The Creative Side Of Chronic Pain

Some of the most creative people in the world live with Chronic Pain or some type of health challenge. I know, because I’ve gathered a bunch of them together to showcase their talents, right here. Read on!

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Meet Julianne Ryan

Julianne is currently working as an art mentor for an artist with disabilities whilst volunteering her time to Mixed Palette Inc. an inclusive art group in Rockingham.

Julianne uses natural substrates, wood panels and recycled papers and works mostly with watercolour, ink and pencil to create depictions of feelings and experiences. Her latest works are multilayered with overlapping images that explore her experiences of chronic illness while correspondingly relating to her connection with nature. She also produces digital drawings, illustrations of birds and poetry that link to her memories, experiences and to current wellness practices.

She is currently working towards her first solo exhibition to be held at Forest Heritage Centre Gallery, Dwellingup in July/August.

Here are four samples of her amazing art:

JulianneRyan

Art created with Inktense pencil, ink and watercolour on wood panel

Undergrowth series: Inktense pencil, ink and watercolour on wood panel

Julianne can be contacted via Instagram and through the website at Living With Functional Neurological Disorder . She is a proud supporter of this particular charity.

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Meet Christalle Bodiford

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Christalle Bodiford is an artist, advocate, writer, and adventure seeker. As an entrepreneur diagnosed with epilepsy, Christalle brings a unique perspective of empowerment that inspires others to embrace a positive mindset and live with purpose. When she’s not writing or advocating, Christalle enjoys puppy snuggles with her scruffy terrier and outdoor adventures with her husband.

Christalle was recently featured on this blog as one of my Interviewees for Interview April. Read more about her here.

Here are some examples of the work she’s done on her incredible book:

Woosah Warrior Mockup

Christalle has provided this next page as one you can print out and colour:

Woosah Warrior Cover Coloring Page-01

For more information, please visit Christalle at her website. She supports the Epilepsy Foundation which can be reached here.

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Meet deni

deni weber is a 67-year-old psychologist turned artist after major traumatic life events triggered multiple chronic illnesses.  A Christ-follower, she uses her God-given gifts of creativity to help and encourage others as well as provide healing for herself, while recovering from limbic system traumas. Formerly bed-ridden for years, she is now finding healing using neuroplasticity techniques – creativity being a major healing component.  She is an artist, singer-songwriter, and writer having several unpublished novels and screenplays hiding in a drawer. Giving credit to God, she declares her works are, “by His grace, and for His glory.”

Here are some examples of deni’s work:

“Welcome to My Garden Series – Purple Butterflies” Acrylics on Linen Canvas – 2.5” x 3.5”

 

“Forgiven” Graphite on 140# Cold Press, 12” x 12”

 

“Hidden in the Woods” PanPastel on Colourfix Board 2.5” x 3.5”

 

Please visit deni on her website to view more of her work. She’s also a huge supporter of The Flute Maker Ministries.

 

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Meet Alisha

Alisha Nurse is a trained broadcast journalist, and enjoys sharing stories. She lives with various chronic health problems including fibromyalgia, depression, anxiety, complex post traumatic stress disorder and borderline personality disorder. These often challenge her creativity but they’ve also been her greatest inspiration to tell stories that make a difference.

She is interested in stories that change the narrative about ethnic minorities, chronically unwell people and those often cast on the sidelines.

Her favourite things include cheese, curries, and interacting with the world around her.

She has graciously allowed me to share one of her poems here:

~~~~~~

I do not recognise myself standing in the many shadows of you.
You, towering, all-consuming, ever present but hidden away,
in plain sight.
Yet I feel you in every part of me. Trying to become me.

Not all monsters lurk like you.
Once awakened, you thrive, clamour, steal, reverberate …through the length and breath of my mortal body,
Silently leaving deadly, indelible traces of your mark, like on a cracked egg, ready to fall apart,
any, anytime now, but still holding itself together as the lines spread and spread,
Until I am finally broken.

Your crack lines emerge in places impossible.
From earthen shell to the soul and heartland of me.
Breaking, smashing, pillaging anything and everything, until I am nothing of my former self; nothing of possible Me(s).

But even broken things can be beautiful.
With floods of tears and streams of blood I shall, I shall put me back together again.
I emerge not the ‘Me’ that once was, was to be or had been imagined with dreams for the future.

I rise as someone, something else entirely–Pained but persevering. Flawed but fluid. Broken but beautiful and believing that I shall conquer.
I am and will be the ‘Me’ that never was imagined.
I am the ‘Me’ that’s emerged from the ashes of pain.
I will not fit your cardboard cutouts or your nicely stencilled stereotypes.

And I am not sorry.

To survive, I change. Constantly.
As the monster morphs so will I – imperfect still, but ready to give bloody hell in all battles to come.

~~~~~

Wow! That’s powerful. To find out more about Alisha, visit her website. She blogs about overcoming chronic illness on www.theinvisiblef.com and shares other fictional works on www.alishanurse.com

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Meet Chrissy Joy Bell

chrissy

Meet Chrissy Joy Bell. She lives in Columbus, Oh, USA. and says “I’m married to an awesome guy named Ryan. I received a fibromyalgia diagnosis in 2008 after a serious illness, and I live with chronic migraine. I own a hand made business where I create all sorts of fun and snuggly things out of yarn. I originally used creativity to handle the changes that were happening in my life. Now it gives me a serious sense of fulfillment to know “Hey, I made that!””

Most recently Chrissy self published a coloring book of hand drawn mandalas, a project she began for her own enjoyment that others are now also sharing with her. My hopes for the future are to continue making, and to help others understand their journey in life and with chronic illness.

Here are some examples of the different work that Chrissy has done: 

Can with crocheted

Can Cozy

Crocheted animal

A Favourite Friend

Black & White Mandala

Mandala designed by Chrissy

See more of Chrissy’s work at The Pink Woobie or learn more about her at Find Joy Be Well

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Meet Sergio Garcia

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Description: Sergio Garcia is a Writer at Travelevil.com , he is a music, travel and writing lover, can’t stop thinking about the new article to publish. Sergio believes that travel can heal both soul and body, this is why he joined Travelevil community where both writers and readers share their stories and exchange knowledge about the various travel experience they had in the past.
Beside Blogging and Marketing, Sergio is a certified scuba diver, another world that a lot of people need to discover and enjoy.

Here are some of his favourite photos to share:

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You can reach Sergio via email at travelevil.com@gmail.com 

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I am in serious awe of these talented people! I hope you are too! Please feel free to leave your comments about their work as each of them will be happy to answer questions as well. 

And what about you? How do you show your creativity, whether you live with Chronic Illness or not?  Share in the comments and tell us what you like to do. 

If you’d like to be considered for a future post showcasing even more talent, please fill out the contact form found here and let me know. I’ll be in touch to discuss a second post for later in the year. 

Thank you for joining me. Remember…

There is always hope

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It’s Time To Talk About Spiritual Beliefs

Person standing with open arms to amazing sunrise

If you live with Chronic Pain or an Invisible Illness, has someone ever said to you “I’ll pray for you” or “You’re in my prayers”?  What does that mean to you? Do you have Spiritual Beliefs that make those prayers easy to accept? Do you believe in a Higher Power? In God? Or do you believe that when we die, that’s it…there is nothing afterwards. No afterlife, no Heaven or Hell, no God of any type?

I am a Christ Follower. I call myself that because too many things have been done by “Christians” in the name of Christ that taint the Holy name, and I refuse to be associated with them. I’d rather try to live my life the way Christ modelled it, and so being a Christ Follower is a much better way of describing my religious leanings. I believe that He is the only way to Eternal Life and I believe in Heaven and Hell. I don’t talk about this often and almost never in public, but when I say I’ll be praying for you, trust me…I WILL be praying for you.

I also believe that everyone has a right to their own beliefs, and I will never push my beliefs on anyone else. If you want to talk about God with me, I’m happy to do so, but I won’t raise the subject first. It’s not that I’m shy or embarrassed about God, but more that I’m respectful of others, and I prefer to wait to discuss religion until the subject is brought up by others first. I am definitely NOT an Evangelist.

So, why am I talking about it now? Well, the reason is that the question came up in a Chronic Pain forum I belong to when someone asked the forum members “do you have Spiritual beliefs that help you cope?”.

I haven’t seen anyone else answer yet, but I wanted to share my response. Yes, I have a God who loves me dearly and who has a plan for my life. Right now, that plan includes me living with Chronic Pain and Chronic Fatigue from the many conditions I deal with. I think the plan includes these illnesses because He’s using me to help others, through my blog and my volunteer and advocacy work. What type of volunteer and advocacy work do I do?

I work as a Patient Advocate for a group in BC, Canada where I live called the Patient Voices Network.

Patient Partner Logo, Patient Voices Network

Anyone in the Province can join, and it’s designed for ordinary people to have a say in how Health Care is delivered in the Province. Through my involvement, I am currently sitting on 4 committees, plus assisting on a project involving virtual reality and connecting with your doctor, and helping one Provincial Working Group where we are designing a survey to measure Patient satisfaction with their experiences in the Emergency Department and subsequent transfer to an Acute Ward before going home.

The committees I sit on do such work as:

  • Laboratory Quality Control
  • Updating Patient Information Sheets for discharge from Emergency Rooms
  • Quality Improvement Measures for Surgeons
  • The Oversight & Advisory Committee for the Patient Voices Network

I also had the honour of being part of The 2017 Canadian Guideline for Opioids for Chronic Non-Cancer Pain. I recently took part in a “Research for Canadian Anesthesiology” conference and I’m hoping to soon be a Facilitator of a Pain Management Support group. 

So as you can see, my work is wide and varied and brings me together with many different people on a regular basis. I’m often asked “why” do I do what I do. Why do I volunteer my time to all these causes when my own health is so compromised and the truth is, it’s complicated.

I get a lot out of volunteering and blogging. It helps me stay relevant in the world around me. I get to utilize the skills I had while I was still able to work. I like to help people, and I genuinely care about others, especially those who are experiencing the same types of health conditions that I have. And yes, there is a spiritual component to it for me as well. It feels good for me to give back, to help my neighbour, just as Jesus commands me to do in the Bible. To love one another. This is how I show my love. I don’t see it as a duty at all, it just happens to be something I’m passionate about (another blessing from God) and something that’s easy for me to follow.

It’s also these Spiritual beliefs that help me deal with my own Chronic Pain on a day to day basis. I couldn’t do this alone, there’s no way I could live my life every day without God’s help. I put my trust in the Lord to get me through every day…and this is the part that confuses people or scares them off or makes them suspicious. How do you “put your trust in Jesus”?  How does the Lord make things better?

Well, I’d be lying if I said I had the answer to that. All I know is that when I gave my life to Christ in 2001, I made a decision to trust Him, that He would always be there for me, and I’ve never once regretted it. When my pain is that the worst, I know that He suffered more and that He understands. He is with me in my agony and will never leave me. It helps to know that and makes dealing with it easier. I know that He weeps for me. So why doesn’t He heal me?? Because He has a bigger plan for me and I GET THAT. I know I can’t see His plan, but I TRUST HIM. And while I wait, I make the most of my time here instead of wallowing and crying and whimpering about. He gives me the strength to do that and I do my best not to let Him down.

It’s all about Faith my friends. You either have it or you don’t. No one can force you to have faith; it comes from the heart and it’s between you and Him. I believe that God is taking care of me, that His plan is the best plan and that one day, either here on Earth or in Heaven, I’ll find out exactly what that plan is. I’m content to wait until it’s revealed to me. And in the meantime, I’ll keep doing what I’m doing, helping others as best I can, following His guidance. I covet the prayers of others, and if you ask me to pray for you, I will. Heck, I’ll pray for you even if you don’t ask. And if you ask me to take my religion somewhere where the sun don’t shine, I’ll respect your request.

Spiritual beliefs are tricky but they don’t have to be. It’s all about respect for each other, keeping an open mind, and loving your neighbour. Remember…

There is always hope

The Sunshine Blogger Award

Writing this blog brings me a whole lot of satisfaction – I love knowing I’m reaching others, sharing information about Chronic Pain and Invisible Illness and helping others as they live their lives with Disabilities. I don’t expect much in return, so when my blog is recognized, it truly delights me. And that’s why I’m thrilled to say I’ve been awarded the Sunshine Blogger Award

Sunshine Blogger Award

So – what is the Sunshine Blogger Award?

The Sunshine Blogger Award is recognition given to bloggers by their fellow bloggers. The aim is to honour those of which bring inspiration and positivity to the world through their blog content.

Rules for the Sunshine Blogger Award

  1. Thank the person who nominated you and provide a link back to their blog.
  2. List the Sunshine Blogger Award Rules and display the logo on your site.
  3. Answer the Sunshine Blogger Award questions given by the person who nominated you.
  4. Nominate 10 other bloggers and ask them 10 new questions.
  5. Notify the nominees of their nomination.

Thank You

I want to extend my thanks to Davis at Everything Starts With Tea. She nominated me for this award and it totally came out of the blue. I was touched and flattered that she thought of me and liked my blog enough to consider it for this award. Thanks Davis…I appreciate it so much!

Questions

What has been your biggest achievement?

My biggest achievement in blogging has been being nominated for 3 WEGO Health Awards for this year (2019)

What is your motivation to blog?

I like knowing that my blog is reaching people who live with Chronic Illness and is helping them to find answers and affirmation that they are not alone. I work hard to bring information and humour to my posts – I want people to feel this is a solid resource when they have Chronic Pain, Chronic Fatigue, Fibromyalgia or Invisible Illnesses.

What’s one thing you wish to accomplish before you die?

I would love to take a “Round the World” cruise before I die.

What’s your greatest dream in life?

There are two things – seeing my kids and grandkids have happy healthy lives and to find a cure for Fibromyalgia.

What’s your favourite book and why?

Furiously Happy by Jenny Lawson. It’s a hilarious account of her life with mental illness and is truly “laugh out loud” funny!

Pick any moment in life you feel has defined you the most and tell us, why do you feel that’s the case?

I think it’s when I was a single parent and had just started my first job. I went into a position as a receptionist where there were 12 incoming lines, and the computer system was completely different than what I had just been taught in the computer courses I’d been taking to prepare me for work. I knew at that moment I could either sink or swim and I chose to swim. I learned the new system in no time, mastered all those phone lines and discovered I LOVED doing administrative work – I was well suited for it. I thrived and never looked back.

If we were all colours, what colour would you be and why?

I would be pink! Pink is happy and light and cheerful and always makes you feel good. Even when it’s dark pink, it’s still pretty!

Tell me, what is one mistake you’ve made that you’ll never make again?

I will never marry again!!!  LOL…that’s because I finally got it right with my current husband…my second attempt.

If you had the ability to fix one of the world’s problems, which would you choose to fix?

I would choose to end world hunger. With a full belly, you can achieve so much, but when you’re starving, everything else is a huge challenge.

You’ve been given a genie lamp – what three wishes are you asking the genie to grant?

  1. Unlimited wealth
  2. Eliminate World Hunger
  3. Another lamp

Nominees

Cindy Lauderdale – Cindy Goes Beyond

Alice Henry Whitmore – LutheranLiar

Rebecca Moon Ruark – Rust Belt Girl

Marian Wood – Just Muddling Through Life

Esme Slabs – Esme Salon

John Rieber – John Rieber.com

Fancy Paper – Fancypaperblog

Peabody Amelia – You Can Always Start Now

Jpr Arv – Jaipur Thru My Lens

Taylor Kozak – Best Wishes, Taylor

 

My Questions

  1. What is your favourite movie and why?
  2. Where is the best place you’ve ever travelled to?
  3. Tell us about a life lesson you’ve learned
  4. What is the best advice you could give to an up and coming, new Blogger?
  5. What was your favourite class in High School and why?
  6. Why did you start blogging?
  7. Do you have a blogging goal?
  8. What is your favourite food?
  9. Is there a tradition from your heritage you’d like to share?
  10. What is your favourite holiday memory?

So there we go…the Sunshine Blogger Award! I hope you enjoyed reading through this and to those of you I’ve nominated, I hope you appreciate how much I care about you and your blog. Please accept the honour in the spirit it’s been given, but if for some reason you are unable to participate, don’t feel bad!!!  I know that some people prefer not to share in these awards and my feelings will NOT be hurt in any way if you choose to pass.

Share with your friends and feel free to nominate your own winners! Remember…

There Is Always Hope

10 Celebrities Who Live With Fibromyalgia

Fibromyalgia is a condition that affects millions of people in North America. While typically thought of as an “everyday person”s condition, there are a number of celebrities who live with Fibromyalgia who have talked about it in public. It’s helpful to know we’re not alone, and because of these people, Fibromyalgia is starting to gain more recognition.

Here is a list of 10 Celebrities who live with Fibromyalgia.

Lady Gaga

LadyGaga

Lady Gaga is perhaps the most well-known celebrity with Fibromyalgia. After struggling with chronic pain for many years, she confirmed in September 2017 that the cause of her pain was fibromyalgia.

In her Netflix documentary “Gaga: Five Foot Two,” released on September 22/18, Gaga opened up about the challenges of finding treatments and coping techniques to help manage her symptoms. She is seen using ice packs and trying deep massage and dry needling as ways to help manage the pain.

“I am praying that more and more people come forward and we can all share what helps/hurts so we can help each other” Gaga said in a recent tweet.

Morgan Freeman

Morgan Freeman Best Movies and TV Shows

Morgan Freeman is the actor best known for roles in The Shawshank Redemption, The Bucket List with Jack Nicholson and for winning an Academy Award for his role as a beaten up cornerman for Clint Eastwood in Million Dollar Baby.

In 2008, Morgan Freeman was involved in a car crash that left him with multiple injuries, including a shattered left arm. He went through a 4-hour long surgery to save his arm and has talked in several interviews since he continues to experience “excruciating” nerve pain and now lives with fibromyalgia.

In 2015 he told The Daily Beast he treats the pain with marijuana. “Marijuana has many useful uses,” he says. “I have fibromyalgia pain in this arm, and the only thing that offers any relief is marijuana”.

Lena Dunham

Though she had previously been vocal about her struggles with endometriosis and chronic pain, Lena Dunham revealed in an Instagram post in October of 2018 that she has fibromyalgia. She described what it’s like to have an “invisible” illness like fibro, writing, “I appear to be totally able-bodied but it’s complex, and I am just trying to do everything required to maintain a life of joy and service. My work costs everything I have. This is fibromyalgia. It’s little understood and so even though I have a lot of knowledge and support it’s hard to shake the feeling I am crazy. But I’m not (at least not this way!) and you’re not.”

Dunham continued to say that pain, however it presents — whether it has a visible culprit or not — is valid. She wrote, “Your pain, whatever shape it takes, is yours and so it is real. I believe you when you say you hurt. I have learned time and time again how important it is to believe.”

Sinead O’Connor


Sinead O’Connor is an Irish singer-songwriter who stepped away from music in 2003 because she was struggling with fibromyalgia and wanted to take care of her children.

“Fibromyalgia is not curable. But it’s manageable,” O’Connor said in a 2005 interview with HOTPRESS. “I have a high pain threshold, so that helps – it’s the tiredness part that I have difficulty with. You get to know your patterns and limits, though, so you can work and plan around it. It is made worse, obviously, by stress. So you have to try to keep life quiet and peaceful.”

Sinead returned to the music scene in 2005. Despite numerous setbacks, she said she hopes to continue singing and doing what she loves but stays away from the parts that cause her excessive stress, which can exacerbate fibromyalgia symptoms.

Mary McDonough

“The Waltons” actress Mary McDonough has been very open about her battles with fibromyalgia, lupus and Sjogren’s syndrome. She believes she developed the conditions after having an adverse reaction to breast implants she had inserted in an effort to reinvent herself following the series’ end.

“Within 24 hours I broke out into a rash all over my back and my chest,” McDonough told Smashing Interviews Magazine. “But over the course of the 10 years, I just couldn’t put my finger on that. I just didn’t feel right. The chronic fatigue set in, the rashes, the rash across my nose and the bridge of my face which we now know is like a lupus rash, the joint pain, the muscle stiffness, eventually being diagnosed with fibromyalgia, and then the collagen disorder called Sjogren’s syndrome, my hair fell out and I would be tired all of the time.”

McDonough is now a public speaker, author and workshop leader, often talking with young women about their struggles with body image and self-esteem.

Kyle Richards

“Real Housewives of Beverly Hills” star Kyle Richards said she first became sick while her mom was sick with cancer, but was initially told she was depressed because her mom had passed. 

A friend told her she might have fibromyalgia, so she went to a doctor who specializes in the condition who confirmed her diagnosis. “All of a sudden I felt like I had an answer and I felt better because it causes so much anxiety [not knowing],” Richards said.

Richards has since sought out alternative methods for treating her fibromyalgia pain — on “The Healer,” she worked with Charlie Goldsmith, an “energy healer” who aims to help people reduce their chronic pain.

Janeane Garofalo

Actress and comedian Janeane Garofalo has been very open throughout her career about her struggles with fibromyalgia as well as mental and emotional issues, including anxiety and depression. She has even incorporated her fibro into her stand-up routine, using humour and laughter to cope with the pain she experiences.

“I had no idea I was chronically dissatisfied,” she said about being prescribed an antidepressant for her fibromyalgia.

Michael James Hastings

Michael James Hastings, known for his role as Captain Mike on “The West Wing,” had to retire from being a school teacher at age 35 due to fibromyalgia. It was his chronic pain that led him to move to Los Angeles to pursue a part-time acting career.

Hastings has said that he copes with the symptoms of fibro with natural means, such as supplements, exercise, massage therapy, acupuncture and visits to the chiropractor.

“I also have learned to accept that some days I am not going to be able to keep up with my schedule or other peoples’ schedules and I just need to rest and ‘lighten up,’” he said in an interview with the website Back Pain Relief.

A.J. Langer

a.j. langer

Actress A.J. Langer, best known for her role on “My So-Called Life,” “Seinfeld” and “Three Sisters,” was diagnosed with fibromyalgia as a teenager but continued to pursue acting. After filming “Three Sisters,” Langer took a break to figure out how to manage her symptoms and put her health first. She has experimented with a number of alternative therapies to help her cope with fibromyalgia, including surfing, yoga and meditation.

In an episode of the Aches and Gains podcast with Dr. Paul Christo, Langer said, “There are different levels of learning you go through with fibromyalgia… One is I’m all alone, you know, no one else understands this pain. And then there’s a point you can get to where it becomes universal and you understand that everybody’s got something. I’ve come to terms with the fact that my body has a fragile ecosystem and I’ve gotta tend to it.”

Kirsty Young

Kirsty Young

Kirsty Young, a broadcaster on the BBC Radio 4 show “Desert Island Discs,” announced in 2018 that she would be taking a break from the position due to fibromyalgia. She explained: “Casting away some of the world’s most fascinating people is a wonderful job – however, I’m having to take some time away from Desert Island Discs as I’m suffering from a form of fibromyalgia.”

Young indicated that she hoped to spend some time healing and then return to the show.

 

It’s nice to know that celebrities are just like the rest of us and suffer through the same types of illnesses that we do. I commend all of these people for sharing their stories in the public eye. To them and to you, I say…

There Is Always Hope!

25 Inspirational Quotes

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

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


there is always hope

 

 

20 Quotes To Reduce Stress When You Have An Invisible Illness

Having Fibromyalgia, or any Invisible Illness is hard to live with. People can’t see your pain like they can with other conditions, and we often have to put up with the platitudes of “but you don’t look sick”, or “oh, I get aches and pains all the time too”. Hearing these comments over and over can lead to depression, frustration and resentment. Stress builds and makes you hurt even more, and so a vicious circle begins. 

It’s time to read something more positive, words that you can cling to and keep close at heart. These quotes are from a variety of different people who seem to have a handle on anxiety and stress. I hope their words help you. Thanks to Live Purposefully Now for the list:

Ocean with giant rock and the words Stress Free Zone

Quotes

1. Anxiety’s like a rocking chair. It gives you something to do, but it doesn’t get you very far. Jodi Picoult

2. You don’t have to control your thoughts. You just have to stop letting them control you. Dan Millman

3. Anxiety does not empty tomorrow of its sorrows, but only empties today of its strength. Charles Spurgeon

4. I promise you nothing is as chaotic as it seems. Nothing is worth diminishing your health. Nothing is worth poisoning yourself into stress, anxiety, and fear.  Steve Maraboli

5. You can’t always control what goes on outside. But you can always control what goes on inside. Wayne Dyer

6. When you change the way you look at life you literally shape a different life for yourself. Elle Sommer

7. I just give myself permission to suck. I find this hugely liberating. John Green

8. Stress is an ignorant state. It believes everything is an emergency. Natalie Goldberg

9. Don’t try to force anything. Let life be a deep let-go. God opens millions of flowers every day without forcing their buds. Osho

10. Breath is the power behind all things…. I breathe in and know that good things will happen. Tao Porchon-Lynch

11. You must learn to let go. Release the stress. You were never in control anyway. Steve Maraboli 

12. If the problem can be solved why worry? If the problem cannot be solved worrying will do you no good.  Shantideva

13. The key to reducing anxiety is to let each situation be what it is, instead of what you think it should be. Elle Sommer

14. One of the symptoms of an approaching nervous breakdown is the belief that one’s work is terribly important. Bertrand Russell

15. Many a calm river begins as a turbulent waterfall, yet none hurtles and foams all the way to the sea. Mikhail Lermontov

16. The greatest weapon against stress is our ability to choose one thought over another. William James

17. Stress is the trash of modern life we all generate it but if you don’t dispose of it properly, it will pile up and overtake your life. Danzae Pace

18. Rule number one is, don’t sweat the small stuff. Rule number two is, it’s all small stuff.  Robert Eliot

19. Today I refuse to stress myself out about things I cannot control or change. Anonymous

20. If you are distressed by anything external, the pain is not due to the thing itself but to your own estimate of it; and this you have the power to revoke at any moment. Marcus Aurelius

Living A Stress-Free Life

Stress-Free

Re-examine Your Values

Or examine them for the first time. Your values will always make it clear to you what you want in life.

Once you are clear on your values, you can begin to identify the things you could do away with. Those things will probably be your stressors, so this tip helps to clear your mind and prepare for the changes ahead.

Forgive Yourself

You can’t begin to live stress-free if you can’t forgive yourself. If there are issues from your past you haven’t dealt with, you are likely to be filled with stress over them. Living with regrets is also stressful. 

Life is meant to be enjoyed. And it’s a journey, not a destination. Just because you took a detour to the wrong side doesn’t mean you can’t find your way back to the right path. Work toward becoming a better person. Let your mistakes be life lessons. Everyone makes mistakes, remember that. And put the past in the past where it belongs.

Forgive Others

This goes hand in hand with forgiving yourself. Just as it’s important to forgive yourself, it’s equally important that you forgive others for the wrongs they’ve done to you.

Others are just as worthy of forgiveness as you are. Forgiving others frees you more than it frees them and the extra baggage you’ve been carrying around is liberating to let go of as well. 

Accept Your Life Just The Way It Is

No one is promised a perfect life. Though we all strive to achieve happiness and contentment in our lives, it doesn’t always turn out that way. The key to acceptance is to accept it just the way it is. Accepting it doesn’t mean settling in it. It means consciously acknowledging it instead of running away from it in denial.

Whatever your life circumstances, accept them. Only when you accept your life circumstances can you begin to take steps to improve them. This will definitely help you to live stress-free.

Think The Best Of Every Situation

Whatever the situation is that you’re going through, be it divorce, disease, failing at school, getting fired from work, etc., you can still find some good in it. I know that sounds simplistic, but there are always reasons to be grateful as long as you don’t play the victim and accept the circumstances for what they are. 

You still have the power to change things. That power is what leads to a stress-free life. Acceptance can be liberating. 

Be Present In Everything You Do

It’s easy to be preoccupied with other things while we are doing one thing, and this elevates stress. If you are washing dishes, but now you are worried about paying the bills and the kids’ tuition, and the mortgage, then stress is bound to overwhelm you.

Instead, learn to be present in what you are doing. You can teach yourself to think of only washing the dishes. You can compartmentalize everything so that you don’t let your stressors dominate all your time. This way you don’t let stress prevent you from being productive. 

Declutter Your Life

And do this in every way imaginable if you want to live stress-free. People have a lot of stress because they have a lot of material, mental, emotional, financial, intellectual and social clutter. If only they could declutter their lives.

You don’t need all those other things outside of your basic needs. Stop hoarding stuff because managing it means stress. Simplify your life in the best possible way.

Be Grateful

Don’t underestimate the significance of gratitude if you want to live stress-free. Most people can’t get out of stress because instead of being grateful for the good things in their lives, they are busy whining about the bad things in their lives.

Sometimes they whine even about the good things because they’ve become blind to how lucky they are. If you are like that, it’s time to change. Gratitude is the best antidote for stress, so take a spoonful and live stress-free.

10 Things I’ve Learned About Chronic Pain

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

The author showing various pictures of her face in pain

My many faces of pain

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

1. THERE IS ALWAYS HOPE

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

2. A GOOD DOCTOR IS TO BE TREASURED

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

3. SUPPORT GROUPS AREN’T RIGHT FOR EVERYONE

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

4. CHRONIC PAIN IS ALMOST IMPOSSIBLE TO EXPLAIN TO OTHERS

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

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

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

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

6. COMFORT ROUTINES FOR FLARE UP DAYS ARE LIFESAVERS

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

Kitten resting in a fluffy blanket

7. PACING REALLY DOES WORK

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

8. SLEEP IS A VERY GOOD THING

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

9. WE ARE ALL WARRIORS

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

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

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

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

CONCLUSION

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

There is always hope

May 12th Is Fibromyalgia Awareness Day

May 12th is (1)

Fibromyalgia is a Chronic Pain disorder that affects millions of North Americans and others around the world. People who live with this condition experience widespread pain throughout their bodies, along with a host of other symptoms. Sufferers are diagnosed by the “tender points” they have developed over their body as per this illustration:

FibroSymptoms2

In recognition of May 12th, Fibromyalgia Awareness Day, I wanted to share with you a post from the past. It’s titled An Attitude of Gratitude. I wanted to put a different spin on having Fibromyalgia because so often, we focus only on the negative side of illness. It’s natural when you’re chronically ill, but there are reasons to be grateful as well. Read on to see what I mean:

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Are you grateful for your life?  Are you grateful for the things you’ve been given? Are you grateful for Chronic Pain and Chronic Fatigue? What about your other Invisible Illnesses? For Fibromyalgia? I am, and let me explain why.

I have had my Invisible Illnesses for over half my life now, and they have been a predominant part of my life since 2004 when I went into a major flare that I’ve never recovered from. That was the year I had stomach surgery for severe Gastric Reflux disease – a procedure called a Nissen Fundoplication. The surgery itself was successful, but I suffered nerve damage in the sternum area from where an instrument being used was pressed too hard against a nerve for an extended period of time, causing it to be pinched for over an hour.

This caused me excruciating pain that didn’t resolve for almost a year and had me addicted to morphine pills to the point that I was hallucinating. In fact, at one point, the general surgeon called in a Thoracic surgeon, who was going to crack open my sternum to try and fix whatever the problem was – a drastic solution indeed.

I’m grateful this didn’t happen and the Thoracic surgeon had the sense to suggest a drug called Gabapentin for nerve damage which is what he suspected was the problem, and he was right.

I spent almost a year in a hunched over position, trying to “contain” the pain, it was so bad. I ended up having to go for physical therapy and massage in order to loosen up my muscles to where I could stand in a straightened up position again.

I’m grateful for the therapists that helped me.

I’m grateful there are medical teams in place when we need emergency surgery, such as when a cyst I didn’t even know I had on my ovary burst, causing me horrid pain. It needed immediate removal and there was a team to do that. Just like there was a team to remove my gallbladder and my other ovary when it went rogue as well.

And I’m grateful for my four doctors who have worked with me and my overall health issues over the last five years, Dr Leong, Dr Winston, Dr. Wilson and Dr Burnett, my orthopedic surgeon who did my hip replacement.

Okay, you say…it’s easy to be grateful to the people who help us, but how can you be grateful for having Chronic Pain and Fibromyalgia and all the other stuff. Well, I’ll tell you.

When you have Invisible Illness, you tend to miss out on a lot of life. You may have to give up your job or volunteer activities, your hobbies and family life. You end up losing a lot more than you seem to have left. But what having a Chronic illness does is force you to dig deep to FIND what you’re grateful for. I made a list:

  • Sunrises and sunsets
  • Quiet mornings after a good sleep
  • A perfect cup of coffee
  • A day where the kids get along and no one is fighting
  • A day where the cat or dog doesn’t barf all over the place
  • Feeling energetic enough to accomplish a few things on the “to do” list
  • Feeling rested
  • Feeling less pain than normal
  • Being able to go for a coffee date with a girlfriend or two
  • Having dinner with your family together instead of needing to lay down
  • Date night with your spouse
  • Watching a movie together instead of early to bed
  • Having a bath or shower
  • Having enough food on the table and money in the bank
  • Laughter
  • A sense of safety and security
  • A roof over your head
  • Feeling loved
  • Having a close friend you can confide in
  • Books to read and art to admire
  • Social media like Facebook and Pinterest
  • Ice cream or a favourite treat
  • Family and friends to share memories with
  • Vacations

I could go on and on…the point is, there is so much to be grateful for, but when you live with Chronic Pain and Chronic Fatigue and Invisible Illness, it’s easy to get stuck wallowing in the negatives, to the point you forget to stop and remember to be grateful.

Take a moment now to list a few things that you’re grateful for and make it a habit each day to say thank you. An Attitude of Gratitude is easy to cultivate, but like a good garden, you need to tend to it every day.

Remember…

There is always hope!

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So, what are your thoughts? Were you surprised at how easy it can be to be grateful? It’s not hard to make a list like I did, and I highly recommend that people give it a try.  We live in a busy and scary world, and this is also a good way to take back a bit of control over the craziness. 

Cultivate an Attitude of Gratitude and see how things change in your life. Even if you don’t make a list, there’s one thing you can count on…

There is always hope

Interview April – Terri Sutula

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

TerriSutula

Introduce yourself and tell us a bit about you…

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

One fascinating fact about me is:

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

Chronic illness(es)/disabilities I have…

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

My symptoms/condition began…

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

My diagnosis process was… 

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

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

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

 A typical day for me involves…

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

 The one thing I cannot live without is…

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

Being ill/disabled has taught me…

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

 My support system is…

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

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

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

 One positive of having a chronic illness/disability is…

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

One final thing I want people to know is:

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

My links are:

Blog: https://reclaiminghope.blog

Facebook: https://facebook.com/hopereclaiming

Twitter: https://twitter.com/hopereclaiming

Pinterest: https://pinterest.com/reclaiminghopeblog

Interview April – Jennifer Purrvis

It’s time to meet my next guest, the wonderful Jennifer Purrvis!

JenniferPurrvis

Introduce Yourself and tell us a bit about you….

My name is Jen. I grew up in the Houston area but live in Wellington, New Zealand. I moved to New Zealand when I was 19 and have lived in various areas in NZ but have kicked around in the capital city for 11 years. I have one daughter who will be 14 and 4 cats. I am single but formerly married. I’m a terrible cook but enjoy baking. I’m currently studying towards a Bachelor of Science in Psychology and hope to get admitted into a Masters of Forensic Psychology programme once I complete my undergraduate. I run Chronic Illness Cat, mostly on Facebook, but you’ll have seen us on other platforms too. Muffin is a real cat, who lives in France, but her dad is from Nelson in New Zealand. He sometimes comes back for a visit but we’ve never met up, though we should.

Chronic Illnesses/Disabilities I have…

I grew up a child of anxiety and depression. After I had my daughter I became severely agoraphobic and was diagnosed with a mood disorder, not otherwise specified. This would finally be diagnosed as Bipolar Disorder in 2018. I also have PMDD.  In 2007, I nearly lost my life after a doctor bagged an IV of an antibiotic I was orange banded as allergic to. I saw a huge white light. I felt a shock hit my body and felt fire ants start biting all over my body. That’s really all I remember. When I woke up I couldn’t unfold my arms or bear weight on my body. It would take years to regain my independence, my tolerance, my sanity. I was so, so angry about the disability attacking me, the pain I was constantly fighting and everything I was losing. It’s been nearly 12 years and things are so much better. I’m so much happier and freer and independent. However, in the last year, I’ve been diagnosed with Autoimmune Urticaria and I’m now on higher dose Cyclosporine. I’ve started to feel those dark shadows creeping in again. The pain is returning, so is the tiredness, reliance on drugs for pain, and I worry about stepping so far back.

My symptoms conditions began…

As a kid. I think I’ve always had an autoimmune disease. I first started getting fevers when I was 2 weeks old. I was just always sick. Always tired. I caught mono twice as a teen. I had chicken pox so severe as a kid I had them down my throat. I know I was severely depressed at 12. I had sleeping issues as a teen. I had coping methods that were not safe or would be suggested. I had a devastating eating disorder.

The night I got so sick back in 2007 was a normal night. I felt slightly off and started feeling worse and worse. I asked to go to the Emergency Department. I expected to have an infection but I didn’t expect to find myself fighting for my life. It turns out I had suspected sepsis. The bag of antibiotics was important, but so was understanding the importance of orange banding of patient allergies.

Fast Forward to the present and the first few days of realising I was getting sick again were terrifying. I knew something was wrong, but I never expected it to be something so full on. The first symptom I started experiencing was itching when sweating. Whenever and wherever the sweat would touch, I would feel like a jellyfish sting and hideous itching. I put it down to being ‘dirty’. The second major symptom that developed was a reaction to showering. Wherever the water hit, another jellyfish-like sting would develop, with burning and itching. But following the itching and burning came nausea, a feeling of being overwhelmed in the head and vomiting.

I started taking antihistamines, antihistamines and h-blockers, more antihistamines and finally saw a specialist who told me that due to my previous history of trialling drugs, I was to start Cyclosporine. At first, I was really optimistic because I had 2 weeks of showering with very little symptoms. But then, as soon as it had arrived, the optimism left. All the symptoms were back.

My diagnosis process has been…

Confusing. When I was first sick in 2007, no one knew what was wrong with me. I saw specialists and doctors all the time. People had opinions from Lupus to Still’s Disease to MS to ‘just experiencing a shock’. To get better care, we sold our home and moved. I saw another specialist who told me I had Lupus and “was just being a woman about it”. I was put on every drug you could find. Nothing helped. Nothing improved.

I saw just about every rheumatologist in the capital city. No one had answers for me. In the end, I just stopped going. It wasn’t worth the money. When I started getting sick again, and the blood tests were all fine, it started feeling like deja vu all over again.

However, this time, the specialist knew that this was Autoimmune Urticaria and that I had some dermagraphica which made him feel more confident. It felt unusual that I actually had symptoms someone was familiar with. Though, he did feel there was more autoimmune going on and asked if I wanted to begin looking for that and I told him I didn’t. I just couldn’t face doing it all again.

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

Not knowing if I’m ever going to live normally as other people do. Will I be able to work? Will I finish my studies? Will I ever be independent? It scares the hell out of me. What if the medicines just get worse? I can’t nap through life. These questions just go around and around my mind sometimes. Fears for my future feel almost disabling at times.

A typical day for me involves…

Waking at 6:30. If it’s my week with my daughter then I get up with her and help her get ready for school. Once she’s left for the bus, I head back to bed. If I’m not with her, I go back to sleep. I try to wake up at 6:30 regardless so as to keep a regular rhythm. Sleep is so crucial for the maintenance and care of the Bipolar person. When I wake up I have a cup of tea and run errands or study, depending on the day. It’s really important for me to keep my grades up, so studying is important.

I’ve gotten it into my head that I need to do some sort of exercise, even though I’m not supposed to change my body temperature and/or sweat. I have some hand weights and I’m looking into belly dancing on youtube. I want to stay active for my brain and I want to stay mobile. But gosh, I know I’ve lost a lot of dexterity and put on weight since I stopped going to the gym. Swimming is out, maybe yoga? Am I that cliche? Just do some yoga?

I try to eat normally but I’ve got some problems with eating and I take Seroquel at night, so that makes up for any lost calories I haven’t eaten during the day. Right now Married at First Sight Australia is on, so I’m pretty addicted to that. Otherwise, I just try to rest and study. Glamorous, right?

One thing I cannot live without is…

Hot tea. I’m thoroughly addicted to caffeine and classic Bell Tea with milk gets me through my day. I probably go through 6 to 8 tea bags a day. It’s probably the reason I actually can move. Also, probably why I don’t sleep much.

Being ill taught me…

To take nothing for granted and to be amazingly grateful for the gifts that I have. Being able to walk is tremendous. I spent 9 months on the couch. Slowly I learned to crawl, then scoot and then walk again. Amazing. Getting the energy to work in cat rescue and change litter pans and chase after cats made me forever grateful for the second chance I was given. Now I’m studying to become independent. I’ve got my brain back. I will never not be angry and horrendously filled with rage at what happened to me, but I will also never not be amazed and filled with gratitude that I am where I am today. I’m a survivor.

The advice I’d given someone newly diagnosed…

Is that life goes on. It’s different but it goes on. It’s like when the brand of your favourite chip alters things and it’s never the same but you just go on buying it all the same. You can’t pretend nothing has changed, but at the same time, you still enjoy it enough to keep buying it. Some days are going to be horrific. And you’ll cry. You’re entitled to cry. And get mad. And kick at things. But some days will be not so bad too. And hopefully, you’ll get more of those not so bad days soon enough. That’s all you can ask for. And hugs. Ask for hugs. No one will think less of you for doing so.

My support system is…

Really small. I have a really truly, true-blood ride or die best friend on the net but-not-imaginary friend who gets me and loves me and would do anything for me named Alice. She’s also on the Page. I hope one day to be able to explain to her how much she means to me. And to thank her for lifting me up on those really shitty days.

I have my ex who does a lot of practical things for me. I have my daughter who shouldn’t have to grow up so quickly. And myself. I lean on my GP, Simon, a lot. And that’s it. I do a lot of the emotional stuff myself. I’ve become a lot quieter and controlled. Well, the Abilify has made me that way. I could do with a therapist. And a boyfriend. But we’ll see.

If I had one symptom-free day…

Gosh, I’d just sleep. Nothing would hurt. I’d shower too. Wash my hair and not throw up. Go lay in the sun. And sweat. Imagine!

One positive of having a chronic illness is…

That it gives me an amazing sense of humour and fantastic charm. I can joke around with just about anyone and I relate to a large number of people going through many things. It’s given me a sense of empathy that’s lead me to psychology and wanting to care for others. I’ve always been sort of activist-y anyways, but being sick has really pushed that envelope in fighting for others to get the same rights and access, which has been super useful having a daughter with extra needs.

Thanks so much for having me. You can find me and Muffin at the links below. And me and my kitties on my personals.

My Social Media links:
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ChronicIllnessCat
The Cat Tree: https://www.facebook.com/groups/thecattree/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/chronillcat
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/chronicillnesscat/
Personal Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/smilingtabby/
Personal Twitter: https://twitter.com/kittypajama