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.
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.
You gain a better perspective of your own strengths
You show more compassion for others who are struggling
You understand the human condition for what it is and tend to reach out more to others
Every accomplishment is a victory
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.
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?
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Set aside at least 15 minutes per day to relax. Practice yoga, do deep breathing exercises, or meditate.
Go for a massage or have body work such as Reiki to help balance you.
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…
I’m excited to share my next guest’s story with you…please meet Jennifer Van Haitsma!
Introduce yourself and tell us a bit about you…
Hi! My name is Jennifer Van Haitsma, the writer behind the blog Diffusing the Tension. I am 33 and I live in Northwest Indiana (about an hour from Chicago). I’m married to my love of 14 years, and we have 2 amazing children. (They are 4.5 and 2.5). In my spare time, I love to watch TV. I’m an avid binge watcher when I can. I especially love British period dramas, procedurals, and true crime documentaries. I also love to read. My goal is to read 35 books this year. I try to workout several days a week as well.
One fascinating fact about me is:
I am terrified of heights. It is strange because I am not afraid of rollercoasters or airplane rides, but any other situation involving heights petrifies me.
Chronic illness(es)/disabilities I have…
I live with bipolar disorder and chronic fatigue. Originally, I was diagnosed with depression, but my diagnosis changed about 10 years ago.
My symptoms/condition began…
I began to exhibit symptoms of depression when I was 9 years old. I was a little more withdrawn at school and acted out a bit more at home, from what I can remember.
My diagnosis process was…
When I was 12 or 13 my mom took my to my first therapist. I remember not even wanting to talk to her at first. I had a lot of anger after my cousin’s death in 1995 (when my symptoms started) and really didn’t want to let a stranger climb the walls I had built inside. But ultimately, I was diagnosed with depression. In 2009, at age 23, I began to exhibit symptoms of mania (hyper productivity, irritability, and sabotaging relationships.) I sought treatment again, and in 2010 I was labeled bipolar 2 with rapid cycling mixed episodes.
The hardest part of living with my illness/disabilities is…
Definitely the effects it has on those around me. I sometimes lose my patience when it’s not necessary, and take it out on my husband and children, which makes me feel deeply ashamed. Another incredibly hard part is the fatigue. I am so tired that it is hard to stay awake past 7:30pm.
A typical day for me involves…
Taking the day an hour at a time. I make the kids breakfast, then we do whatever we can to pass the time until lunch, etc. My fatigue makes it hard to stick to a schedule with them currently, as I often need to lie down for prolonged periods of time.
The one thing I cannot live without is…
My phone! It is where I store my pictures, others’ phone numbers, others’ address, where I get my entertainment, where I keep my to do lists… My phone is the central hub of my daily activity.
Being ill/disabled has taught me…
It had taught me resilience in a way that nothing else could. I have had to learn that each day is a fresh start, and it is possible to make the most of my situation. It has also taught me the power of speaking about my journey so that I can help others through theirs.
My support system is…
My biggest supporters are my husband and parents. My husband is my best friend, and he is always patient with me when my illness gets bad, and always stays by my side. My parents provide a lot of support where my husband can’t. The girls get a lot of play time with their grandmas during the day when he is working and I need the help.
If I had one day symptom/disability-free I would…
It’s funny how hard it is to imagine myself without my illness! I think I would get in a long workout and then spend the day doing fun things with the girls. Maybe a trip to the zoo or a local amusement park, if the weather was good.
One positive of having a chronic illness/disability is…
It helps you have more empathy for others who struggle. Before my diagnosis, I’m sure I often looked down on people with chronic illness. Now, I know they are just that: people.
One final thing I want people to know is:
I am not my illness. I am so much more than just bipolar. I am a wife, a mom, a bookworm, a TV addict, a fitness nut, a friend, a sister, a daughter, a person.
My next guest is the amazing Sam Moss from Australia. She has a fascinating story so I hope you enjoy reading about her!
Introduce yourself and tell us a bit about you…
Hi, I’m Sam and I live with my beautiful husband in Australia. I have been living with a series of complex medical conditions for over 9 years now. In 2014 my health deteriorated to the point of needing to medically retire.
I had lived life in the fast lane for 30 years with a successful management career in financial services. Prior to medically retiring I was an Executive Manager in the Financial Services Industry. A career I loved as it predominately involved coaching and developing a Leadership team.
I also enjoyed various change management consultancy roles for not for profit organisations. I loved every minute of those able bodied years and am very grateful for the experiences I have had.
My career highlights include;
Contributing to creating an award winning customer experience culture in the various Banking and Insurance departments I’ve managed.
Leading an inspired and motivated team of people, many of whom are now lifelong friends.
Receiving the inaugural Banking Leader of the Year Award just before I medically retired (such a special parting gift)
Restoring an historic church building to its former glory,
Appointed as a management consultant in the Anglican Church, and assisted Senior Church Leaders (Clergy and Lay) to bring about exciting reformative change.
Now I’m medically retired I’m exploring my long term passion to be a writer. I’m a member of the Chronic Illness Bloggers Network and an ongoing contributor to “The Mighty”.
With time on my hands I decided to start a blog called ” My Medical Musings” as a way to reach out to others dealing with life changing health episodes. I also founded a Global online support forum, “Medical Musings with Friends”. It’s a place for those living with chronic illness or their carers, wanting the hand of friendship, as they journey an often lonely and difficult path.
It is a place to laugh, cry, share and vent together. It’s my absolute passion and honour to walk daily with others who understand exactly what it is like living with chronic illness.
When health gets complex, it’s really important to find others who are also battling multiple issues to share the never-ending complexities that arise and share all aspects of life living with chronic disease.
One fascinating fact about me is:
Not sure there’s much fascinating about me at all. My husband and I have moved 17 times in 24 years of marriage!! Some of those moves have been interstate and we have seen a lot of Australia as a result. That part has been a blessing.
Yes we are expert movers and this last move is definitely it. The combination of my husband’s work as an Anglican minister and my work in the Bank, was the reason for the majority of the moves. We have just settled into a lovely Lifestyle village which works perfectly for my disabilities, so hopefully no need to move again…EVER!!!
Chronic illness(es)/disabilities I have…
The list is way longer and complex than I would like, but here goes:
Rheumatoid Arthritis ( diagnosed 2010)
Sjogrens Syndrome ( diagnosed 2011)
Prolapsed Rectum ( diagnosed 2011)
Permanent Colostomy ( 2013)
Progressive Rare Bone Disease which causes my long bones to pathologically fracture. This includes both my femurs, 7 foot fractures, spinal fractures and severe Lumbar Spinal Stenosis with compressed spinal cord. Fractures won’t heal and surgery to fix my spine constantly fails as the bone disease continues to attack it.
My symptoms/condition began…
In 2010 I was in my mid 40’s, at the height of my career as an Executive Manager in a major bank.
In April of that year I was getting ready to take 6 weeks long service leave to spend some quality time with my beautiful husband. We were going on a road trip through South East Queensland down to the Hunter Valley in Northern NSW and I was so looking forward to having a break.
On the way home I started feeling really unwell and I just couldn’t shake off an extreme tiredness, joint pain like I had never experienced and abdominal pain. My hands were so sore that even the slightest touch was excruciating. I couldn’t hold my husband’s hand or pick anything up. My hips were so painful that walking normally was becoming difficult unless my husband supported me. We knew something was not right.
As soon as we got home we headed for my GP and a whole list of Specialist appointments followed. Long story short, 2 months later I was diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) after being first diagnosed with Q fever, Ross River Virus and a list of other false positive diagnoses.
My body was not behaving normally and my Doctors and I were to discover over the next 6 years just how abnormal it actually was. I had no idea what lay ahead.
As time went on…
With RA medication on board, I continued to work for another 12 months before my body began to basically break down bit by bit. My last day in the office was Melbourne Cup Day 2011. I was trying to push through the day and getting ready to judge my Departments “Fashion on the Fields” when my Personal Assistant found me in agony in the ladies bathroom and rang my husband to come and pick me up.
From that day my life was never to be the same again.
In 2011, I was diagnosed with a prolapsed bowel which refused to mend despite 3 attempts at conservative surgery. By mid-2013 we knew we had no choice but to accept that I needed a permanent stoma.
In November 2013 I medically retired and became the “proud” owner of a permanent colostomy. It has been quite a journey with my medical team including a Clinical Immunologist, Colorectal Surgeon, Endocrinologist, Orthopaedic Surgeon, Gynaecologist, Ear Nose and Throat Specialist, Infectious Disease Specialist, Neurologist and Dermatologist, all trying to work out what is causing my health issues.
I have been called “special”, “unique”, “one of a kind” but really they all believe overall, aside from Rheumatoid Arthritis, I have a rare idiopathic disease (a disease of its own kind).
I have lost count of the number of times I have been hospitalised over the past 8 years. I have had 14 surgeries since October 2010, with the prospect of more ahead.
I thought Rheumatoid Arthritis and a permanent colostomy would be an end to what my body was going to challenge me with. I hoped I could settle comfortably into medical retirement with my husband but I soon came to realise that my life was going to be an ongoing medical adventure.
In October 2014 my left femur (thigh bone) broke spontaneously. Yes, all on its own, I didn’t fall from a great height or have a major car crash, which is apparently the type of accident I should have been involved in to have the strongest bone in my body break. Mine just broke as I was opening my bedroom door!
It is called a pathological break and my Specialists believe I have a rare genetic bone disease. My bones are extremely dense and marble like and my bone turnover is almost non-existent. We also now know that my bones are dying and much of the soft tissue around my bones is also dead tissue.
12 months after my leg broke, my right femur was also showing signs of disease on MRI with bone marrow involvement so a rod had to be placed in that to prevent an imminent break and repeat medical emergency like we had with my femur break in 2014.
I am constantly dealing with multiple foot fractures and none of my broken bones in my legs or feet will heal. My bone pain is excruciating on a daily basis. My left femur which snapped in two is still broken nearly 5 years later and has been diagnosed as a non-union break. I have been on two crutches or a walker since the femur broke and also have a mobility scooter. The disease is now attacking my spine and causing excess bone to grow into the spinal cord. Despite surgeries to try and remove the bone, it grows back so quickly the surgeries are deemed as “failed”.
My diagnosis process was…
Complicated to say the least. As above it was a long process but also quick in the sense that I was referred to the right Specialists and soon had a team working on my case to try and work out what was going on. Some diagnoses were by chance. 6 months prior to my femur snapping in two, my Clinical Immunologist had sent me for a Bone Density Scan.
His concern was low bone density (Osteoporosis) because I had been on Prednisone for 4 years. He was so surprised to find I had extremely high bone density, really high. That just shouldn’t have been the case. He quickly referred me to an Endocrinologist who began monitoring my bone blood markers. All was not good. High Bone Density and low bone turnover meant new bone was being laid down but the old bone wasn’t being replaced. Bone was being added to bone and my skeleton was getting thicker and thicker.
I remember my Endocrinologist saying, “hopefully it will just settle and you won’t get any broken bones”.
I was suffering with terrible bone pain and within 6 months of her comment she was by my hospital bed in a state of shock as my left femur had snapped in two so spectacularly. I was so blessed to be alive as I was told it could have severed my femoral artery. I was also the pinup girl in the hospital…well, my x-ray was!!
The hardest part of living with my illness/disabilities is…
For me it’s the constant daily pain and exhaustion that accompanies it.
A typical day for me involves…
Wake up around 6.30am, from a generally broken night’s sleep;
Take pills before I try to get out of bed. Crutches await my descent from my bed….the first effort to get out always fails. I just can’t weight bear until the pills help a little. My back often paralyses my legs and I simply can’t move until anti-inflammatory meds help take the pressure off my spine. When I first get up I only get as far as the ensuite and then straight back to bed;
Eventually I make it to the kitchen and put the kettle on. Depending on how I am feeling and if I need to stand rather than sit, I’ll make a simple breakfast of cereal with banana and a cup of tea. If I can’t do it my husband does. We sit and eat breakfast in the lounge room and watch the morning news and chat together. I also check in on my online support forum, emails and messages;
I take my second set of morning pills with food. These help but they fatigue me for the first 2 hours of the day making it even harder to coordinate movement;
I rarely cry. I don’t feel sorry for myself. I’ve become used to my circumstances, although I still make plans in my head of all I’d like to do during the day, knowing that I’ll be eliminating items from that list constantly. Staying perfectly still the leg hurts but it’s a duller pain.
The slightest movement and it’s like I’ve broken it all over again. Fractured feet and stress fractures in the opposite leg add to my overall disability. The stenosis is by far the most crippling. Even lying down only brings temporary relief and I soon have to get up and try and move;
I’m determined but after breakfast I have no energy to get dressed just yet. I leave showering until the evening after dinner. So much easier to shower then knowing I can collapse into bed straight away.
In the morning I want to run around and stack the dishwasher, dust the furniture, get dressed and do my hair and makeup all before 7.30am. Ha! Not happening! I used to move at such a fast pace. I miss that. I will do all those things but it will take me 3 or 4 hours at a ridiculously slow pace.
I get told others should do those tasks for me but it is so important for my well-being that I keep as much independence as I possibly can. My husband does all the washing and cooking as that is outside of my capabilities.
I still have goals to get better and resume those activities, even though I know it’s unlikely. There is no cure for my disease, it’s progressive and my prognosis is unknown.
After lunch the fatigue from battling the pain is beyond belief so I need to lie on the bed for at least an hour, if not longer. I’m not a day time sleeper so I just relax as best I can, read, watch TV, blog, write articles and manage my online forum.
In the late afternoon my husband and I will have afternoon tea on our back patio. The fresh air and sitting in our little courtyard/garden brings me so much joy and is so relaxing. We’ve set it up like our own private cafe and I arrange our afternoon tea as if it were served at a boutique coffee shop or tea house. The simple things bring such joy.
I sit in the lounge room for dinner while we watch the news. I take my evening pills, shower and am back in bed by 8pm. My husband joins me by 9pm and we watch TV together. We love our evenings.
I rarely leave the house aside from medical appointments but I still have goals to get out a little more and we’ve started to achieve those once a fortnight.
All of the above is my normal routine unless my stoma becomes over active. I then have to manage changing my stoma appliance, putting all best laid plans out to pasture.
(I have a permanent colostomy due to a severe rectal prolapse. A ‘colostomy’ is a stoma formed by bringing part of your colon (large bowel) out on to the surface of your abdomen).
I do actually love my stoma, which I’ve had for 6 years on the 11th November. The pain and disability from having a severe rectal prolapse was horrific. My stoma restored some quality of life and I’m so grateful for it.
The one thing I cannot live without is…
Being ill/disabled has taught me…
Life isn’t over with a chronic illness diagnosis and disability. It’s just different. New opportunities to connect with others and pursue new passions and goals, is achievable. It’s all about our mindsets. It’s about choosing to embrace new ways of living. I’ve learned to focus on enjoying moments, rather than planning ahead for good days/weeks or months.
In many ways so much of my life has changed, but nothing has changed where my faith and trust in God is concerned. I am resolved to make the best of each and every day I am blessed with.
I love each day, as I know despite my unrelenting pain, I will have moments within the day that bring joy, laughter and connection with others in some small way. Just writing this has been something I’ve enjoyed. I will definitely be collapsing on the bed straight afterwards but it’s been a delight and an honour to collaborate with Pamela on her blog.
My support system is…
My Husband is my full time carer and my main support.
My Online Support Forum Members provide me with so much love and encouragement on a daily basis
Close Friends who stay in touch with a text, email or a visit (for those who live close enough)
Our family all live interstate or a few hours away so we don’t get to see each other in person much but they are amazing in their care and concern, and also regularly text, email and phone my husband and I.
I have Government Funded support for Physio, Podiatry, Occupational Therapy, Carers, transport, home modifications, plus permanent approval for Residential Care if my health progresses to the stage of need 24 hour around the clock care.
Our Church, although having just moved to a new suburb, we are still in the process of forming new connections.
If I had one day symptom/disability-free I would…
Go for a long drive with my husband in the country. Visit little towns, stop at gorgeous cafes and walk for miles around country shops.
One positive of having a chronic illness/disability is…
I think having true empathy for others suffering with chronic illness/ disability has been a growing experience for me. We think we understand what it’s like but when you’re relatively healthy, life is busy and we don’t take enough time to look outside of our own world, to truly understand another’s needs and struggles.
Ultimately the one positive….. the gift of time
One final thing I want people to know is:
That moment when the focus shifts to the possible, rather than looking at the impossible, is a life changing moment. It’s the moment a cheerful heart has room to emerge, despite our chronic illness
I want to talk about a difficult subject today…Chronic Pain and Addictions. When you live with Chronic Pain, you can find yourself spiraling in a dark hole. Sometimes depression becomes as big of a problem as the physical pain you live with, and in a desperate need to feel better, you find yourself turning to your medications too often, or you resort to drinking or eating as a way of filling the gap.
Addiction is easy to fall into, as often, you are not receiving adequate treatment for your pain to begin with. You find yourself taking your medictions sooner than directed, or you take more than recommended and then suddenly, you’re in withdrawal at the end of the month when your prescription has run out.
Instead of abusing your pain medications, you may turn to alcohol to increase the “buzz”, or food may become the drug of your choice. “Anything to dampen the pain” is what you might be thinking, and sometimes, it works. Other times, it feels like nothing can fill the unending gulf of pain you live with and so your depression deepens and you’re left feeling worthless. Thoughts of suicide may plague you but you resist telling others for fear they will see you as weak.
Let’s examine this problems in more detail.
Opioid abuse is an epidemic in the United States. In 2016, approximately 11.5 million Americans 12 years and older misused opioid pain medications, and 1.8 million had a substance use disorder involving prescription pain medications. From 2000 to 2015, more than 500,000 persons died from opioid overdoses, with deaths generally increasing as prescription opioid sales increased. In 2012, clinicians wrote 259 million prescriptions for opioids, enough for every U.S. adult.*
There are a variety of medications that are used in the treatment of Chronic Pain. As you probably know, there is a current push from to cut back on Opioids like Oxycodone and Hydrocodone because of perceived over-prescribing and the number of deaths linked to the mis-use of Opioids. The number of deaths from illegal Fentynal overdoses has increased dramatically, yet the people who actually require the drug for their Chronic Pain are being turned away by their physicians or are having their dosages cut back significantly.
PreGabalin, Gabapentin, and mixed drugs like Tramacet (Tramadol and Acetaminophen) are now being used more frequently, but not always to great benefit. This is one of the reasons the use of illegal Fentynal is increasing – people aren’t getting adequate relief from their doctor-prescribed medications and so they’re looking to the streets for solutions.
Throughout the ages, people have used alcohol to manage their pain. A swig of whiskey after a bullet wound in the old Westerns, or to numb the pain of a teething baby are two minor examples. A study done recently showed that 28% of people with Chronic Pain used alcohol to help control their pain**
Although alcohol has been shown to reduce pain, it’s a temporary solution and has potential and possible fatal risks. When you drink, you are more likely to abuse your prescription medications, resulting in furthering the sedative effects of both. You also increase the possibility of liver damage or gastric bleeding. Using alcohol as a pain medication often ends up with exceeding the recommended amount that you should drink and overdose of alcohol and/or prescription medications can be fatal.
Other points to note:
Withdrawal from chronic alcohol use often increases pain sensitivity which could motivate some people to continue drinking or even increase their drinking to reverse withdrawal-related increases in pain.
Prolonged, excessive alcohol exposure generates a painful small fiber peripheral neuropathy, the most common neurologic complication associated with alcoholism.
When a person is unable to control the amount of pain they live with, they may turn to food instead, as a way of finding relief. It doesn’t take away the pain, but satiating yourself gives back the illusion of that control that you’ve lost elsewhere. Anorexia and bingeing/purging become huge risks and lead to further medical problems.
Anorexia is the elimination of food from the diet, until your calorie intake is grossly under the recommended daily allowance for health. It is a psychological and potentially life-threatening eating disorder.
There are a multitude of health risks involved including mood swings, low blood pressure, heart problems, kidney and liver issues, loss of bone density and the very real possibility of death.
Bingeing and purging causes issues such as gastric problems, dental issues from vomiting and bile wearing at the teeth and gums, dehydration and depression issues. The use of excessive laxatives is hard on your bowels and runs the risk of chronic constipation, resulting in a Catch-22 of needing to use more laxatives to alleviate the constipation.
Excessive Exercise is another form of purging. By engaging in obscene amounts of exercise, you expose yourself to potential damage to your joints from overuse, dehydration, weakness and potential heart issues.
Other addictions to be careful about including smoking, gambling, shopping and sex although I’m sure you can think of even more. Each of these excessive behaviours can lead to damaging consequences so it’s imporant to be aware of them. When you live with Chronic Pain, you can have an “all or nothing” mentality – you simply want to do anything that will help you focus on something other than hurting.
The first step to any of these issues is to accept that you have a problem. Professional help is required to allow you to wean off of the drugs or alcohol, or to start a healthy relationship with food.
Support groups are available both in person and online and are highly recommended. To be with people who have gone through the same experiences as you have can be very comforting.
A Pain Management program may be suggested to help you get to the root of your problems, and to help you find solutions to managing your pain more effectively.
Talk to your family physician to start. Now is the time to be honest about what you’ve been going through and how you’ve been coping (or not coping). Accept that seeing a counsellor on a regular basis may be a requirement for your success. Having a safe place to talk goes a long way in setting goals for yourself and achieving them.
Ask about specific books that may help you understand Chronic Pain more completely. Knowledge is power.
Finally, realize that you are not a bad person. You may have made some bad choices, but recognizing them and changing them is what’s important. We all make mistakes, and even if you think you’re the worst person in the world…you’re not. You have value and worth and are deserving of the best care possible. Remember,
I am featuring another guest post from my friends at MadebyHemp.com. This article first appeared on their website.
2018 was the year we saw a strong surge of mental health awareness. The public’s focus on health broadened to also include taking care of one’s mental and emotional health. People have finally realized that one of the keys to maintaining a healthy body is to have a healthy mind.
Throughout 2019, mental health awareness will continue to be one of the bigger focuses on overall well being. Learning a few habits that will promote and improve your mental health will be a great start to your fabulous year.
The secret to a sound body is a sound mind. But it could also work both ways. The secret to a sound mind is a sound body. It might not work for everybody, but for a majority of able-bodied people, a great way to boost endorphins is to go out and move. Find an exercise that you love. You don’t need to do what everyone else is doing. Some people prefer lifting weights, some like yoga, some even run marathons. Find that one exercise you want to stick with and run with it.
Being thankful for the things you have instead of focusing on the things you don’t is a good way of bringing positive energy into your life. It will, more importantly, make you realize you are lucky to have the things you do. Practicing the habit of being grateful will help you become a more positive person.
3. Be kind
Be the person you wish other people would be to you. Make someone’s day by smiling at them, or helping them carry a heavy load, or even just opening the door for someone who has their hands full. A bit of kindness paid forward will cultivate a world of kindness. It doesn’t take much to make others smile.
Get enough sleep. Sleep can do wonders for a tired mind and body. Don’t overdo it though. Get the right amount of sleep in order to feel rested and ready to tackle your day, every day. Put your screen away close to bedtime and concentrate on relaxing. Give your body and mind the time to recover and recuperate.
5. Hang out with friends
Socialize. Even the most introverted person has someone they prefer to hang around with. It does wonderful things to your soul to share your time with the people that matter.
Better yet, try Therapeutic Chocolate with Cannabidiol (CBD) oil. Cannabinoids are non-psychoactive and can reduce anxiety. If you are looking to incorporate CBD into your diet, but is not very much of a fan of its earthy taste, chocolate is the way to go. Cannabinoids are found to keep the body in neutral state, and support the functions of the brain, as well as the central and peripheral nervous system. Get your chocolate fix for the day, and get CBD’s benefits while you’re at it.
When they said laughter is the best medicine, they were not kidding. Laughter helps ease stress and anxiety. Hang out with a funny friend, or watch a comedy show. Or maybe learn a few jokes and share them with your friends. Laughter is one of those things that multiply when shared.
8. Eat well
A few desserts won’t hurt you any but for the most part, feed your body the things it should be fed. Eat a healthy and balanced diet. This will ensure your body will feel healthy and will give you less things to stress or worry about. Avoid things that will harm your body like smoking or excessive drinking.
9. Love yourself
Tell yourself something nice every day. Most people are generous with giving away compliments to others but are stingy when it comes to themselves. Start your day by giving yourself a sincere compliment. It could be something simple like “oh my skin looks very nice today”. Or “I do make an amazing omelet.” And develop this into a daily habit. Because loving yourself will allow you to love others more freely.
Give your mind a chance to empty itself out of the negative energy that is pervasive in the world. Give your mind the space to breathe and relax. And as you relax your mind, you relax your body. Meditation is a great way to connect your mind and your body into one plane. It is a good way to relax and to relieve yourself of any stress that you may have. Meditation also complements therapy.
When I first started to blog, I wrote about my total hip replacement because I’d had problems trying to find first-person accounts of undergoing that particular type of surgery, especially for someone who was in their 50’s. Hip replacements seem to be done on mostly older folks (in their 70’s or older) but rarely on the younger set, unless you’ve been born with a hip problem or have suffered a devastating injury.
Because I was only 54 when I had my hip replacement done, I was considered “unusual” by my surgeon (and yes, I’m sure he meant my hip only and not me in general!) so trying to find others in the same position was difficult. I had read enough websites to understand the technical side of the surgery, but I wanted to find out what it was like to actually have the surgery and then recuperate and go on with life.
Since I was unable to find a lot of good information, I decided to write about my own experiences, so others in my position might be able to find what I was looking for. Once I’d written about that, it seemed natural to go on and talk about other health issues I live with and how they impact my life. From there, the blog site grew organically and became what it is now – a place for articles and posts about Fibromyalgia, Chronic Pain, Chronic Fatigue and Invisible Illnesses, such as Lupus, MS, Arthritis, POTs, Ehler’s Danlos Syndrome and more.
The goal has been achieved and I’m proud of what I’ve been able to create with this site. I hope others feel the same.
Living with a Chronic Illness is hard work. People with Chronic Pain and Invisible Illness are often left feeling isolated, and when you find someone online who speaks your language, it can be like finding an oasis in the desert.
In addition to educating people, I wanted this blog site to be a place where comments could be left freely, allowing people the opportunity to share what’s going on in their lives in a safe way. When readers have identified with a particular post, their comments reflect their own lives and situations and I take that seriously. I often respond back, not always in the comment section, but in-person to what they’ve said.
My responsibility as a writer is to ensure that not only am I educating people but I’m giving them some hope as well. Life with Chronic Illness is painful physically and mentally and when you find a spot online that reflects your own thoughts and ideas and connects with you, there’s a genuine freeing sensation. You feel less alone in the world and you realize that other people “get it”. Being understood is an amazing feeling and us Chronic Pain Warriors don’t always feel understood.
In many ways, I see writing this blog as another form of volunteering that I do. My focus on health and wellbeing extends beyond this blog site, but I consider the site to be one of service to others.
Like my other volunteer roles, I receive no compensation for producing this site, with the exception of any money I might make with Affiliate Marketing (more about that in a minute). I do this purely because I want to help others who are in Chronic Pain and who feel lost and alone and in need of information that might help make their lives better.
My other volunteer roles include committee work for Surgical Quality Improvement, improving Clinical Resources for Patients such as updating Patient Information Sheets received when you are discharged from an ER and Laboratory Quality Control to ensure that Patients are receiving the best care possible when they are providing lab samples for doctor-ordered tests. I also sit on a Provincial Measurement Working Group that is creating a survey for Patients in British Columbia, Canada to ensure that their care received has been the best it can be.
These roles, together with this blog, give me ample ways to help others, and that brings a lot of happiness to my soul.
My final reason for blogging is purely selfish…I do this for me as well. It’s therapeutic to be able to write about what’s new in health care, or what I’ve been thinking about a certain subject. I love being able to tackle controversial subjects or bring emotional issues to light, such as intimacy when you are Chronically Ill.
I consider myself lucky to be in a position where I can have some influence over others and perhaps introduce them to a treatment they haven’t heard of before. There’s nothing quite as satisfying as hearing back from someone who says “you changed my life” or “I really needed to read this”. It makes up for the research, the typing on days when my hands hurt and the work of coming up with new topics that will be of interest.
If you are a blogger, you understand what I’m talking about. If you are a reader, just let me say that having responsibility for you and what I’m producing for you is an honour I don’t take lightly. I want to make sure you’re getting information that benefits you and your health because I know what it’s like to live with Chronic Illness and I know the types of things that I’d like to read and learn from.
Thank you for allowing me to share these thoughts with you. I appreciate your comments below, or you can always write to me using the Contact Form.
I do this because I love it. I love sharing and helping others and I hope I’m able to continue for a long time to come. Remember…
Today’s post is from Guest Author Amanda Lasater. She’s bringing us information on important Lifestyle changes that can help improve your overall health.
For those of us suffering from Chronic Pain, Chronic Fatigue, or an Invisible Illness, it can feel like you’ve tried pretty much everything to improve your mental and physical well-being. Whether we’re trying a new “miracle” treatment in traditional medicine or an “ancient” holistic therapy, it’s easy to simply feel defeated by our illness. And, like with all illnesses, there will likely never be a one-size-fits-all treatment for these conditions – however, there are lifestyles changes that have been shown to significantly help improve the quality of life for those suffering from many of these life-altering illnesses. The following list contains three powerful choices in your day to day life that, over time, can help reduce the physical and mental anguish that comes along with these maladies.
Incorporate CBD Oil Into Your Supplement Regimen
Due to the relatively new popularity of CBD oil, we don’t have enough long-term studies to make any definitive statements about its efficacy as a treatment for chronic pain, fibromyalgia, and other invisible illnesses. However, the studies we do have, combined with personal testimonies, are extremely promising. CBD – short for cannabidiol – is extracted from the cannabis plant, but it does not have any of the psychoactive properties of THC (aka, it doesn’t get you “high”). Currently, it is being used for a large number of medical purposes, including:
So far, CBD has been shown to help with three major symptoms of many invisible illnesses: pain, anxiety, and insomnia. And for many suffering from any of these conditions, relief from even just one of these symptoms would significantly improve their quality of life. We recommend that you research CBD and your specific illness to identify all the potential benefits and decide upon which brand and dosage is best for you.
Address Your Microbiome And Gut Health
The gut “microbiome” is what we call the highly important collection of more than 100 trillion microscopic organisms, or microbiota, that live inside our gastrointestinal tract. These organisms, which include bacteria unique to your body, play a vital role in our health by contributing nutrients and energy, protecting against infection, and supporting the immune system. In addition, we’ve discovered that these trillions of bacteria in our gut communicate directly with the neurons in our brains. More and more studies have found a link between the condition of the microbiome and many illnesses including:
Inflammatory Bowel Diseases (IBD)
Often accompanying gut dysbiosis is an overgrowth of candida (a fungus or yeast), which releases toxic byproducts into your bloodstream and causes a host of unpleasant symptoms. Many doctors report that most fibromyalgia sufferers have had Candida overgrowth. The bottom line is that the gut biome is essential to our health – and addressing and improving your gut health can improve many symptoms of invisible illnesses. The best ways to improve your gut bacteria include eating probiotic foods, eating fiber and prebiotics, avoiding antibiotics (unless absolutely necessary), quitting smoking, reducing alcohol intake, avoiding excessive sugar consumption, exercise, and eating gut-friendly foods like bone broth.
Start An Elimination Diet To Identify Food-Related Health Issues
The food you’re eating may be the cause of many of your symptoms. For example, gluten has been linked to over 55 diseases. In fact, the major symptoms of gluten intolerance are neurological – not digestive. These common symptoms include:
Gluten intolerance is identified as one of the possible root causes of fibromyalgia by many practitioners of functional medicine – a branch of medicine that aims at treating the underlying cause of an issue instead of the symptoms. The best way to identify if you have any allergies or intolerances is to start an elimination diet and introduce foods one at a time.
While we have all felt defeated by our illnesses, we’ve also learned the importance of always keeping our head up and moving forward. We’re here to tell you that you’re not alone – use these three lifestyle changes to drastically improve your quality of life and “keep on swimming.”
About The Author
Amanda Lasater is on the editorial and research team at MattressAdvisor.com, a mattress reviews site with the mission to help each person find their best sleep ever.
I want to tackle a hard subject today…the emotions that surround living with a Chronic Illness. Every day, we survive the physical pain, but we don’t always talk about the emotional pain that comes with being ill. Let’s change that now.
When I first started feeling the effects of Fibromyalgia and Osteoarthritis along with my other Chronic Illnesses, I was generally able to function without a lot of changes in my life. I needed some pain medication but found that it helped and didn’t really alter my life, so ended up having some fairly easy years after my initial diagnosis.
After a period of time, the medication needed to be increased and new drugs had to be introduced to help combat the increasing pain and symptoms. I started taking Lyrica for my Fibro – a drug that saw me gain 40lbs in 3 months. This is when I first realized that having Chronic Illness was affecting me mentally – I was pissed about the weight gain but resigned to the fact I’d have to live with it. Thankfully my doctor worked with me to find Cymbalta instead and I managed to lose most of the weight I had gained.
Thus began a pattern where the drugs would work for a while and then lose their effectiveness, necessitating an increase or change in meds, which triggered more anger and emotion. It was a vicious circle…I just wanted to be rid of the pain I was in, but it was getting harder and harder. The side effects of the various meds being introduced were also debilitating and my anger grew at what my body was putting me through.
As Things Changed
Then came the point where my body had become so broken down that I needed to leave my job and go on long term disability. I can still remember to this day, 10 years later, how incredibly disappointed in myself I was. My body had betrayed me in every way possible. I was at the top of my career with the opportunity to move into some dream roles and suddenly that was all snatched away from me. Devastated doesn’t even begin to come close to how I felt and I ended up in a depression that was hard to come back from.
It took me a long time to realize that my feelings were valid and I was entitled to feel how I felt. I thought I had to suck it up for everyone around me, and that just wasn’t a place I was ready for. I hadn’t processed my emotions, and they felt just as raw a year later as they had when I first left work. It was only through taking some Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) classes that I started to see how I could validate my feelings yet work through them and come out stronger.
Having these strong emotions was scary though because I couldn’t separate them at first from the actions of being in pain, and just feeling like a failure as a person. It took time to realize that I had not failed, but my body had. Two very different things. By recognizing the difference, I was able to start accepting that I was not a bad person and that I had done nothing to cause this to happen.
I didn’t ask for Chronic Pain and Chronic Fatigue. I was simply unlucky enough to be a person to have to live with these conditions and that meant I had to find a healthier way of dealing with the emotions this generated. I was not unreliable, my health caused my reliability to suffer. My worth was not just because of my job, but by virtue of simply being here. I was still a good person who had something bad happen to her.
Do you see where I’m coming from and what I’m trying to say? Just because you have a Chronic Illness doesn’t make you a bad person. This condition has happened to you and changed you, against your will. Learning how to live with it becomes the new normal. Once I recognized this, I was able to take a step back and start taking my life back again.
I worked with my doctor to find a treatment plan that benefited me. This included some medication changes and additions, as well as adding healthy new components to my life such asmeditation, music therapy,gentle exercise, stretching, beginners yogaand balancing my eating habits. I stopped feeling guilty when I had to cancel or change plans because Illness took over. I couldn’t help it when those things happened, so why blame myself? I put the blame where it belonged…on my Illnesses, and left it there.
I was blessed to be able to start this blog, so I could reach out to others with Chronic Pain conditions and help them navigate their way through their experiences. It was very empowering for me and I gained back huge amounts of confidence as I wrote articles and posts. Knowing I was reaching others and actually helping them was a huge confidence booster.
I also found myself able to start volunteering again, and now sit on 4 different committees, all devoted to aspects of health care. I am a member of a Provincial Measurement Working Group, creating a survey for patients in BC, Canada about their ER experiences. I continue to seek out new opportunities to volunteer and was recently nominated for two WEGO Health Awards – one for Best in Show: Blog and one for Best Kept Secret (regarding my blog). You can clickherefor more information about my nominations.
To wrap this up, I want to reiterate that I think it’s important to sit with your feelings on a regular basis when you live with Chronic Illness. If you need the help of a professional therapist to process what you’re going through, do it. There’s no shame and definitely no harm in learning how to deal with all the emotions that come with a Chronic condition. In fact, I highly recommend it as a part of your overall treatment plan.
We go through so much on a daily basis that the notion we’re not affected emotionally is ludicrous. Don’t fall into the trap of being “stoic” and taking the attitude that you can handle things on your own if you truly can’t. Reach out for help, whether it be a professional, a friend, or a spiritual advisor. The peace of mind of knowing you’re not alone in your feelings is precious. And remember…
Today I am featuring an article that first appeared on MadebyHemp.com, with their permission.
Health and Wellness Trends
This year has been a year when most of the world focused on health and wellness in a more holistic manner: both physical and mental wellness. So what can we expect to see in the health and wellness sphere for the rest of 2019?
The 5,000-year-old health system, Ayurveda (in Sanskrit means “knowledge of life”) is responsible for a lot of health movements in 2018. Perhaps the most familiar of which would be the ketogenic diet. Ayurveda is an old system of medicine that incorporates plants and animal products, particularly fats. The practice of Ayurveda involves using fats both for consumption, meaning eating fats like ghee, and external use, like oils for the skin. The practice connects both mind and body in bringing about wellness.
2. More Plant Based Alternatives
2018 has seen therise of plant based food, a whopping 23% rise in sales. Gone are the days when the choices we had regarding plant based food were TVP and tofu. Now it is beginning to look like there will be a huge movement in the plant based fish sector. Expect your local Whole Foods aisles to have more plant based fish meat choices. The plant based fish movement stemmed from the awareness of people of the negative impact of overfishing has on our environment.
3. More Sleep
A lot of people, students and workers alike, are severely lacking in sleep. In the coming year, we will have a better understanding of our circadian rhythm and the effects of melatonin and cortisol on our sleep patterns. If these two hormones get out of whack, our circadian rhythm will be thrown out of its cycle and our sleep gets messed up.
4. CBD Oil
This year has seen a massive rise in popularity of CBD oil. Despite its being taboo in certain circles, Whole Foods Market’s projection predicts that CBD oil will have an even higher spike in popularity in 2019.
Expect that in the coming year, we will be learning more about the endocannabinoid system or the ECS. This is a major bodily system which compounds like CBD and other cannabinoids interact with. We have seen how CBD oil has helped manage anxiety and we’ve marveled at its anti-inflammatory and anti-seizure effects. Cannabis might also help with setting our sleep pattern straight. It most certainly helps with keeping a lid on anxiety and stress.
More and more people are becoming aware of global warming and the dire situation the Earth is currently in. Expect that in 2019, the strong rise of the eco-friendly movement will continue. It is predicted that the use of single use plastics and other single use items will see a further decline and the BYOB (bring your own bag) movement will continue to become more popular.
6. Mental Health
This year, mental health continues to be given its due importance. People are now realizing that in order to be physically healthy, you need to think about your mental health as well. Hemp based products (like CBD oil) has become a more popular alternative to the usual stress medications. It is predicted that 2019 will see the continuation of this mental health trend.
7. Oat milk
Is oat milk the new soy? This year, sales have grown by an impressive 45%. Lactose averse people have found a good alternative to dairy and soy milk and the rise of its popularity does not seem to be ending soon. Grab yourself a bottle of oat milk this 2019 because it looks like they will be flying off the shelves still.
8. MCT oil
Aside from CBD, 2018 brought MCT (medium chain triglycerides) oil into the spotlight. This oil is odorless and colorless and stays liquid at room temperature. Putting MCT oil into your coffee, making it “bulletproof” is a good way of boosting your energy. Expect to see MCT become even more popular in 2019 as more people become aware of its benefits.
9. Body Positivity
Thanks to Rihanna and her Fenty brand, body positivity moved from the fringes to mainstream. Body positivity saw a rise in popularity in 2018 as more and more people focus on loving their bodies instead of shrinking them to fit into the mold that society wanted them to look. As more people shift their focus to mental health, this 2019 will see an even bigger rise in the body positivity movement.
10. Hemp based products
Aside from CBD oil, hemp based products have found their way into our lives from our beauty products, to our food. With the 2018 Farm Bill already signed into law, hemp based farming will be legal nationwide. Expect that in 2019, there will be more choices in hemp based products.
These are the hottest trends in 2019…which ones have you been paying attention to? Remember…
The only thing better than an inspirational quote is an inspirational quote about things you should never do. You should never judge a book by its cover. You should never count your chickens before they hatch. You absolutely should never look a gift horse in the mouth (what exactly IS a gift horse??).
If you want to live your best life, enjoy this list of things you should never do*.
Career and Business Quotes
“Never mistake knowledge for wisdom. One helps you make a living and the other helps you make a life.” – Sandra Carey
“Never become so much of an expert that you stop gaining experience. View life as a continuous learning experience.” – Denis Waitley
“Never mix negative thinking with negative people. Multiplying negatives, in this instance, won’t make a positive.” – Richie Norton
“Never rest on your laurels. Nothing wilts faster than a laurel sat upon.” – Mary Kay Ash
“Never play leapfrog with a unicorn.” – Anonymous
“Never moon a werewolf.” – Mike Bender
“Never go to bed mad. Stay up and fight.” – Phyllis Diller
“Never deny a diagnosis, but do deny the negative verdict that may go with it.” – Norman Cousins
“Never confuse a single defeat with a final defeat.” – F. Scott Fitzgerald
“Never give up. Today is hard, tomorrow will be worse, but the day after tomorrow will be sunshine.” – Jack Ma
“Never let the future disturb you. You will meet it, if you have to, with the same weapons of reason which today arm you against the present.” – Marcus Aurelius
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” – Margaret Mead
“Never love anybody that treats you like you’re ordinary.” – Oscar Wilde
“Never ruin an apology with an excuse.” – Kimberly Johnson
“Never underestimate your power to change yourself. Never overestimate your power to change others.” – H. Jackson Brown Jr.
“Never tell a child that something is too hard for them.” – Mitch Albom, quoting his mother
“Never explain – your friends do not need it and your enemies will not believe you anyway.” – Elbert Hubbard
Personal Development Quotes
“Never let the fear of striking out keep you from playing the game.” – Babe Ruth
“Never stagnate. Life is a constant becoming: all stages lead to the beginning of others.” – George Bernard Shaw
“Never treat time as if you have an unlimited supply.” – Og Mandino
“Never place a period where God has placed a comma.” – Gracie Allen
“Never reject an idea because you don’t have the money, manpower, muscle, or months to achieve it!” – Syed Ather
“Never interrupt someone doing what you said couldn’t be done.” – Amelia Earhart
“Never be bullied into silence. Never allow yourself to be made a victim. Accept no one’s definition of your life; define yourself.” – Robert Frost
“Never say more than is necessary.” – Richard Brinsley Sheridan
*Sources include, but are not limited to Brainyquote.com, Oxford Dictionary of Quotations, and Neverisms: A Quotation Lover’s Guide to Things You Should Never Do, Never Say, or Never Forget.