Sunday, July 31, 2011

In This Day and Age

I just finished mowing the front lawn. Frank used to mow the lawn, front and back; but when I began to notice him tiring too easily I insisted he mow in back one day and in front the next. Now I insist on doing the mowing, while he pulls weeds (less strenuous). My legs will talk to me tomorrow (and they won't say thank you) but Frank has more serious issues at play, so my legs and I will have that conversation when the time comes but in the meantime I've done the right thing.

Yes, we could hire a gardener, as we have in years past. But we aren't of a mind to pay some young whippersnapper to come in to mow-and-blow at his own convenience, then spray chemicals (that give me sinus headaches) to control the weeds. There was a time when you could hire a kid to spend an hour a week keeping your flowerbed weed-free, but kids don't do that anymore. They don't need the money because their parents shower them with two of everything, and such a menial task would interfere with their overactive social and overstimulated intellectual life.

When Frank and I went to visit and groom my horse last night, she would NOT lift her foot to let Frank clean her hooves (easier for him than for me in the past, because it requires bending over and supporting the weight of her leg with one hand while using the hoof pick in the other hand). I took over and she gave me no resistance.

I remembered the time she would NOT go into one corner of the riding arena for me. I spent 10 minutes trying every technique I knew (and admittedly my riding skills are limited). When I finally looked beyond the fence I saw two coyotes in the nearby orchard. Horses have their own way of knowing things. And letting you know. I had forgotten last night that Frank is not at his best but somehow Brandi knew he should not be the one to clean her hooves.

He was the one who got me out there in the first place though. I've decided for a variety of reasons that Brandi needs a new person. Someone younger than me, who can give her the attention and exercise she deserves. I was hoping my grandson would take her, or his goddaughter's mom, but they aren't ready for the responsibility of a horse. Had they said yes, I would not have seen her again, but would have asked them to simply pick up and trailer her to her new home. Less painful without the goodbye. Since they said no thanks, Frank convinced me that while I am pursuing other possibilities, I need to continue to nurture my relationship with her. So off we drove to the ranch, lump in my throat be damned.

I'm not selling her, I'm giving her away. No amount of money can equal what she means to me. But if you're interested don't bother contacting me unless I know you well. I will not let her go to a stranger. I need someone I'm certain will treat her kindly and who will commit to seeing her through to the end of her trail. I don't want her handed off willy nilly from person to person. She's not getting any younger either, and she does not adapt well to change. As for me, I love her enough to let her go, and I fear the time has come.

Getting old is not for sissies, and ironically it strikes at us when we are at our weakest. Frank and I love our home but it's high maintenance and we're exploring options for an apartment in a seniors apartment complex. We've always done a pretty good job taking care of each other, but recently we've learned there are times when we are in individual survival mode and neither one is in any condition to compensate for the other's frailty. Frank has always helped me remember my vitamins (and sometimes even remember to eat); but now he is using his I-phone to remind himself to take his medication. One requires one pill a day. Another requires two pills a day. The third requires three pills a day. Yeah, we could write it down but neither of us would remember to look at the list. We need someone looking in on us occasionally. I know there are places where you can push one button that signals "help" and another that signals "leave us alone, we're fine." Then again I suppose someone has to remember to push the right button.

Yes, we have family, but they have lives of their own. A few nights back we watched Clint Eastood's Gran Torino, which speaks loud and clear to to the generation and communication gap that can sneak up on old people. Anyone who can't relate to that movie on one level or another gets brownie points in my book. Even in the best of families, reliance on someone you love can only add to the drama playing out in their own lives -- an unfair burden. This, I believe, is why old people "cocoon."

Well tomorrow it's back to the hospital for more tests for Frank and, who knows? When the results come back "well and clear" the two of us may break into an energetic happy dance that reassures us (rightly or not) that we're not as old as we've recently come to believe we are. Meanwhile it's do a little, rest a little. Do a little, rest a little. Remember to keep an eye on each other even if we forget why, and...

Hmmm. I had an idea for a great way to end this, but now I've forgotten what it was.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

A Highly Sensitive Subject (Me)

All medical conditions have emotional components to varying degree. I'm not talking psychosomatic here (where an issue originates in the mind and the body then acts it out), I'm talking about (a) stress, which makes every condition worse and, more particularly, (b) self-image, which is a patient taking on a condition as their identity -- I have ADD becomes I am ADD.

We've observed that once a condition is either self-diagnosed or validated by a professional, it takes on even more importance. Vague aches and pains become Fibromyalgia. Mood swings and irritability become Premenstrual Syndrome. Gastrointestinal inconsistencies become Irritable Bowel Syndrome. A wandering and forgetful mind becomes Attention Deficit Disorder. Fixation on repeated thoughts or behavior becomes Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. But wait, there's more.

Once these conditions become common enough to be known by and called by their initials, they have made an important breakthrough into societal acceptance. FMA, PMS, IBS, ADD, OCD.
Instead of name dropping a person gains a sense of self-importance by simply dropping initials. Impressive. Expeditious.

Am I being snidely critical of others? No, I am simply setting the groundwork for making fun of myself. In a way. Because now EYE have a fancy name for what afflicts me, and I have initials! HSP! Hyper Sensitive Personality (or Highly Sensitive Person, if you prefer simplicity).

A recent article in Psychology Today says of HSPs (like me) that we are extremely perceptive to nuances unnoticed by others, that we are especially sensitive to animals and how they are handled, that our feelings are easily bruised by occurrences that others would simply shrug off, and that we have a complex inner life, sensing and internalizing the moods of others on top of our own.

Lines between fact and fantasy become blurred for us, which explains why certain scenes in movies have me covering my eyes and ears, sometimes even leaving the room, and why I skip over disturbing passages in novels. It explains why I prefer the quiet environment of my home to social interaction that can sometimes deplete me, and even why I am often impulsive -- intensified sensory input consumes psychic resources for thinking before acting. Ernest Hartmann, a psychiatrist at Tufts University, in solidifying boundaries as a dimension of personality, says of HSPs (like me), "It's as if those with thin boundaries have porous shells that allow more of their environment to penetrate and 'get' to them."

This also explains why I am highly perceptive to the complexities I encounter in dealing with clients and their psychological issues. This is a good thing in that it gives me more information to work with therapeutically. I liken this to the wolf nature that permeates my favorite book, Women Who Run With The Wolves (Dr. Claire Pinkola Estes). Wolves don't just look at -- they look over, under, beside, and even through. On the other hand it can be a bad thing. If my guard is down I literally feel a client's pain, and then must see to the healing of my own psyche.

In another context, years ago when I was a legal secretary in a large law firm, an attorney once said to my husband, "The thing about Ginny is she sees through all the" Guilty. I did. I do. I catch myself often asking my husband, "Don't people realize how obvious they are?" No, he assures me, most do not.

But back to Psychology Today. Jerome Kagan, a Harvard psychologist. found that brain imaging studies reflect "a distinctive biological feature: a hyperresponsive amygdala" (the brain center that assesses threats and governs the fear response). Thus HSPs (like me) are hypervigilant. Cortical areas linked to attention and processing perpetual data show higher activation in response to all kinds of stimuli. HSPs (like me) perceive the slighest sensory or emotional provocation and respond "with a flurry of brain activity" that others consider an overreaction. In the words of Andrea Bartz, Psycholoogy Today news editor, hypersenstivity is "neither a flaw nor a gift, but rather an amplifier of an environment's effect."

So, now that I have a self-diagnosis and initials, the advice I am giving myself is the same that I have given countless clients over the years -- it's not what you have, it's what you do with it. I can take on the identity of an HSP and use it to excuse my attitude and behavior (as in, "I can't help it! I am an HSP, you know,") or I can use the magic word I've so often encouraged others to use -- just. As in, "This isn't the end of the world, it's just my hypersensitivity playing games with me."

Which isn't to say it doesn't hurt when the HSP ball hits you in the psyche; however, while it is hurting (more deeply than it would hurt most others) I can remind myself of what a 10-year-old boy told a news commentator years ago after donating a kidney to save his father's life. When she asked him, "Didn't that hurt?" he said simply, "Why are people so afraid of pain?" Or, as my granddaughter said to me when she was 5 and broke a crayon, "It's just part of life, Gramma."

On a good day I'll remember and apply this wisdom. On a bad day? Well, no one's perfect, especially an HSP, like... you know who.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Something to Think About, Hmmmm....

Business people offer guarantees to attract customers and to increase their income. If your washer doesn’t work, they’ll repair or replace it. If your car falls apart, they put it back together for you or provide you something similar. They play the odds. In most cases all goes well and they don’t have to carry through with their end of the agreement. In some cases, when a customer does return seeking satisfaction the business is no longer there, has "changed" its policy, or lays out prerequisites that are impossible to meet.

Legitimate health care professionals do not offer guarantees. Surgeons cannot guarantee success. They will do the best job possible and hope for patient compliance, but the healing and recovery are up to you. Marriage counselors cannot guarantee they will save your marriage. He or she cannot. You are the only one who can do that... perhaps with help from others.

Think about it. If you want to use hypnosis to stop smoking, and you are given a guarantee that if “it doesn’t work” you can return for a free follow up session, from a psychological viewpoint you have been given permission to fail. You might think, “Oh well, if it doesn’t work I’ll just go back. Maybe next week. Till then I'll just smoke some more.” This weakens your motivation to succeed. The "guarantee" is in the business person’s best interest, not yours; because (a) many people falling short of success won’t bother coming back, thinking, “If it didn’t work the first time why would it work a second time?” or, “It’s too much bother,” and (b) those who do decide to return may find that the business has gone out of business.

While we’ve been practicing professionally since 1992, with impeccable credentials and with community awards for excellence, we’ve seen many others in this field come and go. Why? Because there are no state regulations or oversight, meaning that hypnotherapists are not held to standards of practice. With no solid foundation in psychology (the science of human behavior), most people discover it is more difficult to achieve and maintain success than they were led to believe by the hypnosis "school" (actually a business) of their choice. With their sights set primarily on making money (and maybe helping some people in the process), they find that to most people their misplaced priorities are transparent.

To make sure that you are dealing with someone with a successful track record and a stable reputation in your community, do a little research -- including checking on (a) the history of their business license, (b) the existence of liability insurance, and (c) the location of their business. Are they seeing people in their home (unsafe, and in some cases illegal)? If not, how long have they been in an office? Is clinical hypnosis something they do there full time, or do they share space with someone else, and pop in occasionally to do a session? Is hypnotherapy their only business, or one of many ways they generate income -- which doesn't make them a bad person, it simply makes them an entrepreneur, not a health care professional.

A big difference that raises a little cause for concern.