Knowing Your Limitations Versus Letting Them Control You

June was Pride month, and as a member of the LGBTQ community, I was, of course, excited to participate in this year’s festivities. That being said, I do remember last year and the struggle it was to go out all day and all night. The big question was, am I going to let it stop me this year? If you haven’t guessed already, the answer is no. I wasn’t going to and I didn’t. That being said, like last year, though even more so this year, I was quite aware of my limitations given the physical pain and fatigue my illness causes me. But I’m a warrior. A chronic pain warrior, so off to the festivities I went.

IMG_1724Yes, I wore rainbow suspenders – June 25, 2017

Pride weekend is just an example of a time when I wanted very much to go out and have a good time with my friends, but for everyone there are many other times when you may need or want to push yourself without causing any more physical pain than normal. Want to run a marathon? Go on an adventurous vacation? Have children? The list goes on and on, depending on the person and their circumstances. So what do we do and what do we not do? That’s always the question when you’re dealing with chronic pain.

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The first step is knowing your limitations. For me, on an average night I’m in bed by 9:45 or 10:00 and asleep by 10:15. Maybe 10:30 at the latest. I also get up early, usually around 6:00 or 6:30 so I can write, meditate, and exercise before work. Regardless, I’m usually exhausted by 8pm and like to take it easy in the evening. Also, the longer I’m on my feet, the more likely I am to experience increased hip, knee, ankle pain, etc. (and that’s ignoring all the pain that lingers around when I’m not doing anything special.). I also find that the more I drink alcohol, the more anxiety I have. Something I’m quite aware of, and as a result try not to drink too often. If you’re unsure of your limitations, make a quick mental list (or physical list if you’d prefer). It’s good to know what they are, whether or not you’re about to follow them to a tee.

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If I were to let my limitations control me this past weekend, I would’ve missed out on quite a lot of fun, and probably would’ve regretted it. The lucky thing is, I was able to sleep in every day to catch up on what I would have otherwise lacked. I managed to stay out until 2am on Friday, 1:30am on Saturday, and 10pm on Sunday. I was on my feet a lot (walking around the festival) but every opportunity I had to sit (usually on a patio) I took it. I knew I needed to, and as soon as someone brought up patio time I jumped at it. And I did drink. For me, it was worth the anxiety, which I managed to deal with pretty well by Sunday (that’s a whole other story that you can ask me about in person). Depending on your situation/medication, drinking may not be something you can do at all. I don’t usually drink to excess, though I definitely had more than I needed on the weekend. I found I also had more physical pain (though I avoided hangovers). I was also very conscious of drinking lots of water. If this weekend was me versus chronic pain, I think I won. This weekend at least.

IMG_1729Artist: Jonathan Pimentel

This is not to say that sometimes we should let our limitations control us. Or rather, advise us. It’s the one offs. The things we really want that may only happen a few times a year, where we have the opportunity to challenge ourselves. We should. Why not? Unless you’re planning something that is really going to hurt you physically, or take you out of the count for awhile (and who knows? To you that may be worth it), you should go for it. The other big resistance can be (unsolicited) advice from friends and family about whether or not your should do these things. The best advice would come from your health care providers. They can possibly help you achieve these things within your limitations even. If not, they should at least be kept in the loop about it. Friends and family can only see through a certain lens, and they don’t understand what you’re experiencing physically or emotionally, so take their advice with caution. They love you, but they don’t really understand.

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Remember, doing more will help your mental health too. Isolation can lead to loneliness which can lead to depression and so forth. A ripple effect. Mental health is already so much affected by chronic pain. I personally don’t want to make it worse. Do what you can. Have fun. Know yourself. Those are the keys to unlocking your limitations.


You can also follow Jane Versus Pain on Twitter @janevspain and Instagram @ janeversuspain.

Prioritizing and Affording Health Care Needs No Matter Your Budget

Let me begin by saying that this is a huge topic unto itself, and will probably need more than one post, and ultimately, more than one perspective on it. I want to talk about it, because it’s important and difficult, and can cause emotional strains as well as financial ones. No one likes to talk about money, and no one really likes to spend their hard earned cash unless necessary. This topic is large because everyone has different jobs, ability to work given their chronic pain, health benefit coverage, and support from family, friends, and partners. So how can everyone prioritize and afford what they need? A lot of it will come down to individual decisions, but making your health your top priority will only help you in the long run. At least, that’s what I’ve learned. Where I was 8 months ago when my health was not my top priority (my relationship and career goals were) to now (where my health is number one, and everything else is second) has made me realize how important it is to stay on top of everything health-related in order to live an amazing life and succeed in all other areas.

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Part One: An Incomplete List of Health Care Options Available and Prioritizing Them

Rheumatologists & GPS: When you suffer from chronic pain, there are so many options for health care treatments. For most, a specialist like a Rheumatologist, as well as your GP, as the starting point. They tend to offer diagnosis (or direction toward one) and will prescribe any pharmaceuticals that will help ease pain and any other symptoms. They are important. In my opinion, only part of the team, not the whole team. The pills I’ve been prescribed personally (for lupus, fibromyalgia, and pain) help, but only to an extent. I can function, but not the way I want to.

Physiotherapy and Chiropractor: There are other health care providers that can be sought out to help with chronic pain. Working on strength, movement, and having adjustments, laser therapies, heat therapies, acupuncture, etc., are often the focus from these types of specialists. There has been a lot of research suggesting that exercise can have a great effect on chronic pain.

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Naturopaths: NDs tend to give suggestions in terms of switching up diet (hard to do, but helpful), exercise, acupuncture, and natural supplements that can decrease inflammation, pain, and relax muscles. They also focus on the body as a whole. What are the other causes of pain? How are you emotionally? etc. The integrative approach is refreshing, and NDs can have a way of making you feel like more than just a patient.

Pain Specialists: Another type of specialist that deals specifically with chronic pain. They can also offer alternative prescriptions for things like medical marijuana, which is a good solution for some people.

Massage Therapy: Most people think of massage as a relaxing luxury as opposed to a health care practice. It’s true, massages do relax the body, and work out tough knots caused by stress, but they can also provide some relief (albeit temporary to chronic pain in certain parts of the body.

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Psychotherapy: Ah, the mind, an important player in chronic pain, even though most of us don’t want to admit it. In fact, a lot of people (chronic pain warriors or not) could benefit from some talk therapy. Often therapists will also have suggestions and new ideas for how to reduce pain from a mind perspective as well.

Life Coaches, Personal Trainers, Nutritionists, and So Forth: There are lots of other people you can include in your health care team depending on your goals and needs. As stated at the start of this section, this in a short, incomplete list of some of the most common providers, but it’s important to remember that there are others out there as well.

Every person will prioritize the above health care needs on their own. And those priorities may change over time. I prioritize based upon what is currently working the best for me. If I’m getting more out of a therapy/treatment, I’ll probably do it more often. That, of course, and then money, which leads us into…

PART TWO: Affording These Needs

If you have health benefits, especially good ones, it makes this a lot easier. I’m Canadian, so my Rheumatologist and GP are covered by our government provided health care. If you’re in other parts of the world, that may not be the case. Setting appointments to keep you in check, and refill prescriptions if necessary, are always a good idea. The nice thing is, these visits can be spread apart. At this point I only need to see my rheumatologist every six months. Even if it wasn’t covered, it makes it a lot more affordable than every three months. Find out what the longest you can reasonably set your appointments apart, and go from there.

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Again, a lot of the additional health care practices may depend partially on whether or not you have some additional coverage. Even if you do, your coverage may only get you “X” amount of appointments in a year (usually set by a dollar amount). This is the case for me. And because I didn’t pace everything out, I ran out of some coverage. This is when prioritizing can be extra important. If you only have enough coverage for 6 naturopath appointments in a year, for example, try to spread them out over every two months (even if your ND wants to see you every month). Often health care providers like to see patients more initially, and then less often once improvement is shown. There is an opportunity to spread it out at that point. If you have no benefits, letting your health care professionals know up front what you can and cannot afford will be helpful in them setting up an appointment schedule and routine for you. (This also works for additional things they might suggest. For example, my chiropractor wants me to go to the gym, but knows I can’t afford to join, so he has given me body weight exercises that I can do at home with just a yoga mat).

Psychotherapy is a specific one that I want to quickly touch on. I know a  lot of people (most dealing with issues other than chronic pain) that say they want to go to therapy but can’t afford it. The great thing about therapy is that you don’t have to see a registered psychotherapist, psychologist, or psychiatrist if you’re not covered, or don’t have much coverage. I’ve been to therapy at two different points in my life – years ago for marriage counselling, and currently for myself. The first time I went down to the local university and it (like most other universities) offered therapy for free if you see a student. The biggest challenge for this is the wait lists are often long. Currently, my wellness centre has two student therapists who charge a greatly reduced rate ($40/hour), which is very affordable, especially if you’re okay with spreading out sessions. $40 every two or three weeks just means one less meal out in that time period.

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Like I said at the beginning of this very long post (sorry about that), this is really too large a topic to do just one post on, but I like to think of this as a starting point to open up the conversation and get some perspectives. If you have questions, comments, concerns, or suggestions on this topic, please feel free to comment on the post, or email me. I’d love to hear from you.

The Power of Affirmations

One major thing I’ve noticed about being in chronic pain, especially as it started to get worse, was how quickly I lost myself. From what I’ve read, I’m not alone in this feeling, and to be honest, it probably isn’t that surprising. To go from being an able-bodied adult, who loves to be active and adventurous, to suddenly not being able to do all the things you like is difficult, to say the least. That self-love, and self-reliance all adults are supposed to have (though many, including those who are well, don’t necessarily have them) became harder and harder to have. Instead, dependence on relationship (romantic and non-romantic) and a bit of self-hatred (the thinking that I must suck, since my body does) overflows the brain. There are tons of posts I could do (and probably will at some point) on self-love, self-care, self-awareness, etc, in regards to dealing with chronic pain, but the one I want to start with is simple: how to retrain your brain back to its old way of thinking, or perhaps, for some, this is just developing a new way of thinking altogether.

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I get it, affirmations can seem lame, and to be totally honest, they kind of are. I could sit here all day and tell myself I’m beautiful, I’m smart, I’m kind, I can get through anything, but it’s not going to change how I feel about anything. That is, unless I start to believe it. Saying the affirmation is the first step, truly believing what you’ve said is the second, and much more difficult step. This becomes even harder, when in addition to chronic pain (or rather, a coexisting symptom of chronic pain) is anxiety and/or depression. Talking to a therapist or psychiatrist is also a good idea if you’re experiencing these types of emotions. I do, and it helps deal with the underlying issues that causes these feeling to come up, even if the issue is just, “I’m in pain all the time!” Belief that saying affirmations will help is important. My therapist also has suggested using affirmations. No one is saying that you have to say them to yourself everyday, though as I quickly found out, if you start saying them regularly, even once a day, they will become part of your mind’s daily mantra without even trying.

My affirmations:




The extent of my painting talents.

There are so many you can use, and my suggestion is to pick ones that you relate to. I tried out a bunch, and even use an app called Pacifica, which has affirmations as part of it’s “relaxation” and mindfulness section. I came up with the above three myself, and even painted them on a dollar store canvas, and put it in my room. Every time I think the pain is too much, or I’m having anxiety, I try to remember these, and to say them to myself. I am (strong). I can (get through this). I will (live a successful and fulfilling life). Affirmations are not going to cure any pain, emotional or physical, but they can be a great part of a much larger healing plan. Just be open to a mindfulness journey on  your chronic pain path. It could be more helpful than you’d think.

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