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What is Your Purpose?

We should all have a calling, right? A passion that drives us. “If you find your purpose, you will never work a day in your life”, and will be wonderfully successful, respected, admired, and make loads of money. At least, that’s what I’ve always heard, so it must be true. 

What if I told you that having a “Life’s Purpose” is a myth. 

We are taught by society, and modern culture that to be fulfilled, we have to find our one special calling, that career we love, and it will bring us prosperity and fortune all of our days. 

Why is this philosophy problematic? 

…Because we aren’t built to have only one purpose. We are each meant to fulfill many unique and diverse missions throughout our lives. We have dreams and goals for ourselves, but we are multidimensional beings and our greatest life passions and fulfillments may or may not be wrapped up in that job we desire. 



Most of the time when we say, “What is God’s will for my life?” We are referring to our careers, right? But God allows purpose to thrive in so many aspects of our lives.

You can be a passionate artist, a wife, mother, doctor, friend, AND a passionate writer. You can find calling, drive, and fulfillment in multiple areas of your life. 

The world hands us such an impossible task of figuring out our one and only sparkling, unicorn reason for existing, and it puts sooooo much pressure on all of us. Once we believe we’ve found our “life’s calling”, complete our degrees or training, we can finally pour our passion into the work… but some time later, there’s an itch that comes over us. We feel unsettled, maybe even claustrophobic. If you’ve felt this way before, it’s miserable. And it’s also a huge disappointment that the dream we wished for doesn’t feel like we hoped it would. You do everything you can to refresh that passion you once had in your work, however, more than likely, the feeling of displacement whittles away at your spirit. 

A Life’s Purpose is not the same as a Life of Purpose

We were not built to stay in one place. God has so many plans for each of us. Some of us are amazing multi-taskers, juggling projects and people all at once, and others of us pour everything we have into one job, person, or other undertaking, and then we are diverted to our next chapters. One season ends, and the next begins. Sometimes there are painful seasons in between for our growth, for pruning, and for us to prepare for whatever we are meant to do next. And for some of us, those painful seasons last, so we seek out purpose and meaning in the big and small moments. 

Callings come in seasons. We all hear the stories again and again: Someone had a career they loved, then a crisis struck, but that sideroad somehow illuminated a new and exciting path. It happens all the time. 

Like me, you might be asking, “What is God’s will for my life now?” You might feel a little bit lost in the fog, the upside-down, so to speak. Very rarely, we have these beautiful gifts of some extended time when we are just waiting to find out- what’s next? It can seem like forever, but rest assured, you are never forgotten by your Creator. 

I’m not very good at being still and peaceful while I wait, because I am so impatient. It is such a comfort to know, we are always fulfilling our Life’s Purpose when our desire is to please God. When you’re seeking to do the next right thing, you can be at ease that you are living inside of your destiny.  

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Author Interview & Book Giveaway! But God, wouldn’t I be more useful to You if I were Healthy?

Thank you, Esther Smith for joining us to discuss your brand new book, “But God, wouldn’t I be more useful to you if I were healthy?” Congratulations on being Amazon’s #1 hot new release in Christian Counseling and Recovery in your first week as a published author! Let’s jump in and talk more about your book!
But God wouldn't I be more useful to you if I were healthy Abodyofhope Interview with Author Esther Smith

1.    Did you do anything special to celebrate the release of your first book? ~or~ How did you reward yourself when you completed writing “But God, wouldn’t I be more useful to you if I were healthy?”

The night my book was released I celebrated with dark chocolate and a glass of red wine. My favorite indulgence. I am hoping to get out to my favorite restaurant this month, and that will definitely be a part of the celebration. To me celebration equals all of my favorite foods!

2.    Aside from writing, how do you enjoy spending your free time? (hobbies/activities)

I have had a hard time coming up with hobbies I enjoy since chronic pain became a part of my life, which is one of the reasons I turned to writing in my free time. But, I do enjoy reading, lying out at the local pool, and cooking delicious recipes.

3.    How would you describe your personal writing process? (Are you research-driven, methodical, intuitive, spiritually motivated, etc. Please explain).

 For me, writing typically looks like sitting down with an empty head and writing about a topic that is important to me without much prior thought. Oftentimes, I don’t know what I think about a particular topic until I put it into words on paper. It is the act of typing and writing freely without restraint that brings me to my best ideas. Then I come back later with research, additional stories, and more attention to detail. Those final changes are important, but it is the original brainstorming that gives life to my words.

4.    Thus far, what is your favorite aspect of becoming a published author? (designing the cover of your book, the writing process itself, doing interviews like these, etc.)

 I have loved hearing feedback from readers. It is the best feeling in the world when someone tells me that my book helped them in some way or that they were challenged to think differently by something that I wrote.

What is your least favorite aspect of becoming a published author? (the editing process, marketing, doing interviews like these, etc.)

I greatly dislike wearing all of the hats in the publishing process. I was not able to pay for help for any part of my book, so I edited it myself, though I am far from an editor. I also designed the book cover, though design is not my strong point. I would much prefer to focus on my strengths and get help with the rest. 

5.    “Resting as an act of faith” is one part of your book I felt was particularly inspired, and is wisdom that both well and chronically ill individuals can benefit from. Can you explain what in your own life lead you to write about resting by faith?  

For so long I tried to maintain the same life I had always lived even though chronic pain made this difficult. I became burned out, and my health started to regress because I was doing more than my body could handle. I maintained all my responsibilities because I felt guilty about giving them up. But I finally realized that letting go of what was physically harmful to my body was not something to feel guilty about. I realized that I was not stewarding my body well, and that being faithful with the body I had been given meant letting go of things that were good but harmful to me. It was a freeing realization and allowed me to better serve in the areas that I didn’t give up.

6.    One of your readers, Ginny asks: Did you have any hesitation in sharing the personal thoughts expressed in your book? (she adds that she can’t wait for your next book!)

Yes! My book was more personal than much of my blog. I poured out some of my deepest fears and failures. Releasing the book left me feeling so vulnerable. But hearing readers say that they could relate helped a lot. It all felt worth it in the end.

7.    Blog follower, Max asks: What was your greatest challenge in writing this book?

 
 For a long time, I had the basis of good material and important points that I wanted to convey, but I didn’t know how to make it interesting. Like I mentioned before, I did have hesitation about sharing personal thoughts and stories, so I left those out at first. As I read through my material and shared it with a few close friends, I could tell that the material was dry. Perhaps I was making good points, but what good was that if no one wanted to read it in the end? My greatest challenge was growing in my ability to write content that had solid ideas conveyed through interesting stories.

8.    Because I follow your blog LifeinSlowMotionblog.com, I know that you live with chronic pain. How has Chronic Pain influenced you or inspired you to write more often, or has it?

Before chronic pain, I would not have called myself a writer. It was chronic pain that gave me something important to write about. As I looked for answers to my own questions, I found limited resources on chronic pain from a Christian perspective. Many of the resources I did find were either lacking in depth or didn’t seem to understand the actual experience of chronic pain. As both a Christian counselor and an individual with chronic pain, I felt able to address the topic with both depth and insight. If not me, who else would do it? That is what led me to writing.

9. “Giving out of a poverty of health” was one of my favorite pieces of wisdom you shared in your book. Can you give a brief example (or explanation) of giving from a poverty of health?

 At one point my health regressed to where I could only work at my job as a counselor 2-4 hours a week. And even that felt almost impossible to maintain. I would go in every Wednesday to see as few as one or two counselees and then drag myself home. It felt ridiculous to work so little, and I seriously considered quitting my job. I am so glad I didn’t. My one or two counselees mattered. I may not have counseled a great number of individuals, but I did my best with the few I had. 

10.    Can you give us a hint of the focus of your next book?

 I am going back and forth between a few different ideas. The next book in the Chronic Pain and the Christian Life series may be about mourning and grief in the context of pain and illness. Or, it may be about communicating our pain and relationships with others. I also want to write about the shame of chronic pain at some point. Too many ideas and too little time! But, I am working towards the next one coming out this fall.
 

~Reader Reviews~
“This is the first book of its kind: reconciling faith with illness.”
“It’s a wonderful book, it is most encouraging and well written. It’s an excellent read for both sufferers of chronic pain and the people who care for them.”
-Nancy Belz
“I love her honesty and the reflection questions that conclude this wonderful book- I found insight- comfort- motivation, and hope in Esther Smith’s sharing. This would be a great book for a small group study in person or online!”
-Ginny Law

How to win a free signed copy or e-book?
To participate in the random book give-away drawing, in the comments section below, let us know:
1. Where you found the link to this interview
2. Tell us where on social media you are sharing this link
I will contact the winner Friday, Aug. 5th! Good luck, and thank you for reading!

 

But God, Wouldn’t I be More Useful to You if I Were Healthy? is Available to purchase on Amazon in paperback or ebook.

Second Annual Disability Pride Parade in NYC!

Today was the second annual Disability Pride parade in NYC! 

Here in this video you’ll see disabled individuals dancing together to commence the opening of the parade. This dance speaks to the nature of disability- the diverse disabilities we can see with our eyes, and those which are invisible.

As you watch the video, and think about some of the reasons for a parade like this…

Many who have declining health feel ashamed of their bodies, and in time, may also feel ashamed of themselves. Friends stop reaching out as health issues just sound like “drama” to most people who have never faced a health crisis. So many have been forced to leave behind a career, or dreams they once held dear. Although it sounds harsh, it’s not uncommon at all for family members to tease or bully as individuals change physically and/or mentally, leaving them extremely self conscious. People can be very judgmental of body shapes, walking aids, and challenges that are unfamiliar. Others are quick to call out what they see as “inconsistencies.” Even strangers in public call those in wheel chairs “liars at times when they don’t understand that paralysis isn’t the only reason one might need the aid of wheels, or that a handicapped parking spot might be needed by someone who can walk normally.

It’s no wonder that people start to lose their self worth, and isolate themselves as a disability changes them.

You know what? FORGET EVERYONE!

So, this isn’t a news flash, but people don’t get it, and they don’t get you. You, my dear, have so much to be proud of, and SO MUCH to share with the world! 

You are an over-comer, a warrior, a never-giving-up, wheel rolling, cane sporting, walker toting, re-inventing, hope finding, doing it anyway, sometimes invisible illness (but never invisible)- always working to conquer your challenges: BRAVE fighter! Heck yes you should be proud!!!

You don’t have to prove how much pain you’re in every day, how badly cancer changed your body, you don’t have to show your prosthetic, or tell anyone what your mental illness is… unless you want to. You are living proof of pure strength. You don’t have to work to be an inspiration to anyone, but hey- you already are, kiddo. You’re pretty spectacular just the way you are, in the body you have right now.

Please don’t keep your amazing self on lock down. You’re the only you this world will ever have! Heart (((hugs))) going out

What do you think of the Disability Pride Parade? How are you #DisabilityProud in your own life? 

Cure Worship, Illness Gratitude, & Finding the balance between

To be thankful while you are suffering is one thing, but to be thankful for suffering….

Once in a while in the support group I administrate, there is someone who makes a statement that is so powerful, it catches me off guard and it sets my soul on fire. In truth, this isn’t a rare occurrence. I guess you could say that those suffering so deeply every single moment of the day have some profound insights to share. One thing that inspires me the most is when people say they are thankful for their illness. That is a bold statement that I believe one would never come to lightly- and no one would EVER openly say something so provocative in a support group setting among a band of individuals with severe chronic diseases, unless they truly meant it. That’s why it always gives me pause whenever I hear such powerful expressions.

It’s not unusual for those who go through a near death experience or a serious short term illness to find deeper meaning and purpose. It’s no less real, but it is more common when the storms have an end, and suffering can be left behind. While it’s not rare for those with ongoing illness to eventually find new ways to appreciate life again, to say they are grateful for their illness, it is so much more rare in cases of chronic disease. Why? Because an illness that is daily, constant, and does not see an end- is far easier to hate than to get excited about. A condition which may be degenerative, becoming more painful and physically or mentally compromising over time, isn’t easily beloved…as you can imagine. To me, it’s almost a miracle hearing that anyone would be happy or thankful that they became so sick. Others with chronic illness can find statements like these offensive, even. These ideas of “illness gratitude” certainly border on the extreme, but make one wonder where their personal journeys have lead them to truly embrace their infirmities.

 

I’ve heard people claim to be thankful they are in pain and chronically ill because it transformed their lives. It made them see the world in a different light. Their conditions allowed them to shake off the clutter and stress of a life that they realized didn’t have substance, and focus on a life of greater meaning and value. They once believed losing their career meant losing their purpose, but I’ve spoken to those who say that they are so thankful they became ill because now they found their true calling. Some have said that their new life of chronic illness has enabled them to be there for people in ways they never could have in their “healthy” life, so they are forever thankful for their new sick bodies, and how useful they can be to others through deeper compassion and connection. Sometimes people are grateful they are in pain because it has brought them closer to their faith, and they cherish a higher spiritual connection they never could have had without constantly being pushed to the edge of what they can endure. They are forced to cling to God instead of their own strength, and in that comfort, they find gratitude for suffering that brought them more enrichment spiritually.

Again, these are extreme statements, but thought provoking and inspiring nonetheless!

Most often, people I encounter long for a cure or pray to be healed. That’s normal, and that’s not at all unhealthy. Research in psychology equates the loss of health or a limb to losing a family member or spouse passing away. It’s earth-shattering. The losses just keep coming. With chronic illness, the grief starts over again and again. It’s cavernous, and there’s no end to the emotional roller coaster or the physical fight. Hoping for a cure, for healing, or for remission is what we all are desperate for, and that focus can at times become crucial for survival. But for some of us, restoration of health becomes a worship in itself, and begins to supersede everything else. Seeking a cure or healing can become such a focus that illness becomes nothing but a betrayal of God, of government, of doctors, and family. Nothing feels real except wellness and full restoration.

Obviously these are 2 opposite sides of the spectrum, and balance is always the goal.

When I was diagnosed at 22, I spent the first years asking God WHY? Staying up every night in excruciating pain, my leg felt as though it was breaking, nerves like being electrocuted and burning pain like nothing I could have ever imagined before. Full body spasms, tremors, the room spinning, my heart racing and palpitating, wondering how I had planned and worked so hard for everything that had lead me here, just to lose it to this “incurable degenerative” condition that no one seemed to be taking very seriously to help me try recover from. It didn’t make any sense. As much as I tried to analyze it, I couldn’t crack the code. It only made sense for me to get better, so I searched for my panacea, and prayed (demanding) that God must heal me. At the time, I wasn’t a big prayer person, but illness has a way of connecting you to your higher power. In the Bible, yes, there is healing, but there is also so much pain. The importance of learning through pain, finding ways to share strength or comfort inside of infirmities, these are scriptures that have been so encouraging to me.

I eventually felt lead to make a decision. I believed God would heal me, and I still do believe that is true. But, I decided that if I was going to spend any period of time living a “sick life” I was going to explore it. As much as I was desperate to go back in time, moving forward is all I could do, it’s all any of us can do- Even if it’s slowly, frightened, and with tears in our eyes. 

I cannot go as far as saying that I am thankful I am chronically ill. I can say that at almost 12 years, I’m so grateful I made that decision to press forward and try to find myself inside of this life. If I had stayed so distracted by my past, or so focused on what I might be losing in the future, I would have missed every bit of the beauty, the miracles, the blessings, the generosity of others, the opportunities to be of use, and purpose found inside of this pain.

*****

More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. Romans 5:3-5

 

I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Corinthians 12:10

 

For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. Romans 8:18

 

When the cares of my heart are many, your consolations cheer my soul. Psalm 94:19

20 Year Anniversary by Logan Woods: An RSD hope story

It has been Twenty years since RSD crashed into my life and it has been quite the ride. Some moments I have wanted to be over before they happen. Other moments I held onto for dear life because they were all that sustained me through the hours and days of pure physical and psychological torture. At times I was able to be more normal like many of my peers. Other times I behaved and felt as if I were on my death bed. However, if I had the choice to do this all over again there would be nothing that I would ever change. I am not saying I like being sick but all of the gifts that it has helped me to find out about myself in a hurry compared to my “normal” peers has been truly priceless.  I will tell a brief side of my tale that has led me to find peace with RSD and my life.

20 Year Anniversary by guest writer, Logan Woods

In February, 1996 I was a normal 15 year old girl who really did not want to go to the dentist, and I got out of it by going to the ER instead. I knelt down and felt like I broke my kneecap in half (I did not). So my mother and brother took me to the local ER to have my knee looked at (I had to be carried, it hurt so bad). They took and X-ray of it and found out that I had somehow knelt on a needle that was now lodged in my lower thigh muscle. They ended up sending me to a different doctor to have surgery on my knee as they could not get it out. The surgery doctor’s next appointment would not be for five days which they thought would give the needle time to work its way up out of the thigh muscle. It worked its way further into the muscle instead, so on that day of the surgery, they took four times as long as they thought they had planned for. After the surgery, the site that they opened up to remove the needle was healing just fine, no complications, no unusual pain, but then on the eighth day after surgery at 4:30, sometime in the afternoon, RSD came into my life. So far has not left, although I keep insisting that she can be on her way now.

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So, mid teen years were now controlled by not me, my school, or my mom, but by RSD, and I am just learning how to gain control over the elusive mistress. She swept into my life limiting my ability to go to normal school and participate in normal activities, although looking back at it, she might have saved me from getting too wild and crazy. I hated my ninth grade year before RSD came in the picture but it became even more troubled after. I ended up dropping out of ninth grade because I could not get out of bed due to the intense pain my leg.

The doctors I went to told me was in my head even though my mom kept telling the doctors my leg kept changing colors to this purple splotchy looking thing. My mom believed me but by then it was such a trouble to handle getting told over and over again there is nothing wrong with your leg. So, I gave up going to the doctors and started living with the pain.

I enrolled into a different high school as we had moved during the summer into a new school district. Tenth grade year was magical with the friends that I made and the activities I enrolled in at school. School was great, home was rough, but was do-able. The pain never went away from my knee and I learned how to distance myself from the pain and focus on my life, but there were times that the pain would break past my threshold and I was no longer able to hide it from people.

Eleventh grade I enrolled in dance class at my school and thought that if I was going to “try” to learn to dance I might as well try once more to figure out why my knee still hurt after 18 months of the initial RSD onset. I ended up seeing a doctor whose specialty was RSD though we did not know that at the time. After the initial meeting, within four hours of meeting this doctor, I was officially diagnosed with RSD in my left knee. I thought, okay this can go away with one of these treatments that the doctor wanted us to start trying right away; it was one tough year. So, treatments start, the school year starts, and everything is going ok. I do not know what to tell my friends so I do not tell them a whole lot. They just find me funny that I would become a log when we would have sleepovers; they would use me as a table to put the pizza on.

 I started missing more school days but I managed to keep up until the end of that year. I was desperate to have a job, so even though I was not that functional, I got a job for 9 months. It was fun getting the paycheck, but work was fast food, not rocket science. In twelfth grade I ended up having a teacher from my school come to my home to give me school work and tests so that I could graduate with my class, which I barely managed to do.

The pain and treatments that were supposed to help just left me isolated from the world, partly by my choosing and partly because I could not act normal with the raging fire in me all the time, so I turned inward.

I had a boyfriend I loved very much but as time went by we were not a compatible match for each other, and RSD became more of a main focus in my life which I am not so sure that was a good thing.

College time came and I just knew I had to go to college for all those wonderful fun 80’s movies that glamorized colleges, and besides, how was I going to work being sick all the time? I took one class a semester for 8 years after high school. I loved my college years and I made some off-color choices, but hey, I thought isn’t it in college that I can get away with shit? My grades were up and down because of the pain but it gave me the experience of a lifetime- taking my time to learn what I wanted to and figuring out what thrilled me to fight for more than just surviving this illness.

I was figuring out that I had found a passion to learn how to thrive. I was only identifying myself at that time as the girl with RSD, nothing more. It took me years to figure out how to stop identifying myself as that sick RSD woman.

I did, by my hairy son Randy (dog) and my hairy son Orion (cat), my hairy son Siries (cat), and through my hairy sister (dog) who in one form or another was sick. So, I started researching about pet health and focused on pet nutrition as it was something that I could do to affect their health. The love for business, invention, and innovation became my zest for life and I helped me to handle the illness.

It took years to get here- where I can see the future I want for myself, and know that I can have it. I would have what we call the “Lorado” me acting like a tornado being destructive against myself, my possessions and the people I loved. I was unable to control my emotions, and I would get really upset over anything, but really, I was just upset because I was miserable and extremely unhappy.

I was tired of being sick all the time (not like we ever get the choice), I was tired of feeling like the only life I might have is through other people, and tired of myself. So, I had to make a decision if I was going to “stay” I had to change me or more precisely change my thinking.

I read books by people who help people handle their moments in life. I started asking myself what I really wanted in life with or without RSD.  I took time to learn to know what I wanted and learned how to stop hating myself and RSD. I would pick a part of myself to like about me and over time I learned to love me and those around me more profoundly and deeply. RSD was no longer my calling card or any way to describe myself. I became Logan, just Logan.

Today, at twenty years, two months, and twenty days into RSD it helps make me, me.

I am becoming a successful business woman by helping to start up a company with my mom and brother, www.Blindsofbeauty.com the one and only company that sells and makes vertical blind slip covers. This is just one of the many companies I will be involved with creating and running. Believe it or not, it is because of RSD that Blinds of Beauty exists, my mom invented vertical blind slip covers as a way to cover the vertical slats that would leave my room even when they were closed blazing hot while I was going through blocks and treatment for the RSD and we were prohibited on our apartment lease from putting holes in the walls. It took a few years (15 years) to start the vertical blind slipcover company but it has been well worth the wait. Blinds of Beauty is giving me the job as the CFO among other responsibilities.  Life is pretty great for me now; I just had to find me.

It has been a work in progress to live my life with RSD, ignoring it to the best of my abilities (not always wise), loving the hairy children I have, giving life my whole heart, following my dreams, and having fun. I plan to run companies, adopt a few non-hairy children, have a wonderful partner, live my life on my own terms, enjoy the great moments and breathe through the rough moments.

*****

This week is the launch of Logan’s new website for her company, Blinds of Beauty. Please check it out. It is truly unique! I’m so honored to share Logan’s story here. She is one of the first people with RSD I “met” online over a decade ago, and we have been friends ever since. She is a beautiful person, inside and out, and she deserves every good thing this life has to offer!

Choosing Myself: One Year After Separation

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autumn chrysanthemum by Natalia Drepina

One year ago today, my husband decided he wanted to separate. For months after, I fought for my marriage alone, for the man I loved, and then…after months of silence, I realized I was standing alone with an untied knot in my hands. Everything was torn away from my life. I had to decide whether I would keep going on, or if the pain and loss was too much to bear. I made a decision to continue fighting, but this time, for myself. 

I wrote another post today in which I outlined May 1st of last year, and how the days and months unfolded with everyone’s shock and grief and the unexpected surprises to come which I could never have foreseen. But, I think I’ll save that piece for my journal as today I don’t want to look back thinking only of my ex-husband, and the loss of love. I’ve grieved him, our marriage, and our life together throughout the year. Today, I want to look back over the year and remind myself that I overcame everything I believed was utterly impossible to do alone. I want today to be another choice for myself. Next year, I want to celebrate this day as the beginning of letting go and starting fresh. Typing those words brings a few tears to my eyes, but I want them to be cleansing tears. I don’t know how to be just me without longing and loving and planning for 2 yet, but I will learn, and I have great expectations.

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Asperity by Natalia Drepina

The first thing I did when I came to stay with my parents was I made a doctor’s appointment. It’s the most difficult thing I have to do physically; only my ex had ever taken me before- and my doctors helped us avoid making the tremendously painful and exhausting trip by scheduling me months apart. After such an emotional shock, why did I want to go through a physically traumatic experience with an inexperienced caregiver? I guess I just had to prove to myself that I could do something impossible without him! I went out of my way to do as many impossible things as I could find while I was so emotionally fragile. I’ve been to several doctor’s appointments, I’ve had new tests, and I had been afraid of going back to the hospital, but I’ve since been twice this year. My body fighting me on the outside as I pushed it harder and harder seemed to match the feeling of my heart dying on the inside. 

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In the autumn hands by Natalia Drepina

My ex-husband was my caregiver for the last 4 years of our relationship. He knew what no one else could: about my condition, about my needs, about my doctors, about my life, about my heart, and he knew everything about my soul… I thought he did. When someone has spent years exploring the very depth of your soul, and can go to such lengths to reject you, no pain matches it. 

 

The loss has been cavernous. I first believed I wouldn’t be able to continue on living without him- practically or theoretically. Not because he supported me physically, but because he was my heart. After mustering the strength to ask my mother and father to help me do several impossible things, I went in search of both a professional caregiver and marriage counselor. That took me a great deal of courage to even allow a stranger to enter this room. I thought, how will I carry on a conversation? What if they can’t be quiet enough for my pain level? What if they don’t know how to touch me and injure me, spreading my condition? But I had to do these impossible things, as well. I had to allow a stranger bathe me, and help me dress, and prepare my meals. It was a point of my very survival to find someone else to help me with my basic needs. It could have been degrading and humiliating, but I was so stubborn in what I needed to allow for myself to live in my new normal, that the physical need mattered far more than my personal dignity.

Soon after, I began inviting visitors for the first time after coming to my parent’s home. It was terrifying at first. I can’t imagine what that’s like for them to remember me one way, dancing, hiking, laughing, and now, laying in a bed, startled by every sound and speck of light, grimacing in pain. Letting those I adore into my bubble felt impossible at first, but it’s another kind of exposure therapy that’s a lot more fun ! Seeing old friends is like a mirror through their eyes, and it can be tough emotionally, but it’s also exciting, and makes me feel more like the laughing, hiking, dancing me that they remind me I am still. My own mirror sees myself through the eyes of my ex now. Where there were once loving, gentle eyes, I see a look of disappointment and disgust. His eyes have always superseded others for as long as I can remember, but he’s not mine anymore, and I’m not his. I’m God’s, and in His eyes, I’m worthy, I’m valuable, and I’m fulfilling my life’s purpose by living it. 

My closest and oldest friend went through her own very difficult divorce in the year before I went through mine. They say, “God goes before us” and when I think of my sweet friend who has been walking her own hard path, checking in with me, and visiting often, I promise you that is true about the love of God lighting candles ahead of us. I’m grateful to be able to practice showing love to her at a time that I feel so empty of everything inside of me I used to be eager to give away. She has reminded me to keep pushing forward so many days that I felt alone. Having a friend who continues to tell you that you’re still the same person, you’re improving, and was willing to fight for me when I couldn’t fight for myself is more of an angel than just a friend. 

The short quiet visits I was only tolerating have turned into longer, more enjoyable visits I so look forward to. I started with home physical therapy, which has been an immense help in my progression, and I BELIEVE I’m going to be a functioning human being again- no matter how long it takes. While I do get frustrated with my body, I’m not worried about the time table, only that I make the goal. My parents allowing these people, and often strangers in and out of their home for me has been life-changing. I hate when people say that I’m better off without him, because now I’m able to utilize so many resources to improve, but I understand what they mean. I’m just thankful they are seeing improvement that I still need help seeing for myself. 

Every time I’ve wondered how I would pay a bill, how I could live without something I thought I needed, how I could go on without the people and pets I loved, God has always provided a solution, an answer, or a strength to live without. This consistency has lead me to rely on God coming through and has added to the peace in my spirit and courage to face the impossible with the safety net of the universe. 

Even though I’m not grateful I was forced into it, I’m grateful I was able to manage my own proceedings via electronic communication and courier to/from the lawyer. I had no idea how it would work with my condition, and just the thought of it regularly caused me anxiety. But again, God had the right lawyer in mind for me, who worked as my advocate, familiar with disability, even meeting at my home. I had a Power of Attorney to appear for me twice as my signatory, and my lawyer spoke on my behalf in my absence or with statements from me. Being disabled, you feel marginalized so often as it is. It’s as though you’re disappearing. Because of my condition, my movement, voice, independence, and freedom have been taken from me. I think that’s why it was so very important to me that I didn’t give away my privilege to speak for myself. The decisions, paperwork, and meetings were all so overwhelming, I was cognitively pushed to thinking in critical, complex ways I had not since the brain issues began. As much as the divorce may have damaged parts of my life, the process was a healing experience for my physical progress, and has propelled me forward in many positive aspects. I thought I would break apart as my heart broke more and more, but I’m proud of myself for getting through it, and managing my personal business.

Learning to be proud of myself is new. No one else is going to do that for me. I’m learning to encourage myself. No one else is going to remind me to take it easy and be gentle with myself. Giving to myself is a new concept, but I’m learning to view it as responsible and not selfish. I feel emptied of everything I was, and all I can do while I heal is continue on, pretending I’m a human being. The life I worked for and dreamed of is gone now. The slate is clean and I’m beginning to feel empowered and free to build back a completely different life. Some moments my heart aches, but at other times I’m revitalized thinking of the future of possibilities. 

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On the wings of the wind by Natalia Drepina

I started working at 15, graduated at 17, and left my parent’s home to travel the day after HS graduation… Now I’m back. I’m being cared for by my parents, learning to nurture myself, learning to walk again, my parents are making me food each day…it’s quite an irony! For me, this anniversary is truly a rebirth. 

Is it Still working for you?

I’m a pretty tough customer in physical therapy. But, the other day my physical therapist said something very poignant that gave me pause. I’d like to share it with you.

He said, because I’ve had chronic illness for so long, I’ve adopted so many coping strategies to help me through. So many techniques and methods I call my own to get me from one day to the next. (And here he is teaching this old dog new tricks.) However, he was right when he asked me, “Is all of this still working for you?”

Is it still working for you

You start collecting techniques from the very first moment you hear the word, “permanent” or “chronic.” Our doctors don’t help as quickly as our own shifts and wriggles take effect. Soon enough, you’ve built a pattern for yourself that is keeping you going. Over so many years, and multiple conditions, you better believe I have some modalities and some definite patterns! Are they still working for me?

Could they be holding me back?

Adaptation is paramount with chronic illness. You have to be able to rebuild in order to find purpose again, to find yourself again amid your ever-changing body. But as your body changes, does the structure that you built change with it?

For instance, if all you were once able to do is use the computer or your smart phone, maybe you grew a strong online network which gave you purpose. You could have done nothing instead, but you were brave and reached out to others online. It was incredible how much your work online distracted from your illness and impacted your life and the lives of others! It may have even saved your life. But as your body changes, you realize you can do more tactile work like crafting. Is spending as much time on the computer still working for you? Or, could it even be holding you back from moving more?

I have to go over so many of the coping tools I use- all of the amazing methods which have helped me to this point and ask this question. It’s spring after all; time for a spring cleaning of sorts. Is it STILL working? It may have saved my life last year, but will it take me to my next goal this year?

Dear Body, I’m breaking up with you

There are many things you can forgive your body for, but there are moments, relationships, days in life you miss which you will never get back, unforgettable, unforgivable events you are denied in the face of disability. My body is broken, and she continues to break my heart.

This is how those of us with chronic diseases struggle so deeply to have “self love.” Trapped inside bodies that attack us, and hearts which shoulder the guilt of our loved one’s pain from the hurt our illnesses have caused- child, love thyself. Love your abuser. Forgive the one which harms those you love the most. Forgive, forgive, forgive….

Body, you have taken my choices from me all of my adult life. Body, you are the abusive relationship I have never been able to flee. Body, you have stolen my health, my career, fun, freedom… my dreams. No permission was granted to you, yet you take all you touch. You are a jealous, volatile disease, and you only care about your own needs. I have suffered abuse and trauma at the hands of doctors on your account, though, you still batter me without compassion. I’ve been abandoned and made to feel worthless, INVISIBLE because of you body; I’ve had enough of your games!

Body, I break up with you. Sorry, not sorry.

I tear you from my soul and leave you. I will still care for you, because I am obligated. I am bound to you in ways I cannot choose, but I will no longer adore you. I will not call you my own. We are committed to one another, but I turn my back to you, body. From here on out, you will be “Body” and I will go forward being Me. 

This is my self love. This is my self compassion. This is my choice.

I rage against your victimization. Your assault on my essence is over. I choose to make my life despite you, in spite of you! 

I choose, I choose, I choose.

My flesh and bone surrenders, but my spirit rises up! Your reign, your emotional and psychological torture is over. Call it dissociation, call it compartmentalizing, call it what you will- it IS a detachment, and it is necessary.

I sign the papers and I box up your things. You can live in the basement and I will now and forevermore preside upstairs, in charge of THIS HOUSE.

Sign here X  _________________

Please support Rare Disease Day on February 29th. www.rarediseaseday.us

I always thought that I’d see you again

So it has been 9 months since my husband and I parted ways. For us it was not a gradual thing. Well, maybe for him it was….

[I’m going to get through this without talking about his personal details.]

On my end, I knew he had been struggling all year, and I was trying to be uplifting. One day, I was texting him love messages, silly photos (which are now just embarrassing), funny videos, and anything to try to help him smile at work. The very next day, I was living at my parents’, confused, and unsure what happened the day before, or why.

I don’t remember much about that conversation after he got home. I do remember messaging a friend in a daze asking what I should take with me, and Google searching: “what do you take in case of a fire.”

In some ways, 9 months has flown by, and in other ways, it has dragged on much too slowly. It has felt impossible at times for my heart to catch up to all that has occurred, the choices that were no longer mine to make, the quickly unraveling dreams that were out of my control. I was often reminded that I had experience with surrendering, and making peace with pain, and could do it again if forced to. (I think people with disabilities are resilient in that way, and though it feels like every day is a fight, we learn adaptability which is a gift!) On the other hand, I felt continually impatient. If you have ever waited for test results that would almost surely come back with an outcome you don’t want to hear, something within you cannot help but crave the knowledge of it, no matter how bad. Almost like the tree of good and evil. Waiting was like an itch I couldn’t scratch. A part of me wanted to know my future in certain terms, and with immediacy. The rest of me was at peace to wait a lifetime in limbo, however impractical that would be.

That afternoon was our last conversation as husband and wife; I didn’t know it was goodbye at the time. You may remember, I wrote A Season of Waiting just after. Now you know the inspiration behind the message.

And while so many months can seem like a very long time, with a new life emerging beneath me, there are still huge landmines that explode in my face when I least expect it. Several exploded from the mail box right after breakfast this morning. It was a hard day, but not the first, not the last, and I’ve certainly not seen the last good day either. The “process” ended just last month, but THIS process is only beginning.

I’m trying to grow accustomed to managing life on my own. …Without having someone to share these pitfalls and triumphs with. Loss and heartbreak is certainly not new to humans; and I will adjust to it better and better. I confide in God, and it is incredibly humbling to share my worries with the creator of the universe.

I’m thankful to be ending my day with you, eating bacon and drinking chocolate coconut milk. (I get to eat that kind of thing, because I have POTS… at least that’s my story.) That IS my story… at least part of it.

Have a good night. And avoid those landmines.

New page, Disabled and Divorced

PS, Check out the counter for my sister’s wedding at the bottom of the page. Getting close!

 

Gift Ideas for a Chronic Pain Warrior

Chronic Pain gift ideas

This gift guide is full of links to unique items to help you shop for your young, eclectic friend who just so happens to have Chronic Pain. *Starred shops are run by entrepreneurs with chronic pain.


 Socks

When I asked my friends with chronic pain what they’d really love for the holidays, they said SOCKS PLEASE! The catch? Most of us have finicky feet and like our socks to be just right. Here are some of the fancy sock suggestions straight from chronic pain fighters:

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Compression Socks by Support Plus

Smartwool.com has attractive and high quality over-knee socks and knee socks for women.

World’s Softest Socks by Hanes  has a nice selection of extra soft and comfy socks and slippers that come highly recommended by the owner of very sensitive feet. See Footsmart for in-store shopping.

Heat Holders come in thermal socks for both men and women, tights, and thermal leggings. If your loved one always has cold feet, these might be their new favorite sock!

Compression Socks are my personal fave for my own picky (angry, control-freak) feet. I love a toe-less compression garment like this thigh high version from Truform on Amazon. Today, you can also find fun printed compression socks, like the mild compression socks from SupportPlus as pictured above. Compression socks help with circulation, swelling, and sensitivity, however keep in mind, not everyone can tolerate wearing tight socks.


Armwear

For those who have chronic pain in the upper extremities, supportive arm and hand gear can be difficult to find. Period. Throw in the need for protective cold weather wear and add the desire for attractive pieces that fit your loved ones personality…you get the idea. Unlike easy-to-hide protective legwear and therapeutic socks, the arms and hands are not as easy to disguise. Here are a few gift ideas and shops to help you find a protective garment that your loved one would be proud to sport.

These super soft Cashmere Fingerless Gloves/Arm Warmers by Blumen Kinder Seattle on Etsy are fitted, to the elbow (or over), and are available in multiple colors. These were another item my friends said they are hoping they receive for Christmas. I can’t think of anything softer or more luxurious than cashmere…. (Sorry, that was just me luxuriating.)

What about the boys? I scoured the internet looking for men’s long cashmere fingerless gloves/arm warmers and found them at Turtle Doves in the UK as well as the Etsy shop Lain Design in 100% soft gray cashmere! You’re welcome guys.

For those who prefer the protection and swelling control of compression wear for their arms, check out the shop Lymph Divas on Amazon. They make original tattoo-design compression sleeves for women that everyone will envy.

This full length compression sleeve from Juzo is advertised as “extremely soft against the skin.” Made from silicon, it conforms to the skin and moves with it, adding a thin layer of protection and light compression. It comes in various tones including chocolate brown and light beige.


Books

In my last gift guide, I advised shoppers to steer clear of books that tell people with any illness how they can become well again or heal. On the flip side, there are excellent books to read for LIVING with chronic pain, managing the symptoms, and coping with emotions and relationships in the new changing body.

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Author/Poet Mary Jane Gonzales is a long-time chronic pain fighter and advocate for chronic pain awareness. She has published several soulful books related to living with pain; my personal favorite (thus far) is *Poetic Devotions for those in Pain, which touches at the heart of life with painful degenerative illness, loss, relationships, and connecting to personal faith in the midst of struggle. After reading, I shared this ebook with several friends, not all of whom had chronic pain and they also loved it and related to it. Available on PDF ebook and Nook.

In 2013, Cynthia Toussaint of ForGrace.org and Women in Pain foundation wrote her inspiring memoir, *Battle for Grace. For more than a decade, Toussaint has been an activist for the rights of people with chronic pain after her own life as a professional ballet dancer was changed forever. Read about her long time relationship with her partner, the loss of her body, and how she found new purpose and passion through her bewildering conditions, including CRPS. Available in paperback and ebook.

The Measure of our Days and The Anatomy of Hope are not books about Chronic Pain, however I wanted to include them here as gift ideas. They made an impact on me in the first years after my diagnosis and I have never forgotten them. Multiple, real life, patient-centered stories depicting how people find hope in the face of rare and terminal conditions might speak to you or your loved one as they spoke to me over 11 years ago.

Or, give your loved one a gift card so they can download the ebooks on their wish list. Visit this page for a comprehensive list of books from the American Chronic Pain Association.


Distraction Therapy Gifts

What most people call “hobbies,” people with chronic pain call “distraction techniques.” These are captivating projects which don’t take too much physical endurance but help us busy our minds and hands as a method to fight against pain overtaking us. Creative art projects, crafting, playing video games, playing musical instruments, doing puzzles, board games, cooking, digital editing, and coloring or painting in adult coloring books are some of the ways in which we might distract ourselves from pain.

Recently, scrapbooking and journaling merged to create a new trend in beautiful artistic journals. People can document their lives by incorporating writing, painting, drawing, photos, and collage. If you know someone who might be interested in a project like this, pick up a Smash Book at a Kohl’s or Wal Mart.


Comfort Items

Since we have to spend a great deal of time at home resting and recovering, comfort is key! Think about the coziest, softest thing you’d like to snuggle up with, and that’s a great place to start shopping. I prefer vibrant colors in my room and faux fur anywhere my hands wander.

 

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Check out this Blanket Foot Tent at Sears for $22. If the touch of the linens keep your loved one awake at night like many of us with Allodynia (pain to touch), this awesome tool might help your loved one get some added zzz’s.

On the flip side, a weighted blanket might solve their “comforter anxiety” as my friends and I like to call it. These blankets will stay put and are known to reduce anxiety and increase Serotonin by adding gentle weighted pressure. They are also made with very soft fibers which are attractive to anyone with chronic pain. Find a wide selection of colors at the brand new shop, *Comfort Hugs on Etsy.

There are so many wedges for the bed. Some go underneath our legs, to prop our legs up, special pillows to rest between our knees. We have wedges for our backs, and piles of pillows we shift all around to try to get comfortable. It’s difficult to suggest one kind of wedge or pillow that might add to your loved one’s comfort. However… a giant teddy bear might be a great and unexpected fill-in, and a really comforting and sweet gift, too!


Therapeutic

In my last gift list, I noted the wonderful benefits of epsom salt baths for aches, pains, and spams. However, bath soaks are not possible for everyone with chronic pain conditions, unfortunately. This unscented Epsom Salt lotion from Morton Salt allows for your loved one to get the benefits of Epsom without the need to get in and out of a hot tub of water. It is available at Wal Mart and Walgreens for about $8.

Guided Meditations for Chronic Pain on audio is a nice add-on item or stocking stuffer for anyone with pain. Stay clear of the ones that claim to “cure.” Instead, look for guided meditations, mindfulness, or visualizations aimed to help “manage” or “cope” with chronic pain. Mindful Meditations for Pain Relief has excellent reviews online by pain patients. Though I have never tried this particular audio book myself, I do utilize mindfulness and meditation as a coping strategy for my own pain.

If you spend a little time digging, you can find some of the coolest adapted walking aids! The flames cane featured above is from the shop, Fashionable Canes which was made popular after replicating Doctor House’s canes. Similarly, the shop Cast Coverz has a wide selection of fun and eclectic crutch covers and walker covers to reflect your loved one’s personal style.

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These items might seem silly, but personal hygiene is one of the most frustrating and tiring parts of the day with chronic pain. Here are a few personal care items meant to help reduce the strain and pain of getting ready. If your loved one has trouble with her hands or arms, this EZ Comb is not only easy to put in, it’s simply a great hair accessory! It does the same work as clips, ponytail holders, and fancy hair combs, but one adjustable hair piece does all the work. If holding a hair dryer and comb is a daunting task, this wild-looking contraption might help her get ready with less pain. If this Soft Hood Bonnet seems too extreme, there are also hair dryer holders available to install. What about a spinning, heated, blowing hairbrush by John Freda? It seems like a must for anyone who has pain or weakness in one arm/hand.



 

Awareness 

 

awareness tees

Zazzle.com/MixyPixie Awareness Tees

If it comes with a ribbon, shares information about your loved one’s condition, or encourages your loved one, then it falls under the category of “awareness.” They are everywhere these days, and many shops will even customize an item with your particular ribbon color (if you ask nicely).

The Etsy shop, *Tea Bag Embroidery creates sweet little awareness satchels for carrying medication and cell phone. With messages like “Fibro Hope” and “RSD Sucks,” these are truly functional items which spread awareness wherever you go.

There is an array of t-shirts and sweat shirts with awareness ribbons and funny sayings to choose from. Big online stores like Zazzle and Cafepress have a huge selection of awareness apparel, mugs, cell phone covers, etc. with original designs by various sellers. My own shop on *Zazzle.com is pictured above and donates a portion of its proceeds to RSDS.org.

I also wanted to share this new collection of “empathy” cards from *Emily McDowell. If you have never known just the perfect thing to say to your friend struggling with a serious illness, but you want them to know you always have their back, these cards are funny, sweet, beautiful, and say it all. Like this one:

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EmilyMcDowell.com Empathy Cards

No matter what you decide to give to your loved one with chronic pain, your support and un-moving presence in their lives is immeasurable to them. Your friendship is a gift!


To see funny chronic illness gifts and fantastic adaptive tools to help your loved one around the house, visit my Pinterest boards: Spoonie Gifts and PJ Chic. Read my last gift guide here for gift do’s and don’ts when shopping for your Chronic pals. Thank you for visiting,

Happy Holidays!

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