Grief Creates a Holiday

I find it a cruel irony that grief creates a holiday of it’s own. The day our loved one dies is marked forever in our mind, soul and body thereby creating griefs holiday.  A bittersweet day of remembrance that is often spent in sorrow and reflection.  We can remember with love the person we lost and celebrate their life, but that loss is also a source of pain that never seems to abate.

Grief is a condition that ebbs and flows; It can go into remission only to be exacerbated by virtually anything, a song, a smell, a place, a situation or a holiday….. none more exacerbating than the one created by grief itself.

 

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Imagine…

We are all stardust of the universe unnaturally fragmented, broken into selfish individual pieces. Each lacking some integral part of its wholeness. 

Imagine what a world it would be if we nurtured each other, shared, cared and pooled our resources to help each other. If we strived to be a part of something bigger instead of every one being out for themselves. If we shared our natural gifts, strengths and experiences to create a better planet rather than compete for our own personal enrichment.  

Just imagine….. Imagine how full all our hearts and souls would be.  Imagine how it would feel to be as one, at peace with ourselves and our beautiful blue planet 🌏 

Just imagine……

Love, light and peace….always

Perils of a Small City

Since I moved from a large metropolitan area in Florida to a small city in NY I’ve had my share of social adjustment issues as well as the previously mentioned problems finding health care providers.

I’ve been here about nine months now and oftentimes I feel like I haven’t made any progress in my recovery journey.  Along with the time I’ve spent finding and struggling with providers comes the typical new patient curve.  As a new patient I have to begin with my history and get to know the therapist or other provider. (most of which don’t bother to read the medical records or summations I bring from my previous providers) It’s doesn’t feel productive and it doesn’t feel like progress when all I’ve done is be a new patient three times in nine months.

I have finally begun to settle in with my newest therapist and she actually did call my previous therapist (who offered to speak to my new one) and get a sense of who I am and what we had been working on.  This alone was not only satisfying but demonstrated her willingness to learn about my history not just from me but from her peer.  It’s still a less intensive therapy than I previously had but I’ve begun to accept that I’ve come far enough that maybe it’s actually what’s required.  I have the tools and I know how to use them.  I should after almost five years of continued therapy.  Of course, in the throws of a crisis, a panic attack or a stressful situation sometimes the toolbox isn’t at the ready.  Metaphorically speaking, sometimes I forget to open it, other times It’s left in the basement and in extreme circumstances I forget I even have one.  That’s all to be expected and with practice and exposure I’m hopeful that using my tools will improve.

The other peril of being in a smaller area is that it makes finding exposures, things to do and places to go, harder to find.  It is more difficult to get out of my safety bubble. I’ve been keeping up on the smaller stuff, visiting stores, parks, and stretching my range as best as I can to keep myself in practice and to avoid the feeling of regression, but lately I really feel the need for a bigger push. Now that spring is finally here (winter saps motivation) it’s my goal, along with my therapist, to come up with some more challenging exposures.

As for a complete adjustment to this area, I don’t think it will ever happen. It’s just not where I want to be.  I’m doing the best I can but I look forward to leaving when my partner finishes grad school.

I Will Visit When I Can

Recently I joined a couple of online groups for people with Anxiety disorders and depression.  I thought it might help me to read the stories of how others deal with their own personal demons.

My heart is opened from my own suffering and my emotions are always at the surface, raw and at times uncontrollable.  I found that tears fall easily reading other peoples stories.  Each story is different,  yet each has a twinge of familiarity, both with myself and with the other posted stores.

I too have survived and I too endure, frustratingly taking one moment at a time.  I am someone with a deeply empathic nature, both a blessing and a curse,  and my heart feels deeply the pain others.

I want to read these stories, feel the experiences of others with similar dilemmas.  They are after all the stories of us all, touching, suffering, surviving, but most of all inspiring; yet I find I must severely limit my reading and participation. It truly is too much for me on most days.  It may seem selfish but my energies need to be focused on myself and working through my own pain, dealing with my own symptoms, living with my own illnesses, and walking with my own demons.

To all those whose stories I would like to read and to all those suffering, many greater than myself, all I can say is I will visit when I can.  At the moment it’s all I can do.  I trust that journeymen and women on similar paths will understand.

 

Unwelcome to NY… Transitioning (pt2)

We arrived in NY in the middle of the July heatwave.  It was hotter here than it was in the Sunshine State we left behind.  Our new NY mini city wasn’t the same area we lived in before.  This area is comprised of a small city surrounded by some small towns surrounded by rural mountainous terrain.  It literally made me dizzy.

Our new apartment is great, movers arrived and it looked like home.  It just didn’t feel like home.  I arrived with my mental health toolbox and did my best to keep in practice all I had learned from the therapist I left behind.

My first appointment here was with a gastroenterologist (for Crohn’s disease).  He’s a nice guy who seemed very knowledgeable.  I signed the obligatory records release, presented him a summary I had prepared ahead of time to give him some history and we had a good first visit.  I hoped all the visits to my new providers would go as smoothly.

That hope was dashed the following week at my new mental health facility.  There too I presented some information on my diagnosis, history, and treatment regime.  It was an intake appointment and was completely focused on new patient procedures.  A first appointment was made for two weeks later with someone who was to become my therapist.  I didn’t like the basement office.  It felt cold, clinical and unwelcoming.

After seeing my previous therapist weekly I both missed her and was acutely feeling the need for therapy.  Five weeks without therapy had passed by the time I arrived to their basement lair anxious to meet my new therapist.  My partner was available to accompany me and I brought Gracie, my ESA, along as I always do.  We waited impatiently in the waiting area.  It was crowded and noisy, two things that trigger a heightened level of anxiety for me.  Facing the glass wall that separates staff from patients I noticed a lot of activity.  People dashing in and out and talking at a low volume.  It seemed tense and busy but I attributed that to it being more of a clinic setting.  It was now almost 20 minutes past my appointment time.  I was beginning to feel agitated in addition to anxious.

Through the glass wall I noticed talk with a look in my direction.  I was called up to the window.  Two staff members, the receptionist and an unknown person standing above and beside her were waiting for me. I was curtly informed by the unidentified person that Gracie was not allowed in their facility.  Their rule was only service dogs were allowed.  (this after the receptionists and other therapists fetching their patients from the waiting room all commented on how lovely and well behaved she was without ever questioning me)

I explained the important role Gracie plays in my treatment but was greeted with unsympathetic stares and a regurgitation of “the rules”.  I argued that of all places, a mental health facility, they should understand the roll of emotional support animals.  My pleas fell on deaf ears.  Now completely agitated I lost it and become argumentative.  I wanted to know who could override “the rules” and allow my treatment to begin.  I had been sitting there for 20 minutes and in my intake appointment mentioned I had an ESA.  I was told only the director could make an exception and they of course were not available.  If I wouldn’t give Gracie to my partner to remove her then I would need to reschedule. I discovered then that the person who had been going back and forth behind the glass and who was arguing with me was my new therapist.  That only fueled my fire.  If I were to reschedule it wasn’t going to be with her I shouted!

I was so livid by now I flatly refused. I blamed them for delaying my treatment further and exacerbating my conditions.  My partner tried to calm me from aside to no avail.  I continued my verbal assault insisting to speak to someone higher. A person came but was simply another voice in what was now a chorus of unsympathetic health care staff.  My partner tugged at me to leave. When I turned to leave was when I finally noticed the security detail that had been called and placed on standby.  Not wanting to escalate more and cause their intervention and my possible forced confinement, I threw in one more dig about how the stairs to their basement were closed which was a fire hazard and left.

I had never been treated this way by any healthcare provider before.  I definitely contributed to the escalation of the situation but as trained staff they did not, in my opinion, handle the situation and their patient professionally.  There was no empathy, no understanding, no attempt at compromise, just cold uncaring workers behind a glass wall.  As hard as it was to find this provider to begin with, months ahead of time to ensure continuation of care, I vowed to find another.

After many calls and conversations I finally found another mental health clinic that was able to “accept” new patients.  Unfortunately I’d have to wait another couple weeks for an appointment.  They assured me Gracie was welcome.  I started again with an intake appointment and was subsequently assigned to a social worker.  By the time I starting seeing my new therapist social worker I’d been here two months.  Two months without therapy.  My new primary care physician was writing my prescriptions until I fulfilled my three visits with the therapist before being offered an appointment with the psychiatrist.

 

Transitioning Medical Care (1)

I lived for three years in a large city in Florida.  Prior to moving there from NY in 2015 I had set up appointments well ahead of time to avoid any waiting times.  It worked out well and I  was lucky to have found some amazing providers.

My most important services were mental health related.  Continuation of therapy and medications were naturally paramount.  My physicians were all connected to a medical research university.  I was extremely fortunate to find both a psychiatrist and a psychologist with who I immediately felt at ease; comfortable with them and their abilities.

At this time I was literally at my lowest point.  I hardly left the house and panic attacks occurred often and intensely. I had traumatic flashbacks and nightmares often.  I tried to work but found out the hard way that I couldn’t maintain it.

I did a lot of work with these doctors.  I could not have come as far as I did without their support, guidance, caring and knowledge.  Some of my experiences are in my previous blog posts.

Having debilitating mental illnesses and not being able to work took a huge toll on me and both providers were extremely supportive of me and to my SSDI case.  My partner had to put off graduate school to support us while I worked on my health.  I couldn’t let him put it off forever so in early 2018 we began planning on him pursuing his degree without waiting for my SSDI determination.  This ultimately led to us having to move for the fall as he chose a school that had a good program and provided some financial help in the form of an assistantship.

Planning an out of state move presents many challenges and is quite stressful as I’m sure anyone who has ever moved will attest. Stress triggers anxiety/panic disorder and mine was definitely higher during this period.  One of the biggest stressors for me was having to leave my doctors.  I was both saddened and fearful I wouldn’t find the quality of care I became accustomed to.

I followed the same script from my prior move and began calling around to try and set up appointments with providers to coincide with my arrival at my new location.  At the time my SSDI case wasn’t yet adjudicated so I wasn’t sure if I’d have Medicare or Medicaid, which made finding providers harder.  Every independent practitioner I called was either not taking new patients or wouldn’t take Medicare/Medicaid, one of which I was ultimately going to have.  Days turned into weeks of phone calls to practically every mental health professionals office and I still couldn’t find providers.

This is a much smaller city without a medical university.  I quickly discovered there was a mental health provider shortage in the area.  I could find therapists (mainly social workers) affiliated with the two local hospitals and a mental health clinic but each had their own rules and procedures.  Differing a little it was basically you must see their therapist for so many sessions before getting a referral to their psychiatrist, which could take months.

This clinic structure wasn’t something I was used to and I felt like I had no choice but to simply pick one and go with it, which is exactly what I did.  I chose a mental health clinic affiliated with the largest hospital/doctor group in the area.  I used this group to blindly pick a primary doctor as well as two specialists for Crohn’s disease and hypothyroidism which mirrored the providers I had.  I scheduled appointments with all of them within the first month and a half of my arrival.  Everyone of them had excessively long wait times for a new patient appointment so it was good that I was doing this so far ahead of time.

With my continuation of care set up I finally felt some stress lift.  I made final appointments with all current my doctors to see them one last time and to let them know I’d be moving.

Of course my therapist was helpful in listening to my frustrations throughout this process. It was her I was most saddened to leave.  We had such a bond and her help bordered on life saving.  She assured me I was stronger than I thought and would be alright.  She also offered to personally speak to my new therapist to help ease my transition.  I cried during our last session.  I was going to miss her.  She was the most important person aside from my partner in my journey of recovery.

Letting go of things has always been a struggle for me but I did my best to believe that one part of my journey was ending but another was beginning. The next chapter in my life was just 21 hours north.  I had with me a toolbox full of tools, methods, strategies, and knowledge that we had worked on for three years.

Away we went… me, my partner and Gracie, our Yorkie and my support dog.