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Your Cracks and Scars are What Heal You

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“It’s easy to look at people and make quick judgements about them, their present and their past but you would be amazed at the pain and tears a single smile hides.  What a person shows to the world is only one tiny facet of the iceberg hidden from sight.  And more often than not, its lined with cracks and scars that go all the way to the soul.”

Unknown

I am a person filled with cracks and scars that do go all the way to my soul.  For a good part of my life I allowed these cracks and scars to harden me and become a person I did not love or even enjoy being around.  Self hate is truly the most powerful hate there is because it can cause a person to act out in hate towards others when really the only person he or she is unhappy with is themselves and/or their life circumstances.  I am still filled with cracks and scars that are not visible to the outside world however I no longer hate myself.  I can be excruciatingly hard on myself and perfectionism can get the best of me but I do not hate who I am.  I am filled with more self love now than I have had in all my thirty five years on the planet.  I no longer look at my cracks and scars as my enemy but as the building blocks that are creating my present and future.  Life is ten percent of what happens to us and ninety percent of how we respond to it.

This year has been jam packed with ups and downs.  I have had the highest highs and the lowest lows.  I have had miracles arise and devastations arise.  Ten years ago I would pity myself without welcoming pity from others.  I would have allowed the bad things that have occurred to define my identity.  Now, I try and find the silver lining.  I try and find the lesson behind each great thing that happens and each difficult thing that happens.  There are many things that have happened to me to bring me to the place within myself where I reside now: chronic pain, losses, mistakes, and my daughter Kayci.  I have faith in myself and my future because of my cracks and scars.  Look at that little four year old girl above who is just about to see Santa Clause and is literally holding in her built up excitement.  I am the lucky person that she calls Mommy.  She believes in magic and she helps me believe in magic because in my eyes she is magic herself.  One of my biggest losses happened in 2010 when I lost our son at about nine weeks gestational age.  Had that little angel not left us, I would not know or have this miracle daughter.

I had my bike accident in my young teens and have had chronic pain since.  For so many years all I thought about was how to get rid of my pain.  I not only thought about it but pain consumed my life, the life of my family, and a multitude of doctors and specialists who could not for the life of them find a cure to my invisible illness.  A day did not go by in which I did not think about a life without pain.  I am thirty five now and still have chronic pain and had you told me fifteen years ago I would be living with chronic pain naturally and having a fulfilled life despite pain, I would have either laughed in your face or cried in your face.  But, here I am living a life where pain does not dictate my life.  I have written and said this many times but it is just so relevant and true to all our stories: “If there is something that you do not go a day without thinking about or wishing for than you will find a way to achieve whatever it is you wish for.”  I never found a cure to chronic pain but my life took me on a different path where I learned to live with it and be happy despite pain.  In many ways my wish that I did not go one single hour without thinking about did come true just not in the way I had expected it to.  As you all know, I do not go a day without thinking about having another child and extending our family. Clearly it is not happening how I had wished and hoped for it to happen but it will happen because if nothing else chronic pain taught me that you never give up on something you do not go a day without thinking about.   In the meantime I am going to do everything in my personal power to bring me closer to my dream while still enjoying and being grateful for what I do have in this time and place.

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Self Reflection and Chronic Pain

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“If you suffer it is because of you.  If you are blissful it is because of you.  No one else is responsible, only you and you alone.  You are your own hell and your own heaven too.”

Osho

I have had a few days where I have had to leave my comfort zone and just relax and rest.  If you know me, I am not a fan of resting and being still for too long.  I am the definition of an over thinker and having an invisible illness such as chronic pain has only intensified my roller coaster of thoughts.  After ten years of searching for a cure to chronic pain and finally finding a way to manage pain and live a life that makes me happy, it is very difficult for me to step away from the routine I am so accustomed to.  My day usually begins around five in the morning with stretches and exercise.  Of all the tools I use to manage chronic pain, exercise is definitely one of my favorites and most useful.  It helps with my chronic pain and my subsequent anxiety.  I stay busy throughout the day which is quite easy to do with a four year old daughter, work, and running a home that I am proud of.  My other favorite tool for managing chronic pain naturally is the utilization of distractions.  I train my brain to not think about pain and am usually quite successful in this exercise.  However, for the past few days I have been forced to rest in bed which on one hand has been very difficult.  I want to play with my daughter, run my errands, make dinner, and finish the damn laundry that has been sitting in the laundry room for two days.  I do not enjoy being vulnerable and relying on other people to help me and do things for me.  I begin to feel guilty, frustrated, and the little control freak buried inside me comes out in the silliest ways one can imagine.  For instance, I find it difficult to walk into my daughter’s playroom because I know it is not organized the ‘Jessica’ way.

On the other hand, the past few days have been a great lesson for me.  I have had to let things go and find distractions that have nothing to do with exercise and/or activity.  I have caught up on my favorite television shows, books, and even went back to my gratitude journal and began doing the exercises that are found in the book.  The book is entitled: “Simple Abundance” by Sarah Ban Breathnach.  I have read the book but have never attempted to truly do the workbook that accompanies this very inspiring book.  The first three assignments were quite simple for me.  I was asked to write down fifty things I am grateful for: things from having food in the fridge to being blessed with a beautiful, happy daughter.  The second was to write down the five things I want in my life more than anything.  Number one on my list was to have more children: no brainer there.  The third exercise was to write down the things that I wanted to work on within myself to find more inner joy.  Ironically, this was the easiest exercise the workbook asked of me.  I wrote down so many things that I ran out of room  the page allotted  me.  Sadly, the fourth exercise was much more difficult than I thought it would be.  The exercise asked me to write down five things or more that I loved about myself: my gifts.  I came up with two right away: empathetic and funny.  I even felt a little guilty writing down funny.  It took me longer to find five things I am sincerely proud of about myself then it did to find fifty things I was grateful for.  No one else needs to read my simple abundance workbook so why was I so hesitant to write exactly how I do feel about myself?  Yes, there are things I want to work on and am working on but there are more than two things about myself I am proud of.  However, I felt some sense of ridiculous guilt putting them down on paper.  I learned that I need to own the things I feel good about regarding myself and my life.  I have worked hard to get where I am especially with chronic pain.  I have a lot to be proud of and should not feel ashamed for feeling good about those things in my life.  I focus more on the things I need to work on than the goals I have already achieved.

I believe this to be true: no matter where we are in our journey with chronic pain or life in general, we should be more focused on our gifts than our downfalls.  The more we focus on the good in ourselves, the easier it will be to work on the things we know need some help.  None of us are perfect and chronic pain makes life incredibly difficult at times but we all have special gifts that we need to start putting more focus on.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Empathy and Chronic Pain

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“I love when people that have been through hell walk out of the flames carrying buckets of water still consumed by the fire.”

-Stephanie Sparkles

There is a huge misconception that people with chronic pain want, thrive even off of pity.  Many believe those with chronic pain want to be coddled and treated somewhat like a baby.  I have had many people say to me: “Oh my, so young to be diagnosed with such a disease. I feel so badly for you.  Why did you have to fall off of that bike at such a young age.  Its such a sin.”  I know logically that people’s hearts are in the right places and they truly feel for me and others who have an invisible illness.  However, I never wanted pity from anyone even when I was at my lowest point with chronic pain.  I definitely do not want any pity now at a time in my life when I have been managing chronic pain so well for such a long time and have tried as hard as I possibly can to find the good in my accident and life with chronic pain.

The Oxford Dictionary defines pity as: the feeling of sorrow and compassion caused by the suffering and misfortunes of others.  I do not want people to view me as a suffering thirty five year old who has had the terrible misfortune of falling off of her bike at a young age leading her to a life to chronic pain.  However, I do want encouragement and at times empathy.  The terms pity and empathy are not alike whatsoever.  The Oxford Dictionary defines empathy as: the ability to understand and share the feelings of another.  People always ask me what helped me the most in my journey with chronic pain.  I learned so much at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota.  I learned from doctors, physical therapists, nutritionists, etc. on how to manage pain naturally and not allow pain to take over my existence.  I learned that I could live the life of my dreams despite not finding a cure to chronic pain.  However, the best part of the program was the empathy I received from the people who were also in the program.   I became friends with people of all ages, races, genders, from all over the country.  On the surface most of us looked like your average American but we had one HUGE thing in common: we all had a form of chronic pain and for most of us our pain was not visible.  For ten years no one understood how I felt inside as pain after a long time becomes not just physical but emotional as well.  I was one hundred percent alone for a third of my life.  I was a turtle who only came out of her shell when she was desperate enough to spend time with people just as not to be alone in her pain for a few minutes or hours. The Pain Rehab Center at the Mayo Clinic allowed me to come out of my very hard, broken shell for weeks.  I was no longer alone.  I was understood and able to share my feelings/emotions with others who did not pity me but empowered me to keep going despite chronic pain.

There are challenges I face now and I do not share them with many people because the last thing in the world I ever want again is pity from friends and family no matter what my difficulties may be.  I want to be encouraged and empowered.  Pity does nothing but make another person feel worse than he or she already feels.  I love knowing people believe in me and believe in my dreams.  I do not want to hear: “I am sorry you are going through this or that.”  I want to hear: “Jessica, you are so strong.  You got this.  I have every ounce of faith in you and I am here if you need anything.”  You do not always have to be in someone’s shoes to express empathy or encouragement.  The greatest thing you can say to a loved one with chronic pain is: “I have no idea how you deal with this invisible illness every day.  You are so strong and I am so proud of you.  I am always here for you.  I believe you, you are never alone.”

A quote always sticks in my head when I write about empathy and I will close this article with this: “I do not want you to save me.  I want you to stand by me as I save myself.”

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All Pain is REAL

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My family and I watched the movie last night entitled: “Alexander and the Terrible Horrible No Good Very Bad Day” starring Steve Carrel.  The movie is based on my favorite children’s book and I was extremely impressed by how funny, witty, and thought provoking the movie turned out to be.  I honestly cannot wait to watch it again.  I had a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad week for the most part and the reason was due to pain, however it was not due to chronic pain.  That sentence may only make sense to those who also suffer from chronic pain.

One of my main tools for managing pain naturally is not talking about it.  However, for this post I must point out where exactly my chronic pain is located.  Because of my bike accident and subsequent brain surgery my pain is located in my face, head and neck.  I had many surgeries to “cure” my chronic pain before I began managing it naturally which only made my chronic pain that much worse.  However, this week I had my first real back ache.  Of course, I have had back issues since my accident but not chronically.  The worst of my chronic pain has always been in my face and head.  For over ten years, while I was searching for a cure to my chronic pain I took many medications, was at the doctor’s at least twice a week, and lived my life on the search for a cure for my invisible illness.  I never slept because the pain was too intense and over the years as each doctor, medication, and surgery did not relieve my pain I became depressed, agitated, angry, and began to isolate myself because I could not deal with being around anyone, even my family because pain had totally took over my entire existence.  Jessica and Pain were one of the same.

When I did hit my rock bottom and truly was at my worst: living in Boulder Colorado, not going to school, seeing doctors constantly, drinking all the time with friends, and crying day in and day out I finally went to the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota.  I unwillingly entered a program called the Pain Rehab Center where I learned how to manage pain naturally.  To this day I utilize the tools I learned there and have found a fulfilling life despite pain.  When I first entered the program I was pissed, and more depressed than ever.  No one looked sick.  Then again I did not look sick either but at the time I was so focused on my pain I could not imagine anyone else feeling as terrible as I did.   At that point I thought my pain had to be visible because it was all I could see.   There were about twenty people in my group and all had chronic pain but no one was talking about their pain.  Some people were laughing, walking around, reading, playing board games, emailing friends as I sat there thinking: “This is crap.  I could never be able to read or email a friend because my pain is way too much to bear.  It is hard enough to sit in a chair much less laugh with people I do not know.”  I wanted to quit.  My dad being my voice of reason urged me to stay in Minnesota and give the program a chance.  A few days in I began to hear people’s stories.  Turns out everyone did have chronic pain but no one had had brain surgery or pain in their face and head.  Some people had chronic back pain, fibromyalgia, phantom leg pain, migraines, etc.  I always thought having any kind of chronic pain other than my own would be better.  Having chronic pain throughout my face and head was and can still be torture.  I thought back then if I had back pain or phantom pain I could at least read or do this or that.  I learned this week how wrong my thoughts back then were/are.

I am not sure why I have had a back ache this past week.  I came down with a stomach virus just yesterday as well so maybe they are correlated but I really do not care why my back hurts.  I learned a long time ago that trying to figure out why something hurts will only bring more attention to the pain.  This is not always a good thing and as a disclaimer I would like to say that it is always important to not ignore pain or any ailment for too long as there are times something could be seriously wrong.  However, I knew nothing was life threatening and I was just coming down with something and/or had over worked my muscles through exercise or just not taking enough breaks.  However, severe back pain is awful!!!!  I had insomnia for over three nights.  As I was laying in bed those nights that turned into mornings I remembered all those in the Pain Rehab Center with me.  I was a hypocrite at the time.  Pain is pain.  Chronic pain is chronic pain: visible or invisible.  Now I know what severe back pain feels like and it is just as bad as my chronic pain is: just in a different area of my body.  I am thankful to not have chronic back pain and as it is slowly going away I am grateful.   All of us who have chronic pain have critics within our life and those who are not in our life.  Many people do not believe our pain.  There is a huge stigma related to invisible illnesses.  I have been writing for over three years in hopes to help those with chronic pain and all invisible illnesses for that matter.  We need to stick together.  Does it matter where our pain is?  Chronic pain is an invisible illness that affects our lives in more ways that I can count.  Why even ask another where someone’s pain is located?  I learned this week after days of severe back pain that that pain was no different than when I was in the wraths of hell with my chronic pain which is located in my face, head, and neck.  There is enough judgement surrounding chronic pain.  Let us never judge one another who understand chronic pain.  Pain is pain and we need to be a support system not a group of individuals trying to figure out whose pain is worse than someone else’s.  Do not forget the three most important words to say to one with any invisible illness: I BELIEVE YOU.

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Broken: Chronic Pain

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PERFECTLY BROKEN

“I hide so much.  I push it all the way down and cover it up.  I try to convince myself that I am not sick, that I am not fighting to live.  But it is a lie.  And although I’m surrounded by many, I feel alone.  I do it to myself.  I don’t want to let others in because they become a part of the disease.  It affects them.  I don’t want anyone else to feel this pain.  I’m worn.  I’m scared.   And right now,  I’m broken.  Completely and perfectly broken.”

Unknown

Until I began writing about my journey with chronic pain many people did not  know I was fighting an ivisible illness for over twenty years.   I was basically living a lie because I did not want people to know how I really felt inside.  Every day was a battle: me against pain and for over ten years pain won every second of every day.  My chronic pain began after my bike accident, during my adolescent years when I was unsure of myself to begin with.  I wanted to fit in with my peers and have friends and be like ‘everyone else.’  I was going through puberty while fighting a pain I had no control over.  I was broken inside but on the outside I could bury my pain down deep enough to show a smile and keep my chronic pain a secret to as many people as possible.   Some days I would miss school because of doctor’s appointments and/or various procedures and I lied to people as to why I missed school.  I felt as if I was going crazy.  It was not until the year 2001 that I even heard the word chronic pain so I began believing I was making my physical pain up: broken.  Some nights and or weekends I would cancel plans with friends, not because I wanted to but because I wanted to just lay in bed and cry.  The thought of having to be around people when I was in an immense amount of pain was too much to bear.  I would tell my friends and family members I had a stomach ache or my allergies were acting up: anything to not have to mention the pain in my head, face, and neck.  I began isolating myself and at times literally laid in my bed just crying while my friends were enjoying their time at the movies or the mall.  I wanted to be anyone but myself.  I hated myself.  Years upon years of treatments, medications, surgeries etc led me to truly think I was making up my pain: I was not as most of you know, especially those of you with some sort of an invisible illness.

Once I was finally diagnosed with having chronic pain (a term I had never heard of) I began my journey to acceptance and managing pain naturally.  However, I still did not want people to know.  I was the queen of changing plans: ten years I changed plans because the pain was too much to deal with, ten years I changed plans because I had to put my healthy management of chronic pain ahead of everything else.  I have been called selfish in my lifetime and I do believe that mostly comes from chronic pain.  I have put my health and my management of chronic pain ahead of everything.  I know I cannot overdo things or my pain levels will sky rocket and I will be a miserable mess. If I do not put my well being first I cannot be a good mother, a good family member, a good friend, and worst of all I end up back in the cycle of self hate which is no good for anyone around me.  In a perfect world, I would never have fallen off of my bike and I would never had brain surgery and chronic pain.  However, I did fall off my bike at the young age of thirteen.  I did spend ten years or more of my life searching for a cure and fighting pain every moment.  I did want to just end my life in my young twenties because I literally could not take the physical and emotional pain any longer.  And then I hit my rock bottom and made a very hard decision and that decision was to accept chronic pain and manage it naturally.  I no longer feel broken but I do feel alone sometimes.  If I am having a difficult day with pain, I feel depressed, I cry a lot, and I pretend I am okay.  A couple days is a lot better than ten years straight.  Chronic pain can be the loneliest place in the world.  None of my family or friends know what I go through each day to manage this invisible illness.  My smiles are rarely fake and I am a genuinely happy person but I am quite misunderstood by those who have never dealt with an invisible illness.

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Working With Chronic Pain: My Biggest Mistake

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Where do I go when I am faced with life’s biggest questions or when I am in the middle of an invisible argument going on inside my mind: the beach.  I am able to think and find my answers to life’s biggest struggles when I am right in front of the ocean. We live about fifty minutes from the Jersey shore and it remains my place of peace and where I go when things in my life seem to be unravelling.

My biggest fear when I left the Pain Rehab Center at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota was how I would be able to work with chronic pain?  I truly did not believe I would be able to be a social worker when I was managing pain naturally and had this intense routine I followed daily to manage my pain without it managing me.  I spent about six months or so not working once I left the Mayo Clinic and used this time to truly focus on my health and management of chronic pain.  Every day I followed a schedule and eventually I did not focus on my pain as I once had and happiness started to truly enter my heart and soul.  I felt alive for the first time in twenty years.   I was exercising, practicing meditation twice a day, taking walks, reading, and finding all the things I thought I had lost because of chronic pain.  It was the happiest I had been since I had fallen off of my bicycle in my young teens.  I was thriving despite chronic pain.

However, I was a college graduate with my degree in social work and knew I had to start applying to jobs in my field after my six months of getting my chronic pain under control.  I was terrified.  I knew I could not do a forty hour week but I needed health insurance so I had to make sure I worked at least thirty-two hours a week.  I was so afraid that work would take away all the progress I had made in my management of pain.  I went on an interview at a place called Senior Care which was a medical facility that had patient’s who suffered from Dementia, Mental health issues, Cancer, Autism: you name it.  The job seemed amazing and I loved the facility.  During my interview, I was honest with my soon to be boss and explained that I had chronic pain but was managing it naturally.  I told him that I would need about two breaks a day and he was very impressed with my honesty and how I managed chronic pain as many of my soon to be patients also had chronic pain.  He then began asking me questions on how I managed pain and if I would be able to teach some of the patients the techniques I used such as meditation.  BINGO!!!!  I was pumped.  I wanted to just tell my future boss that I would take the job and start the next day but then fear crept in and I asked him if I could have a couple days to think about the position.  The following day I drove to the same beach seen above by myself with my meditation CD’s, my books, and my journal.  I sat on this very same beach where years later I would be holding this precious daughter of mine and just asked the Universe if I should take the job or not.  My intuition was so strong that I really did not need to ask anyone their opinion.  I knew I wanted this job and after eight hours of sitting on the sand in my favorite place in the world I drove home and called my soon to be boss and took the job.  My intuition was right on point and I loved my job.  I was able to incorporate my chronic pain management tools into my career,  I was helping people and making a difference, and I was proud of myself.  It was the greatest job I have ever had so why did I leave?

One downfall of my job was that I made very little money and my health insurance was pretty bad.  Out of the blue one day, I received a phone call from a different facility asking me if I was interested in interviewing for the Director of Social Services at one of the most famous nursing homes in our area.  The Director was offering about twenty thousand dollars more than I was making and my ego took over and I agreed to be interviewed.  I was managing pain amazingly, I was in a great place: mind, body, and spirit so I thought: what the hell, may as well at least go for an interview.  Here is where I made one of the biggest mistakes in my career: I took the job despite my strong intuition to stay where I was not making a lot of money but I was healthy and happy.  I gave my two weeks to my dream job and began working as the Director days later.  By the end of my first week at my money making, high profile social work job I knew I had made a HUGE mistake.  I was working over forty hours a week, no breaks, no time with my patients, no time to incorporate my chronic pain management tools, and my self esteem began to spiral downwards as my pain began to increase by the day.  I was miserable, filled with regret, and in tears every night of the week.  Weekends were no longer fun because I was no longer taking care of my health five days a week because I chose money over my health and happiness.  Within a year of my twenty thousand dollar mistake, I found out I was pregnant and gave my two weeks notice.  My boss was not a huge fan of me anyways as he told me on a daily basis: “Jessica, you are just not a good sales person.  We need our numbers up.  We need more people who will pay privately.  Your focus needs to be on our facility.”  No, I am not a good sales person, I could not agree with this person more.  I was a social worker.  I hated sales, I hated shopping, and I went into social work to help people not make a business money.

Chronic pain has taught me more lessons in my life than any other ailment or event has.  This was another hard lesson I had to learn.  If I could go back in time, I never would have chosen money over my health and happiness.  I would have followed my intuition and stayed in the job where I was making little money but I was not only making a difference in my health but the health and happiness of those I worked with.  I did not go to the beach seen above when offered this twenty thousand dollar mistake.  Lesson learned.  There is nothing in this world that is more important than your health and happiness.  If you are lucky to find a job in which you are able to manage your invisible illness like I was able to find, do not leave no matter what!  Do not make my twenty thousand dollar mistake.

 

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Anxiety and Chronic Pain

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I have yet to meet a person who has chronic pain but has no anxiety symptoms as seen above.  What came first: chronic pain or anxiety?  I believe for everyone this is different and I am not a huge fan of the: what came first: the chicken or the egg theory anyways.  In the end, who cares?  You have chronic pain and you are dealing with the dreaded invisible illnesses that hop on board with the relentless pain you are already facing.  I personally know that I have had anxiety problems since I was a child.  Even at the young age of six I worried about everything.  I remember nighttime being the worst because I was never able to turn my young mind off.  I worried about things that were in my reality and things that no child or adult should waste their time thinking about.  My dad once took me to my pediatrician because I had such problems with insomnia: I was nine!  My bike accident happened in my young teens which resulted in brain surgery and a life with chronic pain.  Chronic pain did not help my anxiety at all.  I have written this before but I fully believe this to be true: the fear of pain is often times worse than the pain itself.  I no longer look for a cure for chronic pain and manage pain totally naturally.  However, I still have some difficult days or nights but they do not rule my life by any means.  I over did things yesterday and was overly anxious and paid the price last night as I watched The Bachlorette and later read.   However, I do not fear pain but I do find myself fearing anxiety.

There is no doubt that anxiety increases my pain levels and this goes for everyone.  People without chronic pain get headaches, back aches, and stomach aches when overly stressed or filled with anxious thoughts and worries.  If you are already living with chronic pain, there is little doubt in me that anxiety, when heightened will lead to increased pain levels. I have been working on managing my anxiety for thirty years and the one good thing I have learned is that a lot of the techniques I use to manage chronic pain also help with my anxiety management: exercise, breathing exercises, yoga, meditation, yoga nidra, healthy diet etc.  I cannot believe I am writing this as I never thought I would be able to manage pain without a cure or medication but managing my anxiety is more difficult than managing chronic pain.  Wow, just writing that fact is shocking to me.

Anyone that has anxiety knows how difficult it is to live with this very real invisible illness.  Just like chronic pain or any other disease, one cannot understand the true feelings of anxiety unless on lives with this chronic condition.  I awake most mornings with a huge amount of anxiety and most days I can jump up and just start my routine but there are some days that it takes a ton of will power.  Anxiety, like chronic pain can truly take over one’s mind and then body if we allow it to.  People may say to you: “You worry too much, everything works out.  Just calm down.”  Most of us, myself included know that the things we worry about always work out however it is very difficult at times to talk reason to our minds and souls when they are in a heightened state of anxiety.  Logically, we know how blessed we are and that the past has taught us worrying will never change the outcome but just like a difficult day with chronic pain there are difficult days with anxiety.  I struggle the most with anxiety first thing in the morning and at times as I try and fall asleep.  I noticed lately the more I give in to my anxieties in the morning the easier it is for me to fall asleep because I am so tired from having battles in my mind that I am not only exhausted, but have stressed myself out to the point of having a difficult time with pain.

Where is the happy ending of this battle with anxiety?  Is there an ending?  I do not know.  I only know that if I can learn how to manage chronic pain without medications or finding a cure, I can better myself in more ways than I realize.  Life isn’t about the destination, it is through the journey of ups and downs that we learn and grow.  I find it ironic that having chronic pain because of a bike accident taught me (ten years later) how I can manage anxiety the same way I manage pain.  I also find it crazy that anxiety is more difficult for me to manage now than pain.  Fifteen years ago I would have given in to both chronic pain and fear in the morning and never have gotten out of bed.  Now, at the age of thirty five I feel as if I slept super late because it is my day off and I did not wake up until eight in the morning (thank you daughter!)  Our thoughts become our reality, I do believe this to be true.  However, once we accept it is our anxiety talking and not the rational part of our minds we can at least come to a great starting point in our journey with anxiety.  We are always works in progress and I have learned more from chronic pain than probably anything in my life.  I plan to do the same with anxiety and worrying.  We just never give up and no matter where any of you are with your personal invisible illness, I know from much life experience that you are truly doing the best you can.

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Lessons From the Accidents We ALL Face

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“Note to self: If you were able to believe in Santa for eight years, you can believe in yourself for five seconds.  You Got This.”

Unknown

In the above picture, my daughter is belting out a Mumford and Sons song as I play the drums.  She believes in everything.  She reminds me so much of myself when I was her age it is frightening.  She reminds me so much of myself now (most of the time)  it is scary.  A day does not go by that someone does not say: “She is a mini version of you to the tee.”  For the most part, this is a great thing.  There are many things I love about myself and I am proud that Kayci is herself one hundred percent of the time.  She truly does not care what anyone thinks and is downright funny and entertaining.  Just this afternoon, we went out to lunch at the infamous Houlihans that reminds me a lot of the movie: “Office Space” minus the flare.  Music was playing in the background fron the sixties and Kayci danced for the entire restauratnt.  She did not care in the least who was watching or what anyone thought of her: she was happy, making others happy, in her own world believing in herself.  When do we lose this sense of belief and self love?  I never want my daughter to lose her carefree attitude and her zest for life.  I was a carefree child up until my bike accident and that fall that changed my life forever, happened out of no where, with no warning, and those two seconds of my life stole fifteen years of my life.  I lost my zest for life, I lost my self worth and self esteem, and worst of all I lost myself.

I am now thirty-five and for the most part, a care free person and people who know me know that I have no filter and am still called the entertainer.  I am proud of myself for how I manage chronic pain and how I help others in their own battles with their personal invisible illness.  However, I look up to my daughter more than I look up to anyone.  The car accident we were in just last week ended up being a lot worse than I thought.  Our SUV was considered totaled and we are in the process of working with the insurance company and buying a new car. No one was hurt and that is what matters, however I am still having trouble wrapping my mind around what happened.  It truly shook me to the core.  It was almost as if the accident put me off balance because after the accident, everything seemed to start going wrong.  However, were things really going wrong or was it just how I was perceiving the ‘problems?'”  I found out on Monday night that the car was considered totaled and I felt like a failure. I began hating myself despite the fact that it was a true accident and I cannot think of something I was doing wrong.  That self-hate began to manifest itself in me and my mind became a catastrophic mess.  I came to a point of acceptance yesterday and of course everything is working out as it always does.  I am sleeping again, back to my chronic pain management schedule, and working on self love.  I need to start believing in myself more and that is what the accident taught me.  I am way too hard on myself as a person, a family member, and a mother.  I never truly give myself enough credit or practice what I preach regarding self love.  Life can change for the better or worse in a split second, my bike accident taught me that.  When bad things happen, we need to find a lesson because there is always something to learn from an accident.  I learned that I need to slow my mind down, appreciate what I have more, and believe in myself more.  Life is so short and when you become a parent you realize just how quickly it goes because it feels as if yesterday Kayci could not even walk.  I want to live for the here and now.  I want to count my blessings and I want to be proud of myself and stop beating myself up for the mistakes I have made in the past.  We all deserve those things.  6bc8230fe1e59b903e1b8dd132390e10

 

 

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Humor and Chronic Pain

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“Open your eyes, for this world is only a dream.”

Rumi

I had quite the imagination when I was a child, still do but that imagination goes straight to fear way too often as an adult.  I used to wonder if my real life was while I slept and dreamt and my dreams were actually when I was awake.  I also used to think I could fly and jumped off of my families couch way too many times to count: turns out I can only fly once in a blue moon while I sleep.  I love the quote above: “Open your eyes, for this world is only a dream.”  I took this quote to mean that we take life too seriously at times and miss out on the true miracles and blessings that occur in our life every day.

My daughter and I were in CVS, our local drug store the other day buying random things I had coupons for.  As I was selecting the correct allergy medicine, Kayci whispered in my ear: “Mommy, what is that?  That poor man is missing a leg!”  There was a man in his fifties standing at the pharmacy telling jokes and making the pharmacists and customers roar with laughter.  He was really funny, to the point that I forgot my daughter’s question and truly did not notice that this man had a prostetic leg as his joy was radiating through the store.  I began laughing out loud as well and about eight people were all enthralled with this man’s amazing sense of humor.  He was truly one of the funniest people I have met in a long time.  I began talking to him and the elderly woman next to him and forgot that my daughter was still whispering her question: “Mommy, what is that???”  The man heard my daughter’s question and at first instinct I was embarrassed but luckily this man was so gracious and kind that he explained that he was blessed enough for science to make him a leg as he had lost one of his in an accident.  Another woman, who turned out to be a psychiatrist chimed in as well and explained to my little four year old how amazing this man was and how lucky he was to be so happy even without one of his legs.  Phew, took the pressure of explaining amputations to my toddler away from me for the time being.

As little as this moment was, it was the highlight of my day.  I was proud of my daughter’s empathy and intelligence.  I was thrilled to be surrounded by such kind people.  But, most of all I felt so blessed to have met this man whom I will probably never see again.  It was a teachable moment for both my daughter and I.  Some days I forget to count my blessings.  Some days I still do feel sorry for myself for having chronic pain, rarely but this was one of those days and I was so thankful that I had the privilege of meeting this man on one of my ‘difficult days.’  There are so many things we take for granted and we all have a story to tell whether it be visible or not.  I do not know this man’s story but I do know he was a blessing to my daughter, all the people who were talking with him that day in CVS, and myself.  As he left the store I said: “You are one of the funniest people I have ever met.”  He replied immediately before walking out the door: “I lost my leg, but I will never lose my sense of humor.”

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Yoga and Chronic Pain

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“Yoga is not about touching your toes, it is what you learn on the way down.”

Jigar Gor

Yoga has become such a huge part of the world we live in today.  There are yoga studios everywhere, yoga magazines, and more yoga DVD’s than I can even begin to count.  Many people have this idea that yoga is this vigorous exercise that requires one to be extremely flexible.  I used to believe the same thing.  The thought of exercising scared me enough, I could not imagine doing  the yoga poses I saw on the covers of magazines or the stretches I saw on the television.  Many people do practice yoga to get the ‘yoga body’ so to speak, however many people like myself utlilize yoga because it truly is a way of life.  I learn more from what the instructors say either in a class or on a DVD than I do in yoga positions such as downward facing dog.

There is a huge correlation between chronic pain and anxiety.  I have had anxiety since I was a little girl but that anxiety only intensified once I fell off of my bike and ended up with chronic pain.  ANYONE can practice yoga.  There are so many benefits, its a no brainer that we all (chronic pain or not) should be practicing this form of ‘exercise.’  Here are a few of the benefits I have found through practicing yoga.  I only started utilizing yoga in my daily life after I made the decision to manage pain naturally and accepted my invisible illness that I no longer look for a cure for.

  1. Stretching: part of my routine for managing pain is stretching in the morning.  Yoga kills two birds with one stone.  I have yoga DVDs that are solely based on morning stretches and morning affirmations.  I am not only stretching my body, which we all need to do if we have chronic pain but I am hearing the affirmations I will use throughout the day that will have a positive impact on my mood/anxiety/chronic pain.
  2. Self Esteem: People with chronic pain often times have a very low self esteem.  Anyone reading this with chronic pain knows what I am talking about.  My self esteem was so low due to chronic pain years ago that I literally hated myself and there is nothing more detrimental or life threatening than self hatred.  Yoga teaches us that we need to focus on ourselves and our health.  Yoga does not teach us to look awesome in a bikini but teaches us that the more we feel good on the inside the better we will look on the outside.  Do you ever just see certain people and the first thing you notice is their smile and genuine happiness?  There are many times I notice these attributes on a person before I even glance at the color of their hair.  People radiate light and energy and I have found that yoga has helped me focus more on the inside of myself than the outside.
  3. Friendships:  Some of the greatest people I have ever met have been in a yoga class.  I met one of my dearest friends in a yoga class two years before my daughter was born and we remain friends.  I find most (not all) people in yoga classes are the most non-judge mental, empathetic, good hearted people I know.  One has to find the right yoga studio and class that fits in with their own personality and self.  I think every yoga studio should have a sign outside that says: “Non judgement zone” because I have never felt judged or looked at differently at any yoga studio to date.  I remember going to my first class many years ago and I was beyond scared.  I am/was one of the most un-flexible people in the world and was frightened people would make fun of me.  Quite the contrary: I was welcomed with open arms and literally felt love and positive energy radiate from the classroom.  One class and I was hooked.
  4. Flexibility:  Sure, yoga is a form of exercise that stretches our muscles and over time we are able to surrender into poses we once thought to be impossible.  However, I am speaking of the flexibility of the mind.  The teachings of yoga have truly changed the way I think about the world and more importantly myself.  Yoga has helped me see myself differently and in a good way.  I have never regretted practicing yoga and seem to learn something different from each class or video.
  5. There are thousands of videos of yoga for pain relief.  There is chair yoga if one wants to start very easily.  Yoga comes in every shape, size, and form because it is more for the mind than for the body.  Our thoughts become things and the more we listen to positivity and words of wisdom, the less our minds are brought to pain.  It is the mind body connection.

 

I am a very up-beat, anxious, high energy person and it takes a lot for me to slow down.  I was very fired up this morning and my mind really wanted to do a cardio/weight lifting exercise routine but I listened to my body and intuition and ended up practicing yoga for stress relief.  That is why I ended up sharing this post with my readers.  Yoga helps me to slow down and remember what is important.  It is an added bonus that without even realizing it, yoga does help my pain levels.  As my dad always says: “Ya cannot lose what you don’t have.”   Give it a shot.

 

 

 

 

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