It’s hard to be sick. Whether you’re struggling with feeling anxious, sad, or having back pain, it’s even harder if you’re the only one who really knows what you’re going through and others just don’t get it.

What I’ve come to realize with my own physical and mental health is that I’m the first one to know when something’s not quite right and the best one to help myself through it.

I’ve come to embrace that I’m responsible for my health. And, as I offer Your Health Your Way, you have the same opportunity: to realize you’re the first one to know how you’re feeling and the best one to help yourself through it.

One thing I want to be very clear about is that being responsible for your health doesn’t mean beating yourself up because you’re struggling. That’s cruel and unnecessary. And PS – it doesn’t make you feel better anyway.

You are not weak. You’re doing the best you can. Also, if you’re thinking that willpower is what you need more of and if you’d just “do what you know you need to do” this would go away, that’s just one more way of beating up on yourself.

For example, you may realize that exercise first thing in the morning really works to life your mood. Yet, at the same time, perhaps you wake up with such paralyzing anxiety that you can’t get out of bed much less exercise. You know it works, but you can’t do it.

There may be many mornings where you force yourself through it and notice that yes, it worked.

But, what I’ve learned over time is that strong-arming yourself through anything is just one more way to be mean to yourself. Eventually, most people rebel and get discouraged and quit doing the things that help.

So, what do you do when you already know what helps but can’t get yourself to do it? We’ll take that question, and others, and answer them in Your Health Your Way.

Depression, by it’s nature, is so insipid that one of the lies it tells us is “we’ve always felt this way and it’s never been any different.” Physical pain works the same way: whether it’s intense, comes and goes erratically or is chronic, the lie it tells is it’s always been that way and will never let up.

What I want you to know is that you are so much more than whatever you are going through right now, regardless of what you think. And there are simple tools that can help you feel better.

There is hope and help for you. It’s right here.

There may be legitimate things that have you worried. The economy, your health, your loved ones – all of those very real circumstances can cause you to feel sad, hopeless, anxious, frustrated, and create back pain among other things.

This class won’t solve your specific problems – but you will. It will give you the tools to feel better and, as you feel better, you will be able to think more clearly. You will find yourself taking action about whatever has you worried like the economy, your health or you loved ones. That’s the power of Your Health Your Way.

I truly believe that life is a series of small steps, taken one at a time. The first step (which is also the name of my business as you know!) is to find that part of you that cares so much about your well being. Ask your heart whether Your Health Your Way is right for you. Sign up for the teleclasses; you’ll get recordings if you can’t attend live.

Or, maybe as you’re reading this, you know I’m not talking about your situation. But, perhaps, you wonder whether one of your friends or family members are going through this. If you’ve been feeling frustrated and helpless because you don’t know what to do to help them, send them this blog post, with a note that says you thought of them and wondered if they may be interested.

Whether you choose to look at the course for yourself or send it on to someone you care about, I promise that I will share some do-able ways to feel better in ways you simply can’t anticipate. Questions? Concerns? Let me know – I’m here to help you manage your daily life in ways that work for you.

My work with mental health has been developed from my own school of hard knocks.  Sparing you the details, I’ve struggled with the ups and downs of depression, anxiety and pain for a good part of my life.

It has been my life’s work to develop the Home Depot store of tools to help me find ways to feel better. From a simple screwdriver (sometimes that means exercise or a deep breath) to a complete remodelling project (that may include a meltdown and rebuilding myself from the ground up) – I am a work in progress when it comes to this stuff.

I believe I’m being asked by God to share my tools with you so that you can feel better.

That why I developed Your Health Your Way.

This morning I woke up with the all too familiar morning anxiety.  Here’s a snippet of it:  “Oh Jeez, what am I going to do about Borat (my furry friend), who has no voice ?  I can’t take it anymore.  What’s the use?  Why bother? There is no use.  And I’m so sick of all this stuff happening over and over again.  Why?????”  I felt my jaw clenched, noticed I was  holding my breath, and couldn’t move.

I should be used to this by now yet it always takes me by surprise even though the messages I get are the same repetitive ones that reverberate in very familiar patterns throughout my body.  As this went on for a bit and I was able to recognize the familiar tone (because the plotline changes but not the theme) an image appeared.  I saw myself standing on a bridge watching these thoughts pass below in the form of a very long train.

Then, I remembered these three simple word:  I Choose Peace.

I Choose Peace and that means. . . .  A deep breath, moving my left foot onto the floor.  Then one foot in front of the other.  If you’re reading this and you don’t deal with these particular issues, feel free to substitute whatever you may be struggling with. 

You can borrow my image of standing on the bridge looking at your train of thoughts and feelings, and see if the phrase “I choose peace” provides some insight.  Or maybe you have a different phrase or word that you’d like to use instead.

As I write this, there’s that familiar kernel of shame that says don’t be this honest and no one else feels this way.  What’s wrong with you?  Whenever I hear that phrase “what’s wrong with you?”, I know something’s up.  It’s my way of  kicking myself when I’m down.  Because I’ve had way too much practice with that phrase than I’d like to admit,  it’s easier for me to  remember my core belief that there’s nothing wrong with any of us.   Some thoughts and feelings may be twisted, but that’s not a sign that I’m a failure or an idiot.

As my husband used to say, “We’re all bozos on this bus doing the best we can.”

Your Health Your Way is my personal invitation to you to befriend those parts of yourself that are struggling with anxiety, pain or depression with some tools that we will customize to work for you, and adapt to wherever life takes you. Whether you choose to attend the calls live and participate or listen to the recordings, you’ll find practical ways to get through the ups and downs of dealing with changes in your health or mood  and feel better.  If you’re seeing a therapist or other healthcare provider, I believe the structure I provide will be really helpful to those times in between where life happens.

Sign up now and you can get the earlybird price.

If you’re reading this and you know someone who is struggling with these issues, you may feel helpless because you don’t know what to say or do to help.   On the other hand, you may be feeling guilty because it’s no fun being around your loved one and you’re tired of the whole thing.  Perhaps they’ve worn out their welcome with you though neither one of you wants to acknowledge it.  

Perhaps, as a family member or friend,  you’ve offered advice or tried to fix the problem for your loved one, and that hasn’t worked for either of you. It’s also possible that both you and your loved one aren’t acknowledging this giant elephant in the room called depression, pain or anxiety  hoping that it will just disappear.

It’s hard being the loving friend or family member who feels so frustrated, helpless and depleted watching this go on and on.   I understand.   You want what’s best for your loved one and you don’t know how to truly be helpful.

Here’s another option.  Send your loved one the link to Your Health Your Way and follow up with them to see what they think. Trust that through this class, they will be able to hear themselves think through what’s going on and find ways to work with it.    If money is an issue and you have the means, you can offer to pay for it.   You could also offer to attend the classes with them or listen to the recordings and talk about it.

What questions do you have about Your Health Your Way?  Feel free to comment below or contact me.

 

 

 

 

Today’s post is reprinted in its entirety  from Susan Piver’s blog.  Susan is a gifted author, meditation instructor,and I can’t say enough good things about her.  You can find out more about Susan here.   Since the name of my work is The First Step, when I read this article I had a big aha moment because starting and taking a first step are so integrally related to managing the ups and downs of your mental and physical health.

So, without further ado- here’s Susan!!!

When it comes to creating real change in your life, there is only one action item that is critical. The most brilliant organizational strategies and profound insights into human behavior are 100% meaningless without it. If you are not doing this one thing, nothing else matters. I’m not being poetically licentious; I’m telling you the truth. That thing? Start.

Begin. Commence. Initiate. Leap. Whether you want to become a meditator, artist, CEO, friend, athlete, or simply the best you of all time, you just have to take the very first step. What is that step? Write it down. Then do it. Don’t worry about the step after that.

Repeat.

Repeat.

Repeat.

Forget about sweeping gestures–they’re irrelevant and confusing 95% of the time. Instead, make small, graceful, clear gesture after gesture. This is the way.

And PS here is the key piece of advice on starting: you have to do it all over again tomorrow. And the next day. Every day, in fact.

Starting is a sacred act. It requires opening without knowing what is going to happen. If you “know” how it’s going to go or what is going to result, you’re actually somewhere in the middle, not the beginning. So give up all notions. Turn toward this very moment. Open your heart to yourself, your day, your loved ones and your enemies–which simply means not having preconceived notions about any of it–and then start.

Char’s Postscript:

What are you willing to start right now, knowing you have no clue how it’s going to turn out?  For me, it was making a phone call I’d been procrastinating on not knowing how it would go.  How about you?

 

 

If you’re struggling with depression, anxiety or pain, feeling isolated is often a part of the picture.  It’s not your fault – it just kinda comes with the territory for many people.   I understand how difficult it can be to reach out.

On the other hand, part of you may realize how you long to feel productive.   But figuring out how to be productive and what to do can leave you spinning in circles and getting nowhere. Again, that’s so understandable – especially when there’s this grey worry of depression or anxiety that is flavoring your day.

That’s where I come in.  I’m here to help you find ways to feel better that work for you.

Both my kids are active volunteers.  Aaron works for the Humane Society as well as the Mid Michigan Commission on Aging.  Zach  finds about two causes a month to be part of.  Volunteering is a big part of their lives.

This got me thinking about how volunteering may be good for everyone’s mental health:  the volunteer’s who participate working together as a team and those who benefit from their combined efforts.

If you want to feel inspired, read this letter from Zach which describes the Tough Mudder obstacle course he’s in which will benefit the Wounded Warrior Project.


Hi Family and Friends:

Oh boy what did I get myself into?

I recently signed up for the Tough Mudder: a 10-mile obstacle course on April 10th. Together with my team, we will test our physical and mental toughness while passing through 17 challenges over 10 miles. In addition to being a great opportunity to build teamwork and leadership skills, the Tough Mudder is a chance to help a wonderful organization like the Wounded Warrior Project. The Wounded Warrior Project is a extremely important cause whose mission is to honor and empower wounded service men and women.

Donate Here — Donate one dollar, donate one hundred dollars — whatever you can give will help this great organization. Every donation you make will go directly to help those wounded recover and readjust to life after they serve.

WWP’s works to foster the most successful, well-adjusted generation of wounded warriors in this nation’s history. They aim to raise awareness and enlist the public’s aid for the needs of injured service members, to help injured service members aid and assist each other and to provide unique, direct programs and services to meet the needs of injured service members.  Every bit counts. Visit my page to donate directly via Visa or Mastercard at :
http://www.raceit.com/fundraising/fundraise.aspx?event=2837&fundraiser=1665.Feel free to spread the word!


That spirit of helping others as part of being a team can be yourt antidote to isolation that often comes with depression, anxiety and pain.

Needless to say, I donated to this cause because I believe in the spirit of giving to others who have truly done their best to serve our country and are now faced with the daunting task of re-adjusting to life here after going through such trauma.  The best I can offer them is my prayers and money.And, if you’re interested in donating, by all means use the links above.  Zach and the Wounded Warriors will appreciate any financial contribution you would like to make.

If you’ve got more time on your hands than money, consider volunteering locally.  Consider checking this link to www.serve.org or www.1800volunteer.org for more opportunities in your local area where you can help others.

Since I’m not particularly computer savvy, I suggest you just put in your zip code and areas of interest (if you know them) and see what comes up.  I also encourage you to limit your time researching to 30 minutes max to avoid overwhelm.

I’m giving this a try in my own do-able way by volunteering to do inventory at our local food coop.  I love having fresh organic food available, the coop staff are always helpful and I want to give back in a meaningful way.  I know that the way they keep their food stocked is by doing inventory and they don’t have the resources to do inventory with their limited staff.

The key ingredients are to volunteering in a way that works for me are:

  • It’s a cause I believe in
  • I’ll be working as part of a team
  • The hours work for me

Feel free to borrow these criteria if you decide to volunteer your time.

Is volunteering  your time a fit in your life right now?  If it feels like one more “should”, perhaps the answer is no.

On the other hand, maybe you’re overwhelmed – as I was – by how much the world needs our help right now, and what you can really do that would be useful.  I can help you sort that out.  Just ask your questions here, I’ll lead you through and together we’ll find out if this helps you feel better.

Never Never Give Up

March 23rd, 2011

Wiinston Churchill once said, “Never, Never Give Up.”  I couldn’t agree more.

In this time of great unrest and uncertainty in our world, those of us who struggle with anxiety or depression can feel particularly affected.  Not only is it hard to be you in your own personal life, but the world may in some ways confirm your worst nightmares.  Some of mine are that no one wants what I have to offer and there’s no way that I can truly be of service in the world.

Maybe your fears are the same. . . or totally different.

Perhaps you have so many fears and they feel like they are so much a part of you, that there actually aren’t words for it.  There’s just a feeling that is kinda indescribable yet pervasive, that slips in through the cracks of your life in ways you can’t even define.  I’ve been there too. . . often, in fact.

And, at some point, I come back to this very important phrase:  “Never, Never Give Up”.

I also believe that when you change any small thing about your life, you change everything.

For example, when you put your feet flat on the floor while you’re sitting at your desk and sink into them, it has a chain reaction.  You may notice yourself sinking into your hips more, lowering your shoulders, raising the crown of your head, releasing your jaw, and letting your eyes sink inward.  That just happened for me.  What do you notice?

When I remind myself to never never give up, I ask myself a couple questions:

  • What’s a baby step that I can take? Whether it’s putting my feet flat on the floor or reading a poem or doing some act of kindness like calling one of my relatives, there is always something that I can do.
  • Can I work on something else while thinking about the bigger issue that has me all stirred up? It’s amazing how therapeutic it can be to do the simple things of life llike the dishes, cleaning out a drawer, or taking a shower and pondering what I can do about the bigger issue
  • Putting words on my feelings always helps me – that may look like journalizing or talking out-loud or taking a walk and thinking it through.  Again, it’s a way to engage with all the noise in my head so I can understand myself better, which almost always leads to a change in my mood and actions.

The world. . . . ahhh, the world, is filled with despair and stories of hardship everywhere it seems.  What I’ve learned is I can either be paralyzed by these things or do some baby steps.

I truly believe that baby steps, taken by many people, become big steps that create change in the world.

If you’re looking for some tangible ways to make a difference in the world, here’s a few of my favorite things:

  • Teach Now is a series of teleclasses for anyone wants to share ideas, energy and information in the world in a way that makes a difference.  That includes parents, caregivers, people struggling with mood issues – it includes every one of us. To sign up for the free call which will be recorded if you can’t make it, go here.
  • Americorps is one of my favorite causes and the Senate is threatening to cut its budget.  I believe that Americorps is a win win for everyone involved:  it helps people in the US who are struck by hardship and it also helps the volunteers who learn skills such as working as a team and how to be of service to others.  Go here to find out how to  help us Save Service and keep Americorps alive!
  • I get calls all the time asking for donations and have never found a do-able way to choose who to contribute to. Here’s a way to contribute to many different worthwhile causes, everything from the American Red Cross to today’s charity which is KidPower which helps kids learn how to defend themselves with self confidence as well as martial arts, by contributing $1 a day.  Find out more at www.philanthroper.com.

Whether we are helping ourselves by putting our feet flat on the floor which affects our posture or helping each other by giving a $1 a day to a good cause, it is evidence that we never never give up.  And by not giving up, we take steps forward – in our own lives – which affects not just us, but the lives of all those around us.

If you feel like you want to give up, tell me more.  And if you have other ways that you take care of yourself or serve the world, please share them as well.    I truly believe that one baby step leads to another, providing momentum, that does make a difference to each of us personally as well as the world.  I believe in you . . . and in us!

 

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.

 

 

 

“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.

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.



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!!

.

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!