Life with Limitations

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Everybody has something to deal with, whether it’s chronic pain, illness, injury, stress, or trauma. I have some limitations in my life due to chronic illness. I won’t bore you with all the details of how chronic illness is defined or what it means. I won’t explain the names of the illnesses with which I live. Everybody has their own problems, ailments, and other struggles that they live with. Mine are certainly better than some and, for that, I’m grateful.

Having said that, I feel that it’s also beneficial to raise awareness for the struggles that people live with, whether the limitations are physical, mental, or emotional. I feel like they’re all intertwined anyway. For sure, when I feel physically depleted, I also feel angry or depressed or sad (or all 3). Sometimes my thinking is adversely affected and I don’t trust myself to make important decisions or even drive. My anxiety ramps up even more than usual. Conversely, if I’m feeling down or thinking less clearly, it also seems to magnify the physical aspect of my conditions. Being affected like this means that I’m incapable of functioning at my best.

It’s not always like that, of course. I have great days when I can do everything (and sometimes more) than I planned on doing. I’m so grateful for those days. I have bad days when I’m unable to do more than open and close my eyes and pray for sleep. I hang on through those days knowing that it will pass. What I’d like to talk about is our norm.

My own “normal” life has changed to accommodate my slower pace, my physical and mental limitations, the flexibility required to live my life now, and the perspective necessary to get through each day. Again, everybody living with some type of limitation is living within a vast range of capabilities and disabilities. I can only speak for myself but know that much of this resonates as common amongst us.

One of the biggest struggles that we live with is trying to ensure that those closest to us understand what we’re going through. We want them to know that we aren’t uncaring when we’re forgetful and we don’t mean to be cranky and angry when we’re actually frustrated and upset with ourselves! If I ask you the same thing 3 times, please understand it’s not because I wasn’t listening. I sometimes have a hard time concentrating or remembering. We are happy to talk about any of this with you, but also don’t want to burden you. If you have questions, please ask us so that we can explain.

We want our family and friends to understand that we would do everything we can to keep our plans and spend time together but sometimes we just can’t do it. It doesn’t mean that we care less or that, whatever it is, is unimportant to us. We feel horribly guilty when we have to change or cancel something that we committed to. We hate to have to talk about these things and we tend to keep our troubles private, but we also struggle for understanding. We want those closest to us to know how we’re affected, understand how it affects them, too, and how we can best work together to get through these times.

Every morning, I stick to as much of a routine as possible. It helps me feel confident and requires less thinking. When I need to vary from that, I require additional time. I need to accommodate that. While I’m going about my usual morning routine, I evaluate how I’m feeling and determine what I’m able to accomplish that day, or at least what I THINK I can do that day. It may change in an hour. I go over what I had planned for the day and look at my to-do list (because I have to write everything down if I even hope to get it accomplished). On good days, I may be very successful and get everything done I had hoped for. On bad days, I may end up ignoring the entire thing and going back to bed. Then I’ll feel guilty because I “wasted” my day. This, in turn, leads to me feeling sad, angry, exasperated, and not even close to feeling better after spending hours in bed. On top of that, the list of uncompleted tasks gets even longer for the following days. I feel compelled to do even more the next day and the cycle continues. Add to that the inability to sleep and, whatever sleep I do manage to get is fitful and inadequate. It makes for an interesting day. I think we’ve all been there!

I feel like the pressure that we put on ourselves far exceeds that of other people’s expectations of us. I know that I feel like I have to “keep up”, do my share, prove that I’m worthwhile and can do what I need to do. I don’t want to feel like a failure. We shouldn’t feel this way! If I was talking to somebody else, I’d feel far more compassion for them than I give to myself. It’s like we put this extra burden on ourselves and make things so much harder than we have to. I’ve tried and tried to overcome this way of thinking, but I’ve been unsuccessful so far. Every single day, I get up and attempt to do as much as possible rather than taking the time to evaluate what’s actually BEST for me to do that day and just do that. I’m continuing to learn different ways to address this and I keep trying to at least THINK about it every day rather than just rushing headlong into bad decisions.

It’s a hard thing to do when I really WANT to run to the store, visit my kids, play with my grandson, and spend time with friends. Of course, that’s all balanced with paying bills, cleaning the house, cooking, doing laundry, going to the doctor, and dealing with insurance. Trying to fit in self-care seems to be too much, even though I know it should be a priority. We have limited amounts of energy and physical tolerance levels. That’s the crux of the problem: balance. Living a life without limitations is hard enough to balance. Living a life with additional problems is like walking a tightrope. Make one small error in judgment and you could pay for it for days or weeks. Dwell on it too long and you’ll feel even worse. Feel good this morning? Enjoy it because it might change by noon. How do we manage this?

We manage our lives the best way that we’re able to! It’s as simple as that. We each do things differently. There’s absolutely no right and wrong. Everyone has different circumstances, different expectations, and different temperaments. It’s unfair to judge anybody against another, whether we’re struggling or not. That’s the thing. We don’t want to be lumped into a label of “disabled” or “ill” or “sick” or any other title that’s being used. We’re human beings struggling with our limitations just like every other human being on earth. Ours are just sometimes a bit more obvious than other people’s struggles.

I’m extremely fortunate that I have family and friends that do support me without explanation. I know that it can be as frustrating for them as it is for me, but I don’t feel like I have to justify how or why I do things anymore. I’m becoming more comfortable in my own circumstances and learning how to be more accepting of myself as I am now. It’s a journey, but one that I need to embark on again every single day when I wake up.

I know that I’m lucky and that lots of people aren’t as fortunate. They feel as if they have to prove their disability or prove their worth. Neither one is a good thing. It puts additional stress on an already stressful life. We need to realize that we’re all just doing the best that we can, each in our own lives and in our own circumstances. My hope is that we can understand each other, without judgment, knowing that we all have issues that we’re dealing with.  This means being more accepting and understanding of ourselves as well. Sometimes I think that’s the hardest job of all!

Be Well ♥

 

Change Happens, Ready or Not

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Throughout our lives, we come across times of change, whether we looked for it or not and whether we want it or not. Obviously, how we react to these changes will affect the next portion of our life.

Some changes are easier to react to than others. For instance, if we actively decide to make a change for the better (new job with better hours, more pay, or a better location or a new house/apartment, new relationship, etc.), the change is much easier to live with. You’ve made the choice yourself and you’re benefiting from the change in a positive way. Does this mean everything is rosy? Nope. Continue reading “Change Happens, Ready or Not”

It’s Sunday – Do THIS Today!

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We can look at Sunday two different ways. It’s either the end of the weekend and you’re already planning your upcoming week or you’re still enjoying your weekend and haven’t yet thought about the week ahead. Either way, think about doing THIS sometime today.

Real quick, think about something that makes you happy. Don’t think about whether or not you can do it; don’t think about the logistics of it. Just real quick…what makes you happy? Continue reading “It’s Sunday – Do THIS Today!”

National Suicide Prevention Week

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It seems as if it was just a couple of months ago that I wrote an article about this; it’s been a year. It made me think about how much has changed over the past year…and how much hasn’t. In fact, I woke up early this morning and, for some reason, started thinking about a loss that I experienced several years ago now. I don’t know why; it wasn’t an anniversary or birthday or any of the normal things that would bring this up. Of course it made me sad thinking about it but, as I was thinking about everything, I also realized that it did more than that. It changed me. It changed who I was when it happened. I’m no longer the person that I used to be prior to my loss. I experienced such strong emotions and feelings that it really threw me for a long time. I honestly think it changed me as a person. I’m a bit more heavy-hearted than I used to be. I am a bit more hesitant in allowing my heart and emotions to be dealt another blow. At the time it happened,  I thought about it, agonized over it, cried about it, got angry about it. I did all the things that grieving people should do, but it certainly didn’t feel normal to me and I didn’t go back to the person that I used to be. And that’s the point.

Each one of us is unique and we each have our own minds and emotions. No two are alike so we really cannot understand what someone else is going through. We also change, so we need to adapt. Sometimes life is just too hard to manage on our own. Sometimes we need help. This is absolutely no different than needing help getting around when you have a broken leg. We have a problem and we need help. It’s really as simple as that.

All of us experience highs and lows. All of us have good things happen and bad things happen to us. It’s life and we have to deal with it. We need to each deal with it the right way FOR US. That’s the thing; there is no right and no wrong in treating illness. Everybody has to learn what works best for them in order to live their best life. It’s not fair for any one of us to judge anybody else by what they do to survive. We are not in their shoes; we do not know what’s going on in their life. What we can do, however, is encourage each other to be the best person that they are capable of being and to support each other in that goal.

This isn’t a technical article with statistics and facts and figures. There are (thankfully) plenty of sites to find that information and I will provide a few of them below. Suffice it to say there are a LOT of us that suffer from some type of mental health issue. It can be an independent diagnosis, it can be due to another illness, it can be temporary or long-term, and it can be mild, severe or anywhere in-between! Like any other illness, there are treatments designed to fit your specific circumstances.

Things can become overwhelming. Sometimes we need help to get us through. The most important things that we can do for each other are to learn about it, talk about it, and be there for each other. Awareness is key. Knowing the risk factors and being able to recognize them could help prevent the more than 40,000 deaths every year by suicide. Sometimes we’re capable of asking for or seeking the help that we need. Sometimes we’re not and we need somebody to do it for us. Be that person.

Learn to recognize these signs or symptoms:  (from National Institute of Mental Health)

  • Talking about wanting to die or wanting to kill themselves
  • Talking about feeling empty, hopeless, or having no reason to live
  • Making a plan or looking for a way to kill themselves, such as searching online, stockpiling pills, or buying a gun
  • Talking about great guilt or shame
  • Talking about feeling trapped or feeling that there are no solutions
  • Feeling unbearable pain (emotional pain or physical pain)
  • Talking about being a burden to others
  • Using alcohol or drugs more often
  • Acting anxious or agitated
  • Withdrawing from family and friends
  • Changing eating and/or sleeping habits
  • Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge
  • Taking great risks that could lead to death, such as driving extremely fast
  • Talking or thinking about death often
  • Displaying extreme mood swings, suddenly changing from very sad to very calm or happy
  • Giving away important possessions
  • Saying goodbye to friends and family
  • Putting affairs in order, making a will
What can you do to help someone at risk?
  1. Ask:“Are you thinking about killing yourself?” It’s not an easy question but studies show that asking at-risk individuals  if they are suicidal does not increase suicides or suicidal thoughts.
  2. Keep them safe: Reducing a suicidal person’s access to highly lethal items or places is an important part of suicide prevention. While this is not always easy, asking if the at-risk person has a plan and removing or disabling the lethal means can make a difference.
  3. Be there:Listen carefully and learn what the individual is thinking and feeling. Findings suggest acknowledging and talking about suicide may in fact reduce rather than increase  suicidal thoughts.
  4. Help them connect:Save the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline’s number in your phone so it’s there when you need it: 1-800-273-TALK (8255). You can also help make a connection with a trusted individual like a family member, friend, spiritual advisor, or mental health professional.
  5. Stay Connected:Staying in touch after a crisis or after being discharged from care can make a difference. Studies have shown  the number of suicide deaths goes down when someone follows up with the at-risk person.

The bottom line is that we have to be there for each other, look out for each other, and take care of each other. That’s how it’s supposed to work. We all need help sometimes. I’d like to think we do this on a regular basis, but it’s particularly valuable when we need an extra hand to get through a difficult time.

I found this great post with some ideas on how we can do this here: (highly recommended read!) http://hellogiggles.com/lifestyle/health-fitness/small-things-help-someone-struggling-depression/

I’m fortunate to have people in my life that are supportive and do some of these things for me. I can say first-hand that it makes a significant difference on days that are more difficult. I hope that they know how much I appreciate them. It doesn’t take much effort to send a text or give somebody a quick call, but it can have a huge impact on their life. I try to do some of these same things for them, as well, just to let them know that I’m thinking of them and that I care about them. Please take a few minutes out of your day to reach out to somebody that needs it. Everybody wants and deserves to feel supported and cared for.

Who Needs a Teddy Bear?

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The bear pictured above is MY bear and I’m not going to apologize for him. He’s actually my Reiki bear, but every now and then, I’ll grab him just to touch it and it always makes me feel better when I happen to see him!

As it turns out, almost everybody benefits from having a teddy bear! I think we all know our bear just makes us feel better, but did you also know that there are proven benefits to having a teddy bear?

There are lots of articles written about the positive impact that stuffed animals have on our children. This can also include other special things like blankets, dolls, etc. One of the articles describes how many different ways these objects can affect our child: https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-guest-room/201407/more-just-teddy-bears

Most times, this bear or blanket will be the first object that your child experiences that is not mom or dad. It will be there whenever they need it to be. It represents security, it’s familiar, and it makes them feel safe. Surely  there’s nothing wrong with that!

Another great article explains the value of teddy bears to children in so many different ways and why we should encourage them to bond with their bear:  http://blog-en.famosa.es/the-benefits-of-playing-with-teddy-bears/

Most kids end up gravitating toward a stuffed animal, whether it’s a bear or an elephant or something else. They do this because the kids feel like the stuffed animals are their friend. They can talk to them and hug them and the bear listens to them, even when the rest of us are too busy. By playing with stuffed animals, kids are able to express their feelings and emotions even before they can talk!

Your child’s teddy bear can help him through the transition from baby to toddler, to going to new places, and being in unfamiliar situations. His bear can teach him the social skills that he needs to learn like being polite, sharing, and how to speak to others.

As a parent, you can use your child’s bear to show him things as well. You can use it to show him how to treat others, how to communicate, and how to express emotions. You can use him to show your child life skills (like brushing his teeth, getting dressed, etc.) by practicing on his bear.

As proven in so many different studies and written about in so many articles, the teddy bear is good for your child and interaction with the bear (or blanket or whatever else they are attached to) should be encouraged.

Oddly enough, most of the articles that I read were geared toward babies and children. I’m not sure why because I think teddy bears make EVERYBODY feel better! I still can’t go through a store aisle that has bears without touching them, finding one with “just the right face” and holding it before putting it back. Teddy bears just make us feel good and that’s enough reason for me! I don’t care how old you are, go ahead and hug that bear.