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

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Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

The Beginning

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

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

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

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

As Things Changed

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

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

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

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Image by Sarah Lötscher from Pixabay 

It’s Not Your Fault

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

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

Making Changes

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

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

I also found myself able to start volunteering again, and now sit on 4 different committees, all devoted to aspects of health care. I am a member of a Provincial Measurement Working Group, creating a survey for patients in BC, Canada about their ER experiences. 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

 

 

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How Myofascial Therapies Helped Relieve My Fibromyalgia Symptoms

Today’s post is from my dear friend Michelle at the Zebra Pit. She’s sharing information about Myofascial Therapies and how they relieve the symptoms of Fibromyalgia. Read on!

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Fibromyalgia is a complex condition that often comes with a plethora of symptoms that can be confusing. Fibromites live with constant pain and for many even a gentle, caring pat on the hand can become unbearably painful.  Fibromyalgia is a common comorbid condition to many chronic illnesses, yet doctors often have no idea how to treat our many symptoms. Could it be the biggest culprit in our widespread pain and the formation of our tender points is a little known bit of connective tissue known as fascia.

Fascia and Myofascial Dysfunction

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Fascia is a network of thin connective tissue that runs throughout our bodies in bands and sheets. It is the tissue that helps keep everything in place and is comprised mostly of collagen. It wraps our organs, muscle and bone, creating dividing lines, holding the perfect position for our organs, while keeping our muscles and joints in proper alignment. Because fascia holds the body together and keeps everything in place, it is responsible for the body’s shape and form.

Just like tendons and ligaments, this connective soft tissue can become dysfunctional. Unlike these other soft tissues, the fascia is connected with the autonomic nervous system and some believe it to be a second, separate nervous and endocrine system, based on study findings. When myofascial tissues become dysfunctional, there are a number of things that can go wrong with the fascia, creating a scar tissue that is generally referred to as myofascial adhesions. This may be caused by mechanical or chemical failure or injury to the body.

The worse this dysfunction becomes, the greater the pain and number of myofascial adhesions. If you have myofascial adhesions, you can sometimes feel them as lumps when you run your hand firmly over your skin. Often, they are sore and painful even when using a light touch. These adhesions can also cause small fatty tumors to form. These fat deposits, along with the way fascia pull on the skin can dimple the skin, causing cellulite.

Myofascial dysfunction can be localized or widespread. If you develop tennis elbow (tendonitis), you might just develop myofascial adhesions around the injury. This is why you sometimes still experience pain even after an injury has healed. It could also grow and become widespread, as this interconnected network of tensile fibers tends to interact heavily. When fascia bunches up around one joint in order to protect it, it sometimes pulls other areas of our fascia out of alignment.

My myofascial problems ran from head to toe, causing awful tension headaches that also helped to feed my migraines, small fiber neuropathy throughout my hands and feet, 14 tender points with widespread pain and my fascia had become so tight that it was actually pulling some of my joints out of position. Neither my right hip nor shoulder would stay in place any longer.  Not only that, my myofascial tissue had grown so dense about my skull that it actually inhibited my natural hair growth and I feared I was going bald. I also had the “family curse” of cellulite and varicose veins on my arms and legs. I had regular TMJD pain and my hands were so tender, I couldn’t even knock on a door without bringing tears to my eyes. I also had tremors, it took twice the amount of time for me to go numb at the dentists, and I was constantly freezing, because my fascia were cutting off some of the blood flow and circulation to my skin.

How Myofascial Massage Helps

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In the 3 years I’ve been doing myofascial massage, I haven’t needed a pain medication stronger than toradol to treat my fibromyalgia pain. My head pain is at an all-time low despite suspected CCI and chiari. While my small fiber neuropathy isn’t completely gone at this point, it’s at an all time low and rarely causes issues. All of my joints function more normally and I spend a lot less time dealing with dislocations and subluxations. My hair and eyebrows are now thick and healthy. I rarely have problems with tremors anymore and even my POTS symptoms improved. I’m no longer quite so intolerant of heat or changes to the atmosphere. I have an abundance of hair and my eyebrows have grown in much thicker, too.

The traditional medicine model of pills and surgery offer poor solutions for these symptoms, but there are a number of myofascial treatments available that could improve your symptoms significantly. These therapies can be done in the comfort and privacy of your own home and there are several kinds of myofascial therapy you can have done professionally.

Each of these therapies work a little bit differently, but the long-term results are still largely the same. Each of these tools seeks to destroy any overgrown fascia and help to restore the myofascial lines to a healthy state. It is not always easy work. Some of the tools require a bit more oomph than others and the toxin release can be significant, as can the bruising. It’s worth it. The relief is greater than any of the drawbacks.

Today’s Options for Myofascial Therapy

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Ashley Black Guru has a number of myofascial tools which are very effective. Her videos and book are a great way to learn about how fascia functions, along with some great techniques. While it’s one of the most strenuous forms of myofascial massage, it’s still one I recommend highly. Since you have to put a little grit into it, it will help to build up stamina, strength and new muscle. This is essential to maintaining healthy joints and fascia as your body heals. Black’s methods and tools are highly effective and you can’t go wrong with her tools, though I recommend you go slow and be as gentle as possible. These tools are self-driven so you can control how hard and fast to go, how often to blast and find the best routine to suit your needs. If you need help choosing which tools are right for your specific issues, take a look at my FasciaBlaster Buying Guide.

Ultra Cavitat

An ultra cavitation machine is a handheld personal use version of ultrasound, which is used to help break up myofascial adhesions and release toxins, along with far infrared light to facilitate in healing. It’s deceptively simple to use, but very powerful. After only 4 sessions, my cellulite has decreased so dramatically, I don’t even recognize my own legs anymore. It’s amazing how something that seems so gentle can mold such terrain so dramatically. It’s also an easier, more leisurely tool to use. The pace of this tool is slow and provides a gentle touch, so there’s no pain involved.

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Cupping is another form of myofascial therapy you can opt for. In this therapy, bell like cups are applied to the skin and heat is used to create a vacuum within the cup. The suction helps to pull and release the overgrown fascia. I’ve heard good things about it from others with fibromyalgia and EDS. Cupping can be a passive form of self guided myofascial therapy, but you can also get this treatment done professionally.

Along with cupping, ASTYM is provided as a professional medical service. According to the website, ASTYM regenerates healing by eliminating scar tissue and helps to regenerate new, healthy tissue. The claim about this therapy is that it is very restorative and powerful, but they don’t share how they actually accomplish the therapy itself.

Ultra Cavitation can also be done professionally and may be more effective than self-use tools available on the market. The ultra cavitation is marketed as a tool for beauty, as it works well to create slimming, contouring and weightloss. In fact, all of these tools are marketed for their cosmetic benefits and I’ve certainly reaped my fair share of aesthetic benefits from using these tools. It isn’t my main concern, but it can be a good motivator. I’ve lost over 50 pounds while fasciablasting; a feat that seemed impossible for me due to lipedema. I’ve also really enjoyed the tightening effects on the only thing that reveals my age; my turkey neck.

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It’s also possible to have a massage therapist do your myofascial treatments utilizing your own FasciaBlaster. The number of MT’s using the fasciablaster is small but growing. Many who don’t know also seem quite willing to learn about it and you can really benefit from their knowedge and experience. The best blasting session I ever had was from a licensed MT.

Performing Myofascial Therapy Safely

With all the services and self-use tools available, it seems like there’s a myofascial therapy that’s right for almost everyone: However, it’s important to note that myofascial therapy isn’t for everyone. If you have a blood clotting disorder, take blood thinners or have a vascular disorder such as vEDS, you should not undergo myofascial therapy. Like all therapies, whether doing a self-use tool or seeing a professional, be sure to consult with your medical team to ensure it’s safe for you first. 

Safety should always be paramount when choosing a therapy for your health. Time to carefully research how to perform these treatments should be taken prior to beginning myofascial work. The risk of injury is greater if you don’t know what to watch out for and it’s easy to abuse such a tool, causing severe bruising, fatigue, toxic overload, injury or other problems. These tools need to be used only as recommended, for no longer than the specified time stated for each tool.

People with fibromyalgia and other health problems need to take these therapies very slowly. It is not unlikely that myofascial therapy will be a bit of a shock to the system, so it’s essential to ease your way in. It is possible to make yourself very sick from detox and overdoing it, causing fatigue and even a flare up in your conditions. To avoid this, start slowly and use these tools more gently than recommended. For pacing, I recommend people begin with one body part (a leg) or section (the abdominals) a day and work their way up to more based on tolerance. Take days off in between if your body is struggling with payback. To get more tips on safety and proper usage, take a look at 23 Tips for FasciaBlasting with EDS and Fibromyalgia.

Myofascial therapy may not be for everyone, but for those of us suffering with the daily pain and other debilitating symptoms of fibromyalgia, it can offer significant relief from our daily symptoms. It can even eliminate some of those terrible tender points which develop and are a criterion for diagnosis. As of today, I am down to only five; so few I no longer qualify for the diagnosis. Myofascial therapy may not address your every symptom, but since I’ve begun utilizing it, my life has been a lot more comfortable and I now enjoy many more symptom-free days.

Resources and Further Reading:

BIO:

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Michelle Curtis is a poet and writer with hEDS, POTS and MCAS. She is managing editor for the Zebra Pit where she writes about spoonie health and wellness, as well as art and culture. She has a BA in women, gender and sexuality studies from BGSU and an MFA in creative writing from NU. She lives in greater Cincinnati with her husband David and two Russian Blue cats. She thoroughly enjoys spending time with her family and friends. In her spare time she enjoys books, movies, art, music and the great outdoors (even when her MCAS doesn’t). 

10 Celebrities Who Live With Fibromyalgia

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

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

Lady Gaga

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

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

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

Morgan Freeman

Morgan Freeman Best Movies and TV Shows

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

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

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

Lena Dunham

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

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

Sinead O’Connor


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

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

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

Mary McDonough

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

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

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

Kyle Richards

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

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

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

Janeane Garofalo

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

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

Michael James Hastings

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

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

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

A.J. Langer

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

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

Kirsty Young

Kirsty Young

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

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

 

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

There Is Always Hope!

20 Quotes To Reduce Stress When You Have An Invisible Illness

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

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

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Quotes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Living A Stress-Free Life

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Re-examine Your Values

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

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

Forgive Yourself

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

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

Forgive Others

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

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

Accept Your Life Just The Way It Is

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

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

Think The Best Of Every Situation

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

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

Be Present In Everything You Do

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

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

Declutter Your Life

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

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

Be Grateful

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

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

10 Things I’ve Learned About Chronic Pain

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

The author showing various pictures of her face in pain

My many faces of pain

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

1. THERE IS ALWAYS HOPE

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

2. A GOOD DOCTOR IS TO BE TREASURED

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

3. SUPPORT GROUPS AREN’T RIGHT FOR EVERYONE

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

4. CHRONIC PAIN IS ALMOST IMPOSSIBLE TO EXPLAIN TO OTHERS

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

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

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

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

6. COMFORT ROUTINES FOR FLARE UP DAYS ARE LIFESAVERS

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

Kitten resting in a fluffy blanket

7. PACING REALLY DOES WORK

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

8. SLEEP IS A VERY GOOD THING

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

9. WE ARE ALL WARRIORS

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

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

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

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

CONCLUSION

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

There is always hope

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 – Terri Sutula

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

TerriSutula

Introduce yourself and tell us a bit about you…

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

One fascinating fact about me is:

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

Chronic illness(es)/disabilities I have…

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

My symptoms/condition began…

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

My diagnosis process was… 

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

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

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

 A typical day for me involves…

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

 The one thing I cannot live without is…

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

Being ill/disabled has taught me…

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

 My support system is…

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

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

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

 One positive of having a chronic illness/disability is…

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

One final thing I want people to know is:

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

My links are:

Blog: https://reclaiminghope.blog

Facebook: https://facebook.com/hopereclaiming

Twitter: https://twitter.com/hopereclaiming

Pinterest: https://pinterest.com/reclaiminghopeblog