LIVING IN CAPTIVITY

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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!
  6. 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!
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THE PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS

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.

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.

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.

SUNDAY SUPPER – EGG ROLL BOWLS

Ingredients

  • 7 ounces ground pork (Feel free to sub ground chicken like I did or 93% lean ground turkey.)
  • 3 tablespoons reduced-sodium soy sauce
  • ½ small onion, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • ½-1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger (depending on your ginger love)
  • 2½ cups finely sliced napa or green cabbage
  • 2 cups finely sliced baby bok choy
  • ½ cup shredded carrots
  • 2½ ounces sliced shiitake mushrooms
  • 1 tablespoon Chinese rice wine or dry sherry
  • ½ teaspoon toasted sesame oil
  • 1-2 medium scallions, sliced, for garnish
  • 2 tablespoons chopped peanuts (optional)

Instructions

  1. Set a large nonstick skillet or wok over medium-high heat. Add the pork and 1 tablespoon of the soy sauce and cook, using a wooden spoon to break the meat into small pieces as it browns, about 3 minutes.
  2. Add the onion, garlic, and ginger and cook stirring, until the vegetables are soft, 2 to 3 minutes.
  3. Add the cabbage, bok choy, carrots, and mushrooms. Pour in the remaining 2 tablespoons soy sauce, the rice wine, and sesame oil. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the cabbage and bok choy are wilted but still crunchy, 3 to 4 minutes. Serve hot, garnished with scallions and peanuts (if using).

http://domesticate-me.com/egg-roll-bowls/