January 27, 2014

Do What You Love?

"Do what you love", "Follow your bliss", "Find your passion". These have become such common phrases in our culture.  I think I hear some form of it nearly every day, whether from T.V. or radio, overheard in conversation or even in my own conversations. There is this prevailing thought that finding what you love to do and doing it, is the path to happiness and fulfilment in your life.


What if you were doing what you love, what if you had found your passion and you had to give it up? What then?  It's not an easy question to answer; especially when the work brought joy, connection, and the opportunity to make a difference. When most days (not everyday-it is work after all) you looked forward to going in. When most nights you could look back on your day and remember an interaction or moment that made you smile. When you put everything you had into it.

 It is so very difficult to accept the physical limitations of an illness when the heart and mind are capable of so much more. I ask myself- Did I push hard enough? Try hard enough? Am I giving up? What should I have done differently? The fact is -if I'm honest with myself, I know I gave all I could. Even knowing that doesn't stop the sting of changes coming.

Right now I'm working on accepting the reality of it all. Maybe its a process similar to grieving. I just want to bang on the door and flippin' kick and scream at it. I'm at a loss for what to do after that.  I know I need to redefine "my passion". I'm not sure where to begin.

Where would you start?

January 20, 2014

Super Me - Finding the Hero Within.

   My parents divorced when I was 3 and it broke me. I was never the same after. I guess this the case for many kids, though divorce certainly wasn't as common as it is now. I also think how kids fare through it depends heavily on how things are handled by the parents.   Neither of my parents handled it well. My dad abandoned me and my mom was broken too, but I'm sure she did the best she could given the circumstances. Any presence my dad has had in my life (the 34 years since he left) was short lived and usually left emotional devastation in his wake. I was desperate for him to love me, for me to be important to him -but I was always, in all ways left disappointed.

What resulted from that was a very unhappy little girl who tried to fill her life in other ways. I hated myself and looked for validation from others everywhere and in anyway I could get it and this resulted in life choices that broke me even further. I have made so many mistakes, and done my share of damage. I kept waiting for this unknown "thing" or "person"(to be honest I don't even know who or what I was waiting for) to rescue me, fix me and heal me. And for years I have been waiting.

Super Jen 
  But.....something has changed in me this past year. Perhaps it's a combination of things. Finding the right physio-therapist to help with my pain, finding the right therapist to help with the rest. Supportive friends, a patient husband, and an incredible kid. Somewhere along the way, especially within the last few months, I've stopped waiting. Something shifted and I finally realized with my whole being that the only one who is going to rescue me or fix me, or heal me...... is me. It sounds totally cliche I know but it is 100% true. Knowing this has energized me in a way I've never felt, and slowly but surely I am becoming my own hero.

Realizing this reminded me of something that my favourite author Maggie Stiefvater wrote in blog post called being the hero of your own life. I loved this post so much I have it printed off and hung up in my office as a reminder but it wasn't until recently that it truly resonated for me (I've always been drawn to books where the main character becomes a hero either for themselves or for others- maybe that's why?)

Unlike many of the books I've read, finding the hero within has not been a swift process, its taken years.I know it will take even more to make myself the strongest and best I can be. I also know that the time and effort is worth it because I am totally worth saving.

January 11, 2014

Getting in the Active Zone

   I've been afraid to exercise. Afraid to move for fear of a setback. Afraid of increasing pain, or injuring myself. Those who live with Chronic Pain understand this fear. And its no small fear either. It stays crouched in the back of my mind all the time. It's been there for 11 years and its not easy to silence.

"Careful there Jen, you might fall...", "don't bend that way you'll put your back out", "Feel that muscle right there, tomorrow it will spasm and you'll be in agony, better stop and just forget this."

 The less I've moved the more I reinforced that belief. I've had many physiotherapists over the years give me exercises and stretches while also minimizing my fear to move as an excuse. It's taken one very special physio to acknowledge that my fear is real and considering the pain I have lived with and continue to live with, my fear is not only completely normal, it is completely understandable.

It's taken months of reassurance from her. Months of small minimal movements. Months of her beside me teaching me to tell the difference from pain and muscle soreness from moving-because I've not been able to recognize the difference between the two for years. And  I still have a way to go, but I'm feeling more and more confident that I'm going to get there.

About three weeks before Christmas I started walking regularly. There is an indoor track in my neighbourhood, which is free to use, and it open 15 hours a day-amazing!

My first day there I did 10 minutes of slow walking. Over the week I was able to increase to 20 minutes. Then 20 minutes at a bit of a regular pace. 5 weeks later-I'm at 30 minutes. Don't get me wrong...I'm still terrified but as I walk I answer those fears back with "I am strong", "I am brave", "I am safe"

I schedule my walk in my day timer like any other appointment and I keep the commitment. I feel proud of myself when I walk. This is time just for me and I feel powerful and happy while at the track. I can sort out my thoughts and address this fear head on...and I'm doing it for me. I look forward to the day when I'm walking and I realize that the fear is actually gone.

Last week I went shopping for a few things and I actually bought these:

ActiveZone Fooler Crop Top

My first set of work out clothes. The brand is called Active Zone. I never thought I'd ever be ready to buy anything with the word "Active" on it again. 

November 19, 2013

Chronic Pain and Me

  Chronic Pain or Persistent Pain is defined as pain that lasts for longer that 6 months. It's reported that 1 in 5 Canadians suffer with Chronic Pain and yet little is done in the way of research in Canada and it is often met with apathy by doctors who expect their patients to grin and bear it. 


  As some of you may or may not know, I have been dealing with Chronic Pain for the past 10 years. What began as sciatica, and disc herniation in my lower back has progressed to years of inflammation, flares, pain, and treatment after treatment after treatment. I've had MRI's, X-rays, CT scans, been hospitalized, seen Neurologists and have had countless trips to the emergency room. My original family physician felt there was nothing he could do aside from send me for physiotherapy and prescribe heavy narcotics.

   I've seen Chiropractors, Massage Therapists, Physio Therapists, Acupuncturists, Naturopaths, and Osteopaths. I've had Reiki Treatments, Bowen Therapy, Reflexology, Healing Touch Therapy, Body Talk Therapy. I've worn magnets. I've prayed, been prayed over, I've wanted to die, I've begged for relief.

  Pain is debilitating. It effects your whole being. Body, Mind and Soul. It effects your job, your friends, your home, your finances, those who you love and those who love you. Everyone is involved because everyone feels helpless.

  Last year around this time, I was fortunate to switch to a new medical office and receive a new family doctor who listened a bit better. I developed an auto immune condition called Uvetitis which effects vision in one eye or both and was a clue to my diagnosis now which is Ankylosing Spondylitis. However, the diagnosis doesn't solve the pain problem. I need medication in order to cope with the pain, but the medication along with the pain, can make it difficult to function at work, at home etc.

  Shorty after my diagnosis, my Naturopath recommended a new physiotherapist who specializes in pelvic pain/ disorder but knew quite a bit about persistent/chronic pain, and the way the nervous system responds to pain over a long time. Meeting this new physiotherapist is changing the way I think about my condition, pain and the way my body responds. I had no idea that over time my nervous system had become hyper-sensitive to the pain response. Almost expecting pain to happen with slight movement, slight pressure, bending, twisting, my brain perceives "danger" and "threats" around the most innocent of activities. There is a lot of research coming from Australia on this topic. Follow this link to find out more about the nervous system response as they do a much better job of explaining it than I can.

  So, this past year I have been working on calming my nervous system, which I can tell you is a slow slow process. I want to write about my experiences and my "journey"-ugh I hate that term, but its accurate. it is a journey.  My hope is that if I share what I am learning, and what is helping me... it just might help someone else too, maybe someone you know, or maybe even you.

Thinking of you,

A copy of this post is now a page on the blog. On that page I'll also be posting links, a list of books and other posts. I look forward to your comments, shared experiences, and support.