Creating a Better You
By Barby Ingle
I love it when people say, ‘you look so young’ and ‘I thought you were in your late twenties’. If a few people say it, it may just be a compliment, but for me, many say it. I believe age is an option. Yes, we gain a physical number on paper each year but when you look at your age, most think ‘how do I feel’. Age in this instance is a state of mind. I think people see me as younger than I am because I do look young on the outside, but I also have a playful personality. I know what I have lost, they don’t. Most in my life don’t know who I was, what I was capable of, how athletic I was. They know the person they see in front of them. I don’t drink, smoke or do drugs (that are not prescribed to me). So when people say, become a better you, what does that mean for those of us who are already trying to be the best we can be? For me it meant I wish someone would have told me about preparing for things that we may face or someone we love may face (chronic pain, disease, financial burdens, how to navigate the health system and life in general for that matter).
I wish that I didn’t take life for granted when I was healthy. I had many experiences, most were great. I took them for granted until developing Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy which stopped me in my tracks. I met my primary care provider (PCP) in 2005. When we met I was in a wheelchair, bathed about once every 7-10 days, and had dystonia in my right hand, arm and foot. I had cut off most of my hair to make it easier on me. I am sure I looked a mess. He never commented to me on how I looked. He worked to get me feeling better he became the first on my ‘team’. He didn’t know what I used to look like. He was shocked to find out that I was a former model, pageant queen, cheerleader, and athlete. After receiving infusion therapy in 2009, I went to see him. I went from wheelchair to walking with him as my main health provider. I changed my hair, I changed my clothes. Two things I could have done before feeling better, but I didn’t put the effort in on most days. When he saw the new me, he asked my husband how it feels to be with a woman who is getting younger. It’s not that I was getting younger, it is my state of mind improved.
Our beliefs and behaviors must shift when we are living with a chronic pain disease, no matter what stage we are in. This shift determines how we feel about our life and health. Often times I would psych myself out. I would say to myself, I can’t do this, I can’t do that. I learned through trial and error what my boundaries are. I kept a journal to learn about myself and I found that my bounds were far past where I thought in my mind. I found that I needed to celebrate each moment, each day. When things got tough and I had to spend days/weeks/months in bed I didn’t need to get down on myself or put stress on myself for what I wasn’t doing. I kept a journal and a made a bucket list during those times. As time has passed, I found ways to accomplish those tasks and come up with new ones. I found that completing tasks is easier, quicker, and more accessible when I live through motivation of starting where I want to end up. Putting it in writing and organizing a plan of action (that is adjustable) is how I began to accomplish my goals.
I found personal incentive by manifesting something on the outside first. I changed my hair. It was a simple enough start. It led me to buying a few new outfits. I created a goal of doing more life experiences instead of gathering stuff to sit around me. I started with 4 outfits that are my ‘experience outfits’, and then came up with activities where I could use the outfits. Starting small on the outside helps to manifest how I feel on inside. Keeping track of where I have been and where I want to be showed me that I am of worth. Eventually my mind and insides caught up to my outward feeling. Was I perfect? No. Was I out of chronic pain? No. But, I did learn to count my miracles.
An experience can’t be taken away from you unless you let it go. Let go of the negative and focus on the positive; in your mind, heart and outside. Keep working on yourself and start with a few goals. Give yourself ‘what to do’s’ instead of just opposing all of the positive things you could have in life. Even in pain you can find ways to get the end of each goal. To change you, YOU have to practice. Am I saying you can just change your pain away? No way, not at all. I am saying you have the ability in you to change how you face your challenges. Find ways to recognize, understand, and consolidate challenges to see the goals you have set come to be. Don’t worry about timelines. If it takes a healthy person 4 years to graduate college, don’t feel bad if it takes you ten. It is okay. Remember, a win is a win. You don’t lose until you give up. Strive to understand the overall gist of your decisions and don’t let setbacks, others’ negativity, others’ guilt beat out your decision. You have the right to be the best YOU possible; start today.