What Moment Do You Have? This is Enough For Life.

orange toes in sand

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Self-Care Tip # 224 – When you have something beautiful, stop and think about how you feel, and then shrink it into some words to remember for always.

The day is late and sand is in my ears and between my toes.  I don’t have much left on the clock before I should shower and sleep.

Earlier, while walking to the car with my daughter, I remembered Anne Hathaway‘s performance in the movie, “Love and Other Drugs,” based on Jamie Reidy‘s 2005 memoir, “Hard Sell: The Evolution of a Viagra Salesman.”  Hathaway plays the role of “Maggie,” who despite her progressive demise secondary to Parkinson’s Disease, says to her love,

This is how happy I am, in this moment right now, the way the light’s hitting that face of yours, there’s this little breeze coming…, it doesn’t matter if I have 10,000 more moments like this or just this one because…. Right now this moment.  I have this.

The sun had set and we were wet and barefoot trying to get back to the car before dusk faded out.  I asked my daughter that if she could put all the feelings inside her she was feeling right then, that moment, into a tight little ball, “What are the words to describe it?”

This isn’t easy for a seven year-old to do developmentally and poor girl, I torture her with these questions.  And for all her suffering, I couldn’t tell you what she said beyond, “happy.”  But I do remember thinking, “This moment.  This moment is enough.

She was so beautiful, full up of goodness.  She belonged in the moment.  And me?  I was a part of it by God’s magic.  And now I have it.  Some bit of heaven already.

Questions – What moment(s) comes to mind that you have to remind you of what makes life worth living?  What do you have that is enough?  Please tell me your story.

The Patient-Doctor Relationship And Self-Care

Viral pharyngitis. The oropharynx is swollen a...

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Self-Care Tip – Explore self-care in ways where you do have choice, including healthy alliances with your connections.

PattyAnne came in knowing what she wanted.  She was sure she was struggling with ADHD because she could not focus, she had difficulty connecting with others and she was impulsive.  This was limiting her intimacy and ability to love and be loved by the people she wanted in her life.  PattyAnne had read about ADHD and was relieved thinking that taking a stimulant would improve her that much.

Getting ADHD as a diagnosis would explain to the people she would hurt why she hurt them.  It would give PattyAnne a name for the chaos that followed her or preceded her – she could not tell which.  Having a diagnosis that comes from a figure of perceived authority, say a Doctor of Medicine, offers this.  It is much like a judge who pronounces us innocent and another guilty.  This is not a bad or good motive.  It just is.  It is natural, as far as I can tell, to want to get away from implied or direct negatively perceived labels.

As a practitioner, it is not that easy to resist the lure of treatment when it would be so easy to make our patient happy.  It also takes a lot more time in patient education and building a trust relationship if we don’t agree with the patient’s self-diagnosis.  These pressures are real for any practitioner and many have wondered if the frequency of prescribing is affected by it.  For example, it is estimated that 73% of doctor visits for sore throats result in antibiotic prescriptions, but over 90% of sore throats do not respond to antibiotics.   (I know.  That is robbery!  Those poor other patients who got nothing for their copays!  Not even a prescription!)

So in comes PattyAnne, diagnosis and treatment already in place, all she thinks she needs is my signature.  It is not easy to be a patient.  Being a patient is a hard job in fact.  It requires at least some insight or the ability to receive insight, a vulnerable pose, humility, courage, self-respect and so much more.  Maybe PattyAnne was thinking, “Oh boy.  Now I got this woman who does not know that I’m ADHD!”

We have each other and begin the adventure of doctor-patient relationship, an alliance and a connection.

Questions:   What does a doctor-patient relationship mean to you?  How do you see your involvement in choice and control inside of it?  Please tell me your story.

 

Self-Care Woven and Unravelled Simultaneously for Best Results

Change is good--Kente Cloth Loom

Self-Care Tip #222 – See the different parts of your self-care as independent yet dependent on each other.

One of my truest pleasures would be to teach well.  My temperament is, per Myers-Briggs, designed to be a teacher and I agree that I feel inner congruence when I’m doing just that.

…If you’re feeling your hands closing into a bracing grip, it is probably because you, like many, really don’t want to be schooled – which has happened in my less refined moments, so caution is understood.  This is not what I hope to do here.

After yesterday’s blog-post and comments received, it shows that I have not taught as well as I implied to myself.  Implied intimacy is a danger of any familiar relationship, including with ourselves.  The beauty of you guys, is you help me say things “out loud” decreasing misunderstandings.  You guys are teaching me and I thank you.  So whatever this is we are doing, learning, schooling, teaching or whatever it is that Mr. Rick C. does – what we are doing here together is mucho-much fun.

As we unravel the rug together, we see these threads,

  • emotions and behaviors appropriate to context - yesterday we spoke about guilt
  • emotions and behaviors inappropriate to context - yesterday we spoke about guilt as a symptom of medical illness
  • the magical miraculous beyond our current understanding – before we “see face-to-face- yesterday Carol Ann mentioned the changing power of God
  • freedom to do self-care and related choices
  • what choice yet remains when other choices are lost either by action or disease
  • (this last one I’m just putting in here to finish the pretty rainbow) - helps me get in the barn where I’m comfortable

The reason I think it’s important to see these together yet apart, as well as we can (through a glass dimly), is that too much of one or another of these, diminishes the results of our self-care intentions.  Don’t mistake this for preaching that one can get too much of God in their lives.  It just isn’t true and not in our best interest to get waylaid.

Questions:  How do you see yourself more effective in your self-care efforts and what has influenced those improvements?  In what way have certain bits of your self-care gotten “too much” attention?  Please tell me your story.

Guilt Furiously Chasing You Is Commonly Experienced In Illnesses Of The Brain

Orestes Pursued by the Furies, by John Singer ...

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Self-Care Tip #221 – If you feel chased down by guilt, stop running and get friendly with yourself.

I’m so busy!  I am trying to work, raise three kids, and be a wife!  …and I’m just spread so thin!

It was new for Connie to think that where she was at in life was linked with her choices.  Somehow she intuitively felt taken along by it all, a current of life as people say, of either randomness or design.  Who could know, but it was more than her choices, she was sure, and she resented the influence on her life’s design.  Not that she had intended on taking over what was playing on her.  She just simmered in the house of cards hoping that when she got to make a play of her own, she’d make a good one and come out better for it.  In the mean time, she just had to keep moving fast.

Things would have been fine, except that over the past six months, she hadn’t been enjoying what she was living for, her kids, parenting, being a wife or her employment.  Yes, she was also  living for God but no, she wasn’t enjoying Him either.  Did she want to?  Did she feel guilty about it?

I feel guilty all the time.  It’s the guilt that gets to me.  It’s like I can’t see or feel much else.  Just when I think I’m about to get into what I’m doing, guilt comes chasing at me in a fury!  Distracting me and worrying me.  I’m on edge more and irritable from feeling defensive, and trying to get away from whatever this is.

Connie looked at me when I said,

Self-care begins and starts with “Me.”  Although we may be living for others and other things, even living for God, if we don’t take care of ourselves, our health first, our emotions and behavioral health included, we can’t give much, in the way of living, to those others.

I could see her pupils change and I got a little excited.  She was hearing something that affected her whole body and I sensed it was hope.  (See, I am an Emotions Jedi.)

We talked more about approaches she was using, prayer/meditation, exercise, grit and determination, waiting it out for better days to come and others.  Then I introduced the medical paradigm.  (You’ve heard me say it.)

Behaviors and emotions come from the brain.  We culturally think that they are volitional, under our control.  But how much can we really control of what the brain does?  Some.  But when we do the best we can with what we can control, and our behaviors and emotions are still hurting us, affecting our quality of life, damaging our relationships and connections – we need to look for biological reasons.  That’s where choice can still come into play.

She was looking and nodding.  This was at her “consideration stage” of introducing these new ideas.  I said,

I thought of telling you about this when you talked about guilt Connie because maybe your guilt is coming because of a brain illness.  It’s common in several emotional illnesses, like depression or anxiety, and in these illnesses it commonly comes in force, like you’ve described.

Her pupils had reduced to their earlier size, and her posture said she was winding down for that visit.  Whatever we discussed after that would be low yield, so we made a follow-up appointment and called it a day.

These days later, remembering Connie gets me thinking about what I would have said if she had been available to still hear more.  This bit about freedom to choose self-care, yet saying we have little to do with how our brain works can get confusing.  It might seem contradictory.  Tomorrow, I’m going to discuss it more, but for today, it would be wonderful to hear what you think.

Questions:  With behaviors and emotions coming from a material biological organ, the brain, yet knowing that we are free to choose for our self-care, what gives?  How do these ideas jive?  How have you seen it play out in your life?  Please tell me your story.

If it Matters to You, Even The Hot Shots Say, SELF-CARE BEGINS AND ENDS WITH ME

i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i ! i i i i i i

Self-Care Tip #220 – Take your freedom and be good to yourself.

Free-will keeps cropping creeping climbing clambering up with us.  Go figure.  As usual, Carl pushed buttons and inspired me to remember the lovely word “self-government.”  I was so delighted that not only does the term self-government say it so well, but I felt like I was the first to come up with it.  Then I googled around and found Webster, many countries (possibly yours,) and even our own constitution of the United States (“We the people…”) might have wrinkled time and stolen it from me before I even thought of it (See Einstein and the Fabric of Time.)  Can you believe that!

While calming my unappreciated self, I ran across like-minded David Rigoni’s splendid work at the University of Marseille.  (After reading this, I’m sure he will delight in hearing us named, “like-minded.”)  Dr. Rigoni says,

Folk psychology tells us if you feel in control, you perform better.  What is crucial is that these effects are present at a very basic motor level, a deep level of brain activity.

He and his team studied thirty people over different tasks, using different mediums of examination and deduced that it is better to believe.

If we are not free it makes no sense to put effort into actions and to be motivated.

Dr. Rigoni’s work reminded me of the work of MIT neuroscientist Sebastian Seung.  Some time ago, Dr. Seung gave a wonderful TED conference,

I am my connectome.

Dr. Seung tells us the good news that we are more than our genes.  The connections among neurons are where memories and experiences get stored – not in the genome.

My pleasure grew when I read about the collaborative work from a few schools we’ve heard of – see NYU news.  ….Apparently goals and habits show overlapping neurological mechanisms.

This is all very exciting to our self-government.  I’m sure that we the people would hate to find out that all this time we’ve demanded our freedom – it wasn’t even possible.  But it is – even per the hot-shots of the world. The sophisticated and unsophisticated, in paradigms of thought, Time and Timelessness, learning, beliefs and feelings, in my country and in yours – we continue comfortably and with confidence to say, SELF-CARE BEGINS AND ENDS WITH ME.  (See Ghettysburg Address.)

Questions:  When have you found yourself unable to claim your freedom to be friendly with yourself?  How have you managed to cross the barriers you perceived around yourself or others?  What would you like to tell Carl or Carl?  Please tell us your story.

Check Your Read. Even When You Feel Shame, Bullied and Herded, You Are Free.

Eve covers herself and lowers her head in sham...

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Self-Care Tip #219 – Check your read.  Be a friend to yourself.

I’ve been reading the comments on suicide, thinking and reading and starting who knows how many posts for today, but just couldn’t pull it together.  I spent my time rather drawn to the same words that I hear so many others say as well in clinic, in church, on the street, in the home.  Instead of seeing them find their place in me like I normally do with this kind of crowd, the words kept their space; word-snobs – crutch, selfish, dependent, moral and other words, dusting and reapplying in their reflection.

I had to think, “Why?  Why am I staring like this?”  And so the rest of the day, I perused those thoughts, licked my finger, flick, next, paper-cut and so on.  After all, this is SELF-care I’m talking about, implying I am starting with me.

At last, after rereading yesterdays and past comments, I found the shame I was avoiding.  Why I feel shame about these things isn’t important in this post.  (Maybe another post.  So if you have nothing else to keep you reading, you’ll have that dish to bait you.)

Shame comes when implied or direct judgment creeps into our space.  It herds us.  We are bullied and lose our personal boundaries.  It touches and violates.  That is what shame does.  Any time our perception of freedom feels threatened, it is normal to want to defend ourselves.  Separating from stigma is a normal response.

Claiming the shame, however, isn’t forced on us.  It is our choice.  Once we own the shame, then wanting to get away from reminders of it, of course, is natural for anyone.  But jog back and see.  The perception of shame was never forced on us.  We are free.  We are free to feel, to perceive, to believe, to choose or to stop rubbernecking at the sparkling drama.

He made me so mad…!

She really hurt me.

You ruined my life!

I don’t want to take medications because my husband makes fun of me.

I take Prozac but I don’t have mental illness.  I’d be ashamed to…

It is a normal response to not want to be in the space where we feel these things.  That is natural and what many have thought worth fighting for.  But what if our perception, our Sixth Sense, wasn’t getting a good read?  A war might have been avoided.  Our lives might be lived differently.

We really are free, already, to choose.

Question:  How do you see shame affecting your ability to be friendly with yourself?  Or others?  How have different perceptions put you in a place that felt more free and safe?  Please tell me your story.

Suicide. Is It A Natural Part of Life?

Society of suicide logo

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Self-Care Tip #218 – Find your own answer about why you fight against the “natural” course of mental illness.  Be a friend to yourself.

Suicide.

In psychiatry, we hope through conversation, evaluation, intuition and information to be able to say when someone is at risk to hurt themselves so we can do the best we can, collaboratively with any others, to stop suicide.  Sometimes there isn’t enough anyone can do.  Sometimes suicide happens.  Death is part of life and people die from illnesses all the time.

Question:  Why do we fight against death from mental illness, specifically by suicide, so hard?  Please tell me your story.

Self-Care Is Science And Magic

 

Illustration from around 1882 by S. Barth

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Self-Care Tip #217 – Connect better with ourselves, others and God.

I was watching (and I’m not proud of it), Sorcerer’s Apprentice (2010,) while working my stationary bike over.  It is an offshoot of Goethe’s poem, Der Zauberlehrling, written in 1797.

Dave Stutler (Jay Baruchel) becomes Balthazar’s (Nicolas Cage) apprentice.  Dave asks,

Is sorcery science or magic?

Balthazar replies,

Yes and yes.

This short conversation was potently familiar of our questions regarding the connection between emotional health, behaviors, biology and our essence/spirit.  This affects how we practice self-care.

Is self-care science or magic?

Yes and yes.

That word “magic” makes many of us uncomfortable so if you like, use spiritual or that which is yet not fully known.

The reason this is important to self-care, is that it allows for us to connect better with ourselves, others and God.  Suffering is when we feel alone.

Questions:  Is self-care science or magic?  What does that mean to you?  How have you seen that affecting your quality of life?  Please tell me your story.

Related Blog-Posts:

  1. Connection, It’s Medical But Still Magical
  2. Get Your Butter Knife And Spread Your Biopsychosocial Self Together
  3. The Paradox
  4. Sunshine
  5. Having Mental Health Means Sleuthing Magical Perceptions Sometimes
  6. Leave Space In Your Beliefs To Grow
  7. Forget About Divisions In Knowledge
  8. Things Will Always Be About Me

Where Does Courage Come From?

I want to do that, but I have no idea where I’m going to find the courage!

This is real folks.  People think this, say this, believe this and behave accordingly.  The other day, a young woman in her forties with a rolled scroll of precious problems including joint disease, extreme morbid obesity, nicotine dependence, depression, anxiety, obstructive sleep apnea, eczema, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), heart palpitations, diabetes, hyperlipidemia and polycystic ovarian disease – this woman told me these words.

I have no idea where I’m going to find the courage!

Where does courage come from?  Is there an odds ratio, statistics, intuition barometer or what?  Where do we find courage?  (I am remembering the dear Lion in The Wizard of Oz.)

I see courage coming from our ability to make decisions.  Being able to decide comes from many paradigms, including my favorites as broken down through the biopsychosocial model (listed in no particular order):

  • Biological – temperament (genes or personality,) mental health/brain health (the brain being the organ we use to make decisions with,) developmental (the neurodevelopment of the brain is different at different ages,) things we put in our body (diet, illicit drugs, alcohol or nicotine,) medical illnesses, sleep issues, exercise, rash, ingrown toe-nail….
  • Psychological – self-control, coping skills, catastrophizing, negative thinking, thoughts, emotions, and behaviors….
  • Sociological – culture (including home, religion, race, gender,) stressors on our body, social support, God, interpersonal relationships (friends, marriage, kids, colleagues,) parenting, unemployment….

(WHEW!  Recovering my breath.)

Where do we find courage?

I drew a picture in the air for her psychological self,

17th century

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I see you 100 pounds lighter, not smoking for the past six months at least, off of six of your twelve medications, your medical problem list shortened down to two or three.  You are able to feel pleasure again.  It is a real option for you.

If you don’t, I see you growing demented, paralyzed and dying from a heart attack.  I can’t say when these things will happen but they will happen if you don’t start taking care of yourself.

Where does courage come from?

For her biological self, I targeted the language of her temperament.  I remembered that we make decisions either through thought or feeling.  She was a “Feeler.”  I drew forth my light saber and went for the emotions.

You can do this!  Think of the gift you’d be giving yourself and to those you love.

For her sociological self, I talked about everyone in the family choosing with her, including husband.  Talking about how this changes the family culture, not to smoke together, setting boundaries with her husband to care for herself and thinking about getting other support networks like starting to go to church again or calling her pastor.

Question:  Where does courage come from for you?  Please tell me your story?

Self-Care Tip – Use your biopsychosocial model, that is to say all of what makes you you, to find your courage.  Be a friend to yourself.

Self-Care Doesn’t Have to Be That Big of A Fight

Rajasthani women take part in tug of war game ...

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Self-Care Tip #215 – Fight as little as you possibly can when reaching for your choices to self-care.

We skipped over that.  We didn’t tug on the medication-or-no-medication rope.  What a relief.  Marsha surprised me.  When we first met, she had been the one who said,

I don’t want medications but I can’t go on like this.  If I choose to start, when can I stop?

In these scenarios, it’s easy to get snagged by the temptation to educate (tug.)  There is the risk that if we don’t educate, we might miss our opportunity to engage her in treatment and get help.  However, because Marsha was willing to at least start medication, even though the duration of treatment was in question, I decided to let the medication argue its own case.  (Standing quietly by the rope.)

Not everyone is as good to me as she was.  Some patients, prodded and edgy from the anxiety, want to fight a little.  That anxiety is coiled and full of potential energy.  Feeling put off, up it springs when I say,

Let’s talk about this, if it’s alright with you, after you’re feeling better emotionally.  (Pulling on the rope now, heels three inches deep into dirt.)

Somehow, Marsha let it ride out.  Somehow, Marsha came out on the other side.  She had nearly forgotten about wanting to ever stop her medications.  She never even brought it up in fact.  I did.  I think I had to say it twice to get her to know what I was talking about.

No.  I don’t care if I have to stay on these medications the rest of my life.  I feel so much better!  I’m more myself than I ever was.

 

And there it came.  That beautiful awareness of taking care of our changing selves.  Without much in the way of hand blisters, she stepped by her own volition across the line.  Marsha was a no drama type of girl.  Just in time, I caught the temptation, my own springing up potential energy to pull on the rope when we were on the same team.

Marsha had struggled with disabling mental illness her entire life, and here in the third decade of life, she simply walked over into health.  Gracefully she left her previous self, accepted her new, assumed it was her intended baseline and that was that.  She wasn’t over the stigma, she hadn’t accepted some of the other lifestyle changes entirely but still, she was content to call her team, come what may.  What a woman.

Questions:  How has the process of getting on and staying on medications been for you?  When have you felt more yourself?  How do you define your true self when you change through life?  Please tell me your story.

Never Let Go of Hope, Even When Depressed and Anxious

Linda, Lake of the Woods Run, 15 K

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Self-Care Tip #214 – Never let go of hope, even when depressed and anxious.

Some blog-posts ago, Be Aware of Your Feelings was written and “M” asked,

What is the difference between depression and anxiety?

Anxiety and depression are like brother and sister.  They often go together.  When we think of “paradigms,” we think of an arch that might intersect with another arch.  However, when I think of the affective (or mood) spectrum intersecting with the anxiety spectrum, I see them weaving, interlaced or chasing each other.  Not a line and nothing tidy.  So understanding the difference also includes understanding their relationship.

In training, I remember presenting a patient with anxiety and depression to my psychiatry attending physician.  I hadn’t clarified the timeline of onset of symptoms.

When presenting, every resident physician knows the moment when they are found out.  The other residents on the rounding team instinctively lean back, try to take a step away even, so the lightening doesn’t singe them when it strikes.  I’m sure I smelled like fear too.

The reason the time of onset of symptoms is important, is that it tells us the primary disease process.  Knowing that, influences the speculations on patient recovery, duration of illness and our choices for treatment.  Some medications for depression can really activate anxiety and the patient might not enjoy the free-fall into hell after starting the antidepressants.  Also, there are some treatments that work better for different disease processes and such.

It’s common for someone who has suffered from depression on and off for years, but never from anxiety, to have their first panic-attack out of the blue, without trigger.  Bummer!  Then they start to roll.  Bam!  Bamm!  BAm! BAAM! BBBAm!  The panic attacks may come in spurts and then go away for a time.  The opposite is also true, starting off with anxiety, and followed by depression.

I don’t think anyone, including “M,” is asking me to talk about the differences between anxiety and depression in that depression is a state of sadness, and anxiety is a state of autonomic nervous system activation.  Rather there is the wonder of why they follow each other in course, why the are so often in each other’s company, why so many medications that treat one will treat the other, why they run in family histories and/or why they are both “so common.”  We have some ideas we use to answer but we don’t have enough objective information to explain.

Some of the good news is that these diseases are treatable.  The sooner they are treated and when treated to full recovery, the better the hope for long-term brain health is.  I have seen people feel defined by these diseases and trapped.  My job isn’t to minimize that, but rather to highlight what might bring hope.  Selling hope turns out to be one of my biggest jobs.  The same attending physician I mentioned above told me that.  He never stopped talking about hope.  Even for me.

Questions:  How do you answer “M’s” question?  How have you seen depression and anxiety move together and how have you responded to it?  What has given you hope when they did?  Or, when you saw this in someone else.  Please tell me your story.

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Living Where We Feel Safe is Part of Self-Care

Self-Care Tip #213 – Live in safety.  Be a friend to yourself.

In My Fridge

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I love psychiatry because for me it is a safe place.  A place where I am comfortable pushing aside distractions.  The blinking lights disappear and I don’t have to waste myself on B.S.  Some time ago, I told you about how Mom has been when Dad’s been hospitalized in the past.  When she pushed his tubing aside and just got in bed with him to hold him.  All that mattered then was Love.  They didn’t see the clutter any more.  That’s what psychiatry offers.  If we want, we  can come together and be real.  In twenty to forty minutes, we can hune and warp time and find a gravity where we breathe differently.

Chewbacca

Image by Andres Rueda via Flickr

Unfortunately, I have found that the longer I do this psychiatry thing, the worse I am with life otherwise.  Whether I’m with the grocer, dog-trainer, my child’s teacher or person in front of me in the coffee-line – I just don’t graze well.  (See blog-post, “Do You Feel Pleasure.”)  I’m always yelling, “Hit it Chewbacca!” and we’re off at warp speed into asteroids of personal information; perhaps inappropriate to the setting.  (See blog-post, “Using The Force.”)  I hate to think what I’ll become when I’m more thoroughly demented and disinhibited.  These things just get more pronounced with age and soon I’ll just be that crazy Auntie with her bra snapped on top of her bathing-suit in winter yelling at the young kids to turn the music down so we can talk.

The truth is, I’ve never been so wonderful in tinsel-town.  I found home and found that home needs to be a place where we are safe.  In fact, this is true materially in the home we live in.  It starts there and diffuses out.  If at home we are able to speak uncensored knowing we respect others and are respected because we are human, not because we have to earn it, if we can enter our kitchen and not fear temptation from chocolate chip cookies, open the fridge and know as an alcoholic the wife or husband didn’t buy beer, argue and trust that we are loved enough to be a priority, we know the issue won’t be lazily passed up, we know we are safe – then there is a ripple and a ring of safety and another ripple and another ring of safety and soon safety follows us because we just aren’t interested in anything else.  (That was a super-sentence.)  We have found home.

Questions:  How do you define safety?  What feels safe for you?  How do you grow your circle of safety?  Please tell me your story.

Does What You Live For Make Life Better For You or Worse?

Project 365 June 2008 Mosaic

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Self-Care Tip #212 – Figure out what you are living for and use it to make your life wonderful.

All of us have at least one thing in life that will undo us.  We all have something(s) that we consider worth living for.  For the most primitive to the most cultured, from the most defended to the most vulnerable, we have this (these) soft spot(s).  For me, it is my family.  Many of us might say the same, but there are others of us who have other beauties, treasures, The Pearl (as described by Steinbeck) that they would unravel over.

Because this is so scary, we might get snared up in where to go banking when we think about this.  We buy more guns, build more storehouses, fill our basement with jugs of water and like Japan, we find ourselves undone by our own preparations.

An interesting statistic is that homes with guns in them have more suicides.  In famine, the rats eat all the grain before we can.  And poor Japan, who had the most amazing defenses against, an unheard of, three simultaneous natural disasters, is leaking cancer.

Pricilla, also, was almost undone.  She’d argued with her husband and she felt fragmented by it.  She felt herself dissolving from the emotional pain and did not even want to recover.  The argument was bad.  The construct of her world precariously balanced moment by moment immobilizing her.  If she moved, she was afraid of which way life would tilt.

Soft spots can be our greatest strengths though.  We can see them as weakening our defense against life’s cruelty, or we can see them otherwise.  When we live defensively, we miss a lot.  Pricilla, I was fortunate enough to witness, chose to go towards her pain, which was in fact going towards what made life valuable to her.  Pricilla wasn’t able to do this until her emotions (what she interpreted her reality with) became more friendly to her.  Her emotions had been awry and she had been a fearful person for a long time.  After working hard on her medical illness through self-care, including medications and other life-style changes, Pricilla became less preoccupied with her ruminating fears.

Pricilla was learning through gene therapy (i.e., medications and lifestyle changes) to use her love for her husband as a strength.  I wonder about those in Japan.  I know we have prayed for them and hurting for them and hoping.

The other day in my children’s Classical Conversations class one of the teachers prayed for the rescue and survival for the citizen’s of Japan.  I prayed for a wonderful death or dying process for those who weren’t going to live.  I don’t think either of us prayed better or braver than the other and I don’t bring this up to qualify prayers.  I say it to highlight how we were holding our soft-spots.  The individual Japanese is at the point in their life’s journey, I imagine, where the life lived till now was a preparation of sorts for how they would hold themselves during this disaster.  How did they defend themselves?  Were their soft-spots their points of vulnerability and weakness, or strength?

Questions:  What do you live for?  Is it empowering to you or does it make you scared?  Please tell me your story.

Get Your Butter Knife Out and Spread Your Biopsychosocial Self Together

Grape Jelly is Spread Over Peanut Butter

Image by Old Shoe Woman via Flickr

Probably when you have thought about psychiatry in the past, before this blog, you weren’t thinking about self-care.

What do you think of psychiatry?  Would any of you shout out a word, can I have a word, give me a word, any word that shoots to the front of your thoughts?

Psychiatry has changed.

There is a progression of how we view mental health now vs. even thirty years ago.

Back in the day, things went along the lines of poisonous medicines, close the window because sunshine is unhealthy for you, surgery without anesthesia, maggots… drilling holes in people’s heads to let evil spirits out and offering cigarettes to calm the nerves – or cigars as I wonder if any of u would argue.

Truth be told, I’m still learning about psychiatry.  I imagine I will be forever, because I think it is a science that flattens the universe and is unhinged from Time.  I don’t know how big or involved that is, but I’m thinking more than my sum of years can master.

For now, we understand that there is interplay between biological, psychological, and social issues that make us who we are.  We call this the Biopsychosocial Model.  Pretty cool word – biopsychosocial.  It hit me last night when I was working over these thoughts that self-care can also be organized, framed, conceptualized and all that to help it make more sense to us.

What is self-care?  Self-care is a philosophy that everything starts and ends with Me.  And that Me is all of me.  My biological, psychological and social self.

Self-Care is teaming up with our biology.  So where do behaviors and emotions come from?  This to me is one of the most challenging questions to answer from a cultural and moral level.  Can you tall me your gestalt?  Where do our emotions and behaviors come from?  What do they mean about who we are?

Self-Care is Empowerment and not victimization.  This is part of our “psychological” selves.  No one is responsible for our emotions but “Me.”

Self-Care is knowing our Essence. This is part of our “social” selves.  Our Essence is what we find after we get sick, after we change in every way but one, it is our identity, who or what we are.

To understand our essence, knowing our connections helps:

Connection:

  1. God/Love
  2. People
  3. knowledge

When we get sick, our identity, who or what we are – our essence might feel threatened.  Some people call this our “soul” instead of essence.  I found it interesting to think of the soul or essence as part of our “social” selves but it is and it helps me bring it all together better.  My soul is created for connections.  With you in fact.  And my soul has been more connected to the rest of me since you came.

Self-Care is Freedom.  This is another part of our “social” selves.  You may remember that phrase, “To love someone, you have to let them go.”  Freedom brings connection.  Lovely, no?

Now get out our butter knife and let’s smear all this together in a sandwich.  That is who we are.  Without dividers.  That is important if we plan on getting friendly with ourselves.

Self-Care Tip #211 – Whatever is tripping you up when you go, blend it in with the rest of you and things will get more friendly (smoother.)

You Might Find That You Are A Genius

Did I do the right choice !?

Questions:  What do you do when you are avoiding something?  When you have a job waiting under your nose, what is it that you find yourself using to procrastinate with?

If you see a pattern in what you use to self-sooth with, to avoid with, to divert with and to ease the pain of doing what you don’t want to do, write it down somewhere else.  It’s already written on your heart.  This, with some introspection and purposeful hard work, might be your genius, your natural place of interest and where you are able to feel pleasure and quality of life.  This is an activity, (now hold on – even resting is an activity, so put your hand down,) that is consistent with your hard-wiring – your genes.  Get it?  Genes.  Genius.  That’s why we need to know ourselves to get friendly with ourselves.  Our self-care isn’t too friendly fighting our biology – our temperament.

I noticed this tonight as I was perusing and writing emails when I have to finish up a talk I’m giving tomorrow for the Rotary.  I noticed this when I turned to write my post on this blog before working on that talk I’m giving tomorrow for Rotary.  It’s 8:15 pm.

This post is not glorifying the act of procrastination, avoidance or shirking responsibility.  (Shame on me.  Don’t remember this.  Don’t let this imprint on your minds.)  This post is simply saying, if you are, take a few to use what you’re doing for your self-care.  In the future, you could then choose more actively to do those things that you discovered come so naturally to you.  You might find that you are a Genius!  Wouldn’t that be fun?

Self-Care Tip # 210 – Use whatever comes your way, including procrastination, to teach you about becoming a better friend to yourself.

Emotions – The Sixth Sense and Moralizing Self-Care

17th century representation of the "third...

Image via Wikipedia

Yesterday we talked about self-care being about bigger things than just the individual – bigger than “Me.”  This leads us into today’s questions.

Question #1:  Is Not Doing Self-Care Selfish?  Please tell me your story.

As if there weren’t enough things to feel guilty about, we had to ask this question!

One of the intuitive responses many of us have when we hear this kind of question is to moralize our behaviors by using our emotions to interpret their value.  This can lead to inappropriate guilt, and even more so when we suffer from an affective (involving mood,) and/or anxiety illness(es.)  We do this to ourselves and/or to others.

Some time ago we spoke about emotions often being used by us to interpret our reality; even though they don’t decide our reality.  To emphasize this, let’s name emotion, as others have done before us, “The Sixth Sense” – and I’m not referring to that scary movie with Bruce Willis in it.

Just like our traditionally named Five Senses, the emotion senses are used to interpret the world around us and define what we perceive as true.

  1. Smell (olfacoception or olfacception)
  2. Vision (ophthalmoception)
  3. Hearing (audioception)
  4. Touch (tactioception)
  5. Taste (gustaoception)
  6. Emotion/Feeling

We have many other senses as well - temperature (thermoception), kinesthetic sense (proprioception), pain (nociception), balance (equilibrioception) and acceleration (kinesthesioception).  We argue as to how to define a perception.  But unlike with the sense of emotions, what we don’t usually argue over is qualifying a moral value to these other more familiar senses.

Senses are perceptions.  They are not objective.  They are subjective.  For example, we cannot measure vision in a vial.  Even people who are neurologically blind, have things they perceive that they see.  There are visual pseudohallucinations that happen with visual system lesions, such as a stroke – hallucinations like moving, colored or geometrical forms, real objects or scenes.  We won’t get into all the different types of hallucinations or pseudohallucinations there are.  Rather, we will highlight that what we “see” is a perception and not a measured value.  Same with emotions.  Emotions are perceptions and not measured values.  The Sixth Sense.

If we could quantify the sense of emotions and qualify the sense of emotions than it would be easier for us to be more objective when thinking about our original question.  So what now?  A lot of help that does!

Question #2: What now?

This brings us back to the self-care practice of “presence.”  It just is.  So it goes.  Oh well.  Stay connected so you have other reference points to yourself.  Go towards your fears to be more present with yourself, …and so on.

Question #1:  Is Not Doing Self-Care Selfish?

It depends who is asking and who is answering in context of how they are using their emotions to qualify self-care.  When we think about not doing self-care, we can’t help but remember all the people in the wake of the uncared for life.  Those people if asked might say, yes or no, depending if they interpret selfishness as a moral issue and where they assigned moral value otherwise.  When we think about the person not doing their self-care, she might say, no or yes, depending if she interpreted selfishness as a moral issue and where she assigned moral value otherwise.

Another intersecting paradigm into our perceptions, and there are many, is the temperament typology.  Many of us, in fact the majority of us, interpret our reality through our Sixth Sense – how we feel. This is as we were designed, as we were wired, as we do from a biological level.  Yet we assign moral value to The Sixth Sense – Emotions.

Consistently, those of us who are genetically interpreting our reality from thought, executive thinking and more detached from the limbic system of the brain – we have moralized, assigning value to those abilities or the lack of them.  (Don’t go there.  My brain is tired.  Don’t bring up the idea that The Seventh Sense is thought!  Ah!)

The fact that we can say, No! to taking on the moral assignments of others, comes to us from our freedom to choose or not to choose self-care.

Question #1:  Is Not Doing Self-Care Selfish?

Self-Care Tip #209 – Embrace your Sixth Sense to be present with yourself in self-care.

Self-Care Is About More Than “Me”

Self-Care Tip #208 – If for no other reason, get friendly with yourself simply to survive and you’ll see what that means later.

my self care reminders

Image by CatrinaZ via Flickr

It is not unusual to think of “selfish-care” when we hear “self-care.”  I can imagine children gripping their mother’s skirts more tightly, husbands pulling their helpmate’s hands away from this influence, church-folk sniffing over rejections to service-calls or friends personalizing the way their phone doesn’t ring as much as it used to.  This is a natural response, although it is a false perception.  Think – feeling suffocated by her penance, he’s wearing a martyr’s cross or she’s giving to us from victimhood.  Those are the times we would rather not receive the gifts of time, person or anything dripping with that kind of guilt and implied debt. This kind of service comes from someone impoverished, giving on credit.

I’ve been known to say, “We can’t give what we don’t have.”  Or as Jasmine said,

You can’t give someone a ride if you’re all out of gas!

So when is self-care selfish?  To be true to what self-care is, I’d say almost never.  However, because the question comes from such an intuitive fear in any of us, “never” can’t be an entirely fair answer.  To answer it best though, we need to turn it over and go back to trying to discover why we wanted self-care first.  What brought us here?  Jacqui said it well in yesterday’s post-comments:

Ditto about ‘self-care boot camp’. I may steal that one. You’ve given me permission to be selfish if need be. It’s all about self-preservation.

Sometimes we are reduced to self-preservation.  It has an intensity to it, a survival mode of live or die, which may be appropriate to a desperate condition in life.   Many of us know what that feels like.  So in this context, self-care is in part about survival.  Alright.  But is survival a selfish need?  Are we worth that little?  Does the life in us hold value only at that level?

rejuvenation.self.care.logo

Image by guttersnipe.76 via Flickr

You hear the clomping my words are making and can follow that I answer, no.  Survival has far reaching significance.  I matter.  You matter.  We have value beyond our own selves and Me booting up to live better also ripples over those same infinite number of connections.

I am confident that if for no other reason than getting friendly with yourself simply to survive, you will still see at least some of what more that means later.  Self-care is about more than Me.

Question:  When do you think self-care is selfish?  Why do you think self-care is not?  Please tell me your story.

Write Your Letter To Get Self-Care Insight

Grafitti with social statement

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Self-Care Tip #206 – Write your letter to get what you’re looking for from self-care.  Be a friend to yourself.

So why am I so interested in self-care?

I’m not sure who said this first, but I heard it from speaker and author Peter Rollins, and it rings true.  People write letters not necessarily to communicate to others but because they needed to hear the words themselves.

For example, the smooth Paublo Neruda wrote in his poem XVII (I do not love you…) as translated by Stephen Tapscott,

…I love you without knowing how, or when, or from where.
I love you straightforwardly, without complexities or pride;
so I love you because I know no other way

than this: where I does not exist, nor you,
so close that your hand on my chest is my hand,
so close that your eyes close as I fall asleep.

You may also remember this verse from the movie Patch Adams.  I think Paublo Neruda must have really wanted connection.  And so with me, I’ve been writing my own letters of sorts – every day about self-care.  What do you think about that?

The truth is, it’s not hard to see why I’d need that.

This leads us to victims.  We’ve all seen them, and probably been them at one point or another.  Parents who blamed their kids behaviors for their feelings.  Spouses who blamed their Other for their feelings.  Physicians, nurses, accountants, judges who blamed their colleagues, who blamed their employers – “Every day there is just so much work put on me.  The system’s corrupt.”

What I realized is that I was also living like a victim.  I wasn’t taking care of myself.  No one can give what she doesn’t have.  And I didn’t think I was responsible for this.  I actually thought at some conscious and including subconscious levels that all these other things in life were reason enough to suffer like me.  Many of us think this way – stress leads to poor treatment of ourselves.  It may, or it may not.  But all we can have any control in, is our own selves.

Love Letter

Image via Wikipedia

 

This was my ah-ha.  Self-care begins and ends with Me.  This became a passionate love-letter for me even though I’m still not above “victimhood.”

For us who were “ruined” by their circumstances, tired and loveless because someone cheated us, mad because of thoughtlessness – we were in need of Love.

 

No one is responsible for my emotions but “Me.”

Questions:  Why are you interested in self-care?  What letter have you been writing?  Please tell me your story.

For Our Own Benefit – Share What You Got

Two young girls sharing a plate of spaghetti. ...

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Self-Care Tip #205 – Sharing Love with others is friendly to yourself.

For every person you care about and talk to about Jesus, they’re that much more likely to be led to Jesus.

I recently heard something to this effect out of the jolliest, most well-intentioned man.  He quoted some of my favorite verses such as “the rocks will cry out” and others to support his understanding that we hold responsibility to share the gospel.

I’m not here to say how Jesus works.  However, I have a hard time believing that God would leave your salvation up to the likes of me.  I have a hard time believing that God would leave my salvation up the the likes of you.  I do however think that it is good self-care and possibly helps us choose God more deliberately, more thoroughly and more decidedly.  Sharing the goodness in us, sharing what brings love into our lives, sharing what brings love to others, sharing what brings more connection between us – that has to be good for us.

Question:  How has sharing Love helped your narrative, your self-care and your connections in life?  Please tell me your story.