Tag: depression

21-Day Meditation Challenge for those with Chronic Pain

meditation photoDespite research showing that mindfulness-based meditation is very beneficial for those of us dealing with chronic pain/illness, I have yet to maintain a daily committed meditation practice.  I have definitely tried…I have taken meditation classes through the pain clinic at my local hospital, as well as online classes, I have mindfulness apps on my phone, I have chronic pain mediation CDs, YouTube mindfulness videos favourited, and I own many books on the topic. I have resources galore but somehow after a week or two of meditating I stop. Often a month later I will start my practice again. I don’t think I am alone in this start and stop relationship with meditation. Am I? Please tell me I am not!

As my level of disability and pain increase, along with corresponding depression, I recognize that I truly MUST make meditation be part of my daily routine. This time I am adopting a multi-step preparation approach to ensure I stick to my goal of daily meditation! I would love for you to join me for the next 21 days (this is the length of time it apparently takes to make a practice a habit!).


6 STEPS TO PREPARING FOR A 21-DAY MEDITATION CHALLENGE

1) Make a public commitment to meditating
 I am writing this blog post.
2) Make a daily checklist or write daily meditation time on a calendar
I have printed a checklist and hung it on my fridge.
3) Create reminders
I am setting my phone to remind me daily. Once at 10am and again at 4pm in case I chose to ignore the first reminder!
4) Make a list of meditation resources for quick reference
My resources are listed after these steps (see below).
5) Pick a realistic time of day to meditate each day as well as a realistic length of time
I am choosing to meditate after I eat my breakfast cereal which is the first thing I do each morning.
I am committing to meditating a minimum of 10 minutes per day but with the hope that I will do more.
6) Report back to someone
I am reporting back to my therapist in two weeks.
I am also going to do a follow-up blog post.

I encourage you to follow the steps above or create your own. I would love to hear what additional steps or ideas you think would be help yourself and/or others to stick to a 21-day meditation challenge.


MY FAVOURITE CHRONIC PAIN MEDITATION RESOURCES
I have used ALL of the resources below so I can personally say I found them valuable.
I will put this list of meditation resources on the Meditation page of this website so you can refer back to them in the future. I will also add additional resources and details to the Meditation page that aren’t in this blog post. 

iPhone and iPad Apps:
Calm
Insight Timer
Mindful

CDs/Downloads:
Jon Kabat Zinn – Mindfulness Meditations for Pain Relief
Peter A. Levine – Freedom from Pain CD or download

Online Meditation Courses:
Oprah and Deepak Chopra’s –  21-Day Meditation Experience
Susannah Conway’s course – The Sacred Alone

Videos:
Click here to link to my Chronic Pain Meditation playlist on YouTube

Please let me know if you are going to join me on the 21- day challenge! I would love the motivation that comes from doing a challenge with others 🙂

A summer day with disabling chronic pain

Don't Give Up

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I am stuck in bed yet again. Unable to feed myself. Unable to move. The sun beats outside my window. I hear people laughing as they walk by my condo building. I imagine all the things “normal” people are doing on this summer day…working, driving, exercising, playing, walking, dining out on patios, etc. All things I cannot do. No, I am a prisoner in my body listening and watching the world pass by.

Oh how the hours drag. I listen to CBC radio and try to distract myself. I learn about the ceasefire in Gaza. Oh if only the pain in my body could have a ceasefire. I go on to Instagram only to see that my photo group’s topic for the day is “reflection” and realize that I can’t go anywhere to take a picture of a reflection and I sure wouldn’t want to take a photo of my reflection right now. I haven’t showered for two days. The pain I am in is clearly visible on my face. The fact that I didn’t sleep last night is evident with the dark circles under my eyes.

I go on Netflix and try to lose myself in the TV Series “The Killing”. Although the lead character is experiencing deep emotional pain I tell her I would trade my life for hers in a second. She can walk, sit and stand. She can leave the confines of her four walls.

The series ends and I stare out my bedroom window at the flowers wilting on my patio garden. I haven’t been able to water them for two days and in this extreme heat they are wilting as much as I am from the pain.

Is this a poem, a pity party, an essay or a journal entry? I don’t know. All I know is that I have to let it out. I have to share my experiences. I will risk the judgment, the embarrassment, whatever may be the result. I guess I am reaching out…hoping somebody somewhere will read this and understand the isolation and loneliness disability and chronic pain/illness create.

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? 

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.

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.