What Is Your Life-er?

Cover of The Cowardly Lion of Oz.

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I’ve been doing my usual struggle with lifestyle, health, weight and image maintenance.  It’s one of my life-ers.

There are some things we will courageously and sometimes cowardly maintain our fight with.  These are our life-ers.  We will have it on our docket every day.  There are times when this will blow us away with frustration, hopelessness and feelings of impotence.  Other times we will see it more calmly for what it is.  It is.  No more or less.

It’s helpful to say these things out loud.  That way when we wake up and see the life-er there, or catch a reprieve with distraction, or work like a mad-dog to get friendly with ourselves despite it all and find that that doesn’t take these life-ers away, we will maintain hope.  We will see these life-ers, although part of us, don’t define us.  We will own them and weave them into our friendship with ourselves – flawed and perfect selves.

What is your life-er?

Self-Care Tip – Knowing what your life-er is, is part of being a friend to yourself.

Emotions: The Physical Gift We Can Name

Leprosy hand affected fourth digit

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Self-Care Tip #148 – Identify your emotions, navigate, and get help.

Mad.  And when Mia was angry she wanted to go eat.  Nervous.  When she was nervous she wanted to go eat.  Like a wire with a current, she couldn’t stop her thoughts from moving and moving.  Although eating soothed her in less than a shard of a second, it was also followed by self-loathing.  Self-loathing brought on more eating and then purging.

Sitting in my office, Mia said it was like she was looking at herself from the outside in and the self on the inside could hear the, “Stop!”  Demands, petitions, and begging to stop came from the other Mia, who was loosing her command-authority in a scary-fast way.

How often we hurt ourselves but blame a trigger, an emotion, a person, or an act of malice.  If only we could say, “Put the offense down and take two steps back.”  But sometimes we can’t.  It’s easy to piously say, with habits and cassocks or soutane (French for traditional priest’s attire) in place, “Don’t make decisions based on emotions.”  It’s easy to say, “Be objective, we can’t trust our emotions.”  But if emotions are what we use to interpret the world around us with, if that’s all we have, what can we do?

Emotions are ideally the color, texture, perfume, music and salt in our physical self.  Emotions are our spiritual sensory system.  Not being able to trust them is a big loss.  Being blind, deaf, anosmic (can’t smell,) unable to taste, and numb would make it really hard to interpret the world around us too.

Paul Brand, MD, coauthored with P. Yancy, “Pain:  The Gift Nobody Wants.”  This book uniquely tells Dr. Brand’s story of working with lepers in India.  Leprosy is a disease that causes a person’s nerves to stop working so they lose their sense of touch and subsequently can’t feel when they hurt themselves.  A once harmless thing like bumping a finger for example, is extremely dangerous.  Lepers can’t feel the pain, and so don’t accommodate for it and protect themselves. You can imagine that bumping a finger but not reacting to it leads to tissue damage when it is done over and over, until one day the finger falls off.

Dr. Brand is right.  Pain is a gift.  And so are emotions.  Including emotional pain, if serving as intended, to protect the individual and not self-destructive things such as bingeing and purging.  The purpose of this post is not to get into what binging and purging is.  That’s just an example of behaviors that might grow out of emotions gone amuck.  Emotions that we used to trust.  That use to tell us who is a friend and who is an enemy.  Emotions that used to know who’s side they were on.  Emotions that forget their own like that can be just as extremely dangerous as leprosy is to our tender fragile fingers.

The purpose of this post is to flatten the mountains of understanding between here and there.  Between understanding that emotions are as physically important as anything else, such as the spinal cord.  The purpose of this post is to furthermore say what to do about it once we can 1) identify the problem and 2) get past the stigma.  Mia did the eating and purging stuff, but she also asked for help.  3) Ask for help.

Lepers have still so few options to help their disease.  Us with emotional illness are very blessed because we do.  We have medications, psychotherapy, coping skills, miracles, and more.  We have a lot.

Question:  How do you define the space between emotions and other “real” medical illnesses such as diabetes?  How do you navigate around stigma?  How do you ask for help?  Please tell me your story.

Your flawed self

My niece is sitting beside me and I can barely keep my hands off of her 5 month self.  I am eating a blueberry scone slowly.  She, with her tummy-full of breast milk, is watching every bite, a faint smile on her pink face.  I’m a little afraid she’s learning to eat carbohydrates from me and I want to tell her that I can’t remember the last time I ate one of these.  I start eating faster and turn away so I don’t imprint this on her supple myelinating neurons.

We closet eat, closet smoke, closet shop, closet sex, closet what we want to protect others from but what we independently are strong enough to handle …or not.  There is a term called “self-sabotaging behavior.”  Reducing this, we find that the process of closeting is in fact the handle on the door to that mal-behavior.  Keeping it real is the same as saying get it out of the closet.

My mentor and brother, Cameron Johnson used to say, “Go where the pain or fear is and it will lose control over you.”  People who work the 12-Steps call this “Rigorous Honesty.”  It is a pealing away of all pretense with yourself.

Avoiding rigorous honesty turns into self-sabotage.  We end up cutting ourselves down at the knees.  Anxiety uses fear to make us hide.  In cases that include emotional illness, of course medication will help our work toward honesty.

It is not about whether we hide our bad sides or not – we do.  It is about trying to keep it real.  The only thing to be ashamed about, if we must, is not trying.

So to my niece, I give her my flawed self and when the time(s) come, I will accept hers as well.

Self Care Tip #45 – Show the world your flawed self.  Be a friend to yourself.

Question:  How have you experienced the freedom that comes from going toward the fear?  Please tell us your story.