Tag: chronic pain

A moment of gratitude while living with chronic pain

IMG_9510Today I had one of those glorious moments when I briefly forgot that I live in pain almost 24 hours a day.

I was feeling well enough to leave the house and go on a short walk in a nearby park. The air was crisp, the sun was shining and the birds were chirping. At one point I stopped walking in front of a gorgeous waterfall, turned to the sun, and just let it beat down on my face. I thanked the Universe/God/whomever for blessing me with this moment of happiness. I so rarely have those times anymore, where the joy is so strong it stops my brain from thinking about my disability. Oh what a gift it was today to experience this wonderful feeling!

A few minutes later a thought came through my mind, “I am still me”. I spend 99.9% of my life thinking about how my life isn’t what it used to be, how I am not who I used to be, but for an instant today I felt like “me”.

Do you ever experience moments of “normality”? Do you cherish these occurrences and feel gratitude for them?

Have your hobbies changed since you have chronic pain?

ChronicpainhobbiesLike most people with chronic pain or illness, I have had to say goodbye to many beloved hobbies. Gone are my world travelling days, my biking adventures, and, often, even my waterfront strolls. So I have had to search out hobbies I can physically manage.

My new hobbies have slowly evolved over the past few years. There are some I tried, like sewing, that ended up not being possible on a regular basis, while others like blogging which continues to be a fun and rewarding endeavour. Most recently, I took up knitting. Knitting had never appealed to me but now the prospect of a hobby that is physically possible was downright exciting! Did I seriously just use knitting and exciting in the same sentence??? Uh yes I did, and may I remind you I am under 40! That is how chronic pain changes your view of things. Now the opportunity to do ANYTHING new or creative (including knitting) is a wonderful discovery.

As human beings, no matter what our physical situation, it is important to stay inspired, productive, and experience enjoyment. So be open to new possibilities and new activities. Go on and try that Sudoku puzzle, pull out that sketchbook and pencil, ask your aunt to teach you to crochet or maybe even take up stargazing…you just never know you might enjoy it!

What new hobbies have you adopted since dealing with chronic pain? 

Affirmations to use during a pain flare-up

Don't Give UpI use affirmations, on a daily basis, to deal with my pain. I seriously couldn’t function without them. In a pain flare-up they prevent me from entering a spiral of negative thoughts that in the past led to depression and even suicidal thoughts. Sometimes I only have to repeat the affirmations a couple of times, while other times I have to read them over and over throughout the day. They have helped me make it through another moment, another hour, another day. I even keep a copy typed up on my IPhone in my notepad app. I can’t tell you how many times I have reached for my phone and read through them forcing myself to try and believe what they are telling me. Affirmations make you focus, make you stay positive and ground you in reality. Otherwise our mind can get taken over by pain demons that are determined to rob one of hope, peace and will.

I hope you will find these affirmations helpful. Feel free to edit them or even just use them as inspiration to make your own. That is the thing, affirmations have to mean something to you, they have to be tailored to your situation. Only you know the messages that you need to hear when you are faced with a bout of pain. Following are the messages I repeat:

  • I am aware I have pain but I observe it with detachment.
  • This flare-up will pass…it always does.
  • I breathe calm and relaxation into the pain.
  • I only focus on the here and now. I am not going to worry about how long the flare-up will last.
  • I am handling this flare-up calmly and positively.
  • I am patiently handling this flare-up.
  • I am grateful for the few things I can do despite the flare-up.
  • During this flare-up I focus on taking one moment at a time.
  • I will make it through this flare-up. The pain will subside. My mobility will increase.

When Pain Flare-ups Cause Panic

Tomorrow my boyfriend arrives to visit me. He lives a 12-hour drive away from me and comes to visit every two to three weeks. Normally I would be very excited but I am in panic because I am having a major pain flare-up.

I am mad that my pain has flared right before he is coming. My mind races about how disappointed he will be that I am essentially immobile. I think about how I won’t feel well enough to go anywhere or do anything.  It amazes me that even though I have been living with chronic pain for the past five years, I still immediately go into a negative panic mode when my pain has a major flare-up. The thoughts race so fast I don’t even realize they are happening…

“oh no, how long is this going to last?”
“am I getting worse?”
“I can’t take this any more?”
and
“why me?”

These panicky questions are then always followed by the never-ending attempt to figure out what exactly caused the flare-up…

“was it that I drove?”
“is it this damp weather we are having?”
“was it from picking up the cat?”

So my mind races through every single action I have done in the past two days trying to figure it out. I know from past experience that I am rarely ever able to pinpoint an exact cause, but nevertheless my brain desperately tries to make sense of what is happening in my body. My mind wants control. That is the thing when you live with chronic pain you lose control. For type-A people like me losing control is VERY hard.

I am learning, however, that if I want to stay calm, at peace and in a positive frame of mind, I need to relinquish my desire to control what is happening inside my body. I have to let go and become a neutral observer of the pain. Instead of worrying about why the pain is there and fearing it will last forever, I remind myself that the flare-up will pass and simply state “for right now this is how my body is feeling.”

Although this counteraction of  “catastrophic thoughts”, as my therapist would call them, feels nearly impossible when my body is screaming in pain and my mind wants to continually yell “why me?”, I have learnt that the “why me?” question, along with all the others, don’t get me anywhere but depressed, anxious, and yes, even suicidal. Furthermore, stressing over the pain and analyzing every detail of it is not going to lessen the pain or make the flare-up end any sooner. 

So tonight as I am faced with this surge of pain, I acknowledge that I may not have control over the pain but I can control my reaction to it.

Eating for Chronic Pain – what to eat and what to avoid

CP Food
Recent research is showing links between certain foods and chronic pain. I have reviewed this research extensively and summarized below, what foods and drinks can ease chronic pain and what ones can increase pain. 

*Please keep in mind that these are general suggestions and should be tailored to your existing health conditions.*

EASE PAIN by eating/drinking:

Ginger – lowers inflammation and muscle pain.
Onions – 
contain phytochemicals that reduce inflammation.
Sea Vegetables (Kelp and Dulse) – contain fucoidans shown to reduce pain and provides trace minerals.
Avocado –  high in Vitamin K can reduce pain and arthritis symptoms.
Tart Cherries or tart cherry juice – contain anthocyanins, which are thought to reduce inflammation.
Pineapple & Papaya – contain enzymes that break down protein that cause pain.
Garlic – contains phytochemicals that reduce inflammation.
Tumeric – lowers enzymes linked to inflammation…Curcumin is the ingredient that likely provides the benefit.
Olive Oil – contains oleocanthal may have the same effect as ibuprofen and other NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs).
Raw Coconut Water – contains potassium aiding in rehydration and thus reduces pain.
Walnuts – they are high in Omega-3 Fatty acids and antioxidants which may assist in reducing pain and inflammation.
Flax seeds – they are high in Omega-3 Fatty acids and antioxidants which may assist in reducing pain and inflammation.
Pumpkin seeds – they are high in Omega-3 Fatty acids and antioxidants which may assist in reducing pain and inflammation.
Fish (Salmon, tuna, mackerel, sardines, halibut, shrimp, snapper) – they are high in Omega-3 Fatty acids and antioxidants which may assist in reducing pain and inflammation.
Dark, leafy greens – these are high in antioxidants and creates alkalinity vs. acidity.
Acai berries – high in antioxidants and Omega 3s.
Blueberries – high in antioxidants.
Green Tea – contains numerous antioxidants.

AVOID eating/drinking:

Monosodium glutamate – found in soy sauce, broths, soy products, processed foods, yeast products, sprayed on food crops. Stimulates pain receptors.
Aspartame –extensive research show numerous dangers from consuming aspartame including chronic pain and fibromyalgia. Activates neurons causing increased sensitivity to pain.
Sugar – can drastically increase pain. Causes mineral loss as it extracts minerals from muscles and bones. Sugar also causes inflammation.
Red meat -corrosive free radicals from iron may promote inflammation. Also contains arachidonic acid, which may worsen inflammation and related pain and swelling.
Egg yolks -contain arachidonic acid, which causes inflammation.

REDUCE eating/drinking:

Yeast/Gluten -gluten can be seen as a foreign pathogen and inflammation is caused to fight it. It is found in wheat, rye, barley and some oats and it is also in processed foods.
Milk products  -contain high levels of casein which is hard for the body to process and can lead to inflammation.
Fried foods -contain Omega 6 fats, which can cause inflammation.
Carbohydrates -often cause inflammation.
Caffeine –increases inflammations and causes loss of minerals, Coffee prevents pain relief by blocking the receptor sites.
Alcohol –depletes minerals, causes inflammation, causes dehydration.

Vitamins and Supplements for Chronic Pain

Although there are no vitamins or supplements to “cure” chronic pain there is increasing research showing some vitamins and supplements may ease pain for some individuals and for some types of pain. I have summarized the research below.

  • Fish Oil (2-4 grams of DHA + EPA/day) – major anti-inflammatory and helps with all types of pain
  • Magnesium Citrate – helps with muscle spasms and weakness
  • Vitamin D – numerous studies have shown Vitamin D reduces pain
  • MSM (Methylsulfonylmethane) – naturally occurring compound in some plants and animals, which has been shown in some preliminary research to reduce osteoarthritis pain.
  • Glucosamine Sulfate – mostly used for arthritis pain.
  • Turmeric/Curcumin – lowers enzymes linked to inflammation.

Please remember to review any vitamins and supplements with your doctor before taking them!

The journey of chronic pain

I have had a life-long passion for off-the-beaten-path travelling. By the age of thirty-five I had travelled to eighteen countries and my list of future trips was lengthy and included a camping adventure in Kenya and Tanzania. In October 2008 little did I realize when I stepped off the plane from a trip to Europe that this would be my last trip overseas indefinitely. Four days later, my recurring back injury put me in a state of disability that lasts to this day.

Because I am now unable to sit for even the shortest amount of time, travelling overseas is an impossibility. Now even a 30-minute car ride to my mother’s is an ordeal requiring me to lay a custom mattress flat in the back seat of a car while someone drives me to visit her. Long gone are the dreams of exploring other countries. Now I just wish for the ability to sit for the car ride to a nearby town to watch one of my nephews hockey games or to simply to be able to drive myself to the grocery store only a ten-minute drive from home.

The sadness, anger and depression that come with the loss of the ability to travel can be overwhelming. Often these feelings are triggered when opportunities arise that I am unable to participate in. Like two weeks ago when one of my best friend’s decided she wants to celebrate her 40th birthday, with our fellow girlfriends, in Las Vegas. I now have to endure listening to every detail of the planning of the trip and then hear the stories of the adventure upon their return.

Not even a week later, I received a group from my aunt saying she was organizing a family reunion in London, England in 2015. Each of my family members responded to the group email sharing their availability while I of course did not even bother to reply. I understand she was including me to let me know that I was invited but in some ways I wish I never even knew about the plan.

At these times the sadness becomes overwhelming and like so many people dealing with chronic pain, illness or disability, I ask “why me?” over and over. I try to figure out the lesson I am supposed to learn from my situation but in the end I am unable to make any sense of it. I try to be gentle with myself and recognize that these feelings are only to be expected; after all, the losses I have experienced are great. Anyone would be sad and question why it happened to them. In other words I normalize the feelings.

For myself, or anyone else though, I know it is important to not get stuck in this place of questioning and sadness. I allow myself to ask “why me?” and feel the sadness but then I compel myself to try and let go, move forward and get in touch with the present moment. I do this by concentrating on what is happening right now and identifying what I am grateful for, no matter how small. For instance I focus intently on the joy I feel from petting my cat who is curled up beside me or I call my nephew and listen as he excitedly tells me about his latest hockey game.

I reflect on my adventurous travels, each trip planned with the help of travel guidebooks and I realize that I am on a journey now but without any guidebooks. I continue on this chronic pain voyage as if I have been dropped off in the middle of a jungle in an unknown country; unsure of what to do, where to go, wondering if I will be okay. In the jungle I know I would focus, stay positive, take one step at a time and, most importantly, I would take time to appreciate my surroundings no matter how scared or lost I was. So that is exactly what I will aim to do on this, my chronic pain journey.

Do you struggle with travelling due to chronic pain? What do you do to stay positive and move forward? I would love to hear from you.

Raw and truthful sharing about pain and disability

August 29, 2013

I have wanted to add a blog portion to my website for the past few years but each time I considered it, I believed that unless I was going to share a positive outlook on dealing with pain and disability, I should not write one. I knew that it would be impossible for me to put forward a rosy outlook so I did not write a blog post until now. Today, however, I am giving myself the freedom to start writing a blog that is a raw and truthful sharing of how I struggle to deal with my pain.

Don’t get me wrong, I try and be positive but I truly have been longing for a place to share my inner suffering, my struggles and my frustration with the limitations this disability puts on my life.

I have shared these feelings repeatedly with my very supportive friends and family, but how many times can I burden them with my recurring feelings of loss, depression, anger and sadness. These feelings that continue to ebb and flow but are always there on a daily basis.

Even as I write this post I imagine people reading this and thinking, “she really needs to accept her situation and move on”. The fact is I have been trying to move forward for years and I have made only small progress in doing so. I find it progressively harder as my level of disability continues to increase.

In the last few days as I have been laying here, bedridden due to my pain, I decided maybe it is time I try and see if blogging is one way of helping me move forward. Perhaps it will be the avenue that allows me to let go of the burdensome feelings I carry around with me. In fact, I already feel lighter as I come to the close of this, my first, post.