Talking Back to Yourself

Thank you to Lisa Morrone for today’s message…

Last week, while selecting some avocados in the produce aisle, I heard a loud gasp which caused my attention to be diverted to a woman who had just started an avalanche of sorts over by the oranges. As she restacked the fruit I distinctly heard her mutter, “Stupid girl! How could you be so clumsy?” In that moment I imagined her as a five year old child being berated by her mother, in the same tone, for the same offense.

From an early age, I remember learning that spoken words have power, both to hurt and to heal. My mom taught me to use the words that came out of my mouth with care, particularly when they were directed towards others. What I did not understand then was that the way we talk to ourselves can have just as much power to transform our minds—in both good and bad ways.

In the first testament, the Bible contains an historical timeline of accounts surrounding King David, beginning in his childhood and culminating with his death. David, like you and I, encountered some great highs and some equally low lows. In today’s Scripture, we find David battling with what I believe to be borderline depression. He was tired of being chased by his enemies, tired of being misunderstood, and likely tired of waiting for God’s promises to come to fruition. Can you relate?

Buried in the words of Psalm 42 is a valuable lesson on self-speak that we would do well to put into practice. David knows he’s feeling particularly low. So he wisely acknowledges and labels his feelings. But then David uses the power of his own words to construct a ladder which he uses to climb his downcast spirit out of the pit of despair he’s found himself in.

Here are the four rungs David put in place:

HOPE: He looks his despair squarely between the eyes and directs himself to “Put your hope in God.”

PRAISE: Next David invokes a new (contrary) attitude by saying, “for I will yet praise him.”

AUTHORITY: He reminds himself who his Lord is by identifying Him as, “my Savior and my God.”

RECOLLECTION: Lastly, David takes a decisive walk down memory lane when he declares, “therefore I will remember you”—which I am sure brought him back to thoughts of himself as a boy killing a lion and then the giant, Goliath, and having escaped from the tip of Saul’s spear a time, or three.

Do you feel in a state of despair today? Have you been passively listening to (and agreeing with) all the negative self-talk that comes along with it? Do not lose heart—USE YOUR WORDS! It’s time you quit listening to yourself, and start talking back to yourself instead. Speak out transformative words of hope and praise. Remind yourself aloud who your Lord is and recount the many times He has redeemed your circumstances, been true to His promises, and shown His kindness towards you.

Have a ThirtyOne-derful day!

 

Moving on With MS

Today we are headed to the MS Center in Teaneck for my annual visit.  Truth is, I am really nervous.  The last year has brought some definite changes in my health.  I don’t always notice them but on a recent visit with my daughter in NC, she told me she is seeing the change and not for the good.

So for those who may be new to my blog, I will give you a brief history lesson.  I was diagnosed with MS (multiple sclerosis) in February 2016.  I should say, I was told I had it BUT the doctors didn’t want to write it anywhere except on my chart.  See my symptoms didn’t fit the checklist they had for an MS patient.

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a potentially disabling disease of the brain and spinal cord (central nervous system). In MS, the immune system attacks the protective sheath (myelin) covering nerve fibers and causes communication problems between your brain and the rest of your body.

Let me back up just a little bit. For years, I have been complaining about not being able to remember things. As a recovering addict of 26 years, I always said “the drugs killed my brain cells” and life went on.

Fast forward to about 4 years ago when after my husband suffered a health crisis, he started saying ” you are different”. I talked about “not remembering things” to the doctor but no one seemed concerned. Then there were other health issues: IBS, glaucoma, chest wall syndrome (yes, it is real), unexplained weight gain, loss of sex drive (yes, I am telling all), adjustment disorder with depression and periodontal disease. Believe it or not, I was okay with it ALL until the night I fell apart telling hubby how bad the memory issue had become. I truly thought I was on the same road as my grandmother – Alzheimer’s. At my  next primary appointment, we finally got him to listen to how bad things were with my memory.

After countless visits to the Neurologist, MRIs, a spinal tap, endless blood tests, and an EEG – there was no treatment options available.  Just wait.  So wait we did, and in 6 months, I was blessed with no changes in my lesions.  Then in June 2017, we noticed some more changes.  Difficulty with my joints, not sleeping, and mood swings.  The new MRIs showed more and enlarged lesions so it was time to take action.

For some it may sound crazy but I opted to wait until now to go to the MS Center for treatment options. Why?  I didn’t want to be sick for the Leadership Incentive Trip.  I wasn’t sure what the future held and I wanted to enjoy the trip with my daughter. In the meantime, I have been working with a chiropractor using holistic options to help with some symptoms.  An adjustment monthly helps with the tingling.  A gluten free and dairy free diet has helped me to feel better.  The CBD oil and the iodine drops help with brain fog. It is a journey and I definitely struggle with all of the things I can’t eat.

This is not about a “pity” party or being Negative Nellie. Just for today, it is about squashing the inner gremlins who want this life challenge to defeat me.  I am not ready to give up fighting but some days it is hard to keep up the fight.

So, today we head to the MS Center to see the MS doctor.  I’m fearful but I trust God has a plan for me.

I am blessed to be able to work from home.  My WHY is about giving back to others and not letting MS take over my life. I will continue to use my business and my blog to encourage others who are struggling with this disease or any chronic disease. I want to bring a smile to those who are struggling on the inside but on the outside look “normal”.

Life has definitely become a challenge for my friends and my family. They have learned to be more patient, not only with me but with each other.  They are learning even if “I can’t remember”, I still care.  We are learning to embrace each moment – pictures become more important than ever – they do help me to remember a little.

“My planner” is the key to keeping my life in order.  I am learning I can still have a successful business despite the memory issues – lots of notes, systems and a sense of humor.  My customers are amazing despite my inability to remember the names of products or prints.  I am amazed with 98% of my business being online, I am able to grow and pay my bills.  Customers even joke when I call them by the wrong name or confuse them with someone else.

Thank you for taking the time to read today’s blog which is definitely more personal than I have written in a long time. All I ask is you continue to keep me (and my family) in prayer, and be understanding when I give you a blank look as if to say “I should know you but I don’t”.

Have a ThirtyOne-derful day!

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Socializing is Key to a Healthy Life

WOOHOO!  It’s Friday and who’s ready for the weekend?

Have you ever opted to stay in on a Friday night or maybe even the whole weekend avoiding being social?  I know sometimes we need rest and me time, BUT did you know social networking enhances your well-being?  Your mind and your body can actually react negatively to not socializing for more than a day.   Are all the introverts cringing, I know I was.  Yes, we are a little shyer and seem to flourish with more alone time than others, but the truth is if you isolate too much, it could lead to loneliness and reduce your quality of life.

Some of the best healthy lifestyle coaches will tell you having a great network of friends and family can boost happiness and health, as well as make you feel more connected to the world at large.

If you don’t make time for social commitments, you can’t build deeper connections with people.  You are at risk of missing out on memorable moments and good fun.  Here are some things which happen to your body and mind when you don’t socialize for more than a day.

1. Poor Self-Esteem

People who continuously isolate themselves day in and day out, tend to develop poor body image and self esteem over time.  Think back to those middle school years, I know for some a painful memory.  The truth is that a girl’s self-esteem peaks at the age of 9 years old and only 4% of women describe themselves as beautiful.  Something as simple as socializing could make a difference.

2. Depression

Studies show depression can be associated with isolating yourself and not socializing for more than a day at a time. Now, I am not advocating going out to happy hour every day, but it’s important to talk with co-workers, phone a friend, or attend a fitness class, so you can see people you know and care about during the day.  Believe it or not,  if you don’t, your mental health could suffer.

3. Loss Of Reality

According to an interview published in the Huffington Post, if you binge watch TV shows (of any kind of show) when they come to an end, it can trigger depression.  Why?  The inability to decipher between fiction and personal reality and when you tune into media too often it can interfere with the brain.  Personally, I think it would take a whole lot of BINGE watching.  What do you think?

4. Body Chills

Did you know you can literally feel chills from isolation in social circles.  If you aren’t surrounded by warmth and comfort, and you are isolating yourself regularly, you might notice a decrease in body temperature and increase in body chills.  Okay, I am ALWAYS cold so I am not sure I buy this one and yes I am an introvert.

5. Decreased Ability To Learn

Studies show lonely people are less able to do well with puzzles and mind games, due to the rewiring in the brain. I do puzzles ALOT to help re-wire my brain from the MS lesions and seem to do just fine.  Doing a puzzle with a friend would definitely be fun but I do enjoy the quiet time with my puzzles.

6. Decreased Sense Of Empathy

A research study shows people who are lonely are less empathetic than happier, socializing people, when shown pictures of pleasant and unpleasant scenarios.  According to this, when you isolate, you’re changing your brain and may hinder your ability to feel and love as well as others can.  Lonely = less empathy?  I always thought you would have more because you could understand the feelings others are having in unpleasant situations.

7. Inflammation

Did you know when you isolate, it lowers your quality of life which can cause depression and stress, which then shows up in the body as inflammation. Inflammation can lead to bloating, increased risk of illnesses, digestive issues, and inability to function.  Or it could be symptoms of a bigger problem?

8. Shorter Life Span

According public health professor at the University College London, being socially isolated for more than one day can lead to a shorter life which actually means dying at a younger age.  I have heard of people dying from a broken heart but it is usually when someone they love has passed away.  So, do we die from the isolation or the fact we are sitting on our butts, eating junk and not physically active?  Think about it, aren’t you more apt to be social when you are feeling good, after a walk or some type of physical activity?

9. Reduced Resilience

Whatever your reason for isolating, remember social interactions are crucial for a person’s happiness. Close, loving relationships and social interactions lead to the development of resilience, coping skills, and higher self-esteem. We all want to have high self-esteem, right?

Now, don’t shoot the messenger because I am not sure I agree with all of these things.  I do believe staying home too often, not being around people (family or friends) can have a negative impact on your life.  Talk a walk and interact with people.  It’s worth getting out more and making plans with friends, family, and co-workers.

Being around people and having close connections can be such a joy in life, so try to embrace it and find a happier balance between solo nights and those with others.

Have a ThirtyOne-derful day!

You Don’t Look Sick? 

The last week or so has been a challenge.  We got back from vacation where I had some really good days.  Some aches but nothing major so I was feeling like “I’m okay”.  The false security of being able to go back to the way I used to do things – constantly on the go.

Fast forward a week later.  The aches have turned into not sleeping, exhaustion, tingling in my arms and legs along with the ever changing mood swings.  Now there are more tests scheduled and the 6 month round of MRIs.  Now there is talk of looking for a comprehensive hospital specializing in “difficult cases”.  I just love hearing I am a difficult case.

I was talking with a friend who was truly trying to understand my struggles when I shared  “the spoon theory”.  The Spoon Theory written by Christine Miserandino was used to describe her battle with Lupus to a friend.  It is a great way to explain those silent diseases. You know, the ones where we don’t look sick.

My days go 50/50.  Some are great while there are days when I struggle.  I walk a little slower.   But don’t most people creeping towards 60.  Breathing issues come with weight gain but really I didn’t have this much trouble when I was almost 300 pounds.  Yes I was!  Memory issues – we all have them, right? Senior moments have progressed to not remembering key events in my life.  The unexplained mood swings and actually having to talk yourself into getting up in the morning because you just don’t have the energy to move.

There is frustration when people make comparisons to our struggles seeming like it is no big deal.  Our struggles are real.  Isolated symptoms are manageable but when they are all put together it is a nightmare.  The difference in being sick and being healthy is having to consciously think about things when the rest of the world doesn’t have to. The healthy have the luxury of a life without choices, a gift most people take for granted.

So what is the spoon theory?  Start with a handful of spoons (say 12)…

If you are healthy, you have a never-ending supply of “spoons”.  But when a silent disease forces you to plan your day, you need to budget those “spoons” throughout the day. So you start with 12 spoons.  You always have to be conscious of how many you have, and don’t drop them because you can’t forget you have _________ (fill in the blank with your hidden diagnosis).

Now, list all your tasks for the day, including the simplest one – the ones you don’t even realize take any effort to do.  Each task will cost you a spoon. Yes, each and every one of them.

Crack open your eyes and take a mental assessment of your body.  Getting out of bed is an effort because you didn’t sleep well (1 spoon).  Get a shower (1 spoon). Wash your hair (1 spoon). Get dressed (another spoon). You are already down 4 spoons and you haven’t even made it to the kitchen. Two more spoons to make breakfast and clean up.  You are down to 6 spoons and you haven’t gone to work.

Commuting to work (1 spoon).  Sitting too long, one of the toughest things for me (another spoon),  Lunchtime – skipping could cost you a spoon.  Three more gone and half a day of work left. More long hours sitting or a hectic day at the office will cost you another spoon.

Commute home (1 spoon).  We are now down to 1 spoon.  Dinner to prepare, laundry, prep for the next day at work or maybe you were supposed to meet friends for a movie.  You may not be able to do it all.  OR, if you do it all, who knows what tomorrow will bring.

So, what happens when the spoons are gone?  We are done – unable to push any further and it is time to rest or crash.  Regardless of what your silent disease is, we live with the looming thought tomorrow may be a better day BUT it could be worse.

The hardest thing for me is slowing down.  I want to do it all. I want my old life.  I hate missing out on things. I get frustrated,  I need to think about the whole day’s plans before I can attack any one thing.  I miss the freedom of just doing. . I miss never having to count “spoons”.

I share this not for sympathy but so others can understand the challenges of those with a silent disease.  I see this as a blessing just as I saw my addiction as a blessing. I am forced to think about everything I do. I am forced to be in the moment and not waste time or energy.

Do you know someone who is struggling with a silent disease?  Take a moment and give them a hug to let them know you NOW get it.

Have a ThirtyOne-derful day!

 

Turning Christmas Chaos Into Christmas Joy

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Today’s Truth is by Mary Southerland and was found on Girlfriends in God:

So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen Him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen which were just as they had been told.  Luke 2:16-20

According to the American Institute of Stress, more than 110 million Americans take medication for stress-related causes each week. During the holiday season, another one million people battle what experts refer to as the holiday blues.

I am very familiar with depression and the pain it holds and must constantly battle to stay out of that pit.

To deal with depression, we must first come to a place of total surrender to God and His plan of healing, even if we cannot see or understand that plan. The bottom line of God’s heart toward His children is always restoration and healing.

While I am not a big fan of television, I do enjoy watching home improvement shows. On a recent program, an interior decorator and homeowner were discussing a list of changes that needed to be made in order to update the home.

“First, we have to do something about those windows,” the decorator announced. I was surprised that she listed this task first – until I saw the house.

The existing glass was not only an ugly shade of gold, but it was thick and chunky as well. The windows let in no light and made it virtually impossible to see in or out. The result was a dark isolated home. The distressed homeowner protested, “But I like my privacy. And if I thought anyone could see in, I would feel totally exposed.” When it comes to dealing with depression, many people feel the same way.

We construct walls over which no one can climb because the cost of friendship is too high. We fill the windows of our soul with emotional excuses in order to avoid dealing with pain. The result is darkness, loneliness, and missed opportunities for restoration. We don’t want to understand depression or find the treasures of that darkness; we simply want to be rid of it.

Many people try to understand and deal with depression on a surface level – refusing to face painful experiences, difficult relationships, and the broken places where darkness lives. We look for the nearest exit, hoping to bypass transparency because the price is just too high to pay.

Emotional integrity is an essential step to dealing with depression. We must be real before we can be right. Until we are willing to risk being transparent, we can neither understand nor effectively deal with depression during the holidays or any other time of the year.

The holidays seem to tug at the masks we carefully hold in place and push the emotional buttons we desperately try to hide. The arrival of certain family members can resurrect painful issues that have never really been resolved. Financial pressure opens up like a sinkhole, waiting to steal our joy and destroy our peace. Schedules demand every ounce of energy, and false expectations leave us empty and hollow. The dark slimy pit waits for us to fall in.

We can choose to make this Christmas different. Choose to give God praise. Choose to focus on the victories and joys you have experienced during the year, and then find ways to share that victory and joy with others.

Christmas can be a true celebration of fresh starts and new beginnings if we choose to focus on a tiny baby born in a manger, come to save us and give us true life. The darkness can be destroyed if we choose to face and deal with whatever it holds.

Right now, choose an attitude of joy by focusing your mind on the things of heaven – not earth, and by fixing your heart on Jesus Christ. Your Christmas chaos will turn into Christmas joy!

Have a ThirtyOne-deful day!