Monday, April 29, 2013

"Suffering" is a State of Mind

I read a lot of websites, blogs, Facebook pages/groups, Google+ posts, Twitter feeds and LinkedIn groups devoted to Rheumatoid Arthritis, Fibromyalgia, and Chronic Illnesses in general.  I do this so I can get hints and tips from others living with these illnesses.  What strikes me most and what ties these different platforms together is the sheer number of people who "suffer" with these illnesses.

I understand the pain they are experiencing.  I understand the frustration with the limitations on their lives. I understand how it feels when the people in your life just don't get it.  None of this is easy to live with.  That said, what I don't understand is constant misery.  The sheer number of people who essentially hate life because they are dealing with any or all of the issues of chronic pain, limitations and/or lack of support is astonishing.

When I go to these pages, I am looking for positive people, good hints/tips and ideas for being more productive in general.  I have friends who live with illnesses who are the happiest and most positive people I have ever met.  Unfortunately, they are few and far between.  It's often hard to find them due to the overwhelming number of folks living from a negative place.  I cannot imagine being there all of the time.  You only have to look back at this blog to see where I have had difficult times and struggled with these illnesses but I generally snap out of it fairly quickly.  Frankly- it's exhausting to be in that head space.  Who needs to add that to illnesses that make you chronically fatigued already?  Now- I realize that there are folks who are clinically depressed and I am not discounting that.  In those cases, a professional is the only way to treat the depression.  I am talking about the people who receive their diagnosis and it's as if they become their illness. Their diagnosis is the only thing they talk about, they complain constantly, they allow it to take over their lives.

I want to shout at them "It doesn't have to be that way! You are not your illness! Your illness is not you!"  Everyone has blessings in their lives- they only have to open your eyes and see look for them.  You have to look beyond the diagnosis, look beyond the pain, look beyond the frustration and see the bright spots in your life.  Then take those bright spots and giving thanks for them and look for more. An example in my own life is this:  I work in retail.  Part of that is stocking shelves, shipping and receiving, and a lot of 50+ lb lifting.  There are days when I can do it with no problem.  There are days that I struggle with it but find a way to lessen the load. There are other days (like today) when I am in a fibro or RA flare, or even when one is coming on when there is no way in the world that I can do any lifting.  I could focus on these days where I am not able to work to my full capacity.  I could make this so "huge" that I let if affect my good days.  I could let it make me feel useless- but that is just not true!

 I am very capable.  On my really good days I can run circles around the 18-26 year old students who work for me.  On my average days, I can work side by side with them and hold my own.  I have told every member of my staff that I have both Rheumatoid Arthritis and Fibro and what it means for me.  Every single one of them understands what that means for me and what it means for them when I am having a bad day.  The bright spot is- they never, ever make me feel like I am imposing on them by asking them to do the heavy work.  Another bright spot is that when I have to ask them to do the heavy stuff- I can take over the light stuff and we can keep moving forward.  When I find myself mentally beating myself up about not being able to do something, I remember that I have help and that though I am not doing everything- I am more than capable of doing *something* to take the load off of those who are taking the load off of me.

I am not my RA or Fibro.  I am so much more.  Despite these challenges, I have a good life.  I have a wonderful family, I have a good job, I have pretty terrific insurance, I have good doctors looking after me.  I learn something every day.  I don't suffer from my illnesses- I live with them and don't let the things I can't do define me.  If you are in the mind space where you are suffering from something; be it illness, mourning a loss, a broken heart, you can look beyond those things and find the good.  You can focus on the things you CAN do rather than what you CAN'T.  If you take nothing else from this post, take this: you can change your mindset and put your challenges where they belong- as a part of you, not as all that you are.

I leave you with a quote:

"People become really quite remarkable when they start thinking that they can do things. When they believe in themselves they have the first secret of success." 
Norman Vincent Peale 

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

What is WRONG with people?

My heart is very heavy over the Boston Marathon bombings.  When the first of dozens of alerts came in on my phone my heart was in my throat.  I knew a couple of people who were running and about a dozen who go in every year to enjoy the party that is the spectator's side of Marathon Monday.  Fortunately, by 6:30 pm I heard from the last of them that they were okay and felt so blessed that they were all well.  Seeing the carnage tore at something inside me but at the same time the everyday people who were running toward the explosions to help was such a brightness in such a horrific time.

Of course, the coverage has been crazy.  I don't know where you are, but here in Louisville, with Thunder over Louisville this weekend and the Derby coming up in two weeks there has been a lot of conversation as to what measures should be taken to ensure that this doesn't happen here.  In addition, every newspaper, television station and internet news venue has been updating every few hours any information coming out of Boston.  Feeling very invested, I have been reading a LOT of stories.  The problem with that is that I also read the comments.  I usually find it very interesting to see what my fellow man has to say about big stories.  This time, quite honestly, many-many-many of the comments have turned my stomach.  If I were to go on about all of my issues with the things that come out of people's mouths (fingertips?) it would take us a week so instead I will just put here an open letter to all of them at once:

Dear Person Commenting on the Boston Marathon Bombing:

I have read your comments on the news stories and I believe that many of you are incredibly confused.  This event left three people (so far) dead, over a dozen missing limbs and almost 200 injured right here on our own soil.  Additionally, thousands of men, women and children will be emotionally scarred for a very long time.  During this we have also seen the best of people, coming together to help their fellow man. So please let me break this down for you.

This is not about your political agenda.
This is not about your gun rights.
This is not about your religious views.
This is not about your bigotry.
This is not about YOU!

. I don't care what you think about the President.  I don't care what you think about being able to carry a gun.  I don't care what you think about your God's vengeance.  I don't care what you think about this/that or another race.  Your negativity and hatred are the root of all of this.  If you and people like you weren't so quick to open your mouth and spew your venom maybe, just maybe, people would actually get along better and there would be less of an inclination to cause such mass carnage and chaos.  Yes, there is evil in this world but your negativity only allows it to grow.

This event is about the victims and the heroes who risked their lives to help.  So how about this?  How about, instead of sitting at your keyboard bashing everyone and everything you go out and make a positive difference in someone's life?  Practice Random Acts of Kindness. Volunteer for a fundraiser for the victims.  Thank a First Responder.  If you want a different world- it's up to you, to me, to all of us to stop complaining and do something about it.

I leave you with a quote from Gandhi:  "Be the change you wish to see in this world."



Monday, April 8, 2013

Sometimes we all need a reminder to enjoy the ride

Every once in a while, something happens that knocks the breath out of you.  I don't mean something as...drastic.. as a death but just something that makes you stop and re-evaluate your life.  Though you may be hurt or just surprised at the way things are going, this does not have to be a bad thing.

A shock to the system can give you the nudge you need to gain perspective.  If you give yourself time, you can sit back and look through the pain and see clearly those little things that you may have not seen or even known were there while you were going about your life.  Once you identify them, you can begin to recover and make decisions that will let you make your life better.

I feel that as we get "comfortable" we become complacent.  I know I do.  I have found myself becoming too comfortable in my marriage, in my friendships and in my work life.  When that happens, I tend to forget to appreciate the people that I love.  It's not that I don't know how blessed that I am, it's that I forget to let them know that I know how lucky I am to have them in my life- and everyone needs a little appreciation now and then.  Don't you hate to feel like you are taken for granted?  I know I do- but if there's one good thing that can come from feeling that way is that it can remind you that maybe- just maybe- there are people in your life who feel like you are not as appreciative of them too.  It can give you the reminder that you need to turn it around and make sure you let someone in your life know that you love them, you appreciate them and all that they add to your life.

If you let it, that kick in the pants can give you the motivation that you need to do something good for someone else.  It can let you see that there are parts of your life that you need to repair and take steps to get started.  It can help you see the blessings all around you, which in turn can diminish the pain and anguish that you are feeling.  If there is one thing that living with a pair of chronic illnesses has taught me it is that there is nothing that we can't overcome, and there is no situation in which we cannot find something positive if we just look.  Once we start seeing those blessings in our lives and more importantly; appreciating them- then we can enjoy the ride.