Tag Archives: chronic pain

A Human Barometer

Why yes, I am a human barometer. What would you like to know? I can give you an accurate forecast of the next 12-24 hours. I might add that most of the time I’m more accurate than the weatherman (oh yeah!) If I’m not on the ball weather-wise, then either I’ve been cured (Hallelujah!) or the weatherman is dead wrong with the forecast, which in Michigan is quite often (lol!)

I think one of the most ridiculous side effects of chronic pain is the higher pain levels & other symptoms that are directly connected to weather changes. It is so frustrating, especially because it is out of our control. All you can do is prepare yourself and do activities that lessen your pain. Lighten your schedule, do easy & less stressful tasks, drink peppermint tea, turn your space heater, and remember to give yourself a “daffodil.” Or I guess we all could move to Arizona or California, but most of us don’t have that luxury. Hey, if I could, I would pack my bags and live the rest of my life in the Mediterranean (btw, if you didn’t know, the Greek Diet, i.e. lifestyle, is one of the best, especially for those with chronic pain). But for now, that isn’t an option. So, what can we do to relieve our weather-related symptoms? Well, I think it’s a matter of personal needs & comforts. Pamper yourself on those ill-weather days. I love being in the kitchen any day, but I’ve found that on those days I enjoy being there even more. Yes, I’m baking or making soup, but it’s more about being by a hot stove & oven. Make sure you exercise, even if it’s less than usual; it keeps your body circulating properly. Keep warm: spend the day baking & cooking in the kitchen, take a long hot shower or bath, turn on the space heater, drink hot tea, etc.

Another option is: If you are able to, take a vacation every once in a while, whether or not it’s on a rainy day. It will give you something to look forward to. Even though you can’t take a vacation from your pain, it might give you a break from your everyday responsibilities. It can be a day trip to a favorite spot nearby, take a long weekend with people you love, or stay a week in a warm, sunny place. And that’s what I’m doing next week. I’m leaving Michigan’s dark, rainy April weather. Tomorrow I’m flying to San Diego for a relaxing week in the sun. It’s a much needed vacation, and I’m so excited to go! 🙂

So, what things do you do on those bad weather days? What is helpful for you, and what isn’t? Are there favorite places you like to visit nearby or far away? Remember to take care of and to pamper yourself those days. Give yourself a big “daffodil” those days! The weather will change soon, the sun will come out, your pain will lessen, and your daily life will become easier & more enjoyable again!

Remission: Lessons in Grief and Thanksgiving

A few weeks ago, I met with my pain management doctor. I already knew what she was going to say before she gave me the difficult news. Yes, my CRPS/RSD is back (i.e. no longer in remission). I had known it in my gut for a couple weeks. I thought I had the pain under control. I just needed to make some lifestyle adjustments and maybe it would quickly go away again. However, the pain and symptoms grew worse. It was now time to take more aggressive measures. For the rest of the appointment, I was in a state of both denial and acceptance if they can really co-exist. I had enjoyed a good 9-12 months with little to no CRPS/RSD pain. During that period, I made the naive assumption that CRPS/RSD was gone forever or at least wouldn’t return for a couple years. Yes, it is back. I knew it; I just didn’t want to fully admit. I still have flashbacks and nightmares of those couple years with CRPS/RSD pain; I never want to return to that state again. I knew already what the next several weeks would hold for me: multiple doctor visits, several procedures, and the dreaded drug trials.

These past few weeks have been what I expected and yet a few pleasant surprises have occurred. Ironically, I’ve been both in a state of grief and thanksgiving. I met with pain psychologist soon afterwards (Btw, if you don’t have a pain psychologist, I highly recommend you asking your doctor if there’s one in your area. I can’t tell you how much pain psychology has helped me over the past few years.) She was encouraging me and reminding me that I have the tools to work thru this CRPS/RSD flare. I already know what to do so trust myself. However, one thing I’m surprised she didn’t mention is to allow myself to grieve. Yes, I have pain management tools to overcome this flare, which I am very thankful for, but I still need to process the emotional effects of this setback.

I’m sure you are familiar with the 5 Stages of Grief (the Kubler-Ross model):

  1. Denial
  2. Anger
  3. Bargaining
  4. Depression
  5. Acceptance

Until I had chronic pain, I assumed grief only came with the death of a loved one. However, grief comes in many forms: a miscarriage, divorce, loss of job, illness, etc. I remember when I first walked thru the 5 Stages of Grief after being diagnosed with CRPS/RSD. At first, I had a difficult admitting that I was, in fact, grieving. It’s not a pleasant process; however, it is quite healing. Now I’ve accepted that grief is a normal process of human nature to deal with change. I’ve realize now that I have walked thru this process several times over the past couple years. I have developed an interesting analogy of grief, which may or may not be helpful. I remember learning in my college music class “Form and Analysis” that a piece of music has an overall form (i.e. I-IV-V-I) but it also can have that same format occurring throughout the piece on smaller levels. I think this happens also with grief. I might process grief’s 5 stages as quickly as one day. However, I might be working through a larger grief pattern at the same time; one that takes a couple weeks or months. And it’s okay. I will most likely be better for it.

Over the past couple years, I’ve learned the importance of thanksgiving, especially for those living with chronic pain. It helps you fight depression and keep a positive outlook on life. However, during the past couple weeks, it has been a constant theme for me. Maybe I wasn’t at the time, but now I am so thankful for those months of remission. I wasn’t 100% healthy during that period; yet I enjoyed those days of lower pain levels and more energy/stamina. I was more active, more involved in things I love, and enjoying life each day. Those were happy months for me. Also, I appreciate what my pain psychologist said: I do have tools to overcome this flare. All those hours of working with my medical team and researching pain management techniques have and will continue to benefit me. I’m not sure how long this flare will last but I am well-equipped. I’ve learned to be thankful for the big and little things in life whether it’s the feeling of spring in the air, a few minutes of solitude, walking without assistance, dark chocolate, support of family and friends, etc.

So I will leave you with a few thoughts: How do you view grief? Have you found yourself in a better place (figuratively) after grieving a loss or difficult change in your life? Also, what are you thankful for today? It can be a small pleasure or a big success. Today I’m thankful for sunshine, coconut tea, and laser acupuncture (I’ll talk about that in a future post). I hope you all have a wonderful weekend; God bless!

Is There a Reason for Chronic Pain?

When I initially read this blog post, I didn’t consider “reblogging” it. However, I found myself reading it again. The more I thought I about it, the more I realized how much the chronic pain community needs to hear this. In Scott Williams’ blog post, he talks about the phrase “Everything happens for a reason,” and how nonsensical and unhelpful it is. For the chronic pain community, in my opinion, this phrase is absolutely ridiculous. Doctors, even after a couple thousand years of studying the human body, still don’t understand what exactly happens in the nervous system when a person experiences chronic pain. They can’t tell you what causes chronic pain or where in the nervous system is the problem. They can’t even give you an exact time line on how long rehabilitation will take. Then we start questioning ourselves. Right? Why me? Why now? All you end up with is mascara running down your face and your hair in a matted mess. Or, you jump on that depreciating Merry-Go-Round ride of the “Could’ve-Should’ve-Would’ve,” and at the end, the only thing you can do is to keep yourself from puking. So, do we just give up on life? Throw in the towel. Should we put on our favorite sweats & t-shirt, grab some Cool Ranch Doritos, and morph into a couch potato? I hope you already know the answer to this, but I will say it anyways: NO! I will repeat myself: NO! So, what are we to do? In order to answer that question, here’s a little snippet of my personal history with chronic pain. A couple years back, I was very, very ill with chronic pain and also quite depressed. I was angry and bitter with God, myself, my parents, life, everything, and anything. It was at that point I realized that I could either wallow in pain and misery and end up making things worse, or I could grit my teeth and come to terms with my situation. I humbly realized that no good would come out of continuing to deny reality or defining chronic pain as something other than what it really was. Mind you this was not a flippant, easy, 1-2-3 process for me but was a several month process. However, that period was quite healing for me, more emotionally and spiritually than physically. As many of us already know, life with chronic pain is an endless roller coaster with highs and lows, twists and turns. I have more “blue” days than I care to admit, but I choose to put a smile on my face everyday and keep a positive, hopeful attitude. Hope, joy, and peace have replaced the anger and bitterness. I still have unanswered questions, even more than I started with a couple years ago. I know in this life I will not have all the answers, and I’m learning to accept that. So, I encourage you to read the following blog post. Then, take an honest look at your circumstances, accept reality, and continue with life!

English: Nyamata Memorial Site, skulls. Nyamat...

It’s called a cognitive distortion. We all have heard it, probably most of us believe it. We aren’t sure where it came from. It’s in the bible somewhere or the Dali Lama said it. Everything does happen for a reason.

Tell that to the six million jews who died in World War Two. Or the twenty-five million Russians who perished fighting the Nazis. Tell that to the children born in Mogadishu, or in starvation conditions in Africa. Tell that to the Tutsi’s hacked to death in Rwanda, or the genocide victims in The Congo.

“Everything happens for a reason” is a western, affluent, construct. It is a convenient and heartening way to explain away pain and suffering but it is, unfortunately, not based on any legitimate philosophy and it hurts people. It reminds me of my friend who was told, after his child died, that “God must have wanted another…

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Don’t Forget the Daffodils #1

A couple years ago, I read a book written by Dr. Claire Weekes. She made a point that I have never forgotten: it is important for people, especially those with depression and anxiety disorders, to do something for themselves each day. She called it “Don’t Forget the Violets.” Probably for me it would be: “don’t forget the sweet peas or daffodils.” But anyways, I don’t think it is a far stretch to assume that people with chronic pain should do the same. I’m not saying to go neglect your responsibilities to your family & work or go bankrupt while spoiling yourself with expensive gifts. However, do take a few minutes each day to pamper yourself. It can cost you very little or be absolutely free. Go ahead; take that bubble bath and escape from the stresses of the day for a little while. Have coffee or tea with a friend. Wrap up in a blanket and read a chapter in your favorite book. Take a 10 minute stroll outside and enjoy the scenery. Buy a bunch of tulips to brighten your house. What are some fun, inexpensive activities you enjoy doing? Have you tried this before, and how did you feel afterwards? Some activities that brighten my day are: listening to a favorite piece of music, trying a new recipe in the kitchen, sitting by the lake, etc. I am hoping to make “Don’t Forget the Daffodils” at least a weekly post, writing about activities I find enjoyable and that brighten my day. So, I leave you with a video that makes me smile every time I watch it: Judy Garland and Barbra Streisand singing the duet “Get Happy/Happy Days are Here Again.” Enjoy!

Mapping Fibromyalgia Resources

I don’t know about you, but over the years, I have come across so many websites, blogs, and articles. I either pasted the URL on word document to look it up later, or I would tell myself that if it is really important to me, I’ll come by that site again. Well, thanks to The Iffy Patient blog I have been introduced to Pearltrees; this amazing tool that allows you to collect, organize, and easily view your webfindings, photos, and notes. Plus you can share your Pearltrees with your friends on the Pearltree website, your blog, Facebook, and Twitter! Check it out and start “pearling” away 🙂

Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional. – Dalai Lama

Is there a difference? Can you live with chronic pain without suffering daily?