Thursday, August 18, 2016

The good stuff...

Gosh it's a beautiful day today!

I've been drifting in a strange world where time is flimsy, minutes are big, but days are almost microscopic. I have contentment in spasms, or hiccups, and in between I'm not really here because I'm travelling through rough terrain trying to make sense of my life over the last couple of years.

But today I want to talk about the spasmodic hiccups of contentment.

Harlem had his second surgery on Tuesday, and while him needing a second surgery wasn't great news in an of itself, the outcome is very good. He actually limped out of the surgery on all four legs after hopping in the day before on just three. It seems the issue with his patella slipping to the inside of his leg was at the root of him not wanting to use the leg at all. Now that his patella is stable, he seems quite happy to use the leg, though obviously it is still sore after a second operation. He's not at all impressed at having the lampshade back on, but that's temporary and at least this time he's not crashing into stuff as much because he has a sense of the dimension of the collar.

One thing I am endlessly grateful for is the pet insurance. I was saying to my parents the other day that getting insurance has always paid off for us. While a lot of people say insurance is wrought, we've ended up using insurance a lot! I got extended insurance for my desktop and it paid for itself three times over. I got private insurance for the car, and we've used it several times now! And well, in pet insurance this year alone, it looks like we'll come pretty close to the 10, 000 coverage for Harlem. That goodness we had that!

We had Lukas' parent-teacher meetings yesterday and it was just a delight! Even he said afterwards, 'Wow, that was actually fun! It has never been fun before!'

His music teachers heaped praise on him. They said they couldn't believe this was the same kid they had in class a year ago. They said that not only were they happy to recommend him for the VET music program next year, but that he was their top pick!

Both his English teacher and his Maths teacher said he was holding his own in class, that he showed up, participated well, was enthusiastic. His English teacher said the diagnosis of dyslexia was pretty spot on, but that Lukas was a conscientious student despite his challenges. She recommended he not pursue VCE English in year 10, but that he take the year off and do an elective English class and enjoy himself a bit before the hard work of the VCE subjects kicked in. His maths teacher said the current maths class he was in was beneath his ability, and he suspected Lukas had chosen that class to ease the pressure while he focused on his music. He was also happy to hear that although Lukas is not required to do any more maths units, he wants to because he wants to have that up his sleeve in case he ends up choosing studies which require most complex maths.

I don't think I've ever smiled so much during any meeting with teachers, ever!

It didn't come as a surprise, since Lukas' GPA had been adjusted to 2.5/4.0 after his music studies were properly added to the mix.

I am really enjoying my journey with head covering. It just feels so right for me, I feel so much more confident when I go out - it's like a hug, weird I know, but it really works!

In many ways, I'm feeling more centred now. There is still a long way to go until I achieve an even keel, but I finally feel like I'm on my way.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Life work: Why we repeatedly experience the same stuff over and over, and what we need to learn from that...

Over the past 18 months, I've experienced having several people perceive me in ways that have hurt me deeply. They have reacted to me; my actions or words, in ways I never intended and I have been accused of motives I never had. I have tried to re-present myself, I have walked on eggshells, I have raged against the accusations. I have tried everything I could think of to 'change their mind' about me. To little or not avail.

I have wondered why this keeps happening to me, and yes, I have seriously considered that I might just be a terrible, horrible, stupid, lazy, toxic person. I had never considered these things to be part of who I was. I acknowledge I am someone who struggles with diplomacy. I can be honest without filters for cushioning fragile self-esteem. I can be blunt and I have precious little patience for people lacking integrity, self-awareness, humility, or compassion - yes, I need to practice more compassion, myself!

Taking all this into account, I avoid engaging in manipulation and game-playing with determination. I will never say something about a person I would not be prepared to say to their face. I would never purposefully hurt another person. 

So, I have tried to disprove people's perception of me as a person I don't identify with. I've tried to prove I am conscientious, compassionate, ethical, moral, kind, and respectful. What I have discovered is that people will see and hear what they are looking and listening for. The more I try to prove I'm not the things I am accused of being, the more these people are convinced I am what they perceive me to be. 

I believe this is the lesson I have been needing to learn in the past year and a half. I cannot control how people choose to perceive me. That is not to say I am perfect. I know I am far from perfect. This is exactly why I strive to be a better person every day. What I have realised is that in my egoistic struggle to prove I'm kind, worthwhile, or conscientious I have become angry and resentful that these people refuse to acknowledge these things about me.

Feeling angry and resentful blocks my ability to have compassion and be open to new relationships with new people, or trusting relationships with the people who remain in my life. I'm always half expecting people to 'turn on me'. That is no way to live. It causes me to be less of the person I strive to be.

So, employing the mindfulness approach, I've decided that I don't need to hang onto the desire to control how others perceive me. I need only to have personal integrity. Continue to strive to be compassionate, conscientious, and to have humility. I need to see and hear the generosity of spirit, kindness, and humility that is all around me every day. 

Let go of other people's perceptions of me because people will see and hear what they are looking and listening for and that is their life work, not mine.

Thursday, August 04, 2016

Intermitted, surgery, and, oh, I can think again!

You thought I'd given up on this blog, right?


But I have struggled to sit down at the computer, and even right now, I'm only here because I can't just keep putting it off.

As you can see from the title of this post, I am intermitted from my degree again... What's that, the third time this year? It is hard not to feel like I'm failing, even though I've been reassured so many times that this is perfectly normal and stuff comes up, and well, it's smarter to intermit than to fall behind. I'm quite sick of myself at this stage of my life.

This intermission was taken because the medication I went on in April for migraines and seizures combined basically left me with symptoms of concussion. Then, of course, I actually was concussed in July when I fell down the front steps. Anyway, I spoke to my GP and I have come off that medication and am back on my old anti-seizure meds which I tolerate well. I have been given something to take for the migraines, but it is a medication that is contraindicated for the anxiety meds I'm on, so I'm not really keen to try it unless I'm completely incapacitated. Not being at uni means not staring at a computer screen all day, which so far has meant only headaches, not migraines. Fingers crossed (though the glare from this screen is already affecting me, I can tell).

In other news, Harlem had surgery on is left cruciate ligament last Friday. It'll be 3-4 months before he's working again. The specialist has diagnosed him with cruciate ligament disease, which means the other knee will most likely go in the next couple of years as well. I have not been more than two metres away from him except to go to the loo or shower, in the past 6 days. I'm sleeping on the floor in the lounge room next to his crate. It is likely I will be extending my intermittence, but I want to give it another couple of weeks to be sure.

We will need to do some retraining in November once he's back on his feet properly.

I have to say, these past twelve months have really sucked. There have been a couple of highlights (getting to go back to Iceland, and getting Harlem are standout bright spots in the past year), but quite frankly, I look back on the last twelve months and am grateful I'm not psychic! Let's see:

  1. I had a seizure a year ago, putting my back into the status of having epilepsy (that was ambo trip one).
  2. Mum nearly died from vasculitis and spent a month in hospital.
  3. Dave got sick, kept passing out and had to go to hospital (ambo trip two).
  4. Massive stress about PhD, created by me.
  5. On-going stress/arguments/anxiety about Erik's behaviour.
  6. Dave and I having a massive falling out over how to handle Erik's behaviour.
  7. Bryn and Ari changing schools, and then having issues at new school in first six months.
  8. Me spending weeks and weeks away from Dave and the boys (7.5 in total) having adverse affects on them.
  9. Broken teeth = on-going severe jaw infections which require surgery to fix = on 12 waiting list.
  10. Erik running away from home/moving out permanently
  11. Migraines, anxiety, depression, suicidal thoughts.
  12. Money stress.
  13. Harlem limping from suspected ligament tear.
  14. Brain fog from migraine medications inhibiting my ability to concentrate or think clearly.
  15. Falling down stairs and face planting on brick path (ambo trip three), facial scarring, concussion, several seizures.
  16. More Harlem limping, tear confirm, surgery recommended.
I'm burnt out.

Since coming off the migraine meds completely in the last few days, I have to say I feel more like my old self again. I can THINK! I'm dreaming again - this is not a great thing as I'm having nightmare after nightmare. Obviously stuff has been bubbling away in my subconscious but suppressed by the medications. I have REAL trust issues, apparently. I feel quite traumatised.

Being able to think again is mostly great though. I was really starting to despair over my inability to focus at all. At least now I feel like I could possibly pull myself together again. I will still benefit from a break though.

I need order in my life. That is usually what works to centre me again. Predictability (well, as much as can be had, anyway, life isn't predictable), routine, keeping things low key as much as possible. I've been eating a lot of rubbish lately to stuff my anxiety, so I'm back on track with nutrition and water because the crazy hormonal swings from hypos and hypers is not good for me.

I am focusing my energy on Harlem right now, it is important that his recovery go by the numbers to ensure he can return to full work. The prospect of having to get a different guide dog does not interest me in the least.

We are also in the process of having Ari assessed. Initial testing reveals he is superior and very superior in many of his learning categories (particularly coding), but well below average in initiating, receptive language, and focus (basically, he rates a 98% probability of ADHD, which is no surprise at all). We have a specialist paid assessment books for September but we are on the waiting list if a slot opens up earlier.

There is no improvement of the situation with Erik. We have resigned ourselves to it. It feels like we have lost a child. There is still a lot of grief and anger about that.

Lukas is going great guns. His work at school is going extremely well. He has really found his niche in music. His band is currently heading off to the state finals in battle of the band, representing the south eastern region of Melbourne in the junior category. He really seems to have found direction.

Bryn has settled so much since Erik moved out. He's doing well at school, well socially. His anxiety has subsided considerably. He is just a happier kid.

Harlem is a darling - he has brought so much happiness into our household. Our graduation was supposed to be this month, and I had even been asked to speak on behalf of the graduating handlers - which came as quite a surprise, but was very lovely! Sadly, Harlem will still be restricted to home, so I've had to turn down the request. This means we also won't be able to meet Harlem's puppy raiser or any of the people I went through training with. It's disappointing, but his recovery is my top priority right now.

Braille is coming along really well as well. I have much more confidence now, and am onto my second grade two book (there are only two grades). It is really good as my sight continues to deteriorate month by month. The other day I walked into an overhanging branch - something I have NEVER done before. It was a bit of a shock. I'm feeling much more accepting of this process now, though, so that is something - I was feeling quite devastated earlier this year.

I am finding a lot of solace in head covering. It is very strange, actually, I feel less exposed, less vulnerable when I wear my wraps. I never leave the house without them now. I think I haven't felt safe in a long time and everything I'm doing now is about feeling safe again. Hopefully, that will lead to a more balanced me in the next few weeks or so.

Good Job!