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Fearing the Future

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“Fears are stories we tell ourselves.”

Unknown

Above all of you lie a sentence with only six words included that sum up fear better than any phrase I have yet to see.  We are all afraid of something and many of us spend an exuberant amount of time focusing/fearing our futures.  We are afraid of not getting what we want and we are afraid of getting what we do not want.  I received an email recently from a young girl in college who has been following my blog for a couple years now.  She is a very kind, strong young person who has had chronic pain for a couple of years and is trying the best she can to manage her pain while working towards achieving a college degree in social work.  She asked me in her very encouraging email if I had remembered her and what my readers do not realize is that I find it very hard to forget any of you that reach out to me directly for help and support.  I am beyond flattered and amazed that so many people read my story because I do manage pain in an unconventional way. If I was the younger Jessica who was spending her days searching for a cure to chronic pain I would have never read a blog about a woman who has accepted chronic pain as part of her life and manages that pain naturally.  Then there are those of you who not only read my life story but you take the time out of your busy life that I know is not easy as you have an invisible illness to write me just to either say thank you and let me know that I have helped you or to ask me genuine questions.  You tell me your stories and you then see that I will never judge any of you for how you live your life or how you choose to manage your pain and you begin to trust me and many of you take some, if not all of my advice.  How could I forget any of your personal stories when I have not only lived/live your story but am astounded by your personal strength and gratitude.  With that said, of course I remember this young person who I am so very proud of and almost envious of in some ways.  She is in her young twenties and is in a place with her personal journey with chronic pain that I was not able to get to as early as she has.  However, she brought up to me some of her fears regarding her personal future and how she will be able to follow any of her dreams with this invisible illness: chronic pain.

When I was around the age of nineteen/twenty years of age I had more fears about my life than I had when I had brain surgery because of my bike accident.  I do not know what is worse living with chronic pain or the fear of pain itself and what we tell ourselves pain will steal from us.  I never thought I would have a family, be a mother, have a college degree or be the person sitting here writing about how I, Jessica Martin is managing pain naturally.  I  believed with my whole heart and soul that chronic pain had robbed me of everything I had ever wanted, desired or dreamed of.  I lived in pain and fear every second of every day.  The fear/anxiety made the pain worse and the pain made the fear/anxiety worse.  Ten plus years living in a never ending circle of pain and fear/fear and pain.  Turns out all the things I was fearing never happening because of chronic pain happened and all the things I feared of happening due to chronic pain never happened.  Do I have the life I would have had I never fallen off of my bike and chronic pain? No.  However, I have learned that fear of the unknown was just a story I made up in my head that caused me more emotional/physical pain that was truly unneeded.  Although, my life with chronic pain has taught me that fear is nothing but a story we tell ourselves, I still live in a lot of fear and that fear does have an impact on my pain levels.

I do not fear the things I used to fear when I was living in my darkest hours of chronic pain.  However, I am still a very worry filled person.  I spent most of my life being afraid and now I have to re-parent/re-teach my inner self to not be afraid for everything does work out.  I am not afraid of the little things in life that some may be afraid of.  I look forward to sky diving one day and I love roller coasters and haunted houses.  Those things do not scare me in the least, they excite me.  However, the big things in life scare me.  I still am afraid of the things I dream of happening not happening and the things I am afraid of happening coming to fruition.  Has my journey with chronic pain taught me nothing??  Everything I have ever feared not happening has happened just not  how I envisioned those certain life blessings to happen.    I know I need to let go and trust the process of life while working towards what I do what and I must stop living in a state of fear.  From childhood to adolescence to early adulthood up until my thirties I have had fear in my life and I did not know better and do not fault myself for those fears.  I do know better now.  However, to be fair to myself I am in the process of re -wiring a fear based mind into a peaceful, calm mind.   I can read and write as many quotes as I want to and I can logically know that fear is just a story I am telling myself but I am human and changing the way your mind works is a process.  Hell, it took me years to re-wire my brain from constantly focusing on pain.

This post is meant to thank the people who take time out of their day to remind me of what I am writing and remind me of my own personal story.  You are kind and generous enough to applaud me in how I have overcome so much and tell me what  an inspiration I am  to those who are living in fear due to chronic pain.  All of you are my teachers as well and I cannot thank you enough for your feedback and helping me in my own personal journey without even realizing what an impact you make in my life.  Thank you.

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Letting Go of What We Cannot Control

“Anything you can’t control is teaching you how to let go.”

Jackson Kiddard

As I was practicing yoga this morning two words stuck with me that I knew I wanted to grow from: flexibility and the art of allowing.  Many people believe that doing yoga is an exercise to tone the body into better health and better flexibility of the muscles and tissues that make up our individual bodies.  However, that is just a small portion of what the art of yoga really is.  Yes, yoga has helped tone my body and has become a great form of exercise, it has also helped me become more flexible physically.  Yoga is also teaching me how to become more flexible in places that are far more important than the outside of my body: my heart and mind.  I will be very honest.  I am not a very flexible person.  There is a very sound reason as to why I am not flexible: chronic pain.  I manage chronic pain naturally and have a routine I follow each day in order to manage pain without pain managing me.  I spent a decade of my life with chronic pain consuming my entire life.  I lived, breathed, and felt pain inside and out for every single day of what could have been the best years of my life: my teen years and my early twenties.  I was in doctor’s offices or getting operations while my friends were on their phones planning what to do for the weekend.  I probably spent as many hours in waiting rooms as I did college classes.  My life could have been defined as: “hurry up and wait for a cure.”  After coming close to just ending my entire life I found what saved me and that was the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota where I learned how to manage pain naturally.  I have a routine I follow daily that helps me in so many ways manage my pain without a cure or medications.  I am living as opposed to barely surviving.  I had to let go of the idea that I would find a cure and surrender to the fact that I could live a happy, healthy life despite pain.  I have had to give up a lot in order to manage pain how I choose but I had nothing when I was looking for a cure so the benefits outweigh the negatives one thousand percent.

However, there are ways I am learning to be more flexible.  I am a mother and one huge lesson motherhood will teach you is how to be flexible.  Our family went away this past weekend to Atlantic City, NJ for a long snowed in weekend.  Yes, I packed yoga DVD’s and some healthy snacks.  However, I had to be flexible.  I stayed up much later than usual and ate things I would not normally eat.  My schedule was totally thrown off but I was having so much fun swimming and just chilling out in pajamas in our hotel room that I really did not think about pain despite not following my usual management of chronic pain.  I surrendered to just letting go and having fun making memories with the people I love.  I was able to get back on my schedule yesterday and I must say what I do does work.  With that said, there are ways I need to be more flexible in my mind and heart which will allow me to be more flexible in my life.  Our thoughts create our reality and I would like my thoughts to be more flexible.  Our mind is like a huge muscle and we can work out our biceps and triceps as much as we want but if we do not focus on what is inside our minds and hearts we will never be truly happy.  I am working on being more flexible and allowing the dreams I have to come into my world without forcing them.  One can work towards a dream or goal without it taking control over their entire existence.  Everything I have gone through in my thirty five years has been teaching me how to be flexible: body mind and spirit and how to allow things to happen while working towards what you most desire.

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chronic pain, Uncategorized

Let the Universe Surprise You!

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“I’m not making any plans, I am just going to allow the Universe to surprise me.”

One of the greatest pieces of advice I have ever been given was by my inspiring yoga instructor.  Pre-K (Pre Kayci) I had a miscarriage and fell apart for a few weeks.  I then got back on track with my management of chronic pain and began going to the same yoga studio each day.  I was on a good track with my natural management of cp but was totally lost in what to do with my life and literally was totally lost. This yoga teacher said to me: “Being lost is sometimes the greatest place to be.  It is there that you find yourself and your purpose.  Leave this studio today and let the Universe take care of the rest.” I for once listened to her and threw my hands up and allowed the Universe to surprise me.  A year or so later, Kayci was born.  A year after that I had my second miscarriage which at the time seemed like a cruel punishment, however without that painful experience I would not have found my passion: writing/helping those suffering from chronic pain as there is a huge difference between pain and suffering.  I have always loved writing but never once thought about writing a book about my journey with chronic pain.  It hit me like a ton of bricks one week after my miscarriage what I had to do while here on this Earth.  I declared to myself and the Universe: “I am going to write a book about my journey with chronic pain and it will be called ‘No One Gets Flowers for Chronic Pain’ I do not know how to write a book, I just know how to write.” I was never a computer/technology person and I remain ignorant to many tools on this damn lap top which I always call lab top (now I forget which term its called again.)  However, I asked my closest friends how to write a book.   Immediately each person said: “You are going to have to start with a blog meaning Jess, its time you get a computer.”  Ugh.  I am a minimalist, technology freaks me out, I still never go on Face Book accept to post my blog.  I sucked it up and got a lab lap top: whatever it’s called.  Now, for a person at age of 32 who only knows how to play Angry Birds on her phone learning how to start a blog scared the crap out of me.  However, I started a year and a half ago and here we are.  Have I helped people? Yes.   Have I found my calling/passion? Yes.  Do I love writing? Yes.  Will this be a best seller one day? May as well say yes.  The Universe responds to what you want and declare not what you fear and doubt.

Did you ever just know in your soul what you want to do and literally cannot stand the thought of not doing it?  It is like having butterflies in your stomach that are buzzing around yearning for you to go after your dream.  That is one of the reasons I write this blog.  The other is clear: I want to help people with chronic pain.  I feel I was given a gift to be able to stay at the Pain Rehab Center for a month to learn how to accept and manage pain naturally.  We are all not given this gift.  Pay it forward.  I’m following my dream.  Now, for all of you.  I have probably embedded this into your head but do not lay around thinking about pain non stop.  You know what you enjoy doing.  Get up and do it.  Even if it is writing me an email because you just want to punch yourself so your pain makes sense.  Take a break.  The Universe has got this.

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Get The Crap OUT OF YOUR MIND

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“Buy a notebook.  Write down what you want.  Write down what hurts you.  Show it to someone you love.  Save it for your children.  Burn it in your backyard.  Either way, go to bed knowing that in some way, those things are out of you.”

I have always loved writing and journaling.  It is one of my biggest passions and I think I am pretty damn good at it.  For those of you who read my blog, I am not talking about grammar and the correct punctuation (they have editors for that part.)  I write as an artist paints: the words just come out and I keep writing without overthinking commas, semi colons etc.  I write as Jackson Pollack painted:  freely, openly, and honestly.  I used to keep a journal and I wrote in it daily and then life got busier: daughter, family, house, work, my blog, and all the things I do to manage chronic pain naturally.  I started my “one liner” journal in 2011 right after my first miscarriage, pre Kayci (my two year old.)  Each day I write one to three lines about the highlights of the day. For example:

10/20

2011: walk with Sunny, ultrasound 🙂 25 weeks pregnant, Kayci is one pound and thirteen ounces-sucking her thumb: I am so in love.  Library, Animo (juice bar) walk with KK

2012: Amazing Saturday!  Pumpkin picking with my K’s: Kayci’s first time!  Discovery Museum, home with my loves, walk to town to buy sushi.

2013: Ran a couple miles with Kayci.  Major cleaning.  Pumpkin picking with friends and family.  SO SO SO FUN.  Kayci had a blast!

2014: Awoke 4am, yoga, blog post, spent time with dad, played with Kayci, laundry, Wegmans (Kayci hilarious) made dinner, Kayci had dance party, Steelers play (I’ll sit that one out.)

I will continue this one liner journal for the rest of my life.  Some of the days are not so happy and joyful as 10/20 is, maybe this is a lucky day or a magic number for me.  However, this journal shows me quickly my ups and downs with chronic pain, family, and the joys of motherhood.  However,  I need to begin writing down all the crap that fills my head at night.  I cannot just lay there thinking about any sadness, angers, or fears.  I have to write them down using as many curse words as I want.  I need to do this just for me.   It always helps to talk things out but some things you may just want to write on paper for you and no one else. Writing all of your frustrations out is a release your mind and body need. One does not have to do this each night.  There are no rules to writing.   However, on those nights when your mind is eating you alive get out a notebook and right down all the crap that is cluttering your mind and keeping you from peace.  Try it!   It definitely will not hurt and is most likely to help you a great deal.

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Journaling and Chronic Pain

I have always been a big believer in journaling as it has been a tool for me to use since I was a little girl. Even before my bike accident and chronic pain I loved writing in a journal. There was just something about writing down everything at the end of the day that gave me some peace and solace. As I got older it became more difficult to find time to write down a journal entry each night. I was also so focused on my struggle with chronic pain and finding a cure that I truly did not care about writing anything down. Once I came to acceptance of chronic pain and learned how to manage it naturally I found writing to be one of my greatest outlets and have kept a journal since.

After my first miscarriage (before my daughter was born a year later) I started what I call the “one liner journal.” Each day I write down about three sentences to sum up my day. No matter if the day is amazing or not, I make sure to write down a few words to explain the day. Here is an example of today for the past four years of the “one liner journal.”

APRIL 9TH

2011: Dr. appointment (I cannot believe I am once again looking for a cure for my pain, I hate myself) watched movies, PJ’S happy hour (not fun) home, watched hockey

2012: HAPPY EASTER! Kayci’s first Easter. Amazing day, Kayci looked so cute. I wish I didn’t have so much wine. Makes me feel like crap anymore, getting old I guess. Definitely does not help chronic pain like it used to.

2013: Woke at six am with Kayci. Shop Rite , Starbucks, Met Lindsay at Cooper River and walked four miles with Kayci and the kids, Kayci napped outside and I read for an hour, played outside with Kayci and her best friend Jack.

2014: woke at six am, ran 4.5 miles with Kayci (beautiful outside!) Wa Wa for coffee and laughs, home/juice/shower, playground with Kayci, Jack and Jill, errands, mailed yoga nidra CD to Katrina finally (the UK has long addresses!)

So that is the one liner journal. It is amazing for me to look back and see how unhappy I used to be and how different my life is from year to year. Wherever you are in your journey (chronic pain or not) I suggest the one liner journal. Not only does it benefit myself but one day I get to show Kayci what her first two years of life and on were like. Hopefully next year on this day I will either be pregnant or have an infant!

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Journaling and Chronic Pain

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Make a Difference

“If you think you’re too small to make a difference you haven’t spent a night with a mosquito.”
-African Proverb

I started this blog to truly share my journey with chronic pain. There are so many things and people I have hurt because of my disease and I have come a point in my life that I am able to share with the world my story and how I made it to the amazing point in my life despite my physical pain. As many of my readers know I had a miscarriage on my last birthday an it was that day that I decided to give up all medications/treatments for chronic pain forever. I never believed I could do it even though I had done it in the past. Being a mother is difficult and I was scared that without any medicine for pain I wouldn’t be able to do everything with her and our future children if I had no medication/treatment. My inner wisdom knew I would be a much better mother/friend/wife and person if I stopped pain medication and any/all doctor visits but I was crippled with fear. However, I did make that choice on June 7th, the day I turned thirty two and I began my journey of living with chronic pain naturally again. My inner wisdom was correct, per usual and I am in a great place.

I see a therapist and have for years who specializes in chronic pain/anxiety. She has a holistic approach to her practice and she has become much more than a therapist to me. We are quite close and even text one another on a weekly basis. The week after my miscarriage I went to see her to tell her the choice I had made. I know she sees so many patients but I have never seen such a proud face from someone in my life. She was in utter shock that I was able to take myself off of my medication and make this decision with no help from anyone (I do not recommend people doing this without doctor’s help.) I am a medical social worker by trade so knew what I had to do and had a week of hell but came out much stronger. My therapist looked at me and said; “Jessica, you have to get your story out there. You have to let the world know they can do what you have done. This is your calling.” I barely heard what she was saying because although I knew it was my calling I had zero clue how to reach people. I didn’t even own a computer. Two weeks later I bought myself a lap top and just started writing and here I am. To be totally honest, I did not believe I would make any difference in anyone’s life. I wasn’t writing for me, I truly wanted/want to help people. Months later I can see and hear that I am making a difference, quite small but I am reaching people who need hope/help and that is huge to me. I want this small difference to turn into a big difference. I saw a quote recently that said: “The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the moment you realize why.” I cannot remember the day I was born but I now know why.

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Make a Difference

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Yes, yes I do. “But you look so fine and healthy!” Yes, yes I do. I used to wish I looked as bad as I felt on the outside as I did on the inside. I no longer wish that but for most of my life I did. It did not occur to me until a recent email I received that I never really explained my chronic pain. I have programmed my brain so much to not talk about the pain that I never wrote about it to my readers. This is not something I ever do but I feel it has to be written so that my readers can understand me better and more importantly understand my chronic pain.

My bike accident happened right before my second year of middle school. Who knew just riding my pink cruiser home from a video store could completely turn my life completely upside down. After the brain surgery, I was just happy to be alive. I think I was probably too young to even realize how serious the accident and surgery were. I was thirteen, more frightened about starting a new school with half a shaved head and marks covering my body then the fact that my life had been saved. Ignorance can be bliss I guess. A couple years later is when the pain (which is in my head, face, neck and back) began bothering me. I was sitting in class rubbing my face (my worst pain behavior) when a student behind me asked what was wrong with my face. It was from that day forward that I started seeing specialists for my chronic pain. I had no clue it was chronic pain at the time as I honestly thought it would be a quick fix. I mean I fell off my bike, landing on my head and having brain surgery and lived so anything was possible, right? NOPE. Some doctors were confused as to why my pain got so much worse years after my surgery instead of right after, some doctors thought it had nothing to do with my brain surgery, some doctors thought it was “all in my head” and some doctors thought it was definitely directed to my bike accident. After many years of trying to figure out how to get rid of the pain I really did not give a crap why I had the chronic pain, I just wanted it gone. Ten years later I still did not know the exact reason why I had chronic pain but I was tired of searching for a cure. Every specialist has different theories but the bottom line is I have chronic pain and it is not going anywhere.

This will probably be the only post I write about where I feel the pain the worst as I truly practice not thinking about the pain. The pain is in my head, neck, upper back, and face. The place that bothers me the worst is my face. I have to remind myself constantly not to rub my face. It feels good as I rub it but just brings attention to the pain. When I find myself rubbing my face I find a distraction. I will be honest, last night was rough. After my daughter fell asleep I laid in bed with a book and found myself continuing to rub my face. I am not always perfect when it comes to pain management but I know I am doing the best I can. People ask me if they think the surgeries in which the surgeon cut nerve endings off in my face hurt me more than helped me and I believe they did. However, what does it matter. I cannot look back. I try hard enough to not look forward much less spending time looking back. I no longer do look back and do not see the point. I’m here today with chronic pain and do I wish there was a cure to my pain: yes, however I am in a good place and for the most part happy. I would not wish chronic pain on anyone. It can be a living hell. Or, overtime you can learn to accept it and find strategies to manage it and live the best life you can. As I am writing this, my two year old is dancing around to Pink and tearing up her playroom. I am a mother, something I never thought I could be because of chronic pain and a good one at that. I am living a life I am proud of. I am at this moment living the best life I can despite chronic pain.

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“YOU have chronic pain?!?”

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