Distorted Thinking…

I am a thinker. I think and then think about what I’m thinking and how I’m thinking.  I remember when I first heard the term Metacognition.  It’s basically “cognition about cognition” and awareness of your own thought process.  This has always been important to me working with kids and trying to understand their thought process and how they learn.  Once I can figure that out, I can make it easier for them to retain information and teach them to think about “how they think”.  One size doesn’t fit all.   This is especially obvious when working with kids from all walks of life.

If you are feeding your brain with positivity in many aspects of your life, you are probably an extremely content and positive person.  For years, I perceived myself as being one of these people.  In reality, we all have some sort of distorted thinking that paralyzes our thoughts and eventually affects our well-being.

We only have so much energy and how do we spend it?  People underestimate the influence that distorted thinking has on one’s energy.  Maybe you’re not running a physical marathon but are you running one in your mind?

Ways that your distorted thinking can really fuck up your life…

This information was provided by my neuro-psychologist and I am currently working on these skills and trying to own them.

  1. Black and White thinking:   Seeing things in all or nothing terms.  Things are not totally good or totally bad.  There is gray in every situation but we have to put things into perspective and find it.
  2. Overgeneralizing:  Seeing a negative event as a never-ending pattern of defeat.
  3. Negative filtering:   Seeing only the negative aspects of a situation.
  4. Mind reading:  Assuming that others are (or will be) thinking of you negatively.
  5. Fortune telling:   Prediciting that events will turn out badly and you won’t be able to do anything about it.
  6. Magnifying/Minimizing:   Over-evalating negative information and undervaluing positive information.
  7. Emotional reasoning:  Assuming that if you feel that something is true, it must be true.
  8. Shoulding:  Telling yourself that things should or must be a certain way.
  9. Catastrophizing:   Repeatedly imagining bad outcomes; thinking three likely or that you couldn’t stand if they happen.
  10. Personalizing:   Placing 100% blame on one person (yourself or someone else) for a negative event that had many causes.

I went almost a week without any episodes, but today I had one.  I tried to fight it but inevitably, it happened and I have to accept it.  I’m doing better and PNES is not consuming my life but I still struggle to find balance in my life.  I know that some people struggling with PNES don’t have the same resources as I.  Hopefully, you can utilize some of these strategies to help.

There are some questions we can ask ourselves to help an alternative response to distorted thinking…

  1.  What is the EVIDENCE that the automatic thought is true or not true?
  2.  Is there and alternative explanation?
  3. What’s the worst thing that could happen?  Could I live through it?  What’s the best thing that could happen?  What’s the most realistic outcome?
  4. What’s the effect of my believing the automatic thought?  What could be the effect of my thinking?
  5. What should I do about it?
  6. If_______________friend’s name) was in the situation and had this thought, what would I tell him/her?  It’s much easier and less emotional to look at a situation objectively.

Things are getting better and I’m learning that I only have so much energy in a day.  I tend to overdo most things to the extreme and then I pay for them in the long run.  This week, I will try and prioritize what is really important.  Are we are really busy or are we just used to over scheduling our lives?  Most things that I HAVE to do are not that important after all.  Truthfully, nothing is more important than taking care of myself at this point in my life.

Here’s to a successful week and prioritizing what’s really important.

Ress XOXO

Do any of us know what the hell we are doing?

I’m four weeks into therapy and I think my neuropsychologist has my number.  She told me that I’ve done more work in this short period of time than any of her other clients diagnosed with PNES.  So I’m basically super-intense and the most amazing person ever.

I assume half of the problem is denial for most.  Luckily, I already know that I’m bat-shit crazy.  This morning on my daughter’s first day of first grade, I asked my husband if we should put a bag of peanuts in her school bag for her to hand out at lunch.  Although I’m totally joking and would hate to offend anyone with a peanut allergy or any other first-world problem, I cracked myself up.  This is one example of thousands of crazy warped things that go through my mind on a daily basis.  SO yes…I am aware of my idiosyncrasies.

I can’t resign myself to saying “my therapist” so I will just refer to her as “Doc”.  Doc has me taking data on my seizures, doing yoga, practicing mindfulness, deep breathing and practicing some “me” time activities.  Since I work in this field, it’s hard for me recognize any of these non-researched based strategies having any validity.

I’ve been really thinking…

What am I doing here in therapy and what is the “gold-standard” of who we are supposed to be and what we are supposed to be doing with our lives?  I know that I don’t have it all together, but who does?

I recognize that I have to change some of my behavioral tendencies in order to eliminate these seizures.   Unfortunately, I’m not sure what I am supposed to be doing other than what I’ve always done.  It was explained to me that my Central Nervous System is in overload.  I’ve spent most of my life in a fight or flight state and I also have difficulty labeling and recognizing my emotions.  I’m sure in time I will gain more strategies to utilize but right now I’m in a state of limbo.

I’ve always been one of those unusual birds.  There is a huge part of me that doesn’t want that to go away.  I guess I’m scared that I will adopt these new replacement behaviors and evolve into a normal person.  My biggest fear has always been to be normal.

So for today, I am grateful for my perspective.  I have been knocked down so many times in my life.  Even at my lowest point, I have amazing friends and family.  People who raise me up and love me unconditionally despite my shortcomings.  I’m gettin my swag back and I’m feeling stronger everyday.

The main intention for this blog is for me to take the time to identify my feelings and concerns in my own personal journey.  If I help a few people struggling through PNES, that’s great.  If I offend you…well

I love you Ressie,

Ress xx

I forgot how to feel along the way…

Have you ever taken the time to understand your emotions OR do you just do what you’ve always done?

Up until my recent PNES diagnosis, I pretty much relied heavily on feelings of happiness, joy and comfort.  When I approach  anything unpleasant (sadness, death, worry, fear and insecurities), I immediately replace these emotions with a positive perspective or strive to focus on the good in most situations.

I thought that I was thinking positively and finding the silver lining in life.  I felt that harping on the past was just taking away from the beauty in the presence.  I guess somewhere along the way, I forgot how to feel pain.  As it turns out, dismissing and ignoring things that make you feel horrible is not a desired outcome.  Instead, I have to learn how to identify my feelings and figure out how to validate myself.

Emotions 101…(from someone who has no fucking idea what she’s talking about)

  1. I assume that if I want to remain in a state of happiness, then I have to be happy…
  2. I have little to no tolerance for people who live in the past and get stuck in the past (This includes me)
  3. My belief system has always been that someone has it worse and that my worst day is someone’s best
  4. I do believe that life is too short to complain
  5. I internally cringe at people when they continue to talk about the same topic and make no effort in changing their behavior
  6. I don’t find comfort in crying publicly or privately
  7. I think about something painful…call it out…and then “I’m done” with it
  8. When my mom committed suicide, I felt angry and guilty…but then I just dismissed it
  9. Last year, I lost my grandfather who has always been like a father-figure to me. I thought about him for a few days and then I decided that I no longer want to feel that pain or loss
  10. My dad is my #1 hero. I never tell him how much I love him and how incredibly grateful I am for him.  Instead, I call him once every six weeks to talk about how hot it is in Florida
  11. If my kids stress me out, I immediately remind myself how lucky I am to have healthy children and It would be so much worse if they were terminally ill or any other horrific tragedy
  12. My extended family (on my side) has literally gone to shit.  So yeah, like everyone hates everyone
  13. My husband loves me like I’ve never been loved before.  In fact, sometimes after a hot night, he wants to hold me and I’m like…”Yeah, no I’m good”.
  14. I need a place for feelings because if it’s anything abstract or something that requires a lot of work, I kind of panic.
  15. I guess I use humor and sarcasm as a way to deflect my pain
  16. I would absolutely take a magic pill if it meant that I stopped having seizures
  17. I let people in but it takes years and years to “LET PEOPLE IN”
  18. After surveying some of my closest friends, I realize that I need a replacement behavior as soon as possible
  19. Writing this blog is annoying the shit out of me because I feel like I’m just complaining (#4 &5 above)
  20. I had to get to 20 because I have a minor sprinkle of OCD

I start my first therapy session tomorrow.  I’m dreading the idea of sitting down and talking about my feelings.  If I could get a fast pass to the last session to be all cured of PNES and seizure free, I would take it.  Unfortunatley, this is my journey whether I like it or not. So it’s time for me to get my big girl pants on and face the music.  I’m optimistic that I will learn new ways to cope with my emotions and feelings.  Just because I’ve been doing something one way my entire life, doesn’t mean that I can’t change.

I will always a bit off-centered but I’m going to work on being the better version of imperfection.

Ressie xx

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I’m “normal”; I’m “not normal”- PNES

Let’s start from the beginning…

  1. I am a product of two alcoholic parents (they met in rehab) how sweet…
  2. I have moved more times than any child should have to
  3. I’ve been sexually abused on a number of occasions. (No child should EVER have to go through this)
  4. I have been the victim of incest
  5. I’ve been verbally and psychologically abused for many years
  6. I’ve been in and out of numerous schools and even sometimes not enrolled in school
  7. My report card said that I was “unkept” (That just sucks!)
  8. I used to get into legitimate fights with kids at school in my early elementary years
  9. Both of my parents have been married 3 times each although I think my mom snuck in a 4th or 5th (You can imagine all of my step-brothers and sisters out there)
  10. My one step-sister taught me the art of stealing at age 10…until I got caught
  11. My mom finally lost custody of me when I was 8 after years of my dad trying to get me. Back then, drinking and driving with your kid was a slap on the wrist
  12. I’ve witnessed the strangest things…when I was little, I would talk about certain topics and people would look at me like I was crazy, so I just pushed it somewhere
  13. I grew up with a fear of trusting anything or anyone
  14. I had a hard time making friends so I would just be “the class clown” to disguise all of my pain.  After all, I just wanted to fit in
  15. I explored alcohol and drugs by the time I was 12
  16. I smoked cancer sticks for far too long
  17. I was so afraid of men and sex that I promised myself to be in love when I finally did do the deed (I kept that promise minus one…we all get a pass)
  18. I was dumb as shit, but luckily my dad got me tutoring so that I was not reading on a 2nd grade level in 8th grade
  19. I was anorexic for a while but I love food too much for that.
  20. I went to a mental institution when I was 12. A girl in there convinced me to cheek my medication so that we could kill ourselves (You can imagine how that went down)
  21. I have been on a diet my entire life (My mom was bulimic although she denied puking up her food after a meal…I mean leaving immediately after your meal and then coming back with watery eyes, kind of gives it away)
  22. I was always getting into trouble in school
  23. I’ve cheated on boyfriends
  24. I’ve been in physical altercations with my mom
  25. I got wasted the night before my SAT’s
  26. I wasn’t “College material”
  27. I made some poor choices in men
  28. I spent some crazy nights in college doing some crazy ass shit
  29. My mom committed suicide
  30. And there is plenty more, but you get the point…

Sooo…How did I turn out?

  1. I’ve had a job since I was 14
  2. I bought my first (used) car when I was 16
  3. I made myself “College material”
  4. I found an amazing network of friends
  5. I went to therapy to “TRY” and heal the past
  6. I graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education
  7. I met an amazing well-educated, smart, handsome and unbelievable man
  8. I got married to a real man
  9. I had an exciting honeymoon in Europe
  10. I had two healthy children
  11. I made my house a home
  12. I’ve been on some of the best vacations
  13. I am an excellent mom…I mean damn good sister!
  14. I am an loving Godmother and Aunt
  15. I received a Master’s degree in Special Education, while being pregnant and working full-time
  16. I have had the most rewarding career for the past fifteen years working with children and families of people with Autism.
  17. I am not afraid of being an outlier
  18. I’m finally through the awkward-ugly stage that seemed to last forever
  19. I am a good friend
  20. I genuinely love having fun
  21. I’m creative
  22. I have a heart of gold
  23. I make responsible decisions
  24. I eat relatively healthy
  25. I exercise regularly…gotta love my fitbit
  26. I love my family
  27. I don’t live paycheck to paycheck
  28. I am healthy
  29. I’ve had people continuously say “how well I turned out”
  30. I’m overall a really optimistic person

So what happened? I have been diagnosed with Psychogenic Non-Epileptic Seizures

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I’ll let you know what happens along the way…

I have what?

Allow me to introduce myself.

My name is Ressie and I can be described as:

Funny, loving, kind, caring, bitchy, outspoken, unusual, different, empathetic, silly, fun-loving, old-soul, leader, introspective, deep-thinker, hard-worker and a genuinely “good” person.

What do people see?

They see a woman who has beat the odds considering her past. People view me as a hard-working optimist that never gives in or gives up. A person that loves life, people and gives 100% in everything. I am well-educated, met an amazing man/husband, I had two beautiful and healthy children.  I’ve spent 15 years in a rewarding career working with children and families of people with Autism, I live in a single house in the burbs, drive a nice car and have two dogs and a fish. I have a mostly wonderful family, amazing friends and I love to have fun.

Honestly speaking…I have everything I need and mostly everything I want minus a personal chef, a real panda bear, 3 vacations per year, tummy tuck, personal trainer and a full-time nanny to help out with my amazing children…that can sometimes be soooooo fucking annoying. If you’re a mom…you know what I mean. But for serious, I know I have it good and despite all odds, I deserve this life that I live.

So what’s the problem?

Up until recently, I thought I was doing a great job of managing life’s ups and downs. You know, the everyday things we all balance:

(Family, Kids, Marriage, Bills, Work, Me-time, Breaks, Holding down the fort, Laundry, Food shopping, preparing meals, Drop offs and Pick-ups, Play-dates, Husband traveling, Advocating for my son, Teaching my children good morals and values, Exercising, Eating healthy, Socializing, Planning, Worrying, Flexibility, Reciprocating friendships and just trying to be a good person and not take life for granted.

The problem is…

I HAVE PSYCHOGENIC NON-EPILEPTIC SEIZURES

Not to be mistaken with hysteria, craziness, pseudo seizures or any other label people want to call it. These are REAL seizures that are just as common as multiple sclerosis but people don’t want to talk about them because they fall under the mental health umbrella.

It’s estimated that 2-33% of every 100,000 people have PNES

The prevalence of PNES in an average epilepsy center ranges somewhere between 15-40% of patients

If you break a leg…you fix it

If you have Cancer…you get treatment

If you have anything pertaining to mental health or mental illness…you hide behind it in fear that people will label, judge and ridicule you.

Well I’m here to break the silence on a topic that is more prevalent than people think. I would much rather be an advocate than have knowledge and choose ignorance.

My intention for this blog is to educate others and also allow you to be apart of my journey with me. I thought about what this might mean for my family and myself but I would much rather be called names than to blindly avoid a topic that is not mainstream and should be. People out there are suffering. They are going on and off anti-seizure medications, being put on anti-psychotic medications for no reason other than the medical profession does not understand this.  It takes an average of SEVEN years to receive this diagnosis. Wow…

I received my diagnosis at Jefferson University Hospital on July 31, 2015. As an educator, I can’t possibly keep this knowledge all to myself. My intention is to help myself, others and make PNES more acceptable and mainstream.

My first order of business is to share with you an unbelievable resource by Dr. Lorna Myers.  You can purchase this on Amazon:

http://www.amazon.com/Psychogenic-Non-epileptic-Seizures-A-Guide/dp/1492881414