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Chronic Snarkopolist: How to Create Safe Space (& Beauty) During Chronic Illness

Post Published: 09 May 2012
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Category: Chronic Autoimmune Conditions, Chronic Snarkopolist, Column
This post currently has 5 responses. Leave a comment

Hello my loves!

I have missed you! Recently I presented at a conference about being a caretaker. While I was there I was also able to listen to panels and take in many ideas that resonated with me personally. I wanted to share some ideas with you.

One man who presented, Milt Greek, said, “Schizophrenia isn’t a character flaw. I have many character flaws which my wife can attest to and which I work on daily. Schizophrenia isn’t one of them.” This is a powerful statement to me because I have walked through life with invisible illness. When we have an invisible chronic illness it often begins to feel like a character flaw, especially when it burdens the people we love and care about.

It feels like a character flaw when I have to work harder just to meet the same standards as the people around me. It feels like a character flaw when I have to hide that I am in pain. It feels like a character flaw when admitting I am in pain or asking for help might seem dramatic or cause other people to “suffer” because of me. It feels like a character flaw because I have allowed it to become one. Hearing a man say out loud that his mental illness was NOT a character flaw washed through me. It felt like the most gentle form of healing I have ever experienced. Being sick is not a flaw. Being sick is just something I experience from day to day. I deal with it but I must remind myself that it is NOT a character flaw because only I have allowed it to feel like one. (I have done this by being secretive and hiding it and fearing that people might find out and judge me, or run away from me, or be annoyed by my needs, or keep me from professional jobs, or from relationships, or harm me in other ways).

The same panelist also talked about creating “safe emotional space” to care for our physical and emotional needs. It resonated with me very much. I wanted to share it here because I’m planning to incorporate much of it into my life. Many of us already do many of these things. But by listing it out in such an organized format, Milt created a list that feels easy to follow. I wanted to share his insight and highlight what resonated with me.

The list is from Milt Greeks essay, “Saving the world, saving yourself.” Which in itself is a powerful thought.

Choose from the list ways to nourish yourself:
Get regular sleep.
Start the day with 20-30 minutes doing something you enjoy.
When you have lunch, take time to rest and re-create.
Either when you return to your home from being out all day, or around dinner time, do something relaxing to release stress from the day.
Build exercise into your daily life. (example: walk every day).
Eat foods that are nutritious and improve your energy and mood.
Avoid negativity, including things that disturb you on television, radio, newspaper, and the internet. Consider going without television and other media that may bother you.
Laugh every day.
Have quiet time to seek inner peace.
Have something special to look forward to every weekend.
Do something special at least once a month.
Celebrate life whenever possible (examples: birthdays, holidays, anniversaries).
If you do mental work, have a physical exercise as a hobby.
If you do physical work, have a mental exercise as a hobby.
Take time off from focusing on stressful events in your life and the outside world.

Your family, friends, neighbors, and co-workers have emotional needs as well. Pay attention to their moods and lives. Give them a kind word, attentive ear, and a compassionate heart.

Maintaining Positive Focus:

Focus on:
Natural Beauty:
Take walks in natural areas.
Have pictures of rainbows, lakes, and waterfalls to decorate your home.

Positive events and people –
Remember people and things that inspire you and make you believe in goodness.
Act with gentleness and caring, and patience toward others.
See the good intentions in people around you.

Having a positive [center] –
Seek not to harm yourself or others.
Never trust a message saying that you must do harm to yourself or others.
Remember and acknowledge those you love you, even if they don’t understand you.
Be thankful and grateful for all the good things you have in your life right now.

Checking your reality:
Ask people to be patient with you as you try to explain your ideas.
Check with people you trust about your ideas and experiences.
Try to communicate your big ideas in ways that other people can understand – remember they have experienced what you have.

Why do these things?
By doing these things, you will help in saving yourself and your world. In time, you will be able to do many things to help others, provided you treat yourself with love and kindness now.”

I believe by incorporating these things we can heal no just ourselves but also smooth our relationships with our friends and families. Listening to Milt was a powerful experience. I was excited to share his list here. What do you think? Are there any ways you can put positive things in your life? Are there ways you can have calm and peaceful “safe” emotional and physical places to heal? Do you need that right now? What do you need? What feels important to you to heal? What nurtures you the most? Music? Touch? Company? Looking forward to good experiences? Letting go of bad ones? Please tell me! I must know!

I will see you in two weeks! Kiss kiss!

-Melissa

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5 Responses to “Chronic Snarkopolist: How to Create Safe Space (& Beauty) During Chronic Illness”

  1. Lorraine says:

    Light bulb moment!
    Thank you Milt Greek and thank you Melissa.
    ‘Not a character flaw’ – that’s exactly how I feel and exactly how others have treated me and I’ve let them!
    Soooo I think it’s time I started to deal with this, one step at a time (like I have the energy for anything more). Reading this was a great way to start my day and just the kick up the butt I needed.
    Off to do battle >>>>>>>>

    Lorraine x

    • Melissa Travis says:

      Hello Lorraine!

      I’m delighted to hear about your lightbulb moment! It is indeed one to know our health issues are not character flaws!

      I’m giving you cheer leader kicks all the way! Let us know how you’re doing!

      Much much supportive love,
      Melissa

  2. Donna says:

    Thank you so much for this!

  3. Jeanne says:

    Hello,
    I’ve just discovered your blog, and loved this post. Being a woman who is very independent and stubborn about life, I often push myself to do the normal things that other people can do. I have a bad case of Graves Disease, and it’s not possible to explain to others just how bad my muscles and joints hurt, and the roller coaster ride that Graves is. I look normal on the outside, and overachieve in most areas of my life, I think because it’s my way of flipping off the stupid disease. But there are days that knock me flat on my back. Those are the days I’ll be getting ready to go do something and then at the last minute will have to say “I could push myself to do this, but I’m making the choice to stay home and rest.” Those days are hard, because I see people I love not really understanding where I’m coming from. Reading this article reaffirmed to me that I’m doing the absolute right thing when I take care of myself, even when that means missing out on fun stuff. And I also loved the part where we take care of ourselves with delighting in nature.

    Thanks for sharing –

    Jeanne

  4. Diane says:

    Oh, I wish he hadn’t started his list with sleep. I am hypo and currently in a sleep-reduced phase. Not by choice, and I DO take sleeping pills.

    I hurt so badly right now (baby, it’s cold outside) and everyone is getting rather sick of me.

    My mother told me if I just focussed harder (you can tell SHE is not hypothyroid) I could get myself to sleep better.

    My boss suggests pot. My husband just wants to be somewhere else.

    Dear Lord…I am tired.

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