Confessions of an Optimist with Chronic Illness

It may sound dreamy to say that I’m literally typing this post while lying in bed, but here’s the reason: I slept very little last night and I woke up with pain all over my body.

Welcome to life with a chronic illness!

But I have one thing in my favor: God gave me a beautiful sense of optimism.

 

How Chronic Illness Works

Some days I am perfectly normal, with all the bounce and sparkle of my ENFP personality. I hike mountains, write books while chortling at my own mad genius, and try to see who I can bring a smile to.

Other days, I crawl into bed, shivering with unexplainable cold; crawling with pain; completely numb with exhaustion; sensitive to every light, smell, and sound; and overwhelmed by the idea of having to get up to go to the bathroom or get myself something to drink.

We’re still working on a full diagnosis, but right now the partial diagnosis includes babesia, a tickborne illness sometimes associated with Lyme Disease. With babesia, the nasty beasties hide out in muscles, blow up red blood cells, and wreak as much havoc as possible.

In 2012, when I first realized how sick I was, I struggled deeply with depression. Was this going to be my life? Would I ever have the energy to do things I loved? What if it interfered with my ability to have a family of my own someday?

Because of my chronic illness, I quit a job. I missed a chance to fly out for a visit with a friend. I cancelled on countless visits with friends. I lost a lot of opportunities because I knew I had no energy to commit to them.

The truth? I may never fully recover. My life is unpredictable, at the mercy of my body. My illness very well might affect my future family life.

But there’s more to the truth than just this grim reality.

 

How Optimism Works

God blessed me with a heart that sees possibility everywhere! And, though the partial truth is that chronic illness is hard, the whole truth is that it has brought me far more blessings than I could have imagined.

I’m optimistic about the future. Everybody has their own struggle. Mine happens to be chronic illness, so I’ve made it almost a game to find ways to live the most of every day God has given me.

So how does optimism bring joy to chronic illness?

  • Gratitude: Today, as I type in my bed, I am so grateful for my comfy bed. I am grateful I don’t have to work today. I’m grateful that my laptop is so conveniently portable. So many people around the world don’t have this level of comfort when they feel yucky. But I do! How’s that for cool?​
  • Focus: The things you give your energy to are the things you most care about. When you have limited energy, then you find out very quickly what those priorities are. For me, the priority is writing. Since 2012, I’ve published five science fiction and fantasy novellas and written several novels, all while riding the physical (and mental) rollercoaster. If I can do that, I can do anything!
  • Boundaries: I used to say yes to everything. Now I pick and choose my commitments. And you know what? It’s awesome. Every time I say “yes,” I can do so unreservedly and without resentment because I know I have thought through all the implications and know I can commit to it.
  • Pacing: In the proverbial tortoise and hare story, I’m naturally the hare. Zip! Zap! Then I take a break, and do it all over again. Now I am learning the benefits of being a tortoise. I used to write thousands of words a day. I don’t have the energy for that anymore, but hey! Doesn’t slow me down. I’ve actually gotten more serious writing done in the last few years because I’ve established a sustainable daily writing goal that I know I can stick to. Consistency really adds up over time! Who knew?
  • Resilience: This past summer, I had an episode in which I experienced two weeks of intense pain. My body gave me a few hours off every day to recover, and then I’d go right back to kneeling on the floor, rocking back and forth and sobbing in pain. That was one of the most incredible experiences of my life. Why? Because I know just how powerful I am now (with the Lord’s help). I survived it! This gives me perspective when I experience other hard things.

I could moan about how the grass is greener on the other side of the fence, but honestly, I’m too fascinated by the grass on my side of the fence. (Isn’t grass pretty? Have you ever stopped to think what the world would be without grass?) No matter what path your life takes, there are amazing things around the corner, if you keep your eyes open for them.

Yes, I’m chronically ill but so long as I stay chronically optimistic, I know I’ll be okay.

 

About the Author:

Yaasha Moriah believes that good fiction pulses with realism, honor, and invention, so that even fiction becomes true in some way to the reader. In 2015, Wings Beneath Water earned Silver Honorable Mention in the L. Ron Hubbard Writers of the Future contest and is now available as a novella. Find her on Facebook and Twitter as Yaasha Moriah and visit her website at www.YaashaMoriah.com.

May 2017 Goals

I can’t believe it’s already May! The first 4 months of 2017 have flown by in such a blur, I can hardly remember anything that’s happened. Of course, a lot of that has to do with my medical issues. Ack! But enough about that.

May is a fun month for me because it’s my birthday month! I like to celebrate hobbit-style, so I have a bunch of giveaways, sales, and other fun coming up.

But first … let’s talk goals!

It’s been a few months since I had a goals post. That should tell you how disorganized I’ve felt. But, along with my health, I’m getting my life and work organized! I have a lot going on in my life between writing, editing, social media, homeschool, and regular life stuff. The more disorganized I am, the more stressed I get; the more stressed I get, the more apt to get sick I am; the more sick I am, the more disorganized I become. Vicious cycle!

I’m working with my doctor to get my health on track and working with my husband to get home life more organized. I will get on top of things!

In other news, I launched my first newsletter last Friday. My plan is to use this tool to keep everyone updated on all things fiction (mine and others) as well as adding in fun and encouragement. You know, typical Ralene. If you haven’t signed up yet, you should do so! I’ll be making an exciting announcement in the next issue!

My Goals for May:

  1. Get into a routine where I can better balance work and homeschool. I already have my schedule laid out, so it’s a matter of getting everyone on board and sticking with it!
  2. I got my first round of edits for Aletheia back, so I need to get those done before my birthday. That’s my goal. I’ll continue getting up early in the morning to edit for a couple of hours.
  3. Do a shakedown and reorganization of my work layout. I’m going to be focusing more on social media and book marketing (instead of editing). So, there’s going to be a learning curve. Plus, I’ll be changing my daily focuses to reflect this change.
  4. Get my homeschool paperwork organized!
  5. The first step to getting my health under control is to plan better meals! My husband and I are working together to plan out menus and find meals that we all enjoy.

So there are my goals for May. What about you?

 

What are your goals for May, work or personal?

 

Share your goals below so we can keep in touch. If you haven’t already, head over and like my Facebook page, which is where we’ll check in during the month.

Confessions of an OCD Writer

Confessionsof an OCD Writerby Mike Duran

In the summer of 2010, I began experiencing some weird medical problems. I am not a hypochondriac and, on average, see the doctor about once or twice a year. That changed in 2010. I began experiencing severe dizzy spells. Debilitating, occasionally. Sometime after that, it was compounded by tingling and numbness in my hands and feet. Eventually, my entire body. The icing was a visit to Urgent Care one afternoon where I was promptly given a sedative and exhorted to pay attention to my health.

What followed were batteries of tests: bloodwork, MRI, brain scan, etc.  During the process, I’ve seen a neurologist, audiologist, and a dietitian. Along with my regular doctor.  After these tests had rolled in, accompanied by significant head-scratching on the part of the professionals, my doctor asked:

Mr. Duran, is there anything that has changed this year in your life? Your diet? Your work? Your living arrangements? Your schedule? Your routine? Anything that may have triggered this?

And then it hit me.

I said, Doc, I am a writer. I have been contracted for two books, one which I am currently attempting to finish. I work 40 hours a week outside my home. I wake up at 3-4 AM every morning and blog or write until I leave for work at 5:30 AM. When I get home at 5 PM, I check emails, mumble at my wife, and attempt to resume writing. You might also want to know that I am obsessive compulsive, an insomniac, a perfectionist, and I feel guilty when I relax.

He leaned back from his computer and squinted. Mr. Duran, stress does strange things to people.

Stress.

It’s been a humbling admission for me. I’ve always fancied myself as the tough guy who could soldier through all kinds of adversity, pain, and difficulty. They didn’t nickname me Bull Durham on our softball team for nothing. So who would’ve guessed that it was writing that would break me.

Little did I know when I answered the “call to write” that part of the plan would be to help me confront … myself. Like Dr. Jekyll, I was forced to confront a “dark side,” a side of me that obsesses over doing things right, that nitpicks details, that lies awake at night futilely attempting to dot every “i,” cross every ‘t,” and tie up every loose end.

This admission—the admission that my obsessive/compulsive tendencies were killing me—was not that great for my writing. It forced me to slow down. It forced me to think about something other than stories and characters and plots. It made me manage something more important—my health. In the “age of indie,” where authors are repeatedly instructed to crank out novels and expand their back catalog, slowing down is, sadly, viewed with suspicion. But that’s exactly what I needed to do.

It’s led to several admissions and lifestyle adjustments designed to help me stay out of Urgent Care. It’s about juggling two careers without dying. It’s about realizing I have a life outside of writing, and that my literary canon is will never exceed my being. It’s about smelling the roses before I’m pushing up daisies.

It’s led to several significant changes that have helped me cope with my kneejerk instinct to over-analyze:

  • I gave myself permission to not regularly blog
  • I gave myself permission to not answer email in a timely fashion
  • I gave myself permission to write something half-ass
  • I gave myself permission to lounge on the couch and watch TV instead of write
  • I gave myself permission to read whatever I want and not just the stuff in my genre
  • I gave myself permission to turn down some writing and promotional opportunities
  • I gave myself permission to embarrass myself and be brutally honest whenever I need to (like I have here)

Yes, writing this “confession” has taken time away from writing my novel or blogging. Yes, some people may read this and think less of me and my professional advice. Which is fine.

Take that, Mr. Hyde!

 

11078075_1482267868700841_7310025605731169301_oAuthor Bio:

MIKE DURAN is a novelist, blogger, and speaker, whose short stories, essays, and commentary have appeared in Relief Journal, Relevant Online, Novel Rocket, Rue Morgue, Zombies magazine, and other print and digital outlets.

He is the author of THE GHOST BOX (Blue Crescent Press, 2014), the first in an urban fantasy series, the supernatural thriller THE RESURRECTION (Realms, 2011), an e-book fantasy novella entitled WINTERLAND, THE TELLING (Realms May 2012), and a short story anthology SUBTERRANEA (Blue Crescent Press, 2013).

Mike is an ordained minister and lives with his wife and four grown children, grandchildren, and assorted beasties, in Southern California. You can learn more about Mike Duran, his writing projects, favorite music, cultural commentary, and arcane interests, at www.mikeduran.com.

Looking Ahead at 2017

busyThis post comes about a week late, but that’s okay. The kids and I were all sick last week and needed the time to recover. What a blessing that time was! But now we’re (mostly) recovered, and it’s time to embrace our time with renewed vigor.

Normally, in the week between Christmas and New Year, I take an evening to go off by myself and start considering my goals and such for the New Year. I take time to praise God for the stuff that happened in the previous year, and to pray about what’s to come. Then I start listing goals in different life categories:

Spiritual

Health

Relationships

Business

Education

Homeschool

Financial

(Most of these categories have sub-categories.)

I usually try to limit myself to 3 goals in each category. Then, each new month, I pick about 3 goals from different categories to work on. Even though I might have a few other goals during that particular month, those 3 are usually my focus.

 

Word of the Year

I could go through and list each goal for the year, but that would be at best cumbersome, at worst boring. I will say that most of the goals center around my word of the year.

to-michelle

Consistency has been something I’ve struggled with, especially given my health issues, for many years. I am always sick(ly), and I struggle to find the time to do everything when I’m in a perpetual state of catching up.

Inconsistency leads to more stress, more illness, more of all the bad things. In order to get myself off of this circle I seem to be riding, I have to break the cycle.

Of course, this is a big undertaking. I know that I cannot do it alone–I’ve tried time and again. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me (Phil 4:13), is definitely the Bible verse I’ll be clinging to this year (among others).

 

January Goals

So, what are my first few goals for 2017?

Health: I am focusing on menu planning and portion control as I aim to get my blood pressure under control. Each week, I’ll review my menu for the month and shop from that (cutting out most junk food). And with each meal, I’ll be sure my carb level falls within appropriate ranges.

Overall: Write out a new routine/schedule that will allow me to include all the necessary aspects of my life and business in a more orderly (less stressful) way. Be sure to include “me” to help me relax.

Business: Write 40,000+ words on Soter, the 2nd of the books contracted by Elk Lake Publishing (releasing in the fall, most likely). I will be writing 2,000 words in the evening after the kids are in bed.

I’m already plunging my way through the first 2 goals. Sadly, I haven’t even started on the 3rd goal, but I’m getting to it! I just have some catching up to do!

 

So, what are your goals for January? Do you have a word for your year?

February 2016 Goals

PIC1068506062Can it really be the start of a new month already? I feel like all of January was completely lost to me.

Well, in some ways it was. I caught a nasty bug right after the new year, and it held on for 3 weeks! I’m still reeling from the exhaustion of it all. Thank goodness for my wonderful kids and my amazing husband.

Needless to say, when I am sick for 3 weeks in a row, nothing gets done. I made some progress on my January goals, but didn’t fully accomplish any of them. So, my goals for February look pretty similar–mostly extensions of January’s goals.

February 2016 goals:

  1. I will start getting up at 6:00 a.m. so that I can have quiet time with my Bible and prayer before starting my day. My husband also needs to start getting up at this time, so it works out.
  2. I will work on controlling my diet more this month. I have a doctor’s appointment again today to find out what my labs have been like the last few months. We’re still working to get my blood sugar under control, but I know a large part of that falls to me and controlling carb intake.
  3. Prepare Bellanok Part 3 for publication by the end of February (though, hopefully before that). I still have to revise and send out to my critique partners/editor. I hope to get that done by mid-February. Final edits, and then off to my proofreader/formatter.
  4. Write Bellanok Parts 4 & 5. This will help me get a jump start on March!
  5. Put out my first official newsletter to e-mail subscribers! (Sign up here if you haven’t already.)

So there they are. I have quite a few things to work on, but with God on my side, I can do all things!

Stay tuned this month. I’ve lined up some great guest posts that I’m excited to share with you. Also, look for some better consistency now that I’m not sick. I pray you all have a great week!

What are a couple of YOUR goals for February?

Let’s share and keep each other accountable! (If you leave your goals, I will put you on a list, which I will be praying over all month long. In next month’s goal post, I will list your name and goals at the bottom of the list and ask to see how you did! Won’t it be nice to share struggles and achievements?)

Below are the goals people shared in January. How’d you do?

Pam H.:

  1. Create writing space in bedroom.
  2. Pull out all notes on novel revisions and finish them.

Jason J.

  1. Complete edits on YA book.
  2. Shop suspense book.
  3. Initial edits on book 2.

Grace F.

  1. Better plan time.
  2. Schedule cleaning and organizing routines.

 

 

January 2016 Goals!

PIC1068506062Bring on the New Year! It’s time to get down to business. I have lots of plans for making 2016 the best year yet. But it’s going to take a lot of work, a lot of perseverance, and lot of prayer. No worries, I know I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me!

In evaluating my accomplishments and struggles from last year, I’ve determined that I lacked a serious support system. I mostly made my goals myself, but nobody held me accountable and nobody pushed me if I was slacking. Turns out, I don’t have much will power when I get into a overwhelmed or defeatist mood.

Changes to my Approach

Some things I’m changing/improving to help me achieve more in 2016:

*I’m partnering with my good friend and fellow fantasy author, J.L. Mbewe, to hold each other accountable with our goals–both business and personal–using monthly video chats and weekly check-ins via Facebook.

*I’m going digital! This is the first year that I will have everything related to organization online. Google Calendars will hold my family calendar, writing calendar, project calendar, and menu planning (possibly cleaning) calendar. I’ll continue using ToDoIst for my to-do list, while expanding categories and use within the program. Both Google Calendars and ToDoIst can be used across devices, so I can update from wherever I am.

*I’m planning my schedule with “time boxes” in mind. (See more about this and other productivity methods here.) With time blocks, I’m giving myself permission to focus on just this ONE task/project for a set amount of time. Because I know the time is set, I don’t have to feel overwhelmed by the project as a whole (if it’s a bit one) but will be making progress; plus, I allow myself not to worry about “other things” because I know I will get to them in their time block. Best of all, it will keep stuff like social media and e-mails from being giant time suckers!

I’m combining this with a couple of other productivity methods, like 15-minute sprints (for cleaning, meal prep, e-mails, etc.) and anti-procrastination philosophies.

*Most important, I’m bringing God back into all areas of my life. I know this may sound hokey or weird, but I’ve found myself pushing God to the back burner, not waiting for or heeding or sometimes even seeking His guidance. That’s why this is a God-first year! More prayer, more listening, more Bible study to bring me into a place of close relationship with Him again.

With those 4 items in my arsenal, along with not biting off more than I can chew or taking my health for granted, I have high hopes for this year!

My Goals for January

  1. Re-install quiet times in the morning and make church a priority. I will start getting up at 6 a.m. to ensure I have time for Bible study and prayer before I start my work day around 6:30 a.m. I will also start preparing for church on Sunday the night before so that I have no excuses for not going unless someone is ill.
  2. Work with my doctor to start making lifestyle changes to improve my health. I have a doctor appointment today, the first one in over a year, with a new doctor. I need to go get my blood sugar under control as well as ensure that nothing else is out of control.
  3. Prepare Bellanok Part 3 for publication the first week in February. I need to finish writing/revising it by Jan. 10; get it back from my critiquers the following week; finish final revisions by Jan. 24; and then get it out to my proofreader/formatter. Whew! (This is what happens when you fall behind over the holidays.)
  4. Put out my first official newsletter to e-mail subscribers. (Sign up now if you haven’t already!)
The sweatshirt I'm wearing this morning!

The sweatshirt I’m wearing this morning!

Yes, I’m pushing myself this month. I need to. I need to see what I’m capable of with this new attitude. Like I said, I have high hopes for the year to come, and that will only happen if I’m healthy and wise.

What are a couple of your goals for January?

Let’s share and keep each other accountable! (If you leave your goals, I will put you on a list, which I will be praying over all month long. In next month’s goal post, I will list your name and goals at the bottom of the list and ask to see how you did! Won’t it be nice to share struggles and achievements?)

December 2015 Goals

PIC1068506062So, we’re going to pretend that I didn’t make goals for November. Everyone okay with that? Seriously, though, it was another rough month for me. A lot of things kind of converging at the same time across the board, mostly because of illness pushing stuff back . . . again.

I didn’t accomplish any of my goals for November, but I did manage to make a little progress with my health. Yay for progress! (You know I like to keep things positive!)

Now we’re into December–the last month of the year! Can you believe it? I’m still kind of like, “It’s already 2015? Where did 2014 go?” Yes, I’m a bit behind the times, it seems. But I’m ready for Christmas as it is my favorite time of the year.

Anyway, here are my goals for December 2015:

1. Finish Bellanok: An Urgent Quest and prepare it for release. I plan to finish my edits in the next 10 days or so, and then get it off to my proofreader/formatter. While she’s got it, I’ll be making social media images and posts, organizing the release, and all that fun stuff. Yay!

2. Finish the next 2 parts of Bellanok, about 40,000 words working at 2,000 words/weekday, plus a little extra during my full work day on Saturdays. This goal is a little lofty. I don’t see being able to pull off something short of a NaNoWriMo during a busy holiday month, but it gives me a target to reach for.

3. My health is still one of my main concerns, and something God has really been convicting me about lately. So, once again, meal planning and prep is my baby step toward better health this month.

Being that December is a holiday month, I’m not going to commit to anything more than that. I want to be able to enjoy this month with family and friends and celebrate the real reason for the season.

What are YOUR goals for December?

November 2015 Goals

PIC1068506062I can hardly believe there are only 2 months left in 2015. It seems like just yesterday I was making plans and goals for the new year. Yet, here I am already . . .

I’m not going to make this a long post, because I’m already behind on a bunch of stuff and need all the extra time I can get to get ahead. (That in itself could be one goal–ha!)

Here are my goals for November:

  1. I want to complete Bellanok Part 2 in time to release it later this month.
  2. I have committed to NaNoWriMo (50,000 words on a new project in one month), and hope to finish Parts 3-5 of Bellanok.
  3. My husband and I are realizing our health needs to be a major focus in the coming months. I will no longer be relegating my health to the bottom of the list to “take care of everything else. This month, my focus is on menu planning. I have a menu plan and aim to stick with it!
  4. I am going to get a head start on holiday planning so I avoid any potential stress. I need to sit down and make a list of people for presents/cards, plan out our activities, and remember what the season is really all about.

What are YOUR goals for November?

July 2015 Goals

PIC1068506062It’s that time again. We’ve got 4 new weeks to get some real work done! Who’s with me?

I’m still on vacation, so I’m not going to write out a normal post. Here’s my goals for July.

1. Finish and edit the first segment of Bellanock. My agent, who is also an editor, is going to edit for me, and my friend, Jennette of Master Design Solutions, is going to do the covers. Yay!

2. I’m working on a new business venture, which I can’t tell you all much about at this time. The hope is to reveal all at Realm Makers next month. In order to do that, I have to get the business planned laid out, the website at least started, and some marketing materials drawn up. The good thing with this is that I’ll have help!

3. I have 2 edits and a critique scheduled for July. I’m going to keep on target and finish all of them by their respective deadlines!

4. I think I have a husband and kids who still need attending to. No, seriously, my husband and I have decided to finally bite the bullet. He’s going gluten-free as soon as we get back from vacation, and so am I. I’d like to see if that helps some of my stomach and fatigue issues. It could be my diabetes not being under control too. Hopefully, it’ll help both!

So those are my big goals, and frankly about all that I can handle!

What are your goals for July? 

Overwhelmed? (by Kimberly Rose Johnson)

file1801281015946As I write this, I’m sitting in the dentist office waiting room waiting for my youngest to get a filling. Poor kid. Life can sometimes feel like one big cavity—painful, overwhelming, or too much to deal with. But there is hope. That cavity can be filled and the pain will, or at least should, go away. That’s what it is like with the Lord. He can fill those painful times with peace, healing, restoration, or whatever the need is if we hand it over to Him.

A writer’s life is filled with so many different things that can become overwhelming. Reality is everyone faces things that overwhelm, but today I’m focusing on writers since that was my assignment.

As writer’s we face deadlines that must be met in the midst of marking, social networking, and a plethora of other things that drain our time. What’s a writer to do?

The first thing I suggest is giving the stress to the Lord. He is a big God and can meet you where you are. I’m not suggesting He will write that book for you. What I am suggesting is that He will give you what you need to be able to meet your deadline, or whatever you are stressing.

Secondly, practice good time management. Figure out what is most important and schedule your time accordingly. There are days, when I have a looming deadline and social networking becomes something I rush through in thirty minutes. I do the minimum I can get away with and then move on to what is pressing. Ideally we don’t get stuck in a situation like that, but sometimes life and circumstances get the best of us and it can’t be helped.

Thirdly, recognize you are human. You can only do so much. Delegate if you need to, or simply put some things off that aren’t a priority. We only get 24 hours a day, and we need to sleep. Yes, sleep is important. It is when our body recharges, enabling us to do what we do. So don’t deprive you body of what it needs. Take care if it. Which leads me into my final suggestion.

Take care of yourself both physically and spiritually. You may think you don’t have time, and you could be right. If that is the case, you overextended yourself and need to back off of something, because taking care of yourself is crucial to your success. I’m sure you’ve heard this a lot, but it’s worth repeating. Take care of yourself to be the best you that you can be. Diet and exercise play a key role in this, but so does taking time out to do something you enjoy, spend time reading both for fun and enrichment. Spend time with the Lord.

I hope you will try these strategies. I believe you will find that you will feel better and even be more productive.

 

IMG_4314-2 PublicityAbout the Author:

Kimberly Rose Johnson holds a degree in Behavioral Science from Northwest University. She lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband, teenage son, and their yellow lab. She writes heartwarming Christian romance for Heartsong Presents and is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers. She enjoys taking long walks with her husband and dog, reading, dark chocolate and time with friends.
You may contact Kimberly via her website at http://kimberlyrjohnson.com/

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Kimberly-Rose-Johnson/e/B00K10CR6E/ref=sr_tc_2_0?qid=1433789058&sr=1-2-ent

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/KimberlyRoseJohnson

Twitter: https://twitter.com/kimberlyrosejoh