Self-Compassion

Compassion is to “suffer with” someone; showing kindness, empathy and understanding. Self-Compassion is when we extend that same kindness & empathy to ourselves when we are suffering. It is acknowledging that “this is really hard right now” and giving yourself permission to feel & seek comfort.

One way that I practice self-compassion in the midst of illness & suffering is to take some slow, deep breaths and say to myself,

“May I know peace,

May I know love,

May I know joy,

May I know grace,

May I know forgiveness,

May I know acceptance.”

All these mercies, God lavishes upon us through the love of Jesus. So, when showing kindness to myself seems impossible, I can remember how God looks at me and my suffering. I accept His compassion and extend it to myself. As a result, it can lower distress and increase my emotional well-being.

Why don’t you give it a go today?

Self Compassion Henry

Henry has learnt how to be an expert at self compassion; choosing to ignoring the internal and external critics and instead, showing himself kindness, grace and acceptance.

We are constantly being compared and comparing ourselves to others. We see our sufferings as weakness. We see mistakes as failures and our illnesses as brokenness. We are constantly believing we are not good enough. I call bull-crap. They’re LIES! All lies.

To endure suffering is strength, to feel emotions makes us human, to persevere makes us strong and to measure ourselves up to no one but ourselves is freedom. The reality is that crap that is out of our control happens all the time. We all have bad, hard, painful and unbearable seasons in life. So instead of beating yourself up (or allowing others to do it for you), remind yourself; you’re doing the best you can, emotions are okay, you’re not perfect (and that’s not only alright, but what makes you human) and that you’re pretty, freaking amazing.

Begin practicing self compassion by putting your hand over your heart and saying to yourself, “may I know kindness. May I know grace. May I know happiness. May I be at peace. May I be at rest. May I know love. May I know empathy. May I show myself compassion.” Or “I am suffering. I am being kind to myself and giving myself permission to feel whatever emotions I am experiencing.

Be like Henry, learn the skill of self compassion. Be kind to yourself and stop beating yourself up! Self-compassion has been a life changing skill for Henry as he manages depression and FND.


Spiritual reflection

For those who believe in God, remember he is a compassionate God, who continually shows compassion to his people.

Is. 49:3 – Shout for joy, you heavens; rejoice, you earth; burst into song, you mountains! For the LORD comforts his people and will have compassion on his afflicted ones.

Jesus is the perfect example of this… oh, and we are also made in His image and are called to imitate His character.

Col. 3:12 – Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.

So, let’s follow God and show compassion to everyone, including ourselves.


Some more information/resources on the concept of self-compassion:

Happy Easter

Henry is wishing you a happy easter!!! As he celebrates Jesus rising from the dead, he is also thinking about his own resurrected body – and it’s pretty awesome!

Thank you Jesus for your sacrifice so we can have hope! Come Lord Jesus, come!

Speak Up

As long as we remain silent, society remains ignorant. We can empower others and ourselves by sharing truth in love! #speakup #behonest #endsilence #breakingstigma

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#speaktruth #love #mentalhealth #depression #chronicpain #endometriosis #endthesilence #chronicillness #awareness #jesus #truth #endthesilence

What ‘in Sickness and in Health’ Really Means

First published on The Mighty.

If you’re thinking about marriage – you may be engaged, talking about engagement or fanaticising about marrying that beautiful man. Whatever your status is, seriously ask yourself, are you really ready to say “I do.”

After writing a letter to my newly divorced self I realised, at 20 years old, my fiancé had no idea what he was committing to. When he looked into my eyes, shaking with nerves and excitement as he said “I do,” he actually didn’t understand what “in sickness and in health” meant.

I was pretty healthy! I was studying full time and had two jobs. Yes, he knew about my struggle with depression and had cared for me through many chest and sinus infections. Even though he knew all that when he put a ring on it, he was not prepared for Chronic Pain, Endometriosis and PCOS. Really, who is?

When we married in November 2010 we were both pretty healthy. Sadly, the chronic pain from endometriosis had well and truly set in during my January period. We had barely been married two months and his promise to love me in sickness and health was already being tested.

What does in sickness and in health mean?

Sure, you’re both healthy now. You can run, go for strolls on the beach, have a 10 pin bowling date, have painless sex and ready to stick by your partner for better and worse. But…

Are you willing to take an income hit when if they can’t work full time?

Are you willing to use days off to drive your partner to the doctors?

Are you willing to accept potential infertility?

Are you willing to see a marriage counsellor to help you process the grief and changes together?

Are you willing to see a sex therapist, even if it is super embarrassing and awkward?

Are you willing to deal with your grief?

Are you willing suck up your pride, seek your own support and see a counsellor yourself to help you accept, process and manage your own feelings of loss, disappointment, resentment, anger, bitterness and unfairness?

Are you willing to use your leave to help care for your partner if they need surgery?

Are you willing to watch the person you love the most in this world suffer physical and mental pain?

Are you willing to advocate for your partner when they have lost hope and when no one else will?

Are you willing to learn about the illness with your partner?

Are you willing to do ask your friends and family for support?

Are you willing to try new activities, ones that you can do together, things you wouldn’t have tried until your options were limited?

Are you going to stick around and choose to love that person every day until ‘death do us part,’ even if you hate the illness?

It is true that you never know how you will react in a situation until you’re in it. But if you can’t answer yes to many of these questions, maybe it’s something to think about.

 

One Way: Jesus

…you’re the only one that I could live for. In troubled times it’s you I seek, because you’re the only one I need. I look to you and you are always there.

Photo taken in Melbourne was I was scouring the streets for street art, 2015.

#Jesus #oneway #grace #faith #love #john146

How To Support Someone With a Chronic Illness: Listen

If you love someone with a Chronic Illness, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed, confused and hopeless. What can you possibly do to help them? It can seem impossible, especially when it’s a struggle for the unwell person to understand and comprehend what would help his/herself.

Last month I had a few friends join me to watch a special screening of a documentary called “Endo What?” After the movie two of them asked, “what can I say to, or do for someone who tells me, ‘I have Endo?’ How can I support them?” I confess, hesitated before I could reply because everyone is different and has individual needs.

Even when I look at myself, there is a stark contrast; what I need today is very different to what I needed two, four and even eight years ago. The only way to find out what someone needs is to listen to him or her. You may find that listening and believing what you hear is more than enough.

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At the moment, I am pretty stable. I am managing the symptoms well and have reached an emotional state of acceptance. The most supportive act someone could do for me today is to listen to my rants. I want to create awareness and help others to empathize compassionately with the next ‘Endo Sister’ they meet. I want them to recognize the signs and symptoms, so if they know someone who is suffering, they won’t conclude that they’re just “faking it” and instead, encourage them to look into Endo themselves. If you know more than ten women, you know someone with Endo, and many remain suffering, in the dark, undiagnosed.

Alex in 2005 and early 2011 needed someone to listen to my experiencing and validate the pain, not just assume I was overreacting or faking it. In 2010, I couldn’t drive, cook or clean and those close to me quickly knew I needed help with those tasks.

Two to four years ago, Alex needed someone to listen and hug me as I cried. I needed people to hear about the pain and acknowledge the strength it took to get out of bed every day.

18- 24 months ago I needed someone to listen and see how hopeless and suicidal I was. Those who listened understood I was desperate. They knew I just needed to hear someone say, ‘I’m here for you, and we will keep trying different treatments until you get better.’

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By truly listening to someone you can begin to understand what is at the core of the sorrow and frustration, and thus offer better support. This is called “active listening.” By focusing on your friend, avoiding distractions, being non-judgmental, reflecting and clarifying what you’ve heard them say and asking open questions are a few simple active listening skills. Active listening is the beginning of exercising empathy and compassion.

Sometimes we need a hug. Sometimes we need to grieve, cry and vent. Sometimes we need a good distraction, and sometimes we need to laugh. Other times we need practical help, for example, by being a taxi service, chef or offer room service. Often we can’t verbalize or even identify our needs are, but if you listen to us, you can help us reflect on our foggy and disjointed thoughts so we can start to understand ourselves.

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I believe this applies to any Chronic Illness. I would give the same answer to someone who asked for advice on how to support someone with PCOS, Chronic Pain or Mental Illness. The only way you can begin to help someone genuinely and effectively is to listen first.

If you ask the right questions and pay attention to what the person is communicating you will probably find they’re been trying to tell you what they need for a very long time. Unfortunately, medication, pain and other symptoms can mince our words, which require a bit more attention and reflection to get to the bottom of what is being said.

You can’t just assume that because your friend Jane Doe is having one experience, your cousin, Jillian is having the same experience. We all have different symptoms, comforts, effective distraction methods and relievers. Our functionality is as different as the severity of symptoms. The one thing we all have in common is the need to be loved, connected, wanted, valued, cared for and supported.

So the next time you’re feeling confused or overwhelmed by a loved ones illness. Stop. Ask. Listen. Reflect. Repeat. If you genuinely hear what’s being said and clarify: you can’t really go wrong, and at the very least, they will feel valued and validated through listening.

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The Why of Bloging

This post was originally posted as “The Why”  page on WordPress

Since I’ve started writing more regularly, I’ve been asking myself, Why?

Why Blog? Why share my life? Why talk about super personal stuff? Why do I want people to read my stories? Why publish my thoughts online for anyone to read? Why bother?

The writer of Ecclesiastes sums it up perfectly in verse two, “Meaningless! Meaningless!” says the Teacher.“Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless.”

Without God, everything is meaningless. Without a greater plan and purpose, my life is in vain. This truth has greater weight within the context of the suffering and pain I’ve experienced daily for over 15 years, courtesy of Severs Disease, Chronic Depression, Anxiety, PCOS, Endometriosis, Regional Complex Pain Syndrome and various forms/degrees of abuse. My goal in blogging is not to play the victim, nor is it to insight a pitiful ‘woe is Alex’ response – it is simply to help me comprehend and convey my reality – my life.

Surely, there is a purpose. Surely, these icky circumstances can be used for good. Surely, this pain isn’t going to end merely with just being eaten by worms. Surely there is something bigger at play. There just has to be.

One of my beautiful friends recently said to me, “although I don’t have the same beliefs, I truly believe you would be dead if it weren’t for your faith in God.” She is right. If this is all for nothing, if it is all in vain, why endure this pain any longer than I have to?

Faith.

Romans 8:28-30 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many
brothers. 
And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.

I believe this is not ‘it’. I believe in the ultimate glorification of Jesus, my Lord, and Saviour. I believe my creator can use any and all situations for good. I have hope, tangible hope that the choices I make today on earth have eternal consequences and hope that ‘this’ isn’t all there is. I eagerly look forward to the day my soul will rest with my creator, and I will be perfectly healed. There will be no more sickness, no more sadness, no more selfishness and ultimately, no more sin.

My fundamental goal in life is to use what God has given me to bring glory to Him. ‘What God has given me’ includes spiritual gifts and blessings, talents, passions, revelation, wisdom, and life experience. My desire is to use these as gifts as tools to help build God’s Kingdom, but it has taken a long time to see my life experience as a good thing.

I want to share my story because it’s a story of hope. In an individualistic society, we can be surrounded by hundreds of people and still feel alone. This feeling is often compounded when isolation increases due to chronic illness. I want you to know you are not alone. There are other people who ‘get it’ and you shouldn’t be afraid, to be honest. Most people live in ignorance, but if you can be encouraged to be truthful, there is a strong chance understanding can lead to empathy.

As Christians we are called to love – love God and love each other. God, throughout most of Biblical history, has told His people to show compassion and look after the sick and vulnerable. I truly believe that genuinely listening to someone evolves into compassionate understanding and awareness which then leads to supporting and loving that person.

This is the motivation to be as honest as I possibly can because I know I am not alone. I know too many women who want their horrible periods to be validated. I know too many people who isolate themselves due to depression. I know too many individuals who struggle to get out of bed because they’re in great pain. If you can understand someone’s illness even a smidgen more, you demonstrate love to them.

Imagine being able to tell someone ‘you matter to me because you matter to God’ by simply listening to them. Imagine being the first person to express ‘I believe your pain is real, I know you’re not faking it.’ Imagine being able to show people what Jesus is like by being more aware of how to support someone in a practical and helpful way. Unfortunately, we cannot read minds, which is why educating yourself and learning how people are affected by adversity can show true empathy, compassion, and love. I know when I hear someone mention an illness they have I want to find out as much information as I can. I feel like I can better support them if I understand them, even if it’s just a little bit.

2 Corinthians 12:9 – But he [The Lord] said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.

I am weak. I am flawed. I have blemishes. I am far from perfect. I had the opportunity to have my blog, The Five Stages of Endometriosis shared by a few different groups. One of them was Endo Active, who, even after their edit left this part in, “I’ve always been extremely grateful to have such a wonderful and supportive family, both earthly and spiritual. God has sustained, challenged and strengthened me. I praise Him every day for giving me His Spirit, Jesus sacrifice, and Gods love. I give thanks for some tangible hope as I eagerly await the perfect and restored body I’ll have in the New Creation.” Had I not openly shared my story and my life in such a raw and honest way, I would have not had the opportunity to proclaim Christ, my true hope. When I [admit my faults, my failings, my struggle and] decrease, He increases.

Humbling

There aren’t many things that are as beautiful as the moment when your deeply humbled; when your eyes are finally opened to see how God is using life’s sucky circumstances to build His kingdom and bring Him glory.