Your Heroic Self – Waiting For Normal

Self-Care Tip #82 – Have courage to go for what is lovely to you in life.  Be a friend to yourself.

Pretty, blond, about 5’6″, slender, in her 30’s, mother and wife, no funny shapes or movements but Britt still asked me, “Am I normal?”  It takes guts to ask someone that.

I just finished this heart-squeezing book, “Waiting For Normal,” by Leslie Connor.  (Yes!  I finally read a book!  It took me 5 times as long but it was no less pleasurable.)  Connor tells us about pre-teen Addie who grew up on the waves of her bipolar mom’s chaos, salvaging bits of wreckage along the way to survive.  Addie is the life-preserver her mom uses for life.  Addie’s own buoy through it all is her hope of one day finding normalcy.  She uses all her smarts to avoid the thrust her mom’s messes force on her.  It requires her full attention.  Addie must have looked pressed for something because her Mom finally asked her

What’s so special?  What are you chasing after?!

Addie was fisting optimism when she answered

I’m not chasing after anything.  I’m waiting.  Waiting for normal.

Later Addie explains to her mom

Normal is when you know what’s gonna happen next.  Not exactly what because probably nobody gets that.  But normal is being able to count on certain things.  Good things.  And it’s having everyone together – just because they belong that way.

My son used to have shaggy hair with curls that flew at the world around him.  He came home the other day and told me he wanted it short.  I finally figured out that because none of the other boys in his class had longer hair, neither should he.  He showed me pictures of what his hair should look like.  The whole process was too cute.

We are all looking for normal.

Putting aside defining normal, for now I am content to just contemplate the largeness of the effort to find it.  The journey, the process, the coming into such a thing reveals the beauty in one’s character and essence.  It is that, rather than the “hair-cut” that makes me say, “Wow!”

When Britt, my patient, strove towards her health and normalcy, her intent in context was lovely.  She seemed to me, in those moments we shared together, as one of the great heroes of our day.  A woman of courage.

Self-Care Tip #82 – Have courage to go for what is lovely to you in life and appreciate the beauty in your heroic self.  Be a friend to yourself.

Question:  Have you struggled with the question, “Am I normal?”  Please tell me your story.

Choose, Gladly, Using Resources

Being a friend to yourself includes choosing, being glad that you can, and using resources to make your choice a good one.

Mrs. Smith told me with a barely noticeable arch in her back that she was still planning on God healing her daughter.  I don’t know if Mrs. Smith thought about how her daughter felt about that.  Was Kristy personalizing her illness?  Did she think God rejected her?  The problem of her continued illness must show something more than a physical flaw in her perhaps.

Will we know it when we are healed?  Until then, what to do?

Years ago, I met Fran.  She was pulling her hair out.  Her annoyed husband disrespected her for it.  Fran kept willing herself to stop.  She said,

I’m doing it less now I think.

The good news for Fran is that she responded well to fluoxetine.  Her anxiety decreased and she almost stopped pulling out her hair.  She’d wear her growing bristles pressed down with bobby-pins and hide it with her long hair.  As her hair grew longer, she had fewer bobby-pins and I knew she was taking her medication.  There were other problems between Fran and her medications.  Taking medication shamed her.  And, she blamed her fluoxetine for her weight gain and rash on her face.  She felt uglier than ever in her husband’s eyes.

I don’t pull hair any more.

Fran stopped her fluoxetine and half her head went bald.  She did not lose weight and she still had a rash on her face.  Fran went back on her fluoxetine and she has cycled on and off of it this way over the years we’ve worked together.  Somehow despite all our time together, Fran does not believe me when I tell her that when she is better symptomatically, she is not healed.  Fran does not grasp that her behaviors come from something at a genetic level.  We can treat her, influencing the way her genes express themselves, but in her case, not cure her.

We are a team.  She and I, and sometimes her husband, and sometimes her sister.  I give her medications when she thinks she needs it.  I don’t leave her when she doesn’t.  Either way, we keep trying.  It is very hard for Fran to know that she has not been healed.

I don’t have many clear examples of treatment-to-cure in psychiatry.  The statistics vary between diseases as to their rates of recurrence.  The brain being human, we can yell at the serpent for our insanity.  However, in the end, here we are.  As Billy Joel says in his great ’70’s hit song “My Life

Either way it’s okay to wake up with yourself.

The opportunity to choose our own answers, to decide what to do about it, and believing if we are sick or not sick  – is all our own.  These can be hard decisions but until we lose capacity to choose, we own them.  Decision making capacity of course is a medical decision.  But competency is a legal decision made in a court of law.  Having the right to choose is a beautiful privilege.  This does not mean to ignore counsel, evidence, data.  On the contrary.  That would not be a friendly thing to do to yourself.

Self Care Tip # 75 – Choose well and be glad you can.  Be a friend to yourself.

Question:  What do you think?  Agree or disagree.

Get in Someone’s Space

The woman writes, but only for herself, she says.  “Why?”  I can’t remember her answer.  My thoughts stayed on the question, wondering why we don’t connect with our community.

Dropping off my children at school this morning, I noticed the pubescent girl with blunted face, guarded eyes, crossed arms, standing alone even surrounded by other kids.  Ouch!  I wanted to hover over her.  Guard her from what ever it is that’s scaring her.  Touch her arms and hair and make her understand that she is important to the universe on a small-scale and large-scale.  Of course I might have been arrested if I did, so I just walked on to safety.

Jeff Wise, author of Extreme Fear: The Science of Your Mind in Danger, writes

A feeling of connection to others is nature’s Xanax.

Some of my families with disabled children struggle hard to take care of their own.  They often wait until at cliffs edge emotionally, financially, physically to consider placement for their disabled child.  When helping them get past their barriers to placement, we find guilt, fear and shame in the way.  These children often do better physically and emotionally when they are in group homes and away from the emotional burdens in their nuclear family homes.  We need community and community needs us.  Each of us.  Joana Johnson, neuroscientist, says that placement, is in fact a way families can connect with their community and with their child.

Some skeptic personalities struggle to trust the links between us, not out of paranoia, but rather because it is the hard-wiring in their nature

to question things. There is also the introvert, who is often alone not because they don’t like people, but because that is how they get energy.  However, regardless of genetic predispositions, we are all designed to have community.

Mary Shelley tells us through her Frankenstein, that we are better people in the company of others.  We see forces that keep us from sharing ourselves.  But let us not believe those forces.  Break past.  Let us believe our own better Creator who tells us, connect.  Tell our stories.  Stick a finger out and get in someone’s space.  Do what we must to let them into ours.

Self Care Tip #42 – Share yourself and get community.  Be a friend to yourself.