Posted in art and healing, creativity and health

Committing to Memory

Welcome to Art and Healing Wednesday!!

Remember when we were in school and we had to memorize dates, poetry, not to mention facts and figures?  Memorization is such a part of our education system and the big question is, “How much of that can you actually remember?”  Memorization is great for short-term usage, but it takes more than that to integrate something into your soul.

Poetry is the most likely thing that many of us think about when we think about memorization.  However, there’s a difference between memorization and committing to memory.  When we commit something to memory it means something to us.  It holds an emotional attachment to our soul.  It sparks our inner being in a way that can’t be accessed any other way.

When facing a chronic or life-threatening illness holding on to thoughts, intentions, words of inspiration can pull you through some difficult times.  I’m not one to learn poetry, but songs stick with me like a fly on flypaper.  That’s how I choose to utilize my memory (If they would have put all my studies to music I would have been a much better student).  For me, songs can convey a meaning, an emotion, or a modern-day twist on prayer.

I also commit to memory important quotes.  I find them to be impactful and most importantly short.  They can capture a goal or vision and it’s something I can reference easily.  One of the ways I commit things to memory is by reciting them over and over.  Other times I write the quote a few times and it seems to become a like a tattoo on my soul.  These nuggets of inspiration can be used to pull me out of a funk, activate positive emotions, or guide me when I feel lost.

Committing to memory is about incorporating inspiration into your healing ritual.  It requires that you connect with thoughts, ideas, words, pictures, anything at all that leaves a lasting impact and that you can pull up in your internal tickle file.  Having these memory nuggets handy can be that shining light we all need when facing a health challenge.

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

If Michael Phelps Said It, It Must be True!

We all remember the tremendous performance of Michael Phelps in the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing.  Every time you turned on the television or listened to the news we were hearing about another medal won by Phelps.  It was a momentous Olympics for the United States and certainly for Phelps.  Of course the big question is will he compete in the 2012 Olympics in London?  As far as anyone can tell he’s competing with the hopes of making the team in two years.

So what’s happening with his competitions of late?  According to news sources, Michael Phelps hasn’t shown to be the golden boy he did two years ago.  Lots of things change and we’re only at the start of the ramp up toward London, but what’s he thinking?  Then the out of the mouths of babes, or smart writing on the part of the journalists, it’s reported that Phelps feels he needs to, “rededicate himself to his training if he wants to regain his best form.”

That’s a powerful concept coming from someone so talented, athletic, and I’m assuming disciplined.  He’s making a vow to himself, and now the public that he needs to rededicate himself to achieve his goal.  Where does this come in to play for someone like you who has been diagnosed with a chronic or life-threatening illness?  It means there are times when we may get a bit lax in our attention to our well-being on all fronts, physically, emotionally, and spiritually.

If things are going well maybe we get a bit complacent, not to the point of sabotaging ourselves, but taking enough liberties where we’re not exuding optimal wellness.  Would you like an example?  I know individuals who are taking medications and are told by their doctor they shouldn’t drink.  Once they begin feeling better maybe they have an occasional drink without necessarily understanding all the possible consequences.  True, it’s a personal decision, but what would happen if this individual rededicated themselves to their wellness…would it make a difference?

I guess what I’m wondering is if we become loose with our health and healing intentions do we put ourselves at risk down-the-road?  How can you maximize your level of health and healing and how would you rededicate yourself to that mission?  I don’t know anyone who is faced with a health challenge who is super-vigilant in their health and healing regimen.  I know people who meditate every day who take a day off every so often and it’s not a bad thing until it becomes likely not to meditate than to meditate.  That’s when they need to rededicate themselves to their health and healing.

There are lots of ways to rededicate oneself.  The main thing to consider is how will you make this proclamation?  Who will you tell, just like the quote in the article about Michael Phelps recommitting himself to his training.  Don’t you think people will be keeping a closer eye on his actions to see if he keeps his word?  It’s a credibility issue and a health issue when facing a health challenge.

What would you like to proclaim?  Share it with us so that we can all rededicate ourselves together!!

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

Who Holds Your Magnificence?

I was at a lecture last night and one of the points the speaker presented was that when things get rough it’s important to have others who remember your magnificence.  I’m sure you thinking that you would be the most likely candidate to remember your magnificence, but since your diagnosis you may have been a bit distracted.  When you engage in treatment it’s easy to become overwrought with anxiety, sadness, or depression.  You may be dealing with anger or frustration, possibly even a lack of faith, so it’s easy to understand why your inner light may not be shining bright.

Having a team of supporters who not only support you physically, but emotionally and spiritually is important to your health and healing.  One of the great things about including people in your life is that they hold the memory of your relationship and that could be a real anchor to sanity, comfort, and love.  We automatically think that only those with a diagnosis that impairs memory requires someone outside of ourselves to hold the memory of our magnificence.  We’re not talking about remembering like when someone dies and you reminisce.  We’re talking about someone whose heart you have carved your name and they can reflect back to you how important you are not only to them, but the impact you’ve made on the world.

Why is this important?  It’s important because when overcome with tough emotional experiences or experiencing a gap in faith you may forget the past subtle nuances of your life.  It’s not a lack of memory; it’s about prioritizing your emotional and intellectual capacities to create a laser beam focus for wellness.  In addition, when you’re not feeling your best, it’s not incomprehensible to think that you may underrate your contributions to those in your life.  You may not feel you have anything to offer while you’re distracted, nor does anyone expect you to be the great entertainer.  Those around you want you to maximize your health and healing capabilities so that you can resume the most important thing in the world; your relationships and your magnificence in those relationships.

Posted in Caregiving

Once Upon a Time

Welcome to Caregiver Friday!!

We all remember those four famous words that start every fairytale from our childhood.  We remember the magic and wonder those stories provided and if you were like me you read the stories over and over again.  As we got older we were introduced to books and autobiographies in particular.  These stories told of famous people who made huge strides to overcome adversity in their own lives and the story showed us how we might accomplish the same thing.

As researchers study storytelling (yes, people study storytelling) they found that there is a subset of autobiography called a pathography.  A pathography is a story someone tells about their own illness.   Famous people are writing them all the time about the diseases they’re battling.  These stories bring attention to the illness in hopes of reaching out to those who feel isolated, but also to try and raise money for research and services.  Some of the famous pathographies are written by Michael J. Fox, Montel Williams, Suzanne Somers, Paul Monette, and Lance Armstrong just to name a few.

So what’s missing in the pathography category?  You guessed it; the story of the caregiver.  In over twenty years of serving those facing a chronic or life-threatening illness and their caregivers I’ve only seen a handful of stories written by the caregiver.  Unfortunately, many of them are written after the person they were caring for has died.  Where are all the stories about what it’s like caring for someone on a 24/7 basis.  Isn’t it time that we hear the flip side of the patient’s story so that we get a more complete picture of what’s happening in the arena of health and healing?

You may not believe that your story is worth a book; but I assure you your story is worth telling.  It’s why I believe support groups are so important because the story gets told.  Your voice about your experience becomes part of the collective consciousness and that huge.  So how will your story be told?  Maybe it’s not through a book; video is making big advancements and you can get a personal video recorder for just over $100.  It would be like making your own documentary…that’s powerful.

Start telling your story so that the world knows the illness experience from the caregiver perspective.  You’ll be doing yourself a favor not to mention how it will help those who follow you on this journey.

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

Doing or Thinking About Doing

Ever get a challenge that you question its intent or the benefit?  There’s a lot of that going around and it’s a difficult dilemma to take on because it can really screw up your day.  Being diagnosed with a chronic or life-threatening illness is enough to screw up your day so why add to the pressure.  There’s something very important about how you take on your health challenge and how you outline your trip on your journey to wellness.

The truth is that “I did” beats “I will” any day of the week.  Oddly enough that quote came from a cigarette advertisement and it boggles my mind how they came up with something so inspirational and challenging.  What’s on your list of things to accomplish to achieve greater wellness?  How are you shifting from the idea of healing to actually take actions to achieve healing.  Health and healing is not an abstract concept.  We can measure health and healing on the physical and emotional levels.  We have anecdotal information about spiritual health and healing so action trumps the idea of acting.

You have a lot of choices when facing a health challenge.  You can think about your illness theoretically and keep all the health and healing secrets in your head with the hope that it will translate into action.  On the other hand, you can take what you know and believe about your beliefs related to health and healing and find ways to make them into real actions so that you can experience the power of the mind-body connection.

Think about telling someone you know and love about your hopes and dreams for health; what are they hoping to hear?  They’re hoping that you are taking your diagnosis seriously, and more importantly that you’re doing everything possible to achieve wellness.  It means they are waiting to hear about your ideas and how they’ve been translated into actions.  The “I will” concept makes you less than credible.  After a while people think you’re a future tripper but don’t carry through on your plans.  Your health and healing journey becomes lip service and in the long run you won’t achieve the level of health and healing you deserve.

Think about what you’d like to tackle and by this time next week be able to say “I Did” instead of everyone sitting around waiting for you to say “I Will”.

Posted in art and healing, creativity and health

Choreographing Your Life

Welcome to Art and Healing Wednesday!!

There are few reality shows that I enjoy and watch but So You Think You Can Dance is one that gets my attention.  They changed the show a bit this year so each contestant is dancing with an all-star from previous seasons.  When it comes time for the judging to take place, only the dancer in the competition is judged.  As a result of this change; they took half the number of contestants from past seasons.  So what does dancing and choreography have to do with health and healing…lots!

The idea that a choreographer can take a piece of music and interpret it in the body is amazing.  I have friends who are dancers and their movement is not only beautiful but it speaks volumes.  So how would a choreographer choreograph your story?  You may not believe you have a story worth telling but believe me you’re wrong.  Your story is vitally important to your own journey to wellness.  In addition, your voice is what makes you unique and this life is all about you being unique.

I believe moving the body is important.  I’m not much into exercise, but when I hear the beat of music my feet become possessed and my hips and arms start swinging because I’m interacting with my muse and my inspiration.  One of the amazing parts of my graduate education was the university’s commitment to starting the day with Body Prayer.  It was a sacred way to get the body moving so it could interact with the mind and spirit during our lecture and art classes during the day.

They changed the format, much to my dismay, but I knew that my body had to move to get the juices flowing in order to be at my intellectual peak during the day.  I would get up early each morning, take my iPod down the lane, put on some tunes and bop around the parking lot.  It gave me time to allow the body to slowly awake to the day and allow the vibration in my surroundings to become experiential.

You don’t have to be auditioning for Alvin Ailey or Twyla Tharp to know that movement awakens the spirit.  When your body is motivated it activates your immune system because it too needs to be awakened.  There’s nothing worse than a sleepy immune system, so begin considering how choreographing your life would invoke the creative energy you need and deserve for health and healing.  When you’ve answered that question get out in the middle of a field and get jiggy with it!!!!!

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

BP-The Oil Spill and Health

We’ve been inundated with news from the Gulf since the rig exploded in April.  It is certainly one of the greatest disasters since the turn of the twenty-first century and the impact will be felt for years.  The original estimates were that the impact would last ten years.  Personally, I believe we’re looking at a twenty year minimum (I’m not a scientist, just a realist).  This is one of those times when I strongly urge you to watch the show, Life Without People, on the History Channel.  It talks about when man gets out-of-the-way; nature can resume its regularly scheduled programming.

My goal today is to reference this biohazard with the illness you may be facing.  I receive lots of studies and alerts about the impact of the oil seeping into the gulf, and it made me think about the “blob effect”.  Like the movie, The Blob, the stuff oozes and grows, much like many of you may be experiencing with your own illness.  Where is all this headed?  Once the event happens, in your case the diagnosis; it may be feel as if there are no options.  Even if you’re getting good medical care, it may not seem like enough.

What I’ve been amazed at while watching the news and reading the online dialogues are the numerous inventions, theories, and opportunities to stop the spill and begin the clean-up that we’re ignoring.  We don’t think the “average Joe” can solve the world’s greatest disaster, but sometimes it’s the easiest fix that changes the world.  In your own life this requires that you have a council of health and healing supporters that continuously brainstorm ideas for wellness.  They don’t have to be doctors or scientists because approaching healing with a beginner’s mind may be in your best interest.

Don’t follow the model used by those cleaning up the gulf.  Be creative.  Be ridiculous in your assumptions.  Be questioning.  Be yourself.  You’d be surprised at how the most innocent of comments or ideas can help pave the road to health and healing.

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

Back on Track

We are definitely creatures of habit.  Habit gets a bad rap, especially when the habit isn’t good for us physically, emotionally, or spiritually, but they do make life predictable.  Unfortunately, when facing a chronic or life-threatening illness predictability goes out the window and your actions have to count toward health and healing.  Here’s the dilemma.  We all have those moments when something we do routinely gets derailed and getting back on track can be challenge in and of itself.

I’m back from a week away (I was at school) and got out of my daily routine.  I’m back, and as I got ready to sit down at the computer it felt odd, almost uncomfortable because my pattern had been broken.  It doesn’t take long to get derailed.  I was only gone 8 days and I still blogged while away, but the momentum I usually have is different.  It’s feeling a bit more forced this morning.

Why is this important?  Because if your treatment regimen calls for a certain routine and it gets disrupted how will we heal?  One example is for those in cardiac rehab, exercising daily and eating healthy would be important routines for wellness.  Go on a trip where there is no gym, and you’re left to your own devices like the bed that wants you to sleep a bit longer.  If you’re lucky enough to have someone cooking for you then that’s one burden you don’t have face.  The retreat center was extremely accommodating.  They served up various incarnations of the meals depending on individual’s dietary restrictions…but that’s not always the case.

It would be fabulous to believe that our health would be the motivation to get back on track upon our return, but that’s idealistic.  There is a re-entry phase that we all go through and the question is how to regain the focus and concentration before the break.

A key component is to remember, first and foremost, why you’re engaged in the habit or practice.  Getting in touch with your desire for health and healing is a strong catalyst for getting back on track.  Understanding that you may need a couple of days to turn up the volume means you’re being compassionate with yourself and that goes a long way in health and healing.  If you need external motivation, just remember the doctor is going to be asking you to do lab work and have an exam where you may have to confess your transgressions, so getting on track alleviates that stress.

We all know how important our health and healing habits are, but life is what it is…unpredictable and ever-changing.  I’d love to hear how you get back on track.  Let us all know so we can all continue the journey to wellness.

Posted in Caregiving

Everyone Needs a Major Advisor

Welcome to Caregiver Friday!!

I can’t tell you how many people I’ve talked to over the years who try to navigate their role as a caregiver/wellness partner by themselves.  It’s incredible to think that the patient has you, the medical team, organizations that support research, and who do you have?  I’m currently in school working toward my PhD.  As of today I finished my classes,  made my dissertation proposal, and selected a dissertation advisor, not bad for a day’s work.

When I was selecting my dissertation advisor I needed someone who already had a doctorate.  What I needed was someone who would be as interested in my topic as I am since they’d be hearing a lot about the subject.  I found someone who is enthusiastic about my thesis, is connected to a whole host of potential resources, and is caring and compassionate.  What’s all this have to do with being a caregiver?

How many times have you wished you had someone who you could use as a  sounding board without fear of judgment?  What do you do when you’re grappling with difficult decisions and everyone around you has a vested interest in the outcome or is emotionally attached to the outcome?  Who do you have that will allow you to be vulnerable and will walk you through the best of times and the worst of times?

This is the role of the major advisor in the academic setting, but it’s important in the world of caregiving as well.  Having the capacity to connect with someone you know can and will hold the pain, can be objective when it comes to decisions, and has lots of resources; that’s the person you need by your side.  I’ve been working with caregivers for over twenty years and I can tell you that I believe many caregivers would lead healthier lives if they had a “major advisor”.  I believe the relationships with you and the person you’re caring for would be better if you had a “major advisor”.  I’m not talking about seeing a therapist because you’re not trying to heal from something.  Save that time and energy should the person you’re caring for die and you are experiencing the grief of the death (yes I know that grief comes with illness, but we’re talking about everyday life situations). 

One of the sanest things you can do is to find someone who can be your “major advisor”.  Make sure you connect with this person, you feel heard, and they’re actually available to speak with you in between appointments.  Know that taking care of yourself in this manner is one of the greatest gifts you can give yourself as well as the patient.

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

A Most Shocking Decision

There are times when I read a story and am reminded of sitting in support group meetings listening to the stories of those facing a life-threatening illness.  The decision that catches the most people off-guard is when someone in the group announces that they aren’t going to take treatment for their illness.  The roar in the room is amazing and the buzz is disconcerting.  Everyone in the group challenges the individual about going for treatment, but there is one thing we always need to remember…Not taking treatment is a choice.  We live in a universe where free will still presides and if someone doesn’t want treatment; they don’t have to take treatment.

The story I read was in a book about those with illness who write books about having an illness.  The individual was diagnosed with bladder cancer and after hearing the treatment options decides to pass.  His decision is based on two factors: he didn’t get truthful information from the doctor about the prognosis of the treatment, and his desire was to be as present throughout his illness and confront the illness on his own terms.  At the end this also meant his refusal of pain medication because he felt that it left him out of touch and his goal was to be present till the end.

Why is refusing treatment so shocking?  We’re inclined to believe that life is precious and everyone wants to extend their life no matter the conditions.  The reality is that there are many people who place quality of life over quantity of life; so extending their life through treatment that will diminish their capacity and leave the me somewhat disabled isn’t really an option.  Choice is tricky.  We seem to believe that we have a group-think when it comes to longevity; that’s not true.  Our decisions about life and death are as unique as the number of people in the world.

We shouldn’t be judging those who don’t choose to engage in a treatment regimen simply because it doesn’t align with our world view.  We need to honor these people for their bravery in having a conviction and sticking to it.   It may not be your cup of tea, and that’s why you get to make a different choice.