Chronic Pain is Mostly Invisible

Many people around you are in pain most of their lives

When we hear the word "pain" we generally think of blood and bruises.  Things you can actually "see".

But, pain is so much more than that. I imagine there are many people in your immediate environment that are in chronic pain - whether that be a physical or an emotional pain.

I was "fortunate" enough to experience debilitating chronic physical pain for over a year after I had Shingles (it's called post herpetic neuralgia). Why did I say I was fortunate? Because it opened my eyes to so much more of the world and to realize that there are so very many people that have intolerable suffering every single moment of their lives. I had enough trouble handling the pain I was in and I know it's nothing like that of these millions of other people. There are so many chronic diseases that cause insurmountable pain.

If I could do anything to help the world, it would be to find a way to relieve the chronic, constant pain. I get very angry and upset when I see the CDC trying to fix a significant problem (drug overdoses involving narcotics) by depriving people who are in desperate need of help. This is a very limited way of trying to problem solve. I definitely understand that the overdoses (especially now with Fentanyl) is an extreme emergency in our country BUT.......so is the chronic pain epidemic.

Remember, though, that I said that pain can be physical or emotional. Many people are experiencing such horrible degrees of emotional pain that they wonder if life is worth living and contemplate ending their lives many times a day or week. Do you know if someone you interact with all day long is, perhaps, in pain like this?

Most people in pain, whether it's physical or emotional, will try to hide it from others because of the way we have reacted in the past. They don't want the shame or the criticism. They don't want the judgment that they are just weak or that they should simply "suck it up". It's so hard to function in pain. Think about when you've had a injury and had to nurse it before it got better. Could you focus on much else? Probably not. In fact, usually pain is such a distractor that it's made ER personnel miss other important injuries (and yes, I know this from personal experience). Your body will focus on the thing that hurts the most and not even realize you are injured some place else. I had a patient once who was in a motorcycle accident and had an obvious fracture of his ankle. I sent him to X-Ray after asking if anything else bothered him - he said 'no'. Fortunately the x-ray technician was astute and not just focused on one thing and called me and asked if I knew the upper part of his leg - by his knee - was fractured. Of course I didn't because I had simply asked the fellow what hurt and he told me just his ankle. As usual, I digress but it's important to realize that people focus on their pain to the exclusion of most other things. If they have to continue working while experiencing chronic pain, they are liable to make mistakes or be inattentive. So, at work, if you see that happening with a person who is usually very diligent and accurate, think about this and ask them if there is anything going on in their life that might be creating a chronic pain situation.

Offer support to people with chronic pain. Know that they will not want to go out; they may cancel plans at the last minute; they may not smile or laugh much; they may be irritable and grumpy; they may be upset that you don't seem to understand a) that they are in pain and b) how devastating that pain is in their life. Being of support and understanding and asking if there is anything you can do to help, even if it's just to listen, is a Godsend. Many of these folks have no one and no thing to help them with their pain. You could be just what they need.

Being in chronic pain of either type ruins your life. In fact, you don't even really live, you just exist and that is or can be a miserable existence. Find out from them what you can do to make that a better existence. Do NOT expect their pain to resolve quickly like yours did when you sprained your ankle or when you got over your flu symptoms. Chronic pain is long lasting (the true meaning of chronic) and it is NOT all in their head. Believe me, they are not in pain just to get attention. There are a lot easier ways to get attention.

Pain is real even when you can't see it. So please don't judge people in chronic pain as weak. Reach out to them. Ask what you can do. Periodically ask how they are doing and what more you can do..remember, this isn't going to go away in a week or two. By the time you find out about it, it may have been there for months (or even years) already and someone might be at their wits end.

Do a Google search for chronic pain and you'll find out more than you can imagine. Just by reading this post, perhaps you've learned more about chronic pain than you've ever known before. I know I had to have my eyes opened by experiencing it myself. And I just wanted someone to care. But, in order for them to care, they had to know I had the pain and then know about this type of pain. I wanted someone to tell me they understood that I was suffering and that they were willing to do whatever they could to help. But there was no one. I hid the pain as best I could and that is also not healthy.

Be aware of those around you and know that you can help in so many ways just by talking or listening. Let someone know you care about them and what they are going through. Be there for them.  I am grateful for the experience because it has afforded me inside knowledge that I would never have been able to have otherwise. It's something I feel now instead of just knowing.

Take inventory of those around you. You may recall conversations with them about an illness they have. Something like an autoimmune disease or Lyme or arthritis or any number of chronic conditions.

Be there for them and let them know that you are going to be there for them for as long as they need it. In this day and age of instant gratification, we tend to get "bored" with something if it doesn't get fixed or change in a short period of time...We then move on to something or someone else. Don't abandon your friends or coworkers who are in pain. Reach out to help them and know that you will be in it for the long haul! Your gift of love and support will definitely be appreciated and you will feel better about yourself (although you should do it anyway without expecting anything in return).

Chronic pain is all around us. Let's become more aware of it and reach out to those living in it. I assure you it's absolutely NO fun to be living in chronic pain.

Terrie

Life is About Giving, Not Having

Notice I Didn't Say "Getting"

One thing I've learned in the soul searching that has followed my illness(es) and recovery is that life is about giving, not about what you have, what you accumulate or anything else. When we think of "giving", often the first ideas that come to mind are those of giving "objects" or things. But you can give so much more. I realized this when I was trying to figure out how to be in a life of service when I "have to go to work everyday".  It came to me that there are so many other ways to give to people.

I have a confession of sorts regarding this. I believe that there are about 3 books in me that would really help others but for some reason I can't get them out on paper (or the computer). I run into the stumbling block of feeling as if I'm not worthy, that I don't have anything new that would help people. I know all of this is a deep down problem in me but it leads to procrastination and not doing anything...and that leads to frustration etc etc....I'm sure some of you reading this know that drill and may have even circled the same drain.

But that was a digression. My point to all of this is that whatever you have around you or inside of you might be something very valuable and helpful for others. Use that as incentive to clean out your closet or pantry and donate the items you don't need or use. Or listen to folks around you at work or in your social activities and see if they mention they need something - then take inventory in your mind and decide if you have that same object that you could give to them. Nothing will give you a better feeling, believe me!

Even if you don't have physical objects either to give away or that people seem to want, you have yourself to give. Ask someone how they're doing or how they are feeling. Express real interest in an answer...not the usual "how are you?" associated with the hope that the other person will say "fine" and you can go about your business. Maybe that person is having a bad day or a bad time in life and could use an ear. If you don't express sincerity and ask, you may be holding onto one of the most important gifts you can ever give to someone - love and concern for their well being.

You never, ever know what a difference you will make in someone's life. When I was in the hospital, it was very lonely and scary and during one of the hospitalizations it was as if everyone at work forgot me. Not that I wanted visitors (I was a bit too sick) but a text or an email is a welcome sight when you feel all alone. How long does it take you to send  a text? How much effort? Not much at all to write "thinking of you". I can tell you personally how much that means to someone - it means a great deal more than the time it took you to write the words.

Think about everything we waste time doing and then try to think of one or more ways you can give to others every day and then keep track of what you gave, who you gave it to and how you felt. Not, what you got or what you have but what you felt. I believe it will fill you up with the most wonderful feelings you can possibly imagine.

Try it and let everyone know about it. Help it spread. Kindness and love really can be contagious!

Terrie

Where Do You Live?

And I Don't Mean Your Physical Address....

When you read "where do you live?" did you wonder if I had lost my mind? That may be the case but it's not what I was referring to.

There are three places you can live but you can bounce between them faster than a ping pong ball if you're not careful.

There's the Past, the Present and the Future.

Most people, unfortunately, live either in the Past or in the Future, completely bypassing the Present.

I was (and probably still am to some degree) one of those people. As I lay in my hospital bed, scared to the core, I lived in the "What-if" realm of the Future. What is this happened, what if I didn't get better, what if I bled again, what if my electrolytes got messed up again, etc. Instead of focusing on the present moment and doing what I could to apply the amazing healing power of the mind and body, I allowed my brain to be clogged with FEAR - all of which were based on my past experiences. I would know nothing about the "What-ifs" if I had not been exposed somehow in my past. Some of it is from my medical training but the rest of it is from being taught to expect the worst possible outcome. My parents taught me that so I grew up with that thought. That  if things looked bleak, then they were most likely a lot worse than they looked. So, of course, I could see nothing but a bad outcome.

This created anxieties and I became a fortune teller - I took these past experiences (many weren't even experiences, they were just "lessons" I had heard) and created my dreary future. Of course, the outcome of that creation was hollow because the information I was using to make these connections was all negative. There was NO factual basis for any of it. As I said, I didn't really have any experiences of this nature. My mind (instead of my heart) was extrapolating from this limited information. I had no basis for deciding that this medical problem would actually happen. I really cannot predict the future. Of course I do believe that thoughts become things. Which is why I had even more anxiety - I wanted to stop these thoughts so they didn't come true but didn't know how to get off the merry-go-round.

Two things helped. One was my attending physician. He kept saying "you're an ultrarunner, you're strong." period. I kept returning to that sentence and kept telling my body that it was strong and that it was healing. It gave me something positive to focus on.

Then, the other thing that helped reduce the anxieties was EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique). It took me long enough to remember to use it (the last weekend I was in the hospital) but I was so glad when I did. I simply tapped on my fears over and over again and they dissipated. I had to keep doing this throughout the day and night because there are many layers to the fears but it calmed me down finally. And for that, I am forever grateful.

The point to all of this is that I am learning to live in the present. I never really knew what that meant but what I do know is that if I start to think about the future no matter what the context, I look to see if I am recreating my past. I then realign myself with what I am doing right now. And that's where I want to stay. I go through my gratitudes for this present moment and it will keep me right here. There is no benefit living in either the future or the past. Be content or be happy with the "right now". It's simple but not necessarily easy. Just ask yourself where your primary thoughts are focusing and then correct them if need be.

I'll leave you with the greatest quote I've heard in a long time - written by an extremely wise man, Lazarus Lake:

"Each moment in our lives only happens once."

You don't want to miss that moment do you?

Terrie

 

A Year of Loss…But I Gained So Much

Happy New Year Everyone!

15665682_10154087179037371_1041395872778229932_n This year has been one of the most “different” and “difficult” ones in my life. I have been very, very fortunate all my life so I also know that my definition of “difficult” comes no where close to what so many others have had to experience.

In January I was down with the flu (should have gotten the shot). This lasted 2 weeks and then I thought I was on to a great year. Fast forward to mid February - I have four days of strange unrelenting chest pain. By the 17th I had the outbreak of Shingles (didn’t get that vaccine either like an idiot). The Shingles itself wasn’t so bad but then Bang! I started having this pain that I can only describe as a cow being branded - every 15-30 seconds(another person I met described it aptly as feeling like having an iron put on your skin and then lifted off). This pain has persisted for 10 1/2 months now with no real end in sight.

This chronic pain has been debilitating for me. I have only been able to go to work because I can endure it with my TENS unit. But I go to work and then come home and do nothing but try to deal with the pain until it’s time to go to bed.

So what have I lost this year? Essentially my old life.

I can’t run and running is such a key part of me and my life. I won’t elaborate more on this because it would take a long time and you’d most likely be bored by the time I stopped.

I have lost contact with my running friends since I haven’t been able to go to any running events. Sure, I’ve kept in contact on Facebook but then I have to see all their running activities. But that would be depressing because I’d want to be out there with them.

I don’t go out or do anything because I have to wear normal clothes and my TENS (the electrodes of which cause skin irritation when you’re wearing it constantly for 10 months).

My attention has been on one thing and one thing only - is the pain coming? How long will it last? When will it stop? Given the pathology of the brain in chronic pain, there has been no space left for me to concentrate on anything else.

I haven’t written anything, not even this blog. No matter how much I think “I should write something” it hasn’t clicked into action because I’ve been so wrapped up in and by the chronic pain.

And to top this all off, I lost my very best friend in the world this summer. That rocked my world completely. The emotions of loss are so similar to the emotions of chronic pain. There’s a paralysis that grabs hold of you. You don’t even want to get out of the paralyzed state. So, the last several months have been even less productive than the ones before it (which is hard to imagine).

I have lost site of all my goals. My life consists of going to work and coming home to sit in my recliner and then go to bed. It used to be so much fuller. Where has everything gone? I just live pretty much minute to minute without any thought about the distant future. And, at my age, you want to make sure you use every minute of your day in the fullest possible manner.

Then in November I lost my previous boss. This man was totally amazing. He had stage IV lung cancer when he was my boss and came to work every single day during chemo and radiation. He never missed one day at all. He had the most positive and grateful attitude I’ve ever seen. He lived 6 additional years and gave so much to others during that time.

During this holiday season preparing for the New Year, I sat and thought about so much that has 13892154_1174232652638004_7291500097119858952_nhappened this past year and I knew I wanted to get back to blogging and writing books. But for some reason I just couldn’t do it. However, I know that the most powerful force in the Universe is gratitude and that I really needed to focus on that. So, I just started thinking of things to be grateful for from this past year. And I realized I have gained so much through all this loss..

I have gained a greater understanding of chronic pain and now have a much greater compassion for those experiencing it.

Because I couldn’t go to at least one of the events, I was able to ‘gift’ my entrance fee to another person who is so wonderful and raises money for pancreatic cancer research. He was so excited that it made me feel so good I could help him.

I met people who knew my best friend (she lived about 1500 miles away from me) and they shared stories about her that were so fulfilling. It was great to meet them and talk with them and I gained so much just from an afternoon with them all. I have even become friends with her business partner as a result. How precious is that?

I also realized that my best friend and my former boss are role models for me even though they have passed. They both have qualities I yearn for and instead of thinking “what would Jesus do?”, I can simply ask what would one them do? That gives me most of the answers I need.

I have changed my primary “charity” focus from St Jude Children’s Research Hospital to helping the homeless population in America and especially battered/abused women who finally get the courage to leave their environment and then have no place to go. In addition, I am really interested in the “no kid hungry” movement too. There are so many people in need that our help. They have things so much worse than we could ever imagine.

I have read more books than I have in my life. Even though most of them were novels, it was still wonderful to fill my brain with the words and works of others.

I “met”/found more people who have crossed the US on foot and have been able to follow their treks - this has helped me prepare for my trip.

I have reunited with my EFT practitioner and learned and used the newest form of EFT - optimal EFT - a very enlightening experience. This reunion and sessions with this wonderful person has also led to many more of my blessings.

I have been introduced to Dr. Joe Dispenza, whom I knew from the movie “What the Bleep Do We Know?” about Quantum physics and reality. He has done some fantastic work that I am now immersed in because it’s helped me change in so many ways.

I learned about neuroplasticity through Dr. Joe and then through the many other researchers in this field. There has been scientific evidence discovered in the past several years which how that we can rewire our brains and change our lives in whatever way we want. I have been working on it trying to rewire my pain receptors and although that has been very slow, the other changes in my life have been much more significant. I can’t tell you how grateful I am for that.

As a result of studying this, I am going to go to a workshop in January (actually it’s two workshops in one week) where there will be intense meditations and energy exchange. I am so excited about this.

I have seen a “functional medicine” doctor in Austin to see what he can do, if anything, about the postherpetic neuralgia. He gave me supplements and told me what foods to eliminate. He said this will work even though it may take a few months.

I have made some major decisions about my future and finally committed to these changes. This is most exciting to me.

I am sure there is so much more but I wanted to give you a taste of how important it is to look at the good in your life no matter how bad you feel and no matter how much pain you’re experiencing. The Gratitude will elevate your emotions and it will help your mood no matter what.

I want to remind you that you can pick up a free electronic Gratitude Journal, which I created for you. It works on Windows operating systems only but does work with Windows 10. You can even use the popup function so that you can record something that happens or something you think of as you think of them - so you don’t have to try to remember what to be thankful for.

Remember to be grateful for things that have not yet gotten here but that you want to happen. This is powerful and it helps give the Universe the energy to bring you what you’re looking for.

Thanks for all your well wishes and for sticking with me all this time. I hope to be able to continue blogging again even if it’s on a bit less frequency.

Have a wonderful new year everyone!

Terrie

When It Seems As If You Don’t Know What To Do

Just Do SomethingI

no part of the journey I found to be excellent advice after the past few weeks of just spinning my wheels. I have not known what to do to get out of this depression and despair from loss and pain. But, once I saw this, I realized that I just have to do something and then see which road it leads me down. A friend of mine also gave me the same advice and turns out she was right.

Taking some sort of action is one of the hardest things we all have to do sometimes. It just seems easier to simply stay put, not doing anything. But, all that does is cause you to sit and think more about your problems and where you are compared to where you want to be. That accomplishes nothing. You just sit around and feel worse - you feel worse because you're thinking about those problems; you feel worse because you're not doing the things you "should" be doing; you feel worse because you're not interacting with those who want you to interact with them; you feel worse because life is just passing you by and you're not accomplishing anything.

Figure out what you can do that would constitute that one tiny step.  In my instance a few weeks ago I decided that ok maybe I can't run but let's see if I can at least walk. So I got out and tried it. It didn't feel great and I had to stop a lot because of the pain but what did feel great was the fact that I had tried to take control of my life and not let my "condition" rule me and my life. I am not my condition. But what matters is that that was one little step. Then I tried to do some cleaning - one space at a time.  That was ok too. So, each time I did something and started to take back my life, it filled me with hope and joy - and of course, we all know that joy releases endorphins which helps with mood and maybe even some degree of pain control. So, it's all good all around.

Don't stand there and just look at the fork in the road. Do something for yourself. Do something you haven't done in a long time, something you enjoy. Some tiny little thing. Write it down too so you can determine how you felt once you did it. Write down how you felt before and how you felt after. I know that the first time I got my haircut after the shingles overtook my life, I felt great because I had some sense of normalcy back again. It's amazing what little things do for you.

Try this if you're having trouble deciding which direction to go in. I know I'm going to look at that fork in the road about my retirement. And I'm going to take one step forward down one of the two paths. And, we'll see what happens!

Terrie