How To Have A Chronic Illness So It Doesn’t Have You

5 Rules For Living With Chronic Illness and Depression

I'm very proud and excited to be featured today on the popular blog Beyond Blue.

Last week when Judge Sotomayor was nominated to be a Supreme Court justice, one thing that grabbed me was that she was diagnosed with Type I diabetes when she was eight years old. How did managing this dangerous illness all her life influence her? Did it drag her down? Did it motivate her? One thing I know for sure, it had a powerful influence in her journey.

For every person of prominence coping with chronic illness, there's hundreds of thousands of us who are doing the best we can to live fully with what was dealt us. This is a topic that is very close to my heart because of my own experience and the courage I'm privileged to witness in my patients.

There is so much to discuss about living a satisfying life with chronic illness that I decided to write a book about it. This book will not be a downer. It will be funny, uplifting and a kick in the pants! I would love to hear about how you or someone you love thrives with, or in spite of, chronic illness. Please leave a comment or write me your story at!

Fighting In Front Of The Kids

Don't do it. It's not good for them.Child-sad-240-j-4572636

Recent studies show that when parents fight regularly in front of their kids, purely verbal down and nasty fights, the children's emotional suffering is as though they've witnessed physical abuse.

It's that hurtful.

My parents justified having some horrible arguments in front of us saying we needed to see that adults could argue, resolve their differences and still love each other. Somehow that wasn't comforting when I saw my Mom reduced to tears by my Dad's callousness (and she could give as good as she got, believe me.) Those arguments didn't occur often but when they did they were terrifying.

It is true that role modeling the expression of honest differences of opinion, respectful negotiation, friendly, even if heated, discussion and resolution could benefit a child's perception of what it's like to be in an adult relationship. That's good communication.

But when we slip our leashes, raise our voices, use ugly language, communication has stopped. People delude themselves by thinking, "If I just banged my head against this wall harder and louder something will change for the good." The only thing that results from parents behaving badly is a child's broken heart.

For tips on how to avoid this pitfall read, The Dangers Of Arguing In Front Of Your Kids

To Build Self-Esteem: Take A Compliment!


Why is a compliment almost as hard to take as criticism?

When I was a kid my well-intentioned Mom taught me to discredit compliments. “Oh, no, I’m not pretty, clever, smart, nice…” To do otherwise would be conceited.

Q: What’s the result of too much compliment denial?

A. A starving self-esteem dying for some good nurturing,

B. The gap left in your self-esteem where the compliment would go is filled with bad, abusive junk,

C. You risk annoying your relatives and friends who just want you to see what they see, or, (you guessed it)

D. All of the above.

If we refuse to let people tell us how great we are where does that leave us? It leaves us with the abusive junk. If we swallow “You’re stupid, ugly, a failure, [fill in the blank],” often enough, whether from others or from our own head, somewhere along the way we start to believe it and it becomes us. “I’m just stupid, ugly, a failure.” The nasty, harsh voice takes over. Our true voice, the one that still believes in us, is drowned out.

I don’t know you, we’ve never met, but I do know this: You are not stupid, ugly or a failure, any more than I am. Deep in your heart you know this, too. Your true voice whispers, “I am good, I am smart, I can succeed.”

Embracing a genuine compliment means believing in yourself enough to trust the sincerity of the compliment giver. How do we get there?

Step 1.  Say Thank you. Reflect the compliment back in the spirit in which it was given. Even if you aren’t feeling it, smile and say ‘Thank you,’ gracefully, without embellishment. Just thank you. No explanations, no defensiveness, no demurring.

Step 2. Savor the compliment like tasting a good wine or fine chocolate! We are none of us perfect, we could all improve in some way. Instead of focusing on the unreasonable notion that we are always bad, doesn’t it make better sense to say, “I’m not perfect but I’m worthy of this recognition.” Let the compliment nurture your self-esteem just as a tall cool glass of water nurtures your body.

Step 3. Repeat.

Do these exercises faithfully by yourself, with friends or family if that helps, or with your therapist. As a consumer of my own advice I admit I have relapses. Just the other day my daughter complimented me.

“Mom, you look really good.”

My response? “Are you kidding? My eyes are like pin pricks because I have this cold. I think I look awful.”

Honest to God, she replied, “Mom, you’ve got to learn to take a compliment better.”

Like exercising muscles, I can guarantee you do get stronger bit by bit, day by day, until one day you will surprise yourself by smiling at the compliment and, without even thinking, say:

“Thanks! I do look great today!”

The Middle Aged Woman & The Little Italian Dress

100_1444-thumb-505xauto-1621 When I weighed myself Saturday morning I lost one whole pound! The inches around my waist didn't budge but the scale did. Thank you God! That means that since taking my weight seriously six weeks ago, I've lost 3 pounds and 1.25 inches around my waist.

A triumph! No irony here – I mean it! Take three 15 oz cans of diced tomatoes, that's how much I've lost. Not bad? That's terrific! Especially when (I have to remind myself) the slower the weight loss the more permanent the weight loss.

Then take the real evidence of dropping a whole dress size! Just makes me shiver with happiness. Last March I bought a little Italian sheath (at Atelier on Elmwood pictured here with owner Sebastiana Piras) that was too tight at the time. I know! Big shopping NO, NO! Clinton and Stacy would gnash their teeth. But shut up, S & C! That shopping expedition three months ago was a big incentive to getting my weight under control.

Last week I wore that little sheath with a pair of brand new bright red shoes and felt like a damn princess!

Listen up my beautiful sisters! Real health gains are glacially slow. Our 21st century "I want it NOW" inner child needs to be told by our inner alpha female to delay that gratification (or real whipped cream strawberry shortcake) for the greater good.

As you can tell I seriously need this pep talk. It frightens me that I will get tired and give up because the loss is so slow and give in to the devil who whispers, "You've lost weight! You're feeling good! You can relax now and eat those potato chips." Use anything that works for you to keep the divine healthy motivation going.

Every time we make an it's-going-to-kill-me hard healthy choice I'm convinced we lose three toxic emotional pounds and gain in genuine self-esteem weight.

And that tastes better than all the ice cream in Wegman's.

Thoughts on Memorial Day Weekend

DSC00147 This morning was spent setting up the back yard patio and screened in porch for summer enjoyment. We in Western New York can't take this season for granted. Only a week ago there was a hard frost warning that had anyone with young basil already planted running for cover. Once the Memorial Day all-clear sounds, we tend our gardens with enthusiasm. Our best kept secret: Summers in Western New York are near perfect.

I never do anything in the garden before this weekend A) as an excuse to procrastinate the hard labor and B) it's easier to recruit teenage assistance if they're as anxious to enjoy the outdoors as I am. This weekend we were bang out of the gates like Kentucky Derby racers. Now I am sitting on my favorite screened in porch taking in the scent of freshly cut grass and talking to you all. The greatest thing about hard work is the rest after.

This video is adorable. Pass it on to someone you love.

Monday’s Weight Loss Confession

2391334189_d61c947cbc Oh, the manipulations we weave on the path to weight loss. 

I had a feeling on Sunday I was going to relax a bit on the eating and exercise thing. And of course I did, because I went to the Star Trek movie, (loved it!) and had movie theater popcorn and potato chips with my home grilled hamburger for dinner. A salt and fat orgy.

So I weighed myself Saturday morning instead of this morning figuring I have a week to make up for Sunday's indulgences. Saturday I was feeling pretty good about myself and I didn't want to lose that feeling.

So on Saturday I weighed 154 lbs and lost another 3/4 inches from my waist (33.75)!

How do you like that? Half a pound lost since last week. Not a lot, but the article Maria provided about lean muscle weighing more per volume of fat helped. My waist measure keeps going in the right direction, plus my clothes are perceptively looser. The best thing is I just plain feel better.

The challenge this week is to continue to:

  • Step up my workouts: intense 45 minutes at least 4 times a week with lighter workouts (20 minutes of yoga or horseback riding) twice a week.
  • Stop eating around 7:30 or at least two hours before going to bed.
  • Try to apply the hunger scale and stop eating when I've reached a 5.
  • Pay greater attention to the quality of my food.

I feel the need to cut out all salty snacks and sweets just for the week as an experiment. We'll see how that goes.

The hunger scale thing could do better, too. Research says that we humans are programmed to keep eating once we've started and, boy oh boy, I know what they mean. Not eating isn't as hard for us as stopping once we've gotten started. It really sucks when our brain is our own enemy

The few times I've shoved my plate away with food still on it I gave myself major snaps for doing the right thing despite the devil whispering to me about being wasteful. Will this ever get easier?

Just for fun. Were you disappointed that Helen won Biggest Loser? There's a lot of chatter on the blogs about how she looked too skinny and how people don't like her much because she appears self-centered. One commenter couldn't get over how Helen 'threw her daughter under the bus.' Something about her bugs me too, but I feel like a petty bitch mentioning it. I was rooting for Tara.

Puzzled about Helen's win? Here's a fun activity to distract us from our weight woes, provided to us by Janice Taylor, Our Lady of Weight Loss. Enjoy!

Photo courtesy of lobstar28 via Flickr

Money vs Happiness

Once in a while we need a message of assurance that human kind has not totally lost its way. This video I was introduced to on Twitter by a tweet from Ankur Patel assures me that we have learned something from the recession and that good sound values are not lost.

Looking For A Good Therapist?

1098106984_d250a227fb When
people call me to set up an initial appointment I recommend that they
interview me as much as I assess them. There is no charge for our first meeting because I know:

  • The decision try therapy is hard.
  • Looking for a therapist is hard.
  • Investing in therapy is hard.

That's why I try to ease the stress as much as I can and invite questions to help determine if we are a "good fit". Developing what psychotherapists call a "working alliance" is essentially
team building.
If we're not a good fit, one or the other of us will know
pretty quickly, sometimes even in that first phone call.

We may not 'fit' for
all kinds of reasons.
It's no one's fault. I may not have the expertise you're looking
for, my office location or schedule may be prohibitive, you'd rather
see a male therapist.
What's more difficult to identify is when the
lack of fit has more to do with that hard to identify quality of personality
or approach or style.

A good
therapist is one who works hard to hone a range of knowledge and skills since not
any one is going to fit every person who comes to you for help. A good therapist
carries many tools in her tool kit.
A professor in graduate school said,
"If you only have a hammer all you see is nails." Some therapists only know how to treat depression so, guess what? Everyone who comes to see them is depressed. Even if I only
treated one person, as that person progressed through therapy their
needs will change and so must my interventions.

So what
happens when I don't have the tool for what my patient needs?
A good therapist can put their ego aside for the sake of their patient. If I'm stuck I'll
go to a colleague for peer supervision. Sometimes I will read on the
subject or go to a continuing education workshop. Once in a while the
best answer is to suggest a consultation with another professional.

complicates this decision for the therapist is the concept of
Us therapists need to be good and sure we aren't pushing
our patient away simply because we are frustrated, or something about the patient
irritates us or that that 'something' has more to do with who we are rather
than the problem our patient brings to us.

Being a
good therapist requires quite a bit of insight into strengths and blind spots, a lot of patience, compassion and constant
assessment, not only of our patient but of ourselves as well.
To achieve that, a good therapist's education and training never stops.
That's what makes us
And that's a good thing.

To Reap Psychotherapy's Benefits, Get a Good Fit

12 Most Annoying Bad Habits of Therapists

Nine Rules for Surviving Therapy

Photo Courtesy of saibotregeel via Flickr

“You can often tell a good marriage by the number of teeth marks on your tongue.”

374895215_facab19e0a_s Steven Roberts (who wrote From This Day Forward with his wife Cokie Roberts) explains why biting
one's tongue is essential to a good marriage:

"Candor is often
overrated in marriage. I don't mean deceit or lying, but tact and
tolerance. Often, the very best thing you can do in a marriage is shut

So true, so true.

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