Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Lessons and observations from my first summer in Las Vegas.

Here’s what I’m finding out during my first summer living in Las Vegas, Nevada(during the latest heat wave, and with the high temperatures in general):

1. In some places, people mostly stay inside in the winter. Other places, they mostly stay inside in the summer.

2. With how dry it is, the “feels like” on the forecast is often at least 4-9 degrees cooler than the actual temperature, e.g. 109 degrees feels like 104.

3. With all the hot air and occasional breeze, sometimes walking outside is like walking through (or into?) a giant hair dryer.

4. It’s still possible to get up early and take walks. It warms up quickly, so it’s best to get out as soon as possible in the morning. My first thought yesterday morning: It will be nice to get out for a short walk this morning while the temperatures are under 100 (it was 89).

5.  If I bring my water bottle with me when I’m out running errands (which is good to do to stay hydrated), I need to put it in my purse and take it with me wherever I go. Even leaving it in the car for a few minutes will heat it up.

6.  Wearing skirts and dresses helps keep me cool(er).

7. Having a pool at our apartment complex is a huge plus.

8. Apparently, outdoor Hot Yoga is a thing. As in outside in the summer heat.  I’m not really interested, but I really hope they wear sunscreen.

9.  Low 100s feel better than 110+ (which it is now during this heat wave).

10. I am gradually acclimating. I wouldn’t want to stay out for long, and the heat wears on me. But it’s starting to feel less oppressive.

Health results, past and present.

I remember when I first found out I had some sort of cyst or tumor, nearly four years ago now. At first, it was tangible — it showed up in X-rays and an ultrasound, and I could feel it when I touched my abdomen — but it wasn’t quite a real thing for me. I was determined. I was determined to be fine aside from that; I said to myself and everyone around me that I was otherwise healthy. I was finishing up a healing and empowerment program and I felt alive and powerful. While I did things to mitigate the occasion sharp pain and continued with the trajectory of making doctors’ appointments, I also pushed forward. I was determined that it was not going to interfere with the goals I had for myself.

I didn’t consider how much energy the mass took up inside me. Nor did I consider the power of denial. Which is not to say that the feeling of empowerment and hope and idealism was not very real for me — it was. But I didn’t even really think about the potential realities of a mass growing on my ovary. I continued as if it were not a factor.

Also, I had not had this experience before. I simply was lacking both experience and information. Phrases like complex cyst and borderline ovarian tumor did not yet have meaning for me, even if and when I heard them. It wasn’t really until after my surgery where those meanings hit me and I understood.

The present:

Saturday, I stared at the letter: my most recent pelvic ultrasound results. I get an ultrasound every six months or so to make sure that I am tumor-free. My results up to this point have been negative — nothing abnormal found. This time, there is a small cyst on my left ovary. The letter said to wait about three months and get another ultrasound and see if it resolves itself or if I need to take further action.

I froze, putting the letter down, motioning for my love to come over. He took the letter away from my shaking hands.

And I realized this weekend: While I am afraid, it’s important to not let my fear paralyze me. I can acknowledge the worst-case scenario while also acknowledging that that may never come to fruition. At the same time, it’s important not to bury myself in denial. I don’t have to present myself as a pillar of strength and push forward and try to make everything okay whether or not it is. I can be vulnerable and strong. I can be scared and concerned while still moving forward with creating my life here. I don’t have to push; I will take one step at a time.

This could be something. It could be insignificant or nothing. Many cysts resolve on their own. I’ve had one that did not. This one is small, just over one centimeter.. The one I had was nearly 13 cm. For now, I will do what I can. I will try natural and herbal remedies, ask for healing thoughts or prayers.

This weekend, I re-felt some of the trauma from that time, where I did not receive the support I needed from my community during my health scare and following crisis. I reminded myself that my support network now is strong: husband,  parents, parents-in-law, other family, friends. I allowed myself to feel the fear and the grief while also holding the reality of my current experience. In the past few years, I have created a safe space within myself to feel what I need to feel and also move through it. I have developed and strengthened relationships.  No matter what happens, I have a strong foundation.

Life: celebrate, honor, live.

Life paintingI posted this on my social media pages along with this caption:  “Painting/drawing in honor of life, of choosing to live, learning to thrive, and being true to myself. On this date three years ago, I was severely depressed and hit rock bottom. Today, I honor my healing and all the choices that led me to where I am today.”

On May 25, 2013, I was hospitalized for severe depression and suicidal ideations.

I’ve been feeling the anniversary energy this month – more strongly than this time last year, but less strongly than the first year. In this energy, there’s an intensity, sadness, grief, determination, and more. In time, that energy will likely change or fade. In any case, I hope that I’ll take many more moments to acknowledge and celebrate my life, to celebrate living.

Year One.

Year Two.

Softening the hard edges of self-judgment

I have been hard on myself in the past. Over the past few years, I’ve softened quite a bit. I’m also more aware when I feel the hard edges of self-judgment. I remind myself to step back when that happens. Present-tense, I am softer.

When I look to the past, with this particular situation, I struggle with softening towards myself. In the past, I was sometimes unthinkingly callous, unkind, explosive, etc. towards my now-husband. I still find myself in moments where I apologize for how I behaved then. Sometime,s when he expresses gratitude for something in the present, I realize that I didn’t do that in the past and feel bad. And I realize that I likely behaved this way in the past in other close relationships as well.

My love says that apologies aren’t needed. He acknowledges that my behavior was sometimes unkind in the past, but it isn’t now. He is grateful for the growth we’ve both gone through. We’re both grateful for DBT, which has certainly helped me be more mindful, less reactive, more relational, and what I learned and passed on to him has helped him, too. We’re both so grateful that we know about my sensory processing issues, because they often largely contributed towards my reactivity, my meltdowns, etc. We have a wonderful relationship now. We have more exchange and give-and-take; we talk things through and we actively work on our relationship.

And even acknowledging all that, I find it challenging at times to fully forgive myself for those times where I lashed out, where I critical or unkind. I’m hoping that writing this out will allow me to soften a little bit, or at least accept that that’s where I’m at. I have grown so much. I am still growing. I am learning from my mistakes. I cannot change the past, but I can be mindful in the present and carry that into the future. Hopefully, in time, I can hold my past self with more compassion.

My healthcare story and reflections on the American Health Care Act bill.

Okay, I’m going to get personal and political about healthcare coverage.

My story:

Over many years in infrequent doctor’s visits, I omitted the fact that my family has a history of depression. I did this partly in order to avoid receiving a diagnosis, to avoid the stigma of the label, and also to avoid having a “pre-existing condition.” My parents were both self-employed and had to buy private insurance, so any diagnosis (especially one I was not seeking conventional medical treatment for) might put that at risk.

After college, I generally had several jobs that included health insurance benefits. After I got laid off in 2011, I was able to apply for private insurance without much of a hassle. At the time, insurance carriers seemed to look for any reason not to cover people — or at least charge more for their care. I was relieved and grateful that I didn’t fall into this category.

But then something else came up: in the late summer of 2013, I discovered I had a tumor on my right ovary. This discovery, along with the subsequent open abdominal surgery, meant that I would have a pre-existing condition. With the beginning of the Affordable Care Act in 2014, I was able to easily get coverage. And with my recovery from the surgery, I also struggled to recover emotionally and fell into a deep depression. I decided to seek further treatment, which included hospitalization and taking medication and later an intensive therapy program.

When I moved back to New Mexico, I qualified for Centennial Care, their Medicaid Program, under the Affordable Care Act’s Medicaid expansion. Under this program, I was able to get my Dialectical Behavioral Therapy program covered as well as occupational therapy for my sensory issues. It also covered my preventative care visits, pelvic ultrasounds, and follow-up appointments to make sure the tumor hadn’t returned. I felt so grateful to have these needs met.

These days, I am pretty healthy. I still take antidepressants, and have not had another major episode of depression. So far, my tumor has not returned.

Today, the House of Representatives passed a bill to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. This bill includes changing the current guaranteed protections to pre-existing conditions.

A recent quote from an Alabama congressman: “My understanding is that (the new proposal) will allow insurance companies to require people who have higher health care costs to contribute more to the insurance pool. That helps offset all these costs, thereby reducing the cost to those people who lead good lives, they’re healthy, they’ve done the things to keep their bodies healthy. And right now, those are the people — who’ve done things the right way — that are seeing their costs skyrocketing.”

I see quotes like this and I get frustrated. Honestly, I get frustrated anytime I hear or read something from any side of the political spectrum that implies that people have full control — as if merely being responsible will ensure their good health — whether they’re talking about potential healthcare law changes or holistic healing. In my perspective, yes, there are things I can do (and do do) to help keep myself healthy — but that doesn’t guarantee my continued good health.

Yes, there are people with pre-existing conditions who don’t take care of themselves. There are people out there who have pre-existing conditions because they didn’t take care of themselves. There are also people who can’t afford to take better care of themselves — they do what they can, but they may prioritizing caring for others, and/or need to work two jobs to provide for themselves and their families, etc. And there are people who take care of themselves and do everything “right” and still end up falling ill. And sometimes “pre-existing condition” just means that a person sought out treatment for something they needed medical help with, which resulted in a diagnosis. This can run the gamut of regular, human life experiences, including childbirth. In this so-called healthcare bill, the list of what qualifies as a pre-existing condition goes on. 

Hearing and reading about all these potential changes does scare me on a personal level — it would be a huge financial burden for my husband and me if our healthcare costs went up in order for me to at least get preventative coverage, and that’s not even looking at potential serious health issues in the future. We are currently both covered through his employer, and this bill would likely extend to these benefits as well.

However, I am young and currently healthy. I am concerned for others. There are others whose higher cost or loss of coverage could be the difference between life and death. There are children who are born with pre-existing conditions whose parents might have to make hard decisions. Many people will lose coverage.

The Senate is said to be considering creating another version of the American Health Care Act; in any case, the review of the bill in the Senate is likely to be a longer process. 

If you are concerned about the future of healthcare coverage in the United States, here are some things you can do:
Call, write, or e-mail your Senators.

Write thank-you notes to Congresspeople who voted against the bill.  If your representative voted for it and you disagree with them, let them know (for reference, these are the votes).

Share your story. Write in your social media channels, share in a blog post. Personal stories can make a huge impact.

From frustration to acceptance

The experience of being me is challenging sometimes.

It’s challenging after spending a weekend reeling from sensory input and having to slow way down.

It’s experiencing intense overwhelm and heaviness after trying a healing technique — one that others are praising and saying how good they feel afterwards and how much it benefits them.  I try it, and it feels like so much. Too much?

It’s my thoughts that “other people aren’t experiencing this,” and “Why is this happening again?”

And perhaps many people are not, maybe not specifically sensory processing issues or other sensitivities, but, as my Aikido/Tai Chi instructor reminded me on Tuesday night, everyone has limitations of some sort that they have to honor, and also reach their “too much” point at times. He said that being at the edge often means learning, and going over can lead to burnout or injuries.

I sometimes really want things to be easier, simpler, more relaxing for me. Not to get exhausted, even from doing things that I want to do. Not finding it challenging to be in my body at times and stay anywhere close to grounded.

And then, there’s returning to acceptance. There’s softening towards myself. There’s having a vulnerable moment after Aikido that opens up a conversation and other people sharing vulnerabilities.

 I realize that often when I feel overloaded and scattered, I often interpret it as I’ve done something “wrong.” And maybe whatever I did was too much for my system at that particular moment, but it may not need that strong of a label. My nervous system is giving me a signal that I need to slow down, back off. That requires honoring myself, pausing, and resting. It does not require a label or a value judgment. Once in a more grounded place, I can have more perspective about that experience and think about what to consider in the future regarding that activity. Experimenting and finding that that activity was too much at that moment doesn’t require chastising myself for wanting to see what it would be like. It may be an opportunity to give myself space and to learn from that experience.

I have done so much work the past few years around creating a life that more fully honors my sensitivities and limitations. I have so much more respect for myself and what I need. I still have moments where I get frustrated, where I want to do more, be more, and where I want to push through.  I also have more moments of acceptance, of giving myself space to be how, where, and who I am. I’m taking this moment to honor and acknowledge all of this.

Friday link roundup 4/21

Netflix has released a series called 13 Reasons Why, based on the book by the same name. While I’ve read plot synopses, I’ve never read or watched either one (my choice). The story is centers around a teenager who dies by suicide and the tapes she leaves behind to describe what (and who) contributed to her decision. I’m sharing articles about the series because the show addresses sensitive topics, and I think raising mental health and suicide awareness is important — and it’s also important to make an informed decision on whether to watch the show (or things to consider if you do). So, trigger warning in these articles for mentions and discussions of suicide, rape, and sexual harassment and assault.  A guide to the series for parents and teachers.  First-person articles from people who have watched it: Why I Wish I Didn’t Watch ’13 Reasons Why.’  4 Important Lessons From ’13 Reasons Why.’  About the show’s visual choices and using teen iconography.  From someone who lost a friend as a teen: 13 Reasons Why Tells a Captivating Story, but Not My Story.  How the show’s promise to raise teen mental health awareness backfired.  On how the show addresses rape culture.

Have some nostalgia with a show that depicts the background of an infamous fictional thief: A future Netflix release that might excite people who grew up in the ’90s: Carmen Sandiego! I don’t know how many hours I spent playing “Where in the World…” then “Where in Time…” on my computer, in addition to watching the PBS game show. I think I also watched the cartoon series a few times, too.

Creative Action Network: A global community of artist and designers making art with purpose. Plus, you can submit your own art that follow the different sayings and themes!

Live updates of the March for Science from all around the world.

There’s a theory that there are four types of introversion.

A few reactions to Starbucks’ limited-time-only Unicorn Frappuccino. What I’ve heard from people I know: “It’s sweet,” and “I’m not sure about this…”