Posts Tagged ‘depression’

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.

Are You Trying to Get Your Own Attention and Love?

Monday, May 16th, 2011

Are you trying to get your own attention and love? I spent longer than I like to admit trying to get mine.

What happened was that I found myself spending far more time than I should have playing computer games when I had several very important things to do and deadlines that were fast approaching to meet. I kept trying to do the writing and other important paperwork that needed to be done, but no matter how hard I tried I would soon take a break to play “just one game,” which would turn into another and another and another. As you maybe can imagine, I was very upset and depressed over my behavior and my inability to do the things that were most important to me.

After throwing up my hands in near total despair, I decided to take a much deeper look at why I was procrastinating so much. And I decided to consciously intend to keep looking deeper while I slept that night. What I realized when I woke up the next morning was that there was a part of me that didn’t trust the part that was “giving the orders.”  That part didn’t feel like he was loved, and so he refused to do what he was told.

So, just like I let people in my life that I care about know that I love them, I let him know that I loved him more than words can describe. And once he knew that, he stopped his acting out.

What about you? Are there things you are doing that are counter-productive, including behaviors that are making your illness symptoms worse rather than better, that may actually be a part of yourself asking you for love and attention? I encourage you to look deeply within for the answer, and then give yourself the attention and love you need – and deserve!

Tom Robinson – Life Coach for People with Chronic Illnesses

www.chronicillnesscoach.com   408-398-9422

Ask Yourself Why

Wednesday, January 19th, 2011

Last year, until it closed down, I was a volunteer for an online support group that was for people with chronic illnesses. I supported them in managing and overcoming the depression that often accompanies serious long term illnesses. In order to be able to do that better, I asked the people in the group to take a survey. One of the questions I asked in it was what they would do if they weren’t ill and depressed.

Almost everyone who responded said they would do more, and most of the things they said would do involved other people. Some said they would travel to visit relatives, some said they would go back to work (which for many of them involved helping others), and a high percentage of them said they would socialize more.

Having coached people with chronic illnesses for many years as well as having a chronic illness myself, I can well understand and relate to their answers. I bet you can too. But in a way, those answers were incomplete. They were incomplete because the question was incomplete. And the question was incomplete because when you’re chronically ill and depressed, it’s important to think about not only what you would like to do if you could, but why you would do it.

Asking yourself that question can help you discover what you want and need most. And surprising as it may seem, when we have a chronic illness—and are depressed because we do, we often don’t know what we want and need most. We get so caught up in how bad we feel, and how awful and unfair we think it is that we have an illness, that we lose touch with all of our wants and needs except our desire to be well again. The good thing is that when we do find out what those wants and needs are, we can then take steps to meet them.

For example, if you realize that the reason you want to socialize more is because doing so will help you feel more connected to others, you can brainstorm and list all the ways you can think of to connect with and feel more connected to others. Or if you realize that you want to work because doing so would help you feel good because you were helping and contributing to others, you can brainstorm and list all the ways you can think of to do that. Then you can look at your lists, decide which ways would be the most feasible and effective, and start doing them.

I invite you to share your thoughts about my suggestions, as well as your experiences, both positive and negative, from trying them out. And if you would like more suggestions, I invite you to get my free report: “Do You Hate Having a Chronic Illness? You Can Live Well Anyway – Here’s How!” by clicking on the box that’s under the words “Free Report” on the right side of this page.

The benefits of stretching

Saturday, October 16th, 2010

As you can see from the title, this post is about the benefits of stretching – but not the stretching you do to limber up and prevent your muscles from cramping. The stretching I am referring to is the kind where you do more than you are used to doing or think you can do (but I need to add one more qualification, which is that whatever stretching you do needs to make your life better in some way).

Why is stretching beneficial for those of us with chronic illnesses? It’s beneficial because we often feel depressed and hopeless because of all the things we can no longer do, such as doing things with our children, keeping the house clean, having fund with our friends, etc. And stretching to do more than we normally do or think we can do significantly lessens, and can even eliminate those feelings. Every time we go beyond what we thought our limits were, we feel a sense of accomplishment and hope.

Before I say more, I need to make it clear that I am NOT suggesting that you overextend yourself physically when you know that doing so will exacerbate your symptoms or cause your illness to flare for several days or more. As I said above, the kind of stretches I’m talking about are those that make your life better, not worse. So think of ways you can stretch that will do that. I’ll give you some suggestions a little later in this post.

Stretching, when we don’t overdo it, is very good for us, but most of the time we resist doing it. We resist for lots of reasons, and many of them are from things we learned when we were younger that were either wrong or no longer apply. For example, a baby elephant that is chained to a tree soon learns that struggling to get away is futile (obviously we’re not elephants, but in this case our minds work in the same way that theirs do). When it is an adult, that same elephant can be restrained by a very weak chain. It will not try to break free.

For each of us, from childhood on there have been countless times when we have “learned” that we couldn’t do something, or that doing it was painful. And, as with the elephant, what we “learned” becomes an unconscious limitation. But the process of deliberately trying to stretch makes us question those limitations, and that can enable us to overcome them.

One “chain” that restrains most people is the belief that they need to be in a certain mood to do some things. For example, they don’t think they can reach out and call friends if they don’t feel sociable, or they don’t think they can cook a nice meal for themselves if they are depressed. But the truth is that our actions can be independent of, rather than dependent on, our mood. So don’t let your mood prevent you from stretching!

Hopefully you have thought of some ways that you can stretch. I’ve given you a couple of suggestions: reaching out and calling friends and cooking yourself a nice meal. You can also stretch by taking up a new hobby, planting some flowers in the garden, joining an in person or online club, or countless other ways. So start stretching and you will soon see your depression lessening and your quality of life getting better and better.

Some Strategies For Dealing With Chronic Fatigue That I Wish I Had Known

Wednesday, January 20th, 2010

Those of us who live with chronic illnesses can have many difficulties to deal with because of those illnesses. But I have found,  from my own life and from coaching and talking with others with chronic illnesses, that there are five main illness-related challenges, and most of us have to contend with one or more of them. These challenges aren’t independent of each other. On the contrary, they are all connected and inter-related. They are: chronic pain, chronic fatigue, lack of money, depression, and finding meaning in our lives. In this post, I’m going to share three strategies for dealing with one of those challenges: chronic fatigue.

The suggestions I’m going to share with you are ones I wish I had known when my chronic illness (Crohn’s disease) was in an almost constant flare, instead of being in remission like it is now. I often suffered from severe fatigue, and at that time I only knew three strategies for dealing with it. They were to nap in my car during my lunch hour at work, to get as much rest as possible on the weekends to recover from the previous week and get as ready as I could for the next one, and to learn about all the standard and alternative treatments for my illness and try the ones that seemed like they might help (I often spent two hours a day doing research on the internet).

Those were pretty good strategies, but if I had that period of my life to live over again, I would add three more that I think would have helped a lot. They are:

1) Look for and think about small things I could to make my life better. For example, I could have made a list of movies I wanted to watch, including comedies to cheer me up and uplifting ones to give me hope, and then watched them (while resting in bed, if necessary).

2) Keep a gratitude journal. Gratitude has been shown to to improve people’s health and their outlook on life. In spite of having overwhelming fatigue (and many other difficult symptoms), I had a lot to be grateful for, including a roof over my head, food on the table, a bed to sleep on, and a whole lot more.

3) Give myself lots of self compassion and hugs because of how difficult my life was (instead of spending a lot of my time dwelling on how sick I was).

As I said, I wish I had known these strategies when my life was a overwhelming struggle because of chronic fatigue and my other symptoms. But I’m very glad that they’ve been very helpful for my clients and others I’ve shared them with, and I hope you will find them helpful too. And if you would like even more strategies, I invite you to get and read my How to Have a Chronic Illness – Without Letting Your Chronic Illness Have You report.

How You Are Isn’t As Important As How You Feel

Wednesday, December 23rd, 2009

If you are reading my blog, chances are you have a chronic illness. And if I asked you how you are, you would likely tell me that you’re sick, that you’re having a flare, that you’re in pain, or something like that. Because I’m a life coach for people with chronic illnesses, I have asked many people that question and have gotten many answers similar to the ones I just mentioned.

But when I ask people with chronic illnesses how they feel, I get answers that aren’t at all the same or similar. Some people say they feel bad, depressed, upset, or sad, while others say that they feel good, positive, grateful, optimistic, and things like that. I find myself wondering why some people with chronic illnesses feel good while others don’t, and wondering even more about what those who feel those negative emotions can do to feel more of the positive ones.

Before I continue, I want to say that I don’t consider it to be a sign of weakness for a person to feel bad or sad when he or she has a chronic illness. Since having a chronic illness very often means 1) living with pain and fatigue, 2) not being able to things that we enjoy and used to be able to do, and 3) not being able to explain to others what living with our illness is like so they understand it, it’s completely understandable that a person with a chronic illness would feel depressed, upset, etc.

But even though feeling negative emotions is understandable, I have no doubt that most of us who live with a chronic illness would choose to FEEL better if we could. And the truth is that we can. There are many things we can do – so many that I could write a book. Actually, I am writing a book, and I’ll let you know when it’s available so you can get it if you want to.

In the meantime, here are a couple of ways you can FEEL better even though you have a chronic illness and aren’t well:

The first is to recognize that feelings, including negative ones, are transitory. They come and they can go, but only if we let them. One thing you can do is to imagine that you’re a house, and that feelings come in with the wind through an open window. If the window on the other side of the house is closed, the feelings will stay, but if you visualize yourself opening that other window, the feelings will pass through and leave.

The second way is not for everyone, but many of you will find it very helpful. That is to schedule a time each day for negative feelings – for example, from 2:00 until 2:15 every afternoon. If you notice yourself having negative feelings before that time, just set them aside until then. And any negative feelings after 2:15 are to be set aside until the following afternoon.

While these ideas won’t directly improve your health, they can be a great help in lifting your feelings. I will share more ideas in a later post. If you would like some suggestions for your own challenges, you can sign up for one of the limited number of no cost introductory “How to Have a Better Life” coaching sessions I offer.

I’ll close by saying Merry Christmas, Happy Chanukah, and Happy Holidays everyone!

Keeping Hope Alive

Thursday, September 17th, 2009

When life is difficult, as it often is when we have a chronic illness, one of the most important things that helps us keep going is hope for a better future. But given the many challenges, hardships, and disappointments we face, hope like that can be hard to come by. Fortunately, there are things you can do to make hope for a better future real – and then keep it alive.

Before I share some of those things with you, I want to first repeat the same advice I’ve written in many of my other posts and that I repeatedly give to my clients: give yourself LOTS of compassion for having to live with your illness and its symptoms. From my many years of experience coaching people with chronic illnesses and having one myself, I know without a doubt that it is one of the best things those of us with chronic illnesses can do for ourselves. And the suggestions I’m going to give you for keeping hope alive will work much better if you give yourself lots of compassion first.

I want to say one more thing before I give you my suggestions: not only is keeping hope alive good for our emotional health, it’s good for our physical health as well. Here’s why: People who live and contend with the symptoms of a serious illness often become angry and depressed, and being angry and depressed weakens the immune system. A weakened immune system leaves them more susceptible to flares and to other diseases.

Clearly eliminating illness-related depression and anger is important for maintaining and improving our physical health. And finding real hope for a better future is one of the most effective ways to do that.

My first suggestion for finding real hope for a better future and keeping it alive is to make a list of the good times and the successes you’ve had since your diagnosis. Maybe you had an especially enjoyable time with friends last week, got a new job last month, got married recently, heard an uplifting sermon at church, had a son or daughter graduate from high school or college last summer, had a new grandchild, or just saw a beautiful sunset. Just like everyone else, those of us with chronic illnesses have our special times, but because of our daily pain and struggles we often quickly forget about them. So start writing them down, and reread your list frequently. Doing that will remind you of those experiences and the good feelings that came with them, and will help you realize that even though you have an illness, you are still going to have more of those successes and good times in the future.

My next suggestion for making hope for a better future real and keeping it alive is to look for ways to regain control in your life. One of the worst aspects of having a chronic illness is the loss of control of our bodies and our lives the illness brings about. We often aren’t able to eat what we want, go where we want, hold the job we want, or engage in the activities we want to. The list of the things we can’t do can goes on and on, and we can easily dwell on the control we’ve lost. To make hope for a better future real and keep it alive, we need to find ways to regain control. Fortunately, total control isn’t necessary. Coaching clients, as well as studies I’ve read, have shown me that a little can go a long way.

So I suggest that you choose one small area of your life and take a small step to improve it. The step can be as small as buying a house plant for your home, getting earplugs so you can sleep better, or calling friensd you haven’t talked to in a while, and reconnecting with them. After you’ve done that, decide on and take another step, then another, and another. As you do, your hope will keep growing, and so too will the quality of your life.

My last suggestion for making hope for a better future real is to get involved in something bigger than yourself. Many people with a chronic illness–and I speak from personal experience as well as from my experience coaching others–spend too much of their time thinking about their illness. Of course we need to think about how to best treat our illness and how to live the best life possible, but when we dwell on our symptoms and how hard our lives are, we make our lives more difficult than they already are.

Instead of dwelling on your symptoms, I suggest that you look for ways to make the world a better place. Find a cause that’s important to you, such as cleaning up the environment, teaching illiterate adults to read, or helping to raise money to find a cure for your illness. Then participate regularly in whatever cause you are able. When you do, you’ll spend much less time dwelling on your symptoms and how hard your life is, and you will find you’re more hopeful about the future, and on top of that you will be making the world a better place.

These are some of my suggestions for how to make hope for a better future real and keep it alive when you have a chronic illness. I would love to hear about any that have worked well for you.

I’m So Sorry

Friday, August 14th, 2009

In this post I want to tell you three of the most important words I’ve learned in my life. Those words are: I’m so sorry.

You may be wondering or guessing why I think those words are so important. The answer  is that I have learned how to live very well in spite of having a serious chronic illness (Crohn’s disease) and learning about those words – and how to use them – has been a major reason why. They helped me when my symptoms were severe, and I’m convinced that they’ve helped me keep my illness in remission. Also, like many others with a chronic illness, I’ve suffered from depression, and those words have been miraculous in helping me heal from it. And when I’ve taught my clients and others with chronic illnesses those words, and then told them how to use them, they’ve helped them greatly too.

So how did those words do that, and how can they help you? After all, they are very ordinary words and you’ve probably said them many times. So had I. But they didn’t help me with my illness until I discovered who to say them to, and how to say them.

What I discovered, after struggling for many years, was that the person I needed to say them to was me. While I had family and friends who cared about me deeply, that wasn’t enough. I saw that there was a part of me that needed to know that I cared about him, that I was really sorry he was in so much physical and emotional pain, and that I wanted the best for him.

The other part of my discovery process was really seeing, for the first time, the tremendous amount of physical and emotional pain I was in. I had become pretty good at minimizing and even denying it, and a part of me wanted to keep doing that. But the pain became so great and had such a big negative impact on my life that I knew that continuing to deny it was no longer an option.

So I told the person in the mirror how sorry I was that he had so much pain and I hugged myself several times a day. And over time, the emotional pain lifted and my Crohn’s disease went into remission.

Let me say here that my discovery about those three words was not a magic cure for my illness. I did extensive research into standard and alternative medicine from the day I was diagnosed. I found the treatments that worked best for me and benefited greatly from them. But I truly believe that my discovery of how to use those three words is what has made it possible for me to keep my illness in remission without drugs.

So what about you? Are you trying to minimize or deny your physical or emotional pain? Is there a part of you that is yearning to hear the words I’m so sorry from you? If there is, I hope you’ll say them with lots of kindness, compassion, and understanding, and give yourself lots and lots of hugs. And after you’ve done those things for a couple of weeks, I would love for you to come back here and to leave a comment about how well they worked.

Best wishes,

Tom

Chronic Illness and Depression

Friday, August 7th, 2009

I had an initial coaching session recently with a man who said he was a little depressed and wanted to be happier. Bruce, as I’ll call him, was 38 years old and he has had ulcerative colitis, a chronic and often severe inflammation of the colon, since he was 15. Given that he had been sick for 23 years, it wasn’t surprising to me that he was depressed.

However, Bruce had a better life than most of the people I work with. He had a supportive wife and two young children whom he loved, and he had a well paying job that he enjoyed a lot that he was able to do well in spite of his illness. I guessed that there were other factors besides his illness that were contributing to his depression, so I asked Bruce a few questions about different areas of his life, including his childhood. Without hesitation, but in a detached way, Bruce told me that his father was killed in an accident before he was born.

As he told me his story, I got a strong sense that a lot of Bruce’s depression came from his early childhood. It would sure be understandable if it did. Most families look forward to the birth of a baby, but Bruce’s mother was overwhelmed and grieving from the loss of her husband. Life must have been very hard for both of them.

I would have liked to help Bruce heal the depression he had because of his illness and his childhood, and possibly other factors as well. I think it’s very likely that his ulcerative colitis symptoms would have improved a lot with coaching. But Bruce decided not to hire me at this time. I hope that sooner rather than later he gets the help he needs so that he can have the happiness he wants.

Acknowledging That Things Suck Can be a Good Thing

Saturday, April 18th, 2009

A while back, I had a session with a woman–I’ll call her Susan–who was dealing with some extremely hard challenges. To begin with, she’d had arthritis her whole adult life, and had been diagnosed with fibromyalgia (a painful and often debilitating chronic illness) six years earlier. On top of that, her marriage was rocky, money was tight, and her relationship with the owner of the small company she worked for was very strained. She said she was depressed and exhausted.

When Susan told me her story, it sounded to me like she was fighting a war. I didn’t try to minimize the difficulties she faced. I told her that I completely understood why she felt depressed and exhausted.

You might think that telling her how bad her life was would make her even more depressed. It didn’t. Instead it did the opposite. When she fully let in the circumstances of her life, she stopped feeling bad about feeling bad – and a space opened up to look at steps she could start taking to make her life better. By the end of our call, Susan told me she couldn’t remember the last time she had felt so hopeful. Susan wasn’t able to afford my coaching. But she did take steps to improve her life. Acknowledging that things suck really can be a good thing.