Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Living a healthy life

Since my health is finally stable I have gone back to work part-time.  Most healthy people see the fact that I work as an indicator that I am cured.  Combine my part-time job with the fact that I have no visible physical symptoms and people have a hard time seeing the fact that I suffer from a debilitating and painful chronic illness. I appear perfectly healthy but appearances can be very deceiving.

This week has brought healthy living to the forefront of my mind.  I work in a fitness facility so for fifteen hours a week, I sit at the reception desk and watch people workout. The televisions which hang on the walls display the show The Revolution.  This week its been about numbers, about how numbers can also be deceiving. I have also been battling depression. Unfortunately, my boyfriend has been on the receiving end of that. :( Generally, I have been unfocused and scatterbrained.  My sleep pattern has been sporatic at best.  Menial tasks (like eating) have slipped my mind. So today, I have been thinking about what is it that would make me feel healthy.

For me, there is an entire host of things that have align before I can feel 'healthy.'  Feeling healthy, something that average people do on a daily basis. Yet, it's the one thing a person with chronic illness longs for.  I have redefined healthy, redefined normal, redefined happy.  Below you will find my list of activities that make me feel healthy. Please keep in mind that this is what works for me. Bits and pieces might work for others but this list is not one size fits all.

1. Eating healthy. Overall, I feel my diet is pretty healthy. I always have healthy snacks of fruits or veggies readily available.  But I have to pay attention to my protein intake. I have noticed that if I am slacking on protein I will inevitably get a migraine.

2. Avoiding caffeine. Caffeine plays a huge part in my insomnia. I will never completely give up caffeine but I limit myself to only black and green tea as a source of caffeine.

3. Exercise. I walk on the treadmills three times for a total of about ten miles per week.  Due to my illnesses, I will never be able to participate in any high impact activities.  I also participate in a yoga class once or twice a week. It's a great way to connect with my body to take inventory of how everything is working.

4. Prayer/Meditation. I don't exclusively pray and I don't exclusively meditate.  What I do is a combination of the two.  I sit or lay comfortably, I commune with God, I think through my prayers, and I become quiet usually for about an hour at a time, two or three times a week. My body is so busy with problems, symptoms, and challenges that it's nice to have some quiet in order to work toward clarity.  It's not some bizarre mystical process it's about learning to center oneself.

5. Journaling. I write, I write and I write. I blog, I write in a journal, I write poetry, and I write letters. Sometimes, I alleviate myself of frustrations by cussing in my journal. Often times, I express my gratitude in letters to my boyfriend. I blog just to publicly announce my opinion of things. I write poetry because it just gets stuck in my head and needs to get out.  Even though I video skype with my boyfriend for hours at a time, if I am overly frustrated I will type instant messages to him rather than telling him. For me there is a clarity that comes from seeing words in print.

6. Laughter.  I find that putting a humorous spin on things can reduce the enormity of the situation.  I have a tendancy to make things bigger than they need to be. If I can change my perspective and see the humor in the situation it instantly becomes a lighter burden to bear.  And it's impossible to remain depressed when finding something particularly funny. I am blessed to have fallen in love with a man that enjoys a good laugh.  He can read me better than anyone and he knows exactly when a good laugh is in order.

7. Sleeping. For most people sleeping 6-8 hours a night is just what they need to get through the average day. I, unfortunately, have some pretty serious sleep issues. I struggle with both falling asleep and staying asleep.  There are some nights when my body does not think that sleep should be on the agenda.  Consequently, I have learned to sleep when my body is tired whether its three in the afternoon or three in the morning.  A few years ago in therapy, I learned that lack of REM sleep leaves a person vulnerable to having psychological issues.  For me, a struggle with sleep always equates to a struggle with my emotions.  I never deny myself a nap. If I feel tired I take that as a sign that my body needs more ZZZZZs.

8. Physical touch. Sex would be on this list but its not currently on my agenda since my boyfriend is located on the other side of the globe.  But having that physical connection in conjunction with an emotional one is very important for me. I am a person that thrives on touch.  Physical touch is a reminder that I am not alone, that I have support. It also is the greatest weapon I have against pain. Giving myself a different sensation to focus on is the greatest detractor I have to divert my mind away from the pain.

These are just the basics of what I need in order to consider myself healthy. There are plenty of other things I do to make life a little easier to live. I try not to spend too much time focusing on the fact that I am sick or the fact that I will always be sick.  My life is different, my definition of successful living is different. I just have to make my brand of different be good.