Friday, February 21, 2014

Figuring Out Positive Psychology for Cateepoo

I recently listened to a podcast on "positive psychology".  This was a new concept to me, but it has been whirling around in my mind and forced me to take a good look at myself....again.

The last three years or so, my mind has felt a little out of whack.  I added to my work schedule and was stressed out for a while, so that seemed an easy answer to the problem. I reduced my stress and reorganized my schedule to fit my needs better, but things still didn't feel completely aligned. My take away from the positive psychology podcast was that I need to look at my past, especially the parts of my past that were successful and build on those times. In doing so, I had two revelations.  One, I have become a podcast addict.  There.  I said it.  It's true. With large amounts of time in the car, I have been filling every minute with constant noise rather than letting my mind have some quiet down time as I did in the past and really need. Two, I have been listening to what these podcast "experts" think I should eat and how I should live my life rather than listening to myself, the true expert on Cateepoo.

After figuring out what has changed for me, I had to ask myself, "Why?".  The majority of the podcasts I listen to are Paleo related. I started the Paleo diet almost four years ago because it fits well with how I feel about food and life in general. It highly recommends buying local, organic, and free range food which I have been doing more of for the last 10-11 years.  The diet/lifestyle promotes eating fresh whole foods - minus grains, legumes, and dairy, putting the focus on meat, vegetables, and fruits. Movement is encouraged, especially lifting weights. Since I tend to want to know all there is about the philosophies I believe in and have tons of time in the car, it makes sense that I started listening to a variety of Paleo podcasts.

I  believe in the philosophy of this lifestyle and hope to continue making it more of a part of my life.  In order to do so, I need to make some changes. To me, the Paleo lifestyle is all about simplifying your life and finding balance. (A little humorous since it seems like I have become less balanced.). So first, I need to reduce the number/amount of time I spend listening to podcasts.  There is an enormous amount of information out there as this movement grows and develops.   There are blogs, books, and podcasts in ever growing numbers.  I sometimes feel my brain is bombarded with information, especially as many people are making this their living and constantly promoting themselves. There is a lot of fantastic information out there, but there comes a point when it is too much to consume.  I realized this while listening to the podcast on positive psychology. I have to go back to the days when I got in my car after work, left the radio off, and just had time to decompress rather than right away taking in more information.

In addition to spending way too much time listening to podcasts,  I have been spending too much time taking the advice of all the Paleo pod-casters I listen to.  Sure, a lot of them have fantastic information, but not when it sacrifices me listening to myself. Calm minded Cateepoo of the past listened to her own advice.  I have been allowing the "experts" to dictate what type of food to eat (I enjoy a little rice a few days a week), sleep to get (I love sleep and get as much as I can, but with crazy schedules, my priority is seeing my family), and exercise to get rather than doing what comes best for me - listening to myself.  An example of this is that I had stopped doing some of my cardio workouts because the host on this same podcast repeats in every podcast that it isn't good for us. "Lift weights and sprint. Avoid cardio."  That is the message heard over and over.  I like lifting weights, but honestly I hate sprinting so I don't do it.  It isn't enjoyable to me and it hurts my knees.  Wanting to go back to what worked in the past,  I found some cardio type workouts similar to what I did in the past and instantly my mind felt clearer.  My energy levels increased.  I look forward to working out. I even look forward to moving more during the day. Research and case studies that are shared on these podcasts are great, but when it comes down to it, I know myself better than anyone else. I am the expert on Cateepoo. This is how I have lived my life as a homeschooling mother and how I have dealt with my rheumatoid arthritis.  It only makes sense to be the expert in all areas of my life.

Once again I want to let my mind have time to rest after work.  I want to take my morning walk without earbuds so that I can listen to the birds, the wind, and other outdoor noises again. I want my mind to be clear so that when my husband or children laugh or want to share something with me, I have the room in my mind to listen.  My mind has felt like it is overflowing with information.  It is time to slow it down and go back to listening to my internal voice rather than the voices of  ten different podcasters that feel they know what is best for me.

I like the idea of positive psychology.  It makes sense to build on what has made me successful.  I know that eating well, reducing my stress, exercising/general movement, quiet time alone and with family are what works for me.  My mind is doing a happy dance as it realizes it is once again listening to the one person who knows what is best for it- me!

Monday, February 17, 2014

Live Bold, Live Now with Lene Andersen

Lene Andersen, a good friend and fellow Show Us Your Hands Board member, shares her rheumatoid arthritis story at Live Bold, Live Now.

Lene is a true pioneer when it comes to rheumatoid arthritis.  She was diagnosed before there were meds that made huge changes in how people feel and live with rheumatoid arthritis.  She has spent years advocating for people with disabilities.

Besides learning more about Lene and her journey in this video book, I loved hearing from Lene's mom, sister, and boyfriend.   Lene's mother and sister very eloquently share their thoughts and feelings on Lene's rheumatoid arthritis diagnosis as a child.  I think we so often focus on our family not understanding how WE are dealing with our diagnosis and forget that they are also dealing with it. I loved how proud they both are of her and her wonderful accomplishments. My favorite part of the video book was at the end when Lene and her boyfriend are walking hand in hand.  So beautiful.

If you have not yet seen Lene Andersen's Live Bold, Live Now video book, please spend some time with it.


Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Moving On!

I was always fascinated by my children when they were toddlers and everything about  life was new to them.  On a walk, we would stop and observe ant hills or pretty leaves until they felt they had learned enough and then we moved on.   The ants and the pretty leaves were still there and the kids would occasionally find interest in them again, but there were so many other things in life to keep them busy that they didn't keep returning to the same interests over and over. 

When I was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis ten years ago, I was like my children, completely fascinated with something new.  I spent years, rather than minutes, observing, researching, and experiencing everything under the sun about rheumatoid arthritis.  Sadly at times, it became my life rather than a simple fascination which is to be expected since it does make a huge impact on one’s life. 

For the last few years, rheumatoid arthritis has been kind to me.  I have had flares here and there, but overall, things have been good.  Perhaps that is why my interest in RA has been slowly fading away.  In early December, I was stressed and mentally tired.  My body gave me a strong message that I needed a break.  A huge flare arrived that is just now retreating.  While my mind needed time to rest and I was fortunate to have the time off, I realized something pretty awesome about where I am with my rheumatoid arthritis. I have moved on.  Like my children with an ant hill, I have found rheumatoid arthritis somewhat mundane.  I have grown out of the need to find more information, to find a way out of this crazy disease.  I have experienced so many flares in the last ten years that I know the cycle.  A flare comes and a flare GOES. I can share with my family and close friends that I am in pain, but the overwhelming need to talk, share, or learn more  just feels complete.  I can respect myself when a flare is active by taking time to be gentle with myself, but otherwise, I feel like my mind and heart have moved on to other interests. I have two teenage children and a fantastic husband who like spending time with me.  I have a job that I love.  Plus, at 46, I have seen enough family and friends go through ups and downs to know that rheumatoid arthritis has been one of the hardest things for me to deal with, but that life will continue to hand out difficult times just as it will deal out pleasant ones.  I feel content with this flare knowing that it was a flare that was acknowledged, but didn't take my focus away from the pleasant time I have had over my holiday break.  It is time to move on.   Each person should experience every step of the journey, but there are too many things in life to keep me busy and that I want to experience to keep rheumatoid arthritis at the forefront.    

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Carving Out Free Time

Last year for the first time ever, my kids chose to go to public school rather than to homeschool.  Knowing that their lives were about to get really busy, I decided to dive into work about six months before they started school last year.  Rather than teaching the two classes I had been teaching for some time, I took on four classes and six private tutoring students.  Yikes!!!   Let's just say I overdid it a little bit.  No, let's say I overdid it a lot considering all the other changes that were happening in our lives with school.  After eighteen months of this schedule, I have learned my lesson.  This school year I have four classes again, but only  two private tutoring students which opens up my schedule a lot.  I now have two and a half complete days off during the week.  (I teach three classes on Tuesday and Thursday and one on Saturdays.)

What I didn't do last year which I now see I really needed to do was allow myself to enjoy some time alone. Always being a homeschooling momma, I have never really had much time in the house alone or even time alone.  Truth be told though I never craved it that much.  I really enjoyed my time home with the kids and would repeat it all again in a heartbeat.  However, having the house all to myself the last month has been a delightful surprise.  For five hours (my son goes to high school part-time) there are no expectations.  No noise.  Nothing.  I can do whatever I want.  I can think whatever I want.  I can watch whatever I want. I  LOVE it! In fact, when these days are interrupted with appointments, I feel ripped off.

I am a hard worker, but I have never been a workaholic and I am happy about that.  I have always been pretty good about carving out down time or lazy time.  However, with the added work that came with very wacky hours, I had to learn to schedule time into my day to be lazy.  I think as mothers, workers, rheumatoid arthritis folks, and people in general, we owe it to ourselves to find time in every day to do something we enjoy.  Here's how I make it work for me.

1.  I schedule everything - morning walk and workout, house cleaning, school work, SUYH! projects, family time, and even my free time.  When I keep my schedule, I find that there is plenty of time for everything. When I don't follow the schedule, I waste time and then feel rushed and anxious.

2.  My free time is to be spent however I feel I want to spend it and never feel guilty.  Currently, that means making coffee (we will see how long this lasts as they effects have not been positive),watching Frasier on Netflix or reading the Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy.

3.  I continue to walk.  It relaxes my mind and keeps me centered.  Walks give me a chance to see nature (even in a suburban neighborhood we have coyotes, skunks, deer, rabbits, chipmunks, and squirrels among lots of beautiful trees and plants).  I take time to stop and watch ants scurry around, squirrels chase each other up tress, and my favorite - watch the sun rise.  This summer I have been collecting things I find in nature that make me happy. Here is one day's find:

4.  I set limits for myself.  If my week is really busy, I claim Sunday as a no driving day.  This allows me uninterrupted time to work in the yard, to read a book, to talk with family, or to do absolutely nothing.

5.  Turn off the computer. When I am on a lot,I tend to waste my time.  I think I will research one thing and then two hours later I am still there.  I have now set up consequences for being on the computer outside of my scheduled time.  Every time I get on, I have to do some type of exercise afterwards:  push-ups, sit-ups, lunges, dead lifts, etc.

6.  Two days a week I have 1.5 hours of downtime before heading back out to teach an evening class.  During this time I make dinner, enjoy the dinner at the table with my family, and if possible, sneak in a hot bath or a few minutes of reading.

How do you carve out time for free time and what do you do?

Monday, September 2, 2013

Active Release Technique for Trigger Fingers

    My two hands are very unique from one another. My right hand has suffered the most from rheumatoid arthritis stiffness.  It is the hand that went to physical therapy, but has never yet been able to make a complete fist again or pick up small items like coins or bobby pins and tends to swell up the most when going through a flare.  This is the hand that also has enlarged knuckles.  This hand requires that I frequently do mobility exercises to keep it moving.    My left hand rarely stiffens up.  It swells enough that I sometimes can't wear my wedding ring, but that's it. However, I have trigger fingers on this hand and to me, it is worse than stiff fingers because it really freaks me out.  When my fingers bend, they often don't want to come out of that position.  When they do, they make a popping or clicking noise and it feels that is exactly what is happening.  I often have to stop what I am doing and manually straighten my fingers back out.  My rheumatologist has warned me that it is not a good idea to do exercises with these fingers because it can just make the situation worse.  When they are at their worse, I should try to use them as little as possible. Her remedy is always to do a cortisone shot and to remind me that at some point I may need to have surgery.

A few months back, I was listening to a podcast and a question came in about trigger fingers.  It was suggested the listener have active release technique to help her fingers.  I contacted a local chiropractor and she said she has had success with ART and trigger fingers, but the treatment plan varies for each person.  So, before trying this treatment, I am curious if anyone else has tried it and if they have had success.  Have you done anything else besides shots?  That isn't the route I want to take.  I appreciate your feedback.  

*I did do a month of ART sessions.  While it didn't help with my trigger fingers, it did remove a cyst in my wrist and decreased some of the buildup around my wrists.  Unfortunately, insurance doesn't cover this treatment and the costs became more than I could handle.  If you can afford it, I would definitely give it a try.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

It's Just a Phase

Growing up, the single most annoying thing I heard from my parents was, "Be patient. Robyn is just going through a phase."   My sister Robyn is 14 months younger than me and has always had a more dramatic personality than mine which has made how we deal with life quite different. I felt frustrated and didn't have the life experiences to understand why my parents would tell me to be patient and let Robyn be who she is. Looking back now though, I see that Robyn did always move out of whatever phase she was in and she happens to be a pretty awesome person today.

When I was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, I didn't connect what I had learned as a child about phases to what was happening to me as an adult and felt doomed.  I honestly believed that once I was in a full blown flare, I would never come out of it again.  In fact, I didn't make that connection when time and time again, my body came out of a difficult flare and once more moved on peacefully.  

The last three years I have experienced almost remission type symptoms with my rheumatoid arthritis.   It has been more than awesome to know that physically there isn't much I can't do.  I have had occasional one to three day flares that were fairly minor, almost as if RA wanted to gently remind me that it was still a part of me. About two weeks ago, it decided it was done being gentle and made a full return.  It hasn't left yet. But you know what?  That is okay. I have finally come to an understanding with my body that this is a phase and like every phase in life, it will eventually move on and something else will take its place. Knowing this, it makes handling this flare a ton easier.  In fact, it reminds me of how life is continuously putting us through phases of all types. A few years ago, I asked my teenage daughter to be patient with me because I had never been a mom to a teenager daughter before. Being a mom to a teenager definitely provides many experiences with phases- happy ones as well as frustrating ones. As I enter the stages of menopause, I have to remind myself to be patient with myself.  This too is a phase of life that will pass even if it feels it will be with me forever.  When I put on my clothes and feel frustration that comes with menopausal weight gain and feel unattractive, I HAVE TO remind myself that this is a phase and to be kind to my body mentally.

While my childhood experiences with phases led me to believe them to always be negative, I now know that is not true.  We also go through times of feeling very connected to friends and family, to experiencing joy in our work, to feeling content with where life is.  These are experiences that may last a very long time or a very short time.  We never master balance with the positive or negative phases because life is always changing. The thing to remember is be where you are at the moment.   Enjoy the good phases that nourish you, storing up the awesome feelings you have now  for when a phase brings you down again. Remembering that life is like a see-saw, going up and down, helps during rough patches to know that things will once again go up.

So, what am I doing while I go through this flare and deal with frustrating menopausal symptoms?

  • I focus daily on what my overall goals in life are and share them with people who will help them blossom. 
  • I exercise my mind and body daily. 
  • I praise my body for all the wonderful things it does on a daily basis for me.
  • I make lists of wonderful things about myself. It's funny how I can criticize myself for a tummy roll and then choose to focus on all that is great about myself and turn my whole mindset around.
  • For the most part I eat well, but sometimes lately I throw mental temper tantrums and eat outside of the diet that I know works for my individual body.  I haven't even felt guilty about.  Sometimes it feels good to be a little rebellious!  (Thank you for that lesson too Robyn!) 
  • Remind myself of the life lessons I have learned in the past, "Be patient.  You are just going through a phase."
Thank you Robyn for being who you are and for teaching me that life is always changing and that phases can be a wonderful thing because they are a part of what makes us strong enough to deal with the next negative phase and content enough to enjoy the current positive one.  Mom and Dad, thank you for reminding me to be patient when life doesn't go as I see it should go in my mind.  

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Show Us Your Hands! Works with Inflammatory Arthritis and Starts Fundraisers for Growth

(August 12, 2013) – Show Us Your Hands! is pleased to provide an update of the organization’s activities in 2013. Launched less than two years ago as a community collage project, our grassroots organization continues to grow thanks to the continued support from members of the inflammatory arthritis community.

We are happy to share that we have obtained official US nonprofit charity status. State of Illinois charity registration is in progress.

Show Us Your Hands! has also created an Advisory Council to provide ideas and feedback for awareness projects. The Advisory Council is composed of an international group of motivated and talented individuals: Andrea Sarullo (USA), Ferhaan Kajee (The Netherlands), Kimberly Cooper (USA), Nicole Dalton (USA) and Shelley Cook (USA).

All Show Us Your Hands! Directors and Advisory Council members live with inflammatory arthritis. This has presented our organization with the unique opportunity of creating organizational structures that support and accommodate the realities of life with inflammatory arthritis. To enable full participation without burnout, we have built a solid team with a "buddy system" as backup for all tasks, and include balancing work and inflammatory arthritis in all projects and deadlines.

The primary Show Us Your Hands! project for 2013 is to offer Community Collage posters and the Our Hands Can! photo book at more affordable prices. The proceeds from several fundraisers planned for the next few months will provide the funding necessary to lower the cost of the posters and photo books. 

Autoimmune diseases occur when a body’s immune system mistakenly attacks healthy tissue. In the case of inflammatory arthritis, a person’s joints are frequently attacked, resulting in chronic pain and debilitating inflammation. The most common inflammatory arthritis diseases are Ankylosing Spondylitis, Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis, Mixed Connective Tissue Disease, Psoriatic Arthritis, Reactive Arthritis, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Scleroderma, Sjogren's Syndrome, Still's Disease and Systemic Lupus Erythematosus.

Show Us Your Hands! is an international awareness movement which serves to unite and inspire the inflammatory arthritis community. For more information, please visit Show Us Your Hands! can also be found on Facebook and Twitter.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Healthline's 20 Best Rheumatoid Arthritis Health Blogs

Wow!  What an honor.  I'm listed here with some of my favorite bloggers.  Thanks!

Best Rheumatoid Arthritis Health Blogs

Sunday, July 28, 2013

The Calm that Comes with the Familiar

There are days that Izzy and I jump in the car and head for a forest preserve to do our daily walk together, but most days, we take advantage of the sidewalks in our own neighborhood.  In fact, I have found that if I take Izzy somewhere new or different, she doesn't seem settled until we have walked around our own neighborhood.  Perhaps for Izzy and me, the familiar brings a certain amount of calm.  For me, I don't have to think too hard on where I am going and can instead let my thoughts flow in and out.  I find that I am constantly learning new things about my neighborhood of close to 500 homes.  Who is moving?  Who has a teenager graduating? outdoor furniture.  Nice.  Lately, I have been focusing on what plants my neighbors are having success with and figuring out what I want for my own yard.  I enjoy seeing friendly faces in the morning that greet me with a smile and I even get a kick out of figuring out ways to avoid those few who don't.  Izzy seems to have her own needs of the familiar. At six years old, she has finally stopped trying to herd every bicyclist in the neighborhood and we both know which dogs are of no interest to her and which ones she would like to tear apart.  Her favorite thing though is peeing in the same spots each day.

Recently, my son couldn't sleep and ended up taking a very early morning walk.  Out of curiosity, I asked which paths he took.  He shared how he left our neighborhood and visited the one next to ours.  He mentioned a path he found that connected our two neighborhoods together.  What?  I have walked this neighborhood daily for the last six years.  How could I miss this path?  Whenever I have decided to extend my walk to the next neighborhood, I have always taken the long way around, thinking there had to be a quicker/easier way.

Yesterday I decided to do a little exploring.  Although I feel like I have walked every street in our neighborhood, I never walk the cul-de-sacs.  This must be where the mystery path was hidden.  The first two did not expose any hidden paths.  Then as I approached the third one I could see a path.  I couldn't see from a distance where it lead, but it was a path.  It was like a shining light came down on this path.  I had found the right place.  I felt relief.  Izzy and I headed down the path and found it lead to a dead end. Disappointed, we headed back to the main path.  The fourth cul-de-sac did not unveil any hidden paths.  On the way home, I felt a conflict in my head going on.  Did I want to continue the search the next day or was I content to continue following the path I have been to the next neighborhood?

My walks with Izzy always provide me with time to think and reflect.  Yesterday's walking experience allowed me to reflect on my health.  Lately I have found myself feeling the need to revamp my overall health plan. Currently, I am following the familiar path of taking medications for my rheumatoid arthritis, but it doesn't always feel right to me. When I chose to go back on medications, it was with the understanding that I would take them as long as I felt comfortable with that decision. I can't say I am completely uncomfortable taking them right now, but definitely starting to think of how to change things up a bit.  Medications are often like my walks through our neighborhood, I don't have to think too hard about what I am doing which does create a certain amount of calm.  It also allows me time to rest my brain from so many years of experimenting with alternative treatments while also looking around at what others are doing to see what fits my lifestyle. This time with the familiar has allowed me to do a little research into some things I would like to try in the future.

The basic belief system I had when I started this blog in 2008 hasn't changed.  I still believe the body wants to heal.  In many ways my body has healed, but not to a point I can easily go off the medications yet.  Like my walk yesterday, I haven't found the path that my body needs to get me to the next place, but this time on medications is allowing me to explore while not feeling pain.  Since my rheumatoid arthritis diagnosis, I have definitely discovered many paths to wellness, but something is still missing.  My body still has lot of room to heal, but I need to keep searching for the path that is perfect for my individual body.  The one thing I have accepted while chasing each of these different paths is that what I am looking for may not come easily or with a lot of guidance.  There will be many dead ends. That is why it is so important to continue to be patient, open minded, and most of all continue to nourish myself both physically and mentally.  With time, the path that is perfect for my body will be discovered.  For now, I will continue to enjoy the calm that comes with the familiar.          

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Chicago's 25 Mile L.A.T.E. Ride

I was pleasantly surprised to discover that a 25 mile bike ride during my regular sleeping hours can be totally exhilarating. Starting shortly after 1:00 am this morning, my husband and son along with a few friends participated in The L.A.T.E Ride.  This ride started off at Buckingham Fountain, led us through various Chicago communities, and back around to Lake Michigan. The ride provided a sneak peak into parts of Chicago we haven't seen before along with a party like feel that made over three hours of riding both fun and exciting.    

Cateepoo before the ride.  

Alexander, Steve, and Cateepoo

Take off!

With my guy!

Mid-way resting point.

Ride is complete

Waiting for the sun to rise.
Rheumatoid arthritis results from this ride:  My wrists and shoulders were stiff and sore along the ride, but everyone else complained about the same thing, so perhaps it wasn't RA but just having my body in one position for too long.  Otherwise, no problems! My body feels strong!