I’ve been banging on a lot lately about Mr Russ Harris. His books were introduced to me by my Health Psychologist, Anna. I have found his book to be easy-to-read, helpful and realistic. Really practical. And it is not just good for those of us with chronic illness. It’s good for anyone who has been slapped by reality and is struggling to wrap their heads around it. Maybe that’s you? Maybe it is someone you know and love and you don’t know how to help them. Russ knows. Being a bloke, he is also a really valuable read for guys you might know who have been slapped around a bit by reality. He writes like man. Straightforward, to the point and full of things you can actually do to make a difference. He has suffered his own reality slap, so it’s not just rhetoric. It’s relatable and incredibly useful, especially if their reality slap is coming to terms with a loved one’s diagnosis (how many of us know someone cracking that particular walnut)!
I am always on the lookout for giveaway possibilities. I seriously love giving pressies, so I guess this is an extension of that. It occured to me that I am not the only one that could benefit from The Reality Slap. So I ordered two. One for me, and maybe, one for you! If you think you, or someone you know, could benefit from this book, why not enter? Or feel free to share this giveaway with people you know who might need a chance to enter the comp. There is a facebook share button below.
To be in the competition, just make a comment, in around 25 words or less, below. You must use the words “reality slap” somewhere in your comment, by the end of Sunday 14 September, 2014 (NZ time).
You can write in sentences, you can write poetry, you can use your words any way you like, but they must be your words. Tell us how life has given you a reality slap, or tell us about someone who needs this book, or tell us why you would really love it. You can click on the word ‘comments’ below to be taken to the comment field. You don’t have to have Dysautonomia to enter. We all get slapped by reality at some point.
Ts & Cs: I will notify the winner by email, so you must include your own personal, valid email address to be eligible for winning, this won’t be visible on my blog, only I can see it. I won’t be using email addresses for any purpose other than notifying the winner. The prize is as stated and is the product pictured. It is a brand new paperback copy of the book The Reality Slap: Finding Peace and Fulfilment When Life Hurts by Russ Harris. Published by New Harbinger Publications. For your safety, please don’t put your postal address in the comments, if you win I will email you for more details. I am happy to post to anywhere, so don’t be shy. Wherever you live, NZ Post can get it to you…
Although I am advertising this competition on my facebook page, I won’t be running it there. So make sure your comment is entered below this post, in my blog commenting form, on this blog. Not on facebook. 🙂
PS. See that Dysautonomia Awareness Bracelet? My order of bracelets for awareness month next month just arrived. The winner of this competition will get the bracelet too! Isn’t that rad! Gotta be in it to win it!
I can be a bit intense, apparently. Is that a symptom of Dysautonomia?! Ha! I can get a bit serious. Because sometimes it is hard to find the funny side of things.
But I can’t ever take myself too seriously, because I have been gifted a hubster who enjoys making fun of me (in a loving way) and making me laugh. A lot. His irreverent and naughty sense of humour has lifted me out of many a blue funk. And I just unwittingly provide him with more comedy material, so it’s a mutually useful relationship. Just lately, he’s been taking the piss (that is kiwi for teasing) about my self help studies.
One of the very useful exercises for self-care, one that I mentioned yesterday, is using your own hand as a ‘hand of compassion’. He thought that was hilarious. I’ve been enduring his eyebrow toggles and suggestive looks every time I mention the ‘hand of compassion’. He reckons he knows just where my compassionate hand should land, somewhere in the vicinity of his body. Wink. Nudge. Eye roll! He had the same joke about one of my favourite poetry books Where Your Left Hand Rests by Fiona Kidman. I think he hoped it was an instruction manual. Honestly, are all men this way?
And then we were talking about a mindfulness exercise that I wanted to write about today. I have been learning about how being “present” can provide you with an opportunity to calm down the negative self talk. See, when I am thinking about how my body feels, it kicks off a litany of destructive thinking. This is a very common thought pattern for me because this body likes to slap me to attention, like an annoying brother, incessantly pushing the point, digging me in the ribs, lifting up my eyelids YOU AWAKE? RIGHT, SINCE YOU ARE PAYING ATTENTION… LOOK AT ALL THE WAYS I CAN ANNOY THE CRAP OUT OF YOU TODAY! POKE! SLAP! BLINDSIDE! THWACK! And so I respond to that little shit with some very negative talk. But I direct it at myself, because that is a bit less crazy than talking to my body as though it isn’t me. I talk to me. Inside my head. The track runs similar to this one: Ugh. Not again. I can’t keep doing this. Oh no… so much is eroding. I can’t go to school this morning to see my little guy do his thing. Another thing to miss, why couldn’t it be yesterday? I could have done it yesterday. Poor me. Poor family. Ow… Yuck, that is so revolting, why do I have to deal with so much yuck stuff? How much worse is this going to get? Will my man get tired of dealing with me? My kids! Will I end up in a stinky nursing home, a drain on my family’s resources? Will I die before I’m ready? And a freak out will be had. Does that sound familiar? Does your mind talk to you this way, too?
It is impossible not to be mindful of how my body feels. But by using the technique of mindfulness, it is possible to arrest the thinking patterns that give me anguish. It’s like a kind of meditative awareness. So this is what I am doing. Russ Harris (author of the book I talked about yesterday, The Mind Slap, and inventor of this exercise) says that if you are experiencing a lot of stress, you might need to do this excercise often. It designed to help you be present with your pain. It helps you to develop the awareness of your thinking such that you don’t slide into the thought patterns that distress you. The habit of that nasty self-talk that makes living with Chronic Illness a more scary, lonely, upsetting place to be.
Of course, if you are horizontal, you just have to adapt the tree image. You can use your imagination about how to make the trees roots, trunk and branches work. If I am stuck in bed, I use the foot of my bedframe to ‘ground’ myself. Or place my feet flat on the mattress with my knees up. Just adapt it to fit you, in your minds eye you can be any shape you want to be. Here’s my audio version if you would rather listen:
So anyway, there I was last night, sitting in the living room, thinking about some serious shizzle. I see my hubster out of the corner of my eye. He is waving his arms around like he’s trying to get my attention. I turn to look at him and all six foot three of him is doing an impersonation of a whomping willow. In slow syllables he intones: “I am a tree…” and I snort my tea.
Today’s post has been inspired by some homework from my Health Psychologist, Anna. She is a pretty savvy lady and I really got a lot out of the chapter she gave me to read. It is called A Caring Hand and it is from Russ Harris’ book, The Reality Slap. Sometimes there is a gap between reality and what we think it should be. Sound familiar?
Like the difference between the me I see in our holiday snapshots, and the saucy model I felt like I was!
Or the way you think other people should treat you and the way they do.
If you have a chronic illness, this reality gap is something you deal with every day. Maybe even in relation to those closest to you. It’s really hard for people to know what to do, how to be. It’s really hard for people to sustain their compassion, it can be exhausting. Even those closest to you sometimes need some respite from approaching things in a sensitive way.
Some of us are on our own for a lot of the day. That’s just reality. And that is when we can really help ourselves, rather than looking to others to meet our emotional needs.
Before I carry on I want to explain the origins of the word compassion. It derives from the latin. Com meaning together and pati meaning suffering. Suffering together. But how can that apply when you on your own? I am discovering that you can be your own best friend.
Bad things happen to everyone. And when they do, we naturally hope for kindness from those around us. When something painful happens to you, like a difficult diagnosis, a death in the family, a marriage break up, a miscarriage or a catastrophic loss of property… there are so many things that might constitute a reality slap… it is natural to seek comfort. It’s instinctive to seek support. Do you remember the peace that comes with a warm and sensitive response from someone close to you? Maybe it was one of these responses?
These responses all communicate how much a person cares about you and your situation.
And then, there are the other responses. The ones that fall through the gap. They are common responses in society because we have failed as a community to teach each other that they are not useful. People don’t know. I think it is really important to remember that these responses often come from a place of good intentions, even if they are not sensitive:
Proverbs and quotes are tricky territory. These may in essence have truth for the human condition, it’s probably why they have become popular. But they can be invalidating and unhelpful. They ignore the pain you are experiencing and can feel judgmental. The hidden message of all of these types of platitudes is “Harden up, look on the bright side, it can’t be all bad”. When some days, it just is all bad. Here is what Harris says about that, “If they are the first thing you say to someone who has just been slapped by reality, you will come across as uncaring or offensive… as a general rule, a compassionate response must come before anything else. If someone leaps in with advice, proverbs, positive thinking or action plans without first demonstrating his or her compassion, we are likely to feel upset, annoyed, offended, hurt or irritated -often without quite realising why this is”.
Some of the responses in the second group can actually be really helpful and practical, if they are preceded by caring and empathy.
Mind the gap. It’s easy to fall into it when someone responds to you from the unhelpful responses. But we don’t often enough consider how we are responding to ourselves. Helpfully, or unhelpfully?
Who is the one human being who can always be there for you in your life,
in any moment, no matter what happens?
Who understands you better than anyone else on the planet?
Who is the only one who knows how much you are suffering?
Harris suggests that because we are always available to ourselves, we can always do something to help ourselves, even when we think we can’t. We can be our own first responders. Many of us do, already, practise excellent self-care. Many of us have learned by necessity to nurture ourselves through suffering. But sometimes, our self talk is more like the second list of responses. I know for myself, that I tell myself to harden up all the time, to push through, to stop being pathetic. I can be more harsh with myself than anyone in my circle and I frequently am. He suggests that the relationship we have with ourselves should be similar to one we would have with a best friend. Imagine, if you always had that friend there to be kind to you when you are struggling?
Self compassion is two-fold.
There is being kind to yourself…
Resting your own hand where you feel the most pain, as a hand of compassion, allowing yourself to relax and accept the warmth of your own kindness.
Noticing when your mind is being harsh with you and gently telling yourself what your kind friend would tell you.
Allowing yourself the time you need without judging yourself.
Reminding yourself that you are deserving of compassion and it is okay to give it to yourself.
…and there is being present with your pain.
It might be your illness, your grief, your suffering. Or all of these things. Being present with your pain might be something you are horrified at the prospect of. Here, ‘being present’ is used by Harris in the context of mindfulness. My homework chapter ended at this point, so next visit I will ask for more. I am keenly interested in how mindfulness might help to diminish my negative feelings about this illness. Do you think it might help you too?
For now, I am going to lay a warm hand on my own shoulder and say some kind things to myself for getting this post written. It has been a tough morning, symptom-wise and I have a big afternoon ahead. If your own hand of compassion is not enough, get online, join a support group. Don’t give up.
I hope you can begin to be kinder to yourself today. Mind the gap, don’t fall in. It’s good to remember you can make a beautiful bridge to stretch over that canyon.
More soon, I’m seeing Anna again tomorrow. Watch this space.
PS. Here is a song I heard on the radio just as I finished writing this post. I always notice the songs that play, I’m sure there’s reasons for them. This one I am singing for me.
Sometimes finding kind words for ourselves isn’t easy.
Words, don’t come easy, to me How can I find a way, to make you see I love you, words don’t come easy.