Your Body Hears Everything Your Mind Says

Know that “this too shall pass.”

Sounds simple doesn’t it, but when I am in the middle of a bad flare, this is a hard mantra to remember.  You would think that after a lifetime of chronic pain, I would remember this and stay calm, but it isn’t that easy. The first day of a painful flare, it’s annoying to go lay down multiple times during the day.  Then by the third or fourth day of being unable to do basic tasks, I go into catastrophizing.  My mind starts flashing scary questions like flash cards that carry me right into anxiety and worry: like, will I ever be able to leave the house again?, how will I cook for myself?, and then, anxiety bubbles over to panic, will I ever be able to do laundry or shop again, will I be able to drive again?  And they don’t stop there unless I stop them myself.

I have found mantras useful to help me get out of a “mind flare” when I cannot remember that “this too shall pass.” I have post-it notes everywhere, and I mean everywhere, to remind me of the simple thought, this too shall pass and other mantras that motivate me to be positive about my situation.  Because after all these years, I still forget this principal thought.

Have a Day Quote

I do not mean that the pain will pass and I will be all better.  I am only implying that peace will come back, and I will be able to smile and actually feel the joy again amid chronic pain. I will not experience a medical breakthrough, but a mental breakthrough and mantras help this process.

Mantras are a sentence or a group of words that bring you back to the reality you want to have in your life in the middle of struggles.  You can use mantras in any way that works for you.  Speak them aloud or in your head. Write them down or memorize them. Find a sentence, scripture, or a small grouping of words that inspire you to think more positively, and do it BEFORE you have an intense flare.    If you have a mantra memorized or on your fridge so that you see it during a flare; the words can bring you back to a healthier mental state.  We know through research that being in a tense mental state increases physical pain.  If you can reframe the negative situation in a positive light, it can help ease the pain flare from becoming worse.

For me, it doesn’t always work; I will admit.  Sometimes, I see a mantra that I thought might bring me back to lighter thoughts, but when I read it, “yea, right!” comes out of my mouth, and it does nothing for me.  It is difficult to pull myself out of this funk, but I just keep repeating them until I believe it.  Eventually, you will feel it.

My most favorite mantra is

“I will breathe.

I will think of solutions.

I will not let worry control me.

I will not let my stress level break me.

I will simply breathe.

And it will be okay.

Because I don’t quit.”

-Shayne McClendon (this is who it is attributed to on the internet. If anyone knows different, please let me know. I want to give the right person credit.)

Yesterday, I found my first list of mantras, dated in the fall of 2016, that I utilized to change my mind-set, and rereading them made me smile at how far I have come.  I remember how hard I struggled at changing my thoughts.  It was so hard but, I kept reading them every morning while I brushed my teeth and eventually a few of them stuck. After awhile,  I realized my mind was stronger than I thought.

Cindy’s List (from 2016)
Make peace with your past
    so it doesn’t disturb your future.
What other people think of you
    is none of your business.
The only person in charge
    of your happiness is you.
Don’t compare your life to others.
    Comparison is the thief of joy.
Time heals almost everything.
    Give it time.
STOP thinking so much.
     It’s alright not to know all the answers.

SMILE

You don’t own all the problems of the world.

Creating a mind shift in our thoughts from negative to positive helps us to get unstuck. When I’m in a flare, I feel like I have lost all control, but mantras bring me back to the reality of the situation that I do have control over my mind if not my body.  When the mind is a well-tuned instrument, a person can face all the difficult circumstances that living with chronic pain brings.

It is all about how we view things that affect us in our lives. The positive thoughts help me keep perspective of my situation, and that is something we all need in our lives.

Much Love & Many Prayers,

Cindy

Featured Photo by Natalya Letunova on Unsplash

 

 

The Robin By the Window

I have an exciting thing going on right outside of my window.  I have a robin’s nest within 3 feet of my bedroom window and only about an arm’s reach above my head.

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It is tucked neatly under a deck on pilings off of the second floor.  I first noticed it about two weeks ago, and I stood there to see if any birds were sitting on the nest.  It wasn’t long before a robin with a robust rust brown belly, and yellow beak flew under the deck and sat down. I got really excited and got on my tippy toes from inside of my bedroom, but I could not see any eggs when she flew away.

The next few days, I watched with curiosity trying to stay far enough away as not to spook her. I could not see anything. I just had to believe the eggs were there and wait. I knew the babies had hard work ahead of them to break through the shells, but there was something good coming.

I also enjoyed watching mommy robin hop along all over the back yard looking for worms in the lush green grass deep in the soggy ground.  When she was full, she would fly back and wiggle herself down onto the nest.  I just knew there had to be eggs.

After a few days of watching her, I began to see another robin helping her sit on the nest.  I decided it must have been daddy robin.  From Google, I found out that they both watch over the eggs and that the whole process only lasted two weeks.  I was scrambling trying to figure out how many days it had been since I first saw the nest.  I was not sure, but I continued watching every day and noticed how this bird just lived.  No concerns, no worries.  Everything is provided. A new life is being created.

A few more days passed, and I was looking for signs of babies when one of the adult robins flew back with a wiggly worm in its beak.  I did a quiet mini jump up and down session!  I had babies!  Well, the robin technically had the babies, but I was witnessing this event.  I was so excited. I’m sorry that I don’t have a high-speed camera to capture it, but I still wanted to share the pictures.

 

Oh, my gosh! They were hungry! At first, I could only see the pointy little beaks above the top of the nest.  But each day their scrawny featherless necks reached higher and demanded more food. I read that the male and female robins would fly back and forth as many as 100 times feeding the newly hatched babies every day. That was dedication along with fortitude; something that we also need to have when living with chronic pain.

So the baby birds grew each day, and I could tell their feathers were beginning to fluff up.  I am amazed at how fast and how much they change each day.  Two days ago, one of the two babies was very wobbly in the nest while trying to spread out his wings.  He just wasn’t sure exactly how to do it, but he keeps trying. Then today, both the birds were spreading out, taking up most of the nest so mom, or it could have been dad, sat on the 2×4 beside the nest.  They were obviously in the teenager stage, pushing the limits with their parents!  HA HA!

I checked on them a few times today, and they have not left the nest yet, but it will happen within a few days. I hope I don’t miss it.

I also found out that a robin is a sign of new beginnings or rebirth, and I thought that was so very appropriate to my life where it is right now. Maybe you can relate.

I started school to help me to be better equipped to help others that are living with chronic pain. I moved to a new state and to a town where I do not know anyone. That was big. I’ve had a lot of firsts in the past three months, causing me to need to reinvent myself again. It seems like that is precisely what life is about: constant change.

I am going through new beginnings in my life, and God has provided everything and every person that I need, and He will continue to do that for me. He will help you too.

On my hardest days, He provided a verse, a friend, or a robin to encourage me and guide me on this journey. I’ve found that we can accept the new beginnings that chronic pain brings. We don’t have to focus on the endings that pain brings to our lives. Don’t get stuck there.

I know you had a full life before chronic pain and you feel cheated. It is debilitating, and it can just stop you dead in your tracks. You think it’s all over, but it’s not just an ending of life as you knew it.

It is also the beginning of something new in your life.  It’s the beginning of the challenge of redefining yourself in a new way.

Is it easy to bring about this new birth?  No, think of the babies breaking through the shell and the work of feeding their new life.  It was a lot of work to fly back and forth to feed their babies 100 times a day.  There will be a lot of struggling to experience getting out of your comfort zone. It’s hard work to change your mindset.  It may be trial and error before you figure it out, but you will eventually find a new purpose in life while learning to accept the closing doors.

Just like the robins by the window, I see a new birth coming to fruition in life amid my chronic pain. You have a new story in you also.   This week I encourage you to look for that newness that you can bring to your life.

Much Love & Many Prayers,

Cindy

Lead Photo by Gary Bendig on Unsplash

Rest of Photos by Cindy

 

The Perspective of Chronic Illness

I wanted to share this quote I found today that might help someone with their daily struggles with chronic illness.

“I choose joy… I will invite my God to be the God of circumstance. I will refuse the temptation to be cynical…the tool of the lazy thinker. I will refuse to see people as anything less than human beings, created by God. I will refuse to see any problem as anything less than an opportunity to see God.” ——Max Lucado, Upwords

Circumstance.

Perspective.

Two significant words in this world today for everyone, not just people with chronic pain.

We cannot be ruled by our circumstances. Our lives are easier to live when we look for the beauty in our broken parts and in the world and when we accept where we are at in that point in time.

However, our perspectives do rule our lives, and it is something we can work on changing.

Some people get angry when the talk is about “controlling pain with your mind.” No, I do not believe you can control your pain with your mind. But I do believe the journey can be lighter with a change in our mindset.

Today, find one thing that is good in your life and praise Him for it.

Much Love and Many Prayers,

Cindy

Ways to Emerge as Who You Want To Be

discoveryPhoto by Micah Hill on UnsplashBeing authentic is the emergence of your genuine self. It is when we arrive at who WE say we are and we do not rely on how others define us.

Being true to ourselves allows our actions to align with what our core believes.

When there is a shift in our actions that cause conflict with our inner beliefs, difficulties will arise in our life creating speed bumps and sometimes complete roadblocks making us feel stuck.

When you have chronic pain, it increases and complicates the roadblocks further. Like when someone asks how you are doing.  I’ve always had trouble answering that question.

My hubby and I have code words. If I tell someone I am “peachy” then he knows the pain level is high, but I don’t want to complain. Most people do not understand the experiences people with pain go through.

It’s easier to just say you are fine. This false response creates stress because we want to be real about our experience and the pressure of not being authentic creates more pain; physical and emotional. So, we are not helping ourselves when we lie about how we feel because it is easier for others to accept or so that we don’t have to say no.

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Who do you see when you look in the mirror? Is it a familiar friend or a distant relative?

SIGNS YOU AREN’T LIVING AN AUTHENTIC LIFE

You are a people pleaserdo you do things for others out of guilt? Feeling like you must do everything for everyone will get in the way of your self-care.

Honoring others is important but not at the expense of our health. It is not selfish to take the time for ourselves.

Some days I find my body exhausted and in excruciating pain. I only have myself to blame sometimes because I did not say no to a request or make the time to take care of myself.

Refueling yourself is the best way to be able to give to others

You question your own thoughtsdo you rely on others to validate your feelings? Doubt fuels negative thinking. We can find ourselves quickly spiraling down when we doubt ourselves. I constantly doubt myself. I doubt myself right now while I am writing this! On some days my unbelief in myself can be paralyzing.

You compare yourself to others – do you feel like other people have it all together and you don’t? I have a love-hate relationship with social media. So much of it is fake. No one and I mean no one has a perfect life. A friend of mine told me that her daughter would spend hours taking selfies to post one picture online. Hours to post one picture! Live who you are.

You blame others for your problems to avoid dealing with them- do you accept responsibility for your actions? Isn’t it easier to blame someone else?  It takes the pressure off of ourselves and relieves the feeling that we need to take some action. There is a little part of everyone that does not want to accept responsibility for the things we do. Not taking control of your actions is just denying there is a problem and denial will keep you stuck. Look at yourself honestly but remember to look with love also.

girl on rock stuck

When we do not live authentically, we become stuck where we are at in life which can lead to depression and anxiety.

I developed severe anxiety and depression after the back and leg pain began to be daily in 2014. I lived in the pit with all of these things I listed above and it kept me frozen with fear. I did not want to leave my house or see anyone.  And I definitely didn’t want anyone coming over and seeing my home.

Over the past 2 years, I have worked very hard on trying to stop the control that fear has over my life.  I have picked up a few tips on living authentically I’d like to share with you. It will give you a few tools to find your happy place by learning to live and love who you really are, even with chronic pain.  Your life can still be exceptional!

HOW TO EMERGE AS WHO YOU WANT TO BE

Decide to accept yourself. We need to love ourselves on purpose as we are at this exact moment. We can choose to love ourselves like we can choose to be angry or to be sad.

Accepting ourselves can be especially hard if we feel our body has let us down because we have chronic pain.

Living in a shell of a body that always seems to fail can make us feel unworthy of joy if we allow it to.

We each need to meet ourselves where we are at in this world and begin a real journey of self-discovery. We are exquisitely made by our Creator. Be you.

Make a list of your strengths. Whatever we are good at should be celebrated. With chronic pain, life can be challenging.

Think of all that you have overcome and put it on this list. You are reading this, so you are still standing. We may have lost some of our strengths, but we cannot forget to remind ourselves of what we can still accomplish.

I promise you that you can continue to have fulfillment with chronic pain. Dig deeper, and you can find new ways to be strong. Don’t forget you are intelligent and creative.

Stop listening to the negative voice in your head. Our minds are powerful, and we can decide where our thoughts go. Your thoughts also decide your next steps in life.

Just remember that we would probably never speak to other people the way that we talk to ourselves.

Slow down your thoughts to find out what you are saying to yourself and change the dialogue to be who you want to be.

Distance yourself from the people that do not believe in you. Your feelings and thoughts are important.

We need to surround ourselves with people that will nurture us, helping us reach our true potential, not tearing us down or keeping us stuck.

Grieve your previous life before your chronic pain or illness. I wish I had a magical way of going through grief without any pain, but everyone is much too different to have one tried and true way to get through grief. The five stages are denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance and are a part of the framework that helps us understand what we are experiencing when we grieve a loss. I would suggest if you feel stuck in any of the stages of grief to seek out professional help.

Spend time doing the things you love. I am doing a complete overhaul of how I spend my time every day. I feel like I don’t have time for everything I want to accomplish. I have found that I need to make blocks of time and set them aside for the things that I enjoy doing. Find what you love and do it.

Communicate with the people around you.  I understand now that I need to communicate truthfully with the people close to me. It is incredible how much of a difference being real has helped with feeling good mentally and physically. I encourage you to do it but if you haven’t had a voice in a while.  Go easy on those around you. Explain to them the things you want to change in your life and recruit their help.

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You can live your whole life and never reveal your real self to the world. What a shame that would be not to be truly known. You can decide today to live authentically and find happiness. You can learn to love yourself and even be proud of yourself. It creates better life opportunities and promotes creativity. It empowers us to live our best life, even with chronic pain.

Your life is not over. In some ways, when you get to this vantage point of living authentically, your life has just begun.

Much Love and Many Prayers,
Cindy

Photo by Micah Hill on Unsplash

Photo by Taylor Smith on Unsplash

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Chronic Pain, Fear and God’s Promises

Reading time 4 minutes 45 seconds

I’m just going to be honest. I’m struggling really bad this week. So many factors are affecting me at one time, and it’s adding anxiety and depression to my chronic pain. Maybe you are experiencing similar feelings:

The let down after all the Christmas excitement goes away.
The miserable cold, dreary weather that has left me unable to get out of the house for days.
The increasing physical pain due to the cold weather.
The frightening news that unfolds every day seemingly getting unbelievably worse all the time creating fear about the future.
Family illnesses and elderly parents.
And as I round the corner to turning 50, I’m feeling a lot of regrets and other personal struggles…

discouragement
http://www.ValidatingChronicPain.com

I’ll stop listing things, so I don’t increase your anxiety and make you depressed, but all of the things have one thing in common: fear. Some type of fear factors into each one of the events I mentioned, mostly about the future.

The Psalms address David’s fear through his poetry or songs. I had a hard time understanding how the Psalms could be applied to me since it seemed that David was being attacked by Saul physically; he had earthly enemies. I don’t think I have any human enemies. I don’t have anyone that wishes to do me bodily harm as David did. But it dawned on me that my enemy is the devil. So when I read the Psalms, I will substitute “enemies” with “the devil” because fear comes from the devil. He increases the alarm bells to get your focus off of God. The devil is trying to keep you busy with worrying so you will not have peace. Worrying is useless for us, only causing emotional and physical pain but very productive for the devil. He is trying to stop the spread of God’s kingdom.

If you have a relationship with God, then the devil does not have your soul or your eternity, but the devil will do anything to misguide you off the correct path — a little fear, mixed up with anxiety can swell into depression. He can renderer us helpless if we let him. We just have to keep fighting the fear with the Holy Spirit leading us.

Psalm 37 has many powerful verses full of God’s promises proclaiming that if we trust (trust that His plan is better than what we can see) in the Lord, we will find peace: a release of fearful anxiety and depression. But there are things that we must do. God very plainly says do “this,” and you will endure. It’s hard work sometimes so surround yourself with people that will help you back up.

Psalm 37 (NIV)

Verse 1: Do not fret. Bottom line: God commands us not to worry.

Verse 3: Trust in the Lord and do good. Ask God to help you with your unbelief and trust Him.

Verse 4: Take delight in the Lord. Find joy in knowing who God is and what He has done for you.

Verse 5: Commit your way to the Lord. Determine to do good.

Verse 7: Be still before the Lord. Pray and read scripture and listen to God to speak – not audibly but through the Bible. Everything you need to know is in the Bible.

Verse 7: Wait patiently for Him. Sometimes we think God should move faster. Trust me; He knows what your timeline should be like better than you do.

Verse 8: Refrain from anger and turn from wrath. Do not become bitter. Constant disappointments or physical pain can make you lose hope and become angry. Pray about this if you are mad at God for your situation.

Verse 27: Turn from evil and do good. Again, determine to do good.

Verse 34: Hope in the Lord and keep His way. Lay your burdens at His feet.

Each of these commands from God requires us to analyze our immediate surroundings. When I feel anxiety coming on, I try to ask myself a few questions like, Am I safe right at this moment? What can I do right now to address the fear/anxiety immediately? If there is nothing I can do, then I tell myself over and over that I have done everything in my power that I can do about the situation and lay the worries at the foot of the Cross. If I don’t “Let go and Let God,” I feel it emotionally with anxiety and depression and physically with increased chronic pain.

I believe there is a direct correlation between emotional pain and physical pain. High anxiety or a bout of depression can increase your pain for many reasons. I know for me it is because when I’m worried or depressed, I tense up every muscle in my body.  It is a never-ending cycle. Stress increases pain, and then pain increases stress and so on.  Our lives are just so complicated which gives way to more emotions than we can handle and we go in to fight or flight mode. I become completely overwhelmed.

This is when I use scripture to help me with the devil’s schemes. Don’t get me wrong. I don’t read scripture and BOOM! I have peace, and my pain is gone. It is a daily, sometimes, hourly struggle. Today, I’m in a minute by minute mode. So, I know how you feel. Just keep picking yourself back up by surrounding yourself with positivity and scripture is the best place to start. I also encourage you to write down thoughts.  Whether you share it or not doesn’t matter. Either way, writing or journaling can create meaning and purpose and hope just for yourself, but if you share it, you can reach others helping them at the same time.  We need to be there for each other. You don’t have to go through this alone.

I want to end with a devotion prayer I read for today. The book is called “Daily Gratitude” with contributing writer, Joanne Mattern.  It was given to me last year by a dear friend. I could not find a link to share with you, but Amazon has many others to choose from. Just search “daily gratitude in Books.”

This prayer reminds me while my body is in pain, and maybe even my mind is too, I still need to find something to be grateful for because God dwells in me.  There is something extraordinary about acknowledging God’s spirit living in you through the Holy Spirit.

1 Corinthians 3:16 New International Version (NIV)

16 Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in your midst?

Creator God,

Thank you for this body. Thank you for the gift of movement, the gift of touch, the gift of laughter.  When I ‘m at odds with my body, please help me focus my thoughts to what my body can do and the ways it can serve you.  Thank you for the nerves and synapses, arteries and brain cells, that make me who I am, Your Creation.  Amen

Cindy

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