Can’t “Just” Do It All Anymore?

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At some point in our life, we have to stop assuming that we can “just” do whatever we want. Sometimes we can’t “just” run to the store or “just” pick up the house. Sometimes it’s a bigger deal to get it done. Sometimes we expect this change to happen and sometimes it takes us completely by surprise. No matter how it happens, it’s an adjustment that we are forced to make whether we like it or not. It’s just the reality of it.

I think, for most of our life, we go along doing what we want to do or what we have to do without thinking too much about it. We go to school, we go to work, we go to the store, and we go out with friends. All of these things are done without too much thought. We’re in the habit of doing things we have to do, like cleaning the house or going to the grocery store. Most of the time, we just think of these things as necessary and get irritated if we don’t have the time or don’t really feel like doing it. If we get invited to a party or want to go to an event, we decide if we want to go or not.

At some point, however, some of these choices are either taken away from us completely or the choices become much more difficult to make. Sometimes it happens when we least expect it, like when it is due to an accident or an injury. This requires an abrupt change in lifestyle and a complete adjustment to how we have to manage our life versus how life used to be. Sometimes it’s a gradual process, for instance as we age. We know we’re just not quite as capable as we used to be or not quite as quick as we used to be but we learn to adjust to things over time and it’s accepted as a normal process. Sometimes, as with chronic illness, these choices are taken away from us and we can’t really explain it very well.

In all of these instances, life changes and we must learn to adjust to our new reality. Nobody wants to be in this position and nobody has asked for this. Sometimes we can blame our new reality on something specific like an accident or debilitating illness and we have something to be angry at. We have a name that we can blame, something that people understand and that can be easily explained. The other times, the times when there is no good reason for our declining functionality, results in a frustration that is not easily dealt with. That doesn’t help us and it’s just another adjustment that we have to make.

I can speak from a perspective of both aging and having a chronic illness. I can say that I am super frustrated daily. My life has changed in many ways over the past years and I’m not real happy about it. I will adapt, but not easily. Who wants to change their life in a negative way? I certainly didn’t want to give up working when I was finally at a place (and salary) in my career that I wanted to be and had worked toward my whole life. I’m not happy to be in an uphill financial battle with the government (which is woefully inadequate btw). I’m not happy to have to worry, every single day, about what I can and cannot do. Most of all, I’m not happy that these choices were not my doing and not mine to make; the choice was taken from me. We don’t like having choices taken away from us.

From what I have learned, it appears that people with chronic illness tend to be more of a Type A personality, which I definitely am. I’m also stubborn. It makes it much harder for me to admit that I don’t have control over many things in my life anymore and that I’m not able to always just do what I want to do. Dealing with our lack of control is as much of an issue as any other disability, loss of function, or impairment. As I’m aging, I’m also finding that I can’t do things the same way that I used to do them, which I continue to be surprised about…each and every time. You’d think I’d learn after awhile. I can’t multi-task quite nearly as well and things take longer than they used to, so I don’t get as much done. I still have pretty high expectations of myself so I find that I’m constantly being disappointed. One would think that, at some point, I would realize that this is now my “new” life, relax, and learn to adapt. It’s not always that easy.

Many of us, for various reasons, have to live with the reality that there is no such thing as “just” getting something done anymore. Every day when we get up, we make a choice of what we can do. Sometimes that choice needs to be adjusted as the day goes on. When I make a decision to go grocery shopping, it’s not “just” going shopping; it’s making sure I’m up for the walking, lifting, and driving and have nothing else that has to get done.  If I make a commitment to do something, I need to plan ahead and do the best that I can do to feel well enough and hope it stays that way. There are so many factors that play into how we live our lives that I couldn’t possibly list all the possible considerations. It’s discouraging enough to have to make concessions, so please be understanding if someone has difficulty or needs to change plans.

We all have varying circumstances; sometimes these changes are temporary and sometimes they are permanent. Either way, we all have our own set of limitations and do the best that we can to live within them. Adjusting to these changes isn’t easy and we need to understand how this affects people. I know it’s easy to be impatient when people are moving slowly in the grocery store or filling out forms, but it’s important to remember that they’re not doing these things to ruin your day. They’re doing the best that they can. I like to think that we are here to help each other out when we need it, but certainly the very least that we can do is not make their situation worse through our impatience or misunderstanding. For those of you that are struggling daily, take care of yourself in the best way that you can. The rest of us will be just fine. All of us are going to be older one day or have issues that make things a bit harder. Hopefully the people around us will be understanding and supportive of us when we need it as well.

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.