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Category Archives: depression

Working with Chronic Pain Obstacles

  The obstacle is the path.    

         Zen Proverb

I just saw this great quote on Beth Havey’s blog. She is a boomer licensed nurse/writer blogging about keeping our lives on track in the midst of all  that life presents to us each day. When I read or hear about  all the demands that are placed on us, many that we lovingly absorb, I am reminded how much tougher this makes a day for someone navigating around chronic pain. I encourage you to check out her site. In addition to pain management, life management skills, on which she offers some great ideas, are an essential part of the equation.

Reflecting on the quote, I was hearing something I did not want to hear. If the obstacle is the path, then meeting it head on is what we should be doing. This takes courage. It is always much easier to skirt what is in our way rather than confront it. Running and hiding, in a comfortable place where we cannot even see the obstacle, is another viable option. The quote suggests the contrary, we should identify our challenge and work with it to discover our life path.

It takes a lot of centeredness to approach life with this perspective. If we choose to acknowledge what lies in our path it is a means of staying centered. It is a giant post-it note reminding us that we cannot forget ourselves and the nourishment we need, before we decide how much we have to give to others.

What strategies or “post-it notes” reminders do you use to ensure you don’t give all your energy away to others, ignoring what you need for yourself?

First Aid for Chronic Pain

This past weekend I was hit with a virus. It took me back to my pain days, when I was spending more time in bed than on my feet. I am guessing that most folks have had at least one encounter with a major virus, and can remember the anger, frustration and lack of energy that are part of this experience. Imagine how it would be if you were constantly trapped in this situation.

If you come across someone you love who battles chronic pain and you see them engaging in what might seem like a leisurely activity, like laying down and reading, don’t rush to judgement. They may appear to be lounging, but in reality, they are engaging in a healthy dose of “First Aid.” They are seeking a diversion from their situation. They are choosing to take control of their life and engage in something  manageable and meaningful. They are attempting to avoid suffering. This is good medicine. Encourage them and their efforts to stay engaged.

To see someone in pain, not engaging in a healthy activity, that is when you should worry. These folks are feeling a loss of control and trapped in their pain. Depression is sure to follow.

First Aid can consist of simple measures, but can also be life saving. Do you have certain “First Aid” measures that you employ to ward of suffering? What gives you a sense of being able to escape the ugly pit of chronic pain? Have you found yourself misjudged as being lazy when in fact you are doing the best that you can at a given point in time?

Playing with Chronic Pain

I just got back from an amazing vacation in Mexico that centered around swimming with dolphins. They are truly amazing creatures. I felt drawn to want to be around their energy. Evolving over ten million years ago, they are considered one of the most intelligent animals. Play is an important part of their culture. This tells me they understand something significant.

“The master in the art of living makes little distinction between his work and his play, his labor and his leisure, his mind and his body, his education and his recreation, his love and his religion. He hardly knows which is which…. He simply pursues his vision of excellence in whatever he does, leaving others to decide whether he is working or playing. To him, he is always doing both…” -Zen Buddhist teaching

With Chronic Pain, it is too easy to become serious about everything. Taking a lesson from the dolphins, that play is an essential activity, I am anxious to incorporate their wisdom. I can already guess that it will make some unbearable parts of my day more bearable. Hey, if we can redo the daily food pyramid, maybe it is time we rethink our priorities regarding daily activity needs.

Have you understood the wisdom of the dolphins and put play in each day? What works for you?

Transforming Pain

As a child, I remember my father doing a trick where he would hold a coin in his hand, make it disappear and then magically reappear behind one of my ears.I was amazed at how this happened.

This morning watching the Royal Wedding, it was equally magical for me thinking about how Kate was transformed from a commoner to a Princess with her wedding vows. She is no different a person than who she was yesterday, but now her life will have the capacity to expand in unimaginable ways.

Sometimes I think that as chronic pain sufferers, our pain has robbed us of our original identity. It has taken away from our self image and perceived value. What we need to do is give value back to ourselves. Believe that we are worthy of the best that life has to offer and never stop believing that tomorrow can be transformational, just like today was for Princess Kate.

Keep believing that transformations, large or small, are possible. Here are some magic coins for safekeeping.

New “To Do” for Chronic Pain

Mary Byrne Eigel

In 2010, I am going to add a new category to my daily TO-DO list, “What Have You Done for Yourself Today.” All the other items on the list depend on me being nourished, flexible, focused and feeling good. Why is it that my list rarely focuses on what I need to do for myself? So rather than feeling good about checking off the usual to-do’s, I am going to re-frame my thinking and be conscious of the ways I have spent time replenishing my physical, spiritual, creative and emotional needs.

I can hear the Staple Singers song “Respect Yourself” playing in my head.

Do you have any new ways you will be reframing your thoughts in the New Year?

Blessings, Mary

Get Fascinated with Chronic pain

c. M. Byrne Eigel

This time of year, when I was a child,  I recall being swept into another world looking at all the colors and lights that appear this time of year. I just wanted to shrink myself and crawl into a world where I was surrounded by their magic.

I am sure there are compelling psychological reasons why this felt so good.

As an adult I try to find things that fascinate and take my breath away. These are the experiences that then become ‘special places’ I can mentally go when I need to brighten my day.

What  fascinates you? What magic places have you found that can mentally provide a haven of bliss for pain-filled days? I invite your thoughts.

Chronic Pain Journey

Driving across the Midwest the last few weeks I have witnessed flocks of birds winging their way to warmer climate. It boggles my mind to think of the distance some of them will travel.  As they fly overhead, I contemplate how they work together, taking turns to lead and then follow and collectively  carve a path through the air.

It reminds me of how a chronic pain journey can be eased by working with a group of supporters. It is not a journey one should travel alone. We can lighten our own burdens by allowing others to intercede and help direct us when we have moments of need knowing that life may present opportunities for us to take the lead for them in the future when their needs arise.

Pain, the Motivator

My journey with pain has played a dramatic role in my life and led me places I may not have gone had I been pain free.  After each of my three hip surgeries and three knee surgeries I was highly motivated to move “through” the surgical pain and was able to envision a place without pain.

A friend, who was feeling fine, was recently diagnosed with cancer and had to undergo major surgery. She had not spent any real time in a “pain place”. Her surgery was successful, cancer was removed. But she is physically drained and feeling a bit blind-sided. Her cancer was invisible to her and had not caused her to make major alterations in her life.

Being with her I can see my own situation and realize that my pain strengthened me. My goal was to be as far away from it as possible. But anyone having a health issue that is not preceded by pain has a different perspective.

I would not wish my pain experience on my enemies.  But I see now that it gave me strength and courage to work as hard as I could and endure great discomfort. I am feeling compassion for those whose health issues do not include pain. It plays with my mind to wonder where your courage would come from to endure post surgical rehabilitation when you felt fine prior to surgery.

“Lightening Up” Pain Management

Exercise is a great pain management technique. But when you are in pain it can be your nemesis and most of time it can feel like work. It is usually something I do because it is a good thing to do, not because I want to do it or that it is enjoyable. My logical brain tells me that it is a way of maintaining flexibility and keeping pain at arm’s length. But I have noticed something recently that has happened in relation to exercise that I felt worth sharing.

I have only been on one team in my whole life, a college intramural basketball team. I had occasion to observe folks at our local “Y” playing water volleyball. They appeared to be having so much fun. I just happened to be in the pool when they were asking if anyone wanted to play. I thought “They are playing in  water, I love being in water. If I fall, I’m in water, how could that hurt?  If the ball drops, it does not fall to the ground where I cannot retrieve it, it’s on the water.” So I decided to give it a try.  Needless to say I am now  playing each week. I look forward to playing. I have never looked forward to exercising like I look forward to this.

There is a real sense of “joy” that comes from engaging in this activity.

It is joyful playing with others.

It is joyful being able to be on a team.

It is joyful being able to do something that is so beneficial and fun.

Being with others with various physical limitations, playing a sport that has very loose rules, laughing at silly mistakes and getting one heck of a workout makes this a perfect pain management tool. What keeps me valuing this  activity is not that it assists with pain management, but that it is “fun” and that I can do it, and that does wonders for my self image.

Do you have an activity that gives you joy that is also beneficial in terms of pain management? I would love to hear your answer.

Favorite Blogs

I was so humbled to accept an award from a fellow blogger, Wendy Burnett at Sick and Tired of Being Sick and Tired.  I  am just  getting around to fulfilling the requirements that go along with this honor by selecting my favorite blogs and doing a brief description of them.

* Accept the award and post it on your blog with the name of the person who has granted the award and his or her blog link.

* Pass the award to 15 other blogs that you’ve newly discovered. (if possible)

* Remember to contact the bloggers to let them know they have been chosen for this award.

Here are some of the blogs that have inspired, informed and uplifted me.

1 . Dancing with Pain, Loolwa Khazzoom is the founder and CEO of Dancing with Pain®, a health & wellness company that offers natural pain relief solutions and that has been featured in media outlets including ABC News and The New York Times.  Her approach and program are worth checking out.

2. How to Cope with Pain, a blog hosted by a Board Certified Psychiatrist in practice for 18 years in Pennsylvania who focuses on chronic  pain  patients. His blog is always insightful, provocative and educational. Sign up for his monthly Pain blog carnival.

3. Chronic Babe for those who are not defined by their pain, but want to help define pain. My only regret is that blogs  did not exist twenty years ago. This would have been a “home”. It is wonderful for networking, resourcing and just making each day more meaningful by being able to share with others on chronic pain journeys.

4. Addiction Free Pain Management, Dr Grinstead treats chronic pain patients and other co-existing disorders. His informed and heartfelt understanding of pain issues and broad based approach to treating them makes me wish I lived a whole lot closer to his center.

5. The Positive Mind, the Di Mele Center in NY is both blog and radio program focusing on helpful resources in dealing with life issues. And with chronic pain, I have found that the more tools I have in my tool bag to deal with stressors, the better I am at pain management.

6. Health.com always has interesting articles on everything from side effects of pain meds to improving your sex life when dealing with chronic pain.

7. Heroes of Healing Heroes of Healing is a non-judgmental, forum-based website for caregivers and those in pain to come together to share personal stories of struggle, perseverance and triumph. Very validating.

8. Life with Chronic Pain:A how-to guide Sue takes a glass-half-full approach to her disease and says she tries to do something useful every day.

9. Creaky Joints: Bringing Arthritis to its Knees . The name says it all. There are several great columnists all speaking from their personal and professional points of view on issues. Very uplifting.

10. Overcoming Pain by Mark Borigini discusses why people experience chronic pain, and the power they have to de-intensify it. Great topics, information and insight.

11. Rising Above, John has an incredible personal story and a very inspirational newsletter that you can get.

12. Graceful Agony a long time favorite. Jolene believes in living your best life in spite of pain and offers lots of reflective articles about her journey and resources.

13. Phylor’s blog I always enjoy her musings, creativity and alternative approaches and research.

14. HealthSkills a blog for health professionals working in pain management. I value her research and love to read what is being discussed. I believe that those of us in pain can help inform those who work with pain. And I value being informed.

15. Wordle.net this is not a blog but a great website for creating word clouds. I have used it to create lovely graphics for many presentations. Just upload one of your blog articles and see what it does with it. It  puts joy in my day when I see the words that I have used, their frequency and have them arranged artfully.