wellness

Identity and Suicide

In the aftermath of Kelly Caitlin’s suicide, I have been musing on identity and the pressure to perform. I couldn’t even bring myself to list Caitlin’s accolades as a reference- somehow writing, “Caitlin, Olympic silver medalist and graduate student in computational mathematics at Stanford” indites me in her death. That may sound hyperbolic, but we have a responsibility as a culture to think critically about the values we perpetuate.

Reports cite that Caitlin has a recent concussion and cardiac drift, which prevented her from training and limited her mental execution. Her frustration with her inability to “do everything well” drove her to taking her own life. Yes- there is likely deep psychological pain and a myriad of other factors that pushed her to that point, but I think we can all agree that our culture of achievement and perfectionism played a role.

This week I also learned of a young local engineer who took her own life at 22. I heard this information from a colleague and after some investigation, I read that the family never reported suicide as the cause of death. It was deemed “accidental” in written reports- likely out of a need to keep her “honor”, but this isn’t what made my stomach curl … When I read her obituary, it read like a college resume. All of her accolades and accomplishments were listed as her identity. Tears rolled down my face as I thought of this young woman who felt disconnected, lonely, and hopeless enough to take her own life.

“You arrive at the top- where everyone thought you should be- and then you look around and think, “now what?”

Yesterday a beloved friend and fireman took his own life with a gun. He suffered a stroke a few months ago and was out of the hospital on the road to recovery. No one really knows the factors that played into his decision to end his life, but we do know his identity was deeply rooted in his profession and strength as a provider. The stroke threatened both of these identities- he would never work as a fireman again and he would need help to get back on his feet…He left behind a wife and kids.

No one really knows the intricacy of the whys in the above stories, but there is a theme. Where do we place our identity? Is it in what we own; our position in society; our skin quality; how many degrees we have; where we attended school, etc.? Each of us needs to take inventory of what really matters in our life and prioritize our time and systems around those values.

Over the last six years, I have coached many clients who roll in after 30-50 years of working 80+ hours/week in high profile/high stress jobs. Most are very accomplished and usually in poor health- harnessing a simple desire to care for themselves better in their last decades of life. Any lament is often buried deep, because questioning if you spent the bulk of your years doing the “right thing” can be debilitating. All of us need to believe we did the best we could- and we can't change what was- we can only move forward with intention…

If you are reading this, you have a forward trajectory- there are still decisions to be made and the map is open… I encourage each of you to think about what really matters to you and ask the question, “what are my priorities and does my time and resource allocation reflect those values?” If they do have synergy, march on and breath deep….If they don’t, what can you do to move yourself closer to congruency?

Here is a great blog I came across on PsychCentral: “You Are Not One Thing”. I also strongly recommend watching the documentary, Race to Nowhere.

Warmly,

Sarah Lynn

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Welcome Message

Welcome to our Nerd-trition blog! We wanted to create a weekly package that highlighted recipes, research, and positive energy! Speaking of positive energy, I would like to formally welcome Karen Hames to our team. She grew up obese and after reaching almost 300 lbs at twelve, she embarked on a deep journey to understand how to transform her health. When I met Karen as a client, we both had our hands in similar wells.

We both believed that maintaining/transforming body composition is not as simple as "calories in/calories out". There are a host of other variables that affect how our bodies use and store energy! Here are some of our shared wells: 

Dr. Peter Attia/TED Talk: Is the Obesity Crisis Hiding a Bigger Problem?

Brian Johnson's Philosopher's Notes: Gary Taubes - 'Why We Get Fat' Book Summary

Dr. Sarah Hallberg: TEDX Purdue - 'Ignoring the Dietary Guidelines'

Coach Karen and Coach Sarah Lynn

Coach Karen and Coach Sarah Lynn


QUOTE

"Concern yourself more with accepting responsibility than with assigning blame. Let the possibilities inspire you more than the obstacles discourage you."  Ralph Marston
 

RECIPE

This was a hit! As summer approaches, some of our nostalgic picnic foods can be upgraded. Remember: making your own mayo is ideal and using an olive-oil or avocado-oil based mayo is great! Avoid any product with canola oil, if possible!

Low Carb "Potato Salad" Made With Cauliflower

FOOD PRODUCT

Ideally, we would be making all of our own food from whole ingredients, but sometimes, we need a "better" choice not the "ideal" choice. Here is a mayo I love: Primal Kitchen Mayo with avocado oil. It is available at Whole Foods ;)

Primal Kitchen Mayo made with Avocado Oil

Primal Kitchen Mayo made with Avocado Oil

MUSINGS

We are currently reading 'Mindset' by Dr. Carol Dweck, Ph.D.

There is so much wisdom in this book, but as a parent in a culture that generally tries to protect children from failure,  I was struck by the chapter on messages we communicate about failure through our action/words. By avoiding our child's immediate disappointment, we often cause more harm in the long run. 

If your child is participating in an individual tournament and does not place or receive a "prize" and you communicate, "well - I thought you were the best...you did amazing - you should have won"... you run the risk of insincere messaging.

Your motive may be encouragement, but the child knows that he/she was not the 'best' and so your words are empty. The message is not, "how can you improve?" or how can I validate your feelings of disappointment? The message is denial and ultimately communicates that YOU are not comfortable with disappointment/failure and imperfections/not being on top/not being #1 is not Ok...

I apply these teachings in our the office. There is a fine line between insincere praise and shame. If a client does not prioritize all of their health goals (for any reason), our job is to both celebrate the positives and look honestly at the hurdles to come up with easy scaffolded steps to change the behavior/outcomes without getting stuck in the shame cycle, "I am so unworthy." "I suck." "I should move to Mars..."

Can we stay objective and observational without the inner critic casting hard blame and shame- throwing mud balls;)

Here is what positive self-talk looks like, "Ok self - you did not prioritize your health goals. What mindset or habit got in the way of executing? You had the intention of carrying a water bottle at work to increase daily hydration but you did not carry one at work. Do you need to read more about the importance of hydration to value the behavior? Can you schedule a water bottle fill-up in the morning at work on your task list? Do you need an app to track water?

This may seem like a trite example, but habit change is HARD. We have patterns and behaviors that are deeply ingrained in our psyche and many of us avoid change because we fear failure!  Changing behavior starts with intention and mindset. We are here to provide accountability but ultimately, you will only change habits when you ready. Part of being ready is embracing discomfort and the risk of falling and failing and having to get-up and try...try again!

If you are comfortable – you are not growing/expanding. Please know that we understand the difficulty of the journey and we are here to hold you up! You can not fail if you show up. If you have ever canceled an appointment out of fear of "not succeeding," you have missed the point of what we do! Please see us when you are down – we are here primarily to help you find your feet again!! 

- Coach Sarah Lynn