"Success is not measured by what you accomplish but the opposition you have encountered and the courage
with which you have maintained the struggle against overwhelming odds."

Orison Swett Marden

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The "Wise Mind"

This morning I posted this as my status on Facebook:

“I think I need a double-shot of that 5 Hour Energy stuff...just not looking forward to dealing with my day but I don't really have much choice now, do I?”

We all have “those” days but unfortunately my depression makes me prone to them more often than I like to consider. We just came back from a fun weekend in Minneapolis (including a family reunion on my husband’s side of the family on Sunday) and I think I spent all of my energy…physical, emotional and mental…down there so there isn’t any left for me to use to deal with this week. That was OK yesterday. I managed to put off my 14 year olds pestering to DO SOMETHING and was able to finish a book and hang out in front of the TV. But I won’t be so lucky today. I have to make up for yesterday with him and then “extended family” time begins tonight. My brother and his family are coming from New Jersey and then this weekend we have the family reunion on my side of the family. It all takes energy.

Now I can imagine my family members reading that and thinking, “Gee…we take that much energy to deal with????” Please don’t take it that way. I can’t come up with the energy just to take a shower some days (but don’t worry…I’ll be clean this weekend!). It almost comes down to an art…trying to deal with all the things that are floating around in my head and still be in “the present.” That’s one thing that they are teaching in mental health circles nowadays…being in the present. It’s part of DBT. When asked, I always tell people it stands for Diabolical Behavior Torture. That kind of tells you how I’ve felt about it. It’s actually Dialectical Behavior Therapy and it’s all about staying in the moment and basically balancing your thoughts and emotions.

I’ve gone through two DBT classes in addition to everything they teach when you’re inpatient or in day treatment. My providers know that I’ve been sick to death of hearing about it, but this past winter and spring, I actually began to embrace that which is DBT. I told my psychiatrist not to fall of his chair after I told him that. The two big things about DBT: 1) Staying in the moment, which I’ve already mentioned. It’s about fully putting yourself in your current situation…not letting your mind wander to what is past or future. And you do so in a non-judgmental way…what is happening around you is neither good nor bad, it just is. 2) Wise Mind. Wise Mind involves balanced thinking. Here is the diagram for Wise Mind.

As you can see, the Wise Mind takes into consideration both what is rational and logical and what is emotional. There are times when it’s OK to be totally in one mind. Take for instance, a wedding. Emotions run high…and that’s perfectly acceptable to let yourself feel those emotions and let it show. However, if you’re sitting in court as a witness or for whatever reason, it may not really in your best interest to get all emotional. Wasn’t that Joe Friday on “Dragnet” who used to say, “Just the facts, ma’am. Just the facts.”? (You have to be pretty old like me to get that reference!) But that is what the rational mind is about…staying with the facts, what is logical and rational.

But our lives are not simply built on facts…we have these sometimes-messy emotions that make their way in and we have to deal with them. I have had to practice Wise Mind more in these last seven months than I think I ever have. Not only have I had to deal with the ups and downs of my illness, but also losing the person I trusted pretty much the most in this world…and having absolutely no say about it. I have been going through the grieving stages. This included denial, which is a really crappy one to deal with. That is where my Wise Mind has really had to work. I have all these feelings about this relationship and I don’t want it to end…I feel like I won’t even be able to survive it’s ending…but no matter how much my feelings make me fall apart, the fact remains that he is gone. Once I finally started to give up the denial, all I can do is focus on the rational and logical part of the whole situation. He is gone, I can’t do anything about it, and now I have to pick up the pieces of my life. The rational mind tells me that I can’t trust another person so implicitly again because then I start to trust that person more than I trust myself. And I think that’s what happened. When he was ripped away from me, and that’s exactly how it felt, it burned enough to make me realize that even though there may be other people there to help, in the end I can only really count on myself. It’s up to me. As one of my motivational sentences on my whiteboard says, “No one is in charge of your happiness but you.”

This whole entry today went in a totally different direction that what I had planned. A few weeks ago, when we were actually in town on the weekend to go to church, the confession that we read dealt with self-esteem and that’s what I wanted to write about. As thoughts began forming in my mind, I was seeing a connection between DBT and self-esteem...how you can use the DBT skills to work on your self-esteem. If no one is in charge of my happiness but me, I have to take that charge, don’t I? For so much of my life my self-esteem was in the pits, to put it very nicely, but it’s improved and I think the DBT skills can help in that area. And when saying the confession in church, I realized that I don't have to rely on just myself. I have a Godly Father who knows who I really am, without all those messy emotions to cloud the view. Maybe the confesssion will hit home for you too.

Dear Loving Father,
I must confess my self-esteem feels like a bobber in the ocean during a hurricane. It goes up and down, and all around, tossed to and fro, depending on the moment. I try to base it on other peoples’ opinions of me, and those opinions seem to change daily. I try to build it upon my successes and achievements that soon fade with time. My view of self always comes up short when I compare myself to others; my talents, looks, gifts and accomplishments. I’m sorry, Lord, for ignoring and forgetting your view of me. Restore in me a right, clear and true view of who you made me to be in You. Let me build my esteem on the rock of your love, acceptance and forgiveness as a true child of God. Not on the always changing ways of the world. Amen.

That confession involves some Wise Mind too. Comparisons bring up so many feelings about ourselves, but God is not in the comparing business. He loves us equally, fully and individually. If I rely solely on my emotions to tell myself who I am, it’s no wonder I can’t stand myself sometimes. But I am more than a bundle of crazy emotions. When I look at myself rationally and logically…and in a Wise Mind state…I see that I am thoughtful, caring, smart, fun, and a bunch of other things that God made me. I guess that’s the tough part…remembering who I am in God’s eyes...because he has the wisest mind of all.

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