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How to Find Smiles

By Karin Gelschus

Positive Note

I’ve gone from having a fully functioning, half-marathon running body to wondering what else is left to go wrong. When I first was diagnosed with Systemic lupus erythematosus, the disease and its inhibitors consumed my every thought. I figured I’d become more positive over time, but instead, I found myself growing more depressed as my symptoms persisted. Looking for anything to turn my gloomy thoughts around, my best friend offered to attend a support group with me. Unfortunately I left feeling discouraged and even more depressed after talking about all the bad things that accompany a chronic illness. It was too much for me. I had too long of a life left to spend my days focusing on the unfairness of it all.

How could I not let this get me down?

I started to leave post-it notes of encouraging words and inspirational quotes around my house. A sticky note on my alarm says, “You’ll feel better once you get moving.” In my gym bag a note reads, “Fight like a girl!” On my bed frame, “Sanctuary.”

As I did it longer, I became a little more creative. The coffee pot reads, “Caffeine is your new best friend, enjoy!”  In permanent black marker, the bottom of my pill box says, “We make you feel better.” These notes put brief smiles on my face and refocus my thinking to positive thoughts.

It’s unrealistic to think it’s possible to be positive and happy all the time. There are moments when the frustrations of being tired and sore get the better of me. One morning I read the note on my alarm and whipped it across the room. Despite the shooting pain up my arm, I smiled. It felt good to lose it for a moment. I realized I’ll have moments of complete and utter frustration, sadness, anger, and helplessness all at the same time, but that’s all those moments will be – brief and temporary. They will never again consume my thoughts because I don’t let them. I refuse.

In the midst of pain, fatigue, and drugs, it can be hard to scrape together optimistic thoughts, so ask your family and friends for help. They are full of positivity, warmth and love. Whether it’s post-it notes, tea breaks, or something else, find your smiles throughout the day. It can make an obnoxious alarm clock a little less annoying.

Everyone has their own way to stay positive and get themselves out of a slump, like this story from Beth, a cancer survivor who was determined to have a positive influence on her physical, spiritual, mental and emotional healing.

How do you stay positive? Share your tips and stories in the comments below.

Karin Gelschus was diagnosed with lupus at 23. She currently works as an interactive marketing specialist at CaringBridge, a nonprofit providing personal websites that connect people experiencing a health challenge to their family and friends.

Photo: iStockphoto

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