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As it turns out, overdosing is mighty expensive. It has been 28 days since I overdosed, and the bills have poured in to my insurance company. Here is a breakdown of all the charges, with original cost and insurance-approved cost in parentheses:

AMBULANCE
* ALS1-EMERGENCY ($1,100 -> $400.06)
* GROUND MILEAGE ($112 -> $50.12)
* AMBULANCE O2 LIFE SUSTAINING ($35 -> $0)

EMERGENCY ROOM DOCTOR
* EMERGENCY SERVICES ($506 -> $332.16)
* ELECTROCARDIOGRAM REPORT ($25 -> $17.78)

ICU DOCTOR
* INPATIENT PHYSICIAN SERVICE ($501 -> $233.99)

COUNTY HOSPITAL
* MISCELLANEOUS SERVICES ($42.15 -> $34.14)
* MISCELLANEOUS SERVICES ($58.72 -> $47.56)
* MISCELLANEOUS SERVICES ($8.60 -> $6.97)
* MISCELLANEOUS SERVICES ($47.10 -> $38.15)
* MISCELLANEOUS SERVICES ($67.40 -> $54.59)
* COMPREHEN METABOLIC PANEL ($322.40 -> $261.14)
* ASSAY BLOOD ETHANOL ($105.00 -> $85.05)
* ASSAY URINE ACETAMINOPHEN ($159.60 -> $129.28)
* THERAPEUTIC DRUG ASSAY ($97 -> $78.57)
* DRUG SCRN 1+ CLASS NONCHROMO ($250 -> $202.50)
* AUTOMAT HEMOGRAM-COMPLET DIF ($77.50 -> $62.78)
* AUTOMATED, WITHOUT MICRO ($48.60 -> $39.37)
* CRITICAL CARE FIRST 30-74 MN ($693.20 -> $561.49)
* NONINVAS EAR/PULSE OXIM;SING ($88 -> $71.28)
* ELECTROCARDIOGRAM, TRACING ($207.90 -> $168.40)
* INPATIENT PHYSICIAN SERVICE ($584.70 -> $473.61)
* MEDICAL SERVICES ($75.40 -> $61.07)
* ELECTROCARDIOGRAM REPORT ($26.70 -> $21.63)

ON-CALL THERAPIST
* MEDICAL SERVICES ($82.50 -> $58)

MENTAL HEALTH CENTER INPATIENT UNIT
* MISCELLANEOUS SERVICES ($2,000 -> $1,050)
* MISCELLANEOUS SERVICES ($56.33 -> $0)

PSYCHIATRIC APRN
* INPATIENT PHYSICIAN SERVICE ($85 -> $85)
* INPATIENT PHYSICIAN SERVICE ($75 -> $65)

The grand total was $7,537.80, of which my insurance approved $4,689.69. Fortunately for me, I had already reached my maximum coinsurance for the year and did not have to pay a cent of this. Unfortunately for the purposes of this post, I cannot give an idea of what the out-of-pocket cost would have been.

niagara-river

The real cost of an overdose isn't monetary though. It's the risk of having permanently damaged internal organs. It's the awkward silence when you try to explain what you were thinking, or possibly not thinking. It's the knowledge that everyone is looking at you distrustfully, wondering how long until you try it again. It's the awful realization that you could very well be dead, and after coming that close you understand that you never wanted that to happen. It's the fact that once you've overdosed, it continues sounding like a legitimate solution, no matter how mild your depression may be.


Originally posted at http://stuffthatneedssaying.wordpress.com/2014/12/22/the-cost-of-an-overdose/. Please comment there.
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I'm telling my stories all out of order again, so to preface this I must say that I quit my job 10 days ago.  In those 10 days, I've struggled with many things, including the feeling that I must be busy 24/7 to make up for the fact that I'm not working.  Yesterday I had a huge list of things I could be doing.  I even did some of them.  However, one particular thing I didn't do made me feel like a failure, and as I journaled about it I kept pulling out more and more failures from my day.  I failed to make a dentist appointment.  I failed to apply for a new job.  I failed to do any exercises in any of my three self-help workbooks.  I failed to comment on any blogs, upload any photos, or add any information to my family tree.

Today, my therapist questioned why I did not do a thought diary (an exercise from CBT) regarding these thoughts of being a failure.  Oh, look, I failed again!  In fact, I have failed repeatedly, as I quit doing thought diaries within a few weeks of her teaching them to me.  I felt guilty as I explained that they are difficult.  I let her think it was strictly about the amount of work, but they are emotionally difficult as well.

My therapist is smart, and clearly knew that telling me to go home and do a thought diary was not going to be very effective, so we worked on it together.  One small event, or rather a lack of event - not making a dentist appointment - led to four negative beliefs driven by four different types of unhelpful thinking styles:

thought-diary

"I am a failure." (labelling)
"Nothing I do is good enough." (all or nothing thinking)
"I'm wasting my time." (should & must)
"Anyone else could do this." (magnification & minimisation)

As we moved on to disputing my "hot thought" of "I am a failure.", I listed all the things I didn't do yesterday as evidence of this "fact".  When providing evidence against the hot thought, my therapist asked me to think more broadly about my past accomplishments.  So while I included "I did write a blog post." and "I made other phone calls that day." as accomplishments from yesterday, I also came up with a few from the past.  I wrote a play.  I designed a style for a website.  I've been in a few plays.

Then she asked me to think about ways in which others have complimented me.  She mentioned that some people from my ex-job had probably told me I did well at things.  She was right.  I used to work with people from a department outside my own, and they frequently lamented the days when I was working on other tasks or was unable to attend work.  They told me how well I did at the job.

I've left a couple of our pieces of evidence out of the previous two paragraphs, because the act of doing the thought diary actually brought up two additional negative beliefs.  The first was that scores on standardized tests are not an accomplishment because they are just numbers that no one cares about (disqualifying the positive).  The second was that any positive comments made by my mother don't count, because she feels obligated to compliment me (jumping to conclusions).  This proved my therapist's point that I need to be doing these thought diaries regularly or I will never stop having negative thoughts that stir up negative emotions.

After the evidence for and against the hot thought, the next step is to answer one or more disputation questions designed to bring up positive alternatives to the negative thought.  I chose to answer "How might someone else view the situation?"  My therapist said, "What would Wendy* say?"  *(former therapist, not her real name)  I really hate it when she uses Wendy against me.  It just stirs up the pain of her having finished her internship and left, and even worse I feel like my therapist's subtext in these moments is that the two of us still haven't built a rapport.

I'm doing the best I can.  I wish she knew how much I like her and want to feel comfortable with her.  How much I beat myself up internally every time I sit in her office and deflect pain with humor.  I would give anything to show sadness or anger in front of her, to prove that I'm more than a really bad comedy act.  So now I feel like I need to do a thought diary about doing this thought diary.  Therapy is becoming entirely too meta.


Originally posted at http://stuffthatneedssaying.wordpress.com/2014/12/16/thought-diaries-about-thought-diaries/. Please comment there.
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My therapist is always throwing websites at me.  Sometimes they bounce off (I'm looking at you, O*NET), but occasionally they stick and I get to surprise her.  It seems like the sites that stick have a common theme: taking small steps toward increased happiness.

100happydays

First there was #100happydays.  I have posted 77 photos with this tag on Instagram.  I started 129 days ago.  So you could say that I have completely failed at this task.  Or you could take into consideration that I've had many days when I was completely without access to the internet, and many more days in which I spent nearly all my waking hours in a place where electronic devices are forbidden.  You could acknowledge that I keep plugging away at this task, despite the interruptions.  Personally, when I reach 100 photos I'm going to consider this accomplished.

The other website that stuck is Happify.  The main focus of Happify is choosing a track and completing a few activities per day toward that track.  Completing a certain number of activities will earn you silver or gold medals for each level.  So far I've completed the Cope Better with Stress and Conquer Your Negative Thoughts tracks, with gold medals on every level.  I've just started the Find Your Calling track.

Activities also give you points toward leveling up in 5 different skill areas: Savor, Thank, Aspire, Give, and Empathize.  Some areas are easier to level up than others, based on the types of activities that are offered in the tracks.  If you pay for a Plus membership, you can do any of your unlocked activities at any time, outside of your chosen track.

Plus membership also unlocks many additional tracks, and a strengths assessment.  My five signature strengths are: Humor, Love of Learning, Creativity, Curiosity, and Kindness.  If anyone has a great idea for a job that requires those strengths and does not require a college degree, I'm taking suggestions.

I've been doing Happify for 5 weeks.  I've been on the site every day, with the exception of a couple of days I spent in the inpatient unit and was without internet access.  Sometimes the activities don't have their intended effect (I get irritated by what I'm asked to do, like meditation, rather than it improving my happiness), but for the most part I am much more appreciative of the good things in my life since starting this journey.


Originally posted at http://stuffthatneedssaying.wordpress.com/2014/12/15/happification/. Please comment there.
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When I wrote the post Medical Records, I was waiting on a third batch of records to arrive.  I've had that batch for quite some time, but never managed to write about what I learned from reading it.  On my first read-through, I laughed hysterically.  For example, at the line "Smiled inappropriately several times during the interview when talking about suicide and substance abuse."  Gee, you think maybe because I was nervous?!  I've been seeing my current therapist since May and she's still waiting for the day when I'm comfortable enough to hold a conversation without being sarcastic and cracking jokes.

There's also a note of "laughed when asked to sign a safety contract".  By this point, I've lost track of how many I actually signed, and how many times I laughed and said signing was pointless.  Initially this was because the contract relies upon a willingness to pick up a phone and call for help if having suicidal or self-injurious thoughts.  I knew I would never, ever pick up the phone.  Eventually I did call once, on a lunch break from work, to discuss the fact that I had a strong urge to cut myself.  Did that 5-minute call help?  Actually, yes.  Am I at all confident in my ability to call again?  No, especially considering my failure to call somewhere between nagging suicidal thoughts and the overdose that occurred days later.

Another example of the hilarity was a 3-page Emergency Services Assessment that managed to note not once, not twice, but thrice that I had walked in with a number of suicide methods written on my arm.  This was actually more of an intellectual exercise (or, as the inpatient psych APRN noted, "an academic thought") than anything else, but the on-call therapist (who I wanted to talk to about feeling stuck with my current therapist) fixated a bit on the content of my "self-decoration".

I'm also a bit enamored of the phrase "Risk for not taking medications as prescribed."  I've never quite been sure if that is a risk they consider specific to me, or simply a product of statistics about my diagnosis.  At the time this particular report was written, I had a couple of instances of taking leftover pills that were no longer prescribed, but had not yet experienced the 5-day stretch of willfully skipping my medication.  So perhaps they were leaning more toward statistics at this point, although my own stupid behavior would account for this risk assessment in the future.

The most informative portion of these records was an update to my Adult Needs and Strengths Assessment (ANSA).  This assessment has to be updated every 6 months, so this was my second time having it done.  I was curious as to how it turned out, because I was not actually involved with the production of this assessment.  My therapist did it herself based on information from past sessions, because on the date it was due she was too busy dragging me back to the inpatient unit.

ANSA

My reaction to this assessment was a sudden increase in depression.  Each need on the assessment can be ranked 0 = no problems, 1 = history/mild, 2 = moderate, or 3 = severe.  At the time of my original assessment, there were 5 needs ranked at level 2, and everything else was 0 or 1.  I went into this assessment expecting about the same.  I thought there might be a couple more at level 2, simply because my original assessment was based on 90 minutes with a stranger.

Reality was cruel.  Two needs (Depression and Interpersonal Problems) had leaped up to level 3, and I now have a whopping ten at level 2.  So my full list of needs to be addressed (as prioritized by my therapist):

Suicide Risk
Depression
Self-Injury
Other Self-Harm (Recklessness)
Criminal Behavior
Decision-Making (Judgment)
Medication Involvement
Impulse Control
Interpersonal Problems
Social Functioning
Family Functioning
Recreational

I noted on one of my diary cards that I felt sadness because "ANSA update was depressing."  In therapy I continued that by saying "All those needs exploded everywhere."  Before my therapist could even try to reassure me, I commented that I knew it was a matter of them being needs this whole time, just that they hadn't been recognized yet at the time of the original assessment.  Does this make me feel any better?  Not so much.  It doesn't change the harsh reality that there is so much to deal with in therapy that I will probably never go more than a week without it.


Originally posted at http://stuffthatneedssaying.wordpress.com/2014/12/14/ansas-to-my-questions/. Please comment there.
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At the beginning of Thanksgiving week, I got up in the middle of the night, stumbled around my living room, and went crashing to the floor.  I couldn't get up.  I screamed for my mother, who leaped out of bed and came to help.  Then, of course, I refused her help.  I managed to pull myself into a dining room chair, but was shaking too hard to drink the glass of water she brought for me.

After some interrogation she asked if I had taken a bunch of pills.  I denied it.  Then she asked again and I confirmed it.  In total, I had taken somewhere between 40 and 50 Benadryl.  When mom realized she couldn't get me to the hospital on her own, she called 911.

benadryl

Many hours of my life are a blur.  I thought I remembered the presence of "Deputy Wayne" from Celebrating February 14th.  This made no sense, so I assumed I hallucinated.  I remembered ambulance lights and being helped outside to get in it.  I remembered a bedpan.  That's about all until I woke up hours later in the ICU.

Things were not much clearer in the ICU.  From that portion of the day, I remember repeatedly getting out of bed.  I remember trying to yank out my IV needle.  I remember a really sweet nurse who offered to order my meals for me so I wouldn't have to make scary phone calls.  I remember the on-call therapist dropping by to determine whether I should be admitted to inpatient, but I don't remember the slightest thing about what I said to her.  I remember mom visiting and telling me that Deputy Wayne really had been there, but I had to ask her about it all again the next day because I wasn't sure I hadn't also hallucinated the conversation in which she confirmed his presence.

I told many different stories about the overdose - some of them during the time when I was not coherent enough to know what I was saying, and others during the course of the following week when everyone wanted an explanation for what I'd done.  Some of the stories:

"I did it for attention."
"I don't know why I did it."
"I wasn't trying to kill myself."
"I wanted to hurt myself."
"I took a few for sleep and it impaired my judgment so I took more."
"I overdosed on Benadryl."  (no reason given)
"I tried to kill myself."

In the beginning, "I don't know why I did it" was pretty close to the truth.  This was what I told my psych APRN when he came to see me the next morning in inpatient.  He tasked me with figuring out the reason(s) I did it so we could prevent it from happening again.

I told most of my friends that it was an accident.  That I took them for sleep and took a few more when they weren't helping, and took a lot more when my judgment became impaired.  The truth in that was that I did only take a few at first and my judgment really was impaired by the time I took the rest.

I told one close friend that I wanted to hurt myself, but wasn't trying to kill myself.  I did want to hurt myself.  I had wanted to hurt myself for days.  I didn't plan to kill myself, although suicidal thoughts had been stuck in my head just as long.

With a few people, I didn't give them a reason and let them make their own assumptions about what happened.  With one particular person, I needed to impress upon him the severity of the situation, so I said I tried to kill myself.  This is sort of true too...I did try, even if it wasn't entirely intentional.

It took me a while to figure out exactly what happened and why and how to explain it, so here's the truth:

I had been having suicidal and self-injurious thoughts for days.  The kind of thoughts for which I'm expected to call the local mental health center's emergency hotline.  The kind of thoughts I didn't think were that much of an emergency and surely I could handle them myself.  The afternoon of the overdose, a friend confided in me that she had been suicidal the night before, for the first time in her life.  She said the only reason she didn't do it is because she had a "painless and tidy" method in mind but lacked the tools needed to execute it.  I don't blame her for my thoughts, but it did spark something in me.  The idea that I really could do it; that nothing was stopping me.

I didn't really plan on dying.  I didn't make any sort of preparations.  I just knew that I had once taken 10 Benadryl with no lasting effects so maybe this time I could try 15.  I was clearly a chicken about it, because I only took 5 at a time, giving myself the chance to back out.  5 pills every half hour, until I reached 15.  Then 20.  At 20 I still felt fine, if somewhat groggy.  I dumped another huge pile in my hand, tossed them in my mouth, and swallowed.  I knew when I took all those at once that it could kill me, but it's true that my judgment had been impaired.  I didn't have the capacity to make a decision about whether I wanted to die.

I was terrified going into inpatient this time.  I was convinced I would be permanently committed.  In reality, they only held me 2 nights.  I got 5 nights once for lying about having suicidal thoughts, but when I overdosed I only got 2 nights?  This was baffling.  I can only imagine that they were trying to get me home for Thanksgiving.  I didn't argue on being released, not wanting to ruin Thanksgiving, but I was still very depressed the next few days and would have benefited from a longer stay.  I'm still working on learning to put my own needs first.


Originally posted at http://stuffthatneedssaying.wordpress.com/2014/12/09/keeping-the-stories-straight/. Please comment there.
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There was a post in a bipolar support group the other day that asked "Am I the only one who loves coloring?"  The response was a resounding "I love coloring too!"  Nearly every commenter expressed the same interest, with many talking about coloring as the best part of their inpatient experiences.

On my first inpatient stay, I used some dull colored pencils.  When they were beyond usable, I could go to the desk and, with supervision, use a pencil sharpener.  I sharpened a couple of pencils that I needed to finish my current picture, and was tempted to bring the whole box full and sharpen them all, just in case anyone else wanted those colors.

On my second inpatient stay, I didn't do much coloring as I wasn't there long enough.  Had I known what would happen in the next week, I'd have colored to my heart's content.

On my third inpatient stay, a week after the second, the colored pencils were all dull and we were no longer allowed to sharpen them.  In that intervening week, a client we'll call Stefanie had managed to get the pencil sharpener away from watchful eyes, break it open, and use the razor to make a deep cut along her whole forearm.  It required many stitches and staples, a big bundle of gauze wrap, and her placement on one-to-one supervision - someone staying with her and watching her at every moment.

The irony here is that Stefanie was more interested in coloring than any other client.  She was constantly having the staff print off new coloring pages for her.  At first she used crayons, and then her husband brought in the Crayola Twistables colored pencils.  Her only lament was that there were only 12 colors.

Upon my discharge, I found a package online that had 30 different colors.  I ordered them for Stefanie, and attempted to go visit her as she was still in inpatient.  The staff wouldn't let me in.  Something about being too recently discharged.  I was disappointed, as I had fought past a lot of anxiety to even make the trip, but I did have the staff member deliver my gift to Stefanie.

coloring-page

Recently when I've been stressed out, I've remembered how much coloring relaxed me in inpatient and pulled out my colored pencils.  It still helps in the outside world as well.  It helps so much, in fact, that when my therapist assigned the task of creating a "self-soothe first aid kit" I promptly ordered miniature coloring books and my own pack of Crayola Twistables to include in it.  Then I had to brainstorm a while in order to figure out what other items it should contain.

The idea of self-soothe is to use the five senses to comfort oneself when in emotional distress.  Coloring is obviously sight, and I also have photos of family and index cards full of inspiring quotes.  For taste, a pack of chewing gum.  For hearing, an iPod shuffle full of upbeat music.  For smell, a roll-on of scented oil.  For touch, tiny knitted swatches in a variety of soft yarns.  As a bonus, there's also a pill container with a few of my anxiety medication.

My therapist loved the kit.  She spent forever looking at it and said she just wanted to play with everything.  My only dilemma with the kit is that I can't actually have it handy when I need it.  I can't carry something like this into my workplace, where everything I bring has to be inspected by security on the way out.  At this point in the year, it's too cold to leave it in the car, and I wouldn't really have access to it in the moment of need.  I'd be waiting until lunch or after work to go out and fetch a soothing item.  So while the kit was fun to create, it doesn't fit my current life circumstances very well.


Originally posted at http://stuffthatneedssaying.wordpress.com/2014/11/22/never-too-old-for-crayola/. Please comment there.
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medical-records

In an online bipolar support group, I recently posed the following questions:
How many of you request copies of your medical records? If you do read them, how do you feel about what you read?

I have requested records three times (and received them twice...still waiting on the third batch).  The first time was in March, immediately out of my first stay in the IPU.  Aside from general curiosity, I wanted some specific information that had not been shared with me: my exact diagnosis and the results of my first-ever blood tests.  I got my answers, and a few moments of humor, and a few other moments of being really annoyed.  For one thing, my appearance when I arrived at the IPU was described as "bizarre".  I showed up clean, in dressy clothes and full makeup, and just happened to have purple hair.  This is not bizarre.  In fact, it was quite pretty.

I also was annoyed that every time someone did an assessment of my intelligence, they wrote down "average".  The staff members who have seen me over the long term would definitely laugh at the thought of me being average.

A few months later, in late May, I submitted a request for everything added since that first batch.  The day before they arrived, my therapist told me she had been notified of my request in case she had any concerns.  I would still receive the records either way, but she did tell me she was concerned that as a people-pleaser I may read things as criticism that weren't intended that way and become upset.  And possibly injure myself in response.  She made me promise that I would talk to her about anything in my records that upset me.

I tried not to be upset by anything.  I knew my reactions were irrational.  However, some things kept nagging at me, so when I next saw her I told her we needed to discuss it.  Most of my concerns were things she couldn't really address since it was about other people's notes.  The only thing I was bothered by in her notes was that she refers to me by name instead of as "the client" like my former therapist did, and I got a reasonable explanation as to why that's done.

Last week I stopped in to submit another request, this time for the past 4 months worth of records.  Aside from being a longer time period, it is also one that was quite eventful, so I'm expecting a very large stack of papers, including:

  • Updated Adult Needs & Strengths Assessment (ANSA)

  • Updated treatment plan

  • 2 inpatient nursing assessments

  • 2 inpatient physicals

  • 2 admission notes to the inpatient unit

  • 2 discharge notes to the inpatient unit

  • 21 inpatient shift notes

  • 7 visits with inpatient psychiatrist/psych APRN

  • 3 visits with regular psych APRN

  • 21+ visits with regular therapist

  • 1 visit with therapist's supervisor

  • 1 visit with on-call therapist

  • 1 phone call with a different on-call therapist


In fact, I won't say "including".  I don't think I've missed anything, so if there are additional pages beyond a few more times seeing my regular therapist between now and when the records are printed, I think someone should take me out back and shoot me.


Originally posted at http://stuffthatneedssaying.wordpress.com/2014/10/25/medical-records/. Please comment there.
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I have a habit of taking things in to my therapist before she asks for them.  When I went to my first appointment - transitioning from a therapist who was leaving - she said she didn't know much about my family.  I handed her a family tree I had drawn.  She asked if I had supportive people in my life.  I handed her a copy of my safety plan.  She said, "How did you know to bring things to answer questions I didn't know I was going to ask?"

In a later appointment, I brought in a little essay I had written about what my current life would look like if it were perfect.  I had also created a checklist of the elements.  As it turns out, this is an actual exercise that my therapist sometimes assigns to people.

perfect-life-checklist
I live with my cat in a spacious apartment located in a quiet neighborhood within a large city. There are numerous amenities (banks, parks, post office, stores selling natural and exotic groceries) within walking distance. Just about anything else I could want to do is easily accessible via public transportation, or a short drive in my compact 4-door sedan that has a roomy trunk.

I work part-time at the nearby public library, helping people learn to use technology. I go to work wearing my own handmade cardigans and chainmaille jewelry. I take two college courses per semester, working toward a degree in psychology with minors in law enforcement and creative writing. When I have a week or two off from school, I travel internationally to do charity work.

In my spare time, I volunteer with a local theatre company and meet with a writers' group where I share excerpts of a play which will soon be professionally produced. I update my popular blog at least once per week. I enter poetry and photography contests, which I occasionally win. I am a member of Mensa and participate in their puzzle competitions.

I regularly cook for friends, either by hosting dinner parties or bringing food to other people's events. I keep in touch with many extended family members and bring updates on my genealogy research to our family reunions, where we hold board game tournaments. Some of my close friends have small children with whom I do art and science activities. I send greeting cards for all occasions.

For relaxation, I spend time at pools and water parks. I keep GAMES Magazine, Popular Science, and Reader's Digest on hand for filling spare moments while waiting at appointments or riding buses. At home, I always have a jigsaw puzzle in progress, and work on it while listening to mix CDs I've made to tell stories.

All of the elements of this scenario are individually plausible.  Putting it all together presents budgeting issues, both financial and timewise.  It would be impossible to pay for tuition and all the fun activities on a part-time salary.  Perhaps more importantly, juggling all those activities would require a level of manic energy that a.) cannot be summoned on command and b.) would inevitably lead to hospitalization.

My therapist thought it was cute that I had already checkmarked "cat".  I've had my beautiful, sweet, loving cat for 9 years.  So far, I have acquired the car, which is not compact but otherwise meets the description.  I have been making chainmaille jewelry, although it's for gifts and sale rather than for myself.  I'm getting closer to updating my blog regularly, but it's nowhere near being popular.  I've handed out a ton of greeting cards, just not as many as I'd like.  So I am making some baby steps toward what may not end up being a perfect life, but at least will be a better one.


Originally posted at http://stuffthatneedssaying.wordpress.com/2014/09/26/a-perfect-life/. Please comment there.
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rummy

On the first evening of my latest inpatient stay, I was surrounded by strangers and desperate to find a way to socialize.  A woman we'll call Stefanie had a deck of cards and a crowd had gathered around to play 500 Rummy.  She invited me to join, but I opted to just pull up a chair and watch for a while, as I didn't know the rules of the game.

The next evening, I joined the game.  I was 50 points from winning, and far ahead of most other players, when we were interrupted by visiting hours.  We never finished the game, but presumably that means I won.  The other players kept commenting on my "beginner's luck" and that they "taught [me] so well".

The next time we played I was again winning when we got interrupted by someone needing to speak to Stefanie.  I was sitting alone with a woman we'll call Yasmine and I confessed to her that I was not new to playing cards, I just didn't happen to know the rules of that particular game.  She thought that was hilarious, and she kept it to herself, so I left there with everyone else still thinking they were excellent teachers.  There was some luck involved though - everyone was frustrated by my ability to get multiple wild cards in every round.

My game of choice, which I started playing before my hands were big enough to hold all the cards (I borrowed the racks from Rack-O), is Shanghai Rummy.  It's been a long time since I've gotten to play, as I'm rarely with more than one other person who knows the game.  Maybe I should try being an "excellent teacher" with someone new?


Originally posted at http://stuffthatneedssaying.wordpress.com/2014/09/12/beginners-luck/. Please comment there.
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In my previous post, DBT Freed Me, I mentioned having created distraction and relaxation plans.  There are many more ideas in The Dialectical Behavior Therapy Skills Workbook, which I'm using, but I thought I'd share my personal plans as a preview of what you might encounter in the book.

DISTRACTION PLAN

  1. Squeeze a stress ball.

  2. Recite the Fibonacci sequence.

  3. Remember happy memories in as much detail as possible.

  4. Hold ice cubes on wrists.

  5. Get out of the house and sit outside.

  6. Write thoughts in a journal.

  7. Listen to upbeat music and dance and/or sing along.

  8. Recycle old papers.

  9. Cook a new recipe.

  10. Help someone with a chore.


RELAXATION PLAN WHEN AT HOME

  1. Play with your pets.

  2. Run your hands through beans, sand, beads, shells, etc.

  3. Listen to a white noise machine.

  4. Turn on a soothing TV show and just listen.

  5. Burn scented candles or incense.

  6. Eat your favorite meal slowly.

  7. Create a Pinterest board full of inspiring images.

  8. Cook food that has a pleasing smell.

  9. Try a new food.

  10. Go through magazines and books to cut out pictures for a collage.


RELAXATION PLAN WHEN AWAY FROM HOME

  1. Carry gum or hard candy to eat when upset.

  2. Suck on an ice cube or ice pop.

  3. Carry something soft or velvety to touch.

  4. Rub a worry stone.

  5. Wear scented oils that make you feel happy.

  6. Listen to saved voicemails from family and friends.

  7. Listen to soothing music.

  8. Take a photograph of something beautiful.

  9. Make collages on index cards to keep in your purse or wallet.

  10. Go someplace where the scent is pleasing to you.


virginia-beach

One of the relaxation exercises asks you to choose a place, either real or imaginary, that makes you feel safe and comfortable.  At peace, in my words.  Then you are to review the details of that place using all of your senses.  My place is Virginia Beach.  I see the sun rising, the surfers out at dawn.  I hear the waves crashing on the shore, the seagulls vocalizing.  I smell the salty ocean water, the popcorn stand just down the boardwalk.  I feel the temperate breeze, the sand squishing between my toes.  I taste the salt water taffy, the cinnamon bears from a nearby candy shop.
Originally posted at http://stuffthatneedssaying.wordpress.com/2014/09/05/distraction-and-relaxation/. Please comment there.

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