Tag Archive | Caregivers

Feeling Free to Say “I Am Less Than Able Today”

Image by Lori PortkaWhy do I still feel embarrassed to express to my “well-bodied” friends that I am less-than-able on many days? Partly, I struggle to find the right words; the delicate balance between clear explanation and what I fear may sound like whiney complaining.

And then there is the bigger problem: the fact that I look so well. Especially on the days that my friends do see me. Because it is the days that I feel well enough to wash my hair (perhaps!), put on some makeup, get out of my lounge clothes, smile, and be present, that I also am able to keep my plans with them. They’re not seeing me on the days when my arms feel like 20lb. weights, too heavy to lift and brush the bed-tangles out of my hair. Or when I am still wearing what I woke up in, which many times even means what I went to bed in, because I was too exhausted to do anything but take off my bra the night before!

And truth be told, the sound and timber and strength of my voice doesn’t often change that much when my physical body is feeling poorly. And for me, my larynx can be in spasm causing hoarseness when I do feel well. So since that’s such a poor barometer for “feeling well vs. feeling poorly,” why is it then that people seem to think that what they hear over the phone lines is some sort of truth serum?

How many of you have heard those dreaded words, “Oh, but, you sound so good today! I’m glad!”

Unfortunately, they are often spoken before I’ve even had a chance to say how I am truly doing. So, I hesitate. Because it gets tiring saying, “um, thanks. But, actually, I’m not doing so hot today.” And even with my most well-intentioned friends and loved ones, I sometimes hear skepticism creep into their response. Because it just doesn’t make sense: but they sound so good…?

I share this all because I think it is a helpful reminder for anyone: both those of us struggling with day-to-day- fluctuations in our physical (or mental) capabilities and for those who are friends to, family members of, or caregivers for (including professionals) those with these “Invisible Illnesses.”

A quick reminder: Invisible Illnesses encompass a wide range of conditions and diseases. Take the common condition of arthritis, even. Yes, a joint could be swollen or red, but many times it can ache with no outward physical manifestation. So now think of all the conditions that effect our “internal systems,” from brain chemistry, to GI disorders, blood, vein and heart conditions, nervous system pain and disruption, connective tissue deterioration… the list goes on and on. These are the “Invisible Illnesses” that hide behind an external mirage of wellness. Wouldn’t it be handy if when something was ailing or failing on the inside, a bright red “warning spot” would emerge on an external location?! I sure would find this handy! Not only for letting others visibly know something painful is going on, but also to help pin-point for both myself and my doctors, what system is causing the pain.

Since this warning system technology is yet to be invented, we have to trust what people say. To take them at their word. You don’t have to completely understand what someone is describing to give them love, support and empathy. And unconditional trust in their word.

Sometimes I worry (too much so) that the person I am sharing my ills of the day with will think I am only saying it to get out of seeing them. At least for me, this is never the case! In fact, I am one to mask my true feelings of pain and discomfort just to avoid hurting or disappointing another. I know I am not alone in this.

So what can we all do as a collective group who cares for one another, to combat this?

For the “well-bodied” loved one:

  1. Don’t Assume: Don’t assume just because we sound okay, or even because we look okay, that we feel okay. Don’t assume that because we were able to yesterday, we will be able to today. Or even, if we were able 15 minutes ago, that our bodies’ are still feeling as abled in This minute.
  2. Listen: Please ask us how we are really doing. And then give us the space to truthfully answer. Take our answers at face value; please don’t judge or question (or fill in the blank!).
  3. Don’t feel like you need to fix the situation. All we really need is acceptance and acknowledgement: “Wow that sounds hard/painful/frustrating. I am sorry you are feeling so lousy/cruddy/down today.”
  4. It’s okay to ask “Is there any way I can be of support to you/help you right now?” But also know that we may not have an answer for that. It’s not that we don’t want your help (and I always like hearing a sincere offer from a friend), it’s just that: 1. We may not truly know of any way that you can help right now and 2. Many times all we need is space and time to heal. Which leads me to…
  5. Give us space without expectations. We know (believe me!) how hard it is to accept that there is no clear pattern to our symptoms. We may feel better in 1 day, 3 days, maybe even 30 minutes and that can be frustrating. So we just ask for your patience as we navigate the unknown.
  6. Don’t stop asking. This is a big one! And I don’t mean “don’t stop asking how we are doing” (although that’s a good thing, too); I mean don’t stop asking us to do things. Because there still are many days when we are able. And spending time with you, helping you out and supporting you, still means a lot to us. This is what feeds our soul and keeps us striving to be and get well.

Now, onto the “Invisible Illness” group:

  1. It’s Okay. You’re okay. You are whole and complete exactly as you are. That was hard for me to write, because I am not just saying it to you, I am saying it to myself. “I am whole exactly as I am.” You/I/WE do not have to be anything other than what we are capable of being. We did not create these illnesses nor are we using them as a crutch to “get out of things.” They inhibit what we can do on a daily business, but they are not the all of us.
  2. We are not defined by our illness. Our friends like and love us for who we are: the pure essence of us, our true spirit. Not for our physical abilities or dis-abilities. And if that is how someone defines “compatibility” in a relationship, they are not the kind of supportive friend you need, or deserve.
  3. Speak your truth. Don’t sugar-coat the situation. You don’t need to go into great length or detail (unless you need/want to). Just be clear and concise. Remember we are speaking a language only other people with chronic illnesses can understand. A friend of mine with varying daily abilities can say just one word to me, or give me that look, and I get it. It’s not going to be that way with all of our friends and caregivers, so…
  4. Be patient. You may need to explain your daily needs and limitations over and over again. This can feel frustrating or maybe even like the other person is questioning your authenticity. In most cases, this isn’t true. Remember: it’s a foreign language, and people don’t learn to comprehend a foreign tongue overnight! Most times, our loved ones keep asking questions, only because they want to understand.
  5. If someone asks how they can help, and you can think of a way, ASK IT. Don’t be stoic. Don’t hope that they’ll just guess at what you need. (How could they?!). And don’t ever feel embarrassed. This last one happens to me. Because I start to think “But, I should be able to do this.” Trust that if someone offers to help, their offer is sincere and that if what you ask for is too much for them, they will let you know. Think how helpful it would be to have someone cook you a meal, or run an errand/do a household chore, or even help you to color your hair.
  6. Remember that friendship is based on unconditional love. Our friends and lovers chose us for the person we bring out in them, just as we love them for the person they bring out in ourselves. We are all here to be our best selves, but that does not mean trying to be something other than you are. Or can be, physically. There is more to you, there is more to me, than our physicality.

It is up to all of us to spread the word on Invisible Illnesses. To take the stigma and mis-understanding out of them. Because millions and millions of us walk around looking “just like everyone else,” while on the inside of bodies are crumbling.

The first step to undoing all the misconceptions around these illnesses, is to start with a deeper understanding of each other, on a one to one basis. Which includes a deeper understanding of our own needs and abilities, followed by acceptance of same. It’s time to embrace all that we do bring to the world rather than all that we do not!

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May I Decide For You?

equal heart

Why do we profess to know what’s best for others? Especially loved ones? Is it because we think we know them intimately more than they even know themselves? This is something that often happens with those battling chronic illness and daily limitations.

Our loved ones, out of fear of pushing us too far (IE: making us “sicker”), make decisions based on our well-being without ever consulting us. Many times, these decisions are made behind closed minds, during the pre-conversation/contemplation phase and we never even know different possibilities existed. And because they are never presented to us, we are never given the opportunity to make our own choices (and, yes, even mistakes).

The decision has already been made for us, under the guise of “loving-kindness.” I know that I have been on the receiving end of this kind of decision making multiple times, especially from my husband. My most recent example occurred in an interaction with a dear friend:

Over the last couple years, I have been mentoring this friend. I was, from the beginning, clear and honest about my physical time limitations but committed to communicating in alternative ways; and asked that if our relationship agreement ever stopped working because of these restrictive parameters, she not hesitate to approach me about her changing needs. We went into the partnership with what I thought was an equal agreement. Then, just a few days back, she abruptly let me know that our arrangement was no longer working and she had already found another mentor.

As much as I respect her needs, I was taken aback by the one-sided decision making. When pressed, she explained that she honors the physical place that I am in and would never want to put un-due pressure on me. So she found someone more “well-bodied” and flexible with their schedule. She thought she was coming from a place of loving-kindness.

But, in fact, she took equality right out of our equation. Out of concern for pressuring me, she took away my opportunity to know and express what is right for me. To check in with my own body and decide whether I could do more to meet her needs or not.

What was removed from our relationship was trust in the other person to know themselves, and respect for whatever decision they make. Regardless of our own opinion.

Let me highlight some ways we all do this in relationships:
– Our partner gets anxious in social situations, so we avoid telling them about upcoming engagements until the last minute, so they don’t unduly fret.
– Our parent worries when we travel, so we hide trips from them until we get home, as not to overly stress them.
– We have friends who have chosen to no longer drink, so we don’t invite them to events where there will be a lot of “celebrating,” so they won’t be tempted.
– A co-worker tends to react strongly when asked to do a project, so instead of giving them the chance to process and respond, we just do everything ourselves to avoid a possible conflict.

We tell ourselves “loving-kindness” stories: “I don’t want this (person I care for) to feel bad/sad/disappointed/stressed/worried…” We’ve already analyzed the situation in our heads, come to the conclusion of how the choice will negatively affect the other person, how they will respond, and what we will do to avoid this.

But, remember, when you make a choice for a loved one, you are no longer looking at them as an equal.

Those of us with chronic illness often struggle with feelings of being “less-than” (as many well-bodied folks do, too!). We already have to limit so many facets of our daily lives. But, we can still make conscious, thoughtful decisions for ourselves.

Doesn’t every adult want to be perceived as trustworthy of their own truth?

And the thing is. . .

We very well may make poor decisions! We may over-commit which over-taxes our bodies or minds.

BUT… that’s how we learn. How much is too much. And how much is just right.

If the right to make our own choices is removed, we are never able to find the balance on our own.

One of the worst things, is discovering after the fact that you could have been a participant in the decision making process, and that was taken away from you. It’s way worse to learn later that a group of friends went out dancing but didn’t invite you only because they didn’t want you to feel bad because your body is ill-equipped to dance right now. A much better scenario is to be given that choice and decide whether you want to sit and watch at the club or if it’s better to stay home, but it sure felt nice to be including in the invite!

So, next time you find yourself making a pre-emptive decision for another out of loving-kindness, try for a different approach:
– Tell that person about the choice and kindly express your concerns for their well-being.
– Let them know you trust them to make the right decision for themselves in that moment.
– Remind them that you’ll support whatever choice they make; and will give them the respect of keeping lines of communication and gentle observation open.

In all interactions, remember that a partnership means that each party is on equal ground.

Poked and Prodded, Jibbed and Jabbed

I realize that during the last three weeks I have been poked, prodded, squished, jabbed, plugged in, dilated, tested and re-tested.  No wonder I feel exhausted!  Since the beginning of 2014, I: have had my annual boob squish (yippee!); underwent cardiac testing; was “shot up” with my second infusion treatment (TNF Inhibitor); had an “invasive” G/I exam and tests; had the pleasure of my eyes being dilated while being chastised for not coming in annually (“you know, you do have a lot of underlying medical conditions that effect eye health”… duh!); got my monthly blood-work completed; was stung with almost 30 Botox injections in my head and neck; and then to top it all off … was submitted to two corticoid-steroid injections in my S-I joint (the hardest to reach=tailbone area) and my hip as well as three trigger point injections in my shoulder area (no numbing meds. with that one=double ouch!!). All in 21 days!

Yet, strangely, this feels normal to me. How weird is that?!

Just last week, a friend was telling me how exhausted she was.  She had just finished a day filled with two medical appointments, a flu shot and DPT shot, as well as some blood work.  And I understood!  Yet it also gave me a deeper perspective on what most able-bodied people find taxing.

And it gave me a great sounding board for helping her to better understand what my daily life is like.  Of course, I didn’t share this with her on the spot.  She had a right to her own exhaustion and some empathy from a caring friend.  Bottom line, isn’t that what we all crave?  But later in the week, I brought up her experience as a starting point…

I asked her to recall how depleted (and violated) she had felt on this day of appointments and tests.  I told her that I, more than most, could 100% relate to her experience.  Then I followed up with, “you know how you felt? Well, just to give you a little perspective, that’s what it is like for me 2-3 times a week, on an average week.”  I saw recognition light up behind her eyes.  And I realized that it is difficult for others to understand how the chronically ill feel on a chronic basis.  We all need a compass point to help guide perspective.

Another dear friend has often said to me, “I imagine how horrific it feels to have the flu.  And then I think of you, and try to imagine what it would feel like to experience that all-over pain and fatigue every. single. day.”  She sometimes follows-up with, “It makes me feel like crying.” Ah, me too.

So I realize these are all good starting points to increase the awareness of our “well-bodied” friends and family.  Our barometer for pain is at a higher set point than most.  We have to be that way in order to survive (and hopefully even thrive, at times!).

But it is also important, if we want to maintain honest integrity with ourselves and others, for us to attempt to explain what this means.  Being chronically ill is… a constant cycle of preparing oneself for upcoming doctor’s appointments and tests.  The emotional roller-coaster is taxing both pre- and post-visit: Is this the day I will get bad news or good news?  Is this the doctor that will have a new idea to help me with my illness(es)?  How many slips for subsequent tests will I leave here clutching today?  Can I even afford to go to the doctor’s today?  How am I going to get there; am I strong enough to drive myself?  Should I have someone with me so I am not the only one hearing the doctor’s words? Is this going to be another appointment with the summation, “I’m just not sure how to help you.” shrug.; Do I even get my hopes up?

Then there is the physical toll. Just getting ready for these appointments can be exhausting; sitting for long periods in the waiting rooms can be even worse.  Waiting in uncomfortable chairs (especially the hard plastic ones in the exam room!), can wreak havoc on a chronically ill body.  Then doctors like to (and, let’s face it, should be) physically examine your body, too.  Herein comes the poking, prodding, jibbing, and jabbing, all igniting flares of various “hot spots.”  Whether it is abdominal pains, muscular and joint pains, neuropathy, etc… we don’t like to be excessively touched!!   And are bodies will let us know this with a snowball effect of all over and hyper-aware pains (allodynia) throughout our bodies for several days after the appointment.

By the time we start to recover, it’s time for the next onslaught!

And, in between all these appointments, we want to live life… and not just inside the walls of hospitals and clinics!

We don’t need your sympathy.  But the next time you are feeling all-over exhaustion from a day at the doctors, an afternoon full of tests, or a bout with a cold or infection, think of us.  And give us empathy and understanding.  That’s all we truly crave.

Thank you.

Open Letter to “Normals:” Please Read

understanding quote

I came across this letter posted on another blog.  It was originally written to help understand what people with Fibromyalgia live with.  But it is pertinent to all the patients who are and family member of the chronically, “invisibly” ill. So I tweaked it a little. And would be forever grateful if you took a moment to read it (and share it)!

Open Letter To Normals,

These are the things that I would like you to understand about me before you judge me…

Please understand that being sick doesn’t mean I’m not still a human being.  I may have to spend most of my day flat on my back in bed or on the couch in jammies, and I might not seem like great company, but I’m still me stuck inside this body.  I still worry about school and work and my family and friends, and most of the time I’d still like to hear you talk about yours too.

Please understand the difference between “happy” and “healthy.”

When you’ve got the flu you probably feel miserable with it, but I’ve been sick for years. I can’t be miserable all the time, in fact I work hard at not being miserable. So if you’re talking to me and I sound happy, it means…  I’m happy. That’s all. I may be tired. I may be in pain. I may be sicker than ever.  Please, don’t say, “Oh, you’re sounding better!”  I am not sounding better, I am sounding happy. If you want to comment on that, you’re welcome. Happy ≠Healthy.

The same goes for “looking good.”  If I have the energy to, I like to put on a little make-up and a favorite sweater, maybe even curl my hair.  But looking good does not always equate to feeling good.  That’s why they are called Invisible Illnesses.  Looks can be very deceiving!

It is okay to say, “You sound happy today.”  Or, “I know you may not feel well, but you sure look pretty today!”

Please understand that being able to stand up for five minutes, doesn’t necessarily mean that I can stand up for ten minutes, or an hour. It’s quite likely that doing those five minutes has exhausted my resources and I’ll need to recover – imagine an athlete after a race. They couldn’t repeat that feat right away either. With a lot of diseases you’re either paralyzed or you can move. With this one it gets more confusing.

Please repeat the above paragraph substituting,
“sitting up”,
“walking”,
“thinking”,
“being sociable”
and so on  …. it applies to everything.

That’s what a fatigue-based illness does to you.

Please understand that chronic illnesses are variable. It’s quite possible (for me, it’s common) that one day I am able to walk to the park and back, while the next day I’ll have trouble getting to the bathroom.  Please don’t attack me when I’m ill by saying, But you did it before! There is no formula to follow with my disease.  If I have the energy on one day, I will seize the opportunity and engage in the next present activity.  Just as likely (or even more so), I will get up with the intention of following-through on a plan, only to discover I am utterly exhausted after just getting dressed and will have to lie down.

If you want me to do something, ask if I can and I’ll tell you. In a similar vein, I may need to cancel an invitation at the last minute. If this happens please don’t take it personally (I’m just as sad and upset about it as you!).  I still like to be asked, even if I have to bow out.  It’s hard to have a chronic illness and to be excluded from events because you don’t want to make me “feel bad.”

Please understand that “getting out and doing things” does not make me feel better, and can often make me seriously worse.  Chronic Illnesses like Fibromyalgia, Lupus, Arthritis, M.S., Polychondritis (me!) and Abdominal Conditions, may cause secondary depression (wouldn’t you get depressed if you were stuck in bed for years on end!?) but it is not caused by depression. Telling me that I need some fresh air and exercise is not helpful and truthfully, incorrect – if I could do it, I would. And please understand that if I say I have to sit down / lie down / take these pills now, that I do have to do it right now – it can’t be put off or forgotten just because I’m doing something.

Chronic, Invisible Illnesses do not forgive.

Please recognize that I can’t spend all of my energy trying to get well. With a short-term illness like the flu, you can afford to put life on hold for a week or two while you get well. But part of having a chronic illness is coming to the realization that you have to spend some energy on having a life now. This doesn’t mean I’m not trying to get better. It doesn’t mean I’ve given up. It’s just how life is when you’re dealing with a chronic illness.

If you want to suggest a cure to me, please don’t. It’s not because I don’t appreciate the thought, and it’s not because I don’t want to get well. It’s because I have had almost every single one of my friends or family members (or friends of friends, for that matter!)  make a suggest at one point or another. At first, I tried them all.  But then I realized I was using up so much energy trying a myriad of treatments and “cures” that I was making myself sicker, not better. If there was something that cured, or even helped, people with Fibro, CFS and all the other “invisible illnesses,” we’d know about it.  This is not a drug-company conspiracy. There is a worldwide network (both on and off the internet) between people with chronic, invisible illnesses, and whenever there is a new, valid treatment option available, we already know about it (mind you, they are far and few between).

We’ve had to find acceptance in the frustrating fact that medicine has not caught up with the growing cases of autoimmune illnesses. The best support you can give us is to accept this fact yourself.  To accept us as we are, not as you would want us to be.

If after reading this, you still want to suggest a cure, then do it, but preferably in writing.  Please don’t expect me to  rush out and try it. If I haven’t had it suggested before, I’ll take what you said and discuss it with my doctor. Please understand that getting better from an illness like this can be painstakingly slow. (pun intended!)

People with Autoimmune Illnesses have so many systems in their bodies out of equilibrium, and functioning wrongly, that it may take a long time to sort everything out. Our bodies are literally attacking themselves and there is no pattern that doctors or patients follow.  Each of our cases is unique and varied.

Don’t misunderstand me, I depend on you – people who are not sick – for many things.  But most importantly, I need you to understand me.

Thank you for your compassion,

The Invisibly Ill

Today, I Choose Peace Over Chaos

"God, grant me the serenity"

    “God, grant me the serenity”

A friend and I were having coffee yesterday and she asked me how I’ve been… the old, “So what have you been up to?”  And I didn’t know how to answer.  It’s not that I don’t have plenty (and I mean plenty!) of things that have happened in the last several weeks.  I could have told her tales of adventure and peace, fear and pain, unexpected sadness and unplanned joys.  But as soon as I started to dip into the memory well of my mind, my ladle came up empty.  Why?  All I could think of was that I haven’t had any time to process one event before the next one has come at break neck speed my way.

Chaos used to be my default mode.  I prided myself on “thriving on chaos.”  And I did.  But, more so, I think it was a way of reassuring myself; of saying I choose to live this way not that life is dragging me along for the ride.  I learned a lot of coping mechanisms by being able to react quickly to the ever changing landscape of my life.  I think a lot of us with chronic illness in our lives (personally or with close loved ones), learn these coping skills.   But when you live at such a heightened state of awareness all the time, it’s hard to ever come back to center.  You get stuck in a constant “fight or flight mode.” And that’s what happened to me.  I was so used to getting by, juggling multiple balls at once, that I was always on alert for the next shoe to drop.  I could never relax.  And, as a result, I stopped surviving and only focused on thriving.

Then, almost 3 ½ years ago, I came to a crossroads in my life.  I decided to reevaluate all aspects of my life, both those within my control and those I had no control over.  I couldn’t change my diagnosis or the course of my illness, but I could (and can) change the amount of stress and negative influences in my life.  A major negative was the use of substances to somehow make everything feel better.  I thought it made me feel more ”normal;” I thought it was a salve to the stress and pain.   And perhaps it helped some, but for the most part it only added to the stress, on my mind, body and spirit.  So I decided to live a sober life, but I also realized I needed a support system in doing so.  I joined some amazing 12 step women’s groups, which are still a foundation of my daily living.  And over the years, I’ve learned healthier coping mechanisms in those rooms and also a lot about myself, my needs, my limits, and my abilities.

That change in my life 3+ years ago, was a turning point for me:  One where I took the “road less chaotic!”  I now consciously make choices that will lower my exposure to chaos and increase my reserves of peace and stability.  But what to do when I have no control over the chaos coming my way?  How do I control a situation I am completely powerless over?  The simple answer is, I don’tThe only thing I have any “power” over is my reaction to the non-stop stimuli.  Do I allow it to infiltrate my every waking moment, to consume my thoughts and actions?  Do I respond to this influx of unplanned events by fortifying myself for whatever may being come next?… putting up walls of defense, preparing for the other shoe to drop?  No.  I’ve tried that, actually beaten those ideas to death, and the result is always the same.  No matter how many contingency plans I come up with, my future has never turned out the way I’ve divined it!  I used to think that if I could only be better prepared, I would be able to handle the chaos.  But, the best gift I ever gave myself was to sit back and just take each thing as it comes… one day… one hour… one moment at a time.

Instead of coming up with my multiple “chaos exit strategies,” I now just make sure I have a full tool box that is well-stocked for whenever I need it.  Once it’s stocked, I don’t have to worry about.  It’s there, just like a first aid kit; I don’t have to constantly take it out and re-check the contents.  I can trust that the right tool will be at my fingertips in the right moment.

So, what’s in my tool box?  The easiest one to maintain is “prayer.”  It’s always there; I just have to remember to use it.  It doesn’t have to be complex or a “top of the line tool,” sometimes simpler is better: “Please give me the strength to get through this next moment,” “Please help me to remember I am not alone,” “Please grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change.”  The last mantra (from The Serenity Prayer), I will say over and over and over again when I am experiencing unremitting pain (for me this is physical, for others it could be the pain of anxiety, loss, fear…) ~ it becomes a lullaby that soothes me.  I get lost in this chant and the next thing I know I’ve made it through the rough patch.  And the best thing about the prayer tool?  You can use it anytime and no one has to know when you are implementing it.  You can silently use this technique in a crowded, over stimulating, room.  How great is that?!

Other tools?  I have a solid circle of friends and supporters; those people I can call anytime and I don’t have to start from scratch with my entire story, they can tell just by the sound of my voice that I need someone to listen.  Going back to my life of chaos; I used to think that there was strength in “going at it alone.”  I used to (foolishly) pride myself on doing things independently, and I didn’t want to drag anyone down the rabbit hole with me.  Thankfully, I’ve now learned that strength lies in vulnerability, in the ability to ask for help.  And that others gain energy by helping me, that it is a gift that goes both ways.  The friendship tool is the Leatherman of tools… many tools in one.  Not only do my friends take on many roles and provide a multitude of “services,” they also come in a variety of forms; from an acquaintance that is ready to help in a moment of distress to various support groups (12 step, spiritual, illness related) and now all of you, too, my blogging community.  To feel connected is to know that each one of us is not alone… that each one of us does not have to go at this alone, if we so choose!

Another well applied tool is a mirror.  I use it to take a close look at myself, an inventory of my patterns of behavior.  Those born both from how I was raised and from behaviors developed in the midst of illness and pain.  Many of these coping mechanisms were a necessity at the time.  But then when life carried on, I forgot that I no longer needed them, that I could now choose to react differently to a situation.  But with awareness, comes growth.  So I have worked at defining my own individual character traits (some call them defaults) so that I can recognize them when I put them in to play.  And I can ask myself, “is this the right tool right now?  Is there a better/ healthier way I can deal with this situation?”

And that leads to my most often used tool: Acceptance.  I accept the all of me, both my strengths and my weakness.  I accept when I need help from others.  And most of all I accept when I am powerless over a person, place or thing.  I accept that no matter how hard I try to change the outcome, I can’t.  All I can do is be accepting of what the situation looks like today.  “It is not always going to be this way; I am not always going to feel this way.”  All I need to do is put on foot in front of the other and focus on what’s directly in front me at any given time.  I don’t have to worry about the future.  I can let that go!

Today I picked up the tools of meditation, prayer, journaling, and friendship.  And by using these resources, I now have peace with where I am right now.  My last couple weeks have been intensely unpredictable.  And I have not been able to process one event (good or bad) before the next situation is coming at me head on.  So that when my friend asks me what I have been up to, my mind is too overwhelmed to come up with a clear answer.  And that’s okay.  It makes sense that I am overwhelmed!  Instead of trying to change the facts, I need to look at what I can do in this moment to nurture myself; to recharge my body and spirit.  Because I am feeling depleted.

The biggest change between my current trajectory and that past one that would have me cannon-balling directly into the path of chaos? Today, I realize that I need to pause, relax and refuel before I am sputtering on empty.  Today, I don’t have to run on fumes.  Today, I choose peace over chaos. Today, I choose to reach into my tool box, pray and meditate, and ask for help from my friends.  Today, I don’t have to face life as an “Army of One.”