Allowing for Personal Renewal in 2013!

“I can hardly wait for tomorrow, it means a new life for me each and every day.” ~ Stanley Kunitz

Image Source: http://breastcancerpartner.com/blog/uncategorized/renewal-spring-is-here/

Image Source: breastcancerpartner.com/blog/

As 2012 came to an end, some sighed in relief that the world did not come to the prophetic end. Some did not have any clue that 2012 was supposedly an “end” to anything. Most of the world simply went on living life as usual.

Everyone has their own individual experience with the past year (2012) so I am not going to do any kind of run-down of 2012 events. We all can do that on a deeply personal level. Look back at 2012 and recognize the blessings there. Recognize the challenges and subsequent learning opportunities. Recognize the achievements and appreciate the moments of joy. Be grateful for what 2012 brought to your life, big or small. Then, let go of 2012 and move on to a sparkly shiny new 2013.

The year 2013 for me will be another year of change and goal setting. Here are a couple of my personal goals for 2013:

  1. Get into optimum training form. To do so, I will kick up my synchronized swimming training efforts a notch to make my goal of competing by  my 50th birthday in spring of 2014 a reality. (I have already begun this one by joining a local gym with my hubby and beginning a training regimen tailored to my injuries and medical adjustments and my goal of competing. This should complement my weekly synchro swim training sessions well! ) 
  2. Keep on top of my health management by ensuring I maintain a healthy diet and manage my fatigue properly. To do so, I will follow a healthy diet with as much raw foods as possible. I will not over-extend my energy limits to the point of exhaustion. I will schedule in more relaxation yoga and meditation.

The greatest mistake a man can make is to be afraid of making one. -Elbert Hubbard

The training goal is the tough one physically. While there is definitely excitement to be back in the water and training competitively in synchronized swimming, I battle frequently with a little niggling fear in the back of my mind that maybe, just maybe, I have bitten of more than I can chew this time. Little ghosts of thoughts cross my mind, such as: Will my body be able to handle this? Am I crazy? Am I too old? Am I too “disabled”? Does it stop me? Heck no. But it does keep me on my toes and AWARE of myself and my own qualms.

The first step towards getting somewhere is to decide that you are not going to stay where you are. -J. Pierpont Morgan

The health management goal is the toughest one. That’s the one where I have to really fight myself to keep…because I can so easily slide into bad eating habits or push myself to  work too much when I am over-tired. When I am fatigued is also when my brain does not seem to function at its best, and I have been known to make really weird decisions in terms of best choices at the times. (I believe my sister often uses the phrase “OMG – Do you need a brick to hit you in the head every time to get you to finally rest???” ) Trying to get a Type-A person to recognize when she is in full Type-A throttle and to scale back can be quite a challenge at the best of times!

So – do I expect to be perfect this year in reaching my goals and resolutions? Heck no. But I will have fun on the path!

OUR GREATEST GLORY IS NOT IN NEVER FAILING, BUT IN RISING EVERY TIME WE FALL. -CONFUCIUS

Have fun on your own 2013 journey!

Namaste.

Carolyne

Try, Try, Try. Period.

“If you can’t fly, run. If you can’t run, walk. If you can’t walk, crawl. But, by all means keep moving.” ~Martin Luther King Jr

Sometimes it takes digging deep – really deep – to keep getting back up and trying. Has anyone else noticed that?

I have been going through an exacerbation of my MS symptoms, with old symptoms returning with a vengeance. To complicate matters, my peri-menopausal flare-ups are adding new symptoms that I am trying to wrap my head around, as well. Combine the two – and well, we have a pretty fatigued and worn-out Carolyne on hand.

Last week was a particularly busy week at work, and I had to be on-site at the main office for most of the week. My MS symptoms were flaring pretty badly before the week had even started, with MS Hug episodes taking my sparkle down to a dull “splat”. Then, the 2nd day into the busy week I was hit by what I am now calling the dreaded peri-menopausal period. My fatigue and pain got so bad that one of the days I actually left the room full of people I needed to be with, headed to my office, shut the door, and lay there doing the yoga “legs up the wall” pose for 20 minutes…just breathing and trying to meditate to reduce the pain and fatigue and brain fog. (I think someone may have come into my office during that time…but left when they saw how busy I was!)

My synchro swimming was also affected in that my coach could tell right away that something was not right. She could see my fatigue and my balance was way, WAY off.

SO…this peri-menopausal period stuff seems to be becoming quite the deal-breaker for me lately. Cramps worse than when I was a teen. Fatigue like a sledge hammer. Brain fog galor.  Is this normal for someone with MS, or for anyone?? I really don’t know. Doctors don’t like to say anything for sure, though some websites do mention that hormonal changes can affect MS symtoms. I am here to say that when my period comes these days, it is like I have been hit with the Fatigue Hammer of the Gods! Holy crap! I can’t think straight; my pain levels skyrocket; and my fatigue takes me down to the ground. So…seeing as I am my own science experiment…I would say that my observations are telling me that my peri-menopausal menses and symptoms are prone to exacerbating my MS symptoms greatly. And I don’t like it!!!

But – no matter what, crushing pain or no, I have a family to take care of…so I gotta push through the pain, fatigue and brain fog and just keep tryin’. When I came across the song and video by Pink, it resonated with me…and to me, it inspires the will we need to keep trying.

“But just because it burns
Doesn’t mean you’re gonna die
You’ve gotta get up and try try try
Gotta get up and try try try”
~Pink

So that’s what’s been going on with me. I am getting up. I am trying. Period.

So what’s going on with you?

Namaste.

Carolyne

It Takes a Team to Manage your Health

Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being, and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.  ~World Health Organization, 1948

One thing I have learned over the years is that the support of a team is essential for so many achievements in life, be it at work or at home. The same is very true for managing health if you live with chronic illness.

But what does that team look like? Well – it varies for every person. A team can be you and a family member. It can be small. It can be large. One large team…or teams within a team. It can consist of close contacts. It can consist of near strangers. What matters is that you feel supported by your team.

I consider myself very lucky, despite my health challenges. I have a fantastic support team. My support team includes my family, my colleagues, my medical healthcare team, my pets, my yoga community, and my new synchro swimming buds. One large team…with teams within a team.

Each member of what I call my support team helps me along my journey and in managing my health in his or her own way, at various times. (And yes – sometimes they don’t even know how much they may have helped me in one moment or another.) My husband cheers me on, and is there to catch me when I fall or when I just need someone to hold me and hug me and tell me it will all be ok. The rest of my family are also there to cheer me on and catch me when I fall – as are my closest friends. My boss allows me to work primarily from home so that I can keep working. I also am lucky enough to have developed good relationships and friendships with my medical support team – from my neurologists to my massage therapist, chiropractor, and osteopath. With my synchro team, I have a fantastic coach who supports my goals for competition and respects me enough to push me when she knows I need that pushing. My health history doesn’t scare her at all.

I am very appreciative of all of their contributions to how I manage my health. And I try to let them know that as often as I can.

And I appreciate you all – as my readers, you are also a part of my support team…so thank you!

Teamwork is the ability to work as a group toward a common vision, even if that vision becomes extremely blurry. ~Author Unknown

Who  makes up your support team?

Namaste

Carolyne

Riding the Emotional Roller Coaster!

I’m not afraid to write my feelings in songs. ~ Taylor Swift

Image Source: Wakeuptiger.blogspot.ca
http://wakeuptiger.blogspot.ca/2012/03/feelings.html

Thanks to adjustments in my seizure meds, I have been riding the emotional lability roller coaster lately (so to speak). Emotional lability – sounds…weird, right?

Here is a dictionary definition:
emotional lability – a condition of excessive emotional reactions and frequent mood changes.

Sounds almost benign, eh? Well here is a description that is a little more apt:
The symptoms of emotional lability might vary among individuals and in frequency of occurrence. Fits of laughter or crying jags are two examples. Some people do evidence this most with explosive tempers, and there can be instances where people will experience all three emotionally excessive expressions at varied times. When these expressions occur, it’s often daunting for the people undergoing them because many people know that their emotional response is in excess to the circumstances. It can even get embarrassing for some individuals or be a condition that makes them withdraw socially. (source: http://www.wisegeek.com/what-is-emotional-lability.htm)

So what bring this on? It can be a symptom of degenerative brain disorders like multiple sclerosis. It can also be a side effect of some medications.

In my case, it seems to be a bit of both going on – MS-fatigue induced lability, as well as Seizure Med induced labaility! Erg.

In recent weeks I have become more weepy off and on, with the weepiness triggered by …well, sometimes absolutely nothing, …and at other times, triggered by stuff that should either make me furious or make me just go “awe…how sweet”!

In order to sort it out, I have taken a bit of time off work (doc ordered), because the high stress at work from the effects of cutbacks and such has become quite toxic. So, once off work, the stress lessened, especially as my sleep increased significantly…but the crying continued! Ack! This time, the crying was happy crying, from Mother’s day and such. But the waterworks would not turn off! (Very frustrating to me, but highly amusing to my family!)

As I have gotten more sleep with long afternoon naps, I have become much more tear-free. Go figure, eh? It would seem that somewhere along the way, I put my need to seriously manage my MS fatigue level to the bottom of my priority list…and my body responded this time not by dropping me with a serious seizure, but by making my emotions rise to the surface in the form of weepiness! Somewhere along the way I had forgotten the importance of me taking the rest I need when I need it – and, ironically, the privilege of being accommodated for working from home was making me feel guilty for taking that rest. Stupid, eh?

You see, one of my seizure meds has a known side effect of weepiness and crying. While I had managed to keep it under control for a while, the change in meds, combined with the very high stress at work, and my growing deep fatigue, seemed to have led to the teary times being more than I could manage.  And while one doc wants to put me on an anti-depressant to counter the side effect of the other med, another doc on my team wants me to stay off antidepressants, and lower the seizure drug dose, while upping a different seizure drug.

Talk about russian roullette, eh?? But the positive in all of this? I have not had a siezure in over a year now – despite the high stress! Given that high stress (psitive or negative stress) seemed to be a possible trigger for my seizure, this lack of seizures to date hopefully means that the seizure meds are working.

So, in the scheme of things…what’s a few tears here and there, eh??

“The only way to make sense out of change is to plunge into it, move with it, and join the dance.” ~ Alan Watts

Namaste

Carolyne

PS – This Bruno Mars’ video says it all…

Back in the Saddle: Keeping Life Balance Despite the Challenges

“Never too old, never too bad, never too late, never too sick to start from scratch once again.” -Bikram Choudhury

Sometimes, the stresses of life can throw you off balance in unexpected ways! I myself have been “off my game” for the past few weeks, basically suffering from “home-office-presenteeism-itis”. What does THAT mean? It means that sometimes the stresses associated with working at home (as per my health accommodations) can take up residence in the sanctuary of my home and continue the stress that normally I would LEAVE at work. That is the tricky part of working at home as a way to accommodate your health – figuring out how to keep them separate, while still being passionate about your hobbies and other life-balance tools. And no matter what – your health factors in as a very high priority issue!

You see, my home office includes my official work station, but it also includes my personal connection station to the world (including this blog, etc). In recent weeks, the stress at work due to cutbacks has become so high and so toxic that is has leaked into my home sanctuary. In order to deal with the stress of the office, I closed my door by the end of the day on Fridays, and just could not face even the idea of going back into that room until the following Monday. I spent my weekends recovering from the stress and the toll it took on my MS and overall health, including the worry that the stress load could trigger a major seizure event. (Thankfully, so far so good – no seizure!) Good strategy, right?

Yes and no.

What that shutting of the door meant was that I was shutting out the workplace stress. But the secondary effect was that I could not muster up the desire to come in and sit down to write my blog – which a positive tool in my life. It meant that part of my coping mechanism for managing my health became “inaccessible” to me – because I just needed to be away from the “work” part. I worried that I might become a full-on practitioner of presentee-ism in my blog if I chose to write when I could not stomach the idea of being in the office area. What is presentee-ism? Lemme tell you…here is a definition:

Presentee-ism: When employees come to work not mentally present due to an illness, extreme family/life pressures or stress, they are not giving themselves adequate time to get better.

While I do not consider my blogging a chore in any way, the thought of being in my office over the weekend hours considering the amount of work-stress faced daily during the week was just not something I was/am willing to tolerate. I just could not stomach the idea of being in my office, my place of work, on my personal time. I needed an emotional rest on weekends away from anything work-related – because the idea of going into my office made me physically ill. But this in itself caused stress, because blogging is a joy for me – so my joy was being affected! Catch-22!

So – what to do about it? Well – I have decided I need to re-organize my time in a better way so that my joys can be protected from the toxic spillover of stresses from my workplace. Work stress is a fact of life. Chronic Illness such as MS is exacerbated by stress – and boy, have I felt that in recent weeks. Establishing a balance is critical, especially at these times of extreme work stress – working from home can make that balance even more of a challenge to find, and even more of a challenge to maintain!

“Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes courage is the little voice at the end of the day that says I’ll try again tomorrow.” -Mary Anne Radmacher

So – I will keep trying to find the balance, and keep on blogging about this and other life challenges and successes. Life is a series of ups and downs…and there is ALWAYS something to learn!

Namaste

Carolyne

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

Seeing Through the Loneliness

Remember we’re all in this alone. ~ Lily Tomlin

Recently, someone asked me to write more about the loneliness that can come with living with a chronic illness. Whew – that’s a tough subject, eh?

Loneliness is more of an emotional state consisting of a hollow emptiness and profound unhappiness. It is not a voluntary condition like solitude might be. Loneliness can affect us all at different times, in different ways – whether it’s a fleeting feeling or a constant state of disconnection or isolation. For people with chronic illness, this can sometimes play a significant role in managing their lives.

Unfortunately, the reality of managing a chronic illness is that sometimes you have to make decisions about what you can handle physically at times – decisions that sometimes conflict with family functions (such as Easter Celebrations), or social functions, or physical challenges. Sometimes this can be a really bitter pill to swallow – especially if you have prepared ahead of time the best way you could, and your health takes a different turn, forcing you to cancel plans. At times like that, loneliness can hit like a sledge hammer, especially if you are possibly bed-ridden or otherwise hampered from your usual activities,

It is difficult to experience loneliness, and all the emotions it comes with. At times like that, it is very important to be kind to yourself; be gentle with yourself. Do things that get you to feel more “connected”, such as social media like Facebook or Twitter – it make all the difference in the world when it comes to dealing with loneliness.

Sometimes, no matter how much a person tries to cope, there is the need to speak with a professional. A counselor can help you manage negative emotions that seem to be a part and parcel of loneliness.

Personally – I find I crave solitude at times, but sometimes even the solitude can trigger bouts of loneliness. I find though that those bouts of loneliness are usually triggered by periods of forced solitude (such as an empty nest scenario) combined with deep fatigue or pain caused by my illness. As long as I keep my non-attachment perspective and can see the loneliness for what it really is, I am able to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

In our deepest moments of struggle, frustration, fear, and confusion, we are being called upon to reach in and touch our hearts. Then, we will know what to do, what to say, how to be. What is right is always in our deepest heart of hearts. It is from the deepest part of our hearts that we are capable of reaching out and touching another human being. It is, after all, one heart touching another heart. ~ Roberta Sage Hamilton

Remember – you are never truly alone. Just reach out. Reach out to family, friends, bloggers. Find the courage within yourself – it could be the biggest, most courageous step you will ever make. Reach out and touch another heart. They may be just as lonely as you – and suddenly, two feels less lonely, three feels even less lonely…

Namaste.

Carolyne

The Summer of Challenges – Facing Fears and Pushing Boundaries

The scariest moment is always just before you start. ~ Stephen King

This spring and summer I will be facing some fears, adjusting to changes, and pushing my own limits. I decided it was time – because I was noticing that I was falling into a fear-based place that I was increasingly uncomfortable with.

The persistent one was about getting on a bicycle again for the first time in years. Not scary for most of us, right? For me – it came about due to my inability to drive anymore due to my seizures, and the docs’ recommendations to stay on quiet streets if I decide to get on a bike again. Not being able to drive any more has often left me feeling somewhat trapped – and that was exacerbated in recent weeks when our local transit service went on strike for a number of weeks. So, recently, when I reached a breaking point of “trapped-ness” I bought a bike  that I found on sale at a local store. I decided it only made sense to ride it back home, especially since I was contemplating joining an MS Bike team at work.

What a fiasco! I more or less walked my new pretty bike home with spurts of riding it…with periods of breathing that sounded like I was coughing up a cow!! Bikes have really changed since I was last on one, and just getting used to the gearing was a challenge. But I made it home…and promptly collapsed on the couch – marvelling that I had not killed myself! My butt was aching and sore – so apparently all those years of biking in high school and university didn’t “keep”! Go figure, eh? And muscles that I forgot I even had were screaming at me. But I loved the rush of success. I did it – maybe not stellarly – but I did it. And the success of it has stuck – so I committed to riding with the MS Bike tour team at work. (Oy – this should be too funny over the next weeks as I “train”…I’ll bring my camera!)

The experience reminded me of a lesson I learned long ago: Feel the fear, and do it anyway!

So I am committing myself to a number of fundraising challenges this spring and summer, including the MS walk and MS Bike tour, as well as a couple of others (like the Blue Nose Walk/Run with the team at All Yoga .)

“Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go.”T.S. Eliot

Namaste

Carolyne

The Funny Side of Real Life – Catastrophic Comb-overs and more!

And in the end, it’s not the years in your life that count. It’s the life in your years. ~ Abraham Lincoln

Life is really funny sometimes. As we age, I think it gets even funnier, personally. From memory issues to coming full circle with kids, there is more and more to smile and laugh about.

I spent much of the past weekend in teh emergency room. This time however it was for my son, not me! (Do I say “yay”, “Aw”, or “Huh?” ) My oldest boy hurt his leg, and we spent a while waiting for xrays and doctor consultation. During that time, I got to spend precious moments with my young adult son – and loved every minute of it! That boy is funny! We ended up in tears of laughter (despite his pain) as we listened to someone in another berth complaining endlessly about the quality of cheese and crackers at the emergency fascility and the lack of “real” food. For some reason, it struck many of the patients on the floor as hysterically funny, and some even called out for more cheese and crackers themselves, and this made my son and I laugh that much harder. I must say that now, cheeese and crackers will hold a special memory for both of us – even from a not so fun situation.

Another situation that I found funny recently was surrounding memory – and not just my own spotty one! As we age, we realise that our memories can be wonky and full of gaps. Think of how many times you have walked from one room to the next and compltely forgotten what you went there for; or when you head to the store for a particular item, and get all sorts of things but completely forget about getting that particular item you needed to begin with. I don’t have enough appendages left to count how many times this has happened to me!

In that vein, I find it quite humourous lately that my peers are also experiencing such memory issues – so I know it is not just my medical situation! Recently, a couple of my work colleagues and I figured out we had been in the same physics program at university, but we could not remember each other from class. We can remember vividly a particular class in which the prof, who had a notoriously greasy and shabby grey comb-over, dropped his chalk on the floor while discussing very important aspects of modern physics, and bent to pick it up. When he stood upright to continue on with his lecture, his comb-over stood flipped off to the right of his head, like an open lid – and it stayed that way the entire lecture!! We all remember the lecture, remember where we sat in the classroom - but none of us have any memory of each other (nor of the specific topic of the class because we were all trying so hard not to burst into laughter).

This kind of “funny side of life” laughter is a powerful coping tool for everyday stress, or deeper stress. It allows you a moment to breath, let go of the seriousness of life, and release into the humour surrounding us.
If it’s not fun, you’re not doing it right. ~ Bob Basso

What makes you giggle in the life you live? Embrace it!

Namaste
Carolyne

Giving of yourself – The Best Medicine for what ails you!

I have found that among its other benefits, giving liberates the soul of the giver. ~Maya Angelou

One of the greatest feelings one can get is the feeling of selfless giving – knowing you have helped even just one person along their own journey. That feeling is priceless.

Giving – you’d think it is all about others…but really…it’s all about yourself.

This past weekend, two of my own giving initiatives came to an end – that of being a health mentor to university students learning about working with patients re: chronic health care, and a pilot about Yoga for Chronic Illness that I ran during February at a fantastic local studio (All Yoga in Dartmouth, NS).

For my health mentor team – I had been working with them since  the school year started, and it is now wrapping up. I must say that I loved working with them, and they are a fantastic group of people. I learned from them as much as they learned from me. I felt a bittersweet pang as we wrapped up, knowing I’ll likely never see any of them again, but knowing also that I may have made an impact of some sort (no matter how small) in how they work with patients in their future careers.

For my Yoga for Chronic Illness pilot – I am so grateful that I had the opportunity to offer such a pilot, at no cost, to people who could benefit from exposure to yoga. Kim Curlett, owner of All Yoga made that possible – by offering space and time in her studio. Because of her open-ness, a number of people were exposed to the benefits of yoga for managing chronic illness. Personally, I feel that I benefited the most, because I got to share my experiences and hard-won knowledge with the people who attended, and know that I was able to help a number of them along their own healing journeys.

That, to me, is priceless. I feel energized and more at peace, knowing I have helped someone somehow along the way. Does it cure my own MS and seizure disorder? Heck no! But it does give me a sense of purpose regarding my MS and seizure disorder. I can share my own experiences and knowledge in order to help others. It gives me a sense of perceived control over how I manage my health and my life. Priceless.

And after all…it’s all about me, eh?!?! ;)

Since you get more joy out of giving joy to others, you should put a good deal of thought into the happiness that you are able to give. ~ Eleanor Roosevelt

Namaste

Carolyne