My name is Marya and I live in Florida with my husband and three of my younger children (16, 18 and 21.) As a special needs mom with chronic illness I’ve learned a lot about juggling spoons since my diagnosis in 2010. On these pages you can find hope and encouragement for a healthier mind, body and spirit.
Mindful living means to live in the present moment without judging yourself or others. Most of us run from from one thing to the next, are stressed out and living on autopilot and mindful living doesn’t come naturally to busy women.
Did you ever hear the expression “Keep your head where your feet are?” How often do you find yourself attending to one task while your mind is elsewhere? This might look like doing the dishes while thinking about the argument you had with your friend three weeks ago.
Continuously reliving the past makes it hard to stay in the now and will lead to you carrying around anger, resentment and other unpleasant emotions.
Accept People and Life As They Are
When we’re living on autopilot, it’s all too easy to react emotionally to difficult situations. For example, you might see a disturbing story on the news. You feel agitated and sad. But instead of reaching for something to distract yourself, you stay in the moment. You acknowledge your emotions without judgement. This one little thing frees you from losing a day of productivity because you were obsessing on this one news item.
Mindful Living Helps You To Be Grateful
During unenjoyable moments, like while you’re cleaning your home or doing tedious client work, it’s very tempting to let your mind wander. But when you’re living mindfully, you’re intentionally staying in the moment, even if that situation is uncomfortable.
If you’re in the middle of a task that you don’t find pleasant, don’t give into negative feelings or griping. Look for something to be thankful for! For example, you might say to yourself that you’re grateful you have a house to clean, or that you have enough clients to pay for your monthly bills.
Mindful Living Helps to Improve Your Mood
Mindful living is a great way to naturally improve your mood. Many times, anxiety is the result of worrying about the future and sadness comes from dwelling on the past. Mindfulness helps to improve your mood because it forces you to stop overthinking everything.
There’s nothing you can do to change your past, you have to accept what’s happened in your life and move forward in a positive direction. But if you find that you’re often haunted by people or situations from your past, it’s a good idea to speak to a trained counselor who can help you to work through things and move on.
How Can I Practice Mindful Living?
Mindful living takes some intention and effort. It doesn’t come naturally to most of us. But when we live with intention, we’re not sleepwalking through life. We’re fully present in every situation that the day presents to us.
If the concept of mindful living is challenging to you, be encouraged that you can do this. Here’s a few exercises to get you started.
Eat and Drink Slowly
What’s the first drink you reach for in the morning? Maybe it’s coffee, tea, or a refreshing smoothie. Before you take that first sip of the day, take a mindful pause. Literally, stop and smell your coffee (or tea!)
What does your drink smell like? Taste it. What is the temperature like? What flavors do you taste against your tongue? Then notice how your cup feels in your hand as you take another sip. Swallow slowly and savor your drink.
Similarly, eating mindfully means to slow down, express gratitude for the food you’re eating and paying attention to why you’re really eating. Is it because you’re actually hungry, or is it because you’re stressed out?
Go outside for a walk in nature
Notice the air temperature, the breeze on your skin and in your hear. Do you hear any birds singing? Do you know what kind of birds they are? Do you see any flowers? What thoughts are coming up now? How do they make you feel? As you walk, take some time to fully notice the environment around you.
You might want to bring a camera and a notebook. Take pictures of items that are of interest. Write down what made them stand out toyou. Is it the color or the texture that attracted your attention? Did you notice a shape or pattern? Was there a sound or smell that attracted you to this item?
Listen to music
Sit in your most comfortable chair and play some background music that relaxes you. Classical music is a good choice. You can also look for meditative music on YouTube or Spotify.
As you’re listening, focus on your breath. Inhale through your nose, exhale through your mouth. Take deep belly breaths. Allow your thoughts to come and go without trying to hold too tightly to them. Examine each thought like an observer.
Pay attention to how your body may be going into resistance, by starting to fidget or your mind beginning to wander. Return to your breath if this happens.Notice how the thoughts and experiences that come up influence how you feel.
Benefits of Mindful Coloring
Choose a coloring page that’s fun and inspires you. How do the colors you have chosen make you feel? What does it feel like when you move the pen, marker or pencil over paper? What thoughts are coming up for you? How are these thoughts affecting you? You might want to journal some of these emotions. You might want to alternate between coloring and journaling if it helps you.
It’s perfectly normal to feel uncomfortable the first few times that you try to practice being mindful. Think of mindfulness as a new habit that you’re trying to develop, and that will take some time. Keep doing exercises like the ones above regularly and you will eventually become comfortable with the concept of living mindfully.
Mindful living is one simple way to improve your life. Try to spend a week focused on mindful living and see how your thoughts and outlook change.
Coming to terms with my recent ulcerative colitis diagnosis is a constant struggle. On my best days, I feel like I can handle anything but on the worst days when I’m flaring and the symptoms are at their worst, I feel demoralized, defeated and just want to stay in bed near the bathroom.
Right now my symptoms are all over the place. I don’t have the extreme bleeding, pain and weight loss that I did a year ago but I still struggle a lot with fatigue, nausea and incontinence. I try not to worry about the big meds and the big hospitalizations, but it’s hard not to think about that possibility when I connect with the online IBD community.
I have to trust that God is in charge of the big picture and if anything major happened that my son with special needs will be cared and provided for.
When life hands me lemons, I try to remember what I can be grateful for, starting with the unconditional love and support I receive from my husband and kids. I’m also really grateful that healthy shopping options have bloomed in my area and I don’t have to drive more than ten miles to get the nutritious foods I rely on for the Specific Carbohydrate Diet such as almond flour, medjool dates, free range chicken and eggs, bananas and peanut butter. Seriously, these are my 5 major food groups many days!
Thanks to social media, I know that I’m never alone.
These recent posts on HealthCentral reminded me to never give up and never stop fighting.
Things can and do get better. I suffered for years and I never thought I would get to a point where my day-to-day life wasn’t unbearably painful. Yet here I am, in remission, thanks to my hospital and medication. Keep fighting and trying different things to improve your health, as one thing that might not work for someone else could work for you!”
“Every minute, every hour, every day that passes brings you closer to your goal. Closer to healing. Closer to living. Stay strong, fight hard, and look forward to tomorrow! Your journey starts with the first step. Be brave. Keep moving.”
— Sarah Henning, UC patient since 2007
It’s a daily battle for me to stay positive and not get bogged down with anxiety, worry and negative thinking.
One of my favorite stories that I go back to time and again is the old Cherokee story about two wolves.
One evening, an elderly Cherokee brave told his grandson about a battle that goes on inside people.
He said, “my son, the battle is between two ‘wolves’ inside us all. One is evil. It is anger, envy, jealousy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.
The other is good. It is joy, peace love, hope serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith.”
The grandson though about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, “which wolf wins?”
The old Cherokee simply replied, “the one that you feed.”
“Don’t feed the bad wolf” has become an important mantra in managing my mental health. Every day I have a choice to do things that feed my spirit, to eat the right foods and guard my energy output.
One day at a time I can keep putting my best foot forward and showing up for life.
No sooner do holiday decorations get put away in January then special needs parents start to think about the long summer break and how they’re going to keep their kids busy all summer. Here in Florida the heat is stifling during the summer and since my son is heat sensitive, he has to be closely monitored outside.
For us, break starts at the beginning of June and the kids go back to school the third week of August. As a disabled mom, this presents a number of challenges since it’s hard for me to take him to places like the beach (45 miles away). Closer attractions like Busch Gardens and water parks are within driving distance but I can’t go there alone with him. And since we live in a rural subdivision, we don’t have a community pool.
Here’s a few summer activities I came up with:
Summer Activities for Kids With Special Needs
*YMCA – We can always go swimming there and our branch has some adaptive activities going on throughout the year.
*Camp – While the cost can be high, it can be made more affordable by investigating various scholarship options either from the camp itself, your local disability group or a community service organization.
*ESY – Extended School Year Services – This is no longer an option for us but since services vary from state to state (and county to county) it may be worthwhile to check out if your child qualifies.
*Movies – Our local theater offers free showings a couple of mornings a week for kids during the summer.
*The mall – Need to escape the heat? Go during the week when it’s less crowded. Grab something from Starbucks or ice cream, visit an Apple store (if you have one) or get a quick massage at Brookstone.
*Your local craft or home improvement store – Stores like Michael’s and Lowes often offer classes for kids.
*Theraputic Horseback Riding – See if any riding facilities are available in your area.
*Stay at home fun – This doesn’t have to be complicated. Let your child built a fort in the living room or lanai. Outdoor fun can be as simple as a kiddy pool, a hose or helping to wash the car. Try some new crafts that you may not have had time for during the year.
*Call a friend from school – Did your child have a buddy at school last year? They’re probably missing each other by now. Call the parents up and see if you can get together!
*Network with other families – If you don’t have a support group, consider starting a meet up with like minded families so you can get out of the house. You can set up dates for swimming and go out for ice cream or other social activities. Maybe you can even organize a much needed mom’s morning (or evening) out!
*Visit your local library – Besides books and movies, many library branches offer summer activities for kids.
*Intergenerational events – If you belong to a faith community, chances are there are some senior people who would love the chance to make a difference in the lives of our kids. Consider hosting neighborhood fellowship dinner or movie nights.
Homeschooling Your Child With Special Needs
This doesn’t have to be scary or stressful. It can be as simple as “unschooling” using some of the activities I mentioned above. Pick a couple of goals to work on – maybe practice reading with flashcards or review physical, speech or fine motor goals.
Five in a Row (This is the homeschooling program I used with my older kids. You’d probably have to adapt the lessons for your child but the books selections are so wonderful that they will be a great experience for both of you.
The Importance of Self Care for Special Needs Moms
In the eternal quest to keep our kids busy and learning, it’s all to easy to run ourselves into the ground. During the school year we’re busy enough with school, appointments and extracurricular activities. It’s perfectly okay for both of you to have some down time. You need that time of restoration and rest.
Special needs parenting is a marathon, not a sprint. When you properly pace yourself you’ll be able to move through the next leg of your journey with renewed strength and vitality.
This doesn’t necessarily mean a mani/pedi or a massage (though it would be nice!) It can be as simple as some gentle exercise every day, reading a book that you haven’t had time to get to, doing something creative or starting a meditation practice.
I’ve written extensively about the importance of self care for moms.
Walking down the street, Jesus saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked, “Rabbi, who sinned: this man or his parents, causing him to be born blind?” Jesus said, “You’re asking the wrong question. You’re looking for someone to blame. There is no such cause-effect here. Look instead for what God can do. John 9:1-3 from The Message
Unfortunately some Christians think that that every illness or disability must be the result of a lack of faith or sin in a person’s life. What a discouraging burden to put on someone who’s already struggling!
We don’t become disabled because we’re being punished for something. Neither are we defective because even in our disability, we’re fearfully and wonderfully made and God has a plan and a purpose for our lives.
I don’t like living with chronic illness, pain or suffering. I’d take the healing in a minute. But I’ve come to the place that God allows suffering for His purpose. I’ve learned many life lessons as a special needs mom and as a person with a disability. It’s taught me to be patient and to persevere. It’s deepened my prayer life. And it has given me a deeper compassion for the marginalized in our society which is also the heart of God.
Being disabled with dystonia and ulcerative colitis has also forced me to accept my limits and not be so self sufficient which in all honesty, I hate. I don’t want to need anybody or ask for help, but when I became incapacitated for a time there wasn’t much choice but to learn to rest in God’s care and provision.
God can use any and every illness or disability to bring glory to His name. At times He may do that through a physical healing but sometimes He works in the situation by giving you the supernatural strength to persevere to keep on going even when you’re struggling with chronic illness or disability.
I was given the gift of a handicap to keep me in constant touch with my limitations…At first I didn’t think of it as a gift, and begged God to remove it. Three times I did that, and then he told me, My grace is enough; it’s all you need. My strength comes into its own in your weakness. Once I heard that, I was glad to let it happen. I quit focusing on the handicap and began appreciating the gift. It was a case of Christ’s strength moving in on my weakness. Excerpt from 2 Corinthians 12:7-10 The Message
Living with disability is so hard. I have days where I’m functioning relatively well and other days where I’m leveled. It’s depressing and lonely at times. But God has been my strength throughout my disability journey and He has always been faithful to provide.
Speaking from my experience as a special needs mom, we’ve been blessed to meet so many amazing people who are on the journey with us and those who come along aside to minister to families like ours. My son has become my greatest spiritual teacher. Of course some days are still difficult. Having a disability like ulcerative colitis which demands that I locate a bathroom within 5 minutes of feeling the urge makes taking my son out to be very challenging, especially now that he’s an adult.
I’ll never know this side of heaven why I had to experience disability on top of the demands of being a special needs mom. I feel very helpless at times, but I know that He will be with me on the path as I continue on this journey. All I have to do is remember to abide in Him, and to continue in prayer and meditation to seek His will for my life.
God, this is hard to ask but let me rejoice in illness and in disability, even as I pray for healing and practice self care, for I know the plans You have for me are good. Use my disability to bring You glory in all I do. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Many times in my life I’ve felt like I was on the sidelines watching my family go out without me because I was too sick or in two much pain to leave the house. Then stupidly checking into social media, I’d see more families having outings that were completely off limits to me. That of course made me feel even worse! I’m slowly earning that the best thing to do when I’m struggling to cope with chronic illness is to spend some time with some Bible verses before I look at social media.
I never cried out to God about it when I was feeling like this. I would just sink into myself and become depressed about it. It’s probably the worst thing I could have done! One of the hardest things that anyone can go through is a debilitating chronic illness. Many times, these illnesses are mysterious, come on suddenly and have no end in sight. While I was lucky enough to get diagnosed right away, others go from doctor to doctor for years without ever finding out what’s wrong.
It’s easier to go through a trial when you think that it will have an ending date. For example, if you’ve ever had a bad flu you know that sooner or later it’s going to pass. That hope keeps you going in spite of your current misery.
But when you live with chronic illness, you don’t have the comfort and assurance that it’s going to end, at least not on this side of heaven. Instead, you’re faced with the overwhelming prospect that you might be facing physical suffering for years, or even for the rest of your life.
And that’s just the physical and emotional side! If you’re a spiritual person, you might be wondering where God is in all of this, and if He’s abandoned you. You might think you’re being punished for something you did. You might wonder if you have enough faith to deal with all of this.
All of these reactions are completely normal. What you’re experiencing is grief. Grief is simply the pain that we encounter when we lose something. For many of us, it’s not just our lost health. It’s also feeling like you’re missing out on life. One of the challenges of living with chronic illness is staying spiritually and emotionally strong when you feel awful all of the time. You might feel like you start with an empty gas tank every day.
Some Christians believe they should put on their bootstraps and tough it out when they’re dealing with a chronic illness. This is never productive! Instead of trying to bury these feelings, take some daily time to go into God’s presence and share your emotions with Him.
One of the ways that I personally stay encouraged and keep myself from slipping into depression is by spending some intentional time reading the Bible every day. I’m currently following the She Reads Truth and Bible in One Year plans.
Is it a lot of reading? Yes, but it’s a much better use of my time than scrolling social media! Using the audio on YouVersion, with Max McLean reading the NIV version has really helped me to stay focused.
I’ve compiled a list of some of my favorite Bible verses that help me cope with chronic illness as well as the depression and anxiety that go along with it.
Bible Verses for Coping With Chronic Illness
Hebrews 13:5b “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.”
John 14:18 “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.”
Romans 8:38-39 “For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Psalms 40:1-3 I waited patiently for the LORD; he inclined to me and heard my cry. He drew me up from the pit of destruction, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure. He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God. Many will see and fear, and put their trust in the LORD.
Psalms 32:10 Many are the sorrows of the wicked, but steadfast love surrounds the one who trusts in the LORD.
Psalms 42:11 Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.
Isaiah 41:10 fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.
Proverbs 3:5-6 Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. 6 In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.
Psalms 94:19 When the cares of my heart are many, your consolations cheer my soul.
Jeremiah 29:11 For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.
Psalm 50:10-11 “For every beast of the forest is mine, the cattle on a thousand hills. I know all the birds of the hills, and all that moves in the field is mine.”
2 Corinthians 4:16-18 So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.
Isaiah 43:2 “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you.”
John 14:1 “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me.”
Psalm 107:29-30 “He made the storm be still and the waves of the sea were hushed. Then they were glad that the waters were quiet, and he brought them to their desired haven.”
John 14:1-3 “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also…”
Philippians 1:6 And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.
Psalms 46:1 God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.
The Power of Prayer
James 5:14-16 Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.
1 John 5:14 This is the confidence we have in approaching God, that if we ask anything according to His will, he hears us.
1 Chronicles 16:11 Look to the Lord and His strength, seek His face always.
A couple of years ago I lost a dear friend and long time mentor due to a sudden heart attack at the relatively young age of 57. Carrie Fisher passed away from a heart attack in 2016 at 60. This is frightening and eye-opening for me. As a special needs mom, I want to be here for my children as long as I can. It’s really important that we all understand warning signs of a heart attack in women.
Would you know if you were having a heart attack?
As women, many of us live a daily juggling act of working, caregiving and other responsibilities, resulting in stress that can damage the heart and its blood vessels. Some women may have existing damage from years of drug use. Special needs moms might be more vulnerable to heart problems due to the ongoing stress of caregiving, advocacy and not having enough time for self care.
Chronic illness patients might be at risk due to their condition or possibly the meds that they need to take to manage their condition.
Disclaimer: I’m not a doctor, and this blog post doesn’t constitute medical advice. This is some general information about symptoms of heart attacks in women you should be aware of, and how the symptoms in women can differ from those in men.
What are the warning signs of a heart attack in women?
Although women can present with these typical signs and symptoms of a heart attack, there is a danger of being misdiagnosed upon arriving to the emergency room. They might even be told they’re having just having an anxiety attack! This might be because women are more likely than men to have complaints of other symptoms that are not chest-pain related. Women’s heart attack symptoms are more vague, and less clear-cut.
Like men, a woman’s most common complaint that signals a heart attack is chest pain or discomfort. In women, this pain can be anywhere in the chest, not just on the left side.
Pain in the back or jaw, arms or neck. You may notice that the pain comes and goes, and varies in intensity. It may be severe enough to wake you up at night. If you are experiencing any pain from the waist up that is unusual for you, be sure to consult a physician right away.
Pain or pressure in the stomach, nausea, and/or vomiting. This kind of pain or pressure can often be confused with reflux (heartburn) and ulcers that are not relieved with antacids, so be sure to get it checked out if it is not getting better. The pressure may even feel like someone is sitting on top of you, squeezing the air out of you.
Breaking out in cold sweats. This kind of sweating is common in women experiencing heart attacks. It is not related to menopausal hot flashes, and is not exercise related.
Extreme fatigue and exhaustion. When it feels like a chore to do even the simplest of tasks, keep in mind that you could be having a heart attack. Often, it is described as a feeling of fatigue that never seems to go away.
Lightheadedness, and/or shortness of breath. You may find that you are having trouble breathing for no reason, even when just staying still or walking. You may feel like you have just exercised, and you have not. Again, seek immediate help. (You may also have asthma. I didn’t get diagnosed myself until my 50s.)
Do only older women have heart attacks?
No! Women can have heart attacks before they are forty years old, particularly those with certain risk factors including:
*Use of birth control pills in high-risk individuals
*Lack of exercise
The Importance of Self Care for Cardiovascular Health
It’s a well known fact that self care and proper stress management is essential for optimal cardiovascular health. If you’re constantly burning the candle at both ends without eating well or exercising, you are putting yourself at risk for a cardiac event. No matter how busy your lifestyle is, you can work in some intentional time for self care.
In conclusion, even if you are not experiencing chest pain, listen to your instinct. If something seems wrong, get it checked out right away. And remember that what you are experiencing could be misdiagnosed, so be sure to ask questions and be your own best advocate. Don’t be afraid to keep pushing.
I’ve been struggling with Mommy Guilt for years now. In our family, there’s always been the never ending doctor appointments for each of us, my chronic pain, fatigue and wondering if we should attempt any extracurricular activities. And on top of this, I have to make time for my own self care. It’s not an option any more. I’ve got to carve out the time for nutritious food and yoga or I’ll wind up on my back feeling like I’m of no use to any one.
Being a mom with chronic illness and pain is the hardest thing I’ve ever had to live with. The mommy guilt is never ending. It’s hard for me to watch the families around me who are able to participate or at least just get their kids to the plethora of supplemental activities in our area.
It’s harder still to watch the happy pictures on my social media feed of happy families who simply get to do life without lots of forethought. Just like I used do to before cervical dystonia entered my life as a very unwanted houseguest in 2010, and ulcerative colitis in 2018.
In our family we have been blessed that as a retiree with a pension, my husband has been able to take over much of the care for our son and get him where he needs to be. My cervical dystonia diagnosis has also meant getting off the long wait for social services in Florida to get much needed assistance, and I’m profoundly grateful for that. God has shown his provision for our family, without a doubt.
When I was homeschooling, the anxiety began as I considered the school year calendar. For awhile I needed to access the pool at my health club 2 or 3 times a week to calm my spasming muscles. I didn’t know how I was supposed to manage that at the end of the day when I was typically exhausted and out of spoons. And there were the church and small group activities…of course you have to show up to feel part of but how does that work when you’re constantly leveled with fatigue? And then there were the 12 step recovery meetings that I really needed more than anything but was unable to get to.
These days, I find a lot of recovery and chronic illness support online. I know that “in person” is always best but am not sure what the alternative is in this season of my life.
Right now I don’t know how it’s all going to come together. It is labor intensive for the rest of my family. I’m working on better time management practices and organization. I have to continually pace everything so that I don’t overtax myself. I plan around the reality that some days my IBD is going to flare or my muscles are going to be spasming so much I don’t want to get out of bed, much less leave the house.
Some Tips for Coping with Mommy Guilt and Chronic Pain
Spiritual Disciplines – My journey with chronic pain has really developed my interest in prayer, meditation and the spiritual disciplines. Years ago in recovery rooms I learned that we only have a daily reprieve from our disease based on our spiritual condition. Taking that daily time with God helps the day to flow better, and I’m learning to continuously work on practicing the presence of God and developing a habit of unceasing prayer.
Self care – As moms, we tend to put ourselves last. I did it for years. In hindsight, I think my lack of self care set the stage for my autoimmune problems. I’ve learned (a little late in life) that when chronic pain or illness is a part of our lives, we have to make that time for our own wellness a priority. Self care isn’t selfish. Simplify your life as much as you can to minimize stress. For example, use your crockpot or instant pot for an easy dinner and to save spoons at the end of the day. Have your kids help clean the house. If you need a pajama day, it’s perfectly okay. And take full advantage of the convenience of online shopping.
Find what you love and just do it – I blog because I like it. Writing is a great release for me and I’ve loved learning all the technical ins and outs of blogging. It’s empowering to know that my brain still works. I also love yoga. When I could do little else besides lay on the couch and read, yoga gave me my physical life back and something to strive for. For you it might be quilting, crocheting or gentle gardening. Whatever it is for you, it’s a great mental distraction from the dailiness of chronic pain.
Communication – Talk with your family about your condition and how it impacts you without making them feel guilty or overwhelming them. You’ll have children who are more sensitive and patient. That being said, it is hard to watch them sacrifice over and over again.
Let go of Mommy Guilt – You’re a good mom (preaching to myself here.) You are enough. Do the best you can. Embrace life’s little moments as they come to you no matter where you are. Whether you’re on the couch or out and about, your children love you no matter what and appreciate what you do for them.
How do you find balance as a mom who lives with chronic illness?
If you spend any time on Instagram, it’s hard not to notice that body positivity is a thing.
I took notice of it but never really thought about it being “for me.” After all, I’ve lost most of the extra weight. I’m past it. But am I?
I’ve never had a healthy relationship with food or my body. My earliest memories are of using food to numb myself from toxic family situations. When I became a teen I thought that sticking my fingers down my throat to lose the contents of my latest binge was a novel idea. The first time I ever took an amphetamine I thought that this was the magical answer to all of my weight and introvert problems. I never became a full blown bulimic, it was eclipsed by drinking but the fact that I even thought to do it in the first place was a little problematic.
Over the past decade my life has taken a few plot twists. When dystonia first appeared in 2010, my neck took a hard twist to the right and stayed there. Not only that, but I was shaking. I took a look at myself (now having to navigate Walmart in a wheelchair) and it was devastating. I didn’t want to be photographed or even look at myself in the mirror.
When the ulcerative diagnosis came last year, naturally I took to social media to find others who were living with it. There was no way of escaping the colostomy bags that were outward signs of the big IBD surgeries. I stopped looking. I couldn’t let my mind go there.
Like I did with the dystonia, I dug my heels in and resolved to fight this thing. So far I’m stable even with the severe pancolitis version that I have (it affects my entire colon) but who knows if that will always be the case?
I know that sooner or later a diagnosis will come that I can’t fight my way out of. I have to learn to begin to accept myself the way I look at this stage in my life and what I’m capable of on any given day. It’s a big struggle for me. I still want to be supermom. I love to do those endorphin pumping workouts for an hour that give me that amped feeling, but every time I do them I wind up sick within a day. So I have to force myself to stay within my limitations which right now is about 30 minutes of yoga and 15 minutes of cardio walking.
Will I look like a Crossfitter? No, but I can say I’m doing reasonably well for a woman who’s turning 57 this year. And on that note, a few months ago I decided to embrace my natural curls (which are very spiraly in the Florida humidity) and as of two weeks ago, decided to start growing out my gray hair, even if I do wind up looking like Lily Munster with a big grey streak.
I’m finally at a point in my life where I’m learning to accept..and even embrace..the real me. My son who has Down Syndrome has been my teacher. I’m sure he doesn’t care about his physical differences (though he does care about what he wears!) and doesn’t notice them in anyone else. Ask anyone about my son and they’ll tell you about how he makes them smile. This is a lesson all of us can learn!
Body Positivity Isn’t About Your Weight
Like me, some people see all the Instagram pix about body positivity and they immediately think that’s it’s only about how much or little someone weighs. But it’s more than that. Body positivity is about celebrating your unique self.
The very thing that you dislike about yourself may be what makes you stand out from the crowd. For me, it’s my slightly off posture. Maybe it’s stretch marks you bear as a proud badge of bringing little lives into the world. Maybe your face tells the story of the addiction or chronic illness and pain you’ve lived with for years. Maybe you have scars from past surgeries or accidents. Maybe you live with PCOS. Or maybe you’re living with an eating disorder.
In a world that focuses on Instagram (and often Photoshopped or filtered) perfection, these “flaws” can often leave you feeling “less than”, insecure, and cause you to doubt yourself. However, you are no less worthy than anyone else just because you look or feel different.
Learning to Own Who You Are
In the recent movie, The Greatest Showman, one of the characters is Lettie Lutz, played by Keala Settle. Lettie is an overweight woman with a beard who’s been convinced she must hide herself away and that nobody would love her just as she was.
When she gets past her weight and lets her gift flow, she belts out This is Me about owning who she is. This song is what embracing body positivity is really about—coming out of your hiding place to proclaim who you really are.
Why Body Positivity Is Empowering
Body positivity isn’t just for a certain kind of body. And it’s not about being a particular age or ethnicity. It’s about embracing every aspect of who you are and not allowing the people or the world around you to make you feel like you’re not good enough.
Body positivity is simply about being proud of who YOU are and simply owning it. It’s about realizing we all have imperfections and flaws. Some of them may be visually obvious; and some are not. Stop hiding (speaking to myself here!) Own who you are and let those who are uncomfortable with the real you deal with their emotions. Remember it isn’t your job to enlighten them! It’s essential because we all have many more things to accomplish in this one life we’ve been given that are more important than obsessing over how we look.
Every so often the same old arguments about yoga and Christians resurface. I had resolved to keep my thoughts to myself about the matter, but as I was reading (though not responding) to a recent online kerfluffle there were a number of comments from people like me, who had successfully used yoga to help manage their chronic illness issues and didn’t understand why there had to be such a fuss. Even worse, they were wondering if they should discontinue the very practice that had helped them to heal!
My Story of Chronic Illness and Yoga
In 2010 I got diagnosed with cervical dystonia, a crippling neurological movement disorder that affected my neck and shoulders. I quickly became so incapacitated I lost my ability to drive and could barely stand up to cook a quick meal. I shook so hard I looked like I had Parkinson’s. I was a homeschooling mom and I couldn’t get off the couch. I was devastated.
The only “help” I got from mainstream doctors was Botox shots and dangerous pharmaceuticals that I didn’t want to take. I was flattened and desperate to get up.
I came across a book called Yoga for Movement Disorders and I started to use it. I was a Christian and I simply skipped over anything that was mystical in content. I moved on to Gary Kraftsow’s video for neck and shoulders.
As a Christian I know that the Holy Spirit gives us discernment about what to do and not do and will lead us into all truth. I found a Holy Yoga book at the store and got it, but I do better with video so I found a couple of teachers that were secular, but didn’t make me feel uncomfortable.
Over time and with discipline and consistency, I started to get better and got my range of motion back. I’ve been to a lot of secular classes, but I never had any desire to pursue alternative spirituality. I stay grounded in the Word every single day. The only thing I did discover that there is a great big beautiful world of Christian thought outside of rigid fundamentalism and I’ve been learning more about developing a contemplative prayer life from people like Henri Nouwen, Ed Cyzewski and others.
I still have cervical dystonia and ulcerative colitis. Both have to be managed on a daily basis. Stress reduction is essential. Dr. Farias, who has made great strides in naturally treating dystonia patients, uses restorative yoga as part of his protocol. I hope to be able to see him someday but until then, I’m doing what works for me. I have no guilt. Years of chronic stress dysregulated my nervous system, causing my brain signals to misfire and it’s taken years to slowly bring it back to a parasympathetic state. Other options like Pilates, T. Tapp and “Christian stretching” aren’t the right choice for me.
The common objection to yoga is that it is rooted in Hinduism. Some say that the poses in yoga were intended as antennas for attracting false gods. Other objections focus on the meditation and chanting that are often used. Meditation is seen as dangerous because it involves emptying one’s mind and focusing on a single word or phrase. And the greeting commonly heard at yoga classes, Namaste, has been criticized because it means, “I bow to the divine in you”; which many view to be pantheism. Among other criticisms, some have warned that yoga practice is a slippery slope into New Age. And more spiritual concerns warn against the kundalini spirit that is focused on in some types of yoga.
With all these objections it would be easy to just run and hide from all things yoga. Christians have long been in the habit of circling the wagons and hiding. But what if, instead of turning tail and running from what is shown to be a very beneficial form of exercise, we took a redemptive posture and sought to find the good in yoga?
Yes, yoga has Eastern origins but roots don’t determine everything. There are a number of holidays and traditions we celebrate including Mardi Gras, Valentine’s Day, Birthdays that have pagan origin, or elements of paganism. Many of these are celebrated by Christian culture and embraced by common culture. How many of us put up Christmas trees to celebrate the birth of Christ? According to Encyclopedia Britannica and other sources, the origins of the Christmas tree are closely tied to pagan winter rites and even tree worship among pre-Christian Europeans. Christians took something that had been used in pagan origin and re-interpreted it, giving it new meaning as a symbol of Christian faith. This is similar to what has been done with yoga – it has been reinterpreted to fit the needs of those who are practicing it. Just as in the case of Christmas trees and many other holidays we love, yoga can be re-interpreted to benefit followers of Christ.
Many Christians who are anti-yoga fail to realize is that mindfulness isn’t necessarily Hindu. Many early Christian spiritual teachers taught their disciples to develop something they called nespis, which means to be wakeful and attentive and to watch what was around them.
I have a very long history of anxiety, depression and racing thoughts. Practicing mindfulness has helped me to slow my thinking down and find more focus as I strive to do one thing at a time. I primarily use the Calm app for this.
Can We All Get Along?
I completely understand why someone coming out of an Eastern/new age background might need an alternative to traditional yoga because it’s a sin to them (Romans 14) and possibly trigger negative spiritual experiences. But why the need to throw a stumbling block in front of those who have found physical and emotional relief through a balanced yoga practice?
We’re so fortunate to live in a day and age when we have a choice! If something isn’t right for you, go ahead and find something else! As I read through the comment thread on the kerfluffle I mentioned above, I wondered why some feel the need to “warn” others about yoga. Can’t we all stay in our own lanes? If you don’t want to do it, then don’t. But if your friend is finding health and vitality through her yoga practice, let her find her path.
Some Christians make a business out of perpetual outrage. It sells lots of books, speaking engagements and drives traffic to their blogs. It also creates division amongst Christians who should be focused on sharing the message to a hurting world and reaching out to the marginalized.
Many in Christian suburban America don’t see that there’s a lot of hurting people out from very diverse backgrounds who might never enter a church – but they might attend a yoga class. Why not reach out to them where they’re at? They just might find Jesus on the mat!
If you’re a Christian who wants to practice yoga, simply try out some different classes or DVDs. Most local gym classes are exercise focused without an Eastern element. If you’re worried, just ask before you go. If a video doesn’t sit right with you, don’t do it and try another one.
For me, I found three secular yoga teachers that I was comfortable with and I just stick with them. With my physical challenges, I needed experienced teachers who could help me adapt things as I needed to. I also learned to pace myself and to accept that it was okay to have restorative days. I stay away from anything that says anything to do with kundalini or goddess awakenings.
I’ve found that the deep breathing and mindfulness that I practice with yoga has helped to calm down my perpetual monkey mind and actually focus on prayer and biblical meditation. Yoga has been instrumental as a recovery modality both in sobriety and in my chronic illness journey.
If you’ve found healing and relief through your yoga practice, don’t let the provocateurs guilt you out of your practice. Keep seeking God, move forward on your healing journey and find what works for you.
Mark 7:15 “It’s not what goes into your body that defiles you; you are defiled by what comes from your heart.” You are not going to have an issue with yoga tempting you to Hinduism or New Age if you are already filled with the Holy Spirit and pursuing relationship with Him. The stories of people led into New Age by yoga or getting freedom from repenting of yoga are certainly valid experiences, but those stories are almost always about people who had New Age, demonic, or occultic experiences before becoming Christians. Yoga might be a correlated experience, however, correlation does not equal causation. 1 John 4:4 tells us that, “He who is in us is greater than he who is in the world.” So we are in the power position here. We do not need to be weak and afraid.
More Christian Yoga Resources
Caroline Williams Yoga (I just discovered her while researching this…she’s awesome & has videos up on YouTube!)
Do you get bored trying to get in your 64 ounces of water in every day? Liven things up by using infused water! Infused water is created by adding various fruits, vegetables, and herbs to your water, and then letting these ingredients flavor the water.
Not only do infused waters provide a variety of wonderful flavor options to your water, you’ll also gain the nutritional benefits from the product and herbs. It’s pretty easy to make infused water, but you should keep a few things in mind before you make your first batch of infused water.
What Type of Water Should You Use?
When making infused water, it’s best to use filtered water. Filtered water is cleaner and will help to boost the overall quality and flavor of your infused water. If you don’t have access to enough water to fill your water pitcher, go ahead and use tap when necessary but if possible, try to get filtered water when you can.
When choosing your water, you should only use room temperature or cold water. Avoid warm or hot water, since it can cause the produce to deteriorate quickly, which reduces the nutritional benefit of your infused water
Choose Organic Produce Whenever Possible
Use organic fruits and vegetables as much as possible. They’re becoming easier to find in the product section of your supermarket, but see if your community has a farmer’s market or produce cooperative in order to source local ingredients. Locally grown produce is best for optimal nutrition and will provide a better flavor for infused water. If you’re unable to source organics, don’t sweat it and use what’s available to you.
How to Prep Produce for Infused Water
After you select the ingredients you want to use for your infused water, you will then need to prep them before putting them into the water pitcher. You should always carefully rinse the fruits and vegetables to make sure no chemicals are left on them. Even if you bought them organic or prewashed, it’s still a good idea to rinse them and make sure they are clean. If you are using herbs, you want to crush them with a muddler, since this will help to release the oils. The exception to this practice is when the herb is leafy, such as with mint or basil.
Most fruits and vegetables need to be cut at least into chunks before being put in the pitcher so that they can release their flavors. Hard fruits and vegetables like cucumber and apples need to be cut into thin slices because they can take longer to release flavor to the water. Berries and citrus fruit are softer, so just cutting them in half or quarters should be fine.
When making infused water, you will add the produce and herbs first, then add your room temperature or cold water on top. You then want to let the water infuse so that you can get the best flavor and nutrients from the fruits and vegetables being used. If you are leaving it out on the counter, this usually takes about 2-4 hours. Otherwise, wait 4-6 hours if keeping it in the refrigerator for the infusing process. If you leave it overnight, the flavors will really intensify.
What to Make Your Infused Water In
By this point, you are ready to start putting your infused water together. Before you add in the water, make sure you have the right container. While you can technically use anything, a glass pitcher is usually recommended. However, regardless of which way you go, make sure it is BPA-free and food-safe. Many plastic pitchers are not ideal and won’t keep the water fresh, but in the end it is really up to you.
How Soon Should the Water Be Consumed?
The ideal time to drink infused water is within 24-48 hours after the infusing process is complete. It’s usually best to drink it the same day, and finish it up within a couple of days. Waiting 3 days is okay, but don’t leave it for longer than that. Don’t leave the fruits and vegetables in the pitcher, though. They should be removed after the infusing process and only the water should remain in the pitcher for this long. Citrus fruits remain freshest the longest.
Keep in mind that if you drink the infused water the same day, you can usually refill it 2-3 times with the produce in the pitcher or cup and still get good flavor from it.
I like to use citrus essential oils to flavor my water but this is a controversial subject. Read this article to learn more about consuming essential oils safely.
5 Simple Fruit Infused Water Recipes
This simple apple cinnamon infused water recipe is easy to make, only uses a couple ingredients, and is perfect for the fall and winter season. You can also mix it up by using some other seasonings with the same apples for a seasonal infused water. This recipe is great with a whole pitcher of infused water, or you can use a mason jar.
* Red apples
* Cinnamon sticks
1. Core and slice the apples thinly.
2. Place the apple slices and cinnamon stick in pitcher.
3. Add cold water.
4. Place in refrigerator for up to 24 hours.
There are few things better than the combination between cranberry and orange. Both fo these fruits are in season during the fall, and cranberry is often enjoyed during the holidays. This is a fruity and refreshing infused water to enjoy early in the morning or with your meals.
* Herbs (optional)
1. Slice your cranberries in half to help release the juice.
2. Slice oranges thinly.
3. Add the cranberries and orange slices to a pitcher or infusing bottle.
4. Add in some herbs of your choice; mint and basil work well.
This is an infused water recipe with a lot of room for customizing. The basis of the recipe uses fruits that are in-season during the fall. This recipe is going to list a lot of fruits, but go ahead and use any of the ones listed that you want in this water.
1. Cut fruit into small slices.
2. Add the fruit to the pitcher.
3. Fill pitcher with cold water.
4. Add any herbs you like to increase flavor.
5. Place in the refrigerator for up to 48 hours.
Green Apple and Herbs
This is an excellent way to create your own fall fruit-infused water without worrying too much about what goes in it. You want to start with some juicy, tarty green apples since they are in-season, then add herbs or berries of your choosing. Rosemary is listed, but you can add mint, basil, or cilantro if you prefer.
* Green apples
* Berries (recommended: strawberries, cranberries, raspberries)
* Herbs (recommended: rosemary, basil, mint)
1. Slice the apple thinly and add to the pitcher.
2. Add your chosen berries and herbs.
3. Fill the pitcher or cup with cold, distilled water.
4. Store for 24-48 hours.
Pomegranates are in season during the fall and winter season .These are brightly-colored fruits that offer a unique flavor and a lot of sweetness to your water. Combine it with lime for a delicious and refreshing water.
* Pomegranate seeds
1. Scoop pomegranate seeds from your pomegranate fruit.
2. Muddle the seeds, add to the pitcher or cup.
3. Place slices of lime on top of the seeds.
4. Fill with cold, distilled water and handful of ice cubes.
Use your creativity and see what you come up with! Do you have any favorite infused water recipes?