I will be taking a short hiatus from blogging as I am dealing with some issues related to my Bipolar Disorder. I have been in a BD depression for several weeks now and have had some days so bad, I considered suicide.
The main issue is that I need to change my medications again as my current regiment has stopped working. I have been living with debilitating brain zaps that feel like an electrical current zipping through my brain. These leave me feeling dizzy and disoriented, and being on the computer is difficult during those times.
I will be back!! I refuse to let this defeat me, but I do need to take some time away until I have my BD back under control. It’s hard enough living with the physical pain of Fibromyalgia, Osteoarthritis, D.I.S.H., and more, but adding the mental health burden has become too much.
Thank you for your loyalty. Comments are appreciated.
April is Parkinson’s Disease Month and I wanted to talk to you all briefly about this condition as part of my mandate to highlight “invisible diseases”.
Although there can be some visible signs when you have Parkinson’s Disease, it often starts out very subtle and hard to notice. A tremour in one hand might be the only outward sign in the beginning.
Here is an overview taken from the Mayo Clinic website. Click on the link for the full description on Parkinson’s Disease including Testing, Treatments and Living with Parkinson’s.
Parkinson’s disease is a progressive nervous system disorder that affects movement. Symptoms start gradually, sometimes starting with a barely noticeable tremor in just one hand. Tremors are common, but the disorder also commonly causes stiffness or slowing of movement.
In the early stages of Parkinson’s disease, your face may show little or no expression. Your arms may not swing when you walk. Your speech may become soft or slurred. Parkinson’s disease symptoms worsen as your condition progresses over time.
Although Parkinson’s disease can’t be cured, medications might significantly improve your symptoms. Occasionally, your doctor may suggest surgery to regulate certain regions of your brain and improve your symptoms.
Parkinson’s disease signs and symptoms can be different for everyone. Early signs may be mild and go unnoticed. Symptoms often begin on one side of your body and usually remain worse on that side, even after symptoms begin to affect both sides.
Parkinson’s signs and symptoms may include:
Tremor. A tremor, or shaking, usually begins in a limb, often your hand or fingers. You may a rub your thumb and forefinger back-and-forth, known as a pill-rolling tremor. Your hand may tremor when it’s at rest.
Slowed movement (bradykinesia). Over time, Parkinson’s disease may slow your movement, making simple tasks difficult and time-consuming. Your steps may become shorter when you walk. It may be difficult to get out of a chair. You may drag your feet as you try to walk.
Rigid muscles. Muscle stiffness may occur in any part of your body. The stiff muscles can be painful and limit your range of motion.
Impaired posture and balance. Your posture may become stooped, or you may have balance problems as a result of Parkinson’s disease.
Loss of automatic movements. You may have a decreased ability to perform unconscious movements, including blinking, smiling or swinging your arms when you walk.
Speech changes. You may speak softly, quickly, slur or hesitate before talking. Your speech may be more of a monotone rather than with the usual inflections.
Writing changes. It may become hard to write, and your writing may appear small.
When To See A Doctor
See your doctor if you have any of the symptoms associated with Parkinson’s disease — not only to diagnose your condition but also to rule out other causes for your symptoms.
In Parkinson’s disease, certain nerve cells (neurons) in the brain gradually break down or die. Many of the symptoms are due to a loss of neurons that produce a chemical messenger in your brain called dopamine. When dopamine levels decrease, it causes abnormal brain activity, leading to symptoms of Parkinson’s disease.
The cause of Parkinson’s disease is unknown, but several factors appear to play a role, including:
Your genes. Researchers have identified specific genetic mutations that can cause Parkinson’s disease. But these are uncommon except in rare cases with many family members affected by Parkinson’s disease.However, certain gene variations appear to increase the risk of Parkinson’s disease but with a relatively small risk of Parkinson’s disease for each of these genetic markers.
Environmental triggers. Exposure to certain toxins or environmental factors may increase the risk of later Parkinson’s disease, but the risk is relatively small.
Researchers have also noted that many changes occur in the brains of people with Parkinson’s disease, although it’s not clear why these changes occur. These changes include:
The presence of Lewy bodies. Clumps of specific substances within brain cells are microscopic markers of Parkinson’s disease. These are called Lewy bodies, and researchers believe these Lewy bodies hold an important clue to the cause of Parkinson’s disease.
Alpha-synuclein is found within Lewy bodies. Although many substances are found within Lewy bodies, scientists believe an important one is the natural and widespread protein called alpha-synuclein (a-synuclein). It’s found in all Lewy bodies in a clumped form that cells can’t break down. This is currently an important focus among Parkinson’s disease researchers.
Risk factors for Parkinson’s disease include:
Age. Young adults rarely experience Parkinson’s disease. It ordinarily begins in middle or late life, and the risk increases with age. People usually develop the disease around age 60 or older.
Heredity. Having a close relative with Parkinson’s disease increases the chances that you’ll develop the disease. However, your risks are still small unless you have many relatives in your family with Parkinson’s disease.
Sex. Men are more likely to develop Parkinson’s disease than are women.
Exposure to toxins. Ongoing exposure to herbicides and pesticides may slightly increase your risk of Parkinson’s disease.
Parkinson’s disease is often accompanied by these additional problems, which may be treatable:
Thinking difficulties. You may experience cognitive problems (dementia) and thinking difficulties. These usually occur in the later stages of Parkinson’s disease. Such cognitive problems aren’t very responsive to medications.
Depression and emotional changes. You may experience depression, sometimes in the very early stages. Receiving treatment for depression can make it easier to handle the other challenges of Parkinson’s disease.You may also experience other emotional changes, such as fear, anxiety or loss of motivation. Doctors may give you medications to treat these symptoms.
Swallowing problems. You may develop difficulties with swallowing as your condition progresses. Saliva may accumulate in your mouth due to slowed swallowing, leading to drooling.
Chewing and eating problems. Late-stage Parkinson’s disease affects the muscles in your mouth, making chewing difficult. This can lead to choking and poor nutrition.
Sleep problems and sleep disorders. People with Parkinson’s disease often have sleep problems, including waking up frequently throughout the night, waking up early or falling asleep during the day.People may also experience rapid eye movement sleep behavior disorder, which involves acting out your dreams. Medications may help your sleep problems.
Bladder problems. Parkinson’s disease may cause bladder problems, including being unable to control urine or having difficulty urinating.
Constipation. Many people with Parkinson’s disease develop constipation, mainly due to a slower digestive tract.
You may also experience:
Blood pressure changes. You may feel dizzy or lightheaded when you stand due to a sudden drop in blood pressure (orthostatic hypotension).
Smell dysfunction. You may experience problems with your sense of smell. You may have difficulty identifying certain odors or the difference between odors.
Fatigue. Many people with Parkinson’s disease lose energy and experience fatigue, especially later in the day. The cause isn’t always known.
Pain. Some people with Parkinson’s disease experience pain, either in specific areas of their bodies or throughout their bodies.
Sexual dysfunction. Some people with Parkinson’s disease notice a decrease in sexual desire or performance.
There are a number of different drugs that may be utilized in the treatment of Parkinson’s Disease. The most popular include:
Carbidopa-levodopa. Levodopa, the most effective Parkinson’s disease medication, is a natural chemical that passes into your brain and is converted to dopamine.
Mental Health is a hot topic these days. More and more people are recognizing that they suffering in some way with depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder or other mental health issues.
Today I’d like to share 10 things that can help to improve your mental health. I hope you find these helpful.
1. Recognize There’s A Problem
The very first step to improving your mental health is recognizing there’s a problem. You may be feeling a sense of the blues that you can’t shake, or a generalized anxiety that you can’t control.
Perhaps you’re feeling out of control and going through severe mood swings from mania to depression. All you know for sure is that something is “off” and you need to figure out what it is. Whatever the case may be, recognizing something is wrong is the first step to making things better.
2. Ask For Help
Perhaps one of the hardest things we face in life is asking for help. We like to think we’re capable of handling whatever life throws at us, but it’s not always that simple. You may find that at work, you’re more than capable of tackling whatever you face, but at home it’s a different story. Or, perhaps you’ve faced challenges at home that seem easy, but at work, you’re struggling to find your place.
When you’re dealing with your mental health, you may already feel like you’re a failure. Asking for help could prove to be a very difficult thing to do, but if you don’t ask, you tend to stay stuck in the situation you’re finding hard to manage. Talk to your doctor about what you’re going through, or find a counselor or trusted friend that you can share your concerns with. Sometimes just the very act of sharing with someone can help you feel better without further steps.
3. Accept Help
Once you’ve asked for help, the next step is to actually accept the help that’s offered. This might mean medication for depression or Bipolar Disorder if diagnosed, or your doctor could have other recommendations such as Cognitive Behavior Therapy, Meditation, Yoga for stress, etc.
Accepting help doesn’t mean you will end up with a mental illness diagnosis. However getting a diagnosis simply means that your body may not be producing the right chemicals to help you feel the best you can. There are hundreds of diagnoses, including Depression, Schizophrenia, Narcissism, Bipolar Disorder, and more.
Basically, your mental health can be simple or complex. A doctor or counselor can help to diagnose what’s going on and offer you treatment options. There is no shame in having problems with your mental health. Mental health issues are not your fault and are no different than having a medical condition. With changing times, terminology should no longer hold the stigma it used to. We live in an age where awareness is everything and more and more people are admitting to mental illness in the hopes that we can eliminate the stigmas all together.
4. Get Active
It’s time to get active with your mental health treatment plan. Exercise is a great place to start and many doctors will encourage you to get out and do something physical to help you feel better. Biking, walking, swimming, golf, tennis…whatever you like to do is the best fit. Even 30 minutes a day of exercise can help to balance hormones, improve mood, lessen anxiety and encourage better sleep. Especially if you can do it in the sunshine!
5. Explore Medication
Your doctor may recommend that you start on an anti-depressant or other medication for your symptoms. Please realize that taking medication is not a sign of weakness…it simply means your brain isn’t producing the right chemicals and needs a boost.
I liken it to other diseases…you wouldn’t refuse medication for heart disease or a kidney problem and you wouldn’t have an issue taking something for Diabetes, so why would this be any different? If your brain isn’t creating the right chemical mix, medication is an easy way to correct the problem and bring things back into balance.
Of course ultimately, it’s your choice. Psych meds can have a range of scary side effects and it can sometimes take years to find one that will work right for you. There are also alternatives to medication use. For a list of options, click here.
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6. Cognitive Behavior Therapy
Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) focuses on challenging and changing unhelpful thoughts, beliefs, attitudes and behaviors, improving your emotional response and aiding in the development of personal coping strategies that target solving current problems.
CBT rests on the idea that thoughts and perceptions influence behavior. Feeling distressed, in some cases, may distort one’s perception of reality. CBT aims to identify harmful thoughts, assess whether they are an accurate depiction of reality, and, if they are not, employ strategies to challenge and overcome them.
CBT is appropriate for people of all ages, including children, teens, and adults. Evidence has mounted that CBT can benefit numerous conditions, such as major depressive disorder, anxiety disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder, eating disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorders, and many others. Research also indicates that CBT can be delivered effectively online, in addition to face-to-face therapy sessions.
This link gives you a quick overview of what CBT is and how it works. Ask your doctor for a referral to a certified CBT professional if you think this type of therapy could be helpful for you.
7. Yoga* and Tai Chi
As discussed, exercise is a good way of helping you feel better about yourself. Some people find Yoga and/or Tai Chi to be of great benefit when they are struggling with mental health issues.
The discipline involved with following regulated steps in a slow and deliberate fashion helps to calm the mind and put the focus on your overall well-being. Feeling your muscles working together can be very soothing and the slow movements are safe for just about everyone. Mastering the various forms gives you a sense of success which can be great incentive to keep going.
*Please note: Yoga is not recommended for people with hypermobility. Thank you.
Your body needs fuel to function and good nutrition is key to feeling well physically and mentally. By following a healthy eating plan and getting plenty of fresh fruit, vegetables, whole grains and protein, you are aiding your body in running in top condition.
Caffeine may or may not fit into your life – some people find it makes them jittery, others have no problems. Try adding more water to your daily intake – it helps lubricate your brain and joints and keeps you hydrated for optimal function. Avoid sugary beverages as much as possible – they don’t add any value to your health.
9. Spiritual Practices
Being spiritual doesn’t mean being religious, but both can have a place in your life. If you are religious, you may find prayer to be of comfort while you deal with your mental health. If religion is not your thing, spirituality can come from the sense of a Higher Power, Nature, Music or other practices.
Try to engage in your Spirituality/Religion on a daily basis – you may find a time of prayer, being in nature or listening to music to be of value when done at the same time every day. Some people like to do this in the morning, when the day is fresh in front of them. Others prefer to do this at night, so they can reflect on the day.
Whatever time you choose, it’s your time to be honest with your beliefs and to honor them in a way that feels authentic to you.
Many people who live with mental health issues find journaling to be of value. Being able to honestly reflect on your life without fear of others reading your words can bring great comfort. The key is to write honestly about your feelings, not worrying about recriminations and criticism.
Choose a time to journal when it’s quiet and you won’t be interrupted. Set the stage with a cup of tea or other beverage, find a quiet writing nook and let yourself go. Don’t worry about impressing yourself with perfect grammar – just let yourself go and free flow with the writing. Unless you choose to share your journal with others, this is for your eyes only.
The freedom that comes with writing can bring clarity to your life and help you recognize areas that might need improvement, which then leads to greater understanding and happiness.
A Few Final Thoughts
I hope these 10 steps help you to realize that mental health issues are important and need to be taken seriously. You deserve to feel your best and when you’re not, everything else seems to get bogged down.
By attending to your mental health, you are actually doing your physical body a favor as well, since you’re bound to feel better in all ways when you’re feeling better mentally.
Recognize the problem, ask for help and try some of the steps above and see if things improve. Your doctor is always a great place to start and counseling is almost always worthwhile. You owe it to yourself to be your best version of you. Remember,
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.
It’s time for the annual series I run on There Is Always Hope called Interview October. I have spent time asking questions about health conditions that these amazing people are living with, and their replies help bring education and hope to my readers.
Today, we’re meeting my dear friend Michelle Curtis who runs the blog site The Zebra Pit. Let’s hear her story!
Include a photograph of yourself:
Introduce yourself and tell us a bit about you…
Hello! I’m a 47 year old queer disabled woman living in greater Cincinnati. I live a housebound life due to my conditions. Though I am completely disabled by my conditions, I work from home doing freelance writing and managing two websites. Lately, I’ve been working on reviving my creative writing career as a poet and fiction writer, as I’ve managed to improve my cognitive deficits enough to go back to writing and editing some shorter works.
I have been happily married for over 13 years and have a grown stepson whom I love very much, but get to see very little. I am an avid fan of the arts (both high brow and pop), music and nature and consider myself a lifelong learner. I am a huge fan of sci-fi and fantasy, love to learn about astronomy, archeology and science, and spent much of my life protesting the abuse of marginalized peoples and our planet.
I hold a BA in women, gender and sexuality studies with minors in ethnic studies and creative writing and a master of fine arts degree in creative writing. Prior to becoming disabled by my conditions, I worked as everything from a cab driver to a college instructor and have experience in the fields of education, communications, business administration, human resources, healthcare and non-profits, not to mention my illustrious career in retail and banking prior to going to college.
One fascinating fact about me is:
This is always a hard question for me. I think all people are fascinating when you get to know them. I guess the thing that people are usually fascinated the most with is that almost nothing about me is considered conventional: I have disabling genetic disorders, I am neurodivergent, atheist yet spiritual, pansexual and feminist.
Chronic illness(es)/disabilities I have…
I am what is known as a Trifecta Zebra, as I have a trio of rare illnesses that are often seen together; Hypermobile Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (hEDS), Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome (POTS), and Mast Cell Activation Syndrome (MCAS). I also have gastroparesis, IBS, Fibromyalgia, ME/CFS, Dystonia, cognitive dysfunction with significant memory loss (both long and short term), coronary arterial spasm, degenerative disc disease, osteoarthritis, CRPS in my right leg, endometriosis, and intractable migraine. I strongly suspect and am seeking diagnosis for chairi and/or craniocervical instability and autism.
My symptoms/condition began…
As a child, though my symptoms wouldn’t become really apparent until early adulthood.
My diagnosis process was…
Fraught with misdiagnoses and errors. Despite my many health problems which I reported to every doctor, I was not diagnosed with EDS until I was almost 45. I was first diagnosed with fibromyalgia around age 40 and CSF a couple of years later. A couple of years after that, I was diagnosed with POTS. I had to find EDS and MCAS, figure out that I had them and then find doctors to diagnose and begin treating them.
The hardest part of living with my illness/disabilities is…
The cognitive dysfunction. I had developmental delays as a child and everyone thought I was just plain stupid and wouldn’t do much in life. I had terrible self-esteem and no faith in my abilities. I didn’t figure out I was probably pretty smart until my mid-twenties and finally went to college because I simply couldn’t manage doing the only sorts of jobs I could get, those with a high level of physical labor.
I spent years working toward a career I thought would save me and that I loved more than I could ever imagine allowing myself to love anything. By the time I was done, I no longer had the cognitive ability left to actually do the work I’d been trained for, even if I could find ways to accommodate my deteriorating tissues.
I’m glad I’ve found new things to consume my life with and I can’t say I regret the journey. But the knowledge that I could have had a brilliant career had I the capacity to go on is sometimes too much psychic pain to bear. These days I try very hard to focus on what I can accomplish and find focusing on the present helps me to avoid these hard truths.
A typical day for me involves…
I like to say I live on tilt, because I quite literally have to. If I spend too much time in the upright position, I suffer terrible pain and cognitive symptoms and sometimes have seizures. If I’m flat on my back, I develop pain in the back of my head. So I spend much of my day tilted back in a recliner, working on my blogs and writing, trying to avoid the pain caused by being completely upright or completely prone.
Most of my time spent upright is to cook (I cannot tolerate processed foods at all), do therapies and keep up my movement routines of recumbent bike riding and strengthening exercises. In the evening, I try to relax in front of the TV or with a good book.
The one thing I cannot live without is…
Myofascial therapy! I’d be in so much pain if not for it!
Being ill/disabled has taught me…
Never to judge other people’s lives or make assumptions about why someone does something.
My support system is…
My husband is my primary source of support, but we both have chronic health conditions so things can get pretty hairy from time to time, but we usually manage! The remainder of my support comes from within the chronic illness/spoonie community.
I know there are any number of people I can turn to for emotional support or needed advice regarding my health and wellness. I would be lost without them, as I have few others in my life.
If I had one day symptom/disability-free I would…
It would be a lot like Ferris Buehler’s Day Off without the teen angst! A great deal of sightseeing, dancing and celebrating of life, topped off by an exciting and romantic evening of a show, an amazing dinner, more dancing and a carriage ride around Fountain Square.
One positive of having a chronic illness/disability is…
It’s made me take responsibility for my mental health and taught me what real support looks like, allowing me to walk away from all the toxic people in my life.
One final thing I want people to know is:
No matter how bad things get, there’s always the possibility that things will get better, as long as you keep fighting. I spent years so inundated by symptoms and disabled by my health that I could no longer see the point of living. I nearly took my own life.
I’m so glad I managed to pull myself out of that deep depression, because it turns out I have quite a lot of life left in me. How did I succeed? I started saying yes to anything that I thought could help, searching exhaustively for solutions. It worked! I found my correct diagnoses and ways to treat my pain and symptoms that affords me a life I can live with.
Now I also have some joy and a sense of my own strength. I may not have beat chronic illness, but I am doing a pretty good job of not letting it defeat me and helping others to also find things to help them.
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,
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.
If you are a patient with Fibromyalgia or another Invisible Illness, chances are you’ve felt depressed at some point. Depression is prominent in fibromyalgia patients with the risk of getting depressive symptoms at least once being about 90% and getting major depressive disorder (MDD) being about 62–86% in fibromyalgia patients*.By following an appropriate fibromyalgia treatment plan and getting the support of family and friends, you can take control of your fibromyalgia. You can also get control over your symptoms of depression and improve your quality of life.
What Is Depression?
Sadness is a normal reaction to loss or life’s struggles. Depression surpasses sadness and becomes a problem that affects your whole life. People who are depressed commonly experience:
Loss of interest in activities you used to enjoy
weight loss or gain
thoughts about death
Irritability and guilt
Anxiety that won’t go away
Insecurity and a feeling of helplessness
difficulty concentrating or making decisions
These thoughts, physical changes, and feelings interfere with daily life.
What Is the Link Between Fibromyalgia and Depression?
The stress from fibromyalgia’s pain and fatigue can cause anxiety and social isolation. The chronic deep muscle and tender point pain can result in less activity. That causes you to become more withdrawn and can also lead to depression. It is also possible that anxiety and depression are part of fibromyalgia, just like the pain.
Depression and fibromyalgia can greatly interfere with the way you manage your activities at home or at work. So it is important to openly discuss any symptoms of depression you have with your doctors.
Does Stress Increase Depression With Fibromyalgia?
The stress of living with chronic pain and relentless fatigue can put a person into “overload.” This results in near catastrophic levels of nervousness and anxiety. Doctors aren’t certain yet whether stress brings on Fibromyalgia or if Fibromyalgia brings on stress. All we know for certain is that it’s a vicious circle and that stress adds to problems of anger and irritability. Most patients feel their pain and fatigue worsening over time.
Is Depression Common With Invisible Illness?
Feelings of depression are common with all types of chronic pain, including headache, back and neck pain, hip pain, shoulder pain, and the pain of fibromyalgia. For example, the prevalence of major depression in people with chronic low back pain is about three times greater than in the general population.
Continuing that vicious circle, being depressed also increases the risk of developing chronic pain. Patients describe greater disturbances because of pain and display more pain behaviours than other pain patients who are not depressed.
One of the worst things that happens is that people with chronic pain such as fibromyalgia start to isolate themselves from family and friends at a time when they often need them the most. They become more focused on their pain, which causes further withdrawal which then causes more depression and round and round it goes.
Ways to Ease Depression With Fibromyalgia
It’s important to understand that fibromyalgia is more than the deep muscle pain and tender points you feel. It encompasses everything about you — your feelings, emotions, and attitude; the way you respond to stress; and the way you communicate with others.
The good news is, though, that while there is no cure, the fibromyalgia pain and symptoms of depression can be successfully treated.
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy
One of the most effective treatments for fibromyalgia and depression is a program called cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). CBT is a type of treatment that helps patients understand the thoughts and feelings that influence behaviours. CBT is commonly used to treat a wide range of disorders, including depression, and anxiety.
Cognitive behaviour therapy is generally short-term and focused on helping clients deal with a very specific problem. During the course of treatment, people learn how to identify and change destructive or disturbing thought patterns that have a negative influence on behaviour and emotions.
This negative self-talk can fuel a sense that negative experiences are catastrophes, which further increases stress, anxiety, depression, and pain.
Your doctor can refer you to a CBT program offered individually (often online) or in a group format.
Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR)
This program, which teaches mindfulness to patients, had demonstrated remarkable benefits for reducing fibromyalgia pain as well as anxiety and depression. “Mindfulness is an awareness that arises through paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgmentally,” according to Jon Kabat-Zinn, a pioneer of mindfulness in medicine.
Being mindful means intentionally being present with your breath, thoughts, feelings, and sensations. You can practice mindfulness through meditation, body scans, mindful eating, or mindful movements like yoga or Tai Chi.
You can find an MBSR program offered in your community through your doctor.
Music for Pain Management
Music has a powerful effect on the mind – listening to music is associated with the release of dopamine, a feel-good neurotransmitter that is known to have a role in the body’s natural pain-relieving mechanisms. It also produces relaxation, which in turn can help to lift your mood and ease your pain.
A study published in Science Daily found that, when people with chronic pain listen to music for an hour a day, they experienced up to a 21 per cent reduction in pain and a 25 per cent reduction in depression. Additionally, they found that listening to music made participants feel less disabled by their condition and more in control of their pain.
Music that you find relaxing is likely to be the most effective for improving mood and pain levels. However, music doesn’t have to be soft and soothing to be effective. Whatever type of music makes you happy is the best kind to listen to, so go ahead and turn on Rock & Roll, Grunge, Heavy Metal or Classical…it’s your choice.
Medication does have a role in treating depression in people living with Fibromyalgia or other Invisible Illnesses. Only your doctor can know for sure if you require medication so it’s important you seek medical care if you are experiencing the symptoms of depression. The goal is to help you feel better and often a short course of medication might be an option in conjunction with one of the above treatment options as well.
As you can see, depression can wreak havoc on the body already plagued by Fibromyalgia. Don’t let it isolate you from your family and friends. If you’re experiencing signs of depression, seek help. The sooner you start, the better the chances are of decreasing your pain and suffering and getting you back on track to better health.
It’s time to meet my next guest, the wonderful Jennifer Purrvis!
Introduce Yourself and tell us a bit about you….
My name is Jen. I grew up in the Houston area but live in Wellington, New Zealand. I moved to New Zealand when I was 19 and have lived in various areas in NZ but have kicked around in the capital city for 11 years. I have one daughter who will be 14 and 4 cats. I am single but formerly married. I’m a terrible cook but enjoy baking. I’m currently studying towards a Bachelor of Science in Psychology and hope to get admitted into a Masters of Forensic Psychology programme once I complete my undergraduate. I run Chronic Illness Cat, mostly on Facebook, but you’ll have seen us on other platforms too. Muffin is a real cat, who lives in France, but her dad is from Nelson in New Zealand. He sometimes comes back for a visit but we’ve never met up, though we should.
Chronic Illnesses/Disabilities I have…
I grew up a child of anxiety and depression. After I had my daughter I became severely agoraphobic and was diagnosed with a mood disorder, not otherwise specified. This would finally be diagnosed as Bipolar Disorder in 2018. I also have PMDD.In 2007, I nearly lost my life after a doctor bagged an IV of an antibiotic I was orange banded as allergic to. I saw a huge white light. I felt a shock hit my body and felt fire ants start biting all over my body. That’s really all I remember. When I woke up I couldn’t unfold my arms or bear weight on my body. It would take years to regain my independence, my tolerance, my sanity. I was so, so angry about the disability attacking me, the pain I was constantly fighting and everything I was losing. It’s been nearly 12 years and things are so much better. I’m so much happier and freer and independent. However, in the last year, I’ve been diagnosed with Autoimmune Urticaria and I’m now on higher dose Cyclosporine. I’ve started to feel those dark shadows creeping in again. The pain is returning, so is the tiredness, reliance on drugs for pain, and I worry about stepping so far back.
My symptoms conditions began…
As a kid. I think I’ve always had an autoimmune disease. I first started getting fevers when I was 2 weeks old. I was just always sick. Always tired. I caught mono twice as a teen. I had chicken pox so severe as a kid I had them down my throat. I know I was severely depressed at 12. I had sleeping issues as a teen. I had coping methods that were not safe or would be suggested. I had a devastating eating disorder.
The night I got so sick back in 2007 was a normal night. I felt slightly off and started feeling worse and worse. I asked to go to the Emergency Department. I expected to have an infection but I didn’t expect to find myself fighting for my life. It turns out I had suspected sepsis. The bag of antibiotics was important, but so was understanding the importance of orange banding of patient allergies.
Fast Forward to the present and the first few days of realising I was getting sick again were terrifying. I knew something was wrong, but I never expected it to be something so full on. The first symptom I started experiencing was itching when sweating. Whenever and wherever the sweat would touch, I would feel like a jellyfish sting and hideous itching. I put it down to being ‘dirty’. The second major symptom that developed was a reaction to showering. Wherever the water hit, another jellyfish-like sting would develop, with burning and itching. But following the itching and burning came nausea, a feeling of being overwhelmed in the head and vomiting.
I started taking antihistamines, antihistamines and h-blockers, more antihistamines and finally saw a specialist who told me that due to my previous history of trialling drugs, I was to start Cyclosporine. At first, I was really optimistic because I had 2 weeks of showering with very little symptoms. But then, as soon as it had arrived, the optimism left. All the symptoms were back.
My diagnosis process has been…
Confusing. When I was first sick in 2007, no one knew what was wrong with me. I saw specialists and doctors all the time. People had opinions from Lupus to Still’s Disease to MS to ‘just experiencing a shock’. To get better care, we sold our home and moved. I saw another specialist who told me I had Lupus and “was just being a woman about it”. I was put on every drug you could find. Nothing helped. Nothing improved.
I saw just about every rheumatologist in the capital city. No one had answers for me. In the end, I just stopped going. It wasn’t worth the money. When I started getting sick again, and the blood tests were all fine, it started feeling like deja vu all over again.
However, this time, the specialist knew that this was Autoimmune Urticaria and that I had some dermagraphica which made him feel more confident. It felt unusual that I actually had symptoms someone was familiar with. Though, he did feel there was more autoimmune going on and asked if I wanted to begin looking for that and I told him I didn’t. I just couldn’t face doing it all again.
The hardest part of living with my disability/illness is…
Not knowing if I’m ever going to live normally as other people do. Will I be able to work? Will I finish my studies? Will I ever be independent? It scares the hell out of me. What if the medicines just get worse? I can’t nap through life. These questions just go around and around my mind sometimes. Fears for my future feel almost disabling at times.
A typical day for me involves…
Waking at 6:30. If it’s my week with my daughter then I get up with her and help her get ready for school. Once she’s left for the bus, I head back to bed. If I’m not with her, I go back to sleep. I try to wake up at 6:30 regardless so as to keep a regular rhythm. Sleep is so crucial for the maintenance and care of the Bipolar person. When I wake up I have a cup of tea and run errands or study, depending on the day. It’s really important for me to keep my grades up, so studying is important.
I’ve gotten it into my head that I need to do some sort of exercise, even though I’m not supposed to change my body temperature and/or sweat. I have some hand weights and I’m looking into belly dancing on youtube. I want to stay active for my brain and I want to stay mobile. But gosh, I know I’ve lost a lot of dexterity and put on weight since I stopped going to the gym. Swimming is out, maybe yoga? Am I that cliche? Just do some yoga?
I try to eat normally but I’ve got some problems with eating and I take Seroquel at night, so that makes up for any lost calories I haven’t eaten during the day. Right now Married at First Sight Australia is on, so I’m pretty addicted to that. Otherwise, I just try to rest and study. Glamorous, right?
One thing I cannot live without is…
Hot tea. I’m thoroughly addicted to caffeine and classic Bell Tea with milk gets me through my day. I probably go through 6 to 8 tea bags a day. It’s probably the reason I actually can move. Also, probably why I don’t sleep much.
Being ill taught me…
To take nothing for granted and to be amazingly grateful for the gifts that I have. Being able to walk is tremendous. I spent 9 months on the couch. Slowly I learned to crawl, then scoot and then walk again. Amazing. Getting the energy to work in cat rescue and change litter pans and chase after cats made me forever grateful for the second chance I was given. Now I’m studying to become independent. I’ve got my brain back. I will never not be angry and horrendously filled with rage at what happened to me, but I will also never not be amazed and filled with gratitude that I am where I am today. I’m a survivor.
The advice I’d given someone newly diagnosed…
Is that life goes on. It’s different but it goes on. It’s like when the brand of your favourite chip alters things and it’s never the same but you just go on buying it all the same. You can’t pretend nothing has changed, but at the same time, you still enjoy it enough to keep buying it. Some days are going to be horrific. And you’ll cry. You’re entitled to cry. And get mad. And kick at things. But some days will be not so bad too. And hopefully, you’ll get more of those not so bad days soon enough. That’s all you can ask for. And hugs. Ask for hugs. No one will think less of you for doing so.
My support system is…
Really small. I have a really truly, true-blood ride or die best friend on the net but-not-imaginary friend who gets me and loves me and would do anything for me named Alice. She’s also on the Page. I hope one day to be able to explain to her how much she means to me. And to thank her for lifting me up on those really shitty days.
I have my ex who does a lot of practical things for me. I have my daughter who shouldn’t have to grow up so quickly. And myself. I lean on my GP, Simon, a lot. And that’s it. I do a lot of the emotional stuff myself. I’ve become a lot quieter and controlled. Well, the Abilify has made me that way. I could do with a therapist. And a boyfriend. But we’ll see.
If I had one symptom-free day…
Gosh, I’d just sleep. Nothing would hurt. I’d shower too. Wash my hair and not throw up. Go lay in the sun. And sweat. Imagine!
One positive of having a chronic illness is…
That it gives me an amazing sense of humour and fantastic charm. I can joke around with just about anyone and I relate to a large number of people going through many things. It’s given me a sense of empathy that’s lead me to psychology and wanting to care for others. I’ve always been sort of activist-y anyways, but being sick has really pushed that envelope in fighting for others to get the same rights and access, which has been super useful having a daughter with extra needs.
Thanks so much for having me. You can find me and Muffin at the links below. And me and my kitties on my personals.