You've seen my healthy selfies. My posts encouraging you to move more and to put healing foods in your body. I'm sure they can sometimes be annoying- blah, blah, blah Tara, shut the heck up already. But perhaps you don't know the reason for my relentless pursuit of health. It's to help me to live my best life in spite of having a chronic neurological illness and to empower you to take control of your health.
The girl on the right in this picture was suffering. But I love this picture because 2010 was the year that my life changed. I’ve had trigeminal neuralgia for 18 years, but it’s only over the past 9 years that I figured out the importance of slowing down for complete self-care and opened myself up to holistic treatments. Once I had an open mind and became curious (instead of angry) about my illness, my health started to change. I went from someone who was bedridden, at the end of her rope, lost, sad. I just laid in bed and cried, but crying triggered pain. I also ate to soothe my pain gaining 40 pounds. Some days my husband and kids couldn’t touch me, I hurt that badly. I was desperate for hope. I went to a depressing support group and didn’t find a ton of hope or help online. All people did was talk about their suffering. I was on heavy meds and was about to go out of work on disability. The meds were making me lose my mind. I got lost driving home from work. I’d go to the grocery store and forget why I was there. I withdrew from family and friends. I wasn’t sure how I could go on. It was a dark and painful time. Out of desperation I went to an acupuncturist who also happened to be a holistic practitioner and health coach and slowly we started to change my lifestyle.
Of course I didn’t do this all at once, I tried one new thing at a time to see what worked for me and what didn’t. I lost the weight. I changed my job which was creating a tremendous amount of stress for me. I discovered how much fitness impacts my neuralgia in a positive way. I armed myself with some great practitioners. I have an excellent neurologist- I now take Maxalt as needed to control my neuralgia flare ups instead of the daily harsh meds in combination with the holistic practices below.
I have bad pain days, especially in the winter. But I went from taking anti-convulsant meds like candy to only needing them about once a month. I recently went 85 days without pain meds! For the most part I’m active and healthy and I’m living my best life in spite of my illness. It doesn’t control me, I am in control. I refuse to be a victim, I will be a victor!
I have a friend whose mother was recently diagnosed with trigeminal neuralgia and I wrote this to help her. No matter what chronic illness you're facing, many of the below actions might help you too.
What helps me:
Prayer/faith- couldn’t get through this without it!
Exercise- daily movement is a natural mood enhancer and pain reliever. Even just walking daily and light stretching.
Managing stress- meditation, setting boundaries, counseling.
Acupuncture- allowed me to stop using the heavy daily meds like Neurontin that were ruining my life. I did acupuncture once a week until my nerves settled down, now I do it every other week. Here’s my testimonial: https://acupuncturecure.com/testimonials/
Nutrition- reducing inflammatory foods. Adding in anti-inflammatory foods and supplements. Removing gluten, dairy and soy is quite the commitment but has been a game changer. I could feel my nerves relax within 2 weeks of going gluten free. https://www.glutenfreesociety.org/no-grain-no-pain-the-book/
Finding a holistic practitioner- https://myfunctionalmedicinedoctor.org/ that can blend eastern and western medicine. I’d strongly recommend Micronutrient testing. Many nutrient deficiencies can mimic nerve pain. The supplements that have helped me the most are:
https://www.metagenics.com/ultrainflamx-plus-360- can only be prescribed by a practitioner.
https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B076B6JTMW/ref=ppx_yo_dt_b_asin_title_o03_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1- - I take this twice a day with water and it’s really settled my nerves. You can find it on Amazon.
https://www.amazon.com/Relief-Magnesium-Arnica-Homeopathic-Strength/dp/B01J2BN338/ref=sr_1_3?crid=1SPVZ0NL7HWXX&keywords=magsoothium%2Bcream&qid=1564669856&s=gateway&sprefix=magsoo%2Chpc%2C139&sr=8-3&th=1- I rub this on my neck, shoulders and back of head.
Massage- I was afraid to get massage but this year discovered that massage helps me greatly! Craniosacral therapy has given me incredible relief. I was going once a week and now go once a month. I wish I had discovered it sooner!
Journaling- I keep a daily pain journal, rank my pain from 0-10 in the morning and again at night and note any triggers or what made me feel better.
Knowing my triggers- Extreme cold and heat, humidity, noise, stress.
Having a good support system- My closest friends and family know what I’m going through. They know my triggers and my limits. They understand when I say no or have to reschedule. It took a while for me to be able to share with them because I didn’t want to be a whiner. But it’s been important to me and to our relationships.
Mindset- I have to choose to live in faith over fear. This illness can be depressing, exhausting and you can become paralyzed by fear. Many people with trigeminal neuralgia stop living their best life because they fear the uncertainty of when the next attack will come. So they just hunker down and don’t do anything. I surround myself with positive people, books and podcasts. I stay engaged in things that bring me joy. I practice gratitude daily, even on the days I have pain. I moved from a mindset of “why me God” to “what will you have me learn from this God.”
As I write this I'm extremely overwhelmed with gratitude of the angels who've been put in my path to help me heal and give me hope. I want you to see and believe that there is hope for you too. You might be in a really dark place right now and you have no idea how you're going to dig yourself out. Just the thought of doing something different is enough to make you want to quit before you start. Just do one thing. Just one. Once you master it, do one more. Soon you'll find that your life is changing. One change, one choice at a time. Things will get better. You can get better.
Hugs and friendship,