Posts Tagged ‘quality of life’

I have to say that Squidoo is the coolest website I’ve seen all year. I don’t know why I haven’t seen it before, but I like the idea of each of us being a lens through which everyone can look at some part of the world. The tagline is great: Everyone is an expert on something.

Did you ever talk with an expert one on one, and catch yourself thinking, “I can’t believe that came out of her mouth!” or “Wow … where did that come from?” or “What in the world made him say that?”

You see, everyone – including the expert – is also clueless about something at some point or another. And when you have one of those “huh?” moments, you may have just been a witness to that glorious moment in history, that one moment when this expert will have to say, “Sorry, everyone, I had no clue what to say next, so I just made that one up!”

I’m good for a laugh once in a while, and not because I’m trying to be funny. Let’s just say that the longer I live, the more I learn to shut up when I have no clue what people are talking about. I can play Trivial Pursuit with the best of them, I can explain the theory of relativity, and I can copy almost any tune into sheet music for the piano. Don’t try to talk to me about transposing music for an entire orchestra, though, because I can’t manage the percussion notation. It confuses me, I get dizzy, and I have to tune out before my head explodes. Then there was the time I tried to transpose Wagner’s Bridal Chorus for the bagpipes, never having played the bagpipes myself, let alone seen the sheet music the pipers learn from. (“Oh yeah – no problem!” – how hard could it be, right? I can Google it.) I would be very glad to tell you about that, but the person who actually should be telling that story is the one who asked if I could do it, and I’m not sure he’s speaking to me anymore.

It’s the same with electronics. I’m clueless. We’re remodeling our basement, and my husband decided to change the exhaust fan in the bathroom. Before I went to the home improvement store for painting supplies, I asked if he needed anything. “Whatcha doing, honey?” I said. I was about to regret that question, because he proceeded to actually tell me. That wonderful, patient man saw my eyes glaze over and tried to explain it again in fifth-grade English. As he was pointing at the wires and taking things apart, I caught some of what he was saying, but part of my brain had already shut off by this time. Not wanting to look stupid, I picked up the little orange cone he had put down, noticed it was dirty, and said, “Okay, looks like you need three of these, right?” YES! He thought the lightbulb in my head had finally turned on. I walked into the home improvement store, proud as punch, and asked the guy on the floor, “My husband says to get three of these electrical thingamabobs. Could you please tell me where to find them?”

Now, I can get away with being clueless about electronics. My husband knows about that sort of thing, and what he doesn’t know, we can hire an expert to do. I have no problem admitting I’m clueless in that area. But for some reason, for a while there, I had a problem admitting I was clueless about some types of musical notation. Then there’s the running joke about why men never ask for directions. I know some women who have way too much fun with that one. Unfortunately, they ask for it. The stubbornness is just way too entertaining sometimes.

The truth is, we’re all guilty of that once in a while. Is it a weakness to be clueless about things like when to shut up and when to ask for directions, though? Maybe not. None of us know everything, and even the brightest minds can’t figure everything out. That’s where the strength comes in. Isn’t it harder to admit you’re clueless than announce you know exactly what’s going on?

I might begin to have a hard time admitting I’m clueless about electronics if my husband died and I was left with no money to hire someone if a fixture needed replacing. Would I try to do it myself, or would I call a friend for help? I would probably try to go online, Google it, print out a step-by-step tutorial, and do it myself first so I didn’t bother anyone if I didn’t absolutely have to. (Let’s hope we have a double plot, just in case I screw up.)

Can you see yourself asking someone for help before trying to manage something that confuses you to begin with? Why? I don’t care if we’re talking about exhaust fans, wire hats, or the sheet music for the bagpipes. Why would many of us choose to give up, screw up, procrastinate, or “fake it ’til we make it” before we’ll admit we need directions? Why would we choose to look like a dufus rather than tell someone, “no, I can’t do that – would you help me?” Do people actually choose to be clueless sometimes?

Sometimes it’s easier. Sometimes it just makes your head hurt too much to press forward and learn something new. Other times you want so badly to look good to someone else, you end up doing stupid things to try and impress them…like refusing to turn on the GPS when we’ve been driving in circles through endless farmland, eventually realizing that we passed the same general store three times in the last hour looking for the way back to the highway – the one we can see on the horizon, but can’t seem to find the one road that will take us there. “No, this is the right road. We just didn’t go down far enough.” Three sheep farms, two red barns, and an outhouse later, here’s the general store again. Is it time to put the pride away and ask for help?

For the record, that story was taken from experience, but it wasn’t him. It was me. I’m the one who is most likely to try and “fake it ’til I make it.” Take that appointment for grief counseling I haven’t made yet. It has been two years and nine months, and I’m still driving around in circles, saying, “No, I’m all right, it’s all under control” while I’m playing an emotional game of dodge-the-pothole. Is it time to put the pride away and ask for help?

Everyone has something they’re very good at, and everyone has something they’re clueless about. I don’t care who you are, or where you come from. It’s okay to be clueless once in a while. We all have those moments. If you can finesse your way through those moments, great. If you fall on your face, that’s fine too. (That seems to be how I learn.) Being honest and open to learning has been very good to me when it was time to tell someone I didn’t know how to do something on my own.

And trust me, don’t ever tell anyone you can write for the tympani when you know for a fact you’ll have to do a Google search to find out what a tympani is before you begin.


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This is the best news story I’ve read today! http://www.businessweek.com/lifestyle/content/healthday/649732.html

Can you imagine the guilt on the mind of the staffer who lets the President bum a cigarette, knowing full well that the President is trying to quit? Somehow I just can’t picture anyone saying, “Sorry, sir, you need to tough it out today.”

Tough it out…isn’t that what quitting smoking is like, though? You have this confidence surge every time you resist the temptation, because it’s hard to put the pack down and you know it. If you can resist for a while, you start feeling tough. You start telling yourself, “If I can get through this, I can get through anything.”

But it’s a fight. It’s a constant battle between your lungs and your brain. If you want to quit but it hasn’t happened, your brain says, “I must not be ready to quit.” If you want to quit and it has just happened, you’re fighting the crabbiness and the agitation, and you’re about three steps away from making it all stop by simply having another cigarette. If you don’t want to quit but you’re being hassled about it, your brain says, “It’s my life.” Meanwhile, your lungs are on fire and you’re in denial about it. But on some level, you know that your time is about up if you ever lose your lungs.

I’ve quit smoking three times, and each time I only stopped smoking when the stress in my life eased up on me. I had a hard time being without a cigarette in my mouth when life wasn’t exactly smooth sailing.

Can you imagine trying to go through that as the leader of the free world? I would be lighting up every time I spoke to the Republicans in Congress. I would bring my own carton to a weekend summit of world leaders. I would be frantically signalling staffers to get me an ashtray every time a call came in on that little red emergency phone.

Barack Obama has been going through something similar for at least the past nine months, all while he was functioning in one of the toughest jobs in the world.

If reports of your quitting aren’t greatly exaggerated, Mr. President, congratulations for doing something positive for your health and trying to tough it out. If you can handle this, you can handle anything.

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There’s this big puzzle I’ve been trying to figure out for years, and it’s my brain. I have to catch up with what’s going on in the mental health world, or I feel like that puzzle is never going to get solved. And the more my mood swings grumble at me, the more I go into hypomanic detective mode.

So I ran across this article in NIMH’s Science News section. I love this part of their website. I remember when I was a kid – and this was before we even had a color TV – I learned that doctors did research, and I always wondered what they were discovering. Always did like watching PBS more than the Perils of Penelope Pitstop. After I got older, I forgot all about that show…until I got cable TV and found a whole channel devoted to old TV cartoons. Rooby-Roo!!


Results of the Study

The researchers found that nearly 40 percent of those identified as having major depression also had symptoms of subthreshold hypomania (mania that lasts less than four days at a time). Compared to those with major depression alone, those with depression plus subthreshold hypomania tended to be younger at age of onset and to have had more coexisting health problems, more episodes of depression and more suicide attempts.

I could have told them that. No, really.

I think the reason I was so interested in what the doctors were discovering is because I knew I was a little off and I wished I knew why. I spent many of my pre-teen and teenage years trying to compensate in various ways for feeling so blue, and usually overdoing it. Then I would go back to withdrawing from the world because in the process of overcompensating, I had usually done something to embarrass myself. The cycle got a little more amplified over time until my late teens, by which time the ups and downs and my inability to deal with them had become painfully obvious.

The more I think about it, the more I remember being sick, too. Looking back, I think it was partly from flipping between being sedentary and being agitated. There were headaches and allergies and upset stomachs – and I remember feeling a lot better when I discovered that four Tylenol were better than two. The MDs didn’t help much. I got diagnosed with nonspecific this or that all the time in my late teens and early 20s. That was before I saw a psychiatrist and life started to make so much more sense.

Of course you’re going to get sick when your body is being unstable. We’ve always heard that it’s so important for us to take care of ourselves and be firm about giving ourselves and our kids healthy foods and a stable environment. I think we’re just now discovering the full effect of WHY we should do that. I guess the researchers can’t just take people’s word for it, though.

Can we get away from the old “because I said so” script from childhood and start being honest about the fact that mental health and physical health are intertwined in real life?

I’m talking to the people who have trouble with everyday struggles, not to the people in strait jackets. It takes practice to watch the ups and downs and to notice when the coping skills are crumbling. It takes a lot of discipline to put your foot down with yourself or your kids when you notice the subthreshold hypomania is trading jabs with the depression and something’s got to give. Find a good doctor and stay on top of your health before you end up in a corner staring at cartoons and hating life.

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You have to see this, if you haven’t already. Anyone who is interested in topics like mental health, pediatric health, teaching children, pharmaceutical research, or what to do about children with unusual behaviour should watch and pay attention. This is a 56-minute video called The Medicated Child, and it was aired on PBS recently. It really struck a nerve with me, both as a mother and as an adult with bipolar disorder.


What do you think?

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Just when you think nothing can surprise you anymore…


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1-800-273-TALK. Call this number if you are thinking that it’s time to end it all. Why? You might appreciate it later when you’re in a better frame of mind. It might help you understand that there are people out there that really do care. It might help you see that those thoughts might be just a symptom of something bigger that’s messing up your mind. If that’s all it is, wouldn’t you want to find out what’s wrong so you can get back to the life you really want to live?

There are more and more studies being done to understand how big of a problem this really is in our country. Here are just some of the highlights:


Most suicides committed by males age 18-24 had psych problems at age 8.


Female black teens are at risk for suicide, even if they have never been diagnosed with a mental illness.


Around one percent of adult Americans planned to commit suicide last year, and half of those actually tried it. A little under four percent of adult Americans admitted to thinking about it, and that number almost doubled when they looked at just those between 18 and 25 years old. How many of us aren’t even admitting that we think about this?

Call 1-800-273-TALK. I’ll bet they’ll help even if you’re just worried about someone that is close to you. Pull the old “my friend has this problem” if you need to. Just talk about it with someone who deals with this stuff all the time, and try to find out if there’s something bigger going on that’s making it easier to think that way. You might be surprised at the change it makes in your mood and your motivation to move forward.

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One of the best lessons I ever learned was about the need for balance.  Mentally, emotionally, physically, whatever balance means to you – just not getting buried in one single thought or action so intensely that you lose the big picture.

I have a very interesting former pastor to thank for that one.  He’d say things like, “You can’t teach a pig to sing.  It won’t work, and you’ll just piss off the pig.”  Well, it didn’t go exactly like that, but that’s selective memory for you.  Some of my readers are friends who will remember this guy.  He was a very practical, back-to-basics person, but his main lesson for us was about balance.

It’s interesting that I started to listen to him and think about that before I was diagnosed.  He actually helped me deal with a condition that he probably doesn’t believe is even real.

Being manic-depressive, I bounce.  There isn’t another good way to put that.  The medication has curbed the extremes, but I still have so many interests crowding my head and ongoing projects that it doesn’t occur to me that I should put any of them down.  Once I get in the middle of something, though, I’ll tend to plow ahead and forget about everything else – food, sleep, appointments, deadlines for other projects.  Interruptions break the flow, and I have to work too hard to get my head back into it later.  Balance is in a galaxy far, far away.

I see imbalance in other people’s lives, though, and they’re probably not bipolar in the least.  People get so wrapped up in their jobs that their family life suffers.  Others get so wrapped up in their social lives that their professional life or their education suffers.  Maybe these are the types of people who really do need to see a doctor – I don’t know.

In my world, when I can catch myself when I’m off, it’s easier to flow.  I am learning how to be politically correct when my instinct is to say, “Screw the priorities.  I have to do this.”  Not want to – have to.  I’m fighting both flightiness and obsession.  It’s ridiculous.

If I’m fighting myself, and I’m winning, what exactly does that mean?  I like this message that I saw on a t-shirt:

“I have gone to look for myself.  If I should return before I get back, please ask me to wait.”

Meditation is very cool when you’re fighting yourself.  My new mantra is “Balance…family…work…health…outgoing concern…balance…family…work…health…George Clooney…balance…”  Oops…don’t know how that snuck in there.  Okay, he’s hot, but he does try to get involved and speak out when he sees something avoidably counterproductive going on, though.  I like that, don’t you?

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