Start Over

fabio

Muscled and gorgeous, he came in, like dessert, main course, and appetizer. Some people just carry themselves that way. It doesn’t work if they dress low, chest hair accentuated by opened buttons and glimmering chains. It doesn’t work if it’s their agenda, checking to see if you noticed, a finger hovering over the acoustic applause button. No. Attire must be intact, normal, not baptized in cologne. In fact, attire must be worn as if it is completely a non-issue. Attitude of a jack-rabbit, who never thought about his muscled legs. Those legs just hop because that’s what they do. That is the kind of attitude-ingredient to this kind of presence-recipe.

How would a mother name such a son? How could she know he would turn out this way? Greg is an essential name for this elixir to work, as essential as “Fabio” is to its destruction. Everything else may have been in place, developed over years, like a bonsai tree groomed under the tender ministration of Father Time, and caboom! “Fabio.” The bonsai becomes a paint-can-frosted Christmas tree. Greg’s mother named him ‘Greg’, in fact, because it was the dullest name she could think of, not wanting him to grow up to be anything like the sort of philandering infidel his good-for-nothing pig father “Fabio” was. Greg told me this. I didn’t come up with it. He knew it because his once beautiful mother, who worked seventy hour weeks, told him whenever he messed up, “I named you Greg! This is not supposed to happen!”

In came Greg, after three years of absentia. And it was like I had just seen him yesterday. His mother couldn’t believe that the name Greg would hold such a man, an addict. Yep. Greg hadn’t seen me for three years for a reason. There I was. Chirpy as ever.

Greg! Where you been?

Whenever a patient comes to see me, I believe in him or her. I believe. In part, because I believe in Me. I believe in my value. Wink. But I also believe in them because I believe in Love, and because I’m simply wired to. There are more reasons why we behave and feel the way we do, more than colors in your crayon box. It’s not just a moral issue, biology, or an adjustment to our human condition. Heck. His name may have even had something to do with it. “Greg,” is quite a name. But I did believe, more than I disbelieved, that he hadn’t been in to see me for reasons other than relapse. Maybe his primary doctor was filling his meds, and he was so stable he didn’t need psychiatry anymore! Yah! That’s it!

(This is inside information folks. You can’t tell anyone. My patients can’t know this about me. It could ruin my career! I don’t want them to be any more afraid of disappointing me than they already are. It’s hard enough to be honest in these places, and I do my darndest not to project my Pollyanna-agenda’s on them. They don’t deserve that. They deserve the hard-earned poker-face I screw into place when my heart gets broken. I purchased it with ten-years of my life from some magic spiders I quested in a cliff off distant shores. Bargain.)

Greg! (I said,) It’s great to see you!

Every patient wants to please their doctor. And every doctor wants to please their patient. And we all get our hearts broken at some point.

I was really glad to see Greg, after all. And he was looking good. But then I noticed he had more weather in his face, some clouds, lines, and gutters. And I noticed he wasn’t as glad. He had an aura of melancholy and self-loathing rolling off of him.

His little boy was with him, too, (Fabio. …J/K! Gotcha! Good ‘ol “cycle.”)

Greg sat there, thunder in his sorrow shaking his frame, and we reviewed his story. You may know Greg’s story. Greg may be your friend too. Or brother, husband, dad, or You. And you know the high from this addiction feels better than everything, until it doesn’t.

The best line ever spoken in this context is, “Relapse is part of Recovery.” That is from the God of Hope. That is what makes sense in every illness, like Charles Dickens is to literature, timeless and universal content, man. When Bob reaches for that doughnut, when Harriet rolls the dice at Pechenga, when Fabio uses porn rather than intimacy in a meaningful relationship, when Myrtle has to pull over on the freeway in a panic attack, this is when we ask, “Why am I alive?” and demand to start over for that answer.

I’ve asked that question fifty-plus times a week for fourteen-some years, and every time I ask it, I listen for an answer. I’m curious too. We all are, right?! It’s a marvelous question. Every time I ask, I wonder about the magic that keeps this beautiful creation in our community. I listen, because every answer is something that crescendos into the room, the words explosive, the best part of the atom.

I have a daughter. She needs me.

My dogs. Nobody loves me more than my dogs.

I want to know what it is to live without this.

I’m too scared to die.

God.

I just don’t know why.

Oops! Wait. “I just don’t know why,” isn’t good enough. Figure it. Finger it. Cradle it, and answer. What do you want to stay alive for? Because this thing! This thing is part of your recovery. Another day will come.

Greg left our appointment with options for treatment and a commitment to treatment. I’ll see him again and he’s one of the reasons I love life. Can’t wait.

Questions: Why are you alive? Please give us your answer. It will explode into the universe and someone out there needs to hear it.

Self-care Tip: Answer the question and start over. 

Why do I Keep Living? – Chronically Suicidal.

trainwrecklife

Carl D’Agostino is a retired high school history teacher. His interests include woodcarving and blogging. Cartoon blog at carldagostino.wordpress.com.   Cartoons published in book, “I know I Made You Smile, Volume I.”

Marvin lived hard for years, used up his bank, his talents used up like putting a flame to his wick.  He was wired to live in the moment. Living that way, when he had gifts galore freely given, living was different than when those gifts were used, diminished, and broken. Marvin was smart enough to rationalize his way into a chronic suicidality thereafter.

What is the point of living, after all? Marvin asked this question, answered it, and asked it again, to the point that it separated itself from Time and place. It is a question that is infinite anyhow.

Sometimes Marvin, with this infinite question, this question that occupies the time of God, kings, and beggars, Marvin would sit in my office with this infinite question in his nicotine-stained and inked fingers, and he would in this bring together the infinite with the finite. I remembered that the whole point, the meaning of the infinite and finite, is increased in value by the other. Marvin, living in the moment, even now years after his coin was thus reduced, was living in the infinite.

Why do I have to keep living? I just need someone to tell me it’s going to be ok if I die.

Marvin, If you are looking for a doctor to help you die, you need to go somewhere else. I will always choose life.

(It seemed like that “FYI” was in order.)

“We” made a plan …that Marvin wasn’t entirely in agreement with. I told him he could not come back to my clinic if he wasn’t engaged in that plan.

Marvin, we are just going to do what the data tells us will work. We don’t have to feel it or even believe it. We have the data at least.

Every time I have ever seen Marvin, I took a hard look, memorized him, knowing this may be the last time. Setting boundaries with him was freaky. It felt like trying to hold broken glass. Would Marvin be back? If not, I knew I’d be hurt.

The patient-doctor relationship is unique to each patient. It is unique to each doctor. For me, in my patient-doctor relationships, if it wasn’t for the hard grip I keep on the seat of my chair, I’d have too many of my patients in a big, but likely awkward, (and my Academy tells me, “Inappropriate”) hug.

This flashed through my mind in fair warning again. I compromised, saying instead,

You matter to me, Marvin.

I think Marvin’s lip actually curled and his canines grew. And I quote,

How can you say that? I just don’t get it.

This was a moment of road’s diverging, 31 Flavors, coins in your hand in front of a mother-loaded vending machine. I could see philosophers, all over the now and then of the ages, slobbering like they were at a nudie bar.

Once, when I called 911 on behalf of a patient who needed to go into the hospital for safety, the police person looked like that, bouncey even, on her toes. I had to check her feet to see if she was actually standing on a pedestal, she sermonized my poor patient so thoroughly. I think she was even eating a candy bar as she left my office, satisfied, (without my patient, by the way. Apparently she thought her tonic words had medicinal powers.)

Marvin was fishing me. There were so many ways to lose with that question. He was hoping I’d flop around with straining gills sucking air for hours while he tugged on the hook.

I’ve done that often enough, and will do it many more times. We can count on mistakes. What took me by surprise was, this time I did not.

Well, I’d guess it has something to do with me and something to do with you.

Yup. It surprised me. The surprise brought a wave of gratitude. “Thank you God.”

And if you aren’t as surprised or grateful by that liner, I can only explain that it was right at the time. Marvin lost his handlebar lip curl. I lost my grip on the chair. Marvin’s still alive, (I know everyone’s worried about the “for now” part of that.) And our universe cares, finitely and infinitely.

To the Marvin’s of the world, the wasted, the used, and the squandered, work your programs.

To the lonely and distorted, to the ones who have tried to die, to you who don’t know why you keep living, follow what the data offers by way of direction.

To you who may not get the same freely given gifts in this life that are now gone, you have good things coming.

We choose to live with you, than without. We choose you again. We choose, every time, what Love will bring. Keep on.

Questions: Have you ever asked yourself and/or others, “Why do I keep living?” What has your answer been? What is your answer now? For yourself. What would you tell your own Me?

Self-care tip: …I think I waxed on and off enough already with that – smile.

Love to Pee

peeThe little boy was standing in the tennis court by the fence, facing out.  Doing what?  Sure enough. 

“I’m nature peeing,” he said.

Have you ever seen as much happiness than in the faces of little people peeing?  Well, I love to pee, too. I think most of us do. That is until we pee inopportunely. Or poo. Ahem. 

I’m getting older and realize that my happy peepee-ing days are numbered.  Three kids later, into my forties, and like the garden faucet outside with minerals crystallized around a corroded fixture, dripping “will,” (ahem,) start. Soooooooo, sooooooome day, …urine will yellow my underwear. Kids, without discretion, will announce that I smell. And for the innocent, and a once happy pee gone horribly wrong, I will be ashamed.

The pelvis is like a woven basket. Muscles criss-cross in a wonderful design between a supportive frame, like plant fronds and wood. 

When I was an eleven-year-old, I travelled to the African continent.  It wasn’t every country, wink, but a few on the southern side. I don’t remember enough of my childhood. Who knows why. But I do remember, in every African market place, I looked on women and children weaving leaves and grasses. They didn’t even have to watch their projects. Their fingers had memory of their own.  Instead, their eyes were watching us watching them. Brilliant more-than-white smiles in chocolate black skin, turned their curious faces up.

My Mom, a lover of all things lovely, looked. She loved them all – the people, the baskets, the freedom of being in Africa, and more. Then the blood of generations of hagglers and market yellers whipped through her Lebanese veins with increasing energy, distracting her from a bigger picture.  She wished mightily for baskets.  She would have purchased every one and made us carry them all back to our home, eleven hours by airplane, if she could. (Those were the days when people smoked inside airplanes. You and I understand what that meant. That air inside airplanes was the same air everyone inside breaths. It was a long flight.)

A decade-plus later, World Market opened. I wondered about all the faces and fingers it must have taken to make all those gorgeous creations, now for sale in Temecula, CA, for twenty some dollars a piece.

How could I be so clueless as a twelve-year-old, but I was, and I didn’t know about the fingers that deftly moved, the brilliant plant dies, the tight strength that remained in a basket, like hands clasping, between each fiber. The baskets held memory.

These are the baskets I think of when I think of the marvel that the pelvis is.  These are the baskets I think of when I think about how much I will despise losing continence. When losing continence, I will also remember that little guy making “nature pee.”  I will pull the backing off another panty-liner and say, I used to really like to pee. 

Our emotions and behaviors are similar to the joy of peeing and the pelvic basket. We at one point in our life may have loved to live, loved to speak with friends, loved our hobbies and our stamps, and our cooking pans. Some day later, we wake up, and people notice the difference, like the urine smell in incontinence, people notice our emotions and behaviors “leak.” Kids point, even, “Mommy, why does Bridget’s Mom always wear those sweat pants? She’s in the same sweat pants every time we see her!”

It’s awkward. People don’t know what to expect from us. Our emotions and behaviors are not what is socially acceptable and they stop knowing how to speak to us. Our professionals who are supposed to help us don’t even know how to speak to us. They shorten their visits with us. They tell us how to feel, “Just decide. Make a choice. Choose to be happy.”

When people don’t know what to expect, it divides us and separates us and is uncomfortable for all. This discomfiture, (less often consciously aware,) is a barrier in knowing how to speak to a psychiatric patient. It takes a heck of a lot of self-awareness on each party’s side to look inside ourselves and figure out where our discomfort is coming from.

What will you think of when you “wet your pants?” Or of someone you are with? Feel your energy get sucked into the earth by a depressed colleague? Notice acid escaping your stomach into your throat when an angry child’s emotions fill a room? Your thoughts start to buzz when the white noise of anxious Dad comes around.

Remember the pleasure that came back in the day, see into our Me, identify the nidus of discomfort, and then let it lose it’s power over us – then the unexpected with be an encounter of mutual respect.

Knowing how to talk to a psychiatric patient, means that we are okay not knowing what to expect, not personalizing what isn’t about us, and allowing for a context that is in many ways unknown. With this, we will pull the backing off a panty liner and get on with it.

Questions:  How has the unexpected behaviors of your, or of others you know, been treated by your medical providers? How have you treated yourself in those scenarios? Please tell us your story.

Self-care tip: See into your Me to be better at speaking with the unexpected.

“I’m Making You My Business!”

“I’m Making You My Business!”

It is pervasive.barriers

We talk about salvation as if it is an event, a diploma, a point in time, something with a frame and boundaries and a rejection of everything else about us.  Salvation is not this.  Salvation is pervasive.

Same with carrying your cross, going out into the world, and so forth.  Salvation and all these life axioms are in the divorce we are suffering, the depression, the trouble with sleep, the courage we demonstrate going into public, the fear we succumb to, the freedom we give up to anxiety – this is all about salvation.  This is what going into the world means.  It’s not one or the other.

When we say, the world will fall away, it is saying that there are no dividers any more.  If you’ve ever heard the term, the best way to get rid of an enemy is to make her a friend, this is the same idea.  God who is and who is personal takes away the dividers and makes us Her business.

God who is and who is personal is important for self care because She is all about Me.

Self-care tip:  Let the barriers go and accept the presence of Love.

Question:  Does God improve your self care?  Do you see dividers between your personal stuff and what is, who is, God?  How does that serve you, Me?

Keep on people of courage!

Media Used Educates

media

Me:

Jasmine, I’m so honored to collaborate with you on this important post juxtaposing the various ways media shapes stigma and your own testimony.

Guest Post from Jasmine:

I love old ads, Victorian, retro, apothecaries…  not only are they works of art, but are full of the funniest jokes.

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It would be a lot easier to laugh at the ad agencies if it wasn’t for the fact that we buy it.  These ads are proof that our health depends on our willingness to look at more than media.  Just because we read it on the internet, see a commercial on TV, it doesn’t mean it’s the right path.

I look at my bottles of pills.  “Of course it’s safe, otherwise they wouldn’t be aloud to sell it in the grocery store”, I think to myself.  Or, “they must be okay because my doctor said so.  Somebody would have gotten in trouble for it by now, if it was bad”.

That kind of thinking gives away our power.  We are no longer responsible when we make it everyone else’s fault if something bad happens to us.  Even if the doctors and companies get sued, it is Me who will suffer the most.  There is nothing more important than our health.  How can we deal with life when we are distracted with health issues?  How will we treat people the way they deserve, when we’re not feeling well?

The point is that what we see in popular culture isn’t there to educate us.  It is there to entertain. Or make a sale.  Or push its other entrepreneurial agenda.

media

I’m trying to focus on smoking because there is no way anyone could deny they hurt you in some way.  Pills are different because there is a different mindset with that, and I’m saving that for another day…  But smoking clearly isn’t healthy.  My dad was one of those people who smoked 1-3 packs a day and said that it’s a myth that people are getting lung cancer from cigarettes.  He jogged everyday and worked out… with a cigarette in his mouth.  If he was alive, I would like to ask him if he thought he would be a better athlete with more stamina if he at least didn’t smoke while working out.  I know the times are different and we know more now than we did back then… But I smoked enough cigarettes in my day to know that I would hack up a lung every morning and had a regular cough, until I quit.

Questions:  How do we tell people what to listen to?  Not just listen to other dramatic people and what we want to hear… not kid ourselves and run away from the real solution, whatever it may be?

-Jasmine (I’m 39, a wife, a mother and I’m cRaZy!)

 http://lakeelsinorelife.com 

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Self-Care Tip:  Use media material for entertainment and look in better places for education and counsel.

What is The Difference Between Self-Care and Selfish Care

pencils

So what’s the difference between self-care and selfish care?

We hear this a lot here at, Friend to Yourself.  It is a question that can feel like an attack but also an opportunity.  Some people laugh when they say it.  Others do more of a huff.  Self-care shares with selfish care the condition of taking.  That has potential to be confusing.

Let us start with musing, what happens when we give to someone who doesn’t value themselves?  We give and give and they take and take but there lacks the receipt of value, only matter.  The person receives.  The person however doesn’t perceive the, Why?

Once there was Fred.  Fred asked Carl, “Hey man, would you please ask him for me?”

Carl has a childhood school friend he has stayed in contact with through the years.  Carl’s school friend, whom he used to call “Weasle”, is now Attorney at Law, Craig Anderson.  As Carl has nurtured the relationship through the years, sometimes it was easy and fun, and sometimes he nurtured it because it was just smart.  They worked in the same circles.  Once they had shared love of basketball and although they no longer meet on the court, they still meet up.  Carl saw in Craig someone worth investing in through the years, sometimes what Carl invested into Craig was intuitive and other times more deliberate.  Carl considered Craig a valuable contact.

Fred said to Carl, “I just need some information.”  How did Carl respond?  What Carl had with Craig is friendship.  However, he also has “social collateral.”

I remember when I was growing up trying to understand how much money my dad had.  I’d ask him about it, which I now realize is not completely appropriate.  He’d always tell me he was rich because of all the friends he had.  He said, “People are always the best investment.  The people you know, the friendships you have, will always bring you much more than money will.”  It was an early sight into “social collateral.”  I did not get it then.  I didn’t see the appropriate and natural intermingling of what is personal with what is bank.

Fred was asking Carl for his hard earned bank.  Before handing this over, Carl wondered, “Toward what purpose?” “What will that take from the social collateral I have?”  “What will I get from this?”  Fred had a sense of these concerns but he pushed the thoughts away.  He didn’t bring it up openly.  He asked without planning on accounting for what he was asking for.  Is Fred doing selfish care?

Let’s put Fred and Carl on the other side of this page for now.  Let us introduce Susan.  Susan is Lucy’s sister.  Lucy is known as “Floozy Lucy” amongst certain company.  Susan has rescued Lucy many times from life-threat, from financial ruin, from chaos.  Susan gives emotions, money, time, and once even her car to Lucy.  As Lucy continues to self-sabotage, however, we have a word for what Susan is doing – “enabling.”  What if Lucy valued herself more? How the dynamics between Susan and Lucy might be different.  Lucy taking from Susan would be more of self-care perhaps.

Our culture says we need to give give give and the taking is more whispered about.  It is not applauded like a big donation to the church.  It doesn’t consider what taking had to occur to allow someone at some point in their life to be in a position to give.

Over Easter this year at a small church in Corona, CA, I saw one of the best resurrection plays I’ve ever seen, including that compared to what I saw at the Crystal Cathedral years ago. The music, the props, the acting, all amateure.  However, the energy in the room, the connection between the congregation and the stage, and especially the awareness of our Higher Power was intense.  Out of all of this, what hit me the strongest was that the Judeo-Christian culturally celebrates everything about our God who sacrifices, who lives for others, who gives gives gives… but the whole point of what S/He did and does is Me.  Everything about God is His value for Me.  Without Me, that whole story is pretty mute.

Now put God in Carl’s position with Me.  Put God in Susan’s place.  Why would God want someone who gives to others but doesn’t take?  And take well, know they are a person of value.  The taking reflects quite a bit on the Giver.  The taking reflects quite a bit on the taker as well.

Take to grow your sense of personal value.  Take with increased self-awareness of your personal value.  Take to reflect on your connections well.  Take to be a better giver.

These are thoughts I’ve been rolling around.  What do you think?

questions:  What’s the difference between selfish care and self-care?  How do you take with a sense of your own value?  How does taking reflect on those you are connected to?  Please tell us your story.

Self-Care Tip:  Take to be a friend to yourself.  Keep on.

Angry Responses

offended, by Thys le Roux

If you are not deeply grounded in who you are and what you are doing, if you have not done your own work on your own entitlement and issues, you will by snagged be what others think about you.  This is why what YouTube comments have nothing to do with the video.

When you actually make something and take the risk and roll up your sleeves, when you choose to get off the couch, you become a wall for others to bounce off.  Think of movie reviewers who sit for two hours in a movie and write their review, but never spent a minute on the set nor participated in the grueling effort to create it.   What right do they have?  

The sense of being disempowered is terrifying.  This motivates both sides of this relationship – the creators and the responders.  The people who are the very best, work very very hard on the basics and that is why is looks casual and easy.

Bruce Springsteen’s new album drops today.  A man of hard labor and great flow in performance.   How old is he now?!  He targets everyday people searching for redemption.  He has been around long enough to gather criticism but here he still is, productive, creative, connecting with the world.

When you receive criticism, step one is not to defend.  Do not send them to the website  where they can learn more.  Step one is to find out what else is in the room.

You may go down the trail of defending, whip out your power point, only to find out that their question is a place holder.  They do not understand why you got off the couch and started talking.  Understand where the criticism is coming from.  You defuse things this way and also get to the question behind the question.

Say, “Tell me where that is coming from.”  Or, “Tell me more.”

The sooner you can figure out what else is in the room, what other associations are made from what you just said or did, the sooner you have connection and efficacy.

– This post is credited to thoughts gleaned from Rob Bell.  Thank you Rob Bell.

Question:  How have others attacked your best efforts?  How have you been able to separate what is about you and what is about them?  How have you helped the others in their conflict so in the end you were able to connect?  Or not?  Please tell your story.

Self Care Tip:  Own your own junk and let others own theirs to connect.