#270 Beware of gremlins #1

Negative thought patterns are like Gremlins, they seem to multiply when I'm feeling down. A pain flare usually dampens my mood quite a bit, and it's always when I'm weakest that those furry little fiends invite all their friends over and have a party. Although I really need to complain and revel in pity parties once in a while, I really don't want to get stuck with the Gremlins.

Learning from past mistakes, I've realized I need to look out for certain furry faces and practice turning negative thought patterns around, for example by releasing previously anchored positive states.

Upcoming: Series of 7 Gremlin-inducing thought patterns to look out for!

(Warning: This entry is part of Negativity Week!)

#269 Review your secondary gains

"Secondary gain" is a term used to describe when a person can have a hidden reason for holding on to an undesirable condition. This reason is most often unconscious, meaning that you're not aware that you have a reason to hold on to the situation. Obviously this is the case since your conscious mind tells you it is solely negative.

Theoretically, finding and releasing the perception of secondary gain can greatly contribute to healing.
If you are ready to review potential (unconscious?) secondary gains, remember: You're doing this for you, not for anyone else. Anything that can help your pain is good.

1: Look past the part of you which is protesting against the idea, and dare to see your situation from an unusual angle.

2. Keeping your mind completely open, ask yourself what the possible positive effects of your disease/ pain condition are. Put them on paper.

3. Take a look at the list and ask yourself if you can choose strategies to obtain the same or better positive effects in other ways.

(Warning: This entry is part of Negativity Week!)

#268 Dare to ask....

...What's in it for me?

It's not that every cloud has a silver lining, but it's always possible to see a situation from a different perspective. Every patient should at some time ask himself whether his disease / chronic pain condition is serving him in some way. This could release strong emotional objections, but may ultimately be a great help on the way to healing.

Does being ill mean you are set free from stressful expectations, do you get more attention or sympathy because of your disease, do you have economic advantages by being sick or is your identity linked to the illness in a way that helps you? If so, those are your secondary gains, and it's time to take a closer look at them.

(Warning: This entry is part of Negativity Week!) 

#267 Be negative

Ok, time to get real. All the cheery pep talk about "Think Positive!" and "You can heal yourself!" can get really annoying sometimes. It's time to have an all-out honest, analytical and negative look at uncomfortable issues dealing with chronic pain. Goodbye inspiration, hello Negativity Week!

To make this transition easier I've invited some key characters from the Muppet Show to act as our hosts...

We've collectively decided to only let negativity week last for two days - because anything's possible in cyberspace, and because when I'm focusing on the negative time passes soooooo slooooowly.... Brace yourself and let's go!

#266 Charge your batteries

After making sure to plug energy drains, its equally important to charge up. And charging up isn't necessarily done by resting more...

A common generalization of Sir Isaac Newtons first law of motions states that "A body in motion tends to remain in motion, a body at rest tends to remain at rest", this is also known as the law of inertia.

The way I relate this to pain-free living, is that it takes a lot of guts to stay active if you suffer from chronic illness. Moving hurts, and we often have enough just dealing with the stuff we HAVE to do, and end up cutting down on anything that's not absolutely essential. So we stop doing the stuff that  gives us joy and positive energy, as our health problems get the center stage. The less we do, the harder it is to do stuff, and as our life shrinks so does our courage.

In spoon talk it would be like this: It's like my supply of spoons is being constantly diminished, for each week I don't recharge, I lose more spoons.

But what can you do to charge your batteries? Which people, situations and activities leave you feeling buzzed and energetic, and how can you include more of them in your weekly schedule? I try to have at least one day a week where charging my batteries is the main goal, whether that is by hanging out with good friends, going for a hike in nature, exercising, cooking, playing board games, going to a movie or an art show.

#265 Get excited

Image by Bion Harrigan

Do you get a kick out of high places, or watching sports, from shopping or speed? That's excellent, another tool for your pain management toolkit! Getting really excited about something revs up your adrenaline, which is an instant pain reliever. I guess this is what they call "positive stress"?

Today is a very special day for me. The last few months Samuel and I have been busy getting our ducks in a row, preparing to move in together. All the discussions about "when, where and how" have taken their time, but now we are actively searching for the right place here in Gothenburg. This weekend we checked out 3 different apartments, and today we are bidding on one of them. Calls are coming in, calculations are made and messages sent, coffee is being drunk in no small amounts and wowsers is this exciting process getting my adrenaline going! I mean it's huge!!! Where are we going to live, what's it going to be like? So many thoughts and ideas and all of a sudden it's showtime... This place or this place? How many thousand should we up the bid?

It's times like these when I don't think about health problems at all and simply feel very healthy:)

#264 Be well informed

In the jungle that is chronic pain treatment and information, where you may be unlucky enough to meet doctors who tell you it's all in your head, or buy books that take up your time without teaching you anything new, I have come across a golden nugget. This book, "Explain Pain" by David Butler and Lorimer Moseley, has begun a new era in my career as a chronic pain patient.

It was frigging expensive for a book, costing 74 US dollars, and I did thorough research before ordering it, but as it turns out this may be my best investment this year.

Well illustrated, accessible, superbly written, funny and informative. It beats all other pain books I've come across 10 times over. It manages something my doctors should have done years ago, which is to teach me what modern neuroscience has found out about pain sensation, explain why chronic pain hurts so much, exactly how it works and what I can do about it.

Wow. 74 dollars is less than what my meds used to cost for two weeks and less than a single acupuncture, chiropractor or massage treatment. I wish I'd read this book 15 yrs ago... or at least, ehem, 6 years ago when it was first published. So worth it!

#263 Don't be fooled

I was one of the people who has been anticipating the release of this book for quite a while. This series has had some pretty informative titles, and I thought the people who wrote them were well qualified. But unfortunately the "Complete Idiot's guide to Pain Relief" is what it says. If you don't know ANYTHING at all about pain, you may learn something here, but a 30 minute search on online pain resources such as How to Cope with Pain, WebMD, Mayo Clinic or even Wikipedia will undoubtedly be more enlightening and less annoying.

About half of the book is spent giving extremely brief and uninformative descriptions of various pain conditions, and if this tells you more than your doctor already has you better change doctors!

The only valuable input I got out of the whole 334 pages was "Pain is like an ink spot on a blotter. It spreads until it comes in contact with something that can stop it. Many times this something is the edge of the blotter. With pain, that something can be as simple as coming to the decision that you've reached the end of your patience and you're not going to let pain control your life any longer"

Well said. But I still want my 15 dollars back.

#262 Have your own book bonanza

Fall season is book season, and great new books are being published everywhere. Reading is a great way to load up on inspiration, while also providing distraction from pain, and a cozy indoor activity for bad weather days.

Book fairs, book shop and library visits are among my favorite pastimes. For books that aren't available at the library I usually keep a wish list on Amazon and whenever I come across something of interest, I add it to my list. A few times a year I review the list, and now and again I go bananas and place a big order. This year I've ordered a bunch of health and pain-related books which I will be reviewing here on the 365 pain-free days blog.

#261 Expand your comfort zone

As a professional patient, what's inside my comfort zone may be quite different than for other babes my age. Needles, lab tests, CT scans, doctors appointments, minor surgical procedure for example? No problem. A one hour bus ride through heavy traffic though, that can be a real challenge. Things like that just costs too many spoons, and I'm afraid of being drained and weak in public places far from home.

But the sucky part of staying within my comfort zone is... if I don't challenge the boundaries of what I'm comfortable doing, the circle shrinks!

One negative experience on a bus may get lodged in my memory, and I will falsely deduce that I can never ride the bus again, thereby reducing my potential movement a whole lot. When I let the fear of pain rule my decisions, my life gets awfully small. It's alarmingly easy to lose touch with friends and the outside world when you live with chronic disease.

The way to keep your comfort zone a comfy size that doesn't strangle you, is to keep challenging it! Stretch your boundaries by doing new stuff, even if you're uncomfortable or afraid. Actually, this may be an aspect of chronic disease where it helps to have a selective memory; let go of the bad memories of what hasn't worked when your pain was bad. Today is a new day, what can you do today that you didn't do yesterday?

It's by challenging the boundaries of my health conditions that I've managed to get such great quality of life these last 6 years. I figure, "Hey, it already hurts, I'm disabled, what have I got to lose?"

#260 Free your mind

Feelings are not facts. Just because you feel something is dangerous doesn't mean it's true. Sometimes it's necessary to take a closer look at our fears and feelings and find out which ones are serving us and which ones are holding us back.

It's easy to spend a lifetime worrying about the future, and coincidentally, worrying about something dramatically increases the perception of pain. Learning to separate our thoughts from our emotional state is one of the most liberating things we can do.

One way of doing this is to practice looking at a situation from the giraffe-perspective:

See the situation as a camera would see it if filmed from above, taking in only the objective physical reality. Now see what are your interpretations of the situation, and how is your interpretation making you feel? Are there negative situations from the past that are interfering with your interpretation of the present moment? Can you choose to see the situation in a different - more empowering - way?

#259 Plug energy drains

Some things cost more energy than others. If you live with chronic pain it's vital to guard your spoons, i.e preserve your energy and spend it wisely. Spending energy on things that help your pain, bring you joy or improves your quality of life should always be a high priority, but what activities do you spend a lot of energy on today which simply drain you?

Whether it's specific tasks, like household chores, or specific people that leave you feeling completely worn out, we all have those energy drains in our life. And when it's your job to focus on healing, you may have to outsource certain chores, (ask your hubby to do the vacuuming?), postpone certain activities and simply practice saying no.

Now and again I do an energy inventory, find out which things are draining me disproportionally and choose a strategy to minimize their influence.

#258 Break the flare

Last night I had a truly awesome pain experience. On day 15 of my self prescribed one month "I-am-not-going-to-use-ANY-pain-meds" trial period I had a major flare of neck pain and a throbbing migraine (which can come from my whiplash but has been really rare the last 4 years) was building force. It's like an incoming storm, you see all the warning signs: dizziness, nausea, extreme stabbing headache, visual disturbances.... and I was freaking out: "oh no.. I'm not taking any meds, will I be having a migraine for several days before it goes away? What about all the things I need to do? Do I have the strength to go through this?"

Then I tried listening to my body, which for some reason was craving sugar and felt too warm. Ok, bag of candy + ice pack seemed to bring some relief, but the pain was still there. Then I remembered the effect of smiling, and decided to trick my brain into thinking it was not dangerous by fake smiling and repeating calming affirmations. Curbing my worried mind was sort of like taming a wild horse, but after a while it worked, at least for a few minutes. I took a hot bath, which seemed to draw the blood down from my head to my body and did some breathing exercises, and you know what? The flare just totally ...  disappeared.... with no meds?!! That's like... NEVER happened before... I actually got a good night's sleep and woke up with only mild pain, which disappeared after a morning yoga session. Day 16 and no pills. wow, I feel like a healing superhero!!!

#257 Affirmations

image by Sema at Zazzle

Our mind is flexible and our subconscious is greatly influenced by the thoughts and statements we repeat. That's why affirmations work. It's sort of like an operating system, somewhere below your day to day rambling thoughts, there's a structure that follows a logic pattern - a pattern you've built over a lifetime of thinking.

When it hurts, I used to instinctively think "oh no, here comes the pain, this is going to be horrible" based on previous experience with pain flares. Then a friend of mine started prepping me with healing affirmations, and even though I didn't really believe in them I practiced repeating:

I am safe
I am healthy
I am filled with positive thoughts
My body is my best friend

and similar things.

Retraining your brain is just like learning to walk again, you have to start over, reboot and do everything differently. Affirmations are an invaluable tool in that process. Unlike some people, I don't think changing your thoughts is enough to change your health. Sure it can start there, but I think acting on your new thoughts is the key to positive change. Thinking positive is important, but action is key.

To help you get started you can use affirmation cards, check your bookstore to find ones that appeal to you. I just found these "Healthy body" cards by Louise L. Hay that you can even have as an iphone application with daily reminders and healing affirmations, yay :D

#256 Speak the same language

Communication and living with chronic illness is a whole field of its own. My strategy has always been to not talk about it too much, but I see how this often causes misunderstandings. Having taught my friends my pain scale helps quite a lot, but I also had to find out how we could learn to understand each other.

If someone asks how I'm doing and I say "fine", chances are my pain is on level 5, and it's costing most of my energy just to function physically, sit, stand and walk. Above 5, I'm not fine anymore I'm "uhm... ok, I guess" and probably acting quite distracted, as I'm actually trying to find a way to get home and try to calm the coming flare.

Now with the people who are closest to me, I've found it best to make sure we speak the same language. Slamming the kitchen cupboards might mean "I'm hurting, I'm tired and I need a hug!!!" in my language, but it probably means "Stay away!" in my friend's language. Either I adapt my communication to their understanding or I take the time needed to teach them what the words and actions mean to me. A common base for communication between loved ones makes everything else work so much better!

#255 Color code stuff

Even if you're completely pain-free it may be a challenge to keep your ducks in a row and your papers in order. But if you're living with chronic pain, chances are you've had experiences with the infamous fibro-fog, and sometimes you wonder whether you've lost your marbles, or maybe coming down with a touch of Alzheimer's.

That's one of the reasons why I like to color code stuff. I love organizing my papers according to my own color system, filing documents under blue (official documents), green (economy), red (urgent) or pink (for fun). Using color (and shapes) activates other areas of the brain than just plain text, that's why it aids memory - and as an added bonus it stimulates creativity. I use this for all kinds of stuff today, and I'm currently trying to convince my boyfriend to add a color coding system to our new apartment. For example, I think our living room should be painted purple, you know, just because it makes me feel good... He's  said that's ok as long as he can plaster the walls with terminator posters...

Well.... all I can say about that is that this discussion is NOT over...

I'll be back.

#254 Establish good daily routines

Living with chronic disease can bring a lot of chaos and unpredictability into our lives. This certainly doesn't help you focus on health and healing, and can be an added burden that steals a lot of positive energy.

I've found it helps a lot to establish good daily routines for the really small stuff that makes a big difference. I always make my bed first thing in the morning, even if I've had a really painful night an have a hard time getting up. That way it will be nice to go to bed later. I always put my keys and incoming mail in their right places so I know where they are. I enter new bills to my internet bank when they come. I clean the sink, counter and breakfast table last thing at night so it will be nice to get up and have breakfast in the morning. I do my six most important things list so I can go to bed and not worry.

Just small routines like that makes such a difference to my mood and affects how my day turns out.

#253 Aromatherapy

Combining abhiyanga and aromatherapy may be the very best self-treatment I can think of. Aromatherapy claims to work by directly affecting parts of the brain through our olfactory nerves - or sense of smell. Different essential oils are used and are said to have specific effects. The effects have yet to be scientifically proven, but then again, that doesn't mean that it doesn't work. And it feels good, so hey, who cares?

You can use aromatherapy in your own home by buying some essential oils specified for your needs. You can add them to a neutral carrier oil for self massage, or inhale them by adding drops to a bowl of warm water, bending over the bowl with a towel over your head to trap the steam and inhaling through the nose.

According to AltWebMed these are good oils to use for pain relief (copied from article at altwebmed):

Chamomile is an essential oil with very effective anti-inflammatory properties. It is great for easing the pain of headaches, migraine, neck tension and shoulder pain. It is also soothing for digestive discomfort, lower back pain and menstrual cramps.

Lavender is one of the best essential oils for pain relief. It’s great for relieving muscle cramps and strains, headache, neuralgia, Lavender can also help to calm nervous tension and to relieve mood swings.

Sandalwood is recognized in Ayurvedic medicine as being a very valuable essential oil for pain management. It soothes muscle tension by improving the circulation and is beneficial for back pain, neuralgia and sciatica.

Sweet marjoram essential oil has potent sedative effects. It also soothes muscle stiffness and cramp, improves circulation and eases the symptoms of rheumatism and osteoarthritis. It is also effective for treating headaches, migraine and menstrual cramps.

Vetiver relieves arthritis, muscle ache, pain, sprain and stiffness, but circulation so it helps to detoxify tissues. It balances the central nervous system and is beneficial for tension and depression.

Each of these oils, apart from lavender has a high potency so only 3-4 drops are required in a blend. They each mix well with citrus oils which are soothing or flower oils which help clear the mind.

#252 Abhiyanga

This is an ayurvedic self treatment that I find really nice, especially when I have muscle pain. Basically "abhiyanga" is a hot oil massage that you can apply yourself. It's good to do before having a shower or a bath, it increases circulation and aids relaxation, and at the same time you're blocking the pain signals by tricking your sensory system.

You can use a natural massage oil like sesame or apricot kernel oil. First heat the oil by placing the bottle or container in warm water for 5 minutes. When the oil is warm you start massaging it into your skin, starting with the face and head, moving down your body covering arms, torso, back and legs well. Gently rub your muscles using plenty of warm oil so you're absolutely soaked in it. When you are done, rest for a little while before you either shower the excess oil off or just pat yourself dry and leave a thin film on your skin.

A full abhiyanga also involves rubbing warm oil into the scalp, if you have long hair this might be bothersome, but give it a go once in a while, it is very soothing!

#251 Graph your options

I'm a fan of lists and charts, and this excellent axis can be a really helpful way of visualizing your options in order to make intelligent priorities. Simply draw an x-y axis and write the words "Joy-inducing" on the x axis and "Spoon expenditure" on the y axis.

And then you can try placing your choices of activities on the axis. How much joy will it give you to go to physiotherapy? How much energy (how many spoons) will it cost you? That way it becomes really easy to see what you get for your spoons...

As you can see from this chart: 
A: I am inspired by Hyperbole and a half...
B: I don't get a lot of kicks out of physiotherapy.

IF on the other hand I was given the choice of going skydiving, or motorcycle-riding, my chart may look like this:

But then I might have to do another axis to test the "Pain-aggravating" against the "Joy-inducing" factors of the activity... sometimes an activity will hurt quite a lot but it will still be worth it because it is so fun...

#250 Prioritize

This was one of my least favorite words when I was a little girl. I wanted to both have riding lessons, and to save up money for travel. I wanted a puppy, a pony AND I wanted to paint my whole room and all my possessions various shades of blue. Whenever my plans got really wild my father would say, "No Anna, you can't do everything, you have to prioritize." Which I soon understood was a boring adult way of saying that I couldn't do whatever I wanted.

That's how I learned that "prioritizing" usually meant having to make a difficult choice - choosing to NOT do something in favor of doing something else.

During my recent pain flare (which thankfully is over for now thanks to Hilde, and her Pilates & Yoga classes) I had a new rendezvous with "prioritizing" and it brought back one of the worst aspects in the painful reality of life with chronic illness.

When you are weak, running out of spoons, you have to choose carefully what to do with your time and energy. For example you can either go to physiotherapy OR go to dinner at your parent's house, but you can't do both. Getting out and doing stuff that brings me joy may reduce my pain and even give me extra spoons, but I know I have to pace myself, and that if I overexert myself I can provoke a flare and then get even weaker.

Prioritizing or simply choosing how to spend the energy you have is one of the most important choices and also the biggest challenges of living with chronic illness. But it's always empowering to recognize that you are not simply a victim of your health problems but a proactive co-creator of your current life situation. Today I choose to see prioritizing as a liberating way of creating the life I want, instead of a limiting straight jacket.

#249 Walk into a gym class

This week I've been having the worst pain flare I've had for years. Three days of continuous strong pain, waking up at 2 AM every morning with nerve fibers screaming just reminds me what it used to be like every single day before my spinal fusion.

I'm still sticking to my plan though, and haven't taken any painkillers, hoping that this will gradually reduce my sensitive pain receptors and increase my pain tolerance. But today the pain was driving me crazy - and on this of all days, the day my first book was finally sent to the printer, after umpteen rounds of proofreading and minescule revisions! It should be a day to celebrate!

I decided to fight past the pain and proceed with my plan to go to Oslo, even though I could hardly walk straight. I knew I had to get moving to break the negative spiral, and a friend had invited me to come along to a gym class she was teaching. I didn't think I could do it, but I just put on some comfortable clothes, walked in there and did my best. It was first a pilates class, really soft and nice movements, then some more hardcore yoga moves.

And you know what? I was pain-free after 30 minutes, and now, 6 hours later, I am still... pain-free.

Yikes. It really, really works....

The best thing about walking into a gym class is that you don't have to think. At best you reduce your pain significantly, and at worst you provoke a flare (be careful about what class you choose!). You just have to be able to get yourself there, and then tag along and follow as much of the movements as you can. It's social. You get out of the house. You see smiley faces. You challenge your limitations, and win back some freedom.

#248 Cut meds

Since all my conditions are chronic and incurable, four years ago I cut all pain medication, just to see how bad or how good it could get. My situation was stable and I figured it was worth a shot. First the pain was unbearable, but I managed to get through it thanks to good friends and lots of distraction. After a few weeks it started getting better, and half a year later my pain had stabilized at a much lower level than it had been, back when I was taking 5-6 types of medication daily. Amazing!!!

In the beginning I was hardcore, not even a pretty little tylenol would enter my body! But gradually as things stabilized and I got more active I started taking the occasional over the counter pain pill. These days I take them usually once or twice a week.

Now I've decided to go straight edge for a while and see if that can lower my pain even more.

OUCH!!! I've been pill free for eight days. So far the results are a major flare, just like last time. I've had intense persistent pain between level 7- 9 for 30 hours straight, it hasn't been that bad for years! But I am sticking to my herbal tea, and sticking my tongue out at the medicine cabinet (because I'm so sure that helps...ehem...maybe). I'll give it another few days. Maybe if I get through the flare it will get significantly better, and my liver will love me for quitting all meds. So that's worth it:)

People who haven't lived with intense chronic pain have no right telling us what we can or can't take medication-wise, they really don't know what they're talking about. But YOU know what's right for you. And YOU are the one in control of your body. You are the one who is going to have to live with your condition AND with the side effects of the medication. I'm just one of those people who think that doctors should be paid to tell us how we can stay healthy, in stead of being paid to give us pharmaceutical drugs.

#247 Flare control

Am I the only pain patient who seems to go a bit balmy when the pain spirals out of control?
There's a gigantic low pressure sweeping in across the Swedish forests today and my back is feeling every ounce of it. It's a classic pain flare.

I really find it hard to concentrate when I'm above 7-8 on the pain scale, and what's worse is that I forget from flare to flare how it works and what I need to do. Lucky for me I have this amazing blog with all of 245 pain free tips, huh? ;)

I haven't got my flare kit with me, so a studded mat, a hot bath, some pain relieving ointment and medicinal yoga have been my techniques so far to get through the flare, but I realized I could do myself a big favor by monitoring how these things work and recording it for next time. So far I can record that when it comes to my barometric pressure pain:

the hot bath = -3 pain for about 90 minutes
studded mat = no effect
pain relieving ointment = no effect
yoga was the ultimate winner leaving me pain-free for almost an hour

Now of course my memory isn't what it used to be, and chances are I'll be back at square one next time, doing the exact same scrabble for pain control...unless....I write these results down and store it as an immediate help list for future flares of a similar kind! If I do this for the different sorts of pain flares I experience (neck pain, headaches, arthritis pain, back pain) I can write an immediate help list with strategies for each different type of flare and post them where I will see them next time... like the inside of the medicine cabinet perhaps?


Just a quick note so you know what's going on behind my irregular blogging:

Only one more week until my first book goes to print!  I am currently going through the last rounds of proofreading with my editor, yikes... this whole publishing process is amazingly complicated!!! Little did I know that "writing a book" meant you went through 10 rounds with various professionals to edit, revise, amend, proofread and polish your manuscript before it gets printed... very interesting. Giving my first interview tomorrow... nervous? Nooooo... ;) Will be back with more pain-free inspiration shortly!

#246 Write your health-story

After my third severe traffic injury I sat down and had a serious chat with God (whom I did not believe in at the time, so as you maybe understand: I was running out of options). I remember shouting something like:

Why do these things keep happening to me???!

to the universe. 

In pure frustration I sat down with a pen and a legal pad, and wrote the years of my life in the left hand column from 0 to my (then) current age of 25, and filled in every accident and health problem I knew I had been through: Age 0: Colic & eczema (my poor parents...) Age 1: fell down flight of stairs. Age 8: bicycle accident, broke left hand, Age 9: deep cut left foot, 7 stitches. Age 11: Bronchitis. Age 13: Scleroderma circumstances left side of back. Age 15: Riding accident, broke right hand, deep scalp cut, 5 stitches. Age 18: tendinitis right hand. Age 19 tendinitis both arms. Age 20 Arthritis, Age 21 fractured spine. etc...

Then in the next column I wrote other major life changes and important experiences: When I started or changed schools, big moves, changes in my family, relationships etc.

I'm sure the resulting pages were completely unintelligible for anyone else, but for me
it was the most illuminating map ever. The scribbled columns on those pages showed the story of my health from my birth to the present moment. By getting it all down on paper like that, just the facts, not my feelings about them, I began seeing a pattern. That pattern may not have been obvious to anyone else on the planet, but it was to me. I started understanding that what was happening to me followed some kind of logic, just not the logic I had been trained to understand. It made sense to me. And the map that was my health-story helped me find a way to break the pattern.

I'm sure your story is different from mine, and your health-story may not make sense to anyone else either. But maybe it can make sense to you, and maybe you will be able to find a logic that can help you break your pain pattern.

#245 Make the invisible VISIBLE

Have you heard about it?

CT Pain Foundation is sponsoring The INvisible Project!! 
Initiated by photographer and chronic pain survivor Syd London, The INvisible Project is a photo-journalistic portrayal of 15 people who live in pain while striving to live positive and fulfilling lives in spite of their debilitating symptoms. Several pain-based conditions will be illustrated in what will become an amazing photo exhibition - the first time the lives of several chronic pain patients are shown. You can get a sneak preview of the pictures here. The idea behind this project is to provide hope and healing to those living in pain, showing that it really can be possible to see and accomplish greatness in whatever pain patients set their minds to. INvisible will also educate those who do not understand what it means to live with an invisible disability, with pain and symptoms that often times cannot be seen by the naked eye.
The INvisible project is hosting two fund-raising events in NYC area this fall to raise money for pain research. CT Pain foundation and INvisible needs models and volunteers, I wish I was there, and luckily there are things we can do from home wherever in the world we are! Join the facebook group to find out how you can take part.

#244 Sip some vinegar and honey

My grandmother used to drink this for her arthritis and she was certain it's what kept her joints healthy and relieved her aches and pains. Cider vinegar and honey is of the most ancient folk remedies against arthritis and joint pain. In a study done at Edinburgh University, Dr. Angus Peters found that a daily dose of apple cider vinegar and honey reduced arthritis patients' pain by 90%.

Other recipes include garlic and claim to have even better effect than the old version, also to battle high blood pressure and obesity.

Here's how to make your own cider vinegar-honey-garlic elixir:

Put the following in a blender:

1 cup apple cider vinegar (unfiltered)
1 cup raw honey (unpasteurized)
8 cloves garlic (preferably organic)

Mix on high speed for 60 seconds. Pour mixture into a glass container. Seal and leave in the refrigerator for five days. Normal dosage is two tsp. in a glass of water or fruit juice, grape or orange juice. Best taken before breakfast.

#243 Spread smiles

This is one of those mysterious things that helps my pain without really having a rational explanation. I know that smiling reduces pain, but for some reason spreading smiles works even better!

In the waiting room, on the bus, in the parking lot....

I grinned at this old lady in the grocery store, first she looked at me like I was kind of weird, then when I kept smiling without acting crazy her face lit up in a beautiful smile and she nodded at me... like we shared a secret.

Maybe small meetings like that don't actually change my health, but I feel so much better afterward!!! And that sure changes my perception of pain, if nothing else... So I'm ready for a challenge: If it's possible to brighten the day of a random stranger in the grocery store....

How many smiles can you spread today?

#242 Spread the word: September is pain awareness month!

According to the National Center for Health Statistics, one in four people report that they have had a problem with pain that does not go away. Only recently have doctors started calling chronic pain a disease in it's own right, and according to professor and pain specialist Harald Breivik, "Chronic pain costs society more than cancer and heart disease combined"

Still there are far too few specialists, too little funds for research and according to recent Norwegian studies only 2% of people suffering chronic pain have access to comprehensive specialized pain treatment. And that's in one of the richest countries in the world!!!

September is pain awareness month 

How are you going to spread the word?