Category Archives: Living Better

Living Better: Being The Change

LivingBetter

If you’ve been around these parts much, you know one of my main mantras is “Be the change you want to see in the world.”

One of the best ways to be the change, in my humble opinion, is to spread kindness. I see it as my way of putting good karma out there, or leaving a better world for our children. And yes, there’s a great feeling in my heart when I’ve done something kind for another.

I know I’m not alone in this. There are entire boards on many a Pinterest account dedicated to RAOK (random acts of kindness), inspiring change, and sharing love. But maybe, just maybe, you’re like me. Maybe your budget doesn’t always allow for buying someone’s coffee or meal. Maybe you need some ideas on how to help change the world that are a bit more…affordable? Times are hard for all of us, and being kind doesn’t have to mean emptying your checking account.

So I compiled a list here for you. For those of us who want to help, but maybe don’t always have the funds.

*Cards, letters, and emails. This one applies more to people in your life, but it still counts. Maybe there are a few people you missed talking to over the holidays. Drop them a line. Don’t have a stamp? Email them. Or call them. Everyone likes to know they crossed someone’s mind today. So bring that smile to someone’s face, far and wide. If you want to branch out, fill out a handful of little cards (you could even do this with post-its!) with inspirational or happy thoughts and leave them in random places as you go about your day. Drop one in the tip jar at your coffee shop, include one as you mail payment for your power bill. Leave one on a bus seat or in a taxi. The possibilities are endless!

*Hold a sign on the corner. Seriously. Over the holidays, my fiance and I saw a family standing on a street corner holding signs. Instead of asking for help, they were offering it. Their signs said things like “You matter!” and “Have a great day!” It warmed our hearts and inspired us. Sometimes people just need a reminder that there is some good out there. Be that reminder for someone!

*The next time you bake cookies, take a few over to a neighbor. Or save some for the guy who comes to work on your cable. It’s not much, but I bet it’ll make them smile. And hey, it’ll be less there tempting you, so it can also help out that New Year’s diet, eh?

*Same concept as above- The next time you’re packing lunches for your kiddos, pack an extra one. Take it to the person on the corner on your way to school drop-off. It’ll warm your heart to know they’ll have a meal that day, and it can be a great lesson for your kiddos. If you can, include an extra pair of gloves or socks with the lunch. I promise you, they’ll be grateful.

*Donate. Donate those clothes that are cluttering your closets. Help your kiddos sort through and donate their old toys and books. Donate your time. Help out at the school, the local mission, your neighbors, online. An hour spent helping someone can make a world of difference, for you and them. Unsure who needs your help? Sometimes it’s as simple as putting the offer out on social media. Reach out, you might be surprised to see who reaches back.

I hope I’ve inspired you to spread some kindness today. Even the smallest gesture can turn someone’s day around. This world is scary, tired, and weary. Let’s make it a little kinder, one act at a time. Together, we can help each other to live better.

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Living Better: Tips For Parents New To Autism

LivingBetter

Welcome back for another dose of Living Better. We’re starting of the New Year with our gal Echo, who’s here to share her tips for parents new to a diagnosis of autism. So stick around and make her feel welcome. 

5 Tips For Parents Beginning The Autism Journey

My son is what most would consider a “late diagnosis”. He was not diagnosed with Autism until he was 5 and a half. He has a high functioning form of Autism known as Asperger’s Syndrome. For most, a diagnosis is a sad moment. For us, his diagnosis was a relief. We finally knew what was wrong and how to approach it. I have learned quite a bit in our three years, but there is always more to learn. I think the very beginning is the hardest part. So here are some tips for those of you that are just starting the Autism journey.

Tip #1: Don’t let the diagnosis defeat you.

Having a child with Autism is not the end of the road. You need to do what you have always done. You adapt to the situation. Yes, certain things will have to change, but now that you have a clue as to what you are dealing with, the changes are more readily known. Adapt, live, love.

Tip #2: Do not believe everything you read, hear and see.

I fell into this trap at first. I was given books, sent links to articles, listen to the stories from doctors and forums. Don’t do it. Just don’t. At least not right away. No child with Autism is like another, so all of the “advice” that people give you, is just going to scare you and stress you out at first. Nobody knows your child like you do and now, you have another layer to get to know.

Tip #3: Do start looking into programs that can help.

There are a lot of programs that can help children with Autism and their families. I’m talking about beyond the doctor. A lot of local play places will hold sensory nights for kids with special needs, there are wonderful OT groups, respite (help for parents) programs, PCA programs. There are grants and more available. The list grows everyday as the awareness does.

Tip #4: Prepare yourself for questions and judgmental stares.

I can’t even count how many times someone has asked me, “Are you sure your son has Autism?”. A lot of people fall into the cookie cutter trap. They think that if they have seen one Autistic child that they have seen them all. I get questioned all the time. It comes with the territory. I mainly get questioned by family and friends. If your child has a more severe diagnosis, you may get questioned by complete strangers. The judgmental stares happen daily. When my son shrieks in excitement because a store carries blenders. When we eat out and he has more food on his face and shirt than my 3 year old. When he can’t figure out if he should push or pull a door or how much force he needs to use. When I bend down and give him a stern warning, through gritted teeth, that he needs to knock it off. People stare. People judge. Just perfect your fake smile or, if you are like me, your major stink-eye!

Tip #5: Your child has Autism, but Autism doesn’t have to have your child.

Set expectations. Set goals. Set rules. Don’t let your child have unexpected behavior just because he has Autism. We refuse to let our son use Autism as an excuse. Yes, we know it can make things harder for him, but we know he can achieve whatever he sets his mind to. I know that my son is capable of great things, so I am not going to let him surrender to his diagnosis.

Again, adapt, live and love, but don’t let it defeat you!

You can find more Autism resources at AutismSpeaks.org

Echo is a mom, a blogger, and is a constant battle to hold on to the last shreds of her sanity. She can be found blogging at Domain of the Mad Mommy, on Twitter, on Facebook, and Pinterest. If you’d like to keep tabs on her, be sure to sign up for her newsletter

Living Better: Interview With My Guru

Dawnie is my personal guru and all around speaker of all the wisdom.She has battled chronic illness for the better part of a decade, and uses the knowledge she’s gained to help others on their paths. She can be found sharing her life at The Dawnie Project.

LBMyGuru

Dawnie recently agreed to let me interview her. It went something like this.

1. You were the first person to introduce me to Christine’s Spoon Theory, and the term spoonie. I distinctly remember that moment, because it changed how I saw myself, and how I could understand my new life. How did you learn of the Spoon Theory and was it a similar experience for you?

When I was first diagnosed I went into shock with anger. It was two and a half years in. I had spent that time trying to fix my pain, only to be told that I had an incurable condition. I spent a few months feeling sorry for myself, pushing everyone away. Then I woke up in the acceptance stage and started looking for a support group. I believe it was the second meeting when someone mentioned the spoon theory. I looked it up online, and had my a-ha moment. That was the day I stopped treating myself like I was sick, and started advocating instead. I no longer wanted people to think of me as broken, but rather to understand why 9 out of 10 times I had to say no but that it was worth asking me for that 1 time I could say yes.

2. You’re one of the few people I know who have found a balance between western and alternative medicine, and a medical team who works with you to maintain this balance. Can you share some tips for people who are looking to incorporate more homeopathic means of care?

The first few years post diagnosis were filled with specialists providing opinions on various treatments to help with issues connected to my condition. When a doctor suggested I join a drug trial not yet approved in the US I stopped. I fired all my specialists and told my family doctor I wanted to try alternative medicine. I got lucky that she agreed to help me.

I found an acupuncturist who worked on my allergies, my pain, and my insomnia. Within a year I went from 9 drugs a day down to 2. I then took a leap of faith and flew to NY to see a homeopathic doctor who started in western medicine and tired of seeing his colleagues push drugs. He walked me through a variety of tests to determine what supplements my body was lacking, what supplements my body could handle, and what foods might boost my immune system without adding to the imbalance. He was expensive ($1500 plus travel) but he might have saved my life.

Homeopathic medicine doesn’t work for everyone, just as western medicine doesn’t. Western medicine failed me, but that’s not the fault of the drugs. My body simply didn’t react as expected. I think anyone with a chronic or incurable condition should research all options for relief. Acupuncture and supplements combined with a specific diet put my condition into remission, but I know a dozen others it didn’t help. If I could offer one piece of advice it would be to knowledge share for research purposes. Oh, and fire any doctor who won’t listen to you with compassion and empathy.

3. We all have days where we pull the covers back up stay in bed. What are your go-to comforts for those yucky days?

Remission doesn’t mean every day is a good one. I still have side effect conditions that are active, and flares now and then. When that happens I like to curl up on the couch with a fuzzy blanket, some hot tea, and whatever movies I’m in the mood for.

4. You’re a frequent traveler, both around the US, as well as a recent trip to Africa. What are your top tips for making a vacation as great as possible, in spite of chronic illness?

I’ve always loved to travel, and for the first few years of my condition I wasn’t able to, because I told myself it was too hard. I let myself take the easy way out and suffered because of it. Eventually I buckled down and made a list of what it would take to make travel work for me again. My packing list expanded to include drugs, supplements, teas, heating pad, slippers, and whatever else I would need to give me the comforts of home. I researched my destination to learn the layout, as well as travel to get there. If flying I made sure I had an aisle seat so I could move around. If driving I looked up rest stop locations so I knew how many miles between. I packed snacks that I might not find on my travels. I did whatever it took to reduce the stress of the unknown. I became an over packer, but it was worth it to be able to go.

5. Something we’ve discussed much here on the blog, as well as in many conversations you and I’ve shared, is the effects stress can have on our symptoms, and possible flares. How do you combat the everyday stress of money, life, family, etc?

Having a chronic incurable condition is going to be stressful, even in remission. That’s life. The best thing you can do for yourself is to stop fighting it. Accept your limitations, decide how you’re going to work around them, how you plan to occasionally test them, and then live your life. You will never be the person you were, because people change with time. Deal with it.

6. Because of you, and friends like you, I’ve been encouraged to chase dreams, in spite of chronic illness. What is something you’ve done since your diagnosis which you never dreamed you’d be able to achieve? What goal are you currently working towards?

I have always wanted to travel to Africa and the Serengeti. After being diagnosed I thought it would be impossible. There were simply too many comforts of home I would have to leave behind. What if I’m in pain there? What if I get sick? What if I stop worrying about what if and start plotting how to make it work?

It took a 20 hour flight to get there, with 6 days in the wild tracking the great migration, and then a 25 hour flight home. Without a doubt I had to let go of comforts of home to make it happen. But it was worth every moment. When you let go of your fear and anxiety you discover a whole new world of possibility. Driving around on bumpy dirt roads in an old jeep wasn’t easy on the body, but then we’d stop twenty feet from a lion resting on the side of the road and it would take your breath away. Suddenly that ache didn’t feel so bad anymore.

My next goal? I haven’t dreamt it yet. Whatever it is, I’ll find a way to make it happen.

 

I can’t thank Dawnie enough for sitting down with me to share her wisdom with all my readers. If you’d like to know more about her and her path, be sure to follow along at The Dawnie Project. 

Living Better: A Spoonie’s Holiday Wishlist

The holidays are steadily approaching, and while I know it’s not quite Thanksgiving yet, some of us may be trying to get a jump start on Christmas shopping. If you’re a spoonie, pass this post along to your family and friends with your favorite choices highlighted. If you love a spoonie, I created this list to help you know what kinds of things will cheer them up AND help them to find a bit of comfort.

LivingBetter

 

 

Heating Pads

Whether it’s a nifty one that has pockets to also warm your hands, or if it’s homemade, a heating pad is a spoonie’s best friend. Pinterest has many tutorials on how to make your own, so if you’re feeling crafty, you’re set. If you’re not so crafty, standard electric heating pads can be found at any of your major home retailers.

Ice Packs

The flip side of needing heat for aching muscles, spoonies also rely on ice packs for swollen joints. I personally like the first aid style ones that can be reused over and over. They’re not terribly expensive, and can offer much relief to those who suffer with chronic pain.

Fuzzy Blankets

Or really, fuzzy anything. Socks, a robe, blankets, pajamas. Soft, warm fabric is a wonder, especially this time of year. If you are purchasing clothing, please keep in mind particular limitations that may exist, ie swollen fingers and such. So avoid zippers and buttons, and steer more towards loose clothing. If you’re not sure about something, stick to the safer bets of blankets and socks. Everyone loves a fuzzy blanket.

Entertainment

Many who battle chronic illness feel isolated, especially during the colder months when their outings are more limited due to the weather and the increased germs (yay flu season). Gifting them with entertainment options is a great idea, and there are many choices. Movies, puzzle books, or a gift subscription to a streaming service like Netflix or Hulu are all wonderful choices.

Pampering

Some might think this is only for women, but I beg to differ. Everyone likes to feel pampered, and when your body is often in pain, anything to help you feel good is pampering. Candles, body wash, lotions- They can all make a person feel better about themselves, and help to boost their spirits. A note of caution: please check with your loved one about scent sensitivities. If you’re unsure, go with unscented just to be safe.

Treats

I happen to prefer chocolate, but I have friends who prefer cookies or cupcakes. This can be a hard category if you don’t know your spoonie very well, as often spoonies have certain diet restrictions. If you’re not sure, or just want to play it safe, look into gift cards for places you know they like, or ones that have a wide variety of options, so your loved one will be sure to find something they like and can have without risking a flare.

LoveandTime

You might think this is a cop-out, but I’m here to tell you this is the greatest gift I can receive. A simple card in the mail or a phone call can brighten my day and costs very little. Want something tangible to give? Make coupons! Little IOUs that your loved one can cash in when they’re feeling up to it. Offers can include taking them shopping one afternoon, helping them with chores, a movie date, or a home-cooked meal from you. These might not seem like much to you, but can be the greatest gift to your loved one.

I hope this list has helped you choose some gifts for the spoonies in your life. Over the last three years with RA, I’ve received all of these at one time or another, and I can promise you that they warmed my heart more than words can say.

What would YOU add to this list? What is on your wishlist to help you live better?

 

Living Better: Letting Go

LivingBetter

One of the hardest lessons I’ve learned in life has been how to let go.

I have a hard time letting go of hurts, and letting go of people who aren’t healthy for me. I’m not really sure why, and to be honest, it is a big piece of what I’m working on in therapy. I had thought to leave this post for that wonderous day when I finally had it all worked out, but events this week have made me see that maybe, just maybe, this is a lifelong lesson.

And if that’s the case, why am I waiting to share something I know to be true?

We’ve talked many times here about how stress is unhealthy for us. To that same degree, holding on to negative feelings is just as detrimental, possibly more. Each day, hour, minute spent thinking about the jerk who hurt our feelings, or that rude thing our neighbor said, or how our ex broke our heart- it all adds up. It robs us of happiness, and leaves us emotionally and mentally drained.

I wish I had some grand advice on how to let go of these thoughts and emotions, but it’s something I’m still working on. What I have learned is that we must work at letting go, so that we may be happier. What I’ve found helps- surrounding myself with love. Friends I can turn to who help me lift the veil of darkness from my day. A partner who will do the little things so I can take care of me. A doggy who rolls around on the floor begging for belly rubs and rewards me with kisses and snuggles. I’ve set up a support system of happiness that I can turn to when I feel myself dwelling on the negative.

Letting go of people is often so much harder.

On one hand, I’ve been known to be the “love them til they hurt me” type. I’ve often said, “I’m your best friend until you give me a reason not to be, then you’re dead to me.” (Nice unintentional rhyming there…) And this is mostly true. If I let you into my circle, I’ll often bend over backwards for you. Until you give me a reason not to. Betraying my trust or hurting someone I love are game changers and I will cut you out of my life quicker than you can blink.

But there are people who’ve hurt me over and over again that I just can’t seem to let go. I allow them to reside in my heart and my mind, knowing they’ll continue to hurt me. Knowing they’re unhealthy and toxic personalities, and how those affect me. Knowing nothing will change until I make the changes. And yet, I hesitate.

I know it impacts my health, so this is a key part of my therapy. There are simply some people we can’t cut out of our lives, for whatever reason, and so I’m learning how to set boundaries.

Boundaries and a support system of happiness. Letting go.

Finding ways to move forward so that we may see the light in each and every day, and ultimately, live better.

 

**How do YOU live better? I’m looking for guest posts in this series and would love to share your story. Please email me at becominneurotic@gmail.com with your ideas.

Living Better: Living Better With Less

Cindy spends her days with her doggy and her Mr. Sunshine in the deep south, is co-founder of Spoons 4 Spoonies, and one of my dearest friends. She’s here sharing what it’s like to live a minimalist lifestyle, and how she’s living better with less stuff.

When Cindy isn’t out making the world a better place, she can be found on the tweeter machine sharing her views on life.

LivingBetterWithLess

I remember, back in the 90’s, wondering where in the hell all these people were coming up with the money required to buy all the shit they bought. Looking back, I realize they weren’t–we were in the early stages of a credit-fueled spending spree that involved credit cards, home-equity loans, home improvement loans, second mortgages, personal loans, credit default swaps and other barely understandable made-up things that fed the consumerist frenzy that probably had its roots in the excesses of the 80’s.

Here I sit, post Great Recession, and I wonder why people are still buying all this stuff. Where are they putting it? What are they doing with it? We live in the great consumerist era, constantly bombarded with all kinds of messaging that tells us our clothes aren’t cool enough and we don’t have enough of them, our kitchens aren’t big/modern/gourmet enough, our hair isn’t shiny enough, our cars aren’t cool/new/big/fast enough, our dogs need shoes/coats/sweaters/toys/scarves/doggles/birthday parties, our electronic devices are built with planned obsolescence in mine so that in six months we will have to go get the newer/bigger/better/faster/more model, and if we don’t buy all this shit, we are somehow not enough.

I say enough, already. Stop the madness.

Dave Ramsey sums it up rather well.

“We buy things we don’t need with money we don’t have to impress people we don’t like.”

Once we buy it, we spend an insane amount of time and money organizing and cleaning and storing all this stuff. We don’t own this stuff, it owns us. We become defined by our stuff. It declares our status in society. It dictates how we spend our time. It goes further than that, though. The stuff we’re buying today isn’t even made as well as the stuff we were buying in the 90’s. We’re buying more poorly made plastic/polyester/disposable crap. This crap doesn’t last–the clothes fall apart after one or two washings, the phones are not cool after six months, the furniture breaks if the dog looks at it funny, the couches look worn in less than a year, and the shoes fall to pieces after being worn only a few times. Even buying designer is no guarantee of quality–I’ve seen four figure designer dresses made out of polyester shiny grossness that looked like something a cheap hooker might wear. I’ve personally had to resole $800 boots after only six months of occasional wear.

When I look back over my 44 years of life thus far, my happiest memories don’t involve stuff.

My happiest memories involve experiences and people. Riding the tractor with my dad. Playing trivia games with my mom, brother, and sister as a kid. Watching “The Mikado”, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, and “The Color Purple” from the stage left wings at The Strand Theatre. Standing on the beach on Christmas Day with my Mr. Sunshine, watching my little doggy bark fiercely at the waves as they rolled into shore.

Cindy

My deepest moments of serenity have come when everything else was stripped away and I was left with nothing standing between me and my creator. Finally admitting I was an addict, and surrendering to the twelve steps. Huddling on the floor as a tornado destroyed the world around me. Standing in the middle of a seemingly endless field of grass, listening to the wind as it whispered in my ear.

Over the last four years or so, Mr. Sunshine and I have downsized. We moved from a bright airy house filled with furniture, clothes, shoes, and tchotchkies into an RV that has just enough room for very basic necessities. I’ve become quite the minimalist–almost to the point of brutalism.

I wish Sunshine were as minimalist as I am. In his defense, the stuffs he stockpiles is all very practical and useful; it just takes up space that I would much rather see filled with the light of my creator’s love.

Since we moved into this tiny house on wheels, I have given away, consigned, and trashed more clothes and shoes than I care to think about. It’s embarrassing, it’s shameful, it’s rather obscene. I have given away knicknacks, tchotchkies, thingamabobs, doohickies, and things. I miss none of them. Sunshine has given away tchotchkies, sold furniture, and thrown away things we can’t even figure out why he owned them. He misses none of them.

Now, none of this is to say that we don’t buy new things. It’s just that, today, when we bring something new into the house, something old must leave. There just isn’t room for new things, so we think very hard about how much we need or want a thing, how will it add value or enrich our lives, and what we are willing to give up to get it. We no longer mindlessly shop. We no longer feel compelled to buy shit we don’t want with money we’d rather spend on experiences to impress people we can’t fucking stand anyway.

These days, cleaning the house doesn’t take long at all. It’s less than 250 square feet. When I open my closet door, I’m not staring at an overstuffed hellhole crying about how I have nothing to wear. I’m not spending hours organizing, storing, and cleaning my stuff. These days, I get to spend my time walking around the lake with my little doggy, hanging out with those few people I CAN stand, and traveling to pretty places that remind me of the beauty my creator has given to us to enjoy.

The other upsides to having so much less stuff? I have BETTER stuff. I have stuff that I use again and again and again. The clothes I have are all clothes that I love, that make me feel fabulous, that serve my life as it is now (and not the life I thought I wished I had). I am not drowning in debt. I have more time to take care of myself, and less need of self-care because I am not overwhelmed with all the things I am supposed to do and all the things I am supposed to own.

CindyKhakis
source

I am not my fucking kakhis.

Living Better: Parenting Through Pain

My gal Echo has graciously agreed to open up about parenting through pain with me and you all. She usually spends her days trying to hold on to what’s left of her sanity while raising and homeschooling two kiddos.

She can be found writing about her life on her blog The Domain of the Mad Mommy

 

When you are a parent, there are daily struggles.
When you are a parent, there are daily triumphs.
When you are a parent in pain, there is daily chaos.

Parenting is a hard enough job on it’s own. So much to do, so much to learn, so many sacrifices to make, so many benefits to reap. Add some pain into the mix and it can throw everything into turmoil!

Pain comes in different forms. There is physical pain, like the pain that I am experiencing with my mouth and multiple dental surgeries.

There is also mental and emotional pain. The pain that can’t always be seen, but is always there.

The emotional and mental pain, I believe, is more easily managed. Counseling, coping skills, natural remedies, medication, therapy. It takes a while to get into the “groove” of things, but it can happen.

Some of the coping skills I use to parent through my depression are:

*Blogging – Yes, blogging. I come online, I type shit out and I piss and moan to all of the people on the Internet that will read it. Does it help? It helps me. It helps me vent. It helps me process. It helps me laugh.
*Humor – They say that laughter is the best medicine and I happen to agree. I love taking the daily chaos and turmoil in my life and turning it into something that can make myself and someone else laugh!
*Drugs – Caffeine is my number one drug of choice! I need it, I love it, I wouldn’t be able to parent without it. I was on Prozac and Ambien for depression and insomnia, but I have weaned myself off of those and seem to be doing pretty good!
*Cooking/Eating – I love to go shopping, buy fancy ingredients, cook a fancy ass meal and then rub it in my extended family’s face! Like ha, see, see what I can do. Fuck you.

I also yell, swear, take a hot shower, take naps (when I can), eat ice cream, eat Taco Bell and cry. Yes, I cry. Sometimes, you just have to cry!

Physical pain is harder to navigate. When you are in physical pain, everything is amplified x100. Your kid’s whining sounds like a thousand babies crying. The chocolate that just stained your carpet, didn’t “just” stain the carpet, it stained your very soul! You feel like you haven’t slept in days and no one, no one is going to help you!

I’m a parent…
It’s never just one LEGO!
It’s like this:

It’s like this all the time!
It fucking hurts!

Here are some of the ways that I parent through physical pain:

*Let it go – Seriously, I tend to let a lot more slide because I am in pain. I don’t want to get up. I don’t want to move. I don’t want to get all worked up about the ALL of the toys being in the living-room.
*Sleep – I try to sleep when I can, where I can. Anytime, anywhere. If my kids are quiet and safe, I will sleep. Why? My body needs it to heal and I am less likely to bite someone’s head off when I am sleeping.

*Remedy – I try to remedy the pain in anyway possible! Seriously, I just want to stop hurting and when the doctors stop providing you with pain relief, you take things into your own hands!

It’s really about doing what you have to do for your kids and yourself. You have to parent through the pain because you have to be there for your kids. I know it sucks. Believe me. I deal with this shit everyday and although it sucks, royally, it is manageable. Give it time, make a plan and make sure that you have a strong support system. I’m not sure how I would cope if I didn’t have my husband supporting me and the support of the FABULOUS bloggers (my friends) that I have met online.

Don’t be afraid to reach out. Find a group. Online, offline, it doesn’t matter. Find someone you can talk to and not feel judged.

Write it down. Start a blog, write a journal. It really helps to get it out. To vent it. You don’t want to keep it bottled up.

Don’t be afraid to get help. Help for the emotional/mental pain and help for the physical pain. You do not need to deal with it alone!

Living Better: Life Lessons Of A Spoonie

LivingBetter

I’ve learned a lot of helpful things in life, like don’t touch the hot pot on the stove and don’t stick forks into electrical outlets. (Yes, I learned those both first hand, and no, I probably won’t share those stories. I was a kid, after all.)

Probably the greatest life lessons have been in the few years since I got sick. There’s not much like having your life turned upside down to help you see things more clearly. Certainly, I didn’t learn everything overnight or all at once. Each lesson has come through trial and error, some pain, some loss, happiness, immense effort, and all the usual emotions that accompany the big lightbulb-over-your-head moments. Because I’m kind and generous and extremely humble, I thought I would share some of these great lessons with you.

Things I’ve Learned Since I Became A Spoonie

*It is not a competition. Pain hurts, yo. And it sucks rocks to be sick. But it’s not about who has what illness and how far progressed it may be. What might be a level four on that stupid pain scale for me, is maybe a two for someone else, and yet an eight for another. It’s not about comparing your husband’s cold to what a day in the life of you is like. It’s recognizing that we all battle something, and we’re in this together, not against each other.

*Find your tribe. There will always be people who don’t understand. Always. So it’s important to make sure you have a good support system to turn to. Whether it’s friends who you’ve known since you were in diapers, or your significant other, or family, or an online community, or any combination there of, find who you can turn to on those days when it’s just really hard. Knowing ahead of time who will answer your call in the middle of the night when the pain is keeping you awake and you just can’t stop thinking is a powerful tool.

*Be gentle with yourself. I know I say this often, but it’s probably the most important lesson. And I’m still learning it, over and over again. It’s hard to reconcile our new selves with the previous picture we all had in our heads of who we would be. We often continue to hold ourselves to the old standards, even though we know they’re no longer feasible. I’m in no way saying to give up on yourself, but be kind in your criticism. Remember that it takes energy to heal, and even if the house looks like a tornado has blown through it, you got up and LIVED today, and that is an accomplishment.

*Cut out toxicity. While stress doesn’t cause our illnesses, it can trigger flare ups. When we’re already fighting so hard to live, don’t you think we should try to make it as easy as possible for ourselves? Obviously the bills and chores will always be there, but there are stressors you can cut out. Let go of, or reduce contact with anyone who isn’t supportive. Cut out social outings that always cause you tension or anxiety. And if you’re struggling seeing where you can make some positive changes, sit down with someone you trust and ask them for their honest opinion. Often they see what we’ve become blind to over the years.

*Learn to accept help. And how to ask for it. Another thing I’m still learning on the daily. But truly, our loved ones WANT to help us. And there are certainly times we can use it. So why do we let our pride get in the way? Tell that pesky pride to shut its mouth, and accept the offer from the bag boy for help loading groceries into the car. Smile and nod when a friend offers to have your kids over for a play date and take the opportunity to nap. Most importantly, learn how to express to your loved ones when you’ve hit your limit, or when you’re close to it. Learn how to communicate what you need, even if it’s as simple as someone fetching your heating pad for you so you can just lay still as you feel a flare up coming. Trust me, they WANT to help you.

*Find joy wherever you can. This may be the most important thing I’ve learned. With a life now overwhelmed with medications, symptoms, the depression that often accompanies chronic illness, doctor appointments, and pain, it’s crucial to find joy and happiness. Smile as the cool fall breeze flutters through your hair. Stop and smell the roses. Pick up a box of crayons and remember what it’s like to be a kid again. Play your music loudly and sing along, not caring who hears you. Get excited about new fuzzy slippers and cute pajamas. Facetime or video chat with loved ones far away so you can see their smiles, even if you can’t be with them. Soak up every single ounce of happiness. It will balance out all the yuck, and from my experience, that’s worth more than all of Midas’ gold.

I hope these life lessons can help you to live better. Life may have it’s obstacles, but it doesn’t have to be so damn difficult. Embrace the fact that you are still LIVING and find ways to make life work for you. You’ll be amazed at how much better you’ll feel.

Living Better: A Meal Plan

LivingBetter

A while back, I promised Rabia that if she posted her meal plan, I would post mine.

Then life happened and I almost forgot…until I started brainstorming meal ideas for October. See, in our house, we do big shopping once a month, at pay day, and try to make big meals that can serve for a few days to stretch our budget to the max. I do the meal planning, scour the internet and paper ads for coupons, and make the master list. Then Scotty takes me shopping and helps me put it all together.

Even though it sounds like a lot of work, and shopping day almost always knocks me on my butt, doing it this way actually saves me a lot of work and energy. With cooking large batches, Scotty always has leftovers for his lunches, and easy things to pull together for dinner if I’m not up to cooking.

So here are a few ideas we’re looking at for October. Note the extensive use of my crockpot 🙂 It truly is my lifesaver!

Crockpot Chicken & Stuffing served with Roasted Carrots

Garlic Pot Roast and Veggies served with Fresh Dinner Rolls

Crockpot Cashew Chicken served over Rice

Crockpot Loaded Potato Soup served in Bread Bowls

Cheesy Potato Breakfast Casserole served with Cinnamon Rolls (I’m thinking the leftovers from the casserole could be used to make breakfast burritos to freeze. Fingers crossed!)

I’ll also be doing a batch of Taco Chicken in the crockpot. We’ll freeze half to use later in the month, and use it for burrito bowls, tacos, enchiladas, and/or quesadillas.

What’s on your menu? Got any recipes you’d like to share with me?

 

**”Living Better” is a new Saturday series here. You’ll be able to find recipes/meal plans, tips and shortcuts to make life a little easier, as well as stories from fellow bloggers/writers on how they’re living better. If you’d like to submit a guest post for this series, please email me at becominneurotic(at)gmail(dot)com.