Finding Purpose with Chronic Pain & Link-Up

Finding PUrpose

I’ve been struggling with chronic pain for nearly 10 years. Finding purpose is key to having a fulfilled life in the midst of pain.

One of the good things about that is connecting with so many wonderful chronic pain warriors. We have such a wonderful support community online.

One of those places is the Diamonds Conference where I met Paula Short. She recognized my blog and knew she had read some of my posts in the past. Now she knew where to find me! So she jumped right over to the blog and signed up for the newsletter. I have asked her to share a bit about her life with chronic pain and how she found new purpose.

Mandy

Legacy Link up Time! Finding Purpose through trials. Click To Tweet
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curleque by Coffee at pixabay
PAula Short interview finding purpose
photo provide by Paula

1. Share the short story of your chronic pain journey. What is your diagnosis? Share some about the journey to this diagnosis.

Paula: I distinctly remember sitting on my mom’s bed crying because my legs hurt. That was at age 9. I could never go outside and play long because I had to come in and lay down because of the pain in my legs. My parents took me to the doctor and were told it was growing pains, my parents were told then that I had anxiety. Well, the pain never stopped, it stayed with me as I aged. Then in my teen years, my pain was spreading to other areas of my body. I began getting headaches at around age 4 and having chronic diarrhea since childhood. Of course, the doctors did not say it was IBS but just a nervous stomach. I still have belly pain and IBS today, even though I take medication for it.

I spent my 20’s going from doctor to doctor each area of illness required me to see different doctors. Finally, I was diagnosed with migraines, IBS, TMJ, and at the time MS. Fast forward to my 40’s. I was then diagnosed with degenerative disc disease, degenerative joints disease, and chronic pain. Finally, in 2016 MS was ruled out as a misdiagnosis, and then I got the fibromyalgia diagnosis. I also got my diagnosis of Complicated migraines while some people get auras, I get stroke symptoms. I am told it is a rare type of migraine. It was in 2016 that I had to retire, early at the age of 45.

Losing Purpose

I was devastated to have to leave my beloved Social Work. I felt like I lost my purpose. The constant pain and daily migraines (that cause me cognitive issues) had taken over. In addition to being in pain all the time. I am always in some state of migraine; my baseline pain level is 3 during the days but can rise to an 8. Balance and mobility issues, as well as, the dreaded fatigue and fog have been an issue, causing me to be labeled a fall risk.

So Much Chronic Pain

I don’t remember what it feels like to have no pain. I can’t forget to add in I see a psychiatrist for severe anxiety, depression, and panic attacks. After three years of therapy, I phased out of counseling in August of 2019.

 Grieving and then on to acceptance. I continue with medication management now. Everything seems to get worse as I age. I take a lot of medication and prednisone is my friend. 

I don't remember what it feels like to NOT have pain. #chronicillness #fibro Click To Tweet

2. Throughout this time, how was your faith walk impacted? Did you lose faith? Get Stronger?

PAULA: While I had grown up in a Christian home and followed Jesus all my life. Looking back, I see that I was a lukewarm Christian for a lot of my adult life. It was during my 30’s that my faith began to grow. It wasn’t until my 40’s that my faith began to develop into a relationship with God. I found and still do that during my worst times it leads me to draw nearer to God. It was during self-isolation and not wanting to go out of my house that I suddenly had an awakening if you will, I had to surrender not only my illnesses but my life to him. I said,

 “God, I can’t do this on my own, every time I tried, I failed. May your will be done.” 

I am a work in progress

3. Was there a specific event that became a turning point in your faith during this journey?

PAULA: No. I really can’t pinpoint a specific event that was a turning point along my way. The best way I can describe it is since it has been a long journey, I continue to be a work in progress. If anything, this journey had led me to have a relationship with Christ. Emphasis on “relationship

4. What scripture has become a comfort for you in this journey? Why?

PAULA: But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.”  2 Corinthians 12:9 (NIV).

 Although Jesus has not removed my physical condition his power is displayed in my weakness. It reminds me to trust and rely on God instead of myself, admitting my weakness affirms God’s strength. 

Another Scripture that I rest in is Isaiah 40:31, NIV. It gives me hope and reminds me that his promise of strength will help me rise above life’s distractions and difficulties. 

5. How do you find comfort on especially painful days?

PAULA: I remember that God is omnipresent, He is always with me day and night throughout my journey of this thing called life and illness. It brings me great comfort in knowing that. Also, I love listening to Christian music such as K-Love radio. It leads me to sing praises and worship him despite the pain. And thankfully, I am uplifted.

I love to read and prefer reading over TV, and I get creative by Bible faith bullet journaling. 

I also find great comfort in my friend that Jesus blessed me with to journey with me, my ESA dog’s a little beagle named Little. 

6. What are some things that your family and friends do that bring comfort in your pain?

PAULA: Well, that depends. My family and friends have not read about my chronic illness to educate themselves on how my fibromyalgia can affect my body and cognition. When I try to tell them how it affects me, sometimes, they listen and sometimes they dismiss or marginalize me.

They do, however, know how my complicated migraines affect me and are receptive towards me through those. Someone always goes with me to my neurologist appointments, so they hear what the doctor has to say. They are accommodating and compassionate when my migraines escalate.

My family and friends do not understand how #chronicpain, #fatigue, and #fibrofog affect me.   Click To Tweet

7. Are you involved in any ministries or community service to reach out to others with chronic pain? Share about this.

PAULA: First, I need to tell you how God gave me my purpose back. If you recall above, I said I felt like I lost my purpose when I had to retire early from my beloved Social Work. I had been thinking of blogging for a long time, my heart was, and is convicted, in sharing more Jesus.

I kept feeling a tugging. Like God was calling me for something. But at the time I couldn’t recognize for what. Then when I did, I resisted saying “But God I’m not a writer.” Well, he had plans for me, and here I am writing hence Simply Chasing Jesus was born in November of 2019.

created by Mandy in canva.com

My new purpose was sharing him. Then I began to feel that tug again, still to blog. This time Simply Coffee and Jesus were born in September of 2020. This is where I began to hone in and write more specifically on chronic illness among other new topics for me. I never considered my blogs my ministry, but pausing and reflecting on it, it really is my ministry to help others and share Jesus’ good news. 

8. Offer some words of encouragement to those who may be searching for purpose in their own chronic pain journey.

Dear friends, living with any chronic illness is rough. I know there are days when you are wondering how you’re going to make it through. I know there are days when you simply can’t function. I get it. Whether you are newly diagnosed with a chronic illness or have been a long-time warrior, educate yourself. 

Try your best to educate friends and family. Some may not understand nor want to understand and that’s okay too. There are many great websites out there about living with chronic pain and illnesses. It was just recently that I was able to connect with other Christian bloggers who have and write about chronic pain and illnesses. So, you see, it may have taken me a while to find fellowship and community with others who understand but I finally did.

Friend, there are others out there, we are out there for you. We support you; we care. You are not your chronic illness you are not your chronic pain. God chose you and called you by name. Keep digging deep into God’s word. All Scripture is God-breathed from beginning to end. The answers, comfort, and hope are there in Him. The Psalms are filled with every emotion and lament you may have. God breathed hope from beginning to end. Dearest friends pray to him with honest abandon.

 God’s got this!

God’s got you.  

Paula


Thank you, Paula for this encouraging interview. Though I don’t have as many diagnosis, I could relate to so much of your journey. Especially the “I can’t write”. But God has a great sense of humor doesn’t he?


It’s Your Turn

legacy link-ups
Share your own post about finding purpose. (Not neccesarily though chronic pain)

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Is Chronic Pain Stopping you from an Abundant Life

I recently met Alexandra through the Fibro Bloggers Directory. She has only recently been diagnosed with fibro; however, when you hear her story you will see that she has been suffering for quite some time.

NOTE: It’s Legacy Link-up time. Once your finish reading the interview, be sure to link-up your own uplifting post this month.

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curleque by Coffee at pixabay

1. Share the short story of your chronic pain journey. What is your diagnosis? Share some about the journey to this diagnosis.

pain warrior interview with Alexandra Henry acceptance journey

My chronic illness journey set off when my feet were swollen (individually at different years) in college. My podiatrist reassured me that lymphedema is not something to worry about. He said that I should just keep my feet elevated. He didn’t see it as a big deal, so I didn’t either. (One of my feet is still swollen…!). At that time I was going through a period of depression because of my low self-esteem.

My depression transformed into anxiety when I contracted TMJ Disorder and pain from my neck, shoulder, wrists, knees, etc. I literally thought that I was going to die because of my pain. I had vivid nightmares of my body becoming flat, shapeless, and deformed! Finally, I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia in 2019. So, that cleared up some of my questions about my nerve pain and other symptoms. But it was very hard to see me as a young woman in her 20s who has a chronic illness.

2. Throughout this time, how was your faith walk impacted? Did you lose faith? Get Stronger?

My father had recently passed away from cancer, so this made my own chronic illness harder to manage. I didn’t know what was going on with my body, my life, my mind. How was God present in all this? “Not knowing” what God was doing or if He was even with me throughout my struggles made it hard for me to trust in Him. I consider myself a very faithful woman, but to be honest with you, my physical challenges caused me to doubt His presence. Although I was doubting God, there was still a little internal nudge that pushed me to not lose hope.

3. Was there a specific event that became a turning point in your faith during this journey?

Throughout my experience of desolation from God, I turned to poetry which I eventually published in 2019. The publishing process of my book, “Songs of Freedom”, was a spiritual and emotional healing process. Writing and publishing my book helped me to face chronic trauma from my childhood memories that shed light on my negative and unreal perceptions of myself.

I sat with my thoughts and feelings and intentionally invited God to sit with me. This was a turning point for me because, for the first time, I was truly and authentically seeing God as my Father and not as an unruly dictator in my life. This unveiling process of my subconscious mind helped me to also start the healing process from my relationship with my dad who had passed away.

I, now, wholeheartedly, believe in the power of my thoughts. For me, chronic illness showed up due to unmanaged anxiety and unresolved chronic trauma in my life. All this time, I had a laser focus on physical healing when it was really my mind that needed the healing.

Although my body was still experiencing intense pain and stiffness, a little door of freedom was being opened in my mind and it was helping me to have a different relationship with my chronic pain issues.

4. What scripture has become a comfort for you in this journey? Why?

It’s hard to pick one scripture verse….but the Passion of Christ has been near and dear to my heart in my journey because of the pain and suffering Jesus actually went through for me and for you. Imagining Jesus looking into my eyes as he carries the big and heavy cross all the way to Calvary sends me shivers to my spine. And it makes me think of his love that never gets tired of me.

5. How do you find comfort on especially painful days?

On especially painful days, practicing gratitude has saved me from playing the victim of my pain. I try to be as accepting of the situation as much as possible; choosing not to fight with my pain. I want to respect my journey, my body, and even my pain, so if I need the rest, I choose to love my body by giving it the rest it needs. God wants me to take care of my body and my health conditions. I can be grateful to cooperate with Him in this little “reroute” in my day. It’s definitely not easy, and it takes prayer, practice, and consistency to create the mindset of gratitude and surrender of one’s chronic illness (or anything!).

6. What are some things that your family and friends do that bring comfort in your pain?

This is a really good question. Sometimes it’s good to distract your mind from your pain, so they are so helpful in picking out movies, praying with me, making me a nice smoothie, or just hanging out with me. Company is such a gift when you are going through pain. Especially if they understand or try to understand your chronic illness.

Company is such a gift when you are going through pain. #fibromyalgia Click To Tweet

7. Are you involved in any ministries or community service to reach out to others with chronic pain? Share about this.

I recently started a blog called The Acceptance Journey which focuses on the mental and spiritual wellbeing of people with chronic illness. From my blog, I hope to build a community in which we can share about our relationship with our chronic illnesses: is it positive or negative? Our relationship with our own chronic illness and the perception we have of our own chronic illness can positively or negatively impact the healing process. I hope that The Acceptance Journey can be a source of light and inspiration for those who feel like a victim of their illnesses.

8. Offer some words of encouragement to those who may be searching for comfort in their own chronic pain journey.

It's Your Choice Acceptance Journey

No matter how bad your chronic pain is, it can be a big wall or a big door in your life. It’s up to you to decide if you are going to let chronic pain stop you from living the life you are called to live or to walk through that door and see what good things are in store for you. It’s a daily decision.

Jesus says, “I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly” (John 10:10). Yes, Jesus calls you to live an abundant life–even with your chronic pain.

It's Your Choice ~ Is #chronicpain a wall or a door? #fibro Click To Tweet
abudant life John 10:10 Acceptance Journey
image created in Canva.com

How does that look? It’s going to look different for each person because we are all unique, but don’t resign to a life that lacks peace, joy, order, freedom, creativity, connection, and God’s loving Fatherhood.


Thank you, Alexandra, for your encouraging words! I’m looking forward to following your blog, The Acceptance Journey, and getting to know you better.

Readers might also be interested in Alexandra’s poetry.

She has already published a book of poems. I downloaded a sample from Amazon and my first impression is that she is quite a poet. Check it out on the link below.


IT’S YOUR TURN!

legacy link-ups

You are invited to the Inlinkz link party!

Click here to enter

You are invited to the Inlinkz link party!

Click here to enter

Cancer Won’t Steal My Joy

It’s Breast Cancer Awareness Month. I thought it would be a great time to interview my beautiful niece, Nihlia Griffin who has a rare form of breast cancer. Be encouraged by her journey of ten plus years.

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curleque by Coffee at pixabay

1. Share the short story of your chronic pain journey. What is your diagnosis? Share some about the journey to this diagnosis.

nihlia griffin cancer wont steal my joy
Nihlia Griffin

I was diagnosed in April of 2007 with invasive ductal carcinoma. I had a mammogram in February everything was normal.   Woke up in April with a knot on my right breast the size of a golf ball.  I have always done my breast checks. I called my doctor and from that day my life forever changed. 

2. Throughout this time, how was your faith walk impacted? Did you lose faith? Get Stronger?

I have always had a strong faith.  I learned to depend on God more than I ever have in my life.  Cancer made me see life and death in a totally different way.    My life slowed down, and I felt everyone’s life carried on as usual.   I trust God more than I ever have in my life.  

3. Was there a specific event that became a turning point in your faith during this journey?

My turning point was after I woke up from having my breast removed. I knew my outward appearance would never be the same again. Losing my hair after my first round of chemo was nothing. But feeling my chest flat and seeing all the drain tubes coming out of my body. It took my breath. 

  You must take sponge baths until all the drain tubes are removed.  I remember the day the nurse removed all the bandages I did not want to look. When I got home that afternoon I undressed and looked in the mirror nothing was there my check was sunk in and I had all these stitches.  I sat in the tub and cried my eyes out.  I felt like I was not a woman anymore it has taken me years to overcome losing my breast.

After many reconstruction surgeries, My body kept rejecting the implants. I had to make a choice in August 2018. Do I want to live and enjoy life with my family? Or is having breast so important I willing to risk my life to have implants. 

4. What scripture has become a comfort for you in this journey? Why?

Psalm 42:1 As the hart panteth after the water brooks, so panteth my soul after thee, O God. 

as a hart
Canacer can't steal my joy

I have always loved this verse.  If you watch an animal drink when they are thirsty. They try to drink the water so fast to get as much as they can.  Same with us we should absorb everything about GOD. Soak it in. Hold His Word close to your heart.  

5. How do you find comfort on especially painful days?

Comfort comes from within and the faith I have in my Lord.

I have a great support system my family is awesome just knowing I have them is comfort.

NIhlia with her daughters cancer wont steal my joy
Nihlia with her daughters

6. Are you involved in any ministries or community service to reach out to others with chronic pain? Share about this.

I talk to a lot of women when they are diagnosed. Since I’ve been there done that, I am able to connect with them and encourage them through the long process.

*Nihlia is also an advocate for a group fighting against environmental issues in her town that are causing cancer.

7. Offer some words of encouragement to those who may be searching for comfort in their own chronic pain journey.

I am a very happy person. I did my best to not allow cancer to steal my joy.  If I found myself feeling down I would get up and do something like walking outside take a deep breath.   I was out of work for a long time from 2007-2011. 

Life is not about possessions

I learned a lot during that time. Life is not about possessions or having the biggest house, fancy car, or a lot of money. I learned to be satisfied where God had me. I kept telling myself there is a reason God is allowing this in my life.  I saw how problems in life had beat me down.  

Even though I had cancer I feel like God used that time to put me back together and help me find myself again.  When I was diagnosed with Cancer, I was coming out of a very abusive relationship. We do not understand why this is happening and why me Lord.  But I have learned God is in control, not me.  God always comes through for me. He has never let me down.  I learned to trust in God more than I ever have in my life. 

Preachers often say God is always on time. I understand that even more today.   Click To Tweet

*******************

Nihlia Griffin Cancer wont steal my joy

Nihlia works as a customer service Rep at Global Partnership for Telehealth (GPT) is a nonprofit organization with a worldwide footprint that is based in Waycross, Georgia. GPT offers telehealth technology solutions and web-based platforms that bring much-needed healthcare resources to urban and rural communities with a focus on underserved areas. We work with school systems, hospitals, clinics, and health systems to connect people with health services.

Before cancer, she was a master cosmetologist. She has recently received the following certifications From Hometown Health University: Patient Access Specialist, Managed Care Professional Finance Counselor, and Certified Hospitality Specialist. She has also acquired several technical certifications and an associate degree in Bible Theology.


Finding New Creative Projects for Coping with Pain

I met Carrie through a mutual fibro group. When we chatted, she shared that she lives in Taiwan away from her family in Canada. My family lives all over the States but I can’t imagine being a continent away from my family. Continue below for Carrie’s story about her own journey of coping with pain.

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curleque by Coffee at pixabay

Hi Mandy and Michele. Thanks so much for taking the time to feature my chronic pain story. I’m a Canadian expat in Taiwan. I moved to Asia in 2003 and lived in China for three years before moving to Taiwan in 2006. I’ve had chronic pain since I was a teenager.  

1. Share the short story of your chronic pain journey. What is your diagnosis? Share some about the journey to this diagnosis.

Like most of us, I thought that the pain I was experiencing after working out or going for a run as normal. In my 20s, my pain started becoming much more noticeable and I attributed it to sports injuries such as shoulder and knee dislocations. Little did I know that those dislocations were a sign of something more sinister at play!  
 
When I brought my pain up with my docs and rehab specialists, especially for my knee injury, they said it was normal. After my recovery, I left for China to teach English. I fell in love with Asia and decided to stay, but during my time there, the pain I was experiencing in my back was getting worse by the day. Some days I’d wake up and couldn’t lift my arm or turn my head.  

Most days were miserable, but I put a smile on my face and kept enjoying life in a new country. I am a great pretender. Most people would never know I’m in pain when they look at me.  

Problems increase

In 2008, shortly before my wedding, I woke up and couldn’t put any weight on my left foot. We wondered if I’d actually be able to walk down the aisle and again, we chalked it up to sports because I was very active back then.  
 
Two months after my wedding, I woke up again in horrible pain in my legs and back. Both my knees had swelled up overnight, and of course, I thought that I had done something at the gym, so I went out for a walk and was soon calling my husband asking him to come and get me.  

In a Wheelchair

The next day, he took me to the ER, and by then, I was in a wheelchair for the first time in my life. This was the first time I remember the pain being so bad, it was intractable. Nothing helped. My knees were huge. The doctors had no idea why there was pain everywhere without a specific reason. 

They aspirated my knees and then said they suspected I had either RA or Ankylosing Spondylitis. I tested negative for RF factor, so they went with Ankylosing Spondylitis and sent me to another hospital where they had AS specialists. I received my AS diagnosis, which is a type of inflammatory and systemic spinal arthritis, in February 2009. This made sense because the pain was hitting everywhere in my body, but my spine was on fire from top to bottom.  

No One Prepared me For What Was to Come

 
Finally, I had an answer, but no one prepared me for what was coming.  
 
I was treated at the same hospital for four years successfully. In 2012, I entered remission and I thought, that’s it. Now I can go back to my life! 

But soon enough, the swelling returned and by July 2014, my health was a mess, the pain was back and it was much worse, AND my rheumy retired. I really liked him. He was the best rheumy I’ve ever had. 
 
That’s where things took a turn for the worse and I entered the system as a foreign patient in a Chinese health care system being bounced around from doctor to doctor at 37 years of age because ‘no one thought I should be that sick or in that much pain’.  

More Diagnoses

In late 2014, I received a Fibromyalgia diagnosis and an MECFS diagnosis and they started treating all three. And of course, once you have one autoimmune disease, they just keep piling on. Soon enough, I was having GI problems, eye problems, heart problems… There was no part of my body left unaffected. 
 
I lost everything – my career in music, my job, my ability to move or go to the gym, friends, family; it was utterly devastating. And on top of this, I had this never-ending intractable pain that has severely impacted my mental health with no options here for assistance in coping with what I am going through.  
 
At 45 years of age, I honestly can’t remember a day now without pain. I can’t even imagine what a day with no pain feels like anymore.

2. Throughout this time, how were you impacted emotionally?

Like most chronic pain patients, at some point, we learn that there are positives to living with pain. Those positives help to offset the negatives that we go through by living in pain.  

I’ve found that my personality has changed. I’m still friendly but much more reserved. Because of the pain, I’m scared to let anyone touch me because it hurts. I’m not the social butterfly I was before I got sick. I’ve had to learn what my limitations are and work hard at acceptance. I’m not as impatient. I’m better at waiting things out. (Because we have to wait for acute flares to end at some point.) I’m definitely more compassionate, and resilience – we all build resilience when we’re coping with issues that impact our lives so severely. 

Coping with Pain ~ Indoors

I’m mostly housebound, but I’ve found wonderful ways to keep myself occupied at home. If you had told me 20 years ago that I wouldn’t be able to leave my house much, I would’ve laughed and said impossible.  
 
Now when you enter my home, you can see that I’m a very active indoor gardener and there are art projects and books everywhere. One of the best pieces of advice I can give to patients who are newly diagnosed is to get those rainy day projects ready and keep adding to them. Having projects to work on helps immensely with coping. Also, build your support network because you will need it. Make sure to reach out to other patients. It’s other patients who have kept me updated or informed or who have sat up with me late at night when I can’t sleep because of pain. 

3. How do you find comfort on especially painful days?

On days where I am able to move, but I can’t leave my house, I enjoy indoor gardening. I also practice ikebana, the art of Japanese floral arranging, which is a really zen activity that isn’t too demanding. If it’s not too bad, like today, I’ll sit up and write. 
 
I love art and do all sorts of art projects. Art has had a huge and massively positive impact on my life. I can illustrate how I’m feeling through art, and it’s also a great coping technique to get your mind off the pain.  

On days that I’m stuck in bed, I rely on the usual: Netflix, art, reading, music, and playing with my cats. 


A comforting soak in the bath

Hot magnesium baths help a lot to ease sore achy muscles, so I try to soak three times a week. Any patient who contacts me for info, the first thing I mention is to get in the water and soak. Do it as much as you can. At first, I felt lazy and didn’t want to spend 30 minutes sitting in the bath, but eventually, it turned into something I genuinely enjoy doing and it’s excellent for my health. Hot baths also help me relax and sleep better. My home spa cocktail is:

  • 1 cup of Epsom salts,
  • ¼ cup of magnesium chloride flakes,
  • a squirt of sweet almond oil, and
  • a few drops of my favorite essential oils, like jasmine, lavender, or ylang-ylang. 

4. What are some things that your family and friends do that bring comfort in your pain?

I live abroad while my family is in Canada, and I got sick over here, so my family isn’t here to help. My mom calls a lot. I don’t know what I’d do without her. I have found I withdraw during super painful episodes, and she’s always there are the end of it so we can chat and catch up. It must be terrible having a child so sick and so far away. I feel so guilty being over here, but honestly, this is where I need to be specifically for healthcare and because my business is here.  

As for my friends here in Taiwan, they have all seen me go from a vibrant, active, contributing member of the expat community to someone who is sick all the time and very rarely leaves home. I lost a lot of friends who couldn’t cope with having a friend that never gets better, but the friends that have stayed in my life are so supportive. I am endlessly grateful to these people that try so hard to understand my life. 
 
They record silly videos for me or they’ll call from certain events so I can see what’s going on. Some of them drop by for a visit if I’m up to it. I tend to be really private at home though. I don’t usually encourage visitors unless I haven’t seen anyone for months. Sitting up with people in my home is just as exhausting as it is outside my home. I feel pressure to smile and pretend it’s not that bad because I don’t want them to feel uncomfortable. 
 
My online friends who are also sick – the support I receive from them is never-ending and that is such a blessing in my life. I’ve had pen friends all my life, but social media makes it much easier to stay in touch and share. With friends around the world, someone is always up and willing to chat if I need them. I’m also in a few support groups that I admin where we ensure that someone in the group is always online to help others in need.  

Sometimes all we need is someone to commiserate with or to hear from someone who understands exactly what you’re going through. 

5. Are you involved in any ministries or community service to reach out to others with chronic pain? Share about this.

I’ve been involved in community service since my 20s in every country I’ve lived in. I’ve recently left the Canadian Chamber of Commerce in Taiwan because I’m too sick now to attend events in person, but I participate online. I’m also part of an active community of approximately 3,000 women in Taipei that I’ve been a part of for the past five years. It’s a great group of girls! 
 
Finally,  I’m very active in health advocacy and online awareness. I’m an admin for a massive group of women with fibro and AS. I’ve done that for five years and have made strong friendships within the group. My Several Worlds has been listed as a Best Blog in Fibromyalgia with Healthline for the past three years, and I’ve been recognized as a finalist with WEGO Health in 2020 for their Lifetime Achievement Award. I’m thrilled because I pour a lot of energy (and heartbreak) into my website. 
 
I’ve been writing about this journey since 2009 at My Several Worlds. Feel free to stop by and have a read through the 800+ articles I’ve written for my readers. 
 
My goal in Taiwan is to create a safe space for people in pain where they can meet and talk about their pain. Taiwan does not offer much in the way of support for patients in pain, or the mental health issues that come with coping from daily trauma. 

6. Offer some words of encouragement to those who may be searching for comfort in their own chronic pain journey.

  1. There is always someone out there who understands and gets it.  
  2. You are never alone.
  3. Get involved with online support groups.
  4. Educate yourself and read as much as possible to better understand how you can live with and cope with your pain.
  5. Talk about your pain.

A story about chronic pain is best told from a patient’s perspective. I’m always here to listen and support as needed. 

Find creative project to Combat your pain #chronicpain #fibromyalgia Click To Tweet a Chronic Interview with Carrie Kellenberger Click To Tweet

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I look forward to meeting you and getting to know you!  

Carrie

Chronic Pain INterviews

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light and temporary

When You Don’t See the Light at the End of the Tunnel

Interviews with Chronic Pain Warriors #4

I know! It’s strange to write these words “light and momentary” when talking about chronic pain. I have been in an R.A. flair most of the past year and now facing some heart issues. I sometimes wonder just how much more I can take. Not that I want to end it all, but when I look at myself at 58 and then (judging from my family history) look forward to maybe 30 more years, it’s hard to see a light at the end of the tunnel. And I wonder,

“Is there a light at the end of the tunnel?” #chronicpain #endurance #lightandmomentarytrouble Click To Tweet

“Light and momentary” comes from the scriptures where the Apostle Paul shares that when we arrive in heaven this will all seem small and insignificant. (2 Corinthians 4:17) He shares that one of the purposes of our trials is that when we get through them we can encourage and comfort others who are experiencing the same type of pain.

So this year, I’d like to offer a series of interviews with chronic pain warriors. I would like us to all share and encourage one another so that we can “all patiently endure as we suffer.” (2 Corinthians 1:6)

 And then though “we were crushed and overwhelmed beyond our ability to endure, and we thought we would never live through it.” Even when we expect that we will die, we will stop relying on ourselves and learn to rely only on God, who raises the dead. (2 Corinthians 1:8,9)

And now Interview #4 with Terri Sutula.

light at the end of the tunnel

Terri is a certified Personal Trainer and Health Coach who also lives with fibromyalgia and IBS. She has made it her mission to walk alongside others with fibromyalgia to help them find what works for them to help them thrive. Find our interview below.

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curleque by Coffee at pixabay

Would you share the short story of your chronic pain journey? Share some about the journey to this diagnosis.

This is a little tough because I can’t remember a time that I didn’t have pain. Even as a child, I suffered debilitating headaches on a regular basis. Fast forward a few years, and I started having migraines in addition to the regular headaches.

Finally, when I was around 30, I was diagnosed with endometriosis. These things made my life difficult at times, but I retired after 20 years in the US Air Force, then went on to work as a Finance Officer of a small town, then as a Personal Trainer for about 6 years.

Where’s the Light at the End of the Tunnel?

In 2011, I started having widespread pain (as in, everything hurt, all over my body), severe abdominal pain, and lots of other strange symptoms. I could no longer work. Some lab results caused concern, but then when repeated, the labs came back normal. I just couldn’t understand how I could feel this horrible and not have something seriously wrong with me. At one point, I was spending my days in bed, just waiting for each day to be over.

Eventually, in 2012, I was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia and IBS. It was actually a relief to have a name for what was going on. Once I realized I didn’t have something that was going to kill me, I got on with learning how to live my best life in spite of my illnesses.

What a long journey. Throughout this time, how was your faith walk impacted? Did you lose faith? Get stronger?

When I was at my worst with my fibromyalgia symptoms, my relationship with the Lord was the closest it’s ever been. I had absolutely no strength of my own; I had to depend on His strength to even get through the day. The longer I live with it, the more I’ve learned to lean on Him for even the mundane things in life. He’s always there for us, through the big things and the small ones.

What scripture has become a comfort for you in this journey?

The scripture I mentioned below, Romans 8:28, has been a huge comfort for me because it reminds me that God is using this for my good in some way, but the one I cling to the most is Isaiah 41:10,

“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”

isaiah 41:10

One thing that has been especially difficult for me on this fibromyalgia journey has been the weakness I experience sometimes. There have been times that I wasn’t even sure my legs would hold me up, but I always know that when I’m weak, God is strong, and He will hold me up when I can’t hold myself up.

How do you find comfort during these ‘ light and momentary’ painful days?

I remember that God is going to use this in some way. He never wastes any experience or difficulty we have. Romans 8:28 tells us,

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.”

I firmly believe that, and that’s what helps me get through the really tough days.

What are some things that your family and friends do that bring comfort in your pain?

I’m fortunate to have family and friends who try to understand and make accommodations when my symptoms are not cooperating. My husband has really been a Godsend through all of this. He does everything he can to make my life as easy as possible.


Are you involved in any ministries or community service to reach out to others with chronic pain? Share about this?

I consider my blog to be my ministry. When I first started experiencing all these weird symptoms and right after I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia, I wanted some real, actionable tips for getting on with my life and I needed to reclaim my hope that I could still have a good life. Once I started figuring things out, I wanted to be that resource for others, Reclaiming HOPE was born.

In Conclusion, Can you offer some words of encouragement to those who may be searching for comfort in their own chronic pain journey?

Sweet friend, I know this isn’t easy. I know there are some days that you feel you can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel, but you are not alone. You have others who have been where you are and who are willing to walk alongside you as you go through this.

And know that God is always there with you. He’s promised us in His Word that he’ll never leave us or forsake us. Life may not ever go back to the way it was, but you can still thrive in spite of your circumstances. You’ve got this!

Offering a light at the end of the tunnel,

~Terri

certified Personal Trainer and Health Coach 

Thank you, Terri, for sharing your story and these encouraging words.

Readers, I encourage you to comment below or connect with Terri on social media or her blog.

Mandy Farmer

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Chronic Pain Can Be a Powerful Opportunity

This Tuesday, May 12 is Fibromyalgia Awareness day. I thought it would be appropriate to share another encouraging post of how chronic warriors hang on to their faith to get through the worst of days.

I was greatly encouraged to hear Olivia Wolfertz story about her struggle with Lyme Disease. What an incredibly strong women she is. Please read on…

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curleque by Coffee at pixabay

Share the short story of your chronic pain journey. What is your diagnosis? Share some about the journey to this diagnosis.

I was diagnosed with Lyme disease in May 2016. After several months or so of increasingly bizarre symptoms—chest pains, stiff neck, headaches, stabbing pains in arms and feet, and severe trouble walking, I was officially tested and diagnosed by a rheumatologist. I was fortunate that my diagnosis was relatively quick and that I had a positive Lyme disease test even by CDC criteria, as that is actually somewhat rare.

From there, I went on the pretty typical goose chase of finding the right Lyme-literate doctor and treatment combination. Unfortunately, even though I was treating my illness, symptoms continued to spread and expand to affect more and more of my body and mind. Throughout this four-year timeframe, I’ve seen several specialists and explored numerous treatment protocols ranging from conventional antibiotics and herbals to more unconventional methods like rife machines, essential oils, and now a nebulizer treatment. While I’ve seen tangible bouts of improvement and had seasons of “better days” in the mix, I continue to suffer daily with symptoms that largely impair and limit my life.

Throughout this time, how was your faith walk impacted? Did you lose faith? Get Stronger?

Olivia Wolfertz #chronicpaininterviews
Oliva Wolfertz

At the start of my treatment journey, I felt a strong conviction that God had given me this illness very intentionally. I felt like this was God telling me it was my time to walk through one of my first “major trials,” as I had never before had a serious health issue before. At the time I thought I would go through it, get treated, get better and move on and be able to look back at it as a story of how I joyfully clung to God during a hard time.

I subconsciously was viewing it as a test and thought that if I just stayed positive and did my best to fully trust God, he would soon enough heal me, and then I would move on with life and have this story to encourage others with. I viewed it as very transactional if I’m being honest. Needless to say, I didn’t have the slightest idea of what I was getting into.

I didn't have the slightest idea what I was getting into… #chronic pain #lymedisease #interviews Click To Tweet

Little did I know at that time how devastating and long-term this illness would be or how much it would affect every other area of my life. I would say for the first two years or so, I wasn’t terribly worried about this being the rest of my life and I was able to trust God relatively well all things considered. Of course, there were many difficult battles and symptoms and challenging times that I struggled more, but I felt very supported in the beginning and continued to believe healing was around the next corner.

It wasn’t until probably three years in that I really started to experience more sobering doubts and struggles in my faith. Not only was I still not where I thought I would be after 3 years (still unable to work or be financially independent), but I was feeling a lot of new and difficult symptoms, including serious mental health and sleep struggles, that were very challenging to live with.

Not to mention I was getting emotionally exhausted from the day-to-day struggle. With my worsening symptoms, it became a lot harder to be regularly plugged into a community where I could be spiritually supported, and the isolation made everything a lot harder.

I also wrestled with a lot of shame over the fact that my life isn’t “normal” that affected my self-image and ability to make friends and be vulnerable. Even still, God provided the right people at the right time and sent me some incredibly supportive believers whose prayers were a huge factor in keeping my faith from crushing beneath the pain.

Was there a specific event that became a turning point in your faith during this journey?

As I mentioned above, the anniversary of year three was a turning point where I really started to struggle with doubts and fears that this might actually be the rest of my life and I may never get better. When I realized I wasn’t even close to getting better or even if I was on the right track with treatments, I began to wrestle with anger and disillusionment towards God and a lot of fear that things would never change.

Accepting the Inevitable

I also began to realize that all that I lost might never come back—

  • financial independence,
  • the ability to take care of myself and work a full-time job,
  • live on my own or at least away from my parents,
  • be able to have a normal social life

-all of those things suddenly seemed like things that may never happen again. This realization was the beginning of a very dark season of depression and increasing hopelessness.

Letting Others In

What made the most difference in turning from despair to surrender and trust, though, was taking small steps to let people in my struggle more. Whether that was being honest about my doubts, struggles, or the extent to which I was feeling lonely or needing support, that act of humbling myself opened the door for more people to encourage me in ways I actually needed.

This was such a hard lesson and one that I likely will continually need to relearn, but God definitely wanted me to get to this point.

God definitely wanted me to get to this point. #lymesdisease #chronicpain Click To Tweet

Keeping a Strong Faith is Critical

Keeping a strong faith and hope is absolutely critical to fighting a chronic illness—but there are times where we can’t get there without inviting others in to help. Sometimes the struggles are too hard to emotionally or even spiritually deal with on our own and the turning point doesn’t come until others are invited in the mix and given the opportunity to pour their strength and hope into us. I continue to pray for a supportive community to walk through whatever my future has in store.

What scripture has become a comfort for you in this journey? Why?

There have been several different scriptures that I’ve turned to during different stages of this journey. Here are some:

#sripturecomfort
#chronicpain
  • 1 Peter 5:6-7
  • 1 Peter 4:19
  • 2 Corinthians 4:16-18
  • Romans 4:18-22
  • Isaiah 40:29
  • Proverbs 15:15
  • Psalm 34:19

Not surprisingly these are all verses that shine a light on suffering or trials and trusting God’s deliverance. Widening my scriptural vocabulary to include more specific truths to apply to pain and suffering has made a huge difference in my outlook during rougher patches.

Sometimes when everything seems to be falling apart, it can be all too easy and natural to feed into self-pity, anger, and overall exhaustion with our circumstances. It can feel like we are at the end of our rope and don’t know how we will get through the next hour let alone the rest of our lives if things don’t change.

I’ve found it absolutely critical at those moments to turn to a verse like one of these and allow it to penetrate my despairing thoughts.  It does make a difference, and meditating on or carrying around these verses proactively help arm me so that I am more prepared when those despairing thoughts come and can be quicker to replace them with truths from Scripture.

How do you find comfort on especially painful days?

That’s a really tough question to answer and it definitely depends on the type of bad day I’m having. Sometimes a bad day might mean a ton of pain, in which case I will usually try to rest my body laying down but can find comfort in reading a good book or doing some Bible study if my mental energy is there.

Some days a bad day might mean an extreme excess of fatigue or dizziness or headaches in which case I am not up for reading or blogging or anything but can find comfort in closing my eyes and listening to a good podcast or sermon or take a bath. I find that this will be a good way to encourage my soul and heart even when I don’t have the energy or mental ability to read my Bible or an encouraging book.

Then a bad day might be where I feel more depression or anxiety or discouragement and something that brings me comfort on those types of bad days is talking with a friend or journaling my feelings or painting or getting fresh air if I am feeling up for that physically.

Chronic Pain  #opportunity
Olivia’s Painting

Painting has become an unexpected yet powerful channel for encouragement, as the feeling of tangibly creating something beautiful to share with others is rewarding when you feel like you can’t be productive in other areas of life.

What are some things that your family and friends do that bring comfort in your pain?

The best things my friends or family can do for me during harder times are going out of their way to practically help me or take time to ask me how I am doing and listen to me. I live with my parents, so the best ways I feel comforted by them is when they respect my needs, whether that’s for space or independence or the freedom to not be okay all the time. It is also very comforting when they help out with practical things like meals and laundry or giving me rides to places on days where I can’t handle it.

I moved a few states away to go back home about a year and a half after getting sick, so a lot of my good friends are states away and it’s been hard to get involved and socialize regularly enough to make good friends here as easily. A great way that these friends have comforted me over the distance is through phone call check-ins, cards, and other gestures to show me they are thinking about me. And especially prayer!

Are you involved in any ministries or community service to reach out to others with chronic pain? Share about this.

Olivia's cards #comfortothers #chronicpain
Olivia’s cards

I’m not in any formal capacity but it’s something I really have a desire to work towards. One way that I have started to give back towards others who are suffering (in any way) is to create and write sympathy or encouragement cards for people in my church or community.

I’m involved with a Bible study where the leader is very involved with the church community and she often notifies me when there are people in the area who are going through something hard. Since I love to paint, I love the opportunity to create a card and then bring it to Bible study for the whole group to sign. It’s a great way for me to feel like I’m giving back and tangibly support others with my unique talents and passions.

Offer some words of encouragement to those who may be searching for comfort in their own chronic pain journey.

Chronic Pain - a Powerful Opportunity
Olivia’s painting

Something I would say to someone who is struggling in his or her chronic illness journey (whatever that may be) that I hope might be encouraging is that I believe suffering in this kind of way is a unique calling. I would tell that person that they are very brave for carrying a burden that is much harder than most people realize.

I would affirm that they were chosen with this particular trial for a reason that I believe comes with it a special opportunity for God to work in a very powerful way if they let Him.

suffering in this kind of way is a unique calling #chronicpain #paininterviews Click To Tweet

I would encourage someone in the thick of their suffering to find inspiring examples and role models in the faith that triumphed through immeasurable hardships. I have found inspiration in people like Charles Spurgeon, a nineteenth-century preacher who struggled with deep depression and Elisabeth Elliot, a twentieth-century missionary who went through devastating loss and hardship in her life.

1 Peter 4:19 comfort powerful opportunity

I would also recommend reading the testimonies of Christians who have suffered or are suffering immense persecution or incarceration for their faith in Christ around the world. Hearing about how other believers have walked valiantly through deep trials always gives me strong motivation and inspiration to keep fighting the fight to trust and hope in God no matter where my health may be.

Olivia Wolfertz

Thank you Olivia for your encouraging words.

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This Light and Momentary Pain

Interviews with Chronic Pain Warriors

I know! It’s strange to write these words [light and momentary] when talking about chronic pain. I have been in an R.A. flair most of the last year and have arrived at the place where I wonder just how much more I can take. Not that I want to end it all, but when I look at my young life and then look forward to my future, it’s hard to see a light at the end of the tunnel.

And I wonder, “Is this all I have to look forward too?” #lightandmomentarytrouble #interviewwithachronicpainwarrior Click To Tweet

“Light and momentary” comes from the scriptures where the Apostle Paul shares that when we arrive in heaven this will all seem small and insignificant. (2 Corinthians 4:17) He shares that one of the purposes of our trials is that when we get through them we can encourage and comfort others who are experiencing the same type of pain.

So this year, I’d like to offer a series of interviews with chronic pain warriors. I would like us to all share and encourage one another so that we can “all patiently endure as we suffer.” (2 Corinthians 1:6)

 And then though “we were crushed and overwhelmed beyond our ability to endure, and we thought we would never live through it.” Even when we expect that we will die, we will stop relying on ourselves and learn to rely only on God, who raises the dead. (2 Corinthians 1:8,9)

Here is the first interview with my dear friend, Bettie Gilbert. Bettie struggles with “light and momentary pain” due to RA, fibromyalgia, and a host of other diagnoses. Keep reading to learn about her struggles and her faith.

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curleque by Coffee at pixabay
interviews with chronic pain warriors; notes of comfort
image created at Canva.com with free images

Bettie, Thank you for sharing your story. You are always such an encouragement to me so I know this is going to encourage many others.

Share the short story of your chronic pain journey. Share some about the journey to this diagnosis.


In the late summer of 2014, I noticed that my fingers and thumb had some strange swelling and aching, but did not think anything about it until later that fall. I had been helping my neighbor garden and I woke up with my right hand locked up in a fiery pain that was unlike anything I had ever experienced. This happened three more times before my yearly physical in December of that year. My G.P. sent through the blood-work for Rheumatoid testing, and sure enough, 3 of the 4 markers came back positive for Rheumatoid Arthritis. They rushed me to the Rheumatologist the very next week, and I began this journey of chronic pain.
A year later I was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia and Osteoporosis. Then 3 years later I was also diagnosed with Sjogren’s Syndrome and Occipital Neuralgia.

Throughout this time, how was your faith walk impacted? Did you lose faith? Get stronger?

I ran to God with my questions and my doubts. I didn’t have anywhere else to turn, because the doctors gave me very little information about what was happening with my body. But I am actually thankful for that because the Lord has become even more intimate and close to me than He was before my diagnosis.

Was there a specific event that became a turning point in your faith during this journey?


Early in my diagnosis, I found myself apologizing to everyone that I had gotten sick. It became such a constant response in me that one day I realized I had begun speaking that to the Lord also: “Jesus, I am so sorry I got sick. I am sorry I need Your help again. Forgive me for being so weak.” About a year into my diagnosis, I began to hear Him calling me, “Come to me, come inside (The Kingdom of God is within you.) I am already here, and I am not offended by your pain.” That whisper from the Lord began such a process of surrender and fellowship with the Lord that is continuing to grow to this day.

What scripture has become a comfort for you in this journey?

notes of comfort; chronic pain warriors
image created at Canva.com free images


But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 2 Cor. 12:9

How do you find comfort during these ‘ light and momentary’ painful days?


Listening to Christian music with a heating pad wrapped around my wrist and arm has become a calming time for me. Reading books is so helpful, and I am blessed to check out the resources of hope offered at the Chronic Joy Ministry Website too.
Sometimes I watch silly You-tube videos when my mind is so foggy that I can’t keep track of anything. And on other days, when my pain level allows, writing and journaling help me to process what is happening inside of me. I try to begin every day by moving very slowly and taking the time to read Scriptures. Even if I can only read one verse, just to know that His Word is still my solid ground brings me such help.

What are some things that your family and friends do that bring comfort in your pain?


Calling to check on me, and offering to pray with and for me is a huge blessing for me. Receiving and sending note-cards in the mail has brought amazing blessings from God for me. When someone brings me a pot of soup, it feels like a gigantic gift! And my husband fills in so many things for me that I cannot do any longer. I am so grateful for each gift offered to me.

Are you participating in any ministries that encourage other chronic pain warriors?

Over the last year, I have joined with the team at Chronic Joy Ministry as their Volunteer Prayer Coordinator. I am so blessed to be able to pray for requests as they are shared at the Prayer Pond.  I enjoy sending out #PenToPaper notes and emails in response to those prayer requests. I also write posts on Scriptures and Prayer there.

Offer some words of encouragement to those who may be searching for comfort in their own chronic pain journey.


Our Lord has told us that He would never leave us or forsake us. So I would encourage you to put that Scripture to the test. Cry out to Him, ask Him for His mercy on your darkest day. And when you pause to listen, He will meet you right there to bring encouragement. Keep your eyes open to watch for moments of His beauty. What seemed small in the past, during your busy days, will shine so much brighter now, bringing God’s grace to you.

Bettie, thank you so much for this encouragement. It will help many of us as we face these ‘ light and momentary ‘ struggles. A wonderful reminder that one day, we are promised ‘no more pain’ (Revelation 21:4)

Readers, I encourage you to join Bettie at Chronic Joy. Click here for her latest Prayer Prompt. You can also respond to Bettie here on the blog by commenting below.

Mandy Farmer

Are you a Chronic Pain Warrior?

Would you be willing to share your faith story and encourage others? Contact Mandy for more details about an interview for this blog. See Guidelines Here

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