Choose Self-Care At Your Most Elemental Level


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Self-Care Tip #167 – Choose self-care at your most elemental level.

Carl, who writes blog-site, StillFugue, said after yesterday’s post on self-care being for everyone,

Sometimes depression blocks this type of self-care regardless of how good our cognitive strategies are.

Carl reminded me of Dr. Lang.  He was a physician, a father, a man of high character who never had depression in his life.  Then after a series of life stressors depression expressed itself and he, who once was the warm-fuzzy in the hospital, the man who never lost his optimism, the man who turned anyone’s bad mood around – this man came to me under a black cloud, heavy with melancholy, and raining tears.  He cried all the time.  This giant of a man cried and cried on his wife’s shoulder, and she was bewildered by him.  She told me he had done this for a month now, although the depression started about four years ago.  He kept wanting her to read to him the book of Job and cried more barely hearing the words.  He had already been through a series of well-chosen medications, but still he sank deeper.  No form of treatment kept up with the leak in his ship.  What was self-care for Dr. Lang?

Did Dr. Lang have good coping skills?  Well he wasn’t coping well now even though he knew the strategies.  He didn’t understand why he couldn’t use the coping skills.  Did he have intelligence?  Yes.  Did he have resources?  Yes.  However, none of that is what this was about.  Asking Dr. Lang to cope with his feelings is the same as asking someone blind to see.  Physically, biologically he could not.  His brain could not.  Much of his ability to choose behaviors and emotions were drowned by illness.

So again, the implied question comes to us, – “Is self-care for everyone?”

Mr. Rick C. threw this life-saver out in response to our question,

During times when chaos ensues, either internally or externally, self-care seems to become the basis on which all other positive actions are built.

Sarah McGaugh also referred to self-care as “action,”

A call to action may also be a higher calling than one’s own self….

What action did Dr. Lang do?  He cried on his wife’s shoulder and read the Bible, i.e., he leaned on the support he had built up before the hard times came.  After failing medications, he sought another opinion and other treatments.  Sure, he couldn’t get out of bed otherwise even to bathe himself, but he had made it to my office.  What did Dr. Lang do?  He got electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) and in two months, along with his medication (only one antidepressant was needed at this point), Dr. Lang was no longer crying.  In four months, he was laughing again.  In six months, he stopped ECT altogether and maintained his emotional health with his monotherapy medication.  It’s been seven years since Dr. Lang went through all that and he has not relapsed yet.

I pick out so many points that I consider self-care choices Dr. Lang made.  They changed over time for him according to his needs and abilities, but he didn’t want to die.  Even at his worst, when he could barely remember why life was so important, that wisp of hope was enough to live for.  It was a higher calling to him, higher than his own dark wants.

That was Dr. Lang’s choice.  He chose self-care at his most elemental level.  It was his response to the call of hope.

Questions:  But what about you?  What do you think?  Is self-care for everyone?  Please tell me your story.

18 thoughts on “Choose Self-Care At Your Most Elemental Level

  1. I think self care is seeking that which makes you feel ALIVE. So anyone still breathing is hoping for self care on some level, including Mr Lang. Doc, sorry. He wanted to feel better, feel alive but couldn’t but he was still “doing” self care.
    Ok, that’s it from the peanut gallery. After doing taxes all day, my brain is mush and I hope my post doesn’t reflect it. Luv u Dr Q.

  2. It’s for anyone who wants to live and it’s for anyone who has hope…as long as that person has support to begin with. I was more lucky than smart about my self-care, and, for whatever reason, this story really bothers me and makes me question whether I’ve done enough or am doing enough. It scares me, and that’s not a good thing.

  3. self care will only work if you want it to work but it has to be the people who just read it they have to read it learn it then carry it out ill give you an example of me a while back i worked as a cheff i didnt listen to the boss i blocked him out and he got to go home 4 hours late so what hes the boss this kept going for mounths then i siad i ve had enuff i walked out i went back about a week later i llistend to him i didnt block him out i started beliveing what he siad was it took me two weeks and i was faster than any staff he had not only that i was finished 3 hours early how come for a year i could not do the job and then sudely going back i could do it its because i wanted that and i wanted to belive him what i should of learnt in a year wasnt sinking in because i was blocking it out why did i learn so quicly becuase i wanted to learn i tihnk this comes into this site if we listen to all the tips and comments and we actualy do nothing but read them nothing will happen its a story but now if we read take it in proccess it and actualy start storeing bits of it in our memory we will actualy learn these things till a point will come when you can actualy do these things it will become routine now a lot of the tips on here i have never came accross i have to admit but they are very helpfull and i am starting to actualy learn some of this stuff

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  5. You make Dr. Lang come alive for me, Sana. What a sweet and courageous man. The way you write about him makes me want to hug him. Sometimes, I think of the people I meet or read about as newborn babies… little babies that grow up to experience the stressors of the world and have to navigate within those, based on the biology they are given. What hard journeys many of those sweet babies grow up to have… it makes you want to pick those who are hurting right up and care for them.

    I do think self-care is for everyone. What stands out to me here is that no one is guaranteed a “free pass” from depression simply because for most of her life she has not manifested symptoms. You make the point that mental illness is not related to the quality of our character…or even to our personalities…Mental illness is an equal opportunity, but thankfully, so is self-care.

  6. I responded to this an hour or so ago having read it over several times and thought about it and the questions that followed. I answered in a panic…and then I worried for an hour…and read about ECT (Not that I haven’t read a lot about it before. I have. Often.)…and realized that my reaction tonight was undoubtedly the result of a long plane trip yesterday and sheer exhaustion today, but it was also the result of a constant worry that, having been told there’s no more that I can do to help myself from a medical standpoint, what if I get worse again? If self-care for me is entirely up to me, could I handle it? My faith in God has to be the hope that keeps me going…that an the love of my family. And, at the moment, self-care for me is rest. I hope I made some sense with this. Thanks for “listening”.

  7. This story quite terrified me, I couldn’t help thinking of those who don’t have the option of seeking help, where there are financial constraints and problems just snowball. I fear there are many souls out there just hanging on for dear life. I am glad that Dr Lang found the light.
    Have a super week, Doc. xxx

    • u r right cin. things r rough for many, but even more so historically. in the last 30 years, brain-science has exploded and we have lept forward a huge distance whereas before we were hardly moving. many of us r blessed by it. before, regardless of opportunity, people didn’t have good treatment options.
      thanks for commenting cindy. u r a strong beating heart. keep on.

  8. Book of Job, eh? It is significant because it is the earliest theological literature we have. It seeks to explain the matter of reconciling unmerited suffering and yet maintaining faith. I theorize here that the end, where Job is restored, may have been added later to give the lesson a happy ending, because the true value of the lesson is to absorb misfortune while keeping faith and trust without a happy ending. I personally have no regard for the Book of Job, however. When there is misfortune, I hear people say “God is testing me.” If God is our Father and we are his children, why would he test us? The world may be full of hardships but what kind of God besets his children with manufactured hardships for his own agenda? Or entertainment? Faith teaches us that God is the Provider to enable us to endure hardship not the Author of Suffering. I want nothing to do with such a God. I think here is where the testing lies: Evil will test you every day. Not God. If you are an addict in recovery, cocaine will test you every day. Not God. It is Satan that tests us, not God. God invites us to covenant. The invitation is not conditional nor obfuscated with tests and roadblocks and suffering. The Kingdom of God is not of this world or its things, intangible or real. God does not play “kick the can” with us being the can.

  9. Thank you for addressing my comment head on. You’ve outlined it perfectly, and I feel comfort in that I am doing all that I can do, seeing a good doctor, taking the recommended medications, meditating, sleeping, eating better, etc. I am desperate when all of these things seemingly do not work, and am tempted to try ECT, but ECT, despite successes, can have tragic side effects. One needs to consider whether it is worth losing memory, even short term memory, and worse, concentration to the point that one cannot read anymore. I am not ready to give up reading. Reading keeps me sane some days.

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