It’s Okay To Be Angry About Chronic Illness (I Am!)

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Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

The Beginning

I want to tackle a hard subject today…the emotions that surround living with a Chronic Illness. Every day, we survive the physical pain, but we don’t always talk about the emotional pain that comes with being ill. Let’s change that now. 

When I first started feeling the effects of Fibromyalgia and Osteoarthritis along with my other Chronic Illnesses, I was generally able to function without a lot of changes in my life. I needed some pain medication but found that it helped and didn’t really alter my life, so ended up having some fairly easy years after my initial diagnosis. 

After a period of time, the medication needed to be increased and new drugs had to be introduced to help combat the increasing pain and symptoms. I started taking Lyrica for my Fibro  – a drug that saw me gain 40lbs in 3 months. This is when I first realized that having Chronic Illness was affecting me mentally – I was pissed about the weight gain but resigned to the fact I’d have to live with it. Thankfully my doctor worked with me to find Cymbalta instead and I managed to lose most of the weight I had gained. 

Thus began a pattern where the drugs would work for a while and then lose their effectiveness, necessitating an increase or change in meds, which triggered more anger and emotion. It was a vicious circle…I just wanted to be rid of the pain I was in, but it was getting harder and harder. The side effects of the various meds being introduced were also debilitating and my anger grew at what my body was putting me through. 

As Things Changed

Then came the point where my body had become so broken down that I needed to leave my job and go on long term disability. I can still remember to this day, 10 years later, how incredibly disappointed in myself I was. My body had betrayed me in every way possible. I was at the top of my career with the opportunity to move into some dream roles and suddenly that was all snatched away from me. Devastated doesn’t even begin to come close to how I felt and I ended up in a depression that was hard to come back from. 

It took me a long time to realize that my feelings were valid and I was entitled to feel how I felt. I thought I had to suck it up for everyone around me, and that just wasn’t a place I was ready for. I hadn’t processed my emotions, and they felt just as raw a year later as they had when I first left work. It was only through taking some Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) classes that I started to see how I could validate my feelings yet work through them and come out stronger. 

Having these strong emotions was scary though because I couldn’t separate them at first from the actions of being in pain, and just feeling like a failure as a person. It took time to realize that I had not failed, but my body had. Two very different things. By recognizing the difference, I was able to start accepting that I was not a bad person and that I had done nothing to cause this to happen.

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Image by Sarah Lötscher from Pixabay 

It’s Not Your Fault

I didn’t ask for Chronic Pain and Chronic Fatigue. I was simply unlucky enough to be a person to have to live with these conditions and that meant I had to find a healthier way of dealing with the emotions this generated. I was not unreliable, my health caused my reliability to suffer. My worth was not just because of my job, but by virtue of simply being here. I was still a good person who had something bad happen to her. 

Do you see where I’m coming from and what I’m trying to say? Just because you have a Chronic Illness doesn’t make you a bad person. This condition has happened to you and changed you, against your will. Learning how to live with it becomes the new normal. Once I recognized this, I was able to take a step back and start taking my life back again. 

Making Changes

I worked with my doctor to find a treatment plan that benefited me. This included some medication changes and additions, as well as adding healthy new components to my life such as meditation, music therapy, gentle exercise, stretching, beginners yoga and balancing my eating habits. I stopped feeling guilty when I had to cancel or change plans because Illness took over. I couldn’t help it when those things happened, so why blame myself? I put the blame where it belonged…on my Illnesses, and left it there. 

I was blessed to be able to start this blog, so I could reach out to others with Chronic Pain conditions and help them navigate their way through their experiences. It was very empowering for me and I gained back huge amounts of confidence as I wrote articles and posts. Knowing I was reaching others and actually helping them was a huge confidence booster. 

I also found myself able to start volunteering again, and now sit on 4 different committees, all devoted to aspects of health care. I am a member of a Provincial Measurement Working Group, creating a survey for patients in BC, Canada about their ER experiences and I sit on two committees with the BC Emergency Medicine Network. I continue to seek out new opportunities to volunteer and was last year was nominated for three WEGO Health Awards – including one for Best in Show: Blog and one for Best Kept Secret (regarding my blog).

To wrap this up, I want to reiterate that I think it’s important to sit with your feelings on a regular basis when you live with Chronic Illness. If you need the help of a professional therapist to process what you’re going through, do it. There’s no shame and definitely no harm in learning how to deal with all the emotions that come with a Chronic condition. In fact, I highly recommend it as a part of your overall treatment plan. 

We go through so much on a daily basis that the notion we’re not affected emotionally is ludicrous. Don’t fall into the trap of being “stoic” and taking the attitude that you can handle things on your own if you truly can’t. Reach out for help, whether it be a professional, a friend, or a spiritual advisor. The peace of mind of knowing you’re not alone in your feelings is precious. And remember…

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Pet Therapy for Chronic Illness

Previously posted on The Zebra Pit

Fibromyalgia can be a lonely disease. Staying connected with friends and family becomes difficult when chronic pain and fatigue make it hard to get out and about like you used to. Sometimes, having a pet can make all the difference in the world!

Not only will a furry friend give you some companionship, but it turns out that pet therapy can actually be a pretty effective way of dealing with fibromyalgia pain. Here’s how it works.

What Is Pet Therapy

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Pet therapy is a guided interaction between a person and a trained animal. It also involves the animal’s handler. The purpose of pet therapy is to help someone recover from or cope with a health problem or mental disorder. Basically, it involves using specially trained animals like cats and dogs to provide comfort to people who suffer from diseases like fibromyalgia, cancer, dementia, etc. The animals provide companionship while the patient pets or plays with them, reducing the amount of stress and pain they feel.

The biggest concern when it comes to pet therapy is making sure that the animals are well-trained and vaccinated. Because pet therapy is often done in hospitals, doctors want to be sure that a dog won’t get loose and run around contaminating the area.

With that being said, pet therapy, when done by a professional, is perfectly safe and can be very effective in treating fibromyalgia pain.

What Are The Benefits Of Pet Therapy?

Pet therapy builds on the pre-existing human-animal bond. Interacting with a friendly pet can help many physical and mental issues. It can help reduce blood pressure and improve overall cardiovascular health. It can also release endorphins that produce a calming effect. This can help alleviate pain, reduce stress, and improve your overall psychological state.

How Can Pet Therapy Ease Fibromyalgia Pain?

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While the idea that simply petting a cat or dog can actually help your fibromyalgia pain seems a little far-fetched, there’s some basic science that backs it up. You see, petting an animal has been shown to cause your body to release lower levels of cortisol, which is the hormone linked to stress. And cortisol levels are directly linked to the amount of pain people with fibromyalgia feel.

And in addition to helping deal with your fibromyalgia pain, pet therapy also has other benefits. Depression and anxiety are both common among people with fibromyalgia, and it turns out that pet therapy can also help significantly with those symptoms. People who engage in pet therapy report consistently lower levels of stress and anxiety than people who don’t. There’s something about stroking a companion animal that lends a level of comfort to people who are suffering.

And taking care of an animal also helps people with fibromyalgia get more involved in daily life. Taking the animal on walks or playing with them in the park are great ways to coax yourself out of bed. And that’s especially true on days when your fibro pain makes you want to just close the curtains and go to sleep. So, a therapy animal can even be a link to the rest of the world when you have fibromyalgia.

So pet therapy can not only help you reduce your fibromyalgia pain, it can help you feel happier and less anxious.

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How Can You Start?

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Your doctor or therapist managing your treatment will administer pet therapy. A trained handler, often the pet’s owner, will take the animal to every meeting and work under your doctor or therapist’s direction to help you reach your goals. In most cases, the handlers work as volunteers. Discussion of proper pet handling is needed to ensure the safety of both the person receiving treatment and the pet.

Or if you prefer, you can also purchase your own animal that has been trained to be a therapy animal. There are lots of different breeders and trainers. And one should be able to help you find what you are looking for. A quick google search should be enough to find some in your area.

So maybe you’re the kind of person who hates having to leave their loyal pet behind. Well, getting them certified to provide therapy means that you can get comfort from them anywhere you go. And that can be a great thing when you’re suddenly struck by a fibromyalgia flare-up during your daily routine.

Animals make great companions, and it turns out that they might actually be great for treating fibromyalgia pain too. So if you’re tired of trying side-effect riddled medications, some alternative pet therapy may just be for you.

Outlook

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The success of pet therapy depends on establishing realistic goals and expectations and meeting those goals. You and your doctor or therapist will establish these goals at the beginning of your treatment. You’ll also discuss how to reach those goals and how long it will take.

Your doctor or therapist will monitor your progress and help you stay on track to meet your goals. If your progress is slower or faster than expected, they may alter your treatment plan. Remember,

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Gratitude – Finding the Good in the Bad

Previously posted on The Zebra Pit

When I wrote my post An Attitude of Gratitude, I received a lot of good comments on it, both those left with the post and in other formats. I meant every word of that post and I wanted to expand on that today, and THANK my body for all it does, despite Fibromyalgia (and several other health conditions). Here are some of the reasons I have to thank my body (and my mind!)

I Have A Strong And Compassionate Heart

Physically, my heart is in tip-top shape. After experiencing some chest pain a few years ago, I was put through a battery of tests including a heart scan and an ultrasound. Everything came back showing my heart to be in excellent shape and my risk of heart attack to be at approximately 1% based on all factors in my life.  Now that’s pretty amazing when you consider all the health conditions I live with, but I trust the tests and the monitoring.

What I tend to be most concerned with when it comes to my heart is how compassionate am I? Do I care about others? Do I show it? Do I reach out when others need a hand or a shoulder to lean on? Those are the heart conditions that I worry about and I work hard to make sure I’m staying heart-healthy in this area too.

I’ve Been Blessed With Common Sense

Not many people know that I never graduated High School. I only finished with a Grade 11 education, and while I’ve taken College courses to complete a Certified Event Planning Certificate, I’ve never furthered my formal education. I was able to get a good job in a field I loved by working hard and having common sense, which I believe is something sorely lacking in many people these days.

I don’t know if common sense is something you’re born with or something you learn. I only know that it comes naturally to me. It’s intuitive, it’s part of me and I don’t struggle with it…it’s just who I am. I may not be the most well-educated person in the group, but at least I have this gift.  I’m always thinking and strategizing about scenarios and how I would handle them. I rarely panic anymore about things…I just seem to know how to get on with it. I’m eternally grateful for this ability and I don’t take it for granted.

I’m Able To Give Back To Others

Volunteering is hugely important to me. Having the ability to give back to others makes me feel good and that’s why I sit on committees and working groups, so I can make the improvements that enhance the lives of others. My involvement with Patient Voices Network was a game-changer from the first time I attended the orientation session. PVN is an organization in British Columbia that allows ordinary citizens to have a say in how health care is delivered in our province.

Through my involvement with PVN, I’ve been able to attend conferences and education sessions, sit on committees (4 of them at the moment!) and take part in surveys, including being part of a group that is actually creating a Provincial survey for release in the next year. I’ve traveled for my volunteer work, met incredible accomplished people at all levels of business and government and work alongside other Patient Partners who, like me, are out there making change happen.

I Can Spend Time with Loved Ones

Being able to spend time with my husband and kids and friends is critical to my overall wellbeing. Ray and I have a motorcycle and we love to go for rides around Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands. When I travel with my volunteer work, I’m often able to meet with our daughter Ashley for lunch or dinner in Vancouver where she works, and this is a huge treat. Our son Troy is in Calgary and I am able to see him when I travel there to stay with a dear girlfriend Charlotte twice a year. These are great blessings to me!

I don’t have a lot of friends who live near me, but I treasure the ones I can get together with all the more, especially Lorna. My online friends play an important part in my life as well –I’d be lost without them. I belong to a few online groups who fulfill a need in me that only they could meet. My body and mind function better because of all these interactions and I tend to forget that sometimes, especially when I’m having a high pain day. I can get very reclusive, but it’s good to know that loved ones are there when I need them, just as I am there for them.

I’m Still Able To Read And Listen To Music

I consider myself lucky that none of my health conditions have taken away the deep pleasure I get from reading and from music. I love reading the life stories of others in the form of biographies and autobiographies. Great fiction warms my heart. True Crime stirs my compassion for others. Reading a good book of any genre is a total act of joy for me and to lose that ability would be heartbreaking, even with all the other options available.

The same goes for music. I don’t listen to music every day, or even that often, but when I’m in the mood for it, it completely fills my soul. My tastes are eclectic, running from Acapella to Zydeco and I’m grateful there are so many ways to be exposed to music in this digital age. The internet has been a wonderful source of entertainment in my life and I’m thankful my body allows me to enjoy the endless variety it brings.

I’m Grateful To Be Able To Blog

No matter what my body throws at me physically, I’m still able to write and for that, I have no words. Writing is very personal for me, as it’s all based on my life and what I’m going through. My thoughts and hopes and disappointments are all shared in equal value and it’s a unique feeling to expose myself like that. I don’t mind the scrutiny at all, because I do this of my own free will, but there are times I wonder if I should censor myself more or be even more open.

No matter how bad things get for me physically, I cling to the knowledge that it can get better. Yes, it might get worse, and often does, but even in the worst of my pain, when I’m writhing in bed in agony, there’s a part of me that refuses to give up or give in. That tiny stubborn piece of me that says “hold on, pain ends.”  HOPE.

It’s an honour to know that you, dear reader, are taking in my words and finding something useful. That’s something I’m grateful to my body for, too. No matter how bad things may get physically, you can’t take that away from me.


Season of Miracles

Thoughts

As we enter the Season of Miracles, I wanted to write today about something that’s been on my heart. Joy and Miracles and hope for the future.

There is so much hope that comes with Christmas and Hanukkah – the Birth of the Christ Child, the Miracle of the Oil burning for 8 days – and I want us to see that despite Chronic Illness, there can still be joy and miracles and things to look forward to.

After living with Chronic Illness for over 30 years, my list of physical ailments is long and continues to grow. I also have a mental illness to deal with which will be with me for the rest of my life.

Having Bipolar Disorder was a frightening diagnosis for me, but after finally getting it under control with the proper medications, it’s become a real non-factor in my life and I often forget that I have it.

To me, that’s a miracle.

Each year though, my physical pain gets worse, and so does my Chronic Fatigue. I struggle more with pain management and all the side effects, but I’ve also learned new tips and tricks to help deal with my days – another reason to feel hopeful.

Making Changes

In a previous post, I wrote about complementary medicine and how it can help with Chronic Pain. I am a true believer in trying new solutions for old problems and had some great feedback about this article. I hope you were able to incorporate some of these ideas, or will look at the post to give them a try.

Living with Chronic Pain can be a bittersweet encounter – bitter because of the pain and side effects and all the negative changes in your life, but sweet because there are still things to be grateful for.

Research

There is new research on the horizon for diagnosing Fibromyalgia – the work being done to develop accurate blood testing has never been more exciting, and with science on our side, things are bound to have a positive impact in our lives.

The sooner we get a true diagnosis, the sooner treatment can start.

Treatments themselves are becoming better too, now that we understand that Fibromyalgia isn’t an autoimmune disorder and that its roots lie in the nervous system and the inability to communicate properly with the brain and spinal canal regarding pain signals.

Although there haven’t been any new medications released to treat Fibro, Gabapentin is being used more commonly in conjunction with the approved medications (Savella, Cymbalta and Lyrica) with good results.

More and more patients are becoming involved in Research for their health conditions, and Clinical Trials are being held across North America on a regular basis.

For more information about clinical trials, you can sign up here at ClinicalTrials.gov to see if you qualify for studies on a variety of health issues, not just Fibromyalgia. Another good spot to try is Patients At Heart. For Canadians, this link takes you to the Health Canada Clinical Trials website.

Advocacy

Another area where I’m seeing hope and miracles is in Patient Advocacy. This is a fast growing area where Patients become involved as authorities in their lived experience and work together with Health Care Partners to make changes in how health care is delivered.

One of the largest national organizations in Advocacy is WEGO Health. WEGO Health works with Patients in a wide variety of areas, offering opportunties to share you stories and help to impact change in a number of different ways.

They highlight a number of different annual conferences that take place in North America, and provide opportunities for you to share your story and get involved in various projects.

Patient Advocacy at an organizational level is becoming extremely important as well. If you want to be involved, simply contact the health organization of your choice, and ask them how you can become a Patient Advocate.

Volunteering your time to share your health story and help others is a great way to give back, beyond simply “making a donation”. Financial help is always needed and appreciated, but you can make a real difference as well in sharing your experiences.

Volunteering

Speaking of volunteering, this is an activity that has given me the greatest joy since becoming disabled. I do volunteer work for a group in BC, Canada called the Patient Voices Network, where I act as a Patient Advocate for a variety of Health Care initiatives.

I currently sit on 5 health-related committees,. Two are with the BC Emergency Medicine Network. Another is a Surgical Quality Improvement committee and another committee is devoted to ensuring Quality Control for all the Laboratories on Vancouver Island, BC.

Finally, I am a member of the Oversight & Advisory Committee for the Patient Voices Network, a role I’ve held for 3 years now. We oversee the activities of PVN and ensure that Patients are getting opportunities to share their voices in making change in health care.

I have also recently been working on becoming a Coach for PainBC.ca, allowing me to work directly with people with Chronic Pain and helping them find solutions for situations in their lives that they require some guidance with. I expect that work to start in 2020 when my training is complete in mid-December.

These volunteer opportunities allow me to give back to the community in a variety of ways while still taking care of my health. I devote approximately 20 hours a month to all of these committees which is manageable without overdoing it.

I love the variety of experiences I get to be involved in, the people I work with (surgeons, Government officials, other patients, etc.) and the opportunity to stretch my wings and try new things beyond my day to day life.

I’ve even been sponsored to travel to various conferences and to take courses such as the San’yas Indigenous Cultural Training.

I share this with you to show you that even if your health isn’t the greatest, you can still participate in volunteering in ways that make a difference.

Another volunteer suggestion is this: if you are a crafter, find out if your local hospital has need for knitted or crocheted items and take on the challenge. Blankets, baby items and more are often for sale in the Hospital Gift Shops and you can have a real impact on someone’s life with this kind of giving.

I know I’ve been very comforted in times in the hospital when I’ve been provided with a beautifully created blanket!

Season of Hope

I trust you are getting a sense of the hope and miracles I started this post with. There is so much potential in our lives even if we are disabled by pain and our physical and/or mental illnesses.

We must let go of the old ways of thinking that our good days are behind us, and start celebrating the wonderful things we have yet to accomplish.

Think about what you’re good at and find a way to incorporate it back into your life. What makes you smile? What makes your heart skip a beat? Find a way to bring that joy back into your life and see what changes.

Pain is easier to manage when you have good things to look forward to. Fatigue seems easier to handle when you’re active and busy, both mentally and physically.

I hope this post was helpful. I appreciate your comments below and look foward to sharing a magical Season with all of you! Remember…

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Finding The Holiday Spirit with Chronic Illness

As December makes it’s appearance, it’s time to start thinking about the coming Holidays. Hannukah, Christmas, Kwanzaa and New Year’s Eve are the major celebrations for this time of year, and when you live with Chronic Illness, it can be hard to get into the spirit.

Plan In Advance

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

Keep Managing Your Chronic Illness

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

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

Make Lists

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

Be flexible with how things might change and decide if you’re still able to attend when changes happen. Don’t stress if you can’t…decide what you can change to make things work.

Pace Yourself

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

Be Honest

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

Enlist The Help Of Your Spouse Or Friend

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

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

Don’t feel guilty if you have to leave a situation early. Be thankful instead that you were able to attend, even for just a short while. Gratitude plays a huge part in a successful Holiday season.

Be Okay With Your Plans Changing

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

Ask For Help

Ask for specific things. I don’t like to depend on anyone for help, but if it means making the holidays more manageable, I think it’s worth it. Sometimes, people will offer to help, but they don’t say what they are willing to do. Having a list ready with ideas of what others can do for you will come in handy when people make those kinds of offers.

Do you need help with laundry? Running errands? Housework? How about help with wrapping gifts? Think about all of your regular and holiday tasks and delegate some of them to family members and willing friends.

One thing I ask for when my friends offer to help is that they make me a frozen meal. It helps me to eat healthy but without having to cook during the times I’m either busy or resting. I’ve never had anyone resent the request once they’ve asked what they can do to help me.

Shopping

Shopping can be one of the most stressful parts of the Holidays. Getting out and about can be tiring and painful so make use of the internet to do the majority of your shopping when you can. Most online shops deliver with reasonable pricing and sometimes if you have to ship a long distance, the cost is still worth it to prevent the stress from piling on. Ask for Gift Receipts or Messages so the receiver can return or exchange your gift if necessary.

I keep an Excel spreadsheet with the name of the person I’m shopping for, what was purchased, where and when. It’s easy to refer back to in case there are any questions or problems.

Connect With Others

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

Find “Me” Time

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

I tend to enjoy booking a massage once a month during the Fall and Winter months. I find that it helps me physically and mentally – having that to look forward to after a busy time is a relief. I feel better after my body has had the kinks worked out and I’m often more energized as well. Find out if your insurance covers the cost and look for training schools in your area for better pricing.

Make Time For Your Spouse Or Significant Other

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

Laugh As Much As You Can

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

Remember The Reason For The Season

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

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Positive Things About Chronic Illness

Living With Chronic Illness

Note: This post contains affiliate links. I will receive a small percentage from the total purchase price at no extra cost to you.

Living with a Chronic Illness such as Fibromyalgia, Multiple Sclerosis, Lupus, Ehlers-Danlos, etc. can be a challenge. So much of your time is taken up with medical appointments, tests, daily pain and discomfort, mobility issues and more.

We sometimes forget to take time to spend on positive, “non-medical” moments. Maybe it’s because we have to look for them, rather than have them always there. Maybe it’s because we’re so tired from being ill that it’s too much effort.

I believe it’s important though, to find those good things in the day or to create moments when necessary. I’d like to share a few ideas with you today to help you fill your time with positives.

Moments

Pets

Our pets bring us so much comfort, whether you live with Chronic Pain or not. If you do live with an Illness of some sort, this is especially true. Pets seem to have a way of knowing when we need an extra cuddle or two, and they’re always there for us. I have a wonderful cat named Dorie, who loves to lay on my legs when I’m on my laptop (like right now)

Dorie my cat, sitting on my legs, and bringing comfort from Chronic Pain

I can feel my stress dissipating as soon as Dorie lays with me. It’s a tangible and therapeutic benefit of cat ownership and a wonderful feeling period. If you don’t currently own a pet, it’s something to consider.

Books

I love to read and a good book can completely transport me away from a painful day. I get so caught up in the story I’m reading that everything else fades into the background.

My personal preference for books is stories of people who have overcome challenges, especially Chronic Illness of their own. I also love autobiographies and biographies in general, and books on True Crime. Ann Rule is a favourite author in that category.

A couple of suggested books and authors I adore:

Salt In My Soul is a wonderful book about a young woman who lived with Cystic Fibrosis. Mallory’s story is both joyous and sad as she talks about being a young woman with a fatal disease. Her mom takes up the story when Mallory can’t and shares her daughter’s life and dreams.

Let’s Pretend This Never Happened is by one of my favourite author’s, Jenny Lawson. This is a true account of her life growing up with mental illness and is absolutely laugh-out-loud hilarious. I also recommend her second book, Furiously Happy as a follow up!

You can also follow Jenny on her blog site, The Bloggess

Music

Everyone has their own preferences when it comes to music that makes them feel better. I have one friend who loves to rock out to death metal and another who prefers classical music.

I find that listening to the old classics is what works best for me, to distract me from pain and discomfort. I love Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, Queen, Electric Light Orchestra and so many more. When I can sing along with the songs, it’s easy to put pain behind me.

Choose a gendre that suits your style, or even your particular feelings for the day. Light and upbeat or dark and moody, the goal is to move beyond pain so your focus is elsewhere. Living with Chronic Illness is never easy, so music can often be a great distraction.

Videos/TV/Movies

Living with Chronic Illness often leaves you with a lot of free time. Some people are more visual than others and find that movies and/or TV are what helps them best. With services such as Cable, Hulu, Netflix and more, there’s an endless variety of content available.

One new thing that’s all the rage is ASMR videos. ASMR stands for Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response, and is a sensation of tingling that you get in the head and spine after viewing/hearing certain sounds or sensations. Hair brushing can bring this on, along with many other stimuli.

This Wikipedia article sums up ASMR nicely and you can find many videos on YouTube to help you experience the sensation. I haven’t personally tried it yet, but if you have, I’d love to hear about it…just leave a note in the comments section.

Another way of relaxing is by sitting outside and soaking up the sounds of nature. Birds, crickets, frogs…all of these can be peaceful and induce a sense of calm in the body.

Hobbies

I am just starting a new hobby of “Paint By Numbers” and have been given this kit by a company called Winnie’s Picks. I will be doing a full review of this product at a later date, when my painting is complete, but I wanted to share with you here what a wonderful kit this is.

Inside the solid mailing tube is everything you need to complete a full size painting. There is a canvas as well as a paper copy of the painting, several different sized brushes and all the paint you can possibly need to complete the work. You do need to frame this yourself when it’s done, but everything else is there. The prices are incredibly low for the quality of product too!

There are many hobbies that you can do when you live with Chronic Illness. You want to be able to work on things that you can pick up and put down when needed, but that still give you a challenge at the same time.

Some of the best hobbies to consider are needlework, knitting, crochet, felting, colouring, painting and working with paper, such as cardmaking. You can also get into more detailed work, such as embroidery, jewelry making, candle making, soapmaking and so much more. Tell me about your hobbies in the comment section. I’m always up for learning new things!

Conclusion

I love watching the hummingbirds that come to our feeder. They bring me such joy as they sip at the nectar I’ve left for them, and I can almost feel my blood pressure going down as I observe them.

Finding ways to live with Chronic Illness doesn’t have to be difficult. We generally have everything we need for distraction in our own homes. Sure, there are days when we just feel too ill to watch a movie or play around with a hobby, but for the most part, we can use the above techniques to distract ourselves.

What sort of things do you do on a daily basis, to manage your Chronic Illness? Share with me in the comments so we can all benefit. Remember,

There Is Always Hope

Interview October – Shantay Marsh Thompson

I have another great interview to share with you today…please meet Shantay Marsh Thompson!

Introduce yourself and tell us a bit about you…

My name is Shantay Marsh Thompson, and I am 42 years old. I have two grown kids that are working, and one is in college. I spend my time taking online classes since I am not able to work. I spend my time in the house the majority of the time because walking too much makes my back hurt. I do not go to stores to shop. I shop online or if it is something personal that I need, I will go to Dollar General so I can get in and out. My mother does the grocery shopping for me. 

One fascinating fact about me is:

That even though I am down with this illness, I continue to learn academically.  

Chronic illness(es)/disabilities I have…

I have Fibromyalgia with chronic back pain, depression, Neuralgia, Arthralgia, and Dyslipidemia. The pain in my back is worse. I have trouble sitting and standing for long periods.

My symptoms/condition began…

In 2013 after being diagnosed with endometriosis. After I had my procedure, I started hurting badly after a month. I went back to my gynecologist and asked him to please give me a hysterectomy because I needed to work. I had to wait four months before I could get the hysterectomy, so I continued to work in pain. After I had my hysterectomy in 2014, the pain was still there. I worked for about a month then had to quit my job because I could not stand nor sit for long periods. 

My diagnosis process was… 

Terrible. I went through several doctors in Tuscaloosa, AL. Nobody would give me the help that I needed. I cried every day because my pain was so bad. The medicine they gave me, such as Tramadol did not do anything for me. I had to move back to Mobile County to find me a doctor that could help me. I found one, and he gave me some medicine that would help me reduce the pain some. It was June 2015 before I got a diagnosis.

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

Dealing with the pain in my back. I have tried Fibromyalgia lotions and nothing seems to work good.

A typical day for me involves…

Laying in my bed watching tv or doing some schoolwork. I make myself go to the gym to at least once a week to do strength training and walking but I pay for it the next day. 

The one thing I cannot live without is…

My Lyrica. I have bad nerve pain so I take Lyrica. After my daughter turned 19 in April, my medicaid ended so I had to go without Lyrica for some weeks and I was in pain. 

Being ill/disabled has taught me…

How to appreciate life more and do not take anything for granted. I have worked since I graduated in 1995 and I never thought my working career would end in 2014.  

My support system is…

My one friend, my family, my fiancé, my church family, and the  FIBRO CONNECT Group.  

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

Get out the house and treat myself. 

One positive of having a chronic illness/disability is…

Being thankful that it is not a deadly illness.

One final thing I want people to know is: 

Fibromyalgia is real. I would not wish this pain on no one.

My Links

https://www.facebook.com/Health-Wellness-108684490547162/?view_public_for=108684490547162

Interview October – Jennifer Van Haitsma

I’m excited to share my next guest’s story with you…please meet Jennifer Van Haitsma!

Introduce yourself and tell us a bit about you…

Hi! My name is Jennifer Van Haitsma, the writer behind the blog Diffusing the Tension. I am 33 and I live in Northwest Indiana (about an hour from Chicago). I’m married to my love of 14 years, and we have 2 amazing children. (They are 4.5 and 2.5). In my spare time, I love to watch TV. I’m an avid binge watcher when I can. I especially love British period dramas, procedurals, and true crime documentaries. I also love to read. My goal is to read 35 books this year. I try to workout several days a week as well. 

One fascinating fact about me is:

I am terrified of heights. It is strange because I am not afraid of rollercoasters or airplane rides, but any other situation involving heights petrifies me. 

Chronic illness(es)/disabilities I have…

I live with bipolar disorder and chronic fatigue. Originally, I was diagnosed with depression, but my diagnosis changed about 10 years ago. 

My symptoms/condition began…

I began to exhibit symptoms of depression when I was 9 years old. I was a little more withdrawn at school and acted out a bit more at home, from what I can remember. 

My diagnosis process was… 

When I was 12 or 13 my mom took my to my first therapist. I remember not even wanting to talk to her at first. I had a lot of anger after my cousin’s death in 1995 (when my symptoms started) and really didn’t want to let a stranger climb the walls I had built inside. But ultimately, I was diagnosed with depression. In 2009, at age 23, I began to exhibit symptoms of mania (hyper productivity, irritability, and sabotaging relationships.) I sought treatment again, and in 2010 I was labeled bipolar 2 with rapid cycling mixed episodes. 

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

Definitely the effects it has on those around me. I sometimes lose my patience when it’s not necessary, and take it out on my husband and children, which makes me feel deeply ashamed. Another incredibly hard part is the fatigue. I am so tired that it is hard to stay awake past 7:30pm. 

A typical day for me involves…

Taking the day an hour at a time. I make the kids breakfast, then we do whatever we can to pass the time until lunch, etc. My fatigue makes it hard to stick to a schedule with them currently, as I often need to lie down for prolonged periods of time. 

The one thing I cannot live without is…

My phone! It is where I store my pictures, others’ phone numbers, others’ address, where I get my entertainment, where I keep my to do lists… My phone is the central hub of my daily activity. 

Being ill/disabled has taught me…

It had taught me resilience in a way that nothing else could. I have had to learn that each day is a fresh start, and it is possible to make the most of my situation. It has also taught me the power of speaking about my journey so that I can help others through theirs. 

My support system is…

My biggest supporters are my husband and parents. My husband is my best friend, and he is always patient with me when my illness gets bad, and always stays by my side. My parents provide a lot of support where my husband can’t. The girls get a lot of play time with their grandmas during the day when he is working and I need the help. 

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

It’s funny how hard it is to imagine myself without my illness! I think I would get in a long workout and then spend the day doing fun things with the girls. Maybe a trip to the zoo or a local amusement park, if the weather was good. 

One positive of having a chronic illness/disability is…

It helps you have more empathy for others who struggle. Before my diagnosis, I’m sure I often looked down on people with chronic illness. Now, I know they are just that: people. 

One final thing I want people to know is:

I am not my illness. I am so much more than just bipolar. I am a wife, a mom, a bookworm, a TV addict, a fitness nut, a friend, a sister, a daughter, a person. 

My links are:

Blog: www.diffusingthetension.com

Twitter: www.twitter.com/jvan3610

Facebook: www.facebook.com/diffusingthetension

Instagram: www.instagram.com/diffusing_the_tension

Pinterest: www.pinterest.com/diffusingthetensionblog

Interview October – Jamie Pirtle

It’s time to meet my next guest, the lovely Jamie Pirtle. Enjoy her story!

Introduce yourself and tell us a bit about you…


I was born blind in one eye and with a condition called nystagmus, where my eyes continually move.  The doctors are not sure why, but have suspicions that it could be because my mom smoked and had mono while pregnant.  

I grew up in the south eating meat, potatoes, gravy and biscuits almost every meal. My way of eating was pretty much carbs, carbs and more carbs. A meal without a potato was pretty much a sin.

As a teen, I started to eat junk food, including diet coke and snickers for lunch and the diagnoses started coming in during my late 20’s. 

Conditions you have been diagnosed with:

  • Mitral Valve Prolapse
  • High Cholesterol
  • Arthritis (in remission)
  • IBS 
  • Lupus (in remission)
  • Ankylosing spondylitis (in remission)
  • Endometriosis (had hysterectomy)
  • Thyroid cancer (removed and now take meds)

I can remember staying in the bed all day one Mother’s Day crying because I couldn’t play with my 2-year-old daughter or go see my mom.  The pain and unpredictable bowel movements were just too much.  

I didn’t get to take vacation from work because I used all my time off going to specialist and staying home sick.

I can’t wait to hear about YOUR progress!

At about age 49, I started following a health coach on Facebook and listening to him talk about how what we eat results in autoimmune diseases.  This coupled with returning from a cruise so sick I missed another week of work, I decided I had to do something 

I first went gluten free and started eliminating junk food and diet cokes. Next, I cut out all aspartame, high fructose corn syrup and most fried foods. This helped, but there was still something missing. 

Then I was diagnosed with thyroid cancer. When you hear these dreaded words, your world stops.  I remember sitting in the parking lot of the doctor’s office talking to my husband on the phone and saying, I have to figure out what is causing this. 

I started studying everything I could get my hands on and decided the only way to go was to eat whole, mostly organic foods. I also cut out as many carbs as I could and cut way back on sugar. 

After improving my lifestyle, I feel SO much better in my 50’s than I ever did in my 30’s and 40’s. I went from taking 9, yes NINE daily prescriptions to just ONE (my necessary thyroid medicine) and eliminated the pain associated with several autoimmune diseases.

One fascinating fact about me is:

I went back to school at age 53 and became a certified health coach so I can help others get healthy and not have to live in pain like I did.  I also beat cancer and plan to stay cancer free! 

My symptoms/condition began…

In my late 20’s. (born with the eyes) 

My diagnosis process was… 

Long and tedious. The doctors just kept telling me I was too stressed at work and I needed to learn to relax. I also knew something was wrong with my thyroid and it took almost 2 years for doctors to finally find the cancer after I insisted on a sonogram and biopsy. 

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

People think I am ignoring them when I cannot see them out of my bad eye or they think I’m drunk or high as my eyes move. When I was in school the teachers thought I was day dreaming because it was easier for me to focus on them by turning my head and creating a null point that made my eyes stop moving. It is also hard to do fun activities like bowling due to some joint pain from time to time. 

A typical day for me involves…

Eating healthy and making sure I drink lots of water, take my supplements, use essential oils and remember the food makes a HUGE difference in how I feel. I work a demanding manager job with a large aero defense company and have a side gig as a heath coach and blogger. 

The one thing I cannot live without is…

My glasses for sure!  But also, healthy foods and supplements – I take lots of supplements. 

Being ill/disabled has taught me…

That life is precious and we really are what we eat.  I have also learned not to push myself and to try to destress as much as possible. 

My support system is…

My husband, family and friends.  I have also found joy now in my health coaching clients.  It is such a great feeling to see them losing weight and regaining energy. 

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

Go watch a 3D movie! They don’t work for me with my bad eyes.  

One positive of having a chronic illness/disability is…

It has made me strong and made me a lifelong learner.  I can no longer rely on others to make medical decisions for me and research everything a doctor tells me. 

One final thing I want people to know is:

Food is a HUGE factor in your health and how you feel. Unfortunately, many doctors want to give you a pill and not educate you on the importance of good nutrition. 

My links are: 

Healthywithjamie.com

https://m.facebook.com/healthywithjamie/

https://www.instagram.com/healthywithjamie1/

https://www.facebook.com/groups/2109386845847472/?ref=share

https://www.linkedin.com/in/jamiehyatt1

Free recipe book with 23 gluten free and Keto friendly healthy recipes: 

https://healthywithjamie.com/free-recipe-book/#

Interview October – Keiran Potter

It’s time to meet my next guest, the fabulous Keiran Potter! I’m excited about what he has to share!

Keiran Potter

Introduce yourself and tell us a bit about you…

Hello, my name is Keiran Potter, I am 21 years old and I am from the South West of England. I am currently studying English Literature and Creative Writing at University and hope to pursue a career as a writer if all goes to plan. But you know what they say, best laid plans of mice and men often go awry. 

One fascinating fact about me is:

Not sure how fascinating any of my facts are but I am 22 this month and still often get mistaken for a 12 year old at my local shops. Oh and I’m gay, not fascinating but definitely a fact. 

Chronic illness(es)/disabilities I have…

Celiac Disease and Various Mental Health problems but for the sake of this interview I’ll focus on the former

My symptoms/condition began…

The symptoms of Celiac were present for an awful long time before I recognised them as something that could be potentially sinister. The stomach pain, migraines and bleeding had been such a regular thing for me, that it became the norm and I failed to question it for a long time. So I’d say as long as I remember I have had the issue but it wasn’t further explored until May 2018 

My diagnosis process was… 

 I had to have blood tests and several other samples. Celiac Disease can share some symptoms with other serious conditions like intestinal cancers, so my doctor was pretty concerned. Once they came back I got referred to a specialist on a 9 month waiting list. In the interim they told me to research about Celiac Disease and cut out Gluten from my diet. They failed to tell me that by doing this it would also put other aspects of my health at risk. Such as my heart. 

When I was referred I was then asked to eat Gluten again after being gluten-free for 9 months, in order to have an upper endoscopy and biopsy of my intestines. 

So all of my symptoms got more aggressive and I was in constant pain as my body had began healing in the 9 months that I had known about my potential diagnosis 

The first biopsy was inconclusive. I had to wait another 3 months and get another one done. It was quite a hellish experience to be honest but I finally got the 100% confirmation of the disease. Which in many ways was a blessing as I finally had some answers 

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

The constant vigilance and endless fatigue and stomach pain. Even when doing everything you should be doing. Sometimes you have issues for no apparent reason and there is literally no answer to appease your concerns or pain. 

A typical day for me involves…

 A lot of thinking ahead about the risks of everyday living. Such as eating or spending the day out of the house in an unfamiliar place. A lot of time spent on or near a toilet. University, I study English and Creative Writing. Lots of medication but thankfully a lot of laughs 

The one thing I cannot live without is…

 Not really a thing but my support system and the people who help and love me the most. I quite literally would not be alive if it wasn’t for them. 

Being ill/disabled has taught me…

To value every aspect of your life for what it is. You never know when those simple joys may be taken from you. It has also made me more appreciative of health in general. Our bodies are not as indestructible as we may like to think sometimes  

My support system is…

My Family, my mum specifically. I don’t think I would show up to half of the appointments I have if it wasn’t for her dragging me there by the ear. I’m very grateful for all the help and care she gives me 

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

 Eat some Chinese food and go do something productive and just enjoy the day without the illness. I would take advantage of some of the freedoms that I feel I don’t have as much access too since my illnesses have truly taken a hold on my life

One positive of having a chronic illness/disability is…

I think one positive is how you can then use your knowledge of your own body and conditions to educate and help others. There is also a sense of community instantly when you find people who struggle with the same illnesses and experiences. It’s important that all voices are heard, so I’m glad interviews like this amplify the voices of disabled or chronically ill people. 

One final thing I want people to know is:

 Only because a person may not look ill, it doesn’t mean they are not struggling everyday to live their life as normally as possible. Always be kind to everyone you meet as even if you can’t physically see it, that person could be in pain and/ or mental strife. A smile could always brighten up their day 

My links are:

Https://KeiranCrying.com/blog

Instagram.com/keirancrying