Posts Tagged ‘illness’

A Death in the Family

Thursday, July 31st, 2014

My brother Ben died last week. I miss him a lot and always will. He was a wonderful man, husband, brother, and human being. You can read more about him in the tribute on his Facebook page:

I’m writing about his death for two reasons. The first is because I am grieving and am trying to come to terms with and accept the reality that I will never see him again. And writing about it, my memories, and my brother’s (mostly) wonderful qualities, will help me heal.

The second reason I’m writing about Ben’s death is because I think it may have been preventable. And while nothing will bring him back, I want future possible deaths that can be prevented to be.

Here are a couple of my memories: Ben was five years younger than me, so he had five less years than I’ve had to learn the lessons life gives us. So it seems kind of ironic that I, as someone whose job and career is to give people ideas and suggestions to help them live better lives, would call him for help and advice. But I did, more times than I can count. And the counsel I received was always compassionate and wise.

One more thing I want to share about Ben is that he was a gifted french horn player. While I’ve heard him many times, one time that was especially memorable was last year when my girlfriend and I stopped by to visit on our way home from a trip out of state. We were treated to our own live performance, and I can truthfully say that what came out of Ben’s horn was richer and more heartfelt than anything I have heard from any other french horn player’s horn before or since.

I’m grateful for those and many more memories, but of course I wish Ben hadn’t died. I’ll probably never know for sure, but I think his death could have been prevented. I’ll describe how by sharing my own story.

I was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease in 1996. When the treatments my doctor gave me didn’t help, I decided to learn as much as I could about my illness and all the standard and alternative treatments people were using to treat it. I made a vow to myself that I was going to do everything I could to get well, and do so for as long as necessary.

While doing my research, I was well aware that on the internet people can say anything – and some do. So I got corroboration before trying anything. I ended up trying many standard and alternative treatments, and even devised one of my own.

In effect, I became the head of my medical team of doctors and other practitioners. And after three years, my Crohn’s went into remission. With the exception of a few relapses (the last one was four years ago), it has stayed in remission without drugs ever since.

Ben didn’t do that. He got the best medical care he could for his atrial fibrillation and his lung disease, and followed his doctors orders religiously for years. His health would get better, but then get worse than it was before, but he continued to follow orders.

He also didn’t give his heart or his lungs – or himself – the kind of compassion I have written about in many of my posts. And he died, much too soon.

Just to be clear, I’m not saying you should disregard what your doctor says. He or she has studied and learned a lot about diagnosing and treating illnesses.

But doctors are human and they make mistakes, and in my experience they often ignore potentially helpful alternative treatments.

So what I am saying is do your own research, and ask questions about the treatments you’re given and also about alternative treatments you think may be helpful.

I don’t know if the holistic approach to treating illnesses and healing the body that I have briefly described here would have prevented my brother’s death. But I have seen far too many positive results for me not to strongly encourage others who are struggling with illnesses to try it themselves.


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.

Learning How to Live Better From my Dog

Wednesday, July 31st, 2013

Let me start out by saying that my dog didn’t actually teach me how to live better. But she played a key role in my learning the suggestion I’m going to share with you.

Here’s how:  I’m a dog lover, but I don’t like a dog’s incessant barking any more than the next person. However, when my dog barks, I know there is a reason for it. Usually it’s because she’s heard or smelled someone or something she thought was a threat, and she wants to let me know.

Knowing that, what I’ve learned to do is to tell her, “Thank you for letting me know about the danger, Addie. I’ll take over and take care of us now.”

Telling her that reassures her and she stops barking.

Now this may surprise you, but I think there is a way in which our behavior is similar to a dog’s. Here it is: Like dogs, we have a threat detection mechanism that is running whenever we’re awake.

But while our behavior is similar to a dog’s, there are of course some differences. One of them is that, as you know, we don’t bark. Our threat detection mechanism doesn’t cause us to do that.

What it does instead is to respond to perceived threats by making the voice inside our head start talking to us. If the perceived threat is a stranger, the voice will very likely start judging him.

If the perceived threat is new ache in our body, the voice may start telling us that maybe that’s the first sign of another illness, or even cancer. If the perceived threat is the fact that our partner is late getting home, the voice may tell us that something has probably happened to him or her.

I could give many more examples, but I hope you’re seeing how, even though it may have sounded farfetched at first, the voice inside our head is similar to a dog’s bark.

And because it is similar, then just as I told my dog I was taking over and was going to take care of us, we can quiet that voice by telling it that we’re taking over and will take care of ourselves.

Of course, we need to follow through and do that. And whether we realize it or not, we are all capable of doing that.

So the next time the voice in your head starts reacting to perceived threats and telling you how bad things are, I invite you to let it know that you are going to take over and take care of yourself. And then do it.

How to not be miserable when you have a chronic illness

Tuesday, April 30th, 2013

Here is something I have learned from being a life coach for people with chronic illnesses that may surprise you: How happy or miserable you are does not depend on how serious your illness is or how painful or debilitating your symptoms are.

Now, I’m not saying that there is no correlation between your illness and your happiness. Most people who have chronic illnesses have good days and bad days, and we usually feel better on our good days than we do on our bad ones. But I have known many people with relatively minor symptoms who are very miserable, and have also known many people with very serious symptoms and illnesses—sometimes even terminal ones—who are not at all miserable, and many times are actually very happy.

If whether a person is happy or miserable does not depend on how bad their illness is, then what does it depend on?

I could write a book about that to add to the many that have already been written. But what I will say here is this: how we feel often depends on how we feel about how we feel. Okay, I bet you’re either thinking that doesn’t make sense, or at the least wondering what I mean.

Here’s what I mean: when we are happy, we are also happy that we are happy. That’s because when we were growing up, we felt happy when we were loved, we felt happy when we were rewarded for doing something well (like getting an A on a test), we were happy when we got presents, etc. So in our minds, happiness has a lot of positive associations.

On the other hand, we felt unhappy or miserable growing up when we were criticized or punished for doing something our parents thought was wrong, for falling short of their expectations (getting an F instead of an A), feeling like we were different and weren’t accepted by others, etc. Because of that, feeling unhappy or miserable has lots of negative associations.

When we feel unhappy or miserable, we don’t remember those negative associations. But they are there. And there is a part of our mind that thinks that being unhappy means the same things it did when we were growing up: we’re not okay, we’re not good enough, we’re different and not acceptable, etc. And so we become even more unhappy and even more miserable than we already were.

But the truth is that being unhappy and miserable does not mean those things it meant when we were growing up. We can be unhappy because a friend canceled a lunch, because we overcooked our dinner, because we got stuck in traffic, etc. None of those reasons mean that we are bad or not okay.

We can be unhappy and miserable for all those reasons and many more. But if we realize that those feelings don’t mean what they meant when we were growing up, we can allow ourselves to just have them without feeling bad for having them. And when we do that, we will feel a whole lot better.

Life is a Team Sport. How’s Your Team Doing?

Wednesday, February 29th, 2012

I think life is a team sport. But not in the way you may think I mean: I’m not talking about being a team player at work. Nor am I talking about looking at your family as a team, or anything like that.

The team I’m talking about is all your different personalities.

All of us have several personalities. I have one who is fearful, one who is determined, one who is compassionate, one who is a procrastinator, and several more besides. Whatever yours are, you have several of them too. And if you’re like me – and I bet you are, you feel really good about some of those personalities, while there are others you would like to get rid of.

But we can’t get rid of them. Like them or not, the personalities we don’t like are just as much a part of us as are the ones that we do like.

As you now know, when I said at the beginning of this post that life is a team sport, the team I was referring to was the team of personalities each of us has. And in the same ways that a football team (or any other sports team) won’t do well if the team members are fighting or arguing among themselves, we won’t do well in life if our team members are fighting or arguing among themselves. So the only way your team is going to win lots of games is if they learn to play well together.

Carrying the analogy a little further, the way for them to learn to play well together is to make sure they have a good coach: you! And as their coach, you want to make sure they each know that winning games – and the game of life – is what really matters. And you want to make sure they know that getting upset or angry at each other has a negative impact on the team. You also want to find out what each team member’s strengths are, and assign positions based on those strengths. And when I say that, I’m including those team members who have an illness and symptoms. From what they’ve gone through, they have wisdom and knowledge the other team members don’t have.

This post is actually very personal. I have some personalities I think are wonderful and that I’m very grateful to have. But I also have a couple of personalities, one in particular, that I’ve struggled with for years and that have sabotaged me more times than I can count. When I finally realized that they were with me to stay and that I couldn’t get rid of them, and that we (all my personalities) are all in this together, my life got a whole lot better. And I started winning a lot more games.

I bet that you and your team can win a lot more games too!


Tom Robinson, who has Crohn’s disease himself, helps people with chronic illnesses feel a whole lot better, and then he helps them find inspiring dreams – and achieve them!

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   408-398-9422