Tag Archives: family

Anxiety Ridden

At 17, I was diagnosed and hospitalized with depression, at 40 I was diagnosed more accurately with Bipolar Disorder II, but I swear I came out of the womb with anxiety.

Anxiety seems like such a common word. It’s  thrown around with little appreciation of the true impact it can have on some people’s lives.

As a child I worried incessantly and obsessively, by first grade I was seeing a school counselor. I worried about concepts, everyday happenings, and my own performance even during menial, every day activities. My anxiety would manifest itself in the way of stomach problems, I constantly struggled with knots in my stomach, dreading that I would vomit, which would only make this cycle worse because I had vomiting and illness anxiety as well.

I would lay awake at night facing towards my pink  wall, worrying that someone would break in, that spiders would crawl out the of the jagged crack in my wall. I had to always have the covers on, no matter the temperature, so no one could get to me. I have always slept with some light, the thought of opening my eyes and not being able to see was so overwhelming that I just accepted that fact that night lights would be a permanent fixture in my life.

I feared death by the age of 8 and it haunted me. Anytime I heard ambulance sirens in the background my stomach would drop because I was sure one of my parents was in a tragic accident. Our family vacations while growing up consisted of driving to my grandparents’ homes in another state, a drive that took over eight hours. As we drove at night in our baby blue Scout, I willed myself to stay awake because I was sure we would be killed in a horrid car wreck and I wanted to be able to say goodbye to my parents. I never vocalized this concern to my parents, but it weighed on me as I would watch my younger sister peacefully sleep the whole trip. And camping was a nightmare, as fear and anxiety, always worse at night would haunt the little sleep I was able to get. I could not get out of my mind the idea that a bear would kill us or that there were spiders crawling all over me. My poor Mother would trek with me down to the campground bathroom about six times a night as I struggled with stomach aches and swore I was going to vomit. I could find no comfort in my little red sleeping bag with my ever dimming flashlight.

Living in the Midwest as a child, storms were another area of extreme stress to me. Thunderstorms, tornadoes, too much snow, cracking ice, etc.   I would creep into my parents room and make a bed on the floor and try my best to stop the thoughts of lightening coming through my window and killing me.

I pondered the idea of what an eternity was in relation to death at the age of 10. I became preoccupied with the idea of the concept, and not until I became a Christian did I find some comfort in the grandness of that allotment of time.

As an adult with life experience I have the wisdom now to alleviate many of my childhood fears and anxiety. But adulthood has presented its own set of challenges in regards to the big events in my life and the daily struggles.

The pregnancy and birth of my first son were extremely difficult and the fact that there were some medical issues just impounded that fear. From the moment I saw my beautiful son I worried for him. I cried when he cried, I cried when I couldn’t soothe his tears because I worried that there was something wrong. My son literally slept on my chest for the first year of his life. I wanted to feel and hear his little heart beating because I swore he would die in his sleep and if that happened I needed to be there to stop it or at least know that his death was peaceful. This was an incredibly hard time in my life because I was also experiencing post-partum depression and my son had colic … not a good combination but with God’s help we made it through.

I have spent many hours in prayer, trying to rationalize with God that I love my babies and I NEED him to protect them in a way that I can’t, I want reassurance that they will all out live me. I struggled when my first born started school, and thus began the habit of praying every morning while driving to school for each of my children’s protection, I could leave them at school knowing God was with them watching over them. After ten years I still do our morning prayer on the way to school, for my own well-being.

Anxiety effects my driving, I have a whole bunch of fears that generate in my mind, I especially hate semi-trucks, mountain roads, bridges, and anything that in any way can hinder my control over getting to my destination. I have to block out the images I see in my mind as I drive at certain times or it’s debilitating. Did I mention I hate flying? I developed a two Bloody Mary prescription before I board any plane, it seems to take the edge off and I have a praying ritual, which takes about 10 minutes and is a must before the plane takes off.

I have anxiety about entertaining, which still haunts me. I have an expectation that things need to be a certain way and then I completely loss myself in the anxiety of the details. Just this last weekend I threw my son and his baseball team their end of the season party. I started planning it a couple of weeks ahead of time and of course that’s when the anxiety started as well. The anxiety always grows as the event approaches. I told myself that this time I wouldn’t let the anxiety get to me, I prayed that it wouldn’t, I was able to sleep the night before,  but sure enough it got to me.

By morning, I screamed at my children as they tried to help me with helium filled escaping balloons, and wind-blown streamers. Tears ran down my face as I realized I had bought the wrong shaped table clothes. Nothing seemed like enough, I wasn’t happy with any of the efforts I had previously made for the party. I wanted it to be more, I wished I had more money to put into it, etc. etc. Logically, I realize of course that this is ridiculous, that a bunch of twelve year old boys could give a rat’s ass about tablecloths or steamers, all they want to do is swim, run around and beat the crap out of each other but at that moment there is no logic just panic, tears and anger. And sadly, this is pretty typical of what happens to me anytime I entertain.

This is my struggle with anxiety, even while taking anxiety medication. I have read a lot on anxiety, been in and out of counseling over the years. I have tried escaping it, tried drowning out the constant hum in my mind of all that I can’t control with alcohol which only landed me in AA for a time.

I currently take two medications; a mood stabilizer and an anti-anxiety med and I have a MMJ recommendation so at night or times of extreme anxiety I will medicate with MJ as well. I have three medications circulating through my body and mind at any given point just to get me through the day,  just so I can function like a NORMAL person.

I haven’t given up on the notion of internal peace, and there are moments of every day that I can find some of it. I’m willing to embrace those moments and the fact that despite the anxiety I feel I have been blessed with a good life, a beautiful family, and a faith that keeps me going.

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Take Your Meds

I just recently read an article on FB about a 29 year old who lost her battle with mental illness (specifically Bipolar Disorder) and I grieved for the loss, both as a parent and as a person who struggles with BD.

The FB post written by her mother described this beautiful girl who was diagnosed while in college after experiencing a psychotic break. She went on to be diagnosed, hospitalized and then medicated. She did this cycle a few times over a couple of years and then tragically took her own life after deciding she no longer needed medication.

It saddens me that so many with Bipolar Disorder lose their struggle with the illness because of their resistance to medication. I understand the draw to go back, to continue on with the self you know, in the life you recognize, and I have had to do some grieving and soul searching and sacrificing and recreating of myself but I don’t see any other way.

I’m at a stage in my life where I have too much to lose if I don’t take care of myself, and live a more balanced life. I have a husband and children depending upon me, to be the best me I can be and that’s what I’m choosing.

My medication has changed me, it’s undeniable. I’m more flat, in my emotions, and my personality. I’m not as much fun or drama, some of my quick wit, sarcastic humor and loud mouth are gone. I’m more reserved, in my approach to life, to friends, in my openness, and I’m less social.   I’m a little slower mentally, tired a lot more, and sadly gaining weight because I don’t have the energy or desire most of the time to exercise. This doesn’t seem like much, but knowing yourself and attributes and then having them change after forty years is definitely an adjustment.

I stick with my medication regiment because despite the fact that I miss parts of my old self, I just can’t do the scattered chaos anymore. I am much calmer now, I yell less, I cry less. I am a more patient mother and much more loving wife.   The medication helps me relax more, emotionally and mentally, it has slowed down some of my OCD and perfectionism and has left me with more acceptance and less judgement for myself and others.

I wish I could have it all, but I realize with any kind of illness you have to pick and choose what you can and can’t live without. Since being medicated, I haven’t had the extent of mania or depression I used to have, no more days in bed struggling to function, and no more manic frenzy, crazy driving and racing thoughts of running away.

The days are more quiet and calm, I’m more of a homebody now, less inclined to be social at the drop of a hat. It’s a slower pace of life than I’m used to. No more jumping around mentally from vocational, entrepreneurial and college idea to idea. I’m settling in. To myself, to my life. I’m ok with letting go of my old frantic being that was constantly evolving in my mind. No more rush of mania to make me feel inflated, I realize now that the mania isn’t any more real than the depression that haunted me, I have to dwell in the middle ground like others. Actually, I don’t HAVE to but I NEED to for my own sanity and for my family’s semblance.

My point being, my life isn’t perfect with meds, but it’s more of a life. Please take your medicine. Don’t let this monster kill you, because on your good days, the deception is your better and you don’t need the medication. Don’t lie to yourself, be willing to see that this is a life-long illness that ebbs and flows, it will grow old with you, but let it, treat it, so you get the opportunity to have an end that is fitting. Take your illness and recovery seriously.

I know there are some that medication isn’t working or hasn’t worked in the past and my heart and prayers go out to them. I pray that they don’t give up in the meantime, that God gives them enough hope to keep them going and that there will be an end to their pain with some sort of advancement within the science and medical community that helps them.

I pray that prayer for all that suffer under the stronghold of mental illness, I pray for more recovery, more joy, and more sustainable well and long lived lives especially for those that are young and just starting out on this journey. Please take your medicine.

Bloom Where You Are Planted

When I was 9 years old my Mom bought me a cross stitch sampler, which read, “Bloom where you are planted.” It hung over my bed for years in a little gold etched frame. And now at 41, I finally understand its meaning.

When I was young and things were not going my way, I would change my setting. This faulty theory of mind, encapsulated my twenties.

In my twenties I rented over twenty-five different places, sometimes I had a roommate, sometimes I lived alone. I rented apartments, rooms in homes, and even a trailer once. That’s approximately two moves a year for ten years, but some years were more sporadic than others. Some of these moves consisted of large black trash bags thrown into the back of my little Toyota hatchback.

My little red Toyota Tercel took me and my belongings up and down the coast of California, searching for what I couldn’t find internally. At this time most of my friends were working towards their futures; attending college, getting married, starting a family, growing professionally, but I was still running.

I attended five different community colleges in five different cities. And for all this effort I have about 45 units to my name and a trail of “W’s” when I made the effort to drop, and “F’s” when I didn’t.

My work record was slightly better, some jobs I stayed at for years, but some I dropped so quickly I didn’t even have enough courtesy to let them know, I was a no show. A disappearing act when there was too much pressure because I had convinced myself that it was this job, this school, this relationship, it was never me.

I’ve carried the lie. I liked the idea of new beginnings, a new apartment, new school, and new job, all new with possibility. The problem of course being the one constant, me. Me, not wanting to deal with the increasing responsibilities I committed to, me not wanting to deal with me. Wanting to think that in a different setting there wouldn’t be such struggles, and sometimes this is true …. But they are just replaced with new struggles.

So often when I am unhappy with my setting, with my circumstances … it is really me I’m unhappy with. It’s me that’s struggling internally and after all of these years I have to admit it to myself.

This is true of everything in life. Every relationship, job, school setting, living situation. None of it is easy, none of it is perfect and if I want it to work, I have to invest in it, I have to invest in myself, despite the heartache and challenges that come with it.

Being married and having children forced me to stop this unhealthy pattern of fleeing. I’ve had to learn to be still, to not run. I’d like to say it was an easy transition, but it wasn’t it. It was painful as hell and down-right ugly at times. I spent some of these years drinking to escape mentally what I couldn’t physically. I needed time away from the overwhelming feelings of it all being too much and not feeling like I was enough.

I’ve done some growing up, some investing in myself, through therapy, through medication, through learning new strategies, through failure, through Christ’s grace. I know now, If I want anything meaningful, purposeful with depth in my life, I have to stay and fight and give it my best effort, even when I want to flee, even when I want to start over.

It means looking at myself and being honest with my own brokenness and being willing to work on it in small chunks, it means having the courage to change, and to apologize when need be. It means spending less time avoiding and more time mentally present in my own life, in present day life and not the mirage of some other location, some other person, some other time, etc.

It means doing the best I can in the present. With the husband I have, the children God has given me, in the home I currently live, in the church I attend filled with other sinners like myself. It means facing Asperger’s Syndrome, Bipolar Disorder, AA, and other labels and challenges that I’ve been presented with. It means not acting on my feelings but instead admitting they exist. It means trying my best to love what I’ve been given. Embracing what’s mine and drawing close to imperfection.

I’ve taken the old stitchery and its gold frame out of a box in the back of my closet and hung it in my daughter’s room. I’m praying that it doesn’t take her forty years to understand its meaning. I’m praying that her seeing her mother stay and struggle will give her the courage to face life and all of its uncertainties and to not run but to stay firm and planted in what’s beautifully and innately her own.

Control Freak

I have to read whole books on how to let go. Then I have to read them again, and again and again and again. They sit on dust filled shelves, until I’m at the end of my tear-stricken rope all because I can’t control the finite details in my life. I read my Bible to be reassured that while I’m not in control, God is. I know this … because I’ve read it over and over and over … and I get out my, Stop Being A Control Freak book and start the process of letting go all over again.

I have to let go and let God to maintain some sort of life semblance and sanity and I say that in the loosest meaning of the word sanity… it’s more like a bloody shred of existence some days.

Letting go means I have to be done with it and not try to manipulate and control the outcomes based on my fear, lack of faith, with my crocodile tears, with my over- controlling, over-bearing personally that loudly, takes charge of things and people without permission. Without any sort of forethought I charge ahead, because to be still, to be stagnant was never allowed in my family growing up. We physically and mentally moved, my Father stood still for no one. He was always marching two hundred yards ahead, with only the end in sight and a family trailing behind him. He came to be lovingly known as Captain Ron. We sailed, hiked, biked, swam, ran, camped, kayaked, skied, played tennis, Frisbee, football, baseball and often all in one vacation. We didn’t stop to let things be, to let things go, to see and feel a moment, we moved. If things weren’t as we desired, if people weren’t as they should be … we bore the responsibility of making them what they should be or we thought they could be, as his girls we moved mountains with our small, thick calves and spirited naive. Captain Ron out-walked my Mom, after twenty-one years of marriage she hung up her hiking boots.

I am my Father’s daughter, I move …. In a desired direction, dragging bystanders with me, despite resistance, because I cannot be still even after 40 years.

I have to let go. It means I have to accept that God may do or not do as I see fit. It means I have to stop … I have to be still, even within my own racing, reorganizing, prioritizing, mind. I need to be still and not feel guilty about it. It means I need to be grateful for what I have received despite what I deserved and grieve for what I didn’t deserve but received.

Letting go for this guilt-ridden Midwestern, German girl, means giving back to God that which was never really mine by fleshly name or birth. Their ties with God began long before me, they are his lineage.

Letting go hurts … it means I see dirty grout, dirty souls on my tiles. It means accepting mildew-lined shower curtains, teenage-boy shoe odors, late night Science projects, un-matching socks, over flowing trash cans, incomplete homework, unmet needs, unshaven legs, and frozen pizzas and I can’t fix it all.

These things exist, I can’t hide them …. Despite my downstairs closest. I can’t by my own fruition change them, I only have two hands.

Letting go means that my best effort isn’t pretty, it’s damn embarrassing at times. Letting go means accepting that. It means my life isn’t orderly, my marriage isn’t always harmonious, my language isn’t always holy, my kids aren’t always respectful, it’s an all-out, unorganized, mess at times, in fact if I’m honest, a lot of the time. It means that I’m too tired for anything but honesty anymore before God and Man and at times if I want complete honestly and humility from another human being I go to an AA meeting instead of Bible Study.

Letting go means we don’t have to be the neighborhood picture-perfect Christian family. It means, I don’t put Christian Easter signs on my lawn, it’s under watered and our gardener is underpaid. I don’t hang Christian platitudes on my front door, it’s smudged with finger prints and the path way is littered with bikes, scooters and half drank juice boxes. I certainly don’t put the Christian bumper stickers on my minivan, because I will pray for your soul only after I’ve driven you off the road and then for my own forgiveness.

Letting go means, I no longer have the short or long list of well-meaning, but over-simplified answers and their attached Bible verses. Especially when it comes to marriage and raising children.

Letting go means, accepting that some of my children have diagnosis beyond my control and because of that others don’t get enough attention. It means knowing the neighbors can hear loud, spirited language floating up from the trampoline in my backyard. It means my six year old daughter spits like her brothers. It means that fish have been laid to rest in my backyard because of miscalculated PH balances, accompanied by hamsters that were over loved and underfed. Letting go, means honesty with my children and no pretenses, saying I’m sorry to them and accepting their apologies. It means trying to parent them with the same grace I’ve been shown by Christ.

Letting go means that while I can’t leave my children with a legacy of unstained-righteous choices and holy living, I can leave them the example Christ has made in my life. I can leave them with the example God gave with his 12 disciples, who had a letting go/sin spread sheet longer than mine, and he worked through them. And right here, right now, despite my/your/their mistakes, sin, pain, he can work, let him.

I want my children to learn that their thick calves are not meant to move mountains, instead they’re meant to bend so they can rightfully let go and give it to Christ, because he’s the one true mountain mover.

Hollow Days

Some days, weeks and months I go through the motions.

I prepare meals, assist with homework, go to church, attend baseball games, attempt intimacy and provide transportation when needed. I say I love you and try to embrace my children, my husband and my life that is. Some days this doesn’t feel like enough for me and I’m sure it’s not for them.

It takes all my emotional energy to just exist, but it’s not much of an existence. I’m hollow. I’m flat. I’m a shell of a person.   My life consists of doing things for others out of obligation.

I signed up for this/my life fifteen years ago, when I thought I had some depression and that is was completely treatable by my morning coffee and Zoloft. I signed up for a lot not knowing there would be times when I had little to give. That when there was so little of me left, I would cling onto my last morsels of self, for preservation’s sake. This naivete meant not realizing that having lives depend upon you for sustenance and nurturing and not being able give it freely, produces a tremendous amount of unbearable guilt.

Some of the fifteen years were better suited for that morning fix, or I was better suited for it. There have been a lot of days, weeks, months, and this last year that make me doubt my decision and myself, I call them my hollows.

I want to feel love and connection to those I’ve committed my life to, but during the hollows all I feel is an urge to flee. I know logically that fleeing would fix nothing, that I cannot be free of myself, that I have to put my big girl panties on and address it here in this life that I’ve committed to. I know that love is more than a feeling, it’s a commitment and that the emotion of love will come back after the hollows leave. And I stay. And it does.

I want to appreciate my life, I want to enjoy it. I have so much. I know I’m fortunate. Many have it much harder and are not as blessed, but this line of reasoning doesn’t help me at all, I wish it would. I read about young moms that die of cancer and their grief stricken families, and I want to grasp this … and tell myself to stop the bullshit in my head. I want to. I want to hold this knowledge so tightly that it frees me from myself.

My family can sense these hollow days, I am more distant, angry, sad or irritated. My husband will try to fix it, though I’ve asked him to stop. I try to just move forward with the best of intentions on these days. I try to reassure them that I will come back around on another day, maybe tomorrow. I tell myself this as well. I want it for myself and for my family, I want better. A better me. I want years, month, weeks and days with no hollows.

The Art of Self Medicating

What do you call a meeting for people with Bipolar Disorder?

A.A.

It’s my joke, and I’ve earned the right to tell it, it’s both funny and sad.

I struggle with both Alcoholism and Bipolar Disorder and according to statistics I’m not alone. Apparently, alcohol is the self-medicating drug of bipolar disorder choice, it’s reported that 60 % struggle from both.

I was Bipolar first, but didn’t have a diagnosis. The alcoholism diagnosis came in the form of an ultimatum from my husband, it was my family or the drink. In hindsight, when someone gives you this scenario and you need time to think about it, it’s pretty evident there’s a problem.

However, in my mind it wasn’t that simple or obvious. Drinking was when I felt ok, I laughed, I socialized, I had something to contribute and I had a lot to forget. I felt like I was being asked to choose between my sanity and my overwhelming daily reality and frankly that was no choice I wanted to make.

I want to say that I graciously made the right choice immediately, but I did not. When you are drowning, it is hard to let go of an imagined life preserver. I struggled with this dilemma for a few years, not all of it bad mind you. I wasn’t an all-out drunk, I was more of a binge drinker (AKA …following the cyclical torments of Bipolar Disorder) so I could handle myself for months at a time, drink occasionally and at times responsibly. But over time drinking was no longer fixing my problem, it was complicating my life to the point that I could no longer deny it.

Self-medicating, unfortunately causes as much if not more damage to ourselves and our families. We do it, unknowingly and knowingly. We realize that something within us is broken and need/want to fix it but aren’t sure how and why.

I’d like to interject at this point about my children. They have been such a paradox in my life, their existence has caused me the greatest amount of anxiety, and stress both personally and in my marriage.  But without their existence I don’t know that I would have chosen sobriety and even life for that matter. I want things for them that I feel I don’t deserve, so I push ahead for them.

I want to say just not drinking helped me, but A.A. touched me, it’s an incredibly beautiful example of courage. I needed to hear REAL, BOLD HONESTY. A.A. was no bullshit, no pretenses, it was people being real publicly. It’s uncomfortable at first to hear people openly talk about their lives and I cringed every time someone raised their hand to share. But after a few meetings it became my salvation. I felt so fortunate to be able to hear peoples’ stories, their grief, heartache, self-discovery, and second chances. In this one room, for this one hour, once a week, I didn’t feel alone, I felt connected to something tangible. Maybe it’s something you can only comprehend and appreciate after having desperation eat away at your heart and mind for years.

After 40 days of sobriety things began to become clear. I had developed some healthy habits in place of drinking; exercising, writing, reading my Bible but I was still just the shell of a person looking to fix within me that which was broken. Time went by. I prayed, I cried, I annoyed the hell out of my husband, pastor and friends and finally I was given an answer. Three individuals/professionals in my life approached me separately within a seven day time period and told me/diagnosed me as having Bipolar Disorder II. And I’m now beginning the next phase of this journey.

I want to say to you, that no matter which side of the bar stool you’re on, no matter where you’re at in your life… there is hope for this illness. Sometimes it comes in the way of blatant honesty around a table with strangers. Sometimes it’s the courage you find for the ones you love. I implore you to take that first step and begin your journey of wellness

Two Speeds

Being Bipolar is like having two speeds. Low and High, and nothing in between.

Low speed is not enough to accomplish what I’ve committed to. It doesn’t supply enough energy for the physical and emotional needs of a husband, three children, and pets. It doesn’t quite cover the laundry, dishes, and baking, cooking, volunteer commitments. Low speed means I can forget about a social life, even talking on the phone is cumbersome. Forget about exercising, having sex or any activity that requires much of anything. It means grocery shopping seems over whelming, and planning meals in my head hurts.

Low speed means constantly disappointing those in your life because you can’t quite keep up with their expectations, and you already have to deal with your own self-disappointment. It means less hope and seeing all of my flaws in 3D. Low speed is critical and self-defeating. It means doubting the quality of what I’ve previously done and grieving what I need to get to but can’t.

Low speeds means I’ve made social commitments I can’t fathom following through on, and promises I made to the kids to take them to do things. I feel despair at this speed for my children, that I’m not enough, that I have nothing to draw from and give them and I don’t know how to explain it in a way they can understand. I want to explain it though, because I don’t want them to internalize it, my illness is not about them, it is not their fault. Low speed means I think about whether I should leave my children to my family to take care of, so they have a chance at a happy childhood. At low speed I feel angry at my husband for not contributing more around the house and with the kids, for not being able to make up for my deficit.  I need help, but I’m too exhausted and embarrassed to have to ask.

AND THEN SOMETHING STARTS FIRING IN MY BRAIN, TELLING IT TO GO … AND I’M ONTO HIGH SPEED JUST LIKE THAT.

High speed. With racing thoughts, and jarring movements. This speed means that everyone around is annoyingly and irritatingly slow. It means less sleep and much more worrying and analyzing. It means being defensive and overreacting. It means certain volumes of noise are unbearable, especially repetitive noises. It means no details can be processed or focused at great length.  It means intense workouts, it means that time goes by quickly. It means socializing and talking nonstop. It means driving quickly and not as carefully.

High speed means euphoria, big ideas and plans, intermingling in my mind all at the same time.  It means I finally think things are coming together, that finally there will be some sense completion. I don’t want this feeling to end, that I don’t want to go back to low speed, I’ve spent too much time there already, in high speed I feel like I’m accomplishing the list in my head. I view myself as finally coming to be, because there’s a chance I’ll actually achieve some of my goals since I finally have the emotional and physical energy to do so.

This speed can be volatile and hard on my family. I bark orders, want things done correctly and quickly. I have patience for no one. I don’t want to sit and snuggle with my children, or read them a book, I have things to do. It means impulsively making decisions and then regretting them. It means being to open, revealing myself intimately and then later wishing I hadn’t. It means drinking and fantasizing about hugely optimistic goals for myself. This speed takes me from my children as well but in a more selfish, all-consuming way, and sadly with less regret on my part.

Just having been diagnosed correctly, FINALLY. I’m hoping that there will be a middle speed possible with mood stabilizers. I’m not anticipating perfection because from my twenty-plus years struggling with mental illness, I know its trial and error, while Science tries to catch up with the creator.

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