I’m a health, wellness and fitness professional & blogger. I also live with a form of autoimmune arthritis known as Ankylosing Spondylitis, as well as Fibromyalgia & Chronic Fatigue Syndrome & Immune Dysfunction Syndrome. I blog about how to navigate the symptoms of these conditions naturally and holistically, while also maintaining a positive mental attitude. I created The Positive Pear as a resource, where it’s my philosophy that we can be “Chroncially happy, healthy, fit & fab” in spite of living with Invisible Chronic Illness.
“Being Positive when Living with a Chronic Illness” has it’s own meaning for everyone. To many who are sick it’s a way of trivializing their suffering and to a small minority it’s this wonderful, peaceful state of mind that requires being completely oblivious to the realities of life. What does it mean to you? Being positive does not come at the risk of ignoring the realities of life, while pretending to be happy. It’s really about being as positive as possible in light of the circumstance, and that gives us the motivation and the ability to enjoy all that we can. I am an eternal optimist, I will always see the class have full and I will always find the positive side to any situation, but I am also a realist. Naturally “being positive” does involve” some degree of happy thoughts and smiling faces but that’s certainly not all. Being positive is a state of mind accompanied by appropriate action. Which if taken at the appropriate time will take us in the direction that we need to go.
I started the “The Positive Pear because I saw the need to encourage a positive mental attitude among people who suffer from invisible chronic illness, and more specifically auto-immune arthritis and aside from saying “be positive” I wanted to define exactly that meant to people who are battling chronic health conditions. While also providing effective tools, to help with achieving this goal. Those who live with chronic illness do not need permission or help with negativity. It’s a natural state of mind that we can easily gravitate towards, when we’re suffering. However people do need permission, encouragement and direction in terms of how to being positive. Sufferers need to know that it’s ok to smile, be happy and enjoy life without the risk of trivializing their own suffering. They need to know that it is not a requirement to appear downtrodden to be taken seriously.
“The seed of suffering in you may be strong, but don’t wait until you have no more suffering before allowing yourself to be happy.” ~Thich Nhat Hanh~
When I was asked by Tiffany Westrich, founder/CEO of the International Autoimmune Arthritis Movement (IAAM) & WAAD Event Coordinator, to host a the chat “Being Positive when Living with a Chronic Illness” I was honored and very excited to have the opportunity to discuss a subject that I enjoy immensely. I also knew that I had my work cut out for me, because this is not an easy subject to tackle with people who are in pain. I thought I’d start by addressing a few misconceptions relating to being positive and living with invisible chronic illness by counteracting these misconceptions with a few truths.
Misconception #1) In order to appear positive I need to smile, be fake and pretend to be happy all of the time:
Ok, let’s be real here, whose happy, or feels like smiling all of the time & who benefits from “fake” positivisty?? Absolutely no one. Though I’m often happy and I do happen to smile a lot, there are days when I simply do not have it in me. Some days you will not have it in you and that’s perfectly acceptable. We have to look at life realistically and accept ourselves for who are, where we are in our lives and how we truly feel. We are wonderful people who happen to be afflicted with a chronic illness. We have both good days and bad days and sometimes we feel wonderful and there are many times when we do not. Self Acceptance is important one of the very first steps to being positive. If we have unreasonable expectations of ourselves, then it becomes very difficult for us to be happy and when we’re unhappy we can not be positive.
Misconception #2) I can’t complain, nor can I speak openly and honestly about how my chronic illness affects me:
This is a very common misconception. I think the mistake that many of us make is not establishing the proper support systems. We attempt to talk about chronic illness and our symptoms with people who do not understand and have no way of knowing what we’re going through, so they can not provide the proper encouragement that we need. As a result they inadvertently trivialize our suffering. If we can not find people within our families or within our communities, we have wonderful online communities filled with people who can understand what we’re experiencing. Sometimes you need to complain, other times you need to cry and it’s during these times that you truly need someone who will be there for you without judgement. We also want to make sure that within our support systems that we have people who are truly supportive. If needed, we have the right to remove toxic, negative people from our lives. Remember “Once You Remove Negative People Positive Ones Appear” & Be Positive & Surround Yourself with Positive People. If you haven’t already, begin the process of establishing a good support system.
Misconception #3) Being positive means I must ignore the bad things that happen in life:
Another common misconception. As we roll with the ebb and flow of life it isn’t hard to miss that bad things sometimes happen. Additionally, misunderstandings, disagreements and conflict also happen just like eating, sleeping and breathing. However, how we handle the bad things that we encounter is what truly matters. We must keep in mind our physical challenges and the impact that stress has on our symptoms and we’ll need to approach situation accordingly. It is important to deal with whatever comes our way. If we’re upset, sad or even angry. It is important to acknowledge how we’re truly feeling, why we’re having such feelings and the best way of coping with these feelings. Seek resolution, by addressing issues if and when needed, or by ignoring them if appropriate. Most importantly being prepared to move on once an issue is resolved. Harboring anger resentment or ill feelings do not benefit us. Being positive does not come at the risk of ignoring one’s own feelings even the bad things in life. However, we can not remain in this “bad” place. We deal with our rough patch, pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off and forge ahead! During these challenging times, I like to refer to a poem entitled “Don’t Quit” “When things go wrong, as they sometimes will” read it & refer to it, because it serves as a nice reminder.
“People have a hard time letting go of their suffering. Out of a fear of the unknown, they prefer suffering that is familiar.” ~Thich Nhat Hanh~
If “being positive” is none of misconceptions that we’ve discussed, then what is it? Being positive while fighting chronic illness means having a positive mental attitude, inner and outer strength, peace, contentment, wellness and ultimately happiness. After all, in spite of battling chronic invisible illness we also deserve happiness. Be willing to let go of some of the self limiting belief systems and open yourself up to other possibilities. What are the best ways in which we can achieve a positive way of thinking? I’ve separated these methods into (4) categories. Giving us the opportunity to briefly discuss the impact that adapting these methods will have on our frame of mind, health, well-being and over all attitude.
1) Brain Food: “All that we are is the result of what we have thought. The mind is everything. What we think we become.” ~Buddha~ What we feed our minds is just an important as what we feed our bodies. Feeding our brains positivity and encouragement while help us to feel both positive and encouraged. This is why you’ll find beautiful picture with inspirational messages in many of the posts on “The Positive Pear”. I think we need constant reminders, because we have the distraction of our symptoms to contend with. We also want to surround ourselves with positive people who can reinforce the type of thinking that we like to have. Just as we’d surround ourselves with successful people, if we were striving for success. Also having reasonable expectation of ourselves, while accepting ourselves for who we truly are and where we are in our in our lives. May is Mental Health month and a reminder to those of us who suffer from physical conditions. We must be mindful of the impact that our conditions have on our mental and emotional health as well. Keeping an eye out for symptoms of depression, stress and anxiety. Educating ourselves about our conditions, all of it’s symptoms and the appropriate treatment and all treatment alternatives not just medications.
2) Healthy Nutrition: Our bodies are working to hard to function as they should, in spite of having compromised immune systems and numerous symptoms. It is important to feed our bodies whole food nutrition and “real food” (chemical-free) focusing on anti-inflammatory foods such as fruit and vegetables, drinking ample water and eat healthy protein. While reducing simple carbohydrates such as: cakes, cookies, pizza, pasta excessive amounts of sugar and completely avoiding processed foods. When eating carbohydrates make sure they are complex carbohydrates, such as those found in fruit, vegetables and whole grains. A good rule of thumb, when “eating for healing” is that if you can’t grow it, then you probably shouldn’t eat it. Though that only roughly covers it:) Have you considered juicing? It’s a wonderful way of getting massive amounts of anti-inflammatory greens into our system without reeking havoc on the digestion system. (check out TPP’s Organic Juicing section) Additionally we want to limit our chemical exposure such as insecticides and pesticides, by buying organic whenever possible and keeping a good fruit & organic/chemical free fruit/veggie cleaner on hand. We also want to avoid GMO foods where the DNA of the food has been altered to grow these precise chemicals within the foods themselves. What we feed our bodies is incredibly important when battling invisible chronic illness, because we use food as fuel and what we put into our bodies can exacerbate or symptoms. We want good fuel, because we want to feel good as often as possible.
3) Exercise: Exercise is crucial to all, especially those of us who suffer from chronic illness. Staying fit can even help us to manage certain symptoms, such as depression, stiffness and chronic pain. What are some exercises that are helpful? For Autoimmune Arthritis Sufferers, strength training is incredibly important, because strong muscles relieve stress on the joints. Yoga is a wonderful way of maintaining flexibility, detoxifying the body, and fighting depression. Dance-Fitness such as Zumba, Salsa, Hip Hop Cardio, Hula Hopping are typically low-impact, incredibly fun and a wonderful way to sneak in weekly cardiovascular exercise without feeling like you’re working out. Also Swimming, Pool Aerobics, Biking, Hiking & lastly Walking which is something that everyone can do and it’s something that you can incorporate into a weekly fitness routine. Exercise reduces stress, allows us to maintain our mobility and it also releases endorphin’s which helps to regulate the pain centers in the brain.
4) Symptom Management: Using a well-balanced approach to managing our disease and chronic conditions is incredibly helpful. Eating well, getting proper amounts of rest and reducing your stress levels are incredibly important in reducing symptoms such as flares. Using healing methods such as exercise, yoga and meditation, natural and alternative therapies such as acupuncture, massage, TENS, MENS, chiropractic treatment (for those without musculoskeletal conditions) herbal supplements, food based supplements such as protein powders which are high in amino acids can be a great way to supplement current treatment methods. Though this falls more under “brain food” educating yourself about your medications and all potential side effects and making changes if needed is also helpful for symptom management. Is your condition something that can be managed naturally and holistically? Consider it as an option and if not, further consider adding a few of these alternative therapies & unique healing elements to your overall care.
Brain Food, Exercise, Healthy Nutrition, Symptom Management are (4) of the key areas to helping us in working toward balance. Being balanced is crucial to achieving and maintaining a positive mental attitude and our positive mental attitude allows us to maintain our hopeful outlook on life. Thank you for taking the time to read this post on how to “Be Positive When Living with a Chronic Illness” and thank to those of you who also joined us for the WADD “World Autoimmune Arthritis Day” Live Chat hosted by The Positive Pear. It is without question, very possible to live “Chronically Happy, Healthy, Fit & Fab” in spite of battling chronic invisible illness.
“I am still determined to be cheerful and happy in whatever situation I may be, for I’ve learned from experience that the greater part of our happiness or misery depends on our dispositions and not on our circumstances.” First Lady ~Martha Washignton~
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