“How To Live Well With Chronic Pain and Illness” Chapter 8 Summary: “The Many Benefits of Patience”

Chapter 8 of “How To Live Well With Chronic Pain and Illness” outlines the many benefits of patience when it comes to living a life with chronic pain and/or illness. We are patients. And we need to be patient. This word patient is such a commonly used word in our life’s dictionary.

Everyone loses their patience–maybe traffic is bad and you just want to get home; maybe the wait time at the doctor’s office is unbearable and you can’t stop glancing at the clock while sighing; maybe today just isn’t your day.

One hard truth about life: sometimes, it just doesn’t go your way. But the author puts this fact into perspective for us a bit in this chapter. She says that “it’s not the fact that we don’t get our way that makes us miserable; it’s how we respond to that fact. The question becomes, do we get angry and upset, or do we tolerate and accept whatever’s happening that we don’t like?”

The author notes that by practicing patience in her life, she has noticed two things:
1) being patient is a way of treating yourself with compassion
2) being patient gave rise to equanimity–the even-tempered, peaceful state of mind that accepts with kind understanding that our lives will not always conform to our preferences.

The author then outlines her four-step approach for working with stressful and painful emotions. See below:
1) Recognize it: Recognize that impatience has arisen
She goes on to talk about how we often tend to think that the environment around us should conform to our expectations (ex: no traffic jams, no long lines, etc.) ; we tend to think that people should conform to our expectations (ex:they should behave the way we think they should) **I am very guilty of this** ; our expectations are often unrealistic when it comes to mastering new skills ; our expectations are almost always unrealistic when it comes to what goes on in our minds.

She suggests trying to come up with specific examples from our own lives that we can fit under these categories, which in turn will help us recognize that we are responding with impatience.
2) Label it: Label impatience when it is present in your mind
Try investigating your emotions from an objective point of view. It’s easy to place judgement on ourselves for how we’re feeling, but that isn’t fair nor compassionate to ourselves.
3) Investigate it: Investigate how impatience feels in your mind and in your body
Try to pay attention to how you feel when you’re impatient–is your body relaxed or tensed, is your mind calm or anxious?
4)Let it be
“Calmly accept the presence of impatience knowing that, with time, conditions will change..and so will my mind”

It’s the peace of mind that comes with accepting, without aversion, that delays, difficulties, and annoyances will inevitably be among life’s experiences.

 

Tackle Your Tuesday: You Can Do It!

Living with a medical condition (or many) inhibits your ability to do so many things that others are capable of doing. For me that includes: running, exercising without pain, living without fear of pain ruining your plans, etc… 

But just because I can’t do those things, doesn’t mean I can’t do things that others may not be able to. That includes writing, advocating, becoming a finalist for the WEGO Health Activist Awards, and so much more.

Try not to think about what you cannot do, and put your focus on what you can do. And change the world with it. 🌎🌄

“How To Live Well With Chronic Pain And Illness” Chapter 2: A Not-T0-Do List for the Chronically Ill

I am a huge list makers. If you looked on my phone right now, you’d probably be overwhelmed and confused by the number of lists I have saved. Some of which are extremely random and I don’t remember making.

Living with a chronic illness, I have a mental to-do list running at all times to help me steer clear of increasing the severity of my pain. But this whole chapter in “How to Live Well With Chronic Pain and Illness” is about making a not-to-do list. Here are a few:

  • Do not spend your energy worrying about how others view your medical condition
    • this is one I struggle with constantly. I am always worrying about if people think I’m faking it, or exaggerating my pain. I worry if they think I’m just lazy because I turn down opportunities to go hiking, when really, it would make my head near explode. I worry that people will think I’m no fun because often I have to turn down happy hour invitations because alcohol causes my head to scream. I also always worry that when people see me dancing around and laughing, that they will think I’m “better” and that I don’t have a headache. When in reality, I always have a headache, I just often put my personal enjoyment ahead of them and often put up a front that I’m ok. Just like any other thing in life, we cannot put our focus on how others view us or think of us. What matters is what we know to be true and how we see ourselves.
  • “Do not treat disheartening or discouraging thoughts or emotions as permanent fixtures in your mind”
    • so often I hit dark days when I worry about my life in the future and that I will be feeling sick every day for the rest of my life.These days often entail gloominess and the blues. It’s normal to have these types of discouraging thoughts, especially on days when our pain is at its worst. Do not condemn yourself for these thoughts. These thoughts are not permanent. The blues shall pass and the light will shine through again.
  • “Do not ignore your body’s pleas to say no to an activity”
    • It’s extremely hard to turn down offers to activities that we know will make us feel like the healthier people around us. I remember countless times where I have accepted offers and pushed my body just because I didn’t want FOMO. But, each time without fail, my body ended up paying for it later on. In the moment, it’s easy to forget about the pain. Sometimes, I even forget that my headaches are there due to my excitement or adrenaline. But once I stop moving, trust me, they remind me that they’re still there. The pounding in my head is usually so bad I almost (and likely do) cry. Don’t push your body past its limits. Sometimes on special occasions, if we feel comfortable knowing we will most likely pay for it later, it’s ok to say yes when we know we shouldn’t. But overall, it’s important to stay mindful to what your body is telling you.
  • “Do not put your pre-illness life on a pedestal”
    • this one stuck out to me the most. Almost every day I think to myself “I just wish I could feel like I did x  years ago when my headaches were not a constant.” I daydream about the days where I was exercising daily, partying like a normal young adult sometimes does, and just living life without worrying about setting a reminder for my 3 doctor appointments for the next week. But the thing is, life is always changing. What once brought us joy may not bring us the same kind of joy any longer. Take a look at where you are now, what you’ve accomplished and who you have around you. Ask yourself, did you have these things in your pre-illness life? Most likely, you got to where you are today because of what you went through in the past. And I bet all of you have some really great accomplishments to be proud of and a lot of people who are there for you day in and day out. Put that life on a pedestal.

If you’re like me, than you are your own biggest critic. People like us have a tendency to be hard on ourselves and have a very tough time letting things from the past go.

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Let’s make a promise to ourselves to focus on the good that we have in our lives now, instead of fretting over what we’ve lost from the past.

 

 

Headaches Always Steal The Spotlight 

There are many tough truths that spoonies have to accept after dealing with a chronic condition throughout their life. Even when you accept these truths though, they still can be hard to swallow.

One truth that I’ve recently learned to start accepting is that headaches and migraines present themselves whenever they want. Headaches don’t care if you’re at work, a social outing, in class, at a concert, or just hanging at home with family or friends. Headaches don’t care if it’s an anniversary, your birthday, a holiday, or just what you had anticipated to be a relaxing Saturday evening.
How do I know? Experience and the knowledge that headaches have taken over the control room.

This year on Christmas Eve, I got a migraine. Whoopee, right?

This led to a few hours of frustration (but that was already higher than usual due to other health problems) and tears. Yeah, I would admit that I didn’t hold up as well as I would’ve liked to.

My migraine controlled my emotions and mentality for a few hours that day. I thought, angrily for a while, “Seriously? Christmas Eve?” Had to spend a few hours napping, away from my family. I felt isolated in so many ways. Felt like this only would happen to me. “Just my luck.” Felt like I wasn’t able to turn my thoughts from negative to positive ones. Felt defeated and like I had zero control over my life at the moment.

After moping, napping, crying and laughing at my situation,I mentally reminded myself that if this is how bad I have it on Christmas Eve, than I am the honestly one of the lucky ones. I thought how there are so many other people out there who have incredibly worse situations than my own and who are dealing with things beyond my comprehension. I thought about the many people who don’t have a roof over their head, who are enduring illnesses that keep them on bed rest and worse, and people who don’t have family to share their Christmas with.

These thoughts not only humbled me, but gave me the physical and mental strength to get up and move on with the night.While I know I sound dramatic, at the time it didn’t seem possible to get myself out from under the covers.

Even though the head pain was still there, (not as bad as it had started out as, but still there) I was still able to turn my night around and ended up having a wonderful time with my family that consisted of laughs, smiles, and tons of delicious homemade snicker doodles (made from scratch by yours truly.)

The truth is: headaches, chronic pain, or any chronic disorder, etc. will remain in control of your body, probably more than a majority of the time. You, however, can be in control of your mentality and good spirit. Learn to take control and turn your “woe is me” moments into “glad to be me” moments.

It’s advice that I need to learn to take more often, myself.