Like most things, building your self-worth is best done in small, incremental steps. If you have low self-esteem, trying to feel better about yourself might seem impossible. Trying to do everything at once will be exhausting, will scatter your energy, and will most likely lead to less progress than you’d like. You risk feeling worse than when you started.
Sometimes even the thought of building your self-worth can feel like an insuperable task. Where should you start? It can help if you approach it like a project and break it down into small achievable steps. Take it one step at a time, and before you know it, you’ll be feeling better about yourself.
Make the positive decision not to try to change everything at once. Trying to change everything at once will only set you up for failure, and that’s not what we want. But by making this a conscious decision, you’re setting out on a positive path of doing things calmly and building yourself a sure foundation, foundation built on self-care and kindness.
And you’re off to a great start already! The fact that you’re reading this means you’re self-aware and want to do the best version of yourself.
Positive self-worth builds on self-care and kindness. Here are five small, but significant things you can do to be kind to yourself, today and throughout the coming weeks.
1. Build in little regular treats to make yourself feel good. A bubble bath, a monthly massage or manicure perhaps, or a walk in the park a few times a week.
2. Acknowledge your weaknesses and think of a positive action you can take to help yourself. Apps for time or money management perhaps, a personal coach, or taking a class. Remember to tackle one at a time.
3. Journaling can be helpful in identifying, challenging and turning around negative self-perceptions. Try writing down every positive thing you can think of about yourself. Think of things that are just about you, not things where you compare yourself to someone else. Are you a good writer? Are you kind? Do you have a good sense of humor? Do people love your pancakes? I have a free resource that can help you Journal Your Way To self-Worth.
4. Start a daily gratitude journal where you list all the things for which you’re grateful. You might be grateful for clean air, water, enough food to eat and a house to live in for starters. Living in a place of gratitude keeps your brain looking for things to be grateful for, so you’ll begin seeing things all around you. I personally use the 365 Gratitude: Daily Prompts, Grateful Journal by UofHappy, LLC
5. End each day by thinking of at least one good thing that happened that day, and on waking think of a positive affirmation to take you through the day. Making this a daily habit can boost your self-worth, emotional wellness, and mental health.
If you need more support in boosting your self-worth, my self-study course Starting Loving Yourself From The Inside Out can help you get there.
Until next time,
I had to do just that last week ...
When medical challenges overwhelmed me, my body couldn't do all the things I had set to do, I felt bummed out.
I felt bad about having to cancel prior commitments and I was tired of being stuck in bed when I would rather be playing with my kids. I was frustrated by the lack of answers from the medical staff and the uncertainty it brought...
It wasn't long until I felt miserable, not just physically but emotionally. And I had to remind myself that even when I can't control my circumstances, I can still control my emotions and controlling my emotions starts with controlling my thoughts.
I had to change the tape and I'm glad I did...
If you find yourself on the negative thoughts wagon and captivated by your inner critic, you might want to try the following strategies, they work...
Stop for a moment and listen to the soundtrack inside your head.
What messages are coming up?
Whose voice do you hear?
Notice your self-talk and the feelings that come up when you hear those old messages, buried deep in your subconscious so long ago. Those messages, those beliefs are way past their sell-by date and are no longer serving you.
Challenge them, rewrite the self-talk script and turn your Inner Critic into your friend. Once you begin to notice these limiting beliefs you can start to revise them.
Some ways to rewrite your self-talk include journaling about the limiting beliefs…
Then, write out a new script which you can use whenever that voice starts talking. You can try affirmations and visualizations as well at this point.
Take your loudest or most powerful negative self-talk first and work to change it. After that, you can challenge each of them in turn.
If you want to journal your way to self-worth, check out my free mini ebook on that subject and share it with others (suitable for teens as well). Grab it HERE.
Remember, you are worth more than rubies!
Liz Thees and I sat down to discuss the impact of self-love on emotional wellness and relationships. We talked about boundaries and also about her personal story of being married, divorced, and remarried to the same man. They now been together for a total of 22 years!!
6 Key Benefits of Reinventing Yourself
We often make our way to the idea of reinvention after experiencing frustration and discontentment with our lives.
Sometimes there’s a sense of longing to do something different, to find a new way to live and to be. This kind of reinvention evolves from the human need to grow and to change. Change comes about because there has to be more to human existence than simply existing and most people sense that over time.
Sometimes in the early stages of reinvention, we think about what benefits we might receive from building a new self. Perhaps we just want to be free of a stale, confining and suffocating way of life, but that might not seem enough to us right then.
Other than liberating yourself from a life with no change and no growth, what other benefits does reinvention offer?
Of course, a huge benefit is a more authentic and fulfilling life. After all, that’s the first purpose of going through this transformation process. More importantly, you learn how to be adaptable in the face of new challenges and that is a life skill that is useful in many ways.
You learn how to cope with new problems and new situations. Once you've been through one reinvention cycle, you’ll be ready to do it again when you feel the need.
You may never decide to reinvent yourself again, but that’s a matter of choice. You’ll know how to do it . That’s a life-changing benefit all on its own!
How will you #ReinventYourself this year?
People reinvent themselves for as many different reasons as there are different people. However, reinvention is usually driven by a few prominent emotions: boredom, restlessness, dissatisfaction, even fear. Sometimes reinvention rises out of personal crises. If you’re looking for ways to bring about self-renewal, we can help you find them.
There are several kinds of reinvention, but we’re looking at proactive Reinvention. Proactive reinvention can be the toughest of the three. In proactive reinvention, we’re at a place that’s safe and comfortable at that moment.
Major life changes aren’t immediately required. We might even be able to keep on coasting just as we are, but that’s not a satisfying place for us anymore. Even though reinvention can be scary, we still have the desire to do it. Reinvention seems better than where we are.
Maybe we’re simply tired and unfulfilled in our lives, our work, relationships, etc. Sometimes all three categories cry out for change. Proactive reinvention has the advantage of not being urgent in most cases. You can be deliberate in your choices.
1. Ask Yourself “What do I need in my life now? What do I want? What’s missing?”
To answer this question, we must dig deep, and it’s not a quick process in most cases. Proactive reinvention tends to arise out of a sense of dissatisfaction about where we are in life or even who we are. We may only know that we want something different.
2. Identify Your Love and Passions
What do you value? What gets your engine running? If you could make a living at a hobby, what would it be? Getting a handle on what you enjoy and what you love to do, how you love to feel, and whom you love to be around lets you set some big, broad goals. In all cases and steps of reinvention, ask yourself questions like:
3. Explore Your Immediate Options
Immediate options generally include things like your skill set, your finances, your contacts and social links in life. These can be springboards to the new you. Think of these as assets you already must dedicate to your renewal.
4. Get a teacher, mentor or sounding board
If you’ve got a general idea of what you want to do, you can start homing in on sources of information and expertise. Those sources can be people who are knowledgeable or experience with the subject matter, profession, hobby, whatever it is that’s appealing to you. If you know you want to reinvent yourself, but haven’t got a lock on a destination yet, there’s no worry. Many people go through the renewal process without any hint of a fixed destination or end-point in mind when they start off.
That said, it’s good to have someone around who can give you ideas, feedback, and support that’s related to your journey.
5. Consider the Unknown
The unknown is scary, but it can also lead to some great discoveries. There are two big sources of it, too. There’s the unknown out there in the world external to us, and the unknown inside you. When you change your life, there’s bound to be internal changes that you didn’t plan for. If planning were all it took to reinvent one’s life, it’d be much simpler. Let the possibility of change flourish in you. If you try hard to hang on to everything that you’ve got now, that you are now, nothing will change.
6. Learn to live with fear while always going forward
Reinvention requires embracing uncertainty. It means getting comfortable with discomfort. Doing new things, trying new ways to be is scary! Allowing fear to stop us from changing is always the biggest block to proactive reinvention.
Always. Unlike reactive reinvention, when you must make big changes or face even worse situations than self-renewal, proactive reinvention seems optional when we get scared, so we have the option to retreat into safety. Safety is great. However, clinging to the safety of the familiar ensures you will never reinvent yourself.
Regeneration of the self requires living with fear, too. Consider as an example the situation of leaving one career for another, more ideal career. Common wisdom says you must have another job before leaving your current job.
That wisdom in this situation kills any chance of getting that ideal job. It’s very hard, maybe impossible, to prepare for a completely new profession while working a full-time job. A dentist who leaves her job for another job as a dentist has changed locales but has not at all reinvented herself.
Making a jump from the known into the unknown safely, with no risks, doesn’t happen. There is always some element of risk. Learning to live with risk in order to get something you dearly want is one of the biggest rewards of reinventing yourself.
The holiday season is an opportunity to spend time with family and friends, to take some time off work, or even escape for a winter getaway. For all the joy and fun, though, so comes the stress.
The expectations of social events, gift shopping, and entertaining guests can become too much for even the most festive types. In fact, according to the American Psychological Association 8 out of 10 people expect to experience an increase in stress over the holiday season.
With stress comes a greater risk of anxiety and depression, and reports from the Mayo Clinic show that depression is frequently an unwelcome guest over the holidays. All is not lost however, there are many ways you can minimize your stress and anxiety to allow you to truly enjoy the season.
1.Set A Budget
Shopping can be fun, but spending money isn’t always easy, and Americans spend almost a $1,000 every holiday season on gifts alone. You can minimize the damage by setting a budget and sticking to it.
A lot of the stress that we experience during the holidays is due to financial pressure and the Mayo Clinic suggests that setting a budget can be beneficial to your stress levels. Work out how much you can afford to spend on food and gifts, and stick to it.
The American Heart Association wants you to stay active all the time, but it’s extremely important to keep that up during the holidays. Any activity or exercise you can fit in will help reduce your stress and elevate your mood. It’s going to stimulate endorphin production and trigger a positive feeling in your body.
You might be busy, but if you can find time to exercise for half an hour three times a week, you will feel better. You can go walking or jogging, swimming or biking, play sports, and find time for aerobics. Also, find an accountability partner. I’m working on this step so if you are too and want to link arms, send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and we can do this together.
3. Take It Easy
The American Psychological Association reminds us that we need to take time for ourselves. There are parties and gatherings and we are constantly surrounded by people. It’s great to be with the ones we love and laugh about the old days.
You shouldn’t miss all those great times, but what you should be careful of is setting unrealistic expectations. You can’t do everything, and it’s okay to take time out for yourself, even if it’s just 15 minutes. If you do a whole lot of hosting, make sure you delegate- whether you ask everyone to bring a different dish, or you rope in the family to take on certain tasks.
4. Stay Smart
The holiday season is a time of indulgence, but as the Mayo Clinic directs- it doesn’t mean you should abandon your healthy ways. There’s no need for a free for all that will just add to your stress.
Enjoy yourself, but try having healthy snacks before holiday gatherings so you don’t over snack while you’re out. Make sure that you’re getting plenty of sleep, as you are more likely to overindulge after a poor night’s sleep.
5. Choose Your Battles
We all have someone in our circle that rubs us the wrong way. It’s only natural- not everyone can always get along. Allowing someone else to get under your skin, though, is only going to ruin your holiday and increase your stress level. Learn to pick your battles, and don’t take the bait.
The Mayo Clinic suggests that if you have a real problem with someone, set it aside and save it for another day. Even the calmest people can lose their cool during the holidays.
Self-care is a conscious choice and this is even truer during times of more stress, such as the holiday season. Make sure to take the time and create a deliberate plan! Remember, the holidays are supposed to be a time of fun, family, and relaxation, don’t let stress interfere with this great time of year.
For more tips on self-care and stress relief strategies, grab your copy of my book here: https://amzn.to/2V4r4Qp
Here's the link to the course I mentioned in the video: https://coursecraft.net/courses/z9VRZ/splash
Stress affects just about everyone’s daily lives. It can affect your body in ways that can have a long-lasting impact on your health. In my book, The Stress R.E.L.I.E.F. Method: A six-step guide to creating a life with less stress, I shared how stress “lead to depression, anxiety, and a load of health issues”. Here are some ways that stress can affect your health:
Personal and Spiritual Growth Coach Stephanie Miller shares what she likes about the Stress R.E.L.I.E.F. Method and how reading the book has impacted her life.
Grab your copy at https://amzn.to/2zy7fIi
In this video, Chou Hallegra reads the first chapter of her new book.
Grab your own copy at https://amzn.to/2zy7fIi
A year ago today I was being air-lifted to a local hospital. Doctors, family, nor I knew what the future held. I had a few spams in my brain and I couldn’t speak or move the left side of my body. I spent a few days in the Intensive Care Unit and almost a month in a rehabilitation hospital. Then came more therapy, first at home then later at a clinic. Today, a year later, I’m grateful to be alive.
Speaker, mentor and author Cherie Faus-Smith is a beacon for victims of domestic abuse. She shines a light on survivors and illuminates a path of prevention toward healthy relationships with an end goal of helping them recognize the signs of abuse. With over three decades of real-life experiences, Cherie shares that there is hope after abuse. Her open heart has a way of bringing out the best in others. Cherie’s book “The Cycle Ended: Saying Goodbye to Domestic Abuse” details the struggles in her past abusive relationships and how she found love after breaking the cycle of choosing unhealthy relationships. You can find more information about Cherie on her website https://cheriefaus-smith.com/.
Chou Hallegra, Founder of Grace & Hope Consulting, LLC is now a Certified AutPlay Therapy Provider!
AutPlay Therapy was created by Dr. Robert Jason Grant and is a play therapy and behavioral therapy approach to working with children and parents affected by Autism and other developmental disabilities. It combines the therapeutic powers of play therapy, behavioral therapy, and relationship development approaches together in a collaborative model to assist children and adolescents in gaining needed skills and abilities.
Contact us today to find out more email@example.com or 717-216-0230
I'm not sure if it was seeing the ambulance go to the back entrance of the same rehabilitation hospital I stayed at after my stroke. I'm not sure if it was the conversation I had with the leasing office about my decision to vacate my second-floor office. I'm not sure if it was losing my balance five times doing physical therapy today, but today was a very emotional day.
It wasn't until I got home, hours after I talking with the leasing office, few hours after physical therapy and seeing the ambulance, that it hit me. I was sitting on the floor in the middle of my living room and in front of me were boxes and tote bags full of things from my second-floor office. That visual was all it took for me to truly see what was going on.
This day was emotional because in so many ways I had to face the reality of all that the stroke has taken away from me. It was almost like seeing my career in boxes. The ambulance reminded me of where it all started. Losing my balance in Physical Therapy reminded me I'm still not steady on my feet. At that moment, in that lonely moment, in the restraint of the four walls of my living room, I was reminded that this rehabilitation is not temporary. Recovering from a stroke is not temporary work.
Many thought I should "be fine" by now. Others told me they thought I'll be doing stairs by now. Even my doctors thought I could drive by now. My kids and I would love to do all the physical things I did in the past and for me to take them to all the places we went. We all hoped. But as my temporary handicap placard got replaced by a permanent one, and I resumed with vision therapy, reality set in.
This is the reality seven months after the stroke: I'm still not allowed to drive. I'm having more balance issues these days, and it has delayed my transition from the walker to a cane. Although my speech and vision have improved, my short-term memory and my left eye are still of concern. The pain on my left leg often makes me feel foreign to my body. It is as if I have two bodies living inside of me because my left side and my right side operate on two different functioning levels. This is my reality.
After reality set in, in that lonely living room, my thoughts shifted from the loss to the gains. I thought of how strong I've been. My stroke strengthened me, so instead of looking at all that this stroke has taken away, I will hold on to the strength I've gained from all of this. Tenacity. Perseverance. Faith. Hope. Friendships. Advocacy. And those are things that nothing will ever take away from me.
Chou Hallegra, Stroke Survivor, Counselor & Consultant
Credits:Photo by Zoe Deal on Unsplash
Ever been stranded? Not just on the side of the road but on the sidelines of life? Ever felt like you have given it your all and still things did not turn out as you expected? I been there many of times. At those times, what I wanted or needed was not always what I received from others.
Life has a way of hitting us out of nowhere and even the ones who prepare well are not exempt from the pains that come from living. The death of a loved one. Chronic or sudden illnesses in ourselves or in a family member. Broken relationships. Life is hard. Life can be painful. We do not have to live long before we experience pain and loss of some kind. And, if we are honest, we can all admit that we had a time or two (or more) when we did not feel like we had the strength to keep going.
We are so good at telling others to "hang in there" and "keep on keeping on" and I'm guilty of it as well. But, do we realize that statements like these force others to be (or at least pretend to be) invincible human beings who should not feel hurt, lost, or even defeated at times? That is misleading. That is not human.
It also makes us, the people saying those things, hypocrites. Not always intentionally but still hypocrites to the true sense of the word. Hypocrites, because we know that we ourselves had moments where we felt exactly the same way and the last thing we wanted to hear was "hang in there" or keep on keeping on". We felt like giving up and most likely all we needed was someone to listen, someone to show that they care, someone to remind us that tomorrow is another day.
Sometimes, we use those statements when we do not know what to say. Other times, it is simply because we ourselves feel uncomfortable with the situation. In a few instances, those statements are the easy way out when we feel inconvenienced. Yes, being there for others is an inconvenience and few of us are willing to stop and support others in ways that are meaningful to them because it is easier to simply say a quick "fix-it" statement.
People are not looking to be fixed, they want to be supported. Even on my toughest days, I do not want someone to tell me "it's going to be okay" or "this too shall pass". I want someone to just sit with me awhile and walk with me in my hardships.
Next time you see someone hurting. Please do more than give advice. Sit with them. Talk with them. Share a time when you overcame a hardship. Most importantly, ask them "how can I support you in this?" This reminds them that they are humans, just like the rest of us. This shows that someone cares. This gives them hope. This also helps you help them in a way that they want to be helped.
Chou Hallegra - Counselor & Consultant
With recent news of school shootings and other disasters in our nation and around the world, as parents we need resources to help our children during these times. We want our children to not only cope with the sad news but also to continue to thrive as individuals. Here's a great resource from the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). Implement some of these strategies with your children and let us know how it goes!
There's a new face at Grace & Hope Consulting, LLC and her name is Jennifer Lantz!
We all have a story about why we do what we do. If you are wondering why and how I got into helping people achieve emotional wellness, here's my story...
It was exactly 2 years ago that I sat down and filled out paperwork to become a Limited Liability Company (LLC), two years ago since I chose to face my fears and embrace entrepreneurship. It’s been a fun and scary ride. I’ve learned so much and met so many people in the past two years. I’m so grateful for all the experiences.
Today as I sit and reflect on all of this, I’m most thankful for the strength that God has given me every single day to be there for others. It hasn’t been easy. I had to face my own health issues, the toll all of caregiving, and other stressors. Regardless of the challenges, I’ve tried every single day to remain true to my calling and to be there for at least one more person; and for that, I’m very grateful.
Thank you all for allowing me to walk with you on your journey to emotional wellness. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to help you reach your full potential. I believe that we both have more fulfilling lives because of those common experiences. To all the agencies that trusted me enough to contract with me, thank you for investing in me as a person but also thank you for investing in Grace & Hope Consulting, LLC as a company.
As we start 2018, I vow to continue to support the people that the Lord blesses me with. I will share grace and hope with whoever I encounter. As I recover from my recent stroke, some things must change in the way I approach my work, but my passion has never been stronger.
Below are some of the things that I have planned for this year.
I’ve had the privilege to pray with some of you during our sessions but as my mobility is currently limited and I’m not able to see all of you, it will be my pleasure to connect with friends near and far and pray for you. Every Sunday nights at 9 PM eastern time, starting on 1/21/18, I will log onto our Facebook page and do a live audio broadcasting for prayer.
If you like to send prayer requests ahead of time, feel free to email me or message me (please title your message “Weekly Prayer”). I will not be sharing people’s name during the prayer time in order to protect your privacy.
Biweekly Q&A Video
I often get questions in person, by text messages or email on different topics related to mental health, disability issues especially inclusion, accommodations, and integration of mental health and Christianity. I believe the answers I give to those questions should be shared with others because many can benefit from that information.
Therefore, every second and fourth Tuesday at 12 PM eastern time, I will post a video on our YouTube channel, LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter accounts. In the video, I’ll be answering some of the questions that I often receive. Once again, I will not share people’s names while answering questions. If you have questions that you like me to answer, feel free to email them to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please title your email as “Tuesday Talk”.
Through my work, I’ve met so many people who overcame great challenges in their lives and are now using those experiences to help others. They turned their stumbling blocks into stepping stones and found joy in the journey. I would like to introduce you to some of them. I think this will inspire all of us to see our challenges differently and use what we got for the greater good.
The interviews will be posted on our social media outlets as well as emailed to those on our mailing list on the last Monday of the month. Make sure you follow us on social media and you join our mailing list so you won’t miss out on all the fun!
These are some of the fun things happening around Grace & Hope Consulting, LLC this year. As I mentioned earlier, we will have an intern starting very shortly. I’ll be introducing her in our next newsletter.
Talk to you soon..
Those who know me would describe me as a "lifelong learner". I love to learn. I learn informally through everyday life experiences and I also learn formally by attending trainings and conferences.
I had many learning and networking opportunities on my personal and professional agenda for 2018. Unfortunately, I will not be able to attend some of them due to my current health condition, but I wanted to let you know about these upcoming conferences. The ones listed below will be held either in Hershey, PA or in State College, PA. Let me know if you plan to attend any of them and please share with me what you learn.
January 8, 2018 - Pennsylvania Inclusive Higher Education Consortium's Symposium 2018 – The Journey of Inclusion: Experiencing the College Years. An interactive day of learning, reflection, initiative and application with international leaders, innovators and award – winning authors: John O’Brien, Bruce Uditsky and Cate Weir. Please register at -https://PIHEC.regfox.com/symposium-2018-the-journey-of-inclusion-experiencing-the-college-years (If you register for the Everyday Lives Conference, you can attend this Symposium for free!) - Hershey Lodge, Hershey.
January 9-11, 2018 - Everyday Lives Conference. Eric Carter, PhD & Al Condeluci, PhD will be speaking at this conference - Hershey Lodge, Hershey.
February 26-28, 2018 - Pennsylvania Department of Education – Bureau of Special Education Annual Conference – Making a Difference: Educational Practices That Work! . Dr Rosemarie Allen will be one of the Keynote Speakers at this conference. Limited parents/caregivers scholarships available - Hershey Convention Center, Hershey.
March 22, 2018 - Family Coaching Implementer’s Conference - Nittany Lion Inn, State College.
April 30, 2018 - May 3, 2018 - 20th Children’s Interagency Conference, “We Are Better Together - Penn Stater Conference Center, State College.
May 22 - 23, 2018 - 2018 Pennsylvania Positive Behavior Support (PAPBS) Network Implementers’ Forum – Hershey Lodge and Convention Center, Hershey
July 25, 2018 – July 27, 2018 - 2018 PA Community on Transition Conference - Pathways to Success: Transitioning into Tomorrow Together, The Penn Stater Conference Center, State College.
August 6–9, 2018 - National Autism Conference. Limited parents/caregivers scholarships available- The Penn Stater Conference Center, State College.
I hope we all continue to learn, grow, and inspire change in our communities.
I know that I don’t have to write a blog post each week, but this is a goal I set for myself. It keeps my brain and fine motors working. Writing has been so therapeutic to me, I get to work on so many therapy/recovery goals in one exercise. Hence, I will do my best to write a few sentences each week.
I’ve been home for five days now. I already had one trip to the Emergency Room, that was scary. Thank God, I’m back home. Home Health services are going well. I was looking forward to being home but being home has also been very overwhelming.
However, it’s a joy to see how much my children have grown during this time. On Monday, I watched my middle child get yogurt and cereal from the kitchen, serve himself, sit at the table to eat, then clean up the table. He also returned the yogurt and cereal to where he got them from and washed his bowl. He did all that before getting his shoes and coat on for school. He will be 6 years old in a month and completing all those tasks took lot of effort and planning. He had to overcome many organizational, fine motor and sensory challenges, but he did it! I was so proud of him.
This past weekend, my 11-year-old daughter, the oldest, asked to mop the kitchen floor. I kept telling her not to worry about it, but she found many reasons to do it and assured me she would be safe. She sure did! She moped the kitchen and the upstairs bathroom and has been cleaning many other things around the house.
Last night, the youngest of our family (he will be four years old in a few days), applied lotion on my very dry legs. He loves that texture, so he had fun doing it but when he was done, he said to me, “does that make you feel better?” I had tears. I thought I was giving him something fun to do but he was more concerned about taking care of me.
In their unique ways, my children have been taking good care of me. I’m a blessed Mama, I have great kids. I also have awesome friends who shower me with love and take care of my children and me during this time. Thank you all for your prayers, visits, cards, calls, texts, emails, messages, gifts, meals, and encouragement. You make me brave and I thank God for each one of you!
Science says it takes 21 days to learn a new habit or forgo an old one. Well, it’s been 21 days since I had my stroke and I’ve seen lot of improvements. It’s amazing how many tricks my brain had to re-learn in these 21 days. Lot of new pathways have been created in my brain and my synapses and neurons have been hard at work. I realize that everyone’s recovery from any brain injury is different and I do not take lightly the challenges that we all face. As I share a glimpse of my progress in this blog post, please be advised that it’s just that, a glimpse of reality. I still have many things to work through and some things might never get better. However, many things did get better and here’s some of what has happened in the past three weeks.
The facial nerves that were affected by the stroke are the ones close to my nose and my mouth. I somehow now have an “extraordinary” nose and tongue. I smell things I didn’t smell before - sometimes smelling my own food is too overwhelming. I remember eating something that was not spicy and feeling like my tongue was on fire. Two weeks later, I’m craving more spicy food, go figure! My taste buds are just as confused as the rest of my body.
My blood sugar has stabilized and I’m finally off the finger pricks. I also had difficulty chewing and swallowing, especially on the left side, the side that was affected by the stroke. That has greatly improved as well.
My blood pressure has also stabilized, but now that I had a stroke, I will be taking baby aspirin for the rest of my life. I started other new medications as well while at the rehabilitation hospital and most of my symptoms seem to be under control. Quite a few specialists have been added to my follow-up treatment team and I’ll have to get used to that.
I can organize my thoughts and answer questions or explain things, but the more thinking involved, the harder it is for me to produce the words on demands. For example, I can tell a story or relate something that happened earlier in the day with no problem at all. However, when presented with an issue that requires problem solving, I need more time to process the situation, think about solution, pick a course of action, then share that with others. The more thought process involved, the more time I needed.
I have also been very sensitive to sound and light. I get easily stimulated, which triggers my headaches. I’m glad to report that I have been making accommodations for myself and slowly learning to cope with stimuli.
The Good News: I will be leaving the rehabilitation hospital on December 15!
I will continue with my physical and occupational therapies once I get home.
The next big goal I’m working on is getting back to work and driving again.
Until next time, remember that you can teach an old brain some new tricks…so learn something new today!
Self-Advocate & Ally to the differently ABLE
Founder of Grace & Hope Consulting, LLC
T’was the day before Thanksgiving…Perhaps a day to prepare for all the festivities: Making the last trip to the grocery store, cleaning the house for guests, planning recreational activities for the long weekend…But I was preparing for something totally different.
I had a scheduled surgery that morning. I ran a few errands in preparation for the surgery, drove back home to park my car since I wouldn’t be able to drive after the procedure. I then requested an Uber ride to the hospital.
All the people I talked to who either had this surgery or knew someone who had it, had wonderful things to say about the procedure… “You’ll be so glad you had it …You won’t have to deal with all this pain anymore… You’ll feel like a new person”. I looked forward to the procedure. It promised a new beginning. A new beginning, I had. Just not exactly the one I expected.
My scheduled procedure went well, just as expected. Once in the recovery room, I started complaining of excruciating headaches that felt very different than my regular migraines. I was taken to the observation room and given pain medication, but the headache persisted.
Then a couple hours after the procedure, I was eating a Popsicle and tried to tell a family member that my head was feeling weird, but no words were coming out. My lips were moving but no words were coming out. I could see the worried look on everyone’s faces and knew something was wrong. Within a few minutes, my room was full of people. I suppose they all came to help. Rapid response was called.
By the time the medical staff were in the room, the symptoms had progressed. I couldn’t answer questions like “who’s the president of the United States?” I knew the answer but couldn’t get the words out. I couldn’t move the left side of my body. The left side of my face was numb. My left eye was drooping. I was presenting all the typical signs of a stroke.
I was then rushed to a different hospital by helicopter. The initial plan was to remove the blood clot as soon as possible; we all assumed that I had a blood clot from the surgery. Once in the new hospital, the CT scan and MRI could not find any blood clot, yet I still had all the stroke symptoms. I was put on stroke protocol and treated as such.
I was in that hospital for a week, three days were spent in the Intensive Care Unit. My entire body was out of order during that time. I had developed medical problems I didn’t have before. My entire being had changed, internally and externally.
While the changes were debilitating, I was not ashamed of them, but I slowly became aware of other people’s discomfort with my “new disabilities”. One person who had known me my entire life said, “you can’t afford to be a disabled woman with three kids” and by that comment I was reminded of society’s view of disability.
Ten years ago, I was legally declared “disabled” due to debilitating medical conditions. Those conditions were however invisible and apparently did not bother anyone. I have worked since, I have been a mom, a business owner, and so many other things while living with the same challenging conditions.
Somehow, as long as they were invisible, nobody cared. There were my problems, not society’s. I spent some days in bed, some days I had to call for help, other days I canceled work assignments and prior commitments. Somehow, nobody ever told me I couldn’t afford to be a “disabled woman with three kids”.
This time my disability is visible, and it seems to bother people more than it bothers me. I’m in a wheelchair. I’m having difficulty communicating. I can’t take care of my personal care needs. It’s obvious that I’m not “independent” according to society’s standards.
Does society view people with visible disability as a burden? Now that they can see my limitations, is it a constant reminder to them of their lack of support? Perhaps my invisible disabilities made me look “normal” for ten years and now all the sudden I’m no longer “normal”? Sadly, the answer to all these questions is a loud “YES” and I have read many research papers on this topic during my post-graduate studies, but I will not bore you with that.
If my visible disabilities do not bother me, does that mean that I will not apply myself to regain the functions I’ve lost? Not at all! I’m doing physical, occupational, speech, and vision therapies and I have already seen major improvements. What I’m trying to say is that I do not fear limitations. Even if I do not regain all the functional abilities I had before the stroke, I believe and KNOW that with support and accommodations, I can still have a meaningful life. Maybe my life will be even more meaningful than it’s ever been because I now have a deeper sense of gratitude, appreciation, and empathy.
I will not apologize for having disabilities, visible or invisible. I’m a beautiful human being inside and out. What you see or do not see does not define who I truly am. Get to know me and other people that society calls “disabled”, then you will realize that we are all able and disabled in our unique ways. Every human being has both strengths and weaknesses.
Now, look at the title of this article again, but only read the words in capital letters. You should read I CAN BE ABLED. Yes, people can be "abled" by the respect they receive from society and that respect starts by assuming that they can have meaningful lives.
If we assume that people can have meaningful lives, regardless of their functional limitations, then we start supporting people in achieving lives of purpose, and therefore, there will be no room for statements like “you can’t afford to be a disabled woman with three children”. In fact, I will joyfully be a "disabled" mother of three "disabled" children because our family has embraced disability as part of our human experience. It’s time the rest of society gets with the program!
Self-Advocate & Ally to the differently ABLE
Founder of Grace & Hope Consulting, LLC
P.S. Hallegra is my middle name. It comes from the Italian “allegria”, which translates into “allegresse” in French or “glee” in English. Therefore, Hallegra means lively joy or gaiety, which I want to identify with even more in this season of my life.
Chou is an Author, Speaker, Life Coach, Counselor and Consultant on a mission to inspire people to rise above their circumstances. She is passionate about helping others others achieve emotional wellness, reach their full potential, and live fulfilling lives. You can contact Chou at email@example.com