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

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!

 

 

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!

 

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#

2019 PHRASE FOR THE YEAR – STAY MINDFUL

Hi, I am back again!  Yeah, I missed posting anything in this blog in January so sticking to a blogging schedule has already fizzled.  Just after the new year, I had the Shingles virus, then I was scheduled for cataract surgery on both eyes, two weeks apart.  This has caused some disruption to my blogging plans as my vision has been impaired.  Anyways, here is a delayed post on my phrase for 2019.

As I stated in my last post, 2018 YEAR-END WRAP-UP WITH CHRONIC ILLNESS, I talked about joining the Weight Watchers (now called WW) group at my place of employment.  I have been in the program about four months.  I have lost approximately fifteen pounds and have gone down one clothing size!  I am excited!  The one thing that I believe has helped me the most is the WW App.  I am allocated 23 points of food each day.  Points are assessed by number of calories, number of carbohydrates, and amount of fat per serving.  The WW App allows me to enter the food I am eating and gives me the point value for each food.  This makes me more mindful about what is in the food I am eating therefore helps me make better choices and it is working!  Well, maybe I need to be more mindful in all aspects of my life.

Last year my word, or phrase, for the year was LIVE WITH INTENTION. According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, intention means “a determination to act a certain way” whereas mindfulness means “a state of awareness“.  As I shared in my post from December, my plan of intention did not go as well as expected for 2018.  So maybe that’s where my issue lies?  In order to be determined to act a certain way I must first be aware of what I am intending to do.  Hence, my phrase for the year, “STAY MINDFUL”.

mindful

2018 YEAR-END WRAP-UP WITH CHRONIC ILLNESS

accuracy afternoon alarm clock analogue
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Happy New Year!, almost anyways.  Here we are on December 31, 2018.  I am not sure what to say about this year.  There have been some good moments but not as productive as I hoped.

It started out strong with my word for the year “Intention”.  Back in February I wrote a letter to my body making amends to it, A LOVE LETTER TO MY BROKEN BODY.  This got me motivated to change how I care for my body and started going to Yoga classes.  Then I began the 100 day project, THE 100 DAY PROJECT – BIBLE STUDY, but I was unsuccessful at completing it.  Soon after that I stopped going to Yoga, wasn’t taking medicine as I should and went into a slump.  I did read a couple of books, one gave me insight into my teenage years.  I discovered I have had an Anxiety and Depression disorder even back then!, see my post from August, “TURTLES ALL THE WAY DOWN” –REVISITING MY MENTAL ILLNESS.  Since then I have been trying to climb out of my slump.

In September, I joined a Weight Watchers group that’s sponsored by my employer.  It has helped me to see that I wasn’t really eating how I should be eating enough though I thought I was a healthy eater.  I have learned portion control and now eat more fruits and vegetables and less carbohydrates. This has significantly improved my blood sugar and my Diabetes is in good control.  I have also lost about 14 pounds!  I even when down one clothing size so I got to go shopping, yeah!  I have rejoined the group for another three months so we will see if I can loose more and maintain it.  Also I need to start going to Yoga again.  Ok, so things are looking better again, meh.

Last week in the hustle and bustle of Christmas, I was forgetting things and my husband pointed out that it was because I had not been taking my meds like I should.  This made me realize I can’t stop taking them.  It doesn’t matter how much I think I am okay without them, I still do not function at 100%.  I only function at about 75% at best.  Again, we are back to the main issue of my slump.  TAKE THE MEDICATION!  I know, I have started taking them again and I promise to be better in 2019.

My slump has contributed me not posting on this blog as regularly as I have in the past.  Today, I looked at my blog stats for this year.  I noticed even during times when I did not post, people were still seeing and reading my blogs.  I was unsure if people actually read my posts but my blog is looked at even when I don’t post.  Even if it is only a few people, it is worth continuing this blog.  I plan to post more regularly in the new year.  Let’s see if I can stick to a plan!

Wishing everyone a safe, happy and prosperous New Year!

blur bokeh bright burnt

 

Photo by john paul tyrone fernandez on Pexels.com

JUST FOR FUN

Recently I cleaned out the closet in my guest room/craft room.  I discovered I had too much scrapbook paper, stamps, and blank greeting cards.  I decided I needed to use these materials instead of letting them take up space so made some cards just for fun.  Maybe if I make make enough of these I can sell them on-line!

Staying creative keeps me engaged in life which helps keeps away Depression.  This is an activity I can do anytime.  In addition to engaging my mind it also relaxes me.

Cards

2ND QUARTER UPDATE- MY GIANT MUST FALL

Okay so I know this is a little late, but here is my 2nd Quarter Update.  Since the end of May I have been in kind of a slump.  It started with a nice vacation to the beach, a wonderful week off from work.  When life returned to normal I couldn’t get motivated to do anything.  It rained for about the next two weeks and my joints were hurting bad.  I didn’t want to write, go to Yoga and I abandoned my 100 day project.  I didn’t have energy for any activities which I feel I should be doing almost daily.  After a few weeks I decided I needed to snap out of the slump.  I picked up a book I had purchased back in December and started to read.  It is called “Goliath Must Fall, Winning the Battle Against Your Giants” by Louie Gigilo.

The book discusses how we need to focus on Jesus in order to win the battle over the giants of fear, rejection, addition, anger and comfort.  Comfort.  Well that battle sounds familiar.  Is that what I have been experiencing recently?  It is much easier to just sit and watch TV every night after work that it is to be productive by writing in my blog, reading the Bible or exercising.  It is understandable that during the times I have flair ups of my illnesses that I would stop certain activities to conserve energy.  The problem is not being able to go back to these activities when the flair up passes.  That is where I am right now.  But, if I stay in this place of comfort I am not following the purpose God wants me to fulfill.  By not taking care of my body, I am not allowing myself to function properly.  If my body is not functioning properly, I am not motivated to write in my blog which helps others.  I also am not studying God’s word to share with others or praying for others needs.  In order to help others I need to care for myself first; therefore, I need to step out of comfort and be aligned with God.

An idea I came up with was to make a vision board.  The board will display all the goals I have for caring for myself which in turn allows me to help others.  By having a visual tool, I will be reminded constantly of the key concepts I wish to accomplish.  Hopefully the motivation to actually do the activities will follow.  What tools do you use to motivate yourself?

Here are some photos of my vision board:

Board

board2     board3

 

board4