Holding the Space

“Be kind to the children, for they are close to the other side.” – unknown

When my father was given 3 months to live when he had the intestinal cancer, everyone had an idea of what he should do. Take this herb! Try chiropractic! I was in the “Call Hospice” camp. But my father had a different plan. Instead, he wanted to do chemotherapy. Those of us in the medical arena of his life, holding the labs in our hands, shook our heads at the futility of that… and it might/probably will make him feel much worse. We did what he wanted anyway.

My dad did 2 sessions of chemo and then said, “Call Hospice.”

His death 2.5 months later was peaceful and gentle. And he was so so loved.

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My dad, Saturno Herrera, about 1 month before he died.

When We Need to Listen

In my life right now are a couple of people who have family or friends with terminal diagnoses. Those around them are rushing to help with all sorts of remedies, diets and even insisting on the “power of positive thinking.”

Instead, perhaps this is a time to ask the dying person what they want, not foist on them what we want.

Being near those that are dying is an amazing honor and privilege. For one thing, it isn’t a sudden, unexpected moment where there are always regrets about things not said or done. When you are at the side of a dying person, you have the opportunity for completion and the giving of your heart in a way you might never have before.

It is not a time for airing grievances that will never be resolved. Not a time for your confessions of guilt (find a Priest for that). It isn’t even a time to just sit keening and crying your eyes out, the dying person trying to comfort you in their time of need.

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Nanea Reeves with her husband Vic as he gets closer to dying.

Mindfulness

Holding the Space is a concept I learned in midwifery, but had been doing a long time already with men dying of AIDS decades ago. Holding the Space is sitting quietly, perhaps praying silently, seeing golden light of love surrounding them or just Be-ing with the person heading to the other side (into parenthood/through death/in illness/etc.). Allowing the person to say what they want… rambling speech or exquisite poetry. I like to keep notes, but not at the expense of my complete attention.

One caveat: Take as many pictures as you can… with each person separately, everyone together… take pictures holding the person’s hand… get video of them if they are still talking. I have nothing with my dad’s voice on it and regret that terribly.

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Mindfulness is a buzzword right now, but if there was ever a time to be Mindful, it is when with someone in transition. Not worrying about getting to the store, checking your phone or even talking to others in the room about mundane life crap. BE with the person. Give your full attention to them. Watch them. Witness their transition completely.

If you get tired, you rest. No one can be expected to be Mindful or present 100% of the time. Do go for walks outside. Walk the dog. Eat a good meal. Be mindful of your needs, too.

There But for the Grace of God Go I

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When I am with someone in this holy place (which does include childbirth, of course), I want to share with them how I hope to be treated during my own transition through death. Not that it is my prescribed way of dying, but simply respectful and kind attention.

My family knows how I want to go. At home. People happy, laughing, music blaring, telling fun stories, remembering all the wondrous things I have done in this life. I also want to be read to. Read to me when I am tired and need to close my eyes for a moment.

But that is me. Not everyone wants the levity part that I have requested.

Perhaps the person you are with wants to smoke again, drink until they are drunk every day, wants to go out to a forest and dig their toes in the dirt one more time. Take them! Even if you have to hire an ambulance service and need to push dirt through their toes while they are on a gurney. Be creative to give the dying their wishes. If they want to watch a favorite movie on a 24-hour loop and it makes you crazy…

…so what?!? Let them!

Talk to your loved one. Ask them what they want and need from you.

Then do it.

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An added note: I understand that children dying slowly can be another aspect entirely. I have not lost a child to cancer or another illness or malformation, so cannot speak to it accurately. But, as with everything anyone in the world writes or says:

Take what you want & leave the rest.

A Moment with a Little Girl

I was at the Hematologist’s office the other day getting my weekly iron infusion (yeah, have not written about that yet, sorry) and afterward, I ended up waiting 2 hours for the medical transport to come pick me up.

Taking Notice

Sitting across from me were 2 kids, a boy about 10 with an iPad and earbuds in, sitting away from, who I found out later, was his grandmother. Next to grandma was a girl who told me she was 6. She looked bored to tears.

After a few minutes, I invited her over to watch videos with me on my phone. Sheepishly, she crossed the space between us, sitting in the chair next to me. I asked her what we should watch. She shrugged. I suggested baby goat videos; they are always great for a laugh.

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We spent the next 20 minutes laughing at the baby goat antics, my asking her questions every once in awhile.

“How old are you?”

“6.”

“When is your birthday?”

It had just passed, so I asked her if she received any gifts and she excitedly told me…

… something I asked her to repeat several times. Confused, I pleadingly looked at Grandma for help.

Shopkins

Shopkins,” she said.

I was still clueless, so told the little girl I had to Google it to see what that was. She looked at me, incredulous I could possibly have gone one day without this knowledge.

They are teeny-tiny toys… that revolve around… grocery shopping? Marketing groceries to a 6-year old? Good lord.

Oh, and there’s a whole Shopkins series of cartoons, too. My new friend wanted to watch one. I vetoed that.

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Muddy Fairy

My head was swimming after the Shopkins talk, so I decided to show her pictures of my grandkids. She liked that, pointing out various things.

I got to my grandson at a fairy birthday party, wearing wings and a crown. I told her who it was and she said, “But, he’s a BOY! Boys can’t be fairies!” I said there he is, so clearly he could be a fairy. She didn’t believe me.

I scrolled further and found the one with my grandson covered in mud and said, “See? He can be a fairy and covered in mud. Everyone gets to do that if they want to.”

(That turned out to be the kernel I’d hoped I could impart on her young mind.)

Soon after, grandma was called back and the little girl had to go with her (my ride should have been there at any moment anyway) and she ran to go through the door.

But not before she turned around and waved one last time.

It was a good day.

Bipolar Diary: Depression Deepens

TWMental

Depression

The last 2 weeks have sucked even worse than when I wrote on July 13, 2017. Tears. Tears. Never-ending tears. The suicidal ideation is coming more often and is more vivid than when I started the Paxil. And the damn hallucinations are back.

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Almost all of my time is in bed, either curled in pain (another post), staring at the ceiling or sleeping. I leave I Love Lucy on in the background. Sometimes Friends. I’m listening to Mists of Avalon (a book I love), but when I listen in bed, I fall right to sleep. I’ve replayed Chapter 6 four times already.

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artist: Edvard Munch

An Odd Sorta Depression

When looking for images about depression lying, I came across several pieces like this one below:

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Not sure if I’m just more familiar with my depression than when I was younger or if it has really shifted, but I do not hear the lies the girl in the image does… nothing negative about my body, how alone I am in the world, how fat/ugly/sick I am. I did when I was younger, but not anymore.

I just feel sad. An overwhelming sadness. A pall of melancholia that separates me from the rest of you. I cannot even touch what I am sad about except for the endless distress I have about our country because of 45. But this joylessness is deeper than the fear-for-our-lives kind. I feel like I’m under the thick glass of my Nana’s cake pedestal, so close to others, but unable to penetrate the barrier of dreariness to make a connection.

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Medication Changes

The psych doc upped the Paxil to 30mg after 2 weeks on 20mg. He said he still might have to increase it when I see him in 2 weeks. For fuck’s sake, can’t this stuff take effect already? I hate this waiting part.

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I have weaned off the Cymbalta. Is that the reason for this huge dip? Who knows anymore. He wanted to increase my Risperdal, but I refused; the eating is out of control with more Risperdal… can’t abide by that.

An aside: I despise the new packaging that seems to be taking over the medication world. I am not stupid, can follow directions, but they are incredibly difficult for me to get into. I’ve asked the Pharmacy to open them for me and then I rip the inner blister pack out, throwing the outer box away. If you haven’t see them, let me introduce you.

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“Follow these 3 simple steps,” it says. Push the blister pack all the way in, then press on the “lock release button” on the left . Finally, pull the sliding pack out at the same time as pushing the spot on the left. I wish it was as easy as they make it sound! It’s almost worse that rubbing my head and patting my belly at the same time.

Suicidal Ideation

I’ve had lots of suicidal thoughts. My cub stayed with me one night when they were especially bad, reminding me every few minutes that Depression is a Liar. Hearing that, knowing it for certain, is what kept (keeps) me going. Hearing that so-and-so loves me doesn’t do much for my mindset because I rationalize that away easily. Depression Lies, however, works wonders.

Depression is a lying bastard

The thoughts of suicide are so enticing. They call to me seductively as if they were sirens on the ocean’s rocks.

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I try to block them out listening to various albums I have memorized. The Eagles, Carly Simon, Sting (Living Sea), and, of course, Hamilton: An American Musical.

I also try to find positive recovery-from-depression-and-suicidal-thoughts articles and posts online. This is one I go back to over and over:

Suicide Prevention: How to Help Someone who is Suicidal and Save a Life

“A suicidal person may not ask for help, but that doesn’t mean that help isn’t wanted. People who take their lives don’t want to die—they just want to stop hurting.”

When I had my first serious clinical depression in my late teens, I didn’t understand the “wanting the pain to stop” aspect and teetered really close to the edge of death.

As I got older and had some decent therapy, I was able to verbalize the inner turmoil and excruciating emotional pain that was drawing me towards dying. Understanding that I didn’t really want to die, but just to stop hurting… a pain that went so deep as to injure my soul… I was able to cling to those brief seconds of “medication will help remove the pain… hang on a little bit longer.”

Medication and therapy have not failed me yet.

Working/Not Working

Work has been nearly impossible the way I feel. I can do one call, then need 2 hours off to regroup. The calls are easy, mostly with regulars, but the energy expenditure exhausts me. Even writing this post has taken 4 days so far. Ugh. I need to be able to work!

Okay, I need to get this out to you all. It is not a cry for help, I promise. I will not hurt myself, have no plans to.  It’s just those random thoughts that flow through my mind… sometimes like heavy cinder blocks and others like wafting vapors. As long as they continue moving on the conveyor belt, I think I’m okay and headed towards healing.

trudging along

Thanks for listening

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Always reaching for help.

My Wall-E-esque Life: Part 1

“Fat Acceptance” has been a catch-phrase for at least 40 of the years I have been alive. In 2 parts, I share my experiences and lessons learnt being a part of the…

Fat Acceptance Movement.

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I’ve been fat ever since I got my tonsils out when I was 7-years old.

Fat kid, teen, adult and now a “mature” adult.

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Trials (and Errors)

I’ve done dozens of diets, been prescribed Black Beauties & other speed (starting at age 8), belonged to many gyms, taken Phen-Fen (with success, but with heart valve damage), tried Topamax (fail), used Wellbutrin (fail), had a Roux en Y Gastric Bypass (with fabulous success, then epic failure), done hypnosis & acupuncture (fail & fail), become a daily Mindfulness Meditation fanatic (fail for weight loss/huge win for pain relief), have tried to have anorexia, then bulimia, hand-written hundreds of thousands of journal pages, letting them “hold” my pain, shame, revulsion, self-hate, wishes, fears, hopes &, eventually, resolution with my size.

I remain in resolution.

I will never diet or take diet drugs again. Ever.

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Time & Money

Thinking about the masses of time and money I’ve spent trying to lose weight makes my head spin.

Time

  • Going to the gym
  • Writing out menus
  • Researching rules and techniques for success
  • Real life or online support group meetings, including social networks talking about losing/gaining weight
  • Shopping slower to read labels and make sure food is “appropriate”
  • Learning new cooking methods
  • Fighting with family about the change in foods in the fridge and cupboards
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artist: Sapphire4723

Money

  • Gym membership
  • New cookbooks
  • Membership fees & apps
  • Tools for success (exercise equipment, pedometer, walking/running shoes, gym clothes, etc.)
  • Tossing all the “bad” food in the garbage
  • Buying all the “good” food
  • Probably eventually buying more “bad” food for my family because they whined so much about foisting my diet on them
  • $28,000 cash for RNY gastric bypass (GB)

Can I include the time and money (including the taxpayer’s) for the years of therapy discussing and crying about all of this?

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Positive?

I was a Fat Activist in the mid-late 80’s, mostly in the lesbian community. I’ve written about being fat-positive for almost 3 decades.

In the beginning, when I was in my 20’s and early 30’s, I was healthy… labs were fine, no diabetes, my joints or feet didn’t hurt. I crowed (bragged, was arrogant) about how it was the fat-hating that made fat people sick and die, not the fat itself.

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Reality

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Now, at 56-years old, I see how delusional I was. I am well on the road to dying before most people in my family did, and they all had diabetes, too. My future resides in my memories of my Cuban relatives & the diabetes complications they endured before dying. Heart attacks, going blind, having toes, then feet cut off, eventually dying in a coma because the body just gave up.

I see it coming as if it was a roaring train heading right for me.

Litany of Pain

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Here are my fat-related illnesses and issues:

  • Type 2 Diabetes (diagnosed at 34 years old), now on 2 insulins and metformin
  • I heal terribly because of the diabetes, often needing antibiotics for residual infections
  • Stage 3 Kidney Disease from the diabetes
  • Pain with every step I take
  • Osteoporosis and arthritis in my feet, which have broken 3 times just from walking for exercise, and one foot breaking while swimming
  • Broke one foot falling off the Wii Fit Board trying to exercise… needed 3 surgeries to repair
  • Arthritis in my lower back, was on opioids for 8+ years for the back pain, becoming incredibly addicted, finally getting clean 3 years ago (yay me!) Now I use Mindfulness Meditation for pain relief, though many times I wish for some Norco.
  • It took me years to find surgeons I felt safe with to get my 4 hernias repaired (one surgery) and then my gallbladder out (a separate surgery, with 3 hospital visits afterwards because of infection)… several turning me away because of my enormous belly size (blessedly, I found the docs and those issues are resolved)
  • Bone loss from possibly 2 main sources: lack of exercise & the GB
  • Walking with a walker, but should be in an electric wheelchair, my feet hurting so badly
  • Using an electric wheelchair when I shop

Nautilus

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My world has gradually become smaller and smaller. After 32 years in birth work (where I hurt daily as well), I am now a sedentary Phone Sex Operator. I live in a small space and leave the house only for doctor appointments, physical therapy, shopping and seeing my doggies at mom’s house.

Writing that makes me sad.

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Part 2 On Its Way

In Part 2 of My Wall-E-esque Life, I will talk about the place the Fat Advocacy Movement does have in our lives. While it might not be health (despite the incessant refrain that it does), it is most assuredly have an enormous place in our physical and emotional world.

More soon!

“I Wrote My Way Out”

from the Broadway show Hamilton: an American Musical

I wrote my way out

When the world turned its back on me

I was up against the wall

I had no foundation

No friends and no family to catch my fall

Running on empty, there was nothing left in me but doubt

I picked up a pen

And I wrote my way out (I wrote my way out)

words

Writing has always been an important part of my life. Sometimes more than others, depending my my mental state or how many opiates I am taking. I have been writing since I was 8-years old. I am now 55 (almost 56!).

I have written out the pain 10,000 times (or more) and yet there seems an endless cesspool of shit to purge onto the paper. Why is that? It’s rather annoying.

I am in an empty place right now, Hamilton’s words resonating deeply. It is tempting to turn to others for refilling, but when I do, there is always a hole somewhere, their validation leaking out, leaving me empty again. It is up to me… the filling, topping off, maintaining and keeping it (me) level so there is no sloshing over the edges.

The truth is, no matter who is in my life, I am really on my own. I need to hold my own hand for comfort, hug myself when I am sad and wipe my own tears. I don’t know how many times I need to learn this lesson, but clearly, I have not learnt it yet.

So I write.

I write to lessen the pain in my heart, to lift the weight on my chest. I write while crying in order to let go of my worries and concerns. I write when I feel I have nothing left to say. I always seem to find more words…

…and I wrote my way out.

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Anxiety Attack? O, There You Are!

Last night I was talking to my cublet, we were ranting a lot about that Hitlerian President-Elect, sharing our thoughts, our fears… our terror… with each other and then I needed to write.

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Descending Distress

So I went to work on Stunned, Shocked & Saddened and right as I got to the end, I began to feel crappy, then worse, my heart started racing, my stomach was in knots, I began sweating like a piglaletta and finally I told my cub, “I feel like shit! I need to go lay down.”

Once I was on laying on my bed feeling horrid, I began breathing deep to try and lessen the distress.

Then I thought, “Oh, I recognize this. This is an Anxiety Attack.”

I situated myself on the bed, laying down, feeling my body’s frantic fight to keep control over my mind, but I strong-armed the panic so I could do my Mindfulness exercises.

I felt the sheets under my arms and legs… listened to the air conditioner’s humming… smelled the scent of cinnamon from the witch’s broom I have in the corner.

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Working Through the Experience

When I could, I texted my cub that it was an Anxiety Attack so he wouldn’t worry. He then asked if I had meds for that.

My cub is under 30-years old and has zero experience with mental illness, so his frame of reference is me. On meds. Getting new meds, getting them adjusted, and making sure I take them properly. While he knows I do Mindfulness Meditation and that I use it at times of stress, he doesn’t know Anxiety would have been one of those times.

Later, when I could explain better, I shared that I grew up in a Pill-for-Every-Ailment kind of family, so I have always seen meds as a free-for-all. My mom, sister and I have all been addicted to pills of one kind or another… my sister dying of an overdose of pain meds, mainly the 4 Fentanyl patches she had on when they found her. I am now about 2.5 years clean from Opiates (Percocet & Norco). I then shared that while acknowledging my forever-need for Psych meds, I do try to minimize other meds where I can.

Anti-Anxiety meds (Benzodiazepines)  are one of those types of meds I would rather not be using. I tried them when I had the Agoraphobia and hated them; I was doped into a stupor. I was on a dozen other meds including the opiates, so probably to be expected, but still. So I made the choice to not use the Benzos, but Mindfulness and Mindfulness Meditation instead.

Back for Good?

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The picture above is so accurate, showing the electrical currents zapping the brain and heart, sending them surging into overdrive… often for no apparent reason. Mental ones that are short circuiting, sure, but often for nothing we can pinpoint.

I was confused why the Panic Attack even hit in the first place, but my cublet reminded me (lovingly and gently) that the (fucking) Election has brought out intense emotions and then I spent a lot of time writing the previous post. Then the Panic consumed me.

Now that I remember what they feel like, I am on alert (not HIGH alert, though) for when/if it comes a’callin’ again.

Of course, I hope I don’t have another, but if I do, I am ready…

…to breathe.