MANAGING TRAUMA DUE TO CHRONIC ILLNESS

trauma

For the past few months, I have been taking some courses to get certified as a Mental Health Coach.  One of the topics covered was helping someone who has experienced Complex Trauma.  The most common type of trauma we hear about is Acute PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) which is a result of a single incident such as those experienced by war veterans or victims of mass shootings. However Complex Trauma is one that occurs over an extended amount of time like those who suffer child abuse or, in my case, medical trauma from chronic illnesses.  In most instances trauma is from an external source for example physical abuse, but with chronic disease the source is internal; therefore, it cannot be escaped as it is part of the person.  In some cases Complex PTSD can also exasperate symptoms of the ongoing illness.  This makes everything more difficult to manage.

From reading my blog, one will know that I have lived with some type of illness since birth.  More recently in adulthood I struggle with Thyroid disease, Psoriatic Arthritis, Fibromyalgia and Depression added to my diagnosis of Diabetes.  It has been a long battle to learn how to create a new “normal” life while balancing multiple diseases.

I can recall symptoms of PTSD in my teenage years: having flashbacks of instances from when I was hospitalized as a child, I had low self-esteem because I felt different from my peers, and I was always waiting for the next “bad” thing to happen to me (hypervigilance).  Looking back at my younger years I can acknowledge that I stayed in a state of fear and denial.  I tried to push my emotions aside and hid my “shame” from others while fearing the future.  Finally in adulthood, after my second Depression episode, things began to unravel and I started psychotherapy which helped restore balance to my life allowing me to move past the feelings of being scarred.

Here are the steps I went through to manage the traumatic symptoms:

  • GET HELP

Go to a medical doctor and mental health therapist to learn how to manage your illnesses .  This includes exploring medicinal options, educating yourself about your illnesses, and engaging in mental health therapy.  I will say the best choice I made was going to a therapist.  Yes, medication is important to balance the chemicals in the body but therapy is needed to work through the emotional part of on-going illness.  Having a diagnosis that changes how you live is a difficult process of adaption.  Therapy can provide the tools needed to succeed and put the puzzle back together.

Therapy puzzle

  • KEEP CONNECTED TO OTHERS

I struggled when I had Depression to keep engaged with others.  Because of my other illnesses socializing was exhausting for me.  However it is important to congregate with others to help maintain a sense of belonging and connection to society.

  • INCLUDE YOUR SIGNIFICANT OTHER AND SUPPORT SYSTEM IN YOUR TREATMENT PLAN

I found it is important to include your spouse and others who are in your support system in the treatment process.  When I was going through the toughest times the past several years, I always had my “happy face” mask on hiding all my emotions (however not the literal mask we wear in the current COVID-19 pandemic).   Even though my family and friends could not comprehend what I was experiencing, it helped to know I was still important and cared for by them.  I was able to take my mask off with them and express my thoughts and fears.  They provided additional encouragement and assistance for me to accomplish my goals.

  • UNDERSTAND THAT HEALING IS A PROCESS, PACE YOURSELF

It has been said that it takes about 21 days to create a new habit.  How long do you think it would take to change every aspect of your life?  For me it has taken about 10 years.  My approach was to take one day at a time.  Focus on one aspect individually using a step-by-step process.  Be patient with yourself and others!

Healing

  • ENGAGE IN A HOBBY

Engaging in a creative process has been shown to broaden one’s attention field.  In order to be creative one needs to focus on current world events .  Furthermore, focusing on a particular project allows one to experience the here and now rather than pondering the future.  In addition it helps to provide feelings of accomplishment and relaxation.  Pick something fulfilling for example:  painting, gardening, or volunteering at a soup kitchen.

  • LIVE IN THE MOMENT

Try not to worry about what is going to happen next.  Focus on what is happening right now.  We cannot change the past or predict the future.  We can only live fully if we are present in the current moment.  Mindfulness meditation is an excellent technique I learned to train my mind to concentrate on the current situation and moreover it assists with decreasing stress.

Mindfulness-image-by-Doug-Neill

  • HAVE FAITH

Living with chronic conditions can feel like one is moving through a revolving door.  Pain, feelings and symptoms will come and go continually.  One thing that I can depend on to be constant is God’s presence.  My faith gives me peace and comfort during the most trying times.  Knowing that one day I will face everlasting life with God is what helps me persist and keep moving forward.

Staying present and continuing to be engaged in life can help dispel the negative effects of complex trauma.  Although one with Chronic Illness may not ever live without distress, one can learn how to manage it.  Management takes persistence but faith can move you forward.

 

 

 

 

 

 

2nd Quarter Update – “Vision” is Improving

Summer

Hi all!  I know I have been slacking again.  I haven’t posted in a while.  This pandemic although has been difficult, does have some positives.  Being home more has put me in an organizing mode.  This is sharpening my 20/20 “vision”, my word for this year.

In first quarter I started cleaning out closets and reorganizing things to minimize the “stuff” in my life. Then the pandemic began and I started working from home.  Things were crazy at first but I have adjusted.  The work from home effort has proved to be a positive experience so far.  I have much more time in the mornings and afternoon because I am not spending time sitting in traffic and commuting to work.  I am much more relaxed, less hurried and have more opportunity to plan my time.  Hopefully this will transfer to everyday “normal” life when I have to go back to work at an office.  This extra time has also allowed me to reorganize what I started at the beginning of the year and fine tune my efforts.

closet
Craft Closet

I have eliminated even more excess stuff and developed a system of where and how to store the stuff I chose to keep.  By being more organized I again save time searching for things and allows me to focus on what I want to accomplish.  I have even started crafting greeting cards again which I plan on donating to an organization who distributes cards to individuals who are hospitalized in local hospitals and those on active military duty.

Minimalism

In addition, I am working on another project.  Last month I began taking a class on-line to be certified as a Mental Health Coach.  This opportunity was provided by my church.  It allows the church to provide care and support to those who have mental difficulties.  This opens up a safe place where people can get direction on an issue that most find hard to cope with.  I am excited about learning more and sharing my own experiences with others about mental health issues.

As far as the pandemic, I have been staying safe as possible and am healthy.  For the past few months our city has been on a stay at home order so I wasn’t going anywhere other than the grocery store.  In the past three weeks, stores have been re-opening so things are getting back to as normal as it can be for now.  I have been going out shopping but I always wear my mask and keep a bottle of hand sanitizer with me.  I feel even though have a compromised immune system, I can still experience life while keeping safe.

Have a great summer and stay healthy!

Mask

 

 

I AM NOT CHRONICALLY ILL, I AM A “PROFESSIONAL PATIENT”

I have been sick since birth due to one disorder or another.  Since adulthood, I have been diagnosed with Diabetes, Thyroid disease, Psoriatic Arthritis, Fibromyalgia, and Depression.  I feel like I am constantly at a doctor’s appointment, getting blood tests, or calling the pharmacy for medication refills.  Having one chronic illness is challenging enough but when one has multiple conditions, the amount of time it takes to manage one’s health increases exponentially; therefore, now in middle-age, I have labeled myself as a “Professional Patient”.  This has given me a fresh perspective on living with chronic diseases.  Rather than looking at my afflictions as a negative I can use these skills to help others.  Who better to help someone coping with an illness than someone who has lived with illness for a lifetime?

Vulnerability

I have noticed that generally, people who live with chronic illness are afraid to be vulnerable by sharing their challenges with others.  Maybe some feel shame because they cannot function the same as their peers or maybe they feel they will be rejected or treated differently because they are ill.  Additionally, some may think they will be judged or misunderstood by others due to their complications.  Often this leads to withdrawal and isolation.  However, one of my favorite authors Brene Brown says, “Vulnerability is the center of difficult emotion but it is also the birthplace of every positive emotion that we need in our lives:  love, belonging, joy, empathy”.  Recently I made a new friend at church.  At one of our first meetings I told her about my medical issues including Depression.  This allowed her to open up and share with me her own obstacles with Depression.  I have since been able to give her advice on how I manage my symptoms and medication on a daily basis.  I also shared techniques that I learned in therapy and what works for me.  She told me this has assisted her by knowing she is not alone in her struggles.  Putting my fear of rejection aside and being open about my circumstances has allowed me to forge a beautiful new friendship.  It is this type of connection that gives meaning to life.

Connection

It is difficult to live with persistent conditions because they never “get better”.  Those who live with incurable disease must stick to a management program to ensure the best quality of life and the effort is often exhausting.  I am thankful I have loving support from family and friends who encourage me during the more difficult days.  I believe God has given me these trials so I can motivate and serve others who suffer similar battles.  In the Bible, the book of Galatians 6:2, we are told to carry each other’s burdens to fulfill the law of Jesus Christ.  It is part of God’s plan for us to share our experiences with each other.  That is how a community is created.   I feel it is my purpose in life to engage with my community to reassure others who must endure long-term care.   I wear my “Professional Patient” badge with courage and understanding waiting to help any who need a guide for the journey.

Patient badge

PANTRY STAPLE MEAL – VEGETARIAN LENTIL CHILI

Here we are, in the midst of a pandemic.  Grocery stores are often bare of basic food and essentials.  “What’s for dinner?” is the popular question of the day.  Taking a look at the pantry items I already had along with a few produce items, I discovered I could make a hearty Vegetarian Lentil Chili !

Chili

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 tbsp cooking oil
  • 2 stalks celery finely diced
  • 1 onion chopped
  • 1 green pepper chopped
  • 3 14 oz. can diced tomatoes
  • 1 15 oz. can red kidney beans drained
  • 1 15 oz. can pinto beans drained
  • 1 15 oz. can lentils drained *(see notes below)
  • 1 15 oz. can whole corn drained (or fresh corn cut off the cob)
  • 2 tbsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions

  1. Heat large pot over medium heat and add oil.  When heated add celery, onion and green pepper with salt and pepper.
  2. Saute veggies 2-3 minutes until they are translucent.
  3. Add chili powder, paprika, garlic powder and cumin and cook for another 2 minutes until fragrant.  If you like some heat, add a couple of dashes of cayenne pepper.
  4. Add tomatoes, all the beans and lentils to the pot and season with salt and pepper.
  5. Bring to boil, then reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for approximately 30 minutes.  While simmering, add additional seasonings to taste as desired.

*NOTES: Dry lentils can be used instead of canned but Chili may need to simmer longer until lentils are soft and cooked through.  Also if Chili is too thick, add water or broth until desired consistency is reached.  The corn is not necessary but is a nice addition.

Extras

Don’t forget to add your favorite toppings such as cheese, sour cream, and green onions.

Serve with some Jiffy Cornbread Muffins or Frito’s Corn Chips.

 

 

TEN “BOREDOM BUSTERS” FOR SURVIVING THE PANDEMIC STAY-AT-HOME ORDER

COVID 19

This is a frantic and scary time for the whole world. How crazy is this that even Disney World is closed?!  Life is being stalled by fear of the transmission of this virus.  In order to prevent the spread of this disease, we have learned to be more sanitary however at the same time we are being restricted from many of the things that make life enjoyable.  Living with a chronic illness which requires me to take an immunosuppressant drug causes me to be more susceptible to catching the virus; therefore, keeping socially distant and isolating as much as possible is paramount for me.

Many people who live with persistent sickness often spend a considerable amount of time at home due to the complications of their diseases.  Some of them must pace their activities and social involvement, and others are even bedridden.  They have to find creative activities for entertainment and ways to feel engaged in life.  During this time of self-isolation, many people generally resort to the usual sources of amusement such as TV and social media.  Here is a list of some alternative ideas to ban boredom during the stay-at-home order.

  1.  Learn something new
    • Learn a new language
    • Take a cooking class online
    • Research a topic you have always wanted to know more about.
  2. Read something
    • Read a classic novel that you have never read
    • Read in a different language
    • Study the Bible
  3. Write something
    • Surprise a friend by mailing a handwritten letter to him or her
    • Write a poem or lyrics to a song
    • Write a story or book
  4. Make something by hand
    • Make a greeting card and mail it to a friend or family member
    • Paint a picture
    • Knit, crochet or sew a blanket for someone in need
      Peacock tree
      I painted this!
  5. Get moving
    • Try a new type of exercise such as Tai-Chi
    • Learn some new dance moves
    • Volunteer at a Food Bank
  6. Use your mind
    • Put a puzzle together
    • Explore the dictionary to find some new words and start using them regularly
    • Try using your non-dominant hand for everything
  7. Explore nature
    • Plant a vegetable or butterfly garden
    • Walk to a different area in your neighborhood
    • Sit outside and bird watchgarden                       My husband’s garden!
  8. Do a 30 Day Challenge
    • Break a bad habit such as smoking
    • Create a good habit such as eating more vegetables
    • Push your limits by challenging your abilities such as doing more sit-ups each day
  9. Meditate
    • Disconnect from the news and listen to soothing music
    • Lie down, close your eyes, and focus on your breathing
    • Find a quiet place and pray
  10. Take a virtual vacation
    • Choose a place you have always wanted to visit
    • Learn about the culture, language, and museums.  Check out the virtual tour of the Louvre museum in Paris:                                        https://www.louvre.fr/en/visites-en-ligne
    • Find a popular recipe in the region and make it for dinner

I hope these ideas inspire you to expand your world during a time when we are isolating from the world.  Wishing you all good times and good health, stay well!

 

 

SUNDAY SUPPER – VEGAN WILD MUSHROOM STROGANOFF

VEGAN WILD MUSHROOM STROGANOFF

Ingredients
  • 8 oz. Wild mushroom mix, sliced (I used baby bella, shiitake and oyster)
  • 1 Tbsp. Olive oil
  • 2 Cloves Garlic, chopped
  • 1/2 a Sweet onion, chopped
  • 1 Tbsp. Sherry vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp. Tomato paste
  • 5 C. Vegetable broth
  • 1/2 C. Full fat coconut milk, I used Native Forest from Edward and Son’s
  • 2 C. Wide noodles, vegan
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
Instructions
  1. In a soup pot, heat the olive oil on medium high.  Add the sliced mushrooms, onions and garlic. Saute until the mushrooms and onions are cooked, about 3-5 minutes. The onions should be translucent. Season with salt and pepper.

  2. Now add the sherry, and stir to get any bits off the bottom of the pot. Then add the tomato paste. Stir into the mushrooms and onions.

  3. Now add the veggie broth and coconut milk. Stir to combine. Taste and add a bit of salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a boil.

  4. Now add the noodles, reduce the heat a bit and simmer until the noodles are cooked al dente. Check the package instructions for how long that will probably be according to the type of noodles you have,  Taste and season as needed. Serve immediately!

    ***NOTE:  I added a can of Cannellini beans, when I put in the noodles, to include some protein.

    Vegan Wild Mushroom Stroganoff Soup

 

1st QUARTER UPDATE – WASTE NOT, WANT NOT

hello spring handwritten paper

Time is going by as fast as lighting, already finished the first quarter of 2020.  Yes, 2020 vision is on the radar for this year.  Things started at a little slow but I am picking up speed.  I was having trouble managing my medications but I am working on a new plan and things are improving.

Speaking of Spring, I have been doing some Spring cleaning.  Towards the end of last year, I worked on my clothes closet giving away things I didn’t want or didn’t fit in an effort to minimize the “stuff” in my life.  This spurred me to move to other areas in the house.  In January, I sorted through the chaos in my craft closet.  I got rid of lots of paper and craft supplies I was not using.   I realized I was buying supplies not because I had a particular project in mind but just because I thought it was cute or it was on clearance.  This accumulated a lot of mess and I wasn’t even using what I bought.  Plus, everything was stuffed so much I couldn’t find anything when I needed it.   The closet is now organized better allowing me to locate all my craft tools.  Maybe this will get the creative juices flowing so I can actually work on some type of project.

Reorganizing the closets made me think about how much I waste in general.  Now I am trying to be more conscious of what I am buying and why I am buying it.  Do I really need this item?  Will I use it or is it an impulse buy?  This allows me to not waste money on things I am not going to use.  I can then in turn use this money to help others.  In addition, by having less clutter I can focus better on what I want to accomplish.

The next area I am looking at is the kitchen.  How much food do I waste thinking I am going to make a certain dish then end up making something else?  To control this area, I have tried to do weekly meal planning.  This has helped some in that I don’t buy things I don’t have in the plan.  Also, I am trying to plan and pack my lunch instead of going out to pick it up.  This saves lots of money and time.  I haven’t mastered all of my planning yet but it is in the works.

I have discovered that minimizing the “chaos” in my life has helped my mind be more focused.  I have more time because I am not wondering aimlessly through stores looking for the next greatest bargain, I can find things easier and I feel better because I am eating healthier.  There are many positives to simplifying one’s life.  Stay tuned!

 

SUNDAY SUPPER – SPRINGTIME VEGETARIAN MINESTRONE SOUP

Soup Sisters

Coming up on MARCH 3RD

NATIONAL SOUP IT FORWARD DAY!

Founded by:  https://soupsisters.org/

Lift someone’s spirits by dropping off a bowlful of comfort and kindness! Cook up a pot of soup and deliver it to a family or friend in need, help someone who is ill or home bound, or just an acquaintance who can use some fellowship time.

 

SPRINGTIME VEGETARIAN MINESTRONE SOUP

Ingredients

  • 1 cup sliced carrots
  • 1 cup diced celery
  • 1 large onion diced
  • 2 cups zucchini diced
  • 3 cloves garlic minced
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 can 28 oz diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 1 can 15 oz kidney beans, drained
  • 6 cups vegetable broth OR chicken broth for a non-vegetarian option
  • 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • 2 cups uncooked penne pasta
  • 2 cups baby spinach coarsely chopped
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Instructions

  1. In a large pot over medium-high heat, saute carrots, celery, onion, zucchini, and garlic in olive oil until just barely tender. Reduce heat to medium and stir in tomato paste, tomatoes, and beans.
  2. Gradually add vegetable broth and Italian seasoning. Bring to a low simmer, stirring occasionally. Stir in penne pasta and spinach, then let soup simmer until pasta is cooked and veggies are tender, about 7 minutes. Season minestrone with salt and pepper and serve warm.

Springtime Vegetarian Minestrone Soup

A VALENTINE FOR JESUS

heart shaped candle
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

This month we celebrate Valentine’s Day.  This is a special day we sent aside to recognize the love we receive from those we cherish in our lives.  For Christians, Jesus provides unconditional love and grace.  He shines a light of hope and promises eternal life to those who believe in him.  Recently, during Christmastime, my Small Group Sunday School class at my church was talking about Jesus, the light of the world.  It is written in the Bible:

I Am the Light of the World

(John 8:12)

12 Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

This verse radiates with me as I am reminded of a very dark time during my second hospitalization due to Major Depression.  I was in the hospital and so distraught about being there.  I was trying to convince everyone I didn’t need to be there.  I felt like I was at the bottom of well.  It was pitch dark blackness, I felt like the walls were closing in around me and there was no way out.  After being in the hospital a couple of days I realized I wasn’t going home.  I was weary and needed something to do so I was going to ask for reading material.  All of a sudden, I realized I didn’t have my bible and I had not spoken to God since I had been there.  I was so consumed by darkness, I had forgotten about God, how terrible am I?!  Instantly I saw light shinning down from the top of the well, a light of hope for survival.  I felt warm, I could breathe again, and I felt loved.  I realized God wanted me to be in the hospital.  He sent me there for a reason.  I began participating in group therapy and soon I was released with a renewed since of being.

I have been though several other rounds of Depression since then but I always have the light of Jesus with me as my guide.  This reminds me of Psalm 23:4,  4 “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me”. 

mini red hearts wallpaper

Dear Jesus, in the darkest moments you are always with me shinning Your light to guide me out of despair.  How foolish am I not to have you on my mind all day?  I seek your wisdom and guidance and am grateful for your grace and love.  I fear though, for times when I do not follow your path but you, my Lord never abandon me.  Even in my most rebellious moments, you are next to me.  Oh how I wish all who I love here on Earth find the friendship and love I have with your divine presence!   Oh, how I love thee Lord Jesus!  My friend, my comforter, my counselor, my guide, my light.   I pray that others see your light that is within me.

(Matthew 5: 14-16)  14 “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.

Easter

RUSTIC RATATOUILLE- VEGETARIAN DISH

I know I haven’t been posting as often and I have missed posting my favorite recipes; therefore, here is a delicious recipe we tried tonight for the first time.  It was very fresh and flavorful!  You will definitely meet the veggie quota for the day!

Over the weekend my husband and I went to a Farmer’s Market.  We bought lots of veggies:  eggplant, yellow squash, zucchini, tomatoes, in addition to corn, broccoli, peppers, and cucumbers.  Then we went to Costco and found spaghetti squash in the refrigerated food isle.  I didn’t know what we were going to make with all these vegetables but they looked pretty.

At my WW (Weight Watchers) meeting this week I received a recipe for a Ratatouille soup.  Since we eat soup a lot I didn’t want to do soup again so I got on Pinterest and found this recipe.  I was able to use most of the vegetables we bought at the Farmer’s Market and, since the Ratatouille comes out almost like a sauce, I served it over the spaghetti squash.  It is so amazing when it is topped with Parmesan cheese!  On the side I made a spinach salad with onions, chopped tomato, cucumber, pecans and chopped hard boiled eggs to add some protein.  We will definitely have this again!  Let me know how you like it!

Ratatouille

Rustic Ratatouille

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 medium eggplant, skin on, diced
1 medium green bell pepper, diced
1 medium red bell pepper, diced
1 medium zucchini, diced
1 yellow summer squash, diced
1 (6 ounce) can Tuttorosso® Tomato Paste
1 (28 ounce) can Tuttorosso® Crushed Tomatoes with basil
1 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
Salt and black pepper to taste

Instructions

  • Preheat over to 375o F. Heat a 10 inch skillet on medium heat. Add oil and when hot quickly toss in the onions and garlic; cook for 2 minutes. Add eggplant, green bell pepper, red bell pepper, zucchini and summer squash. Cook until tender, 10 to 15 minutes. Stir in tomato paste and toss to combine.
  • Stir in crushed tomatoes, basil, thyme, salt and black pepper.
  • Place in a 9 X 13 inch baking dish and bake for 30 minutes
  • Sprinkle with fresh basil before serving. Enjoy as a side dish or entree.

Option: This dish is great served over polenta with a little added Parmesan cheese

Ratatouille is excellent cold or reheated the next day.

https://tuttorossotomatoes.com/recipes/detail/rustic-ratatouille#