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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

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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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These are the ways I've found community even as a chronically ill, mostly house-bound woman.

Navigating Loneliness: Finding Community in Chronic Illness

Lately I’ve been mesmerized by the passion fruit vine I discovered growing along our fence. I use “discovered” in the sense that I saw the vine when we moved in, but only could tell you it was pretty and green.

Let’s just say that I am a wanna-be green thumb who hasn’t quite achieved more than beginner’s status.

If you follow me on Instagram, you saw when these beautiful passion flowers appeared several weeks ago. Soon after, tiny pods began to grow. I did a bit of research and SURPRISE: we have a vine covered with baby passion fruit!

I walked by that vine for MONTHS, you guys. To me, it was the same old vine every time. A beautiful piece of greenery in the yard, and one that I enjoyed.

I didn’t expect much, other than that the vine would be there to give me a pretty backdrop from my view on the front step.

Loneliness has been the backdrop to illness for me. It’s not pretty, but just as I viewed the vine for so many months: it’s just there.

It’s come with the territory of living with a disease that few understand. Combine that with being housebound and often physically unable to have visitors and this gets even more complicated.

That first year of illness felt brutal for me. I couldn’t enjoy community in the ways everyone else was able to, and so I (and my husband) naturally began to fall out of view of many of those around us.

Our lives were turned upside down by my sickness. And in a time when we needed friendship and support, we struggled. Our situation and needs/ability as a couple didn’t fit into any traditional community molds.

Many of my long-distance friends have been my rocks. Friends from childhood and college that have supported and loved me from afar. Through texts, care packages, fundraising, listening and learning about my illness – they were there. In spirit and love, they endeavored to be beside me.

New local friends became family, bringing occasional meals or picking up groceries. Offering their help, kindness and friendship along the way.

But, the loneliness still lingered.

When Loneliness Lingers: How I've Found Community in Chronic Illness

I remember a day about a year and a half ago that was exceptionally hard.

I was lying on my bed, with the tears flowing over how long it had been since I had seen someone other than Trevin. A combination of terrible pain and flare ups, the busy schedules of others and my own health forcing me to cancel any plans led to weeks of solitude. My spirit was tired and aching.

And oh so lonely.

As I lay there, frustrated and hurting over feeling so disconnected from my former life, I remember the following words playing over and over in my mind:

I am so lonely.
Why don’t you be a friend to others who are lonely?

I am in pain.
What if you were to share your pain and comfort the broken?

I am so limited with this body.
Why don’t you find ways to connect within your limitations?

There are few times in the last few years that I’ve felt God’s nearness or sensed Him speaking to me. But that is one day I felt him, gently there. Nudging me toward finding a way to not only cope with the heavy weight of loneliness, but to connect with others fighting similar battles.

So I began to find new ways to build friendship.

I gave myself permission to look for community within the limitations of my illness. I started to engage more with others on Instagram, follow their stories, support them and find common ground.

Within that community I found new courage to share my story more authentically.

I joined several chronic illness groups on Facebook and began to share my blog posts there, finding so many others who could relate to my struggle so well.

Through those interactions I felt comfort, encouragement, and it’s given me greater purpose as I write.

I’ve even connected with other illness warriors through friends of myself, Trevin and family. Those relationships have been such a gift! We send messages, texts, video and voice clips throughout the week, sharing the raw side of fighting illness as well as things to make each other smile.

They have provided a safe place for me to vent and “just be” when I need it most.

How I'm Coping With Loneliness in Chronic Illness

I’m not saying that all of the loneliness is gone. Some days I cope better than others and honestly it’s still hard. And I’m human.

But I’m learning to navigate this with honesty and an open heart. Through accepting that there are some things I can’t change and looking for ways to cope within my limits, I worry less about having “normal” community.

I embrace the tribe I’ve been given.

Just like the passion flowers that sprinkled my vine with cheer, these friendships near and far have brought light within my loneliness. Purpose and passion within my monotonous, quiet days of fighting illness.

They have reminded me we weren’t meant to struggle alone.

We are here to lean on each other.

So I’ll be here, leaning with you. <3

Have you struggled with loneliness? What are the ways you cope with it or find community?

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Friendship and Chronic Illness: 5 Ways to Support a Friend Who’s Sick

Being friends with someone who is chronically ill has it’s challenges. I’ll be the first to admit this as the one living with illness!

Many of us spend the majority of our days at home treating and healing, we cancel/don’t make plans, we aren’t always up for a visit, our symptoms can make staying in touch difficult, and we rarely answer the question “how are you doing” with a great report…because we’re always sick.

But you know the thing about us that remains normal? We need our friends.

I understand it can feel overwhelming. You’re not sure what to do, say or even how to be a friend to someone who’s either chronically or critically ill. But believe me when I tell you that you CAN play a part and, from personal experience, they most likely WANT you to. They just may not know how to ask (or if it’s welcomed).

Here are 5 ways you can support your friend as they live with illness. Each inspired by some of my dearest, most thoughtful friends.

1. A message for their thoughts.

Friendship in Chronic Illness: Ways to Support a Friend

This doesn’t have to cost you a dime (or five of them), and it won’t unless you snail mail it! If you don’t live nearby, and even if you do, this is a great outlet for you to still support your friend/family member.

Some of my favorite texts/messages/cards from friends and family have been along the lines of “I’ve been thinking about you. How are you doing?” and even “Wanted you to know I think you’re awesome. And here’s a funny picture of my dog.”

You’re simply letting them know you are in this with them and wanted them to know they matter to you.

2. A meal for their belly.

Some of the sweetest moments in this difficult journey have been when people have offered to bring food (especially when it happened to be one of my worst days). I would breathe a sigh of relief because I knew we’d be getting takeout again otherwise.

Word of wisdom: ask before just dropping by with a meal (or for any reason, for that matter). It’s always better if they’re prepared for your arrival. They may have a full fridge or the meal taken care of already and could suggest a different day.

Make sure you are aware if they have a special diet. You can also consider including a few paper plates to save on dishes – that alone can be such a gift!

3. Food for their fridge/pantry.

Caring for a Friend in Chronic Illness: 5 Simple Ideas

Not able to cook? That’s okay, you’re covered here! Send them a text before you go on your usual grocery run. Something simple like: “I’m heading to the grocery store and would like to bring you a bag of groceries. What do you need?” If you have a budget in mind, share that to give them an idea of what they can ask for.

I haven’t always taken people up on their offer if I had a full fridge, but other times it’s blessed us to have someone bring the few items we were out of. Or that set of paper plates I mentioned above! When you’re down a driver because someone is ill, every little thing adds up.

4. Care in a package.

Send them a surprise package in the mail. This doesn’t need to be huge, just be creative and thoughtful. Remember: thoughtfulness always wins!

Some ideas for what you could include could be: an herbal tea, a note, a cozy pair of socks, a snack (if you know what they can eat), a movie, a journal, a magazine they would enjoy, a candle or maybe something ridiculous to make them laugh.

The package really could be as simple as a single item with a hand written card letting them know you’re thinking of them. I guarantee it will brighten their day.

5. A touch of cheer for their home.

Friendship in Chronic Illness: Ways to Support a Friend

Whether it’s a bouquet of flowers or plant, a favorite coffee or tea drink, a movie/tv series to borrow, lunch from their favorite place or even a funny text – cheer brings sunshine to the soul.

One friend bought me a beautiful watercolor print to hang on my wall and I cherish that. I see it hanging in my living room and it reminds me of her kindness. Think of what they might enjoy and offer to bring it by sometime.

You don’t need to be a licensed counselor, practicing doctor, be filled with profound words of wisdom or even live in the same town to be a friend to the chronically ill in your life. It really can be as as simple as taking the initiative and offering something specific from this list (or something you think of on your own!)

You may feel like stepping back because you don’t understand, are uncomfortable with the situation, or are overwhelmed by the uncertainty of what to do. But it is brave of you to find ways to be a friend, to enter into their story and remind them they aren’t alone in their pain and struggle.

And it is brave of those who are sick to accept and invite others in. We need and can learn from each other.

What would you add to the list??

‘For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home. I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me.’ Matthew 25:35-36

Are you fighting illness and feeling overwhelmed by the pain, loss, and un-materialized dreams? I’d love to offer you the book I’ve written from my own place of rawness. Click here to download your free copy!

This post was originally published in May of 2014, but has been updated.

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the importance of vulnerability

What Writing Has Taught Me About Vulnerability

My friend Katie and I connected here in the blogosphere. She and I became pen pals after I had reached out to offer a beauty product for her to try and review. She suffers from Fibromyalgia and I from Lyme (both of us holding a side list of other illnesses), so our understanding of living with chronic illness instantly bonded us.

We’ve courageously shared from the most vulnerable places in our hearts because we’ve cultivated a safe place, devoid of judgment. I can come to her with fears, bouts of depression, honest reports of my pain levels and know she won’t turn away. She won’t criticize. She will listen and she will feel my struggle with me.

As I’ve connected with Katie and others through this blog, I’ve seen how instrumental vulnerability can be in understanding one another and experiencing grace on a deeper level.

A healthy dose of vulnerability, if we allow it, will guide us into the deep, dark corners of our hearts, coaxing out our worst fears, most honest thoughts and our (mostly) hidden imperfections.

It’s messy. It’s uncomfortable. It’s not something I’m naturally good at.

Yet in the right context…it can be one of the most beautiful things to experience or witness.

Writing here in my little corner of the inter-webs has stretched me in many things. It’s given me a space to process some of the harder things in life and it’s not so gently nudged me to go deeper into how vulnerably I share. About living with disease. Heartache. Pain. Grief. Shifting dreams.

Just about everything good, bad, ugly and beautiful in my life can come out while I’m putting pen to page (or type to screen).

Writing about my experiences, struggles, and deepest emotions has at times been brutally uncomfortable and I’ve felt like hiding away. Yet, slowly, as I’ve embraced an open heart more and more, vulnerability has made way for change in my life.

connecting with others

In those moments of sharing and then connecting with someone else’s story, we find that we aren’t the only ones who struggle with that.

Someone accepts me in my most imperfect self.

Another has been dealt their own deep sense of loss.

My heart isn’t the only one to have been broken.

My dreams aren’t the only ones to have shifted or felt shattered.

In that realm of sharing, we offer someone the opportunity to truly see us in the midst of all the mess and, in return, we have the gift of seeing them.

Together, we create neutral ground and foster a level of empathy that’s unmatched. It’s then we’ve entered sacred space, where we’re reminded how similar we really are at the core.
We all have felt pain on some level. While you can’t fully understand my personal experience living with Lyme disease, you have felt some level of sickness or physical discomfort.

With some imagination you can capture a glimpse of what it could feel like to live in daily pain and discomfort. As you are reading, you may be thinking of your own difficult situation and somewhere within that tension there’s a common vein of struggle, pain, or disappointment that will resonate with someone else.

Through the windows of perception that our own trials open for us, we are given tools that help us see into someone else’s sense of loss, grief, pain, or frustration.

Instead of comparing the struggles we face with a grading scale of severity, what if we were to consider the more important mission of coming together? To acknowledge a shared vein of pain and embrace another hurting soul.

I’ve realized that no matter how similar our situations, how we each experience something can be very different.

For me, accepting this truth means I do my best to avoid saying the phrase “I know exactly what you’re going through.” Why? Because we rarely, if ever do.

We may be able to identify with certain situations we’ve shared, but we each have very different lives, support systems, and a myriad of other layers that factor into our individual reality.

It’s through the broader themes of pain, loss, disappointment, or fear that we connect deeply. It takes the focus off of comparing our situations and allows us to sit with someone else in the middle of their storm.

I can’t know exactly what you’re feeling, but I know how painful loss is to navigate” are much easier words to accept in the midst of grief. We avoid minimizing someone else’s hardship and dare to really listen, deeply feel and understand the weight of what they’re facing.

We let them know they’re not alone.

friendship in illness

Entering into the land of vulnerability is challenging and sometimes, if I’m honest, it will let you down.

Not everyone can process the nitty gritty mess, and you will quickly learn who is safe. It can take time to build to that sacred place in a relationship, but trust me, friend: the journey is so worth it. The freedom found in that unguarded space is beautiful and sweet.

My prayer and hope for you is that you would find those kindred spirits in your own life.

That you would experience understanding, comfort, and solidarity through going deeper in relationship with your people, your tribe.

That you would feel safe to uncover the messiest, darkest corners of your heart and discover someone willing to walk with you through the challenges and sit with you in your grief.

Sending you love today, sweet readers.


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