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Dear Me, You’re Not Weak

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Dear Exhausted and Weak Me,

You’ve had a bit of a setback, and the progress you thought you were making, has now been undone, but please don’t ever call your body weak again. It had to fight so much for so long, that it’s one of the strongest bodies you’ll ever meet. It had to carry so much and it fought so hard for you. Never forget that progress is a slow process.

Please don’t ever feel guilty again of not being the perfect friend, wife, sister, or daughter. You are not your disease even though you feel that is all you are. You’ve tried to keep up with life, but in the end, you lost. You fought an incredible battle. But a setback is just a set-up for a comeback. And one day, you will be winning again. You’ll proudly show your scars and scream “I’ve survived”.

Please don’t ever feel ashamed again, for not remembering things and asking questions when you should already know the answers. Memory loss is part of the disease, and some day your brain will function properly again. Remember that the people who love you, don’t blame you. So why blame yourself?

Don’t compare yourself to the girls who post pictures with the cutest outfits, on sunny vacations and living life. When these girls wore dresses and high heels, you wore pajamas and a robe every day of the week. And you know what? That is okay. Really, it is. Your time will come too, and then you’ll feel confident and maybe even pretty. And you’ll buy all the dresses and shoes you can dream of.

Don’t accuse yourself of being difficult to love. Don’t you dare tell yourself that ever again. There is so much to love about you. When you feel hate for yourself, you are actually hating the disease. But there is more to you than disease. You are giving, generous and have a big heart. Even with this debilitating disease and unreal medical bills, you still support people you love and give a lot to your family while trying to never ask for anything. Your soul is pure and your intentions are always good. Don’t blame yourself for the negative thoughts, but learn to understand that they are a part of this process. There will be a day when you will be able to tell your mind to shut up when the bad thoughts come again. You will beat this negativity. Yes, you will.

Don’t hate yourself. Stop hating your body. Your legs carried you through the hardest parts of your life. Your arms are strong, yet they are also soft and can be used to cuddle and hold the ones you love. When you’re finally able to work again, it will feel like the biggest victory you’ll ever know. I promise you that if you learn to appreciate yourself, your body will glow again. The scars will be evidence that you have won the fight. Celebrate and look toward the future and be thankful.

Please forgive your former friends for not being able to understand what it really means to be sick. They simply cannot empathize with you, and their lack of trying doesn’t mean they are bad people. It just means that life got in the way. If you allow it, life will reward you with new people who will see the good in you when you feel lost.

Please get rid of the idea that you can never thank your loved ones and friends enough for putting up with you. It’s not necessary to give them money or gifts. Remember that they support you because they choose to. Cherish them, and pay them back with love and unconditional friendship, because that is more than enough.

This is not your fault. Disease is not your fault. But this happened to you, and you’ve lost control over your body and life. Stop being impatient, pat yourself on the back and remember how far you have come. You can do this. Heck yes, you can.

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In Sickness And In Health, Loving Your Spouse Through Illness

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Many people suffer from chronic illness, some visible and some not. As one who suffers from several chronic illnesses, I can honestly tell you it is difficult to be married to me. Some days are good, some are really good. Some days are bad . . . and others even worse. You never know how you’re going to feel from day to day, or even hour to hour.

Being married to a person with a chronic illness is not much fun. It’s really taking the “in sickness and health” vow to the extreme. I’m not trying to compare my chronic illnesses, which are minor in the grand scheme of things, to a spouse who has lived through ALS or cancer with their husband or wife, but there are days I feel like my husband got the raw end of the deal.

Did he really mean to sign up for this?

Is he sure he wants to stick around and deal with this the rest of our lives?

He assures me he did and that he’s not going any where, but I still can’t help but wonder what his life must be like from day to day. Never knowing what “condition” I will be in by the time he comes home from work. Never knowing whether or not this is the moment I’ll have to go to the hospital. It’s not easy being married to me. These few reminders can help anyone going through difficult times.

  1. PRAY. Pray for your spouse and for your marriage. A chronic illness is something that will stretch the limits of your patience and test the boundaries of your love. It isn’t easy and it won’t just “go away,” so you need to pray. Pray for your spouse as they maneuver the difficulties of the illness, and pray that you will know just how to love them through it all.
  2. Communication is KEY. This goes for marriage in general, but especially when the spouse has a chronic illness. Their level of activity can vary greatly from day to day. Their level of comfort in those activities will vary greatly as well. Talk about EVERYTHING. This is the most important thing I can tell you. It won’t be easy, but it is necessary. But running from problems because they’re hard to talk about will only strain your relationship and tear you apart.
  3. It’s not their fault. Although you may tell yourself this, know that it’s not because of anything they did. They didn’t wish this illness on themselves and wouldn’t wish it on their worst enemy. It stinks. Know that they want to feel better. They want to be involved. They want to be active; they just can’t some days.
  4. Don’t be offended. Some days will just be more than they can handle, and the best thing they can do is say no. They still love you and want more than anything to be with you, their family and friends – but sometimes it is better they stay home and rest. Don’t take it personally; it isn’t you – really.
  5. Don’t pressure them. Your wanting them to feel better won’t make them better. And just because they want to feel better won’t make it happen, either. If they say they’re not up for a day trip, don’t make them feel bad for not going. If they say they can’t take the trip, don’t make them feel worse for the change in plans. They are already beating themselves up about it. Know that when they feel better, they will make it happen.
  6. Be patient. There will be days, and sometimes weeks (or months), when they will feel sick or just completely out of energy. They will continue to try and keep up for someone else’s sake or to keep up appearances or whatever other reason they can think of, but they will eventually hit a wall. And when they do, they will go down hard. Be patient with them as they recover. Be patient with them as they find a “new normal” with this illness and balancing their other “duties” as wife and/or mom, or husband and/or dad. It isn’t easy for them to admit defeat.
  7. Don’t ignore their issue. As with anything else, ignoring their issues will not make them disappear. In fact, ignoring them will likely lead to them shutting down and/or depression. And that is a scary, slippery slope. They likely suffer from bouts of depression when flare-ups occur anyway, so don’t ignore them when they happen.

Do you or your spouse live with a chronic illness? What ways have you found to love them through the difficult times?

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Finding Gratitude Among Tragedy

We all face challenges in our lives, whether it’s the loss of health, the loss of a loved one or dreams that were never realized. It can be especially difficult finding that attitude of gratitude through whatever life brings our way. It isn’t about denying the reality of a difficult circumstance or the tragic turns our lives might take, but instead finding in them the resilience and determination to keep going in the face of turmoil.

It’s so important to have gratitude- for the good times and bad.

So what are some ways we can learn to be thankful during these difficult times?

1. Practice gratitude every day.

Start a gratitude journal and at the end of each day, write down, for your eyes only, why you’re grateful. As I’ve learned, it’s not just about the days when everything is going our way. In everything, be grateful, even for the tough times that help us grow.

2. Put the Law of Attraction and the Law of Action to good use.

Once you start keeping your gratitude journal, you’ll see it’s easier to find something to write down every day. It’s like a magnet, not only attracting the good things that happen but also revealing the hidden treasure in the ones that test our endurance. And you’ll discover, too, that there are actions you can take that bring more your way. Choose to be grateful; invite it into your life. Stay strong as you search for your purpose in life.

3. Embrace grateful anticipation.

It’s not the same as entitlement; that’s a sure way to derail your dreams. This is more about recognizing the opportunities that have always been there but got lost in the shuffle of an unbalanced life. Embrace your life, whatever it brings your way, and know that you came to this point for a purpose, destined for great things.

And prepare for teary eyes, thinking about the good times and the bad. Emotions flood out when you are in the deepest form of gratitude.

Everything happens for a reason. Be grateful and everything will be ok.

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A Love Note To Myself

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Dear Awesome You,

This day isn’t going like you’d hoped. Your heart and mind want to be out in the world doing the things you love. Heck, you wouldn’t even mind doing something you don’t love if it meant you’d be out in the world.

Today, your body is asking you to slow down. It’s an invitation you’d rather not accept. You have so much planned for yourself, and this doesn’t feel fair.

You look out the window and see people and birds and trees doing their usual people and bird and tree things, living their lives outside, and you’d really like to join them.

Today feels lonelier than usual, and that’s alright. Maybe there’s sadness, regret, fear, frustration, longing, anger and confusion. It’s okay to feel it all. In fact, it’s actually good to really feel those emotions when they arise. I like to remind myself, cry when you’re sad, stop when you’re done.

The feelings that show up today actually need to be felt. When you let them be what they are without fighting them, they’ll be able to shift and transform. Feelings are always moving, they rarely stick unless we resist them. They just want us to stop and acknowledge them and give them love.

In some ways, you aren’t actually alone today. There are so many of us who woke up today with the same invitation from our bodies to slow down. You’re a part of a bigger group of people who are navigating the challenging world of chronic illness even if you can’t see them. Bring them into your mind and heart today.

What you experience matters, and it might mean a lot to someone out there to read about what you’re going through today. Likewise, maybe you’ll find someone else that was planning to leave the house today just like you, but their body had other plans too.

Be good to yourself today. You’re fantastic, and sometimes down days can trick you into thinking you’re not. But you aren’t your body, or your thoughts, or even your emotions. You’re the thing that exists whether you feel amazing or awful, you are your spirit.

I may not know you all out there, but I do know you’re deserving of love and patience and kindness. As author Louise Hay would recommend, go to the mirror during a difficult moment and say, “It’s okay, I love you. This will pass, but I love you and that’s forever.”

So feel your feelings, remember you’re not alone, and enjoy the company of the thoughtful, sensitive, amazing person that is you. Today you’ve got her all to yourself.

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How To Deal With Negative Thoughts And Emotions

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Emotions are a normal part of life. I don’t think it’s normal to be happy all the time. It’s natural to feel depression, anxiety, sadness, grief, and anger at certain times in our lives. What I have found is that often it’s not the negative emotions that are bad, it’s that we don’t deal with them and let them linger in our minds.

Here are some things which have helped me when I haven’t been feeling great. I hope they help you, too.

1. No feeling is ‘wrong’.
There seems to be a common belief that negative emotions are “bad”, that we shouldn’t get angry, lose our temper, or ever get upset. Here’s the thing, though – our emotions are there for a reason. It’s natural for us to be angry or sad, the important thing is to find a healthy way of letting them all out, including the ones we have considered ‘bad’.

2. Emotions are always telling us something.
Hiding somewhere beneath the surface, we might feel not good enough, unsupported, or perhaps be grieving the loss of something or someone important to us. Listen to those feelings, and respond compassionately. If something is bothering you, ask yourself why. You’ll often find it’s something deeper than what you envisioned initially; and once you get to the root of the cause, it’s always easier to remedy.

3. Give yourself what you need.
Whether it’s a day on the couch with your favorite tv show or movie, snuggling up in bed with a good book, a hot cup of tea, or a warm bath – you know what you need. Slow down and take some time to do what nourishes you. The world won’t stop if you have a day off and relax. We live in a society of gritting your teeth and ‘getting on with it’, but self care is necessary. Taking time to slow down and listen to your soul and body may seem like it will be counter-productive, but I promise if you incorporate this into your lifestyle, it will work out better for you in the long run. I promise.

4. Crying is good. 

So many people respond to someone crying with “don’t cry”. They think they’re being helpful, but it’s commonly said because crying makes them feel uncomfortable. Think back to times when you’ve cried and how you felt afterwards. Chances are you felt better – lighter and relieved. Let yourself cry; it’s not a weakness – it’s a natural release and you’ll pretty much always feel better afterwards.

5. All feelings pass.
You’ve heard it before, and it’s such an important quote to me that I have it engraved on a ring I wear as a reminder – this, too, shall pass. It’s true, though, it may not feel like it, but all things pass. Happiness won’t last, and neither will negative feelings. Emotions are energy in motion. So the best we can do is feel them, and allow them. It’s okay to not feel happy every day. You’re human. But by the same token, it’s not normal to feel sadness and despair every day. If this is the case, I encourage you to see a doctor or a therapist.

6. A suppressed emotion will only get worse.
When you try to ignore a feeling, it’ll only get more intense and urgent as time goes on. It’s much easier to let the emotion out than try to push it down and hide it. If you keep forcing it away, eventually it’ll become a volcano inside you and will have to erupt; most likely scalding the ones you love most.

7. It’s normal to go through a range of different emotions during a day.
Have you noticed how pets can go from laying in the corner looking depressed, to bright and perky all within the hour? We all go through a range of emotions. We are trying to fit into this society where many believe they are ‘too busy to feel bad’. It is both normal and natural to experience an array of different emotions on a daily basis. You’re not crazy, you’re human.

8. Emotions are energy in motion.

So get moving. Walk and talk with someone you love, or even better – buy a punching bag or take up running, weight training or yoga. Whatever makes you feel good and gives you the release you need. Find something to channel your negative emotions into. It doesn’t have to be expensive, you can hit a pillow if it makes you feel better. Find passive ways to get your aggression out. Physical release is powerful, and finding a healthy way to let your emotions out without hurting anyone, including yourself, is a tremendously helpful gift to have.

9. Give yourself space to feel what you feel.
Walk away if you’re angry. Take some time out. Allow space for your sadness; if that means cancelling your afternoon plans and curling up with a movie, do that. Let yourself really feel what you need to feel, knowing it’ll pass once it’s done.

10. Substance only masks the issue. 
If you’re over-eating/having a cigarette/drinking alcohol/popping pills every time you start to feel something you don’t want to feel, you’ll end up with a habit on your hands. You likely won’t feel any happier and your feelings will be more intense when you’re not on the substance. It’s a band-aid solution and you know it. If there’s something unhealthy you do when you’re upset, try asking yourself what you’re feeling before you indulge. Simply asking and answering honestly is a big step to success.

11. Get outside.
Nature is balancing; allow it to balance you. Take your shoes off and walk in the grass or sand. Or just take your lunch to the park. Get outside when you usually wouldn’t. You’ll feel much better for it.

 

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