Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Five Minutes at a Time

How to cope with Chronic Illness is definitely a "learning experience."  There are many different levels to it and every person goes through each level at their own pace.

Panicking- I remember the first signs of illness, my heart racing and beating funny, panic attacks, and just a weird overall feeling that I couldn't explain that things were not right. All tests at the dr office or ER would come back normal. And it was a pure sense of panic to figure out what was wrong with me. Anger at doctors, fear of every symptom I experienced. The fear of dying.

Searching For Answers- Then came the years of searching for answers. Going from doctor to doctor, chasing cures. Trying this and that and whatever treatment that anyone said would help them. With each new doctor or treatment it would bring me a sense of hope, maybe this will the one that can help me, maybe this will be the miracle treatment.

Feeling like I was going to die.
Losing Hope- One night I had a stroke. Or what the ER termed, either a TIA (transient ischemic attack) or a Lyme Neurological Event. They didn't know what it was. I woke up and couldn't move my right arm. I had partial Bell's Palsy, and I was confused. This was the day after Christmas three years ago. I have never felt right since. And for five months after this, I laid in bed. I couldn't get up. Each time I did I felt extreme pressure and pain in my chest and neck, so there I lay for as the world went on around me. Sometimes I couldn't even make it to the bathroom and would go in the garbage can on the side of my bed. I couldn't get up to take a shower, but doctors would not acknowledge me. They refused to order home health care. Ironically, that had been my job my whole life, yet, here I was in need and couldn't get it.

Gaining a different Perspective and a Renewal Of Hope-  For about five months all I could do was lay there, in bed.  I wished that I would die. I prayed as hard as I could for God to take me. I didn't get up to eat, I just laid there and if someone brought me something I'd eat. But inside I just wanted to be gone. I tried to will my soul out of my body. One night I had a dream my soul floated up out of my body to the ceiling, and I was so thankful to God, I was so happy I was out of this body. Then I woke up and I was back. I was so disappointed. Then....

Something hit me in that moment. I had one of those aha moments. I realized that doctors were not going to "fix me." And if I didn't want to live like this anymore, I had better get up and start trying to fix myself. God was not taking me, so there must be a reason I was still here, and I better buck up and figure it out. I started reading a Wayne Dyer book that was sitting on my shelf for years, then I read a Deepak Chopra book. Sometime's I feel these two books saved my life! Both books were about healing, but not necessarily the kind of healing you might be assuming. It was more of a spiritual, mental healing, not a physical healing.

I don't remember what I learned specifically from each book, but I remember the basic lessons I walked away with.

Enjoying the sun with my cat Squeakers.
Live in the Moment- Or as I put it, take five minutes at a time. I realized that half my anxiety came from, worrying about getting to the next doctor appointment or how I was going to go to the bathroom, or when I could take the next shower. I knew I needed to calm this inner voice that was constantly thinking of the next thing to worry about. I had to constantly remind myself to "stop." And to breath. So I'd think to myself, what is happening in the next five minutes? That is all I have to think about and get through. If the time comes for a doctor appointment and I can't make it, so be it, I will cancel in the moment. No need to worry about it now, twelve hours ahead a time.

Accept This Is Where I Am- The other thing I had to learn that helped relieve my constant anxiety was learning to accept where I was in the moment. I'm not talking about what I wrote above with the five minutes at a time thing, but more looking at the bigger picture. I know that at one point in life that I had hopes and dreams of travelling and getting promotions, buying a house, owning a new car.  In fact right before I got sick I had just gotten a promotion. But I realized, it didn't matter, I had to stop chasing those dreams, and start over new. Wipe the slate clean, what I did before was what I did before and I could be proud of all of it. But now, things are different. And I have to accept the limitations I have now and re adjust what I expect of myself now. Letting go of guilt for not being able to go the store to buy groceries, or make it to the kids PTA meetings was hard,  these things are hard to miss. But at some point you have to accept and do the things you can do. If you can't make it to that soccer game your kids are in, then when they get home, have them throw a DVD in the dvd player and have them crawl into bed with you to tell you about the game then you guys can relax and watch a movie together. Remember being sick is not a choice. How you handle it, is.

Little Things I Learned to do that Helped in Hard Moments-

  • Read, reading can really take you away to a different place and get your mind off symptoms.
  • Just watch my pets. Watching my silly dogs wrestling around playing, or my car purring by my side is so relaxing. Take in the moment of peacefulness. I think in this busy world when we are well, we lose touch of "simple things."
  • Lay down in the grass outside. (Okay if ticks make you uncomfortable use a blanket) but get outside for a couple minutes a day and close your eyes. Feel the warmth of the sun on your skin, feel the wind blow on your face, hear the birds singing. I always feel closer to God when I am in nature.
  • Meditation- this was huge for me. Especially because I can not take pain killers to deal with pain. I had to close my eyes, I couldn't really sit up yet, but I'd just lay in bed and picture what I wanted life to be. I know some say you should clear your mind completely, but I didn't do that. I used imagery. I pictured my arms and legs feeling normal and running through a field. I pictured being by the ocean and feeling the waves crashing at my feet, I could smell the ocean air and hear the waves. Before I knew it, I was NOT thinking only of my symptoms. I was away, I got a break that I needed doing this. It was like a little mini vacation in my mind.
Anyways, no matter what stage you are in, I hope you are finding things that you can do to help yourself. 
  • If there were things that helped you like this, please feel free to post them below in the comments sections. 


  1. Thank you so much for your encouraging words. I needed to read them and will share them with others to help understand this wicked disease.

    1. IM glad it can help if even a little Kris...hang in there girl, we will get through this together!

  2. Nice entry, Lisa. And all so very true. Nature is more beautiful, healing and sacred than the most opulent Cathedral. Love you, friend! rhonda

  3. One of my fave things was brainwave training, you can run scripts saying you're happy, healthy & optomistic, or you are healing with bird song in the backgound, it was lovely to chill out & I would visualize with my eyes closed & see myself on a small boat just drifting along the water with a waterfall & tropical forest nearby, listening to the sounds of the jungle, was great to escape for a bit! You can do your own settings & there's even a free download to try it out ;)