Zzzz Sleep Zzzz

As often happens to me when I write this blog, I decided to write this particular post based upon something I’ve been thinking about more frequently over the past few days. Yesterday (Sunday), I worked at 13 hour shift at work. Not on purpose. I was scheduled for 11 hours due to a meeting, and then I had a customer stay a few hours past close as I tried to help her out. The result? My perpetual exhaustion. So, this morning, as I woke up feeling almost as tired as I did last night, I figured now would be as good a time as any to talk about sleep and chronic pain.

IMG_0013Good morning from me and Spike.

As most chronic pain warriors will know, the worse your sleep was the night before, the worse your pain will be the next day. If you don’t get enough, or it’s just not a good sleep , pain increases. I was reading a few articles on sleep and it’s relation to pain, so this isn’t just something I’ve experienced. Not that I’m surprised since all my heath care professionals always ask me about my sleep. I’m going to break the rest of this post into two parts. First, how to get enough sleep, and second, how to get a good sleep.

sleep-garfieldImage from: http://www.nofructose.com/health-issues/sleep/

Getting enough sleep, for me at least, involves a combination of planning, and listening to my body. Working in retail, I end up with a lot of shifts, which can put a damper on my sleep. Usually I’m ready for bed anywhere between 9 and 10pm. A closing shift at work means I’m there until 9:30 and with my commute (which is a bit easier at night), home by 10. So bedtime is closer to 10:30. Doesn’t seem that bad but ends up being tough. I usually get up around 6 so I can workout and write before work. I definitely need 8 hours of sleep (sometimes more) in order to feel good the next day. Without it, more pain. What I’ve been able to do (thanks to have wonderful bosses) is work it out so that I only close once per week. It’s better for my well-being, and as a result, I’m able to perform at a higher potential while at my job. Win-win. What about social life? I usually only stay out late (past 10) if I don’t work the next day. Even if my close is the next day, I tend not to stay out later than 10, maybe 10:30. If i do make the occasional choice to, I know I’ll have to live with the consequences. There may be a bit of sacrifice here, but my friends tend to be understanding, and any dates I go on will just have to suck it up.

11de907e-1c68-44d3-9456-0eb8a7c0e00fImage from: http://www.ba-bamail.com/content.aspx?emailid=21175

Getting a good sleep tends to be a bit harder. I usually end up waking up a few times during the night for a multitude of reasons. I have to pee, I hear something, I’m physically uncomfortable (often), I’m in pain, I have anxiety (not too bad at the moment). Sleeping through the entire night is tough. I love baths, and I find a hot bath right before bed tends to help with the initial falling asleep. Usually the best way for me to stay asleep is to have some marijuana right before bed (see post on medical marijuana for more details). This probably isn’t the only way to get a good sleep, but it’s the way I’ve found works best for me. I’d be excited to hear a few other (non-medicinal) suggestions on this though. Pain is difficult to ignore, and therefore, staying asleep while you’re in pain can be a huge struggle. Pain plus night plus sleeping alone (I mean yes I have my dog and some people have partners but still) is never a good combo.

IMG_0010Bath time!

Just remember, sleep is important when dealing with chronic pain. So, make sure you are doing what you can to get the best (and longest) sleep possible. Work with your health care practitioners (especially your naturopath, if you have one) to find a solution that works for you!



Navigating Relationships

I will begin by saying that I am, by no means, an expert on relationships. I do feel like this is a discussion to bring up for those who suffer from chronic pain and/or illness. Why? Because all relationships – platonic, romantic, familial become more difficult. Our loved ones often don’t understand, and discussing your feelings about your pain or your life may not be easy for you to do. So, how do we figure out how to have friends, partners, and keep connected with our families while we’re in pain all the time? There is no easy or correct answer to this. Trying out (and sharing) ideas (so please reply to this post if you have some) is a good way to start, until you figure out what works for you. It’s also important to note that, as mentioned in previous posts, many chronic pain/illness warriors also struggle with their mental health, making it harder to figure out these relationships. Be patient with yourself, and hopefully those in your life will understand that they need to be patient with you.

blog-attachment-in-relationships-33Image from: https://www.headspace.com/blog/2014/03/10/attachment-in-relationships/


Family likes to talk. Or, at least, my family does, and I’m guessing a lot of other supportive families will want to as well. About your pain or illness. Parents, especially, want to be supportive and helpful. Talking about it with them can be difficult. No one wants to make their family members upset or sad. If you are physically needing the help of your family (or friends, or partner) it can be slightly easier to ask or talk about because it becomes more necessary. If not, than broaching those subjects can feel more emotionally painful. The good thing about family is they are the most likely to understand if you can’t come over tonight, or need some extra sleep; if you cancel plans, etc. No explanation necessary. Remember that they love you, and are trying to help. Also don’t be afraid to tell them when you need space, or don’t want to talk to them about something. Understanding for you, and for them, can be critical in staying close.

relationship-2Image from: http://www.magic-advice.com/when-adult-struggle-with-their-relationship/


Personally, I find friends to be the most pushy (at least initially) with plans, and getting you to go out and do things (which can be a good or bad thing, depending on the day). They also tend to make it known how disappointed they are when cancelling plans. What I’ve found is that being as upfront as possible is key. Giving them some info on your illness, and how you’re feeling physically (and depending on the friend, emotionally). It might take some time, but they will eventually back off a bit and be more understanding. Again, it can be difficult to talk to friends about everything, as there can be a protective need not to make anyone sad. Just remember, if they truly are your friends, they will stick around and be there for you. Lately, I’ve made a few friends who also suffer from chronic pain/illness. It’s nice to find people who understand automatically, and it can be easier to share with them. Not that you need a bunch of friends who are in the same situation as you, but it can be nice to have one or two to confide in.

imagesImage from: http://gclipart.com/friends-clipart/

Romantic Partners

Another difficult task. There can be a difference in this navigation depending on whether you were already in pain/diagnosed before your relationship started, or after it did. In my last relationship, I was already in pain when we began dating, but didn’t get my tentative diagnosis until 6 months in. The relationship completely changed after that. It wasn’t her fault, nor mine. We both struggled with what was happening, and one key reason that things fell apart is that we didn’t share with each other how we were feeling emotionally about everything. I think this is the most important thing with romantic partners. Sharing. Let them know about your pain. That’s probably the easier part. And let them know when you’re depressed or having anxiety, or whatever is going on with you emotionally. Encourage them to do the same. Communication is key in any relationship, and so much more if you’re dealing with some sort of illness.

Heterosexual and homosexual families. Vector illustration of couImage from: https://www.123rf.com/photo_58606050_stock-vector-heterosexual-and-homosexual-families-vector-illustration-of-couple-with-baby–straight-lesbian-gay-c.html

Again, I’m not an expert on this subject. These are just a few things I’ve learned, noticed, and tried, in order to keep close with family, friends, and hopefully one day, a partner again. If you have anything to share or add to this post, please feel free to comment or send me an email at janeversuspain@gmail.com.


The Relationship between Mental Health, Mental Illness and Chronic Physical Conditions

18 Secrets of People Who Are in a Relationship and Chronically Ill


Music & Art as Therapy: A Look at Different Styles of Treatment

I’m sure to some people, just the idea of music or art as therapy seems a bit cheesy or weird, especially if you’re not a particularly creative person. A few years ago, when i last lived in Vancouver, I worked at the lesson centre for a Long & McQuade music store. That location was lucky enough to have a music therapist on staff, and though she exclusively worked with kids with autism, I was able to see first hand, the positive effect music therapy has. There has been a lot of research done to show it has a similar effect on chronic pain as well. And art therapy works much in the same way. Music and art are centred around emotions, and it is beneficial for chronic pain warriors to be in touch with their feelings, and further more, it can provide distraction, causing the brain to focus on a specific task and “forget” about pain for awhile.

IMG_2265The extent of my talent in the visual arts

Very rarely will physicians and specialists recommend these alternative types of therapies to patients. Even psychotherapists probably won’t immediately suggest this type of practice. Perhaps if their patient is a particularly creative, and they are aware of that it may come up as a suggestion to try. These kinds of therapies are something I discovered on my own. Mostly because I am creative. I have played the piano for 27 years, and have always used it to calm my nerves. Though I am a terrible visual artist, it can be fun to paint sometimes. Writing is another form of art that can be beneficial because it works similarly to music and art as far as distraction. Of course, I’m also a writer, so maybe that’s just easy for me to say (and do). So what about for those people who are not “creative” or perhaps lack the skill? There are still a few options:

  1. Buy some cheap canvas and paints from the dollar store. Even if you are terrible… paint! Or draw. Or buy clay and build little creations. The point isn’t to make something beautiful. The point is to a) let your emotions take charge and express your inner feelings, and b) provide a distraction from the pain.
  2. If you already own an instrument, fantastic! Nothing is stopping you from playing it. So go do that.. now! (or after your finish reading this post). Even if you’re playing badly. Take some time to learn a new piece or chord. If you don’t have an instrument, you can rent guitars fairly inexpensively. If you are more interested, lots of places provide lesson (i.e., Long & McQuade) or you can find private teachers. If you’re less interested, blast your favorite tunes from your smartphone and sing (and dance) along at the top of your lungs. Terrible singer? Who cares?! Once again, that’s not the point.
  3. I mentioned writing as well. Journaling isn’t too difficult because you can literally write your feelings. Or if you’d like to try something more creative, write a short story, or some poetry. No one ever has to read it (unless you want them to) but you may discover a hidden talent. If not, at least you probably weren’t in pain for the hour you spent on it.
This video doesn’t exist
Chopin’s Nocturne No 1., Opus 72 (in e minor) – It’s also tattooed on my left arm.

There are certified music and art therapists out there, if you are more inclined to get a bit of direction, or prefer a person to follow up with you directly. Otherwise, try some of this out on your own and see where it gets you. It can be fun, distracting, and full of self-discovery.

For more information on these topics, check out the links I found below.


Also, I believe this is my 10th post on this blog! Thanks for sticking with me! I hope there are many more posts to come for all you Chronic Pain Warriors!!