Wellness

Health, Wellness and Chronic Illness

reclaiming health where to start

Welcome! Today is the first installment of a 5 part series entitled "Reclaiming Your Health: Where To Start."  Besides my own journey, I find myself in the path of so many others who are suffering from chronic illness or pain. It is a frustrating road and at times can feel so isolating but there is a wide community of people who are making their way through illness, learning together, supporting each other.  I want to welcome you to that community and encourage you to keep seeking wisdom.  Don't give up, help will find you!

Let's journey on together, shall we?

1deepbreathin

 Reclaiming Your Health: 1- Deep Breath In, Let It Out Slowly

Some of you will find this first step incredibly freeing.  Calming.  Peace in the storm.  Others of you are secretly yelling at me, "I want answers now!"  I've been on both sides of that coin.  I've been on the side that wants to curl up in fetal position with my blankie and have someone tell me that everything is going to be ok.  I've also been on the side that is angry, sick & tired of being sick & tired and just wants the magic pill or magic blood test that will finally fix everything.

Either way, you need to stop and take a deep breath.

If you can I would like you to physically do this, but at the very least, in your imagination I want to you to close your eyes, take a deep breath in through your nose and then let it out slowly through your mouth.  Do it a few times.  Let your shoulders relax, rest your heart and your mind.  Feel the hope and encouragement sink into your soul like a healing balm.

This journey is not a sprint.  I wouldn't really call it a marathon either, although it can feel that way, for sure.  It's more like a wandering, maze of an adventure that you didn't sign up for but are now trying to find a way out of.  At times it's a walk down a well laid path with lots of water and food along the way to refresh you.  Other times its a hike through the wilderness where water is scarce and you are a little scared you might not make it over the next hill.  At times the way to go will be clear and other times you will feel a little lost.

You've been through so much already, it's ok to recognize that.  It's important to recognize it.  Some of you need to give yourself permission to have a good cry over the unfairness of it all.  You were used to "doing it all" and now you're reduced to doing the bare minimum.  You may have to learn a new "normal."  Your old life is just that, old.  Wave goodbye to it as you set out on this new journey.  Blow it some kisses and say thank you for the years it got you through.  Then embrace the new season that you are in today.  It may not be what you had planned, but I promise it can teach you so many wonderful things and bring so many amazing people your way.

Attention perfectionists and control freaks: let it go. You will not be able to control this journey.  If you could, you would have healed yourself by now.  Your dedicated, persistent nature will serve you well on this long journey, but now you need to adopt patience and the ability to accept the things you cannot change. You might get off course and that's ok.  When you're ready, just get back on the trail. If you find yourself up against a road block, instead of fighting it stop and reflect what you can learn from it.  Take it as a signal to stop and rest.  Refuel.  Deep breath in, deep breath out.

Make a pact with yourself right now that you will pace yourself on this journey.  There will be times of fast and furious learning, researching, testing and seeking.  But there will also be times of rest, healing, listening and community. They are both important but our tendency is to want to push, push, push towards the goal.  That's a shortcut to disaster.  Your body will give you cues when it's time to trudge forward in search of the answers.  It will also alert you to when you need to rest and it will not be put off.  Rest is not weakness.

Rest is not weakness.

Lastly, I want to caution you from going into a deprivation mindset.  You will be making some changes along the way: dietary, medical, relationship-wise, etc.  You may have to stop eating things you enjoy in order to give your body a chance to heal.  Or maybe you will have to limit your social calendar to allow for quiet rest at home.  Instead of focusing on these as deprivations, see them as opportunities to thrive in other ways.  Just because you are sick or in pain does not mean that you can't still have a full life.  A life that is full of joy.  A life that thrives in the wilderness just like an oasis in the desert.

Seek out the things that bring restoration, hope and love into your life.  Open your heart up to new ways to grow.  When you set your mind towards an attitude thriving, you might be amazed at the adventures you can have.  You might still be sick or in pain, but that doesn't mean you can't still find beauty all around you.  That beauty will refresh you.  Drink it in and thrive.

Are you ready?  Deep breath in...


Thanks so much for stopping by and following with me on this series.  Part 2 will be available soon!  Oh, and if you know someone who is suffering with chronic illness that needs some encouragement, please share this series with them.

1deepbreathin

reclaiming health where to startIn the fall of 2013 many of you joined me for a 30 day writing series called "30 Days To Surviving Chronic Illness."  I shared some of my own health struggles from the past 15+ years and some of the tips/tools I've found helpful.  I was also blessed with some guest writing by acquaintances of mine who have been on their own health journeys.  That 30 Day series is still available as a PDF, totally free.  Or you can read the whole series online here. I update it occasionally and also set up a wellness page that you can access above.

During the writing of that 30 day series I got really sick again.  Sicker than I was before; I didn't even think that was possible.  I found myself re-reading my own 30 day series for advise and encouragement.  I had to remind myself of what steps to take, what not to do, and mostly  just hang on tight because although I have lived with chronic illness for a long time, I also believe in healing.  I believe in answers.  I believe in hope.

Am I still sick?  Yep.  But I'm also a little better.  I've also learned a few new things about my body and what it requires.  I've talked to countless others on this chronic illness journey and gained wisdom from them.  And I fight on.

So a few weeks ago I decided it's time for a new series.  Not just for other people to read but because I need to be reminded constantly of how to get on and stay on the path to wellness.

This will not be a 30 day series. Heavens, I cannot put myself through that again!

This new series will be called "Reclaiming Your Health: Where To Start." There will be 5 parts and I will release them as soon as they are completed but since one of my main triggers is stress, I'm not holding myself to any schedule.  The goal is one part per week, we shall see.

I am also toying with the idea of creating an audio version of each week's points that will go into a little more detail and possibly interview some super smart people.  There is A LOT of information to share, but let's face it, attention spans are short these days and that means articles need to be short and to the point.  If you are interested in an audio version of this series please let me know!

Thanks to all of you who have shared your stories with me, cheered me on my journey and passed on the last series with those who desperately needed a shot of hope.  You bless my life every day.

More to come soon!
~Carey

PS:  As luck would have it, this week Melody Ross of Brave Girls Club  has released Part One of her own health journey.  Melody has also dealt with chronic illness in recent years and is sharing the deep wisdom she has learned along the way.  If you are a woman I highly recommend jumping over to Brave Girls Club and catching up on what Melody has to say, your soul will be forever changed.

reclaiming your health where to start

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I have dealt with chronic illness for about 15 years now and after all this time, I have come to understand this truth...

The problem with chronic illness is that you get sick.

Profound, right? Ok, let me narrow it down a little more:

  • symptoms you thought you conquered ten years ago suddenly come back with a vengeance.
  • just when you think you have experienced every symptom in the book, a new one pops up.
  • one day you feel great, the next day you wake up feeling like you were run over by a rice harvester.  For you city-folk, a rice harvester looks like this:
  • even "fun" events can trigger illness.
  • your previous diagnosis suddenly doesn't fit anymore.
  • your best laid plans are pointless because you have no idea how your body is going to feel next Tuesday.
  • medicines or treatments that used to work suddenly do not work any more.
  • you want to go out and do fun things with fun people BUT INSTEAD your body will only allow you enough energy to drive home from work, plop down on the couch and cry.
  • your. brain. is. dead.

Last fall I was feeling better than I had felt in a long time.  Not perfect, but much better.  Then right in the middle of my 31 Day series, it all slammed back at me again.  I knew this might happen, after all, pushing myself physically or mentally wears me out and always makes me "flare up."  But this was more than a few days of tired.  It was a complete resurgence of every bad symptom that started 15 years ago.

I thought I could just take a few weeks and rest then things would settle down.  They didn't.  So more tests, more meds, more protocols.  More research, lots more reading.  Lots more rest.  And I re-read my own advice from the 31 Days.  It was such a great reminder of what I needed to do, or not do, to survive the storm.

Today I'm a little better than I was over the winter.  I think the warmer weather and longer days help. I'm also figuring out which foods cause which symptoms so I've been playing with my diet a lot (If you were wondering what happened to the Friday Recipes, I'm not doing much cooking right now).  Although I'm still not able to work out much, I have a new physical therapist and saw significant improvements in my knee from the very first week.

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And my garden... my beloved garden.  The garden is so therapeutic for me, perhaps because my mother and I spent a lot of time in it, but I do so much love puttering around out there, watching things grow. BTW: you can catch the play-by-play garden fun over on Instagram.

I did manage to get the 31 Day guide edited (mostly) and set up a whole page just for Wellness resources.  You can download the guide for free or scroll through the ever growing resource list here.

Happy weekend everyone, do something that makes you happy!

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surviving chronic illness

 

We made it.  31 Days of traveling together down the road of chronic illness, sharing advise and hope. It was my greatest wish to give you content that would be helpful, no matter where you are at in your journey.  So where do we go from here?

We keep moving forward.  If you are still looking for a diagnosis, keep knocking on doors until you find someone who can help you.  If you have a diagnosis and are trying to find the strength to live through another day of sickness, I hope you will take the time to practice some body & soul comfort. If you are in a spot in your journey where you are having more good days than bad ones, I encourage you to find someone else who is suffering and lend them a hand.

This 31 day series is over but my compassion for you is still going strong.  I will continue to periodically post articles on health, wellness, faith & hope.  In the coming weeks I will be transcribing all these posts into one document that will be available for download, free of charge, so you can remind yourself of the content or share with others.  Of course, the individual posts will stay available here as well and I will put a special tab or button on the home page to help you find them.

Thank you dear readers, thank you contributors, thank you for those who were praying for me during this mission of mine.  I thank God for all of you.

Day One- 31 Days Of Surviving Chronic Illness

Day Two- An Introduction

Day Three- A Diagnosis

Day Four- The Good, The Bad & The Indifferent

Day Five- Think Outside Of The Box Part 1

Day Six- Think Outside Of The Box Part 2

Day Seven- Guest Post: Advocacy

Day Eight- Snags To Watch For

Day Nine- Feed Your Body

Day Ten- Listen Up!

Day Eleven- Stop Eating Chemicals

Day Twelve- Eat Your Colors

Day Thirteen- Easy Veggies

Day Fourteen- A Little Is Better Than None

Day Fifteen- Rest

Day Sixteen- A Little Comfort Is What You Need

Day Seventeen- Alternatives In Nutrition

Day Eighteen- Recognize The Patterns

Day Nineteen- Allergies/Intolerances

Day Twenty- Food For Thought

Day Twenty-One- Guest Post, You Are Enough

Day Twenty-Two- Don't Pretend

Day Twenty-Three- Restore

Day Twenty- Four- Find Your Tribe

Day Twenty-Five- Find Some Sunshine

Day Twenty-Six- Real Or Not Real?

Day Twenty-Seven- Guest Post By Amy Sandvos

Day Twenty-Eight- Let Them Go

Day Twenty-Nine- Let Your Weakness Make You Strong

Day Thirty- Resources

Day Thirty-One- In Conclusion

 

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During this 31 Day Series on Chronic Illness I have briefly mentioned some health/wellness resources but as promised here is a list of books, websites, podcasts and other information that might be helpful for your journey through chronic illness.

Some of them are very general, meaning they will apply to anyone.  Others are more disease specific. This list is ever-growing, I just jotted down the ones that came to memory but I will be adding more and more resources to it as time goes by and this list will be readily available from my home page.

If you have any resources to share feel free to comment here or email them to me, we're all in this together!

BOOKS/MAGAZINES/ARTICLES

WEBSITES/BLOGS
FILMS/DOCUMENTARIES
 
 
PODCASTS
 
 
MUSIC
      

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This month we have been privileged to hear from 3 guest writers: Beckie Miller, Chris Morris, Amy Sandvos.  Each writer shared from their experience, they've been there.  They have experienced struggles and they have seen victories.  One more thing they all have in common: they still suffer from chronic illness, disease or pain. Beckie's husband still has Parkinson's disease, Chris and his daughter still suffer from seizures, Amy's son will likely deal with the effects of chemotherapy his entire life.

They, and I, still have bad days.  In fact, for the first 3 weeks of this series I suffered a relapse, I was barely able to get through each day. So despite my great improvement from 13 years ago, my body is still broken.   I was preaching to myself this month.  But time and experience has helped me gain some wisdom, some perspective, some tools to get through the bad days and that's what I hoped to pass on to you during this 31 day series.

Charles Haddon Spurgeon is known as one of the most famous preachers in England during the late 1800's.  He was known for preaching to crowds numbering in the tens of thousands and has the nickname "Prince Of Preachers." What many people do not realize is that Spurgeon was no stranger to chronic illness.  He himself suffered from gout, kidney disease, "rheumatism", and depression.  His wife was also frequently ill.  Here is what Spurgeon has to say about his affliction with depression:

One Sabbath morning, I preached from the text, “My God, My God, why has Thou forsaken Me?” and though I did not say so, yet I preached my own experience. I heard my own chains clank while I tried to preach to my fellow-prisoners in the dark; but I could not tell why I was brought into such an awful horror of darkness, for which I condemned myself.
On the following Monday evening, a man came to see me who bore all the marks of despair upon his countenance. His hair seemed to stand up right, and his eyes were ready to start from their sockets. He said to me, after a little parleying, “I never before, in my life, heard any man speak who seemed to know my heart. Mine is a terrible case; but on Sunday morning you painted me to the life, and preached as if you had been inside my soul.”
By God’s grace I saved that man from suicide, and led him into gospel light and liberty; but I know I could not have done it if I had not myself been confined in the dungeon in which he lay.
I tell you the story, brethren, because you sometimes may not understand your own experience, and the perfect people may condemn you for having it; but what know they of God’s servants? You and I have to suffer much for the sake of the people of our charge. . . .
 You may be in Egyptian darkness, and you may wonder why such a horror chills your marrow; but you may be altogether in the pursuit of your calling, and be led of the Spirit to a position of sympathy with desponding minds. (An All Round Ministry, 221–222)

My question for you is this: What do you have to share?  What have you learned on your journey back to wellness? Who can you encourage today?  Who can you empathize with? Who can you be an advocate for?

Despair and self-pity have a way of creeping in when we become too focused on our own pain to realize that there are hurting people all around us. Those co-sufferers need to hear your story.  They need to hear your wisdom. They need to know that they are not alone.

I want to encourage you to take a look around your circumstances and see who you can be a messenger of hope to.  They're out there, waiting to hear what you have to say.

tumblr_mve3gcenob1st5lhmo1_1280 "You find out who your friends are, somebody's gonna drop everything.  Run out and crank up their car, hit the gas, get there fast, never stop and think 'what's in it for me,' or 'it's way too far.' They just show on up, with their big ole heart.  You find out who your friends are."    - country song by Tracy Lawrence

Whenever the above song comes on the radio I get a little choked up.  Happy tears, actually.  I have the world's best support team behind me and I have no idea how I could have made it to this point without them; from being unable to walk down to the mailbox to writing a 31 day series on how to survive chronic illness.

Some of you are very hurt right now.  Not just physically but emotionally. Because the very people you thought you would be able to count on, the people you thought would walk every road with you, left you behind.  And you just can't understand how they can be that insensitive, that uncaring.  Didn't your friendship mean anything to them?

Let them go.

And I don't mean that in a "What-eh-ver, you don't like me? Fine, I don't like you!" kind of way. We want to believe that our current set of friends are the same friends we will have for the rest of our life.  But the truth is, friends come and go.  And sometimes they come back again.  Each person enters your life for a season, to share life's joys and teach you something about the world and yourself.  Embrace those people in your life today.  Savor every smile, every laugh, every tear.  But when that season is over and it's time for them to leave you...

...let them go.

When you're suffering through chronic illness or pain, there are a few reasons why "friends" may disappear:

  • They don't realize how sick you are.  In the early days I was unwilling to admit even to myself how sick I was, I wasn't about to admit it to my friends. All this did was delay their understanding, leaving them confused. Have you explained to your friends exactly what is going on with you physically?  Have you shared a list of symptoms with them?
  • They don't know how to help. After one of my many surgeries, Bree wanted to help but she didn't know what to do. Besides laying in bed and resting there wasn't much I needed however, there was one thing I wanted: mashed potatoes & gravy from KFC. Crazy right? But I couldn't yet tolerate heavy foods and it sounded comforting.  I let Bree know that's what I wanted and guess who showed up at my front door with mashed potatoes & gravy?  It made me feel good because it was what my body was craving that day and it helped her feel like she was being helpful.  Have you asked your friends for their help or or you waiting for them to just show up and magically know what you need.
  • They are walking through struggles of their own. Just because you are in crisis doesn't mean everyone else's lives go on cruise control.  Maybe they are new parents or on the brink of divorce or dealing with their own illness. When you are suffering from pain or illness there may not be much you can do for your friends but there is one thing you can do: cut them some slack.
  • They can't relate.  If they have never suffered any serious illness they are going to have no idea of what you're going through. One of my other close buddies suffered a miscarriage and had a tough time recovering.  Over the course of her recovery she experienced the hormone crash that follows miscarriage and she called me crying, "I'm so sorry that you feel like this every day!" It wasn't until that experience that she began to understand what I was going through. She was able to empathize and offer a new kind of support.
  • They need a break.  Being the care-giver can be tiring; physically, mentally, emotionally.  This is why it is important to have a whole team of people helping you.  Give your friends a break when they need it.
  • They just don't care.  Ugh.  This is the hardest one to reconcile in our hearts.  It is gut-wrenching to have a "friend" walk away while you are in your greatest time of need for no other reason than your illness has become inconvenient to their desire to have a good time.  It isn't mature, it isn't right. But sometimes is true.

I think most of the time friends disappear it is a unique combination of the above but no matter their reason for being absent or for walking away you have a choice to make. You can lash out, call them out on it and verbally attack them for your perception of their behavior.  Or you can sit and stew about it, allowing the bitterness and resentment to fester and ferment which will only prolong your emotional and physical suffering.

Or you can let them go.

Be grateful for the time you spent together as friends.  Remember the fun times without any hint of resentment for the present situation. In your heart, thank them for their friendship then release them to live their own life, their own journey.  Understand that they may need to leave in order to allow space for someone else in to your life that can better aid you along your road to wellness.  And if their path should bring them back to you someday, welcome them with gratitude, no resentment or revenge.

Then let them go.  Let the hurt go.  Let healing in.

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Today is an incredible guest post from my soul-sister Amy Sandvos.  I have shared Nolan's story with you before but if you're new you can read it here. Amy has graciously shared her thoughts and personal battles with us and I feel so blessed to know such a strong, honest soul. 

I'm here coming from the perspective of the caregiver. We had a 3 year battle with cancer, which my son Nolan won last April!

So, you get your diagnosis. Cry. Pray. ( Try and make your deal with God.) Go online. Mistake. Go offline. Pray. (Give God your newest proposal.) Listen to everyone's theory on "why". Then forget everything they just said, because 90% of it is crap. Cry some more.

For me, shock turned me into a machine. Fight or flight right? I'm not sure if I was fighting or trying to fly away into an alternate reality. The one where there are bluebirds and rainbows and babies do not get cancer. I was go go go all the time, at the births of new babies, blood draws, birthday parties, IV chemo, play dates and spinal taps.

Then, everything slowed way down. Shock began to fade. Exhaustion. So exhausted, and there was still so far to go. Depression. Asking myself, "Is this what depression feels like?" Despair, self pity and sadness settled in. "What do I do with all of this?" I didn't know what to do, so I did what any exhausted sad person would do, I stuffed it all away because I couldn't handle it.

Que chest pains.

Hello anxiety. That's the thing about emotions locked away in a hidden cupboard behind your boxed up secret love of Katy Perry. They'll remind you that they are there, and they want out. They will scream and yell and make a scene until you embrace their ugly little faces, and stare into their eyes.

What did I do to cope? What I loved, what saved my sanity... a little class at the gym called XBike. Dark room, music pumping. Lungs burning, legs screaming. Mind racing. Then, things start to focus, emotions bubble to the surface, things line up. Endorphins kick in and do their job. The gym became my therapist, my medication, my escape.

What should I have done differently? I should have taken the time, that good 10% of advice, and found someone to talk to. A PROFESSIONAL. I made excuses, valid excuses. "it's too expensive, I'm not ready, I don't think I have the time". I'm pretty sure I was just scared. Scared of the pain that sifting through all the emotions would unearth.

I had to make the choice to save myself.

I had to unlock the cupboard and let those little uglies out, stretch their legs, then we cozied up for a nice long chat. I don't lock them away anymore and they come to visit often. When I look into their eyes, I'm no longer scared.

Carey again: If you find yourself in need of counseling your medical professional can direct you to a licensed therapist.  If you cannot afford therapy many churches (such as my church Bayside) offer reduced rate or even free counseling for those in need.  If you are in the Sacramento/Roseville area and are a cancer patient or family member of a cancer patient Amy recommends Wellness Within.

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When you've been sick or in pain for long periods of time your emotions become a tad unreliable. Something that wouldn't have bothered you back in your "healthy days" may send you over the edge now. You are more inclined to be hurt or offended by people, whether they have bad intentions or not, whether they actually did something wrong or not.

You can easily become overly sensitive to emotionally charged situations, especially if your condition effects your hormones.  Any hormones.

So it will be very important for you to learn to "check" yourself before responding to a person or situation you feel was unfair or offensive.  I'll use myself as an example:

I am normally a pretty unemotional person.  I don't have high-highs or low-lows, I usually maintain at a steady pace right in the middle somewhere.  That is until I started suffering from chronic illness.  Suddenly I found myself irritated and even angry at people or situations that normally I would have just shrugged off.  It took me a little while to catch on, but once I realized just how impatient and annoyed I had become I decided that I would have to run my grievances by one of my non-sick friends before I went out with my sword drawn.   Either that or let a few weeks pass by and see if it was just me letting my hormones get the best of me.

And on those days when I just cannot change my attitude, no way-no how, then I sequester myself away until it passes.  Just because I feel something doesn't make it right.  Or real for that matter.

At the end of the Hunger Games Trilogy Peeta has traumatic, reoccurring dreams or memories and he has to stop and ask his friends, "Real or not real?"  I find myself asking that question before I take up an argument, "Real or not real?" It has saved me a lot of apologizing.

When you find yourself getting all worked up, especially during a "bad spell", take a deep breath then let it out slowly, and make sure it's a real emotion and not just the pain or sickness talking.  Your friends and family will appreciate it!

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Keeping your spirits up is just as difficult as keeping your energy up when you have chronic pain or illness.  So it's a good idea to have a few resources up your sleeve to help give you a little boost when you need one.  Here are a few online cheer-uppers for you to try:

If you have a favorite inspirational site feel free to share it with us here or on the Facebook Page!