JUST FOR FUN

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.

Boat

 

KEEPING FAITH IN THE FACE OF CHRONIC ILLNESS

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.

DO YOU WANT TO LIVE FOR A CENTURY?

Last month my family celebrated my Cousin Raul’s 100th birthday.  It was a great reunion of over 300 family members we had not seen in quite some time.  We looked at old photos, took lots of new ones and shared a big Cuban meal together. It was quite a commemoration of my cousin’s long life.

This got me thinking, would I want to live for 100 years?  I don’t think I do.  My body is already quite tired of dealing with my multiple medical conditions.  I can’t imagine living another 50+ years. That would result in an incredible number of blood tests, medicine, and doctor appointments.  Of course maybe by then there will be some magical medical advances which would allow me to have a bionic body to rid me of my illness management.

During the party a family member gave a speech. He said the key to Raul’s longevity was that he stays engaged in life.  Raul has continued to remain an active member of a social club in the city where he lives.  At his reception, Raul accepted donations so light posts could be installed around the outside of the club’s building.  Even at 100 years old he is involved in the process of restoring a community.

I believe it is not the quantity of years one lives that matters, what matters is the quality in how one lives.  In The Bible, Ecclesiastes 5:20 states, “For he will not often consider the years of his life because God keeps him occupied with the gladness of his heart”.  Purpose is the key to having gladness in one’s heart.  God has given each person special talents and circumstances to share with others.  One should use these gifts to engage in life.  As long as one continues to seek God’s will, life will be fulfilling.

I often get weary of dealing with my medical issues.  Some days I feel like I cannot deal with all the daily activities of living while having to spend so much time on my health.   But it is my faith in God and my relationship with others that keeps me hoping for what is yet to come.  Whether I live another 50 years or just one more day, I will continue to follow God’s plan for me.  My purpose will keep me going through any challenges I face in the future.

CHRONICALLY TRAVELING

Recently my husband and I went on a beach vacation.  For most people packing is rather light for a beach trip.  You need t-shirts, shorts, bathing suit, sunscreen, sunglasses, flip flops, and a hat.  For the person with Diabetes and other illnesses it is a little more complicated.  To make it easier and more organized, there are a few items I use:

  •  A duffel or carry-on bag:  I take a separate bag to carry all my medicine and diabetic supplies.  In the bag I put my pump supplies:  tubing, extra infusion sets, reservoirs, and insertion device.  I put extra glucose monitor strips and battery charger for my glucose monitor.  In addition I pack extra AA batteries for my insulin pump.
  • Medimemo pill organizer:  I found this box on Amazon.  It keeps all the pills in a case that is easy for packing.  I put all my pills for each day.  I can also put extra pills such as Tylenol and anti-inflammatory pills.Medimemo 7 Day Pill Organiser Medi Dispenser
  • Insulin cooler:  This keeps my insulin cool while we are traveling.  This can be purchased on Amazon.

Insulin Protector Case Insulin Cooler - Blue

Even though it takes some extra packing, one with chronic illness can still enjoy a great trip to the beach!

 

 

Interested in joining a Chronic illness Support Group in Orlando?  Visit my Support Group page to register:  Support Group

THE CHRONIC CHILD – PART 2

Continued from two weeks ago…

Once I stopped taking the experimental drug at age eight, I no longer needed to stay in the hospital during the summer.  The only thing I needed to take was anti-seizure medication and see my Neurologist periodically to have an EEG done.  Now we could take a real vacation to the beach instead of our usual trip to the hospital!

It is hard to describe what it was like being a child while enduring all those medical tests.  Eventually I think I developed a sense of detachment.  When I went to the doctor or had a test done I could feel my brain “detach”.  It was like I was on the outside of my body looking into the room.  This was a coping mechanism I established to remove my feelings from the situation.  This allowed me to stay calm and get the test over with so I could move on with my day.

My adolescent years were a little better for me socially.  I had a small network of friends from church and a few friends at school.  I still often felt different from them and misunderstood.  They couldn’t identify with having medical tests and going to doctors frequently.  All they had to focus on was doing schoolwork.  They didn’t have the additional worries my illness caused:  what will happen to me next, what other tests are going to be done on me, did I take my medicine today?  Like most adolescents, my friends would tease and make jokes about me.  It reminded me of the teasing I received when I was younger due to the side effects of the special medicine I took.  To them it was just a joke but it broke down my self-confidence.  The banter just made me feel worse about myself.  You would think I would use my detaching mechanism at this point but I didn’t.

This caused more isolation.  I would say that the main issue I developed from my illness as a child is seclusion.  I would still spend time with my close friends but I did not enjoy meeting new people or being in a social situation.  I did not like being in a group situation where I needed to be outgoing.  I preferred to sit in a corner by myself.  The comfort of being alone followed me into adulthood.  Although the classes were larger in college, I still chose to stay to myself most of the time.  I found a few new friends and hung out with them most of the time.  I was always the quiet one in the group when we needed to work on a project.  This also reflected my lack of self-confidence.  In addition, being insecure might have resulted in lower grades.  I didn’t have confidence in what I was capable of doing.  Even after I married I stayed to myself.  I had to move to a new city and found it difficult to find a close friend

As an adult, I was diagnosed with new illnesses, Diabetes and Thyroid diseases.  Once one becomes an adult medical issues are more common.  Still it is difficult for one to comprehend being ill for an entire life.  Even though I was in my twenties, I was already tired of being sick.  Yes I was used to having tests and doctor appointments but now I had to deal with new challenges with chronic illness.  First of all, these illnesses will never go away.  In addition to that there was added stress of a full-time job, marriage and maintaining a household.  I lost time going to appointments and taking medication.  Being ill was an inconvenience.

I didn’t realize it at the time but my first round of Depression came during a difficult period with my Thyroid disease.  Finally after years of being ill I had to grieve for the time I lost due to being sick.  It wasn’t until several years later that I discovered that was what my Depression was about, grief.  I always thought I accepted being sick but actually I was in denial.  Maybe those years of isolation were not just a lack of self-confidence.  Maybe it was a mask for hiding denial of my medical challenges.  It appeared I accepted my situation, taking medications and going to doctors like I was supposed to but actually I resented having to live with problems that others didn’t have to deal with on a daily basis.  It was time for me to grieve all the feelings I tried to deny:  anger of not having a “normal” life, fear of not being good at something, and sadness for the battles I had to fight.  Ultimately, after years of therapy, I can now accept my life with all its complications.  I have opened up more socially and feel confident in everything I do.  I often wonder how things would have transpired if I had counseling at a younger age.  Would I have reached acceptance sooner rather than in my forty’s?  I guess I will never know.  I have learned a great deal from my struggles and wouldn’t have it any other way.

FIBROMYALGIA AWARENESS DAY

May 12th is National Fibromyalgia Awareness Day.  To spread awareness, I going to tell you about my experiences with this illness.  First, let me explain what it is.  Fibromyalgia (Fibro) affects the way the brain processes pain.  When a pain signal is sent to the brain, it releases serotonin.  However, those with Fibro do not produce enough serotonin so the brain gets overwhelmed creating an amplified sense of pain, hyperaglesia.  Even a light touch can feel very painful.

What does Fibromyalgia feel like?  Well, let me tell you about a day in my life.  Morning comes and there are times that I cannot get out of bed.  I actually have to roll on my side to get up.  Even though I slept all night, I am still tired.  I start to walk and it feels like I have lead in the bottom of my feet because my body is so stiff.  After doing some stretching I can start moving.  Usually taking a shower helps one wake up but in my case I have to rest after getting out of the shower, it is exhausting.

As my day continues I am faced with different annoyances each day.  Some days my hands and feet itch like crazy.  It is an itch that I cannot reach no matter how much I scratch.  Sometimes it feels like needles pricking my skin causing sharp pain.  Then there are times when the top of my skin hurts, this is called Allodynia.  If my knees or ankles barley brush against each other I feel intense pain.  It stings like clothes rubbing against the skin while one has a sunburn.  Ouch!  I want to jump through the roof!

Fibromyalgia amplifies everything including sounds and lights. While talking on the phone at work I have to turn down the volume because the voice on the other end sounds like a person talking through a megaphone. In addition I am quite disturbed by the noise my co-workers make while they are either eating snacks, humming to themselves or whistling.  Driving home from work is a challenge due to the reflection of the sun on the dashboard blinding me.

Once I am home after a day of work, I have to choose which activities I can accomplish that evening.  Sometimes I can cook a full meal from scratch, sometimes I am lucky if I can take a few things out of freezer and put something together.  I am thankful I have a husband who helps with cleaning the kitchen afterwards.   If I have errands to run after work, I normally don’t cook, I just pick up something while I am out.  The person with Fibro often has to pace activities.  If I know I am going to have a big weekend, I will try to limit events during the week so I can save energy for the weekend.  Fatigue is always a concern with Fibro because one’s body is always fighting the effects of the illness.  Finally at the end of the day, I usually have the need to elevate my feet and ice them because they are swollen.

One or more of these symptoms occur on a daily basis.  The symptoms can be very mild or in some cases very painful.  On my worst days I experience muscle pain over my entire body, migraine headaches, nausea, and digestive issues.  Extreme fatigue always comes on my more difficult days and no matter how much I sleep I don’t feel rested.  It has been reported that people with Fibro do not have the same sleep patterns as a person without it and never fall into a deep sleep.

So, that is a day in the life of a Fibro girl.  I have learned to manage the symptoms by pacing my activities and limiting stress.  (Stress is another factor which aggravates the illness).  I have been fortunate that most of the time the symptoms are mild.  On the bad days, I am grateful for having a loving husband who helps me get through it.

 

MONTHLY MUSE – NOT MY CIRCUS, NOT MY MONKEYS

April is Stress Awareness Month.  Everyone experiences stress in life.  Stress is the feeling one gets when one is put under pressure.  This can be from a positive lifesaving event such as saving a person from a burning house or a negative event such as getting mad at a family member.  There are external stressors such as work, traffic, relationships which cannot be controlled.  Then there are internal stressors, those that can be controlled, such as fear, anticipation, or lack of sleep.  I have discovered that the key to handling stress is not trying to eliminate it but learning how to respond to it.

For a person with chronic illness it is especially important to control stress because it can make one’s condition worse.  Stress can cause physical symptoms such as increased blood pressure, high blood sugar, muscle tension and inflammation.  In my case, stress makes it more difficult for me to manage my Diabetes due to a rise in blood sugar.  It also creates pain because I suffer from Psoriatic Arthritis and Fibromyalgia which are aggravated by inflammation in the body.  Therefore, it is important for me to limit the about of stress I experience.

I have learned a few ways to handle stress.  One thing I have learned is to only focus on a situation that affects me directly.  As the saying goes, “not my circus, not my monkeys”.  This idiom really helped realize how much anxiety I feel because I am feeding off of someone else’s issue.  For instance, if my co-worker has a problem I of course want to help but I shouldn’t use all my time to solve my co-worker’s problem.   Instead, I can offer my suggestions and then allow my co-worker to decide the outcome.  This allows me to still help but not take on the burden of another person’s issue.  In addition, this reduces my stress by allowing me to focus on my own work rather than burden myself with an additional task.

The second aspect I have learned is about attitude.  If I go into a situation with a negative outlook the outcome will seem negative.  On the other hand having a positive view will often produce a positive result.  For example, I wake up in the morning thinking “I don’t want to face the day today”.  What usually happens is I end up having a bad day with low productivity.  But, if I wake up feeling ready to accomplish my task list I will more than likely complete my goals for the day.  So, if there is a situation that causes tension and I take on that matter with a good attitude, I will feel less anxious about the circumstances.

The final factor I have learned to deal with is worrying.  Worrying is a synonym of stress.  I used to worry about how I handled situations.  Did I handle it appropriately?  What do others think of me?  I also contemplated about my future.  Am I making the wrong decisions that will affect my future?  What will happen to me as a result of all my illnesses?  A technique I learned from my therapist is Mindfulness Mediation.  This helps me to focus on the present moment by allowing my thoughts to come into my mind then float by like the clouds in the sky.  While thoughts come in and out I concentrate on my current breathing pattern rather than the thoughts.  This trains my mind to focus only on what was happening at the moment.  Things that happened in the past are over and cannot be changed, so what is the purpose of ruminating on it?  Things in the future haven’t happened yet so why ponder it?  This does not mean we cannot plan for the future, it just means not to hoard one’s thoughts with it.

To sum it up. here are my thoughts about stress.  I cannot eliminate stress but by having a positive mindset and focusing on myself in the current moment, I can limit how stress affects me negatively.  I hope these techniques can help others in dealing with stress and thinking about stress as a positive rather than a negative.