Use something other than your condition to mark your value

typical American family, September 1940

typical American family, September 1940 (Photo credit: austinevan)

I do not really want to examine my faith.  It is just a paper flower.  Where my faith comes from, now that excites, like a outlet into energy.

Watching, The Grapes of Wrath 1940 drama film directed by John Ford, tonight with my family, we all knew that we were frail, one or two missteps from disaster.  One of us asked,

“Why wasn’t it a big deal when someone died?”

Oh, but it was.  The people were breaking, could barely dig a grave for their family member, and that may have come across to a youngin’ as if they did not care.  When we are breaking, we look at life differently.  It is a big deal.

Casy says it at Grandpa’s burial, “All that lives is holy.” Chapter 13, pg. 184

I see this in patients sometimes.  People who are done with the bull.  People who know that whatever it is they thought was so great about themselves is just rubbish.  People who know they are more than the sack of skin that holds their fire.  These people are looking for where their life comes from, for a moment of realness to fuel on.  And these people taking medications, getting electroconvulsive therapy, dialectical behavioral therapy, scraping at life to survive, these people are.

However, we do not really want to examine our hard work, though it is so close to what makes life great.  Our courage and grit rises up like a green mountain.  Where our grit, hard work and courage comes from, that is Holy.

There is strength and Holiness there, no matter about our condition.

Question:  What is special about humanity?

Self-Care tip:  Use something other than your condition to mark your value.

Paper Doll Syndrome – Changing Symptomotology Can Be an Opportunity to Remember and Celebrate

Paper Doll Photographer - 2/52

Paper Doll Photographer – 2/52 (Photo credit: Mark Hopkins Photography)

Fred didn’t remember his panic.  He thought his main problem was his sleep.  His
so-called “main problem” changed with his symptomatology.  Fortunately or unfortunately he didn’t know it was happening.

Fred reminded me of a paper doll.  Now I’m a veterinarian, now I’m a clerk.  Of course there are all the stories that accompany each outfit.  Our smithy imagination is fast.  Pull this off and press this in and now I’m a fire-fighter.  Now I’m a noble, now I’m a… patient.

The other day after the Hemet NAMI meeting, (they meet monthly on the first Wednesday at the Hemet Seventh-Day Adventist Church), a member told me that when they do outreach, they begin their stories with something like, “We are people who,” or “I am a person who,” deliberately avoiding the word, “patient(s.)”  Hoping to allow others to connect with their humanity, the specialness of their, “Me,” rather than the distortion that suffering is special they try to keep away from the paper doll experience.

Thinking of NAMI, thinking of Fred, I splayed the biopsychosocial-model tools I use.  What was here for Fred?  Fred’s biology was toward healing as he wasn’t having panic attacks any more and his thought processes were less circular.  That’s what we wanted and signified that his treatments, (including medications and psychotherapies,) were at least not harming him as far as we could tell, and might even be part of what influenced his healing process.  However, his ongoing symptomatology as seen in his poor insight, (paper-doll syndrome,) insomnia and persistent worrying thoughts demonstrated that his biology was only partially treated.

Fred, like you and I, and like women who labor babies into this world never remember their pain, by forgetting his panic, he lost his point of reference.  I said,

Fred!  This is significant!  Yay!  

Fred looked at me like I didn’t get it.  He wasn’t sleeping.  What was I thinking, “Yay?”  Well…  “Fred I was thinking you aren’t panicking on a gurney in the emergency-room today.  Yay.”

Remembering our suffering isn’t necessary but it can be a friendly reference point if we want.

Self-Care Tip:  Use previous suffering as a reference point to celebrate when you aren’t.  Be a friend to yourself.

Question:  Have previous sufferings lost their strength in your memory and diminished your celebrations?  How has suffering been used after they are gone to your advantage?  Please tell me your story.

Site Related Blog-Posts:

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 Gift in Wanting – Water, is Taught by Thirst

Water, is taught by thirst. 
Land -- by the Oceans passed. 
Transport -- by throe 
-- Peace -- by its battles told 
-- Love, by Memorial Mold 
-- Birds, by the Snow.
-Emily Dickinson

“Some people think of the glass as half full. ...

I have been quiet here for what seems like a long time and I am happy to be talking out “loud” again.  Thank you for being, friends.

Over the past year-and-a-half of writing and reading with you, of speaking and hearing, teaching and learning – instead of diminishing my interest, exhausting my energies and instead of completing this “task,” I am rather in process of crescendo.  This thing called, being a “friend to yourself,” apparently must continue.  It must because otherwise we would not.

Emily Dickinson knew the value of what was missing; but more so, she knew the value in the wanting of it.

Water, is taught by thirst.

I am ever aware that you and I do too.  It is this wanting that spurs in us our creative genius in this effort.  In any area of interest, in fact, whether it is this, to cultivate the caring of our own person, or to improve our eye of canvas, to swing our sword or to put pen to paper – if we do not sense potential, pleasure still to come, if we do not see beyond where we are to what might be and if we don’t want it, we will miss our selves.  We will lose our pearl to the muck that hides us.

Counter to intuition, presence is in fact enhanced by our wanting.  We clarify our point of reference to each other and to Love when we realize that we are toward something greater than ourselves.  Having that point of reference is nourishing.  It is active and it is connected.  The understanding of what we want still, have yet to obtain, rather than destabilizing or isolating us, it improves our footing and our community.  And like Emily, we give up much just to experience the exquisite process of joining our own journey.

This is what thirst has taught me.  What about you? Please tell me your story.

Self-Care Tip – Before the gift of your thirst, pursue it knowing you are blessed.  Be a friend to yourself.

Site Related Articles

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

Strange Lady

Image by bending light via Flickr

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.

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

basics on Weight Management

A tipped cow. Taken near the Cliffs of Moher i...

cow-tipping

A day or two ago we talked about life-ers.  You and I gave our own.  Whatever yours is, you are not alone.  We share that being a friend to ourself means embracing our flaws, going towards our flaws and letting the shame dissipate in our familiar presence.  Weather it’s cigarettes, weight, yelling or cow-tipping, resisting our instinct to hide it, to ignore it and deny it brings us into a place of friendship and connection.

In all my blah-blah’s, sometimes people just want me to get down to the specifics.  I’ve never found those to be too exciting for me personally, but they do help when afraid.

Today I’m going to hit weight management up.  When hope seems to be leached out by failures, these are my efforts that keep me connected to my journey.  I eventually always go back to these.

Three Things That Have Long Term Influence on Weight Management:

1.  log your food.  For example, Sparkpeople.com or myfitnesspal.com are both wonderful sites that will help with this free, including apps for our smartphone.

2.  weigh yourself every day.  Just weighing in has long-term benefits.  Sweet.  Improves presence with our bodies, awareness, goes towards shame, etc…

3.  compete/support network

4.  the rest of it.  This is for all the other stuff that is critical on many levels.  However, only the three things I’ve mentioned have been shown to have long-term effects.

I know.  Where are my references?  This is my blog, so me.  But there are references if you like.  I don’t have time to pick them off of my under-table unfortunately.  Hope that doesn’t keep you from participating with us.

Self-Care Tip – Know where to go when you feel afraid – towards it and not away.