Set Your Self-Care And Moral Jailer Free.

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Self Care

Image by Mskadu via Flickr

Self-Care Tip – Set your self-care free.  Be a friend to yourself.

Self-care just is.

The problem about saying self-care starts and ends with Me is that people forget about the journey it travels between here and there.  People become fearful that it means alone-care, apart-from-God-care, selfish-care, and so on.

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.  Again we say, “Can’t give what we don’t have.”

God gave us this person, “Me,” to take care of.  He considers “Me” valuable and of high priority.  He celebrates with me and cheers me on.  He stands beside me and He doesn’t see self-care as having exclusionary implications to anyone else.

Please, shake it off.  Self-care is no more of a moral issue than anything else.  It just is.  It is a choice, a freedom, an opportunity.  It is as much about salvation as any other act of good or bad, and has no influence on our worth.  It just is.

Lord, What must I do to be saved?

– Paul’s Jailer.  Me.  Could be you.

Questions:  How do you speak to the stigma in your church, community or self toward being a friend to yourself?  How do you get to Me, despite the pressure to pay-up to all the others around you in emotional and physical energy first?  How is your relationship with God when you are friendly with yourself?  Please tell me your story.

Today on Radio in Summary

Amateur radio station with multiple receivers ...

Thank you Michele Rosenthal at HealMyPtsd.com, and to all who listened in on my first radio interview on being a FTY – Friend to Yourself.  What fun.  It was sweet and to the point.

We discussed using the marker of the new year to commit to this and see what 2012 brings differently from before.  This is freeing, as being our own friend is not selfish but rather the most selfless thing we can offer.  How it is done by starting with Me; the starting and ending point of all intentions in our life.  Knowing that we cannot give what we don’t have, that we cannot indulge the pleasures outside of ourselves such as adjustment and coping skills if we don’t have the Me to do it with (preferably a healthy me) and knowing that going where we find shame in our lives can free us up to get friendly with the rest of Me.  This knowledge helps us find the “how.”

To make being a friend to Me an easier process, leave the injustices of our lives alone, leave the sentiment of wanting happiness, of wanting what we should have gotten or been.  To make Me my own friend easier, do what any friend would do – the hard stuff.  The stuff that good-time-Jane won’t stick around for and the stuff that only Love can follow through with – do this.  That’s as easy as it will get and as hard as it will get.

We can do this.

Question:  Looking toward 2012, how would you change the direction of your intention and energy to be more of a friend to yourself?  What do you think you will experience differently if you do?  Please tell us and connect.

Thank you dear Carl d’Agostino for calling in, boosting my confidence and saying without saying it, “You are not alone.”  I’m still smiling.

When to Push – Melancholia

Edgar Degas- Melancholy

Effie came to me with many melancholic symptoms.

Melancholia is an interesting word.  It comes from the Greek word for black bile, which is where people used to think sadness came from.  The word melan is familiar to us in words we use today, such as melanin, melanocytes, or melatonin.  All of these having something to do with darkness.

Effie had been feeling dark inside, like a black cloud was hanging over her.  Effie had so many “good” reasons to feel melancholic, as if reasons were needed.  She hurt.  She had other physical problems.  She lost her employment.  She was estranged from her family.  Isolated.

I asked her what she did every day.

Just sit there sometimes.  I just sit there and think about all this stuff.

This wasn’t my first visit with Effie.  We’d worked together for years.  Some of what she was going through, along with the biology, were her psychosocial stressors and learned negative coping skills to stress.  We had been working on these together for a long time but, beyond medications and sleep, Effie had a lot of difficulty working with her directives:

  1. Medication including supplements
  2. Sleep
  3. Connection – groups, church, internet, etc…
  4. Exercise
  5. Lose forty-five pounds to decrease multiple comorbid illnesses she was suffering from.  These comorbid problems secondary to her obesity looped back and worsened her mood.  It was like a brick in her pocket taking her down to the bottom of the sea.

Effie said,

I don’t want to do anything.  I just want to be me.  It doesn’t matter if that is good for me or not.  It just matters that it is who I am now.

Thanks to our work here at FriendtoYourself.com, I felt empowered to pull out the self-care tools and share.

Effie, you need to go to groups.  You need to connect.  If your child told you that she didn’t want to take out the trash because she didn’t feel like it, what would you say?  Maybe, ‘I’m sorry you feel that way.  You still have to do your work!’  Are you going to wait until she wants to?  Do you tell her to just be herself, that it is ok?  Is that nice if you do that?  No.  It is not nice.

Effie explained that she only came to see me because I was the only one who understood her.  She didn’t want to talk to anyone else.  Of course that is flattering but I admit, however reluctantly, that I am not that good.  There are other people out there who know what she’s going through and she’s not meeting them because of her choice to isolate.

Now folks, this is not to say that when someone is depressed, that we should tell them to bucker up and get on with it.  Nor should we say that they are being childish.  We all need to be very very very careful about that.  It’s ignorant and hurtful.  In Effie’s case, however, because I knew her so well, I pushed her a little harder than I had been.  I wasn’t saying she was being childish, so much as I was telling her that she needed to do what was good for her, rather than what she wanted.

Effie wasn’t having fun either way, groups or no groups.  And although medications had helped, they hadn’t helped enough.  As we had seen each other at least once a month, if not more, for about thirty months for this most recent depressive episode, I was as clear as I could be on what had been tried and what hadn’t.  I would not do this in anyone who didn’t have this constellation of factors.  So, I pushed Effie to do something she hadn’t done yet.

Also, we hadn’t spent enough time on the primitive coping skills Effie was using.  What I told her this day was more directed towards getting her away from those.

Being a friend to ourselves isn’t always doing what we want.  It is being better to ourselves at least than our enemies.  I don’t know many people I would allow to speak to me, the way Effie was speaking to herself.  We talked about allying ourselves with the bits inside of us that were going in a direction to benefit, and not hurt.  Not collaborating with the parts of us that would further harm us, no.  This part we would name together out loud and drive forward to it deliberately.  We would see together what happens.

All the while, we are still continuing to work with medications and other therapies directed at Effie’s biology.  However, I believe we need to do more. When to introduce different therapies differs depending on the needs and abilities of the individual.  This is how it went for Effie.

Questions:  When have you done something you specifically didn’t want to do, but knew it was friendly to yourself?  How did it turn out and was it friendly after all?  Please tell us your story.

Stop! Before Hurting Yourself or Others

scream and shout

Image by mdanys via Flickr

Self-Care Tip #192 – Before hurting yourself or others, stop.

Sometimes all we can do is leave.

Not being created as a limp noodle, that’s what Brenda said.

In the moment of conflict with her daughter, she had used up the coping skills she thought of and in the end, her purse had no more gum, lip-gloss, candy-money or crayons.  She couldn’t stop the acidic emotions from taking their turn to burn.  Brenda yelled (yes she knew it wasn’t right) and then she yelled again, this time to her husband that he was on kid-duty.  She left.  The mom-van keys were the last thing left in her purse of things to do to stop the burning she was giving and receiving.

Emotional abuse is equal to or more damaging than physical or sexual abuse.  This made Brenda gulp, who could still hear her own mother screaming with bulging bubble-packing veins and eyes.  Brenda didn’t know she could say,

Let’s stop.  It hurts Mommy.

When she first had her babies, tiny with soft bones, fluffy warm sweet cakes just out of the oven, Brenda was scared.  Her pediatrician gave her baby care directives that said things like,

If you are angry and feel like you’re going to shake your baby, stop!  Call for help.

And there was a number.  Now that her kids were older, her pediatrician never gave her helpful sheets of instructions and rescue phone numbers.  Brenda drove away to stop, hoping to come back with more available to offer.

Not bad, huh?

Question:  When you can’t think of any more coping skills during a crisis, how do you stop?  In what feels like an emotional emergency, what have you seen others do that you think is useful?  Please tell me your story.

Say, “I Can’t Control This” When You Can’t

Playing in the Sink

Image by Paul Mayne via Flickr

Self-Care Tip #169 – When there is negative chaos, remember and say, “I can’t control this.”

Carol had worked there for seven years.  The supervisor had just asked her for more hours and Carol felt almost good to be able to say she didn’t have any more to give.  Yet when Carol got the email that her job position was closing in a month, she was physically affected.  Her autonomics (“fight-or-flight” reactions) were on full alert.  If there was an attacking bear, she might have out run him.

Healthy Carol had been to enough 12-Step meetings to remember, “I can’t control this.”  She said it a few times and turned it over to her Higher Power.  She did not crave or relapse in her addiction’s disease.  Her pulse was still fast and her hands were still tingling for the next several hours but she didn’t “use.”  She went to her meeting and she pushed on.

When Carol thought about her future and the things she could do to prepare, she inevitably thought about the things she couldn’t do.  She said,

I can’t control this.

When Carol imagined what other people would think after hearing about her unemployment, she said,

I can’t control this.

In mental health we struggle with that a lot.  The emotions that grow self-loathing, the behaviors that distance us from our support and loved ones, and/or the physical changes that keep us from performing – are all confusing.  At what point do we say, “I can’t control this?”

I remember a Seinfeld joke about water faucets in  public bathrooms.  The ones that you have to hold down to keep the flow going.  I’ll spare you the misery of me trying to retell it and get to the point.  Why do they have those faucets?  It’s as if they think people will have a water party in there or take free sponge baths if they could turn the faucet on long enough actually to wash their hands.

baby elephant | playing in the water

Image by Adam Foster | Codefor via Flickr

When we say something like “I can’t control this” to the idea of emotions and behaviors, the general fear is that people will take wild liberties, – splashing emotions around and behaving like elephants after the summer Serengeti drought ends.  Mayhem will ensue and the staunch healthy-minded with dry pants will have to clean continually after us.  Not many people want to be sullied by the emotions and behaviors of others and this, “I can’t control” business is a boundary issue.  Maybe stigma is one of the ways we change out the faucet on others.

There are some very primitive characters and severely ill people who might say in fact that they cannot control all feelings and behaviors.  This is more than most of us armored with some healthy coping skills would believe or say.

“I can’t control this,” is not a free pass to vandalism, vengeance, volley-ball or any other very vexing behavior.  It is not there to hand over like a ticket to other people for their excuse, justification or condolence of our situations.  It is there for us to hold up to ourselves for the purpose of honesty, submission to our Higher Power, humility and healing.  No one can control the flow out of that.  That is free self-care.

Questions:  When have you felt like you had to explain to others your behaviors and feelings even when you didn’t have an explanation?  How did you bring it back “home” to your own self-care and get past the stigma?  Please tell me your story.

Choose Self-Care At Your Most Elemental Level

Buchenwald-100625-14486-Schwerte-hell

Image via Wikipedia

Self-Care Tip #167 – Choose self-care at your most elemental level.

Carl, who writes blog-site, StillFugue, said after yesterday’s post on self-care being for everyone,

Sometimes depression blocks this type of self-care regardless of how good our cognitive strategies are.

Carl reminded me of Dr. Lang.  He was a physician, a father, a man of high character who never had depression in his life.  Then after a series of life stressors depression expressed itself and he, who once was the warm-fuzzy in the hospital, the man who never lost his optimism, the man who turned anyone’s bad mood around – this man came to me under a black cloud, heavy with melancholy, and raining tears.  He cried all the time.  This giant of a man cried and cried on his wife’s shoulder, and she was bewildered by him.  She told me he had done this for a month now, although the depression started about four years ago.  He kept wanting her to read to him the book of Job and cried more barely hearing the words.  He had already been through a series of well-chosen medications, but still he sank deeper.  No form of treatment kept up with the leak in his ship.  What was self-care for Dr. Lang?

Did Dr. Lang have good coping skills?  Well he wasn’t coping well now even though he knew the strategies.  He didn’t understand why he couldn’t use the coping skills.  Did he have intelligence?  Yes.  Did he have resources?  Yes.  However, none of that is what this was about.  Asking Dr. Lang to cope with his feelings is the same as asking someone blind to see.  Physically, biologically he could not.  His brain could not.  Much of his ability to choose behaviors and emotions were drowned by illness.

So again, the implied question comes to us, – “Is self-care for everyone?”

Mr. Rick C. threw this life-saver out in response to our question,

During times when chaos ensues, either internally or externally, self-care seems to become the basis on which all other positive actions are built.

Sarah McGaugh also referred to self-care as “action,”

A call to action may also be a higher calling than one’s own self….

What action did Dr. Lang do?  He cried on his wife’s shoulder and read the Bible, i.e., he leaned on the support he had built up before the hard times came.  After failing medications, he sought another opinion and other treatments.  Sure, he couldn’t get out of bed otherwise even to bathe himself, but he had made it to my office.  What did Dr. Lang do?  He got electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) and in two months, along with his medication (only one antidepressant was needed at this point), Dr. Lang was no longer crying.  In four months, he was laughing again.  In six months, he stopped ECT altogether and maintained his emotional health with his monotherapy medication.  It’s been seven years since Dr. Lang went through all that and he has not relapsed yet.

I pick out so many points that I consider self-care choices Dr. Lang made.  They changed over time for him according to his needs and abilities, but he didn’t want to die.  Even at his worst, when he could barely remember why life was so important, that wisp of hope was enough to live for.  It was a higher calling to him, higher than his own dark wants.

That was Dr. Lang’s choice.  He chose self-care at his most elemental level.  It was his response to the call of hope.

Questions:  But what about you?  What do you think?  Is self-care for everyone?  Please tell me your story.

The Biopsychosocial-How-to Be a Friend to Yourself

Marine of the United States Marine Corps runs ...

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There is interplay between biological, psychological, and social issues that make us who we are.  You can work as a team not only  with your family, physicians, therapists, and whomever else is involved in your team approach to getting friendly with yourself – but you can also team up with yourself so to speak.

Think:

1.  Biology

Anything going on materially with my physical body?

Medical illnesses, temperament, sleep issues, diet, exercise, air, rash….

2.  Psychological

i.e., thoughts, emotions, and behaviors.

Things like lack of self-control, coping skills, catastrophizing, and negative thinking.

3.  Social

Such as socioeconomic status, culture, poverty, technology, and religion can influence health.

Think God, friends, marriage, parenting, work, unemployment….

We can do this not only with others who are here to help us, but also in our own thoughts.  We can start seeing ourselves as more than one part or another.  Separate and disconnected.  This might take some practice or it might be natural for you.  Just start wherever you are and run this through yourself.  When you’re stressed, break it down.  Take it apart to bring it back together.

Read more about this at “Forget About Divisions In Knowledge.”

Question:  How do you see the connections within yourself?  How has this played into your healing processes?  Please tell me your story.

Self-Care Tip #125 – See yourself as parts that make up your whole.  Be a friend to yourself.