Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed, and Comes with Blues

My recent experiences with unresolved, generalized symptoms prompted me to finally go and get a checkup a couple of weeks ago.  I figured that if my mind felt okay, despite the skepticism of psychiatric professionals, then it had to be something in my body.

Generally, I’m one of those folks that is lured into my regular yearlies when they are prompted by something.  For the last four years, it’s been mostly job related.  When a person works with children, the company wants to be damned sure that their staff isn’t riddled with dangerous, communicable diseases.  But, that’s about the end of it.  There isn’t much regard for routine testing that should be done, especially in cases where it might be questionable as to whether the insurance will pay out or not.

This last time, I was mostly lured in by the need for a refill on my inhaler.  But, I figured while I was there with excellent insurance, I should probably get stabbed a half dozen times with a baby needle before they found a leaky vein to slowly drain my blood into a fist full of vials.  Besides, there were some things I wanted to look into.  Things I had been ducking for a few years, because I really didn’t want to know the facts surrounding it.

Something Old

When I was 25, a new primary care doctor reviewed my intake forms.  He asked, “Have you ever had a lipid panel done?”.  Mystified, I replied, “No, why?  Should I?”  Frankly, he looked shocked, and explained that any reliable doctor would have been monitoring that since I was 18.  Apparently, I was at a significant risk for heart disease.

Imagine my shock when my lipid panel came back indicating that I had high cholesterol.  I demanded to know why.  I wasn’t obese and by that time I was very active, chasing multiple toddlers around as part of my job.  My diet wasn’t absolutely atrocious, probably not any worse than anyone else in my age group.  All she could say was, “It’s largely genetic in your case.”

The nurse started rattling off orders to put in a prescription for statins and attempted to get my pharmacy’s information.  I resisted, explaining to her that I was just too young to start that kind of serious medication.  I resolved to make an honest attempt at maintaining diet and exercise to combat high cholesterol.

I simply refused to believe that someone in my age group could be at serious risk for heart disease.

The following year, I managed to shed about another 10 lbs and remained extremely active, having a largely pedestrian commute, and spending most of my working day on my feet.  And again, I ended up with an even higher number than the year before!

But, I still resisted.  I refused to give in.

Something New

My test results came back today.  I hadn’t been tested since I was 26, so I didn’t really know what to expect.  I knew that the numbers probably wouldn’t be in my favor, considering that I am currently at my highest adult weight yet, having gained about 25 lbs in 18 months.  Sadly, it was largely a result of quitting smoking.  I guess there are some instances where you have to pick your poison, so to speak.

My triglycerides spiked almost 100 points, over twice the level that they should be.  My overall number was considerably higher, being that my LDL was higher.  The only thing that brought my overall number down was the impressive number I had on my HDL.

And the dread hit me.  I’ll be 30 in less than three months now.  I had given it five years, and pretty much proved that despite my best efforts, genetics aren’t something that can be easily beaten.

Then, there was the horror.  I had orders being sent to me via mail to go to their local diagnostic center immediately for an abdominal ultrasound.  It seems that my liver enzymes are elevated.  Now, how elevated, I don’t quite know.  I won’t know until the orders hit my mailbox, along with a copy of the complete report.  It was apparent’y bad enough to alarm the doctor into urgent actions.

Something Borrowed

Genetics.

I keep hearing it repeatedly.  Every medical professional has rattled this off to me over and over again.

Many readers may be chuckling at my alarm over turning 30.  Most people, mainly those older than me, remark, “You’re still so young”, and, “You’re just a kid!” – to which I honestly take no offense.  Chronologically, I’ve really only lived a speck of time in my life.  I’m actually relieved when someone points out my youth, because I feel like I’ve lived dozens of lives already.

But, I take my age pretty seriously up against when I’ve witnessed in my own family.

My dad almost died shortly after his 50th birthday from heart disease.  The man had spent his entire youth at the peak of health, being in the army and all.  I never saw him take a drink in my lifetime.  He had quit smoking long ago.  And yet, 14 years and five days ago, he went into emergency surgery where they performed an old school quadruple bipass.  The Widowmaker, they crudely called it at the VA Hospital.

Through the modern miracles of medicine, he’ll be an official senior citizen in the upcoming year.  The doctors told him that he would probably last only another ten years, seeing as how another surgery wouldn’t be an option.  He used to remark about his mortality, saying awful things like, “I won’t live to even meet your child” to me.

Not only did he meet his grandson, but they are best friends today.  Poppop is Beast’s world.  That’s the man that would hold him ’round the clock until his arms were ready to fall off for the first year of Beast’s life.

Comes with Blues

I guess I was mostly prompted into action when my brother was diagnosed as having very high blood pressure earlier in the year.  My mom attempted to dismiss it by pointing out that my brother easily outweighed me by over twice my own weight.  But, when my own weight gain wasn’t easily coming off this time, I knew that I was probably at risk.

So, I started Lipitor today, much to my chagrin.  The most common symptom is myalgia, and it has to be reported immediately.  I’m not sure what happens after that, if they have to discontinue the medication and try again with something else.  Woohoo.  Another medication roulette wheel to spin.

But, this condition now limits my bipolar treatment options significantly.  My physical health has absolutely no room to risk any additional weight gain, increased sugar levels, or any liver toxicity.  That rules out pretty much front line mood stabilizers like Lithium and Depakote, and almost all second generation antipsychotics.

In a way, it’s kind of nice.  I mean, I now have a guarantee that any heavy medications are off the table.  Limiting my treatment options pretty much limits what combination of medications they can throw at me.  In all likelihood, I’m probably the safest on what I’m already taking.

But, there are some dangers that come with limiting my treatment options.  Since I’m so restricted now, I don’t have many avenues of treatment left.  I’m not willing to gamble my physical health for the sake of my mental health.  It might sound counter-intuitive, but exactly how well will I feel in my mind if my body isn’t well?  Damned if I do, and damned if I don’t, right?

I’m now introduced to a low carb, high protein diet.  This is something altogether new to me, being that I was raised on potatoes, pasta, and soda as my staples.

I will mourn the loss of all of those wonderful foods.  Especially pasta, pizza, and french fries.  Admittedly, I went on a carb bender tonight, because the idea of the new diet tormented me.  I don’t mind the foods that are promoted.  I actually enjoy fish, and it’s advised that I eat it twice a week now.  Chicken is easy to cook and fairly versatile.  Most vegetables are agreeable, and I’m definitely a fan of all of the “good” fats they are recommending.  Eggs are absolutely a household staple!

But, that doesn’t mean I won’t sorely miss all of those delicious carbs.  Farewell, my tasty friends.

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When We Get Knocked Down

A wealth of time has passed since my last entries. On numerous occasions, I became painfully aware of this fact. I yearned to continue my work, scribbling messages of inspiration for all of my loyal and hopeful readers to take in. Truly, the ambition of my life was to be able to recount my struggles for others who have inhabited those very same deep crevices to relate to. Very deep in my heart, I ached for those engulfed in that darkness and strife.

Honestly, I wanted to save lives. Doctors help to heal ailments of the body and mind. I had been committed to healing the spirit, which is the one thing no class could ever teach.

In the most recent months, I hesitated to write. Just as everyone else who lives with disorder, I am faced with my own challenges. In my darkest hours, I felt like a hypocrite. How could I possibly wax optimistic when I was having such difficulty practicing the very ideas that I had once embodied? The doubt set it when I read, and then reread all of the beautiful and uplifting posts I had written myself.

Was I ultimately a liar?

That very concept when heaped upon the challenges I found myself in the midst of was more than enough to seal my mind. But, that’s the trick of depression – to seal oneself off in the profound silence of isolation. I am upon my five year anniversary of seeking my initial treatment. And I found an even greater sense of shame and failure in my setback.

But that’s just it; it was a setback.

Even with the mental and emotional fortitude I had gained, I still got knocked down. All of the strength and stamina in the world cannot render any of us invincible. We are all susceptible to our own mental health concerns, with or without the coupling of difficult circumstance. We are not superheroes.

We are human.

Plain and simple, we are human, just men and women. Thought we are tempted to draw comparisons between oneself and another, there is truly no sense in it. We are apples, to oranges, to mangos, to pineapples – essentially all fruit, but otherwise dissimilar. We all grow from different trees in our own unique way with the resources that are provided to us.

That’s the point. We are all growing, perpetually and without fail. When we feel stuck and stymied in the singular moments that we inhabit, it can become difficult to grasp that our growth is universal.

For example, for the sake of my family, I had to take a job that was less than ideal. As a matter of fact, I once told my husband, “I’d rather starve and live in a cardboard box than go back to working retail.” (Note: It is not wise to tempt the universe with such statements). However, there I was, once again spending a portion of my life behind a register. But, I was still determined to prioritize it much lower than things in my life that truly mattered. I was set on having it remain as a means of income.

Six months later, I continued to struggle with the adjustment. I stood amongst a mob of people, loathing the very thought of waking up to yet another day of it. I saw myself in the distant future with my disgruntled co-workers mirroring my very fate. Fear and dread invaded the spaces where hope and optimism once inhabited. And the very idea of spinning my wheels indefinitely in the rat race of the workforce sent me reeling.

It was that precise disillusionment that generalized to each and every aspect of my life.

If it was always going to be this way, then why try?

It felt as if I had been running those exact same circles for my entire life, as brief as it has been. And the idea that I would continue to run them, despite my best intentions, led to my surrender. It was that resignation that abandoned all aspiration, hope, and passion I had ever contained.

I willingly gave up my life.

But, as I mentioned before, life goes on. We continue to grow, change, and progress, with or without permission or willingness. When that happens, we basically leave the driver’s seat empty to any entity eager to grab that wheel. In my case, it was depression.

Explaining depression and the resulting actions (or lack thereof) to a party who has been fortunate enough to have never experienced it firsthand is nearly impossible. I’ve often wondered why, but as I was attempting to drive the point home to my husband, I came to a profound realization. It sounds absolutely illogical. In truth, it is. It doesn’t make depression any less real, but it honestly seems nonsensical in a way. There is no why or how when it comes to the onset, thus, there is no why or how for the result. And as he sat there and contradicted many of the points I attempted to make, I came upon the realization I needed to shake this out of me.

This is my life.

Not his. Not my job’s. Not my boss’s. Not my son’s. Not anyone else’s.

And I’m going to take it back.

So when we get knocked down, it’s not enough to get back up again. We have the choice to just stand up and march on, or we can dust ourselves off and dance to the rhythm of our own song.

Celebrating Our Gifts

Celebrating Our Gifts

A fellow blogger, Cymbria Wood who writes “Blank Canvas Living”, brought my previous article, “Weaknesses Equal Strengths” into a whole new context for me with an example of her own personal application.  She cited an “extreme” trait, once considered a hindrance, as being a blessing on the flipside.  She was then able to generalize the concept to another “extreme”, which provided her with an additional strength.  It is proof positive that throughout the execution of altering one thought, the practice generalizes and builds upon itself into a whole new skill set.

What she related also had a significant tone of acceptance.  There was an understanding that some of her traits could be considered to be “extremes”.  The value, “Everything in moderation” cited in “Brave New Mind” is applicable to actions, not to personality in general.  We are who we are, with both deficits and abundances.  In “Weaknesses Equal Strengths”, we explored the flipside of both.  In this article, we seek to celebrate that flipside!

Terming something as an “extreme” brings many negative connotations to mind.  “Extremism” is seemingly synonymous with fanatical, immoderate, uncompromising, excessive, or even violent.  It begs the question, “Extreme, so why can’t you dial it back?”  That’s the same as saying, “You’re extremely tall, so why can’t you shrink a little?” or even, “You’re extremely short, so why can’t you grow a little?”  Again, we are who we are, short, tall, big, small, pale, dark, etc, etc.  We have long since stopped discriminating against those who are physically different.  Why should we continue to discriminate “extremes” of a mental nature?

Instead, we could think of the extremes as abundances, even if others have defined some as “deficits”For instance, I am not great at advanced mathematical concepts, such as algebra and statistics.  We can flip the same “math” coin to see the advantages I have with simpler and more tangible math.  My husband can churn out equations at a genius level.  But, I have the advantage over him in computation of simple percentages and geometric measurements.  The difference between us is his grasp of complex, interdependent relationships and my grasp of more concrete concepts.

There exists a common societal ideal that we cannot be well-rounded individuals unless we shift our efforts from refining our abundances toward “improving” on our shortcomings.  It’s a rigid principle that encourages us to classify traits and abilities into strict bins of “successes” and “failures”.  It’s not that black and white.  I’ve written it before, and I’ll reiterate, “As long as I’m trying, I’m succeeding.”  With that value, we can move toward redefining our own self-image so we can celebrate ourselves and our abundances!

A great launching point is in the primary philosophy of education strategies with developmentally delayed children.  Instead of zeroing in on the delay, professionals and parents are encouraged to identify their abundances, usually termed as “gifts”.  Then, those gifts are nurtured until they can be applied to other developmental areas.  Once generalized, we can begin to see a globalized growth across all domains.  Truly, it’s a brilliant strategy that I feel is underutilized.

Just as each child has a gift, we all have our own aptitudes.  Personally, I excel in artistic areas.  Creative pursuits have always come naturally to me.  A little effort really went a long way.  I went on to develop skill sets in music, writing, crafting, and graphic arts.  However, because my “shortcomings” had been defined for me in other areas, I was discouraged from attempting to develop them through my own means.

It was only when I started to notice my own aptitude in martial arts that my own ideas changed.  At one time, I really only viewed it as being dependent on a physical skill, of which I was under the impression that I was sorely lacking.  However, it is so much more.  It requires a certain amount of creativity to translate technical skill into practical application.  For instance, I’m small, so some of the techniques learned in the curriculum wouldn’t be effective in a real situation.  Therefore, I have to get creative on how to modify them for my own body type.

If an abundance of one skill / trait can generalize to develop a skillset considered to be belonging to an opposing activity / trait, what else can it be applied to?

Let’s celebrate our gifts!

I am determined, and I’m proud!

I feel deeply, and I’m proud!

I think abstractly, and I’m proud!

I am detailed, and I’m proud!

I am involved, and I’m proud!

I try hard, and I’m proud!

I care abundantly, and I’m proud!

I am generous, and I’m proud!

I am very aware of my physical existence, and I’m proud!

I freely express ideas, and I’m proud!

What are you proud of today?

Weaknesses Equal Strengths

In the past, I have had a problem with “black and white” thinking.  If something was good, it was good.  If something was bad, it was bad.  Opposites had two entirely different bins.  Because they were opposites, how could they possibly be one in the same?  How could they possibly share properties?  Wasn’t that the very definition of opposite?

One person was really responsible for setting this idea into motion.  I was coming up on my orange belt test, and I found that I was suddenly having difficulty executing basic techniques.  I had practiced these same techniques over months with much progress.  It seemed as if I became leaden and weighted.  I became extremely frustrated and distracted, making practice much more difficult.

My instructor asked, “Are you nervous?”

I hadn’t even considered it.  Anxiety had become automatic for me.  I took a moment and replied, “Yes.”

“Good,” she said.  I was taken aback.  How was anxiety a positive thing?  It was hindering me, and preventing me from progressing.  I thought that it might even be my doom, by causing me to fail my test.  She suggested, “Turn your mind off and focus that abundant energy into your techniques.  You don’t need to think about it anymore.  It’s all stored into your muscle memory.”

I took a moment to compose myself.  I threw all of that energy into firing off techniques.  Suddenly, I unweighted and pivoted with ease.  The forms were coming back together and my strength and agility were returning to me.  It seemed that by translating that nervous energy into a physical outlet, I had actually gained a significant asset.

There are two sides to every coin.  The point is, the two sides share a coin.  The coin itself allows the two sides to share properties, butt up against each other.  While one represents something, and the other side seems to be opposite, they are really one in the same.  All we have to do is flip the coin.

In my last article, “I Am the Best Me”, I touched upon gaining a different perspective on our own weaknesses.  Many of us are painfully aware of our own “flaws”.  They are probably something that has become a primary focus at one point or another.  , In the search for answers and solutions, we’ve invested an abundance of time and energy into putting them under the microscope and dissecting them.  There is a certain idea that if we deconstruct them, then we may be able to reassemble them into a strength.  It pushes us to put an exhausting, but fruitless effort into transforming an aspect of ourselves that is just simply a part of our nature.

There are the obvious things we can’t change.  I’m 5’1” and 28 years old.  There is no hope that I will ever grow taller.  I can wobble around in heels all day, but it doesn’t adequately compensate for my natural size.  I have a naturally larger frame, so I can’t ever realistically expect to be thin like the models.  My feet are awkwardly large for a woman of my size.  Knowing that I can’t be anything different is a little discouraging in a certain light.

But, experience has taught me that those perceived flaws are actually advantages.  In martial arts, I can use certain physical qualities to my advantage.  Many taller people are long range fighters, due to their long limbs.  By moving in close, I can jam up their attacks and land quite a few blows.  A wider frame provides a natural opportunity for a greater muscle mass.  In combination with larger feet, I can have a stronger stance, making it more difficult for me to get knocked down.  And being small in general gives me speed and agility that other opponents may not have.

When we examine the more intangible things, such as character traits and personality, it’s a little less obvious.  This is especially so when we’re incorporating symptoms of disorder into the mix.  I’ve spent a lot of time splitting hairs between the two, in the attempt to discern what I could “fix” and what I couldn’t.  Although it initially provided relief by eliminating the idea that I was “irreparably damaged”, that microanalysis eventually ended up doing me more harm than providing benefits.  It sought to put everything under the microscope under a lens of negativity.

Personality from disorder isn’t a cut and dry as we initially perceive.  In time, I discovered that my personality and disorder had a complex relationship.  They shared many things, but there was one thing they both had in common.  My personality and disorder were both directly influenced by my value system.  It made me realize that they are really rooted in the same entity, my core self.

Perceived Flaws Translated Strength
Stubborn Willful
Anxious High Energy
Indecisive Flexible
Moody Sensitive
Worrisome Cautious
Temperamental Passionate
Aggressive Forceful
Dramatic Expressive
Withdrawn Reserved
Inconsistent Complex

That’s just to name a few.

When we redefine our weaknesses as strengths, we can begin to see how they benefit us.  All of these traits have developed my creative nature.  That creativity isn’t just applicable to writing and other artistic outlets.  It benefits my problem solving skills and personal relationships.  By understanding our true natures, we can start to redefine ourselves.  This aids in identifying personal dysfunctions as something beneficially functional.  This is the root of the development of adaptive strategies.

So, drag out the thesaurus and tell me – what are your strengths?

Watch Your Language!

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Recently, I was inspired by a number of readers, namely Antony W, hcfbutton, and Cymbria Wood, to explore the direct relationship between language and cognition.

In Brave New Mind, I concluded with a number of phrases that are general summations of my newly evolving value system.  Note the tone.  Each word was carefully and purposefully chosen to not only relate an idea, but to convey a greater subliminal message.  In each mantra, I attempted to specifically use positive and definitive language.  While there is still room for interpretation, so it can be generalized to the individual, it excludes negative connotations.

Too often in our world, we are faced with the word “no” “No running”.  “No talking”.  There are two important faults with those statements.  The word “no” attaches an absolute negative generalization to the following action.  Is it never appropriate to run?  Is talking completely forbidden?  That kind of negativity has the potential to generate negative emotion, ranging from anxiety to anger.

In turn, it may prompt undesired behavior.  Those kinds of statements fail to provide any instruction for the appropriate behavior.  So, it becomes subject to any interpretation.  For me, I become anxious to do pretty much anything.  I freeze with indecision and fear.

Me:  What if it’s the wrong thing?  Will I face some sort of punishment because I didn’t fully understand the rule?  What if I don’t do the right thing and I mess up?

Conversely, I had a clever student who had a knack for finding his way around rules.  Through his creative interpretation, the rule “no talking” allowed for other forms of communication.  He would whisper, gestures, and write signs.

In fact, he held up a sign from across the room toward me that read, “This isn’t talking.” (Later, I giggled in private.)

Though brilliant, the message wasn’t clear enough for him.  Any form of communication wasn’t permitted in that situation.  Though he knew that, his actions weren’t technically against the rule, and were not actually punishable.

When faced with negative emotions, some may be prompted to act out.  Personally, if I’m feeling as if I’m being too restricted, I may challenge authority by doing the exact opposite of the rule.  It’s my way of attempting to assert my own authority and regain control over myself and a situation.  I invite the power struggle.

“Don’t take that tone with me.”

Me:  (raising my voice)  “I’ll take any tone I like!”

Needless to say, that last portion is not exactly healthy in terms of developing positive behaviors that defuse unnecessary confrontation and promote functional attitudes.

These scenarios are applicable to our own value systems.  By setting up vague restrictions, we unintentionally invite distressing emotion that incites maladaptive behavior.  Simply put, when we say “no” to ourselves, we can become upset, and that allows us to make poor decisions in how we act.  And because they are so vague, we can’t get sense of what we should be doing instead.  It makes it that much harder to find a positive behavior that works for us.  Then, we become stuck in a cycle of dysfunction.

In the past when I used to crash diet, I would set up stifling rules right down to the letter.  No fast food.  No sweets.  No lazy days, off days, or cheat days.  If I strayed from the rules, I would punish myself by wearing myself to the bone with painful exercise.  Eventually, it became so oppressive that I would reinterpret the rules to suit me.  Finally, I would quit, because it just became too hard and inconsistent.

That cycle of dysfunction starts to prompt thoughts like, “I can’t” or “I’ll never”, which can make a person feel helpless and hopeless.  It hinders any further action toward a goal, because we convince ourselves that we tried, we failed, and we can never make it work / happen.

By using positive language with ourselves, we can alter our own cognition to automatically generate positive thoughts, beliefs, and statements.  Here a few “rules” I use to develop more positive language:

Attempt to avoid commands.

I can say without any doubt that there isn’t a single person who enjoys being constantly ordered to do things.  It makes me angry.  I see commands as demands for actions, like a person would do to a doll or puppet.  If I don’t demand things from myself, I am certainly not going to allow others to do it.

Instead of using the word “no”, find the antonym to the following action and use a description as an alternative.

In my classroom, I developed a set of expectations (not rules) that excluded the word “no”.  Instead of “No running”, I used the phrase, “We use walking feet in the classroom”.  It spelled out the expectation exactly without being restrictive.

Use language that eliminates unnecessary apologies and uses statements of fact that relate.

Have you ever found yourself constantly apologizing for things that aren’t your fault?  For instance, someone tells you of their own misfortune and you reply, “I’m so sorry.”  Why are we being apologetic when it’s clearly not our fault?

The problem is the message that it conveys.  In being apologetic, we are unintentionally sending the message that we will accept blame for things that aren’t our fault.  It’s pretty much the same as saying, “Please, I want to be your doormat.”

Instead, a person could say, “That’s very unfortunate” or “What incredible pain you must be in”.

Use statements of intention rather than requests for permission (when applicable).

The problem is how we are conditioned as children.  Our whole world revolves around consent.  When we become adults, we have a certain difficulty with asserting our own personal authority.

I recently learned that I do not need permission to live my life.  In fact, I don’t require anyone’s consent to say or do most things.  I am an adult, and I have authority over myself and my actions.  By using questions, I am willfully passing my own authority over to someone else.

For example, instead of asking, “May I use the restroom?”, it can be rephrased as, “I need to use the restroom” or “I’m going to use the restroom”.  In that language, a person asserts their right to perform a bodily function.

Again, when applicable.

Rephrase accusatory statements, even if they can be substantiated

Most statements that begin with “you” and end in a negative phrase are typically accusatory.  “You did…” and “You are…”  Offer a suggestion instead.  “You can…” is far more empowering and avoids passing blame.  Most people will avoid blame at all costs.

Through practicing positive language, functional attitudes begin to form.  Constructive progress becomes evident, and that promotes personal growth.  As growth advances, we can begin to make additional improvements to our value systems to generalize to other aspects of our lives.  That way, we can be better prepared to face future challenges, and feel empowered to succeed in our pursuits.

From mind to mouth, we can make a difference, one word at a time.

My Thanks for Wellness : The 12 Days of Thanks

In the past, I have experienced a lot of trauma directly related to holidays.  As a child, my father would throw these epic temper tantrums, because he really wasn’t interested in participating in them.  He didn’t want to go out, and he was hell bent on making everyone pay for forcing him into it.

That, in turn, had some serious effects on the family.  My mother would get into a frenzy and suffer from terrible anxiety prior to each holiday.  On the day of the holiday, she would frantically try to get everything together and do as much damage control as possible.

My brother, who has autism, would pick up on this and throw temper tantrums of his own.  He also has the OCD component involved with some forms of autism, so things would have to be absolutely perfect.  If they weren’t, all hell would break loose.

Then, we would arrive at the homes of our family members.  They were just as stressed out as our own family, and always in plainly terrible moods.

The holidays season was usually a complete disaster for my entire family.  We were pretty poor while I was growing up.  There was the business of buying a complete Thanksgiving dinner, despite the fact that we would dine at my overly crowded aunt’s house anyway.  It was at my brother’s demand.  Then, there was the obvious inconvenience to my mother for cooking a Thanksgiving dinner when she absolutely despises cooking.

Rinse and repeat for Christmas.  However, with Christmas, there was the overwhelming burden of buying Christmas presents on a very limited budget.  As much as I can fault my parents for things, when I was a kid, they really did their best to not disappoint us on Christmas.  However, the stress of it all saturated the air around me.  The mood that hung around me was charged and dark.  And I picked up on all of it.

As I grew into a young adult, Thanksgivings and Christmases became disappointing and tedious.  Presents became fewer, and my parents became almost resentful toward me for having to buy me presents once I was an adult.  I was still obligated to participate with a smile on my face, even though I carried all of the bad memories of fighting in the car and vicious attacks from my brother.

My husband and I married, and just before our first Christmas as a family, he was laid off.  We were scraping by with a newborn son.  It was probably the most disappointing Christmas of all, when we basically had to ask our family for handouts, just so we could get by until the New Year.  It was just more likely that Xan would be able to be hired in a new job in January.

That was the Christmas the broke me entirely when it came to the holiday season.  I had few fond memories of Christmas to draw from.  The ones in the recent past had been so gloomy.  Everything about it was depressing, and there was hardly a reason to look forward to it.

Instead of loathing the holiday season this year, I decided to start a project called The 12 Days of Thanks.  This year, I would like to focus on all of the positives.  And I want to practice expressing gratitude for all of the wonderful things in my life.

Today, for my first installment of my series, The 12 Days of Thanks, I want to give thanks for wellness.  Both in body, mind, and wellness in those in my family.

I have had some serious health problems in my life.  In addition to having a diagnosis of Bipolar Disorder, I suffer from somatic health problems.  They are all relatively minor.  I have been plagued with asthma and allergies my entire life, causing me difficulty with breathing and recurring bronchitis most times I get sick with something minor.  I suffer from “knock-knee”, which caused me to develop tendinitis   Every time the weather changes, my knees ache and swell.  Throughout the years, I have developed prediabetes and developing heart disease, mostly related to a combination of bad genetics and weight.

But, worst of all, I battled cervical cancer for four years of my life.  Thankfully, my case of cervical cancer didn’t require me to undergo the usual methods of treating cancer.  However, it did cause me to go through a number of uncomfortable exams, painful biopsies, and two different surgeries that may have compromised my reproductive ability.

Despite all of these, I am thankful for my wellness.  On November 10th of this year, I celebrated my one year anniversary since my LEEP procedure.  So far, I’ve been free of cervical cancer for over a year now.  And in another six months, as long as my tests come back fine, I will be cleared of it entirely.

I am grateful for the periods of wellness that I experience within Bipolar Disorder.

And I have so much gratitude toward the doctors that helped me get to this point of wellness in my life.

But, most of all, I am grateful for the wellness of my family.  Xan rarely catches any of the illnesses that pass through this house.  And if he does, it’s relatively mild.  Beast is well, with no serious health problems.  Although he does have Autism Spectrum Disorder, I can be thankful that it isn’t worse than it is.  I grew up with my brother, who has ASD much worse than my son.  I realize that it could have been a lot worse.  And, I’m grateful for the Early Intervention he received from the most wonderful professionals I’ve ever met.

I’m grateful that my family is well, and continues to do well.