My Skeptical Guide To Yoga

Hello dear reader(s)!

Do you do Yoga?  Should you?  Do you think it is a bunch of crap?  Should you?  Am I asking too many questions?  Should I stop?  Do I care?  What am I doing?  Didn’t I want to post about Yoga?

Okay, so it all started up in Seattle while I was in and out of the hospital.  My wife and mother were stressed (Gee, I wonder why?) and were looking for something to do in order to alleviate that.  Plus, months of sleeping on hospital cots was not very easy on my wife’s muscles and bones.  So desperate for something to help…they turned to YouTube.  Specifically, they found this:

Now, being unable to walk, or sometimes sit up, this was not an option for me until many months later.  Specifically, the day before yesterday.  So, working to relax, and be mindful and present in the moment instead of entertaining the obsessive thoughts that plague my tiny little mind, I let my wife talk me into trying it.  Here are my observations:

  • With the music?  Really?  I get it, Yoga comes from a certain area, and the music in the video may be representative of the music of said area…however, I just picture Stevie Nicks lookalikes with their crystals around them and dayglo posters on the walls.
  • Laughter gets in the way of the exercises  It starts with the music, but there are a couple of other points where I just lose it.  The line, “you may smile gently” is not something that I can get through without cracking up.  I think that I end up smiling a little more roughly than intended.
  • Prana?  Are midi-chlorians involved?
  • Yes, I can feel my fingers tingling  It is called circulation.  Why does everything that helps to bring about a feeling of peace, awareness, relaxation, or focus always have to involve some mysterious force?  It really is an injustice to the wonders of our brain and bodies.
  • Holy crap that woman is flexible  I can grasp my upper calf in the sitting down with legs extended position.  (I bet there is some name for it, but I don’t know it, and I don’t care.)  The day before yesterday, I could reach my knee.  Which means…
  • This actually works  There is a reason Yoga is popular.  After the first moves involving your legs, you really do feel the difference.  There is no question that the stretching is helpful, and if you aren’t pushing too hard, they are good for you.  So physically, it is wonderful.  I am still very limited when it comes to range of motion.  I also have a pretty messed up (as always, messed up is a technical medical term…Don’t you love recycled jokes?) back and neck.  I think my 3rd vertebra is compressed or there is a disc issue, or something they told me in the hospital that was irrelevant to the big picture of just trying to survive.  “Hey doc, I have dry skin too, but let’s just focus on keeping me from succumbing to this blood infection, shall we?”  But yes, on a physical level this works, but on a mental level…
  • This actually works  For me.  As always this is my blog-type-thing and the opinions expressed herein are my own unless otherwise cited or your comments or other things I really shouldn’t have to explain because they should be completely obvious like the way that I use run-on sentences with pride but aren’t because some people are always looking to tear others down and waiting for them to slip up.  But really, part of the way through this video and doing the Yoga (Does Yoga need to be capitalized?  I should look that up, but that would require opening another tab and typing something into Google and I already did something today.) I found myself zoning out.  The thoughts were not spinning around and around in my head, and I was certainly feeling relaxed.  Unlike other meditation practices, the physical movement kept me from falling asleep.  Even in my weak and stiff condition, I was still able to do most of the things in this video (though not nearly to the points that the woman does).  That, to me is one of the great things about this.  You don’t have to be very healthy to get it going.  So stretched, relaxed and great…
  • Except for that smile gently line  Just can’t get past it.  Ruins it for me every time.  I am feeling totally relaxed and then, BAM!  I start giggling like a school kid who happens to giggle a lot.  I am brought back to reality.  Luckily
  • The relaxation of 3 minutes toward the end is awesome  But I don’t wanna get up and you can’t make me!!!!

If you haven’t figured it out, I am not a doctor and therefore thusly henceforth, this is not medical advice.  Consult a doctor before you begin any physical activity, including involuntary ones such as breathing and allowing your heart to beat.  Just don’t sue me, because I am broke anyway.  

Do you have any experience with Yoga?  What about Yogi?  I would love to hear about them in the comments, or read, as the case may be.  Can you post audio files in comments?  Hmmm, I’d look that up, but I already did something today.

Fear: The Strongest Response

Thanks to Lauren over at By Lauren Hayley for the inspiration for this post.  Head over to her’s to read and congratulate her on her amazing progress.  

Hello dear reader(s)!

How can someone with an Anxiety Disorder speak about fear?  Well, easy, when you’re me, you can speak about anything, even if you can’t act on it yourself – that’s how.

I am afraid of many things.  Yesterday, I had to go to the doctor’s office where I was first diagnosed with cancer in order to pick up a prescription.  The last time I was in that office was years ago, and although I had been back since my diagnosis, on the last time, I was admitted directly from that office to the hospital where I stayed for another 2 months before leaving the same day to Seattle and my transplant.  Tomorrow I have an actual appointment there, and have been dreading it all week, but having to go yesterday and pick up that prescription…and getting through it, was a huge thing in my mind.  Was the fear rational?  No, not really.  Despite all of my issues, I know that I am not in need of hospitalization at this time.  Was it real?  Yes.

Fight or flight gone haywire.

That is my theory (stolen from something I’ve read, I’m sure) about Anxiety Disorders.  For example:  You are a child, and accidentally burn your hand on a hot stove.  Afterward, even though the coils aren’t glowing or the knobs are turned to “Off”…aren’t you going to be a little hesitant to touch that burner area?  Are you going to double-check or triple-check those knobs?  Now imagine something in that trips.  Let’s say you had your hand held down on that burner by someone you were supposed to trust.  Let’s say it happened on more than one occasion.  You become afraid of the stove all together.  You become afraid of letting people get close to you.  You become afraid of people in general.  It doesn’t have to make sense.  Logically, you know that not everyone is going to hold your hand on the stove.  Logically, you know that a stove cannot jump out and attack you, but it doesn’t matter.  You need help to quell that mis-wired fight or flight.

It doesn’t even have to be the result of trauma that has happened to you.  It could be something you observed.  The Social Anxiety I used to suffer from was not a result of anything that ever happened to me.  The only times I was ever picked on was in the 6th and 7th grades.  The rest of my life I had pretty good friends and was fairly accepted.  Not super popular, but accepted.  Yet into my late teens and my adult years prior to cancer, I was terrified of what others might think about me.  I was bombarded with it in the media, and all around me.  I saw stories of people getting bullied, and (even though I intervened as an adult), I saw it first-hand.

The trauma doesn’t have to be out of the ordinary…except from what your fight or flight response was originally intended for.  No longer are you faced with, “I’m gathering berries and this bear is upset that I’m too close to her cubs, do I kill it, or do I run like Hell?”  It is now, “I need to go outside but I have been told that I am at increased risk for skin cancer and I know the higher elevation and the more intense sunlight is bad and yes, I could wear sunscreen but I have been to the beach and still gotten burnt wearing sunscreen so maybe it was ineffective or maybe I just didn’t apply it enough and it is too hot for long sleeves and the hat doesn’t cover everything and what if I still get burnt and OH MY GOD, I’M GOING TO DIE!!!!”

A person who is not ill does not have that response.  A person without an Anxiety Disorder does not have their fight or flight kick in at the irrational.  However, I do not believe there are many people without an Anxiety Disorder of some kind, simply due to the nature of the traumas we encounter.

9/11.  Look at what the nation gave up as a knee-jerk reaction to the trauma that we witnessed on that horrible day.  We not only allowed the 4th Amendment to the Constitution to be completely shredded, we also went into crippling debt to rush into a war on false pretenses that were already known to be false at the time.  We entered into a quagmire of a sectarian conflict, manipulated by our irrational fear that it will happen to us.  We allowed our leaders to send our brave citizens, to lie to them, and have them fight the forces that were not a threat, and leave a vacuum for those that are.  Saddam Hussein was an evil bastard, but he was no threat to us.  He fought the same enemies that we did, until he stepped on our economic interests.  Even in Operation Catchy Name-er-Desert Storm, he was told by our ambassador, after essentially warning us of their intentions to attack Kuwait, that “we have no opinion on the Arab-Arab conflicts, like your border disagreement with Kuwait.”  But our fear was manipulated by our government.  The atrocities, (many of which were shown later to be exaggerated, many that did happen, but always happen in war), were used as evidence that Saddam was “the next Hitler”.  Our fight or flight responses irrationally kicked in, and in our flight, we sent the brave to fight.  How is this not an Anxiety Disorder?

“We have nothing to fear, but fear itself.”  Sounds good in theory, but it is conditioned.  It isn’t rational, but it is real.  So we try to get treatment for our illness.  We try to face it, sometimes medicate for it, and sometimes seek therapy for it.  And we do our best to get through it and not give in to the irrational fears of our disorder.

So for those of you with an Anxiety Disorder, you are not alone.  Keep pushing.  In fact, I think you are among the majority.  Some of us are just brave enough to admit it, and attempt to overcome.

More Fun With Mental Illness: Trigger Warning

Hello dear reader(s)!

You have no doubt heard by now about the guy who crashed the plane in Germany.  You have also no doubt heard the comments from people who still stigmatize mental illness saying that those of us suffering from mental illness should just kill ourselves.  If you haven’t, then I’m sorry to bring it up.  If you have, then I’m not sorry to bring it up.  If you wanted to, I am also not sorry to bring it up.  If you didn’t, then once again, I am sorry to bring it up.  I could go on.

Suffering from not 1, but 2 different mental illnesses makes this pretty easy for me to say:  I am less crazy than the people who do not believe that mental illness is a genuine illness and should be treated as such.

There is a very real difference between sick and evil.  Can being sick give someone evil thoughts?  Rarely, but certainly.  Can being healthy give someone evil thoughts?  Certainly.  Is it the responsibility to seek help if anyone, healthy or ill starts to have those evil thoughts (and thinks that it might be okay to act on them)?  Absolutely.  Is that help always available?

That is a big, fat, no.

Does that alleviate the responsibility of someone who commits a terrible act initiated by their illness?

No.

We have to attempt to be responsible for our actions.  But, is it easy to see why these things seem to be happening more and more frequently, as more and more people are denied access to proper care?  As therapy and monitoring are replaced exclusively with medications?  It should be.

If you vote for people who cut services for the mentally ill, you are bringing their, our, problems to your doorstep.  Why else are you tripping over more and more sick people on your way to work?  How is it that I, with my mental illnesses, have an easier time following this logic than you, the supposedly healthy?

Fortunately, the mental illnesses I have do not lead me to want to hurt anyone, including myself.  I am lucky.  The worst I get is flashbacks when I see an ambulance or fire engine, and panic attacks at anything that may or may not be stressful.  Occasionally, when driving, I over-see some idiotic move as a threat and will yell mean words, but I’m even getting better at that.

It is called treatment.  I have illnesses, and as such, I am looking for and getting treatment.  Just like I did when I had cancer.  Just like I am for the complications of it; two of which, are my mental illnesses.  Most illnesses are treatable, some aren’t.  It is really that simple.  Every time you vote for someone who cuts mental health funding, you vote to allow the people suffering from untreatable illnesses or difficult to treat illnesses onto your streets.

That said, if you don’t want me behind the controls of your airplane, I don’t blame you.  I don’t want anyone but the most alert, fittest, focused pilot in the world flying my plane.  I want that Scully guy who pulled off the skilled (not miraculous) water landing in the Hudson after the bird-strikes.  This opinion I have may be unpopular with some of my mentally ill friends, but I think sometimes there is no reasonable accommodation that can be made in certain jobs.  But if we are doing well in our treatment, and if our doctors think we aren’t a danger to ourselves or others, then we can do just fine working in the office next to you, serving your food, doing your books, discovering new particles, curing diseases, etc, etc…  We are not going to go postal, (no offense, wonderful USPS employees) any more than the deluded zealot, or just plain evil people will.

Some of the biggest contributions to society have been from the mentally ill.  You would not be where you are today without the help of someone suffering from a mental illness.  You would not have the luxury of posting your shitty comments without the mentally ill coders, inventors, professors, telecom workers, etc, etc…

There really is nothing else I have to say on this matter.  Disagree with me, but this is where I stand.  As such, comments are disabled.  This one is a post, not an opportunity for debate or discussion.

Going Light

Hello dear reader(s)!

Today is going to be a great day!  The birds are singing (way too loud), the sky is clear (so no much-needed water), and the sun is shining (which I can’t really go out into because I am at such an increased risk for skin cancer.)  (Okay, I can, but not without 45 tons of sunscreen, a hat, and probably long sleeves (but I don’t do that, even if I should.))  I’m also completely out of Ativan and praying the doctor’s office calls me back and says that they will indeed have a prescription for me, before my appointment on Wednesday.  Good times.  And despite all I did yesterday (almost the amount of things a normal person does), I just couldn’t manage to catch any of the elusive Z’s.

The Z’s do not see our cameras so we are able to bring you this side of them never before witnessed by man.  See them in their natural habitat of The Beds, frolicking and playing with their young.  What may look like fun and games to the baby Z’s is actually the foundations of the hunting skills they will need to survive.  Look now, we see one of the alpha Z’s has spotted its prey.  See the way it stalks the Josh who is completely unaware of the Z’s presence.  Just before the Z strikes, something has spooked the Josh.  The chase begins, but on this day, the Josh escapes.  The Z’s are undeterred and successfully bring down many other people for the feeding of their pride.  Okay, so maybe I’m elusive to them.

Despite all of that, I am in a pretty good mood.  Why?  Because I am just fine with allowing myself to kick back today until I do feel better and hopefully get some rest.  With the exception of running to get and fill the prescription, (should it be issued), and going to the grocery store to pick up dinner ingredients, I am relatively unscheduled today.  I got a lot of things done around the house yesterday and am just fine with putting my feet up to recover.

Should I put them this far up?
Should I put them this far up?

Yesterday, I took half of the day off from the series of tubes and played some cards and chillaxed (as the dope kids today say) with my lovely wife and our basement slave.  It was a much-needed break, as sometimes, when I am on the interwebs, I get stuck inside my head, (which is really inconvenient when you’re trying to type.)  Some people (hipsters and the like) call a break from technology “going dark”, but I think it is more like going light.  Because on the new-fangled social media sites like that MySpace all the kids are talking about with their Motorola RAZR’s and the texting doo-dads, you can’t exactly separate yourself from the things that bring you down.  And while it is good to have information, occasionally, just rarely, hardly ever, but sometimes, or even more often, but not by much; it can be a little overwhelming.  Of course this all pales in comparison to having to catch up on everything you missed when you come back to your addiction-I mean-followed blogs.  It does not, however, pale in comparison to my skin from being inside most of the last few years.

At some point today, I think I will attempt to go light again.  I realize this makes me a bad blog-type-thinger, but to quote John Bender from The Breakfast Club, “Being bad feels pretty good, huh?”  So with this stunning announcement that you should hopefully not care about, I ask you to completely ignore the desire to post anything worthwhile, from between 2 hours from now and 10 hours from now.  Because, after all, it is about me.  Not your posts, but this whole WordPress thing.  Or are your posts?  I bet they are.  Everything is about me.  That is why I can’t have friends on Facebook!

I am trying to come up with a list of acceptable topics for you to post about, during my absence.  So far, I have the following:

  • Poop, and the wonders thereof
  • Pee, and the wonders thereof
  • Other bodily excretions, and the wonders thereof
  • A 17,000 word essay on the differences between chicken fried steak and country fried steak, with a very forceful view of which is better; insulting the people who like the other
  • A guide to bringing about the apocalypse, so that ye may be saved sooner
  • Anything related to chemtrails, the pros of the anti-vaccine movement, the Illuminati, and your belief that the President was not born within the United States.
  • Reasons you are physically attracted to frogs

Okay, so these are your prompts for this point in time today.  Ready?  Go!

Happy blogging or blog-type-thinging, or journalling, or ranting, or whatever the hell it is that you do so well.  I’m going to read your posts that you already published for a bit now, but I expect you to adhere to these guidelines once this is up.  The consequences will be severe if you don’t.  How severe?  Well…um…I might miss them and you’d be making me sad.  And you wouldn’t want that, would you?  It is all about me.

Sprout and Dale

Hello dear reader(s)!

There are very few things in my life that are difficult for me to talk (or write) about.  Certain times during my cancer experience that are still too fresh, a few things from when I was a child, and Sprout (particularly Dale).  Yesterday, I shared with you a post entitled “How I Stop The Spiral”.  In it, I shared this video.

Searching for that video to share with you brought up a lot of feelings, which I think I finally just need to get off my chest.  So I’m going to attempt to tell you the story of Sprout, and also of Dale, from my perspective as the drummer, friend, brother, enemy, and hopefully…friend again.

The video is for a 2010 benefit concert and our first show together in many years.  The benefit was for the guitar player and one of the two vocalists, Dale.  Dale died from cancer later, while I was fighting my own.  But let me start at the beginning.

I was 15.  I was a terrible drummer.  But I was really just learning (always learning, but you understand what I mean), but I could play along to music, I could change my dynamics, and I had a decent meter.  Dale and Tobin were a few years older (my brother’s friends, originally), were great at their instruments and music in general, could write songs (though I can happily say I contributed at least something to just about every one) and decided to take a chance on their friend’s little brother.

I was hooked.  I loved playing music with these guys.  The combination of Dale’s modern punk-rock style and Tobin’s more pure rock style actually meshed very well together to form our sound, which could never be duplicated without the original members.  We would practice a lot, and write some songs.  And as soon as we had our first set, we started playing shows.  It was the only thing I wanted to do.

We started playing at parties (our first show was at this massive outdoor party that got broken up by the cops), and then little alternative clubs (one of which is now a strip club) and dive bars.  Eventually, (for a local band), we started to get pretty popular.  Our practice was beginning to pay off and we developed a sizable following.  We all wanted to “make it”, do not let anyone fool you.  This is not the story of someone finding success and realizing they hated it.

We really enjoyed playing together, and became friends.  Eventually, as band members often do, we became more like brothers.  As our following grew, so did our opportunities.  I won’t name drop, but we got to open for some of my musical heroes at the time.  (And a couple of bands I love to this day.)  But as so often happens when one reaches a decent level of success, people started to enter the picture looking to exploit that for themselves.

People in “the scene” praise him like a God, but we ALL have our flaws.  

Dale was funny, he was talented, he could be generous, and he was always the life of the party.  Yet he was also incredibly selfish, bitter, and worst of all…an easy target.  People swooped in to take a bit of his life.  They fed his addictions and were the bug in his ear.  And eventually Dale faded from view as the drug-fueled Dale emerged.

Practices were cancelled, and if they did happen, he was always late.  As a drummer, I really had to struggle to keep him in time.  He was great, it wasn’t him.  There is a reason people call it speed.  He began to distrust Tobin (because of what the hangers-on would tell him) and think that his style didn’t fit with where he wanted to go.  He would attempt to convince me regularly, but I held out.

Until Tobin missed a show.  It was a non-show at some little coffee shop (playing for the sake of playing).  The two of us played anyway, and I was pissed.  Despite the constant cancelling of practices, and the way the band was already cracking due to Dale’s actions, I stupidly had this line that had been crossed.  Dale saw his opportunity.  He convinced me that we needed to replace Tobin.  Worse still, because according to him, I’m “better at serious stuff”.  He convinced me to tell him.  God, I was dumb.

So Sprout continued on with the revolving door of bass players.  We would have glimmers of success again, (when Dale was less strung-out), but nothing compared to what we achieved as the original band.  As time went on, I began to hate the band, the music we played, everyone around us, and Dale.  I quit once, but then he convinced me to make another go of it.  It didn’t last long, and I quit again, and moved away.

I returned to town in 2009 and went on about my own merry way, removed from “the scene”.  Then I learned that Dale was fighting cancer.  It was proposed we do a “one time reunion show” for a benefit that would be for Dale in 2010.

So we met a couple of times (literally 2) to rehearse and then played the show where that video was taken.  Dale was clean on those days, and, despite being pretty thin and obviously tired from his fight, it felt like it was in the beginning.  This was the Dale I knew.  We played the show, had a blast, and were asked to continue playing.  I tentatively agreed.

The next show, Dale was asleep at home when we were supposed to be setting up.  Tobin had to go to his house and wake him up and bring him.  At first, I figured he was exhausted from his illness.  But as we attempted to play, I realized it was more.  And he copped to it.  I was done.

I don’t hate Dale for falling victim to his demons.  I actually did love him like a brother.  I do, however, hate the people who exploited them for their own gain.  I tried to visit Dale in the hospital once, but he wouldn’t see me.  At first, I was really upset, but then I had my own cancer fight, and realized just how hard it can be to see people, especially those with whom you weren’t on the best of terms.  I can barely listen to any of our old music, because when I hear it, all I can think of is the pain he must have felt during his short life.  I really hope he knows that I tried to be his friend.

How I Stop The Spiral

Hello dear reader(s)!

As you may or may not be able to tell by my recent posts, I’ve been in a terribly foul mood lately.  Not a fowl mood, I’m not a huge fan of duck…too greasy every time I’ve had it.  Just a bad mood.  I’d say blame it on my running low on Ativan, forcing a faster taper than I intended, because I miscalculated, and the doctor’s office isn’t open to get me a prescription, and I can’t transfer my out-of-state prescription because of the stupid War On Drugs…but then I’d be using my illness as an excuse for my behavior, and I hate that.  Even if it does affect behavior, I like to think I’m in control enough to recognize it.  I like to think…

Anyway, I’m going to tell you how I stop the downward spiral once I finally do recognize where I’ve been heading.  I am not a doctor, so this is not medical advice.  And I recognize that not everyone responds the same way to things.  I also recognize that many of our illnesses are vastly different and so what works for mine may not work for yours.  In short, this isn’t one of those, “Be positive (because that is so easy) and count your blessings posts.”

But, these things seem to help me pull out before I hit the depths.  Maybe they’ll help you too, maybe not.  But wouldn’t it be cool if it did?  No?  Okay then, but I think it would.

  • Vent  No, not the thing in your vehicle that lets air in, I mean, venting off my frustration as a pressure cooker vents off steam.  Excellent for preventing unsightly explosions.  As you may have noticed, I have this one down pat.  Who’s Pat?  Saint Pat Rick?  Despite my best efforts, I am going to be exposed to terrible things.  The news is a negative propaganda machine with the obvious goal of bringing the worst side of humanity to light, and reinforcing it.  So I absorb it, and it sucks.  So instead of letting it suck, I blow it out.  I try to place a message, rather than just telling everyone how bad things are, because I don’t want to contribute to the wheel o’ humans suck.  We don’t.  Or maybe we do, but that is really none of our business, is it?  But we aren’t bad.  There are bad people, but we aren’t bad.
  • Seek the positive  For every negative thing I come across, I have found that if I really try, I can find 3 positive things.  If I don’t actively seek out the positive, then down I go.  It requires constant effort, and can be pretty exhausting.
  • Get rest  If I can rest, I feel quite a bit better after.  This one is very much easier said than done.  I am not very good at stopping the spinning “wheel in the sky keeps on turnin’.”  No, wait, the spinning thoughts in my head.
  • Laugh  Is it my best medicine?  No, I have prescriptions for that.  But is it good medicine?  For me anyway.  I will seek out comedy specials on Netflix, or I will watch episodes of The IT Crowd over and over and over again.  For my wife, it is that and I love Lucy.  In fact, if I love Lucy is not on in the morning, it is not a good day for her.  We all have our coping mechanisms.  If hers is a crazy red-head and her equally crazy husband, then I’ll take it.
  • Music  Either listening, or when I can…playing it.

Not the best song we played, or the best we played it, but the only video I can find.

  • Sex  Duh.  Should go without saying, but it makes people uncomfortable and I think that is a shame, so I say it.
  • Breath focus  So, so hard for me.  I have spent my entire life being told how important it is to be able to multi-task…and I got damn good at it.  This is a huge issue, in western culture, I think.  We multi-task and multi-task because corporations want as little employees as possible, and so we have forgotten how to focus.  I keep practicing though, and occasionally, though rarely, I get it.  I’m going to keep trying in this one, because it can be pretty awesome if I do manage to get it.  That is…if I don’t just get tired, but not sleepy.
  • Exercise  Another easier said than done.  My fatigue is very fatiguing.  That said, occasionally I will get a spike and take full advantage by exercising until I am back to being fatigued.  But at least it is a better feeling fatigue.  A less fatiguing fatigue, if you will.  Or if you won’t, it’s up to you.
  • Reading all your posts  I am pretty scared to be around a lot of people with my immune system still being messed up.  (Messed up is a technical medical term.)  So I don’t get out amongst the world much.  You people (what do you mean by You People?) make me feel like it isn’t just my wife and I in our own messed up bubble of messed upness.

So from the bottom of my left ventricle, I thank you for the free therapy.