A Pat on the Back

How often do you pat yourself on the back?

I often struggle to give myself compliments on a job well done. I am working on that but recently I had a moment where something really good happened and I had to give myself credit for the hard work I have been doing.

It has been one month since my trigger finger surgery.

I look down at my dominant hand in amazement.
Just over a month ago my tendons and nerves were so stressed, tight and painful I could barely raise my arm to dress myself.

The day before surgery I drove to work in tears, gasping in pain with each turn of the wheel.

The day of surgery I woke up with a blood sugar over 300, a bad pump site, and had started my period.

Luckily surgery was still a go.

When I opened my eyes after the procedure I felt the difference immediately. As if my whole body had taken one big sigh of relief. And that was before they gave me the morphine!

This is the sixth time I have had a Trigger Finger Release surgery. I am told trigger finger can be just another complication from uncontrolled diabetes. Imagine that!

However, there was something different about my recuperation this time around.

After the first week I went back for my post-op check up and saw the incisions. They looked… normal. As normal as an incision can look one week after surgery. I was alert, and my pain level wasn’t terrible.

This time around I had chosen not to take narcotic pain relievers and had instead been taking Ibuprofen and other natural remedies that were approved by my doctor. This decision was based on my pain level and how much help I thought I needed to get through it.

My blood sugars were steady. Manageable. Not “perfect” of course but I was responding to my insulin and eating balanced meals and snacks.

I was resting and was able to get time off of work instead of rushing back like I had originally intended on doing. (I can be very stubborn!)

Fast forward two weeks after that and OH MY GOODNESS my stitches were ready to come out!

Three weeks.

An average healing speed allowed me to not have to deal with extended suture time, infection, and over all difficult experience.

When my A1C was 14% and my Diabetes was always out of control, my stitches would have been in for double the amount of time. I have suffered several problematic infections during the last two procedures, and my recuperation was always impaired.

One month later: Physical therapy has been going great. My incisions look fantastic. I have not had a problem with infection. I have gain almost all the movement back in my thumb, wrist and arm.

This is all a direct effect of lower blood sugars!

I can’t tell you how many times I have heard that if I just lowered my A1C my body would heal so much faster. But seeing is believing, and although it took me a REALLY long time to do it – I realize now that it does apply to me too. Not just everyone else.

By deciding to make healthier choices for myself by taking better care of my body (and mind) I am now able to heal from things safely.

My body is becoming stronger each day in so many different ways. Some days are hard, in all departments, but by keeping a positive mind set and observing the progress I have already made – it is impossible for me to deny that I am on the right track to a healthier, and happier existence.

I am on the right track.

 

Which deserves a pat on the back.

 

In conclusion I ask you: find something, anything to give yourself credit for today. Did you wake up on time? Make the perfect cup of coffee? Did you carb count today? Did you walk past the scale today?

Whatever it is, you are fantastic. Keep up the good work and keep the fire rising inside you.

IMG_6386

-Ash

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Cookies and Revelations.

11:00am

My blood sugar is high.


The moment I begin to wake up I can feel it.
For a moment a wash of anxiety rolls through me.
PTSD can really mess up your morning.

It takes more then a few deep breaths and several tries to get my eyes to stay open.

I remind myself to take inventory of my body to avoid disassociating. To prevent my mind from separating itself from my body in a attempt to protect itself.

-Blurry vision.
-Heavy and weak limbs.
-Nervous, anxious, and confused mental state.

The stitches in my right hand throb. My shoulder aches more than usual.

All I taste is metal.

All I smell in Ammonia.

I know I need to sit up. I need to check my blood sugar. I need to give insulin, check my site,and check for ketones.

But I am just so heavy…

                                                  So weak.                                                 So tired.

 

I look toward my window. The light leaking through the blackout curtains causes sharp stabbing pains in my forehead.
My blood sugar is high. I know this. But trying to process my thoughts and command my body to move seems so difficult. The signals from my brain to my body aren’t connecting.

Devon is at work. I need to be strong, motivated and determined. I need to take care of myself.

I can do this.

“You can do this Ash” I say it out loud.

Zedd, my trusted “service cat” knows I’m struggling. He trots over and drapes his giant fluffy body over my feet. (Thanks buddy!) Zedd helps me focus on the present and I find myself in my room and not lost in the empty space of feeling like absolute shit.

The first thing I do after sitting up is look at my Dexcom.
It reads 350. But I don’t believe that.

I prick my finger and watch the countdown.

5…4…3…2…1

428 mg/dL

I give the finger to my Dexcom receiver as elegantly as I can manage.

I touch my left hip where my pump site sits. It’s connected, it doesn’t hurt. Good sign. I dial in the number on my pump and receive 5 beautiful units of Novolog. Then I flop back down and sigh. As I reach for my water bottle on my night stand I see the culprit…

An empty package of delicious Milano cookies.

I have sleep snacked again!

Sleep snacking…

Something that I unfortunately inherited from both my mother and father. Waking up in the middle of the night half asleep, and eating whatever I find first.
Not a huge deal for my parents, but quite devastating when you have diabetes and do not bolus before going back to dreamland.

I do NOT beat myself up. There are ways to fix this problem without using negative self talk, and bringing myself down for an honest mistake.

I remind myself out loud that mistakes DO NOT make me “bad at recovery” or a “ bad diabetic”.

Mistakes make me human.

Events like this put something HUGE into perspective for me:

As I feel my blood sugar come down I make a pot of coffee and as I stand there listening to the coffee brewing and feel the warm sun coming into the kitchen from the windows I am reminded of how it used to be

I used to have a 400 + blood sugar every single day. It was completely routine for me to wake up that high every morning and to pull myself out of bed and go to work, or school.

I would not give insulin for a 400 number.

I would allow only a small amount of insulin for a 500 number to prevent DKA, vomiting or an ER visit.

I was always in space. Empty, cold, dark space. Looking at myself from far away. Ten years of neglecting my diabetes made me remove my mind from my body so I would not be constantly crippled by nausea, dizziness, hunger, dehydration, muscle cramps, confusion, and the overall empty hollow feeling. 

I pour my first cup of coffee am struck again by one of my most favorite parts of recovery.

I felt high. I felt like absolute crap this morning!

This is because I am no longer used to high blood sugars. I am adjusting to lower, healthier blood sugars each day. I am now comfortable giving myself all the insulin I need to stay healthy.  I am often shocked by how I could have ever functioned with blood sugars so consistently high and dangerous.

I get dressed in front of a mirror that I have owned for over two years and have NEVER covered it with a towel because I couldn’t bear to look at my reflection. I brush my hair and teeth and give myself a smile. 

Two hours later my blood sugar is down to 164.

I am at a Sharis eating a delicious lunch filled with protein and a biscuit with gravy.

Because that is what I want to eat. Because I am hungry (something I rarely felt in the troughs of Diabulimia).

I do not worry that my lunch bolus will make me gain weight.

I enjoy my food.

I bolus so I can have the energy to go for a walk later this afternoon.

Life in Recovery is amazing.
Reflection during recovery can be hard, scary, and sad. But it can also blow you away. Recovery shows you how strong you are. How you have survived! And it reminds you of all the amazing progress you are making. Some days are harder than others but anything worth doing is hard work.

You can do this.
So can I.

Life is beautiful.

Even when you eat all the cookies.

 

-Ash

Life After Lithium [Part 2 of 2]

“Life stands before me like an eternal spring with new and brilliant clothes.”

– Carl Friedrich Gauss

 

Life without medication is hard.

But it is beautiful.

 

It was a few weeks after I stopped taking Lithium when things started to…change.

Sounds, sights, and emotions seemed to now be super prominent.

Loud and pure.

It was as if the world was showing itself to be in full brilliant color and sound.

It was overwhelming at times, and still is.

I began to feel frustration, aggravation, and anger. Which were the emotions I never seemed to fully experience on medication. I had to work with my therapist on communicating with people when I was upset about something more efficiently.  I am really good at talking to people when things are good, or when I need to comfort someone. But when I am sad, frustrated or upset – it is a new process to be able to speak my feelings out loud instead of bottling them up.

Did I already mention that life without medication is hard?

I cry. I laugh. I smile. I get grumpy. I get frustrated (a lot). I get impatient. I get excited.

All without the screen. The filter. The dimming cover of ‘protection’ that was placed over me by medication.

I feel closer than ever to the people I love, and every person I interact with.

I am more present in my existence than I ever have before.

Each time I start to feel anxiety I fill my lungs with air and slowly release my breath.

I am working on connecting with my body. I am learning how to not disassociate and remove my mind from my body when I am ill or in pain. Which is very difficult.

This has been a test in itself recently as the days count down to my surgery. The pain in my right (dominant) hand, wrist, and arm is excruciating. It is hard to not completely lose myself in focusing only on how much pain I am in and nothing else.  Especially when it has now triggered horrifying nightmares.

Even typing this post hurts. But typing one handed gives me a lesson in patience.

I really wanted to get these posts done before next week’s surgery!

When I came off medication I thought there may be a physical change in my body. But I soon realized that the changes my body was experiencing was coming from the progress I have made in my recovery from Diabulimia. My hair is healthier and grows now. My acne has finally begun to clear (thank God!). I am starting to get my strength back.

But one thing I did notice after the medication completely left my body was ‘the glow’.

There is a brightness, a glow in my face now. I am seeing things in a new light, my happiness has begun to shine out of me in a new pure light. My eyes are focused and sharp. My smile wider and more brilliant.

I am happy. And it shows.

Although in many ways I have done all this myself, I could not have done it without my support system. I believe we were not put on this planet to walk alone. In order to do great things for ourselves we need to have a good support system. Even if it is just one person. Someone who can remind you of your goals, and how strong you are. How much you have overcome and accomplished already – and how much you will achieve in the future. I encourage anyone who reads this to find that person or those people. It is up to YOU to decide how you will live the life you desire. By having a solid support system you can only move closer to your goal. Take your time to select the people you trust. And when you find them remind yourself that it is OK to feel weak sometimes. It is OK to lean on others. Love in all its forms is the best medicine for the soul. Communicate in the best way you know how. Whatever life experience you are going through, good or bad, embrace it. Learn something from yourself every day.

Do not forget to breathe.

For me – Life without Lithium is brilliant and free.

Whether you are on medication or not. No matter what your struggles or goals are…  

Life is beautiful. And it is happening right now.

 

How will you enjoy it today?

 

-Ash

The Dark Abyss [Part 1 of 2]

Empathy:

ˈempəTHē/

noun

  1. the ability to understand and share the feelings of another.

(Source: google.com)

 

Antidepressant:

adjective
1.
of or relating to a substance that is used in the treatment of mood disorders, as characterized by various manic or depressive effects.

(Source: dictionary.com)

I have been thinking about writing this post since I created this blog. But in order to start writing this I had to take time to really reflect on my experience and become emotionally ready to share this experience. I also had to create the perfect music playlist to listen to while doing so.  😉

With the help of my trusty emotional support cat Zedd currently sitting on my lap, caffeine in hand and a few deep breaths… I am ready.

 

I was fifteen the first time I took an antidepressant.

I don’t remember the doctor who gave it to me.

I was hopeful. Excited.

I didn’t know what to expect. All I knew was I wanted to feel better. Hell, I wanted to feel anything but the bleak gray sadness that had settled over me like a heavy blanket.

I was in tenth grade when I swallowed my first Effexor. I spent the rest of the day patiently waiting for relief that never came. The next day came and I swallowed the second pill greedily with a Diet Coke.

Weeks went by and I walked the halls of another new high school, wrote constantly in my journal and spent hours looking in the mirror for a difference in my appearance. As if taking this medication would somehow make me look happier.

I had been cutting myself for three years at that point. When the medication regimen began there was more time in between each cut. I had met someone at my new high school who quickly became my best friend. Our growing friendship helped me reconsider my choices to self mutilate. Eventually I stopped cutting for almost a year. It was a big accomplishment for me. I was almost proud of myself. Almost.

Shortly after that I was admitted to an psychiatric unit for the first time.

The memory is a bit fuzzy but this is what I can recall:

I remember coming home from school one day after days of planning to take my own life. The pills weren’t working. I still felt numb. I barely ate. I hardly ever did insulin. My blood sugars were consistently high. My body felt strange to me. I would touch my arms and legs and try to feel the connection between my limbs and my brain…but there was nothing. I felt ugly. Worthless. Weak.

I didn’t think about my parents. I wasn’t thinking about my siblings who loved and depended on me. I thought: “Everyone will be fine without me. They will learn to live their lives without me and will move on.”

I remember hot tears streaming down my frozen winter cheeks.

This isn’t right. They need you.

I don’t remember what happened next. But I remember being in the passenger seat of our car as my mother drove me to the hospital that had an adolescent psychiatric unit.

I remember her telling me that taking my life would be extremely selfish. It would destroy her and my siblings.

I knew she was right. But I still didn’t care.

My first psych unit stay is a blur as well. My medication was “adjusted”. I stayed in my room. I didn’t speak. I was fed four times a day. I was given insulin and my blood sugars lowered significantly.

I was given Ativan for anxiety.

And that is when I began the descent into the medication abyss.

When I was discharged a week later I felt better. Hopeful that I could manage my depression from home. Hopeful I could maybe be “normal”. The Ativan helped me sleep, but gave me terrifying nightmares. I would wake up next to my journal and see numbers and words that made no sense scribbled violently on multiple pages – and have no memory of writing them.

One year later I was back in a different unit. This time an adult unit because I had turned seventeen.

My anxiety consumed me. Inside my bare and cold hospital room I remember feeling panic spreading through my entire body. I remember swallowing a pill that was given to me with water.

According to my Father – he came to visit later that day and found me drooling on myself, staring into space. When we spoke to me I looked at him as if I didn’t know who he was.

My first experience with BuSpar and Valium.

Ativan became my best friend. My weapon against crippling anxiety.

Before school – a tiny white pill.

Before bed – a tiny white pill and two Effexor.

I was only ever present for fractions of my day.

Over the next fifteen years I tried different pills for different things. All with the same result…

I would have good periods of time where I could feel.

I became an adult. I started college. I had sex. I traveled. I went for walks.

I was admitted to a psych unit five times. Each experience was different yet the same. All at once. The beds were always the same. The food always sucked. I would befriend a fellow patient. Journal. Read. Stare at a TV screen and speak to psychiatrists that didn’t have time to get to know me.

I even fell in love with someone…In a psych unit.

Life was passing me by in a blur. I felt like I had no control. Part of me was always missing. And I didn’t know if I would ever find it. When I opened my eyes in the morning I lived a life that was removed. Relationships, experiences, and events always felt far away.

Psych wards are always freezing cold. No matter how many hours, or days pass you never warm up. In the last one they let us go outside three times a day for smoke breaks and I would stand, face to the sun trying to feel its warmth. Maybe it was the medication, or something else – but I never felt it. I was still cold, hollow, and lost.

Medication took me to a place I never want to go back to again. A deep, dark, abyss. Where time eluded me. I lost pieces of myself. My mind thought of things then lost them. It was as if I was in a constant nightmare, and I felt I would never return to the sunlight.

Lithium was the last medication I tried. A little over a year ago.

I had moved to Oregon and begun a new life. I was in recovery for Diabulimia and I was starting to feel that missing part grow and flourish inside me!

But my moods were still ‘swinging’.  I was getting depressed, angry or happy for no reason. My blood sugars were lower but fluctuating constantly despite my best efforts.

I have a psychiatrist here that I trust. A first for me. We agreed on my long term goal of not being on any mental health medication. Dr. H. believed, when it came to me, that with proper blood sugar control my ‘bipolar’ symptoms would subside. And with all the work I was doing in therapy and my personal growth – I would be able to live my life healthy and happy without medication.

We spoke in detail about how Lithium may be beneficial for my mood stability until my blood sugars leveled out. This would be the only psychiatric medication in my system. It would be a process to find the right dose. Blood work would need to be done to monitor my liver and kidneys. But it might work.

It was a hard decision. Over the years I had always sworn that Lithium was the one medication I would never try. I cried as I drove the country roads home with the prescription in my purse. I was so fucking close to feeling completely REAL and ALIVE for the first time in my life. And after a lot of thought and consideration – I filled the prescription. With the tears still in my eyes I swallowed my first Lithium pill.

Weeks went by.

Side note: it is fucking terrifying to read things like “Lithium acts on a person’s central nervous system (brain and spinal cord). Doctors don’t know exactly how lithium works to stabilize a person’s mood, but it is thought to help strengthen nerve cell connections in brain regions that are involved in regulating mood, thinking and behavior. (Source: WebMD.com)

The tremors, dizziness, confusion and constant diarrhea subsided after a few months. I have a few scars from falls to remember the dizziness.

Yet I enjoyed my summer. Went on hikes. Fell breathlessly in love with my soul mate. Saw beautiful mountains, forests and even a meteor shower. I kissed Devon in the rain, danced with my cousin at a Speakeasy, worked as a server in a brewery and continued my journey of self discovery and finding peace.

In October 2017 I was a week away from turning thirty. Fifteen years ago when I was given my very first antidepressant I was told it would be “only temporary – not forever”

I was on the lowest dose of Lithium  on Saturday October 28th. Devon and I packed our bags and headed to beautiful Bend, Oregon. I brought the bottle with me but didn’t take the pills that day. I immersed myself in my ‘birthday vacation’. I took deep breaths and made time to observe and enjoy everything from the hidden rooms and secret bars in our hotel, the dogs that walked past us on the street, and the sound of the music at the Halloween party. I danced my ass off with Devon that night. I remember looking at him, both of us sweating, and kissing him. Thinking to myself I am ready.

I never took another mood stabilizer or antidepressant. The Lithium stayed in my overnight bag and was put away when we got back home. Lucky enough I didn’t experience any of the withdrawal symptoms that had attacked me in the past when coming off certain medications.

I woke up on my thirtieth birthday and stood in the mirror. I pressed my palm to my reflection and smiled.

It was going to be hard. Things were going to feel different now. I knew I would have to continue using my coping mechanisms and lean on those who loved and supported me.  But I knew deep down in my soul…

I was ready to be free.

  • Paxil
  • Prozac
  • Effexor
  • Celexa
  • Klonopin
  • Ativan
  • Xanax
  • Valium
  • BuSpar
  • Lithium
  • Depakote
  • Lamictal
  • Trazodone
  • Ambien
  • Seroquel

Coming off medication was my choice. And mine alone. I have doctor’s I trust. And a fantastic support system. I am eternally grateful to all those who have helped me get to where I am today.

There is still work to be done.

And I am ready to do it.

Radio Silence

Hello Friends,

I wanted to leave you all a brief message.
Due to our move tomorrow, lack of internet access for the first few days, and generalized chaos:  Then The Rising Blog will experience radio silence for a few days. I am working on several new posts and cannot wait to share them with you.

Keep fueling your fires- and burning bright !

Ash

P.S. I have enclosed a cute photo of my cat for your enjoyment.