How I maintain my positivity!

Jill Osborne MA

When patients ask me how I cope, I share that my first year was very rough. I was confused, frightened of the pain and anxious about my future. I had no idea what IC was. I had no information to help me nor had I ever talked with anyone else with IC. The pain was relentless and driven, sadly, by the quart of cranberry juice I was drinking each day in a desperate attempt to get better. Driving to work with agonizing and the lack of sympathy I received from my coworkers made me isolate even more.

I started falling into the trap of blaming myself with thoughts of “I’m damaged goods. Who would want me?”  I became depressed and despondent. I felt as if no one understood my pain or what I was struggling with. I often cried at night when my family couldn’t hear me. My friends were baffled and one had the audacity to suggest that I should visit a psychic to determine why I liked being in pain. My family members were clearly concerned, especially after I ended up in the Emergency Room a few times. They could see that I was suffering. Not so my employer, who accused me of faking it. All I wanted was to be pain free and I really didn’t know how to proceed.

It was an IC support group leader by the name of Sally who reached out in kindness to help me find my strength again. She offered valuable information that helped me understand why my bladder was hurting and what I could do to help. Up until that moment, I truly thought that I was the only person in California to have this level of pain. She showed me that not only was that not true but that my IC could be reduced through some simple, daily life strategies. The biggest lesson she taught me was about pacing myself. She said “Jill, if it hurts, doesn’t that mean that you’re supposed to stop and rest.” Up till that point, I hadn’t actually given myself permission to do so, nor to say “no” to family events when I wasn’t feeling well. That was the key turning point for me! Once I allowed myself to rest more, to listen to my body and to talk with others who were sharing my struggles, things started getting better.

Now almost twenty years later, my bladder symptoms are controlled and pain is a rare occurrence. I understand, implicitly, that IC is not my fault. I have nothing to be ashamed of and neither do you. We are no different than someone who has been injured in an accident. Our bladder, muscles or pelvis has been injured and it is our responsibility to support and nurture healing of our body, our heart and our spirit.

I, like so many of you, also developed anxiety disorder. I spent ten years struggling with daily anxiety and catastrophizing (i.e. always imagining the worst), before I took a simple class in Anxiety Management that was a life changer. I haven’t had a single panic attack in ten years because I have the skills needed to recognize anxiety early and to step in and stop it. If you struggle with anxiety or stress management, don’t waste any more time. Just say to yourself “I’m terrible at anxiety management. I need some skills” and then look for a local class or counselor to help you. It lightened my load dramatically.

Surround yourself with Happy Things & Rewards

To maintain my emotional health, I deliberately surround myself with happy things. I can’t live in a cave. I need the light thus my drapes are always open. I talk with as many people as I can rather than dwelling alone. I have happy, bright colors in my ICN office with bird feeder just outside the window. I try to wear happy clothes (Ladies, you know what I mean!). I listen to my body and act early if something doesn’t feel right. I reward myself when I do something hard. And, by helping IC patients, I help myself. I can look in the mirror at the end of the day and say “Well done! You did your best today.” Granted, there are moments when my IC or IBS sometimes prevents me from doing something that I want to do, but I don’t blame myself for those moments. I’m doing the best I can with what I have.

Practice Affirmations

Another big secret of mine? Affirmations. Yes, it sounds corny but they work well. When you feel as if you’re head/heart/spirit and soul are spinning, try calming those thoughts with simple, easy statements. My favorite is “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (insert Spirit, Goddess or your faith leader of choice) which I use whenever I have to do something that is stressful or difficult. It might surprise you to learn that pelvic pain research studies have proven that your attitude matters. If you face each day with hope in your heart and a determination to enjoy life, you will fair better in the longer run. Before you get out of bed, start each day with the following affirmations. Put them on on your mirror, computers or refrigerator. Repeat them frequently!

  • I am feeling strong today.
  • I will solve any challenges that come up today.
  • It will be proactive and support my health today.
  • I am important part of my family. I will be gentle and kind to those around me!
  • I am patient and calm. I walk with peace today.
  • I will strive to help atleast one person todayI am grateful for another day and for those who are helping me.

Don’t sit and suffer – ASK, ACTION, SATISFACTION

Jack Canfield, a noted inspirational speaker, has a favorite motto: ASK! ACTION! SATISFACTION! To find satisfaction, you must take some action to change something, but to take action, you have to first ask a question. If, for example, you’re struggling with a new symptom that’s concerning you, you should CALL your doctor and ask a question. “Is this normal?” “Are there any tips that you can suggest that might help?” Then, you must try the tips they offer. Don’t just sit and suffer. Be willing to try things. And, with effort, it could improve.

Let me give you an actual example. Two years ago, I developed a strange sensation in my urethra. It felt as if I always had a drop of urine in there and it was irritating. I tried to treat it for two months with no luck and eventually made an appointment with my urologist. He took one look and said “Jill, I know exactly what is going on. Your skin has gotten very thin and it’s fairly common for the urethra to become irritated due to the loss of estrogen.” He then prescribed an estrogen cream which, within a week of use, made the symptom go away. I asked for help, tried the treatment and found relief.

Each morning, as you contemplate the day, ask yourself three easy questions. Then, do them. I’m not talking about big tasks… try focusing on small, easy tasks that you can accomplish, such as: making a doctor’s appointment to talk about new treatments, doing pelvic floor relaxation exercises, calling a friend, making a batch of cookies!

  1. What can I do today to soothe my body?  Would a heating pad help?? How about using your medication??? Would resting help?? If so, do it!
  2. What can I do today to lighten my heart?? Call a friend or family member. Get on-line and connect up with a support group??  Get out and take  a walk in the park??? Just do it… big or small… just do it!
  3. What can I do today to build my knowledge and use your brain?  – If you’re at home, don’t sit in front of the TV or play computer games all day. Be willing to reinvest in your intelligence by reading, learning and doing something new. The web is filled with free classes, lectures and DIY projects. Do them!

Good luck my friends and always remember that you are not alone! We’re here and we really do care!

Jill O., ICN President & Founder

(Created: August 15, 2013)