Thursday, 23 January 2014

Leave It In The Snowbank!

Yesterday I had an appointment with my therapist. He makes allot of sense and it really starting to get on my nerves. He sits there knowing the answers to what I should be doing but does not share them, as he wants me to figure them out myself. Really??? If I could do that I would have already. We were talking about the fact that I tend to place myself into situations by taking on things that are really not any of my business. He said why do I feel the need to do nice things that end up causing more problems for me. I said because I would want someone to do that for me if I were in that situation. Here is the example I told him:

There was a snowstorm on Sunday. My husband being the brave soul he is drove my family and I to town in order to get some basics at Walmart. While we were in town I asked if he would take me to the bank. He agreed and I said "I will just run in". As I was exiting the vehicle I remembered that my daughter had asked me to get her more elastics for her Rainbow Loom. "I will just run to the bank, then XS Cargo and be right back" I assured him. XS Cargo was nearly sold out of elastics and all that was left were mixed colours of camouflage. As I ran out the door and across the slippery sidewalk towards the Dollar Tree to get my daughter the perfect combination of elastics I gestured to my husband that I had to run over and would be one minute. I meant it too. I was determined to turn a blind eye to all the enticing craft goodies and just get to my target. As I approached the door I happened to notice a very new looking Blackberry in the slush. Crap. I could not leave it there. The water would ruin what looked to be an expensive phone. It would only take a minute to grab it and take it inside to the clerk where the owner could salvage it. Racing towards the elastics the phone begins to ring. Its not my phone so I would of course not answer it. That would be rude. Oh, but what if it was the owner wanting desperately to find their phone. How would they know where it was if I did not answer the phone? After the second time it rang I figured it must be the owner so I cautiously answered the phone. "Belleville City Police, what is your emergency." What???? I told the person on the end of the line that I had no emergency and was not calling them, in fact I had just grabbed the phone out of the slush and was leaving it at Dollar Tree. The voice said that they would just send an officer over to pick the phone up and then the owner could get it at the police station. That sounded good to me. I grabbed the elastics and raced over to the counter. Behind me I heard the breathless, desperate sound of a teenage boy inquiring if anyone had found his phone. "I did" I answered happy to be able to return the phone. "The police just called on it though and they are coming to pick it up, maybe you can just show some ID and sign something saying you are the owner of the phone". This seemed perfectly reasonable to me. The boy lost it. I won't offend your sensibilities by repeating some of the language but needless to say the young man in question thought I had called the police on him and now he could not get his phone back because he had no id. The clerk at the Dollar Tree reaches for my purchase and says "I am just interested in what you are buying, this has nothing to do with me." Well, thanks for nothing Honey. I tried to explain to her what had happened but she looked at me with such a blank expression I knew the elevator was stuck mid floor. Finally after a very long awkward silence at the realisation that this woman had no intention of helping me out, the other clerk said "Well it seems clear that it is the boy's cell phone, take it and when the police come we will let them know it was returned to the owner. "  Perfect. Great Idea. I am free of the phone. I rush outside to my husband and children, surprised to find that he is perturbed at the length of time I had spent in the store. I explained about the phone, the police, the kid and the belligerent clerk feeling quite certain he would see things my way, to which he answered "You should have left the phone in the snowbank."

When I recounted this incident to my counsellor he asked me what was the right thing to do. "Pick up the phone and take it inside" I knew I had done the right thing. "Yes, take it inside and place it on the checkout counter, not answering it, not caring if the clerk wanted to take charge of the phone, not going above and beyond to try to see the phone safely returned to its owner." He said this is the Goldilocks principle "It's either too hot or too cold but I have to find the just right. Until I can just pick the phone up and leave it on the counter I should just Leave it in the Snowbank. 
I left his office feeling rather deflated at the thought that the world is such a bleak place that the good guy really does finish last...every good deed does not go unpunished. With the resolve to do what I had to do to change my situation I was determined to follow his instructions and practise "Not giving a damn" for the next two weeks. I made it as far as the parking garage where the payment machine was broken before I failed to not give a damn. I spent at least an extra 45 minutes redirecting patrons to an alternate machine (it costs $15 if you lose your ticket in the broken one) and helping a young woman with a stroller navigate the parking garage to get to the other machine. Crap. Why can't I stop it. Why can't I just walk past. Pretend I don't see. I stopped in the chapel on the way out of the hospital. A habit that I got in to some time ago. I took my Bible from my purse hoping that God would somehow tell me what I should do.I randomly opened to the book of Isaiah and read Chapter 42 Verses 6-8

6 I, the Lord, have called you in saving justice, I have grasped you by the hand and shaped you; I have made you a covenant of the people and light to the nations,
7 to open the eyes of the blind, to free captives from prison, and those who live in darkness from the dungeon.
8 I am the Lord, that is my name! I shall not yield my glory to another, nor my honour to idols.

I think God wants me to go over the top to do the right thing. Go out of my way to help others. To be a light. Until he tells me otherwise I am going to run with that.So I think that I respectfully disagree that I should not give a damn. Maybe no one else will be changed by my actions....maybe no one will ever notice....maybe I do cause my own chaos...but maybe that suffering is part of my journey. Maybe the thing is not to change that very part of me that makes me ...welll, me...maybe the trick is for me to learn to cope better with the chaos that I inflict upon myself. Bare the consequences with more awareness that they are the price I have chosen to pay for my actions.  Do you create your own chaos too? Take inventory of yourself today and decide if the price is too high. Should you make the changes you need to make in order to achieve your goals, or would you like me, rather put your efforts into strategies to deal with the fallout? My thoughts and prayers are with you.

Monday, 20 January 2014

How Smart Is Your Right Foot?

Don't worry my friends I am not being very deep or insightful tonight. Last night my friend emailed me a little trick. I happened to be seated in a lazy boy recliner at the time so I figured the least I could do was lift up my right foot and give this a try. It sounds so very simple:

HOW SMART  IS   YOUR  RIGHT  FOOT ?    You have to try this please, it  takes 2 seconds. I could not believe this!!! It is from an orthopedic  surgeon................This will boggle your mind and it will keep you trying  over and over again to see if you can outsmart your foot, but, you can't. It's  pre-programmed in your brain !     1). Without anyone  watching you (they will think you are GOOFY....) and while sitting at your  desk in front of your computer, lift your right foot off the floor and  make   clockwise   circles.    2). Now,  while doing this, draw the number '6' in the air with your right hand.  Your foot will   change direction.    I told you  so !!! And there's nothing you can do about it! You and I both know how  stupid it is, but before the day is done you are going to try it again, if  you've not already done so. Send it to your friends to frustrate them too.

So of course I could not do it. My 11 year old son noticed me sitting in the chair reading from my smartphone and sticking my foot in the air doing circles and of course could not resist drawing everyone's attention to it.  I told him what i was trying to do and he of course wanted to prove that he could do it. I started laughing and my husband of course wanted to know what the the joke was. I read him the instructions and he began to try as well. My son and I were killing ourselves by this time as my Husband would not admit defeat. This was all so good I had to call me In-Laws to have them give it a try. My father-in-law said he could do it but until I see it in person I am sceptical. Next I called my Mom and had her and my Stepfather trying madly to prove they were more talented the rest of us. My Mother and I were laughing so hard I was short of breath and had to tell her I would call her back later. 

So simple....make my limbs overcome their natural programming and do what I want them to do. "Lightbulb" How is that any different than the panic/fear/anxiety responses that I struggle with every day.  I tell my body to move and some programming in my brain says "overruled, this is the way we do things around here." So the trick is....what do we need to do to change that programming? Is Cognitive or Acceptance therapy the key or is there something more?

Apparently there is an entire field of study that works on this very topic. Its called Psychotechnology. This is actually a really huge topic that explores many kinds of tests and interventions. In particular I was interested in the use of Virtual Reality type programs to do exposure therapy. This would mean I could, in safety, run a program that would allow me to, overtime, to expose myself to the very things that create my anxiety responses and learn to react differently. Whew, sign me up for the mobile app for that!

Read this excerpt from How Stuff Works
"After some additional research, Hodges created the company Virtually Better, Inc. The company designs and sells virtual reality systems that accurately recreate several different classic phobia situations, including social phobias involving crowds of people. Now a therapist can take a patient on a virtual flight without the hassle of scheduling travel, go on a virtual elevator ride without ever stepping out of the office, or give a speech in front of a crowd of people, all without leaving the office or compromising patient confidentiality."

That being said, I have several apps on my phone right now that I use for meditation when things start to unravel for me when I am outside of my very safe feeling home. They really seem to help. The trick is to remember to use them. I think that is where the CBT comes in. Take a pause, breathe, turn on my blowing wind or rain sounds. 

It is exciting to think of where this technology could lead. I would love to be able to buy a PS3 game that gently exposed me to my triggers. 

Take time to today to think about what new techniques you could try to improve your reaction to triggers. My thoughts and prayers are with you.


Friday, 17 January 2014

Who holds you up?

January always gets me thinking about the past, reflecting on what went right or wrong during the year. I think that is pretty typical. When I was reflecting today on the road that I had travelled this year it made me exceptionally grateful. This past year at times had me hanging at the end of the proverbial rope by my finger nails and yet I am still here. With the support of amazing forums and communities I have found the support of so many people, not only those that suffer from #mentalhealth issues but just random people that took the time to help me up.

Great Moments of 2013 that really sucked at the time:

  1. Forcing myself to walk the paltry 4 houses down the road to welcome our new neighbours:  gained me one of my closest friends and her wonderful family, a scrapping pal, co-conspirator and tea time chatter
  2.  Attending a group therapy series: that as the name implies made me go where there was an actual group of strangers...and forced me to talk about myself in front of them gained confidence in my ability to overcome obstacles, fleshed out my practical use of CBT and met an extraordinary group of people who like me, work on their mental health challenges everyday.
  3. Quit Homeschooling....ok, this one still rubs me a bit as I loved having my kids with me and helping them explore new topics: my children have expanded their personal circles, their confidence has risen, I am forced to imagine a life that does not involve having my kids with me every moment (thus lessening but not eliminating the fear that without them I would cease to exist) and the extra time has allowed me to pursue activities that are helping my mental health
  4. Created my blogs. The only part that I really hated was hitting the publish button that first time. It was like that horrible panic that hits just before you are faced with your worst fear. I now have two blogs that bring me connections with people all over the world including my new friend +kerry connelly who I admire so much.
  5. .Diving into direct sales. I am not even sure how I managed to get myself involved...oh yah...refer to #1 and my acquaintance with Mrs. Fillery. She invited me to a Close to My Heart party, which usually I would not have even tried to attend, but I went...shaky and all. I have a new business that allows me to schedule my appointments around therapy and my children's school...and my anxiety I guess too. 

There were allot more but I am sure you get the picture. This year really reinforced in me that if we are willing to try we are further ahead than if we stay back and fear we will fail. At least by taking the step, knocking on the door, showing up, hitting publish....I am allowing myself the chance to succeed. What step can you take today that will give you a chance to live the life you dream of. My thoughts and prayers are with you.

Fred Mahoney

Hello Friends,
Today I lost someone that has been a part of life as far back as I can remember. Most of my life I would have swore to you that I hated this guy. He tweaked my nose and pulled my hair, he called me chubby and said I wore too much make up. He loved me. He was always there in the crowd for me. I was so blessed to have had him in my life. I don't think his crankiness could keep him out of heaven, so i will expect his full critique on how I live the rest of my life without his interference.....See you when I get there Fred. I love You.

Monday, 13 January 2014

Resolutions or Resolve?

Hey Guys.  I apologise for the break in posting. Between the holidays, computer issues, moving to another space in the house and a whole pile of family drama it has been impossible to get any blogging done.  We are well into the new year already....almost two Twitter and Facebook are all a buzz with everyones attempts to maintain their "New Year's Resolutions". Its like suddenly as we start a new calendar we are obligated to swear off eating and promise to exercise more. I am all for self improvement (as long as it does not mean I have to give up coffee) but I think we set ourselves up for failure when we throw blanket resolutions out into the universe. What good is it to say you will eat better if you have not established any plan to do so? On January 1st when your fridge still contains only New years party leftovers and some flat diet Pepsi your options are certainly going to be limited. If you want to make positive changes in your life this year I applaud you! Now put away your calendar and grab a copy of the food guide. Put down the dayplanner and grab a schedule for your community fitness club." Tracy", you may be saying to yourself ,"you are totally off topic". Blogs are supposed to stay in their niche. (Raspberries) Well, I am, sort of. In my ACT therapy sessions we have been talking about our values. Our values are those things that we hold nearest and dearest to our heart. In my case it was:

  • 1. Will of God
  • 2. Family
  • 3. Purpose
  • 4.Knowledge
  • 5. Creativity

I know, I am not very complicated as most of you would have known that they were my values 5 minutes after following me on Twitter (@TracySagriff). The point is that if I focus on those 5 things and let everything else fall behind them I will be living a life that is more inline with my true self. So, what does that have to do with resolutions...well I am glad you asked. There is no point in my spending energy and stress making a resolution to eat better or exercise (except for the obvious health benefits) because looking good, being thin and the like are not high values to me. However, making plans to prayerfully allot extra family time like taking an art class with my daughter or taking my son with me to a daily Mass are things that are totally fulfilling for me. It fills my cup. I think its important to mentally draw the line for myself that these are not just New Year's Resolutions, but rather the resolve to become more in tune with what drives me. Everything else is just extra baggage that weighs me down on my path to recovery. This week spend some time examining if you are living your life according to your values. If your not...what is it that is holding you back? My thoughts and prayers are with you.