Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Practicing self care

The first question my therapist asked me yesterday morning was "Give me an example of how you have practiced self care since I've last seen you." It often takes me some time to pull up examples from the long ago past so I shared with her how I had returned a phone call that morning that I really wanted to ignore in favor of isolation. It was a small victory -- but a victory nonetheless.

Her question -- as it was intended to -- has prompted me to look at self-care and think about how I practiced it since our session. One way I did so was by going immediately to the library and journaling about what we had discussed during the sesson, writing out the thoughts while they were fresh in my mind. A second way was that during the session I asked her to help me process my anxiety surrounding taking a couple of classes this semester to explore the possibility of a second career. I also got honest with her, and then later at a telemeeting and then an evening face to face meeting about how these anxieties had caused me last week to become "emotionally needy" with a male friend to a point of distraction for me and irritation for the both of us.

Another form of self-care that I have practiced over the past couple of days has been to allow myself to feel the feelings from a terse but honest e-mail from that same male friend and to ask myself what the lessons are to be learned -- there are multitues. During that same period I have responded only briefly to say thank you and that I would let things settle in and then write back later. I found myself practicing this same sort of self-care last night when just at bedtime my husband decided to get in a huff over something that hadn't been done and get all irritable and snappy. I don't feel good going to bed like that. So rather than engage him in a fight, or try to change his behavior, I prayed and asked God to release me from my need to control the situation and to have his will not mine. As a result I began to rub and scratch my husband's back, as I do most nights before we sleep, and just show him love. It released the tension for both of us and I woke up in the middle of the night to feel him closely snuggled against me, something that always feels like a sign of sweet intimacy and love.

I woke up with another thought of self care on my mind. I have a pattern, even a disease, of wanting to constantly care for others. The truth, however, is I'm operating without a net. I provide a network of support through service in the SLAA fellowship, sponsorship, starting meetings, leading meetings -- all the while operating without a truly active sponsor myself. Yes, I have a sponsor in another fellowship, but honestly she does not provide me the wisdom of the steps or even regular fellowship. I have come to depend on my Higher Power, my therapist, and the fellowship itself as my sponsor. Those are places I can go to seek feedback and guidance. Still, I am there on a daily basis for my sponsees, for others who seek my counsel, without thought that no one is really there for me on a daily or weekly basis. This makes me susceptible to feeling alone, which can in turn lead to a desire to act out. I think another area of self care I can exercise is reaching out for the supportive fellowship of a sponsor.

On a similar note, I woke up thinking, I have started a telemeeting, a step meeting, a face to face meeting in this fellowship, but I need to practice simply being a member in recovery. As the leader I get great satisfaction out of helping others, but I don't get the humility of simply "being." Being a leader puts me in a position of feeling "better than", which keeps me from feeling "less than," all the while opening the door for me to be less than willing to share honestly in meetings about my own vulnerabilities -- which is a great detriment to my recovery. I see this lack of humility as a character defect that is standing in my way of progress. I see recognition of this character defect and the willingness to get honest and examine it as a form of self care.


vicariousrising said...

It's hard to explain, but simply "being" is extremely powerful. I have a hard time achieving it without the outside world crashing in, but when I can it is like everything in the universe is alright.

Willow said...

This is a wonderful post. Your introspection is moving. I too have been a great help to others on their healing paths through life. Mostly, there was no one able to help me. I remember feeling alone. As I started to reach out for support over the years I had feelings come up that indicated to me that I had actually preferred the safety of not needing others. If I didn't need people then they had less power to hurt me or abandon me. It takes work to allow people that can truly love and care for you in to your life. It takes being vulnerable.