5 Keys to Self Care with Chronic Illness

5 Keys to Self Care with Chronic Illness

Now before you roll your eyes at me, please know this is not an article about how you should take more bubble baths or spend more time at the spa. I think that self-care as a concept has been swooped up by culture at large and has been made too time-consuming, expensive, elaborate, or just not realistic for those who are struggling with chronic illness. As a counselor and as a fellow chronically ill person, I’m always looking for ways to simplify self-care so that it feels accessible, realistic, and attainable for everyone, regardless of what their functioning looks like today. I’m going to give you a few principles to help you guide your thinking around self-care, and I promise none of them will involve putting cucumbers on your eyes. 

Key #1: Self-care is being kind to your future self.

This one is my favorite, and I think it’s often overlooked. Your future self could be you in 5 minutes, you in 2 hours, you in 10 days—basically you at any point in the future. I’ve found that sometimes we forget that there will be a future version of ourselves and often make choices that are immediately beneficial for current self, but disregard future self. For example, Current Katie really loves hanging out on the couch at night and watching TV shows with her husband. However, sometimes Current Katie forgets that Future Katie really needs solid sleep and a consistent bedtime, otherwise she will become the queen of Migraine City. Self-care in this situation could be Current Katie remembering and being empathic to Future Katie by turning off the TV and sticking to her bedtime. When I wake and feel rested, I can thank Past Katie for making helpful choices. I promise your body and brain will respond so well to this kindness and empathy. How can you be kind to Future You?

Key #2: Self-care is pacing yourself and acknowledging capacity.

Chronic illness is a marathon that no one signed up for and not a sprint, and therefore we need to realistically assess our energy and pace ourselves accordingly. Many of my clients who struggle with chronic illness get so frustrated with themselves when they are feeling particularly symptomatic because of how much they need to slow down. They see slowness and reduced capacity as bad, so as soon as they start to feel just a tiny bit better, or have a day where their pain is less, or their head is clearer, they SPRINT into activity, productivity, and doing. However, they inevitably overdo it and find themselves 5 steps back from where they started. I know we live in a culture that glorifies hustle and says that you are capable of anything with enough coffee and gumption, but I am here to regretfully inform you that you and I are just humans. Humans who have capacity and limits. Slowness can be frustrating, I know, but are you acknowledging how much work your body is doing on a daily basis to contend with chronic illness? You may feel like your capacity is reduced, but it’s actually likely just being redirected to the places where your body needs it the most. Self-care is engaging in an empathic assessment of your energy that doesn’t shame for diminished capacity, and paces according to the limits you have today. How can you acknowledge the hard work you’re already doing and set realistic, empathetic goals for yourself?

Key #3: Self-care is setting and holding boundaries.

I could write a small novel about the importance of setting boundaries, but I’ll keep it brief. For those unfamiliar, boundaries are lines that we draw that allow us to understand where we start and another person ends. I have found in the chronic illness community that there is often a feeling that we “owe” those around us a story or explanation of what our illness is, how it happened, our current treatment, and how we’re doing. Now, you may be thinking, “Why would it be bad to share this information?” It isn’t a bad thing to share this information, but it matters who we share it with and when. This is great information to share with a close friend, spouse, or trusted coworker, but you would probably feel pretty weird if you woke up one day to find that this information and a picture of you was plastered on a billboard outside of your house. Why does that feel weird? Because it lacks boundaries. Anyone, regardless of their relationship to you, now knows something that is deeply personal about your life. This isn’t healthy or helpful for you, because it’s fundamentally unbalanced.

Roll with me here—think of your journey with chronic illness as a treasured family heirloom—like a vase. This vase is something that you can show to people that you trust understand how important and storied this vase is. You trust that they would take good care of it if you left it with them. You know they wouldn’t sell it, or paint it, or smash it. They care about the vase, because it’s yours and you care about it. Sometimes people you don’t know very well demand to see your vase. They want to know what the big deal is and want to hold it themselves. They just want to see it, and because of that they don’t hold it with care and caution or with awe and respect. It’s stressful for you to have them to hold it because you know they don’t understand the full value. They are stopping by the museum, not participating in the story. This is when you get to set a boundary. You get to say, “No, we don’t know each other well enough for me to share that information with you.” Or, “That’s not something I really feel comfortable talking about right now.” Hear me, fellow chronically ill friends, you do not owe anyone your story. It is yours and yours alone. Please, share it with those you trust because it’s so healing to journey together, but also know you have full permission to say no. Your story should not be shared out of compulsion and you get to decide both with whom and when you share. How can you set and hold boundaries with your story?

Key #4: Self-Care is an activity or practice that you use to find consistency.

Chronic illness comes with a lot of uncertainty, change, and unpredictability. It’s often anyone’s guess what you’re going to feel like in the morning. When’s the next flare up? What medication side-effects will I feel today? In those spaces, we need to speak to our uncertainty and fear. We need to remind ourselves that, although what we are dealing with is stressful and overwhelming, there are a few things that have not changed. There are things we can count on to be true, despite everything else feeling out of sorts. To find these things we need to ask ourselves, “What can I do that is life-giving, stable, and predictable?” Self-care can look walking a familiar route. The trail you take is known, familiar, and unaffected by your last doctor’s appointment. You could also do something like cooking a meal for yourself. Bread, in the same conditions, has predictable rise and fall. A recipe has objective instructions that yields a consistent outcome. If your pain level is a 4 today and a 10 tomorrow, water still boils at 212 degrees. Re-read a favorite book. The characters, the story, and the ending are the same regardless of that call with your insurance company. Remind yourself that the sun always rises, your coffee tastes the same each morning, and the mail is delivered every day but Sunday. Can you hear these patterns and rhythms of establishing grounding through knowing? We care for ourselves and we regain stability when do small things that are familiar and wholly for our own enjoyment. This steady cadence provides the consistency we need to see chronic illness through without becoming consumed. What practice could to try to experience consistency?

Key #5: Self-care is boring and monotonous.

It’s not Instagram-able. It’s taking your meds, going to doctor’s appointments, calling to schedule that consult, avoiding your triggers, folding your laundry, and taking a day off only to stay home and camp out on your couch. It’s asking for help, saying no to a new project, taking a shower, not procrastinating, making a budget, making breakfast, and being honest when someone close asks you how you’re doing. For me, boring self-care means packing my lunch the night before work, making sure the dishes are done, taking emergency meds when I need them, and staying on top of staying in touch with my people. Boring self-care is tiny moments of victory and triumph that will likely go unnoticed, but are nonetheless small, worthwhile investments that prove to yourself that you are worth taking care of. What boring activities can you see and celebrate as self-care?

My hope is that we can experience a change in perspective around the concept of self-care and come back to these principles when we are feeling out of sorts. When we live with chronic illness, sometimes our bodies and brains can feel foreign, frustrating, or overwhelming. These self-care practices are meant to rekindle awareness and knowing in your body and gently bring us back into a kind, gracious relationship with ourselves. Your relationship with you is so worthy of your attention, and my desire for you is that these small shifts in your thinking and behavior will bring about peace, reconnection, and restoration—all without putting cucumbers on your eyes. 


Written by: Katie Marsh, MA, LPCC

In case you didn’t catch all the extra letters at the end of her name, not only is Katie a Minneapolis/St. Paul member of our Tribe, she’s also a phenomenal Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor. She’s the real deal. She personally “gets it,” as she battles Chronic Migraine, and it’s literally her job to help empower others with hope and lasting life-change. In her free time you're most likely to find her baking, wandering museums with her husband, running, or sorting through a stack of books that she admittedly keeps telling herself she’ll read.

 


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Growth Is Not Linear

Growth Is Not Linear

I believe that plants are my love language. If they were an animal, I would call them my spirit animal. Alas, they are not. I can not explain to you the joy I experience from plants of all varieties. Succulents are my favorite, followed closely by roses. Within the last few years, as my illnesses and symptoms have evolved, I have found myself gravitating into the plant and gardening section of every store I pass. Home and garden stores have been added to my list of Self-Care Day destinations, and I often come home with a new, tiny, potted friend. I pour my soul into watering them just enough and never too much, and I may or may not whisper encouraging words to them as they work hard to grow and bloom into their most beautiful forms. These tiny plants offer me hope and teach me about growth and life and perseverance. They show me what it looks like to find the light and drink it in deeply and slowly. 

The unique design of each individual plant is what draws me in and leaves me in wonder of their Creator. How can these tiny little things be full of so much beauty and life? Their flowers and colors are beautiful, no doubt, but it is the depth and the dirt of the roots below the surface that allow them to thrive. How magical that the most important and vital component of a plant’s growth - the root system - is hidden beneath the surface. It is intricate and complicated, and yet it is designed with a life-sustaining purpose. There are seasons in which the flowers blossom and bloom with vividly bright colors, followed by seasons of withering and apparent death. And yet, as long as the roots continue to drink of the water provided to them, the flowers will one day bloom again. 

I believe it is the same with us. 

Our root systems - the foundational stuff that we dig our heels into throughout all seasons - will be the stuff that either sustains us or causes our withering. My root system is my faith in God. The Bible talks about living our lives rooted in God, strengthened in our faith, overflowing with thankfulness (Colossians 2:7). It says that as long as we plant our souls in the depths of God’s love for us, and consume the life-giving messages from God in the Bible, we will continue to thrive. There will be times that we flourish and blossom with bold colors and warm souls into the people that He has created us to be. But at times there will be seasons of drought. Our hearts may close up and our brightness of hope may fade, but as long as we are planted in faith and rooted in God’s love, we will survive and bloom another day. 

I know this may seem hard to believe, and those doubts are personal to me, too. For years I’ve walked back and forth across the fine line of growing and withering. When I was diagnosed with Complex Regional Pain Syndrome at 12 years old, I had no idea what the future could look like. It felt like my life had been ripped out of the ground, roots and all, and thrown away. For years I was consumed by pain and controlled by medications and physical therapy appointments, succumbing to the demands of the health care world. But eventually, after a lot of hard work and trial and error, I found myself in a season of remission. I could walk again, return to school, and live a life of normalcy. In a life of illness and pain, there are distinguishable seasons of improvement or deterioration of the frail body and the fragile spirit. 

It felt like my life had been ripped out of the ground, roots and all, and thrown away.

At times, it felt like I was growing rapidly and blooming for all the world to see. While in remission, I was afforded an opportunity to live fully and freely, with my illness a mere afterthought. It seemed as if I was becoming the most beautiful version of myself, and I naively believed that nothing could change that. I would just continue on this upward trajectory of growth forever, until all thoughts of pain and illness were just specks of dirt beneath me. My confidence was high, my hope was abundant, and my growth was on an incline.

With a mentality like this, the changing of the seasons is always shocking and confusing. No one had ever told me that with remission comes the threat of relapse. I was completely caught off guard the day that I walked into school on my own two feet and left in a wheelchair just a few hours later. The pain was back, my muscles contorted, and my life was forever changed.  It’s as if you go to bed on the final warm night of summer and awaken to the first bitter freeze of winter, skipping the autumnal chill altogether. Everything freezes in time. Lungs tighten and you can see the puff of each tight breath in small clouds before you. This is the time to be dormant. All growth halts for a season, and petals fall to the earth below. It looks like death. It may even feel like death. All signs of the brilliant beauty of life silently fade away. 

I was completely caught off guard the day that I walked into school on my own two feet and left in a wheelchair just a few hours later.

With that initial relapse and each subsequent worsening of symptoms, it has felt as if my stem has been cut and all growth and progress has been lost. I fear that I will have to start over - to be replanted once again. In my trajectory of growth it has meant relearning how to walk several times, teaching my brain that touch is not a painful stimulus, and accepting all over again that suffering is never my fault and it’s okay to seek help. 

What else do we do in this season? When the joy and excitement of progress and new growth comes to an abrupt end? It feels heavy and dark. How does one survive? 

We dig deeper. We find our roots planted firmly below the surface in our hope and faith in God. It seems to be the perfect time to exist in a quiet stillness, in a forced focus on the source of life instead of distracted by the fleetingness of life, itself. Because sometimes relapse happens or pain worsens, and that steady upward trajectory of growth takes a sharp downhill turn. It's in those times that the substance of our roots will make the difference between spiritually surviving or dying.      

...relapse happens or pain worsens, and that steady upward trajectory of growth takes a sharp downhill turn. It’s in those times that the substance of our roots will make the difference between spiritually surviving or dying.

And then we gently remind ourselves that the outward growth may have paused for a moment, but the inward growth continues. This is merely a break for our hearts to be re-centered and prepared for future seasons of life; to be grown and stretched in new and different ways. It can be a reflective time to look back on what we have achieved and how far we have come. We can smile at the memories of how brilliant our colors were and how empowered we felt by our sweet nectar. We can (and should) express our gratitude to our Maker for His creativity and stability that allow us to become who we are. 

All the while, we wait. We sit in the dirt of life. Things get messy here. It’s easy to feel less than in this season - less pretty than others, less worthy than others, less bold, less loved. It is likely that there will be times when we are overwhelmed by the distraction of our withering leaves and the fraying threads that weave together our broken spirit. These are the times that we can only see the current destruction, and no current beauty at all. The thought of a growing future seems unrealistic and unattainable. 

But God is a perfect gardener. He tends to us daily and exceeds each and every one of our needs. He knows when our spirits have run dry and need refreshing. He knows when we feel stranded in the darkness of our circumstances and He shines light on our souls that never fades. His word is nourishing food for our spirits. 

What I am particularly grateful for is that He loves us in all of our forms. He rejoices and celebrates with us when we bloom big and beautiful, but He does the same when we wither and fade. He is never-changing and ever-constant through our ever-changing seasons of growth.

Growth is not linear. It was never designed to be an easy or straight path. Instead, it was created to challenge us and push us to new heights, while allowing for periods of rest and reset. It may look dark and bleak at times, but hope is never lost if we keep it rooted deeply in Jesus. 

We will one day bloom again.


Written by: Ally Zinsmeister

If you could earn a medical degree through patient experience and hours of watching Grey’s Anatomy, Ally would be a top-rated specialist. Yes, Ally’s our favorite kind of sick chick — she’ll order a lavender mocha, but she’s not above straight black coffee, her first (and only) post-surgical request is chicken nuggets, her idea of a good time is organizing (color-coding and alphabetizing, anyone?), and her go-to party trick is showing off her magnetic back (courtesy of her spinal cord stimulator)! But aside from all her sweet and relatable quirks, this Texas native is incredibly passionate about faith, advocacy, adoption (both dogs and someday children), and she even serves as an amazing leader on two of our volunteer teams! Through her own battle with Complex Regional Pain Syndrome, Ally keeps us all guessing what barrier she’ll overcome next, with the help of her service dog, Malibu, of course! One thing’s for sure — we all love our Ally.


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Madeline

If I were to ask you, “What gives you life?” what would come to mind? For me, I have always found sharing what brings me joy to be life-giving. Ever since I began pursuing one of my greatest joys, dance, I was fascinated by the way movement shares a story and conveys a message. Yet, I could not have predicted how my pursuit of dance would take shape in the future. As you sit there reading this, I’m sure we have unexpected life changes in common, and with that said, here’s how mine took a different turn. 

I’m sure we have unexpected life changes in common, and with that said, here’s how mine took a different turn.

In 2015 I moved to Florence, Italy to use my background in dance, art, and photography to connect with others and share about my faith in God. Italy was never a place I would have expected to live, but I loved it. Even more than the beauty of that country, I loved the deep connections that formed with others around me. Whether it was my roommates and I opening up our tiny apartment to large groups of college students until 1 o’clock in the morning, speaking about the day’s events with my neighbor and his children, or creating new choreography to surpass language barriers through dance, it was a rich season filled with incredible people. 

But only a few months after moving there, my energy seemed to be running low. My eyes started to grow dark while biking home. I would shake it off, thinking maybe I needed a better night’s sleep or should have had a little more to eat that day. I thought it was something I would get over and thought, “What’s the worst that can happen?”

Then the worst came — chronic appendicitis. It’s a condition that seems rather simple to diagnose, yet I found myself going to doctor after doctor and feeling like I was never going to find an answer. Too sick to fly back to America, in too much pain to walk out of my apartment, and praying for relief, I was tired of trying to communicate to the doctors in English or Italian! Nonetheless, I did finally have surgery and have since been told it was a miracle I even made it to the operating table. Not knowing what was ahead, I thought the worst part was over and recovery would be just fine. But things only got worse when an infection put me back in the hospital more sick than before. I was far from my home, poorly treated by medical professionals to say the least, and left with scarring memories. Struggling to even stand up on my own, I started to question, was this my life now? Would I ever share dance with another person? Or explore a new place? Yet I knew I wasn’t on my own in the midst of that hospital. Even though my strength was completely depleted, I knew I still had a long way to go towards any kind of recovery and I wouldn’t get there on my own. 

Struggling to even stand up on my own, I started to question, was this my life now? Would I ever share dance with another person?

Within twenty-four hours I was back in America with very few answers. The immobilizing pain followed me home, as did the traumatic flashbacks and culture shock. Even struggling to breathe became a daily ritual. Test after test, appointment after appointment, there were no answers to be found, and no one to take on my case. I started to wonder if the pain was all in my head and maybe there was a reason no answers were being found. I felt like I had better learn to accept my situation or find another way to health and recovery. So with what little strength I had left, and through the strength from my faith, family, and friends, I began to speak up for myself to regain my life.

It’s been two years since my second surgery, and even though the emotional, traumatic, and physical effects still linger, I’ve learned to listen to and care for this vessel of mine. To be wise about whose advice I take, even from a doctor. And while it can be challenging to explain my lifestyle changes to others like how I eat or manage my energy, these new habits and rhythms allow me to share some of my greatest joys in a new way.

When your dream is on hold, can you learn to let it take a new shape?

When your dream is on hold, can you learn to let it take a new shape? I do not think I will be dancing a full length ballet in my future, but I can train up others who have a desire to dance. Someone I've been able to confide in during these challenging years once asked me, “What if plan B was actually supposed to be plan A?” What if, as indescribably hard as my season of pain was and yours may be now, we respect our limitations and explore our abilities that often went unnoticed before the struggle?

In the field of dance there can be a combination or step that is very challenging at first. These moves can take time, practice, and a lot of patience. As a former student myself, I know this can be a frustrating experience. When you don’t see a clear outcome or progress we can feel tempted to give up. Yet it’s often in these times that we grow the most. When I see a student press into the struggle and not give up I feel a deeper sense of compassion. And when the step or combination turns out differently than it originally looked, we can choose to learn from the change and process. Do I want to relive the past few years of navigating my health? Certainly not. Am I grateful for a new outlook on life, even in the simple things like helping a student accomplish a combination? Definitely. 

When you don’t see a clear outcome or progress we can feel tempted to give up. Yet it’s often in these times that we grow the most.

Sharing this part of my life is far from easy for me, but I know that there are others out there who are looking for an ounce of encouragement. So I share my story with you in full vulnerability, but I also want to share my strength with you as well. My story may resonate with you in some way, but this life-giving strength comes from my faith in God. The truth is I struggled, just as you’ve struggled, but I wouldn’t be where I am today without Jesus. He gave his life as the ultimate sacrifice because he loves us so deeply. And when you have a relationship with Jesus and you can anchor your faith in God, you really do have a new strength and life to share with others.

...when you have a relationship with Jesus and you can anchor your faith in God, you really do have a new strength and life to share with others.

So I leave you again with this; what gives you life? Who gives you life? What inspires you that could also inspire others? In your own capacity, open up and share it! It may just give you some life in return as well.

Reader Note: In hearing about Madeline’s passion for dance, it only seems appropriate to share the video below from her season in Italy, around the time that her health began to decline. Madeline is the dancer in the middle for most of the piece. We hope this energizes your hope, no matter what your dreams look like or how they’re changing shape over time.

We're proud and honored to have the opportunity to share this short film created by our friends at Practical. They specialize in sharing stories through concept, commercial, and narrative films that speak to the heart of an issue. They’re an intentional, ambitious company, with a streak of generosity to allow us to share their work in this way. Shoutout to our new friends!


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Armwrestling with God

Armwrestling with God

I think I laughed out loud when the nurse on the phone told me I had to go to the emergency room. At 17 years old I felt fine, but my symptoms suggested otherwise. My unquenchable thirst, frequent urination, and mysterious twenty-pound weight loss did not seem too concerning when I was focused on graduating high school the next month. Still, I went to the ER, thinking of it all as an adventure. 

The "adventure" lost its luster and turned to shock when I was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes later that afternoon. The surprise of my new life-sentence was dulled by overwhelm and cluelessness — I knew nothing about diabetes and all of the medical phrases confused me. My body was broken and I needed to learn how to take care of myself. 

The doctors explained to me that I would essentially need to learn how to take over the role of my pancreas — a juggling act in which I would balance food and medicine. Suddenly my health depended on my ability to count carbohydrates and protein and calculate the right amount of insulin to give myself. That afternoon I had to get over my discomfort with needles when I gave myself my first injection of medicine — the beginning of my new normal. 

Control — that was the name of my new game. I needed to take control for the sake of my health. But taking over the role of an organ challenged my own perceptions of control and deeply impacted my relationship with God. During a time that I needed to grab onto my faith more than ever, I grabbed God’s hand only to begin an “armwrestling match.” 

During a time that I needed to grab onto my faith more than ever, I grabbed God’s hand only to begin an ‘armwrestling match.’

In my heart I wrestled with God especially in those early months and years following my diagnosis. I had trusted God before I was diagnosed. As a child I experienced Him as a constant and a comfort through each move around the United States as part of my father’s military career. Each location introduced unique challenges but also introduced new adventures, lessons, and memories. So as I faced my diagnosis, that was my mindset: this is just a new phase. Surely this illness has purpose. 

But the “shiny newness” of my mindset slowly faded away as doubts and frustrations kept coming. It faded to anger as I struggled with my body’s new balancing act. High blood sugars at dinner would sometimes swing dangerously low at two o’clock in the morning, leaving me crying in my bedroom while I drank a juice box in record speed. It faded to grief as I grieved the life I lost and the future I had previously imagined. So I tightened my grip and flexed my control in this armwrestling match with a God who I now believed had been careless with me. After all, I couldn’t see the purpose in this pain. 

It faded to grief as I grieved the life I lost and the future I had previously imagined.

In the months following my diagnosis, I started attending university with a faint, hesitant trust in God, and an ever-tightening grip of control. Chronic illness intensified the pressure of life, and it felt isolating to explain my illness to new friends who had no idea what my harsh, daily realities looked like. So amidst the pressures and unknowns, I tried to control my blood glucose levels perfectly, which is nearly impossible. I tried to control everything outside of the illness. I kept careful control of my calendar, and filled it to the brim with classes and events. If I couldn’t keep my blood glucose levels balanced, I could at least control what I did, where I went, and who I spoke to. I took ownership of my illness begrudgingly, and in the process, I pushed God aside in this area of my life, and struggled to figure out where I stood in my faith. 

Yet over the course of time, my strength was waning and the false grip of control I thought I had was slipping. Looking back on old journal entries, the pages are filled with loneliness and frustration as I struggled with learning how to take care of my illness and how to be a college student. One entry reads, “I’m exhausted. I’m tired of being strong all the time but I know that no one else can take care of me.” Those words came from wrestling with control and the frustration of isolation. I was angry with God, armwrestling with Him about the purpose of my illness, and my faith had remained barely an afterthought on the back-burner. As I came to terms with that frustration, I slowly began to look back to my faith for rest and strength.

While I had been armwrestling with God and struggling on my own, God had been trying to take my hand and assure me that this pain had purpose.

While I had been armwrestling with God and struggling on my own, God had been trying to take my hand and assure me that this pain had purpose. My diagnosis, along with everything else in my life, was a part of His grand and specific plan for me. This assurance came through family and friends who were willing to help and learn, even if they could not fully understand. Assurance came through worship and learning about God’s character and who He truly is. Support and encouragement came through my small group Bible study and in online communities, including People Hope. My faith slowly rekindled as I came to terms with my anger and grief and then surrendered them to God. I thought I was the only one who could take care of myself, but I learned that others could help. More importantly, I learned that God cared for me. Through this time of wrestling, I learned I could trust Him in all things and that I did not have to rely on myself for worth or control. 

That assurance changed everything and continues to impact me as I write this now after four years of living with my diagnosis. I can look back at those initial hardships and appreciate how they have prepared me for future challenges. My family, friends, and faith sustain me in the difficult moments that I still experience. Faith in a loving God, especially in this life with chronic illness, has the power to transform struggles into celebration. I couldn’t see it for a time, but there truly is incredible purpose for this pain. 

This much I know for sure — there is no sense in armwrestling with a God who is simply trying to gently lead you by the hand into the most purposeful, unique plan for your life. 

This much I know for sure — there is no sense in armwrestling with a God who is simply trying to gently lead you by the hand into the most purposeful, unique plan for your life. 

Releasing control and simply holding His hand rather than gripping it for a struggle is not always easy, but it truly is a hopeful act. Hope in God gives us the freedom to let go of these false grips of control we have in the unhealthy areas of our lives so that God can have control over our unique, grand stories. For me, it was a relief to turn back to God and fully know and feel that He had always been in control of my story. I didn’t need to cling to my own sense of control - I could trust in God’s control and continue to have hope in every high and low. 

Hope is stronger than shame, more ferocious than anger, more consistent than confusion, and more abiding than heartache. Hope is sweeter than control. Where in the world did I get the idea that I could win an armwrestling match against God anyway? 


Written by: Stephanie Hudak

If you love cozying up in your favorite blanket with a good book, Stephanie might just be your long-lost best friend. Not only is she a vibrant member of our Tribe, she also works with the USO helping to serve thousands of military members and their families, and she’s passionate about all people having access to insulin! We’re proud to share her beautiful insights, but we’re also proud to learn that her coffee order is a cappuccino in her favorite travel mug, that she played trumpet for 11 years, that Cuban sandwiches are her jam, and that she dreams about writing a book someday. Yeah, Stephanie’s our kind of girl.


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People Hope is 100% donor-funded by people just like you, and we need your help to keep publishing hope-giving resources like this one! You can make a gift right now, or even sign up to join our Core Team of monthly supporters for as little as $10/month!

Ask Us Anything: Relationships with Chronic Illness Part II

Ask Us Anything: Relationships with Chronic Illness — Part II

Dating, marriage, and relationships with chronic illness...let's talk about it! Hear from our Founder, Anna, and her husband, Randy, as they open up about what they've learned through their relationship. Hear from both perspectives — healthy and chronically ill — about your most frequently asked questions! They're sharing their wins and losses, ups and downs, and what has worked (or not) in their relationship, all while answering questions YOU submitted! 

Did you miss Part I?!

Be sure to check it out for even more laughs and questions answered!


About our Fave Couple: Anna & Randy Kowlessar

What can we say about these two?! Anna is our fearless leader, the Founder of People Hope, and your ever-relatable, chronically ill pal. Randy, a marketing, branding, and design expert, is the entrepreneurial wiz behind his company, Hello Randy. Is “power couple” too strong a phrase? What you really need to know about these two is that they really are best buddies. Their strong, foundational friendship is evident from the first moment you meet them, and their bond is one-of-a-kind. A core value in their marriage is to “leave people better than you find them,” and it certainly shows in the way they cheer for and champion others.


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Disclaimer: The content in this video is reflective of Anna and Randy’s personal opinions and experiences, and should not be taken as professional counsel. While they’re sharing what has worked in their specific relationship, every relationship is different. We highly recommend seeking out professional counseling from trained and qualified therapists if you’re in need of personal counsel and/or relationship guidance.