Today on Radio in Summary

Amateur radio station with multiple receivers ...

Thank you Michele Rosenthal at HealMyPtsd.com, and to all who listened in on my first radio interview on being a FTY – Friend to Yourself.  What fun.  It was sweet and to the point.

We discussed using the marker of the new year to commit to this and see what 2012 brings differently from before.  This is freeing, as being our own friend is not selfish but rather the most selfless thing we can offer.  How it is done by starting with Me; the starting and ending point of all intentions in our life.  Knowing that we cannot give what we don’t have, that we cannot indulge the pleasures outside of ourselves such as adjustment and coping skills if we don’t have the Me to do it with (preferably a healthy me) and knowing that going where we find shame in our lives can free us up to get friendly with the rest of Me.  This knowledge helps us find the “how.”

To make being a friend to Me an easier process, leave the injustices of our lives alone, leave the sentiment of wanting happiness, of wanting what we should have gotten or been.  To make Me my own friend easier, do what any friend would do – the hard stuff.  The stuff that good-time-Jane won’t stick around for and the stuff that only Love can follow through with – do this.  That’s as easy as it will get and as hard as it will get.

We can do this.

Question:  Looking toward 2012, how would you change the direction of your intention and energy to be more of a friend to yourself?  What do you think you will experience differently if you do?  Please tell us and connect.

Thank you dear Carl d’Agostino for calling in, boosting my confidence and saying without saying it, “You are not alone.”  I’m still smiling.

Radio Interview

For all who are interested,
I will be doing a live radio interview on PTSD this Thursday, December 29th, 7-8pm EST on 95.9 FM/106.9GM/960AM on Seaview Radio. It can be heard locally along the southeast coast of Florida or by referring to the promo page http://yourlifeaftertrauma.com/radio/guests and clicking on the yellow “listen live” button.

Details for the interview include:

The live, on-air interview will last approximately 15 minutes.
Call in via a LANDLINE (or reliable cell phone) and do NOT use the speakerphone.
Call-in number: 877.960.9960.
Call in at 7:35pm EST
We’ll be chatting about how to be a friend to yourself and why this is so important”

Resist The Lure of Suicide

Dangerous Risk Adrenaline Suicide by Fear of F...

Image by epSos.de via Flickr

Sometimes I wonder, how come other people get to get away without having to deal with this?  Why can’t I get a break?

Heidi wasn’t talking about fair or foul fortune in life.  She was talking about suicide.  Heidi found the suicide idea alluring and promising.  She found life unfair and death a form of equalization.  She reminded me that suicide contagion is a real effect.  I didn’t know this before.  I don’t know when it became an understanding for me, but it was after medical school and definitely after residency.

So much of what I know, came to me outside of those places of learning.  So much of what I know, came from my patients and a settling effect into my specialty of practice.  I have learned, in one way of consideration, too much about suicide.  In that way, I wish I didn’t.

There are good things too, of course.  Suicide is no more moral or amoral than another act in life, it is simply (if one could use such a word with this) and most objectively the last.  I remember commenter Mike J said on December 17, 2011,

Whenever I feel suicidal I remember that I’m going to be dead a long time. As bad as the pain is, I understand but, why rush to get there?  

Life is like pizza or sex, even when it’s bad it’s kinda good.

I know.  Who wants eat bad pizza?!  Sigh.  Each to his own 😉 but you get the meaning – clever man.

Mike J has used this to inoculate himself perhaps to build suicide resistance.  He and you might be interested to know that the CDC takes the risk of “catching” suicide so seriously that they have made formal recommendations for our protection.  In reading them, we find friendly ways to protect ourselves not only from suicide, but also from the contagion of other extreme thoughts that actions such as suicide cluster in; such as self-injury, catastrophizing, all-or-none thinking, and self-flagellation.

Suicide is contagious as a learned behavior, which is part of why it is so confusing for Western Cultures to conceptualize it in any way apart from morality.  Another reason we have a hard time not moralizing suicide is that we still struggle with where emotions and behaviors come from.  (But moralizing emotions and behaviors is for another discussion.)

When I heard Heidi say those words,

Sometimes I wonder…

despite the patients I have known who’ve died by suicide, despite the knowledge gained in clinical practice and despite the diagnosis I had already reported to her insurance carrier – I had an autonomic response.  My skin erupted in goose pimples, breathing sped up and I realized I was afraid.  Despite being a psychiatrist whom our community imagines thinks of who is going to commit suicide next all the time, I am not.  I am not that jaded.  I am affected and I am still taken off guard.  “Heidi,” I thought.  “No.”

Heidi had the “benefit” of media exposure to suicides, media who was promoting suicide contagion through learned behaviors but also as activating her already infirm brain to increase in degree of illness, producing more suicide-thought symptoms.  When I weighed Heidi’s risk of hurting herself knowing her medical condition, I had thought, “Ok.  She’ll make it. We’ll do this and she’ll heal.”  But when the knowledge of news-worthy suicides spread in her, I knew her medical risks might be catalyzed and I knew enough to be afraid.  “No Heidi.”  What to do?

The CDC tells us to turn the copycat-suicide risk upside down by using the  media, which the gypsy in me really likes.  Instead of being silent and afraid, we can describe the help and support available, explain how to find persons at high risk for suicide, and tell about risk factors for suicide.

Today is Christmas and you may be wondering why I am speaking about suicide today.  It is because I’m hoping that by going toward our fears and our places of pain, that they will lose power over us.  I am hoping that on Christmas, which is for some a positive time, that we have a knowledge that Christmas is for others much less.

Furthermore, I am hoping that we know that we and Heidi are up against our illnesses as well as media-poisons.  And most importantly, I hope that we also know that we have power.  We don’t have to be a victim and we are free to choose.  At every level, we are free.  In every paradigm, we are free.  We are free until we do not – AKA, die.

I’ll take it.  I hope Heidi and you do too.

I hope you will speak into the wind if it be windy.  I hope you will look into the flash if you must and I hope you will fight against your own destruction as long as you can choose.   I hope you know that you are free.

Questions:  How do you oppose the lure of suicide, even when you have to oppose it repetitively and against multiple forces?  Please tell us your story.

Self-Care Tip:  When others inappropriately describe suicide and when your thoughts tell you to die, be your own friend by speaking about suicide, even to yourself, with this knowledge.

PTSD and Choosing Not to Be A Victim

click here to view –> Be A Friend To Yourself.

You may remember our wonderful guest post by PTSD survivor and advocate, Michele Rosenthal.

Ms. Rosenthal generously asked me to also post on her blog site. Pretty fun, huh. So here’s the link if you’d like to take a gander over.
Thank you so much Ms. Rosenthal for this opportunity to share space. Keep on folks.

To view post, click above on “Be a friend to yourself.”

Get You Some Support Where You Are Weak

Prunus armeniaca (Apricot) branch with fruit. ...

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If you’ve ever lived where there is dirt, not New York City or downtown Los Angeles, some place with unpaved hills and bugs, then you’ve seen how fruit grows.  Maybe not exotic fruit.  Maybe nothing from the Amazon, but you’ve seen an apple or an orange most likely, dangling from a stem, light caught in a dew dusted curve around its belly.  Maybe a pear.

You’ve seen a tree, perhaps, on a “good year.”  It was heavy, bushy in all it’s productivity and weighted down with what it was designed to do in life.  If you have lived in a place where your home didn’t require an elevator to get to, you know that fruit can be beautiful just in its waiting-ness to fall.  So beautiful, it feels personal.  The season turned as did your admiration into impatience for picking time.

If you have woken up early to the opening day where air and hour and the absence of sound work on you like a special promise, you have known what it is like to put on your creased and cracked boots, to call your happy dogs and start out into your long work.

You know that every tree has potential and every tree has limits.  You remember when you first came upon the brokenness, the fractured limbs, the long fresh splinters cutting through the morning just so.  Too soon.  “Too soon,” you think and repeat out loud to your tree, trying to explain.  Too soon, fruit still holding the branch like they are drowning.  The last clutch in death.  Oh, shame.

If you have lived where branches so full of fruit break under the weight of their life’s work, you have lived to learn that to be productive, to sustain that kind of strain, to endure, a tree and her branches need support.  You have known forever after to put two-by-fours fashioned into braces under those loads and hope the big winds don’t loose their grip.  You can’t forget the loss.  Sometimes you have even thinned the clustered fruit, maybe peaches, reluctantly pulling out one of three, two of three.  You’ve done what it takes.  Dropping them and knowing that the others will grow. Your fingers, bitten with cold and regret, move between the leaves giving yourself and the tree hope.  You give yourself and you give the tree what is needed to produce well and to live.

In those deciding moments, if you have worked with these trees, you have learned that we also break and lose what our life would put out for the world.  If we could.  If we had support.  If we were buttressed.  No one can put out for long without it.  Not Me.

And so now, we look to see where our hopes have increased.  We identify where to tend, where we habitually, that is to say, or where we have on many other occasions been known to come apart.  Oh, the loss.  The memory with the knowing fear dances like a hologram until we simply or not so simply, this time, acquire help.

Questions:  How are you working to build up support where you are weak?  How do you find support?  What have you seen come out of your life when you have?  Please tell us your story.

Self-Care Tip:  Get you some support where you are weak.  Be a friend to yourself.

Self-Care and Joy: How You Can Use What You Love to love Yourself – By Michele Rosenthal

Self-Care and Joy: How You Can Use What You Love to love Yourself

Guest Post By Michele Rosenthal

Like any other commitment, self-care can become a chore. Whenever we force ourselves to do something the fun factor flies out the window. Yet, self-care should be one thing on our schedules that feels good! How can we turn a commitment into a pleasure? I think the key is committing to something that brings you joy. Let me explain…

Six years ago, at the age of thirty-seven, I was diagnosed with advanced osteoporosis. Putting it bluntly, my endocrinologist explained, “If you don’t immediately commit to a regimen of strength training, your bones will begin to crumble spontaneously.” You can imagine my following crash course in self-care.

Up until that point I had never thought about what I do to take care of myself. I had worked out, or not, when the spirit moved me. I meditated or not when I felt the desire for that kind of inner connection. My self-care was based on whim, not necessity.

So there I was facing the spontaneous crumbling of my bones and needing to commit to a regimen not only of strength training, but of a level of self-care I’d never previously entertained. Suddenly, self-care wasn’t some amorphous idea but an action that pertained to my very ability to walk upright. Suddenly, self-care had a purpose.

Making the commitment to self-care isn’t easy. Mood, other activities and time constraints can make it difficult to follow through. Fear, however, is a great motivator. Terrified that my bones would crumble I committed to self-care with the ferocity of a hurricane. I didn’t enjoy it but I did it. Within two years I completely reversed the osteoporosis. Since then I’ve stuck to my workout regime without a hitch.

When motivated by fear, sticking to a self-care schedule becomes incredibly easy. The problem comes when we don’t have that instant inspiration. When self-care offers purely emotional or spiritual benefits we’re much more likely to forgo the commitment altogether. Unless, I’ve discovered, the commitment centers around something fun.

Not long after the osteoporosis diagnosis I fell into a very deep depression. As a trauma survivor, years of trying to outrun the past finally caught up with me; I needed to do some intense emotional work. The arduous process left me feeling powerless and overwhelmed. I needed to commit to emotional self-care at a time I didn’t feel capable of committing to anything except the black hole in which I lived.

One day, as I was marveling at just how black the hole actually was, a thought occurred to me. What I really needed was to do something that would help me get in touch with the part of myself that could feel joy. What I really needed, I mused, was a way to feel something outside of the despair in which I lived. There was only one thing I thought might help me do that: dance. Throughout my life dance had always offered me a transcendent feeling of release. I decided to dance. A lot. I signed up for a dance class every single day of the week.

At first it was just sheer will that got me to class, but then a funny thing happened: After each class I felt so much better that I began looking forward to the classes. I began to look forward to the time I set aside for my self-care each day. Having fun elevated self-care from chore to respite.

The benefits were astounding. The more I danced the more I began to feel a sense of balance between the dark and light in my mind, the more I connected to the possibility of feeling better, the more I connected to myself during a time that it was much more comfortable to disconnect. Ultimately, that feeling of joy filled me with the courage I needed to do the post-trauma recovery work that had to be done.

That was all years ago. I finished the recovery work and brought myself to a place of freedom and peace. Al that dancing turned me into a really terrific dancer, too. Today, I still incorporate dance into my schedule 2-3 times a week as that connection to joy and fun fuels my creativity, bolsters my energy and connects me to a community I enjoy.

The biggest lesson I learned in all of this was how important the fun factor is in self-care. Now, any time I wish to develop some aspect of my self-care, I ask myself, “How can I make this fun?” By ensuring some form of enjoyment I strengthen my emotional buy-in to the commitment. You can do this, too. We don’t often think about how we can turn tasks into pleasurable experiences, but shifting our approach in this way can make all the difference between defaulting versus following through on a self-care regime.

Self-Care Tip – Use what you love to love yourself.

Question:  How do you get the fun factor into being your own friend?  When being friendly to yourself isn’t what feels like a good time, how do you use what you love to improve your experience?  Please tell us your story.

Michele Rosenthal is a certified professional coach and the host of Your Life After Trauma on Seaview Radio. Her post-trauma recovery memoir, Before the World Intruded: Conquering the Past and Creating the Future, will be released in 2012. To connect with Michele, visit www.yourlifeaftertrauma.com.


The Elephant is in The Room To Help Us

English: The eye of an asian elephant at Eleph...

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How do I get him to see it?

How do we get our friends, our husbands, our wives and kids and patients to see the elephant in the room?  My patients ask me this and I ask this of myself.

I want to feel better.  I just want to get to the bottom of this!  

Will someone please just treat what is wrong and I can move on?!

There is this implication that someone is plotting against progress to derail us from appropriate therapies, treatments, walnuts and soy milk.  Why they would want to do that, no one agrees on.

When Cincy said something to this effect in clinic, a huge shade in the shape of an elephant in the room, caught my eye and it was distracting.  I smiled at the wraith and conspired with it on how it could best gain acclaim.  I tried to explain what I was seeing to Cincy, but how does one describe an apparition?  I’ve never heard anyone do it better than Edgar Allan Poe and so I know it can be done.  I’m learning.  I needed to learn from Cincy.

Teach me Cincy.  Help me learn how to speak of these things better.

I felt like I should know that already.  But we physicians don’t graduate with a certificate in introducing elephants.

Trying to do the teaching-thang in clinic or out of clinic, if we want to get anywhere, we can’t do much if we aren’t both seeing the elephant.  Talking about solutions, about treatments, motives or anything that doesn’t redirect each of us back to that specter in some way is skipping critical development.  Counterintuitive, the immediate task at hand becomes more and more simple when there are ghosts about.

He doesn’t want me to take medication because he is afraid of what his mother will say.

Start talking about Me and not about him.  How does Me factor in to deciding on medications?

Smoking is my last vice and I’m not here to talk about it.  I’m here to talk about why I’m tense all the time.

Tension happens when our blood vessels constrict.  Tension increases when our heart rate….

Well, goodness.  You don’t want this from me now on this post.  I’m just trying to talk about that darn elephant.

When things feel complicated, when conspiracies seem to be around, when we hear ourselves naming others to explain our condition, when we avoid talking about something and when we lose Me -> reduce.  Still missing it?  Get even more basic.  Soon we’ll see the shade.  The elephant is there to help us, not shame us.  He’s there to bring us back to Me where everything starts and ends.

Question:  How has the elephant in the room improved or worsened your self-care?  Please tell us your story.