstairs hallway and THAT one blew. I decided at that moment that G-d did not want me to vacuum. I wrapped up the cord and put the vacuum away. So, is this what I’m getting about exercising? Multiple messages saying “don’t do it!” Well, another conversation for therapy, I guess.

Also, ow ow ow ow. 😦

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The end of days

****WARNING****  this post contains frank conversation about death and dying. If you are triggered or distressed by this kind of imagery or thoughts, please don’t continue reading.

Mom has since passed away. I am thinking a lot about her last days. Regrets linger over things I couldn’t change.

I was trying to get private duty nurses in to help us take care of her in an appropriate manner. I know my father was struggling to keep Mom feeling comfortable and such, but I don’t feel like he was tending to her hygiene in a good way. He was thinking like a husband, not like a caregiver, and was letting her stay in dirty clothes because he felt it was easier for her. Mom ended up with a bed sore from sitting in one position all the time, and she was sitting around in dirty shirts and pants (not filthy, just not fresh clothes every day). I didn’t realize what was happening because I wasn’t living there until after the bed sore appeared and I found out how he was taking care of her. Then Dad and I tried to take care of Mom, but it was a struggle, especially since I wasn’t there all the time. I’d get calls at 11:30 at night, or 2 in the morning, asking me to come help him clean her up. At that point, they were still struggling to use the bathroom in some normal fashion…and it WAS a struggle. Then as Mom’s capabilities decreased, Dad still wanted her to use the bathroom, which required even more of my assistance more often. It wasn’t that this was an issue for me–despite my lack of experience in caring for an adult in this situation–it was that I didn’t LIVE with them. Yes, I live close by, but it’s not the same…he wouldn’t call me until it was too late and he was in the bathroom with her and needed help. And the rest of the time he didn’t make her move from her position in the recliner…which meant she was probably sitting in wet and/or dirty pull-up adult diapers. It was a sad and painful situation for all of us.

I struggled to find someone to come help us, in part because my parents didn’t want anyone to come in and help, but also in part because I was afraid to make the wrong decision on who to bring in. In the end, I found a group to help us, referred to us by one of the women who cared for my grandmother in her last years. Unfortunately, that woman was out of state now, so I relied on her network of people who still lived here. The main issue is, I regret not forcing this on my parents earlier, because maybe we would have avoided the bed sore. Maybe it would have kept Mom a little more comfortable, and maybe it would have helped Dad hold onto more energy.

I also struggled with the idea of forcing hospice on my parents. Although I knew it would be helpful, again my parents refused to use the service until I basically gave them no option. And it was really too late. We were formally enrolled in hospice on a Friday night, and Mom passed away five days later. Well, it wasn’t completely too late, because the hospice nurses were helpful for those last fourteen hours or so, just in a crisis kind of way.

The biggest regret isn’t even something I have control over, which I realize makes no sense. How can I be regretful over something I didn’t do? Anyway, my father was watching Mom’s blood sugar because it had been going higher. The doctor said it was steroid-induced diabetes, but now I’m thinking it was Mom’s body’s way of shutting itself down in a way that wasn’t so painful. But really, the point here was, her sugar went way up, Dad panicked and called 911, and they took her to the emergency room. There, they went by protocol and began giving her fluids and heart medication (her heart rate was high), then sea-sawing back and forth with medications trying to get her sugar to the right level. Not too high, not too low…while forcing out the acids from the ketoacidosis she was dealing with. The fluids, though, were an issue. She became swollen in the emergency room and then later in the room when she was admitted. She became less and less aware of what was happening around her (she was pretty unaware when they called 911), but she was still verbalizing some things. When they went to change her and clean her up in the room, I shooed everyone out (other than the nurses, obviously) for privacy, but I stayed so she wasn’t alone. And she verbalized a lot during that time…a lot of chanting NO NO NO and OW OW OW when they moved her around. I hope to heaven that was involuntary and that she wasn’t really feeling those things because it just about killed me at the time. When they finished taking care of her, I ran out of the room in tears. And I was absolutely furious that my father kept refusing pain medication for my mother. He wanted her to “wake up and recognize” him. She was long beyond that, but he kept refusing the pain meds because he thought it was the medication and/or the high glucose that was keeping her “drugged up”. No matter what we did to try to show him that she was in pain, he refused to see it. He was so deep in his own pain over losing her that he refused to see beyond that. I’ve since talked to T about it and am trying to accept that he was dealing with the situation the only way he knew how, but there’s still a part of me that hurts at how he treated her in those last days/hours. She should have had pain meds every time they changed her and cleaned her, or moved her, or did anything to her.

It’s my understanding from the hospice research I did that giving Mom all those fluids likely hastened her death, and potentially put her in more discomfort because the fluid goes to places it shouldn’t…like lungs. So there’s another part of my regret…that she had to be in the hospital, getting medication after medication, and hours and hours of fluids. And that she was in pain and discomfort for so long. Even before she was admitted to a room (we got to the ER at 5:30pm and she was admitted to a room at 7:30am the next morning), I was asking how and when we could take her home. The hospital staff wanted to stabilize her from the ketoacidosis…and my father agreed with them. By the time we were able to convince him that we were going down a road we didn’t want to travel, we rushed through to get her home that evening. And my uncle was able to convince my father that Mom needed morphine. We made doubly sure that she got another round of the morphine before they put her in the transport ambulance and transferred her home. And once again, I was the one who had to push to get Mom home…I was the one who organized the transport, the oxygen, the meds for home, the private duty nurses to be waiting at home for us to arrive…and on and on. I’m the baby in my family, and yet I was the one dealing with everything.

We had more issues at home with the oxygen tank. No matter what plug we put it in, it would shut down after 10-20 minutes. T says it was Mom’s spirit shutting down the unit because she didn’t want the oxygen. I wouldn’t be incredibly surprised to know that was true. The hospice nurse arrived and immediate administered more morphine because Mom’s face was scrunched up. Then she began going over instructions on how and when to give medication at home. We had a private duty health aide staying overnight and she learned the information (along with my sister-in-law) from the hospice nurse. The hospice nurse–along with my siblings and my husband–made me go home for the night at that point. Even though they were still figuring out the oxygen machine, they had plenty of people there to handle things–plus the hospice nurse–and I was really so far beyond shut down that I couldn’t have helped even if I had wanted to. I had been going since 8am Monday morning, right through to that time which was 11:30pm Tuesday night. I hadn’t slept or napped any of that time, and I’d barely eaten, though I had managed to try to stay hydrated as much as possible. This was the point where I reported to T that I really gave up. Someone else had to take over what was happening and what needed to be done. Where in the hospital is had been all me handling things, at the house at that point, there were seven or eight people sharing the responsibilities. I wish some of those people had stepped up at the hospital, so I hadn’t felt so alone with all the responsibilities.

The next morning, our “regular” hospice nurse came in to talk to us, to evaluate Mom, and to give us some more education on what was happening. She changed Mom’s medication schedule, administered some more meds, and then she sat us all down in another room. She said that from her experience and based on her examination, she didn’t anticipate that Mom had much time left. She said she wasn’t a doctor or God, but she had two decades of experience and she doubted we had more than 24 hours. She said she’d been surprised before, but she wanted us to understand that we were very near the end.

She wasn’t wrong.

Within the hour of that statement, Mom stopped breathing and her heartbeat slowed to a stop. Dad was with her, the rest of us were in the next room with the hospice nurse and had rushed in when we heard Dad yelling. Only one of my brothers and his wife weren’t in the house with us when Mom passed. The hospice nurse was still there and she continued to monitor Mom with her stethoscope until Mom’s heart had completely stopped. The minutes and hours following are a mishmash of images and phone calls and information and scheduling for things to happen. I was the one doing all of that, and although I’d like to say I remember none of it, a lot of it is burned in my memory banks.

I have traumatic flashbacks of those last thirty plus hours. I’ve started working with T about it, because there are too many images, sounds, and smells in my head that are haunting me. Already one session/set of exercises with T have helped. I go back on Monday again to continue working with her.

This was not how I had hoped my mother’s last days or hours would come about. I know many will say “it is what it is” but that doesn’t stop me from feeling sad about it. The best thing that came out of this is that we WERE able to get Mom home in time for her to pass there. That’s what she wanted.

 

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Too much or too little?

I had a session with T today, which was kind of all over the map. Part of what I wanted to talk to her about was V (pt 1 and p2). I haven’t written much about my sessions with V because I haven’t felt like we’ve done what I wanted to do. Very specifically, I approached and began seeing V so that I could attempt to do hypnosis with a therapist who specialized in it, versus seeing a hypnotist who had no therapeutic training. I was looking to get assistance with my insomnia type symptoms (I say “insomnia-type” because I don’t feel I have true insomnia, I just have shitty sleep), which was something V said initially she could help me with. In the end, she preferred not to use “hypnosis” and instead went with “breathing and relaxation” techniques to work with me. As well as EMDR.

I’ve had seven or eight sessions with V, and while I did discover where my “not enough” feeling came from, I haven’t had any progress with my sleeping. And I haven’t felt any other progress, nor has V seemed interested in pursuing hypnosis. I also feel very uncomfortable that at least once a session, she’ll say she’s not sure if X will work, or that she also struggles with sleep but I shouldn’t be concerned it will always be that way for me. I just feel like I’m talking to a therapeutically trained ME. And I don’t want to talk to me… It sounds weird, but that’s how I feel. So I pretty much had decided to discontinue sessions with V, but I’ve never…fired a therapist before. I didn’t want to make V feel badly because I didn’t want to continue. I know it isn’t my issue and she is a professional, but honestly she feels so insecure to me that I hate to feed that feeling by firing her. But I’m not getting what I want from her and I don’t want to continue if that’s the case. I already have T–who works well for my on-going needs–I don’t need another regular therapist.

So when I sat down after dinner, I crafted a short but complimentary email, and after re-reading it a couple of times, I sent it. Now I wait to hear back. Unh.

My plan, at this point, is to give acupuncture a go. I’ve had it before and although it didn’t help at that point (for horrendous menstrual cramps about 16 years ago), I know it does work for a lot of things for a lot of people. I just need to work appointments into my schedule, because I know acupuncture is an on-going treatment that often works better with multiple appointments per week, or at least one every week for a lot of weeks. But I definitely want to give it a try, for the fatigue/insomnia as well as chronic pain. T approved of the plan I had set out, and reminded me that I need to keep myself balanced or I was liable to break down.

That was the other conversation I had with her. I wanted to really find out how I know if I’m just avoiding everything by trying to stay busy and/or zen/zone out. I know in my heart that I’m feeling the emotions relating to my mother’s illness and the situation we are in. But I am concerned that maybe I’m not giving my emotions ENOUGH attention. How do I know? How do I know that I’m not mis-using my coping skills for avoidance purposes? She said there’s no answer that suits everyone. To try to pay attention to whether I’m avoiding things that need to be done or dealt with by using my coping skills, or if I’m still addressing things while fitting my coping skills into my life. And that if I spend more time coping/avoiding some hours/days/weeks, that I shouldn’t be too concerned.

I’m not well known for allowing myself to be emotional, so I worry about me avoiding or repressing the emotions surrounding what is happening daily. I just can’t decide what feels right and balanced. T tells me to quit worrying about it. Seriously, has she met me? 🙂

 

 

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I’m cheating on my therapist (part 2)

You might want to read part 1 first. It’s kinda long…

Session number four (at least of the “active” sessions) started out with V talking to me about being bullied again. But this time, it was my grandmother that we were discussing. During my very first conversation with V, we were talking about those “resource” people and V was asking me about extended family like aunts, uncles, grandparents, etc. I told her that I loved my grandmother very much, and that she was a big part of our lives growing up and into my adulthood. But that I had some mixed feelings about her, because she was always harping on my weight.

And like some weird television show, I had one of those epiphany moments. I realized very clearly how abusive my grandmother had been to me all my growing up years. How much she had damaged me, hurt me, bullied me, abused me. There was no physical abuse. She loved me. But she hurt me so much.

She compared me to people around us, other girls, other women. She told me I’d never be happy if I didn’t lose weight. She told me that I wouldn’t get a husband if I didn’t lose weight. She took me to her aerobics class as often as she could (very often in the summer when I was out of school), where I was forced into working out with other women of all shapes and sizes. Then she pointed out how I couldn’t keep up with this woman or that woman. She compared me to her (younger) friend’s daughter, a girl who was two years ahead of me in school. Pointed out how slender and in-shape that girl was, how smart she was, how happy she was.

She watched what I ate when we were together. She pointed out what I shouldn’t be eating. She encouraged me to deprive myself, and to eat only the things she gave me. She chastised me when I ate too much, or pointed me away from the cookies or the cake that she had baked for others in the family.

I was the only girl in my family, the youngest of four. I was also the only one of the kids who was overweight. I snuck food because I felt deprived of the food. Oh don’t get me wrong, my mother was watching me, because she, too, was unhappy that I was overweight. But she was more subtle about what she did and said. And she didn’t do the overt comparisons that my grandmother employed.

I went to fat camp, subsidized by my grandparents, because I know my parents couldn’t have afforded it at that time. It was a spectacular failure. I might have lost five or ten pounds at the time–the diet was very restricted and the activities were very forced on us–and I gained it all back very quickly…and then some, I’m sure. And my grandmother pointed it out, reminded me how hard I worked at the camp, and how I was letting it all go to waste.

I loved my grandmother very much. She loved me. She had her own weight issues, her own body image issues…I know this affected her and how she treated me. I know it affected her and affected my mother as well. That doesn’t mean what she did to me all those years wasn’t painful and damaging. As an adult, I understand where it came from for her. I’m working hard to separate her as the woman who loved me from her terrible behaviors toward me. I’m trying to remember that I’m NOT damaged. I am whole and I am okay.

My grandmother is only part of the reason that I never feel like I’m enough. Good enough. A good enough daughter. A good enough sister. A good enough wife. A good enough friend. I work ultra-hard, go the extra mile, do all the little things and the big things…and yet even when people are appreciative, I worry that it wasn’t enough. That I wasn’t enough.

My mother had three boys. All she wanted at that point was a little girl. A daughter, who she could dress in lace and ruffles, who would wear sweet pink dresses and play with baby dolls, who would love her tiny tea set and be the epitome of every dainty little girl. I was none of that. I hate lace and ruffles–they made me itch–and I wasn’t overly fond of pink. I hated dresses. I never once picked up a baby doll and I totally ignored the expensive and lovely tea set that I’m told my uncle bought for me at my mother’s urging. I played with the boys’ toys, with the boys themselves as often as I could work my way into their play-time, and I wore pants and tee shirts. And I was far from the dainty little girl she had hoped for. Very very often, my mother would speak of me, and then tell people all those things…I waited so long for a baby girl, I wanted to dress her in lace and ruffles, I wanted to see her play with baby dolls and tea sets. She never wanted any of those things… Over and over my mother would tell people of my failures. My mother loves me and I love her. If you read any of my blog posts, you can’t miss that. We’re amazing friends. I’m in awe of her. I’m deathly afraid of the day I will lose her. AND she made me feel like I wasn’t enough while I was growing up. I wasn’t who she had expected me to be.

I try so hard to be enough. I’ve been bullied and abused and put down for who I was. I only ever wanted to be loved.

As we were talking about my grandmother–and in part about my mom–V asked me to picture myself as a child. I could immediately remember my little bedroom. The walls were painted a pepto bismal pink, my white iron daybed mattress covered in strawberry shortcake sheets (which were in part pink), the white dressers and desk that had once belonged to my mother, the deep cranberry wool carpeting that my grandparents had passed down to me from a previous house. The full length mirror on the back of my door. The tiny little black and white television on my dresser, under the shelves that held the dolls my grandparents brought for me from every trip they took out of the country (I had never asked for dolls, they just bought them for me). The window air conditioner an uncle gave us for my bedroom. V asked me what that little girl was thinking, and I blurted out she just wants to be loved….she doesn’t want to be alone.

In previous sessions with T, I didn’t really understand talking to the little girl that I used to be. I’m not sure why this time it was more accessible. Maybe because of the revelations I had about my grandmother and my mother. The thing is, I don’t know how to make it better for that little girl. I was alone. I felt unloved. I’m not alone as an adult. I have a wonderful relationship with my mother, I have a good relationship with my father and my brothers. My husband loves me very much. I have a very good friend whom I’ve known since second grade. And yet I still feel not good enough. I just want to feel good enough.

I don’t know what’s going to come next. I was supposed to see V again next week but I’ve canceled the appointment due to my mother’s health. That doesn’t mean I’m not thinking about all of this when I have free brain time, but I’ve been pretty occupied with my mother’s appointments, her care, and taking care of her personal and business issues. I have another appointment scheduled with V in a couple of weeks. If I can manage the appointment, I will. In the meantime, I’m still seeing T, so maybe I’ll be able to address some of these thoughts with her. We’ll have to see how it goes, considering everything else happening at the moment.

 

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I’m cheating on my therapist

Around the time I was working up my nerve to fly to my niece’s wedding, T suggested I try seeing a hypnotherapist. I flew to the wedding (part 1 & part 2) without the benefit of hypnosis. I just didn’t have enough time to see the hypnotherapist by the time I had decided to try it.

But I’d gotten a good referral from my massage therapist, and I have been having terrible time sleeping…still. So I thought that was something pretty tangible that would tell me whether the hypnotherapy was working. Better sleep? Yes it’s working. Not better sleep? Nope, not working. So with the blessing from T–the title of the blog was a joke, really–I set up an initial session with the hypnotherapist.

I wasn’t really sure what to expect from V (the hypnotherapist). I didn’t expect to meet someone so…mousy and insecure. The first appointment took close to ninety minutes, as we did a get-to-know-you-and-your-whole-life’s-history thing. She took copious notes–something that T never does–as we talked. She asked a lot of questions about my history. When I told her that T offered to talk to her, she said that would be fine, if I decided to continue sessions with her.

I tried to cram a lot of information into a little bit of time, relatively speaking. I tried not to forget stuff. I had trouble with chronology and timelines. I was open and honest. We set two appointments and I went on my way.

By the time I was ready for my first regular appointment with V, I’d been through some pretty bad health anxiety. I’d been nauseated and feeling pukey for a couple of weeks. That alone was enough to boost my health anxiety. So I went to the doctor’s office–where I found out my primary doctor was out of the country, so I saw a “temp” doctor–and spent twenty minutes with a doctor who quizzed me on everything. He sent me home with a prescription for anti-nausea pills, and had me go to the lab for blood work. The blood work was “unremarkable” (how I hate that term) he told me via my health care portal. I scoured the blood work, finding that my calcium levels were high. Without forethought, I did a search on google to see what that meant. I tried to only look at “expert” sites like NIH or WebMd. I found that the high calcium could be parathyroid problems (a tumor or something), or it could be a result of cancer. So I stopped reading. I left a message for the “temp” doctor asking if I should be getting a repeat calcium test because it was high, and a parathyroid test that NIH recommended. He said “let me know if you’re not feeling better and we can retest. I’m not concerned about the calcium test.”

But I’d read that there’s no other reason for a high calcium result except a parathyroid problem. It’s black or white. Normal or high. 1/10th over the normal is a problem. I contacted the endocrinologist office I’ve been to in the past (where the endo called me crazy) to see if I could get an appointment. Because I hadn’t been in over 2  years, I was considered a new patient. And they couldn’t see me until the first week of February (which was almost 2 months away). There are like seven doctors there, and of course the person with the availability first was the doctor who had called me a crazy person. I took the appointment anyway, because the waiting is so hard.

Anyway, I was all hopped up on health anxiety, so I emailed the hypnotherapist to see if we could work on the health anxiety rather than the sleep thing, because I was really struggling with the health anxiety. She said “OF COURSE” and so I attended my first appointment. I wasn’t sure how well I’d be able to be hypnotized because I have some issues with control, and I worry about someone taking advantage of me by hypnotizing me. I know, it’s weird, but there it is. And I told V that. As we talked about what we wanted to accomplish, she said that she doesn’t really use hypnotherapy as much as she uses “light hypnosis” and intentional breathing, along with EMDR (eye movement desensitization and reprocessing) to help people. She said she has a lot of experience with patients who have chronic illnesses, chronic pain, sleep issues, anxiety, all of which is wrapped up together.

I was disappointed. I wanted to try hypnosis a lot, but she IS the professional and I need to trust in that. So we went forward with her plan, and I had four regular appointments with her. The first one focused a lot on what she called my “resources”. People and pets (and spiritual being) in my life who represented different things to me. Comfort, security, love, acceptance, faith. Once we established those “resources”–with some brief conversation about my grandmother, which I’ll address another time–we did some breathing and worked on bringing those “resources” into my “heart-space”. It was a little…woo-woo for me. But I promised myself I’d really try to participate and engage in what she was doing. I’d try to trust the process even though I wasn’t entirely sure about it. The first session was over pretty fast, with me just concentrating on those “resource” people, and breathing in thoughts of what I wanted at that moment–calm and acceptance–and breathing out anything I didn’t want or need in my life. While I was doing this, I was holding these…paddles. They’re used for EMDR instead of the eye movement, as a lot of people (including me) can’t do that “eye movement” part of the EMDR. The paddles BUZZ, left hand and right hand independently. One, then the other, then back to the first, then the other hand.

The second appointment (not including the initial session), we continued along the same vein, talking more about my “resources” and pulling them into my life when I need them.

I wasn’t entirely sure about V for a couple of reasons. She comes across as insecure…often saying things like “I’m not sure I can help, but…” And I just felt that her energy was so soft. She seemed unsure a lot, and would talk about HER anxieties and how she disliked going to therapy (and was impressed that I was able to follow through with it because it’s hard to talk to strangers). She’s SO different from T that it was throwing me. Also, she didn’t really send me home with techniques to work on. No homework, like with T. Nothing to make me feel like I was “practicing” at home. It was odd for me, after so many years of CBT with T.

The third session, we talked about my experience with being bullied as a kid. She said oftentimes the imprint of being bullied goes much deeper than we can ever imagine. I wasn’t so keen on this session, because I felt like the bullying I’d experience didn’t impact me that much. The experience was sort of a blur of interactions melding together. But what it DID bring up was my issues with my grandmother…and in some ways with my mom. She promised to work on that for the next session, but as we continued talking about my growing up years and how I was bullied, I said that I felt like the odd man out all the time. One girl among three brothers. I was the only fat kid in the family. I was the sensitive one. I was the loner. And then we talked about how I repeated this as I pursued a career in a male-dominated industry. And how I repeated this by taking a job in a company where I was one of two females working a technical job (and the two of us didn’t work together…she was an engineer, I was in IT). It was interesting, mostly because I felt that there must have been a reason WHY I did that. Why I put myself in positions where I didn’t fit in with everyone else. What came out of that particular session was how much I missed feeling capable. The jobs I’d had were hard, they required a lot from me, and I earned a lot of respect in each of the positions. I miss being productive like that. I miss feeling the accomplishments. I forgot that I was that person. I forgot all the things I did, and the things I was able to do.

Session four was all about my grandmother, my mom, and where my feeling of “never good enough” came from. Next time.

 

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The bad news continues

It has been too long. I know it. I’m struggling hard on this roller coaster. I spent today’s session with T crying.

Mom just hasn’t recovered from being in the wheelchair…from the pelvic fracture and the deep muscle spasm. For a few weeks she was moving around better, walking more but still sitting to take breaks. But she was still pressing on, doing what she could. We tried a new medication, but it gave her problems with her fingers and toes. Numbness and tingling. That started with her first chemo, but the recent medication made it worse. The doctor stopped the medication because it was a high likelihood that the numbness and tingling would progress to painful neuropathy.

The nurses at the oncology center noticed that both Mom’s legs were swelling. It was decided that she lymphedema–swelling from water and “stuff” that wasn’t being filtered from her body by her damaged lymph system–and that she needed to go to physical therapy to get manual massage and compression wraps to help move the water up her body to parts of her lymph system that was working. That took some time to get set up, but we finally got it scheduled to start after Christmas.

We were expecting to go to a local research hospital to see if they had a trial, but with the holidays coming their response was a bit slow. Then they said they had no room for her in the trial until the end of January, so we decided to pursue the next option with her regular oncologist. Only…something happened and we’re not sure what.

Christmas day she wasn’t feeling so great. Then the weekend, she continued to feel “yucky.” She was starting to feel lethargic, tired, not really interested in eating. But she was forcing herself to eat to keep her energy up. The Monday following she was due to go to the physical therapist for the lymphedema evaluation. When I went to meet them at their house, I could see she wasn’t feeling well. She was exhausted and hardly interested in moving. She was using the wheelchair again. But she persisted and made it to the appointment. The physical therapist did the evaluation but only wrapped one of her legs, so as not to tax her body too much. We made it home and just inside the house, Mom threw up. And that’s where the downhill slide really began. We had another appointment the next day to go back to the physical therapist, but just minutes inside the offices, I had to race her wheelchair into the restroom so she could throw up again. I could see she was getting more dehydrated and weak, but she wanted to go through with the second appointment. They wrapped her again and instead of leaving it on for six or seven hours like the day before, this time she was supposed to leave the wrap on for two days. We got Mom home and she just kind of collapsed into her recliner.

The next morning my father called to say she wouldn’t get out of bed. She was too exhausted and weak. They’d spent the night getting up every ninety minutes to get her into the bathroom to pee…a result of her leg being wrapped and the fluid being expelled from her system. We called the physical therapist who told us to immediately remove the wraps and consider going to the ER for dehydration. We ended up taking her to the urgent care for her HMO (where she threw up again in the car), where they kind of pushed us around. She wasn’t really dehydrated, but her blood work said she was malnourished (from throwing up and not eating for fear of throwing up). It also came back with an elevated liver enzyme called Bilirubin. They did an ultrasound of her liver then basically said they saw nothing “remarkable” and sent her home.

The next day was New Years eve day. She wouldn’t get out of bed. She didn’t want to eat. She didn’t want to drink. She barely sat up. She didn’t open her eyes. We called the oncologist’s office but he was out for the day and the on-call oncologist only said to put her on the BRAT (bananas, rice, applesauce, toast) diet and keep hydrating. If it got critical, to go back to the urgent care again. So we pushed Mom to eat. We got her anti-nausea medication (different from the stuff the urgent care gave her because that didn’t work) and antacid for what we thought might be acid reflux. We encouraged her to get out of bed. To try to eat. To keep her eyes open. She would do so for a little bit, then revert back into sitting slumped in her recliner in her robe, eyes closed. No energy, just looking like she was suffering from so much discomfort and distress.

I’ve been spending as much time at their house as possible, trying to keep her going, trying to give my dad and brother a break. Finding foods for her to try to eat, distracting her, encouraging her. She’s tired, I can see it. She doesn’t want to feel this way. It’s not pain, but she feels like she wants to throw up every time she moves. It was a very long weekend. I spent much of my days there, leaving my husband at home with the dogs.

This morning we took her to her oncologist’s office to get her port flushed (it was put in when she was first going for chemo and they left it in just in case she needed to use it again). While we were in the waiting room, I was trying to chat with her, but she just waved her hand and said, “I’m not talking.” So I stopped. When we got into the exam room, we saw the oncologist and I asked him to come speak with us if he could. When he saw mom in the chair, head resting on her hand, eyes closed, he nodded.

A few minutes later, he came in to ask what was happening, and we filled him in. His first step was to get repeat blood work, especially for the high liver enzyme from the urgent care visit–a liver issue could cause the nausea. Then he ordered an MRI for her brain to see if there was spread of the cancer, which could also possibly explain the nausea. Tomorrow is the MRI. If the liver enzyme is still elevated, he’ll want a CT to see if the cancer has grown in her liver, causing a blockage or possibly shut down.

I helped my parents get settled in at home after the appointment, where my mother threw up shortly thereafter. They’ve got her going on steroids to help the nausea and stimulate appetite, and zantac for the acid reflux. After I confirmed the medications with my dad, and their schedule, I left to go see T because that appointment was previously scheduled. I made the drive there, got through the front desk check-in and the wait to get into T’s office. By the time she walked in from her bathroom break between clients, I was already crying. And I cried through the whole appointment. I’m not ready for this…whatever it is. I’m not ready to see her suffer like this. I’m not ready to see her go downhill. I hope this is a blip, something weird, and she’ll perk back up again. I hope. Goddammit I hope. I want to hope.

My brother (who lives with my parents) and I are trying to handle her business. Bills, insurance issues, investment issues, a few business issues. I’m trying to help handle the medical appointments, like canceling the upcoming physical therapy appointment that she can’t get to tomorrow. I’m afraid I can’t keep up with everything.

Butthead started limping again last week, for no reason. We put her on pain medication, but it doesn’t seem to be doing much. We’re supposed to leave her on it for 7 days, which would be tomorrow. I can’t even take her to my parents’ house when I go over because she’ll want to play with their dog and that could cause problems with Butthead’s already bad recovery. So I’m pulled in the different directions. My husband, my parents, the dogs. And I feel guilty for thinking about the dogs when my mother is suffering and struggling.

My husband understands. He has told me multiple times over the last week that he understand that I need to be with my mom and help them. That doesn’t mean it isn’t on my mind that I’ve been leaving him to fend for himself day after day. He’s leaving work at lunch to come home and take care of the dogs while I’m running around with my parents and my own appointments. The dogs are getting left home alone more and more as I’m running in and out to my parents and all the appointments. I’m constantly sending out emails to update my uncle and brother. I’m constantly answering their questions via email. I’m responding to queries from relatives. I’m taking notes at the doctor’s.

It’s not that I resent any of this. I don’t. I just feel pulled. I feel strained. And this is only the beginning of the terrible journey. And I know I won’t be able to keep this pace up for any length of time. I don’t know when to find help. If this is some kind of virus or something “minor” and not the cancer, then I don’t want to rush out to find help/caregivers for my mom. If it IS time to find assistance, I’m not even sure where to start.

I’m both exhausted and frozen. I’m both terrified and overwhelmed. I keep trying to push away the emotions to stay on task, with T’s voice in my head telling me to take time to feel the emotions. To let them come, to nurture them and let the “child” feel the pain of this situation. I told her I’m afraid if I do that, I won’t be able to pull it back together to do the things that need to be done.

It’s too much. It’s so much.

I keep trying to stay in the moment. I can’t control what is happening. Every plan I make will be blown away by whatever is coming next. Why waste my time planning?

My own six month post-cancer diagnosis checkup is in two weeks. I can’t even…there’s no room for it in my head. I also have an abnormal blood work follow-up for high calcium in February. I’m also seeing second therapist specializing in EMDR and hypnotherapy, to try to work on some other issues. That’s another post.

I’m sorry, after all that babble and blather, I feel I’m leaving this post incomplete. A long sentence without a period. I just have nothing.

 

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Picture this…

Oh yes, well, um, sorry, but no can do.

Ask me to picture something in my mind and my creative brain will give the a description of the “picture” to the smallest detail you require, but I cannot actually picture what was described. I can’t bring up an image if I close my eyes. I do not see a photo, a television or movie screen, art on a canvas, my husband’s face, my beloved deceased Sweet Pea…

Ask me to describe any of those things and I can (and will). Ask me where something is in my house and I can tell you, down to what close, what shelf, which side of the shelf, behind what other object. I can…but I can’t bring up an image of that item. I’m broken that way, and I don’t know why.

The reason behind this weird rant is that I get to fly (woo hoo–not) in September to my niece’s wedding. I haven’t flown in more than 25 years. Prior to that, I flew several times…mostly on full size airplanes, but twice in a small six-seater plan (flown by my aunt and uncle). Not one of the flights I’ve been on has been uneventful. I’ve had really bad take-offs, really bad turbulence, really bad landings. One flight had turbulence the entire flight. Another flight, we were landing in a storm and the 747 we were on–full size plane–actually tipped sideways as we were descending to the runway. The flight with my aunt and uncle, the landing was so windy that not only did the plane sway violently as we tried to descend, but my two younger cousins who were sitting across from us, facing us, were throwing up as we tried to land. And they flew almost every weekend with their parents (my aunt and uncle–the pilots).

I don’t like to fly. I’m not a good flyer. I will pretty much drive almost anywhere rather than fly. But driving to my niece’s wedding did not seem to be prudent, in that the drive would be 12-14 hours long, for a four hour wedding. And the wedding is on a Sunday afternoon, so getting home would take us into the work week, which was going to be a problem for Hub. In addition, if I drove, my parents were going to want to drive with us…and my father is not a good driver anymore. It’s sad to say, but true. He has some physical issues that wouldn’t be good on a 12 hour trip, and he’s not one to let others drive even though we’re all perfectly able. Plus, his reaction time isn’t so good anymore. And no matter how I tried to work it, I couldn’t talk my way out of attending the wedding (I’m not particularly close to my niece as my brother and his family have lived that distance away from us for most of her growing up years and they rarely visit).

So to that end, we have to fly to the wedding. Hub and I are flying into the destination Sunday morning and flying home Sunday night. We’ve made this decision because of Butthead, who had her crutiate ligament surgery less than four weeks ago. She’ll still be in “recovery” when we need to be at the wedding, so we don’t want to leave her for too long. We’re fortunate that a very good friend of mine is going to come stay with the dogs while we’re gone for the day…and I trust her with our dogs. Before we go and after we get back, we’ll be watching my parents’ dog, too. But she can’t be with Butthead in a normal fashion because Butthead can’t play yet (see crutiate ligament recovery), so we have to restrict their together time and it has to be very supervised.

I was trying to find ways to make flying an easier experience for me. Initially, T suggested hypnotherapy, and I tried to get appointments with local hypnotherapists, but one was booked for a year (a YEAR), and the other could only fit me in with two appointments before the flight, one of which was barely three days before the flight, so I cancelled those. I tried a third hypnotherapist, but she was traveling in August and September and wouldn’t be able to fit me in before the flight. I was hoping to try other options, one of which was a guided meditation someone made for me to reduce my flying anxiety. Although it was a nice meditation, it included bringing up a picture of a plane in my mind and replacing it with a picture of something nice. But I realized at that point, I wasn’t able to bring up either image.

So I turned to youtube hoping to find some videos on hypnotherapy and/or relaxation techniques for flying. But once again, they were all trying to get me to PICTURE things in mind. Picture things to relax, picture things to move into a hypnotic state. I can’t do those things, and I was stressing out so much over it that I was in tears. Hub told me there must be another way to relax or move into a hypnotic state without picturing things, but I couldn’t find anything. Everyone wants you to picture good things, or picture a staircase, or picture your loved one…a beautiful meadow, a waterfall… and I can’t. It’s so frustrating it really pushed me over it tears. It’s the first time I’ve cried since my second surgery. And it wasn’t hormonal, it was just pure frustration and distress. And it sucks.

I don’t know what’s going to happen. I hope I’m going to be able to get through the flight(s) easily. I’m not thinking about the anxiety of the flight, I’m more thinking about how annoying the trip is going to be. I’ve never been through today’s security measures at an airport (again, haven’t flown since 1989) or had to think about getting patted down or going through an xray machine. Or the size of our carry-on bags. Or how big and busy the airports will be, or the parking… I’m bringing my crochet and a book, and my iPod. I hope I’ll be able to distract myself enough to not be miserable the whole flight.

 

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