AnonymousJanuary 2, 2009 at 9:40 am
As I mentioned in another thread, it takes work to stay positive, particularly when you have a chronic illness that has changed your life. As I also mentioned, I have not always been like I am today. I have had some hard things happen to me, even harder than CIDP, and it has taken me a lot of work to get where I am today. I feel very badly when I read that people are losing hope, I get there too at least once a month, but I’ve also developed some tools to help me through those rough times emotionally.
My first caveat is that I am not a therapist or a doctor or have any kind of training or expertise in coping emotionally – just experience on what works for me. My second caveat is that everyone is different, what works for me may not work for you, I’m just telling you this stuff to start you thinking, that’s all. My third caveat is that sometimes depression is chemical and you need medication, since neither you nor I can judge that it’s best to talk to your doctor. Finally, sadness is natural when you have gone through the life changes we have, don’t beat yourself up over it but don’t wallow in it either.
Now to the suggestions, these are in no order at all, just what occurred to me as my coffee went down this morning.
• Make a list of all the things that give you pleasure in your life including everything from your favorite foods, clothes, books, music, friends, movies, family, TV shows, places to visit. If while making this list you start to think of negative things like “I used to like hiking but I can’t now” just visit that thought for a minute and let it go – get back to your task of finding positive things.
• Flip it over, turn it around – when you find yourself thinking negative thoughts change the words around, flip the meanings. For example “I can’t go hiking anymore” can be changed to “I have been to some wonderful places while hiking, let’s see how many I can remember.” And “I am so weak physically” can be changed to “I am very strong emotionally.” Change what you can’t do into what you can do. Make a list of all the things you are good at, enjoy and can still do, add it to the list above and post it where you can see it every day.
• Find a way to make a difference, no matter how small. OK, so you can’t go build houses with Habitat for Humanity now, no big deal, lots of college kids out there to do that but there are other aspects of service that require little to no energy and strength. Can you type a letter? Can you screen applications from your recliner? Can you tutor your neighbor’s son who is having trouble in history? Can you visit people sicker than you in the hospital, hospice or nursing home? Making a difference in someone else’s life makes us feel alive and needed – many of you make a difference here on the forum to new and old participants – many of you make a difference to your children’s lives – all of you make a difference to someone.
• Make a list of things to do when you have no energy and don’t do those things until you are completely wiped out and feeling inadequate. For example, do you have family or friends who could use a long note cheering them up – this is good for when you are too tired to mop… do you have a craft you have been wanting to learn like I’m learning to draw (badly), what have you always wanted to do that you never had the time for in the past? Don’t waste your times having energy by doing quiet stuff, get yourself organized and plan it along these lines: clean downstairs bathroom, write Uncle X a note, fix lunch, read a book while eating, start laundry, sit down and make grocery list, shift laundry, pay bills, fold laundry, take a nap, put laundry away, sit down and peel potatoes for dinner. OK this is pretty detailed but I think you are getting my point about alternating the activites so you are able to do stuff while resting.
• Outside In Approach – this is a big one and most useful if not in an obvious way. Act as if you are happy, act as if you love your life/job/commute, force yourself to be cheerful, paste a smile on your face and hold it until you can’t hold it anymore and over time you will find that you ARE happier and more cheerful. Some of this is chemical, some of it is behavioral, some of it feels ridiculous but it does work. And interestingly, if you find yourself in a situation like you’re standing in line at the checkout counter and things are just getting intolerable with people ramming your ankles, getting bitter and so on – well if you smile, paste a smile on your face and keep it there pretty soon you will notice that the people around you are smiling too. Now it doesn’t really matter whether they are smiling because they think you are looney tunes, or if they are smiling because happiness is contagious, what matters is that the atmosphere around you has improved because you faked a smile on your face. I have been using the Outside In Approach or Fake it Til You Make It Approach for more than 20 years and it DOES work, it’s subtle, it takes time for things to change, but keep doing it – keep smiling when you feel like screaming and soon you won’t want to scream quite as often, and soon after that you will actually start thinking things are funny before you even fake that smile.
• Ask yourself if it really matters. I’ve had muddy dog prints on my kitchen floor for going on three weeks now – does it really matter? It’s going to take me the better part of three hours to get it all up, based on past experience, can those three hours be put to better use somewhere else like dusting which is more obvious, makes me sneeze and takes less energy? Will people stop visiting me because of the muddy footprints? Do I care if they do? Will people think I’m a terrible housekeeper because there are cobwebs in corners and the basement has become a collection point for “things I need to deal with at some point”? Do I care if they do? And if I do, why do I care, what is it about me that I need to have other people’s approval on the state of my housekeeping? Is it something I can let go of, if so then let me make my life easier by letting go of things keeping me down.
• Surround yourself with positive people. Do you have people in your life who are constantly disapproving of you either outright or by action? Do you have people in your life who suck the life’s blood out of you dosing you with negativity, complaining about life’s inadequacies, pouring out their problems to you without even a care for yours? Do you need to be around those people more than just occasionally? Are there people in your life who make you happy? Who when you are around them you rarely think about your illness? Can you find ways to spend more time around them?
Life isn’t fair, it isn’t easy – nothing I’ve ever valued in life was just given to me, I’ve had to work for it.
I want to leave you with one last thought… there are literally hundreds of things we would change about our lives right now if we could, everyone could use more money, better health and so on. At the same time many of those things we can’t change, we have no power to make our bodies cooperate, we don’t have a money tree and we can’t wave a magic wand and make it all better. What we can change is our attitude. It is the only thing we ultimately have control over in our lives.
I wish us all a better year this year than last year. I wish us all the strength to face our challenges whether they be physical, mental, emotional or spiritual. I wish us soft landings when we fall depressed and loving friends and family to help us pick ourselves back up. Most of all I wish us patience with ourselves that we accept that we are all different, grow at our own pace and are still wonderful people though different than expected.
AnonymousJanuary 2, 2009 at 10:23 am
You have started me thinking and it is going to be more positive with a lot of smiles. I am going to print your post to help me keep those positive thoughts.
Thank you, I needed a good kick start back into the right direction and your post has given it to me.
Thank you again
AnonymousJanuary 2, 2009 at 9:24 pm
Julie as you know my husband passed Nov. 21st. One of the things the people at his work told me, they would say How are you doing? They told me he always replied never better. My husband tried to stay positive to the end. When someone called him on the phone, and asked how are you doing he never let them know how much pain he was in. Your thread could be words for any one to live by. Just think what a nice place our society would be if no one ever complained or griped and everyone was just happy. I needed to read your words. Today for no reason I was just thinking about something that reminded of my husband and I started crying. It is still hard for me. I think when I start to school Jan. 20th and have a purpose in life I will feel better. Until now my only goal was to take care of my husband, and now I want to help people by being a med. assistant.
AnonymousJanuary 5, 2009 at 5:05 am
Just thought I’d give you a little chuckle – I got depressed this weekend, I usually do just before treatment – and my husband says “well get out that list you posted and lets go through it!” HA HA, I love it when things come back to bite me.
As for the drawing, it isn’t going well – I don’t draw well, I think I’m missing a 3D to 2D connection in my brain… I am getting really good at creating things in 3D on the computer but when it comes to translating that to a drawing… well something just misfires. It’s been this way since I was a child, my mother is an artist and has tried many times to teach me to draw but alas… I just don’t ‘get it’…. but thats not the point, the point is that my GOAL is to learn to draw… if I reach my goal then terrific but it’s the process that counts. 🙂 Meanwhile I can replicate almost any structure in 3D using Google Sketchup or something similar. So I learned a new skill while trying to learn another skill, and maybe it will be useful someday for something other than entertaining me when I’m too sick to clean the house. 😉
Hope you all have a terrific week, I’m getting treatment today so am heading into that Benedryl daze…
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