My Bully, My Brain

My brain treats my body like a hormonal teenager treats her 23-year old step mom.Carie Sherman

For as long as I remember, my body has never been good enough for me. When I was a little girl, I hated it for being so small. Then I became a teenager. Suddenly it wasn’t small enough. The pattern repeats throughout my life: Not tall enough, tan enough, skinny enough, strong enough. Not fast enough, not coordinated enough. Not enough. Period.

And while years of psychotherapy have helped me get past a lot of my self-hate, I still hate something about my body: Now, it’s never healthy enough.

(Go figure. Hardy har har.)

My body is always to blame. When I’m tired but my brain says it’s IMPOSSIBLE to say NO, I defer to my brain. When I eat, I eat what my brain says to eat, hitting that voice in my head saying “a pint of mint chocolate chip will hurt your gut for days!” like a kid at Chuck E. Cheese playing Whack-A-Mole. Even after years of living with chronic illness, Mind Over Matter is my mantra with exercise—tweaked knee be damned!

And guess what? When conflict arises (especially the kind of conflict that requires me to disappoint someone else), my body is the first to break.

Poor thing. It’s never been listened to. Until it started holding me hostage with illness.

I realized this yesterday as fatigue forced me onto the couch. There I marveled at an observation I made while talking with my BFF the night before: “BFF,” I said. “You know your problem? You think too much! Your brilliant brains are keeping you stuck in this situation you complain of!” (All of this is communicated in my it’s-Friday-night-and-I’m-three-drinks-deep voice, delivered with my condescending I’ve-got-my-life-figured-out face.)

I recalled this as my brain was doing its best to will me off the couch. In fact, my bully brain was pressuring me to do ALL THE THINGS (fold the laundry, clean out your closet, arrange some flowers, feed the dog, run to Goodwill, write 1,000 words…).

My plan was to accomplish ALL THE THINGS while my husband and daughter were at swimming lessons. A 30 minute swimming lesson that’s located 10 blocks from our house.

I send my BFF an apology for my lecture and admitted to her my epiphany. Then I took a deep breath. I paid attention to my body.

It was happily fed. It had already been on a walk. And it was tired. It wanted to stretch. It wanted rest.

I thought of my poor body. I thought of my heart. I watched as my brain totally flipped out about wasting the only solo 30 minutes I’d get all weekend.

I fell asleep.

And when I woke up, I had the energy to be present with my family the rest of the day.

Maybe it’s time I start being a better listener. To my BFF and my body.

Does your over-thinking brain hold you back?


Finally! A Lupus Walk in Colorado, for Colorado

When I was a little girl, my dad gave me a nickname. And while some young girls might have found it embarrassing, I owned it: I was Carie the Crusher.Carie ShermanDad borrowed the name from one of his favorite Bugs Bunny characters, a professional wrestler whose physical strength made him the champion. (Of course Bugs uses his wiley ways to defeat him, but The Crusher’s physical strength is never denied.)

Here’s why this is funny: I was a wimp! I was tiny: My grandma still talks about how my skinny legs didn’t fill out a pair of tights. My best friend’s mom wouldn’t fix me a whole hamburger for lunch because someone so small surely couldn’t eat that much. Mom ordered my clothes from the Sear’s catalog because they offered “slim” jeans and pants.

In the face of these truths, I never once doubted my own physical strength. Because I was – in Dad’s mind and in my own – Carie the Crusher.

I grew up thinking I could beat up the boys. In some cases, I did. My little brother grew 7 inches taller than me and works a physically demanding job every day, but I’m still not afraid to arm wrestle him. Even when I get beat, I still think I’m tough. I imagine now that these delusions about my physical strength translated into a mental toughness fueled entirely by stubbornness and egged on by Dad’s running commentary.

Until this very moment, I didn’t consider the fact that my toughness may be a result of this nickname that Dad teased me with. Maybe it was never his intention, or maybe he it was deliberate—like Jonny Cash’s song about A Boy Named Sue. (Either way, thank you, Dad, for making your WimpyWimpyWimpy daughter feel so strong!)

Walk with Me to Support Lupus Colorado

When my health got wonky in 2011, for the first time in my life, I felt weak. I went from boot camp to bed bound and it sucked. I contacted Lupus Colorado, and they gave me an opportunity to share my story and work through my issues in the form of this blog. For this, I’m eternally grateful. Chronic illness is so much more than what’s physically happening to your body: It requires the summoning of strengths you aren’t aware of until you get thrown into the ring.

Lupus Colorado is the only organization in Colorado helping people stay tough while navigating the realities of living with lupus. Please, join us on Saturday, Sept. 10 in Berkeley Lake Park, for the 2016 Lupus Colorado Community Walk.

You can even join my team, Carie’s Crushers! (I’m literally the only person on my team at the moment. I’m tough, but showing up as a one-woman team would be kind of embarrassing.)

Let’s crush this!


Chronic Illness and Jigsaw Puzzles

I hate jigsaw puzzles. I have neither the attention span nor the inclination to make sense of their colorful chaos. But my husband loves them and last weekend was his birthday.Carie Sherman So we sat down together to complete a puzzle.

Thirty seconds after dumping the box’s contents onto the table, I panicked. I ran to the kitchen to unload the dishwasher. And I hate unloading the dishwasher.

Up for the challenge of both puzzle and me, my husband asked me to sit back down. He gave me a strategy. Because whether I liked it or not, I was helping him with this puzzle.

Chronic Illness is an Ugly, Confusing Puzzle

A chronic illness like lupus forces you to sit down at the table. You scramble. You panic. It’s too big. It’s too hard. But if you want any life at all, you’re forced to confront the giant mess before you. 4

As my husband explained in his puzzle lecture, you start with what’s easy: The corner pieces give you structure.

For my illness, these were my doctors—primary care, rheumatologist, neurologist, and my therapist.

Once the corners were in place, I had to fill in the rest of the structure: the medications; the lifestyle changes.

With the edges in place, he suggested I start with the next easiest thing. For the most part, this strategy worked. But like chronic illness, it was still frustrating. The pieces all looked alike. Pieces that seemed to fit, didn’t. I tried forcing them. That didn’t work. Then pieces seemed to be missing. Some were trapped in the box. Some fell of the floor. One got stuck in the lining of my boot. I wanted to throw things. I wanted to throw things at him.

I wanted to quit. Instead, he’d tell me to take a break. And after a lap or twelve around the house, and more than a few deep breaths, I’d come back to the table. Renewed.

What a relief it was when I connected a few small pieces! Seeing how it fit into the bigger picture was, dare I say, exhilarating.

The puzzle took such a long time. It took far more patience than I knew I had. We stuck with it and soon sat in front of a completed puzzle.

I’m still working on the puzzle that is life with a chronic illness. It has required me to find a resolve I didn’t know I had. It has required me to overcome my tendency to run away from things that don’t come easily to me. It has been a lot of trial and error.

Like anything in life, it’s all about your approach. Knowing that there are necessary cornerstones and structures will take you a long way. But prepare to be frustrated. Prepare to need help. Prepare to be angry, to be sad, to be frustrated with yourself; to be frustrated with others.

Whatever you do, dive in. And stay seated at the table. Even if you really hate puzzles.


5 Things Every Sick Person Needs

1. A “sick” friend. If you’re blessed with a diagnosis, then by garsh, you need to find a friend with something similar. Only yourCarie Sherman sick friend will understand the uncomfortable feeling of everyone on staff at your pharmacy reaching for your prescriptions without needing to ask your name. When your sick friend says, dang, that sucks, you know she gets it. Being in a constant state of sickness steals your rationality. It takes a sick friend to call BS, say, when you’re constantly looking on the bright side. Your sick friend is the one who says, it’s BS that you feel like this, and it’s okay for you to say so. (Note this sick friend will also call you on any over-the-top pity parties or irrational dropping off the face of the earth.)

2. A creative outlet. Find what makes your heart sing. Maybe it’s knitting. Maybe it’s coloring in your adult coloring book. Maybe it’s using your imagination to find ways to make the crap that frustrates you most, better. And now please—do not give me the song and dance about “not being creative.” Just because your high school art teacher didn’t marvel at your genius doesn’t mean you can’t live a creative life. My favorite definition of creativity is from Bill Moyers (as quoted by Brainpickings): “Creativity is piercing the mundane to find the marvelous.” So what if your creative outlet is organizing your sock drawer. If it feels marvelous to you, then it surely is.

3. A health advocate. My primary care provider has gone to bat with insurance. She’s held my hand while I cried. She’s comforted other patients by telling my story of things we’ve found together that have made me feel better. Recently attended a gastrointestinal conference and was told about a probiotic strain that was good for IBS-C (one of my many diagnoses). She stood in Whole Foods for 30 minutes looking at every brand of yogurt strain to find one that contained this particular strain—then told me about it straight away! (Thanks, McKenzie!)

4. A basic trust in the universe. Or, a healthy existentialist attitude. Whether you believe the world is in constant motion to bring you to your highest and best—or if you believe the world is indifferent to you so it’s on your shoulders to try to make the most of any situation—the comfort gained from leaning inward toward your essence is immeasurable.

5. Child’s pose. When everything else fails, and you’re not sure about anything, get down on your knees and put your head to the ground. If this is too painful, and sometimes it is for me, try a supported version. This is medicine I use daily. And it works. No matter how angry or sad or frustrated or overwhelmed I feel before, I feel immensely better after spending time in this yoga pose of surrender. I suspect you might, too.

Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional.





";