Chronic illness of any kind comes with it’s own set of “rules” in relation to any kind of social activity. This week I learned that a long awaited “yes” became a very sensible “no”.
In 2011 (I think) I was accepted into a chronic pain self-management group and I can honestly say that it changed my life. It was six weeks long with one 2 1/2 hour session once a week. However, a lot was packed into that time.
The group consisted of about a dozen people and 2 volunteer leaders. Everyone, including the leaders, either had chronic pain or were caregivers to someone who did. We listened to information; however, most of the group was interactive with brainstorming exercises, sharing experiences, and coming up with action plans to get through daily life.
All you would expect from a self-management program.
I came away with a “tool-box” full of ways to handle both everyday challenges and other things that might come up. The leaders suggested on the last day that I think about taking the leadership training. I said that I wasn’t ready – I wanted to work with what I learned to get my life in check before trying to help others.
However, the idea was planted in my brain and I believed that someday I would very much like to become a group leader. The program, which was originally created at Stanford University is very structured and easy to follow both from leading and learning standpoints.
I tried several times to make it to leadership training sessions over the next few years with many barriers standing in my way. Once it was canceled due to not enough interest, a few times I had to drop out last minute due to my health and/or the distance to travel and once I even ended up in the ER the night before!
I figured I had used up all my chances until a couple of weeks ago when I received an email that the Chronic Conditions leadership training was happening just ten minutes away from our new place. It consists of four full-day sessions with two per week for two weeks. I signed up and just prayed that it would happen.
Well, it did! On Thursday morning I felt good enough to drive and got myself there with time to spare (and a mocha in hand). I found myself in a class with 5 other people and of course two leaders. The day was filled with information and was structured very much like the workshops themselves. In fact, we were actually following the six sessions within our group, which was fun and informative.
However, I found myself having problems sitting so long. We were encouraged to get up or do whatever we needed to stay comfortable so I went for a walk outside of the room and at other times stood at the back against a wall. After lunch, I was getting very sleepy to the point of actually nodding off for the final few minutes of the session. We ended early as well so I don’t know what would have happened if we had gone to the end!
I went to my van, opened all the windows and sat there for a bit making sure I was alert enough to drive home. I stopped for an unheard of second shot of caffeine in the form of an iced cappuccino to be sure I could make it. When I got there safely I had to get Miley to the dog park so I didn’t have any time to rest or check on pain levels. I send Hubby a note asking him to pick up some food I would order on his way home as I knew I wouldn’t be able to cook.
I went to bed with a headache, sore throat and cough. These symptoms were worse in the morning and I needed to make a decision. If you miss any of the four sessions you do not get your leadership certification.
I am so tired of missing things or dropping out because of my health. However, this was very different. I thought about what we learned the first day and what would be required in leading a real group. I thought about my age, health, and goals and realized that this really didn’t fit in there anymore.
Don’t get me wrong, both the training and the programs themselves are incredible in how they show people with chronic conditions or pain that there is more to life and how to achieve it.
When I left both phone and email messages for one of the leaders I felt a very positive calm feeling inside. I gave it a try and realized it is too much for my body and brain at this stage of my health and life. There are no regrets, no beating myself up, no second-guessing.
Later in the day, I had to pick up my grocery order at the store and remembered that one of the ladies I met at the training was going to be there on behalf of the local food bank for a promotion held with the store chain. I parked up by the store entrance and found her sitting at a table handing out coupons. We talked for a bit – this is a lady I seemed to make an instant connection with – and she expressed how sorry she was that I wasn’t coming back. She was concerned about my health and mentioned I was missed. I said that I wasn’t sure if I had a cold and was contagious which was part of my reason for not attending but also that I just didn’t feel I could handle the rest of this course or the actual workshops.
She had gone into my blog during the lunch break and told me how much she loved it. So I told her to check in for the next (this) post. I really hope we do connect again as we have so much in common and I believe we would be good friends. We both mentioned that when the leaders said that we might find leading partners in this group we thought of the other one. That won’t happen now that I have left, but it shouldn’t stop us from getting together. I think we could be good support for each other.
And to the leaders of the program, thank you so much. I always believe that everything is for a reason and this is no different. I needed to attend this one session to show me that while I probably could do it, I don’t have the energy (or desire) to push my limits that far anymore.
If you are in British Columbia, Canada, check out British Columbia Self Management Programs for information on the various six week programs offered. If you live elsewhere, I am sure your local government health agencies can help you find one near you.
While the words to this Crosby, Stills, and Nash song aren’t totally accurate for this post, I love the idea of each generation teaching the other – learning by knowing, which is exactly what these programs are all about.