Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Climate Control - My Life with Rheumatoid Arthritis

I have rheumatoid arthritis. And I’ve had it for far longer than I've not had it.

A recent full-blown flare-up reminded me how fortunate I am not to have experienced one of this magnitude since I began practising stress transformation techniques.

To help you understand what someone goes through when they live with the pain and deformity of rheumatoid arthritis, I've created some simulations for you to imagine:
  • Tightly wind some elastics around your fingers. Then, put some heavy winter mittens on your hands. Now, open a carton of milk, unscrew a jar or unlock the door.
  • Place some marbles in your shoes. Put your shoes on. Go for a walk.
  • Bend your knees. Apply duct tape vertically along the front and back of your knees. Now straighten them.
How was that?

Rheumatoid arthritis is an auto-immune disease in which the body mistakenly attacks its own tissue. The disease is characterised by inflammation - hot, stiff, swollen and painful joints. As the disease progresses, it affects the synovial lining of the joints, erodes bones, and can damage ligaments, tendons, cartilage, joint capsules and organs.

Oh yeah, and energy. It can suck the life out of you. Everyday living tasks not only hurt, but are also next to impossible to do. (Even when the disease isn't active (flaring), the damage the disease inflicts echoes on...dislocated fingers mean that opening bottles without an aid can be next to impossible. Slipping your credit card into the slot at the pay station is a struggle. Low seats or benches, although inviting, mean that getting up off them will require fortitude.) If you take these things for granted, stop and appreciate how well your body works; regular heart-felt breaths of appreciation are an excellent antidote to stress.

The pain of rheumatoid arthritis varies and can include, but is not limited to, some of the following descriptions: throbbing, aching, sharp or dull pain, grabbing or nagging. That is the querulous nature of the disease. When I first moved to British Columbia people often said, “Wait five minutes and the weather will change.” Somewhat like rheumatoid arthritis. An hour can see a change, either for the better or the worse.

Since I've learned about stress and work daily on transforming it, my flare-ups are further and fewer between. I am much better at pain-management, which frees up my energy.

The constant activation of the stress response wears out the nervous system, which wears you out. Think of it as stepping on the brake and gas of your car at the same time. Not good for the car. Not good for you.

If only I had known about these techniques thirty-three years ago, I may not have had to go through as much pain, joint and bone damage and surgeries. But, it is what it is. Perhaps I was not yet ready to learn and practise these on-going in-the-moment techniques? As in stress transformation, you start where you are.

One of the most challenging aspects of living with this disease has been to learn to maintain joint function by protecting the joints from undue stress and strain. I enjoy getting things done and it can be frustrating knowing that engaging in the activities of everyday living can contribute to the further destruction of delicate and damaged joints. Similar to what I teach my clients when they are learning to transform their stress, it is about balance. How much can I do? How often? How heavy? With what assistance? What to let go?

If you live with a chronic condition and feel like you're being blown about in a storm of uncertainty and are ready to take some control over your "internal pharmacy", please consider learning some stress transformation techniques.

The way you think and feel is important for your "inner climate", which in turn, affects your "outer climate". Adjust your climate control.

Read on for a sneak preview of “Thirty-Three Years, Ninety-One Tips – Getting Things Done with Rheumatoid Arthritis”.

Around the House
# 7. Sleep with a pillow between your knees. If you have longer legs, opt for a king-sized pillow.

In the Kitchen
# 3. Large containers, such as two litre cartons of milk are hard and heavy to hold. Decant them into smaller jars or pitchers.

In the Car
#14. When you are shopping for a new car, create a wish list. I had a check-list that I would take with me when I visited each of the dealerships. That way I would be sure to make the best purchase possible.

Out and About
#1. Keep a surgical glove in your purse – great leverage for opening things.

Everyday Living
#29. Transform your stress. Negative thoughts and emotions create a very different chemical cascade than do positive ones. The flight or fight response is designed to help you deal with a life-threatening situation. Become aware of how you are thinking and feeling. Get knowledgeable about what stress is and what you can do about it. Practise, practise, practise new life-enhancing behaviours.

For the rest of the ninety-one tips, please pre-order my forth-coming e-booklet "Thirty-Three Years, Ninety-One Tips – Getting Things Done When You Have Rheumatoid Arthritis". Now only $6.99.
Please click here to place your name on the list.

Image courtesy of  Eva Schuster.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Time Thievery


Twenty-four hours. That's it. No more, no less.

How do you spend your days? Are you jumping out of bed, stretching, reaching for whatever the day brings? Do you feel like you are in a marathon, last person in the group, never quite crossing the finish line? Or are you buried alive under a casket weighted with deadlines, lists and obligations?

It is not my job to advise you on how to spend your days. However, I can help you to bring some awareness to how and where your time is leaking and some skills to arrest the "thief".

If you are thinking and feeling frustrated, worried and fearful about the erosion of your time, you are creating stress - a cascade of 1400 chemicals that distract you from using your time wisely.

The "auntie"-dote: Learn some techniques that help to balance your nervous system, so you'll be using those twenty-four hours wisely.

Image courtesy of Chris Gilbert.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Not the Same Gal

During a disagreement, a friend's husband complained that she was not the same woman he married.

"Well, I hope not!" was her speedy response.

I believe that  we are here to learn, change and grow. Her pithy comment shows that some change has taken place.

As a friend, I can say that this change has been for the better. Way to go, H!

As we gain new information and delve deeper into the depths of our soul, we grow. We throw away thoughts and behaviours that no longer suit us and enjoy the better fit of our new way of be-ing. Or not. Some people are not ready to change their "wardrope".

As I continue to do this stress work, I notice changes within myself that I like a great deal. They haven't always been easy, but they are worth it!

In which ways have you changed for the better?

Thanks to Zsuzsanna Kilian for the image.


Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Remembering Murphy

The timing never seemed right - until now.

Last year, on August 31st, while enjoying our daily dog walk, Murphy fell. At first, I thought that he had injured his hip. Later, I noticed a lump about the size of a walnut in the area of his back hock (close to the knee). Diagnosis was swift. Cancer.

Our veterinarian advised against chemotherapy and amputation. She felt that it would be too hard on all concerned; the amount of time that would be bought wouldn't be worth the cost. Neither emotionally nor financially.

We knew that the end was inevitable. Just when?

I knew my dog. I trusted that he would "tell" me when it was time to say good-bye. In fact, I asked him to let me know when he was ready to go.

It was a beautiful September, and I was fortunate enough to be able to sit outside and work while he luxuriated in the sun. Many tears were shed during that month. Murphy was a rescue and we had a special bond, forged by the fact that I was the person who drove him away from the noise and chaos of the animal shelter.

As September marched on, it was apparent that Murphy still wanted to remain in this world, despite the rapid growth of the tumour. His appetite was as good as ever. He was interested in us and what went on around the house; even barking when someone came to the door. He looked forward to his walks.

On the morning of October 6th, he finally let me know. He slowly made his way to the tree in our backyard and curled up underneath. I had been paying attention, looking for him to tell me. I then knew that it was time.

For those who have not gone through the experience of euthanising a much-loved pet, it is many things: kind, cruel, heart-breaking. It can also be one filled with judgement.

I heard and felt disapproval from a few people. "You need to put him down, now." "Tsk! Tsk!" The looks.

The thing that some people didn't seem to understand is that I knew my dog. I trusted that he would let me know when it was time. And, he did. It wasn't for anyone else to judge. It was between us.

Often, when decisions need to be made, it is easy to judge the person because they are not doing it as you would do it.

Before passing judgement, I suggest the following:
  • stop
  • ask open-ended questions 
  • trust that the person is doing the right thing at the right time with the right amount of information.
It may not seem that way to you. However, I stand firmly by my decision. It was the right thing to do at the right time.

If you find yourself in similar circumstances, I recommend:
  • considering the opinion of a veterinarian you trust
  • using stress transformation techniques, so that you and your pet will be as comfortable as possible, given the situation
  • listen to your heart and your pet - trust you will know when the time is right (stress transformation techniques will help in this regard).
Murphy will always have a place in my heart. Fortunately, he also has a place on our living room wall. Shortly after we adopted Murphy, my friend surprised me with the painting you see at the top of this post. (If you are interested, Cyndi is taking orders for pet portraits. Please email her directly.)

I prefer to remember him, as you see him in this video, below. Full of life. This was the first time that we had taken him to the beach. As you can see, he didn't quite know what to do with the waves!


video

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