Tuesday, August 26, 2014

But... The Lord Told Me To

This post is the third in a series on self-care for care-givers. Physicians, nurses, mommas, pastors, teachers and unsung care-givers of every stripe I hope you find something restorative here. Post 1, Caregiver, Love Thyself, Post 2, Thick Line in the Sand, Part 1, Post 3, Thick Line in the Sand, Part 2.
Ironic timing: I'm preparing a series of posts on how religion reinforces a lack of boundaries and self-care and my teenage sister sends me a meme saying: "Always remember God added another day in your life... not because you need it, but because someone else needs you."

I'm tempted to drop the mic... er... keyboard, and walk away.

This thinking typifies the unhealthy Other focus that religion can propagate. Your life isn't about you. It's about Others. Burn out for God, for The Lost, for a Dying World. Words like these make too much sense to caregivers. They fit our default position of other-centeredness, and we run with them.

My only religious background is Christianity, so I'll address that perspective.  Also, I'm still a Christian. The form of that identity has changed over the years, but essentially, I believe the radical love of Jesus Christ is the greatest model and hope for humans. This post is about spiritual misguidedness and abuse, not a call to end religion.

Moving On
I experienced mishandled religion perpetuating broken boundaries and broken people in several ways. I learned a poor theology of the person that corroded my ability to see the need to care for myself. I learned to distrust pleasure and rest. I absorbed an ethos of disproportionate focus on others, among other things. I saw basic human limitations labeled as sin and "heart issues."    

Friday, August 15, 2014

Update: Speaking in Texas and Blog Status

Hi Friends. Update on where we are:
  • I'm speaking at a women's conference called A Courageous calling tomorrow, in Keller, TX. They're accepting folks at the door, so it's not too late to sign up (you can do that here, or just show up!). I'm super excited to be hosting my session as a guided discussion, rather than lecture/speech. We'll learn and share together. I expect it to be a rich time.
  • I'm working on the third part of the series on Self-Care for Caregivers. This post will look at how religion can reinforce unhealthy boundaries and self-neglect. It should be on the blog in the next few days (gotta finish planning for that event tomorrow!).
  • The most viewed post for this week reflects on the truth about suicide. Many thanks to Matthew Paul Turner for helping to get this message out by sharing the post.
I hear a baby waking up. Time to go!

Monday, August 11, 2014

the enemy of suicide is intimacy

Robin Williams has died -- apparently of suicide. In seconds social media exploded with the news. America's gut wrenched because the man had us all figured out. Made us smile. Made us belly laugh. Made our eyes twinkle -- even the crustiest among us.

In seconds social media exploded, and mere moments later the pontificating started. I read a post exclaiming that suicide is the "most selfish act of all." The gnawing feeling of grief infused with the acidic feeling of anger.

Suicide is the most lonely act.

I've been suicidal. I suffered post partum depression. The gory images of ending my own confused, chaotic moments came to me unbidden. Suicide has nothing to do with selfishness or generosity. It is no more generous or selfish to live in agony than to die in agony. 

Agony of depression. Of loneliness. Of grief unfettered and out of control. Sometimes it results from chemical and hormonal imbalances. Sometimes those things result from prolonged emotional and physical suffering. Your own body and mind turn against you, whispering ugly, forceful things. And the disease of depression effectively shutters you from friends and family -- the ones with the antidotes to the lies.

The survivors after a suicide suffer tremendously. The grief from this loss is complicated -- draconian. Even more so because this form of death we know the individual should have - could have - escaped. There is choice involved. But it's not so simple. The suicidal person cannot see the choices in front of them. The persistence of intrusive thoughts, the proximity of the means of destruction, the depression-imposed isolation cutting them off from relationships that could speak wiser words and choices -- all flow into a seemingly pre-selected path.

That's why we say someone is a "victim of suicide." Because they are swept up in something bigger than them.

Imagine shooting rapids on the Colorado River, without raft, paddle, life vest, guide, or companion.

Suicide is intensely lonely. Tragic. Devastating. Life and promise ending for the victim and the survivor. Its power is fueled and protected by depression encased isolation.

I suffered my suicidal thoughts and images for weeks - weeks - before I told my therapist or husband. Catch that? I was already in therapy. And those of you familiar with my story know that I counseled suicidal clients while obtaining my masters in counseling. No one should have been better equipped to deal than me.

Others suffer years. Our society rarely gives voice or forum to the mentally and emotionally agonized.

Whittling something so complicated down to an act somehow about the healthy person ("you're selfish to do this because you didn't think of me") misses all the points.

The enemy of suicide is intimacy, not judgment. Please read what our friend Kate wrote:

Depression is way more serious than one would think. It can twist our brains in such a way that we think death is our only option for peace and escape from the debilitating pain it causes. It eats away at me every day despite how hard I work to fight it.

If you need help and you need someone to remind you that you mean so much to them and they can't fathom their life without you, let me be that person. You are loved and it will get better.

If suicide seems like your answer, it isn't. The words, the visions, the thoughts are lies. In my belief, you are intended for the life you have, purposed to live your days -- a being the world needs, and you bear the image of Divine. Depression sucks all your energy, making the most important thing to do -- reaching out to another human -- the hardest thing. Do it anyway. Bring someone inside your heart, as Kate offered, to speak the truth of love. It will get better.

I told my OB about the thoughts, after my therapist reminded me most people don't have visions of shooting themselves in the head. I started an anti-depressant, and intensified my therapy.

I have recovered from my suicidal thoughts. Although, they leave an oily residue -- like glass after wiping off grease. Sometimes, when things feel intense, I see through that section of the glass, and it frightens me. I tell my husband. I speak it out loud so I can hear the ugliness of it, instead of being wooed by it playing quietly in my head.

It's seeing myself mirrored in his eyes, hearing truth from his lips, that I see falsehood for what it is.

For Survivors
I know your heart is busted. You may feel intense guilt. And probably a hell of a lot of anger. The anger is normal. Don't rush past that feeling. The trick is to experience it without getting lost in it. But do relieve yourself of that guilt. Examine yourself. Learn from the moments you had, or didn't have, with your lost one. But remember the rapids we talked about up there? They were caught in something big and terrifying. The result wasn't your fault.

For the Healthy-Minded
For those of us who have the strength, the health, the hope, the presence of mind and truth -- may we pour those gifts into the lives of the friends and family hurting among us. May we combat the lies of the disease with love. You did not cause the sickness. You cannot cure it. But you can participate in its cure.


Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Thick Line in the Sand (Part 2)

This post is the third in a series on self-care for care-givers. Physicians, nurses, mommas, pastors, teachers and unsung care-givers of every stripe I hope you find something restorative here. Post 1, Caregiver, Love Thyself, Post 2, Thick Line in the Sand, Part 1.

Life has been busy -- I left my job, had my first public speaking engagement, preached a bit, and followed a baby around the house a thousand times. But, I recognize a reluctance to finish this post. Usually, that means I am still learning and relearning to practice the material I write.  That's a good, human, but humbling thing.

When we left off, you were supposed to breathe, express gratitude for your big heart, and love yourself by indulging in a pleasure. I hope you took the time to do those things. It's the hardest advice I give to caregivers.

It's also a part of learning to set boundaries. For us "Other Specialists," finding a sense of self, and self's desires, pleasures, expressions, helps us differentiate who we are from others.