Be a Babe: Subscribe & get a free Beginner's Toolkit + more. Smooches!

Noelle Janka: Despite Chronic Illness, She’s Crafted a Career That Helps Others

Posted by on Nov 28, 2017 in featured, inspiration, Kick-Ass Sick Chick | 0 comments

It’s always great to meet a fellow ChronicBabe who’s managed to craft a career despite serious illness. Noëlle Janka is that kind of woman; she lives with chronic lyme disease and a couple other health challenges, but she’s still managed to find a way to work and help people. We interviewed each other last week about our work and other pursuits. Here’s my interview with her…I hope you’ll find it interesting and perhaps get inspired! One of the things Noëlle offers is group coaching, which I think is a great idea for those of us who have mega-high health care costs and limited money to spend on other things. She also has a thriving yoga practice. Now, before you flinch—yoga kind of gets a bad rap—you should know that we talked a lot about how yoga is more than just the poses. It’s a practice that includes mindfulness, breathing, awareness, grounding…it’s so fully encompassing, and customizable for your needs. And Noëlle also interviewed me! Here’s that interview. A Kick-Ass Woman with Chronic Illness Know another cool woman with chronic illness who I should interview? Let me know – jump in the comments below to share your ideas. Thanks! …and if you want to read another interview with someone super-cool, check out my conversation with Mary England from...

Read More

Sometimes, you have to ask yourself to dance (a few words on the suckiness of self-judgment)

Posted by on Nov 15, 2017 in acceptance, coping, resilience | 13 comments

It’s mid-afternoon, and I’ve got a roaring headache. My phone just crashed in the middle of an important call. My back is sore, and I’ve still got tons of work to do—but I can tell my body needs a nap. I crawl into bed, setting the alarm for an hour later…and lie there fitfully, unable to drift off to sleep. Eventually, I get up and grab a snack and a glass of water and sit down again at my desk. Now I’m even further behind than I was before, and I still feel unrested. I’m probably going to have to work well into the evening.   Or: I can ask myself to dance.   No judgment See, a friend of mine helps run a women’s dance group here in chicago called DDPP: Dance Dance Party Party. The group has three rules: no boys, no booze, no judgment. Twice a week, folks meet and take turns DJing, dancing together for an hour. You can dance however you want, and you can opt out of any song. It’s freakin’ fantastic. That part about “no judgment” is the thing that’s getting me on the dance floor tonight. Those two little words are a reminder to me that no matter how I show up, no one there is going to judge me. That’s especially important tonight, because I’m confident I’ll have to sit out a bunch of songs, or at least dance really slowly, perhaps just swaying or bobbing my head to the beat.   No self-judgment I have DDPP in my calendar as a repeating appointment, every Wednesday night and Sunday afternoon, but sometimes I don’t go because I’m tired or sore and I won’t be able to dance the way I want to. Or the way I should be able to dance. Hear that? That is the sound of nasty self-judgment, and sometimes it creeps into my head and stops me in my tracks. I used to dance every weekend, hitting the club scene in Chicago and staying out til all hours. I prided myself on my ability to dance well past midnight, sometimes multiple nights a week. Since I got sick more than 20 years ago, I’ve had a really hard time accepting the loss of dance in my life. It’s not that I can’t dance at all—I just can’t dance to more than a couple songs at a time, or I can’t do all the moves I want to do. But that self-judgment is so limiting! It has kept me from pursuing a thing that brings me joy.   Tonight, I’m gonna ask myself to dance Yes, I’ve got work to do…but I know the quality of my work...

Read More

5 strategies for facing the upcoming holidays with chronic illness

Posted by on Nov 9, 2017 in ChronicBabe Basics, coping, holidays, relationships | 6 comments

I used to really dread making it through the winter holidays with chronic illness. And I do mean “making it through”—that was the best I could hope for, never mind actually enjoying them! It felt like I had to claw my way through them.   All the ways the holidays can go poorly While it felt like everyone else breezed from party to party, I agonized about how to manage my limited diet when facing big, luscious buffets packed with things I knew would not feel good in my body. I watched in envy as friends wore cute, sparkly heels, while I crammed my pained feet into clunky boots that could accommodate the wool socks my Raynaud’s phenomenon-having tootsies demand. And I never felt like I had the energy I wanted as I socialized, and when I did, I would sometimes find myself without a lot to talk about. When you’ve gone through an extended period of illness, or fatigue, or depression, it can be hard to make witty small talk. And when it came to gift-giving, I frequently felt stressed out by planning, shopping, and wrapping. But mostly shopping: The malls! The driving! The carrying heavy bags! All while wearing a heavy Chicago coat in Chicago winters! I would count every penny and have to take deep breaths as I processed each purchase. Family was sometimes tough, too. While some family members are cool, some really don’t accept my health-related limitations, and that leads to a lot of awkward conversations and situations. It wasn’t all bad… I mean, I’ve also had some pretty great holidays. Decorating the trees, visiting my nieces, drinking hot cocoa by a toasty fire, sledding, goofing with friends. But let’s be real: The holiday season brings a lot of pressure. It’s hard not to succumb to the pressure to be everybody’s everything. We sometimes feel like our illness should take a vacation so we can meet the expectations of others. But that’s not how bodies work, babe. I know you know that, but the holiday season is going to try to make you feel otherwise. So let’s talk through a few changes I’ve made during recent years that have ensured my holiday season is much more enjoyable. These definitely have not removed all the stress, but they’ve minimized it, for sure. And it gets easier every year.   5 Strategies for making the most of the holidays with chronic illness: Stop sending holiday cards. Seriously, they cost a bunch of money, and most people barely glance at them. You spend hours shopping for them or designing them; you spend much moolah on printing or purchasing them, plus all that postage. And you wear yourself out putting together the mailings....

Read More

My hero, on a step ladder (sometimes we just need a little validation)

Posted by on Nov 8, 2017 in caregivers, featured, relationships, Uncategorized | 18 comments

Last week, I had a super-aggravating experience related to what my husband, Joe, and I jokingly refer to as one of my “fibro super powers.” But luckily, it ended in the kind of validation I think we all need.   Every sound is so loud! Since I developed fibromyalgia 20 years ago, I have become extra-sensitive to everything—especially sound. I remember those first years post-diagnosis, when I would get frustrated about the sounds my neighbors made. I found myself plugging my ears every time an ambulance or fire truck went by, and started carrying ear plugs to wear whenever I traveled. And it’s not just the sound itself; the bass of loud music or trucks going by is also really tough on my system. And when you live in a huge city, it’s hard to escape. My amazing hearing is a terrible “super power” to have! But no one around me seemed to experience the same sensitivity; in fact, when I would complain about the issue to people I was close to, I was mostly met with blank stares, or flat-out negation. “I don’t hear it, so I think you’re imagining it,” my ex would say. “It can’t be that loud if I can’t hear it, so can you just ignore it?” he would ask. Um, no. He certainly was not the only person to minimize or deny my experience; co-workers, friends, and family all did the same thing. That negation was not intentional, I’m sure; I know that none of the people who did it was actively trying to hurt me. But wow, did it hurt. I learned to keep my mouth shut, even when it was causing me extreme distress. Sometimes, I would curl up in a ball in bed, with piles of covers over me, ear plugs in my ears, and just cry. It wasn’t just the constant negative sensation of the rock music from upstairs, or the nagging hum of the truck idling outside my window. The thing that hurt most was when people would shut down my concern or negate my experience. Experiencing validation from my community Recently, I attended a retreat for women with chronic pain. Spending a weekend with a handful of women who immediately “get” your experience is powerful. During one conversation, I discovered that at least two other people there with fibromyalgia or other chronic pain conditions also live with the intense sound experiences that I have. It was amazing—I mean, I was literally amazed by how good it felt—to be heard, and to experience validation. Just knowing that someone understood my experience, and told me it was okay to be upset by it, made me feel like less of...

Read More

Self-love: Jenni chats with Mary from Uncustomary about a powerful practice

Posted by on Nov 7, 2017 in acceptance, guest author, inspiration, self care | 0 comments

A few months ago, I stumbled across an Instagram account that was just irresistible. Mary is a strong, creative, energetic, authentic woman talking about the benefits (and challenges) of practicing self-love, and I adore her style. She offers resources at her website, Uncustomary, including blog posts, a podcast, a fun (and affordable!) membership service, a book, much more. We had a couple conversations and now, OMGOSH are we friends. I’ve written before about how we can rock our look as ChronicBabes; this babe rocks it Every. Dang. Day. Today, she’s hosting me over at her Uncustomary podcast, and I’m hosting another conversation here, too—because we both believe women with chronic illness deserve to love themselves deeply, no matter how sick they are. And have fun while they’re at it! Jenni: You’re all about the self-love and its impact on leading a happy life. What brought you to this work? Mary: The short answer is knowing what it’s like to be on the complete opposite end of the spectrum! I started developing multiple mental illnesses at just eight years old, and it seriously impacted my adolescence in terms of self-esteem and overall happiness. Feeling like I wasn’t in control of my body made me hate my body and myself which spiraled deeper and deeper. I finally got to a point where my symptoms were controlling my life and I knew if I didn’t at least try to do something about it, I was going to end up in a place I didn’t want to be. So I started cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), which is one of the huge stepping stones I pivoted on and feel changed my life. I basically learned how to deal with some of the most obtrusive symptoms in my life, and by doing that I felt this mental space open up in my mind. I finally wasn’t totally consumed by just getting through the day; going from one symptom to the next… I had room to wiggle around! I could even get creative! I dove back into crafty stuff I had missed from my childhood and started documenting it. From there emerged a blog, and that blog chronicled the progress of the journey of my self-love exploration and discovery that is ever-growing. Essentially, I realized that if someone who had five mental illnesses, a palm-full of pills to take just to function, and a panic attack metaphorically scheduled on her Google Calendar could start loving the body that had gained a hundred pounds in the process (from medication side effects) and herself, that it was possible for other people in better and even worse situations. I wanted to provide my perspective in hopes it would be useful...

Read More

WE’RE NOT DOCS!

Info posted here should not be considered medical advice; it's not intended to replace consultation with physicians or other health care providers. 

Every Babe needs to find her own path for achieving optimal wellness. While we do tons to help guide you, it’s up to each of you to make well-informed choices and live with the consequences. ChronicBabe.com assumes no liability or responsibility for stuff that goes wrong.

Links to other web sites are provided as a service, but do not constitute endorsement of those sites by ChronicBabe.com; we are not responsible for their content. We do our best to find the most rockin’ resources but hey, we’re human.

Take what you like from this space, and leave the rest. Use what you learn to make your life better. Be responsible for your own choices. And please don’t sue us. XO!

As Seen In