Tag Archives: mental-health

Only Child cranks up the worry wart feature

Me in 1950 - up against the barbed wire fence, a good analogy for worrying

Me in 1950 – up against the barbed wire fence, a good analogy for worrying

Lately I’ve been worrying a lot – maybe more than usual. The poverty issue (see last week’s post), work-related concerns (some of them $$$$-not-coming-in issues), and living with a boarder who has so much stuff. I live in a tiny bungalow as many of you will know from previous posts showing  a picture of the outside of my house. So I tend to gravitate towards my tidy room, somewhat tidy office (which we share – no problem with that part), living room and outside in my garden. Now that there are tomatoes, turnips and carrots in the garden, just bringing them in to eat is positive – it digs into the poverty part and also nurtures the soul and the body.

Worrying can affect your mental and physical health. I know that. But I find if I don’t worry about something then something catastrophic happens. I’m not saying you should worry about everything but going along in life that everything will be okay, why worry, doesn’t cut the cake or even the bread for me.

In the article “Steps to End Chronic Worrying” by Denise Mann http://www.webmd.com/balance/features/9-steps-to-end-chronic-worrying, experts weigh in on worrying. They say that the worriers get it genetically. I grew up with two worry warts – my dad and my mom, especially Mom. The experts also say it can be your environment and give the example that if your mother didn’t nurture you and provide a safe haven for you, that can do it, too. Right. Blame poor Mom for everything. No mention of Dad. My dad had cancer for six and a half years of my childhood and finally died of brain cancer when I was 16. That will pull the security rug out from under anyone.

The article also says worriers tend to see their doctors more often. Not me – at least not for the last few years. My doctor is an insensitive jerk and if I could afford a naturopath (not covered by Ontario’s primary health care system) I would see him or her regularly. So, I read a lot about health and try to live a healthy life…yes, even with worrying. Worrying often motivates me to do something about the situation. Solve the problem now – that’s my mantra. Of course, when you are “blessed” with too many problems at once, you are overburdened.

Living with uncertainty is another area covered in this article. It uses the example of worrying about getting cancer. Despite my dad’s dying of cancer, so far I have rarely worried about getting cancer. There are too many other problems in my life to worry about.

One interesting thing I read – if you cry or get angry you are not worrying. I do a lot of the latter – much of it based on the actual worries I’m dealing with. I also do a lot of weed-pulling in the garden and the weeds get names of people or things causing the worries.

Worrying has taught me a few things:

  1. There is uncertainty in life but instead of accepting all uncertainty and going on your merry way (we all know what happened to Pollyanna in the Disney movie), it is better to try to obtain some certainty with these issues. For example, face some of those demons.
  2. Worrying brings to my mind more clearly the problems I have to deal with and I have to deal with them pronto.
  3. Worrying brings out the anger sometimes and that can lead me to focus that anger on the person or issue that is angering me. Again, face those demons.
  4. And stop blaming Mother for your worrying habits. That’s a copout.

I’m interested in how all of you deal with worry. Do you agree with any of the points in the article mentioned above?

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

Only Child Writes

Aka Ms Worry Wart

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Filed under 1950s, 1960s, Decisions, Life demands, Mom and Dad, Money, Only child, Poverty, Problem solving, Problems, Sharon A. Crawford, Stress, Worrying

Only Child looks at dying with dignity

Only Child contemplates death and dying

When I was 16 I announced to my parents, “People should have the right to commit suicide if they wish.” The silence around the kitchen table echoed the shocked looks on my Mom’s and Dad’s faces.

What did I expect? We were all Catholic. Back then in the grey ages, the Catholic Church didn’t even bury suicides in consecrated ground. That has now changed.

So has the law on suicides. Did you know that in Canada it used to be a criminal offence to commit suicide? Of course you had to survive the suicide to be charged. Kind of ironic if you didn’t actually commit the deed you were charged. I know there is still a criminal charge of attempted murder of another person but that’s murder.

I’m talking assisted suicide here. And my views on suicide have changed somewhat since my pronouncement at the dinner table.

Lately, there has been a lot in the news about dying with dignity and assisted suicide. In July, the Supreme Court of British Columbia ruled physicians who help terminally ill patients who request assisted suicide should be exempt from the Criminal Code section referring to “aids or abets a person to commit suicide” The BC court gave a one-year moratorium to its decision so Parliament could rewrite the current law. Read more about it at http://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/story/2012/07/13/pol-cp-federal-appeal-assisted-suicide.html  The advocate and main plaintiff here was BC resident, Gloria Taylor, who had ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease). The court granted her an exemption from the current law for a year.

Almost 10 years ago another advocate for assisted suicide, Sue Rodrigues, again dying from Lou Gehrig’s Disease and again in British Columbia was not granted her wish for assisted suicide (Sue Rodriguez v. The Attorney General of Canada and the Attorney General of British Columbia). However, Rodrigues had her doctor-assisted suicide. The doctor’s name was never revealed and no charges were laid against him or her. Read about it (with references) at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rodriguez_v._British_Columbia_%28Attorney_General%29

Shortly after the June 2012 BC Supreme Court decision, the Federal Parliament appealed to revoke this law. And Gloria Taylor died this month– from natural causes – an infection.

Except for perhaps abortion, controlling our last days on earth (as much as we can; we can’t control getting murdered) is the biggest issue evoking passion on both sides of the fence.

My take is the individual who has either a terminal illness and/or who is suffering from a debilitating illness should decide whether to live or die. And for those of you thinking it is God’s will whether we live or die and even when we live or die, ask yourself the question “ Have you ever heard or read about anyone saying that a murder or fatal car accident is God’s will?” Shouldn’t this aspect apply to terminal/debilitating illness as well? For example, doesn’t a lot of whether a person with cancer or heart failure dies on the operating table or not have something to do with the surgeon’s skills and the patient’s condition?

The individual’s choice means if the individual wants to keep on living as long as possible, then so be it. Give the person all the medical and emotional support needed. But if he or she wants to end life when things go from bad to worse – but aren’t in any condition to do so – then assisted suicide by a medical doctor should be allowed with appropriate guidelines and it must be stated by the ill person in a Living Will, etc. (when they can still do so) that this is his or her wish. We don’t want a greedy offspring with Power of Attorney signing Mom or Dad up for assisted suicide just to get his inheritance. But do we want someone kept on life support who doesn’t want to be because that is the way it is done medically and legally?

I no longer think that anyone who wants to kill himself should be allowed to do so. If a person is depressed he or she should be helped and supported (and not to die). Having had a cousin in his late 30s kill himself and also attempting suicide myself thirty years ago when I was depressed has made me see some light here. I had little support (except a shrink) back then (postpartum depression blew up into a full depression if you must know) and I think with more support I might have never tried to go to the other side. Just lucky here as I miscounted the number of pills that would do it and I called a distress centre. But that’s another topic for another post. My depression wore off when another illness hit – migraines. Today it’s anxiety and worry I deal with, not depression.

What I do think is if I’m terminally ill or have Alzheimer’s I don’t want to stick around to the bitter end with all the pain and suffering to get there – not just mine, but my family’s. But I want to live as long as the quality of my life is still good. I’ve already appointed my son as Power of Attorney if my health gets to the point where that is needed. And as my lawyer told me, the POA only puts the person in charge of your health. You (I) have to specify what the POS person must do. I have – in a Living Will which I gave my son and in a talk I had with him and his girlfriend/partner.

In a nutshell, figure out what you want to do about your death and dying (and that includes funerals, burials, or not, etc.) – do all the legal paperwork and let your family know your wishes – verbally and in writing. My lawyer has also told me about visiting dying clients in the hospital where family members argued about whether to pull the plug or not.

Now we need governments to do the right thing and give people the choice.

Comments?

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

Only Child Writes

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Filed under Assisted Suicide, Death and Dying, Dying with Dignity, Family, Health, Only child, Sharon A. Crawford, Suicide

Only Child looks at gratitude

Only Child is grateful for her family – with son Martin and his partner Alison

As we Canadians just celebrated our Thanksgiving it is time to look at gratitude – especially its relation to happiness. In the past 10 years a number of studies have linked the two. I’m not impressed with the results.

Look at the title of one study Practicing Gratitude Can Increase Happiness by 25%. That doesn’t even make the halfway mark. This article at http://www.spring.org.uk/2007/09/practicing-gratitude-can-increase.php refers to a study carried out by Dr. Robert A. Emmons in 2003 which is published in his book Thanks. While Dr. Emmons covers all sides of the fence in his studies (gratitude, hassles and everyday occurrences), the bottom line is only 25% upped their happiness scale for expressing gratitude.

In another later study by Dr. Emmons, subjects did a daily practice of writing down what they were grateful for and the gratitude-happiness ratio increased. Another study focused on adults with congenital disorders and adult-onset neuromuscular disorders. The ones that wrote down their gratitude every day slept better, woke up more refreshed, and felt more optimistic. More studies are outlined in this excellent article by Ocean Robbins in The Huffington Post at http://www.huffingtonpost.com/ocean-robbins/having-gratitude-_b_1073105.html.

I have no quarrel with the studies, the articles or the books. My point is nobody’s life is perfect and burying the bad while expressing gratitude for the good in your life doesn’t sit well with me. Maybe it’s because of my late Mom’s weird sense of honesty. Maybe it’s my grade six teacher always harping on “I’ll give credit where credit is due” and my silent addition (“and discredit where discredit is due”).

Or maybe it’s because my parents died young – Dad at 66 after almost seven years of cancer off and on and Mom at 63 of a brain aneurysm five months after its cause hit her (she had arthritis and it caused a nasty fall onto the hardwood floor in our apartment). I was 16 when Dad died and 22 when Mom died.

Add in my own long list of ailments (which I won’t bore you with but they number almost as many fingers, including thumbs on my hands). I certainly don’t feel grateful for these health issues, especially as they are all permanent and some interfere with my life. I try to make the best of my situation but that doesn’t make me grateful.

Except for one health problem – migraines –for two reasons I am grateful for migraines – Migraines started me writing in the healthcare field, but my migraines are long gone. That makes a big difference.

I’m not advocating that we skip giving gratitude. I’m just saying we should also acknowledge what we are not grateful for. Doing so gives me motivation to improve my situation where I can but also to acknowledge others suffering which may be worse and perhaps lending a helping hand. For example, if I see someone struggle to get on a bus and they have a cane I will move so they can have a seat close to the door. Or if I see someone with feet or leg problems struggling down the stairs or taking their time, I give them their space and am thankful I can still walk with ease – most days. When my legs or feet “act up,” it’s a different story.

Some people can be grateful for having cancer and I am not slamming them. I think gratitude and well, non-gratitude, are subjective. I also believe in balancing the gratitude/non-gratitude equation. Fair is fair – something else I learned when growing up.

It really doesn’t do to be all Pollyanna. There can lie the route to denial.

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

Only Child Writes

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Filed under Death and Dying, Gratitude, Happiness, Health, Mom and Dad, Mother dying, Only child, Sharon A. Crawford, startling statistics

Only Child’s overwhelm leads to insomnia

Only Child catching some much-needed zzzzs.

Looks like my new motto to put off until tomorrow what you don’t need to do today isn’t solving my overwhelm problem. Now the overwhelm has moved into insomnia. Not good for doing client work during weekdays. I don’t usually suffer from insomnia. I may go to bed very late but at least I sleep until the alarm rings or if I wake up, I fall back to sleep within a few minutes.

Not for the last few days. I know I’ve inherited the worry wart syndrome from my late mother, but don’t recall her suffering from insomnia. But how would I know? I didn’t sleep in her bedroom at home. And when visiting cousins, aunts and uncles, and grandparents, if Mom and I shared a room, she slept.

Maybe I’ve inherited it from my late father. He could give Mom a run for her worry money.

Or maybe it’s secondary factors – anxiety over too much to do (and all seeming to need doing at the same times), pain from physical health conditions acting up, and unfortunately age. It might also be because dawn arrives much earlier in summer, but I don’t think that is really the reason as dawn has been arriving early for over a month and my insomnia just started late last week.

An article on the University of Maryland Medical Center website http://www.umm.edu/altmed/articles/insomnia-000096.htm/  lists those three (not the dawn one) as well as the expected ingesting stimulants like caffeine too close to bedtime, menopause, menstrual cycle hormone changes, circadian rhythms disrupted, sleep apnea, snoring partners, decongestants, and the one that surprises me – computer work. Snoring partners definitely isn’t my reason and neither is computer work. My writing and editing work has me on the computer on weekdays and some weekends I spend a few hours checking and replying to personal email. If computer use was the cause for me, I’d have constant insomnia.

I don’t know if this insomnia will turn into constant. To avoid adding insomnia to my lists of problems and things I’m not grateful for, I am attempting to make some changes. For beating insomnia, the sleep experts say you should go to bed the same time every night and get up the same time every morning. I do the former – it is just very late because of all the household stuff I am still doing late at night. A partner would be helpful here. I am trying to have a cut-off time for doing housework and follow my last week’s blog posting rule – leave it to another day. Now, if I could just get my mind to wind down (and it’s not caffeine. My last cup of coffee goes down before 11 a.m., more than 12 hours before I hit the bed). I walk and/or garden during the day as breaks from work and/or before and after work and get the afternoon sun. Before I go to sleep I do relaxing things – take a shower and read from whatever book I have on the go. The experts say don’t read anything too startling and I suppose mysteries could come under that. This is often my only time to read one of the many books stacked up in the bookshelf by my bed. My room is quiet and so is the neighbourhood I live in – until a bunch of racoons start fighting and crying. Or the newspaper is plunked inside the front door. That  woke me up Friday morning and this plunk never does.  Unlike other times when some noise awakens me, this time I didn’t go back to sleep.

The article at the University of Maryland Medical Center has some other ideas but I don’t agree with them. For example, it says don’t read in bed or watch TV in bed. I don’t have a TV in my bedroom but I do fall asleep in front of the TV in the living room in the late evening and it’s not boredom.  I figure if I read my book sitting up in the kitchen or living room – I would fall asleep. When I transport my body to my bed, guess what? Awake. The article also suggests getting 8 hours sleep; I’m having trouble landing over 5 hours lately. However, experience tells me that 7 ¼ hours works for me.

Now I just have to get the 7 ¼ hours.

Do any of you suffer from insomnia? How do you deal with it?

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

Only Child Writes

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Filed under Anxiety, Books, Burnout, Only child, Overwhelm, Pain, Peace and quiet, Reading, Sharon Crawford, Sleep deprivation

Only Child on health of women living alone

Only Child and her parents when they were still alive and together

It is happening frequently. I find yet another woman, 60 and over, living alone who has escalating health issues. Last week, it was a writing colleague just diagnosed with Diabetes 2. She’s had some scary “nearly dying” experiences. Another writing colleague has food allergies and a thyroid condition.  Yet another has thyroid and eye problems. Still another has had many eye problems. Then there is my friend with the back problem who was mentioned in a recent post. And me –maybe I have some nerve complaining of my health issues compared to what other women have to contend with. For what it’s worth I have a lot of foot problems, IBS, osteoarthritis, and allergies. Mind you I’ve had the allergies for over 20 years, so that isn’t a seniors’ health issue.

These women and their health issues are only the tipping point of the list.

Does something about older women living alone bring on these health problems? Is it hereditary? Is it age?

All of the above, I think. I also believe that living alone can aggravate these conditions. When you have to cope alone and there is no one to lean on/to give support, the coping mechanisms go down, down, down. The “hope factor” also can take a big dive.

In the journal article “Perceptions of Living Alone Among Older Women” written by Elaine M. Eshbaugh of the University of Northern Iowa, 30  per cent of the women interviewed (there were only 53, so not a wide variety)  were afraid of falling or getting hurt. Eshbaugh also cites previous studies which found a couple of horrors – older women living alone are more likely to suffer from falls and other injuries, infections, and dehydration. When the medical services finally arrive they often find the women already dead. It’s not a case of who you going to call but who is going to call?  The article also cites a study of a group of older women with deteriorating health who lived alone in Baltimore. These women’s health became worse than their counterparts who lived with someone. The article was published in the Journal of Community Health Nursing in 2008 and can be viewed online at http://www.uni.edu/csbs/sites/default/files/u27/perceptions%20of%20living%20alone.pdf and also goes into the cultural aspects of why more women live alone now than in the past.

I find it interesting that the article’s title uses the word “perceptions.” This conjures up more questions: how much of ill health is related to our perception? If we always had a positive attitude about our health would that keep the health and injury issues away? Remember the 1960 movie Pollyanna starring Hayley Mills? Pollyanna fell when climbing down a tree and became paralyzed. But…Pollyanna had close family and friends (including the stern aunt she lived with) for support. Maybe “support” is the crucial factor. “Support” as in living with someone who is at least there if you fall, have a heart attack or suffer the side effects of chemo treatment for cancer. Just someone for the moral support can lessen the worry burden of going through the illness journey alone, although if my late mother were still alive she might disagree. After Dad died, Mom’s health deteriorated – arthritis and scleroderma appeared – she landed in the hospital several times, had to quit her job and was constantly in a negative complaining state. I lived with her and while I listened, I was in my late teens and early 20s, and definitely not my father. Or maybe after years of dealing with Dad’s cancer and other illnesses, once he was gone, she just gave up.

I’m also not sure my yo-yo attitude is the right one. I jump from worrying about the current health issue flaring up to being defiant. I will go for my walks and garden despite my foot problems. I will eat well and healthy despite my food allergies…but I am persistent in making sure I don’t get what I can’t eat when dining out. I’ve come a long way from when first diagnosed and I attended a meeting of volunteers. The only snacks available were baked goods (I’m allergic to wheat, barley and rye for starters). I remember the hostess, an elderly woman who lived alone, asking me “Well, what can you eat?” I’m not sure if her living alone is connected in any way to her take on food allergies. But this was 22 years ago when food allergies weren’t all that well known. However, today, despite all the publicity and change in gluten-free, dairy-free, etc. food available, there are still some people, particularly in the restaurant business, who are clueless. I won’t eat in some restaurants because of this attitude. Thank goodness many restaurants do go that extra mile to make sure that I, and others like me, don’t eat something that will make us sick or in some cases, kill us, especially if we live alone. We might not make it to the phone to call 911.

I don’t know what the answer is. Maybe it is partly something I mentioned in an earlier post. We need to connect more with our friends, particularly the older women living alone, to make sure they are all right. I’ve been guilty of not doing this because of the time factor. Perhaps this whole issue needs a slight switch in mindset – both on the part of the women living alone, their friends and family and yes the healthcare systems. Dumping sick and old women in a nursing home isn’t always the answer, although sometimes it is necessary, unfortunately.

I’m also wondering if in finding keys to living longer, we (the collective “we”) have not made it more difficult in some ways for older women living alone to enjoy life as much as possible.

Comments?

Cheers.

Sharon Crawford

Only Child Writes

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Filed under Aloneness, Family and Friends, Health, Health Seniors, Help and Support, Living alone, Mom and Dad, Old Age, Older Women living alone and health, Only child, Seniors, Single women statistics