Posts tagged ‘maturity’

Dealing with Fear: Walk; Don’t Run! – illustrated reflection

The painting illustrating this article is an original painting created by using a computer simulated oil brush and pen which were manipulated on the screen by moving my finger on a 1 1/2 inch by 3 1/2 inch touchpad.

Throughout our lives, we face times where our primitive urge to fly, fight or freeze kicks in. We are terrified. Sometimes we don’t know of what. Sometimes the fear is buried so deep, we don’t even realize we are afraid. Many, gasping for breath and reaching blindly into the dark, don’t even realize they’re running. Most often, when I’ve been afraid, I’ve tended toward flight. We think we are in danger and when we truly are in the bodily sense, these responses serve a purpose to protect us. And even when our bodies can’t escape danger, we have inborn ways of escaping mentally. However, whatever the reason, when we take flight in fear, we run full force toward nowhere and often in circles. Mentally, we escape to the desert of our soul where we slowly wither under the glaring sun of Truth. Some never find their way back.

I spent many years running away. I tried to self-medicate with alcohol and sniffing. I hid in a flurry of white lies, ashamed of minor mistakes. I ran to the arms of flattery, not believing in my own self-worth. I mumbled feeble complaints, assuming any request for help would be answered only with judgement. I got caught in a cycle of binging and starving to gain a false sense of control. I absorbed knowledge to avoid opinion. I had break-downs, collapsing into hospital care to avoid taking responsibility for helping myself. I tried over and over to drug myself into oblivion, an ultimate escape. Some roads I have barred myself from, but some are paths that I race down out of habit.

I have overextended myself to the point of serious illness, hoping beyond hope to prove that the walls of my personal limitations would somehow crumble under the force of sheer will. I have tried to save others because I felt powerless to save myself. I have sought perfection in rituals, unconvinced within my depths of my inherent adequacy. I have intellectualized to avoid feeling my emotions, certain they had the power to destroy me. Yet I’ve claimed ignorance when faced with the possibility of being wrong, or of making a “wrong” decision. While ready to collapse, having nearly exhausted my ability to cope, I’ve teased smiles and laughter from stoic professionals. These are my demons. Over-committing, rescuing, perfectionism, intellectualizing, fence-sitting and misplaced humor are still tendencies difficult to resist when panic sets my feet in motion.

Repeatedly, I’ve managed to find my way back, but I must be aware of those patterns of flight if I wish to chart my course toward more fertile ground. I must not only resist these tendencies, but counter them. I must proactively apply strategies which reduce the likelihood of the need to run. When anxiety inches into my heart, I soothe it with a side road jaunt. Instead of getting ready to run, I slow my pace. I talk to family, friends, my treatment team, and my Higher Power. I lose myself in the magic of music. I feel the beat, rewrite the words, sing at the top of my lungs. I read what uplifts me, inspires me. I write, sometimes for release or distraction, sometimes to increase my mindfulness of the present moment. And sometimes, sometimes I write to remind myself of what I’ve learned – where I’ve been and where I want to go. Today, I’d rather walk, walk the path that will get me somewhere. I know that, even if I’m not sure exactly where I want to go, if I want to arrive in a better place, I must heed the command “Walk; don’t run!”

Downshifting from Overdrive: Accepting Myself

On most days, my appearance would give you no clue that I struggle with my physical and mental health.

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Occasionally, though, I can't hide my biology's battle against me.

Does anyone remember how in the “way back days” (a boy who I once had guardianship of used this to refer to my younger days), even in an automatic car, you drove in Drive sometimes and in Overdrive sometimes? The two weren’t synonymous. Well, no matter, I’m sure you can fathom what I mean. I keep trying to live my life in Overdrive with the Parking Break on. I don’t mean to. I don’t want to. I want to drive, but my health keeps applying the parking break, because I’ve been unwilling to downshift. I’ve been afraid. I’ve been thinking that if I downshifted, I’d be in Neutral and that wasn’t acceptable. You get pushed in Neutral. You get towed away in Neutral. Sometimes in Overdrive with the pedal to the metal and going nowhere because the Parking Break is on, I’ve thought shifting into Reverse was going to help me somehow, like when you rock a car to get yourself unstuck from an icy, three-foot high snowdrift (I grew up on the Chicago latitude). But it hasn’t ever worked because (unlike when I’m driving a car) I’m still in the habit of putting that pedal to the metal so I lurch backwards and slam myself into a tree trunk. Then I’m really going nowhere! All this to say, I don’t want to be lead-footed anymore in Overdrive or Reverse. It’s incredible how long it took me to realize why I wasn’t going anywhere or going so slowly.

Have you driven with your Parking Brake on? The first few times you try, your car holds you locked in place and you realize it. But, imagine the Driver’s Ed teacher keeps secretly setting it because he wants you to quit speeding. He knows you aren’t really in control when you are going so fast. We’ll suppose he’s tried to tell you in other ways, but you just weren’t getting it. It’s not necessarily your fault. It turns out he speaks with a heavy accent; you have to listen really, really hard to catch half of what he’s saying. Well, if he keeps setting it but you don’t know when, you keep pushing that pedal to the metal when you feel that drag. He means well, but sometimes you speed even worse because you anticipate the drag of the brake being on. You are in even less control than before. It’s a strain on you and the car. The brake starts to give. Eventually, when you do it, your car moves but my gosh, it’s like trying to push it uphill all alone! You get so frustrated. Everyone’s passing you by. You can’t get where you want to go. You want to give up, but you won’t. I mean, after all, at least you’re still moving. But inside your engine is burning hard, wearing down. Let’s just say, I’ve really been killing my engine!

I’ve got a lot of updating to do to my “About” page, but to put it briefly, I’ve got 20 chronic health conditions. I use to be an “overachiever”, but I’ve been disabled for many years now. I struggle with activities of daily living, but looking at me and even being around me for a day or two, you probably wouldn’t have a clue. I’ve been in various degrees of denial, not intellectually but emotionally for the most part. I still have found reasons to rejoice here and there, but I’m not happy and I know I’m the only one who can change that. I have the power to choose joy, but it is an “attitude in action” and my attitude, though positive, has been pretty stagnant. I’ve decided I’ve got to try downshifting from Overdrive to Drive. I had to trade in for an older model, one that has that option. So, I may not fit in at first. I don’t like that, but if it means I might start making some progress, it’ll be worth it. This past year – it’s been so hard! I realized I wasn’t going forward, no matter how cool my sports car life looked. I realized how burnt up my engine was. I realized shifting into Reverse didn’t help. I wanted people to pitch in and push. That didn’t work either. I’m so angry. As much as I hate being angry (I mean who really likes it), I’ve got to admit it. I’m angry I didn’t understand what my health problems were trying to tell me. But I’m not going to waste anymore time being angry at myself. Well, that’s probably not true; it’s a hard habit to break, but I, at least, am going to do something different too.

My downshifting is starting right here, with this blog. I’m sure sometimes I’ll still blog my philosophical musings or spiritual meditations or inspirational reflections or political rantings or artistic expressions, but here out this blog is foremost going to be a chronicle of my choice to live my life. That sounds so ordinary, but the key words in there are choice, live, and my. I reminded myself recently when I emotionally vomited an email to someone that my mind doesn’t process things well inside. If I’m going to write, it makes sense that I should use it to help myself, not just others. Often, I’ve shared the lessons I’ve learned but not the process of how I’ve learned them. I look over my blog and sometimes it just seems so stiff and formal, so unapproachable while inside I’m crying out for someone to not only approach but to hold me. Well, how can I ever face writer’s block again if my mind is always going. I’m not going to worry about getting things just right or being right. I’ve known for a long time I’m not “Super Molly,” but I wanted everyone else to think I was. Funny thing is it wasn’t because I needed people to see me as “Super” but because I needed them to see me and since I haven’t figured out who I am yet, I thought I had to show them me as “something”. I didn’t trust they could figure out who I was right along with me. Actually, I think I was a bit afraid they’d figure it out before me and I’d feel like I was being passed by. Hmm, the irony.

I truly believe God speaks through other people and I think it’s important to let people know when they are a vessel of Spirit’s voice in what they say or do. So, many people have contributed to this moment, this particular instant of awakening, but aside from my therapist Tina Marie Dale, LCSW, I want to thank a few special people who probably have no idea how they have touched me. Honestly i don’t know if I can explain except to say that their “being there” and/or genuineness is emboldening me to expose my Self, to love myself enough to slow down. I may have to add to this list as I remember people but here are the people off the top of my head right now…
Barb Efflandt, Rev. Kathleen Thomas, Frankey Landon, @aeTyree, @Read2Write10, @JillMarieinFL, @tetka, my friends at Poetry here And Now, Deborah Helm, Jill & Jo O’Brien, Lady Dawn, Alice Puckett, Jesleen92 (blog: 91 Odd Socks), “Bananas” Charity (blog: charityjh.com), and Wendy Holcolme (blog: Picnic with Ants: Living with Chronic Illnesses). Those names beginning with “@” are the Twitter usernames by which I know them. Many people on Twitter have blogs and I encourage you to check out these Tweeters and their blogs.

Nevermind the World – poem

How Do I Love Thee!

Image by charissa1066 via Flickr

Nevermind The World

You’ll call
Something has happened
I won’t ask
I’ll jump in the car, no coat
Every red light lasts too long

You’ll giggle
Something delights you
I won’t ask
I’ll follow your gaze to a caterpillar
Every little thing is cause to celebrate

You’ll knock
Your cheeks wet, eyes red
I won’t ask
Your sobs will drench my shoulder
The silence will be loud and long

You’ll laugh
Your belly bouncing with each breath
I won’t ask
Your eyes will bubble like champagne
That’s reason enough to celebrate

You’ll reach out
Eventually we all need help
You won’t ask
I’ll cast others aside, jump in
No professional could last as long

You’ll chuckle
Eventually we must choose humor
You won’t ask
I’ll wipe away the chocolate pie
No mess will negate what we celebrate

You’ll ask
Your arms weak, hands cold
I won’t mind
Your joy will be my agenda that day
Our time together may not be long

You’ll smile
Your eyes fixed on me, my face
I’ll smile too
You mean what you say in that way
Together another day, I’ll celebrate

You’ll wonder
Do I mean anything to the world?
Nevermind
You mean the world to me
I could never celebrate you too long

You CAN be Perfect!

Figure 20 from Charles Darwin's The Expression...

Image via Wikipedia

To affirm, simply put, is to add firmness to. To affirm yourself, therefore, is to add firmness to you and to your self, to strengthen both your definition of yourself and your very being. Start by affirming what is known truth – you are human. What does it mean to be human? A human is not all powerful. A human is not all knowing. A human is imperfect. A human feels. Emotions convey a message. Fear tells us we do not know something. Fear is  useful. Fear is normal. Fear is to be expected. We have no reason to fear fear. Likewise, we have no reason to act is if we are fearless or to avoid anything that might evoke fear. Doing so reflects a form of perfectionism. Do not be afraid to fail or to succeed. You can be perfect – perfectly human, perfectly you.
We are meant to strive toward perfection, but neither to reach it nor to expect to reach it. To have a different mindset is to challenge God, to believe we can be equal. To judge ourselves unworthy of God’s love and mercy reflects an expectation that we can be perfect. Thus we manifest our true sin, pride. In refusing God’s love and likewise refusing to love ourselves, God’s creation, we withdraw our trust in God alone. We again forget we are of God. We no longer clearly and consistently recognize God. We begin to fail to see the God in others, but rather see only the façade which their separation from God requires them to create. We, in turn, seek affection from them instead of the God within they are meant to manifest. Hence, God is no longer our first and only love. We lose our way. We separate ourselves even further from the source of our very being, the only Perfect, in whom when we are ultimately united we are perfected in love.
So quit trying to be perfect. When anxieties arise, recognize the feeling as a reminder that you are human, just as you are meant to be. Rejoice that you do not know everything because it is not your responsibility or your burden. Affirm that you not only have a right to be afraid, but that it is normal to fear. Yes, I say rejoice that you have been wonderfully made, that you are extraordinarily ordinary. Rejoice that you know God and that God’s strength is yours for the asking. Just for today, choose to be, strive to be perfectly human. Tell yourself, ” I am perfectly human, naturally flawed, extraordinarily ordinary, wonderfully unique. I am meant to feel and to fail, to find favor and forgiveness in the fullness of God, forever and the only the Perfector of Souls.”  AFFIRMATION: Just for today, I accept and rejoice that I am a human being, created and loveable just as I am.

Two Ships That Crash in the Night: Bipolar, Personality, Relationships

The Starry Night

Image via Wikipedia

Failed relationships amongst people with Bipolar occurs for multiple reason, almost all of which are rectifiable, so there IS HOPE.  1) Ignorance – educate yourself about Bipolar in a way that you can accurately relay it to others besides just explaining how you “feel” or what you “do”. Gain more of a medical understanding. From there, consider how and when to educate others – my Journal entry, “Do You Hear Me? Are You With Me?” may be helpful. 2) Alienation – Persons with Bipolar have a low tolerance for distress and difficulty with emotional regulation. All people when highly stressed, revert to unhealthy coping skills and make unhealthy choices.  When we do so, we alienate (push away) others. As we make healthier coping skills habit, learn distress tolerance and emotional regulation techniques, employ tactics for reducing our overall stress-load and make amends for past harmful actions, we ill see improvements in our relationships. Although originally designed for the treatment of Borderline Personality Disorder, DBT (Dialectical Behavior Therapy) is fast becoming the method most successful in treating a variety of disorders marked by emotional dysregulation, including Bipolar Disorder. DBT is an interactive educational therapy, usually presented to a group in a class with the support of individual DBT coaching to learn application of the techniques to personal circumstances. However, even if it is not available in your area, you are not without options. There is a DBT workbook just for persons with Bipolar. You can also check out http://www.dbtselfhelp.com. Therapy in general is a key component of treatment for Bipolar. 3) Withdrawal – Whether because we feel misunderstood, we’re afraid of hurting others or of embarrassing ourselves, or because getting out just seems like too much effort, we CHOOSE to withdraw. Isolating ourselves is probably the worst thing to do if we want recovery but the easiest thing to cling to if we want to avoid change. Recovery requires change. Change necessitates loss. Loss leads to grief. The process of grief, until resolved, is unpleasant. When the pain of remaining the same is more than the pain of change, it is then that we begin to recover. For most o f us, recovery is stop and start. Far too many people stop here and don’t start again. That is called choosing misery. Misery is the opposite of joy. It is an attitude in action, reject and retreat. Misery is not to be confused with sadness, an emotional response to stimuli. It also is not depression, a neurobiological response to a chemical imbalance caused by genetic defect, neurological damage or the exhaustion of our ability to cope. Being miserable is a cognitive response, sometimes a subconscious one, to our emotions. 4) Personality Disorder – The Personality Disorders Described in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM) were designed to reflect the natural tendencies of all persons when highly stressed. When unhealthy patterns of relating to others becomes habitually, usually due to diminished coping resources or prolonged high levels of stress, and create disorder (a repeated inability to function in a way beneficial to one’s progress toward self-actualization) in a person’s life, such person usually meets the criteria for a Personality Disorder. It should be easy to see why persons with one of the major psychiatric conditions is also likely to have a Personality Diagnosis. However, it is SO common that many psychiatrist don’t bother making a separate diagnosis. Most therapists operate under an assumption that such a diagnosis exists, with certain ones being more common to each of the various Axis I diagnoses, which in turn often gives them a clue to appropriate areas of focus for intervention. Whether a “full-fledged” Personality Disorder exists or not, our common patterns of relating that arise from our struggle with Bipolar, rather than the actual symptoms of Bipolar are more often the cause of our failed relationships than anything else. This is one of the most compelling reasons to enter long-term therapy with an appropriately trained professional. Armed with this knowledge and these suggestions, you can put an end to loneliness as soon as you are ready. I am on the journey myself. Come join me.

Little Brother, Love Your Mother

mother in nuclear family

Image via Wikipedia

[Author’s note: This article was copied and reposted without permission from the author on another WordPress Website which seems to mostly or only consist of such reposting. I appreciate that the blogger at least included my name, but the action was nonetheless immoral and disrespectful. Still, the blog itself is a nice collection of articles. I have not included it on my regular blogroll or below, but for the sake of my readers, I want you to know it is called “Kids Say”.]

Young man, your mom may not be complaining but I bet she doesn’t hear from you much and usually doesn’t know how to reach you. Daughters and moms are a little different. My mom lives 6 hours away and can track me down within 4 hours max. Mothers never stop being moms and as age steals away control over their own lives, they start looking for more control over their kids’ again. The more control you give the way you want to give it, the less frantic attempts will be at control where and when you don’t want it.
I’m going to play big sis/mentor again. Please out of courtesy to the role of mothers who will always worry, stay connected. How? 1) Call your mom at least weekly (maybe even set a day to be “update” day), visit her (even just stop by) every 2 weeks, take extra time for her at least monthly (longer conversation or visit, a movie together, etc), and (until you are married) spend every major holiday with her even if it isn’t right on the date. 2) At least monthly, ask her advice (for anything, even if you don’t need it or follow it) or tell her how something she’s previously taught you (however little) has helped you. 3) Figure out what her love “buzz” word is. Does she like to be “admired, appreciated, adored” or asked what her opinion is? Actively look for opportunities to use the buzz word frequently. 4) Acknowledge her anxieties (which sometimes may get expressed as anger) spoken and unspoken, then respond with compromise (give into extra caution when it’s not a big deal and give her firm evidence to counter her fears) 5) Never be unreachable. Choose when you communicate, but make sure she has a few friends’ numbers for emergencies. Check your messages often and respond within a day or less, acknowledging when you got the msg.  Your mom needs you as much as you once needed her, and you need her still even if you don’t realize how.
She’s always gonna be a mother and you’ve given her oodles of reason to worry.You’ll always be her “baby”.  Remember that you were intimately tied to her at one time; letting go of you is like letting go  of a part of herself. Even when a mother barely acts like a mom, there is that biological bond that men can never understand. Accept her concern with empathy and remember that her world is getting smaller as she ages while yours is getting bigger. Don’t carve her too far out of it; she’ll be gone before you know it.
I’m coming from a place of experience, saying this while I’m watching my mom’s health decline and my brother get frustrated with her such that he doesn’t want to “deal” with her as much. My mom is clinging hard to me, but I’m not resenting it anymore. Someday, she won’t be able to cling and I will be the one who doesn’t want to let go. And the things that once annoyed me, I now see as the fruit of her upbringing and all that has influenced her through her life. I use humor to draw gentle boundaries and remind her with admiration of who she was and what she was doing at my age. I remind her what she’s taught me and acknowledge I was a slow learner. I remind her that she doesn’t have to be a perfect mom and that my mistakes are not due to her lack of effort. I remind her that SHE is still growing too.
Anyway, mother-child relationships are often at the heart of our “hard times” in life. Sometimes the solution is a just a little companionship, simply showing interest by calling or listening. I hope the most important thing I’ve helped you do is grow up. Learn from my experience little brother. My mistakes aren’t worth repeating.

How to Love Stupid People

warning about stupidity

Image via Wikipedia

I first must make clear that ignorance is a lack of knowledge, skills, or understanding. While stupidity is often interchanged with the word ignorant, its theoretical meaning differs vastly. The outcome of both may produce the same actions, but stupidity is in fact a character defect rather than a condition. Both may prevail unceasingly until death, but the latter is far more difficult to eradicate. Stupidity in the sense that I mean it here is better equated with a lack of willingness, a mental attitude that dismisses evidence and experience and reason, the source or sister to insanity – that being the repetition of destructive or self-destructive acts with the expectation that the consequences of one’s actions will magically lose their destructive force and may in fact result in the opposite. Ignorance is relatively easy to remedy – feed the mind and the rest will follow. Stupidity however requires patience, fervent effort, and diligence. To step beyond stupidity requires a deep humility, so deep as to see ourselves exactly for who we are with no judgment at all – positive or negative. Many are not capable of such honesty. Second, before I continue, I want you the reader to know that neither ignorance nor stupidity can be generalized to every part of a person’s being. So, like my co-contributors (as you’ll see this theme elsewhere), I could never truthfully or with good conscience call a person stupid or ignorant, except rarely perhaps if I qualified in what manner or area. For we are all stupid and ignorant in some manner to some degree at different points in our life.
Now, why is such clarification necessary? It is needed because it is a groundwork upon which we may develop empathy, grow in our ability to forgive, find serenity and live with joy. Never have I come to a point of perfection in these goals, but also never have I gotten a start without first building on my understanding of my own and others’ ignorance and stupidity in any situation. Furthermore, failing to do so has sadly led me to act “unrighteously” with a self-righteous attitude more than once. Recently our prayer group discussed how to handle being accused of something unfairly by someone in fact guilt of what they accused you. Sometimes we hold certain persons to higher expectations because of their intelligence or their charisma. We think they ought to know better. We must remember that we’ve all been privy to experiences uniquely our own and each experience affects how we assimilate learning from the next. Therefore, even two children brought up in the same household with the same parents in what seems much the same way experience life differently and therefore do not share exactly the same knowledge, skills, and understanding. So back to the issue our group discussed, I do not wish to focus on the details but just to offer some general thoughts. Without a doubt, knowing little of most people’s lives, it behooves me for my own peace of mind to assume that a person acts unkindly out of ignorance rather than stupidity. Afterall, I have a much better chance of positively influencing them and less reason to take their actions personally.
So, it is important to bear in mind that the strength with which one conveys her/his convictions or the hurtful manner in which s/he delivers them does not negate the presence of ignorance. In fact, it proves it all the more. For a person who is not ignorant of how to be assertive has not reason to be anything but assertive, for in communication nothing is gained and more is lost by aggression, passive-aggression and passivity than by assertion. And since it by communication that we relate, a most necessary aspect of our humanity and our spiritual growth, a person not ignorant of assertion would choose to be assertive. Only someone with no interest in spiritual growth or righteousness AND yet with knowledge of how to be assertive who chooses to act in an unassertive manner could be found entirely at fault in choosing to thus communicate. Of course such a person would likely not care enough to consistently be assertive, for they would likely not care about the rights of others and neither would they likely care what anyone thought of their choices. In such a case though, does not Jesus advise us two things? One, we are told to set right in their pathway those of our OWN Christian community and then only according to the administration of justice upheld by our community. Two, where the gospel is rebuked, we are to shake even the dust of where we have tread from our feet. On a final note I must say, if I persist in choosing to feel slighted by others’ ignorance, I am stupid. Now, certainly, much more could be said on this subject, but I think we have found an adequately place to let the issue rest. God be with you.