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.
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.
Yesterday my husband and I went to the Audubon Center for Birds of Prey. This center provides rescue and rehabilitation of injured raptors including falcons, eagles and owls (my favorite). We saw many with broken wings and other bones and a couple with vision impairments. Most were in cages but some were tethered to a perch so they could not fly away from the protection of the facility. Not being able to survive on their own, they were being held in captivity.
This reminds me of how I feel at times, living with multiple chronic illnesses. I feel I am caged by my illnesses because I cannot function the way a normal person’s body functions. The limits on the food I can eat due to Diabetes and the amount of energy I can expend in one day due to Psoriatic Arthritis and Fibromyalgia keep me confined. I am not free to do as I please because my body cannot function on its own. I have to manually regulate many of my body functions with medication, diet and managing movement.
Being ill my entire life, I have learned how to relieve some of the feelings of restriction:
- Acknowledgement: I had to acknowledge my emotional, physical and mental state. I had to recognize my feelings of grief and sadness about being sick. Once one grieves the loss of being ill, it becomes more real. Once the grief was resolved I was in a better mental state to deal with the physical issues.
- Identify what needs to be changed: I had to accept the way I was functioning needed to change in order for me to manage my illnesses more effectively. For example, I can no longer do a long list of chores in one day. I now have to break up my activity in short segments. In other words, I had to examine what aspects of my life were being impacted by my illnesses and make changes.
- Make one change at a time: I gradually worked on each aspect of myself taking one step at a time. Once I dealt with my emotional state, it helped other aspects of my life. Then I was able to work on making changes to my daily activities which help my overall health and energy levels.
- Engage in a new adventure: Learn something new, join a social group, volunteer in the community. Engaging more with others and helping the community create a sense of purpose which generates hope for the future.
- Reward: As changes are being accomplished, give yourself a reward! It can be anything, even a small moment of self-care. For me that means a manicure and pedicure!
- Share your story: Share what you are going through with others. You never know what you can learn from someone else or what they can learn from you!
Wow, the end of the third quarter of the year! This year is flying by and I am still working towards my ultimate goal of the year, to exercise regularly. I have taken steps towards that goal so I guess I have taken some action. I did buy a balance board and I do use it on my breaks at work but just on a regular basis. I also have gone to a few Yoga classes but I need to find one that fits my schedule. This week I am going to try a new facility that is close to my house and has classes available during appropriate times for me. Hopefully this will be the place for me!
One thing I have learned about making change is it takes time. I think the main reason I don’t exercise is because I find other things to do rather than take the time to exercise. My old story is I don’t have time or energy to exercise. My new story is I am a healthy person who is energized by exercise and makes time to do it. This new outlook will help motivate me to follow through on the plan. In addition to motivation, I need to eliminate the excuse that I don’t have the time. By searching different options, I have finally found a place that does work in my schedule. Now I have no excuse not to exercise. I need to continue my vision of being a healthy person to accomplish this goal.
As far as my overall health things are better except for some stomach issues. I had a couple of MRI’s and an endoscopy done in the past couple of months. The doctor told me my stomach doesn’t work right. This could be a complication due to my other medical issues. I will find out more when I get the results of all the tests in a couple of weeks. Until then, I will deal with things as they happen and continue to work towards my goal of being a healthy person. Well, as healthy as I can be.
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.