Category Archives: Mental Health

[Health Rx] Taking Care of Your Care Takers

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Back a few months ago when my parents were visiting for Christmas break, we broke into one of our typically deep dinner-prep conversations that usually span topics like life philosophy, religion, love, politics, and basketball.  Basically, any of those topics that you were always told to steer away from – that’s where we go, immediately. Over Thanksgiving when my family first met Danny, one of the first group discussions we got into was answering my aunt’s question: “What’s your vice?”.  Not that we’ve ever cared about taking turns, but this time it was definitely mine – as we sat around, glasses of wine and beer in hand, I turned to them and whimsically wondered “When did you first realize that you were an adult?” After some bemused chuckles in the room,  we finally got to some answers that ranged from when they paid off their first car loan to when they got the keys for their first apartment.  Up to the end of last year, I can’t say that I felt much like an adult in any way, shape or form but that’s all been flipped on it’s head in the last few months.

One of the biggest psychological issues that we all deal with as we grow up is the idea of mind-body duality: I am a conscious entity, and I’m being expressed through a separate physical body.  Our entire life feels like a reconciliation of these two ideas as we learn to live with both in perpetual symbiosis. As we age past midlife, the crux of our life’s parabolic function, the more our lives revert back to mirroring infancy and the older we get the more the mind body duality tends to re-separate, and their relationship seems to be in revolt: My consciousness feels fine, while my body is anything but.  It’s one thing to recognize this in ourselves, but quite another entirely when it’s happening to a parent, when you have to take care of your care takers

Let’s face it, we’ve been the ones that have had to be cared for…up until now. But somewhere along the way to the rest of our lives, we just had to grow up.  We got older, we evolved, we matured into ourselves and we started figuring out how to be adults. Child, sister, brother, teenager, adult, wife, husband, mother, father, grandparent…of all the roles that we either briefly or permanently assume over the course of our lives, the most inevitable role – the one that we’re least prepared for – is the part of care taker.  All egos included in the scenario are off kilter – more often than not, our parents and peers don’t want to accept care from their children.  We’re the people they looked after with gleeful and conscious delight for our whole lives, they cleaned our scraped knees and wiped away our tears….and now, we’re supposed to be their strength?  In short, yes.

Self Care + Proper Proper Prioritization

Maslow had his hierarchy of needs, and you do, too.  While we stress about taking care of those we love, we often forget to take care of our number one – ourselves, so let’s talk about you and how to best take care of yourself in these difficult times. In order to maintain any semblance of normalcy and or sanity, you’ll want to keep some semblance of your old schedule, at the bare bones minimum you’ll want to focus on maintaining a comfortable routine.When it comes to taking care of loved ones, chances are you’re going to have to rearrange the order of parts your pyramid of priorities.

Mind, Body and Soul

Your well being and the well being of those your caring for now catapult to the top of your list, and a lot of things will fall to the wayside – for now, it’s okay to let it. Your social circle and the social circle of those that you’re helping need to be aware of what you’re going through so they can figure out the best way to be supportive of what you’re experiencing. It’s not the most fun, but be prepared to put-off your less permanent plans while you get some necessary nesting in.

Beyond your metal health and emotional health, your physical health is equally important.  Make sure you’re maintaining your daily meals and getting in the necessary calories, because you can’t take care of those you love if you’re not taking care of yourself.  If you can make it to the gym, go ham – if you can’t, don’t stress!  Try your luck with a local yoga studio, or get up, get out and go for walk around the neighborhood.

The Value of a Support System

Life can be tricky, but having a good support system makes it a hell of a lot easier for everyone. We’re not just talking about those you’re taking care of, but you.  Be honest with yourself on what you need, and between your pride and your ego: don’t be afraid to ask. You have people in your life that love you to the moon and back, and would want to be there for you any way they can – let them. Whether its a quick phone call at lunch, an impromptu dinner date or a little text that just says they’re thinking of you, having people in your life that you can depend on to love you when you need it is everything.

Stay Organized

With any health issue, comes pounds and pounds of paperwork to be sorted.  Some of it can be tossed – though, I emphatically believe that you shred personal information instead. My recommendation is to keep a detailed medical diary – especially if there are multiple medications to deal with.  Create a table with pertinent information, wound changes, medical dosages, etc and be sure to input any changes to their status in the diary. Beyond the health issues at hand, there are a lot of non-medical financial numbers and paperwork to handle when you’re in assist mode, so make sure you stay on top of it with some organizational help.  Draw up a bill calendar and make sure they’re on auto-pay to reduce stress of late payments and shut off fees.

Taking care of the people that have always taken care of you can seem like a daunting task, but know you are beautiful in your selfless sacrifice, in your vulnerability, and in your depth. Do you have any pieces of advice for those out there in care taker mode?  Let me know in the comments below.

Love and light to all of you.

Xx

 

 

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[Write On] Writing Is My Therapy, What’s Yours?

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Coming off of a whirlwind weekend through the Pacific North West – the last thing that I wanted to do was come home and get all ‘serious’, because I’m in a whimsical mood where I want to flirt with the world and uncover it’s beauty; there’s so much wonder in the world that I’ve uncovered through wanderlust – but I can’t quite into that yet, because there are much more pressing issues at hand.

Growing up, a menagerie of professions floated through my always meandering mind then out through  my fingertips like grains of sand in an hourglass.  Doctor, Firefighter, Astronaut, Model, Engineer, Scientist…the one constant, was that each and every phase was documented in the tattered pages of journals.  These journals fill my closets and overflow dressers, oozing with emotion and filled to the brim with equal parts adventure and awe, delight and despair.   They’re  momentary physical manifestations of my deepest darkest secrets and unexplained feelings that have transformed into coherent thoughts, phrases and paragraphs.  My journals are wishes on stars and inside jokes with myself, thoughts catapulted into tangible words; my catharsis, my hopes, my fears, my therapy. 

Now, there – I said it – the dreaded T word that ironically, we’re unwilling to talk about.

And isn’t that the problem: that we don’t want to talk about therapy.  

therapy

Therapy comes from the Greek word ‘Therapeuein’ and has slowly manifested from medical treatment to something with healing powers; but for me, I like to think of it a little differently. Therapy is what wakes you up in the morning, it’s what makes you come alive, what makes you passionate, what makes you an unapologetic version of yourself ready to tackle each day with vigor and vengeance.  And when you put it that way, therapy is something that we all could use, really.

From a young age, I always felt…well, off.  There wasn’t much of a way to describe it other than I felt different, and was unsure how to quantify the notion. It could have been growing up biracial in a community that lacked any semblance of diversity, or the separation of my parents at age three, or my maligned impression of my own beauty – but somewhere along the way to adolescence, like most all of us, I got lost in the cobwebs in my head and I stayed there….for a while. The sun could be shining, and all was right with the world – but I misplace one little item and I become my own worst enemy, fail a test and the world feels like it’s falling out from under your feet, and most of all, I was afraid of the thoughts that might creep in.

My parents and teachers did as much, if not more, than what they would be expected to do but after a while the job was handed over to professionals.  I refused to put together their pedantic puzzles and instead asked why I couldn’t just talk. Over and over, I heard: We can talk after you draw-paint-x-y-z; but, I didn’t want any of that – I wanted to talk, I wanted to figure out the what’s and why’s for myself. Then, collectively – they suggested writing; so, I wrote.  

Call it what you want – chicken scratch on scrap paper, pages of adolescent poetry, the notes of a novice journalist; but writing soothed my soul.  I could direct all of my energy, regardless of intent, towards a piece of paper and within moments would reach mental clarity. In reality, what I was really doing was creating, jumping on board an eternal pursuit of passion and uncovering that je ne sais q’uoi that we’re all in search of. For the next person, their therapy could very well be painting, or drawing, or beading, or yoga – or running, walking neighborhood dogs, photography, dancing, crafting or music.  But for me, it was writing.

My paper journals were filled too quickly, and besides – I hated  my handwriting.  Growing up in the 90’s meant that there were multitudes of media at my disposal so when I got fed up with keeping physical journals, I turned to the internet. And let me just say right now, the internet might be a black hole for any and all forms of current productivity – but it’s my savior. Even if you feel distant from your physical support system, there’s someone halfway across the world that understands exactly what you’re going through because they’ve just gone through it.

Online there were so many resources that originally, I was beside myself…but I started a Live Journal, and by my Sophomore year of high school added Dead Journal and an onslaught of Xanga’s to the mix.  My junior year of college, I transferred to Tumblr, and within the last two years I’ve found homes on Blogspot and now – WordPress.  The beauty of an online writing culture is beyond the scope of my breath, so let this entire post be a testament to it: from my heart to my head, and then fingertips on plastic -being part of this greater community where we support, stand for and sing each other’s praises has emboldened me to pursue a career I never thought possible.  And because of that, my voice is heard; and because of this, I have to speak up. 

As I grew up, both in the real world around me as well as online – I made friends in chat rooms that I still keep in touch with, and we bonded over being able to discretely spill our souls and be an 110% unabashed, unapologetic version of ourselves. Personally, I had family, friends, neighbors and teachers alike – a solid group of mentors and peers that I could turn to, but my pride got  in the way and the ego is tricky to maneuver.

That’s when the ideas of thinking versus knowing come into play, and so very strongly:

Instead of thinking that the world can pull you out of that hole you’ve been digging,

it feels like they’re going to point, laugh and leave you to your own disillusioned devices.

Mental Health Awareness is about more than just assigning mental conditions to definitions and sending patients home with a goodie bag.  We’re so willing to throw prescriptions at the problem, prescriptions that have been shown statistically to do more harm than good, yet we’re still not willing to treat the real issue at hand.  Putting a band-aid on a festering wound without cleaning it properly can keep a disease in your body, just the same way that adding layers of psychoactive cocktails to your mental state without proper discussion can perpetuate a psychotic episode.

How many people that you know have a physical health condition – do you have a friend with asthma, know a distant relative with MS or Parkinson’s Disease, have a parent with high cholesterol, cancer or a bad heart? I think it’s safe to say that each and every person on this planet knows someone at a personal level who falls into at least category for a physical or bodily ailment, so why – why – why aren’t brain injuries, impairments or diseases held in the same light?  From a young age, we’re scholastically – then medically – required to have physical checkups every year, why aren’t there annual mental health checkups?  When we’re physically injured, doctors prescribe ‘Physical Therapy’ – so why is going into ‘Mental Therapy’ something so frowned upon? We’re given days off of school and work due to physical injury or ailment, so why is it so poorly looked upon to take a “mental health” day?

 It’s all in the stigma and as a society, we need to get rid of it.

It’s the same way that beautiful girl next to you on the bus thinks that her size –whatever- pants make her look like an elephant, or that her face belongs in a paper bag when it’s goddamn naturally beautiful; I know this happens, because I’ve been that girl. It’s the guy at the gym bench pressing 300 think’s he’s a weakling, the straight A student who fumbled on a question that thinks they’re an idiot, the artist who’s been stuck for on a project for three weeks to no avail.

We get so wrapped up in our quests for greatness that I think we often forget that we’re human.  Humble yourself.  Remember that we’re on a giant rock smashing through space at atrocious speeds; things are bound to get chaotic every now and again for all of us.  You’re not alone.  

Therapy comes in all shapes, sizes, colors, creeds and species – I volunteer at cat shelters because it feels good to give back to a species that’s given so much to me, I write  because it calms my nerves and assuages my anxieties, I reach out to acquaintances because I feel better for being part of a community than I do when I’m alone, I talk to strangers because if we talk to strangers they’re now our friends, I smile into the sunlight and dance in the rain because I can and it’s wonderful.

Take a walk around the block and smell every beautiful flower, call your parents because they used to be you, leave post-it’s with happy faces around your office, skip to work, draw, create, craft,take a stand, take a Mental Health Day, call your best friend just to talk because you know that’s exactly what they’re for, start a blog, start a book, start a revolution – there are people waiting for your voice to come alive

Writing is my therapy – what’s yours?

How do you make the world come alive for yourself and those around you?