For some of us, doing the dishes is the last thing on our list.  For others, it’s the first because a neat orderly kitchen creates less clutter in our heads.  There are also those of us who wish others would do the dishes for us or that the dishes would just disappear.

I invite you to pause for a moment and ask yourself – what’s the first thing that comes to your mind when it comes to doing the dishes?  And what the heck does doing the dishes have to do with feeling better?

If you think of doing the dishes as taking care of your health, it can often feel like an enormous pain.  Though some may call being in pain an adventure in learning, there are many times where the truth is it just hurts.   We (and that includes me) don’t want to deal with it, we don’t have time, and we surely don’t want to talk about it or ask for help.

For me, dealing with my health is a bit of an adventure in learning mixed in with varying amounts of fear and pain.

I can take care of  maintaining my health – just like the dishes – myself.

I can do things that help like exercise, yoga, eating nutritiously, and meditating on my own.   When I take care of my health on a regular basis, I feel better.

It’s the same with the dishes.  When I do them on a regular basis, I also feel better.

Unlike the dishes, however,  at some point  I cannot take care of my own health alone.  For example, when I notice I’m dizzy while driving I need someone’s help.

And when I ask for that help clearly, listen carefully and make sure I understand the options, I get good advice and can make decisions.  I also know that over time, by giving accurate clear feedback to my provider, we can tweak decisions as we go along.   I repeat this process again and again – taking the first step over and over by admitting I need help.

Here’s how this played out in my own life.  When I told my doctor that I felt dizzy sometimes and noticed it had to do with turning my head while driving and making right turns sometimes as well as telling her that it would come on suddenly and the road started moving, she suggested several options for treatment.  It took a while to figure out but the end result was I got a diagnosis and treatment for it.  When it happens, I now know what to do.

When I accept my role as a patient by clearly saying what hurts and what I need help with, I open the door to receiving that help.   When I have chosen the right provider, they can more easily use their professional expertise to help me.  I believe that when we work together for my well being everyone benefits

If you’re like me, most likely there’s some health issue going on for you (just like there’s probably some dishes waiting!).  I invite you to  see whether you can see the connection between doing the dishes, feeling better, and working with your healthcare provider in a mindful articulate way.

Does something I say resonate with you?  If so, please share it with us by making a comment.

Also, if something is going on with you that you’d rather discuss privately – please feel free to contact me and we’ll schedule a time to chat about it for 15 minutes to see if I can help you.

Because I am experiencing chronic insomnia which is flaring up at this time, I will be re-scheduling this workshop to another time.  I apologize for any inconvenience.

Here’s the description of it and I’ll update you as soon as I reschedule it.  I appreciate your understanding and apologize for any inconvenience.  I look forward to seeing you soon!

Creative Problem Solving

   Learn an empowering approach that you can use on issues that overwhelm you.  You will leave this class feeling energized, and open to new possibilities for approaching whatever issue has you stuck.


I will help you:


  • Decide what you’d like to shift in your life
  • Learn new ways of looking at your situation
  • Consider the next steps you can take to create positive change in your life
  • Take action and identify what contributes to your well being, so you can continue to do the things that work for you




Date:                    To be determined in the future.  I’ll let you know.

Where:                Full Spectrum Family Medicine

                               2025 Abbott Rd, Ste 100, East Lansing, MI 48823

Led by:                 Char Brooks, Patient Advocate

Price:                      $18

To Sign Up:         Contact Char at 517-332-0755 or call Full Spectrum Family Medicine at 517-333-3550



You can use this simple approach any time you are feeling overwhelmed, frustrated or confused.    By the end of this class, you’ll learn how to shift your thinking and behavior so you can enjoy your life more.




Char Brooks helps you identify your needs and communicate more clearly with others.  Her passion is helping her clients relax and enjoy their lives.  Chars’  credentials include being a certified life coach, patient advocate and attorney.   She is also the author of Patient Power:  Get The HealthCare You Deserve.  You can learn more about Char’s work at

It’s hard to be sick. Whether you’re struggling with feeling anxious, sad, or having back pain, it’s even harder if you’re the only one who really knows what you’re going through and others just don’t get it.

What I’ve come to realize with my own physical and mental health is that I’m the first one to know when something’s not quite right and the best one to help myself through it.

I’ve come to embrace that I’m responsible for my health. And, as I offer Your Health Your Way, you have the same opportunity: to realize you’re the first one to know how you’re feeling and the best one to help yourself through it.

One thing I want to be very clear about is that being responsible for your health doesn’t mean beating yourself up because you’re struggling. That’s cruel and unnecessary. And PS – it doesn’t make you feel better anyway.

You are not weak. You’re doing the best you can. Also, if you’re thinking that willpower is what you need more of and if you’d just “do what you know you need to do” this would go away, that’s just one more way of beating up on yourself.

For example, you may realize that exercise first thing in the morning really works to life your mood. Yet, at the same time, perhaps you wake up with such paralyzing anxiety that you can’t get out of bed much less exercise. You know it works, but you can’t do it.

There may be many mornings where you force yourself through it and notice that yes, it worked.

But, what I’ve learned over time is that strong-arming yourself through anything is just one more way to be mean to yourself. Eventually, most people rebel and get discouraged and quit doing the things that help.

So, what do you do when you already know what helps but can’t get yourself to do it? We’ll take that question, and others, and answer them in Your Health Your Way.

Depression, by it’s nature, is so insipid that one of the lies it tells us is “we’ve always felt this way and it’s never been any different.” Physical pain works the same way: whether it’s intense, comes and goes erratically or is chronic, the lie it tells is it’s always been that way and will never let up.

What I want you to know is that you are so much more than whatever you are going through right now, regardless of what you think. And there are simple tools that can help you feel better.

There is hope and help for you. It’s right here.

There may be legitimate things that have you worried. The economy, your health, your loved ones – all of those very real circumstances can cause you to feel sad, hopeless, anxious, frustrated, and create back pain among other things.

This class won’t solve your specific problems – but you will. It will give you the tools to feel better and, as you feel better, you will be able to think more clearly. You will find yourself taking action about whatever has you worried like the economy, your health or you loved ones. That’s the power of Your Health Your Way.

I truly believe that life is a series of small steps, taken one at a time. The first step (which is also the name of my business as you know!) is to find that part of you that cares so much about your well being. Ask your heart whether Your Health Your Way is right for you. Sign up for the teleclasses; you’ll get recordings if you can’t attend live.

Or, maybe as you’re reading this, you know I’m not talking about your situation. But, perhaps, you wonder whether one of your friends or family members are going through this. If you’ve been feeling frustrated and helpless because you don’t know what to do to help them, send them this blog post, with a note that says you thought of them and wondered if they may be interested.

Whether you choose to look at the course for yourself or send it on to someone you care about, I promise that I will share some do-able ways to feel better in ways you simply can’t anticipate. Questions? Concerns? Let me know – I’m here to help you manage your daily life in ways that work for you.

My work with mental health has been developed from my own school of hard knocks.  Sparing you the details, I’ve struggled with the ups and downs of depression, anxiety and pain for a good part of my life.

It has been my life’s work to develop the Home Depot store of tools to help me find ways to feel better. From a simple screwdriver (sometimes that means exercise or a deep breath) to a complete remodelling project (that may include a meltdown and rebuilding myself from the ground up) – I am a work in progress when it comes to this stuff.

I believe I’m being asked by God to share my tools with you so that you can feel better.

That why I developed Your Health Your Way.

This morning I woke up with the all too familiar morning anxiety.  Here’s a snippet of it:  “Oh Jeez, what am I going to do about Borat (my furry friend), who has no voice ?  I can’t take it anymore.  What’s the use?  Why bother? There is no use.  And I’m so sick of all this stuff happening over and over again.  Why?????”  I felt my jaw clenched, noticed I was  holding my breath, and couldn’t move.

I should be used to this by now yet it always takes me by surprise even though the messages I get are the same repetitive ones that reverberate in very familiar patterns throughout my body.  As this went on for a bit and I was able to recognize the familiar tone (because the plotline changes but not the theme) an image appeared.  I saw myself standing on a bridge watching these thoughts pass below in the form of a very long train.

Then, I remembered these three simple word:  I Choose Peace.

I Choose Peace and that means. . . .  A deep breath, moving my left foot onto the floor.  Then one foot in front of the other.  If you’re reading this and you don’t deal with these particular issues, feel free to substitute whatever you may be struggling with. 

You can borrow my image of standing on the bridge looking at your train of thoughts and feelings, and see if the phrase “I choose peace” provides some insight.  Or maybe you have a different phrase or word that you’d like to use instead.

As I write this, there’s that familiar kernel of shame that says don’t be this honest and no one else feels this way.  What’s wrong with you?  Whenever I hear that phrase “what’s wrong with you?”, I know something’s up.  It’s my way of  kicking myself when I’m down.  Because I’ve had way too much practice with that phrase than I’d like to admit,  it’s easier for me to  remember my core belief that there’s nothing wrong with any of us.   Some thoughts and feelings may be twisted, but that’s not a sign that I’m a failure or an idiot.

As my husband used to say, “We’re all bozos on this bus doing the best we can.”

Your Health Your Way is my personal invitation to you to befriend those parts of yourself that are struggling with anxiety, pain or depression with some tools that we will customize to work for you, and adapt to wherever life takes you. Whether you choose to attend the calls live and participate or listen to the recordings, you’ll find practical ways to get through the ups and downs of dealing with changes in your health or mood  and feel better.  If you’re seeing a therapist or other healthcare provider, I believe the structure I provide will be really helpful to those times in between where life happens.

Sign up now and you can get the earlybird price.

If you’re reading this and you know someone who is struggling with these issues, you may feel helpless because you don’t know what to say or do to help.   On the other hand, you may be feeling guilty because it’s no fun being around your loved one and you’re tired of the whole thing.  Perhaps they’ve worn out their welcome with you though neither one of you wants to acknowledge it.  

Perhaps, as a family member or friend,  you’ve offered advice or tried to fix the problem for your loved one, and that hasn’t worked for either of you. It’s also possible that both you and your loved one aren’t acknowledging this giant elephant in the room called depression, pain or anxiety  hoping that it will just disappear.

It’s hard being the loving friend or family member who feels so frustrated, helpless and depleted watching this go on and on.   I understand.   You want what’s best for your loved one and you don’t know how to truly be helpful.

Here’s another option.  Send your loved one the link to Your Health Your Way and follow up with them to see what they think. Trust that through this class, they will be able to hear themselves think through what’s going on and find ways to work with it.    If money is an issue and you have the means, you can offer to pay for it.   You could also offer to attend the classes with them or listen to the recordings and talk about it.

What questions do you have about Your Health Your Way?  Feel free to comment below or contact me.





Today’s post is reprinted in its entirety  from Susan Piver’s blog.  Susan is a gifted author, meditation instructor,and I can’t say enough good things about her.  You can find out more about Susan here.   Since the name of my work is The First Step, when I read this article I had a big aha moment because starting and taking a first step are so integrally related to managing the ups and downs of your mental and physical health.

So, without further ado- here’s Susan!!!

When it comes to creating real change in your life, there is only one action item that is critical. The most brilliant organizational strategies and profound insights into human behavior are 100% meaningless without it. If you are not doing this one thing, nothing else matters. I’m not being poetically licentious; I’m telling you the truth. That thing? Start.

Begin. Commence. Initiate. Leap. Whether you want to become a meditator, artist, CEO, friend, athlete, or simply the best you of all time, you just have to take the very first step. What is that step? Write it down. Then do it. Don’t worry about the step after that.




Forget about sweeping gestures–they’re irrelevant and confusing 95% of the time. Instead, make small, graceful, clear gesture after gesture. This is the way.

And PS here is the key piece of advice on starting: you have to do it all over again tomorrow. And the next day. Every day, in fact.

Starting is a sacred act. It requires opening without knowing what is going to happen. If you “know” how it’s going to go or what is going to result, you’re actually somewhere in the middle, not the beginning. So give up all notions. Turn toward this very moment. Open your heart to yourself, your day, your loved ones and your enemies–which simply means not having preconceived notions about any of it–and then start.

Char’s Postscript:

What are you willing to start right now, knowing you have no clue how it’s going to turn out?  For me, it was making a phone call I’d been procrastinating on not knowing how it would go.  How about you?



If you’re struggling with depression, anxiety or pain, feeling isolated is often a part of the picture.  It’s not your fault – it just kinda comes with the territory for many people.   I understand how difficult it can be to reach out.

On the other hand, part of you may realize how you long to feel productive.   But figuring out how to be productive and what to do can leave you spinning in circles and getting nowhere. Again, that’s so understandable – especially when there’s this grey worry of depression or anxiety that is flavoring your day.

That’s where I come in.  I’m here to help you find ways to feel better that work for you.

Both my kids are active volunteers.  Aaron works for the Humane Society as well as the Mid Michigan Commission on Aging.  Zach  finds about two causes a month to be part of.  Volunteering is a big part of their lives.

This got me thinking about how volunteering may be good for everyone’s mental health:  the volunteer’s who participate working together as a team and those who benefit from their combined efforts.

If you want to feel inspired, read this letter from Zach which describes the Tough Mudder obstacle course he’s in which will benefit the Wounded Warrior Project.

Hi Family and Friends:

Oh boy what did I get myself into?

I recently signed up for the Tough Mudder: a 10-mile obstacle course on April 10th. Together with my team, we will test our physical and mental toughness while passing through 17 challenges over 10 miles. In addition to being a great opportunity to build teamwork and leadership skills, the Tough Mudder is a chance to help a wonderful organization like the Wounded Warrior Project. The Wounded Warrior Project is a extremely important cause whose mission is to honor and empower wounded service men and women.

Donate Here — Donate one dollar, donate one hundred dollars — whatever you can give will help this great organization. Every donation you make will go directly to help those wounded recover and readjust to life after they serve.

WWP’s works to foster the most successful, well-adjusted generation of wounded warriors in this nation’s history. They aim to raise awareness and enlist the public’s aid for the needs of injured service members, to help injured service members aid and assist each other and to provide unique, direct programs and services to meet the needs of injured service members.  Every bit counts. Visit my page to donate directly via Visa or Mastercard at : free to spread the word!

That spirit of helping others as part of being a team can be yourt antidote to isolation that often comes with depression, anxiety and pain.

Needless to say, I donated to this cause because I believe in the spirit of giving to others who have truly done their best to serve our country and are now faced with the daunting task of re-adjusting to life here after going through such trauma.  The best I can offer them is my prayers and money.And, if you’re interested in donating, by all means use the links above.  Zach and the Wounded Warriors will appreciate any financial contribution you would like to make.

If you’ve got more time on your hands than money, consider volunteering locally.  Consider checking this link to or for more opportunities in your local area where you can help others.

Since I’m not particularly computer savvy, I suggest you just put in your zip code and areas of interest (if you know them) and see what comes up.  I also encourage you to limit your time researching to 30 minutes max to avoid overwhelm.

I’m giving this a try in my own do-able way by volunteering to do inventory at our local food coop.  I love having fresh organic food available, the coop staff are always helpful and I want to give back in a meaningful way.  I know that the way they keep their food stocked is by doing inventory and they don’t have the resources to do inventory with their limited staff.

The key ingredients are to volunteering in a way that works for me are:

  • It’s a cause I believe in
  • I’ll be working as part of a team
  • The hours work for me

Feel free to borrow these criteria if you decide to volunteer your time.

Is volunteering  your time a fit in your life right now?  If it feels like one more “should”, perhaps the answer is no.

On the other hand, maybe you’re overwhelmed – as I was – by how much the world needs our help right now, and what you can really do that would be useful.  I can help you sort that out.  Just ask your questions here, I’ll lead you through and together we’ll find out if this helps you feel better.

Never Never Give Up

March 23rd, 2011

Wiinston Churchill once said, “Never, Never Give Up.”  I couldn’t agree more.

In this time of great unrest and uncertainty in our world, those of us who struggle with anxiety or depression can feel particularly affected.  Not only is it hard to be you in your own personal life, but the world may in some ways confirm your worst nightmares.  Some of mine are that no one wants what I have to offer and there’s no way that I can truly be of service in the world.

Maybe your fears are the same. . . or totally different.

Perhaps you have so many fears and they feel like they are so much a part of you, that there actually aren’t words for it.  There’s just a feeling that is kinda indescribable yet pervasive, that slips in through the cracks of your life in ways you can’t even define.  I’ve been there too. . . often, in fact.

And, at some point, I come back to this very important phrase:  “Never, Never Give Up”.

I also believe that when you change any small thing about your life, you change everything.

For example, when you put your feet flat on the floor while you’re sitting at your desk and sink into them, it has a chain reaction.  You may notice yourself sinking into your hips more, lowering your shoulders, raising the crown of your head, releasing your jaw, and letting your eyes sink inward.  That just happened for me.  What do you notice?

When I remind myself to never never give up, I ask myself a couple questions:

  • What’s a baby step that I can take? Whether it’s putting my feet flat on the floor or reading a poem or doing some act of kindness like calling one of my relatives, there is always something that I can do.
  • Can I work on something else while thinking about the bigger issue that has me all stirred up? It’s amazing how therapeutic it can be to do the simple things of life llike the dishes, cleaning out a drawer, or taking a shower and pondering what I can do about the bigger issue
  • Putting words on my feelings always helps me – that may look like journalizing or talking out-loud or taking a walk and thinking it through.  Again, it’s a way to engage with all the noise in my head so I can understand myself better, which almost always leads to a change in my mood and actions.

The world. . . . ahhh, the world, is filled with despair and stories of hardship everywhere it seems.  What I’ve learned is I can either be paralyzed by these things or do some baby steps.

I truly believe that baby steps, taken by many people, become big steps that create change in the world.

If you’re looking for some tangible ways to make a difference in the world, here’s a few of my favorite things:

  • Teach Now is a series of teleclasses for anyone wants to share ideas, energy and information in the world in a way that makes a difference.  That includes parents, caregivers, people struggling with mood issues – it includes every one of us. To sign up for the free call which will be recorded if you can’t make it, go here.
  • Americorps is one of my favorite causes and the Senate is threatening to cut its budget.  I believe that Americorps is a win win for everyone involved:  it helps people in the US who are struck by hardship and it also helps the volunteers who learn skills such as working as a team and how to be of service to others.  Go here to find out how to  help us Save Service and keep Americorps alive!
  • I get calls all the time asking for donations and have never found a do-able way to choose who to contribute to. Here’s a way to contribute to many different worthwhile causes, everything from the American Red Cross to today’s charity which is KidPower which helps kids learn how to defend themselves with self confidence as well as martial arts, by contributing $1 a day.  Find out more at

Whether we are helping ourselves by putting our feet flat on the floor which affects our posture or helping each other by giving a $1 a day to a good cause, it is evidence that we never never give up.  And by not giving up, we take steps forward – in our own lives – which affects not just us, but the lives of all those around us.

If you feel like you want to give up, tell me more.  And if you have other ways that you take care of yourself or serve the world, please share them as well.    I truly believe that one baby step leads to another, providing momentum, that does make a difference to each of us personally as well as the world.  I believe in you . . . and in us!


Picture one of these all too common scenes:

  • Despite your best efforts, you find yourself rushing and running late.   Sound familiar?  (Those of you who know me will know I’m a recovering late-aholic.)
  • First, the toilet  breaks, then the next thing, and then the next minor or major inconvenience annoys you.  You’re ready to tear your hear out.
  • You’re sick or someone you care about is sick and you’re struggling with feeling anxious in general and this just exacerbates it
  • You’ve got this nagging pain that is sometimes here and sometimes not in your back, that keeps you up at night, and you wonder about getting it checked out and by the time  morning comes, you’re so glad to get up and move around. . . but you’re exhausted and running on empty

Or, perhaps, you’d like to substitute some combination of the above – or something entirely different – that feels like it’s what’s true for you in your own life.  Right now.

I find that in order to savor the good parts of life, I choose to work with the things that aren’t working so well. Like anxiety – that doesn’t work too well for me UNLESS I work with it.  And the same thing is true  with physical pain.

If I try and run and hide from anxiety, it finds me anyway and keeps me down.  If I pretend my knee doesn’t hurt, it gets louder and more insistent on being acknowledged. Maybe that is true for you too.

So, when I find myself stressed out,, frustrated, resentful, angry, or depressed – I have a little bag of tricks that I use.

Most of these things take  under 10 seconds to do and, by doing them, I find that whatever has me twisted up somehow gets unkinked.  Even if it only gets un-kinked for 15 seconds, it’s enough room to start my juices flowing so I can create some space for my feelings so I don’t feel so overwhelmed.

I thank my mentors (and I won’t mention all of them because I may forget someone – but you know who you are!) who have lovingly introduced many of these things to me and encouraged me to practice them.  Without your support, I may still be tearing my hair out.

So without further ado . . . . here’s my bag of 10 second tricks to create a bit of space for you when the going gets tough. Choose any one or a combination of them or make up your own and see what happens the next time one of these frustrating situations makes you wanna scream.  I’ve used an asterisk bythe ones that are my very favorites!

  • Put your hands on your belly and breathe*
  • Grab a glass of water and drink it, imagining love and energy coming through it (yes, I know it sounds weird but it really works!!)*
  • Tilt your chin down and raise through the crown of your head
  • Feel your feet planted into the floor
  • Open your mouth wide, stick out your tongue and exhale
  • Stomp your feet
  • Turn on a piece of music and let your body move
  • Ask yourself what you’d love to do and even if you can’t do it, let yourself feel it and make a date with yourself later
  • Give yourself a hug
  • Make a cup of tea*
  • Write a few words about where you feel the tension in your body i.e. head throbbing, heart beating fast, shallow breath.  Let your attention go to all those places and let go of the reasons why*
  • Notice what’s right in front of you – use all your senses.  What do you see, hear, taste, touch and smell?
  • Lovingly apply hand lotion or moisturizer to yourself or someone you love
  • Find another person or animal to hug and talk to
  • Call, text, or email someone you love and tell them
  • Grab a hairbrush and gently stroke your own hair
  • Read a poem (I keep a book of them handy in office)
  • If you’re driving and you get stopped by a train or a red light, sink into your seat, relax your grip on the wheel and breathe – take a mini break.*

If you’re anything like me, when I’m triggered I don’t remember to do these things.  That’s where practice makes imperfect – I keep working with this stuff and I’m so amazed how the little-est shifts, like drinking a glass of water when I’ve had it up to here with whatever the drama du jour is, open the space in me for more goodness to flow in.

I invite you to choose one of these tools right now – no matter what is going on – and just notice what, if anything, happens for you when you try it.  And, since we all learn from each other, feel free to comment if you want.




Ode to Sabby: The Serenity Prayer

February 17th, 2011

God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
the courage to change the things I can;
and the wisdom to know the difference.

This prayer is my daily mantra.  Yesterday was no exception.

My beloved friend and companion, Sabby, was put to sleep last night.  It was an act of mercy on my part – for all concerned – as he became lame and his illness was taking its toll on his quality of life.  The angelic vet assistant who accompanied me along the way said to me:  “Char, you did well by him, and you are helping him in a way that we humans aren’t allowed to do for each other.  He is truly blessed to have you as his owner.”

One of the privileges and responsibilities of pet ownership is to enjoy them while they are with us and to care for them lovingly which includes “in sickness and in health.” I find veterinarians, as a group, to be some of the most compassionate, caring professionals who are truly able to keep the best interest of their patients in mind.  I was also blessed to have a team of veterinarians who worked tirelessly to find the right medications to keep Sabby comfortable.

I take great comfort in knowing that I did the best I could for Sabby.  I accepted that I couldn’t change his fate and I found the courage to find the right vets for him.

This is not the first time I’ve lost an animal.  In the past, losing an animal has been extremely traumatic for me.  This time was different though and though it was still hard, it didn’t have that same sting of trauma.

My intent in sharing this story is for you, dear reader, to think of what’s going on (or has happened already) in your own life that has been challenging to deal with. Perhaps you’re on the verge of losing a beloved friend, family member or animal.  Or maybe that has just happened.   Perhaps, there’s something in your personal or professional life that is changing or has changed unexpectedly that comes to mind.

I invite you to pause for a moment and see what comes to mind. If you want, as I share how this time was different for me, see if  what follows helps you make a teeny tiny shift and softens the impact of change.

What is going on in your life that you cannot change?  And, are there things that you could change to make this situation easier?

The power of asking questions of ourseves  is sometimes not in the answer itself but instead in just opening up the space to consider the question.  As with anything, there is no one right way to do this.  I recognize we are all different so what works for me may not work for you.

Consider my questions (which follow my own personal insights) as invitations to  think about whatever you’re dealing with right now.

  • I asked in prayer for a sign of when Sabby needed to be put down.  Shortly thereafter, he became clearly lame in 3 feet, stopped eating and drinking.  There was no mistaking that the end was near and he was suffering.

Consider this :  Is there something that you’re concerned about?  Would you like to ask for a sign about what to do or consider next?  What would that look like?

  • I told people I trust what was going on as it was happening, which helped me have the courage to do what was needed and feel less alone.

Wondering:  Is there someone you could talk to ( by email, by phone or in person )who could help you feel less alone?

  • I spent some quality time with Sabby listening to my favorite music with a candle burning and got him to purr.  I will always feel connected to him.

Think:  Is there a way to honor or acknowledge what you’re going through right now?  Yes, it’s important and No, it won’t take as long or be as hard as you think.

  • I attended to all the practical details ahead of time which included telling the vet how to handle the bill, how I wanted to leave after it was over, and that I would be leaving the cat carrier and blanket with them so I didn’t have to walk out with an empty carrier.  This was an act of mercy for myself.

Question:  Are there some details that you could attend to ahead of time to make things easier for you in the long run?

  • I had a plan for coming home which included taking my dogs for a walk,  making a healthy dinner, and calling my kids who have been so supportive through this.  I followed through with my plan even though I felt like curling up in a ball.  It helped.

Hmmmm:  Would it be helpful to think of what to do later so you wouldn’t have to think about it in the moment?

What I’ve learned over and over again is that having words to describe my feelings, asking trustworthy people for support, attending to practical details, and having a plan have all been major building blocks that help me feel more peaceful about difficult situations. My hope for you is that this blog  helps you find greater peace and self kindness as well.  I’d love to hear how this lands for you.

“Once you see a pattern, you can’t un-see it.  Trust me.  I’ve tried.  But when the same truth keeps repeating itself, it’s hard to pretend that it’s just a coincidence.”

– Brene Brown from The Gifts of Imperfection

All my life, I have been ashamed to admit I have a very low pain tolerance.  I’ve tried muscling through, denying it, resisiting it, making fun of myself, letting others make fun of me and laughing with them – nothing works.

I still get queasy at the sight of blood and have been known to faint over what others label “something small.”

Last week,  I cut my finger while cooking.  It wasn’t a big cut but it was deep and I couldn’t get it to stop bleeding so I went to an urgent care facility to have it evaluated.

What follows are some details of this story along with some mistakes, and the lessons I  learned afterwards. I’m hoping that if you struggle with this sort of thing, the lessons I learned  may be helpful to you if you ever find yourself in a similar position.

I drove myself to the urgent care, calling my kids and two close friends while en route to let them know what happened and left messages for them, asking them to send my finger good vibes.

Mistake:  Do not drive yourself to the urgent care.  Take someone with you.

Lesson Learned:  Do your best to get a hold of someone you trust when you need urgent care, rather than driving yourself.

By the time I got to the urgent care, my finger wasn’t throbbing as much though it was still bleeding heavily.  So, I asked myself “What would you do if this was one of the kids?” which is my own standard of care that I apply to myself when I have concerns.  Just by asking myself this question, I knew that having it looked at was the only thing that made sense, so I gently escorted myself inside.

Lesson Learned:   It’s a good practice to apply the same standard to yourself that you would apply to someone you love when deciding whether you need urgent care.  Ask yourself, “What would you do if this happened to someone you love?” when deciding if you need medical attention.

The doctor looked at it and said that because it was so deep, I’d need a couple stitches.  He explained that he’d give me a shot in my finger to numb it, that it may burn a little bit, and then he’d stitch it.  “No big deal” – he said.

I then said to him:  “I have a very low pain tolerance and I’m the worst patient in the world!”

Mistake:  Do not kid about being the worst patient in the world.

Lesson Learned:  Let the doctor know you  have a low pain tolerance in a direct straight forward manner and that you want the maximum amount of pain medication to make the procedure tolerable.

We then proceeded to joke about my low pain tolerance and share some laughs together, along with some chit chat about a recent trip he took to Taiwan to see his family.

Mistake:  Chit chatting and laughing with a healthcare provider in a self deprecating way is inappropriate  when you’re scared of a procedure.

Lesson Learned:  Be honest about your needs for pain management.  Let the doctor know that if the pain gets to be too much, you are going to tell him to stop the procedure and give you more pain medication before he begins the procedure. (Thanks to my friend Linda, a professional caregiver, for telling me this was an option as I never knew I could do this.)

The result of my series of errors was a horrendous but life changing experience.  This was one of the most painful procedures I’ve ever had and I later learned from the nurse that there are more nerves in the tip of your finger than anywhere else in your body.  Ohhhhh, how I wish I knew that ahead of time as perhaps I would have been more assertive about my needs for pain management.

I share this with you, dear reader, because I know I’m not the only one who has a low pain tolerance.  I’m also not the only one who has tried to hide that fact or been ashamed of it.

What I have learned is that having a low pain tolerance is nothing to be ashamed of nor is it a character flaw.

After all, what is a low pain tolerance anyway?  It’s comparing how you deal with pain with how “they” (and who are the “they’s” of the world by the way?) deal with pain.  Comparisons never work when we’re talking about human behavior in my opinion as we’re all so very different.

Brene Brown also says, “Owning our story and loving ourselves through that process is the bravest thing that we will ever do.”

If you have a low pain tolerance, I invite you to lovingly  acknowledge this without shame or guilt  first to yourself.  If you’re anything like me, that step in and of itself may be very healing for you.   Should you find yourself in need of medical attention, it will be easier for you to communicate your needs clearly without apologizing or joking about it.  That way, it is more likely that the professionals involved will support you in getting your healthcare needs met with less pain.