I’ve Got 99 Coping Skills and Doing Nothing Ain’t One

Chrisjones-meditate-chillThe best way I get through life is to be prepared.  I have a plan in place for times when I need to address my bigger feelings such as sadness, anger, loneliness, hurt, disappointment, fear, nervousness, excitement, love, inspiration, hope, and anticipation. When you read through that list, you may not have been expecting “positive” feelings. In my life, my emotions can be very big and magnified.  I have learned to accept this because it is hard to change who I am and I don’t think I necessarily have to.

Because my emotions arrive somewhat like a tidal wave, I have discovered they aren’t going to magically go away and I have to find ways to feel calm and safe when they rush in. Even my excitement and motivation come with a strong force.  People who know me have most likely seen the wave pretty quickly.  I sometimes feel apologetic. Really, I want to apologize to myself for the discomfort.

Instead of getting into the big cycle of judgement, blame, or embarrassment, I have learned that I have to feel my emotions, AND I have the choice to handle them however I want.  The way I do this is to accept my discomfort and use my VERY LONG list of coping skills.  Coping skills don’t have to be this big ordeal.  They can simply be a distraction. Sometimes, they are very productive. Many times, the first thing I try isn’t the thing that works.  At times, I have to try and combine multiple things in hopes for a good outcome.

My top coping skills are:

  1. Calling my friends and family to ask for help
  2. Walking around the lake
  3. Doing laundry
  4. Going to the movies
  5. Working out at the pool
  6. Making crafts
  7. Writing
  8. Going out to eat
  9. Dancing
  10. Singing
  11. Talking to my therapist
  12. Scrolling through Facebook
  13. Leaving my house
  14. Getting a pedicure
  15. Using essential oils
  16. Looking through my pictures
  17. Using grounding techniques like tapping, meditation, and observing things around me
  18. Counting
  19. Spending time being silly with my Best Friend/Roommate, Rob

Those are just a few of my many. I  found this list of 99 coping skills if you are interested in creating your own list and need inspiration. These skills are good to have handy in your mind because we all need them at some point or another.  There does not even have to be a big event or feeling to use them.  For the most part, we are all coping with simply being alive.

Be Well

 

 

How Drew Brings Humor To My Depression

I have been having a really hard time with my depression this weekend.  Yesterday, I wrote a whole post about it.  It was terrible, depressing, and just not something to share. So, I thought I would tell you about my friend, Drew.  I have known Drew since I had just turned 17. We have had many adventures together; we toured around the world, vacationed in California, Hawaii, Illinois, Colorado, Montana, Arizona and maybe some places I forget.  We have walked miles and miles in Detroit dragging suitcases just so we didn’t have to pay for transportation to a wedding. He pushed me around Disney World in a wheelchair. We even stood in line for almost a whole day in the blazing heat so we could see Barack Obama speak at the DNC in Denver.

There have been months where we didn’t talk and years when we didn’t see each other. That really has never had any impact on how much we start to laugh the moment we see each other. In fact, Drew makes me feel like I might be the funniest person he has ever met! We have shared some heartbreaking moments as well. Most recently, Drew’s mother was being treated for cancer at the same time I was. Talk about a difficult time for him (Thank God both of us got through it and are both healthy now.)

One thing Drew has always understood is my depression.  Every once in a while, he REALLY gets it. The last time he was here, I showed him my magical sleep set- up:

 

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The first thing he said was, “OMG! I bet this makes you so happy!” He understood that my environment was really important. He even went home and made a few improvements himself!

Back to the real reason I started talking about Drew. One time, he knew I was really depressed, so he sent me a magical cartoon that explained someone else’s experience with depression. He was spot on, and I knew he really got how I was feeling.  This cartoon came to mind yesterday when I was feeling like nothing was going to help. I tried to look it up and found something better! These videos are from the blog: hyperboleandahalf.blogspot.com

I am attaching 2 videos about depression from this author because they help describe what I go through.  If you are looking for something that will make you laugh until you cry, or cry until you laugh, check them out!

I hope this helps someone!

Be Well

Following My Own Model

Ok, I have figured out how to add the audio piece again.  The point is to be able to hear it.  The video is just the same picture throughout so you can focus on the words.

For those of you who are familiar with my SPEAK model for self-advocacy, you will know that it is the core of my work. For those of you who are not familiar, you can read about it here.  After months of working toward my dream of having a successful small business, I have had several moments of doubt, feeling overwhelmed, and small flashes of wanting to just give up.  I can’t give up.  I won’t give up.  I know this is the work I am meant to do and all of my future clients will not receive my services or be impacted by my experience, education, and drive if I stop pursuing my dreams.  On top of that, I will not have been true to my model.

 

It is a step-by-step way to be a successful self-advocate. On my journey, I have been reminded by a few people that in my pursuit of forming a business to serve others with this model, I too have followed the steps. Having no background in business, marketing, website design, blogging, social media for business, and video production, I have jumped in and educated myself in all of these areas.  I am not a professional in any of them, but I have researched, tried and failed, and had hours of discussion to gather information from experts.  I have sorted through advice, asked questions, and changed my focus a number of times. I have been uncomfortable, unsure, excited, and proud.  Right now, I am writing my 21st blog post!!

Every time I have gotten to a point of frustration, I have pushed forward and reached out for help.  I have been Self-aware, identified my Problems, Evaluated by researching and constructing solutions, Acted on my plans through networking, asking for help from others, and finally pushing myself so hard to KEEP GOING.

Because I followed my model, I have learned a lot about starting, building, and maintaining a business. I have formed an LLC, opened a business bank account, decided on promotional  products, made awesome business cards, and met with business mentors.  To continue to grow and learn more, I attended events and retreats and made connections with people with specialized knowledge. I have created a website and blog, opened social media accounts, cold called businesses, published articles in a popular online publication, and have spoken about my services with confidence. I am proud of what I have accomplished.

The thing that has continued to keep me going is the support of others.  People are showing up when I ask for help. Not only are they showing up, they bring gifts! From the kindness of their hearts, people have shared their successes as a way to guide me, created my beautiful logo, volunteered to help me create a marketing strategy, and helped me design a beautiful website to invite much needed business. This is no accident! It truly does work to advocate for yourself! I open my heart through vulnerability, kindness, humor, and honesty.  Those things have brought abundance into my life! They have taught me to practice gratitude, help others, and keep on my path of self-advocacy. As I write this, I am filled with joy about sharing my experience.

Not only have I experienced this generosity in my business, I have experienced it from caregivers and friends on a regular basis.  It certainly feels like magic, but it is not.  I have created this life.  I have pushed through hard times. I have faced terrible illness. I have never given up completely.  This is because of you.  Everyone reading or listening to this had been a part of my success. I have created this model to share what I have learned and what guides me on a daily basis. I refuse to navigate my life alone. I will advocate for myself for the rest of my life. Please take a moment to consider all of the things I am writing about and see the relationship between what I have created, and the amazing outcomes it has produced. I invite you to think about how self-advocacy plays a role in your life. Please share something in the comments to inspire and engage with others about your own self-advocacy. Don’t forget that the most important part of the SPEAK model is to KEEP GOING.

Be Well

 

 

Chronic Illness Doesn’t Mean No More Fun

As we know, having a chronic illness sucks.  Just because it sucks doesn’t mean we still can’t have fun. One of my favorite articles I came across is I Won’t Apologize For Having Fun While Chronically Ill. This article emphasizes the importance of not feeling shame when you continue to live your life while having illness.

When I was recovering from chemo and living with Depression, Anxiety, Chronic Pain, and undiagnosed Celiac Disease, I wasn’t about to sit at home all day and feel bad.  I wasn’t working because of my physical stamina, anxiety, and remaining side effects from having cancer.  This didn’t mean I had to feel guilty because I didn’t have a “normal life”.  I saw it as an opportunity to enjoy my life at my pace doing what I was comfortable doing.  One of my favorite things to do is travel.  The day after my last chemo, I hit the road. Obviously, I had to have the permission of my oncologist and I wasn’t exactly going hard.

My first trip was with my awesome sister.  It was summer and my relatives live on a lake during that time.  It is a peaceful place to be where I could do as much or as little as I wanted.  I wasn’t allowed to go in the lake because my immune system was so low and so was my blood cell count. My sister was very understanding about having to take a few extra steps and precautions.  We had a lot of laughs while she wheeled me through the airport and waited for me when I was tired and moving slowly. When I got to the lake, I spent most of my time in the shade watching the activity in the lake.  I love the water and just being near it made me content. I knew that the way I would heal would be going to visit my friends and family and relax and enjoy my time.

 

My next trip had been planned for 2 years.  I went to an Up with People reunion at Disney World.  I shared a hotel room with one of my closest friends who I hadn’t seen in years. While I needed time to rest, I also needed to be with friends, go on adventures, and make memories.

Next, I went to Florida to spend time with my dad and his girlfriend.  That year, I took 3 trips to see them.  They live in a community that has more fun things to do than I can count.  I spent my days working out in the pool, visiting with the neighbors, going to the town square to watch live music and dancing, enjoying movies, resting, and driving around in a golf cart.  There was no pressure to be at a certain pace. Some days I had energy and other days I couldn’t do much besides rest.

After going to Florida for the first time, I went to Hawaii to attend a surf camp with 20 other young adult cancer survivors.  I made lifelong friends, tried new things, ate amazing food, slept under the stars, and consumed endless amounts of shave ice.  Not only did I go on that adventure, but in the 1.5 years since that trip,  I have had 5 friends that I met come to visit me here in Colorado.

Between trips to Florida, I went to see my friends in Virgina for an annual holiday weekend.  It was fun and exhausting to have a whole weekend of events.  My friends were understanding and didn’t give me a hard time about my lower energy levels.

While making the rounds, I went to Sedona, Arizona 2 times.  I went to visit my brother and sister-in-law both before and after they had their new baby- my first niece.

Another fun- filled vacation was going to my friend’s destination wedding in Mexico.  It was an awesome time to reconnect with friends, have fun near the ocean, laugh a ton, dance, eat good food, and celebrate love.

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I have had some local adventures- a yoga retreat, a weekend at Mt. Princeton Hot Springs, SO MANY weekends with my amazing mother, and countless visits from friends and family from all over the globe.

I already have 3 trips planned for the next few months.  I will go to another surf camp for young adult cancer survivors, a retreat in Oregon, and back to the lake to see my family.

After seeing all of my adventures, one might think I spent money I didn’t have, I was well enough to go to work, and that it isn’t fair that I get to do so many fun things.  Here is the truth: I am the cheapest traveler you have ever met. I make CHOICES for my own wellness. These are choices most of us have.  We have different responsibilities, values, opportunities, obligations, dreams, goals, energy levels, and priorities.  It is totally ok with me when others follow paths which are different than mine. Most people do. My hope is that people live lives and make choices that are not criticized.

My friends and family are the most valuable people I have.  My priority is to spend time with them.  Work was always going to be there.  It is here now.  I have figured out a way to work and still have the lifestyle I desire. While I have moments of guilt about how I spend my time, I don’t have any regrets.  That guilt does not remain for long.  I am fortunate to live the life I do. It is not all fun and games. I didn’t choose to have chronic illnesses. I choose to be resilient, advocate, educate, work hard, play hard, acknowledge when I need to rest, go to endless appointments, and love and laugh so hard I might burst.

DO THIS: Live a life you love! Don’t apologize, and…

Be Well