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.

If You Have Something Good That’s Happened, Say It

Self-Help Graphics

Image by victoriabernal via Flickr

Self-Care Tip #164 – If you have something good that’s happened to you because of your self-care, tell others about it.  Be a friend to yourself.

Have you ever heard of SparkPeople.com?  I’ve been a member for a few years and believe they are one of the most supportive networks out there for diet and lifestyle change.  Today I received this email from one of their bloggers and thought to share it with you.

From “GUITARGAL2”

Today is my one year anniversary on SparkPeople.  I have to admit this is the longest amount of time that I have ever spent focusing on me and my health.  A few things I have learned in the past year are:

1. I can lose weight be happy.

2. I can educate myself on a healthy lifestyle.

3. I have learned that when I slip up, refocus, refocus, refocus.

4. I have learned that I like being a runner.

5. I have increased confidence.

6. I like how my clothes fit.

7. I don’t need chips and dips to feel satisfied.

8. Captain Morgan is not my friend.

9. I can inspire people.

10. Having a support system makes the difference.

One year ago I wrote on my SparkPage, I can do this, and I have.

This is only one example, as described by GUITARGAL2, of what self-care has done for her, specifically through diet and lifestyle change.  All of our lists are different and powerfully inspirational to others when we share them.  It also comes back to each of us, as good things will do.  How does it comes back?  Well, I can’t try to explain that kind of magic.

Keep talking.

Question:  What list do you have for the things self-care has given to you?  Please tell us.

“He’s Never Hit Me.” Abuse.

Self-Care Tip #163 – Name abuse when it is there.  Be a friend to yourself.

Alexandria (Alex) was crying a lot.  She was trying to divorce her husband but he wouldn’t leave.  He wouldn’t speak.  He only yelled.  He yelled at her, alone, in front of their kids, in the morning, when he came home from work, he yelled.  And he never spoke to her any more.  It’s been weeks since they spoke.  When I asked her if she thought she was abused, she said, “No.  He’s never hit me.”

Mar de Emociones / Emotional Landscapes

What do I do?  I can’t go on like this but everything I try, he won’t listen!

There are so many things many of us would tell Alex.  But would any of it make sense if she didn’t know she had rights?  If she didn’t know what was happening to her?  If she didn’t know, this is abuse.

The “Do You?” questions, per Dr. Quijada, to ask yourself if you aren’t sure if you are abused:

Do you feel good about yourself when you are together?

Do you feel scared?

Do you feel like you have choices?

Do you have effective boundaries; observed boundaries?

Do you say, “No,” and are heard?

Do you have a balance of power?

From the outside looking in, we could answer these questions for Alex.  But anyone who is or has been abused in any way knows that from the inside, answering these questions is hard.  It was hard for Alex.

Alex missed a few beats.  She didn’t want to see herself as abused.

Identifying abuse, naming it, is a start towards the other side of things.  It is reaching the peak of a hill or mountain of life-stuff, taking the view in after the fog lifts, and knowing that things are the way they are.  This is abuse.  A tangible thing.  Not the drifting mist of fights or arguments that once stalked you, leaving you bewildered and empty-handed.  Simply naming abuse is the start of empowerment.  Name it.  Name it out loud.

“I am abused.”

Alex said,

Wow.  I didn’t know that what he is doing is abuse.  I didn’t know.

After we talked about the name of what she was suffering, she talked about what she thought she could do about it, such as:

Call 911 if she feels unsafe.

Record him.

Say the words out loud, “I am valuable and should be treated well.”

Get a restraining order.

…And other things.

Alex didn’t have a lot of extended family support, so for her, that was out.

Alex said,

I feel more empowered.  I didn’t know I could do that.

And there it was.  A dandelion growing out of the cracked cement.  Hope.  A redistribution of the unequal power.  Alex was growing a plan.

Question:  What would you tell Alex, yourself, or anyone else in her position?  How do you see words being a form of abuse or not?  Please tell me your story.

Blog-Jacking by Mr. Rick C. – #2 (Do I or anyone really deserve this?!)

Hello Folks.  Today Mr. Rick C. is taking this post over….

As a person with a vast amount of psychiatric experience, I have learned the importance of watching for danger signs in others and myself.  Recently, you may have noticed, our very own DQ displaying a few atypical qualities.  Let’s take a look at her last blog.  Apparently, she has now given herself the new name of Dr. Q (any body remember that show Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman…Hamm) and began referring to herself in the third person.  Another great blogger, xcandyxcane, does this effectively but differs from our own “little bundle of identities” by acknowledging that she is speaking in such a manner.  Dr. Q aka DQ aka Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman may or may not be aware of this.

Her blog entry seemed well written, as always.  However, she did seem a bit flustered by the fact that she got a few negative little thumb things.  Let’s put this into perspective, depressed people can be negative.  It is a key symptom of being depressed.  We are here to learn how to make little thumbs up things more often.  The fact that I picked this up and she did not, while not unusual, could be an indicator that she is not functioning at her highest level.

Finally, a sure indicator that she is teetering on the brink of collapse… the use of that oh so pointed word, “shucks.”  I can only imagine the stress and pain required to push her to such an outburst.  For these reasons, and my true desire not to watch “The Doctor Formerly Known as Quijada” spiral down to a point at which she goes on and on about flooded basements, frogs and Lebanese births, (certainly was a fun week you may remember,) I have taken it upon myself to give her the day off.  If nothing else, I’ll make her sound really professional when she returns.  Let us all keep her in our thoughts as she sits comfortably in the castle (aka future sink hole) she calls a home, self-medicating while being a friend to herself.

Since I am not a real doctor, I cannot share a heart warming narrative about the one-legged blind puppy being held by the child with such a distant look in his eyes as his mother crocheted for reasons unbeknownst to the rest of the world that came into my clinic.  However, I would like to speak up about an aspect of this blog that I am truly pleased with.  (And I’m not going to try to understand what the word “paradigm” means that she keeps using.)  As I took in the fine nuggets of wisdom that are typical of this blog, I was especially pleased with the mental image when reading the description of  “Gorgeous Candy.”  Of course, any functional male reading this immediately recognizes this fine moniker.  (There is no medical term for that, I looked.)  Trust me, Q had no idea, none what so ever.

So…. as I absorb the plethora of psychiatric knowledge, I realize, I could very well be the man who could save Gorgeous Candy.  The image is clear in my mind and I know I can help.

All right, at this point, I would like to share a story about my drinking and a self-help program.  One night, after ingesting a large amount of alcohol, I decided to sit down on the couch and enjoy some television.  Interestingly, at three in the morning, there are many programs on involving various forms of “self-help” for a fee after calling and speaking with gorgeous women.  You can teach yourself to speak Icelandic in three days.  Several programs guaranteed to make you stop smoking and drinking while you do nothing.  Then – my personal favorite, the Flowbee.

The Flowbee allows you to cut your own hair with a vacuüm cleaner attachment as demonstrated by some great looking individuals.  As a result of my intoxication and the brilliant manner in which it was presented, the Flowbee sounded like an excellent idea with very few negatives.  I called just in time to be one of the lucky callers that got a discount knife set, as well.  Not so surprisingly, I was intoxicated when the Flowbee arrived.  No problem… easy enough to operate and certainly no need to watch the instructional video.  Hook it up to the Shop Vac and away I go….

Folks, you have not experienced incomprehensible demoralization until you have had a Flowbee lock onto your head with the full force of a ShopVac behind it.  At this point, as I lay on the floor trying to kick the plug out of the wall, I realized that my life was completely unmanageable and I would possibly need to go beyond the resources I had within myself.

Upon having the Flowbee removed from my head, I was fairly certain that all of my problems had been solved.  Hence, I went back to drinking.  Several years later, I would discover the twelve steps.  When I did, I was in Texas and had the fortune of becoming part of an AA group where people had no problem being honest or saying it like it is.  One of the first things that I was told, was that this is a “we” program and that if this program were to rely on “self”…. Well, based on my track record of helping myself first, I was in trouble.  Every single step talks about “we.”

Through the years, I would learn more about how important the group is to a twelve-step program.  Furthermore, the basis for AA (the first of many twelve step programs) is a movement called the Oxford Group.  This was a group that became popular around the turn of the century.  They had some basic principals that have become the basis of twelve step programs.  Key to the Oxford Group and twelve-step programs is the benefit of sharing among a group that is working this same program.  There are many tests online and other places designed to help individuals determine if they are or could be an alcoholic.  I think, for many, this test could be simplified into…. have there been times in your life that a Flowbee sounded like a great idea?

Please, share with me your thoughts.  Why are paradigms important?  When doctors self-medicate… is there a copay?

This would make even less sense if I was drinking…. Can you imagine?

Connection: It’s Medical But Still Magical

XO with Internet connection, Khairat (India)

Image via Wikipedia

Self-Care Tip #157 – Don’t depend on yourself to find connection.

We are people of a greater ability to bond than our senses, emotions, intuition, reason or technology can account for.  Our connection to each other and to God supersedes our belief in connection.  In this discussion, I am looking at “connection” beyond the paradigm of our perceptions.  Although connection between me and you is all about me and you, our bond also transcends either of us.

Meet gorgeous Candy.  She refuses any medications that might change her appearance in any way, ie. increase her appetite.  She would rather freeze in a catatonic state and die thin than gain weight.  She has come to me after years of struggling with irritability, anger, depression and anxiety.  She has never seen a psychiatrist although these emotions have misshapen her relationships, crippled her parenting skills, and removed her from her community of friends and one marriage.  Her medical condition continues to threaten Candy’s connection with her own self.  It continues to threaten her connections with her now teenage children and her second marriage.  Candy tells me that she doesn’t feel anything for her husband.  When she says this, she looks at me expectantly, as if she just released a big revelation.

When people are initiating treatment, I try not to get into anything personal too much.  Although I gather their personal history, I don’t give much feedback.  I try not to discuss their desire to make sense of all their conflicting feelings.  Sometimes they ask me questions, advice, directives and that’s natural.  However, it would be misguided to answer those questions, because we can’t let our emotions guide us.  I tell them,

Let’s revisit these questions after the treatment has time to take effect and you feel more like yourself.

It’s medical but still magical.  In four to eight weeks, they often hardly remember the questions they had.  The negativity is just a haze in their past.  The resilience comes with emotional health and copes with the simple stressors that used to sever interpersonal emotional ties.

Candy was one of the lucky ones who found the magic.  She felt self-trust more than she had felt her entire life.  Feeling safe with your own self is wonderful.  Much of the population who has not been where Candy has been can’t say the kind of thank you that Candy can.  They don’t know what it means to be lost and then found in this way.  Candy has something very special.

Yet when we think of Candy’s sense of connection, we also look beyond the biology of it.  I did spend some time describing how biology can change our perception of connection, but I didn’t do it to explain how connections are formed.  I described it more to demonstrate that we cannot depend on ourselves to define connections.

Don’t stumble on the philosophies around adjustment issues and conditioning.  Connection with others exists regardless of our fortune in family, money, treatment or maltreatment, biology, and self.  We are connected because there is a force of connection created and present in all of nature, regardless.

Madeleine L’Engle, wrote in “A Stone for a Pillow,”

Perhaps what we are called to do may not seem like much, but the butterfly is a small creature to affect galaxies thousands of light years away.

Our connections are there regardless of where we are at in life.  I would even take it further to say that connections to us even survive the cutting blow from death.

Connection is an eternal truth.  It makes a difference to us just to know that, but even if we didn’t, it doesn’t change our connection.

Question:  How do you make sense of your changing perception of connections in your life?  Please tell me your story.

The 12 Steps To Serenity

Ben‑Enwonwu‑Negritu

Self-Care Tip #154 – Go towards Love.

I realize that many of us talk about the 12-Steps, we know people working the 12-Steps, we even recommend the 12-Steps but have never read them through.  So here they are.  For all of us.  A wonderful walk with and towards love.

The 12 Steps To Serenity

  • Step 1 – We admitted we were powerless over our addiction – that our lives had become unmanageable
  • Step 2 – Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity
  • Step 3 – Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood God
  • Step 4 – Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves
  • Step 5 – Admitted to God, to ourselves and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs
  • Step 6 – Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character
  • Step 7 – Humbly asked God to remove our shortcomings
  • Step 8 – Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all
  • Step 9 – Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others
  • Step 10 – Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it
  • Step 11 – Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood God, praying only for knowledge of God’s will for us and the power to carry that out
  • Step 12 – Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to other addicts, and to practice these principles in all our affairs

Question:  What do you think of these steps?  Please tell me your story.

The Great Lie.

One of the great lies of mental illness is that, “If things weren’t so stressful, I wouldn’t feel so bad.”  Look inside ourselves now and see them.  All the numbered and ranked stressors we tick off to explain how we feel and/or behave.  How about someone we love.  Do we tell them, “Of course you feel that way!  Look at all you’re going through!”

Because major depressive disorder (MDD) is mainstream enough, I’ll use it as an example.  Who, when they are down, doesn’t look for reasons why?  Say there is an additive effect of stressors such as home conflicts, financial duress, and poor sleep.  Since these events, you haven’t felt pleasure, you’ve felt sad and depressed.  You aren’t motivated or interested in your usual.  And where you normally would seek people out when you felt down, to get more energy, now you just want to be alone.  And so on.  You are able to say that you started feeling this way progressively since triggered with those stressors about 3 months-ago.  Before that you were “fine.”

Many people in your life, have told you that you are just going through a bad spell.  You have believed them but say, “Even if this is a bad spell, if it goes on much longer I think I’d rather die.”  Your best friend responds, “Anyone would be depressed if their boss was that evil!”

My answer, “No.”  Feeling down is appropriate to stress when it doesn’t disrupt your life for more than two weeks at this level.  And it is never normal to want to die.  Everyone has stress but not everyone responds to stress in the same way.  Not everyone if put under your same triggers would develop MDD.

Would you have developed this disease if you weren’t put under these stressors?  I can’t say.  We develop illnesses for many reasons.  One of the many reasons is external stress.  A hypothesis supporting this is that stressors trigger our genes for MDD much like we know cancer genes can be turned on by stress.  However, we do not have a direct correlation to the stressors as being entirely causal events.

Even if it were, none-the-less, we are left with the disease process in progress.  It is not an adjustment reaction to stress.  It is medical illness.

Feeling this way is not normal for what you are going through.  Telling yourself that it is, that is the great lie.

Self-Care Tip #118 – Don’t believe the lie if what you’re going through is affecting your function in life.  Be a friend to yourself.

Question:  What whispering lies are you struggling against?  Please tell me your story.