Depression, Suicide, Photography

I had a wonderful story to tell you for today’s post, but Cee distracted me with another blog that deserves to be recognized for exceptional writing.  I would like to present Jenn Mishra of “Traveling at Wit’s End”.

Jenn writes about her own battles with depression and suicide in a frank and deeply personal way.  She also tells how a photography project helps keep her grounded and moving forward.  Her photography is incredibly beautiful, a delight to view.  Her story is compelling and courageous.  Please read her blog and let her know how much her words resonated with you.

Cee and I have family members who battle depression.  We’ve done the same when Cee was critically ill, chronically suffering.  I’ve worked for years with grieving children and their families and have heard their heartbreak when suicide struck their family.  There are no answers for them.

But there could be answers for all of us if we would just talk about depression, about suicidal thinking.  The only shame about mental health is when we don’t talk, and we don’t listen, and another life ends early.

Here in Oregon where we live, suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death for young people, topped only by traffic accidents.  We have the 8th highest suicide rate in the nation.

If you would like information about suicide in your state go to AFSP’s suicide statistics page.

If you are in crisis, please call the

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255)

or contact the Crisis Text Line by texting TALK to 741741.

Here is a link to American Foundation for Suicide Prevention Suicide Risk Factors and Warning Signs.

With much love and appreciation,

Chris (and Cee)

Changing Expectations

Cee had a revelation a few days ago.  We had a great day, with plenty of physical activity, time spent cleaning up the house, planning the future and working on our business.  And we were astonished by that.

We shouldn’t have been.

She discovered that we have come to expect bad days, low achievement days, sitting in limbo days, because that is all we have known for fifteen years.  Lyme disease, and the grief that came with it, reduced the quality of our lives to barely breathing.  We were couch potatoes, not by choice but by the control Lymes had over both of us.

We don’t have to live that way any more but no one told us to change our expectations.

Drat these lives for not coming with instruction manuals.

Here’s the thing… when the circumstances of our lives change, we have to adjust our expectations, too.  Sometimes that is painfully obvious, like with the death of a spouse.   With something like a disease or illness, that isn’t always so obvious.  Cee came out of a debilitating coma with the expectation that life would return to normal, but it didn’t.

But what do we do when there are good things in our lives?  Do we think to change expectations?  Probably not.  We’ve become hard-wired the other way.  So when, like in Cee’s case, you are getting healthier and more able to move, what do you do with it?  Do you even recognize that there is an opportunity for new expectations?

Nobody ever tells you that when a life pattern changes, you have to change your expectations, but you DO have to change.  Expectations come from your heart, not from your head.  You might know that something isn’t going to happen like it used to, but that comes from your head.  Your head is telling you one thing, and your heart is saying another. You have to get the two of them in alignment with each other again.

Bad things are going to happen.  Good things are going to happen.  That’s what life is all about.

Can you think of a time your heart held onto old expectations, old dreams, good or bad, even when you head was telling you not to?  Did you adjust your expectations or not?

Lots of virtual hugs,

Chris

Chris@Cee-Chris.com

Didn’t know before…

I know for me, forgiving myself is one of the hardest things to do.

The definition of forgive is “to stop feeling angry or resentful toward (someone) for an offense, flaw, or mistake”.

My illness has caused a lot of damage in our lives.  We’ve lost our home, cars, jobs, friends, everything… almost.  I wonder at times how I didn’t lose Chris.  Chronic illness effects every part of your world.  I blame myself for all of it and I struggle to forgive myself.

Is it right to blame myself?  Chris says no, because I didn’t do anything to cause my illness.  But it’s hard not to feel responsible. It’s hard for me to forgive me.

I am learning through my training as a Grief Recovery Method Specialist that I was only judging myself for a lack of knowledge and experience in new or different situations, none of which needs forgiveness.  There is nothing for me to forgive because I did nothing wrong.  I didn’t set out to create an “offense, flaw or mistake” as the definition of forgiveness states.

Sometimes we just have to let ourselves off the hook, to let go of the past.  Sometimes things just happen.  It’s no one’s fault.  It just is.

I’m learning to love myself more, and that feels good.  It makes me smile.

Hugs, Cee

email: cee@cee-chris.com

 

 

Incompleteness

Before I got sick with Lymes Disease, I had a lot of hopes, dreams and expectations for myself, especially when it came to physical activity.   Before I met Chris, I was a runner.  I played tennis and was actually fairly active.  Shortly after we got together, we would camp and hike at 10,000 ft elevation nearly every weekend in the spring to early fall.  When we were not camping, we would be planning the next hike or traveling.  We even would camp in the winter on the eastern plains of Colorado in the snow and wind.

In 2001, I woke up from my 40-day coma unable to move nearly any muscle in my entire body.  I couldn’t hold a pencil, talk or lift my hands.  Since the doctors at that time didn’t know why I was so deathly ill, they said I should regain the use of my body.  What they didn’t tell me was it would take many years to get my body back to a functioning level, to where I was prior to getting sick.  The hope of camping at altitude and hiking every weekend was not in my future, at least not for a few of years, as long as I stayed healthy and worked on getting my body back in shape.  So I lived the next 16 years expecting and hoping and dreaming I would be able to be physical once again.  But my body failed me time and time again as Lymes Disease kept flaring up.

When we suffer a loss of any kind, no one ever tells us that we have to change or adapt our hopes, dreams and exceptions for ourselves.  The Grief Recovery Method teaches us to look at these hopes, dreams and exceptions.  Once we can examine them, we can make the changes that need to be addressed.

It’s easy to understand how the death of a loved one changes dreams, hopes and expectations for that relationship.  The person is gone, and all your future changes in an instant.

It’s easy to understand how divorce does the same thing in your life.  You had planned to spend a lifetime with this person.  “To death do us part”.  And yet here you are, sitting with your lawyers, dividing up your stuff, battling over custody and visitation rights for the kids.  So long,  Hopes.  Bye bye, Dreams.  See ya, Expectations.

What you are feeling is grief.

How did your hopes, dreams and expectations change with your loss?

(Coming soon… how “better, different and more” figure into your grief equation.)

Hugs, Cee

email: cee@cee-chris.com

 

Loss: Independence

My beautiful, smart and wonderful daughter has a  heart condition.  When I asked for suggestions for this post, she wanted me to talk about loss of independence.  Cee and I know a lot about the subject, as do any of you who have a chronic illness.  It also applies in many ways to those of you who have gone through the death of a loved one, and many other types of losses.  I’ll address it from the angle of chronic illness first, and let all of you chime in.

Chronic illness robs you of your independence.  Period.  You can’t get around it.  In my daughter Nikki’s case, she has to rely on her husband and son to do certain things for her.  She can’t carry too many things, or things that are too heavy, so she needs one of them to go to the store with her, or for her.    She doesn’t travel alone any more, just in case she gets too weak or needs assistance.  She can’t work, so she can’t support herself.  She has to rely on her husband’s income.  She has lost her independence in so many ways.  She can’t go running or get to the gym when she wants.  She can’t go out with the girls, just to relax and catch up with them.  Heart disease as serious as hers controls her life now.

Cee and I know what loss of independence is all about.  After the three times she has almost died, she needed me to do everything for her.  After the coma in 2001, she even needed to be fed because she had lost so much muscle mass.  After each significant bout of Lyme disease, she would lose what little independence she had gained back.  Fortunately, she’s so much better now that she can drive herself around, do her own laundry, and help to clean around the house.  I still support her.  She’s not ready to go back into the work force.  That’s one of the reasons she became certified as a Grief Recovery Specialist.  She’s able to start earning money again while controlling her hours and working conditions.  That, and the fact that she’s darned good at it.

You might not have a condition as severe as Nikki’s, or as complicated as Cee’s has been, but if you have any sort of chronic illness, or a long term illness like cancer can be, you have been forced to give up some of your independence.  It’s just part of the package.

Those of us who are caretakers for someone with a chronic illness also give up our independence.  We have to be more mindful of how we are spending our energy and time, to be there for the person we love.  I’ve given up the hiking and camping Cee and I loved to do together, for example.

A death in the family often results in a loss of independence as one person now becomes the sole bread winner, or surviving parent or caretaker.  It might mean that you have to give up your house or apartment and move in with a family member.

How have you had a loss of independence?

Keep those questions coming!  Feel free to suggest topics!

Lots of virtual hugs,

Chris and Cee

 

Why does the Grief Recovery Method work?

I thought I’d take a few minutes to answer some questions we’ve been getting.

What is the Grief Recovery Method and why does it work?

We have the following information on all of our pages on the right hand side of the screen, but I thought it would be good to post it here, too.

Because grief is such a misunderstood and little talked about topic, it may be easier to start by saying what the Grief Recovery Method isn’t:

It’s not counseling
It’s not therapy
It’s not an alternative treatment

While any of the above routes may be of some little or great benefit, they mainly offer a path to discovery of the thoughts and feelings you have around the loss in your life. The Grief Recovery Institute maintains that discovery is not the same as recovery.

The Grief Recovery Method is an action plan. It is a series of small steps that when taken, in order, by the griever, it leads to the completion of the unresolved business linked to the loss.

What do you do as a Certified Grief Recovery Specialist?

We teach the Grief Recovery Method and guide you through it.  We start by giving you a broader understanding of grief, what it is, how it influences your life and how you’ve been trained to handle grief by your upbringing and society, then talk about grief myths (like “time heals all wounds”).  Once you have a better understanding of all that, you’re ready to start working on unresolved grief in your life.  This is a real class.  You will have a textbook, reading and homework assignments.

Every week we explain the steps you’ll take in your homework assignments but you decide which grief event you’re going to work on.  I like that part of it.  Cee and I just act like tour guides, helping you see the patterns in your life, but you control the process and do the work.  It’s all about YOU.

Can I just get the book and do it myself?

Yes, you can, but I have this story to share with you.

When I started working with grieving children nine years ago, I wanted to know everything about grief that I could.  I had read extensively, and the Grief Recovery Method Handbook was the book I found the most valuable.  I now have three different editions of it in my bookcase.  But for all of that, I didn’t make a lot of progress with the Method.  I think the problem with doing it on your own is that we have all become such experts at stuffing grief, we can’t call our bluff when we’re avoiding things that are important.  We stuffed all those feelings for a reason.  We’ve kept them buried for years, and quite effectively so.  We aren’t going to be turning those impulses off in an instant just because we’re reading a really helpful book.

So working with another person is better, provided it’s someone you can be comfortable with and can trust.  A word of caution, however.  You can’t do this work with someone who is involved in your grief.  That’s why I’m not helping Cee work through her unresolved issues around her illness.  I was there.  I’m a big part of that story.  We each have grief because of it.  There is magic in saying things out loud to a compassionate, non-judgmental listener who isn’t normally a part of your story.

The best thing is to work with a trained Grief Recovery Specialist.  We’ve gone through some intense training to be able to do this work.  We have our own support system set up and plenty of resources for when people ask us difficult questions or when we come across unusual situations, like chronic illness and the many layers of losses that come with that kind of prolonged illness.  We also have ongoing educational opportunities and an impressive library of audio and video instruction.

Keep those questions coming!

Lots of virtual hugs,

Chris and Cee

 

Update on Cee’s Chronic Illness Work

This is a follow up article from my Loss:  Cee’s Chronic Illness article.

Me in the hospital, 17 years ago today.

My first Grief Recovery Method teacher wouldn’t touch any of my health issues during class because I was told that my health issues were too complex.  My teacher did suggest I start by doing a chart on my health.  I put together a timeline and chart that covered any type of illness that I had over my entire lifetime, not just Lymes Disease or when I was hospitalized and in a long coma, but also when I had severe bronchitis as a child.  On this chart I included some of the highlights of my life, like when we moved away from Minnesota when I was a child, graduations, when Chris and I got together, etc.  It was easier for me to correlate events with illnesses.  The timeline and chart gave me a good basis to look for patterns.

The one big pattern I found was:

Lyme disease —> No control over body —> brought up childhood issues

What stood out for me for the fifteen years I struggled with Lyme disease is that I had no control over my own body.  Someone (mostly Chris) had to do everything for me.  I was so weak after the coma that I couldn’t even speak or write, feed myself or wash my face.  I got better and could start doing the routine things of daily life, but I still have moments where I need help with things.

But I saw there was a pattern in my earlier life, when my father molested me.  Despite years of working on incest issues, I found out that no control over my body as an adult threw me back into no control over my body as a child.

So when I met with Cari Dawson this past week so she could work with me on my illness loss issues, I told her my revelation.  We continued to talk for a half hour about my dad and incest issues.  So my homework assignment from her was to do a relationship chart regarding my father.

But I’m finding out that loss of health isn’t that complex.  It’s just one more layer.  I’m learning that the work needs to begin with what is on your mind right now because that appears to be vital.  All losses in our life are connected in some ways.  One thing I’m really learning is that grief is cumulative and negatively cumulative.

Hugs, Cee

cee@cee-chris.com

 

 

 

Loss: Chronic Illness

Cee and I have uncovered a lot of new ideas as we’ve been doing our Grief Recovery work.  We’ve had some huge “Aha!” moments.  But we haven’t started doing a deep dive into the “elephant in the room”, her journey through Lyme disease and the impact it has had on our lives.  That is going to be an epic saga, I think.

Don’t get me wrong, we’ve done a lot of processing of it through the years.  We couldn’t be the happy, sane, caring people we are if we hadn’t.  But chronic illness has huge ramifications, with many layers of losses.

So what is a chronic illness?  A chronic illness is a health condition or disease that is persistent in its effects or a disease that comes with time. The term chronic is often used if the condition lasts longer than 3 months.  Examples of chronic illnesses are:  heart disease, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, kidney disease, COPD (lungs), lupus, MS, chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia, and our not-so-favorite, Lyme disease.  These conditions are just the tip of an ever growing iceberg, and often bring with them depression, anxiety, insomnia and a host of related problems.

Chronic illness affects the person with the illness, and also the family members who provide care or live with them.  In general, here are some of the most common losses:

  • mental and emotional wellbeing
  • physical comfort
  • a clear mind, because brain fog is normal with chronic illness
  • personal dignity and physical privacy, as people are always examining you
  • control over your body
  • financial stability
  • the feeling of having a future.  When it’s a struggle to make it through today, tomorrow doesn’t matter any more.
  • friends, as they give up on someone who is always cancelling on them at the last minute
  • independence
  • happiness, as pain and physical struggles replace it in life
  • fitting in, as you park in the handicap spot, or need a walker, or have visible scars on your body, or wear a head scarf to cover your bald head
  • the security of having loved ones in your life.  If you suffer from illness, there is the chance your spouse/child/parent will give up and walk out.  If you care for someone with an illness, there is the fear of death of your loved one, sometimes coupled with the guilt at hoping the end will come peacefully and quickly.

Cee will be applying the new techniques we have learned with the Grief Recovery Method to resolve some of these losses.  I will be working on my related ones as a caregiver at the same time.  We’ll be talking about how it feels, and what it means to get some resolution around these losses.

It’s going to be an interesting adventure.  If you or a loved one suffers from a chronic illness, please join this blog and participate in the discussions we’ll be having.  Feel free to share your own story in the comments below, but please be safe when you do so.  Remember that you are sharing with a lot of people, almost all of whom you don’t know.  Or email us privately.  We will never disclose any communication we have from you without your prior consent.  We treat your privacy as a sacred trust.

Much love and very gentle virtual hugs to all of you,

Chris and Cee

chris@cee-chris.com

cee@cee-chris.com