Take Care Of Yourself to Give Love to Others

Give, take 'n share

Image by Funchye via Flickr

Self-Care Tip #195 – Take care of yourself to give Love to others.

Belen came in, confident.  She was comfortable in her element.  Working in her area of specialty was her delight and she didn’t worry about clocking hours or mixing it up with family.  Her work was part of what family meant to her.  It was what brought pleasure to her life.

“Wonderful!” you say.  And yes, it is.  “Why then did she come in to see me?” you ask.  Glad you asked.

This was Belen’s third marriage.  Marriage was not where she felt confident.  Talking marriage was when her lip surfaced, quivering on her face, transforming her.  In the past, Belen had often dropped her husband’s name, laced him into stories she told and her ring was a favorite finger toy.  I had the impression that Belen was proud to be married to this man.  But it wasn’t until today that Belen spoke about Ben directly.

I sat up because I was curious about this emotion that had flickered behind it all until today, when it was front and center.

In this case, Belen was afraid of her emotions in fact.  She was aware of them, but they were in a foreign code to her.  Tap-tap-pause-tap-tap-tap-pause… and so on.  She started by telling me about their evenings together.

Ben was a grazer who expected open time with her.  Belen, however, was a barn girl.  When she sat with her husband in their “open time” over a slow dinner, a drink, watching him read a book beside her – it took everything in her reserve each day to stay put.  All her nerves were dancing, telling her to get up and work.  It was what gave Belen her quality of life.  Her work was her self-care.  Ben’s time to meander through thoughts and play was in contrast, what gave him pleasure in life.  He waited all day, pushing through a task driven job, to come home and do this.

Potential negative energy was coiling up inside and Belen was afraid that she might be overcome by it.  Belen did not want to think about what that might end with.  Another failed marriage?  Losing this man she was so glad to be married to?  Dying alone?  She looked at me sideways, ashamed of her emotions.

I’m turning into Crazy Wife.  I yell at him for things that are no big deal.

My answer came too fast this time.  It wasn’t graceful or polite.  I regret that.  It’s never been a forte for me and one of the reasons I recommend my patients find a psychotherapist who will patiently stand beside them rather than collar them and drag them to water (like a certain psychiatrist I know.)

Do what gives quality to your life.  Claim it when you do and don’t hold him responsible for it.  He’ll feel guilty and defensive.  ‘Oh, I have so much work to do honey.  I can’t sit here…’  You are not a victim.  This is your choice.

Unfortunately, there was more along those lines, but like Kevin Blumer says,

I wish the blog world was the same as the real world where people have a chance and can think about things before they (say) them.

Alas, at least we have our keyboards, pencils and erasers.

Belen was losing her lovely confidence to resentment because she wasn’t doing what she was wired to do.  She wasn’t owning her choices.  She thought loving her husband meant that she shouldn’t and because of that, she was only giving him her uncared for self.  She didn’t realize that doing what gave her joy was the best way to Love others.

Question:  How do you help the people you love realize that when you take care of yourself, you are taking care of them too?  (This should get interesting!)  Please tell me your story.

Love – Take What is Already Yours. You Have Been Given Love.

Stef's Present with Handmade Wrapping

Image by ex.libris via Flickr

Self-Care Tip #194 – Take what is already yours.  Be a friend to yourself.

Parenting, we hold the power in the relationship between us and our child/ren.  If we are emotionally maltreated by our child/ren, we parents are still the ones with the power.  What are we giving to her if we teach her that we will take the terrible words and dark emotions?  When we take the projected anger when we have the power to choose not to, what message are we giving to ourselves about ourselves?  What is the message if we say by our actions that Love demands from us to accept, to take and to be a victim to the emotional abuse?  Is that what love tells us?

It is difficult to receive maltreatment from anyone.  And because of the suffering involved, we can misinterpret the message, “This is the sacrifice that Love demands” – the sacrifice is doing what other people want before taking care of yourself.

It is difficult not to receive maltreatment as well.  Which choice is more consistent with our understanding of Love?  The words in the message might be the same, “This is the sacrifice that Love demands.”  However, the interpretation of the message, of what the sacrifice is – that meaning is different.  The sacrifice is, rather, taking care of yourself first so that you have the best of you to offer to others.

To read more on this topic, please see posts, Criticize if You Love MeListen to The Intention in What People Say and Stop! Before Hurting Yourself or Others.

Because we as parents hold the power in the relationship, we can feel trapped by our own power.  What a confusion for many of us.  Holding power but feeling helpless.  Holding a stick in both hands, so to speak, not seeing that we can still use our occupied hands for anything else in the mean time.

This kind of choice takes Love.  This is the kind of choice that is a work of a life-time or of a moment, but is life.  See, Let It Go and Keep Going.

We can’t teach others that we are valuable and how to treat us with Love if we don’t do it ourselves for ourselves.  When we act on Love, self-care means that we don’t accept treatment that is inconsistent with Love.  If we accept bad treatment, we are saying that self-care is accepting our lack of choices versus making the choices that are still available despite the circumstance.

FriendShip... A gift of God.

Image by ~FreeBirD®~ via Flickr

This of course applies to any relationship.  It applies to any connection, whether it is in the work-place, marriage, if you are the child in the parent-child role, friendships – take your pick.  You can choose Love.  You can choose.  Self-care starts and ends with “Me.”

Freedom is a gift.  No matter how many times it is wrapped up and placed in our hands, if we don’t open it, use it, own it, we will never have it.  Freedom to choose has been given to us before we were born, just like our salvation.  The salvation will never be taken away.  Nor the freedom.  Both are elemental and constant.  But if we don’t pull on the ribbon, lift the lid and take – we can’t expect anything but living without what was inside.  Does the title “victim” even hold if it was our choice not to take what was already ours?

Question:  How do you claim your freedom to choose when all you perceive at the time is what has been taken away?  Please tell me your story.

Starting With Your Own Answers to The Big Questions Leads to Reducing Stigma In Others

Alexander Ostuzhev as Quasimodo, 1925.

Image via Wikipedia

Question:  How do you see the paradigm of spirituality intersecting with the paradigm of biology?

As a psychiatrist who blogs that behaviors come from the brain and not a theater script we voluntarily revise to perform, this is a good question.  As readers, and perhaps subscribers to this same belief, this is a good question.

In church, Bible study, or circle of any kind, there are fewer things that goad me more than listening to descriptions of the moral value in emotions and behaviors.  I have found myself visiting the lady’s room more often, carousing the fellowship hall-kitchen and fridge, or thrusting myself on a poor unsuspecting soul loitering by the door with my fervent uncomplimentary words.  I do this before I stand up and pull rank on the speaker.

(I know.  The words “pull rank” sound just as arrogant, and probably are, but they were said in the heat of the moment.  Please understand that the emotion behind them and including the words came from my brain.)

It wasn’t so long ago that suicides were thought to be the ultimate separation from God.  Oh wait.  That’s still happening isn’t it?  It wasn’t so long ago that anger and sadness were thought to be from separation from God.  Oh wait, they still are.  Ok.  I’ll stop.  This is childish.

The hunched figure of Notre Dame comes to me now, ringing his bell, gazing at Esmerelda – pure heaven in flesh.  He offers up his humble life force, begging to be near her despite his biology.  He is ugly.  He is different.  He is separated by his own beliefs that he is forgotten by God.  His answer to our question is his own isolation.

This pithy topic has no boundaries across the world but yet I reduce it down to Me, one apparently arrogant psychiatrist, kicking up dirt where I stand.  I realize that the best way to protect us from stigma, to help you (again arrogant me swaggers in), is to start with my answer to this marvelous question.  I have to answer it for myself.  I have to start with self-care, spiritual care, relationship care, physical care – I have to start right here with Me.

These kinds of imposed opinions have never been reduced quickly.  We can’t take care of everyone before we take care of ourselves.  We must be patient.  We have the privilege to answer thoughtfully.  It is our freedom.  It is our right.

Self-Care Tip #193 – Answer the big questions in life for yourself, deliberately, and see that a secondary benefit is that it will protect you from the prejudice of others as well as reduce their prejudice.

Stop! Before Hurting Yourself or Others

scream and shout

Image by mdanys via Flickr

Self-Care Tip #192 – Before hurting yourself or others, stop.

Sometimes all we can do is leave.

Not being created as a limp noodle, that’s what Brenda said.

In the moment of conflict with her daughter, she had used up the coping skills she thought of and in the end, her purse had no more gum, lip-gloss, candy-money or crayons.  She couldn’t stop the acidic emotions from taking their turn to burn.  Brenda yelled (yes she knew it wasn’t right) and then she yelled again, this time to her husband that he was on kid-duty.  She left.  The mom-van keys were the last thing left in her purse of things to do to stop the burning she was giving and receiving.

Emotional abuse is equal to or more damaging than physical or sexual abuse.  This made Brenda gulp, who could still hear her own mother screaming with bulging bubble-packing veins and eyes.  Brenda didn’t know she could say,

Let’s stop.  It hurts Mommy.

When she first had her babies, tiny with soft bones, fluffy warm sweet cakes just out of the oven, Brenda was scared.  Her pediatrician gave her baby care directives that said things like,

If you are angry and feel like you’re going to shake your baby, stop!  Call for help.

And there was a number.  Now that her kids were older, her pediatrician never gave her helpful sheets of instructions and rescue phone numbers.  Brenda drove away to stop, hoping to come back with more available to offer.

Not bad, huh?

Question:  When you can’t think of any more coping skills during a crisis, how do you stop?  In what feels like an emotional emergency, what have you seen others do that you think is useful?  Please tell me your story.

What Is Your Most Core Desire? That Is Self-Care

It's a Business Doing Pleasure

Image via Wikipedia

Self-Care Tip #191 – Do what you desire to get friendly with yourself.

What is your most core desire?  I am learning more about mine.

I wonder at the improvement in my quality of life since blogging with you.  It is More than the pleasure of writing; which I do love and have missed for years.  It is More than the pleasure of being productive; a natural high for my temperament.  It is More than the self-care tips listed off that roll back; a tide of all that is sent out comes in again to wash over me and change the shape of my life.

This morning I ran into a newer friend.  We came into each other’s lives, catalyzed by the ingredient that this blog provided.  I am sure I would not previously have allowed myself the pleasure of speaking with her for long without it.  My temperament has always been a driving force that pushes me into “the barn.”  I often miss the journey for the end.  This is “The More” that has been given to me.  Connection.

Now people actually look different.  Despite years of medical education, years of psychotherapy and my years of life, I never saw people to the extent that I do now.  Each of us here for a time with our stories, our pearls to offer and each of us with our essence to share for eternity.  It is one more time for me when I am open-eyed, open-mouthed gawking at the thought of “The More” that is still coming.  Better than this.

Think of your most core desire; what you are driven toward by biology, genes and higher intelligence.  What has given you access to that?  Now think about how to go for More.  That is self-care.

Question:  Oh, you know what I’m going to ask…

Do You Feel Pleasure? Lacking The Ability to Feel Pleasure Leads to Suffering.

Grazing in Spain

Self-Care Tip – Enjoy what you do or else find out why you don’t.

Pleasure.

I often ask patients when I am taking their mood history,

Are you able to feel pleasure?

I need to figure out how to ask this without you or anyone thinking that I want to know more about lube and feathers.  No, thank you very little.  But what I am trying to ask about is the ability to enjoy what you are doing.  It is not necessarily “joy” but at least it includes having a positive sense about you while you are progressing through something.  Being able to feel pleasure does not mean being happy at a fiesta or while doing kangaroo jumps with your child.  It does not mean changing your personality so that someone who prefers to work turns into someone who is playful, or a grazer* turns into a barn animal*.

Feeling pleasure does not mean that we achieve our fantasies.  It does not mean we are on vacation.

To understand what pleasure is, it helps to understand ones temperament.  It is enjoying what you do when you do your thing.  For example, if you are someone who in any given day or mood and regardless of weather or wealth would want to complete the work for the day – when you do that, are you feeling it?  Are you feeling pleasure?  Or, to contrast, if you are someone who would more often choose an unstructured and unmarked day – how is it going down for you?  Are you feeling pleasure?

Pleasure when you are doing your thing is quality of life.  If you do not feel it, life is crackers without soup.  It comes and goes dry and without anticipation.  If you do not feel pleasure, you lose your perceived connections around you and including with yourself.  Suffering is when you feel alone, even from your self.  Losing the ability to feel pleasure results in suffering.

Goodenough, PhD

Not everyone connects that emotional illness is a state of suffering – whatever one or combination of illness(es) come to us in.  Looking in at ourselves, at our Me, from the outside, we observe expressions and behaviors that we interpret from our own bank of information and intuition.  When I tell someone, what you are observing in your child, or wife or whomever is my patient at the time with mental illness – when I say,

They are really suffering,

it tugs our unconscious awareness into consciousness   We often do not actively know about this internal world where there is no pleasure.  We do not know that lacking pleasure leads to suffering.

Are you able to feel pleasure?  Do you find it harder to feel pleasure than you used to?  What things do you still enjoy? How long has it been since you last felt pleasure?

The ability to feel pleasure is a wonderful gift.

Questions:  What has helped you most in healing your suffering?  What has helped you connect again with others when illness pulls you away?  Please tell me your story.

*Reference:
Temperament definitions according to Dr. Q:
grazer = someone who comfortably wanders from idea to idea
barn animal = someone who is goal oriented and does not like things unfinished

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Just to Feel Pleasure

week-end-pleasure

Image via Wikipedia

Self-Care Tip #189 – Heal for yourself, and you’ll see that also, everyone heals.

The best thing I ever did was go on antidepressants.

Bianca sat, but her whole body was talking.  She was telling me about her changing life.  She had read some of her journal from a year ago when she pounded on herself for her behaviors.  She thoroughly grieved the time with her children when they heard her scream about small things that kids do.  She told me about her sons face when she was irritable.  He showed all the waiting tension that an open child will when waiting for Mom to lose it.  She was trying to push it aside and think rather about how she now could finally enjoy them.  Bianca said,

I just had no idea before how much better life could be.

Bianca’s face became tight and she didn’t make eye-contact,

There’s no way to describe what it’s like to not enjoy your kids – My own kids! – for most of their born lives and then wake up and experience something different.  I just can’t explain what it means to now actually like being with them.  I’ve always loved them but I didn’t feel the pleasure and I hate that.  I want that time back but I can’t have it and I can’t give it to them either.

I’m so scared it will end, the pills will stop working and I’ll lose this new life.

Before her medication, Bianca worked hard at taking care of herself.  She was a check-list of responsible self-care.  Bianca thought it was important that I knew this.

  • Aerobic exercise – check!
  • Healthy diet – check!
  • Sleep hygiene – check!
  • Bianca talked about God but things got confusing for her there.  She didn’t like to think about Him being on “a list.”  He was in her life and didn’t feel He failed her even though she couldn’t feel pleasure or joy.

Still, she continued to coil up and release hard punchy words at her kids and then hate herself for it.  She had prayed so much about this and wouldn’t even mind if God had to puppet her, if that’s what it took, in order for her to treat her kids better.  She could not stop herself from being what she called,

Crazy Mommy.

But now, after she was treated, Crazy Mommy was gone.

Aside from dropping the shame, the best thing for Bianca was knowing that her kids could trust her, felt safe with her and that she felt safe with herself.  Everyone was healing subsequent to Bianca healing.

How many of you have told us a similar story.  A similar rescue.  Yet, never-the-less others of us are afraid to go there.

Question:  How are you present with others who don’t understand your rescue story?  How do you stand beside someone who needs medical help for emotional illness but won’t accept it secondary to stigma?  Please tell us your story.