It’s no secret I’m a huge fan of yin yoga. I was introduced to it a few years ago but actually didn’t start regular practice until last spring. It has huge health and mental health benefits and has been used to treat symptoms of chronic pain, depression and anxiety. But don’t take my word (or the research I’ve done) for it (because you should always do your own research and consult your own healthcare professionals!) – try it out for yourself! I utilize YouTube for classes and my favourites are by SarahBeth Yoga because she has a variety of classes in different lengths and that target different parts of the body.
For more on the benefits of yin yoga and stretching, check out my podcast episode with Dr. Alex Triendl, “How Stress and Anxiety Manifest in the Body,” and my episode with Danielle Potvin, “Massage Therapy for Chronic Pain.”
What do you do when you have an expected new symptom? Or weird side effect from a drug or surgery? Or a better question, how do you feel, not just physically but also emotionally? It’s tough having a chronic illness. It’s tough starting a new medication or having a surgery. And so many chronic illnesses are invisible, so it’s difficult for others to understand exactly what is going on with us.
The inspiration for this post came from my experience on Saturday morning. I had a hip arthroscopy two weeks ago, and on Saturday when I woke up and started to hop around on my crutches, my foot turned purple, as if all the circulation was cut off. I had a friend staying with me, and honestly, her reaction heightened my anxiety about it. I managed to keep a somewhat level head, emailed some of my practitioners and texted my brother’s partner who happens to be a doctor. Apparently this is a normal reaction after lower body surgeries. Basically I have to keep my foot elevated (at least at heart level) as much as possible. I did also go to the walk-in clinic that my family doctor works at. The doctor I saw looked at my foot and double checked that there were no blood clots, then suggested elevation and compression socks and sent me home.
There are a couple of reactions we can have in situations like these, which, let’s be honest, happen often when you have a chronic illness. One, is fear, which, like I mentioned, is easy to be drawn to. It’s the fight-flight-freeze response, with flight or freeze usually taking over. It can be scary, overwhelming, anxiety-producing, even upsetting. It can also cause depression and sadness, because of course, something else stupid and terrible has happened to you. These are normal reactions, and short term responses like this are totally fine. The problem develops when these feelings take over, especially when you have a chronic illness because these situations, these stressors, are going to keep happening. If you are feeling like this more often than not, it’s time for some professional help. Seek out a therapist, because you don’t have to feel this way forever.
The second reaction kind of goes more with the “fight” part of the fear/anxiety response. This reaction is one I often go with which is “how am I going to solve this problem?” I do research (I will literally read scholarly journals online as well as just reddit threads – I need all points of view). I will ask the professionals I know, and the other Warriors I know. I will buy anything I need, whether I have the money or not. I will ask for help (I mean like I needed a ride to the doctor after all). This is a proactive response. The problem with this response is that it can ignore emotion. So, if you’re like me, it’s good to take some time alone to reflect, maybe use some mindfulness, get inside your body and your emotions and let them be what they are. Holding it in can make things worse in the long-term. Mindfulness will be your friend.
A third reaction is acceptance. It doesn’t mean you don’t experience the short-term emotions of fear and anxiety mentioned above. It doesn’t mean you don’t do some proactive things so you can take care of your body and your symptoms in the long-term. It just means that in the present moment you can understand that this is a thing that happened. It is not a reflection of you. It is (usually) not unsolvable. We all have to deal with acceptance when we have a chronic illness. I did a whole podcast episode on illness acceptance (which I will link below). This is something I strive for always. Can I be accepting when something I don’t anticipate or like happens? I would say for myself, the answer is yes. I do tend to be proactive first, then I try to use mindfulness to experience my emotions, then I try to accept reality. Is this always a perfect process? No. I do have people in my life to help me – mainly a psychotherapist and a naturopath – who are specialists in this kind of work.
I hope everyone has a great week. Reminder, I have a premium blog post coming out on Saturday, so if you’re not signed up and you want some more work on self-care strategies, it’s only $5/month and it’s well worth it. Remember everyone, keep making the most of it.
Most of my home workouts come from an app called 30-Day Fitness. I’m not affiliated with them at all, and there are a ton of great workout apps out there. Since the gyms are closed because of Covid (where I live anyway), and most people with chronic illness would not feel super safe going to them at this time, coming up with a good home workout routine is important. These are just a few of the exercises I do. Make sure you consult a professional as necessary before trying anything out. Everyone’s abilities and needs are different.
For more on why exercise can be helpful for chronic pain, check out my podcast episode featuring Dr. Frank Nhan, “Exercise for Chronic Pain.” The link for Apple is below, and the show is also available on Spotify and everywhere you get your podcasts. If you like what Dr. Nhan has to say, please submit a review on Apple!
This is a self-care type of post I supposed but in the past week of not being able to do much, I’ve been thinking about how, even during a pandemic, there are amazing, cozy, self-care activities… well, activities in general… we can do inside and at-home during the winter. I live in Canada, so winters are already long, and yesterday I watched a news report where experts said the “darkest” months for Covid will be January-March so I guess we should be prepared for the continuation of strict measures.
Let’s start off with some of my favourite things to wear. Pyjamas – because as spoonies we can’t have enough of these – and especially cozy ones like fleece or flannel. Who doesn’t want to lounge around in PJs all day, especially when it’s cold and gloomy outside. Sweaters are another one. Big, comfy, cozy sweaters. And for the holiday season, Ugly Christmas Sweaters (I have three Star Wars ones… I don’t think they’re ugly though!). Sweaters can also just make you feel warm and relaxed – at least I think so! Finally, slipping on some of those fuzzy socks, or a nice pair of slippers (my feet always get cold first… also I can’t get on socks at the moment because of my surgery, so I’m looking forward to 5 weeks from now when I can properly dress myself again).
Part 2: Delicious Drinks. Hot chocolate, coffee, and tea. All of these just feel warm and wintery. I maybe have hot chocolate once a year because it’s way too sweet. What I do like are some of Starbucks’ holiday drinks like the peppermint mocha (half sweet though) because it gives that combo of hot chocolate and coffee (best of both worlds)! Though if you have any local coffee places that make something similar, I definitely encourage you to support them instead! Or if you don’t want to go out, there are tons of recipes online to make them at home! Teas are all great. Usually in the winter I end up preferring black tea over coffee at some point and switch over in the mornings. I also love herbal teas. Peppermint tea is another great wintery classic.
Finally, being creative. Baking, doing crafts, decorating your house, playing music, reading, and even some throw backs like playing board and card games (instead of video games) and doing puzzles can be great ways to get through the extra in door time. Varying up the routine to prevent boredom is essential (my parents used to tell us that “if you’re bored, you must be boring.”). These things all have a cozy, wintery feel to them (yes they can all be done throughout the year) and maybe that’s just some nostalgia from memories of growing up in a snow-infested, bitter-cold province.
I think my point here, is that we can help our health and our mental health by thinking outside of the box and making ourselves feel good with the little things. Because sometimes little things can have big impacts. Keep making the most of it, folks!
Something a little different this week. We’re going to meditate to classical music. Staying present and mindful, see what you notice, how you feel, and just let yourself stay with the music. Music has many of the same benefits as meditation does, regardless of genre. Combining the two seemed like a natural thing to do.
For those who would like to know the first song if Fur Elise (WoO 59) by Ludwig van Beethoven. The second song is Tarantella (from Studies, Op. 100, No. 20) by Johann Friedrich Burgmuller.
For more on the benefits of music for mental health, check out the episode of Chronically Living – Collecting Chronic Illnesses – where my guest performs for us, and also explains the powerful effects of music on the mind and body. Link to Apple Podcasts below. It’s also available on Spotify and everywhere else you get your podcasts. If you like Marisa’s performance, then give us both a shoutout in the reviews!
First of all, I’m going to say that I’m pretty impressed with myself for writing a blog post just 24 hours after coming out of surgery. Also, this was my first ever surgery, so I thought I’d share some thoughts and feelings about the whole experience. If you’ve been following me for awhile you are probably aware that I was diagnosed with a labral tear in my left hip back in March (MRI was back in January). Of course, with Covid-19 any kind of surgical consult, let alone treatment was pushed back and back (also I was floated around to 3 hospitals because very few surgeons specialize in hip arthroscopy apparently).
I didn’t choose the surgical route lightly. Actually, I took advice from several physicians and healthcare professionals before making the decision. My rheumatologist (actually my rheumatologist was on mat leave so it was the one covering for her) diagnosed the hip tear and sent off for a surgical consult. She also told me to start physiotherapy for the tear as it is often helpful. Because things closed down because of the pandemic, I started virtual physio with my regular physiotherapist mid-April. Though exercise helped a bit, it was minimal. I added chiropractics, and massage back into my routine care (because of my undifferentiated connective tissue disease as well) in July, and then most recently started seeing the naturopath again at the end of September. All helpful, but not enough to take away the excruciating discomfort cause by the tear. They all also offered opinions, some differing, on whether I should have surgery. At the end of the day, with research done on my own, I decided that as my naturopath put it, surgery was really the only option to fix the problem.
Now, I actually wasn’t nervous about the surgery, especially after finally meeting with the surgeon mid October, and literally being booked for surgery less than a month later. He was confident, read me off the risks which were minimal, and again, I did some research on long-term outcome studies. Yesterday, after I had been checked in, and then taken into the pre-op area for some vitals and questions, I started to get nervous. However, the amazing healthcare team (all the pre-op, op, post-op nurses; pre-op and op anesthesiologists and assistants; and of course my surgeon and surgical team) made me feel at ease. According to my surgeon after surgery, it went “perfectly.” Also a relief.
Post-operatively not so fun. I wasn’t actually nauseous at first and the pain in my hip I rated at a 6-7 (for which they had me on morphine) after about 30-45 minutes later (really was out of it and couldn’t keep track of time) I rated the pain about the same, so they gave me oxycodone, which then made me nauseous. It took another 2.5 hours for me not to feel “as nauseous”… basically the least amount for me to go home (and my pain was also down to about a 4 at the time). Long day. Probably longer for my amazing friend, Mike, who picked me up from my appointment and then took care of me at home (even brought groceries, and Starbucks!). The nausea stayed until like 7:30pm. Honestly, I think food helped. And I was pretty out of it all day. Oh yeah, they gave me Gravol for the nausea which totally made me drowsy. But we had sushi, and watched Netflix until like 9, when I passed out in bed.
At this point I’m more annoyed about the post-op complications I guess? First, sore throat which apparently is common after coming off of general anesthesia, but I didn’t know that. I’m trying to drink a ton of liquids to help! Second, I have numbness in the groin area… maybe I’ll share more about that on a later post but let me say, not fun. Finally, living alone and trying to get around on crutches post-op is not fun. I have to ice my hip constantly, and then it took me forever to get coffee/breakfast ready for myself this morning. If it weren’t for the pandemic, my mom would’ve flown out to help me. Oh well, I suppose this is Chronic Pain Warrior life.
That was mostly thoughts… as for feelings, I’m tired and sore and frustrated (about the numbness) but also relieved to have the surgery over with, and hopeful that I will have significantly less pain in my hip. I mean, if I’m going to be a practicing therapist soon I need to be able to sit for long hours without looking like I’m in discomfort, so I can be present on focused on those future clients of mine!
If anyone else has an op/post-op experience they’d like to share, I’d love to hear from you. And remember, keep making the most of it. 🙂
I personally find heat very helpful for a lot of my chronic pain. Though I typically use heating pads on my back, I have been known to use them on my legs, glutes, shoulders, neck, and stomach. And the moist heating pads – bless! Check out the video for more information!
I really believe that we should do as much as possible to treat our symptoms. For more on this topic, check out my podcast episode, “Can We Cure or Can’t We Cure? That is the Question.” The link for Apple is below, but the podcast is available on Spotify and everywhere else you get your podcasts! Feel free to send in a review as it helps my podcast get noticed!
It can be so easy to neglect oral health (hopefully not hygiene though) because trips to the dentist are expensive and even if your country has universal healthcare, dental care may not be covered (*cough* Canada get with the program). I was thinking about this earlier this week when I went to the dentist to get a filling, having had a cleaning the week before. I still have benefits that cover dental care which is great but also made me think of many people I have known who put off going to the dentist because they can’t afford it, despite the multiple health consequences of not getting regular cleanings, taking care of cavities, and checking on your gums.
Rather than bore everyone with an exhaustive list of the potential health complications of poor dental hygiene and oral health, I’d rather focus on the relationship to autoimmune disease. Why? Because that’s what this blog is about – chronic illness. So, there are a few points I want to make.
There are lots of studies that point to a bidirectional relationship between oral health and autoimmune disease (diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis to name two of them)
Poor oral health can cause complications if you have an autoimmune disease.
Some autoimmune diseases, like lupus, require regular dental check-ups to look for things like mouth ulcers which may not be noticeable upon self-checking.
If those aren’t some great reasons to go to the dentist then I don’t know what are! Like everything else, it comes down to prioritizing aspects of your health, especially when it comes down to money. If you do live in a country with universal dental care (Austria, Denmark, Finland, Mexico, Sweden, Costa Rica, and a few more) than you really should be using it if you’re not already. If you don’t live in one of these countries but have benefits from your place of employment, you also should be using it. If you don’t have any coverage, then even a once a year cleaning (as well as taking care of any cavities or other concerns as they arise) is probably going to help your long-term health.
Yeah, this is just another aspect of our health we may not want to have to deal with, but as Chronic Illness Warriors, we know that there are tons of aspects of our health we don’t want to deal with but do anyway. I hope this inspires at least some of you to make a dental appointment! In the meantime, keep making the most of it!
Okay, so this is my Baba’s amazing cabbage rolls recipe that has been verbally handed down over a few generations. This are traditional Ukrainian, vegetarian (rice, cabbage, onion, tomato soup) very small cabbage rolls that are full of flavour! I know a bunch of people who couldn’t go back to eating fat meat-filled cabbage rolls after trying these. If you want the full recipe, feel free to email me (firstname.lastname@example.org) or DM me on Instagram (@janeversuspain).
Overall, this is a fairly healthy recipe, and nutrition is, of course, and essential of health. For more on that topic, check out my podcast episode on it. The link for Apple is below, but the podcast is available on Spotify and everywhere else you get podcasts as well. If you don’t mind submitting a review on Apple, I would also really appreciate it!