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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....

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It’s OK to be Sad During the Holidays (AWAP Wednesday)

Posted by on Dec 9, 2015 in coping, depression, featured, friends and family, holidays, sexuality | 8 comments

Today’s AWAP Wednesday video is a quickie, and an importantie: I want to make sure you know it’s OK to be sad during the holidays. (Bonus: today’s video is illustrated with tons of my favorite Christmas and wintertime photos, because it’s a super-bad hair day here at ChronicBabe HQ.) It’s the most wonderful (and sad) time of the year In large swaths of the world, people get sad during this time of year because it’s winter. It’s dark, it’s cold, it’s gloomy. There are fewer hours of sunlight, and many of us experience Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). I mean, it’s all in the name, right? Many of us also experience some sadness around the holidays for emotional reasons: We feel a sense of loss because we’re not as healthy as we once were. We feel stressed because we’re spending more time with family and friends who may love us but don’t really understand us, and they sometimes put their foot in their mouth. We do what we can to cope, but our feelings are more easily hurt. And many of us experience very real stress from financial difficulty; we can’t buy all the presents we want to, we may be stretching ourselves really thin to make sure our kids get their wishes granted—and societal pressures keep us striving, sometimes past our limits. This is incredibly stressful. Finally, in the U.S., it’s the final few days of open enrollment for health insurance, and if you’re like me, the process of finding a new provider for 2016 has been grueling. My coverage is going to be significantly more expensive next year, so I’m entering the winter holiday season (and shopping season) knowing I’ll need to tighten my belt a little more starting in January. Woo hoo! It’s a party. Ugh. So I’m feeling sad. Some days, really really sad. I have to work to get out of bed and be productive, and I’m asking my friends and family for lots of extra help and support this time of year. I lean on a wide variety of people (including my healthcare professionals) for support because I know that they, too, are already spread thin. Maybe you’re feeling sad, too. And I want you to know that it’s OK. I’ve been fighting it. I’ve been feeling like a jerk for feeling sad. I mean, whoa—way to pile on, Jenni! But a very smart, trusted person in my life reminded me the other day that it’s OK to be sad. It’s not a sign of being less-than, and it’s not weakness. It’s a feeling about some very real shit going down in my life. And it will pass. And I know some tried-and-true things that can make my...

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How to Create Your Own Authentic Holiday Season… and Bypass the Craziness (AWAP Wednesday)

Posted by on Nov 25, 2015 in acceptance, ChronicBabe Basics, coping, featured, friends and family, holidays, relationships, self care | 0 comments

Oh, the holidays are SO stressful! I mean, they’re super-fun. But also, stress: Travel, which can be stressful in and of itself Eating weird/rich/too much of foods that you’re not used to Interacting with family/acquaintances/co-workers with whom you might have strained relationships Overindulgence and temptation at every turn Pressure to be “well” enough to meet the expectations of others to be “festive” and “jolly” even if you “feel like dog crap” and “wish you could be napping instead” Sadness around loss of normalcy, especially for folks who have lost romantic partners or children or pets this time of year Focus on consumption and other money-related stresses BWAH! It’s too much. If we think of it in this way, that is. So I’ve got a different perspective for you to try out: Make your own holiday. That’s right: Make it your own. Don’t try to be everyone’s everything. Eschew traditions that don’t fit your current abilities or interests. Assert your needs. Plan fun things that work for you and feed your joy. I know–this is kind of revolutionary for some of you. The holidays are laden with traditions that we are loathe to break, especially if we don’t want to “let down” family members. But what does the winter holiday season TRULY symbolize for so many of us, no matter our religion or spiritual pursuit? Togetherness. Generosity. Joy. Creativity. Fun. Rest and relaxation. Delicious meals. Snuggle time with pets and our loved ones. Fun. Did I mention fun? Will you get some resistance? Probably. Your great aunt Shirley might think it’s nuts that you don’t want to eat turkey and instead want to have a potluck and invite your two best friends to the family table. Your mom may think it’s bizarre that you want to stay in the city and nestle into your little apartment with your cat and a good book and enjoy some quiet time, instead of traveling across the country to sleep in a cramped guest room. If you’re like me, you might have family members who resist your new tradition of a gift swap (instead of buying dozens of gifts for everyone). But believe me… they’ll learn to love it. Or not. Either way, it’s OK. It’s OK. This holiday time is YOUR holiday time. Make it your own. Make a list of the things that are a priority for you. Make a list of the things that will feed your soul. Make a list of the things that will be fun for you. (I bet these lists are really one big list all together!) Get solid on your priorities, and then gently assert yourself. Planning an authentic, soul-fueling holiday season is a mindful task, so...

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How to Respond to People Who Offer Cures for Chronic Illness (AWAP Wednesday)

Posted by on Nov 18, 2015 in ChronicBabe Basics, coping, featured, holidays, ranting, relationships | 20 comments

Today’s AWAP Wednesday video is all about what to do when someone offers you an unsolicited cure for your chronic illness. I KNOW you get these all the time—I sure do—and it’s a pickle to figure out how to respond with grace and calm when you’re all riled up inside! So I’ve come up with a few ideas for you that just might help you have easier conversations. Watch today’s video, in which I share some of my favorite conversation strategies for cure-offering busy bodies: *AWAP = As Well As Possible Now it’s your turn: How do YOU respond when someone tries to push a cure on you? What has worked, and what hasn’t? I wanna know! Join the conversation in the comments below, share your experience and ask for advice from our community. Want to watch more videos like this? Check out our AWAP Wednesday video playlist, which has almost nine hours of guidance, advice, and bloopers. Is there a question I can answer for YOU? Add it to the comments below, or shoot me an email. Until we meet again: Be AWAP! Smooches! (Rough) transcript: Sitting under a special tree, which is home to angels who will bless me and cure me. Drinking tart cherry juice. Taking handfuls of supplements every few hours. Seeing a particular specialist who has a secret cure. These are all real things people have suggested to me to get rid of fibromyalgia. Grrrr… I KNOW you know what I’m talking about. Today, I’m talking about how to talk to people who offer you cures. [Transition] Hi! I’m Jenni Prokopy of ChronicBabe.com and today is AWAP Wednesday (that stands for As Well As Possible). Each week, I offer you my favorite tips and techniques to help you craft an incredible life beyond illness. Yes! I know you can. Subscribe to the ChronicBabe YouTube channel today to make sure you never miss another video, OK? [Transition] It’s rough when someone offers a cure, right? Because many of us WISH for cures. We crave a fix. We would give almost anything to be well again. So when someone offers us an unsolicited cure, it tugs on our heart strings for a moment. We want it to be real. And then we feel the inevitable crushing blow of its non-realness. It’s almost like we get sick all over again, each time. It can feel like a little defeat. And then we’re stuck with responding to this unsolicited cure, which is a quandary. [Transition] Consider the Source. It’s one thing for one of our healthcare providers to suggest a new treatment, or for a well-meaning friend to forward a link to an article about new research. It’s a whole other thing for strangers to offer us “cures.”...

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AWAP Wednesday: Everything You Need to Create New Year’s Resolutions That Stick

Posted by on Dec 17, 2014 in ChronicBabe Basics, featured, holidays, resilience | 8 comments

by Jenni Prokopy, with a big assist from Shannon at Nip Pain in the Bud It’s the time of year when many of us are thinking about 2015. What will our life look like? What goals do we wish to achieve? Where do we want to be? Not everyone’s a fan of new year’s resolutions, but I am. I adore them, in fact—I think that, done right, they can help us achieve enormous change in our lives. For those of us with chronic illness (especially conditions that are somewhat unpredictable), it can seem like a fool’s errand to write new year’s resolutions. After all, we could do all this planning and nothing could come from it! From where I sit, the resolutions actually help you continue to achieve things in spite of roadblocks. So rather than blow off doing them at all, I suggest making them… and then being ready to GUILTLESSLY abandon them if they stop working. Let’s look at a couple of my new year’s resolutions for 2014, shall we? 1. Lose 60 lbs. Well, that didn’t happen. But am I beating myself up over it? Heck no. I lost 10 lbs. which ain’t anything to sneeze at, especially when the average American adult gains about 10 lbs. a year. So I’ll just revise for next year: Lose 50 lbs. Even if I don’t make my ultimate goal, I’m making progress. 2. Work out 3-4 times a week. Well, that didn’t happen for much of the year, for a variety of reasons. But I had it in the back of my mind—and for the past two months, I’ve worked out, on average, 4-5 times a week. So I made it! Not as fast as I planned, but I’m here now. So that one stays with me “as is” for 2015. 3. Book two speaking gigs a month. Urm, I had months with no gigs. But I had months with four gigs. Overall, I didn’t have the equivalent of two a month. But did I abandon the goal? No way—in fact, I’m starting to book up for 2015. 4. Be a spiritual warrior. Totally, bad ass, I’m there. I’m meditating (mostly), I’m not judging others (mostly), and I’m choosing peace (mostly). This one’s hard to quantify, but I work on it every day, so I’m proud to say I nailed this one. 5. Publish first book in 2014. Nope! Not even close. I made some progress, but it won’t be out until the first quarter of 2015. Did I lose heart? Sometimes. Did I want to abandon the goal? Never—I just had to regroup and redefine my resolution. Are you seeing a trend here? I don’t often achieve...

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AWAP Wednesday: How to Survive the Holidays (Guest Post with Tons of Resources)

Posted by on Dec 10, 2014 in caregivers, coping, featured, guest author, holidays, pain | 2 comments

Hi friends! Please welcome Shannon (she just uses a first name…such a rock star like Prince or Björk!) as our guest blogger this week. She’s a longtime friend of ChronicBabe who is a fantastic blogger in her own right; check her out at Nip Pain in the Bud & Let Your Soul Blossom. Today, Shannon offers her top resources on surviving the holidays. I thought I’d let her take over AWAP Wednesday today, as we’re all in a holiday rush — so she’s helping me out, and helping us ALL out with tons of great ideas. Without further ado, read on… Let’s start with something crucially important for us all: Holiday Rx Safety: Protect Your Loved Ones by Safeguarding Your Medications by Shannon (Shannon recommends reading this piece, too, for even more complete information.) Also: The ChronicBabe Freebies section has PDFs full of resources on handling holiday stress, saying thank you gracefully, handling naysayers, answering the question “how are you” with honesty and thoughtfulness, and much more. Explore — they’re all free! Maintaining Balance During the Holidays Surviving the Holidays when You’re Chronically Ill by Toni Bernhard, J.D. Christmas is Coming… Be Flexible & Adaptable by Jan Sadler Making Happy Changes in Your Holidays by Marie Hartwell-Walker, ED.D. The Ultimate Guide for Surviving the Holidays with Fibromyalgia and CFS/ME and Chronic Health Issues by Jacynthe Sonne Simplifying the Holidays by Marie Hartwell-Walker, ED.D. Surviving the Holidays When You’re in Pain by Ken Taylor 3 Holiday Warning Bells of Stress by Sue Ingebretson Chronic Illness and the Holidays: Experts describe strategies to let people with chronic illness enjoy the holidays by Louise Chang, M.D. Coping with Isolation, Loneliness and Depression During the Holidays  Holiday Depression by Tracy Rydzy, M.S.W., L.S.W. How to Ease the Pain of Isolation During the Holidays by Toni Bernhard, J.D. Depression, Winter, and the Holiday Season by Diana Lee Beating the Holiday Blues by Maud Purcell, L.C.S.W., C.E.A.P. Coping With Loneliness During the Holidays by Margarita Tartakovsky, M.S. Emotional Survival Guide for the Holidays: Experts explain some simple methods for driving away the holiday blues by Denise Mann Planning Tips to Prevent Holiday Chaos Take Your Time at Christmas by Jan Sadler Surviving the Holidays: Give yourself the G.I.F.T. of a stress-free holiday by Karen Lee Richards 10 Tips to Reduce Holiday Stress by Karen Lee Richards Strategies for Special Events by Bruce Campbell Tame Your Holiday Fibro Frenzy by Sue Ingebretson 6 Tips for Making Holiday Plans Go Smoothly by Kerrie Smyres Dealing with the Expectations or Judgments of Others Reduce Holiday Stress by Educating Others About Your Health by Toni Bernhard, J.D. 6 Ways to Handle Holiday Controllers, Critics and Coaches by Jude Bijou, M.A., M.F.T. Rudolph meets Dr. Seuss: ‘Be Who You Are’ by Shannon Helpful Gift Tips The (Re)Cycle of Giving by Shannon Holiday Travel...

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

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