Broken China

Hello, there! I woke up at 3:30 last night with rotator cuff tendonitis pain. While the over the counter nighttime pain reliever got rid of the pain, it may have worked a little too well. I woke up at 9:30 to the remnants of a puppy party!

Crawling on the floor picking up pieces of whatever they had chewed, I discovered the knobs on the drawer in my father’s gun cabinet had been pretty thoroughly gnawed.

If I were fully sighted, would I have noticed it before this? Not sure, but my guess would be yes.

Putting away dishes a little later, I had several, small bowls leap out of the cupboard and hit the counter with a resounding crash. Thoroughly scared Maggie. Although she is the rowdy pup she is also the more sensitive one.

Of course I did not have shoes on again. Dealing with shards of white bowls on a light-colored floor, I had to call my husband for help. Why can’t any of my ‘disasters’ happen with good contrast!?!

If you have not been following along I want to mention this is the second time I have been standing in the middle of a mess of broken kitchenware. Sans shoes, of course. If Lin would be so kind, I believe we could get a link for you…here. There are some suggestions I stole from the experts. [Lin/Linda: Sue’s page is called Did You Drop Something?]

While I really cannot say any of the occurrences this morning incited a panic reaction in me – I actually thrive in chaos; tedium drives me insane – I suspect some of you might have had a meltdown. Vision loss plus insane, chew-happy pups plus broken china. OMG!

I remembered I was just given some 100% natural (and, yes, I know a good, stiff whiskey is 100% natural, too) ways of dealing with panic and anxiety. Thought I would share.

The sympathetic nervous system is the one that activates your fight or flight response. It is the one that causes your heart to beat faster and you to experience stress. Good when it is needed but not needed all of the time!

The system that brings you down again is called the parasympathetic nervous system. A big part of this system is the vagus nerve.

They are finding stimulating the vagus nerve helps with panic and anxiety. The most popular technique, as you may know, is breathing from your diaphragm. There are, however, a number more strategies you may wish to try.

In 2014 Newsmax published a list of simple tricks to reduce stress through stimulating your vagus nerve. Immersing your face in cold water is helpful. Another technique is to suck on something that will immerse your tongue in saliva.

According to a 2017 article in Optimal Living Dynamics, singing, humming and chanting are helpful in stimulating your vagus nerve. This article also suggests some of my favorite things: socializing and laughing, exercise and yoga.

Controlling your reactions to sight loss and its problems is almost as important as caring for your eye health itself. Next time you find yourself stressing, give some thought to your vagus nerve.

And repeat after me: Ommmmmmm…….

written Dec. 12th, 2017 Continue reading “Broken China”

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This Journey Together

I have had a few days of frustrating myself. I have not been ‘all there’ in Zumba or yoga. Not sure if it is the stress of puppy parenthood, the change of seasons, my bum arm, or the fact that I am 64. Probably a combination. Whatever the cause, I have not been up to par.

Then, I have noticed lapses in visual attention. Details are getting by me. Of course, we all know what that is. Whether I know the reason or not, it is irritating. I am frustrated with myself. I should know better. I should do better. I should do more.

Since I am back to teaching emotional regulation in DBT, I have been back to doing a little research. (I don’t like to do the same presentation every time since several of our students are ‘repeat customers’.) It appears DBT and a little thing called self-compassion therapy have some overlaps.

Self-compassion, or lack thereof, has to do with how people respond to themselves during a struggle or challenging time. According to Wikipedia, my ever reliable (I hope) source, self-compassion is positively correlated with life satisfaction, wisdom and emotional resilience among other things. Self-compassion has been found to be negatively correlated with rumination while rumination has been found to be positively correlated with anxiety, depression and eating disorders. (Aldao et al, 2010). In other words, cutting yourself a break means you won’t be as depressed, anxious or have as many really maladaptive eating habits.

Neff, a big name in self-compassion, postulated there are three parts to be considered. These are as follows: self-kindness, common humanity and mindfulness (of course!). Looking at the explanations in Wikipedia, I discovered self-compassion involves observing the situation in a non-judgmental way and accepting it is what it is. Observe, accept, non-judgmentally. Hmmmm….where have I heard that before? 😎

It appears rather than be frustrated and criticize myself, I might accept as my body and eyesight deteriorate I am not going to be able to do what I once could. Rather than berate myself I might commiserate, encourage and be a friend to myself. If you had a friend who gets on your case as much as you get on your own case, would you keep her around? Doubt it.

Common humanity goes back to a guy name Siddhartha Gautama. Also known as the Buddha, the enlightened one. The Buddha declared that life is pain. This is the common condition of man. In other words, you are not alone. If misery loves company, you have a lot of it!

Of course, the Buddha also said pain becomes suffering only when we wish to escape it (very loose interpretation there). That takes us back to observe and accept. (See the Four Noble Truths if you want to understand it more thoroughly.)

Mindfulness! I get a little crazy with all the hype and would get crazier if it did not work so well. Mindfulness is derived from Vipassana, which means to see things as they truly are. It is a nonjudgmental observation of what is. Seeing what is truly there, suggests acceptance, warts and all.

So we have come full circle again. Self compassion: slightly different packaging of some wonderful, tried and true ideas. What it boils down to is this: see yourself for what you are, accept yourself, be your own best friend and remember, we are on this journey together.

Namaste (just felt the need to add that!)

written December 10th, 2017 Continue reading “This Journey Together”

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I Tried My Best

I was raised to be responsible. I am responsible. I go to work and the job gets done. I have done the job between bouts of vomiting, with fevers and with migraines.

I am responsible but I am not crazy.

OK. Maybe the word is not crazy. However, I am definitely not one for not using good judgment or not looking at the big picture. Now, this is especially true when it comes to my vision.

I was at a professional gathering on Friday. One person there asked me about the circumstances of my sight loss. This person had an eye bleed that had started on Tuesday! That is three, count them, three! days. I advised an immediate trip to an emergency room. I told this person his sight could be very much at risk but was told in turn he had other, important obligations to attend to and he would, essentially, get around to it later.

I tried one more time and was again rebuffed. Are we truly our brother’s keeper? I wanted to call 911 and get this person to the hospital. That would not have been appreciated, but would he have appreciated my efforts if I had saved his sight? If he gets to a doctor sometime next week and gets told he has done irreparable damage to his vision will he appreciate I tried? Will he wish he had listened?

I assume our readers have more common sense, but since assuming can make an ‘ass of u and me’, I am going to spell it out. Never, as in NEVER, ignore an eye bleed. Mary Lowth wrote about vitreous hemorrhages for Patient. She stated vitreous hemorrhages are one of the most common causes of sudden, painless vision loss. Vision can be totally obscured by blood in the vitreous. Even if nothing serious is wrong that caused the bleed to begin with, you can be left with floaters. Not to mention blood is cleared from the vitreous at the rate of only 1% a day. That is over three months of impaired vision!

There is a whole list of things that can be horribly wrong to cause bleeding in the eye. Because I have dry AMD and have been warned about the potential of developing wet AMD, a bleed due to neovascularization was the first thing I thought about. There is also diabetic retinopathy and posterior vitreous detachment. PVD can be associated with a tear in the retina. None of these are problems to take lightly. [Lin/Linda: if you ever see what looks like a curtain drawing over your visual field or part of your visual field is obstructed, that IS an emergency which requires IMMEDIATE attention because it can mean that you do have a retinal tear. Most PVDs are accompanied by lots of floaters & sometimes flashes of light that are more noticeable at night (that’s the vitreous tugging at the retina. If in doubt, call your doctor.]

Lowth stated “retinal detachment must be excluded urgently”. In other words, should you have a bleed, run, don’t walk to the doctor and make sure your retina is still where it is supposed to be. Waiting three days is not an option.

Some of you are also sadly aware that bleeding can cause scarring and even more significant vision loss. Bleeds should be diagnosed and controlled as quickly as possible.

So, there you have it, some people believe they have more important things to do. They believe satisfying responsibilities is more important than taking care of their eye health. These people are wrong. If you even think you have an eye bleed, get to your doctor.

As for this person yesterday, I tried my best. Matthew 10:14 [“And if anyone will not receive you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet when you leave that house or town.”]

written December 3rd, 2017 Continue reading “I Tried My Best”

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AMD 101 Lecture

I got to go to Walmart today. Not a big thing but not happening as much as it used to. My husband cannot see to drive in the dark and since it is dark by 4:30 now, he cannot take me after I get home from work. Usually it is a lot easier just to give him a list and he can go during the day. Acceptance and adaptation do tend to be watchwords for the visually impaired life. Having my proverbial wings clipped also cuts down on the frivolous purchases!

Speaking of transportation – one of the eternal thorns in my side – I wanted to once again push self-advocacy. With my ride home from school facing a lot of possible medical nonsense, I asked once more about the transportation people actually getting me home from school. Their previous hours were such I would have had to miss an hour of work daily to ride home with them. It now appears things have been amended and they can actually take me home two hours past the old time. Yahoo! Remember nobody ever tells you when these things change.

You have to ask and keep asking. You also have to make sure they know there is a need. Demand can affect supply. Basic fundamentals of economic thanks to Smith and Marshall.

And economics gets me back to Walmart where they are playing the devil out of Christmas music and hawking everything you never really needed. It is the holidays!

We got together with some extended family for Thanksgiving. I usually arrange things so I can talk to my nephews on these occasions. However, this time I got ambushed. Okay, I actually think the ‘kids’ were the real target but I got caught in the crossfire.

This person inquired about my ‘condition’ and then launched right into the “you don’t look/act blind” routine. I know other people get this because there are a couple of dozen posts about it online. Annoying people with their annoying questions.

Not sure exactly how to handle this situation. I don’t have prosthetic eyeballs and even if I did, throwing my eye on the table in a chain restaurant would probably get me thrown out (although in some incidences that ploy has worked for people). Also, as much as this person and I have a ‘history’ and I could have blasted her, my husband would not have approved. That leaves out the caustic zinger. He has to deal with his family more than I do.

Another thing that aggravated me was she was asking the most basic of questions. Everyone else at the table knew the answers. If she had been interested before, she would have known the answers. Although she thinks it has been a year since I started to lose my sight, it has been nearly two and a half years since my first eye ‘went’. I think that is plenty of time.

But barring the bad relationship, how much do I want to subject my nephews to the AMD 101 lecture? They have heard it. They ask sparse but pertinent questions and the conversation moves on. I have tried to integrate AMD into my life. Not the other way around. I have lots of dimensions.  I have other things to talk about.

Just asking. Anyone?

written November 27th, 2017 Continue reading “AMD 101 Lecture”

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Play the Cards We Are Dealt

Greetings from the lunatic fringe. Home six days now and it is nutz.

Much of what is happening is, well, partially normal. After being in airports and airplanes across the eastern seaboard I screwed up my run of no contagious illnesses. I spent Tuesday afternoon throwing up….at school. I had a case of the flu. Some sort of 24 hour bug I can only attribute to being stuck in a tin can with a couple of hundred others and recycled air.

Fortunately, my office is right across from a bathroom so it wasn’t too much of a disaster. The nurse and others were very helpful and I did have offers of rides home. Did not take any. There was work to the done and after the first time I threw up, I felt better. Really. Besides, I wasn’t going to get anything done by going home. Might as well work between bouts of nausea. The interims lasted a couple of hours each. Also, my benefactor would lose an hour out of her work day, too.

Is it fair to inconvenience folks when they do you a kindness? How much stress do you want to create for others? Inquiring minds.

Tons of work to be done. I would have been more out of sorts if I had not attempted to tackle some of it. Sick at work is sometimes better than utterly overwhelmed.

Some of the ‘busy work’ I hate had actually been done for me while I was on vacation. Anyone work for a bureaucracy, you understand about useless, pointless work.

Sometimes I appreciate people doing me kindnesses and sometimes I object. It is good to know I am valued enough they will put themselves out for me. However, I also don’t expect people to do my work. I don’t want anyone to think it is necessary just because I am visually impaired. Crazy dilemma. You don’t want to offend people, especially when the next minute you may legitimately need the help. However, you don’t want to slide, either. Or at least I don’t.

I had a client today who is physically impaired. This client is wrestling with some of the same questions. Wanting to be totally independent but not being able to be. I tried to explain to this client that, in my opinion, it is not a matter of success as much as a matter of style.

We each play the cards we are dealt. They may not be a winning hand, but if we play that hand with skill, we can still win in our own way. Just the same: what constitutes skill? I am just full of rhetorical questions tonight.

Back to another question/contradiction/whatever with me: my boss at school held up a note for me to ‘read’. Hell, I could just about see the paper. I grabbed it from her to position on the end of my nose and she was all apologetic. She forgets I am visually impaired and I love it. It tells me my work is still good.

Two days later I am at the gym and stewing. People are racing past me and yelling “Hi, Sue !” Clue who they are? Nope and drove me crazy. Kept grumbling to myself that people need to remember I am visually impaired and IDENTIFY themselves. Same lapse. Two very different reactions. I am hopeless.

And with that, I am signing off. That is just part of the stresses of the week. The stresses of coming back and hitting the ground running. My husband found me amusing last evening because I was actually stumbling after the first day at the office. Zounds. Time for some self-care and I did. Food, bath, bed, a little journaling. Bye.

Written November 17th, 2017 Continue reading “Play the Cards We Are Dealt”

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An Exercise a Day

Hey. It is Sunday. I have changed bedding, mopped the bathroom floor, done dishes, done laundry and written most of a psych report (why don’t people look on the backs of checklists?). I have HAD IT. No mas. Break time. The sun is shining. It is around 75 degrees outside (screwy weather) and I am heading for the deck.

Sunday has become my work around the house day. Monday it is back to the real world and if I want to get anything done at home, it has to be done Sunday.

Heaven help me when I am no longer working and don’t have the press of deadlines. Nothing will ever get done!

Feeling good about getting a pup. We picked the lively and inquisitive one. I know she may be more of a handful than any of her sisters but I need a walking buddy. I have been “going to walk the dog” for more than 60 years and going to walk by myself feels wrong.

Bringing me to the promised topic, as well as the promised nagging ?. Exercising is great for avoiding depression!

We have talked about the crazy percent of older people who are depressed and the even crazier percent of older VIPs who are depressed.

Right now many of us are not going to improve our visual standing anytime in the near future. Gotta live with that. That leaves us with fighting the second dragon, depression.

Our friends whom we have not met yet in Nord-Trondelag county Norway have been participating in a huge, as in HUGE, longitudinal health study that started in 1984. One of the things they were measuring was the relationship between exercise and depression. To begin with they found an exercise a day keeps the psychiatrist away. Those who did not exercise at the start of the study were 44% more likely to develop depression than exercisers. Total amount of exercise and depression were negatively correlated (more exercise went with less depression). However, they also found as little as one hour of exercise a WEEK reduced chances of depression by 12%!

Similar studies in Sweden and the United Kingdom found similar results. The benefits of exercise were seen in everyone, including older folks, and the intensity of the exercise did not matter. Easy was OK. Small doses were OK. The idea was to move.

Of course – pushing my luck with some of you; I know – aerobic exercise and focused attention meditation twice a week has been found to improve depression in two months or less. That research comes out of Rutgers. The Rutgers study sequenced the two, one after the other, but it is possible to get both exercise and focused attention in one activity. I am talking about the Eastern practices such as yoga and tai chi.

OK. End of lecture. Just hoping to find one convert out there somewhere. It really does work. Any brave soul out there who wants to try it? All you have to lose is your depression.

October 22nd, 2017 Continue reading “An Exercise a Day”

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Come Dance with Me – Again

End of a busy Saturday. The big news of the day is we met our puppy! She is all picked out and will be ready to come home to her new mommy and daddy on November 18th.

I also got back to my exercise classes. My routine will only be in place for about a week before I go running off on vacation but that is alright. Things will settle down soon after. I hope. No more ride snafus, food poisoning or adventures for a bit.

While I like a little adventure (but not ride snafus or illness!), sameness and predictable are really good. I like the familiar, too.

Such as the Eastern screech owl ‘whinnying’ outside the window. He has been there most nights for several weeks now. According to web sources, that is a territorial defense cry. Wonder what he is defending against? Apparently there is a hidden drama unfolding in the backyard!

One of the other things I got done today was going through some Healio and Medscape posts for articles. They are still publishing that Manchester, U.K. research saying eye shots cause anxiety and depression and my reaction is still “Duh! Ya think so?”

But the next things I came upon were actually related to that article – about depression and mental functioning – and gave me more reason to harp on exercise again.

I absolutely love it when things I enjoy doing are found to be good for not only physical health but cognitive and emotional health, too! It makes me feel so righteous to say I am doing it because it is recommended even though inside I know I would do it anyway. Like being told eating an entire chocolate cake with a half gallon of vanilla ice cream is a nutritious meal! Recommended at least three times a week!

Oh well, that might be a little extreme (a girl can dream; can’t she?). However, the Medscape article ‘Dancing Keeps Older Brains on the Ball’ gave me a rationale for being the ‘grand old lady’ at hip hop class as well as one of the ‘dowagers’ at Zumba.  The article talked about how the integration of info from multiple sensory sources such as hearing the music, watching the instructor and feeling how your own body is moving in space is good exercise for your brain. The researchers discovered the demands of learning new dances every week or so in addition to the balance demands of dancing literally beef up your hippocampus. The hippocampus (seahorse in Latin as I mentioned before) is your memory center and tends to shrink in old age. The researchers ended by saying “our study results suggest that social enrichment and a combination of physical and cognitive activities influences neuroprotection best”. So there!

And of course I got so excited about having a SCIENTIFIC rationale for putting on my boogie shoes a couple of times a week, I did not leave myself space to write about the other two articles I found. But good news: one of the articles on exercise and depression talks about the levels of exercise effective for battling depression and guess what? It was practically nuthin’. See? You can read the next page even if I am being a noodge!

October 22nd, 2017

Continue reading “Come Dance with Me – Again”

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