woman sitting on the carpet doing yoga and meditating

Befriending My Body Through Yoga and Meditation


Anyone living with pain (whether physical or emotional) can tell you that the pain infiltrates your whole life. You become isolated to some degree or another from everything and everyone, including your own body. Having a strong relationship with your body is important because it is the gateway to awareness, and it is from awareness that change can begin.

“Hey, body! You wanna hang out?”

This week, I welcome you to explore the question, “ What kind of relationship do I have with my body?”

In the past, I didn’t have a very good relationship with my body. My life at the time was all about mountain biking and snowboarding, and I could not have given a rat’s behind about what my body had to say regarding my lifestyle choices. If my knees hurt, I would tape them. If my back hurt, I’d pop a few pills. Basically, anytime my body screamed, I would plug my ears and sing “La La La.”

Then, one day, my body said, with a decade load of pain: “Stop! Listen, missy! I won’t let you do anything you love until you pay attention!” And so the riding stopped, my heart slowed down and I began to listen (reluctantly still, to be fully honest). For the first time I wondered, “What does my body need? What do I need?” And that’s when yoga showed up at my front door and took me on my crazy inner-journey.

“The most profound pilgrimage I can ever make is within my own body.” – Saraha

Yoga has taught me to honor my body just as it is, in the moment. It showed me that, if I really take the time to listen and be curious, all I need to know about my body and my self is available to me. While my mind shoots out an insane amount of unrealistic advice, my body has simple and practical solutions for me to apply in my daily life. By listening to it, I stay present and open not only to what’s happening for me physically, but emotionally and spiritually as well.

“Though at times we look for outside sources to guide us, somewhere deep inside we know that we must slow down, reconnect with ourselves and listen to our own inner voice.” – Phoenix Rising Yoga Therapy

Today my body and I are like old friends. We know each other very intimately, we piss each other off periodically and we love each other regardless. Thank you old body, old friend. You’ve brought me joy and wisdom in the most unexpected ways.

What has been my most significant lesson through all these years of practice? Less is more and consistency is the key. A short, simple practice every day with the intention of getting acquainted with my body has helped me feel so much more anchored in my life. My mindfulness practice has been yoga and meditation, but for you it might be walking your dog or gardening. Whatever keeps you present in your body, the present moment and, most of all, yourself.

Here’s my favorite way to “befriend my body.” I invite you to try it out and see what happens:

Conscious bubble bathing!

Ease yourself into the full tub.

Sit and allow yourself to breathe. Nothing to do, nowhere to go…

Enjoy the bath and be present to it. (10 minutes or longer.)

I leave you with my favorite reading to take with you as you soak in the tub:

“My old friend. My dear faithful body. How you’ve stood by me my whole life! Supporting my movements and strength, providing a solid structure with which I walk the earth. You have been with me through heaven and hell, ceaselessly serving me well. My dear old friend. My body. How may I now serve you?” – Source unknown

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5 Ways to Make the World a Better Place for Someone With Sensory Issues


The world is a loud and crowded place, making it difficult for me as someone with sensory issues. No matter where I go, I find something difficult for me. In the malls, several stores would be playing two different songs at once, whilst hundreds of people would be having separate conversations. Random smells would be emanating from random sources. The numbers of people would be numerous, and I would be getting closer and closer to a panic attack.

It is extremely important to make the world a better place for those with sensory issues. The world can be frustrating, and everything seems to happen at once. Such a large number of people today struggle with this. If everyone works together, there could be a chance that the world could be a bit calmer for those struggling. That is why I believe these ways are important.

1. Choose calming music rather than loud or fast music. Music, especially when mixed with other noise, can be a trigger for those with sensory issues. However, if the music is calm, it might help calm the person down. Try not to mix music with other noise, such as playing music whilst close to another music source.

2. Use calming colors rather than bright ones. Although it is controversial, this is what I love about the “Light It Up Blue” movement. As someone with sensory issues, blue lights calm me down, whilst yellow lights trigger me. Usually, I’ve noticed that warmer and brighter colors are more triggering for me that darker and colder ones. Although colors are not a trigger for everyone with sensory issues, they can still be a trigger for many.

3. Provide comfort. Sensory toys, sensory areas and other ways are great examples of providing comfort for those with sensory issues. Personally, I use music and jelly balls to calm myself down. If a place has something comforting, it is much easier for me to calm.

4. Stop judging. If a person is shaking their hands in public, or covering their ears, try to help them instead of judging them. They are human beings who might be in a tough situation. If a child is having a public meltdown, the best thing to do is to help the child instead of complaining about them. Our world would be better in general if everyone refrains from judging others.

5. Empathize and comfort. Life is hard with sensory problems. Having a friend to help makes things much easier. I constantly need people to calm me when I’m having a panic attack, to guide me when I’m having a meltdown, and to help me communicate when I forget how to speak. I am not stating that people with sensory issues need to rely on others, but I’m simply saying that it is great for me to have others to help.

I have a dream that someday, the world would be a little bit better for those with sensory issues. Hopefully, someday I will be able to go out into a public place without having to worry. It will be easier for me to hear others, and easier for me to speak.

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Dentist's chair

5 Lessons I Learned During Dental Visits for My Bilateral Cleft Lip and Palate


It’s funny, you meet people and interact with them on a regular basis, and never imagine your relationship will end. This was especially the case with Dr. B. It never occurred to me that I would, one day, never see him every month, or every couple of weeks. He was a fixture in my life from about age 12 to 26.

The bilateral cleft lip and palate team, during the time I was a patient at the hospital, did not have a psychologist on its team. They did prior to my time of care. It did not matter for much of the time I was treated for my cleft lip and palate issues because I had Dr. B, who helped me with these self-esteem and interpersonal issues.

Dr. B. was a person who unknowingly helped me develop my social skills. He allowed me to be snarky, funny and smart. I felt like I fit right into the world in a way that was not fully realized when I went back out onto the sidewalk or back to school after our appointments.

Here are five life lessons I learned while sitting in the dentist chair:

1. Wit and Comedic Timing

Dr. B would love to bring in the dental students and show off his hard work inside my mouth. I would say funny things as they “ooo’d” and “ahhhh’d” as Dr. B explained what he had accomplished. He moved my teeth around quite a bit. I remember saying something along the lines of, “he’s pretty great, right?” or “what a guy?” to the five or more gathered students. This happened on more than one occasion. It made me laugh because I always predicted the explanation by Dr. B and the reaction by the students. And I am sure he knew what I was thinking every time.

2. Cultivate Self Esteem and Share Mutual Respect

Most people do not look forward to going to the dentist, but I did, and to some extent still do most likely due to this wonderful, caring doctor. I knew I was going to laugh, show off my quick wit, and converse on just about everything. Many of the others that worked at the clinic treated me like a peer, as if I worked there, not as a child being treated. This was a clear sign of respect. I knew I had value in that environment, so I knew I must have value in the other places, too. When you have a facial difference, the reinforcement of your value in the world is significant to good mental health.

3. Find Allies

I’m sure I talked about friend and peer situations at school with him, and I’m sure Dr. B gave advice, but nothing specific comes to mind. He was a paternal figure in my life I knew I could count on. You have to have allies when you are different. You need to know people are in your corner ready to support you.

4. Develop Resilience and Participate in Productive Teamwork

Thanks to Dr. B, I was able to experience pain with some grace and dignity. Many times we both knew it was going to hurt, but we got through it together. I would always close my eyes tight and moan, and he would encourage me to just hang in there to put a little more pressure on those teeth he wanted to move. This was a lesson in resilience. An incident with his colleague, Dr. S, who I also love dearly, illustrates another great example of resilience, and learning to lean on another in time of mental and physical strife. Dr. S. wanted to take some impressions of my teeth to make a mold for one contraption or another that would eventually land in my mouth. Unfortunately, during this series of impressions (a process that is miserable to begin with) some of the composite, or gunky material that would make the mold of my teeth, got pressed up, in between my mouth and my nasal cavity. I was born with a complete bilateral cleft lip and palate, which means that the oral and nasal cavity are not separated by tissue and bone in certain locations. Dr. S. tried, and tried, and tried to get the composite out with the high-powered suction, and an explorer for over an hour. It was extraordinarily painful for me. Finally, both of us were exhausted, pasty white, and waving the white flag of surrender. I got up and felt the need to blow my nose. The composite came out my nostrils. Dr. S and I were shocked, gobsmacked, with our jaws wide open. When my mother arrived at the door to the treatment room she could not believe how tired and white we both looked. And there were many more times with Dr. B. where resiliency and the “we-are-going-to-get-through-this-together” attitude helped us reach the finish line.

If I had enough fight in me, and was resilient for all those procedures, what could the world possibly throw at me inter-personally that I could not handle? A lot. But I got through it.

5. Sometimes Other People Have to Believe in You Before You Can Believe in Yourself

Dr. B never questioned me the way I questioned myself. Am I fun? Am I interesting? Do people even want me around? No, Dr. B did not question those things at all. I learned that I was fun, interesting, and that people do want to be around me. How did I know? He treated me as a friend, not a patient. He showed me my worth by how he chose to interact with me. His example spoke louder than words. This is one of the greatest gifts a person can give to another that by all outward appearances is different.

He was the dentist who tweaked my teeth, my self-esteem and my life. I will always be thankful for these gifts. Thank you, Dr. B.

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Why the 'It Can't Happen to Me' Mentality Is Dangerous for Our Health


Whenever someone asks me about my chronic illnesses, they are often shocked, angry, and/or concerned. Despite being deaf since birth, I was never a sick child. In fact, I went to the pediatrician the bare minimum number of times, mostly just for my childhood vaccinations. I never had a reason to be there otherwise.

In 2012, I started developing a variety of different pain syndromes, autoimmune diseases, and neurological conditions in the weeks and months following my very first dose of the Gardasil HPV vaccine. For many years, we just assumed that my body just spontaneously decided to develop all this issues and that there wasn’t an underlying cause that should be investigated.

After a near-fatal fight with encephalopathy and dysautonomia in May 2016, my doctors and I were forced to find out the underlying cause, as my life depended on it. What we discovered next caught everyone off guard. My immune system was cranking out ridiculous levels of antibodies higher than many physicians had ever seen. However, this isn’t about the illnesses specifically. It is about peoples’ reactions.

After finding out that the HPV vaccine was the trigger for all of my conditions, so many people told me “It didn’t happen to me, my daughter, my son, etc., so it can’t happen at all.” In my case, and I am only qualified to speak on my experience, it can happen and it did happen.

So many people have the “It can’t happen to me or my family” or the “It didn’t happen to me or my family, so it can’t happen” attitude. This mentality doesn’t just apply to medical conditions. It can apply to most life circumstances. If you ask me, this is the single most dangerous mindset that many people have. Just because I developed a condition, doesn’t mean you can’t develop the same condition or an even worse condition. Instead of denying and attacking others’ personal experiences, please remember to keep an open mind. You may not me affected now, but you or a loved one could be affected in the future. Additionally, it is not always easy to share ones experiences when they know they could be judged.

So simply because something hasn’t happened to you, your family, your friends, etc., doesn’t mean it can’t/hasn’t happened to someone else. That “It can’t happen to me” mentality is what often gets people in trouble and closes the door on the possibility to gain more knowledge and awareness. If you asked me where I would be in five years in 2011, before I got sick, I never would have guessed I’d be a full-time wheelchair user. Actually, I probably would have scoffed, like “Yeah right!” We are all guilty of that mentality, but we can take steps to reduce it. It all starts with an open mind!

It couldn’t happen to me either… until it did.

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Dear Me: Here’s What You Need to Read on a Bad Pain Day


Dear self,

I am going to keep this one short and sweet, because I know how you get when you are in this much pain. You get pretty irritable, and it’s OK.

So you are here, again. You are here frequently; you know how this feels. This should be second nature to you. You have been here off and on for the past 21 years. Yet, you still tend to freak out sometimes. Don’t panic.

First things first: I promise you are not going to get stuck this way. I know it’s hard to see the light at the end of this never-ending journey, but I promise the pain ends. It will be back, because your condition ebbs and flows, but this pain you feel right now will not last forever. You are stronger than the pain you feel. Just remember that it will pass.

Secondly, remember to breathe. You tend to forget to breathe when you are in this much pain, and it tends to lead to anxiety. Avoid falling into that trap and just remember that you can do this one breath at a time. Before you know it, you will begin to feel better.

Third, and possibly the most important thing you need to hear: stop being mean to the people around you. All you think about is surviving when you’re in pain, but the people around you are just trying to help. Being reactive isn’t helping anyone. If you need to be alone, just ask. It’s always better when you feel the way you do to be left alone. Taking some time to yourself until this episode is over is completely understandable and normal. There’s no need to ignore your friends. Just let them know what’s happening and they will understand.

You’ve done this before, and you can do it again. Just take control of your pain and don’t let it consume you. I promise you will make it through.

Always and sincerely,
Me

This post was originally published on The Curvy Spine.

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IV drip on background of work in hospital. Medical background

Why I'm Urging Everyone to Take Sepsis Seriously


Sepsis. This is a medical term that I knew nothing about, hadn’t even heard of, until I was diagnosed with it back in 2015. Sepsis is a toxic reaction, a poisoning of the blood, to an infection found in your body and can lead to death. In fact, one report by Statistics Canada found that one out of every 18 deaths in Canada in 2011 was due to sepsis.

Last summer, if you know me or follow me on Facebook, you would know that I ended up back in the hospital twice due to an infection in my central line – that was sepsis. The bacteria started in my Hickman line, which my nutrition travels through and goes to my heart. Then my heart pumps my nutrition throughout my entire body through my blood. I wasn’t in the hospital just because I was unwell, but because if left too long, I could have gone into septic shock and died. The mortality rate for sepsis increases 8 percent every hour that treatment is delayed, according to Sepsis Alliance. Sepsis is that serious.

I had decided to write about sepsis after one of my fellow short bowel syndrome (SBS) warriors was admitted into the hospital last week due to sepsis. Many people I know who are on TPN have had sepsis before. It’s common to those of us with central lines and unfortunately an ongoing battle that we will forever face.

I have been told since my first day leaving the hospital with my line that if I have a fever that I must come into the hospital and be checked for infection. It’s not something I’m willing to play with. It’s not worth risking my life. Thankfully, every time I have been to the hospital with a fever, they’ve taken it very seriously and at least isolate me, keeping me safe from any other infectious diseases that may be in the air.

Why did I choose to write on such a serious and some may say morbid topic? Because this is my reality. Sepsis is something that I, and many others with a Hickman line, fear. This is why I’m so paranoid about keeping my line clean. I can’t go in public swimming pools or in the lake for a swim. I have to keep my Hickman site covered at all times. I have a sterile area in my bedroom for where I connect to my TPN, and only a registered nurse, my husband or myself touches my line. I’m constantly using hand sanitizer. I have had to become afraid of germs to ensure that I stay healthy. Yet another part of my life that has severely changed since my diagnoses.

A huge part of why I do this blog is to educate, and this is what I’m doing today. I’m wanting people to know about another part of what I struggle with, with my diagnosis. Here are the symptoms of sepsis, courtesy of Sepsis Alliance:

  • Shivering, fever, or very cold
  • Extreme pain or general discomfort (“worst ever”)
  • Pale or discolored skin
  • Sleepy, difficult to rouse, confused
  • “I feel like I might die”
  • Short of breath

Educate yourselves. Sepsis isn’t just found in people who have central lines or have a chronic illness. It’s serious, let’s treat it that way.

Follow this journey on A Gut Feeling.

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