Interview April – Terri Sutula

Readers, thank you for checking out our final Interviewee – the fabulous Terri Sutula. 

TerriSutula

Introduce yourself and tell us a bit about you…

Hi, I’m Terri Sutula, and I currently live in the state of Virginia, USA. I’ve been married to the love of my life for the last 21 years, and I’m the Mom of a fabulous grown son. I served 20 years in the Air Force, and after I retired, I went back to school and received my degree in Religion (emphasis church ministry), then obtained my certifications in Personal Training and Health Coaching with the goal of developing a whole-person health ministry. Those plans took a bit of a turn in 2011…. Now I consider my blog to be my ministry, and I hope that by sharing my journey, setbacks and all, I can let people know that there is still life – a great life – after diagnosis, and help them avoid the hopelessness I felt at one point during my illness.

One fascinating fact about me is:

I don’t know if I’d call it fascinating, but it’s something my family loves to tease me about…. I’m constantly making up silly songs to popular tunes. I just can’t seem to help myself haha.

Chronic illness(es)/disabilities I have…

My main issue is fibromyalgia, though I’ve suffered from migraines my entire life, and have also lived with endometriosis, early osteoporosis (probably from the endometriosis treatment), and irritable bowel syndrome for years.

My symptoms/condition began…

Around 2011, my primary fibromyalgia symptoms began after a “snowball” of illnesses, accidents, and a stressful move. I got the flu and soon after that, was diagnosed with subacute thyroiditis, which resolved after about a year. During the same period, I had a couple of bad falls which ended with me doing a face-plant on the pavement. My second fall ended in a trip to the Emergency Room and pain in my ribs for months afterwards. Then, about a year later, we moved to another city, and everything that could go wrong did. I became extremely stressed out, my abdominal symptoms got worse and worse, and the fatigue and whole-body pain became overwhelming.

My diagnosis process was… 

Surprisingly enough, my diagnosis process was pretty quick and easy. I went to my Primary Care doctor, explained my symptoms and my accompanying illnesses, and he checked me for tender points, did some bloodwork, and confirmed what I suspected – that I had fibromyalgia.

The hardest part of living with my illness/disabilities is…

The hardest thing for me to come to terms with is my physical limitations. As I mentioned earlier, I was in the military for 20 years, stayed mentally and physically strong, and was capable of doing pretty much anything I put my mind to. Learning to work within my revised capabilities has really been a challenge, but it has also been a time of growth. It’s given me greater empathy for others and I’ve discovered a new sense of purpose.

 A typical day for me involves…

I’m not sure I have a really “typical” day – I just do whatever needs to be done on a given day. I do try to do some blog work most days, and I break my cleaning chores into different days so I’m not trying to do everything at once. We’ve started picking up groceries for a few days at a time rather than doing a “big” shopping trip once a week. It gets me out of the house and helps me work with my energy levels. It’s a lot easier to run into the store for a few things than to spend a long time shopping. I guess I’d say I do all the “normal” things others do, just on a smaller, more relaxed scale. I’ve learned that pacing my activities is key to keeping flares at bay.

 The one thing I cannot live without is…

 I have to say that there are actually two things I can’t live without, my faith and a sense of humour. Both of these are my keys to not just surviving, but thriving, with fibromyalgia and any other adverse event or circumstance that comes my way.

Being ill/disabled has taught me…

This illness has taught me that it’s okay to ask for help, and it’s okay to not be okay sometimes. I’ve learned that I don’t have to be strong all the time; it’s okay to share the load with others and asking for help isn’t a sign of weakness; it’s actually a sign of strength.

 My support system is…

My absolute biggest supporter is my husband, and I’m so grateful to have him. I’m very fortunate to have a really supportive family in general, but he’s my day-by-day, minute-by-minute supporter. He sees what I go through many days and is always willing to do whatever I need him to do.

If I had one-day symptom/disability-free I would…

I would go hiking on one of the beautiful trails we have around here. My hubby and I used to love to pack a picnic lunch and go hiking, and unfortunately, my pain and energy levels don’t allow us to do that right now. My goal is to work my way up to at least some of the easy trails.

 One positive of having a chronic illness/disability is…

You find out what’s really important to you when you have a chronic illness/disability. When you aren’t in such a place of “doing” all the time, as I was before I became ill, you can concentrate on the things that really add the most value and joy to your life.

One final thing I want people to know is:

There is hope, and there is a fulfilling life after diagnosis. Your life might not look exactly the way you imagined and you might have to learn to adjust to your “new normal” but this new phase of your life might open up even greater opportunities for you to live a life of joy and purpose.

My links are:

Blog: https://reclaiminghope.blog

Facebook: https://facebook.com/hopereclaiming

Twitter: https://twitter.com/hopereclaiming

Pinterest: https://pinterest.com/reclaiminghopeblog

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Interview April – Amber Blackburn

Let’s welcome our next guest, the adorable Amber Blackburn!

AmberBlackburn

Introduce yourself and tell us a bit about you…

Hi y’all! My name is Amber Blackburn, I am 33 (almost 34) and live in the middle of the United States.  I am a Registered Nurse by trade who is now a Chronic Illness Blogger and Advocate due the fact that my health has declined to the point that I can no longer work a standard job!

Chronic illness(es)/disabilities I have…

Way too many for someone my age!  I don’t even know where to start!! I have Systemic Lupus (SLE), Fibromyalgia, Bertolottis Syndrome, IBS, Anxiety, Depression, Endometriosis, Interstitial Cystitis, Secondary Adrenal Insufficiency due to long term steroid use, POTs, Debilitating Migraines (Some of which are hemiplegic). I think that’s all my conditions. Or at least the important ones. I will note that many of my issues alone are not disabling but in combination with all the others they can be.

My symptoms/condition began and My diagnosis process was

I am going to combine these two questions as it makes my response easier.

I was admitted to the hospital for a respiratory illness in February 2012. I was in the hospital for 5 days and they could never really figure out what was going on. So I was put on high dose steroids and antibiotics and was told that would probably fix it. Over the following months more symptoms started showing up beyond the respiratory issues like extreme fatigue, joint pain and joint swelling. They had done all kinds of labs up to this point and nothing had shown up. But finally my Pulmonologist did a repeat ANA and lupus markers in April 2012 and they came back very positive. The joint pain and swelling continued to worsen to the point that I had to buy bigger shoes and could hardly walk.

So I saw a Rheumatologist in the summer of 2012 and was diagnosed with Systemic Lupus and Fibromyalgia. But looking back my symptoms go back to the late 90s, early 2000s. During my junior year of High School in 2001 I was diagnosed with Mono and it lasted SIX months, which does not happen. So we are pretty sure part of that was actually my first lupus flare. My official Endometriosis and Interstitial Cystitis diagnosis was in November 2011 but those symptoms went back to 1998 when I started having such horrible abdominal pain that no one could diagnose and blamed it on IBS.
The hardest part of living with my illness/disabilities is…

If I am being 100% honest the hardest part of living with my illnesses is not always dealing with my health. Outside of the pain and fatigue when they get really bad, I find the hardest part to be the social aspects. This may sound silly but it’s super hard to have to stay home all winter because you pick up every germ despite wearing a mask and washing your hands. It’s hard having to cancel plans because you don’t feel good enough to leave the house. Also, trying to explain to those who aren’t sick why you are canceling for the third time this month is awful and hard on relationships. For me (and surely others) the social aspect is probably the hardest part of living with a chronic illness, outside of the obvious health issues.

A typical day for me involves…

A typical day for me starts with me waking up and rolling over and stretching. Trying to see what hurts and what doesn’t. Then spending the next 10-15 min actually getting out of bed because if I don’t do it slowly I’ll pay for it later. What happens after that depends on the day. If I have a doctors appointment or somewhere to be, I will start the getting ready process which can take 10 mins or an hour depending on how I feel, and how ready I need to be. As well as how many breaks I will need to take. If I don’t have anywhere to be I go straight upstairs to eat and take care of my dogs. In the morning I will always be checking social media and do my daily posts (that sometimes become 3 times a week posts) on all my platforms.

I will most likely be writing for my blog and posting if it’s a day to post. I try to write something for the blog everyday, that way I don’t feel rushed at anytime because I don’t have anything written. I may not get a whole piece written every day but I try to write something. There is always an afternoon “nap” if I can’t get comfortable and sleep than I at least lay in bed and rest. And the evenings are usually pretty chill. Generally speaking, I spend the evenings watching a show or reading a book. I take a shower and try to be in bed by nine. When I fall asleep will depend on what I did that day and how much pain I’m in. Everyday is different for me because I never know how I will feel. I always know if I did a lot the day before that the next day will be a day of rest. Honestly, I can’t plan to far in advance because I never know how I will feel.

The one thing I cannot live without is…

I hate to admit this, my phone.  I say this because I use my phone for everything. I use it for communication, with my friends, family and medical providers. I use it to help run the Chronic Illness Support Group on Facebook (Lupie Groupies) I started about 5 years ago which continues to grow. I use it to blog, to research, and post on social media. And I use it for my jobs, I sell Senegence Makeup as well as the Chronic Illness Symptom Tracker that I created for those with chronic illness.. For those reasons my cell phone is important to me.

Being chronically ill/disabled has taught me…

Being chronically ill has taught me so so many things. But I honestly think the biggest thing is that being sick has a way of showing you who your true friends (and family sadly) are. I know it sounds cliche but it’s very true.

What advice would I give someone recently diagnosed…

The biggest piece of advice I would give to someone who was recently diagnosed would be to find a support group!  No matter if it is online or in person, just find one. Your friends and family are good to talk to, but a support group filled with people in similar situations is imperative for anyone newly diagnosed as well as for those who have been ill for many years. A support groups gives you a place where you can share what is really going on and know that you are talking to people who will understand and won’t judge you.

My support system is…

My support group is AMAZING!! I have the most amazing family and group of friends a person could ever ask for. If I didn’t have my family I don’t know where I would be right now. I am truly lucky.
If I had one day symptom/disability-free I would…

Go to the beach or lake (really any body of water) and spend the day outside playing in the water without the fear of a flare.

One positive of having a chronic illness/disability is…

One positive thing about having a chronic Illness is meeting a group of wonderful and amazingly strong people whom you would have probably never met had you not gotten sick.

My social media links are:

What Does Science Say About CBD Oil For Migraines

Let’s welcome back John Martinez as my Guest Blogger today. John brought us information about using eyewear to help with migraines, and today, he’s talking about CBD Oil to help ease Migraine pain. Please note that all opinions expressed are those of the author but I do endorse them as well.

CBD Oil for Migraines – Effective, or Merely Hype?

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CBD oil has been gaining some steam in the media ever since its recent December 2018 legalization in the US.

Additionally, in the migraine community, there are loads of anecdotal evidence expressing the effectiveness of CBD and treating migraines. Is it all hype, or are these claims backed by scientific literature?

This article will get into the specifics of what CBD oil is, and whether it’s something migraineurs should investigate as something that could benefit them.

What Is CBD Oil?

CBD (also known as cannabidiol) oil is a naturally derived product from the plant Cannabis Sativa. Cannabis Sativa is categorized as a family of plants that contains two primary species: hemp and marijuana. The Cannabis Sativa plant also contains 120 other substances aside from cannabidiol. Most CBD oil is extracted from the hemp plant and contains no THC, which is the psychoactive chemical in marijuana. THC is the chemical that causes the feeling of being high. CBD oil is an isolated extract from the hemp side of Cannabis Sativa, not the marijuana side of the plant that contains THC.

Simply put, CBD is not marijuana and will not make you high.

Although CBD is derived from the same plant that has the ability to produce marijuana, CBD is non-addictive. A study that was conducted by the World Health Organization has proven, through a double-blind and randomized study that, on the scales of the Addiction Research Centre Inventory, there was no difference in addiction risk between CBD oil and the administered placebo.

Could CBD Oil Help Me with Migraines?

The efficacy of CBD oil to treat migraines varies from person to person. In a 2012 study, CBD was found to reduce inflammation and assist with chronic pain relief. CBD oil has minimal side effects compared to typical over the counter drugs and prescribed medications. Some side effects of CBD include appetite changes, fatigue, and diarrhea, which most of us would categorize as minor. One of the most appealing aspects of CBD oil is that it is not a pharmaceutically-engineered drug, but rather a natural avenue towards pain relief.

Unfortunately, there hasn’t been any studies specifically demonstrating the effects CBD has on people with migraines. There have been quite a few studies on marijuana as a whole and migraines, but not isolated CBD.

For example, there was a 2016 survey conducted by Pharmacotherapy which indicated that “medical marijuana” may reduce the frequency of migraine headaches – from 10.4 down to 4.6 per month. Even though marijuana contains CBD, we can’t attribute the results to CBD.

Overview of CBD Oil and Migraine Pain Relief

While it’s too soon to definitively say that CBD oil might be an effective treatment for people suffering with migraines, progress is being made.

All we know for sure is that there are some properties in CBD that help with inflammation and chronic pain management. And we also know that in medical literature, marijuana (which contains CBD) seems to be giving some people migraine relief.

Since it’s now legal on a federal level (in the US), and it’s a naturally occurring compound, it may be worth a try.

If you want to learn more about CBD, check out this article, CBD Oil for Migraines (2019) – Everything You Need to Know.

Remember, there is always hope

Do Migraine Glasses Really Work

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Today’s post is from Guest Author John Martinez. John  is a writer from California who sufferers from chronic headaches and occasional migraines. He works for Axon Optics, showing migraineurs how to treat their condition using science and clinical research.

 

 

Migraines can be, for lack of a better phrase, a real headache. Once you start to feel the symptoms of a migraine coming on, it can be hard to get away from the tumbling snowball of pain, dizziness, and sensitivity hurtling towards you. People with migraines know how desperate attempts to find treatment can be.

Migraine glasses are a hot item on the market right now, but if you’re skeptical about whether they work to prevent or treat migraines, you’re not alone. This guide can help you decide whether or not migraine glasses are for you and how they can help relieve common migraine systems.

What Are Migraine Glasses?

Migraine glasses (also known as “precision tinted glasses,”) have FL-41 lenses to block out specific light wavelengths that trigger photophobia and light sensitivity symptoms. Photophobia and migraines are closely linked; many migraine sufferers find that migraine glasses relieve migraine symptoms or prevent common migraine triggers.

About Photophobia

Let’s go back to a word that you might not have seen, but probably have experienced before: photophobia. No, it’s not the fear of photographs or selfies. Photophobia isn’t the fear of light either, but it is a word used to describe an extreme sensitivity to light. People with photophobia experience a range of symptoms. Some people may be only sensitive to bright lights, whereas different types of lighting (fluorescent, LED, sunlight, etc.) may be more triggering.

How Migraine Glasses Help Patients With Photophobia and Migraines

Experts at the John A. Moran Eye Center at the University of Utah Health Sciences Center have been studying the causes and effects of photophobia for quite some time. They discovered that certain wavelengths are more triggering than others. Blue-green wavelengths were most “dangerous” to people with photophobia.

These awesome Utah experts also discovered that a special type of lens filtered out these annoying blue-green wavelengths. These lenses (also known as “FL-41 lenses”) have a rose tint. Migraine glasses use FL-41 lenses to help people with photophobia get through the day or a migraine with mitigated symptoms and an increased tolerance to light.

These glasses aren’t just designed to be worn at the time of a migraine. A 2014 study revealed that three out of four migraine sufferers experienced light sensitivity throughout the day, even after they stopped experiencing migraine symptoms.

“Why can’t you just wear sunglasses?”

This last finding is especially important. Photophobia doesn’t switch on and off like a light switch. Moving from a dark to lit room can trigger photophobia. Long periods of screen time can trigger photophobia. Flashing lights can trigger photophobia.

Even if these lights aren’t particularly bright, they can still trigger photophobia – after all, people with photophobia have a lower tolerance for many different types of light. And it’s hard to determine when or where these triggers might appear in your daily life.

Many people ask themselves (or migraine sufferers) why they just can’t wear sunglasses to treat photophobia. For many people, the answer isn’t to make the room darker – it’s to avoid the types of wavelengths that are most triggering.

Plus, who wants to wear sunglasses 24/7?

Light Sensitivity Relief Helps Reduce Other Symptoms

The effects of migraine glasses aren’t just limited to light sensitivity. Often, migraine sufferers link light sensitivity to pain, anxiety, and discomfort. When walking into a room with bright lighting or looking at your work computer is more comfortable, your day becomes easier and you can avoid migraines triggered by stress or discomfort.

Migraine Glasses Aren’t Just For People With Migraines…

So the answer to our question (“Do migraine glasses really work?”) is: yes. But migraine glasses don’t just help people who suffer from migraines.

Migraine glasses have been tested and proven to help patients who suffer from benign essential blepharospasm (BEB.) People with BEB often experience rapid eye blinking or eye spasms. They also experience a similar type of photophobia as people with migraines.

Other studies have shown that migraine glasses can help to relieve photophobia symptoms in blind migraine sufferers and blind people with photophobia. That’s right; even blind people can experience migraines and sensitivity to light. Photophobia is much more common than you might think, especially if you have migraines.

Migraine Glasses Might Be For You

You might have read to this point and thought, “I don’t have photophobia, so these glasses probably won’t help.” Pump the brakes. Unfortunately, a lot of migraine sufferers don’t realize they have photophobia. Light sensitivity is often overlooked or misdiagnosed alongside all of the other insufferable side effects of migraines.

Researchers at the Baylor College of Medicine asked 84 migraine sufferers whether or not they suffered from photophobia. Twenty-four percent of respondents said they didn’t. After more questioning, the researchers discovered that over 90% of participants did experience some sort of light sensitivity or photophobia.

Talk to a medical health professional about the symptoms of photophobia and how they may affect your migraines.

Where To Find Migraine Glasses

When you start shopping online for migraine glasses, know that you will come across a very similar cousin: blue-blocking glasses. These glasses (also known as “blue light” glasses) help to filter out blue wavelengths that we absorb when we stare at screens. Users offer rave reviews of blue blocking glasses…but these users don’t always suffer from migraines.

The difference between FL-41 glasses and “blue blocking” glasses is that FL-41 glasses focus on the wavelengths that specifically trigger photophobia or migraines. These wavelengths can be found across the blue-green spectrum. There is no harm in trying blue blocking glasses, but people with photophobia may find migraine glasses to be more effective than blue light glasses.

Look for glasses that specifically have FL-41 lenses. Axon Optics, for example, are a popular brand of light sensitivity glasses (migraine glasses) that use FL-41 lenses to relieve symptoms of migraines and light sensitivity.

FL-41 lenses don’t just come in one type of frame or style, either. Migraine sufferers can even find relief in FL-41 contact lenses that have been recently developed for the market.

If you suffer from migraines, migraine glasses are definitely worth a try. Enjoy a life with decreased light sensitivity and reduced migraine symptoms. See the world through rose-colored glasses…literally and figuratively!

Interview October – Maya

Today on Interview October, we’re meeting Maya Northen Augelli . Let’s get to know her better:

MayaNorthenAugelli

Introduce yourself and tell us a bit about you…  

My name is Maya and I’m from Philadelphia, where I live with my husband and our dog. I run a travel planning company, and also work with a local consulting company. I became a mental health and chronic illness advocate in 2009, after being diagnosed with a relatively rare mood cycling disorder. When I’m not working or advocating, you can often find me traveling, hiking or otherwise enjoying nature, reading, writing, or doing yoga – in fact, I’m just starting Yoga Teacher Training this fall!

Chronic illness(es)/disabilities I have… 

I have Rapid Cycling Cyclothymia, a rare mood cycling disorder that’s similar to, but technically “less mild” (in quotes because it definitely doesn’t feel mild at times) to Bipolar Disorder. I also struggle with anxiety as part of this disorder, though not technically diagnosed with a separate anxiety disorder. In addition to my mental health condition, I  battle IBS and Migraines

My symptoms/condition began… 

I am told I was most likely born with cyclothymia. I started exhibiting symptoms of hypomania as early as two years old, though of course they didn’t know what it was at the time. Symptoms progressively increased in frequency and intensity through my teen and early adult years. I was finally diagnosed just shy of my 30th birthday. The migraines I have been getting since I was a teenager – tough to really say when they started, but I can definitively say I can’t really recall a time when I wasn’t prone to migraines. They’re not continual, but I have consistently gotten them at least a few times a month since I was a teen. The IBS symptoms began around the age of 23, and I was diagnosed shortly thereafter.

My diagnosis process was… 

I’ll speak mainly about my cyclothymia diagnosis process here, as they others were pretty straight forward – went to the Dr, was referred to a specialist, had a couple of tests (colonoscopy/upper & lower GI tests for the IBS) and was diagnosed.

The cyclothymia diagnosis was trickier. I’d been seeing therapists on and off since college. I had only found one I’d really trusted, but long story short, at the time my symptoms weren’t as prominent, and I was more seeing her post-divorce than for my specific mental health symptoms. In the summer of 2009, my GP put me on a low dose of antidepressants, which at first helped, but soon made me feel worse. In August 2009, I was hospitalized for two days with what I thought were non-stop anxiety attacks. The hospital increased my depression medication, and I felt worse. When I got out of the hospital, I went to the one therapist I’d trusted from past years, and we began working through things – including the fact that the medication was making me worse. I even brought my mom to a session, in which she described the symptoms I’d exhibited as a very young child (since I couldn’t quite as accurately describe them, having been a toddler when they started). It was during these visits that I was finally diagnosed with rapid cycling cyclothymia. My therapist explained that the antidepressants made me worse because I cycle so rapidly that basically, by the time the medication that’s supposed to “lift” my mood (for lack of a better phrase) hits my system, I’ve already cycled up, and the effect is compounded. So in essence, the antidepressants were putting me in almost continual hypomania (what I had thought were anxiety attacks). She subsequently brought me down off the antidepressants and we began mood stabilizers.

The hardest part of living with my illness/disabilities is… 

It’s two fold for me. One is the feeling of lack of control over my brain. I feel like I often can’t trust my own mind – because I cycle so quickly, literally every day is a complete surprise. I never know how I’ll wake up feeling (depressed, hypomanic, anxious, none of the above), and how often it’ll change each day. Not being able to trust my own brain, or feeling like I can’t, massively affects my self-esteem and often makes me feel hopeless and worthless.

The second is the stigma. The fact that people think you can just smile, change your attitude, be more grateful, look on the bright side, or choose to not feel this way is awful. When this happens, not only do I feel hopeless and worthless, I’m being told it’s my own fault, and shamed for how I’m feeling.

A typical day for me involves… 

I have a full time job, so on weekdays, my day of course involves that. But in terms of illness and coping strategies, I get up early to exercise most weekdays before work – it helps my mood, and it helps me to keep a consistent schedule. I spend time writing each morning – mostly journaling. This helps me brain dump, more or less, so that I can try to sort through the mish-mosh of feelings, emotions, thoughts all going through my brain. Without this outlet, it feels like non-stop stimulation inside of my brain, before even getting much input from the “outside” world, and it makes concentration and focus extremely difficult. Most evenings after dinner, I try to meditate, and/or do some yoga. It’s a wind down for my day, and helps settle my brain, so that I can hopefully get some sleep. If it’s not a work day, I try to spend as much time in the sunshine and fresh air as I can – especially in nature. I’ve been slacking in that lately, and really need to get back into it.

The one thing I cannot live without is… 

My loved ones. They’re my rocks. But if I had to choose an actual thing… I’d be tempted to say my medication, but I’ve had to go temporarily off of it for personal reasons, so technically, I’m living without it for the moment.  So, I’d probably have to say my journal. Writing is my solace. My journal will “listen” to my thoughts and emotions and feelings with no judgement, and it lets me get it “out of my head” without having to actually direct it at anyone, which is huge in helping my relationships with loved ones and friends (note: I’m far from perfect in this regard, but it helps). I work through so much in the pages of my journal, and I can’t imagine not having that outlet on a daily basis.

Being ill/disabled has taught me… 

That I am not alone, and that so many people struggle with their mental health. You hear the statistics, that one in five Americans have a mental health condition, but when you begin talking about your illness and advocating, and you have people you would never have thought coming to you and saying, “Thank you so much for speaking out, I struggle too,” it really hits home. That “one in five” goes from being a statistic to something tangible that you can feel in daily life.  My illness has also given me a purpose. In my adult life, I feel I’ve floundered a bit in really finding where I feel I belong. But utilizing my illness to help others has, from the very start, always felt 100 percent like it’s my purpose and a path that I have to follow. It feels such a natural part of my life, almost an extension of myself, when so little else does sometimes.

What advice would I give someone recently diagnosed… 

I have so much to say here, but I’ll try to condense it!  First, I would tell them to learn everything they can about their illness (from credible sources of course), and that when they’re ready, finding support with others who have the same/similar illness  – whether they find this in an official group or among friends or on social media/online – can make a world of difference. I’d also remind them how often depression and anxiety lie, and that there may be days that their illness wants them to believe every terrible thing about themselves, but that these aren’t true, no matter how convincing the lies sound.  I’d want them to know that there’s hope, there are others who “get it” and are here to help, and that they are not alone. Finally, I’d tell them to make sure that they have a healthcare team that they trust, and just as importantly, that trusts them. We know our bodies and our brains better than anyone else because we have lived with them our entire lives, and it’s important that our health professionals understand this – we deserve that respect as patients, to have our voices heard and not to be discounted.

My support system is…

My husband, my family, my friends, my therapist, my social media/online spoonie family.

If I had one day symptom/disability-free I would… 

Live as fully as I could – do activities I love to do, with people I care about, and try my hardest not to, as so often happens, let the anxiety of “Ok, I feel good now, but when is the proverbial other shoe going to drop”  creep in. Afterall, if I let it creep in, I’d cease to be symptom free!

One positive of having a chronic illness/disability is…

For myself, I’d say that it’s helped me to be more understanding and empathetic. Because I know I’m often struggling with a lot that others can’t see, I try to also remember this when the situation is reversed, and I try to put myself in their shoes before passing judgement. For instance, if someone’s speaking to me badly, I try to ask myself “what might they be going through that I can’t see that’s causing them to act this way?”.

In addition, as mentioned above, it’s given me a purpose and direction. Without my illnesses, I wouldn’t be an advocate, I wouldn’t be involved in so many various organizations and causes, and I wouldn’t have met so many amazing people through these.

My links are:

https://spreadhopeproject.com
www.liliesandelephants.blogspot.com
Twitter: @mayanorthen
Instagram: @myohmy23

If Wishes Were Horses

My daughter Ashley is a groom to thoroughbred racehorses at the Hastings Park racetrack in Vancouver, BC.  She has been doing this for over 23 years now, since she was a teenager and loves every minute she spends in the barn with every horse she interacts with. She grooms the horses in her care, takes them out to the paddock on race days, and picks them up again after the race to walk them and cool them down before preparing them for the night. She’s never once not picked up a horse after a race. Until Friday, August. 24th.
The horse she groomed that night was Ceder Chines, a beautiful Bay gelding. It was the 4th race with a field of 6 and everyone got off to a good start. Cedar Chines was running in 3rd place as they were coming off the far turn and heading towards the backstretch when he suddenly stumbled in distress. The jockey, David Lopez quickly pulled him up and out of the race and held him steady until the horse could be taken by wagon off the track – it appeared that a knee injury had occurred and Ashley was unable to walk her horse off the track that night. X-rays were done and it showed that the knee was literally shattered. After discussion with the owners and trainer, Cedar Chines was humanely put down the next morning, as there was no way to recover from such a devastating injury.
Ashley was inconsolable. She’s never lost a horse before and even though these aren’t horses she owns, she treats every horse she grooms like they belong to her. She loves them all with the deepest love in her heart and gives 100% of her best self to them when she’s taking care of them. The thing was, she couldn’t just give in to her grief, as she still had another horse to prepare for the paddock for the ninth race. Can you imagine what that’s like, knowing one horse you love has broken down and yet still having to send another horse out on the track to race. All you want them to do is come home safe – at that point, you don’t even care if they win.
Living with chronic pain is similar in a lot of ways to horse racing. Waking up every day is a gamble as you don’t know what the day is going to bring. You can start out feeling pretty good, and then all of a sudden “wham!”…you’re in the middle of a Fibromyalgia flare-up, or suddenly it’s a Migraine starting, or your Trigeminal Neuralgia triggers, or your MS relapses. You simply have no way of knowing when any of these events are going to happen. Or, maybe you wake up feeling kinda crummy, but as the day goes by, you start to feel better as you take care of yourself. With the proper grooming – a good breakfast, a shower that doesn’t hurt for a change, clothing that feels good on the skin, a walk that doesn’t exhaust you – and suddenly, you’re feeling like a winner!!
At the end of the day, you just want to come home safe. Whether you ‘re still working while living with Chronic Pain, or you’ve had to give up work and other activities, the ultimate goal is to live as pain-free as possible. You resort to your comfort measures  and other tricks like meditation music to help bring down stress levels, you do what you can to get a good sleep and you just hope and pray you wake up in the morning feeling good. Less pain, refreshed and ready to face the world, like a champion racehorse might feel.
And like a racehorse needs a good groom to take care of them, we have our support systems too. Sometimes it’s a spouse, sometimes it’s a hired caregiver – whoever it is, we depend on them for a little or a lot of our care. If a groom is sloppy with a horse, for example, not wrapping the ankle bandages properly, then the horse has no chance of winning. If we or our caregivers aren’t doing the right things for our health (proper nutrition, exercise, etc), then we have no chance of improving in the larger sense with our pain management.
I wish that it was easier to live with Chronic Pain. I wish I could wake up, eat some breakfast and go for a walk and all would be well, but it’s just not that easy. Life as a race horse sounds much easier in many ways, but when you see how fragile the ending can be, you realize that the horses have it just as tough as we do. I think I’ll stick to being human, and deal with my issues one day at a time, just as I always have.
There is always hope.