Saturday, October 27, 2012

It's no laughing matter.

Prepare yourself for another long-winded  story that somehow has a significant theological/life point at the end.  I call it the Bethany special.

I've been thinking about gas a lot lately.

Not that type of gas. Laughing gas; nitrous oxide, aka the stuff they give you in the dental chair to relax you.

Two weeks ago today I had my wisdom teeth removed. Frankly, I was terrified going in. Not because of the pain and recovery time, not because of all of the adverse side effects of the medications I was under. Not because I was going to swell up like a chipmunk (which thankfully did not happen). I was terrified of the actual process, namely the drugs.

It's almost ironic, given that my job often involves coaching kids through consciously sedated procedures, or reassuring them prior to general anesthesia; that I myself have never been sedated. Perhaps it is that exact exposure that was haunting me. Memories of laughing with parents at the ridiculous thing their children were saying. Having discussions with patients that they had no recollection of later. The idea of having no control or memory of my faculties for a period of time scared me more than I could say. However, on the other side of things, I had heard horror stories from people who were not sedated during their procedures. Was told that the sound of the tooth cracking haunted them to this day.

What to do?

Luckily, my absolutely amazing oral surgeon was very responsive to my concerns and offered up his solution to the problem: a combination of low dose valium taken the night before and morning of my procedure to relax me, followed by an administration of nitrous oxide that would further calm me for the procedure, with no lasting side effects. (All, of course, administered with the actual numbing agent). With his confidence in mind, I agreed to the  proposed plan, still skeptical.

With good reason, as I later found out.

As I took that first valium the night before my procedure, I was surprised to find no change in mental capacity. In fact, if anything, I became more anxious with worry that our proposed plan was going to have no effect. The next morning I took both the prescribed dosage along with the extra "if you need it to relax" pill, hoping the double dose would have an effect. Next thing I knew, I was incredibly jittery. Maybe it was the Valium... maybe my nerves just got the best of me, but either way the medication did not have the desired effect.

Fastforward a bit of time including a drive to the office, a wait in the office, an extended wait in the pre-room where I was informed that my dad had in fact made it to the hospital in time, and a tense waiting period until he got up to hug me briefly before I was taken into the procedure room. The assistants did a great job of helping me get comfortable, they strapped on the gas mask, and the doctor began the numbing process and turned the laughing gas on.

I still do not have the right words to describe my experience, but essentially what began as a nice 'buzz' feeling, quickly spiraled into a complete panic attack. As one part of my mind began to relax and 'float', another significant part was still vitally aware of the gradual loss of control. Almost as if I were commentating to myself the experience:
Hmm... this isnt so bad, I guess he turned the gas on and I feel kind of fuzzy. Almost like Ive had a few drinks. Like last weekend in Orlando, that was a fun weekend, I should call- ok wait... now the feeling is a bit stronger, this is very strange, shouldn't I be more relaxed and not so vitally aware of everything that is going on, this is starting to remind me of the stories my patients have told about being sedated and not having control of their own bodies but still knowing everything that is going on, crap wow, now Im really feeling foggy and can't communicate which is bad because my chest is feeling heavy and Im having a panic attack. SHIT I'm having a panic attack and I can't even tell them because the stupid other part of me is floating on a cloud...I feel like my own thoughts are crashing in around me and Im drowning in a sea of my own lack of control
Luckily this was about the point that the oral surgeon very kindly told me he noticed that I was starting to hyperventilate and lowered the concentration of the gas. Hallelujah, considering the feeling of drowning within myself was not very enjoyable.

Long story short, we got through the procedure with few complications (apparently my one impacted tooth had a 'lovely' surprise of three roots instead of two. That sucker had no intention of going anywhere...). However, at the end of procedure, the overwhelmingly suffocating feeling began to creep back in and they removed the gas component entirely for the final stitches. My dr later informed me he suspected my very fast metabolism had contributed to the odd reactions to both Valium and Nitrous Oxide. Uncommon, but luckily the procedure itself had been low in complications so it all worked out in the end.

So what's my take away point?

I have a very stubborn mind. Ive known this for years, and that experience just confirmed what Ive always suspected. I've attempted to learn to still my mind on many occasions. Meditation, guided imagery, relaxation, you name it, I've tried it. With no success, I might add. I have a seriously difficult time letting go, part of my mind is always fiercely grabbing hold to the present. Even during some of the best times of my life, a part of me can't continue to live in the moment and instead is busy crunching numbers and running data analysis. This is a trait that has also served me well; my ability to truly multi-task is unparalleled, which I in part attribute to my budding OCD (a topic for another post). I turn what could be a tragic flaw into a vital and integral part of my personality. No wonder Im accused of being high maintenance at times! (I prefer the term 'vibrant personality', p.s.).

So anyways, hard time relaxing, that's me. Hard time letting go, right here. Difficulty not dwelling and moving on... absolutely, partially because I am perfectly capable of dwelling AND moving on at the same time. Split track mind.

I have some things going on right now that I can't actually write about for a variety of reasons. Potentially great things, potentially scary things, definitely overwhelming, and causing me to trust and rely on God in a way that I haven't truly leaned on him for almost two years.

But why is it so hard to truly let go of my problems and trust that God is going to handle them?

Is it because I don't believe he can? Absolutely not, my past experiences have taught me that God has a knack for swooping down in the knick of time. If the balls up in the air are the ones he's planned, they will certainly stay up there with little effort on my part.

Is it because I don't think he will? Maybe... what I've learned is that while God CAN come in and save the day, sometimes he  doesn't. And I think he doesn't for a variety of reasons. Sometimes it's because what we think is his 'plan' isn't.  I've been guilty of assuming God has ordained things and not going back to check with him. Or, if I AM in his plan, I've decided how he's going to work things out, and he doesn't always work that way. But sometimes... bad things happens, and we have no control over it, and I don't know that God always does either. If we truly subscribe to the value of free will, then the repercussion is I can act the way I want and God can't interfere without infringing on my free will. If I decide I want to go out and murder someone... at a certain point God can't stop me without disturbing the balance of order he created. The same way he puts the laws of science in motion... which can then present as hurricanes, or cancer,or  rabid lion attacks. Sure, God can, and does, speak into our life to gently nudge us to take a different route to work to avoid the fatal car crash, but sometimes he doesn't. So even if these plans Im facing are God's... that doesn't mean they are guaranteed to happen.

I've learned that a lot this year. Sometimes God might plan things, and then we, as humans, screw it up. Guilty right here.

So these thoughts take up a lot of brainspace (although luckily I can multi task and play solitaire at the same time. Yes, obviously in my mind. What? You mean you don't do that too....?) And Im struggling with the balance.

I think there is some benefit to being concerned. It keeps me focused on God. My urge to get on my knees physically and pray has been so strong in the last month.  Yet, as my post a few weeks ago suggests, needless worry becomes a sickness. At some point I have to surrender control and tell God it's in his hands and Im done trying to 'make' things happens. Because, for me, not having control is the one thing that will reassure me in the long run that I am really in his will.

So in addition to making my daily thanks list (which sometimes makes its way on here), I'm also reminding myself of the ways God has answered prayers in the past. In the ways I had thought, in the ways I hadn't wanted, and in the ways that absolutely have blown my minds.

I'm on the precipice of having my mind blown again, or having my heart broken. Part of the excitement is the unknown. And frankly, what fun is life without that element of intensity? Either way, the only control I have is choosing to ask God to guide me and help me through whatever comes my way.

But keep your fingers crossed... please. And thank you.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Thoughts on the Election

~I'm not sure that either candidate would have wooed my vote during any of the debates if I had been undecided.

~The intense negativity makes me sad. Particularly on facebook, tell you one thing- being nasty and ridiculing/lambasting supporters of the opponent is not going to do much for convincing people to switch sides. This goes for both parties; all it does is make me think less of you and your opinion.

~On the same vein, I promise to respect your opinion if you've done your homework and really thought about your candidate choice, even if it does not coincide with my own. I would respect the same courtesy.

~None of the candidates have it entirely right. Not the republican, the democrat, the independents, it's about picking the one who most coincides with your most important topics.

~Certain candidates should lay off the teeth whitener.

~Certain other candidates would do well to revisit the rules of order and stop speaking over everyone else, including the moderator.

~I really wish the candidates would focus more on outlining their plans for helping the country instead of explaining why the other one is a poor choice.

~I miss regular commercials.

~Regardless, I hope everyone gets out there and votes. My personal thought? If you didn't vote you have no right to complain about the election outcomes. Plain and simple.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Post Wisdom Teeth

It's been a really rough weekend. Luckily my wisdom teeth extraction went...relatively well. Relatively well as in the sedation medications didn't work as planned, and my one tooth had three roots instead of two (with the third not wanting to come out at all). But I've been in pain, I've been miserable, and I've gotten a string of seemingly bad news. To combat the self-pity that is slowly creeping into my stream of consciousness, here are the things that make the glass half full:

1)My family. Seriously. They rock. I know that everyone thinks they have awesome parents, but mine are truly spectacular. My dad got up super early to drive over and be there before my surgery. Because of some delays, he ended up sprinting through ten flights of stairs to get there in time. He then continued to stay by my side the next 24 hours, running errands, picking up soup, calling the doctor when I was curled up on the bathroom floor vomiting for four hours. Writing his sermon while sitting in the bed next to me so he could make sure I was alright. A friend of the family told me that she has always been impressed with how much my mom and dad love their three children. Between my dad's presence, and my mom's constant calls and emotional support, and my grandparents letting me stay with them and taking care of me...  I am truly blessed.

2) Insurance. I may not always love my situation in life,but I am thankful for the wonderful benefits I get through work. My surgery, which should have been almost $5000 ended up being only $530 out of pocket. When I was so sick I couldn't even keep the pain medications down, the medications prescribed were available to me for $10, not $120. I am so very aware with my job how often people have to go without their healthcare for financial reasons. I am not rich, I am not even always 'comfortable', but I can afford to take care of my  health, and for that I am grateful.

3) Friends. The number of people who have called, texted, visited, brought soup, is mind boggling. I am blessed with not just a high quantity of peers, but great quality as well. I've always said the best snapshot of a person's character is in the people they call friends. If that's true, I must be a phenomenal person; I am surrounded by such individuals of character, kindness and love. That they call me friend in return is such a blessing. Seriously guys, I love you.

4)Decent Recovery. Sure I've had my share of pain and misery. But no swelling. Not a bit. 30 hours after surgery I felt well enough to go hang out with friends at a local sports bar to watch a football game (no drinking obviously!). Aside from one swollen tooth, I have felt well enough to (cautiously) eat real food. I ended up taking the day off from work because physically I was still weary (and unable to talk!!), but given the horror stories with which I was presented before hand, my body ha served me well.

5) Lilly. She drives me crazy most of the time- but the truth is I love that insanely wild bundle of fur and she has been awesome to cuddle up with when I was feeling my worst.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Thankfulness continues

Things that reminded me of how blessed I am today:

1) Receiving the sweetest, and unexpected email, from the parent of a former patient today. He wanted to let me know what a significant impact I had made on his daughter's recovery, and tell me that I am in their thoughts and prayers daily. The patient is also back in school; considering we weren't expecting her to pull through, I find this to be an absolute miracle and think it humbling to know God was able to use me in such a powerful way.

2) Super awesome halloween cookies baked by a patient as part of her occupational therapy.

3) Scoring $1.65 tube socks at Target with which to make my super handy ice pack contraption for Friday.

4) Calls and emails from friends who just wanted to let me know they care.

5) Being employed in a field that, while stressful, constantly reminds me that I am blessed. Seriously, no matter how bad my day is, I always work with someone dealing with issues that make my problems look miniscule.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Being Thankful

Today's sermon was on letting go of worry.

Not that I would have had any reason to listen to that particular sermon..... ;)

According to our pastor, 1 in 5 Americans suffer from some sort of anxiety disorder; anxiety disorders are the number one mental health concern in the country, surpassing substance abuse and depression. Even though we are now living longer, living better, and have more access to the 'benefits' of the world, the amount of anxiety in our culture has multiplied 10 times in the last forty years.

None of that is any surprise to me.

I have battled bouts of depression, anxiety, and OCD for the majority of my life. Luckily, these issues have only interfered with my life in minor ways. Except for when my stress and exhaustion levels are at extreme highs, I can normally mitigate the effects of these issues on my daily living.

But still, I suffer from anxiety. I worry, I over think, I let concern for things that have happened, are happening, or could happen consume my thoughts and detract from living in the moment.

During my vacation this week, I was given the opportunity to see the Blue Man Group at Universal. Not only that, we upgraded to the VIP package for less than what a normal ticket would have cost us (Thanks Jason-the-ticket-salesman). In the VIP lounge was an electronic sign with a scrolling commentary. Hilarious (particularly after consuming alcohol), but also thought provoking. Our favorite train of thought regarded living in the moment. Can you really be in the moment and simultaneously be aware that you are living in the present without concern for the future? As amusing as it was reading an electronic sign argue with itself about this fact, it struck a chord with me the entire the rest of  the trip. I struggle with being in the moment. I struggle with letting myself relax and enjoy my surroundings without immediately jumping to what is coming up.

Our pastor today spoke on worry and how it consume our lives. This is not to say that healthy concern is not beneficial. We get through life by planning ahead and focusing ourselves when need be. Rather, his argument was that when our focus shifts from productive planning to obsessive worry, we give ourselves over to the anxiety. He states "You will never get to worry-free living  by trying to change the circumstances of your life". Problems are always going to be there, rather it is how we handle our selves in that situation, and the power we give our emotions that will influence our emotional stability.

Worry comes from focusing on the problems, and letting a desire for control become crippling fear in our daily lives.

Interestingly enough (or at least I think so), I recently read in a book (When bad things happen to good people) a statement on how human beings are the only creature truly aware of our own mortality. The argument the author mentions, and I would expand upon, is that it is this awareness that makes us human, and gives us the opportunity to truly appreciate life. 

I sunk into a bout of depressed mood when I got back from vacation. After the high of those three days, feeling relaxed and free, truly enjoying myself, to come back to the humdrum of reality was stark and unforgiving. Life felt hollow and meaningless, and I was increasingly aware of how unhappy I am with my present circumstances. However, it is because of the direct contrast of vacation and reality that I can appreciate the fun that I had. If every day of my life was easy, free, and fun, without a care or worry, I would not have appreciated my time in Orlando the same way.

In the same way, it is in going through the struggles and pains of life that grants us the ability to appreciate when things are good. You can't understand hot without cold, light without dark, in the same way a life without pain is also a life without appreciation of pleasure.

It is the knowledge of our own mortality that gives us the ability to search for meaning elsewhere, and to fully embrace the love of God. Matt 6:26 states that we should not be worried about our daily lives, just as the birds of air and flower of the field are not concerned. I agree that we should not let stress about the every day trials take away from our ability to fulfill our purposes, but I would argue that the very mortality awareness that makes this concern a reality is also the very thing that allows us to commune with our creator. Birds do not worry about their next meals, because they are not aware that if they do not eat they will die. However, birds can also not appreciate the way God fulfills their needs and provides for their wants in the same way people can.

Human Consciousness is the key to humanity, and what simultaneously drives our need and offers proof of a spiritual eternity. I have to wonder if our need for immorality, through long life, legacy building, "making a difference", is truly just an indicator of our eternal souls' responses to being contained in a temporary confinement.

I tend towards the worrying side of the spectrum. I let myself think about all the things that could go wrong, and obsessively plan for how I would handle them if they were to pop up in my lives. I do think having a back up plan and being prepared is important, however I'm getting sick and tired of letting that fear dictate my life.  The pastor started the sermon by asking "what are you worried about?" and a list came flooding to my mind. I'm tired of that.

So I'm making a pact, with myself, to shift my focus. If the power of worry truly comes from letting our frustrations and concerns become the primary focus of our thoughts, than I am changing what I spend my time concentrating on. First off? Making a point to list the things I am thankful for. To allot more awareness for the blessings I have in life, and the positive things coming my way, than the things I am scared about.

It won't be easy, particularly as I go for my wisdom teeth removal in five days. But it's needed.

So here, for today, are the things that stick out in my mind for which I am grateful.:

1) My amazing family, particularly my parents, who have always loved and supported me. Who are constant presences in my life, and go out of their way to make sure I know I am not alone.

2) For friends, all over the globe at this point, who seek me out and save me from myself when I need it.

3) Florida Football, and the ability to enjoy watching a team grow and struggle, but come out triumphant.

4) That despite the trials and tribulations of my current situation, I have the resources and support to face everything that comes my way.

Thankfulness is the best way to combat worry, a far as I am concerned, and I intend to be deliberate in my discipline for as long as I am able.