8 Choices I Make to Feel Good Despite a Chronic Illness

I’ve been having a hard time writing for this blog. Last night I realized why: It’s because I feel good. Who Carie Shermanam I to write on behalf of those struggling with this crap disease?

I confided in my husband. Always the voice of reason, he reminded me of everything that I have learned over the years, and everything that I must do to feel this good.

I didn’t see it before because it’s my routine. My new normal. I’d forgotten all that it entailed. So today I share with you, with the hope you might find a tip or two, the daily choices I make to help me feel good.

1) I rest. A lot. I took daily naps for a few years. On weekends, I still do. But most work days I can do without. That doesn’t mean I don’t rest. I take as many time-outs as an ornery toddler. On no-nap days, I go to bed. Early. 8:30. I’m asleep by 9:15 or so.

2) I take my meds. About 15 pills a day. Not all prescription–some are supplements such as iron or vitamin D. But it’s still a mouthful.

3) I stay home. There are a few days a week that I don’t leave at all. I’m fortunate to work from home. I’ve learned to take most meetings by phone.

4) I depend on others. My babysitter’s husband picks my daughter up for school. My husband runs most of our errands. My friends come over and they cook dinner. My family stocks my freezer and vacuums under the couch.

5) I plan ahead. If I have a fun event or people coming from out of town, I start preparing way ahead of time. I make sure the days leading up to said event and the days after are cleared for downtime.

6) I manage my stress. Every single day, I move my body. Most days I go for a morning walk and practice yoga. I meditate once or twice a day. I remind myself throughout the day to be mindful–as I’m chopping veggies or washing my hair. I read. I see a therapist. I stopped watching the news and exceedingly violent programs (esp. if children or animals are involved). I stretch and meditate and pray before bed.

7) I say no and I cancel plans. Five years ago, I would say yes to anything. Even if the thought of doing the request made my tummy hurt. I also used to slog through anything I had committed myself to. The fact is I need to listen to my body. And feeling bad still sneaks up on me. I stopped faking it and can now admit when my body defeats me.

8) I find meaning in everything. I choose to face each event–even silly things like getting a good table in a packed restaurant–knowing that I’ll receive the best possible outcome in every situation. I believe the obstacles I face are for my own good. A rejected client estimate means there must be a better project out there for me. In the face of something tragic, I work hard to accept it and learn.

These eight things help me feel pretty darn good. I still have bad days. I screw these eight things up. But my illness reminds me very quickly when I deviate from this routine. So I come back to it.

I could be doing more. Since I’m feeling better, it’s time for me to start adding things back into my life. I’d like to see friends and family more. I’d like to do more meaningful activities. I still need to make better eating choices. And I definitely need to have more fun.

For now, I’ll be content with where I’m at. I’ve come a long way on this journey to better health. And it feels good.

What changes have you made that help you feel good? Leave a comment. You never know who might need your good advice.

My Challenge to You in 2015: Learn to Trust Yourself

Fellow friends in chronic illness, I think we should agree that in 2015, we are the experts.Carie Sherman

Because, really: the only person who can be an expert on you, is you! With a disease as multifaceted as lupus, I think it’s the only way.

When you have a chronic illness, it’s easy to give everyone else power. You feel sick, so you see a doctor and start new meds. You see more doctors. You submit to test after test. You get conflicting advice. You read endless books and blogs. Well-meaning friends and family explore hundreds of options. Yet many people with lupus still wake up each day feeling like they drank a fifth of vodka and fell down two flights of stairs the night before.

It’s easy to lose trust. But I think trust can make dealing with this lupus nonsense more manageable.

I’ll give you a health-related example. Over the last year, I began resenting my sleep apnea machine. My mask had permanently dented my forehead, and I’m vain. I was strongly considering having an invasive, hard-to-recover from surgery to remove my sublingual tonsils with the hope of curing my sleep apnea (and not having to spend the rest of my life wearing an ugly, face deforming sleep mask).

I spent the last few months trying to make a decision. But I just couldn’t decide. I berated myself for being such a procrastinator.

Turns out, I had a reason to procrastinate. I just didn’t know it yet.

Back in 2011, two independent sleep studies confirmed that I stopped breathing 30 times an hour, which constitutes moderate sleep apnea. At a recent appointment, I talked to my doctor about needing a different, non-forehead denting mask. He recommended another sleep study to make sure my treatment was as effective as possible. And, they’d find me a mask that works better. So I had another sleep study in October. And guess what?

No evidence of sleep apnea.


My flabbergasted doc said there’s zero evidence of disordered sleeping or breathing. Apparently, spontaneous sleep apnea recovery doesn’t happen every day. In fact, he’s never seen anything like it. It defies explanation. We went over every possible reason, including the unlikely event that the study was wrong. The best we came up with was 1) I’m a medical miracle (which he chuckled about); 2) Taking allergy medicine cured my disordered breathing; and/or 3) (my brother-in-law is going to LOVE this crazypants statement) I quit eating gluten and cured my sleep apnea.

We concluded that we don’t know why my sleep apnea disappeared. But I’ve been sleeping without the mask for two months now, and I feel good.

Think of all the time I wasted, angsting over whether I needed to have surgery to cure my sleep apnea. Or worse, think of how terrible it would have been had I forced myself to make a decision when I wasn’t ready

Let’s learn something from this ugly dent in my forehead. The next time you find yourself doubting…or unsure whether a test is necessary or a new pill is the answer, give yourself a little credit. Trust yourself. This doesn’t mean you have cate blanchett (yes, that’s a 22 Jump Street reference) to pick and choose what you believe about your health. To fully trust yourself, you’re required to go full in—to really listen to your body, to really listen to your doctors, to really consider all the facets of your life and what might be causing your symptoms.

And for gosh-sakes, if you believe something is wrong, then don’t stop until someone really listens. If you don’t believe anything is wrong—that’s possible, too!

You are the expert on you. Not your doctor. Or your mother. Or a blogger who may or may not have lupus and claims going gluten free cured her sleep apnea. YOU.

Will you accept my challenge to cultivate a trust in yourself in 2015?

Stay tuned for future installments on trust. Happy New Year!

How You Know You Might Have Lupus

Sometimes, All You Can Do is Laugh…Carie Sherman

I’m feeling the stress of the holidays. Which means I’m also feeling many of my muscles and joints.

Am I alone? Yeah, that’s a silly question to ask a lupus crowd.

But since we’re on the topic of silly, I recently came across this video titled Does Laughing Make You Healthier?

Well, doctors say yes. And while having lupus is no joke, you gotta admit: Sometimes, all you can do is laugh.

So here is a list of my favorite chronic illness jokes, compiled in the spirit of Jeff Foxworthy.

(FULL DISCLOSURE: I didn’t write these jokes. I stole them from Internet memes that didn’t credit a writer.)

  • If you feel like Norm on Cheers when you walk into the pharmacy … you might have lupus.
  • If you drink coffee at 5 p.m. because it’s 7 a.m. somewhere … you might have lupus.
  • If you’re not wearing yoga pants and people ask why you’re so dressed up … you might have lupus.
  • If you fantasize about a medication label that says, “side effects include extreme sexiness” … you might have lupus.
  • If you’ve been held hostage by your blankets … you might have lupus.
  • If the sun is too loud … you might have lupus.
  • If you’ve ever laughed maniacally at a medical form with only 3 lines under “list your medications” … you might have lupus.
  • If you can’t tell if it’s killing you or making you stronger … you might have lupus.
  • If you automatically answer “yep” to any sentence beginning with “have you tried” … you might have lupus.
  • If it’s Monday, and you can’t make plans for tomorrow because you have plans on Friday … you might have lupus.
  • If you don’t know if you feel better or you’re just used to feeling sick … you might have lupus.
  • If you’ve considered your tombstone, and it says “I told you I was sick” … you might have lupus.
  • If you know the only thing tough enough to kick your a$$ is yourself you might have lupus.

Don’t worry – a fake laugh works just as well as a real one!


Thanks, Lupus! 12 Things I’m Thankful For…

In honor of Thanksgiving, here is a list of reasons I’m thankful I got sick.Carie Sherman

No, seriously!

I’m thankful for…

The copays I pay … because it means I have health insurance.

The clothes that fit a little too snug … because it means I have access to prednisone, which stops my flares.

A lawn that needs raking and carpet that needs vacuuming … because it means I have a home to take a nap.

The spot I find at the far end of the parking lot … because that means I was well enough to leave home today.

The huge piles of laundry and ironing … because it means I had the sense to rest rather than killing myself over chores.

My stiff body … because it gets me out of doing dishes after big family events.

The alarm waking me up in the early morning hours … because it means I actually slept.

My fatigue … because it’s helped me figure out what really matters in life.

My pain … because it’s helped me have more compassion for myself and others. (Everyone has pain. Pain doesn’t mean you must suffer.)

My fevers … because they remind me to rest, and everyone needs rest.

All of my symptoms … because they made me take a hard look at my life and make changes that benefit, rather than damage, my health.

My struggles … because they remind me I’m strong and remind me that I’m loved.

Please add your own reasons in the comments below. Happy Thanksgiving!