Welcome back to another episode of The pyjama interviews. I'm your host, Michelle Irving. And this is a podcast for intelligent, talented and creative women living with chronic illness. I'm absolutely delighted to share this conversation with Lauren Selfridge, a San Francisco based therapist and a woman living with Ms. This interview is all about career, the conversations we have in clinicians office about our boundaries, and taking care of our own physical well being. This week is also a very special week, in these first couple of weeks of October 2021, you can book a complimentary consultation with me for a very short period of time. So just listen at the end, and you'll get the details. Now, let's dive in with Lauren. Thank you, Lauren, so much for joining us. I want to share with everybody that Lauren's a therapist in San Francisco, and I came across her through her great podcast, this is not what I ordered. Her work is beautiful, and luminous. And I'm really delighted that you've taken the time to speak with me today so that we can share with all the women experiencing serious illness and chronic illness, the love joy and wisdom that you have, and that we can move forward together. So welcome, Lauren.
It's so lovely and amazing to meet you. And I remember the first time I laid eyes on your work and your website, I just felt this sigh of relief like, Ah, she's on this earth doing what she's doing. And I'm so grateful. And just your way is so important. And I feel a lot of resonance with how you treat illness on a spiritual level.
Thank you so much this is going to be I'm really excited to have this discussion. So in order to just share with the audience, what condition Are you living with and how is the diagnosis process for you.
I live with relapsing remitting multiple sclerosis, I had to think of what the words were because there are different ways to talk about Ms. And I know that if you go for a while without a relapse, you could just have some people call it remitting Multiple Sclerosis which is a much more attractive name to me. And I've been living with it for about six years.
And so what does it mean remitting or relapsing? Can you explain a little about what that is for a
soul? Sure. So relapsing is when symptoms or Brain and Spine lesions increase. And remission is when there's a dissipation of symptoms. And at least for me, the way that I define it is my level of ability and my level of feeling like quote, unquote, my old self. And that's really different for different people with MS. Because baseline ability can change over time. So there can be periods of relapse periods of remission, some people move into a different diagnosis called progressive or secondary progressive, multiple sclerosis. It is a mysterious disease, we're not sure what causes it. We don't have a cure for it. We have different treatments. But it is unpredictable to some extent. And every person with Ms has different experiences of symptoms, because the different places where the lesions show up on the brain and the spine could impact a whole other part of the body. So while some people have numbness some never do. Some people have brain fog, so never do. There's so many different ways that it shows up.
And what was your process or experience up to diagnosis.
I woke up one morning with a really significant symptom that was bizarre to me, I found that when I put my feet on the ground, one could feel the cool of the floor, and the other felt warm. And I thought my foot had fallen asleep. And I've actually since found other people with almost the exact same story and got so excited because I was like, Oh my gosh, I'm not the only one who had this first symptom. And so what I thought was this fallen asleep foot never woke back up. At least not for that day, not for that week, and even months went by The numbness increased, shifted to my other foot went up my leg into my mid torso. And we couldn't figure out at first what it was I went to a neurologist who did not specialise in multiple sclerosis at first. And she told me that I had a stress condition.
Ah, wow, hear, you know,
we hear that, you know, certainly stress can impact our bodies, but a lot of us hear this story of, maybe it is not something medical, maybe it's this, you know, you just have stress showing up. And something deeper in me said, This can't be I mean, I'm not that stressed out, this can't be that. And I went started scheduling with all these other types of practitioners. And it wasn't until I was lying on the table in an acupuncturists office, who was giving me incredible personal attention. And she noticed that I didn't feel any sensation when she was putting the needles in certain parts of my back. And she thought it was really weird, because I was, I'm pretty sensitive. So I wasn't ready to say Ouch, on the side of my back where I did have sensation, and on the other side, nothing. So she actually called a colleague in the room with me, spoke with him. And the two of them said, Lauren, you need to demand a brain, and C spine MRI, because at that point, they'd only ordered lower spine MRIs. And the C spine is where most lesions show up for multiple sclerosis and the brain. And so once those MRIs were ordered by my primary care doctor, we discovered all these lesions, and it's in thank goodness, because it was many months of not having a diagnosis and not having any treatment. And I know for some people, it's a years before they get answers, if they ever do get answers.
What this really reminds me is this dramatic conversation about Western medicine, and Eastern and alternative medicine. And one of the things that I'm really interested in is when we don't have a diagnosis or things feel difficult with medication, etc, we naturally go to think about alternative medicine. And sometimes that journey can work and sometimes that can actually get super complex for people. So I'm really curious about how did you work out or make some discernment? about who to go see? And what were some of the things that you were like, okay, that does not work. For me.
You know, most of my gut feelings about that does not work for me came from Western medicine. I had already been seeing an acupuncturist. And so it was someone that I trusted. And I had, you know, I had gone to like an eye doctor because I had a vision spot, but it showed up as part of my symptoms, and couldn't find anything there. And it wasn't until one of my doctors started talking about a test that sounded really painful, which a lot of people go through where they stick a needle in your muscle and they send an electric current in there. And then they do this test to see if your foot can feel sharp pain, and I wasn't quite sure how it worked, but I knew I wasn't very interested in it. And and then when I finally transferred to the Multiple Sclerosis clinic, at one of the major research hospitals, the doctor who I first saw recommended that I get a lumbar puncture, which is also known as a spinal tap, which is a pretty significant procedure. And I've heard stories anywhere from I felt no pain, I was fine, too. I've heard stories of people having complications and serious things happening. I don't want to go into it. But I knew that there was a range of possibilities. And I was lucky to have a mom who told me and she taught me this from very young, that I'm in charge of my body that I get to decide even when the fancy knowledgeable doctors are telling me get this test and get that test and take this med I knew more deeply that I got to decide now, I was open to the possibility of these different tests. But what I tried was just pushing back a little bit. And what I found was, they just said, okay, and I thought if this wasn't something that you were In a fight for why were you suggesting that I should do it. And by the way with MS, it is a standard test to get a lumbar puncture and to examine the fluid in the spine, and to get this definitive answer. But with my lesions, the MRI imaging all of that they had what they needed, they tested my blood, they ruled out other conditions. And they they had what they needed to diagnose me with Ms. So I'm grateful for that. And I'm not saying I'm against these tests, but I am sensitive. I'm a person who gets really deeply impacted by what happens to my body. And I think a lot of us are. And so I'm not sure if this is exactly answering your question about Eastern and Western medicine. But I can say that it is very much about my gut, and having collaborative conversations where I do kind of put my foot down a little bit and say, wait a minute, do I have to do this? Is it that important. And in the long run, it just turned out that I didn't have to get this lumbar puncture.
It's super interesting, because I call them badass boundaries. And we have, if you don't have them, when you get diagnosed, or in your symptoms, you will get them. Like that's what illness will bring to you. It will bring you boundaries.
I love that. Yeah, it's one of the blessings really. And for me, it what it turned out to be was just like, especially with my fatigue, one of the badass boundaries that I experienced was learning that I just didn't have energy to do stuff that didn't fill me up. I just didn't have the energy for it now. Wouldn't it have been cool if I discovered that before? MSX? Well, my body, you know, kind of got in the way of me doing stuff that wasn't meaningful to me. So I actually wound up developing boundaries and preferences more clearly. Because it just didn't have the energy for what wasn't important.
It's super exciting to hear it. And it's the clarity that comes with illness as well. One of the things I'm really hearing in you is that a lot more clarity started to land in your life about what you want him to do. That's what I'm hearing underneath this conversation. Is that true?
It's so true. And I I love that you're saying that, and it's so exciting to talk to you because I'm usually on the other end of the conversation and the interviews. And, and it's it's just it's fun. I love talking to people with chronic illness because there is this clarity that comes. And it's not, of course, we know it's not the illness that bestows upon us these gifts. It's our response to the illness. It's our engagement. It's like we're, you know, to put it in a pretty metaphor, we're dancing with life, we're dancing with a circumstance that we did not invite into our lives. But there is clarity that comes when we only have the bandwidth for so much. We don't have endless energy and time and emotional bandwidth to spend on things. And so the clarity that shows up is like, Oh, I guess I want to slow down in my life. Oh, I like having shallow conversations with people. It's just not fun for me. Or I want to be outdoors more and I didn't realise that because I was giving my energy to stuff without really paying attention to what I wanted and needed.
Yeah, I think that the process of refining with your body, what works for you and your body and emotionally it's it can be an intense journey. Like it's not like this is without pain or without suffering. But the pain and the suffering can be utilised to make decisions and choices about what were some of the big decisions, if any you made in your career or in your relationships, or simply as you're talking about where you want to spend your time.
Over the course of you know, just being a human and being a human with villainous eye, there were some quick decisions that I made like I remember walking into the office of my then supervisor and the organisation that I worked in during the day because I also worked at night at a counselling clinic. And I said, you know I had this high, like probably Yeah, definitely the highest organisational position it ever had. And it was a temporary position because the person before me had left And I was sort of the interim. And I walked into his office and I said, I don't want to do this long term because there was a question about whether or not I'd want this position for myself. And I just knew I didn't. And so I just walked into his office. I mean, it was, you know, we had a meeting planned. But I brought some clarity with me into that meeting. And it was actually really helpful for him too, because then he got to move forward with the process of a search. And I got to feel the relief of knowing I didn't have to deal with this new diagnosis while planning out a career, as you know, having two jobs and a huge responsibility at work. And so I got to let go eventually, of the entire first job, because I was training to be a therapist and was finally working with clients. And so one day I actually said, I'm ready to just work with clients and my therapy practice. And oh, my goodness, that was a dream that I had had for many years, at that point, for five years. And so it was really exciting. to just give myself the peace of having a flexible work schedule, I get to choose my hours, I could choose when I would nap, I would and eventually realise that working with clients online was really effective, even though at first I was like, is it can it be as good of a connection therapeutically. But I found that when I shifted to working online, this was another kind of piece of clarity that came was, oh, my goodness, there's still deep connection that's possible. I don't have to travel and use my spoons of energy for travelling and scheduling more naps during my clinical days, I can nap at home in between. and I didn't need as many more naps, because I wasn't travelling. And my clients really appreciated it, they'd introduce me to their cats and dogs, and show me their room or show me their porch or whatever. And we'd have these really intimate therapy sessions. And that's what enabled me to start being location independent, which I think anyone with chronic illness understands. When we have to rally our bodies to be in a particular place, it puts a lot of pressure on workwise, because that's how we're making money. So being able to work from wherever my laptop is, has been a huge transition for me. So when I look back at like having two jobs, or it had to be in person all the time and look, and now I don't have to be anywhere in particular. It's it's incredible that the shift.
Yeah, I think that that's while the rest of the world's catching up. I worked from home, I worked part time in an office for a long period of time. But I ended up having to work from home just medically, because it wasn't possible to structure myself up and then hop on a tram or hop in a cab and go to work. And I found in that process, there's the difficulty of the conversations with colleagues. So in your transition to full time therapy, did you experience talking to colleagues and how did you manage those conversations about what you did and didn't share?
It is tricky. And I think I noticed that I felt differently about different people and in different organisations. So like there was my day job. And then there was my clinical job. And I really had to check in with how much do I want people to know and why. Because as much as I believe in the D stigmatising of illness, and actually the normalisation of the fact that most people have some kind of health challenge. And it's not actually a big deal in terms of, you know, saying that there's a problem or that it's abnormal, it's actually really common. So in some ways, I just feel it's fine, you know, just tell people, but then in other ways, it's a personal decision. Because even if we don't think that illness should be stigmatised, it doesn't mean that we necessarily want to be the advocate, or you know, like, if you're already dealing with a whole bunch of symptoms or big medical decisions, you might not want to be having deep conversations with people about what your current situation is. So I chose a few people that I trusted both in and outside of my two different jobs. And over time, decided I think it was two plus years into living with Ms. That I was ready to talk to my clients about it now. I didn't give them speeches or anything but I started just mentioning it when it came out that people had questions. Or if I could relate to something. And I noticed that it actually increased the intimacy. And I think it helped people to feel more normal, because plenty of people have stuff happened with their bodies, whether it's short term or long term. And I think there are also different kinds of conversations people, colleagues especially would have around being not in person for the therapy sessions. And so I think really, it was just looking at therapy is traditionally done in a room. And being willing to say, yes, it is traditionally done in a room. And it's not the only way, and to maybe feel a little bit alone, or unusual, and my approach, but as we can see, fast forward to now we're all online, we're all quite used to it.
I think this is really important, because one of the things about the experience of illness is you do often need mental health support, because it's a load emotionally, and it's also a load cognitively to work it out. So then you have a bit of trial and error, or you're looking for somebody who can help. And in many ways that conversation you had with the medical community about it, stress can also turn up in the therapeutic relationship, about trying to de stress, the experience of illness, which, if somebody doesn't know the experience, you just end up trying to justify and explain why you're stressed. So I'm wondering if you can share with us either some of the things that are important to you, in the relationship with the client, and also how to find a therapist,
I think it's a really good point about there can be a for folks who don't quite understand illness from the inside and from their personal experience, or if they don't have someone close to them, who lives with a chronic condition. There can be all kinds of assumptions. And and I think it is important to make the distinction between minimising someone's experience and kind of just chalking it up to a perception issue, or a spiritual deficiency, which we know that's not what illness is, it's a biological reality. And there's science there. And then also, we know that there's a mind body connection. So we know that our thoughts impact our bodies, and, and in mainly ways like, if I have a frightening dream, my heart rate will increase. Or if I think about a beautiful peaceful place, my nervous system will start to regulate. So it's really important to know the distinction between the two. And working with clients. I'm really I love validating when they're going through the emotional stress of having illness, when they're going through, you know that the decisions that have to be made the finding a new narrative about their lives, it can be overwhelming. And so I love validating how stressful it can be. And those of us with chronic illness know that we need to prioritise our peace more than maybe the average person. So a lot of the work that I do with clients and my therapy practice is around evaluating, like what's going on in your life that's filling you up, and what's going on in your life that's draining you. Because as our stress decreases, often we find that it's, it's just more manageable, our conditions can improve. But that's not the immune if we're doing if you could meditate and sit on a lotus and like be in the rays of sun 24, seven and still have an illness. It's not like that's just gonna solve everything. But when we do prioritise our piece, it can have such an important, huge impact. So your next question was about how do you find a therapist or what's important? Yeah,
yeah, I think that I mean, what you're describing is exactly what I work with clients around and it's to the letter, what's draining you? What's nourishing you like those two questions in any circumstance, or the way that you really tune into yourself. And one of the things that I know about you is, and this is fantastic for everyone to know, on your website, you actually have a list a directory of therapists as well. And I'm wondering, yes, if you will share with us. What are your tips for finding a therapist and what do you think's important?
My first tip is to almost treat therapy like you're dating. And what I mean by that is not that it's a romantic relationship, but more that when you date someone you're finding And if you want to spend more time with them, and with therapy, I think sometimes we can look at it the way that we do. And we're assigned a doctor, which is, well, I guess this is my doctor now. And I actually believe in doing this with the medical team, as well as if you don't like a doctor, if you can switch, go for it. And the same is true for therapy. So most therapists will offer a 15 minute or 20 or more conversation for free, that you can use to talk to them and kind of get a feel for what their personalities are like. And it's really important, I think, personally, I think even more important than whether or not the therapist has experience with chronic illness, is whether or not their personality is one that you want to spend time with, like an hour a week. Is this somebody who you can laugh with? If that's important to you? Is this somebody who you can be real with is as someone who you're going to feel welcomed and accepted with? And is it somebody who you feel will give you challenge if you need it and and speak up and say, hey, maybe that's a pattern that keeps repeating How can we step out of that pattern. So it may take more than that conversation, it may take a few sessions to decide if you want to continue. And I always tell this to people who call me to see if we can work together is we can do a session, but it's not a commitment to working with me forever, because you that's a personal decision, you get to decide. And then the other thing is, the reason I have that directory of therapists who specialise in health challenges and chronic illness, is because I think it helps a lot of us skip the process of having to vet everyone and say, does this person get it? If you want to visit that directory, I think you're probably going to put the link somewhere but it's Lauren Selfridge comm slash directory. And the other thing is, I found some of the therapists that I tried at the very beginning of my diagnosis who specialised I just didn't find where a great personality fit. And then I wound up finding another therapist who didn't bill herself as a chronic illness therapist, but she actually did have experience with it. But I found out after we met, and she's just a great fit for me. And so I'm, I've been seeing my therapist for years, and it's a lifelong self care practice that I just think is so helpful if you have any kind of health challenge.
I think there can be times and seasons for therapists and different modalities as well. And as you come into diagnosis, and then you sort of get into ongoing treatment, ongoing management. There's always that choice about who's travelling with you at which time. Yeah, I found that that's really important to know, because with specialists and doctors, yes, you can make new choices. But there's also a part where you're on a treatment path. And I think that can get a bit muddy, what are your thoughts about that?
Yeah, in terms of my thoughts on when to continue therapy, and when to
Yeah, and when maybe even to take a break. Because therapy's intense and living with chronic illness, I think it's important to have someone to talk to, but I think we don't often talk about how you get under your own steam, or you might want to take a course. So you might want to do creative writing or other things potentially with your financial energy as well as your emotional energy?
That's a great question. And I think it really depends on the individual and the therapist. So some therapists are really strict about if you want to see me, you got to come once a week. And then if you can't come once a week, then we need to end our work together. And that's okay. And for some clients, they want to come less frequently, like some of the clients I see will come weekly, and then some will come every other week. And then once we built a foundation, some will say let's move to an ad hoc model, and I'll call you when I want to see you. And that works for me personally as a therapist, because I find people have different, like you just said different themes and seasons and places they want to put their energy. But there's also the the idea of considering as a client, that you get to ask for what you want and need in the sessions. So for example, I'll just say as a client, I have actually spent time in therapy talking about business stuff. Like Where do I want to go next to my business because my therapist is someone I can trust with that. And there have been times when I didn't want to explore the depths of my Emotions around childhood history or, you know, even talk about my chronic illness. I've wanted to talk about how to have more joy in my life. And so I feel really supported in that. And I think it's also good to use therapy, how you want to use it when you want to use it so that you're getting what you need. And kind of I think of therapy is like you've got someone to conspire with to build the life that you want. And if that means taking a break, then that's absolutely wonderful.
Yeah, I think that's a conversation we don't often talk about. And I love what you said about using therapy for what works for you. So one of the things I'm aware of is that you're living with chronic illness at varying degrees, and you've really entrepreneurially crafted your own path long before being online was an option and an idea. To Can you talk to us about what it's been like for you to find that confidence and make those steps to creating work that works for you and your body?
Yeah, thinking outside the box is really important when we live with chronic illness, whether it's around work or relationships, or having fun, I think a lot of adapting is about finding sort of relentless commitment to your needs, and then having creativity around how to meet them. So for me, I knew I didn't want to give up being a therapist, if something happened, where my mobility changed, or my energy levels decreased even more. And I wanted to find a way to feel really solid about being able to offer therapy no matter what, and so with, you know, moving to online, that really has given me a lot of freedom to feel like my body is not going to get in the way of and when I say my body, what I mean is the circumstances of my body aren't going to get in the way of getting to an office if I need to. And the same is true of of the fact that, you know, I wanted to start a podcast. And I've also started a consulting business working with people one on one who want to have more joy in their lives and focus in on fulfilment. And my feeling is the more people that I can impact from my living room, the better. And so the podcast was another example of wanting to have meaningful conversations. Because I much prefer to do things in connection versus alone, I just work better and more generative in relationship. And so I said, I want to do something that's going to fill me up that will impact the world positively outside of just offering therapy. And I knew that the most fun way for me to do that would be in conversation. So I started the podcast, this is not what I ordered to focus on people's journeys, kind of like what you're doing, and understanding how our relationships with ourselves can deepen. And, and, and transform through the process of living with a health challenge. So really, it's been about focusing on what I like, and what fills me up and also making it portable and something that I can do from home.
And what about the courage to go out and trust yourself to create something like, what did you go get business help support? Or how did how did you make it safe enough to give it a go?
Yeah, it was a combination of finding examples of others who had done something inspiring, like that before, and also hiring business consultants to help me understand what direction I was going in, and to know what steps needed to be taken to make it happen. And also surrounding myself with people who believed in me, really helped. And that doesn't mean everybody in my life has to be behind a certain idea. It's really just having a few people, whether they're mentors or friends or your therapist or family member, who are people who are cheering you on. And the other piece to that was, there was only so much safety I could feel because at the end of the day, it's a risk to have anything go public. You know, people are gonna have opinions about it. Some people are gonna love it, some people are gonna hate it everywhere in between. And so one of my fears was that, you know, people would just think I was ridiculous and make fun of me for telling my story. And I decided that my courageous response to that stressful thought. was, well, if they didn't like that episode, then they're really gonna have a lot to work with, because I'm going to keep putting more out and just let them enjoy making in front of me. And it was my way of making myself bigger than that kind of circumstance and saying, I'm, I'm as expansive and multifaceted as all the stars in the sky. And there's nothing that could take away from that even if only one person likes my podcast and a million hate it. That's okay. You know, I'm doing this because I have it to give, I'm not doing it because I need to have a particular impact on every single person, but sort of relinquishing other people's opinions, and enough to just speak truthfully, was really important. And I make mistakes all the time. And I say weird stuff. And I make jokes that aren't funny sometimes. And, you know, that's part of being awkward and human. And if we let that stand in our way from sharing our gifts with the world, then people don't get to benefit from knowing us.
I think this is so important, because when you're living with chronic illness, particularly in those times where you can can't get out of bed, or you can barely find the energy. There can be this thought and sense of there's nothing left, it's over, I've got nothing to give, and the people around you can try and be helpful in a way that makes you feel more infantilized or trying to tell you what to do. And what you're talking about is finding that path towards doing what's in your heart. Even if it's one small step, not that that will bring you energy and joy. And you don't need to sit in the dark. Simply because you're whacked on one day, you can find the energy on the next day or just the thought to move forward.
I love those words, I almost feel like I want that to be a sound clip of you saying that we can all just press play whenever we need it. Because I think even if you think about whoever it is, in your mind, who is the most successful, or the most prolific or the biggest, best whatever. Those people still have self doubt, they still have days where they feel overwhelmed, or like they can't go on. I really believe that. And I haven't spoken to every human in the universe. But I really believe that there is a common sense of fear and limitation that can show up in any of us, doesn't matter how long you've been meditating. It doesn't matter how well studied you are on the art of whatever it is that you're doing. But when we experience our own response to that as a yes. And we say like, yes, I'm going to give myself permission to feel this feeling of overwhelm. Suddenly, it's not as much of an enemy band. And I and I also heard what you said about you know, sometimes we feel down and the people around us kind of want to make it better or treat us like we don't have agency. And I think there's a lot of magic that can happen when we're you know, the seed that's planted in the soil that feels like it's surrounded in darkness, like being in the darkness is still useful. It's you're still learning, you're still experiencing. And as the little seed cracks open and us a little sprout starts to come above the surface of the earth. Sometimes we get a chance to start sharing about what it was like when we were just surrounded in soil, right. But when we try to rush it, that's also that can also be problematic. And I don't know if you're referring to like, sometimes people will try and push us like, Oh, just be happy, just feel fine, right? Like just have a good attitude. It's like, Well, you know, I'm a big fan of having a good attitude. But part of that is having an attitude of welcoming, you know, towards what's here versus trying to pretend or what you know, like trying to push ourselves to feel something that we're not feeling in a given moment. So yeah, having a podcast isn't the only way to like live right? There are times where I've taken long breaks from the podcast and said like I can't right now. And that's okay.
I really love this discussion that we're having because there's so much juice in it and the darkness. For me what I work with is the myth of Persephone a because I think it's fantastic as a Greek myth for chronic illness because she descends as a maiden down to Hades in the underworld and actually becomes the queen of the underworld, and then rises back up in her sovereignty and agency to the overwhelm. And while metaphorically she's the cycle of winter and spring, to me, she's also the psychologic map for living with chronic illness.
I got so many chills as you were saying that, yes. That sounds just about right. And, and learning to be in the darkness and knowing that there's a special power unlike any other that comes from that. And that you cannot recreate. It's either you either get the opportunity or you're not in the opportunity. But it's it can't be manufactured it must be lived through. And it's it is that's what you refer to in your work as the gifts like one of the transformative gifts of living with illness. How has
illness changed your relationships, like in your personal world and your personal life? Has it been easy or is it really brought some challenges for you?
Overall, I think it's been something that like with anything vulnerable, where we're imperfect, and we're new, like, for me, chronic illness has always felt new, because it's only been six years. I'm not a master of it. But sharing that vulnerability with other people has brought us closer together. And it's also shown me which people aren't quite getting it, you know, like some people will just project onto me, most people don't, but some people do in a way that doesn't feel good. And I either have a chance to tell them what would feel better. Or see how they respond to that or, and say I don't really want this person in my life. But I find that the type of people I want to hang out with anyway, are the folks who want to have these deep, rich conversations about the imperfections of life. And so, for me, I feel like I have way more friends now, because of the chronic illness community who get it. And just lovely people who even if they don't have chronic illness are are here for it and want to be on the adventure with me.
There's something powerful, I think, too, about a partner being in relationship with you and seeing the reality behind the sort of curtains of what is the psychological journey where the distress actually is where the confusion is? Has that been something that you've explored or something you felt in your own relationship?
Yeah, I would say, you know, even with somebody who's the closest to you, I think most people can relate to that. Still, I'm the only one living in my body, but I feel so able to be honest and real about my needs with my partner. And, and part of that is just because it's the relationship that we've built since the beginning, you know, I revealed Ms. Like right from the beginning, it's, it's a lot easier to do when you have a podcast about chronic illness. Just stay here, go listen to this. But there's there is an intimacy to like having a real circumstance like, oh, now we need to figure out how to proceed with the day or with the month given that we had these plans. But it looks like energy is this way, or we have to make time for the hospital, you know, infusion where I get my medication, and it's just, it's inconvenient. You know, but it's important to make the distinction between me and the MS. Because I'm not the inconvenience. You know, and, and I know that in my partnership, we identify that it's like a circumstance that we're both dealing with, and it impacts us differently. But that you know, it, it is annoying, to say the very least.
Yeah, I think that's really beautiful, because getting that differentiation between me and the condition can be complex. And one of the reasons I I know it's complex is because I have a vertigo condition, which actually is affecting my brain in a particular way and distress, when you think you are falling 24 hours that that's going to create distress. And I was so grateful for a neurologist who looked at me and said, just anxiety is a result of this condition. Not that my condition is creating the anxiety. And that really helped me get that separation. Even if in the moment. I feel completely blended and fused with the condition. I can then look back and go. That's right. Anxiety is part of this process.
Yeah, it's sort of just it's like this circumstance that showing up that it's not your fault. You didn't select it. You know, and look at you, you know, you're living with it. Not everybody understands how to do that. That's pretty incredible.
Yeah, I think for me, one Have the things is to make that decision of how can I find the power in this? Where's the power? Where where's the moment like, Okay, if I can't walk, and I can't read, and I can't write, and every single movement is making me dizzy. The one thing I have is I could have self compassion. So can I practice self compassion? And the answer for me for many, many weeks when I first got vertigo was no, I don't have any self compassion. So then it was like, can I have compassion for myself that I can't have self compassion? Okay, I can work with that. So I think it is about finding the moment of what, how can I use it not in a way that's pushing you or a struggle for you. But how can I be with myself, even when I do not like, how this is experiencing? What I'm feeling about myself here.
And that's so real. And I think, sometimes in my hardest symptom moments, I think about things that people like you and people like me, anybody with a health challenge has experienced, or it's like, when you're in the midst of the hardest symptoms. You can be the most creative and spiritual and whatever person, right like you can just be you can have meditated for a long time. But in those moments, it's just an experience happening. It can feel so immersive, it can feel bigger than us, it can feel like just getting through each moment is an accomplishment. And maybe I'm not thinking about, you know, a beautiful article that I want to write or a voicemail that I want to send someone or whatever painting that I want to create. But what you just described, like, how can I just be in this moment, the way that I best know how, and to just be in it, and then to even if you can muster up the self compassion? And then if you can't, like you said, when I if I can just normalise the fact that I don't have the bandwidth for self compassion. Well, that is of compassion, right? And it's just like, Well, of course, I don't have self compassion. And it can look really funny and really gruff, but it's just, yeah, like, I'm getting through this moment, the best way that I know how, and when I'm in those, I think about people like you and people like me who are in that moment, either right now. And we're sharing it together, or who have experienced it and shared that with me before. And I don't feel as alone, even though I'm the only one in the body that's going through it.
It's really a beautiful capturing of it. Because the aloneness with illness. Even if you have family and friends, it's still you and you're the only one in your body. And it's hard. It is hard core self connection work.
Yeah, it's so true. It's a great way to put it hardcore self connection work.
And in terms of then where you are in your life and the things that are nourishing for you, you've started a new consulting business as well. Would you like to share with us the things that are important to you? And that you are, you know, in connection with community through?
Yeah, so I think whether you have chronic illness or not living on this earth, in my opinion, is about finding the life that you want for yourself, and for the people that you love and the activities that you love, and that evolves and changes over time. And then when you have a chronic illness, I think it sort of presses fast forward on identifying what's truly meaningful, and what fulfilment really means. And I think it helps us redefine fulfilment, some payments, because we can be very caught up in having all the trappings of what looks like a successful life, like the money and the house and the partner and the cat or whatever it is. But even the most wealthy people have told stories of like, I think of Tom shadyac, who wrote who he worked on some of the Ace Ventura films, and he was like a producer, I believe, and he created the film I am because he got the mansion and realised how very alone he felt when he was there. And wanted to just travel and interview people about like, I forget, I haven't watched the film in a while. It's an excellent film, but basically, I think he just talked about like, what, what are we doing here? What is the point right, he sold all his stuff and like got a little camper van and just travelled and connected with people. And it was the opposite of aloneness. But it was also the opposite of his previous definition of what his life should look like. So I think one of the gifts of chronic illness for me has been really prioritising fulfilment in my life, authentic fulfilment for me, which evolves over time, what my definition is. And then I love helping people find that for themselves, whether they have illness or not, I just really enjoy sitting with people, and helping them connect with their intuition, and identify what's next for them. Because we can have goals that we reach, and then realise that we want to go like, what's the next mountaintop, we can have a period where we realise, oh, I've been unconsciously moving towards goals that aren't even mine. And then we pause and say, what are the goals that I want for myself. And so I created something called a creative vision retreat. And it's this online, use, you know, like a virtual one on one retreat, where I use creative visualisation to help people tap into the little quiet voice that wants to be spoken around what's next. And it's so interesting how it's often stuff that we didn't imagine would show up, and might not even feel like it makes sense at first, or fits into this big picture. But even little things like I, I want to spend, I want to get a dog and spend time with the dog more. You know, these aren't things that we're taught, we should feel ambition towards. But that's maybe what you want. Maybe that's what's meaningful to you. And, like for me in my personal life, right now, I'm realising laughter is sort of one of the main points of living, like, joy and humour. And I love comedians, and I love listening to funny podcasts. And so I just signed up for an improv comedy costs as a beginner. And there is no goal other than to just learn how to be a good comedic teammate. with other people, there's no goal other than to just like, enjoy at the beginner and learn. And, and and i don't know what will unfold from there. And that's part of what's exciting about it. But that's why I started the consulting business is to help people identify like, what are the little joys in your life? Right now? What do you want more of in your daily living? And what are you moving towards? And I'm doing that alongside people, you know, I'm identifying the different little rituals and routines and adventures that fill me up. And we kind of were just learning together.
I think the word ritual really strikes me as well. And finding those things in your life that you can create the routine on the marker for your own well being. And for me in the morning, it's like, just taking the moment before any other engagement to scan my body, and also to journal, what's in my system before checking the phone before working with other people. So that we're connected to ourselves, because we can spend a lot of the day not being connected to ourselves. That's so
true. And we have these delightful distractions, and our phones and our computers and the sound waves, you know, like, there's just so much to stimulate us, which is wonderful, and can especially be helpful in the midst of challenging times. And what you just described that piece in the morning, when you give yourself the space before the distractions of the day set in to tune into who you are. I personally find and I am a morning person that it changes my whole day, on days when I really carve out even if it's 20 minutes to just sit with a cup of tea and just look out the window. And notice that birds are flying. And they don't even know that I exist, you know, and I'm not very significant to those birds. I'm just seeing myself in the midst of a universe and just like feeling what I'm feeling, you know, crying if I feel like crying or laughing. And when I do that in the morning, it changes how I relate to myself for the rest of the day.
Yeah, it's beautiful. I really want to thank you for sharing everything with us. This conversation was so rich. So we'll make sure in the show notes that there's all the connections to Lauren's podcast, her website and her creative retreat, so that you can connect with her. So thank you so much, Lauren, for sharing with us. And I really, really appreciate all the joy, love and wisdom that you brought to our conversation.
Thank you, Michelle. It was really nice to spend this time with you and I'm glad that I get to be part of this bigger, wonderful project that you're creating.
Okay, thank you. Lauren and I had such a great conversation and you can really hear how we found kinship with each other. Now, as promised, you'll find the link to connect with me for a complimentary consultation in October 2021 in the show notes, or just pop over to my website and have a look at the queen of the underworld programme. Plus you can follow Lauren at Lauren Selfridge official on Instagram. And you can follow me at Michelle Irving official on Instagram. And join me again next week for another episode of The pyjama interviews
Transcribed by https://otter.ai