Friday, October 30, 2015

Managing Chronic Illness and What My Doctor Misses

“The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.” – Aristotle

I may be a card-carrying AARP member (recently qualified, thank you!) but since “50 is the new 40,” I like to think of myself as pretty young, with many good years ahead of me. Unfortunately, my body doesn’t always agree with me. And when I’m running back and forth to doctor’s offices, with this and that wrong with me, I remind myself more of a retired elderly person than a working mother of an 11-year-old!

The problem with managing multiple chronic illnesses is that they often are running on parallel tracks. I think sometimes I should hold a conference so that my rheumatologist can confer with my dermatologist, who can then consult with my neurologist, and so forth and so on…oh yes, and so my primary care doctor would actually have a clue as to the total picture.

Those of you in my shoes know that’s not the way the world works, though, is it? We shuttle back and forth from our general practitioner to our various specialists and hope that somehow we can keep it all straight: The appointments. The blood tests. The scans. The meds.

Occasionally, the tracks do come together, however, but not always in the best way. The trains on the tracks collide, leaving us in a real mess, trying to figure out how to make things work together.

Such was the case in my life this past week. When, in the midst of several months of chronic migraines, I was given medicine for my chronic cough that made my head – as if it weren’t hurting enough – feel like exploding, every single day. It flared up my rosacea and then began interfering with my thyroid and RA meds too, leaving me as a red-faced, head-pounding, fatigued, joint-aching mess.

Finally, today, I said “ENOUGH!!”

It’s not as if I have all day to deal with this. Did I mention that I work and have an 11-year-old? And that tomorrow is Halloween?

I thought about it. What about all of those well-meaning people who have been offering me supplements and essential oils for my various ailments? What the heck, I thought. I’ll give it a try. I put out a cry to help on my Facebook page and by noon, I had numerous people offering advice. Whereas I had rejected their advice before, today I felt nothing but gratitude.

Take this. Try that. Drink this. Stop drinking that.

Feeling more open to new ideas than I ever had, I decided to adopt a few. Meeting with someone who had been in my shoes was wonderful. She described being on six medications for just one ailment, and how they had adversely affected her, which she finally replaced with an essential oil. Voila! It wasn’t prescribed but it wasn’t “witch doctor” science either. The bottom line is, it worked. I’m open. I’ll try it.

I tried yoga this week too. It’s something I’ve always hated, maybe because I wasn’t good at it, but I had bought a Yoga for Arthritis video awhile back and so I thought perhaps this time would be different. It was. I was open. I tried it. And it felt great!

I’m even trying things that feel really hard. Like giving up my Diet Coke. And cutting back my coffee. Ouch! These two beverages are something I really enjoy! But do I enjoy them enough to be miserable, if they are in fact the cause of my chronic cough and headaches. No, today, I don’t think so. So once again. I’m open. I’ll try it. And we’ll see what happens.

What I’ve realized today is how easy it is to get lost in the pharmaceutical jungle. There are some meds I must take. They are the foundation for keeping my more serious illnesses under control. But like so much in life, they are just a small part of the bigger picture.

I am more than a patient. I am a whole person!

As a whole person, I have to remember that my recovery has to be holistic as well. I have to apply what Aristotle said, that “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.” If one part of my recovery is missing, then my healing won’t be complete.

I need more than just medicine. I need healthy food. Regular exercise. Social engagement. Spiritual connection. I need the whole package.

I write a lot on Spring Sight about how to have a spiritual connection with our Heavenly Father. Do you have that connection? Do you realize how important it is as part of your recovery? Perhaps you already do, but like me, there are other parts of your self-care that have been missing. Whatever it is, be gentle with yourself. You can only do so much. But remember, just a little bit of effort in each area of your life can make a big difference when you put it all together.

I’ll keep you posted on how my journey to wholeness is going. How are you doing on yours?

Managing Chronic Illness and What My Doctor Misses originally appeared on Spring Sight blog, by Linda W. Perkins. Click here for more posts. Get even more encouragement by following me on FacebookPinterest, and Twitter

Many of Spring Sight's posts can also be found each week on Crystal Storms' #IntentionalTuesday,  Kelly Balarie's #RaRaLinkUp,, Holly Barrett's Testimony Tuesday, Arabah Joy's Grace & Truth and Woman to Woman's Word Filled Wednesday.

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  1. So glad you have so many resources from which to draw. Best of luck on your healing journey.