Why it’s so easy to give up and how not to

Why it’s so easy to give up and how not to

It’s so easy to give up when something feels really hard going. You try something to improve your health, make something good happen and it doesn’t seem to work. So you want to throw in the towel, i.e. give up.

This has happened to all of us at some point. But you also know that even though it’s so easy to give up, it might not ultimately be the best thing for you and your health.

It's so easy to give up! Picture of a man saying, 'This is too hard. I'm giving up!' He is throwing a towel. On the towel it is written: The towel of giving up. There's an expression in English 'throwing in the towel' which means to give up.

So what do you do?

Good question. That is the point of this blog. I was inspired to write it by this picture I came across on Twitter created by Anna Vital at www.adioma.com (@annavitals on Twitter).

This is a picture created by Anna Vital at www.adioma.com on the sixteen reasons people give up. It's so easy to give up when you expect fast results, stop believing in yourself, get stuck in the past, dwell on mistakes, fear the future, resist change, give up your power, believe in your weakness, feel the world owes you something, fear failure more than desire success, never visualise what is possible, feel you have something to lose, are overworked, assume your problems are unique, see failure as the signal to turn back, or feel sorry for yourself.
Picture created by Anna Vital (@annavitals on Twitter) at www.adioma.com

I read it and thought, ‘Yes, those are the reasons why it’s so easy to give up!’

But then I thought people will ask, ‘What can I do then?’

So this blog is meant to help you start addressing your reason for giving up on making a change you know is good for you. And in turn increase your chances of keeping going and achieving what it is you want for yourself.

Let’s address each reason for why it’s so easy to give up

There are 16 of them so in an effort to not write a book length blog post, which I could easily end up doing, I am going to just give a few pointers for each reason.

1. Expect fast results

You know the saying, ‘Rome wasn’t built in a day.’ Dealing with an unexpected challenging health issue is not easy and can bring up a lot of emotional stuff. Sometimes change can take time.

Also keep in mind that when you learned to walk as a baby, eat with a knife and fork, learn to tie your shoes or something else you did early on in your life, or drive, it took you time to learn how to do it well. You made mistakes. And at those times you were often applauded for having a go and failing!

2. Stop believing in themselves

When you start to make a change and do something new, of course you may not believe you can do the new thing yet. Because you haven’t done it yet. You haven’t shown yourself, that yes, I can do this. That is ok.

What you can do is believe in yourself just enough, doesn’t have to be 100%, to take the first small action. Believing that you can learn from mistakes you may make is also important. See point 4.

Coaching is great for looking at what is stopping you from believing in yourself and helping you find ways to strengthen your self-belief muscle.

Coaching is great for looking at what is stopping you from believing in yourself and helping you find ways to strengthen your self-belief muscle. #change #health #wellness Click To Tweet

3. Get stuck in the past

You may have a preference for focusing on the future, past or present. I think a balanced enough focused on all three is good. We can learn from the past, just be in the present and the future focus can help us reach our goals.

But sometimes we can get stuck in the past in an unhealthy way with a focus of ‘everything was better and easier back then’ and everything now is difficult. This can be a form of denial and avoidance of our current reality and how we feel about it.

It’s not uncommon to see people do this after a life changing illness or injury. And it’s an understandable reaction. Yet to remain in this place, with all the associated unpleasant feelings and emotions it can bring up, may not be healthy over time for you or your loved one.

This is a tough one. Sometimes things have to get so bad for the person to finally realise, ‘I’ve had enough. I need to do something to get our of this place.’ When a person experiences that kind of resolve, that is when they often come for coaching.

4. Dwell on mistakes

Yes, we can dwell on our mistakes. We want to be able to do it right first time. Because that feels good. Reread point 1.

Mistakes, as unpleasant as they can be at times, are actually a gift. They tell us what doesn’t work. So we can cross that off our list. Also, keep in mind what FAIL stands for:

First Attempt In Learning

Failure is a reason why people find it's so easy to give up. This picture shows a person looking at the word FAIL but it stands for First Attempt in Learning. The person is saying, 'This is a much better way to think of failure.'

5. Fear the future

The future represents the unknown. And not knowing means uncertainty. Which may bring up discomfort for you. So it can be easy to stay in your current routines because it is what you know and are comfortable with.

Also see point 10.

6. Resist change

This links to points 5, 4 and 3. Sometimes these are the reasons people resist change. It can also depend on how much change the person has dealt with in their life. If they aren’t used to dealing with change, they may not have the skills to do so.

Some of the skills and qualities that help in dealing with change are the ability to live with uncertainty, being comfortable enough to make mistakes, to learn from the mistakes, to learn something new, adaptability and flexibility.

7. Give up their power

People can easily give up their power for all the reasons mentioned here. But they may also be used to focusing their energies on what they cannot change. You often hear it in the language people use.

S/he made me feel…

They make it so hard for me…

If only they would…, then I could…

The language is focused on what other people should or could be doing for the person. The person isn’t taking an active role. When that happens, the person gives up their power.

 Rather than that, what I recommend is you focus what is in your control and influence to do.

When you don't believe you have any power to do things or make things better for yourself, it's so easy to give up. This picture shows a person giving away their personal power to someone who is saying, 'You should have done... but you didn't.' with the subtext of 'give me your power'. On the other half of the picture, the person is standing in their personal power and using language like, 'I'll ask for help...I can... I make things happen... I know my needs... I have ideas on how to get my needs met... I feel... I need...'

8. Believe in their weaknesses

In this case, the weakness is often a benefit to you in some way. As long as it’s a benefit which you value, it’s so easy to give up on making a change.

9. Feel the world owes them something

This links to point 7. I find people who feel the world owes them something are less likely to do something for themselves. They give up their power as a consequence.

We can wait around all day for people to owe us what we feel we deserve but we could end up waiting a very long time.

Instead, take action which is in your control and influence to do.

10. Fear failure more than desire success

This links to point 5, 4 and 2. The fear of failure outweighs the benefits of success.

There’s that book Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway. And that is often the case when we are trying to do something new which is good for us. We have to hold on to the fear and have a go anyway.

I feel our fear has a place. It has a need. If you acknowledge its place and discover what it needs, that can help you to hold on to the fear in a more partnership kind of way as you go on and do new and good things for yourself.

It's so easy to give up at times but by knowing your priorities and really valuing them, you are less likely to give up. Like this quote by Stephen Covey says: You have to decide what your highest priorities are and have the courage pleasantly, smilingly, and non-apologetically to day "no" to other things. And the way to do that is by having a bigger yes burning inside.

11. Never visualise what is possible

A visualisation exercise of future possibilities is always a good thing. But some people don’t have a developed inner visual sense or are unable to due to how their brain is wired. Some people use more of their feeling or hearing sense when processing information internally.

If you have an auditory preference, you can tell yourself a story of what is possible. If you have a feeling sense, you can imagine what you would feel if you have achieved what you wanted for yourself.

And if you can visualise, tell yourself a story and feel what success would feel like for you, do all three!

12. Feel they have something to lose

This is one of the reasons why you may resist change (see point 6). When you make a change, even if that change is something good for you and something you want, you lose something. If you value what you lose more than what you will gain from making the change, you won’t make the change.

It's so easy to give up when we do not value what we will gain by making the change we want for ourselves. This picture shows a grid of which the aim is to help you think through what you will gain and lose if you make the change and if you do not make the change.

13. Overwork

If you have a lot of other stuff demanding your time and energy right now, you may not have the energy to make the change you want. Or maybe the change feels so big, it feels like too much all at once.

In either case, break the change down into small actions. Tiny actions. Small is achievable. Small is good. Taking a small action helps to fuel the motivation to stay with. Good stuff that.

14. Assume their problems are unique

It can feel like your problems are unique because you don’t know anyone else who has them. Chances are, there is someone or even many people out there who have experienced your problem.

As I wrote previously, change doesn’t happen in a vacuum. Find people like you as they can share what they have learned.

It can feel like your problems are unique because you don’t know anyone else who has them. But chances are, there are people out there who have been where you are now. #change #health #wellness Click To Tweet

15. See failure as the signal to turn back

Reread point 10.

16. Feel sorry for themselves

This links to points 7 and 9. Yes, you may feel sorry for yourself. And that is natural to feel from time to time. When you feel sorry for yourself, it is often about you missing something you value. That is ok.

But if you unpack and live in the sorry-ness, that makes it harder for you to make the changes you may wish for yourself. Giving yourself the opportunity to mourn what you have lost means you acknowledge the value it held for you and how you feel about it. Doing that helps you to move beyond the sorry-ness and grief.

When you’ve done that, then that energy is freed up to help you make the changes you want for yourself.

Feeling sorry for ourselves is one of the reasons why it's so easy to give up on something. This original quote by Return to Wellness explains more about feeling sorry for yourself: When you feels sorry for yourself, it is you missing something you no longer have. Mourn the loss and acknowledge the value it held for you. This helps you to move on and make the change you want for yourself.

What’s it like for you?

Which of these reasons for giving up resonate with you? When you have felt, ‘Gosh, it’s so easy to give up right now!’ what did you do to keep going? 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 on any of the issues discussed here, have a look at how we can work together and get in touch for a free no obligation consultation.

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© Copyright Barbara Babcock 2019

How to make your search for the new you after illness easier

How to make your search for the new you after illness easier

The search for the new you after you experience a serious illness or injury and are living with the ongoing impact can feel so very hard. In some ways, you know you are still the person you were before. But in other ways, you’re not and you don’t recognise yourself. And you really don’t know how to conduct this search.

A picture of a woman looking at her reflection in the mirror, which she doesn't recognise and is very surprised. She is saying, 'So much has changed! Who am I now?' The reflection in the mirror is a Picasso-like reflection of the woman with her eyes, ears, nose and mouth being in the wrong locations. The caption reads, 'A challenging health issue can change so much.' All this change can make it hard for a person to search for the new you as they are understandably focused on getting back to who they were and the change they have experienced.

Many people I’ve spoken to feel this way. You’re not alone. It’s normal. So I want to give you six hints and tips as you conduct this search. To lessen the difficulty and frustration associated with it. To make it a bit easier. But this isn’t an exhaustive list.

The search for the new you does not result in an end destination

The new you isn’t out there just waiting to be discovered in a ‘ta da’ type of moment.

This search for the new you is a journey. How long that will take you I cannot predict. It’s different for every person. But I know this. You will get to a place where you feel comfortable in yourself and your life again. Here’s an example.

After my other half was diagnosed with type 2 insulin-dependent diabetes and we were busy making lifestyle changes regarding food and drink, he was frustrated and wondering how he could cope for the long haul.

Five years on, I reminded him of that question in the acute phase of his illness and asked him how he found things now. He was ok with things. Of course he wouldn’t have chosen this path for himself, but he didn’t have that choice. Despite that he got to a place where he was comfortable with his diet and how he was controlling the diabetes. He was ok with his new life.

The search for the new you requires you to go out and live your life

You need to get back out there and re-engage with life. To learn how to use your body again and become more comfortable in doing that, keep up with friends and/or make new friends, return to work and/or volunteering, to have hobbies, to love, to feel confidence again, to do errands, pay bills and the other mundane but necessary things we do in life, to enjoy your life.

The new you will unfold as you go out and live your life, try new things, experiment, fail, learn, try again and succeed.

A picture of a woman walking along a path. Behind her is a solid locked gate which is lock. On it says: Your old life. The old you. At a junction on the path there is a sign which has 'Your life' written on it and pointing which direction to go. On the sign is an owl pointing the way and saying, 'Stay on this path.' The woman is saying, 'I guess I go this way. But will I find me?' Ahead along the path are two qualities sitting down waiting for the woman to find them. One is resilience sitting under a tree. Resilience is saying about the woman, 'She is so going to love me being a part of her.' Another quality Adaptability is sitting near a rock and saying, 'We're going to be a good match.' The caption reads: The re-newed you will unfold as you live your life. The meaning is as you live your life, you acquire more skills and qualities which help you and shape you as a person. That in turn helps you to discover who you are now.

The search for the new you doesn’t happen in a vacuum

You can end up struggling trying to do it all by yourself. Hence why re-engaging with life and others is crucial. Also, you are continually shaped by your experiences and relationships and you contribute towards the shaping of others in turn.

Many people I’ve spoken to have felt alone in their illness or injury because many people around them don’t have it and not everyone will understand or have empathy. So you have to go out there and find people like you, who are or have been in a similar place to you. There is often times bucket loads of understanding and empathy in these communities. You have to find your tribe.

Being part of a community we value gives us significance because we know we matter to others in that community. (From Esther Perel’s newsletter of 5th August 2019.) And they know they matter to you.

A picture of a woman walking into a room where the Return to Wellness Support Group is being held. Two women are there. One is saying, 'Hi! Come on in! Have a seat.' And she's pointing to an empty seat. There are buckets of support, understanding and empathy standing around the room. The caption reads: The search for the new you doesn't happen in a vacuum. Finding people in a similar situation to you can help.

And don’t forget it’s ok to ask for help

And as I wrote about previously, becoming more accustomed to asking for and receiving help and support from others helps too.

Being intentional can help

This is about being intentional in your decisions, relationships, activities and more. After experiencing a life-changing health issue, you know the fragility of life.

So there is something about leaving behind worries over things which now feel small and unimportant. And focusing your energy on being the person you want to be, being with the people who lift you up, doing things that matter to you, and making a contribution to your corner of the world in the way you wish to.

How to be intentional

Each morning, consider your intention for the day – What will you give to your day so you can look back and feel, ‘That was a good enough day.’?.

If we focus on what we give to ourselves, our life, other people, our job, etc., we increase our chances of getting what we have been hoping for.

The search for the new you requires loads of self-compassion

This pic says it all. Shower yourself with self-compassion regularly.

Think of it as a meal. You have to feed yourself with compassion regularly and make sure you don’t go hungry or starve yourself.

Picture of a woman showering herself with self-compassion. The woman's 'self-compassionate self' is holding a watering can labeled 'self-compassion'. She is pouring hearts over the version of herself sitting down (having the self-compassion shower). The woman showering herself is saying, 'It's time for your self-compassion shower! Oh, and I put your self-criticism in the rubbish.' Off to the side there is a rubbish bin with self-criticism in it. It is important to shower yourself with self-compassion during the search for the new you after illness or injury.

Your new you is inside you

Waiting for you to let her out.

By actively re-engaging with your life and living it, you help her find the path to express herself.

By being intentional and purposeful, you shape her as she emerges and lives.

The search for the new you is actually a process of discovery.

Picture of an original inspirational quote by Return to Wellness: "When searching for your new you after illness or injury, remember that she isn't somewhere out there. She's inside of you. By going out and living your life, you help her find the path to express herself." The search for the new you is actually a self-discovery process.

What’s it like for you?

How is the search for the new you been going since the onset of your illness or injury? What are you finding difficult? And what have you found easier than expected? 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 on any of the issues discussed here, 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 2019

How to regain your independence after illness or injury

How to regain your independence after illness or injury

Learning how to regain your independence after illness or injury is a key goal for many people after a life-changing illness or injury.

Prior to dealing with your challenging health issue, whether your own or someone else’s, you probably didn’t think about your independence. You did what you wanted when you wanted. We all did.

But afterwards, when you can’t do what you want when you want, you are forced to think about it. You know what you cannot do anymore and that can be hard to deal with. You realise what you have lost. How much easier everything used to be. It’s tough.

And all you want is to regain your independence after illness or injury and figure out the best way to do that. To help, I have some ways of thinking about independence and being independent which can be a starting point for learning how to regain your independence after illness or injury or even act as a sense check if you are well on your way.

Learning how to regain your #independence after illness or injury is a key goal for many people after a life-changing illness or injury. Read about how you can do that here #seriousillness #seriousinjury Click To Tweet

This blog builds on a previous blog I wrote about redefining what independence and being independent means to you. Based on my experience with my clients, I see this as a crucial part of the process of learning how to regain your independence after illness or injury.

The framework for your independence has changed

A picture of a woman looking at her reflection in the mirror, which she doesn't recognise and is very surprised. She is saying, 'So much has changed! Who am I now?' The reflection in the mirror is a Picasso-like reflection of the woman with her eyes, ears, nose and mouth being in the wrong locations. The caption reads, 'A challenging health issue can change so much.' All this change can make it hard for a person to know how to regain their independence after illness.

For example, to do your errands now you may need to use a walking stick to help your balance, walk more slowly, need more time, and make sure the shops are more accessible from a mobility perspective.

You may still be able to do what you did before your illness or injury but how you approach it may be different. It may take you longer to do. Or you can’t spend as long on the activity as you once did. Or you need help from someone or something. You may have to plan more.

Consider the case of the woman, Hannah, featured in this article. It’s her story of living independently whilst depending on others and equipment. Due to contracting Transverse Myelitis as a teenager, Hannah is dependent on a ventilator to breathe and hence live. She has to use a wheelchair. A person might think she cannot do a lot.

Reading the article, you realise that Hannah is a busy woman and does many of the activities any person does – live, shop, work, socialise, travel and more. She has a team of carers who support her to do all this and she manages this team. Within her framework, she is exercising her independence.

What can help you change your framework to regain your independence after illness

Mourn what you have lost

Some people will really feel the loss of being able to do what they wanted when they wanted without having to think much about it. If that is true for you, acknowledge that loss. Mourn it. But you don’t have to unpack and live in the mourning forever and ever.

Let go of unhelpful assumptions

There are sometimes unhelpful, unrealistic and contradictory assumptions around asking for and receiving help. For example, it’s good to help others but not ok to ask for help. Or that we will be obligated to someone for the help they have given us. A lot of people don’t want to feel that way or be seen as needy.

It’s ok to receive help

But there are people who genuinely want to help and don’t expect much in return, only the pleasure it gives them to support you. And when a person is willing to help you, you know you matter to them. That’s a beautiful thing.

Esther Perel, the relationship and sex therapist, whose work I follow, said:

“For when we know that we matter to others, it gives us a significance.”

Esther Perel, in her email newsletter of 5th August 2019

It’s demonstrates that there is so much value to inter-dependence and that paradoxically it can help us do the things we want to be doing.

“For when we know that we matter to others, it gives us a significance.” @EstherPerel in her email newsletter on 5-Aug-2019. This resonated. Shows that there is so much value to inter-dependence. It can help us regain our… Click To Tweet

Developing flexibility and taking control can help you regain your independence after illness or injury

Loosening our grip on society’s assumptions around help can help us reach out, ask for and receive help so we can do the things we want to be doing in life. To be independent within our new frame, our new reality.

To provoke (in a good way) your thinking further around the assumptions of asking for and receiving help, at the end of this article there are links to blogs I have written on this topic.

A picture of a fire pit that has a roaring fire in it and two women. One woman is holding the unhelpful assumption 'Being independent means you do everything on your own' and she is planning to put it in the fire. She is saying, 'These assumptions are no longer useful. Thanks for coming over to help.' Her friend is handing her the unhelpful assumption, 'Asking for help means you are needy!' and she is saying, 'Happy to help.' The caption reads, 'Letting go of unhelpful assumptions.' It is necessary to do this in order to regain your independence after illness.

Gently challenging your assumptions, particularly those which don’t help you to live the life you want for yourself, also helps you to develop a more flexible definition of independence and be independent in the way that suits your life and how you want to live it. Much better than subscribing to what can feel like a rigid definition defined by society.

Also, when you choose to depend on someone or something so you can be doing stuff you want to be doing, you are in control of yourself. Even if it is something you would not have chosen for yourself in your pre-illness or injury days.

Doing so now means it is you recognising your need, deciding how best to meet that need, and getting that need met. It is your conscious and independent choice.

The original inspirational quote by Barbara Babcock of Return to Wellness reads: When you choose to depend on someone or something so you can do what you want to be doing, you are in control of yourself. It is you recognising your needs, deciding how best to meet those needs, and getting them met. It is your conscious and independent choice. It is you taking control." This is important to realise when on your journey to regain your independence after illness.

What’s it like for you?

How has your framework of independence changed due to your or your loved one’s health issue? What helped you to develop your new framework? 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 on any of the issues discussed here, 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 2019

Blogs from the series on ‘Why asking for help is so hard ‘

The role guilt plays

The role self-worth plays

When asking for help doesn’t work: Moving beyond no

Why asking for help is so hard: Because being needy is not good

How to deal with losing your independence after illness

How to deal with losing your independence after illness

Figuring out how to deal with losing your independence after a serious illness or injury can feel like a really hard task to do.

When a serious illness or injury strikes, people often say they lose ‘all semblance of me’. That is partly, and sometimes a big part, associated with losing their independence.

We tend to understand our independence as being able to do things we enjoy and/or need to do when we want or need to do them. And do a lot of these activities without support or help, which is generally people’s preferred option in western societies. We place a high value on independence.

But this is where we can get ourselves into a bit of a pickle.

When you are dealing with a serious illness or injury, it can take time to figure out how to deal with losing your independence. It's not uncommon to keep trying to do everything yourself and get yourself into a pickle in the process. For example, in this picture a woman is holding her walking stick and handbag waving goodbye to her partner and saying, 'I'm going to pick up the kids now and get food for dinner.' He responds, ' Honey, I can get the kids and food for dinner. Why don't you rest? You look exhausted.'

We want to be able to do things for ourselves without any help because it makes us feel normal, something we strive for after a serious illness or injury or whilst living with a chronic illness. We don’t have to feel guilty asking others for help or risk people saying no they cannot help.

 It also feeds our self-worth because we show ourselves we can do something on our own.

And we don’t have to worry about people saying no or appearing too needy, because that is the last thing people want. (These are links to a series of blogs on asking for help I wrote.)

All very valid reasons. Yet, we can expend so much energy on striving for the independence we once had, and struggle in the process because our body has changed and doesn’t function like it used to, that we end up not focusing on creating a new kind of independence that can help us live a new kind of life. That is understandable too. It’s part of the process of figuring out how to deal with losing your independence after illness or injury.

We can expend so much energy on striving for the #independence we had prior to our #seriousillness #seriousinjury and struggle in the process, that we end up not focusing on creating a new kind of independence that can help us live… Click To Tweet

Your independence is also about your freedom and there’s a fight happening against this loss too.

When we lose the physical or mental abilities to do what we once did so freely, without thinking, we lose a sense of freedom. For example, if you have sustained a high-level spinal cord injury, you can only get out of bed in the morning with help from someone else. You can’t just get up and get ready for your day on your own anymore.

Or maybe you can walk but due to how your health issue affects you, you cannot go out and about without someone being with you. Or having bladder and bowel issues means you have to plan in advance and know where public toilets are when you go out.

How to deal with losing your independence after illness or injury can also read as how to deal with losing your freedom. I think people are also mourning the loss of their freedom and associated spontaneity.

When we lose the physical or mental abilities to do what we once did so freely and independently, without thinking, we lose a sense of freedom. #seriousillness #seriousinjury Click To Tweet

But have you really lost your independence?

This may come across as a challenging question, but I don’t mean to be insensitive. That is not my intention. Yes, you may not be able to do certain activities by yourself anymore and may have to rely on equipment to manage your health issue and/or get around. In that respect, you may feel you have lost some or all of your independence.

I’ve been thinking about this and wondering if you are ever truly independent, and what would help you to learn how to deal with losing independence after illness or injury in a way that helps you to have quality of life.

So I looked up the definition of independence and independent as part of that. The definitions got me thinking. I want to share it with the intention of offering a rethink on what independence means. With the aim that an alternative view may lessen anxiety, sadness, anger over a change in your level of independence, and help you develop a new approach towards it.

Here’s the definition for ‘independent’.

What does being independent mean?

Independent, according to dictionary.com, means to:

  1. ‘not influenced or controlled by others in matters of opinion, conduct, etc.; thinking or acting for oneself: an independent thinker.
  2. not subject to another’s authority or jurisdiction; autonomous; free: an independent businessman.
  3. not influenced by the thought or action of others: independent research.
  4. not dependent; not depending or contingent upon something else for existence, operation, etc.
  5. not relying on another or others for aid or support.
  6. rejecting others’ aid or support; refusing to be under obligation to others.
  7. possessing a competency: to be financially independent.
  8. sufficient to support a person without his having to work: an independent income.
  9. working for oneself or for a small: privately owned business.
  10. expressive of a spirit of independence; self-confident; unconstrained: a free and independent citizen.’

These aren’t in a ranked order.

(I retrieved the above from the dictionary.com website and left out a couple of statements which weren’t relevant to our discussion here.)

Which of those ways of being independent can you still do?

Figuring out how to deal with losing your independence is a definitely a process. In this picture the woman's partner is asking if she needs help in sorting through stuff she is dealing with. The woman is saying, 'No. I got this. Thanks.' The woman is holding various ways of being independent: not relying on others, possessing a competency, working for oneself, spirit of independence, not dependent on equipment to function, rejecting support, not influenced by others and not controlled by others.

Some, many or all of them?

Looking at the above statements, you can often still do points 1, 2 and 3 whilst living with the impact of a challenging health issue. But some of these may not come as easily if you (or a loved one) have/had a brain injury, and it will also depend on the type of brain injury.

Regarding point 3, you may choose to be influenced by the thoughts of people like healthcare professionals, other experts and peers to help you make your own decisions regarding your treatment, care, rehabilitation, returning to work, etc. This is an independent choice on your part.

Point 4 may or may not be applicable to you. If you have to use a ventilator to breathe, or mobility aids to get around, then yes, you are dependent on equipment to help you live or get around. Maybe you’re not dependent on using a walking stick yet but know you might have to some day.

Some people embrace using equipment because it helps them live the life they want. Others do not because they see it as weakness or it’s a reminder of how they have changed in a way they never wanted to change or something else.

Not relying on another or others for aid or support and rejecting others’ offers of support is common

For the reasons mentioned above regarding not seeking out or accepting help, I see a lot of people doing points 5 and 6. In my work, this is where I see a lot of people get themselves into the pickle.

You may find that point 7 changes for you, particularly if you have to reduce the hours you work, have to change jobs because you can’t do the job you once did, or you can no longer work. Linked to this, point 9 is relevant for those who are self-employed.

I am not wholly sure if point 8 is relevant to many people. But it could be if your partner or family is able and willing to financially support you.

I look at point 10 and think this can be all about your mindset.

Which of these are a priority for you in how you want to live your life?

What is the most important thing to you about being independent in how you live your life with the impact of a #seriousillness #seriousinjury? #independence Click To Tweet

If you put these ways of being independent in a ranked order of importance to you, what would your rank order be?

What are your top three ways of being independent? What is it about them that they are so important to you?

Are you doing them now in your life?

Which ones are of lesser importance to you? How come they are not as important?

Has your attitude towards any of these ways of being independent changed for you? If so, how? And why?

What kind of tasks, jobs, activities in your life can you still do without help? Even if the activity takes longer or you have had to modify your approach to doing it. Which ones do you need help with? If you had to rank these activities in order of importance of you being able to do them, what would that ranking look like?

Learning how to deal with losing your independence is a journey. In this picture the woman is sitting down saying, 'Can you be patient with me as I figure all this out?' Her partner is saying, 'Sure thing honey.' What she is trying to figure out is listed as questions in the picture. What does being independent mean to you>? Are you striving to be as independent as your pre-illness/injury self? How is that going for you? What can you still do on your own even if you've had to adapt your approach? How do you feel about asking for help? Or using equipment? How much self-compassion do you show to yourself?

How to deal with losing your independence

Learning how to deal with losing your independence isn’t always easy. So today I just wanted to offer some thoughts and questions with the aim of getting you to think a little more deeply and differently about it. To bring a bit more ease to your journey of learning how to deal with losing your independence.

I’ll continue on this topic by focusing on how you regain your independence after illness or injury. Hint. To do that, what being independent looks, sounds and feels like to you will need to change. If you haven’t signed up to my newsletter, you can do so below to ensure you don’t miss the next instalment on this topic.

Picture of an original quote by Return to Wellness: What does being independent when living with a challenging health issue mean to you? This is a good question to ask yourself when figuring out how to deal with losing your independence due to an illness or injury.

What’s it like for you?

How have you been dealing with losing your independence? Or watching a loved one deal with this? What does being independent mean to you? 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 on any of the issues discussed here, have a look at how we can work together and get in touch for a free no obligation consultation.

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© Copyright Barbara Babcock 2019

What to do when a health issue strikes at the most inconvenient time

What to do when a health issue strikes at the most inconvenient time

It sucks when a health issue strikes at the most inconvenient time. You’re busy, you got a life, work to do, people to see, family to take care, fun to have. And a health issue can stop everything. Or maybe not stop everything, but it can take up time and energy you would much rather be doing something else with.

Back in June I wrote about getting a diagnosis of arthritis in my hip, how that felt like a loss to me and moving on from feeling sad and bleh about it.

More has happened since then

In relation to my hip. And my breast.

All whilst trying to sort out our temporary accommodation, moving house, starting a full house refurbishment, organising and running a family weekend for children affected by rare neurological inflammatory conditions and their families, coaching, facilitating, trying to keep up the exercise (did not succeed at that), friend’s 50th birthday celebration in Majorca (that was nice), etc., etc.

Basically, during my busiest period of the year. Most inconvenient.

But health issues wait for no one and nothing

When a health issue strikes, it just strikes. That’s it. It won’t wait for you to finish that really interesting project, or have that party, or go on that holiday, or even have your baby. Health issues are genuinely non-discriminatory like that.

A picture of a couple discussion what they are doing on the weekend and their schedules. There are little green and red shapes near the woman's hip and breast. They are impending health issues she knows nothing about because they haven't yet manifested themselves or they are just a niggle. The point here is that health issues wait for no one and nothing. When a health issue strikes, it is going to strike.

So what do you do when a health issue strikes?

I came up with ten things you can do which will help. And I was using them myself last month.

Lesson One – You get on with it

This one we learn pretty quickly. We can’t do much about the fact that the health issue has happened. So we have to get on with it. And for many of us, that feels like the best and often times the only option.

Sometimes the other option of doing nothing can lead to death, ongoing disability or a feeling of powerlessness. So doing nothing doesn’t feel like an option. We want to live and live as well as we can.

Lesson two – It’s ok to get upset

I did about my hip. When I got back from Majorca, I had an appointment with the consultant. That was needed as the diagnosis was severe progressive osteoarthritis in my right hip.

Admission here: I did not mention the severe and progressive bits in June’s blog. Just felt too dramatic to me at the time in the context of how my hip affects my life. But I’m mentioning it now because I think I was downplaying things at the time.

The consultant’s verdict – It’s not a question of ‘if’, it’s a question of ‘when’ a hip replacement needs to happen.

I’m not even 50. I feel too young to have a hip replacement.

But health issues don’t discriminate based on age either. Or gender. I shed some tears.

And it’s important that if you are upset, to express your upset-ness in a way that works for you. I wrote about this not long ago.

When a health issue strikes, it’s just gonna strike

Two days after hearing that verdict, I went to the GP regarding a pain I had been having in my right armpit for the past three months.

I know, I know. I should have gone sooner. But between everything happening and focusing on my hip, I didn’t have the capacity to deal with that too.

But whilst in Majorca, I was having discharge from my right breast. (Sorry if this is too much info.) My body was speaking to me. When I called to make the appointment with the GP, one just happened to be available that afternoon. I felt lucky.

The GP did a breast examination and referred me to the local breast clinic.

The breast clinic called me four days later on the Monday morning saying they had scheduled me for the coming Friday, but someone had cancelled and an appointment was available in two hours. Was I free to come? I felt lucky again. The universe was sending me a message.

I made myself free. And off to the hospital I went. Packing a soft easy-to-wear bra just in case.

When a health issue strikes. I was wondering if that was happening when I had to go to the breast clinic for pain. And one did. They had to do a biopsy and after that it's always good to wear a soft bra after it.

This is how the breast clinic works

Regarding preliminary scanning that is. I was in this clinic last year being scanned and biopsied so I got to know the routine.

I saw the nurse practitioner who took my history, details of my issue and did a breast examination. A sample was taken of the discharge.

Then I had the mammogram. It’s like having your boob squashed in a machine. Am Ample of Bosom so there’s a lot to squash. But it is necessary squashing because it helps to tell you if something is amiss.

Picture of a woman having a mammogram. When a health issue strikes you may have to have medical procedures that hurt and can be embarrassing. But they can be lifesaving.

Lesson Three – Humour can help you get on with it

It helps me.

If they see something amiss in your mammogram results, you get called back for an ultrasound.

I was called back for an ultrasound.

‘You’ll be ok Barbara, you’ll be ok. You can do this.’ I kept telling myself, to reassure myself.

Lesson Four – Find 101 ways to reassure yourself

At least 101. Maybe more. Because you’re going to need it to get through scans, biopsies, treatment, rehabilitation, and life itself.

How do you reassure yourself when the going gets tough in relation to your #health issue? #seriousillness #chronicillness Click To Tweet

The consultant radiologist scanned me as they found an ‘indeterminant area’. You got to love the language they use. As I enjoy language, am pretty good with it, and good at asking questions too, I launched into curiosity question-mode.

‘So, tell me, what exactly is an indeterminant area?’

And using my best probing question approach to get info.

But those consultants are pretty good at remaining evasive. And they need to be. They have to get samples of what is going on and get those tested before they can definitively determine what that ‘indeterminant area’ actually is. They don’t want to worry patients unnecessarily or tell them the wrong thing either.

But she did use the word ‘lesion’ and of course I pounced with a probing question to try and find out a little more about this lesion.

Lesson Five – A breast biopsy is MUCH better than a lumbar puncture

So I had a biopsy. My sense that I had better bring my soft bra just in case was a good one.

I chose not to watch because it was just all a bit close. And I was grateful I knew what to expect this time around. This was my second biopsy on my right breast in two years. The universe is trying to tell me something I think.

I chatted to the consultant and nurse a bit and the consultant remarked on how well I was doing. I responded, ‘This biopsy is MUCH better than a lumbar puncture, trust me.’ But this is just my opinion based on my experience and there are people who may feel a breast biopsy is the worst procedure.

Lumbar punctures are awful procedures. When I had one done when in the acute phase of Transverse Myelitis, it took three attempts to get a sample of my cerebral spinal fluid that didn’t have blood in it and they had to get a bigger needle. It was weirdly painful, and I had a hangover headache for a week afterwards.

That finished, I was bandaged up, put the soft bra on and went to see the nurse practitioner. She explained that they would hope to know by the following week at the latest what was going on and they would either call me with the results or make an appointment.

That is code for, ‘If it’s good news, we will call you. If not so good news, we’ll make an appointment to see you.’

They’re quick to get you seen, efficient, professional, and kind. Kudos to the Sir William Rouse Unit at Kingston Hospital.

Lesson Six – You focus on what you can control

Scans and procedures done, it’s a case of waiting for the results.

It’s like living in a no-man’s land. You don’t know what will be or happen so you don’t know what to do now and how to prepare. Living with the not knowing in that interim time is not easy.

It’s not uncommon to feel you are not in control, but actually you can focus on what you can control in the here and now. I reminded myself of that. I couldn’t control that I was having pain in my armpit and breast nor that I was having breast discharge. I couldn’t control what the diagnosis was going to be. But I could do something about the here and now.

And I reminded myself of that. It’s one of the ways I reassure myself. (Lesson 4) So I consciously focused my energies on my work and the many other day to day stuff that was happening.

When you feel like you’re not in control due to a health issue, stop, bring yourself into the hear-and-now, breathe and remind yourself of what you can do in the here-and-now and focus on that #takecontrol #seriousillness Click To Tweet

Lesson Seven – Get help. Receive help

Despite being matter of fact about it all, I did shed tears. (Lesson 2) And speak to my therapist about it. I have a weekly therapy appointment so I used that to get and receive help. I received cuddles from my husband.

This is really important. Our society unfortunately prizes doing everything yourself. When a health issue strikes, sometimes being able to do everything yourself is not possible. You may need help with the kids, making meals, keeping yourself relatively sane. Receiving help doesn’t mean you are ‘less than’. It actually helps you to get things done and continue living your life.

A side benefit of all this is if you have the right people helping you, i.e. they want to help you and have the capability to help you, it benefits them as much as it benefits you. Win-win.

When a health issue strikes it is important to get help. The Willingness and Capability Matrix helps you to choose the people who can help. If they have low or no capability or aren't willing, find other people to help you if you can. If they are very willing but not very capable, think about the tasks they can help you with. If they are very capable but not willing to help you, think about when you ask for their help. And if they are very capable and willing, then ask for their help.

Lesson Eight – Prioritise what you’ve got on

Sometimes when a health issue strikes, you may be too unwell to do much or you can do most things but not some things. And you may have more appointments than usual. (Had three in one week for three different things.)

So prioritise what you can and need to do. If you can’t do it because physically you are unable to, get help if you need to. Otherwise, it will have to wait.

If it’s something you need to do, like look after your children or do a piece of work because it puts food on the table (to feed yourself and said children), do what you can. It doesn’t have to be to your usual standards.

Make sure not to overdo things. Doing less does not make you less than as a person.

Lesson 9 – Do nice things for you

Take a warm relaxing bath. Or chat with a friend. Read a book you’ve been wanting to. Light a candle. Make yourself a posh coffee or tea. Give yourself time and do nothing.

These are the little things that can be 5 minutes or 60 minutes. It doesn’t matter how long they are. The key thing is you are doing something you want for you.

Lesson 10 – Figure out what the universe is trying to tell you and do something about it.

One thing that repeatedly comes to me is taking time out for me by doing a body meditation. When I’ve done this, I have felt amazing benefits. I need to do more of it.

The other thing that comes up is inflammation. I notice I tend to get health issues that end in -itis, which means inflammation. Transverse Myelitis. Arthritis. What is it about inflammation and my body? 

Those two things have occurred to me so far. It may take a bit of time to figure this out and that is ok.

What is it like for you when a health issue strikes?

How did you handle it? What worked for you? Or if you are in the midst of it, what kind of support would help you?

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.

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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 2019

How to move on from being depressed about your illness

How to move on from being depressed about your illness

Learning to move on from being depressed about your illness is not a small project. It can feel nigh on impossible. You may feel stuck and sad more than you feel happy, and you wonder if you will ever feel better about yourself, your body and your life.

If this helps, it is normal to feel this way. Your feelings are a documented part of the change process a person goes through particularly after an unwanted change such as a serious illness or injury, relationship breakdown, death of a loved one, etc. (Kubler-Ross, 1969).

You have to rebuild your life and reinvent yourself. And as I’ve said before, no one gives you a manual in hospital on how to do that. But it is possible to do and to look forward to the future again. So I’ll share an important step to help you do that.

A picture of a woman sitting down and crying. She has a serious health issue and is thinking, "Things will never be the same! What does my future hold?" It is normal to feel a lot of sadness when dealing with a challenging health issue. It can feel hard to move on from being depressed about your illness or injury.

But before I share that, I want to share something else

I am writing this blog for me too. As a reminder. We all need a reminder of what we know from time to time.

I received a diagnosis I was hoping not to get – osteoarthritis in my right hip. I was hoping for bursitis but no. The doctor says I’m so young to have this level of arthritis.

I’ve also had arthritis in my knees for 6+ years now. Over the years I’ve had to stop doing a variety of activities I enjoyed due to it. Sports requiring multi-directional movement. Then running. Six years ago the doctors advised me not to go on 10-12 mile walks even.

The arthritis is not life changing but I do find the issue challenging. The arthritis explains the chronic pain I’ve had in my hip for the past year. My walking has gone downhill. Some days I wonder if I need to use a walking stick.

What will I have to give up next? I feel sad about this. But I notice that having to give up something is an assumption on my part. I may not have to give up anything.

The future is also uncertain regarding my hip and mobility. In the meantime, I am holding on to the fact that I can still exercise and do my physiotherapy and I am very grateful for that.

Picture of exercise equipment including a yoga mat, resistance bands, weights, a stepper, foam roller and Fit with Frank online bootcamp videos. Exercise and physiotherapy can help you move on from the depression about your illness or injury.

The first step you can take to move on from being depressed about your illness

This isn’t the smallest step so this blog only focuses on this step. I am starting with it because it is such an important step. It is the game changer I have seen again and again with clients and in support groups.

Acknowledge what has happened to you.

Tell your story in your words of the illness or injury you had/have. What happened to you, what was the timeline, what the medical professionals said, what were people’s reactions, what has changed, and what has your recovery and rehabilitation been like so far.

Talk about the downright ugly, the bad and even the good. Don’t forget the good parts. They are important too. Someone may have shown kindness to you or you had good treatment for example.

When I sat ‘tell your story’, you can do that in a number of different ways. Write it down. Talk to someone. Draw it. Paint it. Dance it. Run it. Whatever medium you use to tell your story is fine. Try several different mediums if you wish. Do what works for you.

An important early step of moving on from being depressed about living with a challenging #health issue is to acknowledge what has happened to you including the downright ugly, bad and even the good bits. It’s important you tell… Click To Tweet

But acknowledgement can be hard

I want to be up front about this. There’s no point in hiding information.

Acknowledgement is hard because you are facing up to the reality of your situation. And chances are, you don’t like your new reality. It may bring up a lot of emotions which feel difficult. And in our society we stigmatise the difficult emotions. The stigma reads:

Difficult emotions are bad so they don’t help and therefore must be ignored, denied and/or pushed away.

But society is lying

The difficult emotions have their place. In the case of a life-changing illness or injury or even a challenging health issue, these emotions are often associated with what you have lost. And not just what you have lost already, which is in the past, but also what you had hoped and expected to be part of your future. Carrying a lot of loss is not easy.

You end up going through a grieving process. So these difficult emotions are part of being human. They are also a documented part of the change process people go through when they are dealing with loss. For more information about this, check out Elisabeth Kubler-Ross’s work on acceptance here.

Kubler-Ross identified this change process when talking to people dying from a health issue and their loved ones. Although she did this work in the context of death and dying, it is applicable to challenging health issues, relationship breakdown and more as the common theme is loss.

No wonder it can feel so hard to move on from being depressed about your illness or injury.

It can be hard to move on from being depressed about your illness or injury as you can be carrying a lot of loss. This picture shows a woman carrying various historical and anticipated losses. Past losses she is holding are loss of job, health issue, loss of parent and other losses. Anticipated losses due to her health issue include her dreams, expectations and hopes. She has dropped the ball 'my hopes'. She just has too much to carry.

This is what will help

Let yourself feel the difficult emotions. Grieve for what you have lost. State how you feel in relation to your new reality and what you have lost.

I feel sad about…

I can no longer do… and I feel… about that.

I am afraid of these emotions.

And if you need to cry, do that. Let yourself mourn. You may wish to do this on your own or with someone else. And you can do this through talking, writing, making art, walking, running, whatever.

You’re not being difficult for letting yourself spend time with these emotions. And it’s ok to be afraid of them. Our fear can come up because we have not spent much time with such emotions in the past and so it can feel all new and not a nice kind of new either.

Ignore the people who say you are being too negative and have to be positive. Their definition of the word positive most likely subscribes to the societal stigma that only being positive will aid your recovery. I want to offer a different definition of being positive but that is a blog for another day.

The difficult emotions are actually needed to help you move on from being depressed about your illness or injury.

Letting yourself feel the difficult emotions in relation to your or a loved one’s #seriousillness #seriousinjury is actually needed to help you move on from being depressed about it Click To Tweet

Acknowledgement is this weird sort of paradox

You have to go through the swamp of difficult emotions to lessen their impact. When you have done that, you find over time these emotions visit less. They may still visit on anniversaries. Or when you experience something else that is difficult or are reminded of something you used to do.

But the difficult emotions don’t stay as long. Because you have gotten familiar with them. They aren’t as scary. You’ve let them express themselves. You’ve learned to visit with them to identify what they need. Many times, those parts of you just want a listening ear. To be heard, recognised and validated.

Spending time with your difficult emotions is key to help you move on from being depressed about your illness. Doing this helps them feel much less scary because you become more familiar with them. This picture shows a woman welcoming Depression and Sadness for a visit. Depression is saying, "We're here for our visit. And Sadness is going to need tissues." Sadness is of course crying and tears are forming a puddle around his feet. Sadness is saying, "I need a tissue." The woman responds, "I can only do 15 minutes today. I'm meeting friends for lunch."

This frees up your energy so you can move on from being depressed about your illness

Rather than using all of your energy to focus on what and who you no longer are and to avoid the swamp of difficult emotions, your energy is freed up to explore who you want to become, what you can do and what you want to do. You move into an exploratory and experimental phase where you start to look for and try out possibilities for yourself.

A friend who experienced a serious illness resulting in an organ transplant had to adapt to the illness’s impact on her body. She had to make some lifestyle changes. In some cases, she had to find new friends. She had to find a new sport she could do. She described this process as reinventing herself.

So the process of acknowledgement is not easy. How long it will take you, I do not know. It is different for every person. But it is so freeing. It helps you to move on from being depressed about your illness, injury or other health issue to rediscovering and reinventing yourself.

To move on from being depressed about your illness or injury is a journey. The picture shows a woman's former life where it is sunny and flowers are growing. There is the bridge of illness and injury and there is a gate across it on which is written 'No go area'. So you can't cross the bridge back to your old life. You can only go through the swamp of unfamiliar emotions. A woman has come out the other side and she is building a brick path. It is her path of wellness. She is saying, "My path is looking nice! I'll continue working on it tomorrow." The sun is starting to come out of some storm clouds.

What’s it like for you?

What helped you to move on from being depressed about your illness or injury? And if you could give the earlier version of you advice, what would you say? 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 deal with the issues raised in this blog, 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 2019

Reference

Kubler-Ross, E. (1969) On Death and Dying, UK: Tavistock Publications Ltd.

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