Who’s Hiding The Blueprint On How To Live Life After Chronic Illness Sets In?

Architect Woman With Plan

Photo by: adamr

LIVE is the key word. Who is in favor of finding a blueprint on how to exist? NOT ME. I’m not shy expressing my desire to find a blueprint on HOW TO LIVE!

If you are living with a chronic illness, and we have interacted on some level, I may have bombarded you with a loaded question:

How do I live a life like this? What’s the blueprint?

I have heard the following responses (forgive me, I’m paraphrasing) …

“There is no blueprint!”

“Just live your life and it will work out.”

“I wish I had the answer.”

According to the CDC’s chronic disease and health promotion webpage, 133 million Americans have at least one chronic illness.

I will add myself to the list. Let’s go with 134 million! I have to error on the side of ignorance because I don’t know how this data is collected.

Side note: If you can help me understand how “Disease Surveillance Systems” work, I’m all ears!

Surely someone out of 134 million people has found a way to FLOURISH and SUCCEED after moving past grief and acceptance.

I have been in this chronic illness game for 8 years. It has taken me time to move through Elisabeth Kübler-Ross’ Five Stages Of Grief.

Another side note: Last year, someone I didn’t know, tongue lashed me with this beautiful phrase…” You’ve had this 7 years, and you haven’t figured it out?”

I thought I was “balancing” between depression and acceptance with more weight being placed on acceptance.

However, I had a bit of a setback. I recently had a doctors visit that exposed a wound. He expressed I am experiencing an “appropriate” emotional response to functional limitations. He proceeded to tell me that I am wearing a mask which projects everything is OK! When that mask is penetrated, it’s exposing my deep sadness. When I’m asked about how this condition affects those around me, I break down and shed ugly tears! When I was asked to talk about my limitations, the flood gates of emotions poured out! This doesn’t actually sound like acceptance, does it?

I’ve had this chronic illness for 8 years and data would show that I am chasing symptoms at this point. The doctor at this appointment eluded that chronic vestibular symptoms may be my life long fate!

I got home and paced around for a bit and then something happened! I started recapping the day, and I got ANGRY! I started air boxing and yelling my head off! I will share with you the clean version…

“HOW THE HELL AM I SUPPOSED TO LIVE LIKE THIS FOREVER!”
“Do you know what it feels like to live like this?”
“Do you know what it feels like to have people question something they can’t see?”
“Do you realize how close I came to ending this?”
“I’m going to punch this wall!”

Poor bug! Thank GOD for him. I went to punch my fist through the wall, and he grabbed me! He snapped me out of my rage with a stern, yet concerned tone: “Your going to brake your hand!”

For some perspective, I’m not an angry gal! I have a pleasant disposition. I approach everyone I meet with a general excitement. So this angry outburst is not usual for me!

A few days after this incident I started to gain some clarity! I recalled what the doctor said in our first meeting. My joy and vibrancy for life is still a real part of who I am, and chronic illness did not remove those qualities from within me. What’s hidden above that layer is deep pain and loss. Right above that layer is what I project to the world. With time, I began to see this as genuine good news. I have a desire to grow and transform regardless of deep pain and loss.

This is a situation where it’s OK to fake it until you make it! Deep down on some level is your true self. Deep down is your happiness, love, passion, and it’s “normal” that your pain and suffering are suppressing those beautiful qualities! At first I was concerned that my current display of excitement and positivity was a fake projection because on some level the sorrow and grief are still present. The doctor confirmed that is not the case, which was an enormous relief.

It’s OK to claim who you want to become despite the sorrow and grief of your chronic illness. This may allow you to spend time in the present moment reclaiming the beautiful parts of who you were while cultivating who you will become.

So, who’s hiding the blueprint? I will speak for myself…  ME!

I am looking forward to working with a chronic illness and disability therapist in hopes of rebuilding my “psychological system” so I can  redraw my life blueprint!

Much love,
Marissa

P.S. Hang in! It’s one foot in front of the other. We got this.

References:
CDC- Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion
The 5 Stages of grief and loss 
 

Disabling Life Autopilot

I have found this post difficult to write. Not because I don’t have incredible things to say about 2012, quite the contrary. It’s that I don’t believe I have fully digested the lessons of 2012.

I didn’t realize I had been gathering fuel for this project for 6 year, and all I needed was ignition. That spark came Dec 13, 2011. I received an email from Susan Mees from WEGO health.

Dear Marissa,

I’m writing to let you know that you have been nominated for one of our 2011Health Activist Awards by someone in your community. The first-ever Health Activist Awards will recognize Health Activists for the great things they’ve accomplished this year. Your nomination has put you in the running to win an Award. Congratulations!

An award? Wow. At that point,  I had seen the blog as a personal diary. No one in my life had willingly sat me down and wanted to hear my version of how my health derailed my life. Sure, I saw a few therapist, but that was me reaching out for help. No one had reached out in the way I had needed them too. I was on autopilot, driving on the wrong side of the highway, praying for a head-on collision and no one knew it!

wet road

photo: freedigitalphotos.net

The blog became my mentor. I wrote, it didn’t judge, and I wrote some more. I didn’t have a direction for the blog, or want to turn the blog into an affiliate money making machine! LOL. I needed this blog. I envisioned one spectator out there that was interested in hearing about my story. I wrote to that one witness.

I was fully engrossed with MYSELF!

I only saw MY story, MY journey, MY tragedy, MY hurt, MY pain, MY grief, MY loss!

I was growing and purging emotionally in 2011, but something was missing! I had no clue how to turn off the cruise control of fear. I had worked myself through the stages of grief with assistance of a therapist, but I was AFRIAD! NOW WHAT? How do I live a life with a hidden disability?

The email from WEGO health contained a link to additional awards and nominees. I began following the nomination and award process and found myself devouring each nominee and their story. I became obsessed with their journey’s and how they were living despite chronic illness.

Dec 15, 2011 blog post: Reflection, monition, idea, execution…

For a moment, I found myself lost in another person’s story and passion. After reading several nominees blogs, I had a thought. Could a shift in focus away from vestibular struggles help me through my vestibular struggles? Educating myself on other medical conditions and focusing on another person’s journey may be the best way for me to pull through my own condition.

Dec 18, 2011, I put together a video blog.

The 12-12-12 project was birthed and I got to work.

It wasn’t about MY story, MY journey, MY tragedy, MY hurt, MY pain, MY grief, MY loss!

It was about Their story, Their journey, Their tragedy, Their hurt, Their pain, Their grief, Their loss!

I became the person I needed that never came. I wanted to hear their stories, learn about their conditions and spread awareness! I became so invested in this project that I was often distracted by my own personal struggles living a vestibular disorder.

If I felt fatigued, I would think of Kim and her struggles living with a Budd- Chiari Syndrome, and the fatigue that engulfs her.

If I didn’t want to walk for exercise, I would think of Peachy living with a form of arthritis called Ankylosing spondylitis that requires her to exercise to maintain flexibility in her joints.

If I didn’t want to take a shower because I was down and depressed, I would think of my dear friend Blake. He would love to hop out of his wheelchair and jump into the shower, but Spinal Muscular Atrophy has taken that from him.

If I could choose a single lesson from this project to share with you, it would be this….

Actively search for and wholeheartedly listen to another persons story. You will create a synergy of emotional healing for the both of you! There is power in numbers.

Thank you to EACH project member for opening yourselves up to share your story.

January: Blake Watson
Condition: Spinal Muscular Atrophy

February: Kim M.
Condition: Budd-Chiari Syndrome

March: Amy Gurowitz
Condition: MS

April: Rhiann Johns ( Thank you to Mrs. Johns!:)
Condition: Long-standing brain stem lesion and spastic paraparesis

May: Sara Gorman
Condition: Lupus

June: Dale Lehn
Condition: Chronic Pain

July: Peachy
Condition: Ankylosing spondylitis

August: Sarah Levis
Condition: Arteriovenous malformations (AVM)

September: Sarah Mills
Condition: Severe multiple allergies, covering asthma, hay fever, eczema, food allergies and Multiple Chemical Sensitivity (MCS)

October and November: Andi and Jett Durkin
Condition: Down Syndrome

December: Pam Sloate
Condition: Dystonia

From the bottom of my heart, I love you all and  THANK YOU for disabling my life autopilot, putting me back on the right side of the road, and keeping me from a head on collision.

Much love,
Marissa

The Lessons: Control And Beyond

Here are just SOME of the lessons that 12-12-12 project member Pam shared with us during her INSPIRATIONAL podcast interview.

Lesson #1
“We are not in control. Living with a movement issue, I spent the majority of my life trying to control anything because I couldn’t control the main things, and it’s a waste of time”

Lesson #2
“We have to accept ourselves with all of our imperfections.”

Lesson #3
“You have to not assume that other people are thinking anything about you. I used to walk down the street and not want to look at anyone else because I was convinced they were looking at me and how I walked.”

I HIGHLY suggest you listen to Pam break down these lessons in our recent podcast. If you want to jump directly into the lessons they start at 50:16.

PODCAST HERE

Much love,
Marissa

Podcast With 12-12-12 Project Member Pam Sloate-Dystonia

Play

Pam opens up about her experience living with Dystonia since age 8 1/2. She talks openly about Dystonia, grief & loss, and maintaing a positive attitude. She shares SOME VERY important life lessons! It’s a MUST LISTEN.

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Download the audio

Much love,
Marissa

P.S. Pam, thank you for stepping outside of yourself to do this interview. I love you girl!

Trying To Understand Dystonia- Whiteboard Edition Plus Video

Marissa spending time on her whiteboard trying to understand Dystonia

I came across this video on YouTube and it struck a cord. This gal, Lynn,  is SO BRAVE for sharing her Dystonia experience. I appreciate her giving us visual insight into her experience living with Dystonia.

HEADS UP Vestibular folks: There is a ton of visual movement from the camera and from watching her movement.

Much love,
Marissa

P.S. Looking forward to interviewing Pam from Dystoniamuse.com this weekend!