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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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12 Gift Ideas to Give to Someone with Chronic Pain

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The holidays can be a very exciting, magical, happy time for many people while for others it is very stressful, depressing, and exhausting.  I remember during my darkest hours of chronic pain dreading my favorite holiday in the world: Christmas.  I have always adored the magic of Christmas: the lights, shopping for my loved ones, Christmas cards, Christmas carols, decorating with my family, Santa, and just feeling that sense of joy as the world went from brown leaves falling to the ground to streets filled with lights and stores windows stocked with festive trinkets.  Once chronic pain began to control my life I despised Christmas.  Everyone was so happy and I was miserable.  I was asked more questions than usual about why I was so sad and isolated.   People had always known me as the enthusiastic, vibrant girl who brought Christmas everywhere she went.  That girl was gone for many years and I thank my father who always believed in me, the Mayo Clinic for teaching me how to live with chronic pain naturally, and I thank myself for doing the hardest work of my life in my management with chronic pain to once again love this time of year more than I ever have.

I was recently asked what a person with chronic pain would want as a gift for Christmas.  The easy, most logical answer would be: a cure to chronic pain.  I wished for that for fifteen years but I am at a different place with chronic pain than I once was and can now answer that question.  I manage pain naturally and if I was still suffering as I once was with this invisible illness I know what I would want to receive as a Christmas present from my loved ones.  Here are the top twelve things that stand out more than anything when I think of Christmas and chronic pain.

  1. A hand written card that speaks from your heart to your loved one with chronic pain.  A letter expressing love and support without any pity.  Words that express how strong you believe your loved one to be and that although you are unable to understand what your loved one faces on a daily basis you are always there to support he or she in anyway they need.  People with chronic pain isolate themselves and feel beyond misunderstood especially from the people they love most.  They feel unworthy of love and need to be reminded that they are not their invisible illness and reminded of just how loved they are.  Most importantly they need to know you believe them; although you cannot see their illness you know it is there.  Words are powerful and will stick with your loved one far longer than any object can.

2.  A CD on yoga nidra.  People with chronic pain find it very difficult to sleep.  Many spent most of their days exhausted, excited just to get into bed and fall asleep and yet once their head hits the pillow they are unable to sleep.  Yoga Nidra is the meditative heart of yoga and is one of the most fantastic, helpful tools I have found to help me manage chronic pain.  It takes a tiny bit of ‘practice’ however all one needs is a CD player or an MP3 player, a pillow and blanket and he or she is set.  A half hour to an hour of Yoga Nidra is equivalent to about three to four hours of sleep.  It took me who is one of the most anxious persons you could meet about three times before I did fall into a deep meditative trance and awoke feeling like a new person.  You can find Yoga Nidra on http://www.amazon.com or any online site that sells music, books, and/or yoga DVDs.

3.  Essential oils such as Lavender, Eucalyptus, or Peppermint.  Essential oils mixed with Epson Salts create the most relaxing bath one could imagine.  There are times I will take a bath with Lavender and Epson Salts and just practice deep belly breathing.  I may listen to a meditation CD or just lay there concentrating on the scents and the feeling of my breathing.  Twenty minutes in a bath with oils is beneficial to anyone!

4. A gift certificate for a pedicure.  Pedicures are not only relaxing but very healing and grounding as well.  I love getting pedicures because it gives me a solid hour to just sit in a nice, light massage chair (which one does not have to use) and allow myself to be pampered.  I always bring a book as I do not like to talk during my one hour of relaxation.

5.  Candles!  I am a huge fan of candles and love practicing yoga in the morning surrounded by candles.  They are not only healing but they smell delicious.  One of the first things I do in the morning before I exercise is light the candles I have on our living room mantle.  Right now the candles are the smells of Christmas and one of my personal favorite smells is the smell of a Christmas tree so it is obvious to those who know me why my current candles are green.

6.  An adult coloring book along with a box of colored pencils.  Whoever came up with adult coloring books is brilliant!  My dad gave me my first adult coloring book along with a beautiful tin filled with colored pencils and I love it!  Who knew that coloring could be so therapeutic and healing.  I should have known I would enjoy coloring the beautiful pictures as I love coloring with my toddler.  However, coloring scenes of gardens, oceans, and designs is a little more up my alley than coloring pictures of Mickey Mouse.

7.  Pending on your loved one’s degree of pain and where he or she is in their journey with chronic pain a great gift could be either a yoga DVD or a gift certificate to a yoga class. Anyone can do yoga and I mean that.  There are multitudes of various types of yoga from chair yoga to power yoga to yoga for chronic pain.  If it was fifteen years ago and I was given this gift I probably would have cried because my mind truly believed I was unable to do any movement but now I love yoga and see that it is beneficial to everyone: chronic pain or no chronic pain.

8.  A journal that speaks to you about your loved one.  I clearly love writing and keep a journal however I find it easier to write in a journal when it is in my eyes beautiful.  Writing is an amazing outlet for anyone but especially those with chronic pain.  One can write down their deepest worries and their personal truth.  I find it very helpful to write down my worries before I go to sleep and leave them aside for another time.

9. A day planner.  It may sound ridiculous but just because someone has chronic pain does not mean he or she does not have a life.  Many people with chronic pain/anxiety often have a mind that never stops racing. I live for my day planner.  I write a to do list every night before I go to sleep and love the feeling of crossing something off the following day once my errand or what have you has been accomplished.  I exercise every morning but I still write it down on my to do list at night because it helps me to feel extra motivated and structured.

10.  Stationary: ok, obviously one can tell by now I really like writing!  There are many people who have chronic pain who do not know how to verbalize how they are feeling or their love for you.  Often times writing letters on pretty stationary helps a person with an invisible illness feel more human so to speak.  He or she wants you to know how much they love you but are often times in too much pain: body/mind and spirit to verbalize their feelings.  Who doesn’t enjoy receiving a letter in the mail instead of a bill?

11. As I come to the end of my list I remind myself that you know your loved one much better than I do!  I may know chronic pain better but you know what your loved one enjoys: books, music, funny movies?  Please remember that we as people with chronic pain do not want to be defined by our invisible illness.  Sometimes the greatest gift can be your loved one’s favorite movie.  Comedies are great because there are times where the saying: laughter is the best medicine is extremely true.  I use distractions constantly in my journey with chronic pain and I find that my hobbies help train my brain to not think about pain.

12. The title of my website is http://www.noonegetsflowersforchronicpain.com.  Therefore, get your loved one some flowers!  One of my favorite movies is entitled: “The Breakup” with Jennifer Anniston and Vince Vaughn.  In the beginning of the movie they start arguing over who is going to wash the dishes after a family dinner.  Vince Vaughn sits down to watch the game that is on television and Anniston cannot believe that she is expected to wash the dishes after preparing the entire meal and cleaning prior to having their family over.  Anniston says to Vince Vaughn: “Gary I want you to WANT to wash the dishes!”  In turn Vince Vaughn (Gary) replies: “Why would I want to wash the dishes?!”  The argument escalates and Anniston ends up saying: “Ya know wouldn’t it be nice if you thought one day: ‘hey maybe I should buy my girlfriend some flowers.'”  Vaughn replies: “You told me on our very first date that you do not like flowers.”  Anniston then says with conviction: “Every girl likes flowers Gary!”  Everybody deserves flowers on occasion Christmas or no Christmas, chronic pain or no chronic pain.

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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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The Benefits of Not Pushing Pain Away

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“If we stay present with the rawness of our direct experience, emotional energy can run through us without getting stuck.”

-Pema Chodron

I took this picture of my four year old daughter this past Sunday as she was watching the world go by in the comfort of our den.  I spent a great portion of my own childhood in the home that my family resides in now.  My grandmother who has become an angel helped raise me in her home along with many other family members.  I have so many amazing memories in the home I spent so much of my childhood and am now raising my own family in.  With great memories come some difficult ones as well.  I had fear of abandonment growing up and this fear manifested inside me into adulthood partially because of chronic pain and partially because I repressed so many painful memories and just pretended nothing bad ever happened to me.  To be quite honest and for those who have chronic pain will understand this, once I had my bike accident in my young teens that resulted in brain surgery subsequent chronic pain, my invisible illness took center stage in my life.  I was in therapy to learn how to either find a cure to pain or manage it naturally (pending on the time period in my journey with this invisible illness) not deal with the issues I had faced in childhood.  The same window my daughter is looking out of with sparkles in her eyes is the same window I sat at waiting for my dad to arrive home from work the days my Grandmother (La La) watched me.  He worked extremely hard to take care of me, provide for me, and be the best dad in the world at his very young age.  I used to cry each and every time I went to a different family member’s home or someone watched me that was not my dad.  He was my one constant in life and the one person I knew would never abandon me.  The mornings he left for work and I stayed with my La La, I would run from window to window of the home I reside in now listening for the beeps from his car and his waves goodbye.  I knew deep down that he would always come back but as an adult looking back I can now see there was some deep rooted fear that he would abandon me.  I remember one time he went away on a business trip and had to fly to get there as it was too far away to drive to.  On the day of his return I was staying with my Grandfather, Pop Pop and I watched the news for hours making sure no planes had crashed.   I never want my children to have the fear of abandonment and I make sure my daughter knows that I am her constant and she never has to worry about mommy not coming home.

That fear of abandonment only intensified with chronic pain.  I spent ten plus years searching for a cure to chronic pain: surgeries, medications, procedures, massage therapists etc etc .  The times I was not isolating myself from the world because I was in too much physical and emotional pain to face anyone, I was trying to fit in with my peers by drinking with them but to an annoying point where I wasn’t fun to be around.  I always ended up being the ‘crying drunk girl’ by the end of the night because all I could think about was pain and alcohol, as much as it did numb my pain for a brief time only caused me to focus more on pain and increased my already depressed mood.  Over time, people just stopped wanting to be around me and/or I stopped wanting to be around anyone but myself and my pain.  I wish I knew in my teens and twenties that the people who truly love you will never abandon you: chronic pain or no chronic pain.  I still have the same two best friends I have had since I was in my young teens and they have both stuck by me through chronic pain and the ups and downs of my journey.  They both are two of my biggest fans and are very supportive of my choice to manage pain naturally and follow my dreams of sharing my story to save others and to have children and extend my family: two things I truly believed chronic pain had stolen from me.

I am facing a joyous yet trying time right now and I will share what that is in due time. I am currently on bed rest for a week and once again forced to let go of many of the things I use to manage chronic pain, forced to deal with my thoughts, and cannot constantly distract my mind from this yin/yang experience I am going through.  I will say this: the good of what I am facing outweighs the bad in more ways than I can express.  I am grateful for the blessings that are coming into my life despite the difficulties that sometimes come with our truest dreams.  I do not want my emotional energy to get stuck as it has in my thirty plus years in this world.  I do not want to dwell on my problems but I also do not want to resist them.  I must acknowledge and accept what I am facing or problems will manifest deep down in myself and come out at a time when I do not want them to or expect them to.  It took acknowledging and accepting chronic pain without resistance to finally find peace and happiness.  That is a huge lesson I learned from my journey with chronic pain and now need to utilize in the other parts of my life.  Pain does not define you and there are many life lessons we can and will learn if we allow ourselves to be open to the possibilities of non-resistance.  Anything we bury down deep and try to repress will get stuck and I have learned that in order to have a peaceful, happy life we must not repress our feelings or emotions especially those of us with chronic pain.  Personally, the more I repress emotional pain, the more physical pain I am faced with.

 

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