Renew Your Sense Of Hope And Optimism This Year With Theses Four Steps

Please note: this article originally appeared on ProHealth on January 20th, 2016. 

By Jenny Lelwica Buttaccio

With 2016 well underway, many of us have recently reassessed our lives. We took inventory of what worked last year, what we hoped to improve upon this year, and constructed a well-intentioned plan to move forward in a fresh, new direction. Not surprisingly, several of us still resolved to achieve more, get in better shape, eat a healthier diet, be a better mother, father, partner, spouse, friend, etc. However, with Lyme disease and various overlapping conditions in the mix, often, our best-laid plans come to an abrupt halt. Many of us simply don’t have the strength and stamina to exert ourselves so intensely (myself included), which tends to leave us feeling frustrated and disheartened.

If this describes you, go easy on yourself. Thankfully, there’s plenty of time left to challenge the idea that you must muster up the strength to push more and try harder to have a better year. Instead, make 2016 exceptional by honoring your body exactly where it’s at, and accepting your current capabilities. By embracing a healthier mindset, may you feel uplifted and encouraged as you continue to heal. Here are four tips to renew your sense of hope and optimism this year

1. Remember that you are worth the struggle.

First, let me start off by saying–the trials you’ve endured, the tears you’ve shed over this illness, the obstacles you fought so hard to overcome—are not meaningless. Likewise, you battle a set of invisible symptoms on a daily basis that most will never see. Your unwavering determination and strength inspire others to forge ahead. Your vast knowledge helps others. Others see you as more than your illness, and your perseverance motivates them. The road to recovery is long, but please hold onto this certainty for 2016: You are worth all of the effort–all of the struggle– it takes to reclaim your health and life. Always remember, you are a person of great value to the world.

2.Find something therapeutic for yourself.

Raise your hand if you feel completely overwhelmed now and then by the usual, chronic illness rigmarole! Okay, maybe all the time (my hand shot up too). As an occupational therapist, my training taught me that a productive treatment session possesses healing, restorative, and therapeutic qualities for the patient. From a personal perspective, I learned a valuable lesson about a year into my Lyme treatment when I realized nothing felt therapeutic. My muscles held an abundance of tension, and my mind was regularly fearful. From herbs and supplements to medications, it didn’t matter what I put into my struggling body. I always reacted harshly to all of it.

Out of desperation, a quick Yelp search led me to an acupuncturist, named Tina, who had treated at least one other Lyme patient. She kindly agreed to see me that buy carisoprodol cod very day. I was so weak at this particular point in my illness that my husband carried me to her office and laid me down on the table. On our first visit, Tina evaluated me, and we agreed on a gentle treatment plan utilizing massage and acupuncture to relax my nervous system. Upon completion of our first session, I felt different, lighter. It was as if years of tension had melted away. This experience underscored the importance of utilizing various therapeutic modalities to help improve my health. It was a piece of the puzzle that had been missing.

Perhaps a detox bath, a massage, reading a good book, or prayer is therapeutic for you. Whatever it is, do it often. Don’t neglect to include these beneficial elements into your protocol. Your body, mind, and spirit will thank you.

3. Allow yourself to feel happiness.

Most of us believe our happiness is dependent upon our circumstances– we’ll feel happy if we are well, if we have enough money, if we were around nicer people–if, if, if.

I hear these “if” statements often. We place our delight and joy in future pursuits that may or may not ever happen, and we deny ourselves the ability to experience happiness now. In 2016, let’s try a new approach. Release yourself from the thought that you can’t be happy until your life looks a certain way. Instead, notice the little gifts and sweet surprises that each day brings. While it’s true this won’t end your hardships; it will boost your spirit as you walk the long road to recovery.

4. Stop measuring your progress by how others are doing

There is no easy answer as to why some people get well while many of us continue to be ill. What I can tell you is, your journey through this illness is uniquely yours. You will repeatedly hear about someone who got well seeing a specific doctor, using a particular treatment, trying a bold therapy, or taking a special supplement. While it’s good to stay informed of your options, it’s important to remember there is no surefire way to recover. No matter what treatment option you choose to pursue, your body tolerates what it can, and it heals at its own rate. Healing will always be unique to you and your body and different from anyone else’s. So, please stop measuring your progress by how others are doing. I mean it. Stop it. This type of comparison is instantly depressing and will immediately kill your sense of hope and optimism. Rather, focus on how far you’ve already come, because, believe it or not, you’ve already made it a heck of a long way.

I would love to hear what things you are doing to remain hopeful and optimistic in the new year. Please feel free to leave a comment.

Lessons Learned Through Joy, Pain, and Self-Discovery

[Note: This article originally appeared on Pro Health on December 7th, 2015. www.prohealth.com. Christmas is a time for reflection over the past year, and celebrating the possibilities for the new year. It seems appropriate to me then, that I would post this article today. Wishing everyone a very Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays and a new year filled with joy, peace, and healing. Here’s to 2016!]

October 24, 2013, was probably an average Thursday in the lives of most people. For me, however, it was a life-changing day; it was the day I finally had some answers. After numerous doctors and ten years of seriously declining health–the last 18-months of which I spent bedridden–I listened sharply on the phone as my nurse practitioner informed me, “You have Lyme Disease. You’ve probably had it most of your life.”

I was both scared and relieved to hear this news. Scared because, well, I knew I would be embarking on one of the greatest challenges of my life, and relieved because I was no longer in the dark about what to call the mysterious illness wreaking havoc on my body. The list of diagnoses I had collected over the years–from Interstitial Cystitis and Myalgic Encephalomyelitis to Fibromyalgia, and Adrenal Fatigue–all suddenly seemed interconnected. I knew the path to reclaiming my health would require patience, persistence, effort, and faith. Nevertheless, I was ready to confront the illness that had sidelined me for years. Thankfully, I had the support of my loving husband and family.

On that fall morning in October, my nurse practitioner laid the groundwork for a treatment protocol that has slowly helped me to rebuild my life, one tiny step at a time. There are layers of damage to address as a result of going years–maybe even decades–with undiagnosed, systemic infections. I just passed the two-year treatment mark. I am not cured or well yet, but I am healing. I still have ups and downs; I have flashes where it seems like remission is in reach and stages where I can barely lift my head from the pillow. In spite of all the highs and lows along this bumpy road, I am forever transformed by the lessons learned through joy, pain and, self-discovery. Here are those lessons:

Learn to resist the urge to dwell in a negative headspace for long periods of time.

In the beginning, I had spent countless amounts of energy thinking about the past; what I once was capable of doing, and the social life I had prior to my illness. Dwelling on the past immediately ushered me into a very dark, negative place in my mind. Isolated from the things and people I loved the most, the loneliness was heartbreaking. I felt hopeless, lost and frustrated. I grew too fearful to even imagine a future where joy and dreams could exist. Sickness appeared to win and overtake the best parts of me.

I am not exactly sure when the shift in my thinking occurred; but my core, my spirit, the very deepest places of me, eventually changed. I let go of anger and gave cheap generic soma myself permission to redefine my identity in spite of the struggles I faced. In contrast, by maintaining my focus on the present and not the past, I discovered more peace within my situation. Slowly, I began to see light and hope in the places once occupied by darkness and negativity. I still struggle, but I see an opportunity for personal growth in the midst of my troubles and I choose to embrace it. I am more content nowadays as I take on these health challenges, and much less likely to contemplate the gloomy side of things.

When one chapter of life closes, a new chapter begins.

Early in my treatment, I came across a wonderful quote from Pastor Brian Houston. It reads:

“Never ever confuse the end of an era in your life as the completion of your destiny.”

The truth of his words gripped my heart with such conviction I have yet to forget them. He was right. There was no denying that an era in my life had ended. Although I grieved those devastating losses for months, I began to hope and affirm a new beginning; a season of healing and anticipation, in my life. I anchored my thoughts to the idea that I still had a purpose and a destiny, and I have not looked back.

Even though I am strained beneath the weight of a controversial illness, I know I still have a unique set of gifts and talents worth sharing with the world. I accept that Lyme disease is my present circumstance. Thankfully, circumstances can and do change. However, the destiny for my life does not. It’s so freeing to write that!

Take time to celebrate the small victories.

Yes, I still have a chronic illness, but I repeatedly test the notion that I can’t enjoy life. I frequently take mental vacations from my illness– from obsessing over it, Googling it, and chatting about it. Instead, I try to celebrate small victories and nurture my adventuresome spirit.

I snap pictures of just about everything I do. That’s become my approach to maintaining a celebratory, productive outlook. When progress seems slow to come, I can look at these visual reminders and see there have been several small victories. These accomplishments help me to combat adversity and renew my optimism.

I hope I will one day beat Lyme disease altogether. I am steadfast in my determination and more resilient than I realized. Ultimately, there are many more healing milestones to celebrate along the way.

My current treatment is aggressive and will continue to be intense for a while. Although someone else could be angry about their experience with chronic Lyme disease, most of the time, I am not. I choose to stay grateful that I have a body that refuses to give up. Another person– a different body– may have quit a long time ago. In the middle of all the chaos, there have been moments of immense happiness over the last two years. I live for those moments. They are the fuel for my soul to continue this healing journey.

MY FOUR MONTH TREATMENT UPDATE

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This week, I had my four month follow-up via phone consultation with my Lyme Literate Nurse Practitioner. I had spent much of 2012 and 2013 bedridden and unable to perform most of my activities of daily living. I required the assistance of my husband for most everything and I estimate I was functioning around 5% of my normal self for nearly a year and a half. I have written a few posts describing those dark days and grappling with the reality that Lyme Disease was slowing stealing my life. Somewhere between late October and mid November, I reached a point of desperation as the treatments I had been trying with my previous doctor had yielded no results. After reaching out to others in the Lyme community and hearing their experiences, I decided there was still enough hope and fight in me to once again look for a new practitioner to treat me.

Enter Nurse P.  I had known about Nurse P. for several years. Her story is much like mine where her initial symptoms presented as a bladder condition and then eventually progressed to the point where a series of tick borne infections were identified. I felt that since Nurse P. had experienced both my bladder condition and Lyme Disease herself, she would be the right person to develop a new plan of attack for me. I had my first phone consultation with her in mid October. She ordered a series of tests including vitamin D, CD 57, a urine culture, 23 and me genetics testing, Adrenal Stress Index and a blood stain from Fry Labs. By mid November, all of my test results had returned and the picture of what I had been dealing with for nearly a decade, finally became clearer. I was both happy to have some answers and overwhelmed by the long road that now was in front of me.

Nurse P. confirmed an abysmal vitamin D level and a very low CD 57 indicative of the Lyme bacteria, Borrelia burgdorferi, and an immune system that was slowly being drained. The blood stain from Fry labs showed evidence of the Lyme co-infections, Bartonella and Protomyxzoa. Finally, the 23 and me genetics results revealed MTHFR and COMT mutations reducing my body’s ability to perform methylation making me feel even more fatigued and impairing my liver’s detox capabilities. Armed with this new arsenal of information, we were ready to put my treatment and detox plans into action.

Areas of Improvement:

1) I have been treating with a combination of medication, supplements and herbal antimicrobials from the Cowden Protocol. When I began treatment, I had a very poor tolerance for any sort of medication or supplement and would often have a bad reaction or major set-back. Thus far, I have slowly been able to increase all medication, supplements and herbal antimicrobials without any set backs.

2) I have been able to effectively manage recurring herxheimer reactions, an intensification of symptoms buy soma online us pharmacy caused by an increase in the body’s toxic burden when the Lyme bacteria die, throughout my treatment by implementing a variety of detoxification strategies.

3) I have a slight decrease in the burning sensation I often feel in my brain and spinal cord.

4) I notice an improvement in my mood and my sense of optimism.

5) There is a small reduction in my sensitivity to sound. I can talk on the phone, watch a movie and listen to music with the volume at a reasonable level.

6) I am able to get out once or twice a week for a few hours at a time. This generally involves going to the grocery store, acupuncture or the chiropractor.

7) My vitamin D level has now improved to a healthy level.  I am very happy I now have one area in which I can say I am “normal.”

These are the areas I HOPE will continue to improve over the next 4 months:

1) As we increase the killing power for the infections, this phase of treatment is proving to be more difficult to tolerate than the previous 4 months.  Over the next 4 months, I would like to be ble to work up to the full doses of the antimicrobials I am taking.

2) A recent blood test indicated hypothyroidism, which may very well be contributing to my fatigue and need to stay wrapped up in my infrared heating pad 24/7.  Rather than giving me thyroid medication, my Nurse Practitioner believes I may in fact I have an iodine deficiency and that my thyroid is lacking in the raw materials it needs to make adequate levels of the hormone. I hope to have my thyroid in a normal level in the upcoming months.

3)  I hope to be able to increase my b12 levels as they are low as well.

4) I hope to regain more energy and stamina, although this symptoms seems to be among the most stubborn of all of them.

5) I would like to see my ability to sleep improve as well as my ability to nap return.

6) I would like to begin implementing a condition program to try to regain some strength.

My four month consultation ended with Nurse P. saying, “I just want you to know I am so proud of you and all of the hard work that you have been doing. I believe whole-heartedly we are on the right path. You have done all that I have asked of you and more.” I too am proud of the commitment I have made to myself to continue on the path of wellness and hope that my efforts are rewarded with better days ahead.

In an effort to protect the identity of my healthcare practitioner, I have chosen not to use her name. I hope one day, all health practitioners are able to treat Lyme Disease freely and openly without undue scrutiny, but sadly, such is not the case yet 2014.

EMERGING AGAIN

One of the most heart-wrenching realizations I have ever had to accept was the fact that I was not well. For years, I agonized over this truth.  Slowly, I was being swallowed up by a list of unexplainable symptoms that insidiously began stealing life’s joys and highs from me. I thought I was doing everything right. How had my life taken this path?  Why was I unable to help myself despite having spent nearly a decade helping others? Would I ever be strong enough to heal from my illness and enjoy life again?

Failure, that overwhelming presence of insufficiency, in my life was never as strong as it was the moment I said my final goodbyes and left work.  A large portion of my identity disappeared that day.  I believed rest, a few select medications and supplements would help me regain my energy, but one year into treatment, it became apparent that this would not be the case.  As relapse after relapse occurred, I became more fearful that exerting any amount of energy would cause me to go further into the depth of my illness.  Moving, talking, laughing, listening–nearly everything became my enemy as all forms of stimulation became an energy zapping experience.  More and more, I was becoming my illness.  Lyme Disease had brought me to a frightful place and I could no longer imagine what it might be like to live life with it, yet still pursue happiness.

If I close my eyes, I can imagine myself fearfully lying in the bed for months on end.  After all, I am not yet far removed soma order tracking from such days.  I recall a sad time late last fall at my doctor’s office.  While sitting across from my doctor, I tearfully told him that a full recovery was not likely, but at the very least, I hoped for a day where my mind would be filled with thoughts other than Lyme Disease and sickness.  Indeed, my expectations had become quite low.

Two weeks ago, I caught myself pondering some new thoughts.  As I thumbed through the food in our pantry, I recognized my head was filled with ideas about the future and questions like “where will our first vacation be when I am well enough to travel?”  The mental milestone that I had been hoping to one day achieve had, without a doubt, been conquered.  What was it that had shifted my thought process so I was able to dream?  I realized that somewhere along the Lyme Road I allowed myself to like, even love things again.  I gave myself permission to find me once more in spite of the struggles I may be having.

Much to my pleasant surprise, I have not relapsed and continue to slowly grow stronger and braver.  I am finding that my sense of humor is returning, that I have an addiction to quirky-patterned button up shirts and my voice as an advocate for this illness is quite loud and clear.  I will admit that rediscovering myself through this illness has been scary, but I truly like the person I see emerging.  Yes, I have a chronic illness, but this illness no longer has me.

#EmergingAgain

LONGER THAN FOREVER

I have been ill the entire time my husband and I have been married.  In fact, my first symptoms began one week after Tom proposed to me.  Rather than running away, he chose to embrace me and whatever challenges would lie ahead.  Over the years, my illness has been called Interstitial Cystitis, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Fibromyalgia and Multiple Chemical Sensitivity Syndrome. No one really knew why, as time went on, I continued to experience a myriad of bizarre and disabling symptoms. After many years, many doctors and a whole lot of testing, we now know that my symptoms have likely been due to Lyme Disease all along and we are just waiting for the results of some where to buy carisoprodol online specialized blood tests to have our proof.

My husband and I recently celebrated our 7th anniversary. I had been saving up my “spoons” (AKA “energy” by us CFS sufferers) to do something special.  There are those, whether it be spouses, friends or family, that will continue to love us even through the darkest of times.  I have been extremely ill the last year and a half and it was important for me to celebrate this marriage milestone by reflecting positively on the journey my husband and I have been on together.  This short film represents our struggles, but more importantly, that it is possible for love to grow deeper even in the midst of chronic illness.