Posts Tagged ‘Self-Care’


The hardest part of any change within is being present during it. For good or ill, the journey always has more points of discovery than when the destination is finally reached. But also in the journey one needs to realize when they have reached a point of a new journey beginning. Jesus opened up about the internal transformation, and how the ripples would affect the community.

13 “You are the salt of the earth; but if salt has lost its taste, how can its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything, but is thrown out and trampled under foot.

14 “You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. 15 No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.

-Matthew 5:13-16 (NRSV)

Salt? What a complex thing to be compared to as a change agent. Complex how you say? It is about being a flavouring in the world. It speaks of salt of the earth. Creation. Being in the here and now. Salt has been used in at least 3 ways:

  • Preserve for meats (protein, needed sustenance)
  • To bring flavour out of foods.
  • Agent of destruction. Yes, you read that right. When an invading army had completed the burning down, proving their “god” was more powerful. The men all killed, children enslaved, women raped to eliminate the last vestiges of the previous people. Crops burned. Then the ground was salted so nothing could grow.

What does this mean to your own journey of self transfiguration? What are pieces of you that need to be preserved? Other pieces that need some flavouring (care and cultivation)? And pieces that just need that destruction (wiped out/healed of/moved on from)? The salt metaphor is for your journey, it is about you and the salt that is to be lived into. Then taken out into your community in love of neighbour. Personal transfiguration to communal transformation.

Are you feeling salty today?

The three-fold use of salt removes the muck that hides your true self. Transfigured and continuing to transform your light begins to shine. People notice, wonder why the change. Will you share what it feels like to take self-care seriously? To embrace your true worth? To stop listening to the exterior that has become interior monologue? Do not accept abuse. You are worthy. You are salty and that will continue to transform the good, and destroy the…well destructive crops planted long ago and today to stop you from being you.

17 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets; I have come not to abolish but to fulfill. 18 For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth pass away, not one letter,[c] not one stroke of a letter, will pass from the law until all is accomplished. 19 Therefore, whoever breaks[d] one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, will be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20 For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

-Matthew 5:17-20

crossanIt is rather simple. We tried for centuries, millennia even (up to this point in history how long had Homo Sapiens walked the earth?). All the ancient stories had pointed to this self-worth, love of neighbour by embracing the whole self (spiritual and physical). Not living in hate or our of fear, but in a more offensive four letter word:

L-O-V-E.

We used all the teachings to create a caste system of oppression, hatred and violence that is still perpetuated today.

That is the system being smashed. The Love thread is what is to be fulfilled.

The question is:

What will you do to let your saltiness shine outwards in Love?

 

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Thankfully there has been a shift within professional training and scope that understands self-care matters. It is something that has been understood in the vocations that our caring professions (human services) sprung from, but both have missed the boat if you will on what it truly means. It can be a piece of a course, or even a whole course (in-service, training, etc) that skims the surface with cutesy acronyms, broad sweeps, some activities that may or may not be found to be beneficial by the participant. For you see, the course has to be designed with an outcome in mind, that outcome needs to be measurable, and repeatable, and gradable. Unfortunately what is lost in the issuance of the credit or certificate for participation- the epitome of a check box on a degree, diploma, certificate or staff checklist is the true essence of what self-care is about.

 Caring for you.

or to be clearer:

Renewing the intrinsic piece the powers you.

That’s right. There is no text book answer that will work for everyone. There is a very buffet of techniques, processes, hobbies and interests for everyone to sample and try and literally, discover what fills them back up. That is what self-care does, it renews you. The challenge is that even if we get that, we plan our self-care based on a moment in time. Then we leave the plan static. Something to reflect on as an exercise in training, bits and pieces may become part of our life but rarely do we try to make time for it.

Then “life” as we call it takes over.

But if we do self-care right. If the veterans in the fields of human services do our journeymanship right for our apprentices then self-care gets down right messy. For it is about those learning and growing in the field discovering who they truly are. Knowing that in that moment and time of their life, this is what renews them.

BUT, and this is a big BUT!

Knowing as we model that our self-care changes in life as life changes. As age, experience, family and other things carry through and we re-examine who we are. Core values. Intrinsic worth. And what renews us.

Some things may remain the same, for example writing has always been a healing time for me regardless of the topic. But the breadth and depth of what draws me to the page. Just like journaling as I have experimented with different types. Prayer/meditation has taken many forms. There is also being with my family, watching my children discover new things that renew me. Time with my wife. Simple things like a good cup of coffee and discussions of politics, religion and life with good friends. The thrill of seeing someone over come that which has kept them from belonging. All these things bring meaning, some have remained, many have changed, or the definition of those I spend the time with has changed.

This is self-care. It is messy. It is messy, because like the work with the people we serve, there are multitudes of theories and practices, it is what resonates and renews the person before us…

In self-care it is taking the person before us in the mirror.

Knowing what renews us to be the best us possible.

 

 

 


The most read posts on my site, are my most recent short stories featuring Rick Saturn, the Bionic Knight as he entered what I dubbed the heart of evil. K, an ancient evil returned to earth, Susan his wife running for mayor. Yet Rick was not fully himself, he hands off reigns to another. It is the story of an elder hero who has been challenged by the collective of the holistic self.

These stories found under Bionic Knight Pulps  emerged over the last few months the story of a hero, who is breaking down but still trying to remain strong and place the needs of others ahead of his own. The greatest victory comes in the end, when he makes the choice to return home and choose living forward to look after himself and his family first. To step out of the heroics, for holistic health (it was found in the tale Lightning Rod).

Yet, it was also showing that Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (see End Note section), may or may not happen within a vacuum. For there was physiological symptomatology the hero was battling. Hand tremors, weird inexplicable neurological issues. These with environmental exposures throughout his career, all these aided in the breaking down of his self care and allowed the mental health to wane, or perhaps it was the mental health that began to wane that caused his system to react to gain more attention?

Either way, I believe this was an important story to be told during my time of current challenge, because it shows that a human being is interconnected. Our systems do not exist in silos. Alberta Health Services likes to treat and triage us as such. But our symptoms are part of a whole. What happens neurologically, emotionally, physically and mentally are all tied together to create the life experienced and the patient before the physician.

I have received decently reactive care, and I do believe the right thing has been triaged for treatment first. Things moving more timely would be nice.

But I digress. For at the core of the story of B.K. was the shattering of having done everything right to care for himself. What the first responders and helping professionals dub self care. There are the textbook answers on caring for the whole self, but what it breaks down to is doing that which refuels you, and allows you to put the pain to rest, and heal.

In the moments, what had happened to the hero is that his own brain had betrayed him. The unknown neuro events had shattered the self care updates. When his system rebooted all the pain, trauma and stress came back online flooding his brain and heart without the healing.

Crippling.

The other challenge that I hoped these stories would bring out, is that the hero does not just exist in the role or the career. There are still life stressors at play in their day to day life that need to be navigated and dealt with as well. When the dam breaks, all this jumble together.

This is the battle that was going on within our humble hero as he chose one last path. The metaphor of unknown for that minute is within that moment the individual to choose which path they are going to stay on. The path of healing even with course corrections and change, or the path of succumbing. Neither choice is wrong, both are made with the best faculties of the moment, and each time the choice rings out again and again.

The Bionic Knight story over the past several months, was my own hearts attempt at allegory of the journey I was on, and still journey. The mystery of darkness swirling around and within me. The struggle each day to not let the lie win. The lie at reboot that my life mission of making my own little corner of the world a better place had failed.

Each reboot I must focus to name the lie and walk out of it.

Each day is a challenge for I live a mystery of not truly knowing what is happening as I await more testing to truly diagnose. I am learning to live with the new me, and how I experience the world.

My first goal is simple, to be a good husband and Dad, my second goal is to discover what is happening. My third goal is simply to see what that means in my life, with vocation secondary.

Why does the Bionic Knight story matter at this moment in my life?

Like him, I have a lightning rod of family, beyond that…

the journey is only being discovered.

End Notes:

Research: PTSD and Burnout in Workers in the Homeless Sector in Calgary. Read here: http://homelesshub.ca/resource/burnout-and-ptsd-workers-homelessness-sector-calgary

DSM-5 Criteria for PTSD

Full copyrighted criteria are available from the American Psychiatric Association (1). All of the criteria are required for the diagnosis of PTSD. The following text summarizes the diagnostic criteria:

Criterion A (one required): The person was exposed to: death, threatened death, actual or threatened serious injury, or actual or threatened sexual violence, in the following way(s):

  • Direct exposure
  • Witnessing the trauma
  • Learning that a relative or close friend was exposed to a trauma
  • Indirect exposure to aversive details of the trauma, usually in the course of professional duties (e.g., first responders, medics)

Criterion B (one required): The traumatic event is persistently re-experienced, in the following way(s):

  • Intrusive thoughts
  • Nightmares
  • Flashbacks
  • Emotional distress after exposure to traumatic reminders
  • Physical reactivity after exposure to traumatic reminders

Criterion C (one required): Avoidance of trauma-related stimuli after the trauma, in the following way(s):

  • Trauma-related thoughts or feelings
  • Trauma-related reminders

Criterion D (two required): Negative thoughts or feelings that began or worsened after the trauma, in the following way(s):

  • Inability to recall key features of the trauma
  • Overly negative thoughts and assumptions about oneself or the world
  • Exaggerated blame of self or others for causing the trauma
  • Negative affect
  • Decreased interest in activities
  • Feeling isolated
  • Difficulty experiencing positive affect

Criterion E (two required): Trauma-related arousal and reactivity that began or worsened after the trauma, in the following way(s):

  • Irritability or aggression
  • Risky or destructive behavior
  • Hypervigilance
  • Heightened startle reaction
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Difficulty sleeping

Criterion F (required): Symptoms last for more than 1 month.

Criterion G (required): Symptoms create distress or functional impairment (e.g., social, occupational).

Criterion H (required): Symptoms are not due to medication, substance use, or other illness.

Two specifications:

  • Dissociative Specification.In addition to meeting criteria for diagnosis, an individual experiences high levels of either of the following in reaction to trauma-related stimuli:
    • Experience of being an outside observer of or detached from oneself (e.g., feeling as if “this is not happening to me” or one were in a dream).
    • Experience of unreality, distance, or distortion (e.g., “things are not real”).
  • Delayed Specification.Full diagnostic criteria are not met until at least six months after the trauma(s), although onset of symptoms may occur immediately.

 


What a whirlwind it was leading up to the vacation time, which was a staycation to truly rediscover time with the family. A whirlwind for anyone who serves the public knows that if you do not keep a beat on your own soul it is easy to flame out. As the soulmate would say, something is off. Yet it was most summed up early on this vacation week.

See since the summer when we packed up my Mum’s belongings for a final time, I had her Tibetan prayer beads I wore around my wrist. In an attempt to keep the neighbour’s cat from using my backyard as their litter box (it drives our dog a bit barmy). I felt the beads leave my wrist and heard them hit what I thought was leaves. Went back to look, only to discover that the bracelet was no longer in tact, and that little black beads vanish into leaf piles quite quickly.

Yes it is a loss.

Yet it is also a time for reflection for me, yes it was a sad time, as it was something from my Mum, but it was also just a thing. Yet in the essence of the spiritual journey it was a representation of something else. Something that my wife touched upon in our Sacred Circle time. Yes they were Buddhist prayer beads, which for some raised Christian spoke volumes to the way my family believed (all one God just different ways of knowing)…yet as they vanished, it was also a door closing for me as I realized that the spiritual journey of practice and equipping to be a pulpit pastor closed off and vanished.

The fitting of the square peg into the round hole, ended…but wholeness was left.

It has been a month of reflecting trying to struggle through pain that for many years has been put aside as I served as the glue to hold others together, until the glue itself was drying out, but was it too late? Had a hurdle been reached that one would not be able to turn back from?

See, my life has always been about chasing a passion and discovering how to make a living at it. A life lived completing dreams, and passions, and now as a family man, arriving at where I feel professionally I believe I fit, personally loving my life, yet in those moments an ache of missing for the family that are not here to journey with anymore.

Living in the family home, with the ghosts of the past constantly present. Creating memories in the present, and talking of what the future holds.

Yet…

Are there new dreams? New passions to ignite? What is the next wall to tear down? The next circle to dance?

As the beads hit the leaves it was a feeling of loss, but it was a loss that was more like a release of what was before, and making a conscious choice that in that moment, yes it is sad, but it opens up a new future.

The question is how to be present in the now so the future reveals?