Feeling Trapped is Doom

Freedom

Freedom (Photo credit: Intrepidteacher)

Did someone put a knife in my neck?

Goodbye sex.  Goodbye flirting.  Goodbye self-esteem.  It was a down-right turnoff for life, let alone sex.  He could not think of one thing worth living for, but killing yourself turned out to be a lot harder than self-loathing.

Sheez, pain was distracting.  Unable to work out in his club with anything that jiggled him waste-line and up, Monty knew he should look for a pool but he could not focus on even that long enough to Google it.  He felt guilty and then angry that he felt guilty about something he was trapped by.

Monty told me about how his life was now closed off from everything he found pleasure in.  He described his circumstance like a walled in monk with a small envelope-sized window through which he received water and bread.  The difference between him and the monk was that he did not choose to be cloistered.  He was a victim of his injury and nothing could help.

Feeling trapped is doom.  I listened to Monty describe his life without freedom to choose. His life was not there for him to participate in.  He was excluded.  Monty was doomed, per Monty.  So what was the point, indeed?  What was the doom-script doing for him?  Was he getting anything besides yuck from it?

Monty, the way you describe yourself does not have any place for you.  Either you really are trapped, or there is a door, or a false wall, or a sun-roof that you do not know about.  Or maybe you have a brick-braking tool available?

People from every point on the spectrum of brain illnesses defend their position of entrapment with more volition than a the red-tailed hawks flying above the groves around my house.  Even family members of persons with brain illnesses have defended the perception that their loved one does not have freedom to choose, as if suggestions of freedoms were the essence of social injustice, ignorance and stigma.

But it is not the pursuit of freedom that traps us. It is our fear.

Feeling trapped serves a purpose however.  It protects us from something that feels shameful.  It protects us from that which invokes fear.  Wanting not to feel shame or fear is not so wrong though, is it?  Wanting not to go toward what might be unbearable seems reasonable to me.  If it were truly unbearable.  If it were friendly to Me.  If it was not the road out of that hell-existence, out of that bricked in crypt, toward a place of greater safety.  If then, it would not be so bad.

Self-care tip:  When feeling trapped, do what does not feel safe and go toward your shame and fear.

Question:  How have you been able to find freedom in places where you feel trapped?  How do you manage to go toward shame when you feel so much fear?  Please tell us your story.

You Are Valuable, Even After Losing So Much

You Are Valuable, Even After Losing So Much

Artist Forrest King artismoving.blogspot.com

We all might take what we have lieft and love it.  We have this remaining and losing self.  The now person and the person that is losing something else on top of it all again and again.  Another tooth chipped.  Now it’s hard to find words.  Now training takes longer to get the same time.

We have what is left.  More or less, we have this.  This here in this moment in this person we might love, we have.  We have these with indefinite value, yet to be described by what passion and friendship we bring.  We have the bigger experience.  We have the slower pace.  We have the deeper understanding.  We have another night of rest.  We have breasts that have been remade.  We have a cancer free day.  We have a way of making bread like a story baking in a pan.  We give the value or spend our emotional bank on taking it away.

Whom of us hasn’t seen the little child’s vulnerable eyes taking a verbal slap,

“You are such a f—er!  Why did you do that?!”

The value was placed so low on that potential.

What do we do for our remaining selves?

Let us join together, lean in and enter the unknown space of discovering this person we have and are becoming during and after loss and gain.  Let us grieve together what and who has died.  Let us discover together what we have left.

Self-Care Tip:  Discover the value of what you are after losses.

Question:  Tell us your story of loss and gain in your remaining self.

 

Tenuous Connections – Where is Our Rock?

Skógafoss waterfall

Skógafoss waterfall (Photo credit: big-ashb)

So thinking more about Alena and her alien psychiatrist-poser

Why is Alena known, or recognized, by Alien?

Where Alien came from, brain illness isn’t sustained by the stress of living on her planet.  Those with brain illness either adapt to the primitive resources they live in or they, (pause,) “don’t.”  The community doesn’t know this is happening consciously.  They just know that some people are able to do what earthlings consider magic.  Those with brain illness evolved to survive.  Alien was one such benefactors of time and stress on biology.  She was not there for the process, but for the product

Earth was alarming.  It was the first time she’d ever seen someone with a broken mind.  Knowing where she came from gave her mixed feelings….

I’m getting my hands into this Time-play playtime!  Woohoo!  I have been rumbling over the beauty of all the beloved connections I enjoy, the cherished anchors and reflectors that I’ve used so long to stabilize my identity with.  My heritage, my profession, my employments, my interpersonal relationships, family, my body, currencies, and so much more gives me a sense of security.  A sense, however, in truth and not Time-less.  As so many of us know what the other side of that water-fall looks like – divorced parents, physical/sexual/emotional abuse, illicit drugs, loneliness, poverty, a bone spur or arthritis.

If Time is an arrow, what gives the increasingly obvious wispiness of our securities power?  What is our strength from?

I remember back when we discussed our Essence, the bit of Me that isn’t lost to death, suffering or brain illness.  According to, From Eternity to Here: The Quest for the Ultimate Theory of Time, by Sean Carroll, he’d say this can only exist if this Essence in Me is connected to space and Time.

Question:  Where does your connection come from?

Self-Care Tip:  Discover where you security comes from.

Paper Doll Syndrome – Changing Symptomotology Can Be an Opportunity to Remember and Celebrate

Paper Doll Photographer - 2/52

Paper Doll Photographer – 2/52 (Photo credit: Mark Hopkins Photography)

Fred didn’t remember his panic.  He thought his main problem was his sleep.  His
so-called “main problem” changed with his symptomatology.  Fortunately or unfortunately he didn’t know it was happening.

Fred reminded me of a paper doll.  Now I’m a veterinarian, now I’m a clerk.  Of course there are all the stories that accompany each outfit.  Our smithy imagination is fast.  Pull this off and press this in and now I’m a fire-fighter.  Now I’m a noble, now I’m a… patient.

The other day after the Hemet NAMI meeting, (they meet monthly on the first Wednesday at the Hemet Seventh-Day Adventist Church), a member told me that when they do outreach, they begin their stories with something like, “We are people who,” or “I am a person who,” deliberately avoiding the word, “patient(s.)”  Hoping to allow others to connect with their humanity, the specialness of their, “Me,” rather than the distortion that suffering is special they try to keep away from the paper doll experience.

Thinking of NAMI, thinking of Fred, I splayed the biopsychosocial-model tools I use.  What was here for Fred?  Fred’s biology was toward healing as he wasn’t having panic attacks any more and his thought processes were less circular.  That’s what we wanted and signified that his treatments, (including medications and psychotherapies,) were at least not harming him as far as we could tell, and might even be part of what influenced his healing process.  However, his ongoing symptomatology as seen in his poor insight, (paper-doll syndrome,) insomnia and persistent worrying thoughts demonstrated that his biology was only partially treated.

Fred, like you and I, and like women who labor babies into this world never remember their pain, by forgetting his panic, he lost his point of reference.  I said,

Fred!  This is significant!  Yay!  

Fred looked at me like I didn’t get it.  He wasn’t sleeping.  What was I thinking, “Yay?”  Well…  “Fred I was thinking you aren’t panicking on a gurney in the emergency-room today.  Yay.”

Remembering our suffering isn’t necessary but it can be a friendly reference point if we want.

Self-Care Tip:  Use previous suffering as a reference point to celebrate when you aren’t.  Be a friend to yourself.

Question:  Have previous sufferings lost their strength in your memory and diminished your celebrations?  How has suffering been used after they are gone to your advantage?  Please tell me your story.

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If You Love Me, Give Me Less But Give To Me Bigger and Better

Repost

Good news.  Marcy was better.  She was feeling better emotionally, less triggered by simple stressors, and parenting better.  Marcy didn’t think it was anywhere near easy, but it was better.

It had started for her about six months ago, when she realized her children were on edge around her, when she realized she didn’t want to be around her children and when she didn’t like much else either.  Was she a “crabby woman?”  Ouch.  It hurt her to think that.  Were some people just mean?  And she was one of them?  Marcy said no.  She couldn’t make anyone believe her these days but she knew she was designed for something better than that.

When this happened, Marcy hit self-care boot camp.  She cut her time with her kids, husband, any extras.  She didn’t cut them out, but she did cut back.  With that time, she went back to the starting point – herself.  She gave less to them, and more to herself so she could give bigger and better to them whom she loved, not excluding herself.

Good news.  Marcy is better.

Self-Care Tip – Give more to yourself.

Question:  What has your self-care taken from those you love?  What has it done with what you still give to those you love?  Please tell me your story.

The Gift in Wanting – Water, is Taught by Thirst

Water, is taught by thirst. 
Land -- by the Oceans passed. 
Transport -- by throe 
-- Peace -- by its battles told 
-- Love, by Memorial Mold 
-- Birds, by the Snow.
-Emily Dickinson

“Some people think of the glass as half full. ...

I have been quiet here for what seems like a long time and I am happy to be talking out “loud” again.  Thank you for being, friends.

Over the past year-and-a-half of writing and reading with you, of speaking and hearing, teaching and learning – instead of diminishing my interest, exhausting my energies and instead of completing this “task,” I am rather in process of crescendo.  This thing called, being a “friend to yourself,” apparently must continue.  It must because otherwise we would not.

Emily Dickinson knew the value of what was missing; but more so, she knew the value in the wanting of it.

Water, is taught by thirst.

I am ever aware that you and I do too.  It is this wanting that spurs in us our creative genius in this effort.  In any area of interest, in fact, whether it is this, to cultivate the caring of our own person, or to improve our eye of canvas, to swing our sword or to put pen to paper – if we do not sense potential, pleasure still to come, if we do not see beyond where we are to what might be and if we don’t want it, we will miss our selves.  We will lose our pearl to the muck that hides us.

Counter to intuition, presence is in fact enhanced by our wanting.  We clarify our point of reference to each other and to Love when we realize that we are toward something greater than ourselves.  Having that point of reference is nourishing.  It is active and it is connected.  The understanding of what we want still, have yet to obtain, rather than destabilizing or isolating us, it improves our footing and our community.  And like Emily, we give up much just to experience the exquisite process of joining our own journey.

This is what thirst has taught me.  What about you? Please tell me your story.

Self-Care Tip – Before the gift of your thirst, pursue it knowing you are blessed.  Be a friend to yourself.

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Be Friendly Enough With Yourself To Acknowledge the Gift In Your Suffering

Strange Lady

Image by bending light via Flickr

Pain. There are so many of us suffering from pain that sometimes it is as if nobody escapes. Even so, in the contorting agony that pain brings, we have a very hard time thinking outside of ourselves at all. We are preoccupied with ourselves. We do not think about the others hurting or others in general at all. Pain does that – emotional and/or physical.

Penelope was preoccupied too. She had suffered and was suffering still. Peeling her thoughts away from survival during those times when, with teeth and muscles clenched, her body felt like a universe unto itself. Everyone outside of her were aliens she was able to visit occasionally. Watching her and hearing her describe how it molded her current person, I remembered the book by Paul Brand, Pain: the Gift Nobody Wants. (We mentioned this book before in our blog-post, “Emotions: The Physical Gift We Can Name.”)

When we are sick with Pain Syndrome, with symptoms seen in our emotions, behaviors and nerve language, it is hard to perceive what good can come out of bad. Saying, when we are in that ditch, that the sun is happily shining overhead is rude and boring. Especially when it is rhetoric. Change that rhetoric to insight, well that would then be worth friendly and interesting. That would be hope. There comes a degree of knowledge that hasn’t reached our sensory selves yet but sits in our intellect. We have a glimpse of the ark of the covenant, a promise, nearly prophesy in fact – we have a knowing that something good can come out of this.

This is why I thought of the work of Paul Brand, M.D. with the lepers. I thought that Penelope might want to know that there is something good that could come out of her bad if she were healthy in other ways, enough to receive it. If her senses could perceive it, her emotions, sight, hearing, touch, taste and smell could take in that information and deliver enough of it uninterrupted, what was promised to her would come true; past the pain that distracts and preoccupies.

It is as if this good that comes out of bad were like a runner in a war zone. Bombs are exploding. It is noisy even though hearing was taken out after the last gun fire. Dirt and sweat drip over eyes and into mouths and no one believes they will survive. And then the runner trips into our shelter and collapses still alive; still holding the message in his hand. Something good made it across a land in havoc and war and we know about it now.

I thought of Paul Brand, M.D., telling Penelope that her pain is her gift at that point of knowing, with that timing. Better than I could. She wouldn’t laugh angrily and give him a bad review on-line. She would hear him. “Something good is coming your way. You have hope.” In my imagination, Penelope would not hear Dr. Brand moralizing her experience – “You are good if you perceive your gift and you are bad if you don’t.” In my fantasy, Penelope would understand that this offering wasn’t intended to make her feel guilty for hurting. It was an offering of hope.

Not so easy to do, as it turns out, in real life. I am a very human psychiatrist without

much magic about me very often. But if I did…

Question: How do you give yourself hope when your senses don’t perceive it? How are you your own friend when you are preoccupied and distracted from that which is friendly? Please tell us your story.

Self-Care Tip – Be friendly enough with yourself to believe that there is something good that will come out of your bad. There is hope.

We Are Unique

Waiting room of Nanjing railway station

Image via Wikipedia

We are unique, but it is not our suffering that makes us unique.

When to Push – Melancholia

Edgar Degas- Melancholy

Effie came to me with many melancholic symptoms.

Melancholia is an interesting word.  It comes from the Greek word for black bile, which is where people used to think sadness came from.  The word melan is familiar to us in words we use today, such as melanin, melanocytes, or melatonin.  All of these having something to do with darkness.

Effie had been feeling dark inside, like a black cloud was hanging over her.  Effie had so many “good” reasons to feel melancholic, as if reasons were needed.  She hurt.  She had other physical problems.  She lost her employment.  She was estranged from her family.  Isolated.

I asked her what she did every day.

Just sit there sometimes.  I just sit there and think about all this stuff.

This wasn’t my first visit with Effie.  We’d worked together for years.  Some of what she was going through, along with the biology, were her psychosocial stressors and learned negative coping skills to stress.  We had been working on these together for a long time but, beyond medications and sleep, Effie had a lot of difficulty working with her directives:

  1. Medication including supplements
  2. Sleep
  3. Connection – groups, church, internet, etc…
  4. Exercise
  5. Lose forty-five pounds to decrease multiple comorbid illnesses she was suffering from.  These comorbid problems secondary to her obesity looped back and worsened her mood.  It was like a brick in her pocket taking her down to the bottom of the sea.

Effie said,

I don’t want to do anything.  I just want to be me.  It doesn’t matter if that is good for me or not.  It just matters that it is who I am now.

Thanks to our work here at FriendtoYourself.com, I felt empowered to pull out the self-care tools and share.

Effie, you need to go to groups.  You need to connect.  If your child told you that she didn’t want to take out the trash because she didn’t feel like it, what would you say?  Maybe, ‘I’m sorry you feel that way.  You still have to do your work!’  Are you going to wait until she wants to?  Do you tell her to just be herself, that it is ok?  Is that nice if you do that?  No.  It is not nice.

Effie explained that she only came to see me because I was the only one who understood her.  She didn’t want to talk to anyone else.  Of course that is flattering but I admit, however reluctantly, that I am not that good.  There are other people out there who know what she’s going through and she’s not meeting them because of her choice to isolate.

Now folks, this is not to say that when someone is depressed, that we should tell them to bucker up and get on with it.  Nor should we say that they are being childish.  We all need to be very very very careful about that.  It’s ignorant and hurtful.  In Effie’s case, however, because I knew her so well, I pushed her a little harder than I had been.  I wasn’t saying she was being childish, so much as I was telling her that she needed to do what was good for her, rather than what she wanted.

Effie wasn’t having fun either way, groups or no groups.  And although medications had helped, they hadn’t helped enough.  As we had seen each other at least once a month, if not more, for about thirty months for this most recent depressive episode, I was as clear as I could be on what had been tried and what hadn’t.  I would not do this in anyone who didn’t have this constellation of factors.  So, I pushed Effie to do something she hadn’t done yet.

Also, we hadn’t spent enough time on the primitive coping skills Effie was using.  What I told her this day was more directed towards getting her away from those.

Being a friend to ourselves isn’t always doing what we want.  It is being better to ourselves at least than our enemies.  I don’t know many people I would allow to speak to me, the way Effie was speaking to herself.  We talked about allying ourselves with the bits inside of us that were going in a direction to benefit, and not hurt.  Not collaborating with the parts of us that would further harm us, no.  This part we would name together out loud and drive forward to it deliberately.  We would see together what happens.

All the while, we are still continuing to work with medications and other therapies directed at Effie’s biology.  However, I believe we need to do more. When to introduce different therapies differs depending on the needs and abilities of the individual.  This is how it went for Effie.

Questions:  When have you done something you specifically didn’t want to do, but knew it was friendly to yourself?  How did it turn out and was it friendly after all?  Please tell us your story.

Self-Care Is About More Than “Me”

Self-Care Tip #208 – If for no other reason, get friendly with yourself simply to survive and you’ll see what that means later.

my self care reminders

Image by CatrinaZ via Flickr

It is not unusual to think of “selfish-care” when we hear “self-care.”  I can imagine children gripping their mother’s skirts more tightly, husbands pulling their helpmate’s hands away from this influence, church-folk sniffing over rejections to service-calls or friends personalizing the way their phone doesn’t ring as much as it used to.  This is a natural response, although it is a false perception.  Think – feeling suffocated by her penance, he’s wearing a martyr’s cross or she’s giving to us from victimhood.  Those are the times we would rather not receive the gifts of time, person or anything dripping with that kind of guilt and implied debt. This kind of service comes from someone impoverished, giving on credit.

I’ve been known to say, “We can’t give what we don’t have.”  Or as Jasmine said,

You can’t give someone a ride if you’re all out of gas!

So when is self-care selfish?  To be true to what self-care is, I’d say almost never.  However, because the question comes from such an intuitive fear in any of us, “never” can’t be an entirely fair answer.  To answer it best though, we need to turn it over and go back to trying to discover why we wanted self-care first.  What brought us here?  Jacqui said it well in yesterday’s post-comments:

Ditto about ‘self-care boot camp’. I may steal that one. You’ve given me permission to be selfish if need be. It’s all about self-preservation.

Sometimes we are reduced to self-preservation.  It has an intensity to it, a survival mode of live or die, which may be appropriate to a desperate condition in life.   Many of us know what that feels like.  So in this context, self-care is in part about survival.  Alright.  But is survival a selfish need?  Are we worth that little?  Does the life in us hold value only at that level?

rejuvenation.self.care.logo

Image by guttersnipe.76 via Flickr

You hear the clomping my words are making and can follow that I answer, no.  Survival has far reaching significance.  I matter.  You matter.  We have value beyond our own selves and Me booting up to live better also ripples over those same infinite number of connections.

I am confident that if for no other reason than getting friendly with yourself simply to survive, you will still see at least some of what more that means later.  Self-care is about more than Me.

Question:  When do you think self-care is selfish?  Why do you think self-care is not?  Please tell me your story.

Go Towards Your Pain to Relieve It

A family mourns during a funeral at the Lion's...

Image via Wikipedia

Self-Care #197 – Go where your pain is to prepare for what happens badly in life.

Yesterday we talked about the power of loss, grief and pain not being one that can take away the potential of life.

Carl appreciated the idea that “scripted cue cards” with platitudes on them to read off for ourselves or for others when something bad happens – “Good comes out of bad,” “I know what you feel like,” and so on – is nothing anyone wants.  His comment included, in true Carl-style, a great question:

But what else can we say to show respectful empathy?

Goodness.  For crying out loud, we aren’t a bunch of calloused puff heads who don’t care or who don’t have a clue when someone is suffering!  We’ve all asked this question and wanted to help.  We’ve wanted to connect, to serve, to answer Carl’s question when we are in or come into the presence of pain.

In self-care, we can’t help others if we don’t help ourselves first.  We can’t give what we don’t have.  Airplane crashing, put your oxygen on before your babies.  Can’t withdraw if the bank account is empty….  We take care of ourselves and find that we can serve others more as a result.  It’s the same way in grief.  If we don’t go where our own pain is in life, if we aren’t present with our life journey, if we don’t fight hard for who we are, it is very hard to know how to answer this question.

There’s something to say about doing the work before the trouble comes and then when it comes, use it to prepare for more.  I love Ecclesiastes 12 which tells us in Solomon’s depressed and yet feisty words,

Remember your Creator
in the days of your youth,
before the days of trouble come
and the years approach when you will say,
“I find no pleasure in them”—

Solomon was talking about self-care here.  Holding us responsible at the elemental level to use the time we have before trouble comes, so that when it comes, we have a way of answering.

Carl gave his own answer,

…live life on life’s terms like it or not.  If we allow Jesus to embrace us and comfort us it will fortify us through life’s unfortunate tragedies.

Question:  What is your answer to Carl’s question?  Please tell me your story.

Pain Doesn’t Define Life’s Potential

Close-jen-grieve

Image via Wikipedia

Self-Care Tip #196 – When you are hurting, remember the pain doesn’t define life’s potential.  Be a friend to yourself.

Yesterday we talked about giving and getting bad news without fear.  This was received in a spectrum of ways by you, ranging from – no way is bad news something not to be scared of, to, bad news might be something we could face knowing we might find something good in the end.  No one slammed the hammer down, dinging red at bad news equals good all around – except my dogs who don’t listen anyway and are pretty much always happy.

Jjen was brave, saying,

I would have to also agree that in some cases bad news can bring family members, or even friends together that have been estranged. This has personally happened to me. Kind of a bittersweet thing; good in result of something bad and mending a broken relationship.

“Good comes out of bad.”  Not everyone agrees and I don’t blame them.  Some bad things are better left alone to rot and stink out of our lives entirely.  It even sounds patronizing when someone is hurting to say this.  This kind of discovery should be made by the parties involved, without the rest of us holding scripted cue cards for them.

It is also something that is received easier from another who has been in, or is in their own catastrophe(s), losses, abuse or grief – say Jesus for starters.  I could hear this from Him without wanting to vomit all over the place.  He’s been there, hurt bad, and has been blessed through and by it in ways I will be learning about even after Time unhinges.

When my nine year-old adored niece suddenly died, I didn’t see that.  It’s taken almost six years to see anything good come “from” this unbelievable loss we grieve every moment.  The bad doesn’t disappear for me, but as Jjen said, it is not a qualifier for the rest of life’s potential.

Question:  What has come “from” the bad in your life – more bad or what?  Please tell us your story.

Getting or Giving Bad News Without Fear

Slalom skier

Image via Wikipedia

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

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

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

Hit it!

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

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

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

When we told Jack, he was a little unbelieving.

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

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

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

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

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

Love – Take What is Already Yours. You Have Been Given Love.

Stef's Present with Handmade Wrapping

Image by ex.libris via Flickr

Self-Care Tip #194 – Take what is already yours.  Be a friend to yourself.

Parenting, we hold the power in the relationship between us and our child/ren.  If we are emotionally maltreated by our child/ren, we parents are still the ones with the power.  What are we giving to her if we teach her that we will take the terrible words and dark emotions?  When we take the projected anger when we have the power to choose not to, what message are we giving to ourselves about ourselves?  What is the message if we say by our actions that Love demands from us to accept, to take and to be a victim to the emotional abuse?  Is that what love tells us?

It is difficult to receive maltreatment from anyone.  And because of the suffering involved, we can misinterpret the message, “This is the sacrifice that Love demands” – the sacrifice is doing what other people want before taking care of yourself.

It is difficult not to receive maltreatment as well.  Which choice is more consistent with our understanding of Love?  The words in the message might be the same, “This is the sacrifice that Love demands.”  However, the interpretation of the message, of what the sacrifice is – that meaning is different.  The sacrifice is, rather, taking care of yourself first so that you have the best of you to offer to others.

To read more on this topic, please see posts, Criticize if You Love MeListen to The Intention in What People Say and Stop! Before Hurting Yourself or Others.

Because we as parents hold the power in the relationship, we can feel trapped by our own power.  What a confusion for many of us.  Holding power but feeling helpless.  Holding a stick in both hands, so to speak, not seeing that we can still use our occupied hands for anything else in the mean time.

This kind of choice takes Love.  This is the kind of choice that is a work of a life-time or of a moment, but is life.  See, Let It Go and Keep Going.

We can’t teach others that we are valuable and how to treat us with Love if we don’t do it ourselves for ourselves.  When we act on Love, self-care means that we don’t accept treatment that is inconsistent with Love.  If we accept bad treatment, we are saying that self-care is accepting our lack of choices versus making the choices that are still available despite the circumstance.

FriendShip... A gift of God.

Image by ~FreeBirD®~ via Flickr

This of course applies to any relationship.  It applies to any connection, whether it is in the work-place, marriage, if you are the child in the parent-child role, friendships – take your pick.  You can choose Love.  You can choose.  Self-care starts and ends with “Me.”

Freedom is a gift.  No matter how many times it is wrapped up and placed in our hands, if we don’t open it, use it, own it, we will never have it.  Freedom to choose has been given to us before we were born, just like our salvation.  The salvation will never be taken away.  Nor the freedom.  Both are elemental and constant.  But if we don’t pull on the ribbon, lift the lid and take – we can’t expect anything but living without what was inside.  Does the title “victim” even hold if it was our choice not to take what was already ours?

Question:  How do you claim your freedom to choose when all you perceive at the time is what has been taken away?  Please tell me your story.

Sharing Will Take You Out of Isolation

Flowers for Valentine's Day

Image by Steve Rhodes via Flickr

Self-Care Tip #180 – Sharing will take you out of isolation.  Be a friend to yourself.

If Valentine’s is about Love, today felt like Valentine’s Day to me.  Your support, my friends, came to me like bouquets of home-grown roses, lilies, daisy’s and bird-of-paradise.  You swept me up and carried me over a threshold of something I didn’t want to cross alone.  Thank you.

Carl, dear Carl, is always surprising us.  He told us yesterday about his own amazing dad and then said,

I can truly say I know how you feel.

Even though much of this feels unique to me, I know it is not.  Pain is not unique.  It is our choice to experience it alone or in community.  I choose you.  Thank you for choosing back.  Thank you for my flowers.

Mom has always been a fierce lover of flowers.  She arranges them dramatically and gives them out, believing that their beauty is enough for now.  She never worries about when she won’t have any.  I actually don’t ever remember Mom without them.  She just can’t stay away.  Either she goes where they are, or they seem to some how follow her.  Sounds like story fodder but it’s true.  She will be one of the loveliest in heaven, just because she was designed to be.  I can’t imagine all that Mom will learn on beauty through an existence disconnected from time.  I’ll know where to go when I want to gather some for you.

Mom goes to see Dad every day.  She’s usually wearing something shiny or bright or both.  Dad’s hospital room is in full bloom and there is always food for nurses or visitors.  This is how Mom does her fighting for Dad.  Through beauty.  Not bad, huh?  She washes him every day so she can spare him as many further humiliations that come with illness.  He is lotioned up; more able to receive than he ever is outside of the hospital.  In their own way, he and she give to each other like that.  I’ve seen Dad cry and Mom just push aside the tubing and get in beside him on his electric bed.  In the hospital, a lot can happen.

Tomorrow is Valentine’s Day and Dad said,

Well, I guess I’ll just have to let this one pass.

But if Valentine’s is about Love, he doesn’t have to worry too much.

Since round high school, Dad has told me that I have to sing some day at his funeral, “The Only Thing I Want Is To Be With Jesus,” By Joni Eareckson Tada.  I am sure I never will but he refuses to believe it.

The only thing I want is to be with Jesus.  Just to see Him smile and say well done, what a day that’s gonna be.  I want to feel His strong and Loving arms just hold me to His side, and to be with Him, throughout eternity.  Just to be with Him is heaven enough for me.

My seven year old asked the other day,

Mommy, will Papa be alive when I have kids?

I told Dad and he laughed.  He’s an easy laugh.

That’s a really good question.  What a mind.

Dad has almost died about a zillion times and it’s easy to feel like he will live forever.  All I know is that if he keeps putting me through this, I’ll need you there to take me out of the isolation and remind me that none of us have been chosen to be alone.

Question:  How has pain been a connecting force in your life?  What has helped you share what seemed impossible at once to let outside of yourself?  Please tell me your story.

Waiting For Self-Care to Start

Self-Care Tip #176 – Don’t wait to start caring for your self.  

I’ll get to it when things slow down for me.

I can’t handle one more stress on top of the kids and all the people who take, take, take.

Don’t take this away!  It’s my only vice!

I don’t have time because I’m working so much.

There are so many good reasons to wait for self-care.  I don’t belittle them.  I do them too.  There’s a reason we here at FriendtoYourself.com call self-care the hardest work.  It is not for anyone who isn’t willing to go through the fire of putting themselves first.

“The fire,” you say?  Yes.  Fred taught me that.  He was down twenty pounds, working out almost every day with aerobic and anaerobic exercises, putting his ear-plugs in when sounds escalated his nerves, more motivated, interested and active.  Fred was growing again.  He said that it had been years since he’d done any of these things for himself and couldn’t believe what the world looked like when he felt so good.

Fred was sad though.  Not depressed.  No, he hadn’t been depressed for at least a year on his medication and even less so since he was taking care of himself physically.  But sad.  His wife wasn’t interested in his changes, she was disconnected emotionally, and more so every day it seemed to him as he began to change physically, emotionally and behaviorally.  His friends were growing distant.  He wasn’t interested in office politics either.  It was a simultaneous coming together of life in himself and a falling away of the life connection in his “previous life,” as he called it.  Surprisingly, the people he loved the most weren’t so happy for him.  Weren’t supportive of him.  He was sad for that.  There are never gains without losses.

This is not to forget the new relationships he was growing.  There was new life all around him and he still maintained hope for the connections he had before.  But those people who he had called his own for years were the ones who gave him all the reasons to wait for self-care.  He was way past waiting.  He was already on the other side enjoying the sun.

Question:  What have you overcome to get at your own self-care?  Is there anything your are still waiting to do?  Please tell me your story.

*Art work (assumed) courtesy of carldagostino.wordpress.com.

When You Can’t Control This, Emote Empathically

Self-Care Tip #172 – When you can’t control this, emote empathically.  Be a friend to yourself.

A couple of days ago I wrote about being transparent with ourselves and others when we are not in control of things.  (Say, “I Can’t Control This” When You Can’t.)

This road sign image is in the public domain a...

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It got mixed responses but all worth thinking about.

Jennifer responded on Facebook,

The 3 C’s help me all the time; I didn’t cause it, I can’t control it, I can’t change and or cure it!

Isn’t that wonderful?!

  1. Cause
  2. Control
  3. Change

And it’s helpful to remember that claiming these 3C’s still may not remove us from the stressor.  We are however more present with ourselves and others despite the stressor.

Another reader BeeBlu’s, brought up that famous “fine line,”

I agree that it’s healthy to have this attitude to certain things in our lives, but as you say, it is also no excuse for bad behaviour and letting emotions go into free fall at the expense of others. I think there is a very fine line between the two. bb

…And her signature, “bb,” – awesome.

A line that is thin implies insecurity, danger and something precarious that may end up all wrong.  I wonder about that line.

On one side we have the 3 C’s:  cause, control, change.  On the other side of the line we have responsibility for the boundaries of others.  I wonder if there really is a dividing line after all or if it is just bad lighting.  If there wasn’t, there would be no need to thicken the line, to defend, or to pick sides.

Emotional health makes shadowy lines disappear.  It takes someone who has emotional health to be able to say their 3 C’s and still consider the internal and external milieu of others.  It takes someone who has done their self-care and put money in the bank; someone who has reserve built up that spills over into empathy.  We can’t emote empathically so well when we aren’t emotionally healthy.  The less of that, the more real the line becomes.  The less of that, the more precarious we are.

Gaining emotional health may take medication, exercise, sunlight, granola, grandma’s kisses and all sorts of things.  Each of us has to figure it out for our own selves and just do it.

Questions:  What do you think about this business of shadows, lines, and living cautiously?  When you have been healthiest, how have you been able to embrace both the 3 C’s and emote empathically at the same time?  Please tell me your story.

Tell People When You Fall

It's no laughing matter ladies... Monthly brea...

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Self-Care Tip #171 – Tell people when you fall.

Driving today, I was slowed by a driver ahead of me.  I started to get irritated, (I know, “I can’t control this“), but then I noticed the car had bumper stickers supporting breast cancer.  In less than a moment my mind grabbed memories of faces, feelings, conversations, stories and personal experiences in my memory relating to breast cancer and I suddenly felt a sense of empathy and some sadness.  It left me a bit surprised and I reminded myself I was irritated at this driver.  While trying to tease apart these seemingly opposing reactions, I realized I didn’t care much any more about the slowness.  Mainly I wondered how there was breast cancer connected and I cared.

Providentially, Erin posted today on her blog-site, Healthy, Unwealthy, and Becoming Wise,

Falling finds friends.

I remembered the driver and you readers and thought, “It sure does.  Especially when we let others know.

My Ecuadorian sister, Joana Johnson, often tells me one of the biggest contrasts she see’s between our cultures,

connection.

I spent some time in Ecuador doing some clinical work and learning more Spanish between my second and third year of medical school.  I was rarely alone, which frankly creeped me out a little.  Being westernized, I was used to a huge amount of independence and anonymity.  I wonder who I would be if I had grown up knowing someone was always involved in my life.

You might have heard the proverb asking,

If a tree falls in the forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?

Or,

Water, water everywhere and nothing to drink.

I don’t want to be surrounded but not witnessed, connected or heard.

Telling people about our “falls,” cancer, depression, assault or what not, can feel creepy too, just like I felt loosing some of my anonymity in Ecuador.  However, I now tell myself, “It’s just culture and I can grow.  And I want to.”  Culturally in the “West,” we think of telling about our falls as whining.  That’s a misperception however and a disservice to all of us.  Telling people when we fall is not whining.  The act of telling and the act of whining aren’t contiguous unless we design them to be.

This morning when I saw those bumper stickers, it brought me into the drivers life and connected us.  We are both a little less alone than we were.  These last six months for me have been about taking down boundaries in my well defended life, and I am growing into the difference.  Thank you readers and commenters for that.

Questions:  What has telling others about your “falls” done for you?  How has your culture influenced you in finding friends?  Please tell me your story.

Listen to Your Mind and Body When Doing Something As Simple As Cleaning

I Heart Cleaning

Image by Valerie Morrison via Flickr

Self-Care Tip #170 – Listen to your mind and body when you do things like cleaning, even if it makes you feel better or worse.  Be a friend to yourself.

Whenever someone in the house can’t find something, I ask them to please just start cleaning and sooner or later they’ll find it.

Today my kids and I spent two hours cleaning their play room.  My daughters were amazed at all the treasures they found tucked under, over, this way and that way in their clutter.  Although there was a lot of crying and gnashing of teeth along the way, in the end everyone was happy and pleased with themselves.

One of the blog-sites I enjoy reading is “Earthquakes and Rattlesnakes” by Zahara.  The other day she said,

I have a lot on my mind.  It seems when my mind is in a jumble, my house is in a jumble.  Cluttered, disorganized.  Can I unclutter my mind by cleaning my house?  Probably.

According to BBC News, cleaning improves mental health through the exercise that is inadvertently done.

And as Louise Hay once said,

Cluttered closets mean a cluttered mind. As you clean the closet, say to yourself, ‘I am cleaning the closets of my mind.’ The universe loves symbolic gestures.

But there are times when this goes awry.  In Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, people may clean ritually and compulsively to avoid an egodystonic fear; a fear they know doesn’t make sense but still terrifies and overwhelms them.

Or in Major Depressive Disorder, the illness affects their brain and body so much so at times that they can’t do basic life functioning, such as cleaning their house or even showering.

So I’ll tell the mothers out there such as myself, the BBC News, Louise Hay and the rest of us that cleaning is good self-care.  The milieu around it is also a good indicator on when it is time to go get professional help.  Listen to your body and mind.

Questions:  When and how has something as simple as cleaning improved your mental state?  When has something as basic as doing your activities of daily living shown you that you or someone you love might need to see their doctor?  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.