Monday, February 8, 2016

Compassion vs Excuses

Identify one person, group of people, or type of people you believe doesn't deserve your compassion. now try to empathize with why those people may be like they are or may do the things they do. Think of all possible factors that may have contributed - their past struggles, their physical or emotional health, their disadvantages. Write these things below to help you challenge the belief that this person or these people don't deserve compassion.
I bet you can't tell who I'm going to write about!

My therapist says I keep going after the big fish instead of working up to them, and it's true.

I should be considering how other health activists with whom I don't get along interact with the world or how Donald Trump does... I don't consider him worthy of my time, but hey.

Instead, I try to focus on my mother.

The issues that I have with my mother are many. I knew that the day I helped protect my sister and my niece would end the troubled relationship I had with my mother. I knew shit would go down.

Hell, I had the cops on standby.

I thought that there would be physical violence, threats, but what happened was almost worse.

I was denied the ability to control my story still, even as we disbanded this 'family' I grew up in.

I can understand why my mother has made certain choices, and yet others baffle me...

Refusing to get your daughter on medications that could've changed her life? Neglecting medical treatment in general? 

I will acknowledge that my mother has had a hard life. I acknowledge that her family - her mother - was not awesome. There are prevailing mental health and medical issues she needed attention for that were not addressed. I believe that she deserves compassion, but quite frankly I'm unable to give it now.

I'm not sure if I will ever be.

Understanding those things also brings me dangerously close to making excuses for her, though, and there are no excuses for our treatment growing up. I refuse to explore this compassion towards her further until I fully feel safe from her.

In reality, I don't expect this to happen while she's living, and I can be okay with that.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Book Review: How to Live Well with Chronic Pain & Illness by Toni Bernhard

For Christmas, my husband's amazing aunt got me Toni Bernhard's latest book How to Live Well With Chronic Pain and Illness: A Mindful Guide. I've enjoyed Toni's previous books as well as her pieces on various websites like Psychology Today.

She has been a huge inspiration for me living with chronic illness. This book just takes the admiration I have for her further.

Courtesy of
This book interestingly balances information for those of us who are already practicing mindfulness and those who are new to the subject, just as it balances information for those of us who have been ill a long time versus those new to the chronic life.

Toni has done an amazing job of capturing so many of the difficulties we face with a chronic illness, from being ill at a young age to self-loathing and self-blaming to how that affects our relationships with others and our caregivers.

It's truly a must-read for anyone with a chronic illness - or for our loved ones. I'll probably be bugging T to read this to get his thoughts as well as to see how it helps him to understand both his own and my illnesses.

There is so much that I can say and yet the words escape me so, like I usually do at the end of my reviews, I'd like to share some quotes from Toni that really stuck out for me.

When we become aware of the mental and emotional challenges that accompany chronic illness, not only is it easier to adjust to and accept our news lives, but we're much more likely to make skillful decisions and wise choices along the way. (3)

I've learned that the burden is on me to make my medical condition visible to family and friends, especially because my chronic illness, as is often the case, is invisible. If I don't make the effort to educate them, their expectations of me may be way out of line with what I can handle. (8)

Mindful awareness of your thinking patterns is instructive because, without mindfulness, when you're caught up in unpleasant thoughts or emotions, you're likely to feel as if they'll last forever. (17)

It's easy to go beyond our limits when we're chronically ill, partly because adrenaline kicks in and convinces us that we're doing fine. Unfortunately, when that adrenaline wears off, a "crash" is invariably in sight. (18)

Allowing them to help when you're struggling with your health makes them feel less helpless in the face of the new challenges in your life. It can mean a lot to someone to be able to aid a friend or family member who is struggling with his or her health. (25)

Sticking with the example of feeling irritated at physical pain, the way to understand and accept what's going on in your mind is to gently acknowledge that irritation is present, and then incline your mind toward kindness and compassion for yourself. (74)

To reiterate a point from the previous chapter, physical discomfort has three components: the unpleasant physical sensation itself, the emotional reaction to it, and the thought patterns that are related to the first two components. (77)

Mindfulness meditation is an excellent tool for seeing that you need not believe in or act upon the ever-changing array of thoughts and emotions that arise in the mind. But if these unresolved issues are part of your deeply embedded personal psychological history (as opposed to being the thoughts and emotions that typically come and go for everyone during meditation, such as a wave of sadness or worry), they can stick in your mind and increase in intensity, leading to anxiety, anxiousness, and fearfulness. (92) 

Several young people have told me that they've been openly challenged when they park in a disabled spot, even though they have the required placard or sticker. (By contract, no one has ever challenged me.) If a stranger is rude to you in this fashion, the best response is to acknowledge to yourself that you feel hurt, take a deep breath, and then immediately turn your attention to taking loving care of yourself. (140)

In addition to the challenges they share with the person in their care, caregiver face their own set of stressors. They must live with the frustration and helplessness of not being able to make their loved one better. They've been thrust into the role of patient advocate in the medical system, a role for which they have neither training nor expertise. They often have to take over the running of the household. Finally, they're the ones who see their loved one at his or her very worst. (195-196)

Friday, February 5, 2016


Whenever you get hard on yourself today, comfort yourself with a physical gesture and a few words of compassion, such as, "I'm having a tough time, but I deserve my own love and kindness." According to self-compassion researcher Kristin Neff, physical touch releases the feel-good hormone oxytocin - even when the touch is your own.
Today's Tiny Buddha Challenge is an interesting one. I often find myself rubbing parts of my body like my neck/collarbones or hips when I'm not well and am in need of comfort or a pick-me-up. I had not put together, though, how this might relate to oxytocin, the chemical of love.
What do you usually do when you start getting hard on yourself? How does this keep you stuck?
Lately, I have been much better on this as I've been working on self-love and self-care as a part of the #ChronicSex movement. However, that doesn't mean this is perfect or that I talk to myself like a champ all the time.

Over the weekend, I had a hard day at my swimming class. As I was in the bathroom at home after the class, I reflected on how stupid it was for me to try to take a class at the same time one day a week for two and a half months without considering my fatigue and pain levels would get in the way - or how my fibro and other issues would be exacerbated.

It was bad.

I had to take a step back... figuratively, obviously, because the toilet was in the way... and take a breath.

That negative self-talk has been ingrained in all of us for various reasons - family/childhood issues, the media, etc.

Recognizing it when it happens is the first step to stopping it because you know what's going on.

It happened to be my sister's birthday so, since I always bring my phone in the bathroom thanks to IBS, I texted her to tell her that I loved her bunches.

Stepping back, I know that I did this as a way of making things up to myself for having been harsh as I often utilize my sister as a way to treat myself better. I'll think, "Is this something I would say to Kelsey?" If it's not, then I know the situation has turned too negative.
What, if anything, do you fear might happen if you're not hard on yourself? Is is possible that's not true?
This is a really good question for us all to examine.

Sometimes, I know that it may seem like we won't achieve as much without pushing our own buttons, without being horrible to egg ourselves on.

We can do so much more without that.
What type of physical gesture do you find most soothing?
A rubbing/scratching in the area between my chest and my neck. It can be erotically pleasing or just comforting.

What about you? I'd love to hear your answers for these questions!