Archives for November, 2011
The next phase of learning that there is no manual to teach us but what we must nevertheless learn anyway is to learn to take good care of our brain and mind. The first step in this process is to understand one simple and important fact: The brain and the mind is NOT the same thing. The mind is an aggregate of our human experience that we to date have no definition for, although many scientists, researchers, and ordinary humans have tried. The brain, on the other hand, is the physical organ that controls our bodily functions - important functions such as sight, hearing, touch, taste, needs cues, pain and other "warning lights," and communication. The brain is so, so, so important - and yet to date it is the organ in our body that we still understand the least.
For people who suffer from eating disorders, abuse of substances, or other types of brain-body imbalances, taking care of the body nearly always feels like the toughest part of the four-part self-care success formula. It's not, but it does often feel that way to folks like us. The truth is, the body is the simplest place to learn good self-care (which is also why we are starting with the body). This is because, all things considered, we know far more about how the body operates than we do about the brain/mind, heart, or spirit. While often our understanding of how our body works in part and whole is not quite as cut-and-dried as our understanding of our car (although with some of the mechanics I've had in the past, I might challenge that) body self-care operates basically on the same principle. Nutrients in, energy out. Hydration in, energy out. Exercise in, lowered stress level and improved circulation and breathing out. Rest in, improved focus, concentration and memory out. I'm oversimplifying just a bit here, but you get the point.
When I was younger, I always operated under the assumption that I was automatically doing everything wrong unless someone specifically told me otherwise. I thought everyone around me had gotten the "how to be successful at life" manual and that whoever was handing them out a) ran out of copies before they got to me or b) assumed I was too stupid to understand it anyway and gave my copy to someone deemed more deserving. The unnatural introversion caused by my eating disorder didn't help any either, because I certainly wasn't starting conversations with either friends or strangers to check out my theory. That is why I thought, in preparation for what tends to be the most stressful season of the year whether you have an eating disorder or not, I would spend a few posts talking about what the manual hasn't taught me but I've learned anyway about taking care of ourselves. In this first post, all I'm going to tell you is that we have four major areas of responsibility when it comes to taking care of ourselves. Those four major areas are:
Have you ever just woken up on the wrong side of the bed and thought to yourself, "Boy, I'm gonna need help to get through this day!" Me too. This exact situation is when the mentoring that we do unconsciously is the most needed and valuable. On certain days like these, the only thing I may remember at day's end is the kind smile I received from an absolute stranger. One particular horrendous day, I remember waiting for 20 minutes in the drive-through line at Starbucks, only to get to the front and have the cheerful barista inform me that my favorite beverage was "on the house" because I had had to wait so long. I hoped she thought the tears in my eyes were from joy at the thought of a free Grande Mocha with whip.
Recovery offers us the chance to grow up. Even if we may think we are already grown up. We may be of an age, have a bank account that would suggest, or work in a profession that indicates we are most definitely grown up. But until we wholeheartedly commit to navigating the often choppy waters of recovery for as long as it takes to get to shore safely, we are not truly grown. This is because, as long as we are mired in uncertainty when it comes to pursuing recovery, we are still holding on to our childhood dream and hope that we can have everything we want. That is, we are clinging to the inaccurate belief, however alluring, that we can have our addiction or issue, and we can also have a happy, healthy life too.
Recovery comes in all shapes and sizes, all colors, all ages, both genders, and all lifestyles. My first mentor used to continually remind me, when I would get to whining about how my issues were "so different" than the issues of those around me (whom I was just sure were much better off regardless of what they might have been struggling with!), that "everybody has something". "This is what it means to be human", she would remind me. "We all struggle. That is why we need each other's support." Words to live by. Words I have and continue to live by. Recently, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) launched it's "Pledge 4 Recovery" campaign.
For this post I have the honor of introducing to you my dear friend and colleague (at MentorCONNECT) Cheryl Kerrigan. Cheryl is an author, speaker, teacher, and mentor, but first and foremost she is a survivor of a decades-long battle with an eating disorder. "Telling Ed No" is her first book and is being released by Gurze Books this fall. I encourage you to pick up a copy of "Telling Ed No" - the easiest way is to just order it directly from Gurze Books. Hope you enjoy this interview with Cheryl! xo Shannon
Mentoring and friendship can represent a fine line in the sand in the name of promoting a truly useful mentoring partnership. I bring this up because I have noticed over the years in my own mentoring work how it can be difficult for mentees to grasp, especially in the early stages, what the important differences are between having a "mentor" and making a new "friend." This is why I sometimes like to describe mentoring as "friendship with a purpose." In order for mentoring to work properly, there has to be some kind of boundary system in place. Because of the unique nature of a mentoring relationship, that boundary system will be much higher in some places and much lower in others than you will find in your average friendship. For instance, a mentor may be both willing and able to hear their mentee out about really tough issues as it relates to the nature and purpose for the mentoring relationship. As it turns out, for this specific purpose at least, the mentor has the perfect blend of life experience, expertise, willingness and ability to "go there" with the mentee in a way that a friend is often ill-equipped, unwilling, or simply unable to do.