Health, mental health

Drunk Dad and Mental Health

Father’s Day is not always the easiest day for everyone. Some have lost their father and some have had an absent father. It can be an emotional day for many.

Today is a day that I think about my dad, who has his phone turned off so that his kids can’t call and wish him a happy Father’s Day. The last time we spoke was the previous week. I make sure to keep in contact daily but lately he forgets and sends hateful messages my way. When we spoke last week, everything was fine at first. As he drowns his mind in his fifteenth can of beer, he turns into a broken man. His self-hatred consumes him to the point of misery.

My dad gave up on himself years ago. Each year that passes by, his mind and body transform more and more. Once a lean, handsome and charming man to an overweight and grimy shell. He never made it to my wedding and he can’t even make it to the end of his driveway.

In Eric Erickson’s stages of psychosocial development, Generativity vs. Stagnation is when a person between the ages of 40-60 either volunteer, raises children, mentors or contributes to society; generativity is finding your life’s work and meaning. If you fail to accomplish this stage, you reach stagnation. Having little connection with others, lack of self-improvement and no motivation can be qualities of stagnation.

As my father transitions from that stage, into the next stage, I realize he is clearly coming from stagnation. The next stage is Integrity vs. Despair, from the 60s till the end of life. Reflecting on your life at this age, you feel a sense of accomplishment or failure. My dad lives in a state of despair. People in this stage feel as if their life is wasted.

Though my dad has children and family who love him unconditionally, he takes his misery out on those he loves. I know when he calls me the worst names imaginable and repeatedly tells me that he hates me, that really he just hates himself. I know that he is a hurt man that feels hopeless with no answers. Maybe he carries regret for the years he was not sober; years went by where we lived with a growing pit in our stomach of what the night would bring as he sucked the whiskey out of his mustache. I believe he is a prisoner to his own mind and body.

Though he damaged my brother and I throughout our lives, we still remember our sober dad. We remember the road trips, Sunday breakfast, camping trips and his great laugh. He has always been a Jekyll and Hyde. His soul felt the sunshine and other days he felt cold darkness.

I blame everything on the ignored mental health crisis that no one talks about. I blame it on alcohol and how it can poison an unstable mind. I blame it on the world for looking the other way while others suffer, because they don’t understand. As this elephant sits in the room, crushing others, we pretend to be fine.

My dad lies on his disintegrating bed, drinking his sixteenth beer as his body gets sicker. His hate burns in his belly while he curses life. I don’t know how long he will be around but I already grieve idea of not having a father. I grieve that he won’t let anyone help him and that we have to watch him slowly kill himself from afar, while his lasts words are that he hates us.

We just respond, “I love you too.”

Health

Grieving Your Past Life and Accepting the New

I remember the days when I was a social butterfly. I was building my empire, helping the community and I knew everyone. I truly thought I had so many friends. It was not until my health was at my worst when I realized that I actually only had a handful of real friends: Those who visited when I had open heart surgery… Those who came by when I got my pacemaker…. Those who checked in on me… Those who were there during the low times.

Someone healthy once said to me that people get sick because they want attention. That could not be further from the truth. You do not get attention when you are sick, you get dropped and become a has-been. You are forgotten and realize most of your friends were only drinking buddies or you were their wingman. Out of sight, out of mind. People move on from you and gravitate toward a replacement. I had a career that was flourishing. I was traveling several times per year, all expenses paid for. I was challenged, inspired, thriving and growing. But my health always catches up. It always knocks me down, no matter how high I climbed.

Typically, I quietly climb back up. I kept most of my health to myself besides major things that were hard to hide. I masked my symptoms with caffeine, marijuana and alcohol. Depression was always tucked away inside. I never slept and I resented my body.

This time, I didn’t climb back up. I accepted it. I embraced it. I shared my story and my truth so that others didn’t feel the need to suffer silently like I did. My career fell apart.

Tyler Durden: It’s only after we’ve lost everything that we’re free to do anything. -Fight Club

On the plus side, when my health deteriorated, I realized who was important. I realized I wasted precious time with the wrong people when I had amazing friends that were there all along. It reminded me about quality over quantity.

I have learned to change my perspective. I may not be the career fueled woman I once was but my passion has never skipped a beat. I remind myself how grateful I am to now live a genuine life, with no toxic friendships, no false relationships, nobody with a hidden agenda. My life is a challenge but it is real and so are my relationships.

When you find yourself in this position, it’s a chance to reinvent yourself. You reevaluate everything. You cut the toxins out and you ask yourself, what do you truly want? How can I touch lives and make a difference?

I may be grieving who I once was, my fair-weather friends, and my fast-paced career. However, I am excited to see how my new journey unfolds and where life will take me. I feel my purpose needed to be more meaningful. I was lost in the fun, excitement and the haze of fake friends and couldn’t see what I was meant to do. I was meant to change the world, to help others and to make a difference… no matter how small. Even if I just pave the way.

Health

Unconsented Pelvic Exams

*Sharing my homework assignment with everyone because it matters and I always choose important topics.

Intro To Healthcare Assignment: Ethical Issue

Ethical issue: Performing unconsented pelvic exams on women while they are under anesthesia is legal in 45 states.

My Perspective:

Medical students are practicing pelvic exam while patients are under anesthesia. During Shawn Barnes’ third year in medical school, he was asked to and did perform pelvic exams during his obstetrician and gynecology training. Once anesthesia was administered, the attending physician or resident would ask Barnes to perform a pelvic exam for educational purposes.

When later voicing his opinion of this ethical conflict, Barnes learned that this was, in fact, a standard protocol to perform unconsented internal vaginal exams on unsuspecting ob/gyn patients. Many people outside of the medical field are shocked and horrified to learn that doctor-patient trust could be violated in this way.

Why wouldn’t the doctor or the hospital require consent? It has been nearly a decade since Shawn Barnes voiced his opinion and nearly thirty years since this topic has first been discussed and yet these exams still occur in 45 states, legally. Simply put, we need to end the practice of uninformed and unconsented internal vaginal exams.

I can’t help but wonder if I have ever had an unconsented pelvic exam during one of my many ob/gyn surgeries. Please contact your local government.

*Hawaii, California, Illinois, Virginia, and Oregon have outlawed the practice

Missouri
Office of Missouri Governor Michael L. Parson

P.O. Box 720
Jefferson City, MO 65102

Florida

Office of Governor Ron DeSantis

State of Florida

The Capitol

400 S. Monroe St.

Tallahassee, FL 32399-0001

Sources:

https://journals.lww.com/greenjournal/pages/articleviewer.aspx?year=2012&issue=10000&article=00028&type=Citation

https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/bioe.12441

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/m/pubmed/12592274/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/m/pubmed/16206868/

https://medium.com/@holympus/its-time-to-completely-stop-unconsented-pelvic-examinations-cef80c38b334

Unveiling Invisible Illnesses

If I Only Had a Heart

The #myedschallenge for today is “if you could rid yourself of one EDS symptom, what would it be?

Without a doubt, I would rid myself of heart issues. I will gladly take the pain, muscle aches and spasms, joint hypermobility, subluxations, migraines, gastrointestinal issues, brain fog and so on. I have always known my life with heart issues.

I remember playing on the softball team in 3rd grade, complaining of my heart racing. “Keep running, kid. That’s normal,” my coach said. It wasn’t until I was 15 when we realized my heart rate was hitting the 300s and I had SVT and WPW. I remember being in my 20s and dancing with my friends, periodically going to the bathroom stall to slow down my heart. I just wanted to be normal.

Between multiple surgeries, hospitalizations, ER visits and doctors appointments, these heart issues have robbed me of so much of my life. These heart issues affect me every day.

My heart valves leak and have hypertrophied, requiring an inevitable 2nd open heart surgery one day. I have already had 4 cardiac ablations and refuse to do a 5th as it would make me 100% pacemaker dependent. My aortic root is dilating, a common issue with EDS. While I worry about my heart rhythms, blood pressure, arrhythmias, and valves, I also have worry about the possibility of aortic dissection.

I put my hand on my heart, and though battery operated, I am still so grateful that it pumps. I am grateful that I am here to be a mother and a wife, to share my story, to raise awareness, advocate and educate. I am grateful to breathe in the warm Florida air, even while my heart races and my chest aches. But what I wouldn’t do for a healthy heart….

mental health

How to Work Through a Problem

Life can be unpredictable, chaotic, stressful, out of balance and just straight up crazy. It is vital to our mental health to be able to manage the stress in our lives in a healthy manner. Unfortunately, we are not born with the knowledge of balancing mental health and the inevitable stressors that life throws our way. We surely did not learn this in home economics class either. We are thrown to the wolves and some of us figure it out, while others are hiding in their bathroom with chocolate and tears.

People naturally gravitate towards a way of relief from the lemonade raining in our lives. For some, that relief is alcohol, drugs, shopping, gym, sex, and so on. Addictions come in many forms and with many masks. You may not even realize that you have your own demons because it is packaged neatly in a decorative class that says “Mommy’s Sippy Cup.” Your addictions may be something with healthy attributes, like going to the gym. Only, you work out more than you do anything else and you have developed an obsession with your workout routine, schedule, nutrition and progress to an unhealthy level. Or, maybe you don’t self-medicate but you isolate yourself from your friends, you stop doing the things you enjoyed once, and maybe you started having anxiety attacks.

In a nutshell, stress makes us do weird things. It makes us sick, or sicker. It steals the joy out of life when it is not under control. It tears relationships apart. It throws hurdles in our way and derails our plans. It imprisons us in a haze of distractions while our problems pile up.

In my Introduction to Healthcare class, our first assignment involved the problem-solving process. I am sharing what I learned so that you can apply this five-step process to areas in your life that may benefit from finding a solution.

 

Problem:

 What is your problem? Maybe it is something huge and overwhelming or it could be something small and petty that could get swept under the rug. Regardless of the size, every issue should be dealt with because they add up and they grow. They fill up your cup and overflow. The next thing you know, you are drowning.

Tip: Keep a small notebook. Create lists of goals, tasks, issues, solutions, progress, failures, etc.

Fact: It is okay to fail. Think of it like you just took one for the team and learned something from it; now you can share your failure and knowledge with others so that they can grow from it like you did. Failure is awesome. It builds character and wisdom. It’s a challenge and it comes with lessons and stories. It is far from boring and it fuels fire and births bravery… if you allow it. Perspective is everything. Many successful people would not be where they are today without the failures that happened throughout their journey.

Step One – Identify the Problem

Observe the full picture. What is the root of the issue? What is the cause? Are there other factors involved? Look beyond the obvious.

 Example: I hate my job and it makes me miserable.

Step Two – Gather Information

Decisions influenced by opinions and emotions may result in poor outcomes. What are the possible solutions and outcomes? What are the facts? What do you feel? What do you want? What or who would be a reliable source of information in reviewing options? What could be the consequences or risks? Ask yourself some questions. Write it down if you need to.

Example: Why do I hate my job? Is it the environment, coworkers, boss, career field or the hours? What is causing me to be unhappy at my place of work?

Step Three – Create Alternatives

We are finding solutions to our problem, not problems with our solutions. Create a list of options, both positive and negative.

Example: Ask for a raise. Go back to college. Update your resume and actively search your job field for opportunities. Find out if you can move to a different position; perhaps you don’t feel challenged or fulfilled in your current position. Do some soul-searching: are you depressed and your job is affected by your mood instead of the other way around? Try changing up your environment by promoting weekly group challenges to boost morale, or doing squats before lunch while answering phone calls, or getting to know coworkers better by planning a night out.

Step Four _ Choose an Alternative and Take Action

This is an important step. What is the point of steps 1-3 if we aren’t going to actually get our hands dirty and make a real effort to resolve this issue? If some of your alternatives are extreme or risky, try the other options first if you want to be on the side of caution. Multi-tasking solutions is also a possibility since some alternatives may take more time than others. Some alternatives may be a quick fix while you work on another alternative that may be more of a long-term solution.

Example: “I really want to go back to college and change careers but it would be a huge process, expensive, a lot of work and a big challenge. I am going to try to make friends with my coworkers and build those relationships and then ask my boss for new responsibilities and a raise.” This is a great start, but keep in mind those were problems for the first solution. Going back to college may be a big challenge but it could be worth it and it could be the best solution. Don’t create problems to scare off a possible solution. However, working with the other alternatives first is a great idea while you investigate the other options.

Step Five – Evaluate and Revise as Needed

Now it is time to review your results. What has been effective or ineffective? At this point, you can adjust your alternatives or fine-tune them. Revise your plan until you sort out the best solution.

Example: You decided you are just not passionate about your job and your boss can’t afford to promote you. You decide to go back to school but this will be a process, so you enroll in online classes. To make the long-term process more enjoyable, you build relationships with your coworkers and convinced your boss to allow casual Friday pizza day to boost morale. You also started listening to podcasts while you work and got a cat to help improve your mood when you go home.

 

*Hopefully this outline has helped or inspired you to work through stressful situations or problematic times in your life. If you still find that you can’t manage stress, look into getting professional help like seeing a therapist. There may also be local resources in your area to help get through certain issues. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255. 

Healthy Food

Chickpea Bruschetta

Chickpea bruschetta

Rinse then cut tomatoes in halves and put in a large mixing bowl. Strain and rinse chickpeas and add to bowl. Mince garlic and shallot and add with cheese to the mixture. Add chopped basil, lemon pepper, and toss in red wine vinaigrette.

Serve with a baguette, chips, pita or choice of crackers. Also great over a bed of arugula.

Healthy Food, Sweet Tooth

Oh, Honey!

Check out these delicious and clean-eating recipes without refined sugar.

*This article was also published in April 2019 issue of The Beachside Resident


Banana Affair
Peel one side of the banana off and make a cut going down the middle, like a hot dog bun. Stuff the banana with almond butter (peanut or cashew butter works too) and dairy-free chocolate chips. Top with coconut flakes and pop it in the oven just long enough to warm up and melt the chocolate, while toasting the coconut flakes. Top with cinnamon and drizzle with local honey to finish this mouth-watering melted banana from heaven. I tried a banana similar from the @Eatqual vegan food truck and ever since have been making my own versions.


Boujee Bread
Any baguette or sprouted grainy bread of your choice will work.  Cut it down the middle and add a small about of Earth Balance (dairy-free) butter. Next, top with fresh raspberries (blueberries, peaches, or jam will also work) and top with brie. Warm it up in the oven until the brie melts. Top with local honey, cracked pepper and fresh basil or sage. This is the perfect sweet and savory treat that will also impress a house guest. 
 
Smoothie Bowl
Blend ice with frozen berries, almond milk and acai. Make sure the consistency is thick, but I always fill the bowl and put it in the freezer to thicken it up more. When ready, use whatever you have on hand in your kitchen: top with fresh fruit, chia seeds, granola, coconut flakes, nuts, seeds, cinnamon and of course local honey. This is great to eat in the morning to start your day off but I also enjoy it in the evening instead of ice cream. 
Health, Unveiling Invisible Illnesses

I am not convinced

“I’m not convinced.”

Those were the words out of my decade-long relationship with my trusted electrophysiologist. I saw her on and off for 10 years during the moments I had insurance. I had 4 cardiac ablations for supraventricular tachycardia (SVT) from a congenital heart disorder called Wolff-Parkinson-White Syndrome, which is an extra electrical conduction pathway between chambers that cause arrhythmias. My heart rates would go up to 300s and drop down to the 30s. After four cardiac ablations and still having arrhythmias and fast heart rates, I could not take meds to slow down my heart since my rate would drop low too. I spent years in that position… in limbo without treatment and a chaotic heart.

My valves began to deteriorate as well, causing even more issues. I had open heart surgery for an aortic valve repair in 2011 and will need a replacement in the future, requiring open heart surgery again.

My trusted doctor, told me that it sounded like I was dealing with something that was too rare and not likely possible. She wasn’t convinced I could have another rare disorder. She denied me treatment. I was afraid to sleep at night, afraid that I wouldn’t wake up. Did you know you can pass out in your sleep? I finally collected my most recent 50 page heart event monitor report from the VP of the device company (my doctor would not give me the reports) and took it to another doctor. He ordered a Tilt Table Test and induced an episode and found that I had a severe cardioinhibitory response and confirmed that I needed a pacemaker, wondering why it took so long.

Two weeks later, my life changed. My heart rate doesn’t pause, stop or plummet and I can take meds to keep my heart rate from going too high. The pacemaker even kicks in to reduce arrhythmias.

The puzzle pieces all came together after seeing specialists and understanding why I was having a dysfunctional nervous system and irregular heart, chronic pain, chronic fatigue and an array of health issues. Genetic testing, research and being my own advocate helped more than anything. It took my entire life to get answers. I learned that I have Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, a connective tissue disorder that causes many of my health issues on top of WPW Syndrome. Having WPW made is harder to see that something more could be going on because everyone was focused on that.

I never want anyone else to ever have to go through what I have gone through. I never want anyone else to be medically neglected, dismissed or too rare for their doctor to be convinced. There is an entire world of people suffering in the dark. My mission is to change that. I raise awareness for those people that feel alone, lost and ignored while they fear for their lives, praying to wake up the next morning.

Thank you for listening!