So, I think that it's safe to say that everybody has a fear of some form or another whether they admit it or not, is a completely different story.
William James is Quoted as Saying:
"Everybody should do at least two things each day that he hates to do, just for practice."
What is William James talking about here, the ability to step out of your comfort zone in order to find things in life that could not only bring you joy, but also be part of your purpose in life. When I began my journey down the road of Psychology, I knew that I would have to do a few internships. I was and still am slightly terrified of getting into the room with someone and completely failing. My undergrad internship was working with individuals in a testing room, going through IQ testing and a few other test that I watch via the video. Afterwards, I would score their test information and enter it into the computer. I remember being scared witless hearing about all the things that I would be doing, but I knew that that was no reason not to move forward. In fact, I was determined that because I had that little feeling of fear in my gut, I must be on the right track.
So, I urge you to think about the situations before you before fear takes over.
Definition of “fear” from Merriam-Webster
So, ask yourself the next time something comes into your path that seems like a great opportunity, but seems scary. Which one of these definitions is your gut really trying to tell you. Some of the greatest things in our lives can come from our greatest fears and the road with which they encourage us to take. Take for instance, as an introvert you rarely if ever talk to people. What could they be missing out on, love or a new job opportunity? This includes doing things that you plumb hate or dislike because of the opportunities that could exist.
I would also like to add that this also includes things that you fear. Of course, if one of your fears is death then I ask that you please not try to do as many reckless things as possible in order to overcome this. Instead, live your life in a different way that allows you to come to terms with the idea of death. Write your pros and cons list if you must. Become in tune with your inner thoughts, feelings and emotions to increase your own intuition. Little by little, you’ll begin to open new doors for yourself and even if you fall on your face, you’ll be able to pick yourself back up, dust yourself off and move one, still using that gut feeling as a guide and not a lock.
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I Suddenly Realized That I was Disconnected.
So, here I was sitting in church. I love going to church and cannot put to words how much I love that our family goes regularly. I love that we are members of our church and I am a proud mama as our little girls go up front for the children’s message. Then as our pastor was speaking, I don’t even recall now at what part of the bulletin we were at, but then I suddenly felt disconnected from everything even from God. I have been dealing with depression for the last few years, so I knew that the depression had its hand in this thought process. I have also started intermittent fasting, which has changed things a bit in my body and I am not sure yet where the positives are, but I am hoping to regulate my body and put in back into check as well as loose nearly 40-50 pounds. Added on top of that, I took what I call my “stay awake” pill, which has a tendency to make me feel a little out of it.
By the time the day was winding down and I was fighting to be asleep by 11:30 pm as I had been doing the past week. Again, I felt like I didn’t have control over my body. I told my husband this, “you know when you’re really sleepy in the morning and you’re not ready to wake up, but one of the kids is holding your eyelids open and they won’t let you sleep. That is how I feel right now. I have been exhausted all day, but now that I am laying here, I cannot fall asleep.” Well, guess what…I woke up late. I had to take a little girl to school even though I had no intention of taking her to school…urgh. I probably didn’t comfortably fall asleep until well into the morning, which is not what I had wanted.
Back to feeling disconnected as I was sitting in church. I love my faith; I love being a Christian and I love depending on God. So, why am I feeling so stinking disconnected?
I know that depression is a REAL BIG part of this. Where I normally find joy, there are often times when I feel indifferent to the things I love. I have to chat with God, so that I am able to get out of my funk, and be the active participant that God wants me to be. Another change that affected me that particular morning was taking one of my “stay awake” pills that without breakfast left me feeling a little out of place. There are things that I have on my list, things that I need to get done like pay bills, hem a dress or even write my words of gratitude on my stole of gratitude that I plan on giving to my husband at graduation. All these things I want to get done, but there is something inside of me that makes me fight every single day.
Fighting an up-stream battle, an exhausted me sometimes just needs a life preserver thrown my way. Difficult thing, I have a difficult time reaching out to people and just being honest with needing help to make it through the day. Thank God that there is God. I know people who are reading this might not be Christians, but I am. This is the only way that I can say out loud or inside my mind that I am struggling. I can scream for help, shake my hands in the air and plead and beg for help without feeling like I am bringing someone else down. I know God has plans for me, but there are just days when I need God more than I need to breathe air. Seems like an oxymoron huh, I need air in order to live, but the days when living seems to difficult to bare, I need something beyond my human comprehension to get me through the minutes, hours, the day.
It is okay to reach out for help. I am a mental health professional and I still need to learn to admit to get help when there are times that I am feeling disconnected. It helps to be honest with yourself with what you are feeling. When I feel disconnected from God, I ask for His help with this. When I feel like I cannot make it through another day, I reach out to Him for this. Being an introvert means that I will rarely reach out to a human because the very thought exhaust me, but thank God that there is God.
Sometimes I am not even sure how to put one foot in front of the other. After thirty-five years of walking and talking, why are there still days when I am not even sure I could chew gum and walk? This life is sure something else and the human brain has the outstanding and annoying capacity to create doubt and lowered self-worth. Imagine, there was a time when I was 125-130 lbs. after two children that I thought I was “fat”. Ha, yup I thought that clothes didn’t fit right then or that I could stand to lose a few pounds. Consider that I am now the mother of four children, suffer from depression, fibromyalgia, narcolepsy and Poly cystic ovaries syndrome, I would love to go back those days. Seriously brain, why did you not realize how amazing you were back then and right now, that’s only talking about the surface of myself.
I had no idea where my life would go or all the lessons I would learn thus far along the way. Truth be told, I am kind of scared for the new lessons that are yet to come. If the first thirty-five years have been like this, what else could possibly be on the great teacher’s lesson plan for my life in the next years to come? I dare not think about it for fear it might come true, but that’s only superstition coming through and not the truth of what life really has to offer. How on earth is that the scales so often find themselves balanced between the blessings and the lessons? Oh sure, my mother is dying a little more each day due to her dementia but look at the marriage you have now (boom, balanced scale). Kind of makes it difficult to be mad and darn it, sometimes I just want to be mad. Sometimes I just want to be angry and throw a fit. Like “a kid throwing themselves on the floor kind of fit with tears and screams” kind of fit, ending with me sitting in someone’s lap as they rub my back and I gasp for air in a hiccup manner.
I laugh slightly as I think of my kids as they allow me to calm them after a tantrum, boo boo or some sad situation that has resulted in tears. I love that part about being a mama, so why do I want to hurry up and get my license already? I know for a fact that I am a darn good mom. When I kiss my kids on the head or hold them, I know without a doubt that my love is real. When I am in the room with a client, I am not sure what affect I have really had on them. I am not sure if I can really start a successful practice. I look around and feel like people do not take me seriously. I feel like folks do not get how serious it is that I graduated from graduate school with my master’s and how dad gum big of a deal it is. I am meant to be in the mental health field, so why can I not just trust God’s will and relax a bit? Why do I know that I am meant to be in this field yet sometimes feel like I am dragging myself to volunteer at a local non-profit as a mentor? Damn depression! Sigh. This life sometimes feels like a joke, but I need to relax and remind myself that the “jokes” not on me or about me.
I wish I had a picture of the baby goats with pajama’s on because that is what the title of this post is about. Throughout life we see things that make us smile and laugh, that put us in a state of awe. And URG, we can so easily pass over these moments. The human race is really so darn blasted talented at not seeing the forest for the trees. We forget the fact that goats with pajamas do not only make a darn cute photo but serve a purpose. Them cute little goats need to stay warm and the funny thing is, those cute goats do not realize how adorable they are in their stylish warming attire. We do not get that in our pursuit to be happy and content that so many things turn out great. A lot of us forget or have never learned to be blessed, an enjoyable type of blessed.
This is me; I am guilty of this. Now, I am fair enough to understand that I have a chemical imbalance that does not make my life impossible, but a little bit more difficult. Never impossible. I have SO many wants and desires that kick-it with my depression and lounge around like teenage boys in front of a video game system and a plate of chicken nuggets. I have to fight myself, talking to myself like I have forgotten how live.
God is good.
Stop for a moment.
Ponder on that.
There you go Sara.
There you go.
One of the hidden trauma truths that is often swept under the rug is the issue of betrayal trauma. Many of the side affects and symptoms mirror very closely the affects you would find with post-traumatic stress disorder such as triggers, sleep disturbances, flashbacks and more. What is betrayal trauma; any time there is a significant betrayal of trust between yourself and someone with whom you have a close relationship with. Goldsmith, Chesney, Heath, and Barlow (2013) contributors to a journal article in the Journal of Traumatic Stress state that “betrayal trauma, or trauma perpetrated by someone to whom the victim was close, is more strongly related to anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress than is trauma perpetrated by someone to whom the victim was not close” (Goldsmith, Chesney, Heath & Barlow, 2013, p. 376).
Sara: So, here I am talking to Megan who is a fellow intern with me at Community Recovery Counseling Center and she's going to be talking about betrayal trauma, so can you give us a little idea of maybe like what betrayal trauma is?
Megan: so, betrayal trauma is when you have like a lot of trust in somebody and they break that trust in a few different ways, as in my case, it was an affair.
Sara: Okay, so your betrayal trauma was an affair and you're going share some of the things you've learned along this road. I mean your betrayal is fairly recent within a year. I know that doesn't seem recent to some people but in terms of trauma, that’s still pretty significant. What are some of the difficult things that you have gone through that relate to trauma?
Megan: So, the first one is “give people room to breathe” especially if they have not had time yet to process their trauma. People cannot make the best decision without all the information. In my situation everyone was trying to rush me to make a decision and I didn't know what to do at the time because my senses were so overloaded that I couldn't even think clearly.
Sara: Like you're not helping anybody by saying, "I got a divorce a divorce lawyer, you know number and stuff. Do you want me to go ahead and give them a call? Give people a little bit of time to process what has even happened to them?
Megan: Yes, and then the same the other way you cannot force someone to not get divorce just because they've had affair and it's not good to put pressure on the people who are going through that because they're having a hard time thinking everything through. Another important thing is not all affairs end marriages. In my case my husband and I went through therapy and we were still together still working through things but no divorce. Trust takes a long time to rebuild, some people say full trust will never return I am personally too early to tell this right so it's still some things that bothers me.
Sara: I think another thing on the flip side is the person who has done the betrayal also has to realize that trust takes a long time to restore and that yeah, You may feel like you're groveling quite a bit, but if the trust is important to restore like you have to be and not the ones like are you over this yet? like get over this move on from this this was a year ago. Well, you know what the trauma is pretty significant and one of those on the number and I think it's the next one that we're going to get to is Why you can't just necessarily get over such betrayal trauma?
Megan: Yes, Betrayal trauma is significant comparable to PTSD, certain things can trigger my thoughts back to that day especially the beginning now, it's much better but like date reoccurrence was very hard time for me. So, it's a lot who don't see house? I see him as like a physical like PTSD trauma, but definitely a lot of similar characteristics to it.
Sara: Now you just told me you had a story where your husband was putting his own account back on Facebook and you were having significant issues with that that maybe weren't even conscious at first.
Megan: Yes, it was not good at all.
Sara: Issues with anger and for you, I'm assuming that you started to feel it, you know physiologically as well.
Megan: Yeah, very anxious and going through the whole process of what is he like an ad on Facebook, is he talking to somebody else, yeah, it's very interesting. The final one lack of intimacy is not always the driving force behind affairs. It's not always sex. Sometimes it's just not having a person to connect to. Everyone has busy worlds, so if your spouse feels like they can get attention from someone else and they do then one thing can lead to another.
The important thing to note is Megan is educated and trained in mental health and her specialty is trauma. She knows the signs and symptoms, and even she had difficulties dealing with the aftermath of her husband’s serious and significant betrayal. She found herself caught between a rock and a hard place, trying to do the best she could for herself and her two daughters. Imagine how devastating betrayal trauma could be for someone who does not know or understand how similar the affects of a betrayal is to PTSD. You would think that you are over reacting, feeling alone and beaten down. You would might not understand how healing takes time and submit to things you were not really ready for.
The aforementioned article titled, “Emotion Regulation Difficulties Mediate Associations Between Betrayal Trauma and Symptoms of Posttraumatic Stress, Depression, and Anxiety” sites a lot of pertinent information regarding the emotional affects that betrayal trauma has on victims. When trust is built within the school, family or military systems, betrayal trauma may cause victims to suppress anger and sadness and victims may even take on the maladaptive truth that they deserved the betrayal (p. 376). As in an affair situation, a spouse might believe that they were the cause of an affair especially depending on how a loved one responds to the victim’s symptoms. In order to have betrayal, there has to be a level of trust that can be betrayed and thus, the impact of betrayal from a loved one is the most impactful.
It took Megan time to heal and impacted her abilities as a mother, wife and student who was working to complete her graduate studies in professional counseling. I could see psychological and emotional impacts as the anniversary date of the affair reveal loomed. She was visually upset, and it appeared difficult for her to concentrate. She jumped between trying to keep her mind off the truth of her marriage and the anger she still felt over the betrayal. A strength for Megan was the fact that she knew that she had to be honest and she was honest with those who she knew that she could trust. Understanding that such a trauma is significant and as Megan mentioned above, you have to give people time to heal.
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How do you feel about money? Stop for a minute and really think about your relationship with money, which includes your emotions towards money. What are your past experiences with money as a child, do you remember the things your parents did that surround and dealt with money? As a child, I remember that we did not have a lot of money. Looking back, I thoroughly enjoy the fact that we grew up with very little in comparison to a lot of my counter parts. My husband remembers his parents making up for not having a lot of money by gardening and picnics by the river. I remember going to non-profit organizations for clothing, food and Christmas presents. As a child, I never thought much about not having a lot of money. I had clothing and food at school, and plenty of toys. I remember a lot of great things about my childhood that included running around outside to play and fun Easter’s where we would have a fun and creative hunt for our Easter baskets. Sure, there were things that did not go quite right, but I believe a lot of this has set me up to be more empathetic and to know that extending grace is not just a choice, but a way of living.
It is no secret that I suffer with depression. Thankfully, my husband and I are blessed with financial security due to his hard work and dedication as a provider of our home. Soon, I hope to jump into that river and provide the proverbial “bacon” for our family alongside him. Now, why did I mention depression before talking about our financial state? Well, spending money for me has been a way to fill a void and I hate it. I am also working on it, but I hate how money has had a terrible hold over me. Now, I am not talking about money problems that bring one into significant debt, but enough spending issues where I know that my emotional stability was connected to my spending habits. I want to give our children the things that we (my husband and I) did not have a child, and I am willing to spend money on them without necessarily making them earn it in order to give it to them. Our kids attend camp and are in activities that get them out of the house both that cost money and are free. We participate is Boy Scouts, GEMS, Marching Band, 4H Fair activities, Vacation Bible School and go on family vacations on a regular basis. I think there is a psychological underlying factor in how we spend our money and I think that we live through our children’s delight and excitement with their activities and vacations.
Cryder, Lerner, Gross, and Dahl (2008) highlight what they call the “misery-is-not-miserly effect”, which they state is, “the tendency for sadness to carry over from past situations to influence normatively unrelated economic decisions, increasing the amount of money that decision makers give up to receive a commodity” (Cryder, Learner, Gross & Dahl, 2008, p. 525). This makes perfect sense to me because I know that I am attaching past experiences to my current spending habits. Adding on depression does not make things better for me. When I feel empty, I try to fill a void by buying things because “I simply can” even thought I could probably live without that extra trip to Goodwill or the extra things in my grocery cart. What ends up happening when I look at the amount of money, I have spent is a deeper spiral into depression. When my husband adds his thoughts and position on money and we try to talk about setting a budget, I dive deeper into depression. I believe that being a student and stay at home mom for the last few years has made this more difficult for me because I feel like I am not contributing. I know that I have given A LOT of myself over the last few years, but there is still a part of me that wishes to earn a paycheck again especially since I have a student loan that I need to pay off.
I really enjoyed reading and article from the sight, “The Simple Dollar” where Author Holly Johnson interviews Abigail Perry on the connection on depression and frugality. I will high light a few sections from that article and then have a link to the full article below. Perry high lights that even doing the simplest of task can be difficult for those with depression from taking a shower, making a phone call or even eating. The implications for this on money includes the inability to focus on the simplest of money saving and spending tricks. There might be a lot of advice on money and mental health, but the ability to follow through on which tips and tricks are best for each person can be an up-hill battle and I attest to this myself. If I have to write out a check and pay a bill, my depression can make it difficult to follow through with simply writing a check, filling out an envelope and getting it out into the mail. If I can get an automatic payment, I will surely do so. I am better at making sure all the money is in the account than actually writing a check, making a phone call or going online to pay a bill.
When debt comes into consciousness, I feel massively depressed especially since I know that my husband would love to “batten down the hatches” and live off of beans and rice to get ride of debt and I am just not on board with that. I want to learn to be more frugal, and I believe I am finally in that frame of mind now, knowing the connection I have with money, spending and depression is the first step. This is said best within the article I mentioned above, so I will not rewrite such a great bit of advice:
So, it has been 2 days since I started my intermittent fasting. I have been significantly struggling with my health, including my weight for the last year and a half now. Only recently, I have really been struck with the reality that if I do not do something now, I will regret it months down the road. I have never had to fight my body like this before, so this is a significant blow to my depression.
Below is my e-mail to my doctor.
Since our last meeting, I have been having significant issues with weight. I had a moment when things were going well, but I have since gained a significant amount of weight. I have also had issues with my fatigue (I have a sleep doctor who I met with earlier this week), which has not helped with the weight and working out. I am going back to the low carb diet even though I am not a big eater as it is. I am also increasing my intake of water to help. I also wondered if you heard much success with Metformin to help with keeping insulin in check. I have never in my life had a difficulty with weight, pain and fatigue, so this has been a significant blow and has massively increased my depression more than normal. Any suggestions or help would be greatly
Thank You for Your time
I would not be asking for your help if this was not a significant problem for me.
Response from my doctor:
Hi Sara - I am not a big fan of Metformin as the weight loss is temporary. Something that would be a good option for you is to read "The Obesity Code" which focuses around intermittent fasting and low carbohydrate diet. This eating plan works very well for PCOS patients.
So, I am going to get Dr. Fung’s book and start to save more and more low carb meals and snacks, so that I am make sure to eat low card and high protein diet. I am also going to fight myself to get into the gym again or to at least walk regularly. I feel like I am on an up-hill battle, trying to get back to my post (two children) body. I would never want to be back to my body in high school, pre-children, but how I looked after having 2 amazing children. Funny thing, back then I thought of myself as being unfit, but I was far from it. After giving birth to two more children, my body has begun to fight me. I had gestational diabetes during my last 2 pregnancies and found that losing weight was more and more difficult after the last two children. Then, after my auto accident, things just continued to go down hill. Every time I thought I was on the right track, something would happen. Now, I am terribly unfit and it makes me feel like I am trapped in my body. I am hoping that this journey will help bring my body back to some form of equilibrium, so that I can become the best version of myself. I want to share my journey to not only keep myself accountable, but to share the highs and lows of becoming a more healthy person.
Things I have done so far:
Increased water intake
Adjusted when I go to sleep
Becoming active outside while the weather is warm
Readjusting where I work out, changing gyms where I can fit more than one activity in my schedule like visiting my mom in her care facility.
So, my chosen career path is professional counseling/ Psychotherapy, which is centered around being near people, hearing from people, helping people and well, anything to do with people. I reach out regularly within my community and on occasion, I speak in public. However, the last thing I want to do on my off time is be around people. It seems like a contradiction, but quite normal for someone who is an introvert. Thankfully, I married an introvert otherwise I am not sure how our relationship would work. I supposed if God put us together, we’d work out quite well, but I think we work better because we have a mutual understanding.
Things I REALLY don’t like: talking on the phone (anything to do with calling and chit chatting). Now, when I say that I don’t like talking on the phone, I mean it. It takes real dedication or a looming deadline to use a phone, but that doesn’t mean I am not good at talking on the phone. I am professional, have a vast vocabulary and I am not shy. Shopping, I’d rather just stay home especially if there is any form of shopping with someone other than my husband. My son used to have a cute shirt that said, “a bad day fishing is better than a good day shopping with mom”. Funny thing is, I’d rather be outside fishing, standing or sitting patiently for the fish to tug at my line than in a store, picking through clothing or food. Okay, so I love Goodwill and could spend a lot of time there, but other than that, shopping is yuck. Lastly, I do not enjoy events with crowds of people. Yup, I do not like crowds of people because mostly, it drains my energy. I’m good with socializing for the same reasons that I am good on the phone. I do well with public speaking and although I love connecting with people, I will probably put off going to an event that has to do with crowds of people. I often do not feel like I fit in even when I am more than qualified to be at a banquet dinner or conference. I have yet to walk for a college graduation due to this reasoning, so it will be interesting to be in Lynchburg for my master’s graduation ceremony next month.
Why did I mention these things? Partly to explain what an introvert can do and what they really do not like to do at all. There are some introverts who thoroughly detest being around people and there are those who do well around people, but it’s not what they do to refresh themselves. Each introvert will have their own coping mechanisms for connecting and dealing with people. For a few, it’s using humor to break the ice, a laugh used as a buffer or energizer within a conversation. It might make it easier to connect with people. I am one of these individuals and so is the pastor of my church. This makes it easier to form a trusting bond.
I also mentioned some of my introvert tendencies because another one of my tendencies is the toughest one to deal with especially since I suffer from depression and anxiety. I have a natural tendency not to trust people or their motives. This means that even though we may interact on a regular basis, I likely do not trust you, your motives, an whether our interaction really even matters to you. How might this make sense? When I form a friendship, I form trust slowly. I have a handful of people that I consider true friends. These are people who I have the ability to be vulnerable with. I can cry with them, they have my well-being at heart, they get my journey without me having to explain myself or cry out in pain, and they have been vetted by my heart. “Vetted by my heart” means that I can be sure that if I need a friend, they will be there. When I am breaking down and need a hug, they will be there. When I am fighting pain and ask a friend to be with me when I plan my mother’s funeral, they are there. When I share personal details about my life, the secrets from my childhood, they will be there. When we’ve gone through a journey together, I can trust them. These are people with whom I do not question, and I trust.
What is the reason for this post? Funny thing is, I just made this realization myself. I knew that I questioned people and their motives, but I had not made the connection between my introversion and the difficulty I have with medium level relationships (people you may see on a regular basis, but with whom you still do not trust). It can be painful and exhausting to not trust people, but when you know that you have found people with whom you can trust, it's a relief.
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With the awakening of losing my parents one day a real close reality, I set out to talk to Toni who lost her mother nearly three years ago. I remember Toni and how often her time was split between taking care of her own family, foster children and running back and forth to her parent’s home and doctor visit. When I first interviewed Toni, it was for my (5 Things) project and I was at a very different time in my life. I was caring for my mother who was diagnosed nearly three years earlier with Frontal Temporal Degenerative Dementia. I was torn up in side and I told myself that I did not have the same relationship with my mother as Toni did with hers, and there is some truth to that, yes. Since setting my mother up in a nursing home, I have a weight that I carry along with me. It may not always be on the surface with immediate thoughts and tears, but in nightmare forms where I wake up remembering the truth that I don’t have a mama to call when the kids have something exciting going on. I can be honest now that my hurt is very real and I admire Toni's story because it is real and honest. I wanted to sit down with Toni to get her insight into how loosing parent can affect one’s mental health.
Sara: So, first and foremost, how long ago did she pass?
Toni: It was two years ago, June 12.
Sara: Fairly recent then, she was pretty young (especially as we see many individuals living to well into their 90s).
Toni: Yeah, she turned 69 on June 8 and she passed away June 12th. My mom and I were extremely close, and we were extremely alike even to the point of where we looked alike, and we acted alike with the same mannerisms. It's been that way my whole life, not to say that we didn't butt heads as teenagers and stuff like that, all kids and parents do that. Especially in my adult years, she was my go-to person for literally everything, We talked three times a day on the phone (every morning, sometimes in the afternoon and then every night before bed). That was just something we always did, even if we were on vacation or something, and some days it felt like a chore. It's like “oh gotta call my mom”, but more times than not, it was “oh I can't wait to tell my mom this”. For instance, if I had to figure out what should I make for people that are coming over, call my mom. Oh, how am I going to handle Hope (her daughter), call my mom, and she was wise counsel. She was a wonderful friend, a wonderful mom, a person who reflected Jesus in everything that she did. She wasn't perfect. She'd be the first to tell you she wasn't perfect, but she definitely Impacted a lot of people's lives not just mine.
Sara: So, I think something that is interesting to me is your kind of grieving your mother with whom you had a close relationship with. So, I definitely think that that is something that maybe I can't say it was quite the same. I Guess, I can see because you had that very close relationship, how that experience has definitely impacted you. *** (again, I have to add here some reflection from being in a different position on mine and my mother’s relationship. No, our relationship was not like Toni’s and her mother’s relationship, close knit where they talked multiply times a day, but having begun to lose my mother has left a BIG whole in my heart).
Toni: I think when you are out of the immediate grief period, as I talk to more people, friends of hers and things like that. I love it when people tell me stories about my mom. Stories like, “she helped me through this, or she reprimanded me for this, and I didn't know I was getting reprimanded”. Somebody just told me that at the end of their conversation, she went “I think I was just reprimanded” and “I should have been, I was called out for something I was doing, and I should have been called out for it”. That was a God-given skill.
My mom had been sick for quite a few years, she officially died of COPD which is cardiopulmonary disease, this one you're basically are drowning. You're drowning and it took years to drown and she also had asthma, which COPD and asthma go together. She had also been in a car accident, which gave her physical pain up and beyond the COPD. So, there's just lists and lists of things and her will was way stronger than her body. She would have been that one who would have traveled all over, so because of this, this poor woman had her pain and suffering for years there were times that I was angry with God because it's like "huh"? But that was the way it was designed to be and because I had the privilege of helping her through doctor's appointments and making decisions. Should we try this therapy or should we not? It brought our relationship to another stage too, which that's great and because of that I got to spend a lot more of one-on-one times with her. I Would love to embarrass her at doctor's appointments because my mom was a very good person to embarrass because she would either play along with you, which I loved too or she would get embarrassed, which was also cool. So, she once wrote her co-pay check out to the doctor and when she handed it over, I said, “oh, they're accepting your checks now?” She looked back at me and goes “only with two forms of ID”. I love she had that kind of wit and she could play those jokes with me. Yeah, there are good times and when you're in the middle it, sometimes it's like “okay, I to go to another doctor's appointment”. So, another old person doctor’s appointment. Sometimes running the day to day grind, it's tough, but when I look back, I wouldn't trade it for anything. I also heard this phrase and it was so appropriate, that I was caught in the sandwich generation. Where I was still taking care of my own kids and taking care of my parents and I was sandwiched in between. That's the perfect thing. You do feel that way sometimes.
Sara: So, preparing for death, I know that you guys were kind of expecting it but at the same time I'm assuming it was still kind of a shock to you.
Toni: She had wonderful doctors and a wonderful care team, but they were even surprised at how quick she went at the end. Which, looking back that was a blessing, but when you're in the middle it was like, “whoa, we were still planning on having the whole summer”. Her primary care doc had talked to her and my dad, I wasn't at that appointment, she met the qualifications for hospice. There are qualifications you have to meet and that wasn't a shock to her. Her mom was in Hospice, her dad was in Hospice. So, we were familiar with hospice, but that was years and years ago. It has really changed, so that was one of our phone calls and again, we knew.
So, I went over to my mom's house and my dad was outside. I just don't think he could handle that conversation right then and so my mom had all her information out for Hospice because my mom's a folder information person and we went through it. It's almost like you picked the plan that looks good for you and how you want it to go, so we were able to almost disconnect my mom's dying portion to get into that business mode. When it was done, it was like, okay.
The first home care nurse that came over ended up being a friend of mine from high school. I didn't even know she was a nurse, so that was such a blessing because she remembered my mom. She knew it was Mrs. Corindo right away. My mom didn't remember her, but our school was so huge that that's not strange. Even her, when she was evaluating my mom and looking at everything, is just like, “you know you qualify for hospice most definitely but let's talk about if your symptoms start going away” cuz she was still in that teeter-tottering edge. If this goes away then we’ll discontinue hospice care, but you can always come back. So that's where we were and that was at the end of May. So that made all this feel it was okay, you know, you're not going to die tomorrow. All right, this was the beginning of summer. We had summer plans. She was going to watch Emma play soft ball and all that stuff, so we had plans and my dad had plans even though COPD also, robs the brain of oxygen. So, it's almost like they described it to me as if you're a scuba diver and if you come up too fastest, you get disoriented because your oxygen has not regulated and my mom was such a kind woman. I can't remember a time she yelled. She was loud because we're loud Italians, but she never yelled in anger. She would just scream at my dad to the point where my dad called me over a couple of times. I Called the hospice nurse, she's like, yeah, that's just the oxygen, that’s not her anymore. There was a point where she was just being so mean to my dad that I had to take the parent role and say, “that's enough, go sit down”.
Sara: So that's another experience not on here, but something that always stuck with me, I mean going through my particular situation where you know within a year, two years who knows, I am going to be dealing with my mother's death? It's going to be relatively sooner than the normal, the actual death part. It stuck to me with you talking about death certificates and knowing who gets what copy goes where and how many copies to have.
Toni: And you're just supposed to know this?
Sara: Certified copies and are they like Xerox copies?
Toni: And do you really need one? So, um She did die quite quickly. She was only in hospice for five days; the actual hospice and she went in there and we thought she was going to be coming home. I thought she had the flu and they even were like, well she can stay in for a night and then we'll send her home. Within 24 hours of her being in, she wasn't verbal anymore, all the signs of dying were there.
When she died and I was actually home, so I was not with her when she died. My Daughters were and my sister was, and Caleb was, so that was one of the nights they forced me to come home. Which was good. It was good. My sister was actually holding her hand when she died, so that was good. When she actually died and she died at like 1:00 a.m. and Robin knew she had died, but the girls had just fallen asleep. So, she did not want to wake them up. So, she actually just sat there with my mom for two hours and then she called in the nurses and they did everything they had to do. Jeff was on the couch and I was upstairs, and I was listening for my phone and you know being jumpy. He came in and he told me, and it was like “okay, like you know, that's what's going to happen”. So, a husband did what husbands do and he held me.
Sara: Think that's where the number 5 comes in, the immediate and long-term life without your loved one. I mean this is still it.
Toni: Yeah. I choked the day of her funeral. I was so busy with the business of her death and making sure my boys had clothes and the girls had clothes and my dad had clothes and I was keeping myself busy with busy work and ordering the death certificates. The day of the funeral, I stood in front of my own closet and wondered what to wear at my mom's funeral. I'm sure whatever it is, I am probably not going to want to wear again, so I have to make sure it's something I don't like. Immediately, I picked up my phone to call my mom…"what are you wearing to the funeral", that was the first thing that came to my mind? And that was the first time I had to go, “who do I call?” So, that was the downside to having close relationships but um that was the immediate effects of her death. My sister joked and it was kind of funny. She said well, I guess you're the matriarch of the family now, that's a big deal. and the whole Italian family the matriarch and patriarch. To take over the role of my mom in organizing Memorial Day picnics and what are we going to eat for Christmas dinner? You know stuff like that.
Sara: How interesting it is that you are now in this role of, yes you always were there for your parents and for their doctor's appointments, right? Like you're stepping into it by also helping to take care of your dad, her husband, who is dealing with his own medical issues.
Toni: and so yeah, and that's a big deal in the long term because one of the things I said to my mom is "I'll take care of dad" like as she was in the process of dying, cuz you know she did everything for my dad. So, when she was fine, I would keep warning her to stop doing all this for dad Cuz I'm not going to come over here in the morning and fry his egg every morning.
Sara: Could you tell them about the utensil?
Toni: Yes, so my mom had a drawer full of kitchen utensils and I go over there cook for my dad often and so he was like, you gotta take this stuff home. I was like "no dad do you want me to cook when I'm here"? Then I have to have some stuff here. So, I came over to cook something and I went to look for a whisk Can't find it and I know my dad's not whisking anything and so I'm like "what the heck"? I said to my dad, where's the whisk and he goes what's a wisk and I told him. He said, “Oh that's in the garage. I needed it to stir the oil for the car”. "Dad you live in the woods could you grab a stick next time?"
I highly recommend the poignant video on YouTube via the link below. This interview was originally done for a series called, “5 Things” which was another attempt to connect people in our community. The interview here is not the interview in entirety and does not demonstrate the real affects of loosing a parent. I am still doing this form of a series, but in the Point of View version now because getting videos became problematic with a three-year-old who was potty training and had to use the restroom in the middle of the video.
If you like this video, please check out others via the link below:
So here I am, sobbing in the car as I drive home from volunteering with Alpha Grand Rapids. I am tired, I am overwhelmed, I am feeling hopeless and I am sobbing while listening to Rachel Hollis’ “Girl Wash Your Face”. Listen, nothing that Ms. Hollis talked about was anything new to me as I have had class over class of therapeutic techniques and self-care, I go to church, and half of my friends are therapist and the other half that are not, are really great listeners. Nothing that I was hearing was new to me, so why was I crying so uncontrollably?
I was crying because despite being fully equipped with friends, faith and my education, I knew that I needed to change something about my life, or I would not last on this earth much longer. Yup, I said it. With my chronic pain, chronic fatigue caused by narcolepsy and a few other bad habits, I was feeling more and more like I was being chained to the earth. Sure, I was able to volunteer on a weekly basis and I made dinner and took my kids to and from activities, I felt like most days, I was on auto pilot.
So here are a few tips I have for you, which I have formulated as a mental health professional, mother, reader and well, a human being.
If you like this post, please check out other post like it.
I have chronic pain, which means that on any given day, I am in pain. When I smile at you, I am in pain. When I laugh and enjoy lunch with a friend, I am in pain. When I sit with a client, I am in pain. When I play with my children, I am in pain. I think that you are getting the hint here. Let me give you a picture here. Imagine a tornado, swirling around grabbing as many different things as possible. Perhaps it has a house, a barn, a splinter of wood or any given number of things that a tornado grabs in its path of destruction. Now imagine that tornado isn’t moving anywhere, it’s staying still inside your body and on any given day, you get hit by the house (depression), or maybe the splinter of wood (pain) or the barn (fatigue). You are trying to be the best version of yourself that you can be and on any given day one or more of these things have a hold on you.
With a chronic issue, you will always have something that you have to contend with, but that does not mean that you cannot conquer the world. Mental health management can aid in allow you to find some semblance of control in your life. When I was going through therapy for pain management myself, I was awakened to a lot of things that I thought and did that made my chronic issues worse. Here are a few things that pain management therapy can do.