Posted in coping with chronic illness, coping with life threatening illness, In the Know

Dealing with Uncertainty

When we go to the doctor with a problem our assumption is that they will be able to figure out what’s wrong and fix it.  Personally, I think that’s a lot of pressure to put on the medical community.  Remember they call it the “practice” of medicine, not the “perfection” of medicine.  I say this because over the past couple of weeks I’m hearing from more people that the doctor’s they’re seeing aren’t sure what’s wrong.

In addition, maybe it’s the body that’s fooling the medical community.  Yesterday I got a call from someone who had a biopsy that was inconclusive.  We might want to ask how’s that possible, but it means that the body isn’t giving up its mystery.  The hope is that further tests, or whatever the next steps are for diagnosis will be pursued because treatment can’t begin without a diagnosis and it helps if the diagnosis is accurate.

Many of us facing a life-altering health issue are living in a black and white world.  Because it’s our health at stake we can’t stay in the gray and that’s frustrating.  I’ve talked to many people over the years who felt the diagnostic process was more unbearable than the ultimate diagnosis.  It’s the inherent knowledge that something is wrong but not knowing exactly what, keeping us on pins and needles that makes you pull your hair out (fortunately I don’t have any hair).

I guess what I’m saying is that when dealing with uncertainty stay in the realm of asking questions.  When you stay in the space of the question you’ll help smoke out the real issues helping end the guessing game and landing firmly on your feet.

Posted in after the diagnosis, coping with chronic illness, coping with life threatening illness, Emotional Health, Having a Voice, Personal Conviction

Mind-Body Connection…DUH!

The news agencies reported on a study that was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, linking Diabetes and Depression.  The study looked at over 6,000 individuals.  What did they find?  The found that those suffering from type 2 diabetes were more prone to depression, and lo and behold those with depression were more prone to getting diabetes.

I say it’s not a surprise because we’ve been discussing the mind/body connection for years.  This type of study is a message to everyone facing some type of health crisis to get treatment, good treatment, and find a way to make peace with the illness.  It’s the struggles that are associated to living life with an illness that creates these secondary conditions.

No one wants to have to tackle more than one health crisis at a time.  If you are facing a life-altering diagnosis consider ways to live life beyond illness.  For tips you might consider information on the website http://www.survivingstrong.com.  Don’t suffer, learn to life live beyond the illness.  Find ways to assimilate the illness into your being so you have it and it doesn’t have you.

The longer we live the greater the chances of facing some type of illness.  Let’s keep it to a minimum by understanding that the mind/body connection is real.  Let’s not give illness the opportunity to co-opt our quality of life.  Let’s take the illness and put it in its place, figuratively and literally.  Let’s make the case for greater support services that serve as an adjunct to medical treatment.  Let’s tell our providers that our mental health is as important as our physical health and vise versa, and create a comprehensive treatment plan.  Put the odds in your favor and keep the mind/body connection in the foreground and you’ll make healthier choices.

Posted in coping with life threatening illness, creativity and health, living with chronic illness, Self-Nurture

Home as the Mirror to the Soul

When I was training to be a psychotherapist I studied a lot of Jungian philosophy.  I was particularly intrigued by the symbolism used in both our conscious and unconscious lives.  I began looking for ways that the symbols would appear outside the realm of my dreams and I began to notice that signs and symbols did show up.  One of the therapists I worked with then told me about an article or book she’d seen called the “Home as the mirror of the mind”.

I think it’s more than just a mirror to the mind, but a mirror to the soul.  The author discussed how if your house is cluttered then the odds are good that you mind is cluttered and so on.  This gets into the idea of using your home as a barometer for the life your living.  It means we have to pay attention to our surroundings because they can leave us clues to what our next leg of the journey may be.

Our homes are the collage of our lives.  And even though a collage may be unrelated items brought together, they wind up creating a cohesive whole.  It’s important to create places of comfort when tackling the challenge of a life-altering health diagnosis.  We become more sensitive to our surroundings and comfort becomes paramount.

This is also the time to take the good china out of the cabinet and begin using it.  Who are you saving it for?  You’re the most important person on the planet, why shouldn’t you eat your meals in divine fashion?  Create the order you want in your home and your life, but keep your needs in the foreground and make it a place you want to spend time, rejuvenate your soul and recharge your battery.

Posted in coping with chronic illness, coping with life threatening illness

Expectations

Expectations can lead us into dangerous territory.  It creates a reality that some of us never get to realize.  Unfortunately, every health challenge is unexpected.  Even those that have some genetic predisposition are surprised by the diagnosis.

The diagnosis shatters the myth of health.  Most of us feel we’re entitled to or thought we were guaranteed good health as part of our contract of living on this earth.  Is it possible to not have any expectations?  I think it’s possible to expect the highest quality of life we’re capable of achieving at any given time.

Maybe we have to begin declaring our expectations closer to the bone.  No as a lifetime expectation, but with the tools and resources you have, how do you create the best possible day?  It’s like when you go to cooking websites that help you make the most from the ingredients you have on hand.  The difference is that you are the one who has to come up with the recipe for your life.

Don’t live according to expectations because it’s like building a house of cards…undoubtedly it falls.

Posted in after the diagnosis, coping with chronic illness, coping with life threatening illness, Emotional Health, Integrity, living with chronic illness

Believe In What You Believe

The media, the clergy, our families and friends all want to tell us what we should believe about our health.  If I were to recount all the journal articles, discussions with doctors and other health personnel, lectures and the books I read I’d never make a decision based on my own values.  When we live and act according to our beliefs our stress level goes down.  We’re able to make better decisions because it’s a more natural process.

I was listening to Colorado Public Radio and they were discussing a new book about Governor Carr.  The comment that caught my attention was that he wasn’t very well liked.  He supported the Japanese Americans during WWII.  That made him very unpopular.  It cost him a US Senate election.  The commentator noted that he’s the kind of politician we’re looking for today.  A person who doesn’t put his finger in the air to decide which way the wind is blowing in order to make a decision.  At least the people in the state knew what they were getting.

My hope for you is that you have a solid foundation in what you believe.  This is one of the reasons that advanced directives for healthcare are so important.  It allows you to make decisions based on your beliefs even if you’re unable to, that’s a blessing.  It gives you the opportunity to remain in control of your life.  One word of caution…when selecting someone to be your healthcare proxy make sure they believe the same things you do and will truly honor your wishes.

Beliefs are powerful.  Living according to our beliefs creates soul stamina because it builds inner strength.  When others challenge your beliefs take them on and stand up for yourself.  I’d love to hear how you stand to defend your beliefs…let me know and we can continue the conversation.

Posted in Personal Conviction, Spirituality and Health

Reconciliation

One way that many of us choose to make sense out of this crazy world is to follow a spiritual path.  It can take many forms and can be formal or informal, but it gives us a sense of peace and a groundedness that keeps us centered.  What happens when we receive a life-altering health diagnosis?  Are we sophisticated enough, mature enough, or evolved enough to rely on our spiritual practice to ease our transition to a new life?  Have we cultivated the resources to aid us on our journey to wellness?

I’ve been giving a lot of thought to how we create a spiritual bond when facing adversity.  I read lots of stories from people who ask God the big question…Why?  I know I don’t have an answer and no matter how many accounts I read that classify the diagnosis as a gift, does it really reconcile the feelings of betrayal by the body or our shattered assumptions about health?

The biggest piece of the puzzle is removing blame from the equation.  Blaming God, the environment or ourselves doesn’t serve us and doesn’t promote healing.  It promotes stagnation and that’s never a good thing.  I’m wondering how you reintroduce yourself to your spiritual practice following the diagnosis.  It’s like beginning to date again after a divorce, it takes some time to get back in the game, but reconciliation like forgiveness is healing.

Having the capacity to reignite spiritual bonds serves as a cushion for the journey to wellness.  How have you reconciled your faith with your illness?  I’d love to hear.

Posted in Emotional Health, Having a Voice

Don’t Sleepwalk Through Life

How many people have you met over the course of your life who simply go through the motions?  Maybe you were one prior to hearing the doctor say, “I’m sorry to tell you but…”.  If those words didn’t set off life’s alarm clock I’m not sure anything will, but let’s give it a try.

One of my favorite books that I encourage my clients to read (for a complete list go to www.survivingstrong.com), is Andy Andrews book “The Traveler’s Gift”.  It’s an easy read and can be picked up whenever it’s convenient.  The lessons are not reliant upon one another so take it at your own pace.  I recently visited my family and decided to give the book to my dad to make sure in life he’s not hitting the snooze button.

The following week I met up with my father and he began discussing the book, without prompting.  The lesson that caught his attention was from the chapter where the main character meets Anne Frank.  The lesson he learned from her is “Today I will choose to be happy”.  That’s a pretty big statement for a 14 year old girl who is hiding from death but ultimately can’t outrun the horror of the Nazis.

When we make conscious choices we are not sleepwalking, we’re not even dozing.  It’s during those times of the day when we make conscious choices that we feel alive.  The decisions aren’t always easy, but each one is a notch on your belt of life’s accomplishments.  You can choose to live in a dream world but unless you’re attune to the subconscious messages of your dreams, it’s only fantasy.

Turn up the volume on life’s alarm clock.  Remove the snooze button and take action.  Even if it’s the smallest thing, what will you do choose happiness today?  Let me know and share it with the world.