I’m gonna share a story of a mistake I made. Maybe you’ve made the same one, maybe not, but here goes. There’s a particular medicine that Nolan takes around 4pm everyday and we’re really good at not missing it or anything like that. So sometime last year I came home from work and literally saw my wife giving Nolan that particular medicine. About 30 minutes later I had one of my patented Chris Perez brain farts. It suddenly occurred to me, “Hold up, we didn’t give Nolan his med!” So I drew some up and gave it to him. Bam! Go me! Right? Right? Nope. I told my wife, “Hey I gave him his 4:00” and she was like “Uh…I already gave it to him”…and then suddenly it felt like I was hit by a bus. OHHHHHHH NOOOO….what did I do? WHAT DID I DO?! Ohmygodohmygodohmygod he’s gonna get sick and it’s all my fault!
So I got on the phone and frantically called the cardiologist, all the while feeling incredibly guilty. He told me not to worry, just to skip his evening dose and – you know – don’t do that again. Crisis averted. Nolan was 100% fine. Me? Not so much. Because you know what happened, and maybe you’ve been there yourself: the self-talk begins. You big dummy. How can you let this happen? This is your kid, you could’ve killed him. Don’t be so stupid next time. And on and on. Yeah, you’ve been there too, I bet.
Self-talk is a really fascinating thing because we can often use it to encourage ourselves, drum up some bravery, and push ourselves to better places. But quite often our self-talk is just an effort to sabotage ourselves. Want to know the person who tries to cut you down the most? Look in the mirror. Harsh, I know…but you know it’s true. But I learned something that helped me think a little more about my self-talk, and it came from my job. So one of my responsibilities is to conduct orientation for all new hires at the hospital where I work. I actually kinda enjoy it and use the opportunity to tell Nolan’s story in an effort to teach teammates to use empathy more. One of the best parts of orientation, though, is when our Chaplain comes to speak to the group about Compassion Fatigue. You’ve read about it here on this blog (if you haven’t, read it here) and you know that I think it’s so important. Anyways, after this medicine mix-up happened, I was standing in the back of the auditorium listening to this portion of the orientation and the Chaplain said something that really helped me see things differently.
He was talking about self-talk and how harsh we can be on ourselves. He asked this question that really stopped me in my tracks: “If your best friend messes up or makes a mistake, would you talk to them the same way you talk to yourself when you mess up?” and I was like WHOA. This is incredibly true: I’d never talk to my best friend the same way…I’d try to be encouraging and supportive and give him a pep talk. Me? I’m the moron. If I talked to my best friend that way, he’d really dislike me. Big time.
So this really made me think about how I talk to myself. Because listen: you’re going to screw up…we’re not perfect people, we’re not perfect parents – and when you add a CHD into the mix, well…it just gets even more bonkers. So I think we owe it to ourselves to watch how we talk to ourselves. We owe it to ourselves – and our kiddos – to be the best version of us we can be, and that includes mentally. If we cut ourselves down for even the tiniest of mistakes, that only makes us feel worse about ourselves and in turn contributes further to our Compassion Fatigue. And before we know it, it’s a vicious cycle.
So before you start beating yourself up, stop for a second and think about whether you’d talk to your best friend – or even your own kid – that way. And consider changing the way you talk to the man in the mirror. It’s bound to be better for your mental health and I think you’ll find out you can accomplish way more when you encourage yourself!
Keep being strong, heart parents…you got this!
Hey friends! I hope you all enjoyed my first crack at guest-hosting Heart to Heart with Anna last week! This week I take another shot at it. This episode features my buddy Daniel Miles, who is Assistant Director of Spiritual Education at Carolinas Medical Center. We spend some time chatting about Compassion Fatigue, which is a topic that I think ALL heart parents out there need to know about. I’m serious. The first time I listen to Daniel give a presentation about Compassion Fatigue I was like, “Oh my God, this is SO about me.” The reality is we spend a lot of time and energy pouring ourselves into others and it leaves us spent…I’m sure you know the feeling. We have to remember to fill our buckets too!
Anyhoo, please visit this link to listen to the latest episode of Heart to Heart with Anna: Compassion Fatigue: Silent Enemy, Soul Sickness
I hope you find this information as helpful as I have. Please, please, please share that episode with others!
So what’s next? Well, I have one more episode left to guest-host. What’s it going to be about? I’m not telling. You’ll have to wait and see! Heart to Heart with Anna airs on Tuesdays at noon eastern time on BlogTalkRadio, and as always I will share the link here so you can listen at any time. In my non-radio-hosting world, there’s a lot of other fun stuff going on that I’m excited to share with you, I’m just waiting for the correct time to do so. As always, thanks to everyone for reading and for listening to these radio episodes!
A little while back I wrote an entry about self-care that included things like aromatherapy, healing touch, breathing, getting a hobby, etc. Since then, I feel like I’ve stumbled upon something that should’ve landed on that list, had I known about it at the time.
We can all agree that it’s very important for Heart Parents – and anyone really – to practice kindness, empathy, and compassion towards others, right? These are all very important things to do so that we can make the world a better place. The reality, though, is that sometimes kindness, empathy, and compassion can seem a little finite. If you picture it like a gas tank in your body, over time you’ll end up on E and all burned out. But if you work on keeping that tank full, you don’t have to worry so much about that burnout.
This begins with you. It’s not about loving harder or giving more hugs or high-fives. It’s not about digging deeper for more empathy. It’s about taking a long, hard look in the mirror and realizing that often the person that needs kindness from you is….you. You see, there’s only so much of yourself you can give before you have nothing left, no matter how helpful you want to be. And when that happens, you will pay the price physically and mentally.
A little while back I was able to learn a little bit about this concept of compassion fatigue, which is a by-product of being compassionate. It doesn’t make you weird, it just means you are actually compassionate, but you’ve work it out like a muscle that you exercise too hard. You need to rest, you need to recuperate to get that strength back. One of the biggest things I’ve taken away from this is that it’s important for us – whether you are a Heart Parent, a nurse, a doctor, etc. – to practice kindness towards ourselves. So many of us give but never give to ourselves. So what does this all mean?
Try to do something nice for yourself…maybe not everyday, but every few days. I’m not saying you need to run off to the beach or buy a sports care on the reg (but if you do go to the beach, bring me along yes?). These kind acts are simpler: getting outside for some fresh air, going for a bike ride, doing something that makes you smile or laugh. Take a moment of your day to re-fill your compassion reserves. For me, my nice thing that I do for myself is coffee. When it comes to coffee, I’m a little like this:
I love my coffee…a lot. I’m not the person who drinks excessive amounts of it, just 1 or 2 cups a day really…but everyone who knows me knows it’s like my one big vice (if you could even call it that…I mean, c’mon son). Anyhow, what I started doing some nights is once I put all the kids to bed, I come downstairs and make myself a cup of coffee. Just one. Then I sit on the couch and I drink my coffee and I just…exist. Sometimes I watch a baseball game, sometimes I stare off into space, sometimes I look for funny memes online, sometimes I have deep thoughts (“I swear DJ Snake’s new song is just a slowed-down version of his last one”). It doesn’t matter what I have to accomplish before the night is done, it doesn’t matter how badly the kids have utterly destroyed our house, doesn’t matter how high the pile of dishes are. For those few moments I give myself the gift of coffee and the chance to be and the chance to breathe. It doesn’t take long, but I find it to be an incredibly powerful and centering moment. I usually feel quite refreshed and energized and I finish all the things I need to do that evening. I find myself sometimes really looking forward to my small moment with coffee. Like if I am wiped out from a busy day at work or my kids are being absolute hellions…it’s as if I say to myself, “I just need to get to the coffee.”
This doesn’t cost me a ton of money, it doesn’t take a lot of effort, and it’s not hard to do. What is challenging is finding that way to be kind to yourself. This is also not selfishness…it’s survival. Don’t let your kindness be something that pulls you away from your family or your work or other responsibilities (“The HLHS Dad said to be nice to myself, so I’m quitting my job and moving to Palau for 6 months!” NO.). Find those small things that just make you happy, then find ways to use them to rejuvenate your mind, body, and spirit. You’re going to find that this is keeping you from absolutely losing your mind.
So today, going forward, I want you to never forget the man in the mirror: be kind to him as he is kind to others.