Angels, Anxiety, Brain Surgery, Buddha, Change, chronicpain, Depression, dreams, Empathy, Exercise and Chronic Pain, Fear of Abandonment, Griveving Process, Happiness, Infertility, inner child, Intuition, Managing Pain Naturally, Manifesting What you Want, meditation for chronic pain, mindfulness, Miracles, perfectionism, Positive Energy, self love, simplify life, spoon theory, Suicide, Suicide and chronic pain, Support for Chronic Pain, Teenagers and Chronic Pain, teens with chronic pain, The Universe

Fearing the Future

“All negativity is caused by an accumulation of psychological time and denial of the present.  Unease, tension, anxiety, stress, worry-all forms of fear are caused by too much future and not enough presence.   Guilt resentment, regret, anger, sadness, bitterness, and all forms of non-forgiveness are caused by too much past and not enough present.”

Eckhart Tolle

I never truly knew how much I would learn from being someone’s parent.   My now, five year old daughter does not realize how much she teaches me.  I always thought that I would be the one teacher in our mother/daughter relationship.  However, I am not sure I have ever had a better teacher than my little girl, Kayci.  She teaches me how to be a kid again and enjoy the simple things in life.  She helps me to see things that I have seen for thirty five years and yet took for granted.  More than anything, she has taught me to live in the moment; something I have struggled with my entire life.  Kayci turned five a few months ago and lives in the present moment for the most part.  I noticed recently that she started talking about the future and the past a lot more frequently than she had in the past.  I do not want her to lose that sense of living in the moment and I want to live in the moment more than I do.  I worry about the future and cry about the past much more than any person should.  Worrying and despair increase my chronic pain and make it more difficult for me to manage it well.

I asked my daughter to help me remember to live in the moment.  We made up a game where if one of us started talking about the next day or the next week we would remind the other person to stop and come back to the present moment.   Kayci who is wise beyond her years said to me: “Mommy, if we talk about tomorrow we will forget today.”  Having someone, even if that someone is only five years of age remind me that I should not think about tomorrow is very helpful in my quest to live in the present moment and work on my never ending game of worrying.  If you have someone you love in your life and you spend a lot of time with (even if they are toddlers) ask them to play this game with you.  It is not only helping me but training my daughter’s brain at an early age to live in the moment; a lesson I wish I had learned as a child.

Living with chronic pain is hard enough then add on anxiety/worrying and you have a whole heap of new problems.  I have chronic pain and anxiety and there are times that I am not sure what is worse.  In all honesty, although I manage pain well chronic pain is the most difficult thing I have ever been faced with.  Anyone who has this invisible illness can attest to how difficult this disease is.  As far as I have come in my journey with chronic pain, I still struggle at times.  At the age of thirty five I struggle with anxiety and worrying about the future a lot.  My life is far from perfect and there are many things I want to change but change takes time.  There are many dreams I want to come to fruition but again those take time.  I try very hard to focus on my biggest blessing and that is clearly my daughter, Kayci.  Although I get frustrated with her at times, like all mothers do, I make sure she knows how loved she is and how special she is to me.  She has become my greater teacher.

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Anger, Anxiety, Brain Surgery, Caregiver Stress and Chronic Pain, Change, chronicpain, Depression, dreams, Exercise and Chronic Pain, Fear of Abandonment, Griveving Process, Happiness, Managing Pain Naturally, mindfulness, Non Resistance, simplify life, spoon theory, Suicide, Suicide and chronic pain, Support for Chronic Pain, Teenagers and Chronic Pain

All Pain is REAL

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My family and I watched the movie last night entitled: “Alexander and the Terrible Horrible No Good Very Bad Day” starring Steve Carrel.  The movie is based on my favorite children’s book and I was extremely impressed by how funny, witty, and thought provoking the movie turned out to be.  I honestly cannot wait to watch it again.  I had a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad week for the most part and the reason was due to pain, however it was not due to chronic pain.  That sentence may only make sense to those who also suffer from chronic pain.

One of my main tools for managing pain naturally is not talking about it.  However, for this post I must point out where exactly my chronic pain is located.  Because of my bike accident and subsequent brain surgery my pain is located in my face, head and neck.  I had many surgeries to “cure” my chronic pain before I began managing it naturally which only made my chronic pain that much worse.  However, this week I had my first real back ache.  Of course, I have had back issues since my accident but not chronically.  The worst of my chronic pain has always been in my face and head.  For over ten years, while I was searching for a cure to my chronic pain I took many medications, was at the doctor’s at least twice a week, and lived my life on the search for a cure for my invisible illness.  I never slept because the pain was too intense and over the years as each doctor, medication, and surgery did not relieve my pain I became depressed, agitated, angry, and began to isolate myself because I could not deal with being around anyone, even my family because pain had totally took over my entire existence.  Jessica and Pain were one of the same.

When I did hit my rock bottom and truly was at my worst: living in Boulder Colorado, not going to school, seeing doctors constantly, drinking all the time with friends, and crying day in and day out I finally went to the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota.  I unwillingly entered a program called the Pain Rehab Center where I learned how to manage pain naturally.  To this day I utilize the tools I learned there and have found a fulfilling life despite pain.  When I first entered the program I was pissed, and more depressed than ever.  No one looked sick.  Then again I did not look sick either but at the time I was so focused on my pain I could not imagine anyone else feeling as terrible as I did.   At that point I thought my pain had to be visible because it was all I could see.   There were about twenty people in my group and all had chronic pain but no one was talking about their pain.  Some people were laughing, walking around, reading, playing board games, emailing friends as I sat there thinking: “This is crap.  I could never be able to read or email a friend because my pain is way too much to bear.  It is hard enough to sit in a chair much less laugh with people I do not know.”  I wanted to quit.  My dad being my voice of reason urged me to stay in Minnesota and give the program a chance.  A few days in I began to hear people’s stories.  Turns out everyone did have chronic pain but no one had had brain surgery or pain in their face and head.  Some people had chronic back pain, fibromyalgia, phantom leg pain, migraines, etc.  I always thought having any kind of chronic pain other than my own would be better.  Having chronic pain throughout my face and head was and can still be torture.  I thought back then if I had back pain or phantom pain I could at least read or do this or that.  I learned this week how wrong my thoughts back then were/are.

I am not sure why I have had a back ache this past week.  I came down with a stomach virus just yesterday as well so maybe they are correlated but I really do not care why my back hurts.  I learned a long time ago that trying to figure out why something hurts will only bring more attention to the pain.  This is not always a good thing and as a disclaimer I would like to say that it is always important to not ignore pain or any ailment for too long as there are times something could be seriously wrong.  However, I knew nothing was life threatening and I was just coming down with something and/or had over worked my muscles through exercise or just not taking enough breaks.  However, severe back pain is awful!!!!  I had insomnia for over three nights.  As I was laying in bed those nights that turned into mornings I remembered all those in the Pain Rehab Center with me.  I was a hypocrite at the time.  Pain is pain.  Chronic pain is chronic pain: visible or invisible.  Now I know what severe back pain feels like and it is just as bad as my chronic pain is: just in a different area of my body.  I am thankful to not have chronic back pain and as it is slowly going away I am grateful.   All of us who have chronic pain have critics within our life and those who are not in our life.  Many people do not believe our pain.  There is a huge stigma related to invisible illnesses.  I have been writing for over three years in hopes to help those with chronic pain and all invisible illnesses for that matter.  We need to stick together.  Does it matter where our pain is?  Chronic pain is an invisible illness that affects our lives in more ways that I can count.  Why even ask another where someone’s pain is located?  I learned this week after days of severe back pain that that pain was no different than when I was in the wraths of hell with my chronic pain which is located in my face, head, and neck.  There is enough judgement surrounding chronic pain.  Let us never judge one another who understand chronic pain.  Pain is pain and we need to be a support system not a group of individuals trying to figure out whose pain is worse than someone else’s.  Do not forget the three most important words to say to one with any invisible illness: I BELIEVE YOU.

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Brain Surgery, chronic pain, Let go, Non Resistance

Pushing Pain Away: Inviting it to Stay

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“If you are resisting something, you are feeding it.  Any energy you fight, you are feeding.  If you are pushing something away, you are inviting it to stay.”

Michael Singer

One of my wisest readers Kate emailed me regarding the concept of non-resistance and I want to share with you her final question on this particular email: “What made it sane for you (chronic pain) acceptance or disagreement?”  Do I want a life with chronic pain or any disease for that matter?  No.  I fought this invisible illness for ten plus years and with each fight and disagreement, my pain intensified along with my depression, anger, and eventually I faced a loss of will to live.  It was not until I stopped resisting chronic pain and accepted it as part of my life that I began to live.  I no longer wanted to die.  I wanted to manage pain in a healthy way and at times I do want to fight it but without acceptance I know for a fact I would never have graduated college, have a family, or be the healthiest version of Jessica I can be despite pain.  There are so many things in life that happen to all of us that we do not want but we are unable to change.  We can fight and fight and fight but with each battle we just bring more attention to what we do not want because we refuse to accept it.  However, once we do accept something whether we want it or not a sense of peace and the beginning of healing occur.  So, this is probably the easiest question I have yet to be asked by any reader: I found my life through acceptance: disagreement came close to killing me.

Kate emailed me again regarding her fear of “exaggerating her pain” as those with different diseases seem to manage it better and maybe she in a sense is just being “weak.”  No, you are not exaggerating your invisible illness.  Comparison is the thief of joy.  You have no idea what other people are feeling, how are they are acting, or coping with their particular illness behind closed doors.  What you and many of us are doing is overthinking chronic pain and the ailments that come along with it.  I have been around people from all walks of life with different medical issues and I will tell you right now, some of the strongest people I have ever met have chronic pain and most of their pain was non-visible. If you could turn your body inside out and the pain was visible, you would feel like a damn rock star and get the support and acknowledgement you deserve.  Never doubt your strength, compare your illness with anyone else’s, or feel that you are exaggerating your pain.  All of you can relate to Kate’s questions/fears/concerns/and doubts.  This post is for everyone suffering from an invisible illness.  I applaud Kate for her honesty and strength.  Acceptance is key.  It is the first step to the ‘healing’ process and will change your life.  Beating yourself up for being in pain is counterproductive and you deserve love: love yourself and be proud of yourself.  Saying that you should not be upset because someone has it worse is like saying you should not be happy because someone has it better.  Focus on you and your journey with chronic pain.

I am so proud of all of you that read my writings. I hope this post reaches you and you give yourself a break.  You are a rock star.

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chronic pain, Depression, dreams, Fear of Abandonment

Judging Others With Chronic Pain

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The stigmatism behind chronic pain is shocking at times.  You will find most people with chronic pain have Type A personalities and want to do everything without taking breaks.  You will also find that most people with chronic pain are perfectionists and quite hard on themselves if they do not achieve the level of “success” they desire.  Later, you will find that people with chronic pain are some of the most sensitive and empathetic persons you will ever meet. Do you know what people with chronic pain hate the most?  They hate that they are unable to do the things they love, work full time, and be the person they are inside, buried beneath all of the physical pain they did not ask for.   Nobody asks for chronic pain.  I now manage it naturally and very well ninety five percent of the time but I have “difficult days” aka days where my pain levels are high and I cannot do as much as I would like to and I have come a long way but it still angers me at times and frustrates the hell out of me.  To anyone who comes across my writings please remember this: NO ONE MAKES UP CHRONIC PAIN!  No one has any right to judge another person for how he or she lives his or her life but to judge someone with an invisible illness is quite frankly sad and shows the ignorance surrounding this condition.  People with chronic pain are not lazy, they are the opposite.  I know, I have been on both sides.  Those days where I laid in bed crying because the pain was so intense and I felt as if I was dying from within were some of the worst days of my life.  The sadness and loss I felt at being stuck inside as my friends and family worked and went to school ate me alive.  They were all following the dreams I wanted so desperately and there were times people thought I was just lazy or being a ‘baby.’ Who in their right mind would want to in pain twenty four hours, seven days a week, three hundred and sixty-five days a year?  I have yet to meet someone with that hope.  Trust me, no one who has no experience with chronic pain does not want to feel what people with this invisible illness feel every day of their lives.  The guilt is already killing them, your judgement is not necessary. I am writing harshly today but it breaks my heart when people write me about the loneliness and judgement they feel from the people they love most.

Yes, I am living proof that one can work, follow their dreams, and live a happy life despite pain but there are days or hours such as this morning where the Universe reminds me just how difficult chronic pain is: its a gift that I sometimes forget.  Anyone who does not believe you or your illness needs to be set aside so you are able to focus on your health and your well being.  Stress, depression, endless crying, and anxiety only increase pain: who knows what battles the person who “judges” you is facing himself or herself?  I believe you and I swear you are not alone.

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abandonment, chronic pain, inner child, Support for Chronic Pain

Happiness in the Midst of Pain

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“Happiness is when what you think, what you say and what you want are in harmony.”

Unknown

Family is very important to me and I am not very close to most of my extended family, more so now that my Grandmother (La La) passed.  I love family and my dream has always been to have one of my own.   I never thought this dream would come to fruition due to chronic pain but dreams do come true with work, belief, and faith.  This past Sunday my very close cousin and uncle left our home after a three-day trip from Indiana.  If you know me, I do not like goodbyes of any shape, especially when I do not know when I will see a certain person or persons again.  I cry like a four year old on her first day of school.  My fear and trouble over goodbyes all goes back to my childhood and goodbyes bring out my troubled part of my inner child.  My parents divorced when I was young and the days my dad dropped me off at my mom’s house or another family members home were heartbreaking.  *side note: I love my mom very much and we have a great relationship but I did have some difficult times as a child.  My parents had me very young and were in a way still kids themselves.  Hell, I did not grow up until my late twenties! One of my most vivid memories of saying goodbye to my dad was when I watched him pull away and he was crying.  It broke my heart to see my dad cry which in turn made me cry more.  I can still picture his face, the driveway, and the door I was standing in as tears fell down my face.  Yes, I saw him two days later but for some reason this was one of my hardest goodbye as a child.  I have had a fear of abandonment since a child and chronic pain only intensified that fear.  I have worked through it a lot but I still hate goodbyes more than anyone you will ever meet: pending on whom I am saying goodbye to of course.  Some goodbyes are awesome!

I cried for a bit after my cousin and uncle hopped in their RV set for their ten hour drive to Indiana and I thought the day would be miserable.  In the past when people I love leave, I ended up being depressed for the rest of the day.  However, I decided consciously and sub-consciously to change this pattern.  My daughter was fine and I thought she would be a mess as she is so in love with my fifteen year old cousin.  I did not want to be sad so I first changed my thoughts and then planned a day that was fun.  It was beautiful outside and as the quote above says: “Happiness is when what you think, what you say and what you want are in harmony.”  I planned a day to go to a place called: Camden Gardens.  The center was having a Halloween celebration and Kayci was able to dress up as Anna from Frozen (shocker!)  Disney did well with this movie, let me tell ya!  We had the greatest day.  It was a warm day, Kayci was able to go trick or treating though the gardens and there were dance contests (see above) crafts, and just positive energy everywhere.  We rode the Merry Go Round four times and watching Kayci laugh to the point of losing her breath is a moment I will not forget.  Yes, I was the mom on the ‘dance floor’ doing the Cha Cha slide and Thriller as my daughter danced in her glory.  We even won a Mummy contest and received four free tickets to the next event at Camden Gardens.  My inner child was thrilled and not frightened or depressed as she would have been last year after saying goodbye.

Things like this just prove that life really is a journey and nothing we want or cognitively know we need comes right away.  It is  a process and it really does not matter how slow you go or if you fall ten times because you have already set your intention and you just have to have faith that your inner scars: physical and emotional pain will heal in their own way.  There is no dead line or exact time which can be beyond frustrating and scary.  I always said the worst part about living with chronic pain was having no cure or end date to my pain.  I would announce: “I can stand this pain for two, three, four or even five more years if there is a cure at the end.”  Twenty years later and I am dancing to the Cha Cha slide with the miracle I call Kayci at Camden Gardens: that cure never came but my happiness did return.

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chronic pain, dreams, Managing Pain Naturally, Miracles

Make Your Dreams Come True

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“I want to remember that no one is going to make my dreams come true for me…..it is my job to get up every day and work toward the things that are deepest in my heart….and to enjoy every step of the journey instead of wishing I was already where I want to end up.”

Unknown

The picture above was taken this past Friday in Philadelphia by the famous mosaic: The Dream Garden: a piece of art so exhilarating one has to see it in person to truly understand it’s magnificence.  I know, my three-year old daughter looks thrilled: she had the playground on her mind haha.  This piece of art got me thinking about my dreams and how as a society we seem to want immediate gratification especially when it comes to our dreams.  Thinking back to my ten years of hell searching for a cure to  chronic pain, I know I did not want to wait for relief from the constant, nagging pain.  Who would?  Who does?  I wanted a cure every time, which was at least once a week I stepped into the office of a doctor or any specialist that thought they had the answer to the unrelenting, invisible pain.   Ten years later, no cure and to be quite honest those ten years of my  journey with chronic pain were pure hell.  However, if it had not been for those ten years I would not have ended up finding the Pain Rehab Center in MN and learning how to accept and manage pain naturally.  I believed chronic pain had stolen my dreams: now my invisible illness has only made my dreams that much bigger and in essence more real.    Dreams are like the mosaic above and maybe that is why the artist calls this beautiful work: “The Dream Garden.”  It is made up of tiny little pieces of glass, rock, and other things that by themselves look like trash but put together become a huge piece of art: magic.  Imagine how long it must have taken to make this piece of art and the above picture does not do it justice: the mosaic is huge, covering an entire wall with a fountain one can throw pennies in in front of it.  This mosaic was not made in a day and it was most likely the journey of making this piece of art that was most satisfactory and humbling to the artist, not the outcome.  Although, the outcome is truly amazing: my guess the artist ill remember the art of making this mosaic and the journey towards this dream more than the piece as a whole.

That is what dreams are about.  I have a dream to change lives through my writing and one day be known for my writing and my inspiring story with chronic pain.  I started this blog about two years ago.  I did not  think that with my first post or even hundredth post that I would be well-known or on the shelves at local book stores.  Sure, my dream is for this blog to become much more and I believe it will become something that people all over the country will read and hopefully get help from.  I dream of being on Ted Talks telling my story, being able to reach the millions of people suffering with chronic pain.  However, dreams take time: especially our deepest desires.  I have two dreams, one has to do with writing and one has to do with family.  I work on myself and my dreams each day just as the artist worked on his mosaic piece by piece.  When my dreams come true (and many have) I will be so beyond grateful but experience has taught me that I will remember the journey more than the end result.  However, because of the time and dedication I put into my dreams, my end results will be more magnificent and gratifying than had they just come true with the snap of a finger.  Enjoy the journey and trust the process, you will get there.  But remember: dreams do not work unless you do.

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chronic pain, Depression, Exercise and Chronic Pain, Managing Pain Naturally

Acceptance of Pain Changed My Life

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“Chronic pain is currently the fastest growing medical problem worldwide.  At least twenty percent of people across the globe have experience with chronic pain. So few of these conditions are understood, researched, or funded.  A great number of pain disorders are invisible, leaving the person in pain feeling isolated, unsupported, or a burden to those around them.  Many pain disorders are not just debilitating, they are disabling.”

Unknown

Yes, both of the above pictures are of me: Jessica Lynne Martin. This visual totally shocks me  and is actually difficult to see the Jessica on the right (our left.)  The picture on the right was taken mere days before I hit rock bottom and on a whim flew to Colorado without telling anyone but my one close friend.  I am quite positive I was pretty drunk as were my friends that night.  We were twenty years old, living in our own apartment and we loved to have a good time. We drank for very different reasons though.  My friends drank socially, for fun,  for laughs as most young people do in their twenties.  I had fun with my friends but I drank more to numb my physical pain due to my invisible illness.  There was no way in my mind I could be around friends in the pain I was in: it was impossible in my reality.  I truly could only hang out with people if we were are drinking which did take my mind off chronic pain until the next day.   However, I even enjoyed being hung over.  How crazy does that sound?  I liked it because my friends were hung over as well and it was totally normal to feel sick and just lay around in pajamas, eat pizza, and laugh about the events that transpired the night before.  Then the next day came and I isolated myself.  I was not partying with my friends, no hangover, and my chronic pain was at a level that made me feel depressed, hopeless, and I cried in bed alone for hours wishing I was someone else: anyone who did not have the crazy disease  we now call chronic pain.  That picture was taken at  a dark time.  I was twenty years old and about to drop everything (not that I had much) and get on a plane headed for Boulder, Colorado.  My pain ended up coming with me, who knew?  Nothing changed, my life only got worse until the real rock bottom hit and my good friend drove me to the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota where my life would be forever changed.

The Jessica on the left (our right) is the truest Jessica there is: healthy, happy, eleven years older, and managing pain naturally.  I am a visual person and to see this manifestation of self is astonishing.  It truly is hard for me to believe this is the same person.  I never thought I would even make it to the age of thirty because of chronic pain much less have a daughter and be truly happy despite pain.  Clearly, I look totally different but the reason is because I am happy in the picture of myself on the left (our right): natural, alive, and holding the dream I never thought possible: my daughter, Kayci.  Chronic pain is usually invisible which is truly one of the worst parts about the illness but looking at the above pictures pain is very evident.   There are people who truly do care and want to help people living with chronic pain: researchers included.  I spoke to someone recently from MIT who is doing a study on the effects of meditation/mindfulness and chronic pain.  Chronic pain is getting noticed so please do not feel alone, not to mention anyone who would put a picture like this on the internet for the world to see truly cares and wants to help each and every one of you.

I was recently asked what helps me the most manage chronic pain naturally and that is such a difficult question to answer.  When a person wants to lose weight, he or she cannot just go on a diet or take a magic weight loss pill.  The only way to lose and maintain weight loss and health is by making a total lifestyle change: changes in eating, exercising, mindfulness, sleep, stress management, therapy etc.  The same goes for how I manage chronic pain.  I no longer even think of taking a pain pill or going to the doctor to help me find pain relief.  I made a total lifestyle change: exercise, mindfulness, meditation, moderation, acceptance, distracting my thoughts from pain every time pain enters my brain, nutrition, stress management, etc etc.  As always you can email me for specific tips/questions regarding my management of pain.  The proof that the methods I use to manage chronic pain work are sometimes forgotten and then I see the Jessica who was spending her life searching for a cure, self medicating, and utterly hopeless and I am reminded  of why I do what I do and am the person I am today.   Acceptance of chronic pain and learning the tools to manage it naturally changed my life forever.  I was barely surviving in the picture on the right (our left) I am now living and that in itself is a wonderful thing.

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