Interview October – Keiran Potter

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

Keiran Potter

Introduce yourself and tell us a bit about you…

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

One fascinating fact about me is:

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

Chronic illness(es)/disabilities I have…

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

My symptoms/condition began…

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

My diagnosis process was… 

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

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

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

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

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

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

A typical day for me involves…

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

The one thing I cannot live without is…

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

Being ill/disabled has taught me…

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

My support system is…

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

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

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

One positive of having a chronic illness/disability is…

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

One final thing I want people to know is:

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

My links are:

Https://KeiranCrying.com/blog

Instagram.com/keirancrying

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Chronic Pain And Addictions

I want to talk about a difficult subject today…Chronic Pain and Addictions. When you live with Chronic Pain, you can find yourself spiraling in a dark hole. Sometimes depression becomes as big of a problem as the physical pain you live with, and in a desperate need to feel better, you find yourself turning to your medications too often, or you resort to drinking or eating as a way of filling the gap.

Addiction is easy to fall into, as often, you are not receiving adequate treatment for your pain to begin with. You find yourself taking your medictions sooner than directed, or you take more than recommended and then suddenly, you’re in withdrawal at the end of the month when your prescription has run out.

Instead of abusing your pain medications, you may turn to alcohol to increase the “buzz”, or food may become the drug of your choice. “Anything to dampen the pain” is what you might be thinking, and sometimes, it works. Other times, it feels like nothing can fill the unending gulf of pain you live with and so your depression deepens and you’re left feeling worthless. Thoughts of suicide may plague you but you resist telling others for fear they will see you as weak.

Let’s examine this problems in more detail.

Medications

Opioid abuse is an epidemic in the United States. In 2016, approximately 11.5 million Americans 12 years and older misused opioid pain medications, and 1.8 million had a substance use disorder involving prescription pain medications. From 2000 to 2015, more than 500,000 persons died from opioid overdoses, with deaths generally increasing as prescription opioid sales increased. In 2012, clinicians wrote 259 million prescriptions for opioids, enough for every U.S. adult.*

Chronic Pain and Addictions

There are a variety of medications that are used in the treatment of Chronic Pain. As you probably know, there is a current push from to cut back on Opioids like Oxycodone and Hydrocodone because of perceived over-prescribing and the number of deaths linked to the mis-use of Opioids. The number of deaths from illegal Fentynal overdoses has increased dramatically, yet the people who actually require the drug for their Chronic Pain are being turned away by their physicians or are having their dosages cut back significantly.

PreGabalin, Gabapentin, and mixed drugs like Tramacet (Tramadol and Acetaminophen) are now being used more frequently, but not always to great benefit. This is one of the reasons the use of illegal Fentynal is increasing – people aren’t getting adequate relief from their doctor-prescribed medications and so they’re looking to the streets for solutions.

Alcohol

Throughout the ages, people have used alcohol to manage their pain. A swig of whiskey after a bullet wound in the old Westerns, or to numb the pain of a teething baby are two minor examples. A study done recently showed that 28% of people with Chronic Pain used alcohol to help control their pain**

Chronic Pain and Addictions

Although alcohol has been shown to reduce pain, it’s a temporary solution and has potential and possible fatal risks. When you drink, you are more likely to abuse your prescription medications, resulting in furthering the sedative effects of both. You also increase the possibility of liver damage or gastric bleeding. Using alcohol as a pain medication often ends up with exceeding the recommended amount that you should drink and overdose of alcohol and/or prescription medications can be fatal.

Other points to note:

  • Withdrawal from chronic alcohol use often increases pain sensitivity which could motivate some people to continue drinking or even increase their drinking to reverse withdrawal-related increases in pain.
  • Prolonged, excessive alcohol exposure generates a painful small fiber peripheral neuropathy, the most common neurologic complication associated with alcoholism.

Food

When a person is unable to control the amount of pain they live with, they may turn to food instead, as a way of finding relief. It doesn’t take away the pain, but satiating yourself gives back the illusion of that control that you’ve lost elsewhere. Anorexia and bingeing/purging become huge risks and lead to further medical problems.

Chronic Pain and Addiction

Anorexia is the elimination of food from the diet, until your calorie intake is grossly under the recommended daily allowance for health. It is a psychological and potentially life-threatening eating disorder.

There are a multitude of health risks involved including mood swings, low blood pressure, heart problems, kidney and liver issues, loss of bone density and the very real possibility of death.

Bingeing and purging causes issues such as gastric problems, dental issues from vomiting and bile wearing at the teeth and gums, dehydration and depression issues. The use of excessive laxatives is hard on your bowels and runs the risk of chronic constipation, resulting in a Catch-22 of needing to use more laxatives to alleviate the constipation.

Excessive Exercise is another form of purging. By engaging in obscene amounts of exercise, you expose yourself to potential damage to your joints from overuse, dehydration, weakness and potential heart issues.

Other Addictions

Other addictions to be careful about including smoking, gambling, shopping and sex although I’m sure you can think of even more. Each of these excessive behaviours can lead to damaging consequences so it’s imporant to be aware of them. When you live with Chronic Pain, you can have an “all or nothing” mentality – you simply want to do anything that will help you focus on something other than hurting.

What Next?

The first step to any of these issues is to accept that you have a problem. Professional help is required to allow you to wean off of the drugs or alcohol, or to start a healthy relationship with food.

Support groups are available both in person and online and are highly recommended. To be with people who have gone through the same experiences as you have can be very comforting.

A Pain Management program may be suggested to help you get to the root of your problems, and to help you find solutions to managing your pain more effectively.

Talk to your family physician to start. Now is the time to be honest about what you’ve been going through and how you’ve been coping (or not coping). Accept that seeing a counsellor on a regular basis may be a requirement for your success. Having a safe place to talk goes a long way in setting goals for yourself and achieving them.

Ask about specific books that may help you understand Chronic Pain more completely. Knowledge is power.

Finally, realize that you are not a bad person. You may have made some bad choices, but recognizing them and changing them is what’s important. We all make mistakes, and even if you think you’re the worst person in the world…you’re not. You have value and worth and are deserving of the best care possible. Remember,

There Is Always Hope

*https://www.aafp.org/afp/2018/0301/p313.html
**https://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/PainFactsheet/painFact.htm

chronic pain and addictions

Chronic Pain and Mindfulness Meditation

What does the word meditation mean to you? When you hear it, what is the first thing you think of? Someone sitting with their legs crossed, going “ommmmm”?  Someone doing yoga? A different culture or religion?

Mindfulness meditation can have many meanings, but ultimately, it’s a way of connecting with yourself. It’s a mental training practice that involves focusing your mind on your experiences (like your own emotions, thoughts, and sensations) in the present moment. Mindfulness meditation can involve breathing practice, mental imagery, awareness of body and mind, and muscle and body relaxation.

So what does mindfulness meditation have to do with Chronic Pain? Well, it’s a way of focusing on your body and using the relaxation techniques to reduce pain and tension. With the right amount of practice, you can utilize meditation to counteract against various types of pain including joint pain and nerve pain. Here are some tips and tricks to help you.

Getting Started

Learning mindfulness meditation is straightforward, however, a teacher or program can help you as you start (particularly if you’re doing it for health purposes). Some people do it for 10 minutes, but even a few minutes every day can make a difference. Here is a basic technique for you to get started, from the website Very Well Mind:

1. Find a quiet and comfortable place. Sit in a chair or on the floor with your head, neck, and back straight but not stiff.

2. Try to put aside all thoughts of the past and the future and stay in the present.

3. Become aware of your breath, focusing on the sensation of air moving in and out of your body as you breathe. Feel your belly rise and fall, and the air enter your nostrils and leave your mouth. Pay attention to the way each breath changes and is different.

4. Watch every thought come and go, whether it be a worry, fear, anxiety or hope. When thoughts come up in your mind, don’t ignore or suppress them but simply note them, remain calm and use your breathing as an anchor.

5. If you find yourself getting carried away in your thoughts, observe where your mind went off to, without judging, and simply return to your breathing. Remember not to be hard on yourself if this happens.

6. As the time comes to a close, sit for a minute or two, becoming aware of where you are. Get up gradually.

Breathing

Learning how to breathe sounds so simple, but many of us don’t do it properly. We tend to breathe from the chest instead of the diaphragm, which leads to shallow breaths. Deep belly breathing is preferable and can be easily learned. Try breathing in tune with this Hoberman Sphere:

Mindfulness Meditation for Chronic Pain

 

Guided Meditations

Guided meditations can be an excellent resource to help you connect the mind and body. The good people at Mindful.org have several excellent starters that you can access right here.

For content specific to Chronic Pain, these videos may be helpful for you:

Guided Meditation for Chronic Pain #1

Guided Meditation for Chronic Pain #2

Guided Meditation for Chronic Pain #3

Conclusion

Just a few minutes a day is all it takes to learn this simple practice, but the benefits can last for much longer. Used in conjunction with heat, ice and medications, you may find Mindfulness Meditation to be just the thing to ease your Chronic Pain, one breath at a time. Remember,

There Is Always Hope

 

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. I continue to seek out new opportunities to volunteer and was recently nominated for two WEGO Health Awards – one for Best in Show: Blog and one for Best Kept Secret (regarding my blog). You can click here for more information about my nominations. 

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…

There Is Always Hope

 

 

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

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

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

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The author dealing with an Atypical Trigeminal Neuralgia flare up

Causes

Chronic Pain can be caused by the following:

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

Symptoms

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

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

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

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

Chronic Pain and Your Mental Health

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

Fighting Back

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

Pain Management Courses

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

Pain Foundations BC

Online Therapy Pain Course

Pathway Through Pain

Mind Body Pain Clinics

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

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Pain Management Tools

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

TENs Unit

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Mindfulness For Pain

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Mindfulness Solution

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Infrared Solutions

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Hypnotic Techniques for Pain Management

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Cognitive Behaviour Therapy Workbook

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

Medication And More

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

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

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

Yoga For Pain Relief

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Yoga Essentials

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Essential Oils

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

Remember…

There Is Always Hope

 

 

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

Gastroparesis Is A Slow Go

One of the many conditions I live with is called Gastroparesis. Gastroparesis means paralysis of the muscles of the stomach. Gastroparesis results in delayed emptying of food from the stomach into the small intestine. It can be minor or quite severe; in my case, I have a moderate degree of paralysis, and the food sits for 2-3 days before being processed further in the digestive system.

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I wasn’t aware there was a problem at first as the usual signs of Gastroparesis are nausea and vomiting. I didn’t suffer from either of those, but I did experience a lot of bloating. It felt like whatever I ate just sat there in my belly forever.

Some of the causes for Gastroparesis include:

There are many symptoms of gastroparesis, including:

  • Heartburn or GERD
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting undigested food
  • Feeling full quickly when eating
  • Abdominal bloating
  • Poor appetite and weight loss
  • Poor blood sugar control

Some of the complications of gastroparesis include:

  • Food that stays in the stomach too long can ferment, which can lead to the growth of bacteria.
  • Food in the stomach can harden into a solid collection, called a bezoar. Bezoars can cause obstructions in the stomach that keep food from passing into the small intestine.
  • People who have both diabetes and gastroparesis may have more difficulty because blood sugar levels rise when the food finally leaves the stomach and enters the small intestine, making blood sugar control more of a challenge.

HOW DO THEY TEST FOR GASTROPARESIS

To diagnose gastroparesis, your doctor will review your symptoms and medical history. He or she will also give you a physical exam and may order certain blood tests, including blood sugar levels. Other tests used to diagnose and evaluate gastroparesis may include:

  • Barium X-ray: You drink a liquid (barium), which coats the esophagus, stomach, and small intestine and shows up on X-ray. This test is also known as an upper GI (gastrointestinal) series or a barium swallow.
  • Radioisotope gastric-emptying scan (gastric scintigraphy): You eat food that contains a very small amount of radioisotope (a radioactive substance), then lie under a scanning machine; if the scan shows that more than 10% of food is still in your stomach 4 hours after eating, you are diagnosed with gastroparesis.
  • Gastric manometry: A thin tube that is passed through your mouth and into the stomach measures the stomach’s electrical and muscular activity to determine the rate of digestion.
  • Electrogastrography: This test measures electrical activity in the stomach using electrodes placed on the skin.
  • The smart pill: This is a small electronic device that is swallowed. It sends back information about how fast it is travelling as it moves through the digestive system.
  • Ultrasound: This is an imaging test that uses sound waves to create pictures of body organs. Your doctor may use ultrasound to eliminate other diseases.
  • Upper endoscopy: This procedure involves passing a thin tube (endoscope) down the esophagus to examine the lining of the stomach.

I underwent the Radioisotope gastric-emptying scan. In my case, they wanted me off ALL of my meds first to make sure they weren’t contributing to the problem, so for 2 days prior to my test I had to quit my medications cold turkey. That included my meds for Fibromyalgia, my anti-psychotics AND my opioid narcotic for pain. Do you have any idea what going through withdrawal is like? It was horrendous. I had the shakes, the runs, I couldn’t eat or sleep, and for those 2 days, I alternated between thinking I was dying and wanting to die.

DAY OF TEST

On the day of the test, I went to the hospital to where the Nuclear testing is done. I knew that I was going to be eating an egg sandwich with a radioactive tracer in it and that tracer would be monitored through a series of special x-rays, but I explained to the nurse that everything I ate was immediately running right through me like water. She was so sweet…she “reserved” me a private bathroom, brought me my sandwich and told me to eat as much as I could while I sat there. Talk about embarrassing!!! It’s embarrassing writing about it!!! But, I managed just over 3/4’s of the sandwich, which she said was enough. She brought me into the x-ray room where there was a gurney to lay on, and then gave me a warm blanket.

The first pictures were taken every 2 minutes, so I just sat. Then they took them every 5 minutes apart, then 10 minutes apart, then 15, then 30 and finally 2 pictures 1 hour apart each. In between, I slept on the gurney, and my nurse brought me as many warm blankets as I wanted. She also brought me a cold wet face cloth for my forehead. When it was all over, I gave her a big hug and thanked her for being so kind. Then I took my medications asap!!!!

The tests showed that I have a moderate degree of low motility so my food sits in my stomach for a long period of time before moving on to the intestines. This explains why I always look bloated and pregnant. There are medications that can be taken, but I’ve asked my Doctor if we can just hold off and wait on that for now. This is more of an inconvenience than anything right now, and I just don’t want any more drugs in my system than I absolutely need. If the problem becomes hugely bothersome, we’ll revisit it, but in the meantime, I’ll just try to watch what I eat, drink more water and try to exercise a bit more.

If you’re experiencing symptoms of Gastroparesis, please make an appointment to see your family doctor as soon as possible. There are treatments available and you won’t have to put up with the suffering. Thanks for reading and remember…

There Is Always Hope

What Does Science Say About CBD Oil For Migraines

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

CBD Oil for Migraines – Effective, or Merely Hype?

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

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

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

What Is CBD Oil?

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

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

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

Could CBD Oil Help Me with Migraines?

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

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

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

Overview of CBD Oil and Migraine Pain Relief

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

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

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

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

Remember, there is always hope

Managing My Mental Illness

I have Bipolar Disorder and have talked about it before on my blog. It’s not something I hide but I don’t really discuss it much either so I thought I’d share a bit more about what it looks like for me.

Although currently stable on medication, when I was unmedicated and undiagnosed, I would have the most incredible highs and lows. My manic highs would see me racing around the house, cleaning whatever I could, and cooking dinners every night and baking and crafting and never, ever sleeping…I would be up for days on end without any sleep at all. At my worst, I was awake for 8 days in a row – and I mean without a drop of sleep. I was unbeatable…I would shop online without realizing what I was doing, and then all of a sudden, these packages would start arriving and I would have no clue what was in them – usually jewellery (cheap stuff) or clothing from Zulily (an online store I love).

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On the other hand, when the inevitable crash came, I would crash hard. All I wanted to do was curl in the fetal position in bed and sleep…so that’s all I did. I didn’t bathe, I didn’t eat, chores went by the wayside, forget about cooking and crafting. I did the bare minimum to keep my cat alive and my husband had to fend for himself after a 12 hour day at work when it came to eating, plus do the dishes. I rarely left the bedroom, unless it was to spend mindless hours on the computer doing nothing.

Once we realized how serious the problem was, my husband and I realized it was critical that I needed to be on medication. I saw my doctor and was started on Seroquel. After that drug stopped working, I’ve been taking Abilify, which has been excellent for me in terms of managing my symptoms. Unfortunately, the side effects have been harsh and I’ve been paying the price.  I am not a vain woman, but I’ve put on 20lbs since using the medication (in 6 months) and it’s 20lbs I can’t afford to carry on my 5’2″ frame. I have no ability to exercise and lose the weight, especially now that I’m wearing an Air Cast on my left ankle to try to help reattach a tendon that has torn away from the bone. Plus I take other medications that all have their own side effects…so I have to be careful with those as well.

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I’ve also experienced some other unpleasant side effects including severe brain zaps, and I’ve been seeing shadows on the sides of my vision. These were enough to send me back to my Psychiatrist to discuss making another medication change – the dance that you tango when you have a mental illness. He’s decided to try me on one of the older drugs that is less likely to cause weight gain like so many of the newer ones do. It’s called Zeldox (my family doctor says it sounds like a cartoon character and I agree!) and the side effects listed are as follows:

  • constipation
  • cough
  • diarrhea
  • dizziness
  • fatigue
  • flu-like symptoms (e.g., fever, sore throat, chills)
  • leakage of fluid or milk from breasts (women)
  • menstrual changes
  • nausea or upset stomach
  • rash
  • restlessness
  • runny nose
  • sexual difficulties
  • vomiting

In general, most of these are mild and go away in the first couple of weeks of taking the medication, so I’m not too concerned. I’m just hoping that the brain zaps disappear as this is one of the most unpleasant of all the side effects that I experience. What is a brain zap you ask?

Brain zap or brain shiver is a term used to describe the sensation of a sudden jolt or buzz in the brain. It is also compared to the electrical shock, has no apparent cause and is brief in duration. In most cases, it’s relatively mild but people have reported the occurrences of very extreme and painful jolts. They are a temporary occurrence. Brain zaps can sometimes be accompanied by dizziness, tinnitus, mild pain and ache and a general sense of discomfort.

I experience mine as a buzz that goes across my head from ear to ear. I can hear the loud buzzing sound as well as feel it, but there isn’t any pain. It’s almost like the hum of an electric razor, but very quick and sudden. Sometimes it’s just one zap, sometimes it’s a series of them. They’re mostly just annoying more than anything but a side effect I can do without due to their frequency.  The shadowing I’ve been getting in my vision is more worrisome as I tend to freak out about anything to do with my eyes. I have no eye problems (other than wearing glasses) and I’d like to keep at least one body part in good shape for as long as possible if you know what I mean!!

I start the new medication on Monday, Dec. 17th but am writing this post to be read in February so I’ll add an update underneath so you know how it’s going.

Bipolar Disorder can be tricky to manage but with the right care, the proper medications and taking them at the right times, it can lead to a normal life. I’ve found the perfect balance between mania and depression. Now I’m able to function most days with the cooking and cleaning when my other health issues allow it and my poor husband can come home to dinner waiting most of the time. I feel more likely to work on a craft than when I was in a depressive crash, and while my sleep still isn’t the greatest, I’m not staying awake for days on end either.

Sometimes called Manic Depression, Bipolar Disorder causes extreme shifts in mood. People who have it may spend weeks feeling like they’re on top of the world before plunging into a deep depression. The length of each high and low varies greatly from person to person. If you are experiencing these symptoms, please see your doctor. There is help available and beyond that…

There is always hope!

Chronic Illness and Anxiety

When you’ve been diagnosed with a chronic illness, you may feel as if you’ve lost control over your future. The stress of learning to deal with doctors and specialists, coping with physical changes, and managing daily life can often lead to excessive worry or stress. Researchers have found that experiencing a chronic illness puts a person at increased risk for developing anxiety or an anxiety disorder. Roughly 40% of people with cancer report experiencing psychological distress that often takes the shape of excessive worry or panic attacks.* People with ongoing, or chronic pain are three times more likely to develop symptoms of anxiety.**

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The daily demands of living with a chronic illness continues to present challenges and generate anxiety long after the diagnosis has been given. Loss of mobility or other abilities can lead to worry about employment or financial concerns. Depending on others, worrying about becoming a burden or even intimacy with your partner may also be concerns. Some people are more easily able to adapt to the changes in their lives. Others may feel overwhelmed with anxiety and struggle to cope. Still others may be in limbo, unable to make decisions about their future.

The Most Common Anxiety Disorders are:

1. Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) involves excessive and uncontrollable worry about everyday things, such as health, money or work. It is accompanied by physical symptoms such as restlessness, irritability, muscle tension, fatigue and difficulty sleeping or concentrating.
2. Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) entails persistent, recurring thoughts (obsessions) that reflect exaggerated anxiety or fears. Someone with OCD often will practice repetitive behaviors or rituals (compulsions). For instance, obsessing about germs may lead someone with OCD to compulsively washing hands—perhaps 50 times or more per day.
3. Panic Disorder includes severe attacks of terror or sudden rushes of intense anxiety and discomfort. Symptoms can mimic those found in heart disease, respiratory problems or thyroid problems, and individuals often fear they are dying, having a heart attack or about to faint. The symptoms experienced during a panic attack are real and overwhelming, but not life threatening.
4. Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) can follow exposure to a traumatic event, such as a car accident, rape, a terrorist attack or other violence. Symptoms include reliving the traumatic event, avoidance, detachment or difficulty sleeping and concentrating. Though it is commonly associated with veterans, any traumatic event can trigger PTSD.
5. Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD) is characterized by extreme anxiety about being judged by others or behaving in a way that might cause embarrassment or ridicule. People who have SAD have what feels like exaggerated stage fright all the time. SAD is also called social phobia.

Specific phobias are intense fear reactions that lead a person to avoid specific objects, places or situations, such as flying, heights or highway driving. The level of fear is excessive and unreasonable. Although the person with a phobia recognizes the fear as being irrational, even simply thinking about it can cause extreme anxiety. I personally am terrified of the Dentist, even though they treat me gently and with compassion. I have to take medication to help relax me in order to go for a simple cleaning.

Fortunately, anxiety is treatable with therapy, medication and complementary and alternative treatments (i.e. acupuncture, massage therapy, ). But when the focus is on the chronic illness, anxiety is often overlooked. That’s why it’s important to talk to your doctor about your emotional and cognitive health, and to speak up when you experience signs of anxiety.

Emotional symptoms of anxiety include:

  • Becoming easily agitated, frustrated, and moody
  • Feeling overwhelmed, like you are losing control or need to take control
  • Having difficulty relaxing and quieting your mind
  • Feeling bad about yourself (low self-esteem), lonely, worthless, and depressed
  • Avoiding others

Physical symptoms of anxiety include:

  • Low energy
  • Headaches
  • Upset stomach, including diarrhea, constipation, and nausea
  • Aches, pains, and tense muscles
  • Chest pain and rapid heartbeat
  • Insomnia
  • Frequent colds and infections
  • Loss of sexual desire and/or ability
  • Nervousness and shaking, ringing in the ear, cold or sweaty hands and feet
  • Dry mouth and difficulty swallowing
  • Clenched jaw and grinding teeth

Cognitive symptoms of stress include:

  • Constant worrying
  • Racing thoughts
  • Forgetfulness and disorganization
  • Inability to focus
  • Poor judgment
  • Being pessimistic or seeing only the negative side

 

What You Can Do

Challenge negative thinking. When you’re anxious, your brain may jump to conclusions, assume the worst, or exaggerate. Catastrophizing and ignoring the positives in your life may occur when you live with the challenges of a chronic illness. One way to manage anxiety is by being aware of the negative thinking, examining it and challenge the irrational thoughts. Counselors/therapists can play an important role in teaching you this important coping skill.

Calm your mind. Relaxation techniques can be an effective way to calm anxious thinking and direct your mind to a more positive place. Consider whether mindfulness meditation, yoga, or other breathing and focusing practices can still your body. Taking  time to relax, increases your ability to think objectively and positively when it comes to making choices about your health and life.

Find a good Doctor. If you take medication for both mental and for physical health, it’s important to that your doctors are aware of all your medications. Some medications may actually escalate anxiety, so it’s essential to work with a prescriber who can make informed choices that address both conditions without worsening either.

Find a support group. Managing a chronic illness can be a lonely job as it may be difficult for loved ones to understand the unique challenges. Support groups, whether online or in person are wonderful for creating community but also for providing information that can help reduce worry. They can also connect you to valuable resources for treating your illness.

Acknowledge successes. Anxious thinking about chronic illness can keep you from feeling that you have control over anything in life. It’s important to acknowledge all successes, both big and small. Keep track of the healthy things you do for your mind and body. Exercising, going to counseling, spending time with a friend–these can all help. Keeping these successes at the front of your mind can help you combat worry. They can remind you that you do have the power to affect your present and future.

If you think that you might have anxiety in addition to chronic illness, be honest with your doctor. Ask for help. Anxiety is highly treatable, so remember…

There Is Always Hope

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