Entitled to Understand – NOT

Please do not state the obvious, thanks :)

Please do not state the obvious, thanks ūüôā (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We, many, share the not so friendly distorted belief that we are entitled to understand everything.  Bull bullhorn in hand, supported by the scaffolding round our personal renovations, we trumpet our oppression per the noncommunicating swine we once called our relations.

“Isn’t it our job to try to understand?” you ask. ¬† Well, no. ¬†The duty to understand starts with Me and ends with Me. ¬†(I think I just felt a poison blow dart¬†pierce¬†my flesh! ¬†Stop that! ¬†Is this being received well!? ¬†Hello? ¬†Anyone?! ¬†Ouch! ¬†Not another dart!)

Motives too easily change to build a case against each other rather than reconcile or to account for our Me. ¬†What does someone owe us, if not to let us understand them? ¬†Nothing. ¬†Sounds harsh? ¬†Or maybe, not so harsh. ¬†Not as harsh as being victimized. ¬†Not as harsh as spending one’s bank on illusive control of what isn’t ours to control. ¬†Not as harsh as the crescendo anger swells into when a child watches her parents behave poorly. ¬†Not as harsh as watching your beloved friend “un-choose” you. ¬†No. ¬†Claiming title to the thoughts and behaviors of others is generally and commonly done with little insight, but it can only be policed by the individual on either end. ¬†After all, everything starts and ends with Me. ¬†(Plink! ¬†Hear the pennies dropping?)

We deserve as much as the value of our own self.  Understanding others will come perhaps or perhaps not.  But it is as deserved as any other gift.  That is to say, not.

Question: ¬†How do you stay in your space, when you are grieving the behaviors of those you love? ¬†How do you keep your entitlement to, “Me,” where you have title? ¬†Please tell me your story.

Self-Care Tip: ¬†Something as easy as remembering, “They don’t owe Me anything; even understanding,” can be friendly. ¬†Keep on.

Owning Our Choices Is Self-Care Even When It Feels Painful To Do

Repost.Take that for a grimace

Self-Care Tip – Own your choices, even when they feel painful.

She was leaving after twenty-two years of marriage. ¬†Eva married young and says that about one or two of those years were pleasant. ¬†The rest of the time she disappeared in her service to her husband’s ever-growing list of needs. ¬†Although he was employed, she considered him otherwise disabled by choice and mental illness. ¬†It was the choice angle that hankered ¬†to bleeding in her and she wasn’t going to tolerate it any longer. ¬†Or maybe she would. ¬†Stay, leave, stay leave. ¬†She’d been straddling those for several years although she didn’t realize it until recently. ¬†And that’s when she told him she was done. ¬†But was she? ¬†…They both decided to give it one last try.

How many of us have sabotaged ourselves like this.  The sabotage hides in the bit that says things like,

I’m sorry, but….

Or,

I have to do these things! ¬†If I didn’t he couldn’t function!”

We are naturally self-preserving and it’s not a moral issue when we try to defend ourselves. ¬†It just happens. ¬†However, we are misperceiving what is in our best interest. ¬†We misperceive what is self-reserving. ¬†We misperceive what we need to defend ourselves against.

The self-sabotage Eva was doing came out more clearly when I echoed her, asking if she had chosen to give her marriage one last try.

You’d think the answer would be as easy as, “yes” or, “no.” ¬†But in Eva’s marriage, she was using points of action, outside of herself, to explain her emotions and behaviors. ¬†Eva had the gift of freedom right in front of her, wrapped and unopened. ¬†Her freedom was hers however, whether she chose to take it or not. ¬†Eva’s freedom to self-care is one of the natural laws. ¬†It doesn’t change with her perception of what is real.

I am, but I’m not sure about him! ¬†We’ll see!

I asked her if she heard the barely hidden way she was justifying her current limited engagement in their “last try.” ¬†The “but” behind her emotions and behaviors was sabotaging her friendliness towards herself. ¬†She was stuck, because of it, in her victim role. ¬†This decision to stay or leave was not evidently her choice but rather the choice of her husband, she was saying.

We talked some more about this and when I asked her if it made sense to her, this freedom of owning her choices fully, she slowly and quietly said,

It does, but I’m not sure if I’m willing to do that.

When thinking about Eva’s self-sabotage, it’s reflexive to say that it was because of her ambivalence (i.e. two strongly felt opposing forces.) ¬†Ambivalence may not be helping, but the real damage to herself is done with her victim role. ¬†She is free to choose or not to.

I’m hoping that this discussion will also hanker in her – put up a little fight for space against the other hankering bleeds she’s got flowing. ¬†We’ll go at it again when or if she comes back in to see me.

Questions:  What was it like for you when you started owning choices (any) that felt painful?  How do you see this as self-care?  Please tell me your story.

The Gift of Desperation

Life (23/365)

LIFE

Misty sounded relieved,

Yes. ¬†That’s it.

She had just realized that life isn’t fair. ¬†Sure. ¬†She knew that before, but she just realized what she knew. ¬†Don’t we all love that moment when our senses join up – sight, hearing, taste, touch, smell, emotion, intellect, spiritual and the rest. ¬†That is a lot to co√∂rdinate after all and sometimes some of them don’t make the train.

Misty was a single mom of three. ¬†Her ex-husband was what she called, “Disney-Dad,” and her kids relished their time with him. ¬†Misty complained that she didn’t get to spend the special times with her kids. ¬†She mainly took care of them, but missed out on irresponsible fun. ¬†She was sure her kids wouldn’t look back and think of her like they would their father. ¬†She was getting angrier about it all the time, ruminating about it and it was getting in the way of her ability to connect with others and feel pleasure. ¬†There it was in front of her blocking her from seeing her kids even, let alone herself.

Then after weeks of this along with medication and talk therapy, she told me,

Yes. ¬†That’s it. ¬†Life is not fair. ¬†There are many other things in my life that aren’t fair either and if I look for them, I could spend my whole day every day counting them off. ¬†

It broke my heart a bit to hear her and see her there.  Humble like that; she would I think affect you the same way.  So real.

Yesterday, Carl D’Agostino¬†replied to our post about growing our understanding of our choices¬†beautifully.

…we wait until we are at our wit‚Äôs end before we seek assistance…. considering reaching out as personal failure or inadequacy re: our own self-esteem…. Foolishly we wait until our way just is not working anymore. That is why AA calls this a gift: the gift of desperation. …For many, the depths into which we have succumbed are now found not to be so deep at all and in fact, ladders are readily available if we use them in recovery.¬†

Ah Carl.  Say it again.

The gift of desperation.

Too good. ¬†Don’t you think?

Questions:  Have you ever received the gift of desperation?  What did it bring you?  Where did it take you?  What did it do to you?  Do you still have it?  Please tell me your story.

Self-Care Tip – Celebrate your gift of desperation.

So Many Choices, So Little Time …For Self-Care

"Sophia Western", engraving after Bu...

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Self-Care Tip #198 – Being a friend to yourself might be saying,

No.

Our culture is brimming. ¬†Brimming with…, well take your pick; walking the dogs, turning in a take-home test, watching The King’s Speech, writing a journal entry, making pancakes or reading Savvy – we have options.

However, today and often, options are stalkers we think difficult to restrain. ¬†…More difficult, say than filing a restraining order against your husband.

Walter filed for divorce with his unhappy wife.  Vengefully, his wife turned around and filed a restraining order on him and just like that, he was unable to see his kid for over two months.  That was easy.  All she had to do was file it.

And when we have these many options, all we need to do is say, “Yes,” to one and to the rest,

No.

I love it when my four year-old son is rocking carelessly on my outstretched legs, flopping about, a happy-drunk bird-on-a-wire, and predictably although unintentionally falls.  Crumpled on the floor, he flicks his bangs back and says rather coolly,

I was okay, Mommy.  I was okaaaay.

I had tried to rest on the couch and type, doing my self-care thing after doing Mommy-stuff with the kids for a large chunk of the day.  But telling him to stop doing that really cute thing he does was not so easy.

According to The Economic and Social Research Council,

Having older siblings is not related to children’s happiness with their family, but having younger siblings in the household is associated with lower levels of satisfaction and this effect is greater the more younger siblings present in the household.

It turns out that children feel more happiness in their homes when there are fewer younger children. ¬†They perceive that there is less energy available for them from their parents with each born child. ¬†And I’m here to say, there is. ¬†With my son on the floor, flicking his hair and going,

I was okaaay…,

my middle daughter kissing my shoulder and burrowing into my arm like an ear-wig, my eldest daughter came back to ask for the sixth time if I would play jump rope with her – I remembered this study. ¬†So true. ¬†I don’t need more options, i.e. more children who ask and I say,

No.

With these many wonderful options, choosing Me, is not always easy. ¬†(See post, “‘You’ Are the Best Gift.”)

Now throw in a little inappropriate guilt, some ruminating thoughts, self-loathing, bad sleep, some low motivation and energy and choosing Me becomes the hardest thing anyone has come up against.

Questions: How do you choose you when you could pick so many other great options?  How has this helped quality of life for you and others in your life?  Please tell me your story.

Take Care Of Yourself to Give Love to Others

Give, take 'n share

Image by Funchye via Flickr

Self-Care Tip #195 – Take care of yourself to give Love to others.

Belen¬†came in, confident. ¬†She was comfortable in her element. ¬†Working in her area of specialty was her delight and she didn’t worry about clocking hours or mixing it up with family. ¬†Her work was part of what family meant to her. ¬†It was what brought pleasure to her life.

“Wonderful!” you say. ¬†And yes, it is. ¬†“Why then did she come in to see me?” you ask. ¬†Glad you asked.

This was Belen’s third marriage. ¬†Marriage was not where she felt confident. ¬†Talking marriage was when her lip surfaced, quivering on her face, transforming her. ¬†In the past, Belen had often dropped her husband’s name, laced him into stories she told and her ring was a favorite¬†finger toy. ¬†I had the impression that Belen was proud to be married to this man. ¬†But it wasn’t until today that Belen spoke about Ben directly.

I sat up because I was curious about this emotion that had flickered behind it all until today, when it was front and center.

In this case, Belen was afraid of her emotions in fact. ¬†She was aware of them, but they were in a foreign code to her. ¬†Tap-tap-pause-tap-tap-tap-pause… and so on. ¬†She started by telling me about their evenings together.

Ben was a grazer who expected open time with her. ¬†Belen, however, was a barn girl. ¬†When she sat with her husband in their “open time” over a slow dinner, a drink, watching him read a book beside her – it took everything in her reserve each day to stay put. ¬†All her nerves were dancing, telling her to get up and work. ¬†It was what gave Belen her quality of life. ¬†Her work was her self-care. ¬†Ben’s time to meander through thoughts and play was in contrast, what gave him pleasure in life. ¬†He waited all day, pushing through a task driven job, to come home and do this.

Potential negative energy was coiling up inside and Belen was afraid that she might be overcome by it.  Belen did not want to think about what that might end with.  Another failed marriage?  Losing this man she was so glad to be married to?  Dying alone?  She looked at me sideways, ashamed of her emotions.

I’m turning into Crazy Wife. ¬†I yell at him for things that are no big deal.

My answer came too fast this time. ¬†It wasn’t graceful or polite. ¬†I regret that. ¬†It’s never been a forte for me and one of the reasons I recommend my patients find a¬†psychotherapist¬†who will patiently stand beside them rather than collar them and drag them to water (like a certain psychiatrist I know.)

Do what gives quality to your life. ¬†Claim it when you do and don’t hold him responsible for it. ¬†He’ll feel guilty and defensive. ¬†‘Oh, I have so much work to do honey. ¬†I can’t sit here…’ ¬†You are not a victim. ¬†This is your choice.

Unfortunately, there was more along those lines, but like Kevin Blumer says,

I wish the blog world was the same as the real world where people have a chance and can think about things before they (say) them.

Alas, at least we have our keyboards, pencils and erasers.

Belen was losing her lovely confidence to resentment because she wasn’t doing what she was wired to do. ¬†She wasn’t owning her choices. ¬†She thought loving her husband meant that she shouldn’t and because of that, she was only giving him her uncared for self. ¬†She didn’t realize that doing what gave her joy was the best way to Love others.

Question:  How do you help the people you love realize that when you take care of yourself, you are taking care of them too?  (This should get interesting!)  Please tell me your story.

The Spider Sat Down Beside Her – Mental Illness

Self-Care Tip #178 – Find your courage and answer to stigma.

The Little Miss Muffet scenario explained by D...

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Something as simple as taking pills can sabotage us.  The act of putting it in our mouths signifies all sorts of things from religion, to freedom, to personal identity and beyond; even someone who is trustworthy versus not.  Pill Рtake away her children.  No pill Рcould be president.  Pill Рdiscredit whatever he says.  No pill Рworth listening to.

Martha is a mother of four lovely girls. ¬†Her husband is divorcing her and she wonders what he will do in the process. ¬†She’s been depressed in the past and anxious with a history of panic attacks. ¬†She took two years to get over them using breathing exercises and other therapies. She didn’t use medication. ¬†I don’t need to tell you what her husband thought of meds or of her during that time. ¬†It was a miserable time for her.

Now, during this new stressful time, she has relapsed in mood and anxiety problems and is terrified that if her husband finds out, he’ll take the kids. ¬†Martha sees mental illness as a bullying tool for anyone to dump her over. ¬†Little Miss Muffet is a story she often has compared to her situation. ¬†The spider is the mental illness she feels is dangled over her to her demise. ¬†Martha is bullied and scared away.

Taking pills makes me feel like I’m crazy!

Note: it’s a type of crazy she interprets as being something different from the crazy of mental illness. ¬†For Martha, the crazy that comes with medication therapy is more sinister and discrediting than the worst experience of terror any of us have ever gone through, i.e. panic attacks.

Every day, we who take medication for emotional illness have to answer to those accusations.  We contend with the fingers pointing our way, the jeering in our memory of loved ones and the boxed presumptions we find ourselves in.

This may sound a little dramatic to some out there, although familiar.  To others, it is an understatement of what they courageously confront to take care of themselves.  Each of us must come up with our own answers and find our own courage.

Martha finally decided on medication treatment and within two days she was amazed to find that she could eat without throwing up and no longer felt anxious.  She still insisted that taking medication was only temporary but getting a pill dispenser had helped her get past some of her daily battle with stigma.  She just opened the lid and poured the pills into her palm, threw them back and swallowed without looking.  Martha found it easier not to dispense each pill each day out of each bottle.  It was also easier for her to keep this information secure in the confines of our office.  For Martha, for now, this was how she answered.

Question:  How do you answer to stigma?  How do you maintain your sense of freedom when other forces tell you that you are not free?  Please tell me your story.

“He’s Never Hit Me.” Abuse.

Self-Care Tip #163 РName abuse when it is there.  Be a friend to yourself.

Alexandria (Alex) was crying a lot. ¬†She was trying to divorce her husband but he wouldn’t leave. ¬†He wouldn’t speak. ¬†He only yelled. ¬†He yelled at her, alone, in front of their kids, in the morning, when he came home from work, he yelled. ¬†And he never spoke to her any more. ¬†It’s been weeks since they spoke. ¬†When I asked her if she thought she was abused, she said, “No. ¬†He’s never hit me.”

Mar de Emociones / Emotional Landscapes

What do I do? ¬†I can’t go on like this but everything I try, he won’t listen!

There are so many things many of us would tell Alex. ¬†But would any of it make sense if she didn’t know she had rights? ¬†If she didn’t know what was happening to her? ¬†If she didn’t know, this is abuse.

The “Do You?” questions, per Dr. Quijada, to ask yourself if you aren’t sure if you are abused:

Do you feel good about yourself when you are together?

Do you feel scared?

Do you feel like you have choices?

Do you have effective boundaries; observed boundaries?

Do you say, “No,” and are heard?

Do you have a balance of power?

From the outside looking in, we could answer these questions for Alex.  But anyone who is or has been abused in any way knows that from the inside, answering these questions is hard.  It was hard for Alex.

Alex missed a few beats. ¬†She didn’t want to see herself as abused.

Identifying abuse, naming it, is a start towards the other side of things.  It is reaching the peak of a hill or mountain of life-stuff, taking the view in after the fog lifts, and knowing that things are the way they are.  This is abuse.  A tangible thing.  Not the drifting mist of fights or arguments that once stalked you, leaving you bewildered and empty-handed.  Simply naming abuse is the start of empowerment.  Name it.  Name it out loud.

“I am abused.”

Alex said,

Wow. ¬†I didn’t know that what he is doing is abuse. ¬†I didn’t know.

After we talked about the name of what she was suffering, she talked about what she thought she could do about it, such as:

Call 911 if she feels unsafe.

Record him.

Say the words out loud, “I am valuable and should be treated well.”

Get a restraining order.

…And other things.

Alex didn’t have a lot of extended family support, so for her, that was out.

Alex said,

I feel more empowered. ¬†I didn’t know I could do that.

And there it was.  A dandelion growing out of the cracked cement.  Hope.  A redistribution of the unequal power.  Alex was growing a plan.

Question:  What would you tell Alex, yourself, or anyone else in her position?  How do you see words being a form of abuse or not?  Please tell me your story.

The Healing Process Can Be Confusing.

Self-Care Tip #127 РBecause feelings can be confusing during self-care, keep connected to someone(s) objective.

A colleague told me the other day about his patient. ¬†Of course he didn’t name him, but I’ll call him Brent. ¬†Struggling with¬†melancholic depression for many years, Brent started medication therapy. ¬†He began feeling better emotionally. ¬†But at the same time, he started to believe that he didn’t love his wife any more and started a dialogue with her about possible divorce.

It’s tempting to judge Brent. ¬†Easy to say, “What the…!?” ¬†Still, because we don’t know the full story, nor his thoughts, nor consider ourselves his Judge, we won’t.

Self-care can be a tricky road. ¬†It’s not all ah-ha moments and nirvana. ¬†Have you been there? ¬†Confused by your feelings as you heal?

A common reaction to improving is associating the things in our “ill” life – when we were feeling terrible – with other elements that may not have had anything to do with our bad feelings. ¬†Perhaps Brent’s wife was guilty by association and at some level he may have connected her to the dark emotions he so desperately never wants to feel again. ¬†Bits of this idea are also in a previous post about panic disorder and grief. ¬†For example, someone may change her profession¬†because¬†she believes her previous work is causally linked to the way she felt when ill. ¬†Maybe Brent wanted a change in spouses for the same reason.

When we are going through the healing that self-care brings, we might not find our new emotional baseline for a while.  During that time, and because feelings are often not trustworthy, stay connected to the support network, confidants, the trusted few who can be our third-party advisors.

Although taking action on for our own health involves lifestyle changes, knowing when and how to get feedback is key.

Question:  What has confused you about your healing and self-care journey?  Please tell me your story.

Journey

Mumford, The screenplay by Lawrence Kasdan, describes Henry Follet, a man who is living in his fantasies.¬† The superior problem isn‚Äôt that he’s living in his fantasies however.¬† It is that he has never been a character in them.¬† They only included other people.¬† At some point he gets more connected to his own journey, which is when he started appearing in his fantasies.¬† Or one could say his fantasies became his reality.

Connecting to our journey is multidirectional.  It includes the folding and opening of time.  Someone asked me why I started this blog.  I told him one of the reasons is that so much of what made me who I am was shelved when I went to medical school and then had children.  Time is folding for me when I write now, connecting me here to where this writing-self was last seen then.

When avoiding crucial work, it is as if a broken person’s bits of self are walking their different directions. ¬†There is a divorce and the kids…. ¬†What does the father do? ¬†Five years later he is still trying to get the courage to ask them to love him again. ¬†Relapsing negative relationships, and she found herself again with someone abusive. ¬†Overweight, and still buying and bringing binge-foods home.

As Will Rogers said,

When you find yourself in a hole, the first thing to do is stop digging.

Lately I’ve enjoyed my journey more since I stopped breaking traffic laws.  Exhale.  Now I can relax when I’m driving and think, pray, listen to podcasts, be with myself.

Immaterial things like our hopes can both connect us and disconnect us.¬† When a thought like, ‚ÄúI wish I did‚Ķ‚ÄĚ comes, when employment is more a job than an interest, when anger flares often ‚Äď look at times like this as opportunities to find your path. ¬†I found that this yearning in me was really a portal for my fantasies to come through and join me.

Self Care Tip #29 РTake your opportunity.  Be a friend to yourself.

My Essence – A Matter of Love

Betrayal?

Connecting that behaviors are linked to brain health is often confusing. The distance traveled to reach that point may have been long. It may have involved experiences painful to themselves and their loved ones.

For example, they may have lost a job because they couldn’t get out of bed in the morning. A divorce might have come after changing into someone irritable and angry. A trucker might no longer be able to drive on the freeway because of panic. But once they connect that this change in personality relates to a change in their brain health, how do they feel about that?

Some people feel relief. That they didn’t personally fail. That they aren’t a bad Christian. That it wasn’t because they didn’t try hard enough to “feel good,” to stop itching, to get up and do something with their life, to quit gambling, etc… Maybe they feel for a moment that judgment can be suspended for them.

However there is a group of people, maybe overlapping these, who feel betrayed. Betrayed by their very essence. The question of, if they can’t trust themselves, what is real in life at all? They struggle with the shame of betraying their own person. “Who am I if I’m not…?” and the questions roll on. It must be a question for all of us with changing bodies, Who are you if your mind gets sick?

There is the temporal line of thought, that if your brain changes, your memories, your personality, than you change. Your human form is different. Like getting your arm cut off, you have to grieve and grow a new picture of how you see yourself. A changing person through the span of life. This is in fact healthy adaptation.

There is also a thread in this weave of believing that our essence isn’t wholly related to our changing bodies. That somehow when the various curtains of life fall and open and the final curtain comes around, that this bit remains. I don’t think you can believe this unless you believe in a Love which is stronger than death.

Love is stronger than the death of my neurons, my dendritic connections, stronger than the death of my mind.

The adaptability needed for this life is a no-brainer. We can’t survive if we don’t. It takes courage to adapt when your person is changing. It takes courage when you are loosing yourself. Such courage, like someone in war or flight or determined movement that others could only imagine.

But how you define your essence also matters. I see it as a related step, but also apart from these excellent coping skills. I see it as a matter of Love. It’s win-win when Love weaves through you.

Self Care Tip #16 – Choose Love. Be a friend to yourself.