byronmain

Doing “The Work” on my dad’s dementia

Although meditation has helped me so much with my father’s illness (see this post), I continue to find myself  troubled by the amount of emotional pain I experience while walking this journey with him.  I’ve been doing a lot of writing and talking about it, but needed a tool to investigate my troubled thoughts.

I am a big fan of Byron Katie and her method for examining our troubling thoughts, known as “The Work.”  I haven’t been practicing it for the past few years, but a chat with a friend recently reminded me that maybe I should go back to listening to her teachings and instructions.  I began by re-reading her books and listening to her workshops.  I then filled out one of her Judge Your Neighbor worksheets and began the process of self inquiry regarding my troubling thoughts about my dad.  You can download her “Judge Your Neighbor Worksheet” and apply the “The Work” to any troubling thought you have, but I suggest reading her book “Loving What Is” prior to attempting your own worksheet.

“The Work” is 4 questions and a turn-around.  The questions are:  (1) Is it true; (2) can I absolutely know that it is true? (3) How do I feel when I believe that thought?  (4) Who would I be without that thought, and then you turn the thought around to yourself, to the other, and the opposite.

byronkatie

Doing “The Work” on my thoughts that have caused me stress regarding my dad has helped so much.  I have come to see that it wasn’t my dad’s situation that was causing my pain.  Instead, it was my thoughts about my dad’s situation that were causing my pain.  I was suffering from my unquestioned thoughts.  Now, that I have questioned them, I see that my dad is not suffering.  I was the one suffering because I was believing my thoughts. Doing “The Work” is another form of meditation.  In order to answer the questions, I have to sit with my thoughts.  I had to ask myself the questions slowly and wait for the answers to come.  Although on paper below it seems like the answers come quickly, I actually sat with each question for a while.  I went inside and asked myself the questions and waited for true answers to come.  The Work is self inquiry.   

To show you how The Work works, I have recreated mine below.

My thoughts:

I am broken-hearted watching my father suffer from dementia.

I want my dad to be at peace.

My dad shouldn’t be suffering.

I need my dad to be comfortable and well.

My dad is sick, confused, uncomfortable, in pain, and sad.

My dad is kind, sweet, loving, funny, loyal and generous.

I don’t ever want to see my dad suffer again.

byron3

My thoughts and The Work:

My father suffers from dementia.

  1.  Is it true?  Yes, my dad suffers from dementia, Lewy Body Dementia, to be exact.  Multiple doctors have told me so.  It must be true.
  2. Can I absolutely know that it is true?  No.  I can’t absolutely know that my dad is suffering from dementia.  He may HAVE dementia, but I cannot absolutely know that he is SUFFERING from it.  He may not be aware of what is happening.  He may not be suffering.
  3. How do I feel when I believe the thought that my dad is suffering?  Depressed, broken-hearted, stressed, anxious, fearful, worried, sad.
  4. Who would I be without this thought?  I would just be a daughter loving her dad.  I would just be able to be with him and enjoy whatever time we have together.
  5. The turnarounds:
    1. My dad isn’t suffering from dementia.
      1. Can I find examples of how this is just as true?  Yes, he doesn’t look like he is in pain.  When I ask, he says he is comfortable.  He seems to be well taken care of, fed, and his needs are met.
    2. I am suffering from my dad’s dementia.
      1. Can I find examples of how this is just as true?  YES!  I am the one that suffers when I believe that thought.  I am depressed, stressed, worried, anxious, can’t sleep, etc., etc.
    3. I am suffering from my own dementia.
      1. YES!  I am the one who has confused thoughts.  I think that my dad is suffering and he appears not to be.  That is the truth of it:  he doesn’t appear to be suffering.  But, yet, I believe he is, and I am the one who suffers.  So, yes!  I am suffering because I have dementia (when it comes to the truth of how my dad is).

My dad is not at peace.

  1.  Is it true?  Yes, he cannot be at peace if he has dementia.
  2. Can I absolutely know that it is true?  No, not even close.  He actually does look pretty peaceful, when I look at him without that thought.
  3. How do I feel when I think that thought that my dad is not at peace?  Fearful.  Sad.  Depressed.  Anxious.  Out of control.
  4. Who would I be without that thought?  Just a loving daughter showing up to visit my dad who is at peace.
  5. The turn arounds?
    1. My dad is at peace.  Can I find examples of how this is just as true?  Yes, he looks to be relaxed and taken care of.
    2. I am not at peace with my dad. Can I find examples of how this is just as true? Yes, I am not relaxed when I’m with my dad.  I ‘m looking for reasons to support my belief that he is not at peace.  I’m anxious.  I’m worried.  I am not a loving daughter just present with my dad.
    3. I am not at peace with myself.  Can I find examples of how this is just as true?  Yes, I am not at peace because I am not seeing reality. I see reality that he looks peaceful, but convince myself that he is not.  This is insane.  It causes me worry, stress, and sleepless nights.

My dad shouldn’t be suffering.

  1.  Is it true?  My dad shouldn’t be suffering.  Is that true? If he is suffering, then it is not true, because it is the reality of it.  But, as seen above, maybe he is not suffering at all.
  2. How do I feel when I believe that thought?  Stressed out because I want to control his experience.  I send emails to his care team that I later regret telling them what they should or shouldn’t do.  I lose sleep. I don’t take care of myself.
  3. Who would I be without that thought?  Just someone noticing the truth of this situation.  He either is suffering or he is not.  Either way, it is what it is.  It is the reality of the situation.  There is absolutely nothing that I can do to change the reality of the situation for him.  All I can do is change my thoughts about it so that I can find peace.
  4. The turnaround?
    1. My dad should be suffering.  If he is, then that is what should be.  But, as seen above, it may not be true at all.
    2. I shouldn’t be suffering (when I think of my dad).

I need my dad to be comfortable and well.

  1.  Is it true?  Yes, I need him to be comfortable and well.
  2. Can I absolutely know that it is true?  No, if he is not comfortable and well, then I don’t need him to be, because that is not the truth of the situation.  But, as noted above, he does appear to be comfortable and well.
  3. How do I feel when I believe the thought?  I feel out of control trying to control his reality, which is not possible.
  4. Who would I be without that thought?  I would be a daughter just observing her father as he is.  I would be someone noticing reality.
  5. The turnaround?
    1. I don’t need my dad to be comfortable and well.  If he isn’t comfortable and well, then I don’t need him to be.  That would be fighting with reality.
    2. I need myself to be comfortable and well when it comes to my dad’s illness.  Yes, I need to accept my dad’s illness as it is.  I need to see the truth of the situation, whatever it is, in order to be at peace.
    3. I need to be comfortable and well in myself.  YES!  That is all I can actually do anything about anyway.

My dad is sick, confused, uncomfortable, in pain, and sad.

  1.  Is it true?  Yes.
  2. Can I absolutely know that it is true?  No, I cannot absolutely know that my dad is sick, confused, uncomfortable and in pain.  In fact, when I ask him, he says that he is not any of those things.
  3. How do I feel when I believe those thoughts?  Sad, depressed, and stressed.
  4. Who would I be without those thoughts?  Just a daughter visiting her dad.
  5. The turnaround?
    1. My dad is not sick, confused, uncomfortable, in pain and sad.  Yes, that could be just as true.  In fact, that is what he reports.
    2. I am sick, confused, uncomfortable, in pain, and sad.  Yes, when I think that my dad is sick, it makes me sick.

My dad is kind, sweet, loving, funny, loyal and generous.

  1.  Is it true?  YES!
  2. The turnaround?  I am kind, sweet, loving, funny, loyal and generous?  Yes!  When it comes to the love I have for my father.  I love him and there is nothing I can do about it.

I don’t ever want to see my dad suffer again.

  1.  The turnaround?  I am WILLING to see my dad suffer again.  Because that will put me back into The Work.  It will get me back to putting my thoughts  on paper again and examining them.
  2. I LOOK FORWARD TO seeing my dad suffer again.  I look forward to having that belief again, so that I will go back to doing The Work and gaining freedom from my troubling thoughts.

byron8

keep-calm-and-keto-on-75

How I overcame disordered eating by eliminating carbs and increasing fat (my experiement with the Ketogenic Diet)

I’ve written many times about my battles with disordered eating (see here and here) and my sugar addiction (see here and here).  And though I truly believe that disordered eating is a problem of the mind and spirit, it appears that I have finally found some peace from mine through changing my diet.   (While, also doing a lot of work on my mind and spirit – meditation, writing, therapy, recovery, etc..)

As part of this whole disordered eating thing, I have played around with many different diets trying to find a release from my sugar obsession.  In November 2016, I decided to try an ultra low carb way of eating.  I began just by eliminating carbs – removing bread, pasta, crackers, etc., and even drastically cutting my fruit intake (I now only eat berries as they are low on the glycemic index).  After getting through a difficult first week of cravings (see this article on the “keto flu”), I found myself not interested in sugary treats. and could even skip meals without hunger.  I then decided to take it even further and limit my carbohydrates to under 20 grams per day and increase my fat intake, while leaving my protein about the same.  This plan of eating under 20 grams of carbs (and increased fat intake) is also known as the Ketogenic Diet.  Between November and the new year, I lost 15 pounds this way.  Although I have not lost any more weight since then, I have gained freedom from my constant hunger and sugar obsession. In fact, I made it through the holiday season without being tempted by one cookie, candy, or other sugar laden treat.  Just typing that right now, I am totally overwhelmed by what a miracle that is.

I first became aware of the Ketogenic Diet (also known as “LCHF – low carb high fat) while I was revamping my diet by eating Paleo. I started this journey by eliminating processed foods and by increasing my time in the kitchen preparing my own food.  And while this helped me feel healthier, I continued to struggle with my sugar addiction and compulsive eating.  I found myself overeating fruit and other sugary “all natural” treats.  I would have episodes of chocolate bingeing, followed by remorse and regret.  It seemed that any time I would eat anything that was even remotely sweet, I would be triggered to eat more and more.  And while my weight stayed steady, I was unhappy when I would binge.  Bingeing made me feel out of control and depressed, and I wanted relief.  I had dabbled with the Ketogenic Diet in years prior, but was never consistent with it.  Tired of the constant cycle of binge and remorse, I finally decided to make a committment to it.  There is a lot of scientific research and explanations for why and how the Keto diet works, and if you are interested in it, I suggest you check out my links below.  I am not suggesting that this way of eating is for everyone.  In fact, I’m still not entirely sure it is for me.  I am thrilled that it has helped me overcome my sugar obsession, but I will continue to monitor other health markers to make sure this is a healthy way of eating for me.

If you are interested in the Ketogenic diet, I suggest you check out the links below and do the research yourself.  As I said above, it might not be for everyone, but if you suffer from sugar addiction as I do, you might find some relief as well through eating low carb / high fat.  The appetite control that comes with the Keto diet is accomplished by eating a high fat content diet.  If you have cholesterol or other health issues where eating a lot of fat might be a problem, please check with your doctor before experimenting with this.

So, what do I eat?  Well, as I said above, I eat under 20 grams of carbohydrates per day.  In place of carbs, I eat more healthy fats and a moderate amount of protein.  It is recommended when going Keto, to use a macro calculator to calculate your macros to get the exact amounts of carbs/protein/fats to eat per day.  Here is one that a lot of people use:   Ruled Me Keto Calculator.  I track my food through My Fitness Pal and just pay attention to my carb count.  For simplicity sake, I eat a lot of the same things per day.  I start my day off with a very high fat coffee, also known as Bulletproof Coffee.  If I don’t have time or feel like a  Bulletproof Coffee, I drink coffee with heavy whipping cream (high fat/low carb).

bulletproof

That coffee keeps me satiated until about 2 or 3 PM, sometimes even longer.  Besides the coffee, I eat only one meal per day, and that meal varies, but always includes a fatty meat and some kind of leafy vegetable (spinach, broccoli, etc.).  I occasionally snack on cheese, bacon, olives, salami, or pepperoni, but find myself so satisfied because of the amount of fat  I eat, that I don’t look for snacks often.  I have moved into a realm where I no longer think about food much at all.  That is absolutely amazing to me.  And even if I don’t lose another pound, I will continue to eat this way as it has provided me with something I never thought I would have:  freedom from my constant obsession with food and my destructive bingeing.

As I suggested, if you are interested in trying the Keto diet, please do the research yourself and if you have health issues, talk to your doctor first.  Here are some of my favorite Keto resources and recipes:

Podcast:  2 Keto Dudes

Websites:

The Ketovangelist

2 Keto Dudes

Healthful Pursuit

Ruled Me

Recipes:

Keto (Fathead) Pizza!

Frittata (mine)

Bulletproof Coffee

Keto Peanut Butter FUDGE!

Keep calm and KETO on, my friends! 

xo,

C.

Pain is the path

I’ve written before about being the caretaker for my father who suffers from Parkinson’s Disease, and, now Lewy Body Dementia.  See What I’ve Learned Being The Caretaker For My Dad With Parkinson’s.  I am now pleased to report that walking with my dad along this path has broken me wide open, in the best way possible.

Last year when my father got really sick, I was on the verge of a nervous breakdown every other day.  My heart was broken, but I couldn’t touch that feeling.  I was so spun out in worry and control and “doing,” that I couldn’t simply be present with the heartbreak and fear.  I am blessed to have amazing support always – friends who walk beside me daily, and a relationship with a Higher Power, that I rely on constantly.  But even with that “community,” I couldn’t feel what was happening, and, instead, just DID things.  I was a human doing, and not a human being.  I got things done, made sure he had the proper care, and that he was safe.  I DID all those things, but I was checked out emotionally for the majority of it.

Today, it is not that way.  Today I am emotionally plugged in with the pain.  My father’s illness has taken another nose dive, and things have gotten scary for us again.  But there is a different me who is BEING with my dad these days — a present me.  I am feeling the heart break and the sadness and the fear today.  I am sitting with those feelings.  I am STAYING right here.  I have cried with him, held his hand, listened to his fears and concerns, without doing a million different things.  I whisper to myself when I am most afriad, “just stay. stay right here, Cyndi.  Just stay.”  And I do.  I stay.  I stay with heart break.  I stay with fear.  I stay with sadness.  I stay with it all.

So, then the question becomes: what changed?  How did I go from a human DOING yesterday to a human BEING today?  

Meditation.  

Today, I meditate. About a month or so ago, during yet another transition in my life, I decided to commit to the practice of meditation.  I made a daily 5-minute meditation commitment.  I enlisted a “meditation buddy” to send me morning reminders, and I forced myself to sit and stay for 5 minutes.  When my dad’s illness took another nose dive, I was already 2 weeks in to my daily meditation practice, which had increased to 10 minutes per day.  The difference is noticeable.  

I have learned through this meditation practice to sit and stay with whatever comes, inluding fear and sadness.  I have sat and watched my thoughts pass by like clouds or balloons floating in the sky.  I have watched them come and go without my being attached to them.  I’ve allowed them to just be.  I haven’t tried to change the thoughts, and I haven’t tried to stop the thoughts.  I just sit and watch them go by.  I stay present for whatever they are.  I just stay.  And in staying, I have begun to see that whatever comes up for me is what it is.  Whatever it is, that is my path.  Whatever is right in front of me at any given moment is what is in front of me.  I don’t have to change anything.  I don’t have to force things to go my way.  I don’t have to work and push and struggle.  I can just let these things be as they are.  Including my dad’s illness.
Through the practice of meditation and staying, I am walking through life a bit lighter.  I do not struggle.  I’m not perfect, of course.  And when I find myself struggling, I find a way to take 5 or ten minutes to sit and count my breath, to feel myself sitting, feel the weight of my body on the earth, and stay.

I am far from being a meditation guru, or yogi; I am a beginner.  But, as a result of all the sitting and staying, I have come to see that walking through my dad’s illness IS my path.  It is not something to struggle against or change.  I couldn’t if I wanted to, anyway.  It is the path I’m walking today. It is my path to peace and acceptance.  It is my path to get closer to the truth.  It is my path to get closer to my Higher Power.  It is my path to love.  Yes, this journey is still scary.  And, yes, it is still hard.  My heart is still broken.  But the miracle for me is that I’ve learned I can stay with the hard, the scary, the heart breaking.  Perhaps tomorrow I will resist and struggle and completely check out.  But today, I’m staying. 

 

 

xo,

C. 

 

img_7411

A “call” from the Universe

While at work at my “day job” today, I had a brief, random encounter that left a large impression on me.  

I had stopped to sign out at the security desk from a location I frequent occasionally for work, when the “security officer/ receptionist” on duty, a woman I’ve only spoken to once or twice in the past 5 years or so (and even then only to exchange pleasantries), stopped me and asked if she could talk to me for a minute.  I said sure and braced myself for her to ask me a complex work related question, but instead she asked me, with eyes filled with curiosity and love, “what is your passion?”

Confused, I asked her to elaborate.  “What would you do for a living if money were no object?  What do you love to do,” she asked.  I paused, apparently for too long, because she said (sounding quite worried), “you don’t know?!?”   

I replied that I did know.  I would write. I love writing. I told her that writing is the one thing that I can lose myself in. That it’s an activity where I can lose track of time in complete enjoyment.   She smiled and then asked why I don’t focus entirely on writing if I love it so much.  I paused and smiled and explained the situation with my student loans and need for secure income.  She nodded in understanding. 

When I asked her why she randomly stopped me to ask this, she told me that she had been thinking about this issue of pursuing ones passion a lot lately. She had done theater for years and loved singing and acting.  When she said this, I could totally see it. Despite her security uniform, I could see her on stage, singing and dancing and acting. I noticed that she had eyes that sparkled and were full of mischief. That she had a voice that seemed straight out of a fairy tale – soft yet high pitched, like a fairy from a magical land.  I had briefly interacted with this woman in the past, but never noticed these beautiful qualities that I saw today when she shared her passion with me.

I told her that I could see her acting and singing on stage and hoped that she would again soon.  The phone at her front desk rang and she had to take the call. I waved goodbye and walked away.  As I was almost to the front door, she held the phone away from her face for a minute and yelled out “I hope you start writing again.  Even if it’s just in a journal.”  I waved and called out that I would.  

And so, here I am, just a few hours after that encounter, sitting at a counter of a favorite cafe writing a blog post, after devouring a spring salad that (strangely?) never tasted better.  

I hear you, Universe.  

Xo,

C.

suffering

WHEN WE WANT ONE THING, BUT DO ANOTHER

“All of our suffering in life is from saying we want one thing, and doing another.” – Debbie Ford

I, like many, tend to learn things the hard way.

Recently, my therapist called me out on the fact that I said I wanted one thing and yet I behaved in the total opposite way.   I did not like hearing that and basically stormed out of her office.  However, a few days later, I came across the Debbie Ford quote (above), and could not deny the truth of my therapist’s statement.

Continue Reading

music

MUSIC AS THERAPY

I have always been borderline obsessed with music, as a listener, not a musician (sadly).   One of my earliest happy memories is of me sitting on a swing singing my favorite songs over and over again.  I love getting lost in a song.  I love seeing bands play live.  Music  is a big part of my life.  Putting my headphones on and listening to a favorite song takes me away from all my cares and worries – at least for 3-4 minutes.

Lately, with all this stress going on due to my father’s health decline, music has become a favorite form of therapy for me.  Whenever I get the opportunity – in the car, out for a run, or just a moment to sneak away alone – I frequently turn to my Spotify list.  I am the type of music listener that gets totally obsessed with particular songs – when I’m obsessed with a song, I can play it over and over again and be totally transported to another place.  Usually my song obsessions last for a couple of months, max, and then a new song will enter my world and it will become my new obsession.

These are the songs I am currently obsessed with.  I thought I’d share them with you.  Some are sappy love songs, some are rocking numbers infused with hooks and great melodies.  The only requirement for a song to get into my “obsessive listening que” is that it have a hook — that moment in the song that grabs something deep inside of you and won’t let go.  Good stuff. 

Continue Reading

run

WHY I RUN

I have written plenty before about my struggles with weight, exercise, dieting, and running (see posts here and here and here).  This is not one of those posts.  Although it is about running, it has little or nothing to do with running for the sake of “exercise” or “running to lose weight.”  Instead, this is the REAL reason why I run (and why I need to run more).

I run for my mental health.

I run for meditation.

I run for peace of mind. 

Continue Reading

No more posts.