Posted in Caregiving

C-A-R-E-G-I-V-E-R Part 6

Welcome to Caregiver Friday!!

We’re passed the mid-way point on our exploration of caregiving.  I hope that as you read about this qualities or characteristics, you’re able to take the information in and see if you identify with it.  The amazing thing is that you may have already thought about these aspects of your personality or character, but seeing them in the open and connecting to it is something completely different.  You’re giving yourself the gift of compassion.  The ability to accept praise, honor, and value for who you are both as a person and as a caregiver.  Today we’ll explore a more internal facet of caregiving.

I is for Intuitive

As I’ve met with caregivers over the years the one thing that arises time-after-time is your experience of utilizing your intuition.  You may not even be aware you’re using your intuition, but as you, caregivers, share your stories, your level of intuition is heightened.  There’s a saying, “How do you get to Carnegie Hall?  Practice…Practice…Practice”.  I believe that’s why caregivers have a heightened utilization of your intuition; it’s because you tap into it more often and pay attention once you tap into that source.

Using your intuition may have been subtle at the beginning.  It may have started off as something visceral like a knot in your stomach, or a queasy feeling.  After a while I’m guessing when the physical manifestation emerged you were better able to connect it to something emotional or spiritual about yourself and the person you’re acting as caregiver. 

You begin/began to pick up thoughts based on tone of someone’s voice or their movements that alerted you to whether someone was safe or not, the person you are caring for is hiding something that they should be sharing, or a sense of something looming or pending.  The longer you serve as a caregiver the more in touch you become with these inklings.  Others may dismiss them but this intuitive nature is what can save the life of the person you love.  It’s a gift that when used can make caring for someone with a chronic or life-threatening illness less fearful.

When I talk about intuition I’m not discussing telekinetic ideas.  I’m exploring the internal GPS that gets alerted with frequent updates about what’s going in the life of you and the patient.  It’s another level of information you can use to help the patient make more informed decisions.  It’s possible that some may call it a vibe, think of the cat in the nursing home who would lie on the bed of the person who was going to die.  Aside from the fact that I wouldn’t want that cat on my bed; the cat had an intuition…a sense of what was ahead.

Your intuition can also serve to instill sanity in your role as caregiver.  It can help you determine what things need immediate attention and which you can set aside for a time so you can take better care of yourself. 

I hope you utilize this gift of intuition.  If you have stories about when or how intuition has shown up in your life as a caregiver I’d love to hear from you.

Posted in art and healing, creativity and health

A Moment in Time

Welcome to Art and Healing Thursday!!! ( I know it’s supposed to be Wednesday, but life gets in the way)

Do you ever wish you could capture a moment in time.  The essence of a second where the world seemed right, wonderous, or even mystical?  They say that when you lose one of your senses, the other senses become heightened.  I believe that when you are diagnosed with a chronic or other life-altering illness you become more sensitive on the physical, emotional, and spiritual arenas of your life.  There is a new-found consciousness that emerges, and yes you can ignore it, but it won’t go away.

One of the art forms that I believe is great for capturing those moments is photography.  I’m not talking about becoming a professional photographer, but using the camera to document those moments in your life that leave lasting impressions.  There are different types of pictures we take, those that are casual and bring back memories like the snapshots we take on vacation so years down the road we can remember the fun and company of others.  Obviously there are the more formal pictures like a portrait; perhaps something you might use on a Christmas/Holiday card.  Then there are those pictures that capture a feeling or a thought. 

There is a park near my apartment in San Antonio where I like to sit and think.  I’ve taken to bringing my camera because the park is full of deer.  The other day I saw a buck that looked like it’s horns were growing.  He was majestic.  His stride was long and graceful and he didn’t show any fear.  Watching him and the other deer as they passed by made me think of a time of innocence.  A time when the world seemed simpler, without worries, and certainly without a health challenge.

Cameras have become inexpensive over the years and digital technology helps you take a good picture.  Again, we’re not trying to become a photographer for National Geographic, but capturing the essence of your soul whether it be through pictures of people, places, or things.  We attach meaning to our images and what better way to do that than through photographs. 

I’d love to see some of the photographs you take that represents states of mind or physical, emotional, or spiritual meaning for you.  You can send them to  Look forward to seeing your images.  If you would allow me to show the image on the blog please say so in your email and an identifier (if you so desire) to put with the photo.  Thanks for sharing!

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

If Esther Tuttle Said It…It Must Be True

One of the things I love about technology is the ability to read newspapers from other parts of the country.  I enjoy the writing at the New York Times,, and find lots of interesting tidbits that peak my curiosity.  When I was looking at the health section I came across this story about a woman, Esther Tuttle, who will be celebrating her 100th birthday next summer.  If you look at longevity rates over the past 100 years you’ll see how we’re living long, and unfortunately for many that means seeing an increase in the number of chronic or other life-altering illnesses.

The article was written by Jane E. Brody, and it looked at the factors that Ms. Tuttle believed to boost her years of healthy living.  It really came down to the 3R’s…Resolution, Resourcefulness, and Resilience.  Let me tell you why I find these three qualities great if you’re not sick, but even more important if you’re facing a health challenge.

Resolution is a state of mind.  It’s a decision and as I’ve said in the past, “Your decisions dictate your actions”.  In this case, Ms. Tuttle resolved to live a long, healthy, and active life.  In order to do that she eats a modest diet, still gets plenty of exercise, and is connected socially to friends and a large family including a great-great grandchild.  It’s a decision, a conscious decision, to take actions that will fortify your life.  If you’re facing a chronic or other illness, making a resolution that you’ll get better (remember we don’t all get well) is paramount and will guide your actions to make that happen. 

Resourcefulness is vitally important.  Knowing what’s available to you means you have options.  The hope is that prior to getting ill you were banking your extra good thoughts, engaging in self-questioning to see what you’re really made of, and got enough rest and good nutrition in case you even needed to withdraw from your personal accounts.  Resourcefulness can also mean knowing who in your community can link you with people, programs, or events that will promote wellness.  Perhaps you have a Rabbi, Priest, Imam, or other spiritual director who can provide you with resources to nourish your spiritual life.  Your doctor’s office or local hospital may have resources about community nonprofits that serve those with your particular diagnosis (i.e. I was the program director at The Wellness Community, providing support and programs for cancer patients and their families).  Many illnesses have a nonprofit that can offer assistance and knows the resources that meet your necessary criteria.

Last but not least is resilience.  I’ve done work with trauma victims for years.  At one point we were all hellbent on talking about healing.  Then there was a shift.  The talk went from healing the trauma to becoming resilient.  Being resilient means developing the capacity to bounce back when faced with a challenge.  Think of Weebles…”Weebles wobble but they don’t fall down”, that’s resilience.  Going through treatment may feel like taking one step back in order to take two steps forward…that’s resilience.  Resilience includes an essence of flexibility, perseverance, and faith.

Esther Tuttle didn’t fight a health challenge, but the 3-R’s she lives by are applicable to your life and your health challenge.  They are good qualities to develop as you move forward on your journey to wellness.

Posted in after the diagnosis, Emotional Health, living with chronic illness, Uncategorized

How Extensive is Your Vocabulary?

I remember when I was in grammar school getting a list of vocabulary words on a weekly basis.  We’d have to write each word ten times and then write a sentence using that word.  I guess they believed what Mr. Sacca told me in my education class in college, “Repetition for Emphasis”.  Memorization and utilization were the way to learn these words so that one day we could go take the SAT and do well on the verbal part of the exam.  However, those exercises taught us general vocabulary.  We’re a culture that doesn’t utilize a lot of emotional words so I’m wondering how extensive is your emotional vocabulary?

When I had a private psychotherapy practice I saw a lot of children.  I had one of those posters that had 50 faces with a “feeling” listed beneath the face.  Over time you could engage the child by utilizing one of the “feeling” words so we could both understand the true nature of their emotional life.  Broadening their emotional vocabulary was a lifesaver.  Many of the children in my practice were in foster homes as a result of placements by Children’s Protective Services.  Giving these children the capacity to express themselves emotionally opened their world to healing.

So what happened to those of us who didn’t get these lessons as children?  How do we come to develop our emotional vocabulary?  What prompts us to want or need to learn how to express ourselves emotionally.  I’ll venture a guess that the day you were diagnosed with an illness is the day you wish you had a host of ways to express yourself emotionally.  When you’re flood with feelings, not having the capacity to get them out is like getting the wind knocked out of you.  Your body, mind, and spirit search for the words, but for many there is nothing available.

I believe this is one of the gifts of support groups or workshops for those facing a health challenge.  Being with others who can expose you to an emotional vocabulary and model their experience is inspiring and daunting.  It gives you a sense of possibility to hit the nail on the head about your emotional life since your diagnosis.  It relieves the pressure that builds up from keeping the struggle (if any) with your diagnosis inside.  Having the capacity to express yourself emotionally is freeing.

The other advantage to establishing an emotional vocabulary is its impact on your physical health.  Releasing the body of difficult emotions lightens the load.  The body can direct its attention to building the immune system instead of trying to ward off the stress of stoicism.  It replenishes your internal resources and you can never have too much in reserve.

How will you build your emotional vocabulary?  Let us know so we can share your creative ideas!

Posted in Caregiving

C-A-R-E-G-I-V-E-R Part 5

Welcome to Caregiver Friday!!

It’s hard to believe that we’re at the mid-point of the C-A-R-E-G-I-V-E-R series.  Gestalt therapy says that we are more than the sum of our parts.  I’m hoping that you will take what will be the 9 parts of the series and synthesize them into a greater whole.  In addition to the 9 part I’ll talk about I hope you find many more aspects of your life as a caregiver that will go far beyond my wildest dreams.  I wanted to do this 9 part series so that you, the caregiver, can acknowledge and validate your experience.  I want you to consciously identify these parts of yourself that make you extraordinary.  Caregiving is serious, but it can incorporate humor (think of gallows humor), creativity, and will broaden your emotional and spiritual horizons.  Today’s entry is a no-brainer

G is for Generous

Can you think of any group of people more generous than you?  Caregivers take on this role and don’t ask on the conscious level for anything in return.  I’m sure like the patient you’re quietly (or not so quietly) asking and hoping for health and healing.  You’re not asking for a new television, computer, or a trip to the Bahamas.  You step into this role without knowing all the parameters from the start and with the steep learning curve you ascend to new heights.

You’re generous with your time.  Time is a precious commodity, so anything or anyone that diminishes the amount of “me” time comes at a price.  I want you to remember that since time is a commodity it has value, don’t sell yourself short.  Stephen Covey in “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People”, discusses the idea that we need to make deposits into the bank.  I look at it as the mind, body, spirit bank because deposit is need to be made in each of your accounts.  You do this so that one day if you need more than you have in the moment, you have resources to pull from until a time when you can replenish your resources naturally.

Generosity of time and spirit can only work if you have enough to give.  That’s why on planes they say if you’re traveling with a child or someone who needs assistance, put your oxygen mask on first; then assist those who need your help.  They are punctuating the point that you have to be at your best to be able to help others.

Generosity of time and spirit also means being generous with yourself.  I have a friend from college and we’d be out somewhere looking at something that may have been a bit extravagant.  Jokingly we’d turn to each other and with a hearty chuckle would simultaneously say, “Treat Yourself”.  Now I’m not saying put yourself in the poorhouse.  I am saying that to treat yourself is not a sin.  This isn’t about rewarding yourself for your caregiver role.  This is about honoring you, the person, who gives tirelessly and is often self-sacrificing (I’ll save that for another day).  Treating yourself, or being generous with yourself can be as simple as getting a book, finding a sunny spot in your favorite place and turning the world off for a period of time.

Generosity of time and spirit is compassion.  It’s the ability to hold a space of safety for the person you’re caring for as they journey through their health challenge.  Providing that safe container allows the patient the ability to explore new avenues for health and healing knowing they have someone by their side, walking along side them.

I hope you’ll celebrate your generous spirit because without caregivers we’d be in big trouble.  I guess what I’m saying is THANK YOU for your generous spirit.

Posted in art and healing, creativity and health

If Michael Kors Said It…It Must Be True

Welcome to Art and Healing Wednesday (Plus 1 day…it really is Thursday)!!!

If you’ve been following the blog for a while you’ll know that there are certain reality shows that catch my attention.  I particularly drawn to those that have an artistic bent like “Works of Art”, “Top Chef” and all its incarnations, and of course “Project Runway”.  Every so often Project Runway replicates a challenge because it really allowed the designers to showcase their talents and bring their voice forth to the world.  The challenge I’m talking about is the one where they designers, utilizing the HP TouchSmart Computer, create their own fabric and then showcase that fabric n the design.

As is customary the designers were asked about the fabric they created.  Mondo Guerra, one of the most if not the most creative on the show, created a fabric and told the judges it had a story.  Nina Garcia, probably prompted by the producer,she said, “I’d really like to know the story”.  Then with a deep breath he explains that the design is plus signs and that he’s been HIV+ for the past 10 years.  Graciously and the most caring I’ve ever seen Nina Garcia, she thanked him for telling the story.

When the judges were discussing the designs Michael Kors turned to the other judges and said, “You have to work with the difficulties (his HIV+ status).  The difficulties won’t stop him; they’ll propel him.”  That was it, the nugget we were all meant to get and it came from all people, Michael Kors.  See creative people like Michael Kors and you understand that the challenge is in telling your story authentically and creatively.  It’s about utilizing the events in your life to express yourself fully and with utmost clarity.

When I heard Michael Kors talk about how this challenge (Mondo’s health challenge) would propel him, I began thinking about all of you with your own gifts and talents.  I started imagining you reading this post, listening to the pearls of wisdom from Michael Kors, and sending me ( pictures of your creative expression.  Don’t ever think it has to be museum quality.  Your creative expression simply has to come from the heart.  It needs to tell your story and believe it or not your story will resonate with many others.

I’m continually inspired by your creative expressions on coping with a chronic or other life-altering illness.  I hope you’ll continue to share your stories through creative expression!!

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

What I Know For Sure

I’m continuously inspired by the stories I’m honored to bear witness to regarding how you’re living your life with a chronic or other life-altering illness.  I’ve heard countless stories of courage, perseverance, and faith.  What I realized this morning is that I’ve spent my entire career working in arenas where community is key.  I’ve worked in drug and alcohol outpatient social model programs.  I’ve worked at The Wellness Community where the word “community” is the optimal word.  Community is how we get through the ups and downs of living with a chronic or other life-altering illness.

I remember one of the questions that Oprah Winfrey used to ask her guests was, “What do you know for sure?”  This morning it really hit me.  I know for sure that we can’t live in isolation.  The diagnosis of a health challenge often inflicts the feeling of isolation upon us because we believe the struggle is ours and ours alone.  I’m a firm believer in support groups because they get us out of the idea of being “terminally unique”.  The notion that we are going through this ordeal and no one has ever done this before.  Support groups break through that myth and put you in the midst or in some cases a sea of others facing the same challenge(s).

We’re social creatures.  We thrive in community.  So think of this…if we thrive in community and we focus on thrive don’t you think your body, your cells, will thrive in community?  The mind, body, spirit connection is strong so building one part of the triad up helps build the others.  Support and nurturance give your body the physical, emotional, and spiritual nutrients it needs to thrive.  Having others who you can rely on and who rely upon you makes you feel nurtured and needed.  You belong to something larger than yourself. 

I believe in community so much and obviously so do many others because entire movements have been established to create community.  Think of the Susan G. Komen Foundation.  Their “Race for the Cure” and the Avon Breast Cancer Walk gets thousands of people together in one place, engaging in one activity, for a common cause.  It’s why walk-a-thons have become so popular for fundraising by nonprofits serving those with a chronic or life-threatening illness…it builds community.

I hope you find your community, your tribe.  I believe it will reduce stress, help you make better decisions about your health, and keep you connected to others.  I’m prescribing lots of connection on your journey to wellness.

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

Do You Have a Nightlight?

One of the things that parents often do for children is provide them with a nightlight in case they get up in the middle of the night.  It’s that tiny glimmer of light that allows us to navigate in the dark.  I have one in my bedroom because my dogs sleep on the floor on my side of the bed.  The last thing I want is to step on them if I get up in the middle of the night (did it once…not fun).  I actually think the dogs like it too because they can also navigate to re-position themselves to a more comfortable spot.

Fast forward to your current life where following your diagnosis of a chronic or other life-altering illness you may have been thrown into a dark place.  It may not only feel dark physically, but emotionally and spiritually as well.  It’s important when newly diagnosed to find that little bit of light that will guide you on your journey to health and healing.  The nightlight can be those little bits of information, words of comfort, or specks of inspiration that give you something to focus on and guides you to safety.

Think about airplanes.  When flight attendants go through their safety demonstration they talk about ways to safety if the power goes out and it’s dark.  They tell you that red lights lead to green (or it’s the other way around) and that change in color marks an exit.  It provides you enough guidance that in case of an emergency you can find safety.  It’s important to find safety on the mind, body, and spirit levels because they work together in harmony to promote wellness.

Let’s face it; the dark is a scary place.  It allows us to conjure up all kinds of stories with doomsday endings.  Creating a point that serves as a nightlight is to provide you with hope and a sense of possibility.  It helps to give you direction when you may feel lost in the dark.  The nightlight is a person, place, or thing (no we’re not playing 20 questions) that catches your attention and draws you to it as a beacon. 

What do you use as a nightlight?  I’m hoping you’ll share your experiences so we can all be each others nightlight!

Posted in Caregiving

C-A-R-E-G-I-V-E-R Part 4

Welcome to Caregiver Friday!!

We’ve been exploring the roles and characteristics of caregivers.  Did you realize how diverse and complex you are as a caregiver?  It’s like peeling back the layers of an onion.  Caregiving often reveals parts of yourself you never knew existed or you knew were there but haven’t been conscious for some time.  Bringing these characteristics to the foreground allows you to acknowledge, validate, and celebrate your gifts, talents, and attributes.  It’s often unfortunate that many don’t realize these gifts until someone becomes ill and you step into the caregiver role; but you’re doing it now and that’s what counts.

E is for Egoless

We live in a world that if often focused on the individual.  We’re socialized to look out for number one and do whatever it takes to come out on top.  I took a training once where someone got up and said, “You know what EGO stands for?  It stands for Edging God Out”.  I took that to heart and have carefully considered when my ego was getting in the way of making good decisions and proper judgments on any and all situations.  It’s difficult to do and takes a lot of practice, but it’s possible.

Caregiving seems to allow you to abandon the ego because caregiving, unless you’re a martyr, isn’t about you.  It’s not about looking good to others.  It’s not about being the best, the brightest, or the most successful.  Caregiving is a heartfelt and heart driven experience.  Unless you’re a professional caregiver (and some are driven strictly by the heart) you’re devotion and commitment to the caregiving process is egoless.  You, as a caregiver, are committed to helping, assisting, and partnering with someone who is ill or injured because you have a relationships and it’s part of the moral contract.  It’s a heart contract.

I know it’s difficult to abandon the ego while caregiving, but you shouldn’t think about it as abandoning.  Actually, I hope your ego is expanding within your own heart and soul.  As you have new experiences it will serve as a catalyst and stir up emotions, thoughts, and ideas in your mind and your soul.  I hope you take these opportunities to expand who you are as a person allowing the caregiving experience to be a springboard for your own personal expansion.

I’d love to hear about how of if you experience egolessness and the impact it has on your caregiving experience.

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

Thoughts on the Journey

I have to applaud writers of any kind because often bring forth ideas that are held by the collective consciousness.  It’s the feelings or ideas we all have but often don’t say out loud and then we hear them in a song of a movie and feel validated, intrigued, or simply free.  I felt that way when I was watching a movie titled, “To Save a Life”.  The story is about the impact of teen suicide on a young man struggling with the normal challenges of being a teenager.  What I didn’t realize at the time was that it was a Christian film, but if you could remove pigeonholing the film for those ideologies you’ll see the themes and messages are universal.

Toward the end of the film the youth minister (I think it was him) say, “Life’s a journey, not to a destination, but to a transformation”; that was a pause the movie moment.  When I heard that line I immediately thought about those of us diagnosed with a chronic or other life-altering illness, because if it’s only about the destination you’ll miss so many opportunities along the way to experience health and healing.

You may be asking if it’s really possible to experience transformation after the diagnosis of an illness and of course the answer is YES.  Transformation may be on other levels aside from the physical.  It may include emotional, spiritual, social, and even financial transformations.  I wrote a post a few weeks ago speaking about the difference between getting better and getting well.  So if getting well isn’t an option based on the diagnosis and getting better is the goal; then how will you experience transformation? 

It’s possible that you develop new levels of compassion and understanding.  You may become a better listener to your family and friends.  You may break out of our shell and become a bit more adventurous.   If you think about Tim McGraw’s song, “Live like you were dying”, you’d understand the types of transformation I’m discussing.  I encourage you to listen to that song because it discusses his own transformation after his father famous baseball play Tug McGraw died of a brain tumor. 

Thing about what your transformation might entail and what steps you’d like to take to make sure they materialize.  It’s a process, not a one time event.  Our lives are forever transforming; that’s what we call growth.