January 25, 2009

Thoughts on Pain vs. Suffering

I realised recently that if I wait until blog posts feel 'finished', I won't post very often. So I think I'll start sharing my meandering thoughts, recognising that they may not always come across coherently and that I may later disagree with myself :-)


As I was lying in bed recently, in the dark with a migraine, I was thinking a bit about the difference between pain and suffering.

Usually I think of them as the same thing but...

in theory,
pain and suffering
are two separate things.

How to experience pain
without suffering?

I really want that skill!

I bet a big part of it is
not want.

If I want to be pain free,
then any time I feel pain
I will probably
experience 'suffering'.

So, then,
is 'suffering' the experience of wanting something other than what is?

If so, most people in our culture suffer a LOT.
There are degrees of suffering. Some are more uncomfortable than others.

All this is interesting to think about but doesn't help too much in the midst of intense pain or adversity.

I realise this has been written about extensively in many circles - Buddhist ones being at the top of the list. I just never really thought about it in the same, intense way that I did the other day.

I was lying there knowing there was no escape from the pain and feeling so desperate for anything that could bring me relief.
Into my mind popped the idea that the experience of the pain would not be nearly so bad if I wasn't suffering so much.

I don't have any solutions for this, nor many ideas on how to stop wanting other than what is.
I guess one could do EFT or, if it works for them, or read up on methods of detachment such as those used in Buddhist practice. Some people find meditation or prayer help though neither have worked well for me so far.

I think of people I know who have chronic illnesses (or terminal ones) and it occurs to me that the ones who seem happy don't seem to suffer much - even when they are in pain.
I think this may be a piece of the puzzle of how to live vibrantly with illness or disability.

There are people out there who have intense pain - physical or emotional - and some of them still seem happy and alive.

What is the difference between them and those of us who are terribly unhappy or get totally bogged down by the negative in our lives?

Maybe some of them are naturally cheerful, optimistic people.

I believe it's possible for those of us who aren't naturally like that to shift our attitudes.
I have been a pretty negative person most of my life... at least about things that happen to me. I'm pretty good at being positive for others'.

I don't believe that 'positive thinking' is a magic pill but I do believe that it can really effect our quality of life. Which in turn can effect our energy levels, which in turn can effect the resources our bodies have available to heal with. I feel like everything is connected.

I think I'll write more on attitude and how I've been trying to shift mine... but I'll save it for another day. :-)

For now, I'll leave you with a link to an article about healing by Raymond Francis, a chemist who had severe MCS. I really appreciate how he expresses that thought can greatly effect us on many levels and if we want to change how we feel, we are well-served by starting with changing what we think.

He says this and much more very succinctly and I hope you enjoy the article as much as I did!
I particularly like how he says that it's not necessary to understand exactly how this works - it's just necessary to do it.

The positive thought that he suggests using is not actually one that feel right for me personally but I have heard it has worked for many people.

There are a number of articles available to read for free on his website here.


January 24, 2009

You Can Now Subscribe By Email

As you may have noticed, I don't write all that frequently and I understand that readers might like to get the posts as emails instead of having to return to the site to check if there are new posts.

I am quite a newbie when it comes to blogging and I only just figured out how to let people subscribe by email.

If you'd like to receive new blog posts in your email inbox, please feel free to sign up!

In the upper right hand corner of the blog, you will see a little box where you can enter your email address.

Once you have done so, click on the Subscribe button and follow the (easy, fast) directions.

Your email address is safe with me - I will never share it with anyone nor will I send spam of any kind. Ever. :-)

If anything I write about is something that I have a financial interest in, I will let you know (though to be honest I can't see me ever doing this - I don't have financial interest in much of anything LOL).

January 22, 2009

Apologies to Internet Explorer users

I am very new to editing templates and forgot to check if my scroll bars worked in IE.
Apparently they had glitches and may have interfered with your reading.
I'd like to apologise for that! I have removed them.


January 17, 2009

Dealing With Differences of Opinion

Most people who don’t have MCS have a pretty strong difference of opinion with me on how toxic every day scented, chemical-laden products really are. We usually disagree about the safety scented products, particle board furniture, laminate or carpet as flooring choices, vinyl used in baby cribs/training pants, whether or not to use pesticides on lawns, gardens and pets and oh so many more topics.
I used to engage in conversations about these topics with people. I felt it was important for me to share my knowledge with them, to enlighten them about the toxins they were unwittingly exposing themselves, their children and their pets to. Occasionally I met someone interested in learning but more often I met strong resistance.

In time I stopped sharing about these topics unless they expressed interest. I just found it too draining. It felt like fighting an uphill battle and I decided it was standing in the way of my healing in a number of ways – most strongly because it exhausted me – taking energy that was much needed for healing!

However, even though I rarely get into those discussions now, I still frequently end up having imaginary conversations with people. I may see an advertisement about a product I think of as toxic and think of how many well-intentioned people use it who are in the dark about how toxic it may be. I find myself mentally rehearsing what I might say if I wanted to share with them about this.

Even these mental discussions (often arguments) are draining my energy.

So I was very excited to find this tap-along video that addresses the topic of differences of opinion. I feel it addresses some of the core feelings about differences of opinion that may be interfering with personal peace. Therefore it may help across the board – not just for a specific difference of opinion.

When I tap with pre-made videos, I try to listen to my intuition. Sometimes I feel an urge to use different words or to add in extra words. I try to listen to my inner wisdom about this. Sometimes I’ll be able to fit the words in while watching and sometimes I’ll pause the video to give myself time to pay attention to that inner voice, that inner knowing, feeling.

*I want to acknowledge that some people get inspired and energised through activism. I have a great appreciation for the time and energy they put towards raising awareness. If any of you are reading this, thank you! I am grateful for all that you do for those of us who cannot.*

If you are someone who enjoys activism, I feel this video could be very beneficial for you too. I believe that when we are more at peace about differences of opinion, we can communicate more clearly. Confidence and calm may be able to replace frustration and urgency – making us much more effective communicators. People are more likely to take our words seriously when we are coming from a calm place – unruffled by their differences of opinion

Happy tapping!

As an introduction, you may want to read my post Why EFT (and what is it anyhow?) .

Brad Yates is an experienced EFT practitioner who is known for his light-hearted, sometimes humorous style. Thank you Brad for permission to embed this video!! :-)

You can see more of Brad's free Youtube videos here.

January 12, 2009

Inviting Neuroplasticity Part 1

I used to be able to write and speak easily and eloquently.
It was effortless and actually really enjoyable. So was thinking.

No longer. Now those are challenging and frustrating - writing the most (ironic that I recently I chose to begin a blog).
At times, I feel that that ease of cognitive function is one of the things I miss the most from my life before MCS.

My cognitive symptoms/challenges (I don't like the words 'dysfunction' or 'limitations' even if they are true) are by far the worst during or after an exposure but there is a certain level of difficulty I experience all of the time. I have not had a neurological assessment, SPECT scan or MRI and I have no idea if I have 'brain damage'. I don't really care to know. I know my brain works differently than it used to as far as cognition is concerned. Maybe certain neural 'pathways' or areas are damaged or blocked.

I used to think, write, speak and communicate at a certain 'level' and now I do all of those things at a far lower level... yet still high enough that I am painfully aware of all that I have lost. I don't feel I'm expressing this well. It is a deep grief and a daily frustration - especially when I have all sorts of ideas and viewpoints that I would love to be sharing in this blog.

For inspiration and hope, I look to stroke patients and patients with various types of brain injury. Among them are people who have relearned far beyond what anyone predicted they could.
Our brains are miraculous, amazing things.
Neuroplasticity - the ability of the brain to 'rewire' itself after damage (or more scientifically: the process by which neurons create new connections among themselves) - is itself a wonderful, exciting thing. It is now known that activity in the brain that is associated with a specific action or function can actually move to a different area in the brain!
I imagine a horde of happy little neurons coming to the place that they normally 'cross the river' only to find the bridge is missing. Instead of giving up, they decide to actually build a new bridge! A bit cheesy but inspiring.

The mind-body connection is not well understood yet but many health care professionals accept that it does exist and can greatly effect the outcome of injuries, illness and disease.

With this in mind, I have decided to try regularly talking to my brain(when I remember). Yes, this may sound 'crazy' but I figure I have nothing to lose (unless I talk to it in public :)!

I am going to invite my brain to heal, let it know that I love it, that I honour and cherish it and marvel at how amazing it is! I'll tell it that I'm so glad it exists, and that I trust it to find new ways to communicate. I'll let it know what I want - to communicate easily and well - and tell it that I will be open to whatever ways it can provide.

My old, 'normal' ways of thinking, writing and speaking simply aren't working well for me anymore. When I try to use them, I get totally jumbled up, confused and frustrated.
It is doing me no good to keep holding onto those old ways. So I will try to let them go to make space for new ones.

To Do List: Send love and encouragement to my brain

Photo Credit:
Casey Hodge

January 11, 2009

Why EFT (and what is it anyhow?)

From time to time, I will be posting links related to EFT on this blog.
I may also post EFT 'scripts' that I feel may be beneficial.

I have found EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique) to be a helpful item in my 'toolbox'.
Before I get to the "Why?", you may be wondering...

What is EFT anyhow?

EFT is a method for lessening the intensity of uncomfortable emotions, thoughts or physical sensations. It is done by tapping on various points of the body (said to correspond to certain points on the acupuncture energy 'meridians') while saying certain phrases either out loud or in one's mind.
Once one knows that tapping 'points' on the body, one can create their own words or use free scripts like these.

EFT can look pretty weird and is easy to be skeptical of.
I heard of it many years ago but didn't actually try it until about 3 years ago. I was stubborn, and pretty closed-minded about something 'weird' that I didn't understand. I hope you won't let the same thing stop you from trying it that I did!

The way I see it now (and the viewpoint that finally allowed me to try it) is that there is nothing to lose by trying it aside from a tiny bit of time and effort.
There are many sites on the internet that give directions on how to do it for free. There's no need to feel silly trying something 'weird' in front of anyone because one can do it alone, in the comfort of one's home , once again for free. There are even EFT videos online (of varying quality) where one can 'tap along' with a practitioner... for what price tag?? You guessed it: FREE.

Feel free to download a free manual and/or sign up for a free newsletter at eftuniverse.com.
There's also a wealth of information and tap-along audios at tappingqanda.com and a huge number of excellent free 'tap long' videos by Brad Yates on Youtube here: EFTWizard videos
Thank you to reader Katie for mentioning that one can use the Touch And Breathe (TAB for short) method if tapping hurts. Here's a link to directions for it: Touch And Breathe Method

Okay, so back to the "Why?"

Why EFT?

Although there are many attractive qualities to EFT, a few stuck out for me as someone with MCS:
  • I can do it myself (no need to involve a scented practitioner or their toxic office)
  • I can do it for free (very important when unemployed!)
  • It's non-toxic - providing a way to lessen emotional or physical suffering without synthetic drugs (eg. chemicals)
  • If I decide I want to work with a practitioner, many of them offer EFT over the phone or internet chat (still avoiding exposures inherent in an office visit). Some work by email.

For hardcore skeptics, I say this: I don't fully understand why EFT actually works, I simply know that for myself and many others, it has worked for many things. That is enough for me. I have decided that as long as a method doesn't harm me and appears to work, then I don't really care how. I put my energy to other things :-)

EFT can have a learning curve for some people. Not everyone has success/results right away but some people do have immediate relief - especially for emotional pain.
If it does not work at first, it can be due to incorrect tapping points, wording that doesn't work well for you or, possibly, due to being underhydrated. Drinking water is very important.

*A word of caution*
If you are trying EFT for the first time, please go gently. Don't pick one of your more painful issues to start out with. Save those for when you have a lot of EFT work under your belt (or work on them with an EFT practitioner).
EFT can bring up some strong emotions if we tap on deep stuff so, until one is more practiced, I'd suggest starting very small.
If, at any time, I feel intense emotions, I keep tapping and breathing - even if I'm crying and can't speak. The emotions usually pass while I am doing that.

January 4, 2009

Celebrating MCS Improvements Part 1

How do I know I am healing?

I noticed tiny things at first...

  • a few extra moments before a reaction set in
  • a reaction less severe than I was used to
  • a faster recovery after exposure

Then my body seemed to reach a point where the healing took on a life of it's own. A momentum had picked up and I seemed to move forward steadily.

  • I could use the blender, vacuum, toaster without wearing a mask - as long as I did it quickly and left the room afterward.
  • I was able to read select books again if they were not too old, new or scented.
  • terpenes from grass didn't bother me much anymore (in small doses)
  • I could touch paper whitened with chlorine without an instant skin reaction.
  • I could walk in a pine forest without getting instantly 'stoned' from the terpenes
  • I could eat small amounts of foods that had 'flavour' as an ingredient (many chemicals in flavour are similar to ones in fragrance due to how our sense of taste is connected to sense of smell)
  • I could be around leaf mold, coffee, potted plants and more with much less reaction
All of the above are things that only a few years ago caused such severe reactions that I went to great lengths to avoid them.

Now I can read most books - even new, old or somewhat scented. I can even read books from the
library (notorious for having picked up fragrances/smoke from people's houses).

I vacuum, use the blender, toaster and more
without even thinking about it. I don't have to hold my breath, leave the room or worry about how long I vacuum for!

I go to a few restaurants, garden with no mask, have a few potted plants in my house, cut my own lawn (electric mower)... I can even have certain cut flowers from my garden inside my house. It used to be only totally scentless flowers I could tolerate but now I can even have higher VOC flowers inside.

Small exposures to dryer exhaust, wood smoke and cigarette smoke from neighbours while I am in my yard cause little or no reaction. This is such an awesome thing because I can actually use my nose as a warning system and still have time to go inside before an actual reaction happens. Before, even a few seconds was too much/too late.

When did all of this happen? I don't exactly know.
The dramatic changes happened sometime in the last year I think - the lesser ones in the year before that. Most of my healing happened so gradually and softly that I only notice things in hindsight.

I know how good it makes me feel now to notice so I've been trying to do it often.
If I had noticed more as I went along, I think I might have healed even faster due to the mind-body connection.

As I move forward, my 'normal' keeps shifting. I keep having a new normal.

It's exciting to think of how far I have come and know that one day, the way I am now will be far in the past and will seem incredibly limited!