{Baby Moon}

IMG_7817{grateful} Believe it or not, I think she came into my life to help me move forward. I went to get here but I was called to get her — does that make sense? It does to me. I had plans of getting a protection dog here (service dog isn’t a thing in India yet) because I needed some peace of mind that I’ll be okay. The move from Singapore to India has been hard on me but that’s also not surprising. And then one day, I’m looking for kittens online with the name ‘Luna’ at the back of my mind.

The next day I find Luna, the day after I go and pick her up. She made me get out of the house and out of my mind. I went by car to get her (I can’t stand car rides) and I took her to the vet on my own when she was ill. It was my very first time stepping out on my own in India. First time ever. I’ve always been accompanied by someone or the other all my life (whenever in India) and here I was, with a kitten in my bag, travelling deep into a highly-overwhelming city looking for a vet I’ve never met before.

Nursing her back to health (doc said she was so weak we could’ve lost her) sort of took away the extra noise in my mind. The worry. The uncertainty. The fear around having moved to a new place. It didn’t vanish completely (I doubt it will for a while) but it faded away into the background. It made me pause and focus on what was important: my health and Luna’s recovery. I was just about starting to walk after being bedridden for 6 weeks so looking after myself while looking after her was rather difficult. But I knew it had to be done. We were meant to meet. Sometimes our intuition guides us in ways we don’t fully understand. It was subtle but clear for me that Luna and I were going to meet. I love her like my own child. And, looking after her has validated it for me that I do not want kids of my own. Of course, I do have a list of reasons why and deep down, I feel like that’s my truth. We’ll see how things go. Grateful to have met Luna. Waking up next to this face warms my heart 😍

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“distract yourself or find a hobby”

Most people think that people like me who spend a lot of time at home are in need of hobbies or distractions of some sort. You know, something that can take our focus off our pain and suffering.

After ten years of dealing with Ehlers-danlos Syndrome Hypermobility Type, I can tell you this — while you can’t get your focus off pain entirely even for a fraction of a second, you can learn to acknowledge its existence, know that it’s going to be there with you and  still find ways to work with and around it. 

People like me who have had to leave a full-time job and figure out new ways to become financially independent (whether fully or partially), will once every while come across someone who tells us to distract ourselves from our experience or find hobbies since we have nothing else to do (according to some).  The thing is, not all of us are looking for distractions or hobbies.

Whatever you see me doing outside of my health routine are things I WANT to do for  reasons you may not always know. There is usually a detailed thought-process behind things I choose to do or not do.

I am currently completing a life coaching certification not because I am desperately in need of a hobby but because it’s been a personal and professional goal for me. It is something that calls for my strengths and aligns with my purpose. I want to be able to extend support while trying to support myself. I’ve always wanted to do it with the intention of setting up a business, one which doesn’t jeopardize my progress and allows me to work from home or bed for that matter. It might take time but that’s okay with me. I’m not doing it because I have nothing better to do. I’m doing it because I WANT to do it.

I taught classes throughout last year because working with people, helping them channel their creative energy, creating a space where people from all walks of life come together and open up is what I wanted to do. It was catching up big time and just then we decided to move countries. For me, conducting group classes centred in creativity and healing was a step in the right direction. Something that now makes me feel prepared to be a coach.  I didn’t do it because I needed a distraction. I did it because it felt right. And just like most people my age, I wanted to be able to at least partially pay for myself. 

I write (and share) because I believe writing is healing. I write with the hope of building a connection and community. Again, not because I need distraction. 

I cook because I’ve always been passionate about cooking for myself and people. It’s basically a way for me to express my creativity, apart from other art forms. Considering that I’ve had to leave dance and my career in design behind, cooking and making food look good keeps my creative energy running. I’ve had to train myself in the kitchen from scratch after not being able to prepare a cup of tea for myself at one point. I don’t cook for distraction. 

I volunteered with kids from troubled childhood because, given my personal experience, I’ve always had a soft spot for kids and believe so much in ensuring that children receive love,  the right kind of support and opportunities for growth. I didn’t do it because I needed to pass my time. 

It’s so easy for people to assume that if we’re at home, we’re bored or lonely or missing out. Sure, not all days are great but that’s the case for anyone else too. Personally, though, I’m not bored or lonely, and I rarely experience the fear of missing out (fomo). Yes, there are limitations and sometimes it sucks but on most days, I’m happy, grateful and at peace with where I’m at. More so because I know where I’ve come from. Honestly, I’ve probably never been better and I say this despite having lived pain-free at one point. I love being at home, prioritising my health, stepping out when I feel like it, going to places that feel right, hanging out with people I love, doing things that make me happy and finding joy in little things. I, for one, don’t need any form of distraction. 

Distraction is yet to prove itself to me. It has never worked. In fact, when I tried to distract myself from reality, things got worse. What you resist, persists. When I pushed myself, tried to act “normal”, I suffered more – mentally and physically. My health deteriorated at a very rapid pace. It took a lot of self-hate, pushing beyond my limit and attempting to distract myself from reality for me to finally press PAUSE, look at my priories and figure out a new way of living. Coming face to face with my reality, every raw bit of it, is what got me where I am today. 

Point being, don’t suggest distraction as a coping mechanism unless we clearly say that’s what we’re looking for. 

Trust us when we say we’re trying our best to create a different life. Who said different = bad anyway?

Support us because you believe in what we’re doing rather than from a space of sympathy or pity. Show us that you see past our illness. Tell us that you think we’re capable of embracing the illness AND following our dreams at the same time. Ask us if we need help in getting there. 

Love,

M

{deep waters}

People can only meet you as deeply as they can meet themselves. If one can’t handle the complexities of your being + experience, they probably can’t handle the complexities of their own.

I’ve learnt to let go of, with love, things and people that no longer serve me.

At first I used to think that my health, apart from taking away things that I loved, took away people I loved. Today, after a decade of dealing with the ups and downs of my health, I’ve realised one important thing: my health is a beautiful filter for all relationships in my life. My relationship with people as well as things. When it takes away, it keeps aside the best of the best.

I’ve lost people I thought I couldn’t live without and also gained people I least expected would show me so much love and understanding. The support and guidance that has shown up in my life in the last four years has been immensely helpful for me to make peace with where I’m at.

I don’t mean to say for a moment that those who are no longer in my life are bad people. But, they were incapable or unwilling to swim in the deep. They preferred the shallow waters. Not everyone’s realities are the same and some of us are more aware of this + willing and capable of accepting it when it comes to people we care about.

My health has also taught me another thing: the importance of healthy boundaries. Drawing boundaries with people is not the same as building walls between you and them. You get to decide who gets to visit the garden you’re growing, how long they stay and what they take with them.

If someone had told me these things years ago, I think I might just have suffered a little less. I would like to think I had to learn these lessons through personal experiences. Looking back, no matter how painful it was to let go of things, people and the idea of a certain kind of life, I would say it has been an eye-opening experience which has now aligned me with a life more supportive of who I am and my reality.

I’ve always believed in quality over quantity in most areas of my life. Today, the people I am surrounded with are those who listen, try to understand and also do their own research when it comes to having a loved one with a life-altering illness. They also trust my experience when I speak about it and we’ve learned to have a more open and honest communication.

Grateful to be back home after spending a day at the hospital. I had a random and severe episode of syncope two afternoon’s back but thankfully nothing life-threatening showed up. The cause remains unclear but from our understanding, it could’ve been anything from dehydration to my gastro symptoms to extreme fatigue.

Thank you to the kind souls who reached out. I feel so loved and care for. A much bigger thank you to those who’ve stood by me through the thick and thin.

❤️

-M

Spending the next few days and possibly even the rest of the week in bed. I tried to push through last week, hoping the tightness and spasms in my lower back and sacrum subsided but unfortunately, there has been no progress. Strengthening is on hold for the time being and we’re trying IFT + manual work on my lower back during physiotherapy.

About six days ago, i fell right on my bum while taking a photo of a friend and since then, my already triggered lower back pain got much worse. Having a sublaxed tailbone and two slipped discs makes pain unbearable sometimes. Add injury or impact of any sort and that takes it to another level. My reaction was to get more physiotherapy done, tend to it using all my pain management techniques and increase my dose of analgesics and anti-inflammatories.

Yesterday, however, just as I was trying to get out of bed, I realised I couldn’t possibly let this continue. I had to finally pause and listen to my body. I need to provide it with a conducive environment to heal and recover. I now need to allow it time and give myself permission to rest without guilt. Starting today, I’m going to do just that. I’ll work on my coaching coursework and do what is possible from my bed, pacing and resting when necessary. It’s time to give it time.

A small something

I was diagnosed with EDS type 3 in 2012, and have since been learning to live with theeillness. Before my diagnosis, I spent a good four years searching for a reason behind my deteriorating health and found no answer. Imagine being 18, three months into the course you loved, and suddenly starting to fall ill day by day. I tried everything that was “supposed” to help only to find out that it’s not a one size fits all kind of a situation. No one knew what was wrong with me and some refused to believe that someone in their late teens and early twenties could possibly be in so much pain. The struggle was real and it was beginning to affect my lifestyle. At one point, I thought I was living someone else’s life. It was devastating and unexplainably miserable. All it took was one medical professional to sit with me and really listen to my complaints and put together all my symptoms since young, which really didn’t seem out of place at that point.

After years or greiving over my old life and resisting what was coming, I finally started to work on acceptance and letting go. I could no longer run away from the fact that this was a chronic illness and the only way to move forward was to make peace with it as though it’s part of who I was, because it is. Sure, It doesn’t define who I am, but it plays a major role in every little or big decision in make in my life. It affects my energy levels, makes me put emphasis on bigger and greater things in life and hence also changes how I choose to live my life.

Things were only getting from bad to worse. The longer I held on, the more I struggled. The more everyone around me struggled, too. When I could no longer push, when my body started to scream and not just whisper, I figured it was time I made major lifestyle (my passion/activities I enjoy, the people I spent time with, my daily routine etc) and career change in order to accommodate and honour my health. And so I did.

I no longer see a point in creating suffering for myself by trying to push my body beyond its limit. It’s hard but I’ve realized that you have to make a choice every morning, to get up and do the best of your ability. Whatever your best is, is good enough. I’ve also realised the importance of staying true to your personal experience no matter what anyone says and also finding people who trust you.

Over the last few years, I’ve been working on adopting a new perspective towards my health and the choices I need to make. Firstly, I tell myself that these choices and decisions are FOR my health, not BECAUSE. Secondly, I choose to believe that I am fighting my illness by loving my body. Thirdly, I take conscious steps towards forgiving and letting go of what I thought my life “should” have been and adopt an attitude of gratitude as far as possible.

I won’t lie – living with chronic illness is tough. It complicates your life and makes you feel as if there is nothing more to life but being sick. It makes you feel like you have to climb this never-ending mountain all yourself and that no matter what you do, it’s not enough to change anything or make a real difference. It makes you think about the meaning of pain and suffering. Question your abilities and sense of self. I know the extra suffering that comes along with the physical pain.

Then again, every day is a new day and all we can do is acknowledge our pain and learn to work with it. It might require you to reassess your path every now and then and do what is in alignment with your health. That choice to work with your body while taking one little step forward towards what you love, or what frees you and makes you feel at peace is what reflects your strength and courage. It’s not your illness that defines you, it’s how your choose to live with it that does.

You have the choice to do something every day that makes you experience a small victory. And many victories put together allows you to overcome the burden of living with a life-altering illness.

Keep in mind that this ‘something’ I’m referring to doesn’t have to an incredibly big task or fit the expectation of the society in any way. It could be something as basic as getting out of the bed, holding a brush and writing a letter, doing an extra shift of your part-time job, washing your own hair, maybe cooking yourself a meal, meeting someone you love, reading a book to nurture your mind… anything that makes you feel like you’ve taken a step forward on that given day is a good enough start.

One day at a time.

One step at a time.

and, remmeber, you’re allowed to pause for as long as you need to before starting again.

Love,

MD

this is a photo from last year when I stepped out of my apartment for the first time after being bedridden for seven months. Apart from the trips i made to the hospital for tests and appointments, i was completely bedbound due to a massive lower back flare which caused excruciating pain and muscle spasms in my entire lower body. i was also undergoing a treatment for #sibo, following a highly restrictive diet which was helping my physical symptoms and also changing my relationship with food for the first time. With support from my close friends and a couple of family members, i somehow survived those seven months in my own apartment, walking not more than 200 something steps per day. i think i’ve dealt with times worse than that and have come out a little wiser and stronger each time in my entire life. Despite spending countless nights in pain and doubt of whether i’d get out of bed the next day, i’m still here today. Not ‘fixed’ or magically cured. Just doing my best and allowing myself some rest. And so are you. And I promise, if you’ve come this far, you can go even farther.

“Do you ever get tired of looking after your body?”

A question I often get is whether I ever get tired of looking after my body. Yes. All the time. It’s a lot of work, much like looking after a hyper active kid who wouldn’t let you rest and requires all your attention because you never know what he might knock over or set fire to. Of course it’s tiring!

Over the last few years I realised that sometimes it’s almost impossible to find a direct link between what you do and what happens to you. The right thing to do then is to do your best based on the info you have. Can you imagine the kind of questions we’d have answered by now, in the realms of chronic illnesses and life if it all worked on a very distinct cause and effect basis?

I’ve personally noticed that there could (not always) be a cumulative factor to it instead. Ten different things added together may lead to a particular favourable or unfavourable result.

For example, sticking to my daily routine in terms of self care and rest, my nightly routine, my weekly physio and pilates, all my strengthening exercises, medications, spending time in my safe and healing environment, following my specific diet, all my doctors’ appointments, not signing up for any societal obligations and exercising the power of saying NO, usually allows me to manage my health symptoms better and sometimes even do more.

Similarly, not being able to do any of the above causes my body to start de-conditioning and overtime I start to lose my day to day strength. Now, add that with significant movement from traveling and a few days of too much activity and my health starts to deteriorate. Hence why I speak of sticking to a daily routine, setting flexible goals and drawing boundaries for yourself. It can become the difference between me fighting a chronic illness versus managing one — and that’s a big deal.

Over the last ten weeks, i was somehow managing my symptoms but not doing a very good job of it. Sooner or later, my body was going to begin to de-condition. It’s happening now. After a horrific night of painsomnia and lack of sleep, I just spent the entire day curled up in bed.

I think I’ve hit my limit and all I want to do is rest. #chronicillness

How do you define work?

https://themighty.com/2018/02/unable-to-work-because-of-illness/

Every bit of this resonates with me.

It’s a constant struggle for people like me to remember our worth when there is so much stigma around being sick (especially young and sick) and not being able to work.

It often makes me wonder, how do you define work anyway?

Does work = I bring money to the table every single time? does my voluntary work with kids with troubled childhood which doesn’t earn me anything but makes me feel valuable and like I’m making some difference count as work? Does me trying to help an individual who is newly chronically ill/struggling with their health mean anything in the society at all?

What about the times I teach classes hoping they help those who participate — does that count as work even if it’s not always sustainable? What about the job I did as a receptionist at a pilates studio hoping I’d be able to stick with it and then got bedridden — does that count at all? Is that seen?

Does it matter that people like myself at one point had great aspirations and goals too and had to leave those behind, grieve our old selves and learn to accept what we’re presented with? Does anyone ever see the pain and the courage behind having to leave what brings most of us financial stability and freedom in order to prioritise health?

What about the work you put in day in day out to look after a faulty body? Imagine having to look after an extremely mischievous and sick child who doesn’t listen to you for twenty four seven. No break whatsoever. Not even when you sleep.

It’s easy for people to ask, “what do you do?” because it’s the most common way to start a conversation. It’s also very understandable and I have a standard answer ready. But you won’t believe the number of people I’ve come across up till now with the mindset that if you’re not working, traveling and or working out, you’re probably doing nothing. Or not doing enough of something. Or aren’t ambitious enough. Have no goals. Have nothing figured out.

What makes so many people think that those who’re sick are lazy or not ambitious enough? Couldn’t our ambitions and priorities have changed? Can we not bring empathy, compassion and kindness to the table instead of money? Is it not possible for us to do our part in some other way? Can we not be the people you turn to when things aren’t going right? Can we not support the family and household in other ways?

Or how about this: is it not possible that by us doing our self-work and learning to accept and tend to our illness allows us to manage the illness a little better and hence take some load and burden off those who are trying to support us? Isn’t that work too?

20 degrees and sunny and loving it. Yes, yes, I know. There will be snow, my joints will hurt, winter gets depressing blah and blah and blah. Sure, but what matters right now is that I’m here today and that at one point, I didn’t think it was possible.

This place is making me dig deeper, unravel yet another level and is sort of making me feel lost in a guided way. It’s not the kind of lost that makes you feel afraid. It’s quite the opposite. I’ve been waking up every morning to a renewed sense of curiosity which is nice and refreshing.

I’m looking at things around me, some familiar some not. But I’m seeing them differently. Maybe I needed this. A break, an opportunity to put other things aside for once and be, even if it’s for a while.

I’m not talking about a break from being sick. No, that doesn’t happen. I’m referring to a shift in focus. Not distraction. But to zoom out and see the bigger picture one more time. From constantly *having* to figure out and find solutions quickly (this year is my 10th year of being sick, 6th since diagnosis) to allowing myself some grace.

From being bedridden for 6 months last year to starting to teach again to having to stop again to moving to India to figuring out a million and one things in a new environment (new societal and cultural norms) to adrenaline fatigue and flares of different symptoms, I just haven’t gotten a chance to truly take a long enough pause and realign myself.

And for this reason, it’s quite likely that Canada will hold a special place in my heart. ❤️

#thankyou #canada #2018 #chronicillness