Between Me and Thee While We Are Apart

apart

I woke up and thought, I love and am loved. I heard the birds. I recognized different songs. I know “our” birds outside our door. So grateful. The morning noises in the house, kids – This is what I pray about when I pray, “Be between me and thee while we are apart one from another.”

Every day takes us.  We go toward and away.  We connect and disconnect.  What do you hope stays close when you weave your pattern?  When you are taken into your day?

It may be a day.  It may be education.  It may be divorce, bankruptcy, or a change in condos that takes you.  It may be as simple as getting a haircut.

As hairstylist Jane said, “I see people come in here all day trying so hard to be unique, and I can’t believe that they don’t see just how un-unique they are.”  She was noticing that “unique” implies disconnect. Those of us in this condition may be grooming toward disconnectedness and missing that even the pursuit of this is inherently a connecting force between me and thee.

Let us acknowledge the connections, not fear them.

Back in the day, there was Laban and Jacob, who had shared space for many years.  When they separated, they artfully practiced connection.

Now therefore come thou, let us make a covenant, I and thou; and let it be for a witness between me and thee.And Jacob took a stone, and set it up for a pillar.And Jacob said unto his brethren, Gather stones; and they took stones, and made an heap: and they did eat there upon the heap….And Laban said, This heap is a witness between me and thee this day. And Mizpah (“watchtower”); for he said, The LORD watch between me and thee, when we are absent one from another.

Here, many centuries later, we remember our declaration of independence from Great Britain on July 4, 1776.  It is our watchtower of sorts, a time when we celebrate our freedom, beautifully crafted into what brings us together.  Freedom is not synonymous with disconnection.  It is the ability to choose, to move in and out, to live with boundaries that are made of ribbons rather than walls, to have distance and still remain close to where our heart is.

Questions:  What connections over Independence Day weekend are you celebrating?  Please speak out.  We need to hear you.

Self-Care Tip:  Let your uniqueness and freedom be a connecting force in your life.  Be a friend to yourself.

Remember, You Are Free, Even When You Accept Help.

Schep

In becoming a friend to yourself, we all use tools; a hoe, a shovel, a bottle of medications, friends and lots of floss.  Not all in the same moment or we might get hurt.  None of the tools we use are meant to been seen, when looked at, alone as a weapon to box us up.  They are each in turn just a tool to be used to improve our ability to be friendly with ourselves.  Don’t get paranoid.

This is important to remember, the more effective the tool becomes.  We build suspicions when things work that well, like ladders in case we need them.  But if we find ourselves miming walls that no one else can see, it really is just about Me.  The walls, the box, the perception of being defined too easily are coming from Me.

If you’ve ever heard about the biopsychosocial model, you may have experienced this sensation.  Each paradigm introduced looks more and more like brick and mortar, and you find yourself acting out the runaway-bride gig.  You are not that special, nor Me.  We are a construction of unique complexity, each of us individual and undefinable.  However, none of us are so special that we can’t use the tools.  None of us are so special that we can be captured; an exotic bird never before seen.  We are in fact too commonplace in our inability to be boxed, shut up and drawn in.    Let that twist your thoughts.

In the biopsychosocial model we use the paradigms as given to us through biology, psychology and sociology to improve our insight and what ever we hope to accomplish thereafter.  It’s a collection of tools.

When a patient comes to see me, looking for help, sometimes they apperceive the tools.  They become distorted towering constructs.  The biopsychosocial model looks like mechanisms designed to take away freedom rather than improve access to freedom.  It is a lot of unknown to be dosed with and it is a natural response.  But the biopsychosocial model is rather a collection of highly effective, (even suspiciously effective,) ways to improve brain disease.

Self-Care Tip:  Remember, you are free, even when you accept help.

Questions:  When have you perceived that you were being boxed in by the “help” coming your way?  How did you reclaim your sense freedom?  How did you manage to still get help?  Please tell us your story. 

Tell the Truth About Yourself To Feel Freedom

Self-Care Tip – Tell your true story to feel freedom.

Nobody ever asked me how I feel about what I do.  And it wasn’t until I told the truth that I started to feel freedom.

drawneartogod.com

My husband surprised me with a spontaneous date today after work.  (I almost wrote after school.)  We didn’t know what to do with ourselves.  What do Middles like us do with ourselves on a date?

Middles is a name I just thought of for those of us in our middle of life time with; middle-level debt, middle place in careers, middle waistlines growing and all that we find in our middle years.  Middles.

Anyhow, we found ourselves at the theater because I guess that’s about as creative as we could manage.  There was only one movie showing at 3:30 pm on a Tuesday; The Help.

Score!  Wow!  Blowing my nose and sharing germs, we had no idea it would be this great.  We’ve seen a lot of bang ’em up movies lately for some reason and we were more ready than we knew just to hear someone’s story.  The Help, told a good tale anyone could relate to.  Of all the ah-ha moments however, watching Aibileen Clark walk away from getting fired was my favorite.

Nobody ever asked me how I feel about what I do.  And it wasn’t until I told the truth that I started to feel freedom.

I remembered us of course.  What we have and are fighting for:  Being our own friend.  The freedom to feel.  Courage to love ourselves enough to love ourselves in our communities.  Accountability for ourselves even when victimized.

So I ask us all again, “How do you feel?  Please tell us your story.  When, in your narrative, did you start feeling freedom?

Demanding Freedom and Other Oxymorons That Empower Our Self-Care

Désirée Nick at "Oxymoron" in Berlin...

Désirée Nick at "Oxymoron" in Berlin, 1999

I read today on bipoblogger’s blog,

I am trying so hard to keep my head wrapped around keeping a hold on this broken heart/life balance/bipolar thing.  It’s been complicated by stupid migraine headaches.  It’s hard to make sense of things and to pay attention.

Today while I was waiting for my laundry to dry, I began writing some deep thoughts, deep like I didn’t want to deal with them. I basically wrote a page of self-help advice.  I appreciate my stubbornness.

My answer:

This sounds like a woman of courage doing it, taking accountability for where she is at, afraid maybe but pressing on to start over any time she chooses, demanding her freedom to self-care.   Demanding freedom seems like an oxymoron but this is what is called for when we feel trapped.

I will add to this “answer” that self-care often seems like an oxymoron.  Such as using the brain (the same organ that is diseased) to figure out what it’s behaviors and emotions mean or everything starts and ends with Me (when we know that there was a beginning before Me) – we see the weaknesses and the conflict and we say yes.  I am an oxymoron.  I am good and bad.  I am healthy and ill.  I am growing and dying.  I am flawed but perfect.  I’m sure you have more.

Demanding freedom is a basic tenet of self-care.  We say that despite the limitations in our lives, in our decision-making, in our suffering or pleasures – despite all, I am free to do self-care.

Questions:  How have you managed to demand your freedom to self-care?  What oxymorons in your life are empowering you in your self-care?  Please tell us your story.

Starting With Your Own Answers to The Big Questions Leads to Reducing Stigma In Others

Alexander Ostuzhev as Quasimodo, 1925.

Image via Wikipedia

Question:  How do you see the paradigm of spirituality intersecting with the paradigm of biology?

As a psychiatrist who blogs that behaviors come from the brain and not a theater script we voluntarily revise to perform, this is a good question.  As readers, and perhaps subscribers to this same belief, this is a good question.

In church, Bible study, or circle of any kind, there are fewer things that goad me more than listening to descriptions of the moral value in emotions and behaviors.  I have found myself visiting the lady’s room more often, carousing the fellowship hall-kitchen and fridge, or thrusting myself on a poor unsuspecting soul loitering by the door with my fervent uncomplimentary words.  I do this before I stand up and pull rank on the speaker.

(I know.  The words “pull rank” sound just as arrogant, and probably are, but they were said in the heat of the moment.  Please understand that the emotion behind them and including the words came from my brain.)

It wasn’t so long ago that suicides were thought to be the ultimate separation from God.  Oh wait.  That’s still happening isn’t it?  It wasn’t so long ago that anger and sadness were thought to be from separation from God.  Oh wait, they still are.  Ok.  I’ll stop.  This is childish.

The hunched figure of Notre Dame comes to me now, ringing his bell, gazing at Esmerelda – pure heaven in flesh.  He offers up his humble life force, begging to be near her despite his biology.  He is ugly.  He is different.  He is separated by his own beliefs that he is forgotten by God.  His answer to our question is his own isolation.

This pithy topic has no boundaries across the world but yet I reduce it down to Me, one apparently arrogant psychiatrist, kicking up dirt where I stand.  I realize that the best way to protect us from stigma, to help you (again arrogant me swaggers in), is to start with my answer to this marvelous question.  I have to answer it for myself.  I have to start with self-care, spiritual care, relationship care, physical care – I have to start right here with Me.

These kinds of imposed opinions have never been reduced quickly.  We can’t take care of everyone before we take care of ourselves.  We must be patient.  We have the privilege to answer thoughtfully.  It is our freedom.  It is our right.

Self-Care Tip #193 – Answer the big questions in life for yourself, deliberately, and see that a secondary benefit is that it will protect you from the prejudice of others as well as reduce their prejudice.

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...

Image via Wikipedia

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 – take away her children.  No pill – could be president.  Pill – discredit whatever he says.  No pill – worth 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.

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?