What I Do To Rise Above!
Welcome back for Part 3 - the conclusion of this series! Thank you for making it this far. Normally one topic would not have three parts (!!) but I unexpectedly had a lot to say. If you also live with additional health conditions beyond diabetes, please read part one and two here to learn my story and feel less alone in your journey. I've shared much darkness and struggle in the first two parts. What I so vulnerably share is the truth of my experience -- without exaggeration or making everything happy and okay to appease others.
I took a risk opening up and explained as honestly as I could what life is like for me with multiple invisible conditions in addition to Type 1 diabetes. Although my health continually challenges me, I am here today to share some goodness and light too. It's not all bad. Thank goodness!
It does not mean that the "light" comes easy. On some days, yes. Other days it can be something we have to search for beyond the pain and discomfort we might feel. I am finally emerging out of a period of almost ten months of pretty intense physical struggle. Many days a fight. Smiles harder to come by. My demeanor solemn. Sadness hovering closely a little too often.
How do I keep on keeping on despite so much hardship & physical challenge?
There is one thing I encourage myself to do each day, especially during times of difficulty. It was an idea brought up to me by a pastor while I was in my twenties and going through a rough patch of serious health and financial struggles -- an unfortunate experience many of us with chronic health conditions probably can relate to all too well at some point in our lives... This was his wisdom:
Find at least three things every day to be grateful for. It doesn't matter how small they are. Write them down in a gratitude journal. It can even be a regular old notebook!
For a long time I wrote in a special journal every night that I used for nothing other than to record what I was grateful for. Sometimes they were the littlest of things like the soup my Mom prepared for dinner. I really think it helped me feel more joyful despite the devastatingly hard times I was going through physically, financially, emotionally, mentally and socially.
I used a notebook until it became second nature for me to think about what I was grateful for each day on my own. Although I still think recording in a notebook is a pretty good idea. Most days before going to sleep or upon awakening I recollect everything that puts a smile on my face and pray in deep thankfulness. I am comforted and feel joy and peace wash over me while I share my gratitude in prayer.
Often I find so many more than three things to be thankful for. This does not mean they are big things or anything that would be noteworthy to the rest of society. But they help me remember all that is right about my life -- especially during times when too many things make me feel sad or are hard to cope with. This is important!
Whether a new recipe I try is a smashing success, one of my cats offers her cuddles while my heart is hurting or my husband joins me for a walk or bike ride on a day I am feeling particularly tired (or it's really cold out!), making it difficult to get out the door on my own. These are all things I appreciate with my whole heart. I express my gratefulness by letting others know how special they are to me. Whether baking a special treat, reaching out to connect or just saying thanks!
I have read countless times over that grateful hearts bring to us more that is good. And I believe it's true! This is a very good thing in a life met with continual stress and hurdles of every size to overcome.
“Abundance is not something we acquire. It is something we tune into.”
- Dr. Wayne Dyer
"Feeling grateful or appreciative of someone or something in your life actually attracts more of the things that you appreciate and value into your life."
- Dr. Christiane Northrup
That's the thing. Despite what can be so immensely hard... There is always Light. There is always Comfort. There is always Joy. There is always an offering of Grace and Peace extended to us by the Divine. Our Creator, the Universe, God -- however you want to say it! It is up to us if we are willing to accept it. Or be too muddled in pain to see the olive branch.
Some days and weeks (months?) can be too dark and hopeless to feel the good coming at us from all sides. Whether it is waking up to find a pet curled up in bed next to us, the warmth of the sun on our skin, the smile and wave of a neighbor, a healthcare provider that goes out of their way to look out for us and show their care, a spouse or partner reaffirming their love and devotion to us during a difficult time, a phone call from a family member we love, an A1c result that reflects the hard work we put in or a text from a friend sharing silliness or support.
These are just a few of the multitude of things that could bring you joy and a smile to your face. The point is that there is always something there. Something positive we can see, feel, hear, touch or experience in between the high and low blood sugar readings, lost sleep, failed sensor or insulin pump sites or the pain of a needle stick in our tissue damaged flesh, etc.
I am not a person living in fake lala land and saying to be positive while not really understanding how hard it can be to do just that. You know... the people you want to punch because they are so cheery and you can see right through how artificial and fake it is. If you have followed my blogs for any amount of time you probably know I am about as genuine as they come and hate anything superficial, especially conversations. Just ask my closest friends!
Here's the thing. If I can do this -- live life with Type 1 diabetes and a considerable amount of conditions in addition to diabetes, anyone can.
Anyone can fight, persevere and rise above.
Here are a few more things that help me be positive...
1. Movement. Through some sort of daily movement, my favorites being long walks with my dog Jonah, yoga at a local studio 1-3 times a week, cycling and tennis!
2. Healthy cooking. I have learned how to cook meals with fresh real ingredients that are healthy and nourishing. I pack as many fresh veggies and nutrients as possible into what I cook and bake! If you have not yet joined my blog community on Facebook, please do so. Usually a few times a week I am posting fun and yummy meal creations.
3. Limiting stress. I do what I can to limit stress in my life and environment. Of course life with multiple chronic conditions can be quite taxing. One way I try to lessen the stress I experience is making sure I have ample down time each day. And if I'm feeling stressed out, remove things from my to-do list for that day to another day that week or ask for help. For example, after learning some upsetting information about my health the last few days I asked my husband to pick up our dog's fresh food order last night rather than push myself to go on a night I was already feeling pinched. This allowed me to go on a walk after dinner and get some needed work done to reach a deadline.
4. Ensuring good sleep. Although generally I sleep about 8-9 hours a night, I listen to my body, sleeping more when my body needs it or scheduling my day lighter. Days go much smoother when a good night's rest is at the foundation.
5. Believing wholeheartedly in an integrative medicine approach. I practice integrative medicine to care for my health which uses the best of Western medicine (hello insulin, blood sugar meter, thyroid meds, awesome endo and continuous glucose meter!) and holistic therapies (classical homeopathy, energetic bodywork, yoga + many more therapies at one time). The holistic lifestyle and modalities I use help me immensely. Although I am still challenged by my health and diabetes, holistic therapies are what allow me to have the health and level of diabetes control I currently do. They are also what has helped me heal from and reduce symptoms in a number of conditions I live with.
If you are able, seek the help of a holistic healthcare provider. Call your insurance -- sometimes they cover an integrative medicine doctor, massage or acupuncture. Even if you have to pay out of pocket for certain providers or therapies it will be worth your money and time. The ways I have been most helped are through classical homeopathy, acupuncture, massage, energetic integrative bodywork, shiatsu, cranial sacral work, counseling and through consultations with an integrative medical doctor and nutritionist.
6. Positive Affirmations. I say positive affirmations as often as I can remember, especially if my mind has gone somewhere negative. Negative self-talk can sneak up on the best of us. Positive affirmations are something my acupuncturist taught me a few years ago to keep me moving forward. One of the first ones I ever created and have used for a long time is, "I am healthy and full of energy." I encourage you to create one that resonates with you -- make sure it is phrased using all positive words. Positive affirmations create a healing environment for the cells in our body and our immune system.
7. Having faith and hope. I try to have faith and believe that my health and the quality of my life can and will get better. Although tough, it is still possible to have hope. On the worst days you may want to give up and throw in the towel -- it's just too much to bear and the callous reactions of others to these tough battles we are fighting can make us feel so alone. I think it's normal to feel this way sometimes. Just make sure to reach out for help or call a friend if the feelings get too dark or last too long.
8. Maintaining a healthy view of myself. It is through a holistic way of thinking I always try to see myself as whole and well with "some things or health challenges I am working on." Not broken, sick, ill, diseased, etc. I also prefer the term chronic health condition to chronic illness or disease. If someone tries using a negative adjective to describe my health, I am quick to correct them and let them know more healing words to use. This allows both them and me to see me in a more positive, health-affirming light.
Why? As my homeopath recently reminded me:
"We are shaped by our thoughts; we become what we think. When the mind is pure, joy follows like a shadow that never leaves."
Essentially we become what we think. So I still think of myself as well and believe I will get healthy and heal beyond what the state of my current health is and all the ways it challenges me.
9. Hobbies + Joy. I fill my life as much as I can with all the things that bring joy and light to my
10. Bad days are okay... I allow myself room to have bad days and moments where I am upset, mad, frustrated, really sad, upset or whatever. I let myself be who and what I am in the moment. I believe this is healing because I am being true to myself and honoring my feelings and experience. We are not doing ourselves or our loved ones any favors when we do not allow emotions to be released which is so healing for us in body, mind and spirit. And if we are honest, it is not usually possible to be upbeat and chipper every moment of every day. Accept it and move on.
Note: If you have unhappy feelings for a longer length of time than feels healthy, please reach out for help from a family, friend or counselor.
We have now reached the conclusion of this series. Truthfully, I am thankful! All of these emotions and experiences were a lot to process and put into words. It was so much work! It is my hope my words have been healing for you in your own journey. None of it is easy. Yet we deal with it all so well. Really, we do!!
Be proud. I know I am proud of you... and me! Hang in there.
When is the last time you paid attention to what you are grateful for? Could you list three things right now? Please do so in the comments! What are some ways you nurture yourself to wholeness in dealing with your chronic health conditions?
In Peace & Wellness,
I would love for you to join my Facebook blog community where I share personal stories, pictures and inspiration for the body, mind and spirit! You can also connect with me on Twitter @diabeteslight or sign up below to receive an email in your inbox when I post a new article. Thanks for reading and hope to see you around soon!