Saturday Inspiration: Finding Joy In The Little Things

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“Happiness is like a butterfly; the more you chase it, the more it will elude you. But if you turn you attention to other things, it will come and sit softly on your shoulder.” Henry David Thoreau

On this Inspiration Saturday, I thought I’d share a few ideas that might bring a little joy into your life. Try one, try a few or try them all…the choice is yours!

1.    Go for a walk.
2.    Look through old album or photo boxes.
3.    Enjoy your favorite coffee drink.
4.    Read a chapter (or more!) in your book.
5.    Stop by a pet store and love on a kitten (or other animal).
6.    Take your dog (of friends dog) for a walk.
7.    Enjoy your favorite pastry.
8.    Hug someone (preferably someone you know).
9.    Play your favorite song and sing-a-long.
10.  Compliment a stranger.
11.   Pick wildflowers

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12.   Stare at the stars.
13.   Take a bike ride.
14.   Send snail mail (this makes me super duper happy).
15.   Make your favorite meal.
16.   Color!
17.   Sing your favorite song at the top of your lungs.

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18.   Watch your favorite show or movie.
19.   Call a friend or relative.
20.  Make a craft and give to a friend.
21.   Take the scenic route.
22.   Read through an old journal.
23.   Watch re-runs of your favourite show.
24.  Take a selfie a day for a week, month or year.
25.  Laugh.

There is always hope

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What Does Science Say About CBD Oil For Migraines

Let’s welcome back John Martinez as my Guest Blogger today. John brought us information about using eyewear to help with migraines, and today, he’s talking about CBD Oil to help ease Migraine pain. Please note that all opinions expressed are those of the author but I do endorse them as well.

CBD Oil for Migraines – Effective, or Merely Hype?

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CBD oil has been gaining some steam in the media ever since its recent December 2018 legalization in the US.

Additionally, in the migraine community, there are loads of anecdotal evidence expressing the effectiveness of CBD and treating migraines. Is it all hype, or are these claims backed by scientific literature?

This article will get into the specifics of what CBD oil is, and whether it’s something migraineurs should investigate as something that could benefit them.

What Is CBD Oil?

CBD (also known as cannabidiol) oil is a naturally derived product from the plant Cannabis Sativa. Cannabis Sativa is categorized as a family of plants that contains two primary species: hemp and marijuana. The Cannabis Sativa plant also contains 120 other substances aside from cannabidiol. Most CBD oil is extracted from the hemp plant and contains no THC, which is the psychoactive chemical in marijuana. THC is the chemical that causes the feeling of being high. CBD oil is an isolated extract from the hemp side of Cannabis Sativa, not the marijuana side of the plant that contains THC.

Simply put, CBD is not marijuana and will not make you high.

Although CBD is derived from the same plant that has the ability to produce marijuana, CBD is non-addictive. A study that was conducted by the World Health Organization has proven, through a double-blind and randomized study that, on the scales of the Addiction Research Centre Inventory, there was no difference in addiction risk between CBD oil and the administered placebo.

Could CBD Oil Help Me with Migraines?

The efficacy of CBD oil to treat migraines varies from person to person. In a 2012 study, CBD was found to reduce inflammation and assist with chronic pain relief. CBD oil has minimal side effects compared to typical over the counter drugs and prescribed medications. Some side effects of CBD include appetite changes, fatigue, and diarrhea, which most of us would categorize as minor. One of the most appealing aspects of CBD oil is that it is not a pharmaceutically-engineered drug, but rather a natural avenue towards pain relief.

Unfortunately, there hasn’t been any studies specifically demonstrating the effects CBD has on people with migraines. There have been quite a few studies on marijuana as a whole and migraines, but not isolated CBD.

For example, there was a 2016 survey conducted by Pharmacotherapy which indicated that “medical marijuana” may reduce the frequency of migraine headaches – from 10.4 down to 4.6 per month. Even though marijuana contains CBD, we can’t attribute the results to CBD.

Overview of CBD Oil and Migraine Pain Relief

While it’s too soon to definitively say that CBD oil might be an effective treatment for people suffering with migraines, progress is being made.

All we know for sure is that there are some properties in CBD that help with inflammation and chronic pain management. And we also know that in medical literature, marijuana (which contains CBD) seems to be giving some people migraine relief.

Since it’s now legal on a federal level (in the US), and it’s a naturally occurring compound, it may be worth a try.

If you want to learn more about CBD, check out this article, CBD Oil for Migraines (2019) – Everything You Need to Know.

Remember, there is always hope

Saturday Inspirational For Fibromyalgia

New Series

I’m starting a new series called the Saturday Inspirational For Fibromyalgia. Each week, I’ll be posting something inspirational on Saturday to help raise our spirits and give us something positive to think about when it comes to Fibromyalgia and other Chronic Illnesses. I’ll generally start with a quote and then some words of wisdom afterward.

The best cruise in Australia and New Zealand tourism destinations

Today is the inagural post, so here the quote I picked to start:

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So often, when we are living in Chronic Pain, we tend to disasterize what we’re going through. Isn’t it nice to know that we don’t have to do that. As this quote reminds us, we don’t have to think the worst of things. Instead, we can see things in a more positive light, like hills instead of mountains or days that aren’t lifetimes.

Perspective

Keeping a clear perspective is a good lesson for all of us. Even on our darkest days, if we’re honest with ourselves, there are still good moments. We may be feeling bleak, but the sun is still shining. We may feel lost and alone, but our pets are still there for us, faithful and loving. It’s easy to see the emptiness from a viewpoint of pain, but we have the power to turn that view into something better. It’s a choice and wouldn’t you rather choose the beauty over the battered?

It’s not easy to stay positive when you live with chronic pain, but it is possible. Surround yourself with the things that bring you joy. Flowers, your favourite tea, a good book, soft music (or rock!)…whatever brings YOU comfort. Doing these small things for yourself is the start of making positive change in your life. Change the mountains to hills and see what other new changes you can make as well.

There Is Always Hope
#SaturdayInspirationalForFibro

 

Fifty Reasons To Keep Going

If you are going through a hard time right now, I want to give you 50 good reasons why you need to be strong and why you need to stick around.

  1. You are a soul worth having on this earth
  2. Long hugs (my favourite)
  3. Cute baby animals
  4. You are so loved
  5. Staying up all night just to sleep in
  6. Making babies smile and laugh
  7. Sharing secrets with your best friends
  8. You will be missed
  9. Sunsets
  10. Late night phone calls
  11. Cuddling
  12. You are needed
  13. Doing stupid stuff with your best friends
  14. Laughing so hard that you cry
  15. Seeing yourself recover
  16. Crunchy leaves
  17. Knowing all the lyrics to a song
  18. Stargazing and cloud watching
  19. You are important
  20. Tomorrow is a new day.
  21. Chocolate exists.
  22. There are people out there who truly love you.
  23. At least a thousand other people at this very moment feel sad, too — you’re not alone.
  24. There’s help out there no matter how big or small your problem is.
  25. There’s music out there that totally captures what you’re feeling, which means you’re not the first or last to feel it.
  26. Everything is temporary.
  27. Unconditional love exists.
  28. Puppies.
  29. Nobody else knows what they’re doing either.
  30. Trying never hurt anyone.
  31. Smiles are contagious.
  32. You have a right to feel what you’re feeling.
  33. Anything can happen with a pen and blank sheet of paper.
  34. You’re not this person.
  35. Animals love you no matter what.
  36. The best lessons come from the worst mistakes.
  37. Netflix has so many shows you need to watch.
  38. All good love stories have a “goodbye” before the happy ending.
  39. Just being alive means you’ve beaten the odds.
  40. There’s a plethora of cliche quotes to make you feel better.
  41. Like “Nothing worth doing is ever easy.”
  42. And “Quality is better than quantity.”
  43. Also, “Everything happens for a reason.”
  44. Whatever you’re going through is making you “you.”
  45. Nothing feels better than a good cry, so don’t feel bad about it.
  46. You will always have control of your choices.
  47. Forgiving does bring healing.
  48. Simba lost everything and still became king of the jungle.
  49. You’re becoming stronger every moment you pick yourself back up.
  50. You’ll be OK.

Please reach out for help if you need it.

Text CONNECT to 741741 in the United States or phone:

1-800-273-8255

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In Canada

Call 911 or use the following link for help in your province:

https://suicideprevention.ca/need-help/

 

There is always hope

Communication Skills

Ah, communication. What a tricky thing you are.

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When you’re a person living with Chronic Pain (PwCP), you get asked the same question quite frequently.

How are you?

And my standard response has always been, “I’m fine”. But what a lie that is, when clearly, I’m not fine, or I’d be living a different life. If I was fine, I wouldn’t be on disability, using a cane or a walker everywhere I go. If I was fine, I wouldn’t be in constant pain from my Fibromaygia, or my D.I.S.H. or my osteoarthritis in every joint, or experiencing the issues that go along with my Bipolar Disorder or my Diabetes Type 2 or my Trigeminal Neuralgia.

If I was fine, I wouldn’t have insomnia, and be up 22 out of every 24 hours, even after taking valium to help me relax and sleep. If I was fine…I wouldn’t be blogging about being fine.

So why do I respond that way?

People Don’t Want To Hear The Truth

People don’t want to hear the truth. It makes them uncomfortable to know that someone is hurting when there is nothing they can do about it. It makes them feel weird, to hear about someone else’s pain. They get antsy, thinking they’re in for a long diatribe about medical procedures and doctor visits as if they’re at risk for catching something themselves. They get nervous thinking they’ll hear about your emotional state. And to be honest, a lot of the time, people don’t really care how your feeling. They ask you how you because they’re polite. It’s the right thing to do.

So, I’ve decided to stop telling people that I’m fine. I’ve decided to come up with a new response, and that new response is:

“Part of me is great, and part of me is not so great.”

I’ve decided this gives people an out. If they don’t want to know more, they can simply reply “well, I’m glad part of you is great” and carry on with their own lives. If they genuinely want to know more, they can ask about the parts that aren’t doing well. That way, I know that they’re sincere about how I truly am instead of just making polite conversation.

I hope this doesn’t sound like I’m being sarcastic, because I’m not. I’m genuinely trying to help people be more comfortable around People with Chronic Pain and to find a way to make it easier to ask and answer that question of “how are you”. It’s a tough one because there is no one good answer. The PwCP doesn’t know if you’re sincere and we don’t know how much information you truly want. The last thing we want to do is bore you with the latest in our medical news, and trust me…it’s truly devasting for us when we think you’re interested and then we find out you’re not.

Showing Real Interest

I doubt seriously there’s any malicious intent in your question either, but again, it comes down to being polite and being interested. I would rather give you a polite answer and have you ask for more information if you really want it, but that comes with its own complexities as well. Suppose I say “I’m fine” and you hear “oh, she’s fine, I guess everything must be okay” when what I really mean is “I’m fine, but not really and I wish you would ask me more about my day and how I’m feeling”.  It’s a communication breakdown because I don’t feel I can ask for what I want in case you’re not really interested, and you don’t feel like there’s necessarily anything else worth asking about.

If you ask me if I’m fine though and I tell you “actually, I’m not doing so great”, how would you respond? If you’re simply being polite, now you’re stuck. You either have to listen to what’s wrong or say something trite like “oh, I’m so sorry to hear that” and change the subject. Neither of us leaves the conversation satisfied, so my response, even if it’s the truth, isn’t the best one either.

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Two small words with so much meaning behind them.  That’s why you’ll be hearing a different response from me going forward. I’m going to try my best to stay away from those two words to make it easier on all of us and start answering with my new response:

“I’m doing as well as expected given the number of health issues I’m living with.” That leaves it open to the person to expand on the subject if they wish or to simply say “oh, that’s good” and move on.

I appreciate your thoughts and comments about this subject. And for those of you without chronic pain, I hope you’re doing fine – really!

There is always hope.

Managing My Mental Illness

I have Bipolar Disorder and have talked about it before on my blog. It’s not something I hide but I don’t really discuss it much either so I thought I’d share a bit more about what it looks like for me.

Although currently stable on medication, when I was unmedicated and undiagnosed, I would have the most incredible highs and lows. My manic highs would see me racing around the house, cleaning whatever I could, and cooking dinners every night and baking and crafting and never, ever sleeping…I would be up for days on end without any sleep at all. At my worst, I was awake for 8 days in a row – and I mean without a drop of sleep. I was unbeatable…I would shop online without realizing what I was doing, and then all of a sudden, these packages would start arriving and I would have no clue what was in them – usually jewellery (cheap stuff) or clothing from Zulily (an online store I love).

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On the other hand, when the inevitable crash came, I would crash hard. All I wanted to do was curl in the fetal position in bed and sleep…so that’s all I did. I didn’t bathe, I didn’t eat, chores went by the wayside, forget about cooking and crafting. I did the bare minimum to keep my cat alive and my husband had to fend for himself after a 12 hour day at work when it came to eating, plus do the dishes. I rarely left the bedroom, unless it was to spend mindless hours on the computer doing nothing.

Once we realized how serious the problem was, my husband and I realized it was critical that I needed to be on medication. I saw my doctor and was started on Seroquel. After that drug stopped working, I’ve been taking Abilify, which has been excellent for me in terms of managing my symptoms. Unfortunately, the side effects have been harsh and I’ve been paying the price.  I am not a vain woman, but I’ve put on 20lbs since using the medication (in 6 months) and it’s 20lbs I can’t afford to carry on my 5’2″ frame. I have no ability to exercise and lose the weight, especially now that I’m wearing an Air Cast on my left ankle to try to help reattach a tendon that has torn away from the bone. Plus I take other medications that all have their own side effects…so I have to be careful with those as well.

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I’ve also experienced some other unpleasant side effects including severe brain zaps, and I’ve been seeing shadows on the sides of my vision. These were enough to send me back to my Psychiatrist to discuss making another medication change – the dance that you tango when you have a mental illness. He’s decided to try me on one of the older drugs that is less likely to cause weight gain like so many of the newer ones do. It’s called Zeldox (my family doctor says it sounds like a cartoon character and I agree!) and the side effects listed are as follows:

  • constipation
  • cough
  • diarrhea
  • dizziness
  • fatigue
  • flu-like symptoms (e.g., fever, sore throat, chills)
  • leakage of fluid or milk from breasts (women)
  • menstrual changes
  • nausea or upset stomach
  • rash
  • restlessness
  • runny nose
  • sexual difficulties
  • vomiting

In general, most of these are mild and go away in the first couple of weeks of taking the medication, so I’m not too concerned. I’m just hoping that the brain zaps disappear as this is one of the most unpleasant of all the side effects that I experience. What is a brain zap you ask?

Brain zap or brain shiver is a term used to describe the sensation of a sudden jolt or buzz in the brain. It is also compared to the electrical shock, has no apparent cause and is brief in duration. In most cases, it’s relatively mild but people have reported the occurrences of very extreme and painful jolts. They are a temporary occurrence. Brain zaps can sometimes be accompanied by dizziness, tinnitus, mild pain and ache and a general sense of discomfort.

I experience mine as a buzz that goes across my head from ear to ear. I can hear the loud buzzing sound as well as feel it, but there isn’t any pain. It’s almost like the hum of an electric razor, but very quick and sudden. Sometimes it’s just one zap, sometimes it’s a series of them. They’re mostly just annoying more than anything but a side effect I can do without due to their frequency.  The shadowing I’ve been getting in my vision is more worrisome as I tend to freak out about anything to do with my eyes. I have no eye problems (other than wearing glasses) and I’d like to keep at least one body part in good shape for as long as possible if you know what I mean!!

I start the new medication on Monday, Dec. 17th but am writing this post to be read in February so I’ll add an update underneath so you know how it’s going.

Bipolar Disorder can be tricky to manage but with the right care, the proper medications and taking them at the right times, it can lead to a normal life. I’ve found the perfect balance between mania and depression. Now I’m able to function most days with the cooking and cleaning when my other health issues allow it and my poor husband can come home to dinner waiting most of the time. I feel more likely to work on a craft than when I was in a depressive crash, and while my sleep still isn’t the greatest, I’m not staying awake for days on end either.

Sometimes called Manic Depression, Bipolar Disorder causes extreme shifts in mood. People who have it may spend weeks feeling like they’re on top of the world before plunging into a deep depression. The length of each high and low varies greatly from person to person. If you are experiencing these symptoms, please see your doctor. There is help available and beyond that…

There is always hope!

Fibromyalgia and Loneliness

Having a chronic illness like Fibromyalgia can be a very isolating experience. Many of us used to work and found a lot of our social life revolved around our jobs, whether it was getting together with the gang after work for drinks or volunteering with a workgroup for a community project. Often, a best friend was made at our jobs whom we would hang out with more frequently, and those sorts of friendships became treasured relationships to us.

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After you become chronically ill though, you often have to give up working, and those relationships no longer exist, not even with the “best friend” that you made. How do you handle the loneliness that comes from that? We tend to not go out a lot in the first place, because of pain and fatigue, so without a reason to get together with former co-workers, there’s now more reason to isolate ourselves than ever. It’s depressing to know that you’re no longer “part of the gang”  and that you don’t fit in anymore. It’s even more depressing to know that your former friends don’t even realize that they’ve shut you out. It’s just the natural progression of you no longer being at the job, and nothing personal.

Reaching Out

But what happens when you try to reach out, to make plans, and people don’t return calls? Or when people reach out to you, but you’re unable to go, because their plans are too ambitious for you? I’d love to see people for coffee, but they always want to combine it with shopping followed by dinner and drinks afterwards, and that’s too much of a day for me. Lunch and shopping, I can do that on a good day, but then I want to go home. And if it’s a bad day, then I have to say no right from the start. And what happens if I start having too many bad days when friends want to get together? They stop calling, period. I am “too sick all the time” and no longer any fun to be with.  It’s easy to get depressed when this happens.

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It’s so frustrating when friends give up on you. I can’t control my good and bad days. I have no idea when a good day is going to go bad. I can feel great in the morning and then start to go downhill by the early afternoon. I try to explain that to people, but they don’t always understand how unpredictable Fibromyalgia can be. Sometimes it can change from hour to hour and even minute by minute. It’s like going outside in changing weather and never being sure of how many layers you should wear. Will you be too hot, too cold or just right? And what do you do with all those layers if you don’t need them?

There’s also the other side of the coin though. What if your friends continue to invite you out, but you keep turning them down? Your reasons seem valid; you’re in pain, it’s too much of a hassle, the weather is too difficult, you’re tired, or you just don’t feel like it. It’s easy to make excuses, but you also need to search the real reasons for saying no. Are the reasons you’re giving valid? Or are you turning down invitations because of depression?

Signs to Watch Out For

How do you know if you’re becoming depressed or socially isolated? Here are some signs to watch for:

  • Being less motivated to leave your home
  • Feeling more anxious or worried when leaving the house
  • Declining invitations from friends or family to meet or attend gatherings
  • Planning fewer social opportunities for yourself
  • Ignoring supports when they reach out to you
  • Seeing only negatives associated with social connections

If you recognize any of these symptoms, please see a doctor in order to be treated appropriately. If you want to be more socially active, but find your friends are not as available as they’ve been in the past, the following suggestions might be helpful for you:

  • Volunteer with like-minded people
  • Help out in an animal shelter
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  • Take up a new hobby
  • Join a support group (in person or online)
  • Join a Social Group in your City (look on Craigslist)
  • Keep a journal – it can help put things in perspective

Loneliness can be hard to deal with, but with the right understanding and support, you can overcome it. Make sure you’re staying in touch with people and not isolating yourself, and reach out to others if your friends have stopped reaching out to you. It’s okay to move forward and make new friends. Listen to your body and do what’s right for you. If you’re feeling up to it, go out and make new friendships through volunteer work or so social groups. If you need to take a break from socializing, that’s fine. Just don’t fade into the woodwork. Remember, your presence is valued no matter how much of it you are able to give at any time. You are loved. And as I always say…

There Is Always Hope!

 

 

Another Offering Of Joy

It seems like all of us are looking for more joy in our lives. Appreciation is one of the easiest ways to feel better right away. No matter what is going on in your life, you can always find something to be grateful for.  When you start to appreciate those things you do have in your life, the feeling of joy will expand as you focus more on it. We are meant to be joyous and living a fulfilling life!

So why is it that most people are not doing that? It’s because they aren’t doing the things they absolutely LOVE to do. It’s time to figure out what we love and then fill our days with being and doing it!

Back in August of 2018, I wrote a well-received post called That Which Brings Me Joy. I followed up with A Little Bit More Joy in September which again was quite popular. Here for 2019 are 75 more ways to bring joy back into your world:

  1. Talk to a Stranger
  2. Go to the Theater
  3. Exercise
  4. Power Down Your Gadgets
  5. Try Something New
  6. Spend Time With Your Favorite Animal
    Adorable puppies and kittens and bunnies together together with cats little friends friend dog sweet cute animal bunny orange
  7. Practice Forgiveness
  8. Create Something Artistic
  9. Get a Houseplant
  10. Give Thanks
  11. Breathe Deeply
  12. Meditate
  13. Do Some Spring Cleaning
  14. Take a 30-Minute Walk
  15. Read a Novel
  16. Join a Team
  17. Do a Good Deed
  18. Get a Good Night’s Rest
  19. Stop and Smell the Roses
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  20. Get Outdoors
  21. Light a Candle
  22. Laugh
  23. Sing Your Heart Out
  24. Organize Your Bedroom
  25. Get Some Fresh Air
  26. Smile
  27. Take a Yoga Class
  28. Soak Up the Sun
  29. Take a Power Nap
  30. Eat a real Breakfast
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  31. Reflect on Your Daily Accomplishments
  32. Take Pride in Your Appearance
  33. Let Your Imagination Run Wild
  34. Sit Up Straight
  35. Practice Positive Affirmations
  36. Give Back to Your Community
  37. Savour Good Memories
  38. Be an Optimist
  39. Give More Hugs
  40. Work With Your Hands
  41. Don’t Worry About What Others Think of You
  42. Shower Yourself With Self-Love
  43. Live in the Moment
  44. Be on Time
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  45. Drink More Water
  46. Daydream
  47. Listen to Music
  48. Appreciate a Work of Art
  49. Let Go of Anger
  50. Spend Time With Friends and Family
  51. Buy Now, Enjoy Later
  52. Earn Your Indulgences
  53. Don’t Over-Indulge
  54. Pop in a Sappy Movie
  55. Read the Newspaper
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  56. Be Spontaneous
  57. Play in the Dirt
  58. Make the Bed
  59. Spend Time With Happy people
  60. Write Down Your Aspirations
  61. Make Time for Yourself
  62. Grow Your Own Vegetables
  63. Simplify
  64. Express Gratitude
  65. Read Something Spiritual
  66. Appreciate Your Surroundings
  67. Have a picnic
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  68. Hold hands with someone special
  69. Travel to a new city or country
  70. Sleep in
  71. Play a board game
  72. Create a photo album
  73. Jump in puddles
  74. Donate unwanted items to those in need
  75. Say I Love You more often

Joy is equal to happiness plus love. Isn’t that what we all want in our lives? Remember…

There Is Always Hope!

Chronic Illness and Anxiety

When you’ve been diagnosed with a chronic illness, you may feel as if you’ve lost control over your future. The stress of learning to deal with doctors and specialists, coping with physical changes, and managing daily life can often lead to excessive worry or stress. Researchers have found that experiencing a chronic illness puts a person at increased risk for developing anxiety or an anxiety disorder. Roughly 40% of people with cancer report experiencing psychological distress that often takes the shape of excessive worry or panic attacks.* People with ongoing, or chronic pain are three times more likely to develop symptoms of anxiety.**

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The daily demands of living with a chronic illness continues to present challenges and generate anxiety long after the diagnosis has been given. Loss of mobility or other abilities can lead to worry about employment or financial concerns. Depending on others, worrying about becoming a burden or even intimacy with your partner may also be concerns. Some people are more easily able to adapt to the changes in their lives. Others may feel overwhelmed with anxiety and struggle to cope. Still others may be in limbo, unable to make decisions about their future.

The Most Common Anxiety Disorders are:

1. Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) involves excessive and uncontrollable worry about everyday things, such as health, money or work. It is accompanied by physical symptoms such as restlessness, irritability, muscle tension, fatigue and difficulty sleeping or concentrating.
2. Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) entails persistent, recurring thoughts (obsessions) that reflect exaggerated anxiety or fears. Someone with OCD often will practice repetitive behaviors or rituals (compulsions). For instance, obsessing about germs may lead someone with OCD to compulsively washing hands—perhaps 50 times or more per day.
3. Panic Disorder includes severe attacks of terror or sudden rushes of intense anxiety and discomfort. Symptoms can mimic those found in heart disease, respiratory problems or thyroid problems, and individuals often fear they are dying, having a heart attack or about to faint. The symptoms experienced during a panic attack are real and overwhelming, but not life threatening.
4. Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) can follow exposure to a traumatic event, such as a car accident, rape, a terrorist attack or other violence. Symptoms include reliving the traumatic event, avoidance, detachment or difficulty sleeping and concentrating. Though it is commonly associated with veterans, any traumatic event can trigger PTSD.
5. Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD) is characterized by extreme anxiety about being judged by others or behaving in a way that might cause embarrassment or ridicule. People who have SAD have what feels like exaggerated stage fright all the time. SAD is also called social phobia.

Specific phobias are intense fear reactions that lead a person to avoid specific objects, places or situations, such as flying, heights or highway driving. The level of fear is excessive and unreasonable. Although the person with a phobia recognizes the fear as being irrational, even simply thinking about it can cause extreme anxiety. I personally am terrified of the Dentist, even though they treat me gently and with compassion. I have to take medication to help relax me in order to go for a simple cleaning.

Fortunately, anxiety is treatable with therapy, medication and complementary and alternative treatments (i.e. acupuncture, massage therapy, ). But when the focus is on the chronic illness, anxiety is often overlooked. That’s why it’s important to talk to your doctor about your emotional and cognitive health, and to speak up when you experience signs of anxiety.

Emotional symptoms of anxiety include:

  • Becoming easily agitated, frustrated, and moody
  • Feeling overwhelmed, like you are losing control or need to take control
  • Having difficulty relaxing and quieting your mind
  • Feeling bad about yourself (low self-esteem), lonely, worthless, and depressed
  • Avoiding others

Physical symptoms of anxiety include:

  • Low energy
  • Headaches
  • Upset stomach, including diarrhea, constipation, and nausea
  • Aches, pains, and tense muscles
  • Chest pain and rapid heartbeat
  • Insomnia
  • Frequent colds and infections
  • Loss of sexual desire and/or ability
  • Nervousness and shaking, ringing in the ear, cold or sweaty hands and feet
  • Dry mouth and difficulty swallowing
  • Clenched jaw and grinding teeth

Cognitive symptoms of stress include:

  • Constant worrying
  • Racing thoughts
  • Forgetfulness and disorganization
  • Inability to focus
  • Poor judgment
  • Being pessimistic or seeing only the negative side

 

What You Can Do

Challenge negative thinking. When you’re anxious, your brain may jump to conclusions, assume the worst, or exaggerate. Catastrophizing and ignoring the positives in your life may occur when you live with the challenges of a chronic illness. One way to manage anxiety is by being aware of the negative thinking, examining it and challenge the irrational thoughts. Counselors/therapists can play an important role in teaching you this important coping skill.

Calm your mind. Relaxation techniques can be an effective way to calm anxious thinking and direct your mind to a more positive place. Consider whether mindfulness meditation, yoga, or other breathing and focusing practices can still your body. Taking  time to relax, increases your ability to think objectively and positively when it comes to making choices about your health and life.

Find a good Doctor. If you take medication for both mental and for physical health, it’s important to that your doctors are aware of all your medications. Some medications may actually escalate anxiety, so it’s essential to work with a prescriber who can make informed choices that address both conditions without worsening either.

Find a support group. Managing a chronic illness can be a lonely job as it may be difficult for loved ones to understand the unique challenges. Support groups, whether online or in person are wonderful for creating community but also for providing information that can help reduce worry. They can also connect you to valuable resources for treating your illness.

Acknowledge successes. Anxious thinking about chronic illness can keep you from feeling that you have control over anything in life. It’s important to acknowledge all successes, both big and small. Keep track of the healthy things you do for your mind and body. Exercising, going to counseling, spending time with a friend–these can all help. Keeping these successes at the front of your mind can help you combat worry. They can remind you that you do have the power to affect your present and future.

If you think that you might have anxiety in addition to chronic illness, be honest with your doctor. Ask for help. Anxiety is highly treatable, so remember…

There Is Always Hope

*https://adaa.org/serious-chronic-or-terminal-illnesses
**http://www.health.harvard.edu/mind-and-mood/depression_and_pain

The February Poem

february

 

The shortest month it seems to me
the one that goes by so quickly
Is often dark and gloomy…wet
Winter-ish, not quite Spring yet

My hummingbirds return to feed
I give them all the food they need
Those saucy birds put on a show
And tease my cat too, don’t you know

There are some days that shine like gold
The sun so bright, those don’t grow old
I long for them, they warm my heart
While I yearn for Spring to start

The gloomy days, they start to brighten
Mornings also seem to lighten
The days get longer bit by bit
And I for one am glad of it

A Summer girl I am for sure
Winter’s something I endure
Fall is lovely, this is true
And Spring brings promise bright and new

But February on its own
Just seems so harsh and bleak, alone
I think the month needs a vacation
Someplace warm for recreation

Let’s send the month on Holiday
And have an extra month of May
Or June, July or August too
Any Summer month will do

February can return one day
When all its blues are chased away
In the meantime, tell me true
I think this plan will work…don’t you?

There Is Always Hope!

 

 

Invisible Illness – But You Look Fine!

One of the hardest parts of living with an Invisible Illness such as Fibromyalgia, MS, Ehlers Danlos, etc. is that you quite often look just fine on the outside, while your insides are screaming in pain. This leads many people to wonder if you truly are ill, or how serious your illness actually is. How do you handle this, as a Person with Chronic Pain (PwCP)?Screen Shot 2018-12-10 at 10.56.48 AM

For one thing, you should never have to make excuses for your pain to anyone. What you feel is what you feel, and there is never a reason to justify it or prove it, not even to your doctors. For years, people with Fibromyalgia went undiagnosed or misdiagnosed because Pain was often the only symptom a patient could describe. There are no other outward symptoms and nothing comes back in the blood tests or x-rays that a doctor might order. It’s only through using the 18 Tender Points and determining how many of them you have that a definitive diagnosis can be made for Fibro.

Other diseases often come with outward symptoms – the “butterfly rash” of lupus, the enlarged joints of Rheumatoid Arthritis, the dislocating joints of Ehler Danlos, the varying symptoms of MS – all of them a visual reminder that there is something wrong with a person. Fibro doesn’t present itself that way, and so a person can often look “normal” like everyone else, yet be in a flare up.

o-LADY-SAD-facebook

So how do you handle it when the people who are closest to you don’t believe you are ill or doubt the severity of your illness. The first step is to educate them on what Fibromyalgia is: a disorder characterized by widespread pain, which causes many symptoms like extreme fatigue, sleep issues, memory loss and mood issues. It is essentially a very painful, exhausting disease, for which there is no cure and few treatments.” It is becoming much more recognized in the Medical field, unlike in the past, and is well accepted as a legitimate condition, just like arthritis, Lupus, MS, etc.

Basically, your brain miscommunicates with the nerves in the spinal cord and sends out the wrong messages to your body, resulting in an overload of symptoms. This graphic may be helpful in showing you just some of what you can experience:

FibroSymptoms2

And this is the reason it’s such a hard disease to diagnose because these symptoms are often looked at just on their own, and not seen as part of the bigger picture. It’s no wonder people look at us and think we’re crazy. To have all these symptoms and yet still look perfectly normal on the outside…well, I’d wonder too perhaps. That’s where the education comes in. The more we teach people about Fibromyalgia and how it mimics so many other diseases, the more people will realize just how huge a burden we are carrying every day.

Nobody wants to be told they look awful though, so how do you break this Catch-22? You want people to see you as you really are, but you don’t necessarily want to look ill at the same time. Are you obligated to dress up and put on makeup everytime you go out, just to look “good” for strangers? Of course not, but I am advocating that you do it for yourself if you’re able. Run a brush through your hair, throw some lipstick on, go for a trendier haircut or a manicure. Never do it for someone else though and never let a stranger’s comments get to you. Only you know how you’re feeling at any point and sometimes it’s just not possible to do these sorts of things. Pain may get in the way, or finances or depression…in these times, just do the best you can with what you have in the way of energy and time and desire.

Remember…you are perfect just the way you are…everything else you do is a bonus.

Education of others is key, and I truly believe that the more we can share about Fibromyalgia and other Invisible Illnesses with them, the more they will understand what we are going through, and the more compassionate they will become. Perhaps then they will stop commenting on how “fine” we look, and will start seeing us in a true light. Maybe they will see our struggles, our problems, our symptoms and what we have to go through on a daily basis just to survive and finally understand how difficult our lives truly are. Then and only then will come the appreciation and admiration we’ve been waiting for.

There is always hope.

 

Fibromyalgia – In Tune With Our Bodies

I’ve been thinking lately of how lucky I am that despite the fact I live with Chronic Pain, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Fibromyalgia and Invisible Illnesses, I’m actually quite healthy. I know that sounds like an oxymoron, but I rarely come down with colds, I can’t remember the last time I had a flu or stomach bug or even when I could say I was “sick”. I try to remember to get a flu shot each year because I’m Diabetic, but it didn’t happen last year and so far this year, I haven’t made it to a clinic either. It’s also in my best interest to get one, because since having surgery for severe Gastric Reflux Disease in 2004, I am unable to physically vomit – if I get sick where vomiting becomes an issue, I have to go to the hospital and have a nasal gastric tube placed to remove my stomach contents. Not fun!!

As the old saying goes, aging ain’t for sissies! When you live with Fibromyalgia, you live with all sorts of “side effects”. This diagram displays some of the many “extras” a Fibromite can expect to experience:

FibroSymptomsDiagram

These are all common symptoms and it can be difficult to tell them apart from other illnesses, which makes it extremely important to be aware of your body and to note when something feels “off” or different than what is normal for you. We are generally quite in tune with our own bodies and are quickly able to determine when a new symptom appears that doesn’t fit in with our usual symptoms.

What happens though when you do experience something that you’re unsure of? Your first step should always be to see your Primary Health Care Provider anytime something comes up that is markedly different than your normal. It could be one of Fibromyalgia’s many symptoms, but it’s always better to be safe. I remember one time many years back when I started having severe pain in the lower left quadrant. It happened when I was living in Calgary and I had just finished a volunteer shift at the Calgary Stampede grounds. I’d eaten a corn dog and a few minutes later, was suddenly hit with terrible pain in my lower left side. I could barely walk but managed to make it on to the C-Train (the Lite Rapid Transit) and then called my husband to pick me up at the station to take me to the hospital. It turned out that a cyst that I didn’t know I had on my ovary had burst. I was prepared to put it down to something Fibro related and the only reason I got the proper diagnosis is because the pain was so bad, I went to the ER.

It’s easy to be dismissive of everything we feel and call it Fibro related, so we have to be careful not to fall into this trap. How do you tell the difference between Fibro related pain and something new or different for you? Here is a checklist to use:

  • Familiar or not – have you felt this same symptom before, or does this feel like something “new” to you?
  • Does it last longer than usual? This could potentially be a new situation that needs attention
  • It it more intense than usual? This could be the sign of a new problem
  • Is it in a new part of your body? This is more likely the sign of something new
  • Did it start suddenly or gradually? Gradual pain is more likely to be Fibro related.
  • Does something just feel “off” to you? Trust your instincts!

It’s recommended that everyone go for an annual checkup, but it’s especially important that you and your doctor stay in touch with how you are doing, outside of your Fibromyalgia. Don’t forget about the rest of your health.

Speaking of health, I want to share this new Health Alphabet. It may be helpful in future medical discussions, especially if aging is becoming a concern for you:

Screen Shot 2016-08-03 at 2.31.07 AM

Okay, a little humour never hurts, but when it comes to Fibromyalgia and changing symptoms, you do need to be careful not to overlook something that could have the potential to be serious. Always trust your instincts about how you’re feeling and see your doctor if something just doesn’t seem right. It’s better to be safe than sorry.

There is always hope

Do Migraine Glasses Really Work

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Today’s post is from Guest Author John Martinez. John  is a writer from California who sufferers from chronic headaches and occasional migraines. He works for Axon Optics, showing migraineurs how to treat their condition using science and clinical research.

 

 

Migraines can be, for lack of a better phrase, a real headache. Once you start to feel the symptoms of a migraine coming on, it can be hard to get away from the tumbling snowball of pain, dizziness, and sensitivity hurtling towards you. People with migraines know how desperate attempts to find treatment can be.

Migraine glasses are a hot item on the market right now, but if you’re skeptical about whether they work to prevent or treat migraines, you’re not alone. This guide can help you decide whether or not migraine glasses are for you and how they can help relieve common migraine systems.

What Are Migraine Glasses?

Migraine glasses (also known as “precision tinted glasses,”) have FL-41 lenses to block out specific light wavelengths that trigger photophobia and light sensitivity symptoms. Photophobia and migraines are closely linked; many migraine sufferers find that migraine glasses relieve migraine symptoms or prevent common migraine triggers.

About Photophobia

Let’s go back to a word that you might not have seen, but probably have experienced before: photophobia. No, it’s not the fear of photographs or selfies. Photophobia isn’t the fear of light either, but it is a word used to describe an extreme sensitivity to light. People with photophobia experience a range of symptoms. Some people may be only sensitive to bright lights, whereas different types of lighting (fluorescent, LED, sunlight, etc.) may be more triggering.

How Migraine Glasses Help Patients With Photophobia and Migraines

Experts at the John A. Moran Eye Center at the University of Utah Health Sciences Center have been studying the causes and effects of photophobia for quite some time. They discovered that certain wavelengths are more triggering than others. Blue-green wavelengths were most “dangerous” to people with photophobia.

These awesome Utah experts also discovered that a special type of lens filtered out these annoying blue-green wavelengths. These lenses (also known as “FL-41 lenses”) have a rose tint. Migraine glasses use FL-41 lenses to help people with photophobia get through the day or a migraine with mitigated symptoms and an increased tolerance to light.

These glasses aren’t just designed to be worn at the time of a migraine. A 2014 study revealed that three out of four migraine sufferers experienced light sensitivity throughout the day, even after they stopped experiencing migraine symptoms.

“Why can’t you just wear sunglasses?”

This last finding is especially important. Photophobia doesn’t switch on and off like a light switch. Moving from a dark to lit room can trigger photophobia. Long periods of screen time can trigger photophobia. Flashing lights can trigger photophobia.

Even if these lights aren’t particularly bright, they can still trigger photophobia – after all, people with photophobia have a lower tolerance for many different types of light. And it’s hard to determine when or where these triggers might appear in your daily life.

Many people ask themselves (or migraine sufferers) why they just can’t wear sunglasses to treat photophobia. For many people, the answer isn’t to make the room darker – it’s to avoid the types of wavelengths that are most triggering.

Plus, who wants to wear sunglasses 24/7?

Light Sensitivity Relief Helps Reduce Other Symptoms

The effects of migraine glasses aren’t just limited to light sensitivity. Often, migraine sufferers link light sensitivity to pain, anxiety, and discomfort. When walking into a room with bright lighting or looking at your work computer is more comfortable, your day becomes easier and you can avoid migraines triggered by stress or discomfort.

Migraine Glasses Aren’t Just For People With Migraines…

So the answer to our question (“Do migraine glasses really work?”) is: yes. But migraine glasses don’t just help people who suffer from migraines.

Migraine glasses have been tested and proven to help patients who suffer from benign essential blepharospasm (BEB.) People with BEB often experience rapid eye blinking or eye spasms. They also experience a similar type of photophobia as people with migraines.

Other studies have shown that migraine glasses can help to relieve photophobia symptoms in blind migraine sufferers and blind people with photophobia. That’s right; even blind people can experience migraines and sensitivity to light. Photophobia is much more common than you might think, especially if you have migraines.

Migraine Glasses Might Be For You

You might have read to this point and thought, “I don’t have photophobia, so these glasses probably won’t help.” Pump the brakes. Unfortunately, a lot of migraine sufferers don’t realize they have photophobia. Light sensitivity is often overlooked or misdiagnosed alongside all of the other insufferable side effects of migraines.

Researchers at the Baylor College of Medicine asked 84 migraine sufferers whether or not they suffered from photophobia. Twenty-four percent of respondents said they didn’t. After more questioning, the researchers discovered that over 90% of participants did experience some sort of light sensitivity or photophobia.

Talk to a medical health professional about the symptoms of photophobia and how they may affect your migraines.

Where To Find Migraine Glasses

When you start shopping online for migraine glasses, know that you will come across a very similar cousin: blue-blocking glasses. These glasses (also known as “blue light” glasses) help to filter out blue wavelengths that we absorb when we stare at screens. Users offer rave reviews of blue blocking glasses…but these users don’t always suffer from migraines.

The difference between FL-41 glasses and “blue blocking” glasses is that FL-41 glasses focus on the wavelengths that specifically trigger photophobia or migraines. These wavelengths can be found across the blue-green spectrum. There is no harm in trying blue blocking glasses, but people with photophobia may find migraine glasses to be more effective than blue light glasses.

Look for glasses that specifically have FL-41 lenses. Axon Optics, for example, are a popular brand of light sensitivity glasses (migraine glasses) that use FL-41 lenses to relieve symptoms of migraines and light sensitivity.

FL-41 lenses don’t just come in one type of frame or style, either. Migraine sufferers can even find relief in FL-41 contact lenses that have been recently developed for the market.

If you suffer from migraines, migraine glasses are definitely worth a try. Enjoy a life with decreased light sensitivity and reduced migraine symptoms. See the world through rose-colored glasses…literally and figuratively!

Chronic Pain and The End Of Life

Helping hand

Chronic Pain can be so debilitating that you may sometimes wish for an end to it all. Although I will touch on assisted suicide in this post, it’s also never too early to have your plans in place for end of life care and preparations for what happens when you do pass away. It’s a difficult subject that no one wants to talk about but I’ve never been one to shy away from the hard topics before.

Wills and Financial Planning

Speak with your lawyer and make sure you have a current will. Discuss estate planning, trust funds, donations and any other legal matters so everything is up to date. Your Financial Planner can also help you set up your affairs so that it’s easy for your family to follow your plans. Make sure your financial planning is sound and in line with personal desires.

Make a Plan

To ensure your end-of-life care is handled the way you want, make a comprehensive plan. This allows you to outline everything about the care you wish to receive once you are no longer capable of making your own decisions (like pain management or DNR instructions). Involve your family and friends in your end-of-life plan so that anyone who might be responsible for your care knows exactly what your wishes are. Have them use it like a guide, and be sure to talk through anything they might not agree with or understand to make sure they know why you want things a certain way.

Keeping your loved ones in the mix serves multiple purposes: Not only does it help you better protect yourself, it helps them process and work through your ailing years and eventual passing. A plan you’ve discussed and prepared your family for will bring them ease and relieve a huge burden.

Talk to them about those feelings of loss. Make sure they have an understanding of what to do when that loss happens to help them cope; how to ask for help, how to get help with those feelings. Helping your loved ones can also help you come to terms with your own end-of-life process. You may have many years to live or your health may be such that you are facing the end of your life much sooner. Being prepared for death is perhaps the most difficult thing you will ever experience in your life. Here are a few things to consider:

  • Say the “6 Things” you need to say to your loved ones, friends and enemies. It is never too early to say these things.

“I’m sorry.”
“I forgive you.”
“Thank you.”
“I love you.”
“It’s OK to die.”
“Goodbye.”

  • What are my beliefs about death? Do I need to make peace with myself or a Higher Power?
  • Do I need psychological, emotional, spiritual care, counseling or support?
  • Have I left a legacy? Identify life lessons, advice, hopes and dreams that you would like to pass on to family and friends. Write or record these. Identify a person who can pass these along to the people to those whom you wish to receive your legacy.
  • Have I written my personal history? You can write it down, or record on audio or video tape, etc. Who is to get my personal history?

Funeral Arrangements

Many people decide nowadays to make their funeral arrangements in advance, to spare their family the task in their time of grief. Most reputable Funeral homes have options to pre-pay for services including cremation, caskets, urns, plots, etc., so you can rest assured that everything is taken care of in advance. Contact the Funeral Home of your choice to discuss your wishes with them. Most of them offer a free planning book as well to help you organize all your paperwork in the event of your death – your wills, banking information, life insurance, important contacts, etc.

Assisted Suicide

Assisted Suicide is a very controversial topic these days. I want to state clearly that I am FOR assisted suicide when every option has been played out and a terminally ill person has reached a point in their health journey where they have no further reason to go on. People who opt for AS are not looking for a quick solution – they have put a lot of time and thought into their decision and they know it’s the right choice for them.

We treat our animals more humanely than we do people, and when the time has come when a person is ready to die, I think we owe them the option to do so with dignity. I live in Canada, where Euthanasia became legal in 2016 for patients experiencing intolerable suffering. Strict laws govern access to legal assisted suicide in Canada and there have been at least 744 assisted deaths since the law was first passed.

These are hard things to talk about, but the fact remains that the more prepared you are in advance, the easier things will be in a crisis later. Just remember though that despite the nature of chronic pain, everything is worth fighting for… love, laughter and life itself. It is always my signature at the end of each post but today, I mean it even more…

There is always hope

 

 

Surgical Solutions And Resilience

If you read my last post, you know that I live with a number of health issues, and have for many years. What I didn’t talk about was a more recent issue that has come up involving a bump on the back of my left ankle and my Achilles tendon that is tearing away from the bone.

The bump is called a Haglund’s Deformity. I’ve had it for over a year now and it seems to have developed after I had my right hip replaced, perhaps in response to a changed gait in my walking. I didn’t notice it at first, not until it became painful. What my Physiatrist (my pain doctor) and I didn’t realize is that it was also affecting my Achilles Tendon and that tendon was slowly pulling away from the bone. It wasn’t until I could no longer walk without constant pain that we came to understand the full severity of what we were dealing with. 

I was sent for x-rays and the results showed the truth. Since November 2018. I’ve been wearing an Air Cast to help protect my ankle and reduce the pain when I walk. We’ve tried Botox in the calf muscles to try to tighten the tendon so it will reattach to the bone, but if this doesn’t work, it’s going to mean a complicated ankle repair in surgery. 

So, why I am I sharing this with you?  Because this isn’t the only surgery I’m facing in the next little while and I want to talk about resilience. 

Resilience is a funny word. The official definition is this: 

re·sil·ience
[rəˈzilyəns]

NOUN

1. the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties; toughness.
“the often remarkable resilience of so many British institutions”

2. the ability of a substance or object to spring back into shape; elasticity.
“nylon is excellent in wearability and resilience”
synonyms:
flexibility · pliability · suppleness · plasticity · elasticity · springiness ·

Now, I wouldn’t say that definition number 2 is all that appropriate as I certainly don’t feel all that “elastic” or “springy”.  I do agree with the first one though. I think I have a remarkable ability to recover from difficulties. With everything I’ve been given in life to handle, and each new challenge I’ve been given to face, I’ve been able to rise to the occasion and deal with it as it’s happened.

As I said, I am facing another surgery this year and it’s one I never thought I’d hear myself say – Brain Surgery. Because of my Trigeminal Neuralgia, we have come to the point where I’ve exhausted every medication out there and I’ve been left with no other options for treatment. I am meeting with the Surgeon on April 30th and the surgery we will be discussing is called Microvascular Decompression. It has an 80% success rate, which is the highest of all the available surgeries, and is the least likely to cause lasting facial numbness afterward.

Trigeminal nerve branches

In Microvascular Decompression surgery, the Neurosurgeon creates an opening in the skull behind the ear on the affected side and using delicate tools, places a sponge between the nerve and the blood vessel causing compression, which in turn reduces the irritation caused by the nerve. It also prevents almost any facial numbness from happening which is a common side effect in most other surgical procedures, such as Sensory Rhizotomy, Gamma Knife Radiosurgery or Peripheral Neurectomy.  A small titanium plate is used to replace the bone removed and is put into place with tiny screws. 

A sponge is inserted between the nerve and the blood vessel, usually the superior cerebellar artery, causing compression.

MVD sponge placement

A sponge is inserted between the nerve and the blood vessel, usually the superior cerebellar artery, causing compression.

After the surgery, you spend a night in the ICU and then 1-2 days in hospital before being released to recover. 

It all sounds pretty scary, but it’s my best hope for relief from this insidious pain. I’m now averaging a flare up every week and they generally last for 12 hours at a time. It’s sheer agony when they happen – there’s a reason this condition is called the suicide disease. 

So, how do you bounce back from something like this? Where does the courage come from? Part of it for me is my faith in God. Part of it is my natural positive outlook on life. My Dear Readers know that my motto is “there is always hope”. I end each post with those words, they are tattooed on my left arm, they are my favourite words from the movie The Lord of The Rings, when Aragorn is talking to the young boy just before the Battle at Helms Deep. They remind me that no matter what we are facing in life, things could be worse. I know that might sound silly, but truly, they could be. I could be facing a terminal illness, not just an issue that causes tremendous pain. There could be NO solution for me at all.

The thing is, I believe we have a choice in how we react to news, good and bad. Being joyful is easy in good times, but I choose to be joyful in the bad times too. I choose to stay positive in the dark days. I choose to believe that things can get better. My attitude is one of gratitude despite the circumstances. And I encourage others to try to do the same thing. You have a choice. Be resilient. Fight with all you have inside you. Choose to find the joy in your circumstances, as small as it might be. Remember…

There is always hope.

 

Refresher Course

I thought I’d start out the year with a refresher course on the conditions I live with and how blogging has had such an impact in my life. Because of my blogging, I have had chances to be interviewed in a Canadian National newspaper, on two different podcasts, and several different articles online. The various conditions I write about are because of the fact I live with them and am personally acquainted with them. So, without further ado, here we go:

  • Chronic Pain
  • Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
  • Fibromyalgia / Myofascial Pain
  • Osteoarthritis (in all my major joints)
  • Forestier’s Disease (aka D.I.S.H.)
  • Type 2 Diabetes (on insulin)
  • Trigeminal Neuralgia
  • Bipolar Disorder
  • Gastroparesis
  • Internal Adhesions/Scar Tissue/Chronic Pelvic Pain
  • Hypothyroidism

So I’ve talked about my Chronic Pain from Fibromyalgia and Osteoarthritis, and when I say I have arthritis in all my major joints, I’m serious. I have it in my shoulders, elbows, wrists and fingers, my cervical, thoracic and lumbar spine, left hip (right hip has been replaced), knees, ankles and toes. Some areas like my left hip and right knee are quite serious and will need replacing, but the rest I’ll have to live with.

Meanwhile, my thoracic spine has a different type of bone condition called Forestier’s Disease or D.I.S.H., which stands for Diffuse (Widespread) Idiopathic (Of Unknown Cause) Skeletal (Referring to the Skeleton) Hyperostosis (Excessive Growth of Bone). It forms in the shape of a bone spur, but instead of a normal spur that could be removed, it looks more like melted candle wax on the spine, so nothing can be done about it.

Diffuse-idiopathic-skeletal-hyperostosis-DISH-of-the-spine-grave-290-male-50-60-yrs

I also have regular bone spurs on my right hand – I had one removed from inside my pointer finger as it grew through a tendon, and there is a second one on the outside of my middle finger growing through the knuckle. Both have been very painful and interfere(d) with typing and writing.

My Type 2 Diabetes has been with me for 8 years now and is mostly under control. I go for regular blood tests every 3 months, to get my A1C numbers that show my average blood sugar levels for the previous 3 months. Generally speaking, I average around 6.9 to 7.2 which is slightly higher than the 5.9 – 6.2 my doctor would like, but I do my best. I use long acting insulin at night, 14 units which does a good job at helping to keep things under control. I’m trying to eat better, but I’m a sucker for sweets and it’s hard to be disciplined.

My Trigeminal Neuralgia is something I’ve talked about before so you can read the article about it here.  The same goes for my Bipolar Disorder.

So, what else is on that list. Ah yes, the ever lovely Gastroparesis

what-is-gastroparesis

Now, the way they determine if you have this or not is through something called a motility test. In my case, they wanted me off ALL of my meds first to make sure they weren’t contributing to the problem, so for 2 days prior to my test I had to quit my medications cold turkey. That included my meds for Fibromyalgia, my anti-psychotics AND my opioid narcotic for pain. Do you have any idea what going through withdrawal is like? It was horrendous. I had the shakes, the runs, I couldn’t eat or sleep, and for those 2 days, I alternated between thinking I was dying and wanting to die to having to feel better in order to die.

On the day of the test, I went to the hospital to where the Nuclear testing is done. I knew that I was going to be eating an egg sandwich with a radioactive tracer in it and that tracer would be monitored through a series of special x-rays, but I explained to the nurse that everything I ate was immediately running right through me like water. She was so sweet…she “reserved” me a private bathroom, brought me my sandwich and told me to eat as much as I could while I sat there. Talk about embarrassing!!! It’s embarrassing writing about it!!! But, I managed just over 3/4’s of it, which she said was enough. She brought me into the x-ray room where there was a gurney to lay on, and then gave me a warm blanket.

The first pictures were taken every 2 minutes, so I just sat. Then they took them every 5 minutes apart, then 10 minutes apart, then 15, then 30 and finally 2 pictures 1 hour apart each. In between, I slept on the gurney, and my nurse brought me as many warm blankets as I wanted. She also brought me a cold wet face cloth for my forehead. When it was all over, I gave her a big hug and thanked her for being so kind. Then I took my medications asap!!!!

The tests showed that I have a moderate degree of low motility so my food sits in my stomach for a long period of time before moving on to the intestines. This explains why I always look bloated and pregnant. There are medications that can be taken, but I’ve asked my doctor if we can just hold off and wait on that for now. This is more of an inconvenience than anything right now, and I just don’t want any more drugs in my system than I absolutely need. If the problem becomes hugely bothersome, we’ll revisit it, but in the meantime, I’ll just try to watch what I eat, drink more water and try to exercise a bit more.

The Internal Pelvic pain is because I have had a number of pelvic surgeries over the years, so there is a lot of internal scar tissue left over that has attached itself to things like my bladder and bowel, etc. There are occasions when I move a certain way, and those adhesions stretch very painfully – it feels like velcro being ripped apart except it’s my body doing the ripping. It takes my breath away sometimes, it’s so painful, but it only lasts for a minute or two, then it’s gone.

Which leads to Hypothyroidism. For a long time, I assumed that Chronic Fatigue Syndrome was the only reason for my constant exhaustion, as my Thyroid numbers always came back normal on blood tests done every three months. One day though, my thyroid went rogue and those numbers were crazy. I had been especially tired…like dragging my ass tired, needed toothpicks to keep my eyes open tired

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Oohhh, that is NOT a good look on me!!! My doctor put me on meds and I could feel a difference in a very short period of time. On my next 3 month course of blood work, everything was back to normal, so now I take Synthroid on a daily basis for the rest of my life, to ensure I have a properly working system. So glad that was an easy fix!!

So there you have it. It’s a tough road to walk, I have to be honest. I live with pain 24/7 and have for almost 30 years now. Suffice it to say that you have to be mighty strong to live like this, to get through the day-to-day of actually living in pain. I know some people who just couldn’t. They tried so, so hard, but in the end, their pain was too much for them, and they took their own lives.

I’m a huge advocate for assisted suicide for people who live with severe, intractable pain. We take better care of our pets when they are hurting than we do our humans, and I think that is just plain wrong. I believe every human has the right to choose to die with dignity and I’m glad our Government has come on board with this. I know it’s not perfect, but at least things have started and that’s the main thing.

One thing having all these conditions HAS done though is that it’s given me a platform to blog about them and to discuss them as a Patient Partner in my volunteer work. I live in Langford, BC Canada and I belong to an organization called Patient Voices Network. They help take the voice of the patient and partner us with Heath Care Organizations who need Patient Advocates for the work that they are doing. I’ve been involved in committee work, focus groups, conferences, quality assurance forums, seminars and more because of PVN. The educational experience I’ve received is on par to anything I attended in my working life and in fact, when I attend anything in their offices in Vancouver now, it’s like being greeted by family – I know everyone and they all know me, I’ve been there so often for meetings.

I currently sit on 4 different committees: I am a member of the PVN Oversight & Advisory Committee, I currently sit on the Clinical Resource Committee for the BC Emergency Physicians Network , and I accepted a role with the Laboratory Quality Council Committee. We are responsible for all Labs on Vancouver Island as well as all Medical Blood Collection Stations.

Most recently, I took on a new role as committee member on the Measurement System for Physician Quality Improvement- Surgical Group. I am surrounded by top surgeons in Cardiac Care, Orthopedics and Neurology, plus high-ranking members from the Ministry of Health, the BC Patient Safety & Quality Council and other Health Organizations – and then there’s me. The lone patient voice to represent the masses. It’s a huge responsibility and one I take very seriously. I’ve already spoken out to let them know that while they see quality one way, I as a patient see it differently, and I expect my voice to be heard. It was empowering to have them tell me that I am the whole reason the others are there, because it’s all about the patient in the end.

So all this adds up to some pretty amazing experiences for me because of the pretty extraordinary pain that I live with on a daily basis. I have been truly blessed in my life, and I’m fortunate to be able to share it with you, my Dear Readers. Thank you for taking this journey with me. I hope to bring you more articles this year about Chronic Pain, Chronic Fatigue, Fibromyalgia and other Invisible Illnesses. And remember…

There is always hope

Chronic Pain & Post Holiday Blues

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Do you find yourself feeling more pain after the holidays are over? More physical pain seems natural because of all the running around that we do with Christmas and New Years and the extra work that happens to make the holidays special. What about the post holiday blues? Do you find yourself feeling more mental pain when the holidays are over? More depression, or more Seasonal Sadness? How do you manage that and where is it coming from?

Some of it comes from the Holidays themselves. Often, we project what we want them to look like instead of accepting the reality of what they actually are for us. We want the perfect family around the perfect tree with perfect presents and everyone getting along in perfect harmony. What happens instead is the stress of buying, decorating, cooking and cleaning all while appeasing children, spouse and family members who may or may not be speaking to each other on the big day. No wonder you’re left with a huge let down after the New Year rolls in.

Financial stress plays a huge role as well, once those credit card bills start showing up in January. Even if you swore you wouldn’t have a credit card Christmas or Hanukkah, chances are you’re still looking at some expenses that you weren’t expecting, and now you need to do some budget adjusting. That’s enough to make anyone feel blue. And if you’re one of the many people who put your entire holiday shopping on your credit card, you’ll be feeling the hit even harder.

The weather also plays a huge part in how we feel in the New Year. Depending on where you live, you could be seeing sunshine and cold temperatures, mild temperatures and rain, or bitterly cold and snow, or any combination in between. The days are short and darkness prevails. Seasonal Affectiveness Disorder is a real condition that deeply alters the lives of more people than we realize. Getting out into the natural sunlight is the best remedy, but the alternate is to use a special lamp to get the light you need to function properly during the winter months.

How else can you combat these Post Holiday Blues? Here is a list of suggestions that might help:

Limit alcohol – Now that the holidays are over, start to limit your alcohol intake, and try not to keep it readily available around your house. Drink lots of water to flush your system and get back to good nutrition.

Get plenty of sleep – Try to go to bed at a specific time each night. Being well-rested can improve your mood and help you feel ready to take on the day.

Exercise regularly – Plug in your headphones and pop out for a walk around the block a couple of times a day. A quick 10-minute walk will get your heart rate up and release mood-boosting endorphins.

Learn to say “no” – Overscheduling and not making time for yourself can lead to emotional breakdowns. Learn how to say “no,” and stay firm on your decision.

Reflect on the Special Moments – 

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Grab a hot tea or hot chocolate, sit by the fireplace, and reflect on what you loved about this holiday season.

  • What was the best conversation you had?
  • What was the most thoughtful gift you received?
  • What was the funniest thing that happened?
  • What was one disaster that turned into a blessing or a great memory?

Try Something New – New Year, new hobbies! Make up your mind to try something new this year. Take a class, return to an old hobby, or pick up a new one.

Make a Budget – No one likes to dwell on financial stuff, but vow to make a budget this year and then stick to it. You’ll be amazed at how much stress relief this can offer you when you see exactly where you money is going and how much you can actually save every single month. Buy software for your computer to help you, download an app or get a book to make it easier.

Volunteer –  If you can spare a bit of time each week or each month, consider doing some volunteer work in an area that interests you the most. From working with kids, seniors, or animals to helping with community arts and theatre, health organizations or your local Downtown Business Association, there are so many places that can use your help. Even just a couple of hours a month makes a difference when we all pitch in together.

Give Blood – Another way to help others, if you are physically able to donate blood, please consider giving. There’s nothing like being a Lifesaver to make you feel good!

Keep a Gratitude Journal – Each day, write down three things you are grateful for.

Can you come up with your own suggestions for this list to make it your own? If and when you do, share your ideas with your friends and in the comment section below. One thing I do want to remind you of is that if the Post Holiday Blues tend to linger on for longer than a month, you may want to speak to your doctor. You could be experiencing something more than just “Post Holiday Blues” and require proper medical care. Don’t ever be afraid to ask for help if you feel dark thoughts or deep depression. There is help available and absolutely NO shame in asking for it. I live with Bipolar Disorder and have to be very careful during and after the holidays that my mania isn’t triggered because I would go on shopping binges.

Remember…

There is always hope

 

Starting With Gratitude

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I hope dear Readers that you all had wonderful Holiday celebrations and are ready for the challenges of 2019! I wanted to start the year by thinking about Gratitude, a favourite subject of mine.

Here you’ll find 50 very solid things to be thankful for in your everyday life. These are great reminders for you to treasure everything you have.

1. Good Health

Even if you’re health isn’t great, it could be worse and you likely still have some working parts to be thankful for.

2. Money in the Bank

Having just a few coins makes you richer than most people on Earth.

3. Good Friends

Often, it’s the quality of friendships, not the quantity.

4. Freedom of Religion

Being able to worship whomever and however you want is something many people don’t ever experience.

5. Your Parents

Even if they’re dysfunctional, they gave you life.

6. Weekends

There’s something magical about weekends.

7. Pets

Adorable puppies and kittens and bunnies together together with cats little friends friend dog sweet cute animal bunny orange

Pets offer one of the best examples of unconditional love.

8. Learning from Mistakes

If we never made mistakes, we wouldn’t learn much so it is one of those things we should be thankful for.

9. Opportunity to Get an Education

The opportunity to attend school is something many people don’t have.

10. Having a Home

Whether you live in an apartment, a mansion, or a tent, having a place to call home is something to be thankful for.

11. An Ability to Read

If you’re reading this right now, you have a lot to be thankful for.

13. Breathing Fresh Air

Being able to step outside to breathe in fresh air is a good reminder how many little things we should be thankful for.

14. Laughter

Without laughter, the world would be a sad place.

15. Sunshine

The sun’s warmth can brighten any day.

16. Time

Although we often don’t think there’s enough of it, time is something we shouldn’t take for granted.

17. Clean Water

Many people on earth lack access to clean water.

18. Cell Phones

Cell phones make talking to loved ones easy.

19. Love

The world sure would be a different place if we lacked the ability to love.

20. Books

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Books provide an opportunity to enter another world all from the comfort of your own home.

21. Kindness of Strangers

Never take the kindness of a stranger for granted.

22. Campfires

The simplicity of a campfire creates lifelong memories.

23. Pain

Without pain, it would be difficulty to appreciate life’s joys.

24. Art

The world would be less beautiful if art didn’t exist.

25. Holidays

Any reason to celebrate is something we should be thankful for.

26. Freedom of Speech

Being able to express your thoughts and feelings freely should never be taken for granted.

37. Rainbows

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The beauty of a rainbow is unmatched.

28. Tears

Sometimes when there are no words to say, tears express how we feel for us.

29. Waking up Today

Simply waking up today means you have things to be thankful for.

30. Indoor Plumbing

Indoor plumbing not only provides convenience, it spares us from disease.

31. Wisdom that Comes with Age

Thankfully, we grow smarter over time.

32. Mountains

Mountains provide us with beauty and recreation.

33. Sunsets

Sunsets are a reminder that we should enjoy the simple things in life.

34. Entertainment

Entertainment gives us a way to relax and enjoy life.

35. Your Mind

Being able to think, remember, and solve problems sure makes life easier.

37. Diversity

The world would be a boring place without diversity.

38. Moon and Stars

The moon and stars encourage us to dream.

39. Electricity

Electricity makes most of our chores efficient.

40. Hearing

Being able to hear your loved one’s voice is something that not everyone gets to do.

42. Children

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Watching children laugh, grow, and dream can keep things in perspective.

43. Ability to Learn

The ability to learn new things means we have endless potential.

44. People Willing to Teach

Whether it’s your grandmother teaching you to knit or your plumber showing you how to prevent future problems, be grateful that others are willing to use their time and talents to teach you something new.

45. Oceans

The sea creatures in the ocean almost seem too mystical to be real.

46. Modern Medicine

Without advances in modern medicine, many of us wouldn’t be alive.

47. Music

Music brings out new emotions.

48. Entrepreneurs and inventors

Some of life’s best inventions resulted from an entrepreneur who was willing to take a risk.

49. Freedom to Vote

Being able to have a say in the laws should never be taken for granted.

50. Challenges

Without challenges in life, we wouldn’t be the people we are now.

Thank you to Lifehack.org for the list.  What other things can you think of to be grateful for? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.

Remember…There is always hope

Ending The Year

It’s December 29th and the year is drawing to a close. I want to take this time to simply recap the year and say thank you to my Dear Readers for spending your time with me in 2018.

From the beginning of the year, when I really got started blogging, I started out by writing Happy New Year .  My main theme at that time was to talk about my hip replacement surgery which was the real reason this blog came into existance. I had been searching for personal stories of “younger” women who had undergone hip replacements but hadn’t found much, so I thought I’d share my story for others who might find it helpful for themselves. One thing led to another and before I knew it, I was writing about my other health issues, including Fibromyalgia, Chronic Pain, Chronic Fatigue and Invisible Illnesses.

I’ve had the opportunity to share my thoughts about body image, intimacy when you live with Chronic Pain, the sleeplessness that comes with Fibromyalgia and Invisible Illnesss, and how the simple loss of bathing can mean so much heartache. On the other hand, I’ve been able to share about gratitude and finding joy on more than one occasion, so I’ve tried to focus on the positives as much as possible, whenever possible.

I couldn’t do this without you. Without my Dear Readers, there wouldn’t be much sense in putting this out there, so I appreciate each and every one of you who comes to my blog and reads what I have to say. You may not comment on every post, heck…you may never comment on a post I write, but the numbers don’t lie. My stats show that you are there and that you keep coming back. In fact, when I took a week off and didn’t do a thing to market the blog…no Pinterest, no Twitter, no Social Media at all, the numbers dropped, but a bunch of you still came by to see if there was anything new.

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You can see where I was away for the week. On Nov. 15th and 16th, I was in Vancouver for a volunteer meeting, and away from my computer the whole time. When I put the effort in, you do the same and come back to see what’s new…the numbers don’t lie, and I am forever grateful.

So, to wrap up 2018, I want to say thank you. You’ve helped me reach a far greater level of success than I ever thought I’d make, simply because you like to read my thoughts. That’s pretty amazing to me. I just want to provide as much information as I can to anyone who is living with Fibromyalgia, Chronic Pain, Chronic Fatigue or Invisible Illness. I want you to know you’re not alone. I’m right there with you and for as long as I’m able, I will continue to write and bring you articles and information to help you thrive.

I wish each and every one of you a very Happy New Year. May you be blessed in 2019 with the very best the year can offer. Remember…

There is always hope

Post Holiday Blues

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The days after the Holiday Season can be difficult ones. Post Christmas blues are a real thing, so I wanted to give you some ideas on how to handle the feelings you may encounter.

Expect there to be some letdown.

You’ve been dealing with shopping, family members, various activities that are out of the normal routines, etc. so there’s bound to be a change in adrenaline. Getting used to your regular routine may take a bit of time, plus you still have New Year’s to deal with. Also, if your Christmas wasn’t quite what you expected, for example, if there were arguments with family or if you were dealing with the loss of a loved one, you can be left feeling let down about the lack of enjoyment you’d expected.

Choose to see the Benefits of the post-holiday time.

Now is the time to rest and relax after the craziness of preparing for Christmas or Hanukkah. Things are likely slower at work right now so you have a quieter time to enjoy yourself before the New Year starts and the busyness begins again. A break in routine is always beneficial and gives the spirit a chance to be rejuvenated. It’s a time for reflection and perhaps a new perspective as the old year ends.

Go easy on yourself regarding New Year resolutions

Set the bar too high, and you’ve already set yourself up to fail. Set it too low, and you have nothing to challenge yourself with. Instead, be realistic about your goals and make sure they are achievable without being too harsh on yourself. S.M.A.R.T. goals are the way to go:

S – Specific  M – Measurable   A – Achievable  R – Relevant  T – Timely

Make a plan

After the excitement of Christmas, going back to a regular, mundane routine is enough to lower anybody’s spirits. A good way to alleviate this feeling of boredom is to create something to look forward to. If you have the time and depending on your budget, this could be anything from planning a night out to booking a trip away. Whatever you decide, make sure it is something you will really look forward to, then start counting down the days.

Exercise your funny bone

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Laughter has been proven to be an extremely effective mood booster; releasing endorphins which instantly raise spirits and give a feeling of wellbeing. To help raise your spirits, download a funny movie or go to a comedy club and spend a few hours exercising your laughter muscles.

Get active

Although feeling let-down is unlikely to put you in the mood to exercise, getting up and active is actually one of the best things you can do. Exercise not only releases mood boosting endorphins like laughter does, but if weight gain is one of the things getting you down, it will help you to quickly shift those excess pounds. Get out in the fresh air for a walk, or try swimming, yoga or aerobics to help put you in a better frame of mind.

Don’t be SAD

Seasonal affective disorder is characterized by feelings of sadness and depression that occur in the fall or winter months when the temperatures begin to drop and the days grow shorter. The depressive episode is often associated with excessive eating, sleeping, and weight gain. If you feel that you may be experiencing this disorder, a session under a Phototherapy Lamp may be in order. These special lights are designed to replace the natural sunlight you miss in the darker winter months. Look them up online and see if one might be right for you.

Volunteer

If you find that you are fixated on your mood post-Christmas, it is a good idea to distract yourself by putting the focus on to others. Take some time out to do some volunteer work, or if you are short of time make a commitment to doing one small act of kindness a day such as listening to a friend’s problem or smiling at a stranger. Not only will helping others distract you from your own feelings but it will help you put things into perspective. As an added bonus, smiling is contagious and helping others feel happy will also put you in a better mood.

Perk up your social life

Spending time with others can be one of the greatest mood boosters, but you can’t always rely on everybody else to make the plans. If your social life could do with a boost following Christmas, it’s time to get proactive. Pick up the phone and give someone a call or arrange to visit someone who lives a long way away. Alternatively, take up a hobby or join a club and start meeting some new people to spend time with.

Get your finances in order

One of the reasons many people feel blue after Christmas is because they have worries over their finances – and the damage Christmas has wreaked on them – hanging over their head. Rather than worrying about it, sit down and sort out your financial situation. See what shape you are in financially and, if necessary, set yourself a budget for the next few months or so. This may make you feel even worse right now but going on in ignorance means that your worries will only eat away at you. Face your finances, work out how to move forward, and then you can move on happier. Remember…

There is always hope

 

Fifty Christmas Quotes

In the Spirit of the Season, here are 50 Christmas quotes to help bring good cheer to your heart during the holidays. Thanks to the website Daring To Live Fully for the list.

1. “I sometimes think we expect too much of Christmas Day. We try to crowd into it the long arrears of kindliness and humanity of the whole year. As for me, I like to take my Christmas a little at a time, all through the year. And thus I drift along into the holidays – let them overtake me unexpectedly – waking up some fine morning and suddenly saying to myself: ‘Why, this is Christmas Day!’”

~ David Grayson

2. “It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas;
Soon the bells will start,
And the thing that will make them ring
Is the carol that you sing
Right within your heart.”

~ Meredith Willson, “It’s Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas”

3. “Christmas gift suggestions: to your enemy, forgiveness. To an opponent, tolerance. To a friend, your heart. To a customer, service. To all, charity. To every child, a good example. To yourself, respect.”

~ Oren Arnold

4.Christmas quotes

5. “Gifts of time and love are surely the basic ingredients of a truly merry Christmas.”

~ Peg Bracken

6. “Instead of being a time of unusual behavior, Christmas is perhaps the only time in the year when people can obey their natural impulses and express their true sentiments without feeling self-conscious and, perhaps, foolish. Christmas, in short, is about the only chance a man has to be himself.”

~ Francis C. Farley

7. “It is Christmas in the heart that puts Christmas in the air.”

~ W.T. Ellis

8. “Christmas waves a magic wand over this world, and behold, everything is softer and more beautiful.”

~ Norman Vincent Peale

9. “Christmas now surrounds us,
Happiness is everywhere
Our hands are busy with many tasks
As carols fill the air.”

~ Shirley Sallay

10. “Each sight, each sound of Christmas
And fragrances sublime
Make hearts and faces happy
This glorious Christmastime.”

~ Carice Williams

11. “Blessed is the season which engages the whole world in a conspiracy of love!”

~ Hamilton Wright Mabie

12. “Christmas is not as much about opening our presents as opening our hearts.”

~ Janice Maeditere

13. “Love is what’s in the room with you at Christmas if you stop opening presents and listen.”

~ Author unknown, attributed to a 7-year-old named Bobby

14. “I wish we could put up some of the Christmas spirit in jars and open a jar of it every month.”

~ Harlan Miller

15. “Christmas is the season of joy, of holiday greetings exchanged, of gift-giving, and of families united.”

~ Norman Vincent Peale

16. “Christmas is most truly Christmas when we celebrate it by giving the light of love to those who need it most.”

~ Ruth Carter Stapleton

17. “Good news from heaven the angels bring,
Glad tidings to the earth they sing:
To us this day a child is given,
To crown us with the joy of heaven.”

~ Martin Luther

18. “The best of all gifts around any Christmas tree: the presence of a happy family all wrapped up in each other.”

~ Burton Hillis

19. “Probably the reason we all go so haywire at Christmas time with the endless unrestrained and often silly buying of gifts is that we don’t quite know how to put our love into words.”

~ Harlan Miller

20. “For centuries men have kept an appointment with Christmas. Christmas means fellowship, feasting, giving and receiving, a time of good cheer, home.”

~ W. J. Tucker

21. “Christmas is not just a time for festivity and merry making. It is more than that. It is a time for the contemplation of eternal things. The Christmas spirit is a spirit of giving and forgiving.”

~ J. C. Penney

22. “I heard the bells on Christmas Day
Their old, familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet
The words repeat
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!”

~ Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

23. “I love the Christmas-tide, and yet,
I notice this, each year I live;
I always like the gifts I get,
But how I love the gifts I give!”

~ Carolyn Wells

24. “Mankind is a great, an immense family. This is proved by what we feel in our hearts at Christmas.”

~ Pope John XXIII

25. “Let us have music for Christmas…
Sound the trumpet of joy and rebirth;
Let each of us try, with a song in our hearts,
To bring peace to men on earth.”

~ Mildred L. Jarrell

26. “Christmas is not a time or a season but a state of mind. To cherish peace and good will, to be plenteous in mercy, is to have the real spirit of Christmas.”

~ Calvin Coolidge

27. “I don’t think Christmas is necessarily about things. It’s about being good to one another, it’s about the Christian ethic, it’s about kindness.”

~ Carrie Fisher

28. “What is Christmas? It is tenderness for the past, courage for the present, hope for the future. It is a fervent wish that every cup may overflow with blessings rich and eternal, and that every path may lead to peace.”

~ Agnes M. Pharo

29. “May Christmas lend a special charm
To all you chance to do.
And may the season light your way
To hopes and dreams anew.”

~ Garnett Ann Schultz, “My Christmas Wish”

30. “I’m dreaming of a white Christmas,
Just like the ones I used to know,
Where the tree tops glisten
And children listen
To hear sleigh bells in the snow.”

~ Irving Berlin

31. “I will honor Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year.”

~ Charles Dickens, Ebeneezer Scrooge, A Christmas Carol

32. “And the Grinch, with his Grinch-feet ice cold in the snow, stood puzzling and puzzling, how could it be so? It came without ribbons. It came without tags. It came without packages, boxes or bags. And he puzzled and puzzled ’till his puzzler was sore. Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before. What if Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store. What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more.”

~ Dr Seuss

33. “The merry family gatherings–
The old, the very young;
The strangely lovely way they
Harmonize in carols sung.

For Christmas is tradition time–
Traditions that recall
The precious memories down the years,
The sameness of them all.”

~ Helen Lowrie Marshall

34. “Christmas is forever, not for just one day,
for loving, sharing, giving, are not to put away
like bells and lights and tinsel, in some box upon a shelf.
The good you do for others is good you do yourself.”

~ Norman Wesley Brooks, “Let Every Day Be Christmas”

35. “This time of year means being kind
to everyone we meet,
To share a smile with strangers
we may pass along the street.”

~ Betty Black

36. “Until one feels the spirit of Christmas, there is no Christmas. All else is outward display–so much tinsel and decorations. For it isn’t the holly, it isn’t the snow. It isn’t the tree not the firelight’s glow. It’s the warmth that comes to the hearts of men when the Christmas spirit returns again.”

~ Unknown

37. “There is a Christmas song upon the air,
There is a joy innate within the heart;
An inner sense of peace, a holy light
Illumines life and sets these days apart.”

~ Edna Greene Hines

38. “I am not alone at all, I thought. I was never alone at all. And that, of course, is the message of Christmas. We are never alone. Not when the night is darkest, the wind coldest, the world seemingly most indifferent. For this is still the time God chooses.”

~ Taylor Caldwell

39. “Christmas in Bethlehem. The ancient dream: a cold, clear night made brilliant by a glorious star, the smell of incense, shepherds and wise men falling to their knees in adoration of the sweet baby, the incarnation of perfect love.”

~ Lucinda Franks

40. “Are you willing to believe that love is the strongest thing in the world – stronger than hate, stronger than evil, stronger than death – and that the blessed life which began in Bethlehem nineteen hundred years ago is the image and brightness of the Eternal Love? Then you can keep Christmas.”

~ Henry Van Dyke

41. “Ask your children two questions this Christmas. First: What do you want to give to others for Christmas? Second: What do you want for Christmas? The first fosters generosity of heart and an outward focus. The second can breed selfishness if not tempered by the first.”

~ Author Unknown

42. “Bless us Lord, this Christmas, with quietness of mind; Teach us to be patient and always to be kind.”

~ Helen Steiner Rice

43. “Christmas! The very word brings joy to our hearts. No matter how we may dread the rush, the long Christmas lists for gifts and cards to be bought and given–when Christmas Day comes there is still the same warm feeling we had as children, the same warmth that enfolds our hearts and our homes.”

~ Joan Winmill Brown

44. “Christmas – that magic blanket that wraps itself about us, that something so intangible that it is like a fragrance. It may weave a spell of nostalgia. Christmas may be a day of feasting, or of prayer, but always it will be a day of remembrance – a day in which we think of everything we have ever loved.”

~ Augusta E. Rundel

45. “Christmas day is a day of joy and charity. May God make you very rich in both.”

~ Phillips Brooks

46.

Christmas quotes

47. “Christmas is doing a little something extra for someone.”

~ Charles Schulz

48. “Christmas, my child, is love in action.”

~ Dale Evans

49. “Off to one side sits a group of shepherds. They sit silently on the floor, perhaps perplexed, perhaps in awe, no doubt in amazement. Their night watch had been interrupted by an explosion of light from heaven and a symphony of angels. God goes to those who have time to hear him–and so on this cloudless night he went to simple shepherds.”

~ Max Lucado

50. “Want to keep Christ in Christmas? Feed the hungry, clothe the naked, forgive the guilty, welcome the unwanted, care for the ill, love your enemies, and do unto others as you would have done unto you.”

~ Steve Maraboli

 

There is always hope

The Gifts From Chronic Pain

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Living with Chronic Pain is no picnic. Intractable pain day after day wears down the body, the mind and the spirit and it can be extremely difficult finding anything good in the experience, but I have found a few things I wanted to share with you. Remember, these are my own personal thoughts.

  1. If you’re a spiritual person, it can deepen your faith. Now, in all honesty, Chronic Pain with no resolution can have the opposite effect and have you turning away from your Higher Power because you haven’t been healed, but I tend to think in the positives anyway. I believe that having Chronic Pain helps you to draw closer to your Higher Power as you find something…anything… to cling to when times are bad. God is an excellent listener and doesn’t mind if you yell at Him – He already knows you’re doing it, so what’s the point of pretending. Go ahead and be angry at Him. Yell, rant, rave, swear…do whatever makes you feel better. He can handle it. And then when you’re done, take a moment to thank Him for listening to you without judgement.
  2. You develop inner strength. Nobody develops inner strength like a person who lives with Chronic Pain. As the hours and days and years go by and nothing about your physical situation changes, there is resilience. It’s the necessary component that allows you to pick yourself back up after setbacks and keep going. To say to the world “I’m not done yet”. It’s the part of you that refuses to give up when others might say “it’s too hard”. Only you can determine your own resilience and whether or not you can keep going, but so far, you’ve had a pretty excellent track record to keep going. You are brave.
  3. Patience really is a virtue. In a world where everything needs to be had RIGHTNOW!! patience seems to be an old-fashioned quality. A person with Chronic Pain learns about patience very quickly – an oxymoron if ever there was one. You wait for appointments, you wait for doctors, you wait for your pain to subside, you wait for tests, you wait for results, you wait to feel better, you wait for answers, you wait, you wait, you wait. Depending on how complex your situation is, there may be several doctors involved in your care, so you wait for all of them to coordinate their schedules to see you and treat you. You wait endless hours for flare-ups to subside. For sleep to come. For pain to stop. For nausea to disappear. For bones to heal. And in all of this, you learn patience because you have no other choice.
  4. You finally have time to… When you’re feeling up to it, you finally have time to do those small things that you never had time for earlier: watch a favourite show on TV, read a favourite book, phone a friend for a chat, go for a massage, get your hair cut, organize the junk drawer, clean up the hobby room, work on a craft, write a letter to send via snail mail, look up a simple recipe to try that isn’t exhausting, order some flowers, send a love note to your spouse, go through your kid’s baby books or old photos, play a computer game, take an online course, go to an exercise class…the list is as endless as your imagination.
  5. You’re forced to slow down your pace. If you’re anything like me, most people with Chronic Pain or an Invisible Illness probably were Type A Personalities at some point in their lives – always on the go, go, go. If you were a doer who was always busy before, you’ve been given a gift to slow down and appreciate life around you. I became fully disabled in October 2009 but probably should have gone on disability about 2 years sooner. I had to really push through those last 2 years, to the point that I often lost the thread of a conversation right in the middle – I wouldn’t have a clue what we were talking about. I couldn’t manage more than one task at a time when I was famous for my multi-tasking abilities and I would jeopardize safety in firefighting drills by not remembering the steps to take to get out safely. By taking Disability and being forced to slow down, I was able to regain those skills again, in a more family oriented situation.

What gifts would you add to this list that you’ve received since experiencing Chronic Pain or Invisible Illness? Does this list ring true for you? Leave a comment below and share your thoughts.

There Is Always Hope

Seasonal Poetry

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A Holiday Treat

The scent of Christmas fills the air
Shoppers rushing everywhere
Santa’s bells ring on the street
Everything is a Holiday Treat
Snow is falling, fluffy white
Children playing, what a sight
Cookies baking, a spicy feat
Everything is a Holiday Treat
And when the day is done, we sit and smile
Cocktail parties really are our style!
We make new friends and catch up with the old
Then bundle up and head home in the cold
Kiss the kids and tuck them in
Pull the blankets to their chin
Think of how they look so sweet
Everything is a Holiday Treat
Slip the gifts under the tree
What a pretty sight to see
The entire house looks perfectly neat
Everything is a Holiday Treat
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

All That Matters

It’s the Little Things that matter
They’re the things that mean a lot
They’re the things that I can count on
When I’m giving things a thought

Oh there’s lots of big grand gestures
That are meant to mean big things
But in the end, they aren’t the ones
That tug at my heartstrings

I prefer the smaller hidden ones
The things that seem quite shy
The little acts that are given out
Not meant to catch your eye

It’s the little things that matter
That make a quiet sound
I love them best from all the rest
They make the world go round

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

T’was The Night Before New Year’s

T’was The Night Before New Year’s
And all through the house
Every creature was stirring
Including the Mouse

The Mouse was preparing
To stay up quite late
To see what the big deal was
And why it was GREAT

So he picked out a snack
Of some sharp cheddar cheese
From the trap in the kitchen
Meant to trap him, oh please!

Then into the Living Room
Round the Humans he passed
And the mangy old cat
He scurried quite fast

The Humans were laughing
And drinking their drinks
All Fuzzy and Bubbly
And their glasses made clinks

Their attention was focused
On the big screen TV
So the Mouse sat and watched it
And what did he see?

A huge crowd was gathered
Some place called “Times Square”
To watch a big ball
That was going to drop there

The Humans kept checking
Their clocks for the time
And soon were all chanting
First 10, and then 9

They went through the numbers
And ended at 1
Then yelled Happy New Years!!!
And then came the fun!

Everyone cheered
And they hugged and they kissed
Then they went back again
To the ones they had missed

The Mouse looked around
To the mangy old cat
Who layed there quite still
On it’s mangy old mat

Then without even thinking
The Mouse ran to the cat
(he couldn’t believe the
old thing was so fat!)

He said Happy New Year
And kissed the cat’s face
then said “here’s to a New Year
of hiding and chase”

The cat looked him over
And kissed him back too
“Thanks Mouse, Happy New Year
and the same back to you!”

Then the Mouse took his cheese
And went back to his house
Climbed into his bed
He was one tired Mouse

He’d had a great evening
He’d stayed up real late
And he learned why that night
Really was truly GREAT

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

There is always hope

Pain In The Forecast

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If you’re like me, the weather can often be depressing at this time of the year. Depending on where you live, you could be facing either ongoing rain (the West Coast) or the cold and snow (the Prairies and East Coast) with the exception of those few lovely warm locations in the states that stay beautiful year-round.

For People with Chronic Pain (PwCP), the descent into the colder wetter weather can be a real nightmare. We tend to have more flare-ups in our pain, our symptoms overall become harder to deal with and pain and side effects have a tendency to last longer than usual as well. Sleep disturbances become more frequent also, whether that means more sleep than usual, or less.

Chronic pain symptoms possibly affected by cold weather include:

  • Swelling around joints
  • Inflammation near the spine
  • Muscle stiffness or tightening

Poor circulation is a symptom of many chronic conditions, and most in the scientific community agree that cooler weather affects circulation. For patients with underlying conditions like diabetes, decreased circulation can aggravate problems with joint and back pain.

Take a look at this AccuWeather Arthritis Index for a Monday in 2018 in the US. It showed mixed weather conditions across the country and gave some corresponding issues for how health was affected:

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Another theory on the possible connection between cold weather and increased chronic pain involves bodily changes. Blood vessels in limbs constrict, or shrink, to compensate for a loss of heat to maintain the body’s core temperature. As a result, pain signals sent via nerves may be amplified.

While some people with chronic pain do report feeling better when moving to a warmer climate, the body typically adjusts to new climates over time, so relief is likely to be temporary. A good workout, soaking in a tub of warm water, and applying heat packs or warming gel are just a few of the remedies chronic pain sufferers can use to counter changes in pain when cooler weather arrives.

Here are a few of my recommendations for warming products you can find on Amazon.com to help combat the cold and rain:

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  • Delivers deep, penetrating, moist heat to the neck, shoulders, and upper back to relieve pain, aches, tension, and stress
  • The heavy weight of the Huggaroo wrap retains heat longer, keeps the wrap in place around your neck and shoulders, and delivers deep pressure therapy for extra relaxation
  • Provides subtle and soothing herbal aromatherapy while your muscles are relaxed by the heat
  • May also be chilled in the freezer and used as a cold pack for a cool, refreshing experience
  • Designed in Nashville, TN, USA and meticulously crafted from premium materials with attention to the smallest details. 100% satisfaction guarantee

 

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  • Includes (Pack of 3) ThermaCare Heatwraps Advanced Muscle Pain Therapy air activated Heatwraps
  • Patented heat cell technology penetrates deep to the source of pain, increasing blood flow to promote muscle pain relief while accelerating healing
  • Specially designed to help relieve pain associated with muscle aches, stiffness, tightness, muscle spasms and cramps
  • Thin enough to wear discreetly under clothing
  • Flexible enough to wear on the move, exercising or relaxing

 

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About the Heated Neck Pain Relief Pillow

  • Microwavable / Heatable Neck Wraps for unbelievably fast pain relief! Ideal for shoulder & neck pain when warm. Relieve pain in minutes by simply misting your pillow & putting in the microwave. When nice and moist your pillow will stay hot for up to 30 minutes.
  • Filled with Organic Flaxseed & Natural Herbs like Lavender makes this pillow the ulitmate anxiety and stress relief device.
  • Your new Neck Pain Relief Pillow is designed to be put in the freezer so you can have the best of both worlds, hot or cold. We recommend freezer time of at least 1-2 hours for maximum effectiveness.

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About the LANBRELLA

  • UPGRADE INVERTED FOLDING DESIGH: Shorter and Easy Carry. Convenient to store anywhere. Suitable for travel and daily use.
  • HIGH-END UMBRELLA: Best-in-class construction, stylish and sturdy, high quality, durable travel umbrella.
  • INNOVATIVE SAFE LOCKING SHAFT: This safety umbrella has a self-locking shaft. While closing it, if you slipped, the rod doesn’t move. You can just push it together easily. It’s like a seat belt and locks every step on the way. Most umbrellas will flick back if you do not push the handle into the correct position; it may cause an accident by hitting you or other people. LANBRELLA safety umbrella effectively prevent accidents; riot security system, closed umbrella safer and easier.
  • SUPERIOR RAIN RESISTANT: The Canopy is made by 210T Pongee fabric which makes it good waterproof performance. The LANBRELLA travel umbrella protects you in a drenching downpour with a high quality canopy coated with waterproof technology. Water won’t soak through but instead beads up and bounces off, preventing the leakage you get with other umbrellas.
  • CONVENIENT AND GENTLY AUTO OPEN/CLOSE BY ONE HAND: It is very convenient to open or close the umbrella only by pressing the button on the handle. Just push the button once to automatically open and press again to instantly fold the canopy closed. It will open and close gently like a gentleman. You do not need to wait another second to open the umbrella when you get out of your car in the rain, especially in heavy rainfall, even when your hands are full.

 

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About the Pajama Gram Robe

  • ROOMY FIT – We use natural HIGH-QUALITY FABRICS, so our PJs are designed to accommodate shrinking; We want our customers to be entirely satisfied with our PJs, so WASH BEFORE WEARING for the best fit
  • SUPER SOFT– Super-sweet robe featuring long sleeves, side pockets and roll-back cuffs
  • SUPER-COMFORTABLE – Made from premium-quality materials, including our super-soft fleece that keeps you exceptionally warm and comfortable
  • COMFORT-FOCUSED – Made to keep you comfy for hours of relaxation

 

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About the Multi-Use Electric Blanket

  • Using carbon fiber heating material, producing far infrared ray, improving blood circulation.
  • Soft fleece material, bring warm touching feeling.
  • The heating inner set can be taken out, easy for you to wash the blanket.
  • USB can be connected to computer, power bank, convenient for use.
  • A necessary equipment in winter, when reading, watching TV, working, you won’t feel cold any more.

I hope this information helps to explain what we Pain Warriors already knew – pain gets worse when the weather does. May these suggestions for warmth and comfort give you some ideas to break the chill and get back to being cozy again until the return of Spring.

There is always hope

Holiday Recipes

I’d like to share some favourite holiday recipes with you here. These are ones that my family adores the most and that are my true favourites.

Whipped Shortbread

WhippedShortbread

  • 1lb butter, softened (REAL butter, no substitutions on this!!)
  • 1cup cornstarch
  • cups flour
  • 1cup icing sugar 
  1. In a large bowl, cream the butter.
  2. Add dry ingredients.
  3. Whip for 10-12 minutes; batter will be shiny, and form peaks.
  4. Optional- Chill dough overnight (you can keep for a few days in the fridge). Before baking, take out and leave at room temperature for 1 hour, whip it up again in the mixer for about 5 minutes. This option allows you to roll and shape the cookies. Still melt in your mouth!
  5. Drop from a 1 tsp measure OR roll dough on to a cookie sheet based on the option you chose. (I level the tsp to make uniform, tiny cookies. A very small cookie scoop or tiny melon scoop is handy for uniform cookies. Due to how soft and delicate this cookie is making it bigger is not recommended).
  6. Bake at 325 degrees for 8-10 minutes, OR until bottom edges begin to brown. If they are smaller then watch the first batch to monitor the time required per batch.
  7. Watch them carefully they can burn quickly.
  8. When removed from the oven allow them to cool for about two minutes on the cookie sheet, carefully move them onto a cooling rack with a spatula.
  9. Allow them to cool on the rack for 15 minutes. If they are NOT cool they will crumble more easily and won’t set properly.
  10. ***Avoid letting them cool longer than necessary on the cookie sheet or they might stick and break apart when you try to move them.

Fudge Crinkles

fudge

  • 1(18 1/4 ounce) box devil’s food cake mix (Betty Crocker Super Moist suggested)
  • 1cup vegetable oil
  • large eggs
  • confectioners’ sugar or granulated sugar, for rolling
  1. Preheat oven to 350°.
  2. Stir (by hand) dry cake mix, oil and eggs in a large bowl until dough forms.
  3. Dust hands with confectioners’ sugar and shape dough into 1.5″ balls.
  4. Let sit for 2 minutes
  5. Roll balls in confectioners’ sugar and place 2 inches apart on ungreased cookie sheets.
  6. Bake for 8-10 minutes or until center is JUST SET.
  7. Remove from pans after a minute or so and cool on wire racks.

Coconut Macaroons

Coconut Macaroons Recipe 2

  • 14ounces sweetened flaked coconut
  • 14ounces sweetened condensed milk
  • 1teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2extra large egg whites, at room temperature
  • 1teaspoon kosher salt
  1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.
  2. Combine the coconut, condensed milk, and vanilla in a large bowl.
  3. Whip the egg whites and salt on high speed in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment until they make medium-firm peaks.
  4. Carefully fold the egg whites into the coconut mixture.
  5. Drop the batter onto sheet pans lined with parchment paper using either a 1 3/4-inch diameter ice cream scoop, or 2 teaspoons.
  6. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until golden brown.
  7. Cool on wire racks.

White Chocolate Chip Cranberry Oatmeal Cookies

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  • 3cup sugar
  • 1cup packed brown sugar
  • 1cup butter, softened
  • large egg
  • 1teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1teaspoon baking soda
  • 1teaspoon salt
  • cup all-purpose flour
  • 1cups quick-cooking oats (not instant)
  • 3cup dried cranberries
  • ounces white chocolate chips
  1. Preheat oven to 375°F.
  2. In a large bowl using an electric mixer combine the sugar, brown sugar and butter; mix well to cream together.
  3. Add in egg and vanilla extract and mix until combined.
  4. Add the cinnamon, baking soda, salt and flour and mix well.
  5. Fold in the oatmeal, dried cranberries and white chocolate chips- making sure that all ingredients are uniformly distributed.
  6. Roll dough into 1-inch balls and place 3 inches apart onto a greased cookie sheet and bake at 375° for 10-12 minutes, just until the edges are lightly golden.
  7. Remove from oven and let cool for 2-3 minutes on the cookie sheet, then transfer cookies to cooling rack.

 

Remember…There is always hope

Chronic Illness and the Holidays

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As we move into December and the start of the Festive season, it can be a time of great stress for those of us who live with Chronic Illness. I wanted to share some strategies for getting through this time of year without increasing your pain or stress levels.

Here are some of my top suggestions:

Plan In Advance

As Christmas, Hannukah and New Years get closer, it’s a good idea to start thinking about what you’ll do and where you’ll go. Are there family traditions that can be changed in regards to who hosts events? If it’s been you in the past that hosted a large group, perhaps someone else could do it this year and you could be the guest. Start to prioritize the things you most want to do (attend a Santa Claus parade, a Festival of Lights, Religious Services, visiting certain friends, etc.) and then build your schedule around that.

Keep Managing Your Chronic Illness

Once you have a schedule in place, you can start building in rest days before and after events. Don’t forget about the day of the events themselves and how you need to ration your energy to have the greatest chance of being able to participate.

Go to your scheduled doctor’s appointments and take care of yourself. It’s so tempting to cancel these things at this time of the year, but don’t. Make sure you are taking your medications as prescribed. If you have special dietary needs, keep them in mind when eating out and preparing meals. Now is not the time to go off a medically necessary diet.

Make Lists

Make lists of things you need or want to do. Prioritize those lists. Delegate and let some things go. Take advantage of online shopping to save your energy.  And don’t be a perfectionist. There’s no room for perfectionism in a chronically ill person’s life.

Pace Yourself

If you know you have a party to go to in the evening, that morning is not the time to scrub out your tub. This is another area in which I struggle. Pace yourself throughout the day and over a period of several days. If you are planning on going shopping with friends on Saturday, plan on Friday and even Thursday being light activity days.

Be Honest

If you’re going somewhere else to celebrate and you have energy limitations, let your host know that you may not be able to participate fully in the activities. If you aren’t able to host at your house like usual, ask others to chip in and host instead. Being honest with people in your life about your limitations can be helpful for avoiding hurt feelings later. Think through what you need to explain to others ahead of time to allow the events to go smoothly.

Enlist The Help Of Your Spouse Or A Friend

Enlist the help of your spouse or a good friend to be part of your team during the holiday festivities. This should be someone who knows you well and will be able to read your responses to situations. This person will help you feel safe in the situations you’re entering and will watch for any indication that you aren’t feeling well.

My husband Ray, serves in this role for me. Another friend or family member could also do this. Basically, Ray notices when I’m getting worn down and my health is going downhill. He’s particularly aware of my flagging energy, and will often ask me how I’m doing to gauge whether it’s time to leave. I also know I can tell him I’m ready to go and he’ll take me home immediately if I need to leave.

Be Okay With Your Plans Changing

This one is a big part of normal life with chronic illness. Flexibility is important because things can change on a moments notice when health issues are a concern.  Even if you have everything planned and scheduled, do yourself a favor and release expectations. If you are religious, prayerfully plan your schedule but then hold those plans loosely. Ask God to cover you with perfect peace in whatever situations you may encounter with your health over the holidays.

Ask For Help

Ask for specific things. I don’t like to depend on anyone for help, but if it means making the holidays more manageable, I think it’s worth it. Sometimes, people will offer to help, but they don’t say what they are willing to do. Having a list ready with ideas of what others can do for you will come in handy when people make those kinds of offers. Do you need help with laundry? Running errands? Housework? How about help with wrapping gifts? Think about all of your regular and holiday tasks and delegate some of them to family members and willing friends.

Connect With Others

Try to make time with friends you might not otherwise get to see, even if it’s just for a short while. Have a quick get together at a coffee shop, chat with a girlfriend about a sappy Christmas movie you’ve both watched. Make an effort each day to reach out to someone. Text, Facebook, instant message, make a phone call. You don’t have to carry on an hour-long conversation, just a brief connection can be enough.

Find “Me” Time

Build in some time just for yourself during the holidays to read, craft, rest or do whatever else will help to give you some “me” time. It’s important to recharge your batteries. If being surrounded by people is what energizes you, then do that…it’s all about what makes you feel good.

Make Time For Your Spouse Or Significant Other

It’s so important to carve out time for the two of you. With all the busyness going on around you,  communicating can sometimes take a backseat, especially if you aren’t feeling so well. Be honest about how you are feeling and ask for help when you need it. Try to sneak in a few inexpensive “dates.” Drive around and look at the Christmas lights, stop for some hot chocolate, attend a Christmas program together. Just enjoy each others company.

Laugh As Much As You Can

This one is one of my favourite pieces of advice. Laugh. Just do it. I’ve found that no matter how horrible I feel, laughter can be a source of medicine for me. Laughing helps lift my spirit and makes me feel more alive. Try to enjoy yourself while you celebrate the holidays, and be sure to include laughter in your days!

Remember The Reason For The Season

It’s so easy to get caught up in the baking, partying, shopping, decorating, etc., but that’s not really what it’s all about. If you are a religious person, keep attending church services and go to the special holiday programs. Listen to religious Christmas songs along with the pop tunes. If you aren’t particularly religious or are a nonbeliever, meditate, attend holiday community events, and enjoy finding ways to nurture your own spiritual side.

Remember….There Is Always Hope

SoCS – The Chronic Pain Advent Calendar

I am taking part once again in the Stream of Consciousness Saturday posting and our word today is “ma” – either the word itself or a word containing it. I’ve chosen the word “marks” (in bold) as you will see below. Thanks to Linda G. Hill for her weekly SoSC postings

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December 1st marks the day that many people bring out the Advent calendars. Filled with a chocolate or some type of goodie, children and adults alike enjoy opening these calendars to find the treat and mark down the days before Christmas.

If you are living with Chronic Pain, I’d like to give you your own Advent calendar. Instead of little treats, here are some ideas for Christmas or Hannukah presents that People with Chronic Pain would really enjoy receiving this year. Without further ado, here are 24 gifts, one for each day leading up to December 25th with links to suggested products on Amazon, to make the buying even easier:

December 1

December 2

December 3

December 4

Heated Car Seat Covers or Steering Wheel Covers

 

Microwavable Wraps

Essential Oils

Warm Slippers

December 5

December 6

December 7

December 8

Far Infrared Heating Pad – this penetrates deep into the muscles.

 

Beverage Containers (tea, thermos, etc.)

Meditation or Relaxation CD’s

Gift Cards to a favourite shop, or to Amazon online

December 9

December 10

December 11

December 12

Coupons for an Act of Service, such a Lawn Cutting, Housecleaning, Driving, etc.

 

Comfortable Pyjamas

A Weighted Blanket

Heatable stuffed animals

December 13

December 14

December 15

December 16

Uber or Lyft Gift Cards for transportation

The gift of your company for a visit

Kitchen tools that simplify making meals

A manicure, pedicure, massage…some personal pampering is always nice.

 

December 17

December 18

December 19

December 20

Money to help pay bills

Favourite Snack Foods and Drinks

A soft fluffy Bathrobe

Fun Socks!

 

 

December 21

December 22

December 23

December 24

Gift Card for a Food Delivery Service

Bath Soaks, Bubbles, Salts and Bombs

 

Paraffin Wax Hand or Foot Spa

A Roomba for easier vacuuming

If you have any other suggestions, please leave them in the comments below, for other Santas who are doing their shopping!

Thank you and remember…

There is always hope

Fibromyalgia and Dark Thoughts

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The following statement was made by a fellow poster and I want to address the subject. Here is what she wrote:

“I am living in constant pain, can’t sleep and often feel very low. Thoughts of not existing often creep into my head.”

Now, there is often a difference between wanting to commit suicide and simply not wanting to exist any longer. Wanting to commit suicide is a deliberate act that you want to take because you are in so much pain, you simply can’t bear to be a part of this world any longer. Thoughts of no longer existing are different. It’s not so much that you want to die, it’s just that if you didn’t wake up in the morning, you’d be okay with that.

Fibromyalgia and Chronic or Intractable Pain is a Life Sentence for the person who has to live with it. Imagine for a moment that everything in your life suddenly changes. You can’t work, you can’t go out to parties or outings with your friends. You have to give up your hobbies and all the things you enjoy. You can’t spend time with your family or friends or loved ones because you are in so much pain and are so exhausted every day, all you want to do is be in bed sleeping. Depression seeps in…you have nothing left to live for. Everything you’ve loved in life has been taken away from you. Why should you bother being alive…what’s the point? Every day is exactly the same as the next…pain and exhaustion, exhaustion and pain. There’s nothing positive to look forward to, so why bother? It would be a relief to just not wake up in the morning.

To just not wake up in the morning.

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These are the type of dark thoughts that can creep into the minds of people who live with Fibromyalgia and Chronic Pain. It’s important to find purpose in a life that has radically changed so you don’t find yourself sliding into this dark hole. Here are some suggestions that may help you find that purpose in your life.

Finding Your Faith

If you are a person of Faith, you may be wondering where God is in all of this. You may be feeling abandoned by God or feeling like you’re having to go it alone. Please know that God hasn’t left you at all, but perhaps you’ve left God. Now more than ever is the time to reach out to Him and to immerse yourself in the Bible. Read about Job again and all that he went through, and remind yourself how God didn’t abandon him and how He won’t leave you either. Now might be the time to start listening to some Christian music that helps you reconnect with your faith. If you engage in a different religion, you can reconnect to the ceremonies that enrich you from those practices.

If you are not Religious, but are Spiritual, there may be rituals of comfort that you’ve moved away from and it may be time to implement them again. Meditation, chanting, incense, sage, singing bowls, whatever you find comfort in – bring them back into your life.

Moving In Comfort

Often when we are in Chronic Pain, we forget that exercise is actually beneficial to us, both physically and mentally. Gentle exercise offers benefits to our body such as delaying muscle atrophy, increasing strength, and creating an environment to help us heal. Although exercise may hurt, it’s not causing us further harm and will inevitably help strengthen the core muscles, which benefit the entire body. Walking, swimming, Aquafit and bicycling are all good starts, even for just a few minutes a day. This post can help you with more detailed information. The bonus is the better you feel physically, the better you feel mentally.

Volunteering

It’s often been said that the more we give to others, the more we get in return. Volunteering is such an example. Mention volunteering to people who live with Chronic Pain, and the first thing they say is “oh no, I’m much to sick to volunteer”. Stop for a moment though, and think about it. You have the lived experience of a Patient and could be the perfect Patient Advocate for Healthcare Partners in your area. If there isn’t a dedicated organization where you live already doing this, call your local hospitals and ask if they ever need Patient Partners for their Health Care Initiatives. The same goes for the big medical organizations in the area…The Cancer Society, The MS Society, The Diabetes Association…and the list goes on. If you live with a health condition beyond Fibromyalgia, call your Organization and see if they need volunteers. You can specify the type of work you can do, and the hours you are available. Giving back fills a huge need in the community and in your own life.

Spend Time With Loved Ones Again

As awful as you may feel, cutting yourself off from family and friends actually makes you feel worse. Try to find times where you can get together with loved ones, even if it’s for shorter amounts of time. Have a coffee time in the evening instead of a longer drawn out dinner. Join a friend for lunch. Chat on the phone or via Skype and stay in your Pajamas! People want to spend time with you, they don’t care what you’re wearing. The ones who truly love you will understand the circumstances – the ones who don’t really don’t matter much, do they?

Finding purpose in life can help lift you from the darkness you may be encountering because of your Chronic pain. It is possible for you to find joy again, even in the simple things. I’d like to leave you with a list of 20 of my top items that bring joy – taken from a previous post I’ve written called That Which Brings Me Joy.

  1. Watch a sunrise or sunset
  2. Send someone you love snail mail
  3. Volunteer
  4. Get crafty
  5. Bake something
  6. Keep a journal
  7. Take a walk
  8. Do a good deed
  9. Read a novel
  10. Go to the museum
  11. Sing
  12. Take a class
  13. Enjoy a power nap
  14. Log off Facebook
  15. Practice positive affirmations
  16. Mentor someone
  17. Plant a garden
  18. Have a warm bath
  19. Go to an art gallery
  20. Give more compliments

And finally, remember…

There Is Always Hope

Let’s Find Out If Fibromyalgia Is Real.

If you’ve been to my blog before, you know that I live with Fibromyalgia, Chronic Pain, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Invisible Illness. If this is your first visit, you now know something about me. I want it made very clear that YES…Fibromyalgia IS REAL.

Here are just some of the MANY symptoms that people with Fibro have reported experiencing:

Fibromyalgia-Signs-Causes-and-Treatment

Walk a mile in my very painful shoes and you will know exactly how painful it is to live with Fibro. Every one of my muscles feels like it’s being dragged in concrete and every joint feels like it’s been twisted, then put into a mechanical vise and clamped as tightly as possible. I get shooting pains in parts of my body that I didn’t even know existed, for no reason at all. My arms burn and my hands and feet tingle or go numb.
The brain fog is awful…forgetting what you’re saying in the middle of a conversation is so embarrassing. I can’t remember what I ate for breakfast. I can’t remember if I ATE breakfast. I take medications that cause horrible side effects like weight gain and shaking hands and brain zaps…a sensation like an electrical shock that runs across your brain and where you can feel AND hear a literal buzz. I am constantly exhausted by the lack of sleep that comes with Fibro. It’s never refreshing and it’s never enough.
Yet, with all of this that I and my fellow Fibromites go through, there are still doctors who say “it’s all in your head” and “it doesn’t exist”. Well, tell me then…what DO I have wrong? All my tests come back negative for everything you tested me for…but I have all
18 of the 18 tender points that indicate Fibromyalgia is what I have.
Here are things I’ve had to say to friends and to DOCTORS who have questioned me about Fibro and Chronic Pain at various times over the last 10 years:

1. This is not “just in my head”. My pain is real.
2. I wish Fibro came with bruises, that way, you could see how much pain I’m feeling just so you could believe me.
3. It never goes away. My pain is always there, even when I’m acting “normal”. Don’t let my smile fool you, I am always in pain. Always.
4. There is no standard day or week or month with Fibromyalgia, It changes from hour to hour sometimes. Some days are better than others. Some days I think I want to die (this one always gets me in trouble).
5. Staying home instead of working or doing something fun isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.
6. You think I’m faking being sick, but really I’m faking being well.
7. The Brain Fog is terrifying. You try forgetting what you’re saying in the middle of a sentence and see how it makes you feel – you feel stupid and old and easy to dismiss. I lose things easily and am easily distracted. It’s so frustrating.
8. Day to day activities are exhausting. Heck, getting out of bed is exhausting.
9. Even if there were drugs that worked well, I am not a drug seeker and my history will show that. I have ONE Family Doctor and use ONE Pharmacy! I just want relief from the pain.
10. What part of “chronic condition” are you having a hard time understanding? I am not going to get better. I am going to live with this for the rest of my life. I hope to get better but it’s never going to go away. Don’t give me false hope.
11. I’m willing to try just about anything, but just because something worked for some Aunt’s friend’s cousin’s sister doesn’t mean it’s going to work for me. We’re all different and treatment isn’t a one size fits all option. But, whatever…I’m willing to listen.
12. Sometimes, I have to cancel my plans at the last minute. Sometimes, I cancel my plans with the same friend 2 or 3 times in a row. It’s not a reflection on the friend. It’s my body.
13. I wish more doctors understood Fibromyalgia and Chronic Pain and took us more seriously. Do you see me as a drug seeker too? What about when my x-rays show a body filled with arthritis? How do you deny my pain then? I just want you to help me find answers and relief.
14. Some days, even my hair hurts
15. There are days when the most I can accomplish is moving from the bed to the couch, and that’s okay. At least I did something.
16. On the days I feel good, I push myself too hard to get things done, even though I know I’m going to pay for it later. I hate being thought of as lazy. When my husband comes home, I can honestly say to him, “honey, today I cleaned up, did the dishes, vacuumed the house, did the laundry, baked cookies and scrubbed the bathroom”. And then I know I’ll be bed-bound for the rest of the week.
17. What you see on the outside doesn’t necessarily reflect how I feel on the inside.
18. My chronic fatigue is at times overwhelming and I can’t push past it. It’s exhausting to be this exhausted.
19. I wish a simple nap would help to relieve my pain, but it will not disappear if I lay down and have a rest.
20. I’m a real person with real pain. I didn’t ask for this but I’m being forced to live with it. I didn’t do anything to get this, but sometimes I feel like I’m being punished.

Research has now shown that Fibromyalgia is NOT an inflammatory condition like so many doctors first thought. It is technically NOT an autoimmune disease. What Fibro IS, is a NERVE disease where the brain misreads the pain signals going to the body through the spinal cord. This causes widespread pain throughout the body that can be felt in many different ways, and these include the various symptoms shown in the chart above.

Oh, it can be so frustrating having an Invisible Illness like Fibro. I truly do wish there were outward signs of this illness so that people could see that you’re ill. Something like bruises or a rash, or big F’s showing up on your body would be perfect (“oh look…she has F’s all over her…poor thing, she has Fibromyalgia…go get the door for her”). I truly wouldn’t mind that if it would help a doctor believe in what I’m going through, trust me.

But, as I always say…

there is always hope!

Living Well With Fibromyalgia

How do you Live Well with Fibromyalgia? When your body hurts all the time because of this painful condition, it’s hard to remember to do things like exercise and eat well, but these are critical components of staying well. First off, let’s look at what Fibromyalgia is.

Fibromyalgia is a condition that causes pain, fatigue, and tender points around the body. It can be hard to diagnose because many of its symptoms are similar to those of other conditions. It can also be hard to treat. That’s why it’s important to see a doctor who has experience treating Fibromyalgia. Medications are available to help alleviate some of the pain you might be experiencing, but there is no cure for the condition and a lot of what makes you feel better will come from the things you do for yourself.

 

symptoms-fibromyalgia-600
And what are those things? To start with, eat a well-balanced diet, make sure you’re drinking enough water to stay hydrated and try to do some gentle exercise every day.

Diet:

1. Aim for a well-rounded diet

Eating a balanced diet is a good idea for anyone, regardless of whether you have fibromyalgia. That diet should include fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, healthy fats, low-fat dairy, and lean protein, such as chicken or fish. Avoid unhealthy foods, including anything processed or fried, and excessive amounts of saturated fats. Also, limit the amount of salt and sugar in your diet.

2. Eat for energy

Fibromyalgia can make you feel tired and worn out. Eating certain foods can give you more energy. Avoid sweets, which will only give you a quick sugar boost. Your body will burn right through them, and then you’ll crash. Instead, eat foods that will give you more energy to get through your day. Combine protein or fats with carbohydrates to slow down their absorption. Choose fresh, whole foods high in fibre and low in added sugars, such as:

  • almonds, walnuts and other nuts and seeds
  • broccoli
  • beans
  • tofu
  • steel cut oatmeal
  • dark leafy greens
  • avocado
3. Go Vegetarian or Vegan

A few studies have looked at how eating certain diets affect fibromyalgia. There’s evidence from studies done that eating a vegetarian or vegan diet, which is high in plant antioxidants, might offer some symptom relief.

4. Maintain a healthy weight

Another benefit of eating a healthy diet is that it can help keep your weight under control.  People who had been on a weight loss program had less pain and depression, fewer tender points, and they slept better after taking off a few pounds. Studies suggest that weight loss can be an important part of fibromyalgia treatment.

 

Here are some of the best foods to eat for people with Fibromyalgia:

FOODS HIGH IN ANTIOXIDANTS:

  • Kidney beans
  • Dark chocolate
  • Pecans
  • Artichokes (boiled)
  • Cilantro
  • Berries (blueberries, cranberries, blackberries)

FOODS HIGH IN AMINO ACIDS:

  • Red meat: lean cuts of beef or pork
  • Poultry: chicken or turkey breast
  • Fish: halibut, tuna or salmon fillet
  • Dairy: non- and low-fat cheese, low-fat yogurt
  • Plant-based proteins: quinoa, tofu, soybeans

FOODS CONTAINING COENZYME Q10:

  • Organ meats (heart, liver, kidney)
  • Beef
  • Soy oil
  • Sardines and mackerel 
  • Peanuts

FRUITS WITH LOW GLYCEMIC INDEX:

  • Apples
  • Berries
  • Cantaloupe
  • Peaches
  • Citrus

All of these foods are great for the body whether you have Fibro or not so why not incorporate them into your diet and see the difference they can make. The healthier you are, the better able you are to fight Fibromyalgia or any other auto-immune disorder you might have.

Exercise:

Will exercise make you hurt more? Some muscle soreness is common after exercising in the beginning. But ultimately exercise should relieve fibromyalgia pain, not aggravate it. Try these tips: Start off small and build slowly. Massage or apply heat to sore muscles before exercise and apply cold after.

1. Keep it simple, doing activities such as walking, Aquafit (easy on the joints and muscles), or bicycling (stationary is fine).

2. Use light weights if you can to keep your muscles toned and at the very least, make sure to stretch several times a day.

3. There’s nothing worse for a Fibro body than to sit or lay down all day because your muscles stiffen up even more than usual and it takes even more effort to relax and loosen them. Do some simple stretches 3-4 times a day and work to expand on them as you get stronger.

So there you have it, some simple tips for Diet and Exercise that should help everybody but especially those with Fibromyalgia. Let me know your thoughts in the comments.

There Is Always Hope

 

Exercising With Fibromyalgia

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I belong to a Facebook group called the Fibro Blogger Directory and we’ve been challenged to send in and answer questions relating to Fibromyalgia in the month of November. One of the members asked this question:

Can you please help explain how I can get started with exercising – I want to but can’t get up off the lounge most days and can’t even do all my housework.

From Fleur in Pasadena

Let’s start by talking about something called “Fear of Pain”

If you’ve ever attended a Pain Management course, one of the first things they talk about is the mechanism of Pain – and the fear that comes with having pain. We’re afraid that pain is our body telling us that something is wrong and more pain means more is wrong. That’s not always the case though and the trick is determining what is “bad” pain and what is “good” pain. Exercise is generally considered to be “good” pain because it’s not causing further harm to your body. Your mind needs to be convinced that what you are feeling isn’t more harm, but simply a response to the muscles and tendons being used in a way that you’re not used to. No actual damage is being done, so while you may need to start slow, exercise is encouraged when you have Fibromyalgia. In fact, the worse thing you can do is to remain sedentary as that causes your muscles to atrophy.

There are simple moves you can do to get started on an exercise program at home that will be easy on your joints yet still give you a workout. As always, make sure you get your Doctor’s approval first.

Start with simple Stretches:

Stretching-exercises-2-1024x724

Move on to Squats, Wall Push Ups and Bicep Curls (with or without light weights)

squat1003-wall-pushup-1441032989Bicep-Curl

Finish off with walking, swimming, Aquafit, or Bicycling. Even walking one block a day is a good start – add an extra block as you grown stronger, or an extra lap in the pool. The goal is to move just a little bit each day (i.e.: do 1 squat a day for a week then try 2 the next week).

Nordic Pole walking is extremely popular and works your upper and lower body while giving you stability while you walk:

NordicPoleWalking

The added benefit is the more you do, the more you’re capable of at home. Doing the dishes, sweeping the floor, folding laundry – they all count as movement and exercise as well. I’m not saying you need to run a marathon or do everything at once, but start slow, and realize that yes, you might feel a bit more pain in the beginning, but it’s simply your body getting used to something it hasn’t experienced for awhile. Give it time to adjust and you’ll see a difference before you know it. It takes 21 days to make a habit so give yourself 3 weeks before you “give up”. I’m willing to bet that if you’re honest with yourself and you don’t cheat, you’ll notice a positive change at the end.

There is always hope.

Turning Shame to Victory

I should on myself today.

Screen Shot 2018-11-11 at 9.43.18 AM

As a person living with Chronic Pain from Fibromyalgia and a host of other conditions, I tend to live with a lot of shame. I blame myself for not being able to keep up with the chores around the house that I should be able to do. I blame myself for not being able to work as an Administrative Specialist, a job I adored. I had a pity party about a lot of things as I stared at the dust on the TV stand. That’s right…I should upon myself today. I do it often. Too often.

Most people with Chronic Pain do the same thing. When we lose the ability to stay on top of the chores we used to do easily before, we start to feel guilty and ashamed. Dishes pile up, laundry goes unwashed, showering and personal grooming falls by the wayside and moving from bed to couch often becomes our biggest accomplishment. It’s not that we want to feel this way, but pain and the side effects of medication often make us this way. Most of the medications we are given include fatigue as one of the side effects. Others include weight gain, which can slow us down tremendously, nausea, constipation and/or diarrhea, dizziness, and other unpleasant things.

And that brings up another issue. All of these side effects do little to help us feel pretty. In addition to feeling pain and fatigue, we’re often left carrying extra weight so now we feel even less attractive than before. It’s a “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” situation.

So how do we get over “shoulding” on ourselves. We feel like we should be able to keep up with the chores around the house, while we’re still taking care of making dinner and watching the kids and staying on top of their activities and doing everything else expected of us, plus making sure our spouse’s needs are met.

What happens when you live with a spouse who expects you to manage everything exactly like you did before you became sick? A spouse who doesn’t believe that you’re really ill and who thinks it’s all in your head? What if you live without a spouse – if you’re a single parent with no support? Who takes care of you?

In order to find victory in the midst of this shame, try answering some of these questions*, being as honest as you can.

  • What three words/phrases best describe you in a POSITIVE way? Don’t settle for neutral or slightly positive words to describe yourself. Be bold.
  • What do you do best? Everyone has unique talents and abilities — find yours by taking an accurate inventory of your life.
  • What is your biggest accomplishment in the last year? If fibro and depression have been a longstanding part of your life, you likely feel that the last year has been void of any accomplishments. Look deeper — achievements come in all shapes and sizes. Depression works to minimize your triumphs, but shedding light on them magnifies their impact.
  • What are three successes in your life? When you look at your lifetime successes, you begin to see how effective and valuable you can be. You understand your value and build your self-esteem.
  • What are you working on? Having goals and direction in life limits depression. Completing those goals adds another accomplishment to your list and boosts esteem.

Fibromyalgia may change many things in our lives, so it’s important that we remember to find the positives and celebrate them. No more shoulding on ourselves!

So, I’ve decided to give up the guilt about what I’m NOT able to do around the house. I’ve even found new hobbies and activities that I’m passionate about and that I’m actually good at! I’ve become a volunteer for an organization in BC, my home province in Canada, that uses Patient Partners to work with Health Care organizations to help make real change in how health care is delivered. The Patient Voices Network has given me opportunties to speak in front of large crowds, attend educational events and become part of several committees. I’m careful to choose to become engaged according to how I’m feeling and I don’t take on engagements that require weekly participation. Most of what I do involves 3-4 hours of my time per month which is manageable. Twice I’ve had to regretfully pull out of engagements that became too involved for me to manage. Even at the last conference I attended which lasted for 3 days, I was able to build rest time into the daily schedules. I wouldn’t have been able to manage otherwise.

That being said, I don’t want anyone to think that I’m underestimating how awfully painful it is to be forced to change yourself or how hard it is to find new passions to give you a sense of purpose. These are not simple to apply or instant fixes. Please don’t think I’m minimizing the pain of the loss. I want you to know that I think you’re incredible because of the fact that you’ve survived those things and have continued moving forward, no matter how slow. That is victory!

Even when you’re sick and you haven’t found new activities or even if you can’t get out of bed, what I just said about you being incredible is still true. You’ve survived so much and you’re still here fighting! I mention finding new things to do as a way to better self-esteem because I know it’s something helpful when possible, but there are so many things I feel are more important and that have been more fulfilling for me.

Being sick has forced me to learn a lot of lessons that other people might not ever learn – lessons about patience, how to deal with pain and difficulties with grace, good humour and empathy. I’ve learned that the little things are often the big things in life.

All That Matters

It’s the Little Things That Matter
They’re the things that mean a lot
They’re the things that I can count on
When I’m giving things a thought

Oh there’s lots of big grand gestures
That are meant to mean big things
But in the end, they aren’t the ones
That tug at my heartstrings

I prefer the smaller hidden ones
The things that seem quite shy
The little acts that are given out
Not meant to catch your eye

It’s the little things that matter
That make a quiet sound
I love them best from all the rest
They make the world go round

Also, I think I understand more about pain and can truly empathize with others who are hurting. I feel like I can truly help people because of the pain I’ve experienced. I don’t know about you, but I think that’s pretty darn cool. And I feel like it takes immense strength to not only survive chronic illness, but to continue appreciating life and showing love to others when in constant pain. It’s also taken strength to rebuild myself and my self-esteem. I have to give myself credit for that. And finally, as much as I wish I was healthy, I fight for my life every day and I’ve won every single time. If that’s not victory then I don’t know what is! And the last thing I know is that if I’m capable of all this…you are too.

There is always hope

 

 

 

* https://fibromyalgia.newlifeoutlook.com/self-esteem-fibromyalgia/

SoCS – A Day In My Life

45194026_2335680803128139_3239126032401301504_o

I belong to a Facebook group called the Fibro Blogger Directory and we’ve been challenged to send in and answer questions relating to Fibromyalgia in the month of November. I wanted to share this question and then answer it:

What is a typical day like in your life?

From Pamela in Langford, BC Canada

It’s 2:30 in the morning and the house is quiet. I’m sitting in my recliner with Dorie, my cat on my lap, and the TV on the CatTV channel on YouTube. I went to bed at midnight but I only managed a couple of hours of sleep before I woke up, so here I am again, back on the computer in a quiet dark house. The only sound I hear is snoring – from both husband and cat, and I shake my head, not quite laughing as I listen to them both. I wish it was me, but once again, this means Wakefulness has won this battle and persists in keeping me away from Dreamland. I hurt all over, every muscle is aching and Painsomnia wins again.

IMG_2916

So starts a typical day in my life. I live with the Chronic Pain of Fibromyalgia, osteoarthritis and several other conditions and it’s often the painsomnia from these conditions the keeps me awake at night. At this point, I’ll probably just stay awake until Ray wakes up in the morning at 4:30. There’s no sense trying to sleep now because I’m too awake. So I do what I always do; I surf the Internet, I go on Facebook and I write; either on my blog or for one of the various articles I’ll be submitting to other publications. I often find it easiest to write in the middle of the night; my thoughts flow freely and things come to the surface that are easier to write about, whether they be memories or new subject matter.

At 4:30am the alarm in our bedroom goes off and Ray wakes up. I head to the kitchen and put the dishes away from last night and make a cup of coffee for myself before heading back to my recliner while he finishes showering. I stay here until he leaves for work, so I’m out of the way. He finishes his shower and comes to kiss me good morning, then makes his breakfast while I stay out of the way. I am busy updating my Facebook page and morning Devotionals. We exchange kisses and he heads out, and then I force myself up from the comfort of my recliner. I have some cereal or yogurt for breakfast and enjoy another cup of coffee before I get serious about doing some work. Much of my day is spent on the computer generally taking care of blogging, moderating a forum I belong to, checking my email and visiting Facebook. No real change from the wee hours of the night!

At 7am, I take my first dose of medications for the day. Every hour, I make myself get up and do some stretching. My body screams back in pain, but if I don’t do this my muscles will atrophy. I also try to get one major chore done around the house, whether that be sweeping the floors, scrubbing the bathroom, vacuuming, etc.

Lately, I’ve been dealing with back pain and spasms in my SI Joint on the left side and an area around the left facet joint in my lower back. The pain has lasted for 2 weeks and I’m off to see my Pain Specialist on the day of writing this (Oct. 22nd) as well as my family doctor, plus I’m meeting a friend for lunch. It’s a much busier day than usual. Normally I would eat lunch around noon, and then check the mail at 2pm – the highlight of my day!

While most days are spent at home, I do have doctor appointments on a fairly regular basis. I also have work that I do for my volunteer positions, including conference calls that happen in person and online. As part of my health journey, I go for regular massages as well, and there will probably be some physiotherapy appointments coming up too so my calendar will start getting busier. My rule of thumb is to keep an open day after every day that has something planned so I can rest, otherwise, I become too fatigued to manage.

At 3pm, my alarm goes off to take my afternoon medication.

Screen Shot 2018-10-29 at 6.16.50 PM

I often lay down for a nap at this point and can usually sleep for about an hour. When I wake up, I’ll read for a while, or watch something on Netflix, and if I have the energy, I’ll start prepping dinner. We do a lot of prepared food in our house as I don’t always have the energy to do a lot of cooking. M&M Food Stores get a lot of business from us! Tonight though it will be leftover Chinese food, so no worries about having to cook! I’ll get back on the computer until Ray is home, and then we’ll sit down for dinner and talk about our days.

The evening is quiet. Ray plays a game on his computer and I continue to work on blog posts and hang out on Facebook, etc. or read a book or magazine. Dorie, our cat curls up with me and it’s a comfortable place to be. I take my evening medications at 7pm and by 8:30pm, Ray is heading to bed. I’m tired, but I know I’m not ready to sleep, so I tuck him in with a goodnight kiss and head back to my recliner. I’ll do up the dinner dishes shortly and then spend the rest of the evening on the computer, chatting with friends, reading magazines, and unwinding. I take my final medications at 11pm and turn off the computer. Sometimes I read, and sometimes I just listen to relaxing music until midnight. That’s the end of the day for me. I crawl into bed, my body aching all over, and pray that sleep will come. I drift off, finally and start dreaming…

It’s 2:30 in the morning and the house is quiet. I’ve just woken up…and there will be no more sleep tonight.

There is always hope

 

 

Tired vs. Exhausted

I’m so tired, I’m repeating a post from the past!!!

Have you ever felt exhausted? So exhausted you could barely move?  The kind of exhausted that leaves you feeling almost helpless? Guess what…I have a new word for you!!!

Actually, I think there are many people in my life who this word could apply to…the warriors who struggle along every day despite the illnesses that try to hold them back. My friends and fellow Warriors…you are simply Quanked!!!!!!

Quanked

Taken from Grandiloquent Words:
Quanked
(KWANK’d)
Adjective:
-Overpowered by fatigue.
-To have the strength reduced or exhausted, as by labour or exertion; become fatigued; be sleepy. Origin uncertain Used in a sentence:
“After sprunting all weekend, then frooncing to get my chores done, I’m well quanked.”Quanked is a condition in which one’s energy and vitality have been consumed. One who is quanked has used up his or her bodily or mental resources, usually because of arduous or long-sustained effort. To feel quanked at the end of the day; quanked after a hard run; feeling rather quanked; quanked by a long vigil.-See forswunke
Now, in all seriousness, I think the word is an excellent one to describe how it feels to be exhausted when you live with an Invisible Illness. It’s beyond any type of tiredness you’ve ever felt before. It’s sleeping for 12 hours and waking up just as tired as you were before you fell asleep. It’s like climbing a mountain when all you did was go up one flight of stairs. When sleeping on the couch is easier than trying to get up to go to bed.
Now add in being in pain constantly and what do you get? You get you. You get me. You get people like us, who have been living in varying stages of agony for varying periods of time.  I’ve talked with several friends who live with Fibromyalgia, Chronic Pain and Chronic Fatigue plus various other Invisible Illnesses and they’ve described their fatigue and pain like this:
  • It’s like swimming through concrete while being on fire at the same time (this was mine).
  • It’s like constantly having a “pins and needles” sensation that never goes away
  • I feel like I’m being randomly stabbed by a crazed maniac, but that crazed maniac is inside my body and I can’t stop it.
  • There are parts of my body that are numb and parts of my body that are burning and other parts of my body are throbbing and it all happens at the same time.
  • My brain is foggy and I can’t remember things like I used to. I hurt everywhere all the time and I’m always tired, no matter how much sleep I get. I don’t like this me that I am anymore.
  • I feel like I’ve been in a war, but you can’t see my wounds
  • Do you remember when you were young and you could stay up for hours and hours at night and never feel old? Yeah, well I can’t do that anymore. I’m lucky if I can stay up past 7pm and I don’t even have kids. I’m too tired and achy and sore.

There are ways you can try to improve your sleep with Fibro and Chronic Pain and the key is consistency:

  1. Sleep in a quiet dark room with a slightly cooler temperature than normal. Wear a sleep mask if necessary.
  2. Power down the electronics (TV, computer, Smartphone, etc.)  one hour before bedtime. The light from your bedside clock is also enough to disrupt your sleep, so check and see if there is a dim light setting, or face the clock away from you at night.
  3. Set a regular bedtime and wake up time. Establishing a schedule can help the body recognize good sleep habits.
  4. Consider downloading and listening to “sleep music”. There are many recordings that are free, including delta wave music which works with your brainwaves to help lull you into a natural sleep. A “white noise” machine may do the trick for you. These can be found in almost any electronics store and come with various sounds and settings, designed to help your body relax and let go.
  5. Limit Alcohol before bed.  You know you’ve read this before but for good reason. Alcohol may make you “feel” tired but actually will wake you up more often.
  6. Eat a healthy snack 45 minutes before bed. This would be something with protein in it like half a turkey sandwich, a small bowl of whole-grain low-sugar cereal, milk or yogurt or a banana. Eating like this before bed helps stave off the “midnight munchies” where you wake up starving in the wee hours of the night.
  7. Get some exercise! Regular exercise like walking or swimming can help the body to rest well in the evening. Start slow and build up over time. Work with a personal trainer if possible who can help you set up a routine tailored to your specific needs and abilities.
  8. Check with your Doctor to ensure there are no other underlying health issues that could be causing your fatigue (i.e.: thyroid issues, anemia, etc.).
  9. Don’t just lay there – get up! If you haven’t been able to fall asleep within 20 minutes, get up and leave the bedroom. Read or do something that doesn’t involve your TV or computer/Smartphone until you feel sleepy and then try again. The bedroom should be for sleep and sex only. The longer you lay awake in bed for, the more used to being awake in bed your body becomes. You need to break that cycle so getting out of bed and moving to a different room is the smart choice.
  10. Medications should be the last resort but are available to help if needed. Talk to your doctor or pharmacist for information about over the counter medications to try first.

If you tend to be a worrier at night, with a million things running through your head, allow yourself 10 minutes of this. Set an alarm and let your thoughts go wild. At the end of those 10 minutes, it’s time to stop. It takes practice but it gives you the opportunity to get all those worries out without mulling them over for hours. This isn’t the time for solutions, just the time to acknowledge that they’re there. In the end, say something like “I’m glad I had this time to worry about everything, but now I’m going to sleep on them. I’ll deal with them in the morning”. It tells your brain you’ve acknowledged the worries, and you’ll do something about them later. And off to sleep you go.

Another way to sleep better at night is to be organized during the day. The less you leave to chance during the daytime, the less you need to stress at night. “Did I sign Johnny’s papers for camp?”  “Where did I put the chequebook?” “When is the next Book Club meeting?”  Whether you use your smartphone, an organizer or the calendar at home, by having a regular system for keeping track of appointments, meetings and paperwork, you’ll stress less knowing you have it all in one place and you’ll sleep better at night.

Sleeping better isn’t always about being in less pain. It’s about doing all the things you can to make your environment as sleep-conducive as possible which may result in less pain. Removing as much stress as possible from your sleeping area is one of the biggest and best things you can do, so try and think of all the things that will make your bedroom area the most comfortable it can be. The key is, whatever you do, do it with consistency. None of us wants to feel quanked.

Remember…there is always hope

Fibromyalgia and my Spiritual Beliefs

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I belong to a Facebook group called the Fibro Blogger Directory and we’ve been challenged to send in and answer questions relating to Fibromyalgia in the month of November. One of the members asked this question:

Do you have spiritual beliefs that help you cope with living in this hell?

Before I answer, let me ask you a question. If you live with Fibromyalgia, Chronic Pain or an Invisible Illness, has someone ever said to you “I’ll pray for you” or “You’re in my prayers”?  What does that mean to you? Do you have Spiritual Beliefs that make those prayers easy to accept? Do you believe in a Higher Power? In God? Or do you believe that when we die, that’s it…there is nothing afterwards. No afterlife, no Heaven or Hell, no God of any type?

I am a Christ Follower. I call myself that because too many things have been done by “Christians” in the name of Christ that taint the Holy name, and I refuse to be associated with them. I’d rather try to live my life the way Christ modelled it, and so being a Christ Follower is a much better way of describing my religious leanings. I believe that He is the only way to Eternal Life and I believe in Heaven and Hell. I don’t talk about this often and almost never in public, but when I say I’ll be praying for you, trust me…I WILL be praying for you.

I also believe that everyone has a right to their own beliefs, and I will never push my beliefs on anyone else. If you want to talk about God with me, I’m happy to do so, but I won’t raise the subject first. It’s not that I’m shy or embarrassed about God, but more that I’m respectful of others, and I prefer to wait to discuss religion until the subject is brought up by others first.

So, in regards to the question that was asked, yes, I have a God who loves me dearly and who has a plan for my life. Right now, that plan includes Chronic Pain and Chronic Fatigue from the many conditions I live with. Have I ever asked God for healing? Yes, I did once. I prayed:

praying-hands

“God, if it be Your will, please remove all sickness from my body and return me to good health. If you leave my body the way it is Lord, then please give me the right attitude to learn to live with the pain and fatigue that I experience. Please help me learn to not complain because I know that there are so many other people out there that are worse off than me. Give me an attitude of grace, help me to be humble, let me have patience and let me always be of help to others so I’m not always focused on me. I know I can be selfish and self-centred so please help me to change that part of me, God. Make me a better person than I am today. Help me in my relationship with my husband because I know this is going to make things tough for us. Thank you God for everything you’ve done for me, let me always be grateful to you. Amen”

God’s plan for me was obviously not to heal me, and in fact, my health has become worse in the 5 years since I said that prayer. Am I bitter? Not at all. None of us has ever been promised anything. Why shouldn’t I have health problems? Why not me? What have I done to make me so special so as to avoid bad things?? Nothing. I’m just as susceptible as anyone else, and I know that. And I think that’s where acceptance comes in. I’ve accepted that this is what my life is. I probably will not be healed on this side of Heaven, and that’s okay. I DO know that I’ll be renewed IN Heaven according to my beliefs and that’s a comfort to me. I can put up with what happens in my life because I know the promise I have for Eternal Life in my future.

And that is how I cope. I cope because, for me, I can see beyond what happens to me on Earth. My spiritual side believes in Life after Death, and in an Eternal Heaven, where my body will be renewed. There will be no pain and no sorrow and I will be free of everything that troubles me in my Earthly life. There won’t be any more Chronic Pain or Chronic Fatigue, my body will finally be free of all restrictions and for that, I can withstand whatever it is that I have to go through while I live my life here.

What about people who don’t have a Spiritual belief system? What about the people who don’t believe in an Afterlife, a Heaven or Garden of Eden? What happens to them?  Well, according to MY beliefs, anyone who doesn’t accept Christ as their Savior goes to Hell. According to THEM, they likely believe that nothing happens when they die; that there is nothing after death. We could delve into a huge discussion of Theology now, but my point is, without some type of Spiritual belief, what in the world are you living for??

My Spiritual beliefs are what keep me going. That promise of Eternal life is what I cling to when I have days of intractable pain. When I think I can’t possibly handle another new condition or illness and God decides otherwise, I have no choice but to hold on to the hope of Heaven

One of my favourite Bible verses comes from Jeremiah 29:11 (King James Version)

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

That is exactly what my Spiritual beliefs do…they give me hope and a future, knowing that something better is coming. It’s also the reason why my blog is named There Is Always Hope. I believe it to be true, both here on Earth and onward in Heaven.

I hope you, the reader, have a Belief system too. It may not be the same as mine, but I hope you have something to believe in. Something that helps you get through whatever life throws at you. Something to cling to in the dark hours.

What do YOU believe in? What ARE your hopes when all seems hopeless? How DO you manage in times of trouble and crisis?

There is Always Hope

#FibroQuestionsAnswered

Relaxation for Chronic Pain

Research has shown that pain is influenced by emotional and social factors. This needs to be addressed along with the physical causes of pain. Chronic stress is one factor that contributes to chronic pain. The good news is that you can get natural pain relief by making relaxation exercises a part of your pain-management plan.

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To understand how natural pain relief works, it’s important to understand how stress affects your body. Our body has a natural “fight or flight” response when it comes to stress and pain and stress have a similar effect on the body: your heart rate and blood pressure rise, breathing becomes fast and shallow, and your muscles tighten.

With chronic stress, the nervous system keeps the body on constant alert. This takes a big toll on your system. Levels of stress hormones increase, and muscles remain in a nearly constant state of tension.

Chronic stress hurts.

Relaxation calms the mind and helps the body unwind. It is particularly important for people who live with pain. Pain increases muscle tension which in turn, creates more pain. When muscles are tense, they tighten and increase pressure on our nerves and other tissues which can make the pain worse. Relaxation can help break the pain-tension cycle. There are many forms of relaxation techniques so it should be easy to find one that works best for you. 

The easiest one to begin with is deep breathing. Shallow, rapid chest breathing results from tension. Deep breathing from the diaphragm helps relax you. To begin, find a warm quiet place, where you won’t be disturbed. Once this technique is learnt, you can use it in almost any situation you find yourself.

Deep breathing

  • Make yourself comfortable
  • Loosen any tight clothing
  • Begin by listening to your breathing as it is
  • Breathe through your nose whenever possible (use your mouth only if your nose is blocked)
  • Put your hands over your stomach area and feel them rise and fall.
  • Imagine you are breathing into your hands. Relax your stomach muscles. Take deep, slow breaths. Remember to breathe at your own pace
  • As you breathe in, imagine you are breathing in peace. As you breathe out, imagine you are blowing away tension.

Foursquare Breathing

  • Inhale to a count of four, hold for a count of four, exhale to a count of four, then hold again to a count of four
  • Breathe deeply, so that your stomach rises and falls with each breath
  • Repeat for ten cycles

Progressive Muscle Relaxation

Tense and relax each muscle in turn unless it hurts, in which case, leave that one out.

  • Sit or lie down quietly in a comfortable position
  • Close your eyes and take slow, deep breaths. Breathe easily and naturally
  • Slowly tense each muscle in your body. Begin with your right hand. Squeeze your right hand into a tight fist. Feel the tension in your right hand. Hold this position for a few seconds. Now release the tension slowly. As the tension disappears, your hand feels relaxed.
  • Repeat this for your left hand.
  • Arms – tense both arms. Make your arms rigid and tense. Hold and release
  • Shoulders – lift your shoulders. Hold and release. Hunch your shoulders to touch your ears. Hold and release.
  • Toes – curl your toes up. Hold and release.
  • Feet – pull your toes up towards your face. Feel the muscles working in your shins. Hold and release. Then point your toes away from your face. Feel the muscles tensing in your calves. Hold and release.
  • Legs – clench your thighs. Hold and release. Clench both buttocks. Hold and release.
  • Eyebrows – raise your eyebrows as high as they can go. Hold and release.
  • Frown – pull your eyebrows together. Scrunch up your whole face. Hold and release.
  • Eyes – screw up your eyes tightly. Hold and release
  • Jaw – Open your mouth wide. Hold and release

Now your muscles are relaxed. You feel calm and still

Relaxation exercises calm your mind, reduce stress hormones in your blood, relax your muscles, and elevate your sense of well-being. Using them regularly can lead to long-term changes in your body to counteract the harmful effects of stress.

There is always hope

Interview October – Frank

Today on our very last Interview October, we’re meeting Frank Rivera. Here is his story:

Frank’s Bio…  

Frank Rivera founded Sarcoidosis of Long Island in 2012. In 2011 Frank was diagnosed with Sarcoidosis after being misdiagnosed with lung cancer for 7 years prior. Since opening Sarcoidosis of Long Island he has been a local, state and federal advocate for Sarcoidosis. Frank strives to raise awareness for Sarcoidosis nationally, but specifically in the government sector. He has represented the Rare and Sarcoidosis community as a speaker at two Congressional briefings for Sarcoidosis. Frank is a National Ambassador for Foundation for Sarcoidosis Research, was a Global Genes RARE Foundation Alliance Member and was an Advocate, an ambassador for The EveryLife Foundation and a Working Group Member. Named RUGD Ambassador for Illumina October 2017 Frank organized RareNY in 2016, to raise awareness for Rare Diseases in the state of New York. He organized “A Day for Rare Diseases” on October 15th, 2016 in Long Island NY, in partnership with Global Genes, to raise awareness for all 7000+ rare diseases. In recognition of Frank’s efforts, Suffolk County and the town of Brookhaven officially declared October 15th “A Day for Rare Diseases”. In 2017 Frank was named Brookhaven advocate of the year. Frank also is an advocate for “Right to Try” even being interviewed by NBC Nightly News this year.

Chronic illness(es)/disabilities I have… 

Sarcoidosis, Sjogren’s Syndrome, and Parkinson’s and IBS

My symptoms/condition began… 

I was misdiagnosed in 2004, with Lung Cancer. I went through 4 years of chemotherapy and radiation while living in Florida. After the 4 years, I was told I was in remission. In 2011 after moving back to New York, I had problems with my IBS. While in the ER room they took a CT scan of my stomach and part of my lungs were shown in the CT Scan. They found more masses in my lungs. They took a biopsy and said I had Sarcoidosis. I ended going to Mt. Sinai Hospital to their Sarcoidosis clinic in Manhattan. They got my past tests from the hospital in Florida and found out that I had Sarcoidosis the whole time.

The hardest part of living with my illness/disabilities is… 

The pain and that they all are invisible illnesses. People look at me and they say well you look fine. But they don’t know what my insides feel and look like. Sarcoidosis has taken over 90% of my body. The only place I don’t have it is in my liver and kidneys.

A typical day for me involves… 

Everyday I never know how I am going to feel. So there is no real routine. I am on permanent disability. The only thing I do every day I wake up unless I can’t get out of bed is make sure both my wife and daughter have what they need for work and school respectively. I make them their lunch as well as breakfast. After that, I am too tired so I take a nap. Then since I run a non-profit organization I check my emails to see if anyone needs help. If not most of the days I rest. This disease has taken the energy out of me. In April I was downgraded from chronically ill to terminally ill. I used to travel to raise awareness for Sarcoidosis and Rare Diseases. I no longer travel far due to my body not being able to handle the travel and the long days in meetings

The one thing I cannot live without is… 

It may sound funny, but the one thing I need every day is my one cup of coffee every morning.

Being ill/disabled has taught me… 

To value life. It has told me to not sweat the small stuff. I have learned that living each day as the best you can. I also have learned you can’t please everyone so you need to please yourself first or you won’t be able to please others.

What advice would I give someone recently diagnosed… 

Be your own best advocate! Be involved. Learn about the disease

My support system is…

I would not be anywhere without my wife Diana and my daughter Savannah who is 15 going on 30. They have been there for me physically, emotionally and most important mentally. 3 years ago I thought about committing suicide due to the pain. I would have done it if it wasn’t for my wife and daughter. I ended up putting myself in a 72-hour hospital watch for suicide prevention.

If I had one day symptom/disability-free I would… 

I would go away with my family to the beach. That is my favourite place but now since I have Sarcoidosis I haven’t been able to go that much at all.

One positive of having a chronic illness/disability is…

There are actually two positive things that have come from having these diseases. The first is the friends I have met that have the same diseases as I do. They understand what I am going through and I can talk to them about it. The most important positive for me is I knew I was strong, but I never knew how strong I was until I have been with this disease. I have fought through things I never would have thought I could. My motto is ” I have Sarcoidosis and Parkinson’s but THEY don’t have me!”

My links are:

www.sarcoidosisofli.org

https://wordpress.com/view/lifeasararepatient.blog

 

Interview October – Maya

Today on Interview October, we’re meeting Maya Northen Augelli . Let’s get to know her better:

MayaNorthenAugelli

Introduce yourself and tell us a bit about you…  

My name is Maya and I’m from Philadelphia, where I live with my husband and our dog. I run a travel planning company, and also work with a local consulting company. I became a mental health and chronic illness advocate in 2009, after being diagnosed with a relatively rare mood cycling disorder. When I’m not working or advocating, you can often find me traveling, hiking or otherwise enjoying nature, reading, writing, or doing yoga – in fact, I’m just starting Yoga Teacher Training this fall!

Chronic illness(es)/disabilities I have… 

I have Rapid Cycling Cyclothymia, a rare mood cycling disorder that’s similar to, but technically “less mild” (in quotes because it definitely doesn’t feel mild at times) to Bipolar Disorder. I also struggle with anxiety as part of this disorder, though not technically diagnosed with a separate anxiety disorder. In addition to my mental health condition, I  battle IBS and Migraines

My symptoms/condition began… 

I am told I was most likely born with cyclothymia. I started exhibiting symptoms of hypomania as early as two years old, though of course they didn’t know what it was at the time. Symptoms progressively increased in frequency and intensity through my teen and early adult years. I was finally diagnosed just shy of my 30th birthday. The migraines I have been getting since I was a teenager – tough to really say when they started, but I can definitively say I can’t really recall a time when I wasn’t prone to migraines. They’re not continual, but I have consistently gotten them at least a few times a month since I was a teen. The IBS symptoms began around the age of 23, and I was diagnosed shortly thereafter.

My diagnosis process was… 

I’ll speak mainly about my cyclothymia diagnosis process here, as they others were pretty straight forward – went to the Dr, was referred to a specialist, had a couple of tests (colonoscopy/upper & lower GI tests for the IBS) and was diagnosed.

The cyclothymia diagnosis was trickier. I’d been seeing therapists on and off since college. I had only found one I’d really trusted, but long story short, at the time my symptoms weren’t as prominent, and I was more seeing her post-divorce than for my specific mental health symptoms. In the summer of 2009, my GP put me on a low dose of antidepressants, which at first helped, but soon made me feel worse. In August 2009, I was hospitalized for two days with what I thought were non-stop anxiety attacks. The hospital increased my depression medication, and I felt worse. When I got out of the hospital, I went to the one therapist I’d trusted from past years, and we began working through things – including the fact that the medication was making me worse. I even brought my mom to a session, in which she described the symptoms I’d exhibited as a very young child (since I couldn’t quite as accurately describe them, having been a toddler when they started). It was during these visits that I was finally diagnosed with rapid cycling cyclothymia. My therapist explained that the antidepressants made me worse because I cycle so rapidly that basically, by the time the medication that’s supposed to “lift” my mood (for lack of a better phrase) hits my system, I’ve already cycled up, and the effect is compounded. So in essence, the antidepressants were putting me in almost continual hypomania (what I had thought were anxiety attacks). She subsequently brought me down off the antidepressants and we began mood stabilizers.

The hardest part of living with my illness/disabilities is… 

It’s two fold for me. One is the feeling of lack of control over my brain. I feel like I often can’t trust my own mind – because I cycle so quickly, literally every day is a complete surprise. I never know how I’ll wake up feeling (depressed, hypomanic, anxious, none of the above), and how often it’ll change each day. Not being able to trust my own brain, or feeling like I can’t, massively affects my self-esteem and often makes me feel hopeless and worthless.

The second is the stigma. The fact that people think you can just smile, change your attitude, be more grateful, look on the bright side, or choose to not feel this way is awful. When this happens, not only do I feel hopeless and worthless, I’m being told it’s my own fault, and shamed for how I’m feeling.

A typical day for me involves… 

I have a full time job, so on weekdays, my day of course involves that. But in terms of illness and coping strategies, I get up early to exercise most weekdays before work – it helps my mood, and it helps me to keep a consistent schedule. I spend time writing each morning – mostly journaling. This helps me brain dump, more or less, so that I can try to sort through the mish-mosh of feelings, emotions, thoughts all going through my brain. Without this outlet, it feels like non-stop stimulation inside of my brain, before even getting much input from the “outside” world, and it makes concentration and focus extremely difficult. Most evenings after dinner, I try to meditate, and/or do some yoga. It’s a wind down for my day, and helps settle my brain, so that I can hopefully get some sleep. If it’s not a work day, I try to spend as much time in the sunshine and fresh air as I can – especially in nature. I’ve been slacking in that lately, and really need to get back into it.

The one thing I cannot live without is… 

My loved ones. They’re my rocks. But if I had to choose an actual thing… I’d be tempted to say my medication, but I’ve had to go temporarily off of it for personal reasons, so technically, I’m living without it for the moment.  So, I’d probably have to say my journal. Writing is my solace. My journal will “listen” to my thoughts and emotions and feelings with no judgement, and it lets me get it “out of my head” without having to actually direct it at anyone, which is huge in helping my relationships with loved ones and friends (note: I’m far from perfect in this regard, but it helps). I work through so much in the pages of my journal, and I can’t imagine not having that outlet on a daily basis.

Being ill/disabled has taught me… 

That I am not alone, and that so many people struggle with their mental health. You hear the statistics, that one in five Americans have a mental health condition, but when you begin talking about your illness and advocating, and you have people you would never have thought coming to you and saying, “Thank you so much for speaking out, I struggle too,” it really hits home. That “one in five” goes from being a statistic to something tangible that you can feel in daily life.  My illness has also given me a purpose. In my adult life, I feel I’ve floundered a bit in really finding where I feel I belong. But utilizing my illness to help others has, from the very start, always felt 100 percent like it’s my purpose and a path that I have to follow. It feels such a natural part of my life, almost an extension of myself, when so little else does sometimes.

What advice would I give someone recently diagnosed… 

I have so much to say here, but I’ll try to condense it!  First, I would tell them to learn everything they can about their illness (from credible sources of course), and that when they’re ready, finding support with others who have the same/similar illness  – whether they find this in an official group or among friends or on social media/online – can make a world of difference. I’d also remind them how often depression and anxiety lie, and that there may be days that their illness wants them to believe every terrible thing about themselves, but that these aren’t true, no matter how convincing the lies sound.  I’d want them to know that there’s hope, there are others who “get it” and are here to help, and that they are not alone. Finally, I’d tell them to make sure that they have a healthcare team that they trust, and just as importantly, that trusts them. We know our bodies and our brains better than anyone else because we have lived with them our entire lives, and it’s important that our health professionals understand this – we deserve that respect as patients, to have our voices heard and not to be discounted.

My support system is…

My husband, my family, my friends, my therapist, my social media/online spoonie family.

If I had one day symptom/disability-free I would… 

Live as fully as I could – do activities I love to do, with people I care about, and try my hardest not to, as so often happens, let the anxiety of “Ok, I feel good now, but when is the proverbial other shoe going to drop”  creep in. Afterall, if I let it creep in, I’d cease to be symptom free!

One positive of having a chronic illness/disability is…

For myself, I’d say that it’s helped me to be more understanding and empathetic. Because I know I’m often struggling with a lot that others can’t see, I try to also remember this when the situation is reversed, and I try to put myself in their shoes before passing judgement. For instance, if someone’s speaking to me badly, I try to ask myself “what might they be going through that I can’t see that’s causing them to act this way?”.

In addition, as mentioned above, it’s given me a purpose and direction. Without my illnesses, I wouldn’t be an advocate, I wouldn’t be involved in so many various organizations and causes, and I wouldn’t have met so many amazing people through these.

My links are:

https://spreadhopeproject.com
www.liliesandelephants.blogspot.com
Twitter: @mayanorthen
Instagram: @myohmy23

Interview October – Jan

Interview October is almost over, but we have another guest to meet – Jan Collins

JanCollins

Introduce yourself and tell us a bit about you…  

I am Janet but prefer Jan and I am 60 years young. Recently divorced after 37 years of marriage I have 2 children, Zoe 35 and Nathan 26. Zoe has my only granddaughter Amerthyst who will be 7 in November and she is the light of my life

Chronic illness(es)/disabilities I have… 

I have among other things chronic brittle asthma, COPD, type 2 diabetes, osteoarthritis and the onset of osteoporosis in my left hip. For 15 years I was on steroids for my asthma which has caused me all sorts of digestive problems. I am pleased to say that I have recently come off the steroids and have already lost over a stone (14lbs) in weight

My symptoms/condition began… 

I have had asthma all my life, when I was 4 my parents were told it was infantile asthma and I would grow out of it. In the interim, I have had bad spells and good spells. About 16 or 17 years ago I collapsed at home and if it hadn’t been for my then 9 year old son who didn’t panic but kept his calm I could have died. For the next 6 months or more I was in and out of A and E, my mum and husband were on the phone every day trying to get me to see a specialist. We were told that as mine was asthma, not lung cancer I didn’t have priority. When I did see the specialist he put me on steroids and boy did that open a can of worms. Every time they found something else wrong it was due to the steroids. I put on loads of weight and lost all my self-esteem.

The hardest part of living with my illness/disabilities is… 

The worst point was being diagnosed with diabetes 3 years ago which restricted my already limited diet even more. My ex also has diabetes and could eat almost anything without it causing any problems. I quickly learnt I couldn’t and was put on insulin developed fat growths on my arm and in my eye and had problems with my feet. It was so frustrating, I lost my self-confidence and my controlling ex basically persuaded me I couldn’t do anything so I became housebound except when he took me out. Then he walked out, my son helped me do a food diary to work out what I could or couldn’t eat, yes it was limiting but at least I knew where I stood. I discovered an inner strength and regained some of my self-confidence. A haircut and losing weight with people telling me how good I looked did a lot for my self-esteem as well.

A typical day for me involves… 

At the moment a typical day for me starts when my alarm goes off at 5am. This gives me three-quarter’s of an hour to get up and get dressed before I wake my son. After the first of many cups of tea the dog and I go for an OK let’s get our bodies moving walk, we both suffer from arthritis. This is the first of at least 3 walks we do. Then it’s medicine time which can take up to an hour. 2 mornings a week the community transport bus picks me up from home and takes me into town (I can no longer drive due to my eye problems). My daughter comes over once a week and we go out for a coffee. Afternoons are given over to crafting and studying, I am doing an O. U. English literature and creative writing degree. After a late tea and my second lot of insulin and, my 3rd lots of nebules I do my son’s lunch box for the next day before sitting down for the evening. I usually catch up on social media and deal with anything that has cropped up, write to my numerous pen pals or read. Every day my intention is to be in bed by 10 but it rarely happens. For one thing, my evening routine of medicines, putting cream on my feet etc takes over an hour.

Being ill/disabled has taught me… 

Over the years I have adapted my lifestyle to suit my needs but despite what it sounds like my health doesn’t dominate my life I always say I am not disabled just less enabled in some fields but have learnt so many new things to more than compensate for those things. People feel sorry for me but I can’t understand why I have so much going for me and have learnt so much. These days I can’t imagine living without my health issues but that aside my Jack Russell Terrier Herbie is my lifeline, he is company, he gives me a reason to get up and walk him and thus exercise. As a result of watching my diet changes and walking Herbie, I have lost over a stone (14lbs) in weight. I am still overweight but every bit helps.

What advice would I give someone recently diagnosed… 

Pace yourself, set targets for yourself but don’t knock yourself up if you don’t achieve them.

One positive of having a chronic illness/disability is…

Being disabled has taught me so much it is difficult to remember them all. Tolerance, patience, understanding, empathy, compassion, I have become a better listener and learnt many new skills all as a direct result of my health problems

 To quote 2 sayings my grandad used to say

” count your blessings one by one every day.” These might be anything from the love of your family and friends, sunny days or just the fact that you are still breathing.

” Smile and the world smiles with you, cry and you cry alone”. People get fed up with you if you are always moaning.

Life is for living, enjoy.

My links are:

collinsjan20@gmail.com and people can private message me anytime.

Other than that I am a member of Disability Matters and I am an ambassador for the online group Carenity.com specialising in Respiratory Diseases, Chronic Pain, Depression and Diabetes.

Interview October – Beth

Interview October continues with another wonderful guest…let’s meet Beth Crutcher

BethCrutcher

Introduce yourself and tell us a bit about you…  

My name is Beth…I am a 52 yo, Married, mother of 2, Full time Registered Dental Assistant. I’ve been in the same dental office since 1995.

Chronic illness(es)/disabilities I have… 

I have Chronic Congestive Heart Failure, My Ejection Fraction, or how the blood pumps through the heart currently sits at 35- 40%, normal is 55-70%. I also have been diagnosed with Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome and Mixed Connective Tissue Disorder.

My symptoms/condition began… 

My symptoms first began with the birth of my first child in 1988, I was 21 years old and had an uneventful pregnancy, but soon after the birth of my daughter I noticed I could not take in a deep breath, and felt a heaviness on my chest. Since I had just had an emergency c-section, doctors overlooked any concerns as normal pregnancy symptoms. When I persisted they finally saw me and realized I was in distress as my oxygen levels were in the 70’s. I was sent to the ER and treated for pulmonary embolism, pneumonia, asthma, and even anxiety. I was away from my newborn for two weeks and discharged without a proper diagnosis. That of which I would not get until the birth of my second daughter 13 years later in 2001 and in post-pregnancy had shortness of breath, and swelling, and could not lie flat. after two weeks of medical professionals saying it was normal..an ER Cardiologist gave me a diagnosis of PeriPartum Cardiomyopathy. Pregnancy-induced heart failure,

My Ejection Fraction was at 10%  and I may get better with medications, or I may need a heart transplant.  I have been on an up and down EF rollercoaster of treatments and medications and am currently stable with an EF of 35-40%.  Still very symptomatic and having other symptoms of  extreme fatigue, lightheadedness, brain fog,  excessive heart palpitations, exercise intolerance, nausea, severe headaches, aura migraines, joint pain , stomach pain, sun/heat exposure intolerance, dizziness, high and low blood pressure readings led to having a positive tilt table test and a diagnosis of Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome (POTS), an autonomic dysfunction, Dysautonomia. and blood work revealed a high ANA reading which gave me a diagnosis of Mixed Connective Tissue Disease, an autoimmune disorder.  All aspects of each illness has its challenges and it is often hard to balance one against the other.

The hardest part of living with my illness/disabilities is… 

An unpleasant aspect of HF and POTS and MCTD, for me, is doing a task that involves squatting down (rather than bending from the waist, which makes me feel faint on standing upright). Getting something from the bottom of the shelf, or reaching and stretching in a continuous motion, walking up a flight of stairs, as well as taking the elevator leaves me very short of breath, or dizzy. I ask why this happens and they said it’s a bit like standing on a garden hose – squatting down like that with an inefficient heart restricts the return of blood to the right side of the heart through the vena cava, consequently there is less to go to the lungs for oxygen before being pumped around the body by the dysfunctional left side of the heart. I also don’t like the pain in my joints, it can make the smallest of tasks unbearable.

A typical day for me involves… 

First getting out of bed in the morning is slow moving.  I have learned to move carefully. I only have so much energy to use in a day. Monday-Friday I work full time in a busy dental office. I have learned my limits and go through life accordingly. When I’m in a flare-up, I rest. I do activities/ family functions when I feel up to it, when I feel I can’t… I don’t.

The one thing I cannot live without is… 

My Husband and children and soon to be granddaughter!

Being ill/disabled has taught me… 

You know who your real friends are. The ones that understand you may not be capable of doing what you once did, but support you when you can or can’t.

What advice would I give someone recently diagnosed… 

Trust yourself. Keep telling yourself, You’re not unreliable, Your health is. It’s not your fault

My support system is…

My family and friends and work family. And social media groups.

If I had one day symptom/disability-free I would… 

I would with all my loved ones around me, run down the beach, climb a mountain to look at the view down below. And just take in the sunshine and eat whatever I want!!!

One positive of having a chronic illness/disability is…

The connections I have made through social media and becoming an advocate for PPCM with SavetheMommies.com. My Heartsisters are like my family.

My links are:

SavetheMommies.com

Interview October – Maria

It’s time to meet our next Guest for Interview October. This is Maria Thomas

MariaThomas
photo credit: Amy Boyle Photography

Introduce yourself and tell us a bit about you…  

My name is Maria Thomas, and I’m a writer, editor, content creator and book nerd. Seven years ago I launched my blog, My Life as a Puddle, where I’m creating hyperhidrosis hope and awareness one drop at a time.

Chronic illness(es)/disabilities I have… 

Hyperhidrosis (excessive uncontrollable sweating), ulcerative colitis and Hashimoto’s thyroiditis

My symptoms/condition began… 

Hyperhidrosis- age 7

UC – age 33

Hashimoto’s – age 36, and I found out by accident after some bloodwork!

My diagnosis process was… 

A long time coming for my Hh. I found the term in a Google search but didn’t get a proper diagnosis until age 21.

UC – the perfect storm. I was going through a divorce, selling the first home I ever owned, and moving into a tiny little apartment. It was a trifecta of stressful events and my body decided to respond with blood in my stool and a frequent need to go.

The hardest part of living with my illness/disabilities is… 

Hh – Getting people to understand that I am not sweating because I am nervous. I’m nervous BECAUSE I’m sweating. There’s a difference. It’s also hard for people to understand how much my life and choices are affected by my sweating. It’s not “just a little sweat.” I try not to let it rule my life but sometimes it does.

UC – having a chronic autoimmune condition makes me tired sometimes, and more prone to GI pain and distress. I’m not high maintenance, but I’ve really had to overhaul the way I eat, which can make it difficult to eat out sometimes. I now follow a Paleo nutrition plan, which is hard when you live in a state known for its craft beer, which is unfortunately loaded with gluten.

I also have to stab myself every other week with a biologic injectable medication. Try that with sweaty hands!

A typical day for me involves… 

Turning my desk fan on and off at least 25 times a day while at work, then coming home and changing my sweaty clothes and socks if necessary. If I’ve worn sandals, I’ll usually wash my feet since they’ve developed a coating from sweating.

UC-wise I never know when I’ll experience symptoms. I’m in remission now, but occasionally I’ll have gurgling sounds and stabbing pains in my lower abdomen.

Hashimoto’s-wise, sometimes I feel so lethargic it’s like i haven’t slept in days. Other days I feel like I could run a marathon.

The one thing I cannot live without is… 

My books, my husband, and my Pug named Maya

Being ill/disabled has taught me… 

To listen to my body and take care of it. I was hospitalized once because of my ulcerative colitis. It was scary and miserable and terribly isolating. It also taught me to be my own best health advocate. I had nurses trying to feed me grains and gluten and dairy. Not once did my GI doctor at the time say gee, you might want to avoid all that stuff. I had to seek out a functional medicine doctor to learn all of that and switch to a Paleo diet.

What advice would I give someone recently diagnosed… 

Do your research! Read the medical literature, read books, and absolutely go see a functional medicine Doctor who treats the whole body as a system and doesn’t just prescribe medications to cover up symptoms.

My support system is…

My husband and my family

If I had one day symptom/disability-free I would… 

Go on a public speaking tour and wear high heels without no-show socks or absorbent insoles because I wouldn’t be worried about sweating all over everything ! Then I’d do a meet and greet and shake everyone’s hand.

One positive of having a chronic illness/disability is…

I get to choose how I respond to my life, which is why I choose to make my sweaty mess my message. You can either rise up or stay below. All it takes is one different choice.

My links are:

https://www.facebook.com/mylifeasapuddle/
https://twitter.com/MyLifeAsAPuddle
https://www.instagram.com/mylifeasapuddle/

Interview October – Roger

Let’s meet Roger Potter, our next guest on Interview October. Here he is:

Rog Potter

Introduce yourself and tell us a bit about you…  

My name is Roger Potter, a young strong Senior who is one of the original blue babies of the 1940’s, born also with congenital heart disease and one of the pioneering babies that had open heart surgery in 1952. I am also one of 20 co-authors of a up coming book called Cardiac Athletes vol 2.

Chronic illness(es)/disabilities I have… 

I was born a Blue Baby – this means that you’re born with a pale bluish color to your skin which means that you are still mixing oxygen and blood when you’re not supposed to be which indicates you also have congenital heart disease.

My symptoms/condition began… 

My symptoms began at birth and the diagnosis was at 6 months of age.

The hardest part of living with my illness/disabilities is… 

The hardest part as a child was not being able to keep up with the other kids and getting tired very fast.  Now as an adult, it’s accepting the fact that there are things I can’t do or doing them differently.

A typical day for me involves… 

Being active, living as full a life as I can and getting in the gym on a regular basis, for this condition is not going to stop me – I will capitalize on it.

One thing I can’t live without is…

The one thing I can’t live without is activity and going to the gym for this malady will not defeat me.

Being ill/disabled has taught me… 

Feeling or being disabled has taught me how to live boldly and be able to conquer that which I can and let others do that which I can’t.

What advice would I give someone recently diagnosed… 

I would tell those that are recently diagnosed to find out all that you can about what you have and talk with your Doctor at great lengths about exactly what you have then find out what your restrictions are like I did – and then find out if there is a way that you can accomplish at least some of your goals safely.

My support system is…

My support system is in part myself, for I seek to challenge myself on a safe basis and with Facebook Cardiac Athletes when I can motivate those that are going through problems that I had many years ago.

If I had one day symptom/disability-free I would… 

If I had one day free of all and knew that it wouldn’t bother me, I would max the day out. One positive of having a disability is knowing you’re a survivor and in an exclusive club and being able to do things that you weren’t supposed to be able to do.

My links are:

http://www.openheartsurgerytoseniorstrength.com/

https://twitter.com/SeniorPower

Interview October – Jenni

Our Interview October series continues with our next guest, Jenni Lock. Let’s meet her now:

JenniLock

Introduce yourself and tell us a bit about you…  

My name is Jenni Lock.  I’m 43 years old and hail from Ohio. I created Jenni’s Guts blog in 2008 and write about my journey with intestinal nonsense and other health issues.  My sense of humor and sarcasm are all part of my charm. I have a deep love for animals, learning about everything, socializing from a far, and my beautiful daughter.

Chronic illness(es)/disabilities I have… 

Crohn’s disease, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Bile Acid Malabsorption, chronic nausea and diarrhea mainly. However, I also suffer from Fibromyalgia, Anxiety, Depression, Insomnia and struggle with a touch of PTSD.

My symptoms/condition began… 

I started having health problems in roughly 1990, though I wasn’t officially diagnosed with Crohn’s until 1995.  Everything else wrong with me just snowballed over the years after that.

My diagnosis process was… 

Difficult. I suffered from a lot of stomach pain, back pain, joint pain and lost about 15 pounds due to running to the restroom about 15-20 times a day. My family doctor told me I was depressed and needed Prozac. That didn’t help so I went to a specialist. The specialist told me I had Irritable Bowel Syndrome and needed to eat more fiber and scheduled me for a sigmoidoscopy, but everything came back normal so I was, again, told to eat more fiber and decrease my stress. I quickly found out fiber made things worse and I continued to get sicker and sicker. I went to a different specialist who did many more tests but everything came back normal except for one blood test. It showed an inflammation/infection rate of seven times the normal rate. I exhausted all the testing options so I was scheduled for surgery to figure out what was happening inside me.  During surgery they found I had about 3 1/2 feet of severely inflamed small intestine and the final diagnosis was Crohn’s disease.  The whole diagnosis process took about 2 years.

The hardest part of living with my illness/disabilities is… 

My inability to do things with my family and friends because of being tied to a restroom and not feeling well enough.  Especially not being able to travel and go to fun events.  I’m not able to do a lot of things with my daughter because of this and it is really hard for me to continually have to say, “No, I’m sorry but I’m too sick” or “I can’t because of the bathroom situation.”

A typical day for me involves… 

After an exhausting night of not sleeping well, or even at all, the mornings are usually met with many trips to the restroom which continues throughout the day but most of the time tapers off at least a little throughout the day.  I watch a lot of movies and television, read and research, or put on music and draw.  I’m unable to work so I mainly just try to keep myself from going stir crazy.

The one thing I cannot live without is… 

Laughter.

Being ill/disabled has taught me… 

I can be a person with a disability (or many actually) but it doesn’t define who I am.  I’m so much more than just someone with medical problems.  And it has taken struggling with so many things wrong with me to actually figure that out.

What advice would I give someone recently diagnosed… 

This diagnosis isn’t the end of you. Study and learn as much as you can about your illness from every source you can get your hands on (except WebMD!!).  You have an inner strength that you never knew you had so use it to fight for proper health care and proper treatments and don’t ever, EVER settle for less – not from your doctors, healthcare professionals, or anyone else.  You’re worth it!

My support system is…

My family and friends.  And a furry little friend or two always make things better!  (Shoutout to all the pets I have had along the way – I miss you guys!)

If I had one day symptom/disability-free I would… 

Grab my daughter, get in the car and just drive.  We would go to all the places she always wanted to go and do all the things she wanted to do that I couldn’t because traveling, for me, is so difficult.

One positive of having a chronic illness/disability is…

All the communities out there that have allowed me the opportunity to meet people and learn about their stories.  I’m so fortunate that my blog has reached so many people and we all get to help each other cope.  I think it is so important to have a community of people who understand, even if they are hundreds of miles away from you and you never physically meet each other.

My link is:

JennisGuts.blogspot.com

Interview October – Derek

We continue our Interview October series with a guest I think you’ll enjoy. Let’s meet Derek Canas

DerekCanas

Introduce yourself and tell us a bit about you…  

My name is Derek most people call me D-REK I’ll explain that later. I’m 33 years old, and survivor of a congenital heart defect and open heart surgery. At sixteen years of age, I was diagnosed with Aids.

Chronic illness(es)/disabilities I have… 

Congenital Heart Defect called Transposition of the Great Arteries/ HIV/Aids

My symptoms/condition began… 

Symptoms of heart condition diagnosed at 3 months of age. Open heart surgery to correct it happened right after in 1985. I required 15 blood transfusions during surgery and recovery. During surgery, the SA node was damaged requiring a pacemaker to correct. After a 3 month recovery, I made it home but life began to show another hidden monster. I wasn’t growing at a normal rate.

My diagnosis process was… 

Heart was at 3 months HIV/Aids wasn’t discovered until the age of 16.

The hardest part of living with my illness/disabilities is… 

The Stigma surrounding HIV/Aids It makes relationships and friendships very difficult.

A typical day for me involves… 

Spending the day taking care of my two dogs and doing online advocacy from my website

The one thing I cannot live without is… 

Music I’m a DJ that’s were the D-REK name came from. So music has helped me through difficult times and made some great memories working in nightclubs

Being ill/disabled has taught me… 

I’m so much stronger than I ever could have imagined. I’ve been underestimated most of my life but I’ve always fought through whatever has tried to stop me.

What advice would I give someone recently diagnosed… 

Keep your head up things do get better. Don’t let the words in your medical records consume you. You can still chase your dreams and live a very full life.

My support system is…

Family they are great always keeping me laughing and having fun. I’ve been in some very scary situations over the years and we always found a way to find the funny moments.

If I had one day symptom/disability-free I would… 

Probably run wild. Life has tried to slow me down for a reason. I like work and if I could I’d go nonstop

One positive of having a chronic illness/disability is…

You learn the value of your health and how quickly it can fade away. You set boundaries and spend more time with those you truly care about. Little moments become something very valuable

My links are:

https://www.facebook.com/EndTheStigma912
https://twitter.com/DJDREK84
https://www.instagram.com/dreksangelsandwarriors/
https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCS8Ucb4xH9hJMwhngUOFaDg

 

Stream Of Consciousness Sat. Sept. 29th

Who Was I Kidding?
I’m mad. I’m mad at my body, I’m mad at the way I’ve been let down, and I’m mad that I’ve lost my freedom, once again. What am I talking about?
Singing
For those who don’t know, I used to sing in a women’s barbershop chorus as well as in a quartet. I love to sing but I haven’t done it since 2007. Recently, I heard about an opportunity to join a group called the South Island Care Choir, made up of Doctors, Nurses, other Health Care practitioners and Patient Partners from Patient Voices Network, the group I volunteer with. I immediately jumped in and said YES!! I would love to join this group, not even thinking how unrealistic this might be for me healthwise.
Well, I’ve just made the unfortunate realization that it’s not going to be feasible for me to do this, and I am totally pissed. The main reason why I won’t be able to sing? My stupid left foot and it’s stupid Haglund’s Deformity that we’ve just confirmed. I literally can’t walk on this foot for more than 10 minutes without being in agony, let alone stand on it for 90 minutes to sing. I would have to walk to the bus stop there and back to where we would rehearse, and I am NOT paying the $50 it would cost for a taxi each way. Even using my walker or my crutches wouldn’t make a big difference…I would still have to be on my feet to sing properly and I just can’t manage it right not. Plus, the only way that this Haglund’s Deformity can be managed is with surgery. I’ve already tried the other measures to treat it…ice, elevation, anti-inflammatories, rest…everything.
I am so mad at myself for getting my hopes up and then realizing that this just isn’t going to work. I wanted so badly to be able to sing again because I miss it so much…the camaraderie of being in a group environment, creating harmony together, performing for people…just everything.  Singing in the past brought me so much joy…I really wanted to re-create those feelings again. Unfortunately, if I’m totally honest with myself, I would end up being in too much pain and too tired to really enjoy myself and now is just not a good time to do this.
I’m going to send a note to the director and ask if it’s okay to put this off until the Spring and then perhaps re-join at that time. Hopefully my foot will be dealt with by then and I’ll be recovered from surgery and no longer in pain. My regular pain I can manage, but if I can’t stand on my own two feet with just my cane, then there’s no sense in pretending. I don’t want special accommodations, I just want to be like everyone else on the risers; a regular singer.
From my Sweet Adeline Barbershop days – the link below is my quartet Quintessence singing Marshmallow World. It’s from the Christmas CD “Jingle Belles” that my chorus Rhythm Of The Rockies put out, I believe in 2004. This was when I was living in Calgary where I was a founding member of the chorus.
In 2005, Quintessence competed in Sweet Adelines Region 26 (the All Canadian Region!) composed of choruses and quartets in BC, Alberta and Saskatchewan. Every year there would be Regional Competitions held to pick winners to go to International Competitions. Out of 16 Quartets, we placed 10th overall in the competition and we won Novice Quartet of the Year which was a real honour – the best of all the new quartets!! One of my favourite memories was when we entered the theatre after coming off stage, people were applauding as they did for all the competitors, and the reigning Quartet Champions stood and applauded for us – again, as they did for each quartet, but it made me feel so special, like our quartet was so amazing. I’ve never forgotten that feeling, something likely so insignificant to them, but has had a lasting impact on me all these years later.
And that was another reason I wanted to sing. I wanted to be able to influence other singers who maybe were in a choir for the first time. I wanted to be able to encourage and inspire someone who was trying something new for the very first time. But no…my stoopid body refuses to cooperate and so once again, that freedom to do what I want when I want is gone.
Anyway, I hope you enjoy our version of Marshmallow World. I realize it’s not Christmas yet, but the weather is changing and some people Edmonton have already had snow so it’s not totally inappropriate either.
Marshmallow World
And as for me, like I said, I guess I’ll revisit singing in the Spring and see how things are at that point. Hopefully I’ll be in a better place physically to be able to sing without pain and I’ll enjoy the experience even more.
there is always hope

Medication Frustration

It’s a frustrating thing when the medications you’ve come to rely on suddenly decide to stop working. Pain meds no longer manage your pain, and brain meds no longer manage your brain. It’s no fun to find yourself in this situation, but for People with Chronic Pain (PwCP), it happens all the time.

Screen Shot 2018-10-29 at 6.16.50 PM
There are only 3 medications that are specifically prescribed for Fibromyalgia: Lyrica, Savella and Cymbalta. Lyrica, in particular, is known for weight gain as a side effect and when I first started taking it, years back, I gained 30lbs in 2 months time. I’m a short girl (5’2″) but I have a large frame, so I didn’t want to gain anything…I’m already stocky. I told my doctor that I couldn’t handle being so heavy (I think I went up to 160lbs), so she took me off the Lyrica and put me on the Cymbalta instead. I lost some of the weight and for a long time, seemed stable at 140lbs which I was okay with. I was still working out at the time and had a muscular body thanks to my trainer and her torture sessions every week (hi Terrianne…love you!).

Fast forward 10 years and I’m still on the Cymbalta, but I don’t think it’s as effective as it used to be. The problem is, science hasn’t kept up and there is nothing newer to try. Even though I continue to take my daily doses on schedule, I find that I develop brain zaps in between and my Fibro pain seems to have increased over the years as well. Part of it might just be from ageing, and part might be from my Osteoarthritis getting worse as well. I’ve also noticed that since I had my right hip replaced and I developed this Haglund’s Deformity in my left foot, my legs are constantly achier than they’ve ever been. I’ve always put that down to walking with a different gait, but I wonder if that’s my Fibro flaring up as well.

The other medication that has been difficult to regulate is what I take for my Bipolar Disorder. I was on Seroquel for a couple of years with good success, until I started having auditory hallucinations. I would be hearing music where other people heard nothing. It took a long time before we determined it was my medication causing the problem, including a visit to a Psychiatrist to determine that I didn’t have Schizophrenia. Once we realized the Seroquel was the problem, we switched to a new drug called Abilify. That worked great for the first several months, providing me with energy that I hadn’t had before and a whole fresh outlook on life.

Unfortunately, it also brought some side effects like shaking hands and trembling tongue and brain zaps – those internal lightening-fast buzzes in the head. We cut the dosage in half and then in half again, but to lose the side effects meant to lose the benefits as well. I see my doctor again soon and I think we’re going to have to try something new. The problem is, everything new is in the same general category as what I’m currently taking, so not sure what type of success we’ll have.

Speaking of seeing my doctor, I have to say that my new doctor is lovely. Dr Penny Wilson is from Australia and is in Canada for a year at least (with the promise that if she decides to go back to Australia at the end of the year, my care will be taken over by another doctor in the practice so I won’t be left stranded). She prefers to be called Penny rather than Dr and she’s simply delightful to talk to. She’s matter of fact and down to earth, and genuinely wants to see me as healthy as possible, so on my last visit there, to get the results of blood work and to get a prescription refill on my opioid medication, she decided she wanted me to book another appointment asap for what she called a Complex Care Review. As she said, “if anyone is complex, it’s you”. How true!

Basically, this appointment will be a chance to sit down for 30 minutes to go through EVERYTHING that I’m experiencing healthwise so we can triage what’s important, what can wait, what Dr Winston, my Pain Doctor, is dealing with, and what needs to be sent off to other doctors. For instance, I’ve had ongoing pelvic pain, likely due to a build-up of scar tissue/adhesions from several previous abdominal surgeries. I do know that when I had each of my ovaries removed, there was scar tissue attaching my bladder to my bowel. When I move certain ways, it feels like my insides are ripping apart, like velcro being torn open and it’s crazy painful. This is something I haven’t dealt with yet, because there have been too many other things wrong with my body. Penny will likely refer me to either the Gynocologist or to a General Surgeon to have a laparoscopic procedure done to see if they can remove some of the adhesions so that pain can be eliminated. Yes, a surgical procedure will cause more adhesions, but if they can get rid of 90% and have only 10% more grow, then those are good odds for me.

It feels weird to be looking forward to a Dr appointment, but I think this will be one of the most beneficial ones I’ve had in ages. I’m also taking in all my medications, so we can do a review and see if there’s anything I can stop or any dosage changes I need to incorporate. Yes, Penny is very thorough and for that, I’m very grateful. I have a feeling that when the appointment on the 27th is over, I’ll no longer have medication frustrations. What an answer to prayer!!

there is always hope!

A Little Bit More Joy

This past summer, I wrote a post called That Which Brings Me Joy in which I talked about my hummingbirds and provided a list of things to do which could bring some joy into your life.
My hummingbirds continue to bring me much happiness. I bought a different feeder for them which the wasps that plagued me can’t get into, and I also bought a wasp trap which I’ve baited with a double concentrate of sugar water. The birds are happy, the wasps not so much, but there aren’t as many of them now with the weather cooling off as we head into fall.
I wanted to continue my list of things that might bring happiness into your lives, so here goes. I hope there are no repeats!!

  1. Write a thank-you note to yourself (on your best stationery, of course).
  2. Venture outside for a five-minute walk.
  3. Indulge in a delicious piece of chocolate (or a fresh colourful smoothie).
  4. Find a piece of jewelry you haven’t worn in a while – feels just like vintage shopping!
  5. Pick fresh flowers or send yourself a little bouquet of favourite flowers.
  6. Visit a funny blog, watch a movie, or spend time with someone who makes you laugh.
  7. Find serenity at a favourite local spot (ex. a park, a lake, a coffee shop, a little nook in your house or office).
  8. Bake a favourite treat with a family member or friend — or bake alone and surprise someone special with yummy treats.
  9. Discover an uplifting and fun song – something new.
  10. Slow down and enjoy a long brunch.
  11. Try a new fitness class.
  12. Indulge in watching tv or reading a magazine – guilt free!
  13. Declare a vacation day – write it BIG on your calendar so you get to anticipate this upcoming personal time (a vacation day can fall on the weekend).
  14. Do a good deed — help someone else find joy.
  15. Treat yourself to a favourite cup of coffee or tea – enjoy the flavours and activate your senses.
  16. Be goofy! Dance around your room to your favorite music.
  17. Explore the inspirational and joyful blog, Kind Over Matter.
  18. Get rid of two items in your physical environment that make you feel negative.
  19. Bite into a piece of fresh fruit.
  20. Wear a color that makes you feel confident and joyful!
  21. Write down three things that you are grateful for.
  22. Call a supportive friend – or reconnect with someone you haven’t spoken to in a while.
  23. Start a book that you’ve been meaning to read.
  24. Browse books at your local bookstore.
  25. Learn something new (ex. a new hobby or craft).
  26. Write a thoughtful comment on a personal blog you read (comments mean the world to me – hint hint!).
  27. Create a list of 10 things you love about your significant other – surprise him/her with the list.
  28. Write a hope note and leave it for someone to find.
  29. Connect with your fellow tweeters. Send a tweet with a joyful message.
  30. Create a list of 10 things that make you happy – your own personal “joy” list.

I hope you enjoy this list and make good use of it. If you have other ideas or suggestions, leave them in the comments. Thanks, and remember…
There is always hope

the suicide poem

TRIGGER WARNING – I AM TALKING ABOUT SUICIDE
I have a poem I want to share because I wanted to reflect on the growing number of suicides that are happening in the Chronic Pain world. People with Chronic Pain (PwCP) are not getting adequate treatment and are suffering desperately, leading many to take illicit drugs off the street, which can lead to drug overdoses, or to just outright commit suicide, because their pain has become too much for them to manage.
Marijuana is becoming legal on October 17th in Canada and medicinal marijuana has been available for some time. There are several states in the US where cannabis is legal as well. Many patients find that this is a great treatment for their pain, but for those that don’t even have this option, what is left for them? Inadequate treatment plans, mismanagement of their conditions and a crackdown on necessary treatment with opioid medications because of fears of addiction. It is medically impossible to become addicted to an opioid when you’re body actually needs it. Addiction happens when you no longer NEED the drug, but you continue taking it because your body develops a craving for it.
Data indicates that from the approximately 36,000 suicides that happen in America every year, 10-15% of those are from PwCP*. That’s a powerful statistic and one that really caught my eye.
If you are living with Chronic Pain or know someone who is, and are having a hard time coping, please don’t keep it to yourself. Ask for help. Let someone know you are struggling. There is NO SHAME in admitting you are having dark thoughts or in a depressive state. I have gone through depression and so has my husband. Because of my Bipolar Disorder, I have to be on medication 24/7 or I will disappear into Manic/Depressive cycles that cause great despair in my life. The manic phases are sheer chaos and the depressive phases are dark and very scary and I have come very close to not wanting to live in those moments. It’s only because I have a great husband and a great doctor that I am still here, alive and kicking and cheering on the people like me, who live with chronic illness and mental illness and are doing life every day and surviving.
TRIGGER WARNING – this poem is about suicide
It’s hard to continue to fight and stay strong
It’s scary in dark places, where you linger so long
It’s cold and its brutal and you’ve given up hope
When you find yourself at the end of the rope
Too many times, you have been to this place
Too many times, with the tears on your face
Begging for mercy, all the words that you’ve said
And this time you’ll be using the gun at your head
You’re too tired to listen to the love all around
The words smash together til they make no more sound
It all has no meaning to you anymore
As the drugs take effect while you crash to the floor
How can I reach you, to show that I care?
How can I save you, how do I dare?
I’ll risk our whole friendship to do the right thing
While you stand on the bridge and go for a fling
In hindsight, it seems like your problems were small
You just couldn’t see it, so big was the wall
The gap that you’ve left can never be filled
The sorrow I feel will never be stilled
And those left behind will be mourning in pain
If only we had time just to talk to you again
We’d try harder to reach you, to bring back the light
We’d do everything different, we’d not stop the fight
Until we had you back safely, on this side of grave
Oh the things we would do, if you we could save.
There is always hope

*http://www.lynnwebstermd.com/suicide-and-chronic-pain/

Feelings…Nothing More Than Feelings

I’ve been wrestling with my emotions lately and wasn’t sure if I was even going to post about them. I’ve gone from feeling quite happy about how things are going in my life to outright despair over situations I have no control over. Because I am a Christ Follower, I do pray, but there are so many times I wish I could do more for the people in my life that are suffering. It’s especially hard when my own life is going so well.
Physically, I am doing better than I have been in a really long time. My Fibromyalgia pain has been well controlled lately, without any major flare-ups, my right knee has been doing well since the Synvisc injection finally kicked in, and although the Botox didn’t work for my Trigeminal Neuralgia (I had several flare-ups after it was done), I haven’t had a major problem in the last two months. The only real problem I’m having right now is with my left foot, and what I thought was a problem with my Achilles Tendon. Overall though, my energy has been good and since my dose of Abilify was cut in half, the shaking hands and the tongue tremors and brain zaps seem to have eased up as well. My Bipolar Disorder has been well controlled and other than the fact my insomnia continues to cause major problems and I still average 2-3 hours of sleep at night, overall, I can’t really complain. I feel about as good physically as I have in the last few years and this is a real blessing.
What does have me troubled is that I have several friends who are going through really difficult times right now. One has a daughter in her 20’s with cancer, one has a young daughter with digestive issues and one has a husband with cancer. It’s hard to be so close to people emotionally and yet not able to do anything for them to help them in these battles. So, I’ve done the only thing I know how to do. I’ve sent them each a cow.
A cow named Courage.
Let me explain. I love cows…I always have. I collect them…stuff ones and china ones and figurines and you name it. I have a small collection now, but once upon a time, I had over 400 cow-related items. Now I just keep it to the figurines and stuffies, and Christmas tree ornaments. Courage the Cow was born when my very dear friend Kevin was diagnosed with Lymphoma several years ago. I sent him a stuffed cow from my personal collection to help him through his battle and now Kevin is cancer free. When I heard about my friends and the battles they were going through, I thought that perhaps a Courage Cow of their own might be a good idea. So, that’s what I’ve done. I have taken stuffed cows from my personal collection and sent them on, with a note indicating that Courage is especially talented at eating cancer cells.
Courage also brings great comfort to young children with tummy troubles – that is another speciality of his. I’ve boxed up each of these cows and sent them off and so far, two people have received theirs. The young lady with cancer has had many cuddles with her Courage Cow and has said she already feels better. She will be undergoing a third Chemotherapy treatment soon. My small friend with the digestive problems loves her Courage Cow and wouldn’t put him down. She even made room on her bed for him and apparently that was QUITE the big deal as she’s very particular about who sleeps with her. She will be going to Boston Children’s Hospital in October for a complete digestive workup to see why her bowels don’t work properly and why eating is such a problem for her. She’s 5 years old and has had problems all her young life, so hopefully, Courage will be a comfort for her. As for the final recipient, I’m waiting to hear if Courage has been delivered yet or not…I expect any day now. He discovered he had Stage 4 prostate cancer out of the blue after having no previous symptoms at all.
I’m very thankful that despite my chronic illnesses, I’m healthy in the sense that I need no ongoing treatments such as chemo, or IViG, etc. Sure, I live with ongoing daily pain and I take a bunch of medications to manage my conditions, but overall, I’m healthy for a “sick” person. I just hope and pray it stays like that. I know that I have some surgeries in my future to expect, as my left hip needs to be replaced, and a possible surgery on my left foot where I thought my Achilles Tendon was injured. Instead, it turns out I have something else, called a Haglund’s Deformity. I’ll be seeing an Orthopedic Surgeon in the near future to discuss that further. Still, I can’t complain healthwise (well, I could, but no one would listen!). I know too many people who have things far worse than me. And for them, I listen, encourage and send out cows. And I try to remind them that even in the worst of times…
There is always hope
ps: As a reminder, if anyone is interested in taking the course 31 Days of Expressive Writing for Chronic Pain and Illness that I recently completed, I have become an Affiliate and will earn a small commission if you purchase the course through this link.
The price for this course is only $39.00. There are other courses available through Esther’s site, including What Really Helps People With Chronic Pain for only $99.00, and Pacing For Chronic Pain, priced at just $69.00. To sign up for these courses, please make sure you use my Referral Number 19f3aa. Thanks very much…if you do sign up, I hope you find the course as helpful as I did.
 

A Comedy Of Frustrations

I have just been through the very painful experience of having a computer crash and losing all my data. My backup system failed and I estimated that I lost 2 years worth of work and files, including photos that I can’t replace and documents that I have been working on for quite some time.
I try to “write ahead” when it comes to posts for the blog, so I’ve probably lost about 10 posts as well. I usually write in Mac’s program Pages, and then transfer them over to WordPress afterwards, mostly because I have more editing options in Pages. I don’t know if I’ll do that in the future. And because of the brain fog that goes along with having Fibromyalgia, I can’t remember most of the contents of them, so can’t just recreate them again. Frustrating doesn’t even begin to explain how I feel right now.
The whole thing started when I realized I had accidentally deleted a folder into the trash, and that I had emptied the trash. I went online and found instructions for retrieving said folder. Now, I use a MacBook Pro, so sometimes these tasks are a lot easier than when you use a Windows-based computer. I also was still in a drugged up mode after having had a dental procedure done the day before. These two things should not go hand in hand, but I thought I could at least follow the instructions without too much difficulty since I knew I had a backup. I managed to get to my Disk Utilities section of the computer but as I attempted to retrieve the folder from the trash, it would appear that I wiped out my entire hard drive instead.
It was the drugs. I think I probably had a moment or two where I drifted off to sleep and did some other stuff that I shouldn’t have done. All I know is that I had no folder and no hard drive in less than a minute. Wisely, I turned off the computer, panicked appropriately, and had my husband call a computer guy when he got home, so we could take it in and have it repaired. I wasn’t too worried, as I knew the computer could have the OS installed again, and I had the backup files at home.
So, that’s what happened. Off went my little MacBook Pro on Saturday morning, we had a busy weekend going for a motorcycle ride, then heading to Vancouver on Sunday for a short visit with our daughter Ashley and to meet her boyfriend David for the first time. It was a long wet trip so we had to take the truck, but both times on the ferry, I was able to stand outside and enjoy the view…including a gorgeous rainbow on the return. Then on Monday, I had a dreaded dentist appointment, but Ray was able to pick up my computer for me…with the hard drive freshly reinstalled. They weren’t able to retrieve any of my files for me so I knew I’d be busy getting everything put back.
And then the pain and frustration hit. My back up drive wasn’t working. Despite diligent use, the last backup information captured was in June of 2016. I lost 2 years worth of everything. Documents, photos, files, information – you name it, I lost it. I was absolutely devastated. Some stuff was totally irrelevant but some stuff was hard to swallow that it was gone. I have no idea why the drive didn’t work – it’s a simple external drive and I swap out my hard drive to the external drive once a month. It always appeared to be reading the documents fine but apparently, that wasn’t the case. I also didn’t have Apple’s built-in Time Machine turned on in the past, so I’ve made sure that’s on now. All in all, everything I can do to back up my computer is now in place, along with a monthly calendar reminder to back up to the external drive and to check it to make sure it works!!!
Folks, check your computers and make sure you’ve backed up your data!! Use my experience as a lesson and don’t let this happen to you.
I’m back up and running now but it’s definitely been a frustrating week. I hope you never have to go through this experience yourselves. I certainly have everything set up properly to prevent it from happening again. And on I blog.
There is always hope!
 

Guest Post – Mary Gutierrez

I am pleased to share a post by a Guest Blogger today by the name of Mary Gutierrez
Mary just published the following article and I thought it was important enough to feature here:

Mental Health Advocates Share How To Prevent Suicide in 60 Seconds

What would you say if you had 60 seconds to talk a stranger out of taking his or her life?

Image from Pixabay

I was flipping through my new SoulPancake book when this question jumped off the page.

What would you say if you had 60 seconds to talk a stranger out of taking his or her life?

I froze and my mind went blank. This can happen in my lifetime and I didn’t know what I would say.

So for this National Suicide Awareness Week, I’ve asked some mental health advocates to answer this question.

I hope you will never need the suggested responses and tips below. But if it happens, may they help you save a life.

Here’s What They Shared

  1. “The pain you are feeling must feel overwhelming but If you live another day I will show you that life can be better than what you are living.” — Saaim Ali
  2. “I can’t promise you it gets better. I won’t tell you sunny platitudes or promise you rainbows.
    What I will do is ask you stay, because you’ll never know what’s ahead if you don’t.
    I will do my best to help you look for the rainbows and walk in the rain with you until you can, because I’ve been there, too.” — 
    Selena Marie Wilson
  3. “What you’re considering doing is a permanent solution to a temporary problem. Whatever it is — I promise to help you to resolve it — but we can’t do that if you’re dead.” — Kathy Reagan Young
  4. “ I have been where you are. I know it feels like there is no other way out, but there is hope. People care, I care. Take my hand, I will walk with you through this. Your loved one will be lost without you. One step at a time, one minute at a time. We can do this together. You are not alone.” — Crystal Fretz
  5. “I’ve been there, and I just want you to know that even though it doesn’t seem like it right now, at this very moment, there is hope. You are loved. If you can’t think of a single person who loves you, know that God loves you. I love you because you are a beautiful creation of God. I’ll go with you to find help. I’ll stay with you until you feel safe. You are not alone.” (coupled with questions about the person and things they like/dislike, points we may have in common, and non-threatening body language — adopt the same gestures they use, sit and or stand in the same posture — mirror them so that they can feel the empathy and love). — Anita Ojeda
  6. “There’s a whole bright, beautiful world that needs your spirit in it. It feels dark, lonely, and hopeless right now, but it’s not. There’s help for you, there are people who care about you, and you are so, so much more valuable than you realize. Let’s talk about what resources are available and which one you think will work for you, and I’ll help you make the call if you want. You’re not alone. I’m here to help you. It will get better.” — Olivia Sod
  7. “Trust me I understand how you feel, I’ve been there myself. But hang in there. Sometimes it doesn’t make any sense, but just hang on. Hang on. Hang onto life.” — Sheryl
  8. “A lot of times, people who commit suicide believe the people in their lives would be better off without them, so I’d tell them they wouldn’t and I know. My brother committed suicide and it was the worst thing I have ever experienced. I’d tell them there would be way more people than they realized that would be impacted by this choice and there were more people that cared about them and wanted to help than they realized.” — Rosanne
  9. “As worthless and hopeless and terrible and dark as you feel, this isn’t the end of your story. You can have light and hope and worth and joy. Don’t make a permanent choice that will affect your family and friends long after you’re gone. They need you, whether you think they do or not. You need them, too. Cling to the life God’s given you, even if you have to hold on by your fingernails and it feels too hard. This isn’t the end of your story.” — Anna Huckabee
  10. “Keep them talking basically. When it came down to it and my friend threatened to jump off a multi-storey car park, I told him that if needed I was going to rugby tackle him and sit on him until the police arrived and could restrain him properly (they were already on the way anyway). Probably not the most official way to deal with it but while doing it, it kept him focused on me and talking to me rather than the other things that were going on. My friend has since been diagnosed with a version of Bipolar rather than depression. Unfortunately, it took a number of years to get past the diagnosis of depression or stress.” — Hannah
  11. “What can I do to help you? (And I would start to tell them about my mother and ex-boyfriend and how they took their own life and that it’s okay to ask for help.) Everyone needs some kind of help throughout life. Just let me try to help you.”  Chasa Fulkerson
  12. “The pain you feel right now? If you allow it to end your life, the same pain will attack your family and closest friends because they will miss you. After you are gone, the pain will be allowed to grow bigger and bigger! Let’s fight this together now and end the pain, but keep your life. You DON’T want to suffer through all this darkness for nothing, do you? Because on the other side of this darkness, this grief, this pain is something worth living for joy and hope. Let’s find some of that for you! I have a list of great resources!” — Chris Moss
  13. “Listen, I’ve been there too. Right where you are. 10 years ago. So much can change in the next year for you. Don’t convince yourself that there’s no hope. That’s a lie from the pit. You have a gift and worth and value, and the devil is trying to keep you from giving it to the world. God cares about you and loves you, and has plans for you for a purpose and good. It doesn’t matter what you’ve been through or done, there is hope for a happy and joyful life! Come with me. Please let me tell you my story.” — Abby Karbon
  14. “This may be hard to hear right now but you are worth so much, just by being the only you in the world. You will be making a decision that you can not take back while going through emotions that will very well pass, even if it takes a little work. You are not alone, even if you feel like it. There are millions of people who feel just like you. Talk to me. I’m here to listen. I’ll never shut you down. You can trust me. I know what it’s like to feel like the world would be better off without you. Don’t listen to those negative thoughts. You are worthy and you will get through this.” — Cortney Kaczmarek
  15. “You are needed. You are necessary. You are loved.” — Barbara Moore
  16. “That life will be good again soon and that it’s an illness causing all the pain. They can get better and they can enjoy life once more they just need some help.” — Hazel Jackson
  17. “Hey there, I know you don’t know me but I’m here and I care. Please just come, talk to me, let’s get a coffee and restart. You won’t be able to take this back. I get it but I also just want to know your story, I don’t want this to be an end to our conversation. All the things you are feeling must be overwhelming so let’s just calm down and breathe. We can talk when you’re ready.” — Emerson
  18. “Being on the other end of it, I was told ‘it’s not worth it. This will pass and I will stay by your side and be there always.’ And that person to this day is still always by my side making sure I’m okay. And this was a few years ago. — Hailey Giambelluca
  19. “You are loved. You are taking an easy way out, but what about the ones that love you? What about the ones that fight for/with you? We would be slowly dying inside if you were not here!” — Angel
  20. “I can’t tell you what to do but I see you and I care. You’ll leave a hole in the universe that no one else can fill. This world is more meaningful with you in it. Please sit with me and tell me where it hurts. I’m listening.” — Emma Frances
  21. “There is help out there. This solution you are considering is permanent. There is no coming back. You may feel you’ve tried everything, but there are specialists that can ease your suffering. There are many options available to you, and I will help you each step of the way. The symptom of suicidal ideation leads you to believe there’s no other hope. I can attest as someone who’s been in your shoes there is. And I’m glad I didn’t make that permanent choice. So please come with me and we can find help right now.” — Ben Barrett
  22. “Give me your hand. Come closer. *if okay I’d give them a hug* I truly do understand this feels like the only way — I’ve had the same thoughts and experienced it with a loved one. I’m not going to tell you the usual things …the things you know. Just, remember that there is hope. I’ll come with you. I’ll help however I can, even if it’s just to listen…I will not judge you for your experience is yours and must be heard. Give me your hand.” — Eleanor Catalina Stevens
  23. “Up close it’s hard to see a way out or the greater plan, but everything always works out in the end. So many people find times in their lives hard, but keep going and when you look back, you will see that it was all part of a greater plan.” — Laura P
  24. “Let’s get you help! Who knows, you can overcome your depression and help others who are struggling, one thing is certain we need people who understand us, come with me, we’ll get you help, we’ll keep trying until you find a therapist you are satisfied with.” (this is just a note that I will help him/her get the help they need even though I don’t know them and they don’t know me). — Jazz Williams
  25. “Things do get better. There are brighter days ahead but you have to stay here to see them. The world needs what you have.” — Wrae Sanders
  26. “It’s okay to not be okay. And it gets better. Just stay. Use your voice to breathe life into a conversation that must be had. You are worth more than making a permanent decision based on a temporary emotion or thought. You are loved, and you can rise up once again.” — Maria Thomas
  27. “You matter. You have people who care for you and will miss you. Your death will not relieve anyone else of a burden or make someone else’s life easier. Hold my hand. I am here for you and the journey ahead. It will get better.” — Teresa Colón
  28. “Choosing to live, even though you are in deep pain, is courageous. That choice will help you take a step out of the darkness and into the light. That choice will prove to the world that you are stronger than your pain. That choice will prove to your pain that you are ready to fight back. That choice will begin your path to the help and support you need. I am here, talking to you, which proves to you that I care. I want to help you. And I will lead you to another person who will help you. And that person will lead you to another person who will help you. And another. And another. That path of people will be there for you as long as you need them. That path of people who care about you will lead you to safety, kindness, strength, and love. Take my hand right now, and let me help you start that path toward love.” — Kate Johnston
  29. “Life is full of challenges, but that’s what teaches us to appreciate the good stuff. Today might be a challenge, but we’ll figure out a way to make tomorrow better. You matter in this world, and you are loved.” — Christalle Bodiford
  30. “Think of those who love you and how it will destroy them to see you go my friend come with me to a better life.” — Robin Tomlin
  31. “I would say that this is a very permanent decision for a temporary problem and ask them to talk to me, no matter how long it takes until they realize that someone cares. I would also tell them that there is always hope, that things can get better and that I will support them in getting the help they need to find their happy again.” — Pamela Jessen
  32. “The Universe Thought You Were A Good Idea! So Hold On Tight And Stay, The Sun Is Coming For You! You Are Loved And You Are Needed In This World!” — Kristal @ The Fibromyalgia Pain Chronicles
  33. “I know you think this is the only way to make the pain end. I don’t think you want to die. I think you’re just tired of living I’ve been there. I UNDERSTAND. I think you want to end the pain and suffering. I understand. But, don’t make a lifetime decision on today’s emotions. Emotions are fleeting. You might feel worthless. I bet you think you’re a burden or nobody will notice you’re gone. I would. I noticed one of my best friends every day is gone. I will be here for you. Keep talking to me. I will talk to you as long as you need to talk. I will be here for as long if you need me to be. We will get you through this together. The world needs your story to continue. You are destined for greatness.” — Jamie
  34. “I would answer that ‘Hi this is Roger’ and if they said ‘I want to kill myself’ I would ask why and let them answer — then depending on what they said and how they said it — I would either ask them a few more questions or engage in a conversation letting them know that I was there and would listen and that I wanted to help — then let God be the Guiding Force while letting them know that I cared and they were precious and worthwhile.” — Roger Potter

Your Turn

How about you? What would you say if you had 60 seconds to talk a stranger out of taking his or her life? Let us know in the comments below.


If you liked this post, you might also like the Spoonie Secrets series. It’s a safe space for people with chronic illness where they can share their deepest and darkest secrets anonymously. Check out the first issue here.

https://medium.com/@mary_gutierrez/mental-health-advocates-share-how-to-prevent-suicide-in-60-seconds-94ac2f0c97ce
What a powerful post, Mary!!! Thank you for allowing me to share it on my blog. As I always say:
There Is Always Hope.

If Wishes Were Horses

My daughter Ashley is a groom to thoroughbred racehorses at the Hastings Park racetrack in Vancouver, BC.  She has been doing this for over 23 years now, since she was a teenager and loves every minute she spends in the barn with every horse she interacts with. She grooms the horses in her care, takes them out to the paddock on race days, and picks them up again after the race to walk them and cool them down before preparing them for the night. She’s never once not picked up a horse after a race. Until Friday, August. 24th.
The horse she groomed that night was Ceder Chines, a beautiful Bay gelding. It was the 4th race with a field of 6 and everyone got off to a good start. Cedar Chines was running in 3rd place as they were coming off the far turn and heading towards the backstretch when he suddenly stumbled in distress. The jockey, David Lopez quickly pulled him up and out of the race and held him steady until the horse could be taken by wagon off the track – it appeared that a knee injury had occurred and Ashley was unable to walk her horse off the track that night. X-rays were done and it showed that the knee was literally shattered. After discussion with the owners and trainer, Cedar Chines was humanely put down the next morning, as there was no way to recover from such a devastating injury.
Ashley was inconsolable. She’s never lost a horse before and even though these aren’t horses she owns, she treats every horse she grooms like they belong to her. She loves them all with the deepest love in her heart and gives 100% of her best self to them when she’s taking care of them. The thing was, she couldn’t just give in to her grief, as she still had another horse to prepare for the paddock for the ninth race. Can you imagine what that’s like, knowing one horse you love has broken down and yet still having to send another horse out on the track to race. All you want them to do is come home safe – at that point, you don’t even care if they win.
Living with chronic pain is similar in a lot of ways to horse racing. Waking up every day is a gamble as you don’t know what the day is going to bring. You can start out feeling pretty good, and then all of a sudden “wham!”…you’re in the middle of a Fibromyalgia flare-up, or suddenly it’s a Migraine starting, or your Trigeminal Neuralgia triggers, or your MS relapses. You simply have no way of knowing when any of these events are going to happen. Or, maybe you wake up feeling kinda crummy, but as the day goes by, you start to feel better as you take care of yourself. With the proper grooming – a good breakfast, a shower that doesn’t hurt for a change, clothing that feels good on the skin, a walk that doesn’t exhaust you – and suddenly, you’re feeling like a winner!!
At the end of the day, you just want to come home safe. Whether you ‘re still working while living with Chronic Pain, or you’ve had to give up work and other activities, the ultimate goal is to live as pain-free as possible. You resort to your comfort measures  and other tricks like meditation music to help bring down stress levels, you do what you can to get a good sleep and you just hope and pray you wake up in the morning feeling good. Less pain, refreshed and ready to face the world, like a champion racehorse might feel.
And like a racehorse needs a good groom to take care of them, we have our support systems too. Sometimes it’s a spouse, sometimes it’s a hired caregiver – whoever it is, we depend on them for a little or a lot of our care. If a groom is sloppy with a horse, for example, not wrapping the ankle bandages properly, then the horse has no chance of winning. If we or our caregivers aren’t doing the right things for our health (proper nutrition, exercise, etc), then we have no chance of improving in the larger sense with our pain management.
I wish that it was easier to live with Chronic Pain. I wish I could wake up, eat some breakfast and go for a walk and all would be well, but it’s just not that easy. Life as a race horse sounds much easier in many ways, but when you see how fragile the ending can be, you realize that the horses have it just as tough as we do. I think I’ll stick to being human, and deal with my issues one day at a time, just as I always have.
There is always hope.

Product Review – 31 Days of Expressive Writing for Chronic Illness and Pain

I recently had the opportunity to take part in a course called 31 Days of Expressive Writing for Chronic Illness and Pain by Esther Smith at who runs the Life In Slow Motion blog. This course normally retails for $39.00, but was provided to me for free in exchange for my review which follows below.
I loved it!
The course is designed with several chapters, each one giving you the opportunity to journal about various aspects regarding pain. It starts out with Your Story and asks the first question:

What are the biggest challenges you have faced over the past months and years of living with chronic illness/pain?

You are given time to journal the answer and then asked a series of further questions to help you dig deeper into the answers you’ve provided. Other chapters include:

  • Grief – you are asked to journal about the 5 stages of grief
  • Faith – How has your faith changed over the years?
  • Relationships – You have several journal options to choose from here
  • Strength, Joy & Hope – a running log of 4 different categories over a week

Finally, you set your Goals for the future by journalling through the various prompts that are provided and then setting SMART Goals for the future.
This course can be done quickly, but I highly recommend you take the time to move at a slower and more thoughtful pace. This is an opportunity to really dig deep into the soul to find answers buried deep. This is your personal journal that you are welcome to share, or to be kept private, so be your authentic self when you write and don’t hold back.
For me, this course really helped clarify how I look at my chronic pain and the words I’ve used to describe it in the past. The course was a challenge at times, but a good one in that the prompts make you go deep. Because the writing is just for you, there is a basic honesty that is drawn out knowing that no one else is going to read it unless you choose to share it. You can’t lie to yourself so you might as well put that raw truth down on paper. It provides a sense of ownership when you see the words in front of you.
The course was well laid out, easy to understand and while it does draw some content from Scripture, I think it would appeal to both a secular audience as well as a Christian audience.
I highly recommend this course for anyone who lives with chronic pain and is trying to find a way to express themselves and what they are feeling in a more clear and concise manner. By finding my voice, I felt like I was better able to manage my pain, so Esther, thank you so much for helping me find the words I was looking for.
If you are interested in taking this course, I have recently become an Affiliate and will earn a small commission if you purchase the course through this link.
The price, as mentioned at the beginning of the post is $39.00. There are other courses available through this site, including What Really Helps People With Chronic Pain for only $99.00, and Pacing For Chronic Pain, priced at just $69.00. To sign up for these courses, please make sure you use my Referral Number 19f3aa
I am delighted to endorse these three courses for anyone living with Chronic Pain. The information has been thoroughly researched and collated by Esther Smith, who has an MA in Professional Counseling and a certificate in Biblical Counseling through the Christian Counseling and Educational Foundation. She is licensed as a clinical counselor in the state of Maryland, and provides a variety  of resources for people impacted by chronic pain.
Reviewed with honesty and full disclosure on September 4th, 2018.
Pamela Jessen
There Is Always Hope
cc: Esther Smith, Life in Slow Motion
 

How Are You Doing?

Hi, how are you? 

How are you doing?

How are you feeling these days?

Oh boy…do you ever get those loaded questions? I do and as much as I appreciate that people care and want to know how I am, I also wonder if these are “polite” questions, or do these people genuinely want to know how I am. It’s so hard to know how to answer.

So, generally, I respond with, “I’m doing okay thanks”. 

But what if I told the truth? 

The truth is, I’m struggling right now. I’m struggling physically with pain and exhaustion and I’m struggling with my blogging and I’m struggling with feeling lonely and housebound, but I’m pretty sure no one really wants to hear about all that when they ask me how I’m doing so I don’t tell them. 

But I’m going to tell you.

I’m averaging about 2-3 hours of sleep a night right now. I manage about 45-60 minutes at a time and then I wake up. I feel like I’ve slept for hours, but I look at the clock and barely any time has passed at all. I’ve always struggled with insomnia and I’m going to be trying some new meditation music, but it’s frustrating to not be able to get decent rest. It doesn’t allow my body to heal, which contributes to my overall pain. As I type this, I can feel my hands and legs and feet throbbing with pain. It’s almost like a drumbeat – thump THUMP thump thump, thump THUMP thump thump, thump THUMP thump thump, over and over again. My legs muscles feel tight and almost crampy and my fingers and toes feel swollen. My back is tight and tense and I can also feel the tension in my jaw and neck. My vision is blurry and I can feel the spot just under my cheekbone where my Trigeminal Neuralgia flares up – it’s gently pulsing, almost like it’s teasing me.

Now, I don’t tell you this to ask for sympathy. It’s just stating the facts. The same as I’m struggling right now to come up with various subject matter to blog about. With two blogs on the go now, I’m working at how to monetize one of them, and keep this one for posting on. I’m taking some courses about how to make money blogging and I’ve signed up to review a couple of courses as well. In the midst of that, I’m also taking a general writing course, plus I’ve applied for a new volunteer position – another committee that I’d like to be a part of. I’ll be back to work on one of my current committee assignments soon, which I’ll write about, but it still leaves me struggling with core subjects to blog about. It’s not for a lack of writing prompts, that’s for sure. Generally, what happens is I get an idea in the wee hours of the morning and then I write like crazy and bang out a post in about 30 minutes. It happens when I write poetry too. It just comes to me, I don’t plan it. When I wrote Wistful Thinking, I literally had the idea and the concept and completed poem done in 10 minutes. 

The other issue is that I’m housebound for the most part. It’s because I don’t do enough to get out and about, because of pain and exhaustion (and because I’m busy blogging). Well, no more excuses for that. I just bought a new walker/rollator to get me out moving again. She’s a pretty silver/blue Xpresso and I’ve named her Bluebird:
Screen Shot 2018-11-23 at 9.45.36 AM
Isn’t she lovely!!  So much nicer than my old one, as there are no exposed cables, the basket is deeper, the seat is thicker and so is the backrest, and the wheels are designed to go over gravel and other rough surfaces. The handle area is large and smooth and she rolls beautifully, plus it’s still a one-handed close…I just pull up on the handle in the middle of the seat and voila! she folds sideways, so easy to transport when needed on the bus!!  Hopefully, this will be the incentive to get me out and about more often…there is a gorgeous lake just 15 minutes from my house with a perfect walking path around it and I’m making it my goal to get down there at least once a week.

I also plan on getting back in the pool, and Bluebird will be great for walking to the bus and back. I’ll be speaking with my new doctor in the next week about taking an Aqua Therapy course at our local Pool and Fitness Centre. It’s a specialized one-on-one program for People with Chronic Pain, working with a registered Kinesiologist to help with rehabilitation in the pool, so it’s easy on the joints and muscles. By getting my doctor’s approval, there’s a good chance I can have the costs paid by my Long Term Disability provider. I’m excited about it and even though I have to take a bus to get there, it’s only a 20-minute ride. I’m sure there’s parking available for Bluebird as I’m not the only one who takes these types of classes.

I’ve also been trying to be more physical at home, and not just sitting in my recliner all day (although it is rather molded to my butt shape). I’ve been doing wall push-ups and bicep curls and was trying to do squats as well, but those became too painful for my knees and ankles. I’m going to start doing planks to see if those work and maybe some gentle lunges with no bouncing. Everything hurts my joints so much, but I need to become more flexible. I think my Achilles Tendon is ultimately going to need surgery as it’s responded to nothing else we’ve tried – no physio, no stretching, no taping. I’m not sure what else is left, but I see Dr Winston soon, my Physiatrist and we’ll talk about options. It’s slowing me down and affecting how I walk and causing my left hip to have even more pain than necessary, which is going to increase the time before needing a hip replacement on that side as well. I’ve also developed some painful Neuropathy in the left foot, on the top and into the big toe, that might be related to my Type 2 Diabetes, so more to talk to my new doctor about. This just came on in the last few days, while on the motorcycle trip. 

Mentally, I’m worried because I think I’m going to have to come off the drug I take for my Bipolar Disorder and it’s the med that has given me all the energy I’ve had lately, Abilify. It’s causing me some major side effects; brain zaps, tongue trembling, handshaking, vision blurring and an uncomfortable amount of weight gain. I’m only 5’2″ tall, so any weight gain over 145lbs is too much and I’m up to 160lbs. It’s the brain zaps that are the worst though…I can actually feel them…they’re like an electric shock in the brain, but in high speed, and you can both feel them and hear them – a lightning bolt that goes right through the head from one side to the other. If I had to describe them based on something we physically have, I’d say it’s like one of those electronic fly killers that buzzes when it kills a fly…same sound, that bzz-zap!

Annoying!!!

There are good things happening in my life though. Ever since we bought our new motorcycle, I’ve been able to get out for more and longer rides with my husband Ray, which is a real treat for me. Our new bike is a 2007 Yamaha Venture and more of a cruiser than the sports bike we had before, a Kawasaki Concours.

The Venture is super comfortable for me and I’ve been able to go for longer rides each time we’ve been out, including a very recent Grand Adventure! Ray and I took the bike and went to Mt. Vernon, Washington to visit an online friend of mine named Maura so I could hang out with her and binge watch the second season of This Is Us, a tv show that I started watching on Netflix, but is no longer being carried there. Maura is a huge fan as well, so I spent 2 days with her watching the show while Ray went off exploring on the bike, then we hung out with her and her hubby Paul for dinner the first night (and with their daughter Anna – their son Matthew was out), and on the second night, we took them out for dinner at a local pub. On Saturday morning, Ray and I left at 5am to head for home, taking the I-5 freeway to the Blaine border crossing and then the Tsawwassen ferry home to get back to our cat Dorie at just after 9am.

Altogether, I’d say I spent 2 hours in the saddle but every second was great!! I know I can go for longer now and be comfortable. I can get on and off the bike easily, and it just feels good to ride. As an added bonus, I have a new leather jacket and gloves! Ray bought them for me on Saturday, August 25th here at a leather shop close to home. I really wanted pink, but decided this black jacket was too sexy to pass up! It has just enough detail on it to make it look sharp without being tacky. The leather is buttery soft with black stitching up the sides on the back, and on the back of the arms from the wrists to the elbows. Ray will have to put a new snap in at the wrists to make them tighter (I have short arms and tiny wrists) but it fits beautifully everywhere else and I’m delighted to have it. I also bought proper bike gloves – I got gauntlets, the kind that goes over the jacket sleeves to protect me from bees flying into my sleeves, etc.

I’m still keeping busy with my volunteer work and have applied to sit on a new committee for Island Health’s Laboratory Services Quality Council. I access Lab Services every three months for blood work, so thought it might be fitting to be a part of their quality control council. I’m also waiting to hear back on a couple of other opportunities I had my name in for so it could be an exciting fall!

So there you have it…a bit more about me and what’s been going on in my life and how I’ve been truthfully feeling.  The next time someone asks you “how are you doing”, how will you answer them? With a short predictable answer? Or will you tell the truth? 

There is always hope

Getting To Know Me

Getting to know all about me!!!

It occurred to me that I’ve written a lot about my illnesses, etc. but I haven’t told you a lot about me, the person, so I thought I’d change that today. One of my favourite bloggers sent out a post with some questions on it that was a great start, so here we go:

What is your favourite summer holiday destination?
Hubby and I tend to stick around the home during the summer, but because we have a new motorcycle, we are exploring a lot more on the bike! I can’t go super far because I tire out fairly quickly but we’ve gone as far as Mill Bay and round-trip home on the Mill Bay/Brentwood Bay ferry, and then on other trips, out to Sooke and Metchosin. We just took a road trip from August 22-25th, going to Mt. Vernon, WA to meet an online friend in person for the first time! Maura and I binge-watched the second season of This Is Us since I can’t get it in Canada, and Ray explored the roads on the bike and then we all got together for dinner in the evening with Maura’s husband Paul joining us. We had a great time! On Friday, the 24th, Maura and I met up with another online friend of mine whom I’ve met before and had lunch. It was nice to introduce Megan and Maura and I think that will be another friendship that will blossom. Ray and I returned home on Saturday and I’m sure the cat missed us – she wouldn’t leave our laps for the rest of the day!

A favourite childhood memory of summer?
Every summer my family would go to Powell River, BC and spend at least 2 weeks at my Aunt & Uncle’s cabin on Powell Lake. No electricity, no washroom (just the outhouse) but more fun than I can possibly remember. Swimming, boating, water-skiing, skinny-dipping, hanging out with my best summer friend Tina…those were always the best 2 weeks of my life.

Which do you prefer ice cream or frozen yogurt?
Absolutely ice cream!!!! I love plain vanilla because I can dress it up in so many ways – with peaches or berries, or chocolate fudge and marshmallows, and I especially love it with chocolate pudding on top!

What is your go-to dinner on a hot summer evening? Feel free to share the recipe!!
Easy Ranch potato salad. Boil potatoes, let cool. Cut into cubes, add chopped celery, cooked bacon bits and ranch dressing. Mix well, add chopped green onion and chill until serving.

What is your favourite BBQ food!
Pork chops, potato and corn on the cob, all cooked in a foil pack.

Ingredients

  • ½ cup barbecue sauce
  • ¼ cup honey
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 4 pork boneless rib or loin chops, 3/4 to 1 inch thick (1 1/4 pounds)
  • 2 large ears corn, each cut into 6 pieces
  • 1 cup baby-cut carrots, cut lengthwise in half
  • 2 cups (from a 1-pound 4-ounce bag) refrigerated cooked new potato wedges
  • 1 teaspoon salt

Steps
Heat coals or gas grill for direct heat. Spray half of one side of four 18×12-inch sheets of heavy-duty aluminium foil with cooking spray.
Mix barbecue sauce, honey and cumin in small bowl. Place 1 pork chop, 3 pieces corn, 1/4 cup carrots and 1/2 cup potato wedges on centre of each sprayed foil sheet; sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon salt. Spoon 3 tablespoons sauce mixture over pork and vegetables on each sheet.
Fold foil over pork and vegetables so edges meet. Seal edges, making tight 1/2-inch fold; fold again. Allow space on sides for circulation and expansion.
Grill packets 4 to 6 inches from medium heat 15 to 20 minutes, turning once, until pork is slightly pink in centre. Place packets on plates. Cut large X across top of each packet; fold back foil.

A song or songs that take you back to an amazing summer.
Mine are all movie soundtracks, so I’ll go with the Star Wars soundtrack. Any summer with Star Wars is a good summer.

How do you beat the heat in the summer?
I’m usually indoors with my fan blowing and a nice cold drink of flavoured water.

Do you prefer swimming in the ocean or a pool?
I live within walking distance of a wonderful lake with a great beach, so I’ll say the lake first, then the ocean. I only like the pool for doing Aquafit. I’m not far from the ocean so prefer to do my walking there, on the beach with the water lapping at my toes.

What is your preferred summer vacation? Travel with family? Solo? Or Friends?
If I was travelling, it would be with Hubby only. We’ve done a couple of cruises and would like to do an Alaskan cruise next. I would love to do a World cruise if money were no object!

So, flip-flops or bare feet? 
Neither! I can’t wear flip-flops and my feet are too sensitive to go barefoot so sandals it is!

Sundresses or Shorts? 
I’m totally a sundress girl! I wear dresses all year long, even in winter. I prefer them over pants any time of the year.

Fun Summertime Activity?

I love to go visit the goats at the Beacon Hill Children’s Farm in Victoria. There are always baby goats there and as you can see, all the goats love to rub their heads on my bright pink crutches and scratch where their horns used to be!!

Stream Of Consciousness Saturday – Notice

The Stream of Consciousness word for this past Saturday is Notice.
I have noticed an influx of hummingbirds in our area lately, so I recently put a hummingbird feeder in our backyard. We live in a complex of 12 townhouse units, all single level, and ours backs on to a small greenbelt. Almost all of the neighbours have feeders as the trees here are filled with hummers – I’ve seen upwards of 20 of them flitting around at any given time.
After putting up my feeder, I also noticed we had a huge problem with wasps. The first feeder type I had, the wasps were able to get into the nectar, so I swapped it out for a better design. On this one, the wasps can’t get to the delicious goodies within, but they still try, and it was keeping the hummingbirds away, so I purchased a wasp trap and hung that nearby, filling it with a combination of sugar water and two drops of detergent. It was quickly found and became very attractive to the wasps, and the hummers were able to enjoy their own feeder again without any problems.
Unfortunately, there were so many wasps we realized there must be a nest nearby. My hubby took a look around and sure enough, we found a nest in the outside dryer vent. He did give it a good spray with wasp killer, as much as I hate we had to do that but there were just too many of them to leave it alone. Our neighbours next door, Gail and David have a nest somewhere too, and so we are considering calling in Pest Control. Gail hates to kill anything and said that she had a wasp trap once, but it took too long for the wasps to die and she felt she was torturing them, so she took it down. Mine was also getting a lot of ants, but once I oiled the string on it, they stopped climbing down.
So, I’ve just cleaned out the old wasp trap and there were probably 20 dead ones in there plus a couple of live ones. I dumped them down the kitchen sink and used hot water on the live ones to flush them out and down the drain as well. I’ve never been stung before, but they don’t scare me. I cleaned out the trap, re-baited it and hung it back outside and from where I am sitting, I can see it’s already caught two more. The hummers probably won’t be back until later this evening when it cools off again, but they’ll be happy to know they won’t be bothered. I’m hoping I’ll get multiples at the feeder – it’s designed to hold 4 birds at a time. I promised my dear friend Charlotte I would send her a picture of the birds feeding but so far it’s only been one bird at a time, and they choose the back of the feeder where I can’t see them to take a picture. Typical!!
I love watching how delicate the birds are, but how aggressive they become when they feed…their lunging beaks almost attacking the yellow bulb of the feeder as they hover in mid air, sipping and thrusting and sipping and thrusting. I have a “birds eye” view of the action and they are such a marvel to watch, with their jewel colour bodies flashing in the sun. Here in our area (Victoria, BC) we mostly get Rufous and Anna’s Hummingbirds,

Yet as delicate as they may appear, they are a hardy species, with the Rufous variety here during the spring and summer, and then spending their winters on the U.S. Gulf coast and Mexico. Although an unusual sight fifteen years ago, Anna’s are now winter regulars at many Victoria feeders. Anna’s are with us year round and we notice their presence at feeders is more obvious because their numbers are increasing locally. Both types are entertaining, and I get such joy watching them.
I strongly advise anyone to research the type of birds you get in your area, and then to put up a bird feeder, especially if you get hummingbirds. Making the nectar is as easy as making sugar water for them, and they are so fun and a real joy to watch.
There is always hope.
 

A Recipe For Success

Every now and then, I need to indulge my pain days with something designed to make me feel better and sometimes, that’s food. I want to share a recipe with you today that gets great reviews whenever I make it. I baked an extra one of these Cherry Cakes and gave it to a dear friend, who shared it with her co-workers and they all raved about it!!
I hope you enjoy it as much as I do!!

Cherry Vanilla Cake

cherrycake

Ingredients:

  • 6 tablespoons (85 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus extra for pie plate
  • 1 1/2 cups (188 grams) all-purpose flour 
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon table salt
  • 1 cup (200 grams) plus 2 tablespoons (25 grams) granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 cup (118 ml) milk
  • 1 teaspoon (5 ml) vanilla extract
  • 1 pound (450 grams) cherries, pitted and halved

Process:

Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C).

Butter a 10-inch pie pan or 9-inch deep-dish pie pan (what I used). 

Whisk flour, baking powder and salt together in a small bowl. In a larger bowl, beat butter and 1 cup sugar until pale and fluffy with an electric mixer, about 3 minutes. Mix in egg, milk and vanilla until just combined. Add dry mixture gradually, mixing until just smooth. Pour into prepared pie plate. Arrange cherries, cut side down, on top of batter, as closely as possible in a single layer (though I had to overlap a few to get them all in). Sprinkle remaining 2 tablespoons sugar over cherries.

Bake cake for 10 minutes then reduce oven temperature to 325°F and bake cake until golden brown and a tester come out free of wet batter, about 50 minutes to 60 minutes. (Gooey cherries on the tester are a given.) Let cool in pan on a rack. Cut into wedges. Serve with fresh whipped cream or ice cream.

Cake can be stored at room temperature for up to 2 days, loosely covered, but good luck with that. This cake also freezes well. Store in an airtight container and bring to room temperature before eating. 

Note: I like to heat my slice of cake before adding whipped cream or ice cream. Fifteen to twenty seconds in the microwave is usually sufficient. Enjoy!!
There is always hope!

Courage

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courage is not just the roar of a lion
but sometimes a kitten who’s found his meow
courage is often the strength of a person with pain who has learned
that forever starts now
courage is knowing that waking means facing a day
where it hurts just to breathe in the air
and everything aches from the tip of your toes
to your legs and your arms and the ends of your hair
but still you get up (or not, it’s okay if you have to
stay in the bed, no one will mind) because courage is knowing that
that’s what you do and you face the day head on, and see what you find
you take nothing for granted and are silently grateful for every
blessing that passes your way
because courage is not just the roar of a lion
but the strength of a pain warrior who faces each day

there is always hope

Wistful Thinking

I’m taking part in another Blog challenge. This one is a #BlogBattle and involves the use of the word Moon:

melancholy-moon-wallpaper-149
The moon makes me wistful, it’s so far away yet it’s filled with the dreams and the hopes of the men
and the women who knew that one day, they would walk on it’s surface, they just didn’t know when
And all those years ago now from when it first happened, we haven’t been back and I worry about why
Does the moon feel left out? Does it ever feel lonely? I wonder if Moons even know how to cry?
It probably thought we were first of the many who would come to pay homage and visit and stay
But after the hoopla and the sciencing was over, we all said goodbye and we rocketed away
Now the Moon overlooks us, and I overlook it and I’m wistfully thinking I’d like to go there
What a joy it would be just to soar in the sky and perhaps see my home as I fly through the air
Imagine my new home where my body could be free of the earthly restrictions I currently feel
My pain would be less as I soar spaceless and free, now that sounds to me like one heck of a deal!
Alas, I don’t think that dream is likely to come true, but I can sure be inspired when I look at the Moon
And one never knows as our science evolves, perhaps someday I might get there, sooner than soon.  🙂
there is always hope
~ Pamela ~

Sleepless In (Enter City Here)

I’m awake. Again.

I went to bed around 9:50pm feeling pleasantly tired. I was yawning after a long day and having been up since 4:30 am. I followed my nightly routine, got into bed, got comfy and drifted off to sleep.

When I woke up to pee, it was no big deal…I’m not a great sleeper and I figured this was my usual “90 minutes later” wake up call.

I’d slept for 72 minutes. I think that’s a record for shortest time at night. And the worst part was I was wide awake. Like…wide awake. There was no chance I was going back to sleep.

I hate having insomnia. I don’t know if it’s Fibromyalgia induced, or if it’s because of my sleep apnea or if it’s because of the medications I take, but I haven’t slept for more than 2-3 hours a night in over 5 years now. And once I wake up at 4am-ish, that’s it, I’m up for the day. I get the house ready for the day before my hubby gets up for work – the blinds open, the kettle ready, last nights dishes put away, the cat fed…those sorts of things. I make a coffee, come sit in my recliner and then hubby is up and I’m out of his way while he starts his morning routine. It works for us, and nobody gets hurt! Once he leaves for work, I have my breakfast and then I look at the long day ahead of me and figure out what I’m going to do to fill it.

Do I go back to bed after that? No, because as tired as I am, the best I’ll do is sleep for an hour and what’s the point? If I’m going to nap, I’d rather try to save it for later in the day, when there’s a chance I might sleep longer. That’s my hope anyways, Besides, if I sleep in the morning, I might miss the hummingbirds who come to the feeder on my back deck

Sleep, or the lack of it, is a major side effect of having Fibromyalgia. Statistics show that people who have Fibro never make it into the deep REM sleep the way they need to so they miss the restorative sleep phase so necessary to feel rested:

It’s no wonder I can never feel rested! I never get to the restorative stage! I also know I have sleep apnea. I have a CPAP machine and I have tried so many times to use it but I just can’t get used to the mask. I’ve tried a few different ones too, including over the face, and the current choice of the nasal style, but the longest I’ve lasted with wearing them is 4 hours before I wake up ripping them off of me. The worst part is that I am a side sleeper and trying to keep the damn things in place while on your side is next to impossible. Okay, maybe I’m just complaining because I don’t want to use the machine…how incredibly unsexy is that thing! but Hubby should be using one too and he refuses so part of the problem is also resentment.

So, after waking up after my glorious 72 minutes of sleep, and in the interest of good sleep habits I got up. At least I know better than to lay in bed, just hoping I’ll fall back asleep again. Here are some of those good sleep habits I’ve learned about over time:

  • Keep a consistent sleep schedule. Get up at the same time every day, even on weekends or during vacations (hello 4am!)
  • Set a bedtime that is early enough for you to get at least 7 hours of sleep (does 5pm count?).
  • Don’t go to bed unless you are sleepy (I could be there 24 hours a day)
  • If you don’t fall asleep after 20 minutes, get out of bed (but I’m sleeping!)
  • Establish a relaxing bedtime routine (I do this part well)
  • Use your bed only for sleep and sex (well, the sex part at least works)
  • Make your bedroom quiet and relaxing. Keep the room at a comfortable, cool temperature (no problem here)
  • Limit exposure to bright light in the evenings (no problem here either)
  • Turn off electronic devices at least 30 minutes before bedtime. (oops, big problem here!!!)
  • Don’t eat a large meal before bedtime. If you are hungry at night, eat a light, healthy snack. (I’m okay with this one)
  • Exercise regularly and maintain a healthy diet. (I do okay with this too)
  • Avoid consuming caffeine in the late afternoon or evening. (I sometimes mess up with chocolate)
  • Avoid consuming alcohol before bedtime. (I don’t drink)
  • Reduce your fluid intake before bedtime. (usually not a problem)

One thing I have been trying lately is listening to sleep meditation music. There are some really relaxing ones out there that work on the Delta Waves of the brain and you can also find good Apps for your phone. I have an iPhone and one app in particular that is receiving great reviews is CALM by Apple. The other is Spotify which has wonderful playlists of calming music already set up or you can create your own from the many tracks available. I love listening to sounds…the rain falling, trains in the distance, things like that, so I love that option with Spotify. YouTube also has many videos of sleep meditations and if you use a YouTube to MP3 converter, you can also download these to listen to on your phone, whether it’s an iPhone or Android.

Hopefully some of these suggestions will be helpful. I don’t want to be sleepless in any city, anymore. I have slept, it’s happened a few times…I’d just like it to be more:

There is always hope!

The Opioid Crisis vs. Us

There is an Opioid Crisis in North America and it’s affecting two factions of people – the ones who take and use opioids illegally and the ones who use and take opioids legally as prescribed by their doctors. I want to focus on the second group because we’re not being given our due in the news. First though, let’s look at some numbers.

*Every day, more than 115 people in the United States die after overdosing on opioids.1 The misuse of an addiction to opioids—including prescription pain relieversheroin, and synthetic opioids such as fentanyl—is a serious national crisis that affects public health as well as social and economic welfare. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that the total “economic burden” of prescription opioid misuse alone in the United States is $78.5 billion a year, including the costs of healthcare, lost productivity, addiction treatment, and criminal justice involvement.2

**Canada isn’t far behind. “This is a major public health crisis in Canada,” says Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer. “Tragically, in 2016, there were more than 2,800 apparent opioid-related deaths in Canada, which is greater than the number of Canadians who died at the height of the HIV epidemic in 1995.”
New data from the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) shows that from January to March 2017, there were at least 602 apparent opioid-related deaths across the country; it is expected that this count will rise as additional data becomes available.

Pressure is being put on physicians in both countries to stop prescribing opioid medications or to cut down on the number of prescriptions they write, and many are complying. So where does that leave us, the People with Chronic Pain (PwCP) who depend on opioid medication to manage their pain in order to have any semblance of quality of life?
BrainOutOfOrderDueToPain

Physicians and Pain Doctors are now more likely to offer Pain Management Programs and techniques in place of opioids. These programs use a combination of non-opioid medications such as over-the-counter or prescription ibuprofen (Motrin), acetaminophen (Tylenol), aspirin (Bayer) and steroids, plus various therapies, including:

  • Physical therapy – A physical therapist or physician who specializes in physical medicine and rehabilitation may be able to create an exercise program that helps you improve your ability to function and decreases your pain. Whirlpools, ultrasound and deep-muscle massages may also help.
  • Acupuncture – You may find relief from acupuncture, in which very thin needles are inserted at different places in your skin to interrupt pain signals.
  • Massage Therapy – can help to relax the muscles that may be causing you pain
  • Injections or nerve blocks – If you are having a muscle spasm or nerve pain, injections with local anaesthetics or other medications can help short-circuit your pain.
  • Biofeedback – where you learn to control involuntary functions such as your heart rate.
  • Surgery – When other treatments aren’t effective, surgery can be performed to correct abnormalities in your body that may be responsible for your pain.
  • Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) – can change the thoughts, emotions, and behaviours related to pain, improve coping strategies, and put the discomfort in a better context

Are these programs helpful? Do they work? Do they relieve pain?  Well, from my own personal experience, the answer is no, they don’t take your pain away. They do give you the tools to manage your pain more effectively as long as you employ the tools on a daily basis, but when your entire body is wracked with a deep aching, burning sensation that NEVER GOES AWAY, it’s almost impossible to manage that. When my legs feel like bricks and my arms are burning like fire and I can’t move my shoulder to brush my hair and my knee is collapsing when I walk and my spine feels like it’s going to collapse any second from now from the intensity of the stabbing I feel…it’s hard to be motivated that today is going to be a good day.

Now, I have to be honest and admit that I am still taking opioid medication. I have been, for the last 10 years. I have weaned down my dosage, but I still take it. Right now, I take a Slow Release dosage of OxyNeo (Oxycodone) in a dosage of 30mg, 3 times a day. Each dose is to last me 8 hours. Does it work? Somewhat…it keeps my pain at a 4-5 on the pain scale which I can manage with other techniques. If I didn’t have the medication, I would be at a steady 8 on the scale, all the time. Now, what would happen if my Doctor decided to stop my drugs? I would be hard pressed to manage without them, especially after so many years of taking them. Am I an addict? No, I’m not and here’s why. When you have legitimate pain, it’s impossible to become addicted to a pain medication. It’s when you take a medication that you don’t need that you become addicted to it.

I want to share a conversation I had in a chat with a couple of friends who’ve allowed me to share their thoughts and first names. Read what happened to Lindsay and our replies:

What Lindsay said: 
I just had a run in with a pharmacist yesterday. I suffer from interstitial cystitis, endometriosis, chronic ovarian cysts, degenerative disc disease, fibromyalgia and arthritis. Since January I’ve had 9 kidney infections, one or two a month. I have an appointment with an infectious disease specialist at the end of this month, and I have my normal team of Drs and specialists that I already see along with my pain management dr. Well every time I have a kidney infection it causes my IC to flare and my pain because so out of control that I end up in the ER, so my PM gives me extra pain meds to help me get through the infection. Well my normal pharmacy had a pharmacist who’s been snippy with me before and when I handed her the extra script, she blew up on me. She said pain meds don’t help with my kind of pain, it’s only a bandage treatment, I shouldn’t be allowed to take pain meds this long, my regular pain meds should be enough, I’ll OD, my dr is an idiot, I’m not really in that much pain and she wrote a bunch of notes on my account barring me from ever getting extra meds again, including for surgeries etc. I started crying, she used an aggressive tone and lectured me in front of a line of other patients and threatened not to fill my prescription, then did after slamming her hands down and furiously writing on my prescription paper then on my account about how I’m not allowed to do this anymore. I was so so embarrassed and now I’m terrified to have anymore prescriptions or anymore acute pain issues. I hate that this is my life now. I didn’t ask for this!
What I said: 
It’s been said to me by my Doctor that it’s impossible to become an addict to opioids when you actually, truly need them. I don’t get high, and I function completely normally. I could be tested by the police and while the drug would show in my system, I wouldn’t show as impaired. It’s the people who abuse the drug and who take it in a manner it’s not meant to be taken in that ruin it for the rest of us. I would have reported your pharmacist to her association. That was uncalled for and completely unprofessional. She can NOT refuse you unless she refuses to serve you completely. Can you transfer to a different pharmacy for the future? Honestly, if she had done that to me, I would have raked her over the coals….no one, and I mean NO ONE talks to me like that. EVER. I live in Canada and we are facing our own Opioid Crisis here as well. The College of Physicians and Surgeons is cracking down on Doctors who over prescribe or who prescribe too high of a dosage of narcotics to patients. I have been on Oxycodone for almost 10 years now, going from a dose of Slow Release OxyNeo 90mg 3 times a day to 30mgs 3 times a day. plus other meds I take for Fibro, Osteoarthritis, D.I.S.H., Trigeminal Neuralgia, Bipolar Disorder, Diabetes Type 2 and Hypothyroidism, amongst other issues. Three of my drugs clash and shouldn’t be taken together, but I have no choice. I hope you’re able to find a pharmacy that treats you with respect and dignity just like you deserve. Before you give them your business, shop around and ask them what their policy is for opioid customers. Tell them of the experience you had and ask them how they treat that type of situation. Good luck to you and I wish you better, pain-free days ahead. oxoxo
what Angela said: 
I fight this as well and also have issues with my body metabolizing my meds too quickly. The dosages i am on would probably put someone into an overdose but unless you know what i am on, you’d never know i was on anything. Trying to advocate for myself constantly is a huge struggle and mentally draining. The thing is, i am also a nurse and still trying to remain independent through the 9 surgeries ive had in the last 5 years alone. Not only is it a struggle to advocate for myself but i also advocate for my patients the best i can as well. I am constantly fearful that i am going to be cut off from my meds and end up in a pain crisis, in massive withdrawal and become completely unable to support myself. I am also a single mom, so losing my income is a big deal. I am so sick of taking heat because of people who abuse the system. Of every person i know who has chronic pain and take medication, none take them incorrectly, nor do they get high from them. Even if i do take more than usual, i just get sick so if my pain is out of control, i really have to weigh that consequence. I am now in dread because i have to see a new pain management PA next month and my surgeon is moving. Just this thought is really stressing me out.
These are the things we have to deal with as PwCP. It’s not just the doctors we fight with about our medications – it’s the pharmacists as well.
Yes, my friends, there IS a crisis regarding opioid medication and it’s affecting the people who need the drugs the most. The patients. The people with chronic pain. Us.
Me.
Thanks for reading.
There is always hope.
* https://www.drugabuse.gov/drugs-abuse/opioids/opioid-overdose-crisis
**https://www.cihi.ca/en/opioid-crisis-having-significant-impact-on-canadas-health-care-system

An Attitude of Gratitude

Are you grateful for your life?  Are you grateful for the things you’ve been given? Are you grateful for Chronic Pain and Chronic Fatigue? What about your other Invisible Illnesses? For Fibromyalgia? I am, and let me explain why.
I have had my Invisible Illnesses for over half my life now, and they have been a predominant part of my life since 2004 when I went into a major flare that I’ve never recovered from. That was the year I had stomach surgery for severe Gastric Reflux disease – a procedure called a Nissen Fundoplication. The surgery itself was successful, but I suffered nerve damage in the sternum area from where an instrument being used was pressed too hard against a nerve for an extended period of time, causing it to be pinched for over an hour. This caused me excruciating pain that didn’t resolve for almost a year and had me addicted to morphine pills to the point that I was hallucinating. In fact, at one point, the general surgeon called in a Thoracic surgeon, who was going to crack open my sternum to try and fix whatever the problem was – a drastic solution indeed.
I’m grateful this didn’t happen and the Thoracic surgeon had the sense to suggest a drug called Gabapentin for nerve damage which is what he suspected was the problem, and he was right.
I spent almost a year in a hunched over position, trying to “contain” the pain, it was so bad. I ended up having to go for physical therapy and massage in order to loosen up my muscles to where I could stand in a straightened up position again.
I’m grateful for the therapists that helped me.
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