Invisible Illness – But You Look Fine!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

There is always hope.

 

Refresher Course

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

There is always hope

Ending The Year

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

There is always hope

Seasonal Poetry

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A Holiday Treat

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

All That Matters

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

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

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

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

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

T’was The Night Before New Year’s

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

There is always hope

Chronic Illness and the Holidays

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

Here are some of my top suggestions:

Plan In Advance

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

Keep Managing Your Chronic Illness

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

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

Make Lists

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

Pace Yourself

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

Be Honest

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

Enlist The Help Of Your Spouse Or A Friend

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

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

Be Okay With Your Plans Changing

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

Ask For Help

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

Connect With Others

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

Find “Me” Time

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

Make Time For Your Spouse Or Significant Other

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

Laugh As Much As You Can

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

Remember The Reason For The Season

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

Remember….There Is Always Hope

SoCS – A Day In My Life

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

What is a typical day like in your life?

From Pamela in Langford, BC Canada

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

There is always hope

 

 

A Little Bit More Joy

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

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

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

A Comedy Of Frustrations

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

Guest Post – Mary Gutierrez

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

Mental Health Advocates Share How To Prevent Suicide in 60 Seconds

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

Image from Pixabay

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

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

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

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

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

Here’s What They Shared

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

Your Turn

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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