For those who live with chronic illness it is sometimes difficult to accomplish daily activities such as cooking, cleaning etc. With Psoriatic Arthritis and Fibromyalgia, my body cannot take too many events in the same day. One technique that can be used is Pacing. For me this means limiting the number of deeds done in a day. For instance, if I know I am going on an outing with my husband I will cook the day before so I don’t have to cook after the outing.
This has lead me to the idea of the Take 10 Plan. If one breaks down activities into 10 minute increments it makes one more productive. Instead of cleaning the whole house in one day I concentrate on a room per day. I will take 10 minutes to clean the bathroom sinks then go back later and take 10 minutes or so to clean the shower, etc. By splitting up the tasks it helps prevent my body from getting worn out while still getting chores done. I apply this to washing clothes as well. I put in a smaller load of laundry so it takes less time to fold the load. This means I have to wash more loads but it lessens the movement I need to do at one time. This allows me to rest in between creating more rest time but still allowing productivity. I think this technique is an excellent way to get things done without sacrificing health.
What can you do in 10 minutes?
I recently learned about the 100 Day Project which is officially April 3 – July 12. This is a community project shared on Instagram annually. The idea is the participant chooses an activity or habit one would like to work on 10 minutes a day for 100 days. Initially the challenge was to complete a work of art each day then post pictures of the products on Instagram as proof of completion.
There are a few areas I would like to work on myself. I like the creative aspect and would love to do the challenge creating greeting cards. I would break it down to completing one card every five days. This would generate 20 cards by the end of the challenge. The second area I would like to concentrate on is exercise. I have been trying for quite some time to get on a regular exercise schedule. My idea would be to do 10 minutes of exercise three times per day. Maybe if I dared to do it for 100 days I would actually make it a habit! Lastly, I would like to have a daily bible reading practice. I will confess, I do not read the bible every day. Each January my church starts a yearly bible reading schedule. I have tried to do it but usually I only make it to the end of January then I get so behind I can’t catch up!
I think it would be difficult to take on all three challenges at the same time. I have heard when one is trying to make changes it should be done one at a time. Therefore today, April 8th, I will begin 100 days of bible study which will conclude July 17th. I will use a program I found on-line as my guide. I will need to account for my studies so I purchased a journal to record the verses I am reading each day and maybe give myself a “happy face” sticker for each day I complete.
Well, here we are finishing the first quarter of 2018. Things are so good so far.
Sorry I have slacked off on blog posting this year. Speaking of the blog, today is my four year Blogiversary and last month was my 100th blog post. I can’t believe I have maintained this task for so long! Usually I will start a hobby and after a month or so I pass on to something else. I think though the blog is more than a hobby, it is therapy to me. Initially I thought this blog was going to be about the more medical aspect of my illnesses but it has become more about the emotional part of dealing with chronic illness. It has helped me explore my true feelings about my life and helped me embrace my challenges.
Some people may wonder why I want to share the somewhat intimate details of my health issues with everyone on the Internet. I think it is important to share one’s experiences with others because being open with ones’ struggles can help others going through similar situations. It creates a support system to engage the people with the issues to take action regarding their condition. In addition, I think sharing with others educates the public on how issues affect inflicted individuals. This is not to gain pity but to gain understanding of the difficulties others face and encourages people to help each another. God created man and women to create a community. Though community we can support each other to overcome any adversity.
In a recent blog post, Maintaining Sanity after Psychosis, I shared about my Depression with Psychosis. I was afraid I was about to break down again. Since then, I have focused on staying engaged in activities so I started taking Yoga classes. By keeping myself involved in activities I have gotten past my feelings of a breakdown. The last couple of weeks I was sick and then I was out of town so I missed a few Yoga classes. I actually felt sad about not going. This week I am back to my schedule and I can’t wait for the session tomorrow!
I have discovered that writing these quarterly updates keeps me more focused on my goals. It allows me to see my progress. For quite a while my goal has been to incorporate regular exercise in my daily activities. I am looking forward to next quarter as I move towards attaining that goal.
I recently read the blog post “How to Have a Healthy Relationship with your Body, Even with Chronic Illness” written by Sheryl Chan of The Chronic Voice (https://www.achronicvoice.com/2018/02/05/healthy-relationship-body-chronic-illness/). Sheryl explored the idea that the relationship we have with our bodies echoes the relationship we have with other people. This gave me a new perspective on my journey of maintaining a balanced life with chronic illnesses.
As I recall from a Human Development class I took in college, the components of a healthy relationship are: trust, open communication, intimacy, commitment, and respect. These factors can be applied to how the conscious mind works with the physical body.
- Trust – This is a difficult element for one with Chronic Illness. For example, in a normal body when one eats carbohydrates the pancreas secretes insulin to off-set the increase in blood sugar to keep the blood sugar stable. In my case with Diabetes, my body does not secrete insulin. I need to inject insulin in my body so my blood sugar will stay stable. Therefore, my body is dependent on me to supply its needs. My body needs to trust I will give it what it needs and I need to trust myself to provide it. Taking all of my medicines regularly will ensure my body functions to the optimum level.
- Open communication – With Psoriatic Arthritis I need to pace my activities in order to prevent a flair up of pain. If I am not doing well when I wake in the morning I need to limit my activities for the remainder of the day in order to decrease the pain level. To add another example in regards to Diabetes, when I don’t eat my blood sugar goes down. If it goes too far down I can pass out. It is important for me to eat to maintain normal blood sugar. This means it is crucial for me to listen when my body sends me warnings.
- Intimacy – Wow! I definitely am intimate with my body. I know every part of my body and what causes me pain. I can identify when new ailments occur which helps in preventing complications of my illnesses in the future.
- Commitment – I need to be committed to giving my body the proper nutrients and limit sugar and carbohydrates to keep it functioning well. In addition it is important I keep moving my body (exercise) in order to prevent further deterioration of my joints due to Arthritis. Furthermore, I need to be committed to taking my medications regularly to prevent further difficulties in the future such as taking my antidepressants to avoid a Depression episode.
- Respect – This ties into communication, listening to the signals my body is giving me. I understand that my body can no longer function in the same way it did before I developed the chronic illnesses. I need to respect my body’s boundaries.
This new outlook has opened my eyes to how much mind does control matter. I am much more aware and in tune to how my behavior affects my overall health. I feel this will make a significant difference in how I approach taking care of my 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.
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.