Rosacea…When Bad Skin Is A Sign of Mental Illness

Rosacea…When Bad Skin Is A Sign of Mental Illness

“Do you have a good dermatologist? I mean a really good dermatologist?”

A female co-worker had pulled me aside, peered grimly at my face and waited for a response. Pride died quietly inside the caverns of my being.

My answer was short. “Yes, I do.”

I continued to work, hoping the subject would drop.

She pushed ahead. “I mean, how long is this going to go on?”

For a moment, I blinked in disbelief. A generous portion of tactless, insensitive gruel had been dropped on my plate.

This woman was unaware of the struggles I faced; antibiotics, gels, creams, and endless doctors’ visits. She assumed a horrendous case of acne was to blame.

It was Rosacea; the manifestation of a deeper, more serious condition…Complex-PTSD.

The National Rosacea Society states that “emotional stress is reported to be one of the most common rosacea triggers.” (emotional stress | Rosacea.org)

My psyche had raged against my dermis. I was shocked.

I had managed to hide the emotional turmoil for more than a year. Buried deep inside an internal, seemingly dormant volcano, lava had quite literally bubbled to the surface.  Eruption was imminent.

I remained polite, yet tight lipped, when my co-worker pushed the name and number of her “qualified” dermatologist into my hand. I saved the tears for later.

This was not the first uncomfortable and intrusive encounter involving the state of my skin.

A previous visit with my drycleaner had left me embarrassed and deflated. The clerk suggested numerous homemade remedies for my imperfect complexion.  I wanted clean clothes, not unsolicited medical advice.

Complex-PTSD is an illness that can have numerous physical side effects. While outwardly battling visible symptoms, I secretly fought impalpable demons.

Rosacea caused embarrassment. I felt conspicuous and unsightly, especially when my job brought me into public view. I found it difficult to socialize and concentrate as people indiscreetly stared at the lumps and bumps on my fiery red cheeks.

While my pores continued to burst forth one heinous creation after another, my employer prepared for a company-wide award ceremony.

Annual sales ratios had been calculated. My department head called to inform me that I ranked as a “top performer” in the Retail Division.

Forever the master of disguise, I excelled in the workplace. My personal life was an insufferable closet of secret skeletons.

Sales Representatives, belonging to this elite category, would be honored at dinner party in a function hall. An appointment had been scheduled for a head shot, so my photo could be projected on a jumbo screen while I was presented with an award from the CEO.

To quote Alanis Morissette, “Isn’t it ironic? Don’t you think?”

Raw, red, covered in painful pustules, cysts, blotches and burst veins, I begged to be excused. I was mortified and refused all photographs. I looked like I had gone ten rounds with a meat grinder.

Although I was allowed to provide my own “pre-rosacea” photograph, the ceremony was obligatory. I showed up, faced my co-workers, gracefully smiled and accepted the award.

Years of denial along with unmanaged, untreated symptoms were finally catching up. Other health problems quickly presented and it became even harder to maintain normal daily routines.  Mentally and physically, I struggled to keep up the charade.

A month later, my doctors would not allow me to continue to work.

My face was sore, swollen and painful to touch but the emotional agony of mental illness was comparatively worse.

Eventually, I stopped caring about my appearance. Depression tightened its’ grip. I was numb to any concern about personal vanity.

I took steps to remedy my skin, but the rigorous undertaking of emotional healing was front and center.

Oftentimes, mental illness is an invisible disease…until it leaches out like infection from a wound. Disguised as other ailments, these maladies are warning signs of deeper, more complicated problems.

The mind/body connection is real. When you are mentally unwell, the physical wiring starts to short circuit.

Today, my rosacea has improved. Seeking mental wellness continues to be a bumpy and treacherous journey, much like an odyssey through a bubbling, cavernous lava field.

Once you accept the disturbance is there, navigating your internal volcano becomes clearer. Magma and ashes are part of the process.  Even after eruptions, the mountain is usually still standing.

And, it helps to have a therapist…I mean a “really good” therapist.

© thejitterbur.org 2018

Absolutely…I Think

Absolutely…I Think

My husband calls it having a case of the “I don’t know whats.”

This phrase pointedly refers to my regular bouts of indecision. He gleans much pleasure in being able to sum up the inner workings of his wife’s psyche with this witty maxim.

I live my life in a constant swirl of wavering resolution, ranging from what clothes I should wear to what to have for dinner; short sleeves or long sleeves? Spaghetti or hamburgers?

Why am I so afraid of making the wrong choice?

For the most part, my husband stands by and lets me work through these little internal skirmishes on my own. Sometimes however, he will become exasperated by my painful affliction of “straddling the fence,” and just make a decision for me.

“Hamburgers. Tonight we will grill hamburgers. There. Decision made.”

Am I relieved he made up my mind or mad he stole control? Oh, I don’t know!

“I picked you!” I always tell him. Sometimes, I think that may have been my one and only act of certitude.

Insignificant and humorous as it may seem, the realization of this trait brought me to a screeching halt.

I became aware this problem did not encompass only minor aspects in my life. I realized, this IS my life. I have always been this way and the problem has gone hand in hand with the big decisions as well as the small ones.

This issue came into focus a few years ago. I was struggling to decide if I would remain at my current job. In fact, I was thinking of changing careers altogether. What had been the problem? You guessed it….I didn’t know what I wanted to do. I really never have.

I always envied my high school classmates who went off to college with their 4 year plans and their undisputable goals. Doctor, Lawyer, Indian Chief. Seriously, how did they know? I knew I wanted something, I just had no clue what it was or how to figure it out.

Unfortunately, a life long battle with mental illness reared its’ ugly head in 2016.  The symptoms of Complex-PTSD, Anxiety, Depression and OCD became unmanageable. Hidden skeletons tumbled out; the closet was open and the mess in full view.

The decision was made for me…I could no longer work.

Today, I understand these indecisive tendencies stem from a life long battle with depression, anxiety and OCD. Years of therapy and introspection have helped me to conclude that I was never given the skills or latitude to sort out who I was or what I wanted.

Growing up in an abusive home with an emotionally unstable mother left no room for the personality of a young girl to grow and develop.  Teenage angst is happening now…20 years late.

Throughout my working years, I had been successful, despite my unorganized and faltering disposition. Well-respected and hard-working, I made a decent living and excelled in my position during a 16 year tenure.

Every hint of fear, doubt and self-hatred was hidden from the world. Feelings of inadequacy and qualm were pushed down deep inside, where torment and destruction operated in seclusion.

I was a master of disguise. (Well, except from my husband!)  I never saw the implosion coming; who would? When you sweep a problem under the carpet, the world can’t see it, but neither can you. You know it’s there, but it’s so much easier to pretend otherwise.

Did I choose the career I had committed to for so many years? Not exactly.

Thinking it would be temporary, I applied for work after a short stint at college.  I had left school due to depression and needed time to heal.  This job was a placeholder until I figured out my next move.

Remarkably, the ball started rolling and I didn’t stop it. Promotions poured in and I decided to stay without pausing to think about long-term goals or personal desires.

Disorientation of self-worth has a way of creating limiting beliefs.  I felt lucky to have a company who wanted me, despite that fact I may not have wanted them.

I stayed because I didn’t have the confidence to leave.

In the back of my mind, I often wondered…would I be happier in a different career?

I had a co-worker who left her position and dropped to part-time status while completing her degree.

One night, over drinks, she confessed uncertainty in her path after graduation. This feeling didn’t bother her at all. Her current situation was simply unwanted; the future would sort itself out.

I couldn’t decide; was she taking crazy pills or was she the bravest person I knew?

Today, I’m in my late thirties.  I’m unemployed. I’m trying to heal, recover, discover ways to function in the world again. I am still trying to decide what I want to be when I grow up. It scares the hell out of me.

It’s not a case of “The I don’t know whats.” It’s mental illness. I understand that now.

Mostly, I just want to stop being afraid of making a wrong choice so that I can move forward and simply make a choice. It gets awfully frustrating being rooted to a spot by fear and doubt.

Even now, I want to delete every word I’ve typed. I thought I liked them but now I’m not so sure.

Dinner, tonight? I’m mostly, almost positive, it’s certainly without a doubt, spaghetti…absolutley…I think.

©2018 thejitterbug

Irritation

Irritation

The morning was icy, foggy and treacherous for those setting out on any early commute. I left in what I assumed would be ample time to promptly arrive for my 8:00am doctor’s appointment. As traffic slowed to a crawl and the clock ticked down each minute, I became more and more frustrated that all signs pointed to a late arrival.

I tried calling the receptionist to let them know I would be late but their voicemail recording announced the office was closed and directed me to their off hours answering service. Closed?! It was well past 8:00am. Were they stuck in this mess of cars and ice as well?

My irritation at level 10, I reached the answering service and tersely told the young man I was confused why my doctor’s office was not picking up the phone when I clearly had an appointment and staff should be on site.

He explained that although doctors took early appointments the office did not turn on their phones until 9:00am. He offered to send over a message and explain my delay.

“I don’t see why they should keep their phones off when patients have appointments,” I snapped back.

“So, I’m guessing that’s a yes?” he responded.  “Do you want me to send over the message?”

I immediately felt ashamed. Anxiety and road rage had taken over. I had started the day speaking rudely to someone who was doing their job, someone trying to help.

I simmered down and gave him my name accompanied by an abundance of guilt ridden thank yous. My actions bothered me for the rest of the morning.

After lunch, I sat down for my daily guided meditation. The theme of the day was none other than irritation.

The guide spoke about her own experience with this emotion; one example being negotiations with her Internet provider. When these discussions didn’t go her way, she described the uncomfortable physical feelings that would arise. On the next call, she makes a conscious decision to dis-allow negative reflexes to take over and proceeds in a warm and friendly manner.

Quoting Tich Nhat Hahn, the meditation guides says, “Every feeling is a field of energy. A pleasant feeling is an energy which can nourish. Irritation is a feeling which can destroy. Under the light of awareness, the energy of irritation can be transformed into an energy which nourishes.”

Unfortunately, I had let irritation destroy my interaction with another that very morning. Although I may not be able to control how I feel, I can learn to use the energy from that emotion to control how I react.

Sorry off-peak answering service guy. I hope the rest of your day went well. I feel ashamed I treated you so poorly.

I’m learning to be aware of emotion as it arises and stop the knee-jerk reaction of irritable anxiety.

Sidebar: I had just got my period that day. Meditation? Energy fields? Sometimes the damn hormones win.

©2017 thejitterbug

What’s Your Mental Illness Avatar?

What’s Your Mental Illness Avatar?

Everyone Has An Avatar

We are all familiar with the cliché depression cloud that haunts sad-faced patients in medication commercials. While this fog of doom is not an inaccurate metaphor of being dogged by unrelenting symptoms of emotional disorder, other images come to mind when I see these advertisements.  There are many types of mental illness and everyone has a different “avatar.”

Describe It

Picturing these inner fiends is helpful.  I can see they are a part of me but not the whole of me.

“A dirty jacket,” I tell her. “One that won’t shake off or come unzipped. It’s a filthy coat of misery causing panic and despair.  I can’t escape its’ rotten grip.”

If this garment were to slip off my back, I would feel exposed, naked, vulnerable…because it hides of lot of wounds and gentle, breakable parts. I have a paradoxical relationship with my unkempt cloak.

Mental health blogs, articles, online resources and books are places I’ve sought knowledge and a community of peers during my journey towards recovery.  I have learned that each individual has a unique expression regarding the form their demons take; some declare a heaviness, like an elephant on their chest. Others refer to the monkey in their brain that never stops his chatter.  There are walls that enclose…stone towers…dark wells with bottomless depths; powerful imagery for a powerful illness.

Different components of one’s illness may also have different avatars.  I know mine do.

Avatars Can Change

For a long time, I could only focus on my dirty jacket. Ah, the jacket! Get it off!

Recently, I’ve thought it over and the dirty jacket “avatar” no longer represents the construct of my illness.

Bark. Dead wood. Grayish brown and rough and thick with ugly warts and scratchy husk.  That’s my mental illness epitome.  I am a dried out branch in an untended garden.  Only now, I’ve realized…I’m the gardener.

The therapy, the rest, the treatments, the searching, the hope and self-care; I’m learning to tend this derelict patch of prickly rigor. And guess what?  It’s not dead.  If I scrape away, and pick and prune the hardness gives way to new green growth with potential and possibility.

Gardening is damn hard work. You’ve got to get your hands dirty and dig deep.  Sometimes I neglect my withering greenhouse.  Sometimes I nurture it.  I’ve reached a juncture in my recovery where at least it’s getting some attention, rather than left to rot and decay.  Every weed I pull is one less weed and every flower blooming is a victory.

What Does Your Mental Illness Avatar Look Like?

My Mental Illness Avatar: Old gray bark hiding tender life inside; not a dirty jacket which cannot be repaired.

Brand your inner turmoil.  Give it shape and form. Weaken the grip of intense power by facing it head on.  I liken this to an exorcism when you call a demon by its’ name.  It must be separated from the host.

What does your mental illness look like? I’d love to hear from you. Participate in the following poll or leave a comment if you have a different image you want to share.

Take good care, The Jitter Bug

What Is Your Mental Illness Avatar?

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Excuse me, Porter?

Excuse me, Porter?

In 2005, my husband and I picked up a connecting flight in Puerto Rico on the way to our honeymoon destination, St. Lucia. I remember standing at the ticket counter when a porter kindly offered to help us with our bags. Being young and naïve we allowed him to do so…and he literally rolled them a few feet to the gate, a task we easily could have managed.

Feeling foolish and slightly taken advantage of, we paid up when the man held out his hand for a tip.

The Caribbean is replete with citizens in need of work and income. Lack of jobs creates competition and islanders have learned to become resourceful and assertive in their approach to make a living. We quickly realized our few dollars had helped not only a struggling economy but a human being, a man trying to put food on the table for himself and his family.

The porter had been so eager to take our luggage. The task and weight of carrying bags for tourists added value to his day, his life, his wallet.  Our baggage was necessary for his survival.

Flash forward to 2017.  I am in the process of working through and living with the struggles of Complex-PTSD, severe anxiety and depression. My siblings and I were raised in a home by a mother with borderline personality/narcissistic personality disorder.  Each of us struggle with the trauma embedded in our sense of self.

Feelings of guilt, shame and not being “good enough” continue to dog us in our adult years. At a young age, our brains were wired to believe the standards my mother set were true and if we didn’t meet them we weren’t acceptable.

Now in our thirties, three decades of unhealthy behavior have been spent in the form of people pleasing, self-condemning, unjustified “answerability. ” We continue to struggle with learning healthy patterns

After a recent session with my therapist regarding “emotional and psychological baggage,” here is my take away…only porters should take on baggage. Let me say that again. Only porters should take on baggage.

This intangible burden, a weight I had picked up and carried for three decades, was not mine at all. I had been carrying my mother’s baggage, her standards, her insecurities and the last time I checked, I wasn’t a bellhop.

This weight was hurting my survival, not sustaining it, as it did for Caribbean porters in crowded airports.

I didn’t finish college, my sister wasn’t skinny enough, my brother married the wrong girl…hefty luggage that never had our tag on it.  But, we picked it up, dragged it around and rolled it from one metaphorical gateway to the next, making restitution for un-met standards. This behavior was not only limited to relations with our parents but over-arched the structure of our lives.

Each of us developed different coping mechanisms; we became excessive worriers, doers, helpers.  We spent money, bought gifts, became obsessed with perfection and sacrificed our mental and emotional health.

My siblings and I thought we were “getting paid” in a co-dependent way of compensating acts, trying to elicit positive feedback.  Any hint of accord was like a coin in our pocket, a tip, small compensation that never added up to much.

We had been lugging around my mother’s trunk of skeletons our whole lives, trying to carry a weight that didn’t belong to us to begin with.

I’m not upset I didn’t finish school, my sister is a beautiful and accomplished woman and my brother is happy with the partner he chose.  The suitcases full of expectations and standards can be left at the ticket counter.  The tags don’t have our names on them.  The contents are not ours to claim.

So, unless you are working for an airport, hotel or transportation service only take what you need for your journey.  Everything else will drag you down.  Leave the unclaimed baggage on the carousel.

 

copyright2017 thejitterbug

The Measuring Stick…My Own Worst Enemy

The Measuring Stick…My Own Worst Enemy

Bust 32″, waist 24″, inseam 28″…oh, and I wear a size 5 shoe. Fair to say, I’m tiny. Five feet, two inches tall and that’s only if I’ve done spine stretching yoga exercises before the doctor stands me up to check my height. Crawling through a doggie door or half open window would present no challenge, making a career in cat burglary an excellent option.

Don’t worry. Nicking pearls in the dead of night from wealthy old socialites is not my plan. But, I do have a plan, or rather, an intention, regarding my “so called” measurements. Being physically small is of little importance…it’s being emotionally small that’s my hitch.

What Is “Good Enough?”

Type A personality can go on my “size chart” along with shrinking, waning, withering feelings that steal my self assurance time and time again. Maybe the cat burglar is inside me?

These negative emotions have sustained a life-long battle with anxiety, obsessive compulsive disorder and depression.  Somewhere, deep inside, the “real me” is hiding while mental illness plunders every last bit of self-worth from the caches of my soul.

During a recent therapy session, I admitted to never feeling “good enough.” Never. I’m not even sure I know what the parameters of “enough” entail. Of course, my therapist prodded me to go a deeper (an annoying but necessary professional stratagem) and I explained this life encompassing feeling.

  • I’m not a good enough wife; maybe my husband would be happier with someone else; someone smarter, prettier, less of an uptight, bitchy anxious control freak.
  • I’m not good enough at my job, at cooking, at writing, at sex.
  • Daughter, sister, friend…I could be better, better, better.

The list is endless. The measuring stick reaches high, like Jack’s beanstalk disappearing into lofty clouds. But, there is no golden goose egg at the unattainable “top.”

What Am I Up Against?

After this painful discussion, my therapist asked, “What are you measuring yourself against?”

I just sat there and blinked.

Anxious, driven, proactive perfectionism has always dominated my life. Control is a must not an option. I over analyze, set my performance in contrast to others, take out the big, straight-edged stick and determine where I stack up against…what? I didn’t have an answer. And then, the smoke screen lifted.

The Poison Bean Illusions

There is no “against.” I compare my so-called achievements to fraudulent ideas, bogus thoughts, unattainable paradigms that were planted in my head like Jack’s magic beans.

Except, these beans were poison, germinated during an upbringing in a home of emotional instability, cultivated by a society riddled with immense standards and fueled by my aggressive Type A ideals.

My therapist pointed out that this compulsive measuring had less to do with accomplishment and more to do with acceptance; behavior stemming from a childhood where credit had been handed out in random, contingent and inconsistent rates. Looking to be the “best” was not my true intention.

The stamp of approval, to be seen, to be heard, to be loved, to be recognized without condition is what I was searching for all along.

Perfectionism is the Enemy of Forward Movement

The clouds parted right there on the proverbial psychotherapy couch. The measuring stick was not at all about achievement but everything about acknowledgment and confirmation of my worth.

I needed to be high up on that stick because if I wasn’t, I was scared my valuation would deflate in the eyes of those around me. It is a paralyzing affliction. If I feel it won’t be perfect, I feel I can’t begin. Possibilities and opportunities have been left by the roadside because I felt I would never measure up.

Just like the beanstalk is a fairytale, the measuring stick is a fictitious notion designed by my own masochistic nature of self-deprecation.

The beanstalk only got Jack the “cat burglar” into trouble and sure enough it all came crashing down. For me, the outcome will be the same, if I continue to set my gaze on the unattainable lofty heights of “performance” rulers.

My intention is to stop climbing beanstalks and seeking golden eggs. To continue, I’m only stealing from myself. I’m defrauding every opportunity I have to just be me and let that be enough.

©thejitterbug 2017

Pitfalls…Why Traditional Deodorant is Bad for Your Health

Pitfalls…Why Traditional Deodorant is Bad for Your Health

Eating Clean by Amie Valpone has completely changed my understanding of how toxins play a role in our everyday lives. From pesticides to preservatives, these substances are present in our food, personal care products and homes. Eating Clean is not just a book about food but an invaluable resource on detoxifying your home, your body, your office, your life!

Toxins and Your Health

Realizing that health is more than choosing salad over fries, my husband and I embarked on a well-being overhaul…which included our armpits!

One of the first changes my husband and I made was switching to an all-natural deodorant.

Ok, ok!  Stay with me here!  We are not hippies, we do not smell and yes, you can find a product that actually works!  Here’s why we ditched the mainstream brands:

Traditional deodorants found in the aisles of your drug store or supermarket contain ingredients such as:

  • Parabens
  • Aluminum
  • Triclosan
  • Artificial Fragrances
  • Phthalates
  • Propylene glycol
  • BHT

These elements are being absorbed into your system every single day! They are suspected to increase your risk for cancer, disrupt hormones, cause allergies, endanger a developing fetus…the list goes on.

Don’t believe me?  Do your research.  It’s shocking the information you will find about the dangers of personal care products and how little FDA regulation exists for the potentially harmful ingredients used to make them.  In fact, other countries have much stricter regulations regarding chemicals in beauty care products.  http://www.safecosmetics.org/get-the-facts/regulations/international-laws/

Your Largest Organ

The skin is your body’s largest organ. It’s porous and absorbs what you put on it.  If you wouldn’t eat something, why would you want to rub it on your skin?  Eventually, those toxins will end up in your blood stream, organs or lymphatic system.

Would you eat Aluminum, Triclosan, or Parabens? No?  Well, even in small doses, over time, these additives can have negative health impacts when used in your daily beauty routine.  Developing fetuses and babies are especially sensitive to these harmful chemicals. And, as a woman, I also don’t want to be slathering chemicals under my arms which are right near my breasts.

One of the resources I use to help determine the safety of a personal care product is ewg.org/skindeep. Amie recommends this web page in her book, Eating Clean, and it is truly valuable and educational.

Try a Few!

As far as deodorant goes, everyone’s body chemistry is different. You may need to try several products before you find the one that’s right for you.  Make sure to do a 24 hour patch test on the inside of your forearm before applying a new product.  This will help prevent allergic reaction to ingredients you may not have been exposed to before.

Natural deodorants prevent odor but still allow your body to sweat. Guess what?  Sweating is good!  It helps your body to release toxins and stay cool.

Personally, I purchase and use a product on Etsy by Treefort Naturals called Natural Coconut Deodorant Cream.  It contains: Organic Virgin Coconut Oil, Organic Arrowroot Powder, Natural Baking Soda, Mango Butter, Essential Oils of Tea Tree and Orange and Beeswax. Or you can try any of the recommendations in Amie Valpone’s book Eating Clean or on her website thehealthyapple.com.

My husband and I have not only changed our deodorant; we buy more organic produce, make our own cleaning products, filter our water and read labels for potential toxins in food or personal care products.

Find out how safe your beauty products are by visiting http://www.ewg.org/skindeep/.  This database rates the safety level of personal care and beauty products.  Type in the brand you are using and find out exactly what you are putting on your skin.

Eating Clean by Amie Valpone is so much more than “eating” clean. This book has become an essential reference, a go-to resource, a health “bible.”  Check out Amie’s website, thehealthyapple.com for more information regarding health related topics.

Stay tuned for more posts on the efforts my husband and I have made to create a healthier life!

 

I Prefer the Needle…Relief in Acupuncture

I Prefer the Needle…Relief in Acupuncture

The moment a precisely placed needle pricks my skin, I know relief and relaxation are just minutes away. I’m an addict and yes, it’s a something I will never quit…acupuncture.

Determined to fight a diagnosis of Complex-PTSD without the help of a pill, I choose a homeopathic approach.

In the past, I had tried medicine for depression and anxiety.  It offered little result and unpleasant side effects.  From this experience, I came to prefer natural remedies.

Meditation, yoga, exercise, talk-therapy, herbal teas, essential oils, hot baths…I tried them all. Nothing helped enough.  I began to feel hopeless and defeated.

Finally, at the sincere urging of my therapist and steps away from being hospitalized, I agreed to once again consider traditional medication.

Medication

Nothing worked. I tried medicine after medicine.  Every pill came with side effect after side effect.  Some drugs even caused life threatening allergic reactions to my highly sensitive system.

Rashes, headaches, extreme fatigue, brain fog, heightened anxiety, increased depression, restlessness, heart palpitations, difficulty sleeping, sexual side effects, hyperactive behavior…the list goes on.

A very small dose of sedative medication was the only drug that my body tolerated. It was the only medicine that took the edge off agonizing symptoms.

Months of trial and error with a psychiatric nurse practitioner yielded no results. My therapist eventually referred me to a highly recommended psycho-pharmacologist/psychiatrist.  Even she could do no better.

The psychiatrist prescribed a new drug which introduced sleepless nights, intense anxiety and finally, a fainting episode in my pharmacy parking lot.  I decided enough was enough.

Time for a New Approach

“Exquisitely sensitive” was the term my psychiatrist used. C-PTSD had put my body in a hyper-vigilant, fight or flight mode with no off switch.  My body over-reacted and attacked anything new that was introduced to its’ system.

This response was not limited to medication. Noises, lights, quick movements, pain or any external stimulation that overwhelmed my “exquisitely sensitive” nature caused extreme anxiety. (“Exquisitely sensitive” was a dressed up, but unique way of saying “living in terror.”) My brain deemed everything as “danger.”

And then…I found acupuncture.

Acupuncture

I had previously researched this treatment with regards to anxiety and depression.  My sister gave me positive feedback as she had undergone acupuncture therapy for her own health issues. I decided to try it.

Skeptical? Sure, but at this point (no pun intended), what did I have to lose?

After the first treatment, I was hooked.  A relief I had never felt washed over my body.  The experience is hard to describe. I laid there for an hour, floating in a dreamlike state.

My doctors encouraged me to keep going and I faithfully agreed to keep every appointment.

Now, once a week, I arrive, ready for the little needles, the heated table, the soft music and the hour of relaxation. Every visit is different and each treatment is based on what symptom I am struggling with the most. This list is long, but includes Gastrointestinal Issues, Migraines, Low BMI, Severe Anxiety, Fatigue, Depression, Rosacea Flare-Ups, Loss of Menstrual Cycle, etc.

Due to low BMI, my menstrual cycle had stopped for over 7 months! After two specialized acupuncture treatments pertaining to this issue…voila!  The “curse” returned!  This was a huge step in getting my hormones back on track and feeling better.  Yes, I was a woman jumping for joy to get her period!

I didn’t need any more convincing that there was something very real in this ancient, Eastern technique.

Herbal Therapy, Benefits, Time

My acupuncturist eventually started me on an herbal therapy to reduce anxiety. Dietary recommendations were made to help me gain weight and clear my skin.

It didn’t happen overnight, but slowly, with time, I noticed a loosening of misery, a slight dialing back of anxiety, and more restful sleeping.

The benefits of each visit started to extend beyond my hour on the table and carry gently over into everyday life.

My psychiatrist explained that it can take years to begin healing from an illness like C-PTSD.  It’s a slow process and sometimes I feel deflated at the long term prospect of this journey. I try to remember I’m the tortoise in this race and not the hare.  One day, one breath, one precise little needle at a time.

Symptom Management

This treatment has NOT been a cure. Acupuncture helps to better manage my symptoms in a way that SSRIs, mood stabilizers and certain benzodiazepines have not.  I am a believer in Western AND Alternative medicine. In fact, I am still on the small dose of sedatives, but now they seem to work more effectively in conjunction with regular acupuncture treatments. I go to therapy twice a week, continue light exercise, practice meditation and no longer work. There are many factors contributing to my path of healing.

Cost

Acupuncture is expensive.  I pay out-of-pocket as my insurance company does not cover any cost for this type of treatment. That’s a soapbox rant for another blog post.

Currently, I spend $70 a treatment for a once a week visit. This price includes a discount for buying a 10 visit package rather than paying per visit.

I am fortunate to be able to cover this expense, in part, because I live a frugal life-style and make intentional decisions on where to spend my money.  Manicures, shopping sprees or expensive restaurant dinners do not make the budget.

At this time, acupuncture adds more value than cash accumulating in my bank account.  As a frugalist, it’s a tough spend but I’ve realized health comes first.  I want to gain financial freedom, however, there is no point in achieving this goal if I’m not well enough to enjoy it.

Do Your Research

Make sure you work with an acupuncturist who maintains proper licensing and credentials. Check out this link to better understand how you can find the best practitioner for you.  http://www.wikihow.com/Find-a-Licensed-Acupuncturist

A good acupuncturist will begin your first visit with a health consultation or questionnaire.  They will ask about current medications, primary complaints and work with you in creating a treatment plan.

When starting acupuncture, consistent visits over a period of time are suggested.  As symptoms improve, your acupuncturist will recommend “maintenance visits,” are are less often.

Consulting with doctors about new treatment, herbs and diet changes is an important step in preventing possible interactions with other medications.  Remember to tell your doctor before you try anything new.

I am certainly not telling anyone to stop their medication or disregard traditional Western treatment. I am encouraging people to keep looking for answers, keep having discussions with your doctor and keep trying things you may not have considered.

Little Needle, Big Possibilities

A non-invasive form of therapy, acupuncture is a holistic approach to health and well-being.  Believers and dis-believers in the medical field debate over the authenticity of acupuncture’s healing claims.  However, emerging research is beginning to prove the benefits behind this ancient Eastern technique.

Consequently, this approach is another tool in my toolkit, another arrow in my quiver, against a battle I fight from the moment I open my eyes each morning.

Combined with other life-style changes, acupuncture has augmented my path to healing.

Who knows…the needle could be your healthy addiction too.

©thejitterbug 2017

**Check out my post about medication and irritable bowel syndrome.

Be Frugal, Buy a Clothesline & Ditch the Dryer

Be Frugal, Buy a Clothesline & Ditch the Dryer

I live in a tiny apartment.  Frugal conditions should be a given, right?  WRONG!  Unfortunately, all of our appliances run on electricity, including the central air, which significantly drives up our electric bill during summer months.  However, in the dead of winter, without AC, I couldn’t understand why my electric bill was still so high!

It’s The Dryer!

Ah! The dryer! This expensively convenient appliance was sucking my dollars out the window!  I decided to take frugal super action and do some research.

First, I bought an inexpensive drying rack. Since I live in an apartment I don’t have a yard, hence no clothesline.  Even if I did, I have terrible allergies, so hanging my laundry out in pollen filled air would not be an option.  But, for those of you without these drawbacks…get some rope and pins!

Bonus! Air drying your clothes can actually help them last longer.

“Off Peak” Isn’t Just For Travel

Next, I called my electric company and learned that they have “off peak” hours. This means that the delivery fee for electricity is less at certain times of the day.

For example, my electric company charges “off peak” rates for all weekends, holidays, and specific daily times.

October through May, daily “off peak” rates are any time before 8:00am and any time after 9:00pm.

June through September, daily “off peak” rates are any time before 9:00am and any time after 6:00pm.

I adjusted the time for running my washing machine and dishwasher to take advantage of these less expensive windows. Of course, it’s always best to make sure you are running full loads so you are not using these appliances multiple times.

What Did My Frugal Efforts Save Me?

What did I save? In February, my electric bill had been $77.60.  It took some time to adjust, but here’s a rundown of my expenses after I implemented these changes:

March = $52.80

April = $50.32

May = $43.32

My dryer racks quickly paid for themselves and I have more money in my pocket each month. This can add up to hundreds over the year. Frugal win!  Combine that with my other savings tips and your wallet will be happy.

Other Ways To Save On Your Electric Bill

There are so many ways to save on your electric bill. Put energy efficient bulbs in your lamps.  Don’t run the AC when you aren’t home or keep the shades down to block out hot sun. Unplug appliances when you aren’t using them…yup, that TV is still sucking up electricity even when it’s turned off.

Crockpots are also a great way to save money.  Energy efficient models can potentially use less energy than your electric stove. They save you time in the kitchen and your house will smell delicious at the end of the day when your home cooked meal is ready to eat!  A slow cooker is a great way to keep your house cool during the summer months instead of firing up that oven!

Just Do It!

So, what are you waiting for?

Call your electric company and find out when their “off peak” hours are.  Buy a drying rack or string up your bloomers in the warm sunshine.  Your wallet will thank you.

©thejitterbug 2017

Check out my blog post about ditching cable for more frugal wins!

 

Be Frugal, Cut the Cord & Ditch Cable TV Forever!

Be Frugal, Cut the Cord & Ditch Cable TV Forever!

My frugal journey began two years ago when I got SICK of Comcast and their outrageous cable bills.  I took the plunge and cut the cord.  One phone call and my cable service was cancelled.  Of course, I declined all of their “offers” and “packages” which were supposedly a great deal and would save me money…NOT! Internet only, thank you very much.

What do we do for TV?

My husband and I ordered a Roku, an RCA Multi-Directional Amplified Flat Antenna, subscribed to Netflix for $7.99 a month and never looked back.  We even ditched Comcast’s $10 a month rental unit and purchased our own Arris SURFboard Router.

Free at last!

True, the initial purchase of these items were a bit of an expense, however, my husband and I sat down and did a dollar cost average. Over time, we would quickly recoup these costs by not being tied to a massive cable bill.  I was kicking myself for not making this decision years ago!

Negotiating

I called Comcast a year later to negotiate (complain) when my internet rate increased.  Score!  We received a monthly $15 customer loyalty credit. Check out 20somethingfinance.com for tips on how to negotiate your bill.

In 2015, my Comcast bill had been $121.15. Today it is $59.95 (internet only.)  This means I save an average of $734.40 a year!  Whoa! That’s not chump change, that’s real dollars.  What to do with this frugal windfall is a topic for another blog post.

Remember to check your bill every 12 months because rates ALWAYS go up!

No Frugal Drawbacks Here!

Now, we have all the basic TV channels for free and the Roku provides endless options for TV programs, movies, documentaries, etc.  The term”Frugal” gets a bad rap but doesn’t seem to have any drawbacks here.  I have money in my pocket and entertainment galore.

Do I miss cable?  Nope.  Not for a minute.

Stay tuned for my next frugal post with more money saving tips and tricks.  Oh yes, the little things count!