Archive | April 2013

“The Healing That Chronic Pain Brings Part 2 ~ Dealing and Healing: How to Cope”

By Jennifer (Smith) Schuler

We don’t value our health until we lose it.” That quote appears on a banner at the medical center where I receive treatment for back pain. In Part 1 of my 2-part series on chronic pain, I shared the story of my life before and during chronic pain, and the unexpected blessings it can bring.

Slow life down and count your blessings!

Slow life down and count your blessings!

Here are some helpful tips I have learned along the way in dealing with chronic pain or supporting someone you know experiencing it.

Dealing and Healing: How to Cope

*Rally your support system. Dealing with insurance companies, navigating our health care system, and being proactive about your care is difficult and often confusing. Doctors are typically narrowly focused, and sometimes there is little to no coordination between practices or sensible dissemination of information. You must research, and push your doctors to give you the care you deserve.

Identify family members or friends who can accompany you to your doctor appointments. Make sure you are comfortable with that person knowing your medical history and keeping it confidential. Ask them to listen extra hard and take good notes. It is very easy to miss something important when you are in pain, or when you have multiple practitioners to visit.

Surround yourself with family members you know will “go the distance” with you, and friends who lift you up. Spend less time with those who don’t “get it” or don’t seem to understand what you are going through. Those who dole out platitudes, or give you the “at least you don’t have cancer” talk – perhaps even judging your medication and treatment plans, are not people you need to invest in emotionally.

My childhood friends are my family!

My childhood friends are my family!

*Advocate for yourself – and find an empathetic, well-versed pain management doctor. This can be your primary physician or a specialist.

If one doctor doesn’t take care of you and your pain needs to your satisfaction, find one who does. Be sure you are comfortable discussing how you feel, and working with them to find a management program that is tailored to you. This is different for every person. As a stay-at-home mom and writer, with a husband who works a job and a half, my pain management plan might look far different from that of an older retired person with fewer daily responsibilities. It is not often during the course of a 12 hour + day on the go that I can simply fall onto the couch and ice down!

*Seek evaluations and counsel from many professionals. I am big on second (and third and fourth) opinions, and recommend working with a variety of people who specialize in certain areas.

Having more than one eye on a problem generates more than one solution. I call my group of doctors and other specialists “Team Jennifer!”

*Do everything you can to make your life easier. You have enough to deal with – your focus should be on your healing, not whether your coffee table is dusted!

Chronic pain affects many facets of a person’s life, and can mean significant adjustments. Since some daily life changes involve spending money, you have to decide what you can afford or accommodate. We hired a housecleaner, ordered groceries through a delivery service, and found wonderful babysitters to wear our busy little 3 year old out a couple of days a week when he wasn’t in preschool.

In the past, I played “super mom.” Now I am often exhausted – from battling daily pain, caring for my little boy when my husband is not home to help, and coordinating my healthcare. Even daily life routines can become overwhelming. Over time, though, I have seen that I can be a super mom just by being present. My son has become accustomed to the modifications I need to give myself a break and physical relief. He enjoys getting my ice pack for me, and reminds me to do my back exercises and take walks with him outside. He even asks me how my back is feeling! You will not meet a more empathetic 3 year old, and frankly I think we could use more people like that in this world.

My son feels good about helping me out!

My son feels good about helping me out!

In the long run, I found that there was actually a huge blessing to be found in my condition – I gained time with my son. We bonded over snuggle time and story time. I have no regrets!

*Reduce your stress level as much as possible. Contrary to popular belief, usually stress does not cause pain. However, stress often aggravates an existing condition.

Difficult as it may be, force yourself to take a hard look at your life – professional and personal, and cut out those things (or people!) that cause physical discomfort or emotional turmoil. Leaving my part-time job and making a few other adjustments helped my healing. For example, travel (even a short car ride) became too painful for me. So, we invited our family and friends to visit us, yet asked if they would stay at an area hotel so I wouldn’t have added hosting responsibilities. Trust me, those who really care won’t mind! Additionally, with the help of a wonderful chronic pain therapist (if you don’t have one, get one!), I identified and embraced those among my family and friends who could be supportive, and let go of stressful, toxic relationships.

Let your good friends take you away from it all!

Let your good friends take you away from it all!

*Remain connected and allow others to be there for you. This can be hard when you don’t feel well. Sometimes, it may seem easier to withdraw. However, isolation is not good for your healing in the long run. When I embraced life again, my vitality began to return.

Dance On!

Dance On!

As bad as you may feel – physically and emotionally, reaching out and plugging back into life as much as possible given your condition will help! Allow those emotionally healthy people in your life to be there for you and to help you when you need it. When you get better you can return the favor. Here’s to your health!

Are you or someone you know dealing with chronic pain? Please share how you are coping or your advice for handling the complications it can bring to your life – your insight may help someone who is looking for answers!

Happy April Fools’ Day: Prank Your Friends and Family!?!

By Mary Ann Filler

April Fools’ Day is celebrated annually in many countries on April 1st. Sometimes referred to as All Fools’ Day, it is widely recognized and celebrated as a day when people play practical jokes and hoaxes on each other. Practices include sending someone on a “fool’s errand,” looking for things that don’t exist; playing pranks; and trying to get people to believe ridiculous things.

I remember with fondness the first April Fools’ Day joke that my oldest son (then in preschool) played on me. He said, “Hey mom, there’s a spider on the fan!” I barely had time to react before he exclaimed with great pride… “April Fools!” I was quite surprised by this because we hadn’t really discussed the fact that the day was a day for “fooling” people. However, his preschool teacher must have had lots of fun with this date and encouraged her little charges to “plan a prank.”

I have to admit, I am presently not one that regularly goes around “pranking” others. But, that wasn’t always the case. In my freshman year of college, my roommate and I had quite a bit of insomnia. We would frequently scheme up seemingly harmless pranks to pull. I think the worst prank we ever pulled (it was the worst because we got caught) was piling the lounge furniture up in front of our Resident Assistant’s, RA’s, door. Unfortunately, we were laughing loudly and the RA opened the door and saw us. We also enjoyed switching signage around and once placed the Women’s Bathroom sign on a poor unsuspecting soul’s dorm room door.

In the spirit of my former shenanigans playing self, I’m seriously considering pulling an April Fool’s prank of some sort just in the name of fun! So, I’ve been trying to come up with something simple to “pull over” on my family members or friends.

There is always the old food prank such as switching the salt and sugar or even making food that looks like something it’s not. How about some blue milk or ice cream mashed potatoes?

Perhaps the old stand-by…placing a whoopee cushion on someone’s chair?

Our pediatric Dentist offers these obnoxious things as prizes for good check-ups!  UGH!

Our pediatric Dentist offers these obnoxious things as prizes for good check-ups! UGH!

What about this idea from Parenting Magazine?  Wait until your kids are asleep, and then switch them in their beds. Or, quietly swap around their dresser drawers. Obviously you will want to be there when they wake up in the morning to witness their surprised expressions.  Well, I can certainly switch the dresser drawers around, but won’t be changing my sons around in their beds any time soon!

Parade Magazine suggests changing your birthday on Facebook to April 1st.  When the well wishes start pouring in, change your status to April Fools!  Or if you want to fool your co-workers put a sign on the copier that reads, “This copier is now voice activated!”

How about calling your spouse and asking them where the extra $100,000 came from in the checking account?

I’m still searching for something to “pull off.”  How about you, what have been your most memorable pranks or are you planning any good ones for today?