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Barbara’s Blog

This Boot is Made for Walkin’

Hooray! Dr. Wonderful gave me the green light to start driving and walking again! The only condition is that for the next month I have to wear my “cam boot” when I walk. A cam boot is a big black boot that holds one’s foot in a right angle position to protect the Achilles while it’s healing and also supports the weakened calf and foot once the person begins to bear weight.

I don’t have to tell my faithful readers how thrilled I am to be independent again! After multiple posts sharing my journey back to “normal” I can finally tell you that this extremely challenging time in my life is beginning to become a part of my past. It’s strange how something as simple as driving my daughters to school has become one of the most meaningful things in the world. As a mother, it was a real slam to my identity when I was forced to outsource things like transporting my kids to and from school. I feel bathed in relief to be able to do their laundry (the right way!), to make their lunches (healthfully), and to give the little one a bath (lovingly) . These were things that were very difficult for me to do when I was on one leg. I feel normal again and it is fabulous!

The old adage that states “You don’t have anything if you don’t have your health” is true. That’s all there is to it. I am not to the point where I can say that I’m grateful for the experience I’ve been through but I can definitely see its value in creating an appreciation for the ordinary.

I began physical therapy last week and have my second appointment this afternoon. I’m looking forward to it. Even though it’s strenuous and tiring, it makes me feel good to be healing. I am determined not to limp through the rest of my life and am willing to do the work necessary to recapture a healthy gait. I’ll get there. But until then, this boot (along with my left shoe) is meant for walkin’ and I’m going to enjoy every step!

Thanks for your supportive comments through this entire ordeal. I’m blessed to have such awesome readers! My next posts are not likely to be “Achilles” focused but I promise to keep my writing tethered to the theme of “wellness”. There’s nothing like it!

Doctor, Doctor, Give Me the News!!

Doctor, Doctor, Give Me the News!!

By

Barbara Jaurequi, MS, LMFT, MAC

 

In exactly 2 days, 2 hours and 16 minutes I will be at my doctor’s office for my first examination in 4 weeks. My doctor’s assessment of my progress will determine whether I can begin driving again and will also determine if I’m ready to begin physical therapy (i.e., start walking). My faithful readers already know that I had surgery nearly 8 weeks ago to repair my severed right Achilles tendon. Translation: can’t walk/can’t drive. I’ve been looking forward to this next doctor’s appointment like a kid looks forward to Christmas! My hopes are higher than they’ve ever been before…for anything! I will seriously jump for joy (on one foot of course) if my doctor gives me the green light to start driving again (no pun intended) and I’ll give myself three cheers if he says I can start walking.  Maybe four cheers, what the hell!!!

But what if he says I can’t drive or walk yet???

The answer to that question scares me because I have no idea what I’m capable of doing in response to additional weeks of grounding.  Would I cry? Yes; obviously.  Would I get depressed? Absolutely not – I would be far too angry to get depressed. I think I’d be vengeful. And it wouldn’t be the sort of vengeance one would try to fight. It would be the cool sort of vengeance that feels good all over; kind of like the way it feels when the guy who’s been tailgating you on the freeway for the last 5 miles changes lanes and you get right behind him and give him a taste of his own medicine!! Oh man, that feels good! I’m glad that I’m not so evolved that I can’t enjoy a little revenge now and then. As a licensed therapist, I’m referring of course to revenge in theory only (yeah right!).

Actually, if he insists on keeping me down beyond this coming weekend, I may fire my doctor’s over-educated butt and go it alone. Between you and me, I’ve been secretly testing the waters lately. I can’t walk but I can stand on both feet for several seconds without support. I’ve never tried doing it away from the bathroom counter where I could catch myself if I began to totter over, but I’m confident that I am ready to begin my formal rehabilitation. And I’m certainly ready to depress the gas pedal and brakes in my car. Good grief! Just thought I’d mention that the song in my head right now is “Folsom Prison Blues.” Couldn’t tell ya’ why…

SLOW DOWN, PATIENCE!! I’m trying to catch you!!!

Well, that’s it for now. I’m down to 2 days, 1 hour and 30 minutes to go until doctor time. Until then, I will keep the faith (and TRY to stop future tripping!!!).

 

 

 

 

 

 

Waiting Anxiously for Patience

Waiting Anxiously for Patience

 By

 Barbara Jaurequi, MS, LMFT, MAC

I’ve come to the conclusion that my life would be much improved if there was a store that sold patience by the bushel.  I would be at that store daily, cash in hand. I would probably hoard my surplus patience for fear the store would run out just when I was in desperate need of replenishment. I wish patience could be dispensed via a tissue box where you could grab a sheet just as you were about to sneeze (correction: lose control). Wouldn’t that be great? Just as you were about to become irate, frustrated, inconvenienced, etc., you could grab a sheet of patience, rub it on your face and feel relief. Maybe that’s what heaven is like: tissue boxes everywhere with sheets of virtue right at your fingertips just when you need them.

If you read my last post you know that I have been unable to walk or drive for the last 8 weeks because of my severed right Achilles tendon. I am happy to report that I am healing nicely in the sense that my tendon is being rehabilitated at a steady pace through stretching and whatnot. My doctor seems pleased with my progress to date. But I still have not been given the green light to bear weight or drive. But I think what I need even more than being able to resume my normal level of functioning is patience.

Wikipedia.com defines patience as a state of endurance under difficult circumstances. Per Wikipedia, this can mean persevering in the face of delay or provocation without acting on annoyance or anger in a negative way. Wikipedia further asserts that we can also exhibit patience when under strain, especially when faced with longer-term difficulties. Finally Wikipedia tells us that patience is the level of endurance one can take before succumbing to negativity; it is also used to refer to the character trait of being steadfast.

Sheesh…

Is it possible I’ve possessed patience all this time and not known it? I’ve endured under difficult circumstances (e.g. not being able to drive while living in Southern California is a difficult circumstance, let me tell you). I’ve persevered in the face of delay and not acted out in a negative way (e.g., I’ve never screamed at my husband for making me wait in the hot car while he locked up the house and loaded my kneeling scooter into the trunk). I’ve exhibited patience while under strain for a long period of time (e.g., I’ve crawled up and down the stairs multiple times a day for 8 weeks – crawling for a human is a strain unless the human is under the age of 2; and 8 weeks is long-term in my opinion. Uh oh – it seems maybe I have lacked patience according to Wiki’s final definition (e.g., I’ve been negative, at least internally, in terms of my level of endurance for this difficult time in my life. In fact, I silently and vocally say “this sucks” a hundred times a day; I guess that is negative, huh?). Well, at least I’m steadfast.

Anyway, 4 out of 5 is not bad…it’s 80%! That’s a passing score in most anyone’s book. So maybe I’ve been patient enough. I don’t need to be an overachiever with patience for goodness sake. I probably don’t even need a storefront where I can purchase patience on a daily basis. Perhaps a monthly delivery service would do just fine; how many tissues can one person use in a single day anyway?

Still hanging in there folks…9 days and 4 hours until my next doctor’s appointment when I expect to be given some right to bear weight and drive my car. I’ll try to be patient until then.

Sleeping in the Middle of the Bed

Sleeping in the Middle of the Bed

By

Barbara Jaurequi, MS, LMFT, MAC

 

FYI: the title of this post is merely a metaphor which won’t even be referenced until well into the writing. But I loved the title so I went with it. Read on.

I find myself thinking a lot about recklessness this afternoon. Perhaps it’s because I am laid up in bed on a beautiful summer afternoon with my foot propped up two feet above my heart. My fully casted foot is in this odd position because it was operated on two days ago. The surgery was necessary to reattach my severed Achilles tendon which I likely injured because of reckless decisions which I will later reveal. Yup, in my solitude, I’m thinking a lot about recklessness today.

Let me explain.

I am not what some might refer to as a “fit” person. I’m not fat, but I’m NOT fit. I don’t much care for formal exercise and I can’t stand the gym (P.U.!). I’m pretty vocal about my distaste for exercise and am inwardly defiant when I tell myself I must start moving about. HOWEVER, I am VERY competitive and if I’m going to play a sport (one that is typically recognized as “exercise”) I’m going to play all out. I don’t go easy on children or senior citizens. I play to win.

Well, a few days ago, I found myself in a competitive game of “Two-Square” with my younger brother. Elementary school-aged children are most familiar with this game but, for the adults reading this post, I will describe it. It’s exactly like tennis but for the following: 1) there is no net; 2) the ball is as big as a soccer ball; 3) you hit the ball with your hands, not a racket; and 4) the “court” is about a third of the size of a tennis court.

I am GREAT at Two-Square!!

I am not great at any sport other than Two-Square.

I don’t much like playing any sport other than Two-Square.

I only play Two-Square once in a while. Games begin spontaneously, they are not planned. I usually play on my back patio and my regular opponents are my 11-year old daughter, my 50-year old husband, my 43-year old brother, and my 68-year old mother.

BAD DECISION # 1: I never “warm up” to play Two-Square or to engage in any other physical activity.

I’ve had plenty of time to reflect on how I came to sustain a brutal sports injury when I’m not a sport of any kind; not even a good sport. I’ve boiled it down to one simple truth: I’m reckless.

BAD DECISION # 2: Given my age, my level of fitness (none), my tendency to over-do most everything I do, and another known but yet unmentioned variable (namely my extremely-fit-younger-brother’s equally competitive nature), I should have been more careful. He and I had already played two games. Before that I had played four other games in succession. It was hot outside and I was tired.

BAD DECISION # 3: When my brother challenged me to “one more game”, my ego demanded that I accept his challenge. So I did. I have come to recognize that decision as pure recklessness. Before we started the game, I remember thinking to myself that I should sit this one out but my reckless, ego-driven nature would not allow me to pass up an opportunity to win another game, regardless of my fatigue and “out-of-shapeness”. Of course I didn’t realize the sort of risk I was assuming when I stepped onto my square, but the point is that I did realize I was taking an unnecessary risk for no good reason and I simply didn’t care. Sure enough, even though nothing like this had ever happened before, this time my luck ran out: my risk did not pay off with a positive gain. I severed my right Achilles tendon.

When my Achilles snapped, I didn’t know what happened. I went down in a heap, writhing in pain. I got through the next 20 hours with lots of Advil and ice packs and by crawling, hopping, and lying down whenever possible. The next day, when the orthopedic surgeon confirmed that I needed surgery, I felt like I got hit in the face with a brick.

I won’t be able to drive for 10 weeks. I’ll be in a cast for at least 8 weeks. The pain is terrible. The disruption to my family’s routine is immeasurable. And the inconvenience to me personally is draining, depressing, and humbling to say the least.

So where does the “Sleeping in the Middle of the Bed” title fit into all this? Now I’m gonna tell ya.

It was a metaphor that came to me when working with a client the week before my accident occurred. One of this client’s goals is to get physically fit so (between appointments with me FYI) she signed up for an exercise boot camp. She described this program to me and I was horrified at the intensity of what she had to do just to keep up with the group. It was so punishing; so unbelievably intense; especially for someone who was just beginning to exercise formally!! This program was so grueling that it was causing my client to vomit during and after the workouts. I had to ask her why it was necessary for her to engage in such a torturous activity. I knew the answer before I asked the question: she’s reckless. But her answer was a superficial reason: “My friend was doing it and asked me to do it with her; since I had no other fitness plan in mind, I said okay.” (By the way, my client’s friend is reportedly in fantastic shape and exercises all the time.) It was at this point that I came up with the “Sleeping in the Middle of the Bed” metaphor.

I asked my client which side of the bed she sleeps on and she said it was the right side (her husband sleeps on the left side). I asked her if she’d ever rolled off her bed. She said she has never rolled off her bed. Ever.  She further assured me that even when she had tossed and turned all night long she had never fallen out of her bed. I asked her to imagine that she had to climb a ladder to get to her bed because the mattress was 20 feet above the floor. I asked her to describe how she might feel in a bed that high off the ground. She immediately indicated that she would be terrified. I asked how she might cope with her anxiety were she in such a situation. She said she would sleep as close to the center of the bed as possible. That’s when I reminded her that she had never ever fallen out of bed. If she didn’t fall off her bed when it was three feet off the ground, why would she fall off if the bed was 20 feet off the ground? We decided that while the likelihood of her rolling out of the highly placed bed was extremely remote, it was still possible. My client could safely sleep on the right side of her bed if it was only three feet off the ground because she probably wouldn’t get hurt if she fell out. But at 20 feet in the air, sleeping near the edge of the bed was an unnecessary risk; “reckless” you might say.

This boot camp thing my client is (hopefully “was” at this point) doing is like sleeping on the edge of the bed at 20 feet off the ground; maybe with one leg dangling off the bed at that. It is so high risk; she’s in her late 40s and has other health issues to consider including debilitating migraine headaches that can easily be brought on by stress (and this program is beyond stressful; the instructors scream at the group members if they make a mistake). The amount of running my client has to do each day could easily cause a stress fracture, and the weight bearing exercise could very likely tear muscles that might not ever fully heal at her age and fitness level. FYI – most people in her boot camp group are in their 20s. If she was in her 20s, she’d probably get away with the fact that she wasn’t in shape when she began the program; her bed would be 3 feet off the ground in that case. But in her late 40s, boot camp places her bed a minimum of 20 feet in the air and she’s riding the right edge at top speed. This client is very stubborn (maybe that’s why I like her so much) and refuses to quit anything she starts.  Her spirit is willing (good) but her flesh is probably as weak as mine was when I bit the dust earlier this week (bad). I really hope she doesn’t get hurt.

The work I did with my boot-camp client, in conjunction with the facts pertaining to my unfortunate accident, forced me to recognize my own foolish resistance to sleeping in the middle of the bed (i.e., my refusal to exercise or to at least maintain a modicum of physical fitness over the years was silly and proved to be stupid). Given the severity of what has happened to me, and knowing that being in shape is the best insurance against the sort of accident I had, playing as hard as I did without being in shape or at least warming up my muscles with some stretches was reckless. Just because I had never before hurt myself during spontaneous physical exertion, did not mean it could not happen. As it turned out, it did happen. I had never fallen out of bed in my life but, in choosing to sleep on the edge of the bed, I fell out while it was 20 feet in the air.

I now realize that ignoring the reality that my body is aging is foolish and irresponsible. I simply cannot do the things I used to be able to do on a whim without risking serious injury. My current injury is causing inconvenience, worry and disappointment to my family members, my friends, and my clients whose appointments I had to cancel this coming week.  At 46 years of age and counting, I have to face the fact that self-neglect is immature, selfish, and reckless and it doesn’t jive with who I want to be. Once I finish this post I am going to “Google” seated exercise routines and begin one as soon as I am able. I plan to come out of this ordeal in better shape than I was when it began.

The next few weeks will give me plenty of time to think about the consequences of my inactivity over the last several years. And since I will be doing the majority of my thinking in my bedroom with my foot two feet above my heart, I have shifted myself to the middle of the bed. Good for me.

 

I’m Stressed Out about My Stress Load!!

 

            It seems that I am constantly confronted by the “fact” that I must reduce my stress load or I am at risk for developing or exacerbating health problems of all kinds. Furthermore, without self-intervention to reduce my stress, I am also at risk for career burnout, relationship problems, and psychological misery. Based on the glut of information I’ve read and heard about the horrors of stress-related-problems, I’m pretty worried (i.e., stressed).

            Over the last few years I’ve seen hundreds of articles devoted to the topic of stress (in magazines, newspapers, and scientifically based medical and psychological journals) and watched tons of news programs that feature “Stress Reduction Experts” who describe and explain (ad nauseam) the dangers of living with stress. People (me?) must be awfully interested in stress as a topic; maybe it’s hip to be stressed out.

            Frankly, hip or not, I’m sick of being so damn aware of my stress load and how vital it is that I reduce it. I’ve grown weary on the subject of Stress. I GET IT: STRESS IS BAD!!! According to the research I’ve seen, if I don’t reduce my stress (and fast) I’ll probably get cancer and die before my time.

I “Googled” Stress Related Illnesses and here are the top 10 per WebMD.com:

  1. Heart Disease
  2. Asthma
  3. Obesity
  4. Diabetes
  5. Headaches
  6. Depression and Anxiety
  7. Gastrointestinal Diseases
  8. Alzheimer’s
  9. Accelerated Aging
  10. Premature Death

Other frequently identified stress-related-disorders included Panic Attacks, Eating Disorders, Skin Disorders, Systemic Infections and Cancer.

Lists like these make me believe that pretty much everything that is wrong with me, was wrong with me, or will be wrong with me is, was or will be related to my stress.

By the way, if one more doctor or “healthcare professional” tells me that exercise is the cure for stress, I’m going to kick-box him or her right in the mouth.

Stress is caused by internal conflict, not love handles. If I’m stressed it’s because I don’t want to be doing whatever it is I’m doing or I don’t want to feel whatever it is I’m feeling. The trick to managing stress is in being able to first discern between what is in my power to change and what is beyond my control. Secondly, if I am disturbed by a problem that I can actually fix, I must have the courage to fix it. Thirdly, if I am experiencing a problem over which I have no control, I must accept it.

The famous Serenity Prayer teaches the solution to stress in the simplest terms: God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference. This simple prayer is probably the greatest stress-management tool of all time. Memorize it and then trash all those articles and books about stress because the 25 words of the Serenity Prayer will teach you all you need to know about stress management.

I hear breathing helps too.

 

The Art of Reflective Listening

As a Marriage and Family Therapist, I listen to a lot of marital arguments. Sometimes the arguments get so heated that I feel more like a referee than a therapist! Other times, the partners are so frustrated with each other that they don’t speak directly to one another at all, preferring to communicate through me.

People Want to Be Understood

Whether partners are actively arguing or avoiding communication all together, one thing is clear: they are usually desperate to be understood. They seem compelled to “make their case”; like attorneys do when defending or prosecuting a person being tried for a crime! In the first case, the partners blast one another with stronger and stronger arguments, getting louder and more hostile with each point they make. In the second case, each partner presents me, the Quasi-Judge, with the evidence that supports his or her individual point of view on any given dispute.

Needless to say, these types of exchanges are emotionally exhausting for all parties involved – myself included! The tension between couples can get so intense that de-escalation becomes my first order of business. Fortunately, I have a technique that seems to cause most married partners to settle down rather quickly. Quite simply, I validate their feelings and their individual points of view. This is the essence of Reflective Listening

The majority of marriage therapists would probably agree that one of the most common reasons married couples seek counseling is because of poor communication. And as ‘listening’ is perhaps the most important component of interpersonal communication, it is vital that married partners master the art of reflective listening.

How To Listen The Right Way

Reflective listening calls for us to listen for feelings first, content second. We make sure we are on the right track in identifying the feelings’ of our partner by literally reflecting (i.e., echoing) the feelings we hear. In the midst of an angry exchange, what most married partners are essentially seeking from one another is genuine understanding and validation of their feelings.  But it is virtually impossible to meet each other’s need to be understood and validated if we are not reflectively listening to one another.

Let me give you an example of proper reflective listening: If a wife is angry at her husband for ignoring her at a party and afterwards says: “You were a real jerk to me at the party”, her husband is likely to get very defensive and justify his behavior.

However, if he was practicing the art of reflective listening, he might say something like “I can see how angry you are…you sound hurt.” His wife would probably verify her hurt feelings saying something like, “Yes, I’m hurt. It was like you didn’t even realize I was there.” Her husband might then say, “I’m sorry I made you feel unimportant. You don’t deserve to be treated that way. I really will try not to ever do that again.”

While her feelings might still be hurt, the wife would probably not continue to attack her husband at this point. She has gotten what she wanted: understanding and validation. And happily, the argument would probably not escalate any further than it originally had.

Married partners, accustomed to arguing content rather than reflecting feelings, would do well to practice reflective listening in most of their interpersonal communications. For instance, if a co-worker says, “My daughter is driving me crazy,” a typical non-reflective response might be to commiserate by talking about one your own child’s annoying traits. But that is not reflective listening.

When your co-worker makes her remark, practice reflective listening by saying something like, “You sound really frustrated.” If you can practice this technique in interactions that are not emotionally charged, you will be more likely to fall back on it when it really counts.

Reflective listening needs to become second nature to married partners who traditionally find themselves arguing about anything and everything. It will always be easy for partners to default to defensive and accusatory interactions under emotional stress unless they practice this technique as much and as often as possible.

If it so happens that your marital problems go beyond poor communication, the tool of reflective listening could prove to be one of your most valuable assets when addressing, and resolving, even the most complicated and difficult of marital challenges.