Bring Your Separate Selves Together – Personal Journey

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Self-Care Tip #199 – Bring together what you are naturally inclined to do with what you spend your energies on.

When we do what we like to do, what is congruent with our hard-wiring, what is naturally inspiring, fatigue becomes part of our pleasure in my life.  Cliché,

Enjoy the burn,

…is common for a reason.  There are times when pain, fatigue, difficulty and hard-surfaced days are bits of what make life journey one of richness, rather than diminished.  I was reminded by Jaclyn Rae’s Blog-post today, that when we can say,

I’ve learned that I’m tired but still want to do what I do,

…we are paddling the same river our life is floating down.  When we by mental illness, misfortune, choice or neglect, don’t – we are more observant of our lives rather than participants to them.  We find being present in the process difficult.  It’s not something everyone can do in all aspects.

However, we don’t have to be defined by those particulars, choosing instead to do the hard work of processing our choices, our energy and where it comes from, our emotions and see how they weave into our constitution.  Then, some time when breathing hard, limping and spent, we will remember this and reconnect the experience with the choice and the emotion a little quicker.  We will less often separate from the water our life is traveling.  Not become observers but participate more often, more actively, more tangibly with that kernel in us that stays, our essence.  (See blog post, My Essence.)

In the marvelous work, “His Dark Materials” trilogy, Philip Pullman describes us as split persons, a body and a spirit (“demon”) that might be parted by neglect, carelessness, abuse, or other disasters.  But when it is separated, the body suffers and is disconnected from it’s life purpose, what brings pleasure and presence in the world around.  (See blog post, Soul and Body.)

There are medical illnesses that do this, as mentioned above, and in those cases, perhaps all to do is get medical care, heal, treat and get on with life.  Other times, it might be that we forgot ourselves in the midst of caring for children, a demanding job, an opinion that victim-hood defines our life possibilities or what not.  We have options.

As Jjen reminded us some days ago,

The bad doesn’t disappear but it is not a qualifier for the rest of life’s potential.

Questions:  How have you reconnected to your life journey?  Your essence?  What is constant about you in your changing self?  Please tell me your story.

Goodbyes Are A Way To Connect

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Self-Care Tip #184 – Respond to your goodbyes deliberately to be friendly to yourself.

One of the Regional Centers that I work at is closing their telemedicine clinic.  This means I’ve said goodbye to many beloved patients and their families, whom I’ve worked with since round 2003 I think.  Saying goodbye to people we respect and enjoy is not as casual as we stylin’ people make it look.

Two days ago I said goodbye to my girlfriend of around five-plus years and her family.  Moving far far away makes the flat world feel lumpy and luminous.  I now have all her leftover food and knock-offs she didn’t want to haul across the lengthening world to remind me that she is gone.

Watching parents and/or grandparents age is also an exercise in saying goodbye.  My parents have a hard time making it over to visit on week-ends for all the funerals they go to.  Their calendar sends over that whispering voice that they are growing old.  “Look,” it says.  “See me.  I am aging.  Time is connecting and taking me with it.” Even so, their essence holds its own, apart from Time.  That makes me feel more comfortable.  When that whisper gets louder I may respond differently, I can’t know until then.  But for now, this is good.

“Goodbye” is something that begs a response.  “Oh yes!  Goodbye!  See you later.”  I even say, “See you later” to people I know I have less than one percent chance of running into again.  The word calls to me and I respond.  The word implies a disconnection, but even so, beckons us to connect.  It spreads us over the space of our time shared and into the future apart.  Peanut butter and jelly, it sandwiches us up with the one who says “Goodbye” when we say back, “Until then.”

Today with these people and remembering all the ones I won’t get to see before my contract ends, I feel the pull to respond.  My response can be something deliberate.  It is another bit of something I get to choose.  I hope it will connect me.

Question:  How have you responded to the goodbye’s in your life?  How has it been a connecting force for you?  Please tell me your story.

There is Less Space Between Emotions And Science Than We Think

The supermassive black holes are all that rema...

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Self-Care Tip #147 – Bridge the gap between emotions and science.  Be a friend to yourself.

She had been through a lot – Aimee.  Lost her baby brother to medical disease.  Was in a stressful marriage and didn’t like her work.  There was more but you get the drift.  She found herself thinking that things would be different if things had been different.

Would they?

Readers, I am referring specifically to her medical condition.  Not to the fact that the universe is different because her brother died.

Madeleine L’Engle talked about death affecting the whole universe.  She compared it to the death of a star.  In death, the star creates a hole in space dark and large, enough so that the absence of it has its own gravitational force, a “black hole.”  L’Engle says that when any part of creation dies, we are all touched.  Life knows and the absence of that bit of creation leaves the surviving universe changed forever.

Aimee wasn’t talking about that.  Aimee thought her emotional illness was largely secondary to her life stressors.  Because this influenced Aimee’s choices regarding her medical treatment, I had to tell her no.  Gently.  It was hard for her to hear.  “Aimee, your sadness you feel now, four years after your brother’s death, your isolation and amotivation, your low sex drive, your difficulty feeling pleasure in other things, your sleepiness during the day – these things are not because you have suffered your brother’s death, nor because your marriage is hard.”

There are times when directly saying things is the more gentle approach.  No one going through what Aimee is going through wants to hear about how I feel about it.  Yuck.  There’s not much that is slimier than going to someone for objective feedback and getting their emotions and personal opinions all over you.

Aimee left saying she understood and with a new medical treatment for the medical illness propagating emotional and behavioral symptoms in her.  We’ll see if she did some days from now.  But what about you?  Do you believe that her emotions and behaviors were secondary to medical illness?

Readers, life stress will continue to happen.  What may change is how we respond to it.  If our response does change and it isn’t serving us or others well we need to think that we might not be interpreting how we feel objectively.  We might be having changes to our biology that “taste like chicken.”  It helps to get a physician’s opinion – someone who sees behavior as more than the spirit, the abstract, the puppet of our volition.

Question:  How do you bridge the seemingly abysmal distance between emotions and science?  Please tell me your story.

The Healing Process Can Be Confusing.

Self-Care Tip #127 – Because feelings can be confusing during self-care, keep connected to someone(s) objective.

A colleague told me the other day about his patient.  Of course he didn’t name him, but I’ll call him Brent.  Struggling with melancholic depression for many years, Brent started medication therapy.  He began feeling better emotionally.  But at the same time, he started to believe that he didn’t love his wife any more and started a dialogue with her about possible divorce.

It’s tempting to judge Brent.  Easy to say, “What the…!?”  Still, because we don’t know the full story, nor his thoughts, nor consider ourselves his Judge, we won’t.

Self-care can be a tricky road.  It’s not all ah-ha moments and nirvana.  Have you been there?  Confused by your feelings as you heal?

A common reaction to improving is associating the things in our “ill” life – when we were feeling terrible – with other elements that may not have had anything to do with our bad feelings.  Perhaps Brent’s wife was guilty by association and at some level he may have connected her to the dark emotions he so desperately never wants to feel again.  Bits of this idea are also in a previous post about panic disorder and grief.  For example, someone may change her profession because she believes her previous work is causally linked to the way she felt when ill.  Maybe Brent wanted a change in spouses for the same reason.

When we are going through the healing that self-care brings, we might not find our new emotional baseline for a while.  During that time, and because feelings are often not trustworthy, stay connected to the support network, confidants, the trusted few who can be our third-party advisors.

Although taking action on for our own health involves lifestyle changes, knowing when and how to get feedback is key.

Question:  What has confused you about your healing and self-care journey?  Please tell me your story.

Toughing It Out! …Is Not What You Think.

Mental Health of our Military

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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.

A Little Bit is Not Enough – Claim Full Health

The good news is, I just ate 3 chocolate chip cookies.  You already know the bad news.  Has nothing to do with my post.  I’m just sharing it for the sake of your own

Schadenfreude 🙂

…Onward.  Question:

Does emotional disease get worse even while on medication therapy?  Sometimes.  It does so more often when the disease process is treated but only partially treated.  Read a little more about this in this post if your interested.  A primary care physician recently told me, “I think the term ‘Partial Responder’ is a marketing gimmick to get physicians to prescribe more medications.  I don’t think it even exists.”

There’s a lot to be said about interview skills in sussing out the partial responder.  If I asked someone if they felt better, many things play into their response. Everyone’s responses are biased of course.  We don’t have sterile minds.  For example there’s the patient who wants to please their physician.  “Yes I’m better!”  i.e. “Yes you’re a good doctor!”  There are the patients who don’t want to be patients and minimize whatever they’re going through.  There is the physician who leads the interview.  “So, you’re feeling better?”  “The medication is helping?”

Partial response means that at the end of a full treatment initiation period, there is some disease remaining but a reduction of disease.  For example, in depression, I may no longer be suicidal, but I still have trouble feeling pleasure in life.  In cancer it means that there is tumor reduction of at least 30%.

Now why would a physician presumably agree that there is a partial response in cancer, but not agree that it happens in mental health?  Anyways….  (Ahem.)  When we partly respond to mental health treatment and don’t push further for full response, about 70% will relapse.  Versus maybe 25% in those who reached their pre-disease baseline emotional health through treatment.

Don’t get lost in this.  The point is, get treated and get fully treated.  Mental illness is progressive and causes changes at the cell level.  The brain is connected to the rest of our body.  The brain is human.  A bit better, is not enough.

Self Care Tip #61 – Go all the way!  Claim health.  Be a friend to yourself.

Question:  Did you find this to be true in yourself or someone you know?  Please tell me your story.