The Great Lie.

One of the great lies of mental illness is that, “If things weren’t so stressful, I wouldn’t feel so bad.”  Look inside ourselves now and see them.  All the numbered and ranked stressors we tick off to explain how we feel and/or behave.  How about someone we love.  Do we tell them, “Of course you feel that way!  Look at all you’re going through!”

Because major depressive disorder (MDD) is mainstream enough, I’ll use it as an example.  Who, when they are down, doesn’t look for reasons why?  Say there is an additive effect of stressors such as home conflicts, financial duress, and poor sleep.  Since these events, you haven’t felt pleasure, you’ve felt sad and depressed.  You aren’t motivated or interested in your usual.  And where you normally would seek people out when you felt down, to get more energy, now you just want to be alone.  And so on.  You are able to say that you started feeling this way progressively since triggered with those stressors about 3 months-ago.  Before that you were “fine.”

Many people in your life, have told you that you are just going through a bad spell.  You have believed them but say, “Even if this is a bad spell, if it goes on much longer I think I’d rather die.”  Your best friend responds, “Anyone would be depressed if their boss was that evil!”

My answer, “No.”  Feeling down is appropriate to stress when it doesn’t disrupt your life for more than two weeks at this level.  And it is never normal to want to die.  Everyone has stress but not everyone responds to stress in the same way.  Not everyone if put under your same triggers would develop MDD.

Would you have developed this disease if you weren’t put under these stressors?  I can’t say.  We develop illnesses for many reasons.  One of the many reasons is external stress.  A hypothesis supporting this is that stressors trigger our genes for MDD much like we know cancer genes can be turned on by stress.  However, we do not have a direct correlation to the stressors as being entirely causal events.

Even if it were, none-the-less, we are left with the disease process in progress.  It is not an adjustment reaction to stress.  It is medical illness.

Feeling this way is not normal for what you are going through.  Telling yourself that it is, that is the great lie.

Self-Care Tip #118 – Don’t believe the lie if what you’re going through is affecting your function in life.  Be a friend to yourself.

Question:  What whispering lies are you struggling against?  Please tell me your story.

Toughing It Out! …Is Not What You Think.

Mental Health of our Military

Image by Truthout.org via Flickr

Self-Care Tip #114 – Tough it out.  Be a friend to yourself.

Trying to tough it out is good it’s just not what most people think.

Many people think that toughing it out means staying med-free and getting through melancholy, anxiety, emotional chaos with gritted teeth.  They gather a degree of commendation from weathering out the behavioral and emotional problems until they either feel better or don’t.

This is not the kind of toughing it out that I’m calling worthy of our life efforts.  It is in fact the opposite.  Toughing it out is doing what may be socially and culturally counterintuitive.  Getting medical care sooner than later.  Not waiting to see what will happen before getting medical care if it is indicated.  Believing the medical data, the physician you trust, the knowledge that mental illness is medical, biological and often PROGRESSIVE over time.

Waiting means you are getting more ill on a cell level and at higher risk for your future and waiting is not being tough.

Toughing it out is digging into your courage bank every day to take that pill when you feel ashamed of it.  Toughing it out is fighting for your brain’s future.  Toughing it out is sacrificing what ever you need to, to give your loved ones and yourself the healthiest you possible.  Even if that means talking yourself into it, going up against your fears, ignoring prejudice, ignoring opposing recommendations from your favorite sources.

picasaweb.google.com

This calls for thick skin.

Candace tells me she still intuitively can’t believe this, even though her mind tells her it is true.  She takes her medication but it still hurts a little every time.  Like she’s betraying herself.  Like she must grieve for herself.  Candace says the apparent calm, decrease in anxiety, improved relationship with her children, and the flowering hope eases her inner psychic pain.  Candace is drawing strength every day from the growing evidence of health.  Candace is tough.

Question:  What are you getting tough with in your life?  How do you do it?  Please tell me your story.

When Suicide Almost Made Sense

Hello world. Please comment.

nancy says:
November 17, 2010 at 8:01 am (Edit)
I could write a book….but suffice it to say, to the day she died, my mother never even told her best friend that I had had a breakdown and was on medication, my sister said I couldn’t possibly be a Christian and be mentally ill, people at church have told me that they actually walked across pews to avoid talking with me when I was sick, and, even though I’m off all medications but Klonopin and seeing a therapist only every three or four months “just to keep in touch”, I can’t go anywhere or meet anyone new without feeling as if I’m wearing a sign saying “Mentally Ill” around my neck. My attitude about people with emotional problems? God bless them…and I pray that they have a really good connection with HIm. It (and the love of my family) is the only thing that kept me alive.

Question: aside from the obvious nausea and anger that stigma and prejudice bring on, what do you have to say? Please tell me your story.

It’s Time To Grow Up

 

 

 

Fragile Annie writes a blog called, “It’s Time To Get Over How Fragile You Are.”  Isn’t that a great name?  She own’s her frailty, own’s that it has affected her life, and own’s what it’s time to do now.  All in a name and a title.

When I was in psychotherapy, talking on about injustices suffered, my feelings, the rightness of my condition – my therapist said, “It’s time to grow up Sana.”  I still feel the punch in my stomach and the quiet immediately following.  I couldn’t breath for a bit.  Just nodded my head.  “Ok.”  …I said, “Ok” a few times.  I don’t remember much else of what he told me but I don’t think I’ll ever forget that.  He’d be satisfied with his work with me if he knew.

After all, it’s not such a small thing to grow up, or “get over” our frailty.  It’s not such a small thing to see our need.  It’s not so little to act on it.  These are things that champions do.  These are things any coach, parent, therapist, teacher would be proud to be a part of.  These are the things that make the difference between falling victim to your history, or claiming the rights to your now and to your future.

Think about what is upsetting you the most.  What seems to keep at you and trip you and keep you back and keep you right where it left you last?  It’s time to grow up.

Self-Care Tip #106 – In Fragile Annie’s own words, “It’s time to get over how fragile you are.”  Be a friend to yourself.

Question:  What has knocked your breath out in a good way, sending you off towards growth?  Please tell me your story.

Growing Up Is Not Necessarily The Same as Growing Away

 

cant decide so dance

Image by faster panda kill kill via Flickr

 

Self-Care Tip #105 – Grow up, think on your own, and stay connected.  Be a friend to yourself.

Staying connected doesn’t mean loosing your freedom.  Staying connected doesn’t mean immaturity.  And independent thought doesn’t mean disconnecting from others or your foundation in life.

When we move into adulthood, we move into roles requiring responsibility, autonomous decision-making, teaching like parents.   This is confusing don’t you think when we were designed to be connected?  Well when something feels so wrong inside, listen to it.  There is a incongruence with what you intuitive know.  Independence includes dependence

Adulthood means learning to have creative thought while being willing to learn.  It means disconnecting while remaining connected.  It’s not all-or-none.  It’s seeing the strength in vulnerability.  Part of taking care of “Me” includes choosing dependence.

Dependence never takes away freedom.  Sometimes when I listen to people telling me how I should feel or think, I feel caged and start doing things to make me feel less caged.  Unfortunately sometimes that isn’t a healthy thing, like eating chocolate or… well it’s often eating for some reason.  Other people do this too.  They may cut on themselves or bang their head.  Unnecessary, because we are free no matter.  Drugs.  Whatever it is that in the moment somehow springs you from the phantom cage only to put you in another.

Question:  How do you live free yet connected?  How do you deal with feelings of infancy, immaturity, loosing freedom when it comes?  Please tell me Your story.

Your Life. Your Choice. Why Are You Still Negotiating?

 

 

Self-Care Tip #102 – Take what is yours and live.  Be a friend to yourself.

Cheri came, still dressed in work scrubs, with her 2 daughters, 8 years old and 3 years old.  Having finished their dinner date, they were swinging by for her appointment before going home.  Cheri told her kids, “Get out now and go sit in the lobby!  If you don’t listen to me I’ll….”  Turning to me, she said, “It’s never enough!  I just took them to dinner and they do this to me!  No matter what I do…!”

1.  Cheri tells me she’d like to cope better with simple stressors such as redirecting her kids

2.  We talk at length about her perception of her kids abusing her.

Cheri is married.  Her husband laughs at her for “…having to take those drugs to be normal!”  “…But he just sleeps his problems away.  He doesn’t deal with them like I do.  He has no idea!”

3.  We talk more about her perception that her husband is responsible for her place in life.

Cheri believes if she doesn’t take more than 2 pills a day, she is less “dependent” on drugs.  She says, “I don’t want to go on like this!”  Her tears continue talking when her voice stops.  She is ashamed.

4.  The concepts supporting taking care of yourself as being the kick-off point to caring for anyone else comes up.

5.  We talk some more about who is “The Why” for what we do or don’t do.

Cheri feels less shame, but it’s still there.  She is willing to give a new medication a try but clearly doesn’t buy it all yet.  She’s going home with her girls to her husband with new pills.  And hope?  Yes.  It is all connected.  It all pulses together and is a living negotiation of sorts.

Disease <–> behavioral/emotional negative symptoms <–> victim role <–> self-neglect <–> greater crisis <–> seeking help <–> responsible self-care <–>  healing <–> fewer behavioral/emotional negative symptoms <–> emotional abuse from husband may continue but is no longer seen as responsible for personal choices and self-care <–> less shame <–> further healing and so on….  (Lub-dub…Lub-dub…)

 

hbofamily.com

 

Cheri is still negotiating her deal in life.  She doesn’t realize that it’s already hers for the taking.  Her life.  Her choice.

The deal is already made.  Take it or leave it.  Your life to live.

Question:  How are your negotiations?  Do you see them as still in progress or settled.  Please tell me your story.

Are You a Victim or What?!

 

 

Number Two of Bella’s List – victim or what!?:

Last night I took my 5 year-old daughter on a sleep-over date at a hotel.  Generous I thought …and boy was it!  To me!!  I couldn’t believe how much fun I had.  I quickly realized why I had done this.

A bit of me still wants to float away on wings of the modern-martyred-Mom, and I can, because it did take a lot of time and money and energy and….  But it’s not too friendly to me.  As attractive as that flight may seem, I’ll lose air at some point and take a big fall.  Ouch.  I might fall on my kid too which is against my intuitive effort here.

Being a victim is attractive at some level, no?  My story is a softer example, but we all have tougher ones.  Like Bella’s when “she spoke of her injury.”  The gravity of her injury was created by her perception of things.  Our perception makes our emotional success.  My story about last night with my daughter sounds pretty because that’s how I perceived it.  However, I have other stories that have negative power over me as Bella’s had on her and as yours have on you.

The key here is that when we take the victim role, we aren’t just telling our story or venting.  We are feeling self-pity. But venting is not necessarily self-victimization.  Venting can be healthy.  Venting can be done without taking a victim air-bus to no-where good.  Venting can be a way of being present in your suffering, of going where the pain is and letting it lose power over you.  Self-pity only gives the suffering more power.

The great novelist and philosopher, David Foster Wallace, who courageously lived and died with major depressive disorder, encouraged,

To be just a little less arrogant. To have just a little critical awareness about myself and my certainties.

The willingness to learn or grow is the foot-path away from victim-ville.  Could we even say that being a victim is “arrogant?”  We – Me, my patient Bella, you – have we taken steps to tell our story, to be present, to live with the humility it takes to look at ourselves and not escape/fly-away?

Whatever it is you are going through, it might help to vent it!  Grow and learn and get bigger than that experience.

Self-Care Tip #94 – Get in your own space to choose freedom from self-pity.  Be a friend to Yourself.

Question:  What barriers have you felt to telling your story?  What has made it difficult to be in the space of your own feelings?  Please tell us.

Walk Away From Your Junk

the rogers park young women's action team

Image by samuelalove via Flickr

Number one on Bella’s List:

There are endless new beginnings.  Had a bad day?  Stop right where you are and call-it out.  Then if you want to, if you are willing, if you are able you can start again.

But who is able?  Anyone who wants.  Even the severely disabled can say at some level that they want to end the hurt.  New beginnings are a privilege.  They are the dandelions we pluck and make a wish on.  It reminds me of when Jesus,

walked right through the crowd and went on his way.

The people were trying to push him over the cliff and they just plane didn’t see him walk among them and away.  We do that sometimes with our “start-over” opportunities.

There’s an interplay of forces that make our new beginning possible or impossible.

  • Humility – a willingness to learn.
  • Biology – a physical ability to stop, drop and roll the fire that’s scorching our emotions
  • Insight
  • Choice – choose it

Bella told me more of her story.  After she said, “The day has been ruined!,” her husband took them all to the table.  He told the kids, “Mom’s right.  The day is ruined.  Now who wants to start over?”  And then they all prayed for a new start.  They walked away from the junk.

Self-Care Tip #93 – Start over any time, every time you want.  Be a friend to yourself.

Question:  Do you find this to be true for you?  Is it a real option to start-over when you want?  Please tell me your story.

    Recipe for Treating Panic Disorder, According to Me

     

    shoponline2011.com

     

    Recipe for Treating Panic Disorder, According to Me:

    1.  If it’s taking you to the emergency room feeling like you’re going to die, or your spouse can’t peel you off with your phone calls and new needs – you have a medical illness.  Get medication.

    2.  If you are afraid of being humiliated by an episode so much that you avoid public places, or if you are more fearful than not – you have a medical illness.  Get medical treatment.

    3.  If you are panicking out of the blue, without something setting you off/triggers like finding your husband in bed with your dentist – this is biological.  Get a medical physician’s opinion.

    4.  If you are awakening from sleep in a panic attack, when you feel like you have to get out of bed and escape and the episode lasts for about 10+ minutes before you recover yourself – this is not because you’re not trying hard enough.  Get on a serotonerigic therapy and a sleep aid(s).

    5.  If you are drinking more alcohol to relax and out of fear of going to bed – get suspicious and get smart.  Medication therapy or alcohol?  It stumps me when someone says they don’t feel comfortable with taking medication that has beed studied in double-blind studies on thousands of people and reviewed and analyzed and more… but they do feel comfortable with alcohol.  That’s not friendly with yourself.

    6.  If you think you are going crazy and realize your fears and suspicions don’t make sense; if you think you are possibly going psychotic over and over – you’re having a medical illness of the brain and body called panic disorder.  Get to your nearest treating physician and trust them.

     

    juno.cumc.columbia.edu

     

    7.  If this is you, don’t go get insight or supportive psychotherapy at least until you have been on medication therapy for 6-8 weeks.  What you are going through is not because your mom yells at you too much.  It doesn’t have to have a reason.  It is medical.  Treat it medically.  If you go to therapy too soon, you will see that you can’t give what you don’t have.  (I may have offended some people saying this.  Sorry.)

    8.  If you don’t get treatment, expect that depression may likely follow soon.  Anxiety and depression are bedfellows and can’t be apart for long.

      Self-Care Tip #92 – View Panic as a medical illness.  It is.  Be a friend to yourself.

      Question:  Have you or someone you known used a similar recipe or a different one?  Please tell me your story.

      Escape Self-Loathing

      happinessinthisworld.com

      Self-Care Tip #91 – Put the fight down and take 2 steps back.  Be a friend to yourself.

      He came in looking really good.  Chris had seen me for many years and he hasn’t always looked this way.  I said

      You look great!

      Chris shrugged and told me he had just had a long messy argument with his partner and somehow still felt alright.  In the past, after they fought and the self-loathing set in, he might have hurt himself – like using alcohol or cutting on himself to

      …just feel something different.

      I was ready to move past the story as he sounded like he was ok with it.  We talked past each other.  Me asking about his sleep, and Chris telling me clips and phrases from the argument.

      But amazingly I’m fine!  If he wanted me out today, I’d be out of there, no problem.  He just needs to say the word!

      Chris was sitting back in his chair, relaxed until then.  His hands came up and took control of his space, thrusting as he spoke.

      Being a psychiatrist, my expertise kicked in and I realized I should turn back.  Chris wasn’t ready to talk about sleep.  You see what all those years of school can do.  Not everyone knows how to pick up on such subtleties.

      Chris, maybe you aren’t so happy you argued.

      We talked more about his energy, appetite and motivation.  Then we came back to his argument.

      It’s none of his f—— business where I am during the day!  I’m not his child.  I’m his partner!  I told him…!

      And so on.  Chris still looked better than when he was in the grip of post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms, or when he was catatonic.  But he didn’t sit comfortably with himself.  And I thought, Chris has fought so hard for himself, why can’t he handle what I want to say?  And I did.  And he did.  Beautifully.  He was a brave knight on a black steed holding his wounded sides.  Life had been a battle for him, but he was making choices to fight less and live more.

      “Ok.  Yes.  You’re right.  I will next time.  That makes sense.”

      When you’re about to engage in something that in the end will make you loath yourself, choose not to.  That’s friendly to you and your other.  Say something like,

      When I was gone you felt jealous?

      Give over stage and anger and open windows and breath.  Just choose not to hurt yourself.  Winning or losing the argument, in the end, you hurt by your own choice.

      Biologically and probably spiritually Chris wouldn’t have known what to do with that years ago.  But he did now.  I saw him relax again and put his hands away.  I knew Chris had a love for Love and this clicked for him.

      I can’t describe how happy I was/am.  Being a part of his journey is a great honor.

      Question:  How have you escaped self-loathing and your mean self in the heat of the moment?  Please tell me your story.

      Don’t Forget Your Friends Chose You Too

       

       

      Ok folks.  Not much time to write tonight.  My girly girlfriend is moving out-of-state and we’re off soon on something of a Ta-Ta! date.  Why in the world do I feel rejected?!  If I were French I might think it was the language of the heart.  But I’m not French so I can’t say what they’d say.

      Friendship requires ongoing navigation through life.  You can’t ever just sit back and expect safe waters.  The close pals go far away and although they’ll always be friends, here we find ourselves, beached and sifting sand.  Finding gold is thought to be infrequent I think when sifting sand.

      Today my daughter told me her classmate’s father lost his job.  Big ouch.  She told me, “Mommy, I wish money covered the streets everywhere so no one would ever not have enough.”  She hasn’t entirely learned what gives value to the dollar.  Friendship is like that.  Valuable and uncommon.

      My friend told me once that I chose her and she chose me.  It’s awesome to be chosen!

      So I’m off to rub my coins together and be with my friend.  She is a treasure.

      Self-Care Tip #90 – Don’t forget that your friends chose you too.  Be a friend to yourself.

      Questions:  Have you noticed that you’ve been chosen too?  Please tell me your story.

      You’ll Be Less Bored if You Do

       

      Rocky Balboa

      Image via Wikipedia

       

      Self-Care Tip #89 – Practice being real.  Exercise it!  Be a friend to yourself.

      Sara Stein MD and author of Obese From the Heart, wrote

      There’s nothing romantic or mysterious about advanced age. It’s painful and difficult for everyone, but there are good moments.

      I like that.  We could say it about a lot of other things too.  Just today in clinic for starters, Mary said she’s falling asleep during the day, but is doing less self-injury since starting topiramate.  Max has gained about 20 pounds but he is over his Staphylococcus infection and he’s sleep through the night.  Marge is crying because there is no cure for her son’s illness, but he can still be treated medically and protected against further disease progression.

      Any time someone asks me how I’m doing, I’m in a paradox.  It’s the drive I struggle with to express emotions purely and completely that can be my own Rocky (Dir: John G.Avildsen, 1977) experience or it can kick me in the back-side.  Doing what Dr. Stein so eloquently did isn’t as easy as it looks.

      “Fine,” I say.  “Things are wonderful.  Thanks for asking.”  (Snore.)

      Or, (trip,) “I’m tired and parenting is difficult, and as much as I talk about it, I can’t seem to figure out how to take care of myself.  But I’m also really good and haven’t been this happy in a long time.” (Panting holding my sides.)

      Being real without boring or tiring yourself out might take some practice.

      The “real-thing,” blogger Film Fan wrote

      Philadelphia Museum of Art, Benjamin Franklin Parkway, 26th Street, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA.  The most famous location in Rocky is probably the stairs he jogs up during the ’Gonna Fly Now’ training montage. The good news is that you can re-enact the scene and jog up and down them, the bad news is that there are 68 steps… That’s quite a few if you’re jogging.

      If you ever want to get bored quick, try to be happy.  Try it.  Try to be good.  Try to ignore the monotony.  If you want to be bored, draw your house with a window and a door and a sun shining in the corner.  It’s no good for boredom when you draw in the shadows and colors.  But doing that well might not be natural for everyone.  We might need to get into a training program, like Rocky Balboa before we can be in the presence of the bad and the good of our lives without loosing our breath.

      It may take practice to be real, but you will be less bored if you do.

      Question:  How do you find being real with the good and bad of your life affects you?  Please tell me your story.

      Lure Yourself Like a Lover

       

      Art Gallery Bangkok

      Art Joy by Marie Schem

       

      Self-Care Tip #88 – Win yourself over.  Be a friend to yourself.

      Dr. White works with mostly women in primary care medicine.  She tells me that her women so often come in tired, overextended, and they say they don’t feel good.  She wonders why they think they can run 2 full-time jobs (parenting and employment) without suffering for it.  Her counsel is to down scale.

      My patients do so much better when they are working part-time.

      Christie, a mom of 3 who works full-time, tells me tonight,

      It’s hard.

      That’s not new news but nor is it small news.  How many of us nod when on the subject of self-care.  We sagely stroke our chin yet are nowhere to be found on the list of topics of interest.  Do we even get pleasure out of taking care of ourselves?

      I think there’s a misperception here.  The hard part is not doing the 2 jobs that Dr. White’s patients work.  It is working our own person.  Maybe if we found more pleasure in caring for ourselves we would.  Maybe if we connected that caring for ourselves is the minus-1 to the starting point of caring for others.  We can get hooked.  We can.  But it won’t be the same for all of us.   Any way you turn it though, we have to make it sticky, linked to pleasure, and making sense.

      Question: Is there anything specific you can think of that contributes to self-care being a positive thing in your life?  Please tell me your story.

      Why Are You Walking The Road Alone?

      Part of humility is not isolating.  You have to be able to receive to be a friend.  Dan Allender Ph.D. calls it suffer the kindness.

      From looking at him, I didn’t guess at first that Fink was lonely, but he was.  Under-appreciated, whenever Fink thought about making new friends, he remembered that he wasn’t young any more.  All his “real” friendships were made when he hung-out for hours, had spares in the trunk so to speak.  If one relationship didn’t develop well, he still had time and possibilities that the future offers.  In this sense, Fink had been rich.  He had after all that, maybe 3 friends he considered “real.”  But over the last several years, with real jobs and families of their own, his real friends weren’t returning his calls.  Now, he thought, he may as well as not have given them his special self.  Now he was older and not so rich.  Fink kept picking at that scab, even though he knew it wasn’t so masculine to be upset about your neglected special self.

      At times we are lonely, but have trouble valuing the relationships being offered.  We see ourselves as something set apart.  This might be part of our drive to self-preserve.  Bits of neurons fighting over signals in our brain telling us that we need to dominate to propagate our genes.  Maybe.  But there is that intersection when choice crosses.

      We remember from Sebastian Seung‘s work that our memories are not stored in our genes.  That gives us something tangible to work with.

      I remember walking on the beach with a girlfriend when we were still in medical school.  I told her, “I’m tired of feeling bad about things I never had a choice in!”  It still seems wasteful to moralize things like temperament and our nature.  In fact, we’ve argued the opposite at length in previous blog posts.  Embrace that part of you and run with it! we said.

      So what do we do with Fink?  For starters, tell him that his drives are what they are.  The real question is, what’s he going to do with his genetic drives?  Do good things with that energy?  (If we can call genetic drive an energy.)  Or will he do things that aren’t so good for him.  There comes the choice.  Fink.  Suffer the kindness.  (Thanks Dan Allender!)  In the end you will be happier and healthier for it.  Even if you are half as hot as your genes tell you you are, who cares if you are walking the road alone.

      Self-Care Tip #86 – Suffer the kindess.  Be a friend to yourself.

      Question:  What has been a barrier in your life from connecting with others?  Please tell me your story.

      Connect With Others to Get Friendly With Yourself

      Self-Care Tip #81 – Connect with others.  Be a friend to yourself.

      So you have bought into the famous, “You are not alone” stock.  After 2 months on psychotropics (medications for emotional illness,) you finally have an interest in people.  You are at least a little motivated and less afraid of things that move.  You don’t feel like you are the reason for original sin and more often than not, you think happiness might be more than what shopping can offer.  What is this strange and unfamiliar sensation?  And what to do with it?

      It is time to connect.  Many of us get to the point where we no longer want to hide, we don’t hate ourselves, and we don’t hate others.  We get to the place of showing our under-belly just a little to the big wide world and are shocked that the only thing we feel is the wind as everyone is rushing by!  Just when we start wanting what we spent so much time hiding from, we seem to have forgotten how to connect with others.

      It is no secret.  America is culturally impoverished.  We have little of cobblestone streets to meander down, dressed in clean clothes after a days work, checking up on neighbors and gossip.  We have few degrees of activity between full throttle and dead/no heart beat.   Come now!  How to connect in a world where our parents expected us to pay rent when we turned 18years old?

      If you find yourself in something of this situation try on one of these basic tools and see what fits.  You can’t expect them all to.  So if you strike out a few times, keep on!

      1.  Volunteer – for example, and in no particular order…

      2.  Meetup.com – an awesome site to find people interested in what you are interested in.  e.g. book clubs, skiing, small business, Italian

      3.  Support groups

      4.  Write!  Although this at first thought may appear isolating, it is not necessarily.

      • Blog!  🙂
      • Journal

      5.  Toastmasters

      There is so much more.  Please let me know your thoughts and I’ll keep adding to this list!

      Self-Care Tip #81 – Connect with others.  Be a friend to yourself.

      Forgive to Get Friendly With Yourself

       

      Professional baseball bats are typically made ...

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      Self-Care Tip #80 – Forgive.  Be a friend to yourself.

      A reader wrote yesterday

      Always intrigued by the possible connection between empathy and forgiveness….

      Great progression of thought.  From both an anecdotal perspective and some biological considerations, David Mullen PhD and Everett L. Worthington Jr. PhD, are two of my favorites.  Other than Jesus, they have and do say it better than just about anyone.  I heard Dr. Worthington speak when still a resident-physician in psychiatry.  The story he told of his mother’s murder and how he came to forgive her murderers seared into my memory and has ever since been a reference for me in my personal life and medical practice.

      The call came on New Years Day, 1996. His brother’s voice was shaky. “I have some bad news,” he said. “Mama has been murdered.”  …Their mother had been beaten to death. Rage bubbled up in him like lava. He heard himself saying, “I’d like to have that murderer alone in a room with just a baseball bat. I’d beat his brains out.”

      Here’s where the empathy came in

      …He tried to picture the crime scene. He imagined how a pair of youths might feel as they stood in the dark street preparing to rob the house. Perhaps they had been caught at robbery previously. They would have been keyed up. The house was dark; no car was in the driveway. No one’s home, they must have thought. Perhaps one said, “They’re at a New Year’s Eve party.“ They did not know that Worthington’s mother did not drive.  …Worthington imagined their shock when her voice came from behind. “What are you doing in here?”

      “Oh, no!” one must have thought, “I’ll go to jail. She is ruining my life.” He lashed out with his crowbar, slamming his mother three times. Panicked, the youths went crazy, trashing the house, both for having their plans ruined and for the shame of having murdered.

      This is part of the process that led Dr. Worthington to forgive the murder.  You can read more in his book, The Power of Forgiving.

      There is an interplay, between choice and biology/non-choice.  It’s uncomfortable to think and talk about.  I can feel the hackles on the necks of my readers start to stand up just writing it and I humbly acknowledge my limitations in sharing this concept.  It is what I have tried to describe through many of my earlier blog posts.  This unlikely union between such polar concepts.

      Being a Christian, I have awareness of the culture that frowns on taking bad behavior out of the church and into the laboratory.  When I think of empathy and forgiveness, I see party-hoppers moving in and out of those very places irreverently perhaps in some people’s minds.

      Some other time we will broach further the idea of self-care being Christian v. scientific.

      Self-Care Tip #80 – Forgive.  Be a friend to yourself.

      Question:  Does any of this resonate with you?  Please tell me your story.

      Be Empathic to Others to Get Friendly With Yourself

       

      Drawn by early 20th-century commercial cat ill...

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      Self-Care tip #79 – Be empathic to others.  Be a friend to yourself.

      Yesterday I wrote about considering intent and context when comparing self-care with selfishness.  That carries over to the people sharing life with those of us who have mental illness.  Do they see us as selfish?  For example, how is the spouse of the Panic Disorder going to make sense of the 40 phone-calls he gets while at work?

      Mary’s husband told me that she’s been calling him “all day,” terrified she was going to die.  Checking to see when he was coming home.  She couldn’t go to the market because people would laugh at her.  Afraid.  Afraid.  Just plain afraid.  Really, everything had become about her.  She was like a scared kid.  Frankly it was annoying.  He was in a stressful work situation with the economy slumping.  People he knew were being laid off.  The other day he had to leave in the middle of an important job to go home and reassure her.  She was sobbing in the living room.  Sure she was going crazy.  He realized that he might have to tell his boss what was going on but what was going on?!  Who had his wife turned into.

      In yesterday’s blog, we spoke about the ability to abstract v. concrete thinking.  Being able to abstract helps with empathy – connecting emotional content between people.  To put yourself in someone else’s shoes, as if you were them.  This is a critical part of relating, i.e. being in a relationship.  Many different mind illnesses affect our ability to abstract, including panic disorder.

      In Mary’s case, she was not empathic when she was anxious.  She was thinking about herself.  Understandably, if you read the part about her believing she was going to die or go crazy.  But when you’re married to her, empathizing with her gets old.  It’s not so easy when it seeps into your work life, you haven’t had sex for months, and you have to do everything that has anything to do with going outside of the home.  Some part of you knows it’s not true, but another part of you screams, “Get over it you selfish child!”

      Is Mary selfish?  Some might be able to answer even after all the phone-calls and unrecognizable behaviors, no.  Mary is not selfish.  They can do this specifically because they can abstract.  They can empathize.  They can consider the context of Mary’s disease and the intent of her behaviors.

      Not everyone does this.  Not everyone is able to let “It” be about someone else.  Not everyone doesn’t have to have “It” be about them.

      The best thing for those in relationships with someone emotionally ill, is to view the way they are behaving as biological.  When treated medically, than Mary or whoever it is in your life can do their own self-care.  But until then, staying in their lives requires maintaining an empathic view that considers intent and context.  It also means furthermore, doing your own self-care individually.

      There are over-lapping flaps to our lives.  Scales on the back of an armadillo.  Me as encased by my body.  Me, that includes the space between me and you.  Me, that includes you, because you will always be a part of me.  Self-care really involves all that by degrees.  A chain-link.

      So the question is, can empathy be chosen?  With money in the bank and wisdom, yes.

      Self-Care tip #79 – Be empathic to others.  Be a friend to yourself.

      Question:  Does any of this ring true for you?  Please tell me your story.

      Believe What You Say! It Might Make a Difference.

      If you want to get passionate about something, You have to believe it.  Many people speak it, read it, plan on it, but they don’t believe it.  Do you?  Do you believe that you can actually start doing what you want to do, feeling what you want to feel, become who you want to be?

      And how bout the opposite?  Too many of us quietly or loudly hold our negative patterns.  A Heathcliff with Catherine scenario in Bronte‘s Wuthering Heights – slowly bringing on our own demise.  Reminds me of the mistletoe, a parasite on it’s host but accepted and beloved nonetheless.

      MIT neuroscientist Sebastian Seung gave a wonderful TED conference, “I am my connectome.”  He tells us the good news that we are more than our genes. Our memories are not “stored” in our genes.  They live amongst the neuronal connections.  He empowers us saying that because we can change our neuronal connections, we can change our behaviors and habits – which are based on neuronal memory (indian trails.)  You see, because our habits are really memories ground into the fiber of our minds, and not into the constitution of our matter, we can make different ones.

      Wow!

      We may not have pixie dust or elf stones, but we do have power.  We can stop, drop and roll! to that destruction in our lives.  We can be friendly with ourselves at any level of our beings – neuronal to behavioral and emotional.  Mr. Seung, that is great news!

      Self Care Tip #70 – If you are going to do it, have courage and believe it!  Be a friend to yourself.

      Question:  What do you think?  Please tell me your story.

      Our Changing Reality

      She had been gone for 3 months helping her mother transition from life to death.  However, instead of it being a melancholic experience, she felt better than she had since a time she couldn’t calendar.  Back when she had a respect for herself.  Back when she had youth, she had hope, she believed in a generous future.

      I had no way of knowing what it was like for me until I left the situation.

      Reality is only as real as our perspective.  She came back to a new perspective and her reality changed.  She saw an impoverished life.  She saw need to stop waiting for the better of future’s promises.  She saw disrespect when caring for her disabled daughter and emotionally abusive husband.  She hated disrespecting herself.  She felt this and she rebelled inside.  Holding back her furry with the flimsy lid of guilt-glue.  She cried.  She had just let her mother go and feeling good about letting her daughter and husband go now embarrassed and shamed her.  But there it was.  The thought she hadn’t thought before.  Reality had changed.

      I’m told that it is bad for a counsellor to tell someone specifically what to do.  Turns out that my job includes some counseling.  I ran into a former patient today at a coffee shop.  She saw me typing on my computer and learned about this blog.

      But you do meds!

      Apparently sometimes I’m not that great of a counselor.  Or maybe I am if she didn’t realize I was, with her, all along.

      I had to stop and say hello!  I’ve missed you!

      (Whew!)

      Today, I kept thinking about the way reality changes when we let our perspective get some air.

      This daughter/mother/wife will never be the same woman she was before she left for 3 months.  She didn’t know.  And now she did.  She can’t stuff that knowledge.  She can’t disappear it.  She is left with a knowledge.  Is it better?  I think so.

      We played with options as we talked.  A window opened in the room and a breeze came through called hope.  That was lovely to share with her and I am grateful.

      Maybe when with determined labor we are trudging on in life, we might think of this.  With this memory, we could more willingly accept the urge to walk away just to see for a time.  Maybe a knowing, that we were missing, will come and change us.

      Self Care Tip #67 – We might be in a different reality if we walk away.  Be a friend to yourself.

      Question:  What has your own experience been?  Please tell me your story.

      Trust The Momentum of Your Own Desires

      Writing every day has blessed me.  It has however also taken away.  Aside from the obvious such as time, I’ve missed reading in the evenings.  I used to spend most of my evenings jamming happily through fast page turning books.  I love bound paper.

      I’ve always had something of sensory issues.  My girlfriend Marlo Albritton, MS, CCC-SLP always laughs at me in the car – every other moment adjusting the angle of the vent or the pressure or the direction of the air that can never hit my face or the temperature.  In books, it is so many things as well that get me.  The smell and touch of course, the sound of fingers on page, swish there’s a turn, the visual in my hands or when I set it down.  I fidget but any way I turn, the book is my focal point, a lover!  The book keeps pace with me too.  When I wander, it waits patiently, unpressured and available.  When I must rush because I might die if I don’t reach the story’s climax, the book is the perfect buddy swimmer.  Like a good psychotherapist, the book is there for me.  It is a unidirectional relationship.  There aren’t many good unidirectional relationships.

      I listen to audio books sometimes.  When I exercise or drive alone, and they are good.  But they are the fast food of the book pantry.  Never as satisfying.  They leave most of my senses quite alone.

      I realize it is of course my own fault!  Not the blog or the writing.  I make the choices that keep me from reading.  I’m going to have to figure something out.  I can’t not read!  Remember when I said that time and energy increase when you do what you love?  (See “There is Room In Our Wanting Selves.”)  Well that’s what I’m putting my money on.  I’m going to trust the momentum of my own desires.

      I’m off to read.

      Self Care Tip #66 – Trust the momentum of your own desires.  Be a friend to yourself.

      Question:  Do you have a sense of where your own momentum is taking you?  Please tell me your story.