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Tune in to hear Matt's story of how neuroplasticity brought hope into his healing journey from child abuse and anxiety. His authenticity and openness is sure to encourage and inspire you that healing is possible for you, too! Click here to listen now.

Neuroplasticity & Hope For Survivors: A Podcast Episode with Matt Pappas

If there’s one thing that’s been made clear on my healing journey, it’s this: there’s no one way to heal.

Why?

Because healing comes in many different forms, paths, treatment protocols and timelines. Our bodies, emotions, even our brains – they’re all individually ours.

Which is why it’s my aim with this blog and podcast to share real stories and inspiration from a variety of people. From different perspectives, walks of life, and approaches to healing.

Because whether we’re healing from something physical, emotional, neurological or even spiritual – all of us are on our own unique path to healing. And will need a healing plan that caters to our own personal situation.

Which brings me to our guest for today’s episode on The Wellness Crossing: my friend and fellow healing advocate, Matt Pappas from Surviving My Past.

He and I have been cheering each other on ever since we connected last year through the Chronic Illness Bloggers community. One of my favorite thing that has come from starting this blog has been the connections that I’ve made. Especially the ones that feel like real friendships, where you know the other person has got your back. Matt’s one of those friends.

I always leave a conversation with Matt feeling encouraged and am so happy to have him on the podcast today!

Today we’re talking about his experience with neuroplasticity and the profound ways it’s brought hope to his healing journey. He’ll be sharing what it looks like to incorporate neuroplasticity techniques into his everyday and several resources he’s found helpful.

Since I’ve been exploring the land of retraining neural pathways, what Matt had to share was really exciting. Because while his healing journey may look different then mine, we’ve both seen the powerful effects that neuroplasticity can have on healing.

So tune in to be inspired and encouraged that you, too, can find hope. And that healing is possible.

 

Books on Neuroplasticity & Healing From Trauma:

(If you click on the images below they’ll take you over to Amazon so you can check them out. These are affiliate links.)

 

        

 

Other resources mentioned in today’s episode:

Rachel Grant Coaching – http://rachelgrantcoaching.com/

Connect with Matt:

Blog | Podcast | Twitter

Did something Matt shared resonate with you? I’d love to hear in the comments!

Tune in to the podcast on iTunes, Stitcher, & Google Play!

Matt Pappas is unpacking how neuroplasticity has been a game changer for him in his recovery from child abuse, bringing hope and healing to what can otherwise feel like a hopeless situation. His story is sure to inspire! Click to tune in to the episode.

 

Matt Pappas is unpacking how neuroplasticity has been a game changer for him in his recovery from child abuse, bringing hope and healing to what can otherwise feel like a hopeless situation. His story is sure to inspire! Click to tune in to the episode.

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Feel like overwhelm has become your baseline? That used to be me, too. But I now have tools that help support me back to a state of calm. And I'm sharing them on the podcast today! Click to listen in :)

Reducing Overwhelm and Creating Calm: A Podcast Episode

I have a long history with overwhelm. Starting as a young child I remember my thoughts running wild with worry. As I grew, I went through life carrying a high level of responsibility and near-constant knots in my stomach.

And as often as those outside of me would recognize that I was “stressed” or “overwhelmed”, the most commonly-passed-on advice was the following:

“Don’t be stressed.”

Yeah…thanks. (But not really).

It really wasn’t until the last few years that I started pursuing what change could look like. I wondered what it could feel like to have tools that I reached for, and that actually…you know…worked?!

Flash forward to this year and I finally feel empowered with tools that have helped me engage with calm in moments where overwhelm used to be inevitable. And there’s something so wonderful about not feeling like I’m spiraling downward without a life raft!

It’s been through my recent exploration of neuroplasticity and the brain’s natural role in healing that I’ve recognized that calm doesn’t just happen. It’s created. And WE can create it.

Tune in to today’s episode of The Wellness Crossing, where I’m diving into the tools I use to support calm. These are the tools that help me bring my mind (and body) into a state I can feel both comfortable in and empowered by. And you can, too!

Related books I’ve read:

(Affiliate links below)

The Honeymoon Effect by Bruce Lipton

Have you tried any of the tools mentioned on the podcast today? If you’re looking for a resource to help you incorporate some calm-supporting practices into your daily routine, you can download my free resource: Brain Vibes!

Tune in to the podcast on iTunes, Stitcher, & Google Play!

 

Learn 6 tools I use to reduce feelings of overwhelm and bring my mind (and body) back to a state of calm in this episode of The Wellness Crossing Podcast. Click to listen in!In this episode, we're talking all about overwhelm and how we can bring our minds back to a state of calm. Tune in to hear about my journey through overwhelm and the tools I've learned that help me create more calm when I'm feeling stressed. Click to listen in!

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Learn how my new approach to the gratitude journal has reshaped the way I look at living the grateful life! Click to read more.

Living Gratitudes: A New Approach to the Gratitude Journal

This post contains affiliate links, which means if you make a purchase after clicking on one of my links I may receive a small commission, at no extra cost to you. Thanks for supporting this blog!

Growing up I always had a journal running. Sometimes it would sit for weeks without a single word hitting the page. Other times I’d write novels each night, processing all of the feels and every single tiny detail of my elementary school, junior high, and high school life.

You know, the important details. Like what I ate, who said what, what my wedding would look like and just how many dreams I had about how my life would unfold.

A few years ago the idea of a gratitude journal was brought up in a conversation after a friend had read the book, One Thousand Gifts. She mentioned how she had taken the idea and started her own journal, each day writing down a few things she was grateful for.

I would periodically follow suite in the years that followed. Purposing to write down a few things here and there throughout the week that brought a smile to my face. That made my heart sing. Things that were just plain pretty, funny, or enjoyable.

But last month I decided to take this idea of a gratitude journal and put a spin on it. Instead of merely writing things down each day, I would take a short Instagram story (a video of just a few seconds) and I would verbally share something I was grateful for that day.

So every day (okay, okay so I forgot one, but doubled up the next day) I would log in to my account and record my gratitude. And thus my #livinggratitudejournal was born.

It was an interesting experience because not only did I do it every day, but there were a few people who joined me! And I absolutely loved reading or hearing their entries. It inspired me to look differently at my own world, uncovering new things that I found I could find gratitude for.

So why spoken gratitude instead of writing?

Really, as I’ve been learning more about the art science of neuroplasticity techniques, I’ve seen how powerful engaging as many senses as possible can be for helping along positive change.

For example, writing down something I’m grateful for is great in and of itself. But what can it look like to take that even further? Our brains respond to patterns, emotion, neurochemicals – they’re constantly looking to us for reasons to establish truths. And they also are affected by words.

So if I want to establish a state of gratitude as an outlet for bringing my mind and body to a state of calm and healing, if even for a moment, engaging more than one of my senses in this practice of keeping a gratitude journal is like icing on the cake. AND sprinkles.

Of course, now I want cake. Chocolate on chocolate on chocolate for me in this dreamland, please.

But back to this learning business.

Where were we at? Ah, yes engaging more senses. So writing a list of things I’m thankful for essentially covers two senses.

First, it covers thought because if I’m writing it, I’m also thinking of it. At least for a brief few seconds. Second, it covers sight. Because obviously: ink on paper.

So adding in another layer, like speaking it out loud, brings even more depth to this act. And even more so when I stop and actually meditate on each gratitude.

 

Learn how to keep a LIVING gratitude journal: what it is and WHY it can make an even greater impact on your mood and mindset! Click to read more :)

A little practice exercise.

Allow me to put this idea into practice. I’ll start with this one for an example:

“I’m grateful I could walk around my neighborhood today.”

To be intentional with this I first have to have thought of the question “what am I grateful for today?” And then, naturally, I find myself searching for at least one answer.

Once I land on an answer, I can be intentional with my response. More than just stopping at the one sentence, I can pause before writing it down and think about why that particular thing came to mind. Did it bring up any good feelings? Did I see something beautiful on my walk? Or did I feel more connected to nature and less “stuck” inside?

Pulling out every little detail in my thoughts, really painting a picture of this thing I’m grateful for in my mind can help send my brain all those positive, good neurochemicals like dopamine or oxytocin.

Now, I can either scribble down a few words or I can spend a few extra seconds and write down all those good details in a journal. There’s no pressure to over-perform, this is about finding what works best for you. Do you need to write more than a few words to feel like you’ve connected to that gratitude? Or are you already feeling it after spending that short time meditating on all the deets? You do you, boo.

Finally, the speaking part. What I learned through having a commitment of doing it daily was that it challenged me to step a little outside of my comfort zone. But in a really good way. Because it shifted my focus each day for those few seconds onto something positive. Away from any negative lists or self-pity and toward cultivating a calm and appreciative state.

Living grateful

My Living Gratitude Journal was an exercise in learning to LIVE grateful. From noticing tiny buds on a walk to seeing improvements in my health. Improvements that I was challenged to focus on instead of the symptoms that were left unchanged.

And you know what? It felt dang good. It wasn’t always easy, but it always felt more hopeful to spend even a few seconds embracing a light-filled perspective.

Would you like to learn a few neuroplasticity tools to incorporate into your day that will help you support your brain as you heal? Then this free resource is for you, my friend!

This year I tried something new with the gratitude journal idea: I kept a LIVING journal! Click to find out more and learn how YOU keeping a living gratitude journal can help reshape your mindset and support your overall health.

 

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Did you know that there's healing that can be found by transforming the way we think? Here are 3 practices that are helping me release negative thoughts and reclaim health! Click to read more.

3 Practices That Help Me Release Negative Thoughts & Heal

My original version of this post was first published on ProHealth’s Inspirational Corner.

As I sat outside sipping on my cup of tea this morning, the cool air brought a smile to my face. In the quietness I brought my mind into the moment, took a deep breath and closed my eyes against the rising sun’s bright beams.

And then I did something I’ve been doing more of lately. I silently reminded myself: “I’m strong. I’m happy. And I’m healing.”

You see, I recently started a new treatment that’s brought up a lot of new emotions. Renewed hope for healing, a genuine happiness, and more quiet rest in my mind. And while the quiet and calm have been so welcome in this tired body, I’ve discovered some buried debris:

Some negative thoughts I’ve held onto about my worth, purpose, and talents.

You see, I’ve worked through a lot of the things that have surfaced in these years of health challenges. Ideas that I’m not enough. Thoughts of comparison with someone else’s talent or ability. Beliefs that what I have to share isn’t of value to anyone else. It’s really quite a messy collection of harsh words and emotional knick-knacks that I just don’t need.

So I’ve started to question, what do I believe about myself? Do I really believe that my diagnoses define me? That my thoughts, experiences, or talents have no place in this world? Are they really “not good enough” or am I just afraid of letting my talents shine?

I don’t want to live buried by a pile of doubts and insecurities so I’ve decided to intentionally shift my thoughts. And in doing so, my aim and hope is to make more room for self-kindness, acceptance, and grace. Let me share a few ways I’m tangibly putting this into practice…

Daily gratitude journal.

Over the years, the people I’ve met with health challenges are some of the most grateful, appreciative bunch I know. We see the beauty in the simple things, soak in the things and moments that matter. So I wanted to be even more purposeful in this. Writing down a list of the things I’m grateful for has created a perfect space to allow the good in my life to shine.

And this list is not just about noticing the good, but also recognizing my efforts for the day. This can look like “I’m grateful I did a great job at sticking to my treatment schedule today” or “I’m thankful I was able to commit to my appointment even though it took a lot of extra effort.” It reminds me of positive truths like: I’m strong, committed to my health, determined. And when does that ever not feel encouraging to hear?!

(I’ve also been doing a Living Gratitude Journal for the month of May in my Instagram stories. Short video clips of something I’m grateful for each day. If you’d like to follow along for inspiration – or join me – come visit my feed and click on my profile pic!)

Speaking kindness to my inner self.

I can be incredibly hard on myself. So learning how to treat myself with the same gentleness I wish to give others has been a process for me. And one way I’m challenging the tide is by silently reminding myself of my worth. Affirming what makes me, me.

The more I’ve stepped outside of my comfort zone with this one the more emotional healing I’ve experienced. Why? Because I’m actually starting to believe what I’m saying. That I’m talented. That I’m important. That I have something to offer the world. The beauty in growing in how I self-talk and care about myself is that I believe I’m becoming more equipped for encouraging and supporting others around me, too.

Meditation.

Meditation is something I’ve only recently begun exploring, but it’s such a treasured new experience! I love how calm and relaxed it can make me. So each day I make space for a bit of meditation before bedtime. And I do my best to get in another hour at some point during the day.

It’s something that has taken practice (and I still have room to grow). But I make a great effort to remain focused on healing for that hour. My body sometimes gets restless and distracted, so it’s been important for me to learn to be gentle with any thoughts that arise. Which can look like calmly reminding myself/my mind that it’s time for healing. And in giving myself permission to let go of any harsh thoughts during my meditation I’ve found that the harsh thoughts have lessened as a whole!

Finding My Center.

These three practices, while small and not-so-out-of-the-box, have played an important role in centering me on my quest for healing, fullness and purpose. Because as I’ve approached each one with intention and grace, they’ve helped quiet the thoughts that don’t serve me well. It’s helped me refine my focus on healing, be more gentle with myself, and be more accepting of where I’m at right now.

And it’s given me hope that there can be a full life in this moment – as I embrace the now, hope for tomorrow, and learn to dance in the freedom to dream.

Have you tried any of these practices or have one you’d add to your own list? What inspires you to stay mindful in healing?

If you’re looking for some guided meditations, here are a couple of my faves: Meditation Minis by Chel Hamilton and Tracks to Relax for bedtime. But there are a lot of other great guided meditation podcasts on iTunes if those don’t quite resonate with you! Or you can check out what’s available for beginners on Amazon.

(If you click on one of my affiliate links in this post, I may earn a small commission if you make a purchase – at no extra cost to you!)

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Do you feel 'stuck' as someone who lives with chronic illness? Do you feel like there's no way to change your current situation? Today Kerry Heckman is sharing her thoughts and experience on making positive changes that have helped her heal. Click here to read the full post!

How to Make Changes in Order to Heal

Do you feel 'stuck' with pushing through the pain of chronic illness? Never feeling like you'll ever get better? Kerry Heckman is sharing her story of leaving her full time job and the healing that it's brought her. Click here to read her full story!

This post contains affiliate links, which means if you purchase through one of these links I may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. This helps me keep this blog running so thank you!

Today’s guest post is written by Kerry J Heckman of Body Mind Lyme.

In her book Mind Over Medicine, author and doctor Lissa Rankin discusses how she changed her patient interview process. She used to ask patients about symptoms. Then, she started asking patients, “What do you need in order to heal?” The answers surprised her and changed the way she practiced medicine. People started saying things like, “I need to quit my job,” “I need to leave my relationship,” etc.

Often times there is a voice in the back of our mind telling us we need to change something. For me that voice started many years before my diagnosis.

It told me I needed to leave my job. I was working as a school social worker with mountains of work and heavy responsibility. I ignored it and kept pushing myself and pushing myself, ultimately making myself sick.

The Lyme disease, which I’d most likely had since childhood, came out of remission. Then, I no longer had a choice. It was either me or the job. There is no doubt in my mind that if I had stayed at my job I would’ve ended up on disability. My body just couldn’t handle the level of commitment that was expected.

Making changes…

I know the response many people have when they hear this; they say, “I can’t quit my job.” Lyme disease treatment is outrageously expensive and most insurance companies won’t reimburse doctors for treatment, so we are stuck paying out of pocket. I completely understand that leaving a job is not possible for many Lyme patients, many of whom live on the brink of poverty.

If you can’t leave your job or make the other major changes you need to heal right now, it’s about finding small ways in which you can work toward the changes. The voice inside my head started telling me I need to leave my job five years before I actually made it happen.

Taking small steps is okay.

You don’t have to quit your job, move across the country, or leave your unhealthy relationship today, but it may help to take some time to think about what it is that you really need in order to heal. Start thinking about small steps you can take to move toward that place.

Can you make a commitment to updating your resume, or make an appointment for couples counseling? Can you make a Pinterest board of the place you want to live and research home prices in the area? At the very least can you start a 5 minute a day meditation practice in order to start listening to yourself and asking the question, what do I need heal?

One of the first small changes I needed to make was to change my belief system. I needed to go from looking at my illness as a terrible thing that was thrust upon me, to a message. My illness was here to tell me something and I could either listen and make changes, or I could fight against it live a place of anger postponing the healing process. I started to get quiet and really listen.

“Find a new forest.”

Sometimes we think we are completely stuck in our circumstances, and that we are out of options. My personal belief system is that is never true. There is always a teeny tiny adjustment we can make (even if it is just in our attitude), which can tip the scales in our favor. A wise person once told me that I needed to get out of the forest I was in, because all I could see were the trees that were already there. I needed to find a new forest, so I could see new trees, and new possibilities.

Quitting the job I thought I would have forever was the scariest thing I’ve ever had to do – scarier than the MRIs, the hundreds of needles, and the swabs shoved up my nose. Now every day I wake up and know that I chose myself, I chose my healing, and I made the right choice.

Kerry can be found over on her blog, Body Mind Lyme, where she aims to create a positive space for those healing from Lyme disease and other invisible illnesses. She’s a contributor on the Global Lyme Alliance blog, as well as the websites Lymeology and The Mighty.

You can also connect with her on the following social media outlets: Twitter Facebook | Instagram | Pinterest

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This episode of the podcast is dedicated to all you brave mamas who are fighting chronic illness while raising their family. Tanya Fierro is joining me on the podcast to talk about the challenges she's faced and how she's learned to navigate them. Click here to tune in!

Motherhood & Chronic Illness: A Podcast Episode with Tanya Fierro

Every time I connect with one of you fellow spoonies who’s also a momma, I am so inspired by your strength. On top of the layers of struggle that sickness brings, somehow you wonder-moms are raising your kids with so much heart and care.

You’re tackling what you can in the home. You’re showing up whenever you can for the big moments, and embracing the small ones on the daily. You are patient. You are giving. And you are rockstars.

Since I don’t have personal experience in this area, I wanted to chat with someone who could share their experience and encouragement with other parents who chronically ill. Someone who understands the unique challenges of balancing a life of pain and mothering (or fathering).

A chat with Tanya Fierro

So today, I’ve brought on Tanya Fierro to chat about her own experiences with motherhood while living with fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome. She writes over at My Fruitful Home, sharing inspiration and helpful tools for living life fully with chronic illness.

Tanya’s had her share of heartache and struggle. Her understanding of loss has been an encouragement and comfort to me as I continue to live with the memory of my own. And I know that her story will inspire and connect with so many of you, too.

So whether you’re a mom, chronically ill, or hoping for motherhood someday, or just want to listen, you are welcome to join us on our virtual couch today. I’m telling you guys: her honesty and kind heart are such a light.

You can tune in below to hear us talk about the challenges she’s faced and what she’s learned through more than 20 years of motherhood and illness.

What is one thing that helps you navigate motherhood while living with chronic illness? 

Want to connect with Tanya? You can find her on her blog and on Facebook. 🙂

 

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For those struggling with depression, healing from abuse, anxiety, or living with a chronic illness - the idea of hope can sometimes feel disconnected from our reality. Matt Pappas joins me in this episode to discuss his own journey with hope. What's helped him tangibly engage and define his personal sense of hope and encouragement for listeners who may WANT to hope, but don't know where to start. Click here to give it a listen!

Thoughts on Hope: A Podcast Interview with Matt Pappas

*This post may contain affiliate links, which means when you purchase an item through one of my links I may receive a small commission. Thanks for helping keep this blog going!

It’s been a few months since I launched with my first podcast episode for my channel, Grit & Grace and I loved hearing your feedback and connecting with you all. After that episode I went radio silent as it’s been a difficult few months of juggling treatment and work from home…But I’m finally back with our next episode!

Today’s Guest: Matt Pappas

I recently chatted with Matt from Surviving My Past about the reality and challenges of the word “hope”.  He is active in the online community, striving to bring encouragement to others who share his past of childhood abuse as well as those who battle anxiety, PTSD, and illness.

It can spark a variety of emotions in us when we hear or talk about the idea of hope, can’t it? Engaging hope when you feel hopeless can bring pain or discouragement. We may feel “less than” for not being able to grasp it in way others want us to or how we think it should manifest. All the while, others seem to keep the flame of hope burning inside, despite the struggle of pain, depression, or loss.

But wherever you’re sitting on this topic, you’re welcome here.

In this episode, Matt shares honestly on the ways he views hope, as well as the real challenges that both abuse survivors and the chronically ill face. It’s an insightful conversation, not a head-in-the-clouds message on hope. This is all about grassroots hope, real experiences, and encouragement for the struggling heart.

How do you engage hope? Let us know in the comments!

To connect with Matt more visit his blog at survivingmypast.net and be sure to download your FREE copy of his new book: Surviving Grief.

You can find Matt on the following social media channels:
Twitter: twitter.com/survivingmypast
Facebook: www.facebook.com/survivingmypast
Instagram: www.instagram.com/survivingmypast/

And be sure to subscribe to his podcast!

Want to listen to the episode on Marriage in Chronic Illness? Click here!


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If you're thinking of ways to work from home while chronically ill, Ivy's story of starting her own business is a great place to start! She shares how she started a business that worked for HER.

Behind the Maker: An interview with Ivy Cirillo

Every time the week comes for this series, I feel so much anticipation. I have so much excitement to share the talent and creations of these amazing humans AND I always love how inspiring their stories are.

It takes guts and grace to make it through each day with chronic illness. And I know that it takes a whole different level of drive, determination, and heart to work from home. And these ladies WORK IT. They have repeatedly left me amazed at what they create!

Today’s guest is Ivy Cirillo from the Perfectly Ambitious blog. She is such a talented designer and I can’t wait to introduce her and her creations with you!

A little intro from Ivy:

I hate talking about myself, but here it goes! I’m a 20 something, military spouse, spoonie, blogger, artist, graphic designer, and (soon to be) author! I’m a complete Taurus and I spoil those that I love. More specifically, my husband and our three fur babies 🙂

Biggest dream: Honestly, my dreams have changed a lot and I suspect that they’ll change again in the future. However, at this point in time, my biggest dream is to become a successful published author. Overall though, I just want to find my own success and embrace it!

Current binge-worthy TV show: This is a hard one! Being home-bound, I’m currently caught up with over 20 shows 😂 Right now though, my husband and I are watching Beauty and the Beast during every meal, so I’m gonna go with that one!

Favorite food/meal?
I’m really picky, so I stick to the kids menu when it comes to food. Chicken tenders, french fries, and honey mustard would have to be my favorite though!

Part of the Bees & Butterflies Photo Bundle

Can you tell me a bit about yourself, where you grew up, your fam?

I was born and raised in Florida, with my brother, my mom, and my step-dad. We lived in a small beach town that no one’s ever heard of, unless you lived there, and everyone knew everyone else. Growing up, my cousins were always less than 30 minutes away and eventually we were walking distance. For a very long time, I was the only girl out of the four of us, but that just means I can hold my ground & throw a perfect spiral 🙂

When were you first diagnosed with your chronic illness? What effects has your illness had on your life?

Unfortunately, I’ve had a long battle trying to determine my diagnosis. My first big one was in 2011/2012, but I didn’t receive a bulk of my illnesses until 2016. I believe I’ve got a total of 18 diagnoses now and each one has had a major effect on my life. Over the years, everything has grown harder on my body and it’s effected both my personal and professional life. At the moment, I’ve had to give up school and work, but I’m hoping to get back to them someday!

Resume Template for Microsoft

How did you decide on your business name?

As you can image, with all the time I spend at home, I learn and master skills quite frequently. In doing so, I move on quickly while still enjoying all of my previous and ongoing projects. Of course, my friends and family took notice and deemed me “too ambitious.” So, I came up with Perfectly Ambitious as a way to describe myself and all of the amazing people like me!

How did you choose the products you would sell + create?

Originally, I ran a shop with handmade items (jewelry, decor, etc.) and I soon realized that the upkeep of having a physical product took a toll on my body. After my right heart catheterization, I decided I needed to make a change! So, I turned to my other passions and started selling digital products and services. Now, I focus on graphic design, social media marketing, and virtual assisting!

Blog Organizing Printable created by Ivy Cirillo
Marble Texture Blog Binder

How do you manage running a shop while fighting illness? Do you have others who help you?

When I was selling physical products, I wasn’t managing my shop at all. I constantly needed help and I leaned on my husband a lot, mostly when it came to packing and shipping packages. Now though, I’ve got everything under control and I rarely need help! And when I do, it’s usually just asking which image my husband likes more 🙂

What advice or encouragement would you give to someone who is thinking about opening their first shop?

I’d say go for it! If that’s what you want to do, then don’t let anyone talk you out of it! If you do though, remember not to compare yourself to others. You and your shop will grow in it’s own time and eventually you will flourish! So don’t let someone else’s stats get you down. Just work hard and push forward, I promise it will pay off!

Anything else you want to add or share about you or your shop(s)?

Yes! Even though, I’ve taken a break from my physical shop, I still love creating. So, I’d be more than happy to create something for you or a loved one! Not only that, but I’d love to help you in anyway that I can. So feel free to reach out to me about anything and everything!

Behind the Maker: An interview with shop owner, Ivy Cirillo. Hear how she opened her own business, tips for success, and check out her beautiful designs!

Ivy is a wife, a creator, and a photographer, but her biggest label? Spoonie. On her blog, Ivy writes about all of the things that she loves, and the things that she does, and how being a spoonie affects those things! She shares her projects, her feelings, and the inspirational women in her life. She believes that she is perfectly ambitious, and she’d love to feature those of you who are as well! Ivy is also a military wife currently living in Alabama. She runs her blog and her shop from home and also works on her novels in her spare time.

You can find Ivy on her blog, Perfectly Ambitious and check out her designs in her shop and hire her for a variety of services on Fiverr.

You can also connect with her on the following social media sites:  Facebook | Twitter | Pinterest | Instagram 

To read more stories like Ivy’s be sure to check out the rest of the series!

Are you struggling with chronic illness and disconnected from the idea of New Year's resolutions? I feel ya. This year I'm embracing a word for the year and the word that came to mind first threw me for a loop!

My Word for 2017: From Surprise to Embrace

 

New Year’s resolutions used to be a stress inducer for me. Each year I’d come up with some grand goal of doing xyz and come January 12th I’d be so far off track it felt like there was no point.

In sickness I’ve tried a resolution or two. One year it was to hand-write a letter each month to send to a friend. I think I made it two months? And then, YOU GUESSED IT. No more letters. Last year my goal was to focus more on the blog…and that I DID do. So all is not lost.

But you know the hardest thing about the idea of New Year’s resolutions in sickness? We never know what to expect from one day to the next. I may be able to put in a total of three hours of blog/business work one day and be in bed unable to move for the next three.

So resolutions either have to be highly qualified and realistic for me or they have to be ditched altogether.

As I began to think about 2017 I decided I wanted to land on a word for the year. I thought it could either be an intention or something I wanted to embrace, or even just a word that resonates deeply.

The word that came to mind almost immediately stunned me. And that word was HOPE.

Why the stun, you ask? Well, it’s because I have a hard time using that word if I’m honest.

It’s a hard word to wrestle with when you feel as if you’ve been beaten down year after year by disease for the last 3.5. When it seems there’s no end in sight. Or in the moments when you’re literally just trying to breathe. (Thank you, Lyme & mold illness).

Hope can feel elusive when you’re held under the heavy weight of suffering. And when it’s portrayed by others as a feel-good-feeling or that it’s something you “just” have to choose? It can feel like an even more distant idea.

But hope is more than a choice.

And it’s very essence stretches beyond a happy dose of the feel-goods.

It’s more than a choice because sometimes we can know we want something, need it even, and reach for it…but not be able to grab hold of it.

On any day of the week I could need a heavy item pulled out of my cabinet. But in my current state of health I couldn’t safely make it happen. Between my POTS symptoms and lack of strength I wouldn’t be able to lift the item, let alone bring it down (or up) to my level.

So Trevin gets it for me. He carries the weight so I have access to what I need for the day.

Sometimes it’s the same with hope. We may barely have the strength to say the word out loud, let alone FEEL hopeful. And there are times our spirit is so weak that we need someone else to hold onto hope for us. To stand in the wet and cold with us, to support us as we stand, or sit, or crawl through the brokenness.

To hold onto the light of hope for us in the moments that we can’t.

So this year, just as years past, I will hold onto whatever fragments of hope I can manage. I will endeavor to give myself grace when I feel doubt or fear and I’ll continue to pursue healing in all its forms.

I’ll make an effort to regularly define what hope means to me. And let go – as many times as I need to – of impossible standards of what hope should look like in struggle.

I also want to hold hope for you.

That this year will be one that brings comfort for your weary soul. I want to hope for you that the thing you’re waiting for will begin to realize.

Through my writing, sharing, listening, living – I want to be a hope holder. A shoulder to lean on. To shed light in the dark corners of heartache, suffering and pain.

I’ll be here in your corner. Reminding you that someone out there is holding hope for you. For healing. Restoration. A source of income. Community. Family. Fulfilled dreams.

And the beauty of holding hope for others? It teaches us. Stretches us. And it means something deep, both to us and to the person we’re hoping for.

It reminds us we’re not alone. And that we’re in this thing called life together.

And that truth, in itself, is full of hope.

Want to join me with your own word for 2017? Comment below or join the discussion over on Facebook today! I’d love to hear from you.

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Susan's novel, The Last Letter, is a story for the brave souls fighting Lyme disease. But it's also for their families - to gain understanding and insight into the struggles of their loved one.

Meet the Author: Susan Pogorzelski & The Last Letter

A few weeks back I had an email drop in my inbox from the lovely Susan Pogorzelksi, a Lyme author who released her book, The Last Letter back in September. She offered to send me a copy of her book and I am so happy to now share the love with another Lymie!

I asked if she would join me here on the blog to share a bit of herself and the passion behind her book and she happily agreed to have me interview her. Having her here with us today is such a treat and I hope you enjoy connecting with her story and passion. She is such a light for the Lyme community!

Meet Susan

I invited Susan onto the blog to share more about her book, The Last Letter, a fictional reflection of her personal journey fighting Lyme disease.

Thanks so much for joining us on the blog today, Susan!

Thanks for having me, Kami! It’s a pleasure!

When did you first start writing?

When I was in kindergarten, my best friend and I would recite stories to our teacher, who would then write them down for us. We’d illustrate them with rudimentary crayon drawings and make covers out of cardboard and contact paper, punching holes in the sides to bind them with metal rings. These were our first books.

I think I knew then that there was something special about books–about the stories within the pages and the magic they create. I was fascinated by the fact that I could play a part in that–actually, I still am! It’s nice to know that feeling has always been with me.

Have you always wanted to be a writer?

Writing wasn’t my professional goal until I think I was in middle school–when I learned that was something people could choose. It was just always something I did, a part of who I was.

When I was younger, I was a voracious reader, and my stories emulated what I was reading at the time: I wrote mysteries after consuming the books in the Fear Street series. I wrote a book about a group of friends who were runaways after reading survivalist/dystopian books by Scott O’Dell and Lois Lowry (stories which will never see the light of day!).

But then when I was around twelve or thirteen, I discovered A Tree Grows in Brooklyn and coming-of-age literature, and I was hooked. I learned that I could use writing as an outlet to figure out what I was thinking and feeling–to figure out life–and stories became that much more powerful. I think that’s when I decided I wanted to be an author. I wanted to be able to share a part of myself in that way.

I’ve started reading the copy of The Last Letter you sent me and am finding it such an intriguing approach to sharing about Lyme. Can you describe the book to readers?

Written as a series of letters between 1999 and 2003, The Last Letter is a coming-of-age story about Lia Lenelli, a teenage girl struggling to shape her own identity while a chronic illness threatens to tear her world apart. While the book is primarily a work of fiction, it’s a semi-autobiographical account of my own struggle to find a diagnosis and subsequent recovery from Lyme Disease, particularly the emotional toll that having such an illness can take.

From Susan: "I realized that fiction could be the perfect conduit to help those with Lyme feel like they’re not alone while bringing awareness to an illness that is so easily (and dangerously) dismissed."

What made you decide to write the book as fiction as opposed to an autobiography of your Lyme journey?

I’ve been blogging and journaling about my own journey through Lyme since I was first diagnosed in 2012 (and through fifteen years of misdiagnosis before that) but never had any intentions of publishing a book on the subject, despite prompts from friends and family to share my story–a story I know thousands of people can relate to.

Whenever I did consider it, I couldn’t bring myself to write–I felt like I’d already said what I wanted to say and what was left, I didn’t have words for. But then in 2014, right after I reached remission, I wrote the beginning of what would be the first draft of The Last Letter: a letter from a teenager named Amelia to a stranger, to be placed in a time capsule as a reminder that she had once existed. I didn’t know where it was leading, and so I put it aside.

The idea of leaving something behind as a reminder that I had once lived–the idea of legacy, identity, and survival–began to haunt me, especially considering what I’d been through with Lyme. And so, as I began to write more, I realized that I could tell my story–our story–in a way that provided some emotional relief while really exploring these themes.

As I’ve been reading the book I’ve thought of how hard it can be for us to revisit moments of our past when we are fighting illness. Whether it’s a moment of pain or even a memory of not being sick, they can be hard to relive. Did you struggle with this when writing this story?

This is so true and part of why it was necessary for me to craft my story around a fictional narrative. I think life has a way of anesthetizing our experiences–once you’re healthy, you forget what the worst of it was like, how bad it really was when you were sick.

When I went into remission, I thought I’d put Lyme behind me, but then in early 2015, I had a severe relapse from which I’m still recovering. I knew what I’d been through before, but I was so eager to move on with my life, I’d forgotten how bad it was until I found myself back there again.

Writing this book through my relapse made me not only remember that pain, but it forced me to confront it. Fiction provided enough of a distance that I could do so safely.

I read my book the other day for the first time since the release. I wanted to read it objectively–not as the writer or as an editor with a critical eye, but as a reader. I’ll admit, it was hard.

Because now that time has passed and I’m slowly getting better, I’m again forgetting all those days when I couldn’t lift my head from the pillow, or when I writhed from the pain in my legs, or how I fought for every word when I was writing the book because my neurological issues were so bad, I had only brief pockets of clarity before the fog took over.

Because I was writing the book as fiction, I could lie to myself and pretend it was Amelia’s story. Now I’m reminded that it was mine–that it’s all of ours in some way or another–because everything Lia experiences both symptomatically and emotionally is what I’ve experienced, too.

That’s always the hardest part: knowing how much truth there is even in fiction. But there’s also a sense of pride there. Because reliving those experiences, I’m reminded of what I survived–that I did it once, and I can do it again. It’s what keeps pushing me forward in recovery.

What do you hope readers experience when reading your book?

Part of the reason I chose fiction for this story is because fiction is a powerful form of storytelling. When you’re reading a memoir, the thought that this is someone else’s story is still lingering in the back of your mind.

But when you read fiction, you become the characters–you think, feel, and experience what they do. I realized that fiction could be the perfect conduit to help those with Lyme feel like they’re not alone while bringing awareness to an illness that is so easily (and dangerously) dismissed.

That’s all I could ever want for this book–for it to help someone. For someone to recognize themselves in it and know they’re not alone in their suffering–that there are people who are fighting along with them.

And for those who don’t have Lyme, I hope it brings to light what those with Lyme endure on a daily basis and why we need support, acceptance, and unconditional love more than ever.

What’s next for you? Are there dreams you have for 2017?

It’s been a long journey through recovery, so I’m hoping to keep getting better so I can be in a position where I can be of service to people. On the Lyme front, I’m hoping to do a lot more as far as advocacy and building awareness, especially when it comes to healing emotionally from this illness.

I’m not sure what that looks like yet, but I’m happy to be playing a small part by contributing my writing on The Mighty and the Global Lyme Alliance blog. I’m also working on my next novel, which I hope to release next fall.

Is there anything else you’d like the readers to know?

If I could speak directly: I want you to know I think you’re some of the bravest, most inspiring people I’ve ever met. This disease is ruthless, and it often feels lonely and isolating and like no one understands. To be able to face that takes so much strength and so much courage, and I hope more than anything that you’re able to recognize that strength and courage in yourself.

This Lyme community is something truly special. When you cry, someone is there to dry your tears. When you fall, others lift you up. When you feel weak, we’ll remind you that we’re fighting with you. Please don’t ever forget that you have people on your side and that you’re so much stronger than this disease makes you feel. Stay strong. Be brave.

And to you, Kami: Thank you for being such a strong voice in the Lyme community! It’s been a pleasure getting to know you, and I’m grateful for this opportunity to share my book.


A big thank you to Susan for joining me for this interview. And for being a voice of hope and compassion to Lyme sufferers around the globe. Your story is one that so many can relate to and find comfort in the reminder they’re not alone.

You can find Susan’s Lyme book, The Last Letter on Amazon and other online book retailers. Or you can purchase signed paperback copies on Susan’s website

To connect with Susan, look for her on the following social media outlets:

Twitter | Instagram | and Facebook at her page Lost in the Lymelight, a community focused on healing from the emotional impacts of Lyme disease.

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