An Oxymoron? Realistic Hope

Cheerleader_2_1While improvement is reasonably common for FM patients (insert CHEER!), a return to your pre-illness level of health is rare, says Dr Bruce Campbell of the CFIDS and Fibromyalgia Self Help website. In his experience with several thousand people, Dr Campbell estimates that progress usually tops out at something like 50% to 60% of normal. There are people who do even better, but they are rare.

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Further, it has been observed that people with FM often have an inaccurate sense of their level of functioning. People frequently over-estimate their functional level by 5 or 10 points on the websites 100-point Rating Scale and occasionally are 20 to 25 points too high. (Note: If you would like to get a check on your self-perception, ask one or two other people to rate you. It is a great way to remain realistic!)

The challenges you face may make your chances for significant improvement easier or harder than those of others. Here are some important factors:

1) Severity

The impairment FM has a wide range. The bottom line for improvement: some climbs are longer than others.

2) Co-morbid Medical Issues

Some people have just one major medical issue: FM. But many have more health issues. Some of the most common other medical issues include sleep disorders, orthostatic intolerance, food and digestive problems, migraine headaches, thyroid problems and clinical depression. The implication for improvement: It’s simpler to deal with one problem, more complicated to address several.

3) $Money$

Having adequate money reduces stress as well as providing access to medical help, medications, adequate food and good housing.

4) Support

People’s family situations differ as well. Some feel understood and supported, while others are challenged to have family understand and believe them. In addition, because FM may often be severe, people can feel isolated. The level of support a person experiences varies greatly. Other people can provide practical help, understanding and encouragement; living without support creates challenges. Isolation forces people to do more for themselves and often leads to discouragement.

5) Stability

Predictability and routine are two factors that make improvement easier. The amount of stability varies from person to person. Some people with FM are able to live in one place over time and their family situations are stable. Others have to deal with several to many changes: one or more moves, the loss of important people in their lives, etc.

6) CONTROL

Taking responsibility for those things that you can control is a big factor in improvement, perhaps the most important. How we live with FM can affect symptom level and even its course.

Realistic Hope

Positive Attitude_100109aSome factors may be out of our control, but we can affect others. Those who do well share a positive attitude AND a willingness to adapt.

This is called having realistic hope. It combines two apparently conflicting parts: acceptance and belief that improvement is possible.

Acceptance means acknowledging that life has changed. Instead of living as if you were well or searching for a miracle cure to restore you to full health, people with this attitude accept that it is necessary to live differently, for now and perhaps for the long run. At the same time, they have a confidence that they can find ways to make their lives better.  

Realistic hope is different from both resignation and from the search for something that restores a former level of health. Both of these other approaches often lead to helplessness. Realistic hope, in contrast, gives people a way to help themselves and to regain a sense of control.

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The Pursuit of Happyness

Contrary to popular belief, happiness doesn’t come from fame, fortune, or money. (We would still have FM if we were rich!) Rather, it comes from within. Happy people are happy because they make themselves happy. They maintain a positive outlook on life and remain at peace with themselves.

The question is: how do they do that?

It’s quite simple. Happy people have good habits that enhance their lives. They do things differently. Ask any happy person, and they will tell you that they …

1. Don’t hold grudges.

Easier said than done, right? Happy people understand that it’s better to forgive and forget than to let their negative feelings crowd out their positive feelings. Holding a grudge has a lot of detrimental effects on your wellbeing, including increased depression, anxiety, and stress – something we definitely do not need more of! Why let anyone who has wronged you have power over you? If you let go of all your grudges, you’ll gain a clear conscience and enough energy to enjoy the good things in life.

2. Treat everyone with kindness.

Did you know that it has been scientifically proven that being kind makes you happier? Every time you perform a selfless act, your brain produces serotonin, a hormone that most of us seem to need more of. Not only that, but treating people with love, dignity, and respect also allows you to build stronger relationships.

3. See problems as challenges.

The word “problem” is never part of a happy person’s vocabulary. A problem is viewed as a drawback, a struggle, or an unstable situation while a challenge is viewed as something positive like an opportunity, a task, or a dare. Whenever you face an obstacle, try looking at it as a challenge. Yes, we have a lot of challenges in our lives – but together we can meet them.

4. Express gratitude for what they already have.

There’s a popular saying that goes something like this: “The happiest people don’t have the best of everything; they just make the best of everything they have.” You will have a deeper sense of contentment if you count your blessings instead of yearning for what you don’t have.

5. Dream big.

People who get into the habit of dreaming big are more likely to accomplish their goals than those who don’t. If you dare to dream big, your mind will put itself in a focused and positive state.

6. Don’t sweat the small stuff.

Happy people ask themselves, “Will this problem matter a year from now?” They understand that life’s too short to get worked up over trivial situations. Letting things roll off your back will definitely put you at ease to enjoy the more important things in life.

7. Speak well of others.

Being nice feels better than being mean. Saying nice things about other people encourages you to think positive, non-judgmental thoughts.

8. Never make excuses.

Benjamin Franklin once said, “He that is good for making excuses is seldom good for anything else.” Happy people don’t make excuses or blame others for their own failures in life. Instead, they own up to their mistakes and, by doing so, they learn and proactively try to change for the better.

9. Get absorbed into the present.

Happy people don’t dwell on the past or worry about the future. They savour the present. They let themselves get immersed in whatever they’re doing at the moment. Stop and smell the (purple) roses.

10. Avoid social comparison.

Everyone works at his own pace, so why compare yourself to others? My father used to quote Desiderata* to me: If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain and bitter…If you think you’re better than someone else, you gain an unhealthy sense of superiority. If you think someone else is better than you, you end up feeling bad about yourself. You’ll be happier if you focus on your own progress and praise others on theirs.

11. Choose friends wisely.

Misery loves company. That’s why it’s important to surround yourself with optimistic people who will encourage you to achieve your goals. The more positive energy you have around you, the better you will feel about yourself.

12. Never seek approval from others.

Happy people don’t care what others think of them. They follow their own hearts without letting naysayers discourage them. They understand that it is impossible to please everyone. Listen to what people have to say, but never seek anyone’s approval but your own.

13. Take the time to listen.

Talk less; listen more. Listening keeps your mind open to others’ wisdoms and outlooks on the world. The more intensely you listen, the quieter your mind gets, and the more content you feel.

14. Nurture social relationships.

A lonely person is a miserable person. Happy people understand how important it is to have strong, healthy relationships. Yes, it can be harder for us than others; but, try to take the time to see and talk to your family, friends, or significant other.

15. Meditate.

Meditating silences your mind and helps you find inner peace. You don’t have to be a zen master to pull it off. Happy people know how to silence their minds anywhere and anytime they need to calm their nerves.

16. Eat well.

Junk food makes you sluggish, and it’s difficult to be happy when you’re in that kind of state. Everything you eat directly affects your body’s ability to produce hormones, which will dictate your moods, energy, and mental focus. Be sure to eat foods that will keep your mind and body in good shape.

17. Exercise.

Studies have shown that exercise raises happiness levels just as much as Zoloft does. So just think how good you will feel if you’re taking your anti-depressants AND exercising! Exercising also boosts your self-esteem and gives you a higher sense of self-accomplishment.

18. Tell the truth.

Lying stresses you out, corrodes your self-esteem, and makes you unlikeable. The truth will set you free. Being honest improves your mental health and builds others’ trust in you. Always be truthful, and never apologize for it.

19. Establish personal control.

Happy people have the ability to choose their own destinies. They don’t let others tell them how they should live their lives. Being in complete control of one’s own life brings positive feelings and a great sense of self-worth. Be your own advocate. Figure out what really works for YOU. Learn how to manage YOUR own FM. There are on-line tools (such as FibroTrack) that can help you work out a structured plan and let you regain control!

20. Accept what cannot be changed.

Once you accept the fact that life is not fair, you’ll be more at peace with yourself. Instead of obsessing over how unfair life is, just focus on what you can control and change it for the better.

 

Desiderata

Go placidly amid the noise and haste,
and remember what peace there may be in silence.
As far as possible without surrender
be on good terms with all persons.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly;
and listen to others,
even the dull and the ignorant;
they too have their story.

Avoid loud and aggressive persons,
they are vexations to the spirit.
If you compare yourself with others,
you may become vain and bitter;
for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.
Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.

Keep interested in your own career, however humble;
it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.
Exercise caution in your business affairs;
for the world is full of trickery.
But let this not blind you to what virtue there is;
many persons strive for high ideals;
and everywhere life is full of heroism.

Be yourself.
Especially, do not feign affection.
Neither be cynical about love;
for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment
it is as perennial as the grass.

Take kindly the counsel of the years,
gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune.
But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings.
Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.
Beyond a wholesome discipline,
be gentle with yourself.

You are a child of the universe,
no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you,
no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

Therefore be at peace with God,
whatever you conceive Him to be,
and whatever your labors and aspirations,
in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul.

With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams,
it is still a beautiful world.
Be cheerful.
Strive to be happy.

Max Ehrmann, Desiderata, Copyright 1952.

Is it Giving Up or Acceptance?

imagesA couple of weeks ago, I wrote that I haven’t reached the acceptance stage on the ‘grief scale’ so I don’t think I am qualified (am I ever?) to write about the topic of ACCEPTANCE however I read the following post by Jen Reynolds of FibroTV:

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FibrotvartworkI think one of the most difficult issues to deal with when you are diagnosed with a chronic illness is acceptance. For the first couple years I was angry, in denial, and did everything I wanted to and paid big time every time I did.  I was very young (18) when I was diagnosed and I just wanted to do everything my friends were doing. It was almost like I had to prove to them and myself I was not going to change and would even push harder than a healthy person. I was working full-time  taking care of my boyfriend’s 2 kids 3 to 4 days out of the week, keeping up a 3 bedroom house,  and keeping a very hectic social calendar. This is when I started taking a lot of medication to cover up the symptoms of the poor choices I made that affected my health and began to decline rapidly.

There is almost a mourning process when you get diagnosed. On one hand I was happy they figured out what was wrong but on the other, all I wanted was to be normal again. I held on to a lot of anger because I wanted my life back the way it was. I would try to stay busy every second of the day because once I stopped the pain would be unrelenting and I would think about it more if I did not keep busy. I felt that accepting I was ill was giving in or giving up. What I later realized is that acceptance was key to begin my journey to wellness.

Giving up means that you feel hopeless and that nothing that you do can change the situation so you let yourself go. I ended up doing this for about 12 years. At one point I was on 12 medications and went from 97 pounds to almost 200 pounds in a year. I ate what I wanted because I had the attitude that if I was going to be like this for the rest of my life I should at least be able to enjoy what I eat. I did not know that the food I was eating was making me have more pain and more fatigue. I just did not connect food to pain because it made me feel good to eat it!  I ate fast food at least once a day and I loved having a donut for breakfast because it was cheap and fast before I went to work. My breakfast consisted of a donut or two, a Dr Pepper, two Vicodin  and a Soma. No wonder why I felt so bad! Everything I put into my body when I first woke up had 0 nutrition value and was toxic. I was basically in denial about my health and denied any personal responsibility for taking charge of it and taking care of my body. I would tell myself, ”I did not ask to be sick it is not my fault!” It was not my fault I got sick that is true, but it was my fault for treated my body the way I was and I continued to decline health wise because of it!

Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Don’t resist them; that only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like.

~Lao Tzu

I eventually accepted that I had fibromyalgia and started to work on my health. It was actually very empowering to accept that I had fibromyalgia and that I needed to take care of myself physically/mentally/and spiritually. I felt like I had at least some control of my body again.  I started not “overdoing it.” I dropped the process foods with the exception of going out to eat once a week and I started working on my mind and spirit. Once I started doing these things I started seeing small improvements in my health. At times it was very frustrating because the results were so small and they were slow but every small success adds up! It was much easier popping a pill and having that little relief for a short period of time! I saw quick results that way but I developed rebound pain that was even worse than the fibromyalgia and it just was a vicious cycle for me so I made the very personal decision (with the help of my doctor) to go off the medications. Once I got off all the meds (which took about a year) I could not believe the difference in my pain levels.

No matter how sick you are and what stage you are with your acceptance of your chronic condition there are things you can do to improve your health that will decrease pain and help you live a more full and productive life. For each person it will be different depending on what they have and what the underlying cause is for their condition. There is always an underlying cause of a health condition and unfortunately Western medicine never tries to figure it out and gives medications to cover up symptoms. It is just the way Doctors are trained here. They are trained to diagnose and prescribe medications accordingly. We can see with the rapid increase of chronic illness this is not working.  We are in a Nation that supports sick care – there is no “health” in healthcare right now. It is going to be up to YOU to find the underlying cause. The best way to do that is to look back to when you first became ill and what happened during that time. Good Nutrition is always a positive for the body and will make you feel better. Also many conditions are caused from food intolerance’s to ether wheat, dairy, and chemicals in foods that are not supposed to be in the body. If you do have a intolerance to one of these things it is a good thing because that can be resolved! I highly recommend that everyone get tested for food allergies and intolerance’s because it is such an easy fix. BUT we are not just physical beings, so if there are any unresolved issues from your past that cause unresolved anger and resentment that is something that must be dealt with in order to see your symptoms decrease.

Life is a journey and the choices you make every day affect the quality of your life. No one can make positive changes for you, that is something you have to do for yourself. You may always have some symptoms but you can live well-being chronically ill. It will take some lifestyle changes and change is very hard. Us humans are stubborn and resist change, but without change everything will stay the same. If something is not working move forward to the next thing until you find what works best for you. Don’t give up! Accept and move forward making positive healthy choices for yourself. You deserve it!

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Take Control!

Mommy came to the doctor with me today – actually she comes to every doctors’ appointment with me. It’s very helpful having her there: she remembers to tell the doctor things that I forget; she remembers things the doctors say that I forget; and when I’m just too tired, she can tell the doctor everything that needs to be said.

(Mind you, today, I was VERY vocal: I asked Dr B his age & if he was married! He is…but, hey! a girl’s gotta try!)

We often lose our voice, when we are tired and not feeling good – and instead let other people take control. I know how easy it is to let that happen – I let Mommy take control a lot of the time. Sometimes, it’s just easier.

It is difficult to cope with doctors, specialists, alternative health practitioners, boyfriends/girlfriends/spouses, parents, bloggers, employers (if you’re still working), etc. Everyone has an idea of how or what you should be doing. Guess what people, they don’t know everything. No one knows you better than you.

It’s not easy to get back some independence, when we have let others take on what we should be able to do for ourselves. You CAN speak up.

If you are troubled with how you are being treated, you CAN say so. Tired of taking drugs that aren’t helping? You CAN say no to them (and your doctor). Your boyfriend thinks you are being lazy? You CAN tell him he is wrong. Your parents think you are ‘just depressed’ – you CAN say ‘no, please listen to me’ (whether they listen to you is another thing, though).

So, how do you start taking back control? Firstly, start saying no to the things that aren’t working in your life. When the stressors, depressors, and all round toxic forces have been eliminated (or at least reduced)….then you can return to ‘yes.’

So what will you say ‘no’ to today?

Embracing (and loving) my Bills

 

I LOVE paying bills! Am I nuts? Or what?

Unpaid bills stress me out big time BUT the relief and sense of satisfaction, when I press confirm on the keyboard and wait to receive my receipt number, leaves me feeling back in control of my life.

Are you seeing a continuing theme here?

I NEEDED to de-clutter my house to feel like I was gaining control over my life…

I LOVE paying my bills for the exact same reason…

Am I a control freak?


The phrase was first used in the late 1960s — an era when great stress was laid on the principle of ‘doing one’s own thing’ and letting others do the same.

Control freaks are often perfectionists, who believe if they are not in total control, they risk  exposing their own inner vulnerabilities. When a control freak’s pattern is broken, “the Controller is left with a terrible feeling of powerlessness … But feeling their pain and fear brings them back to themselves”.(Patricia Evans, Controlling People (Avon 2002) p. 129 and p. 274)

I know that I NEED to control my own environment (and I’m very lucky as I live alone and can do so) because I feel powerless against my Fibromyalgia. I take all the appropriate medication; I pace myself as applicable; I supplement my diet with numerous vitamins and minerals; I have embraced a multi-modal treatment plan; and I have all the tools in my toolbox to help control my pain YET, if my body decides it wants to FLARE, there is nothing I can do about the pain and fatigue, except to give in to it. So, of course, I feel powerless – don’t you?

Many control freaks (now using the term without any derogatory meanings) are Type A personalities. Hmm…many sufferers of FM are Type A personalities.

Coincidence?  Could FM be your body’s alert system to take it easy, to stop and smell the roses, to let the universe handle the world around you?

Are you a control freak?

 

After All…Tomorrow is Another Day.

 

So, it’s finally hit me…I’m home from Bali. Duh! you say, but I was able to stay in my little fantasy land for a whole week.

Despite coming home to: two telephone bills (home and mobile), a car registration notice, an invoice for three quarters of body corporate fees, an impending hospitalisation to withdraw from codeine, the spectre of a gallbladder operation (then disappearance of aforementioned operation), the new threat of a lesion on my liver, and an unexpectedly high bill from my handy-man; I was somehow able to hold onto my dream of returning to Bali for a year. Forget Eat, Pray, Love – it was just going to be Love, Love, Love!

WHO AM I KIDDING? For some unknown reason, today it hit me full force that I’m home and, most probably, staying here. I don’t know why it was today – nothing huge happened; but it slammed into me (kind of like those trucks that hit us during the night so we wake up in so much pain) – I’m on a disability pension. Yes, it is cheaper to live in Bali. Yes, I could rent out my unit. But I would still need to return every 3 months to continue receiving my pension, and airfares are not cheap.

This ‘little’ dose of reality brought back all the other stuff (above) that comes with being at home and, all of a sudden, I am overwhelmed. Too much, too quickly!

My reaction is a quick visit to the darkness of depression…

STOP! Wipe those idiot tears. You need some control!

I can’t control any of the bills or medical hassles so my antidote is to get some control over my surroundings – 8 shelves of books going to friends or the Op shop, 2 suitcases of clothes I don’t wear (but I might one day) going to be stored in Mommy’s garage and 4 bags of trash. There is stuff everywhere (I can’t do it all in one hit – I have Fibro, remember?) and I’m unhappy about going to bed, knowing that all this stuff will be waiting for me in the morning; but my exhaustion (and gravity) is dragging me down. So, now, not only is my head a mess but, so is the house (more so than before!)

But, as Scarlett said: I can’t think about that right now. If I do, I’ll go crazy. I’ll think about that tomorrow.

 

P.S. The clean basket of laundry is still sitting on the floor of my bedroom.

P.P.S. And, maybe, I can still work out a way to Bali…