Sunday, October 30, 2011

Getting High

Diana (right, brown sweater) with older sister Melene (left, pushing wheelchair)
at an Multiple Sclerosis Walk event. I love that Melene is pushing her wheelchair in this picture!
I've been thinking about all the prescriptions that have freely been given me over the years when the doctor has said "just in case you need it" even though it's obvious that I'm far from the need. 

Then there are times when I've asked for a certain amount of pain meds to take, as needed, with each injection for my MS medication (four times each month equalling fifty-two pills for one year), yet the prescription comes out at double that... the list can go on. 

But if I lacked some amount of self control or had more addictive behaviors than I already do, I could have totally abused the system in order to essentially get high in a less noticeable way. Case in point, here's a little story.

Once upon a time I couldn't stay awake, alert, or comprehend anything important. I had this fatigue that just took everything out of me. 

Brushing my teeth sometimes drained my energy for several hours. Even my ability to be alert enough to understand relatively simple things was labored. So my doctor prescribed a drug that is actually a type of narcotic. 

This drug is most commonly used as treatment for people suffering from narcolepsy (excessive daytime sleepiness). This helped a great deal for quite some time. 

However, I eventually began to develop a resistance to the medication and rather than following doctors' orders to increase the dosage, I decided to taper off - as I felt that I had become dependent on it in a rather unhealthy way. 

I've had the same reaction to a variety of pain medications; I like how they make me feel and sometimes not feel. But this pill that I was given to help me manage my fatigue...this is pretty powerful stuff and sometimes even used to help people recover from a cocaine or opiate dependence. 

I wanted the higher doses, I craved to have more, and this desire frankly scared me.

Why did I opt to back off the drug?
  • I found that even just thinking about it made me alert with excitement.
  • I recognized that the drug had done its job. It changed my body chemistry to some degree, to get me going again - jump start complete.
Yes, medications have their purpose(s) and can be very helpful; just not always as prescribed. You need to think of yourself as a collaborator with your doctor; puzzling out the best way to help you. 

Your intellect knows when you need something. You also know better when you should stop. It's a matter of listening to your gut, trusting it and then following it.

I had a very interesting time getting off this drug. In efforts to taper off, I'd reduce dose, then take one every other day (as needed), cut the pill in half again and so on. 

I struggled some with fatigue but it was more manageable this time. The fatigue I was experiencing at this point was from a chemical dependence to the drug itself, more than any physical dysfunction. It was at this time I was introduced to energy drinks.

I ended up leaning on energy drinks for support, especially while driving. That worked extremely well, but... at the cost of now yellowing teeth and still in some fashion, a chemical dependence. 

I walked away from this prescribed drug, but walked right into another addiction. On some level I'm still pretty much a junkie (thanks to energy drinks). 

I have found that I have physically needed this drug (i.e., energy drink). I yearned for it, I thought about it, I shook inside I wanted it so bad. 

I found that I was staying alert just thinking about it. Sound familiar? How on earth is this healthy? It's not.

Why did I opt to back off the energy drinks? 
  • I found that even just thinking about it made me alert with excitement.
  • I recognized that the drink had done its job. It aided in walking away from a very potent prescribed drug and kept me functionally alert - jump start complete.
Relying on a chemical for a jolt, be it opiates (even prescribed), caffeine or energy drinks still messes with your inner workings. 

My poor kidneys and pancreas have a taken a brutal assault over the years. I've been off this lethargy medication for over five years now. 

I'm still not completely 100% off the energy drinks, but I'm getting there. In order to do this, I've turned to walking.

The other day I went for a brisk six mile walk and you know I was just as energized from that than I was from being loaded on prescribed meds or after having downed an eight to twelve ounce energy drink. 

I started this walk out with little to no energy whatsoever, which is honestly why I went on the walk - to get my energy back. 

Eventually, I began to feel energized and I ended up doing six miles while keeping a consistent brisk pace. Over time, walking has encouraged running. But there are definitely times when walking is all I can pull out of me.

Why do I opt to stick with walking? 
  • I found that even just thinking about makes me excited; mostly because I'm thrilled that I now have the ability to do it.
  • I have recognized that simply walking has given me energy when I thought I had none. Walking keeps me from getting stiff, which happens easily due to my MS. 
  • Walking keeps me functional, alert, calm and at peace. 
  • Lifelong jump start engaged!
Isn't it kind of cool that physical activity is oftentimes just as effective (if not more so) than a strong medication or an energy drink? 

The physical activity is also generally longer lasting with a lot fewer hazardous side effects and it is indeed a lot cheaper. Just sayin'....

Saturday, October 22, 2011


I was sitting at my desk at work the other day when I heard a soda can being opened. I was amazed by the instantaneous physical and mental response I had to that sound. 

I immediately started to salivate and found myself having a difficult time concentrating on the task in front of me. I was dwelling on the can and the fizz of carbonation. I was mentally starving for a fix. 

I needed a can of my own to make that sound and then swallow enough soda feverishly, so that I could get the burning fix of a carbonated rush in my throat. I needed the soothing relief of a soda hit. 

It’s been quite a while since my last drink of some sort of cola. I’m not even sure I can recall when that was. After all this time of living a water only lifestyle, I still get hit with the sensation of addiction.

We all have moments similar to this with one vice or another, but it’s how we cope with them that really affects us, as well as foreshadows our future response(s) when we face them the next time. It even bleeds into our general ability of self-control.

This could be similar to a variety of challenges that you face, maybe not with a caffeinated beverage, but I think you get my point. 

In this particular case though, once I was able to temper the shaking need in my mind, I began to ask myself:  What am I missing? What am I really starving for? What is lacking enough in my life, to make me feel the stinging need of a fix this time? What’s been happening in my life lately? What really needs feeding?

Sometimes you may not even think about why you want that soda; you may just have an immediate response to dig in your wallet and make your purchase at the break room machine. 

That may not even be enough, you might actually pick up and go to the convenience store, so that you can have a larger quantity or you might simply need a fountain drink rather than a can; because that is your psychological preference for a satisfying fix.  

You might even be salivating now reading about this. Why? Is it because it reminds you that you are lacking in some way and you need to have the void numbed with your vice of choice, so you can be relieved once again from having to actually think about the real reason you feel empty in some way?

Today I successfully circumvented the burning need by drinking a lot of water then going for a short brisk walk…  not once, not twice, but three times! All just to shake the burning need for something that I already decided I really didn’t want in my life anymore.

So why did I struggle with this issue, in this way, after all this time? I think it was because I really didn’t want to be at work. I had other things on my mind that currently have a higher priority to me. 

The reality though, is that I have an obligation to this job and because of that I must set the things that I really want to do aside, for a time, in order to meet all demands on my plate. 

The frustrating thing is that I didn’t understand all of this until my third walk. It may have taken a little while to come to that conclusion, but I got there without a soda. I'm pretty sure that this is called progress! Yeah for small triumphs!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Mirror Therapy

I've mentioned this term "Mirror Therapy" in a few of my posts before.  I would like to explain what the heck it is and why I do it.  

I'm not certain if this is something that someone else has already discovered or patented as a therapy method or not, but this I discovered on my own.  It has made all the difference.

First you must understand that I am a liar; primarily to myself.  I have decided that there are many things that I have told myself and have believed that simply aren't true.  

I have wanted to undo the damage that I thought others had done to me, but I have come to find out that it was mostly me that had done the damage.  

Sure others have affected me, but the bulk of the things I believed and told myself were self-perpetuated.  I didn't really get that until just a few years ago.

One day during a workout, I found that anger fueled the routine.  I was angry because I had received many compliments over the past few weeks and months about how good I looked.  

I encountered sheer amazement from others about the weight I had lost; some hadn't even recognized me.  I was so angry that others could see the changes, but I couldn't.  

I felt the changes, but couldn't honestly see them myself - so that's totally not healthy, right?  I was angry enough that I quit my workout and was about to leave my home gym.  

As I was headed to the door, I looked in the big mirror and saw a picture of Jesse Owens hanging behind me.  I have admired this picture since I was in Junior High School.  

Then I looked above the mirror and saw the stenciled script that Josh and I put above the mirror.  It says, "Believe In Yourself".  I then looked in the mirror and wondered if Jesse Owens ever doubted himself in preparation for the Olympics.  

The day before this I had just finished reading some material about Abraham Lincoln.  I learned about his personal struggles that ran concurrent with the amazing things that he accomplished as the President of the United States.  

There was a ton of things that raced through my head at that moment.  I simply couldn't leave the room yet.  I got on the inversion table, which is right by the mirror and felt compelled to look in the mirror as I was hanging upside down.

While hanging by my feet I looked in the mirror and told myself that I refused to leave that room until I could see something new and good about me. 

I found something interesting... I couldn't look myself in the eyes.  I was looking at me, but my eyes never met.  The experience of looking at my own eyes was like walking on thick ice, it was so slippery I couldn't make contact.

After quite some time of trying to make eye contact with myself, I gave up and looked elsewhere.  I eventually saw the contour of my jaw line.  

It wasn't puffy like I normally see when I look in the mirror.  I had a jaw line and it was defined!  Well that was new!  Recognizing this certainly counted as seeing something new and I promptly got off the inversion table and got the heck out of that uncomfortable situation. 

What's up with that? I was uncomfortable and it was just me!  I realized that was simply not right.  How much damage had I done?  As I was walking up stairs, I said aloud to myself, "Damn it, I'm worth more than that!"  

That announcement startled me.  It startled me that I said it, I believed it, and I was secretly hoping that Josh wasn't home and had heard me.

I contemplated that experience for several days.  I found myself compelled after each workout to get on the inversion table and commence looking into the mirror, until I could see something new and good about myself.  

I repeatedly rediscovered my jaw line and over time other features.  I discovered and rediscovered time and time again, but I couldn't make eye contact.  

How could this be?  I do my hair and make-up every day.  I am looking at myself!  Over time, I learned that I actually wasn't looking at myself, I was looking around, but not at me.  

It was nearly three months later that I was able to make eye contact for about thirty seconds.  It was then that I realized why it was so hard to do.  

I have lied to myself for so long and honestly disliked myself so much that I was afraid to make eye contact and actually see that I was the problem.  I was the liar.  

I was the one that had done so much damage, by telling myself things that simply weren't true.  It was after this experience that I committed to myself not to leave the gym until I had made eye contact with myself.  

I usually discovered or rediscovered something about myself long before I could make eye contact.  I learned that if I could just make eye contact, I could see if I had been lying to myself that day or not.  

I could fix the damage that had been done that day, by having a real heart-to-heart with myself once eye contact was made.  It is extremely difficult to lie to yourself, when you are HONESTLY seeing yourself.  

After a time I learned that my little therapy sessions were a two-part kind of deal.  There was the Physical Mirror Therapy (seeing the physical me as it is) and the Mental Mirror Therapy (seeing me for who I really am inside).  

Over time I had learned that I am no good to anyone else, until I am good and of value to myself.  

Can you make eye contact with yourself?  What do you see?  If you can and the effect is positive,  I am so proud of you!  I encourage you to see the good, the lovely, the truth again and again for all of your life.  

If you can't make eye contact, try until you can, so that you can undo the lies and breathe freely every day.  Get to know yourself, discover the beauty of who you really are.  

There's not a single soul on this earth, no matter what they have done, who doesn't deserve to see who they really are and then make the necessary changes to have their behavior match their inner beauty.  

This is one of the places where peace is found.  This is one of the places where we can find the strength and courage to make lasting changes.  I would encourage you to see and then believe.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Poetry Corner: Great Expectations

I wrote this piece when I was in college. This work is what gave me the idea a few years ago to start what I call Mirror Therapy; maybe I will take a moment in my next blog entry and explain what Mirror Therapy is.

Great Expectations

I stood alone
staring into my shadow
hoping to see the image
of a friend I know

The epitome of womanhood,
eternal friendship

I stood still
hoping my shadow would become light
hoping my shadow
wasn’t really “just me”

I stood alone
I stood still
I stood in prayer
to see the image of a friend
in me

By Diana M. Bateman
1995 ©

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Abiding Love

Thursday was our 10th wedding anniversary! We stayed at a bed and breakfast east of Ogden, Utah that we've wanted to stay at for quite some time. 

So we stayed there, had a nice dinner, then went hiking the next day in Adams Canyon. Life has been pretty interesting for us the last little while and we both needed to get away.

No one said that married life is easy and we have worked hard to get to ten years. Life has had its own twists and turns for us, but at dinner last night I caught a glimpse of something that humbled me.

We went to a really nice restaurant in the canyon and were seated in an area where there were only us and an elderly couple a table away. 

During dinner, it was obvious that something was wrong with the woman and the table was very silent. At one point the lady tried to drink her iced tea and it spilled down her shirt. 

Her husband very soothingly patted her hand and said "it's okay, don't worry about it." Not long after that, the waitress brought out some dessert for the couple. 

There were lit candles and the waitress proceeded to wish them a happy 5fifty-sixth wedding anniversary. The elderly women looked surprised and looked to the man to confirm, he nodded his head that it was true and gestured to the candle for her to blow it out. 

That was quite an ordeal for her to do, but it got done - with help. Not long after that they left the table, which took quite some effort. 

Her husband was so kind and patient and he obviously was in love and in no hurry. He clearly was just trying to make this a nice night for his wife. 

It took ten minutes for them to get to their car. As I watched them, I felt myself get a little teary-eyed as it hit me that this is what love is all about... I'm not even sure I can articulate it...

This couple was gentle with each other, holding hands, looking lovingly into each others' eyes... I'm certain that life together hasn't been one hundred percent pleasant, but they most certainly loved each other. 

This woman possibly suffered a stroke at some point or maybe was dealing with Alzheimer's as well. Though she was old, sagging, belched at dinner, drooled half her drink onto her shirt and her husband had to feed her quite a bit, she was beautiful to him and everything about him showed that's what he felt.

Things don't always work out perfectly or to plan. Many times life is more difficult than it is easy. 

We make mistakes, we argue, we get frustrated, and for what? For the opportunity to love and be loved unconditionally. I'm sure it took years, effort beyond imagination, and patience galore for this elderly couple to get to the level of love that I witnessed. 

I almost felt like an intruder simply being present for their moment. I'm thankful I was able to witness it though. I feel indebted to these strangers for this lesson I learned. 

Now the burden is mine to make sure I do everything possible to love my spouse, so that one day when we drool, forget things, sag and lose control of bodily functions, the other will be there to lovingly pat the others hand and say, "it's okay, don't worry about it" and then look at each other with a deep, abiding love.