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

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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.

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.

Guilt Furiously Chasing You Is Commonly Experienced In Illnesses Of The Brain

Orestes Pursued by the Furies, by John Singer ...

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Self-Care Tip #221 – If you feel chased down by guilt, stop running and get friendly with yourself.

I’m so busy!  I am trying to work, raise three kids, and be a wife!  …and I’m just spread so thin!

It was new for Connie to think that where she was at in life was linked with her choices.  Somehow she intuitively felt taken along by it all, a current of life as people say, of either randomness or design.  Who could know, but it was more than her choices, she was sure, and she resented the influence on her life’s design.  Not that she had intended on taking over what was playing on her.  She just simmered in the house of cards hoping that when she got to make a play of her own, she’d make a good one and come out better for it.  In the mean time, she just had to keep moving fast.

Things would have been fine, except that over the past six months, she hadn’t been enjoying what she was living for, her kids, parenting, being a wife or her employment.  Yes, she was also  living for God but no, she wasn’t enjoying Him either.  Did she want to?  Did she feel guilty about it?

I feel guilty all the time.  It’s the guilt that gets to me.  It’s like I can’t see or feel much else.  Just when I think I’m about to get into what I’m doing, guilt comes chasing at me in a fury!  Distracting me and worrying me.  I’m on edge more and irritable from feeling defensive, and trying to get away from whatever this is.

Connie looked at me when I said,

Self-care begins and starts with “Me.”  Although we may be living for others and other things, even living for God, if we don’t take care of ourselves, our health first, our emotions and behavioral health included, we can’t give much, in the way of living, to those others.

I could see her pupils change and I got a little excited.  She was hearing something that affected her whole body and I sensed it was hope.  (See, I am an Emotions Jedi.)

We talked more about approaches she was using, prayer/meditation, exercise, grit and determination, waiting it out for better days to come and others.  Then I introduced the medical paradigm.  (You’ve heard me say it.)

Behaviors and emotions come from the brain.  We culturally think that they are volitional, under our control.  But how much can we really control of what the brain does?  Some.  But when we do the best we can with what we can control, and our behaviors and emotions are still hurting us, affecting our quality of life, damaging our relationships and connections – we need to look for biological reasons.  That’s where choice can still come into play.

She was looking and nodding.  This was at her “consideration stage” of introducing these new ideas.  I said,

I thought of telling you about this when you talked about guilt Connie because maybe your guilt is coming because of a brain illness.  It’s common in several emotional illnesses, like depression or anxiety, and in these illnesses it commonly comes in force, like you’ve described.

Her pupils had reduced to their earlier size, and her posture said she was winding down for that visit.  Whatever we discussed after that would be low yield, so we made a follow-up appointment and called it a day.

These days later, remembering Connie gets me thinking about what I would have said if she had been available to still hear more.  This bit about freedom to choose self-care, yet saying we have little to do with how our brain works can get confusing.  It might seem contradictory.  Tomorrow, I’m going to discuss it more, but for today, it would be wonderful to hear what you think.

Questions:  With behaviors and emotions coming from a material biological organ, the brain, yet knowing that we are free to choose for our self-care, what gives?  How do these ideas jive?  How have you seen it play out in your life?  Please tell me your story.

Love – Take What is Already Yours. You Have Been Given Love.

Stef's Present with Handmade Wrapping

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Self-Care Tip #194 – Take what is already yours.  Be a friend to yourself.

Parenting, we hold the power in the relationship between us and our child/ren.  If we are emotionally maltreated by our child/ren, we parents are still the ones with the power.  What are we giving to her if we teach her that we will take the terrible words and dark emotions?  When we take the projected anger when we have the power to choose not to, what message are we giving to ourselves about ourselves?  What is the message if we say by our actions that Love demands from us to accept, to take and to be a victim to the emotional abuse?  Is that what love tells us?

It is difficult to receive maltreatment from anyone.  And because of the suffering involved, we can misinterpret the message, “This is the sacrifice that Love demands” – the sacrifice is doing what other people want before taking care of yourself.

It is difficult not to receive maltreatment as well.  Which choice is more consistent with our understanding of Love?  The words in the message might be the same, “This is the sacrifice that Love demands.”  However, the interpretation of the message, of what the sacrifice is – that meaning is different.  The sacrifice is, rather, taking care of yourself first so that you have the best of you to offer to others.

To read more on this topic, please see posts, Criticize if You Love MeListen to The Intention in What People Say and Stop! Before Hurting Yourself or Others.

Because we as parents hold the power in the relationship, we can feel trapped by our own power.  What a confusion for many of us.  Holding power but feeling helpless.  Holding a stick in both hands, so to speak, not seeing that we can still use our occupied hands for anything else in the mean time.

This kind of choice takes Love.  This is the kind of choice that is a work of a life-time or of a moment, but is life.  See, Let It Go and Keep Going.

We can’t teach others that we are valuable and how to treat us with Love if we don’t do it ourselves for ourselves.  When we act on Love, self-care means that we don’t accept treatment that is inconsistent with Love.  If we accept bad treatment, we are saying that self-care is accepting our lack of choices versus making the choices that are still available despite the circumstance.

FriendShip... A gift of God.

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This of course applies to any relationship.  It applies to any connection, whether it is in the work-place, marriage, if you are the child in the parent-child role, friendships – take your pick.  You can choose Love.  You can choose.  Self-care starts and ends with “Me.”

Freedom is a gift.  No matter how many times it is wrapped up and placed in our hands, if we don’t open it, use it, own it, we will never have it.  Freedom to choose has been given to us before we were born, just like our salvation.  The salvation will never be taken away.  Nor the freedom.  Both are elemental and constant.  But if we don’t pull on the ribbon, lift the lid and take – we can’t expect anything but living without what was inside.  Does the title “victim” even hold if it was our choice not to take what was already ours?

Question:  How do you claim your freedom to choose when all you perceive at the time is what has been taken away?  Please tell me your story.

Celebrate Insight, Choice, and Hope. Celebrating Can Be Self-Care.

A young paper wasp queen (Polistes dominulus) ...

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Self-Care Tip #161 – Celebrate your insight, your choice, and your hope to be a friend to yourself.

I realize autism has taken over my life and I’m not sure how I feel about that.

When April said this, I jumped.  The insight into her situation, the implication of her own ability to choose, the hope of what those potential choices might do for her and her children – all these leapt at me, so of course I jumped.  Startled.

April was the parent of three lovely although autistic children.  She was wiping her face.  “I never cry.  I’m usually really strong.”

And then she said those words.  Her realization.  I don’t know how much thought she had put behind them.  She certainly didn’t have much time to self-actualize.  Getting only a couple broken hours of sleep every night.  Responding to complaints from the school.  Springing towards her son every time he tried to hit himself in the head to stop him.  April was busy.  Mostly all that I had been able to do so far in our treatment together was help her kids via medication therapy.  We were clearly still working on things in that department.  She was willing to wait for us to make our slow way towards her children’s health, even though she was falling apart in the process.

Go low and slow.

Nothing like a cowgirl psychiatrist in the saddle.  I try to keep my spurs off and make no more than one medication change at a time.  Then, when something happens, negative or positive, we know what we are looking at.  April’s children were taking their time getting to their therapeutic responses.  But at least we hadn’t done more harm than good.

We had made the changes to our plan of care that we were going to make, and April was about to leave.  She had just said what she said and my mouth was open.  Unfortunately for April, I’m not consistently articulate.

Yes April!

And then she left, while I was still bouncing on the chair.

I don’t know if she’ll celebrate that marvelous epiphany.  If she does, I know her kids will benefit.  I’m confident about that.  If she does what is not intuitive, that is self-care, she will still be able to do what is intuitive.  Taking care of our kids is the most natural instinct.  Wild dragons and other mythical or natural creatures could not keep us away from it.  Now taking care of them well, however, is something that definitely is more likely to happen when we as parents are healthy, too.

For now I will celebrate this.  April has insight.  She has choice.  She has hope.

Yes April!

Question:  What has your life been about?  Where is your choice and hope?  Please tell me your story.

Look Around to Get Strength and Perspective.

My sister and her baby.

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Self-Care Tip #145 – Look around to get strength.

I was talking with my colleague, Janice, who works intimately in the area of group homes and advocating for the clients.  I asked her to tell me something about them.

There are times when parents give up and they can’t provide.

I wrote a blog-post some time ago relating to this as I work with many families who are near this point or past it.  Taking care of ourselves can be hard enough in this world, let alone a disabled child or two, or three…  I’ve seen marvelous results from placements.   However, my blog-post, “Get in Someone’s Space” got a response that was not so complimentary.  I asked Janice about where she thought the comment was coming from.

There are a lot of good group homes but many are not.  The workers are paid minimum wage often and they are saints.  There are about 1/2 and 1/2 that are good v. not good.  They can make a lot of money potentially.  In some of the homes, the workers are ambivalent at best.  It is a job to them.  If they do care but are surrounded by people who don’t care they lose steam.  They can’t do it all.  Emergency homes are also useful to give parents a relief.

Some of the disabled in placement have no family involved.  Others do.  And in those that do have involved family give their family some time to recharge while in placement.  The family can recharge and use that new energy for things like continue to “shop” further for the best fit for placement.  It can be work to find the right placement and get someone moved there.  Then after that challenge is met, families will find other struggles.  Struggles such as placement being so far that the family can’t visit or be as involved as they’d like.  They find, as we all do at some ah-ha moment(s) in life, that we can’t have it all.

Mr. Rick stated it well.

I will not be a victim while choosing my burdens.

We could also say, “I will not be a victim while choosing my benefits,” perhaps.

I understand that the topic of disabled family and/or group home placements may not interest all of us.  It may not appear at the surface to be an issue involving eternal truths.  Yet, we see that it does.  We are, each of us, not so far removed from unfair life circumstances.  From choices that look “bad and also bad.”  Or could we say, rather, that look to be choices between “one benefit and another,” knowing that we can’t have it all?

No.  We are not so far away from the single mother raising her two mentally retarded children.  We are not that distant from the caregiver with license to house five children but can’t find good staffing.  We can see the fetal-alcohol syndrome child who got what he got from birth and will live where they are until they die with staff as their family.

To my parents who can’t give any more, choose your benefits.  They are there.  To my kids who are confused by their own behaviors and emotions, to my staffers who struggle to understand the value of their jobs, to you who feel more of the burdens than the benefits, to all of us, we are the same in this.  We are each other’s “people.”  We have this knowing.

Look around.  Gather strength and make your choices.

Question:  What has enabled your perspective?  What part came without effort and what part didn’t?  Please tell me your story.

Walk Away From Your Junk

the rogers park young women's action team

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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.