Friday, April 19, 2013

Apparently, I'm allergic to help.

A friend of mine recently noticed that I am, as she so kindly put it, "allergic to help." 

I have been allergic to help for a LOOOOOOOONG time.  There are too many examples to list.  Here's my favorite.  Once upon a time, I volunteered myself and my horse to ride in a leadership clinic with some Cowboy from Virginia  winking.  After an amazing and enlightening day, I vividly remember preparing to take my gear back to the trailer.  Purse over my shoulder, bridle and helmet looped over my arm, carrying my saddle.  I believe I was about to grab my horse's lead rope as well (Hellooo - I'm an endurance rider. We don't make more than 1 trip) when the Marlboro Man asked if I needed help.  He'd just met me.  He had no idea.  As usual, the phrase "Nope!  I got it!!!"  popped out of my mouth before he'd even finished the question.  You see, I never need help.  Not ever.  And the more I need it, the less likely I am to admit it by golly unless I'm paying attention.  Well, the Cowboy folded his arms, looked at me a little sideways, leaned against the round pen, shook his head and said "My grandfather would not like this." 

I stopped dead in my tracks.  Looked at him blankly for a long moment . . . and handed him my saddle.  And said "Thank you."

A while ago, I had a conversation withy my mother that probably saved me years of therapy.  We were chatting about the past, and she commented that she used to really look forward to my coming home from school when I was in first or second grade. 

Me being me, I couldn't let that go.  "Aww, that's sweet!"  I responded . . .  "Why?"

My mother proceeded to explain to me that she had 2 babies at home at the time (ages 3 and infant), and that when I came home, it was nice to have someone to talk to . . . and here's the part that saved me therapy time . . . I never needed anything.  I would have been about seven. 

Now before my mom calls me, let me explain that I get it.  I TOTALLY get it.  When I'm exhausted and overwhelmed and trying to get things done and one of my kids asks for something, I have to work really hard not to heave a deep sigh before stopping whatever I needed to do to take care of whatever they need me to do.  The take-home message is that my mom never intended to send me the message that it wasn't ok to ask for help, but I was a pretty capable, independent kid and as a result, I was inadvertently rewarded for doing things on my own, and got the message that asking for things wasn't ok because it bothered other people.  Which I then took too far because kids do that. 

Here's the point:  at the time I had this conversation with my mother, I was struggling mightily with my issue of being totally overwhelmed (and this was BEFORE I had kids) and not having the skills to ask for help.  I would go ridiculously out of my way NOT to ask for help in fact, and would take great pains to keep anyone on the planet from ever discovering that I might possibly in any way not have everything all together.  As a mother of 2, I would have had to give that up anyway, as it is no longer possible for me to even maintain the illusion that I have everything even remotely together.  See how I've grown?

Every issue you're struggling with in your life, you learned somewhere.  Now this isn't "blame your parents" day on the blog, but odds are you learned it there.  Remember that whatever you learned, it may not be what they intended  to teach you.  When we learn things so young, we don't have fully functional reasoning brains yet, but we develop habits.  I can imagine my 7 year old self, seeing my mom doing 27 things at a time, and figuring there was no good reason to bother her with whatever I wanted, and figuring out how to do it myself.  When I was 4 I decided to clean the bathroom one day.  Trying to help.  Pretty sure mom would have been happier if I'd asked for help that day, as I ended up getting stitches in my thumb.  Or when my friend David and I decided to try out the glue-making technique we'd seen on PBS and mixed flour and water and added it to the play doh. 

When you identify what you learned, and what habits you created with your kid brain that you've carried into your adult life, it's easier to let go of them.  You're no longer locked in to the belief that if you ask for help you're horribly inconveniencing people, and they will be unhappy about it.  You can just ask.  And they can say yes or no.  And then you move on.  Shockingly?  People often say they will be more than happy to help.  It's amazing.  You should try it. 

The corrolary to this of course is be careful what you're teaching your kids.  They tend to learn it despite your best efforts.

Above all, don't forget to have a sense of humor about your bad habits.  That way you can smile when your friends laugh at you when you still do them.  UBKZ

Monday, April 15, 2013

Boston: Trouble . . . and Grace.

While I was in my office meeting with wonderful hurting people who want nothing more and are working their guts out to free themselves from pain and learn how to navigate their lives, someone else blew up a piece of MY world.

Purposefully.  Willfully.  Viciously. 

I'm having a lot of feelings today. 

I wish I could say one of them was shock.  I'm not shocked. 

Fear.  I'm afraid we are going to see more and more of this.  I'm afraid that we will soon learn what "those poor people in the middle east" have lived through for a long time. 

Dread.  I'm dreading the onslaught of hateful angry posts all over the internet that pour gasoline on the flames.  Short-sighted, inaccurate, self-serving LOOK AT ME drivel that makes a mockery of the devastation in Boston today.  I plan, for the first time in my FB career, to use the "mark as spam" button liberally.  I will not engage (probably :)  ) in debates with people who aren't interested in doing anything but arguing.  

Disgust.  At the climate of complacency rampant in this country (of course probably not one person reading this fits that description because you care enough to read) that is so worried about infringing in the slightest way on anyone's freedom that responsibility has been lost.  Think about asking "SHOULD I" rather than "CAN I."   How bad does it have to get before we start asking "how can I make it better?" rather than "what's in it for me??"  Sure we can go to the Supreme Court and fight for our RIGHT to this and that . . . but what about our RESPONSIBILITY?  To EACH OTHER? 

Grief:  At the innocence lost to our nation's youth - and heck ME . . . I had a 10 year old in my office recently concerned that his family and pets could die at any moment.  He should be making mudpies, riding his bike and tugging on girl's pigtails, blissfully unaware that such horror exists.  I will allow myself to move through the grief.  The horror.  The disbelief.  I will not bury it, justify it, or rationalize it, nor will I let it engulf me. 

Resolve.  Tomorrow morning I will come back into my office.  I will encourage others not to react in fear and anger.  I will focus on what I CAN do to make a difference. Tomorrow, I will comfort those in need.  Tomorrow, I will use kind words even when I'm frustrated . . . and even if someone tailgates me on the highway.  Tomorrow, I will find warm ways to reach out to people and connect.  I will make eye contact with strangers . . . and smile.  Tomorrow I will raise my head high and be part of the solution, not part of the problem.  That is what I CAN, and furthermore SHOULD do. 

Tonight, I'm going to hug my kids.  Really, really tight. 

Friday, April 12, 2013

It won't suck forever. Really.

I get it. 

You're discouraged.  You're disappointed.  Someone has broken your heart.  You feel trapped, powerless and out of control.  Whatever is going on, right now, things just suck. 

It won't suck forever.  Remember that.  I know.  You don't believe me.  It's ok.  Hear me out.

Today's world is HARD.  We are overloaded, overstimulated and overwhelmed, mostly without adequate skills to manage our emotions.  We get taught from day one NOT to feel - or at least not to tell anyone about it.  We end up feeling alone and lost.  People act really shitty and think it's their right.  You're not making it up.  Sometimes things really do suck. 

Don't give up.  Wait a week.  Or a day.  Or an hour.  Recognize that not every minute is horrible, and that horrible is relative.  Don't fall for the trap that there is some way you can rig your life that everything will be wonderful and happy all the time.  There are significant moments, both happy and lousy, scattered throughout a whole lot of pretty darn boring.  That's the way it's supposed to be.  You've been sold a bill of goods in movies and TV that everything is exciting and dramatic.  It's not.  Remember, they're condensing several days, weeks or months into 40ish minutes.  People don't watch TV and movies to see reality.  It's drama.  Life isn't like that. 

There's this thing called "habituation."  It's hard-wired.  We can't NOT do it.  From the time we're babies, we pay attention to something new.  Over time, it gets boring, and it doesn't pique our interest anymore.  It would take greater and greater levels of happiness to achieve the same feelings over time.  Similarly, we habituate to hard times too, so even if whatever stressful thing that's going on keeps going on for a long time, our brains get used to it and it doesn't seem so stressful.  The thing is, most of the time, stresses come and go.  You have a fight with your friend.  In a week, either you've both forgotten about it, or at the very least you've gotten used to avoiding each other in the hallway.  Think about things that have happened that were awful and you thought they'd never end.  Then they ended.  And you were ok.  That doesn't mean it didn't suck.  It just means it didn't suck forever. 

A guy named Ken Baldwin jumped off the Golden Gate Bridge in 1985.  He reports that as soon as he let go, he realized that "everything in [his] life that [he] thought was unfixable was totally fixable - except for having just jumped."  I can tell you I hear this story over and over.  A 20 year old guy who got dumped by his girlfriend and decided to hang himself.  As soon as the rope got tight, he remembers thinking it was a bad idea.  He's pretty glad his grandparents heard him.  Another kid in his 20's who tried suicide a couple years ago and can't really remember why he even wanted to do it.  A 17 year old girl who overdosed and cut herself who is now 25, finishing school and pretty darn happy with her life.  I could go on and on.

Any animal caught in a trap is tempted to chew off a leg to get free.  It's pretty normal for any one of us to consider suicide from time to time as a way to avoid having to actually go through whatever crappy thing is happening at the moment.  There's a big difference between really wanting to die and just wanting the pain to stop.  You want the pain to stop.  I know.  Me too.  The thing is, a lot of people don't know that they have choices other than feel miserable, or think about suicide.  If someone were to give you another option that made sense, you'd probably take it. 

That other option is about TOOLS and SKILLS.  No offense to parents and other people in your life, but LOTS of people don't have those skills.  We have skills for avoidance.  Numb out with TV, video games, alcohol, drugs, sex, sometimes over-achieving, dieting, whatever keeps you from feeling the pain.  Yes.  Learning new skills and getting through it is hard.  The more you practice, the easier it gets.  So where would you learn these skills?  TV?  We covered that.  Friends?  Their skills might not be any better than yours, and they might be the ones causing the problem in the first place.  Parents?  That's hit or miss.  If you have a great relationship with parents who have great skills, you're probably not thinking about killing yourself (though that's not always true either).  And yeah, when you feel hopeless at the end of your rope it's hard to be really motivated about learning a whole bunch of new coping skills.  You don't have to do it alone. 

So many people are scared to go see a therapist, but therapists are great coaches and can give you a short-cut to feeling better.  Therapists aren't there to judge you, or lecutre you, or boss you around.  Don't waste your energy feeling ashamed, weak or embarassed.  They won't see you that way.  Yes there are bad therapists.  Most of them aren't.  If you get a bad one, walk out of their office and right straight into someone else's.  I'd be surprised if you find 2 bad ones in a row.  Call your local community mental health center.  Google "THERAPIST (your zip code or city)."  Talk to your parents, if that's a safe thing to do.  Talk to a teacher.  Talk to a friend.  Talk to a friend's mom or dad.  TALK TO SOMEONE.   Know that it doesn't always take a lot of money to talk to a professional.  Call a hotline.  1-800-273-TALK or 1-800-SUICIDE Somewhere, there is someone who will listen.  Remember, you're not calling to tell them you're going to kill yourself.  You're calling to tell them you want another option.   

You can do this.  It will be worth it because it won't suck forever.  I promise. 


Click here to like our Psyched-IN! Facebook page for daily bits of humor, inspiration and helpful tips for navigating this complicated and stressful life!!

I have to say it does crack me up to run around asking people to like me.  On some level it's quite uncomfortable.  But then again, isn't that what we all want?  The desire to be appreciated and approved of drives us to bring our best selves into relationship . . . and creates a great deal of anxiety if we give too much power to the opinions of others.  It's all about balance.  Keep that self-esteem knob on the inside where YOU are in charge of it. 

So today, remember to have good self esteem.  Like me on Facebook because you'll get something out of it.  (And I do get really excited with new likes and comments!!)   But first, like yourself.  Because you're worth it.  :)

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Movie Review: Hope Springs

By the time most couples are in my office, at least one person has at least one foot out the door.  No one wants to hear "I'm not sure if I want to be with you anymore."  It hurts.  Suck it up.  The price tag on your pride is HUGE. 

It's scary to leave your ego and your defenses at the door and really roll up your sleeves and do the work of unraveling the damage you've done to your relationship over years.  And the expectation is it will be better in weeks.  Not gonna happen, my friends.  This process takes time. 

I'm here to say it's worth it.  Think of how much time you've invested in this relationship and how many people will be impacted if it ends. 

The only dealbreaker is one or more of the parties involved categorically refuses to make any concessions, won't own any part of the problem and doesn't really care if the other party leaves.  Other than that?  Anything can be overcome.  Affairs, abuse, lying, addictions, distance, money . . . two people on the same side of the table working against the PROBLEM (assuming the probematic behavior STOPS) instead of two people treating each other as the problem can get through it. 

A client recently turned me on to this movie.  I thought it was a really nice snapshot of what marriage counseling looks like.  Now in my office I tend to be less focused on sex, per se, and more on communication, but I think this movie did a nice job of demonstrating the process of having to buck up and discuss some really uncomfortable subjects, put on your big kid pants and get over yourself for the good of the relationship, which is ultimately for the good of the individual.  It demonstrates the role of communication, assertiveness and limit-setting.  I'm way more fun than that therapist though.  Just sayin'.  

I've got a few posts in the works about couples counseling.  Stay tuned.