“In Her Skin”
She hasn’t slept for days. The pain in her leg is like ten million tiny coal miners chipping away at her bone marrow with their axes, sledge hammers and sharp picks.
“When do these little guys ever take a lunch?” she wonders.
They set off fire bombs from the inside of her, destroying chunks of tissue, muscle, and shards of bone. They light the fuses and her nerves shoot like electricity from one end of her leg to the next, causing her to gasp for air.
“He has to help me. I have to make him realize what is happening to me. I cannot live like this. I will make him understand.”
She feels herself floating away, but the pain in her leg keeps pulling her back. It holds her captive.
She can’t keep her eyes open. Slow tears stream down her face. Flashes of today’s appointment and the last few appointments cut through the fog.
“She has CRPS,” says the fiancé with an obviousness in his voice. He assumes they will understand.
No, CRPS is a condition that the doctors and nurses do not recognize. Her swollen, blackened limb with sores developing around the foot do not remove the look of doubt from the physician’s face.
“She can see someone else for pain medication,” the doctor says, never looking at the girl’s face.
“Don’t stick her with any needles and keep away from this girl’s leg!” directs the angel nurse. She tapes a sign to the bed saying “No sticks. Don’t touch legs.”
“Your Dad and I have decided we want you out by tomorrow.”
This short story was originally published in 2014 after I was inspired by an amazing young woman I connected with in an online support group. Tragically, this young woman passed away recently due to CRPS, and lack of appropriate medical care. I’m sharing this again to honor her fight, and all of those battling intractable pain. For some of us, humane pain management is life and death.
November first kicks off Color the World Orange month, otherwise known as CRPS/RSD Awareness Month!
So much awareness has been raised over the years for our cause. It’s incredible how far we have come when I think of the increase in education, research, social awareness, physician availability, and treatment options developed over the years; it makes me proud to be among my fellow CRPS advocates and pain “warriors.” The CRPS community has grown tremendously in the last 14 years compared to where it used to be, largely thanks to social media.
I can’t imagine living in the same body and having no online resources, no diagnosis, and no community of fellow survivors. Without those advocates who went before us, we would still be facing this unimaginable pain alone.
Sometimes I get discouraged by the challenges our community faces, but then I remember what these awareness campaigns have accomplished over the years, and I’m reminded of the importance every voice has. We make strides by working together each November.
Everyone’s voice matters. Every single story matters. Your story is unique, and can change lives.
During awareness months like Color the World Orange, sharing your story is amplified by the thousands of people sharing theirs simultaneously.
Here are 10 Tips for raising even more awareness in every post you share this month:
1. Write out “Complex Regional Pain Syndrome.”
Many don’t know what CRPS or RSD stands for, much less what it means. We often take for granted that our friends and family know that it’s an incurable, degenerative neurological disease, but most people can’t differentiate one chronic pain condition from another. NERVEmber is the perfect opportunity to educate those in your life on your condition. Instead of simply typing CRPS, go the extra mile to spell out Complex Regional Pain Syndrome so those in your life can personalize it, and make no mistake that this is is indeed a complex pain condition you and others are living with.
2. Make your awareness posts public.
This way anyone can easily share your posts and support you!
3. Make it personal.
Your friends know and love you, and will remember more about CRPS in the long run if you share details and images from your own personal journey.
4. Make every post count!
Even when you’re reposting a great awareness poster or video from another page, first take a moment to add your own personal caption. Your friends will be more likely to stop and read your words, instead of scroll past.
5. Have a mission.
What is your personal awareness goal this month? Whether you choose fundraising, sharing your personal story, including medical facts, treatment options, or petitioning for the opioid crisis/chronic pain epidemic, if you choose one focused approach on social media, you can make a bigger impact in a shorter period of time.
6. Use hashtags and tags.
For example, adding #colortheworldorange to your posts can help others in the CRPS/RSD community find you.
Tagging a group of friends to a post is another great way to connect to your community during awareness month!
7. Participate in awareness events.
The first Monday in November is Color the World Orange Day, when we ask our friends, family, and communities to wear orange and share their photos to social media!
Between Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Tumblr, and the blogging communities, there are so many cute events and ways to get involved this month.
Let us know what events you’re getting into this November.
8. Don’t lose momentum.
Try to take advantage of the entire month of November. Have fun, but pace yourself, and make self-care a priority so you can participate throughout the full CRPS/RSD awareness month.
9. Be an ambassador.
If you have the ability to get online and share posters, or tweet status updates, think of yourself as a representative for those who cannot. You are advocating for people in our community who don’t have a voice, for those whose fights have come to an end, and for all of the individuals who might be diagnosed in the future.
Awareness campaigns today lead to future recognition of a rare disease, early diagnosis, early intervention, hope of treatment options, more funding, more education, more critical research, and we hope with more awareness, this unbearable suffering will be cured.
10. You are brave!
Don’t forget how courageously you live with your pain, and overcome every-day obstacles that no one even knows about.
It can be difficult to be vulnerable and discuss our pain, especially when we are used to comforting others so they can feel good that we are ok (even when we aren’t).
You are not complaining when you share your reality. You are not a burden just because you are burdened by pain. Your friends share their lives; there is no shame in sharing this important aspect of yours also.
I hope you have a fabulous NERVEmber! I’ll be looking for you in your orange 😊
What are your tips for raising awareness in your daily life?
I’m so pleased to share a favorite blog from a friend and fellow chronic pain warrior, “Pain in the Beck.” In the below post, she did me the honor of writing about how we first “met” online ♡ To me, she has been a butterfly emerging from the shell that illness couldn’t hold her in.
Follow PainintheBeck blog as she writes about her life in NYC as an artist, a student, a chronic illness warrior, and shares her adventures with family. You will be rooting for her, and you’ll be inspired to root more and more for yourself because of her.
(Read article in full at the link below.) Thank you for reading and following.
Every day is is Hope Day here at a Body of Hope blog, but every Wednesday is #HopeDay all around the web. Spread that good stuff around 🙂
I’ve been busy these last few days, trying to help my daughter get ready for her high school prom. Although I still can’t believe that she’s done with this chapter, I’m very excited to see what’s next.
We attended her final high school concert last Friday evening. It was fantastic. The students performed music, danced, sang. It was a fun night. And I got some costume ideas out of it. The best, however, was seeing our gal, on the stage singing “Rebel Rebel,” with her class band as backup. This, while playing the electric ukulele.
My husband has been a musician for most of his life. Our daughter, however, never played an instrument until high school. In a mandatory freshman class, she started with guitar. The expression, “like a fish to water” comes to mind. After exceeding the complexity of the class, she taught herself advanced skills…
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Are you in a heat wave? It seems the entire country is encountering record high’s this week. Our AC has been pushing so hard that it shut down! It got ugly in here, but thankfully, it wasn’t out for long.
Just the short spell of overheating, and increased pain gave me a better appreciation for the privilege of air conditioning. Things which are so commonplace to us in this part of the world, are luxuries to others who don’t have the same amenities.
That’s something I’ve been considering more and more in regard to health.
Not that we should compare ourselves to anyone else, but it can be valuable to approach your life from a different lens now and then.
So, I share my own perspectives with you in the hope it encourages you in your life as so many of you have encouraged me.
So many are dying globally from diseases that can be managed, even treated successfully. I can’t even imagine living the life I’ve been handed in an area where water is miles away, let alone a doctor. But there are children, teens, women, and men who do these same battles each day armed with so much less.
It breaks my heart to think about how people go on living in the same unimaginable pain, and try to accept these very same conditions without the hope of treatment so many of us have here. But, I imagine their lives aren’t built around doctors, medications, and treatments, but instead, seeking to find more meaning behind the curtain of life.
In my reality, it’s easy to fall into depression over the people and life opportunities that I’ve lost in the wake of illness.
Grief is an important part of processing major life changes. There’s nothing wrong with sadness and sorrow. Self loathing and hating my life, however would be.
Still, I struggle with feelings of hopelessness, as is common for all of us fighting chronic pain and rare diseases. As if our bodies aren’t suffering enough, we can suffer just as much in mind and spirit.
I suppose that’s why the mission of seeking out hope is so meaningful to me. I know we don’t always have the strength to find hope for ourselves; our lives at times appear devoid of all light. That’s why I wanted this to be a place anyone could reach out and find it when needed.
A short online course on the history of disability last month had quite an impact on me. Individuals from India, Japan, China, Africa, Australia and the UK shared their personal experiences living with various impairments.
Around the world, people like myself are viewed as cursed, and are disowned by society. Many believe their conditions were brought on by sins from their past lives, or they believe they are being punished for wrongs done by their ancestors. In many parts of the world, society sees disability as contagious- even demonic. It’s not uncommon for disabled children to live on the street, or to be “put away” in facilities for life. We have a shameful history of treating our disabled brethren in a less than dignified manner here in the states as well.
I think of my own faith and how it has shaped my experience through this journey. Jesus was never afraid of being seen around sickness, disability, poverty, or with the people who had been most marginalized. He put a spotlight on the parts of society which had been ignored. He didn’t run away, He ran toward people who were suffering.
I’m not the young woman I was 13 years ago- I’ve been changed by this journey.
There’s always a new version of us that emerges from the flames of adversity; we have to get to know ourselves again and what each new chapter of life will bring next.
I know having multiple rare diseases isn’t a life anyone anywhere would wish for.
Yet, this is my one life, and I’m tasked with finding a way to make the most of the days I have. That challenge to myself can seem impossible, but I’ve become convinced that the fight is worth it. My life is worth fighting for.
And so is yours.
Below is more information about our disabled brothers and sisters around the globe.
-Today in the United States, chronic pain patients are often denied treatment, especially if their condition responds best to opioid pain medication.
-In Japan, women were forced to terminate their pregnancies if the baby was found to have an abnormality. (This law was abolished as recently as 1995.)
-In China, disabled individuals are depicted on tv like side shows which doesn’t translate easily for disabled individuals living in society.
- 70 million people need a wheelchair, but only 10% have access to one
- 360 million people have significant hearing loss, but less than 10% of people who need hearing aids have access to them.
- 93 million children worldwide have moderate or severe disability
Mental Illnesses are on the rise worldwide.
- Depression: 300 million people
- Bipolar affective disorder: 60 million
- Schizophrenia & other psychotic disorders: 21 million
Chronic Illness has become a worldwide epidemic.
- 300 million people live with Rare Diseases (1/2 are children).
- Chronic Pain effects 1.5 Billion people around the world.
- It’s estimated that 60% of the world’s population has at least one chronic illness (highest percentages in developing countries).
Interview with Pat Guerre: on Kneading Hope Organization, Rare Disease Day in DC, Scleroderma, and CRPS
Today we have a special treat as Pat Guerre, co-founder of the Kneading Hope Organization has agreed to an interview. Pat recently returned from Washington DC where he spent Rare Disease Week. We at abodyofhope blog are so grateful that Pat Guerre is opening up about his Rare Disease Day experiences, his art, and non-profit work.
I was introduced to Pat through his incredible wife, Gina Raring-Guerre, who many reading may already know. She was a member of my support group Living with RSD, and she has gone on to become a strong voice in the CRPS, Scleroderma, and Rare disease community, along with her partner and husband, Pat. I can’t wait for you to hear their story!
Hello Pat! Welcome! It’s a pleasure to have you joining us, and filling us in on your work and latest trip to Washington.
1. Firstly, what is Kneading Hope?
Pat: I suppose I should go back a bit. In 2013, my wife Gina, who suffers from both RSD/CRPS and Scleroderma was down to a weight only someone on their death bed should be, and her doctors confirmed exactly that. Being an artist, I began painting 12″ X 12″ hearts to fill her room and share my love with her. They prescribed her medications we couldn’t afford, and her insurance would not cover them. That’s when our fundraising art project was born called “10,000 Hearts for Gina”.
In 2016, I submitted a work to Rare Disease Art and was awarded an Artistic Merit Award. I flew to Washington DC to be part of the reception, and it changed my life.
After my trip, I decided to participate in almost all of the events that the EveryLife Foundation had arranged for the week. I listened and learned about the rare disease community and all of their concerns. I still think about those who may or may not still be with us today. I remember parents so determined, yet afraid, trying to keep a brave face to hide their pain. It touched me completely. When we walked Capital Hill, a patient I was walking with started talking to me about patients like herself, the caregivers, and why we were all there together.
I got home from that trip changed.
I decided that after years of staying home and sharing my artwork with a few, I could do more. So with my wife Gina, and a few friends we started Kneading Hope to try and reach out. We don’t target the advocacy end of things, but the patients, caregivers, and families of people with rare diseases.
We have three main goals. Number one, awareness, and funding of other issues, through the 10,000 Hearts for Gina project, of RSD/CRPS and Scleroderma, as well as other rare diseases. Secondly, using art to raise awareness of all rare diseases through an online presence and art shows. And third, figuring out how to give caregivers some kind of respite.
We are new, we are learning, and we will continue, dedicated in this work. We also send parts of the 10,000 Hearts for Gina project out to patients, caregivers, and medical facilities and their staff to make people aware. Awareness is where it begins.
2. How did you get involved with Kneading Hope and advocacy?
I started Kneading Hope because I went to DC to show my art. There were so many people advocating and I was inspired by their dedication. I decided to go into the community based nonprofit. We didn’t start Kneading Hope as an advocacy group, we do however believe that knowing what’s happening in that realm, can only help educate, and let people know there is hope out there.
We feel that Kneading Hope’s purpose as well as financial commitments are better served in local endeavors and supporting other groups that do the advocacy. We advocate as individuals, and that is often a difficulty financially. But, If everyone focused on advocacy and no one went out into the community, I don’t feel people would be served as they need to be, so we are looking into community-based issues such as art therapies, caregiver support issues and respite for them, as well as art as a way to focus on the diseases and the stories behind it.
3. Why did you go to Washington DC for Rare Disease Week?
As I mentioned above, it is important to be informed, so as we go out into the community, we can let people know there are folks trying to help them. The info shared, not only on the legislative side, but also the medical and research side, is often overwhelming, but also important to understand. I also find that getting together with other organizations and networking with them brings all of us closer together to share ideas and thoughts to further all of our goals.
4. Did you meet with anyone of interest? If so, whom?
I have to say that this is kind of a funny question to me as I grew up in Los Angeles and have met many famous people. Both in film and music, so I have been raised to just realize people are people. It takes a lot for me to consider someone a person of importance, yet this year, as well as last year, I did feel there were people of importance I met.
Last year, it was Representative Brownley of California’s 26th district. It was amazing. As we talked I learned that she had recently lost a colleague to Scleroderma. It was a very close emotional conversation and she has been a close ally to the rare disease community since being on Capital Hill. That was impactful because she understood, at least half of, what Gina and I have been through.
This year was a bit different. There were two guys there who suffer from Freidreich’s Ataxia who were involved with a bike race called The Ataxian, which we watched the documentary of. These 2 guys, Kyle Bryant and Sean Baumstark, accomplished the impossible. They, along with 2 other team mates, did the Race Across America and rode 3,000 miles in less than 9 days.
Their inspiration, motivation, laughter, and caring for everyone, was the biggest interest for me. It is folks like this, that unless you are familiar with their disease, you would never know about. They, and what they are doing, is why I go to DC. There are countless others that are of interest, and inspirational, and so full of ideas, courage and hope, it makes the whole trip worthwhile.
These along with the researchers, people in academia, as well as all others, including the artists at the Rare Artists Reception, are truly the ones I am most interested in and their stories, struggles, and determination to make a change. They far outweigh any person you might think is of interest on Capital Hill.
They are what keeps me going.
5. What was the highlight of your DC trip?
I honestly have to say that I always walk into situations with an open mind, not knowing what to expect. I think one thing will stand out, and yet it’s always something else that gets me. This trip was no exception. There were 2 things that really grabbed me that I can say were highlights.
The first was the Conference and discussion on Genetic research and Gene therapy at the NIH (National Institute of Health). Though Gina’s diseases are considered autoimmune diseases, the topics the panels spoke on were incredible. The speed that the research is advancing in is amazing and I was happy to see that one of Gina’s diseases, RSD/CRPS, is actually being studied at the NIH. They are looking into its genetic markers. It is very upcoming research and it seems the possibilities of early detection, possible treatments, and possibly cures, are on the edge of being discovered.
The second, was after the NIH conference, walking around the mall, in the rain, and happening upon The Disabled Veterans Memorial. Though it is intended for disabled war vets, the words written on that memorial spoke volumes after such an intense week. Two of my favorite quotes I read that night were, “It’s not what you have lost that counts, it’s what you do with what’s left,” and “We start by not thinking so much anymore about what we have lost. You must think about what you have left…and what you can do with it.”
6. What is something you learned in Washington that will likely impact your work this year?
I remember my first conference last year in DC. We sat at a table, and a gentleman named Tony Pena, who was the Vice President of Cure AHC asked if we were new to the conference. He obviously knew we were new there, as I was like a deer in the headlights of an oncoming car. He so gently said that everyone would guide us through it and not to worry because they had been doing this for years, and they still didn’t know everything.
That is what makes being there so important. Every year there are new issues. New legislation. New ideas. And most importantly, new people. Yet this year I learned more than anything- we can’t do this alone. We all need to work together, collaborate, support and hold each other up. I truly felt this year, that all of us are not a rare disease community, but rather a rare disease family. We all have our own issues, but together, speaking as one group, we are truly a force to be heard. Our needs are not individual, but are all important and need to be addressed as one voice because it is hard to ignore one disease or the other when we all speak as one.
7. In Your Opinion, what is the greatest challenge the rare disease community or patients with rare diseases face today?
I have to say that the challenges are great and cannot be addressed with one simple answer. There are over 7,000 rare diseases and over 30 million people in the US diagnosed with a rare disease. Some have large groups of people affected, still less than 200,000 (in each condition), and some with only 3 or 4 people per condition. This causes some major hurdles and challenges in the rare disease community.
The 1st thing that comes to mind for me, is diagnosis. With our country being so large, and so few experts in any one field of rare diseases, it is a critical need to get proper diagnosis. This is often the most difficult task as far as the medical end of things go. Doctors may not be aware of a disease and misdiagnose it. Patients that do have doctors who know and admit it is beyond their knowledge may recommend the closest experts, although those experts may have no idea of the disease. This can go on for years with diagnosis after diagnosis and never actually getting to the actual diagnosis.
Early diagnosis and proper treatment, if there is any, is critical for health and quality of life. One must remember that with over 7,000 rare diseases, only 5% have FDA approved drugs or treatment. With that being said, early treatment of the symptoms can help tremendously.
Next is the size of the patient pool of any 1 rare disease. It is not hard to see how breast cancer gets huge publicity and funding and something like Pemphigus or Alpha 1, or even GoodPasture Syndrome is not ever heard of in the main stream. There are hundreds if not thousands of diseases that no one has heard of. Awareness of diseases is of the utmost importance, in my opinion, because the more people that are aware of it, the more they can gain support, and those willing to fund research.
8. If Someone reading would like to get involved in rare disease awareness or chronic illness advocacy, how can they get plugged in?
There are many great organizations that do advocacy. On the rare disease side, NORD (National Organization of Rare Diseases) is an amazing group. There is also Global Genes and The EveryLife Foundation that do great work. Many individual groups specific to a disease are often great resources as well. Many of the issues these groups advocate for can have incredible effects for many diseases, not just rare diseases.
I also would say that getting involved with a support group, whether online or in your community is also beneficial. I actually got involved because someone sent the info for the Rare Disease Artist’s contest which I had never heard of before. Through that interaction, I was exposed to so many amazing groups.
If you are so inclined, form your own group and research state or federal issues. Spread the word to those in your group/s. Ask questions and don’t be afraid to ask other groups that you may not be affiliated with. Most people are more than willing to give you info or advice. I always say that the worst info or advice is that which you are not aware of.
9. What can the average person do to help make a difference in policies effecting health?
From my own interactions with people in congress and their staff, as well as on the state level, it is actually reaching out to them. I used to think writing a letter and never getting a response meant it was forgotten, but after talking with these folks, you learn that they are dealing with hundreds of issues. You need to let them know, or remind them, as they will say, the issues are real and need to be dealt with.
I am a big proponent of the Rare Disease Legislative Caucus and would love to see every senator and congressperson in Washington become a member. Not only will it show how important the issues of the rare disease community are, it will also show how a bipartisan, bicameral committee can get together. Write a letter to your senator and congressperson and either thank them or encourage them to join the caucus. It is growing and is impressive. The link to see if your senator or congressperson is on it can be found here http://rareadvocates.org/rarecaucus/#tab-id-1.
10. What is your next venture?
Since Kneading Hope is a new venture, we are looking to expand our reach and impact. For the first time, we will be showing the 10,000 Hearts for Gina project and raising funds for 2 organizations. We are also trying to start up a couple of small local programs. One will be involving art therapies, and for the other, I have started attending a caregiver support group to find out how we can offer respite to caregivers and meet caregiver’s needs. This is an important part of our work.
We also intend to work with another organization to start an online gallery, and perhaps curate art shows of work from all aspects of the rare disease community to raise awareness through stories and works, as well as raise funds through awareness and research projects.
11. What would you like to tell us about 10,000 Hearts for Gina?
I just want you all to know that this has been an incredible journey. I have been at it for 5 years now and could never have imagined where it has taken me. It is something I share with everyone. I really think that doing something bigger than you ever could imagine is what it is all about. Sharing the works with patients, caregivers, hospitals and doctors has been about the most emotional thing I have ever done and will continue to do through Kneading Hope.
It has been an honor to be able to share some love, light, and hope through the work. Sometimes it is painstakingly difficult as every work brings thoughts of those suffering, those lost, and those who haven’t been diagnosed, but it is all of them, and their strength, that keeps me going. It truly is their project, whether they know it or not.
Would you like to leave us with anything else?
I just want to tell everyone that you matter. Your voice matters, so never be afraid to speak up. Kneading Hope is dedicated to doing what we can for as many people as we can so please reach out to us if you have any requests or ideas. We are building this organization and want your feedback. Also, if you know someone who is down and out and could use a little light, love, and hope, don’t be afraid to ask us to send them a heart. We will try and get out as many as we can under our circumstances. Sometimes it might just change someone’s outlook and let them know they are not alone in their struggles.
Please support Pat and Gina Raring-Guerre by following and liking their pages, and thank you for sharing to help them spread the word!
SHAPE ME YET ANEW
Father God, I pray
That you would shape me yet anew,
As this pot is cracked and broken
And un-beautiful to you.
Lord, I feel as if you’ve started
With a fresh supply of clay
And I’m spinning on the wheel
And my life’s begun to sway.
When you’ve shaped me in your image
And you put me in the kiln,
In the furnace of affliction
To be set and processed still,
Let the outcome be for glory,
Let on-lookers stop and gasp.
“How did He make this from nothing?”
Let the people stop and ask.
Let the beauty draw attention
To the artist and His work.
Give me beauty and a purpose, Lord,
Of which I would not shirk.
As it is with real life pottery,
A pitcher or a vase,
Make me useful to the Master
In the setting where I’m placed.
-Mary Jane Gonzales
JEREMIAH 18:4 (NIV)
But the pot he was shaping from the clay was marred in his hands; so the potter formed it into another pot, shaping it as seemed best to him.
If you know someone going through a bad breakup, someone grieving a loss, someone who lives with mental illness, or someone going through a new or ongoing health crisis, share this image with them to save on their phone or computer.
If you’re going through a tough season and *need* to ask for help, I pray you have the courage to do so, and a compassionate soul who will answer that call.
Sometimes what we need wins over what we want. Our pride never wants to concede in that battle of wills.
There’s no shame or guilt in doing the right thing for your survival. Don’t let those ugly whispers (of guilt or shame) predict how you should live ♡
If you are struggling today, please call your State Behavioral Health Crisis Line. They are professionals and are trained to listen.
What are your basics?
If you made a list, what would be on it?
What helps you feel like a human being again?
Maybe you like to brush your hair, or maybe drinking coffee in the morning does the trick. Some people must first put on lipstick, and for others, it’s saying hello to their furry friends that begins to restore their equalibrium.
-Take your Pills
-Brush your Teeth
-Move your body/Stretch
-Read something inspiring
-Call/contact a loved one
-Pray, Rest, Meditate
-Do something fun/hobby
You’ll notice, I didn’t add “Eat something healthy” because sometimes the best we can do is eat anything at all. After you have fed your stomach, hydrated thoroughly, and you’ve taken your meds and/or vitamins, make sure to feed your soul.
Feeding my soul is just as nourishing as feeding my body. If all I set my eyes and heart on is social media and television for a week, I can’t be surprised if I’m feeling nervous and low by the end of the week. I love the term “Inspirationalizing” as an active verb. We have to go out of our way to find uplifting articles for hope, books and quotes by our role models for wisdom, seeking out words of wisdom from your faith for guidance.
What ways do you like to feed your soul?
Since my divorce, I have overhauled my self care. In a relationship, you each have a schedule and you’re attuned to the other person’s needs. They know you, and are able to remind you of your needs- you lean on one another, and develop patterns. These habits and patterns had become engrained over 15 years. But patterns can be changed- and self care is a pattern that we all have to develop.
As I continue adjusting to my single life, in time, I’ve learned to check in with myself with as much effort as I would have my spouse. Having a schedule of sorts helps, and prioritising is especially important for me. In the beginning, the transition was especially difficult. It took time. If you are facing a transition, give yourself time… Things will find their place again. Please don’t neglect your well being in the mean time.
Whichever self care step you’re struggling with, find a way to make it easier on you to accomplish. For instance, if washing your hair has become your arch nemesis, then get creative. Maybe it’s due to chronic pain in your arm, or a slow healing back surgery. In that case, keep a bottle of no-rinse shampoo handy. Keep it with you at all times so you can do your hair washing at the times you feel able.
Similarly, if it’s tooth brushing that you can’t seem to fit in twice each day, know that you’re not alone and don’t be ashamed. Get creative.
There are plenty of solutions to make your personal care work for your special needs and your unique schedule.
What are some goals you have on your self care list?
What self care would you like to set as a priority for yourself this year?
You have every right to say that your days are bad from diagnosis onward. Pain roars and screams and spreads and bites down. It truly touches every part of our lives, and tries to destroy all that it touches.
But you are not your body. You are more than flesh and bone.
You have the power to tell your story the way you want it heard.
You don’t have to choose whether your days are black or white, either good or bad. This isn’t a multiple choice test between succeeding or failing.
We are all striving to find balance every day, moving forward despite our circumstances, seeking our best selves.
That is a victory.
Four Years After RSD/CRPS
Guest Post by Rikki Lynn
So, Life has become this thing that I now bargain with on a constant basis. Most people do that, I believe. We all say, “Well, if I go to the gym today I won’t have to feel guilty about the ice cream I had after dinner last night”, or “If I take the kids to pizza tonight, I can feel okay leaving them with the sitter tomorrow while I’m at the baby shower for the new co-worker I’m trying to befriend.” So it goes, one long life of never ending compromises. Only mine looks a little different.
If I grocery shop today, then tomorrow I can rest and the following day I can go to lunch with a friend, stop and get those few things from the store, and maybe get a case of water from Costco if my feet don’t hurt. Then, if by the end of the week, I’m feeling okay, I can try to accomplish the other errands I might still need to get done.
A full day out running a few errands can quickly end any future plans for the week if I don’t take a rest day between, or make time for healing foot soaks, and be very strict on making sure I’m taking my supplements.
Far gone are the long days of running around accomplishing an entire list of things and still preparing a hot meal and going strong until bed time and still getting up to do it all again the next day, and the next, and the next. That is no longer my life. I miss that life. So many friends think, “Oh, what I wouldn’t give to not have to work” …… I promise if you are one of my friends who thinks that, you would not give what I have given to not work. The cost is way too high a price to pay. I’d gladly work in exchange for a life I can enjoy and one I can dictate my daily routine and plans for.
Alas, things are what they are, and life is what it is, and so the story goes…make the best of it. We hear that often, don’t we? But what does that look like, in practice, in real life, played out?
What can that look like in your life?
Suffering doesn’t always have to be ugly. You can make it sparkly, and it can have its days where it even feels pretty. You don’t believe me, I know. I didn’t believe me either when I told myself I didn’t have to suffer the way I was. I have a knack for proving people wrong though, including myself. I’m stubborn like that.
It’s definitely a forced different way to look at life now. Since nothing is the same, nothing’s the same…. so I’m trying to adapt so that not everything is stolen away. I’m trying to find ways to be flexible in the life I’m left with and rearranging things to fit my new life.
I’m adjusting, and instead of saying ‘no’ to everything …I’m trying my darndest to find new ways to say “maybe” and get creative because “maybe”, just maybe, I can say yes to a few of those things. I’m so dang tired of saying no to everything I once said yes to. Before you think I’m suggesting everyone or anyone can just ‘do’ all the things we once could, or that any given day we can accomplish these triumphs, I’m not… but once in a while finding creative solutions to things that are bothersome can become things that are fun!!
So here are a few thoughts to share, just to give you an idea of what I’ve been talking to myself about recently.
I do some things already on a regular basis like curling my hair or putting makeup on about once a week before my Mister comes home from work so he is greeted with a ‘done up’ woman who looks nice for him. I enjoy that feeling. I am so keenly aware that many of us can not always do this type of thing by ourselves however, and would need help to do our own hair or makeup because of the location of our injury/damage. Well, let’s think creatively…
How about a girl’s night with girlfriends- one of them could host a ‘make up party’ giving each other facials or doing nails and toes (or whatever you prefer). Someone else can bring treats, ask one to do the arranging and invites, then all you have to do is be present. There are so many types of get-togethers for men and women alike. Party games or activities can be planned, it can be in a house as low-key or action packed as you would want. Everyone can be included to whatever degree fits for them. Often a great source of ideas is Pinterest or Google search baby shower, bridal shower, and party games for adults.
I truly believe this is an important thing that we should try to do on a regular basis. And I’ve always had that one friend who absolutely loves to entertain, don’t you? It really goes way beyond that.
It’s good to let friends feel like there is something they can do to help, because they often feel like you suffer, but they can’t fix it, or offer any solutions. Involving them in something positive they can do for you actually allows them how to add a meaningful gesture, and that means more to everyone involved. You see, so many of us with chronic pain get stuck being left out of outside activities and eventually left out altogether because people don’t think we can or want to do things and often they are right. We’d say ‘no’ anyhow even if they asked. So, they quit asking us. Our friends feel like they can’t fix our pain, so they feel a sense of ‘helplessness’ that leaves them feeling bad when they are around us. That isn’t our fault obviously, but really it isn’t their fault either. It is human nature to want to solve problems or avoid them. Let’s face it, chronic pain is a problem. At least it feels like one to most people who have to live with it in their life in any capacity at all, even at a distance. People tend to avoid what they don’t know how to fix. We tend to feel neglected, and then rejected, and then hurt, and then angry. The whole thing is more of a misunderstanding than it is an actual problem that can not be solved. We can give our friends tools to be involved and active in our new lives, but WE have to be the ones to say what we need from them, exactly how it should look, and we should not expect it all to be ‘a pain in the butt’ as it were. WE, as chronic pain patients, need to (yes I know I hate it too) do one more thing to add to our never ending list of ways we have to change our lives, but we must make a mental note to give our friends and family the opportunity to create fun and memorable moments in our lives. We can do that. Even if we can not get out of bed, they can come and sing for us, read poetry, paint for us, show us pictures of things outside they saw during the week, tell us about their week…but not the boring stuff…ask about random things! Have them do a mental note to seek out certain things for you while they are out- like how many times did they see something with an elephant on it? (Or whatever your favorite animal might be.) Maybe ask them to try to notice if they see it and keep track of where they were and how many times and to snap pics if they have the chance to…. it becomes a way for them to connect to you from where they are and for them to remember that they have the chance to bring you into their day and to bring their day to you at the chance when you get together they can share those moments and hopefully share what they thought about at the moment. Maybe you set out certain goals for certain friends that you know will help them do something fun for themselves that you know they might not do otherwise but you push them to do because you can’t do it…so you become their reason and you live vicariously through them…not as fun I know, but how great to be an inspiration to another human. Maybe you just sit on a blanket in your back yard with your pet and you talk about the things you wish you had done with your life while you had your health, and you figure out if there is an alternative way to do something similar to any of those things from a different vantage point-or in a different capacity than you once had imagined.
Life is all about the art of being flexible and adapting to whatever comes our way. We surely got dealt a hand that doesn’t look the way we wanted it to, some of us can’t even use our hands anymore at all….mine are much more painful than they once were but still useful to a degree at least for now. My attitude, my will, my mind, my nerve, my grit, my relentless pursuit of life, those are all things that this pain can not take from me without my consent. I will not give it. I will continue to find ways to bring life to my door, to barter with my body for one more day and find a way to love this life despite the pain. For me, life is about living it with my arms wide open. Some days I can hardly lift my arms and every great once in a while I can dance …. I choose to celebrate the days I can dance and to plan for the next one that comes along, hoping I can wear heels 😉 I choose to be that kinda’ girl. We can do this- together, we can find ways to cope, to manage, to lift each other up, to share a smile across the miles, to learn from one another, to gain new tools that help us manage better, to be there for each other in the hardest, darkest moments.
WE can do this because WE ARE WARRIORS and we will not go down without a fight!
Part of that fight might be a pajama party with a pillow fight and ‘The Notebook’ on the tv, and it may even be in the middle of the day if it needs to be- only one other friend there if that’s what it takes. We have to find those moments.
Make life come to you if you can’t go to it.
Don’t feel like you have to lose your life because you have to say no to things. Find things to say YES to…and create things you can get your friends to say YES to as well ❤
This is the 3rd year Rikki has shared her experience with us. Read her thoughts in her first year after diagnosis here in “Broken things can be Fixed”. As her life changed due to CRPS/RSD, you can read how she changed with it in her second submission here in “Flow like Water”. Rikki has been so generous to share her heart with us, allowing us insight into her ever-evolving life as she learns and grows through CRPS/RSD. Each post is insightful on its own, but I encourage you to take the time to read all three as a trilogy. Thank you so much for sharing your beautiful soul with us, Rikki! It is always my privilege to feature your work!