Chronic Pain and Travelling

When you live with Chronic Pain and Chronic Fatigue, travelling for business and/or pleasure can become a real challenge. In the course of my volunteer work, I sit on 4 different committees and one working group, and of those, 2 of them require travel from my home in Langford, BC (just outside of Victoria) to Vancouver on the Mainland. It’s a short flight, only 30 minutes from runway to runway, but with everything that goes into it, it can end up being quite exhausting by the time the trip is over.

Plane and images of travelling

On my most recent trip to Vancouver, I came down with what was either food poisoning or a severe case of gastroenteritis on Thursday evening before my all day Friday meeting. I was in the bathroom every hour all night long, plus I had the stomach cramps and nausea, along with feeling extremely cold yet having the sweats. I haven’t been that sick in years!!!  On top of all that, I had a flare-up of my Trigeminal Neuralgia which combined to make me a very, VERY miserable girl.

I survived to the next day, made it through the meeting still having the shakes and sweating and still with facial pain from the TN, and all I wanted to do was get home as soon as possible. I arrived at the airport for my 7pm flight, only to find out it had been cancelled!!  The next flight was for 8pm so I had no choice but to wait. Then there came notice of a delay for that flight. Then another delay and another delay and still ANOTHER delay. In total, there were five delays for the flight and I didn’t get home until just before 11pm by the time it was all said and done.

I was so wiped out from being sick, from the travel, the intensity of the meeting…just everything. I went to bed immediately and didn’t wake up (except for pee breaks) until Sunday at 8am. I completely slept through Saturday!!

Chronic Pain And Travelling

Travel, in general, is not easy when you have Chronic Pain and being sick makes it worse. If you do have to travel, for business or pleasure, I’ve gathered a few tips to help make YOUR travels a bit easier the next time you’re flying or on the road:

General Considerations:

  • Plan a realistic itinerary.
  • Allow plenty of time.
  • Keep a small, lightweight, hands-free bag with essentials handy and check your main bag if traveling by air.
  • Ask, “How accessible are handicapped accommodations?”
  • Pack for all temperatures and environmental fluctuations. I get hot easily, so I pack clothing that is easy to layer. With careful coordination, I can make many outfits from fewer articles of clothing and lessen the load.
  • Make your bed as close to your bed at home as possible. Ask for extra pillows or blankets. (I always check the closet when I first arrive for these).
  • Use earplugs and a sleep mask.
  • Stay as close to your usual routine as possible, but also adjust with the local time to avoid jetlag.
  • Throw in an extra pair of reading and sunglasses from the dollar store so if you lose them, you don’t mind so much. A book light comes in handy and serves as a light that is easy to access when your unfamiliar hotel room is dark.

Medical-related

  • Carry a medical letter or a medical history summary that includes diagnoses with your physician’s contact information. This letter is handy and often available from your doctor. Ask if they might have such a thing or create your own.
  • Carry your medications with you and follow the tips for traveling with medications.
  • If you need a wheelchair, contact your airline and arrange to have one available.
  • Carry your insurance cards and identification at all times.

In the air, over the rails, and on the road

Amtrack Passenger Train

  • Take advantage of rest stops. Move about and stretch every chance you get. If you are traveling in America, Google has a map of rest stops across the U.S.
  • If you are confined to an airplane seat, keep blood and lymph moving by flexing and relaxing your joints every 20 to 30 minutes. Compression socks are helpful for circulation too.
  • Avoid alcohol and stay hydrated. Dehydration stresses the body as a whole.
  • Carry a healthy snack bag with fresh fruit and non-perishable foods, like protein bars, in case of a delay.
  • Dress for comfort in loose non-restrictive clothing and a pair of comfortable fail-safe shoes. This is not the time to try out those new sandals you bought!!
  • Make sure your plane, train, or bus is on time before leaving home – sign up for notification alerts when offered.

Travel comes with challenges for everyone, but especially those of us who live with conditions that cause chronic pain. But, if we respect our limitations and listen to what our body tells us, we can enjoy our time away from home.

Remember, there is always hope

 

Advertisements

Overcoming Depression With Fibromyalgia And Invisible Illness

If you are a patient with Fibromyalgia or another Invisible Illness, chances are you’ve felt depressed at some point. Depression is prominent in fibromyalgia patients with the risk of getting depressive symptoms at least once being about 90% and getting major depressive disorder (MDD) being about 62–86% in fibromyalgia patients*.
Depression Is a Big StormBy following an appropriate fibromyalgia treatment plan and getting the support of family and friends, you can take control of your fibromyalgia. You can also get control over your symptoms of depression and improve your quality of life.

What Is Depression?

Sadness is a normal reaction to loss or life’s struggles.  Depression surpasses sadness and becomes a problem that affects your whole life. People who are depressed commonly experience:

  • Loss of interest in activities you used to enjoy
  • weight loss or gain
  • thoughts about death
  • Irritability and guilt
  • Anxiety that won’t go away
  • Insecurity and a feeling of helplessness
  • decreased energy
  • difficulty concentrating or making decisions
  • uncontrollable tearfulness

These thoughts, physical changes, and feelings interfere with daily life.

What Is the Link Between Fibromyalgia and Depression?

The stress from fibromyalgia’s pain and fatigue can cause anxiety and social isolation. The chronic deep muscle and tender point pain can result in less activity. That causes you to become more withdrawn and can also lead to depression. It is also possible that anxiety and depression are part of fibromyalgia, just like the pain.

Depression and fibromyalgia can greatly interfere with the way you manage your activities at home or at work. So it is important to openly discuss any symptoms of depression you have with your doctors.

Does Stress Increase Depression With Fibromyalgia?

The stress of living with chronic pain and relentless fatigue can put a person into “overload.”  This results in near catastrophic levels of nervousness and anxiety. Doctors aren’t certain yet whether stress brings on Fibromyalgia or if Fibromyalgia brings on stress. All we know for certain is that it’s a vicious circle and that stress adds to problems of anger and irritability. Most patients feel their pain and fatigue worsening over time.

Is Depression Common With Invisible Illness?

Feelings of depression are common with all types of chronic pain, including headache, back and neck pain, hip pain, shoulder pain, and the pain of fibromyalgia. For example, the prevalence of major depression in people with chronic low back pain is about three times greater than in the general population.

Continuing that vicious circle, being depressed also increases the risk of developing chronic pain. Patients describe greater disturbances because of pain and display more pain behaviours than other pain patients who are not depressed.

One of the worst things that happens is that people with chronic pain such as fibromyalgia start to isolate themselves from family and friends at a time when they often need them the most. They become more focused on their pain, which causes further withdrawal which then causes more depression and round and round it goes.

Ways to Ease Depression With Fibromyalgia

It’s important to understand that fibromyalgia is more than the deep muscle pain and tender points you feel. It encompasses everything about you — your feelings, emotions, and attitude; the way you respond to stress; and the way you communicate with others.

The good news is, though, that while there is no cure, the fibromyalgia pain and symptoms of depression can be successfully treated.

  • Cognitive Behavioural Therapy

One of the most effective treatments for fibromyalgia and depression is a program called cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). CBT is a type of treatment that helps patients understand the thoughts and feelings that influence behaviours. CBT is commonly used to treat a wide range of disorders, including depression, and anxiety.

This negative self-talk can fuel a sense that negative experiences are catastrophes, which further increases stress, anxiety, depression, and pain.

Your doctor can refer you to a CBT program offered individually (often online) or in a group format.

  • Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR)

This program, which teaches mindfulness to patients, had demonstrated remarkable benefits for reducing fibromyalgia pain as well as anxiety and depression. “Mindfulness is an awareness that arises through paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgmentally,” according to Jon Kabat-Zinn, a pioneer of mindfulness in medicine.

Being mindful means intentionally being present with your breath, thoughts, feelings, and sensations. You can practice mindfulness through meditation, body scans, mindful eating, or mindful movements like yoga or Tai Chi.

You can find an MBSR program offered in your community through your doctor.

  • Music for Pain Management

Music has a powerful effect on the mind – listening to music is associated with the release of dopamine, a feel-good neurotransmitter that is known to have a role in the body’s natural pain-relieving mechanisms. It also produces relaxation, which in turn can help to lift your mood and ease your pain.

A study published in Science Daily found that, when people with chronic pain listen to music for an hour a day, they experienced up to a 21 per cent reduction in pain and a 25 per cent reduction in depression. Additionally, they found that listening to music made participants feel less disabled by their condition and more in control of their pain.

Music that you find relaxing is likely to be the most effective for improving mood and pain levels. However, music doesn’t have to be soft and soothing to be effective. Whatever type of music makes you happy is the best kind to listen to, so go ahead and turn on Rock & Roll, Grunge, Heavy Metal or Classical…it’s your choice.

  • Medication

Medication does have a role in treating depression in people living with Fibromyalgia or other Invisible Illnesses. Only your doctor can know for sure if you require medication so it’s important you seek medical care if you are experiencing the symptoms of depression.  The goal is to help you feel better and often a short course of medication might be an option in conjunction with one of the above treatment options as well.

As you can see, depression can wreak havoc on the body already plagued by Fibromyalgia. Don’t let it isolate you from your family and friends. If you’re experiencing signs of depression, seek help. The sooner you start, the better the chances are of decreasing your pain and suffering and getting you back on track to better health.

There is always hope

*https://www.news-medical.net/health/Fibromyalgia-Depression-and-Anxiety.aspx

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

Interview April – Jill Goodpasture

It’s time for our next guest, the delightful Jill Goodpasture!

JillGoodpasture

Introduce yourself and tell us a bit about you…

My name is Jill Goodpasture aka Fibroscoop. I have been writing my blog The Scoop on Fibromyalgia and Chronic Illnesses for a year now. I am a divorced mom of 2 teenage boys, 15 and 19. My oldest just left home so things have just changed around the house recently. I also have 3 furbabies and Sophie my support dog is frequently featured on the blog. She is just too stinking cute not to get on there occasionally.

Chronic illness(es)/disabilities I have…

I have Fibromyalgia, Early Degenerative Arthritis in my lower back and hips, Plantar Fasciitis, Narcolepsy, Sleep Apnea, Depression, and Anxiety.

My symptoms/condition began/My diagnosis process was…

In the spring of 2016, I started to have trouble with plantar fasciitis for a second time. I went back to the podiatrist who treated it the first time with cortisone shots. This time the shots didn’t work though. In fact, I had a inflammatory reaction to the shots and can no longer take steroids. I started seeing an Orthopedic Foot Doctor who put me in a boot for 6 months. During that time my back and hip started hurting. When the boot went away, the pain in my back and hip just got worse. When it persisted. I went to the orthopedic for my back and they said I had arthritis in my back and hips.  This was Oct 2016. In about August of that fall I had begun having body aches and nerve pain in my legs. This progressed to numbness and weakness.

The Doctors did nerve tests and MRI’s and finally said there was nothing wrong and sent me to PT. Well it so happens that I had the best PT in the world. She told me that it really sounded like I had something Autoimmune going on with my body. She knew my GP and told me to go talk to him. I did and he said he thought I had Fibromyalgia and maybe MS or RA. He did a thousand blood tests and when everything came back negative he sent me to a Rheumatologist and recommended that my Neurologist do a brain MRI. The Rheumatologist diagnosed early degenerative arthritis in my lower back and hips and fibromyalgia. She ran a bunch of tests that were negative and said we would keep our eyes on and keep checking for muscle conditions based on symptoms. My Neurologist did a brain MRI and there was no sign of MS but we recheck every 6 months.

I have struggled with depression and anxiety since middle school. I have seen a therapist and been on medication for about 20 years now. I like to think I have it pretty much “under control” but anyone with depression knows that is a myth. My therapist and I have a close working relationship and do phone visits weekly, and anytime I feel overwhelmed or that the pain is too much to handle I text her and we schedule extra visits as needed.

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

This is a tough one. I would have to say it is a toss up between seeing how it has affected my kids to the loss of the future I had all planned dreamed of for so long.

A typical day for me involves…

I generally wake up early, between 5 and 7. My son gets himself up for school so on the off chance I am able to sleep in, I can do so. When I first wake I lay in the bed and do a few stretches so that when I move to get up it won’t hurt so bad. Then I take my cpap off and put the hoses in the drawer and get up. I stand there and do a few more stretches. I make my bed up and set up a bunch of pillows to recline against and turn on my heating pads to warm up. I let the dogs out. Then I use the restroom and put my medicine bin on the bed so I won’t forget it. I make breakfast, coffee, and a big cup of Diet Dr. Pepper (my lifeblood). When everything is ready I go back to the bedroom and let the dogs in. I filled their bowls while I was in the kitchen.

I make myself comfy on the bed, turn on the morning show and eat my breakfast. Then I take my meds and supplements and do my journaling for the day. I might spend a few hours journaling if I don’t have anywhere to go. If I am going somewhere then as soon as the stiffness leaves my body I will get in the shower so I can sit on the bed for a while after to recover before the appointment. I always schedule appointments with this in mind. After the appointment or a few hours of journaling, around noon or one I will eat lunch if hungry and take a nap. This could be anywhere from one to four hours. When the kiddo gets home from soccer, thankfully transported by friends, we reheat leftovers, eat frozen dinners or he cooks usually. Then he usually does homework and talks to friends and showers til bed. I text with friends and sometimes journal or watch tv or something.

The one thing I cannot live without is…

My phone, it is my connection to the world outside my bedroom. My heating pads for pain control. I can’t decide between them.

Being ill/disabled has taught me…

Well, I think that my illness is trying to teach me patience and the ability to sit and relax, but I have not quite learned the lessons yet. I hate being in the bed all day doing nothing. I get impatient in SO many ways. I am a work in progress.

What advice would I give someone recently diagnosed…

RESEARCH and FIGHT. Research your disease and not just in the medical journals. Go to the blogs and the internet and read what people who have your condition have. Talk to people. You would be shocked once you start telling people how many people you know will have the same condition. Once you are armed with information then you fight. You fight with the doctors and the insurance companies and make sure you get the diagnoses, treatments, and medicines you need to get better.

My support system is…

My mother, my two kids, my friend Lori, and my ex-husband all provide supports in different ways. My best friend Traci has been there more times than I can count. My biggest support is my therapist who has went above and beyond making herself available by phone 24/7 to help when I am in pain or depressed or having major anxiety or whatever I need.

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

Be on the go from sun up to sun down. I would do something fun with my boys. I would go kayaking with my best friend. Go out to eat anywhere I want. Go see a movie. Just go, go, go. Like before I got sick.

One positive of having a chronic illness/disability is…

Hmmm…. This question is a tough one for me. I honestly cannot come up with a positive at this point. Maybe I will one day but right now in this journey I cannot.

My social media links are:

Blog:

https://scooponfibro.wordpress.com/

Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/fibroscoop1/

Instagram:

https://www.instagram.com/fibroscoop/

Twitter:

https://twitter.com/Fibroscoop

Fibromyalgia and Pet Therapy

Fibromyalgia and Pet Therapy

pet-therapy

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

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

What Is Pet Therapy

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

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

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


What Are The Benefits Of Pet Therapy?

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

How Can Pet Therapy Ease Fibromyalgia Pain?

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

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

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

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

How Can You Start?

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

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

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

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

Outlook

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

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

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.

feat-gastroparesis

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

Fifty Reasons To Keep Going

If you are going through a hard time right now, I want to give you 50 good reasons why you need to be strong and why you need to stick around.

  1. You are a soul worth having on this earth
  2. Long hugs (my favourite)
  3. Cute baby animals
  4. You are so loved
  5. Staying up all night just to sleep in
  6. Making babies smile and laugh
  7. Sharing secrets with your best friends
  8. You will be missed
  9. Sunsets
  10. Late night phone calls
  11. Cuddling
  12. You are needed
  13. Doing stupid stuff with your best friends
  14. Laughing so hard that you cry
  15. Seeing yourself recover
  16. Crunchy leaves
  17. Knowing all the lyrics to a song
  18. Stargazing and cloud watching
  19. You are important
  20. Tomorrow is a new day.
  21. Chocolate exists.
  22. There are people out there who truly love you.
  23. At least a thousand other people at this very moment feel sad, too — you’re not alone.
  24. There’s help out there no matter how big or small your problem is.
  25. There’s music out there that totally captures what you’re feeling, which means you’re not the first or last to feel it.
  26. Everything is temporary.
  27. Unconditional love exists.
  28. Puppies.
  29. Nobody else knows what they’re doing either.
  30. Trying never hurt anyone.
  31. Smiles are contagious.
  32. You have a right to feel what you’re feeling.
  33. Anything can happen with a pen and blank sheet of paper.
  34. You’re not this person.
  35. Animals love you no matter what.
  36. The best lessons come from the worst mistakes.
  37. Netflix has so many shows you need to watch.
  38. All good love stories have a “goodbye” before the happy ending.
  39. Just being alive means you’ve beaten the odds.
  40. There’s a plethora of cliche quotes to make you feel better.
  41. Like “Nothing worth doing is ever easy.”
  42. And “Quality is better than quantity.”
  43. Also, “Everything happens for a reason.”
  44. Whatever you’re going through is making you “you.”
  45. Nothing feels better than a good cry, so don’t feel bad about it.
  46. You will always have control of your choices.
  47. Forgiving does bring healing.
  48. Simba lost everything and still became king of the jungle.
  49. You’re becoming stronger every moment you pick yourself back up.
  50. You’ll be OK.

Please reach out for help if you need it.

Text CONNECT to 741741 in the United States or phone:

1-800-273-8255

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

In Canada

Call 911 or use the following link for help in your province:

https://suicideprevention.ca/need-help/

 

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).

woman-shopping-online-sample-sale

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.

Screen Shot 2018-10-29 at 6.16.50 PM

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!

Fibromyalgia and Loneliness

Having a chronic illness like Fibromyalgia can be a very isolating experience. Many of us used to work and found a lot of our social life revolved around our jobs, whether it was getting together with the gang after work for drinks or volunteering with a workgroup for a community project. Often, a best friend was made at our jobs whom we would hang out with more frequently, and those sorts of friendships became treasured relationships to us.

group-work-best

After you become chronically ill though, you often have to give up working, and those relationships no longer exist, not even with the “best friend” that you made. How do you handle the loneliness that comes from that? We tend to not go out a lot in the first place, because of pain and fatigue, so without a reason to get together with former co-workers, there’s now more reason to isolate ourselves than ever. It’s depressing to know that you’re no longer “part of the gang”  and that you don’t fit in anymore. It’s even more depressing to know that your former friends don’t even realize that they’ve shut you out. It’s just the natural progression of you no longer being at the job, and nothing personal.

Reaching Out

But what happens when you try to reach out, to make plans, and people don’t return calls? Or when people reach out to you, but you’re unable to go, because their plans are too ambitious for you? I’d love to see people for coffee, but they always want to combine it with shopping followed by dinner and drinks afterwards, and that’s too much of a day for me. Lunch and shopping, I can do that on a good day, but then I want to go home. And if it’s a bad day, then I have to say no right from the start. And what happens if I start having too many bad days when friends want to get together? They stop calling, period. I am “too sick all the time” and no longer any fun to be with.  It’s easy to get depressed when this happens.

180418lonelymum

It’s so frustrating when friends give up on you. I can’t control my good and bad days. I have no idea when a good day is going to go bad. I can feel great in the morning and then start to go downhill by the early afternoon. I try to explain that to people, but they don’t always understand how unpredictable Fibromyalgia can be. Sometimes it can change from hour to hour and even minute by minute. It’s like going outside in changing weather and never being sure of how many layers you should wear. Will you be too hot, too cold or just right? And what do you do with all those layers if you don’t need them?

There’s also the other side of the coin though. What if your friends continue to invite you out, but you keep turning them down? Your reasons seem valid; you’re in pain, it’s too much of a hassle, the weather is too difficult, you’re tired, or you just don’t feel like it. It’s easy to make excuses, but you also need to search the real reasons for saying no. Are the reasons you’re giving valid? Or are you turning down invitations because of depression?

Signs to Watch Out For

How do you know if you’re becoming depressed or socially isolated? Here are some signs to watch for:

  • Being less motivated to leave your home
  • Feeling more anxious or worried when leaving the house
  • Declining invitations from friends or family to meet or attend gatherings
  • Planning fewer social opportunities for yourself
  • Ignoring supports when they reach out to you
  • Seeing only negatives associated with social connections

If you recognize any of these symptoms, please see a doctor in order to be treated appropriately. If you want to be more socially active, but find your friends are not as available as they’ve been in the past, the following suggestions might be helpful for you:

  • Volunteer with like-minded people
  • Help out in an animal shelter
    34437-full
  • Take up a new hobby
  • Join a support group (in person or online)
  • Join a Social Group in your City (look on Craigslist)
  • Keep a journal – it can help put things in perspective

Loneliness can be hard to deal with, but with the right understanding and support, you can overcome it. Make sure you’re staying in touch with people and not isolating yourself, and reach out to others if your friends have stopped reaching out to you. It’s okay to move forward and make new friends. Listen to your body and do what’s right for you. If you’re feeling up to it, go out and make new friendships through volunteer work or so social groups. If you need to take a break from socializing, that’s fine. Just don’t fade into the woodwork. Remember, your presence is valued no matter how much of it you are able to give at any time. You are loved. And as I always say…

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.**

Woman-in-pain-500x334

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