Safety in Connections With Others

Nami 01

Marcy came in looking like a question mark.  Despite her gorgeous face and swank, she still looked uncertain.

Marcy was born into chaos.  Get this.  Her father who spent her whole childhood using drugs, alcohol and strange women, who was emotionally and mentally absent most of her life, who is possibly still using, is the one person in the whole world Marcy calls her confidante.  “He gets me.  I can really talk to him.  Even my husband doesn’t understand me like he does, you know, emotions.”

Marcy, despite years of fear, panic attacks, the survivor of abuse and neglect was clinging to her dad.

Marcy was lost in the headlights of the oncoming life.  She thought after having spent her entire life afraid, it was time to heal so she though she’d give medication therapy “a try.”

After initiating medications for Marcy’s post-traumatic stress disorder and after her panic-attacks stopped, Marcy started attending NAMI.  What a believer in NAMI she became!

They just make it easy for me to talk about myself, say things I can’t even tell my husband, and they know what I’m going through.

Listening to her talk about them was letting fresh air into our room.  Hope floated in.  Now Marci doesn’t believe that her dad is the only one in the world she can connect with at this level.  Now Marci does not feel as alone.  Why?  Because she went and got connected.  She whacked through the briar hedge of misperceptions, biases and insecurities between her and others.

Marci still thinks largely of her father, but he’s not the only one.  He has some competition to the throne which means, Marci has a better chance of being influenced by someone healthier.  Rather than attack Marci’s attachment with her Father, NAMI is giving her more to fill her heart with.

Self-Care Tip #285 – Find safety in healthy connections with others.

Questions:  When have the connections in your life saved you from warped views?  How do you think we could do better with this?  Please tell me your story.

To Catch What People Throw At You, Give a Little or You’ll Drop It

Football: Jets-v-Eagles, Sep 2009 - 16

Image by Ed Yourdon via Flickr

Sometimes it doesn’t serve us well to follow our instincts.

When I was little, I don’t know, maybe nine, I remember one of the many times Dad tried to teach me how to throw and catch a football on our front lawn, under the huge tree that seemed to always block me. Dad had played college-ball on scholarship at Duke University where he promptly blew out his knee; one of the many orthopedic problems he’s known. However, he still had his arm and his gentle way of making me feel like he really enjoyed lopping the ball over short distances with me and my awkward hands.

Catch the ball right here, into your arm like you’d cradle a baby.

Nobody needs to try that many times before learning that footballs are hard and pointy and hurt a lot when we catch them wrong. Purposefully putting my body in front of that spinning high-speed object didn’t feel safe.

Get in there and watch it the whole way make contact with you as you catch it.

My eyes were still shut when he said that. I was trying not to cry but I was pretty sure my fingers were going to look differently when I opened them.

Here came more less obvious instruction,

Let your arms and hands give a little, while you catch, closing down on the ball as you let it push you.

People throw all sorts of things at us in the space between “me and thee.” It can hurt to catch and even physically damaging. But counterintuitively, we need to catch like we are cradling a baby, get in there, and give way a little.

This isn’t always advisable but it refers to opportunities to practice presence. Not every interpersonal moment is such an opportunity. Nor will each true opportunity be received naturally or effectively. Those will improve with practice, or perhaps coaching or medical intervention.

The other day, Frida told me with some self-satisfaction about the long hoped for day when she stayed with her daughter during her daughter’s anger, rather than escaping. She gave space for her daughter to throw her pain around. Frida cradled her in her personal space long enough to receive and throw back. For Frida, what she threw back was the next effort of growth. That day we celebrated the presence she was able to offer her daughter and herself.

Now get in there Frida, let it come into you. Give way to some of the momentum or you’ll drop it, and cradle what you catch.

For Frida to do this, she owned her choice to find the presence and to do the work to gain the skill. As I am a medical physician of the brain, you might guess we worked on her illnesses. Frida stayed, received her presence in the company of her daughter – and we celebrated.

Self-Care Tip #284 – Give way to some of the momentum and cradle what you want to be present with.

Related Articles:

Sucking Up to the Boss May Move You Up and Keep You Healthy

Grief Can Be Treasured At The Same Time That We Celebrate Life

Self-Care Tip #283 – Find the treasure in your grief while celebrating life.

Today is my daughter’s sixth birthday.  If ever there was a person who doubled the love she received, it is this chid.  She is all passion.  Yes, both ways, but that isn’t to judge.  Just, there is so little I can offer in words to describe her power of self.

They're asleep!

Image via Wikipedia

Tonight, we pushed two twin beds together so she and I could sleep beside each other.  Her sister slept nearby on another twin bed.  Her brother set his bed up in the closet.  (I know.)

If I wasn’t so tired, old and broke, I might be made vulnerable by times like this to having more kids.  Since that’s not going to change, these chubs are what we will stick with.  Happily.

My mind is turned toward God by this girl.  I somehow arrive in the moment praying when with her, perhaps for strength and patience or for humility and gratitude.  I learn from her.

Mommy, when I’m scared I talk to Jesus.

Often in times like this, I think of my niece, dead now six years, and how her parents and we wanted what was, what was stripped.  Still grieving and still living the life with us and in us, our braided thoughts and emotions easily lose their flow.

But today I have this clarity.  My niece is gone now six years and ten days.  Today my daughter is six years old.  Today I am sleeping with my three children.  Today I know that this is precious but this is not all we want.  We want what comes after our living years.  We want to let loose to Love the grief and the life; to untangle.  Not more.  Not less.  But we want.  We want what we have, now, although still in the unknown dimension of our forever.

In psychiatry, we are alert to grief that warps the ability to engage in life.  Grief that mars the connections of survivors.  Grief that becomes pathology, brain disease and a medical condition.  This grief disables and, for example, in the case of my daughter’s birthday today, would dissolve my ability to feel pleasure.

It is difficult to gain access to treatment as many of these survivors have ill opinions about medical care.  Such as; fearing medications will mute their connection with the deceased; mute their grief, or in other words, tribute/offering to the deceased; take away the personal punishment for surviving…

Questions:

  • What do you say to these weeping lives?  How can we de-stigmatize medical care for them?
  • How have you been able to treasure your grief and the life with you and in you?

Choice and Biology – Where Emotions and Behaviors Come From

Three Legged Race

Image via Wikipedia

I left the light on outside, waiting for my husband to come home.  He was gone, though, to a meeting and wouldn’t be back until Friday.  Some bit of automatic thought current made me flip the light switch and before I realized what I’d done, I flushed.

My husband’s eyes aren’t good and he doesn’t see well without a light.  I can.  I don’t “see” so to speak, but somehow I know where things are and can find my way in the dark.  I’m not a bobcat.  I just remember the way things look by the emotions I felt around them.  This is what was happening that night.

I flipped the switch and there he was.  Walking toward the door.  Distracted.  Fitting his key; almost home.  This was all in the moment that it took me to feel happy and then disappointed remembering he was away.

I turned the light off then because I’m not daft.  But it made me think about what sets our behaviors and emotions in motion.  In that moment, finger to the switch, up, anticipation and disappointment – in that moment, I didn’t choose what happened by the cultural definition of choice.  I responded to patterns that many choices I’d made before had laid down.  Tracks in my brain, hedged and maintained by recurring choices, along with design; my emotions and behaviors also an expression of my temperament.  These moved with each other.  But were they moving along the way we generally think of them, like a three-legged race?

Who was leading who?  Trip.  Get up!

One, two, one, two.  Step.  Step.  Step.  Step.  

And in that moment, my layers of choices were counting out with my biology, “One, two!”  There I was, participant and audience.

When we think about where emotions and behaviors come from, culturally we view them as if they are awkwardly related.  As if biology and choice are tied together at the ankles, about to trip each other up.  We call out to them, hoping somehow they might not show the public how little they know of each other’s rhythms.

But you can see the ridiculousness of this.  Choice and biology are in no way separate.  Design forbids it.  The question of where emotions and behaviors come from in itself reveals our confusion.  They come from the same place.

I can hear the concern that this eliminates free-will.  Answer …”But why?”

After these thoughts that night, I turned the light back on.  I preferred how I felt when I thought my husband might arrive soon.  I chose I guess.  What else could I do?

Questions:  What does it mean to you to fuse choice and biology in the discussion of emotions and behaviors?  How does your culture view this?  Does this affect the way you care for yourself?

Self-Care Tip #282 – Don’t deny the choice available to you to feel and behave as you wish, where that wish surfaced from and the tools you use to make them.

Stop! Don’t Stop! – Affecting Our Practice Of Medicine and Other Agendas

Self-Care Tip #281 – Be aware of how your “Stop!  Don’t stop!” behavior is interfacing with your agenda.

One of the challenges in practicing medicine is the inevitable “Stop!  Don’t stop!” petitions.

stop & go

Image by Joseph Robertson via Flickr

It’s similar in a few ways to being a shoe cobbler who receives clients that don’t want her to use leather.  Ms. Cobbler spends 40-60% of her time with clients persuading them of her capacity to use leather, the objective and subjective evidence behind the use of leather and empowering her clients to wear their leather shoes despite public opinion.

This sounds silly and is not meant to be disrespectful to patients, including myself as a patient of physicians and my own difficulties being a patient.  It is only to describe the forces we are all working with when we work together in medical care – physician and patient.

Quenn came in reminding me of this.  Quenn was a 32 year-old married mother of three, who complained of trouble swallowing, sleeping and ability to feel pleasure over the past two months.  She had struggled with this after her mother died nine years ago, but the problems went away over the following year.  However nine years-ago, Quenn was not a mother.  Nine years-ago, Quenn could shake, stay in the house with the shades down, silent or crying loudly, not eating lying in bed for days and if she wanted, nine years-ago no one would know.  This time however, Quenn told me she was desperate.

I have to get better!  This time, I’ll do anything!  But please start with something natural.  I don’t want to get addicted!  I’m someone who never does meds.”

Quenn, why are you seeing me?  

This is challenging for everyone.  Together, the physician and the patient work with this influence on their agendas.

My brothers and I used to play a game on each other when we were kids.  Maybe you did this too.

Stop!  No don’t!  Stop!  No don’t! Stop!  Don’t!  Stop! Don’t! Stop! Don’t stop! Stop! Don’t!  Don’t Stop!  Don’t Stop!

And for some reason that was hilarious to us.  I like to remember this when I’m in the office and smile despite being played by the “Stop!  Don’t stop!” behaviors and emotions.

Questions:  How about you?  How are the “Stop!  Don’t stop!” behaviors and emotions playing on your agendas?  Please tell me your story.

Presence – What is Turning In You?

How the pages turn slowly in life

Image by Nina Matthews Photography via Flickr

It’s summer break already and that means more Mom-time for the kids,… and a few other things.  But if there’s more Mom-time for the kids, we all know what there is more of for Mom.  These things come together and equal more spending-money-time combined with less work-time.  This can’t be without consequence.

I’m thinking stress, memory-makers, lots of kissing marshmellow-cheeks and tears to show.  Always tears.  The kids cry of course but if I do, its all,

Mom!  Oh NO!  Mom!  Stop crying!  Agh.  I can’t stand it when you do that!

Lots of exclamation points are involved.  I’m thinking this summer will have some of that because some days are stressful and painful.  Others are just too beautiful to leave unstained with tears to sign my name by.  Get ready kids!

Tonight, this is what I have.

I am licking my finger and turning a page.  I feel the book as the page slowly fights the air to pass over.  I haven’t seen the other side yet but the way the page lifts up and toward me, I know that this part is significant in itself.  Lick my finger, press it down and sweep up.  Up and passing over, just.  The page is turning and so are we.

Question:  What is turning in your life?

Self-Care Tip #280 – Pay attention to what is turning in you.

Stigma Can Hack At Us, But We Don’t Have To Lose Our Heads Over It

City of Canterbury budget 2010−2011 072a

Image via Wikipedia

A few days ago we wrote a blog-post entitled “Be A Tall Poppy.”  I had more than one person ask in comments and in person, what the —-! did that mean!

Why a poppy?  Why discriminate against the many other lovely but apparently unapplauded flora of the world?

What does it mean to “be a tall poppy?”

This referenced the “Tall Poppy Syndrome” of Anglosphere nations.  It tells us that culturally people who wear their accomplishments openly and indiscreetly invoke jealousy in others who then correctively cut the “tall poppy’s” down.

No offense to other buds around the globe, but when we say, “Be a tall poppy,” we say be yourself without the “discretion” of hiding your beauty – flaws and desired traits included.

We probably can’t change cultural opinion much if we don’t work with our own feelings of possible social rejection of making these changes in ourselves.  Being a tall poppy means that we will not be reduced by stigma and other forces; we stand tall and live.

In our blog-post Paging A Testimony, Nancy told us about her discomfort with the response of others to the way her improving health demonstrates itself and changes the dynamics of their relationship.  The balance of energy, power and involvement between her and others is in flux.  Her courage of prevailing through can be coined with, “Nancy is a tall poppy.”

Way to go Nancy!  Stand.  Cowing to those negative emotions is the same as cutting the poppy’s head off and stem left short.  Feel the tension, but stand.  Be present with your emotional responses.  Stand tall.

Self-Care Tip #279 – Be present with your emotional responses.  Stand tall.

Summarizing What You Say About Friendship With Yourself

Friendship

Image by Rickydavid via Flickr

In Summary:

Q1:  What does being “a friend to yourself” mean?

  • self-awareness
  • Acting on that self-awareness
  • Grieving who I wished I was
  • Valuing Me

Q2:  What helps?

  • Knowing where emotions and behaviors come from
  • No self-injury or aggression to others
  • Knowing God
  • Gratitude/self-inventory
  • Support from outside of Me
  • Personal check-points in place to offensively guard again self-sabotage

Q3:  What doesn’t help?

  • Perfectionism
  • Ingratitude
  • Untreated or treatment resistant brain illness
  • Stigma
  • misdirected efforts to feel empowered (such as, preoccupied thoughts = control)
  • isolation
  • habit

Q4:  What helps despite this?

  • Self-forgiveness
  • Realism/Without catastrophizing
  • Tenacity
  • Remembering what your self-care has done
  • Presence

Q5:  What is the relationship between biology and choice when it comes to understanding where emotions and behaviors come from?

  • Biological template determines function
  • Choice is there for using that template

A Testimony of “Being A Friend To Yourself,” From Bipo Blogger

You might recognize these five questions from yesterday’s blog-post.  Thank you for your testimonies.  Is there anything more powerful than hearing someone’s personal story?  I think not!  Here is what Bipoblogger has to say.

Q1:  What does being a friend to yourself mean to you in real-time life practice?

A1:  That’s easy, but not so easy, LOL!  Being “a friend to yourself” means that I acknowledge I need to respect myself, just like I do other people.  It means not sabotaging my self, plans, job, relationships, etc.  I love myself enough to not kick myself when I am down. 

Being bipolar can be so detrimental to my being, but just like normal people, I still have the need to …allow for room and time to grieve about whatever horrible circumstances (were) caused (by) the bipolar disorder.  

…Stop every once in a while to acknowledge my accomplishments and own that.

Q2:  What helps you do this one time vs. another?

A2:  Yes, I have found that BPD is in part an anger disorder and knowing the true source of the anger can help me go forward.

I have chosen to no longer hurt myself cause when I do, and anyone else, I build up layers of hurt and it hurts to start to take the layers off when I’m ready, so why even do it? …

Also it helped me so much to learn that God doesn’t deal with me the way I deal with myself or another.  I’m not a fanatic, but I just believe in what makes sense.

Q3:  What still hinders your efforts?

A3:  Wanting to be better than I already am.  Not accepting that the balance I have is better than having less or no balance at all, …(which means various kinds of) risky behavior.

Q4:  What has pushed you past those barriers?

A4:  Really just forgiving myself for how I was affected by BPD and remembering that I am breakable and valid as a human, just like all of us.  If I keep practicing a constructive way of life, I will be okay, and that has been true for the last 3 years.

Last push.

Q5:  How do you understand the interplay between biology and choice in being “a friend to yourself?”

A5:  I was created with the choice to choose how I live my life and I do, BPD or none.  Natural inclination is to do the wrong thing because I am imperfect.  I seek power, fame, notoriety and in someway someone, including myself is gonna get hurt in the process.  …People without mental deficiencies don’t experience or don’t carry out to this degree.  So in short, biologically the deficient brain makes more extreme choices, overly withdrawn or overly outward and destructive.

Whoa, I smell smoke.  I never think that hard.  LOL.

Questions for you:  

  1. Anything you’d like to share with Bipo Blogger? 
  2. If you had a blank page for this, what would your own questions be?  What would you answer?  

Paging A Testimony! Will A Testimony Please Call Back?

Swearing in 06
I ask five Questions 1.2.3.4.5.  
Will you give your testimony?

Q1:  What does being “a friend to yourself” mean to you in real-time life practice?

A1:

Q2:  What helps you do this at one time vs. another?

A2:

Q3:  What still hinders your efforts?

A3:

Q4:  What has pushed you past those barriers?

A4:

Lastly.

Q5:  How do you understand the interplay between biology and choice in being “a friend to yourself?”

A5:

P.S. – I had a hard time finding a picture for this!  I have no idea about who’s who and it took forever to find something that I think won’t trigger any political uprising amongst you fine readers…  But… if I didn’t, please don’t take me to the stand! (Bad humor wink.)

Love Differently, Love Your Flaws – Be a Tall Poppy

Tall Poppy

Image by Steve Corey via Flickr

To my family and friends, I thought differently.

But since I’ve loved my flaws less harshly, like pointing jeweled fingers;

since I’ve fallen and let myself savor who I was just then, rasping throat from less than gentle sounds, beautifully broken down, a phoenix who was afraid and not afraid to die;

since I’ve been in the same room with myself, my smells, my dying cells, my mistakes and since I’ve loved these things – since then I have loved you.

I thought I was before but this is differently better.

I am loving you when you turn away and miss your opportunity to praise.  I feel myself soften and think how you are mine.

I am loving you when you miss your self-care and come late and forget.

I thought differently before.

I thought I loved you more the other times, but this is.

It is better to see that you will never be who I expected and that you just missed the turn and won’t.

It is better since I have thought more of me.

And although this sounds off; a discordant honk in the culture score around us,

Although this is awkward showing my ankles exposed while I walk amongst tall-poppies, I even love that

and it is not to say I gloat,

just that I won’t run to hide behind my accomplishments

and won’t hide you behind yours.  I love you more because there is more.  This is differently better and I love you.

Self-Care Tip #278 – Be a tall poppy.

Related Posts:

Guest Post by Richard

Chronic pain

Image via Wikipedia

Guest Post by Richard, who was kind enough to send me his recap on last night’s Self-Care Workshop:

Salient points:

  1.        We are not special by our pain, we are special by who we are.
  2.        I use what I have (am).
  3.        The natural laws stay constant. There are small differences between each person. The divisions are flat.
  4.        Benefit of medical evaluation first to rule out physical causes, then look at outside of medical.
  5.        We inflict the pain not the biology.
  6.        We are in the present, trying to reach goals that will never be completely reached.
  7.        The agenda within, (such as your job.)
  8.        Unwrap and fight for your freedom, illustrated by our national history.
  9.        Stigma is biological.
  10.       Guilt is not always a choice.
  11.       Relinquish opinions of others. Cannot  change how others consider or view us as related to those who knew who we were at a different point in “our story.”  …I guess stigma is in the eye of the beholder?
  12.       The initiation of self-care is a difficult first step.

Question: how do you get loved ones to take the first step or do you?

-Richard

The Growing Process Shifts From Shame and Fear to Friendship

Hello Friends.  Tonight ends our pilot run of the self-care workshop series.  Whoop!  Thank you for your support.  Very much.  The growing process, when in the company that we have here, shifts the experience form one of fear and shame to one of …well this:  friendship, with you and with our own selves.

One of our participants was kind enough to send me his recap,

Some of the points that were most important to me were:

  1. Going toward our temperament/the languages we use,
  2. Invest in your bank,
  3. Going against your intuition,
  4. The energy balance as illustrated by the triangle diagram,
  5. It doesn’t always feel good to perform self-care.
  6. categories in the bio…model and how they interrelate, i.e. biopsychosocial model.  (Smile.)

Pretty good! Huh?

This was written after our second week.  After tonight, we can add,

  1. Accountability for our flawed self doesn’t mean blame or fault.
  2. Our flaws become part of our opportunity for growth and personal presence.
  3. Self-awareness is a tool for,
  1. Understanding our agendas,
  2. Bettering our sense of presence,
  3. Freedom that is ours independent of our effort, morals, or any human quality
  4. A freedom that we want to fight for with everything we’ve got to preserve.  I.e., a freedom we can lose.
  • Using the biospychosocial model as a tool for,
    1. Understanding where our emotions and behaviors are coming from
    2. Understanding where emotions and behaviors of others are coming from – such as STIGMA

    I wish I had another summary from one of our participants rather than my own.  I can make this so much more complicated than it is!  I am learning.  I am flawed.  I am accountable.  I am not blamed.  I am in the company of friends, including myself!  Whoop!

    If I get another summary though from “someone,” I’ll pass it on for your perusal and comments.

    Again, thank you and until tomorrow…!  Keep on.