Mental Health Awareness Month AKA My Life: Why I Am Thankful For Every Night I Spend With My Husband

I suffer from an extreme form of fibromyalgia, which gives me constant pain and even worse pain flares, and post-traumatic stress disorder, which can turn ordinary life experiences into nightmares. Because of this living my life is a bit like Russian roulette: you play your cards but there’s always a price, no matter how they’re dealt. You’re never sure when you’ll get shot, either.

My husband and I have an extra bedroom, and during pain flares I often find myself retreating there to avoid skin-on-skin contact. Even worse is when my PTSD is acting up, or when my pain and PTSD are going bananas at the same time. The spare room is my hidey-hole. It’s right next to my office, and it makes a sort of blanket fort.

After beginning EMDR, my marriage with my husband has significantly improved. The best thing about EMDR for me is the use of imagination to cope with daily life. That’s me in a nutshell. If I feel scared by a loud noise, I can escape to my private worlds and receive comfort instantaneously.

I’ve been in a pain flare for a month, and have spent most of my time in my figurative blanket fort. One time the pain got so bad I started crying. I wanted a friend. Anyone who could acknowledge what I was going through.

I plodded through the house in tears, calling my husband’s name. I knew he was my friend. He was and is my best friend. It was midnight, and I was afraid he would come out of our bedroom in a huffy attitude. But I was met with buttery, gentle sympathy. He caught me in a warm, tender embrace as I cried, and I knew I wasn’t alone in this battle.

“Do you want to spend the night in bed with me tonight?”

I didn’t hesitate.

“Yes. Yes, yes, yes.”

We went off to bed and I slept hard, for the first time in a month. I woke up in time for breakfast with him. My pain flare wasn’t gone, but it had abated a little. But I was happy to see his face next to me in the morning.

Marriage gives you a guardian angel to watch over you, someone to fight with you and for you, and you likewise, when it’s a good one. I just needed to remember to reach out. My husband had been shelved by my physical and mental turmoil, and I merely had to remember he was my friend to find peace and solace.

Spending the night with my husband is not something that happens every night, and I don’t think that’s a doomsday marker for my marriage. It’s not because we fight. It’s not because we don’t love each other. We are learning how to cope with my physical and mental ailments together, and we will spend the night together every night as I improve and we both learn to communicate. I have hope and gratitude for us. This is why I am thankful for every night I spend with my husband.

3 Mental and Spiritual Ways to Cope With a Pain Flare

When you’re stuck in a pain flare, it’s hard to envision the light at the end of the tunnel. Here are some small (albeit unorthodox) ways you can keep your head above the pain for perhaps a little while.

I’m keeping this list short due to the nature of pain flares. Some of you might be frustrated with all the multitudes of things you think you have to try to get out of a pain flare. I will tell you that some of these might help for only some of you, but these are generally good practices. There are no magic wands to make pain flares go away, but there are ways to make us feel more comfortable.

Why I’m Using Spiritual and Psychological Techniques

Generally, pain flares affect your mood, and your mood affects your pain flare. It’s like a dog chasing its tail that catches it and devours itself. Without cultivating positivity, escaping your pain flare is postponed.

Using Your Mind and Spirit to Escape a Pain Flare

  1. Write down (or tell Siri) 3 things your grateful for.

Each day you’re in a pain flare, take out your journal, your phone’s notepad app, a video or voice recording app, or if you can’t move, tell Alexa, Siri, or Google Assistant 3 things you’re grateful for. Pain flares are tiring, and 3 is all you need right now. No need for pages of gratitude to cultivate it.

2. Read your favorite book with a character you relate to the most. Let yourself cry.

If you relate the most to Jane Eyre and her suffering, read it. Relate to how tragic her life is. Throw a pity party and sob. You need the emotional release, but above all else, you need to relate to someone on an intimate, internal, mental level. Your friends may not understand, but you can make a fictional character understand.

3. Connect to a higher power.

This can be your version of God, the Buddha, Jesus, or the Universe. Connect with the energy around you with meditation, prayer, bed yoga (you can find videos on YouTube), coloring mandalas on your phone, or reading holy texts. Knowing there is something bigger than you gives you the peace that you are taken care of and that the pain flare will go away.

This is a little list, and I wanted to keep it small – pain flares can be overwhelming, and someone on the internet screaming at you to do 12 things might make you upset because you can’t get out of bed. You’re most likely phone surfing from your bed. But pain is cyclical, and this too will pass. Hugs to you.

2am Pain Flare Prayer Time Reflections

Crown of thorns with text “Exploring faith and pain”

Very often I wake up at 2am in intense pain. The pain continues until sunrise; I’m unable to fall back asleep. I do many things while the pain has set on. Mainly I read, write, and design. My largest comfort by far is prayer and some light Bible reading.

I wrote a piece for the Mighty entitled How My Faith Gives Me Comfort and Companionship With Chronic Illness about this phenomenon, how I read through the Gospels aloud and cry, knowing the Savior himself also had chronic pain for his last time on Earth. We serve a God who was disabled in the flesh for a time as a human being, yet was still perfect. I can’t think of a greater comfort.

Tonight I started out by thanking God for the gift of his son Jesus, for giving me someone I could always relate to. Someone who could show me I did not have to strive to be accepted, to be loved, to love myself back, even in the midst of all this pain I was in in the middle of a world that did not understand me.

Perhaps this is something of what it means in John 1 where it is written: “The Light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.”

Possibly very obviously so, as no one understood Jesus and he understood what was in a person, so he understands us when no one understands us.

As I contemplate these things after my prayer of thanksgiving for the Christ and the intricacies of my husband, I felt the pain lift a little after a while. Miraculous healing or redirecting of the mind? Probably both. God gives us peace and hope when we focus on Him.

Peace be with you,

M. O’Shea

How to Feel Gorgeous on a Bad Pain Day

Bring the spa to you on a bad pain day when you have chronic illness!
Disclosure: Bear in mind that some of the links in this post are affiliate links and if you go through them to make a purchase I will earn a commission. Keep in mind that I link these companies and their products because of their quality and not because of the commission I receive from your purchases. The decision is yours, and whether or not you decide to buy something is completely up to you.

I’m a big believer that you should feel fabulous all the time, even if you don’t think you look it or feel it. As someone with a chronic illness, particularly a stigmatized chronic illness like fibromyalgia, this can be hard. A large obstacle to me feeling like I’m gorgeous or believing I’m fabulous is when my pain levels are high. Nothing can make me hate myself more when my body leads me to believe it hates me – even though from a logical standpoint, I know it doesn’t.

Removing myself from my chronic pain is impossible on bad pain days, nor should I do so completely. But there is a way to be friends with yourself and your body to feel gorgeous on a bad pain day with chronic illness.

Listen to a lighthearted audiobook

I especially enjoy Rainbow Rowell’s audiobooks, and right now a favorite is Eleanor & Park. A good, girly audiobook to transform me into the Chronic Illness Warrior Princess of my dreams is just what I need to feel gorgeous on a bad pain day.

Bestsellers to help you build your reading list.

Soft, fabulous blankets

Help your body feel gorgeous with luxury fabrics in – and this is important – your favorite colors! Looking at your favorite colors will remind your mind of pleasant things, and the wholesome, needed comfort of the blankets will bring your body back to a sateen Earth, where you are queen of your own world. A mind-body tactile connection is perfect for conquering all kinds of chronic illnesses and the pain that comes with them.

Stick-on nails

I’m the kind of girl who has to have her nails done, but was a budget bride and is a thrifty wife short on cash. Any day of the week can be manicure day with imPRESS Stick-On Nails available on Amazon or at your local drug store. Even on my worst chronic pain days, with swollen hands, I can maneuver these easy to use press-on nails for a glamorous from the spa manicure. (They’re better than the spa manicures I’ve gotten, honestly.) If one falls off, simply pick it up and gently press back on.

Scented Lotion

Lotion is one of the many ways I cope with chronic pain and anxiety. I’m a big believer in aromatherapy, which will be outlined further below. My holy grail lotion is Dream Cream from Lush. It’s lightly scented with rose water and is a cult favorite for those with eczema and psoriasis. The lotion is extremely decadent and creamy, making you feel as if you deserve this luscious treatment. You do, my fellow Chronic Illness Warrior Queen! This is an excellent, simple way to feel gorgeous on a bad pain day.

Bring the spa home with these skin care products.

Candles

Bring the outside in or travel to exotic destinations with your candle scents of choice, or if you are sensitive to smells, simply watch a flickering flame. When my chronic illness keeps me from traveling I love to imagine a high desert sky with a tuberose scent or trekking across Morocco with sandalwood. Please note that like unscented candles, there are also unscented lotions to help you feel safe from migraines and luxurious.

Create Your Own Story

If you absolutely can’t move or get out of bed because of a flare from your chronic illness, record a video of yourself telling a story about your day from your imagination. Perhaps you are an enchanted knight, a princess in disguise, or a fairy queen out for revenge. Or maybe you’re just out for morning coffee. Make it as simple or grandiose as you want. Maybe just vent! Be your own best friend. It can be lonely trapped inside because of fibromyalgia, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, or any other chronic illness imaginable.

Remember, it’s just one day.

No matter how long you’ve been in a chronic pain flare, don’t let your mind extend the pain into tomorrow. We only ever have now. Feel what you feel now, and honor yourself by saying, “I’m in pain, and I can handle this,” or if you can’t believe that, try “I’m in pain, and I am not alone.”

My Chronic Illness Warrior Queens, we are never alone when we have bad pain days. We find fabulousness in ourselves and in each other.

Remember you’re gorgeous,

M. O’Shea

Fighting the She-Wolf: Fibromyalgia Painger Coping Techniques From a Weird Hippie

I had a great day today, filled with productivity, intimacy with my fiancé Bear, a side quest to find cake balls, and the two of us pretty much telling my parents I was moving in. They took it as well as you could expect a preacher and his wife could.

Bear and I celebrated all night long until it was bedtime. I was sure that my alter ego, the She-Wolf, would not appear as I had such a wonderful day. I was wrong.

What is the She-Wolf?

The She-Wolf is an irrational, bitter, negative version of myself that exists around sunset til 12pm the following day. Symptoms of lycanthropy include extreme anxiety, nervous chittering, catastrophizing, only seeing negative outcomes, thinking someone said horrible things, general paranoia and moodiness.

My mother coined the term lycanthropy two days before Bear and I initiated operation secret move out and called me a She-Wolf. As a Technical Writing major I wrote an actual step by step procedure on how Bear could deal with me as a She-Wolf. Becoming a She-Wolf with the onset of fibromyalgia pain worsening in the evening and realizing this made me and Bear realize I needed to book it out of the ‘rents place.

The She-Wolf Does Not Rest

As previously mentioned today was great, and I was not symptomatic at 5:30 as usual. She-Wolf didn’t come barging in until 10:30 and Bear and I were trying to sleep.

In Bear and I’s house we each have separate office spaces. Mine contained a new order of books, one of which was Heal Your Body by Louise Hay. I previously read You Can Heal Your Life by her and thought it was fascinating, a new viewpoint I had never heard before.

Hay’s book contains a diagnostic list of diseases and affirmations to be recited in a mirror. I went through and said anything that applied in the mirror by my desk and I felt She-Wolf backing off. This took about 30 minutes.

Next I brewed some chamomile tea and tried to softly sing a song in our kitchen. I drank it and went through the affirmations again after becoming thoroughly depressed while reading Being Well When We’re Ill by the theologian Marva Dawn. I’m sure I’ll sink my teeth into it later but when the She-Wolf is rising I need something fluffier. I think I need an All the Shit I Am Reading post soon.

Finally, I used my green aventurine stone and did a two minute meditation after playing with my crystals.

I felt safe enough to go back into the bedroom, but the She-Wolf came back after my rib cage cried out upon lying down.

I am back in my office and have just recited the same affirmations from Hay. This seems to be a rinse, lather, repeat thing. At least it keeps my She-Wolf away. But my lack of sleep is here. However, I felt a storm blow in so that may amount to something too.

Green Light Therapy

As I am suffering from extreme pain right now, unable to do anything, my fiancé suggested I build a green light therapy chamber. In the linked article, researchers found evidence that if one bathed in green light for two hours a day regularly, it has significant pain reduction and no side effects and is intended to treat those with fibromyalgia and migraines.

My diagnosis is complex and I am treatment resistant. All the meds thrown at me have harmed me in some way. Eager to begin this treatment, I DIY’d a green light chamber for about $16 USD.

Please note the pain relief comes after a duration of time and regular use for about a month. Last night was my first time using my chamber to battle Painsomnia.

With that in mind, if you’re willing to experiment with me, I will gladly help you DIY your own Green Light Therapy Chamber!

DIY Green Light Therapy Chamber

1. Purchase green LED light bulbs

I bought a pack of two off of Amazon here.

2. Put the green LED light bulbs in a normal table lamp without a cloth shade.

The picture used in this blog post is a real image of my finished product. I took an antique desk lamp I already had and put a bulb in it. If you already have something, no need to buy!

3. Put the lamp with the green bulb in a dark, windowless room.

I chose our guest bathroom as it can be made pitch black. I put the lamp on the bathroom counter.

4. Bring in a foldable, portable, comfortable chair.

I suggest a canvas camp chair like this one.

My camp chair I already owned and did not have arms, which made it perfect to squish into my little bathroom.

5. Bring water and a paper book.

No smartphones allowed in the chamber and remember, you will be in here for 2 hours so you need to be able to entertain yourself. I read The Sight aloud until I felt able to fall asleep.

6. Set a timer for 2 hours and set it directly outside your door so you can hear it.

It will take some practice to get up to the full 2 hours, but if you bring a book, a craft project, or your sketchbook (maybe all 3) you may be able to get through the entire process on your first try. I made it an hour and a half reading my novel.

Tips and tricks

Make sure your chair is comfortable, supportive and flexible. You can use a bean bag chair, an office chair, whatever makes you feel good, but you must be comfortable otherwise you won’t last 30 minutes. It is important that you don’t try to sit on a toilet if your chamber is a bathroom. Try your hardest to find something comfy that fits, even if you have the tiniest of bathrooms.

Your green light therapy chamber does not need to be a bathroom! It can be a closet, a pantry, an internal office – it just needs to be a windowless room that can be made completely dark!

The finished product

This is my handmade DIY green light chamber. In the bottom right corner is my camp chair, which was previously mentioned in the tutorial. On the counter is my book to read and water to drink. The green light lamp is made from an antique desk lamp given to me by my mother which cost nothing, with a green LED light bulb from Amazon.

Takeaways

I did find relief using this last night. It was about 10:30 and I was crying from the physical pain I was in, so I asked my dad to bring in a camp chair. I attempted to use the green light therapy chamber earlier yesterday, but I had to sit on the toilet because I could not fit my office chair inside. This caused me to hurt myself. Everybody, please say no to toilets.

And now, a recap:

Pocket full of starlight: there are lots of ways we can combat pain ourselves, and some of them are very creative.

Pocket full of darkness: fighting pain takes time.