Strangers Among Us


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Hello Luvs,

I am writing today about a topic that I had hoped to never write about. But it has come to my attention and the attention of several support group leaders on Facebook; that there are imposters trying to infiltrate our support groups.  This is a sad story and one that should never happen.  Anyone who runs a support group for any illnesses, including and especially the chronic pain illnesses, needs to be aware of this situation.

I opened up Facebook a week or so ago, only to feel relieved in a way, that none of my support groups were affected by this “fake” person who pretended to have RSD/CRPS. This intruder into the CRPS community had befriended over 600 people on Facebook in over a period of just about 3 years.  She started her own support group and then the worst happened.  She gained  the trust of many people who are suffering with the horrible chronic nerve pain of CRPS.  She pretended to have the disease and pretended to have “cured herself”. This is unforgivable and preposterous to say the least.  I had no idea about any of this until last week when all of the news broke.  Her account was found out about and she disappeared.

She disappeared but not before taking with her dozens of trusted CRPS patients photos and videos.  She asked them to make videos and send them to her and photos as well. She wanted these videos to be showing how they “worked through their pain and pushed through it”.  She told several people in her support group that on the delicate and sensitive flaring areas of Skin that has been diagnosed with CRPS/RSD; they should rub sandpaper! She wanted photos and videos of them doing this.  Also, just to inform you that this practice is horribly wrong and could cause terrible pain, progression of illness and even worse, infections.  She told a person to “pull on their RSD/CRPS riddled fingers until the pain was excruciating” and told them that this would “help them cure their RSD/CRPS”.

This “fake” was a well known figure in the RSD/CRPS community for these past few years.  She had some telltale signs that I notice right away and thus the reason I vet my support groups very carefully.  She had no real photos on her Facebook page and no family pictures or friends.  Nothing “personal” stood out, from what I hear, on her page.  She never showed herself in a video or a Facebook chat or video either.  If anyone has ever watched the Television show called “Catfish”, that is one of the biggest clues to being a “fake” or a “Catfish” account. When you befriend someone on Facebook please be sure to check out their profile. Also, it doesn’t matter if they are friends with some of your friends, it can still be fake.  Look for the signs of “realness” and of being a true person online. Look for achievements, and milestones, family and other photos (as I stated above) and don’t befriend anyone that you don’t feel comfortable with.

Please understand that most of the support groups are wonderful on Facebook. They are run by loving and caring patients living in pain also.  Feel free to check out the group admins. pages also.  Look them up and see who they are and if they are shown as having a true Facebook account as well. Feel free to ask questions before you join a group, to see what the person believes about your illness(es).  Check to see  if you believe in the same ideas, or not?  The people living in the pain community have seemed to me to be so caring and always wanting to help a fellow sufferer.  I think this is where the story gets so dark, because this “fake” person tried to gain the trust of people who are kind and caring and suffering.  We are all trying to make sense of these illnesses and the pain that they bring, how could anyone “pretend” to have something and then hurt people who’s trust they’d been given freely?

These are questions that I cannot answer nor fathom.  This “fake” person was finally exposed and the authorities were called.  There’s not much else anyone can do because she/he or they, closed down their Facebook account, their support group and took all of the photos and videos with them. Wherever they’ve run off too, we will never know.  We don’t know if that person will show up again and now people will be afraid and looking around every corner for someone like this; wondering who to trust now?  But if you are requested to do anything that you don’t feel comfortable doing, don’t do it.  Unless you know someone online and have done a face chat video with them, or met them “in person”; don’t give away anything personal in the form of information, videos or photos. But please don’t give up on the support groups because there are many that are loving, kind and very helpful.  I am so thankful that this person did not make it into my support groups.  I remember the name and remember “her” asking to be in my groups and I felt hat something wasn’t quite right.  I declined her entry into my groups. I declined her friend request. I am just lucky in that respect, because many of my dear friends who are very careful; were still affected by this imposter into our RSD/CRPS community.

I’m concerned for the people who were hurt in my communities. This person was relentless in her “pushing” people to do things that were painful in order to give them false hope of a “cure”.  She said that she herself had been cured and that all of the things she told them to do, she had done and this is how she got well.  We all want hope and so these people were desperate for some kind of relief. With our pain medications being taken away weekly and more people being denied appropriate pain relief; I can see how this can happen.  But just be very careful and don’t give up on the support groups but be selective in your choices.

The CRPS communities are left now with a bigger wound to heal.  They feel vulnerable and duped. People are trying to wrap their heads around the idea that their photos and videos are out there somewhere and they don’t know where? Please know that if you were a part of this scam, it is not your fault.  The imposter was very “good” at what she was trying to achieve. She was sly and deceitful in her endeavors to trick a community of pain sufferers.  Please be assured that the Police have been alerted and Facebook security also has been told about this.  There is not a lot that they can do except to try and make sure this doesn’t happen again.  We all have to be a part of that! We all have to keep our eyes and ears open without getting too paranoid or hurting more people in the process.  Don’t accuse anyone if you are not sure, because that’s happened to some RSD/CRPS patients as well.  That has got to be a horrible feeling and it appeared that the people who were wrongly accused have regressed and so we have to be so careful not to be one way or another.  Just be on your guard but not overly suspicious of everyone due to this situation.

Here is a link to another article written by someone else regarding this subject:  http://www.blbchronicpain.co.uk/news/facebook-crps-faker-pretend/

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The Art Of Learning Compassion


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We are in a group doing role playing above


Beds were brought in for people who needed to lay down awhile. That’s me with the blue blanket on the bed!! Isn’t that so thoughtful, accommodating and awesome? The US Pain Foundation did this for us!
Hello Luvs,

I wanted to write something about my experiences this past weekend when my husband and I went to Connecticut.  I was invited to go to a weekend seminar to learn how to be a “support group leader” and how to host an “in-person” support group for people living with chronic pain . I was a bit nervous at first because going on even a short trip is difficult for those of us who live with debilitating chronic pain on a daily basis. We worry about being in pain far from the comfort of our recliner, bed or even our own home.  There are worries about taking medications or durable medical equipment on a trip or to a hotel. Then we worry about the airplane ride or the long car trip and the ensuing pain it will inevitably bring. But guess what?  It is always worth the extra effort because our home, bed and recliner will be there when we return.

The U.S. Pain Foundation and their program called “Pain Connection”, hosted this two day workshop in Connecticut, not far from the U.S. Pain Foundation home office.  As with everything else that I’ve ever done with or for them, I was never alone. They walked with me through each and every step of the trip and the workshop. The main thing about any trip is the pre-planning. It makes everything easier if you can call the airlines and arrange for a seat placement that gives you the most amount of comfort.  You can do everything from your bed/recliner and home. All you need is your computer or a telephone. I got an employee of the airport to assist us to the gate, get me and my wheelchair onto the plane ahead of everyone else and all it took was a phone call. They needed the height and weight of my wheelchair and that was all. Everyone was very kind and cooperative. They let me take my wheelchair all the way to the door of the airplane, they took my chair and then assisted me to my seat.  It was much easier to take only “carry on” luggage.  This way we had nothing to “check in”. I brought my gum, headphones, music and smartphone. Everything went smoothly and all of the persons involved were accommodating.  I even spoke to the staff where I had to be “patted down” because of my pacemaker.  I’m not able to go through the scanner or have the wand put around my body because of my implanted medical devices. I told the staff member that I have a nerve disease and she was very cooperative and kind.  She very gingerly patted me down and I was not in any discomfort. You just have to be prepared, verbal and have a kind attitude yourself.

We arrived at our hotel which was a wonderful accommodation and again everything was great! They even had a coffee machine in the lobby with my favorite and special kinds of coffee. We arrived on Friday evening and my husband went to the pool, while I sat at the pool area and rested from the day’s journey. We had a more comfortable bed than mine at home! I slept a whopping 6 hours and the most I ever get is 3 to 4 hours of sleep at home! I’m not sure if it was actually the nice bed or the fact that I was exhausted? Either way I was rested and ready for the day ahead.  On Saturday we went down to a conference room and to my elation, there were several beds ready for takers; along with nice and comfortable tables and chairs.  I had my wheelchair with me, but I quickly snatched up one of the beds and would have gladly shared if anyone had needed it or asked.  We had introductions and proceeded to be trained to work with people who live with chronic pain and their families in a group setting.

Some of the tools that were taught included: relaxation, the “treatment tree” plan, self-compassion, meditation, self-massage and more.  We learned the Psychosocial stages of chronic pain, the grief process and we had a question and answer period with discussions. We watched a couple of videos and did role playing on Sunday. We laughed and cried with each other and truly got to know our peers.  I formed many new friendships during those two days.  These are persons who literally live what my husband/caregiver and I both go through on a daily basis.  The leaders were so wonderful and they too, laughed and cried along with us.  We learned some techniques of Acupuncture and Acupressure and how to lead successful groups.  One part of the weekend that especially touched my heart was when the caregivers did their presentations.  These were the caregivers to the leaders of this training program.  They spoke about how families are affected by chronic pain. Then we had a group discussion. Again on Sunday we learned even more about things such as: guided imagery, breathing techniques, pacing & respecting limits, how to maximize group member engagement and then we learned about flare-up relapse prevention.

At the end of the two days full of enrichment, learning and building friendships; we all received our certification for “group leader training”. We were called up individually and sat on a chair in the middle of the room. It wasn’t intimidating in the least! It was exhilarating to hear the kind words that were said about each person. They went around the room and everyone said something kind and wonderful to the person sitting in the chair.  Maybe it was something they learned from them during the weekend, or it may have been something about their personality that was especially positive? Either way we laughed and cried again, together as a group and individually, personally.   There were polished stones laid out on a table.  Each stone had a word carved or painted on it.  Some of the various words were:  Courage, Hope, Love, Kindness, Healing, patience and so on. Everyone chose a stone that had a special meaning to them and that is when we sat in the “hot seat” and we were given positive feedback from the weekend.

I always felt comfortable to eat, drink or get up and move.  I even wasn’t embarrassed when I fell asleep for a few moments during the comforting music and guided imagery session.  When does a pain patient get to feel so relaxed and comfortable? It is when we are together with others like ourselves and feel comfortable enough to share, laugh and cry together.  I know that many of us were so happy and felt very accommodated and comfortable during this workshop weekend.  Even though I was “wiped out” from the day on Saturday, my husband and I did something that we had never done before! I called an “Uber” to take us out to dinner with some of the staff and other friends who were there.  We had a fun time of chatter and more laughing and much sharing. We went back to the hotel and crashed after that, but it was worth it.

We arrived home but returned with many tools, more knowledge and several new friends. I now feel that I have the tools and am more confident to start and run a support group near my home in Michigan.  I want to give special gratitude to the U.S. Pain foundation and their program called “Pain Connection”.  I also wish to personally say “thank you” to Paul Gileno, Lori Monarca, Gwenn and Malcolm Herman and Cindy and Marty Steinberg. I encourage anyone to be more empowered and try to do things that you think you cannot do. Lastly, I would like to say that whomever wants to know what the U.S. Pain Foundation is all about, read this article again.  You can visit their website and become and Ambassador and have a more fulfilling life.  There is so much that you can do right from your own home. You can even use tools such as Skype and “Google hangouts” to connect with more people. I encourage you to look for a support group near your home and if there is not one available, think about trying to start one yourself. Helping just one person, reaching one person’s heart is worth its weight in gold.

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What You See Is Not What You Get!


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Having Chronic Pain is unlike the pain following a surgery or even the pain after an injury. Many things about Chronic pain are not seen with our eyes. There are so many “invisible diseases” that involve living with exhaustion, illness and pain.  Many people think they know about these issues. If they’ve not witnessed life with a chronic pain patient, then they truly cannot understand or know what we live with on a daily basis. People are misinformed and sometimes quick to judge persons living with pain day after day.  Some think we are lazy, anti-social or just rude.  We cancel appointments, shopping trips and dinner dates with our friends and family. But we are not any of the above. We are people who have hopes, dreams and inspirations; just as anyone else. The issue is that our futures don’t include many of those same things after we become chronic pain patients.  We must grieve our losses and find new hopes and dreams.  This is the price that we pay for living with chronic pain 24/7/365.

I am still “me” underneath the chronic fatigue and pain.  I still want to talk with you and hear about your day, family and dreams.  In between the days of staying in my PJ’s and lying in my bed or on the sofa, I try hard to be a part of your “normal” world.  Some days I may even look “normal” to you. In fact, most of the time, I probably appear to be “just like everybody else.  I try to wear nice pants, cute dresses and sometimes I put on make up, just like you do! If you visit my Social Media photo feeds, you’ll see someone who “looks normal”, holding onto her grandchildren’s hands, smiling and actually joyful underneath the pain somewhere.  Sometimes even sitting on the floor with them.  You may read about me “babysitting” for our grandchildren; or going out to dinner with our friends.  You may even want to “judge” me by saying to yourself “How can she be that sick or in that much pain, if she’s doing all of these things?”  If you think like that, I can’t blame you because I once thought those same misinformed thoughts.  What you don’t see, is how I get to the floor or how long I am actually down there.  You don’t see my husband helping me (and doing most of the work) to get me up and off of the floor.  You don’t actually know how long I am down there or how many pillows may be behind my back. You also don’t know that I most likely stayed home in my pajama’s all day until 4:00 pm when we had dinner plans at 5:15 pm.  You also aren’t privy to the information of how long I might’ve stayed at dinner and “if” I was able to even eat anything that night.  Not only do I have several chronic pain illnesses, but many of them are invisible to you. They are very much visible to me. I can “see” them with each new line on my face and each new grey hair that gets covered up each month. I can’t only “see” the pain, but I feel it with every part of my being. It doesn’t go away, not ever.  Though some days are better or worse than others; the chronic pain of “Invisible Disabilities” and “Invisible Illness” is apparent to me every minute of every day.  Often I fight with myself about going to sleep at night.  Do I try to go to bed at a more normal time and maybe get 4 -5 hours rest? Or do I stay up until I drop; then fall asleep quickly and wake up in just 2 or 3 hours?  If I sleep more than 2 or 3 hours, I will awaken and cry.  Whether it be inner tears or outward ones, I will cry from feeling as though someone set my body on fire due to the CRPS. I will have tears from feeling like my neck and back are broken from the Degenerative Disc disease, Spondylosis, Scoliosis and/or multiple herniated/bulging discs in both my cervical and lumbar spine; not to mention the Chiari malformation I in my neck. Yes, if I move or get up before I’m ready, I definitely will cry.  It’ a routine that we have, you know?  My husband gets up at 6:00 am every day to give me my medicine; just so that I will be able to get up with him a couple of hours after that. He is my hero.

You cannot feel Gastroparesis, but if I eat one wrong food at dinner time; I will be up all night and very sick. My husband, who is also my soul-mate and my caregiver; knows all too well about these long nights.  I have worries, though he continues to tell me that they are unfounded; that he will get tired of all of this one day. It’s not much fun to be with someone who is constantly complaining about pain, so I try to keep it to a minimum.  But even to him, my pain is not invisible.  He knows the grimace of  CRPS and the fidgeting of the intensifying pain on an outing.  He knows that when I start rocking back and forth, it’s his cue to step in and say “time to go home”.  I know that my own family gets frustrated with me because I’m not able to babysit “alone” or have kids dropped off on the spur of the moment.  I cannot commit to babysitting for the little ones under school age for a week.  I’m not able to help take the load off of my children and their spouses, so that they can go on a trip. There are many things that I cannot do but there’s so much that I still have to give.

Please don’t judge what you do not understand. If you think you know, then go and read some more about chronic illnesses and pain. Spend time with someone like me and see how impaired the activities of daily living have become.  I’m probably not always much fun to hang out with, but I’m still “me” inside.  Digging through the pain and exhaustion, there’s a real person inside, who still has a heart and feelings that can be hurt.  Feelings that are probably more fragile than most because of the judgements, stares and hurtful words that come from some people who are misjudging and misinformed.  I’ve had nasty notes put on my windshield, that would make anyone cry.  One note said this “How dare you take this HC parking space! It must be a “mental thing”! I hope you become handicapped for the rest of your life, so you know how it feels to have someone take your parking spot”! Yes, indeed; that was the note left on my car at a little market right across the street from my house.  I had my cane in the grocery cart and the little blue HC parking permit on my rear view mirror.  But I was still judged and torn to shreds because of the way I look.

Please know the difference between being able to stand for 20 minutes and being able to stand all day.  The difference between having the flu and feeling that same way for many many years! Try and understand that what I might be able to do today, I probably won’t be able to do tomorrow.  Don’t say “Oh you look happy and healthy” or tell me that I’m looking or sounding “better”.  I’m just trying to cope with the life that I have been dealt. Please don’t judge me if I try to do awareness events or fundraisers for the causes of my illnesses and those of my friends.  Though I may “do” these things; I definitely know that I will “pay” for it later.  I will rest for days in between and sometimes weeks.  But I deserve to do things and to try and be happy; even if it is in between the pain at its worst and best.  Please know that getting out and doing things doesn’t make me feel better, it actually makes me feel worse for days at a time.

Chronic pain is hard for you to understand. It wreaks havoc on the body and the mind.
It is exhausting and exasperating.  I’m doing my best to cope and live my life to the best of my ability.  I ask you to bear with me, and accept me as I am.

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ASL Cover “Something Just Like This” By The Chainsmokers


This is an ASL Cover song of a song by the Chainsmokers called “Something Just Like This”. I am hearing Impaired due to a Car Accident in 2002 and have vision loss and 2 hearing aids. I also live with several High pain Chronic illnesses, especially severe Systemic /Full Body CRPS or “Complex Regional Pain Syndrome”. I do this for enjoyment and Entertainment. It takes a lot out of me, but to me, it makes me happy. Please subscribe to my You Tube Page at ASL Suzy Q,…if you cannot find it, please Google ASLSuzyQ. I don’t have enough subscribers yet and once I do, then I”ll get to keep my name as my URL..Thank you so much!

With Gratitude From A Pain Ambassador


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Hello Luvs,

I have an exciting story to tell you. So here we go:

As I sat in my “Lazy Boy”chair with a pillow under my knees and a soft blanket over my body, I flipped through my smartphone. I was checking my email on a cold Winter’s night and suddenly I was filled with a feeling of friendship and a special kind of love and appreciation. I received an email stating that I was “nominated by a group of my peers, for the U.S. Pain Foundation’s 2016, Joselynn Badman, Pain Ambassador of the Year Award”! I was surprised, happy and filled with a feeling of being appreciated. No matter if I win or not, I thought; how nice was it to be nominated by my peers.

I don’t participate in competitions or contests where I have to ask people to vote for me. I had at one time done that, in the beginning; several years ago.  But it didn’t give me a good feeling inside. It felt like a popularity contest. It felt as though others might think that I was doing good things in order to get something.  This was a nomination that i had known nothing about and didn’t ask anyone for anything. It was awesome to be nominated.

I filled out the questionnaire that I received from the U.S. Pain Foundation and waited for the results to be announced in the New Year of 2017. Then one day in January, I opened up an email message from my dear friend, Ellen Lennox-Smith; in which she was congratulating me on “winning the Joselynn Badman Ambassador of the Year Award” for 2016.  I had no idea and I got so excited that I think I would have jumped up and down if I could have! My husband was sitting next to me and I told him about it. He was so happy and then we furiously looked to find out more information. I hadn’t read my earlier email yet and there inside of an email from earlier in the day, was the U.S. Pain Foundation’s Monthly Newsletter. I opened it up and the first item on it, was a photo of me holding my “special tribute” from the Governor and a House Rep. in Michigan. Then I saw the words, “2016 Ambassador of the Year:  Suzanne Stewart”.  I looked to my earlier emails for that day, and there was a beautiful note from Lori Monarca, the Executive Office Director of U.S.Pain Foundation.  It reads ” Congratulations to  you Suzanne on your nomination and honor for the Ambassador of the Year Award!!  What a great honor to have you win this as you have put so much time and hard efforts in such an amazing way throughout the community during the year!  Your determination and dedication is unbelievable and you are so worthy of this award. Thank you so very much for being a part of our U.S. Pain Family!” I proceeded to get beautiful and loving notes, one after another from these persons who I call my U.S. Pain “family”.

I later got emails from Lori and from Paul Gileno, the President of the U.S. Pain Foundation.  Paul congratulated me and told me that he was going to fly all the way from his home in CT. to my home in Michigan, to give me my Award in person!  I was so thrilled and couldn’t and cannot even believe the love and kindness shown to me by this pain family.  This is the U.S. Pain Foundation, my “family” that is made up of many other persons who also live with pain issues.  They strive to advocate and try to always help others. A family of pain patients helping other pain patients.

If you know anything about my life, you will know that things had never been easy growing up. Life just kept getting harder and more painful. Bad things kept happening to me, one after another.  I’ve never won anything and I never even thought about it.  Mostly because I’d always thought that “those kinds of things happen to other people”.  I’ve continued onward to be the best person that I can be. I try to think of others and treat people how I wish to be treated. I’ve made my fair share of mistakes and I’ve had days when I didn’t behave or speak in a manner that I would prefer. But I get up each day and keep trying to move forward in a positive manner; to the best of my ability.

As time went on, there were emails exchanged and plans were made for Paul to come to my home and present me with the Award. I was so excited and then nervous to make sure that I made a good impression, of course. But then again, I’m not sure why I was nervous? I had spent several days “hanging out” with Paul and everyone from U.S. Pain, last Summer at the Pain Summit!  We ate lobster together and even wore those little bibs ..LOL.!  The day arrived and it was Thursday, February 2, 2017.  I think that I changed my outfit about ten times that day.  I didn’t want to be too dressed up or not dressed up enough. I wanted to be dressed appropriately but what is appropriate, to wear for receiving an award?  We were going to go out for dinner and my family and friends were invited. It was all very exciting and I think I emailed Lori more than a few times within that 24 hour period, asking many questions. I even asked if I should wear my U.S. Pain Foundation, collared shirt, with their Logo on it. She was so kind and told me to just be comfortable.

I had nothing to fear, because once I opened up the door and saw Paul standing there; all of my nervousness disappeared. I only felt calm, happy, excited and appreciated. He is one of the most kind men I’ve met in my lifetime.  He came into our home and my husband and I chatted, laughed and joked with him for quite awhile. I felt very comfortable  and then he gave me the most beautiful crystal award. I’ve never seen anything so beautiful and with such wonderful, kind words engraved on it, too. It says, “U.S. Pain Foundation” (and their Logo)…then it says: “AMBASSADOR OF THE YEAR 2016–presented to SUZANNE STEWART, In Recognition for your Outstanding & Dedicated Services to the Pain Community”….I was in awe, my jaw dropped and my heart was beating quite fast. I feel so honored and humbled to receive such a beautiful award with words on it that are so meaningful.

I am quite humbled by this Award and by the entire experience.  I’ve never expected anything for what I do. I love people and helping persons with chronic pain illnesses, like myself. I simply do what I do because it honestly helps me to stay positive and gives me more of a “purpose”. Keeping other pain patients hopeful, positive and sharing information with them via my writing and support groups etc.; makes me feel happier. Like I always say “HOPE is a Verb. You must DO something in order to keep hopeful and positive”.  Helping  the U.S. Pain Foundation by holding Awareness events, being an Advocate and fundraising is another way that I get to help others living with Chronic Pain. It’s just in my blood because before I was disabled by chronic pain, I was an Interpreter for the Deaf. I worked with Deaf children doing speech, auditory training and taught American Sign Language. These days aside from being a chronic pain patient, ironically I have two hearing aids. I have hearing and vision issues since a car accident in 2002 left me with many health issues, several chronic pain illnesses and a Traumatic Brain Injury. But I’m always happiest when doing something for others.

A group of my peers anonymously nominated me for this award and the U.S. Pain Foundation gave it to me. To my peers,  I say “Thank you so much for the nomination. I have made some wonderful lifelong friendships by being an Ambassador for the U.S. Pain Foundation.  I’d like to reiterate that I feel humbled and so honored to have been nominated for and to receive this special award.  But U.S. Pain Foundation are the ones who deserve something wonderful for all that they do for persons living with daily chronic pain. They go “to bat” for all of us when they visit the state and federal legislators. They not only fight for our rights but they teach us how to fight for ourselves. There are:  conferences, webinars, Twitter chats, Social media days for sending out love and Information regarding rare diseases, Invisible illnesses and more!  They hold the annual Pain Summit to educate us more about ways to help ourselves. One of the main things U.S. Pain likes to teach us is to “take care of ourselves first”.  I really want to reiterate my gratitude for Paul coming all the way to our home in Michigan, to give my award in person and in front of my family and best friends. With that gratitude I also want to add the wonderful dinner and conversations that we shared. A chronic pain patient himself, Paul Gileno, flew several hundred miles to personally give me a beautiful, meaningful experience along with a lovely award. Again, I say “Thank You  very much from the bottom of my heart. I only hope that I can follow Joselynn Badman’s example of a true Pain Ambassador and Pain Warrior. I will continue to learn, advocate, share awareness and speak about HOPE for persons living with chronic pain”.

From Interpreter for The Deaf To Hearing Impaired, in 10 Seconds!


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Hello Luvs,

Back in 1999, I left my career as an Interpreter for the Deaf and had to go on disability. I was approved first attempt and that doesn’t happen often. When I was set to go to the appointment with the physicians from the SSDI, they called the day prior to my appointment and spoke to my husband. They told him that they received my team of physician’s reports. They let him know that I did not have to attend that appointment because they said “Suzanne is the worst case of childhood trauma/abuse that we’ve seen in the past 36 years.  We don’t want her to have to tell her story to even one more person.”  I was approved and then things got medically worse from there.  In 2002, I was in the car with my husband, on our way to have a little dinner out alone together & a man ran through a red light.  Within seconds, our lives changed forever!

I was unconscious for about 20 – 30 minutes, I am told. I awakened a couple of times in the ambulance and again at the hospital. But I have no other memories of that day except for extreme pain and hearing my own screams during the X-ray exams. I was really lucky that my husband was unhurt and that the kids were not in the car. I spent the next 3 years in daily brain injury rehabilitation.  Also, I spent the following 8 1/2 years in Physical and Occupational Therapy along with going through approximately 8 or 9 surgeries.  I had knee surgeries, open shoulder surgery including 2 screws in my left shoulder, 2 torn rotator cuffs and then Adhesive Capsulitis. There were mouth, jaw and left facial surgeries, along with 2 pacemakers and total pectoral reconstruction.  I endured many hours of MRI’s and other more invasive tests. After the pacemaker, I had to undergo the painful, barbaric and old CT Arthrograms in both shoulders and both of my knees. I can no longer have an MRI due to the pacemaker.  As far as aids for daily living, I ended up with 2 AFO’s (ankle foot orthotic braces for foot drop), a shoulder brace (for nerve damage, pain & winged scapula) for very painful Long Thoracic Nerve Neuropathy, wrist brace (R), 2 forearm/hand/wrist braces for night time, a wheelchair, seated walker, motorized scooter, forearm crutches and a cane. All of which are still used today intermittently, depending on the activity.

In 2003, I got a pacemaker because I’d been fainting constantly. I was found to have a heart issue called “Sick Sinus Node Syndrome”, along with Dysautonomia, POTS (Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome) and Prinzmetal Angina. Later in 2005, I had a heart attack. They found it to be a very real heart attack, but it was caused from something called “Broken heart Syndrome”. For this I won’t go into details, but I was also diagnosed with Atrial Fibrillation and was put on blood thinners. Then in 2006, I suffered a CVA or a stroke due to the A-fib. I was put on a higher dosage of the blood thinners. Then in 2007, I had right foot surgery and came out with worse pain than before I went in. I was told that I had RSD/CRPS or “Complex Regional Pain Syndrome” in my right foot at my 6 week, post-op check up. I couldn’t believe it!  After I read up on the disease, I decided to get a second opinion. The foot/ankle Orthopedic Dr. agreed with that diagnosis and he sent me directly back to the pain clinic.  I had first gone to the pain clinic for:  cervical and lumbar herniated/bulging discs, Degenerative Disc disease, Scoliosis, Long Thoracic Nerve Neuropathy, PolyNeuropathy In Collagen Vascular disease (*which is really the same as EDS type IV-Vascular) & Chiari I etc.,right after that car accident. I went through epidural nerve blocks, trigger point injections and much more. The pain clinic saw me for those first several years but later turned me over to my G.P., because I was a patient with true high pain issues but not a candidate for an SCS (spinal cord stimulator) or an intrathecal pain pump because it was determined that I have C.I.D. or “Combined Immune Deficiency Disease”. I can contract an infection in my spine more easily than the average person and/or become paralyzed. I was put on pain medication that I had tried to refuse several times; because I was afraid of it at first. Sometimes we are afraid of the unknown and I’d never had pain medication prior to that time except for during my C-Sections. I received a letter from the pain clinic’s, Pain Psychologist, stating that “I do not have an addictive personality”. I took the pain medications and after many many attempts with bad side effects, swelling, vomiting, fainting etc.; we finally found some pain medication that helps me and it lowers my chronic & CRPS pain.

Luckily, the auto insurance paid for drivers to take me to and from the TBI rehab and all of my numerous medical appointments. I suffered a Traumatic Brain Injury and had to endure several of those long Neuro-Psych testing sessions for years. They always ended with the same comments, which were:  “short term memory is in the toilet, problem solving difficulties, emotional difficulties (because I cry more easily), concentration is very low “, and more.  Nothing has improved very much, in those areas since that time.  As far as the TBI goes; I’ve just learned to live with it and adapt. At the time of the car accident, I was in the middle of reading the 5th “Harry Potter” book. I could not & cannot read those books any longer. When I put down a book and go back to start reading it again; I find that I’ve forgotten everything I had already read. I do best with articles and short stories now and that’s just how it is and how I’ve had to adapt. The TBI or Brain Injury Rehabilitation center did not cure me, but did teach me how to adapt and live with my brain injury. Nobody who meets me can tell that anything like that is wrong with me. But the persons around me often or those who live with me can clearly see the differences from before the MVA and now.  I cannot remember movies and can see the same movie several times.  If you tell me something today, I won’t remember it next week and probably not tomorrow. I cannot remember anything short term, unless I write it down. I don’t remember appointments or some other information that I’m told.  I feel very bad when I meet new friends, especially online “friends”.  When people have similar names, I get confused and feel embarrassed. They’ll say “remember me, from —?” But I truly don’t and I feel so bad. But if I feel comfortable, I just tell them about my TBI and ask for clarification. It’s sad because even new physicians will say “Well, at least you look good”! Or they’ll put on their report that “patient doesn’t look sickly”. What a stupid thing to put on a Dr.’s report!  I have recently been diagnosed with Gastroparesis and you can’t see it!  Suppose a person has a heart &/or lung condition, you would not “SEE” that and they might appear to be “not sickly”.  It is what’s happening on the inside, that is important.

The brain injury has caused several of my medical problems/issues as well. I was evidently born with “Arnold Chiari Malformation I” because they found it on the MRI’s s/p the MVA. But it was “sleeping”, they told me; and after the accident, it was “awakened”.  Since then,  it’s been difficult to hold my head up for long periods of time without pain and weakness. I get something called “Chiari Migraines” in back of my head and neck; which are very painful and cause nausea and at times vomiting.  I also have eye/vision problems due to the TBI, including: a Convergence Insufficiency, lowered vision,  extreme dry eyes and Nystagmus. The Convergence Insufficiency means that my eyes won’t work together as a team and get fatigued easily. The other issues are self explanatory, except the Nystagmus. It means that my eyes sometimes shake a bit, when looking to the right, left, upwards and downwards without moving my head. I’ve had punctal plugs put in my eyes several times and had prisms in my glasses s/p the MVA for a couple of years.

I went to University and graduated with honors in Sign Language Studies/Interpreting.  I worked for a local school district’s Hearing impaired program and at a Major University hospital as an Interpreter for the Deaf; prior to my TBI & other injuiries. I went from being an Interpreter for the Deaf, to a Hearing Impaired person  with 2 hearing aids. Prior to the TBI, I remembered phone numbers and other data.  Now I depend on my smart phone, using:  Google, reminders, Notepad and “Siri” on a daily basis, along with the Calendar features.

I try to be a person who uses “Hope” as a verb. That is my slogan, as I’d said in one of my other articles. You must “do” something in order to help yourself “Keep Hope Alive”. This is a venue for me to hopefully help as many other chronic pain patients as possible. I try to be as positive as I’m able to be. But on any given day, I can feel negativity creep in as some of you do. I know we can all have that happen. It’s what we do with that negativity that matters. We can lash out at others like my ill mother did. Or we can take the negative thoughts and throw them out the window as far away from us as possible!!  Sure, there are those darker days, but like a Phoenix, we must rise up against this monster called “Chronic Pain”.

Support Groups,Chronic Pain, And Why Kindness Matters


 

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When we are in pain, it sometimes can be hard to see another persons pain as well.  I have founded and am Administrator for several Support groups online. Some are for chronic illnesses & pain. While others are for fun and socializing. I’ve noticed that my group for people who love Cats,”The Scratching Post”; is very different than my other groups that are in support of people living with different kinds of pain. The reason that they are so different is because people who are just there to hang out and talk about the silliness of Cats  are usually thinking more positive thoughts and they’re in their happy place. Those of us who struggle with pain, may feel a various number of emotions. We bring those emotions into the group setting. Luckily, in the support groups that I run; I have not had any trouble with drama, in-fighting or bullying whatsoever.  I tend to think that it is because I have been the sole administrator and I take care of anything and everything Before it happens. I always check the “new requests” very thoroughly. I try to keep my groups safe from harm or any kind of researchers that want to “study” us/them. I have had people pretend to be someone who is in pain and they request to join my support group online. A long while back, I had a few interns from various countries, who wished to “study” the persons with CRPS or Invisible illnesses, so they tried to join one of my support groups. I have not ever asked their reasons because they don’t even get that far. I just don’t let them join my groups.

A few of the the ways that I keep my groups safe are by doing a few simple tasks before allowing someone to  join. I look for “signs” on their pages and I ask them several questions via private message. If their page is bare, without even a cover photo or profile picture; I don’t even pursue their request to join. If it just looks a bit “private” but they’ve been on Facebook for several years, then I ask them the questions that I will post below for you. If they have a few friends in my support group(s), or if they are referred by someone in the group; I usually just welcome them to the group and don’t check much more. I will ask the person who referred them or the people they have as their “friends”, if they know them well or if they are just an acquaintance?  Here are a few of the questions that I ask a prospective new member in one of my online support groups:

  • First I will make a statement something like : “Hello, my name is Suzanne and I’m the founder/admin. for the group that you have asked to join (then I name the group)”.  Then I’ll say, “Please don’t feel singled out, because I ask all prospective members the same questions. I like to just get to know you a little bit to make sure that you are in the right group for what you want/need.”
  • Secondly, I will ask them How did you find this group? What were you searching for?(Because my groups are mostly private, which means they can be seen in name only but the posts are private)….this also helps both of us make sure that they’re in the right place.
  • Then I might ask, What makes you want to join this type of group? Do you live with __ or __? (*Chronic illness, invisible illnesses and/or RSD/CRPS), or are you a Caregiver?
  • Next, I will say “When were you diagnosed? Where do you live?”
  • Then I will check everything out and usually allow them to join
  • If they don’t or won’t answer any of the questions, I don’t allow them into my groups. There are many other groups out there and I just want my members to feel safe.
  • If their page has zero information, zero photos and nothing that you can see whatsoever, that is a bad sign and I just usually “ignore” that request to join.

Some ideas for Administrators and moderators of groups already ongoing are:

  • Check the group regularly and just look over the new posts as they come in. Respond as soon as possible.
  • Look for abusive language &/or aggressive behaviors
  • Watch for a person that may be “picked on” or who has the anger of the group “dumped” on them. Act accordingly to figure out and fix the problem.
  • If you have spoken to someone a couple of times and they are rude to you or other members, it’s time to take them out of your group for the members’ sake
  • Ask for help, as I just recently started doing. I just couldn’t be everywhere and do it all. I asked for volunteers, for people who wanted to do some of the things that I cannot keep up with. Such as checking out all of the new members. Watching for any abusive, nasty or negative language or posts; and then telling me about them. Then I can decide whether to delete the post or talk to the person. Either way I will speak to the writer of those kinds of posts; it’s just a matter of before or after I delete it. My new moderators have the choice if it is a very abusive post to just delete it and tell me who and what, later.
  • Make sure that if you do ask for help, you choose people that you relate well with. Also persons who you have known for quite a while and you trust them and their judgement.

Unfortunately, many of us with Chronic pain issues and illness,  don’t always have the most supportive families or friends. These types of people also try to show up in groups to find out information for the “family”. That is another article in and of itself about Malignant Narcissist’s or abusers. If you have a supportive family, that is half the battle; it’s wonderful for you and that alone can help with your healing.

Whether you are a founder/administrator, a moderator or a member of an online support group.  Try to think first before you write, or at least before  you hit the “send” button. Remember that in Facebook support groups, you have the chance to go back and delete what you have written. Just in case you were terribly upset (we all can feel that way sometimes) and you want to get rid of your post before another person’s feelings get hurt or worse. Never carry private or specific information from one group to another. If in doubt, always ask the administrator(s). If you want to re-post an article or something similar, then go to the original Website  where that article was posted and share straight from there. This way you aren’t taking a post from one group and sharing with others. Usually  it is impossible to “share” between private groups anyways; but just in case.

We all continue to learn and grow in our lives each day. I’ve made mistakes before and I try to make amends or change whatever I can, so that I don’t repeat the error of my ways. I do my best to think first before I react or say something to another person, whether they are a friend or foe. Regardless if they are online in a group or out in the world in some kind of group setting. We are all humans and everyone feels hurt when someone is downright rude or is treating us badly. I want to add that if you are going to comment either way about something that someone has said, written or done; always be sure that you know all of the facts first. Don’t just read one line of something that someone has written, and then make a rude or cutting remark.  Don’t try to guess what someone means when they write a sentence or two in a group post online.  Sometimes the short or hastily written words cannot depict the true feelings, ideas or thoughts of a group member.  Keep in mind that some people are better at expressing themselves with spoken words and others are better at writing. Try to not get bothered by the small things, and think about what the “tone” of the words feel like to you; even if you might’ve said it differently.

When all is said and done, remember that we all inhabit this internet world together. We need to be as kind, loving and gentle as possible. There are always times when we say or do the wrong things. What we do afterwards, or the next time; is what matters most. Be kind and remember that the person you are upset with may have a whole mountain of issues, illnesses or problems that you don’t even know about.  That doesn’t give them the right to abuse or hurt you or others in any way. But just get away & remove yourself from the situation whenever possible. It never hurts to explain yourself, if  you feel that someone has gotten it wrong or judged you wrongly.

Lastly, please remember in the support groups for chronic pain, illness, grief, abuse survivors etc….these people are hurting a bit more than the average amount.  Try to be understanding and be a good listener, especially in a support group.  Give hurting members; those who are in much pain either physically or emotionally, a little leeway. Remember to be gentle and kind.  If you felt hurt by the actions or words of another member in your support group, step back for a moment and think. If you forget and then  realize that you retaliated against someone in a group, because you felt angry or hurt; try to make amends. Try to put yourself in someone Else’s situation, if you know it. If not, then try to just be thoughtful of others feelings. Treat them how you would like to be treated.  Remember that Kindness matters!