I recently read the blog post “How to Have a Healthy Relationship with your Body, Even with Chronic Illness” written by Sheryl Chan of The Chronic Voice (https://www.achronicvoice.com/2018/02/05/healthy-relationship-body-chronic-illness/). Sheryl explored the idea that the relationship we have with our bodies echoes the relationship we have with other people. This gave me a new perspective on my journey of maintaining a balanced life with chronic illnesses.
As I recall from a Human Development class I took in college, the components of a healthy relationship are: trust, open communication, intimacy, commitment, and respect. These factors can be applied to how the conscious mind works with the physical body.
- Trust – This is a difficult element for one with Chronic Illness. For example, in a normal body when one eats carbohydrates the pancreas secretes insulin to off-set the increase in blood sugar to keep the blood sugar stable. In my case with Diabetes, my body does not secrete insulin. I need to inject insulin in my body so my blood sugar will stay stable. Therefore, my body is dependent on me to supply its needs. My body needs to trust I will give it what it needs and I need to trust myself to provide it. Taking all of my medicines regularly will ensure my body functions to the optimum level.
- Open communication – With Psoriatic Arthritis I need to pace my activities in order to prevent a flair up of pain. If I am not doing well when I wake in the morning I need to limit my activities for the remainder of the day in order to decrease the pain level. To add another example in regards to Diabetes, when I don’t eat my blood sugar goes down. If it goes too far down I can pass out. It is important for me to eat to maintain normal blood sugar. This means it is crucial for me to listen when my body sends me warnings.
- Intimacy – Wow! I definitely am intimate with my body. I know every part of my body and what causes me pain. I can identify when new ailments occur which helps in preventing complications of my illnesses in the future.
- Commitment – I need to be committed to giving my body the proper nutrients and limit sugar and carbohydrates to keep it functioning well. In addition it is important I keep moving my body (exercise) in order to prevent further deterioration of my joints due to Arthritis. Furthermore, I need to be committed to taking my medications regularly to prevent further difficulties in the future such as taking my antidepressants to avoid a Depression episode.
- Respect – This ties into communication, listening to the signals my body is giving me. I understand that my body can no longer function in the same way it did before I developed the chronic illnesses. I need to respect my body’s boundaries.
This new outlook has opened my eyes to how much mind does control matter. I am much more aware and in tune to how my behavior affects my overall health. I feel this will make a significant difference in how I approach taking care of my body.
Dear Broken Body,
Since it is Valentine’s Day, I am writing this letter to make amends with you. Through the years I have not been completely supportive of you. I am sorry and would like to move forward.
Several years ago you started beating yourself up with Auto-immune disorders causing high blood sugars (Diabetes) and an imbalanced metabolism (Thyroid disease). I found medicine for you. You were happy but we would fight when I would forget to give you the medicine or when you didn’t like the food I gave you. Then there came a time when even though I was doing everything right we still fought. This confused me and I got depressed. It was such a dark time for me that I didn’t know what was real anymore. But thanks to our God I was able to think clearly again. I found the right treatment for you, got help myself, and I learned what was needed to make you content.
Things were okay for us for a while but then you started abusing yourself again now causing Psoriatic Arthritis and Fibromyalgia. I said to myself, “Oh no! I thought we were happy but things are out of control again. Why are you doing this to us? I don’t understand! It makes me angry and sad!” It turns out you were never totally pleased with me because our communication was not open. But, after more therapy, I understood what was causing your pain. I wasn’t treating you properly. I ignored your needs, talked negatively to you, and didn’t nurture you enough. Now I realize that you cannot do everything I want you to do and I am okay with that. I accept you for exactly the way you are. I will take care of you better in the future and I hope we can live in harmony.
Your Conscious Mind
Thanksgiving 2017 was the one year anniversary of my last depression episode. It has now been almost two years since my last hospitalization for Depression. I am grateful for these milestones but recently my body feels like it is craving a breakdown. The feeling is similar to when I am trying to quit drinking soda. The longer I’ve been without it, the harder it is not to consume it. It’s like my brain is tired of working to maintain sanity and it just wants a vacation. But, I know I cannot go back to that place of darkness and I will not let it happen again.
When I go into a depressive episode I experience Psychosis. It is a symptom which occurs in approximately 10% of patients with Depression. During my first incident with Depression, it had gone on so long that I thought I was the Queen of England. Can you say “crazy”?! It is hard to explain what a psychotic episode is like. It starts like a dream, parts of memories from real events all mixed up into a convoluted story. Then the story gets more developed in the mind. The psychotic person shares the story with others but they don’t believe it. This is very frustrating to the sick person. The thoughts continue and the story gets more detailed and becomes the person’s reality. At this point I remember thinking to myself, “I know this doesn’t sound logical but my mind keeps thinking it over and over and I have so many details to the story. My thoughts must be true!” That is when I end up in the hospital.
During my last Depression episode I was able to recognize what was happening. I realized I was psychotic and quickly began using coping techniques I learned from years of therapy and the previous five episodes I had experienced. I put on my headphones immediately to meditate to soothing music and then read a book to keep my mind in the present moment. This prevented me from spiraling down into the psychotic abyss and my thoughts stabilized. I know society fears Psychosis but it is not something to be scared about. Yes, it is scary at the time of the incident but if it is recognized early it can be tamed. Psychosis is simply a symptom of Depression. Symptoms can be managed with the proper medication and therapy.
So now I have the “psychotic itch”. It is bizarre that my mind wants something that is so traumatic. (Ok maybe not so bizarre because I still want soda even though it is bad for me). Anyways, I know I do not want to go through another psychotic episode so I have to be extra diligent to maintain my sanity. Things I do to keep balanced are:
- Take my medicine regularly: In the past when I was doing well I wouldn’t take my medicine regularly. I thought because I was doing better, I didn’t need it. But actually I was doing better because I was taking the medicine and it was keeping me regulated. It is important to keep taking my medicine even though I feel better.
- Maintain a healthy diet: By eating healthy fruits and vegetables my body feels better so I can function better resulting in a clearer, more focused mind. ( I guess this would include not drinking soda, lol)
- Stay active: This includes participating in social activities and doing mindful activities such as arts and crafts. An idle mind is not helpful. Staying idle allows your mind to ruminate about the past instead of focusing on what is happening in the present. Staying active occupies the mind and encourages a sense of purpose in life.
- Pray and read the Bible: I try to pray and do a devotional daily. This keeps me in touch spiritually which instills a sense of hope. It was my faith in God that pushed me to overcome my Depression.
I hope the days of being hospitalized for Depression are in the past. I have lost so many years before my diagnosis to feelings of inadequacy and despair. I feel this illness has robbed me of time. But I cannot dwell on what has already happened. I can only focus on what I can do in the present moment to change my future.
- 1 cup (200 grams) farro
- 1 tablespoon olive oil, plus a drizzle more for serving
- 1 small onion, diced
- 4 cloves of garlic, minced
- 250 grams (8.8 oz) mushrooms, sliced (I used baby portobello but any kind will do)
- 1 cup (100 grams) cooked white beans, drained and rinsed
- 1 ½ teaspoons of fresh thyme (or your favourite herb)
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- Bring a pot of water to boil over high heat and add the farro. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for the length of time indicated on the package. If you’re not sure which type of farro you have, start checking it after 15 minutes. It may take as long as 40 minutes. The farro is ready when it’s tender yet chewy.
- Meanwhile heat a large pan over medium heat and add the oil and onion. Fry until softened then add the garlic and give it another minute or two. Add the mushrooms and fry until browned. If you’ve got some sticky bits on the bottom of your pan, add a splash of vegetable stock, water or white wine and scrape them up (extra flavour!).
- When the farro is cooked toss the beans into the pot for a minute to heat them through then drain the pot. Add the farro and beans to the pan with the mushrooms and mix well. Sprinkle over the thyme, season with salt and pepper to taste and drizzle over a touch of olive oil.
I spend a considerable amount of time waiting in doctor’s offices. Rather than feeling it is wasted time, I have come up with some constructive things to do while sitting in the waiting room:
- Make a grocery list
- Plan your meals for the week
- Plan a party
- Review your goals for the next month
- File your nails
- Make an appointment for a haircut
- Pay your bills
- Clean out your purse/wallet
- Do a crossword puzzle or Sudoku
- Text a friend you haven’t talked to in a while
- Delete old emails from your in-box
- Make reservations for “date night” with significant other
- Choose a destination for your next adventure
- Put headphones on and listen to relaxing music- meditate
- Write down a problem you are having and come up with solutions
- Make a list of things that make you feel grateful
- Read a bible devotional
- Say a prayer
Happy New Year!
The last quarter of the year was busy with the usual holiday hustle and bustle so I took a break from writing this blog. In my THIRD QUARTER UPDATE last year, I mentioned I was having some stomach issues. Well, after a few tests I was told it was just acid reflux. I figured that was case because my Fibromyalgia can cause that issue. I was glad it was nothing serious and not a new illness.
My word for 2017 was “action”. For the most part I did make progress in this area although I did not reach my ultimate goal for the year which was to exercise regularly. I have realized the reason I have not succeeded at this goal is because I do not make it a priority on my to-do list. I always use the excuse “I don’t have time” but actually I really mean “It is not a priority”. If I want to achieve my goal of living a balanced life with chronic illnesses, I need to make it a priority.
In December I started thinking about what my goals and word for the year will be for 2018. While out shopping for a gift for a friend I found a scented candle. On the jar it said, “Live with Intention”. Immediately I was drawn to the phrase. What a motivation it would be to think about that each day! This is what I need- INTENTION! I need to make a conscious plan and focus on my target. This can apply to so many other aspects of my life. My main goal is to improve my physical health but I also have spiritual and social goals for 2018. This year I will continue with the small steps towards change I accomplished in 2017 and make a more concrete plan.