finding balance


still moving

my sister, susie, finding her balance as she does yoga on a wooden rail

There was a certain level of comfort I associated with treating my chronic illnesses with the more “traditional” approaches we associate with Westernized medicine. I might not have enjoyed relying on doctors, surgeries, and pharmaceuticals to keep me going, but I was used to it. And in a body that felt…well…uncomfortable most of the time, I found an unexpected peace in maintaining this low level of functioning day after day.

I guess I could have waited until I “got better” before I gave up the safety net that pharmaceuticals provided, but having no confidence that would happen, I went for it, sure that there would be other things onto which I could hold. As time goes on, however, I realize that my old safety nets don’t offer me the same level of comfort they once did. The doctors that used to provide quick fixes to treat my symptoms no longer have anything to offer me. I’m not consulting with the surgeons I was last year because their options are limited and if I’m being honest, terrifying. I still need help though, and I still have a whole lot of questions and very few answers.

Luckily, the answers to my questions are out there, I just have to keep trudging along. Because I know that my case isn’t as odd as former physicians made it out to be. [I’m pretty sure what they called complicated was really just their response for I have no idea what to do.] I’m also lucky in that there are people in my life in full support of what I’m pursuing, and I’m constantly working on making that circle larger.

But today I’m unbalanced.

The crazy thing is that the more I learn the farther off-center I feel. An entire world of alternative methods to treat our body, mind, and spirit is ahead of me, and each step I take into that world I see how incredibly vast it is.

Maybe that unbalanced feeling is okay, though. It might feel like life is in a more tumultuous state than it was a year ago, but I don’t think that means that it is. Ignorance may be bliss, but it certainly didn’t serve me.

hard lessons and saying goodbye



Photograph by Susie Ewbank

Ugh, I hate this post so much. It’s not even written yet [although there have been several attempts] and I already can’t stand it. My aim is never to dump a purely negative post into the universe, but some days it’s hard to put a positive slant on what’s happening.

I think a lot of people with chronic illness would say the same thing. I think that sometimes our world gets so small that we cling to the few things that remain, and when one of those things isn’t working out, it’s as if the ground crumbles beneath our feet. You can try your hardest to find something good in there or distract yourself, but our options are generally limited.

That’s been my struggle since I said goodbye to my precious Celie dog. She became a major player in my little world, and a lot of days it seemed that she was all there was. In spite of her health, I felt like I hit the jackpot. Celie had nothing but love to give and won over the hearts of all who knew her. She was meant to be in my life, and if I knew what I know now, I would have still left the shelter that day holding her in my arms.

There is one key factor I would change, however. I wouldn’t dump so much of my happiness onto the shoulders of this little dog. I would try to love her without needing her to be happy. That was my mistake. The sadness I’m feeling is more than grief that will fade with time; it’s emptiness. It’s a reminder of a quiet house, a thin social calendar, and not enough to do. It’s the realization of how little I had without this dog, and being overwhelmed with the thought of rebuilding when I don’t feel strong enough.

This year I learned that in order for me to truly manage my pain the responsibility must be mine alone. I can seek treatment and council, but gone are the days of relying on emergency appointments and prescriptions to get me through the rough days, no matter how difficult they may be.

I now realize that the same principle must also be applied to my emotions. I’m not truly happy if I can’t find happiness when things aren’t going as I’d like. This state of being cannot be circumstantial. I would like to think that I would have been able to learn this lesson with Celie dog in my life, but perhaps that was never going to happen.

So, for now, that’s what I have. It’s another piece of this crazy puzzle, and I just need to figure out what to do with it. Thankfully, I’ve signed up for daily meditation basically through the end of the year, so I have a lot of opportunities to mull it over.


a little help

jean julien - stillmovingblog.comAsking for help isn’t my strongest suit. I’m much better at suffering through something then passive-aggressively complaining after. But when I stopped taking my prescriptions I quickly learned that had to change.

In the world of holistic health, nothing happens quickly. You restrict your diet and might not see the positive impact for months. You clean the heavy metals out of your system, religiously practice your physical therapy regimen, and meditate multiple times a day and likely won’t notice a difference for weeks on end. When you take pharmaceuticals, however, you can get relief [even if it’s just slight] practically instantly.

So, when I do something that pushes me into a pain flare, there’s not much to do besides wait it out. I can be extra strict about what I eat, get lots of rest, and spend as much time as possible practicing pain management techniques, but it’s a true test of patience. Needless to say, my goal is to limit these occurrences as much as possible. I could simply avoid activities that I think are going to push me over my limit [and sometimes I do], but part of my healing process is to live a life that is not dictated by chronic illness, and if I isolate too much for the sake of pain control than I need to reconsider my habits. Sometimes asking for help is the difference in my being able to do something rather than missing out, or keeping my symptoms at bay instead of being swept into a multi-day flare. And the earlier I ask for help, the better the results.

Lucky for me I have a handful of wonderful people in my life who truly want to step up whenever possible. Still, while they are fantastic at offering their assistance, they cannot read my mind and don’t have a clear picture of what’s going on unless I actually tell them. Dropping hints, no matter how obvious I think I’m being, is insufficient. And usually, when I start peppering these little remarks into the conversation I create conflict, either upsetting myself for not getting the reaction I want, or between the two of us as they feel they aren’t living up to my unrealistic expectations. It’s just a really bad situation all around.

While chronic illness has a way of making us feel like we exist in this world that is completely separate from everyone else, that isn’t true. My body definitely imposes limits on what I can or cannot do, but so does my mind. The responsibility to fight that inclination to say “no” falls on my shoulders, but when I allow myself to accept help from another I can lighten the load a little.



Image courtesy of Jean Jullien.