Winter Is Harsh On The Garden …

Every gardener knows that Winter is harsh on the garden. When the worst of the season sets in, with thick clouds … howling winds … snow … ice … and frigid temperatures … the garden is a dreary place to be. Barren. Even lonely. Our lives are gardens, too; remember? And Winter takes its toll on them, especially if you live with Chronic Pain.

Most pain, thankfully, is temporary. In a few days, or a couple of weeks, the body is back to its old self and the injury is soon forgotten. Chronic Pain isn’t so easy. It is pain that persists for 3-6 months or longer. And it is usually the result of an underlying medical condition, or injury. Many Chronic Illnesses are associated with Chronic Pain, i.e. Cancer, Fibromyalgia, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Lupus, Back Pain, Parkinson’s, etc. If you have one, then you know all too well the effects that it has on the body. You live with it, daily. And you suffer. Often times, in silence.

Chronic Pain interferes with living. It changes even the little things. But it wrecks havoc with the more important ones. Chronic Pain prevents patients from getting much needed rest — even precious REM sleep. It changes mood and mobility. It raises stress levels, within the body. The added stress can and usually does create even more pain. I’ve been there. I know. It’s a vicious cycle. The effects of Chronic Pain can lead to Depression. Why? There is a link between our emotions and pain. If your body is in pain, you feel bad. As the pain increases, you feel worse. And when the pain is prolonged, as with Chronic Pain, you begin to feel very overwhelmed … desperate … alone.

Studies have shown that people with Chronic Widespread Pain, or CWP, are more at risk than individuals who do not struggle with pain. CWP patients are 1.7 times more likely to die from Cancer. They are 3.2 times more likely to die from Cardiovascular disease and 5.7 times more likely to die from Respiratory disease. Even when lifestyle factors were taken into consideration, i.e. smoking, those with CWP were at a 50% greater risk than individuals who do not live with long-term pain.

If you suffer with Chronic Pain, management is key to achieving some level of normalcy. How you manage your pain is between you and your doctor. What works for me, or you, may not help someone else. Pain medications, especially Opioids, should be carefully prescribed and monitored. The misuse of such medications has created a crisis all its own, in America. NSAIDs, whether by prescription or over-the-counter, are another option and should also be taken as-directed. Some patients may find relief, given the source of their pain, with a minimally invasive surgical procedure. The rest of us must stay vigilant and creative. We are in this battle, for the long-haul. If you are interested in alternative options, you might consider: Acupuncture, Massage Therapy, Aromatherapy, or Cannabidiol-infused rubs (CBD).

I have been living with Chronic Pain, for almost 18 years. I don’t profess to be an expert, but experience is a good teacher. If there are two items that I cannot imagine living without, it’s my trusty heating-pad and a well-made recliner. I actually tried living without the latter, for a time. I did pretty good, until a flare threw my body into levels of pain that I hadn’t experienced in nearly 3 years. I immediately purchased a new one. As simple as it may sound, a recliner (when reclined) provides relief to the body much like a hospital-bed. Think about it. When your pain goes from bad to worse, owning one becomes a necessity. In some cases, it provides the only sleep you can get.

Last but not least, I have personally found that treating your “level of pain” is as important as treating the pain itself. Chronic Pain isn’t always a 5-alarm fire, but it is always present. So, focus on the level of pain — not eliminating it. The term “Chronic” means that it’s not going anywhere. Accept this fact. Don’t let it drag you down, or defeat you. Rest assured, it will try. There will be good days and bad. But the best way to live with Chronic Pain is to learn how to fight back. It empowers you — emotionally and physically. Yes, it is draining. That’s the nature of living with the beast. There’s nothing easy about it. Still, you become wiser from the battle — better equipped to handle the next setback (when it comes). You learn to make fewer mistakes. You explore helpful discoveries. Your outlook, despite your condition, becomes more confident. That’s healthy. It’s encouraging. And optimism, like the warmth of Spring, brings new life!


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The Garden of Optimism: What is this place?

Did you ever find yourself wondering how life managed to lead, or drag, you down a certain path? Well, such is my case. When we find ourselves in such a predicament, we usually know how we got there. But sometimes we aren’t too eager to admit it. Still, there are times when life leads us into the middle of uncharted territory. Our reaction depends upon the circumstances, our perception of them and our willingness to take on the challenge. For me, personally, I am humbled and flabbergasted.

Throughout my entire life, I have always felt a strong sense of service — volunteering with various organizations, my church and within the community. But no one would have predicted that I’d become a blogger — including me. I’m not the most tech savvy person on Earth. I freely admit that. Still, God did provide me with a gift for words. One that I’m abundantly grateful for. And He molded me with a very tenacious spirit. So, why now? Why bother?

In all honesty, I have felt a calling. Divine, as from the Lord, but not in the pastoral sense. Persistent. Urging me. Whispering to my conscience. Telling me, of all people, that I need to reach out and do this (Matthew 5:16 NIV). I need to serve (1 Peter 4:10 NIV) others. I need to help them — to become their voice. So, here I am — a Patient Advocate.

I’m not a medical professional, though I’ve seen more than my share of them. I hold no degree in Divinity. My credentials are from personal experience. And, unfortunately, this is subject-matter that I know all too well. I have lived it, for decades.

By now, if you’re still with me, you may be wondering where all of this is going. Patience, Sweet pea. I’m a Southern gal. We sometimes ramble like ivy on an arbor, but we eventually get to the point …

Mine is that our lives are like gardens. For a moment, consider the similarities. There are beautiful, bountiful years. And there are meager harvests. All of the usual things can make growing difficult. The rocks. The lousy soil. Even the daily grind. Too much heat, or stress, is harsh on a garden. And it’s harsh on us, too. The rain, whether in drops or tears, can wash away our plants … our plans … our dreams … even our deepest desires. Then, there are the things that we least suspect. The ones that we never wanted. The ones that, we so often told ourselves, only happened to other people. And our gardens are never the same …

This blog is a place of refuge and support. It is devoted to those who are living with chronic illnesses and their loved ones. I understand what you are feeling. Your garden and mine share common ground. This is about accepting that no garden is perfect, but all have beauty and purpose. It’s about realizing the potential of your garden — finding it. This is about living, each and every day to the fullest in His light (1 John 1:5 NIV). It’s about enjoying the sun on our face and the blooms that we find. It’s about allowing our bodies and souls to dance. Yes, dance — even in the rain. Come … sit a spell (as we say down South) … browse the pages of this site (there’s more than one). Let’s talk. You aren’t alone.






* Photo by Kaeyla McGee on Unsplash



Dare to care …

This is the post excerpt.

                        Oak Allee at Brookgreen Gardens, Pawleys Island, SC


Did you know that 133M Americans live with a Chronic illness? By 2020, that number will exceed 150M. This isn’t my opinion. This is fact. They are our spouses, siblings, parents, grandparents, neighbors and co-workers. They are young and old. No race or social-class is immune. This is America’s health crisis! One that needs far more attention than it is getting. Awareness of this issue is important. Support for those afflicted is an even greater priority. We are in this journey called life, together. Dare to care!