Begining to Retrain your Thoughts from Negative to Positive; Adding to this, Daily Journaling to Track Your Chronic….

via Begining to Retrain your Thoughts from Negative to Positive

If you follow my blog on chronic pain, now also featuring a subtext of chronic anxieties, I hope you’ve used the technique above with some success. I suggest techniques that have assisted me, or other peers, that have a good track record for us chronics.  Using the above technique is not something I did, or do, for only a month; I have found that committing to tools that work for me means repeating the technique throughout the year(s). Once I’m comfortable with one, it’s time to add another. The next step in this writting process is journaling.

First step, get a journal. I have used large address books that come with tabs and mini binders filled with paper I found at thrift stores (once I knew I was consistent in using this review of my self with pain, anxiety, and triggers of these, I bought a cute, handmade journal). Your selection should be one with sections, I use five, you may only need three or perhaps you will want nine; it’s your journal for your unique needs. Next, buy a set of five different colored pens or pencils. I have a set of pencils from “The Dollar Store”, I also wanted to invest in myself to create further investment in my daily writing, so I went to a office supply store and picked out colors I related to for each of my  sections (I’ll write more about this in-depth below). You will now use this one journal for the circles of negative and positive thought, emotion, behavioral outcome, so remember to set aside the front section for this practice. Your also going to commit to tracking both your personal triggers and your good moments, hours, or days.

I created my second section to begin a conversation with myself about what Wellness feels like for me. In this same section, I write about how I can try to stay Well, what support items, people, medications, alternative resources, quiet time, might help me get back to being alright again. Included in this are are my “Action Stepstones”; this comes from the first exercise I started with, circles of patterns that assist me in awareness of positive and negative behaviors. Last, before embarking on my new daily journal toolkit, I have a third section that’s used to create my “Paths” to both my positive and my ability to practice acceptance.

You may be starting to feel overwhelmed, this is a good time to practice nice, deep, breathing. Remember that you work at your pace. This is your place. Start with a sentence or two and reward yourself for being courageous. Each section is a process. I made plans that didn’t work. I wrote out “Wellness Action Stepstones” before I knew that some of the stones were too negative. That’s what’s great about tracking with journaling, your observations, plans, positives and negatives, can change! Mine change often as new situations arise, new symptoms, less symptoms, different seasons of the year, my journal writing reflects my constant understandings over the years. The key to success is your commitment.

It’s important that you write daily for one month. Create a third section where you write one sentence in the morning and one at night. These reflect how you are coping/feeling. The morning is an observation of how you feel as your day begins. The nights sentence examines how you felt throughout your day. Using a different colored pen, write a brief note about your pain(s), anxiety, (your struggle), was it positive, good, bad, negative, was there a trigger, did you use a “Stepstone”?  Picking another color, rate how it felt; it was a good day and you used a tool from your kit, 2. It was a hard day, you weren’t able to take care of your chores, 8.  Circle these scores and a corresponding words that allows you to go back and scan the entry at any time. Example; “I was triggered by an unexpected loud noise at the store, my anxiety took over and I went home to bed”, 8 – circle “unexpected loud noise”, and “anxiety”.

After you have worked with this system, if you want to try it that is, you can get more in-depth or less. It depends on the person. I got more detailed as I used this tool. I also found that as I have mTBI, my journal needed to be one I could take with me. I created a section on cognition and a separate section for notes. There is one more writing/witnessing exercise I use, but it’s too early to introduce. This is a lot to begin with. Remember that no one else is looking at your toolkit. Tweak it for you. Do commit. It’s not a miracle and you get out only what you put in.

I am going to be running an online course in this, and more, with time put aside for us to support one another. Once I have it up, I’ll put a link in my blog.

Lucinda Tart, Advocate/Educate, Chronic Survivor


Accepting my Limits, Creating New Strengths

It is very difficult to accept limits on living your life. I have gone through this process before; during the first three years of my diagnosis of fibromyalgia. These last few years I have had a much harder time. Maybe it is because I am older now. Maybe it is because there are more than limits now. Or maybe I am just not willing to let go of my dream that I spent ten years creating. At the end of the day, none of this matters, I have to accept my new limits and create new strengths.

Just like the first three years of living with this chronic pain, my loved ones are tired of me being limited. They are tired of hearing about it. Tired of watching it and tired of helping me. I can not say I blame them as I am tired of it all as well. The disconnect that worries me the most is that they want me to fix it “now” and I am not capable of spinning a magic spell that will get there tomorrow. I am able to begin to plan steps to follow that will get me there, and, it is time to start.

Sure, they could go on and assist me indefinitely and I could continue to feel guilty and disempowered. But my mental health is on the line now. I need to affirm my new strengths. To start this process I need to know what they are. Just thinking about starting over again in this planning, journaling, and finding the new me is overwhelming. This makes taking even the first step daunting.

As daunting as it may be, I am beginning to take that step. I have begun to reorganize my home life in order to function within better. That is the first and most important step we all can take. Once we are able to feel empowered to handle at least some of our lives in our world, we can begin to find more hidden strengths.

I am beginning to realize that spending those ten years following my passion for social work, to assist persons in physical and mental distress, was not entirely a waste. I may not be able to do all that I learned, heck, I may be only capable of doing a small amount of it, but, I can still do it! I have started here, on this blog. I am beginning to branch out from this blog to more on social media. I have recently thought of what I might be able to create or offer to agencies out in the brick and mortar world.

None of this will occur tomorrow. It might take me a year, it might only be six months. I have put these ideas down in the section of my journal entitled, “Important Thoughts”. I use this journal daily. I will continue to take the time to work on my new strengths and stop focusing on my limits every day. We can all do this, I know we can..

Rain and Cold; How to Stay Positive


It’s been pouring for five days straight. And, the cold, yuck. Lets just put it out there; my body hates it. My mind goes on “dull”. Any plans I had go right under the covers. I know if I go out, I will pay a price in my pain levels; it’s bad enough inside. My plans inside? They fly under the bed and tend to stay there. Then, I get that depressed feeling.

Today is the fifth day. Today, I am so bored that I have found several small things to take care inside the house. I am going outside to get groceries and dog food. I also need to walk my dog. It’s raining. It’s cold. But there is a limit to how much of this chronic pain, the weather controlling my increased pain, and the sadness of sitting and staring at Netflix or reading a book, that I can handle. My shoulder muscles are “out”; similar to frozen shoulder. My head aches. My neck aches, heck even my bad knee is killing me. All in all, going out is a known negative. But, I am doing it anyway.

I have help, so that is a bonus in grabbing items and having my helper drive. I also know that tomorrow that I have a very important medical appointment. There are times when the dice rolls and I just have to suck it up. This is one of those days. It is also one of those days when I know that just by “doing something, anything”, I will feel more positive than sitting and staring.  I can’t always push myself. But, I sure remember to try.

(By the way, I recommend the internet site, Happify. I also recommend the book above in the diagram)

Creating the “Me Space”, It’s Not as “Easy as Pie”. More Wellness

Source: Creating the “Me Space”, It’s Not as “Easy as Pie”. More Wellness

When Everything is Overwhelming You

Overwhelmed but Appreciate Yourself

Remember to Appreciate Yourself

Today, I am overwhelmed. I am in a medium flare and have been feeling exhausted for a week. I slept too much last night; which sounds almost hilarious for us survivors with chronic pain! It is not funny at all as it causes me to get incredible neck pain. This often builds into a full flare. And, today, I have to get a few things done, period. Sigh.

I have learned that sometimes my life is just this way. I don’t want to get started. I hurt. I feel like I should just forget about it and don’t bother with anything. Then I remember why I would be worse if I did that. And, I get going. I take no rest time as I usually do each morning. If I did, I would give up. I want the benefits of the outcome of my actions, so, I must do it. I am sure that my Peers can relate to this.

I make my tea, I look at my list of preplanned chores and pick the most important ones. I get dressed and start doing them. I push my pain to the back of mind. I have to keep doing this every half hour, it is a power struggle between me and Fibromyalgia; one that I will win. I remind myself that once the chores I have to do are completed, I can lay down and space out. It is the first step in my rewards for conquering pain.

I am getting ready to go to my spiritual healing retreat. I will not be free of the pain by tomorrow when I leave, but, I will be happy to be there. If I missed out on this I would be very angry with myself. I discuss those little moments of joy and how I pay for them later, many times throughout this blog; this is one of those times. I can, I can, the hum of the little train going uphill. And, I make it. I am on top of the hill. Now, I just have to come down.

In this case, coming down will be happy and then painful. But, isn’t life like this for everyone? Two more hours, then anthor hour  at home and the couch is my refugee. Tomorrow, I will sit and meditate. I will hug my friends. I will be at peace in body and soul. It is worth the long haul up that mountain.

I rarely get to have those little moments, or few hours of joy and I will not allow Fibromyalgia to take this away. I remember the many years, when I was first diagnosed and these last two years, when I could not share in many happy times. I could not see my friends. I could not sit and mediate;  the pain was too  intense. I choose mind over body today. My body will always wish for me to stop enjoying life, but my mind can make other choices.

Choose your mind today. Go for it. Love and live.

Lucinda Tart, Fibromyalgia Peer Advocate/Life Skills Coach

Invisable Illness, Fibromyalgia, CFS, and Keeping a Journal; Step One

Hi Peers!

I am going to outline my suggested first step in keeping a hand written journal to help identify your triggers (what increases or decreases your pain levels), your emotions throughout each day, what you did that day, how family members assisted you, how family or friends created a negative reaction in you or a positive reaction, your sleep, your pain levels throughout the day, your cycle of emotions when first diagnosed (and after if you are still cycling through the stages of grief) and more. In my everyday Google search, I came across this free app to track pain and more on another Fibro and Migraine suffers blog! I must say that in all the blogs I have read, this woman is really great; I would advise following her work as it is similar to mine, just more detailed. Some may like that, some may not.

I am currently creating an easy to follow plan for invisible illness syndrome survivors to use. A lot of this blog will be recreated and put together into this plan with additional features. One item I keep returning to in my posts is how important it is to keep a journal. It is extremely vital in the early months/years, but can be useful for the rest of our days. I have touched on this briefly in the context of work and activities of daily living (household chores, shopping) but would like to start showing you a more concrete way to begin.

Step 1: Buy a journal. It can be a used school journal, a dollar store or drug store item, an office store school notebook, or a daily reminder book that you change the names of the sections to address each item as needed. It would be helpful if there was a way to keep print outs in it inside a sleeve on the side, but don’t get a large bulky item as we don’t tend to do well with large, heavy items, or too much information overload.

Step 2: Start your journal simply. Pick a time when you have completed your morning chores and have ten minutes to write. Create a Section devoted to “Mornings”.  Add subsections later, first just write freely; don’t get bogged down by trying to be perfect. This is for you, no one else is reading it so perfection is not needed.  After you have written general feelings down, start here: a) Think back to your sleep the night before and write down on a scale of 1-10 how well you slept and how many hours in a row. b) How did you feel when you woke up? c) What did you do for your morning chores? Write down each one and rate your pain during and after. d) Rate your pain now.  Always use the simple scale of 1-10 when rating anything.

That is all. Do not continue to do more in your journal for at least two weeks. If you want to add notes in your “morning” section, that is fine but again, do not get expansive. Then the whole process may backfire and actually cause you to start feeling more pain from using your hands to hold the pencil; yes, seriously. One note you may wish to write, and it is important later on, is what medication, if any, you needed to take. Or what helped you to decrease your pain that morning and what increased it.

More later

Lucinda Tart, Fibromyalgia Peer Advocate/Life Skills Advisor

Yes, People with Chronic Pain/Fibromyalgia do Work

new good spirits
new good spirits

working and firbo assistinng huricane katrina survivorsWorking while surviving and planning to live Well with Fibromyalgia is not uncommon. I have worked, volunteered during Hurricane Katrina, spent 8 years in college and then two years in graduate school. During those last two years, I interned 24 hours a week; with a full schedule at the university. I was in pain and many days it was a struggle. Once every other month I had to call in and tell them I was unable to come in as my pain level had increased. Usually, I was able to cover most of the work from home, otherwise I completed  the next day. It was an interesting experience to work with my fibromyalgia syndrome; in many ways.

I never had a supervisor or coworker come right out and tell me that I was incapable of performing my job duties. I am actually a very competent worker, or was then. Most coworkers were considerate about my pain syndrome, but, there were always the few who I just knew looked at me sideways. I choose to ignore them as simply being ignorant of my situation. Better than that was doing this;  if the opportunity came up, I would spend a few minutes in conversation with the person, discussing what it felt like to be in my body. I let go of their internal reactions. Afterall, this was not my personal issue and didn’t serve any positive purpose for me.

I am not currently working but I would prefer it. I found out that I did better when I was out among people. When I moved my body and mind from task to task. I definitely paid for it some days! I have often pondered why working and studying so hard helped me with my pain levels. I have come to the conclusion that my serotonin and endorphin levels had a greater output. Why? Because, I was happy, I was exercising, I was using my brain to focus on others and other things. I was not giving it the time to focus on my pain.

This has taught me a lesson that I keep close to my heart; keep as busy as I can. My busy today doesn’t come close to the busy then, but it still accomplishes some of that distraction that I used to experience. I know we all get angry at our doctors and family who tell us to stay busy. I did and do, don’t get me wrong. However, it turns out they are correct, at least for me. On the days when I flare beyond my endurance to get up and move my focus is all on my pain. There is no joy, no tasks, no focus on something besides me which stops those all important  neurotransmitters from firing as well.

I am not writing this to chastise those of us who can no longer work. I am remembering that it can be better than just staying home. Work is a subjective idea. I try to work on my blog and other plans every day at home. I stay busy with odd, small and quick jobs in the house. I pick one larger chore each week and focus on it for an hour. Keeping an organized, and same plan in place for what needs to be done each day also allows me to look forward and know where, and if, I can do outside of the home activities or maybe just spending time drawing for a half hour.

I have spent today engaged in a few small tasks, like this blog, responding to Peers on forums and blogs, submitting a page for publication (it was already complete) and know I am going to work on a my once a week large project. I am going to go do this, despite feeling like a large flare is coming on; perhaps if I get going with it, my pain levels will decrease. Perhaps not. But, for me, it is worth trying.

If you missed my organization tips for a binder or a daily reminder book, or just handling your chores, use the search box. Wishing you all the best in whatever efforts you can handle today.

Lucinda Tart, Fibromyalgia Peer Advocate/Life Skills Coach