Saturday, September 17, 2011

Name That Tune # 2

My iPod is definitely getting a workout since I decided to cancel my cable service over a month ago! I just snap it onto the iPod dock on my stereo and let it shuffle through my favorites. The song striking my fancy the past couple of days? Here's the lyric:

"You're just an empty cage girl if you kill the bird."

I must admit that I've been feeling a lot like an "empty cage" lately. I have been spending way too much time bouncing back and forth in my mind, looking for the answers to any number of problems that I am facing today. If I could just think hard enough and long enough, I am sure that I would be able to figure out why my GI system is not cooperating. I could figure out why there seems to be a little "snafu" with regards to my ankle healing after surgery, especially since from an orthopedic standpoint, I was doing better than expected. I could figure out why I am having difficulty with some of my interpersonal relationships. I think I should be able to figure out why, why, why. I mean, why not?

Why not? Because I am looking in the wrong place for answers. I could spend the rest of my life driving myself crazy with thinking and more thinking. I keep forgetting that I will get exactly what I need from God, if I allow Him to be in charge of my life. I wish that I could say that I am very dedicated to regular prayer and meditation. I'm not. I get busy with my day, the time flies by, and I'm too tired at night. What? Those aren't good excuses? No, they are not. I am finding that I need to make a more conscientious effort to incorporate prayer into my daily routine. A couple of things I have learned are that I can engage in prayer any time of the day, anywhere I am. And I have learned that time spent in prayer and quiet reflection (where I am listening to God, rather than talking at God) leaves me with a sense of inner peace and calm. I do not really need to have all of the answers. I just want them sometimes. If I keep spinning my wheels over things that I have no control over, I end up feeling very empty and alone. If I want my cage to be full of life, I need to allow God's spirit and the love of those around me to feed my bird...

The song? "Crucify" - Tori Amos, album "These Little Earthquakes"

Monday, September 12, 2011

Darker Days

It's been a little while since I've posted something new. I have been going back and forth in my mind whether or not to post an entry reflecting the "darker" side of me. I came to the conclusion that I wanted to go ahead and publish an entry, even though it is not the type of posting that I have been doing thus far.

As many of my close friends and family know, I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder back in 1998. Over the past 13 years, it has been a struggle to find the right combination of medications to keep me "stable". Most of  the time, I have found that many different combinations of mood stabilizers, anti-depressants, and anti-psychotic medications would work for about a year or so and then stop working for me and my symptoms return. That has been one of the most frustrating things about my experiences with treatment. I have been fortunate to have spent the last two and a half years on the same medications without needing any adjustments, and have been the most stable that I've probably ever been since being diagnosed. I've had a couple of short lived manic episodes during that time, but didn't suffer too many negative consequences, definitely nothing compared to what I have had to deal with in the past.

However, I am now in the midst of a period of pretty significant depression that has been gaining momentum for about six weeks now. I was hoping that perhaps it was due to my having to deal with many serious health issues over the past year. I was hoping that now that I have been able to get out of the house and walk again after my ankle fusion surgery back in June, I would feel better again. But my mood is not lifting. Once again I am facing day after day not wanting to get out of bed, not wanting to eat, not wanting to be around people, crying often, and other symptoms too numerous to mention. I do not like feeling this way and I am frustrated that I will have to continue to deal with managing my bipolar disorder throughout the rest of my life. I saw my psychiatrist this morning and she decided to do a little "tweaking" of my medications to see if this can be resolved. I hope that it does lift soon. Depression is not only mentally and emotionally draining, it is physically draining as well. There are times when it feels like it takes 72 hours to move from Monday to Tuesday and time just drags on and on.

The good thing is that I have learned to identify changes in my moods which lead me to manic or depressive episodes. I have learned from experience that I can ride through the darkest of days and make it through to the other side. Going to a bipolar support group and having a few close friends who also have this disorder has been a tremendous help to me. I have finally realized that there is always hope as long as I continue to do the next right thing, see my psychiatrist, my therapist, and strictly follow my medication regimen. Today, I am grateful that my depression is not leaving me feeling hopeless and helpless or even suicidal. That is progress. It was not too many years ago where I wouldn't have been able to say this or believed that things would improve. I try to remember that it is always darkest before the dawn. And I have learned that it is OK to share when I'm struggling. No one's life is always good or always bad. If I only share when I'm doing well, I am not being true to myself and I am cutting off friends and family who are there to support me. So, I will continue to hang on, trudging through the "muck" and allowing others to help me through. I no longer feel that this is something that I have to face alone.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

It Pays to Follow Directions

I'm not always very good at following directions. It's not because I can't read them. It's not because I can't understand them. It's because I think that I already know what they are going to say and that I probably don't need to even bother looking at them or listening to them because I'm intelligent, and therefore I'm surely capable of figuring things out by myself! Over the past 20 years, I have assembled at least a dozen bookcases, shelving units, a couple of entertainment centers, a stereo stand, and a computer desk or two. You know the kind made of some sort of particle board painted to look like something much fancier and more expensive than it really is. I've found that they are all pretty much the same. So when I bought a cabinet with doors to serve as my pantry in my apartment several months ago, I figured it would be a piece of cake and that I'd have the thing assembled in about an hour and a half. I started screwing the shelves in after attaching the top of the cabinet. I then attached the bottom shelf, flipped the thing over, and tacked on the flimsy cardboard backing which miraculously holds the whole unit together. Then came the time to put on the doors. I had the hinges. I had the right screws. But I couldn't seem to make them fit. Somehow, the holes were not where they were supposed to be. I kept trying to make it work out. I tried for half an hour, growing more and more frustrated and shouting expletives at the top of my lungs. So, after reaching my boiling point, I pulled out the instructions only to discover that I had managed to screw the left side of the unit where the right side should have been. They looked the same to me. On closer observation, I discovered that the left and right sides were the same, except  for where the holes for the hinges on the doors were located. I had reversed them. The only way to make it work would be to disassemble the entire unit, which I couldn't do even if I wanted to since I had already tacked on the back. I thought about having my dad drill new holes on the sides so that I could make the hinges work. Wasn't going to happen because with the shelves already in place, the drill could not reach where the new holes needed to be drilled. pantry has no doors. It looks just like a bookshelf. But it cost more than a bookshelf would have. I could have saved myself some time and money by going the cheaper route and just buying a bookshelf. Crap!

I think I have learned my lesson. At least for now. I recently had surgery to fuse my right ankle on June 21, 2011. This was a "follow-up" surgery to having a titanium plate and steel screws put into my right foot and ankle after shattering my heel in an automobile accident in May 1997. After this most recent surgery, I was in a cast. I was instructed to put no weight on my foot whatsoever and to keep my right foot elevated up above the level of my heart, 23 hours a day, for 6 whole weeks! After the first week or so I had had it. It took everything I had in me to strictly adhere to these directions. By the end of the 6 weeks, my x-rays showed that I was ahead of schedule in the healing process and so I got to bypass phase two, which would have been a walking cast and partial weight bearing, and move on to the "boot" and putting my full weight on my foot as tolerated. I was thrilled because this meant that I could take the boot off and shave my leg again. I could bathe it and put lotion on it. I could take it off to wiggle my ankle and my toes several times a day. But, I still had to sleep in that thing. And I was not to even think about trying to walk on that foot without the boot. I tried to sleep in my bed a couple of times but it wasn't working out as I had to lift my entire leg in the air in order to roll over and because my ankle was fixed at a ninety degree angle, I couldn't comfortably sleep on my side or my stomach. I have never been able to sleep on my back. So, it was back to sleeping in the recliner for 4 more weeks. As tempting as it was for me to "cheat" and take the boot off at night to sleep, I didn't do it. I continued to follow the doctor's directions.

Today was my 10 week post surgical checkup. This time, the x-rays showed that the ankle was completely healed and there were no indications of any adhesions or scar tissue. When the doctor moved my ankle around, it had a little more movement than he expected. And there was no pain when he stretched it, bent it, poked it...Great news! No more boot for me! My surgery was a great success and I am now able to wear shoes again, even flip flops! I can go barefoot in the house and on the grass. I can step into and out of the shower. I can sit in a chair without propping my leg up on a stack of 4 pillows. I get to sleep in my own bed tonight! What was anticipated to be a 3 to 4 month recovery period turned out to be a 10 week recovery. And it was in large part due to the fact that I carefully followed all of the doctor's directions to the letter, day in and day out, no matter how badly I wanted to cheat a little. After all, I have a Master's degree in Occupational Therapy so I do know a little something about orthopedic surgery, recovery, pain management, the use of assistive devices for walking and bathing and toileting.  Thank God I didn't assume that what I knew would be enough to get me through the healing process without following the doctor's directions! There is a young teenage girl who had the exact same surgery that I had, on the same day. I would see her at his office every 3 weeks for follow-up visits. She had not followed the directions. Because it didn't hurt "too much", she assumed that it would be OK to go ahead and put some weight on her foot, as long as she was still using the crutches. Her ankle was not healing at all like it should be. She is facing the possibility of having to have the surgery redone and starting the whole process all over again. All because she didn't follow the directions.

Perhaps I have learned something after all. Perhaps because my latest attempt at doing something without looking at the directions had failed, I have become more willing to look and listen to the instructions provided by those who know a little more about assembling a pantry properly or allowing the body to heal after a major surgery. I am so grateful that I followed the directions this time, even though I didn't want to, because it has paid off in the end. Now, I can enjoy what's left of summer, strolling around in my favorite Sketchers flip flops and painting my toenails. I think I'm going to buy a new toe ring to celebrate!