self-soothing-as-chronic-illness-treatment

Learning to Love Yourself…

Credit: WP.com at Gfycat.

I am a fan of RuPaul’s Drag Race. In my low emotional moments, Ash reminded me of what RuPaul says to her queens at the close of every episode: “if you can’t love yourself, how in the hell you gonna love anybody else?” I laughed at the reminder, but he was right. Loving myself is a form of self-soothing and a great way to manage my chronic illness.

If I don’t learn to love myself and treat myself right, how am I expected to care for anyone else? An easy form of showing love for ourselves is to engage in the act of self-soothing.

Not Just for Babies

Look up self-soothing on your search engine of choice, and you’ll find tips to teach babies and toddlers to self-soothe. I am in the middle of this milestone as I work with Jai to find appropriate self-soothing techniques. Because of this, it’s fresh in my mind of how important self-soothing emotionally and physically.

At its very core, self-soothing is finding ways to calm ourselves down. Parents are encouraged at the beginning to provide healthy tools for children to care for themselves. Sometimes these techniques carry into adulthood. But some people use less healthy means to soothe, chemicals and unhealthy behaviors can distract from negative feelings.

As we grow older and life experiences get in the way, there is a tendency to forget or dismiss the important stuff we learned as children. If you were never properly trained to healthfully self-soothe, this concept is completely foreign. Rather than looking at self-soothing as something for babies, look at it as a healthy way to manage your emotions with love and compassion.

Self-Soothing for Adults

I still sleep with my childhood teddy bear because it feels weird to not use him as a pillow or cradle him in my arms. It’s something that brings me comfort and helps me fall asleep faster. And as a mother of a toddler, more sleep = more energy in the morning.

I mention this because it’s a form of self-soothing I’ve carried over since childhood.

You may not still have your childhood stuffed animal, or partners might make us feel uncomfortable if we start reaching for childhood comforts, so consider more grown-up techniques to soothe yourself:

  • If you have an oral fixation, consider drinking an herbal tea. Use honey as a sweetener (if you aren’t vegan) as this will help relax you.
  • Grant yourself a few minutes to veg out on your phone, tv, computer, etc. Instead of feeling guilty about it (“I should be doing this…”), set yourself a timer and give yourself permission to escape for a few minutes.
  • Pick up a new hobby that is both fun and stress-free. If you’ve never had the opportunity, consider doing a group painting night or paint ceramics. Make something that you can appreciate and reminds you of the fun you had while creating it.
  • Give yourself a hug. This could be a bath (if your illness allows it), getting a mini-massage, or taking yourself out to coffee.

Self-Soothing as Chronic Illness Treatment

So how can self-soothing help as a chronic illness treatment?

If you recognize warning signs of an attack or feeling overwhelmed, take this time to soothe yourself. While the above section works if you have a chronic illness, there are a few more ideas that are specific to chronic illness:

Because, well, You’re Worth It

The key concept is that you are worth taking the time to care for yourself.

Chronic illness can beat us down and make us feel bad about ourselves.  Sometimes these feelings are a secondary response to the illness or in the case of MS, the illness directly impacting brain function.

Self-soothing is a way to regain control over the uncontrollable situation and saying that I am worth my love. If you struggle with loving yourself, consider taking the baby steps of self-soothing as a means to get to a place where you are able to more actively take care of yourself.

Loving Yourself

Self-soothing boils down to loving yourself and telling yourself on a daily basis that you are worthy of that love. It’s also acknowledging that there will be low points and so you need to take the time to mitigate that.

How do you take care of yourself? What makes you feel better when you are feeling low emotionally? Leave your thoughts and comments below.


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Featured photo credit: Michelle Melton


where-to-start-with-self-compassion

Where to Start with Self-Compassion

There is a lack of control when it comes to a chronic illness. For many of us, that lack of control gets frustrating and lead us to take our frustrations out on ourselves and those closest to us. True, society doesn’t blame us for feeling frustrated, but I hate feeling like I am mad at everyone, the world, and myself. I had to figure out where to start with self-compassion to help feel better about myself.

I am not going to be discussing anything groundbreaking, but I do want to spend this post detailing ways you can start the process to love yourself in spite of your chronic illness. The person most in need of love is yourself and I want to give you permission to do so.

Chronic Frustration & Struggles

Chronic illnesses lead to feelings of frustration with self beyond the normal struggles people face daily. Some typical struggles may be:

  • Figuring out what is wrong
  • Knowing what’s wrong and not knowing/wanting to deal with it
    • I know that this is an attack, but I really don’t want to go to through the doctor hassle to deal with it. Maybe it will calm down after a few days…
  • Feeling singled out with symptoms
    • Karen has the same illness as me and she seems to be doing better than me. That’s so unfair.
  • Frustration over limitations brought on by the illness
    • I took it easy yesterday so I could do a bunch of stuff today, but I still feel like I was hit by a semi-truck

This is just the tip of the iceberg for frustrations and struggles, but they are very real and impact how we live our lives. Our thoughts hold so much sway over how we act and interact with the world. When we listen to the frustrations and give into perceived limitations, it can impact how we manage our illness and possibly the degree the illness affects us.

We may direct our anger towards ourselves because we feel like we have no one else to blame. We may not want to take it out on loved ones because it’s not their fault. We also may not have anyone to talk to, despite having a possible support group, because chronic illness feels so isolating.

Feeling out of Control

All of this is to say, there’s a complete lack of control over what is going on when dealing with a chronic illness. You may have your illness so well-managed with medication, complementary therapies, and wellness-based living that you feel in complete control of your situation. But all it takes is one slip up, like a bit of unknown gluten slipping in your diet, or just life throwing an unplanned curveball for an attack to arise and make you feel completely out of control.

That’s the problem with chronic illnesses: there isn’t always a concrete reason for the attacks or symptoms. What minimally affects one person may be completely overwhelming for yourself. When I first received my diagnosis I couldn’t help but feel like the universe had it out for me and was so frustrated by the lack of control over my symptoms and disease.

What many of us want in our chronic illnesses is to control the uncontrollable.

An unproductive way to feel in control is to focus negativity inward. Some of us feel a lot of self-loathing and act on that in unhealthy ways, while others may just want to be down on themselves because it’s a “go-to” coping mechanism.

Where to Start with Self-Compassion

Some ways to begin incorporating more self-compassion in your life:

  • Recognizing the moments when you are unnecessarily harsh on yourself. I know that these moments can happen at the most random times for myself, but are highest just before or in the middle of an MS exacerbation.
  • Once those moments are identified, just start saying to yourself “it’s okay, I’m okay, I’m only human and that’s okay.” Come up with a silly, but the memorable mantra that works for you. Positive forms of humor may help shake you out of your feelings of frustration.
  • Talk to yourself like you are soothing a small child. This isn’t a condescending practice, for many of us, there is an inner child needing special love and attention. If you never received guidance on how to speak with a hurt child, think about what you would want a grown-up to say to you when you were younger.
  • Seriously consider looking into therapy for yourself. Sometimes the hurts run too deep that you need an objective third party to sit down and speak with you and provide positive guidance in your journey. Using therapy isn’t defeat, it’s using tools available to you. Ask if they promote self-compassion.

Beginning to see your Self-Worth

The first, and hardest, step you will need to take is acknowledging the following: I am worth loving myself. I am worth caring for myself. I am worth forgiving myself if I feel like I need to.

When you mentally accept that you are worthy of love, particularly your love, you begin a journey down a healing path. You will start to see things differently: relationships, perspective, life-management; all will shift into a more positive and healthy space.

You will get push back and that will be hard.

That’s why saying “I’m worthy” is the first step in the self-compassion journey. When it’s time to care for yourself because someone or something hurt you, you already know that you are worthy of that self-care. You can own your decisions as being what’s best for you, and curtail internal concerns that you are responsible for others.

I have found caring about what others think and how they respond to me puts me in an unhealthy mental space. Saying that I am worthy of positive interactions helped me phase out negative individuals with minimal guilt. The guilt is still there because that’s still ingrained, but I no longer back-track and allow the negativity back into my life.

Do you see your self-worth? What works for you to see it?  Leave your thoughts and suggestions below.


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Featured photo credit: Tim Mossholder on Unsplash


2018: A Reflection

Reflecting on 2018, it was another decent year for me. It had relatively few downs and quite a few ups. I learned even more about myself, some of the stuff I already figured and other things that surprised me.

In what is becoming a tradition for the blog, I’ve decided to reflect upon the bigger lessons and victories I learned throughout the year and some personal goals I have for 2019.

The Down Points

  • I did a lot of emotional heavy lifting this year. I realized I had several friendships that left a negative impact on me. I documented what I learned about this in my two posts about toxic friends (Part 1 & Part 2) and what I learned about my role in these relationships.
  • My limitations were made obvious at several points throughout the year. This ranged from temporal limitations, i.e. not having enough time in the day to accomplish everything I wanted; to fatigue still being a major roadblock on a day-to-day basis.
  • I did have a few mild flare-ups this year, but nothing major or of huge concern. I found a spot in my vision that was more of an annoyance than anything else, though it went away rather quickly as soon as I de-stressed. A few moments of numbness, and my L’Hermittes Sign making an appearance when I was particularly stressed and sleep-deprived. I did experience a new symptom: MS Hug and that wasn’t very loving at all.
  • I wasn’t as strict with maintaining a healthy diet throughout the entire year and have gone back to some very bad eating habits for the holidays. My mindset shifted half-way through the year of how I viewed myself (more on that below), but my eating habits haven’t followed.

The Positive Points

  • In reflecting on the negative impact of toxic friendships, it hurt to lose what I deemed to be decent friends, but I found that by no longer allowing the negativity I had less stress overall. It was particularly freeing to start recognizing that I could choose to be with those who treat me well, rather than settling to be around those who didn’t.
  • 2018 was a less stressful year for me overall. That isn’t to say there wasn’t stress in my life or stressful periods (many of my own making), but I found that I handled stress so much better this year than I have in the past which has led me to feel more content with myself.
  • I officially spent the entire year in a healthy weight range which was a first in a long time. In fact, I don’t remember when was the last time I spent such a long period of time in a healthy BMI. Besides feeling good emotionally, I feel fantastic physically with more energy to keep up with Jai.
  • Ash and I were talking a while back and he made a great point about who I am now physically speaking. I am a runner and an athlete, something I never thought I would even consider myself, especially growing up with asthma. I completed 2 half marathons this year, PR’d in several of my races and have a full year of running planned in 2019. That said, my eating habits haven’t necessarily matched the runner’s lifestyle, but I have a plan on handling that this coming year
  • On paper, I always viewed my MS as an opportunity to refocus my priorities and to a certain extent I did. But this year I really committed to turning my diagnosis into something positive thing. I finally made the “someday” changes I’ve wanted to make for a decade or so.

MS Mommy Blog

The blog still is such a positive influence in my life and I’ve learned a few things about myself because of it. Without the ability to truly reflect on my relationships and MS, I probably would still be stuck in an emotional rut. But because I decided that I needed to write about my MS story and how I was coping with some heavy emotional concerns, I did a deeper self-reflection that I think made a lasting impact on my overall attitude.

I found that while it was nice to share some of my parenting thoughts and experiences, the blog really needs to refocus itself on healthy living and living with a Chronic Illness. I wanted that to be the main focus of the blog when I started it, but I got off track in 2018. I have begun the process revamping the blog with that in mind, and all will be revealed in the new year.

What I’ve Learned in 2018

To truly let things go, not just say that I am letting it go.

When I let things go, it makes for less stress in the long-term. I also recognized there is a lot of negativity in the world and my contributing to it by being negative back or dwelling too much on the negative wasn’t helping anyone, nor providing a positive example for Jai.

I have learned that the best way to be stress-free is to plan ahead in many aspects of my life. Not regimented with no flexibility, but being more prepared, writing things down either in a list or as a plan, and therefore minimizing stress. When I have a list or plan of action for the day, I find I am more efficient which makes me happy because I dislike feeling unproductive.

It sounds cliche, but I finally understand – or rediscovered – what they mean when “you can do anything if you put your mind to it.” It takes a lot of work, but I am finally seeing the personal reward for the running, blogging, and self-reflection. I’m finding it’s feeding into itself and I want to keep doing more.

Making 2019 My Year

For 2019, this is where I want to be:

  • Accept that I am an athlete now and that I should really commit to an athlete’s lifestyle. This includes eating habits, training, and making decisions that will help me reach my personal running goals.
  • Additionally, I want to continue to be meeting and exceeding my personal records in running. I don’t think I will ever place in any races, but I will push myself to get times I never thought I would imagine for myself. Several years ago I couldn’t imagine sustaining a 10-minute mile. I ran that for Thanksgiving. How fast will I be this time next year?
  • Continuing to embrace a calm, positive, and stress-free living. Learning to not feel guilty when I decide that this mindset is more important to my overall health than giving into previous behaviors.
  • Having a more “ant” attitude in life. Remember Aesop’s fable about the Ant and the Grasshopper? I have become more ant-like as a means of managing my life, blog, and parenting, which is to say that I plan & prep ahead of time in order to make more time for Jai throughout the day. I will be more focused on getting ahead as a form of disease-management.
  • Becoming the person I saw myself being when I reflected on my life-goals at 15. I will be elaborating more on what this means over the upcoming weeks, but I want to be what 15-year-old me wanted me to be at 35.

2019 As a Teaching Opportunity

Last year I gave 2018 the motto keep letting it go, no distractions, and push forward.” I found that I stuck by this motto pretty closely and it helped keep me moving forward emotionally, mentally, and physically. I want to keep this motto in the back of my mind and add a new one:

“I am the only person who can make the changes that matter in my life. It doesn’t matter how long it takes, if I work hard enough, I will see a positive outcome in all the work I do.”

I am going to embrace all that 2019 has to offer, for good and for bad and see where the coming year takes me.


Want to join me in a successful 2019?

Before you go, please sign-up for the new MS Mommy Blog newsletter. It will be sent out once a week on Fridays in lieu of my normal Friday posts (no spam or excess emails, I promise!). In the newsletter, you’ll find the 2019 Wellness Challenge, tips, articles, and freebies exclusively for newsletter subscribers.

This challenge will be specifically geared towards people with a chronic illness (not just MS), though people who do not have a chronic illness are welcome and encouraged to join us this year.

This challenge is based on making gentle and gradual changes both superficially and on a deeper level. No judgments will be made and this challenge will be tailored to you and your needs. At MS Mommy Blog, we’re about being supportive and loving to ourselves and others.


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Furbaby Love

For the month of November, I am taking each day to highlight some element in my life that I want to express my gratitude. This could be something deeply personal or just a passing appreciation for something more superficial. 


Before Ash and I had Jai, we adopted three cats.

And we were, and to a lesser extent still are, crazy cat parents. Our cats are spoiled. They have multiple beds (some are heated) around the house, two big kitty towers, a box filled with toys, a drawer filled with treats, and wet food for all their meals.

They are well-cared for and loved by us, with Jai learning how to respect animals and be gentle towards them.

Furbabies for many, as was the case for us, are the first and sometimes the only children for couples. Two were present for our wedding, and all three were there during my diagnosis. They were there when I went into labor and will hopefully be with us for a while longer for some more milestones.

Because they were there for major events in our relationship they are huge emotional supports for Ash and myself. For that, I am grateful to be able to share my life with them and all they do for us as devoted companion animals.

I am especially grateful for Lytton and all the love and affection he gave me from day one.

Little Ball of Love

Lytton is my cat. He’s a beautiful, silky Bombay rescue that has a smart aleck attitude with an emphasis on smart. Sure, I am slightly biased, but he really is an awesome cat. We went into the rescue and Lytton picked me instantly. I was looking at a couple other cats that were available for adoption, but he kept reaching for me and looking for my attention.

How could I say no? We ended up adopting him with his foster brother, Gerard.

Wherever I go in the house Lytton has to follow me. Many nights he sleeps on my pillow or between Ash and myself. Recently he’s taken to nipping Ash if he gets too close to me in bed. If I go away for a couple of days he acts mad with me, but within several hours he won’t leave me alone, nuzzling me until I give him some scratches and my lap.

Most endearing is he can pick up emotional states and will provide comfort when a person (not just myself) feels low. We’ve had several guests come over and Lytton revealed that they are going through something by way of pestering them for attention.

Five years ago, while I was dealing with trying to figure out what was going on with me and immediately after my diagnosis, Lytton filled in where Ash could not emotionally and physically. This is to say that Ash would be at work and I would be at home resting, Lytton would function as an unofficial emotional support animal for me. If I needed to cry in frustration or have a warm body lying next to me while I slept, Lytton was there until Ash got home.

And Baby Makes Six

Lytton has effectively taken on the role as a second father for Jai. When I was nursing Jai he would curl up alongside Jai as a barrier to prevent rolling. I don’t believe this was his intention, I think it had everything to be close to the little heater newborns are, but it was a sweet gesture.

When Jai wants alone time in his room, Lytton will perch on the rocker almost as if he’s watching over Jai. Lytton truly seems invested in Jai’s wellbeing which makes sense considering he never left my side while I was pregnant. Whenever I was home, Lytton was my shadow. I have many pictures of him using my belly as a pillow or reaching his paw out to touch me while we tried to nap.

When I was in early labor, Lytton plopped himself on my lap and slept with his head on my belly and purred until I had to change positions. He was a wonderful comfort to me and I think even for Jai in those moments (I can imagine the vibrations from purring was soothing immediately after a contraction).

lyttonlove

Lytton while I was in early labor.

A Lifetime of Friendship & Comfort

Having the cats there for me during the diagnosis, pregnancy, labor, and even today really helps keep my stress levels down. Lytton or Christopher will curl alongside me on the couch or the bed and even if we aren’t touching, their presence brings a lot of comfort to me.

With my MS, having that emotional support for my stress is extremely important. It wasn’t until I started being more mindful of the connection between stress-levels and flare-ups that I recognized the importance of our furbabies. I started taking the time to sit, stroke, and enjoy my time with them more than before as a means to calm down.

Now, when it’s time for my afternoon nap, I call out to Lytton to let him know I am heading upstairs for a nap. Sometimes he follows and on the times he does not, I wake up with him alongside me in some fashion.

While I know Lytton, Gerard, and Christopher’s time with us are short, I know that they provided us with a lifetime of love and memories. I think we will always have a furbaby in the home with us, whether it’s feline or canine, because of the comfort they provide us. I also know that having a companion animal helps children learn compassion, something that I want to teach Jai. For all that they do, even if it’s nothing but be available for a quick scratch, I am grateful for our furbabies.

Do you have any furbabies that help care for you in little, endearing ways? How have they provided comfort in your life? Leave your stories in the comments.


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A Month of Gratitude

With Halloween behind us, it’s time to look ahead to Thanksgiving and the whole upcoming holiday season. On Thanksgiving, while I don’t spend a lot of time meditating on things that I am thankful for, I do try to spend a few moments remembering the purpose of the day and express gratitude internally towards my situation. I recognize that I have a lot to be grateful for and I probably don’t spend enough time appreciating all of those elements in my life.

I decided that rather than spend the month discussing things to do around the home and things to do with children for the Thanksgiving holiday, I would use each post to explore some element in my life that I have gratitude. I may have consciously acknowledged this gratitude in the past (internally or externally) or this might be my first time really exploring the topic on a concious-level. It will make for an interesting series of posts that will range from superficial stuff to more complex parts of my life.

The purpose of this month-long exercise will be to increase my awareness for all the stuff in my life that I am and should be grateful about. By doing this, I will be more present in my own life (rather than focusing on the past or what might happen in the future), see increased health benefits, and increase my level of compassion for myself and others. Read about the researched benefits of gratitude here.

I think this will also help get me more into the holiday season as well: these last few years I’ve found it rather difficult to feel gratitude or want to celebrate despite having Jai in my life. I have worked hard this past year to take steps towards self-improvement, so spending some time focusing on the changes I’ve made and appreciating everything about the changes and my life is important to continue forward.

With each post, I will invite readers to take a few moments to find their own elements of gratitude in the same area of their life and either share it in the comments or share it with whoever should hear it.

It will be an interesting journey for November to be sure.


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Featured photo credit: Michelle Melton