Posted in after the diagnosis, coping with chronic illness, coping with life threatening illness, living with chronic illness, Living with Illness

When Things Fall Apart

Welcome to Caregiver Friday!

We’ve all heard the phrase “care for the caregiver”.  I guess it could become a never ending chain of care since once someone steps in to “care for the caregiver” they themselves become a caregiver.  It’s clear that when providing care for someone and making lots of decisions you have to pick your battles.  However, it’s really important that you don’t give up ground you’ve worked so hard to gain.  There is a dance of seduction that the caregiver gets drawn to because everyone around you knows that you’re a bit compromised.  It’s this compromise that can lead you into feelings of despair and hopelessness, so let’s cut it off at the pass.

Yesterday’s post focused on creating boundaries and structure for life’s messes.  Creating your own boundaries is a turf battle.  You’ve obtained certain strengths and created a certain level of calm and then someone tries to throw you off balance.  The biggest tactic those around you will use is either guilt or emotional upheaval.  We are all suckers when someone starts crying, so you have to decide if it’s genuine or a manipulation.  Once someone knows the plays in your playbook it’s easy to undercut your authority. 

Although much of these thoughts are universal; it’s a big factor if you’re caring for a child with an illness.  We all have a special spot in our hearts for children, but pushing the boundaries isn’t going to serve them and it certainly isn’t going to be in your best interests.  We do have to remember that  a child that has an ill may have siblings and these siblings may be suffering silently or not so silently if they are acting out.  The structure you can provide is the container that lets them know they are safe.  Safety for kids is a key factor in coping with difficult family decisions. 

There are no clear cut answers because every family is different.  Adults have to provide safety and security for everyone in the family, not just the person who needs care.  When people act out, whether they be kids or adults its the equivalent of speaking.  Their actions are their vocabulary and if you’re not fluent is their actions you may be missing a lot of the conversation.  The key is to set rules and get everyone speaking the same language.  If you need to bring the family to therapy do it.  There is no time to waste because the symptoms will only get worse and you, the caregiver will become so depeleted that your own physical, emotional and spiritual defenses will succumb to the pressure.

Posted in after the diagnosis, coping with chronic illness, coping with life threatening illness, living with chronic illness, Living with Illness

When No One is Watching

If you were to do an assessment of your life how accurate do you believe you would be?  Are there things you do in the privacy of your own home or in your office that you don’t share with the rest of the world?  Do you keep things secret so you won’t be judged?  These are important questions because who you are when no one is looking is important to your health and wellness.

We see lots of reality shows where contestants live together like MTV’s “The Real World, CBS’ “Big Brother” and of course “Survivor”.  Each show doesn’t allow the contestants to hide so we see all their manipulations and eccentricities.  Yes, it is a contest so maybe their actions are a bit exaggerated, but I would guess they aren’t huge abstractions.  Cheri Huber a noted author and Buddhist Priest wrote a book titled, How you do anything, is how you do everything.  If that’s the case then whether the cameras are rolling or not you are probably similar in all situations.

I have a unique opportunity this week to observe a family from the inside.  I’m spending time helping take care of members of my family as they rally around one of the kids who is in the hospital.  The view from the inside is very different from the external view.  When you see all the truth instead of what people want you to see a clarity descends upon the soul and understanding takes hold.  Once that happens the acts of compassion kick into gear and then support and loving kindness can follow, once you get over the shock of it all.

My post from earlier in the week discussed the importance of telling your providers the truth about your life and your habits.  If we were to install a hidden camera in our home what would we see that you haven’t made public?  Are you engaging in behaviors that if we showed your doctor he/she would be a bit shocked?  We all think we can get away with something when others aren’t watching.  The body is bearing witness to it all.  It will reveal the secrets of the vows your breaking.  It will expose you to the point of embarrassment when your lab tests reveal your level of non-compliance.

The amazing thing is that we think we’re invisible in this world.  The reality is that you can never hide from your own body.   You can’t engage in sabotaging behavior and not believe that it makes a difference in your journey to wellness.  I can’t tell you how many conversations I overhear at Starbucks with friends engaging in true confessions thinking that if they confess to a friend they will get absolution from their doctors.  At some point when facing a health challenge you have to look in the mirror and say “gottcha”.  You aren’t fooling anyone no matter how clever your disguise.

What are you doing when no one is watching?  What would it take to change that behavior so that you can honor and assist your body as it works toward healing?  How will you develop your highest level of transparency?

Posted in after the diagnosis, coping with chronic illness, coping with life threatening illness, living with chronic illness, Living with Illness

Magic of Meditation

How do we meditate in a world as chaotic as ours?  Maybe the real question is how can we not meditate in a world as crazy as ours.  One of the interesting things about meditation is that it’s not religion specific, in fact it’s not even religious unless you want it to be.  If you’re like me you when you meditate you do one of two things, get really antsy and so distracted by the meditation that it increases your irritation or you get so relaxed that you fall asleep (one of my greatest meditation accomplishments).

I’ve started thinking more about meditation as my family faces some difficult issues for one of my nieces who like many of us has in some fundamental ways divorced her own body.  If meditation is one avenue to getting reacquainted with the body then it’s something to search out deeper.  When facing a chronic of life-threatening illness how or when did you serve your body divorce papers?  If the goal of any treatment is reconciliation, how do you go into relationship counseling with your own body?  I’m beginning to think that the rejoining process is facilitated by meditation. 

If you’ve ever gone to The Cloisters in New York or any other Benedictine monastery they are designed in the same manner.  It’s convenient to believe that the monastery is designed for religious purposes, but maybe our humanity supersedes religion and religion merely enhances our humanity.  In the current issue of Spirituality and Health, Clair McPherson wrote an article titled “A Perfect Place to Live: the genius of Benedictine monasteries is that they can awaken us to contemplation”.  I’ve been caught by the following sentence, “Because the Benedictine-style monastic comppound is deliberately designed not to be a ‘house of prayer’ but a haven for meditation.  The monks are Western Catholic Christians, but their spirituality is non-faith-specific.  You do not even have to believe in God to meditate; the capacity is part of being human.’

Those are some big ideas in a few sentences.  It really tries to be inclusive of all as it related to our humanity and the need for unity between mind, body and spirit.  It accentuates the need for us to be human first and then individuate by our devotions or religion.  The primary goal in all is to know thyself.  Become familiar with not only the physical body you can see, but the emotional and spiritual body that is hidden by our skin.  Isn’t it time to begin going deep, below the surface and understand that there is more to us as humans than meets the eye.  Can we afford not to be reunited with our love, our bodies?

Do you meditate?  If so, what have you found to be the greatest benefits towards your own healing?  What type(s) of meditation have you found to be particularly helpful?

Posted in after the diagnosis, coping with chronic illness, coping with life threatening illness, living with chronic illness, Living with Illness

The Relationship Super Highway

Our lives are both complicated and enriched by our relationships.  They can boost us up as easily as tear us down.  I’m in Chicago for the week and on the radio on my way to the airport the DJ’s were talking about “frenemies”.  It’s hard to understand how someone can be both a friend and an enemy.  Isn’t life way too short to have to worry about constantly compromising ourselves for the sake of relationships that may not mean very much to us.  On the other hand what do you do when someone has a different understanding of your relationship and it confuses you, but doesn’t seem to confuse them?

Once upon a time I had a colleague that over time became friendly with; spending a lot of time together and eventually considering a business collaboration.  One evening I invited her to an event I was attending (we’d already been friends for six years) and following that event never heard from her again.  I did get a call from her during the election season asking me on her way to hear Obama speak if I wanted to join her.  After no relationship for a year I received an e-mail from her asking me to assist in a marketing evaluation she’s doing for her business.  So where is this leading?  After an intense friendship she abandoned the relationship and now thinks she’s banked enough good will to assist in her business…you can stop laughing now.

So where am I going with this?  When facing any type of health challenge your energy has to be reserved for those relationships that bring you joy and comfort.  The relationships you have should be the source of energy and vitality.  They should be relationships where you don’t question any part of the relationship because that just saps your energy.  Your relationships should be those things that are part of your personal infrastructure (as I discussed last week) and not a pork project.  Don’t feel that you have to be friends with someone because it looks good or you’re expected to based on your social circles. 

I’m telling this story as an example.  There was a time when I was disappointed and confused about what happened, so what’s different about now?  I am taking care of me and thinking about that relationship was a drain.  Relationships need to be two-way or they don’t work.  If a relationship is dragging you down ask why you’re still in the relationship.  I’d rather have a few very close friends than lots of acquaintances.  My relationships are my fountain of youth and healing.  They are with people who lift me up, encourage me and will tell me when I need to get back up on the horse.

If your relationships aren’t empowering you how is it helping your immune system?  If your relationships take more than energy than they produce your inner well will run dry and then you’re left dazed and confused?  How do you assess which relationships are good for you?  If some of your relationships are draining how will you detach from the negativity that comes with those interactions?  If you’re continuously let down by the relationship how is it reinforcing your plan for wellness which should include putting yourself first?

Posted in Uncategorized

The Stimulus Package

Welcome to Caregiver Friday!

All we hear on the news is about the stimulus package.  I guess that’s a good thing since every day more and more corporations are announcing layoffs leaving the American public dazed and confused.  The Congress is debating all the options looking for what each party feels is the best solution.  This week the mayors of many cities descended on Washington to bring their ideas for infrastructure projects hoping to claim some of the 900 billion dollar package.

The idea that it’s not only the country that has an infrastructure but that each one of us has an infrastructure has to be reviewed.  It shouldn’t be a surprise that each of us has a foundation that keeps our bodies, minds and spirits moving at all times.  Our relationships are living entities and they too have an infrastructure.  The infrastructure of our relationships is love, compassion, friendship, trust and probably a host of other foundation attributes.

As a caregiver/wellness partner shoring up your relationship infrastructure can be soothing, amusing, inspiring and re-affirming.  As we’re in the midst of the winter, it’s a great time for you and your loved ones (not only significant others, but family and friends) to create a pocket of warmth and nurturance.  There’s a reason that bears hibernate in caves; it’s safe, protected from the elements and there is a reassurance when you’re in a space that feels like a womb.

It’s not uncommon to allow the infrastructure of our relationships to erode over time.  Like water on a rock, after a while the responsibilities of caregiving can be tiresome so it’s important to create a preservation plan.  This isn’t about conducting a life review, but creating opportunities to fortify what constitutes your relationship infrastructure.

What are some of your personal infrastructure components?  Is there one in particular that has been taking a beating and is wearing thin?  What’s one thing you can do with the person you’re caring for to regenerate or renew your relationship infrastructure?  How might this help ease the tension or the pressure you feel as a caregiver?  I’d love to hear your personal stimulus plan and how reinforcing your relationship infrastructure plays a part in reconnecting on a more peaceful level.

Posted in after the diagnosis, coping with chronic illness, coping with life threatening illness, living with chronic illness, Living with Illness

Contract Negotiations

Do you think the word compromise has gotten a bad rap?  In an age of economic struggle all we hear about these days in Congress are the negotiations for a stimulus package and the negotiations are strained.  We read parenting magazines that discuss the struggles between parent and child over everything from cleaning their room to bedtime to eating.  Is there any place where we don’t engage in negotiations?

If you remember a couple of weeks ago I referenced Dr. Mehmet Oz when he referred to auto-immune disease as a Civil War.  During times of war if diplomacy is to work then negotiations have to be the focus.  The question is who do we negotiate with?  If you think of Elizabeth Kubler Ross’ stages of grief you know that bargaining is one of the stages.  During those times we often make a deal with God or some higher source that if we get well, in return we’ll _____(you fill in the blank).  For many whether it’s divine intervention or the stars in alignment we begin to make promises with the expectations that we’ll get something in return.

How good are we as negotiators?  I’m afraid the research shows that we’re great at negotiating but lousy at following through on the promises we make.  You would think that when it comes to our health the promises we make wouldn’t be just words but a sacred contract.  How is it that we can enter negotiations without expecting to share any of the burden?  What is it about false promises that boost our engagement but then we plummet into the ravine like the crash following a sugar rush.

Does your word mean anything?  How will you take you at your word when negotiating with your body for wellness?  What do you have to offer in the negotiations?  How will you feel when you not only successfully negotiate the terms of your healing but follow through on your end of the bargain?  Don’t you feel that you’ll be more at peace if you know that you stand by your intentions by having your actions match your decisions?  What’s one small thing you’d like to negotiation for today?  I’d love to know how you’re managing the negotiations!

Posted in after the diagnosis, coping with chronic illness, coping with life threatening illness, living with chronic illness, Living with Illness

What if there were health critics?

The beginning of the year brings lots of award shows.  So far we’ve had the “People’s Choice Awards”, “The Screen Actor’s Guild Awards”, “The Golden Globes” and this weekend we have “The Grammy Awards”.  Before any of the actors, musicians and other artists are nominated there are critics reviewing their projects.  Entertainment Weekly has critics give letter grades for films, books and music.  Every newspaper has a critic that reviews the new media hitting the market, an artistic report card that is totally subjective.

What if those facing chronic and life-threatening illnesses were in line to be reviewed…how would you fair?  This isn’t about how your body responds to treatment, but how well would you score on the things you have complete control over?  Take for example how compliant you are with your regimen?  Are you taking your pills when prescribed and in the prescribed dosage?  Are you engaging in the physical activity you and your doctor discussed following a coronary health problem?  How well have you cut the stress levels in your life?

If someone had a bird’s eye view of your life what would they write about you?  Would they write that you and conscious of your body and your health?  How would they describe your outward display of determination to get well?  What would they say about your mood; after all we know that our emotions impact our health.  How would they describe your use of available resources?  What would be the words they use to describe your relationships both personally, with friends, and medically, with your provider?

I ask you these questions because when we have the ability to take an objective look at our lives we often find small things that have a big impact.  We find small nuggets that will allow us to increase our personal health empowerment.  It gives us insight to what gets in our way and prevents us from optimal healing.  Our objectivity gives us the gift of what’s possible.  It shows us the gaps where we could try harder.  Maybe it’s not even about trying harder, but being more conscious, making each action more powerful, less of an effort and with greater results.

Consider writing a review as if you were a critic.  I know this may sound odd, but the truth is you’re already doing it in your head.  I’m simply suggesting you put it on paper and make it real.  Once it’s conscious it takes the air out of the tire decreasing your self-deprecating  inner dialogue.

What’s the biggest A-Ha you got when you wrote your review?  How were you able to take the wind out of the sails of the negative self-talk?  What will you do differently now that you have a greater level of consciousness.

Posted in after the diagnosis, coping with chronic illness, coping with life threatening illness, living with chronic illness, Living with Illness

Two Mouths…One Body

As we recover from two years of campaigning, the election of a new President, and a new administration finding its land legs we begin to focus on what’s being said.  Our goal is to decipher the information presented by the press and other outlets and the try to find the truth in that message.  Now that the new administration is in place there are daily accounts of how we, the public, were told one thing and now there are people trying to skew their actions based on what’s in their own best interest.  A great example is a person named to the administration who has been a lobbyist, but since they didn’t register as a lobbyist they don’t have to be held to the same standards.

You may be wondering why I bring this up.  The truth is that what we believe, what we say and our actions aren’t always in sync with one another.  How many of us have proclaimed our intention to get well and then begin missing doses of medication.  How many of us have been told by doctors that if we don’t change our eating habits the potential for chaos in our bodies is heightened.

We have the capacity to be righteous about getting well in the presence of the doctor and then march out the door and act counter to the words just expressed.  Can we really have it both ways?  Can we proclaim our desire for health and then do what we want?  When did we go to medical school?

We’re talking about a way of life that requires us to speak with one mouth, one voice and in sync with our one body.  (we interrupt this entry for a true confession)  I take a medication that increases my cholesterol.  I’ve had conversations with my doctor about my diet and I agree to change my eating habits, until I walk out of the office and have a pastry with my coffee.  A few weeks ago I had my last visit with my doctor since he’s moving to Arizona.  I left the office wanting to honor our relationship and that included changing my diet.  I have…I’m into my fourth week and I feel better.  I have less heartburn and my assumption is that my next blood test will be proof of my efforts.  I’m not in alignment on many levels and didn’t need a chiropractor.

How will you align your mind, body and spirit?  What one thing can you do today that will bring you closer to aligning your words with your actions?  What’s the one thing you’d like to achieve by committing to this alignment?

Posted in after the diagnosis, coping with chronic illness, coping with life threatening illness, living with chronic illness, Living with Illness

Lessons from the Superbowl

It’s hard to believe that it’s February already and even more amazing that the official football season has come to a close.   If you watched the game you know how the last few minutes of the game had everyone on the edge of their seats.  If you didn’t watch the game you’re hearing it on the news, around the water-cooler and probably on the front page of many newspapers.  Fortunately, the story from yesterday goes deeper than four quarters and is something that anyone facing a challenge, especially those facing a health challenge should study like a playbook.

I’m referring to both quarterbacks that played in yesterday’s game.  Ben Roethlisberger, the quarterback for the Pittsburgh Steelers was in a horrific motorcycle accident a few years ago.  With the help of outstanding medical care and a team of providers helping him rehabilitate his body he has bounced back to win Superbowl XLIII.  Kurt Warner, at the age of 37 (fairly old for a football player) has played in the NFL then left and played arena football and returned to the Cardinals in 2005 bringing his team to the Superbowl for the first time in franchise history.

What do both men have in common and the lesson they want to share with us?  Both men had a vision of what they wanted their life to be.  Both men have overcome obstacles and kept their eye on the prize both literally and figuratively.  Both exceptional quarterbacks developed their internal resources into amazing comebacks and those efforts not only helped them fulfill their dreams, but spilled over to every person they meet.

How will you create your own playbook for overcoming your health challenge?  Yesterday during one of the huddles the mentioned that the quarterback had over 200 plays on a band around their wrist…that’s a lot of resources.  How many plays can you develop to improve your health or your quality of life?  Do you need anyone to help you create those plays?  Who do you have on the sidelines helping you determine which play would be best given the current circumstances.

Determination and resourcefulness are key ingredients to a successful playbook.  Finding actions that punctuate both qualities will reduce your stress level and allow you to utilize your precious resources on executing the plays leading to your own touchdown!