Your Pain is Not Special. It Is Normal.

Self-Care Tip #243 – See yourself as special rather than your pain and know that you will find your normal again.

What is your normal?

When we were kids, we all had a perspective of what normal was.  Let’s say it was “here.”  Let’s imagine we were lovely then, nurtured and emotionally bonded.  We struggled through peer conflicts, social anxiety and rivalry.  We wanted a bike.

Two Sisters

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Then we got a little older.  Maybe our parents divorced.  Maybe, a sibling died.  Maybe we were abused or in an accident and damaged.  Damage changes normal.  What we never would have thought would be acceptable in our lives became acceptable.  We suffered.  We lived.  Life was indiscriminate and ignored our status.  We think there must be a mistake.

What is our normal at one point, filtered through remaining hopes, grew into regenerating fantasies, through real potential and it moved again.  We are older now and more suffering comes.

Where is our normal?  We survive our child, our own dear perfect boy, hanging from a tree.  Normal?  No dear God!  No!  And we continue to live.

Two years.  Two years are what it takes for our biology to catch up to the shock.  Two years are what it takes for us to begin to accept and realize that in this new normal we care again.  We choose it in fact.

People don’t remember his name or talk about him and we can’t remember his eyes.  We are ashamed and lose our breath from panic just trying to see them.  We want to bang our head because we know there is something wrong about feeling normal! Ever! Again! after that.  But we do.

Our normal mutates over financial ruin, abandonment and a growing healthy list of disfiguring illnesses.  We accept them and say yes please.  Live.  We want to live.  This is acceptable.  This is normal.  Our friends die.  Our memory.  We can’t find our teeth.  Our heart stops.  We die and the world finds normal.  The world chooses just like we did.

What we don’t think will ever be allowed to happen while we brush hair, clip our nails and microwave food, happens. We endure these changes.  We find normal again.

What is your normal?

My brother, Vance Johnson MD, is a physical medicine and rehabilitation specialist.  He said that during his residency, close to 100% of spinal cord injury paralysis survivors he worked with wanted to die after their injury.  Many of them would beg him to let them die.  They would cuss at him for keeping them alive.

I leaned very heavily on the studies and data during those times.  It was very hard.

Vance said that what kept him faithful to his task was knowing that close to 100% of them after two years would be glad they were kept alive.

Even the ones who were basically breathing through a straw and that’s all that moved on them; even they wanted to live.  These people found a new normal.

Where is our normal?  We will want it.  We will adapt.  Biology will catch up to our reality.

Remember that your pain is not special.  You are special.  Not your pain.  Pain is normal.

Question:  When this happened to you, how did normal find you despite the rubble?  How does this concept feel to you, that your pain is not special?  Does it make you angry or what?  Please tell me your story.

Patient on Patient Crime – Our Response to Our Own Illness

a "low profile" sole provides a grea...

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Self-Care Tip #238 – Think about your response to your own behaviors and emotions.

Bianca agreed with her husband.  She was too depressed.  She never wanted to go out and cried a lot. Perhaps she even deserved to be cheated on and abandoned because she was so unbearably dull.

Pause button.

We have discussed where behaviors and emotions come from – the brain.  We have identified the brain as human material, matter, biological and as susceptible as anywhere else on the body to illness.  In short, We could say at this point that Bianca is in a Major Depressive Disorder – a medical disease.   There are many medical diseases secondary to design, behaviors or lack of behaviors.  Or for other reasons.  However, I don’t know many medically ill that when the spouse walks out on her, we say,

Well of course!  She had cancer!

Or,

He lost his leg in a car accident, get someone else!

But throw in some aberrant emotions and behaviors for unacceptable time, and the escaping spouse is given running shoes as a gift from their concerned community.

How could he stand her!  Of course he left.  She wasn’t taking care of his needs.

You see the disparity and when written this way, it looks really ugly and I apologize.  I’m not trying to thumb people for biases and prejudice.  Both parties are hurt.  I’m also not trying to say that this happens only in marriage.  It happens in almost any setting.  Emotions and behaviors are just not considered to be symptoms of disease.

Have you ever heard the term, “Women on women crime?”  Well this is something like that.  I’m thinking much of this will improve when we treat ourselves with more insight and understanding consistent with our biopsychosocial model.  If we don’t do this first, who will.  We aren’t responsible for how others treat us, but we are responsible at least for ourselves.

This is one more wonderful way of claiming our right to say, self-care starts and ends with Me!

Questions:  How can we wrap our beliefs around this seemingly enigmous concept that when someone is crotchety, negative, irritable, inattentive or boring – it might not have been because they chose to be that way?  How do you own if in yourself?  Please tell me your story.

Who Are The Sick? From Here to The Moon.

Michael Jordan, Slamdunk Contest, Chicago, IL ...

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Self-Care Tip #162 – Know your need for self-care.

Question:  In FriendToYourself.com, am I writing to people who are sick?

I was speaking with Beth Jusino the other night, when she asked me this.  I thought I’d ask you in turn.  You readers might be interested in commenting.

What is mental illness?  Are you writing to people who are sick?

Beth is smart.  She’s heard of Major Depressive Disorder, Schizophrenia and such.  She didn’t ask me this question so I could read her the DSM IV-TR.  She was asking how far mental illness is allowed to go before it gets named.  And how about the space beyond?  Are there bits that aren’t named?  Does it drift along an arch between Crispy Health and Completely Ill?

What do you think?

One reason I like to write #mentalillness hashtags on @Twitter is because I have a theory that people who have allowed themselves to be named, who have accepted to any degree a need for help, who have released their history and claimed their future over and over again – well I have a theory about these people that explains why I write to them.

These people are more able to hear the knocking sounds of wanting.  These people are more available to grow.  These people accept the gift of health and any space between here and there where they find themselves, all the while pressing; a courageous forward effort to freedoms.  These people care about self-care and they know they are accountable for it.

I remember this,

It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick.

It makes sense.  However, it isn’t as easy as calling a spade a spade, and not because I’m lacking honesty and directness.

I heard a variation of this analogy years ago and I don’t know who said it first.

If you ask me to compete in a slam dunk contest with Michael Jordan, competition would be over before it began.  I’d trip, travel, and carry my way to the net and not get air.  But move the basketball net to the moon, ask us to dunk and the competition is just as over.  The space of air between my shoes and the earth is not much different from the space between Mr. Jordan’s shoes and the earth when we are both shooting for a basketball hoop on the moon.

Maybe you get where I’m going with this.

What do you think?  What do you say to Beth or anyone on this?

The Great Lie.

One of the great lies of mental illness is that, “If things weren’t so stressful, I wouldn’t feel so bad.”  Look inside ourselves now and see them.  All the numbered and ranked stressors we tick off to explain how we feel and/or behave.  How about someone we love.  Do we tell them, “Of course you feel that way!  Look at all you’re going through!”

Because major depressive disorder (MDD) is mainstream enough, I’ll use it as an example.  Who, when they are down, doesn’t look for reasons why?  Say there is an additive effect of stressors such as home conflicts, financial duress, and poor sleep.  Since these events, you haven’t felt pleasure, you’ve felt sad and depressed.  You aren’t motivated or interested in your usual.  And where you normally would seek people out when you felt down, to get more energy, now you just want to be alone.  And so on.  You are able to say that you started feeling this way progressively since triggered with those stressors about 3 months-ago.  Before that you were “fine.”

Many people in your life, have told you that you are just going through a bad spell.  You have believed them but say, “Even if this is a bad spell, if it goes on much longer I think I’d rather die.”  Your best friend responds, “Anyone would be depressed if their boss was that evil!”

My answer, “No.”  Feeling down is appropriate to stress when it doesn’t disrupt your life for more than two weeks at this level.  And it is never normal to want to die.  Everyone has stress but not everyone responds to stress in the same way.  Not everyone if put under your same triggers would develop MDD.

Would you have developed this disease if you weren’t put under these stressors?  I can’t say.  We develop illnesses for many reasons.  One of the many reasons is external stress.  A hypothesis supporting this is that stressors trigger our genes for MDD much like we know cancer genes can be turned on by stress.  However, we do not have a direct correlation to the stressors as being entirely causal events.

Even if it were, none-the-less, we are left with the disease process in progress.  It is not an adjustment reaction to stress.  It is medical illness.

Feeling this way is not normal for what you are going through.  Telling yourself that it is, that is the great lie.

Self-Care Tip #118 – Don’t believe the lie if what you’re going through is affecting your function in life.  Be a friend to yourself.

Question:  What whispering lies are you struggling against?  Please tell me your story.

Pebbles to Diamonds

 

yourloosediamonds.com

Self-Care Tip #117 – Notice, you got diamonds out of stones!  Be a friend to yourself.

Cindy replied to yesterday’s post (that had some discussion on functional mental illness,) “I understand Miranda’s feelings completely.  Some days it’s all I can do not to down tools and scream ‘What about ME?’”

That is one of the lovelies that these illnesses bring to us.  In our honest moments, we can, like Cindy did, perceive our own traits that resemble them.  Perhaps, if we are lucky, that will lead to empathy, one of the great human experiences.  To be able to put yourself in the hypothetical place of someone else.  To imagine what they think and feel.  “If I were in your shoes…” and so forth.  If you’d like, read more on this at this post.

Illness is often considered a step in the dyeing process.  Others see it as part of the living process.  Of course, it is both.  We are all on level ground when it comes to having been born, coming into life, and knowing we will equally die.  Illness reminds us of our like-natured frailty and of course the opposite – resilience.  Whether seeing our own illness or someone else’s, we have this privilege of being blessed this way.

My Dad used to tell me a story (author unknown) when I was little.  It’s been a long time but I remember it this way.

Three travelers were walking when they heard a voice telling them to bend down, pick up pebbles and put them in their pockets.  The voice told them further that in the morning they would be both happy and sad.  The travelers did but not equally.  Some pockets were more full than others.  In the morning when they awoke, their stones had turned to diamonds.  Whoever gathered many stones were happy even though all of them wished they picked up more stones.  But whoever gathered few, well, they were not happy.  They still had diamonds but the comparison soured them and they finished their journey full of “what if” thoughts and not thoughts about the obvious.  They got diamonds out of stones!

We are all similar, with the opportunity to say thanks in seemingly off times, such as mental illness.

Question:  What have your “stones” turned into?  Please tell me your story.