Life and Trust and the Ability to Fly

“I’m flying, Jack! ” ~ Rose De Witt Bukater

This weekend marks the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic. Living in Halifax for this anniversary has been very interesting…larger than life in someways, and weirdly revealing in other ways. Revealing in that while something as epic as the Titanic exists, what it all really boils down to is trusting the decisions you make every day: Trusting yourself to fly in the face of what seems insurmountable.

One of my all time favorite movies has been and is James Cameron’s Titanic movie. The picture I have above is, to me, one of the most inspiring pictures – because it depicts the first step in someone’s ability to trust themselves and eventually fly free. Why? Because the character of Rose opened her heart just a bit to the possibilities and positive energies of the world just by placing trust in her own abilities, fledgling though they may be, to really fly in the world – recognizing the support around her for the first time. Her eyes were opened to a whole new world and her trust in herself was sparked, to be fueled into a roaring fire.

Confidence and self-trust basically come from the emotional state. Confidence is your ability to cope and depend upon yourself to create a reality that is dependable. When you are dealing with tough situations in life, like a crisis or a chronic illness that must be managed, having self-trust is a critical key to that coping. It allows you to assess the situation, and make decisions – and trust your own decisions. Is it scary? It can be. It can also be the easiest thing in the world.

For me – my self-self trust is something I value greatly. (And somehow, as I have aged, I have noticed it becomes much stronger! All that life experience and wisdom gets packed in the brain nice and tight…or maybe too tight, eh? :) I trust that every day, using all the knowledge I have learned over the years, I can make decisions to keep moving me forward on my own path, unique as it is – no matter what my health throws at me or otherwise.  (And yoga’s teaching & benefits have definitely helped me along that path.)

What I have learned is that there is no such thing as a mistake in life – every experience is something that can be learned from. This I trust – because I trust myself to see the experience for what it is (whether a seizure or an MS exacerbation or something else in life), to find a way to turn negatives into positives, and to generally find the right path forward, even if I may have stumbled off it. My very training as a meteorologist taught me a good part of that – by making self-trust a huge part of the job. You have to trust your information in a smart way, assess and analyse it, discard what has little value, make a decision and trust in your decision. Don’t second guess yourself – as that undermines your own self-trust. Even if that decision turns out to be the wrong one, don’t distrust yourself – you made the best decision with the information you had. You do better when you know better. So, amend. That’s part of the life journey.

“Life is like forecasting. You make a decision based on your best analysis, and if you’re wrong, you change it.” ~ Jim Abraham, Environment Canada Meteorologist

No matter what you are going through in life, there will come a time for  you to fly. Trust in your own ability to do just that!

Namaste

Carolyne

Overwhelmed: Medication Russian Roulette and More!

“Our lives improve only when we take chances and the first and most difficult risk we can take is to be honest with ourselves.” -Walter Anderson

Wow – it’s been longer than I thought since my last blog. I had all the best intentions in the world…but I got overwhelmed. I got overwhelmed by work, by my own work ethic (can you say Over-Achieving Super Mom?), by my body’s inability to keep up with the workload, and by medication choices that were put in front of me due to medication side effects.

Work-wise…well, bottom line is that when the poop hits the fan, the work has to get done. All my years of training have created in me a work ethic that ensures I meet deadlines. Period. This means that when something needs to get done, I get it done where I can (even if it is not “my job”). This ethic conflicts with my energy levels in that my body says “Yeah, whatever. The work will still be there tomorrow – I am taking you down now.” As a person with high expectations of herself, that is a hard pill to swallow. For me – that is a signal that I need to do more gentle yoga and mindful meditation to practice better “non-attachment”. I am on a much needed week-off right now as I pushed myself in recent weeks to the extreme limits in order to meet deadlines and makes sure the workshop my colleague and I were facilitating went well.

Medications-wise…AAAAARRRGGGHHHH! That part is just plain frustrating. The side effects of some medications are often worse that the illness they are treating!!!! And the most frustrating part of it is that every individual reacts differently to medications, so you don’t know what side effects will impact you until you are actually on the medication. Currently, in order to lesson the side effects of my seizure drug (Keppra) and tackle MS Pain and sleep problems, I am starting an additional new seizure drug called Vimpat, with the intent to get to lowest doses of both together so that we minimize side effects and maintain the success rate of seizure control. This one is so new, that little is known other than clinical trials. SO…basically, I had to decide if the risk of trying this new drug is worth the potential side effects. Is it worth it?

It is often the choices we have to make that can paralyze us. For example, in going through the seizure med options with the doc, I found that my choices boiled down often to the following:

  • drug a – weight gain, hair loss, psychosis
  • drug b – weight loss, hair loss, documented significant drop in IQ (as much as 20 points in some cases!!!)
  • drug c – weight gain, rash, double vision
  • and so on….

So – my choices are: fat and bald, and potentially out of my mind; skinny and bald and “stupider” (pardon the choice of word); fat, itchy, and trouble seeing…and the list goes on.

It was alot easier for me when I decided to stop the MS meds – the only other option afforded me has a side effect of death due to brain issue, so even the docs agreed to keep me of the MS drugs. For the seizures though it is another story – the meds may save my life, no matter the side effects. My seizures are violent and sudden, and each time I have had one i have been significantly injured in some way, so the docs are not eager to see me off them for my own safety.

Erg.

This is where the overwhelm can hit hard – sometimes I just want the whole thing to stop. Just stop. I get tired of having to choose. I get tired of having to think of what effects my choices will have on me, on my family, on my work and on my ability to work. I don’t want to have to make decisions between Poop Box A, and Crap Box B. I can find myself exhausted and overwhelmed, not just by the meds themselves, but the choices of what we are willing to give up while on that particular med in order to maximize the positive benefits of that same med. And that can also lead to tears of frustration and even anger at being in the situation to begin with – anger at your body, anger at the disease, anger at the situation in general.

This is when I turn to yoga the most – it helps keep me centred, or re-centre me when I have lost my focus. It helps me see the situation from a more non-attached prespective, and see the moment for what it is. There are many different ways to go about dealing with the emotions, but the most important thing is to never give up.

“We are all faced with a series of great opportunities brilliantly disguised as impossible situations.” -Charles R. Swindoll

Namaste

Carolyne

Turning Negatives into Positives as a Tool for Managing Chronic Illness

“Our greatness lies not so much in being able to remake the world as being able to remake ourselves.” -Gandhi

One thing I adore about cats is that no matter what situation they find themselves in, they usually figure out a way to make it a comfortable one. And they don’t make any apologies for it!

The new year always brings with it shiny new resolutions, new goals, new resolve. The beginning on 2012 has been a bit of a challenge for me, as concussion repercussion vertigo and MS weakness and fatigue have flared up. What it’s meant is that I have been forced into a bit of a downward physical spiral in that the vertigo prevented me from doing my usual cardio (though I managed a couple of aqua fit type classes for movement and falling safety…but the pace is very slow for my fitness level). Yoga has been greatly modified to allow for safety…so when I have been well enough, I have done restorative yoga. But none of the usual “pushes” over the bulk of the holiday.

I admit, I pushed myself to attend a New Year Welcoming 2012 Yoga event, doing 108 Sun Salutations to welcome the year and donate to charity. That was a double pleasure for me, because I also got a chance to lead a segment of the 108 Sun Salutations…a happy surprise! I took breaks as I needed…child’s pose…mmmmm. My darling Mikey got through all 108! WOW! We were both very sweaty and rubbery by the end – but what a great way to get a sweat on! Savasana felt SOOOO good.

This year is one in which I will be challenging my body to make changes. Yoga will continue to be my tool to see me through it all. I will be seeing new specialists regarding concussion damages and how to manage them. One thing that is always a challenge, and makes your body change, is medication changes. For instance, I recently weaned off my anti-depressant, as recommended by my sleep specialist neuro doc…it had the positive effect of improving my sleep, but negatively it may have affected my medication cocktail in such a way as to affect my metabolism…causing weight gain. (Not just the xmas weight gain.) So I will use this as the opportunity to challenge myself to lose the weight…and maybe a few more that crept on over the course of the ups and downs of the recent year. The docs will be changing my seizure meds too – to adapt to the sleep issues. They want me to change to a seizure med that reduces sleep and mood interference, and that is known to help with pain and even with weight gain issues. This could be a good opportunity to learn even more about how my body works and how to manage my health…but it will be another slow road.

“Always concentrate on how far you’ve come, rather than how far you have left to go.” -Unknown

Namaste

Carolyne

Blown Away in December!

“Make the best use of what is in your power and take the rest as it happens.” -Epictetus

This past number of days has been a series of days in which I have been blown away, both literally and figuratively!

I have been taking studies in change management, innovation, engagement and making change work. My mind has been figuratively blown away by new concepts, old concepts, developing theories and studies, evolving knowledge, and deepening passions as a result. (The scientist and self-researcher in me was enthralled!)

In addition, I have been physically blown away but one heckuva good winter storm that ripped roofs of building, dumped loads of water on us, and actually blew me 10 feet across an intersection! Roads were closed, buildings were closed, and power went out.  (The geeky meteorologist in me was absolutely thrilled by all that!) I was so grateful that my footing was strong thanks to my yoga practice. Before yoga, I would have been swept off my feet onto my butt with the inability to balance and feel strong on my feet.

What a crazy, busy couple of weeks!

It all made me start thinking more about how the busy-ness of the holiday season can also blow us away – by overwhelming our abilities to handle all the holiday bustle, the commitments, the emotional ups and downs, the temptations, and so on. It can be a period of emotional joy, upheaval, or sadness. It can be fun, boring, or painful. It all depends on your own personal perspective and experience.

When we are managing our health in the midst of all this bustle, we can easily forget our own needs – such as medications, exercise, stress management. We might take on too much in the excitement of the season – doing more baking or committing more time to activities that overwhelm us if we don’t take car to maintain a fine balance. Routines get blown away – and even our resolve can get blown away.

When managing a chronic illness like MS, it is really important to make sure you take time to rest. Take the moments when you can – even if your routine is blown away.

Here are a few Tips and Tricks for Not getting “Blown Away” over the holidays:

  • Take a moment in the midst of a party or social function to sit and simply breathe and regain some energy. Focus on your yogic deep breathing in order to refresh yourself and reduce fatigue levels. Do this for 5-10 breaths to refind your inner calm.
  • Practice yoga for at least 15 minutes each day. Even if the only pose you practice is Savasanah (Corpse pose, or Relaxation Pose), spend that 15 minutes like it is the most precious 15 minutes of your entire day!
  • Don’t be afraid to put yourself first and say “no” when you feel the need.
  • Smile!

“Life is so great that we only get a tiny moment to enjoy everything we see. And that moment is right now.” -Neil Pasricha

Namaste y’all

Carolyne

Emotions are Catchy: Managing Emotional Overload during Stressful Times

“Sometimes the most important thing in a whole day is the rest we take between two deep breaths.” -Etty Hillesum

Have you ever noticed that if you are hanging out with happy people, you often “catch” their mood and become happier, too? Or conversely, you start out in a great mood, then after some time with a grumpy colleague or friend who is negative, your own spirits tank to some degree? You’re feeling good at work until your grumbling co-worker comes in, complaining and criticizing endlessly – soon, you’re doing it too. On the flip-side, perhaps you’ve felt your sad, anxious, or lonely mood lift when your kids or significant other comes home, laughing happy and upbeat. That’s because emotions are contagious!

“Emotional contagion”.  Sounds serious, doesn’t it?? Simply put, it is a term specialists use when emotions “spread” from person to person, influencing the moods and behaviors of others. “Second-hand Stress or Depression.” Sounds like it should be part of a warning system on something – like the Canadian cigarette packs of today. Research in other fields is beginning to suggest that, like cigarette smoke, secondhand stress may be more harmful than we’d realized. (Second-Hand Stress)

Generally speaking, the people most likely to cause you secondhand stress or depression are those closest to you — your spouse, kids, parents, co-workers that you see every day — since their problems have direct, as well as indirect, impacts on you.The more you identify with a person, the closer you are to them, the more likely you are to catch the emotion. Most of the time, we are not even aware it is happening. As we develop our personal self-awareness, we can become adept at recognizing it sooner.

Personally, I came to a conscious awareness of how deeply second-hand stress and depression was affecting me when I have a catastrophic technical break-down that forced me to change up my daily routine for a bit. Workplace stress and staff cutbacks had created a very depressing and stressed atmosphere that was affecting me, making me feel unmotivated, disengaged, tired, and frustrated – but it was compounded by some family health issues with depression and anxiety at home. After the technical breakdown forced me have to go into the office daily for a week, rather than my usual working from home accommodation for my health, I was anticipating that I would become even more stressed, fatigued, and demotivated. Interestingly enough – that did not happen. After 2 days at the office, surrounded by colleagues who have a naturally positive outlook and approach similar to mine, my mood lifted greatly. My work stress, while still there, felt lighter. Physically, yes – I was exhausted. But emotionally and mentally – I was jazzed.

So what happened?? Well – it was a combination of things. Firstly, at home, I was in the daily presence of my significant other who was going through a personal crisis and dealing with resultant clinical depression. Secondly, at work, two close colleagues who work with me took advantage of the fact that I was on site, and we spent a lot of time working together and getting things done (amidst a lot of laughter and goofiness) that might otherwise have taken longer remotely. So, basically – there had been an on-going drain on my emotional energy, and not enough positive re-filling. The change in my daily routine allowed me to recognize clearly what was happening – I was emotionally overloaded, and not all the emotional overload originated within me. Subsequently, I have made some changes (mostly in my own attitude) and my stress levels and mood are much better!

So how can we stop from catching someone else’s negative emotions – the “carriers”? Conversely, how can we recognise when we, ourselves, are the emotional contagion carriers?

Developing emotional awareness (source: gaiam.com)

  • Notice and name your emotions. Stop and spend a few minutes experiencing the emotions in your body. Notice what you’re feeling physically and then name the emotion. Don’t judge what you’re feeling, or change it. Just learn to recognize it.
  • Figure out where your mood is coming from. If you’re experiencing powerful emotions, like anger, consider where the emotional energy is coming from. Could it be residual emotion from a mood you were infected with hours ago? Identifying where your mood originates — for example, a sad mood could be a result of spending the day with a depressed friend — can keep us from misdirecting our emotions later.
  • Raise the feeling. Take time before any interaction to tune in to your emotions and shift them in a more positive direction. Try a quick gratitude exercise. Or set an intention for a patient, kind interaction with the person you’ll soon be meeting. Do something to generate good feelings or temper the bad ones so you have something positive to share.
  • Practice non-attachment. Meditate or do yoga to reduce the stress levels. Acknowledge where you are without judgment. Acknowledge what is yours, and what may not originate with you. Let go of what is not yours. Simply observe what is yours without condemnation.

Keep that in mind that the Holiday Season stresses build with the approaching festivities. The Holiday Season can be an especially stressful time, especially for those of us balancing holiday commitments and personal energy issues as a result of managing chronic illness.

When you keep in mind that emotional contagion is always at work at some level or another, positive or negative, you can automatically diffuse its power and become more aware of the emotions you’re both experiencing and sharing with the world.

“Within you there is a stillness and a sanctuary to which you can retreat at any time and be yourself.” -Hermann Hesse

Namaste y’all!

Carolyne

Seeing the Light at the End of the Tunnel: Builiding your Resilience

“Continuous effort—not strength or intelligence—is the key to unlocking our potential.” ~Winston Churchill

http://www.babaloud.com/2011/05/amazing-inspirational-quotes/amazing-inspirational-quotes-16/(Photo Credit: http://www.babaloud.com)

Sometimes it can be tough to see the light at the end of the tunnel. That’s where personal resilience comes in. Resilience can help you know that even if you can’t see the light right now, you are confident that you will at some point.

If you google resilience, a Wiki definition comes up for resilience as:

Resilience in psychology refers to the idea of an individual’s tendency to cope with stress and adversity. This coping may result in the individual “bouncing back” to a previous state of normal functioning, or using the experience of exposure to adversity to produce a “steeling effect” and function better than expected (much like an inoculation gives one the capacity to cope well with future exposure to disease).[1] Resilience is most commonly understood as a process, and not a trait of an individual.[2]

Resilience is different for every person. When dealing with a chronic illness, resilience can mean the difference between life and death sometimes, or so it would seem when you feel like you have hit rock bottom. Resilience is what helps you find the strength to get back up one more time, try again once more, reach for the rope that you know is somewhere just out of sight.

Sometimes, people surprise me by saying to me: “How do you cope with it all? Shouldn’t you be a basket case by now? Why do you keep pushing forward? How do you do it?”

Honestly – I could not tell you the details of how I bounce back all the time, for the most part. Statistics often can say that a person who has dealt with multiple childhood traumas and multiple health issues should be having a really tough times surviving and living a good life. I just know that I do bounce back – to me there is no other logical choice but to keep trying, no matter what life throws at me. When you are down, rest, but look for the silver lining somewhere – no matter how small. Baby steps at times; sometimes, big leaps of faith.

My youngest son noticed this “bounce back” ability and surprised me one day by saying “Mom, no matter what happens, you are always happy and positive. Most people aren’t happy – but you always are. You are a very positive person. That’s interesting.” He noted it because he found it interesting that he does not think the same way as me, but that his older brother does more so, in terms of positivity and jumping in with both feet. (Both of my sons are absolutely brilliant, but my youngest is particularly deep, and often sees things in life in a very unique and clear way. He fascinates me!)

So how does one build resilience, if it is not instictive? Here are some tips…(reference source: Mayo Clinic)

  • Get connected. Building strong, positive relationships and support networks. Do volunteer work, get involved in your community, or join a spiritual community.
  • Make every day meaningful. Do something that gives you a sense of accomplishment and purpose every day. Set goals to help you look toward the future with meaning.
  • Learn from past experience. Think back on how you’ve coped with hardships in the past. Consider the skills and strategies that helped you through rough times.
  • Stay hopeful. You can’t change what’s happened in the past, but you can always look toward the future. Accepting and even anticipating change makes it easier to adapt and view new challenges with less anxiety.
  • Take care of yourself. Exercise daily. Get plenty of sleep. Eat a healthy diet. Practice stress management and relaxation techniques, such as yoga, meditation, deep breathing or prayer.
  • Take personal control – Be proactive!  Don’t ignore your problems or try to wish them away. Instead, figure out what needs to be done, make a plan and take action. Although it can take time to recover from a major setback, traumatic event or loss, know that your situation can improve if you actively work at it. This is one of the biggest keys to building your resilience, because perceived control is critical.

Once of the biggest helps to build your resilience is your perception of control in your own life. That’s where changing your perception to be proactive, and take control of the things you can, can make all the difference in the world. There are many things in life that are totally out of control – but take control where ever you can to help improve your situation in some small way. Many small steps eventually get you down the road, too.

“Act as if what you do makes a difference. It does.” -William James

namaste y’all!

Carolyne

Related Posts: “The Value of taking Time for Laughter and Rest”

To Sleep or Not to Sleep – that is the Question!

“A little knowledge that acts is worth infinitely more than much knowledge that is idle.” -Kahlil Gibran

Sleep. Such a simple thing. Or so one would think, eh?

I recently did a sleep study, and my results proved to be somewhat of a surprise. Apparently, I don’t sleep well at all. I move an average of 55 times per hour, and wake up and average of 3-4 times per hour. Apparently – that is not good. Huh. (And more astonishing, the night I did the sleep study, I thought I’d had a really good night’s sleep!)

On the positive side, it helps me understand why I wake up every morning feeling utterly exhausted.

So – what am I going to do about it? I don’t know yet. That remains to be seen once I see another specialist. (Yumpin’ Yiminee – I have a lot of specialists!) What does it mean for me? Well – it means naps are a big time tool for me to manage my fatigue levels…so I will continue napping! (Mike and I love a good nap – nothing better than snuggling together and drifting off for an afternoon nap whenever we can grab one! Added bonus: regular snuggling keeps us close and deeply connected!)

On the curious side, I wonder – why? Why do I not sleep? Why am I not aware that I am not sleeping? Is it because of the brain lesion? MS? Medications? Perimenopause? Stress? Childhood trauma? Brain damage from concussions or seizures? All or none of the above? Would increasing my yoga to ensure some YIN Yoga just before bed make a difference in actual sleep? Does diet affect it? (Caffeine, yes – for me.) Time to start tracking my sleep patterns more closely, and seeing if I can discover more about myself. Oh goodie – I can be my own science project again!

Curiouser and curiouser, as they say. (Well, after all I am considered “utterly fascinating and complicated” by my diverse medical team!)

“Open minds lead to open doors.” -Unknown

Namaste

Carolyne

A Revealing Conundrum

“The most important of life’s battles is the one we fight daily in the silent chambers of the soul. “~ David O. McKay

(photo credit: http://actinglikeanimals.wordpress.com/tag/dog/ )

Have you ever been in a situation where you had to weight the pros and cons of revealing something about yourself and risking making yourself conspicuous rather than staying inconspicuous?

I recently had to do a complex travel hop for work…alone. This hop included a flight to Ottawa for one day, then a mid-day hop to Toronto by air the following day, then an evening flight to return to Halifax after a day of meetings on the final day. So what was my conundrum? Whether or not to reveal my seizure disorder to airline personnel.

To reveal, or not to reveal – that was the question!

If I don’t reveal, and have a seizure, I could end up in the middle of some strange city as a form of “Jane Doe” with no one aware of my predicament. Or I could make sure I have back-up in the form of colleagues and travel staff at least knowing who I am and where I came from and where I should be. It really is kinda black-white in terms of pros-cons…but the part about making myself stand out from the crown is the part that can be the question du jour. Because I have absolutely no warning if and/or when a seizure may occur, and because they are full-on tonic-clonic, and I lose awareness of myself for hours thereafter, revealing is a very real question that I must consider whenever I travel alone. For example – in travelling to Ottawa and Toronto, I was heading alone on the flight, and staying alone in my hotels. If I had had a seizure mid-flight…the airline staff needs to know how to help me and who to call to care for me.  I have colleagues in both cities, so I could give them names. Coming home, I could give them my family contact info. But giving my contact info is not the issue…it’s the very real choice I must make to actually reveal my medical condition and the reason WHY they need my contact information.

Initially, I was not quite sure how to go about it – I wanted privacy as much as possible. So I finally decided that the best way for me to handle it was to board the plane during the pre-boarding times…when people need extra help, extra hands, extra time. That way I could get the airline stewards’ attention a bit more privately, and feel a bit less conspicious. (Now – that being said, sometimes the glares from impatient people waiting to board and watching what seems to be a perfectly hale and hearty woman boarding in pre-boarding can be quite daunting. I can only imagine the colourful words cycling in their heads!)

I gotta say – having 3 opportunities on 3 different planes in 3 days to experience my revealing conundrum was fascinating in some ways. (That nerdy scientific side of me always comes to the front, eh? Such a geek! ) One young steward was absolutely thrilled because he was a registered nurse with a neuroscience specialty. One steward was stunned, and did not know what to do with the information. One older steward was very professional, noting information and checking on me mid-flight. Me-thinks age and training levels may have had some play here, eh?

So – was revealing as much of a conundrum as I had thought previously? Not really. But then again, I am a person who is willing to be transparent and share my experiences in life so that others can learn from them, if it applies.

Revealing takes courage, and a willingness to be vulnerable. If you are not a person who is comfortable being open about personal issues, this can be a very tough situation. One has to weigh the pros and cons for themselves and decide – to reveal, or not to reveal.

That is the question. What is YOUR answer?

“Since life and experience is a matter of trial-and-error, there’s no need to take choosing – or life itself – too seriously.” ~Soren Lauritzen

Namaste

Carolyne

K.Y.L. Yourself – no, really!

“When I’m good, I’m very good, but when I’m bad, I’m better. ”
Mae West

(photo credit: World of Harmony)

K.Y.L.  It means, for those who are not sure, “Know Your Limits”. It’s not as easy as it would seem!

Recently I have noticed that my “inner bitch” has been more mentally vocal of late. My patience is thinner than normal – to the point of nearly being non-existent if I have to deal with inefficiency and laziness at the office. Yikes. Without quite seeing it it, I’ve been feeling unsettled, with a low-level of anxiety, for the past couple of weeks. A number of things have been contributing to it..but the main this is that I have been pushing myself and not acknowledging my own limits. I always have some big project or big idea on the go, and my passions for helping people often translate into taking on way too much.This unsettled feeling translated for a while into me doing more, More, MORE. Why I go that way when I am overwhelmed & tired…well, that’s something I need to watch. Chalk it up to that old Type-A personality of mine!

How does one recognise when they have pushed themselves beyond their limits? It’s taken me over 47 years, but I think I am finally starting to recognize my own signs…I am finally KYL-ing myself better! For me, a very patient person normally, I see that my patience wears desperately thin, and I just need to get away from people as I pull in emotionally. My sensory input goes on overload – noise drives me up the wall and create low-level stress that grows. If I don’t address it, I begin to get agitated and antsy – craving sweet or salty foods…too irritated and exhausted to make healthy meals. (My kids love that phase because pizza becomes a staple!) My ability to push myself to exercise, meditate, and do my yoga becomes compromised…I’d rather just sleep. I find making simple decisions, like what’s for dinner, become irritating and burdensome – I resent having to decide. I also notice that I seek TV “fluff” more, and need to read simple fantasy books. (When I am really overwhelmed and pushed beyond my limits, I crave paranormal romance novels. Nothing like a good sexy and ripped immortal highlander to rescue you from the drudgery of your own thoughts, eh? Gives me a whole new perspective on “Hot Flash”!)

Now that I see that I have been pushing myself beyond my own limits, I can deliberately do the things that bring me back to my centre and allow me to rediscover my personal balance – things such as rest more, do more yoga, read or watch more mindless “fluff”, or pull back a bit on some of my personal projects. (Instead of 5 big personal projects, I cut it down to 2, with plans to take on the other 3 down the road when the timing and energy is better! Yay me! Hah!)

For me, this balancing act, and the ability to know my own limits, is critical. If I push beyond them, I risk provoking a seizure. I would really rather not, thank you very much. While I am never “there” myself – they really cause quite a cuff-uffle for friends and family due to their drama.

How about you? Do you have any signs or habits that signal that you’re maybe doing too much and going beyond your own limits?  KYL for yourself!

“The most difficult times for many of us are the ones we give ourselves.”
Pema Chödrön, When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times

Namaste

Carolyne

Medications Side-Effects : Finding your Medication Zen Point

“Your body is precious. It is our vehicle for awakening. Treat it with care.” -Buddha

Nothing like a little Downward Dog on the river to make you feel alive, eh? Find your solid grounding and take a moment to feel strong and rest at the same time. A mini journey of sorts, if you would.

Dealing with medication side effects can be much the same – a journey into finding your ground, and seeking the Zen point of Balance between feeling good due to medication and feeling not so good. It’s not as easy as it seems to determine whether symptoms you are experiencing are drug side effects, MS symptoms, regular old flu/cold symptoms, or symptoms as a result of stress or anything else. Add the complications of aging, and sometimes you don’t know if your body is MS’ing, PMS’ing, or Menopausing!

I like to call it the Rule of PMS³! (PMS to the Power of Three – yes, I really am a physics nerd at heart!) When you have no idea what’s happening – it’s probably one of those. Works for men too – but we’d have to rename it MS³, because men have andropause…)

When living with a chronic illness such as MS, medications are often a big part of your life. Medications for the illness. Medications for the pain. Medications for the intolerable side effects of the priority medication. Then there are the cross side effects when one drug affects how the other drug affects you. It can be a daunting and confusing road sometimes, figuring out how to best navigate medications and side effects. It starts to feel like you are playing a round of Abbot & Costello’s “Who’s on First…

The beauty of how yoga has helped me learn to manage my medications and their side effects and understand them better is through allowing me to develop and hone my self-awareness skills. Self-awareness is not only psychological – it is also physical. I find that I am now MUCH more aware of what is going on in my body, when and why, as a direct result of practicing mindfulness, non-attachment, and being fully present in each moment as much as I possibly can. I understand more why my body is moving in a certain way; what may be causing a certain pain in one area I now recognize as possibly due to a condition in a completely opposite area. I have learned that the toe bone really is connected to the shoulder bone, in a manner of speaking! The human body really is an amazing piece of work!

For example – last week while on a fall house purging spree, I ended up feeling a sharp pain in my right jaw area suddenly by the end of the day, when I was most fatigued. Because I had been moving things around a bit, I figured that I had somehow clenched my jaw and pulled a muscle somehow, irritating my TMJ in my jaw. But I knew something was not quite right with that theory because I have learned that when you have pain due to muscles or bone alignments, it is usually reflected in some way somewhere else in the body. This wasn’t. A few days later, the pain was spreading and the headaches were worse…but I could still turn my neck. At that point, I started fitting the puzzle pieces together – my right side of the head hurt…and it was an ear infection, not TMJ nor a pulled muscle. I saw my GP, and she confirmed my thoughts. I was put on an antibiotic -again.

Turns out, my seizure meds, which have a known side effect of suppressing the immune system, especially of the respiratory system, has weakened my immune system further. My immune system is already weak due to MS. The doc said I need to be carefull about exposure now, as my body is not able to handle the infections like before. I am starting to understand that, since in the past 8 weeks I have had a serious and sudden bout of bronchitis, and now a painful and sudden ear infection (which I have never had before in my life). But – heck…if it is a choice between full-on Grand Mals with no warning, or the odd sinus infection…well, for now the odds fall better in the infection camp. That may change down the road…but for now, my Medication Zen Point is the point between tolerable side effects and intolerable consequences if I don’t take the drug! I’ll take the ear infection over the grand mal seizure, please!

“It is necessary to combine knowledge born from study with sincere practice in our daily lives. These two must go together.” -Dalai Lama

My advice to anyone dealing with the Medications Side Effects russion roulette: develop your sense of self-awareness. It will never steer you wrong!

Namaste

Carolyne