A LOVE LETTER TO MY BROKEN BODY

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.

With love,

Your Conscious Mind

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MAINTAINING SANITY AFTER PSYCHOSIS

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:

  1. 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.
  1. 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)
  1. 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.
  1. 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.

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 five 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.