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Fearing the Future

“All negativity is caused by an accumulation of psychological time and denial of the present.  Unease, tension, anxiety, stress, worry-all forms of fear are caused by too much future and not enough presence.   Guilt resentment, regret, anger, sadness, bitterness, and all forms of non-forgiveness are caused by too much past and not enough present.”

Eckhart Tolle

I never truly knew how much I would learn from being someone’s parent.   My now, five year old daughter does not realize how much she teaches me.  I always thought that I would be the one teacher in our mother/daughter relationship.  However, I am not sure I have ever had a better teacher than my little girl, Kayci.  She teaches me how to be a kid again and enjoy the simple things in life.  She helps me to see things that I have seen for thirty five years and yet took for granted.  More than anything, she has taught me to live in the moment; something I have struggled with my entire life.  Kayci turned five a few months ago and lives in the present moment for the most part.  I noticed recently that she started talking about the future and the past a lot more frequently than she had in the past.  I do not want her to lose that sense of living in the moment and I want to live in the moment more than I do.  I worry about the future and cry about the past much more than any person should.  Worrying and despair increase my chronic pain and make it more difficult for me to manage it well.

I asked my daughter to help me remember to live in the moment.  We made up a game where if one of us started talking about the next day or the next week we would remind the other person to stop and come back to the present moment.   Kayci who is wise beyond her years said to me: “Mommy, if we talk about tomorrow we will forget today.”  Having someone, even if that someone is only five years of age remind me that I should not think about tomorrow is very helpful in my quest to live in the present moment and work on my never ending game of worrying.  If you have someone you love in your life and you spend a lot of time with (even if they are toddlers) ask them to play this game with you.  It is not only helping me but training my daughter’s brain at an early age to live in the moment; a lesson I wish I had learned as a child.

Living with chronic pain is hard enough then add on anxiety/worrying and you have a whole heap of new problems.  I have chronic pain and anxiety and there are times that I am not sure what is worse.  In all honesty, although I manage pain well chronic pain is the most difficult thing I have ever been faced with.  Anyone who has this invisible illness can attest to how difficult this disease is.  As far as I have come in my journey with chronic pain, I still struggle at times.  At the age of thirty five I struggle with anxiety and worrying about the future a lot.  My life is far from perfect and there are many things I want to change but change takes time.  There are many dreams I want to come to fruition but again those take time.  I try very hard to focus on my biggest blessing and that is clearly my daughter, Kayci.  Although I get frustrated with her at times, like all mothers do, I make sure she knows how loved she is and how special she is to me.  She has become my greater teacher.

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Negative Coping Mechanisms and Chronic Pain

“I feel the real me is being taken over by my pain and fatigue every single day.”

Unknown

I was recently asked by the amazing site entitled http://www.themighty.com to write about past negative coping mechanisms I used to deal with chronic pain and when I knew my coping techniques had gone too far and what I did to change my behaviors.  My life began falling apart due to chronic pain around the age of twenty.  I had spent five plus years searching for a cure, having many surgeries, being on multitudes of medications, and having my hope for a cure destroyed on a weekly basis for five years and I was done.  I could no longer juggle going to college, trying to receive good grades, spending three out of seven days of the week in the offices of doctors and trying to make and keep friends.   I dropped out of college and completely gave up on myself and my health.  I drove from New Jersey to Colorado where I had a couple friends and who were kind enough to let me stay with them until I figured out what I was going to do with my life.  Truth be told, I didn’t believe I had a chance at life and was just trying to get by and not think about pain.  I hung out with people who enjoyed drinking and loved the college scene.  My friends were drinking to be social and have fun during their years in college while I was drinking to numb chronic pain.  I still had yet to be told I had chronic pain as this was not a term used widely as it is now.  All I knew is that I had a terrible bike accident that nearly killed me and I was left with pain that was invisible to everyone, except myself.

I had never been prescribed pain medication and taking Advil had the same effectiveness to alleviating pain as eating Tic Tac’s all day would.  So, I took drinking with friends to the next level.  Being in a college town that was known for its partying made self medicating my invisible illness quite easy.  I fit in.  We were always able to think of an excuse to drink: Taco Tuesdays, Wine Wednesdays, Thirsty  Thursdays, then the weekend was an obvious excuse to party: TGIF!   Most of my friends were in college full time as I had been prior to dropping out and fleeing New Jersey.   They had extra reasons to celebrate and drink with everyone: doing well on an exam, the end of mid-terms, and the breaks we all know and love.  I felt awful celebrating with them when I was doing nothing with my life.  I loved school and had had so many dreams that I truly believed were stolen from me because of chronic pain.  The more I hated myself, the more I drank and ate.  Within six months I gained about thirty pounds.  I ate all day and drank all night.  Having a hangover was easier than dealing with chronic pain.  My friends understood hangovers but did not understand how in the world I had this pain when I looked perfectly healthy on the outside.  Hangovers were amazing compared to dealing with my invisible illness.

I started to get more and more depressed and hopeless.  Drinking was no longer fun; it was a means to an end.  I only drank to numb the physical pain I felt.  My tolerance went up and I needed to drink more to get the same pain relief.  Instead of laughing and having fun with my friends I always ended up sitting on our deck or on mattress crying into the bottle of red wine that I had grown to hate.  Each day and night seemed to get worse until one day I woke up very late in the morning and all I could smell was stale red wine.  I looked beyond my mattress and saw red wine stains covering the carpet.  I started to cry like I had never cried before.  I knew I had hit my rock bottom and it was either drink myself to death or find a way to manage chronic pain that I had not found in the many years I had dealt with this invisible illness.  As I cried on that mattress surrounded by red wine stains my good friend researched places that specialized in chronic pain.  He looked up every hospital and Pain Center in America and finally stumbled upon the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota.   Two days later, we were in my car driving from Boulder, Colorado to Rochester Minnesota.  A few weeks later my life changed forever as I entered the Pain Rehab Center at the Mayo Clinic where I spent a month learning how to manage pain naturally.

The following year was tough as I spent that year solely focusing on my health and practicing everything I had learned at the Mayo Clinic.  I never thought about numbing my pain with anything and the thought of red wine made me want to vomit.  I have been using the tools I learned at the Mayo Clinic since I was twenty two years old.  After my year of focusing on my health I entered college in Denver, Colorado and got my degree in Social Work.  I loved learning about how to help people, especially people with an invisible illness.  I am thirty five now and it has not always been a smooth ride in my journey with chronic pain.  There have been bumps, curves, and some U Turns along the way but nothing can compare to my days and nights of numbing my chronic pain with alcohol.  My lifestyle is not conventional and I live a structured life that incorporates ways to manage pain with positive coping mechanisms.   If I can find a way to live a life with chronic pain without the need to numb the pain, anyone can.  One day you will believe me….maybe not today but one day.

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Managing Life’s Stress Along with Chronic Pain

“Just because they say action does not mean you have to do anything.”

Marlon Brando

This picture was taken just last week in the beautiful town of Lake George, NY.  My family and I went on a week long vacation that was so fun, peaceful, and unique it was difficult to drive back to reality this past Sunday.  My little mini me and I shed some tears as we drove away from our log cabin on the lake and onto the New Jersey Turnpike.  Vacations are always amazing but I find myself managing my chronic pain so much better when away from the every day hustle and bustle of real life.  When I pack for vacation, I make sure to include my “chronic pain management kit” which includes: yoga dvd’s, books, healthy food, CD’s for meditation, and my journal.  I am able to follow my routine for managing chronic pain naturally while on vacation and then some.   I am able to find endless, healthy distractions while away with the people I love.  It takes me a few days to adjust to the ‘real world’ once I return from a week away in what I call paradise.   I spend a week forgetting the stresses and issues I have at home and am able to surrender to the here and now for those seven blissful days.  We returned from our trip Sunday afternoon and the excitement of being home helped me forget my longing for that log cabin and pool.  I was busy unpacking, doing laundry, sorting through mail, and cleaning a home that had been alone for a week.  I went to bed tired and not feeling ready to wake up and face Monday in the non-vacation world.

Monday turned out to be a day from hell.  It started out just like any ordinary Monday: I exercised, got my daughter ready for the day, and left the house for errands and work.  I do not need to go into detail of what exactly transpired this past Monday but I now see how things really do happen all at once.   While I was at work,  I was anxiously waiting for a phone call that would either give me great news or not so great news.  I received the phone call around noon and it was not so great news. I was sad and shed a couple tears and got back to focusing on what I needed to be doing at that moment.  Five minutes later my phone rang again and it was a call from a close family member with really bad news that affects the people I love the most.  A couple hours later my phone rang one more time for even more difficult news.  I felt like I had to do something to fix the problems that I was faced with immediately.  Instead I called my dad and told him everything that had just happened and he shared the above quote with me: “Just because they say action does not mean you have to do anything.”  I realized that if I went into fight or flight mode than nothing good was going to happen and I was not only going to get myself into a huge mess, my little girl was going to be very upset and confused.

Logically I know that everything always works out but I struggle in the moments of bad news or life stressors.  I have two modes: catastrophic mode or fix the problem immediately at whatever cost mode.   Neither mode is constructive and both modes are very detrimental to my pain levels.  I forget how much stress/anxiety affects my chronic pain.  It does not matter how well I follow my routine for managing chronic pain when I am a crying, anxious mess.  I end up paying for my negative emotions physically once late afternoon/nighttime hits.  I exhaust myself to the point of extreme physical pain that I am no longer worrying about anything because I am only focused on pain.

People in my life forget that I have chronic pain which is not their fault.  I have had this invisible illness for twenty years.  Most of the people in my current life were not a part of my life when I was drowning in my fight against chronic pain.  They did not see the twenty one year old Jessica who spent her days in doctors offices and her nights drinking with her friends to the point of crying alone wishing she could either kill herself or chronic pain.  People in my life now see a person who states she has chronic pain but manages it naturally and has a good handle on her invisible illness.  I rarely if ever talk about pain as this is a very important tool for me in my management of chronic pain.  The more I talk about pain the more I think about pain.  The more I think about pain, the worse pain becomes.  A life with chronic pain can be very difficult even for myself at times.  I have come to a great point in my journey with pain but life stressors impact my pain levels more than I would like.

A lot of you are drowning in pain right now and feel that your pain will be forever and have no idea how you are going to make it through today much less the rest of your life.  You want to fix the pain right now, numb the pain right now, and you are either in catastrophic mode or need to fix this immediately mode.  My dad has always given me very sound, zen advice.  I urge you all to think about the quote that helped me these past few days: “Just because they say action does not mean you have to do anything.”

 

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Forced to Grow Up too Fast due to Chronic Pain

“Girls my age are all: I wish I was skinnier, I wish I was tan, I wish my hair was longer, I hate my teeth, I want a newer car.”  And I am over here like I wish I could walk down these stairs without wanting to scream!”

Recently a young reader reached out to me who is suffering from chronic pain.  When I began writing four years ago about my journey with this invisible illness I believed my target audience would be mothers with chronic pain and I would be receiving emails from women who are trying to balance a life with chronic pain while taking care of their children.  I am a mother with chronic pain managing it well and am able to help those out there who cannot seem to get a grasp on this indescribable, invisible pain.  However, over the years I have received more emails and been contacted by older teenagers and young adults more than anyone else.  I was thinking about this last night and realized my target audience are those young adults who in the wraths of pain.  This made perfect sense to me and I had an Oprah AHA moment.  The worst years of my life were during the ages of eighteen to twenty two.  I was at my breaking point with chronic pain and life in general.  I can still remember, all too well how much my invisible disease had destroyed every aspect and facet of the person I was prior to chronic pain taking over my life.  During my young twenties I reached my rock bottom and it was at this time that I was literally drowning in pain and honestly wishing I was no longer alive.  I was not living any kind of life and to say I was surviving is even a stretch.  Therefore it does make sense why I have helped or guided those who are at that young age because I understand their pain better than I understand the pain of anyone else.  The people like who I am writing this post for do not realize that their words help me in ways I never thought possible.  It astounds me how strong this person is and how he is in such a better place than I was at his young age of twenty.

He brought up a very important topic that I believe will capture the eyes and minds of many young people who are drowning in their own pain.  When I was around the age of twenty I hated everyone and everything in the world.  Worst of all, I hated myself.  I isolated myself from all my peers because no one understood what I was going through and I could not bear to hear their problems because although I looked okay on the outside, I was near death on the inside.  Hearing my friends talk about cramps or a recent breakup from a two week relationship made me angry.  Hearing the problems of my friends made me want to scream: “YOU HAVE NO IDEA HOW LUCKY YOU ARE!  I WISH I HAD PROBLEMS THAT ARE SO EASILY FIXED.  I MAY DIE BECASUE OF THE CONSTANT DAMN PAIN I AM IN EVERY SECOND OF EVERY DAY. I WISH FOR ONE DAY YOU COULD WALK IN MY SHOES AND YOU WOULD NEVER COMPLAIN OF SUCH FRUITLESS MATTERS AGAIN. AND MAYBE YOU WOULD UNDERSTAND ME BECAUSE NO ONE ELSE DOES!”  However, I never said these words to anyone.  I either retreated to my bed to cry or asked my friends to have drinks with me.  I knew alcohol would numb my physical pain and I could then bear to hear about their problems.

I am thirty five now and I feel younger than I did when I was twenty.  I never found a cure to my chronic pain but I did find a way through the pain.   I still have chronic pain but it does not consume my life as it once did.  I can now listen to my friends problems without resentment or anger.  No one understands a pain or a struggle unless that person has endured that certain pain or struggle.  Anger and resentment towards anyone or anything only intensifies our own struggles and our own pain.  We are only hurting ourselves.  However, I want to remind anyone who is reading this who knows a friend or loved one with chronic pain that your loved one is suffering.  He or she is not selfish and wishes more than anything that they could listen to your problems and be there for you.  However, they cannot do that.  If you know someone who is truly suffering from an invisible illness understand that although he or she looks okay on the outside, that person is literally fighting for their life and doing the best he or she can.

This post is dedicated to Ethan: Thank you for your questions and please know that you are (like all of you) so much stronger than you believe.

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Healing Through Time

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“Isn’t it funny how day by day nothing changes?  But when you look back everything is different?”

C.S. Lewis

The best day of my life was the day I brought this angel into our world:  February 2nd, 2012.  I am sure so many parents feel that way about the days they brought their children into this world however I never thought I would be able to physically or mentally be able to be a mother because of chronic pain.  For years I lived in constant fear that my invisible illness had stolen all of my dreams and desires.  I battled my chronic pain demons to the point of self destruction.  During my darkest hours of pain I dropped out of college and gave up on any life I had hope for.  I began to mourn the loss of the Jessica I believed was gone.  I mourned all the losses I thought had been ripped out of my heart without any reason except incurable, non stop, excruciating physical pain.  Yes, I had dreams to do well in college and become a teacher or a counselor.  I had dreams of becoming a writer and sharing my stories.  However, my biggest dream in the world was to be a mother.  The thought that chronic pain had stolen any chance of my biggest dream coming true was too much to bear and I did hit my rock bottom in my relentless battle with chronic pain.

Fast forward a couple years to when I first heard the words: chronic pain and acceptance and I was taught how to manage my invisible illness naturally and my dreams slowly began to come to fruition.  Despite chronic pain I graduated college and received my degree in social work.  I spent many amazing, unforgettable years practicing social work in the medical field.  I was healthy.  Chronic pain was no longer controlling my life and I was finally in charge.  I was no longer battling my invisible illness or allowing the illness to take away my dreams.  My biggest dream came true when this little girl entered my life and I became my favorite word in the world: mother.

I keep a one liner journal that I have shared with my readers at times and will continue to do so when special days arise.  Each day I write one to three lines of what stood out most for me that specific day whether the day was difficult or amazing I write it down.  I never thought that taking a few minutes a day to write down three sentences would alter my view on my life to the point it has.  For ten years chronic pain controlled every moment of every day of my life and honestly came close to taking my life.  I lived in catastrophic mode realizing like in the movie: “Groundhogs Day” I would wake up every day and be in a state of pain with no relief and no cure.  Despite having control over my invisible illness I still have difficult moments and at times a whole day with pain and have a difficult time distracting myself from my physical struggle.  I am also human and chronic pain is not the only difficult thing that has happened in my life and I will continue to face the challenges life brings us all.  I am able to look back on my one liner journal every day and see just how much can change in a day…a week…a year.  This journal reminds me that no matter what, I can never give up and that all my hopes and dreams will come true no matter what my current situation or current mood is.  I want to share with you my journal one-liner entries are for February 2nd.

February 2nd

2011: I had a D & C/miscarriage.  We lost the baby boy that was inside of me.  I cannot get off the couch and just don’t want to be alive.  I have worked so hard to get to where I am and had my dream inside me and the doctor ripped it out of me.  I’ll never be the same.

2012:  Our daughter, Kayci was born!   I am a MOMMY!  Kayci was born at 7:41pm.  The same doctor that did my D &C last year delivered my daughter!  Six pushes!  I have never been so happy.  This was the greatest moment of my life.

2013: Kayci turns one!  Birthday party of the century!  My mom was amazing and got a pony to come to our house 🙂 She did so much to help celebrate my angel’s first year and sadly missed the party because she was in the hospital.

2014: Kayci turns two!!! Had an amazing birthday with our family and loved ones.  I had two glasses of wine and was literally hungover from just that.  What happened to me?  When chronic pain was terrible two glasses of wine would have been like juice!  I am such a different person!  Exercised and did yoga nidra to feel healthy again!

2015: Although it has been a difficult few months I refused to allow my recent struggle to ruin Kayci’s third birthday!  Decorated house to surprise her and spent quality time with my now three year old.

2016:  Kayci awoke at 4:45 am because she was so excited to turn four!  She loved finding the small gifts hid around our home.  I took her to Build a Bear to start a birthday tradition.  I was in tears of happiness watching her joy as she built her own bear.  She is the best kid ever!

2017: I cannot believe Kayci is five!  It is bittersweet for me, where is the time going?  Decorated house and exercised with my now five year old.  I took Kayci to Build a Bear to keep the tradition going.  She did not remember last year so it was all new to her again.  I had tears of happiness again.  We had pizza and cake at home and she was so happy she refused to go to sleep.

I share this with you because everything does change and although you may feel hopeless with your personal invisible illness or crisis at the moment you must remember that everything does get better with time.  I have things in my life that I wish were happening now and I have multiple struggles in my life that I wish were better this second.  However, I know all my dreams and desires will come true especially when I see days like the one above.  I cannot lose faith or hope and neither can any of you. You may feel sad, hopeless and defeated today but you truly do not know what is in store with you and this time next year everything may be totally different.  I will not give up hope and neither should any of you!

 

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Letting Go of What We Cannot Control

“Anything you can’t control is teaching you how to let go.”

Jackson Kiddard

As I was practicing yoga this morning two words stuck with me that I knew I wanted to grow from: flexibility and the art of allowing.  Many people believe that doing yoga is an exercise to tone the body into better health and better flexibility of the muscles and tissues that make up our individual bodies.  However, that is just a small portion of what the art of yoga really is.  Yes, yoga has helped tone my body and has become a great form of exercise, it has also helped me become more flexible physically.  Yoga is also teaching me how to become more flexible in places that are far more important than the outside of my body: my heart and mind.  I will be very honest.  I am not a very flexible person.  There is a very sound reason as to why I am not flexible: chronic pain.  I manage chronic pain naturally and have a routine I follow each day in order to manage pain without pain managing me.  I spent a decade of my life with chronic pain consuming my entire life.  I lived, breathed, and felt pain inside and out for every single day of what could have been the best years of my life: my teen years and my early twenties.  I was in doctor’s offices or getting operations while my friends were on their phones planning what to do for the weekend.  I probably spent as many hours in waiting rooms as I did college classes.  My life could have been defined as: “hurry up and wait for a cure.”  After coming close to just ending my entire life I found what saved me and that was the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota where I learned how to manage pain naturally.  I have a routine I follow daily that helps me in so many ways manage my pain without a cure or medications.  I am living as opposed to barely surviving.  I had to let go of the idea that I would find a cure and surrender to the fact that I could live a happy, healthy life despite pain.  I have had to give up a lot in order to manage pain how I choose but I had nothing when I was looking for a cure so the benefits outweigh the negatives one thousand percent.

However, there are ways I am learning to be more flexible.  I am a mother and one huge lesson motherhood will teach you is how to be flexible.  Our family went away this past weekend to Atlantic City, NJ for a long snowed in weekend.  Yes, I packed yoga DVD’s and some healthy snacks.  However, I had to be flexible.  I stayed up much later than usual and ate things I would not normally eat.  My schedule was totally thrown off but I was having so much fun swimming and just chilling out in pajamas in our hotel room that I really did not think about pain despite not following my usual management of chronic pain.  I surrendered to just letting go and having fun making memories with the people I love.  I was able to get back on my schedule yesterday and I must say what I do does work.  With that said, there are ways I need to be more flexible in my mind and heart which will allow me to be more flexible in my life.  Our thoughts create our reality and I would like my thoughts to be more flexible.  Our mind is like a huge muscle and we can work out our biceps and triceps as much as we want but if we do not focus on what is inside our minds and hearts we will never be truly happy.  I am working on being more flexible and allowing the dreams I have to come into my world without forcing them.  One can work towards a dream or goal without it taking control over their entire existence.  Everything I have gone through in my thirty five years has been teaching me how to be flexible: body mind and spirit and how to allow things to happen while working towards what you most desire.

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Break Out of Your Prison of Pain

 

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“One of the marvels of the world is seeing the sight of a soul sitting in a prison with the key in his hand.”

Rumi

I am tired of being afraid.  I am tired of living inside my box of fear when I do hold the key to my personal happiness.  For fifteen years I spent my life being afraid of physical pain and as many of you know the fear of pain is worse than the pain itself.  At times I am still filled with fear of pain but it no longer controls my life.  However, I am way too often stuck in my own box of fear that I forget to breathe and be calm and happy.  2016 was not an easy year for me.  However, I did learn a lot about myself and know the exact things I personally want to change in order for me to live the happiest life I can in the new year.

I am tired of being afraid of the past, the present and most of all the future.  I want to break free of this box of fear and live my life to the fullest.  I am tired of being fearful to express my feelings, emotions, and thoughts because of what someone will think or say.  No one has control over my happiness, my choices, or my life except myself.  I hold the key and I do find myself in my own tiny prison with that exact key in my hand too often.  I believe we all do in some way, shape or form.  What are you afraid of?  What prison are you living in that you want to break out of?

The prison I find myself in at times is very difficult to escape from as all of our personal prisons are.  We live in a world of fear but we can break free of our personal fears.  How?  I’m working on that.  I’m working on myself and I want to be the best version of me that I can be.  Happiness is an inside job that no person, place, or object can bring you.  Our thoughts determine our lives and I am sad to admit that many of my personal thoughts are derived from fear.  I am not taking away the credit I deserve and all of you deserve for the invisible battles we have each been given and fight every day.  We are all doing the best we can but maybe at times we are trying too hard.  I am extremely tired of overthinking every little thing.  Deep down I know that my fears are worse that what I am actually afraid of.  My fear of anxiety is worse than my anxiety itself just as my old fears of pain were worse than the pain itself.

I do not expect to be happy all the time nor do I expect everything to turn out exactly how I want and/or plan.  However, I do know that being afraid of things not working out how I dream or desire is not going to change the outcome.  I cognitively know all of these things but I am now ready to truly work on these thoughts that cause me added pain and anxiety.  I believe that fear is holding me back from my deepest dreams and desires and as I said in my first sentence: I am tired of being afraid.

How can you break free of your personal prison in this upcoming year.  Break out of your prison for you not for anyone else.  We are never too old to stop learning or growing.   I know many of you feel stuck.  Most of you feel stuck due to pain and I understand that feeling more than anyone.  What would your life look like if you stopped being afraid?  I do not have all the answers but I will be sharing with all of you what works in my new year and what does not work.  I truly want to find my personal peace and happiness without the constant ups and downs that come with life, chronic pain, and anxiety.  I know I can do it.  I know we all can.  You hold your key to your life.  Only you know how to open the lock.

 

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A New Year: Be Present

“Healing comes from gathering wisdom from past actions and letting go of the pain that the education taught you.”

Carolyn Myss

I have heard from multitudes of people that the year 2016 has been if not difficult, disastrous.  As I heal and enter into my next phase of working to bring another angel into this world, I realize that for me the year 2016 has come with many ups and many downs.  I have had some of the greatest moments in my life and honestly some of my worst.  I am truly trying to find the lessons that both the difficult times and amazing times have taught me.  With that said, I am going to share with you my New Year’s Resolutions.  I will also write down my very personal News Years resolutions that I do not want to share with the entire world, yes there are some things I do keep to myself and my close friends and loved ones.   However, I do want to share some of  my resolutions for all my readers to read in the hopes that some of you can relate to certain changes.  I know it is not yet Christmas but I feel that we can and should write down and think about resolutions many more times than just on a drunk filled holiday we call New Years.  So, here is what I have been thinking about regarding change, lessons, and things I would like to work on today and tomorrow and for my upcoming year as well.

  1. I am what one would call an over thinker, a worry wart, and a person who logically knows things work out but find it very difficult to turn my brain to belief instead of worry.  I do not know what came first: anxiety or chronic pain.  I believe I have had anxiety since I was a very small person and following my bike accident and subsequent chronic pain this anxiety only intensified.  Anxiety and chronic pain can become a vicious cycle.  Anxiety increases pain and pain increases anxiety.  I am going to truly work on changing my thoughts.  Once I begin thinking something that worries to me to no end such as the troubles we have faced having another child, I go into catastrophic mode and start thinking months, years into the future wondering what will happen, when it will happen, how it will happen, and then the what if’s come in which are much more daunting than the what’s.  What if’s are two words that I am cognitively going to start deleting from my conscious mind and my vocabulary.  I need to keep remembering and plan to write this down where I can see it every day this: “Everything I have ever dreamed of happening but have been caught in fear that it will not happen always ends up happening just not how I planned.”  I am going to practice following my dreams but not forcing my dreams.  I need to allow things to come into my life with open arms instead of worrying that my dreams will not come to fruition.  Like the saying goes: worrying is like paying interest on a debt you will probably never owe.
  2. Comparison is so called the thief of joy and I find myself comparing myself and my life with other’s which is not only illogical but causes me sadness.  As far as I have come in my journey with chronic pain, I still find myself almost annoyed when I see someone in acute pain (pain that will only lasts hours or at most days.)  People with chronic pain would be thrilled to have acute pain however, my reality is chronic pain and comparing myself to other people’s lives steals my inner peace and joy.  I should be applauding myself for how far I have come and what I great life I have despite my invisible illness.  There are many other things I find myself wishing I had instead of being grateful for what I have in this space and time.  Social media has a huge influence on societies personal views on their own lives.  As people look on sites such as Facebook and Instagram they only see the happy moments in a person’s life.  No one posts pictures of the hard times and the sad/difficult moments in their daily lives only the great ones, myself included.  We need to remember this if we are on social media sites.  Many of us would be better off taking time away from the internet if it is bringing sadness and/or distraught feelings.  If something does not make you happy, do not look at it.  We all need to stop comparing our lives to other’s lives whom we think have it all because I promise you if you lived in their shoes for a week you would probably miss your own life a lot.
  3. I have started practicing yoga more and have lessened the amount of cardio I do for both chronic pain and anxiety.  For about two weeks now I have practiced a solid hour yoga session each morning and see how much yoga truly touches body, mind, and spirit.  It is not only the poses and exercises I love, it is the words coming from the instructors voice.  I learn a lot of lessons both consciously and sub-consciously as I move through each pose. I love exercise as a result of chronic pain.  It truly helps me a ton and I love cardio more than any other form of exercise.  However, I am trying to work on my inner self more than my outer self.  I never imagined yoga would teach me so much.  I truly believe our school systems should incorporate some sort of yoga into our student’s daily life.
  4. I need to chill out.  I become so consumed with fear of the future and thoughts from my past that I forget to live in the present moment.  I used to tell my patients: “Yesterday is history, tomorrow a mystery, today is a gift and that is why it is called the present.” It is so easy to say aloud or even write down: live more presently but it is one of the most difficult things to do.  For example, when you are taking a shower in the morning are you thinking about how great your hair smells in the wraths of shampoo or are you thinking about what you have to do next?  We are rarely fully present and we miss out on so much of life’s blessings and joys because we are always thinking forward.  I have found that if I focus on my breath and calm myself down when I start getting anxious about the future (even if the future thought is ten minutes ahead of me) I can bring myself back to the present time.  My dad asked me for Christmas what I wanted and the one thing that stuck out was a very awesome day planner.  Right now I have like four different ones I use instead of just one go to planner.  I find that if I write down exactly what needs to be done each day I can let go of the thoughts of the future because they are already written down.
  5. Finally I need to tap into my faith.  I need to surrender my dreams to the Universe and allow what is going to come into my life to come without worry or grief.  I need to believe, surrender, and let go.  What if we spend all this time worrying and planning our future when the Universe already has it mapped out for us?  If that is the case then we are all carrying around fifty pound weights for no reason.  I plan to truly take one day at a time and some days will be difficult and some days will be amazing but there is some joy in every day.  One of the last presents I gave my Grandmother before she passed was a magnet that says: “We do not remember days, we remember moments.”  I think in this coming year we all need to cultivate more faith into our lives and let go and be lead towards our divine plan.

 

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Feeling Buried Alive: Chronic Pain

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I remember when I was a young girl talking with friends about the worst possible way to die and each of us had a different scary scenario for death.  I have no idea why we talked about such things although the conversations were probably correlated to the scary movies we watched in the Eighties and Nineties such as: “Childs Play” and “Sleeping With the Enemy.”  We were a generation drawn to scary movies.  My biggest fear was being buried alive: that was always my answer if this random/crazy conversation came up.  I must have seen a movie or show about someone being buried alive because ever since then I have had some form of Claustrophobia.  My younger brother and I used to wrestle as children and I literally would scream bloody murder if he (who was stronger despite our age difference) pinned me down for too long.  I felt as if I was suffocating and worse trapped with no control.  Fast forward many years and I found myself living in MRI machines because of my bike accident and subsequent chronic pain.  It came to a point that I truly could not bear another MRI because I hated feeling trapped in the machine and literally had panic attacks that if any of my doctor’s needed an MRI, I was given some sort of sedative to relax me.  They never worked.  My worst case scenario of how I would die was coming true despite me surviving my accident: I felt buried alive in more ways than one.

I was around the age of fourteen when I began my search for a cure to chronic pain.  With each day, month, and year I found myself sinking deeper and deeper into the ground.  Maybe that is where the term ‘rock bottom’ comes from however I found myself under a pile of rocks that caused me to actually want to die because I could not bear another day in my battle with chronic pain and worse searching for a non-existent cure.  I was not living and every moment of every day felt as if I was trapped inside my own body: a body of pain.  I am thirty-five now, managing pain naturally, and living a life of joy and gratitude as opposed to a life of pain.  With that said, I still have moments where I freeze in fear and pain.  I feel as if I am back in that MRI machine: gasping for air, unable to breathe, unable to move, trapped.  These moments happen either as I am trying to fall asleep or when I first awake.  Either way, the moments always happen when I am in bed.  I can manage the mornings when this happens much more easily  than I am able to do at night time.  If I wake up with this feeling of fear and being literally stuck, I can will myself out of bed and exercise.  People think I am crazy because I awake so early and exercise before the sun is up at times but this is what works for me.  Exercise is truly one of my biggest tools for managing pain without pain managing me.

However, nighttime is different.  Most nights I am way too tired to focus on pain or the random fears that enter my mind causing me to sweat, breathe heavily, have heart palpitations, and eventually make myself get up and just walk around the house.  Then I get in bed and try to sleep again and I am back in that MRI machine: STUCK.  This happens rarely but there are those nights where I cannot even find enough gumption to read or watch something meaningless on television.  Pain, fear, and the emotions that come with this invisible illness take over my mind and body.  I do not have restless leg syndrome but know what it feels like because when nights like this happen to me, I cannot stop moving and yet I feel trapped inside myself.  It is literally hell on earth.  I cannot believe I lived in this state of pain and panic for over a decade.  And people wonder why the number one reason a person with chronic pain dies is by suicide.  I made it.  That is what gets me through theses horrific nights: knowing that the feelings I am feeling will be gone but they are torture nonetheless.

If you ask my daughter why people are mean, she will respond with this: “Because they are sad inside.”  Never judge a person by how they look on the outside or how they treat you.  People will love you and people will hate you and none of it will have anything to do with you. Chronic pain is usually invisible and I try to remember when someone is rude to me or does not like me that they too could be fighting a battle I know nothing about.

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Guilt and Chronic Pain

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“You are not obligated to do everything a healthy person does.  You are not obligated to be an inspiration. You are not obligated to hide your illness to make other’s comfortable.  You are allowed to know your limits.  You are allowed to have bad days.  It is not your fault if other people leave you because of your illness.  It is not your fault that you have an invisible illness.  You do not have to apologize for something that is out of your control.”

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I never truly acknowledged the amount of pressure and guilt I put on myself until my daughter, who is now four was born.  I have always been a perfectionist but I never want to fail as a mother in any way, shape or form.  However, I believe my quest to be the perfect mom at times causes my anxiety levels and stress levels to go up which in turn increases my pain levels or at least I notice my chronic pain more.  There are things I did not have as a child that I want my children to have, but deep down I take this motherhood thing to a whole new level.  I love my daughter more than anything in this world and as most parents know it is a love that is unlike any other love in the world.  The love I have for my daughter scares me at times.  I wonder am I doing this or that right, analyze her actions as ‘age appropriate’ or dare I use the term: ‘normal.’  I never want her to be sad, feel abandoned or have a bad day.  The pressure I put on myself to make my daughter happy can at times be unhealthy for both of us.  That realization and throwing that sentence out into the world is not easy for me to do.  I am very much like other mothers I know and am friends with but I believe some of my childhood and my journey with chronic pain has shaped me into a mother who worries way too much about how her daughter is doing/feeling/acting and not enough time focusing on how I am doing/feeling/acting.   Cognitively I know and most of us realize this: the happier and less stressed/healthier I am, the happier my daughter will be no matter what we are doing.

I had an appointment for a physical scheduled for this gloomy Monday morning and I truly hate going to the doctor’s office because it reminds me of my ten year search to find a cure to chronic pain, during which I LIVED in the offices of every doctor imaginable but what I now dislike more is the guilt I put on myself because my four year old comes with me.  I almost cancelled (in hindsight I wish I had) because I did not want to drag her to a doctor’s office even though it is harder on my than her: thoughts truly do create our reality.  I packed snacks, games, books, magazines, colored pencils: the works just in case the wait was long which it ended up being: way too long of a wait for that matter.  After an hour and a half in the waiting room, I honestly could not take waiting any longer and Kayci had been patient up until we passed the sixty minute mark.  I told the front desk I would have to re-schedule and decided to go to a different office as I got very bad energy from the office and honestly the receptionists were very rude.  I have learned to follow my intuition and for some obvious and not so obvious reasons this is not a doctor’s office I ever want to go to again much less bring my four year old to.  The guilt kept getting worse as the clock ticked by and the loud TV screamed out medical advice.  By the time I finally made a choice to leave, I could feel my chronic pain mounting which I am usually able to put on the back burner.  It actually felt as if I had gone there for chronic pain and I have not seen any doctor for pain for years.  I think that is where my guilt stems from and that is absolutely ridiculous.

I did search for a cure for over a decade.  I did drop out of college for two years because my quest to cure my chronic pain took over my entire being.  I do feel that I lost ten years of my life but that is why I decided to learn how to manage chronic pain naturally.  With that choice, I must go easier on myself especially when it comes to parenting.   I am so far from perfect and have made many mistakes in my life but I know one thing and that is that I am a great mom.  If there was such a thing as a perfect mom, we would be living the life of Stepford Wives and I am sure half of their children are rebelling somewhere in the world.  I want to let go of the guilt.  I want us all to let go of any guilt we feel due to our invisible illness whether that be chronic pain or not.  I did not ask to fall off of my bike and have brain surgery.  I did not ask to live a life with chronic pain.  Neither did any of you.  I am exhausted from being so hard on myself and living in the world of apologies.  How many times a day do you find yourself saying: “I’m sorry.”  We are a generation (especially females) of guilt, feeling as if we are not enough, and saying the two words: “I’m sorry” at least ten times a day.   We are doing the best we can.  Are other people putting pressure on us or are we doing it to ourselves?  We can blame society, our friends, our family but in the end we need to stand up for ourselves and take care of our health and happiness because we are our biggest enemy which is such a shame.  Life is too damn short to live one more second in the realm of guilt.  It is odd, I know my readers are doing the best they can with their invisible illness and I am sure you feel the same about me.  Why do we credit others so much and forget the person that matters more than anyone in our lives: OURSEVLES.

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