Posts Tagged ‘chronic illness’

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 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?

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.

How to Make Good Decisions When You Have a Chronic Illness

Thursday, March 28th, 2013

Every day, all of us have lots of decisions to make. When you have a chronic illness, many of those decisions involve which providers to see, which treatments to try, and things like that. So they can affect whether you get better or worse and many other aspects of your quality of life. So you definitely want to make those decisions good ones.

But it is often hard to make good decisions, especially when you’re struggling with a chronic illness. However, no matter what you’re struggling with or what is going on in your life, it is still possible to make them. In this post, I’m going to share with you a way to do that which works well for me.

I have found, both in my own life and from coaching hundreds of people during the past 10 years, that one of the main things that makes it hard for us to make good decisions is our feelings, especially the unpleasant ones, such as sadness, rejection, fear, etc. We don’t like having those feelings, so without even thinking about it, we automatically make decisions that allows us to avoid them. But those automatic decisions can often have a negative effect on our health and our quality of life.

Knowing that, one of the ways I make better decisions is to think of my mind as a room with windows at both ends and think of my feelings as scents in the air that blows through it. Looking at feelings that way, I’ve found that if I just notice and observe them coming into my mind—the way I would notice and observe scents–without getting caught up in them, the window at the back of the room stays open, and they pass through. But when I get caught up in and dwell on those feelings, the window at the back of the room closes. And I end up making more and more bad decisions in an attempt to either avoid them or pretend they’re not there.

So as I’ve said, I make much better decisions when I just notice and observe my feelings. I know you will too. But there is another benefit—a very big one–that comes from allowing the unpleasant feelings to pass right through the room rather than reacting to them. The more we practice allowing those unpleasant feeling to pass right through, the more our ability to do so increases. I have found and seen that as it does, the more confident we become that we can handle the many challenges that we all experience in our lives. And with that confidence comes a deeper and deeper sense of peace.

Are you a safe person for people to share their problems, concerns, and fears with?

Friday, November 30th, 2012

Let me start by saying that if you’re wondering what a post about whether or not you’re a safe person for people to share their problems, concerns, and fears with has to do with living well with a chronic illness, then keep reading and you will soon find out.

As I’m sure you know from experience, there are many people with whom it’s not safe to share them. If you’re like me, you learned the hard way that if you did, they would respond in a way that made you feel worse than you already did. Some were dismissive and said “Just get over it!” Some would condescendingly tell me how they had easily solved a problem they saw as much more difficult than mine was. And others were just plain critical. They would let me know that if I just had my act together (or words to that effect), that I could easily solve whatever problem or concern or get past whatever fear I had.

Since learning the hard way that it’s not safe to share those things with everyone, I’ve become wiser. I can often tell whether a person is safe or not. And if I can’t tell, I’ll say some things to test the waters, and will only share my those concerns and fears—especially the major ones—with people who “pass.”

I bet that you do something similar.

I think it’s really important for us to have people in our lives that we can share our problems, concerns, and fears with for a couple of reasons. Obviously people who care about us will support us and try to help us with them. And besides that, in the process of sharing them, we often see ways to manage, solve, or overcome them that we wouldn’t see if we kept silent about them.

So sharing those problems, concerns, and fears is a good thing. And there’s a person I haven’t yet mentioned that you can share them with: YOU. When you do that, then in the same way that you can get support from others and in the same way that you can see new possible solutions just in the act of sharing, you can get support from yourself and you can see new perspectives and answers by sharing your problems, concerns, and fears with yourself.

The idea of doing that may sound strange, but if you try it, you’ll find that it works very well. But—and this is important–it only works well if you are a safe person when it comes to sharing those things with yourself.

If you are often dismissive of your concerns or if you tell yourself that you shouldn’t have the fears you do or if you weren’t so messed up (or whatever word you use), you would have solved your problems a long time ago, then you have shown yourself that you are not a safe person to share your problems, concerns, and fears with. And, without knowing why, you won’t.

But to solve your problems and address your fears and concerns, it’s important to share them with yourself as well as with others. And to do that, you need to be a safe person to share them with. So if you have been dismissive or critical of yourself, start being gentle, understanding, and compassionate (and this includes being understanding of yourself and compassionate and gentle FOR having been dismissive and critical).

I know you will find that making these changes will be a big help in dealing with the challenges of living with a chronic illness, as well and with your other problems and concerns.

If you would like more helpful ideas, I invite you to click here get my free report: Finally! Real Hope for People Suffering from Chronic Illnesses.

Is there a connection between having an unhappy childhood and having a chronic illness as an adult?

Wednesday, October 31st, 2012

With very few exceptions, everyone I’ve talked to who has a chronic illness (and I’ve talked to LOTS of people who do) has wondered why they got it. I have too. Many of them believe what I do: that one of the main factors that caused their illness, was having an unhappy and often traumatic childhood that included not getting nearly enough love from their parents or caretakers.

I believe there is a strong connection between our childhoods and our chronic illnesses for several reasons. The first is that the majority of the people with chronic illnesses I’ve coached over the past 10 years have told me that their childhoods were emotionally traumatic and that they didn’t feel very loved by one or both parents.

One recent client, whom I’ll call Lillian, is a good example. Neither of her parents was emotionally there for her when she was growing up, especially her father. And she’s had cancer – not once, but twice. She was diagnosed with lymphoma was she was seven years old. It responded to treatment, but she never fully recovered her health.

Then, 10 years ago, when she was 38, Lillian was diagnosed with leukemia. She had to undergo a bone marrow transplant. That cured the leukemia, but her body, including her immune system, were severely damaged and she hasn’t felt well or had what she considers to be a good day since. Is is just a coincidence that she didn’t get the love she needed (and still longs for) and that she has had cancer twice. I sure don’t think so.

The second reason I believe in that strong connection is because researchers have been finding more and more evidence that people who’ve had unhappy or stressful childhoods are much more likely to be diagnosed with chronic illnesses (and also chronic pain) as adults. The illnesses include fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue, diabetes, multiple sclerosis, and many others.

The third reason I believe in the connection between an unhappy childhood and developing a chronic illness is my own experience. As I’ve written elsewhere, I was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease when I was 47. I feel strongly that having an unhappy childhood was one of two main causes (for reasons I won’t go into here, I believe that the other main cause was my many mercury-amalgam fillings).

There is one more reason I think there is a connection between having an unhappy childhood and developing a chronic illness. It comes partly from what I have learned and understood about  my clients, but more than that it comes from my own life. As a child, I developed a serious chronic illness that resembled polio, but wasn’t. I eventually recovered from it.

In a therapy session many years later, I had the profound but completely unexpected realization that I had deliberately but subconsciously acquired the illness to get  attention and love from my parents that I desperately wanted and needed, but wasn’t getting.

I wish I knew and could explain how I acquired the illness, but I don’t and can’t. But more than enough corroborating evidence came along with the realization to convince me that, beyond a reasonable doubt, it was true.

If, after reading what I’ve written, you suspect that you may have unconsciously decided to acquire a serious chronic illness, please don’t blame or criticize yourself for having done so. If you did that, it was because, like me, you had an unmet need. What you needed and didn’t get then was lots of compassion and understanding, and what you need and deserve now is lots of compassion and understanding. Please give them to yourself.

You also need lots of compassion and understanding if you had an unhappy childhood and there is a connection between it and the chronic illness you have now. Please give them to yourself – as much as you possibly can. Doing so helps bring about physical and emotional healing.

Are You Being Yourself?

Sunday, September 30th, 2012

This blog post is not for everyone who has a chronic illness. If you’ve let the important people in your life (except for those you work with or for) know about your illness and have given them at least a general description of how it has affected you and your life, you’re welcome to skip this post. Or, if you like, you can read why disclosing your illness was a good idea.

On the other hand, if there are important people in your life you haven’t told about your illness, please keep reading, because by the time you get to the end of the post, I think you will agree that disclosing is a better choice in almost all cases.

Note: as I wrote above, in this post, I’m not recommending that you disclose your illness to your coworkers or your boss. The decision about whether or not to do that depends on many factors that I’m not going to cover here. If you have a question about your work situation, you’re welcome to submit it as a comment to this post, and I will do my best to answer it.

One reason why it’s almost always a good idea to tell the important people in your life about your illness is this: keeping secrets from people and pretending you’re healthy and okay when you’re not isn’t easy. It takes work and can be very stressful. Living with a serious illness isn’t easy either; it’s often very difficult. Given that, I think it’s just common sense to be truthful with our friends and relatives and use the energy we save by doing that to deal with and manage our illness and symptoms.

A second reason why it’s usually a good idea to share about your illness with the important people in your life is that they almost always respond in an empathetic and compassionate way, even when we think they won’t. When they do, we feel cared for and supported, and we both feel closer to each other. It becomes a win-win.

So if there are important people you haven’t yet told about your illness and your life with it, I encourage you to do so. And if you do, I hope you will write about your experience in a comment below.