The importance of planning for everyday joy

by Carolyn Thomas      @HeartSisters

When my mother was already showing early signs of her vascular dementia and had to move into an assisted-living apartment, she hated it. The staff reminded our family that “having something to look forward to” every day would help her feel more settled. They were so right. The move had been scary and overwhelming for Mom, but even knowing that after lunch she’d be playing cribbage or watching a favourite movie could bring a smile to her face.

We didn’t call it this at the time, but what Mom was doing, in the middle of all of her angst and fear, was planning joy.    Continue reading “The importance of planning for everyday joy”

Life before diagnosis: not as perfect as we recall?

by Carolyn Thomas    @HeartSisters  September 1, 2019

Like most of us, my time on this earth has been bookmarked by a number of important “before” and “after” experiences: the way I lived my life before key events occurred, and the way my life changed after they occurred. Before and after I got married. Before and after I became a mother. Before and after I ran my first half-marathon. But one of the most profound changes has to be before and after the fateful day in the ER when a cardiologist told me,“You have significant heart disease”.

Many of us living with a chronic and progressive illness like this often view these periods of life as two parts: the normal and wonderful times before the traumatic diagnosis, and all the not-wonderful days that have been happening ever since.     . Continue reading “Life before diagnosis: not as perfect as we recall?”

Choose your listeners carefully

 by Carolyn Thomas    @Heartsisters    August 25, 2019

I once heard the late author Dr. Leo Buscaglia tell a conference audience his story about how he grew up equating caregiving with love. When he was a little boy, for example, his own mother seemed cold and distant  – except when he was sick. During those times, she would sit at his bedside, stroke his fevered brow, spoon-feed him homemade soup, fuss over every painful twinge, listen carefully to his every word, and become the kind of loving mother he rarely knew when he was healthy.    . Continue reading “Choose your listeners carefully”

What’s your ‘being sick’ style?

by Carolyn Thomas    @HeartSisters

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Here at Heart Sisters World Headquarters, it has come to my attention that there seems to be a divide between two types of recuperation styles when women get sick.  I don’t mean urgent/call 911/another-freakin’-heart-attack kind of sick, but more like your garden variety feeling-like-hell when you’re knocked flat in bed with a flu, a cold, or recovering from a bad flare of chronic illness symptoms.

The two most common responses from my Heart Sisters blog readers (always a goldmine of data!) are these:
Continue reading “What’s your ‘being sick’ style?”

I need a nap!

I was never a napper before my heart attack. Naps, I used to believe, were only for people like my Dad, whose custom was to doze off after lunch for half an hour or so on the LaZBoy in our farmhouse. But now, I love naps! And because I live with ongoing cardiac symptoms (thanks to a subsequent diagnosis of coronary microvascular disease), I need those naps. If I skip my daily afternoon nap, I pay for it later by feeling sick and shaky.

Author/napper Toni Bernhard recently described in her wonderful Psychology Today column why naps are so important:

“Most people who are chronically ill benefit from scheduling at least one rest period into their day because it helps keep symptoms from flaring.” 

Yet paradoxically, she also notes that taking a “time out” by pausing to rest can be one of the hardest challenges that chronically ill patients face. Continue reading “I need a nap!”

A NOT-To-Do List for the chronically ill

Today’s guest post comes from the wisdom of Toni Bernhard, a former law professor who, one fine day many years ago, went to Paris for a holiday with her husband, got sick, and didn’t get better. As such, Toni’s had to learn a lot about being a patient, as she described in her wonderful award-winning book, How to Be Sick: A Buddhist-Inspired Guide for the Chronically Ill and their Caregivers

In this guest post, Toni lists items that belong on a NOT-To-Do list for all those living with chronic pain or illness.

I love To-Do lists. I depended on them when I was working outside the home. I’ve depended on them since my bed became my office. The one difference is that, pre-illness, I had fancy notepads and appointment books in which to keep my lists. Now I scribble them on any random piece of paper I can find.

A few weeks ago, I realized I could benefit from a NOT-To-Do list that would remind me of my limitations – limitations I often ignore either because I’m in denial or because I want to please others.  Continue reading “A NOT-To-Do List for the chronically ill”