#WeekendCoffeeShare (June 4, 2021)

Hi everyone! I didn’t participate in #WeekendCoffeeShare last week, but today, I really want to. Even though it’s nearly 9PM, I honestly still crave coffee. So let’s grab a coffee or other drink and let’s catch up.

If we were having coffee, I would share that the weather has been great here over the past week! I mean, right now I’m almost soaking in my own sweat and wishing it could be a little cooler, but it’s much better than all the rain we had during most of May.

If we were having coffee, I would share that, due to the warm weather, I was able to meet my step goal every day of the week so far. In fact, by yesterday evening, I’d gotten in more steps than during the entire week last week. Woohoo!

If we were having coffee, I would share how much I’ve been enjoying nature lately. On Wednesday, I heard a chorus of frogs when walking beside the local canal. Unfortunately, I didn’t have my phone with me and, when I did later that day and yesterday, they weren’t as loud. I still fully intend on capturing some nature video sometime soon.

If we were having coffee, I would share that today, the water system in my care home had to be cleaned professionally because legionella bacteria had been found. It scared me a little, both the contamination and its associated risks, as well as the method of cleaning, which apparently involved chlor gas. I mean, we weren’t allowed in the building while the cleaning took place, but I somehow got it in my head that I’d be forgotten. I wasn’t, of course.

While we had to be outside of the building for the day, some of my fellow clients went to the day center. The staff proposed I go with some other clients to a monkey zoo called Apenheul, which is in the city of Apeldoorn, about a 45-minute drive from Raalte. I initially didn’t want to go, as I felt I’d just be overloaded. Since I would have one-on-one support for the entire day, my staff said I didn’t have to go if I didn’t want to and could decide this morning to sit in the day center or do other activities. My husband tried to persuade me to go anyway and so I did. I didn’t join my fellow clients and took a shorter route through the zoo. Overall, it was a good experience. My one-on-one took some pictures with my phone. Unfortunately, the monkeys didn’t make many sounds.


If we were having coffee, I’d tell you that I might finally start my topiramate next week. At least, the GP figured out my options for going on a different birth control (because topiramate blocks oral birth control) and okay’d my going on the depo-Provera injectible birth control. She said that she’d get back to my staff next week to make sure I can start it. Thankfully, a nurse at my care facility will be able to administer it. Please everyone pray that this means I can start the topiramate soon. I really could use some relief from my PTSD.

If we were having coffee, lastly I would however share how effective learning to be present has been for me lately. This is an exercise I found in the book Coping with Trauma-Related Dissociation and it’s really quite helpful. I haven’t yet been able to practise it when very distressed, but when I’m at a moderate level of distress, it does help.

How have you been?

Just Rambling

IWSG

I really should be posting my Insecure Writer’s Support group post today, but I’m not fussed. I didn’t write as much over the past month as I’d liked to and the optional question doesn’t appeal to me. For this reason, I’m just going to ramble. I will post the #IWSG link and image on this post, but I won’t really be sharing much writing-related news.

I mean, the optional question is how long you let drafts sit there before redrafting. The short answer is that I don’t really do drafts. I write my pieces in one go usually and publish them onto my blog right away. Of course, I do have freewrites and some works-in-progress that I haven’t published anywhere, but even my one published piece that I wrote back in 2014, I wrote in one sitting.

Okay, now that we have this out of the way, let me ramble about other stuff. Today, like most of the past month, has been mixed. I was okay for most of the morning and afternoon, but in the evening, I’ve really been struggling. My feelings that, if I drop my mask (figuratively speaking), everyone will run from me and no-one will want to care for me anymore, are intense. For those who might be visiting from the IWSG: I live in a care facility due to my multiple disabilities, including challenging behavior. Lately, I’m spiraling more and more out of control and this seems to create a vicious cycle of anger, shame, self-hatred and more anger.

Yesterday, I had an appointment with my psychiatric nurse practitioner. We decided there that I won’t go the diagnosis route for dissociative disorders, but that off the record at least we agree that I have dissociative identity disorder (DID). We won’t do a whole lot of system mapping. Not only have I done this already, but it seems counterproductive to the idea of needing to practice being present.

Speaking of which, I looked up the learning to be present exercise in the first chapter of Coping with Trauma-Related Dissociation and had my staff write it down. The book is in English (at least, my edition is) and my native language is Dutch, so I translated the exercises and where appropriate, adapted them to suit my needs. After all, one of the exercises is naming three things you can see around you. As I am blind, this won’t work. I do find that other exercises do help me. One in particular is the butterfly hug.

Tomorrow, my GP will get back to me about my medication. I would’ve gotten topiramate prescribed to me for my PTSD symptoms, but found out last week that it’d block my birth control pill from working. My nurse practitioner would originally have prescribed the topiramate, but now I need to work something out about getting on a different contraceptive first. This will hopefully be sorted tomorrow or at least then I’ll know when I can come in to see my GP about it. I really hope this medication (the topiramate) will help, since I’m on quite an emotional rollercoaster.

Finding God in the Middle

Today’s prompt for Five Minute Friday (#FMF) is “Middle”. I sat thinking about what I want to write for a bit. The prompt really resonates with me, but I wasn’t too sure why. Then I realized that, in all of my life, I struggle to find the middle.

In dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), I learned to practise finding the middle. The middle between emotional mind and rational mind, for example, is called Wise Mind. But there are other things that require the skill of dialectics.

For example, I struggle to reconcile my relatively high (sometimes even seen as very high) IQ with my low emotional level of functioning. I know rationally that, when staff leave the room, they aren’t on the North Pole, but emotionally it feels that way.

Then again, there is somehow a middle. I still am both highly intelligent and emotionally vulnerable, after all. If they were mutually exclusive, I wouldn’t be me. And I am me. And that’s okay.

DBT is partly based on Buddhist thinking. However, I do believe that God does call us Christians to find the middle ground too. Like Kate writes in her own contribution, God is there always: He was there in the past, He will be there in the future, but He is definitely also there in the middle, that is, the present.

This is also what DBT calls us to do: be present in the here and now. Mindfulness is one of the core skills of DBT and it doesn’t matter that the idea of it originated with Buddhist thinkers. In fact, when we as Christians pray and especially when we are still, we are present. God calls us to be present, to receive his grace in the Holy Spirit. DBT fans can call that Wise Mind all they want. I call it God’s speaking to me.

Five Daily Actions for Wellbeing

A long time ago, I read somewhere that doing five small things for your health and happiness each day, will get you started on a journey towards the bigger goals. Today, I came across a journaling prompt that explained that not all goals have to be big and asked what small goals you’re working on right now. I’m pretty sure I listed my five daily actions already before, but cannot find it right now. In any case, if this is a repeat, I’ll no doubt have changed something from when I did this before. Here are five daily actions I can take, and in many cases am already taking, to improve my health and happiness. Most of these are focused primarily on my mental and spiritual wellbeing, but the mind, body and soul are interconnected. This means that, ultimately, I’ll hopefully feel more physically healthy too.

1. Read the Bible. I am currently on a 142-day streak in the YouVersion Bible app. It’s not always easy to commit to reading my Bible, but I am motivated by both a wish to please God as well as my stats. I have found that I don’t do well reading the Bible in order and I have no intention of reading the entire Bible in a year. Instead, I started with a Bible reading plan and, when I finished it, started another. That way, I am not just reading the Bible as if it were a novel, but truly paying attention to its meaning. I just completed my thirteenth plan on YouVersion today.

Bible reading helps me feel connected to God. I really want to connect to other people on the app too, so that we can study together. That’s my goal for the upcoming month: find people to fellowship with.

2. Pray. This is something I really need to get woven into my routine. My husband prays the Lord’s Prayer each morning as he gets up and maybe I should do the same. I do pray almost everyday, but not at set times.

3. Journal. I have the Day One journaling app and really like it. Even so, I struggle to write in it each day, even though I have two reminders on a day: one for the daily prompt and one just to write. Last week, I resolved to write at least a few sentences each day, but I didn’t really follow through. I am pretty sure though that, when the A to Z Challenge of April is over, I’ll want to continue writing everyday. Since I’m not requiring myself to blog everyday then, it’d really help if I wrote in Day One everyday.

4. Be more mindful. This is a less measurable goal, but I can include some simple breathing or body scan exercises into each day. Not doing this at the moment, as some of them feel contrary to the Christian faith. Scratch that and insert another excuse that isn’t holding God responsible. Breathing exercises and body scans aren’t anti-Christian. I guess I just feel like this, like prayer, is something I struggle to find the discipline for. It also feels kind of scary, I guess, but I trust that will get better with practice.

5. Gratitude. Another less measurable goal, but I really want to be more appreciative in life. Now that I’m going to use Day One each day anyway as I journal, I could just add a simple gratitude list (or one grateful if I can’t make a list) each day too.

In addition, I would really like to improve on my expressing kindness and gratitude towards others. I will get to thank my staff and others for what they do more.

What are some daily practices that will enhance your wellbeing?

Joining in with the Wonderful Wednesday Blog Hop and Let’s Have Coffee.

Accomplishments for Today (August 25, 2020)

It’s been a few days since I last wrote a blog post. I just wasn’t inspired. I still am not. For this reason, I thought I’d revisit a type of blog post I did a few times before and share my accomplishments for the day. Here goes.

1. Stayed in bed all night. I’ve been struggling with keeping a proper circadian rhythm lately, sleeping a lot during the day and not at night. Though I didn’t have too restful a sleep last night, it was good enough and I managed to stay in bed all night. I went to bed at 9:30PM and got up at 8:30AM. I also only napped for about an hour this afternoon.

2. Ate three healthy meals. We had cheesecake with our coffee today because it was another client’s birthday, but other than that I ate quite healthily today. I had yogurt with crunchy muesli for breakfast, three slices of bread for lunch and carrots, potatoes and fish for dinner.

3. Brushed my teeth, hair and used deodorant. Personal hygiene has been a struggle again lately, so this is good.

4. Had a productive appointment with my community psychiatric nurse. We discussed some of the sources of my abandonment/separation anxiety and also went into my fear of being one giant attention-seeker.

5. Did 45 minutes of mindfulness. At the appt, my CPN suggested I try mindfulness more often. She said she used to do a 45-minute daily meditation and thought I might benefit from it too. She didn’t specify which meditation she used, but I selected a body scan off Insight Timer. I actually did pretty well doing it. Of course, I couldn’t keep still the whole time, as I just had to scratch a few times when I itched. That should get better though.

6. Read for an hour. This isn’t really an accomplishment lately, as I read most days, but it’s still good.

7. Went for two walks. This is more of an accomplishment now than it used to be, as I’m sometimes seeking excuses not to go for walks. I also used the stairs, which I’m not always doing of late.

8. Did some weight-lifting exercises. I just remembered to do these while writing this post and so took a break from writing to do them. I also did some hand strength exercises.

What is something you are proud of yourself for today?

Distracted

Wow, can you believe it’s May already? I completed the #AtoZChallenge rather well actually if I can say so myself. Now I want to continue writing regularly for the month of May at least.

Today I’m joining in with Five Minute Friday, for which the prompt today is Distraction. At first, this prompt struck a chord, but I didn’t know why. Then I thought…

I want to live more productively. I also want to live more mindfully. These two seem contradictory at first, but honestly, if you get distracted by a thousand other things whilst being “productive”, you’re not mindful and not productive.

I want to stick to a regular writing routine. That doesn’t mean I need to write actually high-quality posts everyday. Of course, if my post is scrambled and going off on a thousand tangents, it may not be as easy to read. However, my writing will improve even if I freewrite. That’s why I try to join in with FMF today.

Then again, I’ve started this post a few times already and then stopped after the first sentence or two. I thought my post didn’t matter. Wasn’t good enough. Wasn’t real “content”. But then again, when I started this blog, I meant for it to be my space to let you hear my inner voice. So no matter how distracted I am, I will continue to write. That will ultimately led me to being more mindful and more productive at least in my blogging life. And hopefully in life in general.

Breathe: Using Meditation for Self-Care #AtoZChallenge

I originally intended to write today’s post for the #AtoZChallenge yesterday and schedule it for this morning, but somehow I didn’t get down to writing it at all. I hadn’t even decided on a topic yet, although several floated through my mind. Eventually, I decided to continue with the self-care theme. B is for “breathe”.

Deep breathing is often hard for people at the best of times. It can be a real challenge if you’re anxious. That’s why you may benefit from breathing exercises while you’re calm. Then you will train your body to breathe properly, so that it comes more naturally when you’re stressed.

That being said, the first step to learning to breathe deeply into your belly is to be aware of your breathing. You can use meditation for this.

Beginner’s guided meditations often focus on being aware of your breathing without the need to change anything about it. You will learn to notice each inhale and exhale without judgment.

Once you are aware of your breathing, you can learn to control your breathing more consciously. Often, it is recommended that you take a long, but not too long, inbreath through your nose. Then you are advised to hold your breath for a few seconds and then do a long outbreath through your mouth.

Another common meditation practice is the body scan. This allows you to feel each sensation in your body systematically without judgment. Start by feeling your toes, feet and ankles. Then gradually move up through your legs, lower abdomen, upper abdomen and chest, hands and arms, shoulders, neck and finally your head. Most body scan meditations have you check in with your mental processes at the end. Remember, this is a check-in. You don’t need to change anything.

You can add other aspects of meditation to your practice, such as mantras or visualizations. I like to use affirmations as mantras. I also love visualizations, such as visualizing the colors of the rainbow.

There are tons of good meditation apps out there that offer guided meditations and often a timer to practise on your own. I have tried a few and must say my favorite is Insight Timer. This app has thousands of guided meditations by a variety of teachers. Most guided meditations are free. The premium plan offers additional content, such as courses. Right now, the app has a specific category called For Uncertain Times that’s geared towards coping with the COVID-19 crisis.

Gratitude List (March 20, 2020) #TToT

It’s Friday and that means the Ten Things of Thankful (#TToT) linkup is open again. I haven’t participated in a while, but in these weird times, we need gratitude more than ever. Here are the things I’ve been thankful for lately.

1. Relatively tasty dinners. Here at the care facility, we get our dinners from a meal delivery company. Last week or the week before, I complained that we got boiled potatoes like four times a week and that I’d like rice, pasta or the like more often. Thankfully they customize the meals for each resident, so it’s not like if I want pasta, everyone gets pasta. I think my assigned staff told the company. In any case, I’ve had pretty varied meals lately. On Saturday, we got tuna macaroni and I loved it!

2. The sensory room. The real one at the day center and the makeshift one at the home. The day center was still open on Monday and Tuesday, so I was able to use the snoezelen® room then. On Thursday, some of the staff created a makeshift sensory room in the currently empty bedroom at our home.

3. Walking. Yay, we’re not in complete lockdown (yet)! I’ve been grateful for walks often before, but in these weird times, I get to appreciate it even more. I managed to get over 9000 steps everyday this week so far except for today (and I’m not going to make it today either).

4. Getting day activities at the home. I was a little scared that, once the day center closed, we’d get no activities at all. Thankfully, that’s not true. I brought some games from the day center to the home with me and we have enough staff to do activities with us.

5. Going on the elliptical. I went on Tuesday, thinking I wouldn’t be able to use it for three weeks after that. However, two staff members transferred the elliptical to the empty room in our home, so that it’s now a combined sensory and gym room. I went on it for like 20 minutes yesterday.

6. Modern technology. I’m so glad this pandemic is happening now that we have the Internet and smartphones and the like. Otherwise I wouldn’t be able to connect to my husband, my family or the wider community at all. I’m so happy this thing does connect us all in a weird kind of way.

7. Meditation. I use an app called Insight Timer on my phone for meditating, but I hadn’t used it in a while. Then I checked it out and saw they have a whole section devoted to overcoming fear in these weird times. I loved listening to some guided meditations.

8. A phone appt with my CPN from mental health. We had a pretty good session. We actually did get started on some cognitive behavior therapy like we were planning on. She’s also going to get me signed up for the eHealth module with the agency.

9. My husband. Yesterday I was suddenly overcome with fear that I’d never see my husband again or that he’d want to divorce me due to our inability to be together in this crisis. My husband reassured me that I won’t lose him. He’s so lovely!

10. My health. I almost forgot that this thing is about a viral disease that takes actual lives. I so far haven’t had symptoms of COVID-19, but I’m confident that when (yes, it’s most likely a “when”) I do get the disease, I’ll survive.

What have you been grateful for lately?

January Health and Wellness Update

So it’s already been over six weeks since I posted that this time finally I was serious about my weight loss and healthier living journey. I still didn’t post an update. Now is the time for one. I’ll also include a general health and wellbeing update.

I didn’t get weighed in over the holidays. Even though I took some care not to overeat, I didn’t stick to a healthy routine either. In fact, on Christmas Eve, my staff ordered Chinese and I had three servings. That clearly was a bit too much, as I had a tommy ache afterwards. Over the rest of the holiday season, I did okay’ish.

I still use my water reminder app and make sure I drink plenty of water nearly everyday. Sometimes I forget to log it, but I can be assured that I drank enough at least. When at my husband’s, it’s still a bit hard.

In January, I’ve been eating healthily most days. I eat plenty of vegetables and particularly fruit, taking care not to go for the sugary ones like bananas too much. My day activities orders grapes regularly, which the other clients can’t eat due to choking risk. I can, so I usually have them all over the course of a week.

Then of course I got sick. I didn’t eat very well for a few days two weeks ago, so that could have led to weight loss too. Then again, I did eat dinner each day. As soon as I felt a bit healthier, I started eating a good breakfast and lunch again. Lunch is still a struggle, as I’m not a fan of bread, so I often skip that. This means I only eat fruit. I don’t eat bread for breakfast usually either, but I do make sure to add muesli to my yoghurt.

I musst say I still indulge into snacks at times, but I try to limit them, so that I’m not eating all day. After all, having high blood sugar all the time contributes to type 2 diabetes.

Exercise-wise, I do pretty well. I go for a long’ish walk four to five times a week. Over the past while, I’ve managed at least 150 active minutes most weeks. I didn’t when I had the flu, of course. Still, it’s extremely hard to get to my step goal or even close. When I go for one half-hour walk a day, I usually get about 4000 steps.

So did this pay off or do I need to work harder? Regardless, I need to work harder, as healthy eating is more important than weight loss itself. Given that I only managed to do okay in the healthy living department, I was surprised to see the result on the scale last Friday. I had gone down 2.8kg or 6lbs since early December. Of course, my sickness may’ve contributed. I hope I’m not down too much when I get weighed in again at the beginning of February. I mean, that would fuel my hypochondria. I hope for a maintain or small loss. Only two more pounds and I’ll no longer be obese.

In other respects of health, I did okay too. Like I said last week, my sleep is a little messed up, in that I get a lot of vivid dreams and nightmares. For this reason, I try to do a mindfulness practice or at least listen to soothing music before going to bed now. This seems to have helped some so far.

Today’s Accomplishments (October 29, 2019)

Last December, I wrote a post in which I shared my small (but important!) accomplishments for the day. I wanted to make this a regular feature, but didn’t. I am not promising it will be this time around, as pressure to do something every day or week with regards to my blog, usually overwhelms me to the point where I quit prematurely. Such was the case with the 31-day writing challenge this October and it’s been the case before. I’m however definitely hoping I can do these more often. Anyway, here are my accomplishments for today.

1. Took good care of my personal hygiene. It’s Tuesday, which means I start my morning routine all by myself and don’t get any help with my personal care. I usually take a quick shower then and often forget to put on deodorant, brush my teeth and hair. I not only took a more thorough shower than usual, but did use deodorant and brushed my teeth. I don’t think I brushed my hair.

2. Took my morning and evening meds, including multivitamin. I got the multivitamin added to my meds recently as I am deficient in folic acid (one of the possible reasons for my fatigue). I often have to remember to ask the staff for this one myself, as it isn’t in the med management system yet.

3. Had three relatively healthy meals. I had two slices of bread with chocolate spread on it for breakfast. That isn’t the healthiest possible choice, but it’s okay. I had two slices of bread again for lunch, plus a banana and a pear. For dinner, we had boiled potatoes, a hamburger and kohlrabi.

4. Walked twice today. Well, three times really, as I also took a short walk in the morning with the day activities staff and two other clients. I took a longer (about 20 minutes) walk in the afternoon with just the staff and took another walk with the living facility staff and one other client in the evening. I don’t have my Fitbit anymore, as its battery is dead and I can’t find its charger, but I’m confident I met my goal for active minutes for the day.

5. Did a short mindfulness meditation. Okay, it took only three or four minutes, but the act of starting a guided meditation in itself is already an accomplishment.

What have you accomplished today?