How to identify what your illness taught you this year

How to identify what your illness taught you this year

You may not like reading ‘what your illness taught you’. As if you have something to learn. As if the illness is the teacher, the one in control, and you the pupil, the one who has to listen and do what the teacher says.

Living with a challenging health issue can feel like that. You being at the mercy of the illness or injury, dancing to its tune, being obliging, feeling like you are not in control.

That is not my aim here. You didn’t ask for the illness or injury to happen, yet you have to live with its impact. My aim is to help you proactively identify what your illness taught you this past year and therefore what changes you may wish to make next year. You doing this puts you in control.

This blog outlines five questions to help you do that.

I also write this for those of you in a caring/supporting role because you too are impacted by your loved one’s health issue. And when I say illness, I also mean injury or any kind of health issue you find challenging.

Picture of a man holding a large open blank book which has the titles ‘Your 2018’ and ‘Your Learning’ on the pages. There is the question ‘What have you learned from your illness or injury this past year?’

What your illness taught you – The good stuff

What was one good thing which came out of you or a loved one having the illness, injury or another type of health challenge?

Good things can come out of not-so-good and downright bad situations. It may take some work to find those good things. But looking for the good balances out the sad and bad things about a health challenge. And that is the aim of this question.

The good thing may be about you as a person, the people around you, or your life circumstances. You may have learnt who is super supportive, strengths you have, and even abilities you didn’t know you had. You may have learnt to take more time for yourself. Or that living your life at a slower pace is better for you. Or taking care of your needs is not selfish but absolutely necessary.

Were there any other good things? You don’t have to limit it to just one. Find as many as you can.

How can you build on these good things next year?

This is about building on the good things you learned with intention to make sure they stick around in your life.

For example, have you discovered an ability you didn’t know you had? Like a high level of resilience? An artistic talent? Something else? How can you exercise this ability more next year?

Or did you make new friendships? How can you be in contact with these people more often?

Or did you and your partner discover how supportive you are to each other?

What your illness taught you – The bad stuff

What has been the worst thing about having to deal with the illness or injury this year?

I don’t mean to be a downer here. Or open the door for endless moaning. The purpose of this question is to acknowledge the hard bits. To give them their place in the narrative of your (or your loved one’s) health issue and life. By doing that, you put them in their place so they don’t run riot in your life. That way you can move forward from it.

This may be about symptoms that are not easy to manage. Dealing with the uncertainty of fluctuating symptoms and/or relapse of the health issue, the loss of friends who seemed to have vanished when your illness arrived, a loss of a bit of your health and sense of control, confidence, or something else. It can be things that you miss. Or dealing with difficult feelings.

List them. And ensure to spend an equal amount of time on the first question too. Remember, this is about keeping as much of a balance as you can. And I don’t want you to unpack and live in this question, i.e. only focus on the bad stuff.

What are you learning from these not-so-good things?

Identifying what you are learning from the bad bits makes having gone thru them a little more worthwhile. You come out of it with something useful to you to help you move forward.

It’s akin to the saying, ‘When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.’ You didn’t choose for you or your loved one to have a challenging health issue, so how can you extract some goodness from it.

Picture of a woman holding lemons asking ‘What am I going to do with all these lemons?’ A man responds, ‘Make lemonade! We like lemonade.’ The caption reads making something good from your Illness or injury.

The learning can be about your preferences for the future, things you need to learn, what you may need to let go of or something else.

For example, by losing some friends, you may have learned what qualities are important to you in a friendship.

You may have identified you need to learn how to manage some symptoms differently like fatigue or chronic pain to have a better quality of life.

Learning how to deal with the difficult feelings so they don’t feel like they are dominating your life may be higher on your agenda.

You may have learned that you need to let go of achieving things to feed your sense of self-worth.

Finally, what is it about you that has enabled you to get this far?

This is a favourite question of mine. I ask it a lot. The purpose of this question is to remind you of your strengths and abilities. Of all the good qualities about yourself that you really value. Because you have many. Sit with these qualities, strengths, passions and abilities and cherish them. And ask yourself this question again from time to time.

What your illness taught you this year, you can take into next year – what to do more of, what to continue doing, what to stop and start doing.

I am actually writing this blog in New York City. I arrived yesterday for my holidays. So this blog will be the last one for this year. I am aiming to publish 2019’s first blog on 9th January. In the meantime, have a lovely holiday season however you are celebrating it and a very happy new year!

What’s it like for you?

What has been the most important thing you learned from your or your loved one’s health challenge this year? Are there any changes you plan to make next year as a result? Share your thoughts or questions in the comments below or alternatively email them to me (contact form in sidebar).

If you are living with a serious health issue or are caring for someone who is, and would like support to return to a sense of wellness, have a look at how we can work together and get in touch for a free no obligation consultation.

Pass it forward

Know of someone who would benefit from reading this blog, or you just want to spread the ideas, click on the icons to share.

© Copyright Barbara Babcock 2018

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How to make time for exercise to improve your health

How to make time for exercise to improve your health

We all read about how important it is to exercise to improve your health. Not just for our physical health but also our mental health.

And yet, you may find it hard to make time for exercise for all sorts of reasons. Some of those reasons may run more deep than you know or expect. This can be the case when you are finding it particularly hard to make time for exercise to improve your health AND you realise you most likely have the time.

I have that issue. I say ‘have’ rather than ‘had’ as I am not sure I wholly cracked it yet. But I am definitely working on making the time to exercise. So I want to share with your how this issue of mine runs more deeply than you might expect. To raise awareness that this can be the case with a change you are finding particularly hard to make. And what you can do about it.

In writing this, I am using the word ‘exercise’ to cover all kinds of physical movement. So if the word ‘exercise’ bothers you, substitute it with physical movement. Also, I am assuming you can do some amount of physical movement within the constraints of the illness or injury you live with.

Last week I wrote about how my issue with my achievement cycle, time and prioritising were some of the key obstacles for me to exercise. But my issue with time goes even deeper and this wasn’t helping me make time to exercise to improve my health.

 

It has to do with my work ethic and my family.

 

Read about how patterns of behaviour in your family can hold you back from making a #change you want for yourself #seriousillness #chronicillness #seriousinjury tell a friend

My family has a strong work ethic. I mean, really strong. And this runs through both my mother’s and father’s families. In fact, I read in a book about my fifth great grandfather where it refers to the fact that he and his sons were known for their work ethic. That was a bit freaky to read. Five generations back the work ethic was hard at work!

In my family, our job is to work and work hard. It leaves little time for much else, even if the ‘else’ is something we really want to do. My family wears its work ethic like a badge of pride. And for some of us it’s coupled with the perfectionism badge. A double whammy.

 

Picture of a woman wearing a work ethic badge and a perfectionism badge. She wants to take off the perfectionism badge so she can wear the exercise badge. This woman wants to make time to exercise as it is important. Exercise to improve your health.

 

The serious illness I had challenged my work ethic

 

I could not work to the extent I did before. Fatigue and pain would not let me. I needed a lot more rest than I ever used to. When I returned to work, I noticed I did as much work as I could in the three days I was working though!

Over the years the fatigue lessened and wasn’t nearly as bad as it used to be. I noticed the number of hours I work in a day crept upwards. I wondered about lessening my work ethic, taking my foot off that gas pedal. But that felt odd.

I felt like I wouldn’t be me in a sense. And I would certainly be setting myself apart from my family. I fully appreciate that may sound odd to you. Let me explain.

Sometimes things happen, and they may happen more than once to you but you cannot explain it. Or you repeat a behaviour again and again but you don’t know why. You might even see the same thing happening to family members. The issue may have been around for a good part of your life.

 

Chances are it can be a systemic issue

 

A systemic issue is bigger than you. It’s part of the system(s) of which are a member. A system can be a family system, a work system, your network of friends are a system, there’s the benefits system, the NHS, you get the idea. You are part of a several systems and actions other members of a system take will impact you in some way and your actions will impact them. We are all inter-connected.

A systemic issue isn’t a bad thing. It just points to where to look to start resolving the issue.

 

The work ethic in my family is a systemic issue.

 

And it feels like the work ethic has been taking up all my available time and energy. That was not helping me to make time to exercise. The time exercise would take was conflicting with the needs of the long-entrenched issue of work ethic.

The work ethic in my family provides a function, which ties in with my issues of my achievement cycle and prioritising.

I haven’t fully unpacked the function(s) work ethic plays in my family, but what I have learned is to care for my intention to do something that really matters to me, like exercising to enhance my health. And giving myself permission to care for that intention and act on it. To do that, I had to let go of ‘being perfect’ as that was giving way too much fuel to the work ethic.

 

Caring for your intention to do something that really matters to you is important.

 

Giving yourself permission to care for that intention and to act on it is also important.

 

A question to ask yourself is:

What are the relationships like between me, the change I wish to make and my intention to make that change?

They are three distinct elements when it comes to the change you wish to make.

 

Picture of a woman sitting down considering the relationships between you the change you want to make and your intention to make that change when you want to make time to exercise to improve your health

 

After reading my story there you probably think I’m a basket case and there’s no hope regarding my ability to make time to exercise. That’s ok if you do.

I’m sharing my story to demonstrate why change can sometimes be difficult to make no matter how much you want to make the change. There can be some pretty deep-seated stuff happening that is getting in the way.

Many people shy away from issues that feel deep. They are afraid that they will open Pandora’s box. Uncovering and working through that deep-seated stuff can be emotional at times. But actually, rather than scary, it can be very empowering. You make that discovery of the reasons that have been causing you disbelief, pain, disappointment or something else. It’s a relief to because you then know what you need to change.

 

You have greater self-awareness, which gives you more choices.

 

And the solution to these kind of issues can be simple.

 

Even for all that deep-seated stuff, the solution can be surprisingly simple. You’ve done the hard work already by working through everything to get to the solution. Implementing the solution can feel easier.

 

There can be some pretty deep-seated stuff that gets in the way of you making the change you want for yourself. But when you work through it all, you can find the solution is simple. Read more about it here #wellness Click To Tweet

 

I say to clients who can exercise that ‘exercise to improve your health is important’.

 

I was conscious that I was wanting to do more exercise to improve my health as I was saying that. I have started to exercise. Yay me!

I came across this do it at home boot camp via Twitter. The boot camp lasts 6 weeks and I am two-thirds of the way through it. I’ve exercised nearly every day and if I missed a day, it was usually because I had a long meeting that day requiring travel or was on a course. Then I would do two exercise routines the following day to keep pace with the programme.

I typically do the exercise routine first thing in the morning before I start work. It has the highest priority. That way, I know I’ve done it.

There are a group of people taking part and we all started and will finish the boot camp on the same day. I belong to this group and being part of a group that is working towards the same goal works for me.

There is a closed Facebook group for everyone taking part in the boot camp where we can share what we’ve done or not done, what we are succeeding at and what we are finding difficult. It’s very supportive. This caters to my extraversion preference.

I am noticing results. My jeans are a little looser. My knee pain from osteoarthritis is less. My walking is a little less laboured. I am loving the endorphin rush I get every morning from the exercise.

I am proud I am maintaining the discipline to get up early and do the day’s exercise routine first thing. Maintaining the discipline is important to me.

 

Discipline enables you to make exercise to improve your health a habit

 

My other half tells me he notices how disciplined I am and that there is less of me, and it’s good to have that external validation.

It’s becoming a virtuous cycle where my progress feeds my motivation to continue.

And you know what. It doesn’t take loads of time. About 45 minutes every morning. I always had the time. By figuring out what was getting in the way, working through that and taking the step by signing up for the boot camp, I was able to get started.

 

So when making a change in your life like making time to exercise to improve your health, consider these points

 

If making the change feels hard on some level and there is no rational explanation for that, it could be a systemic issue that has been shaped by habits, norms of behaving and events which have happened over the years and generations even in your family.

Sometimes it can be several inter-related issues which hold you back from making a change. Figuring these out can make implementing the change easier and make it more sustainable over the longer term.

Like I said last week, ensure the change you are making fits with your motivations.

Set up a routine to make the change happen. A routine can help you maintain discipline. Discipline makes the change into a long-term habit.

Feedback from others is great. It can feed your motivation. Just don’t rely on external feedback and validation 100%. Have your own measures for progress too.

It’s ok to start small. Small is achievable. You can build up over time.

Work within the symptoms your body experiences whether that is pain, fatigue, etc. You don’t want to exacerbate them to the point you can no longer do what you wish to be doing.

And connect to that part of your soul which gives you permission to make the change you really want for yourself.

 

Quote by Return To Wellness - Connect to the part of your soul which gives you permission to make the change you want for yourself, to make the time to exercise to improve your health

 

What’s it like for you?

 

What have you done to make the time to exercise to improve your health? Or to make another change in your life? What obstacles did you have to overcome? Share your thoughts or questions in the comments below or alternatively email them to me (contact form in sidebar).

If you are living with a challenging health issue or are caring for someone who is, and would like support to return to a sense of wellness, have a look at how we can work together and get in touch for a free no obligation consultation.

 

Pass it forward

 

Know of someone who would benefit from reading this blog, or you just want to spread the ideas, click on the icons to share.

© Copyright Barbara Babcock 2018

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How to make time for exercise

How to make time for exercise

My ability to make time for exercise has been crap.

There, I said it.

I’ve been feeling for some time that I need to do more to maintain my physical wellness.

My line of work is about rebuilding and renewing our sense of wellness after a serious illness or serious injury or whilst living with a chronic illness. Having had a serious neurological illness, knowing that heart disease runs in my family, having osteoarthritis, and witnessing my other half deal which his chronic conditions, you think I would have been exercising every day.

Nope.

With my clients I often talk about taking a holistic approach to our wellness and to how we make changes in our lives. I encourage my clients to look at all aspects of their wellness.

I feel like I have not been practicing what I preach.

There, I said that too.

 

Read here about why I found it hard to make time for exercise and what I did about it #fitness #exercise #wellness tell a friend

 

I have found it hard to make time for exercise

 

For a number of years now. Yet, it is becoming increasingly important to do so for health reasons.

I want to tell you why I found it difficult. Because there may be a change you want to make, may even need to make for health reasons too. But you may be finding it hard and are not sure why.

By taking you through what I experienced and what I have learned, I will give you eight things to consider regarding a change you wish to make but are finding difficult.

 

Why I have not been able to make time for exercise

 

What I share with you here I’ve learned over the years from coaching and therapy. And I’ve had a fair amount of coaching on this topic!

I last exercised regularly in 2009. I was working 3 days a week and the other days I trained as a coach, exercised and eventually set up my own coaching business.

As I was still in the early recovery phase from the neurological illness I had, exercise was important. There was also a very clear boundary between my work and personal life. I also felt I could make time for exercise given I was working 3 days a week. Feeling I could make the time and having a clear boundary time-wise around exercise enabled me to make exercise happen then.

 

Consideration 1: Do you feel you can make time for exercise? (or any other change you wish to make) If no, what are the reasons for that? If you knew you had dedicated time to exercise (or make some other change in your life), would you do it?

 

In 2010, things changed. I went to 4 days a week at work. Work became more challenging. My other half and I were dealing with the grief of learning we would not have our own children. And towards the end of the year, my other half’s close friend died unexpectedly and suddenly. My doctors were also wondering if the Transverse Myelitis I had was evolving into Multiple Sclerosis.

I remember exercising less and putting on weight in that year.

 

Consideration 2: A key learning is it would have been good to make time for exercise (of any kind for any length of time) as it would have helped my mental health, which was deteriorating.

 

Looking back, I was holding a lot on an emotional level. There was only so much I could hold, and the emotional stuff was taking all the space.

 

Pic of a woman holding many big and traumatic things in her life and she has dropped her balls of exercise and wellness. She found it hard to make time for exercise.

 

I don’t berate myself for having dropped exercise during that time. I was dealing with a lot of grief on several levels, trying to support my husband through his grief and that of our friend’s young family.

Time moved on, we grieved, I left my job to do a masters in coaching psychology. We moved house. We continued to grieve. I worked for myself as a coach and finished my masters. I also became Chair of a charity which ended up being much more work than I expected. I started working with a personal trainer. My husband then got unexpectedly seriously ill and had a brush with mortality. Exercise stopped. We re-entered the bubble that serious illness and recovery can be.

 

Consideration 3: Sometimes, we can only hold so much due to trauma and that may not include exercise or some other change we wish to make. That’s ok.

 

When my husband started returning to work, I started exercising again. I chose kayaking as I had done it in 2011, loved it and wanted to do more of it. It turned out to be the best decision ever!

Pic of me kayaking in Chichester Harbour. Kayaking is when I make time to exercise.

 

It was only when I reflected on it that I figured out I selected a sport that caters to my motivations.

I have an extroversion preference, I really enjoy being with other people, chatting and doing something together. 90% of the time I kayak with other people because it is the safe thing to do and so a requirement at the sailing club I’m a member at.

I am out in nature. As a kid I would play in the forests which surround my childhood home and I remember loving that. Even though I’ve lived in cities for all of my adult life, I still love being in nature.

Kayaking is a sport that is low impact on my joints. Given I have osteoarthritis in my knees, this is important.

 

Consideration 4: Learn what motivates you to exercise (or make the change you wish to make). Find a physical activity (or a way of making another type of change you want) that matches your motivations.

 

The club I am a member at has scheduled club kayaking times. So these times are in my diary during the kayaking season and I consider it sacred time. I make the time for exercise with intention. During the season, I kayak about twice a week and even walk the mile to the boat yard and back.

 

Consideration 5: What gets scheduled with intention has a much greater chance of getting done.

 

The other issue I have/had is this drive to achieve. Achieving something would feed my self-worth. But I would then shrug off the achievement as if it was no big deal because ‘anyone can do it’! I was feeding my self-worth and then discounting my achievement which would of course starve my self-worth. I then would set out to achieve something else because I had my self-worth to feed.

I was in this never-ending unhelpful cycle of achieving to feed my self-worth. And achieving demands time! This was an effective way of self-sabotaging my ability to make time to exercise.

 

If you want to #exercise or make some other kind of change in your life, but you're finding that you just cannot make progress no matter what you do, a self-sabotaging strategy could be getting in your way. Learn more here #wellness tell a friend

 

Consideration 6: It’s important to develop your awareness of your self-sabotaging strategies.

 

That way we can do something about them. I have to be aware of my achievement cycle kicking in and have learned more healthy ways to feed my sense of self-worth.

My achievement cycle is a good example of how this way of being and doing I had was having a not-so-helpful impact on various parts of my life, of which exercise was just one.

 

Consideration 7: Your self-sabotaging strategies can be entrenched in ways of being and doing that show up in other areas of your life beyond exercise, like my achievement cycle did.

 

For the past couple of years I’ve been wanting to increase the amount I exercise. I made several attempts where I would start exercising regularly here at home using my bike, stretching, doing ab work and going for walks.

 

Pic of exercise equipment at home to help me make time to exercise

 

But then I would injure myself or get ill and could not exercise for several weeks. Once I was better, work beckoned, would get busy, and I heard myself saying, ‘I don’t have time. I don’t have time.’

It was like a mantra. But a really unhelpful one. It is one that has been with me for quite some time.

And then I came across this quote

 

Pic of quote. Do not say you do not have enough time. You have exactly the same number of hours per day that were given to Helen Keller, Pasteur, Michaelangelo, Mother Teresa, Leonardo da Vinci, and Albert Einstein. You can make time to exercise.

 

Yes, I do have as much time as Michaelangelo, Mother Teresa, and other people who have produced or done great things during their lifetime. That was a good kick up the bum for me!

 

Consideration 8: It’s about priorities and what you choose to prioritise.

 

I did not make time for exercise because I was not prioritising it. Work was my priority.

I also learned from coaching and systemic constellation work that I was not taking time seriously. Other than my work, I was not being intentional with my time.

These two items turned out to be key for me.

I started to develop a new mantra.

Take time seriously, treat it with intention, and time will take care of you and your needs.

 

Pic of quote by Barbara Babcock at Return to Wellness. Take time seriously, treat it with intention, and time will take care of you and your needs. Make time for exercise.

 

I’m going to end here for this week as I’ve written plenty for you to mull over. But come back next week when I continue explaining what else got in the way of my ability to make time to exercise. (yes, there was a lot) And what I ended up doing about it.

 

What’s it like for you?

 

If you are struggling to exercise or make another change in your life, what is holding you back? If you have successfully made a change you really wanted for yourself, what enabled you to do that? Share your thoughts or questions in the comments below or alternatively email them to me (contact form in sidebar).

If you are living with a health issue or are caring for someone who is, and would like support to make a change in your life, have a look at how we can work together and get in touch for a free no obligation consultation.

 

Pass it forward

 

Know of someone who would benefit from reading this blog, or you just want to spread the ideas, click on the icons to share.

© Copyright Barbara Babcock 2018

 

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How to make the most of life after illness

How to make the most of life after illness

Make the most of life after illness – This was one of the biggest things I learned from having a serious illness and being a carer. Life is fragile. And short. Much shorter than we expected or intended.

For me, one way to make the most of life after illness has been to work for myself so I can work flexibly, create work that genuinely helps people and brings something good into our world. I often think about it as making my corner of the world a better place.

But then I discovered something.

 

To make the most of life after illness in the way I want to, I need to ‘put myself out there’

 

I need to put my head above the parapet.

If I am to grow the work I want to do, I need to get the word out there and show people what I am really about.

 

I need to make myself (even more) vulnerable

 

Picture of a woman putting her ahead above the parapet. It's about making yourself vulnerable to make the most of life after illness.

 

And here I thought life was going to be easy! I know what’s important to me, my strengths, passions and my work caters to all that. I thought I had it sorted and that I had been making myself vulnerable.

But I’m not quite there yet. And may never be if I’m honest. Having it ‘all sorted’ is a pipe dream destination. I have to remind myself that ‘good enough’ is great. But I digress.

I started to wonder why am I worried about making myself even more vulnerable?

 

Vulnerability can hold you back from making the most of your life after illness

 

I think it’s because how we interpret ‘vulnerability’ as a society. The English Oxford dictionary defines vulnerability as:

The quality or state of being exposed to the possibility of being attacked or harmed, either physically or emotionally.

You read that and think, ‘Whoa! Who wants to put themselves in that position?!’ That is something we actively avoid.

If you’ve been seriously ill or injured or in a caring role, you’ve already experienced enough physical and/or emotional ‘harm’. (I am using the word ‘harm’ loosely here although some of you may have felt genuinely harmed by your or your loved one’s illness or injury.) So why would you put yourself potentially through more?

 

And yet, making yourself vulnerable may enable you to make the most of life after illness

 

It will of course depend on what making the most of your life means to you now. And what you need to do and be to make that happen. Different things will be required for different people.

For me, making myself (even more) vulnerable is what I need to do.

 

Picture of a woman holding a winning ticket from the proactive vulnerability lottery and there is a bucket of resources behind her in which you can see courage. It will take courage for the woman to display her vulnerability, but by doing that she will make the most of life after illness

 

On some level, I knew this. I’ve known that doing my own thing for work was very much about ‘putting myself out there’. Yet, intentionally making myself even more vulnerable as I ‘put myself out there’ has been reinforced in a different way through conversations I’ve had recently.

One conversation was with two women I’ve been working with. The second is with my therapist when we discussed perpetrator and victim dynamics in my family system.

In both conversations, we discussed the pros and cons of vulnerability. This is what vulnerability now means to me.

 

There are two kinds of vulnerability

 

It’s like two sides of the same coin.

The vulnerability of being a victim where you are (or feel you are) being on the receiving end of something not very nice from another person or event (like an illness or injury).

The other side of vulnerability is proactively expressing what we need or want to and sharing with others.

They have very different energies.

 

The vulnerability of being the victim can be a passive energy

 

When you place yourself in the victim role, you are not truly seen by others. Although this may feel like a safe place and/or meet a need of yours, others may be less aware of your needs and forget about you.

In this case, it is harder for you to get your needs met. You may have to do things by yourself to get your needs met. That can also be a lonely place at times. I know. I lived a good portion my life in that place of passivity.

 

When you express what you need or want to others or share something important, you are expressing a vulnerability, but the energy behind it is active

 

You are taking proactive action to meet your needs, wants or desires. It takes courage to display vulnerability in this way. Especially because whoever you are expressing your vulnerability to can say no. They may not be able to help you, to support you, to love you back in the way you want to be loved, or whatever it is you want.

I don’t think the English Oxford dictionary above fully recognises this proactive form of vulnerability. But the work of Brene Brown does. She defines vulnerability as ‘uncertainty, risk and emotional exposure’.

In her book Daring Greatly, she talks about “vulnerability is the birthplace of love, belonging, joy, courage, empathy and creativity. It is the source of hope, empathy, accountability and authenticity. If we want greater clarity in our purpose or deeper or more meaningful spiritual lives, vulnerability is the path. Vulnerability is the core of all emotions and feelings.” (pg. 33)

 

Picture of a coin and it demonstrates there are two sides to vulnerability. Victim vulnerability which is a passive energy and proactive vulnerability which is an active energy. Proactive vulnerability requires courage and it can help you make the most of life after illness.

 

This proactive form of vulnerability requires us to display more of who we are, not just the edited bits we show to the world. That is where the ‘uncertainty, risk and emotional exposure’ come in. Yet being and showing more of who we are is often required to make the most of life after illness.

 

You can sense check what form of vulnerability you’re displaying

 

The Empowerment Triangle (Karpman, 1968) is the flip side of the Drama Triangle (which I won’t go into today) and both are about power, responsibility and vulnerability. This model displays the proactive form of vulnerability.

 

 

For this form of proactive vulnerability to work well, you need the powerful and responsible aspects too.

 

So I’ll display my vulnerability (proactively)

 

I entered the UK Blog Awards as a way to share my thoughts, ideas and stories about rebuilding and renewing your life after a serious health issue more widely in the world. And to increase my and Return to Wellness’s visibility.

This is very much about me being proactive and putting myself and my work out there. I am putting my head above the parapet waiting for feedback whatever form that feedback takes.

This leads me to an ask I have. If you have enjoyed this blog (and maybe even others I have written), vote for Return to Wellness here.

Thank you.

 

Picture of Vote for my blog! Return to Wellness #UKBA19 UK Blog Awards

 

What about you?

 

What do you need to do to make the most of life after illness? To what degree do you need to be vulnerable (as described here) to do that? Feel free to share below in the comments. Alternatively, you can use the contact form in the sidebar to email me direct.

If you are living with a challenging health issue or are caring for someone who is, and would like support to find non-medical ways to improve your sense of wellness, have a look at how we can work together and get in touch for a free no obligation consultation.

 

Pass it forward

 

Know of someone who would benefit from reading this blog, or you just want to spread the ideas? Click on the icons to share.

© Copyright Barbara Babcock 2018

References

Karpman, S. (1968). Fairy tales and script drama analysis. Transactional Analysis Bulletin, 7(26), 39-43.

 

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The 10 lessons I learned about being a carer

The 10 lessons I learned about being a carer

There was so much I wish I knew about being a carer before I became one. It might have taken the edge off the anxiety I was feeling about my other half’s medical conditions, his recovery, how much ongoing hands on support he would need, what changes it might mean for us in many areas of our lives, was I being a good carer and getting it right, etc. etc.

It’s not like you get a manual at the hospital or GP and ongoing support and advice from an expert to help you deal with this new caring role. You are figuring it out as you go and you often have to proactively find the information you need. So here I summarise the 10 lessons I learned from being a carer to help you in that quest.

Read about the 10 lessons I learned from being a #carer #caring #seriousillness #chronicillness #seriousinjury tell a friend

 

This all comes from the reflection I’ve been doing this past month on the impact of a serious illness/injury on a relationship. It was our wedding anniversary a month ago, this month is my 10th year anniversary of having had a serious neurological illness and next month will be 5 years since my husband had his brush with mortality. So a lot has been going through my mind including my experience of being carer and the caring role.

 

Picture of a man sitting down and reading a booklet on Return to Wellness's 10 lessons on being a carer

 

Here are the 10 lessons I learned about being a carer

 

Lesson 1 – A serious illness or injury can put long simmering issues in your relationship into perspective

To the point that you realise that the long simmering issue is no longer an issue. The illness/injury event feels much more serious. For example, we moved from a flat into a house but I didn’t feel the need to move. The flat was big enough for us both I thought. But we moved because my husband was very keen to. I was finding the transition difficult. The day my husband unexpectedly went into hospital, it was like something switched off in my body. The house was no longer an issue as I had other much more important things to deal with.

Or maybe the issue is still very much an issue, and an important one to you, so now you are galvanised to do something about it. A serious illness or injury can cause us to face our mortality. And when we do that, we realise what is most important to us, and what we are willing to do and not do.

 

Lesson 2 – If you’re the carer, it’s not uncommon for your other half to get angry with you.

 

Despite all you have been doing for them, some things you just won’t get right. You are learning too. My husband once got upset with me in the early days of him dealing with his medical conditions when I struggled to get meals cooked on a schedule which would help him manage his sugars. It was tough.

I was trying my best and struggling with the impact of everything. I gently told him that I was impacted too, was trying and would look again at how I could schedule my work differently to get meals out on time.

It’s important to deal effectively with your loved one’s anger and I wrote about how to do that here, so I encourage you to read it. What you don’t want to do is take on and carry other people’s anger as they takes a lot of your energy which you need for yourself.

 

A woman being a carer is holding on to the ball of her other half's anger and has dropped the ball of her own wellness

The potential impact on the carer when you hold on to someone else’s anger

 

Lesson 3 – As the carer, you’ll get angry with your other half too.

 

You can become angry because you feel frustrated with yourself, that you are getting things wrong as the carer. Like I said before, it’s unlikely you have a ‘how to be a carer’ manual on your bookshelf.

Or you may be angry over what has happened with your loved one, the pain and changes they have had to endure. It’s hard to see our loved ones ill or injured. We want to take their pain away.

Or you may be angry over the impact the illness or injury has had on your lives and the changes you and your loved one have had to make as a result. In cases like this, the anger is more often directed at the impact of the illness or injury has had.

Or the anger be a cover for another emotion like sadness and grief, which is often the case for the previous two examples.

Or the anger could be more about other relationship issues which have pre-existed prior to the illness/injury. And the stress of dealing with the impact of the illness/injury is fuelling the anger.

Whoever is getting angry, at its worst, it can lead to blame and shame. That is what you want to avoid.

Dealing with #seriousillness #seriousinjury #chronicillness can be stressful so it’s not uncommon for you and your loved one to get angry with each other. Just make sure it doesn’t lead to #blame or #shame tell a friend

 

So do a quick self-check on your anger and ask yourself:

What am I really angry about?

Am I really angry with my other half for getting ill/injured?

Am I angry about the impact it has had on my life? Our lives?

Am I angry at the illness/injury?

Am I angry at having to deal with all the stress?

Or am I angry about another aspect of our relationship which has nothing to do with the illness/injury?

If my anger was covering other emotions, what would those emotions be?

I want to say though that anger is not a bad or forbidden thing. It’s about how you deal with it which is key.

 

Picture of questions to help you sense check your anger when being a carer.

 

Lesson 4 – What you can do together as a couple changes so adapt your approaches and/or find new things to do together

 

This can relate to the anger mentioned in points 2 and 3.

What you are able to do together as a couple may have to change. It may be sex. It may be a spontaneous afternoon out. Or a night out in the pub setting the world to rights over a few beers.

Your circle of friends may also change.

My other half and I used to do that night out or Saturday afternoon in the pub setting the world to rights. But for medical reasons we no longer do that. I miss it because we enjoyed a conversational intimacy where we connected in a different way.

You may no longer be able to do the activity, or you have to adapt how you approach it, and find new activities and friends. I think this is incredibly important. This leads to my next point.

 

Lesson 5 – Illness and injury can be intimacy killers. Nurture intimacy. Make it a priority in the relationship.

 

Important to nurture #intimacy in a #relationship when a #seriousillness #seriousinjury #chronicillness enters it. And intimacy can occur on several levels. Read more about that here tell a friend

 

This too is incredibly important. I feel intimacy can occur on different levels.

  • Sex
  • Holding hands, hugs, kisses, holding one another
  • The nature of your conversations – both surface level and deeper conversations
  • Humour
  • Sharing hobbies and interests – cooking together, sport, photography, whatever
  • Being mindful of the other person – Their loves, hates, needs, desires and wants

 

Picture of the levels of intimacy in a relationship (there can be more). Sex, holding hands, hugging, kissing, the tone of your conversations, shared interests and hobbies, being mindful of the others needs, wants and desires.

 

There may be more which are a feature in your relationship. Some of those levels may be important to you in your relationship or not. Some may be important to one of you but not the other.

But how you continue to connect as a couple is super important. Particularly if there are issues and you want to remain as a couple. Again, get help if you need to.

 

Lesson 6 – Fill your own cup first

 

Caring can be bloody hard work. Not only do you have your responsibilities, you often have to take on their responsibilities for a period of time or for forever more. On top of that you are going to great lengths to look after your loved one, making sure they are ok and have what they need. Whilst being a carer, you play many roles. And you have your own life too.

But there can also be joy in caring. There is nothing like feeling like a team, working together, each knowing your role so one of you (or both) can find a new version of health again within the illness/injury. In some cases, depending on the illness or injury, your other half may not be alive or be in a worse state if it wasn’t for you and your efforts.

Caring is a journey. Caring is a gift you give someone. But to give, YOU HAVE TO GIVE TO YOURSELF FIRST. Because you can’t pour from an empty cup.

 

Important quote when being a carer. You can't pour from an empty cup. Take care of yourself first.

Guideline 1 when you are in the caring/supporting role

 

Lesson 7 – As the carer, it’s ok to ask for what you need from them.

 

You are still a significant part of the relationship, you have needs and they matter. No matter if you have the illness or injury, or are in the caring role, it is ok for you to have needs, to express them and to ask for what you need from the other.

This may require you to let go of old ways of being which no longer serve you, i.e. ‘my needs don’t matter’. This leads on to my next point.

 

Lesson 8 – This often requires you both to have conversations differently than you did previously. If you need to get external help to do this, please do.

 

I wrote about this earlier this month so have a read of this blog.

 

Lesson 9 – Trust is an essential ingredient

 

This is my husband’s contribution to this blog post. He said that knowing you can rely on the person to help and support you when you are very ill or injured is important.

If you don’t have that, if it wasn’t present in the relationship prior to the onset of the illness or injury, are you willing to continue? It’s a hard question, I know.

 

Lesson 10 – Finally, a well-tuned sense of humour helps. A lot.

 

My husband and I both enjoy humour. A lot. After nearly 20 years together, we still make each other laugh. Every day. We connect through our humour. It has taken the edge off of life or death situations.

Like the time he was in hospital having just had a life-saving procedure and he had to pee. I gave him the bedpan for men which looked like a snail to me. So I named it. I then had to carry Mr. Snail full of my husband’s wee and give it to the nurse. I then referred to the bedpan as the Royal Wee. Bad humour I know. But we smiled and that helped us to keep a sense of balance.

 

What’s it like for you?

 

Do any of the lessons above resonate with you? What lessons have you learned from being a carer? Share your thoughts or questions in the comments below or alternatively email them to me (contact form in sidebar).

If you are living with a serious health issue or caring for someone who is, and would like support to deal with issues you are experiencing, have a look at how we can work together and get in touch for a free no obligation consultation.

 

Help with research on acceptance

 

If you or a loved one experienced a serious health issue in the past 2 years and are struggling or wondering if you can accept what has happened, I would love to speak with you. I am researching the concept of ‘acceptance’ within the context of a serious health issue by collecting people’s experiences with it. Click here to find out more. And in exchange, I offer you a free 1 hour coaching session.

 

Pass it forward

 

Although I wrote this blog in the context of living with a serious health issue, the ideas contained within are applicable to everyone. If you think someone you know would benefit from reading this blog, or you just want to spread the ideas, click on the icons to share.

© Copyright Barbara Babcock 2018

 

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Protect your relationships. Uncover your unconscious biases and assumptions around illness

Protect your relationships. Uncover your unconscious biases and assumptions around illness

Last week I wrote about how the unconscious biases and assumptions around illness, injury, recovery, disability and health you hold tend to become more visible when you have to deal with these issues. They test that ‘in sickness and in health’ vow in a committed relationship. And they can make or break a relationship.

The unconscious biases and assumptions around #seriousillness #seriousinjury, #recovery #disability and #health you hold tend to become more visible when you have to deal with these issues. Read more about it here. tell a friend

 

But to do what you can to ensure your relationship remains in a good enough place, it helps to become aware of the unconscious biases and assumptions around illness you hold and figure out if they are helpful or potentially harmful to your relationship.

Last week I shared examples of what some unconscious biases and assumptions around illness look like in action. This week I share the process to uncover your own.

So this blog gives you an opportunity to have a quiet and gentle think. If you like to write your thoughts because that helps you to clarify them, then do that. But you don’t have to.

 

Woman sitting on a course reading a Return To Wellness newsletter about unconscious biases and assumptions around illness

 

How to uncover your unconscious biases and assumptions around illness

 

Your unconscious biases and assumptions around illness will underpin what you mean by health, illness, disability and recovery (how you define them) and even how they come through in your behaviour.

 

Ask yourself these questions to uncover the unconscious biases and assumptions around illness you hold which may be helping or hindering your relationship

 

  • What are you like when you are ill or in good health? How do you treat yourself? What do you expect of others around you?
  • What are you like when others around you are ill or in good health? How do you treat them? What do you expect of them when they are ill? And what do you expect of yourself?
  • How sick do you and others have to be to be considered sick?
  • When is getting sick or injured due to your actions and hence your ‘fault’? And when is it not?
  • Regarding recovery, do you expect yourself or the other person to go back to the way they were pre-illness or injury? What if you/they don’t?
  • Do you believe that being positive will aid recovery? Where does being negative fit into the recovery process?
  • What if you or your other half or child looks ok but says they are tired all the time? And they sleep a lot? Or they say they are in pain? But they look fine, well even?
  • What if you or your other half or child becomes disabled physically and/or cognitively? How would you feel about that? What would you do? What do you think you would find really difficult?
  • You hear of someone who had a serious accident and was disabled as a result. You’ve heard they got back to work, are continuing their lives and they seem well and happy. Do you find them to be an inspiration? Why is that?
  • You’re on Tinder swiping away. You read a profile you like, get in touch with the person and through corresponding you learn they are a wheelchair user (or have mental health issues or another long-term condition). Do you meet up with them for a date? Why or why not?

 

These questions require you to think about your thoughts, behaviours and expectations of yourself and others. Some of them have been provocatively worded to elicit a response.

 

Then dig a little deeper

 

When you respond to the above questions, then ask yourself, ‘For these responses to be true, what do I have to assume about myself? And others? And what beliefs are these assumptions based on?’

For example, if you responded that you are only considered ‘properly’ sick when you have a really bad case of the flu and cannot function or have to go to accident and emergency at the hospital.

What do you have to assume about yourself (or others) regarding being ‘properly’ sick?

Maybe the assumption is, ‘I don’t get sick that much so it won’t happen to me.’ And maybe that points to a belief, ‘I believe I am a strong person with a good constitution.’

 

The pic shows your beliefs underpin your unconscious biases and assumptions around illness which underpin your behaviour. There's a person saying, "You've been ill long enough! Get on with it." And another person saying, "We all get ill. Recovery can take time."

 

How our unconscious biases and assumptions around illness can negatively impact our relationships

 

What often happens is we project these assumptions and beliefs we hold on to others, i.e. what we expect of ourselves, we expect the same of others. This is where couples often get into trouble when a serious illness, chronic illness or serious injury enters the family.

We often project our unconscious assumptions and beliefs about ourselves on to others, i.e. what we expect of ourselves, we expect the same of others. This can be unhelpful for couples when a #seriousillness #chronic illness or… tell a friend

 

For example, one of last week’s examples was when one half of a couple or your parent tells you to ‘get on with it’ – go to work, look after the house and kids, do everything else life throws at you – when you are experiencing ongoing fatigue, pain and/or weakness.

The ‘get on with it’ coupled with the sighs, frustration and remarks of ‘we all get tired’ can feel like this person who is family and close to you, just does not care for you or your needs. That can really hurt a relationship. Their ‘get on with it’ is their assumption about how they, and therefore you, should deal with illness/injury.

 

‘Pre-existing conditions’ in your relationship can also make it more difficult to cope with a serious health issue

 

In addition, how as a couple you deal with the impact of a serious health issue in your family can shine a light on the issues in your relationship which existed prior to the illness or injury. If you both haven’t addressed these relationship issues, they can make dealing with the health issue that much harder.

It’s important you get support and I cannot stress this enough. You may feel it is your other half which needs the support. But there are two people in any relationship and even if something terrible happens to one of you, like a serious illness or injury, you are both affected. There is something about both of you getting support to deal with and move beyond the challenge.

Whichever position you are in, the person with the illness/injury or the carer, if you feel that it’s your other half who needs to change or some kind of support, ask yourself what support you need. We often hear the saying by Ghandi, ‘Be the change you want to see in the world.’ If you want someone else to change, look at what change you can make too.

 

Quote by Gandhi on the Return to Wellness lilly which is Be the change you want to see in the world.

 

What’s it like for you?

 

What did you think of this exercise to uncover your unconscious biases and assumptions around illness? Where there any questions which occurred to you which weren’t listed here? Share your thoughts or questions in the comments below or alternatively email them to me (contact form in sidebar).

If you are living with a serious health issue, which may be a serious illness or injury or chronic illness, or are caring for someone who is, and would like support to deal with issues in your relationship, have a look at how we can work together and get in touch for a free no obligation consultation.

 

Help with research on acceptance

 

If you or a loved one experienced a serious health issue in the past 2 years and are struggling or wondering if you can accept what has happened, I would love to speak with you. I am researching the concept of ‘acceptance’ within the context of a serious health issue by collecting people’s experiences with it. Click here to find out more. And in exchange, I offer you a free 1 hour coaching session.

 

Pass it forward

 

Although I wrote this blog in the context of living with a serious health issue, the ideas contained within are applicable to everyone. If you think someone you know would benefit from reading this blog, or you just want to spread the ideas, click on the icons to share.

© Copyright Barbara Babcock 2018

 

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