Finding Lost Positivity When You Have Chronic Pain
We are so happy to be featuring this post by Erica Nicole Carrasco, Achy Smile Blogger. She's such an inspiration! Please be sure to check out her blog.
There are days when I think back to the memories of my life before chronic pain. It seems like another person, another family, another lifetime. Before, happiness was a natural emotion within me. I didn’t have to try to stay positive or find the bright side. I exuded positivity and a smile even when I was sad or upset. I could easily let go and move forward. What happened to her?
She got sick and her pain-free days were scattering into a few days each month, like stray crumbs on a lonely plate. That’s pretty depressing right? Not right away. At first, I was full of blind optimism. I had no idea what having a chronic illness meant. I didn’t realize I would slowly lose what I had and who I was over the course of several years. Positivity was gradually being siphoned from my psyche. It happened slowly, and negativity sneaked its way in.
I remember the moment so clearly, when I realized my thoughts were immediately negative, positivity nowhere in sight. I’m sure I had been thinking this way for some time already, but I never noticed. It stopped me in my tracks and I was so sad about it. It was then that I realized I needed to do something about it. Chronic pain was eating me alive, both physically and mentally. I couldn’t afford to pay for Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and I knew I wouldn’t be able to save up for it.
Being in between health insurance coverage made life difficult. I wasn’t on any medications and doing my best to treat my pain naturally through diet and supplements alone. I spent most of my time reading articles about remaining positive with illness and how to turn my thoughts around. I learned a lot about myself during this self-discovery. I realized that positivity is still within me, buried under the rubble of painful days and disappointment from another failed medication.
Here are a few things I learned about myself:
I’m not good with “talking it out” to people I know
Trying to manage pain alone with just diet and supplements was not working for me
It wasn’t healthy for me to just read about how to change my perceptions, I had to put what I learned into action
Once I realized what I needed I began to make plans. I looked for free resources in my area and I found a few I was eligible for and signed up for free counseling sessions. It wasn’t CBT, but I was “releasing” nonetheless. During this time, I was back with health insurance and able to get a referral for CBT, finally. Unfortunately, there were no certified CBT therapists anywhere in the vicinity of my hometown. The closest therapist was 5 hours away, not a realistic distance to travel back and forth to once a week. We later moved to a new state to find better healthcare options. Thankfully, our move was successful, and I now have a neurologist who knows migraine well. I was in CBT, but my therapist is no longer with the company I was assigned to. I am now waiting on a new therapist to take his place.
With prescription coverage, I was able to start preventative medications and gain a few better days. Things were looking up. But, I realized that I needed balance. I had stopped living a healthy lifestyle and back into the Standard American Diet (SAD). The SAD diet does not mesh well with my body. In fact, my body can’t stand to eat the SAD way.
I learned after years of trial and error that in order to feel my best, even if it wasn’t ideal, I needed to treat my body both medicinally and naturally. By naturally, I mean a diet that agreed with my body and finding out what vitamins and minerals I was deficient in. For me, my body responds well to Low Carb High Fat (LCHF) diets, Magnesium, Melatonin, and electrolytes.
By learning what my body needs to run smoother I find that I’m pouring positivity into myself. Positivity doesn’t just come from thoughts, it comes from meaningful actions as well. When I follow through with the plan I have set, I feel proud of myself. I feel accomplished and dependable. When I don’t follow through on my own lifestyle plan, I feel guilty and let down. I know what my body needs and when I don’t give myself that pampering, the nutrients and medications my body needs, I know I’ll be sick more often with negativity around the corner. It’s a tricky balance, but worth the tightrope walk.
So how do I find positivity: Lots of reading about ways to turn around my negative thoughts, therapy sessions, a healthy diet, necessary vitamins and minerals, hydration, and the right medications. This isn’t a perfect recipe for positivity, but it’s one that works for me right now. I may need to tweak things once in a while, as circumstances and our bodies change so often. That’s okay, though. I’m learning to move along with life safely and calmly instead of trying to paddle backwards through rough seas. I hope you find your way towards positivity, we all have our own path.
Achy Smile is a blog written by Erica Nicole Carrasco of Midland, Texas, now living in Fayetteville, North Carolina. She helps her husband, Stephen, raise their two teens, Marissa and Noah, through a life with hemiplegic migraine and comorbid diseases. Their daughter, who also lives with migraine disease, is a full-time student learning how to thrive with Erica at her side. In late January 2018, Erica shared the stage with prominent women in the health industry and talked about her life with migraine at BlogHer Health, an annual blogger conference for women in the health industry. She is a Speak Your Migraine Spokesperson and a Partner of the American Migraine Foundation.