Anything is Possible!

With Love, Hope, and Perseverance


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A Gift You Can’t Buy in the Store, Part 2

buttons-and-needles

My 85 year old dad is a stubborn X retired Marine. He won’t move closer to me because he doesn’t want to leave the house he shared with the love of his life. He lives with pain every day – the pain of missing his soulmate and the pain in his legs from being wounded in Korea. The plastic artery they put in his leg all those years ago now prevents him from getting a knee replacement. His knee can give out on him without warning, so he has to keep his cane handy. (He won’t use a walker.)

Each deliberate step is such a challenge it sometimes pains me to watch him walk. But he’s fiercely independent. His back had been bothering him a lot over the past couple weeks to the point that he could not go to church and stopped going to his cardio rehab. (The “rehab was completed years ago, but he pays to go three times a week for the challenge and the camaraderie.)

“Don’t you think he deserves a break?” I ask God.”  I don’t hear a lot back from that. Just some stuff about how Paul had chronic pain and not to worry about it because God’s Grace has it covered. Stuff I don’t want to hear but should probably listen to.

Last weekend, I was praying extra for my dad and lit a candle for him at church. When I called him Sunday evening, he whispered he couldn’t talk because he was at his church’s Christmas. I was happy to hear that he’d made it.

The next day, I called Dad, and he was so excited! He told me that Sunday morning he woke up with “no pain anywhere!” It was the the first time in years he’d started the day with no pain. It generally takes him a long time to get ready for church with the leg pain and arthritis in his hands. He said it takes him several tries to button his top button so he can put on a tie. Well, last Sunday, he said he talked to God about it:

“God, I’m going to try this one time, and if it doesn’t work, I’m not going to button it,” he said. “I just wont wear a tie.” Dad said he buttoned that button on the first try. He was so excited telling me about that button, like a kid at Christmas. He said everything went great on Sunday. People at church told him they’d missed him, and the Christmas Cantata that night was “absolutely beautiful.” He went on to describe the music and how good it was.

He said that Monday morning he had some twinges of pain, but not as much as usual.

I guess God decided to give my dad a break.No matter what happens, even if the pain comes back, I’m thankful Dad had the gift of a joy filled day without pain. You never know when God is going to give you a miracle day.

dad-and-aunt-ruth

My dad and his “big sister” Ruth a couple years ago on her 92nd birthday.

(The buttons and needles picture is from Pixabay.)


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Placebo Effect (or More Fiber?)

granola-787997_960_720.jpg from pixabay

I’ve had annoying, but relatively mild, pain on the right side of my abdomen for the past four days. The four days part is unusual, because I’m used to my body working through things faster than that.

So, yesterday, I finally scheduled an appointment at my doctor’s office for this afternoon. Wouldn’t you know that I’m starting to feel better now. Does that ever happen to you? You schedule a doctor appointment, then  get better before the appointment. Maybe it’s the fiber I’ve added to my diet. But this NPR story, about the how the mind influences the body, makes me wonder if there is some kind of placebo effect going on.

The article is full of interesting explanations about the placebo effect, how distraction can help us cope with pain, and the power of mindfulness meditation. I knew a lot of this stuff, but it helps to be reminded. I’ve been telling my clients, “What we practice, we get better at.” So, I really like the example, at the end of the article, about how practicing the violin for 8 hours a day is going to make a person better at playing the violin. (I’m trying not to think about potential neck pain. Quick, move on to something else! Like beautiful violin music!)

If we’ve practiced worrying enough to get good at worrying, it’s going to take some times to  strengthen the hopefulness (or mindfulness) pathways in the brain, so that we get better at hopefulness, positive thinking and enjoying the present moment.

I’m definitely feeling better – not 100%, but better. I’ll probably keep my appointment, because I’ve blocked out the time, and I like my PA. I bet she tells me to eat more fiber.

Now, back to that beautiful violin music:


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Rx

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I recently accompanied my husband on his consult for unexpected outpatient surgery which is now scheduled for the middle of this busy month. When the doctor mentioned post-op pain meds, my dear husband shook his head. When questioned about this, he said he didn’t want any narcotics. The doctor said he’d prefer to write the script, just in case, since the pain meds can’t be called in. But he also indicated that it’s possible my husband will do okay with just over the counter pain meds. This led to a discussion about the whole dilemma of pain medication and my experience of being prescribed way more pain meds than needed for relatively minor surgeries or injuries. My experiences as an addictions counselor have likely added to my frustration.

During the consultation, I appreciated learning more about the prescriber’s perspective: doctors who prescribe less than the standard amount of pain meds, in this case, 30 pills (!), are more likely to be harassed, yelled at and even threatened by patients. They lose patients and can’t stay in business.

What’s a doctor to do?

After hearing this, I’m not as sure as I used to be. And I’m glad I don’t have to be the one between that rock and the hard place.

One solution would be to have more disposal options for unused medication. We’re learning that it’s bad for the environment to flush unused medications, and keeping leftovers around, “just in case”  increases the risk of addiction or pills falling into the wrong hands. Though Opiate/narcotic addiction is a particularly bad problem where I live, we only have two medication drop off events per year. Of course, there’s always the burial in a container of damp coffee grounds, which may be the best option we have right now.  Hill

I know this is a complicated issue. Some people legitimately need a lot of pain medication. But it’s a slippery slope for those with substance abuse and addiction problems.

 

 

Which reminds me, that recovery can be pretty good where I live, too. On Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve, there are all night  AA meetings, called Alcathons. These open meetings start at 6pm and run on the even hours until noon Christmas day and New Year’s Day ending in a shared meal. Narcotics Anonymous usually has Narcathons which are similar. I hope these are available where you live.

Here are some links that can help you find meetings:

http://www.aa.org/pages/en_US/find-aa-resources

http://www.na.org/

http://www.celebraterecovery.com/

To all those who suffer from addiction, there is help. Recovery is possible. Find a program, then work the program, every day.  Life can get better. One day at a time. Like they often say after the Serenity Prayer:

” Keep coming back, It works if you work it, but you gotta work it every day…and night.”

To all those who do not suffer from addiction, be aware this can be a hard time for those who do. Have plenty of alcohol-free beverages at your social gatherings. Label food and drinks containing alcohol. Even a taste can be a trigger. Invite a recovering friend to go to an alcohol free/drug free event.

May your holidays be holy days, full of peace and joy.

Tree in Winter Sunset

 

 

 


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Back to Better Health

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Our stream of consciousness post today, from Linda Hill’s substitute teacher, Pavowski, is the word: “back.”

As I sit here, it’s hard to ignore my back, which coincidentally has a sore muscle. I have no idea why, but every now and then, there’s a muscle that starts to ache, lately on one side or the other, then it turns into little spasms. Not incapacitating, but quite distracting, and limiting my ability to turn and look behind me when I’m driving and want to back up or change lanes.

Thankfully these mysterious aches always go away in a few days with those heat rubs and a little TLC and maybe some ibuprofen. Yesterday I used a herbal patch that helped a lot, but the annoying ache is back again this morning.

I write this on Friday so I can post Saturday morning. No that’s not cheating!  It’s okay to do your homework the day before its due.  It just so happens that today, 12/12, is my birthday. So with my back and my birthday, I’m going back to my annual tradition of a birthday massage. Because I deserve it!

I wonder if my back is doing this every couple of months because I’m not in the best shape. I used to due -I’m leaving this typo because I’m due for some- yoga regularly and have gained at least ten pounds since getting married two years ago. And there is that age thing creeping steadily up now as close to 60 as it could be without being there. One more year of not being 60. I’m okay with the  number. Just being silly. I do have to get back to taking better care of myself. It seems that as our bodies age, we have to work harder at taking care of our health.

So, back to stretching and yoga and mindful eating. EVERY DAY.

…..and loving my body with kind words instead of irritated complaints.

Starting NOW!

If you’d like to join the Saturday Stream of Consciousness prompt response, go here:

http://lindaghill.com/2014/12/12/the-friday-reminder-and-prompt-for-socs-december-1214/

Here are the rules:

1. Your post must be stream of consciousness writing, meaning no editing, (typos can be fixed) and minimal planning on what you’re going to write.

2. Your post can be as long or as short as you want it to be. One sentence – one thousand words. Fact, fiction, poetry – it doesn’t matter. Just let the words carry you along until you’re ready to stop.

3. There will be a prompt every week. I will post the prompt here on my blog on Friday, along with a reminder for you to join in. The prompt will be one random thing, but it will not be a subject. For instance, I will not say “Write about dogs”; the prompt will be more like, “Make your first sentence a question,” or “Begin with the word ‘The’.”

4. Ping back! It’s important, so that I and other people can come and read your post! For example, in your post you can write “This post is part of SoCS:” and then copy and paste the URL found in your address bar at the top of this post into yours.  Your link will show up in my comments, for everyone to see. The most recent pingbacks will be found at the top.

5. Read at least one other person’s blog who has linked back their post. Even better, read everyone’s! If you’re the first person to link back, you can check back later, or go to the previous week, by following my category, “Stream of Consciousness Saturday,” which you’ll find right below the “Like” button on my post.

6. Copy and paste the rules (if you’d like to) in your post. The more people who join in, the more new bloggers you’ll meet and the bigger your community will get!

7. Have fun!


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Coping with Pain

sunset w bird soft

Pain just spilled out of  Saturday’s Stream of Consciousness post and  got me thinking about my frustration with prescription pain meds. I know some people legitimately need Rx pain medication at times, but after 27 + years as a substance abuse counselor, I’ve watched addiction to pain pills torment more people than addiction to any other drug, except maybe alcohol.

Add to that my experience of every time I’ve had  minor surgery or an injury, I’ve been given way more Rx pain medication than I needed. The last time, I didn’t even bother to get the prescription filled and did fine with ibuprofen.

Now, before you start thinking I have a high pain tolerance, think again. I wanted to birth my babies naturally, with no pain medications, but after twelve hours of labor with my firstborn, I was asking for a second shot of stadol. They said, no, it was too close to delivery. I moaned in acceptance, but would have gladly taken a second shot, even though I hate needles. With my second delivery, I made a feeble attempt to forgo pain meds, and caved again.

My second born, now an adult, also has no special tolerance for pain, but only used one third of the pain meds prescribed after her oral surgery. I waited for months to take the leftover 20 pills to the bi-annual Rx drop off.

So why are all these extra pain meds being prescribed, and why are the extras so hard to get rid of?  Why are we so quick to want to take a pill, rather than try alternatives? Part of the problem is that alternative therapies, like acupuncture and massage, are rarely covered by insurance.

If you’re prescribed pain medication, take it as prescribed, for you, and ask your doctor if you have questions. For example:

  •  Can I take less than what it says on the bottle?”
  • What else might help besides the pills?
  •  Can I try a heating pad, or ice pack?”
  • What alternative therapy can we try, like physical therapy or massage?
  •  Do you know people who’ve handled this with over the counter medicine?
  • I have a family history of addiction, is there something else we can try?

If a person takes opiate (sometimes  called narcotic) pain medications long enough, tolerance develops and the medication doesn’t work as well. Withdrawal happens when the body stops making natural endorphins because the pain meds tell the body it doesn’t need to make the endorphins. The receptors are full. And that’s just the physical explanation.

Addiction is sneaky.

I’ve seen it in action.

Most people have no idea how much work it takes to fight it.

Here are some things that have helped me and others cope with pain, both physical and emotional:

1. What’s the message?  What is your pain trying to tell you? Go to the doctor? Get some rest? Stop eating junk? Pain exists to let us know something needs our attention.  About thirteen years ago, the post-divorce relationship I was in was stressful (to put it mildly).  This showed up with increased heartburn, abdominal pain, and mysterious female ailments. My body was trying to tell me to ditch the person who was making me sick.

2. Prayer: Ask God to  show you the reason for your pain and to help ease it. For me, the answer doesn’t always come right away, but it comes in one way or another.

3. Positive Distraction: It’s probably not going to make the pain go away completely, but it will decrease your focus on it. Be aware of  things that don’t hurt. Watch funny movies, do puzzles, listen to music, or color in a coloring book. Focus on something other than the pain. My dad seems to feel better when he’s telling a story about his youth.

4. Meditation and/or Guided Imagery. This is not a substitute for medical care, and generally takes practice. I’ve had clients come to my group with a headache and tell me it was gone after practicing relaxation skills with guided imagery. It tends to work better for stress induced symptoms if we catch them early. I usually start with mindful breathing, focusing my awareness on the breath, without judgement.

For example, see:  Jon  Kabat-Zinn:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D5Fa50oj45s        

Then, I move into muscle relaxation by imagining a soft wave of healing light starting at my head and moving slowly down my body, releasing tension with each breath. I imagine the breath softening the tension (or pain) to help it dissolve, allowing it to become easier to release. I repeat this wave as many times as feels right. Sometimes I imagine breathing in healing energy or God’s love and letting it flow throughout my body with the exhale.

Belleruth Naparstek is one of my favorites when it comes to guided imagery. Here’s one of her exercises for stress management :  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WhTSaNwnip8

Thanks for reading this longer than usual post. I hope it helps somebody. Do you have other ways of coping with pain?


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Pain, Gratitude, and Faith

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Here’s my Stream of Consciousness Saturday Post on the prompt: degree/degrees.

The first thing that popped up for me was the degree of pain my Dad and a girl named Lily have been feeling recently. Dad has been having a lot of pain in his back near his ribs. When I asked him how much pain he’s been having on a 1 to 10 scale, he said it ranges from 5 to 8. He’s had this pain for at least two weeks, and after his third visit to the ER Thursday, he finally got some muscle relaxers to go with the other pain meds, and he got some good bedside manner from a lady doctor who explained things, like there’s a lot of calcium around his spine. Sometimes it helps to have a little more information. The thing is, my Dad was a marine for 20 years, and he has a lot of leg pain from war wounds in Korea. He’s had a lot of experience with high level pain, and he doesn’t complain too much, and he’s not normally on addictive pain meds. So I know he was really hurting. Thankfully, the muscle relaxers seem to be helping. He had lots of tests, X-rays, blood work, and scans, and they couldn’t find anything wrong except a lot of calcium around his spine.

The other person is Lily, part of our family who lives far from me. She’s a lively girl approaching adolescence who woke up in the middle of the night yelling with intense head pain. She was taken to the ER and lots of test were run, but, like with Dad, they couldn’t find anything wrong on the tests. But Lily was still having an intense degree of head pain. She’s getting better now, but she’s still very weak after a few days and still vomiting. They think it’s an infection or she had a seizure, but still don’t really know.

Pain can be mysterious and frustrating. The examples above quiet my complaints today about a relatively low degree of back pain. Like at a 2 maybe, at most. Part of being almost 59 and not enough exercise, I guess. I’m thankful it’s something I can do something about and that there are exercises, both physical and mental, that can help in addition to the good ol’ Bengay-type rubs and OTC meds.

I’m thankful that Dad and Lily’s pain is easing, and that I can pray for them. I’m thankful to have a degree of faith that is growing every day. There will be pain. Pain lets us know there is something wrong that needs our attention.

There will also be joy. I hope I always have a high degree of gratitude.

Dang, I’m having a hard time not editing this thing.  It’s a mess.

Gratitude, JoAnne, gratitude.

Stream of Consciousness Saturday is inspired by Linda, at http://lindaghill.com/2014/10/24/the-friday-reminder-and-prompt-for-socs-october-2514/

Here are the rules:

1. Your post must be stream of consciousness writing, meaning no editing, (typos can be fixed) and minimal planning on what you’re going to write.

2. Your post can be as long or as short as you want it to be. One sentence – one thousand words. Fact, fiction, poetry – it doesn’t matter. Just let the words carry you along until you’re ready to stop.

3. There will be a prompt every week. I will post the prompt here on my blog on Friday, along with a reminder for you to join in. The prompt will be one random thing, but it will not be a subject. For instance, I will not say “Write about dogs”; the prompt will be more like, “Make your first sentence a question,” or “Begin with the word ‘The’.”

4. Ping back! It’s important, so that I and other people can come and read your post! For example, in your post you can write “This post is part of SoCS:” and then copy and paste the URL found in your address bar at the top of this post into yours.  Your link will show up in my comments, for everyone to see. The most recent pingbacks will be found at the top.

5. Read at least one other person’s blog who has linked back their post. Even better, read everyone’s! If you’re the first person to link back, you can check back later, or go to the previous week, by following my category, “Stream of Consciousness Saturday,” which you’ll find right below the “Like” button on my post.

6. Copy and paste the rules (if you’d like to) in your post. The more people who join in, the more new bloggers you’ll meet and the bigger your community will get!

7. Have fun!


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From Misery to Miracles

The song below, by Laura Story, reminds me of the darkness and grief I felt when my 20 year marriage ended. That was about 13 years ago. I wanted to die, but I had to live for my kids…and for the possibility that time would heal my pain.

God does not want us to suffer. But God can turn our misery into miracles. Sometimes the most wonderful miracles grow out of our deepest despair, when the time is right – when we’ve learned what we need to learn to be ready for the blessings. (See “About Me,” for example.)

 

Blessings are being prepared for you!