#BuildALadder

Martina Stawski is my role model for doing my best to live well with chronic illnesses. She, with her husband Simon, runs the YouTube channel Simon and Martina along with the EatYourKimchi website. The two of them are Canadians that have been living in Asia the past ten years; first in South Korea for eight years, and now in Japan for the past two. I have been subscribed to their YouTube channel since 2015.

Martina has Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome [EDS], a connective tissue disorder that affects the way the body forms collagen. It is related to (but not the same as) Marfan Syndrome, the connective tissue disorder that I have which affects fibrillin. Martina deals with chronic pain, fatigue, and joint dislocations on a daily basis. She manages to travel the world with Simon creating hilarious, beautiful, informative, and often mouth-watering videos.

It isn’t easy for her to do, and she often pays for it with increased pain in the days after her adventures, but it is what she loves. She says she would still be in chronic pain if she just stayed at home all the time and then she wouldn’t have all the awesome memories to sustain her on her darkest days. She uses those memories to ‘build a ladder’ to help her climb out of the pit of depression on her toughest days. Along the way Martina has inspired many people living with chronic illnesses, including me, to do the same. She emphasizes that it doesn’t have to be big things like going on a trip. There are little things we can do each day to add rungs to our ladders.

Since Martina made the video “An Open Talk About My Depression” last February, in which she first shared her Build A Ladder philosophy, I have really taken her message to heart. I give her some of the credit for my quality of life having improved in the past year. I don’t think I would have accomplished as much progress without her as inspiration.

Martina, if you ever read this, thank you. I have talked to you in the comments section on YouTube and Instagram on many occasions, but I just wanted to do a little write-up about you on my own blog so that maybe people who haven’t heard of you can find you and hear what you have to say. ❤

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How I Avoid Losing My Mind When I Can’t Leave The House.

No matter how much I improve I will always have days where I can’t leave the house; sometimes not even leave my bed. I’ve accepted that probably won’t change any time soon. I am just grateful that I can go out more than I used to and that I can drive myself.

However, it is very easy for me to slip into a state of depression if I am in the house for a few days at a time and don’t make the active effort to occupy myself.

So here are some things that help me:

  • My cat, Ollivander. Having the company of a four-legged friend always makes being stuck at home way more pleasant. Ollie is an expert snuggler and is very devoted to me. I am so happy that I adopted him back in 2013. When I am at home he rarely leaves my side.
  • Comfy bedding! I burrow under blankets when I am feeling worn out. My fleece blanket that I made myself and my Sunbeam electric blanket are my favorites. I use my electric blanket as a whole body heat pack when my joints are bothering me. I also recommend a memory foam mattress topper if your joints need some extra cushioning.
  • Crafting supplies. If I am really in bad shape I won’t even have the energy for crafting, but most of the time I can manage it. Making things with my hands has always been something that helps preserve my sanity when I am stuck at home. Back when I first got really sick ten years ago was when I vastly improved my knitting skills. Recently, I have been teaching myself to use a sewing machine.
  • Internet access. Even when you are stuck in bed, if you have a wi-fi connection you can be all over the world. I am on my computer quite a lot. I prop myself up on pillows, place my laptop on my little lap desk, and then I can get all sorts of stuff done from the comfort of my bed. I use the computer application F.lux to tint the color of my computer screen. My eyes are very sensitive to certain kinds of light, so being able to tint the screen an amber color is very helpful in preventing migraines. I have to have the brightness on my screen turned all the way down AND have F.lux running in order to be able to look at the screen.
  • Video Streaming Subscriptions [i.e. Hulu, Netflix, PBS] I haven’t had cable TV in my house in years, and I am totally fine with that. I have access to several different streaming sites and therefore enough shows and movies to keep me entertained indefinitely.
  • Switching up locations in the house. Sometimes all I need to improve my mood when stuck at home is a little change of scenery. If I have been in my room for too long I go downstairs to hang out in the living room for a bit. I usually use a big canvas tote bag to carry whatever I might need down from my room with me so I don’t have to take multiple trips. Stairs are my sworn enemy so I try to avoid going up and down them more than absolutely necessary.
  • Books. I do not always have the mental energy and focus required to read books for hours on end like I used to. Over the past couple months I have been getting back to reading books again, even if it isn’t at the same ridiculously fast pace as before all this. I have a rather large collection, so I always have something to read should I feel like it.