A Few Charms (Banner)

A Few Charms (Banner)

Thursday, 30 October 2014

Getting "High" - Just Say Yes... and Thank You

Last week a mental health nurse told me that I need to learn to accept help from others. She said, "Think of it this way. When somebody gives you something they get a 'high'. If you are not letting people GIVE to you, then you are depriving them of that 'high'!"

It was one of those "ah-ha! moments" for me because I was in the process of writing a blog post about this very subject - about someone else having difficultly accepting help from others. It reminded me that "we teach what we need to learn!"

I found out this summer that someone I have known my entire life was diagnosed with breast cancer and is undergoing chemo. While she is dealing with the side effects of her treatment, her sister is helping by driving her kids to and from their sports and activities. And her circle of friends have created a schedule and signed up to provide meals to the family. But all of this makes this lovely lady very uncomfortable.

In a text I told her that people like to feel that there is something they can DO when a friend or family member is going through something like this. I told her, "You deserve their care and compassion!"

Her response was, "Thanks. I like being on the other side of this type of relationship. I am good at giving support, not so comfortable receiving it!"

Hmm sound familiar? It brought to mind one of my first charms... it was almost three years ago... so here's the story... for Throwback Thursday.

The "open circle" charm between the heart beats spacer and the birthstone dangle

When I began the journey of recovery from my eating disorder, simply trying to remain symptom-free, one day at a time, I gave myself a $2.00 knock-off charm every day in the first week, and then once a week for the first month. I have since replaced those with authentic Pandora charms.

At the time, I was volunteering as a parent-leader for a program in my children's school called F.A.ST. (Families And Schools Together). In this program families came together once a week for eight weeks, joined by the principal and volunteer teachers. The evening started with a communal meal, with families taking turns providing the main course for the group, and children serving their parents. After dinner the children went to the gym or a classroom for various kinds of activities with the teachers, while the parents participated in a parent support group. The children then rejoined their parents for "special play," a concentrated time of one-on-one child-directed play. And the evening ended with a gift basket for the family who would make the meal the following week. 

It was a wonderful program, and it was so special to see an increase in the children's comfort level in the school, and an improvement in the bond between parent and child. Not only did the program build connections between families but also led to more parent involvement in both the school and the community.

During the last week of the program, which happened to be my first week of recovery, I was preparing a gift basket to thank the volunteer who was the master chef in the kitchen every week. In the process of thinking about things she might like in a gift basket, my mood improved. It felt wonderful to be doing something for someone else, to recognize their contribution. And I was so pleased that she was touched by the gift. Realizing that giving to others helped me feel better, I rewarded myself with a "circle" charm, to represent the circle of giving and receiving, which, for that day, kept me from bingeing, purging or restricting. I have since learned that in the treatment for depression one of the recommendations is to do something for someone else, because the act of giving can actually change your brain chemistry.

My teal Lucerne Recovery bracelet with the teal triple smooth leather bracelet

I first wrote about this after I was involved in a fund-raising event. Three lovely ladies, Mary Madigan, Brenda Parks, and RoseAnne Munson, who are Pandora fans - well, fanatics really - found out that another woman who had a serious illness was about to be evicted from her home, and they decided to try to raise some money for her and her family. And since all these ladies had met each other on the Pandora buy-sell pages on Facebook, their fund-raising was done by selling Pandora charms in a group on Facebook. They called the group "Pandora's Angels," and asked women to look in their jewellery boxes for any charms that they would be willing to donate. Those were put up for sale and all the income would go directly to this lady in need.

Here is what Mary Madigan, wrote on the Angels page on May 31, 2012:

It is hard to believe that it has only been a week. A week since we found out that [our friend] was in dire need of immediate financial assistance for her and her family. A week since Pandora’s Angels has gone from an idea to a fully implemented campaign. It is a true testament to the power of women. Of what we can achieve when we pull together.

The support of each and every one of the Pandora’s Angels has been and still is phenomenal. You have embraced the idea of woman helping woman so much that together we have raised $3,561.73... exceeding our goal of $3,500.00.

Here is what I wrote:

We all feel so amazing after participating in this fundraising effort, even just observing this, and part of the reason for this is chemical!  Serotonin is the "feel good" chemical in our brains, the reason some of us take antidepressants, or suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (S.A.D.), or crave sugar or carbs - it's all about trying to raise our serotonin. Recent research has shown that a person who GIVES to another experiences a rise in serotonin, as does the person RECEIVING - even the person that just WITNESSES the giving and receiving! I wear the "open circle" charm on my recovery bracelet to remind me of the power of giving AND receiving. Thanks to all the Angels, we have all had a chemical high for the last three days!
We are social animals and for our race to survive we needed to interact with one another, to rely on each other. To make sure that happens, our brains are designed such that we are rewarded for our social behaviour by getting that "high." Numerous studies have shown that giving, receiving, and even witnessing acts of kindness increases the production of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that regulates mood in the brain.

The usual saying is "'Tis better to give than to receive." But counter to what people might think, it is easy to be generous and GIVE to others. But, as with my friend in treatment for cancer, it is often difficult to open our hearts to RECEIVE the love and generosity of others. The open circle charm reminds me to "open your heart to the circle of giving AND receiving." Because nobody can get the "high" of GIVING without there being someone on the RECEIVING end. So I will also try to remember this lesson and when someone asks if there is anything they can do, I will say, "Yes... and Thank you!" God forbid I deny people a "high"!

The beach at the Holmes cottage in New Brunswick with lots of "skipping stones"

This charm was originally called "Indian pattern" or "open circle pattern," but Pandora recently changed the name to "skipping stones" (presumably to be more politically correct). I "just happened" to take a photo this summer on the beach at the cottage where my family would visit my grandmother every summer. It had the best smooth flat rocks, very effective for skipping stones, but I'm not sure my daughter had quite the right technique. Still good memories though.

For our Canadian Thanksgiving I had a post about developing an attitude of gratitude. If you would like to read more about the science behind the power of giving and receiving, including its affect on mood and health, please check out the publications below.

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