Your Feedback Please… My Latest Wellness Journal for Chronic Pain

I only have so much brain power. I mean, as much as I’d like to multi-task, learn something new every day, solve problems of all sorts… I only have so much brain power. So how am I using it these days? I’ve been spending a lot of time creating a Wellness journal of sorts. It all started when I was participating in the Pain Program at Kaiser. I needed something to help me transition from this program to the real world where there was only me. Only me to hold myself accountable, not a support group every day or the doctors I don’t want to let down… just me. I have to continue on this path to a quality life by doing daily exercises, working on my diet, managing my stress with meditation and relaxation exercises… practicing everything I have learned! Just thinking about it doesn’t work for me. Writing down what I have done enables me to hold myself accountable AND celebrate my successes.

So… I created this document to hold myself accountable. It’s similar to the pain journals I have created and posted in my Tools and Resources page. There are many differences though, for one it’s not just a daily journal, it’s also a tool to help me figure out what areas of my health/ life I need to address that are out of balance. I created worksheets to identify my short and long-term health goals, my plan for what to do when I’m in a flare… I included a Quick Reference sheet with exercises that I use on a daily basis. It’s a work in progress. Here’s the break down of what I have included in the set so far:

  1. Wellness Wheel: tool used to help you discover opportunities for an improved quality of life and create goals based on those areas.
  2. Wellness Plan: worksheet for documenting your short and long-­‐term health goals and listing up to four key goals in the areas that you want to work on that will help you achieve your overall short and long-­‐term goals.
  3. Flare Plan: worksheet for documenting the tools that help you, both physically and mentally, when you are in a flare. It helps to document these so you can just flip to this page and use the tools that you know will help you.
  4. Exercise Quick Reference Sheet: there are countless exercises you can do to help with your pain, these are just some of the stretches and strengthening exercises I use on a daily basis.
  5. Daily Wellness Journal: worksheet for you to document each day; your exercise, food, pain level and how you addressed your pain, what you are grateful for that day and memorable moments/ accomplishments.
  6. My Priorities for Today…: worksheet to document your personal and work priorities on a daily basis.
  7. Automatic Thoughts Worksheet: template to help you manage your stress and negative thoughts.

So far, with a much older draft, the Kaiser folks have been encouraging me to publish this Wellness Journal. It’s a little intimidating. But it got me thinking. I want to keep working on this. I want to create something that anyone with chronic pain or any type of health issue can use to improve the quality of their life.

I’m excited about this. I’d love to get feedback on what I have created so far. If you are interested in helping me by reviewing, testing and giving me your honest feedback – I’d love it!

Shoot me an email or leave a comment here and I’ll get in touch with you right away.

Thank you!

Tamiko

Practicing What I Have Learned… Pain Management

I have had a lot of training about managing my life with pain over the last couple years. It’s not the learning that is the issue. The issue for me is the implementation. The challenge to change. The challenge to accept.

Instead of getting up and out of bed and going straight to my laptop to start working for the day, I need to make a change. I need to wake up and… with intention, get out of bed and do some gentle movement, read the bible and make time for prayer and meditation, eat some breakfast and take my meds… and then, and only then start working. I know this. Actually practicing this is my challenge. It all sounds great, but even writing it makes me anxious. When I get up in the morning, I am already anxious. Anxious to start my day. Just this morning, I woke up and really made myself do some Qigong. But I was anxious, I couldn’t get myself to get into a calm state and after a couple of minutes I gave up. The entire time from when I woke up to when I sat at my laptop, all I could think about was what I wanted to get done this morning. How do I get to that point where the motivation to change is greater than the anxiety?

I am taking this class at Kaiser and I am reading books and I am working on my deep breathing and some (not all) of my exercises… but at the end of the day I am afraid. I am off work for six weeks and you would think I would be afraid about going back to work. It’s not so much the going back to work that scares me as much as it is the going back to life. I am afraid that this is it. I have these expectations that at the end of these six weeks I will be changed and living a quality life. My fear is that, after these six weeks,  my life will still be “just getting through the day”. I want to live my life, not just get through the day.

I realized this week that the problem is… me. I do not say those words with ease. I mean, seriously, I am not a complete idiot (most of the time). I did and do know that I have to make changes to actually see change or in my case FEEL change… but I am talking about putting in daily practice what I have learned… what I know I know… it’s some hard work. To admit that I am the only thing holding me back… well… it sucks. I might have had this epiphany before. The great thing about not having a memory most of the time… is, well, not having a memory. I realized as I decided to get organized last night with all my paperwork from my classes at Kaiser from 2010 and today – shit! I have learned this before. That kept coming up in my mind over and over again as I was going through my stuff. I am not quite sure why I was so surprised… maybe frustrated and a little irritated with myself are better words than surprised.

So! What am I going to do about it? Well…

  1. Breathe
  2. Put together my Wellness Plan (what I will do on a daily basis)
  3. Breathe
  4. Make an agreement with myself how I will implement this Wellness Plan. Let’s be realistic, it’s been so overwhelming for so long, let’s (let’s?? I mean to say I will) take this in smaller steps so I can be somewhat successful.
  5. Breathe
  6. Take the first step…

Last night I also spent time revising my blog to incorporate more information in my Tools & Resources page as well as the page I recently added, Bay Area Resources. This also reminded me how much I need to incorporate practicing the tools I have learned over the years.

I will be patient with myself. It’s not going to be easy. I love the quick wins. Now it’s time for the long-term thinking and, Lord have mercy… practicing, practicing, practicing!

I can do this (repeat. repeat. repeat.). Seriously, I can do this. I will prove it to myself. I am the only one who matters in this instance as no one else can do this for me.

Thanks for listening and appreciate any thoughts you have from your own experiences.

Stay cool!

Happy Sunday…

Sooooo… first things first – I went for big changes today. I changed the theme of my blog. I haven’t done this for quite awhile now, but I decided I wanted to add some color to my life and thought I’d start with my blog first. Also, I added along the side of the page a new widget to provide book recommendations using Goodreads (http://www.goodreads.com/). Looks to be a pretty cool app to use.

I’m trying to do better about updating my blog to share tools and resources for folks, I am working on it. I have a list of stuff I want to add/ revise. Little changes here and there every few days (depending on my energy).

I have been off work for three weeks participating in this pain program at Kaiser. Let me tell you… this is no easy task. I have been just as tired, if not more, than when I was working full-time and trying to get through the day. The anemia isn’t helping (it’s my mortal enemy these days). I want… I am almost determined to get to a quality life. I say “almost” because I know it’s a lot of work and some days I just don’t feel so up to it. I want to be more determined than anything to get my health in order, but I am so flippin’ tired it’s hard to even get the energy for the “determination” itself.

This anemia is kickin’ my ass… the iron pills are making me sick which is exacerbating (big word) the pain, digestion and mental health issues I already face on a daily basis. I often wonder what the hell I am doing. “Here, take these pills, they will make you feel better. You will have a lot more energy once they kick in!” Seriously. I listened and I am following instructions, but feeling twice as bad does not seem like a solution to me. Ugh… think positive, think positive, think positive.

This cartoon really hits home for me (and I’m sure a lot of you). I take the iron pills which then leads to taking an anti-nausea pill which then leads to really wanting caffeine (although I don’t do it) for the extreme exhaustion from the anti-nausea pill. I really lived in this world when I was taking all the pain medication before. Thankfully I stopped all that madness. I know meds work for a lot of people, it just wasn’t working for me.

I know I had something in mind to focus on when I started this posting… I just cannot remember what it is… All I can do at this point is smile about this constant forgetfulness. Well I could cry, scream and shout but that wouldn’t do any good, now would it! So… I think I’ll say have a great Sunday and go rest for a bit.

Stay cool!

Pain Program… Day 2

I have done it. I officially started the Level 2 Pain Program at Kaiser yesterday. It is focused a lot around the concept of amygdala retraining. I have seen programs to purchase out there in the online world, and this program is part of Kaiser’s offering. This is the only Kaiser currently offering to determine the success. So far… I hear it has been extremely successful. I am optimistic. Optimistic for the first time in a very long time.

In talking with my intake nurse, who has also been supporting me for a long time through this process… one of the major difference between the programs I have seen online and this one is that we are meeting everyday for three weeks, followed by 3 weeks of meeting 3 times a week, followed by once a week for 4+weeks. Each session is 3 hours. It’s pretty amazing when you think about it.

We started with introductions, about 15 of us including doctors, nurses, psychologist and pharmacist. Then one of the doctors read an inspirational passage about fear from a book. I must say… it was good to hear from this particular doctor as when I first started this process years ago (after being diagnosed with FMS), I saw this doctor and he was a complete ASS to me. I remember crying after leaving my appointment with him. He is a convert and now understands chronic pain and the effects much better. It’s good to know folks can change.

After the reading, we did about ten minutes of Qi Gong… all of us and then all the medical folks left and the rest of us did Feldenkrais for about 40 minutes. We did Feldenkrais the last time I went through the Level 2 program, but only for a few minutes. This was interesting, not easy for me, but I definitely see the benefit in it. With more sessions, I know I will be able to relax more. It was difficult for me to relax and get into it. I was also having a hard time paying attention to the instructor, just my mind going crazy. I need to learn how to calm my mind down better.

After Feldenkrais, we had a 45 minute group session about a concept. Yesterday was about the 3 P’s. Planning, Prioritization and Pacing. This was ran by the psychologist but about the input from the group. Group therapy with everyone in the room on the same page… we are all in pain. A room full of people who can all relate to each other’s lives.

After this, everyone went for a group walk for 15 minutes… and then ended the day going around the room with parting comments.

I am optimistic (how often do we say that word?) that I am going to come out of this process as someone who can start living a higher quality life.

I have only had one day, I will start getting ready to go back today in a bit. Getting dressed and leaving the house every day will be a challenge for me since I am usually in the house Monday through Friday. I am also thinking about work a lot, so I need to let that go. This program is all about me and about me making my life more about LIVING than just getting through the day.

I can do this.

I wish you all a great day!

Day 8: Best conversation I had this week

I am participating in the Health Activist Writer’s Month Challenge. Please visit WEGO Health’s blog and the WEGO Facebook page to find other writers tackling the same topics—or sign up for the challenge yourself!

 

Rinnnnnnggggg (not really what my phone sounds like since it’s a mobile, but I have no idea how to get that translated here)…

Me: Hello?

Man on phone: Hi this is Dr. X calling, we have a phone appointment scheduled today. How are you doing?

Me: I’m doing okay, how are you?

Dr. X: Well I’m doing good. I understand you had an appt with your primary care physician and she has referred you back to us here at the Pain Clinic. So, it doesn’t sound like you are really doing “okay”.

Me: Well, yeah… I never know what to say when people ask that question, it’s kind of a default answer. I have been in a horrible flare for the past few weeks. I don’t really understand what the trigger was, I can normally attribute it to the weather or an event. This time it’s has come and doesn’t appear to be going away… thus the appt with my dr. Normally I don’t go in or call because I know there’s nothing she can do for me.

Dr. X: Yes, I understand. With your situation, it’s a good thing that we are talking again. I know how hard it is to manage day to day and your right, your primary care dr. is probably at a loss. I spoke to Awesome Nurse (I’ll call her that, because she is) about your case before I called you and she mentioned what the two of you discussed the last time you spoke. We both felt it would be good to talk to you about some of the changes going on here.

Me: Okay.

Dr. X: Since you went through our Pain Program, we have made significant changes. We have a new Psychiatrist here and we have revised the program completely. We have introduced a group support structure and incorporated movement strategies into the program. We have very good results and the success rate so far is pretty high.

Me: This sounds interesting… and the conversation continued for another 15 minutes.

When I first saw this prompt for the Health Activists Writer’s Month Challenge, I was a little wary. More than a little, I was thinking this is one of the days I’m going to miss. No conversation stood out that I wanted to share… no good conversation I should say. My dr.’s appt was pretty disappointing earlier in the week and I’ve been in so much pain I haven’t really been conversing. This call that happened today gave me hope. Dr. X explained this program and how it works, the intake process and really gave me a great feeling. He said he’s seen people that have been in pain for a very long time, people like me he said, that have tried everything and he felt like they had really seen life changing differences after they completed the program.

He said that people on medication and rely on it, people that want to get off their meds, people that don’t want to take meds… basically whatever choices people have made about meds, it doesn’t effect their participation in the program. He told me that they don’t judge or discriminate, at the end of the day their goal is for people to be able to live better lives. A holistic approach, not just to “fix” something, but to change the way we are able to live. Part of the intake process and the program overall is to help determine what each individual needs, whether it’s medication or emotional support or whatever.

Like I said… I have hope and I can feel that sunshine again. I trust these people. They gave me life before. The Kaiser pain program is amazing. If you have one, and you are a member… I really encourage you to get a referral and jump in with both feet. You will be in a pain friendly environment where you will not be judged and most important… you will be BELIEVED.

I’m looking forward to this opportunity. I’d say wish me luck, but I have faith and that trumps luck every time!

Thanks for reading.

Tamiko

The Progress We Have All Made… Fibromites Unite!

I woke up this morning thinking about my blog. I cannot believe I started writing this 2 years ago. I realized, from reading my old posts, that I have come a long way. When I say “Fibromyalgia“, I don’t get as many blank stares, my doctors at Kaiser all “get it” now and I feel like my support system is pretty good. Not just pretty good… Damn good! I hope if you take some time to think back… you can see the progress you have made, that your support system is good, that you can see more blue skies days than dreary grey days.

I cannot believe that I have had over seven THOUSAND, seven HUNDRED hits on my blog!! WTF?? I mean, seriously, if you only knew. When I first started writing, I remember looking at other blogs and seeing how many hits they had and just wishing I could get someone to read my blog. I was so happy when I hit 100! To have had so many folks stop by and read for the last two years is truly amazing. I really appreciate it, I love to get comments and read what other people’s lives are like. It’s so important to me to know I’m not alone. I’m not crazy (okay, the jury’s still out on that), I’m not in this crazy painful world, going through these always new and UNexciting pains, on an island by myself. I am very sorry for you that join me in this world… wait, let me be clear… not sorry FOR you, just plain sorry. I wish none of us had this f’ed up thing we call FMS. But! It is what it is, and I, you, we …. are not alone, we are in this together. Fibromites Unite! (we need a good kick ass theme song  in the background when we say that)

I looked back in my blog and came upon this letter that someone else posted on their blog. It still holds true and I wanted to share it again. I hope you all are having a great day… foggy brain and all. It’s the last shopping week-end before Christmas, don’t overdo it. Take some time to reflect on the progress you made and give yourself a big round of applause and smile. Most importantly, smile. We don’t do it enough… find someone to laugh with today and think positive. Throw the negative shit out the window, hug you family, your four leggeds and be thankful that we have another day to face the world. Make it a good one!

Best holiday wishes to all of you!!

Hugz.

Tamiko

Letter to people that don’t have Fibromyalgia (FMS) and/ or MPS (Myofascial Pain Syndrome):

By Billie Chainey

These are the things that I would like you to understand about me before you judge me…

Please understand that being sick doesn’t mean I’m not still a human being.
I have to spend most of my day in considerable pain and exhaustion, and if you visit I probably don’t seem like much fun to be with, but I’m still me stuck inside this body. I still worry about work and my family and friends, and most of the time I’d still like to hear you talk about yours too.

Please understand the difference between “happy” and “healthy”.
When you’ve got the flu you probably feel miserable with it, but I’ve been sick for years. I can’t be miserable all the time; in fact I work hard at not being miserable. So if you’re talking to me and I sound happy, it means I’m happy. That’s all. It doesn’t mean that I’m not in a lot of pain, or extremely tired, or that I’m getting better, or any of those things. Please, don’t say, “Oh, you’re sounding better!” I am not sounding better, I am sounding happy.

Please understand that being able to stand up for ten minutes, doesn’t necessarily mean that I can stand up for twenty minutes, or an hour.
And, just because I managed to stand up for thirty minutes yesterday doesn’t mean that I can do the same today. With a lot of diseases you’re either paralyzed, or you can move. With this one it gets more confusing.

Please repeat the above paragraph substituting, “sitting”, “walking”, “thinking”, “being sociable” and so on … it applies to everything.
That’s what FMS/ MPS does to you. Please understand that FMS/ MPS is variable. It’s quite possible (for me, it’s common) that one day I am able to walk to the park and back, while the next day I’ll have trouble getting to the kitchen.

Please don’t attack me when I’m ill by saying, “But you did it before!”
If you want me to do something then ask if I can. In a similar vein, I may need to cancel an invitation at the last minute, if this happens please do not take it personally.

Please understand that “getting out and doing things” does not make me feel better, and can often make me seriously worse.
Telling me that I need a treadmill, or that I just need to lose (or gain) weight, get this exercise machine, join this gym, try these classes, take this pill/ supplement… may frustrate me to tears, and is not correct… if I was capable of doing these things, don’t you know that I would? I am working with my doctor and physical therapist and am already doing the exercise and diet that I am suppose to do.

Another statement that hurts is, “You just need to push yourself more, exercise harder…”
Obviously FMS /MPS deals directly with muscles, and because our muscles don’t repair themselves the way your muscles do, this does far more damage than good and could result in recovery time in days or weeks or months from a single activity. Also, FMS/ MPS may cause secondary depression (wouldn’t you get depressed if you were hurting and exhausted for years on end!) but it is not created by depression.

Please understand that if I say I have to sit down/ lie down/ take these pills now, that I do have to do it right now –
it can’t be put off or forgotten just because I’m out for the day (or whatever). FMS/ MPS does not forgive.

If you want to suggest a cure to me, don’t.
It’s not because I don’t appreciate the thought, and it’s not because I don’t want to get well. It’s because I have had almost every single one of my friends suggest one at one point or another. At first I tried them all, but then I realized that I was using up so much energy trying things that I was making myself sicker, not better. If there were something that cured, or even helped, all people with FMS/ MPS then we’d know about it. This is not a drug-company conspiracy, there is worldwide networking (both on and off the Internet) between people with FMS/ MPS, and if something worked we would KNOW.

If after reading that, you still want to suggest a cure, then do it, but don’t expect me to rush out and try it. I’ll take what you said and discuss it with my doctor.

In many ways I depend on you… people who are not sick…
I need you to visit me when I am too sick to go out…
Sometimes I need you help me with the shopping, cooking or cleaning…
I may need you to take me to the doctor, or to the physical therapist…
I need you on a different level too… you’re my link to the outside world…
If you don’t come to visit me then I might not get to see you…

And, as much as it’s possible, I need you to understand me…

I would also like to add a personal note to this that isn’t listed above that would be a tremendous help emotionally.

Please don’t make my disease about you… .or say things that make me feel like I let you down. Things like, “Oh, I was hoping you were better today.” make me feel guilty and that I have somehow disappointed you. I understand this disease effects everyone involved, but the last thing we, as the sick ones, want is to burden anyone. We have plenty of guilt for being so dependent on others as it is, we don’t want to feel like we’re disappointing you or making you feel bad by saying that we don’t feel good. We don’t expect you to say anything about us feeling bad as a matter of fact. Just be there… hold us when we need to cry from the pain or frustration of being so limited. We know you care… otherwise you wouldn’t come around or even ask how we’re doing, but please don’t make us responsible for your emotions too. When the bad days hit… we’re doing our best to deal with our own.

If you must say something it’s ok to say you’re sorry for what we go through.. but please don’t make us feel like we’ve killed your hope.  You are our source of encouragement.

Detoxing – I thought I was okay… I actually had a migraine!

I am seriously thinking about…

the days when I never thought about being sick.

when I was young and everything new seemed so “cool”!

the days when my most difficult decision each day was, “What the hell am I going to wear today?

what it would be like to live in a beach house and hear the sounds of the ocean as I go to sleep and wake up in the morning.

what my life would be, had I made different choices.

what choices I have at my age… seriously, what choices do I have?

without prescription drugs, what are the chances I can survive?

could I go a week without sugar?

what life in my house would be like without tv.

if I could reverse 3 choices in my life, what would those be?

what is love?

do I even know what “normal” feels like anymore? Is there such a thing? Will I ever feel it again? Did I ever feel it to begin with?

are dreams attainable?

is there such a thing as a perfect relationship?

are we defined by what we do? how we live? what we believe in?

does pain push me to depression or does depression push me to pain?

All these random thoughts come and go. Obviously not in any kind of logical way… let’s not forget “MY FOGGY BRAIN” is my name. They are all just random thoughts. Tonight is the first time I have actually thought about anything other than being sick in a long time.

I have been really sick. I didn’t even know it until this week. From my last post, I thought I was doing so well. I didn’t realize I had a migraine – and one that seemed to have lasted for weeks. I have been detoxing from Topiramate and Cymbalta and I took weeks to taper off the both of them. I noticed immediately the benefit of getting off the Topiramate since the suicidal thoughts and feelings went away immediately, suddenly, as if someone snapped their fingers and my brain just woke up – SNAP! Suicidal thoughts? GONE!

The Cymbalta on the other hand has given me way more problems, I assume this is why so many folks have found ways to provide their feedback – one way or another.

This past Sunday, and up until last night, I had this pounding headache, dizziness, nausea, sensitivity to light — I never put together that it all pointed to migraine. I just assumed it was a side effect from the tapering off of the meds and it would go away. I was completely WRONG on the “going away” assumption. Four days of this shit and finally I contacted my doctors. Last night I ended up at the doctor’s office receiving a Toradol shot in one thigh and a shot of Phenergan in the other thigh…. ummmm…. ouch! But let me tell you! The “ouch” from the shots was well worth the end result!

For the first time in months, I was able to actually SLEEP. You heard me. I finally slept for the first time in months! You fibromites out there know what I am talking about. Sleep? This is an enemy on most nights when we all want it to be our best friend. The best part of the deal? Let me say this really, really loud because I need to scream it from the roof tops… “NO FUCKING NIGHT SWEATS!” Whew! Glad to get that off my chest. I did NOT wake up 4 or 5 times in the middle of the night drenched in sweat and wondering what the hell just happened! I slept right on through. I didn’t just feel like I ran a marathon, no adrenaline filled dreams… I actually slept. Miracle! Apparently the night sweats I have been experiencing are related to the migraine I had? Very strange, but whatever. I’ll take it. As long as it stops or has stopped, I am ecstatic!

Here’s the thing… I was so used to having headaches, upset stomach, dizziness, completely active/ vivid dreams, night sweats… you get the picture. I didn’t think that it was anything more than the side effects of my illness(es). When I talked to the doctor last night and he was like “I believe what you are experiencing is a trigger migraine. You’ve had it for weeks.” I thought to myself… “NO WAY!” How could this be? So, it’s not specifically a side effect of Fibromyalgia, but it is a side effect of detoxing from the meds.

I took a leap and went in and tried the shots and it worked!

Of course it’s almost 3:00 in the morning and I can’t sleep now, but I’m okay with that since I don’t have all the rest of the shit going on inside me. There’s always a good and a bad to every life experience, right?

If you are having any of the symptoms I had and you aren’t getting treated for it … take it from me, see your doctor and push for help. I didn’t have to push, the doctor believed I needed help. Yours should too. If your doctor doesn’t help you or acts like it’s all in your head — GET A NEW DOCTOR! Do not let your doctor bully you or make you feel stupid. This is your health you are managing, not his/hers. I have said it before and I’ll say it again, “Take control of your health!”.

Thanks for stopping by, leave me a comment, I absolutely love to hear from you!

Stay cool.

Tamiko