Set Your Self-Care And Moral Jailer Free.

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Self Care

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Self-Care Tip – Set your self-care free.  Be a friend to yourself.

Self-care just is.

The problem about saying self-care starts and ends with Me is that people forget about the journey it travels between here and there.  People become fearful that it means alone-care, apart-from-God-care, selfish-care, and so on.

When we take care of “Me,” we can connect more with others, including God, have more inside of us to give to others, and have more interest in the world around.  The opposite disables our abilities to do those things.  Again we say, “Can’t give what we don’t have.”

God gave us this person, “Me,” to take care of.  He considers “Me” valuable and of high priority.  He celebrates with me and cheers me on.  He stands beside me and He doesn’t see self-care as having exclusionary implications to anyone else.

Please, shake it off.  Self-care is no more of a moral issue than anything else.  It just is.  It is a choice, a freedom, an opportunity.  It is as much about salvation as any other act of good or bad, and has no influence on our worth.  It just is.

Lord, What must I do to be saved?

– Paul’s Jailer.  Me.  Could be you.

Questions:  How do you speak to the stigma in your church, community or self toward being a friend to yourself?  How do you get to Me, despite the pressure to pay-up to all the others around you in emotional and physical energy first?  How is your relationship with God when you are friendly with yourself?  Please tell me your story.

Self-Care Workshop Notes, by An Attendee

Sharon Profile

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We have been meeting Thursdays, as you know, for our workshop.  Every meeting takes me by surprise by how well it goes, which may be a bad sign but that’s just how my nerves go – setting me up for some denuding catastrophe.  I don’t think Billy Graham or Martin Luther King had that problem.  Even so, pressing forward, I and the rest of the group have done the hard work to get ourselves there – and the inherent energy and brilliance natural to being good to oneself did the rest.

One of the attendees spoke for a couple minutes and I thought you might want to know what her prompt notes looked like.  This woman is one of the courageous.  She has been victimized horribly but she is not a victim.  She has chosen freedom.

I WAS ASKED WHAT IT MEANS TO ME TO BE A FRIEND TO MYSELF

  • Had no idea 
  • hadn’t thought about changes made in my life as if in doing them I was “being a friend to myself”
  • Only have learned what I need to do to stay emotionally healthy and balanced
  • Some of these things cannot be compromised and yes, I do catch flak occasionally, but as I stand my ground it becomes less frequent
  1. Friday group with friends
  2. Aftercare group once a month
  3. Meds (acceptance, cooperation with dr)
  4. Saying “No”
  5. Responsible for only me
  6. Reaching out (for myself and for others)/ Connecting
  7. Recognizing when I need help
  8. Faith (new)
  9. Setting boundaries
  10. Therapy as necessary

Starts and Ends with Me

  1. Don’t give power over myself to anyone else
  2. Always have a choice, yes or no, but consequences go along with each choice

Awareness of situations and circumstances that are unfriendly to me

  1. Drama: the friendly action => minimize exposure
  2. Confrontation:  When it came to Tall Poppies, I wanted to rip out at roots and crush into ground; 
    1. can’t allow myself to get to that point; 
    2. wait until not angry or just let it go; 
    3. use insight to figure out other person’s angle or underlying issue

My employment:

  • loved it
  • my identity
  • first priority in life
  • many years of discussions about it killing me and need to give it up but wouldn’t at any cost
  • after truck crash, priorities changed
  • few more years passed and realized time to give it up
  • still miss it very much but cost to my overall well-being is too high
Questions:  Since becoming a better friend to yourself, what has changed in your life?  What does it mean to be your own friend?  Please tell us your story.
Self-Care Tip:  Take inventory on what you have done for yourself differently when you were being friendly.  

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Calibrate the forces in your life

Calibration

Calibration (Photo credit: Kyle McDonald)

I’ve taken this week off, mostly at least. Besides a couple half-days, I’m living the non-income life, otherwise known as “vacation.” In any sort of self-employment, that’s what vacation is – a carefully calibrated force with another opposing, calibrated to keep me from mutating. All for the price of income.

It was getting close there, and just in time, after the significance of making wrong change and missing signatures finally broke through, I found myself here. Vacation. #gratitude.

But what does one do, “relaxing?”

Yesterday, someone asked what Adam and Eve did before the fall. I loved that question. What did they do all day? Reminded me about my thought-thumbing through what a heaven or eternity would be like. Where’s the delicious tension from living this way, dynamic and traveling persons? I’m very interested to know what will keep my attention for eternity.

Anyhow, vacation is like what one patient described as counting the days, either with anxiety or happy anticipation, of when you will be going back to work. I would say that it’s an exercise in calibrating the forces in ones life, before she mutates.

I remember as a little girl, with tangled hair in my eyes and muddied toes, hearing, “At the end of someone’s life, no one ever says they wished they worked more.” It scared me. I sensed the intent behind these words to threaten whoever was out there working and not spending time with their family. I was scared for them and at the same time for myself. This has replayed many times in my mind since then, in shifting sounds and shapes as my thoughts took on the years and experience of what family time offers/takes verses work time. And then finally one day, I said to my sister, “When I’m in the dying stage, I don’t think I will agree with that. I can’t imagine ever not wanting to work more.”

When one gets to do something as fun as work in psychiatry, with heroes and see magic and watch what all that does to their own person in a process no less than what a dreamers canvas would display – they don’t ask for less. They will always want more, and so will I. This is not a qualifying statement of how much of my family I want in my life at all. One of the major problems with the original scare is that it is based on assuming either-or, either work or family. That’s ignorant, same as my fear.

So tonight, after a pajama day cleaning out the toy room, kids and movie time, my flow was interrupted by thoughts of patients’ narratives and personalities, and I missed them. Vacation, against that, makes for a pretty relaxing time. #gratitude.

Self-Care Tip – Calibrate the forces in your life. Be a friend to yourself.

Questions: How do you relax? Do you enjoy your work? What will you still want more of when you are in the dying process? Please tell us your story.

Do You Believe In God?

Yesterday, sitting with all the intellectuals, the thinkers and the brains, my “Big Fat F” felt like I was dressed wrong more than once.  However, thanks to you guys and what we’ve done together, I was able to recognize it and make it through without sautéing the shame of being who I am wired to be.  See blog-post, Hear, Be Hear, Believe and Speak in Your Language.

 

Ma-Student03

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There are temperaments that find it easier to believe in God I think; feelers, more so than thinkers at least.  But definitely not across the board.  Whatever our temperament or brain health, we are all deciding what to do with the surging evidence of the evolutionary history of our world.  This can translate into an all-or-none decision for the existence of God.  When logic and knowledge make a seven-day creation unbelievable, than believing in God might too.  When we discover the repeating themes between religions, Buddhist with Christianity with Mayan and so forth, than rather than believing in a message that is bigger than culture and Time, we might believe that there is no message.  When we understand emotions and behaviors on the cellular, hormonal and related biology and draw the line even more clearly to evolutionary origins, we might nod our heads.  “No God.”   When we say,

Everything starts and ends with me,

and in the connections we find, discover humanism decreasing the perceived need to depend only on God, we might pull a hand back, take in breath, go silent and think,

Is this all?

Yesterday, talking about oxytocin, how it was measured and manipulated, how emotions and behaviors were measured and manipulated, I was in awe.  I always am by these discussions.  It amazes me over an over again that we can have this beautiful understanding about emotions and behaviors.  However, there was the curtained message that there is no God.  I can’t say exactly how I believe this to be true.  But I do.  I felt a chill and remembered, even if these things are true, doesn’t say anything about God not existing.

All these things that I use to define my reality, which of them can be really trusted?  Love, Emotions, Time, biology, personality, senses, brain, essence, connections and external input, learning and knowledge, the Bible, visions and more – they don’t have to define the existence of God but for many of us they may.

So I ask you, of all the things you use to define your reality, what do you trust?  Do you use them to grow your belief in God or vice versa?

Self-Care Tip – Work these questions over deliberately before these questions work you over unsuspecting.

What Is Your Life-er?

Cover of The Cowardly Lion of Oz.

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I’ve been doing my usual struggle with lifestyle, health, weight and image maintenance.  It’s one of my life-ers.

There are some things we will courageously and sometimes cowardly maintain our fight with.  These are our life-ers.  We will have it on our docket every day.  There are times when this will blow us away with frustration, hopelessness and feelings of impotence.  Other times we will see it more calmly for what it is.  It is.  No more or less.

It’s helpful to say these things out loud.  That way when we wake up and see the life-er there, or catch a reprieve with distraction, or work like a mad-dog to get friendly with ourselves despite it all and find that that doesn’t take these life-ers away, we will maintain hope.  We will see these life-ers, although part of us, don’t define us.  We will own them and weave them into our friendship with ourselves – flawed and perfect selves.

What is your life-er?

Self-Care Tip – Knowing what your life-er is, is part of being a friend to yourself.

Summarizing What You Say About Friendship With Yourself

Friendship

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In Summary:

Q1:  What does being “a friend to yourself” mean?

  • self-awareness
  • Acting on that self-awareness
  • Grieving who I wished I was
  • Valuing Me

Q2:  What helps?

  • Knowing where emotions and behaviors come from
  • No self-injury or aggression to others
  • Knowing God
  • Gratitude/self-inventory
  • Support from outside of Me
  • Personal check-points in place to offensively guard again self-sabotage

Q3:  What doesn’t help?

  • Perfectionism
  • Ingratitude
  • Untreated or treatment resistant brain illness
  • Stigma
  • misdirected efforts to feel empowered (such as, preoccupied thoughts = control)
  • isolation
  • habit

Q4:  What helps despite this?

  • Self-forgiveness
  • Realism/Without catastrophizing
  • Tenacity
  • Remembering what your self-care has done
  • Presence

Q5:  What is the relationship between biology and choice when it comes to understanding where emotions and behaviors come from?

  • Biological template determines function
  • Choice is there for using that template

Love Differently, Love Your Flaws – Be a Tall Poppy

Tall Poppy

Image by Steve Corey via Flickr

To my family and friends, I thought differently.

But since I’ve loved my flaws less harshly, like pointing jeweled fingers;

since I’ve fallen and let myself savor who I was just then, rasping throat from less than gentle sounds, beautifully broken down, a phoenix who was afraid and not afraid to die;

since I’ve been in the same room with myself, my smells, my dying cells, my mistakes and since I’ve loved these things – since then I have loved you.

I thought I was before but this is differently better.

I am loving you when you turn away and miss your opportunity to praise.  I feel myself soften and think how you are mine.

I am loving you when you miss your self-care and come late and forget.

I thought differently before.

I thought I loved you more the other times, but this is.

It is better to see that you will never be who I expected and that you just missed the turn and won’t.

It is better since I have thought more of me.

And although this sounds off; a discordant honk in the culture score around us,

Although this is awkward showing my ankles exposed while I walk amongst tall-poppies, I even love that

and it is not to say I gloat,

just that I won’t run to hide behind my accomplishments

and won’t hide you behind yours.  I love you more because there is more.  This is differently better and I love you.

Self-Care Tip #278 – Be a tall poppy.

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We Try Knowing We Will Fail. The Wonderful Journey Of Flawed People.

The t-shirt

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It’s 9:23 PM and our little kids are still awake!  They’ve cried.  They’ve laughed.  We’ve cuddled.  We’ve spanked.  They’ve taken two showers and brushed their teeth twice.  We ate several times.

I was riding my bike, watching a movie, (I love that!), and my daughters were taking turns coming in to complain, wet me with their tears, snuggle, hold me; you get it.  My exercise and my movie were peppered with refreshing breaks.  Sitting on the couch chair nearby with my five-year old during one of these intermissions, holding her, I was able to say,

It’s okay.  

I was able to do this because I was the one in the casita getting pumped up and my husband was the one in the house herding children to bed.  He had the tough job that turns me into a turnip and I had this.

You can do it.  You can try again.  You can try again, even if you are trying for the one-hundredth time.  You try and you try and you try again because that’s what makes our lives beautiful.  The trying part mostly.  Not the arrival.  

And that’s when I grabbed her and held on.  I suddenly felt so blessed.  From this off-night, I was given the reminder that the trying part of life is where it is at.

It’s 9:33 PM and I think they’re asleep.  Sigh.  Tonight was awesome.

We are flawed people.  We try, knowing we will fail.  Who does that?!  Why would anyone do that to themselves!?  Smile.  Ah.  Sounds wonderful.

Questions:  How is your journey?  Have you been enjoying your failures lately?  Please tell me your story.

Self-Care Tip #273  – Enjoy your failures.

In Mass and Individually, We Are Beautiful – Lady Gaga

Someone, who has experience fighting for her emotional and behavioral health, advised me to listen to Lady Gaga – Born This Way.  She said, “Don’t be scared by it!  Just listen!”

So I did.  And then I did again.  Her message is not, “Don’t stress out.  Don’t work hard.  Just be who you are.”  It is rather, “Figure out who you are and embrace that fully.”  By her own example, she tells us to work harder than anything else on embracing that.  Gaga says, love this unique self and respect it openly and privately.  She tells us that we are all beautiful in mass and individually.

So let us know what you think!  Is her message our message here at FriendtoYourself.com?  Are you uncomfortable with loving yourself so well?  Please tell me your story.

Anger – Sometimes There Doesn’t Have to Be A Reason

A metaphorical visualization of the word Anger.

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Self-Care Tip #244 – When emotions and behaviors come without being asked by you, think about the medical reasons.

She needed to keep going, Minka felt hurt and angry.  Control and failure nipped at her.  She wondered what it would take for her to recognize her own success.

Minka had a child who provoked her.  But worse for Minka, was not perceiving progress in their relationship.  Minka was bewildered by it.  But still and more so, angry.  She asked me what she needed to do to be happy and feel like what she did when life was good.  It reminded me of the man who came to Jesus and asked,

Teacher, what good thing must I do to have life forever?  (And listed off all his good deeds.)

Just as I was thinking about this, sure enough, Minka listed off her self-care efforts, angrily as if they failed to redeem her.

Turning this around in my mind, my thoughts ran over a differential – the 3 C’s, her temperament, her biology, other medical conditions, other influencing stressors and I wondered if Minka was angry in other situations as well.  (See The Biopsychosocial-How-To.)

No one really likes themselves much when they are angry.  Anger is pulled through the capillaries and passed on until it colors all of us red.  It is a confusing emotion; internally preoccupying.  Many people don’t remember chunks of their lives during which they said things and did things in anger.  It just disappeared into the white noise of the emotion.  During anger-binges, people can black-out too, much like alcohol.  Often times anger comes without invitation.  Often times, anger is not something that will leave by invitation either.

So we know already that the 3C’s apply to this kind of anger.

I didn’t cause it, I can’t control it, I can’t change and or cure it!

Minka hurriedly answered that they didn’t work for her but she had tried.  It was on her self-care list apparently.

I don’t want to blame my daughter.  I know I’m responsible for how I feel but I keep holding her responsible even though cognitively, I know she’s not.

That was pretty big.  In my opinion, she could put that on her self-care list and check it off as well.  Steller.

the

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Through further disclosure, I learned that Minka hadn’t enjoyed anything much lately – not only her daughter.  She was irritable, edgy, felt superior to others and then kicked herself over it.  Minka said she tolerated less and less of what life touched her.

I wrap those descriptors in the same nap-sack as anger and mood.  They are on the affective spectrum and for Minka, it wasn’t for lack of trying hard enough, for lack of being spiritual enough (it makes some of us uncomfortable to say this), or missing a puzzle piece from her psyche.  Minka was medically unable to put her anger aside and connect with her daughter.  Minka’s medical condition was isolating her not only from her daughter but most other bits of life touching her.  She was ill.  She wasn’t choosing those emotions.  Now came the job of helping Minka see that and go for help in the right direction.

Question:  What is your opinion about behaviors and emotions coming without being invited or chosen?   …without a “reason” for being there?  Please tell me your story.

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Moralizing Behaviors and Emotions

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Self-Care Tip #233 – Stop moralizing behaviors and emotions to be a real friend to yourself.

Responses to yesterday’s blog-post, I believe, revealed my point in time position in moralizing behaviors.  It is no excuse, but yesterday for reasons of my own limited perspective, personalizing behaviors, perceived judgment from myself and others, and cultural biases including some good old-fashioned well-intentioned holy roller atmosphere, I hooned in on that darned word selfish.

That word, selfish, reminds me of any class bully who hurts others but maybe not for the reasons assigned by observers.  It is more than that though.  Inherent to its own definition, morality is more than implied.  In efforts to destigmatize it, evolutionaries, such as George C. Williams, coined the term, “the selfish gene.”  We as well, in efforts to peel it off of us “self-carers” here at FriendtoYourself.com, have discussed some of the biopsychosocial reasons for behaving in ways that disregard the needs of others.  We have talked about freedom to choose and losing abilities to choose.  Because we believe in magic, or miracles, or yet unexplained science – however each of us prefers to describe the unknown – we claim some awareness that we still haven’t yet given over fair perspective, despite our intentions.

The wonderful, ever articulate, gentle writer, reader and commenter, Cindy Taylor, reminded me of this yesterday, saying simply,

I found that taking an adrenal supplement has improved my sleeping patterns greatly.

What a girl!  That one and only Cin.

Yet yesterday, somehow, I didn’t say much about those things.

Questions:  What does “selfish” mean to you?  Why and how do you extricate yourself and others from it even though they appear to be just that – selfish?  Please tell me your story.

You Bring Light

Tonight my eyes are heavy and I’m yearning to go exercise before the clock denies me the chance.  I’ve thought of you folk all day and your thoughtful replies to our difficult questions.  I sense that the difficult questions are not finished for us.  We wonder together, and that wondering in company with you has become my white light – many, perhaps small, particles of different colors and brilliance coming together into what we have.

 

ht. learn.uci.edu

 

 

Thinking about your comments, I remembered Marsha, a young adult who asked me, intelligently, hands flung open to the universe at large,

Who am I if I’m a different person just by taking these pills.  I’m so different!  I like that difference but I’m scared by it too.

She was so vulnerable sitting there, lip faintly quivering on her down angled face.  She asked as we ask together, as I believe God wants us to ask, to know that we have an essence and because that essence has an indestructible connection to Him, the intuitive fear falls into a more friendly perspective.

Good night friends who bring light.  Thank you.  Keep on.

For Our Own Benefit – Share What You Got

Two young girls sharing a plate of spaghetti. ...

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Self-Care Tip #205 – Sharing Love with others is friendly to yourself.

For every person you care about and talk to about Jesus, they’re that much more likely to be led to Jesus.

I recently heard something to this effect out of the jolliest, most well-intentioned man.  He quoted some of my favorite verses such as “the rocks will cry out” and others to support his understanding that we hold responsibility to share the gospel.

I’m not here to say how Jesus works.  However, I have a hard time believing that God would leave your salvation up to the likes of me.  I have a hard time believing that God would leave my salvation up the the likes of you.  I do however think that it is good self-care and possibly helps us choose God more deliberately, more thoroughly and more decidedly.  Sharing the goodness in us, sharing what brings love into our lives, sharing what brings love to others, sharing what brings more connection between us – that has to be good for us.

Question:  How has sharing Love helped your narrative, your self-care and your connections in life?  Please tell me your story.

Be Willing to Stick Your Toe In The Water of Self-Care – Just Start.

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Self-Care Tip #204 – Be willing to stick your toe in the water of self-care – just start.

I’m not interested in medications.

I used to really wonder why anyone would come to me and say this.  Sometimes we would both realized that they didn’t know what a psychiatrist was.  My degrees seemed transparent as they hung so quietly on the wall.

My girlfriend, who’s an Ophthalmologist, loves it when her patients homogenize her work with what optometrists do.   And it wasn’t until I read Madeleine L’Engle did I understand more of the differences between astrology and astronomy by understanding their similarities first.

For the magi, astronomy and astrology were one science, and it is probably a very sad thing that they ever became separated. That is yet another schism which looks for healing…

Watch for the Light: Readings for Advent and Christmas.

In those cases when my patients don’t know who they came to see, I have tried to bridge the awkwardness with something to put them at ease.

Don’t run for the door.  There’s no cage.  See, the doors unlocked.  There’s no implication that you have to take medication just because you came to see a psychiatrist instead of a psychologist.

But I’m not interested in medication.

Then there are those who know who they came to see.  But they may not know the connection between behaviors, emotions and their brain health.  (Of course there are other reasons to see an MD I’m not covering here.)

I’m not interested in medication.

Who wouldn’t wonder?  Now I realize an MD is good for more than just prescribing, if she wants to be.  I know.  Wild and outrageous idea, right?  So before I educate anyone on my enormous fund of knowledge or my stealth abilities to diagnose and treat, I think about what it is that this someone thought they might get from coming to see me.

(Enters Fatima:)  Fatima came in this way.

I’m not interested in medication.

Fatima wasn’t feeling good.  Her emotions were corrupting her behaviors and quality of life and she was trying to help herself, stretching her toe into the pool of science, slowly.  She had never been a person to jump in and splash.

After speaking with Fatima for some time, we were able to come up with what she felt she needed help with, what she thought might be medical, what she might be willing to try – for now that meant engaging in psychotherapy, starting omega 3’s and vit D, working on her sleep hygiene, trying to get more aerobic exercise in (like a pill) and doing a mood chart.  We decided together that she would see how this goes for her over the next two to four months.  After that, if she wasn’t doing better or better enough, we’d consider a medical intervention.  We’ll see if she’s interested in medication.  Maybe not.  She can choose when she believes she’s making the right choice.

Questions:   What helped you take the plunge into medication therapy?  What held you back?  Or in someone you know?  Please tell me your story.

Starting With Your Own Answers to The Big Questions Leads to Reducing Stigma In Others

Alexander Ostuzhev as Quasimodo, 1925.

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Question:  How do you see the paradigm of spirituality intersecting with the paradigm of biology?

As a psychiatrist who blogs that behaviors come from the brain and not a theater script we voluntarily revise to perform, this is a good question.  As readers, and perhaps subscribers to this same belief, this is a good question.

In church, Bible study, or circle of any kind, there are fewer things that goad me more than listening to descriptions of the moral value in emotions and behaviors.  I have found myself visiting the lady’s room more often, carousing the fellowship hall-kitchen and fridge, or thrusting myself on a poor unsuspecting soul loitering by the door with my fervent uncomplimentary words.  I do this before I stand up and pull rank on the speaker.

(I know.  The words “pull rank” sound just as arrogant, and probably are, but they were said in the heat of the moment.  Please understand that the emotion behind them and including the words came from my brain.)

It wasn’t so long ago that suicides were thought to be the ultimate separation from God.  Oh wait.  That’s still happening isn’t it?  It wasn’t so long ago that anger and sadness were thought to be from separation from God.  Oh wait, they still are.  Ok.  I’ll stop.  This is childish.

The hunched figure of Notre Dame comes to me now, ringing his bell, gazing at Esmerelda – pure heaven in flesh.  He offers up his humble life force, begging to be near her despite his biology.  He is ugly.  He is different.  He is separated by his own beliefs that he is forgotten by God.  His answer to our question is his own isolation.

This pithy topic has no boundaries across the world but yet I reduce it down to Me, one apparently arrogant psychiatrist, kicking up dirt where I stand.  I realize that the best way to protect us from stigma, to help you (again arrogant me swaggers in), is to start with my answer to this marvelous question.  I have to answer it for myself.  I have to start with self-care, spiritual care, relationship care, physical care – I have to start right here with Me.

These kinds of imposed opinions have never been reduced quickly.  We can’t take care of everyone before we take care of ourselves.  We must be patient.  We have the privilege to answer thoughtfully.  It is our freedom.  It is our right.

Self-Care Tip #193 – Answer the big questions in life for yourself, deliberately, and see that a secondary benefit is that it will protect you from the prejudice of others as well as reduce their prejudice.

Dad Is In The Hospital. My Reality.

Open-face helmet.

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Self-Care Tip #179 – Get inside your reality and be with Love.

When I was eight my family left me at Grandma’s farm for the summer.  There’s not much more inland to go than Iowa.  If the United States of America were a house, Iowa would be perhaps it’s cellar; full of smells, goods and it is a great place to play.  I played a lot that summer – as well as stepping in a cow-pie or two, riding tractors with Grandpa Jack cutting hay, pulling on cow tits and seeing the milk come out to shoot right into the cat’s mouth.  And I gathered eggs from pecking feisty chickens that would scare the bravest of any Coasters (those of us from the East and West.)  Grandma was no-nonsense and didn’t waste much time on coaching.

Just stick your hand in there and take the eggs.

As an eight-year-old you haven’t known real fear until you face down a mother hen in a musty unlit poop filled coup, and reach under her feathered skirts for eggs.

That summer Dad came to get me early.  I was really happy to see him.  Uncle Mel and my cousin Dougy had been in a motorcycle accident.

Dad is an orthopedic surgeon and since my summer in Iowa,  Dad has called motorcycle helmets, “brain-buckets.”  He’s seen a lot of them in emergency rooms, so he knew what his brother had looked like.  Dougy was in a hospital bed being introduced to his now forever useless arm.  I came in shy, because Dougy was so cute.  I was thinking about what he thought of me.  I know.  I did.  Despite my diva-self, despite the horror and grief, Dougy gave me a brilliant white-boy American smile.  I hid under Dad’s arm where I didn’t have to look but could still hear Dad’s voice.  I think I may have even whined.  I’m still embarrassed.

These days, unfortunately I rarely get to see Dougy, but when I do, I still want to hide under Dad’s arm as if he’d remember me there.  I wonder if he remembers Dad’s voice.

Today, Dad is in a hospital bed with a blood clot the size of a rattle-snake crawling up his leg, fighting for his right to walk, let alone live.  It is his voice, or maybe the bed, that brought Iowa back to me.

Cousin Patty was crying at Uncle Mel’s funeral.  She wouldn’t go up to the casket, just sat and cried.  I was a little bummed my cousins weren’t interested in me.  It was who I was at eight years old.

Grandma, who left me unsupervised to gather eggs from angry-chickens, cried and asked me for more kisses.

They taste like brown-sugar!  Give me some more.

Dad’s hands now have Grandma’s same wormy veins, raised over blotched ecchymosis (purple patches from leaking blood vessels into the skin); begging to be touched.

I went to see her with my brother Cam before she died.  She was delirious.  But I trusted her so.  I laid beside her in her hospital bed and looked up for a shoe she told me was stuck in the ceiling.  I thought, “There just might be one and these people don’t believe her.”  I was miffed.  Now I realize I was mostly angry because Grandma was dying.

The farm is gone and I wish I had the metal tub Grandma bathed me in outside on the lawn.  But I do have this connection in me to all she gave, the people who came from her and her showing me how to live and die.

If she was still alive and knew Dad was in this danger, she’d say, “Rob, I’m praying for you.  I Love you.”  And unlike my emotives, that would be about it.  She was from Iowa, you know.

This is my reality.  Dad is in the hospital.

Self-care includes being in our reality.  Sometimes it’s too much for one person to handle.  People need Love.  The reality of the world and of the individual is that we need Love.  We are better to ourselves and others when we can be inside our reality.

Telling you about this is my self-care.  This is part of my Love story.

Question:  What is yours?  Please tell me your story.

Say, “I Can’t Control This” When You Can’t

Playing in the Sink

Image by Paul Mayne via Flickr

Self-Care Tip #169 – When there is negative chaos, remember and say, “I can’t control this.”

Carol had worked there for seven years.  The supervisor had just asked her for more hours and Carol felt almost good to be able to say she didn’t have any more to give.  Yet when Carol got the email that her job position was closing in a month, she was physically affected.  Her autonomics (“fight-or-flight” reactions) were on full alert.  If there was an attacking bear, she might have out run him.

Healthy Carol had been to enough 12-Step meetings to remember, “I can’t control this.”  She said it a few times and turned it over to her Higher Power.  She did not crave or relapse in her addiction’s disease.  Her pulse was still fast and her hands were still tingling for the next several hours but she didn’t “use.”  She went to her meeting and she pushed on.

When Carol thought about her future and the things she could do to prepare, she inevitably thought about the things she couldn’t do.  She said,

I can’t control this.

When Carol imagined what other people would think after hearing about her unemployment, she said,

I can’t control this.

In mental health we struggle with that a lot.  The emotions that grow self-loathing, the behaviors that distance us from our support and loved ones, and/or the physical changes that keep us from performing – are all confusing.  At what point do we say, “I can’t control this?”

I remember a Seinfeld joke about water faucets in  public bathrooms.  The ones that you have to hold down to keep the flow going.  I’ll spare you the misery of me trying to retell it and get to the point.  Why do they have those faucets?  It’s as if they think people will have a water party in there or take free sponge baths if they could turn the faucet on long enough actually to wash their hands.

baby elephant | playing in the water

Image by Adam Foster | Codefor via Flickr

When we say something like “I can’t control this” to the idea of emotions and behaviors, the general fear is that people will take wild liberties, – splashing emotions around and behaving like elephants after the summer Serengeti drought ends.  Mayhem will ensue and the staunch healthy-minded with dry pants will have to clean continually after us.  Not many people want to be sullied by the emotions and behaviors of others and this, “I can’t control” business is a boundary issue.  Maybe stigma is one of the ways we change out the faucet on others.

There are some very primitive characters and severely ill people who might say in fact that they cannot control all feelings and behaviors.  This is more than most of us armored with some healthy coping skills would believe or say.

“I can’t control this,” is not a free pass to vandalism, vengeance, volley-ball or any other very vexing behavior.  It is not there to hand over like a ticket to other people for their excuse, justification or condolence of our situations.  It is there for us to hold up to ourselves for the purpose of honesty, submission to our Higher Power, humility and healing.  No one can control the flow out of that.  That is free self-care.

Questions:  When have you felt like you had to explain to others your behaviors and feelings even when you didn’t have an explanation?  How did you bring it back “home” to your own self-care and get past the stigma?  Please tell me your story.

No Matter Why, Where, or What Happens, Self-Care Starts and Ends With Me

Cover of "To Kill a Mockingbird: 50th Ann...

Cover via Amazon

Self-Care Tip #158 – No matter why, where or what happens, self-care still starts and ends with Me.

It’s no secret that I look at behavior through many paradigms.  Most of what I’ve shared on this blog is medical because I’m a physician.  That’s my specialty.  I’m not a physicist and don’t spend my posts on explaining how physics influences our behaviors – although I believe it does.  However, I don’t want you to think that I think behaviors and emotions exist within only the medical paradigm, even though that’s what you hear me talk mostly about.

According to Dr. Q, the roughly sketched breakdown of how stress intersects with medicine:

1.  Stress influences how we behave and feel. We “see” the stressors, and we see the emotional and behavioral responses, and we know their sources.  We know that emotions and behaviors are produced by a human.  Where else?  Anything magical or otherwise comes from Someone from another place.

2.  Stress influences our medical condition. Stress will awaken sleeping genes that carry the names of different diseases; cancer, major depressive disorder, schizophrenia, and so on.  Would those genes have awakened on their own without the external trigger flipping the switch?  We don’t always know.

3.  Because there are so many factors that influence the reasons a disease process demonstrates itself, we cannot say that it is causally related to the stressors.  Many people try to do this, and sometimes the disease’s labeled cause comes down to the jury’s decision.  But we don’t have to have read, “To Kill A Mockingbird” by Harper Lee to know that people’s opinions and judgments are biased.

4.  People try to find the reasons why.  This is natural and in my opinion appropriate.  However, where we look for the reasons for the feeling and behaviors is equally important.  Seeking accountability for how we feel and behave to come from outside of ourselves, to come from external reasons, to come from a source to fault is more often missing our chance to get friendly with ourselves.

“It just is,” as many say, and the 12-Steps would say “Surrender what is out of your control to your Higher Power.”  These are not inconsistent with owning that mental health begins and ends with Me.

Sure, there are the despicable situations of abuse, trauma, violence and other horrible biology changing events.  These are known to cause the one non-genetically related psychiatric disease process called post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD.)  These are situations consistent with our previous post on not being responsible for our history but being responsible for our futures.

5.  Stress, other than in situations of PTSD, is not causal for the progression of mental illness.  Everyone has stress, but how we deal with it, how we cope makes the difference.  Even horrible events, such as losing ones wealth and the sequelae of it are not causal for the continuance of brain disease.

6.  Medications, lifestyle change, Love and various other therapies effectively influences the way genes express themselves, our biology, and our medical condition….

7.  …In so doing, medications, lifestyle change, spirituality and various other therapies effectively influence our emotions and behaviors.

Question: How has your understanding of how stress intersects with with how you feel and behave affected 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...

Image via Wikipedia

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.

Oh Well. That’s How Things Go.

Artist's rendering of Georgiana

Self-Care Tip#146 – Hold your wonderfuls and your non-wonderfuls together.

Oh well.  That’s how things go.

Today the kids were needing “parenting.”  Go figure.  I was trying.  About mid-day I heard,

Oh well.  That’s how things go.

At first glance you may not see its brilliance.  You may not see its hue of acceptance and texture of presence.  If you turn away too fast, you might miss the tension taking the back door out.  See?  The perfectionism is dissolving into the scum on my drinking glass that it is.  So look.  The room is crowded and for such a small statement to be noticed you have to really look hard.

Oh well.  That’s how things go.

Bits of us panic, thinking that sort of low-religion only leads to mediocrity, or worse.  But it’s not an either-or.  We can strive for excellence and still be present with what we don’t think is so wonderful.  We can include the non-wonderful in our consciousness and definition of self.  When the non-wonderfuls come around, wave, chat, take in the weather and carry-on.  There’s no crisis here.  I can see security waving excellence on.  No rubbernecking.  Things are ok.

Oh well.  That’s how things go.

I am reminded of the “The Birthmark,” by Nathaniel Hawthorne.  The gorgeous, lovable Georgiana, has a little hand print on her cheek.  A birthmark.  Her husband Aylmer, begins to detest the birthmark intensely and progressively.  It is so distracting to him that he stops seeing “her.”  In the end, it comes down to either be perfect or die.  Great story, and yes Aylmer, read my blog.

Question:  How have you made your peace with perfectionism?  How has it affected you?  Please tell me your story.

If you’d like to read another post with related information, see, “Adequate.”