Learning to be Assertive Despite the Fatigue of Illness

I had just received the third pink slip in two weeks from the lab that said my payment was passed due. Over three times I had called and my insurance company had assured me that the lab work was covered and that they would mail out a check that afternoon. This time, when I finally got a representative on the telephone, I was polite but firm. I said that I wanted the problem taken care of immediately, and I wrote down her name and the supervisor’s name. It was time to get even more assertive.

Has assertiveness gotten a bad rap, however, among the chronically ill? Is it assumed that we won’t have the energy or stamina to fight all of the battles that we will face? When we do talk to someone in customer service, we are rarely taken absolutely seriously. After all, isn’t it just the drugs that make us impatient and nit-picky about all of this insurance stuff? Has anyone ever brushed off your assertiveness simply by assuming, “She doesn’t have anything else to think about all day, so no wonder she’s upset!”? Or “She’s just taking her frustrations out on me because she has a chronic illness.”

When you imagine an assertive person, what comes to mind? Webster’s Dictionary says that assertiveness is “positive; affirming confidently; affirmative.” Too often we confuse assertiveness with aggression which is defined as “making assaults and unjustly attacking.” Most of us have had moments when we have slid into an aggressive mode, but assertiveness is based on one’s ability to confidently step forward. Rather than becoming aggressive, I believe that the chronically ill often become burnt out on fighting and we simply avoid any conflict. Who has the energy to fight for our rights? Next time a situation arises where you may need to be a bit assertive, here are some things in which to remember.

I have the right to say no without feeling guilty.

For those of us with chronic illness, this is a big one! We must say, “no, thanks,” or “I’ll pass,” much more often than we would prefer. Even when we master the ability to say no, the guilt continues to sit with us for days. Let it go! You know your abilities and limitations and what is best for your own health and your family’s well being.

I have the right to state my opinion, even if I change my mind.

Have you ever been on a jury and you had to state your decision up-front, but then as the deliberations continued, you changed your mind about the verdict? You have the right to say what you think, but it’s best to think before you speak. Is what you say going to hurt someone’s feelings? Are your comments going to help the situation?

I have the right to take risks and try new things.

Just because you have a chronic condition doesn’t mean you have to eat at the same restaurant the rest of your life. Try new things! You may find a new hobby or a new activity that you are able to easily do, in which you would have never thought about. “When I started taking photos it was on one of those cardboard cameras,” says Darcie. “But then I found that I really loved it and I wasn’t half bad. So I bought a real camera. It’s been fun. I’ve had an excuse to go to events that I couldn’t participate in before, like boat races, because I am ‘the photographer.’”

I have the right to be heard.

Whether you are having a conversation with a medical professional or your mother, you do have the right to be heard. Too many of us fall into the habit of talking all of the time, however, and forgetting that we also have the responsibility to listen. Know your boundaries and what you are willing to listen to and not. When a man approached me after a health fair and said, “I can cure you in 30 days,” I replied, “You have sixty seconds to tell me why I should talk with you further about your product.” I listened... and no, he didn’t convince me. He felt okay about it though, and I got out of an uncomfortable thirty-minute sales pitch.

So be assertive—practice in front of the mirror if you must. As you step out and share your opinion, it may feel awkward at first, but then you will gain more confidence and it will become simpler the next time the opportunity arises. Even studies have shown that assertive people are more likely to have personal and professional relationships that are based on honesty and mutual respect.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Lisa Copen is editor of HopeKeepers Magazine, http://www.hopekeepersmagazine.com a consumer publication for those with chronic illness, and founder of Rest Ministries, http://www.restministries.org. Daily devotionals, a free magazine, dozens of e-groups, books by Lisa, including "Why Can't I Make People Understand?" http://www.comfortzonebooks.com 

Honor Our Fallen Heroes

Memorial Day, originally called Decoration Day, is a day set aside to remember and honor the military men and women who have died in service to our country. Many of us see the day as the herald of summer. Families take camping trips, have backyard parties, and generally enjoy the day.

But let us not forget we enjoy the freedoms we do because these men and women have not only fought to procure our freedoms, but also to ensure we keep them. Place a flag on the graves of the veterans you knew. And all throughout the year, say a heartfelt thank you to the veterans and active military personnel you see in the course of your day. Believe me when I say hearing "Thank you for your service" can bring tears to a veteran's eyes.

Happy Memorial Day
Debra L. Butterfield
United States Marine

Getting Carded

By Mary Jedlicka Humston © 2012
            You don’t know her all that well. Sure, you sit near each other on the bleachers when your daughters play junior varsity basketball, but you wouldn’t describe her as a close friend. You hear she’s dealing with ovarian cancer and is homebound, recuperating from surgery and treatment.
            There’s the family a couple streets over. You know them casually, see them out for walks and occasionally talk about the weather and their dogs. You read in the newspaper that their teenaged son, the one with the red hair and big smile, was recently killed in a car accident.
            Situations like these make you feel helpless and

A Nightmarish Illness

By Mary Jedlicka Humston © 2012

Rising from bed, I shuffled toward the bathroom, my eyes quickly adjusting to the comforting darkness of our bedroom; my hands spidering out, touching a dresser, a chair, a wall. 
Suddenly, a heavy shape knocked me to the floor. I lay in a crumpled heap while powerful hands pummeled me; a soundless scream echoing nowhere. I tried to escape, but the thing pinned me down. My strength slipped away like a wounded animal after a lost battle. 
In that crushing surrender, I awoke. Yet again, I’d fallen prey to that nightmare. Soothed by my husband’s warm, solid presence, I snuggled up to him and calmed my heart and ragged breathing. Eventually, I fell asleep, the lingering images scattering.
In the placid light of day, I tried to discern what this nightmare meant. No matter how hard I pondered, it remained a mystery. I dreaded the middle of the night.
One day the answer appeared with the same quickness and surprise as the nighttime attacker. The culprit,

Do You Know Your Body’s Likes and Dislikes?

By Debra L. Butterfield © 2012

Have you ever caught yourself saying, “Doctor, just give me a pill that’ll make this go away”? I have. More than once. Unfortunately, this give-me-a-pill mentality plagues today’s society, to which the rising occurrences of prescription medication addiction attest. The fact is we rely, perhaps a bit too much, on doctors for the answers to our health problems and expect them to prescribe the best drug for getting better.

But often getting better isn’t that simple. I can help my doctor and myself by knowing my body—when it’s up and when it’s down, what it likes and doesn’t like, and why. An important consideration in these observations is the food I eat. Unless you experience the typical symptoms of food allergies,

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The staff of Glory and Strength have experienced crisis and understand the difficulties and needs of recovery. We seek to offer the hope and encouragement we've been given as 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 tells us, "All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort. He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us." 

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Back Behind the Wheel

By Danielle Ripley-Burgess © 2011

My hands gripped the steering wheel, fingers fitting right back into the comfortable grooves.

Although it was the fourth time I’d experienced a “no driving allowed” season, finally getting behind the wheel once again never grew old. A rush of freedom and empowerment swept over me. The options of paved paths to follow felt too numerous to count.

I started the car and the engine hummed. I slowly pulled out and headed down the road on my four-mile journey toward the video store for the important task of returning a rental. My trip was short. The scar running the length of my abdomen, still covered by steri strips, couldn’t take more than a few minutes in the driver’s seat.

Although the initial independence felt great, I couldn’t stop the thoughts creeping in about the previous two weeks. Emotions came and went as the cars driving next to me did. I felt stunned that

What to Do When Chronic Illness Feels Like a No-Win Situation

By Sylvia Lippmann and Dan Lippmann

"I'm stuck in a no-win situation!" Chris exclaimed during her first counseling appointment. She had been referred by her physician for help with chronic migraines, anxiety and the recurring lifestyle challenges of her chronic illness.

Her children attended a private school that relied on parent volunteers for fundraising and other events. At the beginning of each school year, Chris's anxiety sky-rocketed as she anticipated the many phone calls asking her to volunteer her time. "I feel like a loser when I say no to volunteering," she said, "but I don't dare say yes because,on the day of the event, I could be in pain and non-functional."

She didn't feel she could say yes, because of her illness, but she felt badly about herself for saying no. Chris didn't want to be scolded, as she had been in the past, for "overreacting to her condition." Her invisible illness was taking a huge toll -- physically, emotionally, and mentally.

As she talked more about her situation, it became clear that several underlying thoughts and fears were to blame. If she said No to volunteer requests, Chris feared that the other parents would get angry at her and think she was lazy and unmotivated. She also believed that if she told them about her migraines they would think she was making excuses and talk about her behind her back. Even more troubling, she felt "worthless" because she couldn't "pull her own weight." Just articulating these thoughts for the first time brought Chris some relief, because it allowed her to begin questioning their validity.

Once Chris's fears were out in the open, she soon recognized that many of her thoughts contained exaggerations and false assumptions. As the Cognitive Behavioral Therapy techniques helped her generate more positive, realistic thoughts to counteract the negative beliefs, Chris could feel her anxiety slowly dissipate.

Chris learned that saying No is one of the most important ways we have to exert control over our time and life. This helped her become less concerned with others' perceptions, and more determined to focus on her own needs.

Next, Chris worked with a coach to come up with a better way to respond to volunteering requests. She wanted to be able to say No with grace and confidence. But she also wanted to be able to make a request manageable, so she could say Yes if she wanted to.

Together, Chris and her coach wrote several brief "No, thanks" scripts that expressed her needs simply and directly. As Chris rehearsed her scripts ("Pam, I'm afraid I'll have to say no this time. But I'm hoping to help out with another project next month."), her confidence increased. She no longer dreaded getting phone calls about volunteering.

Then the coach asked Chris to imagine her ideal volunteer job. Chris quickly created a list of conditions for such a job, including a maximum time commitment of one hour per week, with a flexible schedule, a flexible deadline, and minimal physical exertion.

List in hand, Chris began looking at the volunteer sign-up sheets posted at school. Soon she saw that several activities -- from baking cookies to making reminder phone calls -- fit her criteria. She even decided to propose a new position (researching educational field trips), which met her health needs and matched her interests.

Chris showed incredible resourcefulness in responding to the challenges of her chronic illness. After a few more sessions, she had the skills and confidence to exercise her power of choice in many situations, including medical ones. She began to orient her life around her own needs and priorities - rather than simply reacting to whatever requests or events came her way.

Despite the unpredictability of her medical condition, Chris found that thoughtful planning (with plenty of built-in flexibility), coupled with the ability to say No, enabled her to live with greater ease and enjoyment than she'd thought possible.

Four Simple Steps for Saying No
If you could relate to Chris's challenge with saying No, here are four simple steps to make it easier.

  1. When you feel uneasy about saying No, ask yourself, "What's the worst thing that will happen if I say no?" Often, just seeing your thoughts on paper will lessen their hold over you.
  2. Write and rehearse "No, thanks" scripts. The more you practice saying No directly and simply, the easier it will become.
  3. When someone asks you to do something, tell them you will reply later. Give yourself time to think about whether you really want to do that. Make a list of the conditions (your priorities) that need to be present for you to say Yes. Look for ways to change existing situations so you can participate comfortably.
  4. Practice making requests based on your needs and desires. Once again, the more you practice, the easier it will become.

When managing your illness claims much of your time and attention, it's important to get very focused and intentional about your life. An important antidote to fear and resignation is to take charge of every aspect of your life that you can control. As you free your time through careful planning and the magic of saying No, the possibilities for leading a satisfying life will grow.

ABOUT THE AUTHORS: Dan and Sylvia Lippmann have created a new form of complementary care that addresses the largely ignored challenges people with chronic illness face, by combining the techniques of their two professions -- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Life Coaching. 
Sign up to get a FREE eReport, "The Feel Better Now-CI Five-Second Stress Reduction Technique", as well as an eZine filled with life-enhancing tips by visiting their website, http://www.feelbetternow-ci.com.
Article Source: What to Do When Chronic Illness Feels Like a No-Win Situation

8 Choices You Must Make to Live Successfully with Chronic Illness

by Lisa Copen

[1] Recognize that the illness is chronic
You will swim through the phases of grief for the rest of your life, because with a chronic condition comes new limitations as the illness progresses. Don’t be too hard on yourself; reach out to others, build up friendships with those that understand, pursue new hobbies that get your mind off of the illness, take a second look at your faith and how this affects it.

[2] Be a good advocate for your health
You know your body better than anyone else, and the likelihood is that you will get tons of well-meaning advice from both friends and strangers. Be discerning in what you choose to follow and what you choose to let go. Kindly thank those that offer their advice but don’t make any promises or feel obligated to try anything they offer.

[3] Do research on new medications and study possible alternative treatments carefully
Be wise in how much money you invest in alternative treatments; don’t continue to dump money into alternative treatments when the practitioners continue to offer promises and testimonials. Recognize that alternative supplements are not regulated by the FDA and may not be as effective as they claim or even safe.

[4] Choose your doctors carefully
Ask for referrals. Find a doctor who your personality clicks with. Don’t be demanding or act like you know more than s/he does, even if you occasionally do. Build a team of doctors that is willing to work with you to give you the best quality of life.

[5] Refuse to give into bitterness
It’s easy to get caught up in the blues of “but they don’t understand!” and “they are so lucky and they don’t even appreciate it!” Defy the tendency to feel sorry for yourself and instead choose joy. One of the best books I’ve read on this topic is Tim Hansel’s “You Gotta Keep Dancin’.”

[6] Step outside yourself
Even if you aren’t happy about the diagnosis, in time you will witness others going down this same path and you may have a desire to reach out. Follow that passion! Reaching out to another person who is dealing with similar circumstances can be healing for both of you and will give your illness purpose, even on the days with great physical pain.

[7] Get a grip on guilt
It’s natural, especially if you have a family, to feel intense feelings of guilt that you are bringing everyone down with you. Recognize that this illness is not a judgment or punishment—it simply is. You may not be able to choose to live without it but you can choose how to live with it. Your kids and spouse are watching to see how you will handle this. Make them proud.

[8] Allow yourself to be vulnerable
On the flip side, you don’t have to be a steel magnolia and always keep a stiff upper lip. Find a friend, a mentor, a buddy—someone with whom you can let down your frustrations, struggles, hopes and fears. You’ll find that illness may leave you with fewer friends than before but the quality of relationships may be much more precious.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Don’t miss Lisa Copen’s new consumer magazine, HopeKeepers, for people who live with chronic illness or pain http://www.hopekeepersmagazine.com. HopeKeepers is also the sponsor of Invisible Illness Awareness Week. We have dozens of articles, chat guests, e-groups, etc. http://www.restministries.org

A Word Fitly Spoken

by Christina Deanne © 2012

I met my friend Cecy when she came to our church for the first time. She was diagnosed with lupus and rheumatoid arthritis. However, you'd never know it. She gets around very well for herself and it is easy to forget that she is sick. Cecy is one who is positive and gifted with an inner strength that comes from the personality God has given her.

Not everyone is like her. This is especially true if a person has recently received a diagnosis for a chronic illness. Emotions are raw as your loved one or friend deals with

A Tisket, a Tasket, What’s in the Basket?

By Mary Jedlicka Humston © 2012

What would a teenage boy want to find in his Easter basket? More importantly, would he even want one? I didn’t want to cause any embarrassment, but under the circumstances, I thought it might bring him a tiny spot of joy. You see, his father had suddenly died just a week and a half before, shocking him and his seven siblings, as well as his grieving mother Mary, a dear friend of mine for over 25 years.
The dilemma of the Easter basket heightened on the day I planned to drive the three-hour round trip to visit Mary and to have lunch with her at a local tearoom. This would give us some personal time together beyond what the visitation and funeral Mass allowed the week before. Since Easter was only days away, I arranged purple and pink baskets for the three youngest girls still at home. Each one included a fruity lip gloss, funky-colored nail polish, a packet of Easter stickers, headbands, a small chocolate rabbit and, of course, several smaller pieces of candy.
Creating baskets for the girls was easy, but what would their 17-year-old brother like? I debated that issue the entire ten-minute drive from my house to the drugstore. Once at Walgreens, I hurried to the holiday aisle and stood, gaping at the mountains of toys, candy, stuffed animals and game selections and praying to find just the right item. My gaze swiveled back and forth, up and down the shelves.
Suddenly, there it was, a large, colorful box containing an equally large chocolate rabbit. Everyone loved huge hunks of chocolate in colorful boxes, right? I grabbed it and headed for the checkout line. I left Walgreens, satisfied yet hopeful that this Easter basket wouldn’t totally mortify him. I tossed in more candy alongside the bunny and drove to Mary’s home.   
After finally arriving, I hugged my friend, long and hard. Then, I distributed the Easter baskets to her daughters. The youngest immediately put on her headband, used the lip gloss and had one of her sisters apply polish to her toe nails.
When I showed Mary the basket for her son, she gasped. “How wonderful that you brought Matt the only thing he wanted for Easter…a chocolate bunny.”
            God is amazing. He cares about everything, even the smallest things like providing a chocolate Easter bunny for a teenaged boy who’d recently lost his father.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Mary Jedlicka Humston has over 100 publications in newspapers, magazines, books and websites that include Liguorian, Coping with Cancer, Today’s Caregiver Magazine, Cappers, Julien’s Journal, TEA: A Magazine, Farm and Ranch Living, Our Iowa and a cover story for TOPS News. She is a member of the National League of American Pen Women, www.nlapw.org. Besides writing, she loves reading, yoga, drinking tea, walking, and being with friends and family. To contact Mary, email maryjedhum@gmail.com

Permission and Purpose

By Kristi Bothur © 2012

"Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has demanded permission to sift you like wheat; but I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail; and you, when once you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.”
Luke 22:31-32

When I was a child, one of my favorite playground games was “Mother, May I?” One person would be the “mother” and he or she would issue commands to the rest of us – “Take two giant steps” or “Take one baby step.” After each command, the other player would ask, “Mother, may I?” If the one in charge agreed, the player could move. If the player forgot to ask for permission, the ability to move was retracted.

Like this childhood game of asking permission, the Scriptures make it clear that even our archenemy Satan cannot unleash his attacks without asking God, “May I?” The book of Job opens