Be Friendly Enough With Yourself To Acknowledge the Gift In Your Suffering

Strange Lady

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Pain. There are so many of us suffering from pain that sometimes it is as if nobody escapes. Even so, in the contorting agony that pain brings, we have a very hard time thinking outside of ourselves at all. We are preoccupied with ourselves. We do not think about the others hurting or others in general at all. Pain does that – emotional and/or physical.

Penelope was preoccupied too. She had suffered and was suffering still. Peeling her thoughts away from survival during those times when, with teeth and muscles clenched, her body felt like a universe unto itself. Everyone outside of her were aliens she was able to visit occasionally. Watching her and hearing her describe how it molded her current person, I remembered the book by Paul Brand, Pain: the Gift Nobody Wants. (We mentioned this book before in our blog-post, “Emotions: The Physical Gift We Can Name.”)

When we are sick with Pain Syndrome, with symptoms seen in our emotions, behaviors and nerve language, it is hard to perceive what good can come out of bad. Saying, when we are in that ditch, that the sun is happily shining overhead is rude and boring. Especially when it is rhetoric. Change that rhetoric to insight, well that would then be worth friendly and interesting. That would be hope. There comes a degree of knowledge that hasn’t reached our sensory selves yet but sits in our intellect. We have a glimpse of the ark of the covenant, a promise, nearly prophesy in fact – we have a knowing that something good can come out of this.

This is why I thought of the work of Paul Brand, M.D. with the lepers. I thought that Penelope might want to know that there is something good that could come out of her bad if she were healthy in other ways, enough to receive it. If her senses could perceive it, her emotions, sight, hearing, touch, taste and smell could take in that information and deliver enough of it uninterrupted, what was promised to her would come true; past the pain that distracts and preoccupies.

It is as if this good that comes out of bad were like a runner in a war zone. Bombs are exploding. It is noisy even though hearing was taken out after the last gun fire. Dirt and sweat drip over eyes and into mouths and no one believes they will survive. And then the runner trips into our shelter and collapses still alive; still holding the message in his hand. Something good made it across a land in havoc and war and we know about it now.

I thought of Paul Brand, M.D., telling Penelope that her pain is her gift at that point of knowing, with that timing. Better than I could. She wouldn’t laugh angrily and give him a bad review on-line. She would hear him. “Something good is coming your way. You have hope.” In my imagination, Penelope would not hear Dr. Brand moralizing her experience – “You are good if you perceive your gift and you are bad if you don’t.” In my fantasy, Penelope would understand that this offering wasn’t intended to make her feel guilty for hurting. It was an offering of hope.

Not so easy to do, as it turns out, in real life. I am a very human psychiatrist without

much magic about me very often. But if I did…

Question: How do you give yourself hope when your senses don’t perceive it? How are you your own friend when you are preoccupied and distracted from that which is friendly? Please tell us your story.

Self-Care Tip – Be friendly enough with yourself to believe that there is something good that will come out of your bad. There is hope.

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!

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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?

Codependent,… Or Something?!

Inquisition condemned (Francisco de Goya).

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Codependent.

It’s a term a lot of people use but I don’t think we are all using it to mean the same thing.  It is poorly defined and confusing.  If codependency were a medication, we would call it a “dirty medicine,” because it hits so many “receptors.”  It is nonspecific.

Who hasn’t ever been shamed by the fear that they are codependent?

You are codependent! 

Am I codependent!!!??

The word implies blame.  Blame for what?  And that is one of the places we walk away without benefit.  Was the word useful to any of us in any way?

In general, vaguely, codependence implies awareness and participation with mal-behavior that we are powerless to.  Treatment preferably includes a twelve-step program that includes the surrender of what we don’t have power over to our Higher Power.  Codependence may incidentally be combined with brain disease and of course that would need medication therapy.

There are however a few things that must be cleared up.

  1. There is nothing shameful about being married, the child of or of any relation to an addict.  That position doesn’t diagnose us with codependency unless that’s what that word is being used to define.  You never know.
  2. There is no shame in wanting to be with people, depend on people, seek people out to problem-solve and get energy from being with people.  That position does not diagnose codependency unless that’s what the word is being used to define.  You never know.

However,

  1. There may be a relationship to family of addicts
  2. There may be a relationship to anger problems
  3. There may be a relationship to kids of parents who expected perfect kids, spouses of spouses who expect perfect spouses, pet-owners who… (Oh wait.  That’s not right.)

BUT, per Dr. Q, if we find ourselves…

  1. in recurring negativity – perhaps an argument that happens over and over
  2. with an increasingly limited ability to participate in life
  3. powerless
  4. doing things we wouldn’t normally do/out of character
  5. tied into someone else’s mal-behavior
  6. consciously aware of that someone’s mal-behavior

IT’S WORTH THINKING ABOUT IT.  We might not be codependent, whatever that means, but we do need help.

Questions:  How do you identify this in your life or someone you know?  How have you been able to stop being dependent on someone you knew was repeatedly doing mal-behavior?  Please tell me your story.

Self-Care Tip #275 – Forget the shame and just get about your work to figure this out.

Self-Care Is Not A Moral Issue

Facial emotions.

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I am writing a series of blog-posts outlining self-care in which we examine the tenets of self-care:

Self-Care Tip #263 – Experience, use, observe and interpret emotions, but don’t moralize them.

We sometimes forget about the involved journey to a healthy Me.  Because of this, we become fearful that it means alone-care, apart-from-God-care, selfish-care, excluding experienced-and-professional-input-care and so on.  It’s not.  Self-care is collaborative, yet that doesn’t negate the fact that it must start and end with Me.

When we take care of “Me,” we can connect more with others, including God, have more inside of us to give to others, and have more interest in the world around.  The opposite disables our abilities to do those things.  No one can give what she doesn’t have.

We have this person, “Me,” to take care of.  This “Me” is valuable, of high priority, to be celebrated and cheered on.

Please, shake it off.  Self-care is not a moral issue.  It just is.  It is a choice, a freedom and an opportunity.  It is not about salvation and has no influence on our worth.  It just is.

We are more willing to buy into the, “It just is,” self-care tool when we understand where emotions and behaviors come from – the brain. This biological stance is the evidence for deescalating our drive to moralize emotions and behaviors.  They are not from an aura, a gear we can shift, or any nidus of control outside of our human bodies.  Emotions are how we interpret the world around us.  They are not linked to morality.  Please don’t take them to the pulpit.  If you do, I will still be polite, although breathing through a mask.

Emotions are our interpretive lens for our physical self.

Questions:  How’s the clarity of your lens holding out after considering this part of self-care?  What influence does what you “see” with your emotions have on your ability to befriend yourself?  Please tell me your story.

How To Be a Friend to Yourself When Thinking About Your Bully?

I love real life John Waters freeze-frames

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Self-Care Tip #253 – Humanize and forgive your bully.

How to be a friend to yourself when thinking about your bully?

Have you noticed that when we think about our bully, we don’t feel so good.  Just thinking about him!  Sheeze!  In our last post on bullying, Nancy said,

Wow! This one brought up WAY too much pain. I’m feeling very vulnerable and uncomfortable and hurt and stupid at the moment. 

There are jumbled emotions that flood us, such as anger, shame, helplessness, anxiety or more.  Our autonomics may even trigger, making us hypervigilant as if we were being attacked.  We are in defense mode – all the while sitting alone in a chair at our desk, in the quiet of our bed while falling asleep, or any other place of our generally hum-drum lives.  These feelings and nervous system changes come in a time and place when we are not in danger.  They come without us realizing their approach, stealth feet and skilled hands; we are in their company before we know it.

Is there no hope?  What can we do so we don’t feel victimized all over again.

Humanize

1.  Do research on the bully.  Find out about him on the internet.  See what others have said about him.

This helps us:

  1. see him as a human, mortal, without superhuman powers.
  2. feel like we are less alone in this.
  3. realize that we are not chosen, so to speak, to suffer at his hands.  He is a bully and not just around “Me.”
  4. we didn’t cause his behaviors.  He chooses his behaviors because of the same biopsychosocial paradigm that we choose ours.
  5. realize that he hasn’t chosen to do his self-care, making him more vulnerable to his own negative feelings and behaviors.

Forgive

  1. Humanizing our bully helps us move towards empathy and forgiveness.
  2. Anger debts only hurt Me and that’s not friendly to Me.

Grow our self-confidence

  1. Such as doing our own thing.
  2. Grow our own natural genius.  Work hard at it and see how it is there for us, like a friend when we are feeling pushed down.  Our friend will be standing beside us, reminding us of our value when this remembering tries to beat us down.  Our friend will be there reminding us that this negative event in our life does not define us.

Now if they continue, these rememberings, and if these rememberings are frequent enough that we believe our quality of life is affected, we may be looking at something else.  There are other medical illnesses that can disable our abilities to cope.  In this scenario, I am thinking especially about Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD.)

In PTSD, we relive experiences of trauma (which we perceived to have been life threatening to ourselves or observed by us in other(s).)  We may also feel hypervigilant, as if we are about to be attacked at times when our lives are not threatened.  We might have nightmares and avoid things that remind us of the trauma event as well.

PTSD is easily reactivated by other stressful situations – such as being bullied.  When we have a history of PTSD that has been quiet for a time, even years, we are more vulnerable to stressors reactivating it’s symptoms.  Then, although the said stressor may not have been a life-threatening stressor, we perceive similar feelings and neurologic changes we did when in the life-threatening situation.  Then, although the said stressor may be over and not recurring, those PTSD symptoms start happening all over again and may continue indeterminately – propagated by the disease process and not our bully event.

This might be endured and it may go away in time without treatment.  But it isn’t good for anyone while it is happening.  PTSD can improve with medical therapies.

Question:  How have you been able to humanize and forgive your bully?  Please tell me your story.

Your Bridge Between Choosing and Being Chosen By Guilt

INNOCENCE/GUILT

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Self-Care Tip #227 – Find out about your bridge between choosing and being chosen by guilt.

Guilt.

Sometimes we think people who do wrong should feel guilt.  But how many of us improve ourselves or others in response to guilt?  And because this is a self-care blog (wink), I have tooled around with what it is all about and if it is a positive self-service.  In my meanderings I remembered, Schadenfreude.  (Isn’t that a marvelous Americanized German word?!)

Schadenfreude is different from guilt, although often in the same company.  It is a natural response in which we find pleasure at observing another’s demise or suffering.  I speculate that when we see someone feeling guilty and suffering from that guilt, even against our better natures we experience a degree of Schadenfreude, i.e. pleasure.  Because we moralize things, we responsibly feel shame when insight dawns on Schadenfreude, but “it just is.”  It is a part of who we are in this time of humankind’s history.

However would we go so far as to say that we want people to feel guilty when they do wrong because of the motivating reward that Schadenfreude has on us?  For example, Mom is disciplining her children and just won’t stop until someone cries.  I remember hearing jokes about this in mommy groups when my kids were a bit younger.  …Mom thinks silently,

I’m suffering so I want to see you suffer.

Even though we maturely and grandly empathize (the counterpart to Schadenfreude) with the kids, there is a simultaneous “secret Schadenfreude” (a private feeling) that goes on at their failure.  The blend of both can be confusing.

As we continue to travel the bridge between voluntary and involuntary, we are learning more about how choice remains regardless which side we are looking at.  For example, if guilt and Schadenfreude are so natural, so biological, so reflexive, we look for our choice.

Cathy wrote on the blog-post, Choosing Perspective,

I become trapped in my own guilt. Yes it is about perspective but what to do when even changing your perspective provides no relief, only a different source of constraint?

Questions:  I can’t help but wonder what you think about this?  Where and what is your bridge between choosing and being chosen by guilt and other negative emotions?  How do you choose when guilt and other negative emotions come involuntarily and inappropriately to context?  Please tell me your story.

Choosing Perspective

choose

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Self-Care Tip #225 – If you can’t choose a better perspective on your own, it might be time to choose it via a medical route.

Feeling trapped?  Overextended?  Used and neglected by others?  It might be true.  But why do we get in these impossible places?

In the Wrinkle In Time by Madeleine L’Engle, towards the end of the story we find ourselves in a room with Charles and It.  Charles is trapped by It.  He has disconnected from his own thoughts and has given himself over to the control of “It.”

Charles’ sister, Meg, comes in and reminds him about Love and that changed the perspective of everything.  It reminded Charles about why he wanted to choose for himself, to have his own thoughts, to love and receive love.  And then, with that, Charles was reconnected with himself again, whole and sharing space with Love.

The changing perspective turned what seemed an impossible bondage into freedom.

When we feel disconnected from our personal journey, impossibly overextended and trapped, remembering our freedom to choose, freedom because of Love can make all the difference.  The perspective shifts.  The impossible becomes possible.  Magic.

Sometimes, choosing is thwarted by brain disease.  When we can’t extricate ourselves, when guilt plagues us, when we feel like things are about us that really aren’t, when the emotion jarring us is inappropriate to the context – we need to use that as a cue to choose to get “free” via medical help.

Questions:  When have you felt trapped?  When you did feel trapped, how did you find your freedom?  Please tell me your story.