Feeling Threatened

I used to feel on top of the world. I had an attitude about me when I’d walk thru the world that basically said something like “Don’t Mess With Me”. Not in a hard core punky sort of way, but just in that way of being strong in myself, of having a good self image and self esteem. I didn’t take guff from people and I stood up for myself as well as I could given that I’m not a big guy or a tough or trained in Martial Arts or anything like that. In fact I’ve never even been in a fight in my life except as kids. So when I had a breakdown and found that I was disabled I also found that my self image had shifted somewhat.

Speaking in part here as a gay man but more as one who is disabled, I feel like I’m now a target of people who would do me harm. I can’t run away anymore, my favorite tactic when I couldn’t stand and fight, with words I mean, not physically. I can still hold my own with words pretty much but then again not when I’m in a depression. I can’t do it then. I’ve tried and failed miserably. I’ve had people trash me when I was depressed and haven’t been able to fight back and defend myself and know that I didn’t deserve it. In fact often I’ve felt that I Must have deserved in the nature of my illness.

I also grew up as a kid with severe asthma and was the subject of some bullying when I was a child. Nothing major but enough to let me know even then that I had to develop my wits to survive. And I did. As I said I had an attitude and it carried me thru. But that attitude isn’t around a lot of the time now. I can still call it up when I’m feeling particularly good and not in too much psychic or physical pain. But I Always know that in fact I’m Not OK anymore when it comes to protecting myself. I know attitudes about being gay have changed over the years but we’re still vulnerable to hate crimes everyday and people who are homeless or look like they’re not on top of it are considered easy prey by muggers and those who would do us harm.

So what do you do with this? I’m asking because I haven’t figured this one out yet. I try to stay calm and think positive thoughts and believe in myself as I used to but I find it doesn’t always work. Sometimes it’s my mind that betrays me as I’ve said. But mostly it’s my body that’s the culprit and I hate to think of it as a culprit of anything. But the fact remains that I’m now prey and it’s a disturbing feeling. How do You cope with it? Do you take classes in how to defend yourself? I’ve done that but I don’t think I can even do the moves I learned anymore. It takes too much Umph!.  I have to rely on staying out of dangerous places as much as I can and try my best to stay as strong as I’m able to do. I’d really like some feedback on this if you feel the same way I do. It’d help me and maybe others here as well.

Thanks.

Steve

Chaos Theory and Chronic Illness

 

First off let me make it clear that I’m neither a mathematician nor a physicist, so what I say about Chaos Theory comes from a lay person’s perspective and what I learned in a college course I took some 20 years ago when I went back to school for a year. I learned a lot that year and was voted the Strange Attractor (a Chaos Theory term) of my study group for my insight into the subject so I have some validation for what I say. Simply put I see Chaos Theory as having 4 major components to it. It posits that things described by it are 1) Random and 2) Unpredictable, but also 3) Repeatable and 4) Boundaried. I see these elements of it all around me and in particular in my Invisible Illnesses and I’ll try to give some ideas of why I think this to be so, and how it can help you in your life.

I find it helps me to think of things using Chaos Theory a lot because it gives me a context for some things that are so out of my ability to cope with that they truly challenge my reality structure. Illness is certainly the major one of these in my life. Relationships can be another one for some people I think. And work can be, even gardening which I talk about in my other blog tho I haven’t added Chaos Theory to it, yet… If I think in terms of the way Chaos Theory puts things in context for me it helps me feel more in control of this and less like I’m in a small rowboat floating on the sea without the proverbial paddle. I have a context for my struggles and can feel a sense of being able to monitor things at least if not control them.

First  off I’ll start at the end of my list and say that illness is clearly boundaried,  by our bodies and our minds,  and then by our societies and relationships. We live in a context in other words. Pretty simple I guess but significant. Using any of these parameters is useful at times, depending on what you’re experiencing. If you can see, for instance, that your depression is in your Mind, and not in the society or reality of Fact around you then maybe you can come to terms with it as a mood disorder rather than your true Reality as I so often struggle with myself. It’s so hard to get out of my head and know that it isn’t really Real but just the latest mood I’m in at the time. So this boundary is helpful to me and keeps me from going over the edge sometimes. It helps me stay sane.

Secondly it’s Unpredictable. I frequently don’t have a clue when I’m about to experience one of my Invisible Illnesses. They come over me and take me away and I’m lost. But knowing that this is true helps me when it happens as I realize that it’s Repeatable. It’s happened before and will happen again (Unless it’s a new symptom of course and that can happen at any time unfortunately). It’s the repeatability that helps me here in the unpredictability of it all. Since I know what it’s like to have an episode of chronic back pain I know what to expect and since I know that I can take counter measures to alleviate my conditions. I can take meds first of all. And I can stop what I’m doing that may be causing me harm. I can take a break and rest for a bit. If I know these things always helped when I suffer the back pain then I can do something about it and that’s the key to some sense of control even tho it’s illusory it’s also real.

And finally they’re random. And that’s the hardest part of it all for me. I’m a control freak and I’ll admit it. I’ve noticed that many of us who suffer from chronic illness have control “issues”,  because we’re so out of control with our illness that we seek it out in other areas of our lives, whether it be in our relationships or simply in insisting on what foods we want to eat and where to spend our time and how. We have to have some areas where we feel in control because we don’t have it with our illness. So when an illness is so random it throws us off kilter. It makes things so out of control it really  can be scary and frightening. But again, knowing that is the case is the key to self mastery. If you want to gain some measure of autonomy at any time and know that you always have to be prepared for it, you can again take counter measures to protect yourself. Whether it’s carrying a few pills for breakthru pain or for migraines as I do, or learning some meditation exercises you can count on it to help you when you have a panic attack, there are things you can do to help yourself. Knowing it can happen randomly then becomes less of an issue and you can learn techniques to protect yourself and be safer.

So all together now –  You can know that things happen in repeatable ways within certain boundaries and that they are random and unpredictable so you can plan ahead and learn the terrain of your illness. Study and educate yourself on what you’re dealing with and learn how others have dealt with it and you’ll have the tools to deal with things when they happen to you. Of course it’s not so simple as I make it sound. It’s really hard in fact. But you can do it. Being awake when you deal with your illnesses is the strongest way to cope with them. And awakening to the tools and techniques and concepts of how I’m looking at Chaos Theory can be a valuable way to interact with your life in general and your illness in specific. Think about some of the things and please give me some  feedback if you find it helps you or if you think this just shows I really am crazy. I don’t mind… I just want to help people to feel better and have more tools with which to address their illnesses. The more you know the better off you are in my opinion. So try this on for size and see if it helps you. Life is inherently Chaotic but knowing that makes it easier to cope with it, and that makes all the difference.

Chaotically yours,

Steve

How Gardening Heals Me

Well I suppose it was only a matter of time before my 2 blogs conjoined but I didn’t think it would happen in the same week I started them both. I’m writing here about my health and in the other about gardening and here they come together in a post about how my gardening is good for my health. It makes sense I suppose since it’s so much of my life. Perhaps the two most crucial factors in my existence except for my partner and our relationship. My relations with Gardening go back to my childhood tho so do my illnesses, some of the most significant ones that is. I’ve had Asthma since I was born. Literally. They put me in an incubator at birth so I could breathe and gave me medicine from the get go. And I can look back and see how the Bipolar Disorder has affected my whole life, from the time I was a small child even. So here they come together in a post that will tell you a bit about how it’s worked for me to garden so long and so faithfully, and not so faithfully and how that’s impacted me.

In many meditation classes they teach you that a very important part of learning to meditate is learning to “ground” as they call it. It means being able to connect with the earth and put your energy in synch with that of the planet we live on. Out of which our bodies are made. It’s not just a metaphorical expression. It’s a literal one for me. Grounding for me is literally putting my hands in the soil and getting dirt all over them. It’s diving into the realm of earthworms and compost and the decay of organisms and the regeneration that comes out of that mix. It’s a primal instinct to stick our hands in the dirt and mothers are always fighting their children to keep them from getting dirty. But I’d say that there have been enough studies to show that we’re depriving our children of something instinctive when we keep them out of the dirt. It’s been focused on bacteria that may help us keep our bodies free of disease but I think it’s more than that. It’s the primal connection we’re missing out on and keeping our children from experiencing.

I’ve put my hands in the dirt for as long as I can remember. Before I was actually gardening I was building in the dirt and making waterways where I could play with the runoff of the water as it flowed over the soil in patterns I loved. At some point I started to work with my mom and dad in the garden and help maintain it. I learned to plant and prune and to weed and hoe and all those other things we hate when we’re kids but I didn’t hate them. Well maybe the weeding I did some. But I loved the gardening and started  landscaping at an early age, something I’d develop into a profession as I grew older and went to college and studied Ornamental Horticulture and Landscape Design. I worked in Nurseries and had my own businesses for well over 20 years making gardens for other people, including my parents where I could experiment and play with my ideas. I did this in  my work too of course but I got paid for that and had to accede to the wishes of my clients. I wanted to do my own thing of course and I often was able to even in business.

My story takes a different turn in my late 20s when I started having migraines and was in agony too much of the time and couldn’t work as I had before. I’d gotten a job building logging roads in the high sierra to survive and that was bad for me who had always valued planting trees, not cutting them down. It went against my souls’ journey and it messed me up. I was involved in a serious auto accident that crunched my spine and began a period of disability that continues to this day. I kept landscaping tho I had to hire workers to do things I couldn’t do myself. But I still did it. I even moved back to the mountains in Washington where I was living and tried to homestead in the hills. I tried to create a garden with not enough water and too hard a soil to work and eventually I had a breakdown and my back gave out on me for good. I never again was able to work commercial landscaping. That was in 1988.  Since then I’ve had to work jobs that were indoors and kept me away from the gardens I loved. I couldn’t have access to green ever in the apt. I lived in in the city and I began to get more ill. In 1995 I had a severe breakdown and was diagnosed with the Bipolar Disorder that has plagued me my whole life. Finally I had an answer but it was a curse as well.

Over the next few years I lived alone and in an apt. with no way to garden. I was too disabled even to work a small community garden that was only a 10 x 10 plot of land in the neighborhood. I was sick and failing badly. I couldn’t touch the soil and even tho I went for walks in the neighborhood it wasn’t the same as gardening. This went on for several years until I met my current partner and in time moved into a home with him and had a chance to garden again. Here I’ve created my garden again. Here I have my Botanical Garden that allows me to collect the plants I love and to put my hands into the soil whenever I feel the need and to ground myself and get back to the earth in a real way and live fully and completely again.

I’m not cured or anything, I probably never will be,  don’t think that. I still suffer a lot and I’m in pain all the time, Especially when I garden. But it’s so good for me that I do it anyway and it keeps me alive and strong and as healthy as I can be. I have to ask for help when I need it but I do and I find it with my partner and friends. You can read about this aspect of my life in my other blog: Gardening in Greenwood, and I’ll continue this story there. But this will give you a sketch of my life as a gardener and why it’s so important for me to dig in the dirt and heal myself with the planet we live on. It’s a real thing and getting dirty is essential to us all if we want to live good lives and be healthy. So do it. Get dirty and feel the soil in your hands and let it heal you. That’s all I can say for now.

Health and good growing to you,

Steve

30 Things About My Invisible Illness You May Not Know

Note – I borrowed this page from the Invisible Illness Awareness Week blog. I give them full credit for developing this idea and think it’s a great way to share some ideas and information. You can visit them at: invisibleillnessweek.com, linked below. Thanks to them.

1. The illnesses I live with are: Chronic Intractable Pain, Bipolar Disorder Type II with Ultra Rapid Cycling and Mixed States, Depression, Migraines, Asthma, Fibromyalgia, SAD, Sleep Apnea, Prostate Cancer (in remission), ED.
2. I was diagnosed with it in the year: Asthma – at birth (1950), Migraines – 1976, Back Pain – 1977/1988/1995, Depression – 1980, 1988, Bipolar Disorder Type II – 1995, SAD – 1998, Fibromyalgia – 2000, Sleep Apnea – 2012.
3. But I had symptoms since: I was born in some cases like the asthma obviously, but the bipolar disorder and depression too. I also have had overall pain for a long long time. The Sleep Apnea is new but I think I’ve had it a long time too.
4. The biggest adjustment I’ve had to make is: Giving up Control.
5. Most people assume: I’m fine. After all, “I Look Good”….
6. The hardest part about mornings are: getting out of bed and trying to move. I hurt….
7. My favorite medical TV show is: House of course. He’s so brutally honest it hurts to watch sometimes but it’s worth it. And I’ve loved Hugh Laurie since his English comedy days…Like Black Adder and A Bit of Fry and Laurie.
8. A gadget I couldn’t live without is: My Computer. It keeps me connected with the world, and lets me write my journals.
9. The hardest part about nights are: Sleeping and waking up in pain too often. Needing to pee and not being able to, again and again.
10. Each day I take _49_ pills & vitamins. (No comments, please)
11. Regarding alternative treatments I: I’ve found that whatever works is worth trying. I’ve had success with Naturopathy, Acupuncture and other alternative methods. But some are bunk so be careful.
12. If I had to choose between an invisible illness or visible I would choose: Invisible. Sometimes I Want to hide it…. Pity is awful.
13. Regarding working and career: I can’t do “Jobs” anymore, since a bad breakdown in ’95. But I miss working terribly. I used to always identify with my Work. Now I have to identify with Me. It’s a challenge but it’s worth it.
14. People would be surprised to know: That I am as ill as I am. It scares me sometimes. I”m sure I’m going to die young (I’m only 62 now…)
15. The hardest thing to accept about my new reality has been: Asking for Help and Receiving it.
16. Something I never thought I could do with my illness that I did was: Going outside alone when I was severely Agoraphobic
17. The commercials about my illness: Are annoying or don’t exist, but a few capture some aspects of what I feel like I’ll admit.
18. Something I really miss doing since I was diagnosed is: Having spontaneous sex.
19. It was really hard to have to give up: Hiking in the mountains and going backpacking.
20. A new hobby I have taken up since my diagnosis is: I’ve started gardening again since I moved in with my partner in his house. It’s grand.
21. If I could have one day of feeling normal again I would: Go for a looooong hike in the mountains with my partner.
22. My illness has taught me: To be more compassionate towards others and towards myself. And Patience. And learning to simply BE and not DO. But I have a lot to learn still.
23. Want to know a secret? One thing people say that gets under my skin is: “But you’re Energy Feels so Good and Peaceful….” ( especially when I have a Migraine…)
24. But I love it when people: Help me out without my asking them to. It happens a lot with my friends and those who know me and I love them for it.
25. My favorite motto, scripture, quote that gets me through tough times is: Give It Time…
26. When someone is diagnosed I’d like to tell them: Take a deep breath. Life goes on…
27. Something that has surprised me about living with an illness is: How cruel people can be with judgements about my illnesses and why I can’t do the things they think I Should.
28. The nicest thing someone did for me when I wasn’t feeling well was: Take me out of the house when I was too scared to do it alone.
29. I’m involved with Invisible Illness Week because: I’m just starting with it so I can only say I think it looks like a good idea and I support it wholeheartedly. Check out their link in this question.
30. The fact that you read this list makes me feel: Like maybe you care. Do you? ( Can you tell I’ve been burned too many times…? 😉

Thanks for taking the time to read this long list,

Steve