Mental health update

My sister was transported in the wee hours of the morning to a facility an hour and a half away from her home. At least she didn’t have to wait days for it.

I’ll have to drive my elderly parents there to visit on Saturday during the one hour all day that the facility allows visitors.  She’ll probably be there about a week before an insurance company makes the medical decision that she should go home. She will most likely not be ready.

I hope that I make it as a writer so I can help take care of her in the coming years as funding for Medicare and Medicaid is cut down more and more.  It’s scary to think about. It’s enough to think about how my brother and I are going to have time and energy, or be available to help her when our parents are gone.  Hopefully, the services she will need to rely on will still be there. We simply can’t do it all while working full time (with overtime).

I hate to be so negative, but a guy’s gotta vent sometimes. There are good things that come along and make it bearable, and she does have a caseworker who has been helping her to be more independent in the last couple years that she’s had her own place.

I know that I must have faith in God to provide, and I do, but I also believe that God works through His people. We must fight to make things better for all, while we do what we can for our own loved ones.

 

Behavioral health: a misnomer

This post was sparked by news I just received from my mom concerning my sister.  She has a psychiatric diagnosis. The specifics will remain undisclosed for her privacy, but let me first address the general term.  For some years, the psychiatric field has taken to calling things like depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, etc. by the phrase “behavioral health”, rather than the older, and more accurate, mental health.

It’s a misnomer because it implies that the patient’s behavior is somehow causing the problem. It’s mental illness, not behavioral illness.

My sister was already kind of  “on the edge” lately, emotionally and mentally with her ongoing illness. She’s had many hospitalizations over the years when the symptoms of her illness or the medication management thereof, become too much to deal with.

Then someone from her church, whom she thought was turning out to be a new friend, invited her to a Christian coffee house last Friday. That was not the problem. They both enjoyed it. It was a couple days later that this person said something to my sister about the devil putting a bug in her, or something to that effect, referring to her mental illness. I’m getting a third party relay of information here, but I’ve heard it before.

I myself have bipolar depression.  It was more than twenty years ago, that I tried Biblical counseling. During the months that I was going there, I began to realize I was missing something. It was the fact that I, like my sister, had a mental health issue. When I shared this with my counselor, he told me mental illness is a misnomer. I never returned. I felt betrayed that I had spent time and money there, and shared intimate things, only to be met with a brick wall of ignorance and rejection.

I sought medical help and through medication and God-given inner strength, I have fared much better than my sister, thankfully. As someone I met through NAMI (National Alliance for the Mentally Ill) once said, “But for the grace of God, there go I.”

So, this night, my sister waits alone in the ER for a bed among the mental health departments of any area hospital.  Somehow, none are available in the expansive, profitable “non-profit” hospital networks of our area, save for one an hour and a half away, which somehow qualifies as part of this network area, as far as the profit-gorged insurance companies are concerned.  She’s alone after my exhausted 86 year old dad and 77 year old mom went home for the night, having spent most of the day with her, waiting.

Visitation will not be practical, if she ever gets to that bed. The social worker said it sometimes takes days to arrange a transport from one facility to another of that distance. What a system.

I’ll keep you posted.

P.S. A moment of tough love from a sibling. While the church member should not have said what she did, I wish my sister would learn to assert herself. Hell, tell her off, and be done with her, rather than build it up to this dramatic event. I understand that she has an illness, but that’s what therapy is for. Sounds harsh, I know, but what are sibling for, right?

Sunrise, sunset

A follow-up to Tuesday’s post: I was about to hit the snooze button the very next day, when I spotted a red glow through the closed blinds. A peek through revealed a gorgeous sunrise. I took it as a sign, and opened the blinds to enjoy a good long look at nature’s beauty. Then I went back to bed. Just kidding, I’m happy to say.  Did I get ya?

On the contrary, I turned the alarm off and got ready for work. I got there the earliest I have in a while. I quite accidentally overslept today, but still got to work a couple minutes ahead.  Momentum starting.

Then I was reminded by a news update that today was the first day of summer. It was a good day. Now, I’m watching the sunset on Midsummer’s Eve and enjoying the longest day of the year come to a close.

The lightning bugs rise up from the lawn to meet the day’s last light with their own. Earlier, my cat joined me in my chair on the deck, purring and padding my shirt. He has really soft fur, soothing.  I feel like I can do this. Working a lot, trying to write, keep house, take care of business, and myself.

I guess you have to find inspiration in the everyday beauty around you.  Find strength in the people around you, most of whom are dealing with the same things, or similar that you are. We’re all in this together. We can do it!

 

Photo credit: Eric Ritchey, Summer solstice sunset, 6/21/2018

Time to get serious (and this time I mean it)

I’m talking about discipline. Self-discipline, to be specific.  I’m 60 pounds overweight.  My old punctuality problem is back.  I’m not working out, and as you may have noticed, I’m not writing much. Ugh. It’s a constant struggle, isn’t it?

Part of the problem is that with my weight at my personal max, my sleep apnea is worse, and the lack of energy has made it very difficult to get other things done. I’ve had several naps rage out of control lately. I plan on 30-45 minutes and end up losing 3 hours, or more, even going so far as to reset the timer on my phone to sleep a while longer.

So, I’m not really blaming myself, or being hard on myself, but I am determined to push forward. Don’t worry, I’ll get medical attention for the sleep apnea worsening, but I’m not waiting for that to be wrapped up. I’m forging ahead with my discipline renewal now.

Am I setting myself up? I don’t think so. I’m very determined, tenacious, a little stubborn, perhaps. I know I can do better. You’ve got to do the best you can and allow for some minor slippage when you’re working on life improvements.  Don’t beat yourself up. The world does enough of that.

One thing I managed to figure out years ago, is that discipline is an interconnected thing. It’s hard to be disciplined in one area while completely lax in another. For example, sticking to a diet and exercise plan will actually help me work on my writing.

You don’t want to take on too much all at once, but you do want to have a brand spanking new mindset, one that accepts the reality of the occasional setback, but marches on relentlessly to the goal, knowing you’ll get there. That’s what I’m going to do.

Who’s with me? We’re all in this together, after all!  Go to it!

Where are we going in such a hurry?

I thought of this on my drive home Friday.  Those of you who ever tried to find a new place while driving, without the aid of GPS, or even in the BC years (before cellphones), can relate to this.  Actually, maybe it holds true even with GPS, or anytime you’re passing through an intersection with multiple turn lanes, or other tricky situations.

When you’re nearing a destination, you slow down, right? At least most of us do.

You may also turn the radio down. I remember a comedy routine about that, as though the sound affects your vision.  It may have been George Carlin. I’m not sure.

The point is, when we’re not sure where we are or where we’re going, we tend to slow down and try to focus more. It just makes sense.

Now, let’s look at humanity as a whole. Everyone says that it seems like time flies by faster and faster. The pace of everyday life has picked up considerably. Like Brooks in the movie Shawshank Redemption observed, “.. I can’t believe how fast things move on the outside….. The world went and got itself in a big damn hurry.” Having been in prison most of his life, he didn’t get acclimated gradually like everyone else.

Yet, no one is putting the world’s brake on, even though we have no idea where we’re going or what’s going to happen tomorrow, let alone 50 or 500 years from now.

I know my Christian friends’ immediate thought: God is in control. Yes, he is. I firmly believe that.

The follow-up thought to that is that the second coming of Christ will bring a new beginning, a new Heaven and Earth.  One thing about that is that we don’t know when that will be. A day is but a thousand years to God.

I’m going to go way out on a limb here with my next thought. What if the second coming is an individual, spiritual event when we die?  “Every eye shall see…” Jesus’ return. Well, we all die. I’m no theologian or Biblical scholar. I have read the Bible in its entirety, but that was years ago, so maybe I’m forgetting something that would blow my theory. In any case, we don’t know how long we must maintain God’s creation to sustain us.

I guess as we collectively face long term challenges, we can only individually act to contribute what we have the ability to do. And we can pray, meditate, study, and reflect. We can invent, adapt and expand.

Finally, we need a safety line for this bumpy, chaotic, joyful ride through the torrent of time and space.  I hope you have found yours. Could be religion, a relationship, a strategy or belief system.

In the meantime, turn off the technology every so often and see where the spirit takes you. It’s okay. Take your time.

 

I’m ok, but falling apart, at 46

Unless I live to be 92 or more, I’m a little past mid-life. Let me take stock. Nest egg = pitiful. Career = meh (doing something tolerable while working on creative endeavors.) Social life = a little quiet, but improving. Love life = mind your own business. Well at least I have my health…. problems.

I’ve got Crohn’s disease, sleep apnea, bipolar depression, and high blood pressure. With the Crohn’s disease comes joint pain and stiffness. Fortunately, pain is infrequent for me. It’s more stiffness. I look like an old fart when I get up after sitting for a while. (No offense to the old farts. Actually, I am an old fart to people in their 20’s. It’s all relative.)

Tomorrow will have a dubious distinction: I’ll be starting on high blood pressure medication.  I declined going on it, as my doctor suggested, for the last several months, hoping to bring it down after quitting smoking and losing weight, and drinking less caffeine, and working out more…. Well, I did the first thing. I was only smoking little cigars mostly on weekends for the last year and a half. Quit cigarettes on 10/10/16.  Completely smoke free for almost two months.

Anyway, my doc was more insistent on this visit than in the past, so I figured I’d humor her and take the silly pill, until I lose some weight and see how it goes.  I call my cat Chub-chub. If he could talk, he’d probably be saying, right back at ya. Just kidding. I’m about 55 pounds overweight and it’s all on my belly.  So, I’m on a blood pressure medication, even though I’m far too young for such a thing. (Is that delusional? They say the mind is the first thing to go.)

I take a lot of pills already, so what’s one more? The pharmacy staff aren’t tired of seeing me yet. My insurance company hasn’t dropped me. I have more doctors than an aging millionaire. Life is good.

All kidding aside, I really do feel fortunate. My Crohn’s disease has been quiet for a number of years, my manic depression has never been severe, and I have a CPAP machine for my sleep apnea.

I can’t say I’ve always felt that way, but I’ve learned that self pity is poison to the soul. While it’s important to let yourself feel what you feel, it helps to keep a positive outlook and enjoy each moment as much as you can.

Signing off, so I can go get some beauty rest. Too late. Oh well, I need to sleep anyway.

 

 

One swim forward

I work at a place that does digital scanning and microfilming of materials such as books, newspapers, documents, photos, slides, negatives, etc.  Almost a year ago, I switched from digital to the film department, where most of the material is newspapers. (Yes they still do microfilm, but it’s just for preservation, whereas digital is for access.) I don’t think I’m allowed to mention clients, projects or titles, but I’ll just say I was working on a project today that involves a variety of local papers from just the last couple of years. There was a lot of high school sports coverage.

It got me to thinking about my very un-athletic school days. In particular, some articles triggered my thinking about swimming, and the fact that I didn’t learn until my mid-20’s. Even at that time, it was just kind of learning on my own and not very well.

My sister had swim lessons when we were kids. She was the oldest, and she did nothing but complain about having to take the lessons. I guess that’s why my brother and I didn’t get them. My mom gave up.

There were many times over the years, when it became an awkward and embarrassing issue for me.  We were invited to friends of the family who had pools, and there were the pool party invitations, camp, school trips and such. Seemed like everybody knew but me.

I resented my parents for things like that for a long time. Then, I forgave them and learned to swim, even going pretty far out from the beach when I was at the shore one year. In fact, I got the whistle blown at me by the lifeguard to head back in.

Why didn’t I just do that as a kid, you might wonder? Well, I was very inhibited, shy, meek, and as mentioned, not at all athletic. I needed help. I was able to do it as an adult because I had overcome a lot of my issues. Not all, mind you, but a lot.

I feel blessed to have an independent and tenacious spirit. That helped me to conquer swimming, and many other things. With all of them, the first step was to put aside issues like self-pity, jealousy, and resentment. You have to take a good hard look at yourself sometimes and see your own part in things. Sure, it wasn’t my fault as a young kid, that I couldn’t swim, but couldn’t I have done something about it sooner than I did?

Maybe I shouldn’t have had to, but “shouldn’t have to” is the most useless phrase in the English language.

I’d be lying if I said I have no resentment left toward my parents about any issue. I still think about how little guidance I received as a clueless teen.  I’ll continue with that in another post.

In the meantime, I’ll just keep doing my best and try to keep looking forward, not back.