Finding The Holiday Spirit with Chronic Illness

As December makes it’s appearance, it’s time to start thinking about the coming Holidays. Hannukah, Christmas, Kwanzaa and New Year’s Eve are the major celebrations for this time of year, and when you live with Chronic Illness, it can be hard to get into the spirit.

Plan In Advance

As Hannukah, Christmas, Kwanzaa 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 cooks or 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.

Be flexible with how things might change and decide if you’re still able to attend when changes happen. Don’t stress if you can’t…decide what you can change to make things work.

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 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.

Don’t feel guilty if you have to leave a situation early. Be thankful instead that you were able to attend, even for just a short while. Gratitude plays a huge part in a successful Holiday season.

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.

One thing I ask for when my friends offer to help is that they make me a frozen meal. It helps me to eat healthy but without having to cook during the times I’m either busy or resting. I’ve never had anyone resent the request once they’ve asked what they can do to help me.

Shopping

Shopping can be one of the most stressful parts of the Holidays. Getting out and about can be tiring and painful so make use of the internet to do the majority of your shopping when you can. Most online shops deliver with reasonable pricing and sometimes if you have to ship a long distance, the cost is still worth it to prevent the stress from piling on. Ask for Gift Receipts or Messages so the receiver can return or exchange your gift if necessary.

I keep an Excel spreadsheet with the name of the person I’m shopping for, what was purchased, where and when. It’s easy to refer back to in case there are any questions or problems.

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.

I tend to enjoy booking a massage once a month during the Fall and Winter months. I find that it helps me physically and mentally – having that to look forward to after a busy time is a relief. I feel better after my body has had the kinks worked out and I’m often more energized as well. Find out if your insurance covers the cost and look for training schools in your area for better pricing.

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,

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Common Questions About Fibromyalgia

Fibromyalgia is a complex condition that affects millions of people around the world. There are many questions that people ask when they first find out they have Fibro, and I thought I’d answer some of the more common ones, to help provide some education.

What Are The First Signs Of Fibromyalgia

There are many signs of Fibro but the ones most people experience first is widespread pain and tenderness throughout the body. You may experience pain in only one or two areas, or it may be your entire body. Typically, there are tenderpoints at 18 specific sites on your body, and these are used to help determine if you have Fibro.

Other symptoms of Fibro include:


What Are Tender Points?

Tender points refer to 18 locations on the body that are ultra-sensitive to pain when touched or pressed. Fibro is frequently diagnosed using the Tender Point Test…if you have 11 of the 18 points, you are considered to have Fibro.

Is Fibromyalgia An Autoimmune Disease?

Fibromyalgia is NOT considered an autoimmune disease. Instead, researchers believe that fibromyalgia amplifies painful sensations by affecting the way your brain processes pain signals.

Fibromyalgia doesn’t qualify as an autoimmune disorder because it doesn’t cause inflammation. Fibromyalgia is difficult to diagnose because its symptoms are similar or associated with other conditions, including some autoimmune disorders.

In many cases, fibromyalgia can occur simultaneously with autoimmune disorders.

How Does A Person Get Fibromyalgia?

Healthprep.com offers this information on how a person gets Fibro.

Emotional or physical trauma can cause the development of fibromyalgia and trigger symptom flare-ups. The mechanism behind this is associated with the affected individual’s hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis. Emotional stressors can cause the physiological stress response to become activated, and lead to the delivery of sensory input information to the brain.

Repeated and excessive stimulation of the functional units of this response in an individual can cause their effector systems to become more sensitive. Greater sensitivity causes alternative or less significant stressors to activate the stress response easily.

The combination of the stress response, emotional reactions, physiological responses, and biological reactions that occur and interact with each other due to physical and emotional trauma can cause the development of fibromyalgia.

Of the population of fibromyalgia patients, around half has existing post-traumatic stress disorder, and two-thirds of these individuals had developed fibromyalgia after the commencement of their PTSD. Some individuals may be at an increased risk of developing fibromyalgia due to the failure of certain psychological buffers to work effectively on emotional stress that is caused by everyday life events.

Physical trauma contributes because it causes emotional stress. These mechanisms related to the patient’s brain may primarily drive the chain of neurophysiological responses known to cause fibromyalgia.

Is Fibromyalgia Real or Fake?

Doctors and patients alike state that fibromyalgia is a very real condition. Pain is often subjective and can be difficult to measure. Because there are no lab tests that can show Fibromyalgia, people assume that it is fake. As a result, the most common misconception about fibromyalgia is that it isn’t a real condition.

In both Canada and the United States, fibromyalgia is now considered a condition that qualifies for Disability. The European Parliament has signed a declaration calling for the recognition of fibromyalgia as a disease which causes disability with a right to claim exemption.

What Are The Best Medications For Fibromyalgia?

NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) like naproxen (Aleve) and ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil) don’t appear to work for fibromyalgia pain. Opioid narcotics are powerful pain-relieving medications that work for some types of pain, but they don’t always work for fibromyalgia. They can also be harmful—and addictive.

The narcotic-like Tramadol (Ultram) has been shown to have some effectiveness with Fibromyalgia for pain relief. Low-dose amitriptyline can also be helpful. Tizanidine and cyclobenzaprine are muscle relaxants that help treat muscle pain from fibromyalgia.

There are three medications that have been approved for use for fibromyalgia. These medications include Cymbalta (duloxetine), Savella (milnacipran) and Lyrica (pregabalin).

Each of them works in the brain: Cymbalta and Savella belong to a class of medications called serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs) whereas Lyrica is a drug that targets nerve signals. It has long been used to relieve nerve pain in patients with shingles and diabetic neuropathy. It is also used to treat partial seizures.

For other treatments, this post offers several suggestions for ways to help with Fibro pain. Another option is to try Cannabis or CBD Oil.

How Life Changing Is Fibromyalgia?

Fibromyalgia can affect you in both mild and severe forms. You may find that with medication, you are able to continue to work and engage in other activities without discomfort. Other people find that even with medications, they are in too much pain to maintain their previous lifestyles.

Disability may need to be sought if you are unable to continue working because of your Fibro. You may need to modifiy activities, use mobility aids or adaptive devices or otherwise change your lifestyle to accomodate your pain and fatigue. Every individual will feel their Fibro differently and you may find that your condition changes constantly as well.

What Helps Fibromyalgia?

Good Nutrition Month

Rest, good nutrition, mild exercise and a positive frame of mind all go a long way in helping to live with Fibromyalgia. Lack of movement is one of the biggest mistakes you can make if you have Fibro. It causes your muscles to tighten even more, so exercise such as walking, biking or swimming can be helpful in keeping you flexible and having less pain.

A diet rich in fruits and vegetables, lean protein and good carbohydrates is essential. If you are overweight, you might want to try losing some extra pounds to help with joint pain.

Getting the proper amount of sleep can be very difficult with Fibromyalgia. Follow a sleep plan at night to get your best rest possible and nap if you need to during the day in moderation. A well-rested body is better able to function fully.

Finally, try to maintain a positive perspective. If you find yourself struggling with negative thoughts, it may be helpful to seek counselling or coaching. Support groups either in-person or online can also be very helpful.

Conclusion

Fibromyalgia can be a very difficult condition to diagnose and treat, but as you can see, there are things you can do that make a difference. The more you can educate yourself, the better your outcomes can be. Remember,

There Is Always Hope

Complementary Medical Treatments for Chronic Pain

Living with Chronic Pain is never easy. You’re desperate for the pain to end, but most doctors are unprepared in helping you live with Chronic Pain. They seem to be limited to treatments like prescription medications and that’s about it.

There are many ways that you can help improve the quality of your life and I’d like to share several of them with you. I have not personally tried every technique listed, but all of them are worth investigating so you can gather as much information as possible on whether they are worth it for you. Let’s get started.

Massage

There are various types of massage available and all of them have the potential of making your Chronic Pain feel better. Styles include:

Each style works the body in a different way and all styles have the ability to help with:

  • Fatigue or pain caused by cancer
  • Back pain and stiffness
  • Osteoarthritis in the knee
  • Post-operative recovery and pain
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome relief
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Boosting immune system function
  • Decreasing frequency of headaches
  • Blood pressure
  • Alcohol withdrawal symptoms

This is a great link to the many types of massage and what they can do for you

Chiropractic

Chiropractic is a discipline that is concerned with the diagnosis and treatment of mechanical disorders of the musculoskeletal system, especially the spine. Chiropractors have proposed, especially those in the field’s early history, that such disorders affect general health via the nervous system

Chiropractic care provides diagnosis and treatment without the use of drugs or surgery for problems related to your muscles, joints, nerves, and spine. Common conditions that are treated include low back pain, neck pain, sciatica, headaches, and sprains. Chiropractic doctors can also provide advice on nutrition and exercise to support recovery and promote prevention.

Ayurveda

Ayurvedic medicine (“Ayurveda” for short) is one of the world’s oldest holistic (“whole-body”) healing systems. It was developed more than 3,000 years ago in India.

It’s based on the belief that health and wellness depend on a delicate balance between the mind, body, and spirit. Its main goal is to promote good health, not fight disease. But treatments may be geared toward specific health problems.

In North America, it’s considered a form of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM).

Students of CAM therapy believe that everything in the universe – dead or alive – is connected. If your mind, body, and spirit are in harmony with the universe, you have good health. When something disrupts this balance, you get sick. Among the things that can upset this balance are genetic or birth defects, injuries, climate and seasonal change, age, and your emotions.

Those who practice Ayurveda believe every person is made of five basic elements found in the universe: space, air, fire, water, and earth. These combine in the human body to form three life forces or energies, called doshas. They control how your body works. They are Vata dosha (space and air); Pitta dosha (fire and water); and Kapha dosha (water and earth).

Everyone inherits a unique mix of the three doshas. But one is usually stronger than the others. Each one controls a different body function. It’s believed that your chances of getting sick — and the health issues you develop — are linked to the balance of your doshas.

Ayurvedic Treatment

An Ayurvedic practitioner will create a treatment plan specifically designed for you. He’ll take into account your unique physical and emotional makeup, your primary life force, and the balance between all three of these elements.

The goal of treatment is to cleanse your body of undigested food, which can stay in your body and lead to illness. The cleansing process—called “panchakarma”— is designed to reduce your symptoms and restore harmony and balance.

To achieve this, an Ayurvedic practitioner might rely on blood purification, massage, medical oils, herbs, and enemas or laxatives.

Reiki

Reiki is a Japanese technique for stress reduction and relaxation that also promotes healing. It is administered by “laying on hands” and is based on the idea that an unseen “life force energy” flows through us and is what causes us to be alive. If one’s “life force energy” is low, then we are more likely to get sick or feel stress, and if it is high, we are more capable of being happy and healthy.

A treatment feels like a wonderful glowing radiance that flows through and around you. Reiki treats the whole person including body, emotions, mind and spirit creating many beneficial effects that include relaxation and feelings of peace, security and wellbeing. Many have reported miraculous results.

Reiki is a simple, natural and safe method of spiritual healing and self-improvement that everyone can use. It may be effective in helping Chronic Pain, and generally creates a beneficial effect. It may also work in conjunction with other medical or therapeutic techniques to relieve side effects and promote recovery.

Myofascial Blasting

Healthline.com says that in recent years, the treatment of fascia has exploded in popularity. The idea is that the fascia, or myofascial tissue, contributes to pain and cellulite when it’s tight.

For this reason, fascia manipulation, a technique that aims to loosen the fascia through physical manipulation and pressure, has become a trending topic in the health and wellness realm.

One widely popular method is fascia blasting. This technique uses a tool that’s designed to loosen the fascia, which is supposed to reduce pain and cellulite.

The always excellent blogsite The Zebra Pit has some wonderful posts about Myofascial Blasting and you can find them all here.

Cognitive Behaviour Therapy

A non-physical method of managing Chronic Pain, Cognitive Behavior Therapy, aka CBT is a structured, time-limited, problem-focused and goal oriented form of psychotherapy. CBT helps people learn to identify, question and change how their thoughts, attitudes and beliefs relate to the emotional and behavioural reactions that cause them difficulty.

It works on Chronic Pain by helping to remove limiting thoughts about your pain, and move you towards a better understanding of what pain is, and how you can manage it. Pain doesn’t always mean something is getting worse…and when we catastrophize pain, we can actually amplify it. By using CBT, you:

  • identify distortions in your thinking
  • see thoughts as ideas about what is going on, rather than as facts
  • stand back from your thinking to consider situations from different viewpoints.

Acupuncture

Therapist performing acupuncture

Acupuncture is a form of traditional Chinese medicine that has been practiced for centuries. It’s based on the theory that energy, called chi (pronounced “chee”), flows through and around your body along pathways called meridians.

Acupuncturists believe that illness occurs when something blocks or unbalances your chi. Acupuncture is a way to unblock or influence chi and help it flow back into balance.

Acupuncture is done by putting very thin needles into your skin at certain points on your body. This is done to influence the energy flow. Sometimes heat, pressure, or mild electrical current is used along with needles

Conclusion

As you can see, there are many alternative forms of treatment that might be worth looking into. Which ones have you tried already? Which ones would you like to try? Leave your comments below. Remember,

There Is Always Hope

Coping With Loneliness with Chronic Pain

The Problem of Loneliness

Chronic pain and Invisible Illness are difficult conditions to live with and can lead to social withdrawal and loneliness. When you get sick, not only do you have to process and deal with things like surgeries, recovery, medications, new symptoms and flare-ups but socially you may have to give up hobbies and activities you once loved, making it hard to nurture friendships and relationships with those close to you.

It’s hard for those who love you to understand why you might have to cancel plans last minute or leave during the middle of the evening. Because they’ve never experienced what you’re going through, it’s hard to have a frame of reference. Unless you’ve lived it, it’s impossible to make others understand.

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Social Isolation Is Serious

Because of these changes that we have to make – like leaving in the middle of an event or cancelling plans – we open ourselves up to feelings of social isolation, depression and anxiety and guilt.

Social isolation is defined as an occurrence when a person lacks opportunities to interact with people while loneliness is the subjective experience of distress over not having enough social relationships or enough contact with people.

It is possible for a person with a chronic illness to be socially isolated and not feel lonely and someone with a chronic illness can feel lonely, while not being socially isolated. There are several issues that people with chronic illness face that can lead to social isolation and feeling lonely:

  • Disbelief from others when you don’t have a clear diagnosis
  • Physical limitations due to pain or fatigue
  • The unpredictability of symptom onset
  • The trigger of symptoms related to noises, smells, etc.
  • Lack of a strong support system (Family and/or Friends)
  • Changes in employment or financial stability
  • Loss of hobbies and outside activities

Social isolation and feeling lonely are important health problems and should not be overlooked. The chronic illness population is at an even higher risk for social isolation and this problem should be addressed with your Doctor along with other symptoms and risk factors.

What You Can Do About It

When you are socially isolated and have feelings of loneliness, it can actually make your chronic illness worse. The longer you are experiencing isolation or loneliness, the more you start to develop feelings of shame, guilt, inadequacy, distrust and abandonment toward yourself and others. The more these feelings grow, the less likely you are to seek out real human connections.

So what can you do when you start having these feelings?

1. Recognize loneliness for what it is, and accept that you have these feelings. Self-awareness is important in making positive changes. When you catch yourself falling into old habits, you’ll be able to more quickly turn things around.

2. Use Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) to help reframe your thoughts to become more positive and open to socialization. This can be done with the help of a therapist or through online courses and over time, can be very effective.

3. Resist the temptation to isolate yourself and start forcing yourself to recognize if this is your “go-to response. Deliberately try doing the opposite of what you’re feeling – instead of retreating into watching TV, take a walk or pick up the phone and call someone. The more you resist the temptation to isolate, the easier it becomes

4. Fill your life with loving positive people who are patient and trustworthy and who truly try to understand what you are going through. They will be your encouragers and biggest support system. Remove negative people from your life…you don’t need their energy.

5. Try one new thing each week that will get you to meet new people. Try an art class, go to yoga, volunteer… anything that will get you to meet new people who like doing things that you like to do.

6. Seek out a support group for your illness. This is a great way to meet people who really do understand what you’re going through. Even an online group is fine to get started as being with like-minded people will help to engage you instead of isolating you.

7. Ask for what you need in your life. Don’t feel you’re being a burden on others…when someone asks what they can do for you to help, they genuinely want to help. Let them…give them the opportunity to be of service to you. Perhaps it’s to invite you out for coffee once a week or to go take a class together. You’ll be helping them as much as they will be helping you.

8. Consider therapy. It can help you explore any deeper issues that might be contributing to loneliness or social isolation. Therapy can also be a great accountability and skills training support to help you manage all of the difficult things you are going through in a safe way.

Remember, 

There Is Always Hope

It’s A Bad Pain Day (Coping With Chronic Pain)

Note: this post contains Affiliate Links which provides me with a small income at no cost to you. Clicking on the links will take you to specific products I suggest. You are under no obligation to purchase, these are simply my recommendations. 

When you’ve been living with Chronic Pain for an extended period of time, you know that you’re going to have good days and bad days. What do you do when you start worrying about the bad days – when they’re going to hit, how long they’re going to last and how can you manage to get through them?

I think one of the most important things you can do with Chronic Pain is to acknowledge it. Just because you live with it every day doesn’t mean you’ve come to peace about it. You may try to ignore it, hoping it will go away or you may confront it head-on. It’s important to recognize it for what it is though…pain that disrupts your life and causes your world to spin on a wobbly axis.

Chronic Pain is a force to be reckoned with. You may live most of your time with your pain at a manageable level, but inevitably, there comes a time when a flare-up happens and you find yourself struggling to manage. There are tips and tricks for flare-ups that might help and I’d like to suggest the following:

Relax

Easier said than done, but when your body has launched into “fight or flight” mode, you need to find a way to slow that adreneline down to where you are back in control. This is a good time to try some deep breathing techniques such as the 7-4-7 approach.

Breath in for a count of 7, hold for a count of 4 and breath out for a count of 7. Do this several times until you are able to feel your body starting to relax a bit. By focusing on the breathing, you trick the body into believing the danger is over, so your heart rate returns to normal. You will likely still feel pain, but it should be more manageable.

Heat and/or Cold

Heat and cold are both equally good for dealing with pain. I personally prefer heat as it helps to relax my tense muscles. Cold is better for acute injuries or when inflammation is a problem. Using a heating pad like this one can offer the benefits of a steady source of heat without injuring the skin:

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Cold Pack

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Essential Oils

Many people find that Essential Oils offer them benefits to help relieve their Chronic Pain. Certain blends of Essentials can help to control pain, relax you and ease your state of mind. There are many sources of Essential Oils – I like these ones on Amazon.com:

Healing Solutions Blends

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Knowledge

Knowing more about Chronic Pain can help you deal with it better. There are numerous books out there that serve as excellent resources for knowledge. I personally have read these two and found them extremely useful:

Managing Chronic Pain

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You Are Not Your Pain

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Yoga

Therapeutic Yoga has many benefits, including enhanced sleep and general well-being. This book provides you with the basics of a beginning yoga practice to help you manage your pain.

Yoga For Pain Relief

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Support Groups

Support Groups, either in person or online can be so valuable when it comes to dealing with Chronic Pain. Just knowing that others are going through the same thing as you can be empowering. To find a support group in your local area, trying Googling “Pain Support” and your city’s name.

Online, I suggest finding a good Facebook group. There’s one for almost every Invisible Illness (and Visible Illnesses as well) and can be easily found by searching by name in Facebook. One that I recommend is here:

Medical Musings With Friends

Based in Australia, they have members from around the world, but predominantly Australia, the USA and Canada. I am a member here and the group is extremely outgoing, friendly and they “get it”. Everyone lives with their own medical challenges, so they understand what you’re going through and are super supportive.

For Fibromyalgia, you can check out Fibro Connect, for EDS and POTs, try The Zebra Pit and for all Spoonies, you can visit Connected Spoonies. I belong to all of these groups and find them all wonderful and helpful.

Remember,

There Is Always Hope

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Positive Things About Chronic Illness

Living With Chronic Illness

Note: This post contains affiliate links. I will receive a small percentage from the total purchase price at no extra cost to you.

Living with a Chronic Illness such as Fibromyalgia, Multiple Sclerosis, Lupus, Ehlers-Danlos, etc. can be a challenge. So much of your time is taken up with medical appointments, tests, daily pain and discomfort, mobility issues and more.

We sometimes forget to take time to spend on positive, “non-medical” moments. Maybe it’s because we have to look for them, rather than have them always there. Maybe it’s because we’re so tired from being ill that it’s too much effort.

I believe it’s important though, to find those good things in the day or to create moments when necessary. I’d like to share a few ideas with you today to help you fill your time with positives.

Moments

Pets

Our pets bring us so much comfort, whether you live with Chronic Pain or not. If you do live with an Illness of some sort, this is especially true. Pets seem to have a way of knowing when we need an extra cuddle or two, and they’re always there for us. I have a wonderful cat named Dorie, who loves to lay on my legs when I’m on my laptop (like right now)

Dorie my cat, sitting on my legs, and bringing comfort from Chronic Pain

I can feel my stress dissipating as soon as Dorie lays with me. It’s a tangible and therapeutic benefit of cat ownership and a wonderful feeling period. If you don’t currently own a pet, it’s something to consider.

Books

I love to read and a good book can completely transport me away from a painful day. I get so caught up in the story I’m reading that everything else fades into the background.

My personal preference for books is stories of people who have overcome challenges, especially Chronic Illness of their own. I also love autobiographies and biographies in general, and books on True Crime. Ann Rule is a favourite author in that category.

A couple of suggested books and authors I adore:

Salt In My Soul is a wonderful book about a young woman who lived with Cystic Fibrosis. Mallory’s story is both joyous and sad as she talks about being a young woman with a fatal disease. Her mom takes up the story when Mallory can’t and shares her daughter’s life and dreams.

Let’s Pretend This Never Happened is by one of my favourite author’s, Jenny Lawson. This is a true account of her life growing up with mental illness and is absolutely laugh-out-loud hilarious. I also recommend her second book, Furiously Happy as a follow up!

You can also follow Jenny on her blog site, The Bloggess

Music

Everyone has their own preferences when it comes to music that makes them feel better. I have one friend who loves to rock out to death metal and another who prefers classical music.

I find that listening to the old classics is what works best for me, to distract me from pain and discomfort. I love Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, Queen, Electric Light Orchestra and so many more. When I can sing along with the songs, it’s easy to put pain behind me.

Choose a gendre that suits your style, or even your particular feelings for the day. Light and upbeat or dark and moody, the goal is to move beyond pain so your focus is elsewhere. Living with Chronic Illness is never easy, so music can often be a great distraction.

Videos/TV/Movies

Living with Chronic Illness often leaves you with a lot of free time. Some people are more visual than others and find that movies and/or TV are what helps them best. With services such as Cable, Hulu, Netflix and more, there’s an endless variety of content available.

One new thing that’s all the rage is ASMR videos. ASMR stands for Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response, and is a sensation of tingling that you get in the head and spine after viewing/hearing certain sounds or sensations. Hair brushing can bring this on, along with many other stimuli.

This Wikipedia article sums up ASMR nicely and you can find many videos on YouTube to help you experience the sensation. I haven’t personally tried it yet, but if you have, I’d love to hear about it…just leave a note in the comments section.

Another way of relaxing is by sitting outside and soaking up the sounds of nature. Birds, crickets, frogs…all of these can be peaceful and induce a sense of calm in the body.

Hobbies

I am just starting a new hobby of “Paint By Numbers” and have been given this kit by a company called Winnie’s Picks. I will be doing a full review of this product at a later date, when my painting is complete, but I wanted to share with you here what a wonderful kit this is.

Inside the solid mailing tube is everything you need to complete a full size painting. There is a canvas as well as a paper copy of the painting, several different sized brushes and all the paint you can possibly need to complete the work. You do need to frame this yourself when it’s done, but everything else is there. The prices are incredibly low for the quality of product too!

There are many hobbies that you can do when you live with Chronic Illness. You want to be able to work on things that you can pick up and put down when needed, but that still give you a challenge at the same time.

Some of the best hobbies to consider are needlework, knitting, crochet, felting, colouring, painting and working with paper, such as cardmaking. You can also get into more detailed work, such as embroidery, jewelry making, candle making, soapmaking and so much more. Tell me about your hobbies in the comment section. I’m always up for learning new things!

Conclusion

I love watching the hummingbirds that come to our feeder. They bring me such joy as they sip at the nectar I’ve left for them, and I can almost feel my blood pressure going down as I observe them.

Finding ways to live with Chronic Illness doesn’t have to be difficult. We generally have everything we need for distraction in our own homes. Sure, there are days when we just feel too ill to watch a movie or play around with a hobby, but for the most part, we can use the above techniques to distract ourselves.

What sort of things do you do on a daily basis, to manage your Chronic Illness? Share with me in the comments so we can all benefit. Remember,

There Is Always Hope

Good Nutrition Month

November is Good Nutrition Month so I’d like to share some information with you to help make it your healthiest month ever! Let’s start with a definition:

nu·tri·tion/n(y)o͞oˈtriSH(ə)n/noun: nutrition

  1. the process of providing or obtaining the food necessary for health and growth.”a guide to good nutrition”
    • food or nourishment.”a feeding tube gives her nutrition and water”. Similar: nourishment, nutriment, nutrients, sustenance, food, daily bread, grub, chow, nosh, scoff, victuals
    • the branch of science that deals with nutrients and nutrition, particularly in humans.”she took a short course in nutrition”

Origin

late Middle English: from late Latin nutritio(n- ), from nutrire ‘feed, nourish’.

Good nutrition is an important part of leading a healthy lifestyle. Combined with physical activity, your diet can help you to reach and maintain a healthy weight, reduce your risk of chronic diseases (like heart disease and cancer), and promote your overall health.

Your food choices every day help to set the tone for good nutrition. Supplements are also available to help aid you in reaching your nutritional goals.

Food Guides

Unhealthy eating habits have contributed to the obesity epidemic in the United States: about one-third of U.S. adults (33.8%) are obese and approximately 17% (or 12.5 million) of children and adolescents aged 2—19 years are obese.* Even for people at a healthy weight, a poor diet is associated with major health risks that can cause illness and even death. These include heart disease, hypertension (high blood pressure), type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis, and certain types of cancer. By making smart food choices, you can help protect yourself from these health problems.

The United States and Canada put out food guides to help people make smart choices when it comes to eating. Other countries do the same. Here are some examples:

The US uses both a Food Pyramid and a Good Plate Guide to help encourage people to eat a healthy diet. This pyramid shows the types of foods that are most recommended and the ones we should be eating more sparely (at the top)
The new guide from the US helps you plan your plate appropriately, using food guidelines from the Pyramid.
The 2019 Food Guide from Canada shows the types of foods you should be eating as well as the proper portions.

The risk factors for adult chronic diseases, like hypertension and type 2 diabetes, are increasingly seen in younger ages, often a result of unhealthy eating habits and increased weight gain. Dietary habits established in childhood often carry into adulthood, so teaching children how to eat healthy at a young age will help them stay healthy throughout their life.

The link between good nutrition and healthy weight, reduced chronic disease risk, and overall health is too important to ignore. By taking steps to eat healthy, you’ll be on your way to getting the nutrients your body needs to stay healthy, active, and strong. As with physical activity, making small changes in your diet can go a long way, and it’s easier than you think!

* Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. U.S. Obesity Trends. 2011. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/obesity/data/databases.html

Healthy Choices

The US Government provides the following information to help you make good choices:

Make half your plate fruits and vegetables: Choose red, orange, and dark-green vegetables like tomatoes, sweet potatoes, and broccoli, along with other vegetables for your meals. Add fruit to meals as part of main or side dishes or as dessert. The more colorful you make your plate, the more likely you are to get the vitamins, minerals, and fiber your body needs to be healthy.

Make half the grains you eat whole grains: An easy way to eat more whole grains is to switch from a refined-grain food to a whole-grain food. For example, eat whole-wheat bread instead of white bread. Read the ingredients list and choose products that list a whole-grain ingredients first. Look for things like: “whole wheat,” “brown rice,” “bulgur,” “buckwheat,” “oatmeal,” “rolled oats,” quinoa,” or “wild rice.”

Switch to fat-free or low-fat (1%) milk: Both have the same amount of calcium and other essential nutrients as whole milk, but fewer calories and less saturated fat.

Choose a variety of lean protein foods: Meat, poultry, seafood, dry beans or peas, eggs, nuts, and seeds are considered part of the protein foods group. Select leaner cuts of ground beef (where the label says 90% lean or higher), turkey breast, or chicken breast.

Compare sodium in foods: Use the Nutrition Facts label to choose lower sodium versions of foods like soup, bread, and frozen meals. Select canned foods labeled “low sodium,” “reduced sodium,” or “no salt added.”

Drink water instead of sugary drinks: Cut calories by drinking water or unsweetened beverages. Soda, energy drinks, and sports drinks are a major source of added sugar and calories in American diets. Try adding a slice of lemon, lime, or watermelon or a splash of 100% juice to your glass of water if you want some flavor.

Eat some seafood: Seafood includes fish (such as salmon, tuna, and trout) and shellfish (such as crab, mussels, and oysters). Seafood has protein, minerals, and omega-3 fatty acids (heart-healthy fat). Adults should try to eat at least eight ounces a week of a variety of seafood. Children can eat smaller amounts of seafood, too.

Cut back on solid fats: Eat fewer foods that contain solid fats. The major sources for Americans are cakes, cookies, and other desserts (often made with butter, margarine, or shortening); pizza; processed and fatty meats (e.g., sausages, hot dogs, bacon, ribs); and ice cream.

Use the MyPlate Icon to make sure your meal is balanced and nutritious.

Tips

  1. Prepare most of your meals at home using whole or minimally processed foods. Choose from a variety of different proteins to keep things interesting. Using catchy names for each day can help you plan. Try “Meatless Monday” with this meatless recipe.
  2. Make an eating plan each week – this is the key to fast, easy meal preparation.
  3. Choose recipes with plenty of vegetables and fruit. Your goal is to fill half your plate with vegetables and fruit at every meal. Choose brightly coloured fruits and vegetables each day, especially orange and dark green vegetables. Frozen or canned unsweetened fruits and vegetables are a perfect alternative to fresh produce.
  4. Avoid sugary drinks and instead drink water. Keep a reusable water bottle in your purse or car so you can fill up wherever you are going.
  5. Eat smaller meals more often. Eat at least three meals a day with snacks in between. When you wait too long to eat you are more likely to make unhealthy food choices.

Supplements

For some people, it may not be possible to get all the nutrients they need from food alone. Supplements are a good way to ensure that you’re as healthy as possible.

Check with your doctor who may recommend the following:

  • Calcium. Calcium works with vitamin D to keep bones strong at all ages. Bone loss can lead to fractures in both older women and men. Calcium is found in milk and milk products (fat-free or low-fat is best), canned fish with soft bones, dark-green leafy vegetables like kale, and foods with calcium added, like breakfast cereals.
  • Vitamin D. Most people’s bodies make enough vitamin D if they are in the sun for 15 to 30 minutes at least twice a week. But, if you are older, you may not be able to get enough vitamin D that way. Try adding vitamin D-fortified milk and milk products, vitamin D-fortified cereals, and fatty fish to your diet, and/or use a vitamin D supplement.
  • Vitamin B6. This vitamin is needed to form red blood cells. It is found in potatoes, bananas, chicken breasts, and fortified cereals.
  • Vitamin B12.Vitamin B12 helps keep your red blood cells and nerves healthy. While older adults need just as much vitamin B12 as other adults, some have trouble absorbing the vitamin naturally found in food. If you have this problem, your doctor may recommend that you eat foods like fortified cereals that have this vitamin added, or use a B12 supplement.

Conclusion

Improving your eating habits may seem like a challenge, but with the wide variety of fruits, vegetables and grains available, it’s actually quite easy to make good choices. Use the Plate icons as your guide for filling up, and experiment with new recipes.

Making simple changes like choosing whole grains over processed will start to become second nature and your taste buds will appreciate the new flavours as well. Introducing these healthier options to children will help them make smart choices as they grow.

I’d like to leave you with the following link to some perfect Good Health quotes! Enjoy and remember…

there is always hope!

There Is Always Hope

Living with Chronic Illness is an act of bravery. When each of your days is spent in pain and discomfort, it takes a lot of courage to keep going. I want to talk about hope…how to have it to get through your life and how it helps to keep a person going.

there is always hope

What is HOPE? Here is one definition I found that I think sums it up:

Hope is an optimistic state of mind that is based on an expectation of positive outcomes with respect to events and circumstances in one’s life or the world at large. As a verb, its definitions include: “expect with confidence” and “to cherish a desire with anticipation.”

Being optimistic is essential when you live with Chronic Illness, because the alternative is unacceptable. If you only see negatives, then you end up wallowing in misery and that compounds how you feel physically and mentally. I truly believe that even in the worst illnesses, there are positives to be found.

  1. You gain a better perspective of your own strengths
  2. You show more compassion for others who are struggling
  3. You understand the human condition for what it is and tend to reach out more to others
  4. Every accomplishment is a victory
  5. You find greater wisdom from those around you

Expecting with confidence is based on faith – trusting that what you want the most will come true. Realistic faith is a good thing and ridiculous faith is even better! What is ridiculous faith? It’s when you hope and pray for something which is beyond reasonable expectations, but still anticipate that miracles could happen.

Do you need Religion to have Hope? I don’t think so. It can help in many ways, as prayer can be a very comforting thing, but I don’t think it’s necessary. Many people consider themselves Spiritual rather than Religious and find comfort in ritual, nature or other traditions. Prayer may not be a part of their lives, but they still find comfort in the routines they’ve established for themselves.

I am a Christ Follower and find prayer to be essential to my well-being. It comforts me to know that I have a God who is bigger than me and who holds me in the palm of His hand. I trust that He has a plan for my life and though I may not understand it, I accept it. Acceptance on it’s own can be comforting.

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Image by Daniel Reche from Pixabay

So how does one go about growing Hope in their lives? What steps do you have to take to have faith in the things that are happening in your life, good and bad?

  1. Acknowledge your strengths. Chronic Illness can rob us of our confidence. Try making a list of all of your strengths and accomplishments. Read through the list and congratulate yourself for these positive traits. Understanding that you still have much to offer the world goes a long way in inspiring hope in the soul.
  2. Cultivate supportive relationships. As much as you can, surround yourself with supportive and caring people. People who help you to feel good and encourage you to be your best help to increase your sense of wellbeing. Having a supportive network of friends will help you to further your interests and goals. It’s much easier to find hope within a strong community as opposed to completely on your own
  3. Look at the activities and attitudes of people around you. See if any of them can serve as role models for what you would like to accomplish for yourself. Also, consider how the people around you act and make you feel. When you surround yourself with hope and success, it naturally trickles down into your own life. Like attracts like.
  4. Engage in pleasurable activities. Doing things that you enjoy can also help you to develop your sense of hope. By engaging in activities that make you happy every day, you will have a greater sense of purpose. If you are not sure about what activities bring you the most joy, try out some new things to figure it out. Take a class at your local community college, try a new exercise routine (Aqua-based activities are easy on the body), learn a new skill, or start a new hobby.
  5. Get involved with a cause. Volunteering for a cause you believe in is a great way to cultivate hope towards the future. This can be in either your local community or even an online community if mobility is an issue for you. Patient Advocacy is an area that is under-represented and working with Health Care Organizations can have a huge impact on yourself as well as others who live with Chronic Illness.
  6. Build relationships with others. When you start to build new relationships over common goals or projects, your sense of hope can greatly increase as you see results from your efforts. Involving yourself with other people who share your interests can help you to overcome alienation, which can cause a feeling of hopelessness.
  7. Get out of your comfort zone. This is essential to changing your thought patterns and learning to approach the world with more hope. Go out with friends after work instead of going straight home. Join a club or group so you can share new experiences with others. Develop a new hobby. Put yourself out there in ways that make you mildly uncomfortable at first.
  8. Keep track of your thoughts and feelings in a journal. Journaling is a great way to understand why you have been feeling hopeless and it is also a great stress reliever. To get started, buy a beautiful journal and a nice pen or pencil. Choose a comfortable place and plan to devote about 20 minutes per day to writing. Start by writing about how you are feeling, what you are thinking, or whatever else is on your mind.
  9. Try keeping a gratitude diary. Every night, think of three things you are grateful for and write them down. Doing this every day will help you to develop a more hopeful outlook and it can also help you to sleep better and enjoy better health. 
  10. Take care of yourself. Exercise, eat healthy food, get plenty of rest, and relax. By taking good care of yourself, you are sending your mind signals that you deserve to be happy and treated well which can increase your hope for the future. Make time to take care of yourself
    • Exercise to the best of your ability.
    • Eat a balanced diet of healthy foods like fruit, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins.
    • Get 7-9 hours of sleep per night. Use good sleep hygiene if you have trouble sleeping.
    • Set aside at least 15 minutes per day to relax. Practice yoga, do deep breathing exercises, or meditate.
    • Stay hydrated
    • Go for a massage or have body work such as Reiki to help balance you.
Screen Shot 2019-08-26 at 11.19.46 AM

Hope doesn’t have to be a fleeting thing…it can be a strong and deciding factor in your day to day life. I live every day with the hope it will be a good day. Positivity goes a long way in making me feel better physically, mentally and spiritually. I’m realistic about what I am and am not able to do, but I never give up hope that things will be better. It’s all about attitude and choosing how you want to feel.

I hope these ideas and suggestions are useful for you. I named my blog There Is Always Hope because I truly believe that statement. Even in the worst of our moments, I believe there is always a tiny light burning bright for us. We just have to look for it. Sometimes that means stepping out of our comfort zone and doing something we never thought we were capable of, but if we can overcome our fear, we may be surprised as to what we find.

And so I end this post as I always do and I mean it even more today…

There Is Always Hope

chronic pain and addictions (1)

Interview October – Elisa Austin

Today we meet my final guest for Interview October, the wonderful Elisa Austin. Please join me in welcoming her!

Introduce yourself and tell us a bit about you…

I am a 50 year old, mother of eight and grandmother. I’m a photographer and writer.

One fascinating fact about me is:

I am still existing. 

Chronic illness(es)/disabilities I have… 

I have underactive thyroid (Hashimoto’s), Fibromyalgia, and IBS

My symptoms/condition began…

The thyroid condition was diagnosed in 1999 because I was just “off” and “dragging.” Fibromyalgia was diagnosed in 2004 although I believe symptoms began earlier.

My diagnosis process was… 

My doctor ruled out most things with blood tests and sent me to a rheumatologist. The rheumatologist ruled out RA and by process of elimination Fibromyalgia was diagnosed.

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

Knowing there is no cure and I will have to deal with the pain every day for the rest of my life.

A typical day for me involves…

Medication, necessary appointments or activities, and with luck some housework.

The one thing I cannot live without is…

It rotates through warm baths, heating pads, aromatherapy, family, exercise

Being ill/disabled has taught me…

That I’m stronger and more determined than I had originally thought. 

My support system is…

My family and an online group

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

I don’t even know. I no longer make plans or have dreams.

One positive of having a chronic illness/disability is…

I am more supportive of others

One final thing I want people to know is: 

I refuse to give up.

Interview October – Shantay Marsh Thompson

I have another great interview to share with you today…please meet Shantay Marsh Thompson!

Introduce yourself and tell us a bit about you…

My name is Shantay Marsh Thompson, and I am 42 years old. I have two grown kids that are working, and one is in college. I spend my time taking online classes since I am not able to work. I spend my time in the house the majority of the time because walking too much makes my back hurt. I do not go to stores to shop. I shop online or if it is something personal that I need, I will go to Dollar General so I can get in and out. My mother does the grocery shopping for me. 

One fascinating fact about me is:

That even though I am down with this illness, I continue to learn academically.  

Chronic illness(es)/disabilities I have…

I have Fibromyalgia with chronic back pain, depression, Neuralgia, Arthralgia, and Dyslipidemia. The pain in my back is worse. I have trouble sitting and standing for long periods.

My symptoms/condition began…

In 2013 after being diagnosed with endometriosis. After I had my procedure, I started hurting badly after a month. I went back to my gynecologist and asked him to please give me a hysterectomy because I needed to work. I had to wait four months before I could get the hysterectomy, so I continued to work in pain. After I had my hysterectomy in 2014, the pain was still there. I worked for about a month then had to quit my job because I could not stand nor sit for long periods. 

My diagnosis process was… 

Terrible. I went through several doctors in Tuscaloosa, AL. Nobody would give me the help that I needed. I cried every day because my pain was so bad. The medicine they gave me, such as Tramadol did not do anything for me. I had to move back to Mobile County to find me a doctor that could help me. I found one, and he gave me some medicine that would help me reduce the pain some. It was June 2015 before I got a diagnosis.

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

Dealing with the pain in my back. I have tried Fibromyalgia lotions and nothing seems to work good.

A typical day for me involves…

Laying in my bed watching tv or doing some schoolwork. I make myself go to the gym to at least once a week to do strength training and walking but I pay for it the next day. 

The one thing I cannot live without is…

My Lyrica. I have bad nerve pain so I take Lyrica. After my daughter turned 19 in April, my medicaid ended so I had to go without Lyrica for some weeks and I was in pain. 

Being ill/disabled has taught me…

How to appreciate life more and do not take anything for granted. I have worked since I graduated in 1995 and I never thought my working career would end in 2014.  

My support system is…

My one friend, my family, my fiancé, my church family, and the  FIBRO CONNECT Group.  

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

Get out the house and treat myself. 

One positive of having a chronic illness/disability is…

Being thankful that it is not a deadly illness.

One final thing I want people to know is: 

Fibromyalgia is real. I would not wish this pain on no one.

My Links

https://www.facebook.com/Health-Wellness-108684490547162/?view_public_for=108684490547162