RSS Feed

Tag Archives: health

Writing to Heal

 

Silent Courage, Mary Byrne Eigel

Silent Courage, Mary Byrne Eigel

Doing a pre-release review of my book, Silent Courage, Dr Steve Grinstead said to me, “Mary, you know what you have done, don’t you?”

“No. What?”

“You did Narrative Therapy.

“What is that?”

“You need to read Narrative, Pain and Suffering, by Carr, Loeser and Morris. It will explain it.”

The book arrived. It looked like a medical textbook, full of research. I had paid for it. I ought to read it. I hesitantly began. The book documented studies revealing the healing effects of having people write what they knew their truth to be.

As I read, I felt an internal shift. My mind was now comprehending what my soul knew, which was…

After writing my book, I felt like a different person. I was challenging myself to things like biking the Golden Gate bridge when previously I had difficulty motivating myself to walk more than a mile.

I knew I was traveling lighter. The emotional heaviness I had carried for years after a 40 year journey with chronic pain was no longer defining who I was. My soul felt aligned with the person I wanted to be, not just the sum of past experiences.

The current issue of  “O” magazine has a captivating feature entitled, What’s Your Story. With input from several authors, it presents the benefits of picking up pen and paper and seeing what appears on the page.

Here is a simple way to begin:

  1. Quiet yourself in a comfortable place with your writing tools nearby.
  2. Tell yourself that you desire to know a bit of the story your soul carries.
  3. Begin writing and don’t stop. Do not judge what you are writing.
  4. When you are finished, read what you wrote. Any surprises?

For the last year I have been presenting “Mining your Soul Story” workshops. Based on my own experience and that of workshop participants, I guarantee you will uncover buried treasure.

“The unexamined life is not worth living”  Socrates

I will continue to explore ideas for connecting with the story your soul wants to tell in future posts.

Please follow or connect to continue this game changing conversation. Let’s keep our pens rolling!

I look forward to having you join me.

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

Restrained by Pain

 

Do you know how they keep strong adult elephants restricted by a single metal cuff around their ankles?

Here’s how.

When the elephants are infants, their keepers place a chained metal cuff on one of their legs. Since the elephants are small, they may struggle to free themselves, but are not able to escape. These elephants grow up believing that the metal band is stronger than they are.

Their belief limits their actions.

I have been pain-free for many years since my hip replacement surgeries, and I had to work hard to stay there. Recently a twisted ankle has brought me back to the dreaded house of pain. But being in pain is not my biggest problem. I physically hurt, but the way my head has responded, hurts even worse.Screen Shot 2015-03-19 at 12.46.33 PM

Old beliefs and the fear of being in pain, rooted deep in my mind, have almost paralyzed me. Being angry, resistant and failing to accept that my ankle requires tending has allowed the original injury to amplify my suffering. Old beliefs limit us and sound like, “If I admit to what I know to be true it will mean I will be sidelined and have to depend on others for many things and lose being able to control my daily routine.”

Recognize when these old beliefs show up — and shut them out. We can do this by being able to put space between ourselves and a problem.

  • Step away from the situation for a second.
  • What’s really going on here? Is it really a sprained ankle, or something deeper? (It’s usually something deeper.)

This allows you to respond to your unique issue at hand rather than mindlessly react because you are letting yourself be restricted by old beliefs. Don’t let your past experiences win; they are just that — something that happened to you in the past. Unshackle yourself from the tiny, metal cuff of old beliefs. You have grown to be much bigger than than, and they can’t hold you anymore.

Digesting “Cake” the movie

The movie “Cake” starring Jennifer Aniston allows us to journey into the life of a chronic pain patient. I anticipated the movie providing the transformational energy of a watershed moment. I anticipated hundreds of people commenting on relevant articles about the movie. I anticipated people and conversations would stir with insight.

The Pain community is doing a great job of getting the word out through media sources. But I am left wondering “Why is “Cake” not stirring more conversation?”

Statistics cite over 100 million Americans have been diagnosed with chronic pain. We all know someone or have been that someone who is included in these numbers. I spent over 40 years with this unwelcome bedfellow.

Maybe I should not be so surprised. Pain has its own unique set of dynamics.

Pain patients are often their own worst enemy. Many of us go years denying what we are experiencing, fearing it may require lengthy, expensive and inconvenient measures to correct. Or we spend years frustratingly going from doctor to doctor, procedure to procedure, medication to medication searching for relief or proper diagnosis. In both cases, we struggle to find the words to truly explain how we feel.

“Cake” exposes some raw truths that perhaps we would rather not know. It is disturbing to think that a friend or loved one might be undergoing the same tortured life as Claire, the main character.

It is unpleasant to be on a plane with a crying baby. It makes us uncomfortable. We need the baby to be soothed. It disturbs our comfort when we are aware of someone who is unconsolable.

Does the movie “Cake” touch on something deep within us that is too difficult to consider? We live in a world where we have the tools to fix a lot of medical problems. Does the fact that chronic pain is no easy fix seem incomprehensible? Is it to costly to imagine that there are many Claire’s in this world trying to make it through each day?

The movie provides an opportunity to engage in conversation. I pray it increases awareness and moves us closer to identifying causes, cures and resources. I pray it broadens understanding of the multi-faceted complexity of pain. I pray it minimizes the gap between patients and those who love and care for them.

 

Reflections of Pain

Reflections of PainCLoudgate_reflect

The other day as I was driving into St. Louis, I observed a man stalled along the highway. His image haunted me. Something about his dilemma reminded me of myself.

He had gone too far on limited resources. His car could go no further. Carrying a gas can, he had a choice to make. He could stand and wait for assistance, but that would require admitting he had made a mistake. And if someone offered to drive him to the next exit and a gas station, he would then need a ride back in the opposite direction to his car–additional help. Instead, he walked against traffic to single handedly find a gas station, avoiding asking for help.

Why is asking for help so difficult?

It requires giving up our need to control events. It requires facing our fears of feeling shame or being judged for actions that may have created a need-based situation.

When I saw him, I reflected on the times that I opted to not ask for help and emotionally and physically suffered because of it.

What this (now) better version of myself has learned to ask is, “If this were happening to a friend, and not me, what would I want my friend to do?”

The answer is always, “Ask for help.”

It can be an occasion for grace to enter our own hearts and remind us that we all have needs and we all have gifts to offer. Maybe the person we ask for help may be in need of a bit of lifting up themselves. And we may end up assisting each other in a way that was unanticipated.

Chronic Pain Conversation

MaryByrneEigel-Event

Recently, our local YMCA branch asked me to speak at a community luncheon about Chronic Pain. They know I have a book coming out on the subject and thought chronic pain management would be of interest to their clients.

I agreed. A date was set. Then I began to worry.

Who really wants to hear about chronic pain? Folks who are in chronic pain often want to deny that they are there. Doctors get frustrated when their patients don’t follow their medical reasoning and advice about it.

The next question I had for myself was – who will attend? The Y is doing the advertising. Members will see the posters. But these people already come for wellness/exercise programs. Won’t this be like preaching to the choir?

Friday came, and I arrived early. The staff was setting up tables and food. People began to stream in from exercise classes and the parking lot. The audience ranged in age from 40ish to 80ish, filling almost 40 chairs.

An older lady who sat in the front commented, “You can just look in someone’s eyes and know they are in pain.” I told her that was only half true. Those of us who know what the experience is like can read the subtle signs. But if someone has never been in long-term pain how can they be expected to understand?

It was special to be together, engaged in a group and validating that pain is real.  That pain is often an uninvited guest requiring special accommodations. That only those who have shared a painful experience can really understand. And that using every available resource to be the best version of yourself requires access to information and opportunities.

I shared my experiences, current research findings and both Internet and local resources. Our sharing was beneficial. Being able to intelligently converse, not just complain about pain, gave people permission to find their voice and speak their truth. I may have been preaching to the choir but it allowed me to see that even they enjoyed adding to their repertoire.

Chronic Pain Conversations

EIGEL_oneWAYBut Why?

I remember hearing this question from each of my daughters when they were young, resisting what they were asked to do. The question is both innocent and wise.

I am nearing the completion of writing a book that chronicles my lifelong journey and triumph over chronic pain. There were many mornings I could have hung it all up because I did not have a definitive answer as to “why” I was taking all this time to write. Is it going to be of value? Will it lead to another career path? All I had was an intuitive hunch that folks did not understand some things I shared regarding the mind, body and spirit aspects of pain and maybe that was reason enough to want to put pen to paper.

It was not until now, when I am in a position to get feedback from friends and professionals I respect, that I realize the journey was worth taking. That it was of value to allow myself to be vulnerable and put my story out there.

I am thankful that I was innocent enough to keep going and not demand an answer.

And now I look forward to the publication of my book in the near future with the hope it can expand the conversation about the experience of pain and successfully dealing managing it.

Artists Reaching beyond Limitations

I read this article in the September 21st issue of the news magazine, American Profile, in the Hometown Hero section, about a vision-impared artist, Jeff Hanson. He is helping the world one painting at a time. A childhood optic tumor damaged his vision but has not let it define what he can or cannot do. To date he has contributed $1 million dollars to charity.

My friend Mike Wasserman is doing the same thing, albeit on a smaller scale with his monthly Facebook auctions. 100% of the proceeds benefit a nonprofit of your choice working to enhance the quality of life for children and adults with intellectual disabilities. The Winner picks the nonprofit and pays direct to group selected. He includes FREE shipping! Here is one of his latest pieces up for auction entitled “La Jolla Flowers”.

La Jolla FlowersI am in awe of both of these gentlemen. They inspire and remind us we never need to let our limitations define us.  Their reaching out has made the world a more beautiful place. May you keep gifting us with your work and your charities with money. And may you serve to inspire us to consider how we, too, can reach out.

Happy Painting!