I have read this book twice now. The first time, I feel like I read for months. It is full of a lot of information. And I was a little overwhelmed. Especially since I have memory and focus problems. So I went back through and read it cover to cover a second time with much more success.
I first learned of Dr Larry Berkelhammer last year when he shared this guest post here. That is when I realized just how much I needed to hear what he wrote. So when I was given the opportunity to read and review his book, I knew I would not be disappointed. What a great tool this book has been and will continue to be for me as I live my life with a chronic illness.
The book is divided into four main parts. And there is a great section following them titled Mastery and Wellbeing Practices for Family Caregivers. Because while this book helps us learn things we can do for ourselves those that help take care of us along the way will be impacted by our conditions too. But my most enjoyed part of this book is the suggestions he gives at the end many of the chapters.
- Eliminate the words "should" and "have to" from your vocabulary.
- Practice saying no.
- Apologize to yourself.
- Don't do anything you wholeheartedly don't want to do.
- Hang out with people who are authentic and accepting.
- Get involved in an organization and volunteer for a cause you believe in.
- Look for simple things to do for strangers.
These are all things that would seem like common sense. But sometimes it feels like living with an illness has stripped me of my right to make decisions. I feel guilty and like a burden to my family. I feel cut off from the rest of the world and left out of things. And sometimes a simple reminder not to feel this way, is all I need to get back on track.
One of the chapters that touched home for me is titled Living with Chronic Illness. In this chapter Dr. Berkelhammer explains how for some people a diagnosis is a wake up call. They start to really live their lives but he reminds us that living with a chronic illness also brings on feelings of fear and dread. These emotions lead to things like temptation to put their life on hold. I've been there. The first few years I feel like I couldn't do anything. I was so afraid to live that I just shut down and hit the pause button. I thought I had a grip on it all. But it wasn't until I realized that I needed to live my life instead of just sitting around waiting to get sicker than I realized what I had done. I missed so much and I cant get back any of it. And for what? I'm still waiting.
Also in that chapter he talks about depression and isolation. Two more things I have struggled with. But knowing that he to has dealt with these problems, personally, though his own life with chronic illness, reassures me that while I feel alone at times, I am not.
For those of us living with chronic health problems, its important that we don't take ourselves and our medial situation too seriously.
When I finally got to chapter 20, Practice Finding Humor, I knew I was going to keep this book forever. When people ask me how I live with being sick, I tell them its because I can laugh about it. I have a super serious doctor who the first time he explained my transplant to me, I laughed and he scolded me and told me it was very serious. I knew that. But for me its laugh or cry. And if I cry, its all downhill from there. I practice humor. He gets me now and rolls with my sarcasm but I will never forget the look he gave me that first visit. On days when I am sitting in bed feeling sorry for myself, I tell myself that of all the people in the world, I am one out of a million people who just got lucky enough to land this dang disease. Then I joke that I should play the lotto. I usually end up smiling and laughing at myself. No more pity party. Not everyone appreciates me making jokes about my liver. Sorry mom, but if it keeps me from the dark side, I'm going to laugh and joke all I can. But then again, I've always done it. I could not have gotten this far with out cracking an inappropriate joke every now and then.
In review, this is a must have book for anyone living with a chronic medical condition. This is not a doctor who learned what living life in fear in a text book or has never felt that struggle of just trying to get out of bed in the morning. He has been though more than many of us ever will. In this book he shares what he has done to help himself live his life the best he can. He asks questions and gives us examples of things we can do in our lives to help us do the same. Buy it, read it and share it with someone you know who could use some guidance to do the same. This is the only life we have, sick or not, we need to live it completely and enjoy ever second of it.
I was given a free copy of this book in exchange for a review as well as a copy to giveaway. Enter here for a chance to win a copy of your own.