Perfect Me / Prickles

We can live and suffer or we can die. Those are our options. None of us get to live, just live, without otherwise. We suffer.
So, we all, all of us, have a culture of suffering. We all have an agreement.
What is yours?
Do we live with a friendly relationship with our prickly imperfect selves? Do we love her? Do we treat her with the tenderness a friend would? Please tell us your story.

Self-Care Tip: Get friendly with your imperfect suffering parts.

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Adequate – Step Away From The Ledge

Repost.

How does one fight feelings of inadequacy?

With Truth I barricade against my lies that I am not enough.  Of course I am adequate; and I fight to know that in more dimensions than just cognitively.  After all, facts change if you don’t believe them.

Take parenting for example.  Wow!  Sometimes I think that strangers would do better.  That the very parts of my soul those children hold would be better off with more distance from their home in my heart.  Am I inadequate to be a mother?  No, but some days I have to beg not to believe the lie.

In these moments of calamitous thinking, I am reminded of the term “all-or-none” thinking.  I am reminded that feelings of inadequacy drink from them like fat mosquitoes.  Catastrophizing is an egotistical view and nothing could ever be that bad or that good.  Not Me.  Not anyone.

Fighting feelings of inadequacy means being a friend enough to yourself to say, step away from the ledge.  To say,

you aren’t so special that you could be that terrible.

To fight right, you have to slide away from all bad into some of the gray area, and stop before getting to all good.  Because believing you are all of anything is just arrogant.

There are temperaments that do better in gray zones than others, those who feel comfortable grazing between thoughts and situations of life.  There are others, however, also.  People who almost seem wired to self destruct; whose own genetics thrash them towards polarity.  Those people are tortured, familiar with the often lonely fight I speak of.

To fight feelings of inadequacy, perhaps you fight your own design.  Hopeless?  Well no.  That is an extreme word and not to be trusted.  Remember at some level, that the truth is in the gray.

Self Care Tip #4:  Move away from the edge.  Be a friend to yourself.

One Woman’s Struggle To Shed Weight, And Shame

Joana Johnson, from CreatingBrains.com, found the following story on the NPR iPhone App:
http://www.npr.org/2011/07/25/138606501/one-womans-struggle-to-shed-weight-and-shame?sc=17&f=1001

One Woman’s Struggle To Shed Weight, And Shame

by Tovia Smith

Part of an ongoing series on obesity in America.

In her 37 years, Kara Curtis has seen every dress size from 26 to 6. Looking through old photos, in her slimmer days, you see a young girl standing tall and pretty in her tiara as high school prom queen, and strong and lean in team shots of her track and swim teams.

Growing up in rural upstate New York, Curtis and her family were totally into fitness and nutrition. Her mom used to send her to school with a lunchbox packed with liverwurst on homemade whole-wheat pita, topped with sprouts grown in their kitchen cabinet. It kind of makes sense, Curtis says, that she went a bit crazy for chocolate and cheesy stuff when she was finally living out on her own. But it still took her by surprise after college when she gained nearly 100 pounds in a year.

“I remember the first time I ever heard myself called obese — it was terrible,” Curtis recalls. She was at her doctor’s for a regular check up when he started dictating notes in front of her, describing her as “an obese 22-year-old.” “I was just shocked to hear the word obese related to me.” Curtis says.

No Easy Solution

Fifteen years, countless failed diets and another 100 pounds later, “and now I’m morbidly obese,” Curtis says. “And it’s just overwhelming.”

Indeed, as one of the 70 million Americans who are obese, Curtis has watched her weight become the overriding fact of her life. It’s why she put off buying a new car, and stuck with a less-than-fulfilling job (she worried her size would limit her options.) It’s why she bought a custom-made bathrobe and porch swing and why she can’t comfortably go to the movies or get on a bike or in a boat.

“I love to kayak, but I haven’t been in years because I’m afraid my hips will get stuck,” she says.

At 300 pounds, every day is a struggle with the little things — like chafing on her inner thighs or tying her shoes — and with the biggies — like love. With bright eyes and high cheekbones, Curtis is as pretty as she is engaging and witty. And she’s into kids and family, but totally down on the idea of ever getting back into dating.

“It’s not like I can just fix myself and be done,” she says. “If you lose the weight, you’re still stuck with the stretch marks and the extra skin, and the toll you’ve taken on your body already. And I’m probably still not going to be excited about getting naked with somebody.”

She has poured all her energy and untold resources into trying to get fit. But it’s hard to stay motivated, Curtis says, when the challenge begins to look not just difficult, but impossible.

“Really, if there was an easy solution, Oprah would have bought it,” she says.

Many Factors

There is little that Curtis hasn’t tried. Making breakfast one day — a pureed concoction of hemp and rice protein, coconut milk and avocado — she recalls the gamut: macrobiotic diets, Weight Watchers, Overeaters Anonymous, acupuncture, aerobics, meditation, therapy and all kinds of exercise — from punishing pre-dawn runs to what she calls more “joyful movement.”

She starts most days with a vigorous hour-long walk, escorting a group of neighborhood toddlers to their day care. Pulling several kids piled into a big red wagon, she breaks into a sweat just minutes into the mile-long trip. Several times a week, she sweats through a rigorous dance or yoga class.

But sitting down later to a lunch of a squash soup, Curtis concedes that what she really needs is not to burn more calories but to eat less. And yet every time she tries to diet, she ends up binging.

“This is not a simple thing,” she sighs. “There are genetic components. I mean, I look just like [my] grandmother and my aunts.” Looking back, Curtis says, she has battled serious food addiction and body image issues since she was a little girl. “Clearly, there is this piece that is programmed in.”

But it’s not the only piece, Curtis says.

She’s as conflicted about what’s behind her obesity and how to deal with it as society seems to be.

One minute she’s sympathetic and cutting herself slack, and one breath later, she’s beating herself up.

“It’s a very schizophrenic relationship we have with obesity,” Curtis says. “I understand it as addiction, but then there’s also this other piece of me that knows that there is a lack of willingness on my part. So really, who’s to blame for that? Me!”

But another moment later, Curtis will pivot again: It can’t be all her fault, she says. Those who make and serve or sell really unhealthy food also have a role to play.

Walking through her local grocery store, she points out the junk food that lies, like a trap, right inside the front door while the healthy foods section is at the far corner of the store.

“It would be really hard to walk out of here without something with sugar on it,” she says. And once she starts, “I’m never going to eat just one cookie. And there are times recently where I’ve eaten most of a box.”

The Personal As Political

What’s brutal, Curtis says, is that your failure is out there for everyone to see and judge. So, for example, at the checkout, she says, “There will be that moment of being like ‘Oh my gosh, I have ice cream on my conveyor belt.’ Like there is that pint sitting there. And I catch someone checking me out, like I shouldn’t be doing that.”

It’s the same kind of glares she gets on an airplane. These days, Curtis says, it’s like her personal problem has become political.

“Now, it’s not just like ‘You’re fat and I feel sorry for you.’ It’s like ‘You’re fat and that’s taking a toll on my life. You’re burning more fossil fuels, you’re raising health care costs.’ It’s more vigilante. It’s more harsh.”

And that tends to be counterproductive, Curtis says. It just ends up making her feel bad — and eat more. But she’s working hard to get past it. It was a huge step for example, to go on NPR and talk about being fat. It’s taken a long time, but she’s begun to measure progress by more than just her dress size.

“I’m really proud of myself for being honest about my situation,” she says, fighting back tears. “I feel like it was gutsy to come on and say this is what I struggle with, and I want it to stop.”

It’s all part of a very uneasy paradox, Curtis says. She’s got to accept herself and her body, even as she’s desperately trying to change it.

“There were periods of time when I used to hang skinny pictures of myself up on my fridge,” she says. “But that was brutal and mean. And I don’t want to be brutal and mean to myself.”

Curtis says she had a huge breakthrough recently, when she came out of the shower and caught a reflection of herself in the glass door.

“It was the first time that I’d seen that body and not been horrified,” she says. “It was not like I don’t want this to change, but it was just about standing there and seeing the entirety of my shape — and still feel loving toward it.

Curtis actually took a picture of her reflection, and she still looks at it, almost giddy with hope, that she might finally be on the way to shedding her excess weight by shedding the shame that surrounds it. But on the other hand she adds softly, “I’m also at the highest weight I’ve ever been, so that might be complete delusion.” [Copyright 2011 National Public Radio]

When You Fail, It Is Just Part of Your Journey so Keep On – Presence

No one can tell me what’s wrong with me!

When medications don’t do what we hoped we wonder what that means.  We think about the possibility that our diagnosis is wrong, that we are outside the known world of science or a new variation of diseased who will suffer without a label.  Is suffering without a label even decent?

I predict imminent catastrophe

Image by forestine via Flickr

Stephani wasn’t the only one in the world with these thoughts but she felt like it.  It was as if she was waiting for her real life to begin when she considered herself well.  There was the good part of her that was about fifty percent of her day hanging around.  The rest of the day was wrong.  She wasn’t able to cope with stressors and became helter skelter at random times of the day.

Trading places, in the door and out, out and in, polite enemies at best, the good Stephani and the wrong Stephani vied for platform.  Either part of her never felt fully right because of the looming flaws.  She couldn’t trust herself as long as they divided her life.

I don’t know why I don’t get better.  

I don’t know either.

That’s a precarious position to maintain as a physician.  My job is at stake because who goes to a specialist without answers?  …At least not traditional answers.

Take this pill tonight and put this warm compress on your bladder.  In the morning you’ll feel better.

Darn it!  Sometimes I so want to be that doctor!  But this is me.

What are you waiting for?  Is this place in life better than losing your life?  Why?

And then Stephani mentioned a few things that kept her breathing:  hope to get well, hope to have a family some day, life itself, her husband….

Why are you right or wrong?  Why are you well or sick?  Can you be both?  

Hm.  I saw some relief begin to settle in.  However, I also saw frustration.  Stephani wasn’t ready to be flawed and perfect.  She really like either/or.  That’s fine for now.  We were able to spend a little more time on the idea of loving all of her, of being a friend to all of her and of counting this moment worth living more actively.  If she doesn’t bale on me, we have time for her to get into the same room with herself.  The joining up of her wrongs and rights will make her life journey a lot better and less confusing.

People like Stephani have an addiction-like disease process to the either/or, the extremes, the poles, which we describe as “all-or-none” thinkers.  They remind me of any other blessed addict.  They would most likely do great working this over as an addiction.  Working the Steps.  Then they would understand what any other addict who works The Steps understands.  Failing is just part of the journey.

Questions:  Can you be both flawed and perfect?  How?  How do you love both parts of you?  Please tell us your story.

Self-Care Tip – When you fail, remember that it is just part of your journey and keep on.

  1. You Might Fall In Love With Your Flaws
  2. Love Differently, Love Your Flaws – Be a Tall Poppy
  3. Lady Gaga – Born This Way
  4. Try, Knowing We Will Fail
  5. Loving Me Without Ambivalence
  6. Codependent
  7. Finding What Perfectionism Can Offer Our Self-Care – In Summary
  8. Celebrate Your Imperfections
  9. Getting Away From All-Or-None Thinking
  10. Adequate

The Gift of Desperation

Life (23/365)

LIFE

Misty sounded relieved,

Yes.  That’s it.

She had just realized that life isn’t fair.  Sure.  She knew that before, but she just realized what she knew.  Don’t we all love that moment when our senses join up – sight, hearing, taste, touch, smell, emotion, intellect, spiritual and the rest.  That is a lot to coördinate after all and sometimes some of them don’t make the train.

Misty was a single mom of three.  Her ex-husband was what she called, “Disney-Dad,” and her kids relished their time with him.  Misty complained that she didn’t get to spend the special times with her kids.  She mainly took care of them, but missed out on irresponsible fun.  She was sure her kids wouldn’t look back and think of her like they would their father.  She was getting angrier about it all the time, ruminating about it and it was getting in the way of her ability to connect with others and feel pleasure.  There it was in front of her blocking her from seeing her kids even, let alone herself.

Then after weeks of this along with medication and talk therapy, she told me,

Yes.  That’s it.  Life is not fair.  There are many other things in my life that aren’t fair either and if I look for them, I could spend my whole day every day counting them off.  

It broke my heart a bit to hear her and see her there.  Humble like that; she would I think affect you the same way.  So real.

Yesterday, Carl D’Agostino replied to our post about growing our understanding of our choices beautifully.

…we wait until we are at our wit’s end before we seek assistance…. considering reaching out as personal failure or inadequacy re: our own self-esteem…. Foolishly we wait until our way just is not working anymore. That is why AA calls this a gift: the gift of desperation. …For many, the depths into which we have succumbed are now found not to be so deep at all and in fact, ladders are readily available if we use them in recovery. 

Ah Carl.  Say it again.

The gift of desperation.

Too good.  Don’t you think?

Questions:  Have you ever received the gift of desperation?  What did it bring you?  Where did it take you?  What did it do to you?  Do you still have it?  Please tell me your story.

Self-Care Tip – Celebrate your gift of desperation.

When You Can’t Control This, Emote Empathically

Self-Care Tip #172 – When you can’t control this, emote empathically.  Be a friend to yourself.

A couple of days ago I wrote about being transparent with ourselves and others when we are not in control of things.  (Say, “I Can’t Control This” When You Can’t.)

This road sign image is in the public domain a...

Image via Wikipedia

It got mixed responses but all worth thinking about.

Jennifer responded on Facebook,

The 3 C’s help me all the time; I didn’t cause it, I can’t control it, I can’t change and or cure it!

Isn’t that wonderful?!

  1. Cause
  2. Control
  3. Change

And it’s helpful to remember that claiming these 3C’s still may not remove us from the stressor.  We are however more present with ourselves and others despite the stressor.

Another reader BeeBlu’s, brought up that famous “fine line,”

I agree that it’s healthy to have this attitude to certain things in our lives, but as you say, it is also no excuse for bad behaviour and letting emotions go into free fall at the expense of others. I think there is a very fine line between the two. bb

…And her signature, “bb,” – awesome.

A line that is thin implies insecurity, danger and something precarious that may end up all wrong.  I wonder about that line.

On one side we have the 3 C’s:  cause, control, change.  On the other side of the line we have responsibility for the boundaries of others.  I wonder if there really is a dividing line after all or if it is just bad lighting.  If there wasn’t, there would be no need to thicken the line, to defend, or to pick sides.

Emotional health makes shadowy lines disappear.  It takes someone who has emotional health to be able to say their 3 C’s and still consider the internal and external milieu of others.  It takes someone who has done their self-care and put money in the bank; someone who has reserve built up that spills over into empathy.  We can’t emote empathically so well when we aren’t emotionally healthy.  The less of that, the more real the line becomes.  The less of that, the more precarious we are.

Gaining emotional health may take medication, exercise, sunlight, granola, grandma’s kisses and all sorts of things.  Each of us has to figure it out for our own selves and just do it.

Questions:  What do you think about this business of shadows, lines, and living cautiously?  When you have been healthiest, how have you been able to embrace both the 3 C’s and emote empathically at the same time?  Please tell me your story.

Know What You Are Fighting For – Your Right To Journey.

You Should Be Living

Image via Wikipedia

Self-Care Tip #162 – Know what you are fighting for.  Be a friend to yourself.

Bridget told me,

I felt free to do something creative without having to feel guilty about it.

She had read the blog post, “Self-Care is Freedom, is Democracy, is Because We Are Accountable.”  I was just starting to think about other good places to go with that but before I got too far she hit me with,

I just hate myself!

Hearing those words is like watching squishy and partly moldy tomatoes hit the wall.  It’s messy.  It’s dirty.  No one’s excited about dealing with it.  And, there is something negative that brought it on.  Readers, you’ll remember this countertransference when you’re the counsellor in some other situation and think, “Darn that Quijada!”

My thoughts bumped and piled up.  Stopped, until they started pulling themselves off of each other.  I tried to put these disparate bits of Bridget’s narrative together.  And I wasn’t alone.

I don’t get it!  Why do I feel this way?

Who doesn’t have conflicting feelings about themselves?  Bridget perceived and celebrated her freedom to self-care, yet was betrayed by her own, just when she was reaching for it.  Is that ok?

What strikes me about Bridget is her journey.  She has struggled with anxiety and depression for many years.  I know with me, she’s been in treatment for five of them.  During that time, she has been lovely although not perfect.  She does her hair, glossy blond in large waves, trim body frame and polite like no one I’ve met.  Many medications have failed her and she has taken those failures and claimed her future over again.  The intense forward movement of her inner self has never been muted, even when she has had thoughts of wanting to die.

I have learned what she values, what she’s willing to let go of and what she isn’t.  Her appearances matter.  She is artsy and gets energy from being alone.  She loves people.  Her marriage is rocky.  She struggles with parenting.  She loves her husband and her children.  Bridget’s journey is a journey of imperfection, beauty and courage.

And here she is again.  Conflicted self, ill, hopeful and claiming her future.  Bridget is right on her course.  I wish I could help more.  I wish she wasn’t still ill.  But I can at least be as courageous as she is.  I can hope with her.  I can stand with her or walk.  I know that put to the question, Bridget prefers this journey than losing the right, the privilege, to journey at all.  Bridget is free.  Many of us are not as free as she is, who knows what she is fighting for.

Question:  What are you fighting for?  If nothing were to ever change for the better in your life, what makes your journey worth it?  Please tell me your story.