The weather has been gorgeous all week with blue skies and breezy winds. After several cool days and frost-warning nights, the temperatures rose again into the low 80s. Still, even with higher temps, there is a strong feeling of autumn.
We finished filling in the gullies along the driveway last weekend, so on Monday EJ and I scattered seed for erosion control and wildlife food. We have planted grass seed, chicory, clover, and a variety of wildflowers. We’d like to get back to the feed store to buy some more seed, but there’s a lot of construction in the Emerald City so it’s not easy to get there. I’ve seen some of the seed we planted beginning to sprout, but I’m totally amazed at how quickly the wild plants are already spreading into the areas that we just filled in. Our planet is truly amazing.
Yesterday EJ called the Gravel Guy and he will be bringing us crushed limestone on either Friday or Saturday. We are supposed to get a lot of rain on those days so either we will be working in the rain or we will have to wait until Sunday to work.
Last night while both EJ and JJ were at work, Danny wanted outside to use the facilities. He has selected an area about halfway down the driveway where he does his “business.” He gets to go there alone during the day, but I always put a leash on him at night because he is a black dog and if he wanders off or chases–or is chased–by a night creature, there is no way we would find him. So last night I put Danny’s leash on him and took him outside and he tried to pull me down the driveway to his usual spot. I don’t mind going with him to his spot when EJ or JJ are home, especially since EJ usually walks down the driveway with me, but I didn’t want to go far when I was home alone so I made Danny “go” closer up. Danny was invisible in the dark and I stood there waiting for him and imagining bears and coyotes and ringwraiths and other predators lurking. I thought, “I really need to bring a flashlight with me.” I also thought, “I need a walking stick like EJ uses so he can whack anything that might threaten us.” Then I thought about trying to hold on to Danny’s leash and a flashlight and a walking stick. “Hmmm. I need a flashlight fastened to the top of a walking stick so I only have two things to carry instead of three,” I thought. And then my imagination kicked in and today I told EJ that I needed a magical wizard staff to use for light and defense when I take Danny outside in our dark Enchanted Forest, and could he please make me one? He said he thought that he could figure it out. Cool!
After lunch today, EJ suddenly asked, “Where’s Timmy?”We searched for him but couldn’t find him anywhere in the house. Cats can find unusual hiding places to sleep in the house, so he could be somewhere inside, although it’s unusual for him to disappear like this. I hope he’s not hiding because he is sick. Although none of us observed him getting outside, cats can be like ninjas and slip by unnoticed, so a couple times I went outside and called for him. I also checked the garage multiple times to see if he was inside, but there’s a lot of stuff in there. I walked near the forest and peered into it as I called, but I couldn’t see him anywhere. The problem is that we don’t know if he is outside or inside so we don’t know where to concentrate our search. Inside or outside, we won’t be able to find him unless he chooses to be found. Sigh.
Both EJ and JJ had to get blood tests so on Tuesday–JJ’s day off–they went together while I enjoyed a quiet puttering around at home. Our primary care provider had given EJ a list of labs connected to the health care system so the guys went to the closest lab, which was located in the hospital in Eureka. EJ was successful in getting his blood draw, but the hospital hadn’t received any orders from JJ’s oncologist. The lab called the oncologist’s office and they said they’d fax an order right over, but the guys waited for quite a while and it never came so they returned home. This was difficult for JJ because he finds hospitals uncomfortable to go to.
In the afternoon, I called the lab to see if the orders had arrived at the lab yet. They sweetly searched several places, transferred me to someone who searched in a couple more places but they couldn’t find any so I called the oncologist’s office and was told that they had sent it. When I told them the lab hadn’t received it, they said they would resend it. Although we liked the new oncologist well enough, I am not impressed with his office staff. When JJ met with the oncologist in June, none of the staff smiled or were very friendly. They didn’t seem particularly friendly on the phone either. They make me miss our old oncology staff, who were all very warm and friendly.
This morning–JJ’s day off again–I called the lab again and they said that they had received orders, so we all went on a wonderful drive to the Eureka hospital. I thought the hospital was very beautiful inside. I remember when hospitals were stark places. Later, as we were leaving the hospital, JJ said that this was the best blood draw he’d ever had–it didn’t hurt at all. EJ said that he had felt the same way when he had his blood drawn on Tuesday. I said that whenever JJ needs to get a blood draw, he should tell them to fax the orders to that hospital.
This morning I got on-line and scheduled an appointment with my doctor. I am not looking forward to going to this doctor and I had been tempted to just not make an appointment unless I am sick. However, EJ and JJ likes me to go with them–EJ so I can help him remember things and JJ because medical stuff triggers his PTSD. I know that avoiding situations doesn’t help and I decided that it’s important that I set boundaries with her and define what I want in a doctor/patient relationship so I went to the on-line Patient Portal and scheduled an appointment to get it over with. Besides, my mind will be planning what to say to her until I actually see her next and say it. I just hope I am as eloquent and firm to her as I am in my head. I’m better at conversations in my head and in writing than I am in person. If I can’t make her listen to me, I will look for a new doctor.
The good thing about my disastrous first visit with the doctor is that it caused me to ponder the fact that most battles are fought in the mind, as I wrote in my previous post. In addition, I have recently “liked” several Facebook pages about PTSD. Sometimes I think that, “Yeah, right, do I really have PTSD?” But PTSD is a response to overwhelming systemic (mental, emotional, psychological) wounds, which includes abuse, serious illness, or being a caregiver of those with a serious illness. I have several of the symptoms: insomnia, high anxiety, deep tireness. According to one article, a person with PTSD feels very tired because “Energy is drained due to my nervous system being overwhelmed with stress. No matter how much I rest, my body never can emerge from the stress.”
The PTSD pages share articles with tips about dealing with anxiety. Mostly the tips involve breaking off anxious thoughts by focusing on things in your surroundings that you can see, hear, touch, taste, smell. You can also notice color, get out into nature and enjoy the beauty. This is something that EJ and I tend to do anyway. We pause to appreciate the beauty around us. In fact, Elizabeth Barrett Browning has written one of my favorite poems:
“Earth’s crammed with heaven,
And every common bush afire with God,
But only he who sees takes off his shoes;
The rest sit round and pluck blackberries.”
However, with all the stress that we have been under, the anxiety crowded out some of the wonder. The PTSD articles reminded me to fight to get my focus back.
The tips also reminded me of when I went to a behavioral specialist when I was in my early twenties. I have always been so deeply empathetic that I had difficulty hearing about or being around suffering of any kind. If I needed to care for someone who was ill or injured, I could do it–sometimes better than those who didn’t struggle with high sensitivity. However, I tended to faint–or come close to it–when I went to hospitals or doctor’s offices, or if I watched a movie in which there was suffering, or if I saw or heard about injuries or diseases. The behavioral specialist explained that it’s sort of a downward spiral because I would get anxious that I was going to faint, and I would get all tensed up, which increased the likelihood that I would faint, which increased the anxiety. He suggested I break the fear by observing things in my surroundings–like count ceiling tiles or focus on paintings on the wall. He also suggested tensing and untensing my muscles, which releases the tension. This all actually helped tremendously, and I endured medical exams and surgeries with no problem until JJ got cancer. Having a child with cancer is very difficult and it reactivated my empathetic sensitivity–although it never stopped me from being with him or caring for him.
I think that the PTSD advice is actually in agreement with Scripture that says we are to renew our mind, take captive every thought, keep our minds “stayed” or (focused) on Him, think of things that are good, and so on. So this week I have consciously practiced these techniques, doing what I can but refusing to think about things I can’t do anything about, focusing on the beauty around me, breathing, living in the moment, being thankful for this wonderful place we have. It is a battle when I get hit with another stressful situation, but it is helping.