This is for you

When your appearance changes due to illness/ meds, it’s not about vanity, it’s about loss. Not recognizing yourself in the mirror while struggling to heal and navigate the changes in your life adds another level of stress and anguish. I say this because I’ve experienced it.

I’ve never had cancer, nor do I claim to understand how it feels to live with it. I’ve wanted to donate my hair for a long time, but recent events informed my decision to do it now in honour of loved ones – angels, survivors, and those courageously battling – this is for you.  #8or8

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The Answer is YOU

On a wet and miserable evening this past Fall, I sat behind the wheel of my car, desperate for warmth and rest after a very long day. I peered irritably through the watery glare of my windshield at the car I’d been forced to follow for the last few blocks. I sighed with impatience.

“Just get out of my way already!”

As I slowed to a stop at the red light, I saw this:

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The license plate had my name on it and it was screaming in all caps:

THE PERSON HOLDING YOU BACK IS YOU.

I quickly grabbed my phone and took a picture of this random piece of Universe wizardry.

Last week, months after this picture was taken, I was brought back to the truth of that moment. I spent four days in a workshop about reconciliation where we were taught that before we can reconcile with others, we must learn to reconcile with ourselves.

Reconcile: An act of reconciling, as when former enemies agree to an amicable truce. (dictionary.com)

Going into the workshop, I wondered if I would be able to reconcile with lupus, this mysterious, invisible invader that I’ve personified into an ever-present, formidable foe. I was quickly reminded that the factual events of our lives (like getting lupus) cannot be changed, but we can change how we react to those events.

At the workshop, they talked about the reactions that we have “practiced” throughout our lives. These reactions have become so instinctual that they start to define who we are, when in fact, they hold us back from being who we truly are. They broke it down into 13 reactions:

  1. “What About Me” Syndrome
  2. Dishonesty
  3. Dread, Worry, and Fear
  4. Critical: Fault Finder
  5. Blaming and Nurturing Resentment
  6. Anger, Rage, Aggression
  7. Intolerance and Impatience
  8. Addiction to Being Right
  9. Have to be in Control – “My Way or the Highway”
  10. Poor Me, Martyr, Victim
  11. Isolate and Withdraw
  12. Explanation
  13. Excuses for Everything – “I can’t do it”

(Credit: Returning to Spirit)

For me, #3 and #11 are my top two recurring reactions, although I can say I’ve done every single one at some point in my life. I also know that my top two reactions have been at the root of all the major flares I’ve had in the last 15 years.

“When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.” – Victor Frankl

To be clear, I’m not advocating for a pollyanna view of our lupus troubles, only that trying to be self aware of our reactive behaviour is a way to decrease emotional and mental stress, which is a major lupus trigger.

So, in the end, the car turned off and I was able to complete my speedy mission towards warmth and rest. And really, I think that’s what we all want:

A clear path towards something good. 

The last person that should be standing in your way is you.

NOTE: The broader scope of the workshop was about reconciliation with Canada’s Indigenous People. If you are interested, here is a CBC radio segment that addresses self-reconciliation and how it fits into this important issue.

Sick is Not Weak

Shifting sharply away from the mournful, sentimental tone of traditional healthcare campaigns, the SickKids Foundation completely blew me away with their incredibly powerful new video, “VS.

Sick is not weak. Sick is fighting back.

No matter your age or illness, this video reminds us that perspective is everything and that yes, YOU ARE BRAVE. Yes, you are strong as hell and YES, tell whatever you are battling that THIS FIGHT IS ON.

Set Your Lock Screen with Purpose!

How many times do you check your phone? According to an article posted by the Daily Mail, a New York-based screen lock app discovered that an average user checks their phone 110 times a day! This particular app (Locket) pays users in return for showing advertisements on their lock screens, but what if we used our lock screens to invest in our state of mind instead? What if we advertised well-being and positive thinking to ourselves 110 times a day?

I definitely don’t check my phone that often, but enough for me to feel that my lock screen can be a source of motivation, focus, and on particularly dark days, courage and comfort. If a quote really resonates with me, it has the power to redirect my thinking almost instantaneously. I’ve found great lock screen images and quotes on Pinterest and I’ve also created my own quote images on Canva (FF’s Healing Quote of the Moment graphic on the side bar is one example). This is what my lock screen looks like today:

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Changing your lock screen is a small thing you can do to inject some positive thinking into your day. I know that getting on the “positivity train” can cause a lot of eyeball rolling, especially if you are feeling hopeless, sick, and in pain. Believe me, I hear you and I’ve been there. It doesn’t work for everyone, but for me, it’s an exercise in self-awareness. Through the simple act of changing your lock screen image, you’ve assessed and acknowledged where you are at, and you’ve thought about what you need that day to move forward. It doesn’t solve any problem directly, but at least you’re taking a step to address how you feel about it. Small victories, right?

That being said, I propose a lock screen challenge: Set your lock screen with purpose for one day. Do you need inspiration? Focus? Courage? Joy? Carry that positive mojo with you and let me know how it goes. I would love to know what your fav picks would be for top notch lock screen motivation! Since my American readers are celebrating Thanksgiving today, I’ll share my favourite gratitude lock screen image courtesy of simplereminders.com. They have a killer instagram account, posting tons of thought provoking quotes several times a day. I’ve used several of their photos on my lock screen – this one reminds me to change my perspective when negative thoughts start hijacking my mind:

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And while we are on the topic of gratitude, I’d like to thank Lupus Chick for featuring my story as part of their Spotlight Series. Lupus Chick is a fun, stylin’ support site that is full of great resources – they even offer a college scholarship! Check out my Lupus Chick Spotlight Series interview here.

Oh, and I’m not sure if you can feel it, but I’m sending you healing vibes for a healthy and amazing week ahead! Here in Canada, we’ve already celebrated Thanksgiving, but I want to wish a very happy Thanksgiving holiday to all of you in the U.S.A. Till next post, my friends!