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10 Ways to Live Well Despite Chronic Illness

10 Ways to Live Well Despite Chronic Illness

Living with chronic illness deeply impacts people and doesn’t leave any area of life untouched. At times, your life may be turned upside down, and coping may seem difficult.

But life with chronic illness can still be satisfying. The most effective way to manage and reduce the impact of illness is to focus on ways to live well, even while sick.

Here are 10 ways you can live well despite chronic illness:

1. Take care of yourself first

To care for the people you love, you have to take care of yourself first. Make sure you take all your medicines, go to all your appointments, watch your diet, keep moving, stick to a sleep schedule, and follow your doctor’s advice. Taking care of yourself makes sense because it helps you feel on top of your game, enjoy life, and support the ones you love.

2. Never give up

Giving up is easy, but finding reasons to go on is hard. Find those reasons, and keep going. Remember, this is your life, and you get to make the best of what you’re handed—good or bad. Don’t let your illness walk all over you, and don’t ever give up your quest for a good quality life in spite of chronic disease.

3. Own up to your feelings

Don’t keep feelings about your illness experience bottled up. Talking is an important part of the healing process. The sooner you speak up, the sooner you can receive support from loved ones and others who understand your struggles. Hearing others share their experiences will help you better understand your own health.

4. Step out of your comfort zone

When we try to escape our comfort zones, our inner voices warn us of all the reasons why we shouldn’t. But the benefits of listening to your heart outweigh the risks of staying stuck. Step out of your comfort zone, and make goals. Create positive changes to make life fuller and more enjoyable despite chronic illness.

5. Keep busy and involved

It’s normal to want to isolate yourself, but this isn’t something you want to make a habit. Get out and enjoy life even if you are just sitting out in the sunlight or going for a short walk. Get together with friends and family, pick up the phone and talk to someone, or get a pet for company. Whatever you do, continue to reach out and keep yourself busy and involved.

6. Share your talents

Your unique skills can help others, and there is no greater reward than helping others by doing what you enjoy. Find a charity that shares your goals, or reach out to a school, community group, or hospital and contribute your talents.

7. Accept your life as it is now

When most people hear the word “acceptance,” they think of giving in, but acceptance simply means recognizing that things are as they are. Accepting your life as it is now doesn’t keep you from improving your health and working toward your dreams, while refusing to acknowledge your life as it is now prevents you from taking appropriate action. Accept illness and be at peace with your circumstances, no matter how difficult they are.

8. Be positive

Because you struggle daily with symptoms and pain, it can be tempting to give in to negative thoughts. While it is okay to acknowledge difficulties, negative feelings will only make you feel worse. Strive to be positive and notice the good moments throughout your day.

9. Look for beauty

You are sick and struggling, and little things like dragging yourself out for a walk seem hard. Sometimes, if you look for beauty, you will see it. Notice the pretty flowers when you go out for that walk you forced yourself to go on. Listen to the lovely beat of that song on the radio or the giggles of your children as they play. There is beauty all around—take notice.

10. Laugh

Laughter can help you stay balanced during tough times, improve sleep and moods, and decrease pain and stress levels. The best part? It is natural and free. Go ahead. Laugh long and hard, and get all the health benefits that laughter offers.

There are so many other ways you can live well with illness. While you have little control of your diagnosis, you can still control your response. A chronic illness doesn’t have to keep you from feeling joyful and having a good life.

Originally Posted at Fibromyalgia Connect.

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7 Tips to Help You “Keep the Faith”

7 Tips to Help You “Keep the Faith”

Losing faith—especially in the midst of a serious illness—is a scary thing. You start to question everything you know. It feels like you have lost your footing and you have nothing to substantial to hold on to. It also feels like there is nothing to lift you when you fall, push you forward when it feels like you can’t keep going, and help you envision a bright future. It is, however, possible to have faith even when chronic illness takes so much.

What does keeping the faith mean, anyway?

We often associate the notion of “keeping the faith” with religion, but it is more than religious belief. In everyday life, it allows us to pursue some idea that is worthy but seems difficult to achieve in the face of adversity.

So many things in life are uncertain, but faith isn’t. And here you are faced with the adversity of an illness lingering over every aspect of your life. You could be a teen trying to be like everyone else, or a young adult beginning your career, or a married person in your 30s starting a family, or a single parent in your 40s, or someone ready to retire, and your life feels displaced by a medical condition that you never anticipated or could comprehend before.

With all the loss you face and lack of control over your life, how can you possibly have faith?

7 tips to help you keep the faith from the moment of diagnosis through the setbacks

1. Don’t lose yourself. It is hard to see any good in living with chronic illness and pain. It is easy to lose yourself when it seems like illness has so much power and control over your life. But there is always some positive, even in situations that seem the bleakest. Sometimes, we just have to convince ourselves of the possibilities. And while you may find yourself drained by what you are going through, these are the moments when your true strength shines. It is not always easy and it is not always fair, but it is all we have.

2. Pray or find your spiritual side. Finding meaning and purpose in your life is critical for your emotional and spiritual health. Spirituality improves your connection to God, or to a higher power, and it helps you to manage challenges in healthy and meaningful ways. In fact, praying or practicing meditation can help chronically ill people cope successfully, according to a 2011 study out of the University of Missouri.

3. Be willing to take leaps of faith. Chronic illness takes away a lot from us, but our lives are far from over. This becomes an opportunity to take leaps of faith that enrich your life. And rebuilding your life requires you to take risks and explore uncharted lands. It might be difficult to consider changing careers, or retiring early, or making different life plans due to failing health, but you won’t know what will happen if you don’t try. You may not succeed at everything, but those experiences will better your life and give you something else to consider besides your illness. And while all this might seem daunting, remember all it takes is a little awareness, creativity, and encouragement.

4. Eliminate toxic relationships. There is nothing more draining than a toxic relationship. People who blame you for their problems, who discount you, or who criticize your choices or lifestyle don’t belong in your life. Learn to establish healthy boundaries and rid your life of these kinds of people.

5. Forgive. There will always be people who fail you. It could be co-workers, so-called friends, and even loved ones. Forgive them and move on—for your sake, not theirs.

6. Be thankful. During tough times, it can be easy to get depressed and/or feel hopeless. Life’s blessings can be difficult to see when it seems like there are only grey skies above us. But having a thankful spirit can help you see the light amongst the darkness. Of course, it is not always easy, but try to purposely remind yourself of all life has given you—your loved ones, your ability to keep working, parents and/or grandparents who are still around, and so much more.

7. Share your gifts and talents. You have a lot to offer, so look for ways to share your talents and gifts with others. Volunteering will help improve your self-esteem, help you overcome isolation, and contribute to feelings of value and self-worth.

Have faith in yourself and others

The human spirit cannot be broken. It is strong enough to overcome almost everything. We are all pillars of strength, but we have to be willing to invoke that strength and have faith in ourselves, our loved ones, and the universe.

Things happen that hurt us, and change can be forced. And while we would like to shut the world out and give up, we shouldn’t. We all deserve better. And so do you. But if you find that you are often feeling like you are struggling to gain footing, talk to a therapist who can help you resolve your feelings and anxieties toward your illness.

Originally posted at Fibromyalgia Connect.

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When I Try to Convince Myself I’m the Same ‘Superwoman’ I Was Before My Illnesses

Nope. I am not. I have no superpowers. No super speed or strength and I sure I can’t fly. I am not superhuman.

I am not Superwoman, but yet, I am determined to be her.

I sometimes forget I am only human and not capable of doing it all. Maybe once I did, but not anymore. I can’t spend a long day at work, come home to cook dinner, and then clean. I can’t spend a Saturday shopping, cleaning, doing laundry and everything else in between. Once upon a time I could, but I no longer can.

Why do I keep trying to convince myself I can? Why do I keep doing it? Why do I think I can?

Because I did. I used to.

And those feelings nag at and stay with me. I used to be able to carry three or four heavy cloth shopping bags and not even think about how heavy they were. Now, I am lucky if I can carry one. But I used to carry three or four! And if I could do it before, why can’t I anymore?

Because that was before chronic illness and pain dominated my life.

I have gotten used to putting on a perfect front to pull through, usually because I have to, not necessarily because I want to. I didn’t talk about cancer when I was scared that I had it. I put on a brave face and didn’t let anyone see how much I was falling apart inside. Even preparing for my surgery and through my recovery, I didn’t ask for help because I have learned there are some things I have to do alone. Mostly, I didn’t want to talk about cancer. I didn’t want to think about cancer. Because two chronic illnesses were enough and I was handling all I could. The words “pre-cancer cells” were all I could take.

A minor surgery and some benign test results later, I am still trying to convince myself I’ve got it all covered. Maybe, because I always do — even when I don’t want to and because I have to. And there is a chance the pre-cancer cells might come back and I’ll have to put on my fake Superwoman strength and try to be “normal,” even when “normal” and I are already worlds apart. And if you look from the outside, all you see is normal. You don’t see rheumatoid arthritis and fibromyalgia pain. You don’t see fears about cancer. You wouldn’t believe I am sick and tired all the time. But you’d be wrong.

Why do I need to show everyone I am more capable than I really am? And how do I do it without falling apart? I can’t, so I am learning to prioritize what’s important to me and let the cards fall as they may. I have to decide what needs to be done and who to put first. In doing so I have angered others, so I have stopped asking for help from these people. Because sometimes “No, I can’t,” just isn’t enough.

I know it doesn’t matter what I planned; sometimes I have to cancel plans. And when I follow through, sometimes the happy me doesn’t look like the me that is in pain and not feeling well. I say, “I am fine,” smile and keep going because I like to believe I am still the Superwoman I once was.

And there is another side to me — the side you don’t see — the one behind closed doors. It’s the side you’re not interested in. The “me” that sometimes struggles to get out of my car due to joint stiffness and pain because I have sat too long. The “me” who hurts too much to go for a long walk. The “me” who is too drained to do something as simple as vacuum. Superwoman? Yes, that is me!

When my world is falling apart, I try to convince myself that tomorrow will be better. It will all be OK and I just need my happy face. And you won’t get to see the side of me that is a mess lying on the sofa, not able to move, the anger and tears because of the level of pain I am in, and frustration because I can’t get my superpowers to work. You don’t get to see that side. And maybe it is all for the best.

I will keep going and maybe my superhuman powers will make their way back home to me once again. But for today, I have this and even if I don’t, I will pretend I do. I might not be Superwoman anymore but I really got this!

Originally prepared for The Mighty

Posted in Single Parenting

Letter to the Single Mom on Keeping It Together…You Don’t Have To

 Dear Single Mom:

Most of us didn’t choose to be single moms but it happened.  Either because someone walked away, broke vows, and/or physically harmed us.  No matter how we got here, we never dreamed of being single moms when we were little girls.

I didn’t choose this.  I envisioned marrying the right person and staying happily married forever. But I ended up doing it alone and often muddling along trying to figure it out.

Like so many of you, I have found myself at my breaking point at times so I am not going to tell you have to enjoy every minute of this chaos. You don’t have to and it is not for me to tell you it could get easier, but sometimes, it does, and sometimes, it doesn’t.  I am not even going to tell you to hold it together because I already know you can.  I also know there are times when you can’t.

You put on a happy face even when feels like you have nothing left to give.  Guess what! You are allowed to crumble. You are allowed to cry. You are allowed to curse.  And you are even allowed to scream.  Not all the time, but sometimes, and just for a little while.

You are allowed to be stressed about making the rent on time, especially after that unexpected car repair bill or the month when the daycare bill is higher because school is out of session.  You are allowed to feel sad when all you want is a break from the world.  You are allowed to feel like you need a break from your kids – the very kids you love more than your own life.

The truth is moms – whether we are single moms or not –all fall apart sometimes.  Even when we try our best not to.   There are times when no matter how much we are trying to hold it together, it seems we are falling harder.  So, we have to let go.  We have to feel pain and fear and let go of expectations.

When your teenager is driving you insane for no reason at all. When your seven year old is throwing a fit because his father didn’t show.  When your family or friends are mad because you can’t spend time with them due to working two jobs. When your job needs you and you don’t have childcare for your sick child.  It is okay to fall apart.

Stop telling yourself you will push through, that you have to be stronger, that you shouldn’t cry, that you are not trying hard enough, or that you somehow are required to make it work.   Stop demanding such high expectations of yourself.  You are only human.  Sometimes, everything is a mess and you are trapped in a place you can’t escape and there is not a damn thing you can do about it.

Sometimes, you handle stress by smoking or drinking an extra glass of wine.   Other times, you handle stress in ways that don’t make sense to anyone but you.  It is okay.

I have been there and I get it.  Sometimes, I can’t seem to get a minute, an hour, a day, or even a week that is going right. Everything seems so impossible.  Today is one of those days for me. My mind is full and my heart is empty.

Ladies, motherhood is not for the weak and all the things that go with it, come in waves and sometimes, those waves crash harder than you ever expected.  And single motherhood – that is a whole new level of intensity.  You are alone to bear the burden of the battered shore.   So, go ahead, crumble, fall apart and feel your pain.  You will still be there in tact when the storm is over – I promise you that.

You don’t have to hold on to that pain or hide it.  Allow yourself to fall as far as you can even if it is the bottom of a f*cking bottomless pit.  Sometimes, we get so tied down doing everything for everyone and considering everyone’s feelings that we forget we are human.  We forget we are allowed to feel things and fall apart because we are trying to hold everyone else up. Meanwhile, no one is holding us up.

The thing about single mothers is that we have learned to stand successfully on our own two feet but so often, we stand alone.  But having to be Mom and Dad to our kids doesn’t mean we have to be perfect.  We are allowed to cry, break, crumble or wish we were anywhere but here.  It is okay to fall and fail and learn from our mistakes.  Because if we don’t do just that, we can’t move forward.

There is light at the end of the tunnel and the longer you do this, it gets easier to deal with the stress and frustration.  And there are still good moments even while you are struggling to find your footing.

My living room floor is often impossible to find because of all the toys that often inhabit it.  I have stepped on Legos and I found myself uttering four letter words. I have been awoken from deep sleep by a crying child and I have been thrown up on and pooped on.  And I have been told by a teenager that I know nothing or that he hates me.  But I keep going and when I can’t keep going, I break down.

There is clothes in my closet that I’d like to fit me again but that probably won’t happen because my hips are proof I gave life to my children.  And I can’t let that worry consume me when I am trying to raise my boys right and while I am trying to make ends meet.  In my home, there is yelling, fighting, crying and losing it all before 8 am.  I have cleaned up drawings off the walls of my modest home and I have done it hyped up one at least on pot of coffee – and with creamer that isn’t even fat-free.

My bed is soft and comfortable but it isn’t mine alone. I often wake up to a foot in my face – or in my back or my neck.  There is curiosity the minute we walk in the front door and rebellion more often than I want to believe. Exhaustion is my normal but it is also a reminder of all the gifts in of my life.

There are often smudged windows and stray socks and shoes no one can find. New clothes and shoes, haircuts, and loose teeth are a reminder they are healthy and continue to grow.  It is disbelief and pride all in one.

I am overwhelmed and unhinged especially between the dandelions I receive and the mud on my kitchen floor.  My life is tiring and complex but it is where it is supposed to be.  And the meltdowns are plenty and allowed.

I know it is okay to let the rain fall and allow the storm to pass.  Sometimes, you just have to crash and burn so you can rise from the flames.  You will come out better, stronger and more appreciative of your loved ones.

To every single mother trying to keep it together, you don’t always have to.


Another single mom just trying


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Laughter has Real Health Benefits. Here are 9 Ideas for How to Get Laughing

Laughter has Real Health Benefits. Here are 9 Ideas for How to Get Laughing.

A giggle a day can help you cope and even reduce your pain because it promotes relaxation. Further, laughter releases feel-good endorphins that people living with pain really need.

Recent research has found that laughter holds great benefits for people who live with pain and illness. But, as you know, living with illness and pain isn’t fun and finding reasons to laugh can be difficult.

Here are nine ways to laugh and be joyful despite chronic illness.

  1. Don’t take life too seriously. Chronic illness can bring with it challenges that can get the better of you. When you start stressing about your challenges, it is hard to find solutions. If you focus on not taking life and challenges too seriously by laughing rather than stressing, you give yourself a confidence boost that can help you overcome hurdles. Smile, laugh, and don’t be too critical of yourself.
  2. Find humor during tough times. There will always be situations that are hard and that are no laughing matter. But most situations are only as complex as you allow them to be. So, the next time you find your stress getting the best of you, allow yourself to laugh over the things you have no control over. By doing so, you give yourself the opportunity to see humor and blessings all around you.
  3. Remind yourself of funny times. If you find yourself getting worked up, remind yourself of something that made you laugh. Think about a funny joke your son or daughter told you or a funny movie you recently watched. If you call upon your memories often, you will find that your anger, sadness, and fear decrease.
  4. Surround yourself with people who love laughter. I am sure you have heard this before, but it bears repeating: laughter is contagious. Make a point to spend time with people who love to laugh and laugh easily. Connect with those who enjoy life and you will see a difference in your own well-being. Young children are especially good at finding joy and laughter in everyday things.
  5. Get a pet. Animals love to play, and they do the funniest things without even knowing it. A pet can bring great joy and happiness to your life. In fact, numerous studies have shown that people who have pets experience better moods and lower stress levels and are less prone to depression.
  6. Eat foods that make you happy. When people are stressed and in pain, they have a tendency to eat foods that are high in sugar and salt. While these foods taste good, they bring with them negative health outcomes, such as weight gain and increased disease symptoms. Instead, try eating foods that give your body positive energy, such as cherries, mushrooms, dark chocolate, and salmon.
  7. Celebrate life. Living for today can be difficult when you are sick because you are constantly trying to figure which direction your health will go. Help yourself by experiencing what life has to offer. Try to enjoy every single moment of your life. Travel, shop, cook, watch a funny movie, enjoy time with loved ones, sing at the top of your lungs, dance, and just have fun.
  8. Express emotions. Frustration, sadness, confusion, anger, and resentment are feelings that chronically ill people live with and are normal and expected. Express and talk about them in a manner that is healthy and respectful to those around you. When you acknowledge these feelings, you can move on from them and give yourself room to feel love and happiness instead.
  9. Start out your day smiling. Before you get out of bed in the morning, start your day with a smile. Make sure that smile radiates into your face and eyes, runs deeply through your heart and mind, and gets through to every part of you. Smile and breathe deep into your lungs to rid yourself of anger, fear, and sadness before your day even starts. This might sound silly but give it a try and you might be surprised at the result.

Laughter helps us stay balanced during tough times. If you find just one reason every day to laugh and feel joy, you will find that your moods are better, your sleep is improved, you are less stressed, and your pain levels are decreased. And laughter is natural and free, so go ahead—laugh long and loud, and reap the emotional and physical health benefits laughter has to offer.

Originally posted at