Archive for the ‘chronic illness’ Category

What Makes a Movie Special – and what does that have to do with Living Well with Chronic Illness or Chronic Pain?

Friday, July 31st, 2015

There are many things that help make a movie special: the acting, the characters, the scenery, the style, and more. One of the most important is the plot. For a movie to be special, it needs to touch us, and for it to do that, the protagonist almost always needs to go through some really difficult and often painful challenges.

But when he does, his or her life changes. He gets the princess, and he saves the kingdom or even the world! And there is absolutely no question that whatever it is, the outcome makes everything the protagonist went through, no matter how hard it was, completely worth it.

Movies like that are special. They touch us deeply, and can stay with us for a long time.

So what does that have to do with living well with a chronic illness?

My answer to that question is, what if your life with chronic illness or chronic pain were like a movie, and what if you were the screenwriter?

If that were the case, you wouldn’t start writing from the beginning, because a lot of the movie has already been written. Instead, you would write the rest of the movie, starting from today.

And as the screenwriter for the rest of the movie, your goal would be to create an outcome that makes everything that you, as the protagonist, go through completely worth it.

With that goal in mind, your next question is, what outcome would make everything you’ve gone through and everything you will go through worth it – beyond any shadow of a doubt?

It will likely take some time for you to get clear about your answer. Maybe it is to write a book to help others. Maybe your answer is to not let your illness or pain stop you from helping out at your local food bank. Maybe it’s to start an online or an in-person support group.

Whatever that answer is, and I invite you to share it in the comments section below, creating that outcome will, in spite of the fact that you live with chronic illness or chronic pain, make your life special.


Thomas Robinson is The Turnaround Coach for people with chronic illness and chronic pain. To get his free report: Learn 7 New Ways to Turn Your Life Around, click here.

The Healing Power of Time Travel

Tuesday, June 2nd, 2015

I bet you didn’t know that time travel can be healing. But by the end of this post, you will.

Let me say here that I’m not talking about the time travel described in books like H.G. Wells’s book The Time Machine or Edward Page Mitchell’s The Clock That Went Backwards. In those books, there is a machine or a device that can take people forward or backwards in time.

To the best of my knowledge, clocks or machines that can do that don’t exist.

But you can still travel in time – in your mind. And as the title of this post says, you can use that ability to heal.

Here’s how: think about a traumatic or painful event in your life. It could be when you were diagnosed with your illness. It could be when a person, such as a parent or a sibling, or a pet that you loved, died. It could be when your family moved away from the neighborhood where all your friends lived.

Those kind of events can have negative effects on us for the rest of our lives, even if we don’t realize it. They can instill an unconscious fear that keeps us from going for what we want. They can also affect our health and cause or contribute to illnesses that may occur many years later.

One of the main reasons events like the one you remembered were so traumatic was that we rarely had the support we needed when they happened, and because we didn’t, we felt alone and abandoned even if our siblings and others were going through it with us.

But with time travel, as I like to call it, we can go back to the person we were back then, whether that was a little boy or girl, a teenager, a young adult, or even a middle aged or older adult. Because we were that person earlier in our lives, we know what she or he was feeling. By letting that person know we understand their fear and anxiety, by letting them know we are truly sorry, and by reassuring them that they will get through the experience okay, we can be a huge help in their healing process. And when traumas and pain from our past are healed, that helps us in our healing, both physical and emotional, today.

I encourage you to give time travel healing a try, and post a comment here about your experience.


Tom Robinson is The Turnaround Coach for people with chronic illnesses. You can sign up for his free 7 day e-course, Learn How to Raise Your Energy and Your Spirit – and Say Goodbye to Feeling Hopeless and Depressed here.

How I Got My Health Back After Being Diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease

Tuesday, March 31st, 2015

If you have read more than a few of my previous posts, you know that I am a strong believer in the benefits and the importance of self compassion. I have seen many people experience miracles from using it, and have experienced some myself.

But in this post, I’m going to share with you the thing I did after being diagnosed with Crohn’s disease (in 1996) that had the biggest effect on reducing my symptoms – and it wasn’t giving myself compassion. It was deciding to do whatever it took, for as long as it took, to get my health back. In effect, I vowed to myself that I would either get my health back, or I would die trying.

To honor that promise, I read everything I could find about standard and alternative treatments. And when my doctor told me he needed me to diligently follow his orders, I fired him.

I needed a doctor who was willing to answer all my questions, listen to my concerns, and give me thoughtful feedback about my ideas about which standard and alternative treatments would work best. I needed a partner, rather then someone who just gave me orders and expected me to mindlessly follow them.

Now I’m not saying you should follow my example and decide not to always follow your doctor’s orders.

I had a hard time finding a satisfactory doctor. So I wrote a letter describing the qualities I was looking for, and also the kind of doctor I wanted to avoid, and I sent the letter, along with a stamped, self-addressed envelope, to the 35 gastroenterologists within a 25 mile radius of where I lived.

Of those 35 doctors, only two responded. But the one I chose was great.

My journey to recover my health was not easy. I had to deal with many very difficult challenges, including feeling sometimes like I would be better off dead. But after three years, I got my health back.

I’ve had some moderate setbacks since then, but have overcome each one, and have now been symptom free without drugs for over five years.

In spite of my success, in one way I have been a rather slow learner: It took me years to realize I could use this same strategy of deciding to do whatever it takes for as long as it takes, to achieve other important goals in my life.

But I’m glad to say that I have learned and am making use of that valuable lesson. And if your goal is better health, a more rewarding career, or more satisfying relationships with the important people in your life, I invite and encourage you to give the strategy I’ve shared with you a try.

Is Your Liver Feeling Unappreciated?

Friday, November 7th, 2014

In the title of this post, I ask if your liver is feeling unappreciated. But that’s not exactly what I meant. The real question I want to ask you is, do any of your organs and body parts that are affected by your illness feel unappreciated? But there wasn’t enough room in the title to ask that, so I asked about your liver instead.

You probably haven’t been asked whether those organs and body parts feel unappreciated, and you’re probably wondering why I would ask you if yours do.

Here’s my answer: Imagine that, in a very difficult environment, you work hard for someone, striving to do the best job you can accomplishing a task that is very important to them. Then imagine that when you finish, instead of thanking you and expressing appreciation, the person you’ve been working for finds and criticizes you for all the imperfections, no matter how small, in the work you’ve done.

The fact that those imperfections are because you didn’t have the tools you needed and because of the tough work environment are completely ignored, and the criticism is harsh, and it stings.

If you had an experience like that, you would feel awful. And if you had to do the job again in the future, you probably would not have any motivation to do it well. So you would do it halfheartedly at best.

Getting back to your organs and body parts, they are made up of cells, which are living organisms. And all organisms, including you, animals, plants, and your body’s cells, respond similarly to the way you and I do to positive emotions like love and communications of appreciation, and they also respond similarly to negative emotions like anger and communications of criticism.

So to keep your afflicted organs working their best, even though they’re not working as well as you wish they were, let them know you appreciate them and let them know that you know they are doing the best job they can even though they have been afflicted and affected by illness.

If you would like to learn specific ways to do that, as well as some other helpful things you can do for them and for yourself, I invite you to sign up for my free report:

Learn How to Maximize Your Body’s Healing Ability When You Have a Chronic Illness.

A Death in the Family

Thursday, July 31st, 2014

My brother Ben died last week. I miss him a lot and always will. He was a wonderful man, husband, brother, and human being. You can read more about him in the tribute on his Facebook page:

I’m writing about his death for two reasons. The first is because I am grieving and am trying to come to terms with and accept the reality that I will never see him again. And writing about it, my memories, and my brother’s (mostly) wonderful qualities, will help me heal.

The second reason I’m writing about Ben’s death is because I think it may have been preventable. And while nothing will bring him back, I want future possible deaths that can be prevented to be.

Here are a couple of my memories: Ben was five years younger than me, so he had five less years than I’ve had to learn the lessons life gives us. So it seems kind of ironic that I, as someone whose job and career is to give people ideas and suggestions to help them live better lives, would call him for help and advice. But I did, more times than I can count. And the counsel I received was always compassionate and wise.

One more thing I want to share about Ben is that he was a gifted french horn player. While I’ve heard him many times, one time that was especially memorable was last year when my girlfriend and I stopped by to visit on our way home from a trip out of state. We were treated to our own live performance, and I can truthfully say that what came out of Ben’s horn was richer and more heartfelt than anything I have heard from any other french horn player’s horn before or since.

I’m grateful for those and many more memories, but of course I wish Ben hadn’t died. I’ll probably never know for sure, but I think his death could have been prevented. I’ll describe how by sharing my own story.

I was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease in 1996. When the treatments my doctor gave me didn’t help, I decided to learn as much as I could about my illness and all the standard and alternative treatments people were using to treat it. I made a vow to myself that I was going to do everything I could to get well, and do so for as long as necessary.

While doing my research, I was well aware that on the internet people can say anything – and some do. So I got corroboration before trying anything. I ended up trying many standard and alternative treatments, and even devised one of my own.

In effect, I became the head of my medical team of doctors and other practitioners. And after three years, my Crohn’s went into remission. With the exception of a few relapses (the last one was four years ago), it has stayed in remission without drugs ever since.

Ben didn’t do that. He got the best medical care he could for his atrial fibrillation and his lung disease, and followed his doctors orders religiously for years. His health would get better, but then get worse than it was before, but he continued to follow orders.

He also didn’t give his heart or his lungs – or himself – the kind of compassion I have written about in many of my posts. And he died, much too soon.

Just to be clear, I’m not saying you should disregard what your doctor says. He or she has studied and learned a lot about diagnosing and treating illnesses.

But doctors are human and they make mistakes, and in my experience they often ignore potentially helpful alternative treatments.

So what I am saying is do your own research, and ask questions about the treatments you’re given and also about alternative treatments you think may be helpful.

I don’t know if the holistic approach to treating illnesses and healing the body that I have briefly described here would have prevented my brother’s death. But I have seen far too many positive results for me not to strongly encourage others who are struggling with illnesses to try it themselves.


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.

Love Heals

Monday, June 30th, 2014

I’m sure you have read or heard it said that love is the greatest healer of all. But often when we need it the most, that healing love can be hard to find. In this post, I’m going to share a very personal story about how I found a way access the healing power of love, with the hope and the intention that it helps you find a way to access it for yourself.

What happened was that after sharing some special intimate time with my girlfriend, I was half awake and half asleep, and she was gently and lovingly touching me. As I drifted in and out of consciousness, I was enjoying her touch a lot.

But what happened next was both unexpected and healing. I’m not sure how, but I went into the same state I was in many, many years ago when I was lovingly touched by my mother, and I stayed there. In it I felt very vulnerable, and also very loved and cared for.

While I eventually came out of that state, being in it has had a lasting effect on me. Over the next 24 hours, I realized that even though I haven’t been in touch with or aware of it, I have wanted and needed that kind of love and care ever since the time that memory was formed.

The next part of my story is hard to describe, but I’ll do my best.

Getting in touch with the part of me that needed that love and care was very empowering, because I have learned that I can give it to myself. In a way, it’s like having another person, who has his own needs, inside me.

That may sound strange, but it’s a pretty good description of how it feels. It’s a part of me I wasn’t aware of before. But even though I wasn’t aware of it, I have a strong sense that a lot of the sadness and discontent I would feel about my life from time to time came from it. Also, my sense is that a lot of the procrastination I used to suffer from was due to the angst that was coming from it.

Once I started checking in with that part of me, and then giving it the love and care it wanted and needed, I found myself happier, more at peace, and more focused.

Before the experience you’ve just read about, I knew that, like you and everyone else, I needed love and care. To meet that need, I would spend time with people who loved me and cared about me. I would also do my best to give myself love and care. Unfortunately, I was not able to do that nearly as well as I wanted. But that changed dramatically after I got in touch with the part of me that had long needed so much of it.

Having learned about myself, my sense is that there are many people (maybe most people) who have parts of themselves that need lots of love and care.

If you’re one of them, I hope this story will help you identify and get in touch with that part of yourself, and give it the love and care it needs. I know that doing so can – and does – heal both emotional and physical pain.


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.

To have a better life, have different conversations

Saturday, May 31st, 2014

In my 11 years as a coach for people with chronic illnesses, and as someone who has a chronic illness himself, I have learned that having conversations is one of the best ways for us to make our lives better.

But in order for them to make our lives better, they need to be the right kinds of conversations, and they can’t be with just anyone. In fact, the conversations I’m referring to aren’t ones with another person.

At this point, you’re likely wondering just who or what I’m suggesting that you have a conversation with. My answer is: your organs that have been affected by your illness.

Now obviously, you can’t have verbal conversations with your organs. But you can ask them, again in a non-verbal way, what they want and what you can do for them.

When I have my clients do this, and when I do it myself, I have found that if after we ask we wait quietly, we almost always get an answer.

When a client of mine who, along with chronic fatigue, has digestive challenges asked her stomach what it wanted and how she could help it, the answer she got back was that it wanted attention, appreciation, and it wanted her to take better care of it by being more careful about what she ate.

Of course, the answer you get will depend on many factors, including what illness you have and which organs are affected.

One other conversation that both my clients and I have found helpful, and I think you will too, is a conversation with your illness. You can ask it what it wants you to know about why you have it, what if any life lessons it has for you, and what you can do to live better with it. If you do this, you will very likely be surprised at how much the answers you get help you to live a better life.

Please note: while these conversations with your organs and your illness can be very helpful, they are not intended to be used as a substitute for any medical care or treatments you are receiving.


Has your chronic illness worn you down? Get my free e-course: Learn How to Raise Your Energy – and Your Spirit – in Just 21 Days.

Are You Bitter Because of How Your Chronic Illness has Affected Your Life?

Wednesday, April 30th, 2014

I recently received an unsettling email from a woman who has lived with Myalgic Encephalopathy / Chronic Fatigue Syndrome for 25 years. Kathleen, as I’ll call her, wanted to know if I could help her.

The reason Kathleen’s email was unsettling was because she referred to a blog post I wrote last summer in which I basically asked my readers to imagine watching a movie where the protagonist had the same illness and was dealing with the same challenges that they were (here’s the link to that post). But instead of writing, as others who have contacted me about that post have written, that it was helpful, she said that if the protagonist has been wrongly accused or imprisoned, she identifies with them, but if not, not only does she not have any compassion for them, but she is happy when they fail.

She went on to say that that is how bitter not being able to be a mother or to have a successful career has made her, and added that while she would never do it, she sometimes has fantasies of killing people who are leading normal lives.

While what Kathleen wrote was unsettling, my heart goes out to her. When she became sick,she was working on a Ph.D. in psychology and felt very optimistic about her future. And then after almost 3 years of doing everything she could to regain her health, and getting some of it back, an accidental exposure to pesticides caused a relapse and even more symptoms, from which she has never recovered.

From what she wrote, I think Kathleen was talking about her reaction to watching real movies. But in my previous blog post, I was asking my readers to IMAGINE watching a movie in which the protagonist had the same illness and challenges they did. And if I have a chance to talk to Kathleen, I will suggest that she do that.

But while I didn’t say so in the previous post, I will be very clear with her that while imagining watching a movie like that is almost always very helpful and healing, it is not easy to do. To the contrary, it be very difficult and emotionally painful.

That’s why when I work with people, I give them several tools, strategies, and suggestions, and not just that one. If you’re interested, you can learn about several of those other strategies in my free E-Course: Learn How to Raise Your Energy – and Your Spirit – in Just 21 Days.


Tom Robinson, who has a chronic illness (Crohn’s disease) himself, helps people with chronic illnesses meet their many challenges and then find and follow a path to happiness and fulfillment.

Why You Should Ditch Your To-Do List

Saturday, March 1st, 2014

In this post, I’m going to tell you why you should get rid of your to-do list, and what to replace it with. I wish I had learned this years ago, but I’m very glad I finally did. I think you will be too.

I heard about it from a woman named Monica (if she gives me permission, I’ll tell you her last name). I’m taking a 5-week prayer class at my church to become a prayer minister and she is one of my classmates.

Monica, who is many years younger than me (I wish I knew how she got to be so wise at such a young age!), shared in class that she has replaced her to-do list with a “want to experience” list. And as soon as I heard her say that, I realized what a powerful idea it was.

Creating and then looking at a to-do list can easily leave us feeling drained, especially one that has time-consuming, hard-to-do items on it. And when we get that way, it’s hard to feel motivated.

But if instead of making a to-do list, you make a want to experience list, you will most likely find yourself empowered and motivated.

For example, one item on a to-do list might be to exercise. Exercising is something that is unpleasant (or worse) for a lot of people, and can be especially hard if you have a chronic illness. But if on your “want to experience” list you write down “I want to experience the most enjoyable time I can with my children (or grandchildren if you’re my age)” and exercising is one of the things that will make that possible, then you are much more likely to exercise than you would be if it were just an item on your to-do list.

Just about everything on your to-do list, including taking medications, picking up the kids at school, buying a present or sending a card, making an appointment with your doctor, etc., can be restated as something you want to experience, and then put on that list. And when you do that, you’ll be much more likely to take the steps needed so you can have the experience, whether it’s of more peace, better health, more happiness, or anything else, that you want.


Tom Robinson, who has a chronic illness (Crohn’s disease) himself, helps people with chronic illnesses meet their many challenges and then find and follow a path to happiness and fulfillment.

Get his free report, Has Living with a Chronic Illness Worn You Down? Learn How to Outsmart Your Illness and Have a Much Better Life.

Are You Part of the Problem, or Part of the Solution – in Your Own Life?

Friday, January 31st, 2014

You have probably heard the phrase “You’re either part of the solution or you’re part of the problem.” It comes from a talk Black Panther leader Eldridge Cleaver gave in 1968. After he said it, lots of organizations, including non-profits and government bodies began using it for themselves. You’ve probably heard or seen it many times.

A while back, I heard the phrase again, this time with a somewhat different twist, in a teleclass by results and success coach Michael Bernoff.

Michael asked those of us who were listening to the call to ask ourselves if we were being a part of the solution to the problems in our lives. I thought it was a great question, so I decided to use it in this post.

It is easy, as I’m sure you know (I sure do), to get depressed and anxious about our illness, including all the negative effects it has on out lives. All of us do that from time to time. It’s normal, and there is no reason to feel guilty about doing it.

However, I now know that I can lessen my depression and anxiety you can lessen your depression and anxiety – often a lot, but asking myself the simple question: How can I be a part of the solution in my own life?

You can too.

For some people, asking that question may be a hard thing to do, because they don’t think there is anything they can do to make things better. If you’re one of those people, you can ask yourself a second question, which is: I don’t think there is any way for me to be a part of the solution to the problems in my life, but if there were, what would it be?

Those of you who have read my other blog posts know that one of the ways that I encourage people with chronic illnesses to be a part of the solution to problems in their lives is to give themselves lots of compassion. You can learn some other ways by getting my free report (see the top right corner of the page to find out how to do that) and by reading some of my other posts. But the best way to get started is by asking yourself the questions in this post, with the intention of coming up with one or more answers to them.