There Is Always Hope

Living with Chronic Illness is an act of bravery. When each of your days is spent in pain and discomfort, it takes a lot of courage to keep going. I want to talk about hope…how to have it to get through your life and how it helps to keep a person going.

there is always hope

What is HOPE? Here is one definition I found that I think sums it up:

Hope is an optimistic state of mind that is based on an expectation of positive outcomes with respect to events and circumstances in one’s life or the world at large. As a verb, its definitions include: “expect with confidence” and “to cherish a desire with anticipation.”

Being optimistic is essential when you live with Chronic Illness, because the alternative is unacceptable. If you only see negatives, then you end up wallowing in misery and that compounds how you feel physically and mentally. I truly believe that even in the worst illnesses, there are positives to be found.

  1. You gain a better perspective of your own strengths
  2. You show more compassion for others who are struggling
  3. You understand the human condition for what it is and tend to reach out more to others
  4. Every accomplishment is a victory
  5. You find greater wisdom from those around you

Expecting with confidence is based on faith – trusting that what you want the most will come true. Realistic faith is a good thing and ridiculous faith is even better! What is ridiculous faith? It’s when you hope and pray for something which is beyond reasonable expectations, but still anticipate that miracles could happen.

Do you need Religion to have Hope? I don’t think so. It can help in many ways, as prayer can be a very comforting thing, but I don’t think it’s necessary. Many people consider themselves Spiritual rather than Religious and find comfort in ritual, nature or other traditions. Prayer may not be a part of their lives, but they still find comfort in the routines they’ve established for themselves.

I am a Christ Follower and find prayer to be essential to my well-being. It comforts me to know that I have a God who is bigger than me and who holds me in the palm of His hand. I trust that He has a plan for my life and though I may not understand it, I accept it. Acceptance on it’s own can be comforting.

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Image by Daniel Reche from Pixabay

So how does one go about growing Hope in their lives? What steps do you have to take to have faith in the things that are happening in your life, good and bad?

  1. Acknowledge your strengths. Chronic Illness can rob us of our confidence. Try making a list of all of your strengths and accomplishments. Read through the list and congratulate yourself for these positive traits. Understanding that you still have much to offer the world goes a long way in inspiring hope in the soul.
  2. Cultivate supportive relationships. As much as you can, surround yourself with supportive and caring people. People who help you to feel good and encourage you to be your best help to increase your sense of wellbeing. Having a supportive network of friends will help you to further your interests and goals. It’s much easier to find hope within a strong community as opposed to completely on your own
  3. Look at the activities and attitudes of people around you. See if any of them can serve as role models for what you would like to accomplish for yourself. Also, consider how the people around you act and make you feel. When you surround yourself with hope and success, it naturally trickles down into your own life. Like attracts like.
  4. Engage in pleasurable activities. Doing things that you enjoy can also help you to develop your sense of hope. By engaging in activities that make you happy every day, you will have a greater sense of purpose. If you are not sure about what activities bring you the most joy, try out some new things to figure it out. Take a class at your local community college, try a new exercise routine (Aqua-based activities are easy on the body), learn a new skill, or start a new hobby.
  5. Get involved with a cause. Volunteering for a cause you believe in is a great way to cultivate hope towards the future. This can be in either your local community or even an online community if mobility is an issue for you. Patient Advocacy is an area that is under-represented and working with Health Care Organizations can have a huge impact on yourself as well as others who live with Chronic Illness.
  6. Build relationships with others. When you start to build new relationships over common goals or projects, your sense of hope can greatly increase as you see results from your efforts. Involving yourself with other people who share your interests can help you to overcome alienation, which can cause a feeling of hopelessness.
  7. Get out of your comfort zone. This is essential to changing your thought patterns and learning to approach the world with more hope. Go out with friends after work instead of going straight home. Join a club or group so you can share new experiences with others. Develop a new hobby. Put yourself out there in ways that make you mildly uncomfortable at first.
  8. Keep track of your thoughts and feelings in a journal. Journaling is a great way to understand why you have been feeling hopeless and it is also a great stress reliever. To get started, buy a beautiful journal and a nice pen or pencil. Choose a comfortable place and plan to devote about 20 minutes per day to writing. Start by writing about how you are feeling, what you are thinking, or whatever else is on your mind.
  9. Try keeping a gratitude diary. Every night, think of three things you are grateful for and write them down. Doing this every day will help you to develop a more hopeful outlook and it can also help you to sleep better and enjoy better health. 
  10. Take care of yourself. Exercise, eat healthy food, get plenty of rest, and relax. By taking good care of yourself, you are sending your mind signals that you deserve to be happy and treated well which can increase your hope for the future. Make time to take care of yourself
    • Exercise to the best of your ability.
    • Eat a balanced diet of healthy foods like fruit, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins.
    • Get 7-9 hours of sleep per night. Use good sleep hygiene if you have trouble sleeping.
    • Set aside at least 15 minutes per day to relax. Practice yoga, do deep breathing exercises, or meditate.
    • Stay hydrated
    • Go for a massage or have body work such as Reiki to help balance you.
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Hope doesn’t have to be a fleeting thing…it can be a strong and deciding factor in your day to day life. I live every day with the hope it will be a good day. Positivity goes a long way in making me feel better physically, mentally and spiritually. I’m realistic about what I am and am not able to do, but I never give up hope that things will be better. It’s all about attitude and choosing how you want to feel.

I hope these ideas and suggestions are useful for you. I named my blog There Is Always Hope because I truly believe that statement. Even in the worst of our moments, I believe there is always a tiny light burning bright for us. We just have to look for it. Sometimes that means stepping out of our comfort zone and doing something we never thought we were capable of, but if we can overcome our fear, we may be surprised as to what we find.

And so I end this post as I always do and I mean it even more today…

There Is Always Hope

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Waiting With Fibromyalgia

Do you like to wait for things? Are you patient enough that having to wait doesn’t really bother you, or do you get frustrated when you have to wait, even a short time?

Waiting

I was thinking recently about all the waiting my illnesses have caused me to do. For starters, I wait to feel less pain in my day. I wake up in the morning stiff and sore and sometimes I have to wait to get out of bed because I’m in too much pain.

I take my medications, and then I have to wait for them to kick in. There’s never instant relief, no matter how I long for it. Once the pain pills have started to work their magic, I’m able to start my day. At this point, I’m usually starving because I had to wait to eat.

The whole day goes like this. I wait to get pain relief, I wait until I feel hungry, I wait to take a bath until my husband is home, I wait to do any type of work or hobby until I have some energy. I wait to feel happy. I wait for my husband to come home from work so I have someone to talk with. I wait for the phone to ring from friends who’ve forgotten me.

I don’t mean to sound like a pity party, I’m just sharing the realities of my life. I can’t get out and about to make new friends and with Covid-19 in our lives, it would be impossible to do even if I was able to get out of the house. So, I wait for a miracle to happen, for my pain and fatigue to disappear.

Photo by Felipe Cespedes from Pexels

Learning

What have I learned with all the waiting? Patience for one thing. I know that things don’t just happen overnight and that all good things take time. I know that I’ll always live with pain, but I’m learning how to manage it as best I can, with the various tools at my disposal.

I use medications, massage, deep breathing, guided meditations and more to manage my days. Sometimes I can distract myself with a good book or a movie. Sometimes a treasured hobby can keep my mind occupied.

Sometimes I write….this blog, my poetry, a letter to myself. Getting words onto paper holds a special place in my heart and I find it healing to go back and read what I wrote during stressful times.

Telling

Telling someone about what I’m going through can be very helpful to get me through the day. Often I’ll touch base with my dearest friend Charlotte and just share what’s on my heart. We’ve been friends for 20 years now and she knows me so well.

She asks me the right questions and probes my answers to get to the heart of things. I love how she listens and offers words of wisdom. It makes the waiting easier.

I’ve also been involved in Pain Management groups before and I find them so helpful, because it’s people just like me going through the same situations that I do. They get me…they know what the waiting is like.

Photo by Daria Shevtsova from Pexels

Volunteering

I am an active volunteer and sit on several various committees that help to make real change in how Health Care is delivered. One is a Physician Improvement Measurement Group where we survey Doctors on how they can improve their practices.

Having spent much time in Emergency Departments over the years, I also volunteer with the BC Emergency Medicine Network. I sit on the Executive Committee and on the Clinical Resources Committee where we are currently updating all the information sheets that are handed out to you when you are discharged from the Emergency Department. It’s a big project but so worthwhile.

Other volunteer work includes sitting on the planning committee for a new Health Care Centre in my hometown of Langford, BC. This HCC will help provide medical care to the many people who don’t currently have a family doctor.

Conclusion

Do you find yourself in the same position as I do with waiting? Are you always waiting for the next thing to happen. I’m learning how to ground myself in the moment and not let waiting take over my life. It’s a minute by minute process and I’m constantly having to reel myself in from distractions, but it’s so satisfying when I do.

I may always be kept waiting for certain things with my Fibromyalgia and my Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, but I’m becoming more aware and finding ways to make it positive and not negative. I hope you can too.

Share your thoughts in the comments below. I’d love to hear from you. Remember,

There is always hope!

Positives In Pain

Living with a Chronic Illness can be life changing. Everything you knew or did before your illness changes, and life becomes. very different. Suddenly, you’re seeing doctors, attending medical appointments, taking medications, trying new therapies, all while living with pain, fatigue and various other symptoms.

Controlling Your Attitude

It’s easy to let this new life overwhelm you. A normally cheerful and outgoing person can now be dealing with an immense amount of stress, and it’s easy to let your attitude about life change. “It’s not fair” you might think, and you’d be right. Developing an illness of any type is not fair.

The important thing to remember is that the only one who can control your attitude is you. Only you have the power to take the negatives in your life and try to find positives instead. How do you find a positive in pain? Well, there are several ways:

Types of Pain - Chronic Pain

Pain Forces You To Slow Down

When you live with Chronic Pain or Illness, you find yourself overwhelmed with all the new changes in your life. You may be forced to slow down a bit to deal with these changes, and that can be a good thing. Rest allows you to reduce stress, heal faster and is good for your emotions as well.

Connections With Other People

Finding people who are experiencing the same thing you are can be golden. There’s nothing quite like explaining your symptoms to someone and having them not only understand, but empathize with what you’re going through.

Relationship With Your Medical Professional

Most people see their doctor only once or twice a year. When you live with Chronic Pain and Illness, you will likely see your medical professional far more frequently. This is a great opportunity for you to build a strong relationship with them, so you get the best care possible.

Self Care

Chronic Pain and Illness forces you to learn self care, a skill most of us don’t employ often enough. Self Care means taking time to do the things that make you feel good – exercise, meditation, prayer, reading, listening to music, yoga, connecting with others…the list is endless. The more you practice Self Care, the better it is for your overall health.

Patient Advocacy

Many Health Care Organizations require Patients to advocate about their conditions and this can go a long way in helping you to find a positive about your health. It’s empowering to stand up in front of others and share about your condition and how it impacts your life. Others benefit from your experiences and you can change lives in ways you might not have imagined.

Developing A Hobby

Sometimes living with Chronic Pain and Illness forces you to look at your life and determining that you need to make some changes…perhaps you need to put some fun in your life. If you love to read, write, draw, create or some other type of activity it is a good distraction to your illness.

If your illness has caused you to not be able to do the things you used to love then perhaps it’s time to find a new hobby within your abilities

Photo by Steve Johnson from Pexels

How have you found positives with your health? Leave a comment on this post and share with others what’s worked for you. Remember…

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

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

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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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Taking A Hiatus (and this is not an April Fool’s joke)

Dear Readers,

I will be taking a short hiatus from blogging as I am dealing with some issues related to my Bipolar Disorder. I have been in a BD depression for several weeks now and have had some days so bad, I considered suicide.

The main issue is that I need to change my medications again as my current regiment has stopped working. I have been living with debilitating brain zaps that feel like an electrical current zipping through my brain. These leave me feeling dizzy and disoriented, and being on the computer is difficult during those times.

I will be back!! I refuse to let this defeat me, but I do need to take some time away until I have my BD back under control. It’s hard enough living with the physical pain of Fibromyalgia, Osteoarthritis, D.I.S.H., and more, but adding the mental health burden has become too much.

Thank you for your loyalty. Comments are appreciated.

Pamela

All About Parkinson’s Disease

April is Parkinson’s Disease Month and I wanted to talk to you all briefly about this condition as part of my mandate to highlight “invisible diseases”.

Although there can be some visible signs when you have Parkinson’s Disease, it often starts out very subtle and hard to notice. A tremour in one hand might be the only outward sign in the beginning.

Here is an overview taken from the Mayo Clinic website. Click on the link for the full description on Parkinson’s Disease including Testing, Treatments and Living with Parkinson’s.

Overview

Parkinson’s disease is a progressive nervous system disorder that affects movement. Symptoms start gradually, sometimes starting with a barely noticeable tremor in just one hand. Tremors are common, but the disorder also commonly causes stiffness or slowing of movement.

In the early stages of Parkinson’s disease, your face may show little or no expression. Your arms may not swing when you walk. Your speech may become soft or slurred. Parkinson’s disease symptoms worsen as your condition progresses over time.

Although Parkinson’s disease can’t be cured, medications might significantly improve your symptoms. Occasionally, your doctor may suggest surgery to regulate certain regions of your brain and improve your symptoms.

Symptoms

Parkinson’s disease signs and symptoms can be different for everyone. Early signs may be mild and go unnoticed. Symptoms often begin on one side of your body and usually remain worse on that side, even after symptoms begin to affect both sides.

Parkinson’s signs and symptoms may include:

  • Tremor. A tremor, or shaking, usually begins in a limb, often your hand or fingers. You may a rub your thumb and forefinger back-and-forth, known as a pill-rolling tremor. Your hand may tremor when it’s at rest.
  • Slowed movement (bradykinesia). Over time, Parkinson’s disease may slow your movement, making simple tasks difficult and time-consuming. Your steps may become shorter when you walk. It may be difficult to get out of a chair. You may drag your feet as you try to walk.
  • Rigid muscles. Muscle stiffness may occur in any part of your body. The stiff muscles can be painful and limit your range of motion.
  • Impaired posture and balance. Your posture may become stooped, or you may have balance problems as a result of Parkinson’s disease.
  • Loss of automatic movements. You may have a decreased ability to perform unconscious movements, including blinking, smiling or swinging your arms when you walk.
  • Speech changes. You may speak softly, quickly, slur or hesitate before talking. Your speech may be more of a monotone rather than with the usual inflections.
  • Writing changes. It may become hard to write, and your writing may appear small.

When To See A Doctor

See your doctor if you have any of the symptoms associated with Parkinson’s disease — not only to diagnose your condition but also to rule out other causes for your symptoms.

Causes

In Parkinson’s disease, certain nerve cells (neurons) in the brain gradually break down or die. Many of the symptoms are due to a loss of neurons that produce a chemical messenger in your brain called dopamine. When dopamine levels decrease, it causes abnormal brain activity, leading to symptoms of Parkinson’s disease.

The cause of Parkinson’s disease is unknown, but several factors appear to play a role, including:

  • Your genes. Researchers have identified specific genetic mutations that can cause Parkinson’s disease. But these are uncommon except in rare cases with many family members affected by Parkinson’s disease.However, certain gene variations appear to increase the risk of Parkinson’s disease but with a relatively small risk of Parkinson’s disease for each of these genetic markers.
  • Environmental triggers. Exposure to certain toxins or environmental factors may increase the risk of later Parkinson’s disease, but the risk is relatively small.

Researchers have also noted that many changes occur in the brains of people with Parkinson’s disease, although it’s not clear why these changes occur. These changes include:

  • The presence of Lewy bodies. Clumps of specific substances within brain cells are microscopic markers of Parkinson’s disease. These are called Lewy bodies, and researchers believe these Lewy bodies hold an important clue to the cause of Parkinson’s disease.
  • Alpha-synuclein is found within Lewy bodies. Although many substances are found within Lewy bodies, scientists believe an important one is the natural and widespread protein called alpha-synuclein (a-synuclein). It’s found in all Lewy bodies in a clumped form that cells can’t break down. This is currently an important focus among Parkinson’s disease researchers.

Risk factors

Risk factors for Parkinson’s disease include:

  • Age. Young adults rarely experience Parkinson’s disease. It ordinarily begins in middle or late life, and the risk increases with age. People usually develop the disease around age 60 or older.
  • Heredity. Having a close relative with Parkinson’s disease increases the chances that you’ll develop the disease. However, your risks are still small unless you have many relatives in your family with Parkinson’s disease.
  • Sex. Men are more likely to develop Parkinson’s disease than are women.
  • Exposure to toxins. Ongoing exposure to herbicides and pesticides may slightly increase your risk of Parkinson’s disease.

Complications

Parkinson’s disease is often accompanied by these additional problems, which may be treatable:

  • Thinking difficulties. You may experience cognitive problems (dementia) and thinking difficulties. These usually occur in the later stages of Parkinson’s disease. Such cognitive problems aren’t very responsive to medications.
  • Depression and emotional changes. You may experience depression, sometimes in the very early stages. Receiving treatment for depression can make it easier to handle the other challenges of Parkinson’s disease.You may also experience other emotional changes, such as fear, anxiety or loss of motivation. Doctors may give you medications to treat these symptoms.
  • Swallowing problems. You may develop difficulties with swallowing as your condition progresses. Saliva may accumulate in your mouth due to slowed swallowing, leading to drooling.
  • Chewing and eating problems. Late-stage Parkinson’s disease affects the muscles in your mouth, making chewing difficult. This can lead to choking and poor nutrition.
  • Sleep problems and sleep disorders. People with Parkinson’s disease often have sleep problems, including waking up frequently throughout the night, waking up early or falling asleep during the day.People may also experience rapid eye movement sleep behavior disorder, which involves acting out your dreams. Medications may help your sleep problems.
  • Bladder problems. Parkinson’s disease may cause bladder problems, including being unable to control urine or having difficulty urinating.
  • Constipation. Many people with Parkinson’s disease develop constipation, mainly due to a slower digestive tract.

You may also experience:

  • Blood pressure changes. You may feel dizzy or lightheaded when you stand due to a sudden drop in blood pressure (orthostatic hypotension).
  • Smell dysfunction. You may experience problems with your sense of smell. You may have difficulty identifying certain odors or the difference between odors.
  • Fatigue. Many people with Parkinson’s disease lose energy and experience fatigue, especially later in the day. The cause isn’t always known.
  • Pain. Some people with Parkinson’s disease experience pain, either in specific areas of their bodies or throughout their bodies.
  • Sexual dysfunction. Some people with Parkinson’s disease notice a decrease in sexual desire or performance.

Treatment

There are a number of different drugs that may be utilized in the treatment of Parkinson’s Disease. The most popular include:

  • Carbidopa-levodopa. Levodopa, the most effective Parkinson’s disease medication, is a natural chemical that passes into your brain and is converted to dopamine.
  • Carbidopa-levodopa infusion.
  • Dopamine agonists.
  • MAO B inhibitors.

There is also a surgical option that may prove helpful. This article tells more about it, also from the Mayo Clinic.

For those who are interested in using CBD Oil, this article may prove helpful.

Remember,

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Domestic Violence – It Affects So Many

****Trigger Warning: This post contains depictions of violence against women.

I’m writing about a difficult and personal subject today. Domestic Violence is rampant in North America, and around the world and while I could write a full book on the subject, I want to address it in the context of my own personal story – that of a person who also lived with Chronic Pain.

The Story

I met Dallas on Christmas Day of 1979 when I was 17 and he was 34. I was instantly smitten with him and he was a charmer who got what he wanted when he wanted it. I was delighted his attentions fell on me because I was lonely and on my own – hitchhiking my way around the US and far from any family or friends.

At first, I didn’t realize that Dallas was also a pathological liar. His natural ability to talk to anyone about anything and sound so convincing, plus his good looks had instantly blinded me to anything that could knock him off the pedestal I had placed him on. Oh sure, some things didn’t really “click” with me and he often told the same stories to people that built him up, but I didn’t really think about it.

I learned very quickly that Dallas was also a jealous man and didn’t like other men paying attention to me – especially when they talked to me. We were both traveling the country now, with no set plans in place, and of course he didn’t have a job (a very common scenario as I would soon figure out), but he was good at getting things from people and so we traipsed around, talking about “settling down” and heading to whatever destination would be best for Dallas to come up with a plan. That involved talking to people – or rather, him talking and me trying to make myself invisible.

The first time he hit me was after we had been sitting in a bar on the ground floor of the truck stop we were staying at. He had gone back to our room for something and when he came back, I was chatting to a gentleman next to me, who had literally just asked: “so how are you tonight”? Dallas grabbed me by the arm, dragged me to our room and then started screaming at me about being unfaithful. He backhanded me so hard, I fell across the bed and onto the floor. He yanked me up by my hair and hit me again and I just took it, I was so shocked. It was the first time of many this happened.

But I stayed. I had been living with Chronic Pain for a couple of years at this point in my life and when he wasn’t in a jealous mood, Dallas was so loving and considerate of me. He kept promising to find us a place and get a job and every few months that would happen. We’d settle somewhere, he’d start working and then do something stupid like write some bad checks or shoplift (or outright steal things from people), and we’d have to pack up and leave town, like regular thieves in the night.

Somehow, over time, this pattern became my fault though. If I WASN’T always in pain, we could just travel around the country – that was his theory. He wanted to be a truck driver, but had lost his license so wasn’t able to drive. He resented me for “holding him back from his dreams,” though I’m not sure how he actually reconciled those thoughts. What was apparent was that everything that went wrong was somehow my fault.

One night, while he was in a rage about life not turning out to be fair, he locked me outside of the wee trailer we staying at, in the middle of the night, while I was naked. It was pouring rain, there were no neighbours nearby (we were living out of town) and it was cold. I pounded on the door, but he wouldn’t let me in, and I finally was forced to hide out in the shed on the property, wrapped in a mouldy blanket I found.

The next morning, he acted like nothing had happened. He never apologised, not in words, but sometimes, he would treat me with kid gloves. I never knew from day to day, or even hour to hour, which version of Dallas I was going to get.

I spent 3 years with this man. At one point, he left me for another woman we had met after he completed a 3-month prison stint for a Parole Violation. I returned home to Canada, worked to save up some money and went back to the US to find him. I was that in love and desperate to be with him. So sad when I think about it now. I even ended up pregnant, until a fight with him turned physical and he beat me badly enough that I lost the baby.

We made up, again…I got pregnant for the second time and ended up giving birth to a lovely little boy on Jan. 30th. This time, we were going to do things right! We found a place in Bellingham, Washington to live, and Dallas began working as a house painter. For 6 months, he actually managed to stay at the same job…I truly thought he’d turned a new leaf, with his son being the motivating factor. We still fought viciously, but he only hit me a couple of times, so I thought we could still work things out. Then I became pregnant again when our son was only 6 months old.

This time, it was different. One day, he told me he was going to Seattle for a quote on a huge painting job that could really put us in the money. He left on a Thursday, promising he’d be back on Sunday night.

He never came back.

I sat at the window of the small room we lived in, waiting all Sunday night, not wanting to admit the truth but by end of the day Monday, I had to admit he was really gone. He abandoned his son and child to be, and me, the woman who had stood by him faithfully through all the pain and beatings and lies.

It took a long time for me to recover. I moved back home to Canada, gave birth to my daughter alone and became a single mom to two wonderful kids. I dreamed about Dallas all the time – what could I have done differently to make him happy? How could I have been a better person for him, so he wouldn’t beat me? What did I do that caused him to hate me so much and how could I track him down again?

I didn’t try to find him again. I did see him twice after he left – he contacted me and came to where I was, first when the kids were 1 and 2 and then again when they were 5 and 6. That was the last time I laid eyes on Dallas, and though I grieved for so many things, I had grown some self-esteem by that point and realized how much better I was on my own. I vowed I would never again be abused in any way.

Forms of Abuse

Physical

Physical abuse is probably what we think of first when we hear the word ‘abuse.’ There were always incidents of yelling and screaming at me, hitting me, pulling my hair, punching me in places that the bruises wouldn’t show and little shoves etc, in front of others to keep me under control. I learned quickly not to start conversations with people and to speak only when I was spoken to, so he didn’t get physical with me.

Mental

Mental abuse is almost harder to take than physical abuse. The bruises heal, but the words said cut deeply into the soul and you start to believe the things being said about you. I was repeatedly told I was a burden, stupid and incapable of doing the most basic things. He called me names on a constant basis, told me I was worthless and that I was lucky he let me stay with him.

Financial

Because Dallas often refused to settle down and work a steady job, money was always tight and we often didn’t know where we would eat on any given day. If we were somewhere settled, it was usually better for a bit, but when we were hitchhiking around, we were dependent on Soup Kitchens and Missions and Shelters for a meal. Sometimes I would have to prostitute myself in order for us to have money. I’m not proud of that, but I did what I needed to do in order to survive.

Security

Security abuse is rarely talked about, but it’s when you don’t have the stability of a secure place to be. We slept under overpasses and in the desert, at shelters and missions, at the homes of people Dallas would befriend in our travels…we just never knew where we would be at any given time.

It was especially difficult when I was pregnant the first two times. In addition to my Chronic Pain, I was dealing with morning sickness and cravings, and my body ached in ways it never had before. When you sleep on concrete under an overpass with just a mover’s blanket for covering, it does a number on your body.

So, what are the lessons I learned here?

The Lessons

First off, I learned that nothing I could have done would have changed Dallas. Change has to come from within and you have to want to change in order to make change happen. He didn’t see anything wrong with the way we were living except I was a constant burden to him with my chronic pain. When he wasn’t treating me with kid gloves, he was screaming and berating me.

Secondly, I learned that sometimes, people don’t show you exactly who they are right from the start. It took me a long time to accept that the real Dallas was the one who stole and lied and hit and screamed – not the one who could charm the pants off of you.

Thirdly, I learned that there are various forms of abuse and being beaten isn’t the only way that someone can hurt you. It’s especially hard to accept abuse in your life when you already live with chronic pain or illness of some type.

Fourthly, I learned that there are ways of getting out, but you have to find your own inner strength to do it. You have to stop believing the lies being told about you and realize you are worthy of better treatment. For a long time, I didn’t believe that, and I put up with the abuse because that was all I knew. When Dallas was actually loving me, he loved me so good that I could forget the nightmarish parts of our life.

It wasn’t until the next incident would happen that would put him over the edge before I’d be right back in the middle of the terror and despair and wonder why I was allowing this to happen. My self-esteem was being beaten out of me at every turn and it came to the point that I accepted I really was as stupid and worthless as he made me out to be.

Words of Advice

Does any of this sound familiar to you? You may be a victim of Domestic Violence without even realizing it, especially if your spouse isn’t physically abusing you. Financial abuse (withholding money from you), emotional abuse (berating you and calling you names) and mental abuse (separating you from family and friends, keeping you from working, etc.) are all ways that you can be abused without recognizing it at first.

If you realize that are in an abusive situation, you need a plan to get out. Don’t believe for an instant when the person says they’re going to change. They’re not and they never will. It took me 3 whole years to realize that, 3 years of being beaten and downtrodden. Even after I was finally on my own, it took time to accept that I was the innocent party in all of this.

I had a lot of guilt. You may be experiencing some guilt, as well. If only…if only I’d been a better partner. If only I’d kept my mouth shut. If only the house was cleaner or the kids were better behaved. If only I hadn’t asked for grocery money or needed tampons. The “if onlys” are so hard to deal with, but you need to accept that you are not the one who is at fault. The abuser chooses to abuse…it’s as simple as that. We all have a choice in how we handle situations and most of us choose not to hurt other people.

There are shelters and organizations that can help you if you are in an abusive situation and need to get out. It’s true that most shelters are overcrowded, but you still owe it to yourself to try them. Talk to people who run them to find out what all your options are. Start building a plan to get out, even if it can’t happen immediately. Start by calling the crisis lines in your area or any mental health organization. Here’s a list to help you get started: List of International Domestic Violence Hotlines and Advocacy Organizations

Document everything that’s going on including injuries and outward marks on your body. If you’re able to take pictures that you can safely keep (or send to someone and then delete), do so. If you can safely keep a journal, do so. If you can safely confide in one person…do so. All of this will become helpful if you decide to prosecute your abuser.

Above all, remember that there is always hope. Do what you can to minimize the violence in your situation while looking for ways to get out safely. It may not seem possible now, but don’t give up hope. Confide in someone, and be prepared to make a clean break, without going back to the abuser. You have a beautiful future ahead of you and you deserve every good thing in your life. 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

woman holding adult siberian husky
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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?

siamese cat
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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?

woman wearing gray jacket beside white puppy
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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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Photo by Dids on Pexels.com

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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Let’s Learn About CBD and Cannabis

Today, I’m featuring a guest post by author Bojana Petkovic, Project Manager at Loud Cloud Health

CBD and Cannabis: How They Benefit Our Health and Society 

The good news is that millions of researchers in the field of medicine, pharmacology, and biochemistry put a lot of effort into exploring cannabis and its main cannabinoids. Thanks to research, cannabis and its incredible benefits are quickly gaining momentum. Let’s take a look at some basic facts and stats.

What Makes Cannabis Worth Researching?

Humankind has been familiar with this plant for at least 5,000 years. Throughout history, many people have consumed it as medicine through food and beverages. Some of the most acknowledged effects of cannabis include killing all sorts of pain, helping cancer patients, improving mental health, etc. That is why a growing number of the world’s governments consider decriminalizing or fully legalizing it. 

The plant has an incredible number of complex substances in its buds, fan leaves, and stems. Those substances are called cannabinoids. There are ten most significant ones recognized by modern medicine, two of them being CBD (cannabidiol) and THC (tetrahydrocannabinol). 

Even though the research has been fruitful, scientists believe there is still a lot more to know about cannabis’s benevolent nature. 

What Do We Know About CBD and Cannabis?

First and foremost, we are aware that CBD successfully relieves symptoms such as chronic pain, cramps, and tissue inflammation. Such symptoms are common in diseases like arthritis, fibromyalgia, rheumatism, and numerous other musculoskeletal conditions that typically trouble the senior population. According to the study conducted at McMaster University in Ontario, Canada, CBD tends to reduce arthritic and back pain, leaving trauma-related pain behind as well.

Types of Pain - Chronic Pain

Mental disorders and illnesses are common for all age groups. The typical symptoms include anxiety, mood swings, dementia, and insomnia. Less common ones include severe psychosis.  

CBD appears remarkably advantageous in this field of medicine. Research by Bonn-Miller suggests the importance of medicinal cannabis to those who have PTSD by helping them sleep and cope with trauma. Another study from 2006 explains that as much as cannabis might instigate a more regular use, depression and psychotic disorders should be treated with it. Less agitation, more sleep, and success in battling constant anxiety are just some reasons why cannabis should be used in different treatments. 

In adults, CBD and cannabis can help cure more severe addictions. Such addictions include heavy opioids, alcohol, and of course, prescription drugs. That may seem paradoxical since cannabis needs to be used in moderation as some forms can cause dependence. Addiction statistics reveal that adequate use of cannabis helped 26% of people who consumed heroin to opt out of it and smoke marijuana instead. Some 40% of alcohol addicts chose to do so as well. Additionally, 66% of prescription drug addicts switched to cannabis for good. 

Word of Warning

Though cannabis sounds like a miracle plant, that doesn’t mean it has no side effects. THC is mainly known for being psychoactive, while CBD can induce nausea, dizziness, or dry mouth. Most of these occur if one consumes too much. Cannabis use disorder is a form of dependence, so it is of ultimate importance to use the plant responsibly, and always consult a doctor if you have a condition.

What Can We Anticipate in the Future?

Thanks to technological advancement, we are about to see the new and incredible benefits of this plant. We should not fail to mention that, through further legalization and decriminalization, a large number of people will have job opportunities within cannabusiness. This industry has no intention to leave its upward trajectory. Au contraire, it will most probably be “the next big thing.”

Infographic URL: https://loudcloudhealth.com/pros-and-cons-of-weed-infographic/

Thanks for reading and remember:

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10 Tips to Improve Your Mental Health

Previously posted on The Zebra Pit

Mental Health is a hot topic these days. More and more people are recognizing that they suffering in some way with depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder or other mental health issues.

Today I’d like to share 10 things that can help to improve your mental health. I hope you find these helpful.

1. Recognize There’s A Problem

The very first step to improving your mental health is recognizing there’s a problem. You may be feeling a sense of the blues that you can’t shake, or a generalized anxiety that you can’t control.

Perhaps you’re feeling out of control and going through severe mood swings from mania to depression. All you know for sure is that something is “off” and you need to figure out what it is. Whatever the case may be, recognizing something is wrong is the first step to making things better.

2. Ask For Help

Perhaps one of the hardest things we face in life is asking for help. We like to think we’re capable of handling whatever life throws at us, but it’s not always that simple. You may find that at work, you’re more than capable of tackling whatever you face, but at home it’s a different story. Or, perhaps you’ve faced challenges at home that seem easy, but at work, you’re struggling to find your place.

When you’re dealing with your mental health, you may already feel like you’re a failure. Asking for help could prove to be a very difficult thing to do, but if you don’t ask, you tend to stay stuck in the situation you’re finding hard to manage. Talk to your doctor about what you’re going through, or find a counselor or trusted friend that you can share your concerns with. Sometimes just the very act of sharing with someone can help you feel better without further steps.

3. Accept Help

Once you’ve asked for help, the next step is to actually accept the help that’s offered. This might mean medication for depression or Bipolar Disorder if diagnosed, or your doctor could have other recommendations such as Cognitive Behavior Therapy, Meditation, Yoga for stress, etc.

Accepting help doesn’t mean you will end up with a mental illness diagnosis. However getting a diagnosis simply means that your body may not be producing the right chemicals to help you feel the best you can. There are hundreds of diagnoses, including Depression, Schizophrenia, Narcissism, Bipolar Disorder, and more.

Basically, your mental health can be simple or complex. A doctor or counselor can help to diagnose what’s going on and offer you treatment options. There is no shame in having problems with your mental health. Mental health issues are not your fault and are no different than having a medical condition. With changing times, terminology should no longer hold the stigma it used to. We live in an age where awareness is everything and more and more people are admitting to mental illness in the hopes that we can eliminate the stigmas all together.

4. Get Active

It’s time to get active with your mental health treatment plan. Exercise is a great place to start and many doctors will encourage you to get out and do something physical to help you feel better. Biking, walking, swimming, golf, tennis…whatever you like to do is the best fit. Even 30 minutes a day of exercise can help to balance hormones, improve mood, lessen anxiety and encourage better sleep. Especially if you can do it in the sunshine!

5. Explore Medication

Your doctor may recommend that you start on an anti-depressant or other medication for your symptoms. Please realize that taking medication is not a sign of weakness…it simply means your brain isn’t producing the right chemicals and needs a boost.

I liken it to other diseases…you wouldn’t refuse medication for heart disease or a kidney problem and you wouldn’t have an issue taking something for Diabetes, so why would this be any different? If your brain isn’t creating the right chemical mix, medication is an easy way to correct the problem and bring things back into balance.

Of course ultimately, it’s your choice. Psych meds can have a range of scary side effects and it can sometimes take years to find one that will work right for you. There are also alternatives to medication use. For a list of options, click here.

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6. Cognitive Behavior Therapy

Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) focuses on challenging and changing unhelpful thoughts, beliefs, attitudes and behaviors, improving your emotional response and aiding in the development of personal coping strategies that target solving current problems.

CBT rests on the idea that thoughts and perceptions influence behavior. Feeling distressed, in some cases, may distort one’s perception of reality. CBT aims to identify harmful thoughts, assess whether they are an accurate depiction of reality, and, if they are not, employ strategies to challenge and overcome them.

CBT is appropriate for people of all ages, including children, teens, and adults. Evidence has mounted that CBT can benefit numerous conditions, such as major depressive disorder, anxiety disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder, eating disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorders, and many others. Research also indicates that CBT can be delivered effectively online, in addition to face-to-face therapy sessions.

This link gives you a quick overview of what CBT is and how it works. Ask your doctor for a referral to a certified CBT professional if you think this type of therapy could be helpful for you.

7. Yoga* and Tai Chi

As discussed, exercise is a good way of helping you feel better about yourself. Some people find Yoga and/or Tai Chi to be of great benefit when they are struggling with mental health issues.

The discipline involved with following regulated steps in a slow and deliberate fashion helps to calm the mind and put the focus on your overall well-being. Feeling your muscles working together can be very soothing and the slow movements are safe for just about everyone. Mastering the various forms gives you a sense of success which can be great incentive to keep going.

*Please note: Yoga is not recommended for people with hypermobility. Thank you.

8. Nutrition

Your body needs fuel to function and good nutrition is key to feeling well physically and mentally. By following a healthy eating plan and getting plenty of fresh fruit, vegetables, whole grains and protein, you are aiding your body in running in top condition.

Caffeine may or may not fit into your life – some people find it makes them jittery, others have no problems. Try adding more water to your daily intake – it helps lubricate your brain and joints and keeps you hydrated for optimal function. Avoid sugary beverages as much as possible – they don’t add any value to your health.

9. Spiritual Practices

Being spiritual doesn’t mean being religious, but both can have a place in your life. If you are religious, you may find prayer to be of comfort while you deal with your mental health. If religion is not your thing, spirituality can come from the sense of a Higher Power, Nature, Music or other practices.

Try to engage in your Spirituality/Religion on a daily basis – you may find a time of prayer, being in nature or listening to music to be of value when done at the same time every day. Some people like to do this in the morning, when the day is fresh in front of them. Others prefer to do this at night, so they can reflect on the day.

Whatever time you choose, it’s your time to be honest with your beliefs and to honor them in a way that feels authentic to you.

10. Journaling

Many people who live with mental health issues find journaling to be of value. Being able to honestly reflect on your life without fear of others reading your words can bring great comfort. The key is to write honestly about your feelings, not worrying about recriminations and criticism.

Choose a time to journal when it’s quiet and you won’t be interrupted. Set the stage with a cup of tea or other beverage, find a quiet writing nook and let yourself go. Don’t worry about impressing yourself with perfect grammar – just let yourself go and free flow with the writing. Unless you choose to share your journal with others, this is for your eyes only.

The freedom that comes with writing can bring clarity to your life and help you recognize areas that might need improvement, which then leads to greater understanding and happiness.

A Few Final Thoughts

I hope these 10 steps help you to realize that mental health issues are important and need to be taken seriously. You deserve to feel your best and when you’re not, everything else seems to get bogged down.

By attending to your mental health, you are actually doing your physical body a favor as well, since you’re bound to feel better in all ways when you’re feeling better mentally.

Recognize the problem, ask for help and try some of the steps above and see if things improve. Your doctor is always a great place to start and counseling is almost always worthwhile. You owe it to yourself to be your best version of you. Remember,

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