Stand Up


I was reminded of something today, that taking care of yourself with a chronic illness means reducing your stress, and sometimes you have to temporarily elevate your stress now in order to reduce it in the future. The last few years I’ve been trying to get rid of or reduce contact with toxic people in my personal life. I’ve reduced contact or eliminated contact with people who made my stress levels rise and were helping to knock down my sense of self-worth and ultimately helping to keep me feeling at my worst. What I forgot was that I need to do this periodically at my work as well.

I do work as a retail merchandiser rep. Which means I have a route of retail stores, that I visit every week. I have different projects to do for the store depending on what is going on. Which means I go into a store, take care of that week’s projects and then go on to the next store. Usually I am only there for part of a day, or maybe a full day on a rare occasion. So when someone who works at the store stresses me out, I’ve been ignoring it, finishing up my work and then moving on. Most of the time that serves me fairly well, but one person at one store reminded me that apparently I let people think they could get away with a little too much with me.

Earlier today I go to work in one of my stores.  The majority of people at this store are nice, easy to work with, and know that I’m there to help them get things done they don’t have manpower to get done themselves. There is of course one worker at the store who for some reason has been decidedly nasty to me in her attitude since I took over that store a few months ago. Most of the time I’ve been avoiding her, because her obviously negative and toxic nature is not what I want to be around. I usually deal with the manager or assistant managers to get what I need done. The few times I’ve had to work with her to accomplish a goal, her ultra critical tone, the condescension towards me and her fellow coworkers, her abrasive manner towards me, have gotten on my nerves, but most of the time it’s a few minutes then I can get away from her. Apparently she decided me ignoring her meant that it was ok to be abusive to me. I walked into the store today and got started on the first of my projects for the store.

Within minutes, she comes charging angrily at me up the aisle and starts accusing me of “lying” to her about something the week before. I’m really confused as what she is saying I told her is impossible, the term she’s saying I told her I am not even familiar with it. I’m trying to calm her down, but she just gets louder and louder, and meaner, accusing me of lying, and more. When I try to defend myself calmly she starts yelling that I’m calling her a liar and she won’t have it. She is using body language to try to crowd me, obviously trying to intimidate me as she’s larger than I am. I stay calm while she yells in the middle of the store and then walk away from her. I find her a minute later when she has gone into the back room of the store and is away from customers. I tell her “Listen here. Yelling at me is not professional or acceptable and you are NO LONGER going to speak to me this way. I am not your employee, I am not your whipping boy, I am a retail rep for this store and I do not have to take this sort of verbal abuse from  you any longer. If you try this again, I will report it fully to your boss and your District manager. I’m sure they would love to know how you yelled at a rep in full view of their customers, and that you have been known to belittle, and treat other people poorly when the managers are not able to see you. “She stared at me open mouthed and started to say something, but I held up my hand and pretty much told her I said what I needed to say and was done. I don’t know if anyone has ever stood up to this bully of a person in her entire life, it certainly seemed to catch her off guard that I did.

When I left the store later after finishing my project (she wasn’t going to keep me from getting my part of things done!)I called and spoke to my supervisor. I reported what happened to her. Thank goodness for good bosses! My boss said that I absolutely did not need to be spoken to or yelled at, and that she herself was going to go down to that store in the next day or so to speak directly to that woman’s manager in person and let her know that would not be tolerated. If the manager didn’t act on it, my boss would go to the District manager. It really is gratifying to know that I was able to keep my cool, stand up for myself and my boss backed me up. I hope anyone reading this is lucky enough to work somewhere like that.

I have to say though speaking my piece was very stressful, as I am not normally a confrontational person, when it was over and I’d spoken to my supervisor, I felt better. A huge weight has been lifted from me. I took a chance and stood up for myself and I know that it’s ok for me to stand up for myself. I didn’t need to get mean or yell, just calmly let that person know they no longer had the right to treat me that way. After I was done, I was sitting in my car and at that point I was crying heavily. The stress of the confrontation needed a way to leave me and I allowed it to do so.

After speaking to my supervisor, it looks like she is going to switch that store to another one along my route so I don’t have to deal with that person ever again. I hope that my standing up to her makes her think twice the next time she tries to be verbally abusive to someone else. Just remember, we have to take charge of our health and sometimes we have to remember that it is ok to stand up, even if it’s temporarily very stressful, in order to free ourselves from on going stressful situations.

Follow me on twitter @BttrflyBritney or see our website http://www.warriorbutterflies.com for more good info for the thyroid patient.

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My Favorite Things

These are a few of my favorite things!

When I have a really stressful time and my health isn’t at it’s best, I try to cheer myself up. I keep a list of favorite things I can look at and/or do to boost my spirits. Keeping yourself in a positive frame of mind can help you manage chronic health issues. Anything I can do to lift my spirits goes on the list. So here are MY favorite things (feel free to comment and add your own at the bottom).

1. Animals! I am a cat person. I love all kinds of cats. From small kittens to big Cats. I have three cats at home. All rescues and all ornery and cute at the same time. My Max is the oldest at 11 1/2  years old. He is a 14 pound orange and white short hair cat with a HUGE attitude. He rules the house, or so he thinks. Then we have Princess who I got a few months after Max, she’s only a month or so younger than he is. She’s my Perma-kitten, permanently 4 1/2 pounds, orange and white long hair and pretty much all hair and attitude as well. Then our relative newcomer Selena. A small dark brown/black furred short haired cat who wandered into my in-laws yard and then into our lives. I am also an August baby and I also love our symbol the Lion. I have tons of lion pictures and stuffed animals around the house. I love to watch nature shows with the lionesses protecting their cubs or hunting down prey.
Cats aren’t my only love even if they are at the top though; pretty puppies, baby hedgehogs, and even domesticated rats are on my cute animal list. I can spend hours watching funny animal videos online to cheer myself up.

2. Music! Another favorite thing that can cheer me up is listening to music. I have fairly eclectic tastes (read:weird!) along with popular music that I like as well. Music can help change my mood in an instant. Feeling angry, pop in some heavy metal or music with a heavy beat and let me holler along with the music, sitting in my car or at home. Instant stress relief! If I’m sad, I can put on something peppy and dance around in a silly way, or I can put on something that fits my mood and cry it out. Music can always help me feel better. It’s good to find those songs that will uplift you, change your mood, or even give you something new to think about.

I first got into my love of music as a young girl. I played the violin from 4th grade in elementary school on through my first year of college. Learning to play an instrument opened up my mind to the beauty that is out there in the realm of music and gave me the discipline that I later used to deal with my chronic illness.

3. Books! I am an avid reader. I devour books when things are busy at about three a week. If I have an entire week to read with no interruptions, I’m usually good for 7 or 8 300 plus paged books. I like to read about information about my thyroid condition, but reading to escape or to make me think is even better. My favorite books to read for fun tend to be fantasy/sci-fi type fiction. Preferably ones with a strong female lead and if they have dynamic involved worlds that draw corollaries to our world, even better. I am still old fashioned enough to love the feel of real paper in my hands while I read. I have some e-books,but I am happiest if I can get a new book from the bookstore and spend a few hours holding the paper in my hands and reading it.

4. Fairies! Or as I like to spell it faeries! I have been obsessed with faerie creatures since I was a young woman. One of my nicknames online is based on my love of faeries, the Red Faery. I am not into the Tinkerbell type, but rather the mischievous, devious, beautiful faeries that are both beautiful and dangerous to mortals in the old stories. I’ve been a big fan of myths and legends of old, the Celtic Faerie tales are some of my  favorites.

5. White Sandy Beaches! When I was less than a year old my parents moved us to New Orleans, LA. Though we only lived there for a year or so, I think that is when I first got my love of being on a beach. We moved back to northern Indiana and I spent much of my childhood not far from Lake Michigan. Spending summers on the dunes, playing in the sand are some of my happiest memories. These days, we make sure to go down to the Gulf Coast area every couple of years to spend a few days digging our toes into the warm sand and soaking in a little sun (with sunscreen of course).

6.Finding the funny online! I have several websites that I bookmark that make me giggle and some that make me always laugh so hard I have to reach for my asthma inhaler! Some of my favorite websites to cheer myself up are(beware some are not so safe for work at times):
http://www.damnyouautocorrect.com
icanhas.cheezburger.com/
http://www.youtube.com/user/zefrank1 His True Facts about… are guaranteed to make me smile

7. Helping others! It’s really true. I love to help others. My first degree in college was in Financial Counseling and Planning. My thoughts were to help people figure out their finances to reduce their stress levels. Unfortunately it didn’t help my own stress levels to be in this career! I switched to IT, computers and that was closer to what I wanted to do. There is nothing like figuring out a computer issue that is making someone frustrating and wanting to cry and throw things and turn it into a positive learning experience. To see the relief on someone’s face when the problem is fixed and they can go back to using their computer again.  I still enjoy helping people in those ways. These days I spend a lot of time helping other thyroid patients online and sometimes in person. It makes me glad to be able to use my experience and knowledge to comfort someone else, or help someone start on their own path to finding out more ways they can make their lives better. Thank you for coming along on this journey with me! Share your favorite things in the comments please.

Visit one of Britney’s favorite website she helps run at http://www.Warriorbutterflies.com

Photo Credits:

http://www.123rf.com/photo_18498164_orange-kitten-sitting-isolated-on-white-background.html
images.clipartpanda.com/colorful-music-notes-clipart-royalty-free-music-note-clipart-illustration-67922.jpg
thumbs.dreamstime.com/z/open-vintage-book-blank-pages-26566059.jpg
upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/1/1d/Johann_Heinrich_F%C3%BCssli_058.jpg
http://www.wired.com/images_blogs/underwire/images/2007/05/05/icanhascheezburger.jpg

Breaking out of the Caretaker Mold


Taking care of others at the expense of our own health. Does this sound familiar to any of you? Having spoken to literally a few thousand people who have been diagnosed with thyroid disease of various kinds, I have noticed a trend. A whole lot of us are the type who have spent our lives taking care of others, pleasing others, and at the same time neglecting ourselves. This and a highly stressful and/or traumatic event is what happens to a lot of us before our diagnosis. I happen to think that just maybe all of the stress we put on ourselves trying to help others in our lives, allows us to put our own health on the back burner until a breaking point. Something very stressful happens to us and we are pushed beyond our limits. Our poor minds and bodies literally can’t take anymore of what we’ve put it through and something gives. If our immune system and/or our thyroid is the weakest link at this point, then that is what gives.

Obviously this is just my own personal theory, but I have seen this played out many, many times. Ask ten people if they took good care of themselves before their thyroid diagnosis. Ask them if after neglecting themselves for others in their lives,they then had something exceptionally stressful happen and then ended up with a thyroid health issue and/or autoimmune such as Graves’ disease or Hashimoto’s disease. I know one of the positive things about my Graves’ disease diagnosis was being forced to finally take a good look at my own life and start paying attention to what I needed. I was the one who tried to help everyone around me. Friends that needed places to crash for indefinite time periods, family that needed an ear to listen to even when I personally was exhausted, work that needed me to do just one more extra thing when I had nothing left in the tank. I made sure the people around me were better taken care of then I was for a long time. Add to that putting myself through college, and working. Then finishing college and going to work for a high stressful stockbroker job at the height of the tech boom and then tech bust, followed by a Grandparent passing away. All of this going on while I didn’t sleep adequately, didn’t eat properly and tried to do entirely more than I really should have. It’s really no wonder my body rebelled and ended up failing me right when I needed it not to do.

The good news for me is that I took the warning seriously. I started listening to my body, and my mind and emotions. I started figuring out when I needed to take time to unwind, eat something healthy, get some exercise. It took years to get to this point of view. I mourned my loss of being Super Woman, of handling everything that came my way without an issue. I mourned the person who could do everything and not break a sweat. Too bad I was living on borrowed energy the entire time, and burning the candle at both ends plus the middle.

A change had to be made, once I had my RAI treatment to kill off my thyroid and things started to calm down. I had to step back and re-evaluate how I lived my life. First thing I did was change careers. This was difficult, I had just graduated with a degree in Financial Planning and Counseling 3 years prior and felt like I was getting a handle on being a stockbroker in a call center. I knew though, that the constant days with a headset dealing with a lot of really agitated people wasn’t the best place to reduce my stress. At the time I realized that the part time position I took my last year in college helping to rewire a network and fix computers for the college was actually something I was not only good at, but I enjoyed immensely. I made the leap to switch careers. After a few years I felt like it was a good choice so I went back to school and got a second degree in Computer Networking Systems. This led to me going up in the Information Technology world and being an IT Systems Admin for a few small companies. I loved it. I did realize though after a few years that I was right back where I didn’t need to be. Too much stress due to too much responsibility in charge. Not enough downtime and I was letting it take over my health again. So, a few years ago after talking it over with my husband I decided to leave full time work. At the time I was hoping maybe a few months of rest would restore me to being able to work full time again in the future. That was in 2010.

I tried to do a version of my old IT job. I tried to build a computer repair business full time, and wasn’t entirely successful. I have several elderly ladies and a few others who I help with their computer problems from time to time still, but I didn’t have the drive or health to be able to build it into a successful business. Again, still too much stress. Stress is a bad thing to have too much of with a thyroid condition, especially caused by Graves’ disease. Autoimmune and stress are natural enemies.

In the rush to try to do something to get myself back to health, I started doing even more research. Everything I could find online, at the library, talking to others about thyroid disease. I started adjusting my diet. I started getting a small amount of exercise when I could. I started listening to my body’s cues, taking breaks and trying to learn how to read myself enough to prevent issues before they started. I was doing better, so I took a part time job that allowed me to earn some money and also adjust my schedule for rest breaks as needed. I also started seeing a counselor on a monthly basis. All of these things have helped me renew myself and find the new me. After all this time I have found I actually LIKE the new me. I have purpose, I am helping myself and hopefully others. I am back to being a caretaker type of sorts, but this time I make sure I am doing OK first, because I know that if I am not OK, then I cannot help anyone else.

If you have Graves’ disease, Hashimoto’s, hyperthyroidism, hypothyroidism, thyroid cancer, it’s a whole new world that you are now part of. Adjustments have to be made to deal with this new reality. Allow yourself to mourn what has happened, but do not stay there. Some fantastic things are on the horizon if you keep searching for the new you. I hope for anyone who reads this to know that having thyroid disease does not have to be the end. You also can find your new purpose. Maybe this will show you how to be more compassionate to others who have health issues, or you will take care of  yourself better and end up living a much more fulfilled and healthy life than you might have been able to before. You might end up being a role model to other people, or you might find yourself a new passion that could change the world! Go forth and conquer your 2015!

Check out Britney’s site at www.warriorbutterflies.com

Photo credit: loop_oh / IWoman / CC BY-ND

With A Little Help…


When you have a chronic illness, it can put you in a vulnerable position.  Not only the financial cost of being sick, but the emotional toll. Friends and family members may turn away when you are chronically ill, because unlike a normal illness, this doesn’t end. Some people do not know how to deal with someone who is always hurting, or frequently down. This lack of support system at a time you really need help and your own guilt about not holding up what you feel is your end of the bargain, can really damage a person’s life.

One of the major issues we face, other than coping with the disease itself is our sense of worth. First is the isolation, it can cause, and the loss of self-esteem, pride and self-worth. Then we can have our thyroid itself messing with our emotions. This can lead to depression, anxiety and in some cases suicide. It can cause people to give up. There are resources that can help with this first issue. Assuming that you are insured and able to at least get your basic medical issues taken care of, the next step is finding a good counselor. There are many different schools of therapy out there, so you may have to investigate more than one to find out who might be a good match.

A lot of people have gotten the thought that only broken people or crazy people need therapy. When what it can be is a release valve to help you learn coping skills so your life is LESS stressful. It can provide you with a sounding board so that you can know if your thinking on a subject is healthy or not and if not how to start changing it so you can better cope with your life as it is. What people do not realize is with a chronic illness, you really go through a mourning period. What happens is that the old you no longer exists. You no longer are the healthy person who can ignore most health issues as they will go away. They won’t go away and it can be dangerous to ignore. No one teaches you how to deal with a change of that magnitude. Not only that, but how do you deal with family and friends when your life has changed? Do you know how to set boundaries with others, so that you don’t add to your stress, thus keeping yourself healthier? How do you keep yourself calm when a flare up of your illness hits? These are all questions that a good counselor can help you answer. It also helps to be able to vent to someone who is not a family or friend at least once a month or so to get all the aches, pains, etc out of your system a bit.

First thing to figure out is: do you open up better by yourself or with other people to lead the way. Individual counseling will be better for someone who feels more comfortable talking about things one on one in a private session. There are many different types of therapy with this, so call and ask a potential counselor what type of therapy they usually practice and what is involved. Some therapists have you do homework and writing to work through issues. Others will do hypnotherapy, putting you in a relaxed state of mind and suggesting to your subconscious things that will help you cope better. Still others will have you talk about your past and try to work through past experiences to keep them from interfering in the present. There are even some who work with visual images to help your mind deal with issues, doing visual imagery to work through a problem.

For other people, it’s easier to find a group therapy session and attend one with others. Listening to others deal with issues similar to yours, can help some people feel safe to open up and talk about their own issues. It has the added bonus of allowing someone to hear about what others are going through and therefore, not feeling like they are the only one dealing with that problem and hear about how other people deal with similar issues. If this is you, check out your local counseling organization, such as www.goodtherapy.org or www.find-a-therapist.com to see what is available.

Here are some top reasons that a counselor can be helpful to a person with a chronic illness:

  1. Help you come to terms with your new life as a person with a chronic illness
  2. Learn new ways to cope with stress
  3. Overcome fears or insecurities
  4. Become more confident in dealing with others
  5. Learn how to set boundaries with others for your health
  6. Understand yourself better, the Why of You
  7. Designated person to vent to and relieve stress
  8. Healthier relationships with others
  9. Identify which is your illness causing mood swings and which is you
  10. Find a mentally healthy you!

10 Positive Things I’ve Learned From Having Thyroid Disease

Smile
While thyroid disease isn’t fun in a lot of ways, it’s a life changer for sure. Not all of those changes are bad if you don’t want them to be. Here’s my top ten things I’ve learned or discovered that were good things from having Graves’ disease.

  1. Don’t take your health for granted.  Gone are the days when I dismiss my symptoms and try to work through them to the point of being very ill. Which leads me to..
  2. I know my own body. I now know my own body better than most people. I know if what I’m feeling means I’m coming up with a cold, allergies or if my thyroid levels are a little off and it helps me react accordingly.
  3. Priorities are made more clear. My priorities have been made very plain to me. No longer do I just do something that I don’t want to do solely to please others unless it is what I want as well. If I attend a party, it’s because I want to. I don’t have so much extra energy anymore I can waste it on things that do not matter to me. This is a great gift to give yourself, it helps you clear up a lot of clutter in your life.
  4. I have become my own advocate for my health. Since I spent so long being misdiagnosed and then afterwards saw so many doctors who knew less than me about my own disease, I have learned to speak up. I have learned it is ok to question your doctor, find out WHY they want to do or not do a certain thing in my treatment. It is my body and I have to speak up for it’s health.
  5.  Research skills have improved. I have learned how to do research on medical matters. Learning how to pick out the hype and patently wrong information that is out there, from the partially correct, and the spot on medical information out there is something I’ve become better at. There is a lot of good information, and there is a lot of crap out there. Learning how to spot things that could be dangerous if you follow them is very valuable. It hones your critical thinking skills to the maximum.
  6. No matter what is thrown at me, I’m still here. I have learned that if something hasn’t killed me, it really has made me stronger. I have been through a lot of health emergencies, including an allergic reaction that put me into shock and almost killed me. I have survived them all. I am stronger than I realize and I now know to keep reminding myself of that when bad times hit.
  7. Everything will eventually pass.  Maybe it only passes for a short time, maybe a long time, but nothing lasts forever. That applies to positive and negative experiences. The thyroid disease may go on, but you won’t have every single day be bad. This also helps me to try to hold on to the good that happens and cherish it before it goes as well.
  8. Relationships change and that is ok. I have learned who is a true friend, who really cares about me, by who has stuck by me when my health has been at the worst. When my thyroid has made me deal with Graves’ rage, irritability temporarily and people have still stuck by me, knowing that it would pass, that means something. I have developed loyalty to those who have stayed by me and support me through whatever happens. Some of them will read this, you know who you are. I don’t have fair weather friends anymore, and I don’t have family who doesn’t know how to be family to me. The people I surround myself with me are loyal, honest and caring people and I am very thankful for that lesson.
  9. Growing up was a must. I had to learn how to take care of myself, only accept responsibilities I was sure I could follow through on, and learn how to deal with all situations as an adult. I can’t afford to sit around and whine or cry all the time and do nothing. I have to take matters in my own hands and find ways to deal with them. This has made me search for answers when before the diagnosis I would not have. I have created a better life for myself.
  10. New Experiences. I would never have thought to start a thyroid support group, or website, or a blog before this. I would never have been motivated to reach out to people in several different states in the US and countries around the world to find out how others are dealing with their thyroid disease. Having thyroid disease has broadened my world, and made me more understanding and compassionate of my fellow human being. That is a great gift for anyone!

Return to Warrior Butterfly Britney page

Stress relief-Or How Not to Choke out other people

stress-free-zone

Stress! It’s a cousin to anxiety, and probably it’s best friend. Stress can be good. It can motivate you to get something important done. It can warn you of danger so you get out of the way and make you run faster, or be stronger. Unfortunately in today’s world, for most of us, our bodies are under stress and it doesn’t help us, it just hurts us. It makes us anxious, it floods our bodies with adrenaline that leaves us first wired and then crashing. It can cause us to lose sleep, be irritable, and have problems keeping illness away. So what do you do about it? Stress doesn’t ever go away entirely for most of us. You can direct the energy to something more productive, or you can try to minimize how your automatically react to a stressful situation.

Here are some things that have helped me and people I know, hopefully one or two will help you reduce your reaction to stress as well.

  1. Channel that energy into something else. Use it to exercise, use it to write a letter to someone (which you probably will have to delete or throw away as it will be unhappy) or  use it to fluff a pillow, violently.
  2. Be mindful of your breathing. Most of the time when we become stressed, our breathing gets more shallow. Take a minute or two and just practice breathing in for 5 and out for 7.
  3. Go find a friend, someone whose company  you enjoy, and hang out and talk about silly things for a bit. Definitely grab a hug from them. If you like hugs, they can instantly take your stress down several notches. I make sure I keep a few “huggy” friends on speed dial for those days I need a little extra attention and love.
  4. Laugh it out. Look at funny websites, watch a funny video or movie, go listen to a comedian, or listen to jokes. Just like with anxiety it is hard to hold onto major stress if you are laughing. Think of all the happy endorphins you will release doing so. They will come flooding out of your brain giggling like mad creatures and make your stress start to melt away.
  5. Allow yourself to be ridiculous and silly. Do a silly walk, go skipping down the sidewalk, make faces in the mirror at yourself or your friends, or  make up a new word. If you can learn to relax enough so as to not take yourself seriously for a few minutes, it can change your entire mood.
  6. Of course if you are constantly stressed, you will want to avoid caffeine and alcohol, while they may keep you going short term, usually they end up making things worse in the long run.
  7. Learn meditation. Make time to sit for even ten minutes a day where you allow yourself to think of whatever comes to mind. Don’t judge what comes to mind, just acknowledge it and let it pass by. Put on some soft music in the background if you don’t like silence.
  8. If you are not allergic to animals, go pet one. Find a dog, or cat or other soft furry creature, and sit and pet them. Make sure they are tame, do not try this on a bobcat or coyote, that might cause you MORE stress.
  9. Come up with various plans for situations that occur frequently. If you already know the best plan for something that comes up often, you don’t have to stress out figuring what to do about it. A simple plan you have in your brain can help you avoid the freezing and panic that occurs when something hits you unexpectedly.
  10. Oldies but goodies. When you feel stress and anger rising, count to ten. Then count to twenty, then thirty. Count as high as you need to get yourself calm again. Feel free to count woolly sheep in your head when you are doing the counting.
  11. Finally, give yourself a break. When too many things hit us at once, it’s ok to feel overwhelmed. It’s also ok to ask for help if you need it to get back on your feet and handle the situation. Don’t be afraid to apologize if you’ve made a mistake when stressed, we are all human and all of us can relate to this.

Return to Warrior Butterfly Britney page