“How To Live Well With Chronic Pain and Illness” Chapter 7 Summary: “Dealing with Tough Choice after Tough Choice”

When you live with chronic illness or pain, you find yourself constantly trying to manage your health as our relationships with others as skillfully and as well as we can. Based  on our evaluations of how we are managing both of those parts of our lives, we have to make choices that will most be the most beneficial. This leads to tough choice after tough choice. Do we keep the plans we made or listen to your body and stay home? Do we let down our friends or our bodies?

Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.

-Arthur Ashe

 

In this chapter, the author writes out some tough choices/questions that we have probably all found ourselves facing at some point during our lives with chronic illness/pain. See below:

  • “Do we talk openly about our health problems, or do we keep them private?”
    • This is a choice I find myself facing nearly every day. When I interact with strangers or with people whom I know I won’t be seeing often, I find myself wondering if I should even bother trying to explain my symptoms and health conditions. Sometimes I feel like I have to explain myself or the person/people I’m talking to will think I’m weird, or lazy, or boring, etc. But then other times, I feel like I shouldn’t have to explain to someone who may just be a temporary character in my story. The best thing we can do for ourselves in this dilemma, is read the situation and circumstance and do what we feel will be the most beneficial and compassionate for us–not for anyone else.
  • “Do we follow our doctor’s treatment plan, or do we try alternate therapies?”
    • This question frequents my mind much more often than I would like it to. So often I find myself going back and forth on whether I want to try a new treatment that my doctor has suggested. For years, none of the medicines I was being told to take worked. None of them. Countless pills and nothing to show for it. So I am skeptical. However, there are some treatments that my doctors have suggested that have proved to be beneficial and have provided me with even the littlest relief (any relief is a win). So I am hopeful.
  • “Do we ignore a new or worsening symptom, or do we have it checked out by a doctor?”
    • I can not tell you how often I have asked myself this question. You can ask my family members and my boyfriend–they won’t be able to remember either because it’s a substantial number that keeps growing. I find myself so much more in tune with my body than most people. While this can be beneficial, it can be extremely tormenting. It is exhausting to waste so much emotional efforts focusing on every single ache, twinge, or pain that is felt in our bodies. Trust me–I do it every day. However, no one knows your body as well as you do. There have been times that I have gone to the ER over a symptom that ended up being nothing to worry about. However, there have also been times where I have brought up symptoms to doctors and it has helped get me steps closer to treatments that actually work for my body. All you can do, is listen to your body as carefully as you can. You are the expert on your body. You know it best.
  • “Do we use makeup and the like to cover up how sick we are or how much pain we’re in, or do we let people see how we really feel?”
    • This is a question that I often answer too quickly–and most of the time, my answer is to hide how much pain I am really feeling. The author said something in this paragraph that stuck with me real hard. She said “Health people tend to assume it’s all or nothing: people are either sick or they’re not; they’re either in pain or they’re not. As a result, if they see us doing anything ‘normal,’ they assume we’re 100% well.” I mean this is an every single day occurrence for me. I’ve lived through thousands of interactions where someone has said to me “oh you have a headache today? I’m so sorry.” Well…I actually have a headache every single day, it’s just some days they are worse and more painful than other days. It’s not their fault, I know. But it’s extremely difficult to always remind people of my constant pain. So, most days, I just hide how I’m feeling. People are not deliberately insensitive to our pain though. They just simply don’t know.

The author ends this chapter by talking about how physically and mentally exhausting it is for us to have to  continually “assess, evaluate, and choose a course of action while already struggling with chronic illness.” and she couldn’t be more accurate. Pay attention to your body and you will find the answers to your choices come much more easily.

“How To Live Well With Chronic Pain and Illness” Chapter 6 Summary: “Complaining Is a Recipe for Suffering”

When you live with a chronic illness or condition, you find that there is never a shortage of things to complain about. However, this chapter focuses on how to acknowledge those complaints and be mindful of those we have control over and those we do not.

The author in this chapter tells us to separate our complaints into three parts: (1) complaints involving circumstances over which we have no control; (2) complaints involving circumstances over which we might have some control; (3) complaints involving circumstances over which we have total control. She then writes about each separate part, which I will summarize below:

No Control

So many things in our life happen out of our control. While we can’t change what happens, we are able to change how we respond to those circumstances. Complaining about facts and situations that are true and out of our control only causes us additional and unnecessary suffering–which we do not need more of. The author then quoted the Thai Buddhist monk Ajahn Chah and I loved the quote:

If you let go a little, you will have a little peace. If you let got a lot, you will have a lot of peace. If you let go completely, you will know complete peace and freedom. Your struggles with the world will have come to an end.

While I like this quote, it’s also easier said than done: letting go, that is. So when you find yourself just unable to let it go, instead, just let it be.

Partial Control

Some examples of complaints that are under our partial control were: friends who don’t call often, a complaining partner, and the presence of physical pain. She suggests looking for “skillful actions” that can help ease the stress that this complaint is causing. For example, finding new ways of communicating with your partner, looking for pain clinics and new doctors, and picking up the phone to call and reach out to your friend yourself.

Total Control

Total control is almost non-existent for people with chronic illness and pain, even sometimes for people without it as well. Out of the list of complaints that she gave as examples, she was unable to categorize any of them into the total control category.

 

I will leave you with this, my favorite words of hers from this chapter: “Complaining is a habit that clouds our ability to see that most of our complaints involve circumstances over which we have little or no control.”

Complaining is natural. I, for one, complain much more often that I should. I have an extremely hard time letting things go. It’s one of my biggest flaws. But more recently. I have acknowledged this within myself and have been actively trying to let things go and let things be, since I know I have very little or no control over the vast majority of things I tend to complain about.

 

 

HAWMC Day 10: Yahoo Has All The Answers

Yahoo Answers

Q: My head feels like it’s about to explode. The throbbing is so intense. Can someone’s head actually explode?

A: No. Your head cannot physically explode. It will feel like it at times–the throbbing feels intense enough that it feels like something will erupt from within your skull–but no, your head will not explode. It will be over soon.

ryan-gosling-headache-meme

 

Hope For Progress, Rather Than Fear The Disappointment 

I have gone through months where I’ve effectively given up, only to give myself a wide wake up call that I needed to pick myself out of my funk and continue to try to find an effective treatment. No matter how walls I ran into and how many failed attempts there were, I had to keep trying.
I hope that you keep fighting to find an effective treatment. Or if you’re in a funk and you’ve lost hope, that you find the strength to try again. Because hope is the only thing stronger than fear. Hope that there is a treatment out there, rather than the fear of never finding an answer.

Thoughtful Things To Do For People With Migraines 

Sometimes we all need a little help

Migranieagain.com recently shared a post that I couldn’t not share with all of you on my own blog. While I found myself relating to it’s content so easily, it’s more geared toward the loved ones of people who suffer from migraines.

As someone with chronic headaches and migraines, even when I know I need help, I still hate asking for it. It’s very common among spoonies to feel like we are a burden on our loved ones: needing to be taken care of, having to cancel plans with them last minute, occasionally letting our frustration out on them.

It is often hard to ask for someone’s well wishes and good intentions. And I know that many people in my life, even when they try their best to help, still feel helpless. It’s not that we don’t appreciate the help, but often there isn’t much another person can do to help.

This post shows how people can help migraine sufferers in their life suffer a little less, live a little more, and feel cared for even when it’s too hard to ask for the extra bit of care.

(You should go through and read the entire thing, but I will just list a few that really stood out to me)

  • Ask “what would be fun for you?” -Often, certain events like concerts, going to smokey bars, and hiking cause migraines to pop up. Try suggesting activities like yoga, crafting, or seeing a movie instead.
  • Say “no problem” when plans get cancelled: -It’s an awful feeling to have to cancel last minute on a close friend or family member due to a migraine. Try to remember how upsetting it is for the person with migraine (uh, hello FOMO). The guilt is strong. Even if you are frustrated or upset, just saying “no problem” even when a person has to cancel plans on nights like birthdays or holidays shows immense compassion and kindness.
  • Make a migraine care package-So many things are helpful when trying to get rid of a headache. Earplugs, blankets, water, lavender, etc. Why not package them all up for someone for easy access!
  • Make a donation to Migraine Research in their name-Migraine disorder needs much more attention. So many people suffer from migraines and it needs the research and awareness it deserves to prevent the next generation from suffering as well.
  • Drop them a note-Whether it’s an email, handwritten card, or scribble on a post-it-note, getting words of encouragement and good thoughts is so powerful in helping a person continue to fight their daily battle.

(**The post I referenced throughout my own post comes from migraineagain.com )