Archive for November, 2009

How to Love Yourself When You Have a Chronic Illness – Part 2

Monday, November 23rd, 2009

Last spring I wrote a post I called “How to Love Yourself When You Have a Chronic Illness.” In it I included a letter I had written to Richard M. Cohen, an author and award-winning journalist, in response to an article he had written for O – The Oprah Magazine. In his article, Cohen, who has had multiple sclerosis for 25 years and has had colon cancer twice, wrote that what he sees in the mirror disturbs him (I’m sure because of how having MS has changed how he looks), that he will never love himself, and that the idea of self-love seems mythical.

In my letter, I wrote that compassion is a form of love, and I suggested that Cohen give himself the same compassion that he would give to his wife or one of his children if they were facing the same serious health challenges that he is.

I reread that post recently and I saw that while my suggestion to Cohen was a good one, it didn’t go far enough. Here’s why:

Those of us with chronic illnesses deserve and need compassion, and I have found that my clients understand that and see that it makes sense to give themselves the same compassion they would give to someone they cared about who had a chronic illness.

But we also need and deserve to be loved. While we deserve compassion because of the challenges and pain we live with because of our illness, we deserve love (and need it) because we are human beings. Very few people love their children, parents, partners, or other loved ones any less if they (their children, parents, or partners) are diagnosed with a chronic illness. They don’t wonder if they are less deserving of love or less lovable. And you are not less deserving of love and no less lovable because you have a chronic illness.

So be as good to yourself as you would to someone you truly loved and give yourself lots and lots of loving and compassionate hugs.

What would a knowledgeable person recommend that you do?

Monday, November 16th, 2009

If you have been reading my posts for more than a few weeks, you’ve probably gotten a sense of my approach to how you can meet whatever challenges you have and you’re your best possible life. If you haven’t been reading my posts, I invite you to read some of them now so you can get a sense of my approach.

Once you have a sense of my approach to helping people meet their illness challenges, then whenever you find yourself struggling with your symptoms and concerns, you can ask yourself “What would Tom suggest?”

Or, if there is someone else you know who has given you helpful answers to problems that are similar to the ones you’re facing now, you can ask yourself what that person would suggest.

There is an interesting story that goes with this tip: I came across the idea many years ago while reading Geoff Bellman’s book, “The Consultant’s Calling: Bringing Who You Are to What You Do.” Geoff is a highly regarded organization development consultant. In his book, he tells a story about a client who had made a series of decisions in her job that had worked out very well, and she gave him the credit. She said that for each decision, she asked herself “what would Geoff suggest that I do?” In response, Geoff congratulated her, and then he let her know her decisions were actually better and more innovative than the suggestions he would have given if she had actually asked him for them.

Chances are good that you will come up with some really good ideas for dealing with whatever challenges you currently have, maybe even better than ideas I would give you.

For more ideas of things you can do to have a much better life when you have a chronic illness, sign up for my free report: Having a Chronic Illness is the Pits – Here’s How to Live Well Anyway. When you do, you will also get my bi-weekly “Tips For How to Have a Better Life When You Have a Chronic Illness” (from which you can unsubscribe at any time).

Are You Holding Out?

Tuesday, November 10th, 2009

Here’s a question for you: Do you want to get well? Of course you do. All of us living with chronic illnesses want to get well.

Now here’s another question: Are you holding out for getting well? Here’s a similar question: If you found a penny on the sidewalk, would you gratefully pick it up? Or would you keep walking until you found a $1 or maybe a $5 bill on the ground?

What I’m getting at is that none of us with chronic illnesses knows if or when we will be cured. Maybe a miraculous new treatment will be found next year, but maybe one won’t be found, or at least not in our lifetime. Maybe we will discover the combination of standard and alternative treatments that puts our disease into permanent remission – and maybe we won’t.

Don’t get me wrong. I am not criticizing your desire to get well. I completely support and encourage you to do everything you can to regain your full health.

But from coaching many people and from my own struggle with a chronic illness, I know that people often overlook small steps they can take and things they can do to make their lives better right away. They can be simple things like getting some new houseplants or playing your child’s favorite board game with him or her. Or you can reach out to people, maybe some you haven’t talked to in a while.

I encourage you to choose whatever works best for you. Just make sure you keep taking steps to make your life better. And for more ideas of things you can do, you can sign up for my free report: Having a Chronic Illness is the Pits – Here’s How to Live Well Anyway. When you do, you will also get my bi-weekly “Tips For How to Have a Better Life When You Have a Chronic Illness” (from which you can unsubscribe at any time).

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.