The Pain Companion: A book review

No matter what chronic illness you battle, chances are your health condition brings you some type of pain throughout your patient journey. As a person with Crohn’s disease, pain can oftentimes be part of daily life…even when you’re in a “remission” state. It can be difficult and overwhelming to try and wrangle the beast that is chronic illness and chronic pain.

I recently came across a new book entitled, 9781608685707_FC“The Pain Companion: Everyday Wisdom for Living With and Moving Beyond Chronic Pain.” The author, Sarah Anne Shockley, lives with chronic pain herself and offers sage advice about how to find compassion within yourself and adjust your mindset. To Sarah, “pain is a necessity, but suffering is an option.” I’ve found personally after living with Crohn’s for more than 13 years, that the way I look at, deal with and handle pain has evolved greatly in that time. It’s not something that happens overnight, but you’ll notice a transformation within yourself as time goes by. You come to find a kind of patience and strength within yourself that you never knew existed.

Sarah recognizes how isolating pain is. She writes, “There is no one inside your world of pain with you; you are utterly alone there. Even others who are also suffering do not share the same pain.” SarahAnneShockley1_cThis excerpt really spoke to me, since no two IBD patients have the same exact journey or disease process or pattern. We’re all unique in how we experience the disease but can find great comfort from leaning on those who “get” the pain on a different level than the average person.

The book touches on the invincibility factor we all feel prior to diagnosis. How the healthy just expect to always feel well and take it for granted.

“When the body is not functioning properly, it brings up a huge amount of fear and anxiety. We can’t wake up in the morning and assume everything is going to be all right.”

The book discusses why pain has a purpose. How it warns us. The way it alerts us when things are awry. How we all can think of our pain as a “sign-post and a guide,” rather than a problem to be overcome.

As a parent myself, I loved an analogy that was shared about pain acting very much like a child pulling on a pant leg and whining. We can ignore the child all we want…but the more we tell the child to stop and be quiet, the more upset they get. After a while, we look down, take a breath, and try to calmly ask what they are trying to tell us, so we can act. _F6B3961The same goes for chronic pain. We all know with IBD that symptoms of a flare start to fester. We know it deep down and may try and keep the worry and stress to ourselves. Until the pain is too much to take on alone. Think of pain as your body communicating with you and giving you a target for healing.

“The Pain Companion” shares several helpful coping strategies and meditative exercises that you can put into play in the comfort of your home. From breathing practices to writing letters, it’s all about changing the relationship you have with your pain and coming to terms with it, rather than thinking of it as such an enemy.

Our stories, our patient journeys and our experiences open our eyes to the importance of slowing down, being present and simply being appreciative of the small things—like a day where you feel healthy and “normal.” This book reminded me and showed me that rather than an enemy, I can use my pain to my advantage—take the time to listen and thrive regardless of what it throws my way.

Click here to purchase “The Pain Companion off Amazon. Click here to learn more about Sarah and her blog and website.


Different strokes for different folks: Art Therapy and IBD

Coloring books aren’t just for kids, they can be a helpful calming tool for those who battle chronic illness. The simple act of coloring intricate shapes and patterns allows us to enter a meditative mental space. IMG_1060Once you enter this state of calm amongst the stress surrounding your life, you can take in the positive messages of a coloring book.

I recently connected with an artist named Alia who created a coloring book specifically geared toward those who battle inflammatory bowel disease. It’s called “Crohn’s and Colitis: Color to Cope.” After watching her sister battle Crohn’s disease for more than 20 years, she was inspired to use her talents to make a difference.

Alia says, “Seeing how much my sister suffered, physically and emotionally with Crohn’s inspired me to create a coloring book. The psychological aspect of coming to terms with IBD is very underestimated, especially for young women. I wanted to create something to make her feel better. I noticed there was a limited number of informational books available. Adult coloring is a proven stress reliever and engages the limbic (emotional) brain. It helps you enter a ‘flow’ like state. I thought pairing inspiring/supportive quotes with images would help anyone suffering with IBD process what they are feeling.”IMG_1058

See the support in the palm of your hands

The coloring book is a visual representation of support that many of us in the IBD community yearn for. It validates and honors our experiences—no matter what age you are. Flipping through the pages, you’ll see quotes and images for times of stress, sadness and laughter. The coloring book provides an accessible way to release stress and get motivated to take on the day.

Since the coloring book launched, Alia has received amazing feedback from the IBD community. Here’s an example shared on Instagram:

“Thank you for creating this coloring book. I was diagnosed with Crohn’s at age 17 and am now 33. After four surgeries and two ostomies, as well as a lifetime of stories that no one would truly understand unless you were in my shoes, I think this book is very therapeutic and I appreciate your empathy and support.  Thinking of you & your sister.  Much love.”

The inspiration behind the art

IMG_9039As someone with a creative mind whose passion lies in art, Alia did research within the IBD community to see what types of images might resonate, along with key messages and emotions. Safe to say, the girl did her homework!

Alia went on to explain that coloring calms the amygdala, which is the part of the brain that controls the fight or flight response. This part of the brain is often on high alert during periods of stress or illness. When we’re fatigued, and our energy is low, coloring isn’t taxing, it can take us back to our childhood. A time of life that was most likely more carefree. Whether you’re at home or in a hospital bed, the coloring book can serve as a helpful tool in your day-to-day management of your illness.

How to get your hands on a copy

The coloring book is available on Amazon in the United States, the UK and Europe. Click here to purchase “Crohn’s and Colitis: Color to Cope.” The coloring book is published under Alia’s author name: “MeMoments Creative”.

Follow Alia on Instagram: @crohns.colitis.color2cope

Along with IBD, Alia has also created coloring books geared towards infertility. Her most recent book targets mental health—depression and anxiety. She plans to create more coloring books in the future that can serve as a support tool for other patient communities as well.