A Spoonie's Struggle for Independence | The Health Sessions

A Spoonie’s Struggle for Independence

Independence.

It’s a virtue sung by Beyoncé. A theme of many Hollywood blockbusters. Fiercely fought for on the battlefields and barricades, in the streets or the privacy of your own home, independence is the hard-won right to make your own life choices and the quality to look after yourself with limited help from others.

In our culture, self-sufficiency is synonymous to strength, empowerment and liberation. Unfortunately, it’s also an issue most people with chronic illness and disabilities struggle with on a daily basis.

The loss of independence in long-term sickness or disability can take many forms. From being housebound and having to rely on state benefits for financial support to needing help with grocery shopping, doing chores around the house or driving to doctor’s appointments.

Having to dependent on others for your most basic needs can have a huge impact on your daily life, self-image and relationships.

Read more >A Spoonie’s Struggle for Independence



A Beginner's Guide to Challenging Your Negative Thoughts | The Health Sessions

The Beginner’s Guide to Changing Your Negative Thoughts

It’s all my fault.

No one will understand.”

“I’m just a burden to everyone.

Thoughts pop up in our heads all day long, uninvitedly.

It happens so automatically that we rarely take the time to wonder if what we’re thinking is actually true. Instead, we take our thoughts at face value and instantly respond with feelings and actions. But when your inner critic or negative Nancy is taking over your mind, it’s time to take back control and change your thought patterns.

Because thoughts are powerful. They influence your mood, your decisions and even your neurobiology. Every time you have a thought (“Oh god, everybody is staring at me!“), your brain releases neurotransmitters and hormones that prepare your body and mind to respond to the (imaginary) situation – by blushing, stumbling, running off or making a self-deprecating joke.

That’s why automatic negative thoughts (ANTs) take a toll on your mental health: they trigger a cascade of biochemical reactions and emotions that adversely affect how you feel and behave.

Read more >The Beginner’s Guide to Changing Your Negative Thoughts



Illness and Identity: Redefining Who You Are When Your Health Changes

Illness and Identity: Redefining Who You Are When Your Health Changes | The Health Sessions
Photo by Mon et Mine

 

The house I grew up in will be sold in a few days time. As I go through boxes of childhood memories stashed away in the attic and wander the half-empty rooms I spend such a big part of my life in, I can’t help but think how much of our identity is tied to our circumstances.

The places we live in, the people we surround ourselves with, the roles we play and the things we do, they all become a part of who we are. We literally define ourselves by our profession and habits. One of the first questions we ask strangers is: “So what do you do?” And yet, we usually don’t answer with a list of our activities, but with statements like: “I am an administrative assistant/nurse/graphic designer.”

But when you become severely ill and lose the ability to work, socialize or do the things you love, how we label ourselves and interact with the world changes. There’s an erosion of self where everything you used to think about yourself is challenged by the new limitations of your body. Would you still describe yourself an outdoorsy, fun-loving teacher if you’ve been too sick to be in a classroom of nature for months? But if not, then who are you now that chronic illness chips away at the things that defined you for so long?

Read more >Illness and Identity: Redefining Who You Are When Your Health Changes



Rolling with the Punches: PJ from Pajama Daze on Living with Multiple Chronic Conditions

What’s it really like to live with chronic illness every day? How do you deal with the physical symptoms, emotional turmoil and practical problems? In this interview series, real life ‘spoonies’ share their stories and tips.

Rolling with the Punches: PJ from PajamaDaze on Living with Multiple Chronic Conditions | The Health Sessions

PJ runs the motivational and inspirational website Pajama Daze for people with chronic illness, pain and fatigue. She’s currently writing her first book. 

 

Tell us a little about yourself.

I’m 61 years old, retired on disability. I earned a BS Ed and an MA in Communication, am a Certified (PA) Holistic Health Educator, and was a Fellow of the PA Rural Leadership Program. In my previous life I worked in radio and television in both advertising and documentary production. I’ve worked in a couple of independent films, as well having published various pieces of freelance writing and photography. I also worked in community health education for several years.

I am currently writing my first book based on my website Pajama Daze for people with chronic illness. I’m also doing what I can to save pollinators through local projects and my website Posies for Pollinators.

I’ve had asthma all my life, arthritis and minor subluxations at various sites for much of my life, uterine cancer in 2002, three mild heart attacks in 2005, and another in 2008, caused by vascular spasms. It was discovered in 2010 that I have an uncommon disease called Fibromuscular Dysplasia (FMD), which causes abnormal cell growth in my carotid, vertebral and renal arteries, as well as other problems with connective tissue. I suffered with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome for 10 years after my heart attacks, but went into remission last summer, thankfully.

 

When did you first get sick?

I first became noticeably symptomatic with FMD in my mid-30’s, though it would be more than 20 years before I was diagnosed. I suffered from severe, debilitating migraines and dizzy spells which, thankfully, have become less prolonged and severe, but still crop up from time to time.

Read more >Rolling with the Punches: PJ from Pajama Daze on Living with Multiple Chronic Conditions



How to Have an Indulging Spa Day at Home

How to Have an Indulging Spa Day at Home | The Health Sessions

 

Do you ever fantasize about running off to an exotic destination for a yoga retreat to kickstart your health? Or pampering yourself with a relaxing day at the spa, to let go of all your stress and worries?

Unfortunately, you might not always have the time, money or mobility for a much needed wellness treatment. But that doesn’t mean that indulging self-care activities are off the table. Just set aside an evening, a full day or even a weekend to have a luxurious spa day at home!

How? By recreating the essential ingredients of the spa experience in your own home:

  1. Peace and Tranquility. A day at the spa offers an escape from our hectic world. The serene surroundings and lack of digital distractions help you take your mind off your never-ending to do list. With a little preparation you can recreate those calming settings in your own home.
  2. Relaxation. We all need to a take break every now and then – and warm baths, massages and yoga are very enjoyable ways to let go off tension and rest up. Fortunately, that kind of relaxation isn’t limited to the spa.
  3. Health Boost. Many people hope to boost their health and transform their body during a luxurious wellness retreat. But there’s not necessarily a need to go on a juice ‘detox’ holiday when you can whip up delicious smoothie bowls and salads in your own kitchen.
  4. Pampering yourself. How good does it feel to treat yourself to a facial, mani, pedi or bubble bath after a tough week? Ok, you have to put in a little more effort than just lying back, but that shouldn’t stop you from pampering yourself with DIY beauty treatments to refresh and recharge.

 

You can adapt these principles to fit any budget, energy level and home situation. Have a look at these 8 ideas to have an indulging spa day at home. 

Read more >How to Have an Indulging Spa Day at Home