wellness

The Stories We Tell Ourselves

The Stories We Ourselves

I am fascinated by the stories we all tell about ourselves - to ourselves, and to others - and how those stories shape our daily lives. Kurt Vonnegut famously said in one of his novels, "We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to me.”

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I am lucky to have little trouble falling and staying asleep. I have a two-year-old son who is experiencing separation anxiety during the night, so “staying asleep” and sleeping in general are relative terms right now, but on the whole, I sleep well. I don’t suffer insomnia. Give me five minutes, and a semi-comfortable surface, and I can fall asleep easily. (This is sore point for my spouse, who often takes at least an hour to fall back asleep if she’s woken during the night.)

I say all this to say, I don’t have much knowledge in the way of sleep medications, such as Ambien.

I learned something interesting about the sleep aide recently: One of its side effects is short-term amnesia. Another interesting fact: Studies have shown those who take the drug get an average of only an extra 18 to 29 minutes of sleep a night.

It’s possible that Ambien doesn’t so much increase one’s quantity or quality of sleep, but simply makes one forget about not sleeping, It might work primarily by taking away the memory of not sleeping. A good portion of a person’s anxiety and fatigue the next day often lives in that story.

“I didn’t sleep well last night.”

That’s not to say the drug doesn’t work. It just may work differently than the way we commonly think it does.

In the first few months of my son’s life, there were a lot of nights I got only two or three hours of sleep, and a handful of nights where I got no meaningful sleep at all. One of the ways I powered through was to get out of bed at the appropriate time, make some coffee, and try to “forget” that I hadn’t slept.

That wasn’t a great substitute for actual sleep - I certainly still had a good amount of new “parent brain” - but it certainly helped.

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“I have horrible posture at work.”

“I bet I have the most jacked up back you’ve ever seen.”

“I don’t do near as much exercise/yoga/stretching as I should.”

Massage clients frequently tell me all the ways they don’t do, or are not, enough. How they don’t take as good of care of themselves as they should. In my first few years as a therapist, I unfortunately fueled that tendency in my clients. My training was clinically-based, and we were taught in school to highlight and point out areas where clients can improve, self-care exercises, stretches, etc. This lead to me often giving unsolicited advice about what was “wrong” with my clients.

I’ve grown out of that, luckily. I still provide this information, but I do my best to make sure the client is open to hearing those suggestions from me. Sometimes, people just want to get a massage and relax, and maybe work out some tension and knots, and don’t necessarily want to be told what they need to do better when they just want to enjoy their post-massage glow.

I now strike a balance in my practice of giving self-care advice when it welcome, and perhaps just as important, when I have a client who is mentally beating themselves up for not being/doing enough, I encourage them to give themselves more credit, and hopefully, disrupt the stories they tell about themselves about not having good enough posture, not stretching enough, or the like.

Self-care is important. Self-betterment is important. But it’s also important to feel you’re doing the best you can.

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“The body hears everything the mind says.” - Naomi Judd