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Finding a Way Forward through Chronic Pain and Chronic Illness

When I was about ten, my mom went in for an outpatient imaging appointment, to get some scans for a back injury, while I went off to a Girl Scout outing.  

She was in her late 20s at the time.  An active woman, raising two kids, co-running a growing business that supported multiple families. Involved with her extended family, and the community.   

It was a standard procedure. Should have been in and out in the same day.   Instead, she had a rare, at the time unheard of, reaction to the dye used for the imaging procedure.    

She was in the hospital for days.  Lost sight in one eye for months. Her body attacked itself. Triggered intense migraines and a host of other autoimmune issues. And she still had the back injury.   

Our long weekends as a family backpacking and camping came to an end.  Our normal changed.   But, my parents still had a family to raise, a business to run, people who relied upon them.   

My mom handled all the accounting and paperwork for their growing business – still does.  There was not an option to stop.  

So they found a way.   

Found a way to craft a workstation so she could work laying down.  And then later, a standing workstation (before standing desks were a thing), so that she could keep working even though sitting at a desk was not an option.  

My dad took on chores, helped her track patterns, and find solutions together.

She consulted with various professionals across specialties. Researched nutrition, food as medicine, alternative medicine, and natural healing.  Sought solutions that worked for her, for her own unique physiology.

My first exposures to nutrition, chiropractic, massage therapy, physical therapy, and other ways of approaching healing were from my mom’s research.   As a teen, I loved diving into the nutrition, aromatherapy, and medical books on her bookshelf.

When I went out on my own and later when I had my kids, she gifted me my own reference books, that included both western medicine approaches and natural approaches.  

When I had my first back injury when I was 19/20, my mom’s example was part of my frame of reference.  Informed my own healing process as I sought treatment, healed, and relearned to walk again.  Because I had lived through my mom’s journey, it was easier to move through my own. 

Over the years, as my own health issues – chronic pain and then later autoimmune issues – impacted my own abilities and family,  her example and knowledge helped me find solutions – to find a way forward, despite the pain, despite the chronic illness.  

Right now as I write this, in year three of a healing journey, my spine needed a break, so  I am laying on the bed in my office, with the laptop propped up on a pillow. Just as my mom did forty years ago.

This is one of three work areas I have, so depending on how and where the pain is, I can adapt to what my body needs and still work.  Following my mom’s example of finding a way to keep working.

In my kitchen, there’s a rolling office chair and a small table, so that I can still prep and prepare food even when I don’t have the ability to stand or move around the kitchen on my own volition. 

Adapt and find a way.   

My mantra. Whether it was intended or not, Adapt and Find a Way, was a major lesson I learned from my mom. Something she – and my dad – modeled throughout my life.  

I don’t know what my mom’s actual process was, just what I saw – and still see –  modeled through my own filters.  But here’s a few ways what I’ve learned – through her example, and my own experiences – to keep moving forward through chronic pain, and chronic illness – in our case, autoimmune flares.

  1. Don’t give up.  There’s a way forward

  2. Manage your energy and spoons for the day and what’s on your plate that day, knowing there are good days, and not so good days. And some activities and interactions take more energy than others. 

  3. Know what Only You can do. 

  4. Ask for help for those responsibilities that others can help with or do for you –  or with you.

  5. Do your own research. Consult and learn from others. 

  6. Listen to your body.  Lean into what works for you.  Avoid that doesn’t.  

  7. Keep adapting – finding tools, resources, and methods that help you and work for you.

  8. Look for the glimmers, the little bits of lovely, the sparkle and the positive in the journey.  

  9. Surround yourself with people and messages that support you mentally and emotionally.  

  10. Know you are not alone.  There are others who have walked and are walking a similar journey, who are willing to share and support you.  

  11. Keep building your support system – medically, physically, and personally – as your needs and life seasons shift and change. 
Disclaimer: These are the lessons from my personal journey, and should not be considered medical advice.  Each person is different.  Consult your medical professional or healthcare provider for medical advice, diagnoses, or treatment specific to your situation

If you are on your own healing journey – specifically with an autoimmune issue – I recommend reading Dr. Terry Wahl’s research and story. Reading and implementing principles from her book, The Wahl’s Protocol: A Radical New Way to Treat All Chronic Immune Conditions using Paleo Principles, has made a difference for myself and many others.

Disclosure: Some links may be affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate. I earn from qualifying purchases.

Shannon Stoltz

Shannon Stoltz is a writer, trainer, and entrepreneur. But her favorite role has been that of work-at-home mom to four fabulous, homeschooled, and now grown, kiddos. Shannon is fascinated with how humans learn, grow, and communicate, and passionate about the importance of embracing our unique gifts, talents, and individuality. She lives in the countryside outside Houston, Texas, with her family, and their menagerie of rescue animals.