Are You Empowered to Start Everything and End Everything With Me?

Yesterdays blog-post brought a few neighborly questions for us to follow-up with.

One is regarding emotions from bluebee.  Is jealousy medical?  Followed by, What part of emotion is under our control?  Indeed.

Second, Sarah quietly slipped the question under our door of how to respond to emotions and behaviors that come from brain illness.  How?  Indeed.

Third, Carl banged a little louder when asking, what keeps him in a relationship with someone who is maltreating him verses leaving?  Indeed.

There is a nice flow to these.  They are leading into the next and circle back.  Emotions and behaviors come from the brain, much which is out of our control and some of which is.  The choice to engage in the life of the ill is like any other choice.  Our own.  If it matters to us if the way the brain is working in the “other” is in their control or not, we can spend more time trying to sus that out.  I’m not sure myself when I get it good from someone mean, but it has become easier to take care of my junk rather than there’s.  For that, I will say a million thanks.  If I’m getting yelled at, I do the checks on myself – anxiety? fear? anger? fatigue? shaking? dizzy? tone of my voice? do I know what this person is yelling about? (most often it has nothing to do with Me), empathy? empowerment? You’ve told me that you are growing in similar refreshing ways.

Face Down w/Laundry and Gwen Stefani

Image by NCM3 via Flickr

I’ve seen this play out a little in my children.  My daughters and son are supposed to do the laundry every morning before they play.  I don’t know how many years now, but their arguments haven’t changed.

I’m doing this all by myself.  No one is helping me!

Mom!  He’s just laying on top of the clothes!  

Mom!  …

These questions above…;

  • where emotions and behaviors come from,
  • control over biological symptoms,
  • do I respond to others with brain illness
  • or do I walk away

These questions don’t mean much if we don’t find where our empowerment comes from.  Me.  Everything starts and ends with Me.

I’m ill for reasons I have nothing to do with, yet I will be accountable for myself and how I affect others.

I feel emotions I didn’t ask for, behaving ways that I am a spectator to rather than a whole person, yet I will do what I can to gain health.  In that, I have control.

I surrender what I don’t control to my Higher Power.  I take medication.  I exercise, guard my sleep hygiene and get regular sleep, eat responsibly, gather and engage community, attend therapy groups and/or individual, I try while at the same time I let go, I love my flaws as I love my perfections, I try to develop my natural genius, try as often as I can to pour any energies I have in that direction as I know I will heal faster, enjoy life more and be more successful at all my efforts when I do.

It reminds me of that saying, that if I have success, it is from standing on the shoulders of giant midgets.  We are all flawed.  We are all wonderful.  We are supported by others who also are full of flawed perfections.

Do I have control?  You bet.  …And no way.  Always, there are both.

Do I talk when someone is mistreating me? or mistreating themselves by neglecting their own self-care? by letting their illnesses shape their lives?  Do I walk away as that may be what my self-care demands.

Everything starts and ends with me.  There are a lot of stops along the way with other forces, but empowerment is mine.  Indeed.  That’s what I hope my kids will learn when doing the laundry.

Emotions and Behaviors Will Get Better As You Heal.

Punch to the Face

Image by Ninja M. via Flickr

Don’t worry.

When you hear that, don’t you think violent thoughts?  Or how about, “Calm down?”  Got to love that.  I have visuals of my back swing.  Sure.  You might call them hallucinations.  I’ve never actually hit someone but I have pulled into ready position.

Here’s the thing though.  After all this on-and-on about taking care of ourselves, I have found myself saying things that get awfully close and I’m looking out.  Pretty soon I’m afraid I’m going to get it.  (I’ve got my eye on you!  And you!)

Here’s what happened.  Augustina was wondering what to do about her best friend.  They had quarreled and then quarreled again.

Naming someone, “best-ie” sounds pubescent but Augustina was no child.  Her best-ie had been her chosen family (as Jackie Paulson reminded us yesterday)  since she was twelve, fat and leaked.  Kids were laughing.  Future Best-ie wasn’t.  That’s the kind of girl she was.  Safe; a light in a house that she had gone toward naturally and that had not been put out by Augustina’s misty self.  Wet face, stained pants, fat neck and pimples – Future Best-ie wasn’t laughing.  And that’s about all it took.  She was her friend.

Why had Augustina and Best-ie quarrelled these thirty-some years later?  This was am apparent mystery to Augustina.  You know those kind of mysteries, when they belong to only one person while everyone else with the answer key is looking on.  It was almost like she was standing there, twelve-years-old and bewildered.  This time though, Best-ie wasn’t on her side.  Or so she thought.

Truth is, Augustina had been mean.  She was not keeping dates, she argued easily and she was more self-absorbed than the color black.  It had been months now and then they quarreled.  Augustina missed all the prodrome, the warnings, the recommendations from family, other friends and including Best-ie to get insight and help.  To Augustina, this quarrel stood alone and she was being misused and misunderstood.

So what do we do?  Do we discuss Augustina’s behavior?  Do we explain her problems?  Maybe.  But only long enough to help her join our treatment team.  Once she’s in treatment, we wait.  We for reasons of self-preservation won’t say, “Don’t worry,” but we will come close.  Why?  Because we know that many of her problems as perceived by others and herself will disappear when her brain illness heals.  Do you believe that?  Where do you think her emotions and behaviors are coming from?

See blog post, There is Less Space Between Emotions And Science.

Questions:  When have you seen maltreatment from others that feels personal to you appear without provocation?  When have you seen someone you trusted change into someone who is mean, angry, selfish and reject you when they never did before?  Did you see the opposite happen when their brain illness was treated?  Please tell me your story.

Self-Care Tip – Calm down.  (Duck!  I see you and I’m outta here!)

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?

Taking Care of Our Own Emotional Junk Empowers us Not to Take Care of Theirs

Women Only - Choose your Favourite-Bangalore-n...

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Yesterday we started a narrative series on understanding where emotions and behaviors come from:

  1. Emotions Are Contagious
  2. Our own Emotional Junk (today’s post)

Yesenia and Rob chorussed,

Yes! I am worse when Yesenia is not doing well. Who can cope around that!?

Yes! Rob is making me sicker!

Saying emotions are contagious is not the same as explaining causality or fault. It’s talking about an influence. I didn’t want Rob to misunderstand me. Saying emotions are contagious is information to use to empower us; not to make us feel like victims. It is to help disclose our own vulnerabilities, our own needs and our own quest towards healing and presence.

But how to be present with “falling knives,” as Cindy described this in yesterday’s comments?

It starts and ends with Me. So getting back to Me simplifies things and short-cuts our confusion.

It’s easier for us to be around so much charged air when we have already gone toward our own flaws, pain, emotions and anxieties. It is easier for us to not make something personal that isn’t if we have already stayed in our own nasty space for a time, did that process over and over, and each time stayed long enough to see what is there/what will happen until we realize – not much. (That was what I like to call a “super-sentence!) Taking care of our own junk helps us be available for other people when they are spilling theirs. We are less controlled by shame and fear.

This may not happen when complicated by our brain disease. Personalizing things may be inevitable if we do not get medication therapy. Being present with our own journey might not happen without medical help.

Sometimes when we are ill, we feel like we are spectators of our own life story, standing off to the side, just watching the show. With healing, we join with that living active self and can be present and whole. With healing, we don’t have to personalize someone else’s emotion-spills. With healing, we can improve our quality of life. When they don’t fight for brain health, such as taking needed medications, or whatever it is that would have been friendly for them to do – we don’t have to make it about us.

And! And if we choose to, we can be with them. We can be with the people we love! Isn’t that great?! Even when they don’t do their own self-care. Even then. Or not. But we are choosing now rather than reacting defensively.

Kaily said it yesterday like this,

Now, when I notice that my mood is starting to mimic the negative mood or negative atmosphere around me, I stop myself and realize that just because those around me are negative, stressed, uptight, etc., I have the choice and the power to stay positive and at peace within myself. Just because everyone else is jumping off the cliff doesn’t mean that I have to follow.

Self-Care Tip #268 – Taking care of our your own emotional junk helps you not try to take care of theirs.

Bring Your Separate Selves Together – Personal Journey

National Museum, Czartoryski Collection

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Self-Care Tip #199 – Bring together what you are naturally inclined to do with what you spend your energies on.

When we do what we like to do, what is congruent with our hard-wiring, what is naturally inspiring, fatigue becomes part of our pleasure in my life.  Cliché,

Enjoy the burn,

…is common for a reason.  There are times when pain, fatigue, difficulty and hard-surfaced days are bits of what make life journey one of richness, rather than diminished.  I was reminded by Jaclyn Rae’s Blog-post today, that when we can say,

I’ve learned that I’m tired but still want to do what I do,

…we are paddling the same river our life is floating down.  When we by mental illness, misfortune, choice or neglect, don’t – we are more observant of our lives rather than participants to them.  We find being present in the process difficult.  It’s not something everyone can do in all aspects.

However, we don’t have to be defined by those particulars, choosing instead to do the hard work of processing our choices, our energy and where it comes from, our emotions and see how they weave into our constitution.  Then, some time when breathing hard, limping and spent, we will remember this and reconnect the experience with the choice and the emotion a little quicker.  We will less often separate from the water our life is traveling.  Not become observers but participate more often, more actively, more tangibly with that kernel in us that stays, our essence.  (See blog post, My Essence.)

In the marvelous work, “His Dark Materials” trilogy, Philip Pullman describes us as split persons, a body and a spirit (“demon”) that might be parted by neglect, carelessness, abuse, or other disasters.  But when it is separated, the body suffers and is disconnected from it’s life purpose, what brings pleasure and presence in the world around.  (See blog post, Soul and Body.)

There are medical illnesses that do this, as mentioned above, and in those cases, perhaps all to do is get medical care, heal, treat and get on with life.  Other times, it might be that we forgot ourselves in the midst of caring for children, a demanding job, an opinion that victim-hood defines our life possibilities or what not.  We have options.

As Jjen reminded us some days ago,

The bad doesn’t disappear but it is not a qualifier for the rest of life’s potential.

Questions:  How have you reconnected to your life journey?  Your essence?  What is constant about you in your changing self?  Please tell me your story.

Just to Feel Pleasure

week-end-pleasure

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Self-Care Tip #189 – Heal for yourself, and you’ll see that also, everyone heals.

The best thing I ever did was go on antidepressants.

Bianca sat, but her whole body was talking.  She was telling me about her changing life.  She had read some of her journal from a year ago when she pounded on herself for her behaviors.  She thoroughly grieved the time with her children when they heard her scream about small things that kids do.  She told me about her sons face when she was irritable.  He showed all the waiting tension that an open child will when waiting for Mom to lose it.  She was trying to push it aside and think rather about how she now could finally enjoy them.  Bianca said,

I just had no idea before how much better life could be.

Bianca’s face became tight and she didn’t make eye-contact,

There’s no way to describe what it’s like to not enjoy your kids – My own kids! – for most of their born lives and then wake up and experience something different.  I just can’t explain what it means to now actually like being with them.  I’ve always loved them but I didn’t feel the pleasure and I hate that.  I want that time back but I can’t have it and I can’t give it to them either.

I’m so scared it will end, the pills will stop working and I’ll lose this new life.

Before her medication, Bianca worked hard at taking care of herself.  She was a check-list of responsible self-care.  Bianca thought it was important that I knew this.

  • Aerobic exercise – check!
  • Healthy diet – check!
  • Sleep hygiene – check!
  • Bianca talked about God but things got confusing for her there.  She didn’t like to think about Him being on “a list.”  He was in her life and didn’t feel He failed her even though she couldn’t feel pleasure or joy.

Still, she continued to coil up and release hard punchy words at her kids and then hate herself for it.  She had prayed so much about this and wouldn’t even mind if God had to puppet her, if that’s what it took, in order for her to treat her kids better.  She could not stop herself from being what she called,

Crazy Mommy.

But now, after she was treated, Crazy Mommy was gone.

Aside from dropping the shame, the best thing for Bianca was knowing that her kids could trust her, felt safe with her and that she felt safe with herself.  Everyone was healing subsequent to Bianca healing.

How many of you have told us a similar story.  A similar rescue.  Yet, never-the-less others of us are afraid to go there.

Question:  How are you present with others who don’t understand your rescue story?  How do you stand beside someone who needs medical help for emotional illness but won’t accept it secondary to stigma?  Please tell us your story.

Toughing It Out! …Is Not What You Think.

Mental Health of our Military

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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.

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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.