Archives for posts with tag: do your homework

I look back on the weekend and find myself smiling in spite of notes of discord and discontent in life’s song. Learning to recognize the difference between emotional climate and emotional weather has been useful. 🙂

I spent what felt like a deliciously long Sunday on leisurely self-care in the form of housekeeping, marveling at the quality of my time, having not spent the morning in a fury heading up the highway. The drive itself was leisurely and pleasant. I arrived home feeling more balanced and content to begin with, and I guess it makes sense that the day was therefore more easily a pleasant one.

Why do I find myself, even now, surprised when things work as intended? When a practice intended to improve emotional resilience does do that, why would I be amazed? Is it only because I fought so hard to achieve that result using means that could not be expected achieve it at all, and grew to believe it was therefore not achievable? We screw with our own thinking far too much for our general well-being, don’t we? That’s what I find myself thinking about this morning.

My thoughts began with a meme posted by a new friend. Some random obvious-seeming list of statements that bites at me and worms into my consciousness expecting my agreement – and since there is a list, it’s likely I may agree with one or more of the listed statements, but… why would I swallow a pill of unknown origins handed to me by a relative stranger, based on casual assumptions about the effects, and no real data or confirmation of what, precisely, is in that pill, and the effects will be?? I wouldn’t do that. I know not to do that. We do that with our thinking all the fucking time, though, without pausing to consider just how important our ability to reason clearly really is, and just how fragile the sanctity of our cognition and will really are. Memes that “go viral” could be understood, seriously, as “viral”, indeed. A kind of sickness. A kind of contagion. Maybe mild and mostly harmless, but some of them really dig down deep and foster a sort of cultural reprogramming – and it would be wise to really consider them in context, more fully, and insist that the content we shove into our brains to be included in our actual thinking and behavior be, at a minimum, factually accurate. Just saying; don’t take poison. Even well-meaning, or humorous, poison has consequences.

We become what we practice. We “know” what we hear repeated often (even if it is not, in fact, true). Don’t just trust me on this; do your homework. Test your assumptions regularly. Try hard to prove yourself wrong, regularly – because you are wrong, more often than you know.

Don’t share poison. Don’t take poison. Practice cognitive good hygiene and intellectual self-care with the same rigor, attention to detail, and concern for your health and well-being that you do with your physical care (do better, though).

Don’t feed the trolls.

Don’t take the bait.

Do the verbs.

Begin again.

 

Some of my most colossal fails are the result of choices that looked good in the moment. I bet we all have that experience, actually. It seems human enough to make a decision on what I know in the moment, with good intentions, and find that because I did not know enough, or lacked certain very specific information, in practice the choice was poor. (This is about one of those, sort of, but only to get to the part where I say ‘thank you’ to someone dear who chose to support and care for me through the resulting crisis, at great personal expense emotionally.)

"You Always Have My Heart" 8" x 10" acrylic on canvas with glow.

“You Always Have My Heart” 8″ x 10″ acrylic on canvas with glow.

We’d been expecting a house guest for some days, and I was more than ordinarily tense about the visit for a number of small reasons, most of which can be bucketed under ‘words – use them!’ Wednesday, I noticed that the office had stocked new varieties and brands of herb tea – I like a hot cup of something at my desk while I work, but can’t drink coffee for 8 hours continuously without serious consequences (obviously), herb tea is the answer for me – and usually after my morning coffee I switch over to chamomile. Gentle, calming, ancient and reliable chamomile tea is something I enjoy. I find the fragrance and taste both pleasant, it is mildly calming, and doesn’t seem to have other effects that I’ve ever noticed. On Wednesday the colorful sachets of new varieties from another manufacturer caught my eye, as did the word ‘calming’, although the tea was not chamomile… It smelled quite nice. It tasted good, too. Wednesday I had two cups of it.

Wednesday night I had very weird dreams, some unusual nightmares, difficult falling asleep in the first place…and woke Thursday with just about the worst headache I’ve had in months, in an unusual place in my head [for me]. I passed it off as ‘morning’ and went on with my day.

Thursday was weirdly challenging…I felt moody and ‘different’ in ways so subtle I could barely detect the differences; they were more of a change in emotional filter than a physical sensation. All day I struggled with feeling stressed, concerned, uneasy, insecure, suspicious – and my heart was pounding, which I noticed but passed it off as ‘stress’. After my morning coffee I switched to the tasty new tea. I was still having a decent day at that point, just feeling… strained. As the day went on, I drank more tea – about 5 cups – and wound up a seriously volatile, angry, defensive, trembling, on/off rage monster. I had enormous difficulty sleeping that night, and the nightmares were… well, I’d give up sleep forever if I had to count on those being a regular quality of sleep, they were that bad.

This pattern repeated on Friday – and my level of hysteria, expressed symptoms, emotionality and panic were finally so serious I had to reach out for professional support from my work environment, because I was pretty sure ‘everything’ was in ruin, and I was actually beginning to feel suicidal.  When the tea change turned up in the conversation, the conversation changed, too. I’d poisoned myself with a common enough herbal tea that affects most people quite differently. This post is not really about that – I’m just setting the stage, but before I move on to my real point, I will call out the huge self-care fail – another rookie mistake [for me]; I didn’t do my homework on the new herbal tea, check all the ingredients with great care, research their characteristics and qualities and the science and drug interactions. I could have. I know to do that. I did not. That’s a fail. As a result, and in my best interests, I’m now on a very restricted list of what sorts of beverages I can have, and like a well-behaved child I will do as I’m told. No resentment here; I demonstrated conclusively that I am capable of putting my life at risk unknowingly over a tea bag and some carelessness. For now it’ll have to be rules instead of choices on this one.

And now we get to what this post is about; saying thank you. It’s not easy to be an adult with self-care limitations, post traumatic stress, a disinhibiting brain injury, and a lifetime of poorly chosen but overly-well-developed coping skills that don’t cope with now, or meet needs over time. It has some seriously suck moments, actually. I’ll take it further; it’s likely that without the help and support I’ve gotten over the years from friends, loved ones, family, partners, strangers, doctors, well-meaning passers-by – at some point, my limitations would have taken me out of the game, one way or another. This, in general, is a morning to be thankful how interconnected we all our, and to appreciate that in the darkest times, there is often something to hang on to, or to reach for. In the blackest moments, there are kind words from strangers, hugs from friends, the sympathy and care of family, to keep me going.

My traveling partner bears an unhealthy portion of the burden of ensuring I’d don’t walk off the edge of the map by mistake somehow. I don’t actually know how he manages it; he is a super hero to me. In spite of being hurt, angry, and inconvenienced by my drama and bullshit – which is what it looked like in the moment, I promise you – he kept stepping up his support, and dialing down his own stress, managing his own emotions, reminding himself that his brain-injured partner “isn’t always quite right” and staying mindful of the science of both TBI and PTSD symptoms and behaviors. He kept talking me down. He repeatedly walked me through breathing exercises – remotely, while I was at work, helping me hang on – neither of us knowing until Friday afternoon that I was having a medical crisis, more than an emotional one. Emotions are hard – they rock our world in a tremendously powerful way – and this man, this human being, this other person than me, just kept comforting and caring for me, while his own hurt and damage piled up. Fuck. That’s… intense. That’s the super hero stuff of love.

When I got home, he helped me sort myself out, and listened to the information the doctor has asked to have passed on. He made sure I took care of myself further; reminding me to drink water, to take routine medications, encouraging me to rest, and check my blood pressure regularly. By evening I was in a different place, and able to enjoy a quiet family dinner – my super hero traveling partner had so skillfully supported me that our guest was largely unaffected by the circumstances. I was even able to have a fairly healing moment with each member of the household, for heart-felt apologies, and moments of connection; none of that would have been likely without the support of my traveling partner, and his nurturing, healing presence.

So… yeah. I’m saying thank you. I’m sharing how important his support is to me. Living with me, and the issues I’ve currently got, and the process of healing and improving, is difficult on a level I can’t even imagine – I’m having a different experience. It is so easy for me to lose sight of something simple and real; however hard this is on me, it’s hard on people who love me, and likely on the same order of magnitude. Thank you is important. Reciprocal support is important – and valued. I will spend a lifetime practicing the practices that give me the tools to return the favor when he most needs it. How could I choose to do anything less?

Today is a good day to say thank you to the people who treat us well, support us most – and most often – and to appreciate the toll our pain takes on others. Today is a good day to practice good self-care – and to practice saying thank you, because I’m still here to keep practicing.

Thank you, Love "Contemplation" 12" x 16" acrylic and iron oxide. August 2011

Thank you, Love
“Contemplation” 12″ x 16″ acrylic and iron oxide. August 2011