Relinquishing the egos mighty hold on us is a choice. We are more than capable of walking over the ego line and into our beautiful minds. The mind partners with us to discover, expand and connect with our divine compass. Its only mission is to guide us to the truth and help us shine.
As we wander through life's thicketed forest, we encounter over and over our mental, emotional and spiritual selves. Standing alone in the wild exposes us to shadowy perceptions capable of disorienting us. Our energy can becomes disturbed. We may attach ourselves to the disturbance. The phenomenon called "anxiety" is one such attachment. Anxiety erodes our strength and inner vitality.
When I cross borders, language itself can be a home. The familiarity of a language, even if it isn’t my mother tongue, can be a comfort. When I’m learning a new language, I imagine myself building a house, erecting the walls and adding the roof as I learn the grammar and other basics. It isn’t until I have these basics down that I can settle into the house; that is, to force myself to form sentences as I speak them, to not translate in my head, to make myself think—and feel—in that language.
Guest post: Kristi Horner, Executive Director, Courage to Caregivers
He shared that he wanted to end his life.
I was booked on the next flight with him. We then worked together diligently for 2 more weeks to get a workable care plan in place. We struggled mightily to somehow get his life back in order.
My family and I eventually came to realize that the trauma of relatively minor surgery left our brother with chronic pain. The minor surgery aggravated his underlying depression, anxiety and obsessive-compulsive disorder.
What followed next for our family was 4 years of becoming his primary caregivers. In the trauma of this time we found ourselves treading water, always waiting for the next call. My sisters, parents and I were his primary long-distance caregivers. We provided untold hours of emotional support on the phone. His first real caregivers were his wife and small children who provided his daily physical and emotional care. In the end, his inability to manage his mental health challenges ended up in divorce and a custody battle.
May 30, 2014
Our lives were changed forever. We received a very different call.
Our brother ended his battle with mental illness by ending his life.
So you see, as caregivers and family members for someone we loved very much with mental illness we learned a thing or two about not only how to provide care, but ultimately, how we needed to take better care of ourselves.
Self-care for the Caregiver – Is it possible?
For me, it’s ALWAYS easier to OFFER help. This impulse is at my very core. I love helping people get smarter, grow stronger, feel more empowered, and become more independent.
If someone says they're sick, I offer to get soup. If someone has a flat tire or gets stuck in the snow, I call AAA or come to the rescue. If someone is having a bad day, I offer to come over - take a walk with them - or just listen. But where my own well-being is concerned, I'm the first to downplay my feelings. I like to be a problem-solver. I don't like to feel “needy.” I've had to be strong and independent my entire life. I don’t like to admit when I feel vulnerable because then I open myself up to feelings that I’m not strong or independent enough.
Does that sound like you, too?
Finding a comfort zone with self-care starts with the mask.
Self-care often gets a bad “rap.” It's become a “buzz-catch" phrase. It might even sound selfish. And yet, we know that self-care is NOT selfish. In fact, it’s like the flight attendants’ message to “put on your own oxygen mask first, before helping those around you.” Often, we want to help everyone around us FIRST and then put on our oxygen mask. Yet, did you know you have only 18 seconds of “useful consciousness” after the oxygen mask deploys? So, if you don’t put on your oxygen mask first, what help can you be to those around you?
We now recognize that self-care is a literal “oxygen mask” for the mental illness caregiver. Our webinar will help you recognize caregiving's effects on wellbeing. We will identify barriers to self-care, and review a self-care checklist to ensure the caregiver has the resources to stay strong and healthy.
The tragic ending inspires a courageous beginning.
Courage to Caregivers is a nonprofit organization founded in Cleveland in 2017 to provide education, support and empowerment for the caregivers and loved ones of those living with mental illness. I founded it after four years of providing emotional and mental health support to my brother living with his mental illness
Following his suicide in 2014, I realized there had to be a better way to support mental illness caregivers. I had allowed his mental health and well-being to take priority over my own. And yikes! I gained forty pounds in the process. I’ve learned a lot about improved self-care practices for caregivers as we’ve diligently worked to create program models for Courage to Caregivers.
Courage to Caregivers was formed to help people like Nancy, who found herself in need of personal support as she cared for a family member. In Nancy’s words:
I was scrambling for tools and understanding on how to respond. I called Courage to Caregivers and was given immediate and ‘lifesaving’ attention. As I practiced and utilized the tools and tips, I also developed greater confidence and learned the importance of self-care as a caregiver. I am forever grateful for Courage to Caregivers and their tools for life!
Courage to Caregivers launched its first pilot program - the One-to-One Caregiver Support program -in November 2018. The program connects caregivers with volunteers who have experience caring for someone living with a mental illness. The purpose of the program is to provide participants with training and resources to help them take care of themselves both physically and emotionally so they are better able to take care of their loved one. Good news – this program can also be virtual!
We have launched our next two pilot programs – Breathing Meditation and Support Groups on the East and West sides of Cleveland.
Free Live Webinar!
Join Kristi and Rita for a free 1 hour continuing education webinar: Essential Tools for Mental Health Caregivers for social workers on February 12, 2019, 10:00 a.m.
Thanks to Apple, the “Me” movement is bigger than ever ... and growing. Gadgets, apps and social media drive greater focus on the almighty Me, Myself and I. Corporations with their social media extensions feed our hungry ego's wants to acquire and proclaim itself. We need to find the roadmap to joyful connection and remember how we can change the world together with love.
Holidays can bring out the best - or worst in us. Amid commercials depicting cheery families dressed in matching pajamas, there is often a quiet melancholy that drifts into our psyches. We mix fantasy, memories, guilt and mild skepticism into a seasonal beverage that we consume in large quantities. Take extra loving measures such as moving the body, relaxing the mind and planting light into the heart.
Before long we’ll be running through store aisles and cruising online past midnight for "perfect gifts" for loved ones. The season of giving has been replaced by the season of spending. Retailers will do whatever it takes to get their hungry hands on our open wallets.
What if we had the chance to open a different kind of store?
Can honesty stand alone?
Practicing honesty has been passed down through generations as a sacred teaching. Our elders, our religions and our leaders have gifted us edicts and encouragement to live in honest ways. They illustrated to us that honesty promotes our evolution as a human family - among the sacred keys to living and co-existing on this planet. Honesty is powerful and demonstrates respect, trust, maturity and strength.
If we recall the last time we were truly honest with ourselves, we may have noticed up-ticks in our health and well-being. Notre Dame Researchers explored the impact of lying on health over the course of 10 weeks. When participants told fewer lies, big or small, physical complaints including headaches and other mental health conditions like depressed moods decreased.
Conversely, honesty has a twin sibling called dishonesty - the way of the shadow. Lying has devastating effects which dis-empower the Self and others. It causes major breakdowns in systems and relationships. The impact of dishonesty shatters people, communities and our world family. None of us escapes from dishonesty’s path of chaos, shame and destruction.
We can agree every human has been touched by honesty and dishonesty throughout their lives. Countless stories in history have taught us we are capable of being fraudulent, of disguising ourselves and of twisting our language to benefit the ego. Although we value honesty more than dishonesty on paper, honesty appears to be a lonely practice, especially in our modern world. It appears we often choose dishonesty. We tell ourselves it makes people feel better. Dishonesty is often used to reward us for what we don’t want to hear or deal with:
Whatever is life-altering, difficult or painful.
The experience of reality.
Is honesty lonely because we don’t believe in it anymore or because we have lost our way?
Can we map-out fewer paths to dishonesty and more to honesty?
This amazing quote illuminates the chasm which remains between truth and honesty. To live honestly means aligning with Truth. To live honestly allows us to be free while simultaneously opening our hearts.
Does honesty mean being truthful? If we believe the three truths (Peace, Love, Joy) are eternal, then living our honesty becomes a path toward which we dedicate our lives. This path leads to our highest, Divine Selves and ultimately towards Enlightenment.
Standing up for honesty is hard work.
How to commit to honesty? First take note of what it means to be honest and remain honest. Being honest starts with the inner self choosing Truth to create freedom, peace, love and joy. It orients the whole person to show up with no agenda and no privileged information. “I am honest.” Staying honest is knowing the planet is dependent on us following this Truth. The planet survives by our honest contributions, actions and willingness to serve the world. Just as the Notre Dame researchers discovered the benefits of honesty in individuals, we can barely contemplate the tremendous worldwide impact of how honest intentions can rewrite old stories and mend compromised hearts everywhere.
New York Times writer Judi Ketteler published an article highlighting her attempts at honesty. Her plan? A journey “…to jot down instances throughout the day where I had to make a choice concerning honesty and notice how it felt.” The journey to be 100% honest with her kids, husband, at work and in social media was dissected under her new microscope. The discoveries bolstered Ketteler’s ability to summon courage in the moment, and allowed her inner compass to guide her. Being honest gave her the resolve to stay honest. Ketteler began to notice how this growing influence positively changed her and her world.
Second need to admit that a lie is a lie. Ketteler highlights the work of behavioral economist and author of The (Honest) Truth About Dishonesty, Dan Ariely. His experiments show that individuals cheat “up to the level where they start to feel badly about their own internal sense of integrity.” Contributors to dishonesty include rationalizing our own dishonesty, observing dishonesty in others, and feeling highly distressed.
Ariely offers three pointers on how to increase honesty:
Pledge our name to confirm honesty.
Use moral reminders before making a choice.
Supervise and hold others accountable.
Honesty builds us up and never lets us down.
If we think about Ariely’s experiments and our low threshold to practice consistent honesty, we need to surround ourselves with honesty's benefits. Quotes, images and phone reminders help keep us on track. For honesty to stick to our bones. we need time for reflection alone or with those committed to the same cause. Honesty builds a framework for eight core anchors to human survival (and thriving):
Honoring self and others
We won’t be lost in a dark tunnel once we begin the journey towards honesty. According to the article, Honesty- How it Benefits You and Others, the author sings the praises of a life of honesty. He says signs of honesty reinforce our devotion and lead us to further truth.
What does honesty look like?
The benefits of honesty are endless. What would you add to this list?
May make us feel uncomfortable initially, but honesty has a lasting positive effect.
Uplifts the heart and spirit.
Demonstrates love and compassion for all.
Promotes generosity and kindness.
Brings out gratitude.
Generates no regrets.
Demonstrates success and responsibility.
Feels authentic and genuine.
Moves us from the inside out.
Brings dignity to the table.
Sets up healthy boundaries.
Don’t kick honesty to the curb to suffer one more day in a dark corner! Shine the light on Living with truth and offering your gifts of peace, love and joy to all beings.
One day we’re strolling through time with no major hiccups. A few clouds drift along the blue sky and disappear without much effort. One day a storm hits and floods our surroundings with torrential water, fierce winds and dark skies. Despite the storm’s attempts to demolish everything in sight you somehow figure a way out of crisis to safety.