Go Toward Mental Illness and Take It To The Floor

Sean and Cheryl: Drama on the dance floor

Image by gwilmore via Flickr

Self-Care Tip #155 – Go toward the real issue.  Be a friend to yourself.

Little woman, she had pinched toes in her four-inch heals and wonder what her size has done for her.  Mindy was anxious.  Even though I wonder about her stressors, like possibly her height and the history she is telling me, I know something else.  Even though I wonder about her parenting and marital stressors, and about growing up in a small town but now living with giants, I don’t wonder what she thinks.  Mindy describes these giants as people with large accomplishments, things she would not try herself and that means something to her, but not what she thinks it does.  Mindy wanted to see how things went.  Apparently six months of this wasn’t long enough.

We could spend the next five years breaking all this up and apart and tossing it like a cranberry salad.  But Mindy’s anxiety is mostly not about the salad of life.  Mindy’s feelings are a bit about the stressors and a lot about her brain.

Mental illness is not a small thing.  We trim it down when we say otherwise.  The unfavored sister, Mental Illness isn’t spoken to much at the table.  Her more popular sisters, Stress and Life-Triggers, get a lot of the attention.

With some effort, people who once worked around Mental Illness like it was barely there take a chance and go straight at it, full charge, and swing that woman onto the ballroom floor.

I went for that dance with Mindy.  And she wasn’t talking about waiting and seeing how things went for long.  I told her, like I’ve told you, that how we feel and interpret our stressors comes from our brain.  I told her that mental illness gets worse if it isn’t treated and treated to as full a response as possible.

We weren’t talking about life stressors at that point.  We were talking about her medical condition.  Once treated, Mindy will continue to have life stressors.  We will hopefully also see however, that she responds to life stressors differently.

Question:  How do you make sense of the seemingly meaningfulness of how stress affects us with the seemingly less meaningful concept that we feel that way because of our brain and not because of the stress?  Please tell me your story.

Receive When a Gift is Offered

Ms. Stephanie Cocks

Image by -kÇ- via Flickr

Self-Care Tip#149 – Receive when a gift is offered.  Be a friend to yourself.

I am totally charmed.  Sitting in the coffee-shop, and this lovely man came up and handed me his James Patterson book.  “I’m going to throw it away and thought you might like to read it.  I’m done and it was great.”  Judge and Jury looks suspenseful and I’m too fragile I think for it, but I took it anyway.  I was more charmed by the intent and character of the giver.

I try to tell my daughter about this.  When someone offers you a gift, just accept it.  It’s not so hard.  Say thank you and in doing so, give them the gift of giving and receive the gift of receiving.  It’s powerful for both parties.  The ability to receive isn’t always natural.  It’s something I’ve tried to understand my whole life.

Well, I didn’t catch the name of the book-man but we chatted despite lacking that social etiquette.  He saw my blog-site on my open computer screen and discovered my background in mental health.

“I have problems,” he said.  “Really I do.”  Maybe he was used to people not believing him and added that to add emphasis.  “I have anxiety.”  “Oh.”  I said.  “That’s torture.”  “It is!” book-man said.  “We don’t choose our emotions!  I used to think we did, but we really don’t!”  I heard it from the source.  Speak it book-man!  We don’t always choose our emotions.

We didn’t talk long.  He walked off before I could offer too much.  Maybe it was the anxiety that called him away.  I felt sad and happy.  Sad, because his suffering connected with me.  Happy, because of all the people in here, he and I connected.

Connecting with people any time any where is a small bit of the supernatural.  It’s not something that we can distil, put in a tube or slide under a microscope.  It’s not something that obeys even the excellent paradigm of temperaments.  It comes both expectedly and unexpectedly.  It comes deliberately through labor and through chance.  An airborne-something from the spirit world.  This is not to say that the natural isn’t also family, the dear child of the supernatural.  It’s just that there is a unique charm in the unknowing.

And so the book-man and the unknown connection stays with me even now after he is gone.  His anxiety, his reaching out, his generosity, the Me drawn into his space and he into mine.  I am receiving and he gave.

Thank you Great Supernatural and Natural God for this.

Question:  When do you connect despite the anxiety of being in the position of receiving?  Please tell me your story.

Toughing It Out! …Is Not What You Think.

Mental Health of our Military

Image by Truthout.org via Flickr

Self-Care Tip #114 – Tough it out.  Be a friend to yourself.

Trying to tough it out is good it’s just not what most people think.

Many people think that toughing it out means staying med-free and getting through melancholy, anxiety, emotional chaos with gritted teeth.  They gather a degree of commendation from weathering out the behavioral and emotional problems until they either feel better or don’t.

This is not the kind of toughing it out that I’m calling worthy of our life efforts.  It is in fact the opposite.  Toughing it out is doing what may be socially and culturally counterintuitive.  Getting medical care sooner than later.  Not waiting to see what will happen before getting medical care if it is indicated.  Believing the medical data, the physician you trust, the knowledge that mental illness is medical, biological and often PROGRESSIVE over time.

Waiting means you are getting more ill on a cell level and at higher risk for your future and waiting is not being tough.

Toughing it out is digging into your courage bank every day to take that pill when you feel ashamed of it.  Toughing it out is fighting for your brain’s future.  Toughing it out is sacrificing what ever you need to, to give your loved ones and yourself the healthiest you possible.  Even if that means talking yourself into it, going up against your fears, ignoring prejudice, ignoring opposing recommendations from your favorite sources.

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This calls for thick skin.

Candace tells me she still intuitively can’t believe this, even though her mind tells her it is true.  She takes her medication but it still hurts a little every time.  Like she’s betraying herself.  Like she must grieve for herself.  Candace says the apparent calm, decrease in anxiety, improved relationship with her children, and the flowering hope eases her inner psychic pain.  Candace is drawing strength every day from the growing evidence of health.  Candace is tough.

Question:  What are you getting tough with in your life?  How do you do it?  Please tell me your story.

Between Me and Thee, Don’t Believe it

He felt blamed by his daughter.  It is one thing to perceive it.  Believing what we perceive might be separate.

There is a disease process named obsessive compulsive disorder.  In this illness, we perceive things that at some level we understand are not likely nor true. These fears are called “egodystonic,” when we can tell that our fears don’t make sense.  For example, it may preoccupy my thoughts that I fear I just ran over a pedestrian with my car, even though at some level I know I didn’t.  Not driving back and forth on the street to look for the victim where I fear the accident happened for hours is therefore terrifying to my core.  If asked outright if any of it made any sense, I’d say no.  We all have features of this disorder but don’t necessary to the full extent.  And that is where we got terms like “Step on a crack, break your mother’s back.”

It goes to reason that fears consistent with our inner selves are “egosyntonic.”  In its diseased states, we see this in disconnected thought form disorders such as schizophrenia.  The healthier examples are much easier for most of us to understand and relate to.  I fear if I speed, I will get a ticket.  Healthy and connected fear.

Now what was going on with the man I mentioned above?  Did his daughter ever say she blamed him?  Was he trusting his feelings?  His Jedi-intuition?  Was this egodystonic or egosyntonic?

Egodystonic fears in a much milder form include simple personalizations.  Making something about us that isn’t.  Your girlfriend makes jokes about you being irresponsible.  A friend doesn’t return your calls.  Your daughter is moving away.  You can see the potential fears building up.  Will we believe them?

Believing our perceptions depends on different paradigms.  There are our biological illnesses that predispose our perceptions (major depressive disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, etc…).  We have our temperaments to answer to.  Some of us are wired to be more suspicious v. trusting.  There are adjustment issues, related to stressors around us.  We have our own coping skills.  And how about poor self-care such as poor sleep hygiene and little exercise?  All of that will play on what we are going to do with our perceptions.

Truth is, generally very little of what we hear has anything to do with us.  Now there is the other extreme of course.  A personality disorder who has little insight into the way they are influencing the world around them and take little responsibility.  But that is the exception.  More often, we walk around licking wounds that came from a series of misperceptions and personalizations.  It takes up a lot of time and is a disconnecting force between me and thee and thee and thee.

Self Care Tip #72 – The best way to keep the space between us open, honest, healthy, connected – is take care of our own selves.  Be a friend to yourself.

Question:  What has happened in the space between you and the ones you love?  Please tell me your story.