Self{ish} Project Recap: The New Face of Lupus

 

I’ve been wanting to write a recap of my experience in running The Self{ish} Project for a few weeks, but took some time after our last session ended to focus on self-care, fully integrate and reflect on the experience of working with these amazing women, and to brainstorm ways to make the experience even better next round (mid September- sign up here to be notified when applications open).

 

So as summer wanes and we move into fall and gear up to do it all again, below I’m sharing my thoughts and experience in working women in our community- helping them to integrate sacred self care, as well as work through the mental and emotional roadblocks that can occur when you’re struggling to manage a chronic illness. And also, I’ll share some of the realizations and feedback (names removed for privacy) from participants- to show you in their words, just how impactful this experience can be.

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 Initial Uncertainty & Excitement

When the course first began, I could sense a lot of excitement in the group, as we were setting off on a new adventure of learning and discovery- like nothing ever offered for women with chronic illness. However, there was also a small degree of uncertainty. What was this all about? Would they be required to bare embarrassing personal details? Could their family and friends see their posts?

 However, after assuring the ladies that our group was uber private and a loving, supportive environment where they could share as much- or as little as they wanted, I could feel everyone relax. I know how difficult talking about the intricacies of our disease can be, so my goal is always to provide the most comfortable and safe environment possible. And this was evidenced by the level of sharing and support amongst the participants as the course got started.

 

 Building Community- A Sisterhood Emerges

One of my core beliefs is that through fostering community- a sisterhood if you will, that we can propel ourselves so much further along the healing path, than if we were to go it alone. And a key component of this course is sharing reflections about the lessons, personal experiences, challenges and aha moments. I was so happy to see our ladies bravely sharing their innermost thoughts and struggles- and our sisterhood rising to surround, comfort and advise them- or simply just be there to listen.

 

Some of our participants recounted stories of abuse, lost children, and feeling of being devalued or unloved by members of their family. At every turn, their sisters were there to support them in working through those emotions and emerging stronger and brighter. Truly magical.

 

 And on the same token, we celebrated the good moments and the breakthroughs as well. When someone finally uncovered a destructive pattern, or identified a person or situation that was holding them back- we loved them up and supported them in uncovering their best self. When a sister exclaimed that she had booked a spa day, painter her walls a cheery color, or finally stopped apologizing for being sick – the cheers and support was palpable. 

Light bulbs Go Off – Behavior Patterns are Reevaluated

 

The course consists of 25 short audio or video classes spread out over 6 weeks. Each lesson speaks to a particular challenge we tend to experience as women- especially women with chronic illness. Along with the lesson, there are worksheets (Soul Sheets), introspective questions, exercises and quotes- all designed to make you stop, dig deep and evaluate what’s really going on in your life that could be contributing to your stress level and flares.

 

It was amazing- and quite beautiful to watch the light bulbs go off for many of our participants, as they clearly saw patterns and behaviors reflected back at them through the lessons. Sometimes it’s easy to think that life is “happening” to us, but you you really stop to see how much you may be contributing to your situation, it can be a humbling- yet empowering experience. Once you can get real with yourself, there are no blocks to moving forward with clarity and purpose to forge a new story. I’m happy to say that the majority of our ladies did just that and are reaping the rewards.

 

Experimentation and Reward

 

One of my absolute favorite parts of the course- watching everyone spread their wings, move out of their comfort zone and try new things in search of inner healing and emotional wellness. This experience isn’t all lessons and reflection- there are several “challenges” the group received, as well as introduction to many holistic tools and practices to try out. Hearing that someone was sleeping better, had more energy, or was more emotionally balanced as a result of the techniques they tried, was one of the greatest rewards. Each participant left the course with tools and resources that they can call on again and again, as they walk the healing path.

 

Celebrating Successes

 

As the ladies in the course know about me- I am very invested in each person’s success and will do whatever possible to support them. So for me, one of the most gratifying experiences was when I would put up a post asking for people to share their progress and big wins, as a result of what they had learned and put into action. Some of the feedback actually made me cry and truly affirmed why I created this program- and why my friends Tichina and Zenay Arnold felt called to support it by offering to sponsor women just like you. We knew that if we could just penetrate the noise, provide a warm and safe environment and practical, but life changing tools and lessons- that our community can learn to thrive. And that’s exactly what happened.

 

Below are some of the accounts from the beautiful souls in The Self{ish} Project:

 

 “I have made such drastic changes, I am so proud of myself!! Most importantly, getting my house in order!! Taking charge and standing up for myself and making boundaries for family members who seem to feel they still can control me and create drama. I even painted a few of my walls a brighter color. I open my eyes in the morning and I feel happy seeing a bright clean house!!! Threw away all the meds I stopped using and put the ones I use out of sight! I don’t want to be reminded that I am sick!! Even though I am hurting, I feel more positive and like I can conquer anything thrown my way!!”

 

I made some changes to my life within the last few weeks. I’ve changed my work hours so I could get home early to defuse and relax so I don’t use sleeping pills. I have just about all the lessons printed out and will continue to read and remind myself what I need to do. I learned a lot and I’m still learning more. I was Blessed to be chosen to join this program. Thank you.”


Thank you for such a blessed eye opening experience! It was eye opening because it exposed my habits that were keeping me from wellness! This program has armed me with an awesome arsenal. I’m putting into practice what I’ve learned and getting rid of the old stuff that wasn’t working. Thank you ladies and god bless you all.”

 

And this one literally made me cry…

 

I’ve been catching up on the lessons and they have been so powerful and life changing! Each lesson has really hit home. I realized that I’d subconsciously given up on life and was basically waiting to die. I didn’t leave the house unless it was to go to a doctor’s appointment. I was taking Vitamin D supplements because I wasn’t getting enough sun. I’m so grateful for this course because it has literally changed my life. I’m sleeping throughout the night, worrying much less, and feeling great physically with a burst of energy. I saw my nephrologist last week, who noticed that I looked better. My BP and heart rate have returned to normal and my kidney function has improved! I really can’t say it enough; THANK YOU, Tichina, Zenay, and Khadija for this life-changing experience. I’ve learned to love myself again.

 

THIS is why I do this work! And I feel so blessed to have had a small part in these women- my sisters, finding their way back to themselves. If this is something that you know in your heart that you need- I urge you to sign up for early notification of our next session. It’s truly life changing.

 

I Don’t Want it to End!

 

One of the amazing things about an experience like this is that no one wants it to end! I actually had some participants say this and felt thrilled and humbled to have created something that had that type of effect on some of the people I care about most- my Lupus family.

 

I met some amazing women during these 8 weeks and love the trust and friendship that has blossomed in the group. Some of our ladies have even met up in person! Even though the class is over, I still check in on my ladies and am planning a special alumni followup/refresh week in the next month or two. The goal is to keep up the momentum and make positive changes for life!

And although I’m sad that our time together has ended, I’m thrilled with the posibility of offering a new session and helping even more women (perhaps you?) learn to finally put themselves first and do the inner work to heal- mind, body and spirit.

 

My Observations as the Facilitator

 

This was as much a learning experience for me, as it was for my students. Fine-tuning my coaching techniques, learning to really tap into the hidden emotions behind someone’s comment or question. Supporting a large group and coordinating all of the logistics, technology, customer support, correspondence, module creation, etc. that made it possible. Whew- definitely not easy by any means, but I am grateful for all that I learned and can apply to future endeavors.

 

And as a one woman show, I have had to be conscious of walking my own talk and ensuring that I am taking time to refuel and reflect, while helping others. I’m grateful for the support of my friends and sponsors Zenay and Tichina Arnold, and all of the participants who were such a joy to work with and truly made this a labor of love.

 

 And as with any endeavor, there are lessons learned and thoughts that are confirmed. Below are a few of my thoughts and lessons learned from this experience:

 

–> The lupus community (and chronic illness in general) is SO under-served. Seeing the positive strides and appreciation of our participants really reinforced the need for programs, aid and services that truly impact the day to day lives of sufferers in a lasting and positive way. I’m proud to be doing my small part in that and I encourage the greater lupus community to not only hold events and raise money for research, but also for initiatives that improve the quality of life of people with lupus NOW.

 

 –> Most people genuinely WANT to improve- on all levels… they just need real, actionable tools and a supportive, trusting environment to do so. For so many of our ladies, various lessons were EXACTLY what they needed to hear- and they had the supportive environment that allowed them to grow as a result.

 

–> With that said, as much as I would have loved for everyone to take full advantage of the program, there were those few that didn’t for various reasons.  Perhaps some didn’t see the value. For others it was too many commitments and stress (which ironically the course would have helped with). This is a lesson for me not to be too emotionally attached to people committing to themselves and following through- because it has to be the right time for them. The time when they have finally become sick and tired of being sick and tired (as I mentioned I was in this blog post) and commit to doing whatever it takes to move forward.And when they do decide- we’ll be here for them.

By the same token, I am beyond proud of the ladies who doubled down and committed to finishing out the course even though they were behind. Their tenacity and desire for a better life was amazing to watch.

 

–> This is my mission. This is God’s Work. I had the idea for this course for over a year before I developed and launched it. I hesitated for a number of reasons. Do I have the time to commit? What will people think about a “self development” course for lupus patients?? Will anybody register?? These are all thoughts that plagued me (yes even the coach has her moments!)

 

Well, I now see that this is exactly what I am supposed to be doing and that putting myself and my ideas out there has impacted our community in far more ways than I could have imagined. I’m in the process of developing additional programs and ways to support those of us on this journey of living well with Lupus. I’ve even been asked to develop a similar program for cancer patients and even for women who are not ill, but who’s stressed out, workaholic lives could land them in the ER one day very soon. So I have realized that this is truly God’s plan for me and the way in which He intends me to serve. And I’m completely overjoyed to have found my purpose.

 

If you’re interested in Joining the next session of The Sefl{ish} Project: Sacred Self-Care for Women with Chronic Illness, leave your name and email here to be given priority notice when applications open. I’ll see YOU in class.

 

Love and healing,

~Khadija

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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