Posted in Caregiving

The Action on the Sidelines

Welcome to Caregiver Friday!!

I’m not unlike many people around the world who have been spending their evenings in front of the television watching the Winter Olympics.  It’s amazing that we’re coming to the end of the games, but I have to say I’ve seen some amazing sites that I want to speak about at this time.

We all have seen the parents and friends of the athletes who crowd the stands wanting to wish the athlete success.  This Olympics has paid special attention to some of these family members as their loved one makes their run, takes their turn, hopes for a great game, or glides to perfection.  I’ve been intrigued by watching the faces of these family members because it’s so revealing.

There was a men’s skier whose father was shown before and after each run.  As his son went down the hill you could tell how the father was experiencing his own version of the event.  There was a time when the son was disqualified for going through a gate instead of around and they showed the father’s reaction at least three times.

This story is important because you, the caregiver/wellness partner are the loved one in the stands.  You watch and support the person you’re caring for and when things don’t go well you feel the pain deep in your soul, much like the episode of Star Trek with the empath.  So why don’t you experience the victory when the patient does well?

It’s like the Three Musketeers (I’m into similes this morning), “All for one and one for all”.  Do you live by that  motto?  I hope so because that means you have good days and possibly bad days just like the patient.  To have only the bad days throws your system off-balance and that doesn’t help you in keeping up your own physical, mental, and emotional strength. 

I hope you can take a tip from the families of the Winter Olympic athletes, and if you’re going to share the defeats that you also share the victories.

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

When It’s Out of Your Hands

The Olympics are definitely in full force and since it’s the Winter Olympics we have Mother Nature to contend with throughout the events.  At the beginning of the games the big news story was how warm it was in Vancouver, then yesterday things changed and unfortunately some athletes got caught in a bad situation.

In case you didn’t hear the fog and snow conditions were bad on the mountain.  They were running more than one athlete on the course with a one minute separation trying to expedite the process.  Unfortunately Lindsey Vonn fell, was injured and while being attended to, Julia Mancuso had begun her run at the top.  At one point a referee stopped Mancuso, and then she was given a second run from the beginning.

Why am I telling you this story?  The weather conditions were unfavorable and that’s out of our control.  The only thing we can control in that moment are our thoughts and reactions.  Obviously this was a huge disappointment for Vonn who was slated to win the event, but as you know after being diagnosed with an illness, life is unpredictable.

Julia Mancuso on the other hand was halted during her run as a result of another athletes injury.  Although given a second run there is rarely enough stamina or focus to make that run twice.  These are extreme athletes who are trained to leave it all on the mountain, track, ice, etc.  Nothing is done half-way and that takes years of training. 

Your diagnosis is like Mancuso, something goes wrong ahead of you and you get caught in the fray.  What was ahead of you was a shift within your body, the rest of you had to catch up to find out what happened.  Was Mancuso discouraged, distraught, and devastated?  Of course she was and this wasn’t a life-threatening or challenging event, this was one moment in her personal history.  For you this is a life-altering event.  This does change everything in front of you.  This isn’t one moment in time that is finished in under two minutes. 

Let’s chunk this down to the most basic components.  Life-altering doesn’t have to be bad forever.  It’ okay to be discouraged, distraught, and devastated.  Your illness doesn’t define you, just as Mancuso’s loss doesn’t define her.  There are things bigger and greater than us that at times take control of everything and anything.  There is a Chinese proverb that fits with a diagnosis and the Winter Olympics, “Fall down seven times, get up eight”.  Can you think of anything more inspiring?

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

You Too Are an Olympian

The Winter Olympics have been going for eleven days and obviously the competition is fierce.  These athletes have trained for years, if not their entire lives to try to achieve this one goal…the gold medal.  They make sacrifices by their own choice and reap the rewards of hard training.  You on the other hand were catapulted into a new arena where there is no chance to train for the desired outcome, health and healing.

It takes Olympic perseverance to achieve health and healing.  If you think of yourself as an Olympic athlete you know that it involves all aspects of your life, not just the physical.  How many athletes did you see get psyched out by their opponents?  How many athletes did you see get psyched out by the power of their own mind and allowing a crack of doubt to enter their consciousness?

So what does this mean for you following the diagnosis of a chronic or life-threatening illness?  It means that your level of determination plays a role in some level of your health and healing.  I say some level because not all illnesses can be cured so it’s about remission or diminishing symptoms or increased quality of life.  Whatever level your at that’s the level you need to play at in these heroic acts of wellness.

If you think you can go it alone and win, you’re wrong.  Your body may respond, but your emotional and spiritual self-will be isolated and alone.  This is why so many illnesses sponsor retreats for individuals with a particular diagnosis.  The one I’m most familiar with is Commonweal, in Marin County, CA.  A place for cancer patients to learn about mind-body medicine, diet and nutrition, integration of body, mind, and spirit as a treatment modality, just to name a few goals of the program.  It’s like the Olympic training center in Colorado Springs because you’re surrounded by people, information, and practices that will allow you rise to your highest level of healing.

I hope you think of yourself in Olympic proportions because it’s that type of determination that gets results.  It’s the choice, the desire, and the mission to gain as much information and self-knowledge to ensure that you stand on your own medal podium on your journey to wellness.

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

Sound Bite or Epic?

You’ve been diagnosed with a chronic or life-threatening illness and the story begins.  There are lots of ways the story can go and lots of roles that the story can play in your life so as the writer of the story you have some decisions. 

Is the story you’re telling about your illness or you in the patient role a sound bite or an epic?  Is a snippet that you want people to know as an adjunct to all the other stories or is it going to take center-stage.  Is it going to be a blip on the screen or will it be the center of every aspect of your life? This is an important distinction because it’s not only about the residue you leave upon your own physical, emotional, and spiritual self, but the impact on your relationships with family and friends.

Every watch Sex and the City?  Carrie Bradshaw (played by Sarah Jessica Parker) breaks up with her boyfriend and thus begins the epic tale of how she was wronged, he was an idiot, she was a victim, etc.  At one point her friends confront her on her behavior and she respond with something like, “I thought that’s what friends are for” (to tell the heartbreak story).  They inform her it was okay in the beginning and in Shakespeare’s terms they say, “Get thee to a shrink”. 

Your friends and family will only listen for so long, especially if they don’t see the plot changing in any significant way.  This isn’t them dismissing you, but them saying the story isn’t serving your journey to health and healing.  If you’ve always lived your life as a victim then this is one more story that corroborates that point, so don’t be surprised if your friends stop answering your phone calls and e-mails.  Do you really want to be that person or that patient?

I encourage you to tell the story because it’s healthy to express yourself in all ways, but know that there’s a difference between repetition for emphasis, and repetition because you lack the know how or desire to get on with the number one job at hand, getting well!

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

Something Out of Nothing

Is silence nothing?  What happens when we engage in silence?  What happens when we sit in silence?  Do you feel a change in your energy when you sit in silence?  Is silence tangible?  I’m asking these questions upon returning from a week-long class on consciousness.  During the week we had the opportunity to explore Bohmian Dialogue, a circle of silence but not as meditation.

There’s a difference between sitting in silence and meditating, an intentional silence where there is no discussion and Bohmian Dialogue silence where the silence is part of the consciousness and that’s the wave the participants ride.  I wondered a lot about this type of silence particularly as it pertains to those facing a chronic or life-threatening illness.  I’m intrigued at what the experience of silence does to the body in terms of healing and how that impacts or overflows to emotional and spiritual healing.

One of the important parts of this process is the ability to be silent in the presence of others.  I’ll admit I’m a talker and when I first engaged in intentional silence during my training to be a psychotherapist, I was frustrated to say the least.  Over the years I find the silence is a cauldron and my body is the liquid in the cauldron and every so often something “bubbles up” that needs to be expressed.

What might you experience during a period of silence?  Would this release anything you’ve been holding on to that causes self-limitations?  How would allowing this bubble to rise to the surface and even burst aid you in your journey to health and healing?  It’s an amazing process because you learn to become discriminating about what’s important and not important to express.  You learn the difference between a reaction and a response (more on this in weeks to come) and that’s a powerful platform for your personal healing.

No matter how you look at it, silence is something.  It can be transformational and that’s a great advantage to making something out of nothing.

Posted in Caregiving

A Personal Valentine for Caregivers

Welcome to Caregiver Friday!!

I know that holidays like Valentine’s Day may not be the most comforting for those of you who are caring for someone who is sick or injured.  I could give you the “be grateful” that the person is still alive, but I’m not.  I don’t think that cuts the mustard.  I know that it’s a time of deep sensitivity and vulnerability and that’s why I want to focus on you today and only you.

It would be great if the Valentine’s Day of the past were present, but I’ve tried to encourage you the caregiver/wellness partner to care for yourself and that’s the direction for today.  Make Valentine’s Day about you.  If you haven’t received the 5-part e-course called “The Courageous Caregiver” then go http://www.survivingstrong.com and look in the right column where it says “Caregivers”.  There’s strategies for self-care and reflection that are important.

To support you in this journey I thought the best gift I could give you for Valentine’s Day is a poem that really speaks to the love affair I hope you have with yourself because caring for yourself is at the center of this discussion…

Love after Love

 

The time will come

when, with elation,

you will greet yourself arriving

at your own door, in your own mirror,

and each will smile at the other’s welcome.

 

And say, it here.  Eat.

You will love again the stranger who was your self.

Give wine.  Give bread.  Give back your heart

to itself, to the stranger who has loved you

 

all your life, whom you ignored

for another, who knows you by heart.

Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,

 

The photographs, the desperate notes,

peel your own image from the mirror.Sit.  Feast on your life.

~Derek Walcott!

I wish you the best Valentine’s Day possible!

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

Yesterday the Owner’s Manual, Today the Pink Slip

Let’s say that you indeed have found or created an owner’s manual for your body, now what?  It’s like the difference between renting an apartment and owning a home, can you make any changes or do they have to be pre-approved by a third party?  That’s where the pink slip comes in, who has the pink slip on your life? 

You may believe that in a world overrun with rules, regulations, and obligations that ownership is beyond the realm of your consciousness, but the truth is you do own your body.  If you own your body then aren’t you responsible for your body?  Having been diagnosed with a chronic or life-threatening illness doesn’t change the rules of ownership.  If anything being diagnosed with an illness requires that you become a more involved and conscious owner.  It requires that you do everything in your power not to void the warranty on your life.

I know all this metaphor stuff can be kind of confusing, so let’s break it down into the simplest form possible.  No one but you is responsible for your life and your body.  The team you recruit to help you maximize your level of health and healing can only do their jobs if you do yours.  Are you willing to make that kind of pledge? 

So often when we’re requires to take a pledge we back away from the issue or behavior we’re trying to correct.  Yesterday on the Oprah show, Oprah busted Lisa Ling for driving with her knee so she could text while driving.  Oprah asked Ling if she would sign a pledge to not only eliminate the behavior of texting while driving, but to relinquish all cell phone behaviors in the car.  You could see the sweat forming on Lisa Ling’s brow and her immediate response was the excuse that she lives in LA and that’s the culture.  Oprah came back with, “but isn’t texting while driving illegal in California?”

Ling did agree to cease all texting while driving and did commit to using a blue tooth device if she needed to use her cell phone while driving.  That should have been a no brainer commitment and yet it was only under duress and embarrassment that she succumbed to the agreement.  So what kind of vow to improve your level of wellness have you been avoiding?  Why is it so hard for you to commit to your own well-being when you only get one chance at life?  Isn’t it in your best interest and the interest of those you love to do everything in your power to claim ownership of your body instead of giving ownership to the illness?  I wouldn’t think there would be much debate about this but I could be wrong.  What are your thoughts on this?

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

Where’s the Owner’s Manual?

You get one with your car; you even get one for your toaster, but you don’t get one for your body.   Yes, that’s right, I’m talking about an owner’s manual.  I think Drs. Roizen and Oz are trying to turn that around, but it’s something we all needed prior to becoming adults and now the New York Times Bestseller List gets all the glory.

Why an owner’s manual?  Reports in the past couple of week claim that up to 40% of cancer is preventable.  In addition, those who are tested or have predispositions for diseases like hypertension and diabetes can be taught earlier and more effectively how to cut their risks avoiding unnecessary complications.  If we were starting our lives off with the information on proper handling and maintenance of our vehicles, our bodies, then we wouldn’t be going in to the shop (the doctor/hospital) for major repairs.

When facing a chronic or life-threatening illness extra special care is required to train your body to accept health and healing.  Cells have memory and in particular they have memory of wellness.  If you had a manual that gave you the roadmap to wellness memory how fast would you get there?  Well there have been numerous studies, books, and programs created for Integrative Medicine.  Integrative medicine incorporates information, techniques, and treatments to unite body, mind, and spirit.  If you ever listen to the ads for “Cancer Centers of America”, you’ll see they take a holistic approach.  Hope is at the core of their message and that’s powerful.

What if you could begin writing your owner’s manual the day you got diagnosed?  What would be in the manual?  How often would you have regular maintenance (checkups)?  What types of fuel would you put in your vehicle?  What happens to your level of wellness if you fuel your vehicle with an overabundance of processed and fast food?

You know more about your body then you’re letting on and now it’s time to act on that knowledge.  Don’t give in to the temptation to merely keep running.  Don’t be a clunker; you have too much life to live!

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

Are You Having Relations?

Do you remember a time in history when they called sex “relations”?  A quaint word and at the time a taboo topic.  I’m not here today to talk about your sex life (although we can discuss it in the future).  I’m asking you if you’re in relationship with others.  Are you continuing your relationships with people who can support and bear witness to your journey.

If you look at the arguments made by philosophers, many believe that you can’t be a you without someone else.  It follows the argument that you can’t have light without dark or happiness without sorrow.  The only way you can be an individual is for there to be others who reflect back to you who they believe you are.

What kind of feedback are you getting from family and friends?  Do they see someone who is hell-bent on getting well or someone sitting on the pity pot?  At the end of 2009 my mother was diagnosed with diabetes.  I was  checking in with her about her mental state about the diagnosis.  She informed me that she had a pity party for the first few days but no one else came to the party so she abandoned the party as well.

Do you let people in fully or are you doing it and dribs and drabs.  Makes me think of politics and the press; they leak bits of information but no one (other than the politicians) have the entire story.  People need information in real-time to be of help and service.  This is a time to strengthen your relationships not shy away from them.

I’ve met many who join support groups and make friends with those in the group.  It’s a great idea and when you ask them why this is so they respond, “because these people understand what I’m going through”.  There’s no doubt that is true, but would you be friends with those people if you weren’t ill?  If you get healthier and more resilient and decide you don’t need the group support, don’t you still need everyday, regular kinds of support like the kind you receive from friends?

Allow your friends to do what they’ve been groomed to do in our society; support you, help you, and simply treat you the way they always have…with love, affection, and compassion.

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

Are You Convicted?

You may be wondering why I’m writing about being convicted on a site that discusses living life beyond illness, well I’ll tell you.  I am not referring to being convicted as in a court of law, but having conviction toward achieving a goal or reaching an inner destination.

It’s important when facing a chronic or life-threatening illness to be filled to the brim with conviction.  This was really punctuated for me this weekend when I watched the movie “Gandhi”.  Is it possible for one person, a small man with big ideas to change a country?  Can one man’s conviction change the lives of 350 million people?  The answer is obviously YES and it did change the lives of all Indians.

How is it that Gandhi was able to stay true to his convictions?  It’s simple, he deeply believed in the cause.  He embodied the ideas he put forth so there was separating his philosophy from his being.  He lived as he thought and felt.

Since you’re diagnosis would you say that you have developed a high degree of conviction?  What is your conviction?  Have you made a declaration for health?  Have you proclaimed your right to health and healing?  If we met, how would I know about your conviction to get well?  Is it visible or palpable?

I ask these questions because when you have conviction it is clear and stands front and center.  There is no question about your motives.  Your motives, decisions, and actions are all geared towards health and healing; you eat, breathe, think, and feel health.  Are you doing that?  What would it take for you to move in that direction?

These are the things I focus on when I work with clients newly diagnosed with a chronic or life-threatening illness.  Taking the physical, emotional, and spiritual pulse of your current health and creating a plan that moves your toward healing and improved quality of life.  It’s not easy, but nothing worth having is ever easy.  It’s your conviction that separates you from those who are simply hoping to get well and those who are actively working toward health and healing.

How do you want to live your life?  Do you want to stand in the space of focused attention and action or let things happen by chance and hope it swings in your favor?  The choice is yours…choose wisely!!!