Managing grief successfully can help you cope with health difficulties.
Five Ways I Became an Expert on My Chronic Illness
Becoming an expert on your illness can help you cope.
Managing chronic illness requires becoming an expert on your health in order maintain normalcy and to deal with challenges as they arise. Further, taking responsibility for your health empowers you to advance your quality of life, reduce helplessness, and promote self-esteem.
Choosing to Be an Expert
When I was first diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis and fibromyalgia more than five years ago, I wanted someone to tell me that living with chronic illness would get easier. I wanted a quantifiable measuring tool to tell me where my life would be in a year or five years or even ten years.
Over time, I found that both the best scenarios and the worst ones are in my control. While I didn’t know what the future would hold for my health, I could still believe that I did have some control over my life. I could either live with my conditions day-to-day, responding to and dwelling on the changes and symptoms as they happen, or I could take charge and become an expert on my diseases.
Chronic illness takes its toll – and not just physically.
The psychological needs of people with chronic illness are often overlooked and patients find themselves dealing with an uncertainty that often makes coping difficult. Patients struggle with emotional stress caused by illness along with anxieties towards the future and the type of support needed.
Psychological needs that must be addressed include working towards making sense of a life after diagnosis, managing stress and emotional health and realizing that chronic illness affects loved ones.
Read more at Arthritis Connect.
Tips to Manage Arthritis
Chronic illness is an unwelcome and permanent guest. How you cope depends entirely on your willingness to make room for chronic illness in your life. This might sound unusual or seem impossible, but it is critical to coping and having a fulfilling life alongside your chronic condition.
Here are five ways to help you make room for chronic illness.
1. Allow yourself to grieve.
Grieving is not an easy process and no one just quickly adjusts then never grieves again. Your grief over your chronic illness is always with you and often times, you will find that you will alternate between acceptance and denial and you will continue to relive the process over and over for the rest of your life. Acknowledging that your grief is normal, healthy, and acceptable is the first step in making room in your life for chronic illness. Doing so also allows you more control over your health and your ability to manage your disease.
2. Understand that accepting and adapting takes time.
Acceptance isn’t something that happens overnight. As you make the changes your illness requires, you will find that you become more open to adapting to your new life. Doing so will allow you to become truly aware of your loss. You should take steps to manage your health and think about how your chronic illness will affect you. Further, by expressing anger, worry and even sadness, you are allowing yourself to perceive the situation and the parts of your life that you feel you have lost. You may even question why this has happened to you and wonder where you will go from here. In end, the final result will always be acceptance. Accept that your feelings towards your loss will not be deep forever and that you will learn to adjust to changes and manage your disease. Over time, you learn to establish and live with new routines and with your new found flexibility, change becomes easier. Slowly and surely, you are making room for chronic illness.
3. Don’t lose yourself.
When patients are newly diagnosed, they can feel like the illness takes all their time and energy. That happens because you are trying to work through emotions towards your illness and you are trying to create a relationship with your disease. You feel as if you are tripping and stumbling as you make sense of your new life and sometimes, that can lead to depression. If you find that you are constantly feeling like you are losing yourself, consider talking to a therapist. Talking to a professional can help you to resolve your feelings and anxieties towards your illness without any fear of judgment. Making room for illness doesn’t mean you tough things out or to try to dismiss your emotional state of mind. Instead, by allowing yourself to get the help you need and deserve, you making a positive difference in living with and managing your illness.
4. Be honest with yourself and loved ones about your chronic Illness.
By learning all you can about your illness, you are attempting to figure out your relationship with it. Create a routine where you take time out, whether it is once a week or once a day, to think about what you are experiencing and feeling. You can write things down and or just close your eyes and reflect on whether your feelings are proactive or damaging. You can designate a small area in your home and keep the rest of your home an illness-free zone. You can also use the same place to sit and talk to loved ones about how you are feeling and what you’re experiencing so that they are not in the dark. By taking the time to recognize feelings and emotions, you are another step in the right direction towards incorporating chronic illness in your daily life.
5. Change your Perspective.
You cannot make room for chronic illness in your life if you are not willing to change your perspective about it. You may not control some aspects of illness but you can change your point of view about it. For example, if you are no longer able to play a musical instrument because your hands constantly hurt, find an interest in composing music or attending concerts of your favorite genre. Or share your passion and experience with others by teaching music. Find a way to keep what you are passionate about in your life and don’t let chronic illness take that passion away from you. If you are willing to change how you feel about your chronic illness, you can work with it rather than against it.
Own Up to Feelings and Emotions About Your Illness
Making room for chronic illness in your life can be difficult because of the physical limitations imposed . However, if you are willing to work alongside your illness, rather than against it, you will find yourself stronger and more open to having a better quality of life. Just remember, you will always have control over your feelings and emotions even when you don’t always feel in control of your illness. Owning up to these feelings will allow you to successfully make room for your chronic illness in your life.
Originally Posted at Arthritis Connect.
“We Are Not Alone and We Are Good Parents”
Five years ago, shortly after my second son was born, my life was thrown a curve ball. I woke up one morning to all over body pain, unable to walk. My hands were curled into fists. I was caught unprepared. While I had dealt with unexplained symptoms and pain for a number of years prior, I did not have a diagnosis and my symptoms had never been this severe.
In that morning, I went from being a young mother to being chronically ill. My pain and symptoms were so bad I could barely hold my newborn. I needed my mothering instincts to kick in and I could barely take care of myself. If not for my sister, those first months after my diagnosis would have been even harder.
Uncertain about My Parenting
Even though much time has passed, every now and then, I find myself uncertain about my parenting abilities. I wonder if I am coping effectively enough with my RA and fibromyalgia to be the parent my children need and deserve.
I might be chronically ill, but I am still my children’s mother, and parenting often requires that I take attention away from myself and give it to my children who need me more. I am different than healthy parents because I parent with pain and fatigue on a near daily basis.
I am not the only one who suffers from the effects of my chronic illnesses. My sons, like other children with chronically ill parents, have many questions and insecurities about the future. The best I can offer them is my honesty and openness about the impact of chronic illness on all of our lives. I know providing age appropriate answers to children is not an easy task, but it is necessary to put children at ease.
What My Kids Question
My 5-year-old sees my chronic illnesses in the present. He has never known a healthy mother and his questions have more to do with how I am feeling now versus how I will feel tomorrow or in the long term. He understands that sometimes Mommy hurts, or that she is too tired to play with him. What he doesn’t understand is that I am chronically ill and that I will be for the rest of our lives.
My teen, however, understands that permanence. He knows I am chronically ill and that I will be sick for the rest of my life. While he doesn’t necessarily understand the specifics of my illnesses, he has questions about the future and whether things will get worse for me. He worries about schedules and routines and often asks to help out. He needs reassurance that someone will always be there for he and his brother and he wants to believe that will always be me.
I may not have the answers to all their questions, but experience has taught me that my attempts at honesty hold more value than dismissing my sons with an “I don’t know,” or telling them, “Tomorrow will be better,” when I’m not sure that will be true. I’m not sure how I will address their concerns when they are older and if my health worsens. I just know their lives are not easy or normal because I am not healthy.
Being chronically ill may have changed me, but it has also changed my children. I know my children are kind and understand empathy more than most children their age. I know they value honesty and openness and are sensitive and caring. And, as they get older, I know they will be better prepared for life’s obstacles as a result of the lessons we have learned as a family, dealing with and managing the effects of chronic illness.
I, too, have learned some valuable lessons. I have learned that removing guilt is best for my children and me. I cannot be the parent they need and deserve if I feel guilty that I am sick. Moreover, I know I cannot fight flare-ups. I just have to allow flare-ups to run their course so I can recover and go back to giving 100 percent to my children.
I know hiding my symptoms from my children only scares them. By sharing what I am feeling, I am allowing them to feel involved and I remove uncertainty. Further, I have found my children are more resilient and more empathetic than I ever imaged they would be.
I have learned to appreciate the days where I feel healthy, strong and on top of my game, and I have learned to make those days count.
Finally and most importantly, I know that being sick does not make me a bad parent. If anything, I try even harder to make my parenting count.
We Are Not Alone and We Are Good Parents
There are millions of parents living with chronic illnesses and trying to balance being sick and raising children. We are not alone and we are good parents. We are responsible for both our own health and for our children’s security. That means we continue to be parents despite chronic illness and we pay particular attention to how our children are affected. Sometimes that means parenting through the pain and fatigue in order to offer them a sense of normalcy, and other times it means leaving the channels of communication open between you and them.
Much has transpired since those first few months after my diagnosis. Since then, I have learned to better manage my disease with medication and good nutrition choices. While I am not asymptomatic, my chronic illnesses have not taken away my ability to be employed or to care for my children. Granted, I have had many moments in the past few years where I questioned my ability to balance my chronic illnesses and my parenting. Nonetheless, knowing that I am raising kind, caring, honest and prepared children allows me to question my parenting less.
Originally posted at Arthritis Connect.
The Chronic Fatigue Cure is the latest book by Susan M. Lark, M.D., bestselling author and one of the most renowned women’s alternative medicine experts. This is great resource contains an all-natural treatment plan to help you get relief from the symptoms of chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia, depression and other conditions that cause pain and extreme fatigue.
A natural treatment plan can help you manage symptoms without the side effects of medications. Dr. Lark shares information on symptoms, causes, and risk factors as well as information about how stress, diet and other physical factors affect symptoms. Dr. Lark also shares a two-step diet with specific meal plans and recipes that help you to minimize pain, fatigue and depression.
I found the evaluating your lifestyle habits charts extremely helpful to me. In the eating habits charts, there was a complete list of foods that help in decreasing symptoms. It is definitely a good list to help you plan meals and take with you on shopping trip. There is also to list of foods about that increase symptoms and this can really help you to figure out how to minimize and eliminate these foods from your diet. The recipe also includes a helpful shopping list of healthy foods and these are not anything special. They are the things you can pick up at your trip to the grocery store and include fruits, veggies, lean meats, healthy drinks, herbs and more. I really found this list to be helpful.
I also found the chapter on amino acids, vitamins, minerals & herbs a very helpful resource. Nutritional supplements can definitely play a vital part in treatment and management of conditions such as fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome. There is a great chart in this chapter that shows which specific vitamins help each condition. And if you would prefer not to take supplements, there is a great list of vitamin rich specific foods towards the end of the chapter.
Dr. Lark also dives into other ways you can manage your condition including relaxation and stress relief meditations to help you to have a positive state of mind and reduce stress in your life. She also goes into precise exercises and stretches with useful photos and diagrams.
This a great resource for anyone trying to better their health, and not just persons living with chronic illnesses. You can purchase Dr. Susan’s Solutions: The Chronic Fatigue Cure through my fine retailers including Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and other fine book online retailers.
About the Author
Susan M. Lark, M.D. is one of the leading authorities in the fields of alternative health and preventative medicine for women. She is the strongest advocate of healthy, safe alternative therapies to restore women’s health for a dynamic and fulfilling life. Her innovative approach to many complex women’s health issues has earned her a stellar reputation among physicians, patients, and consumers alike. Dr. Lark‘s vision and mission are to provide women with the most helpful and up-to-date education and information as well as the most effective therapies and complementary products that will enable them to greatly enhance their personal health and well-being. Dr. Lark graduated from Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine, and served on the clinical faculty of Stanford University Medical School.
I did not receive compensation for this review. I was provided a free book from in exchange for my review.
Try These Pain- Fighting Super Foods
Arthritis treatment is aimed at fighting inflammation through the use of anti-inflammatory medications and with good nutrition choices. When it comes to specific foods you should be eating, an anti-inflammatory diet works best for people with arthritis.
Eating these foods can help you to reduce inflammation and minimize arthritis symptoms.
Fatty Fish and Fish Oil
Omega-3 fatty acids, found in fatty fish, are helpful in managing arthritis because they help to reduce the formation of compounds that create inflammation and they also increase the production of good chemicals that limit inflammation. There have been numerous reported cases where arthritis patients who consumed daily omega-3 dietary supplements were able to discontinue high doses of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs or disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs, this according to The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.1
The American Heart Association recommends eating three to four ounces of fish, twice a week, but for people with arthritis, more can help with reducing and preventing inflammation. Some examples of fatty fish that contain high levels of omega-3s include salmon, sardines, anchovies, halibut, tuna, and trout. Fish oil supplements can also offer an advantage to reducing joint pain and swelling for all arthritis patients and disease activity and morning stiffness in rheumatoid arthritis patients.
A study out of the Department of Epidemiology, University of Athens Medical School, Greece established that olive oil may reduce the risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis and minimize inflammation and disease activity in patients who already have the disease.2 This is because olive oil contains oleocanthal, which has been known for its anti-inflammatory properties. Extra virgin olive oil is the best source of oleocanthal since it is less refined and it also retains nutrients as a result of its limited processing. You should add two to three tablespoons per day to your salads and other dishes for the best benefit.
Fruits and Veggies
Anti-oxidants are the body’s natural defense system and work to help neutralize free radicals that can damage cells. Fruits and vegetables are loaded in anti-oxidants, and by eating nine or more servings per day, you can help your body to fight inflammation. The best options include colorful foods, such as blackberries, cherries, and strawberries, and greens, including spinach, kale and broccoli.
Nuts are included in the Mediterranean diet, which has been known to reduce inflammation within a few weeks’ time. Nuts are loaded with inflammation fighting healthy fats. Most nuts, especially almonds, are rich in fiber, vitamin E, and calcium. Walnuts are heavy in omega-3 fats. Further, all varieties are loaded with antioxidants.
Beans are loaded with fiber and fiber helps to lower CRP, an indicator that there is inflammation in the body. In addition to being an anti-inflammatory, beans are loaded in antioxidants and are also a great source of protein. Further, they contain folic acid and several minerals including iron and zinc. The recommended amount is two cups per week and the best options are garbanzo, red kidney, pinto and black beans.
Spices and Herbs
Studies have shown that some of the most common spices found on your spice rack are effective in fighting in inflammation. Ginger, turmeric, garlic, cayenne, and onions all have anti-inflammatory properties and they can easily be added to your diet.
Should You Avoid Nightshades?
Nightshade vegetables, such as tomatoes, potatoes and eggplant, contain solanine, a chemical blamed for causing inflammation and arthritis pain. While there is no scientific evidence to back this up, many arthritis sufferers have reported a decrease of arthritis symptoms once nightshades have been removed from their diets. If you notice that your arthritis flares up after eating nightshades, you can confirm this by cutting all nightshades from your diet for at least two weeks. If you see an improvement in symptoms, you are sensitive to nightshades and avoiding nightshades might help you to reduce pain and other arthritis symptoms.
You can help fight inflammation by staying away from foods that are often associated with inflammation such as processed and fried foods and nightshades, if necessary. If you eat more of the good stuff, such as fish, veggies, fruits, beans, nuts and spices, you can help to decrease the activity of the cox-2 enzyme, which is the main culprit of inflammation. A healthier diet will also help you to lose weight and because fat cells produce cytokines – more stuff that promotes inflammation – losing weight will also help to reduce inflammation in your body.
2 Linos A, Kaklamanis E, Kontomerkos A, et al. (1999, Dec.) “Dietary factors in relation to rheumatoid arthritis: a role for olive oil and cooked vegetables?” The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Retrieved fromhttp://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/70/6/1077.long
Originally posted at Arthritis Connect.
Chronic illness affects every member of the family. It disrupts family life, puts a strain on finances and creates painful emotions. Nevertheless, it is possible to maintain a positive atmosphere as you cope and manage life at home.
Here are seven tips to help family members meet the challenges brought upon by chronic illness.
Revise Expectations of Family Life.
Family life will no longer resemble what it used it be or what you once expected it to be. You can still be there for your family but adjustments will have to be made. In order to move on and to change your life path, you need let go of the expectations you once had for yourself and for loved ones. Holding on to the idea of the lives we had or planned doesn’t allow us to live in the present and to handle what is real.
Learn to Put Your Needs Ahead of Others.
Putting your needs ahead of children and a spouse is a tough choice, but it is a necessary one. While our families need us, they also need us to be strong, healthy and around for the long term. In order to do that, we must care for ourselves and learn to put our health first.
Deal with Fatigue and Symptoms.
Different treatment options will help you to ease fatigue and symptoms. Light daily exercise and decreasing your workload will help you to reduce and manage stress. Your workload should be at a level that helps you to balance your health alongside your life and family demands.
Ask for Help.
Asking for help and accepting help can be a challenge for many people with chronic illness. But there are big benefits to accepting help. These include decreasing isolation when you are part of a support community, getting the help you need, such as getting to appointments or getting your home cleaned, and allowing others to feel useful. Remember, help is available but you have to be willing to seek it and ask for it.
It is important to be constantly aware of your family’s financial situation. You should learn all you can about your medical insurance so as to keep medical costs low. Talk to your doctor if you are struggling to pay for medications because he or she can offer medication samples, write prescriptions for generics, and even offer information about medication assistance programs. Moreover, you should prioritize your bills and expenses and always pay bills on time to avoid late fees. Last, balance your checkbook and keep track of your spending so you do not overstretch your finances.
Consider Chronic Illness Counseling.
Chronic illness counseling can help people cope with the emotional challenges brought on by their diseases. Living with a chronic condition can disrupt daily routines, overstretch family finances and create conflicts. Further, patients and their family members can struggle with depression and anxiety as a result of chronic illness’s affect on their daily lives. Counseling can help the household deal with the initial shock of the diagnosis, teach stress reduction and coping strategies and improve self-esteem.
Be Open to a Positive Experience.
Life can be still be positive despite the challenges brought on by chronic illness. Because chronic illness is here for the rest of our lives, it is important to have a positive outlook. Positive living might seem difficult but it is necessary for coping and avoiding depression. Being open to a positive experience allows you think positively about your disease and your life. You decide to cherish life and you start living rather than wallowing in self-pity. You make the choice to look at life differently and you rearrange your plans so you can still accomplish what you need and want out of life. Remind yourself that everything happens for a reason and that you can still have control of your life. In thinking positively, you are working toward a better quality of life for yourself and your loved ones.
Originally posted at Arthritis Connect.
Living with chronic illness and finding ways to make your life better requires an approach that is both realistic and positive. “Wait,” you might think, “How does one use chronic illness to better their life?” It is possible.
My Coping Strategies
Here are the five ways I have used chronic illness to improve my own life.
1. I allowed myself to grieve and heal.
I recognized that grief is just as important as healing. I allowed myself to grieve the loss of being healthy and having an identity of good health. I have mourned and I have permitted myself to feel denial, anger, frustration and sadness. I knew all these emotions were an important part of working towards healing and finding a better quality of life despite chronic illness.
I also learned that healing is both physical and emotional. Often times, we need more than just medicine to help our bodies get to a better state of health. Having a meaningful and rewarding life often requires recognizing that healing is all around us. We must allow ourselves to heal by connecting to nature, to God or with people who can help us to rebuild our inner strength and mend our souls.
2. I chose to appreciate life.
Having had my life changed by chronic illness in my early 30s, I know all too well the value of appreciating all life has to offer. Former President John F. Kennedy once said, “As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.” I know that even if I cannot find a reason to appreciate chronic illness, I can still appreciate the ways that it has changed my life for the better. This is because chronic illness becomes a way of life that allows you to see what really matters, how important loved ones are and how to find blessings in the smallest of life’s gifts.
3. I chose to accept what I could not control and to control what I could.
I have allowed myself to accept that chronic illness is just one part of my life. Accepting it does not mean I hate my life or that I give in to my diagnoses. It means that I choose to feel my emotions about my illnesses while I work to manage my health and enjoy a different, yet good quality of life. I have learned that by building acceptance for what is out my hands and for being compassionate towards my experiences, I can redevelop myself. Moreover, I have found strength I never knew I had before.
Living with chronic illness may have closed some doors for me but it has also brought with it many unanticipated opportunities. Further, it has allowed me to take inventory of the standards I set for myself and of the goals I strive to achieve. I know what is important in my life and how to commit myself towards my goals. Last, I am well aware of the possibility of unexpected stress or medical problems that may arise and interfere with my ambitions. In being conscious to potential problems, I am able to better accept what I cannot control and to better control what I can.
4. I took control of my health.
While I recognize that my body and health are mine, chronic illness has, on numerous occasions, made me feel like a victim of circumstance. Self-pity does not make anything better and I was not able to truly take control of my health until I came upon this realization. If you are not getting a proper diagnosis or your medications are not working, it is your responsibility to do what is best for you. After all, taking charge of your wellbeing is the key to happiness and healing.
5. I reached out and served others.
I made a choice from day one to reach out so that I did not feel isolated. There are countless individuals who understood my fears and challenges and who have a wealth of knowledge and experience to offer. Deciding to reach out is your choice alone and it is something no one else can do for you. There are numerous support groups in your local community and online which offer a connection to support and resources for working towards a better quality of life despite chronic illness.
I also choose to serve others struggling with similar challenges brought upon by chronic illness. In doing so, I found that my own burden of feeling alone was lessened and I was creating new friendships and strengthening old ones. By finding ways to help others in your local community, online, and/or your church, you can make a difference in your life and the lives of others. As you share and help, your love and compassion will increase and you will find that your own trials are easier to bear.
Bettering Your Life
Tough times bring out the worst and the best in all of us. Choosing to allow chronic illness to better us is winning half the battle. In reality, none of us can change our circumstances, but we can choose to decide what living well and being better means to us.
Originally posted at Arthritis Connect.
Summer may be drawing to a close, but that doesn’t mean you still don’t have time to lose a few pounds for swimsuit weather! Two of the hottest diets out there today are the paleo diet and the gluten free diet. Both have their benefits, and ultimately, the type of diet you choose will be determined by your lifestyle and food preferences. Check out the quick overview of each and a few tips for getting started.
This diet can be boiled down to one phrase: if a caveman couldn’t eat it, neither can you. The diet focuses on organic products devoid of processing that a caveman could have hunted, picked, gathered or fished. Meats, fish, nuts, fresh vegetables, eggs, oils, fruits and seeds all play a huge part in the paleo diet. Grains, like most cereals and pasta, are out, as are sugars and all processed foods. The paleo diets states that because these foods are so filling and nutritious, you can eat as much as you want of them (within reason) and still lose weight.
How to get started:
Purge your home of all the foods that are off limits on this diet. This includes cookies, cereals, potato chips, candy and other processed goods. Pantry items often have a long shelf life, so donate what you can’t eat to your local food pantry.
Start a diet plan. There are many diet plans out there that can help you kick-start a paleo diet with meal plans, advice and encouragement to help you stay accountable as you start on your paleo journey.
Remember that you’ll have a transition period as your body gets used to this new way of eating. The first two weeks of a paleo diet may leave you feeling tired, weak and sluggish. Sticking with the program can help you get through the slump and on your way to a healthier lifestyle.
Gluten Free diet
Gluten is a protein complex found in wheat, barley, rye and oats. An allergy to gluten can cause celiac disease, which is a gastrointestinal ailment known for abdominal pain, weight loss and loose stools. The gluten-free diet is one of the only medically accepted treatments for this disease, but individuals without a gluten allergy have found more energy and a healthier lifestyle by going gluten-free. A gluten-free diet sticks with beans, fresh eggs, fresh meats, fruits and vegetables and dairy, and avoids any foods with barley (including malt or malt flavoring) rye, and wheat.
How to get started:
Clean out your kitchen and pantry and get rid of foods that contain wheat, barley, rye and oats. Donate items that can still be used to a food pantry. Check labels; some foods may be labeled “gluten-free” and are still acceptable on this diet.
Visit the grocery store and check the assortment of gluten-free labeled products on the market. You will be surprised how many manufactures have jumped on the gluten-free bandwagon and offer anything from waffles to pizza gluten-free. Learn to read the labels to find out exactly what is in the food that you buy.
Go shopping and stock up on fresh produce and meats. Try some fruits or vegetables that are new to you, or prepare them in different ways. Another option is to take a trip to a Farmer’s Market, where fresh food shopping can be a fun outing.
Amanda is a social media manager for a health care organization by day and a blogger and freelance writer by night. She’s also a mom to an amazing 2 year-old boy and wife to a great guy who indulges all her celebrity gossip. Amanda loves coffee, fashion, Twitter, makeup, nail polish, and cats (not always in that order.) Her work has been published on family.com and blogher.com. She also writes for many websites, including NOW Foods. For more celebrity gossip, fashion, beauty and DIY, visit Amanda’s blog, It’s Blogworthy (http://itsblogworthy.com) or follow her on Twitter and Google+.