Sometimes it’s as simple as what will I have for breakfast.
Should I just have a bowl of cereal, maybe with banana slices on it? Or should I make eggs, possibly bacon, toast, and grits? What about skipping breakfast and just grabbing coffee?
Each of these choices, small as they may be, come with consequences.
Grabbing cereal is fast but may not last the morning. Add protein, and I feel fuller longer. Skip breakfast and just have coffee, which I did for many, many years (and no longer recommend) leads to overeating later in the day.
Today, I am mulling over much bigger decisions.
The consequences of these bigger decisions have potentially long reaching repercussions. So, as I consider my options, I am being a chicken about stating them out loud. Part of this is a privacy issue. While everything I have written is for me, for my own understanding of my life with depression, I have also chosen to post these in a public blog.
This choice I made set me up to hold myself accountable for writing regularly.
The consequences of being 100% open and honest about what I am experiencing, feeling and the actions I am taking, is that I am writing ONLY about me and my experiences. Anyone else that I have interacted with, I am masking or leaving out, to protect the innocent.
There have been a few posts I have written where the author of the quote, article or information is a public figure, or has given me permission to use their name. This includes links to articles by others that I have found value in and want to share as part of my learning. There is so much information out that, that sharing something I found useful is a way to help others, as I help myself. So, I am back to the big choices I am making.
Where does self-care end and responsibility for others start?
Should I ignore, or put on the back burner my responsibilities as I focus on my own self care and recovery? Can I really say, “they’ll be ok” if I do not act with my own moral compass? Where do you draw the line and say, “I’ve got to take care of myself” so you’ll have to handle that on your own?
I know that I have a few days to make this decision about this issue. And I know you haven’t been told what this issue is. I cannot open that up just yet. But it involves my relationship with others and my responsibilities for them versus myself.
As I write this, I realize there are really two decisions I am working on. And both involve self-care and the needs of others.
This is doubly stressful. My sleep is all jacked up, I am not getting the benefits of the higher dose of Prozac, and I am distracted by these two issues most of the time. I wouldn’t call it obsessing, but you might. There is a lot at stake for others as well as my future and the value I assign to myself.
If I give in, I feel I am betraying what I stand for.
My self-worth is still tied in many ways to my positions in life; father, brother, son, husband, manager. And I have written and worked on seeing value in myself, just as I am. But placing that in perspective, I also have my sense of right and wrong. These are my internal values, my moral compass that is at the core of who I am.
Why am I making this decision seem like a compromise?
Everything I have done has been open to and subject to change as I gather more information. Maybe it is fear that is keeping me from letting go of some aspects of my life, so I can have more control over others. Is it bad to want to live a balanced life? To feel ok about myself?
What would asking better questions look like?
Here we go. I’m going to answer “how to handle unhelpful thinking styles” questions.
1. How do I know if this thought is accurate?
There is plenty of scientific evidence to back up focusing on self-care. But there is plenty of spiritual evidence that pushes “do unto others.” And then the old stand by is “put your own oxygen mask on before helping others.”
2. What evidence do I have to support this thought or belief?
One of two programs that have helped me the most in my recovery and learning to live with depression has been SMART. Being responsible and your own advocate for recovery puts you in control. How you treat others builds you brand, your image, your social stature.
3. Are there other ways I can think about this situation o myself?
Struggling to see the value in myself, without a title, I know my current sense of worth is tied to doing for others. But doing for others can be defined in many ways. It is very possible that I am limiting my view of what doing for others involves. I may be limiting my vision of what this could be in my life, and how a different view might strengthen my relationship with myself.
4. Am I assuming the worst?
One of my “go-to” automatic thoughts is to catastrophize and imagine the worst. From time immortal, our brains have been programmed to protect and defend, to keep us out of danger. So, assuming the worse is a default all brains will go to if more accurate information is missing. Or in the case of my depression, the connections get jammed up, and my mind goes to the worst first, instead of looking more closely.
5. Do I have a trusted friend I can check out these thoughts with?
Thankfully, I do have people that are there to help me. They can listen and offer different ways to look at issues, without telling me what t do. This has been a blessing, but it is a new skill. Depression and I used to scheme together. Any other point of view was dismissed as bogus. I only listened to depression. Now I have advocates that want what’s best for me, not just my depression.
6. Am I making this personal when it is not?
Yes, I believe I am. Because I question my self-worth, anything that challenges my decision making is a threat and is very personal. This protectionist way of thinking does not allow for growth and does not give me the courage to consider other possibilities. I really need to spend more time on this.
7. Am I holding myself to an unreasonable or double standard?
While I set the bar high for myself, I don’t think of myself as a perfectionist. Yet in many ways, I suppose I am. Or at least I’m more of a “my way” kind of control freak, which sets such high standards that it can push people away. Here’s another one I need to explore more.
In the end, I am committed to deciding how I will frame my self-care.
What it will include, where I will draw lines and where I will say NO. This is the place I need to go, but it is terrifying all the same. I have been thinking about this without realizing it. Mostly I have lived with very few lines I’ve drawn in the sand, very few NO’s. This can lead me to be passive-aggressive, trying to gain control underhandedly after giving it away.
While I cannot say I always would see it that way, I bet anyone I’ve done that to could identify the behavior.
And that is not what I want to be known for. Even more important, I want to decide what I am known for. I want to control my own thoughts about myself, seeing the value in me and my decisions.
So, in the end, I will stand my ground on some things and practice self-care with others.
Wait a minute! Standing my ground is a form of self-care.
I will write more about these decisions in the future. One was made as I was writing this. Stopping to take a video conference call I had set up, things were discussed and agreed to. Everyone involved has a stake in the outcome and so the conversation was very important to all.
This ended in a decision being made that takes one of the decisions off my plate. Now, I will apply the CBA tool (cost-benefit analysis) to the other burning issue that is creating a conflict in my life, making me question what is most important.