Why I Need to Focus More on My Achievements as a Person With Chronic Pain

mother and daughter hugging

I had a few days where I had to leave my comfort zone and just relax and rest. If you know me, I’m not a fan of resting and being still for too long. I’m the definition of an over-thinker and having an invisible illness such as chronic pain has only intensified my roller coaster of thoughts.

After 10 years of searching for a cure for my chronic pain and finally finding a way to manage it and live a life that makes me happy, it’s very difficult for me to step away from the routine I am so accustomed to. My day usually begins around five in the morning with stretches and exercise. Of all the tools I use to manage chronic pain, exercise is definitely one of my favorites and most useful. It helps with my chronic pain and my subsequent anxiety. I stay busy throughout the day, which is quite easy to do with a 4-year-old daughter, work and running a home that I am proud of.

My other favorite tool for managing my chronic pain naturally is the utilization of distractions. I train my brain to not think about pain and am usually quite successful in this exercise.

However, for the past few days, I’ve been forced to rest in bed, which on one hand has been difficult. I want to play with my daughter, run my errands, make dinner and finish the damn laundry that has been sitting in the laundry room for two days. I don’t enjoy being vulnerable and relying on other people to help me and do things for me. I begin to feel guilty and frustrated, and the little control freak buried inside me comes out in the silliest ways one can imagine. For instance, I find it difficult to walk into my daughter’s playroom because I know it is not organized the “Jessica” way.

On the other hand, the past few days have been a great lesson for me. I have had to let things go and find distractions that have nothing to do with exercise and/or activity. I have caught up on my favorite television shows and books, and I even went back to my gratitude journal and began doing the exercises in the book “Simple Abundance: A Daybook of Comfort and Joy” by Sarah Ban Breathnach. 

I’ve read this inspiring book but have never attempted to go through the workbook that accompanies it. The first three assignments were quite simple for me. I was asked to write down 50 things I am grateful for like having food in the fridge to being blessed with a beautiful, happy daughter.

In second assignment, I had to write down the five things I want in my life more than anything. Number one on my list was to have more children (no brainer there).

The third exercise was to write down the things I wanted to work on within myself to find more inner joy. Ironically, this was the easiest exercise the workbook asked of me. I wrote down so many things that I ran out of room on the allotted page. 

Sadly, the fourth exercise was much more difficult than I thought it would be. The exercise asked me to write down five things or more that I loved about myself. I came up with two right away: being empathetic and funny. I even felt a little guilty about writing down “funny.”

It took me longer to find five things I am sincerely proud of about myself than it did to find 50 things I was grateful for. No one else needs to read my simple abundance workbook, so why was I so hesitant to write exactly how I felt about myself? 

Yes, there are things I want to work on and am working on, but there are more than two things about myself that I am proud of. However, I felt a ridiculous sense of guilt putting them down on paper. I learned I need to own the things I feel good about regarding myself and my life. I’ve worked hard to get where I am, especially with chronic pain. I have a lot to be proud of and shouldn’t feel ashamed for feeling good about those things in my life. I focus more on the things I need to work on than the goals I have already achieved.

I believe this to be true: No matter where we are in our journey with chronic pain, or life in general, we should be more focused on our gifts than our downfalls. The more we focus on the good in ourselves, the easier it will be to work on the things we know need some help with.

None of us are perfect, and chronic pain can make life incredibly difficult at times, but we all have special gifts that we need to start putting more focus on



Hippocrates’ theory linking pain and weather could be right, say scientists

Boscombe Beach, Dorset

It is nearly 2,500 years since the Greek physician Hippocrates noticed a connection between pain and the weather, but scientists have shown that it may well be true.

Researchers at Manchester University spent months tracking thousands of people who suffer from conditions like arthritis, back pain and migraines to see if their symptoms got worse in good or bad weather.

The participants who were based in Leeds, Norwich and London – reported that as the number of sunny days increased from February to June, the amount of time they experienced severe pain fell.I think there is definitely a possible link. In terms of physiology, it makes sense that air pressure, which can affect weather, would influence pain – particularly in arthritis.Professor Will Dixon

However when there was a period of wet weather in June and fewer hours of sunlight, the level of pain increased once again.

Scientists think that it could be the fall in pressure behind the phenomenon which causes fluid in the joints to shift. Low pressure also brings rain, so people may be mistaking the downpour for the cause of their increased discomfort.

The 18-month project, called Cloudy With A Chance Of Pain, is currently at the halfway stage. Participants log on to an app and record their symptoms. The app also logs where they are and the exact weather at the time they enter the information.

Professor Will Dixon, who treats people with arthritis at Salford Royal hospital, is leading the research.

He said: “We have long heard anecdotal evidence about how people with chronic conditions say they suffer more when the weather is bad – a lot of my patients tell me that they can predict the weather based on how they are feeling.

“But amazingly there has never really been any real research into it – even though that around 28 million people in the UK suffer from some form of chronic pain.

“I think there is definitely a possible link. In terms of physiology, it makes sense that air pressure, which can affect weather, would influence pain – particularly in arthritis.”

To work out the details of how weather influences pain, we need as many people as possible to participate in the study and track their symptoms on their smartphone.Professor Will Dixon

However, while Professor Dixon is pleased with the study’s progress to date, he hopes that more people will take part – and the findings could help manage their conditions better.

He added: “Once the link is proven, people will have the confidence to plan their activities in accordance with the weather.

“In addition, understanding how weather influences pain will allow medical researchers to explore new pain interventions and treatments.

“To work out the details of how weather influences pain, we need as many people as possible to participate in the study and track their symptoms on their smartphone.”

The initial findings are being reported at the British Science Festival, which takes place in Swansea this week.


insomnia (1)

2 Ways to Treat Insomnia Caused by Chronic Pain

Man with insomnia.

Treat the chronic pain itself

The first step is to talk with your doctor about treatment options for the pain. Even if the cause of your chronic pain is vague or intractable, the pain itself can be treated with medications, physical therapy, and/or relaxation and meditation techniques. Ask your doctor if the professional help of a pain specialist could be beneficial for you too.When it comes to treating the sleep problems, there are two main solutions: cognitive behavioral therapy and medications.

Sleep solution 1: Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)

We all know what it’s like when you try to fall asleep, only to get more and more anxious about not being able to. This anxiety is bad enough, but then other thoughts creep in to make sleep more elusive—worries about pain, your condition, finances, work, relationships, etc.

Eventually these thoughts can develop into self-defeating thought patterns like, “I’ll never get to sleep no matter what I do,” or “I’m doomed to have a terrible day tomorrow if I don’t fall asleep in the next half hour.”

  • See Therapies for Treating Insomnia

Cognitive behavioral therapy teaches you identify these unhealthy thought patterns so you can learn to avoid them. CBT also teaches the practice of redirecting your mind away from anxiety-inducing thoughts.

All of this is the “cognitive” part of the CBT. The “behavioral” aspect comes in the form of learning and practicing healthy behaviors that can promote sleep. These are also referred to as sleep hygiene practices.

  • See 11 Unconventional Tips for Better Sleep

Good sleep hygiene practices include the following:

  • Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day.
  • Expose yourself to light during the day and make the bedroom dark at night, which can help regulate your body’s circadian rhythm.
  • Avoid large meals, caffeine, and exercise late in the day.
  • Remove all TVs, laptops, and other devices from the bedroom; use the bed only for sleep and sex.
  • Make the bedroom cool and quiet. Consider using a white noise machine or fan to mask outside noises.
  • If you can’t sleep, get out of bed and do something calming until sleepiness returns.

    Sleep solution 2: Medications

    As anyone who’s seen the TV ads during the evening news knows, there are a range of medications designed to treat sleep problems. Common options include alprazolam (Xanax), clonazepam (Klonopin), diazepam (Valium), lorazepam (Ativan), eszopiclone (Lunesta), zaleplon (Sonata), and zolpidem (Ambien, Stilnox, Stilnoct).

    • See Medications Used to Help Treat Insomnia

    These medications can be very effective, but they’re best used for shorter periods. That’s because they can cause side effects and dependency. They all require a prescription, so work with your doctor to determine if one of these medications is right for you.

    In addition, there are a few other medication types that can promote better sleep:

    • Melatonin receptor agonists. These medications, the most common of which is Rozerem, affect the melatonin receptors in the brain and are non-habit forming.
    • Antihistamines. These allergen fighters have long been known to cause drowsiness. Newer formulations are non-drowsy, but older versions such as Benadryl can still help with sleep.
    • Anti-depressants. These can help with sleep and chronic pain when taken in a much lower dose than needed to treat depression.

    Many doctors will recommend a combination of chronic pain remedies, CBT therapies, and medications for patients with chronic conditions who experience sleep problems. Work with your doctor to find the best formula of treatment(s) for you.