Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

An Exercise to Help You Withstand Harassment

Sunday, August 31st, 2014

What I’m going to tell you in this post may not seem like it can help you live better with a chronic illness. But as I will explain shortly, it can. And between now and when I tell you how, my intention is to entertain you with a story.

Here it is: I’ve been by myself for almost a year. I’ve been looking for a woman to spend the rest of my life with, but so far haven’t found her. Maybe it’s because I and the women I go out with are more picky than we were when we were younger. Whatever the reason, this search is taking longer than I hoped it would.

To increase my chances of finding the love of my life, I signed up for a six-week online dating course. I am enjoying it and am learning a lot.

The man who developed the course had previously co-led a workshop to teach men many of the same things I am learning, and he told us about the following exercise from it: a man who was afraid of women for any reason would be brought to the front of the auditorium where the workshop was being held. Then 30 women would be brought in, and they would be told to scream the most hurtful insults they could think of at him for three minutes.

What would always happen, and it would usually take about 30 seconds, is that the man would start laughing, because he would realize that the women couldn’t hurt him. He would see that there was no substance to the fear he was holding on to: the worst that could happen was that 30 women would keep screaming and telling him what a piece of shit he was. But he realized that he was still standing there and was fine.

This exercise sounds like an excellent one to help men who are afraid of women. But I told you at the beginning of this post that what I was going to write about could also help you live better if you have a chronic illness.

Here’s how: when you have a chronic illness, you (probably) don’t have a bunch of women screaming insults at you. But if you’re like almost everyone else, you have a bunch of voices inside your head that are criticizing you,and very likely calling you names.

And just like the man standing at the front of the auditorium listening to those insults and voices realized that the insults didn’t change who he was, you have the opportunity to realize that the critical voices inside your head don’t change who you are. You’re the same person you’ve always been.

If you want to take this a step farther, you can tell the voices to go ahead and insult you. And they will! But when they do, you will realize and know that the worst that can happen is that they will tell you what a piece of shit you are (or whatever words they use). But them doing that no longer needs to hurt you or upset you!

I have been writing for many years about how the voices inside our head very often make our illness worse, often a lot worse, than it already is. And you now have a way to stop your voices from doing that.

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To learn about other effective ways to heal your pain, I invite you to sign up for my free E-Course: Learn How to Raise Your Energy – and Your Spirit – in Just 21 Days.

Not being critical of yourself is a GOOD start

Thursday, January 31st, 2013

Recently, when I suggested to a client that she give herself compassion because of the difficult challenges she was going through, she told me she was doing that. Then she explained that in spite of making a couple of mistakes, she wasn’t being hard on herself, getting down on herself, or calling herself names like “Stupid” or “Idiot.”

I was very glad to hear that. Many years ago, I used to talk that way to myself, but am glad to say I no longer do. Talking that way to ourselves is far too common, especially for those of us who had critical parents. If you do it, I strongly encourage you to stop.

In her book, How To Be Sick, Toni Bernhard writes about how she learned to stop doing that from a teacher at a spiritual retreat. The teacher described realizing that she would never talk that way to someone she cared about, and Toni saw that she wouldn’t even talk that way to a stranger. So they stopped!

Not talking harshly or critically to yourself is a good thing. Talking to yourself in an encouraging way is a good thing. Acknowledging your accomplishments and your special qualities and gifts to yourself is also a good thing to do.

But none of those are the same as giving yourself compassion. And I have found that giving ourselves compassion is one of the best, most effective things we can do to heal the emotional wounds we get when others say and do things that hurt us or upsetting or traumatic things happen to us.

At first, my client had a hard time giving herself compassion. Many people do. She’s a very productive person, with a demanding job, and she had a strong desire to “do something.” But giving yourself–or anyone else—compassion doesn’t require you to physically do anything.

Thinking about the way she was with her pets and the way they were with her was helpful, and since she knows a lot about the energy of the heart, my suggestion of giving herself “gentle heart energy” was very helpful.

It’s important for us to be good to ourselves and it is important that we not be critical of ourselves. But to heal our emotional wounds, what works much better than either of those is to give ourselves a great deal of  self compassion. I hope this helps you give yourself a lot more.

What’s so great about situation-specific self-compassion?

Saturday, March 31st, 2012

What’s so great about situation-specific self-compassion is that it is an extremely powerful tool for healing. In this post, I’m going to tell you what it is and how it differs from “normal” self-compassion.

Over the past few months, I recommended to several clients and others who have been going through very difficult challenges that they give themselves self-compassion, and they responded that they were doing that. But they weren’t- at least not in the way I meant.

From the descriptions they gave me and from their answers to my subsequent questions, I realized that the self-compassion they were giving themselves was broad and general, and was like the compassion a person would feel for an acquaintance or a distant relative who was going through a hard time. Maybe it was somewhat stronger than that. But it wasn’t self-compassion that was specifically about and for the challenge they were going through at the time. And because it wasn’t, it wasn’t very healing for them.

So I told them about situation specific self-compassion. And I told them that a good way to give it to themselves would be to imagine that someone they loved and cared about a lot was experiencing the same difficult challenges they were, and think about how they would feel knowing that.

They all said that they would feel lots of compassion for the person, and empathy too, and that they would want to comfort them. Some said that they would also feel sad or hurt because of what the person they loved and cared about was going through. That often happens, and it’s the main reason that it’s often hard for us to give ourselves situation-specific self-compassion.

Once they were in touch with the compassion and other feelings they would have for someone they loved and cared about who was going through the same challenge they were, I asked them to have the same feelings for and give the same compassion to themselves. Doing that didn’t make their difficult challenges go away, but it went a long way toward healing the emotional pain they were feeling.

I know it can do the same for you.

Life is a Team Sport. How’s Your Team Doing?

Wednesday, February 29th, 2012

I think life is a team sport. But not in the way you may think I mean: I’m not talking about being a team player at work. Nor am I talking about looking at your family as a team, or anything like that.

The team I’m talking about is all your different personalities.

All of us have several personalities. I have one who is fearful, one who is determined, one who is compassionate, one who is a procrastinator, and several more besides. Whatever yours are, you have several of them too. And if you’re like me – and I bet you are, you feel really good about some of those personalities, while there are others you would like to get rid of.

But we can’t get rid of them. Like them or not, the personalities we don’t like are just as much a part of us as are the ones that we do like.

As you now know, when I said at the beginning of this post that life is a team sport, the team I was referring to was the team of personalities each of us has. And in the same ways that a football team (or any other sports team) won’t do well if the team members are fighting or arguing among themselves, we won’t do well in life if our team members are fighting or arguing among themselves. So the only way your team is going to win lots of games is if they learn to play well together.

Carrying the analogy a little further, the way for them to learn to play well together is to make sure they have a good coach: you! And as their coach, you want to make sure they each know that winning games – and the game of life – is what really matters. And you want to make sure they know that getting upset or angry at each other has a negative impact on the team. You also want to find out what each team member’s strengths are, and assign positions based on those strengths. And when I say that, I’m including those team members who have an illness and symptoms. From what they’ve gone through, they have wisdom and knowledge the other team members don’t have.

This post is actually very personal. I have some personalities I think are wonderful and that I’m very grateful to have. But I also have a couple of personalities, one in particular, that I’ve struggled with for years and that have sabotaged me more times than I can count. When I finally realized that they were with me to stay and that I couldn’t get rid of them, and that we (all my personalities) are all in this together, my life got a whole lot better. And I started winning a lot more games.

I bet that you and your team can win a lot more games too!

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Tom Robinson, who has Crohn’s disease himself, helps people with chronic illnesses feel a whole lot better, and then he helps them find inspiring dreams – and achieve them!

A New Golden Rule

Sunday, July 31st, 2011

My New Golden Rule will help you have a better life when you have a chronic illness. But before I tell you what it is, I want to say that if you aren’t following my frequent suggestion of giving compassion to any parts of your body that are hurting, I strongly encourage you to do that, because it works! Here are just two of many examples I know about:

1) A colleague of mine has a neighbor of who had been in a lot of pain for several weeks after her recent knee surgery. My colleague told her about my suggestion, and she began using it and experienced a remarkable and complete healing.

2) Over three recent days, my knee became more and more painful and swollen. I will never know for sure why, but the gradual onset of the pain matches what happens when the meniscus is torn. So I think I probably tore it on one of my occasional runs. It got so bad that I couldn’t sleep, and bending and straightening it was excruciating (which made walking very difficult and climbing stairs all but impossible). I went to the doctor, who prescribed a month’s worth of Advil and said I might need surgery.

I got home from the doctor’s office, took the first pill, and my knee started to heal. It continued to heal until, three days later, it had recovered completely (and I didn’t need any more pills after that first one). As I said, I don’t know what happened to my knee. But I have no doubt that all the love and compassion I gave it since the pain and swelling began were what enabled it to heal so quickly.

As I wrote at the beginning of this post, I strongly encourage you to give any parts of your body that are hurting lots and lots of compassion. And I hope you will share your results in a comment.

Now here is My New Golden Rule. It’s a modification of the Golden Rule, which as you probably know is “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” The Golden Rule comes from the New Testament of the Bible, but all major religions have similar maxims because the principle they are based on is so basic and important.

The New Golden Rule, which if you follow it will help you have a better life when you have a chronic illness, is this: “Do unto yourself as you would have others do unto you.”

The reason for the modification is this: We know we’re supposed to treat others well (and I’m sure you do your best to do that), and we always want others to treat us well, but many of us often forget to treat ourselves well.

So remember to treat yourself the way you want others to treat you. I know you will have a better and better life the more you do.

For other ideas for living well when you have a chronic illness, sign up for my free report:

Some Strategies For Dealing With Chronic Fatigue That I Wish I Had Known

Wednesday, January 20th, 2010

Those of us who live with chronic illnesses can have many difficulties to deal with because of those illnesses. But I have found,  from my own life and from coaching and talking with others with chronic illnesses, that there are five main illness-related challenges, and most of us have to contend with one or more of them. These challenges aren’t independent of each other. On the contrary, they are all connected and inter-related. They are: chronic pain, chronic fatigue, lack of money, depression, and finding meaning in our lives. In this post, I’m going to share three strategies for dealing with one of those challenges: chronic fatigue.

The suggestions I’m going to share with you are ones I wish I had known when my chronic illness (Crohn’s disease) was in an almost constant flare, instead of being in remission like it is now. I often suffered from severe fatigue, and at that time I only knew three strategies for dealing with it. They were to nap in my car during my lunch hour at work, to get as much rest as possible on the weekends to recover from the previous week and get as ready as I could for the next one, and to learn about all the standard and alternative treatments for my illness and try the ones that seemed like they might help (I often spent two hours a day doing research on the internet).

Those were pretty good strategies, but if I had that period of my life to live over again, I would add three more that I think would have helped a lot. They are:

1) Look for and think about small things I could to make my life better. For example, I could have made a list of movies I wanted to watch, including comedies to cheer me up and uplifting ones to give me hope, and then watched them (while resting in bed, if necessary).

2) Keep a gratitude journal. Gratitude has been shown to to improve people’s health and their outlook on life. In spite of having overwhelming fatigue (and many other difficult symptoms), I had a lot to be grateful for, including a roof over my head, food on the table, a bed to sleep on, and a whole lot more.

3) Give myself lots of self compassion and hugs because of how difficult my life was (instead of spending a lot of my time dwelling on how sick I was).

As I said, I wish I had known these strategies when my life was a overwhelming struggle because of chronic fatigue and my other symptoms. But I’m very glad that they’ve been very helpful for my clients and others I’ve shared them with, and I hope you will find them helpful too. And if you would like even more strategies, I invite you to get and read my How to Have a Chronic Illness – Without Letting Your Chronic Illness Have You report.

Highly recommended book: Cure Unknown: Inside the Lyme Epidemic

Tuesday, November 3rd, 2009

I send out bi-weekly tips for living well with a chronic illness to people who sign up for my free report, and for one of my October tips I wrote about a former client who had chronic fatigue syndrome. A woman wrote back to ask me to let my former client know about the book Cure Unknown: Inside the Lyme Epidemic by Pamela Weintraub. I did that and I also got the book myself, and have just finished reading it.

In the book, the author recounts her family’s harrowing ordeal with Lyme disease that began after their 1993 move from New York City to a nice house next to the woods about 50 miles away.

I highly recommend this book, especially if you have or know someone who has Lyme disease, chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, lupus, Parkinson’s disease, or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (Lou Gehrig’s disease). The author makes a very convincing case that Lyme and other tick-born diseases are often misdiagnosed as one of those other illnesses.

The following excerpt was especially eye-opening for me: “Even the campus green at Brown University, surrounded by city streets near downtown Providence, had Lyme ticks: One friend sitting on the green had pulled a tick from her leg only to find, a short time later, an erythema migrans* in that very spot. She later tested positive for Lyme disease.”

I have a friend who was diagnosed with lupus not long after she attended Brown about 25 years ago, so I couldn’t help but wonder when I read those two sentences if my friend’s lupus and other health problems are actually due to Lyme disease. I sent my friend an email with a brief summary of the book. If she decides to be tested for Lyme, I will write about her diagnosis, treatments, and results in future posts.

As the author describes the devastating symptoms, the progress, and the setbacks she, her husband, and their two sons experienced from Lyme and other tick-born illnesses, she makes it strikingly clear how serious and complex these diseases are. But what made the ordeal many times worse for them and countless others was the turf wars that continue to rage within the medical community. They pitted doctor against doctor and doctors against government agencies, and resulted in some doctors whom patients felt were the only ones treating their illness effectively either stopping treating Lyme patients or risking losing their medical licenses.

The author was able to cure her Lyme disease, and her husband eventually recovered and stayed relatively well as long as he continued to take his medication. At the time Weintraub completed the book, one of her sons had recovered, been re-infected, and had recovered again, and the other was finally regaining his health after being gravely ill. She had much more to say, but I don’t want to spoil the ending for you.

* Erythema migrans is the name given to the rash, frequently target like, that often appears after a person is bitten by an infected tick.