Attitude Adjustment

Alrightee then. End of feeling sorry for myself…for now. When the horse throws you off, you get back on and all that. It is attitude adjustment time.

Counting my ‘positive pennies’ the first half of today has been good. I tried my gown on this morning and it fit. That is a positive. I picked it up for $25 two years ago at the thrift store. It is actually a pretty gown for $25. This evening my gown and I go to the Mom Prom.

My husband dropped me off on the other side of those two, scary main roads and I rode my bike the rest of the way in to Zumba at the Y. Then I rode into town, chained my bike at the library and went to the street fair.

Since my class was putting on a demonstration, I participated. Participation is often a good thing. Afterwards I wandered around, ate fresh-cut fries and a chocolate brownie (we have discussed my dietary shortcomings; haven’t we?) Also ran into several people I know.

Back on the bike for the ride home. Coming home I passed a whole hedge of lilac bushes. I could have stood there all day and taken in the fragrance.

All told not at all bad start to my day. I may have age-related macular degeneration and central vision loss but I can still savor chocolate brownies and smell the lilacs. Oh, and they had this great group that does Chicago and Al Jarreau and all sort of music from our youth (assuming you are also on the upward side of 60!) The lead singer is excellent. I enjoyed their performance.

Attitude adjustment. Just like the three most important things in real estate are location, location, location, it appears the three most important things in keeping yourself mentally healthy with AMD are attitude, attitude, attitude.

I found a 2005 study by Jennifer Tolman et al. The study was on psychosocial adaptation to vision loss. Also on adaptation’s relationship to depression. Tolman and her people discovered it really is basically a matter of acceptance and compensation for vision loss. It is the internal experience that really counts. You know: if you believe you can’t, you can’t. If you believe you won’t, you won’t. Ya gotta believe in the possibilities in your life.

Tolman published the Adaptation to Vision Loss Scale (AVL) in her article. It consists of about 24 yes/no questions. Many of them have to do with self and personal power. It is interesting to look through. If you take it and find yourself answering as if you are powerless and/or have lost yourself, you might want to consider getting some help. Depression is a possibility.

Another thing she found related to depression was making use of services and adaptive technology, etc. I see that as a chicken and the egg sort of thing. Services make you less depressed but you have to have the motivation to go look first.

So that is pretty much it. We all have our setbacks. We just cannot wallow too long. Sometimes it is time for an attitude adjustment.

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Resolutions

Back to school tomorrow. Christmas vacation is nearly over. We are already two days into the new year.

Saturday after our Zumba ‘party’ was yoga. My yogini was more reflective. She asked what we would like to make less room for in our lives and what we would like to make more room for. That was to be our ‘resolution’.

I throw the questions out to you as well. What do you want to spend less time and energy on in 2017?

I spent a whole lot of 2016 time and energy on worry and running twice as hard just to stay in place. Getting services, finding transportation, etc. Things fell apart and a good part of my year was spent trying to piece them back together. Although I understand I will never leave that totally behind, I would like to do a whole less of that.

What do you want to spend more time and energy on this year? I would like to start moving ahead again. Not sure what that might entail, exactly.

I very much hope to get into one of the studies. I want to be able to write about it here and maybe even speak about the experience. I see things evolving here.

Not sure where, but I want to take some trips. I want to see and experience more and even if I were not losing my vision, time is running out. The comfort factor seems to be more and more competing with the adventure factor when I look at destinations. Not sure when I started to get old but it is happening.

Crazy as it may sound, I would like to go forward from here with a little grace. I would like a little serenity in my style. Not being quite so flappable.

How to do that? Not sure. Acceptance. Faith in whatever you have faith in. This is not my fault. This is not my father’s fault. This is not God’s fault. Shit happens. The measure of a man is not taken when everything is going right but when everything is going wrong. Competitive to the core, I don’t want to be found lacking.

So what are you going to try to do a lot less of? Spend less time and energy on? What are you putting in its place? What do you feel you need to do to make 2017 valuable to you? This is your chance to make your choice. Continue reading “Resolutions”

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Duck or Rabbit?

This week we went over describe skills in DBT class. Believe it or not JUST describing is tough! I put a picture of a bedroom with toys and clothes covering every available surface on the screen and ask the class to describe it. Instead of descriptions I often get a bunch of judgments. Messy, chaotic…I also get ‘should on- a phrase courtesy of Albert Ellis -and told how no child ‘should’ be allowed to keep a room like that!

Judgments and all the ‘shoulds’ and ‘musts’ can get in the way. They get in the way of just plain seeing what is there. They get in the way of accepting what is and dealing with it. Thus, sometimes we just need to describe without judgment or rules.

drawing of an optical illusion which can be seen as a duck or a rabbit.
drawing of an optical illusion which can be seen as a duck or a rabbit.

How do judgments and rules get in the way of seeing what is there? One way is to give us some preconceived notions of what we should see. Another exercise I do is give each student a card with a word on it, duck or rabbit. Then I show an old German drawing of the duck/rabbit. Most of the time people see what was on their cards. The opposite possibility has to be pointed out! When I plant a notion in their minds, that is the only way they can interpret what they see. Pretty limiting, yes?

Although we do the exercises with exterior, concrete things, they can be done with bodily sensations and emotions as well. There are some emotions people do not believe are good (judgment) or that they are allowed (should-ing) to have.

For example, let’s take fear. “Wimps are afraid of a little thing like fuzzy vision! I am a (fill in the blank e.g. war veteran, ex-cop, mother of four boys) and, let me tell you, nothing scares me!” Having that mind set may keep people from seeing what else is going on between their own two ears. That is in the lower parts of the brain, the emotional center.

So, since one cannot address what one cannot recognize and acknowledge, what is the game plan here? (Because we know THAT attitude is a bunch of crap. Whistling in the graveyard, although sometimes there is a place for whistling in the graveyard. See opposite to emotion).

The answer to the question I posed above that lengthy parenthetical phrase? Describe! Queasy stomach that feels like I ate a rock, heart pounding, shallow breath. Damn, that IS fear!

And now we have circled back to acceptance and change, the stalwart concepts of DBT. You cannot accept what you refuse to perceive. You perceive what is really there by describing it without the interference of judgment or rules.

Thus endth another lesson. Try the duck/rabbit on somebody. It’s sort of cool! Continue reading “Duck or Rabbit?”

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Murphy’s Law

I suspect Lin is going to scream at me about that last page. [Lin here: for the record, I don’t scream.] No, my friends, or for that matter, my enemies are not going to let me starve. No, they don’t really mind if I tap them for help once or twice a week. (Once again, thank God I know a lot of good people.) It is pretty much in my own head. Yes, I am preparing and trying to maintain some good independence. Yes, I am also catastrophizing.

I am what? Is that a word, even? It is in psychology. Catastrophizing is having irrational thoughts about things.

The thoughts say things are worse, much worse, than they actually are! They say situations are hopeless and we are doomed. Doomed, I say! Doomed!!!!

According to Psych Central there are two kinds of catastrophizing. One is in the present tense and one is in the future. In other words, my situation is horrible and it can only get worse. Uplifting, don’t ya think?

Now just because “I is a psychologist. I is” I am not immune to this nonsense. I just recognize it a little faster than most. Everyone is susceptible to catastrophizing. Hell, look at Murphy. He got famous with a law that is catastrophizing at its finest: “whatever can go wrong will.” There are also a couple of dozen corollaries to the law. Check out the Murphy’s Law website if you want to have fun with them.

People identify with the thought Murphy put forward. Catastrophizing is common practice.  However, the problem is that catastrophizing is not a positive thing. It is sort of the evil twin of cope ahead. Cope ahead helps us to imagine doing things right so that we can actually do them properly. Catastrophizing has us imagining things going wrong. Guess what happens when you practice things going wrong?  Yep. You got it.

Expecting and practicing a bad outcome generally leads to a bad outcome.

Getting rid of catastrophizing starts with our old friends awareness and acceptance.  Just being aware and recognizing what you are doing helps you change your thought patterns. Become aware of your thinking patterns. Are you using a lot of negative words in your thoughts? You know, words like awful, disaster, terrible, debacle, etc. Being aware will have you on the lookout for them when they crop up. Accepting you are using them opens the door to doing something to change your thoughts. Better to practice cope ahead and see yourself as successful. You can also refute your negative thoughts. “That’s not true! It is not true because…”

So, OK, I am not going to starve. I have access to a variety of food sources. People have been transporting me for weeks. Why would they suddenly stop? Everything may work itself out. Maybe Murphy was wrong.

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It Is What It Is

I am running off my mindfulness PowerPoint slides. Guess who starts teaching in a week and a half.

It is a little scary. Not sure how I am going to organize my space, for example. I am going to need to have my CCTV and my notebook and the computer arranged somehow. I need to become efficient in flipping the CCTV camera around to see students and then flipping it back to see what I am teaching. I don’t want to be fumbling around but I can practically guarantee I will be.

Which brings me to concept 1 in DBT! (Bear with me. I need the review. I haven’t taught this module in nearly a year.) The concept is….ready? “It is what it is.”  Sounds simple, but like so many things in life the simple is actually profound.

“It is what it is” means no amount of denial is going to change the facts. I may deny I am anxious about going back into the classroom with my vision loss. I may wish I did not have the complication of the vision loss but ultimately, yep, I really do have it. No sense ignoring it.

No sense getting peeved and denying it. It is what it is and I feel the way I feel. That is the way it is. Acceptance of what is important.

This is the dialectic part coming.  Accepting things as they are makes it possible to change them. You cannot fix something you won’t acknowledge is broken. Why would you fix it? You are denying it needs to be fixed!

Acceptance of a crappy circumstance opens the door to change.

I am going to give you one more dialectic behavior therapy  concept but first I want to remind you what a dialectic is. Dialectics maintain there is a grain of truth in every position. It involves acknowledging your opponent may have a point. It’s avoiding adamant black or white thinking. It is the middle path.

The concept is: “I am doing the best I can but I can do better.” Remember that one? I mentioned it before (maybe. I think.)

I am doing the best I can under the circumstances but I  can learn to do better with support and skill training and practice.

So I go back to class knowing I am going to have glitches. I go back accepting I am going to be anxious. I go back knowing I am going to have to lean on my students more than I did.

Acceptance of my problems will allow me to start looking for ways to get around then. Acceptance will clear the road for change.

 

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My First 100 Days: Part 2 Denial

February 18th I was in my optometrist’s office. I had the diagnosis from my ophthalmologist but I was looking for another answer. Something simple like needing new glasses would have been nice.

Now, I hate to be predictable, but considering the theory on grief and loss, I was totally predictable. Stage 1: denial. I was not believing my diagnosis and I was especially not believing my prognosis. What do you mean there is nothing that can be done about this?!?! There has to be something! Are you kiddin’ me????!!!!!

Denial, believe it or not, is not a bad thing. It is a coping mechanism. Denial allows you to accept a loss a little bit at a time instead of having it all crash down on you at once.

Denial only becomes bad when it becomes purposeful avoidance or escape.

According to the Grief Healing website, denial and all of the other stages of grief, don’t have a specific time limit. No one is standing there with a stopwatch telling you your time to be in denial is up. “Move on now! Time is up!” Everyone progresses – or not – at his own pace. If it is “or not” however, and your denial actually has you stuck with no forward movement at all, it might be time to see a mental health professional.

The website suggests a lot of acceptance. Facing up to evidence there has been a loss. I looked at the Mayo Clinic site and they say the same thing. Examine what you fear. Jeez, a little hard not to face what you fear when what you fear is a big, blurry hole in the middle of whatever you are looking at!

I am happy to say I probably passed the Mayo Clinic ‘test’ without even studying! Allow yourself to express your fears and emotions. I might have done that a little. (Did you hear me screaming, Australia?). Journal about your emotions? Check! Open up to trusted friends and loved ones (and the cashier in WalMart and the waitress and the random stranger in the street?). Yeah, did that.

There were a few other suggestions from the Mayo Clinic. Think about the possible negative consequences of not taking action (lose my employment, run down someone in the street for examples?), try to identify irrational beliefs about your situation (I will never be able to live a normal life again!) and join a support group. OK. So no support group but 6 out of 7 is passing.

So, denial. It is not just a river in Egypt anymore (d’Nile; get it?😁) and like d’Nile, denial is good in moderation. Just not too much of a good thing; OK?

Continue reading “My First 100 Days: Part 2 Denial”

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Attention Walmart Shoppers

I had two ‘firsts’ yesterday. Not that I had not done them each a thousand times before but these were the first times I had done them as the new – but not necessarily improved – me.

The first new thing I did was go into Walmart  – alone. I was not thrilled with the idea. As I said before, I cannot see faces and Walmart was full of people. What if I snub somebody again? Also the day before I had gone to Staples and had trouble with the credit card machine. Came out of there in tears. Something so simple and I had screwed it up!

Just the same, my husband was not going in with me, so I put on my big girl panties and sallied forth. Here goes nothing.

First thing, make sure you know where the car is, Susie Q. I have already walked up to strange cars at the dog park. If anyone had actually been in them it would have been embarrassing.

I got in the store and got a cart. I know Walmart and knew what I needed. The problem came when I had to read what was in the cases of frozen foods.

Now, sticking your nose on boxes of frozen meals so that you can read them is probably frowned upon by health officers. We won’t even discuss the possibility of getting your nose stuck! So, I did a little Radical Acceptance (DBT concept) turned my mind (DBT alert here!) and got out my near point clip-on magnifiers. Sigh.

clipons
These are my clip-on magnifiers. They look very much alike but the one on the left side is for looking at things close (called near point) & the other is for looking at things farther away (far point).

Turning your mind is a DBT concept that says acceptance of a problem does not happen in one fell swoop. Shazam! I accept that I am visually handicapped. Uh, no. Acceptance happens over a series of decision points. I did not get my clip-ons out at Staples. I did not accept that I needed them and turned away. Bad decision. In WalMart I decided I needed to turn towards the truth and accept that I needed the help. Sort of bite the bullet – a dozen times a day if necessary.

Acceptance happens over a series of decision points. I didn’t use my clip-ons at Staples but I need to use them at Walmart.

OK. So I have two pairs of really funky looking clip-on magnifiers. One for near and one for far. Let me tell you, people stare. They especially stare when I flip them up and it looks like I have…what? Antennae ?

At school I have been working on the problem by having class meetings. “This is why I look stranger than usual. ” “This is what this is.”  What am I going to do at WalMart? Put it on the PA: “Walmart Shoppers, Please do not stare at the strange woman presently in frozen foods.” ?

So, I put on the clip-ons and people stare. So be it. I was able to use the credit card machine. Score.

I even put on my far point magnifiers to find my way across the parking lot. Technically not supposed to do that. They are actually for TV viewing and you are supposed to be stationary. Having everything magnified messes with depth perception. However, I was able to find the car and did not run into anything.  Besides, the far point magnifiers make me undershoot, not over shoot. I reach for something and it is a foot beyond where I thought it was. All sorts of new problems. Sigh.

I used my far point magnifiers in the parking lot and did not run into anything.

I also took my far point clip-ons with me on my second new me first. I rode my bike! To get to the trails I use, I have to cross two fairly major roads. I “turned my mind” towards acceptance of my limitations and walked my bike across the roads. Did not want to but I wanted to be roadkill even less. Used my far point clip-ons to check for traffic. If the drivers stared, I could not see them.

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