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

Why Are We So Caught Up in Reality TV?

I have to admit that when it comes to television; I’m hooked on reality shows related to singing and dancing.  I’ve been watching NBC’s The Voice, and they are down to the final four.  These four are competing for a record contract, and of course, fame.  What I like about this show is that they don’t have an age limit, so it’s really about the talent, not the teenybopper vote.

I’ve heard Anderson Cooper confess that he’s a reality television junkie.  I guess when you cover tragedy all over the globe; reality television is a break from reality.  So why do we need to escape from reality?

Those of you who have been diagnosed with a chronic or life-threatening illness know how hard life can be since the diagnosis.  It makes you wonder how much more real can you get than living your life filled with doctors appointments, lab tests, and trips to the pharmacy.  Being in your body is as real as it gets, so why don’t you have your own reality television show?

It’s interesting how illness can be a storyline on a television show, but not the focus of the show.  Obviously there have been illness specific movies or theater productions focusing on illness such as WIT or The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, but no network or cable show focusing on the reality of real life illness.

I’m grateful when actors such as Michael J. Fox are guests on talk shows because he discusses the reality of living with illness.  He gives an unfiltered account of his life with Parkinson’s disease, and how he prepares himself when he has to go to work.  That’s as real as it gets!

Everyone in life has some type of struggle, but illness poses unique challenges.  It impacts not only you but also your family.  It can physically separate you from others, more out of fear and ignorance than from malicious intent.  You’re often misunderstood because throughout the day your life may revolve around other things than going to the grocery store and picking up the kids from soccer.  It’s multifaceted and often feels like a tightrope act.

When you’re watching reality television, please give yourself credit for living a life that is more real and more important than any program on television.  Become the success you are striving for and that will prevent you from being voted off the island!

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

Lessons from Bella

I have two dogs and both have had their fair share of medical issues.  I’ve talked much more about my black lab Tashi who has suffered with recurrent infections due to MRSA.  I’ve learned a lot about facing illness and creating a new normal from her.  This past weekend my other dog, Bella, visited the vet because of a cyst in her ear.

As it turns out, Bella has a hematoma in her ear.  It was drained and a cortisone injection to reduce the swelling was administered.

During the examination the doctor noticed Bella required dental work with the probability that a tooth would need to be pulled.  If that weren’t enough, she has a cyst in the middle of her head that we decided is she’s going to be under anesthesia should probably be removed.

Bella was sent home with a bandage covering her ear.  Unfortunately, she kept trying to remove it so we had to get one of those big radar dishes for her head.  The poor thing was bumping into walls, tripping over things, and was generally a bit disoriented.

This morning I took Bella to the bet for her procedure.  She was very good in the exam room, probably because she was scared.  She began to shiver.  Her anxiety was evident and trying to console her did little good.  The vet was very good with her and he too tried to console her.  So why am I talking about a 10-1/2 year old dog?  Because dogs don’t understand their pain, the medical procedures they endure, or adjusting to medical devices for their own protection.

On the other hand, as humans we also don’t understand pain, medical procedures, or medical devices that become part of our every day lives.  Too many of us try and make sense of our illnesses, but is that even possible?

When we enter the medical arena we often try and hide our fear and anxiety, but it still always comes through.  Because illness is so disorienting how do we try and alleviate the panic?  It’s important to have people in your life that will help you disperse the anxious energy.  Talking, engaging in creative activities, finding a spiritual director, illness coach, or psychotherapist helps with those anxious moments.

What would happen if you really experienced the anxiety so you could disperse it into the universe?  We expend so much energy trying to hide it or suppress it that we are continually exhausted physically, emotionally, and spiritually.  I had a clinical supervisor who said, “You can’t get out of something if you’re never in it”.  It’s like dancing around the mouth of the volcano…sometimes you have to jump in so you can know what you’re getting out of, experientially.

My dogs are my examples for coping with illness.  They seem fearless, truly a projection.  They provide me with insights into the illness experience that I wouldn’t have made conscious any other way.  It is because of that, that I am eternally grateful and I make sure any way I can be of service to them I will.