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May 25, 2013

What sucks about living after meningitis?

Let's see, it's been 20 months since I contracted bacterial meningitis.  Did you know that 1 in 10 die from bacterial meningitis?  And, if not treated within the first seven days, completely fatal?  And, that those who live from it can have after effects such as deafness, acquired brain damage, personality changes, debilitating migraines, and more?

I had bacterial meningitis in September 2011. I lived, so that's good right?  I don't always feel it is good.

I deal with migraines 66% of the time, faithfully figuring the percentage of days lost to migraines monthly.  I also have acquired brain damage.  I have trouble remembering things, dates, times, meals, to take my medications, and other things.  I used to be great with my memory.  My attention is harder to shift than it used to be, so I get stuck on thinking the same thoughts for a while.

Nausea, headaches, confusion, and memory problems, are the after effects of acquired brain damage.  Since my meninges continue to stay inflamed, the entire brain is being squeezed causing these continuing symptoms.  I know I used to be better, but there was no definitive test needed before the meningitis hit.

According to WebMD, 15% of folks with mild brain injury have continuing problems.  I'm in that 15%, sucks to be me, huh?

The WebMD article, lists a variety of cognitive, physical, behavioral, and perceptual changes from the brain damage.

The cognitive ones I have are increased difficulty in expressing myself, processing information is slower, it's harder for me to understand others (especially when the migraines are really bad), and I know I've forgotten more than I should.

Physical changes I've gone through are the persistent migraines, mental fatigue sets in a lot faster, physical fatigue sets in a lot faster, sensitivity to bright sun light and florescent lights, and sleep disorder.

Perceptual changes I experience are a loss for the sense of time passing, disorders of smell, more sensitive to pain, and changes in my vision.

Behavioral changes I've experienced are irritiability and increased impatience, reduced tolerance for stress, sluggishness, and denial of disability.

I'm usually good about accepting what is and not being able to go back and change it.

We don't even know how I got so sick.  I had none of the five traditional causes, lyme disease, ticks, aids/hiv, iv drug use or anything else.  That's almost the most frustrating part of this.

Dealing with those changes listed above take a lot of work. Migraines 66% of the time prevent me from having a job outside the family.  I still get frustrated because I am still stuck with the thoughts that my identity is tied up in working and being a contributing member of society.

I hate things like this.  But, today, I woke angry at the meningitis and ashamed at how much I've hidden from folks.  Pretending that I've got it all together when I really don't.  I just get through the hard times as best I can.

Life has to turn out better some how, some when, right?

May 22, 2013

Stress Reduction and Meditation

Here's what I'll be sharing with my TOPS group about Stress Reduction and Meditation.  Please remember that meditation doesn't have to have religious overtones, if you don't want it to. Also, I've gathered this info over many years, and I can't remember where the original sources are. I'm sorry, but in the interest of credit where credit is due, none of this is my own work.

50 Stress Reducers
1.    Forgive yourself for your mistakes
2.    Forgive others their mistakes
3.    Accept what you cannot change
4.    Take breaks, empty your mind, and deep breathe
5.    Focus on just one thing
6.    Act (Don’t overanalyze)
7.    Visualize/Imagine Happiness (how does it look, feel, smell, taste, and sound)
8.    Smile (even if you are alone)
9.    Accept others as they are
10. Say no, even if you can say yes
11. Meditate/pray/focus on some external spot
12. Sleep well
13. Have a cup of coffee or tea
14. Clean or organize something
15. Give up perfection
16. Hang out with folks that make you feel good.
17. Wear fun, nice, comfy clothes
18. Dim the lights, or turn on more lights, as needed
19. Eat healthy and drink plenty of water
20. Use candles for relaxation
21. Recognize that the stress is temporary
22. Plan ahead and arrive early
23. Spend less
24. Stretch before bed and after waking
25. Play games with others or by yourself
26. Focus on what is happening right now
27. Enjoy nature
28. Don’t worry about others judgments of you
29. Ask for help and reduce stress with others
30. Turn on music
31. Create an award system for yourself
32. Learn not to take things personally as things are never personal and always internal to the other person
33. Appreciate your connections ~ list them
34. Watch birds, play with pets
35. Take a shower or bath
36. Turn off the computer and cell phone for at least one hour each week
37. Ask, “will this matter in n time?”  n equaling a day, week, year or so
38. Think positive before speaking
39. Stop watching the news
40. Be patient
41. Learn from negative situations
42. Let gossip die
43. Talk with a professional counselor
44. Do a hobby or find one
45. Breathe
46. Avoid negative stories
47. Lighten up your work or material load
48. Stop complaining. What can you do?
49. Use positive words
50. Love Yourself

16 Tips for Moms to De-Stress
1.    Journal
2.    Walk with a friend
3.    Tea time
4.    Organize
5.    Write a thank you note or letter
6.    Dancing in the shower
7.    Prayer
8.    List worries
9.    Relax
10. Friends
11. Funny movies, comedy channel on radio
12. Eat some chocolate, in moderation
13. Talk with partner/spouse
14. Look at nature
15. Yoga
16. Light therapy ~ Nature’s Vitamin D

A List of Positive Words

Quick minded

Types of Journal Writing
1.    2-pages, or n-pages, journaling
a.    Write 2 or n pages daily on subject of your choosing
2.    “What do I mean by …?”
a.    Search root causes, patterns, universal experiences to connect to that which is beyond you (God, source, etc.)
b.    Pay attention to awareness and journal about mindfulness, transformative images, thoughts, feelings, symbols of your own
c.    Awe inspired mystical writing ~ what inspires a sense of awe in you?
3.    Inventions Journaling
a.    Follow your interests, observations, desires, paying attentions to what your mind brings to your awareness
b.    Try out ideas without pressure to produce or succeed
c.    Creative, inventive, fun, playing with ideas
4.    Autobiography journaling
a.    Revisit past events, validate who you are and where you came from
b.    Answer the questions, Who am I, and Why am I here?
5.    Memoir journaling
a.    Celebration of your life
b.    Lessons learned

Benefits of Meditation
·         Awaken spiritual awareness in you if you want
·         Mental organization of thoughts leads to calmness
·         Strengthens immune system through the physical exercises and slowing the body’s rhythms
·         Slows aging with long term practice because of the slowing of heart rate and blood pressure
·         Reduces stress by calming, deep breathing, and lowering blood pressure and heart rate
·         Engages body’s natural restorative healing
·         Clarity is increased, which dispels delusions and illusions
·         Appreciation for living can be enhanced
·         Creativity can be stimulated
What is a meditation practice?
·         Regular time of your choosing
·         Sit comfortably
·         Choose to keep eyes open or closed and do that
·         Decide on what you meditation will be like today
o   Empty mind
o   Word or thought focus
o   Visualization or imagination
o   A specific spot in the environment to look at, candle flame, etc.
·         Process that continues throughout the session
o   Breathe deep into your abdomen expanding it like a balloon
o   Exhale pushing out slowly for as long a count as you had breathed in
·         Focus on today’s meditation
o   When distractions occur and you notice you aren’t meditating, gently let go of the distraction and bring your focus back to the meditation
o   If useful, keep paper handy to jot down the distractions to deal with them after the meditation session.
·         As you continue to meditate on a regular basis, the distractions will reduce and your mind will settle into the meditation easier.
·         Regular meditation on a daily/weekly basis is what is called your practice

Techniques and Routines for Satisfying Results
1.    Relaxation Technique
a.    Set timer for 20 minutes, if desired.
b.    Sit and mentally listen to an agreeable word or word-phrase
                                          i.    Beginner ~ say the word over and over ill you are able to internalize hearing just the sound of the word, until you are still and rest till time to end session
                                        ii.    Common words/word-phrases (mantras) ~ light, love, peace, joy, I am light, I am love, I am peace
                                       iii.    Mantras are used only to focus the attention of the mind and not to change the thoughts of the meditation practitioner.  An affirmation is when you are trying to change your thoughts by repeating a word-phrase.  A mantra is using a word-phrase for the sound and focusing ability of the mind.
2.    Devotional Technique
a.    As the Relaxation Technique, but with a devotional intent.  Mantra is “God” or other word that connects to how you connect to God.  Mantra can be preceded by “Om” such that mantra becomes “Om God.”  More on “Om” in part 4.
3.    Sanskrit Mantras
a.    The first syllable floats into awareness on inhale and the second syllable on the exhale.  Feel the sounds emerge from the boundless field of pure consciousness until you go still.
b.    Hong sau (pronounced “hong-saw”) means wild gander, and no mater how far the wild gander flies away from home, at some point it remembers and comes back home always at the proper season.
c.    So ham (pronounced so-hum) means “Pure Consciousness – am I.” and is a way of identifying with the universe or ultimate reality.
4.    Om Mantra
a.    Om is the primordial energy-force from which all things come into expression.  As noted in the New Testament, John 1:1 and 3, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was[is] God.  All things were made by it, and without it was not anything that was made.”
5.    Inner Light Technique
a.    Look within, feel that your awareness is not contained within your skull, that you exist in boundless space.  Do this when very calm, breathing slowly, thoughts minimal.  Observe and wait.
                                          i.    If you perceive light, merge with it, gently contemplate it’s origin and what’s behind it.
                                        ii.    This can just be stimulation of the optic nerves, so it isn’t necessarily supernatural.
                                       iii.    Transcend the light to experience pure being.
Factors that affect meditation
·         Environment: noise, heat, coldness, etc.
·         Lack of knowledge of process: techniques vary, bat all valid techniques can improve your concentration and nurture awakened spiritual consciousness, if you desire.
·         Physical discomfort: sitting upright, comfortably, yields an alert but relaxed posture
·         Emotional distress: practice can lead to being able to meditate despite emotional circumstances – do not use meditation time to self analyze – sometimes you have to pause meditation to regulate emotions.
·         Resistance to change: acquire a more complete understanding of the process leads to less resistance to change.
·         Preoccupation with Mental transformations – meditate when rested and alert

Helpful Places for More Information
An Easy Guide to Meditation by Roy Eugene Davis