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Party Etiquette for a Sassy Spoonie/ Missed Manners

Living with constant chronic pain or chronic illness is no party, but you may have been invited to a few this holiday season. Here are some ideas and tips to help you make it through the festivities as we approach the new year.

Original Painting of Glamorous Woman by Kim Legler on Etsy | Party Etiquette for the Sassy Spoonie

Glamorous Woman | Kim Legler

1. No Cocktails
I know, I know, at your next party, you may be thinking:
“Ughh, why did I come? How do I even get comfortable in this chair? At least I’m not squished on the couch. Did anyone notice that full body spasm? Oh great. And now my hands are shaking. Better put my drink down before I spill it. At least it isn’t red wine. Of course not, because wine is a trigger food and 8 of 10 of my medications don’t party well with alcohol.”

See, isn’t this fiesta turning out to be fun?! But don’t worry about the NO DRINKING POLICY. Your brain fog keeps you so fuzzy and clumsy on a regular basis that you’ll fit right in with your drunk buddies!

2. Polite Conversation
Look at all of those healthy attractive people around you playing ping pong with their witty dialogue. “Hmmm? What? Oh, no that’s not a fashion statement. That’s called a compression sock. Thank you so much for noticing. Yes, those are my favorite shoes…I guess. I know, I always wear them, don’t I? Ha, ha. You are so observant. You know, you should really go bird watching sometime- I hear that is a great hobby for people who enjoy staring.”

See, you can play this game of witt too. What a wonderful party!

3. Smile
When in doubt, smile.

Always keep them guessing. When your pain is on red alert and your brain is on complete shutdown, SMILE!
It tells people that they can relax and have a great time no matter how sick you are. You can always go to the ER later, tonight is for celebrating!

So flash those pearly whites and watch your friends dance, karaoke, tell work-related stories, and get jiggy. They’ll remember you being a sweet, saint-like creature, and little did they know you were just half-conscious from pain. Talk about a party trick!

Nope, parties just aren’t as fun as they used to be. And please don’t go around asking people what I USED to do at parties… (seriously, don’t). But it’s still great to get out and make memories whenever we are able. And when you are not able, know the party won’t be the same without you.

Merry Christmas, happy holidays!

This is one of my favorite pieces I published in 2014. A snarky spin on the old Emily Post / “Miss Manners” columns from the 1950’s.

Going Dim by Cammie LaValle, Part 1

 

Going Dim

Part I of II – By guestwriter Cammie LaValle

(trigger warning)
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Picture of Cammie taken on the same day.

 

Remember that light inside of you that used to shine?  We reminisce about it in our heads; to that person we used to be.  That silent yet screaming conversation in our minds we have on a daily basis.  For some, it’s the majority of the actual conversing we do and sadly, it’s only with ourselves.  We are feeling ourselves; our internal light; the fire that once helped us accomplish so many things in life, be reduced to less than a flame; more like a sad, almost non-existent spark which could barely keep a match lit.

 

Sure, there are flickers of hope and tiny little fires at times; but personally, they are getting few and far between.  I have not given up all hope, but I am struggling to keep the grasp.

 

One of my motto’s is “Let Your Soul Shine” taken from a song.   How hypocritical of me to tell others to do just that when I am watching, feeling and experiencing my own go darker and darker every day.  I don’t mean dark as in evil, although I will admit I’ve had some pretty evil scenarios which I wish would play out in the lives of some of the doctors I have encountered in the last few years.   No, I would not harm anyone; but as you read that, I am certain you can recall one of those thoughts that has played out in your mind so detailed as though you were actually plotting a dismemberment.  I for one thought a log-splitter would suffice.

 

As I am writing this, I have backspaced hundreds of times thinking what I have to say or what I feel is not ready to be heard or will be perceived as seeking pity, over reacting, not being thankful for what I do have or God forbid, the “It could be worse” reaction we often get.  Yes, we all comprehend that, but more often than not, it is far from a supportive statement as we perceive it.  Minimizing our hell is what most of us feel; even though we know most of you mean well when it’s said.  But I realized the words I put down, if were written by someone else and read by me, are exactly the words I would need to hear; and yearn to hear.   So without a hesitant mind, and the pain jolting through my body and hands, I shall spill the complete ugly truth that I am not shining by any means.  I’ve gone dim.   This is not news to some; as they know me too well to believe the crap that spews out of my mouth when I say “I’m fine.”

 

I ask myself daily, how much more can I handle?  Do I even want to for that matter?  Yes, those thoughts are there when in my dimmest hours.  Will I say it out loud?  Probably not.  Will I say it here, when I know others just like me are reading this; yes, yes I will.  I can’t say I am proud of my thoughts, but I can say I am not about to blow sunshine up anyone’s ass; especially knowing the people reading this are struggling right along with me.   That’s not what we need and I may very well do it to others so they don’t have to worry about me, but I will not do it to you.  I know that sounds terrible as I have more than likely never met or ever will meet 99.999 % of you.  Why be truthful to people I don’t know and hide and lie to my own family and friends?  I have no clue the rationale behind this and won’t pretend I do either.  What I do know is that there is a greater chance those reading this, understand it to their core and need no explanation of the words, the thoughts, the expressions, the pain, the isolation, the self-doubt, and the meaning behind “Going Dim”.  I fully understand all humans go through struggles in life and I am not discounting any of that; anyone or any struggle of any kind.  I am addressing our struggle.

I am opening up my broken spirit and soul, my tired mind, and using my pain riddled body, to let YOU know, you are far from alone in this battle.  And I may be writing what you can’t dare to say out loud, but feel it as if it has taken over your entire being.  I know I have read some stories which after the first sentence I felt the lump in my throat.  I certainly am not sharing to cause distress or any tears, but if anyone reading this has that lump, let yourself feel the emotion and release some of that internal pain that is eating you alive and has taken over a portion of your soul.

 

More than likely you have caught on that I have not begun to describe the pain.  If you are reading this, you already know how it will read.  However, for those friends or family that are reading this who have a loved one suffering, I will follow this with a brutal truth that the one you know, who is  suffering, is too damn scared to tell you.  Whether it be pride, or wanting the world to believe we can handle this, or the complete farce we muster up in order to appear stronger than we actually feel.    Your loved one has gone dim.  And you might have as well; attempting to care for them.   Addressing the other side of this is just as important as addressing ourselves.

The ME I once was, is still seen by my husband and some family and friends; however, I don’t see her.  I feel as if she’s gone for good.  I talk with her in my mind and actually pray she will come back, somehow, some way.  She could light up a room (from what I was told).  She was vibrant, funny, witty, intelligent, strong, hard-working, worthy, helpful, selfless, and although some deep down pain existed as we all have and hide; she was happy.   She helped raise 2 children, who she loves.  She was a good wife, a good friend, a reliable sister and had worked since a very young age; worked her ass off.  Now, the relentless quest for her to return has come up empty.  She was me.  I was her.  We’ve both gone dim.

 

Where did she go?  CRPS (full body), Fibromyalgia in addition about a dozen other health issues; some quite severe, has held her captive and the ransom demand at this time cannot be met.  The hope and flicker of light is diminishing.  Sure, I say I am hopeful and staying positive, but who am I kidding?  It’s gradually becoming such a farce, I can barely hold back the tears when I say I am still positive.  It’s a blatant lie.  I feel as if I am getting a very real glimpse of Hell.

 

Ice pick, razor blade, vice, hammer, pins, needles, knife, match, truck, salt, gasoline, fire, electric shock and flames; all of which I feel has been used during this captivity.  A scene from a mysterious attempted murder movie in which we wait in the trunk to be rescued.  Someone on the outside may not comprehend that comparison, but I, along with so many others; truly feel this.  And the trunk is our lives at times.  That dim, cold, dark, isolated place, we don’t willingly go to, but find ourselves there, stuck; more often than not.  The tools used is what we compare our pain to; as CRPS/RSD plays out such a brutal attack on our bodies daily.  As we wait for the ransom, which in our lives is a doctor, a treatment, a cure, we succumb to this attack and 24/7 try to prepare ourselves for the next dreadful blow.  I try to hold it in as to not be a burden; not wanting people to see how bad it is.  There are times it just comes out, screaming, howling, paralyzing pain to the point I can barely breathe.  Arms, legs, feet, back, hips, face, ears, chest pain where it feels like I am having a heart attack, but I know I am not.  Then I think, what if I do have a heart attack?  If I feel like that daily, if I have one, will I even know?  And my hypertension gets so out of control, my neck feels like I am being stabbed, my vision gets blurry, I lose minutes and have lost recollection of hours of time.  I get scared to be alone in my own home.  This scares the sh*t out of me!  On nights the blood pressure is too high and the chest pain is severe, I am too damn scared to go to sleep as I honestly wonder if I will wake up.  Yes, that is how my mind works.  I pray I wake up.  I won’t go into the thoughts and prayers that go on, when I honestly question if my life, as I know it, is actually ending that evening.   This is brutally honest and I know it sounds far-fetched to some.  But, many reading this feel the same way or have felt the same way.  I am saying it now, to give you some peace of mind that you are far from alone.   It is not by any means a healthy way of thinking, but it is where one’s mind tends to go at times.  I am not proud of these thoughts, but they are true.

 

Pain changes people.  It’s relentless.  The beast wins in those moments and all I can do is wait for it to let go of its ever so tight grip of my body.  I think to myself during these times, how the hell am I to live this way?  How is my husband to live this way, with his wife being consumed by pain, lost herself and her feeling of self-worth?  I am not the woman he married.  Far, far from it.  He is my biggest advocate and has not left my side, although I wouldn’t blame him.  His wife is gone.  The anxiety, stress and depression that goes along with this beast leads my mind to wonder “when” he will have had enough; not “if”.  For better or worse, sickness and in health, meant something to him, just as it did and does to me.  How lucky am I to have such a man who took his vows so serious, that as he watches his wife diminish and change into someone he didn’t marry, he continues to assure me we are in this together and he will never leave my side.  He is the only one who can make these demons stop in my head.  He is the only one who has seen it all and still has faith I will come out of it; come back as the woman he married; come back from “Going Dim”.

 

What has brought you to this page, is why many of you will understand what I am about to say next.  You are dim yourself from disease and pain or you are caring for someone and are desperately trying to find a way to understand and help that person; your loved one.   (For those seeking help to care for another – THANK YOU!  Sadly enough, you may be the only one doing so for that lost screaming soul).

 

Too many are left alone and instead of having support in waiting for that ransom, they remain in the trunk; dim, isolated, begging for relief, kicking and screaming to get out; get help and for someone to actually listen.  When there is never a response, those broken souls take it upon themselves to put an end to their private mysterious movie which is their life.   They don’t think they can handle the next blow, they have been disregarded by doctors, family, friends and in their mind; the world.

 

Pain messes with your mind.  Even those who truly have support; at times feel like an overwhelming burden to everyone, isolated and alone (even if the room is filled with 20 people) and misunderstood, they would rather not be on this earth for one more second of pain or one more feeling of being dismissed by a friend or loved one.  That emotional pain alone when one’s suffering is dismissed; as if we are over-reacting to a common cold; could and has triggered people in pain to start planning their demise, as it is too much for them in their broken mind and body to fight anymore.  Death, in their mind, however wrong one deems that thought process; is what they are contemplating.  If you think this is reaching; just read through posts in some of your or your loved one’s support groups.

Daily, I see people tell people they never met, that they “can’t handle it anymore”, “I just want to end it”.  Keep in mind, if you look at their FB page, or Twitter, or recall a recent phone call, most would have just said or posted on how great their day was.  “I am fine.”  It’s a farce, which most of us continue to do; as to not upset our family or friends with our true feelings and pain, or to not be honest with people we actually know because we’ve been dismissed too many times and are broken to the point that some knowingly make a decision to NEVER again speak to a loved one, hug a family member; and even their own children; as their mind has told them it’s easier to die than live.

 

How sad is that?  Are they selfish?  When people take their lives due to pain, any type of pain; they cannot comprehend the ramifications other than they no longer will have pain.  So completely torn down, the thought their child will lose their parent, is not strong enough to stop them.  How in the hell is our society missing this?  How are family and friends missing this?   How are people in pain getting to this point?  Whether it be lack of treatment, lack of cure, lack of support or the mind games played out in your head when your pain takes over your life; it must, meaning right now, start being addressed.  

Are you thinking your life is not worth it anymore?  Well, it is.  You don’t see it, but others do.  And I beg anyone reading this, to reach out to someone. I can almost guarantee these thoughts have gradually entered the minds of your loved one who experiences 24/7 pain; not remembering a day without it.  And if someone asks you, be honest.  I have uttered the words I’m fine for the majority of my life; over half of which has been in chronic pain.  I hid so many things from even my family; out of pride and factors which stem from my childhood, some of my own family do not believe I am in such a state of despair and pain; broken down with a tired soul and body that feels useless.  I hid for too long.  Yes, it’s my fault for putting on the mask.  I was and at times still very good at it.   A habit very hard to break.

It’s natural for me to pretend I am okay; for I’ve done it all my life in one way or another just like most of humanity in some aspect.  However, I am removing it now and so should you.   This does not give us the right to become an un-consolable hot mess of a person; but it does give us power to deal with what is behind the mask; our true selves.  It certainly will not be easy, but how worn out are you right now reading this?   My soul is tired and there is no amount of sleep in which can awaken it.

 

“Live without living?”  What does that mean?  If you ask that question, you have yet to comprehend how our minds work; how we feel & what this has done to us.  Or better said, what it has done with the person we once were.  The reason I; we’ve gone dim.   We strive to live better and we do anything and everything to get there.  Find relief, find a new normal, find peace, find understanding, find faith, find God, find a way; find ourselves.  I am trying and I have resorted to begging at times just to get a doctor to listen to me.   Most ignore it; but I’ve been lucky to find one that listened; one who upheld his oath.   One who has promised to help me find a way, a new normal, and a treatment in which I can maybe, just maybe, have a chance at finding myself again.  I don’t trust many, but trusted him and have for over 10 years.  Due to this trust and mutual respect between a doctor and a patient, I have a chance; a slight flicker of light in my dim world which I am grasping onto so tight, if I were to let go I feel as if I would crumble; again.

 

You see, although I’ve gone dim like many of you reading this, I also found HOPE and it was due to raising some hell and advocating for myself and not shutting up when I was told NO.  I kept going, I kept calling, I kept writing; I kept fighting.  I am still dim, but I have seen the flicker of light; that same light which could let “My Soul Shine”.  I don’t know if it will, but I’ll be damned if I’m not going to try.  I deserve it; as do you.

 

I started writing this 8 months ago.  When I started, I was in my darkest times.  I thought about deleting those parts; but that would be me lying to you, and again, as life has taught me, continue to pretend I am okay when I am not.   So I hope when you started reading, you felt you were no longer alone in the pain, the dark thoughts, the hopelessness, sadness and you knew, in your heart and soul, there are others like you.  And as you read on, you found understanding, a bond with someone you probably will never meet.  A bond due to pain, no one wants, but one everyone needs so they don’t feel alone and don’t ever think tomorrow is not worth waking up to.

******

I’m honored to share this project by chronic illness activist, guest writer Cammie LaValle, featured for CRPS/RSD Awareness Month. She’s not only a personal friend I met in the chronic pain community, but she’s a personal inspiration to me as well as so many others. She leads the charge in fighting campaigns for chronic pain and rare disease causes with the tenacity like none I’ve seen before, whilst attacking her disease with the same vigor. I’m proud to be in the same warrior club with a woman like Cammie, as I have learned much from her. Read more RSD/CRPS articles, see art projects, poems, and survival stories here.
Thank you for visiting and sharing -Mary

Writing Projects for November 2016

writing projects for November

November is buzzing with creativity among writers, bloggers, and in social media sharing as well; I want to take a beat to discuss a few of the exciting projects I know to be converging this month.

“NaNoWriMo” or National Novel Writing Month is kicking off today! Writers have been preparing, and now the task is at hand to compile a 50,000 word book in 30 days. Can you imagine the focus, commitment and creativity that requires? For anyone who is in the midst of writing a novel this month, I wish you the very best! If you are participating in NaNoWriMo or have in years past, please comment and drop us a message sharing a bit about your experience.

In the blogosphere, November is known as NaBloPoMo (National Blog Posting Month). Every day of the month, many bloggers will update their blogs daily instead of weekly or monthly. Keeping up interesting daily content with images, links, and maintaining visitor interaction is quite a challenge! Please support and share your favorite blogs during the month of November. If you are blogging this month, comment below to let us know where we can follow you, and what you tend to write about.

Gratitude writing challenges are popular with writers as well as on social media to celebrate Thanksgiving #NaNoPoblano. Whether it’s November or any month of the year, any project that encourages one to practice thankfulness is positive. Do you believe gratitude challenges create more overall gratitude year ‘round? Are you participating in a grateful challenge this month?

In my social networking community and blogroll, November is always Complex Regional Pain Syndrome/RSD Awareness Month. Many of my Chronic Pain friends are taking part in daily photo challenges, sharing daily facts and writing about their personal journeys with CRPS, creating infografics, and organizing community educational events. November 7th is Color the World Orange day, where we wear orange in support of the estimated 100 million suffering with daily pain diseases. I would love to invite you to wear orange on November 7th to help educate your community on chronic pain.

I am inviting anyone with chronic pain and chronic illness to email me at abodyofhope@inbox.com to share an aspect of your personal story. All of the CRPS/RSD stories shared during this month will be linked under the category RSD/CRPS in my categories drop down menu.

There are other important events in November like: Cancer Awareness Month (MoVember), Epilepsy Awareness, Alzheimer’s Awareness, National Caregiver’s Awareness Month, and November 13th is Caregiver Appreciation Day.

Whether you are a writer, a reader, a patient advocate, 0r showing your appreciation this month, I wish you: Passion, Growth, Gratitude, and Perseverance.

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If you are participating in a writing challenge or an artistic group project this month that I did not mention, please do share in the comments section! 

If your body is a boombox, and the nervous system is music…

music-1

Think of the nervous system like a boombox up on your shoulder, 80’s style, playing sweet jams at all times. When the body is healthy, balanced, and running smoothly, the music playing from your system’s radio station are your favorite hits at the perfect volume, and your drop-in harmonies are totally on point.

giphy

When the nervous system is out of sync, those beats flowing from your station are tragic- like the song you hate most, on the loudest setting, playing over and over again. You can’t change the station, no matter what lengths you go to!

When you have a chronic neurological condition like Parkinson’s, Multiple Sclerosis, Complex Regional Pain Syndrome, or Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome for example, it’s as though someone traded out your cool retro stereo system for an old broken down radio. You can play records on it sometimes, and it’s AMAZING to listen to any music again when you’re not in a flare or a relapse, but even then, all the records have scratches on them, so the music is constantly skipping and warped. The stereo’s wiring gets so bad over time that the record player doesn’t work anymore, and your radio only receives static.

giphy1

A chronically malfunctioning nervous system is like listening to a broken radio stuck on static at full volume constantly. 

When the “music” or the nervous system’s wiring is flowing properly from the brain throughout the body, pain receptors react to appropriate painful stimuli, telling us when there is a problem, and the pain subsides when the problem is resolved. When we have “faulty wiring” we may experience hypersensitivity to touch, sound, light or even smells so intense that it can cause a severely painful reaction. Think of raw wires on the end of electronics sparking and flaming just to the slightest touch.

0205-boeing

The malfunctioning nervous system might react to normal stimulus with severe increased pain, increased stress may cause a seizure, or in others severe tremors and body spasms may occur. For some with POTS, (Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome), a loud noise or changing positions can cause the body to completely check out, going into fight or flight mode, and beginning to pass out, or passing out completely.

Going back to the stereo analogy, imagine being invited to a party where the DJ had a broken stereo system, playing static on blast or his stereo catching fire in front of everyone. That’s exactly what it’s like to live with a chronic neurological disease…well, sort of.

giphy2

Meditation, spirituality, organized religion, trying to improve sleep, and other stress reducing efforts are ways we try to turn down the knob on the stereo. Medications, alternative therapies, eating well, surrounding ourselves with positive support are all ways we can continue turning the knob down little by little. The static kicks out on full blast each day, and we use our tools to adjust or manage the incoming noise levels. We may not have the ability to turn the station away from the blaring static and back to music, but we can attempt to turn the volume down so it isn’t blasting constantly every day.

Invasive and surgical approaches to treating neurological diseases are like kicking the side of your stereo to try to get it to work again. Jolting it hard enough may coax the system to finally play music once again, or you might kick it so hard that you completely break your stereo. For many, surgery and invasive treatments are worth a risk of causing additional problems for the possibility of returning to good health and functioning.

That’s my super-scientific explanation of the nervous system, and how it’s exactly like a boom box. So…. this analogy might not end up in a medical school text book, but if it helped anyone better understand an aspect of neurological disease, or put a smile on your face, then virtual high fives all around!

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The Worst Lie in Chronic Illness

audry kawalski dishonest heart

Audri Kawalski Dishonest Heart

As chronic illness sufferers, we are so often reminded of something that I believe is of great detriment to our well being. When well people tell us that our health struggles, our personal challenges, the great storms of our lives will some day be of use. I’ve grown to loathe this idea. I realize that it is meant to be an encouragement, however, it causes myself and my brothers and sisters in pain deeper despair. “Some day?” It’s as though they are reminding us that we don’t have as much to give until we are restored to health. I completely reject anything of the sort!

I believe that you and I are worthy and valuable just as we are. Yes, right now. You were no more “special” when your nervous system was working properly, but I can attest that the memory of wellness certainly has a shining halo around it.

We feel so small and insignificant after illness devours our lives, and those we love in its wake. There is no “after the tsunami lifts” with chronic illness, as we are always seeking out cover, our safe places are constantly being destroyed, and the physical and emotional turmoil can feel endless. My only peace is in God, a relationship which has grown inside of my own tsunami.

This is a message I try to frequent on this page because I struggle so deeply with the whispers that my life isn’t enough, I should be doing more, and I would be so much more valuable as a person if only my body worked again. This is my pride speaking!

In those moments when the whispers win, I have forgotten how many opportunities I’m supplied with to have an impact, even in the very midst of my personal battles. Maybe, and probably because of my personal struggles, I’ve been allowed these chances. What seemingly small opportunities and connections might you be taking for granted in your own life?

The next time someone reminds you that all the pain you are battling will be worth something some day, please remind them that pain doesn’t have to stay hidden, and that your time traveling the path of illness isn’t a waste.

I don’t believe we must wait until we are perfect for our lives to have value. If that’s true, then we will all be waiting forever! Are we meant to see the silver lining in every storm before God can give us purpose through it? Even in the very midst of the battle, your story, your experience, your willingness to relate to and comfort others is so rare and valuable that it stands out among the noise and busy crowded world we live in.

It’s so easy to withdraw when the going gets tough. In time, however, we feel so marginalized and isolated. You do have a voice. Your story, your purpose, your personal gifts matter- and you are needed in this world.

We undervalue the quiet connections, asking others how they are and listening in return, sending a note by mail to a struggling friend, or letting someone know they have been in your prayers. Society does not measure these acts as successes, but what if you redefine success? You may have very little energy to spare, but what you have to share is precious.

I believe God’s measure of success looks much different than our own. We become so focused on perfection, staying hidden until the right moment to present ourselves shiny and clean, having overcome our difficult and uncomfortable circumstances. This is what the rest of the world applauds. But don’t we each have unique and valuable lessons to share that come with the daily perseverance of ongoing disease?

 

It’s one thing to be crippled by a body that relentlessly fights against you, but please don’t believe the lie that you are less-than or it will cripple your spirit.

*******

 

You are Never too Messy to Matter

A Positive Message for your Lying Brain

Praying: Can you hear me now?

Positive Thinking vs. Healthy Coping in chronic illness

What is the difference between positive thinking and healthy coping?

“Keep thinking positively!”

“Keep your chin up!”

“Stay strong!”

These are very common cliche responses we hear from society as individuals with ongoing health difficulties. They aren’t incorrect responses, but when those responding seem to believe this is truly how we handle the horrible pain/illness, terrifying future of further health concerns, and crushing regular losses which all come with long-term illness, then encouraging “positive thinking” alone can have quite a negative fallout.

For example, if one is in severe pain (meaning pain worse than a fracture or pain worse than childbirth, but constant, daily, and indefinite) after years, with treatments only failing, and close friends continue to say, “stay positive” as their only source of inspiration, will those words be uplifting over time? No, the attempt at encouragement over time will add to your feelings of isolation, making you feel increasingly deflated, rather than the intention of making you feel more positive, optimistic, and empowered.

Would you say, “suck it up” to a friend who is grieving over the loss of a parent? I certainly hope not. Essentially, this is the idea surrounding “positive thinking.” The concept that the more we “suck it up,” the better off we will be, and the stronger we are.

PS, Our bodies work exactly the opposite of this construct.

The more we avoid pain, the more we distract ourselves from our true emotions (not negative emotions, but real emotions), the more likely our bodies are to feel the stress fallout and rage against us. One with a chronic disease would do well to minimize stress; we know this from immense research (and I can tell you this from my own personal research on chronic pain and chronic illness!).

Minimizing stress is not equal to avoiding difficult emotions or distracting from pain. We have to face our pain and emotions, recognize them, meet them, and accompany them through our lives. They won’t allow us to abandon them, and we know that trying to do so only causes added difficulty down the road.

In Positive Thinking, saying “sure, I’m doing fine” may make others more comfortable temporarily, but it is not necessarily “healthy” for you or for the relationship. Positive Thinking encourages us to become more closed off, in turn others also allow more distance to grow until the relationship diminishes. They realize everything is far from “fine” but both take part in a ritual of pretending everything is wonderful because it’s far more comfortable than confronting the reality.

“Healthy coping… differs from the popular notion of “positive thinking.” It implies the capacity to tolerate and express concerns and emotions not just the ability to put anxieties aside. Being able to discuss the anxieties, uncertainties and fears, losses and sadness that usually accompany severe illness is generally helpful, despite the pressure commonly exerted by family and friends for the patient to always “keep a positive out-look.”25 “Positive thinking” may represent an attempt to avoid confronting the distress of chronic illness, and doctors who care for these patients and their families are not immune to such patterns of coping.”  Quote from a study in -Emotional Demensions of Chronic Disease

So often during the course of chronic disease, we have to make choices between the temporary comfort of others, and protecting our own welfare. Regularly, our bodies make that decision for us and force us to miss out. Especially then, healthy coping is paramount! It helps us re-gain some footing again. The openness in healthy coping encourages sharing, allowing others around you to understand where you are, what happened in the situation, how they might play a role in being there for you, and how you can be there for them. It lets others know you aren’t too fragile to listen to them and what they are going through, either. Most likely, those around you are feeling helpless, and would like to be there for you, but don’t know how- or how to ask. Being specific in our needs can help us find our own voice, and being more open also can help others who care about us join in on our “support team.”

Fair warning, most will not know how to respond appropriately, but you may be surprised who is game to see how they can be there for you in big or small ways. In being more open, you may also find that your example sets off a chain reaction in others to become more open with you in how they are doing as well. Healthy coping is so much more contagious than positive thinking, because it encourages support, connection, and community!

Isn’t positive thinking the same as optimism? No. Optimism has more to do with responsibility, letting go of guilt, and looking to the past, present and future without seeing yourself as a burden. I recommend reading the book, Learned Optimism by Martin Seligman.

Healthy Coping differs from Positive Thinking in that healthy coping requires us to lean into our feelings- both physically and mentally. Checking in with ourselves periodically, and then making minor adjustments to our lives to course correct for better balance. This may mean you need more rest, more exercise, more time with friends, another visit to a doctor, see a psychologist, open up to a good friend, eat differently, spend more time focused on your spiritual life, take better care of yourself, etc. Chronic illness requires us to make these adjustments frequently instead of thinking everything is going to work itself out until the ignored symptoms or stress build up. Healthy Coping may be the more deliberate, mindful path, but it is the path of self care instead of conveying a false smile.

To start making these adjustments, we can ask, “How are you?” instead of “Are you ok?” A yes or no question forces us to choose only negative or positive, however, healthy coping encourages others to share and touch base with one another and ourselves- this is how support and compassion are built. We don’t have to choose sides in healthy coping. Try not to think of your days as being good or bad, black or white, suffering or overcoming, but instead- working to find balance every day, always learning from your body and those around you, and doing the best you can now, in this moment.

 

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1070773/

 

 

 

Opioid Tax: Letter to my state representative

Dear State Representative,

Myself and my family are very excited about all of the things you are doing to support those with disabilities. My father heard you speak on the issues of pain medication and addiction, and trying to find common ground so both pain diseases and addiction disease can be treated simultaneously. That is a stance we in the chronic pain community are very excited to hear and support you in that!

In case you did not know about this newly proposed opioid tax, I wanted to give you a little information.
It is proposed that opioid pain medication will be taxed one cent per milligram to fund treatments for addiction.

As you can imagine, those with chronic pain diseases like Lupus, Multiple Sclerosis, CRPS/RSD, Fibromyalgia, or post-cancer pain would be paying for addiction treatments while those with addiction will just buy their drugs illegally instead of paying a raised price from the pharmacy.

Because this tax proposed is “per milligram,”  those suffering with the most severe, most debilitating cases of degenerative neurological pain will likely have the most un-affordable pharmaceutical pain management care, as our doses are typically higher, as you might imagine.

As I am a newly single woman, more recently on disability,  I know that the government works hard to keep drug prices low for those with disabilities. A tax will only make pain medication more un-affordable for those who are spending all of their funds on medical care as is. If this tax is passed on pain medication, it will begin a precedent to tax other RX drugs. It’s one cent now, but it won’t stop there.

Since the CDC’s federal guidelines on opioid control, chronic pain patients are struggling to find pain management care with good pain doctors who are not afraid to treat us. Deaths and overdoses continue to rise. Deaths of people in pain, who are without treatment, and deaths from those who are addicts, continuing to overdose. The guidelines do not work! The tax will not work either.

Again, pain patients are being forced to pay for a disease (addiction) which is not our own. The tax would exclude hospice patients, but what about pain patients who are bedbound like myself? What about those of us who have tried every treatment available and medication therapy is the only option that doesn’t worsen our conditions? What about those trying to maintain a somewhat functional life through chronic pain, and to keep off of permanent disability, taking medications is the only way to continue working and participating in family life?

Medical treatments should never be a punishment. Is this a “sin” tax? Am I sinning? Why should I be ashamed of having an illness I didn’t choose? I am alive in part because of my medications, and so are many, many people! That is nothing to be ashamed of.

Will diabetic medications be taxed to help treat cancer? Maybe Methadone, Suboxone, and Narcan (addiction medications) could be taxed to pay for chronic pain treatment facilities! We are certainly in need of those.

Thank you for using your platform to speak for people like myself.

Please do write your representative today, so a ludicrous tax like this would never get passed. No time to waste!

http://www.cnn.com/2016/05/03/politics/hillary-clinton-west-virginia-opioids/

http://www.painnewsnetwork.org/stories/2016/6/2/senators-propose-tax-on-opioid-pain-meds

Nerves in Nature: Exploration in Photography #1

 

This is an exploration of the human nervous system through nature photography. 

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Smoke Tree Leaf by Joe Petersburger

 

These sprawling, spindly shapes repeat throughout the universe.

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Red Coral, outdoorphotographmag.com

I wondered if it was a coincidence, and if not, what the commonality was…

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Lightning, Smosh.com

Transfer of energy. 

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Tree Branches, Mythology of Blue

Whether inside the body, in the soil, under the sea, or above the heavens, the mirroring shapes are performing similar tasks.

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Plant Roots, Theatlantic.com

And like an artist whose work shares similarities across her pieces, so does the Creator’s design.

***

Please do share your insights.

20 Year Anniversary by Logan Woods: An RSD hope story

It has been Twenty years since RSD crashed into my life and it has been quite the ride. Some moments I have wanted to be over before they happen. Other moments I held onto for dear life because they were all that sustained me through the hours and days of pure physical and psychological torture. At times I was able to be more normal like many of my peers. Other times I behaved and felt as if I were on my death bed. However, if I had the choice to do this all over again there would be nothing that I would ever change. I am not saying I like being sick but all of the gifts that it has helped me to find out about myself in a hurry compared to my “normal” peers has been truly priceless.  I will tell a brief side of my tale that has led me to find peace with RSD and my life.

20 Year Anniversary by guest writer, Logan Woods

In February, 1996 I was a normal 15 year old girl who really did not want to go to the dentist, and I got out of it by going to the ER instead. I knelt down and felt like I broke my kneecap in half (I did not). So my mother and brother took me to the local ER to have my knee looked at (I had to be carried, it hurt so bad). They took and X-ray of it and found out that I had somehow knelt on a needle that was now lodged in my lower thigh muscle. They ended up sending me to a different doctor to have surgery on my knee as they could not get it out. The surgery doctor’s next appointment would not be for five days which they thought would give the needle time to work its way up out of the thigh muscle. It worked its way further into the muscle instead, so on that day of the surgery, they took four times as long as they thought they had planned for. After the surgery, the site that they opened up to remove the needle was healing just fine, no complications, no unusual pain, but then on the eighth day after surgery at 4:30, sometime in the afternoon, RSD came into my life. So far has not left, although I keep insisting that she can be on her way now.

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So, mid teen years were now controlled by not me, my school, or my mom, but by RSD, and I am just learning how to gain control over the elusive mistress. She swept into my life limiting my ability to go to normal school and participate in normal activities, although looking back at it, she might have saved me from getting too wild and crazy. I hated my ninth grade year before RSD came in the picture but it became even more troubled after. I ended up dropping out of ninth grade because I could not get out of bed due to the intense pain my leg.

The doctors I went to told me was in my head even though my mom kept telling the doctors my leg kept changing colors to this purple splotchy looking thing. My mom believed me but by then it was such a trouble to handle getting told over and over again there is nothing wrong with your leg. So, I gave up going to the doctors and started living with the pain.

I enrolled into a different high school as we had moved during the summer into a new school district. Tenth grade year was magical with the friends that I made and the activities I enrolled in at school. School was great, home was rough, but was do-able. The pain never went away from my knee and I learned how to distance myself from the pain and focus on my life, but there were times that the pain would break past my threshold and I was no longer able to hide it from people.

Eleventh grade I enrolled in dance class at my school and thought that if I was going to “try” to learn to dance I might as well try once more to figure out why my knee still hurt after 18 months of the initial RSD onset. I ended up seeing a doctor whose specialty was RSD though we did not know that at the time. After the initial meeting, within four hours of meeting this doctor, I was officially diagnosed with RSD in my left knee. I thought, okay this can go away with one of these treatments that the doctor wanted us to start trying right away; it was one tough year. So, treatments start, the school year starts, and everything is going ok. I do not know what to tell my friends so I do not tell them a whole lot. They just find me funny that I would become a log when we would have sleepovers; they would use me as a table to put the pizza on.

 I started missing more school days but I managed to keep up until the end of that year. I was desperate to have a job, so even though I was not that functional, I got a job for 9 months. It was fun getting the paycheck, but work was fast food, not rocket science. In twelfth grade I ended up having a teacher from my school come to my home to give me school work and tests so that I could graduate with my class, which I barely managed to do.

The pain and treatments that were supposed to help just left me isolated from the world, partly by my choosing and partly because I could not act normal with the raging fire in me all the time, so I turned inward.

I had a boyfriend I loved very much but as time went by we were not a compatible match for each other, and RSD became more of a main focus in my life which I am not so sure that was a good thing.

College time came and I just knew I had to go to college for all those wonderful fun 80’s movies that glamorized colleges, and besides, how was I going to work being sick all the time? I took one class a semester for 8 years after high school. I loved my college years and I made some off-color choices, but hey, I thought isn’t it in college that I can get away with shit? My grades were up and down because of the pain but it gave me the experience of a lifetime- taking my time to learn what I wanted to and figuring out what thrilled me to fight for more than just surviving this illness.

I was figuring out that I had found a passion to learn how to thrive. I was only identifying myself at that time as the girl with RSD, nothing more. It took me years to figure out how to stop identifying myself as that sick RSD woman.

I did, by my hairy son Randy (dog) and my hairy son Orion (cat), my hairy son Siries (cat), and through my hairy sister (dog) who in one form or another was sick. So, I started researching about pet health and focused on pet nutrition as it was something that I could do to affect their health. The love for business, invention, and innovation became my zest for life and I helped me to handle the illness.

It took years to get here- where I can see the future I want for myself, and know that I can have it. I would have what we call the “Lorado” me acting like a tornado being destructive against myself, my possessions and the people I loved. I was unable to control my emotions, and I would get really upset over anything, but really, I was just upset because I was miserable and extremely unhappy.

I was tired of being sick all the time (not like we ever get the choice), I was tired of feeling like the only life I might have is through other people, and tired of myself. So, I had to make a decision if I was going to “stay” I had to change me or more precisely change my thinking.

I read books by people who help people handle their moments in life. I started asking myself what I really wanted in life with or without RSD.  I took time to learn to know what I wanted and learned how to stop hating myself and RSD. I would pick a part of myself to like about me and over time I learned to love me and those around me more profoundly and deeply. RSD was no longer my calling card or any way to describe myself. I became Logan, just Logan.

Today, at twenty years, two months, and twenty days into RSD it helps make me, me.

I am becoming a successful business woman by helping to start up a company with my mom and brother, www.Blindsofbeauty.com the one and only company that sells and makes vertical blind slip covers. This is just one of the many companies I will be involved with creating and running. Believe it or not, it is because of RSD that Blinds of Beauty exists, my mom invented vertical blind slip covers as a way to cover the vertical slats that would leave my room even when they were closed blazing hot while I was going through blocks and treatment for the RSD and we were prohibited on our apartment lease from putting holes in the walls. It took a few years (15 years) to start the vertical blind slipcover company but it has been well worth the wait. Blinds of Beauty is giving me the job as the CFO among other responsibilities.  Life is pretty great for me now; I just had to find me.

It has been a work in progress to live my life with RSD, ignoring it to the best of my abilities (not always wise), loving the hairy children I have, giving life my whole heart, following my dreams, and having fun. I plan to run companies, adopt a few non-hairy children, have a wonderful partner, live my life on my own terms, enjoy the great moments and breathe through the rough moments.

*****

This week is the launch of Logan’s new website for her company, Blinds of Beauty. Please check it out. It is truly unique! I’m so honored to share Logan’s story here. She is one of the first people with RSD I “met” online over a decade ago, and we have been friends ever since. She is a beautiful person, inside and out, and she deserves every good thing this life has to offer!

The Dream #SickLivesMatter

Sick lives matter vitals

After sharing the original Sick Lives Matter, I’ve been surprised and grateful for the response of the piece! However in response, some said, it’s too late for change. Some responded that we are too far down this path of patient neglect in healthcare, and there is no returning from it now. But I believe it is just the right time for us to rise up. I’m not alone either, with online patient forums like Patients Not Addicts gathering to influence legislation in Washington DC, advocacy groups like Give Pain a Voice, pain organizations working to change the stigma of pain patients, and so many private individuals sharing their stories wherever the universe allows, we ARE in the middle of a revolution. Are you part of it?

How can we rise up when so many of us can’t even work? How are we supposed to change policy when doctors and family don’t seem to listen? How can we make an impact on the future when many of us are struggling to care for ourselves? These are the reasons we HAVE to do something about it.

Consider cancer patients. In the last 10-15 years, the treatment of cancer has turned around because cancer patients joined together and created a movement. Everyone knows Susan G. Komen represents Breast Cancer Awareness because hard working cancer patients were able to get big organizations to stand behind their cause. Years ago, minorities with cancer were being ignored, rare cancers were going undetected, and people were terrified of finding out they could have any form of cancer because there were so few options- and you were likely too late anyway. Now, we have cancer treatment centers popping up all over the country, treatments that are actually successful at sending cancer into remission, and celebrities who bravely share their cancer experiences with the public.

Consider HIV/AIDS. As recently as 15 years ago, HIV was still a death sentence. Celebrities may have been wearing red ribbons, but people were still dying so quickly, suffering in silence, and had little recourse. Not only did society brush off the disease as a punishment- so did healthcare professionals (#STIGMA). Now, not only is there awareness, there is a culture of S.T.D. prevention and regular testing. When the worst happens, and someone is diagnosed, life is not over, people are living long lives because they have treatment and accessible management. Educated HIV doctors aren’t rare, and medication is becoming more affordable (although there is still a ways to go in regard to RX coverage).

HIV patients knew something about being brushed under the rug of society and healthcare, and paying for it with their lives. They changed the game by telling their personal stories so that those who tried could not look away! They joined together for a united cause, and chronic illness survivors can look to their bravery for inspiration.

I dream of emergency rooms where doctors and nurses treat chronic pain patient’s emergencies as high priority as everyone else’s. I see a future of chronic disease treatment centers around the country. I envision home visit physicians covered by insurance. I imagine the homebound and bedbound having access to quality patient care and mental health care from home, covered by insurance. I pray for research facilities searching for a vaccine to end degenerative neurological pain diseases. I see a world in which sudden deaths from unmanaged pain, and suicides from under-managed pain are a heartbreaking thing of the past. Is under-treated chronic illness a sign of the end times we are meant to accept with apathy, or is there something we can do from our sick beds and wheelchairs to make a change? We can be the ones who flipped the script for future chronic patients, young and old. This can be the moment you decided to take a stand. What is your dream?

Your life matters. Your story matters. Your voice matters.

#SickLivesMatter

To share your story or to learn how you can get involved in advocacy online, email abodyofhope@inbox.com

 

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