Welcome to our ongoing series, “Introducing an Instructor.” From time to time, our instructors write about their work here in The Studio and discuss ways in which these programs can help participants manage their fibromyalgia symptoms. Today’s guest writer: Debbie Liptan
Let’s start by clearing up any possibility of confusion: I’m not Dr. Ginevra Liptan! She’s my daughter-in-law: my son Jamie is the Executive Director here at The Frida Center for Fibromyalgia. So it’s safe to say that my family and I are intimately familiar with the challenges and opportunities living with fibromyalgia can provide.
I was born and raised in the Portland metro area. I have nine younger siblings, so I’ve always seen myself as a caregiver and a protector – my mission in life is truly to care for others. Although our family is Catholic, I explored various spiritual traditions in my youth and have been an active practitioner, scholar, and teacher of Nichiren Buddhism for over 40 years.
Eight years ago I was working full-time in a stressful corporate environment. Around that time, my husband became gravely ill with the first of a series of debilitating conditions. It was a challenge, to say the least, to reconcile caring for him with the demands of my employment. Shortly afterward, I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia.
It has been a difficult journey since then, but I have found comfort in my spiritual traditions. The ancient maxim, “Illness gives rise to the resolve to attain the way”, has profoundly transformed my views on life and wellness. This resolve has given me the strength I need each day to care for myself and for my husband, for whom I remain the primary caregiver.
As part of my journey, in 2006 I co-facilitated a multi-day conference: “Overcoming the Sufferings of Birth, Aging, Sickness, and Death.” It became clear to me that helping others facing similar struggles is part of my mission, and I have worked ever since to find new opportunities to expand this role in my daily life.
This is why I am so pleased to be offering a free course at The Frida Center: “From Illness to Well-Being.” Our primary focus will be to address the final paragraph in Dr. Ginevra Liptan’s book, with particular emphasis on the last sentence:
“Our lives should not be defined by our illness or diagnoses. Learn as much as you can about fibromyalgia and use the most effective therapies available. Then focus on living a bold and purposeful life, whatever that means to you.”
Fibromyalgia often forces us into new life patterns – new (or no) work, new (or fewer) relationship structures, new (and largely unpleasant) changes in body and mind. It’s no surprise that so many of us find it difficult to retain our pre-diagnosis identity, our self-esteem, our sense of self. Many of us feel helpless, worthless, lost. But it doesn’t have to be like that.
This course will help participants reclaim their lives and identities through a re-evaluation of their true potentials. We’ll explore our capabilities and capacities, turning each week to a different theme. And we’ll find new ways to define ourselves that include – but do not prioritize – our fibromyalgia.
We know that the mind-body connection is real: our thoughts, emotions, and attitudes can affect our physical well-being. When we begin to value and appreciate ourselves for all of the abilities and strengths that we still have, we’ll uncover new tools for managing our physical symptoms throughout our lives.
I invite you all to join me for this exciting journey.