Trihealth Bethesda Family Therapist Kelly Rogan sat down with us to answer some questions about the importance of self-care, when caring for another.
ERS: Is self-care hearkening back to the old adage of making sure you manage your own oxygen mask first, when the plane is going down, before you take care of another?
KELLY: I use that metaphor, almost every day.
ERS: Let's talk a little more about that. How do you start the process of self-care, how does a person step back, get in touch with yourself, and get an overall look at things?
KELLY: The first step needs to be an awareness that what you’re doing is not helping. For example, I was recently in the hospital with my mom. So, I'm there, and didn't have time to get any food. I had reached out to someone, which I strongly recommend, to bring me food, but they did not show up. The next thing I know, I’m eating peanut butter-filled pretzels dipped in the hospital ice cream cup. And not sleeping. We teach what we need to learn most. I am my own worst example.
ERS: And you’re going to pass out from lack of nutrition.
KELLY: There’s lack of nutrition, there’s the fact that I wasn't working out, and the awareness of: I can't always be there for my mom. I can’t be there for her, if I’m not going to the grocery, taking a minute to get a healthy meal, and taking a break from whatever.
ERS: How long has this has been your field of expertise, and how did you get into it?
KELLY: I have been a counselor for 30-plus years. My field is addiction, and I am a Family Therapist in rehab. I take the families who are depleted, who have been so focused on trying to fix someone else, they have bent so far over backwards, that they are now hurting themselves. I went to work with people with addiction, and they wanted me to do the family program. When people come in, I’d say: “What do you do, to take care of yourself?” They’d look at me, like they had no idea what I was saying. “What, do you mean me?” So, that first week, I tell them to take one hour and do something just for them. The people who embrace that, realize the oxygen mask metaphor, and how they must take care of themselves first. When they were, they were thriving.
ERS: Is this an original sin of pride?
KELLY: With families, many of them have not even considered that taking take care of themselves is even okay. It’s not pride. It’s a lack of self-esteem, a lack of realizing that the single best thing we can do for others is take care of ourselves.
ERS: It’s been my experience, that communication is imperative. Won’t a true friend cut you a break?
KELLY: I agree with you, if it’s a healthy relationship. If I say to my best friend, “Hey, I can’t come and see you, I’m exhausted,” she would be like, “of course, take care of yourself.” But when a relationship has gotten unhealthy, or dysfunctional, and I suggest that I can’t pay your rent because I don’t have enough money for my groceries, there can be some pushback. That can be a real problem, in a relationship that has gotten unhealthy, and I am the one who gives all the time. When the harmful helping has become so habitual, the relationship has gotten dysfunctional.
ERS: What are the biggest lessons you have learned? Is there a personal philosophy you have forged?
KELLY: Well, it's interesting that we started with the oxygen mask thing, because that kind of speaks to it. I am trying to whittle my presentation down to five things. People like lists, and bullet points. But this much I absolutely know as the number one thing: YOU HAVE TO HAVE SUPPORT TO SURVIVE.
ERS: How would you define that?
KELLY: I would define that as, (having) other people you can talk to in your community. There is a saying: “Community Is Immunity.” If I am taking care of my mom, and I don’t have anyone to vent to what I am going through, I am trying to carry that burden on my own. It’s not going to be good. It’s not going to work take, for instance, grief therapy, where people have lost someone they loved. It’s one thing to have friends, but to have people who have actually gone through the exact thing you have gone through, helps even more. It helps to have someone who is going through EXACTLY THE SAME THING that you are going through. So, in a grief therapy group, I am not just talking to my friends about losing my Dad, I am talking to other people who have lost a parent as well. That commonality – that universality – is huge.
ERS: So it’s okay to be sad?
KELLY: Yep. And know that you are going to be okay. Helping should not be harmful. Don’t take yourself out of the equation. Isn’t giving to yourself as beautiful as giving to others? So there you have it: put on your oxygen mask. Your self care is important. You have worth. It is valid.
ERS: How about some background: what are your roots/ties to Cincinnati?
KELLY: For the most part. I consider myself from Cincinnati. I was born in Richmond, Indiana, so I am a Hoosier.
ERS: You're still one of us.
KELLY: My Dad got a job with Cincinnati Milacron. I have been here since I was in kindergarten. I went to Miami University in Oxford for undergrad and the University of Cincinnati for my Master’s Degree in Counseling. I grew up in Sharonville, and I am a proud Viking and graduate of Princeton High School.
Tickets are on sale to see Kelly in person on March 16, 2020 at Refresh Your Soul 2020 — Promoting Healthy Living. Visit refreshyoursoulconference.com for more information or to register.