Keep Moving

Happy February! Several things are happening this month. It’s the month that many celebrate Black History month as well as love. (Let’s not forget about self-love) While these things are certainly important, I am also choosing to use this month to maintain my focus. I am calling it Focus in February.

2022 was a mix of beautifully crafted moments and extremely tough ones. Some doors opened while others closed. Navigating life’s unexpected curve balls can create extreme levels of stress in the body when you have a chronic illness. Sometimes it can feel as if you are stuck. The doctor visits and medical tests increase. The people you once turned to are no longer there. Friendships change. Connections die. The vision you had for your life shifts. You question your purpose.

There’s an old song entitled “Keep On Moving” by Soul II Soul. One of the verses says “Don’t stop like the hands of time.” With all that life can bring our way, it can be quite tempting to want to do just the opposite. However, the sun can still shine after the rain. Much like a flower, even if you lose a few leaves, the strength is in your roots. Strong roots keep us grounded. When strong winds (problems) come, we may sway, but we won’t be knocked over. Regardless of what is going on around you, maintain your focus my friends. Someone needs your gifts, talents, and abilities. Just. Keep. Moving.



Chronic Disease and Nutrition

Managing a chronic illness on a day-to-day basis is not easy. Depending on what you are dealing with, you probably visit a specialist and take medications that are aimed at providing relief of your pain and discomfort.

While medications can certainly help, our food choices and the things we drink contribute to how we feel. Research has shown that when heavily processed or sugary foods are consumed, this increases the level of inflammation in the body. For people with a chronic illness like Lupus, Sjogrens, RA, or MS, this can cause debilitating symptoms such as painful joints, migraines, digestive issues, and fatigue.

It is easier and less costly (physically and financially) in the long run to eat in a way that promotes good health, than to be forced to deal with the aftermath of unhealthy eating. Making choices which do not contribute to a healthy lifestyle can lead to heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, organ involvement, and the development of other illnesses. It is advisable to check with your doctor with regard to any dietary changes, but in general the focus should be on whole foods such as fresh vegetables, fruits, seeds, nuts, good fats, sustainable protein, and foods high in fiber. All of these foods promote good gut health as well.

For me, I gradually cut out meat and dairy and have followed a plant based lifestyle for some time now. This along with exercise, stress management, and focusing on gratitude has helped tremendously. Do I still have flare-ups? Sure, but knowing what helps my body to recover is key. Try eliminating certain foods for a while and pay attention to how you feel once they are added back. It can be a process to discovering what works for you, so be patient. Just stay consistent and committed to your well-being.



Don’t Lose Yourself

What a year this has been. Living with Lupus is not without it’s challenges. Some days are good, while others can make me question everything. It’s tough to navigate life’s path while looking “normal” to the outside world, but dealing with all of the things people don’t see when they look at me. After all, I am the one who deals with the emotional and physical pain, the feelings of disease alienation, and the numerous changes to my body that have joined me on this unpredictable journey.

What I’ve had to realize is that while Lupus is a part of my life, it is not who I am. I am not my fatigue. I am not my various pains and nerve damage. I am not the hair or digestive issues. My identity is not tied to an illness, but rather to who Christ says that I am. Victorious. Strong and courageous. More than a conqueror. This body of mine is just a temporary vessel and regardless of what it goes through, the spirit who lives on the inside of me has already won the battle.

I choose to honor the warrior that’s always been on the inside of me even before Lupus made it’s presence known. My authentic self. That’s what really matters. Whether you are fighting Lupus or some other chronic illness, don’t lose yourself in the process.



Are You Self-Aware?

If you were to ask most people whether they are self-aware, you may get various responses. Each person has his or her own fundamental idea of what self-awareness means. There are those who believe their level of self-awareness is pretty high and others who may not be so sure and that is okay. Let’s define what self-awareness is.

Self-awareness means being connected to your feelings, emotions, strengths, weaknesses, and needs, as well as being cognizant of how we interact with others. When we know who we are, we are typically better prepared to deal with the things that life brings our way.

Here are some of the ways being self-aware can benefit us:

1- It helps us choose relationships with others wisely, engage with those with similar values, and encourages the setting of emotional boundaries within those relationships.

2- Being self-aware helps us to eliminate self-doubt which holds us back from being our true self.

3- It also allows us to stay mindful of what our needs are physically, mentally, and spiritually. This is vital especially if you have an autoimmune or other chronic illness. By being self-aware, we are able to notice when we need to seek the assistance of a health professional and advocate for ourselves.

4- We are better prepared in stressful situations and are more likely to respond rather than react in a negative way which could trigger a flare-up in some people.

5- Cultivating our self-awareness helps us to pay attention to areas where mistakes may have been made, giving yourself credit for what you did right, and then creating ways to make improvements going forward.



Mental Health Matters

2022 is upon us! Many people look forward to a new year with anticipation. We aim to leave the past behind and to move towards new goals that often include better health. I am sure that you have heard the term health is wealth. What comes to mind when you think of health? If you are anything like me, you may have only thought about the physical aspect. Everywhere we turn, we are reminded to exercise, eat well, and drink enough water on a daily basis. While those things are important, there is another area of our health that should be prioritized as well.

Mental health is a subject that many people shy away from. If you suffer from poor mental health due to stress, financial issues, or relationship problems, you are perceived as weak. So, what do most people do?

They suffer in silence.

They smile when they’re hurting.

They throw themselves into activities to numb the pain. (drinking, sex, exercise, or overeating etc.)

None of these things help us with the underlying issues. While both men and women can be affected by poor mental health, men are often affected more due to the societal pressures to be masculine and strong. If the issues go unaddressed for too long, it can lead to suppressed emotions, medical issues, feelings of despair, and lead to extreme measures to stop the pain. I have read too many stories where mental health was the culprit behind someone taking their life. Suicide is not the answer. We can all strive towards improving our mental health by:

  • Avoid self-criticism- value yourself
  • Take care of your body.
  • Talk to someone if you need to. Therapy does not equal weakness.
  • Practice mindfulness- meditate or practice yoga.
  • Change up your normal routine. Try new things.
  • Set realistic goals. Don’t over commit.
  • Surround yourself with positive people.

Remember, everything starts in the mind, and our mind needs to be healthy too.



Managing Holiday Grief

The holidays are upon us and while many people are decorating and taking advantage of the Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales, others are not as excited. They may be grieving the loss of a loved one. As a certified Grief Specialist, I was invited to speak on this topic recently.

First, let me define grief. It is the normal and natural response to any type of loss in a person’s life. Of course, death is what usually comes to mind initially, but we can grieve due to divorce, the end of a relationship, employment changes or even health status. (I had to grieve for what Lupus changed in my own life.) Regardless of who or what it is that we grieve, we don’t have to shy away from what we feel. We may feel loneliness, sadness, anger or even anxiety. The reason that holiday grief can be more difficult is because we are exposed to all of the stimuli that makes us more aware of the change that has occurred in our lives. For example, songs, certain smells, or places that we visit can evoke memories of what was.

So, how do we deal with those feelings? Do we rely on short term behaviors that numb the pain such as overeating, drinking alcohol, shopping or throwing ourselves into work? I have done a few of these things at various times in the past and not only are they unhealthy, but they don’t help us. The key to healing our hearts is to address and complete what is emotionally unfinished within that loss. This is how I help grievers.

No one has the right to tell you how long to grieve, but my suggestion during this season is to embrace your strength and courage that has led you thus far. If you’re living in a new body due to chronic illness, every day is a victory. Yes things may be different, but you are a warrior! If you need to cry, shout, curse, or journal about it, do that, re-adjust your crown and continue walking tall. If you’re missing a loved one, try and focus on the good times shared with them, the blessing that they were to your life, and the memories you will forever cherish. Family traditions may not be the same, but you can create beautiful new memories with those you do have. After all, your loved one still resides in your heart and they always will.



Walk to End Lupus Now 2021 🦋

I’m so thankful for the support!
Monaye’s Monarchs 🦋💪🏾
I am the storm.

The Beauty Within

Regardless of what chronic illness you deal with or how long you’ve dealt with it, there are times when it gets really tough. The symptoms can often feel as though they will never end which can leave you feeling discouraged. If it’s not one thing, it’s another.

As a person battling Lupus, I have had my share of issues. Many of them have been with me since early on in my diagnosis but just as I start to get familiar with those, Lupus brings along yet another surprise.

CHANGE. This is a huge part of living with this illness. Learning to embrace the various changes isn’t easy. Not only do you have the ones occurring internally, but externally as well. The ones people CAN see.

Your skin is changing. Where did these rashes and bruises come from?

You’re having dental issues.

You’re losing hair.

You have nose or mouth sores.

You constantly drop things or have trouble with your joints.

These changes can truly be life altering! So much so that they can make you forget about who you are. You see, these new normals are not representative of your goodness, integrity, courage, honesty, or authenticity. (Your true beauty)

They don’t change what lies within.



Managing Lupus in a Covid World

The year of 2020 introduced all of us to a pandemic known as Covid-19. As mask mandates, curfews, and hospital visits became the norm, panic also set in across the country. The everyday household items such as toilet paper, paper towels, cleaning wipes, disinfectant spray and hand sanitizer disappeared from the store shelves along with many food items. People were advised to keep a distance of 6ft. between each other.

The option to get vaccinated came about to help lessen the effects of Covid-19. There were some people who decided to get the vaccine and others who opted out. Of course, we have a right to choose what we put into our bodies. But with this pandemic, it became even more important to eat healthy, exercise, and drink water to promote a healthy immune system.

Many of the medications that people with autoimmune illnesses take tend to lower the immune system which aids in the management of symptoms. While this is beneficial towards flare ups and pain management, it puts us at a greater risk for sickness. Therefore, it is imperative that steps are taken to protect ourselves.

What protective measures can be taken?

  • Wear your mask. (Vaccinations do not prevent Covid-19)
  • Wash your hands with soap and water. Use sanitizer as a backup.
  • Use wipes or a napkin to open doors.
  • Avoid touching your face.
  • Avoid large crowds of people.
  • Eat healthy and get the proper rest.
  • Get tested and if your result is positive, self-quarantine.

As the Covid cases and death rates continue to climb with the emergence of the Delta Variant, we must all do our part to prevent the spread of the virus. Remember, not everyone will display symptoms. We should be considerate and think of one another. Covid does not care whether you are immunocompromised, healthy, young or old.

After all, prevention is better than cure.



What’s New? Neuropathy

I was getting ready for dinner on a Saturday night many years ago. I had planned on wearing this cute outfit with some new heels that I’d purchased. Hair? check. Make up? check. Perfume? check. As I slipped my heels on, my balance shifted.

Something was wrong. My right foot felt weaker than my left. Since I had no issues with the shoes when I first tried them on at the store, I was confused as to what was happening. I didn’t have time to figure it out so needless to say, I ended up wearing flats. As time went on, I began to notice tingling in that foot and leg. I called my Rheumatologist and made an appointment.

After examining my foot, he said, “You have toe drop.”

Toe what?

He explained that toe drop or foot drop is the inability to lift the front of the foot. My big toe was being affected. This affects the ability to walk properly and is caused by nerve issues. He referred me to a Neurologist for further testing and I was later diagnosed with Mononeuropathy. I had nerve damage.

Were my heel wearing days over? I became frustrated. What else would Lupus take away from me? I changed my mindset and decided that I needed to research this new diagnosis so I could understand how to manage it. No quitting over here!

Mononeuropathy occurs when a nerve is damaged or compressed due to disease and inflammation such as with Lupus or other illnesses. It can cause burning, weakness, loss of feeling or a “pins and needles” feeling. Damage can occur in various areas of the body which eventually happened to me as my nerve pain spread to my legs, arms, hands and head.

Treatment for Mononeuropathy depends on where the damage occurs and the severity, but may include corticosteroids, surgery, splints, or treatment of the underlying disease.

If you are having symptoms, I highly suggest that you seek medical advice. Untreated Neuropathy can lead to permanent disability or weakness, unresolved pain, loss of sensation or other impairments.