Don’t Run Away. You Might Fall In Love With Your Flaws.

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Empower yourself by going towards what scares you.  Take it to the table and be with it.  Get to know it and openly share company with it.

Opal was throwing up.  She threw up more when she gained weight or felt fat.  Throwing up didn’t help her lose weight.  It was just a tool she had to deal with it all.  Opal was told often not to worry about her weight.  Told, she looked fine and not to weigh herself.  No one said openly, “Opal, you’ve gained weight and you’re going to get other illnesses because of it if it keeps going.”  They were afraid saying anything like that would make her throw up.  Hm.

What do you say?

We remember the three things that help maintain long-term weight loss.  Well one of the main reasons they work is because they help keep us present with “the problem” or “fear” or “shame” or however we name it.  Our natural instinct is to go away from fear but this is another example of when we don’t get help following our instincts.

What empowers Opal is to get tools to contend with her struggle with obesity.  It is probably a life-er for her and oh-well!  We can love our flaws better if we stop running from them and grow our skills in living with them in a friendly way.

Get empowered with whatever you are afraid of in yourself.  If you can’t do what you need to do to be in the place of that fear, it may be that you have a medical illness keeping you from coping better.  It doesn’t mean you’ve failed.  Staying with your journey, even to taking medication, even to naming brain illness in your life is so courageous.  You become one of the great ones.  Heroic.  It is so much easier to disconnect and lose our opportunity to love our flaws.

Have you ever heard someone call their life-er, “my old friend?”  Maybe it is arthritis?  Or recurring cancer?  Maybe it is brain disease.  Some day, we will also name our own, “my old friend.”  And we, with Opal, will mean it.

Self-Care Tip – Empower yourself by your presence.

Questions:  How do you do what is friendly to yourself when your instincts tell you not to?  What has that done for you?  Please tell us your story.

basics on Weight Management

A tipped cow. Taken near the Cliffs of Moher i...

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A day or two ago we talked about life-ers.  You and I gave our own.  Whatever yours is, you are not alone.  We share that being a friend to ourself means embracing our flaws, going towards our flaws and letting the shame dissipate in our familiar presence.  Weather it’s cigarettes, weight, yelling or cow-tipping, resisting our instinct to hide it, to ignore it and deny it brings us into a place of friendship and connection.

In all my blah-blah’s, sometimes people just want me to get down to the specifics.  I’ve never found those to be too exciting for me personally, but they do help when afraid.

Today I’m going to hit weight management up.  When hope seems to be leached out by failures, these are my efforts that keep me connected to my journey.  I eventually always go back to these.

Three Things That Have Long Term Influence on Weight Management:

1.  log your food.  For example, Sparkpeople.com or myfitnesspal.com are both wonderful sites that will help with this free, including apps for our smartphone.

2.  weigh yourself every day.  Just weighing in has long-term benefits.  Sweet.  Improves presence with our bodies, awareness, goes towards shame, etc…

3.  compete/support network

4.  the rest of it.  This is for all the other stuff that is critical on many levels.  However, only the three things I’ve mentioned have been shown to have long-term effects.

I know.  Where are my references?  This is my blog, so me.  But there are references if you like.  I don’t have time to pick them off of my under-table unfortunately.  Hope that doesn’t keep you from participating with us.

Self-Care Tip – Know where to go when you feel afraid – towards it and not away.

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.

Codependent,… Or Something?!

Inquisition condemned (Francisco de Goya).

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Codependent.

It’s a term a lot of people use but I don’t think we are all using it to mean the same thing.  It is poorly defined and confusing.  If codependency were a medication, we would call it a “dirty medicine,” because it hits so many “receptors.”  It is nonspecific.

Who hasn’t ever been shamed by the fear that they are codependent?

You are codependent! 

Am I codependent!!!??

The word implies blame.  Blame for what?  And that is one of the places we walk away without benefit.  Was the word useful to any of us in any way?

In general, vaguely, codependence implies awareness and participation with mal-behavior that we are powerless to.  Treatment preferably includes a twelve-step program that includes the surrender of what we don’t have power over to our Higher Power.  Codependence may incidentally be combined with brain disease and of course that would need medication therapy.

There are however a few things that must be cleared up.

  1. There is nothing shameful about being married, the child of or of any relation to an addict.  That position doesn’t diagnose us with codependency unless that’s what that word is being used to define.  You never know.
  2. There is no shame in wanting to be with people, depend on people, seek people out to problem-solve and get energy from being with people.  That position does not diagnose codependency unless that’s what the word is being used to define.  You never know.

However,

  1. There may be a relationship to family of addicts
  2. There may be a relationship to anger problems
  3. There may be a relationship to kids of parents who expected perfect kids, spouses of spouses who expect perfect spouses, pet-owners who… (Oh wait.  That’s not right.)

BUT, per Dr. Q, if we find ourselves…

  1. in recurring negativity – perhaps an argument that happens over and over
  2. with an increasingly limited ability to participate in life
  3. powerless
  4. doing things we wouldn’t normally do/out of character
  5. tied into someone else’s mal-behavior
  6. consciously aware of that someone’s mal-behavior

IT’S WORTH THINKING ABOUT IT.  We might not be codependent, whatever that means, but we do need help.

Questions:  How do you identify this in your life or someone you know?  How have you been able to stop being dependent on someone you knew was repeatedly doing mal-behavior?  Please tell me your story.

Self-Care Tip #275 – Forget the shame and just get about your work to figure this out.

Stop! Before Hurting Yourself or Others

scream and shout

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Self-Care Tip #192 – Before hurting yourself or others, stop.

Sometimes all we can do is leave.

Not being created as a limp noodle, that’s what Brenda said.

In the moment of conflict with her daughter, she had used up the coping skills she thought of and in the end, her purse had no more gum, lip-gloss, candy-money or crayons.  She couldn’t stop the acidic emotions from taking their turn to burn.  Brenda yelled (yes she knew it wasn’t right) and then she yelled again, this time to her husband that he was on kid-duty.  She left.  The mom-van keys were the last thing left in her purse of things to do to stop the burning she was giving and receiving.

Emotional abuse is equal to or more damaging than physical or sexual abuse.  This made Brenda gulp, who could still hear her own mother screaming with bulging bubble-packing veins and eyes.  Brenda didn’t know she could say,

Let’s stop.  It hurts Mommy.

When she first had her babies, tiny with soft bones, fluffy warm sweet cakes just out of the oven, Brenda was scared.  Her pediatrician gave her baby care directives that said things like,

If you are angry and feel like you’re going to shake your baby, stop!  Call for help.

And there was a number.  Now that her kids were older, her pediatrician never gave her helpful sheets of instructions and rescue phone numbers.  Brenda drove away to stop, hoping to come back with more available to offer.

Not bad, huh?

Question:  When you can’t think of any more coping skills during a crisis, how do you stop?  In what feels like an emotional emergency, what have you seen others do that you think is useful?  Please tell me your story.

When You Are Pushed Down, Push Back

A Push and a Shove

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Self-Care Tip #185 – When you are pushed down, deliberately push back with The Force in  you.  Be a friend to yourself.

So much in life pushes down on us.  I am amazed that we push back – considering how awful some of it is.  After 7 years of private practice in psychiatry, I still get caught off guard by some of the particularly horrible stories I am told.  Blinking my own stinging eyes, I look in amazement at the person in front of me.  What I see is this pushing-back Force.

Last week after diagnosing PTSD in Margie, a mother of a murdered son, I could hardly believe that she still chooses life.  She takes care of herself despite.  That’s how amazing she is.  And I’m her psychiatrist!  It’s such an honor.  And thinking about that straining towards life, that thread in us, all of us – I saw that it was the best description of the brilliance and power that is God.  True, sickness can mute our perception of this beautiful thing in us, whether it’s depression or liver disease.  But all of us have seen some of how hard the thrashing against that loss is.

In thinking on this amazing force, this thrashing about, this straining against the push of whatever is set at tipping us over, I named it God in us.  And I thought, for all the time I spend on the stuff pushing me around in bad ways, I’m going to more actively team up with the struggle to live.  I’m going to choose to strain and thrash about and move at that chink of space in the dark room as much as I can.  Hopefully I can be brave too, like that mother of a murdered son, Margie.

I can choose to ally myself, with what I want to live for.  I’m going to partner with that Force that keeps me thrashing against the push and be stronger, like you have readers.

After our post on suicide a couple days ago, many of you responded with your own stories about how you were pushed and pushed back.  Karal said,

Like all difficult experiences we face in life, there is the possibility of growth from the ashes.  It requires strength and a willingness to walk through that fire.  Unfortunately for survivors of suicide (i’m referring to those left behind) we’re often chastised into feeling that our grieving, our walking through the fire is both wrong, and  unnecessary.  I totally disagree.  Like you said, caring for people is a choice, and being a friend to yourself means making sense of, or at least peace with, what may never make sense.

Karal is allying herself with that Force to make as much sense of what will always be jumbled.  I’m not going to quote all the rest of the brilliant comments.  Please read them.  They were amazing demonstrations of pushing back in a collaborative way with The Force that makes their lives worth living.  This is active in us at times, and not deliberate at others.  Being better to ourselves, we could more deliberately choose when given the push.  We are not thrashing alone.  Push back.

Question:  How do you deliberately choose your alliances in your life for working against what pushed you down?  How do you define that Force in you that pushes back?  Please tell me your story.

It Is My Choice to Take Care of Someone, Even in The Context of Suicide

Detail of The Death of Socrates. A disciple is...

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I was a teenager I think when a woman in our church suicided.  Dad pointed out the man sitting alone.

His wife just killed herself.

Dad asked me what I thought of suicide.  Imagine.  What a compliment really for a teen, to be asked her thoughts.  Being a “Feeler,” I oozed something empathic I’m sure, but still I only remember what Dad said,

I believe God has a special way of seeing these cases.

This was at a time when culturally most of the western world saw suicide as sin.  It was quite forward for Dad to say what he did again later to the grieving man in the pew.  I did not realize at the time, but now I see that people judged him and his wife for what she did.

Later in psychiatry training, my attending said,

Suicide is the most selfish act anyone can do.  It is the ultimate punishment aimed at those who still live.

I don’t know what you think, but I couldn’t help wondering.  I still do.  I think this may be true for some and not others.  I haven’t had a chance to ask them.  They’re dead.

Suicide is terrifying to a psychiatrist.  We all tremble at the thought.  Statistically we know women attempt it more than men, but men are more “successful” when they do try.  They use methods that are generally more lethal than women.  They don’t get a chance to realize that in a month or a day they will want life again.  Or an hour.  They could have lived.

In the intensive-care unit of a hospital, “unsuccessful” suicide attempts hover in life in a space where their self-injury placed them.  The nurses are kept running between medicines, treatments, physician orders and prayers for these lives that tried to die.  Sometimes, the “chronically suicidal” become familiar patients to this critical care ward and that has it’s effect on those who have spent themselves so heroically to save them.

A nurse once told me angrily about her patient who kept coming back.

I fought for that woman’s life!  I prayed over her!  I worked all night for several nights and didn’t know if she would live until much later.  And then she was transferred out to the step-down ward (to a floor where the patients aren’t in such a life-threatening condition), and that lady probably never knew what I went through to keep her alive.

Then later, she came back, and later again, almost dead but not dead.  She kept trying to kill herself!  Finally, when she was conscious again, I just told her how it is.  ‘Listen!  I fought hard for you!  You better go out there and live!  You better figure out what it is you want and go for it.  Stop trying to die!’

This lady-patient was hurting more than herself.  Suicidal thoughts and attempts are dangerous.

There was a patient who tried to use his bed-sheets as a noose before the nurse lifted his wet body from the door frame.  In the emergency room (ER) he was examined, x-rayed and determined fit to return to the ward.  Alive.  Talking to the ER physician, I learned that the reason most people die when they hang themselves isn’t because of suffocation.  It’s because they break their neck.  Done.  No more chances to choose life.  Even an hour.  My pulse was still beating on me to the rhythm of, “He could have died!  He could have died!”  This time, no broken neck.

Regardless of our culture, we are not the judges of these people who want to die.  Regardless of our emotions, their emotions before, any previous conflicts, regardless, we cannot measure their final act by degrees or intentions.

We fight together for their lives and they may or may not know about what that does to the rest of the world.  When we don’t want to fight for them any more, we should change jobs.  It is our choice, each of us.  Whether we are fighting as professionals or as a wife, brother, friend, volunteer or the hired tutor, we fight for their lives because we choose to.  If we cannot keep it up without judging, shaming, accusing the suicidal, we need to own that and take care of ourselves first.  “Can’t give what you don’t have.”

The truth is, suicidality is hard for everyone.  It is hard in ways and in people that aren’t talked about, such as the nurses or the x-ray tech who is the first to find the cervical fracture (broken neck) on film.  It is hard for the church parishioners, the person separated by seven-degrees or the grocer.  Suicidality is hard for all of us.  We give what we choose to give and remember to say, “I can’t control that,” when we can’t.  It is our choice.

Self-Care Tip #182 – Taking care of someone is your choice, even in the context of suicide.  Be a friend to yourself.

Question:  How has suicide touched your life?  Please tell me your story.