A while back I talked about attending a training session to become a Chronic Illness Self-Management Program Leader (that’s a mouthful!). If you remember it, I didn’t fare so well. The training was two days a week for two weeks and I barely made it through the first day, falling asleep at the end.
I discussed with my trainer the fact that not only was the training difficult for my health conditions, but leading sessions would be as well. The sessions are once a week for two hours, for a total of six weeks. There would also be travel involved and I just can’t guarantee that I would be well enough from week to week.
So, she suggested I look into the Self-Management Health Coach program instead.
This program follows the same goals, which are to equip people with chronic conditions to be able to manage their health and lives with the proper tools and to encourage them to move forward. This thinking is what helped me several years ago learn to live with my health issues instead of having them rule my life. The chance to pay it forward is amazing!
The difference between the group leader and health coach is that the coach works one on one with a participant once a week for a minimum of 3 months and maximum of 6 months. The coach calls the participant at a pre-set time and they talk for 30 minutes.
The main function of the coach is to help the participant identify the areas that they need/want to change and equip them with the tools to make those changes. The coach leads the participant through various models such as problem-solving, action plans, and pros vs cons.
The training period for this program is two 7 hour days. I was invited to participate this past week and there were two big obstacles that I had to think about before making a decision.
I would have a half hour drive each way and the days were consecutive. After being so exhausted the last time with only a 10 minute drive and a day between the two sessions, I was doubtful. However, I was able to come up with an alternate plan. My neighbor said she could drive me and pick me up if necessary. This took a lot of pressure off me. I also tried to limit my activities on the days so I would be more rested.
So, I signed up and prayed that all would go well. It felt more right than anything I have tried to this point (except maybe this blog).
I had a very uneventful drive in on Wednesday and was able to pay attention to everything that was said. I felt like a sponge, absorbing all of the knowledge and feeling comfortable with what was involved. The ride home was very smooth as well.
The first thing I did when I got home was to take Miley to the dog park as she had been home alone all day (her first time ever and she did very well). Everyone there said I looked tired but better than I have in a while. I know what the difference was – I had finally found purpose in my life. I haven’t felt that for a very long time.
The next morning I was a little more tired but still felt able to drive. I asked my neighbor if instead of driving me she could take Miley out in the middle of the day, which she did. This is one person Miley trusts because she is the “Mom” of Miley’s bestie, a Corgie named Lizzie. The drive in again was uneventful. The second day was even better than the first. All nine of us were excited to learn more.
I had one moment when I doubted myself but realized quickly that it was actually pain in my back talking, not my heart or head. That is one thing about chronic pain – since your mind is what needs to control it, you lose brain power when the pain is in full force.
By the end of the day, we were all health coaches and just have to wait for our first participants. We were left with the task of figuring out what areas we would like to focus on. While I still need to figure out what is all looks like, I am thinking that questions about nutrition, chronic pain, and mental illness would be my best fits.
Everyone at the dog park was waiting to hear how it went and were congratulating me on making it through. It felt good to have an accomplishment to talk about for a change than a medical condition.
Why is this such a big deal? I can use my experiences to help others. While we don’t tell the participant our life story (the mandate is they talk 2/3’s of the time and we talk 1/3), we can use it to guide them in making the right choices. I know people say that my blog helps them because they know they are not alone. However, with this program, I can actually work one-on-one and see the growth! I am sure that anyone with any chronic illness(es) would agree that even a little bit of purpose is huge!
The program I will be working with is out of the University Of Victoria, in British Columbia, Canada. It is funded by the Government as is a free program for anyone over 19 who has an ongoing medical condition and needs help to manage it or to change a situation. This could be anything from needing to lose weight and not knowing where to start, to making a life decision but needing to keep their health in mind.
The original self-management programs were developed at Stanford University and have been adopted all over the world in many different languages. I am sure there is one near you. If you are in the province of British Columbia, contact me and I will get you in touch with the program.