Sunday, February 20, 2011

February 27th - March 6th, 2011: Skill of the week

Vulnerabilities. P.L.E.A.S.E. Master (you can find details about this by following this link, under skills, distress tolerance)

We have covered this skill many times. However, I must direct attention back to it again. This is the reason why, it will amaze you at how much it impacts our effectiveness when we have physical ailments. 

Honestly, when you are sick how much do you get done around your house? Mothers & fathers out there...how chaotic does your household get when you are sick? It gets crazy doesn't it? 

This week I am going to do something a little bit differently than my typical skills posting. Usually I go over this skill in detail, what it all means etc. This week I am just going to discuss the "P" in this acronym on a personal level. 




Stands for Physical Illness. We are reminded through DBT skills that in order to be as effective as we possibly can be, we need to tend to our physical ailments. No, this does not mean that we need to get all wrapped up in the latest and the greatest miracle cures, herbs, perfect healthy life etc. A healthy life style is very much encouraged, it is wise for the physical health reasons, but also for a clear mind. But what I am referring to right now is when we have a headache, take something for it, or take a nap. Do what you need to in order to tend to that headache, don't just keep going without addressing it. You reduce your ability to be effective when it comes time to deal with a trigger or stress. Well, what about a cold? The flu? How many of us try and push through it? The idea here with this skill is that you do not push through it. You care  for it. Treat your illnesses. 

What if it is bigger than a cold? The bigger it gets, it gets increasingly more difficult to push through it. Trust me. I personally had to go to the extreme of seeking surgical relief to a physical ailment that was taking a lot of my attention and creating an ineffective mind set too often. But what I quickly became aware of, is the healing time became my "physical ailment" 

Obviously I took care to follow my post-op instructions. But for me, I developed an infection from the procedure. Which has kept me down longer, requiring more attention in the way of medicines and rest. I have been tracking each day what my mental state has been during this time. Today marks the 10th day since my surgery and I am telling you I am struggling horribly. 

Being sure to take my painkillers on a regular basis is a responsibility, but I find myself wanting to "control" it and stretching the hours between doses because, "I know I can handle it" But what am I really doing? Am I controlling something? Perhaps. I may very well be controlling the pain and there is nothing wrong with that, but with each hour that passes that I am in control of the pain, I am in less control of my effectiveness. 

Same goes for my rest. When I hear the kids out in the living room in need of something my instinct is to rush out there and help AJ out. Of course I want to help him, and where I can I do, but I have to be reasonable. How much help am I really if I am not getting the sufficient rest? 

OK, so all of this makes sense right? And I can see the wisdom in being responsible in this way. However, something that I didn't expect was that despite all my effort to stay on top of this and care properly for my physical needs, I was still going to be less effective. 

Wow - what a blow. I expected that if I took care of my physical needs then I would be able to stay on top of my mental abilities. Try as I might, the days of pain, restlessness, laying around and staying indoors has taken a deep toll. I am irritable, lonely, depressed and angry. I know it sounds crazy and I really thought through that last one to be sure that was in fact what I was feeling. But yes, I am angry by day 10 of this experience. 

Why am I angry? Because I am tired of being tired. I am sick of being sick, and I am sorry for not being able to be more of a help to AJ. My frustration of not being up to par has left me irritable and I am sad at the drop of a hat. I am depressed and lonely with a house full of precious monkey's. I want to participate and I cannot. So what I decided to do for this post was to express to everyone based on my own personal experience right now that it is important that we be kind to ourselves and never, ever under-estimate the impact that physical ailments have on our effectiveness. A headache that goes unattended for hours or days can take it's toll. This principle goes for the large experiences, like something I am dealing with right now, to smaller things, cold symptoms etc. - to even smaller. Like, do you wear socks around the house because your feet tend to get cold? If so, the days you forgo the socks because you haven't had "time" to stop and locate a pair, you are decreasing your ability to remain effective. I know socks may seem like a silly example, but I know I can get overwhelmed with how our morning routine goes a lot quicker if I haven't stopped to put socks on my feet. Often times we say, "Oh, it is a minor comfort for me, I can wait" But what we fail to remember is pushing something off because it is "just for me and me alone" is flawed, although the socks on my feet are just for me, my stability is for me and everyone in my environment and even the smallest of comforts can increase drastically my success. Especially when it comes to triggers. 

Say I am on day 15 (god forbid) and I am still in quite a bit of pain, I get up to help get my little girl-monkey off to school, I am running late so I don't wrestle socks out of my drawer. I go about getting her breakfast and her lunch made. My youngest comes out of the bedroom and wants to have a marathon chat and at the same time my eldest wanting to shower, cannot locate a clean bath towel, I walk through the house saying, "yea, uh-huh, yea" to my little guy in hopes that he thinks I am listening - telling my daughter to hold on a moment while I locate a towel. My feet are cold and I step on some crumbs that had been left behind after the dinner sweeping, I rub my one foot on the other as I continue to walk to rid myself of the irritating feeling of crumbs and I keep going...and keep going that way. Chances are I am going to snap. Whereas had I only put socks on my feet I would not have any personal irritation. 

Alright, so maybe socks aren't that big of a deal for many of you, I recognize that I have an odd attachment to socks - but the point remains. Do not under-estimate the power of tending to your physical ailments and needs. Take a self assessment sporadically throughout your day and see for yourself if there are areas about your physical needs that perhaps you are ignoring. Be kind to yourself, in extreme cases even though you are tending to your needs, you still may be ineffective just due to the prolonged ailment, don't expect too much from yourself! 

And that my dear friends is why I have been unable to post much over the past two weeks, no not the socks (I am wearing green fuzzy ones right now!) but rather this post surgical stuff is really dragging me down and I am going to keep fighting and really remembering the importance of P.L.E.A.S.E.!

MJ