Sunday, May 23, 2010

Self Parenting Part II of III - A Closer Look

Hello Friends:

Okay, I am posting Part II. Now. I've procrastinated so long that I wrote a post on procrastination.

My Part I of Self Parenting took a look at the model for a good parent, since I wanted to avoid making any assumptions, there. In Part II, right here, I'm going to look specifically at suggestions from books and sites about the model for parenting one's own inner child. Some of these ideas look similar to the list in the last post, and others don't. Then in Part III I will (hopefully) tie these and a few other ideas together in a possible practical approach to self-parenting.

And no, I don't understand why my theme for pictures on this is cats. Stress Cat is a little jealous, actually.

I realize I didn't post a clear goal for the process of learning how to self-parent in part one of this series.  On Recovery View I found some text I liked. "In this process the client is reminded that they are not the same as their thoughts and memories.  That to be an adult is to understand and to embrace that there are thoughts and memories that take us back to an earlier time, but remembering is simply that, remembering. Remembering is a momentary process, one that requires compassion for the child that they were. Remembering does not have to be the same as reliving, if we can learn to intervene with our adult at this point. This is the premise of Self-Parenting."

Here are some tips, then, that specifically address adult behaviors towards your own inner self. Note that there really isn't a process discussed here.  There are so many approaches.  Some self-parenting programs are exactly like AA, with twelve specific steps.  Some approaches emphasize mindfulness, while others use art therapy to reach into your inner self.  There is not a "best" way, but many of the approaches have a few of these tips or points in common.

1. Think about what sort of parents you wish you had and be that parent to yourself. "If you wish you had parents that took you to Disneyland and took photos of you having fun and bought you Mickey Mouse ears, seriously consider planning a trip to Disneyland for yourself with a couple of good friends who would take pictures of you, and wear Mickey Mouse ears with you as well." (drmarlo)

2. Learn Who You Are. "Commit to learn who you really are and what your values are – on a deep level. For example, ask yourself: In my favorite type of conversation, what do I talk about and with whom? What activities bring me joy? What’s most important for me in a love relationship? What does s/he say and do, and how does s/he behave? What are my most important priorities as a parent? What makes me happy? What are my passions and talents?" (theresident 

3. Rescue Yourself
. "When you are in a bad situation, don’t ignore yourself. Pay attention to the fact that you’re unhappy and do something about it. Rescue yourself from bad situations like you wish your parents would have rescued you when you were a child." (drmarlo)

4. Comfort Yourself. "If you wish you had parents who would hold and hug and comfort you when you are sad, you need to allow yourself to experience being held and hugged and comforted when you are sad now. If your romantic partner cannot or will not do this for you, be a good parent to yourself and re-evaluate your choice of romantic partners. Not involved in a romantic relationship? Check out your friends. If you don’t have a friend who could hug you and hold you if you needed to cry, figure out why you don’t have any good friends and make a point to meet some higher quality people than the folks you’ve surrounded yourself with."(drmarlo)

5. Affirm Yourself.  "Recognize your abilities and recite them to yourself with pride." (relationshipmatters) Encourage your spouse/SO/family to highlight your achievements, abilities, and positive behaviors.  

6. Choose Strong Supporters.  "Marry a supportive and admiring spouse." (relationshipmatters) Choose friends who value and support you and your efforts. Surround yourself with people who provide genuine love and friendship. Stay away from work/career situations that are repetitions of earlier family abusive/stressful patterns.

7. Refocus On Now.  At some point we have to abandon debilitating feelings of pity for ourselves about how we were neglected and abused. Otherwise, we can allow ourselves to remain trapped in the time when the inner child was "in charge" of all our reactions and decision-making. We need to place our adult self in charge, taking responsibility for making the positive changes necessary to move forward.  (livestrong)

8. Identify Needs and Fill Them.  Needs can be a simple (or as complex) as food, air, and sleep. Once you have "learned who you really are" it will be easier to understand your unique needs. When you know them, start filling them. (reparenting)

9. Set and Maintain Boundaries.  Know what it feels like when your personal boundaries are being violated, then react to maintain your integrity and self-trust. "I usually feel my chest tighten, my breathing stop and my face flush. That's anger. Then the voice(s) in my head begin their chatter. 'How dare he talk to me like that?' Sometimes I simply feel numb, paralyzed and my brain goes blank. I identify this state as shock. I usually retreat in silence in these situations. So my job has been to quickly notice when these body/mind reactions occur. Hopefully the boundary trespasser is still in front of me. If so, I can take a deep breath and then I say, 'I believe differently' or 'That's not true for me' or "I don't accept that.' Then I excuse myself and walk away. Sometimes I have to do this a couple of times before the boundary breaker backs off. This is self care in action." (reparenting)

Righto. Enough for now. Let me know what you think, and I'll post Part III soon. Right. Really I will.

Your Hostess With Neuroses

Image credit/info: / CC BY-SA 2.0

Friday, May 14, 2010

Procrastination - A Bad Word for a Real Problem

Hello Friends: 

I noticed today that I have 31 followers - thank you so much for joining me in my adventures in Anxiety Land! I learn a great deal from your insightful blogs, and the comments you make on my posts. It is great to have the validation and to know there are people like me, dealing with the same crazy and trying, whenever possible, to enjoy the ride.

Right, back to the post. Sort of. I know I owe you Part II of Self Parenting, but I'm still doing my research on that. I need it to be just so - I can't make a half-a$$ed post, after all. Which got me thinking about why. Why can't I make a half-a$$ed post? Why can't I accept that some posts will be better than others? Who is the one creating these expectations, anyway? Why am I stressing over this?

And the next thing I know, I haven't posted in days. I'm procrastinating again.

The word procrastination has such a negative connotation. We know we are procrastinating when we are avoiding doing something that needs doing. Something that we know, eventually, must get done. But we put it off, again and again, until it becomes a crisis. Why?

And therein, I believe, lies the rub. I think most people think 'why' is because the procrastinator is lazy. That this person simply does not like to work, or only wants to do what they want, and d@mn the other stuff and the consequences. This behavior is seen as destructive, anti-social, and selfish. But procrastination is not the same as lazy. Lazy is only one possible reason why people procrastinate. For those of us with mental illness, procrastination can be about self-hatred, fear of failure, a need for drama, perfectionism, agoraphobia, and so much more.

So here are my own suggestions for trying to cope with procrastination. I cope poorly, but here is how I do it, whenever possible.

1) Stop equating procrastination with lazy, and realize it is a true mental health issue that needs to be addressed.  Figure out why, personally, I am avoiding doing something specific.  Each thing might have its own reason.  Admit it is a problem and try to strategize instead of continue the cycle.

2) Stop beating myself up for what I do not accomplish. Positive reinforcement works on adults to change behavior, punishment does not.

3) Pat myself on the back anytime I do anything at all, no matter how "minor." (See 1, above). I deserve to get praise for what it is I do manage to do. Did I brush my teeth? On a bad depression day, this can be a major 'win.'

4) Get similar reinforcement from my support network. Example - hubby. We are beyond mind games or passive aggressive nonsense. He can't read my mind, and I know that. So I've told him to make sure he is not critical of mistakes or things left undone. I already know they are undone and don't need it pointed out. What I do need is praise for what I accomplish. If I don't get it, I ask for it. Really. "Tell me how great I did calling and getting my own meds refilled." When he gets a request like that, he's happy. He knows exactly what to do and say, he does not have to guess.

5) Realize that there are some things I can only do if I am well/motivated, and some things I have to do even if I am not well/motivated. For me, checking email is in the first category. There are days I cannot check email, no matter how much I might 'want' to do it. I'm terrified, deathly afraid, of emails telling me how I messed something up. Getting on the treadmill, however, is in the second category. I hate, hate, hate it. Some days it seems 'pointless' because of my depression. Other days it seems suffocating because of my anxiety. But on good days, I still hate it. Nothing will make me want to get on the treadmill. So it is something I have to force myself to do, even when I don't want to, because I will never want to. It is fraught with issues around my weight, self image, and hypochondriasis, but still, it is qualitatively different from my issues with email. I cannot force myself to open emails if I am 'unwell.' I can, in fact, force myself to get on the treadmill even on my worst days. It's hard and I hate it, but I can do it.

6) Realize that 4 and 5 above are different for everyone. Other people might think badly of me that I can't make myself check email. They might think I'm 'just not trying hard enough' or am 'lazy.' I have to realize that they are ignorant. Only I know truly what I can and can't do.

7) Do things "okay" intentionally. Some of my procrastination is related to a need to do everything perfectly. If I can't do it perfectly, why bother? This is self-defeating since perfect is impossible. So sometimes I do things only okay on purpose. I stop when it isn't perfect and go do something else. This sort of feels like ripping your heart out, and makes you go nuts. But in some cases it works really well. Housework, for example. I used to spend all day cleaning one room, and then had no energy for anything else for a week. Now I do a little here and there. The place isn't perfect (or even close) but it is now livable in every room, not just the one room I managed to clean.

8) Notice the reactions of other people when I do something less than perfect, intentionally or otherwise. In almost every case, people don't realize I didn't give it my all (or have my all to give). They are usually just happy to have participation or help of any kind. Sometimes that's not the case, but actually keeping count has made it clear that I drive the negative numbers way out of proportion.

9) Only worry about today. My task is not to take my meds 365 times this year. When I look at it that way it feels overwhelming. My task is to take my meds today. Only today. If I don't take them, there is no "make up" or something like that. It means I may have consequences and need to face them. BUT it also means when I get up, what I did yesterday is off the books. And I only have to take my meds once, today, for a full win.

10) The classic - break everything down into tiny parts. I often feel overwhelmed with something when it is too big to handle. I try to break everything down into tiny pieces, and just do the tiny pieces one at a time.

Anyway, those are the things I do to cope. It means that sometimes I actually CAN check email, because I continually pave the way to create safe mental space for that. Treadmill - ugh. How do you deal with procrastination? What gets you motivated and moving? Or how do you deal when you still just can't do 'it' whatever that is?

Your Hostess With Neuroses

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Monday, May 10, 2010

Self Parenting Part I of III - Learning From Good Parents

Hello Friends:

Part of my healing investigations include learning about how to self-parent. For those of us who did not have a nurturing childhood, learning how to self-parent your own inner child can be a key to developing needed skills for life. Or at least that's what they tell me.

I've done a lot of poking around for resources and ideas, and figured I'd put them up in a series of posts here on the blog. Note, that some of the places I link to here are not big favorites with me - they might be religious sites or have an agenda to sell something. But I want to give credit where it is due, and not just claim ideas that are not mine. But don't assume that I'm endorsing any of these places. There be weirdness out on the intarwebs.

The first thing I thought to investigate was ideas of a 'good parent.' I didn't want to rely on my own dubious internal models for such a thing, so I went digging around and created the following (long) list of what a good parent is/does. It is combined from Buzzle
, Cutekid, eHow, and Myyoungchild. It is hardly comprehensive, but it gives a good idea of what a 'good parent' might be.

Tops on most every list is Unconditional Love. I think I'm going to have that be a topic for another entire post, but will put it here along with the rest for now. The first category is what a 'good parent' would do. In parenthesis is my 'translation' for a good self-parent.

1. Love your children unconditionally (Love your inner child unconditionally.) For children, this means saying it to them, hugging them, kissing them, telling them how much they mean to you and how unique and wonderful they are. Words have to be backed up by actions to be believed however, and everything else on this list is how to back it up. The same is true for dealing with our inner children. We have to tell ourselves we have our own unconditional love, be there with 'hugs' for ourselves, and tell ourselves we are unique, wonderful, and valued. We may just start to believe it when those 'words' are backed up by the actions.

2. Make your children a high priority (Make your inner child a high priority.)  We have to make caring for our inner children a priority. It can be easy to ignore them or turn away, so we have to make a commitment to keep them in a high priority position.

3. Understand how your children grow (Understand the development and needs of your inner child.)  We need to understand how our inner child came to be, what it needs, and how it will change over time. That way we know what to provide for ourselves, and what are realistic expectations.

4. Provide Encouragement/Never Criticize (No translation needed.) Every child needs to feel like their parents are their best cheerleaders and biggest fans. Inner children also need encouragement, not criticism. Learn as you can from mistakes, and then move on to the next item that you can use to encourage your inner child.

5. Spend time with your children (Spend Time on your Inner Child.) Your inner child needs you to spend some time with it, learning and playing, as well as comforting and nurturing. At times, set aside the constant need to judge, weigh, and analyze, and let your inner child have some simple fun. Spending time builds trust and love.

6. Listen to your children (Listen to what your inner child says and thinks.) Your inner child probably has a lot to say, strong opinions, and some very clear ideas about things. Your inner child might also have questions. Listen to what that person is saying, and respond with straightforward and genuine answers or the care that is needed.

7. Accept and acknowledge your child's feelings and desires (No translation, again.) It is okay to feel sad, scared, angry, jealous, or confused. Acknowledge the feelings of your inner child, don't dismiss them or judge them. Ask the inner child to find out why it is reacting the way it is.

8. Give safety to your children (Create safety for your inner child.) Everyone needs to feel a different level of safety, and this changes with time. Find out what your inner child needs to feel safe. It might be something surprising, like a stuffed animal, a separate room, or a pet. Or less surprising, like a better lock on the front door or an investment in better tires for the car. Find out what your inner child needs, and then explain to the inner child how you are meeting (or will meet) that need.

9. Model Good Behavior (Show, Don't Just Tell.) Children watch, listen, and learn. They do not do what they are told, they do what they have had modeled for them. If you want your inner child to believe you, to trust you, you can't say "I'll take care of you" and then eat pizza every night. Your inner child sees you are not sincere about care. This goes the same for proper expressions of emotions, standing up for yourself, and meeting daily needs for food, sleep, health, etc. Nurture yourself in adult ways, and when you go to nurture your inner child, the inner child will believe your good intentions.

10. Set reasonable expectations and express them clearly (Know what to expect from your inner child.) You can't expect your inner child to respond like an adult, to be perfect, or not to have needs. You have to be realistic based on what you learn about the development of the inner child, and by listening to yourself. Be ready to counter unacceptable behavior when your inner child pushes you to act out, "I know you are angry and sad, but you can't self harm by punching walls or not eating for three days. Is there something else you can do for relief? A distraction, a bath, a nap?"

11. Keep a regular schedule for your children (Keep a schedule for your inner child.) Schedules help to develop discipline and responsibility, as well as create an environment with less confusion and more straightforward expectations. As an adult, you can easily bend your schedule, eat poorly, stay up all night, and do as you please. But your inner child might not be up to all that. Each day does not have to be totally planned out, but try to do some things consistently (other than work schedule).

12. Create togetherness through routines. (Engage the inner child in meaningful rituals and routines, alone and with others.) Daily, weekly, or even yearly family rituals create a bond between family members. It may be as simple as reading a book together every night or taking a yearly trip to the beach. Let your inner child get involved with family rituals now the way you did as a kid, even if (especially if) you are alone. Put up holiday decorations, go on a yearly vacation to a spot you love and watch a holiday parade. If you are separated from family, you can also engage in rituals with friends; like movie nights on Thursdays or a game every Sunday.

13. Create a consistent set of rules (Be consistent with your inner child.) Like a specific schedule and regular routines and rituals, consistent rules are necessary for structure. Don't change things on yourself after you have set a boundary or a limit. This is a part of understanding and meeting expectations for yourself and your inner child. The same goes for 'discipline.' After you have set the limits, rules and expectations, try to enforce them every time. Again, this builds trust and shows your inner child that you can build and respect boundaries.

14. Reward your children (Reward your inner child.) Give your inner child good things any time they 'do right' or for no reason at all. Rewards are the only real way to change adult behavior, and your child is stuck inside your adult body.

15. Don't spank your children (Don't hurt your inner child.) Spanking achieves nothing but fear. If you feel frustrated or angry take a break. This goes the same for that inner child. You might be very frustrated with yourself at times, and think some kind of punishment is in order. Punishment does not change the behavior of adults (or inner children). Learn from mistakes, disappointments, and failures, and then move on. Do not punish, harm, or self-sabotage.

16. Strengthen your team (Keep everyone on the same page.) Go ahead and share your plans for self-parenting with your spouse, therapist, or whoever. Let them know what you are doing, and how they can assist. They should also know about ways you are trying to develop more structure or routine for your inner child, so they don't end up making things more difficult.

17. Teach your children what you value (Not sure how to translate this ... but it was cool so I didn't delete it.) "It is crucial to show and teach your children the values that you hold dear. Discuss with your children the importance of being honest, of being fair, of being respectful, of caring for others, and of being patient and understanding. Model these values for them, as children are astute in watching how adults behave and imitating that behavior. Whatever your spiritual beliefs may be, teach them to your children in a way they can understand. By doing these things, you are laying an important foundation that will guide your children throughout their lives."

18. Parents need recharge time (Don't spend every moment obsessing about the inner child.) Parents need to take some time for themselves, or they risk being no good for their children or themselves. Avoid sleep deprivation, isolation and self-neglect. You are more than your inner child. You are a complex adult. Nurture all of yourself, not just the inner child part. Make caring for your inner child a habit or reflex, and your time being you, the adult, in a newly comfortable and nurtured way.

Now if that doesn't seem like a tall order ...

Your Hostess With Neuroses

Image credit/info: "Teardrop and Her Kittens" from / CC BY 2.0

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Sane? Depressed and Overwhelmed, Instead.

Hello Friends:

I am choking on the irony of having posted "Apparently I am getting more sane ..." and then having the week I just had. No, nothing 'bad' happened. No illnesses or accidents or any of that. It is, as usual, the depression that comes out of nowhere. People see me, notice I am down, and say "What's wrong?" I want to say "Where have you been for the last two years (or ten or thirty)? Do you see the list of diagnoses at the top of this page? That's what's wrong. Do I need more?"

People are surprised. "But you were doing better." I want to pummel them over the head. "So that means I never have another bad day, or week, or month, then? Progress is always straight up, eh?"

Grumpy, down, overwhelmed, sad, and cranky. What a great combo. Oh yeah, I have a migraine, too, with that wonderful nausea that goes with it. I'm blaming this one on the Celexa. But I'm blogging, and I'm going to count this as my "functional" success of the day. Whoo.

I can, however, see a trigger for my current state of bleh. I went from anxious, to overwhelmed, to unable to cope, to depressed. It is a pattern I am familiar with, but before this last year I don't think I would have seen it quite this clearly.

What I think set me off was a series of health related stuff. Again, nothing bad, just stuff that is starting to need attention. I've been overweight for decades, and was able to get away with it because I was young.  I'm not young anymore, and my last physical shows me on the border of having some cardiac issues; my good cholesterol is going down, my lipids are no good, my triglycerides are on the line. Doc is saying that if the niacin does not work, I'll probably have to start a statin drug. This is ridiculous. I'm too young and the wrong gender to be on Lipitor. Yes, that's a stupid way to think, but here I am thinking it.

But taking all those supplements she has prescribed is hard. My OCDs are mostly contamination based. Pills are a daily struggle. I have seven total to deal with, given the mind meds and the supplements. It's too many. I showed her all the bottles and said I couldn't promise to be med compliant with all this stuff, and she had to eliminate some of them. She didn't. So I have the same lineup of bottles to deal with every morning, and that means some mornings I turn away from them in defeat.

So I have to lose weight. Which means exercise for real. I can do it, but it takes an inhaler to do it without practically passing out, since I have exercise induced asthma. And I'm afraid of the inhaler. I've been using it, but it makes me feel terrible. I need a different prescription. That means calling and getting one. And then finally picking it up and using it. Inhaling weird stuff. And then I'm still supposed to have mental resources left to get on the treadmill?

And then there are the flexibility and strength exercises. I have those from my somatic therapist. She at least agreed when I said she could give me three and no more. So there they are, another thing to do every day, added to a list that I can't handle as it is.

Include food. Food, which is one of my real trigger issues regarding OCD. Shopping, cooking, and then cleaning up. I can do one of those, not three. But losing weight and eating right means planning meals, shopping, keeping the pantry stocked, using leftovers, etc. etc. I can't even bear to think about it. My mind is not dealing with planning, and I don't have the energy to stand in front of the stove and cook.

Okay I could continue with the depressive ranting. But the picture is pretty clear. I am trying, really trying, to get better. It is never good enough. Never fast enough. There is always more more more to do more to try. Pressure. And then when I get some random physical chronic illness it'll be my fault.

There's my whiny post. I'll try to get something less self-indulgent next time.

Your Hostess With Neuroses

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