At the beginning of 2017 I chose my word for the year to be “action”. This was going to be the year to act on making the changes necessary to create a balanced life while living with chronic illnesses. I must alter my approach to the challenges of life in order to achieve my goal of a stable life. But, change is hard. How do I make the changes become my new normal?
I discovered the book “Live the Best Story of Your Life: A World’s Champion’s Guide to Lasting Change” by Bob Litwin. The author is a champion tennis player turned business coach. The key to this book is changing from one’s Old Story to a New Story. One often creates a story based on the comments and reactions one receives from parents, friends, etc. One can misconstrue the responses from others creating a distorted perception of self. This made me think about my own Old Story. In my past, I viewed people’s constructive criticism of me as negative which destroyed my self-confidence. These false ideas took over and for years I continued to engage in negative self-talk, like an annoying parrot on my shoulder. My Old Story was filled with self-doubt, lake of self-confidence, lack of discipline, low motivation, and feeling of inferiority to others. I didn’t realize until reading this book that for the past few years I have been working on changing my perception of myself. I had to stop listening to my Old Story and start creating a New Story. In my New Story, I am confident about what I know, am disciplined, motivated to stay healthy, and feel I am valuable to others. The story I had been telling myself for most of my life was not real and was holding back from the person I want to be.
Now that I have discovered what I want in my New Story, I can begin to make behavioral changes in order reach my goal of a balanced life. Changing my self-perception from “I can’t” to “how can I” has opened my mind to accept change is possible instead of hard.
The Merriam-Webster dictionary provides two definitions for happiness: a state of well-being and contentment, and a pleasurable or satisfying experience. Research suggests that happiness is a combination of these two components. Happiness is just not a feeling at a particular moment, it includes an overall sense of satisfaction of one’s life.
I have struggled with Depression for several years and have been hospitalized for it several times. At my darkest times I remember feeling totally hopeless. I had no ambition for life and focused on all my faults from my past. I just couldn’t move forward which caused my Depression to worsen. I also lost my faith in God and in life in general. Today, I am happy and participating in life again. It was a lot of work but I have been able to move from my dark days into a positive light for the future. So how did I rise from the darkness?
The steps I took to restore my happiness are similar to those used to restore one’s faith. Step 1, surrender and acknowledge helplessness. I had to face the fact that I had a serious problem and I needed help, professional help. So I succumbed to therapy and medication. Step 2, spend time with God. I realized I was trying to control this situation myself instead of having faith in God. I knew that God is always on my side and will see me through this trial. I began praying regularly and reading the bible for encouragement. Step 3, receive encouragement from family and friends. Having support from my family and friends was so important. I reported to them regularly on my progress and was inspired to do more because of their love. Step 4, have patient endurance. It was a long road to recovery. There were times of sadness and days of disappointment. But, I took small steps towards accomplishments. This allowed me to actively push forward. Each week I increased the daily activities I was doing to regain a “normal” life pattern. Step 5, forgive myself. I had to let go of all the baggage from the past. I cannot change the past so why dwell on it? I focused on the present moment and looked forward to the next step of healing. Step 6, look for hope. I realized God has a purpose for my life. I need to use my talents to help others. Engaging actively in life restores hope for the future. That is reason I started this blog, to be active in life again.
Happiness is not just a moment of gladness. It is a feeling of belonging, having a sense of purpose, and being content with one’s situation. Why stay in despair when one can choose to be active and happy?
The Bible tells us in Ecclesiastes 3:12-13, “So I concluded there is nothing better than to be happy and enjoy ourselves as long as we can. And people should eat and drink and enjoy the fruits of their labor, for these are gifts from God.” Happiness is a gift from God.
Yes, I am a southpaw. It is believed the term southpaw originated from baseball. A left-handed pitcher was called a southpaw because the pitcher faces south.
Here is a top five list of problems left-handers encounter in a right-handed world
5. Sitting at the dinner table: The left-hander has to sit to the left side of a right-hander or there will be a fight of the elbows!
4. The silver sleeve/hand: When writing with a pencil, if wearing long sleeves the left-hander has to pull the sleeve up so the pencil dust does not get all over the sleeve. This also applies to the hand. The left-hander often has to wash the hands after writing with a pencil because of the silver dust accumulated on the side of the hand as a result of the hand gliding over the words that have already been written.
3. The three ring binder/spiral notebook: How can the left-hander write to the edge of the paper?!
2. Scissors: Never get a straight cut because the blades are not facing correctly!
1. Hearing “Oh, you are left-handed” all the time!
One component of my 6M method to maintaining a balanced life with chronic illness is motivation. (The other components are medication, movement, manage, meditate and maturate). Being creative is one way I motivate myself. It utilizes all parts of the brain and I am encouraged when I finish a project. Here is an attempt at acrylic painting. I am definitely not Michelangelo but it was fun and relaxing making the attempt.
- 1/2 cup diced onion
- 2 tsp minced garlic
- 2 TBSP butter
- 2 cups diced potatoes
- 2 cups diced carrots
- 1 14-oz can chicken broth
- 1 medium zucchini, diced
- 2 large tomatoes, peeled and diced (or you can use 1 14-oz can diced tomatoes, not drained)
- 1 14-oz can corn (not drained)
- 1/2 tsp rubbed sage
- 1/2 tsp all-purpose seasoning
- 1 can evaporated milk
- 2 TBSP cornstarch
- 1 cup diced chicken or ham, optional
- 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, to top bowls of stew with
- In a large stockpot, heat butter over medium heat. Add in onions, garlic, potatoes and carrots. Cook for about 5 minutes, stirring often, until onions are translucent.
- Add in chicken broth. Cover and cook for 15 minutes, until potatoes and carrots are soft.
- Add in zucchini, tomatoes, corn, chicken or ham (if desired) and seasonings (except cornstarch.) Heat for another 10-15 minutes or so, until mixture is hot and beginning to boil.
- Reduce heat and add all but 2-3 TBSP of the evaporated milk. Mix remaining evaporated milk with the cornstarch and stir until combined. Stir it into the stew. Simmer for an additional 10 minutes. Salt & pepper to taste. Top with fresh diced cherry tomatoes & a little shredded Parmesan cheese once stew is ladled into each bowl.
It is sometimes difficult to continue living a hopeful life while enduring constant affliction from my multiple chronic illnesses. When things get most challenging, it is my faith in God that gives me hope to continue in life. Some people ponder, how can a person with chronic illness still have faith in a God that doesn’t heal all of one’s sickness?
My father survived cancer three times. During his second battle, I asked him how he could continue to have faith in God even though he got cancer again. He explained, “God does not promise life is going to be beautiful all the time like roses. There are thorns on the rose bush. We will get stuck by several thorns before we get to the rose, which is eternal life. What God does promise is that he will stay by our side during the trial and help us through it.” My father did get healed and was healed a third time from cancer. He ultimately lived another 30 or so years and experienced a full life.
In the case of chronic illness there is no cure, one can never be healed of the illness. Even though the illness will never be healed, it doesn’t mean that God does not provide healing. Healing can occur in many others ways. I have been hospitalized for Depression six times. Each time I learn from the experience. This has allowed me to accept my affliction and I am now able to manage the disease more effectively. Had I not endured all of those challenges I would not be where I am today. God healed my fears about my future, provided me strength to endure difficulties and gave me courage to move forward.
It is God’s promise of eternal life that sustains me. Our lives here on earth are just a short time compared to eternity. Our sufferings may appear to be long in earthly time but it is only one second in eternity. This is what I always remind myself of when I start getting discouraged about living with chronic illness. My suffering now is nothing compared to the glory I will receive in Heaven. In Heaven there will be no illnesses, no hospitals, no medications and that is something to hope for.