Work Hard to Take Care of Yourself If You Want An Easier Time Taking Care Of Others

Self-Care Tip #174 – Work hard to take care of yourself if you want an easier time taking care of others.

My marriage has never been better.

Freedom Press (UK)

Image via Wikipedia

Kirsten had good posture.  She made eye contact and she wasn’t fidgeting when she told me about the changes in her life.  I hadn’t seen her in clinic for two years and apparently in that time she had set her husband free.  She was seeing less of him than she ever had and they were both busier than any other time in their lives.  Yet their marriage was at its peak.  I felt like I was getting off the point of why she came and wondered if asking her for details was unprofessional.  I did want to know.  Lucky for me, she wanted to tell and I just let it happen, as if I was doing her a favor.

I admit, sometimes I get something out of my clinicals.  I’m not always the best therapist.  I don’t always keep things about my patient when I let myself receive, or even actively take from them.  None of us are that altruistic.  Therapy is supposed to be one place any of us can go, and know that when we go, we can expect to receive everything except the fee-for-service.  Therapy should be the closest thing to a one way street in this non-altruistic world.

To my rescue, Kirsten said,

He has been meeting with friends, exercising, eating out and working the 12-Steps twice a week.

Yes he was sober, but he was also a bunch of other stuff.  Taking care of himself, he became a better husband.  Better body, clearer mind, happier, more attentive, less angry; she could hardly stop listing.

Freedom is useless....

Taking care of himself took a lot of work but it made taking care of her a lot less work.  True, she wasn’t the center of his life, she gave up on some fantasies, she didn’t ask him for more time, but all those in the past had only grown her own point of anger and blame and not the marriage dreams she thought they would – letting them go was a good thing.  Yet, cutting him free still felt risky to her.  She came to me because she was becoming more aware of what that fear was doing.  When she was afraid, she was sabotaging herself.  Bits of herself recognized that she could feel as free as her husband did.

To be free of fear for Kirsten, she needed medical help.  Kirsten’s fear came from nowhere, out of the blue and was not only triggered by suspicions about her husband.  To be free for Kirsten’s husband required other forms of self-care.

Question:  What kind of self-care does your freedom need?  How has your hard work on your own self-care spilled over into less work to care for others?

Listen to Your Mind and Body When Doing Something As Simple As Cleaning

I Heart Cleaning

Image by Valerie Morrison via Flickr

Self-Care Tip #170 – Listen to your mind and body when you do things like cleaning, even if it makes you feel better or worse.  Be a friend to yourself.

Whenever someone in the house can’t find something, I ask them to please just start cleaning and sooner or later they’ll find it.

Today my kids and I spent two hours cleaning their play room.  My daughters were amazed at all the treasures they found tucked under, over, this way and that way in their clutter.  Although there was a lot of crying and gnashing of teeth along the way, in the end everyone was happy and pleased with themselves.

One of the blog-sites I enjoy reading is “Earthquakes and Rattlesnakes” by Zahara.  The other day she said,

I have a lot on my mind.  It seems when my mind is in a jumble, my house is in a jumble.  Cluttered, disorganized.  Can I unclutter my mind by cleaning my house?  Probably.

According to BBC News, cleaning improves mental health through the exercise that is inadvertently done.

And as Louise Hay once said,

Cluttered closets mean a cluttered mind. As you clean the closet, say to yourself, ‘I am cleaning the closets of my mind.’ The universe loves symbolic gestures.

But there are times when this goes awry.  In Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, people may clean ritually and compulsively to avoid an egodystonic fear; a fear they know doesn’t make sense but still terrifies and overwhelms them.

Or in Major Depressive Disorder, the illness affects their brain and body so much so at times that they can’t do basic life functioning, such as cleaning their house or even showering.

So I’ll tell the mothers out there such as myself, the BBC News, Louise Hay and the rest of us that cleaning is good self-care.  The milieu around it is also a good indicator on when it is time to go get professional help.  Listen to your body and mind.

Questions:  When and how has something as simple as cleaning improved your mental state?  When has something as basic as doing your activities of daily living shown you that you or someone you love might need to see their doctor?  Please tell me your story.

Leave Space in Your Beliefs to Grow

 

standing up to stigma - mambo.org.uk

Self-Care Tip #144 – Leave space in your beliefs to grow.  Be a friend to yourself.

Madeline brought her son in.  He was born male but has always allegedly believed he was female inside.  It was Madeline’s appointment with me, not her son’s.  But he came in with her and I could either listen to her concerns about her son or ask him to leave against her wishes and still hear her talk.  So I listened.

The issue was a matter of salvation.  Madeline was fighting for her son’s salvation as a mother might.  That part was lovely to watch.  I thought of God hearing her and being present with her pain and being The One behind her fierce love in the first place.

We talked a little about the biology of homosexuality.  What is transgenderism?  If God’s Word is absolute, what part does a progressive understanding of biology play in our perception of truth?

Madeline’s son asked to leave.  I thanked him for coming in and he shrugged.  His whole family abused him, Madeline said, gulping and losing form.  She had spent many years defending him even though in her heart she was terrified that her son was damned.

Some of you may have read the powerful blog-post, “My son is gay” in which a mother described her halloween experience.  Her son dressed up as Daphne from Scooby-Doo.  She and he were promptly abused. As a mother I empathized, and as a scientist, I wanted to scream things like, “You thought the world was flat too!”

But Madeline was worried not only about bullying.  She was worried about the Last Judgment.

Stigma comes from all directions.  Inside of us, our homes, our churches, our schools, our government, up, down, sideways, this way, that…  Stigma is everywhere and it is usually a painful encounter for everyone involved.  Perpetrator included.

So here’s the scoop folks.  Homosexuality is biological. We have as much choice in it as the shape of our nose.

I’ve seen kids be mean about noses.  I’m half-Lebanese and believe me, I know what big noses are.  The nose that makes you wonder how the head escaped the vaginal canal without injury.  But I’ve never heard anyone hate someone’s nose and believe that he’s going to loose his salvation for it.  I’ve never seen someone turn her back on her brother and leave him to die without the love of family around because she thought she was condoning his nose if she did.  I’ve never heard about moral judgment being attached to a culturally incorrect nose.

In my son’s church class the other day, the teacher was trying to get him and the rest of the other oppositional three-year-olds to wear angel and shepherd costumes for the song they were going to perform. Only the stage-hams garbed up.  She kept giving the rest of us parents her pleading eyes, pleading words, and pleading emotions. She was making the wrong people feel guilty.  The kids were unfazed in both compliance and emotion.  The ones who were genetically inclined to get energy from performing that way, were.  The others were not.  I could have said to my son, “Get this on!…!”  And made him feel like he was bad if he didn’t.  But attaching morality would never change where he gets energy.  That part is genetic and it won’t change despite his conditioning.

It’s a bummer that Paul’s letters were translated the ways they were in the 1950’s using the word homosexuality.  A lot of people are scared when they read it.  Fear has threatened and hurt a lot of people.  Reverend Mel White posts about this.

I don’t know if Madeline was given anything she came looking for.  I’m not always the best teacher or student myself.  But I do know that we, all of us, will continue to learn through all eternity.  We will never know enough, love enough, or be sinless and perfect enough to take over that awesome job of being Judge.  I once heard of a beautiful beloved angel who tried.

Question:  What has been attached to morality in your life that you know is not?  How have you dealt with stigma?  Please tell me your story.

Courage Not To Presume.

Pony Express

Self-Care Tip #116 – Have courage not to presume.

Courage.  Courage is doing what frightens us.  I heard this definition and as usual I got a little stiff.  Definitions sometimes feel sticky to me and I’m trying to understand why.  Why is my lip curled?

In line the other day for the theater, a grandfather in front of me got talking.  I didn’t get any names; just that he was a grandfather of a 7-year-old girl who owned him.  Naturally he drifted into stories about her, including their most recent vacation to Knott’s Berry Farm.  They rode “The Pony Express” despite his fear and instincts.  I asked him if he was proud of his granddaughter’s courage and he replied, “She wasn’t scared!  So she wasn’t the one with courage.  I was!”  He laughed, and then I laughed, but I walked away to the ticket booth whispering, “What does he know about her thoughts?”

I see so many faces flashing across my mind’s eye.  I see them, and I hear them.  I realize their whispers have become mine because I believe them.  My patients are courageous.  These, who have not told others.  Who have not screamed when they wanted to.  These people who have put on the appearance of calm despite their fears.  They are a study in functional mental illness.

Functional mental illness, although historically refers to mal-behaviors and emotions without medical cause, now after years of increased knowledge and study, it includes their biological organic etiology.

As an example of functional mental illness I’ll tell you about Miranda, a mother of 2.  Miranda says her kids stress her out and she can barely take care of them.  However at her job, she performs adequately and no one would say she seems depressed.  She falls into bed when her kids do between 7 or 8 PM yet never feels refreshed.  Crying while pouring their cereal each day, she packs them dry bread and a pickle for their lunches.  No one would know the courage it takes for her to survive the moment and then the next.  They all presume she is fine.

After teasing apart my thoughts on courage, my lip has uncurled.  I understand that definitions bother me because they can sometimes imply freedom to presume more than one should.  We can never know people’s thoughts, motives, feelings entirely and that bit that we don’t know, may be the bit that changes their story.  If you want to read more, check out this post.

So for now, I can push down my fear of definitions, put on the face of calm, …and what?  Be a friend to myself.

And you?

Question:   Where do you need the most courage to do good for yourself?  How do you deal with your fears?  Please tell me your story.

Grieve to Be Present With Yourself

 

Maria Yakunchikova "Fear" 1893-95

Image via Wikipedia

 

We grieve when we get sick.  And we grieve again when after getting well, we get sick again.  Then the grieving can be even more terrible because you know what’s coming.  In Pearla’s case, she didn’t know she was grieving but she knew she was sad and terrified at the same time.

I asked her if she thought that staying in bed, loosing interest, isolating, crying jags out of the blue might be related her grief about getting sick again.  She said no at first and then said, “I’m disappointed.  I thought this was over for me.”  All over, she couldn’t trust herself.

Pearla was afraid. And that fear was always there.  Now she couldn’t put it out of her mind.  “What if I have another panic attack?  I can’t take it!”  “What if,” was always on her mind.

Readers, a panic attack is more terrifying than just about any immediate experience.  If you’ve never had one, it is almost impossible to imagine the depth of terror it causes.  It is so horrible, that people even change professions because of it.  I remember a surgeon who actually went back to residency and studied a new specialty because he linked his panic to his profession.  That’s another 4 years of grueling work, readers.  That’s the kind of fear panic produces.

Pearla was not only in the throes of this fear, she was also in the throes of grief.  This is a deep sadness any of us who have lost a beloved hope can relate to.  Pearla didn’t know that was why she didn’t want to get out of bed.  All she knew is over the last 2 weeks she was loosing herself and in exchange, getting something she desperately did not want.

Somehow though, after hearing about her sadness from her own mouth, Pearla agreed.  She saw the grief and after seeing grief, she could be more present with it.  It was almost like her face materially came out from hiding.  Grief lost some hold on her.  She was a little less sad and a little less afraid.

Self-Care Tip #111 – Let yourself grieve.  Be a friend to yourself.

Question:  How do you grieve?  Was it worth it to you?  Please tell me your story.

Self-Care is not unChristian

 

Don’t be afraid of self-care.

Self-care is Christian and scientific.  I have awareness of the culture that frowns on taking bad behavior out of the church and into the laboratory.

A few days ago we talked about self-care not being selfish.  That circuitously brought up the question about how “the church” feels about this blog.

Confusing “the church” with Christianity can be problematic.  I have confused them in the past.

When my brother started talking evolution, I felt cold and clammy suddenly.  After my mini-panic attack, he told me about reading the entire works of Darwin and I had another mini-panic attack.  “There’s no way evolution didn’t happen.  There’s just too much evidence supporting it.”  I was confused.

It took me a long time to realize that I didn’t have to be worried about differences between me, science and God.  Funny that my comfort level grew with this as I realized how little I knew.  In fact, my joy expanded, when I realized I would spend all eternity growing my knowledge.  That is a lot of everything that just won’t fit into any box I can think of.

iwantthatpainting.com/Why-does-it-always-rain-on-me.html

Now when something crashes through a pet-paradigm, I remember that it’s ok.  (Down fear!  Get down anxiety!  Heal dogs!)  I may see a different reality.  Parts of me may become changed by that knowledge, trauma, death of a dear one.  Becoming changed and different is ok.  Because God is the same.  God already knows whatever about evolution, or that the world is round.  He knows that we try to turn medical symptoms into something spiritual, like depressed mood.  He knows it and He’s still here.  He is the prototype of presence.  Now that people can look into the brain and say where feelings and behaviors come from, we can get past that and on to the next revelation.  So what if it is medicalized.  Science and spirituality are not exclusive of each other.

So is self-care Christian or scientific?  Things aren’t that binary.  Self-care is both.

Self-Care Tip #84 – Don’t be afraid of self-care.  Be a friend to yourself.

Get Gangster on Your Shame

 

Photo by Wesker

 

Shame.  Ah what a cloaked villain!  In this post I’m going to tell you about why shame is not an enemy you want to ignore.

“Michael Corleone” in The Godfather Part II was not the 1st to say it, but maybe was the first to make the quote famous

Keep your friends close and your enemies closer.

Not many people would at first think that keeping shame close might be a good thing, but I’m here to tell you that it is.

Meet Bill the highway patrol.  He’s been seeing me for melancholic depression.  Sometimes he feels a little better, but those times even still are not so great.  Bill has told me about where he thought his anxiety and fear came from.  His story made sense to him.  This wouldn’t be too much of a problem except that he thought about it often.  Very often.  He was running in sprints away from it.  Somehow after all the time he’d spent reluctantly in the presence of his fears, he hadn’t realized that shame was connected.  Shame of being treated the way he had been.  Shame of being misused.  He hadn’t faced his fears because he was always angled away from his thoughts of shame.

If we don’t go where the shame is, we won’t be free from its effect on us.  Fear is a big bad bully.  Until you turn around and say stop, you’ll be running for a long time.

 

 

We all need to be a bit “gangsta” at times.  Ignoring shame is not.  It’s not emotion-street smart.  I’m waiting for Bill to think, “What’s the worst thing that could happen?”  And sit in the feelings that come with those thoughts long enough to realize that he’s still ok.

In obsessive compulsive disorder, there is a psychotherapy treatment called “exposure and response prevention.”  In this treatment, the person with the ego-dystonic fear exposes themselves to their fear for a progressive amount of time.  They realize that after going where the fear is over and over and materially seeing that nothing bad happens, the fear looses more and more control over them.

This is effective in any anxiety condition, including shame.

Self-Care Tip #83 – Get gangster on your shame.  Be a friend to yourself.

Question:  Has shame bullied you?  Please tell me your story.