Stay Positive

"In the midst of winter I finally learned that there was in me an invincible summer." - Alert Camus

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

How to Turn Loneliness into Sweet Solitude
Being alone without feeling lonely.
Published on May 30, 2011 by Toni Bernhard, J.D. 

Turning Straw Into Gold
Illness through a Buddhist lens.
by Toni Bernhard, J.D.

When my health deteriorated and I had to trade the busy life of a university professor for the isolation of my bedroom, the loneliness was palpable. At times, it was hard to distinguish between the illness and the loneliness.

One day, a friend I'd met online, sent me this quotation from the theologian, Paul Tillich:

"Language...has created the word 'loneliness' to express the pain of being alone. And it has created the world 'solitude' to express the glory of being alone."

I was such a social animal that I found being alone anything but glorious. It wasn't even remotely sweet. But Tillich's words planted a seed and I began to investigate the meaning of "being alone." I realized that being alone in and of itself is neither positive nor negative. It was just a fact that now described a good portion of my life. If Tillich was right, it could be experienced as painful loneliness or as glorious solitude.

So, I went online to see what people treasured about solitude. Here's a sampling of what I found:

"Solitude gets my creative juices flowing. It gives me energy."

"I love solitude because no one is making demands on me."

"When I'm alone, my senses are sharpened and I feel part of the rhythm of the universe.

"Solitude refreshes my spirit."

"I make my wisest decisions when I'm alone."

These statements were inspiring (and I filed them away as possibilities), but they didn't replace the pain of loneliness for me.

As I do when I'm stumped, I turned to the Buddha for help. I thought about his first and second noble truths—that we suffer when we desire for circumstances over which we have no control to be other than they are. I was stuck-like-glue on the desire to have my active social life back. But I can't. It's the nature of my illness that socializing for very long exacerbates my symptoms.

I saw that if I could let go of that desire, I might be able to open my heart and mind to the possibility that solitude could be sweet, maybe even glorious.

I asked myself, "What might I treasure about being alone?" Here's my list, as it's grown over the years:

The quiet soothes my mind and sometimes even reduces the intensity of my physical symptoms, especially if I mindfully follow my breath coming in and going out of my body.

Being alone heightens my powers of observation. I notice details around me that I'd otherwise ignore, like the play of sunlight on the ceiling or leaves floating in the air on a breezy day.

I'm more productive when I'm alone because I can follow a train of thought more easily, especially when I'm trying to write. (My illness can make concentration difficult.)

Being alone allows me to let my body dictate the rhythm of the day—when to nap, when to eat, when to write or crochet.

I can watch whatever I want on TV!

Being alone so much makes my forays out into the world special, as if I'm seeing the world afresh, with new eyes.

Once I opened my heart and mind to being alone, solitude did indeed become sweet. And occasionally, it's even glorious: I'm able to rest in that state of equanimity that the Buddha described—allowing the world to unfold without grasping at the pleasant or recoiling from the unpleasant. When this happens, I, too, feel part of the rhythm of the universe—a "flow-through of matter, energy, and information" as the eco-philosopher Joanna Macy so beautifully expressed it.

I should note that caregivers are subject to loneliness too, cut off as they are from an active social life and often from the company of their loved one who may be too sick to visit.

If being alone is a source of suffering for you, see if you can think of a few positives that come from solitude (even if it's just having sole possession of the remote control!). Maybe, like one of the people I quoted above, you can get those "creative juices flowing" to help you make a list.

I still get lonely on occasion and long for the company of others. When Tillich's "pain of being alone" overtakes me, I don't resist it. Resistance just makes the loneliness harder to bear. Instead, I direct compassion at myself, sometimes repeating a phrase such as, "It's hard to be alone when you want to be with people," or "It's tough to feel like you're missing all the fun."

Sweet Solitude by Edmund Blair LeightonCultivating self-compassion softens the loneliness and makes it bearable. Then I remind myself that the pain of loneliness, like all mental states, comes and goes. It's painful now, but if I'm patient, it will pass and the sweetness of solitude will take its place.

I think that novelist Ann Packer was getting at the same feeling when she wrote in Dive From Clausen's Pier: "Lonely is a funny thing. It's almost like another person. After a while it will keep you company if you let it."

I like to substitute "solitude" for "lonely" in her words: "Solitude is a funny thing. It's almost like another person. After a while it will keep you company if you let it." Solitude as a companion is one of the reasons it has become so sweet.

© 2011 Toni Bernhard

The author of the How to Be Sick: A Buddhist-Inspired Guide for the Chronically Ill and their Caregivers, winner of the 2011 Nautilus Gold Book in Self-Help/Psychology

She can be found online at

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Worry does not help any situation to improve.

“If you could only keep quiet, clear of memories and expectations, you would be able to discern the beautiful pattern of events. It’s your restlessness that causes chaos.”
— Nisaragadatta Maharaj

Peripheral artery bypass - leg

This post is being made because some of the symptoms match my experience with leg weakness.  M.S. often includes leg weakness and pain.


Peripheral artery bypass - leg

Peripheral artery bypass is surgery to reroute the blood supply around a blocked artery in one of your legs. Your peripheral arteries can become blocked with fatty material that builds up inside them. This is called atherosclerosis.

See also:
Angioplasty and stent replacement - peripheral arteries
Peripheral artery disease


Peripheral artery bypass surgery can be done in one or more of these arteries to treat a blockage:

Aorta -- the main artery that comes from your heart
Iliac artery -- in your hip
Femoral artery -- in your thigh
Popliteal artery -- behind your knee
Tibial and peroneal artery -- in your lower leg
Axillary artery -- in your armpit

Why the Procedure is Performed

Symptoms of a blocked peripheral artery are pain, achiness, or heaviness in your leg that starts or gets worse when you walk.

You may not need bypass surgery if these problems happen only when you walk and then go away when you rest. You may not need this surgery if you can still do most of your everyday activities. Your doctor can try medicines and other treatments first.

Reasons for having arterial bypass surgery of the leg are:

Your symptoms keep you from doing your everyday tasks.

Your symptoms do not get better with other treatment.

You have skin ulcers (sores) or wounds on your leg that do not heal.

You have pain in your leg from your narrowed arteries even when you are resting or at night.

Before surgery is considered, the doctor will order special tests to show that you have a severe blockage in your blood vessels.

Risks for this surgery are:

Bypass does not work
Damage to a nerve that causes pain or numbness in your leg
Damage to nearby organs in the body
Damage to the bowel during aortic surgery
Excess bleeding
Infection in the surgical cut
Injury to nearby nerves
Sexual problems caused by damage to a nerve during aortofemoral or aortoiliac bypass surgery
Surgical cut opens up
You need to have a second bypass surgery or a leg amputation
Before the Procedure

Your doctor will do a thorough physical exam and several medical tests.
Most people who have a peripheral artery bypass first need to get their heart and lungs checked.

Outlook (Prognosis)

Bypass surgery improves blood flow in the arteries for most people. You may not have symptoms anymore, even when you walk. If you still have symptoms, you should be able to walk much farther before they start.

Your results will depend on where your blockage was, the size of the blood vessel, and whether you have a blockage in your other arteries.


Creager MA and Libby P. Peripheral arterial disease. In: Libby P, Bonow RO, Mann DL, Zipes DP, eds. Libby: Braunwald's Heart Disease: A Textbook of Cardiovascular Medicine. 8th ed. Saunders; 2007:chap 57.

Eisenhauer AC, White CJ. Endovascular treatment of noncoronary obstructive vascular disease. In: Libby P, Bonow RO, Mann DL, Zipes DP, eds. Braunwald's Heart Disease: A Textbook of Cardiovascular Medicine. 8th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2007:chap 59.

Update Date: 1/25/2011

Updated by: Shabir Bhimji, MD, PhD, Specializing in General Surgery, Cardiothoracic and Vascular Surgery, Midland, TX. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.
Browse the Encyclopedia

MedlinePlus Topics

Peripheral Arterial Disease

Read More

Angioplasty and stent placement - peripheral arteries
Peripheral artery disease - legs

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