A Self-Centered Approach to Life, Love, and Spirituality…starting with Steph

If I Were to Write a Suicide Note, What Would it Say: Thoughts on Robin Williams, Suffering, and the Stuff We Silence

It’s Robin Williams’ birthday today. As talk of his untimely death and mental health awareness has quieted, I wondered who else’s voice was missing from the conversation. I realized it was mine.

If I were to write a suicide note, what would I say? Who would I leave my last words to, what would I want them to understand? How would I explain the ache that has been flying under the radar, the impossible situation I’m not sure I’ll ever get out of, how overwhelmed I have become by it all, and how desperate I am to end my suffering.

Yes, morbid thoughts this evening… Or not.
As a therapist, statistically speaking, I am more likely to kill myself than my client is. But as a person, there are words I have been screaming at the top of my lungs, muffled by fear of consequence or judgment, before they could ever reach my vocal chords.
Anxiety can be crippling, while invisible to the human eye. Sadness can slip into hopeless, depression to despair without any notice. Deep emotions may flood a person without making a sound.
This rising turmoil starts small… a choice of comfort over conscience, relationship over respect, or doing what you have to do at your own expense. Internal chaos can be a high price for external peace.
What are those things that may push you to the brink? What would happen if you pushed them out of your mouth instead?
My Invitation:
Everybody’s got something. Many people can be effected by changes in your energy or mood, but who is curious about your internal chaos? Find those people who have proven themselves trustworthy with your life and let them into your world. Survival may seem impossibly difficult today, but you may find it gets a little bit easier when you don’t go it alone.

Birthdays, Visitation, and Laundry

Last week was my aunt’s birthday. It is the first holiday (yes I said holiday—birthdays are a big deal) that I didn’t buy a card from my grandma for one of her children. It was surreal. When absence takes a seat in your heart, its weight is heavily felt. I almost bought a card for her anyway…and for a minute I could smile and pretend like she was still there. As days go by, grieving people tend to mark time. We count how many birthdays and thanksgivings there have been since our loved ones have passed. We tally the moments we could have had, noting the good tasks we completed instead of the great things that might have mattered more. We learn to adjust to the loss of opportunity—to a life that is different: One in which we mourn the mundane moments, those simple ones we would give anything to have back, and forge a new normal for ourselves.

That same week, I had 3 baskets of clean clothes that I sifted through every day when deciding what to wear. Laundry among other things was sitting, waiting to be dealt with. I dreamt of my grandma one of those mornings. She came to my bedroom, hugged me tightly, gave me a load of her laundry, and said “I haven’t seen you in a few days.” I moved the baskets out of the way for her to walk in. She laid on my bed and I thought I should just lay next to her as I sorted through her clothes. I woke up before having done so… But for a few sweet moments, I felt her here with me.

I went to visit my Grams’ grave yesterday. In the dream, she said she hadn’t seen me in a few days. Truth be told, I hadn’t seen myself in awhile. Grams was gone, but my laundry was still there.

My Invitation:

What overwhelms us may take different forms: Maybe stress, loneliness, grief… For me, it is time to address my grandmother’s passing and face everything I put aside while caring for her: my calling, my relationships, namely myself. You know your desires and needs better than anyone else does. Honor them. If you like you can join me. I’ll start with the laundry.


Between Fear and Grief

I don’t like surprises. I have worried about my grandmother’s legs being cut off for years. Recently her legs have gotten darker and the blisters on her swollen calves have popped leaving wounds that heal slower than they were designed to….Now I have cause to be concerned but for completely different reasons. The interesting thing about anxiety is that often no one cares about what you’re worried about. Sometimes the real problem is so much bigger than you could have anticipated. These are the times when you don’t want to be right.

Grams’ doctor had a few tests he wanted to have run in-house, but I did not want to take her to the hospital. Usually I’m all over that, I am a hospital pro. Strangely enough, I feel very at home there and Grams typically returns feeling better after being treated. But I was afraid that if she went in this time she may not come out. The hospital is where my Grams feels most comfortable, she knows nurses are monitoring her health day and night, people tend to her, and she doesn’t have to sleep alone. It’s ironic, I’m not sure if she’ll make it out of the safest place she knows.

We did take her to the emergency room and my fears were eclipsed by scarier ones. I guess swollen legs are no match for talks of heart-failure and hospice. I tend to get calmer when facing major issues and increasingly anxious over minor ones. When I walked into her room after hours in the ER, the reassuring thought came over me as I recognized my surroundings: “this I know.” Sometimes we get so used to a scary place, we look forward to the familiarity. In the uncertainty, in the awful, Maybe this was God anesthetizing the element of surprise. I don’t know. These days I don’t know much of anything. So what do we do with this? We talk.
It sucks. I am grateful for the fear of loss of love, the acceptance of its occurrence, and the experience of it having existed at all.

My Invitation:
Grief is an inexplicably hard channel to swim through. The fear before the grief can be insufferable… No part of that is ok until it is… Let it be whatever it is until it becomes something different.
~Steph (working on being) centered

Lay Your Head on my Bible

Roxy deep in thought...

Roxy deep in thought…

When something is wrong with me, I like to sleep with my Bible. For some reason just outside of my comprehension, it makes me feel better. Foxy Roxy, my pomeranian, kind of does something similar. She has been sleeping outside of my grandmother’s room lately, watching over her every night. But tonight when I got home, she was waiting for me under my bed. She is that kind of dog, she’ll sit with me when I’m injured, overwhelmed, or just in need of something. So it was touching to know that when my evening was crap, she was there. I absolutely love my dog and her care taking sensibility, but tonight I couldn’t help but wonder if something was wrong with her. She just laid softly and nestled herself on my bed, laying her head on my Bible. I thought about the implications of having a pet on a Holy Book, but if she needed the gentle touch my Bible has often offered me, then I couldn’t think of a better use of that source of comfort than for her. She stayed with me to lick my wounds, so to speak, the least I could do is give her a safe place to rest her head.

Sometimes those who take care of you need to be taken care of themselves (sounds vaguely familiar…). They may not be able to communicate it or show it, they may even be there for you right now in spite of their own needs. Don’t be afraid to offer them what usually soothes you (and say thank you for the things they may not know you notice). Consideration goes a long way, but caring can help ground people, bringing them all the way back to themselves. Being at home with others takes courage, inviting people to be at home with you affords them the opportunity to cast off their bravery for a moment and just be. A friend of mine says, “We all need a little help sometimes.” Even the strongest among us need a shoulder to lean on, in this case, maybe a Bible.

My Invitation:

Think of the people in your life who care deeply for you. Their support could be as readily available to you as the air you breathe or so subtle sometimes you may overlook it. I invite you to let your gratitude for them flow and allow them to feel your appreciation. Gratitude can have therapeutic effects on people. Who knows…it might be what both of you needed.

~Steph-Centered with an Appearance from Foxy Roxy

Becoming Steph-Centered: Finding a Balance Between Self-Care and Caretaking

So I did something today I never do: I got a manicure and pedicure.

While there, I asked the amazing woman who did my nails why exactly people get pedicures. She said, “For two reasons: to make themselves prettier and to clean their feet. And (Bonus reason) it is relaxing…let someone take care of you.” I had to sit with that for a moment. Let someone take care of you. You see, I am a consummate caregiver, the kind who at times loses herself in the whole-hearted pursuit of loving others. I am deeply empathetic and sensitive to suffering. It physically overwhelms me when my grandmother cannot remember things I said moments ago and when she moans in pain, it breaks my heart. While my sensitivity is useful to me as a therapist, it can be quite problematic to me as a person. Airlines tell you to put the oxygen mask on yourself before attempting to help others in an emergency…but no one tells you that caregiving is a daily balance of comfort and crisis management. You carry your loved ones through sickness and hardships, and can’t fully rest because the world feels a bit heavier on your shoulders. You may not have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, but the suffering is real and your stress is perpetual. At times, choosing your sanity over soothing relentless pain of others can summon more guilt than peace may appear to be worth. As a therapist, I too tell clients to take time for themselves so there can be enough of them to go around. But as a caregiver, I also know how impossible that can seem in the face of our family members’ suffering. So you give a little more of yourself, because you couldn’t imagine giving any less. While I love the virtue of selflessness, I had to let go of the idea so I could have a self to serve others effectively. Selfishness can be defined as the promotion of one’s own interest at the expense of that of others. Centering of the self is a practice of grounding one’s experience in awareness, compassion, and acceptance. Dedicating time to yourself in the grand scheme of care taking may seem counter intuitive or productive. But what I have noticed is this: when I prioritize my wellbeing, I can give from a place of generosity instead of deficit. When I am self-centered, I do my best, most altruistic work. My clients benefit from me being more fully engaged, my grandmother benefits from me being deeply present, and I get to show up for people whole-heartedly…starting with me.


Here is my invitation for you to join me.



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