It has been a while since I posted anything on here. Due to various health issues I have not been very motivated to write. And have often thought that I just didn’t think much of anything at all. A real stumbling block to a blog called “What I Think”!!
Some of what I have been dealing with is physical, but much more of it has been mental and emotional. There is something about mental and emotional problems that are especially wearing. Since the problem can’t be seen it is more difficult for friends and family to be sympathetic. The “snap out of it” mentality is particularly hurtful. I have been blessed with family and friends that don’t look at me funny when they find out I am bi-polar and that I have an anxiety disorder. But even with that the last several months have been a struggle.
Something a friend said to me has made a great deal of difference to me and I keep it in front of me as much as I can. I’d like to share it mostly for people that might be struggling themselves with any mental or emotional disorder. She told me, “Every moment, every hour, every day that you get through is a success. It means that the next moment, hour, day has hope for something good.”
Sometimes I can get through whole days, but more often it is only the hours and moments that I can get through. It is good to have the reminder that they are a “success”. And how wonderful that they add up to make days, and even weeks and months now. As for the “hope for something good.” Yes, sometimes the successes lead to good. I mean, when I have a good day I only got there because of the moments that I survived.
I share this for two reasons. For those of you who are struggling, you can succeed. You may have to take it a moment at a time but each one of those moments is a success. For those who know someone who is struggling, be patient, be kind. They may not be able to see their successes yet and what they really need is love and understanding.
Okay, this is a day late. Yesterday, here in the U.S., was the day where people are encouraged to try not smoking for just one day. The hope of course is that one day will lead to two and so on.
I am an ex-smoker and I write this well-meant post from experience as a smoker, quitter, and now as a non-smoker. This is a much touchier topic than many would think, so I preface this with this fact. I only ever mean to be helpful and occasionally humorous. So here goes, this is what I think.
As a smoker I loved to smoke. I liked the calm it gave me. I liked the taste. I liked that my hands had something to do. Add to that the fact that nicotine is proven to be as addictive as heroin and the decision to quit smoking does not come easy. So first and foremost a person really has to have a reason and a desire to quit. Reasons are numerous, money, health, health of a loved one, being respectful of the life given to us by our Creator. I am sure there are many, many other reasons out there to quit. The problem then becomes desire. Desire does not come so easily. But without it, you will be hard pressed to overcome this addiction.
As a quitter, that was tough. I quit twice. The first time I was in tears within hours. I just wanted a cigarette so much. There are a lot of programs out there and nicotine replacement options. And I will tell you that if one fails for you, and you want to be a quitter, try another. My first quit was with the gum. Worked great for me. My second time quitting I tried the gum, no go. I tried an herbal program, no go. Then the patch, success. Now it is important to keep in mind that with the nicotine replacement products you are not quitting right away. You may stop smoking right away, but you are still “using” the nicotine, which is a drug. Is this bad? That is for each person to consider. So long as you are in fact decreasing your dose as directed I personally think of this as a viable option. If you disagree, that is okay too. Now if you are going on the patch and never decreasing your dose so as to be nicotine free then you have really just switched the method you receive your drug.
As a non-smoker, how do I feel about smoking. I still struggle everyday. Sometimes I dream about smoking. Though much less now after nearly 7 years. When I smell a cigarette I am liable to have one of three reactions. Sometimes I can’t stand it. The smell, the smoke, it bothers me like I wish it would have when I first started smoking. Other times, I don’t even notice it, these are the best times. And then sometimes I want to rip the cigarette out of the person’s hand and finish it for them. This hasn’t changed in 7 years, and I don’t expect it will. A reason that I am glad I still have both my reason and my desire to not smoke. I feel for people who smoke, not in the sense of “aw, look what they are doing to themselves” but more like “look at what is being done to them.” Yes each person makes a choice to smoke but once that decision is made it is then the cigarette that takes control. And it is happening to them, whether every non-smoker in the world were to tell me different, this is what I think, this is just how hard it is to hang up the habit.
A note on the fact that there do exist some people who can quit at the drop of a hat and have no adverse effects in doing as much. I am glad that it is easy for you and I hope you will and will stay quit. Part of me doesn’t like you quite as much, well not you, just that ability, because I had to struggle so hard to get where I wanted to be. I shouldn’t be jealous, but I am just a touch. Others would do well to realize that this is not the norm. Just because your Uncle Joe quit in one day doesn’t mean that your wife can.
This leads me to what you can do to help a loved one quit. The key
is patience. And I’ll tell you what patience is and what it isn’t in this case. If someone you know is trying to quit smoking, letting them have that cigarette and rolling your eyes at them, that isn’t patience. Or giving them the silent treatment, putting on that stern face, exasperated face. We can see your body language and it does affect us. In fact most things people do and see frustrate us in our attempt and only make us want another cigarette! When I quit this last go around I had some fantastic support and I want to share that with you.
First I had a friend, she was very opposed to smoking. But never once did she demean me because of it. She understood that while she hated the behavior she should not hate me. We rarely discussed it, but sometimes I would bring it up. I knew her reasons for not liking smoking and I didn’t entirely disagree at the time. And I did want to quit, I just hadn’t found the how. One time she made the sweetest comment to me. She told me, “When you are ready to quit you will” That was it. No pressure, no judgement.
The second support I had come as a surprise to me. My co-workers at the time were incredibly supportive. Every day was a counting day. A congratulations for making it this far. When things got stressful and I didn’t have a cigarette that was practically a reason for a party. But also came the day, actually two of them, and I tripped. Stress got the better of me and I had a cigarette. The response from my co-workers? “You went without for x days, so in x days you only had one cigarette, how great is that?!?” They always managed to twist this slip up into a positive. and they always managed to convince me that I wouldn’t give up that I could still quit even if I did have one cigarette.
The third support I had was my family. They were very encouraging, always looking for things that might be helpful to my quitting. Also cheering me on.
I think that the key to really helping a person to quit smoking is to focus on the positive and ignore the setbacks. Or if the setback is brought to the fore by the quitter then turn it into a positive. Find a way to be encouraging, patient, and always remember it is the addiction that should be hated. The person with the addiction should be loved.
I have been back and forth to my desk today. A busy day, cleaning, reading, writing, crosswords, you understand, all the important stuff. Next to my desk is my guinea pig. He’s beginning to get old for a g.p. but he’s a cute little guy and sometimes he amuses me with his antics. Running in circles, staring out the bars with a pitiful look that means, “food please?”. And of course sometimes he stretches. Today when I caught him mid stretch it occurred to me that there is in fact a mammal stretch. Or at least a pet stretch.
I have 3 critters, Cana, my guinea, Obadiah, my dog and Tirzah, my cat. And everyone of them does the same stretch. And looking back at 4 dogs and many cats I can’t think of one that doesn’t do it. You know the stretch, front paws out in front, head down, butt up in the air. They all do it.
I’m not into yoga, I don’t like it’s background, but I can’t argue with the need to stretch. So I thought I would give it a try, not down on the ground mind you, I might get stuck. So I stood up, raised my hands up in the air, then pushed my butt out. I can tell you, I looked really ridiculous, but it did feel good.
So on this very random thought I’ll end with a request, and it is what I think: take a moment and stop what you are doing and just stretch. You don’t have to do the pet stretch but just stretch something.
Well, let’s just start with what I think, pain is a pain in the butt!
I have fibromyalgia, a wonderfully mysterious disorder (serious sarcasm to be read here), that allows its host to enjoy widespread pain. This pain is so wonderful (sarcasm is the order of the day), that it will not leave your side for any pain medicine. It is just that loyal of a friend!
Okay, while what I just said was true, let’s drop the sarcasm for some reality.
Obviously I have fibromyalgia. However, I don’t want to talk about how much pain I have or how much energy I don’t have. What I really want to share is how I cope. I have 4 main coping skills that I use to get from one day to next and to remain really quite, very, incredibly? happy. Which ever of those is the biggest adjective, that is the one I am glad to say that I am…absolutely no sarcasm meant here.
My first and foremost coping mechanism is my faith. I have a very good knowledge of the Bible and I use it to build me up. I have a strong relationship with God and I use that to comfort me. Obviously whoever is reading this may or may not share my religion, I am one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. My point is that faith and knowledge of our Creator can be a real comfort and does help me to cope. (If your curious about my faith)
My second coping tool is smiling. As often as I can as much as I can I smile. It releases wonderful chemicals that actually do have an effect on the pain. No, it won’t make it go away but it will help. So if you can do it, smile! Also connected with this is laughter. Just as important, it releases the same chemicals in your brain. So find something to laugh about. A favorite, , animal videos on youtube, friends with positive attitudes.
That leads to number three. Don’t let yourself be isolated. Granted there are times that we have pain that is too much to have to deal with people at the same time, but if it is just a mild or even medium pain day then socialize! My friends give me things to think about other than my pain. Distraction can, in my experience, work as a pain reliever too.
Number four, do what you can do, do what you like to do. Today is a good example of that for me. My pain isn’t too bad, I have a fair amount of energy. So today I will do whatever that allows me to do. Don’t waste a good day thinking that it will make the next day better. It might, but it might not. When you have chronic pain you can’t wait around for it to suddenly, permanently go away. Make the most of your good days. Have fun with them. Accomplish something, even something small. And the second half of that is do what you like. Make it a point to do things you enjoy. Today I am writing to all of you. I am a very creative person so I may work on origami or a painting or something along those lines. I enjoy that so I do that. It gives me things, fun things, to look back on when the pain is so bad I have to be in bed or on the couch.
(Note: This does not include when you have been ordered by doctor to stay in bed. If medically running around doing errands, cleaning house, going for walks, etc. is bad for you it is bad for you. This is simply about chronic pain with no other health risks involved. Also please keep in mind I am not a health professional, just someone who lives with pain.)
Well that about covers it. My four best coping tools for pain. They may at first seem impossible. Or maybe they seem ridiculous, but they have worked for me now for over seven years. And I do consider myself to be an incredibly happy person. I hope that it helps someone out there.
There is a contagion out there that I really think everyone needs to be aware of. It can be spread by physical or visual contact. Also audibly in the right circumstances. This “bug” is in fact so contagious that it can spread literally in seconds and has an immediate effect on the brain, altering levels of vital chemicals. You may be thinking right about now, “Why haven’t I heard anything about this? What should I do?” Well, here’s what I think. Since I am talking about the incredible smile and it’s ability to change your life and the life of others around you (even complete strangers) I say get infected! Smiling has real health benefits and is something we all need to catch more often. Aside from the purely external benefit of making us more attractive to others, smiling has been proven to increase neuropeptides which fight stress. Let’s face it, who here couldn’t use a little help fighting that? … Yep, as I thought, no one. We all face stress every day and we all could use a little pick me up. A smile might just be the pick me up you need. Also released when we smile are the neurotransmitters: dopamine, and serotonin, as well as endorphins. So a little run down on the effects of these little chemical gems. Dopamine motivates us. It allows us to see rewards and then go for them. Serotonin works as an anti-depressant and mood lifter. You’ve probably heard the word if you have any experience with depression. Endorphins, now there is a chemical for you. They work at blocking pain (I’m all for that) and increasing mood (I’m all for that too). Other benefits of these chemicals being released in the brain are a decrease in blood pressure, lower heart rate, and increased relaxation. Sounds pretty wonderful doesn’t it? But how true is it? Well I know I have benefited from it many times. Lousy day? Put on a smile and sure enough I perk up. I used to work in customer service. Actually I used to work in very fast paced, demanding customer service. My co-workers often thought I was off my rocker. Why? Because I kept the biggest smile plastered on my face all day long. Truth be known I didn’t particularly care for my job, but as long as I kept smiling I still managed to have fun. I got through every day feeling pretty good. So I have a challenge for you. If you really want to know if it works decide right now to spend one whole day smiling at everyone, including yourself. Sure, life might knock you down a little through the day, but smile anyway. And then at the end of the day you be the judge. You decide if the smile isn’t the best little “virus” you could ever catch!