What I learned from my dog

Young woman snuggling with her dog.
Young woman snuggling with her dog.
Photo credit: Shutterstock

“There is no psychiatrist in the world like a puppy licking your face.”
–Ben Williams

Everyone who has experienced the love of a pet knows intuitively what is becoming increasingly clear in the medical literature: pets are good for you. According to a growing number of scientific studies, owning a pet can help people survive a heart attack, counter depression, or even discourage divorce.

“The evidence favoring the health value of pets is so compelling,” says Larry Dossey, M.D., author of Reinventing Medicine, “that if pet therapy were a pill, we would not be able to manufacture it fast enough.”

Why you should rethink your New Year’s resolutions

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“And now let us welcome the New Year
Full of things that have never been.”
~ Rainer Maria Rilke

’Tis the season of New Year’s Resolutions. People make them, and frequently they break them. Many resolutions center around the same general principles: working harder and accomplishing more. For perfectionists, New Year’s resolutions are about being more perfect. They are appealing and natural, especially to those of us whose self-esteem is intertwined with our sense of achievement.

Many people with ME/CFS, fibromyalgia, and other chronic illnesses recognize themselves in this category: we often measure our worth in the currency of how…

And why I was afraid to go.

Highschool diploma with two class rings: a young woman’s and a young man’s.
Highschool diploma with two class rings: a young woman’s and a young man’s.
Photo: Shutterstock

“No distance of place or lapse of time can lessen the friendship of those who are thoroughly persuaded of each other’s worth.” — Robert Sout

A few years ago I attended my 30th high school reunion. To be honest, I almost didn’t go. When I received the invitation, I quickly dismissed the possibility of attending, thinking that it would be an unnecessary exercise in social anxiety and a painful reminder that things haven’t turned out how I thought they would when I donned that cap and gown and sense of invincibility three decades ago. What changed my mind was a…

What to do when feeling grateful is hard

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

On Thanksgiving, people all over the world — Americans at least — gather around tables and reflect on all the things for which we’re thankful. A common buzz-phrase among self-help gurus is “gratitude is an attitude.” Everyone from educators and religious leaders to my yoga instructor tells us that we should feel grateful. To even question this for a minute would seem downright…well, ungrateful. …

When you’re confronted with “you don’t look handicapped!”

Close up of handlcapped symbol in a parking place.
Close up of handlcapped symbol in a parking place.
Photo credit: Shutterstock

Much has been written about the difficulties of living with an invisible illness or disability. Well-meaning friends and acquaintances who say, “But you look good” can touch off a sense of isolation and the feeling that no one understands what you’re going through.

The word disability is defined in the dictionary as “a disadvantage or deficiency, especially a physical or mental impairment that prevents or restricts normal achievement” or “something that hinders or incapacitates.” However, our visually oriented society may not take the time to look beyond appearances. …

How to bounce back rather than break

Photo credit: Dreamstime

Let me not pray to be sheltered from dangers but to be fearless in facing them.
Let me not beg for the stilling of my pain, but for the heart to conquer it…
— Rabindranath Tagore

Why do some people seem to bounce back from hard times while others falter or even fall apart? Those who deal best with trials and troubles have a quality that neuroscientists, psychologists, and business experts alike call “resilience.”

According to Merriam-Webster, resilience is “an ability to recover from or adjust easily to misfortune or change.” Resilient people are able to rebound and maintain a…

How to “recover” from an illness that can’t be cured

A hand holding a seedling and soil.
A hand holding a seedling and soil.
Photo credit: Shutterstock

re·cov·er·y (ri-kuhv-uh-ree): noun
–regaining something lost or taken away.

The medical model of illness tends to define “recovery” in very black-and-white terms. It implies a cure, or an elimination of symptoms, in which patients return to their pre-disease (or “pre-morbid,” as it is referred to in the medical literature) state.

When it comes to a chronic illness myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS) or fibromyalgia (FM), the issue of recovery is much more complex. Patients who are diagnosed with an illness for which there is no cure may be susceptible to feelings of hopelessness or despair. How can someone recover from…

How to know if you’re suffering from antidepressant withdrawal.

Two hands holding a large amount of various pills.
Two hands holding a large amount of various pills.
Photo credit: Adobe Stock

The use of antidepressants in the treatment of depression and a number of other medical conditions is increasingly common. Millions of people in the U.S. alone (more than 13% of all Americans by recent estimates) take antidepressants. By far the most commonly prescribed antidepressants in the general population are selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, or SSRIs, such as Prozac, Paxil, and Zoloft.

Studies have shown that these drugs can be effective in treating symptoms ME/CFS and fibromyalgia, even when patients are not suffering from depression. Medications that act on multiple neurotransmitters, such as venlafaxine (marketed under the brand name Effexor in…

How to be sick in a healthy world

Photo credit: Dreamstime

“You looking good,” said Sethe.
“Devil’s confusion. He lets me look good long as I feel bad,” said Paul D.
— in Beloved, by Toni Morrison

At times, one of the most difficult things about living with an invisible or poorly understood illness is figuring out how to be sick in a healthy world. In her book You Are Not Your Illness, Linda Noble Topf explains how illness has a way of exaggerating our sense of “being different from others, of being special or unworthy, and of ultimately being separate and alone.” …

How to accomplish big things in small steps.

Photo credit: Dreamstime

“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” — Lao Tzu

The scientific concept of inertia refers to the resistance of an object to a change in its state of motion or rest. I’ve been thinking about how the inertia in our lives is often so difficult to overcome.

Life can be hard. Our daily struggles and strains can put us in a kind of survival mode. Sometimes it feels like we’re standing with our toes dug into the sand, desperately trying to remain upright against the waves that are crashing all around us.

When life feels…

Lisa Lorden Myers

Writer with ME/CFS and fibromyalgia helping others to survive and thrive with chronic illness. Lifelong learner, dog mom, therapist-to-be.

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