Sunday, September 21, 2008

Flare Care

As all of us with chronic illnesses know, some days are better than others health wise.  I am in the middle of a particularly painful flare right now.  Fortunately I have learned over the years to expect these times, and I have certain self care strategies in place to make things more bearable.  If you have lived with any illnesses for a long period of time, you probably know what I am referring to.  If you are new to the world of chronic illness and it's rapidly changing ways, then now is the time to start making your own list of "survival" strategies.  They can range from the very practical to the very whimsical. 

The type of flare I happen to be experiencing right now is made much worse by things like eating, moving or even talking too much.  Because I know this about myself, I have learned to always keep certain foods that I can usually tolerate small amounts of, around the house.  Since staying hydrated means staying out of the hospital (my own personal number 1 goal!), I also keep things like gatorade, individual cans of caffeine-free Coke to flatten (settles my tummy better than most medications without the side effects), bottled or Brita water and an assortment of teas on hand to keep me sipping on beverages throughout the day.  I eat only when I must to take a medicine, knowing that as the pain abates, my appetite will return, and that I will not die from two days or so of improper nutrition.  I have certain pillows that I use to help maintain my position in bed, since I have to sleep sitting up when this happens.  I allow myself the luxury of just washing with a washcloth to avoid the movement and water of the shower, which really increases the pain.

On the less physical and more nurturing side of things, I find it hard to read much due to the pain and the medications I am taking, so instead of whatever book I might be absorbed in at the moment, I always have on hand some good magazine options, some puzzle books and even the occasional catalog.  It gives me something to flip through that doesn't require a lot of focus or thought, but takes my mind off of things for a few moments at a time.  I also keep a supply of funny DVD's, especially TV shows that I really enjoy (Friends, Mad About You, Gilmore Girls, Gidget, That Girl) anything that isn't too heavy and that makes me smile usually helps the pain as well.  I don't answer the phone unless it is necessary.  I use my caller ID to screen calls and let my voice mail pick up most of them.  That way I don't have to expend energy or cause pain trying to explain that talking makes things worse.

Most importantly, I listen to my body.  If anything seems different or strange from my usual "attack", then I contact the doctor.  After many years of going through this I am very good at gauging what will pass and what needs immediate attention.  My advice to anyone is "when in doubt, contact the doctor".  Much better to be safe than sorry that you mistook something more serious or needing immediate attention for just another flare or a new symptom of whatever your own illness is.

Lastly I practice meditation, biofeedback and use visualization.  All of these things can be learned and are helpful in controlling pain, as well as breaking the cycle of fear/anger/resentment that this is happening again.  I use them on a regular basis to help maintain my health, and as another tool when I am in the middle of a flare.  I can't say they make it "all better", but they make it more bearable.  By relaxing my body and my mind, it allows both to have the energy it needs to help me to heal.  Along the same lines, because I am a religious person, I pray.  I find that for me, knowing that God is there makes everything feel less overwhelming and brings me great comfort.

I would love to hear from all of you the types of "flare care" you employ for yourself.  As a group I have never met more creative or resourceful people than those who live with chronic illness.  I am sure we can learn a lot from one another that would be useful to our own situations.


Anonymous said...

First, I hope & pray that you get over this flare up quickly. You gave some great advice, some I haven't thought of before.

One of my favorite things to do is color. I love the smell of crayons! Coloring brings back childhood memories, it's fun and doesn't require thought.

I hope to read other people's ideas too.

Anonymous said...

From the "other" side, it is so difficult to watch someone hurting. You "just" want to fix it for them and can't. I'm so glad you have been able to help yourself as well as you have. I know I pray for the flare to pass and I know that's about all I can do for the one in pain.

jeisea said...

Hi Maureen
I wondered if you've heard about alternate nostril breathing. This is an ancient yoga technique that is now being investigated by modern medicine. I believe it helps to balance the autonomic nervous system and so is calming. I think it is more than that as I suspect it sets the body up to begin healing itself. You can get videos on Utube showing the technique. Just a thought.
I hope this flare settles quickly for you.