Simple Things

Thirty years of MS. Eight years of LDN (low dose naltrexone — see and I’m still improving. I’ll be 65 this year . . . doing my best to steal back those middle years of my life I lost, but AGE is getting me from the other side as well. Arthritis in my knees, hips, wrists, and fingers from all the years of falling down. (Tumeric helps the pain and inflammation tremendously.) Vision problems from vitreous detachments (not sight-threatening–just irritating–“floaters” and flashing lights.) Numb feet that nobody can diagnose. The neurologist, of course, wants to hang the diagnosis on MS. After thirty years, I know what an MS exacerbation feels like. If it was MS, I would not be able to garden when it is 90 degrees out. Those feet and ankles would be so weak, I’d be sitting in the dirt. No, not diabetes. Blood sugar is normal. Cholesterol, better than normal. I don’t take any of the drugs with “serious warnings,” the ones that make you question whether the drug is worse than the disease.
Diet is extremely important. On one side, LDN can reduce inflammation. But, many foods are inflammatory . . . and a drug is not going to do its best when you’re using it to put the brakes on a disease process and fueling the “inflammation engine” by eating bad food, especially refined sugar. The benefit of a well-balanced diet extends beyond its benefit in helping my autoimmune condition. I believe it has really helped in significantly controlling the onset of a lot of age-related conditions, diseases I am glad are that are not in my body’s vocabulary–but ARE in my family history on both sides: heart disease, diabetes, cancer . . .
When I had active MS, depression was a horrible problem. People told me I was depressed because I HAD MS, that it was about what I couldn’t do or couldn’t do well . . . and the depressing, long-range prognosis. I argued for years that, no, I was not depressed about HAVING MS (although there would be every reason in the world to be depressed), the MS CAUSED the depression . . . that is was like this horrible fist pressing down on my brain, and it was a FORCE that could not be resisted. Kind of like what one of the first doctors I saw the first time my feet went numb told me–“You’re having a hysterical reaction;” i.e., “It’s all in your head.”
Hysterical reaction? What?
“You just had a baby six months ago. You’re working too hard.”
Well, yes. I had had a difficult pregnancy, with premature labor where I almost lost my son, and almost lost him again in grief when my cousin was killed by a drunk driver. I was confined to bed and saw no one except my husband for months. My son’s birth was extremely physically damaging. He nursed every two hours day and night., so I was exhausted. Then I got a flu that wouldn’t go away. And somehow MS crept into my life.
What did the doctor tell me? “You need to get your husband to help out more.” Uh huh. Small chance of that.
I wish I had known about LDN and started when I was first diagnosed, or at least when Dr. Bahari discovered that it worked. First symptoms–1977. Diagnosis–1978. Dr. Bahari’s research–1983. MS cost me a marriage, a career, and a lot of years of joy in raising my children because, as a single mom, by the time I worked full time, cooked meals, and did the housework, there wasn’t much left of me to give my kids. At times, I was too ill to do anything after work. I’d get home and go to bed. I turned some of the chores over to the kids, but responsibility for and actually completing the work are two different things, especially with a mom too exhausted to argue. Probably, one of the best things I did was to rely on logical consequences. If they wanted clean clothes, they were responsible for doing their own laundry. If they wanted to eat, cook. My son decided one day, at age nine, that he wanted cake. I handed him a recipe book . . . and he succeeded the very first time. Today, he’s quite a good cook . . . and proud of it.
I think the fear of what was happening to their mom when they were kids has affected them to this day. Having family close by provided reassurance that we weren’t completely alone. By the time the kids had both left home for college in 1998, I was getting pretty bad. By the time I became “unemployable” in 2001, I controlled the finances by turning off the heat and air conditioning. I was glad the kids were not affected.
When I first started LDN in 2007, I felt “shaky,” like the ground beneath me was going to give way and I would fall. What’s surprising about that? I had spent the past 30 years falling. I was used to it. And, yes. I still continued to fall . . . physically. But those falls became fewer and farther between . . . and it was no longer falling because the disease was getting worse. It was falling because I was trying so hard to push the limits to get better. (But, don’t push TOO hard. LDN can only do so much and you have to give your body a chance to heal.) It’s like being an athlete building up to a triathlon. Push too hard, you get injured and have to ease off.
Now for a side note. Need to build up your quads? This works if you are at least still somewhat mobile, Start by standing with your calves against your bed mattress. Then sit down and stand back up repeatedly as many times as are comfortable and then try to do one more.. Still unsteady? Can’t quite make it up even one time? Have someone put a chair study chair about a foot in front of you and hold on. If you can’t quite make it up, you fall on the bed . . . no damage done. And you can use the bounce of the bed to help you until you get stronger and are finally able to do this slowly and with control. Great exercise to help you do one of the things you will do frequently . . . getting up out of a chair. I discovered I needed this exercise the day I was in a public restroom (non-handicapped), and did not have the strength to get off the toilet seat. One other tip that may help, especially if there are surfaces you really don’t want to touch. If you are down low, say, in a squat, you may be able to place your hands on top of your own feet and push off from there. Or, from a sitting position, place your hands toward the backs of your calves, lean slightly forward, lift your bottom, and use your arms, levering off your calves, to stand.
At one point, after my kids were adults, my son and my brother were talking about “what they were going to do” when I was no longer able to take care of myself. I have gone from being virtually housebound in 2007 to now looking after my ninety-year-old parents when they need it. I am grateful every day for having the opportunity to “give back” to them for all the years they spent helping me raise my kids (I moved from Indiana to Florida after my divorce for family support). I am grateful I have strength to hug my grandkids and teach them to do art projects. I am grateful for even being able to see them, to talk with them in a way that they can understand and not having them question why “grandma talks funny.” I am grateful that I can work in the garden, sew, knit, crochet, paint, clean my own house, and cook my own meals. I am glad I can go to a store and actually BUY what I need instead of driving home after I get there because I am too tired to get out of the car. Simple things, yes. But all things MS, at one time or another, took away from me. And LDN gave me back all these things . . . and me.
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The Courage to Do It Again

     Your goals? Maybe others have had them. Maybe others have achieved them. If you listen to the voices surrounding you, the nay-sayers who steal your dreams, you will never have the courage to set goals, let alone achieve them.

     When you step outside the paralytic commentary, you will recognize that the words come from those who are afraid to both dream and succeed. This is not to discount these individuals, but merely, to understand that you do not choose a common path.

Recognize that development of your dream may require facing fears you have not yet even verbalized. This is okay. Acknowledge these so they do not sabotage your attempts, then replace them by teaching yourself a new reality.

     Write out exactly what you are moving toward, then flesh those dreams out so that they look to your subconscious mind as real as your breakfast dishes. Read these dreams out loud daily. Remember, you move toward what you see, so make sure that the images of where you want to be are stronger than any other reality.

     Mentally rehearse your success, so that achievement of your goal is comfortable even before it happens.

     Reward yourself for each step that you take on your journey. Celebrate! Ultimately, you may benefit by seeking out those who understand and are not threatened by your choice to excel, those who can share in your accomplishments.

     The courage to do it again means to replace the negativity that threatens to bury your dreams, to define a new vision to meet your needs. You may do what has already been done. And that may be enough. Or your goal may merely be a stepping-stone to some place you cannot yet comprehend. You really don’t know. And that’s okay. You never know what you will see from the top of a mountain you have not yet climbed.

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Planting Seeds

      When we were young, we were told to get a good education, get a good job, marry well, and buy a nice house in the right neighborhood. Most likely, there were other things you were told about how to effectively prepare yourself for life’s opportunities, as well as what you needed to do to avoid disasters. For those of us from lower-middle class or better backgrounds, our striving for upward mobility was almost a given. (And yes, there are some who have the disadvantage of not having the vaguest clue of how to act publicly, such as the attorney who came into my office to get his résumé done, burped without excusing himself, and couldn’t keep his fingers out of his nose. His father had confided to me that he didn’t know why his son couldn’t get a job.)

     In my life, I took the knowledge I was given, and planted a lot of seeds. (Otherwise known as: someone who really couldn’t decide exactly what they wanted to do, so tried as much of it as possible.) I took voice lessons, piano, and guitar. I sang in coffee houses. I wrote music. I drew. I wrote poetry. I sewed clothing, including my own wedding dress (material and buttons came to around $25!)

     In the late 1980s, I had top scholarship in Fine Arts at Indiana University. When I signed up for classes, I already knew the multiple sclerosis could take my sight. (It has once completely, but my vision came back. Other times, it is like looking through a blue filter on one side and yellow on the other, or like it is twilight, but only in one eye.) I thought long about it, and finally decided that regardless of a dire prognosis, I was still going to paint. I was winning awards for my painting until my divorce cras! hed through my life. My children, my parents, my brother, and my art were essential in getting me through that difficult time.

     Today the M.S. has made my hand so spastic that it is very difficult for me to even hold a pencil. The fine pen and ink drawings I did, the silverpoint and watercolors, are all a thing of the past. I still carry the memory of being able to draw and hunger for the smell oil pigments and turpentine. The only reminder I have of that life is the watercolors and unframed oil paintings from so many years ago that hang all over my house and a few dusty ribbons tucked away in a closet.

     I planted seeds and all I have left are beautiful, pressed flowers…but they are no longer alive.

     This evening, I heard the young man bagging in the checkout lane at the grocery store joking about how his grandmother at 94 no longer remembered things too well. When I got to the front of the line, I asked him what he thought his grandchildren would say about him. He didn’t say anything, but followed me out of the store, almost to my car, as if somehow he had found a friend. 

     In the past I have worked in public relations, project management, and life insurance sales, things I may not have been successful at or no longer have the energy or desire to pursue. For now, I write. Today, I went to a writer’s conference, and recited poetry. I give motivational speeches to encourage others in exploring their lives. I am still planting seeds. In this season, what I sow and nurture is different than what I did in the past. Part of my personal growing is being willing to let go of a past I cannot influence, and to find a new future.

     It is only when we stop planting seeds that we have nothing to reap.

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Blind Spots

Oh sure, you say, I know I have blind spots. We all do.

Mine came three days ago, when a scrap of my visual field disappeared. It is like a torn piece of tissue in front of my right eye, obliterating a portion of what I want to see. At first I couldn’t figure out why words on the computer screen kept disappearing. I thought it might be a side effect of the drug I was taking for the giardia (flagellate infection) my kitten so graciously gave me.

Whether instigated by the drug, or a free-standing incident, MS has decided to take a portion of my vision. My response: MS can’t have it–I’m going to get it back. So just as I got back the feeling in my feet by dancing, I am now taking extra vitamins and doing everything I can so this blotch, this blind spot, goes away. No guarantee.

Blind spots in our life are like that. Even if we become aware of them, they may be hard, or even impossible, to eliminate. Many of our ‘blind spots’ are not things we have chosen, at least consciously. They are imprinted on us by those who influenced us from a very young age. Because it happened to us before we were conscious that there were other ways of thinking, we may not even be aware.

I remember when I was young wondering why people were not more transparent about themselves. I didn’t realize the roles that fear and shame played in people’s lives, that individuals either did bad things and didn’t want other people to know, or believed that what they had done (or what had happened to them) was bad. I also didn’t know the power that fear and shame had over people’s lives, locking some of them into a pattern they never escaped.

They didn’t see how they were trapped. Or if they did, they didn’t see how to change the pattern. It would require too much change, living a life they had never learned…that they were blind to. If someone lives in a village inChinaand never sees television or movies or anything else from another part of the world, life is defined by that village inChina. What one eats and drinks and wears is knowledge that has been passed down for generations. Anything different is unknown. 

What are your blind spots?

What is their source?

When we are aware of and can understand what we are dealing with, we can take the action to eliminate the blind spots that are holding us back.

If there is no getting rid of them, we can also learn to work around them.

Are you letting blind spots hold you back?

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Background Chatter

     There is something about spring, the longer days, the fresh air. We open the windows to let the new growth outside into our lives, to clear away the staleness and cobwebs of winter. Maybe we wash our windows, letting the light be brighter, our vision clearer. Or start that diet so we are ready for bikini season, whether we are the wearers or the watchers. (I haven’t worn anything that skimpy since high school, but hey….)

    Should renewal wait for spring, one season a year? Do you want only that much?

     Spring cleaning, for me, includes how I live my life all year. And it takes diligence to keep those cobwebs from forming. It’s not just what the spiders leave in the corners of my house (and every once in a while, the wolf spiders, big hairy things that get about 4 inches in diameter, and if that wasn’t bad enough, they jump! try to take over my house, and my vacuum cleaner works overtime to suck them out of my life), but it’s all the other things that try to push into my life and dim my personal windows.

     I put myself on the “Do Not Call” list, which has cut down a little on the background chatter. Not completely. There are some businesses out there which seem to believe that I still really want to exterior weather-coat on my house, get my carpets cleaned, or replace my windows. I have eliminated my magazine subscriptions, refused to get a newspaper, and watch minimal TV. Why?

     For one thing, it’s cheaper. But that’s not the primary reason. A lot of incidents reported in newspapers, on TV, in magazines, or on radio are not good things. I have had people tell me that my avoidance of these things is unrealistic. I look at it from a different angle. Most of the negative things in the news are things over which I have very little, if any, control. I can’t change them. Or, if I chose one that I could change, there are too many others that I couldn’t. And a lot of people out there who would tell me I am focusing on the wrong issue, now matter which one it is. Just because.

     I know this. I also know that negative input takes energy from me. The horrible stories I cannot change. The starvation and famine. The disease. The wars. If I took everything I had, I could not fix it all. I know this. I also know that when people are exposed to something day after day, they become immune to it. The mess accumulates around them until they no longer see it. The mildew on the tile, the stain on the carpet, the scratch in the paint. We become blind to them. We no longer hear the airplanes fly over the house. We no longer smell things that tell us something is wrong. Terribly wrong.

     Perhaps I don’t want to become numb to my world. I want to pick what I know I can change, make the difference I have been given the gift to make.

     And for you. Are you making the difference you know you can?

     Or are you burying who you are in a lot of background chatter?

Copyright © 2011 Sandra Kischuk and Living Beyond Limits. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Sandra Kischuk and Living Beyond Limits with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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Filling the Home with Trinkets

     Over the years, I’ve noticed how easy it is to accumulate ‘things.’ A friend goes on vacation and brings back a souvenir from a place I’ve never been to. Another friend gives me something that doesn’t go with a thing in my house. I’m encouraged to participate in a holiday ‘gift’ exchange to receive something I would never have gotten myself. My tables get buried under magazines I haven’t read. I ‘win’ a prize someone has carefully selected from the dollar store. My shelves get full of books I only bought one at a time.

     Getting hit with boredom, I think of acquiring that little something, subconsciously accepting the media hype that buying something will placate the gnawing emptiness. Usually it’s just a matter that my body/mind is telling me I need to do something or stop doing something, not a real matter of needing to continue to crowd my environment.

     Occasionally, I slip up, and I have one more ‘thing’ that owns me. (We don’t own things, they own us. Think about it!) My excuses? It’s cute, it’s new, it won’t take much space. The reality, If it’s alive, it needs to be fed, watered, pruned, walked, or taken to the vet. If it’s inanimate, I find myself dusting it, washing it, repairing it (or paying to have it repaired), or horrors! replacing it when I wasn’t sure I wanted it in the first place.

     If it’s mechanical, I may delude myself into thinking buying it will solve a problem, but guaranteed, it will find the most inopportune time to stop working. After all, the dishwasher didn’t decide to break until it was absolutely full. I have found that if I rely less on some of those things I used to take for granted, it simplifies things. For two years I have done my dishes by hand. And with one person, I’m not so sure I really need to replace the dishwasher. Although one of the principles of Feng Shui is that I should not have broken things in my house.

      If I’m realistic, breaking at the most inopportune time isn’t always the case. My last car died on the way to church. Things would have been a lot more exciting if it had choked to a stop during rush hour, and if I hadn’t been able to floor it into a grocery store parking lot. When I went back to the lot later to clean the last of my things out of the trunk, it was still making sputtering noises all on its own. I kind of felt like a crab, shedding a too-small shell, and leaving behind an empty discard. Except the empty casing was my car, the one I had driven for seven years. I felt an odd sense of loss.

     Shedding the material things in life, the little accumulations, gives us the opportunity to grow. Doing without, or adding things, lets us redefine who we are. But in the redefinition, are you moving closer to who you really are, or how the world tells you to define yourself?

     What, in your life, do you take for granted that you don’t really need?

     What are you adding to your life as a substitute for what you really want?

Copyright © 2011 Sandra Kischuk and Living Beyond Limits. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Sandra Kischuk and Living Beyond Limits with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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Starting Over

     Many years ago, I visited the home of a man I had been dating. It was the first time I had been there. I drove up to a house with a boat and several rusting cars in his driveway, the yard overgrown and weedy. Entering in the front door, I stepped over the lawn mower in his front hall, and carefully wound my way along the path between old papers that were piled knee high and to the walls throughout the house.

     He cleared several stacks of paper to the side so I could sit on the sofa. I asked him why he had so much ‘stuff’ in his house. His first answer was simply that, ‘things are love.’ Not a substitute for love. But, as Madison Avenue would have us believe, the actual item. I asked him again, and he admitted that he had put all the stuff there to drive his ex-wife away. It drove me away, too.

     As a Life Insurance agent (a job I tried on the chance that maybe I could do it well without the multiple sclerosis getting too much in my way), I visited the homes of many (hundreds!) of clients. Some homes smelled so bad outside, I didn’t even want to go in. One home was so foul, it was everything I could do to keep from gagging as I sat on a filthy chair, talking to the woman who lived there.

     The home faced I-275, with the putrid smell of the home, fumes from the highway, and din from the traffic almost overpowering. At the end of the year, I decided I could do it no more. I could not change how people chose to live, but I could choose whether or not I participated. Honestly, I cannot think that living that way would be life affirming. And for me, neither was knocking on those doors.

     This spring, a man walked into my office. (The same day I walked out of life insurance, I walked into a writing company and started to do résumés.) The man currently was a waiter at a four-star restaurant, and at 67 years old wanted to do something else. We talked a bit and he told me that inertia has kept him from moving into what he wanted to do. He’s coming back to have his résumé done. I told him that seeing me was a positive action. That first step is critical, small as it may seem.

     Ask yourself, what has inertia kept you from doing?

     In your life, what are you doing that is not life affirming?

     What are you doing just to ‘get by?’

     Are you being fair to yourself?

Copyright © 2011 Sandra Kischuk and Living Beyond Limits. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Sandra Kischuk and Living Beyond Limits with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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