I, too, suffer from chronic, invisible illnesses.
I have fibromyalgia. I have a permanent back injury. I have depression and anxiety, and I work hard to keep those under control. I strive to take good care of myself, and to manage my conditions. I avoid aggravating them. I also make every possible effort to stay positive and to do the things in life that I enjoy doing.
The fact is, though, no matter what good care I take care of myself or how positive and proactive I am, I cannot heal or cast off my invisible disabilities.
The debilitation is real.
The exhaustion is real.
The misconceptions are real.
And the judgement? Many people would not be willing to believe how real, and how consistent, and how very, very toxic that is.
The critics are only right about one thing: I don’t look sick.
That’s because I’ve been faking being well for years.
I’ve been working on a beautiful jigsaw puzzle over the past month. I chose it in honour of Helen, because she and I often did puzzles together. In fact, this was the first jigsaw puzzle I’ve done without Helen in probably twenty years. I also chose it for my dad, who would have loved both the map and the fact it was created by a Dutchman.
The image is an antique map of the known world, complete with solar systems and representations of the four elements; highlighted with gold embellishments. It was created by F. De Wit in Amsterdam in 1663, and the puzzle was produced by Hinkler Mindbogglers. Boy oh boy, did they get that branding right!
It really was a mind boggling challenge. Intricate lines, many pieces that still looked almost the same, and corner and edge pieces that were almost identical to one another made putting this puzzle together quite the labour of love.
Piece by piece, though, it started to happen. It is no understatement to say that I felt a profound sense of achievement when I finished a section and could anticipate how beautiful the whole thing was going to look.
Doing the puzzle in honour of Helen and my father gave me purpose, but the concentration it required and the distraction from other things in life gave me a sense of mindfulness and peace that really helped me in my day to day life.
Dealing with my grief and managing tasks related to Dad’s estate were somewhat complicated by the challenges of teaching online again during Victoria’s second major Covid-19 lockdown, but working from home also gave me the space I needed to do those things and start to heal.
In many ways, that puzzle became an allegory for my own life. I was putting those pieces together too, seeing how things fit and getting an idea of how things would look. I too have intricate lines and a complex design that needs to be observed carefully in order to achieve the desired outcome. My life is full of pieces that fit together neatly, and it’s up to me to make sure I get that right.
So, while the puzzle on the table is complete, the puzzle that is me is still a work in progress.
Today marks thirteen weeks since my dad graduated to heaven. Thursday marks the same interval for Helen.
Three months seemed like an appropriate goal for completing the puzzle, and I feel a deep sense of satisfaction at having done so.
This week, I will make arrangements to have it framed.
When it is hanging on my wall, it will be a daily reminder that doing life well is a process, not an event. It will remind me that every piece matters. And it will remind me of my love for Dad and for Helen, of their love for me.
I am so blessed to have known and loved them both, and to have been loved by them. The pieces they contributed to the puzzle of my life have helped to make it a thing of beauty. For that, I am very, very thankful.
I know that as the pieces of life continue falling into place and fitting back together, my grief will remain present, but it will change. It will transform to become a part of the bigger picture, while keeping its own shape and character. In time, it will be differently painful, but the picture of my life would be incomplete with out it. In its place, fitting in with the pieces that represent joy, achievement, love, and hope, it adds its own detail, texture and embellishment to the canvas.
I have a really handy social media skill. It may actually prove to be a talent: time will tell.
It’s super for my mental health, and has amazing benefits in maintaining positive content on my social media feed.
It is, quite simply, deleting rubbish content on social media and snoozing the people who post it.
Obviously, “rubbish content” is a highly subjective term. But since it’s my hobby, and since it’s my social media feed, I get to decide what’s rubbish and what’s not. I don’t dictate to anyone else what they post, or what they read, or what they want to see. But I do get to decide on what I allow to speak into my life.
Things that get an instant veto are racism, intolerance, and hatred. The chances of them changing my mind on those issues range at the lower end of remote to zero. Also high on the veto list are conspiracy theories, politics, and ignorance. I’m not limiting their right to free speech, nor am I insisting that they think or believe. I am simply choosing not to engage with them. All I am limiting is their ability to speak into my space and my mental health.
To that end, I have deleted comments. Obviously, people can see if their comments have been deleted. If that bothered me more than the comments do, I wouldn’t delete them.
I have also muted conversations in messenger. The person on the other end of the conversation won’t know I’ve muted them, because I don’t often respond to general content in messenger anyway. Forwarded messages, videos, chain letters, those virus-laden ‘OMG I can’t believe this!’ messages and spam only ever come to my inbox to die, friendless, unacknowledged and alone. If it’s a personal message, that’s a different thing entirely.
I have snoozed or unfollowed people on Facebook. The advantage is that you can do both without those people knowing and getting all offended and being weird with you when you see them at the next family gathering or in the supermarket.
Furthermore, I have zero shame about doing any of it.
I have chosen to not engage in debates because I don’t have the energy, nor do I have any inclination to enter into conflict. My social media feed is not the place for a bunfight about whose lives matter or whether or not something is real. And if I post something and someone disagrees, they’re completely free to do so without starting an existential debate on my thread. They can do what I do, and simply walk away.
As someone said to me last week, it’s a bit like peeing in a wetsuit: it gives you a warm feeling, but nobody else notices. That’s absolutely true, but that doesn’t matter one bit, because I’m not doing it for anyone else. I’m doing it for me.
Here’s the how-to:
At the top right of a Facebook post are three dots, like an ellipsis. Click on those.
From the drop-down menu, you can choose to snooze the person who made the most for 30 days OR to unfollow them entirely. This means you won’t see anything they post unless you go to their profile.
If that person is sharing someone else’s post, you have another option.
You can hide all content from the creator of the original post without affecting your friend’s usual posts. This is usually my first choice, and I don’t snooze or unfollow my friends until they have deliberately and repeatedly shared what I consider to be rubbish on multiple occasions: that’s when I understand that I am better off just not seeing their posts.
Finally, if people think something I post is rubbish or disagreeable, they’re welcome to ignore it or snooze/unfollow me, too. Fair’s fair, and I’m really not that easily offended.
In this time of social distancing and staying home, some people are feeling very restricted and isolated. It’s easy for people to give into negativity and resentment, particularly if they are used to being out and about and interacting with people. It’s crucial that we don’t fall into that trap, especially as it is, in all likelihood, only early days yet.
I have one single thought to share with you today which has the power to completely change a person’s perspective and re-focus their thoughts in much healthier directions.
Don’t think about what you can’t do. Think about what you cando.
This is going to be my response to every expression of negativity about staying home.
I get it. We’re at home, our kids are home, we can’t go anywhere, so let’s stay in our pyjamas all day! Right?
When everything else in the world is in limbo and the rules are changing on a weekly — or daily — basis, it’s really important for our health to keep some kind of routine and not let the basics fall by the wayside.
Nutrition matters. It’s tempting to live on pizza, chocolate and peanut butter sandwiches, but being sure we eat well and nourish our bodies properly is crucial to maintaining good health. The healthier we are, the more resistant we are to germs of any kind, and the recovery from any bug we might pick up will be quicker. Not only that, but we’re going to have to go back to work sooner or later, and it would be good if those business suits or uniforms still fit when that time comes.
Hydration is also crucial to keeping the body healthy, but most of us don’t drink as much water as we should. It was only when I started keeping track of how much I was drinking in a day that I realised how far short I had fallen from what my body actually needed on a daily basis. Remember, too, that alcohol is a diuretic, so for every beer or glass of wine, we need to drink more water. For a great discussion on how much water we need to drink, listen to this interview from ABC Australia.
Exercise is similarly important, and for more reasons than just not bulking out while we’re hibernating. Exercise is good for the brain and the emotions as well as the body, so even when we can’t leave home, it’s important to walk, or get on the treadmill, toss a ball with the dog, follow a cardio or dance video tutorial, or get into stretching and yoga. Even cleaning out a cupboard or doing some gardening qualifies. There are lots of options for people to pursue at home, and your exercise can be as gentle or vigorous as you want it to be so there’s no excuse for staying in bed or living on the couch for the foreseeable future.
While it has been widely publicised that sunlight will kill the corona virus doesn’t like the sunlight, that is not actually true. Even so, it dos kill other germs and bacteria. Stepping outside the house and into the fresh air and sunshine is highly beneficial for wellbeing. You don’t have to go far – just into the yard will do if you can’t or don’t want to go any further. While people who live outside the city are at a definite advantage here, most neighbourhoods have parks, gardens or reserves where you can go and walk without being in close proximity to anyone else or even touching anything. Letting light into your house is important, too. it helps you maintain a natural circadian rhythm, and therefore promotes better sleep hygiene.
Personal hygiene may seem mundane, and there are probably people out there who are treating it as optional, but showering every day, wearing deodorant, and taking care with presentation is an important part of taking on each day with a positive attitude. It’s psychologically proactive and It makes a difference to our physical health and wellbeing. Just as importantly, it makes you much more pleasant to be around. You might just be at home with your family, but they are actually the most significant people in your life. If you couldn’t be bothered doing it for yourself, do it for them.
Maintaining a routine is also a very positive psychological strategy. If you normally work from 8.30 til midday then break for lunch, try to do that at home, too. You might have some interruptions, or you might be sharing a workspace, but it’s a powerful way to model to other people, especially kids, that keeping going in times of adversity is both possible and beneficial. It also keeps the brain trained for returning to work when the time comes, and gives you a great sense of satisfaction of achieving something each day.
Similarly, keeping your home spaces clean and tidy promotes health by not giving the germs a foothold. Do the laundry, wash the dishes, and clean the surfaces regularly. That way, things are easily maintained without turning into hard labour.
Relaxation should be part of every day. Whether it’s reading, crafting, meditation, writing, doing a puzzle or listening to music or a podcast, spend some time each day in quietness and peace. If your kids aren’t good at quietness and peace — and many are not — now is a better time than any to model positive mindfulness and teach them some strategies they can use. They should also be learning to respect your need for some downtime, too. They may be getting frustrated, but it’s actually not all about them.
In keeping with all of this, my own personal strategies include are:
Maintaining my regular morning routine: get up at a reasonable hour, shower, dress, have breakfast, and then get into the things I need to do each day.
Creating an achievable “to-do” list for each day. It helps me organise myself, and ticking things off the list is incredibly satisfying.
Sticking to my usual school timetable as much as possible when I’m working from home. I’m a teacher, so there’s always plenty I can do. I have to take care not to let work consume the entirety of each and every day. A routine helps me to manage that more effectively, and keeps me on task this week as I’m working to get done what I need for the beginning of Term 2.
During the scheduled term break of two weeks leading up to Easter, I need to ensure I have the break I have earned. There will be some school work to do — there always is — but I will not be working the whole time.
Spending time outdoors every day. I can choose to work in our courtyard, spend time in the yard with the dog and talking to the sheep over the fence, or spend time in one of the parks in town. Mixing it up from day to day is how I roll.
Eating properly. The temptation to snack all day is huge, and having dropped a few dress sizes since August, that’s not a habit I want to get back into. I’m shopping strategically – I go only when I need to, and when my resolve is strongly in favour of buying apples rather than chocolate.
Punctuating between activities by drinking a glass of water.
Maintain my regular habit of reading for at least an hour a day.
Self Care At Home During the #CoronavirusLockdown #mentalhealth #HealthandWellbeing #selfcare #Priorities #stayinghome
While many of us are staying in and working from home in the interests of slowing down this drafted virus, there are some important positive things we should all be doing at this time of social distancing and isolation during the time of Covid-19.
The good news is that you don’t even have to leave home to do them.
Some of the positive things we should all be doing include:
Check on your older family members. They are susceptible to loneliness at the best of times, and this is definitely not the best of times.
Check on your extroverted family members and friends. They are probably already a little stir crazy, and it’s nowhere near over yet.
Sincerely thanking everyone you know who works in the health profession, in a supermarket or pharmacy, or who drives a truck delivering the produce and goods that we are all relying on. They are the ones making it possible for us to stay home and stay safe.
Share encouragement, kindness, and support, instead of germs. Wouldn’t it be great if we could make that stuff go viral?
Social media is full of parents who have suddenly found themselves homeschooling their kids and wondering what level of purgatory they have landed in. Now is a great time to send a message of thanks to your kids’ teachers, acknowledging what an incredible job they have been doing.
Take care of yourself. Nutrition, hygiene, exercise, and fresh air and sunshine are all super important.
Sharing great ideas and resources for things to entertain, teach, inspire and motivate. It’s not just kids needing something constructive to do— there are plenty of bored grownups out there, too. Can you imagine how different a place Facebook and Twitter might be if we filled them with cool posts to help each other instead of all the complaints that seem to be there?
When a friend shares something good on their feed, give it a thumbs up or a heart, and share it around. If you enjoyed it, you can bet there’s someone else out there who will benefit from it, too!
Support local small business. Now more than ever, your local stores need your support. When you have to go out and restock the pantry or replace something that has broken, buy local, support your neighbourhood businesses, and keep the community going. It can’t be said often enough: your $50 or $100 won’t actually mean much to a huge multinational company, but it will make an enormous difference to a family business that is endangered in this current economic climate. You’ll help to feed or clothe someone’s kids, or keep the lights on.
These might sound like quite basic ideas, but it’s so easy to lose sight of the forest for the trees when things seem dire. A bit of positivity here and there adds up to a mindset that can completely change your day, or your perspective. Give it a go!
Positive Things We Should All Be Doing While #StayingHome #StayHomeandStaySafe #positive #stayingpositive #PositivePosts
During any crisis, be it war, fire, flood, famine or pestilence, it’s important to stay up to date with important information, but it’s also really easy to be overloaded by non-stop discussion and bombardment by both media and social channels.
In recent weeks, it seems that every time one turns the radio on or watches anything on commercial television, the only thing anyone talks about is corona virus related. It’s relentless. Government officials, scientists, medical authorities, celebrities, talk shows, podcasts, and current affairs specials are all contributing to the conversations, with varying degrees of accuracy and relevance. Every news bulletin tells us how many people have been diagnosed and how many have died.
It would be quite possible to consume media about global developments, self isolation, quarantine, and empty supermarket shelves all day, every day— and there are probably people doing that.
That’s not healthy.
It very quickly becomes emotionally and mentally overwhelming , and can blow out into quite disproportionate fear and paranoia.
We are all as susceptible to that as anyone else, so it is important to strike a balance between keeping abreast of what we need to know and limiting the amount of constant discussion about the virus that we allow into each day.
My strategies and decisions for achieving this include:
Being very selective about where I get my news and information. Each day, I inform myself via reputable and balanced news services. Then I turn my focus to other things.
Choosing to deliberately reject “fear language” and negativity, because that doesn’t help anyone.
Being discerning about the content of social media feeds, and how much time is spent reading them. Keep in mind that social media is very rarely one of those reputable and balanced news services. There’s a lot of misinformation out there. The “mute” functionality is very useful in those circumstances.
Adopting an “only positive” approach to sharing and promoting other people’s content. If it’s encouraging, entertaining and constructive, share away. Spread that stuff around like a five year old sprinkles glitter.
Occupying our thoughts with productive and proactive things. Whether that is work, recreational, or creating positive content for our own social media depends on the needs and demands of each day.
Balancing the amount of screen time in each day with screen-free time. Especially in these times of social distancing, it’s vital to ensure that healthy habits are maintained. Go for a walk, enjoy some sunshine or look at the night sky, prepare and enjoy good food, talk with family and friends, dance to a favourite tune or two, read a book, play with the dog, clean out a cupboard or pull some weeds in the garden… the possibilities are myriad.
Keeping things in perspective. Yes, there is a global health crisis making many people sick and curtailing personal and social freedoms. People are losing jobs and businesses as a result. The economy is wallowing. It is a very serious situation. At the same time, most of us are simply being asked to stay home and find ways to entertain ourselves. It might be inconvenient, and we might have to abandon or change plans, but it is still a much better option than what some people are facing.
Supporting local community. When you do need to buy things, try to invest in local and small businesses so that they can survive the crisis, too. This can help you to develop a sense of connection and belonging that is as encouraging for you as it is for the folk you support. An additional benefit is that many small businesses are currently offering contactless shopping and delivery options at no extra expense, and the quality of the goods and services they offer often far surpasses their bigger competitors.
We can’t control the virus, but we can control our own responses to the disruption and social climate it has created. By being proactive about keeping informed and staying positive, we can avoid being overwhelmed by the volume of discussion and the fear and negativity that can so easily take hold as a result.
Staying informed without getting overwhelmed during the #Coronavirus #pandemic #perspective #mentalwellbeing #blogpost
To many people right now, the world seems like it is in crisis in the wake of the corona virus outbreak. Those of us old enough to remember SARS, swine flu and H1N1 tend to understand more of the reasons for that than our kids do, even if we still don’t understand why toilet paper is worth pulling a knife on someone,
To many of our kids and teens, though, it seems like some kind of madness has taken over. As concerts, sports, social events, classes and rehearsals have been brought to a screeching halt as they look on, some of them are starting to buy into the fear that they have seen expressed on TV, in social media, and among some members of the community.
That hit home really personally on Sunday when our theatre company told the cast that we had decided to hit the pause button and defer our production of Little Shop of Horrors that was due to hit the stage in May.
“This whole thing sucks!” one young cast member said. “I know!” another replied. “It’s taking all the joy out of life!” “I get it, though,” responded the first one. “We have to keep people safe. But it’s making a lot of people really miserable at the same time.”
She was 100% correct. I am feeling really miserable about it, too. That’s completely natural.
We will do the show — we just can’t say when. For now, rehearsals are suspended and we all find ourselves with a lot of extra time on our hands that we had been putting into working together for a common goal.
At a time when many of us are being isolated from the activities we love and the company of others who enjoy those same things, how do we stop the molehills of grief turning into mountains of misery?
That’s a really big question, and I don’t profess to have all the answers.
I do know that it’s important to find ways to encourage and motivate each other. It’s important to monitor and support each other’s emotional and mental health.
So, here are just a few suggestions for possible ways to lift the spirits of the young people in your life during the disappointments and challenges caused byCovid-19:
Acknowledge their feelings. It’s quite natural to feel disappointed and a bit annoyed at the number of things being cancelled, postponed or banned. Instead of telling them to “suck it up” or “take it on the chin”, tell them you understand, and that you’re feeling similar things too. Empathy will always win more favour than platitudes.
Involve them in the family decision making about social distancing, self-isolating and dealing with the practicalities that follow. Knowing that they have been listened to, and having some ownership of the decisions and plans that are made, will reduce feelings of resentment, anger and rebellion.
Praise and thank them for their maturity in accepting disappointments. A bit of intrinsic motivation goes a very, very long way with young people.
Give them responsibility appropriate to their age and ability. It could be anything they feel is important and worthwhile: preparing a meal, keeping a particular area of the house clean and sanitised, disinfecting all the door handles in the house each day, or calling grandparents or other family members on the phone to support and encourage them.
Limit the amount of “fear language” you allow in the house. This might mean not watching the 6pm news on TV as a family, discussing what members of the family will allow on their social media feeds, and discussing things in a responsible way. Be honest about your feelings, but try to phrase your responses to the virus and consequent changes and limitations using positive and proactive language like “social responsibility” and “doing out part to protect the vulnerable” instead of using terms like “lockdown”, “corona virus jail” or “panic”.
Encourage them to find constructive ways to use their spare time. ‘Netflix and chill’ is okay, but not all day, every day.
Self-isolation does not have to be completely isolating. Hanging out with friends in person may not be an option, but there are ways to socialise beyond the regular social media platforms where kids are likely to hear a lot of “doom and gloom” about the current situation. Try Skype calls or Google Meet, which enable people to spend time, chat, and still see each other, all from a distance.
Give them something to look forward to. Discuss and make plans for activities, holidays, or celebrations that will happen once the need for social distancing and self-isolation has passed. Anticipation of something good is a powerful antidote to feeling as though all the fun things have been taken away.
Ask for their expert help. Whether it’s compiling a great playlist on Spotify, learning how to use Instagram or Snapchat, finding a great app or game for your phone or tablet, or ordering groceries or pizza online, older kids and teenagers are likely to have those skills down to a fine art. Even if you have a fair idea how to do those things, ask them anyway.
While there is obviously no perfect solution, it’s important that we continue to try to find positive and healthy ways to deal with the limitations and restrictions that are being put in place.
If you have any other suggestions, please share them in a comment.
Supporting Our Kids And Teens Through #CoronaVirus #lockdown disruption. #support #PositivePosts #StayingHome #mentalwellbeing #MentalHealthAwareness #PositiveParenting
While I may not have stockpiled pasta, toilet paper, hand sanitiser and baked beans since the novel corona virus Covid-19 has made its presence felt around the world, I have been thinking about ways to stay positive during the pandemic.
As someone who already lives with anxiety and chronic conditions, I know from personal experience that negativity can be as detrimental to one’s health as a virus. I fully agree that we need to be cautious and wise, but I refuse to despair or panic. I don’t think that’s going to help anyone— especially myself.
So, let me take this opportunity to point out some things that it’s important to remember when we’re all trying to avoid either getting sick or contaminating anyone else.
Good hygiene is always good practice, not just during a global health crisis. It has struck me as ironic more than once that The Jetsons told us the 21st century would bring us robotic housekeepers and flying cars, but here we are, still telling people how important it is to wash their hands. Using soap. And to dry them thoroughly. And to not put their fingers in their nose or their mouth. And… yeah.
Self-isolation means keeping one’s distance from other people, not locking oneself in a room and eating canned peas for the duration. You can go out in your car, or ride your bike, or walk your dog, without being in contact with other people. You could walk through a park in the sunshine, breathing fresh air and enjoying different scenery, without breathing anyone else’s air or touching any surfaces with your hands. I can spend time in the yard with my dog.
Communication and contact are really important for our mental and physical wellbeing, so we must not let those things fall by the wayside just because we are avoiding physical contact. We can stay in touch with my family and friends using phone, instant messaging or social media.
Time alone does not have to equal boredom. Ask any introvert: there are myriad ways to entertain oneself, even before involving a screen of any kind in the process. Books are always my go-to, and writing is something I always want more time to do. There are also puzzles, art, music, and exercise people turn to as productive and enjoyable ways to spend time. Even once you pick up a device, it doesn’t just mean TV, movies and games. This might be a great time to take up that old guitar or ukulele, improve your cooking or DIY skills using YouTube videos to show you how. You could start learning a new language – or resume learning one you’ve let slip – using one of the great apps available.
You might be dreading a couple of weeks on your own, but some people spend most — or all — of each day alone all the time, and that’s not their choice, either. Elderly people in particular find themselves alone far more than they wish to be. They are probably more fearful of the virus than most healthier, younger people, and with good reason: they are more susceptible to it, after all. A bit of extra time on your hands is an excellent opportunity to give Grandma or Granddad or Great Aunt Edith a call. Say hello, have a chat, and make sure they’re okay. It’s a little bit of joy and encouragement that might make all the difference in how they cope with the extensive media coverage and the fear that can easily generate in older folk. There’s every chance it might make your day a bit better, too.
There is no more danger posed by the Asian people in your neighbourhood than there is by anyone else, especially if they’ve been living there as long as you have. Sure, the virus may have first come to light in China. That doesn’t make Mrs Wang in Number 14 a carrier, and it doesn’t give anyone the right to swear at her or accuse her of being responsible for the plague. That may seem tongue-in-cheek, but that very thing happened to a friend of mine last week, and she’s not even Chinese. I may be judging my fellow non-Asians harshly, but I figure if that’s happening in regional Australia, it’s probably happening everywhere. This also applies to the Italians, Koreans, and every other cultural group in your community. People are people, regardless of their cultural heritage, and now that Covid-19 is everywhere, being a jerk about someone’s origins is no more justifiable than it ever was. Which it wasn’t. Ever.
Not everyone who has cold or flu-like symptoms is going to have Covid-19. Some will have a regular cold, some will have the flu, and some will just have allergies, which aren’t contagious at all. Here’s a handy chart from the World Health Organisation to help you know who to avoid because they’ll give you a cold, or because they’ll give you the flu, or because they might actually have that nasty new virus.
Thursday is my least favourite day of the week, because I have a 3 hour class followed by 3 hours of work (I am a teacher’s assistant for a class I took a few years ago). I am my most awake and happy in the morning, but on Thursdays I have to relax during the morning and try to sleep in (I never end up doing this) and do some self-care so that I’m not totally drained by the time I have to head to school.
Every Thursday morning I wake up with dread because I am genuinely afraid I will end up having paralyzing anxiety, or start a depressive episode, or just plain get so tired I cop out of class and work. In the past, I did – often. When I was still using (I am a recovering addict, if you haven’t read my blog…