How Pitching A Tent Has Increased My Independence

Last week, my therapist told me he was taking a new job and could no longer have a private practice or see me.  I had mixed feelings about this. I have been working with him for about a year and he is the first therapist I have worked with who has provided valuable information that has really helped me make changes I thought were impossible. I have a way better understanding of how my mind, body, and spirit all work together.  I am so much better at combating anxiety, worry, and the fear of negative interactions with other people. I have become more assertive and do not let myself believe that my needs and feelings are less important than those of others. I have a lot more clarity, strength, and overall sense of calm.

While it is hard to end that relationship, it is clear that now I am equipped to do so.  As a counselor, I know it is important to discontinue seeing, or “break up” with my therapist.  If done right, the point is to be able to take what I have learned and put it to practice.  There comes a time when it is up to me to continue without a regular appointment.  Discontinuing therapy does not mean that now I am on my own and have to face the world with no support.  The support just starts to look different. Sometimes, part of therapy is to build support and know how to support others.  I have no problem building my community and being someone who cares for others, so I am sure I am not alone moving forward.

One of my goals was to start being more independent.  I have never been afraid to ask for help, but sometimes, that left me being dependent on others and not pushing hard enough to do something on my own. It can be hard to know if I am able to do certain things because sometimes I lack clarity and don’t trust myself. At times, I am not sure if I am scared, frustrated, or if I actually cannot physically or mentally complete the task.

To practice my independence this summer, I tried to do things I had never done on my own.  These things had to be concrete so I knew I was making progress. One of the things I did was go camping and figure out how to set up and take down my site all by myself.  In the past, I always shared a tent with someone and was never very helpful.  I depended on others to do it the “right” way while I mostly just sat back and watched. Doing this a few times has been just the thing to increase my confidence and I know I am able to do things by myself.

I am aware that most people are able to pitch a tent without second-guessing themselves. This is just symbolic of how I have been able to step back and recognize that I had some pretty big misconceptions about what I can and can’t do. I live in a beautiful state with endless opportunities to play outside any time of year. For some reason, I have always lacked the confidence to make room in my life to play outside more often. I relied on other people to take the lead. While I know it is not smart for me to explore the outdoors by myself with little knowledge, I have the courage to take a more active role. It is so good for me to breathe fresh air, challenge myself with new activities, and just get super dirty. Having done this simple thing this summer, I have noticed myself taking more opportunities for independence.

I am so grateful to have had the experience of working with my therapist.  I love knowing that I am able to do more than I think I can.  Over the last year, the work we did has changed me. No matter how hard it looks, I will now try new things on my own. SO, now that we all know that I can pitch my own tent, who wants to go play outside with me??

Be Well.

I went looking for a song about being an independent woman, really liked this one, and then saw it was at a Stand Up To Cancer event. How interesting… Enjoy!

 

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

 

 

 

 35 and Still Alive!!

IMG_20170407_230428_112April 8th was my birthday.  I love birthdays.  I love them even more now that I have made it through some life threatening stuff. Some people hate birthdays. For some, it is because they really don’t like the attention.  For others, they don’t like feeling old. 35 seems like a milestone…I feel that way about all of the multiples of 5 birthdays. I’m not sure why.  This birthday kind of feels like a re-birthday.  I have come so far and grown so much over the last year.

This weekend, I spent time with my family and had some time to think. It isn’t unusual for me to spend time with my family, they are part of my support system. They let me be me. When I need to rest, they don’t make me feel like I should push through my fatigue. They tell me to rest and ask if they should wake me up or just let me sleep until I am ready. I don’t feel pressure to do anything but take care of myself. When I am with my family, the priority is to share stories of our lives and laugh. We laugh about everything. Everyone in my family is extremely funny in their own way. It is enjoyable to laugh with all of them.

Sometimes I feel guilty about how I spend my time in other parts of my life. I feel more pressure to be productive, perfect, and to please. I compare my pace with the usually faster pace of others. I tell myself I should do, say, or be certain ways. My favorite expression I use when I am counseling is, “Don’t should on yourself”. Trust me, it is easier said than done.

Acceptance is a big part of wellness; so is authenticity. In my work, it is so important to me to encourage others to find a comfortable way to be accepting and authentic. I am most effective when I follow my own advice. I want to be successful with my business SO BAD that I sometimes feel my authenticity slip. I get trapped in the “shoulds”. When you market your business, you “should” do it a specific, proven way. When you write a blog, you “should” cite and link tools for your readers. Your readers “should” be called to action after reading what you have to say.

When I step back and read what I have written, I feel my authenticity return. The only thing I “should” do is be myself. In the past, I have been successful being honest, raw, direct, and authentic. I’ve been told it is refreshing and unexpected. It is rewarding and, at times, painful. I choose to show others what it’s like to be me whether is is good, bad, ugly, silly, sad, confusing, offensive, or exciting.

To be effective and successful, I must be me. This means sharing hurt and frustration, celebrating my strengths and successes, having difficult conversations, searching for information, and taking time to rest. Sometimes, I don’t want to share resources or links like I “should”. I just want to tell you what it is like to go through my journey with my chronic conditions. I want to inspire and empower you to do your own work, congratulate yourself for finding an awesome resource on your own, and invest in your own wellness. I have hope that my authenticity will be “enough” and I don’t need to answer to the “shoulds”.  I can follow my intuition and heart about how I want to serve others.

I want others to speak for themselves, be their own advocate, and fight for what they want. I took so much time developing my SPEAK model to teach others to do just that. The easiest way to teach others is by example. I model how to be a good self-advocate. It isn’t always easy to be honest and raw. Facing that fear has, at some points, been the push to accomplish what I need. To do this, I move past the “shoulds”, face my fears, follow my heart, and wait to see the positive results that come from the process.

So why do I love birthdays so much? Because I can celebrate that I have lived through another year full of experiences. I have lived an additional year with wisdom, ideas, disappointments, successes, perspectives, and hope. How amazing! This is what propels me forward. Every year, I will get to grow more, laugh more, speak more, and continue to practice what I have learned in years past. It is nice to have a marker like adding a number to my age to celebrate what living life means to me. More chances to be accepting and authentic. More perspective…

Be Well

Next Steps

tumblr_mdvny8JF7U1rlzcq5o1_500Perhaps you are wondering what came next after my last post. Either that, or I am overestimating my ability to create suspense.

After graduation, I wanted to go on a big adventure where I could embrace life, travel, and see how others were living. From my difficult year, I knew life was really full of experiences that landed on a spectrum of impact. Life could be exciting, troublesome, boring, strange, unexpected, depressing, surprising, wonderful, hilarious, and much more. I wanted to experience it all.

Having just turned 17 and starting medication to stabilize my mental wellness, my mom told me I was too young to go to college. However, she had no reservations letting me join a program to travel the world with 150 young adults from 19 countries where every 4 days, I would go to a new city, live with a host family I didn’t know, perform in a musical, and volunteer for local organizations. The logic was…interesting, but there was no way I was going to question it.

That year opened me up to a life of adventure, healthy risk, awareness, social justice, navigating struggle, and practicing self-advocacy. The lessons I learned and things I experienced are with me to this day. I made lifelong friends. I see some of these friends pretty regularly.

I learned early on in my diagnosis that I was in charge of the direction of my life. Making it through that year, I promised myself that whatever challenges I faced, I would invite them to come along because I wasn’t going to get stuck in their ability to stop me dead in my tracks. I had a life to live, dreams to dream, and many adventures to come. Determined to move forward, I accepted my diagnosis as the super annoying shadow that would follow me in my life in the sun!

Stay tuned for practical ways and tips about how I have been able to stay well.

Much more to come

Be well