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

Are We Stuck in Our Ways?

Yesterday I flew from Colorado to California to conduct some interviews for school.  The only difference is that instead of flying into San Francisco, I flew into Oakland.  You would think that wouldn’t make much of a difference, except it was different from my usual and I made silly decisions based on that “usual”.

I was driving in the car from the airport when I realized I was driving in the wrong direction.  If I continued in the direction I was going, I’d probably drive about 15 miles more than necessary and to top it all off, I’d be sitting in traffic too.  It took me a second to realize that the most prudent action was to turn around and go the other way, but why had I been so resistant?

We all like to do things a certain way.  Our lives are based on patterns whether you recognize them or not and when we don’t follow those patterns we feel a bit off.  So you can imagine what happens following the diagnosis of a chronic or life-threatening illness, all the patterns change.

How we did things changes for many of us because our routines change, our bodies sometimes change, and our emotional and spiritual lives often change.  When we try to apply our “usual” life patterns to our “new normal” we get confused, frustrated and resentful.

You would think that developing new patterns would be a no-brainer, but it’s complicated.  When develop these new patterns it means we’re making adjustments to our lives we never thought we’d have to make, leaving us a bit lost at times.  It requires us to be open to possibility because we may have a learning curve about how we’re going to live our lives from this day forward.

Our routines change, and as you read from my driving experience above, we rely on routines.  They provide comfort and allow us to live life on autopilot.   We have to create new routines and that means we have to be conscious (at least for a time).

We know this shift in our routines is possible because science has shown us it’s true.  When individuals suffer a stroke, it’s not unusual for the brain to create new neural pathways to restore functions.  If the brain can do it, don’t you think you can do it?

Where are you stuck?  What do you keep doing over and over that creates angst in your life?  Recognize it and make the shift, you’ll feel better!

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

Everyone Loves a Party!

We’ve just come off the July 4th weekend and if your neighborhood was anything like mine it was filled with lots of barbeques, fun, and of course fireworks.  About a week before the big day I received an invitation to a 4th of July party across the street.  It was a no brainer so I RSVP’d a big fat YES and had a great time.  Then I began to think about all the invitations we get in the mail for weddings, holiday parties, and a host of other celebratory engagements and each time an RSVP is requested.  So my question for you is, “Are you waiting to be invited to your own life?”

Fortunately, once you’re born there is no invitation to your own life.  You either live your life or you don’t; that decision is yours and yours alone.  Following the diagnosis of a chronic or life-threatening illness I know many people who sat around waiting for an invitation back into their life and unfortunately, they’re still waiting. 

What does this mean for you?  It means that you have to stay engaged and not only in the medical side of your life but all sides of your life.  It means staying connected even when you’re not at your best.  You don’t have to go out and be with people, but simple things like e-mails to people keeps them and you engaged in the relationship you’ve developed over time.  People want to be informed and this is one way to do it. 

Last week I read Jill Bolte Taylor’s, My Stroke of Insight, a brilliant pathography about her experience with a brain hemorrhage and the years it took for health and healing.  She shares about her mother putting all the cards she received all around her apartment so Taylor knew the magnitude of her reach and the love that was coming her way.  She punctuated the point that the people who were closest to her were there for her, not to make themselves feel better by showing up to see the “sick” person.  If you haven’t read this book, whether or not you’ve had a stroke, I encourage you to learnt he lessons Taylor learned over the course of her recovery.

She didn’t wait to be invited back to her life; she fought with every ounce of energy to regain what she lost.  She had the help of others who knew her potential and understood what health and healing meant and required.  If she had waited for the universe to invite her back to her own life she wouldn’t be walking, talking, or possibly even living today.  She knew deep in her heart that she was the host, the party giver, the person making the plans and she planned for recovery.

If you didn’t wait for an invitation to your own life what would you be doing today of your impetus?  How will your life change if you always RSVP YES to your own life?  How would others know this is the case?  I’d love to know what you’re thinking because if I can be of any assistance; I’d love to be invited to your party!!!

Posted in art and healing, creativity and health

Do We Have to Have a Stroke to Become Creative?

Welcome to Art and Healing Wednesday…

I found an article in the New York Daily News that talks about Tommy McHugh, a sixty year old handyman and street fighter who had a massive brain hemorrhage.  Upon emerging from his coma, McHugh got this creative streak.  This creative streak had led him to begin transforming everything he can into works of art.  It seems the hemorrhage unleashed his creativity. 

McHugh not only pains, but writes poetry, sculpts and carves.  So what happened?  Neuroscientists are thinking that the changes in his temporal lobe unleashed this streak of creativity.  It’s giving these scientists some clues into where creativity resides in the brain.  The real news, for me, is that McHugh has embraced his artistic side and lives in it like a pig in mud.  It’s an opportunity for him to express his deepest emotions following the hemorrhage.  This new view of life is not only prettier, but it is freeing.  There’s a new purpose in his life and it gets expressed through his art.

Why is this important?  It’s clear that one of the ways we unleash ourselves from the shackles of a health challenge is ultimate self-expression.  It doesn’t matter the form of the creative expression, but the feelings and experiences need to be expressed.  Sharing your story with the world is empowering, uplifting, and promotes wellness.  It provides the body with positive feedback reducing stress and allowing the body to devote its resources to health and healing.

The other aspect of art as a healing force is that it’s enveloping.  It provides a safe haven for body, mind, and spirit to express those parts of oneself that may be too painful or not yet conscious.  When you unearth the junk you make room for the healing energy to emerge and work on the bodies healing mechanisms.

McHugh’s life has changed drastically.  He is opening a free gallery for amateur artists to show their work.  Let’s hope he encourages those who emerge from an illness or injury to follow in his footsteps and express, express, express!

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

I Hear You Loud and Clear

Who do you listen to?  I mean who do you really listen to so keenly that their message pierces your soul?  I ask that question because people will say things to us that we think may be nagging or unsolicited advice and what the person is really doing is serving as an angel on earth.  The amazing thing is that the people who want you to know better and then do better are usually the people who love you the most and couldn’t imagine a world without you.

This morning there was an interview on Good Morning America with Marie Osmond.  I know what you’re thinking but the interview wasn’t too sugary.  She talked about the fact that her oldest child (she has eight) approached her on behalf of the herd and expressed his concern for her weight knowing that the family has a huge history of heart disease.  If that wasn’t enough, her mother told her, “Don’t do what I did, I’m trapped in a body I can’t use”, she suffered a stroke years earlier.

Can you imagine this type of messages coming at your from both ends of the life continuum?  Would Marie Osmond have heard the message if it only came from one end of the spectrum?  Would she have been able to take in the severity of the situation if these angels on earth werent’ as blunt as they were?  It’s amazing how important straight talk is when you want to pierce the armor of someone who may be well defended.  How thick is your armor?  What would it take for important messages to pierce your armor?  This is an important thing to know so that you can begin shedding the layers making the opportunity for the messages to get through easier. 

Who do you hear loud and clear?  Can you accept the messages with the love and good wishes that they are sent?  What messages have you heard loud and clear?  What messages have you offered to another in hopes of making an impact to awaken the health sense of another?  Keep trying, eventually this person you love will get the message!

Posted in after the diagnosis, Personal Conviction

Mirror Mirror On the Wall

One of the conditions that is associated with stroke is hemiparesis, the paralysis of one side of the body.  Stroke patients go through intensive rehabilitation to recover use of their limbs impacted by the stroke.  A new study that came out in The Lancet used Mirror Therapy to help patients rebound and recover from the stroke.

The study had patients perform their physical therapy in front of a mirror compared to the control group that did their therapy in front of a clear plastic sheet.  Although the sample was very small, overwhelmingly those patients who did their therapy in front of a mirror had greater improvements from their therapy.

By placing the patient in front of a mirror it “provides patients with proper visual input because the reflection helps the patient think tht their affected arm is moving correctly, even though it may not be, hence stimulating the brain to help wth nerve control of limb movement”.   This is truly a breakthrough in therapy for stroke patients or possibly any patient suffering nerve damage where limbs are impacted.

It doesn’t take rocket science to help people recover.  In this case a mirror is the factor that made all the difference.  It takes ingenuity to come up with the questions.  It requires that we continue the “what if” question because that’s how studies get designed…they start with a hypothesis.

Can you imagine how many patients can reduce the negative impact of stroke if they have access to this type of therapy?  You need to find someone who keeps on top of this information, like me, so you increase the options you have in your life.  I know it can be overwhelming, but being in the pipeline is how you will get access to the latest and greatest treatments.  I would hope that a stroke patient dealing with hemiparesis would go to their neurologist and physical therapist and ask about the Mirror Therapy.  It would have a big impact on your self-image and your quality of life.