It’s been a while since I’ve written a personal blog post so I thought I would give a little bit of an update on my health and own personal growth and setbacks through my journey of living with chronic pelvic pain all while through a global pandemic. Is the pandemic affecting your chronic pain?
This blog post will dive into 5 ways the Coronavirus pandemic affected me as someone with chronic pelvic pain and how I am trying to manage it all.
Normally, when I write a post I am laying down with my mobile laptop desk over my legs, but today as I am writing this I am laying down with my heat pack and I am using voice to text because my joints are really beginning to bother me. I’ll get into that a little later.
First things first, happy new year!
I know, It’s February and we’re in another pandemic lockdown, so does that mean it is too late or too much to wish you a happy new year?
I hope you all are in good(ish) health and taking the time in 2021 to release the negativity that 2020 brought. As well as remaining hopeful about what the future year will bring.
I know I sure am. 2020 was a tough one.
Quite a bit of change happened in the world – yet a lot of stagnancy. It was and is a weird combination, wouldn’t you say? Unfortunately, there was not much progress with improvement in my health but I learned a lot about myself and life last year!
Personal growth was at the forefront of my 2020.
I say that because I’ve been getting on top of boundaries based on my needs, not others all the time, and that has been crucial to keeping my anxiety and emotions in semi-check so I do not absorb too much.
More stress = more pain.
On another note, my pelvic pain advocacy efforts have been slowly growing as I build upon chipping away at this blog and creating genuine connections with others within the pelvic health community. In 2020, I had the privilege of collaborating on a few podcasts, webinars, and projects to share my story, spread awareness and create helpful resources for others who are struggling with pelvic pain.
A few projects can be found below:
On top of these collaborations, I have met and developed amazing relationships with others who truly have a special place in my heart. Thank you to everyone who has been patient and understanding with my needs and limitations of these passion projects due to my chronic pain and anxiety.
If you’ve been following my journey since 2018 you know that I have been diagnosed with chronic pelvic pain consisting of hypertonic Pelvic Floor Dysfunction, Endometriosis, Bladder Pain Syndrome/IC, Tarlov cysts as well as Fibromyalgia and Lupus.
The Tarlov cyst’s on or near the sacral nerve roots are the latest discovery in an MRI. That same MRI that identified the cysts, saw more Endometriosis that can be affecting my pelvic nerves as well and sciatic nerve causing my painful symptoms. I am set to do more detailed imaging and then another Endometriosis excision surgery in the future.
Just when I thought my pelvic pain couldn’t become more complex, it does.
On top of this, like many of you, my health, treatment and management of my illnesses have all been affected by the Coronavirus pandemic. Now that we’ve somehow made our way through the craziness of 2020, I can’t help but see the difficult changes this pandemic has created in my own personal life. Taking care of yourself with a chronic illness — especially chronic pain — is a full-time job to begin with. Adding a global pandemic and drastic life changes, can easily overfill our cups.
Below are 5 ways the Coronavirus pandemic is affecting me, as someone with chronic pelvic pain:
1. I’ve experienced an increase in my levels of anxiety, depression, lack of sleep to even over sleeping. These are all incredibly bad for overall wellness and especially those living with chronic pain.
- this means an increase in Pelvic Floor Muscle tension: For many of us, our coping strategies for stress and anxiety is tightening/contraction of our pelvic floor muscles. If we experience long-term stress, our pelvic floor stays contracted and eventually can have difficulty relaxing. When our pelvic floor learns to stays in this state, we lose the functional mobility needed for pain-free activities, such as urinating, defecating, walking, sitting and intercourse just to name a few.
Something that has helped me manage my worsening anxiety is using mindfulness and meditation. It helps the anxiety of the pandemic that is directly affecting my chronic pain. I use a free app on my phone called Insight Timer. Below are links to two of my favourite meditations: Michelle White – Let Go + Sarah Blondin – When We Must Endure
2. I’ve experienced increased levels of pain. My pelvic pain went up for a number of reasons, which troubles me as I started 2020 with my flare ups being a bit better managed.
- As I mentioned earlier in this post, my wrists are becoming very painful, especially since the cold, dry Canadian winter has hit. My Physical Therapist has ruled out carpel tunnel, so it seems to be coming from the joint. I am concerned this is the start of arthritis and I will be bringing up with my Rheumatologist. However, I won’t be able to see him in person for a physical assessment due to Covid restrictions. Sigh.
Is the pandemic affecting your chronic pain?
Some things that have helped me manage my worsening pain and symptoms during the pandemic include taking daily baths, using CBD/THC, suppository medications and making myself do gentle stretches… even when I don’t feel like it.
3. Access to exams and in-person care has become difficult or delayed altogether.
- At one point, one of the biggest impacts was that I was unable to attend my weekly pelvic floor physical therapy sessions for 3 months. Pelvic PT is one of the ways I manage my pain and there is a limit on what you can do alone and remotely with the PT. Thus, this was inconvenient and slowed down my care and treatment.
4. I’ve experienced an increase in ‘bad’ habits.
Food, sugar, cannabis, binge watching more tv, and sleeping have all increased since Covid started as well as with the added stress of life. The more I indulge, the more I’m feeding into this vicious cycle. But. I. Can’t. Stop. The unknown is driving the anxiety induced behaviours.
Additionally, lack of movement due to not wanting to go outdoors because of the cold and ice is making it challenging.
5. I’ve had time to be more creative and focus on self-growth.
Not everything has been negative. I’m happy to say that I have been able to get back into more painting and creating art as a way to process and cope with my overwhelming emotions of fear and frustration with the pandemic and my chronic pain. Quick Instagram posts have given me a great, simple platform to do this. Reading personal development books like Super Attractor by Gabrielle Bernstein and You are a Badass by Jen Sincero have also been extremely helpful in guiding my thoughts and intentions.
If you have also been struggling because of the coronavirus pandemic, I want you to know that you are not alone. We tend to believe we need to suffer in silence, but this is far from true. It is important to recognize that even though this past year has been extremely challenging, we who live with chronic pain, have been equipped with the coping skills and resilience to get through this.
Side note: I really hope that after the pandemic, society will have more understanding and empathy for what those with chronic pain and illness go through every day. The barriers most people are facing now like working remotely, and trouble accessing unemployment benefits—are ones that many of us with chronic illness have dealt with long before the pandemic arrived.
There are a lot of really important lessons, negative and positive, to be learned from the pandemic, and I just hope we take the positives forward with us as we get to the other side.