Archive for the ‘chronic illness’ Category

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.

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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.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

An Awful Christmas Present

Tuesday, December 31st, 2013

Earlier this month, I was having a conversation with a woman who has lupus. The reason I’m writing about it is because I was greatly affected by one of the things she said.

Linda, who is a cable TV installer, told me about a customer of hers who has some very difficult health challenges. And then she shared something the woman had said to her, which was this:  “The best Christmas present I could get would be to not wake up.”

I don’t know what illnesses she has, but I have to think she has probably been in a lot of pain and that she has struggled with her illnesses for a long time. And I know, from both my own experience with a chronic illness and from working with 100’s of people with chronic illnesses for over 10 years, how hopeless a person can feel and how impossible a better life can seem.

But I also know, from what my clients have shared about their lives, from books and posts I’ve read, and from my own experiences, that miracles can—and do—happen. And while I don’t know if they will happen, for me or for anyone else, I have learned what we can do to make it much more likely that they will.

First, we can look for all the things we have to be grateful for, including food to eat, a roof over our heads, friends and family and the good times we’ve had and the special moments and love we’ve shared, the education we received that makes it possible for us to read books, blogs, magazines, etc., our organs that are working fine (and everyone who is alive has some) – the list goes on and on.

And second, we can have empathy and compassion for the parts of ourselves (remember, we all are made up of many parts) that are struggling and are in emotional or physical pain. And we can let the organs and the parts of our bodies that aren’t well know we appreciate them for doing the best they can, and then send them loving compassion.

I sent Linda an email letting her know that I would be glad to give her customer a no cost consultation. I hope she takes me up on my offer. I know it’s after Christmas, but if she does the things I’ve described here, I have a strong sense she will find that life, even with serious health challenges, is a gift, and she will want to wake up tomorrow and the next day and the next, etc., and enjoy that gift.

Are You Angry at Yourself? Probably – Even if You Don’t Think so

Saturday, November 30th, 2013

You may already know that anger can have negative effects on both your emotional and physical well-being. I will describe some of those effects later in this post.

But before I do, I want to point out something most people don’t think about, which is this: when most of us think about anger and being angry, we think about someone we’re angry at, or about something that happened to us that made us angry and upset. We remember getting angry when something happened to us that wasn’t fair, like getting sick or losing our job – or both. We get angry at our government for passing bad laws or for not passing laws we know are needed.

But when we think about anger and being angry, rarely do we think about our anger at ourselves. However, most if not all of us have some–and some of us have a lot of it.

We get it from not being the way we think we should be. We get it from not having the willpower we think we should have. We may have it because we haven’t taken good care of ourselves or from not staying true to our values. We can get angry at ourselves because we got sick—even though we’re not to blame for that happening. And we can be angry at ourselves for countless other reasons.

Whatever the reasons and wherever they came from, whether we are aware of it or not, virtually all of us have some anger at ourselves. And that self-anger can have the same negative effects on our emotional and our physical well-being as anger at others does.

Those effects include weakening our immune system, high blood pressure, problems with digestion, skin problems, heart attacks, strokes, anxiety and depression, and many others.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has stated that 85 percent of all diseases appear to have an emotional element. I think the percentage is even higher.

So if most of us have some self-anger, and that anger has negative effects on our emotional and physical well-being that makes our lives worse, what can we do?

The first thing we can do is to look and see if there are things we’re angry at ourselves for, things we’ve forgotten or never acknowledged in the first place. Then when we find that anger, we can do the same thing we can do when others do things that hurt and upset us: Just as we can forgive them, we can forgive ourselves.

In one way, it’s often easier to forgive ourselves than it is to forgive others. That’s because it’s easier to forgive people who apologize for what they did, but other people often don’t ever apologize. But we can always apologize to ourselves, and when when we do that, and mean it, it is a lot easier for us to forgive ourselves. So I strongly recommend that you take the time and make the effort to forgive yourself.

The next thing you can do is to be gentle with yourself and have lots of understanding compassion for both the part of you that has been hurt and angry and for the part that caused the hurt and anger. Remember that the part of you that did that was doing the best it knew how and was not intentionally trying to hurt you or make you angry and upset.

Healing self-anger can make a very big difference in your life. One of my clients recently discovered that because of her anger at herself, anger that she didn’t realize she had, she had been punishing herself for years. When she forgave herself and stopped doing that, she had a big breakthrough and experienced a miraculous shift in her often difficult relationship with her husband.

Whether or not you have a breakthrough, I am certain that healing any self-anger you have, by apologizing, forgiving, and having compassion for yourself, will have a very positive effect on your physical and emotional well-being.

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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.

How Good a Racecar Driver are You?

Thursday, October 31st, 2013

I’m going to start out this post by asking you a favor, which is to please bear with me while I explain why I titled this post How Good a Racecar Driver are You?

My guess is that while you’re probably a good driver, you’re not a racecar driver. But even though you’re not, you know that in any car race, the fastest driver wins. And I’m sure you also know that there are two ways to be go faster in a race.

The first way is to get a car with a more powerful engine, while the second is to be a better driver. And while I have no intention of disparaging any of the drivers who participate in the Indianapolis 500 or the Daytona 500, it seems to me that how fast drivers are able to drive on a course with tight turns, such as the Monaco Grand Prix or the EuroSpeedway Lausitz, depends more on their skill than how fast they are able to drive on a large oval-shaped track.

For that reason, a skilled driver with a slower car could easily do better than than a less skilled driver with a more powerful, faster car.

Having talked about drivers, racing, and cars, I’m going to switch, and talk about you and me, life, and our bodies – and the illnesses we have.

Here’s why: When we have a chronic illness, then if we compare our body to a racecar, it’s probably not a supercharged fast one. But even so, by becoming better and better drivers, we can do better and better on the course of life – even better than people who have healthier bodies.

So how can we become “better drivers?” We can do that by, rather than focusing on the fact that our car isn’t as good or as fast as we would like it to be, focusing instead on the things that add to our quality of life. Maybe that means playing a game of Scrabble with our partner or our children. Maybe it means getting out in nature. Maybe it means nurturing a relationship with a friend by paying a visit or making a call. Maybe it means being gentler and more compassionate with ourselves.

Now it’s your turn. How can you be a more skillful racecar driver on your life’s course?

If you need help, reach out! And tell friends and family members who need help to do the same

Monday, September 30th, 2013

I chose the subject for this post because of what a former classmate, whom I’ll call Bill, told me at my high school reunion last month. We shared with each other what we had done since we graduated several decades ago. I learned that he had become a chemist. When I told him that I had left my career in engineering behind and for the last 11 years had been helping people with the emotional challenges of living with chronic illnesses, his expression changed noticeably.

Bill shared with me that his son Mark had been in a Ph.D. program at a prestigious university, but before completing the program had been diagnosed with Lyme disease. He also had other debilitating symptoms due to another illness that doctors had been unable to identify.

Mark tried his absolute best to keep up with his heavy academic load, but was not able to do so. The reality that he would not be able to complete his degree was devastating for him, especially because he had almost no one to turn to for emotional support. He was close to his parents, but they were 3,000 miles away.

Sadly, Mark took his own life.

Bill told me his son’s suicide was the most painful experience he had ever gone through. As a parent myself, I had no doubt that it was. He added that there is a part of himself that will never get over it.

One of the aspects of suicide that makes it especially painful for those who loved the person who committed it is that it can almost always be prevented, usually fairly easily, if people know it’s being contemplated.

While chronic illnesses like Lyme disease can’t always be cured, with the right caring support, people with them can virtually always have better lives. And knowing that there are others who truly care about how physically and emotionally difficult it is to live with a chronic illness has a big positive effect, just by itself.

But sometimes, as in Mark’s case, unless they are told, others don’t know how difficult living with the the physical and emotional pain of a chronic illness is.

Fortunately, the vast majority of people who are living with chronic illnesses and don’t get the support they need, don’t commit suicide. But like Mark, many of them have decided that others don’t care, and they don’t ask for or seek out the support they need.

If you are one, please start asking and seeking. There are people who care (I’m one), but you’re unlikely to find them until you do.

Best wishes in your search and quest to have the best life possible. And please share this post with others who need support and care, but aren’t reaching out for it.

How “watching” a movie can help you live a better life

Saturday, August 31st, 2013

I’m sure you’ve noticed that as you watch a movie, you find yourself caring about the protagonist because of the hardships she (or he) goes through. And you identify with her struggles, disappointments, and pain, and silently root for her to overcome her challenges, fulfill her mission, and realize her (or his) dreams.

The challenge of living with a serious chronic illness is at least as hard as the difficulties and obstacles the main characters in most movies have to overcome. If you were to watch a movie where the protagonist had to deal with symptoms like yours and do all the things you do to take care of yourself and the others in your life, I’m sure you would have a lot of empathy and want the best outcome possible for him or her – just as you would for the main character of a good movie.

In a very real sense, you are the leading character in a movie: your life. You do face major challenges because of your illness and symptoms. So I encourage you to care about and have at least as much empathy for yourself as you would for the actor or actress who portrayed a character like you in a movie. Not only do you deserve it, but when you do that, you will start to feel a lot better.

But there is something else besides learning to care more about and have more empathy for yourself that you can learn by imagining watching a movie about your life.

Here it is: When we watch a movie, we usually know more about what is going on than the main character does.

Because of that, there have been many times when I have known that the things he (or she) is saying and the actions he is taking will get him into trouble. I have wanted to tell him to stop and say or do something else. But of course, there has never been a time when the protagonist in a movie has been able to hear me.

But imagining watching a movie of our life is different. Doing that gives us a different perspective of our life, and often more wisdom, than our normal perspective and the wisdom we have as we live it. And we can use that perspective and wisdom to tell the main character what the best thing he or she can do to manage illness symptoms and live a much better life.

To summarize, what I am suggesting is that you imagine you are watching a movie of your life. You can imagine watching yourself as the main character, or you can imagine another actor playing that role. The movie has just gotten to today, and as a viewer of the movie, you have a sense of the best thing the actor can do next. And knowing that, you follow your own wisdom.

This technique works well because when we are able to detach ourselves from our situation, we can see options and ways to take care of ourselves and deal with our challenges that we can’t see otherwise.

Best wishes as you watch your own “movie” and have a much better life.