December 7, 2013
(This one applies whether or not you have MS. Read on!)
So many people are trying to “find their passion”. If only they could “find their passion”, life would be all rainbows and unicorns, cats and dogs would get married, we’d never hear another Miley Cyrus song… (OK, maybe I’m pushing things)
But that’s the holy grail: how the heck do you find said passion? We sit around day in, day out reading books and web sites trying to figure out what our passion is.
Meanwhile, we aren’t getting any younger…….. right?
As for me, I didn’t wake up one morning, jump out of bed, and say… “Ah HA! There’s my passion, behind the mustard in the fridge. That’s why I couldn’t find it!” It took a lot of thinking. A lot of soul-searching. Some meditation, and spending time in my own head (yes, without computers and phones or any outside stimulation….)
But most of all–the way I found things that I like to do and I’m good at doing?
I tried a lot of things.
You will fail at some of them. You will try a few and realize that no, you don’t like them after all. Not every attempt is perfect. But most of the experiences will be fun, if nothing else.
(Case in point: I tried aerial yoga last year, about a month after my diagnosis when I was still a little shaky on my left side. Much balance involved. I had FUN! I was not very good at it. I will never teach acrobatics. It was FUN and I got a good workout!)
So, go and find things that you can try that match up with your interests, that are low-risk. It will likely take a while to find the perfect match. (It took me 10 years of college teaching before finding the subjects I truly enjoyed teaching!) But otherwise, you’re just staying miserable pretending you’re someone you’re not.
December 4, 2013
Too many of us with a chronic disease end up sitting around at home–whether from chronic fatigue, chronic pain, too much inward focus on *us* and our disease, and/or lack of funds (because of having to pay for treatment).
And yet travel is one of the best gifts/investments you can ever make. To quote Mark Twain, “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” Sometimes even getting out for a day or two can change your attitude and change the way you feel.
If your issue is cost, let me point you in the direction of two of my favorite travel bloggers. No, they don’t try to sell you on any cheapo travel packages. Rather, they talk not only about strategies on getting the most for your travel dollar, but also reframing your life *while* you travel so that you enjoy your time more while you’re there.
One, who blogs primarily about travel and travel strategy, is Nomadic Matt. Great ideas here for everyone–for the old, the young, singles, families… and all over the world.
The other guy I really love to read–and have even chatted with in person–is Chris Guillebeau. He has literally traveled the entire world and blogs about how you and I can, too, but he talks about his life lessons learned from seeing developed countries, those that are less developed, and those that are in turmoil. Great reads on his site all around, even if you don’t intend to travel.
Both of these bloggers generously share their strategies to see more of the world. Because, after all, the more we learn about each other, the more we understand each other, and that just makes the world go ’round that much more easily.
And maybe we all could learn to employ a few of those same strategies while at home, and mindlessly adding more busy-ness to our lives, just for the sake of being busy…
Anyway–let’s get out! Let’s do it!
December 1, 2013
One of the things preventing me from being the MS advocate that I’d love to be is my work status. I am more or less contract with all of my jobs–each quarter, we’re offered a list of available classes, we pick our top 4-5, and administration does their best. They’re very gracious, but if they had a certain piece of data about me, who knows how that might change? Would they even subconsciously pick another faculty member for a more rigorous class?
Mind you, I went through my initial diagnosis and flare-up while I was teaching a rigorous class (likely no correlation) and didn’t miss a day.
And then there’s the matter of my teaching fitness classes… there’s been some self-selecting, as I’ve cut back the more high-impact formats, but I still enjoy staying involved.
I don’t talk about MS on my facebook page at all, nor do I “like” any MS-related pages (aside from a few related to rehab fitness–I work in that field). I don’t think I can be too paranoid about this, since I actually want to keep the jobs I have, in the same type of work–which I like.
Or am I being too paranoid?
November 28, 2013
… which is a phrase you will hear and read many times today devoid of any feeling. We have lost the true $pirit of many of the holidays. And I don’t mean that we have to get religious…
We all have much to be thankful for…
My body has carried me through an entire year post-diagnosis relatively unscathed, with ZERO new lesions.
The community raised over $1600 for the MS Society, and my generous band was eager to help.
I have kind students this quarter who ask thoughtful questions–we have fun discussions this quarter.
Grateful for the opportunity to do meaningful work that I enjoy! (and be appreciated for it)
And as always… basic provisions… shelter, food, clean water… things so many in the world do not have.
And where would I be without YOU–virtual community, in-person community, and I would be nothing without my husband of 12+ years… <3
November 25, 2013
I’ve talked about goal-setting a lot here, and I’ve recently taken a bigger picture viewpoint of the things I want my body to be able to do, long-term.
(Aside from waking up each morning, putting one foot in front of the other, the givens… or at least I assume they’re givens)
- I’d love to not wake up each morning feeling tight and stiff in my mid-back. I believe that middle-of-the-night spasticity contributes to that, but I’m not sure. I’ve been doing a lot of stretching and yoga, to no avail for the morning issues. My meditation hasn’t helped, either. Deeper mental issue? Something to do with what I eat? I’m sure I could have a lengthy conversation with several specialists and researchers on this one.
- I would love to have walking endurance for traveling. Luckily this is something that I still seem to have (the cold or heat gets to me first). But I need to incorporate more treadmill walking and/or outdoor walking into my life, maybe with the husband. (Did you see that?)
- Since no amount of balanced movement training has gotten my body feeling even or level, I need to keep on adding more yoga and Feldenkrais to my life. Some days, I move with fluidity; others, I feel like one side clunks along. I should also pay attention to see if I can tell what triggers cause those clunky days.
- And the final thing I can think of, off the top? A few years back, I did some indoor rock climbing with my husband and sister, and got such a thrill. I’ve been postponing trying it again, due to injuries (even before my diagnosis). I’d been working on lifting weights, but I know that I need more strength to really give rock climbing any justice. So, I’ve been tossing in assisted pull-ups and assisted tricep dips a few times a week. (And that’s one thing I’ve definitely been feeling!) I figure if I can’t partially lift my own body weight, how am I going to rock climb…
Tangible workout goals–reasons other than “to look good” and “to feel good”. What are yours?
November 22, 2013
The more I go through life making change, the more I realize the influence of a simple positive attitude.
One of my high school friends–who will remain unnamed–talks about big changes he wants to make, all sorts of big talk, on Facebook. He hasn’t directly mentioned the charities he’d like to support, but based on the articles he posts, it’s pretty clear to me that it involves injustice to a particular group of individuals.
Thing is, all I see is his article posting, along with finger-pointing and negative commentary, including harsh language. Mind you, I agree that this group is being unfairly treated; but having a public persona of “you’re WRONG and I’m RIGHT” just doesn’t seem like the way to raise awareness or funds, in my book.
I mean, think about it: all of the people who’ve truly created change in this world, even those who’ve dealt in human rights? Have they been the sort to personally attack? (Mother Teresa, Martin Luther King Jr, etc) Not that I can think of… at least what the public ever saw. The overused quote “be the change you want to see”? We want to see a positive world, right?
So, I strive to maintain my attitude, even if the changes I’ve created (my huge fundraiser! and my saving a student from the brink of eating disorder a few weeks ago) are apparently “pennies” in this guy’s eyes. We’ll check his record in a few years, to see if he’s done anything aside from whining.
Keep on putting one foot in front of the other, in the sunshine!
November 19, 2013
I often hear folks asking how they can make a difference in the world… I did so recently, inadvertently (in a positive way!). Looking back, I realize that I took a risk and told a personal story, put a bit of my personal life in the public eye–but this helped one of my students a great deal.
You see, toward the end of high school/all through college/through most of grad school, my eating was quite disordered. I only really restricted during my college years (my daily diet consisted of 1/4 dry bagel, an apple, and a baked potato with nonfat cheese and salsa most days–I “didn’t have time” to exercise, and this is how I made up for that), but I had lots of trouble with bingeing the rest of the time. Part of the time, I purged through hours of exercise each day; other times, I just binged. Food “called my name” so often that I’d have to be out of my house/apartment, to avoid eating (and even then, if out driving, I’d want to stop by every food place I saw). It took a long time to overcome all of that, and I’m 99% recovered, at this point, and have been for 15+ years.
I talk about all of that briefly whenever I lecture on eating disorders in my nutrition and health classes. I do it because I want people to challenge their assumptions (that nutrition teachers struggle, too), but also to show that people can go through eating disorders and come out the other side. Students usually thank me for my story and for my bravery (? I’m a little nervous to expose my past, but aside from that, it’s hardly nerve-wracking).
This quarter was different.
After talking about my disordered past in nutrition class, I got an email from a student a few hours later, saying that she was struggling, herself, and could I help her?
THIS, my friends, is what it’s all about. The relationships and trust I develop with students… my willingness to take risks and talk about how I’m not so perfect… and my willingness to take time to counsel her. Of course, I wrote and wrote. I had several back-and-forth email dialogues with this person. In the end, she was grateful for the day that I told my story in class, and encourages me to keep on doing it. I imagine for the one person who was brave enough to ask me for help, there are at least 4 or 5 more students who are not. I give them courage.
A week later, we talked about eating disorders in my other class (general health). Of course, I brought up my past, as I do in all related classes. This time, the story had another chapter. Typically, I end talking about how I’m better off today. But I told this class about the student (anonymous, of course) in my other class approaching me for help, and how I felt on top of the world for being able to help her turn her life around. And… how we all have the power to change someone’s life. That’s how I ended class that day.
The young woman I advised actually told me that I’ve given her hope that she can live a normal life. (Whoa. That brings tears to my eyes.) All because I decided to take a risk….
November 16, 2013
Attitude is everything.
At my MS fundraiser, during one of our brief band breaks, I was approached by two women who told me they’d been diagnosed with MS over a decade ago. Their attitudes were poles apart.
They both appeared to be middle-aged, 50-something. One of them, you’d never know she had a chronic disease. She told me she plays tennis regularly, that she never lets her disease slow her down. She was bubbly, smiling, energetic.
The other one talked about how she is always tired. There is never enough sleep in this world, she told me. She’s lucky to occasionally be able to get out to fundraising events like mine. She radiated negativity and bitterness. I talked with her, but I really didn’t want to spend time with her. (Luckily, I had the alibi of “gotta get back on stage with the band!”)
As someone who strives to be an advocate in the MS community, this served as a clear lesson to me. If you’re talking with someone newly diagnosed, what do you want to tell them, not only with your words, but with your behavior? With your expression? With your attitude?
Now, I know enough about MS that I’ve figured out how to create a positive life around my disease; but for those who don’t have my advantage, if they encounter only the second woman, how are they going to feel?
Reinforcement to put on my happy face at all times.
November 13, 2013
Huh. Now, this is interesting… but not entirely unexpected.
Over the past 2-3 weeks, there have been multiple factors keeping me away from the usual hard workouts, and have been cutting down my workout hours: first, my knee and hip started hurting a lot, and I decided to lay off for a week or so from anything higher-impact. Then, that led into the few days prior to the fundraiser, and I was out of time to do anything much more than 45-60 minutes a day (and wanted to do things that would rip my body to shreds). And, since then, I’ve needed more time to catch up work projects that went neglected over the past weeks, so I’ve been slowly ramping workout time back up.
Over the summer, I worked out a lot, and hard. Lots of high intensity intervals. Lots of weight training. Body always sore. Added in regular meditation (to hopefully reduce stress and therefore cortisol) to no avail… my body was stuck at a certain weight setpoint. And while it wasn’t really high, it was borderline overweight by BMI standards, so I could stand to lose 10-15 pounds.
But nothing made sense. I was working out hard, I was eating healthy foods 85% of the time. (Ya gotta live sometimes…) Thing is, I was always hungry from the hard workouts. And as I had to cut back (and my appetite scaled back, too), it dawned on me how much healthy food I’d been eating, and that perhaps I can’t handle that many calories. Maybe my basal metabolic rate isn’t quite so high as it used to be.
NB: I teach in health and nutrition classes that BMR/resting metabolic rate slows down a little every year after age 30. I’ve always been in denial about this, suggesting that proper strength training counters this slowdown. Unfortunately probably not the case for someone with MS… I gotta keep on lifting heavy.
Anyway, to finish my story, over the past few weeks of lighter workouts, my weight “set point” has dropped by 3-5 pounds. Working out less. (Lots more yoga, which feels great to my tight muscles.) Probably eating less, though I haven’t precisely measured.
Lesson learned, ya think? Maybe I don’t need to tear up my body so much.
November 10, 2013
I’d say the answer is… NOT, for those of us dealing with chronic pain.
I was lecturing on alcohol use and abuse not too long ago to my health class. I found a great youtube video on hangovers, and how to deal with the effects. It specifically said to replenish B vitamins, but to avoid B3 (niacin), as it is a vasodilator–this means that it widens blood vessels, causing more blood to rush into areas that already hurt (say, your head), and creating more of a painful, pulsating sensation.
Which made me think: what’s one of the things I’ve been doing every night since my diagnosis? Headache or not, I’ve popped a multivitamin. I’ve been doing this because I’ve worried about my wimpy immune system. And guess what–the nights that I’ve had headaches, they pound even more! Not that the B3 is the only cause, but I’m sure it hasn’t helped.
Since I watched that video, I stopped with the multi. I eat plenty of produce to get my vitamin C to bolster my immune system, and I get B vitamins from the beans I eat almost daily, the dairy I have a few times a week, and the chicken I eat a few times a week. Low levels of niacin, from naturally occurring sources, don’t seem to cause the pain like that from supplements.
So, if you have chronic migraine or any sort of localized chronic pain, check the label for your multi–you may want to try and switch that up for a while. Give it a month or so before you really judge the results, but small changes can make a big difference.