Chronic Pain And Intimacy (And How To Spice Up Your Life)

Note: This post contains Affiliate Links which pay me a small percentage of your purchase price at no cost to you.

When you live with Chronic Pain, everything you do becomes a new challenge. Working, socializing, taking care of kids and/or a home – you still need to do it all and live your life, but now you have persistant pain as your constant companion. Often, you find yourself compromising or looking for better ways of doing things, so your pain isn’t exacerbated.

One of the areas of life with Chronic Pain which is often not talked about is intimacy and your sexual well-being. These are crucial components of a good relationship, but what happens when pain causes you to withdraw from sexual relations, and intimacy begins to suffer? Let’s talk about some of the reasons this happens and what can be done.

Difficulties with intimacy may stem from various causes, including increased pain during sexual activity, a lack of arousal and accompanying vaginal dryness, the inability to reach orgasm, side effects from the use of opioids and other commonly-used medications (eg, certain antidepressants), a past history of sexual abuse, and issues with communication in general.

Because of Chronic Pain, you may find your overall relationship has begun to suffer. A partner may withdraw from you because they don’t know how to help you. This translates to the bedroom, where they may be afraid to cause you more pain or they’re dealing with their own issues regarding your health. Perhaps your partner has become resentful of the extra burden placed on them with your inability to do certain chores now.

A change in standard routines can be upsetting for everyone and this may cause extra fatigue for you both, which also causes you to withdraw from intimacy. Sleep may be what you crave the most, and when your partner wants to have sex, it’s the last thing on your mind.

So how do you overcome these issues? What do you do to make sex more enjoyable for both of you? Here is an expanded list of ideas from a previous post that might be a good starting point.

  • Talk. Make a point of talking openly and honestly about what you are feeling. If there is fear about pain, talk about it and what you can do to alleviate any extra. If you feel disconnected from your partner because it’s been a long time since you last were intimate, talk about those feelings and what you’re worrying about. Do you have scars or extra weight that is causing you concern? Be honest about how you feel. It can be very vulnerable to speak the truth, but it often brings you closer to your partner in the long run.
  • Touch. Exploring your partner’s body through touch is an exciting way to express your sexual feelings. This can include holding hands, cuddling, fondling, stroking, massaging and kissing. Touch in any form increases feelings of intimacy.
  • Self-stimulation. Masturbation is a normal and healthy way to fulfil your sexual needs. One partner may use masturbation during mutual sexual activity if the other partner is unable to be very active.
  • Oral sex. It can be an alternative or supplement to traditional intercourse.
  • Toys. Use of various sex toys can help loosen inhibitions, relax the body and make intercourse more enjoyable.
  • Different positions. Lie side by side, kneel or sit. Look in your library or bookstore for a guide that describes and illustrates different ways to have intercourse. If you’re embarrassed to get this kind of book locally, try an online book retailer.
  • Vibrators and lubricants. A vibrator can add pleasure without physical exertion. If lack of natural lubrication is a problem, over-the-counter lubricants can prevent pain from vaginal dryness.
  • Pillows and wedges. Make use of pillows and wedges to help find comfortable positions that alleviate pressure points. A good sex shop can help you find products specifically made for this purpose.
  • Change your expectations. Because reaching orgasm can be almost impossible when you are on certain medications, you may find changing your expectations for sex will help you enjoy lovemaking more. Don’t make orgasm the ultimate goal…just enjoy sex for what it is – a pleasurable experience.
  • Ask for what you need. Listen to your body and what it’s telling you during sex. If certain activities make you feel better, do more of that. Lovemaking doesn’t always have to end in intercourse. Oral sex during a lovemaking session may be all that you desire, and there’s nothing wrong with that.
  • Prepare in Advance. It’s important for people with Chronic Pain to understand that sexual activity often takes a lot of planning. There is not as much spontaneity as there used to be. You may find you need to take your pain medication, apply heat, or stretch before sexual activity. This is also a good time to try increasing your arousal by reading erotica, watching a video, or having your partner give you a massage in the area of your pain.
  • Timing. Choose a time of day when you have less pain as a time to be sexually active. For some people as the day goes on, the pain gets worse, but the opposite also may be true for others. If you have kids, you may have to sneak away for a quickie, but even that is better than no sex at all. If you can arrange for the kids to be away overnight, it gives you plenty of time to relax and set the stage for intimacy.

Sex is meant to be a natural part of a relationship. Just because you live with Chronic Pain doesn’t preclude you from being able to enjoy lovemaking with your partner. You might want to try some of these products to bring a new spark to your bed (or living room or bathroom or…)

Kiss Me Massage Oil

Chronic Pain And Intimacy (And How To Spice Up Your Life)

Lynk Anal Lubricant

Chronic Pain And Intimacy (And How To Spice Up Your Life)

Kegel Exercisor and App

Chronic Pain And Intimacy (And How To Spice Up Your Life)

Female Stimulant

Chronic Pain And Intimacy (And How To Spice Up Your Life)

Personal Wand Massager

Chronic Pain And Intimacy (And How To Spice Up Your Life)

Personal Portable Vibrator

Chronic Pain And Intimacy (And How To Spice Up Your Life)

Love Worth Making – an Intimacy Book

Chronic Pain And Intimacy (And How To Spice Up Your Life)

Remember,

There Is Always Hope

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Chronic Pain And How To Manage It (With Real Solutions)

Note: This post contains Affiliate Links which provides an income to me at no cost to you.

In 2016, an estimated 20.4% of U.S. adults had Chronic Pain and in Canada, the numbers say approximately 1 in every 4 people lives with Persistant Pain. Chronic/Persistant Pain is described as pain that extends beyond 3 months of the estimated recovery time of an injury.

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The author dealing with an Atypical Trigeminal Neuralgia flare up

Causes

Chronic Pain can be caused by the following:

  • Past injuries or surgeries
  • Back problems
  • Migraines and other headaches
  • Arthritis
  • Nerve damage
  • Infections
  • Fibromyalgia, a condition in which people feel muscle pain throughout their bodies
  • Other invisible illnesses such as Lupus, MS or Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome.

Symptoms

Chronic pain can range from mild to severe. It can continue day after day or come and go. The pain can feel like:

  • A dull ache
  • Throbbing
  • Burning
  • Shooting
  • Squeezing
  • Stinging
  • Soreness
  • Stiffness

Sometimes pain is just one of many symptoms, which can also include:

  • Feeling exhausted despite rest
  • Loss of appetite
  • Sleep disturbances (I’m writing this at 2:30am)
  • Mood changes
  • Physical Weakness
  • Depletion of energy

Chronic Pain and Your Mental Health

Chronic pain can interfere with your daily life, keeping you from doing things you want and need to do. It can wear on your self-esteem and make you feel angry, depressed, anxious, and frustrated. A persistant feeling of sadness may accompany Chronic Pain. Often, people with Chronic Pain have to give up work, hobbies and activities they enjoy, which leads to further depression, etc.

Fighting Back

With such a high prevalence of Chronic Pain in North America, how does one fight back? How do you manage living with Chronic Pain and still maintain quality of life? There are a number of ways to manage, such as:

Pain Management Courses

These courses can be a combination of Cognitive Behaviour Theraphy, Meditation and Mindfulness, Injections to help with certain types of pain, and group talk where you have the support of others in a healthy moderated environment. There are also online pain management courses for those unable to get to programs in other locations. These include:

Pain Foundations BC

Online Therapy Pain Course

Pathway Through Pain

Mind Body Pain Clinics

On Amazon.com, you can also purchase the following – click each title to link directly to Amazon:

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Pain Management Tools

There are a number of tools available that may help you with your Chronic Pain, and are worth trying.

TENs Unit

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Mindfulness For Pain

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Mindfulness Solution

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Infrared Solutions

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Hypnotic Techniques for Pain Management

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Cognitive Behaviour Therapy Workbook

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It is my sincere hope that some of these suggestions may be just what you need to help you manage your Chronic Pain. Don’t forget to check for Pain Management Services at your local hospital as well. They often run classes of 4-8 weeks that can help you learn how to support yourself.

Medication And More

Medications play a huge role in managing your Chronic Pain. Opioids are in the news now as doctors across North America are being forced to scale back the number of prescriptions they write, but there is still a useful place for them and it’s worth discussing with your doctor to see if you can benefit.

Other medications that help include drugs like Cymbalta, Lyrica and Savella for Fibromyalgia pain, Gabapentin for nerve pain, Amitriptyline for anxiety and pain, and supplements like B12, Glucosimine, Magnesium, SAMe and Vitamin D

This article from Medical News today lists a number of essential oils that can help with pain, and discusses other complementary tools such as acupuncture and yoga.

Yoga For Pain Relief

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Yoga Essentials

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Essential Oils

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I hope that some of these suggestions will help you manage your Chronic Pain and give you some relief. If you have any suggestions for products that work well for you that I should consider in a future post, please feel free to leave a comment using this form

Remember…

There Is Always Hope

 

 

How Myofascial Therapies Helped Relieve My Fibromyalgia Symptoms

Today’s post is from my dear friend Michelle at the Zebra Pit. She’s sharing information about Myofascial Therapies and how they relieve the symptoms of Fibromyalgia. Read on!

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Fibromyalgia is a complex condition that often comes with a plethora of symptoms that can be confusing. Fibromites live with constant pain and for many even a gentle, caring pat on the hand can become unbearably painful.  Fibromyalgia is a common comorbid condition to many chronic illnesses, yet doctors often have no idea how to treat our many symptoms. Could it be the biggest culprit in our widespread pain and the formation of our tender points is a little known bit of connective tissue known as fascia.

Fascia and Myofascial Dysfunction

Thoracolumbar_fascia

Fascia is a network of thin connective tissue that runs throughout our bodies in bands and sheets. It is the tissue that helps keep everything in place and is comprised mostly of collagen. It wraps our organs, muscle and bone, creating dividing lines, holding the perfect position for our organs, while keeping our muscles and joints in proper alignment. Because fascia holds the body together and keeps everything in place, it is responsible for the body’s shape and form.

Just like tendons and ligaments, this connective soft tissue can become dysfunctional. Unlike these other soft tissues, the fascia is connected with the autonomic nervous system and some believe it to be a second, separate nervous and endocrine system, based on study findings. When myofascial tissues become dysfunctional, there are a number of things that can go wrong with the fascia, creating a scar tissue that is generally referred to as myofascial adhesions. This may be caused by mechanical or chemical failure or injury to the body.

The worse this dysfunction becomes, the greater the pain and number of myofascial adhesions. If you have myofascial adhesions, you can sometimes feel them as lumps when you run your hand firmly over your skin. Often, they are sore and painful even when using a light touch. These adhesions can also cause small fatty tumors to form. These fat deposits, along with the way fascia pull on the skin can dimple the skin, causing cellulite.

Myofascial dysfunction can be localized or widespread. If you develop tennis elbow (tendonitis), you might just develop myofascial adhesions around the injury. This is why you sometimes still experience pain even after an injury has healed. It could also grow and become widespread, as this interconnected network of tensile fibers tends to interact heavily. When fascia bunches up around one joint in order to protect it, it sometimes pulls other areas of our fascia out of alignment.

My myofascial problems ran from head to toe, causing awful tension headaches that also helped to feed my migraines, small fiber neuropathy throughout my hands and feet, 14 tender points with widespread pain and my fascia had become so tight that it was actually pulling some of my joints out of position. Neither my right hip nor shoulder would stay in place any longer.  Not only that, my myofascial tissue had grown so dense about my skull that it actually inhibited my natural hair growth and I feared I was going bald. I also had the “family curse” of cellulite and varicose veins on my arms and legs. I had regular TMJD pain and my hands were so tender, I couldn’t even knock on a door without bringing tears to my eyes. I also had tremors, it took twice the amount of time for me to go numb at the dentists, and I was constantly freezing, because my fascia were cutting off some of the blood flow and circulation to my skin.

How Myofascial Massage Helps

Fascia Head
In the 3 years I’ve been doing myofascial massage, I haven’t needed a pain medication stronger than toradol to treat my fibromyalgia pain. My head pain is at an all-time low despite suspected CCI and chiari. While my small fiber neuropathy isn’t completely gone at this point, it’s at an all time low and rarely causes issues. All of my joints function more normally and I spend a lot less time dealing with dislocations and subluxations. My hair and eyebrows are now thick and healthy. I rarely have problems with tremors anymore and even my POTS symptoms improved. I’m no longer quite so intolerant of heat or changes to the atmosphere. I have an abundance of hair and my eyebrows have grown in much thicker, too.

The traditional medicine model of pills and surgery offer poor solutions for these symptoms, but there are a number of myofascial treatments available that could improve your symptoms significantly. These therapies can be done in the comfort and privacy of your own home and there are several kinds of myofascial therapy you can have done professionally.

Each of these therapies work a little bit differently, but the long-term results are still largely the same. Each of these tools seeks to destroy any overgrown fascia and help to restore the myofascial lines to a healthy state. It is not always easy work. Some of the tools require a bit more oomph than others and the toxin release can be significant, as can the bruising. It’s worth it. The relief is greater than any of the drawbacks.

Today’s Options for Myofascial Therapy

fasciablaster

Ashley Black Guru has a number of myofascial tools which are very effective. Her videos and book are a great way to learn about how fascia functions, along with some great techniques. While it’s one of the most strenuous forms of myofascial massage, it’s still one I recommend highly. Since you have to put a little grit into it, it will help to build up stamina, strength and new muscle. This is essential to maintaining healthy joints and fascia as your body heals. Black’s methods and tools are highly effective and you can’t go wrong with her tools, though I recommend you go slow and be as gentle as possible. These tools are self-driven so you can control how hard and fast to go, how often to blast and find the best routine to suit your needs. If you need help choosing which tools are right for your specific issues, take a look at my FasciaBlaster Buying Guide.

Ultra Cavitat

An ultra cavitation machine is a handheld personal use version of ultrasound, which is used to help break up myofascial adhesions and release toxins, along with far infrared light to facilitate in healing. It’s deceptively simple to use, but very powerful. After only 4 sessions, my cellulite has decreased so dramatically, I don’t even recognize my own legs anymore. It’s amazing how something that seems so gentle can mold such terrain so dramatically. It’s also an easier, more leisurely tool to use. The pace of this tool is slow and provides a gentle touch, so there’s no pain involved.

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Cupping is another form of myofascial therapy you can opt for. In this therapy, bell like cups are applied to the skin and heat is used to create a vacuum within the cup. The suction helps to pull and release the overgrown fascia. I’ve heard good things about it from others with fibromyalgia and EDS. Cupping can be a passive form of self guided myofascial therapy, but you can also get this treatment done professionally.

Along with cupping, ASTYM is provided as a professional medical service. According to the website, ASTYM regenerates healing by eliminating scar tissue and helps to regenerate new, healthy tissue. The claim about this therapy is that it is very restorative and powerful, but they don’t share how they actually accomplish the therapy itself.

Ultra Cavitation can also be done professionally and may be more effective than self-use tools available on the market. The ultra cavitation is marketed as a tool for beauty, as it works well to create slimming, contouring and weightloss. In fact, all of these tools are marketed for their cosmetic benefits and I’ve certainly reaped my fair share of aesthetic benefits from using these tools. It isn’t my main concern, but it can be a good motivator. I’ve lost over 50 pounds while fasciablasting; a feat that seemed impossible for me due to lipedema. I’ve also really enjoyed the tightening effects on the only thing that reveals my age; my turkey neck.

FaceBlasterSitting

It’s also possible to have a massage therapist do your myofascial treatments utilizing your own FasciaBlaster. The number of MT’s using the fasciablaster is small but growing. Many who don’t know also seem quite willing to learn about it and you can really benefit from their knowedge and experience. The best blasting session I ever had was from a licensed MT.

Performing Myofascial Therapy Safely

With all the services and self-use tools available, it seems like there’s a myofascial therapy that’s right for almost everyone: However, it’s important to note that myofascial therapy isn’t for everyone. If you have a blood clotting disorder, take blood thinners or have a vascular disorder such as vEDS, you should not undergo myofascial therapy. Like all therapies, whether doing a self-use tool or seeing a professional, be sure to consult with your medical team to ensure it’s safe for you first. 

Safety should always be paramount when choosing a therapy for your health. Time to carefully research how to perform these treatments should be taken prior to beginning myofascial work. The risk of injury is greater if you don’t know what to watch out for and it’s easy to abuse such a tool, causing severe bruising, fatigue, toxic overload, injury or other problems. These tools need to be used only as recommended, for no longer than the specified time stated for each tool.

People with fibromyalgia and other health problems need to take these therapies very slowly. It is not unlikely that myofascial therapy will be a bit of a shock to the system, so it’s essential to ease your way in. It is possible to make yourself very sick from detox and overdoing it, causing fatigue and even a flare up in your conditions. To avoid this, start slowly and use these tools more gently than recommended. For pacing, I recommend people begin with one body part (a leg) or section (the abdominals) a day and work their way up to more based on tolerance. Take days off in between if your body is struggling with payback. To get more tips on safety and proper usage, take a look at 23 Tips for FasciaBlasting with EDS and Fibromyalgia.

Myofascial therapy may not be for everyone, but for those of us suffering with the daily pain and other debilitating symptoms of fibromyalgia, it can offer significant relief from our daily symptoms. It can even eliminate some of those terrible tender points which develop and are a criterion for diagnosis. As of today, I am down to only five; so few I no longer qualify for the diagnosis. Myofascial therapy may not address your every symptom, but since I’ve begun utilizing it, my life has been a lot more comfortable and I now enjoy many more symptom-free days.

Resources and Further Reading:

BIO:

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Michelle Curtis is a poet and writer with hEDS, POTS and MCAS. She is managing editor for the Zebra Pit where she writes about spoonie health and wellness, as well as art and culture. She has a BA in women, gender and sexuality studies from BGSU and an MFA in creative writing from NU. She lives in greater Cincinnati with her husband David and two Russian Blue cats. She thoroughly enjoys spending time with her family and friends. In her spare time she enjoys books, movies, art, music and the great outdoors (even when her MCAS doesn’t). 

25 Inspirational Quotes

From time to time, I like to share quotes that I think are beautiful, to help inspire my readers or just make you think. Here are 25 of the most inspirational quotes I’ve found lately to share with you today. 

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  1. Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?’ Actually, who are you not to be?
    Marianne Williamson.
  2. Most of the important things in the world have been accomplished by people who have kept on trying when there seemed to be no hope at all.
    Dale Carnegie.
  3. Anyone can give up; it’s the easiest thing in the world to do. But to hold it together when everyone would expect you to fall apart, that’s true strength.
    Chris Bradford.
  4. Life is full of screwups. You’re supposed to fail sometimes. It’s a required part of the human existence.
    Sarah Dessen.
  5. Hard times don’t create heroes. It is during the hard times when the hero within us is revealed.
    Bob Riley.4
  6. When you have exhausted all possibilities, remember this: you haven’t.
    Thomas A. Edison.
  7. You can play it safe, and I wouldn’t blame you for it. You can continue as you’ve been doing, and you’ll survive, but is that what you want? Is that enough?
    J.M. Darhower.
  8. Fairy tales are more than true: not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten.
    Neil Gaiman.
  9. Far away there in the sunshine are my highest aspirations. I may not reach them, but I can look up and see their beauty, believe in them, and try to follow where they lead.
    Louisa May.
  10. Be grateful for what you already have while you pursue your goals.
    If you aren’t grateful for what you already have, what makes you think you would be happy with more.
    Roy T. Bennett.5
  11. It’s not about perfect. It’s about effort. And when you bring that effort every single day, that’s where transformation happens. That’s how change occurs.
    Jillian Michaels.
  12. Reach high, for stars lie hidden in you. Dream deep, for every dream precedes the goal.
    Rabindranath Tagore.
  13. Limitations live only in our minds. But if we use our imaginations, our possibilities become limitless.
    Jamie Paolinetti.
  14. When you get into a tight place and everything goes against you, till it seems as though you could not hang on a minute longer, never give up then, for that is just the place and time that the tide will turn.
    Harriet Beecher Stowe.
  15. You may be the only person left who believes in you, but it’s enough. It takes just one star to pierce a universe of darkness. Never give up.
    Richelle E. Goodrich.7
  16. You never know what’s around the corner. It could be everything. Or it could be nothing. You keep putting one foot in front of the other, and then one day you look back and you’ve climbed a mountain.
    Tom Hiddleston.
  17. If one dream should fall and break into a thousand pieces, never be afraid to pick one of those pieces up and begin again.
    Flavia Weedn.
  18. Just because you fail once, doesn’t mean you’re gonna fail at everything. Keep trying, hold on, and always, always, always believe in yourself, because if you don’t, then who will? So keep your head high, keep your chin up, and most importantly, keep smiling, because life’s a beautiful thing and there’s so much to smile about.
    Marilyn Monroe.
  19. Don’t let something make you miserable if you can do something about it. If that’s what makes you happy, go for it.
    Kate Brauning.
  20. A boat is always safe in the harbor, but that’s not what boats are built for.
    Katie Couric.
  21. Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.
    Mark Twain.
  22. Your complaints, your drama, your victim mentality, your whining, your blaming, and all of your excuses have NEVER gotten you even a single step closer to your goals or dreams. Let go of your nonsense. Let go of the delusion that you DESERVE better and go EARN it!
    Steve Maraboli.
  23. I don’t believe in failure, because simply by saying you’ve failed, you’ve admitted you attempted. And anyone who attempts is not a failure. Those who truly fail in my eyes are the ones who never try at all. The ones who sit on the couch and whine and moan and wait for the world to change for them.
    Sarah Dessen.
  24. Even the darkest night will end and the sun will rise.
    Unknown.
  25. Every great dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world.
    Harriet Tubman.6


there is always hope

 

 

10 Things I’ve Learned About Chronic Pain

If you’ve read my blog before, you know that I live with Chronic Pain and Chronic Fatigue. My pain comes from Fibromyalgia, Osteoarthritis in all my major joints, Myofascial Pain, a condition called Trigeminal Neuralgia, Diabetes (and Neuropathy that comes from that), Pelvic Adhesions, a spinal condition called Forestier’s Disease, aka D.I.S.H. which stands for Diffuse Idiopathic Skeletal Hyperostosis, Gastroparesis and several other medical conditions.

The author showing various pictures of her face in pain

My many faces of pain

I’ve been living with Chronic pain for over 30 years now, from the time I was a teen, and I’ve learned a few things in those years. I’d like to share 10 of those things with you now.

1. THERE IS ALWAYS HOPE

No matter how long I’ve been in pain for, I’ve never given up hope that things are going to get better. Some days I have are pure agony. Some days are pure delight. I cling to the good days as a reminder that things can be better and often are. There is always hope.

2. A GOOD DOCTOR IS TO BE TREASURED

Doctors have a hard time treating patients with chronic pain because they haven’t been trained well. They’re trained to diagnose a problem and solve it, so chronic pain is frustrating for them as well. If you don’t have a sympathetic doctor who is doing everything they can for you, find another doctor. When you do find one, be honest with them. Share everything…your depression, your anger, your worries. A good doctor wants to help you, but if you can’t share with them, you’re not giving them the chance to do all they can.

3. SUPPORT GROUPS AREN’T RIGHT FOR EVERYONE

Some people thrive in a support group. Others tend to get tired of the constant back patting and “Oh my gawd, I’m so sorry” conversations. Some are in the middle. I think a support group can be a great thing, as long as it’s the right fit. You want a group where you can feel heard and valued while offering support to the others as well – not just a one-way street. I also think it’s important to not jump into every group you hear about. That just becomes confusing and almost like a competition, to see how much sympathy you can drum up. You have to be willing to give back and you can’t forge honest relationships with people when you’re in a dozen active groups in my opinion. Unless that’s all you do all day long. And if that’s the case, I feel sorry for you, because you’re obviously not getting something you truly need.

4. CHRONIC PAIN IS ALMOST IMPOSSIBLE TO EXPLAIN TO OTHERS

Despite having great tools like the Spoon Theory and the Battery Analogy to talk about how much energy it costs us to live with chronic pain, it’s almost impossible to get others to understand what it’s like to live with chronic pain day in and day out. Here’s the thing…THE PAIN NEVER GOES AWAY. I can’t make it any more clear than that. No matter what I’m doing, or not doing. I’m hurting. Sometimes I’m in agony, like when I get a Trigeminal Neuralgia Flare up. Try to imagine the last time you experienced brain freeze from eating/drinking something cold…do you remember that sensation? That agonizing pierce of pain in your brain?  Now try to imagine that same feeling but in your cheekbone…for 12 hours in a row. Can’t imagine it?? Go try and get brain freeze as a reminder. That’s what my TN flare-ups are like. They start in my cheekbone and spread to my sinus cavity and my eye, then down to my jaw, and to my esophagus. I get spasms in my throat and often I get chest pain as well. For 12 hours.

My Fibromyalgia pain feels like my limbs are in concrete…it’s a heavy throbbing sensation in my arms and legs that make them impossible to move. The Neuropathy I feel in my feet is like pins and needles that never go away. My back pain is so intolerable that I can’t sweep my floors for more than 5 minutes without my lower spine seizing up.

5. DID I MENTION, THE PAIN NEVER GOES AWAY.

Sometimes it lightens up a bit, maybe after I’ve had a rare good night’s sleep, but if I’ve done too much on a particular day, the next day will be agony. Every day is different, and I’ve learned that there is no rhyme or reason as to what might cause a flare and why some days are better than others. Even as I’m typing this, my hands and wrists are throbbing and I’m making more mistakes typing than I normally do. When I sleep, I have to make sure my fingers aren’t curled, or I’ll wake up and won’t be able to move them.

6. COMFORT ROUTINES FOR FLARE UP DAYS ARE LIFESAVERS

In order to combat chronic pain, you need to have an arsenal of weapons at your disposal. This can include medications, therapies like massage or chiropractic care, acupuncture, heat, cold, stretching, yoga, and other items that help you when your pain is flaring up. Warm fluffy blankets and socks, a TENS machine or massaging unit, a roll-on pain medication – whatever you find works for you is part of your comfort routine and it’s important that you use these items when needed before your pain becomes even worse.

Kitten resting in a fluffy blanket

7. PACING REALLY DOES WORK

One of the important things you learn when you have chronic pain is that you have a limited amount of energy and you have to pace yourself throughout the day/week, etc. in order to stay ahead of the pain. Pacing is critical in helping to prevent flare-ups or in helping to reduce the number of flare-ups you may experience. There comes a point when you may have to consider outside help for chores because you can’t do them all. Perhaps a teenage neighbour can help with cleaning or laundry or care in the garden. Maybe you decide to hire a cleaning service twice a month for a deep clean that you can’t get to. Whatever you need and whatever you decide, my best advice is to lose the guilt. It’s not your fault you have chronic pain. You do what you need to, in order to make your home a happy one again.

8. SLEEP IS A VERY GOOD THING

Most people with chronic pain struggle to get good sleep, just by the very nature of being in pain. Take the time to establish a good sleep routine and don’t be afraid to nap during the day if that’s what your body requires. Just sent a timer for no more than 90 minutes (one sleep cycle) and do it early enough that it won’t interfere with bedtime. If you need to ask your doctor about sleep medications, then ask. Don’t be afraid of them, but perhaps try the more natural solutions first, like melatonin. Your doctor can give you the best advice.

9. WE ARE ALL WARRIORS

Just by the mere fact you are reading this and identifying with it, you are a warrior. Living with chronic pain is no picnic my friend and those of us who do it struggle every single day of our lives. Some days are good, some days are bad and some days are too difficult to talk about. It takes a special kind of strength to manage chronic pain and life at the same time and I admire every single person out there who is doing it. You are a warrior.

10. I’VE FINALLY ACCEPTED MY BODY THE WAY IT IS

For all my bravado and positive spirit, it took me a long time to learn to love this pain-filled body of mine. When I was forced to leave my job at the top of my game in 2009 I was devastated. I didn’t think I’d ever be useful to anyone again and I sank into a deep depression over how my body had let me down. It took several years before I was able to accept that this truly was my “new normal” and that returning to work wasn’t going to happen for me. When I found myself in a place where my health had improved somewhat, and I felt I had something to give back, I started volunteering for the Patient Voices Network and that really helped me get back on my feet. I am able to take part in committee work again, but at a pace that works for me and my health. I’m better able to accept my body and all it’s medical failings because I’ve found ways to contribute again.

I’ve also been able to get involved in hobbies again such as crafting and reading. I’m learning how to crochet and do needlepoint, all things I didn’t have time for when I was too busy working. So accepting my limitations also opened the door to new things for me to try, which has been a blessing. Perhaps you’re in the same place now, ready to accept that this is your new normal, and it’s an okay place to be. If you’re going to be in pain anyways, doesn’t it make sense to accept it and find ways to make the best of it.

CONCLUSION

I’ve been blessed with a positive nature that has helped to get me through a lot of difficult situations in my life. Chronic pain and my medical conditions are part of that. I believe in God and trust Jesus every day to be there for me. I have wonderful family and friends who have been so supportive of me. I belong to a great support group online that genuinely cares about me. More than anything though, and as my first point says,

There is always hope

Chronic Pain and Travelling

When you live with Chronic Pain and Chronic Fatigue, travelling for business and/or pleasure can become a real challenge. In the course of my volunteer work, I sit on 4 different committees and one working group, and of those, 2 of them require travel from my home in Langford, BC (just outside of Victoria) to Vancouver on the Mainland. It’s a short flight, only 30 minutes from runway to runway, but with everything that goes into it, it can end up being quite exhausting by the time the trip is over.

Plane and images of travelling

On my most recent trip to Vancouver, I came down with what was either food poisoning or a severe case of gastroenteritis on Thursday evening before my all day Friday meeting. I was in the bathroom every hour all night long, plus I had the stomach cramps and nausea, along with feeling extremely cold yet having the sweats. I haven’t been that sick in years!!!  On top of all that, I had a flare-up of my Trigeminal Neuralgia which combined to make me a very, VERY miserable girl.

I survived to the next day, made it through the meeting still having the shakes and sweating and still with facial pain from the TN, and all I wanted to do was get home as soon as possible. I arrived at the airport for my 7pm flight, only to find out it had been cancelled!!  The next flight was for 8pm so I had no choice but to wait. Then there came notice of a delay for that flight. Then another delay and another delay and still ANOTHER delay. In total, there were five delays for the flight and I didn’t get home until just before 11pm by the time it was all said and done.

I was so wiped out from being sick, from the travel, the intensity of the meeting…just everything. I went to bed immediately and didn’t wake up (except for pee breaks) until Sunday at 8am. I completely slept through Saturday!!

Chronic Pain And Travelling

Travel, in general, is not easy when you have Chronic Pain and being sick makes it worse. If you do have to travel, for business or pleasure, I’ve gathered a few tips to help make YOUR travels a bit easier the next time you’re flying or on the road:

General Considerations:

  • Plan a realistic itinerary.
  • Allow plenty of time.
  • Keep a small, lightweight, hands-free bag with essentials handy and check your main bag if traveling by air.
  • Ask, “How accessible are handicapped accommodations?”
  • Pack for all temperatures and environmental fluctuations. I get hot easily, so I pack clothing that is easy to layer. With careful coordination, I can make many outfits from fewer articles of clothing and lessen the load.
  • Make your bed as close to your bed at home as possible. Ask for extra pillows or blankets. (I always check the closet when I first arrive for these).
  • Use earplugs and a sleep mask.
  • Stay as close to your usual routine as possible, but also adjust with the local time to avoid jetlag.
  • Throw in an extra pair of reading and sunglasses from the dollar store so if you lose them, you don’t mind so much. A book light comes in handy and serves as a light that is easy to access when your unfamiliar hotel room is dark.

Medical-related

  • Carry a medical letter or a medical history summary that includes diagnoses with your physician’s contact information. This letter is handy and often available from your doctor. Ask if they might have such a thing or create your own.
  • Carry your medications with you and follow the tips for traveling with medications.
  • If you need a wheelchair, contact your airline and arrange to have one available.
  • Carry your insurance cards and identification at all times.

In the air, over the rails, and on the road

Amtrack Passenger Train

  • Take advantage of rest stops. Move about and stretch every chance you get. If you are traveling in America, Google has a map of rest stops across the U.S.
  • If you are confined to an airplane seat, keep blood and lymph moving by flexing and relaxing your joints every 20 to 30 minutes. Compression socks are helpful for circulation too.
  • Avoid alcohol and stay hydrated. Dehydration stresses the body as a whole.
  • Carry a healthy snack bag with fresh fruit and non-perishable foods, like protein bars, in case of a delay.
  • Dress for comfort in loose non-restrictive clothing and a pair of comfortable fail-safe shoes. This is not the time to try out those new sandals you bought!!
  • Make sure your plane, train, or bus is on time before leaving home – sign up for notification alerts when offered.

Travel comes with challenges for everyone, but especially those of us who live with conditions that cause chronic pain. But, if we respect our limitations and listen to what our body tells us, we can enjoy our time away from home.

Remember, there is always hope

 

Saturday Inspiration: Finding Joy In The Little Things

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“Happiness is like a butterfly; the more you chase it, the more it will elude you. But if you turn you attention to other things, it will come and sit softly on your shoulder.” Henry David Thoreau

On this Inspiration Saturday, I thought I’d share a few ideas that might bring a little joy into your life. Try one, try a few or try them all…the choice is yours!

1.    Go for a walk.
2.    Look through old album or photo boxes.
3.    Enjoy your favorite coffee drink.
4.    Read a chapter (or more!) in your book.
5.    Stop by a pet store and love on a kitten (or other animal).
6.    Take your dog (of friends dog) for a walk.
7.    Enjoy your favorite pastry.
8.    Hug someone (preferably someone you know).
9.    Play your favorite song and sing-a-long.
10.  Compliment a stranger.
11.   Pick wildflowers

Wildflowers Wallpapers 3
12.   Stare at the stars.
13.   Take a bike ride.
14.   Send snail mail (this makes me super duper happy).
15.   Make your favorite meal.
16.   Color!
17.   Sing your favorite song at the top of your lungs.

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18.   Watch your favorite show or movie.
19.   Call a friend or relative.
20.  Make a craft and give to a friend.
21.   Take the scenic route.
22.   Read through an old journal.
23.   Watch re-runs of your favourite show.
24.  Take a selfie a day for a week, month or year.
25.  Laugh.

There is always hope

Fifty Reasons To Keep Going

If you are going through a hard time right now, I want to give you 50 good reasons why you need to be strong and why you need to stick around.

  1. You are a soul worth having on this earth
  2. Long hugs (my favourite)
  3. Cute baby animals
  4. You are so loved
  5. Staying up all night just to sleep in
  6. Making babies smile and laugh
  7. Sharing secrets with your best friends
  8. You will be missed
  9. Sunsets
  10. Late night phone calls
  11. Cuddling
  12. You are needed
  13. Doing stupid stuff with your best friends
  14. Laughing so hard that you cry
  15. Seeing yourself recover
  16. Crunchy leaves
  17. Knowing all the lyrics to a song
  18. Stargazing and cloud watching
  19. You are important
  20. Tomorrow is a new day.
  21. Chocolate exists.
  22. There are people out there who truly love you.
  23. At least a thousand other people at this very moment feel sad, too — you’re not alone.
  24. There’s help out there no matter how big or small your problem is.
  25. There’s music out there that totally captures what you’re feeling, which means you’re not the first or last to feel it.
  26. Everything is temporary.
  27. Unconditional love exists.
  28. Puppies.
  29. Nobody else knows what they’re doing either.
  30. Trying never hurt anyone.
  31. Smiles are contagious.
  32. You have a right to feel what you’re feeling.
  33. Anything can happen with a pen and blank sheet of paper.
  34. You’re not this person.
  35. Animals love you no matter what.
  36. The best lessons come from the worst mistakes.
  37. Netflix has so many shows you need to watch.
  38. All good love stories have a “goodbye” before the happy ending.
  39. Just being alive means you’ve beaten the odds.
  40. There’s a plethora of cliche quotes to make you feel better.
  41. Like “Nothing worth doing is ever easy.”
  42. And “Quality is better than quantity.”
  43. Also, “Everything happens for a reason.”
  44. Whatever you’re going through is making you “you.”
  45. Nothing feels better than a good cry, so don’t feel bad about it.
  46. You will always have control of your choices.
  47. Forgiving does bring healing.
  48. Simba lost everything and still became king of the jungle.
  49. You’re becoming stronger every moment you pick yourself back up.
  50. You’ll be OK.

Please reach out for help if you need it.

Text CONNECT to 741741 in the United States or phone:

1-800-273-8255

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

In Canada

Call 911 or use the following link for help in your province:

https://suicideprevention.ca/need-help/

 

There is always hope

Fibromyalgia and Loneliness

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.

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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.

Reaching Out

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.

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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
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  • 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…

There Is Always Hope!

 

 

Chronic Illness and Anxiety

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.**

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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
  • Avoiding others

Physical symptoms of anxiety include:

  • Low energy
  • Headaches
  • Upset stomach, including diarrhea, constipation, and nausea
  • Aches, pains, and tense muscles
  • Chest pain and rapid heartbeat
  • Insomnia
  • 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:

  • Constant worrying
  • Racing thoughts
  • Forgetfulness and disorganization
  • Inability to focus
  • Poor judgment
  • 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…

There Is Always Hope

*https://adaa.org/serious-chronic-or-terminal-illnesses
**http://www.health.harvard.edu/mind-and-mood/depression_and_pain