5 Tips to Help You Get to the Other Side of Pain

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The last couple of days have been tough. I’ve been experiencing bad headaches (more like one headache that won’t go away) and a lot of pain, in my body…in my legs, my neck, my arms, my hands, my back… I know you get it, just about everywhere!

It’s hard not to feel like giving up when you spend a couple of days like this, it is hard to imagine being able to do anything and enjoy it. I’ve mentioned this before, but when the pain hits, the depression comes creeping right in behind it. I am blessed, I have good days and bad days… so I have the opportunity to experience a kind of reprieve. It doesn’t feel like I am going to when I am in the midst of it, but it will come. For those who experience chronic pain, it is so utterly important to have support in place and help with dealing with the mental health issues that accompany it. It’s just part of the deal, our bodies and brains are connected, remember?

So, while I’ve managed to get through these last couple of days, and it feels like I’ve just barely made it at moments, it’s important to remind myself what I need to do to keep from sinking.

*I remind myself it is not permanent, even though the condition may be permanent, the intensity of the pain is not.

*I keep myself focused on gratitude. Okay, I forget sometimes, but at the end of the day, focusing on the good stuff helps me to keep it all in perspective, even the little things (like pumpkins) put me in a better mood.

*Connect: I have to connect with others and especially others who understand, even a virtual hug on Twitter helps.

*I avoid making things worse by eating too much convenience food or beverages. When you feel sick it is impossible or nearly impossible to prepare food, but even keeping the quick stuff healthy makes recuperation a much speedier process.

*Get outside of yourself: watching tv or movies, reading to or playing with a small child (or just cuddling), talking to a friend on the phone, it all helps to take the focus off of the pain, even if it is just for a few moments, it helps.

What do you do to help you get by when the pain pays a visit? How do you keep yourself focused on the better moments to come?

Knowing & Understanding Your Healthcare Benefits

I’ve talked about self-care recently, and what could be more related to your self-care than your health care?

It’s that time of year where employers give you the opportunity to revamp your health care policy. Your options are laid out before you, but do you even understand what they really are? Is it hard for you to make decisions regarding your health care options? As someone who is currently not insured, (GASP!) I am truly envious of those who are able to make these choices right now. Having a job and employer that offers benefits is a far bigger blessing than so many realize, but… I can still help you. I have a pretty good understanding of the way some of these things work, from many years of selecting my own family’s health care options and having been previously licensed in life and health insurance, I hope I can give you some good pointers! I also just read this article: “The Power of an Hour: Planning Next Year’s Health Benefits in 60 Minutes or Less“, and I think I picked up a thing or two.

Tip Number 1: Read the information they send home with you. Don’t just let it sit on your desk or in a pile by the kids school papers. Read the information they have supplied you and do your best to make sense of the options they present. If you don’t read it, you aren’t even giving yourself a shot at making your own educated decision.

Tip Number 2: Know the jargon: learn what a FSA is ( I don’t even really understand those honestly), understand the words deductible, co-pay and lifetime max. Know what the out-of-pocket max is and if it includes your deductible or not, this matters!

Tip Number 3: Ask for help. Don’t let fear of feeling silly keep you from asking your human resources department for some help and advice. Just like the things we hear all of the time about asking for directions… same concept, ask for help. You will be surprised how layman’s terms can really help clarify some of these options and confusing aspects of health insurance.

Tip Number 4: Understand your prescription coverage. Is there any? What are the co-pays? How  much can you save by using mail order? Can you save a boatload of money by going generic or is going generic even an option for your medications? Make sure to check that out with your pharmacist before getting too excited!

Tip Number 5: Use the online tools provided. Aetna’s Be Smart About Your Health site offers several helpful online tools, like this Health Insurance 101 glossary of terms and a Health Benefits Priorities Tool that will help you distinguish what parts of your health plan are the most important for you and your family. Making use of the tools you are provided makes you one savvy health care shopper!

This is a daunting task for many and there are plenty of things to learn beyond what I have shared, but, remember, having health insurance is the key thing, deciding on what is going to be best for your family and your budget comes next. With tools like those mentioned above, you can easily learn more about the precarious project.

Educate yourself, empower yourself.

*I wrote this blog post while participating in the TwitterMoms and Aetna blogging program, making me eligible to get a $30 Target gift card. For more information on how you can participate, click here.*

 

Self-Care is Where It’s At

LIVING Self-Care

Just a few days ago I was directed to this site: Living Self-Care. I am so happy I came across it, even though I joined the challenge late, I knew it was something for me. In fact, self-care is for all of us!

The self-care challenge gives you a way to practice self-care each day for twenty-one days, but beyond that the coordinators of this effort have decided to keep it going and make a full-time commitment out of the site! I can’t wait to see what is in store and how they will be instrumental in my self-care practices in the future. In addition to the site you can follow Living Self-Care on Twitter and on their facebook page.

Today is day twenty in the challenge and the focus is on the many gifts our lives have to offer and gratitude.  I love that! I try hard to focus on the small pleasures, the abundance of gifts in my life despite the challenges. I have my moments where it is hard to focus and see any, but I am always drawn back to gratitude and peace when I focus on the little things. Just the song of the birds outside can lift me so much if I pay attention. I am truly grateful for their company when I am in pain or feel stuck inside because of feeling ill or low on energy.

I am learning more and more just how important self-care is… it’s like one of the proverbial “Aha Moments” that we hear about all the time, but for me it’s genuine. I’ve heard it said a hundred times, “you can’t love anyone else until you love yourself”, “you must take care of you first, then you will be more available for others”, etc. But until I saw the glimmer of comfort and peace that really comes from taking care of me first, I didn’t get it. If I am not careful, I could easily lose it, too. So it’s very important to focus on this and pay attention. Using tools like the self-care challenge can really help me to do that, so I am on board!

Another favorite blogger of mine has decided to start her own challenge personally, inspired greatly by the challenge I mentioned above. You can also follow her journey as well at Voice in Recovery. She is very inspirational in my life and every night on Twitter she shares her gratitude list and calls it #gratefuls. You can follow her on Twitter here: VoiceinRecovery.

We are not alone in our efforts to implement more self-care in our lives and there are great resources to help us. It’s so vitally important to purposefully put self-care at the forefront!

Be inspired, and take care of you!

You Don’t Have to Be Famous…But

There are plenty of famous people who have suffered the emotional pain of depression. A recent post by nursingschools.net50 Famous Artists and Thinkers Who Have Struggled with Depression” compiles a nice list for you, demonstrating the wide variety of  “well-knowns” who have battled the demon.

While I have mixed emotions about the notion that mental illness and creativity are linked, this article is an interesting and informative compilation.

I’m not sure why I feel ambivalent about the link between mental illness and creativity, perhaps it is because I do not want anyone who is really gifted or creative to feel like they will be pegged right away…perhaps it is because there is some shame or fear inside me that if I am without my illness, I might lose something? I know that during horrible painful times in my life I have been most creative, but still… I can be creative when not suffering as well.

When I was an inpatient in 2006 (at a psychiatric facility) Art Therapy was my most favorite time of the day. In fact, if I recall correctly, it was my most favorite thing about being an inpatient back in 1993 as well!

I became enthralled with watercolors. I loved to watch how the paper would soak up the color, how I could move it around and create different forms of expression with the paintbrush. I certainly would not call my efforts of a professional caliber, but some of my works were “not so bad”. I took this new hobby home with me after I was discharged and for a couple of months I avidly utilized watercolors as an outlet and a way to bring peace and comfort to my mind. For some reason, I have not been able to watercolor in the same way as I did then. I stopped, and then when I tried to pick it back up it felt very foreign. Perhaps it is because I stopped painting on a consistent and regular basis, or perhaps it has something to do with the level of depression and mental illness I was suffering at that time? No telling.

Either way, I believe Art Therapy is a very real and good form of therapy and an excellent outlet for emotional expression and also relaxation. In addition to the list I linked above, I would like to share with you a brilliant video I saw tonight, a truly amazing expression of pain and healing through art.

P.S. I’m completely confused by the copyright warning at the end of the video, if it is posted on YouTube then it is available for sharing, right? If I am infringing on any kind of rights then it is purely unintentional!

Back from BlogWorld!

I have had one of the most wonderful and exciting week’s of my life, but… that was last week, and now I’m faced with dealing with “normal” again. What is “normal” anyway? That’s a whole other post, or series for that matter!

To give you a brief overview, Saturday October 9th I traveled to Denver, Colorado to visit a dear friend, I spent two nights and 3 wonderful days playing and having girl time. I traveled back home on Monday evening. Upon arriving home I was ecstatic to see my family, but shifting from fun to the daily grind was a little tough.

Wednesday afternoon, the 13th, I found out around noon that I was going to BlogWorld! It was an incredible opportunity for me and completely last minute notice. I left that evening for Las Vegas and arrived there at 11:30pm Las Vegas time, but to me it was already 1:30am. Long story short, I attended the conference and participated in a panel on the Social Health track on Thursday and came back home Friday. I arrived at home Friday evening after a full day of travel and then picking up the kids, etc. Wow! What a whirlwind. Saturday involved soccer games and birthday parties and life was in full speed, no stopping. That one week of my life was jam packed full of experiences, all incredible and rewarding, but exhausting none-the-less.

I wanted to share with you my attempt to vlog after I arrived in Vegas as I was thinking on the day that was to come:

I was very tired, but can you tell how enthusiastic I was feeling? I truly hope my enthusiasm and passion showed during my time speaking on the panel on Thursday! I was blessed with the pleasure of speaking at the side of two extraordinary men, Manny Hernandez of TuDiabetes and Bob Brooks from WEGO Health. They were extremely kind to me since I had little to no time to prepare and also knowing that I was a somewhat novice speaker. We pulled it off, and I think it went really well.

This experience gave me the knowledge that I often set my expectations far too low for myself. I have a message to share and I am passionate about sharing it. I feel so grateful that others had faith in me when I was not so sure of myself, and now I know… I can do it! I have submitted a speaker proposal to Blissdom 2011 and I am crossing my fingers, toes, and saying prayers that my proposal will be accepted. (And, oh yes, I’m looking for sponsors!) I feel such a sense of pride and accomplishment that I have not experienced since my speaking opportunity at the Out of the Darkness Community Walk 2009. Sharing my story and my insights about health activism and social media gives me a great feeling, a knowing that the challenges of my journey have not been in vain, and that perhaps, somehow I can help others along theirs.

Here I am, having been home for a few days and as you might imagine I am still dealing with fatigue. Today was my first day of feeling like me again, and it was wonderful. I went for a walk tonight and enjoyed the crisp Fall air and watched as the moon hung brightly above, as if to say, I’m still here and shining bright for you.