My First Real Panic Attack at Age 61

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I needed to read Jana Greene’s post about grace and weakness.

I don’t like to feel weak. I’ve spent all these years trying to be strong and building my skills. So, why, at age 61, with all my training and experience, did i have my first real live panic attack?

I’ve heard plenty of people talk about panic attacks and how bad they can be. I’ve secretly wondered, Do people really need to go to the emergency room? Does it really feel like a heart attack? Are you really being attacked? Can’t we call it something else, something less invasive? Can’t you just take some deep breaths and calm down?

Now I know. Now, I’m humbled.

If it hadn’t been for my years of meditation and breathing practice and my supportive, former EMT husband watching me closely, I might have gone to the emergency room. My chest hurt worse than ever before, and it was hard to breathe. Years ago, I’d gone to the urgent care place with chest pain shortly after my first husband left. It turned out to be stress and acid reflux, but I don’t remember that being as intense as the pain I felt during my first real panic attack couple months ago.

Chest pain is nothing to guess about. When in doubt, get medical attention.

The first good news is, that I know what triggered it. I felt challenged, then I felt cornered and I was hungry.  Since I’m hypoglycemic, I can get shaky and irritable when I’m hungry. It’s best not to challenge me when I’m hungry. Fortunately, I can take steps to minimize exposure to these triggers. I can maintain my boundaries and use the “broken record technique” by simply repeating, “this is not a good time to talk about this.” If I’m able, I’ll offer an alternative time, but simply repeating my boundary is enough.

I’ve been trying not to feel embarrassed about feeling weak, and leaning more toward feeling humbled and gifted – the other good news – explained in Jana’s post . I’m reminded that I’m never going to have it all together, because I’m human. Some weakness will always pop up to humble me and lead me to God’s grace.

 

I Finally Don’t Care about Getting a Tan

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I spent most of the day outside today. That’s the second time this month, and I loved it like Christmas. Outside is the best place to be on a spring-like day in February when you’ve been sitting inside with the computer too long.

This afternoon, I had a revelation. After puttering around the house and yard all morning, I took my laptop into the backyard, spread a blanket under the trees, which means anywhere in my backyard urban forest, and looked for a position where I could see the computer screen. Ever since I was about 16 years old, going into the backyard with a blanket, in the daytime, meant looking for the spot with the most sun because I was trying to work on my tan. My fair, freckly skin burns easily, so spending a few minutes in the backyard would prepare me for the beach and prevent more serious burns like the sheets of blistering I’d get on my back starting around age 10 when nobody wore sunscreen. Sometimes the pre-season tan warm-ups worked, and sometimes they didn’t. As a teenager, I’d usually burn (with the help of tanning oil) and the burn would eventually turn into a tan. But the important thing, for most of my adult life, was not to be caught dead or alive on the beach in my naturally blinding-light skin.

Today, I didn’t care about tanning. When I saw the blue sky peeking through the  branches overhead, I didn’t even care much about writing. It was enough to be outside in the perfect 72 degree air with the birds singing and the bees buzzing. Tanning was the furthest thing from my mind.

What a relief not to worry about such things. I haven’t shaved my legs in months, and some days, I don’t even put on make up. On Christmas Eve, I tried to put on eye-liner for the first time in about 40 years. Of course I couldn’t put on eye-liner with my glasses on, so I did the best I could. When I put my glasses back on, it looked like I had spiders on my eyelids. Now, I wear make up when I feel like it. I’ll shave my legs when I get around to it, and I’ll probably get a little tan through the sunscreen this summer when it’s convenient. My dermatologist will be proud of me, and my skin will thank me.

Goals for 2017

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Jana Green’s post about self care inspired me to make a list of goals for the new year:, a

And Brad, at Writing to Freedom, got me thinking of them as intentions.

I’ve been sitting on this post for long enough, and it’s time to put it out there!

My plans and intentions for this year are:

1. Walk around the block or swim (not around the block) at least three times per week. Who knows? This might even lead to a little jogging!

2. Stretch for at least 10 minutes each day. Putting on some music might help.

3. Take at least five minutes every day to stop and breathe, maybe in mountain pose, before and after I stretch, and hopefully, this will turn into more time in the present moment.

4. Publish my book in 2017! I’m about to send the manuscript to my line editor, that means jumping into the rest of the process: finish the painting for the back cover, decide on how the front and back cover will fit together, get an ISBN number, change the theme on “Anything is Possible!” so it has a side bar, Work on my January Newsletter, share excerpts on both of my blogs (stay tuned!), gather a team of Trust the Timing fans through a Facebook group (email me at joannesilvia@aol if your interested – even if you’re not on Facebook.)

5. Focus most of my attention on what’s positive in people in come in contact with. I often do this with my words, but I want to do it more in my thoughts. I want to have a more loving attitude about the people who are dear to me and not nitpick about the imperfections I would like to fix in them. And hey, that includes me!

6. Develop my sense of humor. I’m getting better at laughing at myself in a loving way and I want to get better at laughing when other people irritate me, though I might laugh at them in my head, in a nice way, mostly. Stream of consciousness writing has helped me with my sense of humor, so maybe I’ll practice SOC more…. Maybe someday, I’ll create an anonymous blog just for that purpose. 🙂  Won’t that be fun!

Wishing you and all those you care for a wonderful new year!

 

 

 

 

One-Liner Wednesday: PMS After Menopause

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A photo I took at Brookgreen Gardens

 

Based on no particular research other than my experience, I am convinced that post-menopausal women have subtle hormone cycles that can cause PMS-like symptoms, even 10 years after menopause, leading to a lower tolerance for BS.

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For related and not so related one-liners, visit Linda at

https://lindaghill.com/2016/11/30/one-liner-wednesday-words-to-live-by/

Here are the rules she’s made but confesses to not always follow which is fine by me:

1. Make it one sentence.

2. Try to make it either funny or inspirational.

3. Use our unique tag #1linerWeds.

4. Add our very cool badge to your post for extra exposure!

5. Have fun!

Loving my Thighs, Lumps and All

I have lumpy parts. My thighs and arms have lots of lipomas, fatty tumors that so far have been benign. If I counted them, I’m guessing there would be about 40 or so, ranging in size from a pinto bean to a walnut. This is a condition known as lipomatosis which I apparently inherited from my father. A few of the lipomas hurt with pressure, I’m guessing because they are on a nerve or something, but for the most part, they are more unsightly than anything else. I’ve had several removed over the years leaving small white scars that I think are way less noticeable than the lumps.

A few weeks ago, I had a consultation about having a couple of the larger lumps excised from my right thigh, because my right leg has been aching more than my left, and I wondered if removing some lipomas would help. The physician’s assistant said it might help some, though the pain was likely more due to venous reflux which is another matter. She circled at least 9 lumps on my right thigh with a black marker then took a picture of her artwork. They set up the procedure for a surgical center which, after repeated phone calls, I found was going to cost a lot of money involving an anesthesiologist and all. In the past, I’ve had two to three lipomas removed in a dermatologist’s office with a local, so I asked if we just remove two or three of the largest lipomas in the doctors office. They said okay and they would call me back.

A couple weeks later, I followed a nurse to a room with bright lights and got up on the surgical table. The doctor came in and we started looking at which lipomas to remove. When he realized I had so many running along the outside of my thigh, he said, “Do you really want to do this?”

“What do you mean?” I asked.

He said he would do the surgery if I wanted him to, but he didn’t think this was going to help my pain at all and talked about the risks of any surgery like staff infection, even though I’d started the antibiotic he prescribed. He  said that this was the way the Lord had made me, for my body fat to be distributed in this way. His tone was gentle, not critical.

I was baffled by the doctor’s totally unexpected reaction to my lumps, especially after his assistant had been so eager to remove so many of them. Maybe my surprise showed on my face.

“This is a perfectly good leg,” he said. “If this was my leg, or my wife’s leg, I wouldn’t want it cut into.”

I’ve always thought of my thighs as my worst feature. I still remember how my jock boyfriend in high school (not the one who found me again when the time was right, but the one after that) criticized the little bit of cellulite on my thighs and said I needed to run more. Actually, my thighs looked okay back then compared to now. But maybe my thighs are okay now, too. They are certainly not my best feature, but that’s based on our cultural perceptions and all those sleek, smooth looking ads.

The doctor asked me to go home and think about it, and if I really wanted to do the surgery, I could reschedule. I still might get some lumps removed, and I’m definitely going to look into options to get rid of a few spider veins. But I am thinking about what he said about my “perfectly good leg.” Yes, it does ache some times, but not horribly. My legs don’t look like the legs you see in magazines, but I do love my legs. They’ve carried me around for about 60 years now and all things considered, they’ve done a good job. In the grand scheme of things, so what if I have lumpy thighs?

 

Computer Headache

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Some days are harder than others. Tuesdays at my job have been particularly hard lately. I won’t go into all the details, but I’m amazed at how my time in front of a computer has mushroomed to unbelievable proportions over the past thirty years. Under the current system, it has become necessary to spend absurd amounts of time typing to a computer screen in order to justify the authorization of funds to help people who otherwise would not receive help. The typing has taken a toll on my hands over the years. Now my eyes, head and neck are begging me to ease up.

Tuesday night, I came home and and spent even more time on the computer. By 10 pm, my eyes felt more tired than I can remember. They ached and burned from looking at a computer screen for much of the day. Yet, I pushed a little more. Reading blogs I normally enjoy became painful. I think it was the switching from one background to another that intensified  my pain, because I found myself closing my eyes with each click to a new post to avoid what felt like an assault on my eyes. Finally, I closed the laptop at 11 pm, thirty minutes earlier than usual, and hit the shower. On Wednesday morning, I woke up with one of those headaches I get when my trapezius muscles, neck and temples all gang up on me.

I wonder how many headaches, back aches and hand aches are caused by too much time in front of a computer screen.

The headache was still with me on Thursday. In spite of my stretching and ibuprofen with a little caffeine, which often helps, the pain didn’t wan to let go. Fortunately, my awesome massage therapist worked me in that afternoon. Her smooth interventions dissolved the pain into to vague remnants.

What I want to remember is that on Tuesday evenings, or after any hard day, I don’t need to do anything extra. I’m not going to be able to read all the blogs I want to, any more than I can rally for every cause I want to support. On Tuesday nights I can come home and take a nap if I want to. I’ll check my email and look at a couple blogs, but I’m not going to push it. On Tuesday nights, I’m going to watch my favorite TV show  while I do a few stretches, and turn off the computer when my wonderful, miraculous eyes tell me to. Because I love my eyes. I love my neck, I love my hands, and I love my head. I love how my body tells me things I need. I promise to listen better.

 

A little less aptitude

As I get older, I’m becoming less tolerant of BS, aka drama, and unnecessary suffering. Doing things for the approval of others or because “I’m supposed to” has gotten really old. I can imagine how having a chronic illness like MS would bring this realization on faster than my almost 60 years have. Good for you, for honoring your priorities! I love this post!

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One funny thing that’s been happening to me since I was diagnosed with MS is that I’ve been growing more and more intolerant to suffering. Not just me: I’ve noticed friends of mine who either also deal with chronic illness or who have been face to face with life threatening situations also tend to turn their backs more often at what’s making life a little unbearable, a little suffocating, a little boring, a little waste of time.

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