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Author Archives: Julie Hodges, RYT

Happy New Year! Now What?

Hello friends,

I hope you are starting 2015 with a bang and some excitement about the new year.  If not, maybe some of what I am about to say will help.  As for me, I am looking forward to making some changes.  I have a habit of naming every year.  I have done that for many years, but, for some reason, did not do that for 2014.  I just couldn’t find the right words, and it showed.  It was a reasonably good year, I accomplished some of the things I set out to accomplish, and had a great deal of joy in my life, but there were some things missing from the final tally.  This year will be different.  This year is The Julie Project.

First off, how did you do with the stress of the holiday season?  Many people get sick around the holidays.  It is believed by some that the “cold and flu season” exists purely as a response to lowered immunity caused by the stress of the holiday season, and not by germs.  I think stress, along with spending more time indoors (there are fewer germs outside), focusing more on other people, and less on self-care, and trying to do too much during the holidays, is what lowers our immune system and allows us to become ill.  My body tried to get sick, but I knocked it out with Cold Snap (a Chinese herb product to increase the immune response), Zicam and Airborne.  I should have started taking these products before I got on a plane December 19 and taken them through the holiday season.  I was left with some minor sinus trouble.  Since I was traveling from December 19 to December 29, I have a little fatigue from with traveling, but not too bad.  I got plenty of sleep, practiced yoga and meditation and ate well while I was gone.  I know those are practices that strengthen my immunity. What do you do to help yourself stay, or get, well?  Do you have any products or tips you use to boost your immunity?

I like to take stock of my life at the end of the year.  Here are some of the questions I ask myself and how I answered them this year.  I am not going to list everything, just the things that may be interesting to you or are more general and will serve as an example.

What am I grateful for?

1. My loving husband, George.

2. My babies (dogs), Sarge, Pearl and Mitra.

3. Friends and family.

4. My health, the good and bad of it all.

5. My ability to read, which enriches my life more than I can say.

What did I accomplish in 2014?

1. I did a 15-day juice fast in May.  It was not easy, but it let me know I can be disciplined when I want to be disciplined.  I can’t use the excuse, “I don’t have any discipline,” any more.  I know better!  Damn.  That makes life a little more liberating and a little more scary.  LOL

2. I wrote a novel in November.  Last year I found out about National Novel Writing Month ( where participants write the first draft of a novel in 30 days, and I wanted to participate.  I finished on November 29.  Whew!  I can’t wait to finish editing the novel and I plan to participate again this year.

3. I finished 4 extensive knitting projects, three of which involved many skeins of yarn, and one of which required only two skeins, but involved lace and took many hours to complete.

What can I improve upon in 2015?

1.  My sleeping habits:  I don’t get enough sleep because I go to bed too late and still get up early most of the time.  I will have less pain, more energy and will be more productive if I get 8 or 9 hours of sleep a night, instead of 6-7.

2. My eating habits:  I haven’t been eating enough greens or fresh fruits and veggies. If I eat better I will have less pain and more energy, and will likely lose some more weight.  Yes, it will take more planning, I won’t be able to just find something in the cupboard.  I will eat six or more servings of fruits and veggies a day. The benefits will outweigh my love of laziness.  LOL

3. Clutter in my house:  My house isn’t my sanctuary right now, it is a bit of a mess.  When my house is tidy again, it will better serve me and my needs.  I will be able to work more easily, will be more productive, and my home will be easier to clean.  Above all, I will enjoy my home more.

What are some steps I can take right now to help myself meet my objectives.

1. I can ask a friend of mine to help me with accountability.  I asked one of my girlfriends to do “Integrity Day” with me. This is where you schedule a day, or even a few hours, to check in with each other every hour.  During the check-ins, you say what you did the last hour and what you plan to do the upcoming hour, and so on each of the next hours planned.  It creates accountability and you end up getting more done.  This is something for once a week or less often, and is used to help you finish up projects or things you have procrastinated on, not normally for day-to-day tasks, but it is up to you.

2. I signed up for a food-related challenge. January 5 through 25 I will eat one raw vegan meal a day.

3. I hired a professional organizer.  We start on January 8.

These are just some of the questions I like to ask myself at the beginning of the year.  I focus on the positive, on gratitude, why I am proud of myself, what I can change and why, and how I will change the changeable.  I find this helps me more than focusing on the past and what was wrong.  I like to come from a place of love for myself and my life, and a potential for joy. These are the things that change my life for the better and that will, ultimately, cause the least amount of stress,  We all know that stress exacerbates Fibromyalgia symptoms.  With all this in mind, what will you change and how will you love yourself more this year?

May 2015 bring you joy, love and peace.

Many blessings,


Preparing For Company

I don’t know what happened with this post. I thought I uploaded it over a month ago and then again last week. It seems there is a disconnect between the app and desktop versions. Anyway, I hope you enjoy the following post. 🙂

I love having company, and I love my family/friends even more.  But preparing for them to visit…I don’t love that nearly as much.  My priorities don’t normally include cleaning up rooms I am not in all the time, in fact, those rooms become a dumping ground for everything I am not going to deal with at the present time.  So when company is iminent I am in a big tizzy.

I am so thankful my brother and his family came to visit last week! He is busy with his life in Arizona and has little opportunity to visit, so I don’t see him nearly as often as I would like.  I only get to Arizona once or twice a year, myself.  He brought my mother with him.  She needs some medical “stuff” done and I will be helping her through that the next couple of months.

So, Mom is staying with me.  I am happy with that, and I really want her to be comfortable in my home.  I had to convert my office to a guest room.  I have a messy desk, and, since I normally use a table on my deck or the couch in the living room as my office, my real desk is even messier than if I actually used it.  It took two weeks to clean up my space for her.  It took two weeks for two reasons.  I had two weeks notice and I paced myself.  There have been times when people came on a whim saying, “We came to see you, not your house.”  But I don’t feel very good when that happens.  I feel like I am always apoligizing for the lack of tidiness in my guest space, and, to be honest, much of my space.  I enjoy doing too many things I don’t have a specific space for.  I am also so fatigued most of the time I don’t always put things away.  But I digress…

Pacing myself made the process easier and less likely to lead to a flare. All I needed was extra rest.  One day I will learn to make it a priority to keep alll my space tidy.  Until then, I will continue to make a plan to coincide with the time I am given.

So often we see things like a messy room as overwhelming.  There is an idea called chunking.  Break the task down into chunks.  Do, and see or think about, only ONE chunk at a time.  I like to take a before photo of each chunk and then an after photo of each chunk so I  am able to see a physical representation of the work I did.  If it is a to-do list, break your tasks down into the smallest pieces.  For example, instead of return calls, try writing “1. Call Joe,” “2. Call Sarah,” “3. Call George,”…that type of thing.  Then cross off three or more tasks instead of one.

Another idea is to slightly overestimate the time each task will take.  That way, when you allot one hour for a task that takes only 45 minutes, you can relax for 15 minutes.

One thing I do in my daily life is to “work” during commercials.  I don’t watch much TV, but when I do, I do the dishes, “reboot” the laundry, or mop the floor, or dust, or whatever job there is to do, during commercials.  I knit during the program.  I feel like I’ve knit all day.  Somehow along the way I got a clean house.  Since I really don’t like cleaning house, this is a major win-win for me!

Find YOUR win-win and tell me about it.


Fun, Travel and An Aftermath That’s Worth It

Hello everyone! It has been a wild ride the last couple weeks, a little bit of not so nice and a boatload of joy.

On June 9, I had a gallbladder attack! I would think it a weird thing for a vegetarian to have, but I did. I have a sludgy gallbladder. It was horrible, a fact anyone who has had one surely knows. I will be having my gallbladder out in the near future, rather than have that happen again. I seriously thought I was having a heart attack. Because of the FMS, it took  about days to fully recover. The way I had to position myself, breathe deeply into my side ribs and hold my breath several times during the ultrasound was a bit much for my body to take. But this is the worst thing to happen to me in years, and is forgettable in comparison to the trip we took on June 11.

On June 11, my husband and I took off to Kansas. We had quality time with his kids, all of whom I adore! If that wasn’t enough joy to fill my heart, seeing my stepdaughter get married and attending my grandson’s first birthday party was over the top! It was all so wonderful my heart cannot contain it all, and words cannot express just how wonderful it was. We also went to the Smoky Hill River Festival in Salina, Kansas, which was interesting and fun, full of art and music. In Kansas City, Missouri, we saw the King Tut exhibit at Union Station, another highlight of our trip.

All the family, fun and activity was great. I wouldn’t trade it for the world. But you know what can happen after travel, fun or excitement. I call it aftermath. You may know it simply as pain and fatigue flare. We got home late on Monday night. By Saturday I finally felt like the aftermath had subsided a little bit. What to do? It isn’t like you can completely avoid it rearing its ugly head, whether or not you choose to avoid travel and joy, which you wouldn’t want to do anyway.

So what can you do to help guard and prepare yourself? The biggest thing for me is planning, plenty of sleep, good nutrition, plenty of water and sticking to my exercise schedule. I wasn’t able to fully execute my plan beforehand, because of the visit to the emergency room, but I was still able to execute the other strategies. While I had to do both Monday’s and Tuesday’s tasks on Tuesday, at least I had a plan. It would have been worse had I not had a plan.

While we were on our trip, I was able to get seven or eight hours of sleep nearly every night. I drank plenty of water, and ate well, even though I indulged a bit in desserts. Oh the horror! LOL While my exercise schedule at home is different from what happened on our trip, I still got plenty of exercise. We did a great deal of walking, particularly at the Festival, where we went on two days. Since I’ve gotten home, I have done the same thing, gotten sleep, water and good food. Yesterday I got a little extra exercise while walking the dogs. We simply took a longer walk that we all enjoyed. The weather is so nice, taking a longer walk is a no-brainer.

The biggest thing about flares is to plan for them. They are inevitable. Think what you can do for yourself to work through them when you know a flare will likely happen. Sometimes by doing that, the flare isn’t as bad or may not happen at all! When you get one unexpectedly, it may be for no reason at all, or you may know why it happened. Try to learn from your flares. You can use that information to prevent and get through the flare next time. Above all, be patient. Do your best to keep a good attitude. Wallowing in your misery will make it worse. This leads me to an idea, the relationship between pain and emotion and attachment. Maybe we will talk about that next time. Hmmm.

A happy life is made of happy moments. Though there are moments which aren’t so happy, we have to have that contrast to know the difference. Concentrate on those happy moments and live a happy life. The flare will pass.



The Need to Feed

I have been asked many times what I think most helps relieve the symptoms of Fibromyalgia and chronic pain.  Well, the answer is simple and not really magical: diet and exercise.  Like anyone, the healthier we are the better we will feel.  The better we eat and the more we move, the better we will feel.  ALL of us can improve the way we take care of our bodies!

I will start with diet.  First of all, stop eating processed foods.  Processing takes the life and ability to nourish our bodies right out of our food.  Secondly, if it is white in color, you probably shouldn’t eat it.  White flour, white sugar, white potatoes, lots of mayo on your sandwich, it just isn’t going to be helpful.  Substitute whole grain flour; use honey, stevia or dates for sweetener, or eat a piece of fruit; substitute sweet potatoes or yams for white potatoes; use a little bit of mayo or hummus or mashed avocado on your sandwich.  These are not new revelations for a better diet.  Chances are very good that you have heard these things before.  Consider the possibility that changing your diet will change your life.  AND consider that you CAN do it.  Take baby steps and don’t beat yourself up when you go back to your old ways.  Perfection doesn’t exist.  Pick yourself up and go forward.  It really is what you do 80% of the time that counts the most.  Try it for a few months and see how you feel.

If you already do the above, I would bet there are ways you could eat more nutritiously.  You could add more raw fruits and vegetables to your diet, particularly dark greens.  You could have a smoothie with spinach in it every day.  I realize how disgusting that sounds!  I thought so at first, too, until I tried it.  I didn’t know the spinach was there!  The only thing that was different was that my smoothie looked like a St. Patrick’s Day creation.  If you can get past drinking something green, you are good to go!  Try putting it into a colored glass.

You can also try switching from iceberg lettuce to romaine or green leaf.  If that is already part of your diet, add chopped kale.  (Personally, I like the curly green kale and not the dinosaur/Tuscan/Lacinto kind.)  My point is, find ways to get fruits and vegetables, in their natural form, into your body.  If eating raw fruits and veggies wreaks havoc on your digestive system, see how you feel if you lightly steam or stir-fry them.  Eating the colors of the rainbow will help you more than you can imagine.  I will write more about diet another day.

About exercise…as my rheumatologist says, “A toned muscle will always feel better than an untoned one.”  I know it hurts to exercise, but over time it hurts less during and after the exercise, you have more energy during the day and you have more restful sleep.  That is quite a payoff!!!  Try walking just a quarter-mile every other day, more if you can.  I started out that way and have been able to do half-marathons, the 3-day breast cancer walk (60 miles over 3 days!), and hike the 4-day Incan Trail to Machu Picchu (a lifelong dream).  SO MUCH is possible!  Before I became active again, the only thing stopping me was fear and fatigue, but mostly fear.  Once I let go of the fear of the pain, I was able to really live my dreams.  If you are afraid of exercise, I understand completely, but you have to let go of that fear so you can get the most out of your life.  There is no other way.

So, as I was saying, start out walking a short distance and slowly work your way up.   Look for a “therapeutic” or “restorative” yoga class.  There won’t be much “exercise,” but your body will be able to be in more positions than sitting or lying down with relative comfort and you will learn breathing techniques that will move more oxygen into the muscles.  If you are in Reno, I have a class, “Yoga for Challenging Bodies,” at 5:15 on Monday nights.  Let me know if you are interested.  Yoga (the right kind) and Tai Chi are both very good for most FMS patients.  You can also play with your animals, or those at a shelter, or your kids or someone else’s.  The point is to be more active and in ways that you enjoy.  It will feel better than “exercise.”

One more thing.  I used to smoke, but quit before I got FMS.  If  you smoke, quit.  Smoking deprives your body (your muscles!) of oxygen.  To feel their best, your muscles need all the oxygen and nutrients they can get.  All of your other efforts will be diminished if you smoke, as will your general health, the health of anyone around you, and your finances will suffer.  I know it can be very difficult to quit, but there is help out there.  Take advantage of it and do the best thing you can do for yourself and your family.

Now go out there and kick some Fibro Arse!



P.S.  As always, I am not giving you medical advice.  That is your doctor’s job. 🙂

Welcome Readers!

Welcome to my Fibromyalgia Lifeline blog! I am so glad you are here. I thought I would start with telling you about my experience in getting a diagnosis. I was pretty lucky. It took less than six months to get a diagnosis. I have read it takes the average FMS sufferer up to seven years. I can’t imagine!

On the “About” page there is a little bit about me. Please, introduce yourself in the comments below. If you would, I would greatly appreciate you telling me what you want to read about, and what troubles you in having FMS or another chronic pain issue. Whether you have FMS or some other type of chronic pain, it is likely invisible to others, so it has many of the same characteristics and effects on your life. This blog is for you, too.

Here is the story of my diagnosis.

One day in the latter part of 2003, I woke up in horrifying pain that completely consumed my body and mind. I had no clue what to think! I felt that, at just 40 years old, my life was over. Part of me wished, in that moment, that it was. Similar things had happened to me since my 20s, but it was never as severe and debilitating. I was so fatigued that I couldn’t really move even if I weren’t in so much pain, and I had slept so long I missed a day. This was definitely different, and in the past ten and a half years it hasn’t gone away. But, I have learned what my body and mind needs to keep the pain and fatigue from overwhelming me like it did on that day in 2003.

From that day in 2003 to about April 2004, was a series of tests, along with extreme fear, and a cycle of uncertainty and elation. I had no idea what was going on with my body, I knew I wasn’t imagining it, and I knew the purpose of the blood tests. The blood tests were going to tell my doctor if I was going to die or not. All those test results were normal! Okay. So. I wasn’t going to die any time soon from any type of cancer, virus, or any of a host of other diseases. But I still didn’t know what the hell was wrong with me! I also wondered how many times I could get poked with a needle in a few weeks time and not have some kind of ill effect. Apparently, more than I had been poked. One benefit of $15,000 worth of tests, without the benefit of insurance, is that I don’t have to lie down to have blood drawn anymore.

All the while I had this terrible pain to contend with. My primary care doctor was on sabbatical, so I had to see someone else, a doctor who didn’t know me. She would not give me any pain medication because she didn’t know what was wrong with me and she was concerned I would become addicted. Neither of those concerned me! I was taking leftover narcotics from dentists for nearly a month and, while they weren’t helping all that much, they didn’t seem to be making anything worse. The narcotics soon ran out. Then I started drinking. That only helped for the time I was completely inebriated. I found that the next three days weren’t really worth it. The hangovers made me even more miserable, since hangovers are worse when you have FMS. Plus, I once got so drunk I did a face plant in the dirt and chipped a tooth. Grrrrr. I was at a complete loss. I was just so desperate for relief I didn’t know what to do.

Eventually, I was referred to a rheumatologist who diagnosed me with Fibromyalgia. Hot damn! I knew what was wrong! He helped me, through trial and error find the right traditional medication. I helped myself, through trial and error find the right diet, exercise, and alternative methods to help me the rest of the way. In the future, I will talk about the things I do, the things I’ve tried, and the things I believe to be helpful to all of us who suffer from FMS and other chronic pain syndromes (as long as they are okay with your doctor!!!).

It took several months to get the medical help I needed, and to get well enough to learn what I could do to heal my now completely screwed up body and life. Ten and a half years later I am still learning, but am happy that I feel well enough to live a happy life on my own terms.

Yes, I made some mistakes along the way to my diagnosis. Probably the worst was drinking like a fish because the pain and fear were unbearable. I should have gone to a different doctor to see if I could get some type of pain control. (The rheumatologist told me there was no reason I should have had to suffer like that without medical help.) I had, also, never learned to be an advocate for myself with regard to my healthcare because I never had to before, and I didn’t feel well enough to stick up for myself and ask the right questions. Between not being well and being so independent, I didn’t know how to ask for help from a friend or family member. I had yet to learn that being independent means knowing when to ask for help.

I now have an amazing support system, with my husband, friends, family members, and a great healthcare team. These are the things I want for you, and I will do what I can to help you get them. Please leave comments letting me know how I can help you. I look forward to getting to know you!

Sending you wishes for a bright future!

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