Hello and welcome to my friends, Facebook and blog followers. I hope that this blog finds you well.
I don’t know most of you personally, but if you are here reading my blog, my guess is that you, or someone you know may be living with a chronic pain, or other long-term health condition.
I am a trainee counsellor with lived experience of having a chronic pain condition for the past 8 years.
I have a personal and professional interest in reaching out to and developing my counselling practice so that I can best support clients both now and in the future who have chronic pain, or other long-term health condition, or who are supporting a family member, or friend with one, or more of these conditions.
So this week I would like to talk about hope…
I realise that hope is a quite broad and rather nebulous idea – so I wonder:
- what hope means to you?
- what hope might look like to you when you think of this?
When I think of hope and what it means to me, I have a number of thoughts and images that come up, which include some of the following:
Hope can be…
Finding that spark of inner strength and resilience to continue to live life as best you can in whatever circumstances you find yourself in.
Whether that be finding the strength to continue to live a full and rewarding life in the face of a life-changing diagnosis, such as cancer.
Finding the inner strength and resilience needed to live and manage a ‘normal’ life, whilst managing the symptoms of a chronic pain, or other long-term health condition. You could for example need to manage the symptoms of your condition whilst working full-time, or studying. You may also be juggling the demands of raising a family and fitting in Hospital appointments and the other necessary treatments for your condition. It can be very exhausting and you may feel like you are juggling many balls at one time, or running round constantly in a hamster wheel!!
In the midst of a deep and dark depression, finding that small light, or small voice within yourself to get up out of bed and continue to show up to your life, when every fibre of your being might be urging you to hide away in bed, or to hide your head in the sand.
The list could go on and on…
When thinking about hope and what it means to you, it might be a helpful exercise to choose an image, colour, film or cartoon character that represents hope for you, as hope is a very individual thing and unique experience to each person…
For me, hope could be the inner lion in the picture above, or maybe hoe could be represented by butterflies to represent transformation, growth and freedom:
So I realise that it may be extremely difficult to feel hope when in pain, or when in a very deep, dark and lonely place, so where do you start?
- GP/ Hospital Consultant
If you are in pain, be that physical, or mental pain, it may be a useful starting point to visit a sympathetic and supportive GP if you have one. Or Hospital Consultant, if you are under the care of the Pain Clinic, or other Hospital Consultant.
As I have written about before, your GP may be able to offer you support in managing your condition. They may for example suggest further tests, different services that you might access to help with your condition (e.g. physiotherapy, counselling) and if appropriate medication.
Being a counsellor in training I am obviously a huge advocate for having personal counselling.
However, I advocate for the benefits of personal counselling as part of the self-management strategy for living with a chronic condition through having lived experience.
Having a dedicated space each week, which is yours to share with your counsellor and talk about you and your condition is invaluable. Especially so if you may be finding it difficult to talk to others about the difficulties that you are facing, be that difficulties in talking to friends, family members, or co-workers.
Your counsellor will offer you a safe and non-judgemental space in which to share your concerns and the work is directed by you and at your pace. Which means that you can talk about and share whatever you wish to with your counsellor and at your own pace.
If you are in the UK and in a crisis situation, maybe thinking about harming yourself, or taking your own life, you can ring a crisis helpline called the Samaritans and speak to a trained volunteer. It is free to phone and you can ring 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
Just the act of sharing your concerns in a moment of crisis may get you through this time and give you the hope needed to carry on.
The number is:
3. Finding a yoga, meditation or other spiritual practice.
I have kept number 3 quite broad on purpose.
In my own life I have found that keeping up a regular yoga, or meditation practice to be really helpful in managing chronic pain and finding hope again. I realise that this might not appeal to everyone, but I would really encourage you to experiment with these practices and see if they help you.
It could be as simple as doing five minutes of gentle yoga stretches in the morning and in the evening. I find these to be especially helpful after long periods of sitting.
You might like to invest in the Mindfulness for Health book (if you don’t have it already) and follow the eight week mindfulness program set out in the book, that is specifically designed to help you learn to live with and manage as best you can with a chronic pain, or other long-term health condition.
This is achieved by a mixture of simple 10 minute guided meditation practices, such as the body scan, an lovely example of a body scan practice is in the following You Tube video:
You also practice daily habit releasers, such as spending time out in nature (my favourite).
Also, you learn how to build up a personalised pacing program, in order to avoid the boom and bust cycle (which I have written about in a previous blog post) and hopefully avoiding, or minimising the risk of burning out, overwhelming your self and going into collapse, or flare up of your condition:
4. Finding a work-life balance
Continuing on from the theme of pacing as discussed in point 3.
Part of pacing for me is finding a work-life balance and finding things outside of my working life that I enjoy doing and what form part of my self-care routine.
Self-care will look different for everyone.
If you haven’t done already I would recommend consulting the self-care wheel and picking out activities that motivate and inspire you.
As you can see from the self-care wheel the activities that you might like to choose and explore are many and varied.
The self-care activities could include the points we have already discussed, such as meditation, or yoga. Self-care might include getting a regular massage, taking a bubble bath, reading your favourite book, or magazine. You might also like to volunteer for a local charity, or other cause that has personal meaning to you, such as a local Hospice, or charity shop.
This is the beauty of self-care, it could be absolutely anything and doesn’t have to cost a great deal of money.
If it motivates you and makes you happy, it might be the one thing in life that could help you find the hope needed to keep going through a difficult period in your life.
I hope that some of these ideas have been useful in starting to think about what hope might mean to you and some ways in which you might start to develop hope in your own life.
As ever I would be really interested to hear your thoughts and reflections on this.
Please feel free to like and comment on my blog post, or message my Facebook page ‘Flourishing MK’.
I wish you well in the week ahead.