“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

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{blood and years don’t matter}

I’m experiencing deep emotional pain right now. I’m going to acknowledge that, let it be until it leaves, and also keep in mind that I’ve done my very best.

Self-awareness doesn’t mean that you’ll never make mistakes. It means that even if you did, you will pick up on it and respond in a way that best aligns with your highest self.

It also means that you walk away from things and people that take away from you.

Trust me when I say this — it doesn’t matter how long you know someone or if you share a blood relationship with that person.

What matters is how much you and them evolve as people, how you communicate and whether you’re truly there for them.

This year has taught me that no matter how much healing work of acceptance and forgiveness you do, some dynamics never change. You do the work for yourself; so that you can create a life and relationships that are supportive.

It doesn’t excuse their behaviour and all the nasty things they may have done to you, but it frees you from the suffering of it. It frees up time and energy for better things in life.

In the last two days, I’ve reached a completion with two relationships in my life. I am very peacefully convinced that I have tried my best and that I no longer need to keep anchoring the relationships.

I am not longer available for it.

I am letting go, with love, what I thought I shared with them.

❤️

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

Anger

Some of us are raised having to justify our anger. We are raised to think that emotion of anger is “bad” and that we are bad people for experiencing that feeling.

Anger is not inherently a negative emotion. It is an emotion that calls for acknowledgement + action. Perhaps what you do with it could be categorised as a negative or positive action.

We need to raise our kids to understand that feeling angry is as natural as feeling happy and emphasize fully experiencing anger and then responding accordingly. Not reacting. Responding.

Really asking, “what is my anger telling me?” instead of distracting the moment you experience the very first sign of anger.
We need to teach our kids to find productive ways of processing anger without feeling afraid of it or feeling guilty for having that emotion.

We need to teach them to sit with it.

Write and share it in a safe space.

Maybe go for a run.

Channel it into a creative project.

Anger and passion are two sides of the same coin. Suppressing one means suppressing the other and consequences of both aren’t healthy.

Growing up in a dysfunctional family, I’ve seen both extremes. One side acted out, the other preferred to suppress and I’ve personally seen how damaging damaging both can be. One can damage your relationship with others, the other can easily damage your relationship with yourself, which then ultimately affects the first.

I’m not advocating reacting in a way that’s hurtful or acting out because that’s giving in to anger and nor am I suggesting holding on to it till it crushes your insides.

We don’t want either.

We want to try to tap into our wisdom and awareness, knowing when to take some time out to ourselves to feel the anger, where to speak about it and most importantly, what to do with it.

Last few years of spending a lot of time alone, I got a chance to work on and let go of the trauma and pain from my past which needed to be looked at. Thankfully, I’ve healed from most of it but I still remember how that emotion has always caused me more pain than it needed to.

I didn’t know what to do with that anger because of what I saw around me as a kid — how was I supposed to experience and overcome anger if I either wasn’t allowed to speak about it OR was surrounded by angry people, yelling and screaming at one another? How was I, as a child, supposed to gauge what is right and what isn’t? So I naturally grew up confused around that emotion — feeling like utter shit about myself for even having that feeling. I held on to it until one day I figured it was eating me up from inside. It took me a while to find productive ways of dealing with my anger and it started with naming it. Being okay with it. Letting myself have that emotion without generating more drama around it.

Sometimes anger just wants to be heard. And I wish someone told me that 20 years ago.

These days I write about it until I can’t write anymore. I cry it out. I call my close friends and request them to be my sounding board. I take a bath. I go for a walk alone. I even speak with my spiritual guidance teacher. If I feel like it, I draw out my feelings and then tear out those papers. Sometimes I keep them to look back. Then I meditate. Take deep breaths throughout the day and sleep over it too. I give myself all the time and space I need to fully experience that emotion before I decide how I want to respond to the situation or the person who triggered the anger in me. At times this looks like having a word with them and at times, it looks like never going back.

Next time you experience anger,give yourself the full permission to feel it without any form of guilt. Remember, it’s both natural and okay to experience “negative” emotions. You’re don’t have to beat yourself up for feeling them. Instead, lean in to those emotions. Listen in.

Be kind with yourself. Find your safe space where you can feel your feelings without being judged and remain there for as long as needed.

<3

“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

#ProjectCanada

💗 Proud moment 💗

This was literally the main objective of my trip to Canada.

I was in tears during the ceremony as I recollected bits and pieces of our past and the very fact that I could make it to Canada to celebrate my brother’s big day.

If you had asked me four years back about traveling to Canada (for that matter, traveling anywhere), I’d have told you it was a dream that might not come true. It fills my heart with immense gratitude thinking about everything that has gone behind making this trip possible for me.

M

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?

A box from the past

#rarediseaseweek #2018

Just yesterday, I found a box filled with all my design stuff which I hadn’t seen in many years. It seems I had forgotten about it and left it with my dad because I wasn’t ready to accept my new reality (and discard anything) and nor was I able resist it. I was experiencing the most horrible internal conflict of all time

To hold on or to let go.

My heart knew well that I needed to let go because I had fought enough and my body was changing. But my mind wouldn’t let me.

Holding on would mean disrespecting and dishonouring the one and only vessel I had for the rest of my life. I had to learn to accept it for what it is but how could I let go of all the things I loved, planned and wanted so much? I was suffering in every way possible.

I knew I had to pause but it was hard to put away my dreams and aspirations for a long period of uncertainty, of not knowing and having answers. And that was scary. But I did it any way because I could no longer neglect the messages from my body.

So when I decided I was ready to jump off the cliff, leave my full-time job, learn to live on my own and put my body first, I told myself I’d deal with this box when I am able to see my past as just one part of my life and not a reflection of my worth . Leaving the box behind, I remember feeling as if a burden of expectation to be the “perfect one” was lifted off my shoulder and at the same time, a heavy sense of grief towards my old self engulfed me.

Who am I without my dreams, I thought.

I know nothing off this path I have carved and imagined. I will be lost. I am lost. And what if I am never found again? What if, despite all my effort and desire to leave my old self behind, I can’t do it? How will I live from here, with the burden of having and wanting to be perfect and knowing that I was born in an imperfect body?

Does honouring my body, which feels like the right thing to do, equate to failure?

Will I be a failure in everyone’s eyes?

Am I a failure in my own eyes?

Here I am now, all set to let go of this box and its contents because they don’t serve the present me.

Maybe it all made sense to some extent then, at the age of 20 and in that once healthy body. I knew nothing more. All I knew came from old, expired programming that I grew up with and around. Today, I believe I am a better version of myself and I’m proud of how far I’ve come.

Of course, my past has served a purpose; it lead me to this day. It taught me the importance of tapping into my inner strength, finding courage to do what is right for the sake of my body, mind and soul without letting the external factors lead me into believing that what I knew was the only truth.

Today, I understand that those around me need not understand me, and that it doesn’t matter if one thinks of me as less but it can be disastrous if I ever let myself think I am not enough. Because I am. And while my path is new and least travelled, it reflects a truer version of myself. It is taking me to a place of peace with my body. I believe and I’ve noticed that this internal shift brings me closer to a life of joy and purpose, one where I wake up everyday knowing I’m making a difference whether or not it is visible to whole wide world and where I live each day as gracefully as possible.

Here I am now,

ready to let go of this box,

both literally and figuratively,

and make space for the new.

With a heart full of gratitude and a lightness, I am ready to give this part of my life a complete closure because I had already said goodbye a long, long time ago.

#chronicillness #ehlersdanlos rarediseaseweek #ehlerdanlossyndrome #hypermobility #EDS #rare #illness #2018 #awareness #pain #suffering #fatigue #brainfog #past #lettinggo #memories #interiorarchitecture #goals #dreams #aspirations#acceptance #health #mind #body #soul #purpose #healing #love

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