All posts filed under: wellness

Maladaptive Memories (Or, How Your Body Just Won’t Let Go)

Is your memory just too good? I’m not talking about recalling what you ate for breakfast six Sundays ago or always knowing where you dropped your car keys. I’m referring to the body’s ability to remember everything that happened to it — for your entire life. We hear terms like “muscle memory,” but most of us have no reason to contemplate what that means. Well, let me enlighten you. Muscles remember a strength training routine far easier the second time around; say you start training, have a few weeks of vacation, and then start again because your clothes don’t fit after the annual Holiday Food Gauntlet. It is far easier to get back on the saddle the second time, and it takes less time to reach the same goals. This idea of the body remembering things has always stuck with me. Let’s say I took a tire iron to your knees on Thanksgiving, Nancy Kerrigan-style (stay with me). Once you get over the initial shock, pain, casts, surgery, rehab, soft casts, physical therapy, aqua therapy, and more — let’s say that …

Inflammatory Foods and Chronic Pain, Part II

Sorry for my lengthy absence; it’s been another one of those flares. Back to business as usual! I have discussed before how food can have a direct effect on what happens in the body. Use any cliched vehicle for this idea that you like — our bodies are temples, our bodies have engines that need pure fuel, our bodies don’t like toxins that gunk up the system. Basically, we are what we eat. Those suffering from chronic pain and illness already got the short stick, but 99 times out of 100, we are also told by doctors that we should follow some form of an “anti-inflammatory diet.” Now, I was tested for inflammation by a rheumatologist, and while it was higher than normal, it wasn’t stratospheric. That was how he ruled out arthritis (well, duh). So while my joints aren’t inflamed in a rheumatoid arthritis sort of way, I can definitely tell the days when my body as a whole is just… blegh. Like this morning, for instance! I spent last night pigging out. I’d had …

Pain News Network: the Emotional Insight App

Here’s my latest column for the Pain News Network! Biofeedback is probably the closest thing to having actual superpowers. To quote the Mayo Clinic, it’s “a technique you can use to learn to control your body’s functions, such as your heart rate” by using electrical sensors to “receive information (feedback) about your body (bio).” In theory, this can help you learn to control things like muscle relaxation, which often helps to lessen pain. What if you want to go deeper than that, though? In my own experience as a chronic pain patient, I’ve come to realize that much of pain — or rather, the compounding of pain — is emotionally derived. It can be stress from work, an argument with a spouse, dreading a rent payment, or anything else that thrills against your nerves. How does one separate the emotional aspect of pain from the physical? How do you know when you’re being your own worst enemy? You look inward. Somehow my father stumbled across the Emotional Insight app and sent it my way. I was …

Word War Won: “Victim” vs. “Survivor” vs. “Thriver”

I was going to talk about different words during this edition, but Alexis got me thinking. We had a very uncomfortable session the other day during which she asked me how things are going now that I’ve cut out sugar and alcohol. It started last week when we had a Skype session and she saw my face. She said I needed to do a detox. Immediately. I felt slow and inflamed, my brain was foggy, and even my face looked puffy. I’d gone to a small law school reunion/memorial for my friend Andy and saw surprise on my classmates’ faces; the last time they saw me was thirty pounds ago. (Granted, some of that weight gain was necessary at the time since I was an anthropomorphic coat hanger, but do you know how hard it was just now to type “thirty pounds ago”?) My pain was worsening. I’d been gaining weight despite exercising every day, thanks to my medication increasing my appetite to that of a starving boat wreck survivor. I’d binge in the evenings after work, thinking I deserve this as I snatched …

Small Hurt Versus Big Hurt

I am typing this with nine fingers because I lost a fight with a stick blender today. Why is it that small injuries seem to hurt worse than large ones? I sliced my left index finger in a way that (probably) does not necessitate stitches. I had to take pain killers and vodka — not at the same time — and ice it. It’s still throbbing. … Thrrrrrrooooooobbbbbbbing. Immediate pain seems to envelop the mind in a way that chronic pain can’t, since chronic pain is something that one comes to live with and therefore ignores. You adjust as necessary. Your back and neck hurt on a daily basis? Change the way you sit so that you don’t aggravate it. Don’t do too much, keep an eye on it, don’t move your head too quickly, and don’t go pole-vaulting. You cut your finger? DISTRACTION NEEDED. OH MY GOD. OH MY GOD, THIS HURTS. On the plus side, this is distracting me from my normal pain! So I’ve got that going for me, which is nice.

Let’s Talk About Wabi Sabi, Kintsugi, and Invisible Illness

I finally caught up with a couple fragments of thought for this edition of Wear, Tear, & Care. For weeks now I’ve been pondering two Japanese concepts: Wabi-Sabi and Kintsugi. Wabi-Sabi: “the Japanese art of finding beauty in imperfection“. Kintsugi: the art of repairing broken pottery with gold. These two Japanese practices can easily parallel the difficulties that arise when discussing self-acceptance of invisible illness. More often than not, I find myself saying that because I am not perfect — because I am not a fully-functioning human being, much less a movie-star-like specimen — that I am not worthy or deserving of… what, love? Life? Half the time I don’t even know. The most constant sense I have is that if I am a less-than-able person, then I am undeserving of happiness. That I won’t be happy unless I am whole. Then I started really thinking about these Japanese practices. With Wabi-Sabi, in terms of how something imperfect can still be beautiful — this is something that I feel like every child is taught in grade school. Even though we’re all …

5 Items to Get Through Painful Days

This weekend was very difficult for me. A small party Husband and I hosted on Saturday night celebrating two birthdays and an engagement ended up sputtering to a halt at 10:30 when I kicked my friends out of the house; I was in too much pain to hold a conversation. Super Bowl Sunday was a party Husband went to without me. I stayed home, high on Vicodin and watching the Puppy Bowl (the latter of which is a noble endeavor). My neck and shoulders have been seizing badly. I’ve always thought of it like Silly Putty. If you pull it apart too quickly, it snaps; if you yank it with a tad less force, it pulls apart… just managing to stay connected as it stretches. That’s what my spasms feel like: My muscles are giant wads of pink Silly Putty that spasm and then s-l-o-w-l-y stretch. So I have to arm myself with whatever I can find that has the ability to help me get through tough times. What are my go-to items? Cryoderm: I’ve tried a number of topical creams, everything from …

Bedtime Reflection

So Husband and I were getting ready for bed last night (sorry to disappoint you, but this story is thoroughly unsexy). He watched me shrug out of my clothes like an old woman in a locker room. Craning my head to the right and to the left, I tried to ease the fingers of pressure gripping the back of my skull. I rolled my shoulders, contorted, tried to get away from myself. Husband was silent as I took my evening pills: Lyrica (nerve pain medication), notryptiline (antidepressant used for pain control), Cymbalta (antidepressant used for pain control), tizanidine (muscle relaxer). As I finally got into under the covers, he said, “Sometimes I just don’t get how someone can still be hurting from an accident so many years later.” That’s the kicker, isn’t it? Those of us with invisible problems, we look fine. Those who know me can see when I’m hurting, but to the vast majority of the human race, I look like a normal person. Even Husband doesn’t realize it sometimes when my spine has exploded and fireworks are …

Yukon Ho!

For someone who has broken so many bones, I live in a silly part of the United States. For those who haven’t been playing the home game, I live near Boston. We kind of had Snowmageddon this week, the first real snow of the season. The weather always seems to run along a wide spectrum in New England, which can physically devastate me. My chronically-plagued body would do much better in the dry heat of Arizona or New Mexico. That’s partially the reason why I haven’t traveled to that part of the country since becoming perpetually injured; I know deep down that I would never, ever leave. So I live in a frozen tundra in the winter and a humid wetland in the summer. It’s the pressure changes that hurt the most, I think. Husband and I were mostly housebound during the storm, watching trashy television and eating food just because we could. He even baked a pie. We had a glorious time shoveling the almost-two-foot snow drifts — meaning he was shoveling and I was standing …

Inflammatory Foods and Chronic Pain

I had a very in-depth chat with my nutritionist last night. I’ve been seeing Alexis for more than two years now because of my eosinophilic esophagitis. She specializes in difficult and weird food cases, and she’s been there the entire time as I transitioned back to eating normal food instead of powdered shakes. I’ve continued seeing her both for maintenance and to come to a deeper understanding about the way I view food as both an enemy and a crutch. Among many other topics of discussion was the idea that America is addicted to sugar. I asked if I should go on a complete sugar detox, mainly because I’m in love with Cinnamon Chex and eat those crunchy, sweet carbs like I have ten rows of teeth. Additionally, at the time of this writing, I finished an entire bag of trail mix that had 15 servings. I mean, I ate some yesterday, but still! Show some self control! My train of thought was that excess sugar leads to inflammation, and inflammation is something I certainly do not need …