In this self-compassion practice, we use guided imagery to fill ourselves with the same warmth and kindness we more readily give to others others. Research shows that self-compassion is beneficial for mental health – improving mood, reducing anxiety, and increasing resilience – and there is some recent research showing it can improve tolerance to chronic pain. Most of us aren’t very self-compassionate, and it’s normal to be resistant to self-compassion. It may be worth for you to explore so that you can keep making the most of it!
Hello Readers, Warriors, Spoonies! I appreciate your support on this blog which I’ve been running (and writing) for several years. I’m going to take a small pause on new content (other than a few Sunday videos which were prescheduled) as I worked on a few other projects (new podcast) and focus on work, which is starting to pick up again. I also find these breaks really important for my mental health.
If you have ideas for content you’d like to read about on here (or see videos for) comment on this post as I’d love to hear from you. The podcast I’m starting with my friend and colleague is on personal growth, and I’ll definitely give more details in the near future. You can always follow Chronically Living on YouTube and follow me on TikTok @kelseyleighharris for coping skills. I hope to be back soon.
As always, keep making the most of it!
Video: Name Your Pain (a quick coping skill)
In this brief coping skill, we can externalize (or defuse from) our chronic pain. I’ve used this technique many times with thoughts, and recently someone suggested using it for pain. It can totally work for physical pain or emotional pain. Of course, it’s not perfect and won’t work for everyone, however, it can be worth giving it a try so that we can keep on making the most of it!
Can Turmeric Help Your Depression?
Depression is commonly comorbid (co-occurring) with chronic illness and chronic pain. It makes sense. Our lifestyles drastically (and often suddenly) change. We may lose relationships (of different sorts), our purpose in life may change, and not to mention the pain centre of the brain is right next to the mood centre. Even the most resilient of us struggle with depression and a bit of an identity crisis upon having a chronic pain/illness diagnosis (or even no diagnosis but jut the onset of symptoms). I have also struggled with depression. Some of it stemming from childhood trauma, but I really noticed it after the onset of my pain/illness. Actually I was in complete denial about it at first and went to counselling only for anxiety (though my very perceptive counsellor was certainly treating me for depression as well).
So, personally, I’m not a fan of a lot of medication. I take what I need to, and try to find alternative solutions for other things. I would never say that I’ve been more than mildly depressed. I use exercise for pain and it also happens to help with depressive symptoms. When I notice my mood is low I practice behavioural activation. Example – a few weeks ago I noticed I had low mood which was definitely correlated with an increase in pain and decreased energy. I had plans with friends and my partner for a board game night, and while a part of me really wanted to cancel on them, I made myself go because I knew it would improve my mood. Guess what? I really enjoyed the night, had a great time, and slept in the next day so it was all good (actually it was great!).
Exercise and behavioural activation are great and there is tons of research to show their effectiveness for pain and depression. There is a growing amount of research showing that turmeric (or more accurately the active ingredient in turmeric – curcumin) is as effective as anti-depressants in treating depression, including with Major Depressive Disorder (MDD). It also happens to decrease inflammation in the body, leading to less physical pain. According to the research I’ve linked below, it doesn’t seem to make a huge difference in the amount of curcumin/turmeric used and there were only mild side effects in some patients who were taking doses of 12g/day. Definitely some interesting and potentially helpful research for anyone who, like me, prefers to stay natural as often as possible. Now, I’m by no means dissing anti-depressants. Many people benefit from them and need them. If that’s you, please stick with it. This is more of an option for anyone who doesn’t want to use them, and is looking for alternatives.
Turmeric can come in different forms. Powder that you use on food (popular in many Asian cultures), and supplements you can buy from a health store are the most common and popular. I also have a lovely turmeric tea that I buy and try to drink more often when my pain increases or my mood is low. Definitely a few great options if you’re interested in giving it a try. As with everything, I take a scientific approach and view any of these ideas as an experiment. Clearly the research shows that it works for a lot of people. Will it work for me or you? The only way to find out is to be curious and give it a try. Maybe it’s another way we can keep making the most of it!
Ramaholimihaso, T., Bouazzaoui, F., & Kaladjian, A. (2020). Curcumin in Depression: Potential Mechanisms of Action and Current Evidence – A Narrative Review. Front Psychiatry, 11, 572533. doi: 10.3389/fpsyt.2020.572533
Video: Yin Yoga for Hips (mini class)
In this 25 minute mini yoga class, I take you through a sequence of hip openers, which have helped me with my hip pain (and anxiety) over the past several years.
I hope this helps you to keep making the most of it!
How to Discuss Chronic Pain/Illness with a New Partner
For this post I really wanted to draw upon my personal experience. From October 2016 to August 2022 I was single. Yep, six years. A lot of dating, some friends with benefits (though there was a 2+ year period starting before the pandemic and lasting until last year that I did not have sex outside of masturbation). Wow, this topic got personal fast, I hope you’re all in for the ride. In August of 2022 I met my current partner and we have an amazing relationship that continues to grow. Something I struggled with while dating many people over the past several years was when and how to tell them about my pain and diagnoses and what that would mean for the relationship.
I’ve had conflicting opinions about this. I have done everything from reveal it on a first date so that if it was an issue at least we didn’t have to go on subsequent dates, to not revealing it at all over 4 or so dates and then never having the relationship develop anyway. Plus whatever is in between. I’ve also read other peoples’ opinions and even found a study on the subject of chronic pain/illness and dating and disclosure. From what I’ve figured out is that the timing and your particular reasons for it may not matter. We know ourselves and what we’re looking for, best. In this relationship I mentioned it maybe 4 or 5 dates in. We were starting to create a bit of emotional intimacy so I let myself have the first of many moment of vulnerability, and honestly I think it helped deepen the relationship, allowing both of us to take opportunities to continue to be vulnerable with each other. This kind of vulnerability is a requirement for emotional intimacy.
How did I do it? You might be wondering. The first time I mentioned it, I did so fairly casually. I can’t remember the exact conversation we were having, but I mentioned that I had chronic pain. In a conversation on a subsequent date I revealed a bit more about the pain and my illness diagnoses. Again, more in conversation, not in some kind of grandiose we need to have a big discussion kind of way. However, what I did that I think was particularly important and helpful was open it up to being more of a conversation by asking her if she had any questions and letting her know if she does she can always ask. She has asked questions along the way and I’ve always been open with answering them. And I’ve been open with communicating how I’m doing (physically and emotionally) as well. My hip hurts during a walk, I mentioned we need to walk slower because it hurts (we are typically both very fast walkers so it’s also kind of obvious when I’m in pain).
- Be open and honest – this may mean having a big sit-down conversation or it may be a more casual approach like I took, either way, it takes some courage and vulnerability.
- Invite your partner into the conversation – make sure they know they can ask questions and you’ll try to answer them to the best of your ability.
- Ask them what their concerns are and thank them for their vulnerability as you navigate it together. Sometimes you’ll be able to put their mind at ease, sometimes they’ll be able to put your at ease, and sometimes you might agree to figure it out as you go.
It takes a lot of trust, emotional intimacy, and vulnerability to have this type of conversation. If you want to deepen the relationship, and create more intimacy, I believe this is a necessary step for anyone with a chronic illness or chronic pain. Though we may have beliefs that there is no one out there for us (I had a previous partner put that belief into my head for quite awhile), if we are open to some of the uncomfortableness that may come with dating, we can also find a partner who is the right fit for us.
I hope this helps you to keep making the most of it in your dating and relationships.
Video: Why Are You Using So Many Bandaids for Your Pain?
We all use “bandaids” in the forms of distraction and avoidance of our difficult thoughts and feelings (emotional and physical) and we often wonder why it only works as a short-term solution and never fixes anything. Then we get frustrated and keep using them, using all that precious warrior energy… is there a better way?
I hope this helps you to keep making the most of it!
How to Have Fun Indoors
Whether you’re stuck inside because of terrible winter weather (I’m looking at you rainy Vancouver), or because of your illness/pain, having some indoor activities that bring enjoyment are essential. There are literally hundreds of activities that you or I could name. Lists can come up on the internet. Rather than just randomly pull from a thousand sources I thought I’d share some of my favourite indoor activities – some for when I’m feeling great but am literally stuck inside because of the weather, and others that I do when my physical (or mental) health isn’t as great.
Watching TV – standard I know but I actually enjoy watching some streaming – be it television or movies – alone. This can also be a good partner/group activity (I even have one friend I do it with over Skype every week). I thought I’d put it on the list and get it out of the way. Finding something I love to watch (new or old) can always put a smile on my face.
Playing an instrument (or listening to music) – I play the piano. I have since I was a kid and I absolutely love just sitting down to play for no one but me. It brings me great joy, and if I want, a challenge. It’s an indoor activity all about the me and the music. If you don’t play and instrument then listening to music (maybe even dancing along or singing along) is a great alternative.
Color or do some art – I’m not a good artist in that I can’t draw or paint or sculpt (but if you do then those are amazing indoor activities). I do enjoy colouring though. I tend to buy horror-themed colouring books because that’s my jam, and colouring in general has been shown to help with relaxation.
Read (and take a bath) – I personally prefer to read in the bathtub. I can read anywhere and I will read anywhere but my absolute favourite spot is when I’m in the bath. The bath itself helps with my physical body and is relaxing. Reading is fun and/or stimulating (depending on what I’m reading) and just another indoor activity that I look forward to doing.
Board Games (or card games) – this is the one that has been introduced to me the most in the past few months (mostly because my partner loves board games). I grew up playing Crib and it’s my go-to game (in general) but playing any game in a group or with a partner is a great way to spend some time indoors.
Cooking (or baking) – this is just so much more fun with another person (hopefully someone you get along well with). I’d much rather do it as a group activity than a solo activity any day and seeing how our creations turn out is just another fun part of the experience. We also tend to throw on some music and have a kitchen dance party in the middle of it all.
So these are just a few of my favourite indoor activities. I would love to hear what yours are as well. Keep making the most of it!
Video: Daily Mindfulness – Clouds in the Sky
One way to create distance between us and our thoughts is to help move them along (which in turn changes the way we perceive our thoughts) so that we don’t get hooked by them. This is done through a visualization, imagining you are looking up at the clouds drifting by and you can just place your thoughts onto them.
Keep making the most of it everyone!
Top Post of All Time (So Far): The Feeling of Frustration When New Symptoms Appear
This post was back from February of 2018. I was recently looking at some stats for this blog over time and I was actually a bit surprised this was the top post as I knew there were several others that I’ve noticed get a lot of hits. That being said, maybe it’s not surprising because many of us with chronic illness – diagnosed or undiagnosed, and regardless of our current health status – often deal with new symptoms. So here’s a repost of that post. No, extra commentary added (as it’s also interesting to just see where I was at physically and mentally at that time).
I’ll admit that I’ve been pretty lucky in the sense that my symptoms have remained the same over the past few years. Chronic, widespread pain (joints, muscles, nerves) and fatigue (yes I like to be in bed by 9:30 at the latest, though I do try to get up early). The catch-22 is that it’s hard for any official diagnosis to be made when new symptoms aren’t popping up… that leaves the question, is it better when they do?
I’m a sun bunny. Which is not good if I really do have lupus. AVOID THE SUN! Is what is preached as it exacerbates symptoms and can lead to rashes. I spent all of last summer, and the summer before out in the sun, just here in Toronto, but still. Too much sun and yes my joints maybe hurt a bit, but literally only if I was lying on the beach. If it was combined with some sort of exercise, then not so much. Fast forward to last week, which I spent in Arizona. Above average temperatures all week lead me to hiking, swimming, the hot tub, and patio lounging. All of my favourite things. Oh yeah, and it lead me to these little tiny white bumps on both my hands – a sun rash.
And while the optimistic part of me took a picture so I could show my rheumatologist (my next appointment isn’t until May). Maybe they can officially say it’s this or that! The realistic part of me says “oh fuck, now I can’t go out in the sun.” Segue grumpy face. I don’t want to wear long sleeves, as was suggested to me on Instagram when I posted a picture of my hands (also not sure how I’m supposed to cover my hands in the summer anyway). So, I’ve decided to take my psychotherapist’s advice for now and be grumpy about it. It’s impossible to be happy and positive all the time (even though that’s my preferred mood). I’m going to be grumpy and frustrated and sit in that emotion for awhile, until it’s time to not do that anymore.
If anyone has any advice for sun-lovers, stories, or anything else they’d like to share, feel free to comment or email me.
So that was that. And now it’s 2023, almost five years later, where I can give so much more of what I’ve learned and try to share that with all of you.
Keep making the most of it everyone!