Monthly Archives: April 2015

Self-care and Actualization

Do not curse the darkness. Light a candle.
-Ancient Proverb

Things are not going my way, as of late. I have to move home, temporarily- that’s the part I have to remember, temporarily. I withdrew from classes less than a year ago. Six months ago, I was living on my own, planning to go back to school in the spring, planning to go back to my summer job. Now, I’m too sick to get up a lot of mornings. My illness is too unpredictable to have a schedule, to have a “life” like most people have lives.

Temporarily, I am resting, withdrawing from the life I was living before. I am bigger than my circumstances, and stronger than my illness. I am in an undesirable situation, but I am strong enough to get out of it. I will not wait, I will not sulk. I will make small goals, and do everything I need to do to rise above this situation. I spoke before about “climbing small mountains.” Now, it’s more important than ever. People with chronic fatigue find ways to function in the world that make them feel happy and fill, and I know I can do the same. In order to find peace with an illness (or any other personal handicap) you have to reach high levels of understanding and achievement in two areas: self-care, and actualization.

Image Source: 21st Century Tech
Image Source: 21st Century Tech

Self-care involves gaining awareness yourself, your body, and acting based on your needs. We live busy, tense, rushed lives, and forget to honor our bodies and the work they do for us. If you don’t have adequate knowledge of your body and its needs, you aren’t harnessing all of it’s skills, nor are you giving it the resources it needs to fulfill tasks. You’re running a car on oil that needs changing, tires with no tread, and old brake pads. The car will still run, but not as well as it should. You aren’t respecting the machine, and eventually, it will have a bigger problem that needs immediate attention. Our bodies do a lot of work for us, and they need to be acknowledged and tended to. On top of that, our society tells us to hate the amazing vessels that give us the abilities to function. We are always too skinny, too fat, not tan enough, too much arm flab, not enough abs. Screw that noise. You can walk, run, travel to Africa, laugh, breathe- your body gives you all those abilities and you insist that it isn’t good enough because it doesn’t look like Adriana Lima’s? Check yourself.

loveyourbody_healthychicks

Actualization involves knowledge of your personal character, as well as the steps that must be taken in order to keep progressing and achieving. You have to know what you need as an individual, and how you want to act within a society. People need to feel accomplished, worthy, and productive. That doesn’t necessarily mean that every idea of “accomplishment” is logical or correct. We’re confronted with a lot of ideas of success that aren’t for everyone. For example, volunteering for charity may be more rewarding to one person than being the CEO of a company. Again, it’s all related to self-awareness. Know what you need and where you fit in. If you don’t know yet, climb small mountains along the way.

These elements may seem contradictory, when they’re really not. You don’t have to deny yourself care or comfort in order to be productive and successful. In fact, you have to do one to do the other. If you don’t take care of yourself, you won’t have the resources to reach actualization goals. If you don’t keep achieving actualization goals, you won’t feel like you deserve self-care (the goal is to know you always deserve self-care, but most people need reminders).

I am here, in this world, just as I deserve to be. I deserve to take care of myself. I deserve happiness, and I will keep moving and progressing until I make a difference in this world.

Lifestyle Changes to Boost Your Brain and Body

Happy Easter, Everyone! In accordance with the new blog direction that I mentioned in my last post, I’ve decided to share some lifestyle changes I’ve discovered that help me cope with my disability.

Yoga: Yoga is a huge game-changer for me. When practiced on a regular basis, it helps my muscle pain ridiculous amounts- more so than any medication, and more than any other exercise (although exercise alone is extremely important in recovery). It also helps maintain mental clarity, and boosts focus and self confidence. Yoga is all about respecting and honoring yourself, even in sickness. You can tailor routines to fit your needs, and you can always use a supporting block or a modified pose when you’re having too much pain or weakness. Routines are designed to help the body strip off the pollutants and burdens of life, and reach a state of elevated health, strength, and relaxation. It’s all about celebrating the life inside you, and bringing you to a heightened level of respect and knowledge of yourself and your body.

I am so zen...
I am so zen…

Zentangling: Zentangling is a type of meditative drawing that’s really helpful in eliminating the brain fog and stress that tend to accompany chronic illness. It’s sort of like yoga on paper. It involves drawing with repetitive motions that result in visually pleasing abstract “tiles” of art. It’s a good way to kill time in a waiting room, and it’s also really effective for stress relief. Another bonus: you feel accomplished once you’ve finished each piece. Anything that helps you feel productive and skilled when your resources are down is a good thing for the chronically ill.

Lizardtangle

Reading: I loved to read even before I got sick, but now it’s a vital part of my self-care. Before, I was going to class, seeing friends, getting constant sources of new information right in my face all the time. Now, I have to dig for those types of stimuli, but books are a way to keep my curiosity moving and my mind sharp. They are also a good distraction for when symptoms get bad, and they don’t take much physical energy.

Fault in our Stars

Diet: Listening to your body is the most important component to any healthy diet. You’ve heard it before. Unfortunately, “listening to your body” gets a little more tricky when you’re sick, and it also involves more restriction than someone with a healthy body might have to endure. Avoiding the standard “junk foods,” e.g., anything with cheese powder, MSG, or hydrogenated fats will help you feel better no matter what your health base is. Additionally, I’ve found that I do better with less carbs (not a fad low-carb diet) since I’ve been sick. I’ve also developed allergies to dairy, almonds, and certain fruits. If you have symptoms of chronic illness, it might benefit you to have food sensitivity testing. Overall, though, you’ll hear a ton of information about which foods are “evil” and “the perfect human diet” and there really is no such thing. Food in our culture involved too much guilt and too many fads; the most important thing is eating what makes you feel good, and when you feel hungry. If you’re craving red meat, your body probably needs the iron. If you want sugar, have some fresh fruit, but don’t deny yourself the occasional ice cream or brownie (even if it needs to be coconut milk- based or gluten free).

New Blog Direction and the Chronic Fatigue Community

I’ve decided to make a few changes to the blog. I’d like to become more a part of the Chronic Fatigue and Fibromyalgia awareness community on the web. I want to be more connected with my audience, and to start giving more practical advice and insight as to what remedies I’m trying, and to what knowledge I’ve gained from books, doctors, and other bloggers. I want the blog to start being an actual blog with a presence among the great interwebs, instead of just acting as a quiet outlet for me- a step above a journal.

I’ve been hesitant sharing my blog and gaining publicity because I’m unsure about my diagnosis, as well as the labels Chronic Fatigue and Fibromyalgia. I think they are blanket phrases that refer to a variety of symptoms, without considering their more specific lifestyle and infectious causes. In other words, I think there is a cause for my illness, such as bacterial or parasitic infection that was missed by Western medical testing. When my illness wasn’t explained by the standard list of tests, it was labeled “Chronic Fatigue” which basically means “I have the symptoms that anyone with a compromised immune system would have after such prolonged suffering.” “Fibromyalgia” is the intense muscle pain and weakness that often accompanies chronic fatigue.

My conclusion? I think there is more to learn, and more to fight for. I don’t accept Chronic Fatigue and Fibromyalgia as adequate explanation. However, I do think that having a vague diagnosis helps connect me to more information and other sufferers with similar symptoms. I also think that an online community is an effective design for channeling new information and positive resources among activists. My goal is for the blog to take some new steps in becoming part of such a community.

Greatest Wisdom