“Ongoing health challenges* and tired of defining yourself and being defined by limitations? I’ll help you unearth the possibilities, rekindle HOPE, and stake your claim for a future worth loving and living.”
Apparently, I need help asking for help. I’m going to share some obstacles to growing this skill for me in hopes they may serve you as well, as this is an important skill for taking care of ourselves AND living lives that still have the meaning and value we want.
One obstacle I’ve uncovered is stories/judgments I tell myself about people who ask for help. I was taught that you need to take care of yourself and that asking for help is a sign of weakness. So one hurdle is overcoming my own self-judgment of being “weak” if I ask for help (among others – like being “needy”).
Another impediment is that, since I’ve mostly excluded this as a viable option, I’m not very skilled at doing it well and I’m uncomfortable doing things I’m not good at. A goal is about asking for help from a place of power and empowerment versus from a victim or “needy” place. I don’t always trust myself to skillfully ask powerfully.
And then there’s being unattached to the outcome. I have practiced doing this and do it well in many areas of my life. Oddly, that ability doesn’t seem to transfer as well over to asking for a favor or for help doing “ordinary” things.
Not to mention the fear of rejection and the stories we can so easily make up about our worth or loveableness (none of them good) if someone says “nope” or even “not now”.
It also appears to be ingrained in me that give and take must be equal – I don’t want to feel like I owe anybody anything. Again, not helpful when stacked with the other issues.
So, no answers for you today. But I think I’m asking some good questions for me. You? ~Z
I don’t know about you, but sometimes my gut seems to be shouting at me to avoid things at all costs, or to run like hell!
Or is that really my gut?
The voice of fear does an excellent job of impersonating the voice of intuition. So how to tell the difference?
To be clear, the voice of fear is not necessarily bad or to be ignored. The opportunity is in knowing who’s talking (or demanding) and to get specific on what’s being said.
I believe fear is a basic physical and emotional response to threats to either our survival or our identity.
So the first stepof discernment is learning what YOUR body feels like when you’re feeling afraid. When that buzz is going on, be wary of the “advice” you’re getting.
Then ask yourself, “What part of me is being threatened?”. What is really at risk of being annihilated? Usually, that allows some perspective (assuming you answer yourself truthfully ;-), and permits a detachment and reduction of the cold buzz of the fear. It allows the “smarter” parts of your brain to start functioning again.
Then ask “What is threatening me?”. This further empowers you to stand into your “detached observer” role, letting your wisdom and reason come more fully online. Once you’ve gotten this birds-eye view (feeling, caution, what’s at risk, the actual threat), and have slowed down your reactions, you can query your wiser self about the next best step. That first step – close in…
Because now you’re waking up and not running on autopilot. Which is exactly what fear is so damn talented at doing. That’s not a bad thing. Just not needed in most situations for most of us… ~Z
Stuff’s gotta get done. Some stuff is less important and hopefully you’re constantly discerning what’s necessary and what you can let go of. But there are still crucial things you need to do in your life, and some of those things aren’t pleasant. Maybe it’s cooking. Or organizing. Or paying bills. Maybe it’s your rehab exercises or perhaps just bathing that you want to avoid because it hurts. Or maybe some essential tasks that you might otherwise enjoy or at least tolerate become seemingly intolerable on those days when you’re having a relapse or a flare-up. Yet not doing them is going to cost you.
Fill in the blank (as many times as you like): I really don’t like _________.
A question to ask yourself is; “How can I attenuate or lessen the unpleasantness of this essential activity?”.
I bet you already do this in some areas of your life unconsciously – maybe play music when you’re cleaning or listen to audio books on long trips. Pills in applesauce anyone?
I’m challenging you to consider attenuation for the most important activities that you resist the most. Maybe rock out to your favorite musical soundtrack when you’re exercising. Or cook when you’re not hungry (yes, I eat before I cook big batches of healthy food to freeze) – or have a stool to sit on in the kitchen. Maybe fold laundry when you’re talking to a friend or watching a comedy.
Taking lots of breaks or breaking tasks up into small chunks and quitting before you get exhausted works for me. Turn things into a game or take a playful approach, or keep score. Just having company during some things can be a big assist.
Oh, and asking for help and letting someone help you makes EVERYTHING EASIER! ~Z
Entrenched… This word was ringing in my head this morning. Not a word that I even knew was in my vocabulary. But there it was.
I was reflecting on lives of friends and clients and myself when it bubbled up. I was thinking about big life changes and how frustratingly difficult (or seemingly impossible) it can be to make big changes in our lives even when we can logically see the value of the change.
We have other words for it. Stuck. In a rut. Trapped. But there’s something about this idea of digging in and staying put (in say, a military sense) in order to defend and protect something precious that is sticking with me. It’s like some of us are willing to go to our graves stuck in habits not serving our higher or grander visions for ourselves and our world.
It’s like in our entrenchment, we have dug in and are defending something. Which is fine if you can articulate what it is you’re protecting or defending. But I think many of us have forgotten.
The flip side is this. Despite being rooted in old habits and ways of being, we can choose to become entrenched in new habits and new ways of being. I have, and I bet you have too.
So the question becomes one of asking yourself what trench you’d like to climb your way out of that is no longer serving what you know to be the highest priorities in your life. And what new trench would you like to start digging for yourself?
You might have to figure out what you’ve been protecting all these years. Or maybe just start digging? ~Z
In Part I, I briefly explored that how we advocate for ourselves is as important as whether or not we do.
This is yet another knot in the bundle of paradoxes of living with chronic conditions – a situation where we have special needs but still want to consider ourselves equals to those without those same needs (and be treated as such).
For most of us, there’s some inner work required – around practicing and learning how not to feel guilty or ashamed for your situation and the impacts on others. These feelings are obstacles to believing you deserve what you need. They can sometimes even be blocks to knowingwhat you need. So check in with yourself around this. Can you say to yourself “I’m sick/ill/in pain etc.” and not feel yourself start to shrink? If not, then neither can anyone else.
And the BIG skill is learning to ask cleanly for what you want without any attachment to or judgment of the outcome. Because even though as a human being, you are deserving of support, that’s not the same as being entitled to everything you want. When we come from a place of entitlement, we’re not coming from our most mature self, and we’re likely not making any friends either.
You’re not entitled to be pissed off at everyone who can’t anticipate your needs 100% of the time. You ARE entitled to ask for everything you deserve and need as a human being. And doing that from a place of confidence without shame or victimhood is more likely to get you the respect (and perhaps that nap) that you deserve… ~Z
I’d love to be able to offer you 5 or 9 or 3 steps to stand tall within yourself as a person with chronic illness and not be a victim. I would if I could. But it’d be a lie to make any kind of guarantees about this particular boat you may find yourself in.
What I will tell you is that learning to live and advocate for yourself from a place of strength and confidence – versus from that place of weakness, anger and victimhood – might very well be THE most important skill set to master.
Of course, there’s no need to learn how if all you want is others’ pity. Or if you want someone else to make the hard choices for you. Or you want to be rescued. Or if you’ve given up on having a loveable future and expressing yourself fully in the world.
Learning to speak up and out (literally or metaphorically) is a subtle but powerful act of discernment – a choice point if you will – that we will find ourselves in repeatedly. Where not speaking up for what you need or require is an act of cowardice. Where blaming others for not knowing what is important to you is simply a place to hide. Where speaking too loudly is an attack. Where how you speak about your needs or boundary or limits or whatever has been dishonored or is about to be – is just as important as what you communicate.
Because you are communicating for a reason. Because you have a message in the moment that you want someone else to actually GET versus just hearing the words come out of your mouth. Because only then will something change – at least for that moment. Perhaps also for moments to come… ~Z
Here’s what NOT to do… Don’t make a list of the things that make you “feel alive”. It’s too direct. Go at it from several angles.
To do that, search your memories and those of people who know you well. Have fun with this!
For you – let your self drift back in time to places and events when you;
Felt really creative
Really liked yourself completely – warts and all
Were proud of how you showed up in a challenging situation
Felt great about a service or help you provided
Believed in your sense of purpose
felt calm and connected and at peace with yourself and the world
had a blast!
Write those answers down. Keep the list alive for a few days so other things will surface.
For Interviews – ask at least 2 people for their memories of their experiences of when you were:
having a ball
a lot of fun to be around
full of joy and hope
the most naturally “yourself”
living your dream and expressing your natural gifts
In search of the bigger picture, also ask of yourself and others for when you were;
unhappy, depressed or miserable
just NO fun to be around
NOT liking yourself
anxious or generally troubled
NOT managing all the parts of your life well
mean or disrespectful to the people you love
This is a project. Proceed with caution.
Your answers will reveal themes. To discover them, for each answer, ask “why” 3 to 5 times. Ask “Why did that make me feel happy?” and when you get an answer keep asking. Same thing for the “unpleasant” stuff.
If you narrow things down, you’ll have a template from which to consciously choose “ALIVE”. And maybe even a foundation for a new vision for your future?
You all know that this chronic illness/pain/health issues deal is a BIG deal can feel like one big (or several little) rock on the path you thought you were on. Sure, there are obstacles on every path we take, but THIS can feel like all options are blocked.
So it’s time for a new path. But it’s not as if, when faced with that giant stone or fallen tree that other paths miraculously appear that you can go skipping down. Nope, the new path is both one you’ve not been able to see before, and one that has yet to be cleared.
So by definition, for you to reinvent your life and learn different ways to step confidently into a future you can love, you’ve got some brush to clear. You’ve got to clear this path. Not necessarily by yourself mind you, but bring the machete anyway.
It’s not about the death of your dreams, but it most certainly has something to do with clarifying them and considering alternative and creative ways of reaching them.
So take heart in the new obstacles your new path is presenting. It means you’ve stopped banging your head against the same rocks over and over again. It means you’ve chosen to trust yourself to adapt to your new normal, and to trust that you can handle the inevitable failures that will result from some of these experiments – and that failure is a type of success if you chose to learn from it.
Go hack something out of your way today so you can see more of where your path is heading by taking responsibility for clearing it! ~Z
If you’ve even grazed the surface of self-help or get-better literature or media, you’ve heard some version of “Positive thinking will bring you health and happiness”.
Maybe. But maybe not. Turns out there’s a catch: A study done in 2009 discovered that, for people who are already feeling good about themselves (i.e. high self-esteem) it does seem to help. But, for those of us with a more negative ongoing judgment about ourselves (i.e. low self-esteem), overly positive thoughts actually make us worse.
Why? If you say to yourself “I am 100% healthy”, or “I will cure my cancer by the end of the year” or any number of 100% absolute positive affirmations, the contradictions or possible obstacles to that statement may come flooding in, taking your mood and your hope in the opposite direction. It’s too unreal and unlike the truth you’re living right now.
In her book Chronic Resilience, Danae Horn speaks of “honest thinking”. Her conclusion of this phenomena is, “You can’t lie to yourself to feel better”. My understanding of good self esteem is a realistic appraisal of strengths and weaknesses, abilities and disabilities. Lying doesn’t seem to fit there, does it?
Life is not all good or all bad – your circumstances are not 100% positive or negative. So try out some aspirations that are doable and some self-talk that is honest. Tell yourself the truth and COMMIT to the next realistic goal or step – e.g. “I’ve been taking my meds and eating well, but not getting enough sleep. So, I will get more sleep tonight” or this week, or whatever… PICK ONE THING RIGHT NOW BEFORE READING FURTHER!
You can handle the truth. Your body already is anyway – might as well let your mind catch up… ~Z
“Honey, let it out. Be pissed if you’re pissed. Be scared if you are scared. Be Real. Pushing every negative emotion to the back burner means that those pots are still simmering“
This is from Danea Horn’s book Chronic Resilience. I don’t know that I’ve seen this important self awareness/management concept communicated so succinctly.
Allowing and honoring emotions is not the same as wallowing in them. Allowing emotions (which might look like naming them, acknowledging, and simply being with them) is frankly, being respectful to your inner self. And by doing this, we accept this part of ourselves, form a relationship with these emotions, and can go forward with the new information (and perspective) we otherwise would not have.
This is one skill helping you to go through versus going around (which is really another version of avoidance) whatever seems to be happening (or not happening) that seems to be thwarting your expectations and/or desires.
Simple but not easy. It will likely take practice to undo some habits of reacting. And that’s the problem of not telling yourself the truth about what you’re feeling – that sets the stage for saying or doing something that only later we reflect as “I wasn’t myself”. Yes, you were yourself – you were your scared and angry (less mature?) self in denial about what you were really feeling. And frankly, when we’re in that state, we don’t even have access to the more reasonable parts of who we ALSO are…
The next time emotion rings your bell, your choices can be to;
Only one of those choices will keep you moving forward AND moving in the direction you keep telling yourself you want to go – and keep your back burners from overflowing… ~Z