Getting or Giving Bad News Without Fear

Slalom skier

Image via Wikipedia

I was reading an article on awareness of obesity the other day telling us that many times, people don’t know they are obese until they are told by someone else.  Ouch.  Pass the Band-Aides.  But it aired our need to stay connected, speak up, and listen.  It also prompted me to reflect on mental illness.  How often I’ve sat with someone’s emotions-history in my hands, looked at them and realized they didn’t know.  They were there, emotions bleeding all over the place but didn’t grasp their injury.

Um, excuse me ma’am.  Let’s apply some pressure on that and get you some help.

Bloody news like this reminds me of my friend Jack.  He was waterskiing with my brother and I when we were college’ish-age.  Jack was not so capable on the water, although he wasn’t afraid.  As you probably know, three is the perfect number for waterskiing – one to drive, one to hold the flag when the skier is setting himself up, and then of course the skier.  Any more and there are way too many polite smiles and way too much advice for the bobbing body in the water.  Jack was working on his slalom moves, thrilled with his progress and after about the third fall, was still ready for another go.

Hit it!

Our boat, Rosewater, eased him out of the water and he was up.  Jack has a way of celebrating like no other.  He whoops and yells and his whole body joins in.  And so he was in his happy place, up on a single ski, unconcerned with the world at large.  It was lovely.  Until the wake of that other huge boat threw him down and his face slammed into his spectacular single ski.  Up he came and we just looked at him, quietly at first.  Jack paddled up to the boat and wondered if he should try again.

Um, sorry Jack.  Let’s apply some pressure on that and get you some help.

Jack had a huge gash, copiously bleeding all over his face and he had no idea.  He was wet already, cold from the water and didn’t feel a thing.  I still feel the creepies skittering up my arms and chest thinking about it.

When we told Jack, he was a little unbelieving.

Are you sure?  Is it bad?  I think I’m alright.  It’ll wash out and I can try again….

Oh there wasn’t much pleasure in telling him the bloody news.  Generally there isn’t that much pleasure in telling someone they are fat or suffering from mental illness either.  It’s the follow-up to that statement where the fun comes in.  The hope that we link the first punch-line to.  Good news is, …along comes the second punch-line.  Hope.  And presence.  Being with someone where they are at, as they are, and with patience doesn’t mean leaving him in the dark, bleeding out.

The reverse is true of course as well.  If we don’t stay connected with others, we may lose the opportunity to see ourselves through their eyes.  It is an opportunity.  When we are with someone we trust, respect and think see’s us as the precious thing that we are, it is.

Self-Care Tip #195 – Stay connected with others and listen without fear – something good is coming.  Be a friend to yourself.

Questions:  How do you deliver “bad news?”  What is the best way you’ve ever been given “bad news?”  Please tell me your story.

Down With Guilt!

Down with guilt, I say!  Let that mighty tree be felled and burnt and each season that brings up new creepers into life again – let them be taken down!  Guilt!  How many times it has weakened us.  A sickness, that ebbs the energy and confuses the mind.  Often unrelated to deed or intent, in comes the uninvited guest.  As in Mansfield Park, guilt is our own Henry Crawford courting Fanny Price.  He may dress well – in church attire, in a business suit, or in a child who thinks she should spend more time with grandma.

Like lucifer’s apple, guilt brings knowledge that can’t be trusted.  Swallow it and you’ll be looking for fig leaves.  See if any good will come of guilt.  I dare you.  See when you plant it, what will grow.  See when you hide it, how you are tethered.  Let it educate you and notice that you grow smaller.

Today a friend asked me how things were.  I remembered yesterdays.  Wonderful with sunny emotions.  A collection of connected moments.  I wanted to say something about them.  I was looking in at a shop window.  Chocolates on the shelves behind the glass.  But remembering today, I was denied.

I yelled from my darkened face.  And then I yelled again.  That was the morning.  Then the kids went to school and I went to work.  What a way to walk.  I thought of this and out popped:

I yelled at the kids which I hated, but I don’t hate myself.

It even surprised me.  Saying that to my friend, let me realize that today wasn’t an all-or-none parenting moment.  Many earlier days that began much the same weren’t so forgiving.  And because I didn’t forgive myself so easy, I didn’t forgive others so easy.  The anger chases it’s ratty tail, you know until Guilt tires him out.

Because I didn’t spend the day guilty, the afternoon and evening had a chance.  Down with guilt!  Up with new chances!  Hooray!

Self Care Tip #68 – Take the new chance!  Be a friend to yourself.

Question:  How have new chances redeemed you?  Please tell me your story.

Good News

Many people see needing to take medication as bad news. But I think about what it would be like without it. Suicide, progressive deteriorating processes in the brain biology, contagious behaviors and moods spreading to those you love, inflammation…. That is bad news. I think about the not so many years ago before most of our medications existed. Before much of our understanding about the brain biology was around. Those times were hard. Misinformed people had ugly ways of looking at others with emotional illnesses. Hearing someone thump out their opinions on the pulpit about human behavior has always been a pleasure for me as well – not! Now we know that our essence isn’t dependent on our brain biology.

But here we are, in the land of milk and honey, depressed economy and all. We have a more informed public opinion (check out NAMI – awesome!), evidenced based medications, etc…. More than ever before in our history, the responsibility to take care of ourselves comes down to us as individuals. The external barriers to treatment are not what they used to be. However, what are the internal barriers? We own our choices. Our beliefs are our own. Letting yourself close off to the good news of medication – that is a tragedy.

Now is the time to fight for yourself. You are worth it. When you see the difference in your life, your perspective on good news and bad news might change a little too. Even public opinion starts with the individual.

Self Care Tip #22 – Be your own advocate. Be a friend to yourself.