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Two Keys to Lifetime Wellness and Vitality

Laurie Erdman's picture

Illness can be a magnificent teacher if you allow it. In the 18 months since I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, each day I learn something new about me or the world. 

But not everyone I meet with this or other dis-eases is so open to illness being a teaching experience. I see the sadness that weighs on so many people that attend MS events. I hear it on facebook and forums. The message is, “I have given up joy.”

This isn’t limited to those with MS. My mother, who suffered from diabetes and heart disease, had given up on joy. Any recommendations to reverse her condition (whether by her doctors or me) was met with, "it's too hard, you just don't understand". This is an attitude I see often. It breaks my heart.

But then you see people like Kris Carr, Montel Williams or Zoe Koplowitz. They don’t crumble under the weight of the disease. They approach dis-ease with an “at all costs” attitude; trying anything and everything to feel better, to be joyful, to live. I call these people Wellness Heroes.

So what distinguishes Kris Carr from my mother? Let me tell you a story.

The Jungle

I used to be quite the gardener.  At one point, I had almost 400 square feet of garden planted with everything from tomatoes to potatoes and corn to peas.  Last spring I got into the garden to prepare the soil.  As any gardener knows, that involves a lot of squatting and weeding. The first time I stood up after weeding, I almost fell back down. I was dizzy and had a tad of vertigo. Not a fun feeling.

I tried again. Same result. I couldn't continue this way. But what was going to happen to my beloved garden? It went to seed. Gardening had lost its therapeutic value for me and had become a burden. It was painful to visit my backyard and see how weeds had taken over.

By late summer, the garden was a jungle. My husband, who loves homegrown tomatoes but doesn't have the gardening know-how, asked what he could do to help. But it was too late. Nevertheless, he persisted that we had do something other than pave it over. I told him that maybe if the beds were raised a few feet it would be easier for me - at least in the early mornings and evenings. What guy doesn't love a chance to use his table saw? So he started to reclaim our plot from the weeds. It took months and a lot of backbreaking labor on his part. The project lasted into this spring. By May, I had four 4 ft x 8 ft boxes that were each 2 ft high. He then filled them with straw and paper and compost and soil and lots of other goodies plants love.

Never Give Up

Most folks are about as happy as they make up their minds to be.  ~Abraham Lincoln

Why do I share this story? I could have told my husband last fall not to bother. I could have said, let's just pave it over or put in lawn. But then I would have walked the same path as my mother, I would have been giving up. It would have meant never eating a homegrown (by my hands) tomato or leaf of kale again.

And that is one of the differences that I learned between Wellness Heroes and those that give up to the burden of disease. Resiliency. Refusing to take no for an answer, but instead going back and trying again. I'm not saying that MS and other chronic illnesses don't suck or that I don't have bad days. There are bad days. 

During these last 18 months, I have learned that it is what we do with the good days that define our lives. Do we sit waiting for the next bad day to come? Or do we make the most of each good day with gusto. Those choosing the latter will tell you. Good and gusto, begets good and gusto.

Adapting and Creating

The other thing my new garden taught me is that a vibrant life requires creativity. I'm not just talking artistic creativity, although that certainly has its place.  No, I am talking about being creative in adapting your life so you can continue to do the things you love.

The meetings I talked of earlier can be depressing. Not the people in wheelchairs, but the demeanor of the attendees, even those that are mobile.  So often they are dejected. I talk to them and they admit they don't know any other way to be but sad. They have accepted that life won't be any better. Yet, they don't take any action to find joy. They have given up.

That's where creativity comes in.  Build 2-ft high beds.  Learn to dance  in your wheel-chair.  Become an inspirational speaker even though you are a quadraplegic.  Adapt your activity to your capabilities.  We are all capable of rising beyond our limitations.  It just takes a little creativity.

Resiliency is not letting external forces get in the way of what we desire. Adaptability is exercising our creativity in a way to make our desires possible.

How have you been resilient? How have you exercised your creativity to adapt life to your needs? Comment below and let us know how you are creating a life of wellness and vitality.

Continuously adapting,

Comments

Mom of 4's picture

This resonates

This resonates with me because I have a similar story. My mother was diagnosed with End Stage Renal Failure 1 year after my father died. For her it was a slow death sentence. She was from a line of women that had suffered generational depression, wallowed in a maze of self pity accompanied by a mantra of 'my husband died,my kids left & my health is failing.'

Try as we might(my brothers & I) to induce her to good habits, into caring for herself, of pulling herself out of her malaise of spirit...nothing worked. She worked---she was a hard worker & a good provider after Dad died, but she never applied that work to herself...never gave herself credit for being a successful Mom.

She traveled a lot. People lauded her accomplishment of traveling while on peritoneal dialysis--that didn't change her mindset. She refused kidney transplants, anti-depressive medication, counseling, was non-compliant with her meds...while outwardly(to the public) being Miss Happy-go-Lucky.

Her lack of self care led to peritonitis that finally claimed her life at age 65. She collapsed in front of me & my 3 sons, who were just toddlers. I 'ran her code'..as we say in the EMS vernacular...CPR, intubated her...yes..me.

I've since had some health issues. I'm not going to allow myself to fall into the trap of giving up. I can live with these things (and change some), successfully. Even if it means raising the garden, buying special shoes, eating a special diet. I refuse to become a victim of the voices in my head that are negative, unproductive & hateful to me.

Thanks for your article...and a special blessing to your husband who raised the garden :-)

Mom of 4

Laurie's picture

Bless you

Mom of 4,

Oh sweetie, what a story. No one should have to experience that, especially at that age. Big virtual (((hugs))) to you.

I saw a similar thing with my mother, which is part of why I became a health coach. It is so empowering to care for yourself. Hold the light in your heart and stay positive. We are here to support you.

And raise those beds love.

xoxo
Laurie

Marjorie's picture

I meant "broken open." What a

I meant "broken open." What a slip!

Marjorie's picture

Thank you

What a beautiful message Laurie. Thank you for sharing. I admire your resiliency and your willingness to be broken up as they say by your disease. Just by walking that path you make a way for the rest of us.

In recent years, I've mysteriously contracted a number of annoying but "livable" ailments -- food allergies, environmental allergies, asthma, depression. My doctor gave me meds, shots, blood tests and sent me on my way. This was to be my life. I just couldn't accept that, and along I went on the path of healing. Along the way, I learned a great deal about my body, and also about our food supply. I'm still not "cured" but what I've learned has changed me forever. I have a much better relationship with my body AND, as a recovering New Yorker, I suddenly want to become a farmer in order to help restore real food to our lives

This path of dis-ease leads to some interesting places!

I wish for you more love and more light in your life

sue bock's picture

Right On

Lissa

You've hit the nail on the head. I just came from a 50th birthday party of someone who has had MS for about 35 years. She has persisted her way through the disease for the past 15 years. Through good medical treatment and knowledge as an RN, she has fully lived her life. Her body is starting to betray a bit now, but still she persists. A disease is just that a disease. You adapt and move on to a new normal if you have to.

I had breast cancer and I do not receive my identity from the breast cancer. It's up to me to determine what I want my life to be.

Soon my new website will be launched and I'll be able to help women who have lost their identity to breast cancer. There is life after breast cancer. I and others are living proof.

So, Lissa, I bow to your courage.

Sue Bock

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