4/25/2012 11:52 AM
By Jon Ritchings, Jr.
I think of everything around us as a tool. As part of the CHD community, I know that technology is definitely a tool. Technology has allowed us access to new surgical techniques and devices that have allowed many of us to live longer, more productive lives.
Experience is also a tool. Simple trial and error has answered many questions for my generation and the ones that are coming up now.
But what about our own personal tools? The ones we can use to make our lives better on a daily basis? For me, these sort of fall into two categories: Things that help me physically and things that help me mentally. I think all the tools I am going to discuss actually fall into both categories, but I tend to compartmentalize and always have. We each have our own personal set of tools that help us cope with life.
The big tool that helps physically is of course to some an eight letter swear word—exercise. For me, it's a lot of walking and some yoga. I try to do one or both every day. I think that by tiring out the body I sleep much better at night as well as keep the heart muscle in shape—or make them even better. Exercise is an important tool we should all be using to help us fight our defects.
Another physical tool is massage or acupuncture (although I don't know too much about acupuncture, I have heard many good things about it). I do know a little about massage, though. My regular hospital offers it as a free service when you’re a patient. I always take advantage of this. It is super relaxing and afterwards you feel invigorated and ready to face things. Often it is the only thing, not counting drugs, that helps me sleep.
The mental stuff is a little more ethereal. I think that the tools that work are different for each of us. Part of that is due to our personal lives and experiences. For some, prayer may help to center them and help to elevate their mood. For others, it might be meditation. I fall into the latter group.
I find that meditating really helps me sort of get my head on straight and to see the up side of a situation. Also, I find that keeping busy helps. I have a lot of hobbies, especially photography. It can take up a lot of time. Not only the actual taking of pictures, but the post-processing. Keeping your mind busy with things you enjoy is a great tool to help you climb out of a slump. What I'm saying is, find something that you enjoy doing and make it a point to do it as often as possible.
The last thing that really seems to help mentally is to talk about things that are bothering you. This can be with a professional or a friend—either one. I tend to talk to friends about things. It works well for me. I usually know what I'm going to do about a problem already, but getting things out and letting that anger, frustration and fear go is important. Holding it in just causes stress.
I hope that by seeing what tools I use to deal with my life it has helped you to figure out what will work for you in your life.
Jon Ritchings, Jr., is a 40-year-old father who was born with pulmonary atresia and hypoplastic right heart syndrome. Although he has made a career in retail, he prefers to be outdoors kayaking and taking photos. Jon likes to draw inspiration from quotes and one of his current favorites is from Lao Tzu: “I have just three things to teach: simplicity, patience, compassion. These three are your greatest treasures.”
1 comment(s) so far...
By Amy on
5/9/2012 2:26 PM
Re: My Personal Set of Tools
Thanks, Jon. I really appreciate this. I have found that yoga and walking are the two forms of exercise I can do consistently, and I have also found meditation to be an incredibly important tool. I receive regular acupuncture treatments to manage the crazy rhythms (especially tachycardia) that developed in association with my TGV surgeries. I use it in conjunction with my EP and cardiologist, never instead, but I have never had an ICD shock and I plan to use all of the tools you listed to prevent it from happening as best I can.