“It’s hard…it’s hard changing your life. It’s hard picking up the pieces and starting all over again. It’s hard getting your mind together after you’ve gone through a life shaking experience (being a primary caregiver for someone; hearing a diagnosis you didn’t want; starting over again from a loss of any kind; being alone in a new place; wanting a friend.) But you can do hard. You can weather the storm. You will come through this.
Affirm to yourself every day ~ several times a day. No matter how hard it gets…I’m going to make it!! Stand up inside yourself and look yourself in the eyes and say “I can do hard!!” Exercise, pray, seek solitude, allow for periods of sadness…but know that you will get through this. Keep the faith; continue to work; and expect to make it through. You may not be able to change your circumstances or situation…but, you can change yourself! Hold on! You can do hard! You have GREATNESS within you!” — Les Brown
The young woman, Hiliary Hoffner, pictured above, has the same rare life threatening condition that I have. We almost lost her a year ago. She was hospitalized for 4 1/2 months. She fought hard. She’s a warrior. Today she’s doing quite well, engaged to the man of her dreams planning a wonderful future together!
When you’re going through hard times, remember, this too shall pass!
Sometimes we get in a bad mood and can’t pull out of it. But sometimes it just takes something simple to put you in a good mood! And avoid bad moods!
I’ve seen this stuff work! Even for people with medication-induced moodiness! Give them a try!
Count Your Blessings
Scientifically proven to improve your mood and even combat depression. Counting 50 things you’re thankful for everyday really improves your mood! You don’t have to sit down and list them, you don’t have to jot them down. Just do it in your head, wherever you are and whatever you’re doing and if it takes all day, that’s ok. If you repeat items from previous lists, that’s ok, too! So when a bad mood strikes, get started! Think about what you’re thankful for! You will notice that it improves your mood! Great mood enhancer!
Meditation and prayer helps alleviate anxiety, stress and depression. It really helps improve your mood. You can YouTube some guided meditations.
5. Eat Well
The foods we eat greatly affect how we feel both physically and mentally. Eat clean. Eliminate fast food and junk food. Get your nutrient-dense-super-foods smoothie/juice on! For more on this, follow my blog!
I used to be a skeptic, but aromatherapy is an effective treatment protocol! Now Brand: Cheer Up Buttercup is a blend of essential oils that improve mood. There’s a link below.
7 Foods that Improve Mood
8. Herbs and Supplements
Omega-3 Fish Oil
St John’s Wort
I’ve included some links below to some of my favorite brands of these supplements.
Use this great drug interaction checker before using supplements with medications:
Raising a family is both rewarding and challenging.
The challenges are exacerbated when mom or dad has a serious/chronic illness.
I raised five children while battling a serious chronic illness. As well as having legal guardianship of non-biological children – and being a “mom” to lots of children/teens/young adults. This is our family!
Putting yourself first
This is a foreign concept to most moms. It seems that when we give birth a hormone kicks in that says not only does this baby come first, but so does everyone else in my life: spouse, parents, everyone – and I come last. It even happened to me before I gave birth – when I became a stepmom.
But I was sick and I had four young sons still living at home and a husband and legal guardianship of another child. I was putting all of them first and myself last. It’s what comes natural and it’s what good moms do. But even healthy able-bodied moms need to put themselves first sometimes. And for those of us with chronic illness, it’s an absolute must.
I realized one day that if I didn’t start putting myself first, I wouldn’t be around to see my sons to adulthood.
I had to learn to say no when I didn’t feel up to taking them somewhere. I had to learn to cancel plans when necessary.
I still made/make plans, keeping in mind, they may have to be cancelled. More on dealing with that later.
Take care of yourself. Rest when you need to. The kids can go outside or to a friend’s house or read a book. It’s healthy for kids to learn to entertain themselves.
They also need to do their own laundry. They can learn this very young, mine all did.
If it comes down to the kids needing new shoes or you needing something for health purposes, those shoes can wait. Your health can’t. Shoe Goo works great!
It seems selfish to put yourself first, but for those of us battling chronic illness, it’s actually a selfless necessity in order to achieve our best health possible – for the sake of our families.
Put yourself first. It’s essential.
How much do you tell your kids?
It depends on how old they are. Don’t scare them with details they don’t need to hear. But explain why some days you can’t get out of bed or off the sofa or why you have to watch their soccer game from inside your car instead of the bleachers. Why you can’t always bake them a birthday cake and it has to come from a bakery or store. Why Thanksgiving dinner has to be store-bought already cooked. Explain why they need to quietly entertain themselves and let you take a nap. Naps are very important for our health.
Doctors orders: no housework! If only insurance covered housekeepers for seriously/chronically ill and disabled people! If you can afford a housekeeper, do it! I had one when my kids were little, great investment. And even young children can do some chores to help mom or dad out and at the very least, pick up after themselves. Keep the chores for kids age-appropriate. And don’t put too much pressure on yourself to have an emaculate home. Clean enough to be healthy is my goal.
As for feeding the family, there’s times you can’t grocery shop or cook. I’ve had wonderful friends who’ve brought meals and groceries! I am forever grateful! I also used a grocery/meal delivery service and now there are so many to choose from!
Keep meals and snacks healthy, nutritious, and SIMPLE! Slaving over a hot stove isn’t in your best interest when you have a serious/chronic illness. It will take a toll. I will continue to post simple, healthy, delicious recipes. Stay tuned!
For several years, Thanksgiving was “catered” by a restaurant or grocery store/super market. I just could not manage a feast on that scale anymore. We had Thanksgiving at a restaurant too, but I like leftovers so I prefer to have it at home. So “catered” it was – with the addition one or two of my favorite recipes.
When my sons were old enough, they voluntarily took over and did all the Thanksgiving cooking! That meant the turkey was wrapped with bacon like a mummy! It was a fabulous feast!
All my sons have grown up to be great cooks due to having to cook when mom couldn’t!
Making the most of bad days
You’re going to have days that you have to cancel plans with your family. Days you can’t get out of bed or off the sofa – or you’re in the hospital. Healthy, able-bodied moms do guilt, so for those of us who battle health issues, it’s tenfold. So much guilt. Don’t do the guilt, at least try not to. Apologize to your children. Explain that you’re sick and need to rest.
With little ones, making the most of bad days means cuddle time and story time and movie marathons. Thankful for Disney movies! Lots of sofa time or time on the front porch or back patio. Your children can fetch water and snacks for you and perhaps make lunch of they are old enough.
We invested in a few backyard fire pits over the years, the wood/charcoal kind and a propane one. I highly recommend these for all families, health issue or not! They enhance family time a great deal! Even on bad days if nothing else, I could make it to the backyard in the evenings to sit around the campfire with my family for some wonderful family time! Sharing the events of our day, telling ghost stores, playing Mad Libs, telling jokes, playing charades, playing musical instruments and singing, etcetera. It truly is the small things in life! This was all very little effort and I was resting while having quality family time and making memories with my sons. Note: keep s’mores makings on hand!
That often led to watching shooting stars, campfire or not, watch shooting stars as a family especially in August during the big Perseid Meteor Shower. Trampolines are a great place for the whole family to watch shooting stars! Or lawn chairs or a blanket on the ground. If there’s too much light pollution where you live, if you’re up to it, try to drive to where there’s no light pollution in August to watch the shooting stars. Make it an annual event. Bring chairs or a blanket. Bring the fire pit!
I also joined a local museum/exploration park. There were times I could drive somewhere but not walk far or do much. We bought annual family passes and would go to our wonderful Turtle Bay Park, which is gated and safe. I could park myself on a comfy sofa or a bench outside and let my kids explore all the wonderful educational hands-on opportunities the facility has to offer while I sat and watched! They were “schooling”and having fun while I was resting. With four sons, we had the buddy system down. These places usually provide wheelchairs if needed. They’re part of a network so when we would go to my distance appointments, there were often other such museums/parks in the network we had free or discounted entry to! As well as when we traveled for pleasure! Check to see if you have one near you: http://turtlebay2.worldsecuresystems.com/documents/ASTCTravelPassport-Public-NOV2016-April2017.pdf
Making up for the bad days
I always tried to make up for the times I was unable to do much. When I felt better, we got out of the house and went camping and all kinds of adventures! I’m no longer able to ski, but I sat in the lodge and had lunch and snacks and break-times with my family – and I snapped lots of pictures and videos of them as they skied down the mountain! I make the most of it given my limitations.
I went to all their sporting events – sometimes I had to watch from the car.
I tried to keep most plans a secret/surprise so that when plans had to be canceled, my children didn’t have to be disappointed. Disneyland was always a surprise! If I had to cancel, they never knew!
Riding lessons are great for the kids and the chronically ill parent. If you can get your child into horse riding lessons and hang out with the horses during the lesson, it’s really good for the soul! They use horses for therapy for a reason! You will leave feeling better than when you arrived. And it’s free to just hang out with the horses! And your kids learn so much more than how to ride! They learn anatomy and science and how to diagnose and treat ailments! It has paid off when our pony, donkey, goats, and even our cats and dogs have had various symptoms! My kids are great at treating them or knowing when it’s time to go to the vet.
Note: Putting your kids through lifeguard school when they are old enough when you’re chronically ill can be the best thing you ever did. My son saved my life when I was in respiratory arrest. He has saved other lives as well. He was honored as a local hero.
Public School vs Homeschool – I’ve done both
Whether you homeschool or not, turn your doctor appointments into field trips/adventures! Make it as fun as possible. More on that below.
I feared that homeschooling would be more stressful and take more of a toll on my health than sending my kids off to school everyday. But I found the opposite to be true.
In public school, you have all the germs that your kids bring home to you, putting you at risk. And then there’s all the stress of having clean clothes everyday, those vanishing socks, getting up at the crack of dawn to get everyone dressed, breakfast made and consumed, homework packed up, lunches made and packed up, and get them on the bus before they miss it! Or drive them to school with all the other stressed out parents dropping their kids off before the bell rings! I’m getting anxious and jittery just remembering those days. I’ve seen more than one child get hit by a car during drop-off and pick-up time at school! It’s crazy! Even in my small town! And then there’s all the homework stress! Not to mention the ridicule when you have to pull your kid out of class to go to your long distance doctor appointments because no one will be home when school gets out. I informed the school this would be a frequent occurrence and they were supportive and understanding and compliant. But then after the third time in as many months, that I had to pull them out for a day, I got a nasty letter in the mail explaining that my children were ‘truants’ and the authorities would be notified if I pulled them out for another doc appointment!
When you homeschool, all those situations and all that subsequent stress is eliminated. Well, except for the vanishing socks, not even homeschooling cures that! But you don’t have to set the alarm and you don’t even have to get dressed! And who cares if your socks match! You can make and eat breakfast and lunch at your leisure and with your children! There’s no “homework,” per se. No deadlines unless you set them yourself and then you can always adjust them as needed or as desired.
You don’t have to pull your kids out of school for your doctor appointments, which are field trips when you homeschool. I always made them adventures/field trips.
I once told my ENT that I homeschool and my kids were in the waiting room and before I asked, he offered! He said, “then this just turned into a field trip, bring them in!” They got to watch him do a scope procedure of my trachea while he explained it all to them! They saw it all on the monitor! It was awesome!
For the times you can’t bring your children into the exam room, provide them with entertainment, and for the car/plane ride, as well. More on that here.
Another perk to homeschooling: you can make skiing, riding lessons, lifeguard school, time spent at museums, exploration parks, nat’l parks, etcetera; part of your curriculum. Real life skills. One of my sons grew up to be a ski instructor for his winter job and works at a nat’l park the rest of the year. He trained for it throughout his homeschooling years.
When you homeschool, you can do it from your bed or the sofa.
You can do it
In conclusion, I want to say, whether you homeschool or not, you can do it. My kids gave me a reason to live, to keep fighting to live every single day. To make as many wonderful memories with them as possible. Chronic illness gives you the gift of not taking your future for granted, you take advantage of the time you have and you make to most of it, especially with your children.
They are also a wonderful distraction from health issues.
Here’s to all of us raising a family while battling chronic illness ♥️
I recently posted about clinical/major depression. Now I want to talk about coping with depression caused by serious and chronic illness, as I have a serious chronic illness and many of my friends do, too.
Living with a serious and/or chronic illness can cause depression. 40% of cancer patients are reported to experience depression after diagnosis. Those who suffer from diseases such as diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis are six times more likely to experience depression than people without serious illness.
This type of depression is called ‘situational depression.’ It’s caused by the situation of our serious health issues.
But there are some great and effective coping strategies. There is hope!
1. Accepting Your New Normal
Accepting your ‘new normal’ is key to coping. But also know that better days are ahead and you must strive for them. We have to accept some limitations and fight to overcome other limitations, while also adding joy to our lives, often by implementing new activities that we are able to do. I can no longer hike or ski or dance, so I’ve replaced those activities with others that bring me joy such as writing, photography, fur babies, and spending time in nature/on the water. I may delve more into this topic in a future blog post.
2. Throw Yourself a Pity Party
We all need to do this on occasion, so do it without guilt! Don’t bottle it up or bury it! But throw that party for no more than fifteen minutes then move on. Have a good cry. Scream at the gods. Curse the cosmos. Do what you need to do that won’t hurt you or anyone else. It’s good for the soul. But staying there for more than fifteen minutes can have the opposite effect.
We need time to escape and get our minds off our health issues. This can be very difficult when your symptoms are severe and debilitating but if you can manage a hobby, do it. If you have children or grandchildren, you are blessed. What a wonderful distraction!
Do something that brings you joy today and everyday. Even if it’s just a cup of tea or enjoying your fur babies, a bubble bath, reading a good book, or watching a great movie, in the comfort of your own home. Some days that’s all we can manage – but it’s joyful and that’s what counts. Book and movie choices should be uplifting. No sad endings! The purpose is to raise our spirits.
6. Count Your Blessings
Not cliché!This is scientifically proven. Counting 50 things you’re thankful for everyday really and truly cheers you up! It can pull you out of the dumps! You don’t have to sit down and list them, you don’t have to jot them down. Just do it in your head, wherever you are and whatever you’re doing and if it takes all day, that’s ok. If you repeat items from previous lists, that’s ok, too! So first thing when you wake up, get started! Think about what you’re thankful for, count as many things as you can and when you can’t think of more that’s ok, revisit and add to your list throughout the day. You will notice that you’re feeling more positive and cheerful and less depressed and stressed as the day goes on! And do it all over again tomorrow and everyday! Great coping strategy.
To the best of your ability, exercise. There’s a show on PBS called ‘Sit and Be Fit,’ there was a time, that’s all I could do. Walk, if you can, around your house and yard – and around your block or a nature walk. Some malls open early for walkers, providing climate control and safety. If you can walk, do it. Sometimes I do laps in my house. Exercise improves not only your physical health, but it improves your mental wellbeing, as well. If you can exercise more intensely, do it, but always be careful not to overdo it when you have health issues. I love physical therapy as it’s a trained physical therapist implementing your regimen. Ask your doc for a PT referral. Click here for info on how to decrease inflammation with exercise.
8. Get Your Nature Fix
Getting out in nature is extremely beneficial to the human psyche. If you live in the city, try to go for a drive to the country, a lake, the beach, or mountains. Even if it’s just a day trip. If you can’t drive, ask someone to drive. Get out and walk if you can. Bring chairs and just sit in nature if that’s all you can do. If you can’t get in and out of the car easily, just stay in the car but roll the windows down and breathe in the fresh hair. Bring your camera! Snap some pictures! Enjoy the sunset! For me, a day at the lake is very therapeutic. A few hours on the water makes a huge difference. Try to get close to the water or a waterfall or into a forest, for a negative-ion-rich-environment, for more about this, go here: ‘Nature Deficit Disorder.’ It really raises the spirits.
All terrain wheels on a wheelchair can open up a lot of wonderful possibilities for nature excursions.
Last fall, I invited my brother on an amateur fall-foliage-photo-shoot, just the two of us and we had the best time and have plans to do more photo shoots together! This was an activity I had been doing alone and had no idea he would he would be interested. Wonderful discovery! So then I invited friends on a fall-foliage-photo-shoot and lunch and we had a wonderful day together! All those fall-foliage-photo-shoots brought great joy!
9. Which Brings Us to Friends and Family
Try to connect with good friends and family. Not just through social media, but in person. Even if it’s just for a cup of tea or glass of lemonade. For more on this topic go here.
10. Support groups
Join support groups specific to your health issues. If you have diabetes, join their specific support groups, if you have vasculitis, join those specific support groups. Etcetera. Reach out to the members, they understand what you’re going through better than anyone. Online support groups are great! I’m in several Facebook groups. Since they are international, there’s usually someone available 24/7, especially beneficial since insomnia often plays a role in serious and chronic illness.
11. Meditation and Prayer
Meditation and prayer helps alleviate anxiety, stress and depression. You can YouTube some guided meditations.
12. Supplements and Essential Oils
These can really help a great deal as well. I’ve experienced it!
Omega 3 Fish Oil is beneficial in fighting depression as well as providing many other health benefits for inflammatory illnesses, as it’s anti-inflammatory.
Other depression fighting/mood enhancing supplements include 5-HTP and St John’s Wort.
As with all medications and supplements, you should always check possible interactions. This is an online source that I use:
“The top four essential oils for depression are bergamot, lavender, chamomile and ylang ylang. You can use essential oils for depression topically or aromatically, usually as a cream or in a diffuser.” – Dr. Josh Axe
I’m a huge fan of acupuncture and other alternative health modalities.
“A study published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine found that electroacupuncture – in which a mild electric current is transmitted through the needles – was just as effective as Prozac.” – Scientific American
Acupuncture also helps reduce and alleviate the side effects of prescription anti-depressants.
When seeking acupuncture, be sure to see a ‘licensed’ as opposed to ‘certified’ practitioner.
14. Is Physical Pain a Factor?
If pain is making it hard to cope: acupuncture, lidocaine patches, ginger, and turmeric, help a lot. I’ve had great success reducing and eliminating pain with these treatments.
15. Plan Something
For me, planning something really raises my spirits and gets my mind off my health issues! It adds joy and excitement to my life! Whether it’s a trip/vacation or a family get-together or lunch with a friend or a movie night or date night. Having something to look forward to and plan is really important for me. I have planned trips when I’m too sick to travel, for a date in the future when I’m hopefully well enough to travel, keeping in the back of my mind that I may have to cancel, but most of the time I don’t have to cancel! I think having something to look forward to helps to improve your health so that by the time the travel date arrives, you’re good to go! And travel itself definitely improves your health – a blog topic for the near future! When my sons were at home, I was always planning homeschool dances, science fairs, field trips and other events for our homeschool community. Now that I’m retired from homeschooling and my sons have all mostly moved away, I’m always planning our next family get-together which often includes travel as we all live in different parts of the state now. You can plan a lot when you’re sick! When the date arrives, you’re usually up for it, even if you have to rest a lot. I ran many a homeschool dance from a chair! I’ve done a lot of travel from the passenger seat with lots of naps.
16. Apps – 24/7 Access
There are even several apps for depression! Type “depression help” into your App Store search bar! Some provide 24/7 therapist access! Someone you can reach out to anytime, even in the middle of the night!
Counseling with a therapist that specializes in chronic illness has really helped many I know with serious health issues. It’s important that the counselor specializes in serious/chronic illness. Therapists who don’t often fall short in the area of serious and chronic illness.
18. Eat Well
The foods we eat greatly affect how we feel both physically and mentally. Eat clean. Eliminate fast food and junk food. Get your nutrient-dense-super-foods smoothie/juice on! For more on this, join my tribe, follow my blog!
19. Know that it’s Normal and Okay to have Sad Days
But use the strategies listed here to pull yourself out of them so that the sad days don’t turn into sad weeks and sad months.