Archive for June, 2010

Having a Caring, Compassionate, Understanding Friend

Friday, June 25th, 2010

When our lives are difficult, as they often are when we have a chronic illness, having a caring, compassionate, understanding friend can be tremendously helpful. A friend can give us hugs, and when we need it, a shoulder to cry on. A friend like that can be the difference between getting through difficult times or just giving up.

Everyone I have talked to about this has told me they know how much of a difference having a friend during difficult times in our lives makes, because they have experienced that difference for themselves. I’m sure you have too.

But not everyone has a friend like that. And even if we are lucky enough to have such a friend, it’s very likely that there will be times when we need caring and understanding, but our friend isn’t available to give it to us. Fortunately, if we don’t have a friend like that, or we do but he or she isn’t available, there is something we can do – something that very few people know about: we can be that kind of a friend for ourselves.

The reason we can do that is because as human beings, we are innately caring and compassionate. Without even thinking about it, we care about injured pets and other animals. And we have compassion for our children, friends, and partners when they are facing or going through difficult challenges. All we need to do to be the caring, compassionate, understanding friend that we need is to direct those innate qualities to ourselves.

We can do that in many ways. For example, we can by give ourselves hugs, and we can tell the person in the mirror how much we care about him or her. Doing that may feel strange and awkward at first, but over time it feels less and less so. And I know from watching my clients, as well as from my own life, that the difference being a caring, compassionate, understanding friend to ourselves makes is immense. So I strongly encourage you to be that kind of a friend to yourself.

Look for the good things in your life, but do this first

Wednesday, June 16th, 2010

As I’ve written in several other blog posts, I follow and participate in several online support groups for people with chronic illnesses. In a group for people with Crohn’s disease, a woman – I’ll call her Kathy – recently wrote to say how upset and stressed she was because the drug her doctor had prescribed two weeks earlier hadn’t helped her symptoms – symptoms that included going to the bathroom up to 20 times a day.

A man I’ll call Gary responded. He shared with the group what had worked for him, and what hadn’t, when he had been in a similar situation. He wrote that he reminded himself that feeling down and sorry for himself always makes him feel a lot worse. So instead of doing that, he thought about all the things he loves about life, including his friends and family, and all the things that are important to him. Then he told himself that he had the inner strength to face and handle his pain and symptoms one day—and sometimes one hour—at a time, and he resolved not to let them beat him.

I think Gary gave Kathy very good advice. But I think it would have been even better if he had told her to first give herself lots of compassion and understanding. In the same way a parent – especially a mother – comforts her child when he or she is sick or in pain, Kathy can comfort herself. When I do that for myself first, I am much more able to follow Gary’s good advice and think about all the things I love about life. I have no doubt that Kathy will have the same result: if she first gives herself lots of compassion, she will find it much easier to find her inner strength and focus on the good things in her life.

My next Coaching/Support Group for People with Chronic Illnesses will start on Wednesday, June 30th. For more information, go to Coaching/Support Group Information.

What You Do Know Can Hurt You

Tuesday, June 1st, 2010

Before I tell you why what you know can hurt you, I want to explain why I chose the title that I did for this post. It’s a variation of the proverb “What you don’t know can’t hurt you,” which has been around for over 400 years. Many people have changed the proverb to “What you don’t know can hurt you” as a headline for articles about many dangerous or harmful substances, such as second hand smoke and monosodium glutamate (MSG). I’m using it because I want to talk about things we “know” that prevent us from seeing or seeking out solutions to our problems or improvements in our lives.

I recently coached a woman with fibromyalgia and several other chronic illnesses and conditions. Nancy, as I’ll call her, went through a divorce, lost her home to foreclosure, and now lives with some relatives who are hostile to her. They either criticize or fight with her much of the time. And because the apartment is small, she has to share a small bedroom with one of them..

Nancy “knows” that no improvement is possible in her living situation. She “knows” it because she can’t work and her disability income is much too small for her to be able to afford an apartment or even a room.

Clearly Nancy’s living situation is very difficult. I have lots of compassion for her. However, it’s very possible that there is a solution to her problems that she will never see or find out about because she is convinced that none exist. I would like to see her acknowledge that she thinks that no improvement in her situation is possible, and then tell herself, “I wonder if there is a solution that I’m not aware of.” I don’t know if she would find one if she did that, but I do know beyond a shadow of a doubt that miracles do happen, and they happen much more often to people who look for them and who are open to them.

My next Coaching/Support Group for People with Chronic Illnesses will start this coming Thursday, June 3rd. For more information, go to Coaching/Support Group information.