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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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Planning a Life Around Pain

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“Understanding the challenges you face with your illness and then planning a life despite them, may be one of the bravest decisions you will ever make.”

Unknown

The ups and downs and spins and twirls never truly end when you live with an invisible illness such as, chronic pain.  It took me ten very long, painful, heartbreaking, gut wrenching years of my life to come to a point of acceptance of my invisible illness.  It was not until then that my dreams slowly but surely began to come true.   However, I have to plan my life around chronic pain.  Now, this is not such a terrible thing and with a lot of dedication can be done and one can make the life they desire no matter what illness he or she has.  A month ago I was given the greatest news of my life since the birth of our healthy daughter, Kayci.  I am sure many of you who know me can guess what that news is but I am still waiting to share it with the world.  With this amazing, life changing, news that I have worked towards for two years now has come with some changes in my daily life and how I manage pain naturally.

When I set my mind to something, I do not give up.   That is one of the biggest blessings I received from a diagnosis of chronic pain.  I know that if I am strong enough to manage chronic pain naturally and live a life I am for the most part happy with, I can do anything.  I have to want something so badly that  I do not go a day without thinking about it to put in the effort, faith, and work it takes to make what I want come to fruition.  It may sound silly to some but one of my biggest and most beneficial tools to managing chronic pain naturally is exercise.   Exercise not only helps my pain levels but my anxiety as well.  In order to keep my dream safe, I have been told by my amazing doctors that I  should not work out for now as I just got over being on bed rest.  It has now been over a month since I have been allowed to exercise and it has taken a toll on me.  However, I keep reminding myself of one of the greatest quotes I have ever heard: “At times you must give up what you want now for what you want the most.”  It has been an adjustment but I just have to plan my life differently for now just as I have done with my management of chronic pain.  I have had to find different things to do in the morning when for thirteen years I have gotten up and worked out right away to keep my brain to going straight to pain and to get my body moving.  I started a gratitude journal six weeks ago where I write down five things I am grateful for each morning.  I have had more five am snuggles with my beautiful daughter and spent very real time with her just talking as the sun comes up.  I am trying hard to practice more yoga nidra and meditation.  I am finding other ways for the time being to manage chronic pain and re-arrange my schedule to keep my dream safe and sound.

Whether or not you have an invisible illness, there are going to be times when life does not go as plan and random road blocks are going to stand in the way of what you desire.  You have to keep going and find different routes and avenues to take to get to where you want to go, to make your dreams come true.  “At times you must give up what you want now, for what you want the most.”  I have used that quote in my management with chronic pain when pain is so difficult I have a small desire to go back to pain medication and I use it for other life changes that arise in my life.  I believe in all of you and all of your dreams.

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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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Desperation and Chronic Pain

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Do not ever lose your sense of humor, no matter how difficult your journey is at this given time and place.  I believe two things got me through my toughest years of searching for a cure to my invisible illness: the love for my family and the rare times I laughed.  Ironically my dad is the person who fit into both these categories: I did not give up because of my love for him and there were times he was truly the only person who could make me laugh.

If you understand the above cartoon, I’m sorry for your battle with chronic pain.   I remember back when I was in a terrible place with my invisible illness cancelling doctor appointments on a monthly basis because I was literally in too much pain to get out of bed, get dressed, and drive anywhere.  I chose to lay in bed on those days and just cry at the unfairness of my disease and the frustration I had that I could not find any relief no matter what doctor, medication, surgery, or specialist I tried.  I did not claim medical bankruptcy for buying clothes and having fun.  I was spending all our families money on one thing: a cure to my never-ending pain.

I started laughing today as I was playing with my daughter because the most random memory came into mind.  It was around the year 2001 and I was on my tenth year of searching for a cure to chronic pain.  I was living in Boulder, Colorado living two lives: one life was with my friends having fun drinking and living the crazy college life; the other life searching for a holistic cure to chronic pain as I truly thought I had put in my ten years using Eastern medicine and Colorado was a great place to find a ton of different approaches to pain.  Did any of them work?  No.  I was living two lives.  It is hard to follow your nutritionist’s advice to stop eating all wheat based foods and be drinking vodka tonics most nights.  Talk about an oxymoron.   Back to the funny memory (this memory is funny now but at the time it was anything but humorous.)  My dad was visiting me in Colorado for his birthday and Easter.  His visits meant the world to me but I really wanted him to believe I was doing a lot better than I was despite the fact that I was still on my now eleven year search for a cure to chronic pain.  I was seeing a hypnotist at the time who claimed she could cure all the pain I had.  After a few sessions and no relief she recommended me seeing her friend who used the newest technology to help people who were in physical pain.  I remember my dad taking me to this ‘doctor’s’ office and literally praying that the hypnotist was correct and this magic machine could cure me.  This was a moment of intense desperation.  The ‘doctor’ charged a fortune for me to sit alone in a room with what appeared to look like an oval robot.  I am not making any of this up.  After paying him an exuberant amount of money, he had me sit in a room by myself with this robot that apparently set off magnetic frequencies that dulled or removed a human’s physical pain.  Both this doctor and robot made out well that afternoon, but I was a hot mess.  Not only did I feel beyond dumb, I realized I had come to a point in my battle with chronic pain where I was relying on an oval, black machine to cure my invisible illness.  It was mere weeks later that I hit my rock bottom and ended up at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota.  Looking back, I can thankfully laugh at this madness but at the time I was in seriously bad shape.

This story that I just threw out there may seem very odd to the average person but to a person with chronic pain this anecdote is sadly much more common than one would believe.  People with chronic pain will literally do ANYTHING to relieve their pain.  You may think he or she is crazy but as Elvis Presley once stated: “We are all addicted to something that takes the pain away.”  Part of my addiction to my invisible illness was searching for a cure and I am more than grateful that I found a way to live, laugh, and be the person I am today despite never finding that cure.  None of you are crazy and I know all of you can one day laugh at the madness we put ourselves through because of chronic pain.

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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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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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Brain Surgery, chronic pain, Let go, Non Resistance

Pushing Pain Away: Inviting it to Stay

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“If you are resisting something, you are feeding it.  Any energy you fight, you are feeding.  If you are pushing something away, you are inviting it to stay.”

Michael Singer

One of my wisest readers Kate emailed me regarding the concept of non-resistance and I want to share with you her final question on this particular email: “What made it sane for you (chronic pain) acceptance or disagreement?”  Do I want a life with chronic pain or any disease for that matter?  No.  I fought this invisible illness for ten plus years and with each fight and disagreement, my pain intensified along with my depression, anger, and eventually I faced a loss of will to live.  It was not until I stopped resisting chronic pain and accepted it as part of my life that I began to live.  I no longer wanted to die.  I wanted to manage pain in a healthy way and at times I do want to fight it but without acceptance I know for a fact I would never have graduated college, have a family, or be the healthiest version of Jessica I can be despite pain.  There are so many things in life that happen to all of us that we do not want but we are unable to change.  We can fight and fight and fight but with each battle we just bring more attention to what we do not want because we refuse to accept it.  However, once we do accept something whether we want it or not a sense of peace and the beginning of healing occur.  So, this is probably the easiest question I have yet to be asked by any reader: I found my life through acceptance: disagreement came close to killing me.

Kate emailed me again regarding her fear of “exaggerating her pain” as those with different diseases seem to manage it better and maybe she in a sense is just being “weak.”  No, you are not exaggerating your invisible illness.  Comparison is the thief of joy.  You have no idea what other people are feeling, how are they are acting, or coping with their particular illness behind closed doors.  What you and many of us are doing is overthinking chronic pain and the ailments that come along with it.  I have been around people from all walks of life with different medical issues and I will tell you right now, some of the strongest people I have ever met have chronic pain and most of their pain was non-visible. If you could turn your body inside out and the pain was visible, you would feel like a damn rock star and get the support and acknowledgement you deserve.  Never doubt your strength, compare your illness with anyone else’s, or feel that you are exaggerating your pain.  All of you can relate to Kate’s questions/fears/concerns/and doubts.  This post is for everyone suffering from an invisible illness.  I applaud Kate for her honesty and strength.  Acceptance is key.  It is the first step to the ‘healing’ process and will change your life.  Beating yourself up for being in pain is counterproductive and you deserve love: love yourself and be proud of yourself.  Saying that you should not be upset because someone has it worse is like saying you should not be happy because someone has it better.  Focus on you and your journey with chronic pain.

I am so proud of all of you that read my writings. I hope this post reaches you and you give yourself a break.  You are a rock star.

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chronic pain, Depression, dreams, Fear of Abandonment

Judging Others With Chronic Pain

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The stigmatism behind chronic pain is shocking at times.  You will find most people with chronic pain have Type A personalities and want to do everything without taking breaks.  You will also find that most people with chronic pain are perfectionists and quite hard on themselves if they do not achieve the level of “success” they desire.  Later, you will find that people with chronic pain are some of the most sensitive and empathetic persons you will ever meet. Do you know what people with chronic pain hate the most?  They hate that they are unable to do the things they love, work full time, and be the person they are inside, buried beneath all of the physical pain they did not ask for.   Nobody asks for chronic pain.  I now manage it naturally and very well ninety five percent of the time but I have “difficult days” aka days where my pain levels are high and I cannot do as much as I would like to and I have come a long way but it still angers me at times and frustrates the hell out of me.  To anyone who comes across my writings please remember this: NO ONE MAKES UP CHRONIC PAIN!  No one has any right to judge another person for how he or she lives his or her life but to judge someone with an invisible illness is quite frankly sad and shows the ignorance surrounding this condition.  People with chronic pain are not lazy, they are the opposite.  I know, I have been on both sides.  Those days where I laid in bed crying because the pain was so intense and I felt as if I was dying from within were some of the worst days of my life.  The sadness and loss I felt at being stuck inside as my friends and family worked and went to school ate me alive.  They were all following the dreams I wanted so desperately and there were times people thought I was just lazy or being a ‘baby.’ Who in their right mind would want to in pain twenty four hours, seven days a week, three hundred and sixty-five days a year?  I have yet to meet someone with that hope.  Trust me, no one who has no experience with chronic pain does not want to feel what people with this invisible illness feel every day of their lives.  The guilt is already killing them, your judgement is not necessary. I am writing harshly today but it breaks my heart when people write me about the loneliness and judgement they feel from the people they love most.

Yes, I am living proof that one can work, follow their dreams, and live a happy life despite pain but there are days or hours such as this morning where the Universe reminds me just how difficult chronic pain is: its a gift that I sometimes forget.  Anyone who does not believe you or your illness needs to be set aside so you are able to focus on your health and your well being.  Stress, depression, endless crying, and anxiety only increase pain: who knows what battles the person who “judges” you is facing himself or herself?  I believe you and I swear you are not alone.

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abandonment, chronic pain, inner child, Support for Chronic Pain

Happiness in the Midst of Pain

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“Happiness is when what you think, what you say and what you want are in harmony.”

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Family is very important to me and I am not very close to most of my extended family, more so now that my Grandmother (La La) passed.  I love family and my dream has always been to have one of my own.   I never thought this dream would come to fruition due to chronic pain but dreams do come true with work, belief, and faith.  This past Sunday my very close cousin and uncle left our home after a three-day trip from Indiana.  If you know me, I do not like goodbyes of any shape, especially when I do not know when I will see a certain person or persons again.  I cry like a four year old on her first day of school.  My fear and trouble over goodbyes all goes back to my childhood and goodbyes bring out my troubled part of my inner child.  My parents divorced when I was young and the days my dad dropped me off at my mom’s house or another family members home were heartbreaking.  *side note: I love my mom very much and we have a great relationship but I did have some difficult times as a child.  My parents had me very young and were in a way still kids themselves.  Hell, I did not grow up until my late twenties! One of my most vivid memories of saying goodbye to my dad was when I watched him pull away and he was crying.  It broke my heart to see my dad cry which in turn made me cry more.  I can still picture his face, the driveway, and the door I was standing in as tears fell down my face.  Yes, I saw him two days later but for some reason this was one of my hardest goodbye as a child.  I have had a fear of abandonment since a child and chronic pain only intensified that fear.  I have worked through it a lot but I still hate goodbyes more than anyone you will ever meet: pending on whom I am saying goodbye to of course.  Some goodbyes are awesome!

I cried for a bit after my cousin and uncle hopped in their RV set for their ten hour drive to Indiana and I thought the day would be miserable.  In the past when people I love leave, I ended up being depressed for the rest of the day.  However, I decided consciously and sub-consciously to change this pattern.  My daughter was fine and I thought she would be a mess as she is so in love with my fifteen year old cousin.  I did not want to be sad so I first changed my thoughts and then planned a day that was fun.  It was beautiful outside and as the quote above says: “Happiness is when what you think, what you say and what you want are in harmony.”  I planned a day to go to a place called: Camden Gardens.  The center was having a Halloween celebration and Kayci was able to dress up as Anna from Frozen (shocker!)  Disney did well with this movie, let me tell ya!  We had the greatest day.  It was a warm day, Kayci was able to go trick or treating though the gardens and there were dance contests (see above) crafts, and just positive energy everywhere.  We rode the Merry Go Round four times and watching Kayci laugh to the point of losing her breath is a moment I will not forget.  Yes, I was the mom on the ‘dance floor’ doing the Cha Cha slide and Thriller as my daughter danced in her glory.  We even won a Mummy contest and received four free tickets to the next event at Camden Gardens.  My inner child was thrilled and not frightened or depressed as she would have been last year after saying goodbye.

Things like this just prove that life really is a journey and nothing we want or cognitively know we need comes right away.  It is  a process and it really does not matter how slow you go or if you fall ten times because you have already set your intention and you just have to have faith that your inner scars: physical and emotional pain will heal in their own way.  There is no dead line or exact time which can be beyond frustrating and scary.  I always said the worst part about living with chronic pain was having no cure or end date to my pain.  I would announce: “I can stand this pain for two, three, four or even five more years if there is a cure at the end.”  Twenty years later and I am dancing to the Cha Cha slide with the miracle I call Kayci at Camden Gardens: that cure never came but my happiness did return.

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