Archive for ‘Advocacy’

September 25, 2017

#536 – #RABlogWeek: Day 1 – Mental Health and RA

 

In a workshop, I once asked when I would finally be over an issue that plagued me most of my life. “When you’re dead,” came the swift and pointed reply. Upon reflection, I gleaned the wisdom in those words. Life is an evolving process, with ups and downs, twists and turns. It’s an ever-changing kaleidoscope of emotions, thoughts and feelings, all of which are impacted by hormones, food, exercise, sleep, medical conditions such as RA, work, social scene, climate, perceptions and more. In other words, life.

 

 

Mental health is very much dependent upon cultivating resources, particularly those that enable you to weather the storms, which can vary in duration and severity. It is about taking action and being directly involved in your own well-being. Action that can be as simple as learning the importance of breathing, something you do anyway, so why not make it count. Action that involves reaching out for help to learn strategies to help you navigate your life. Action that helps you cultivate your innate healing powers and wisdom in order to recognize that while it may not be fair, your life path is strewn with bumps, hurdles, detours and stops. It also includes beautiful scenery, unexpected journeys and friends, new and old.

The diagnosis of a chronic illness, such as RA (rheumatoid arthritis), can send you into a nose-dive. Frustration, impatience, pain, regret, guilt, fear, sadness, etc. –  the list can be a large storm surge of negative, stress-producing emotions, thoughts and feelings.

The Dark Days

I’ve experienced periods, some longer than others, when it seems that I am in the winter of my discontent. I won’t bore you with the details, but some adjectives that applied during those times are useless, incompetent, pointless and hopeless. Neither work, nor friends or family seemed to get me out of that darkness. However, gradually, the light got in, the heaviness lifted and I found my equilibrium. All of that was pre-Auntie Stress days. It turns out that there is wisdom in growing older. Imagine that!

My Strategies

Now, my toolbox is full of self-care/self-help strategies. As the primary driver of the vehicle that is me, it is empowering to take responsibility, (even if sometimes I’d rather not!), for my life. If not me, who then? After all, I have the most vested in me. I am here from the beginning to the end, through thick and thin, sadness and joy, disappointments and successes.

However, that does not mean I am the island that John Donne elegantly wrote in 1624: “No man is an Island, entire of it self; every man is a piece of the Continent, a part of the main.”

When I’m feeling wretched I know that I can do something about it. I am also aware that I won’t feel that way forever, just like I know that a flare won’t last forever, if you take steps to address it. In this instant world we live in, we’ve been conditioned to having things happen right when we want them to. Life does not necessarily work that way. It can take as long as it takes – not much comfort when you are fighting a flare or flailing around in the whirlpool of despair.

I’ve learned to dig deeper. Breathe. Use the power of my heart. Ask what I need versus what I want. Breathe. Use the power of my heart. Don’t eat my feelings – a decades long habit that I’ve mainly overcome. (Yes, I have set-backs, but not like I used to!) Breathe. Use the power of my heart. Spend time doing the things important to me, such as spending time in nature. Exercise helps, as does realizing that mood and food are very much related. Breathe. Use the power of my heart. Sleep, or lack thereof, is a huge mood downer for me. I am faithful to my sleep regimes, because when I’m not, I don’t want to know me! Yes – more breathing and more heart power.

I have dark days, like anyone else. Challenges. Family concerns. A chronic illness. Dashed dreams. Unfilled wishes. I work on not letting the broken sewer pump of negative emotions flood my life. If I need to rise above the dark stinky mess, I first turn on the light and rummage around for one of the many techniques in my toolbox. If I can’t find the right tool, I know where to go for help. However, there is usually always something there to help me move forward.

Cultivate Your Resources

It can be an easy trip down the road to despair, especially if you have a chronic illness. RA has a voracious appetite for energy. It can be relentless in a flare, resulting in a tsunami of damage, that leaves a path of destruction that can touch many aspects of your life – work, relationships and  finances, to name a few.

You have more power than you realize over your emotions, thoughts and emotions. Be patient. Breathe. Access the power of your heart. Add to your toolbox. Trust yourself. Give yourself time to learn, change and grow. Build a support system, whatever that looks like to you. Access and cultivate your resources. Just like life, the road to well-being is an on-going process.

Finally, ask the birds to leave your hair alone and go build a nest elsewhere!

 

 

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January 11, 2017

#514 – Goodwill Snow Challenge for Gym Owners

One very snowy and cold Northwestern Ontario winter, long ago.

We’ve had an unusual winter here in the Lower Mainland of British Columbia. Since the beginning of December we’ve had what most of the rest of Canada usually has – snow and colder temperatures. In fact, this is the most snow I’ve seen since I’ve lived here. There are a number of problems with this – the municipalities aren’t set up to deal with the snow with enough equipment (like sidewalk plows and odd/even parking), nor in their budgets. Driving around, it is clear that a number of people don’t realize that there are bylaws on the books that require owners to remove the snow from the sidewalks in front of their homes and businesses (another post for another day).

When you live in a snowy climate and are mobility-challenged with a condition such as rheumatoid arthritis, it can be a challenge to be a good citizen by shovelling your walkway and driveway.

While browsing through the Delta Parks, Recreation and Culture Leisure Guide I came across a page that melted my heart, even if it didn’t melt the snow. There is a call for Snow Angels who are volunteers who shovel the sidewalks and driveways of the residents who are unable to do so, thus ensuring safe passage.

I’m proposing a goodwill challenge for gym owners whose patrons religiously come to lift, push, step, climb, cycle, row or run their way into better health. Why not create some healthy competition between gyms, such as Trevor Linden’s Club 16, or Steve Nash’s Fitness World, to see how many mobility-challenged homes can be shovelled after a snowstorm? Prizes could be rewarded, even though the opportunity to do some functional fitness (aka real-life workout), enjoy fresh air, and to do something kind and valuable for someone else, should be reward enough.

Imagine if a flurry of Snow Angels descended upon your home or that of a loved one, spreading kindness and goodwill, while helping to encourage mobility and independence in those who might otherwise be housebound. This would be an act of community service that not only warms the heart, but also clears the path to enable the mobility-challenged to get out of the house and take part in the exercise they need to maintain the mobility they do have.

I could see The Arthritis Society, The Arthritis Foundation, The Canadian Cancer Society and other groups who support people with mobility challenges working together to promote this within the community. Exercise and volunteerism are great antidotes to stress and depression. Mental Health advocates can also encourage their clients to get shovelling!

Let it snow! Let it snow? Let it snow. Or, maybe not!

 

 

November 6, 2016

#508 – Architectually and Accessibly Speaking

mariannapaulson2sg

As you may or may not know, this blog has recently been revived. Below, is an excerpt from a Twitter conversation I had saved, but never published.

I didn’t know about the public hearings prior to construction of the Grandview Aquatic Centre, but if I had, I would have added my voice.

It’s tough enough when you move through the world differently, whether it be in a wheelchair, with a cane, or on your own steam.

When architects and communities get it right, the system blurs the lines between the able-bodied and those who live with a disability – the diffabled. At first glance, the Walking Disabled may present the appearance that there is nothing wrong. As a result, people zoom to assume – judgement can be quick. “You don’t look disabled, why do you need extra help/special assistance?” What they may not realize is that a hip replacement, dislocated fingers, or painful joints make it difficult to do some of those “ordinary” things.

The Corporation of Delta got it right in with the ramp in The Sunshine Pool at Sungod Recreation Centre. During my swims, I’ve seen people use the ramps in a number of different ways – in wheelchairs and with canes. Young and old, able-bodied and diffabled. They’ve all spent time on the ramp. Then, there’s me. I jump into the pool in the deep end and use the ramp to get out of the pool. I don’t have to call anyone for help, I just get out.

Isn’t that the pinnacle of self-reliance? Architectural designs that don’t require “special” assistance or attention in order to be accessible.

January 17, 2014

#499 – A dash of this, a pinch of that

graduation

A very long time ago!

“It ain’t over until the fat lady sings,” so goes a politically incorrect reference to opera singers.

As you can see by this image, the fat lady has slimmed down considerably—80 pounds, to be exact—and although this blog is soon coming to a close, you can still read my posts over on Auntie Stress Café (ASC) – no singing, though. At least, not on either of my blogs! As for the weight, yo-yo would be a good word to use. Although, in recent years I’ve either maintained or watched the numbers on the scale decrease. But that’s a story for a whole other blog.

Incidentally, I was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis about a year before that picture was taken. It’s been a long journey, fraught with tears, pain, sadness, contentment, laughter, disappointments, satisfaction, worry, uncertainty, frustration, anger, depression, loneliness, calm, joy, peace, … in other words, life!

We all have a story to tell, secrets to keep, gifts to give and love to share. A Rheumful of Tips (ART) is my gift to you.

So, on my second-to-last post I’d like to share a few final thoughts that didn’t make it into full-blown posts.

Medication

Always check your prescription when you get home. Recently, I discovered that although the medication was correct, the dosage was 5 times greater than prescribed!

Delivery Drivers

Admittedly, this one doesn’t have the potential for dire consequences, but it is annoying. The phone rang once, twice, and then stopped before I could get it. It turns out that it was supposed to be a door-to-door delivery; unfortunately, the driver was in too much of a hurry to wait. I promptly emailed the company and got a standard response that might as well have said, “Yeah, we care, but don’t expect us to make any improvements.” I also mentioned it when I picked up the parcel. “We hear the same thing from seniors and many people who have disabilities.” Well, if that is the case, why aren’t the drivers told to wait a little longer? Have you experienced anything similar?

Adjust your attitude

Recently, I came across two blog posts that resonated with me. Both these women have made a decision, one that demonstrates an incredible capacity to live well, in spite of the mercurial nature of rheumatoid arthritis. The sooner you can come to terms with your disease—and it does take time—the better off you will be. I hope you’ll enjoy the posts on  Beating Rheumatoid Arthritis and The Life and Adventures of Cateepoo as much as I did.

Notice

Keep track of when you have your flare-ups. Is there a pattern? What is going on in your life. Specifically, how are you responding to the events that are swirling around you? Perhaps you notice that you always flare at holidays? Several things could be at play. You may associate your holidays with past ones like ‘Tis the Season To Be Jolly…Or Is It?

The downtime may signal the crash that is preceded by months of high cortisol levels. Remember that cortisol is cumulative. You may have “held on”, until it was more “convenient” to get sick. How many of you have become ill while on vacation? It’s important to see if there is a pattern. If there is, you can be proactive and make some changes.

Although the stress techniques I teach are not meditative in nature, they do induce mindfulness, which as this one study shows, proves beneficial in the extinguishing of those inflammatory fires that are all to common in a rheumatoid disease flare-up. Call or email if you’d like to find out more about how I can help you help yourself. Programs are only five weeks long – the effects last a lifetime!

 

One thing I know is that I would never have had the courage to write this blog had it not been for the growth I’ve experienced from my stress transformation. I believe that when you feel better, you do better.

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