7 Tips to Help You “Keep the Faith”

 

7 Tips to Help You “Keep the Faith”

Lana Barhum is a legal assistant, patient advocate, freelance writer, blogger, and single parent. She has lived with rheumatoid arthritis and fibromyalgia since 2008 and uses her experiences to share expert advice on living successfully with chronic illness.

 

Losing faith—especially in the midst of a serious illness—is a scary thing. You start to question everything you know. It feels like you have lost your footing and you have nothing to substantial to hold on to. It also feels like there is nothing to lift you when you fall, push you forward when it feels like you can’t keep going, and help you envision a bright future. It is, however, possible to have faith even when chronic illness takes so much.

What does keeping the faith mean, anyway?

We often associate the notion of “keeping the faith” with religion, but it is more than religious belief. In everyday life, it allows us to pursue some idea that is worthy but seems difficult to achieve in the face of adversity.

So many things in life are uncertain, but faith isn’t. And here you are faced with the adversity of an illness lingering over every aspect of your life. You could be a teen trying to be like everyone else, or a young adult beginning your career, or a married person in your 30s starting a family, or a single parent in your 40s, or someone ready to retire, and your life feels displaced by a medical condition that you never anticipated or could comprehend before.

With all the loss you face and lack of control over your life, how can you possibly have faith?

7 tips to help you keep the faith from the moment of diagnosis through the setbacks

1. Don’t lose yourself. It is hard to see any good in living with chronic illness and pain. It is easy to lose yourself when it seems like illness has so much power and control over your life. But there is always some positive, even in situations that seem the bleakest. Sometimes, we just have to convince ourselves of the possibilities. And while you may find yourself drained by what you are going through, these are the moments when your true strength shines. It is not always easy and it is not always fair, but it is all we have.

2. Pray or find your spiritual side. Finding meaning and purpose in your life is critical for your emotional and spiritual health. Spirituality improves your connection to God, or to a higher power, and it helps you to manage challenges in healthy and meaningful ways. In fact, praying or practicing meditation can help chronically ill people cope successfully, according to a 2011 study out of the University of Missouri.

3. Be willing to take leaps of faith. Chronic illness takes away a lot from us, but our lives are far from over. This becomes an opportunity to take leaps of faith that enrich your life. And rebuilding your life requires you to take risks and explore uncharted lands. It might be difficult to consider changing careers, or retiring early, or making different life plans due to failing health, but you won’t know what will happen if you don’t try. You may not succeed at everything, but those experiences will better your life and give you something else to consider besides your illness. And while all this might seem daunting, remember all it takes is a little awareness, creativity, and encouragement.

4. Eliminate toxic relationships. There is nothing more draining than a toxic relationship. People who blame you for their problems, who discount you, or who criticize your choices or lifestyle don’t belong in your life. Learn to establish healthy boundaries and rid your life of these kinds of people.

5. Forgive. There will always be people who fail you. It could be co-workers, so-called friends, and even loved ones. Forgive them and move on—for your sake, not theirs.

6. Be thankful. During tough times, it can be easy to get depressed and/or feel hopeless. Life’s blessings can be difficult to see when it seems like there are only grey skies above us. But having a thankful spirit can help you see the light amongst the darkness. Of course, it is not always easy, but try to purposely remind yourself of all life has given you—your loved ones, your ability to keep working, parents and/or grandparents who are still around, and so much more.

7. Share your gifts and talents. You have a lot to offer, so look for ways to share your talents and gifts with others. Volunteering will help improve your self-esteem, help you overcome isolation, and contribute to feelings of value and self-worth.

Have faith in yourself and others

The human spirit cannot be broken. It is strong enough to overcome almost everything. We are all pillars of strength, but we have to be willing to invoke that strength and have faith in ourselves, our loved ones, and the universe.

Things happen that hurt us, and change can be forced. And while we would like to shut the world out and give up, we shouldn’t. We all deserve better. And so do you. But if you find that you are often feeling like you are struggling to gain footing, talk to a therapist who can help you resolve your feelings and anxieties toward your illness.


Originally posted at http://www.fibromyalgiaconnect.com/fibromyalgia-articles/508-7-tips-to-help-you-keep-the-faith#lkUXURTjwg67yKh0.99

Chronic Illness: The Don’ts of My Successful Journey

You would think writing about my journey with chronic illness would be easy. After all, who else would know my journey and the struggles that came with being sick better than me? But it was not until I sat down to put the words on paper that I realized that journey was a chaotic and crazy but one that I have learned from and can laugh at now. But seven years ago, I wasn’t confident or laughing. Back then, I was scared, angry, and full of grief. I was wallowing in self-pity, riding emotional rollercoasters, and dwelling on the past while fearing the future.

A Successful Journey Thus Far

My chronic illness journey hasn’t been easy or smooth sailing. But it hasn’t been a complete utter nightmare either. If anything, it has allowed me to grow into a person who might fear the storms ahead but who is willing to ride through those storms with strength and determination. And for that reason alone, I consider my chronic illness journey, at least from my perspective, to be quite successful thus far.

You might think that acceptance, strength, and perseverance aren’t easy feats.  And you are absolutely right because it has taken me a long time to get to a point in my life where my two chronic illnesses, rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and fibromyalgia, don’t dictate my life’s path. They don’t determine my abilities as a mother or friend or daughter or sister or employee.  They don’t decide my career path and my ability to love or be happy. If anything, there are minor obstacles in life full of many bigger obstacles. And truth be told, I wasn’t always this self-assured and sometimes, I can’t be but there is a journey that got me here and lessons I take with me as I live a rather unordinary and sometimes, difficult life.

Here are three don’ts of my successful journey with chronic illness.

Don’t Wallow in Self-Pity

The late Christopher Reeve a.k.a. Superman was great example of someone who didn’t allow self-pity to consume his life.  After breaking his neck in a horseback riding accident and becoming a quadriplegic in 1995, he choose to not see himself as a patient but a person and he did not allow self-pity to dictate his day-in-day. In a 1996 New York Times interview, he shared the following: “Yes, it was terrible what happened to me. But why should I be exempt? I had one very unlucky and unpredictable moment. The choice is whether to wallow in self-pity and musings about the past or to take a pro-active stance about the future.”

Mr. Reeve was a superman both on the screen and off.  His story inspires me along my journey with chronic illness. We don’t have to be disabled or sick to understand that self-pity is a small thing in the grand scheme of it all. We don’t all have to have the same adversities but we can acknowledge struggle and realize that triumph is even bigger and greater.

My struggle with chronic illness may different than someone else’s hardship but whether you are in an abusive situation trying to get it or trying to raise your children without the help of another parent, or trying to escape the past or even addiction, it’s your choice to wallow in self-pity or to be proactive in making your life better.  We all get to be the superman or superwoman in our lives.

Don’t Forget To Get Off the Emotional Rollercoaster

Grieving any loss, whether it’s an illness, divorce or a loss of employment, can be quite challenging. However, I have learned how important it is to engage in some method of grieving to react and adjust to your situation. While grief is healthy, it can also be an emotional rollercoaster that includes periods of numbness and shock, anger, denial, intense emotional pain, and so much more.  If you don’t allow yourself to grieve, your emotional pain can become destructive.

Practice expressing your feelings of grief through writing, crying, music and talking to others about what you are feeling.   Watch out for symptoms of depression, such as trouble sleeping, extreme sadness, lack of energy and suicidal thoughts, and talk to your doctor if you are experiencing these.

My grieving timetable is different than the next person’s and changes to my health still provoke additional feelings of loss and force me back onto that emotional rollercoaster. While on that ride, I focus on grieving in healthy ways and then, I get off that rollercoaster as soon as I can.

Don’t Dwell on Past – Focus on the Future

One of my biggest fears was the facing the future with chronic illness. I couldn’t predict what my life would be like five years or ten years and that scared me. Once I connected with others who had been living with chronic illness for many years, I realized that a good quality life with and despite chronic illness was possible. Interestingly, my health challenges have taken my life in a direction I would have never taken without chronic illness. And that is has been a great thing.  However, it has not been all smooth sailing and I sometimes wonder what direction my life would have gone had I not gotten sick.  Would have been successful in law school and as a lawyer? What if my marriage had survived and if I had more children like I wanted? I could ponder these questions until I am blue in the face but I can’t change what’s happened. I can only move forward, not dwell on the past and focus on the future. We often miss out on the blessings of the future because we are too busy dwelling on the past, especially when that past involved good health. It is understandably difficult to focus on the future when your life is filled with pain and sickness. But hope for the future gives us the strength to face so many of life’s challenges – whether they pertain to our health or not. The past is dim, and sometimes dark, but the future can be quite bright.

Still My Life, Just a Little Altered

My life with chronic illness isn’t the life that I envisioned and often, it is out of my control. The only things I control are my behavior and my reactions and that where the “don’ts” of my journey come into play.  And while there are ways in which I manage my illnesses and cope, I don’t dictate the direction in which my health is headed. My life involves being sick and in pain every single day. But because I have lived with RA and fibromyalgia for almost seven years, I have learned to channel most of what I am feeling – both physically and emotionally – out.  Being sick has become one small obstacle in my life and unless I am having a bad flare day, I continue to march on. My normal is something that no one can see but it is still my life, just a little altered.

Fibromyalgia: Three Things You Need to Know about Patient Empowerment

Learn how to take your fibromyalgia healthcare into your own hands and approach your doctor in a more confident, educated way.

Fibromyalgia: Three Things You Need to Know about Patient Empowerment

It is very difficult for patients to do what they don’t understand. Therefore, it is vital to arm yourself with the knowledge necessary to take a more active role in your healthcare.

Patient empowerment allows patients to take an active role in the decisions they make about their health. Moreover, empowerment requires patients to take responsibility through open communication with their doctors, taking medications as prescribed,eating healthy and exercising regularly. It also allows them to create a joint partnership with their doctors where change can actually be long lasting.

Read More.