Categories
Uncategorized

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.

-Monaye

Categories
Uncategorized

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.

Monaye

Categories
Uncategorized

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.

Monaye

Categories
Uncategorized

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.

Monaye

Categories
Uncategorized

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.

Monaye

Categories
Uncategorized

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.

Monaye

Categories
Uncategorized

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.

Monaye

Categories
Uncategorized

Hello Lupus

                             Storms make trees grow deeper roots.

I’ll never forget the day I heard the doctor say, “Your results are back and you have SLE Lupus.” I’d heard him, but surely what I heard was wrong. I said, “I have what?” The doctor repeated his words. You see I had already completed lab work that he ordered weeks prior and I was at my appointment to get the results.

In that moment, I was nervous and anxious because I really didn’t know what to expect. I had so many questions. How would this disease impact my life? What would that mean for my day-to-day routine? I was 39 years old and other than a previous surgery, my health had always been pretty good. The doctor reassured me that it was not a death sentence and that it was a manageable disease. He gave me some informational pamphlets, asked if I had questions, wrote a prescription and sent me on my way.

As I walked to my car, I couldn’t help but to feel like I’d just been given a death sentence. While I didn’t know everything about Lupus, I had heard of people dying from complications. I couldn’t help but wonder what path Lupus would take me on.

It seemed like as soon the diagnosis was confirmed, every possible symptom became my reality. Migraines, rashes, fatigue, painful joints, digestive issues, and hair loss to name a few. Because I didn’t have anyone who I could relate to, I began to feel depressed. I had goals that I wanted to accomplish. I was in the process of changing careers to something very rewarding in the Criminal Justice field.

Lupus put an end to that.

Here I was on a new path in life. Certainly not the one I wanted for myself. So what was I going to do? Give in to the pity party swirling around on the inside of my head? I wanted to. But I couldn’t.

I allowed myself time to process this new normal. I cried. I cursed. I questioned God even. But at the end of the day…I realized this:

I found out how strong I was.

I realized that there were others like myself.

I realized that I could use my voice in a positive light.

I chose to go to battle with Lupus.

I remembered that I had two little ones who were depending on me.

I found strength in my struggle.

Whether you are a fellow Lupus warrior or fighting a battle of a different kind, please don’t forget that you are victorious! Your illness does not define you. If you are reading this, you are still here and the world needs more of you. Even if you feel like you don’t have much to offer, that’s simply untrue. The world needs your smile, your words of encouragement, and your determination to keep going! You never know whose life you may impact with your courage.

Monaye

If you can’t fly then run, if you can’t run then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving.” – MLK