Tag: chronic illness

Chronic Pain & Illness Online Photo Project 2017

chronic pain photo projectThe 3rd Annual Chronic Pain & Illness Photography Project starts March 1, 2017! This is a FREE 14-day therapeutic photography e-course for women who live with chronic pain or illness. The project takes place in a closed Facebook group. Each day there will be a photo prompt related to chronic pain/illness. Participate as much or as little as you would like. No experience necessary. Just use your phone-camera, snap away and share in the group. The course is for newcomers and previous participants! I can’t stress enough that you do not need any photography experience.

“This [project] has changed my life, my marriage and my entire outlook on my illness. Your project saved me in a way I can never repay. It has sincerely been life changing and I’m forever grateful to you for it.” ~2015 Participant, Jenna

MORE DETAILS:
As noted, the course takes place in a CLOSED Facebook group. The daily photo prompts will all be related to pain/illness and will include an explanation of how to approach each topic. Past prompts have included: acceptance of pain/illness, gratitude, and goals. You and the other participants will then take and post a photo along with a few sentences about your experience related to the prompt. You are also encouraged to reflect on and comment on other participants’ photos. The personal nature of the group quickly creates a supportive environment to share and many lasting friendships are often created.

Have a look at some of previous years’ photos. Hear what past participants thought about the project here.

WHY PHOTOGRAPHY?:
Photography can be incredibly healing for those of us with chronic pain/illness. Photography allows us to express feelings about our pain/illness we might not otherwise be able to. To learn more about the benefits of photography for pain/illness click here.

REGISTER by March 1, 2017: Click here to sign-up. You will receive the link to the projects’ Facebook group in a confirmation email once you register.

I am really excited to be offering this project again after such an enriching and successful project last year. I hope you will join this fun and healing project.

Chronic Pain & Illness Online Photo Project 2016

therapeutic photography The 2nd Annual Chronic Pain & Illness Photography Project starts April 1, 2016! This is a FREE 14-day therapeutic photography e-course for people who live with chronic pain or illness. The project takes place in a closed Facebook group. Each day there will be a photo prompt related to chronic pain/illness. Participate as much or as little as you would like. No experience necessary. Just use your phone-camera, snap away and share in the group. The course is for previous participants and newcomers! I can’t stress enough that you do not need any photography experience.

“This [project] has changed my life, my marriage and my entire outlook on my illness. Your project saved me in a way I can never repay. It has sincerely been life changing and I’m forever grateful to you for it.” ~2015 Participant, Jenna

MORE DETAILS:
As noted, the course takes place in a CLOSED Facebook group. The daily photo prompts will all be related to pain/illness and will include an explanation of how to approach each topic. Past prompts have included: acceptance of pain/illness, gratitude, and goals. You and the other participants will then take and post a photo along with a few sentences about your experience related to the prompt. You are also encouraged to reflect on and comment on other participants’ photos. The personal nature of the group quickly creates a supportive environment to share and many lasting friendships are often created.

Have a look at some of last year’s photos. Hear what past participants thought about the project here.

WHY PHOTOGRAPHY?:
Photography can be incredibly healing for those of us with chronic pain/illness. Photography allows us to express feelings about our pain/illness we might not otherwise be able to. To learn more about the benefits of photography for pain/illness click here.

REGISTER by March 31, 2016: Click here to sign-up. You will receive the link to the projects’ Facebook group in a confirmation email once you register.

I am really excited to be offering this project again after such an enriching and successful project last year. I hope you will join this fun and healing project.

Book Synopsis: How to Be Sick by Toni Bernhard


how-to-be-sickHow To Be Sick: A Buddhist-Inspired Guide for the Chronically Ill and their Caregivers

I recently read How to Be Sick for the third time! Each time I read this book I take away comfort and knowledge…comfort from knowing I am not alone and knowledge from the helpful practices she shares in the book. The author offers both a chronology of her illness and an introduction and explanation of primarily Buddhist-inspired principles and tools that help her deal with being sick.

(Important side note: people of any religion can benefit of this book…the concepts in the book are not ‘religious’ in any way and I believe they should not conflict with one’s own spiritual beliefs).

As I read her book, a feeling of relief comes over me, from knowing I am not the only person practically home-bound due to their health. Of course I know this to be true without reading the book, social media is full of us ‘spoonies’ sharing snippets of our lives, but there is something about reading her account of her illness and its impact on her life which I really connect with. For instance, I can so relate to her going to great lengths to stay at her job. She resorted to teaching her class sitting in a chair instead of standing, not to mention peeing in her office (you have to read the book to get those details)! Her account reminded me of when I was still trying to work and I would lay on the floor of my office during every break and lunch hour and then, like Toni, I would go home and crash for the entire night. We both pushed until we could do it no more. She then shares examples of missing out on family and social activities, being unable to take care of herself and a myriad of others issues we all face when living with pain/illness. She shares her story in an incredibly honest, open and humble way. She admits to breakdowns and at times not handling things well, however, she always moves forward from these challenges. She details the specific tools she uses to handle each type of situation.

The tools she refers to include Buddhist principles and practices such as the four sublime states, Tonglen and mindfulness. In non-Buddhist terms, these principles relate to compassion for oneself and others, acceptance, peace, and awareness. She keeps her explanations simple and easy to understand so readers unfamiliar with Buddhism should have no problem grasping them; while those familiar with Buddhist practices, will welcome learning how to apply the principles to living with illness/pain.

She references the work of Buddhist teacher Thich Nhat Hanh whose books, meditations and talks first introduced me to mindfulness and led me to the realization that I had finally found an approach that truly could help me live with chronic pain. Therefore, it was validating to have Toni include some of his practices in her book.

She also highly recommends and explains teachings of self-help author and speaker, Byron Katie, in particular, an inquiry tool called “The Work” where one is asked to go through a series of steps to challenge the thoughts towards one’s situation and then turn the thoughts around. I think we all have quite a few thoughts related to our pain/illness that could be effectively challenged with this method.

If it sounds like the book offers a lot of helpful tools and information, you are right! The author summarizes all the tools at the end of the book which makes the book easy to refer to and trust me you will want to refer to it over and over again.

Overall the book is wonderfully written and packed with so many transformative ways to approach dealing with illness and/or pain. Most importantly Toni serves as an inspirational example of someone who, living with illness, is changing lives and making a difference in the world. As Toni says, “there is sickness, but I am not sick.”

 

 

Free CHOOSE YOUR WORD e-course for people with chronic pain or illness

choose your wordChoose Your GUIDING WORD for Health & Wellness is a FREE 5-day e-course (with optional Facebook group) to help you choose a word to set your focus for managing your chronic pain &/or chronic illness in 2016. The intention is that your chosen word will help you to improve your physical and emotional health and wellness by:
~renewing your hope
~focusing you on what you need to do for your body, soul, and heart
~easing the intensity of your emotions
~calming and grounding you
~keeping you motivate

In the years I’ve been choosing a word for the year, my physical and mental health, has certainly benefited. Some of my previous words – BE (I have used this a couple of years) and EASE have provided me with grounding, calm and peace. They led me to adopt healthy practices such as pacing and meditation. Other words such as STRENGTH and COURAGE bolstered me up when I needed emotional support to face my health challenges and encouraged me to ask for help. I’m looking forward to discovering how my word for 2016 will help me with my chronic pain in the year ahead.

The more years I choose a word, the more I understand why it’s such a valuable practice to do each year. I want to share with you how powerful having a guiding word can be and help you figure out just the perfect one for your year ahead.

Choose Your GUIDING WORD for Health and Wellness is a FREE 5-day e-course starting January 4, 2016 to help you figure out your guiding word for the coming year.

Click here to register!

 

Spoonie Store

Chronic Pain Life has opened an Etsy shop, Spoonie Store, selling Spoonie jewellery and other items. So far there are a variety of spoonie earrings for sale. Buy and wear these earrings if you need some extra spoons and at the same time teach people about the Spoon Theory!  The first 50 orders will also receive a  FREE “Official Spoonie Card with self-laminating sleeve. Buy earrings for your spoonie friends and for yourself!

Check the store regularly as many other items are being created and will be added soon.

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Adult Coloring for Chronic Pain or Illness

 

IMG_1021Adult coloring is all the rage right now. People living with pain should definitely explore this new fad as coloring can provide incredible relaxation and allow one to temporarily forget about physical pain.

Not to mention that scientists have found that coloring actually quiets the part of the brain, the amygdala, that causes stress and is often activated when we are distressed by our pain.

A recent Huffington Post article stated that the famous psychologist, Carl Jung believed that the coloring of mandalas could be used as a relaxation technique. I personally find mandalas to be the most calm-inducing items to color as the patterns are repetitive and require concentration. I get so focussed I literally am completely in the moment and don’t worry about my pain or anything else. Here is a photo of two manadult coloring bookdalas that I recently colored from the Just Add Color Mandalas Adult Coloring Book. I used two types of markers,
Stabilo Point 88 Pen Sets rollerset set of 25 and Stabilo Point 88 Pen Sets rollerset set of 25. These types of extra fine-tipped pens are required, especially if you plan on coloring the detailed drawings in the most popular adult coloring book right now, The Secret Garden.

secret_garden_roll

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you want to see if coloring should be added to your “pain toolkit”, you can download two free beautiful coloring pages, “Today is Going to Be Awesome” and a gorgeous owl.

Creative-Coloring-Inspirations-PrintableNature-Mandalas-printable

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For people with chronic pain or illness, the great thing about adult coloring is that it can be done just about anywhere. You can color laying down, standing up or sitting. You can be in bed, at a desk, in the waiting room of your doctor’s office or my favourite place to colour, at the beach.

Is coloring going to heal your pain or illness vanish…no, but at least for brief periods of time you can hopefully forget about your health and feel a sense of peace and calm…a state of mind that is a welcome respite from the stress of living with chronic pain/illness.

Have you found coloring to be helpful when living with chronic pain or illness? If so, I would love to hear about your experience!


 

Insight Meditation App – Chronic Pain & Illness Group

Insight meditation appRecently I created a “Chronic Pain & Illness Meditation” group on the free “Insight Guided Meditations” app. For those of you who aren’t familiar with Insight app, it is a well-respected and popular meditation app. I literally give this app the credit for helping me to become a dedicated daily meditator. The app has a meditation timer as well as numerous guided meditations, including many body scans, which are great for people living with chronic pain/illness.

In the group we discuss meditation resources and experiences as they relate to chronic pain and/or illness. It would be wonderful to have you join the the group, whether you are just thinking about trying meditation or if you are a seasoned meditator.

Steps to Joining the Group:

  1. Download the app if you don’t have it already:
    Link to Insight Guided Meditations app for iPhone
    Link to Insight Guided Meditations app for Android 
  2. Once you have downloaded the app, click on the “Groups” tab.
  3. Scroll to the very bottom of the page click on the “Search” icon.
  4. Type “chronic pain” and the group will pop up.
  5. Click on “Request an Invitation”.

Yay, you are now part of an awesome pain/illness meditation community!

Join the 21-Day Chronic Pain/Illness Photo Project

chronic pain photo projectI am hosting a 21-Day Chronic Pain/Illness Photo Project in a closed Facebook group starting Monday, April 27, 2015. Each day there will be a photo prompt related to chronic pain/illness. Participate as much or as little as you would like. No experience necessary. Just use your phone-camera, snap away and share in the group.

If you are interested in joining the project click on this link.

Follow Chronic Pain Life on Instagram – @chronicpainlife
Hashtag your chronic pain photos with #chronicpaininfocus.

Meditating has drastically improved how I am able to handle Chronic Pain

meditation for chronic painI posted back in September that I had completed a 21-day meditation challenge. Now I can proudly, and more importantly, gratefully, say I have completed a solid 6-months of daily meditation practice.

I continue to reap the benefits of using meditation to deal with the challenges of chronic pain. The challenge is to put into words how exactly meditation has specifically helped me manage my daily pain. What I do know is I have a greater sense of calmness, increased gratitude, and I have developed the ability to not panic when I have a flare-up. I have learnt how to stay in the moment, to feel my body as it is and accept it. These abilities grew gradually with time.

I don’t find that meditation has in any way reduced my pain but it has become the most effective tool I have ever used to cope with the challenges of living with pain. By this I mean that meditation has significantly diminished, if not prevented, the feelings of anxiety, panic, depression, and fear that in the past would overcome me every time I had a flare-up.

I have to clarify though, that this took time. I think around the 3-month mark is when I really recognized the difference in myself. The shift was somewhat subtle but at the same time powerful beyond measure. Now that I have been meditating for over 6 months I can’t imagine my life without this practice.

Another benefit of regular mediation is the spillover into the other aspects of my life. Meditation is assisting me in dealing with relationship, financial, and many other life issues. I have learnt how to stay calm, grounded and connected to reality and the moment, not to the stories that swirl in my head and attempt to control my thoughts, feelings and emotions.

Back to meditation and pain…I did find that specific approaches to my practice made me ‘successful’. I have found that regular body scan meditations are the most beneficial type of meditation. I do one every night before I go to sleep. I have also personally experienced, and recently read research, that the regular use of the same guided meditations is more beneficial than flitting from one to another meditation to another.

For instance, In the past I would get bored of guided meditations and want to listen to a different one each time I meditated. Over the past 6 months I took a different approach, I downloaded the Insight Timer app (a highly recommended meditation app which has 87 guided meditations and/or a meditation timer). I tried out many of the meditations and then selected approximately 8 that I really enjoyed. I then began to use these regularly.

The other thing I like about the Insight app is you get rewards!!! Yes, STAR rewards just like in elementary school. I have to tell you, you have no idea how many times the lure of a star on my meditation profile ensured I meditated every day! Hey, whatever it takes! The app also keeps a tally of how many minutes you have meditated, and provides a variety of charts showing your meditation practice. More recently I have joined the groups that are in the app and have connected with others who are using meditation for dealing with chronic pain and illness.

I know many of you have likely read that mindfulness meditation is a great resource for dealing with chronic pain and like me you probably really struggled with sticking to it. I am here to say give it another go, keep trying, I know if you stick with it you will experience incredible benefits. Maybe you are like me and have stuck with it and appreciate all it offers you, I would love to hear about your experience. Maybe you have even been meditating for years and can offer myself and other readers more insight and knowledge about using meditation for the management of chronic pain/illness. I would love to hear from you too.

What I do know is I will be continuing my practice and sharing my experiences here on my blog. On that note, it is time for my nightly body scan meditation 🙂

30 Things About my Invisible Illness You May Not Know

frida kahlo

invisible illnessTo help promote Invisible Illness Week I am sharing the MeMe:

30 Things About My Invisible Illness You May Not Know

1. The illness I live with is: Internal Disc Disruption/Derangement (IDD)
2. I was diagnosed with it in the year: 2012
3. But I had symptoms since: 2008
4. The biggest adjustment I’ve had to make is: Not being able to participate in even the most normal day-to-day activities as I am unable to sit, stand, walk etc. the majority of the time.
5. Most people assume: I look great so I must not be as disabled as I am.
6. The hardest part about mornings are: Waking up and realizing a have another day to persevere through.
7. My favorite medical TV show is: I don’t have one.
8. A gadget I couldn’t live without is: my camera.
9. The hardest part about nights are: waking up from dreams in which my body is working normally.
10. Each day I take __ pills & vitamins. (No comments, please) A couple of non-narcotic meds and many vitamins.
11. Regarding alternative treatments I: have spent thousands of dollars trying everything with no results…acupuncture, acupressure, cranio-sacral, Reiki, healing touch, plasma injections (that athletes use), prolotherapy, body-mind therapies, visualization, etc.
12. If I had to choose between an invisible illness or visible I would choose: hard to choose…I am grateful that I look “normal” but daily I wish I had a way of showing people what I am truly dealing with each and every second of the day despite my “normal appearance”.
13. Regarding working and career: So sad to know that I will never have either again so I have to find purpose some other way which is hard to do when I spend 90% of my day laying horizontally.
14. People would be surprised to know: that to get anywhere I usually have to lay horizontally in the back seat of my car and have someone drive me.  
15. The hardest thing to accept about my new reality has been: I may be this disabled forever and I am only 39.
16. Something I never thought I could do with my illness that I did was: keep on persevering through it all.
17. The commercials about my illness: there aren’t any.
18. Something I really miss doing since I was diagnosed is: sitting…to drive, to eat my meals, to watch a play, to fly, to watch a movie, to watch my nephew’s play sports, etc.
19. It was really hard to have to give up: the reality that I will never travel by plane ever again.
20. A new hobby I have taken up since my diagnosis is: blogging.
21. If I could have one day of feeling normal again I would: hop on a plane to Kenya…a lifelong dream.
22. My illness has taught me: life is not fair, good health should be cherished every single moment, nothing should be taken for granted.
23. Want to know a secret? One thing people say that gets under my skin is: “have you tried…”
24. But I love it when people: say “Wow, you are so strong to handle how you have to live your life. I bet not many people realize how hard it must be.”
25. My favorite motto, scripture, quote that gets me through tough times is: “At the end of the day, we can endure much more than we think we can.” – Frida Kahlo
26. When someone is diagnosed I’d like to tell them: stay strong, no matter how alone you feel, you are not. 
27. Something that has surprised me about living with an illness is: how there can be so few medical solutions or answers to my situation and so many other people’s. 
28. The nicest thing someone did for me when I wasn’t feeling well was: My Mom has repeatedly dropped everything to take care of me and comfort me.
29. I’m involved with Invisible Illness Week because: I really want people to learn not to make any assumptions about someone’s health based on their external appearance.
30. The fact that you read this list makes me feel: happy.

Peace and love,
Stephanie