Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Nurturing your mind, body and spirit . . .

Today I received a message from a good friend of mine.  She was so distressed that she had missed another family party and the criticisms that she can only imagine that come from family and friends when her husband arrives alone.  I am astounded at how we are able to feel each other's pain from messages that come to us in cyberspace.  Some of that pain is a recognizable personal pain that comes from our own personal experiences.  We have all been in that same place.  Either that or we attend family and friend get togethers regardless of how we feel; in essence we put ourselves last.

In a previous blog post, Don't Ever Let Them See You Sweat, I talked about our invisible illness and how that actually helped me to keep working.  My writing was focused on that warrior side of us that won't give in to this illness.  But that is only part of our collective story.  It is critical that we listen to our bodies every day and that we place ourselves first so we can be as healthy as possible.  I want to reiterate that we absolutely cannot wait until others understand the gravity of our illness and the daily struggle for wellness.  For our own quality of life, our survival, and our ability to thrive, we must be
able to easily discard the unkind comments and gossip that comes our way from those around us.  My girlfriend was imagining her family and friends gathered for the party making comments about her being agoraphobic, selfish, unsociable, and just depressed.  How many times have we all been in that same place?  Thinking about other people gossiping about us comes naturally, because we have heard some of those remarks before.  That experience alone is enough for us to automatically think about what others may be thinking about us.  Our reaction to these thoughts is in part a desperation to get others to understand our daily struggles and the illness that attempts to destroy our quality of life.  That thinking ultimately ends up being counterproductive to our journey in search of wellness.  We become more immersed in our illness in an effort to prove to others that we are really sick.  And when people still don't understand we make additional attempts to prove we have a devastating illness.  When we do that we only harm ourselves, and the people that have chosen not to understand, or just have difficulty wrapping their own brains around what they see, remain uneducated about fibromyalgia.  Meanwhile, our focus on proving we are ill and the stress this creates results in a downward spiral of increasing symptoms despite the therapeutic treatments we have chosen for ourselves.  Another factor that comes into play is that many women and some men are more likely to want approval from others.  That is another self-defeating way of thinking.  The desire for approval gives power to people around us that don't deserve that much power.  Take that power back for yourself.

So how do we stop this cycle that is so detrimental to our own well being?  Our bodies serve as our feedback barometer.  We may not be aware of the untoward effects when our mind and spirit are being ignored.  It is our body that protests at poor self care the most.  The more our bodies protest with increasing symptoms the closer we need to look at what is really going on.  Sometimes it's just plain difficult to get our attention!  I am in no way suggesting that our symptoms are "all in our head".  But our mind and body and spirit are integrated and to dissect one from the other provides a distorted view of something wonderful when it is whole:  a fully integrated human being.  Once we are able to decipher the messages our body sends the closer we will come to achieving wellness.  The problem with waiting for our bodies to send urgent messages is that this is a late sign of neglect.  We really need to attend to improving our mind's health and protect the integrity of our spirit.  Our mind and our spirit are able to overcome many obstacles as long as both remain strong.  When family, friends, neighbors, doctors, health care professionals and acquaintences make unkind remarks about you and fibromyalgia, it is about who they are and not about you.  It is important to set limits and boundaries for people that are unkind or gossip about you.  Everyone has a different way of doing this.  For me, I have limited the time I spend with people that choose to be unkind or I have cut ties with them completely if they are unable to reel themselves in.  I don't care what my affiliation is with people that behave this way.  All I know is they are detrimental to my health and that isn't okay. It's all about having respect for yourself and demanding respect from others the same way you respect them too.  When limits are established with people they may begin to respond to you in more respectful and positive ways too.  Another way I manage a stray unkind remark is to let the person know their remark is not appreciated and they may want to spend the time to educate themselves.  It's really all about ensuring you are treated with dignity and respect by everyone around you.  If people persist in making remarks despite your best efforts at setting limits, you may want to rethink your relationship with them.  That relationship may not be worth the effort it takes and the detrimental effects on your health.  Forgiveness will give you the opportunity to let go of negative feelings you may harbor about unkind people.  That doesn't mean opening yourself up for more ridicule; still set limits.  It is easy to believe that people are making unkind remarks about you and your illness behind your back.  Avoid this thinking; don't give that much power to other people.  This type of thinking is self-defeating and if there is anyone that should be on your side, it should be you!

I believe that making peace with this illness is another important step toward regaining a sense of control for yourself.  Being at peace is like having a magic bubble that surrounds your being with a protective barrier.  This protective barrier has the ability to help you ward off all the negativity and gossip that is directed toward you.  I don't give others the power to throw negative darts at me that can burst my bubble.  I figured out early in my illness that I was so darned miserable and in such severe pain that in order to maintain a positive attitude at all I couldn't afford a single negative thought.  So having people around me that ooze negativity just isn't an option for me.  I lost a friendship several months ago, because this person just couldn't stop the negativity for even a second.  As a result, I have found friendships that have more depth and a true sense of commraderie and they have enriched my life.  These supportive and loving relationships have a powerful influence on my spirit, which has diluted the power of the people that don't wish me well.

Some of the ways that I care for my spirit is to write blog posts, incorporate gentle yoga in my day, and I am starting chakra meditation practice.  Honoring yourself as a marvelous and wonderful being is a good habit to get into.  Above all else, be kind, loving, gentle and tolerant of yourself.  Nurture your mind, body and spirit well and you will be rewarded with a renewed sense of wellness.  Changing your perspective of the world and the people around you takes a lot of practice.  In the meantime, lean on your good friends for love and support as you make your way through this fibro jungle maze.  We are all there for each other and it is beneficial for us to nurture ourselves and our fibromyalgia community.  After all, this is new territory for all of us and we are the explorers and adventurers paving the way for those that will follow.  Blessings and peace be with you as you navigate the fibro jungle maze!  I know I'll be there for you . . . and for me too.  Thanks for being there for me whenever I have needed your love, help and support!
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