Saturday, November 4, 2017

Seven Weeks of Intentional Christmas Spirit. Christmas is Hygge to Me. Magic and Hardship Together. Snow!

* Our Christmas Cactus blooming.

"Oh the weather outside is frightful, but the fire is so delightful. And Since we've no place to go, Let it Snow, Let it Snow, Let it Snow! It doesn't show signs of stopping, so I brought some corn for popping, the lights are turned way down low. Let it Snow, let it Snow, Let it Snow..."- Sammy Cahn

After Halloween hits in Canada, there are no major Holidays in the way of our Christmas crazy family from getting into our favourite festive season. It helps when our weather usually brings snow at the beginning of November. We are currently sitting at a foot and the snow is still falling. I have to admit, I was dreading the snow this year. After experiencing last year's winter of dry roads and brown grass until December 22, I realized the ease and convenience of life is improved drastically without snow...but I am a true Lorelei Gilmore and cannot help but feel the magic of the first smell of snow, even if it does hamper outings and such.

My favourite time of day is twilight when the snow is gently lit by the darkening sky. The world is quieted by the blanket. The air feels lighter and heavier at once. Soft crunch sounds are muffled through the windows. Street lights are dimmed from the piles of white fluff which enhances the glow from inside.

"I would be happy just to hold the hands I love, on this Winter's Night with you...the lamp is burning low upon my table top, snow is softly falling, the air is still in the silence of my room, I hear your voice softly calling. If I could only have you near, to breathe a sigh or two, I would be happy just to hold the hands I love. On this Winter's night with you."- Sarah McLachlan

I fall in love with every season. Each one brings a beauty and freshness to life I welcome. We have four distinct seasons where we live, but because of our place in Canada, our weather patterns can drastically change even within these seasons. While this can be an inconvenience and sometimes my chronically ill body curses the wind and weather, my soul secretly loves the unpredictability. It keeps me on my toes. It keeps me fresh. It encourages me to make knew goals. ( I know...I'm a complete 'J' type!) And I feel inspired.

Winter brings me back to my soul. Our home always feels the most like "itself " when it's decorated for the Holidays. Which is why one can usually drive by and see the flicker of two trees up by November first...and sometimes if the snow comes early and we are needing warmth...October... Which is crazy even to the well seasoned inhabitants of our vast land. Well, most of them anyway, except for the few holiday fanatics. But for us? Besides the fact that we are used to being the deviants, and never fully in the acceptable standards of majority public opinion, it's more about our souls. We have so many beautiful Christmas ornaments, trees, and Holiday decor that I like to have it up for at LEAST three, if not four or five months of the year. It depends on how white it is outside and dark and for how long. I need warmth, light and sparkles! My Autumn decor is up for three months, and I enjoy my Christmas collection even more- so why not? Truthfully, one can witness all seasons in my decor all year long, but the main theme changes depending on the upcoming Festivities.

 "It's all red and gold and Nat King Cole and tinsel on the tree. It's all twinkle lights, and snowy nights, and the kids still believe...."- Kacey Musgraves

Last year was excruciating. My husband tried to end his life last year around this time. I could not speak about the details back then while dealing with them but now it is easier to speak of. We had Christmas in November (CLICK) to give ourselves a taste of hope (and it was a good decision but one we will not be doing this year- each season needs to have it's own rhythm.) Our marriage was crumbling to pieces due to many factors but especially my husband's Jekyll/Hyde persona and rage. Luckily, that has all been sorted out and I can not stress enough the importance of support, professional help with the RIGHT med instead of the triggering ones, therapy, diligence, kindness and time. But it is hard for me to not hate him when I get some of those memories back. I couldn't hate him then, even when he was raging, because I knew it wasn't himself and that there was grief and wrong med involved...but now in hindsight, it's a struggle not to hate those moments. So instead, I am trying to focus on what we are recovering.

"It's the ones you miss, no one to kiss, under the mistletoe. Another year gone by, just one more that I could not make it home. And I know that they say- have a Happy Holiday and some years I sincerely try. Oh but Christmas always makes me cry. It seems like everyone else is having fun. I wonder if I'm the only one? Whose broken heart has broken parts, just wrapped in pretty paper..."- Kacey Musgraves

Recovery takes time. I think often people like to hear it's all better within a certain time frame. They want us to be back to the selves we were before, even though sometimes those people are no more. That hope for what was, while not always reasonable, is understandable. However, some circumstances change us forever. Always with a bit of positive and a bit of negative depending on the perspective.

How did I go from Winter's magic to the realism of the nitty gritty? To me, it is always both. Within magic there is a price. Within a price there can be magic. And in the magic of almost two feet of snow, I feel the depth of emotion, isolation, contentment, hope, misery, pain and joy.

"Twinkling lights on Christmas trees, kids up on old Santa's knee...bells are ringing everywhere, season's spirits in the air..."- Alabama

"Chestnuts roasting on an open fire, jack frost nipping at your nose. Yuletide carols being sung by a choir, and folks dressed up like Eskimos. Everybody knows a turkey and mistletoe, helps to make the season bright..."- Nat King Cole

We've had dark Christmases before for varied reasons...finances, death, depression. During those times, the festivities could sometimes enhance the sadness of the season. Luckily there are multiple Christmas songs for those feelings too. Music expressed my misery and kept me afloat. Also the glitter and glimmer was a stark contrast from reality and DID make it worse at times but also helped me remember the duality of life. If you are going into that season, find some hope, help and support. HERE, HERE and HERE are helpful posts on recovering finances, changing expectations and goals, and creating Hygge...I recommend them going into this season if you are needing some life hacks.

This year we are going tentatively into another type of Recovery season. Instead of Judy Crooning "Have yourself a Merry Little Christmas" or Dolly singing "Hard Candy Christmas" over and over, more mellow, hopeful tunes are turning on the record player. For Stateside people who still have Thanksgiving to anticipate I could see how Christmas is not on the radar. If I had a holiday in between I would feel conflicted...Halloween gets in the way of my Holiday mode sometimes. Seven weeks till Christmas feels like a large amount of time for some, but for me, seven weeks of my decor, warm lights, gently falling snow, Hygge and Christmas tunes sounds delightful.
The fireplace is burning bright, shining along me. 
I see the presents underneath the good old Christmas tree. And I wait all night 'til Santa comes to wake me from my dreams. Oh, why? 'Cause that's Christmas to me. >I see the children play outside, like angels in the snow. While mom and daddy share a kiss under the mistletoe. And we'll cherish all these simple things wherever we may be
Oh, why? 'Cause that's Christmas to me. I've got this Christmas song in my heart. I've got the candles glowing in the dark. I'm hanging all the stockings by the Christmas tree. Oh, why? 'Cause that's Christmas to me. Oh, why? 'Cause that's Christmas to me. I listen for the thud of reindeer walking on the roof. As I fall asleep to lullabies, the morning's coming soon. The only gift I'll ever need is the joy of family. Oh, why? 'Cause that's Christmas to me. I've got this Christmas song in my heart. I've got the candles glowing in the dark. And then for years to come we'll always know one thing. That's the love that Christmas can bring. Oh, why? 'Cause that's Christmas to me..." - Pentatonix

The kids went out into the snow with their daddy last night to build snowmen. The darkness encompassed our environment around Dinnertime but was brightened by the white glow of snow. They wrestled, made snow angels and threw snowballs for an hour while I took pictures from inside. I sat on the couch beside the window with my steaming cinnamon - topped tea in hand, the glow of the tree was in one corner and the fireplace warmth in another. My record player was pumping out Nat King Cole and I could occasionally hear a muffled squeal from outside. It was one of those moments when all was right with the world. I wish each person in the world could have more of those moments (an Idealist much?:)...and maybe if we did, if we truly savoured them and celebrated the comforts of home and family, maybe the world wouldn't get so crazy? Maybe...

I love the snow that keeps falling because I have nowhere to go. We have chosen a life of low commitments. We have chosen to focus on the brief season of children in the home and centered in the home. It helps that we have a treadmill given to us for the moments we require indoor activity. We have all that we need, and I know this story would be different if we didn't...I have experienced glimmers of THAT (CLICK) life too and I understand. But this is my current NOW. I speak from experiences that are ME. This weekend we are not planning on venturing out at all, unless it's to play in the large tufts of snow. It would be a different story if we had to go out on the roads or out in the cold by force...but we don't. I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE this season of our story. Christmas to me is more than just a day. It's a spirit of winter. It's more than seven weeks of Hygge. It's about intention, family and hearth. 
Last week we had plus temperatures of 18 Celsius and five days ago we mowed our lawn a final time. I admit that our home looks cleaner and probably fresher pre Christmas decor (See above) but when the white flecks fall, I need stuff around me...I need the visual reminders of what the spirit is about for me...
I don't expect most to understand our version of Christmas, nor to even accept the timeline we have for our particular brand of beauty. But I do wish for those who want more out of life, to understand the spirit behind what we do. I wish that, even if it is not something that can be done in certain circumstances or places, that the merits of 'WHY?' bring home that feeling of Hygge. Hygge will be different for all, depending on taste, weather patterns, and placement. But the Spirit of it? That is Christmas to me.

"Where the love circles around us, like the gifts around the's the only Christmas for me...Come on weather man, give us a forecast snowy white."- Amy Grant

Sunday, October 22, 2017

The Difference Between A Blood level Ferritin of 2 to one of 9. Envy, Gratitude, Friendships and the Surprising Benefits of LOW energy.

*In this post I speak about Ferritin which is different from standard Anemia of low Hemoglobin. Do a quick google search if you are looking for more information on this key definition.*

The difference between a Ferritin of 2 and 9 feels like being on the cusp of death and finally being able to begin to LIVE. (I will get into the actual medical details for any fellow sufferers later.) The operative word is 'begin.' I'm still struggling with many issues YET for the first time in months I feel a dangerous hope. To help people who have never struggled with Anemia or low Ferritin understand, here is the difference between a few tiny numbers of the stored Iron (Ferritin which is different from Hemoglobin numbers) in the body's blood system and what it can mean on a personal, outward level;

*I have begun to read again. I wasn't able to tolerate more than a few books a year (I have always been a voracious reader and was often able to gobble down at least four books a week. At least.) I remember my Ferritin getting to a 5 before. That year I was also able to read a few more books. I can also now read out loud a full chapter to my children without being drained or gasping for breath! When I am their teacher this is an incredible feat, and I have had to find creative ways of teaching the last two years and relying on other people. But now I am slowly getting back into reading. I can't do it regularly yet but I am beginning again. I treasure this! (My daughter snapped the picture above because she walked in with her ipad and called it a "Pinterest moment" after she captured it. I am so grateful to her because I felt frumpy and yucky and didn't want her to take a photo of me make-up less but looking at it from her perspective it truly was a beautiful moment I can now have to look at - and I LOVE how our moment was captured through her lens.)

*I borrowed a Treadmill from my parents and I can actually sustain a mild pace of walking for a forty minute episode of Glee. This feels like a HUGE feat. Before I could only walk fifteen minutes and had to lie down for an hour to recover. Before I felt like one more step and I could die. Possibly. For real. It was a dramatic feeling. At a Ferritin of 9, the mild treadmill pace ( I only average 2.5- 3.7 miles per hour) still feels quite fast and it DOES take it out of me, but it's a start. I feel accomplished. Moving around also helps in other ways and I feel honoured that I am finally able to take these literal steps.

*I feel I have a little more time for friends. Not much- but I do think I am initiating slightly more or thinking of others with small gifts or notes when I am able. I thought my Introversion was simply reaching epic levels. I was slightly worried for myself- not much- but a little on what it means to have no desire for anyone- even if I love them. Turns out the Ferritin has A LOT to do with this. Apparently, the Specialist says that I can not judge what my healthy normal is until I reach SEVENTY. Will I still be a hermit? Who knows. It's been a decade of declining levels. I will always be attracted to Hermit status, however, my tolerance for even the people I love was/is so so low. At a two, breathing was enough output for the day. Having to use words beyond speaking to my kids was exhausting. Texting often hurt. I hung on to my small Instagram like a lifeline and posted on there, because I could hit a core group of people I cared about with intimate details, in one go...It was my support and desperately needed...which brings me to my next point...

*I quit Instagram three days ago. My Ferritin reaching a 9 enabled me to form new habits and have the oxygen in my brain to implement. I knew something was different so asked my family doctor to do early blood work. I found out last night that it had increased to a 9. Which in hindsight explains a lot. Last week I made quite a few changes and I know this is not coincidence. I felt I needed a break from social media to figure out my new life choices, to get into new habits and because I was starting to feel frustrated with it. I go with my gut on these feelings. I allow myself to be flaky on certain aspects of life because as an INFJ I will often take the responsible, strict route. I may go back to Instagram eventually, or start fresh, or maybe I never will again, but I needed to take a break. I cried actually. It was hard. I still go to press the App ALL THE TIME. I think about what I could share or who would appreciate certain glimpses of my life. But then again, I have also had more time to recover, to process, and to give to new habits.

*I am eating LESS. Yup you heard right. For the last few months I was eating more than I ever did before, which my best friend still says is piddly, but I was trying to get energy hits. Coming off of Mono (That with the low Ferritin was enough to make my year akin to the year and life of a Zombie) I ate more chips and quick carb choices I normally would not eat because I was desperate for any sort of energy hit. It never worked but gave me an illusion of control. I gained even more weight. Which CAN be an issue with Anemia and especially low ferritin due to energy levels but also the fact that the Mitochondria are not getting enough oxygen to burn fat. (Short version.) At a 9, I am noticing a slight change in my energy cravings. I have hope that if I ever pass 20 I will feel like Superwoman!

*I have a little less ADD symptoms. I have ADD anyway. I was diagnosed years ago. I don't think it's relevant and believe it's just a secondary part of Autism. Plus, I manage it well. I'm quite self controlled...but I was unable to focus on anything for more than a few minutes. I still am at Hummingbird status, but I can now sit through some of my shows and only multitask for half of them instead of for the full episode.

*My words are beginning to come back. I thought I was in the beginning of Dementia. I watched the flick "Still Alice" and could relate to everything but the random wetting. It scared me. Often the words I want in life don't come to me, due to my different wiring, but losing words has been on an entirely different level the last few years. I tell my children to wash their arms because I can not remember the word 'hands'...and I know they will get what I mean. They have adapted to my weird language. Even in writing, where I tend to thrive, I will have to sit and think of an alternative word to the one on the tips of my fingers. Or I will have to google, "That thing that happens when you can feel air coming into the nostrils." I feel a hiccup of "I KNOW this word" but it won't form. For anyone curious about the result, the word was 'breathing.' I don't even have the right description in these moments and am amazed google tends to give me what I need regardless. This still happens to me regularly but I have noticed a tiny decrease in my need for translations.

* Every day no longer feels like Ground- hog day. For a year it felt like each day bled into the same day all over again. Even if I KNEW my life was beautiful and good, I could not shake this feeling. My husband told me he felt like that up until two months ago due to mono and his Mono began this time last year. Mine was diagnosed in that sounds about right. Maybe this was a lack of Mono effects and not Ferritin improvement but it's worth a mention.

Brief Medical Background and Notes:

Since my youngest has been born (about a decade) my Ferritin has hovered around 3, often going down to 2, and sometimes going as high as 7...even with iron therapy. Awhile ago I saw an Internist whom was also a Hematologist. He was greatly alarmed at my "death like levels." His diagnosis of me was, "I think you have Fibromyalgia ( which isn't news as I was diagnosed with it twice in my early twenties) and if that lump in your neck you are ignoring- we will ignore too for now, because the most pressing issue for me is your Ferritin levels. I am surprised you have been functioning this long. I feel most of your symptoms come down to this. You should be on regular IV's and I will order the iron IV's after this appointment. If that doesn't work a blood transfusion. Most Doctors will say that Ferritin can range from as low as 12 to over a hundred. As a Hematologist who works with blood as my specialty I can tell you that we want you up to at least 70 and most people will not feel optimal until their Ferritin levels are well past this point. A goal for patients should be over fifty at the very very least. 12 is unacceptable. You are at a 2. I believe your issues of memory, lethargy, anger, gut and suffering of all general symptoms are increased by this low oxygen level inside of you." To which I replied, "That's validating and thank you. I have been told to do both the IV and blood transfusion before but am hesitant due to the side effects and my research- is there another alternative?" I don't think most doctors are fans of me...he finally consented to me going on a higher dosage of Ferramax (the type of expensive iron I tolerate best) for a trial of 2 months but if I did not show improvement I have to take the steps above without any choice.

I'm only 3.5 weeks in to my new regime and my Hemoglobin has raised from low into just the normal range and my Ferritin has gone from a 2 to a 9! NINE. I'm a little apprehensive to get excited about this because when I got to a seven before, despite valiant efforts it fell again to a 2. However, I am doing a few things differently this time. I am taking an absorption aid called BC-1 from my Naturopath under my tongue along with 'Medi C Vitamin C with L- Lysine formula." I admit the first two weeks I was "pregnancy sick."  I had a massive clawing in my gut, cramping and nausea all day long ( the worst being an hour after consumption.) I still deal with side effects but I am glad I stuck through the torture of adjustment. I still am not on the dosage that was recommended. I just can't tolerate it, but I am taking more iron on a schedule I can manage.

With my current levels I am no longer considered "Anemic"due to "normal" hemoglobin range yet because of my Ferritin levels, my Hematologist still considers me "in danger and serious." I no longer look at energetic people with envy. Because now I understand how they have energy. The difference from a 2 to 9 put this into perspective. It feels like when the Doctors put the oxygen nose tube on my face and that extra boost of relief in the very cells of my being. I know without a doubt, when people without chronic illness or health reasons, complain about being tired, it is not my level of tired. I can't imagine what a "normal tired day" will feel like, but I am looking forward to experiencing one. If my levels ever reach past seventy and my hair grows back and I can work out, I can guarantee I will feel like Wonder Woman. I finally see that there is a reason why I can't do what others do. Because if a jump of only 7 points has given me enough improvement to hope again, to walk, to wish to engage with those I love- imagine that multiplied by ten!!! I am no longer envious of normal people because they have a boost I don't. There is nothing I can do about that other than keep on the treatment I am and hope for the best.

About Struggles with Envy, Choices and Therapy;

My therapist and I had an excellent appointment the other day. Before I knew my Ferritin had gone up we were discussing my envy of energetic people who put whatever they wish to eat in their grocery cart and flit from one thing to the next. Or those women who have it all together and care about putting effort into their looks, plus do things for others, plus manage their families. I moaned, "I despise being envious. Normally I don't struggle with jealousy unless it involves my husband...I'm just not the type because I love my differences and my wonderland approach to life...but I KNOW it's a problem and I am angry at the luck of the draw in health that people who do not give much thought to life are healthy and happy. I don't wish to be that person. How can I stop being envious??!?" To which he replied with something akin to, "There are benefits and downsides to everything. You know, some parents end up sitting in the bleachers cheering on the game for their kids but do not have regular conversations on a deep level with their children. They think cheering them from afar in their chosen, individual activity is quality time. In a way it is. But it is not the same as what you do. It can not be compared. Because of your low energy level you have made integral choices for your children that have benefited them. You see your children 90 percent of their lives. You are always there to talk with them, you witness all their milestones and you teach them almost all they know. That is HUGE. That is also because of your low energy. Yes some years they learn less than other years due to your health, but do you think you would have chosen homeschooling if you hadn't run into energy issues to sustain all that formal school involved (the interactions with other parents/playdates/making lunches/pick up times/ drop offs/extracurriculars/homework...conformity- ha ha those were my words not my therapists) ? Your slower pace also keeps you from taking on too much and the stress levels involved with that. Many patients I have had over the years in their later ages who had high energy output with their families have different negative effects, varied diseases associated with stress, and regrets about their choices too. What you have to see is what you are capable of- and what benefits have come with that. Then the envy will melt away. You won't think of yourself as higher than these people either but instead see it as a range of choices and circumstances that can not be controlled ( like certain health conditions or different mind wiring) with downsides and upsides."

This resonated with me. When I found out last night that my Ferritin had improved enough to breathe easier, and it wasn't just an illusion, I realized the truth in this. Circumstances DO matter. Natural health plays a large role in choices. I can see now that "normal" levels of blood to me looked like Superhero women simply because it has been years since I have felt that. Actually, my Anemia started in grade six after menstruation and I have never had a Ferritin level of 70 that I can recall how it felt. Even if I do get a level of 70, I am STILL an INFJ and Autistic. Thus, I will never be a go getter in the social realm. Nor, will I make conventional choices. However, I will probably (hopefully) be able to follow through on choices that I WISH to make...a bit more time with people outside of my family, less crankiness due to depletion, more fun trips where I don't spend the time regretting the "fun" and faking it to make it, and more time to be active.

Thus far the benefits of having low Ferritin have involved:

*Knowing who my friends are. I know, by the responses, who actually fits into my life. If a person responded with, "Oh I have had Anemia and it's not that bad." Yet they had no idea what Ferritin levels were I knew that my case was being negated and it was time to move on to a better support system. Of course, I always give a chance for understanding, but if that wasn't acknowledged...

*With this, having friends who could accept my low energy output without pushing too much but still being available in my life. I know this is sort of unfair...but life is unfair and so is my condition. Thus I try to make it up to them in varied ways and I DEEPLY appreciate their willingness to see value in being in my life.

*Learning boundaries. I was forced into boundary learning in my mid twenties because of my Autistic brain, INFJ soul and my health. I think the health forced my hand more than any other difference. I will be forever grateful for the hard lessons involved but the massive life improvement on all other levels besides health.

*Making energy conservation choices. Even if/when I have "normal" energy/oxygen levels again, I think I will carry my values and lessons into not doing more, but sustaining quality in a few extras that life may give me.

*Compassion. I can not stress enough, how I have learned to sympathize with all chronic condition sufferers. For me there is hope that a large aspect of my health will get better even if I have two other chronic conditions. But having this low of energy helps me to understand others. I know it doesn't compare to terminal or massively deteriorating conditions, but it has given me a long lasting bitter taste of moments that feel similar on a lesser level. I can empathetically put myself in their place and know how a fragment of that life feels.

*Less Judgment. I know I have judged energetic people out of envy but I also know that I usually give people the benefit of the doubt. I have a personality type which my observations and life choices sound like judgment, but it's just me...and my best friend and husband will testify that I am one of the least judgmental people they know. I have a lot of grey areas which tend to bother people more than if I had extreme black and white. I am a natural perspective taker. Yet, this has been taken to EPIC levels due to my own circumstances. I now look behind the scenes even more. If my cells tell a story of exhaustion that can not be seen, what about everyone else? What about that energetic lady? Maybe she goes home to recover for hours just like I do? Often people think I am normal and smiling. I see my pictures. I look normal in them...happy, healthy, young ish, energetic...I take multiple selfies because this always baffles me. I want to see what the world sees and look at myself from that angle as well. So maybe, this applies to everyone on some level?

*No regrets. I had a family member say to me recently, "You will regret that decision. What about *insert anonymous child name here* and if you never see them again. You would never forgive yourself for the boundaries you set." This gave me no pause because I realized this person did not really know me on a deep level, if this is what they think. I may have short regrets and a few bigger ones but I do not wish for life to be any other way. I would not be the person I am today without those experiences. I am thankful for them. A lot of good came out of them too. I just can't work in black and white. They may be partial regrets but they are not encompassing feelings of depression. If it came down to never seeing that said child again, I would be upset and it WOULD be a loss. But I would be more worried about how it affected the child. I know I would adjust and be fine. I can love from afar easily...sometimes painfully and people can assume I have no love at all when I do. If I get a chance behind the scenes to make someones life better who is out of my life- I will take it. I would do all I could outside of that child's life to make it better, but if the chips fell that way, I wouldn't feel like I made the worst decision.

We all make decisions that have both good and bad. We also make them where we are at...without the information of the future. We must try to make the healthiest, best, most loving choices, but what that looks like for one person, may look like a horrid decision to someone else. I won't ever judge myself for making a decision in the past. It was what I did and what it was. Also, I believe in human frailty and the gifts of imperfection. I WILL make some choices that could have been better...we all do. However, we make what we do at the places we are at. There is grace for that. It seems ungraceful to the uneducated but actually think about the ripple effects involved with that sort of self acceptance and love. My ill health has caused me to have even less time to dwell on regrets or to wallow in the past. The past is gone for better or worse, and maybe in the future it will be redeemed in surprising ways? Right now is all I've got...

*Which brings me to my last point- Nothing brings home gratitude and making good life choices like the hovering of possible death or the threat of life declining fast. Every day I am reminded of what I have, what I have lost, and what I could gain. EVERY DAY. Every outing I am reminded of my mortality. Because being drained from low oxygen in every cell including the storage cells can feel like a slow drain of death. Like a balloon deflating. In each choice I make, I see quickly how it benefited my energy or drained it. Which makes me more careful about all the little choices. I have realized my children in organized sports ( they still experience the benefits of being active or part of a team in varied ways) is not a priority but time with them IS. I have realized what matters to me on small daily levels and what matters ultimately with my children. They may have a long healthy life or they could pass away in an untimely way- I want them and myself to know if that happened, that they owned every second and had valuable, connective, life choices. I feel deeply grateful for the days I CAN walk or go on a short outing without major recovery after. I feel grateful for the friends who understood on a deeper level and for the friends who may not have but supported me or spoke in my language despite this. For the space received and lack of judgment for needing it. For the many movies with friends because it is easier for me than speaking for hours. For deeper conversations when I am able and the ability to cancel when I am not. For small moments of connection and large times of witness. It ALL matters. What taught me some of my best life lessons were my "differences" and harder life moments. Chronic illness, being a minority in personality and a definite minority in brain wiring forced my hand in some ways and gentled it in others. I am beyond grateful even if I have had some tough, tough moments.

Life is still hard despite improving levels. I still have a lump in my thyroid I am currently ignoring, dental work that has been going on since August averaging three times a week ( that is getting to me but I am thankful for my team and have given them gratitude gifts because of their care), and other life circumstances that are not always easy. Yet with a few points in Ferritin, I feel like maybe there is hope to rise to these occasions with more fortitude. It makes a difference. It's amazing how one seemingly tiny factor in health can be the difference between healing and deterioration. I hope each person can find theirs, whether it is a vitamin deficiency or a tweak in diet, or some sort of blood discovery ect. Because getting help after ten years of suffering feels like a miracle. I don't know if it will last, but I am glad I kept fighting to be heard. I am relieved I wouldn't back down from my statements of "something is wrong here and it needs to be addressed." Keep fighting, keep Being,  or as Journey croons, "Don't stop believing.":)

*The song that best describes this journey is also mine and hubby's new song for the year. It describes us to a the point that I have a post that has been sitting in my drafts folder with all the lyrics and a tribute to him...if I ever get around to it. "It's kinda Complicated" by Scott Helman. My fav lyrics are, "There's a dictionary page dedicated to us. It says some days we're gonna shine, and some days we'll rust. But they left out the meaning, didn't give it a name. 'Cause they couldn't find a word for our kind of insane... And I overheard them saying that we got a disease. But I only got you, and you only got me. There's a moment when I'm smiling, and I'm shiny, and gold. Or a bad, bad feeling creeping in my bones. And I like it that way, 'cause I'm weak in the knees. But when it's not half-amazing, well, it kinda looks bleak...

Yeah, I only got you . And you only got me
I got from frustrated
To feeling liberated
(Oh, oh)
We're kinda complicated" Link HERE

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Explaining Extroversion Versus Introversion in Personality Types. Mistyping Personality. How Male ENTP's and Female ENTJ's often think they are Introverts, ESFJ's as ISFJ's and how INFP's often think they are Extroverts and INFJ's are Mistaken for Extroverts ect. Accuracy is Crucial to Understanding.

I wrote HERE  "*NOTE: As I have mentioned before in posts, personality is ONE aspect of being human and your individual make up. Environment, upbringing, birth, health, trauma, life experience, mental or cognitive differences, genetics, beliefs, gender preferences, country of origin....there are so many aspects that make up YOU. However, I firmly believe finding your accurate personality helps you understand more of yourself and how you work or function out of the world. Take a free test HERE: - or sign up with an email and take test here (this site has amazing insight, podcasts and videos.) The key is to answer as you ARE and not as you would want to be like. Meyers Briggs/ Keirsey is what the 16 personalities is based on and has research behind it for a reason. It is more of a descriptor of what you value and how you work out of the world in regards to communication and relationships.* 

In this article I am focusing on Introversion and Extroversion in the types and how they can often get mixed up or that the E versus I is a misunderstood concept. Using different outside links and sources to help you figure your accurate result out, this post is meant to diffuse some misunderstandings on Extroversion and Introversion in personality types. I am citing the most common mix ups I have found in real life but there are obviously going to be mix ups in each personality type and letter. There are three other letters that can cause issues in being tested and getting a non accurate result (see last paragraphs of post.) Obviously, because I am an INFJ, the section on INFJ's will be longer  due to my personal experience.*

Both Extroverts and Introverts get overstimulated by people, but the rewards system in the brain acts differently. According to the study cited HERE, Extroverts receive a higher reward of dopamine when interacting with people. An Introvert is more likely to get this same hit from an inanimate object.

I am married to an Extrovert, albeit one who needs more downtime than most Extraverted types. But this difference makes for some interesting conflicts to navigate. The world is set up for Extroverts thus I understand him, but he needs to actively read articles to understand my Introversion. He has used the argument that the Internet is ruled by Introverts, and while I don't think that is entirely true, I do believe that he is more likely to find helpful articles on Introverts simply because they are often the ones writing the material most of the time from that perspective. Personality Hacker has a few podcasts HERE and HERE that can aid in extrovert/introvert interactions (and any other difference in lettering.)

A key to understanding being an Extrovert or Introvert is the energy hit concept, which the Personality Hacker links reference. Do you get an energy hit after dealing with people even if you have had a marvellous time? Do you need to have quiet recovery time after even if it was good? Do you feel like you can wait a long time before ever doing that again, even if it was completely positive ( there is a range obviously in any category)? Or do you get an energy high after dealing with people in general when it's positive? For instance, you may be tired or ready to go home but your energy does not need copious times to recover and you can not wait to do it again. You may feel satisfied, fuelled and almost like you do after consuming a Thanksgiving feast, and this feeling doesn't dissipate right away...if this is the case you are most likely an Extrovert.

Some mistakenly believe they are Introverts because they need some downtime after large events or they are not necessarily chatty people. But Extroversion in certain personality types can come out more as networking, business relationships or connecting based on functions and hosting. As an example, often male ENTP's and female ENTJ's can feel they are not Extroverts, even though this is often how they do Extroversion. They are types who get an energy high off of networking with people for a common goal. ENTP's and ENTJ's will often be seen hosting dinners but hiding out in the kitchen preparing, making coffees or cleaning up. They will be the ones who need ample alone time but also thrive and enjoy a good party or numerous networking discussions on whatever their job or passion is. Often it is the male ENTP whom will be questioning their Extroversion ( for some reason female ENTP's do not do this as much) and the female ENTJ's who more often than the male's get mixed up as INTJ's. My theory is that women are naturally relational and as Rationalists ENTJ women WILL feel more drained when it comes to dealing with the feeling aspect of relationships so thus feel they are introverted due to their third function. Rationalism can also be confused with Introversion just like Intuitive qualities can get mixed up with Introverted qualities, if you do not have a firm grasp on definitions. ENTJ's are usually strong leaders in some new found path, while INTJ's will be more quiet about exerting their influence over time. HERE and HERE are two articles on that I highly recommend if you are an INTJ or ENTJ - to make sure that is in fact what you are.

MBTI Online HERE states:
Here’s where the fun begins. Extraversion and Introversion are more than just a preference. When you start to understand more about personality type, you learn these preferences actually act like verbs instead of nouns. Depending on your personality, you extravert certain parts of your personality and introvert other parts of your personality. (We go into this more in depth in our eBook – The Ultimate (and official) Guide to Extraversion and Introversion). Your favourite function, for example, will either be extraverted (expressed outwardly for other people to see) or introverted (expressed inward, basically it happens in your mind, and others can’t see it happening).
For people who have a preference for ENTJ, their favorite function is extraverted Thinking. This means that when they’re making decisions, they’re discussing it with others and often directing the group decision making. Because extraverted Thinking is the strongest part of their personality and it’s extraverted, it’s the part people are most likely to notice and is probably considered a strength for that person with ENTJ preferences. For people who have a preference for INTJ, their favorite function is introverted Intuition. This means that when they’re taking in information and learning new things by connecting the dots and seeing patterns, it’s all happening internally and they’re probably not sharing all these thoughts with the people around them. They rely on focused, complex inner maps of ideas of the present and future. Ready for the kicker? The INTJ’s second favourite function is extraverted Thinking and the person with ENTJ preferences’ second favourite function (sometimes called the auxiliary function) is introverted Intuition."

Personality Hacker has a great article on the difference between ENTp and INTP here;
It is also quite common for INFP's to think of themselves as an Extroverted type because they are the most Extroverted of the Introverts. They generally care and live off of their interactions with people, however, their energy DOES take a hit and they need loads of alone time. HERE is an article that explains how an INFP result could actually be an accurate ENFP (and it can go the other way too.) INFP's will often score as ENFP's or even INFJ's because of the overlap of traits that are actually crucially different in functioning but seem similar in first glance appearance. This is why it is so important to take a few tests and also bounce off answers with someone who knows you, as you are, instead of how you think you are. HERE is an article on the surprising differences of INFP and INFJ from Personality Hacker.

Dear INFP's; (Who do not know they are INFP's yet but think of themselves as something else...possibly an ENFP or INFJ or INTP or any Rationalist category for that matter...) "*It’s important to note here that INFPs are the most prone of any personality type to mistyping as something else. Because INFPs live in a world of identity possibilities, they enjoy thinking of themselves in various different lights and are able to thoroughly convince themselves – more so than any other type – that they truly are thinkers, judgers, etc. Their extroverted intuition allows them to see a situation from various different angles and their introverted feeling creates an emotional attachment to the type they decide on. For this reason, INFPs are more prone to mistyping than any other type." Taken from HERE.

INFJ's can often be mistaken as Extroverts by others, although they often score accurately as Introverts because they are usually quite aware that they like the concept of people, but struggle to deal with people on a smaller scale. However, since they are a chameleon type, it is easy to see how people could think of them as Extroverts.

An example of an INFJ being mistaken as an Extrovert in television, would be Cassie from The Good Witch series. This link HERE clearly points to Cassie's INFJ qualities, on the show, yet it would be easy to mistake her as an Extrovert as she is the pillar of the community and constantly in people's lives for their big epiphanies. Her love interest, Sam in the show, is an INTJ which is a top fit for an INFJ, along with an ENFP, for compatibility of the functions. As an INFJ myself, I can relate a lot to Cassie. When I was more involved in my community I was constantly active, leading small groups, networking people and giving advice. Even to my smaller groups now, I am often the one gently leading someone to their own self growth or epiphanies simply from my intuitive observation function. I have helped people get accurate mental health and physical health diagnosis's that their doctor could not figure out simply from this trait. Yet, I do not believe my way is the only answer and my rule is to ignore anything that does not feel legitimate or apply. Because of my Autism though and Chronic Illness, I have more need for boundaries, do less and am involved in less community activity than Cassie does, but otherwise I relate to her in almost all regards. If I was healthier in body with more energy and not constantly sensory overloaded, I could see myself being an active member in my community...oh and if it wasn't so religious.

Before I dropped out of most cultural expectations like school, church, small groups ect, I was considered a very social person. I am still considered an Extroverted type if I get thrown into a small group and nobody is talking. I will put myself out there and mimic the personality types of those involved to get them talking or put them at ease. I can seem silly if the situation calls for myself to be silly, to allow others to be comfortable. If no one talks- I will- out of my need to harmonize and make people feel comfortable.

We were at my sister's birthday party and there were three new people added to the group. I automatically gave them a loose personality typing in my head of INTJ male, ISFJ female and INTP male. These were added to a group that consisted of an ENTP male, INTP male, ISFJ female, ENFP female, ENFP male, ENFJ child, INTJ child, ENFP child, and INFJ. The meal was silent other than a few awkward attempts at conversation, even though there were five Extroverts. ENFP's will often be mistaken for Introverts. If they are in a new situation, they will either be extremely show offy and loud or will take a back seat to feel out the situation. Normally it is the first option but it usually takes an area of interest and then they are the star of the show, but in a joking, fun sort of way. Even if they are advanced in areas of philosophy or deep thought they can come off as a clown. ENTP's are not the center of attention unless it is a networking interest or a sarcastic tease. Both are slightly intimidating in new group settings ( ENFP and ENTP.) ENFJ's are very social but enjoy harmony and will wait to draw out attention based on people's interest. ISFJ's value family gatherings and will try to put out a few awkward attempts at conversation that will work excellent if the gathering is made up of mostly S types. There were only two S types in our situation, thus these attempts were slightly appreciated but not really picked up on by the Intuitives as the comments were about solid sensory aspects of dinner.

Thus it was up to me because I was in an environment I was comfortable in, so of course I blabbed about Personality Typing, and made everyone laugh. I had each person conversing about their personality by the end of it, even at the personal cost to myself. I ended up being accurate on each of their personalities which always makes me happy. I can be wrong but it's rare and often due to another person not being healthy in their version of self. My 12 year old INTJ said after the event, "I LOVE you mom. You are so funny. You make people comfortable by making the situation uncomfortable. So by you doing that you look silly but it's exactly what you wanted and they didn't know they needed. It's weird to me how you can draw people out by being odd and mysteriously accurate about themselves and yet somehow it's comfortable while being uncomfortable at first. I just think you are amazing." Which, coming from this child made my heart melt because he is not exactly forthcoming with expressions of mushy love or verbal affirmations, thus it meant a lot. But you can see how in that situation I probably came off as an Extrovert. Also, in these situation no one ever asks what my type is. This happens pretty much every time I bring the conversation around to personality, which is a lot, probably because it's a personal growth interest and aids me in understanding, tolerating and accepting people with compassion instead of a negative emotion.

At functions where personality is talked about, my type and my daughter's ENFJ type is never discussed. Yet, on the internet INFJ material is ample! Why is this? My conclusion is, that outside the computer, the mystery factor, combined with our secondary core Harmonizing function, shows up and takes us out of the spotlight even while we are in it. Both ENFJ's and INFJ's like to harmonize and blend in to make peace. Thus, we put the focus on others consistently, even if we are the ones talking. It's odd but our types are not often discussed  in groups discussing personality offline, because of this approach. Which is probably why writing about it and reading or pinning tons of pins on my type, helps me express out loud without having to actually do that with anyone specific other than my best friend and husband. I tend to take that type of attention off of myself unless it is with my very few core relationships.

Recently, my husband misinterpreted my need for downtime as cold hearted crankiness, when in reality I was just needing some downtime to process. The next day I read him an article called, "21 Things People Don't Realize You're Doing Because You're an Introvert". I actually can't chose a couple points to highlight because every single point was bang on. I highly recommend the easy read if you love an Introvert or are one yourself ( because solidarity sister/brother...)

I may come across as Extrovert but an INFJ is one of the MOST Introverted types. We need ample alone time after conversing to process. We stay up late at night if we don't get this processing time going through events.

Another common mix up is people perceiving an ISFJ as an Extrovert. The ISFJ often knows they are not Extroverted but they are the types to be found in small groups on weekdays, teaching piano after schools or some similar activity, and hosting holiday dinners or at least attending every. SINGLE. one. This is because they deeply value the concepts of community, family and concrete ways of working in the world. ESFJ's can often think of themselves as Introverts because they absorb emotions and need down time because of this, however, they can not get enough of people and often struggle with boundaries. They both love and dislike their need for people ,so often wish they were Introverted or even type themselves as Introverted, if they are not in their healthy boundary filled place in society. The reality in this situation is that often they are simply exhausted Extroverts wanting to be an Introvert to heal, so sometimes get mistaken as this when they do their own testing.

There are many ways one can mistype in Personality, not just in the Extroverted/Introverted categories and I highly recommend this read for more:

My rule of thumb in regards to personality is; If you read the articles or watch the video's on Personality Hacker or Michael Pierce or 16 Personalities and feel like they just crawled into your head and explained the weird things you thought no one knew about yourself, you have got an accurate type. If you only feel lukewarm about your entire description or don't feel at least at one point to jump up and say, "YES!" you are probably at least one letter off. My husband tested as a Guardian for years and he hated his result because his personality always felt like something he could not attain to, but finally I sat down with him and took the test with him and he got an ENFP. He actually cried a little reading his result because it FINALLY expressed his soul. Now he can not get enough understanding on ENFP functioning and how that works in the world at large. This understanding has aided him in his relationship with me and our children the most. We can laugh off what would otherwise be great misunderstandings, because we understand our core functions are clashing.

Personality studies opened up a world of acceptance for myself and my family. More than almost any other discovery in my life, it has been the most helpful. I deeply value the insights that come along with this way of relating. Instead of seeing it as a concrete way of WHO people are, I see it as a stepping stone of flexibility, enabling more compassion and understanding. However, I have witnessed the OPPOSITE of this happening when people are unhealthy versions of themselves or do not type themselves accurately or BOTH. Then personality only hinders the process because the information and understanding is mistaken. It is crucially important to Know Thyself. I hope these links help clear up some of the common misconceptions of Extroversion versus Introversion.

Go and Know thyself :)

Here are some of my pin boards:
 Pin board for INFJ quotes:

Many article links on Personality ( with a focus for INFJ's):

Pin board for silly and quirky Memes for INFJ's:

and an Honorary ENFP board for my husband:

Friday, September 15, 2017

How Hope was Created by A Record Player And Complex Disease Anxiety Decreased with Music.

In the midst of some complex medical challenges I have found a slight sense of solace. To be honest, for a long while, getting through the day has been considered a "success." It has been years of digging for the source of my odd blood work, symptoms ect. even though I 'present' as a fairly well adjusted and healthy adult. I finally see an Internal Health Practitioner 'Internist' and Hematologist in the next month...and possibly a Geneticist if my one test is proven a genetic mutation which looks to be the case. My blood work was considered serious enough to warrant these precautions and though my research the last few days has been worrisome and overwhelming, it is also a slight relief to know it wasn't all in my head. Slight, being the operative word. The genetic part of the puzzle makes sense for some of the issues I have had since childhood. Oh, and hey, I always could relate to the X men. I always thought I could be a mutant:) Who knows what that result will mean for the future or if it will be accurate for my circumstances, but there has to be a silver lining somewhere...

Which brings me to my little itty, bitty sense of solace beyond those few people in my life (my family, Instagram gals, and bestie amongst a few key supports), that is providing a sense of inspiration, however small it is. This is my new solace machine:

Currently, my player is churning out Norah Jones as I sit typing. Mellow grey clouds hover near. Both literally and figuratively.

I never have liked being a cliche or crowd follower. Records are in vogue which was a huge point against them in my books. It all started when my daughter used her hard earned savings for a 1950's suitcase record player. I was proud that her first choice of record was 'Fleetwood Mac's Rumours.' My dad lent us expensive speakers to use which accentuated the beauteous sound of the records. And suddenly, I was back to my childhood. I felt like a piece of my life, from a less conscious place, was handed back to me. I recalled the many afternoons I laid on our living room floor in the sunshine, next to the family record player, with my dad's huge headphones perched on my head, and the long twisting chord wrapped around me, reading the lyrics or pouring over the album's pictures. A piece of myself I didn't know was missing came home. Trendy or not, it wasn't something I could deny myself.

My husband bought me my own 1970's player. I think perhaps I was craving a more physical connection with my music, a raspier sound, and tangible printed lyrics. I was a teen in the nineties and finding a range of music was a hunt and perhaps more valuable because the music was not at your fingertips- though I admit I love available music at this time period in history too.

It was rare for someone like me, to know every musical genre. I worked for that knowledge and collected bands and oldies friends had never heard of. I made it my mission to make as many mix tapes as possible and spread the musical education of the classics and the silly and obscure, angry or eclectic. It was pre iTunes and Pre Glee, before the classics came the rage. I was a walking Gilmore Girl with my interests (a show that excited me when it came out because I knew every single film and musical reference it made.) Now, I confess that while I love all music and the genres, my go to of choice are often 70's and 80's songs, mellow Autumn music (Jazz and Easy listening) or Christmas music...because I find that I need 'feel good' inspiration. I'm not as cool as I once was for range, but I can still appreciate the beauty of any score of music.

I still love my iTunes songs and the accessibility of songs on Youtube. But the record player is a nice supplement to when I need a little bit more. I like that it is not easy to find the few records I actually want. I love that I made a connection with my aunt, whom is dying of terminal cancer. She was able to make a last trip and brought me a huge case of all her old records. We sat and listened to a few, talked about some of the tunes she introduced me to, and jived to Dancing Queen. The record player brought us another memory together. I also love the joy of the hunt again...looking for some of my favourite albums in vinyl form.

I loved 1930/40's record players but because of the expense I skipped to my next favourite time period- the Seventies. The decade before I was born but the decade my parents were stuck in, even though it was the 80's, with their style and choices. I feel so many comforting feelings just by watching the tilted whir of the golden boxed record player. The warm crackle accompanying the music, enhanced by the amplifier, causes my soul to exhale stress and inhale home.

It was an aspect of self, outside of my self, that I needed. Crooners especially sound more poignant on record...and Christmas music. I admit to being a Christmas music junkie even though it can be lame or sound uber religious...I still love the tunes and play them even when they do not line up with what I believe, Amy Grant's Christmas songs are still amongst my top played. Nat King Cole crooning the 'Christmas Song' or Bing singing 'White Christmas' make me feel immediately encompassed with magic. I have already played Christmas in our home this September. I don't understand why that horrifies some people. It was simply what I needed to change my mood.

Last weekend, everybody in our family fought. It was gloomy. It didn't start raining nicely until most of the day was done. We had a huge meltdown that I ended up having to deal with and talk through for about an hour and a half. Then my husband and I fought like we have not fought in months which brought up a lot of PTSD from the last year. I was miserable all around. It probably doesn't help that one of my elevated blood markers causes lethargy and matter how many gratitude and meditation practices I do, it is a feat to keep the crankiness at bay. But then I was sitting in my room and I thought "Wait missy, I believe you have to (in part) make the world that you create. So why am I not acting upon that? Where is the world I am creating and how can I actively change it RIGHT now? " So instead of wallowing in my bed like I wanted to do, or crawl in my closet and cry and cry and cry, I decided that I could it least make the house cozier. So I cleaned and I put on Christmas lights and I got my daughter to bake something that we could all eat - Cornmeal Yugort Muffins -and then I realized that Christmas music was just the ticket. So I put on Christmas music in September because sometimes we need to do that. And it worked beautifully. And then the rain started coming ... my daughters plans got cancelled but she was kind of relieved, because our house was starting to become in harmony again and she wanted to witness the peace. She also wanted to listen to records in the rain… Most of the day was a write off and I'm still healing from some of it, but at the same time, changing the music enabled me to know how much I have.

Mood changers like music and seasonal changes before they are actually happening are sometimes needed. Being able to clean, creating good food and enjoying wonderful company in my harmonizing daughter was healing. Emotions can be nitty gritty and sometimes even an active choice. That day I spent at least an intense hour with each child listening to their woes and because of that effort, each child ended up feeling safe. And that feeling of safety was enhanced with Christmas music on a record player.

If I hadn't followed my heart and convinced my husband to purchase an early birthday present, I would not have experienced the peace that has accompanied the time each day that I take to put a record on. My body and spirit drag through most moments. I valiantly try to fight through what I can, salvage positive memories, and also teach my children to LIVE, but living in my current conundrum of a body without much direction, has been devastating. As the minutes tick by I know the symptoms I feel should be managed in an ideal situation and I know I could be more than I am. I know that I have some dangerous complications including sudden possible death by stroke, early Dementia and Alzheimer's, heart attack and blood clots due to one of my elevated blood markers which stem from a deeper issue...and reading about it prepares me in many ways but also overwhelms me and makes me wonder if I will find a medical professional who can help me through it the way my body needs to be treated. The pieces of why I can not even tolerate most vitamins or many foods are finally beginning to fit together. Yet, at the same time I know we are on a good path, even if it ends up being a detour, and that I have a few sturdy people in my life whom I can depend on to pick up whatever pieces fragment along the way. I am so thankful for these people who have their own life tragedies, illness and death to deal with. The record player is a tangible reminder of this proverbial horn of plenty. I can feel the soul in the music which reminds me of the souls in my life, in the earth, and in my home. The infusions of inspiration that may be small but matter. They matter as much as life itself matters.

Now I must turn the record player off and force myself to walk my daily walk, even though each step feels like a feat. Because life is a balance of both. The music prepares or heals after the journey or even fortifies during, but there are still active choices to be made. The dance is waiting.

Oh and I did end up painting our door purple...

Song Choice: Put your Records On- Corinne Bailey Rae