The Spinal Straw – Losing It and Finding Myself

This post is a REBLOG of one from a friend of mine Micaela Bensko.  It’s Micaela’s beautiful and heart-wrenching depiction of the final straw she reached after facing and dealing with unrelenting pain, suffering and limitations over a long period of time. But it’s more than that. It hits the nerve of helplessness those with loved ones in pain have felt with fear and tears.   What makes this story unique? What makes Micaela’s story so different from any number of countless thousands who suffer and have gone this path before us?  Well, perhaps it’s the fact that Micaela is young and balls out gorgeous.  Perhaps it’s the life she has led, which many have deemed as charmed… with a husband who’s known in the entertainment industry, and a jet-setter-style life to be envied… perhaps we can’t seem to fathom this kind of pain striking someone down as such.  Perhaps it’s simply because she is such a light and witty and beautiful all at once.  I’m not sure.  But Micaela’s spirit is beautiful and more hopeful than she probably knows, and I wanted to share this with you.  I hope it blesses you as much as it did me.
Lisa Jey Davis
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THE SPINAL STRAW / LOSING IT AND FINDING MYSELF

WEDNESDAY, MAY 1, 2013 AT 8:10PM

Recently,  I had what might be considered an emotionally challenged episode. I guarantee if I had access to a razor, I would have shaved my legs. There’s nothing funny about losing your mind. Which is why I have to find humor in it, so I can keep it.  It started with an MRI gone awry at the tail end of a year of spine surgeries with four children and  a husband on-location. Just not on my location. It was the spinal straw.

I laid on the MRI table as the tech prepped me for my last-ditch effort to diagnose the origin of my left sciatic nerve debacle. An issue that worsened after my most recent artificial disc replacement in my L5-S1. I can not bear weight on my left leg without calling for Jesus. So far he hasn’t picked up.

My left foot lilted inward to my right, like a boy left hanging for a kiss. My right foot sat straight up – disinterested. She was not that kind of foot.

The technician noticed the muscle atrophy in my left foot and asked if I would mind if she taped it to my right one to hold my legs in the proper position for them to obtain a clear view of the nerve from my lumbar down to my foot. It’s a long nerve. The procedure would take an hour. I was to stay completely still. With my legs straight.

The tape screeched and snapped around my feet. A sound usually reserved for wrapping presents. My left foot was happy.  He got the girl.

Then it was time to position my hands. The tech said I could do one of two things. Hold them above and behind my head, or fold them over my chest.  I opted to place them over my chest. I figured I’d practice for my coffin. Cuz this year was killing me. Then my right hand began to slip, my elbow hit the cold metal of the table beyond the cushion. My right hand has similar issues as my left foot. She’s tired. If she were a prostitute, she’d get paid just to lay there. My pinky and ring finger used to at least tingle with aggravated numbness. But now they’re over it. Done performing, they have retired into my palm when at rest.  They come out when I make them, but I’m tired too.

I asked the tech if she could tape my hands like she did my feet, accepted the sleeping mask, put in the ear plugs in, held the panic button, and took a breath. Breathing was allowed.

I then asked for a pillow to place under my left knee. This was usually a non-negotiable item for me. In order for my lower spine to be at all comfortable, I need a pillow or leg-riser when laying on my back. She couldn’t give me one. It would have been easier to get a Margherita than a pillow. The leg needed to be straight. And flat.

The tech left the room and entered her cockpit.  Her voice came over the speaker. It was time to go deep. My spine and legs were straight as a board. I was  ready. The slab moved my body into the one-hour time capsule.

I was at least grateful for the eye mask. If you are at all claustrophobic, MRI’s will send you to the moon. The first time I had an MRI, it was for my neck. They placed me in a Hannibal Lector-type mask. When I entered the tube, I made the great mistake of opening my eyes.  For the first time in my life, I understood the power that the mind has over emotions. I realized why they called  it the ‘panic button’.  In a matter of seconds, my eyes saw the blurred edges of the grate over my face morph with the roof of the MRI just inches above the grate. My breath was magnified, As far as my senses were concerned, I was being buried alive. My heart raced, palms sweat, mouth dried, and fear surged through my body. All logic was gone. I squeezed the pain button.  The tech extracted me from the coffin and said, “Oh yes, I forgot to mention, it’s probably a good idea if you don’t look up.” I was hyperventilating. I just experienced my first anxiety attack triggered by an episode of Claustrophobia.  Fortunately, the tech was patient with me. I was not her first freak-out. (Although I did pass her on the way out smoking a cigaret.) She gave me a facecloth and folded it over my eyes. I re-entered the tube. I thought soothing  thoughts. Like MRI techs dressed in Lady Gaga’s meat dress, hanging over a lion’s den.  Like the ones from Siegfried and Roy. That ate either Siegfried or Roy. I could never keep them straight, perhaps because they’re gay.

I now had a coping tool for the MRI. It might be called an “open” MRI, but it doesn’t matter to a claustrophobe if you can’t see the open part at the crown  of your head. I learned to dress so I never had to change into the assless-chaps, I mean medical gown. As long as you do not wear metal, you’re good to go. Nothing with zippers, snaps or hooks. Remove necklaces and bracelets. Rings and earrings are usually ok, unless your hand is near your pelvis at which time you should probably wear the assless chaps.

So, considering my vast experience this past year with multiple MRI’s, I assumed this last MRI would be a walk in the park. Until I choked.

My arms were taped over my heart. My feet were in bondage. My legs were perfectly straight. About twenty minutes into the scan, the pain began to light up my lower spine. It felt like a knife, twisting into bone right where the inflammation of my sciatic nerve begins.

There are few words to explain this type of back pain. Which is why God created the F-word. My eyes welled with tears. One by one they trickled down my cheeks, whetting my eye mask until river inlets followed the frame of my hairline into my ear plugs.

If I pressed the panic button, it would mean a longer time in the tube. There was no way out of this one. To calm myself, I imagined a white light traveling through my body protecting me from the invisible knife-wielding pain holding court at my L5-S1. After the hour, I was spent. My mascara coiled beneath my Forever Shimmer highlight blush. I don’t know why I continue to put makeup on prior to medical tests or procedures. Maybe it’s my war paint.

I gathered what composure I had left and entered the hallway to the waiting room.  My head fell onto the shoulder of my mom’s  neatly ironed white jacket. It had been almost a year since my journey of spine surgeries, procedures, injections, diagnosis, torture began. My mother held me. My whimper gradually evolving into a guttural moan. Waves of feelings ached into a silent cry; the kind of cry when your heart hurts so much that God decided its tears should never be heard. I slumped deeper into my mother’s chest, crumbling, a remnant of what I used to be. The year had finally caught up with me.  The months of recovery from multiple surgeries only to find out there is more to be done. I finally had a taste of what some of the  wounded I work with have gone through. This was my own kind of war. I just didn’t wear camo, go to the Middle East, get shot at, fly helicopters,step on an IED, miss the birth of my first child ~ that would be especially odd ~come to think of it, I know little about the pain  our wounded go through. But I do know pain. And I see how people might stare at that ‘something’ about us that makes their subconscious mind chime in with “Not normal…” I see the doors with the handicapped sign that I cannot open. I enter a public bathroom when the handicapped stall is taken by a child who just didn’t know. I notice that well-meaning people will stand when we talk at a party, instead of sitting at my level, leaving my neck strained.

The inability to sit on a park bench, get my kids from school, walk with my husband, love him like I was healed. The fact my car needs a lift for my scooter, there are two wheelchairs in our garage, I have a handicapped placard, our bedroom has a fridge and coffee maker and a leg wedge, a cane and crutches. I am forty-three.

I thought about the MRI. How I held my hands across my heart. How it felt like a coffin. How I felt a part of me die that day. So many times I had listened to one of our troops explain how they felt like a part of them was missing after their incident. I realized I was listening, but I wasn’t understanding. They spoke of having to find their ‘new normal’. Now I had to find mine. But how.

A nurse brought me a wheelchair and helped us to the car.

I buckled my belt and the feelings built. The heaves of tears and then without warning or any control on my part, a guttural scream erupted from the depths of my soul. The scream of a mother who just lost her child. I had lost myself. It hit me all at once that my world as I knew it was over. The crying increased. My mother’s tears fell into mine as she held onto my arm.  We were almost home. My body writhed.  Waves, oceans thrust thru my chest, a vice churning a year of fossilized pain and denial into a kaleidoscope of agony.

Mom pulled into my driveway. I could not move. My arms and legs were lead. Every ounce of energy was going up into breaking down. It hit me that I was having a breakdown.

Mom stood outside my passenger door. Helplessly. She kneeled on the cement. Her hand on my knee. Her fingers wiping my tears as they fell. For the first time in our life, we didn’t care what the neighbors might think. I had earned this right to break all social rules. I could not look in her eyes for fear that I would see her pain and hear her wondering: If she could just get me to bed. If she could just rub my back. If she could just make it all go away. But this was too big for her to handle alone. It was a helplessness only God could touch.

Mom guided me into the house and to the stairs. My daily Everest. My tears fell on each step.  My dog  by my side, my shadow, refusing to take the lead. I crawled onto my bed. The sheets were cool and familiar. I could put pillows between my leg or a wedge underneath.  My daughter’s stuffed animal from the night before stared at me. I wanted my children. I wanted my husband home. I wanted I wanted I wanted. I curled sideways into the center of the bed, pulling the sheets and bedspread around me as I curled into a fetal position. My fingers anchored into the pillows, sealing them around my face. I was morning my own death.

I felt sad, angry, guilty that my condition had affected the lives of my family and everyone around me.

I pulled tissue after tissue. My mother held her phone close to her ear, she was using a lifeline. She called my doctor who wasn’t there.

It wouldn’t stop. I could not control my tears. Over and over I said ” I feel like I’ve died.” And I did. I felt exactly like I had died. I now knew what that feeling was.  And it scared me. It was as though God allowed me to venture to the edge of sanity because he knew I would return.

The waves became smoother. My mind slowed.  I passed out for almost five hours.

My breakdown that day taught me how emotions can take over due to pressure whether it’s physical or psychological. I had both. Breaking down was the best things I have ever done, because it is the most human I have ever felt. It was the lowest I have ever been, and one of the most spiritual experiences of my life. Without it, I would never know how much the heart can take before it needs to release. How important it is to realize that being different than you once were can possibly be the greatest blessing of your life.
I hope to connect with our wounded more deeply than before. I will see people in chronic pain and wish I could take it away. I understand how powerful the mind can be, and imagine what it could do if I used it as a tool in my healing. My shadow, Reggie, is now registered with the US Service Dog Registry as a Therapy Dog. He can now bring as much joy to others as he brings to me. Even on an airplane.

Ironically, the following day was my Cognitive Behavioral Assessment with my insurance company’s psychiatrist to assure I was of sound mind so they could approve the implantation of the Electro Spinal Cord Stimulator Implant. I passed with flying colors. Timing is everything.

I don’t know what my new normal will be; If it will include a cane, a chair, a shoulder filled with tears. But I do know that whatever it is, it will be mine to shape and know that whatever it looks like, it will be beautiful, because it is above all else touched by the hand of God, as real as life could possibly be. And for that, I am forever grateful.


Micaela Bensko is a photographer and blogger whose work has been seen in national publications such as Conde Naste as well as on Martha Stuart Living. She has been featured as a leader in her field by Professional Photographer Magazine. Bensko is VP of Rebuilding America’s Warriors, providing free reconstructive surgery to our troops returning from war. She and her family currently live between Los Angeles and Nashville as her husband is Production Supervisor on the show “Nashville” on ABC. She also has a very short dog named Reggie.

 

 

 

Otherwise

I love my family. Those who rub me the wrong way, those who don’t “get it”, and even those who embarrass me. They’re my blood, and I’m lucky to have them. Think about that — and enjoy this post!

Old Things R New

My Take

DiVoran Lite

 

Our son and daughter-in-law are empty nesters, so we all make an effort to get together with the grandchildren several times a year. Since our granddaughter and her young man are theater majors, a show is our favorite place to go. We have supper before or after of course.

Yesterday we parked four cars in the lot at the Bob Carr Auditorium in Orlando because we were heading out in different directions afterwards. We walked the mile to Church Street for supper in a bitterly cold wind. We knew it was going to be cold, but none of us believed it could ever be that cold. That’s the way we are in Florida, cold takes us by surprise. No one was truly dressed for it.

After supper at the restaurant, we decided to take the free bus back to the theater so we walked to…

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How many of us will read or watch something like this, and be inspired to ACT? That is my desire, that things I share and post inspire you and others to ACTION. Enjoy this post.

Our Great Escapes

I discovered TEDxTeen last year and posted several of the talks from it on this blog, not only because the young people who gave those talks had done extraordinary things, but because by seeing them, they might inspire someone else watching to do extraordinary things themselves. I eagerly awaited this year’s edition of TEDxTeen so that I could see more outstanding young people and the ideas they had, and share them with you.

The Audacity of whY was this year’s theme. Too many things in life we take for granted and it takes a child’s curiosity and innocence to ask: why? Not only questions like, “Why is the sky blue?” but also things like, “Why do some people not have enough to eat?” or “Why do people get sick?” As adults, we often stop asking asking these types of questions, but it is those very questions which can lead to…

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22 Things Happy People Do Differently (Reblog)

This post was reblogged from http://positiveway.me/2012/10/31/22-things-happy-people-do-differently/ 

By Chiara Fucarino

There are two types of people in the world: those who choose to be happy, and those who choose to be unhappy. Contrary to popular belief, happiness doesn’t come from fame, fortune, other people, or material possessions. Rather, it comes from within. The richest person in the world could be miserable while a homeless person could be right outside, walking around with a spring in every step. Happy people are happy because they make themselves happy. They maintain a positive outlook on life and remain at peace with themselves.

The question is: how do they do that?

It’s quite simple. Happy people have good habits that enhance their lives. They do things differently. Ask any happy person, and they will tell you that they …

1. Don’t hold grudges.

Happy people understand that it’s better to forgive and forget than to let their negative feelings crowd out their positive feelings. Holding a grudge has a lot of detrimental effects on your wellbeing, including increased depression, anxiety, and stress. Why let anyone who has wronged you have power over you? If you let go of all your grudges, you’ll gain a clear conscience and enough energy to enjoy the good things in life.

2. Treat everyone with kindness.

Did you know that it has been scientifically proven that being kind makes you happier? Every time you perform a selfless act, your brain produces serotonin, a hormone that eases tension and lifts your spirits. Not only that, but treating people with love, dignity, and respect also allows you to build stronger relationships.

3. See problems as challenges.

The word “problem” is never part of a happy person’s vocabulary. A problem is viewed as a drawback, a struggle, or an unstable situation while a challenge is viewed as something positive like an opportunity, a task, or a dare. Whenever you face an obstacle, try looking at it as a challenge.

4. Express gratitude for what they already have.

There’s a popular saying that goes something like this: “The happiest people don’t have the best of everything; they just make the best of everything they have.” You will have a deeper sense of contentment if you count your blessings instead of yearning for what you don’t have.

5. Dream big.

People who get into the habit of dreaming big are more likely to accomplish their goals than those who don’t. If you dare to dream big, your mind will put itself in a focused and positive state.

6. Don’t sweat the small stuff.

Happy people ask themselves, “Will this problem matter a year from now?” They understand that life’s too short to get worked up over trivial situations. Letting things roll off your back will definitely put you at ease to enjoy the more important things in life.

7. Speak well of others.

Being nice feels better than being mean. As fun as gossiping is, it usually leaves you feeling guilty and resentful. Saying nice things about other people encourages you to think positive, non-judgmental thoughts.

8. Never make excuses.

Benjamin Franklin once said, “He that is good for making excuses is seldom good for anything else.” Happy people don’t make excuses or blame others for their own failures in life. Instead, they own up to their mistakes and, by doing so, they proactively try to change for the better.

9. Get absorbed into the present.

Happy people don’t dwell on the past or worry about the future. They savor the present. They let themselves get immersed in whatever they’re doing at the moment. Stop and smell the roses.

10. Wake up at the same time every morning.

Have you noticed that a lot of successful people tend to be early risers? Waking up at the same time every morning stabilizes your circadian rhythm, increases productivity, and puts you in a calm and centered state.

11. Avoid social comparison.

Everyone works at his own pace, so why compare yourself to others? If you think you’re better than someone else, you gain an unhealthy sense of superiority. If you think someone else is better than you, you end up feeling bad about yourself. You’ll be happier if you focus on your own progress and praise others on theirs.

12. Choose friends wisely.

Misery loves company. That’s why it’s important to surround yourself with optimistic people who will encourage you to achieve your goals. The more positive energy you have around you, the better you will feel about yourself.

13. Never seek approval from others.

Happy people don’t care what others think of them. They follow their own hearts without letting naysayers discourage them. They understand that it’s impossible to please everyone. Listen to what people have to say, but never seek anyone’s approval but your own.

14. Take the time to listen.

Talk less; listen more. Listening keeps your mind open to others’ wisdoms and outlooks on the world. The more intensely you listen, the quieter your mind gets, and the more content you feel.

15. Nurture social relationships.

A lonely person is a miserable person. Happy people understand how important it is to have strong, healthy relationships. Always take the time to see and talk to your family, friends, or significant other.

16. Meditate.

Meditating silences your mind and helps you find inner peace. You don’t have to be a zen master to pull it off. Happy people know how to silence their minds anywhere and anytime they need to calm their nerves.

17. Eat well.

Junk food makes you sluggish, and it’s difficult to be happy when you’re in that kind of state. Everything you eat directly affects your body’s ability to produce hormones, which will dictate your moods, energy, and mental focus. Be sure to eat foods that will keep your mind and body in good shape.

18. Exercise.

Studies have shown that exercise raises happiness levels just as much as Zoloft does. Exercising also boosts your Self Improvement and gives you a higher sense of self-accomplishment.

19. Live minimally.

Happy people rarely keep clutter around the house because they know that extra belongings weigh them down and make them feel overwhelmed and stressed out. Some studies have concluded that Europeans are a lot happier than Americans are, which is interesting because they live in smaller homes, drive simpler cars, and own fewer items.

20. Tell the truth.

Lying stresses you out, corrodes your Self Improvement, and makes you unlikeable. The truth will set you free. Being honest improves your mental health and builds others’ trust in you. Always be truthful, and never apologize for it.

21. Establish personal control.

Happy people have the ability to choose their own destinies. They don’t let others tell them how they should live their lives. Being in complete control of one’s own life brings positive feelings and a great sense of self-worth.

22. Accept what cannot be changed.

Once you accept the fact that life is not fair, you’ll be more at peace with yourself. Instead of obsessing over how unfair life is, just focus on what you can control and change it for the better.

Let’s hope this works. I am blessed to be surrounded by a stellar group of authors, artists and musicians, and this author: Elise Stokes, brought us all together to network and support each other. Well, now, I’m reblogging one of our group member’s posts, because it features Elise’s upcoming book in her Cassidy Jones Adventure Series, titled “The Seventh Attendant” — can’t wait to watch as this too becomes a BEST SELLER. GO ELISE!

Cassidy Jones and the Seventh Attendant

Some things are better left buried…Cassidy Jones isn’t one of them. Please support @CassidyJonesAdv on @Indiegogo. http://bit.ly/14Mh51H

PROLOGUE

Slouching against the concrete wall, Arthur King Junior tore another page from the Bible that had been slipped through the steel door’s tray slot that morning. It was a gift from a well-meaning prison guard who hoped the message inside would reform Arthur.

“Fat chance of that!” Arthur said loudly to no one in particular, since he was alone in the prison cell, which was a quarter of the size of his bedroom suite’s walk-in closet at his Seattle home. In fact, the dingy mattress on which his backside was now parked filled half of the concrete floor.

“Okay, fellas,” he addressed the prison guards who might be listening on the other side of the door. Or maybe they weren’t—Arthur really didn’t care. “Enough with the hot box already,” he blathered…

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GIving my people props. It’s what I do. Love this interview of my friend Elise Stokes, author of the Cassidy Jones Adventure Series! Please share and post comments!

Indie Author Land

Cassidy Jones Elise Stokes

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Tell us about the Cassidy Jones adventure novels.
Cassidy Jones is an ordinary girl who finds herself in an extraordinary situation. She wakes up the morning after a minor accident in the laboratory of a world-renowned geneticist, Professor Serena Phillips, to discover that her senses, strength, and speed have been radically enhanced. Each book presents a new adventure and ongoing storylines that involve the mysterious Phillips family and school drama.

What genre are they?
Young Adult, Middle Grade, Superhero Fiction, Action-Adventure, Mystery…It’s hard to confine Cassidy Jones to one genre. Content is appropriate for young readers, but the series has proven to have great crossover appeal.

How have you managed to write books for kids that adults really love? What’s the secret?
Oh, that’s very nice. Thank you. I’m not really sure. I have a wild imagination, so there’s no end to the bizarre situations Cassidy finds herself in…

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