Take care of yourself versus (???) supporting others

I have been moving (hate it, but that ‘s not the point of this post!)

A few weeks ago (during the week I was getting stuff out of the one place another), I had a conversation about being willing to accept help from others / that we all need each other.  This is a fair point to aim in my direction.  I definitely don’t find it easy to ask for help, and if I once ask for help from someone and get turned down it’s doubly unlikely that I’ll ask again.  I have a pretty strong sense that there are certain things I need to do all by myself, and sometimes I even feels that asking for help is wrong.

At the same time I had a friend who was hospitalized (in the psych ward).  Having had my own struggles with depression, this is the kind of situation where I have a fairly strong sense of “there but by the  grace of God go I,” and spending days in a hospital ward sounds pretty miserable to me.  So visiting when I could seemed the only right thing to do.  But when I was heading out to visit him the first time, the same person who was all “you need to be more open and the let people kelp you more!” in the previously mentioned conversation seemed a bit dubious that I was spending time doing this during the move (never mind that I also needed a break from the misery of moving).  I was told that I might “need to take care of yourself first.”

This is actually a kind person, who I have seen be quite supportive of others, and this set of conversations floored me.  I have several thoughts (mostly in the form of questions) as the result:

How can I expect help from others if I have no willingness to put out any effort for them?

Kindness may can be hard (although it really wasn’t for me, in this particular situation), but what’s the point of the rest of life’s events and activities without it?

Only helping others when it is convenient is another form of isolation, just like not asking anyone for help.

Some of the common, glibly uttered thoughts about maintaining equilibrium and mental health are actually kind of messed up.

I don’t want to work so much . . . . right?

I generally think that I work to much and socialize too little for a healthy balance.  And it’s not that  I’m so passionately wrapped up in my work that I just  forget or don’t get around to the social part of my life, it’s more a combination of certain tedious parts of my work taking up too much time, and a  fear of dropping the ball and losing a job. (Although I never lost a job when I was clinically depressed, I felt close to it because of how poorly I functioned, so there is a fear left over from that time in my life.)

Related to this, I had a little experience the other day that brought me up short.  I stopped by a local coffee shop to grab a muffin on my way to do some work.  No one was expecting me at work, no one else was even at work, I just needed to get this item done some time that day.  At the coffee shop, I ran into a friendly acquaintance., and the whole time I was speaking with her I was feeling anxious about getting going and needing to get this project done.  About half way through the conversation I was really really noticing myself doing this.  Wanting her to wrap up the conversation, wanting to get to away from the conversation, although the conversation was pleasant and I was interested in it.

This is not how I want to react to friendly social encounters!

Share Your World – 2015 Week #5

From the weekly share your world challenge:

Do you prefer shopping or going to a park?

I would definitely prefer  the park.  Especially a park that is large enough to have hiking trails!

If you were a shoe, what kind would you be and why?

I guess I’d pick a leather hiking boot.  Strong, sturdy, comfortable, gets to go outside. . .

What’s the story behind a time when you got locked out?

I remember finding an open window and breaking into the house of a friend when another friend and I showed up and he wasn’t home.   It sounds awful, put that way, but it really was ok!!

Do you prefer eating foods with nuts or no nuts? 

Well, it depends on the food (I don’t put walnut in my mashed potatoes,  or pistachios in my chili),  but I’d go for with nuts.

Old friends

I’m currently in my home town, visiting my family.  About a week ago I went to a sitting mediation with a good friend.  Before the meditation, everyone in the circle introduced themselves by first names.  I wasn’t really paying a lot of attention to the rest of the people in the circle, but when a woman across the circle from me said her name, I was sure that I knew her from high school.  When she realized who I was she said “I heard you were in New England” (huh?? how did you know that?) and it turns out she had worked for the local paper,  and spoke to my Dad when he called to place a classified ad.  I remember my Dad mentioning that to me, but he hadn’t remembered the person’s name he’d spoken with.

She’s one of a very small number of people from high school who I have wondered about over the years (high school, while not as bad as junior high, was pretty miserable!).  Two or three times I’ve had dreams about meeting her again, so it felts particularly weird / surreal to actually run into her in real life.   We met up for tea a few days later and talked for a couple of hours, and we have quite a bit in common in terms of interests and life views.  It will be nice to have another friend to spend time with / get to know again

Then a couple of nights ago I received an email from a friend from when I was a young adult, doing a lot of seasonal environmental work.  He was on of my best buds at one of those jobs,  one of the folks who I would go off on adventures with during our days off, someone who I miss having in my life.  Sadly, we’ve gotten out of touch in the past years (although his wife, who I’ve only met once,  is a FB friend!).  I had sent him a couple of emails at the beginning and middle of last year, and had not heard back from him.  It turns out my emails got lost in an email account he doesn’t use much, and he sent me a better email address.  I’m pretty psyched to have heard from him!

I’m feeling appreciative of both of these re-connections.

Sometimes escapist, sometime mind-expanding: my relationship with novels

When I was a kid, I read.  I spent a great deal of my free time reading (and probably some that wasn’t considered “free” by the adults around me — time when my mom wanted me to be doing chores, or even time when I was expected to be paying attention in class.)

I was teased by my family about how much I read, but I was targeted (bullied) in school and rarely had  friends.  Books provided escape, another life, a type of freedom that I did not have of know how to create in myself at that time.  Sure there was pleasure in reading, but more importantly there was escape.  It was a way out of the unpleasant social world that I inhabited.  At that point, I would never have questioned whether it was useful to me to read so much.

Now, as an adult I have a mixed relationship with reading, at least with reading fiction.  I certainly love books and bookstores.  I have a weakness for purchasing books, although I’m much more likely to buy non-fiction works — I don’t often buy novels.  I enjoy really good, solid novels, however, I read a lot of crap (mostly detective novel type stuff).  I do this when I am stressed and tired.  It’s easy, unchallenging reading and it seems like a good idea at the time.  when I am in the stressful situation, I actually crave it,  and I believe that I just “need a break.”  But then I usually read longer than I intended to, and it can suck up time from activities that have more chance of improving my emotional status in a more lasting way.  It is such a long-established coping mechanism, however, that I sometimes don’t even question it.

Minnesota Starvation Experiment during WW II

I’ve recently learned of this experiment, that took place during  WW II, and that was designed to study the best ways to rehabilitate individuals who had experienced starvation as the result of the war.  It’s interesting and disturbing.

One of the (I believe unexpected) results was that the young men (the experimental subjects), after the rehabilitation period, were still extremely hungry and  consumed an extremely high number of calories.  I wonder how many diet designers and obesity researchers are aware of this research?