Having a chronic illness like Fibromyalgia can be a very isolating experience. Many of us used to work and found a lot of our social life revolved around our jobs, whether it was getting together with the gang after work for drinks or volunteering with a workgroup for a community project. Often, a best friend was made at our jobs whom we would hang out with more frequently, and those sorts of friendships became treasured relationships to us.
After you become chronically ill though, you often have to give up working, and those relationships no longer exist, not even with the “best friend” that you made. How do you handle the loneliness that comes from that? We tend to not go out a lot in the first place, because of pain and fatigue, so without a reason to get together with former co-workers, there’s now more reason to isolate ourselves than ever. It’s depressing to know that you’re no longer “part of the gang” and that you don’t fit in anymore. It’s even more depressing to know that your former friends don’t even realize that they’ve shut you out. It’s just the natural progression of you no longer being at the job, and nothing personal.
But what happens when you try to reach out, to make plans, and people don’t return calls? Or when people reach out to you, but you’re unable to go, because their plans are too ambitious for you? I’d love to see people for coffee, but they always want to combine it with shopping followed by dinner and drinks afterwards, and that’s too much of a day for me. Lunch and shopping, I can do that on a good day, but then I want to go home. And if it’s a bad day, then I have to say no right from the start. And what happens if I start having too many bad days when friends want to get together? They stop calling, period. I am “too sick all the time” and no longer any fun to be with. It’s easy to get depressed when this happens.
It’s so frustrating when friends give up on you. I can’t control my good and bad days. I have no idea when a good day is going to go bad. I can feel great in the morning and then start to go downhill by the early afternoon. I try to explain that to people, but they don’t always understand how unpredictable Fibromyalgia can be. Sometimes it can change from hour to hour and even minute by minute. It’s like going outside in changing weather and never being sure of how many layers you should wear. Will you be too hot, too cold or just right? And what do you do with all those layers if you don’t need them?
There’s also the other side of the coin though. What if your friends continue to invite you out, but you keep turning them down? Your reasons seem valid; you’re in pain, it’s too much of a hassle, the weather is too difficult, you’re tired, or you just don’t feel like it. It’s easy to make excuses, but you also need to search the real reasons for saying no. Are the reasons you’re giving valid? Or are you turning down invitations because of depression?
Signs to Watch Out For
How do you know if you’re becoming depressed or socially isolated? Here are some signs to watch for:
Being less motivated to leave your home
Feeling more anxious or worried when leaving the house
Declining invitations from friends or family to meet or attend gatherings
Planning fewer social opportunities for yourself
Ignoring supports when they reach out to you
Seeing only negatives associated with social connections
If you recognize any of these symptoms, please see a doctor in order to be treated appropriately. If you want to be more socially active, but find your friends are not as available as they’ve been in the past, the following suggestions might be helpful for you:
Volunteer with like-minded people
Help out in an animal shelter
Take up a new hobby
Join a support group (in person or online)
Join a Social Group in your City (look on Craigslist)
Keep a journal – it can help put things in perspective
Loneliness can be hard to deal with, but with the right understanding and support, you can overcome it. Make sure you’re staying in touch with people and not isolating yourself, and reach out to others if your friends have stopped reaching out to you. It’s okay to move forward and make new friends. Listen to your body and do what’s right for you. If you’re feeling up to it, go out and make new friendships through volunteer work or so social groups. If you need to take a break from socializing, that’s fine. Just don’t fade into the woodwork. Remember, your presence is valued no matter how much of it you are able to give at any time. You are loved. And as I always say…
When you’ve been diagnosed with a chronic illness, you may feel as if you’ve lost control over your future. The stress of learning to deal with doctors and specialists, coping with physical changes, and managing daily life can often lead to excessive worry or stress. Researchers have found that experiencing a chronic illness puts a person at increased risk for developing anxiety or an anxiety disorder. Roughly 40% of people with cancer report experiencing psychological distress that often takes the shape of excessive worry or panic attacks.* People with ongoing, or chronic pain are three times more likely to develop symptoms of anxiety.**
The daily demands of living with a chronic illness continues to present challenges and generate anxiety long after the diagnosis has been given. Loss of mobility or other abilities can lead to worry about employment or financial concerns. Depending on others, worrying about becoming a burden or even intimacy with your partner may also be concerns. Some people are more easily able to adapt to the changes in their lives. Others may feel overwhelmed with anxiety and struggle to cope. Still others may be in limbo, unable to make decisions about their future.
The Most Common Anxiety Disorders are:
1. Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) involves excessive and uncontrollable worry about everyday things, such as health, money or work. It is accompanied by physical symptoms such as restlessness, irritability, muscle tension, fatigue and difficulty sleeping or concentrating. 2. Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) entails persistent, recurring thoughts (obsessions) that reflect exaggerated anxiety or fears. Someone with OCD often will practice repetitive behaviors or rituals (compulsions). For instance, obsessing about germs may lead someone with OCD to compulsively washing hands—perhaps 50 times or more per day. 3. Panic Disorder includes severe attacks of terror or sudden rushes of intense anxiety and discomfort. Symptoms can mimic those found in heart disease, respiratory problems or thyroid problems, and individuals often fear they are dying, having a heart attack or about to faint. The symptoms experienced during a panic attack are real and overwhelming, but not life threatening. 4. Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) can follow exposure to a traumatic event, such as a car accident, rape, a terrorist attack or other violence. Symptoms include reliving the traumatic event, avoidance, detachment or difficulty sleeping and concentrating. Though it is commonly associated with veterans, any traumatic event can trigger PTSD. 5. Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD) is characterized by extreme anxiety about being judged by others or behaving in a way that might cause embarrassment or ridicule. People who have SAD have what feels like exaggerated stage fright all the time. SAD is also called social phobia.
Specific phobias are intense fear reactions that lead a person to avoid specific objects, places or situations, such as flying, heights or highway driving. The level of fear is excessive and unreasonable. Although the person with a phobia recognizes the fear as being irrational, even simply thinking about it can cause extreme anxiety. I personally am terrified of the Dentist, even though they treat me gently and with compassion. I have to take medication to help relax me in order to go for a simple cleaning.
Fortunately, anxiety is treatable with therapy, medication and complementary and alternative treatments (i.e. acupuncture, massage therapy, ). But when the focus is on the chronic illness, anxiety is often overlooked. That’s why it’s important to talk to your doctor about your emotional and cognitive health, and to speak up when you experience signs of anxiety.
Emotional symptoms of anxiety include:
Becoming easily agitated, frustrated, and moody
Feeling overwhelmed, like you are losing control or need to take control
Having difficulty relaxing and quieting your mind
Feeling bad about yourself (low self-esteem), lonely, worthless, and depressed
Physical symptoms of anxiety include:
Upset stomach, including diarrhea, constipation, and nausea
Aches, pains, and tense muscles
Chest pain and rapid heartbeat
Frequent colds and infections
Loss of sexual desire and/or ability
Nervousness and shaking, ringing in the ear, cold or sweaty hands and feet
Dry mouth and difficulty swallowing
Clenched jaw and grinding teeth
Cognitive symptoms of stress include:
Forgetfulness and disorganization
Inability to focus
Being pessimistic or seeing only the negative side
What You Can Do
Challenge negative thinking. When you’re anxious, your brain may jump to conclusions, assume the worst, or exaggerate. Catastrophizing and ignoring the positives in your life may occur when you live with the challenges of a chronic illness. One way to manage anxiety is by being aware of the negative thinking, examining it and challenge the irrational thoughts. Counselors/therapists can play an important role in teaching you this important coping skill.
Calm your mind. Relaxation techniques can be an effective way to calm anxious thinking and direct your mind to a more positive place. Consider whether mindfulness meditation, yoga, or other breathing and focusing practices can still your body. Taking time to relax, increases your ability to think objectively and positively when it comes to making choices about your health and life.
Find a good Doctor. If you take medication for both mental and for physical health, it’s important to that your doctors are aware of all your medications. Some medications may actually escalate anxiety, so it’s essential to work with a prescriber who can make informed choices that address both conditions without worsening either.
Find a support group. Managing a chronic illness can be a lonely job as it may be difficult for loved ones to understand the unique challenges. Support groups, whether online or in person are wonderful for creating community but also for providing information that can help reduce worry. They can also connect you to valuable resources for treating your illness.
Acknowledge successes. Anxious thinking about chronic illness can keep you from feeling that you have control over anything in life. It’s important to acknowledge all successes, both big and small. Keep track of the healthy things you do for your mind and body. Exercising, going to counseling, spending time with a friend–these can all help. Keeping these successes at the front of your mind can help you combat worry. They can remind you that you do have the power to affect your present and future.
If you think that you might have anxiety in addition to chronic illness, be honest with your doctor. Ask for help. Anxiety is highly treatable, so remember…
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)?
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.
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:
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.
Chronic Pain can be so debilitating that you may sometimes wish for an end to it all. Although I will touch on assisted suicide in this post, it’s also never too early to have your plans in place for end of life care and preparations for what happens when you do pass away. It’s a difficult subject that no one wants to talk about but I’ve never been one to shy away from the hard topics before.
Wills and Financial Planning
Speak with your lawyer and make sure you have a current will. Discuss estate planning, trust funds, donations and any other legal matters so everything is up to date. Your Financial Planner can also help you set up your affairs so that it’s easy for your family to follow your plans. Make sure your financial planning is sound and in line with personal desires.
Make a Plan
To ensure your end-of-life care is handled the way you want, make a comprehensive plan. This allows you to outline everything about the care you wish to receive once you are no longer capable of making your own decisions (like pain management or DNR instructions). Involve your family and friends in your end-of-life plan so that anyone who might be responsible for your care knows exactly what your wishes are. Have them use it like a guide, and be sure to talk through anything they might not agree with or understand to make sure they know why you want things a certain way.
Keeping your loved ones in the mix serves multiple purposes: Not only does it help you better protect yourself, it helps them process and work through your ailing years and eventual passing. A plan you’ve discussed and prepared your family for will bring them ease and relieve a huge burden.
Talk to them about those feelings of loss. Make sure they have an understanding of what to do when that loss happens to help them cope; how to ask for help, how to get help with those feelings. Helping your loved ones can also help you come to terms with your own end-of-life process. You may have many years to live or your health may be such that you are facing the end of your life much sooner. Being prepared for death is perhaps the most difficult thing you will ever experience in your life. Here are a few things to consider:
Say the “6 Things” you need to say to your loved ones, friends and enemies. It is never too early to say these things.
“I forgive you.”
“I love you.”
“It’s OK to die.”
What are my beliefs about death? Do I need to make peace with myself or a Higher Power?
Do I need psychological, emotional, spiritual care, counseling or support?
Have I left a legacy? Identify life lessons, advice, hopes and dreams that you would like to pass on to family and friends. Write or record these. Identify a person who can pass these along to the people to those whom you wish to receive your legacy.
Have I written my personal history? You can write it down, or record on audio or video tape, etc. Who is to get my personal history?
Many people decide nowadays to make their funeral arrangements in advance, to spare their family the task in their time of grief. Most reputable Funeral homes have options to pre-pay for services including cremation, caskets, urns, plots, etc., so you can rest assured that everything is taken care of in advance. Contact the Funeral Home of your choice to discuss your wishes with them. Most of them offer a free planning book as well to help you organize all your paperwork in the event of your death – your wills, banking information, life insurance, important contacts, etc.
Assisted Suicide is a very controversial topic these days. I want to state clearly that I am FOR assisted suicide when every option has been played out and a terminally ill person has reached a point in their health journey where they have no further reason to go on. People who opt for AS are not looking for a quick solution – they have put a lot of time and thought into their decision and they know it’s the right choice for them.
We treat our animals more humanely than we do people, and when the time has come when a person is ready to die, I think we owe them the option to do so with dignity. I live in Canada, where Euthanasia became legal in 2016 for patients experiencing intolerable suffering. Strict laws govern access to legal assisted suicide in Canada and there have been at least 744 assisted deaths since the law was first passed.
These are hard things to talk about, but the fact remains that the more prepared you are in advance, the easier things will be in a crisis later. Just remember though that despite the nature of chronic pain, everything is worth fighting for… love, laughter and life itself. It is always my signature at the end of each post but today, I mean it even more…
Do you find yourself feeling more pain after the holidays are over? More physical pain seems natural because of all the running around that we do with Christmas and New Years and the extra work that happens to make the holidays special. What about the post holiday blues? Do you find yourself feeling more mental pain when the holidays are over? More depression, or more Seasonal Sadness? How do you manage that and where is it coming from?
Some of it comes from the Holidays themselves. Often, we project what we want them to look like instead of accepting the reality of what they actually are for us. We want the perfect family around the perfect tree with perfect presents and everyone getting along in perfect harmony. What happens instead is the stress of buying, decorating, cooking and cleaning all while appeasing children, spouse and family members who may or may not be speaking to each other on the big day. No wonder you’re left with a huge let down after the New Year rolls in.
Financial stress plays a huge role as well, once those credit card bills start showing up in January. Even if you swore you wouldn’t have a credit card Christmas or Hanukkah, chances are you’re still looking at some expenses that you weren’t expecting, and now you need to do some budget adjusting. That’s enough to make anyone feel blue. And if you’re one of the many people who put your entire holiday shopping on your credit card, you’ll be feeling the hit even harder.
The weather also plays a huge part in how we feel in the New Year. Depending on where you live, you could be seeing sunshine and cold temperatures, mild temperatures and rain, or bitterly cold and snow, or any combination in between. The days are short and darkness prevails. Seasonal Affectiveness Disorder is a real condition that deeply alters the lives of more people than we realize. Getting out into the natural sunlight is the best remedy, but the alternate is to use a special lamp to get the light you need to function properly during the winter months.
How else can you combat these Post Holiday Blues? Here is a list of suggestions that might help:
Limit alcohol – Now that the holidays are over, start to limit your alcohol intake, and try not to keep it readily available around your house. Drink lots of water to flush your system and get back to good nutrition.
Get plenty of sleep – Try to go to bed at a specific time each night. Being well-rested can improve your mood and help you feel ready to take on the day.
Exercise regularly – Plug in your headphones and pop out for a walk around the block a couple of times a day. A quick 10-minute walk will get your heart rate up and release mood-boosting endorphins.
Learn to say “no” – Overscheduling and not making time for yourself can lead to emotional breakdowns. Learn how to say “no,” and stay firm on your decision.
Reflect on the Special Moments –
Grab a hot tea or hot chocolate, sit by the fireplace, and reflect on what you loved about this holiday season.
What was the best conversation you had?
What was the most thoughtful gift you received?
What was the funniest thing that happened?
What was one disaster that turned into a blessing or a great memory?
Try Something New – New Year, new hobbies! Make up your mind to try something new this year. Take a class, return to an old hobby, or pick up a new one.
Make a Budget – No one likes to dwell on financial stuff, but vow to make a budget this year and then stick to it. You’ll be amazed at how much stress relief this can offer you when you see exactly where you money is going and how much you can actually save every single month. Buy software for your computer to help you, download an app or get a book to make it easier.
Volunteer – If you can spare a bit of time each week or each month, consider doing some volunteer work in an area that interests you the most. From working with kids, seniors, or animals to helping with community arts and theatre, health organizations or your local Downtown Business Association, there are so many places that can use your help. Even just a couple of hours a month makes a difference when we all pitch in together.
Give Blood – Another way to help others, if you are physically able to donate blood, please consider giving. There’s nothing like being a Lifesaver to make you feel good!
Keep a Gratitude Journal – Each day, write down three things you are grateful for.
Can you come up with your own suggestions for this list to make it your own? If and when you do, share your ideas with your friends and in the comment section below. One thing I do want to remind you of is that if the Post Holiday Blues tend to linger on for longer than a month, you may want to speak to your doctor. You could be experiencing something more than just “Post Holiday Blues” and require proper medical care. Don’t ever be afraid to ask for help if you feel dark thoughts or deep depression. There is help available and absolutely NO shame in asking for it. I live with Bipolar Disorder and have to be very careful during and after the holidays that my mania isn’t triggered because I would go on shopping binges.
In the Spirit of the Season, here are 50 Christmas quotes to help bring good cheer to your heart during the holidays. Thanks to the website Daring To Live Fully for the list.
1. “I sometimes think we expect too much of Christmas Day. We try to crowd into it the long arrears of kindliness and humanity of the whole year. As for me, I like to take my Christmas a little at a time, all through the year. And thus I drift along into the holidays – let them overtake me unexpectedly – waking up some fine morning and suddenly saying to myself: ‘Why, this is Christmas Day!’”
~ David Grayson
2. “It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas;
Soon the bells will start,
And the thing that will make them ring
Is the carol that you sing
Right within your heart.”
~ Meredith Willson, “It’s Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas”
3. “Christmas gift suggestions: to your enemy, forgiveness. To an opponent, tolerance. To a friend, your heart. To a customer, service. To all, charity. To every child, a good example. To yourself, respect.”
~ Oren Arnold
5. “Gifts of time and love are surely the basic ingredients of a truly merry Christmas.”
~ Peg Bracken
6. “Instead of being a time of unusual behavior, Christmas is perhaps the only time in the year when people can obey their natural impulses and express their true sentiments without feeling self-conscious and, perhaps, foolish. Christmas, in short, is about the only chance a man has to be himself.”
~ Francis C. Farley
7. “It is Christmas in the heart that puts Christmas in the air.”
~ W.T. Ellis
8. “Christmas waves a magic wand over this world, and behold, everything is softer and more beautiful.”
~ Norman Vincent Peale
9. “Christmas now surrounds us,
Happiness is everywhere
Our hands are busy with many tasks
As carols fill the air.”
~ Shirley Sallay
10. “Each sight, each sound of Christmas
And fragrances sublime
Make hearts and faces happy
This glorious Christmastime.”
~ Carice Williams
11. “Blessed is the season which engages the whole world in a conspiracy of love!”
~ Hamilton Wright Mabie
12. “Christmas is not as much about opening our presents as opening our hearts.”
~ Janice Maeditere
13. “Love is what’s in the room with you at Christmas if you stop opening presents and listen.”
~ Author unknown, attributed to a 7-year-old named Bobby
14. “I wish we could put up some of the Christmas spirit in jars and open a jar of it every month.”
~ Harlan Miller
15. “Christmas is the season of joy, of holiday greetings exchanged, of gift-giving, and of families united.”
~ Norman Vincent Peale
16. “Christmas is most truly Christmas when we celebrate it by giving the light of love to those who need it most.”
~ Ruth Carter Stapleton
17. “Good news from heaven the angels bring,
Glad tidings to the earth they sing:
To us this day a child is given,
To crown us with the joy of heaven.”
~ Martin Luther
18. “The best of all gifts around any Christmas tree: the presence of a happy family all wrapped up in each other.”
~ Burton Hillis
19. “Probably the reason we all go so haywire at Christmas time with the endless unrestrained and often silly buying of gifts is that we don’t quite know how to put our love into words.”
~ Harlan Miller
20. “For centuries men have kept an appointment with Christmas. Christmas means fellowship, feasting, giving and receiving, a time of good cheer, home.”
~ W. J. Tucker
21. “Christmas is not just a time for festivity and merry making. It is more than that. It is a time for the contemplation of eternal things. The Christmas spirit is a spirit of giving and forgiving.”
~ J. C. Penney
22. “I heard the bells on Christmas Day
Their old, familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet
The words repeat
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!”
~ Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
23. “I love the Christmas-tide, and yet,
I notice this, each year I live;
I always like the gifts I get,
But how I love the gifts I give!”
~ Carolyn Wells
24. “Mankind is a great, an immense family. This is proved by what we feel in our hearts at Christmas.”
~ Pope John XXIII
25. “Let us have music for Christmas…
Sound the trumpet of joy and rebirth;
Let each of us try, with a song in our hearts,
To bring peace to men on earth.”
~ Mildred L. Jarrell
26. “Christmas is not a time or a season but a state of mind. To cherish peace and good will, to be plenteous in mercy, is to have the real spirit of Christmas.”
~ Calvin Coolidge
27. “I don’t think Christmas is necessarily about things. It’s about being good to one another, it’s about the Christian ethic, it’s about kindness.”
~ Carrie Fisher
28. “What is Christmas? It is tenderness for the past, courage for the present, hope for the future. It is a fervent wish that every cup may overflow with blessings rich and eternal, and that every path may lead to peace.”
~ Agnes M. Pharo
29. “May Christmas lend a special charm
To all you chance to do.
And may the season light your way
To hopes and dreams anew.”
~ Garnett Ann Schultz, “My Christmas Wish”
30. “I’m dreaming of a white Christmas,
Just like the ones I used to know,
Where the tree tops glisten
And children listen
To hear sleigh bells in the snow.”
~ Irving Berlin
31. “I will honor Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year.”
~ Charles Dickens, Ebeneezer Scrooge, A Christmas Carol
32. “And the Grinch, with his Grinch-feet ice cold in the snow, stood puzzling and puzzling, how could it be so? It came without ribbons. It came without tags. It came without packages, boxes or bags. And he puzzled and puzzled ’till his puzzler was sore. Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before. What if Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store. What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more.”
~ Dr Seuss
33. “The merry family gatherings–
The old, the very young;
The strangely lovely way they
Harmonize in carols sung.
For Christmas is tradition time–
Traditions that recall
The precious memories down the years,
The sameness of them all.”
~ Helen Lowrie Marshall
34. “Christmas is forever, not for just one day,
for loving, sharing, giving, are not to put away
like bells and lights and tinsel, in some box upon a shelf.
The good you do for others is good you do yourself.”
~ Norman Wesley Brooks, “Let Every Day Be Christmas”
35. “This time of year means being kind
to everyone we meet,
To share a smile with strangers
we may pass along the street.”
~ Betty Black
36. “Until one feels the spirit of Christmas, there is no Christmas. All else is outward display–so much tinsel and decorations. For it isn’t the holly, it isn’t the snow. It isn’t the tree not the firelight’s glow. It’s the warmth that comes to the hearts of men when the Christmas spirit returns again.”
37. “There is a Christmas song upon the air,
There is a joy innate within the heart;
An inner sense of peace, a holy light
Illumines life and sets these days apart.”
~ Edna Greene Hines
38. “I am not alone at all, I thought. I was never alone at all. And that, of course, is the message of Christmas. We are never alone. Not when the night is darkest, the wind coldest, the world seemingly most indifferent. For this is still the time God chooses.”
~ Taylor Caldwell
39. “Christmas in Bethlehem. The ancient dream: a cold, clear night made brilliant by a glorious star, the smell of incense, shepherds and wise men falling to their knees in adoration of the sweet baby, the incarnation of perfect love.”
~ Lucinda Franks
40. “Are you willing to believe that love is the strongest thing in the world – stronger than hate, stronger than evil, stronger than death – and that the blessed life which began in Bethlehem nineteen hundred years ago is the image and brightness of the Eternal Love? Then you can keep Christmas.”
~ Henry Van Dyke
41. “Ask your children two questions this Christmas. First: What do you want to give to others for Christmas? Second: What do you want for Christmas? The first fosters generosity of heart and an outward focus. The second can breed selfishness if not tempered by the first.”
~ Author Unknown
42. “Bless us Lord, this Christmas, with quietness of mind; Teach us to be patient and always to be kind.”
~ Helen Steiner Rice
43. “Christmas! The very word brings joy to our hearts. No matter how we may dread the rush, the long Christmas lists for gifts and cards to be bought and given–when Christmas Day comes there is still the same warm feeling we had as children, the same warmth that enfolds our hearts and our homes.”
~ Joan Winmill Brown
44. “Christmas – that magic blanket that wraps itself about us, that something so intangible that it is like a fragrance. It may weave a spell of nostalgia. Christmas may be a day of feasting, or of prayer, but always it will be a day of remembrance – a day in which we think of everything we have ever loved.”
~ Augusta E. Rundel
45. “Christmas day is a day of joy and charity. May God make you very rich in both.”
~ Phillips Brooks
47. “Christmas is doing a little something extra for someone.”
~ Charles Schulz
48. “Christmas, my child, is love in action.”
~ Dale Evans
49. “Off to one side sits a group of shepherds. They sit silently on the floor, perhaps perplexed, perhaps in awe, no doubt in amazement. Their night watch had been interrupted by an explosion of light from heaven and a symphony of angels. God goes to those who have time to hear him–and so on this cloudless night he went to simple shepherds.”
~ Max Lucado
50. “Want to keep Christ in Christmas? Feed the hungry, clothe the naked, forgive the guilty, welcome the unwanted, care for the ill, love your enemies, and do unto others as you would have done unto you.”
If you’re like me, the weather can often be depressing at this time of the year. Depending on where you live, you could be facing either ongoing rain (the West Coast) or the cold and snow (the Prairies and East Coast) with the exception of those few lovely warm locations in the states that stay beautiful year-round.
For People with Chronic Pain (PwCP), the descent into the colder wetter weather can be a real nightmare. We tend to have more flare-ups in our pain, our symptoms overall become harder to deal with and pain and side effects have a tendency to last longer than usual as well. Sleep disturbances become more frequent also, whether that means more sleep than usual, or less.
Chronic pain symptoms possibly affected by cold weather include:
Swelling around joints
Inflammation near the spine
Muscle stiffness or tightening
Poor circulation is a symptom of many chronic conditions, and most in the scientific community agree that cooler weather affects circulation. For patients with underlying conditions like diabetes, decreased circulation can aggravate problems with joint and back pain.
Take a look at this AccuWeather Arthritis Index for a Monday in 2018 in the US. It showed mixed weather conditions across the country and gave some corresponding issues for how health was affected:
Another theory on the possible connection between cold weather and increased chronic pain involves bodily changes. Blood vessels in limbs constrict, or shrink, to compensate for a loss of heat to maintain the body’s core temperature. As a result, pain signals sent via nerves may be amplified.
While some people with chronic pain do report feeling better when moving to a warmer climate, the body typically adjusts to new climates over time, so relief is likely to be temporary. A good workout, soaking in a tub of warm water, and applying heat packs or warming gel are just a few of the remedies chronic pain sufferers can use to counter changes in pain when cooler weather arrives.
Here are a few of my recommendations for warming products you can find on Amazon.com to help combat the cold and rain:
Microwavable / Heatable Neck Wraps for unbelievably fast pain relief! Ideal for shoulder & neck pain when warm. Relieve pain in minutes by simply misting your pillow & putting in the microwave. When nice and moist your pillow will stay hot for up to 30 minutes.
Filled with Organic Flaxseed & Natural Herbs like Lavender makes this pillow the ulitmate anxiety and stress relief device.
Your new Neck Pain Relief Pillow is designed to be put in the freezer so you can have the best of both worlds, hot or cold. We recommend freezer time of at least 1-2 hours for maximum effectiveness.
UPGRADE INVERTED FOLDING DESIGH: Shorter and Easy Carry. Convenient to store anywhere. Suitable for travel and daily use.
HIGH-END UMBRELLA: Best-in-class construction, stylish and sturdy, high quality, durable travel umbrella.
INNOVATIVE SAFE LOCKING SHAFT: This safety umbrella has a self-locking shaft. While closing it, if you slipped, the rod doesn’t move. You can just push it together easily. It’s like a seat belt and locks every step on the way. Most umbrellas will flick back if you do not push the handle into the correct position; it may cause an accident by hitting you or other people. LANBRELLA safety umbrella effectively prevent accidents; riot security system, closed umbrella safer and easier.
SUPERIOR RAIN RESISTANT: The Canopy is made by 210T Pongee fabric which makes it good waterproof performance. The LANBRELLA travel umbrella protects you in a drenching downpour with a high quality canopy coated with waterproof technology. Water won’t soak through but instead beads up and bounces off, preventing the leakage you get with other umbrellas.
CONVENIENT AND GENTLY AUTO OPEN/CLOSE BY ONE HAND: It is very convenient to open or close the umbrella only by pressing the button on the handle. Just push the button once to automatically open and press again to instantly fold the canopy closed. It will open and close gently like a gentleman. You do not need to wait another second to open the umbrella when you get out of your car in the rain, especially in heavy rainfall, even when your hands are full.
The heating inner set can be taken out, easy for you to wash the blanket.
USB can be connected to computer, power bank, convenient for use.
A necessary equipment in winter, when reading, watching TV, working, you won’t feel cold any more.
I hope this information helps to explain what we Pain Warriors already knew – pain gets worse when the weather does. May these suggestions for warmth and comfort give you some ideas to break the chill and get back to being cozy again until the return of Spring.
I’d like to share some favourite holiday recipes with you here. These are ones that my family adores the most and that are my true favourites.
1lb butter, softened (REAL butter, no substitutions on this!!)
1⁄2 cup cornstarch
3 cups flour
1cup icing sugar
In a large bowl, cream the butter.
Add dry ingredients.
Whip for 10-12 minutes; batter will be shiny, and form peaks.
Optional- Chill dough overnight (you can keep for a few days in the fridge). Before baking, take out and leave at room temperature for 1 hour, whip it up again in the mixer for about 5 minutes. This option allows you to roll and shape the cookies. Still melt in your mouth!
Drop from a 1 tsp measure OR roll dough on to a cookie sheet based on the option you chose. (I level the tsp to make uniform, tiny cookies. A very small cookie scoop or tiny melon scoop is handy for uniform cookies. Due to how soft and delicate this cookie is making it bigger is not recommended).
Bake at 325 degrees for 8-10 minutes, OR until bottom edges begin to brown. If they are smaller then watch the first batch to monitor the time required per batch.
Watch them carefully they can burn quickly.
When removed from the oven allow them to cool for about two minutes on the cookie sheet, carefully move them onto a cooling rack with a spatula.
Allow them to cool on the rack for 15 minutes. If they are NOT cool they will crumble more easily and won’t set properly.
***Avoid letting them cool longer than necessary on the cookie sheet or they might stick and break apart when you try to move them.
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 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.
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.
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.
The following statement was made by a fellow poster and I want to address the subject. Here is what she wrote:
“I am living in constant pain, can’t sleep and often feel very low. Thoughts of not existing often creep into my head.”
Now, there is often a difference between wanting to commit suicide and simply not wanting to exist any longer. Wanting to commit suicide is a deliberate act that you want to take because you are in so much pain, you simply can’t bear to be a part of this world any longer. Thoughts of no longer existing are different. It’s not so much that you want to die, it’s just that if you didn’t wake up in the morning, you’d be okay with that.
Fibromyalgia and Chronic or Intractable Pain is a Life Sentence for the person who has to live with it. Imagine for a moment that everything in your life suddenly changes. You can’t work, you can’t go out to parties or outings with your friends. You have to give up your hobbies and all the things you enjoy. You can’t spend time with your family or friends or loved ones because you are in so much pain and are so exhausted every day, all you want to do is be in bed sleeping. Depression seeps in…you have nothing left to live for. Everything you’ve loved in life has been taken away from you. Why should you bother being alive…what’s the point? Every day is exactly the same as the next…pain and exhaustion, exhaustion and pain. There’s nothing positive to look forward to, so why bother? It would be a relief to just not wake up in the morning.
To just not wake up in the morning.
These are the type of dark thoughts that can creep into the minds of people who live with Fibromyalgia and Chronic Pain. It’s important to find purpose in a life that has radically changed so you don’t find yourself sliding into this dark hole. Here are some suggestions that may help you find that purpose in your life.
Finding Your Faith
If you are a person of Faith, you may be wondering where God is in all of this. You may be feeling abandoned by God or feeling like you’re having to go it alone. Please know that God hasn’t left you at all, but perhaps you’ve left God. Now more than ever is the time to reach out to Him and to immerse yourself in the Bible. Read about Job again and all that he went through, and remind yourself how God didn’t abandon him and how He won’t leave you either. Now might be the time to start listening to some Christian music that helps you reconnect with your faith. If you engage in a different religion, you can reconnect to the ceremonies that enrich you from those practices.
If you are not Religious, but are Spiritual, there may be rituals of comfort that you’ve moved away from and it may be time to implement them again. Meditation, chanting, incense, sage, singing bowls, whatever you find comfort in – bring them back into your life.
Moving In Comfort
Often when we are in Chronic Pain, we forget that exercise is actually beneficial to us, both physically and mentally. Gentle exercise offers benefits to our body such as delaying muscle atrophy, increasing strength, and creating an environment to help us heal. Although exercise may hurt, it’s not causing us further harm and will inevitably help strengthen the core muscles, which benefit the entire body. Walking, swimming, Aquafit and bicycling are all good starts, even for just a few minutes a day. This post can help you with more detailed information. The bonus is the better you feel physically, the better you feel mentally.
It’s often been said that the more we give to others, the more we get in return. Volunteering is such an example. Mention volunteering to people who live with Chronic Pain, and the first thing they say is “oh no, I’m much to sick to volunteer”. Stop for a moment though, and think about it. You have the lived experience of a Patient and could be the perfect Patient Advocate for Healthcare Partners in your area. If there isn’t a dedicated organization where you live already doing this, call your local hospitals and ask if they ever need Patient Partners for their Health Care Initiatives. The same goes for the big medical organizations in the area…The Cancer Society, The MS Society, The Diabetes Association…and the list goes on. If you live with a health condition beyond Fibromyalgia, call your Organization and see if they need volunteers. You can specify the type of work you can do, and the hours you are available. Giving back fills a huge need in the community and in your own life.
Spend Time With Loved Ones Again
As awful as you may feel, cutting yourself off from family and friends actually makes you feel worse. Try to find times where you can get together with loved ones, even if it’s for shorter amounts of time. Have a coffee time in the evening instead of a longer drawn out dinner. Join a friend for lunch. Chat on the phone or via Skype and stay in your Pajamas! People want to spend time with you, they don’t care what you’re wearing. The ones who truly love you will understand the circumstances – the ones who don’t really don’t matter much, do they?
Finding purpose in life can help lift you from the darkness you may be encountering because of your Chronic pain. It is possible for you to find joy again, even in the simple things. I’d like to leave you with a list of 20 of my top items that bring joy – taken from a previous post I’ve written called That Which Brings Me Joy.