a mountain view with sky

Get Back Up and Take a Step!

This is a sequel to a piece I posted about a quote from the Dalai Lama. I help moderate an online forum for people with Hashimoto’s, and I frequently see people write in about how discouraged they feel, living with an autoimmune condition. Having hit rock bottom myself some time ago in that arena (use your imagination), I have some words of encouragement to offer here.

Living With the Challenge

I prefer to dwell in the positive: positive thoughts, intentions and actions. Hanging around complainers drains my energy, like water through a colander! But as many of you know from experience, living with a autoimmune condition can be difficult. It really challenges our capacity for a positive outlook. In addition to the typical stresses of life, living with a chronic condition means there are unique, added challenges to face on a daily, hourly basis. Sometimes you get worn out with the constant monitoring, coping, and sleuthing for answers. But you can’t call in sick from a day of life like you can from a day at work. So we do our days, and do what we can.

Sometimes everything seems like a challenge. Things that ought to be easy, aren’t. Things that ought to be hard are really awful. For periods of time we move from one medical question mark to another, looking under every rock for the answers to what our bodies are doing. When we face failure and discouragement on a repeated basis, we might even stop wanting to try.

Getting Back Up… Every Time

Yet, through all this, we become really good at getting back up from our struggles: new symptoms; relapses; improper or insufficient medical treatment; depression; unsupportive families; losing a job due to health; losing friendships and relationships; the list goes on. Getting back up is like a muscle; the more you exercise it, the stronger it gets. In fact, we get so good at getting up that falling down doesn’t even look so scary any more. “Bah. I got this!” Thump. Get back up. Keep moving. The people I know with chronic health conditions have some seriously honed and toned Get Back Up muscles!

But what do you do when you feel you have lost your courage and your confidence in yourself? When you lose faith that you are capable of getting back up from your struggles? I’ve been there. I know how empty the supportive words of others can sound when you are standing on that particularly hopeless ground. But please let me tell you, it is worth taking a step, any small step, toward what you want, no matter how large or small that goal might be.

Ski touring in the mountains

Set yourself up for success by taking very small steps, not big ones. Your ratio of success to failure will likely be higher that way. And then bask in the goodness of any success you feel. With every success, no matter how small, your confidence in yourself will grow. You start adding small successes to your bag of tricks (and you remember to bask in their awesomeness!), and at some point you feel like maybe you can take on a larger step. I’m not talking about conquering Everest, either; there was a time when simply getting myself to write a grocery list and go to the market was a great accomplishment. I was a hot mess (disabled from severe anemia, crippling adrenal fatigue, vitamin deficiencies, hormone and neurotransmitter imbalances, depression and more) and I literally felt like a gold-record rock star for simply making it to the store and back. Twice a week was platinum. I couldn’t work or exercise. That trip to the store was the highlight of my week. I don’t write this for anyone’s sympathy. I write it because I know there are some of you out there who will know exactly how that feels. Today.

The kicker is here: having small successes increases your confidence, and with every increase of your confidence, I believe your power to manifest change also grows. It’s not just a willy-nilly coincidence. It doesn’t even have to take very long, and it may not take many small successes to feel your courage return (bask, bask, bask!) And when your courage returns, your faith in yourself begins to return, and things literally look brighter. Where dead-ends once stood, possibilities will reveal themselves to you, as if they just manifested out of a solid wood wall. I mean that. You will begin to see the world differently… or the world will begin to be different; no matter, because for you, things have shifted.

success chart

What’s Your Next Step?

So, what are you stumbling on?

  • Is it the confidence to apply for work after two years of healing while unemployed? Set your self up for success and practice your interview skills with a friend.
  • Is it the courage to talk confidently with your stuffy doctor about what your treatment goals are? Read up on the topics and make a written list of talking points. Practice them with your partner or a friend. And bring that piece of paper to your next doc visit.
  • Is it the gumption to go to a meetup group and make some new friends, after having been socially isolated for a long time due to your health? Make yourself go; everyone there is as nervous as you are! Don’t try to meet everyone; just talk to two people.
  • Do you want to learn a new skill so you can have a new profession? Take it a day at a time. Be gentle on yourself as you learn, and revel in your new-found knowledge.
  • Do you want to really commit to an AIP diet? Peruse AIP recipes online, make a detailed menu plan and shopping list, clean out your cabinets and get to the store. Oh, and remember; batch cooking is your friend!
  • Is it finding the words to tell your best friend or family that you need their support and [insert your reality here] is what your daily life looks like, so get with the program, people? Write it down, commit to your position, and remember you deserve the best, no matter what they say.

Whatever your goal, I don’t encourage you to jump in feet first… yet. Think small. How did any river carve its path over the millennia? How does a mountain crumble? One molecule at a time, one stone moving; our successes can be such, and as we create more of them, our power to manifest what we want grows in strength. Try it.

One of my particular challenges was going back to school in the tech world, as a “Non-Traditional Student.” That’s P.C. for “Not in your twenties… or thirties… any more.” Two decades since school = brain freeze. Groggy synapses. I felt like a rusty android after a decade in a leaky garage. I had really bad Hashi’s brain fog when I started, which made it even more fun. But I kept at it, and after time I started noticing how much faster I was absorbing information. Studying got less exhausting. After taking a break for a month between classes, I came back to it, and realized that my speed and comprehension was four-fold what it had been when I started. I felt like a different person that day. It felt so good, it fueled my resolve to dig back in and keep at it. I’ve added in other skills along the way, and I’m amazed to remember how it all looked like gobbledeygook when I started. Small successes added up, and along the way my confidence and faith in myself have grown with it.

I know, it’s possible to lose faith in yourself on this journey. But I also know it’s possible to get it back. You are your own greatest ally; even if you don’t believe it right now. What is your next step?

The Dalai Lama’s words remind us to never give up; to remain strong in our intention and courage, to take the steps we need to take to manifest change. Sure, you may lose your steam, but after you have a rest, get back up and take a step. You can do this, and you are not alone on the journey. If you have stories of successes, large or small, I’d love to hear about them!

a mountain view with sky