Posts Tagged ‘struggle’

An Awful Christmas Present

Tuesday, December 31st, 2013

Earlier this month, I was having a conversation with a woman who has lupus. The reason I’m writing about it is because I was greatly affected by one of the things she said.

Linda, who is a cable TV installer, told me about a customer of hers who has some very difficult health challenges. And then she shared something the woman had said to her, which was this:  “The best Christmas present I could get would be to not wake up.”

I don’t know what illnesses she has, but I have to think she has probably been in a lot of pain and that she has struggled with her illnesses for a long time. And I know, from both my own experience with a chronic illness and from working with 100’s of people with chronic illnesses for over 10 years, how hopeless a person can feel and how impossible a better life can seem.

But I also know, from what my clients have shared about their lives, from books and posts I’ve read, and from my own experiences, that miracles can—and do—happen. And while I don’t know if they will happen, for me or for anyone else, I have learned what we can do to make it much more likely that they will.

First, we can look for all the things we have to be grateful for, including food to eat, a roof over our heads, friends and family and the good times we’ve had and the special moments and love we’ve shared, the education we received that makes it possible for us to read books, blogs, magazines, etc., our organs that are working fine (and everyone who is alive has some) – the list goes on and on.

And second, we can have empathy and compassion for the parts of ourselves (remember, we all are made up of many parts) that are struggling and are in emotional or physical pain. And we can let the organs and the parts of our bodies that aren’t well know we appreciate them for doing the best they can, and then send them loving compassion.

I sent Linda an email letting her know that I would be glad to give her customer a no cost consultation. I hope she takes me up on my offer. I know it’s after Christmas, but if she does the things I’ve described here, I have a strong sense she will find that life, even with serious health challenges, is a gift, and she will want to wake up tomorrow and the next day and the next, etc., and enjoy that gift.

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 Refugee in a Foreign Land?

Saturday, June 18th, 2011

In this post, I’m going to share  a testimonial with you that I recently received. In it, my client, who is a gifted  writer who lives in Tasmania, describes far better than I could how she was able to reframe her struggle with her illness in a way that gave her a capability to manage it and live a better life.

It is my strong desire that reading her story will help you do the same for yourself.


From the closely pressing despair of never having the strength or energy to do what I want or to complete the endless list of things that need to be done, came this quiet and understanding voice, across the Pacific Ocean, to the small cool island where I live.   I spoke my despair into his quiet, listening ear.  I spoke of the work I do with humanitarian refugees – of how hard it was for them to be exiled from home by war and atrocity and how they struggled to make a new home in a foreign country – learning a new language, accommodating a new culture, learning strange ways; and how compelled I felt to assist them, despite my health issues.

He commented that my attempts to support these traumatized new arrivals demonstrated compassion and understanding and he suggested I think of myself in the same way – as a person exiled from my home place of vibrant health, having arrived bewildered and disoriented into the foreign land of chronic ill health and in need of compassionate understanding and help.  That I consider my own needs and support myself as I learned the strange ways of this new country I now occupied.

Such a simple, quietly expressed suggestion.  So lucid.  So liberating.  No suggestion of weakness or giving in, just an acceptance that things are different now.  Just a gentle reminder to look around and see where I am, what can be done, and to support and praise my own efforts at adjustment, my own small gains.

Thank you Tom for this wise and compassionate advice.  I felt heard, honored, assisted, supported in a difficult migration I was struggling to make.

I strongly recommend coaching sessions with Tom Robinson for all those struggling with adjustment to chronic illness, in finding or regaining the joy and meaning in their lives.

Thank you once again,

Best Wishes,



As I said, I hope you will do what Terry did and look at how you can give yourself compassionate understanding and help in the land of “chronic ill health.” And I also hope that you will praise your efforts and all of your gains, no matter how small.


Tom Robinson – Life Coach for People with Chronic Illnesses (and Crohn’s disease survivor)

I help people struggling with chronic illnesses overcome depression, anxiety, and hopelessness so they an feel a lot better and enjoy life a lot more.

For other ideas for living well when you have a chronic illness, sign up for my free report: Has Your Chronic Illness Got You Down? Discover Effective New Ways to Overcome Illness-Related Anxiety, Depression, and Hopelessness so You Can Feel a Lot Better and Enjoy Life a Lot More.

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).

When you get angry, be gentle and understanding – with yourself

Tuesday, October 20th, 2009

I decided on today’s topic because of a conversation that took place recently in one of the online support groups I belong to. A woman I’ll call Carolyn wrote about her long, ongoing struggle to try to get disability insurance. She said she was very angry because she was being treated unfairly by the disability insurance system, especially compared to a relative of hers who was getting a much quicker response.

I don’t know Carolyn, but from what she shared about herself it seems clear to me that she qualifies for and should get disability insurance. I can easily empathize with her, not only because of her struggle to get the insurance, but because she lives in constant pain and shouldn’t have to go through all that additional stress. The fact that it’s well known that valid claims are routinely denied, especially the first time they are made, doesn’t make Carolyn’s-or anyone’s–experience of trying to get disability insurance any less trying and stressful.

Carolyn was denied not just once, but twice, so her anger is completely understandable and very probably justifiable as well. But I hope she follows it up with a lot of gentleness and compassion for herself (and I let her know that). When we get angry when we feel like we’ve been treated badly or unfairly, we often don’t realize that underneath that anger is a lot of emotional pain. And just as we give those we care about compassion when they have been emotionally hurt and are in emotional pain, we can do the same for ourselves.

Another person in the group told Carolyn to try to stay positive. That sounds good, but when we’re going through a hard time, neither I nor people I’ve talked about it with have been able do that for very long. And not only is giving ourselves compassion is much easier to do than staying positive, but it heals the emotional pain rather than just covering it up.

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,