H.A.L.T. - none of us are perfect

I know I haven't posted in awhile.  I could give a million reasons/excuses as to why, but the reality is I'm just not perfect.  And let me explain what I mean.

When I think about all the usual things I have on my plate, I can get exhausted just thinking about.  And that's before adding in basketball season, so you can only imagine how it feels then.  That's why I constantly emphasize self-care.  I (nicely/jokingly) lecture my clients about it.  I've given interviews to psychology students and up-and-coming new therapists, and when they ask what is the most important thing I could tell them to learn, I always say self-care.  That's why I make time for the important things in my life...family, friends, sleep.  I work 6 days a week (sometimes 7 during basketball season), so on my day off I will sleep all day.  And when I say that, I really mean ALL day.  There have been a handful of times that I went to bed on a Saturday night and only woke up long enough on Sunday to eat some dinner before going back to bed until Monday.  I used to feel guilty about it, but now I know I need it.  I have a standing 2-hour appointment for a massage every Sunday, and there have even been days that I didn't want to get out of bed for that.

Now I know that I'm making it sound like I'm exhausting myself and overworking, but it's not like that (well maybe slightly, but that's not the point I'm making).  I love to sleep.  It might be one of my absolute favorite things to do.  And I'm most definitely NOT a morning person, so I enjoy staying up late.  But I also get energy from spending time with the people I love, although I have to do that in moderation as well because I tend towards being an introvert so I gain energy from time alone.  (On a side note, there are some fascinating theories about this, with the Myers-Brigg being the prevailing theory, although there are some who disagree).  I've learned it's important to make time for the things that are important.  But what happens when the important things become more taxing than helpful?

There's the acronym H.A.L.T. that has been so valuable to me.  It stands for Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired.  When we are one of those things, we tend to be more irritable and can project our issues on people/things that have nothing to do with it.  When we are two or more of those things, well, you get the picture.  It's not wise to make significant decisions, or sometimes even minor decisions, when we are HALTing.  Think of it this way...you know how they say never go grocery shopping when you're hungry?  Yeah.  That's my point.  You end up with a basket full of frozen pizzas, Ding Dongs, chips and salsa, marshmallows, bread, cheese, grapes, and Nutella.  It's kind of ridiculous.  So if you're trying to be there for others but you haven't eaten or didn't get a good night's sleep, maybe read something political that infuriated you, maybe you haven't emotionally connected with someone in awhile, chances are you're going to be an emotional wreck and no good to anyone.

I've recently been faced with some things in my life that are heavy, to say the least.  And being part of such a loving and supportive family has been my saving grace.  But it also makes me want to be there for them at every moment, which doesn't always work with the tenet of self-care.  Even though I tell people all the time how important self-care is, and to not feel guilty about it, I still end up feeling like the asshole when every fiber of my being wants to sleep and hide away but I also want to be there for someone I love.  Sometimes the choices we face can feel crappy no matter which one you choose.  I had a moment last night where I felt paralyzed because the logical part of me knew I needed to take care of myself, but the emotional part of me felt guilty beyond description.  I was HALTing, without question, and I knew it.  I was blessed that my family made the decision for me because no matter how much my logical brain knew what I needed to do, I was completely incapable of making that decision.  

My point is, I'm not perfect.  We often get this idea that our therapist has all the answers, that they have it all together.  Heck, I even fall prey to the notion at times, feeling like an idiot and a fraud when I have a bad day and make all the wrong choices.  But the reality is I'm just human, just like you.  I pride myself on being real, and as a feminist therapist I acknowledge my humanity with my clients, because it doesn't do anyone good to pretend that I'm perfect.  So you should know that I'm not perfect.  None of us are.  Whether or you are one of my clients or you see another therapist, remember they aren't perfect either.  I fuck up just like everyone else.  I don't always know what to say or do.  Sometimes I know but I still don't do it.  I know that sometimes it's easier said than done.  I know that sometimes I'm going to give you suggestions and know that you aren't going to follow them, because sometimes I don't even follow them.  I don't judge anyone for making mistakes or choosing the unhealthy path.  I do it too sometimes.  Cause it's hard.  It's really fucking hard sometimes.

Oxygen mask theory

So I'm out of the office this week, and as I notified each of my clients most of them made comments hoping that I was having a relaxing week off.  Truth be told, it's not a relaxing week whatsoever, but it's still fun.  See, in my "spare" time I'm a basketball fanatic.  More specifically, I'm a UNLV fan to the core.  I grew up watching UNLV, my nephew plays basketball, and everyone in my family has been involved in doing the statistics for UNLV men and women's basketball.  My dad was the one who started working stats for them, and over time he became in charge of the stat crew and hired my mom, my sisters, and myself (gotta love nepotism!).  I was the only one out of my sisters that really stuck with it, eventually becoming in charge of the stat crew once my dad retired.  I've been doing it for 23 years now, and I absolutely love it.  That doesn't mean, however, that it's relaxing.  I've been working the conference tournament for nearly as long as I've been working basketball, first with the Big West conference, then the WAC, and now the Mountain West.  I used to do the stats but now just volunteer with media relations, working in various capacities.  And yes, I said volunteer...I don't get paid, that's how much I love doing it (I get paid by UNLV during the regular season but I volunteer with the MWC for the tournament).  But it's long hours, I'm on my feet and walking all around the arena the entire day, I don't see daylight or get fresh air from 10am (ish) to 10pm (ish), sometimes even as late as midnight.  The food isn't all that great.  The days run together.  But as I said, I love it and wouldn't trade it for the world.  However, I've learned the hard way that no matter how much you might love something, it can still wear on you and you have to learn self-care, you have to put yourself first.  That's not selfishness.  That's self-preservation.  I call it "oxygen mask theory."  When you're on a plane and the flight attendants are giving their schpiel, when they talk about what you should do if they lose cabin pressure and the oxygen masks drop down, what do they say?  "Put yours on first and then help others than need assistance."  Self-care.  But everyone has different self-care needs, and it's important to know what yours are.  For me, it's sleep.  It's always been sleep for me, but it's become noticeably more so since I was diagnosed with cancer and had surgery and radiation.  If I don't get 8 hours of sleep each night, I notice a very clear difference.  If I get less than 6 hours, I start to feel ill.  If I have 2 days in a row of less than 6 hours, I might as well call in sick...I'm in (literal) physical pain, nauseous, I can't think straight, I experience depersonalization & derealization, and I'm definitely more emotional.  So when I work this tournament each year, as much as I love doing it, I have to be extremely cautious with my self-care.  I tend to want to come home and veg out to some TV shows, but if I do that, I'm sacrificing sleep.  If my friends want me to meet up with them for a drink or some food, I have to be cognizant enough to say no, no matter how much I may want to.  In America we are so fast-paced, goal-oriented, achievement-driven.  That's why our nation is so powerful in this world, but I feel like it's also why we suffer so many illnesses.  Nearly every single client who sits in my office has talked about struggling with self-care.  They have a hard time putting themselves first, they think that makes them selfish.  Again and again I teach the value of taking care of ourselves, giving permission to them to put their needs first, and telling them to give themselves that same permission.  So during this week while I'm having fun but also focusing on self-care, ask yourself how often you put yourself first or how often you defer your own self-care needs in order to achieve a goal or take care of someone else.  And start thinking about and discovering what your self-care rituals are.  I'd love to hear from all of you what they are, or what struggles you find in implementing self-care.  But always remember...put your oxygen mask on first.