Picture one of these all too common scenes:

  • Despite your best efforts, you find yourself rushing and running late.   Sound familiar?  (Those of you who know me will know I’m a recovering late-aholic.)
  • First, the toilet  breaks, then the next thing, and then the next minor or major inconvenience annoys you.  You’re ready to tear your hear out.
  • You’re sick or someone you care about is sick and you’re struggling with feeling anxious in general and this just exacerbates it
  • You’ve got this nagging pain that is sometimes here and sometimes not in your back, that keeps you up at night, and you wonder about getting it checked out and by the time  morning comes, you’re so glad to get up and move around. . . but you’re exhausted and running on empty

Or, perhaps, you’d like to substitute some combination of the above – or something entirely different – that feels like it’s what’s true for you in your own life.  Right now.

I find that in order to savor the good parts of life, I choose to work with the things that aren’t working so well. Like anxiety – that doesn’t work too well for me UNLESS I work with it.  And the same thing is true  with physical pain.

If I try and run and hide from anxiety, it finds me anyway and keeps me down.  If I pretend my knee doesn’t hurt, it gets louder and more insistent on being acknowledged. Maybe that is true for you too.

So, when I find myself stressed out,, frustrated, resentful, angry, or depressed – I have a little bag of tricks that I use.

Most of these things take  under 10 seconds to do and, by doing them, I find that whatever has me twisted up somehow gets unkinked.  Even if it only gets un-kinked for 15 seconds, it’s enough room to start my juices flowing so I can create some space for my feelings so I don’t feel so overwhelmed.

I thank my mentors (and I won’t mention all of them because I may forget someone – but you know who you are!) who have lovingly introduced many of these things to me and encouraged me to practice them.  Without your support, I may still be tearing my hair out.

So without further ado . . . . here’s my bag of 10 second tricks to create a bit of space for you when the going gets tough. Choose any one or a combination of them or make up your own and see what happens the next time one of these frustrating situations makes you wanna scream.  I’ve used an asterisk bythe ones that are my very favorites!

  • Put your hands on your belly and breathe*
  • Grab a glass of water and drink it, imagining love and energy coming through it (yes, I know it sounds weird but it really works!!)*
  • Tilt your chin down and raise through the crown of your head
  • Feel your feet planted into the floor
  • Open your mouth wide, stick out your tongue and exhale
  • Stomp your feet
  • Turn on a piece of music and let your body move
  • Ask yourself what you’d love to do and even if you can’t do it, let yourself feel it and make a date with yourself later
  • Give yourself a hug
  • Make a cup of tea*
  • Write a few words about where you feel the tension in your body i.e. head throbbing, heart beating fast, shallow breath.  Let your attention go to all those places and let go of the reasons why*
  • Notice what’s right in front of you – use all your senses.  What do you see, hear, taste, touch and smell?
  • Lovingly apply hand lotion or moisturizer to yourself or someone you love
  • Find another person or animal to hug and talk to
  • Call, text, or email someone you love and tell them
  • Grab a hairbrush and gently stroke your own hair
  • Read a poem (I keep a book of them handy in office)
  • If you’re driving and you get stopped by a train or a red light, sink into your seat, relax your grip on the wheel and breathe – take a mini break.*

If you’re anything like me, when I’m triggered I don’t remember to do these things.  That’s where practice makes imperfect – I keep working with this stuff and I’m so amazed how the little-est shifts, like drinking a glass of water when I’ve had it up to here with whatever the drama du jour is, open the space in me for more goodness to flow in.

I invite you to choose one of these tools right now – no matter what is going on – and just notice what, if anything, happens for you when you try it.  And, since we all learn from each other, feel free to comment if you want.




Ode to Sabby: The Serenity Prayer

February 17th, 2011

God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
the courage to change the things I can;
and the wisdom to know the difference.

This prayer is my daily mantra.  Yesterday was no exception.

My beloved friend and companion, Sabby, was put to sleep last night.  It was an act of mercy on my part – for all concerned – as he became lame and his illness was taking its toll on his quality of life.  The angelic vet assistant who accompanied me along the way said to me:  “Char, you did well by him, and you are helping him in a way that we humans aren’t allowed to do for each other.  He is truly blessed to have you as his owner.”

One of the privileges and responsibilities of pet ownership is to enjoy them while they are with us and to care for them lovingly which includes “in sickness and in health.” I find veterinarians, as a group, to be some of the most compassionate, caring professionals who are truly able to keep the best interest of their patients in mind.  I was also blessed to have a team of veterinarians who worked tirelessly to find the right medications to keep Sabby comfortable.

I take great comfort in knowing that I did the best I could for Sabby.  I accepted that I couldn’t change his fate and I found the courage to find the right vets for him.

This is not the first time I’ve lost an animal.  In the past, losing an animal has been extremely traumatic for me.  This time was different though and though it was still hard, it didn’t have that same sting of trauma.

My intent in sharing this story is for you, dear reader, to think of what’s going on (or has happened already) in your own life that has been challenging to deal with. Perhaps you’re on the verge of losing a beloved friend, family member or animal.  Or maybe that has just happened.   Perhaps, there’s something in your personal or professional life that is changing or has changed unexpectedly that comes to mind.

I invite you to pause for a moment and see what comes to mind. If you want, as I share how this time was different for me, see if  what follows helps you make a teeny tiny shift and softens the impact of change.

What is going on in your life that you cannot change?  And, are there things that you could change to make this situation easier?

The power of asking questions of ourseves  is sometimes not in the answer itself but instead in just opening up the space to consider the question.  As with anything, there is no one right way to do this.  I recognize we are all different so what works for me may not work for you.

Consider my questions (which follow my own personal insights) as invitations to  think about whatever you’re dealing with right now.

  • I asked in prayer for a sign of when Sabby needed to be put down.  Shortly thereafter, he became clearly lame in 3 feet, stopped eating and drinking.  There was no mistaking that the end was near and he was suffering.

Consider this :  Is there something that you’re concerned about?  Would you like to ask for a sign about what to do or consider next?  What would that look like?

  • I told people I trust what was going on as it was happening, which helped me have the courage to do what was needed and feel less alone.

Wondering:  Is there someone you could talk to ( by email, by phone or in person )who could help you feel less alone?

  • I spent some quality time with Sabby listening to my favorite music with a candle burning and got him to purr.  I will always feel connected to him.

Think:  Is there a way to honor or acknowledge what you’re going through right now?  Yes, it’s important and No, it won’t take as long or be as hard as you think.

  • I attended to all the practical details ahead of time which included telling the vet how to handle the bill, how I wanted to leave after it was over, and that I would be leaving the cat carrier and blanket with them so I didn’t have to walk out with an empty carrier.  This was an act of mercy for myself.

Question:  Are there some details that you could attend to ahead of time to make things easier for you in the long run?

  • I had a plan for coming home which included taking my dogs for a walk,  making a healthy dinner, and calling my kids who have been so supportive through this.  I followed through with my plan even though I felt like curling up in a ball.  It helped.

Hmmmm:  Would it be helpful to think of what to do later so you wouldn’t have to think about it in the moment?

What I’ve learned over and over again is that having words to describe my feelings, asking trustworthy people for support, attending to practical details, and having a plan have all been major building blocks that help me feel more peaceful about difficult situations. My hope for you is that this blog  helps you find greater peace and self kindness as well.  I’d love to hear how this lands for you.

“Once you see a pattern, you can’t un-see it.  Trust me.  I’ve tried.  But when the same truth keeps repeating itself, it’s hard to pretend that it’s just a coincidence.”

– Brene Brown from The Gifts of Imperfection

All my life, I have been ashamed to admit I have a very low pain tolerance.  I’ve tried muscling through, denying it, resisiting it, making fun of myself, letting others make fun of me and laughing with them – nothing works.

I still get queasy at the sight of blood and have been known to faint over what others label “something small.”

Last week,  I cut my finger while cooking.  It wasn’t a big cut but it was deep and I couldn’t get it to stop bleeding so I went to an urgent care facility to have it evaluated.

What follows are some details of this story along with some mistakes, and the lessons I  learned afterwards. I’m hoping that if you struggle with this sort of thing, the lessons I learned  may be helpful to you if you ever find yourself in a similar position.

I drove myself to the urgent care, calling my kids and two close friends while en route to let them know what happened and left messages for them, asking them to send my finger good vibes.

Mistake:  Do not drive yourself to the urgent care.  Take someone with you.

Lesson Learned:  Do your best to get a hold of someone you trust when you need urgent care, rather than driving yourself.

By the time I got to the urgent care, my finger wasn’t throbbing as much though it was still bleeding heavily.  So, I asked myself “What would you do if this was one of the kids?” which is my own standard of care that I apply to myself when I have concerns.  Just by asking myself this question, I knew that having it looked at was the only thing that made sense, so I gently escorted myself inside.

Lesson Learned:   It’s a good practice to apply the same standard to yourself that you would apply to someone you love when deciding whether you need urgent care.  Ask yourself, “What would you do if this happened to someone you love?” when deciding if you need medical attention.

The doctor looked at it and said that because it was so deep, I’d need a couple stitches.  He explained that he’d give me a shot in my finger to numb it, that it may burn a little bit, and then he’d stitch it.  “No big deal” – he said.

I then said to him:  “I have a very low pain tolerance and I’m the worst patient in the world!”

Mistake:  Do not kid about being the worst patient in the world.

Lesson Learned:  Let the doctor know you  have a low pain tolerance in a direct straight forward manner and that you want the maximum amount of pain medication to make the procedure tolerable.

We then proceeded to joke about my low pain tolerance and share some laughs together, along with some chit chat about a recent trip he took to Taiwan to see his family.

Mistake:  Chit chatting and laughing with a healthcare provider in a self deprecating way is inappropriate  when you’re scared of a procedure.

Lesson Learned:  Be honest about your needs for pain management.  Let the doctor know that if the pain gets to be too much, you are going to tell him to stop the procedure and give you more pain medication before he begins the procedure. (Thanks to my friend Linda, a professional caregiver, for telling me this was an option as I never knew I could do this.)

The result of my series of errors was a horrendous but life changing experience.  This was one of the most painful procedures I’ve ever had and I later learned from the nurse that there are more nerves in the tip of your finger than anywhere else in your body.  Ohhhhh, how I wish I knew that ahead of time as perhaps I would have been more assertive about my needs for pain management.

I share this with you, dear reader, because I know I’m not the only one who has a low pain tolerance.  I’m also not the only one who has tried to hide that fact or been ashamed of it.

What I have learned is that having a low pain tolerance is nothing to be ashamed of nor is it a character flaw.

After all, what is a low pain tolerance anyway?  It’s comparing how you deal with pain with how “they” (and who are the “they’s” of the world by the way?) deal with pain.  Comparisons never work when we’re talking about human behavior in my opinion as we’re all so very different.

Brene Brown also says, “Owning our story and loving ourselves through that process is the bravest thing that we will ever do.”

If you have a low pain tolerance, I invite you to lovingly  acknowledge this without shame or guilt  first to yourself.  If you’re anything like me, that step in and of itself may be very healing for you.   Should you find yourself in need of medical attention, it will be easier for you to communicate your needs clearly without apologizing or joking about it.  That way, it is more likely that the professionals involved will support you in getting your healthcare needs met with less pain.

Always We Hope. . . .

February 2nd, 2011

I went on a retreat this past weekend   I thought I’d share with you this poem, by Lao Tzu, which helped me turn a corner over the weekend with respect to my recent bout with insomnia.  This insomnia has been particularly acute for the past couple months and reached a critical point over the weekend.

Thank God I was graced with this good supportive environment which, along with my healthcare providers and my loving family, helped me through this.

Always We Hope

Always we hope

Someone else has the answer

Some other place will be better,

Some other time it will all turn out.

This is it.

No one else has the answer

No other place will be better,

And it has already turned out.

At the center of your being

You have the answer,

You know who you are

And you know what you want.

There is no need

To run outside

For better seeing.

Nor to peer from a window.

Rather abide at the center of your being;

For the more you leave it, the less you learn.

Search your heart

And see

The way to do

Is to be.

I am hoping that, if you’re in the middle of depression, anxiety, or chronic pain, this poem may offer you some comfort.  And, if you’re not struggling with these things, my wish for you is to embrace whatever is happening in your life and rest in the knowledge that you do in fact know exactly what you want and what you need right now.

I’m relieved to report that my insomnia is behind me at the moment.  I have had two nights of restful sleep and am feeling so much better.

All of my issues are right where I left them – waiting for me to attend to the details.

My commitment is to attend to them with simple steps, noticing what works and being very gentle with myself in the process.  I share this with you because I hope, that by being vulnerable and transparent about my own process, that in some way this will encourage you to do the same for yourself.

As always, if I can help you along the way, please feel free to contact me.

It’s a real conundrum.  When you’re sick and also the one responsible for taking care of yourself at the same time, it’s tough.  Beyond tough.  Period.

There are no simple answers.  There is only living through it – and trial and error. Keep it simple:  try something and notice whether it  provides a little relief. Whether it’s medication or meditation, the results are often hard to measure because you’re in the middle of your own circumstances.

Though you may hope and wish for a competent caregiver, one may not be available for you.

You may feel embarassed as others you love, like a family member  or perhaps a close friend, stand by wringing their hands feeling helpless and afraid.

You may feel responsible to come through, to keep pulling rabbits out of your hat, to get your act together – for the sake of setting a good example for others at the very least if not for your own sanity.

Because we’re all different, there are as many variations on the plotline of this story as there are people who struggle with their mental health.

I don’t have an answer to this one.  It is heartbreaking.

What I can offer you though is hope.  That things do change.  Because that is life – life is about change. And though those changes may feel hard or the good things may feel difficult to hold on to, there is still hope.

And there is love.  See if you can find that love within yourself – even if just for a moment – to do the little things that help.

Because those little things do in fact help.  Whatever they are.  Since we’re all different, those little things are likewise different for each of us.  If you can’t think of one little thing that helps, try anything.  A deep breath.  A walk outside. A stretch.  A cup of coffee.  All good things to try and notice if they help.  Even if just for a moment and even if just a little.

Oftentimes, you can build on those little things that help – doing one after another, and create some momentum.  Sometimes, it’s a bit touch and go- which can be frustrating.  If you can remember there’s hope, you’ll get yourself back on track.

And keep in mind that you’re okay just as you are – no matter what it may feel like or seem like on the inside – that right this moment, as you are reading this you are okay. And you have this difficult passage that you’re going through where you are both the caregiver and the patient in charge.

Maybe you need support with that – so that you can be the best you can be for yourself.

Yes, you heard me. . . though your life may be about survival and responsibilities, you are here to enjoy your life.

See if you can touch into that spot – even if just for a moment – and find that spot that once knew joy.  And if you can’t find it right now, it’s okay too.  Just know it exists.

And if I can walk with you through this. . . . please, let me know. Because I get this one . . . . deep in my bones, I get it.  And what I can offer you is support, structure, someone to sit on the curb with you who doesn’t need anything from you other than for you to show up as you are.    Because that’s what I’m here for – to help you love yourself through this and find your way to feeling better.

Note:  This is the the second in a series of case studies about how to figure out if you’ve got the right healthcare provider for your needs. Here’s the first one.   This case study talks about how to figure out what you really want from your healthcare provider.

Once you’ve determined that your needs aren’t being met with your current healthcare provider, it’s time to get a little more specific.  Though I know you may be in a hurry to solve the problem and find someone else because you’re fed up or frustrated, I encourage you to take this process a step at a time.  That way it is more likely that your needs for competent attentive healthcare will be met.

Ask yourself this question:  What’s going wrong with your current provider?

List as many things as you can think of that create frustration, overwhelm, confusion, or concern for you.  Be as specific as possible.

It can look something like this:

  • The last time I called for an appointment, it took over a month to get in.
  • When I asked if it could be something other than my diabetes that was causing my problems, she didn’t answer my question and went on to talk about something else.  When I asked again, I still didn’t understand her answer.
  • I don’t really understand what’s wrong with me and I am not sure my healthcare provider knows either.
  • My provider spends so much time looking at her computer screen and talking to it when it screws up that I feel ignored and unheard.

Take your time with this and list as many things as you can think of.  That will give you clues about what you’re looking for in a new provider.

Then, ask yourself this:  What works well with this provider?

Again, be as specific as possible and look for the areas of your relationship where you feel understood, appreciative, and grateful that you have the healthcare provider that you do.

Here are a few examples:

  • I’ve been a patient of his for over 20 years and he knows my medical history.
  • The office is close to my home.
  • I know the staff by name and they return my phone calls promptly.
  • The last time I was there she remembered that my relationship with my mom stresses me out a lot and may be contributing to my symptoms.  I love that she remembered that because it helped me see things differently.
  • I can get an appointment easily.

Then, step back and see what you’ve accomplished.  You now know what works and what doesn’t work in your relationship with your current provider. That’s great information and will help you find the right healthcare provider for you.

The next step to finding the right provider for you:  Make a list of what works and what doesn’t work in your relationship with your current healthcare provider.

If you have questions, I’d love to hear from you.  Feel free to leave a comment below.

Note:  This is the first in a series of case studies about how to figure out if you’ve got the right healthcare provider for your needs.  This case study talks about how to work with those unsettling feelings that may be your first indication that things aren’t working for you.

Jane (a fictitious name) went to see her primary care doctor to talk about her anxiety and felt unsettled afterwards. When I asked her what felt unsettling, she said she was sure it was “all in her head” and that “it didn’t make any difference because this is the only provider she can see right now due to her insurance.”

“Maybe I was just too tired to explain things clearly”, she said.  “I showed her the Appointment Prep form because I felt too overwhelmed to talk much.  But I still feel uncomfortable with what happened.”

I asked her whether she could identify any bodily sensations when she thought about her relationship with her doctor.  She said:  “Yes, when I think about what happened, I clench my teeth, my shoulders ache, and I feel my stomach churning.”

I said to Jane,  “When you think about your interaction with your doctor and you feel into those sensations, what’s the first thing that comes up.”

Jane hesitated and then replied:   ” I don’t know.  I don’t want to think about it though.”

There was a long pause before Jane said, “Well, it may have something to do with the fact that I have been on this medication for a long time to manage my anxiety and they’ve adjusted the dose a couple times.  However, when the nurse verified my medications, their electronic records had the dose wrong.  That made me uneasy as the dose was way higher than what I usually take. And the last time I was there, before they switched to electronic records, they couldn’t find my chart and when they finally found it, it was the wrong chart and we didn’t figure it out for a while.  Or, maybe, the time before that when the nurse came in and said the doctor only had 10 minutes to see me even though I’d waited over an hour for her for a regularly scheduled appointment and I felt like my issues needed more attention than that.  And come to think of it. . . . ”

As you can see, there’s plenty of reasons Jane felt unsettled about her relationship with her healthcare provider.  Here’s a little synopsis of what wasn’t working for her:

-an error in the electronic medical records about her medication

-administrative issues regarding locating and then showing up with the correct chart

-inadequate attention to her medical issues

-excessive wait time for a scheduled appointment

Here’s the point:  When you have that “unsettled feeling” with your healthcare provider, it’s worth exploring. Why?  Because, over time, you’ll be able to evaluate if this is truly the healthcare provider for you or whether you need to look at alternatives.

Though you may think there’s no alternatives available due to your insurance, the needs of your other family members, or other reasons – you can trust the old expression that where there’s a will there’s a way.  And the first step is to look at what’s bugging you about your situation.

Regardless of what type of healthcare provider you’re working with – a therapist, psychiatrist, physical therapist or other provider – if you’re feeling uncomfortable, there’s a reason for it.  It’s useful to know what that reason is as a starting place to figuring out how to get your healthcare needs addressed.  Notice that I said this is a starting place to ask yourself first what’s going on.  I encourage you to think through this thoughtfully and carefully so that you can make the choices that are right for you.

Here’s the first step if you’re feeling unsettled about your relationship with your healthcare provider:   Ask yourself if you’re willing to explore what’s bugging you about this?  Don’t force yourself to think this through – instead, extend a friendly invitation to yourself like this.  “Hey, if you wanna talk about what happened, I’m here .  If you had to guess, what’s the first thing that comes to mind?”  You may want to journal on this, talk it over with a friend or leave a comment here to get it out of your head.

How Can I Help?

January 3rd, 2011

I thought a long time about how to title this post .  The question “How Can I Help?” turns me off when someone offers this mixed blessing to me in a store.  On the other hand, it is the most honest way I know to ask you how I can truly be of service to you if you’re struggling with health issues and sincerely want to figure out how to help yourself.

What I really want to talk about today is my intention for 2011 and how it came about.  Why?  Because I believe intentions, instead of resolutions, are great ways for setting our sights on what we really want our lives to feel like so I’m hoping this will inspire you to set an intention if you’d like.

Of all the parts of the holidays that I enjoy, setting my yearly intention is one of the things I look forward to the most – it feels so nourishing to me.

My theme for 2010 was prayerfulness, which I defined as inviting myself to ask God for help more often. I can’t really tell you if I learned more when I remembered I could ask for help – or when I forgot, and then remembered it was an option later.  In any event, it made for some good laughs and some hard won lessons.  And, as always, asking God for help and being willing and able to listen is a lifelong work in progress anyway . . . . so I won’t be running out of opportunities to practice this!!!. For example, my New Year’s eve gift was my computer crashing leaving me with no way to access my emails or files and needing to figure out what to do for a computer. So, for the last several days including today, I have found myself asking for help about how to deal with the bane of my existence – technology.

It has also been perfect timing for the birth of my 2011 intention which I refer to as Skillfulness. Skillfulness combines asking for help from God with attending thoughtfully to the practical details of my life and my work.  It has been a humbling experience (to say the least) to ask for help as I skillfully navigated Best Buy today, purchased this computer, set it up with the help from my angelic tech support, and wrote this blog while putting up with all the mis-steps and surprises of acclimating to a new system.  Oy!!

I am skillfully attending to the practical details of teaching others how to help themselves through their own ups and downs of physical and mental pain in ways that are truly useful. I deeply respect that what helps people deal with these kinds of issues is not a “big box solution” – there is no one size fits all, no one book or method, no one thing that works and fits every situation.  Why?  Because life changes, we change and we are all different.

I’m developing classes, teleclasses, podcasts, and blog posts to support you and those you love who are struggling with pain, depression or anxiety.  Are there some specific situations that come to mind that  you’d like some support with?  Would you like to be part of a small group of trustworthy people like you who also really want to learn solid skills to help them through the ups and downs of these unpredictable situations?

Please leave a comment here or pick up the phone  and call to let me know (as I can’t access my email. . . . yet!)

Wishing you all life’s blessings in 2011 and always!!


Survival Skills for the Holidays

December 25th, 2010

The holidays can be such a surprising time.  They take us out of our routine which can be both wonderful and a welcome relief from the day to day routine.

At the same time, there can be comfort in our day to day routine that may get discombobulated as our  lives build to a fever pitch in anticipation of everything “closing down” on Christmas.

If you’re spending time with family, you may find yourself triggered (as I do myself) by any number of things. Just think of a couple things that may irritate you where perhaps you find yourself saying something like this:

  • “Whyyyyyy do they do that?”
  • “I better not say anything but man that really grinds my gears.”
  • “Remind me why we’re doing this again?!”
  • Fill in your own head scratching question or comment!

When the noise in my head gets too loud, I know it’s time for a break. It can often take me a while to be willing to acknowledge that noise – I often find myself saying to myself “hey, this really is fun!!” – while a teeny tiny part of me says “reeealllly?”

Sometimes it takes me a while to remember that I’m entitled to what feels good to me (which often differs from what feels good to my family) – especially as the voice in my head says, “Look, we’re all together – this is what you’ve wanted.  Right? Just enjoy it.”

Separating myself from that chatter, I remind myself that yes, being with my family is exactly what I want.  And there are many moments that I really enjoy.

And it is unrealistic and impossible to enjoy every single one of those moments.

Sometimes it takes me a while to develop the willingness to try what I’m about to mention – but  here’s what is helpful to me.

I hope that in some way these ideas may help you find your own way to make your holidays more of what you want them to be.

People vary.  Life is complicated.  So, what works for me may not be your cup of tea. (Speaking of which, I think I’ll make one- good idea!!)

Here’s what I do:

1.  Notice What’s Up:  I notice the dialogue in my head feels uncomfortable in some way.  I ask myself gently what’s uncomfortable (common themes for me are I’m frustrated, irritated, annoyed, feeling angry, sad, or resentful about something)

3. Body Talk:  I check in with my body and find a spot that could use a little TLC.  It may be my head, my heart, my hip – you get the idea.  (it goes like this – ohh, tight jaw, shallow breath, right hip aches, etc)

4.  Help is on the Way: I let my body inform what I do next.

5.  Now what? Then, I notice how things are feeling.

This can take all of two seconds and amount to a couple deep nurturing breaths.  It can take the form of a two hour nap.  It can mean cleaning up the kitchen (for the umpteenth time) which often gives me a sense of order which I thrive on.  It can be reading a great book in my room.

I wish all of you moments of great joy celebrating the holidays with those you love – and for those other moments, great survival skills that truly work for you.

Last night while I was making dinner and my son saw my cat Sabby lying in the kitchen, I discovered once again the parallels between dealing with veterinarians and dealing with our own health.

But, this is not a story about me and my cat.

This is a story about all of us who deal with chronic pain, depression and anxiety.  There are so many similarities  I found between my own experience and what’s common for those of us dealing with these invisible illnesses.

“Mom, look at Sabby, ” he said, ” His belly is huge.  Feel this.   He looks awful!”

It was 7:30PM, I was hungry and in the midst of making a late supper for us.   What I was looking forward to was eating (I was long overdue already!) and cleaning up the kitchen, turning in for the evening early.

I so didn’t want to hear that.

The truth is I had noticed over the last couple days that Sabby was acting funny.  He was hanging out in my room by the heater a lot and had had an accident.  I thought to myself, “Oh, it’s just this one time.  Don’t make a deal out of it, this happens.  Just clean it up and move on.”

Pausing here – stepping outside of this example – and noticing how many times I’ve noticed that I don’t feel well, and just passed over it rather than give myself a little TLC in the moment.  How many times has this happened for you?

Anyway, I’d noticed Sabby didn’t seem up to par and I didn’t really want to deal with it.  Not because I don’t care – but because I didn’t have the energy to find out what’s going on.

So, I said to Aaron, “The vet is open on Saturday and I’ll call in the morning.”

In the meantime, Aaron said, “Mom, he looks really bad to me and I have a bad feeling about this.”

Oh, how I hate when Aaron has a bad feeling about something.  I just hate it!!!

“Oh, @$%^#, ” I thought, “Now, I have to deal with it.”  I sooooo didn’t want to.  I can’t tell you how much I didn’t want to deal with this.

Fortunately for me, my vet has an emergency service which she almost always responds to.  She called me back and met me at the office.

After examining him, she said, “It’s not urinary blockage so what we need to do is blah blah blah!”  It’s not that what she was was unimportant –  it’s that I couldn’t understand it.  Nor did I want to understand her.

All I wanted to know is that he was going to be okay.  I wanted reassurance and a plan of action to take care of him.  I didn’t want details.

She continued sharing the details and my ears perked up when she said, “We need to rule out heartworm and feline leukemia.  That could have potentially devastating consequences not only for Sabby but for your other cats at home.”

OMG!!!  OMG!!!  OMG!!!!  My system was on full alert.  I might be dealing with an epidemic rather than one sick cat. As I tried to hold it together for my son who was with me, I could feel my heart sink into the pit of my stomach as tears streamed uncontrollably down my face.

My worst fears were coming true.  This was somehow all my fault.

Here’s what I learned.  As I share this with you, think about your own situation or perhaps that of someone you love who is dealing with chronic pain, depression or anxiety:

This is a No Blame Zone: It’s so common to blame ourselves when we suffer from chronic pain, depression and anxiety.  The truth is it’s not your fault. (Just like it’s not my fault that I have these things.)  It happens, life happens, and it’s up to us to find ways that work for us to deal with it.  That’s the reason I chose to teach Your Health Your Way (which will be starting again – stay tuned for more details soon)

This is Also a No Blame Zone for Loved Ones: When we love someone who is sick, it is likewise not our fault.   (Just like it isn’t my fault that the cat is sick.)  People struggle with depression, chonic pain and anxiety and we didn’t cause it.

Not wanting to deal with health issues is natural and human: No one wants to deal with health issues that get in our way.  I keep learning this over and over again despite the fact that I often ask myself, “Why didn’t you get help for this before?”  The facts are that illnesses disrupt our already busy lives and we have other things we’d rather deal with .  That’s the way it is – it’s not an indictment of our character.

So, if you’ve got health issues going on that you don’t feel like dealing with, I get it.  Permission to deal with them when you’re ready to or when things get acute enough that you feel forced to deal with them – or not.  It’s up to you.

Help – and any number of choices –  will be available whenever you decide you’re ready for it.   And with some experimentation, you’ll find things that work well for your lifestyle.  I believe that with all my heart.

Healthcare Providers may be thinking out loud:  When healthcare providers start talking in what appears to be gobbldy gook, in my opinion, it is okay to tune out of whatever they are saying that you don’t understand. Think about what is most relevant for you to get your needs met.  In my case, what I needed was to be reassured that my cat would be okay and also to know the other cats weren’t potentially in jeopardy.  I also recognized that my veterinarian needed to process things out loud in order to draw her own conclusions

Healthcare Providers often cannot offer us exactly what we are needing:  My veterinarian could actually not offer me the reassurance that I wanted. How do I know this?  Because I asked her directly, “Will he be okay?” and she said, “Char, the prognosis for your cat is not good.”  That’s not what I wanted to hear.  On the other hand, I said, “Does it look like it’s heartworm or feline leukemia which would jeopardize my other cats?” and she said, “At this point, it doesn’t look like that’s the case and I’ve ruled it out pretty much.”  Again, this is not the absolute reassurance I wanted but it helped me.

So, if you’re dealing with chronic pain, anxiety or depression – the good news is there is hope and help available for you when you’re ready for it. And when you’re not ready, there’s still that same hope and help that is available whenever you choose to attend to it.

And physicians and others who speak gobbledy-goop?  There’s ways of dealing with that to get the information that is most useful to you.

Figure out what your needs are from your healthcare provider and ask for them.  For example, you can say, “Can you reassure me that I’ll be okay?”  If that’s what you need, ask directly for it.   Even if they can’t reassure you, that knowledge is better than wondering about it in my opinion.

I offer you tools that I personally have found helpful as I’ve navigated my way through chronic pain, depression and anxiety – and found I was really ready to partner with my providers to take care of myself.  I wanted information that I could understand.  I wanted to help myself find things that really worked for me on my own .  I developed some strategies were truly helpful.

I now offer you these same tools that you can adapt and custom fit to your own ever changing health situations.  To use them in ways that feel truly supportive, loving and give you the information you need to make the choices that are right for you.

When you’re ready, there’s hope and there’s help available for you no matter what you’re struggling with.  And when you’re not ready, and just want support and understanding for whatever you’re experiencing, I hope that you find that too.

Whether you choose to read my blog or contact me personally, I believe that there is hope and help available for you – always – in ways that may be surprisingly simple and do-able.

As for my cat, it’s a waiting game at the moment.  I’m waiting for test results and while I do, I’m doing the little things that help me feel better like doing yoga, staying in touch with my kids, and walking my dogs.  Why?  Because taking care of myself is ultimately taking care of those I love.

I invite you to do the same – is there one thing that comes to your mind right now that would be helpful to you to feeling better?  Share it with us here on the blog – your ideas give others ideas too.  I’d love your good wishes for Sabby too!