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Aug 27 10

Self-care: Forgiving Yourself

by admin

Finding you have limits can be a bit confronting. Accepting your limits is no picnic, either. And, then, there’s forgiving yourself for having limits in the first place….and believing that accepting those limits isn’t an issue of letting yourself off the hook.

I used to joke that I could win a Nobel prize and return to my hotel room to write a 500 page thesis about why I didn’t deserve it, why other candidates were better qualified, how no one really saw all my FLAWS and INADEQUACIES. HELLO! I’m imperfect, here. How can you not notice?

Like many of you, I am pretty hard on myself. It’s fine to forgive others, to allow for their humanity. But, me? Well, I’m Mother Theresa, Florence Nightengale, Gandhi, and Betty Crocker all rolled up into one big mass of perfection-expectation. It has taken a long time to realize that I deserve the same compassion that I so willingly show to everyone else. It is not fair, or healthy, to hold myself to such high standards that I am never good enough. It is not realistic to expect that I should be able to climb Mount Everest, every day, without fail. It’s okay to have needs and vulnerabilities.

Ask yourself, did I give 100% of what I was able to give in the moment, even if that 100% looked a lot smaller than what 100% looks like at other times? In other words, did you give it your all? Were you acting from your priorities, where some things were necessarily lower on the list?

Do you allow other people to be human? Can you give yourself that same gift of humanity? Compassion for self, that’s the advanced course for compassion. Breathe deeply and remind yourself that you are good enough, you did all that you could do in the moment, and it’s okay. And, whatever failures you perceive in yourself, the sun still rises, the tides still ebb and flow, children laugh and play…and margaritas and guacamole still await at that little place around the corner.

feeling back to myself, gretchen

Aug 20 10

Self-Care: Accepting Your Limits

by admin

And, sometimes a period of retreat lasts….well….a lot longer than we planned. Life doesn’t always go as planned. Sometimes, we don’t really know what we need. Sometimes, we think we’ve moved on and SNAP! we’re back to square one. Or, it’s two steps forward three steps back. And, sometimes, we must do what we need to do, even if it doesn’t seem to make sense and it looks really funky to everyone else. That’s the whole idea of listening to your intuition, your inner voice, and your body.

The real question is….CAN YOU ACCEPT YOUR LIMITS? Will you push yourself to meet your own goals, or someone else’s goals, or will you trust your inner knowing? Will you sacrifice your well-being in order to meet an arbitrary level of performace, or will you listen to your fatigue? Can you stop when every cell in your body is telling you to stop….even if you and the rest of the world are telling you to keep going….especially if they’re not using their indoor voices?

Knowing your limits is critical when you are care-giving. And, it’s pretty darn important just for taking care of yourself. And, in the greater scheme of things….a month, a year, a decade, a lifetime….will a short period of time when you accepted your limits, when you didn’t perform at your peak, when you took time to rest….will it matter? I’m not advocating for giving in or giving up, just setting healthy boundaries and accepting your limits….not forever, but for a short period of time, whether that’s an hour, a day, a week, a month.

feeling back to myself, gretchen

Jul 7 10

Self-care 101: Retreat

by admin

How many of us, in the midst of a caregiving crisis, haven’t dreamed of a spa retreat? A quiet room all to ourselves, a fluffy robe, time to walk in the woods or along the beach, a therapeutic massage, perhaps a manicure or pedicure, yoga, fresh and healthy food, soothing music.

There is a Buddhist distinction of retreat, minus the amenities, that mirrors our fantasy spa retreat. Sometimes, in order to move forward, you need to retreat, to be in stillness, to regroup, to re-energize. Barring caring for children, eating, and sleeping, sometimes, we need to make “retreat” our number one priority.

You may have wondered why you didn’t hear from me for an entire week….unheard of since I started the blog! Well, I needed to retreat. I was feeling overwhelmed, more depressed than I have since my personal care-giving crisis started, seemingly unable to move forward with anything. So, working with my coach, we agreed that I need to stop, to retreat, to take time for radical self-care, to re-energize so that I could move forward again.

It was hard, and it was easy. I so needed the time to sleep, reflect, process, let things sink in….that was the easy part. I felt so guilty about neglecting the blog, Twitter, revising the business plan, and the myriad other things that didn’t get done last week. And, coming out of a week of retreat, I feel rested and ready to take on the world again (or at least the Western Hemisphere).

So, if you feel like you are at the end of your rope, like you are barely hanging on….retreat. Make it a priority. Yes, you need to take care of the children but the vacuuming and the laundry and the homemade pies can wait. Give yourself the freedom to re-energize. It will make the coming weeks easier….guaranteed!

taking care of number one, gretchen

Jun 28 10

Weekend Briefing: Leadership and Innovation

by admin

This was a busy week for Homeward Deployed and the Veterans Task Force. We have the team from America’s Heroes at Work coming to do a presentation for our local businesses on July 15. They will help educate our community business about PTSD and TBI….learning what is real and what is media hype, the distinctions between “diagnosis” and “triggers,” and how to make their workplaces veteran friendly. We are working with a film crew to capture the event, with the evenual goal of making a series of short training/educational videos. We are grateful to our sponsors….MVLE for hosting the event and providing lunch, Carey Coaching for covering the cost of the videotaping.

We also began planning the second event, to be help August 12. That event will cover adaptive technology, tax credits, and accommodations.

We are also excited to approach a potential angel investor in partnership with the Forte Institute….but more on that as the conversations develop.

changing the world, one conversation at a time, gretchen

Jun 24 10

The Journey of Mental Illness: Adjusting My Worldview

by admin

I am now working three part-time jobs, totaling almost 40 hours a week, to pay the bills while working as the full-time pro-bono CEO of Homeward Deployed. At first, to be honest, I had a victim mentality of “look what he did to me” and “this is so unfair.” But, that shifted the other day when I realized that I had powerfully chosen this life. I had other choices and I chose this life. I could have abandoned Homeward Deployed and gotten a full-time job. I could have sent my son to live with his dad and moved into a friend’s basement….this of course was never really an option because my son is my most important priority (my daughter, too, but she is out of college and working so it’s different). I could have let depression get the better of me, crumbled, and found myself jobless and homeless.

I have control over my choices, even if I cannot always choose what I perceive to be an ideal life path. And, I don’t always know what an “ideal” path might look like. What if he hadn’t moved out and I was trapped living with someone who is out of control (been there, done that)? What if we had been married for a year or two and then this had happened?

I ask myself, “What is it that I am gaining in going through this experience?” For one, I know first hand what it is like to have someone you love, someone close to you, suddenly transform into a polar opposite being. I know how hard it is to balance betrayal and compassion, because I know in my heart he is really not well. I am intimate with the path of grieving while making an employment transition….job hunting while grieving, growing a business while grieving, struggling to balance my need for income with my need for self-care.

I cannot choose my circumstances, but I can control how I view my world. For me, this allows for multiple choices and new ways to move forward, even if they are scary and full of uncertainties. I am learning and growing, no matter how painful. And, as hard and lonely as this is, it is a good thing.

still taking it one day at a time, gretchen

Jun 23 10

The Journey of Mental Illness: Taking Control

by admin

In many ways, this has been the hardest thing I have ever been through. The end of my first marriage was a long slow decline, and by the time it was over I was, truth be told, relieved. The path over the past three months has felt like one blow after another….losing my husband to mental illness, having my unemployment benefits abruptly end (I lost my job before I lost my husband), losing my very part-time grant writing job, spending $1300 in engine repairs so that I could pass my emissions inspection and renew my tags, having my husband’s son threaten to instigate a law suit over the blog, dealing with the sense of betrayal that my siblings have not been here to support me through this.

It has been a constant battle to not fall into self-pity and victimhood. One thing that has made a difference is to take control where I could, however small and pathetic the steps seemed. I am on an anemic budget and I micromanage my bank account….and I control my spending and prevent bouncing checks or running out of money for food and gas. I rethink trips of more than 10 miles, since my ten year old van gets terrible mileage.

Although I operated for a while from victim mentality, I put out 60 resumes in two weeks, landed multiple interviews with tutoring companies, and got five job offers. I now tutor six days a week, 18 hours a week, for a tutoring center. It’s not rocket science but it pays some bills and it’s pretty low stress. I am listed with two companies for in-home tutoring. I was offered two other jobs with tutoring centers that I turned down (summer only positions) because….by a stroke of fate a colleague who owns an insurance agency needs an admin 10-20 hours a week, slightly less money per hour but the flexibility I need to continue to scale up Homeward Deployed, which is going like gang busters.

It’s not the complete solution to my financial woes but it’s a start. I have narrowed the budgetary gap. And, I have a plan, which I control….I will continue to apply for writing jobs, which pay much better. As I am able, I will replace higher paying writing jobs, which also give me flexibility, with tutoring hours. It’s not a plan that will win awards AND it’s a start. I am not powerless. I can still create forward movement in my life. I can take care of myself and my son. And, that, my friends is a position of power.

still taking it one day at a time, gretchen

Jun 22 10

The Journey of Mental Illness: June Update

by admin

For those of you who followed my earliest blog posts, you know that I have been dealing with a mental health emergency in my family. Briefly, my husband had a major psychiatric breakdown three months into our marriage, went on meds, took himself off meds, and abruptly moved out. Not only did that leave me feeling confused, angry, scared, grieving, bewildered, betrayed, depressed, exhausted….it pulled the financial rug out from under my family.

Three and a half months later, I feel like I am only just beginning to get my arms around what has happened to me. In the span of six months, I married the man of my dreams who adored me (or so I thought), had a mostly amazing three months, went through a traumatic mental health crisis, and lost my husband forever. While I am moving towards acceptance and peace, I still swing at times from “I hate him” to “I pity him” to “I have compassion for him.” I don’t wish him harm but I still cannot authentically wish him well.

I have finally begun to formulate a new normal, thanks to my Rubenfeld synergist, a pro bono coach, my parents, a bevy of friends who have stood by me every step of the way, and a community of supporters who keep me in their prayers. My dad has loaned me money and emails me regularly to remind me to believe in myself. My mom has invited me to a series of free dinners, or brought steak and wine to my house. My friends suggest lunch at home or a cookout and a movie, knowing I can’t afford to eat out. They buy “snacks to share” at the impromptu coffee and generously spend time helping me to stay organized with Homeward Deployed. It all adds up to a safety net that allows me to grieve and move forward supported by a sea of love.

still taking it one day at a time, gretchen

Jun 21 10

Weekend Briefing: Leadership and Innovation

by admin

The big news for Homeward Deployed this week is that Thursday, July 15, at 11:30 a.m. America’s Heroes at Work will be doing the first of two workshops for the Veterans Task Force at the Greater Springfield Chamber, focusing on TBI and PTSD in the Workplace. We are so honored to have this partnership and to have these resources brought to the businesses in our community. MVLE is hosting the event and providing lunch. Carey Coaching will be sponsoring filming the event. The second event, to be held in August, will focus on legal issues around accommodations, tax credits, adaptive technology, etc.

A potential huge step forward for Homeward Deployed and our partners at The Forte Institute….we may have found an angel investor who can make the kind of commitment to our programs that we need right now to really build out nationally. We’ll keep you posted as that moves forward.

Other news from HQ…. We have acquired the support of a pro-bono attorney, who prefers to remain anonymous, but J, you know who you are and we are grateful for your support. We reconnected with Heather Ramsey of The Coach for Me, who has volunteered to help with interviewing coaches for our community of coaches.

changing the world, one conversation at a time, gretchen

Jun 18 10

Self-care 101: Celebrate Small Successes

by admin

Caregiving is hard. It is tiring. Often it feels endless, like you could work 24/7 and never keep all the balls in the air. You can start to feel hopeless. You ask yourself, “Is this really my life? Will this ever end? How will I survive? It feels like one setback after another.”

These are normal feelings. And, they can become self-fulfilling prophecies or lead to feeling defeated. So, even in the midst of the worst crisis, find one small success every day. Keep a journal. Write them down. Your successes may seem very small some days….today, I made it through the day without crying….today, I made it through the day without yelling at the kids….today, I cooked a real meal instead of ordering pizza….today, I took the time to read to my daughter.

Your successes may be the successes of the people you are caring for, successes you made possible….today, my husband was able to eat by himself….today, my son felt good about pushing his dad in his wheelchair….today, my wife was able to talk to her co-workers about how her PTSD affects her job and what she needs from them for support.

Sometimes, your successes may not look like successes….today, my daughter was able to tell her dad she is angry he came back wounded….today, my mother-in-law was able to tell me she hated the fact that my husband looks to me for support more than he looks to her….today, my son and I talked and cried for hours over his wife’s death in Afghanistan. And, as painful as these moments are, they are part of the grieving and healing process. What you resist persists. By dealing with what’s real for you, you actually move you forward. Congratulations for doing the hard work.

taking care of number one, gretchen

Jun 17 10

Self-care 101: Daily Rituals

by admin

When we take care of other people, our energy is constantly moving outward, leaving us drained and risking burnout. It is absolutely ESSENTIAL to create a daily ritual for 15 to 30 minutes EVERY DAY that replenishes you. No matter how severe your crisis, you MUST make this time for yourself, for your own well-being and the well-being of those you are taking care of.

So, what is a daily ritual? Anything and everything that makes you feel taken care of, pampered, loved, and supported. You can have a the same daily ritual every day, or you can have a variety of rituals. You can schedule them, or create a list and pick based on how you feel that day.

Start with a brainstorm exercise. Write for at least two minutes. Write down everything that makes you feel taken care of, pampered, loved, and supported….that you can do in 15 to 30 minutes. Don’t limit yourself by whether or not it’s practical or realistic. Set the timer, ready, set, go!
Have a cup of tea, drink a glass of wine on the deck, take a walk in the woods, read a chapter of a book, take a power nap, talk to a
friend, have someone give me a neck and shoulder rub, have a hot bath, do yoga stretches, do a crossword puzzle, give myself a
facial, get a manicure or pedicure, eat dark chocolate caramels, read poetry, write or journal, lay in the hammock, ….

Now, look at your list. Set up a schedule. Or, post your list on the fridge. Now, make SURE that you do one item from your list for at least 15 to 30 minutes each and every day. You will feel better. It’s okay to make time for yourself. You deserve it.

taking care of number one, gretchen