Managing chronic pain more that half a lifetime– Part two

Screen Shot 2015-06-30 at 8.59.03 PMInterview with Juanda Lee De Shazer, Part two

I recently interviewed a dear acquaintance of mine, Juanda now in her 91st year, about how she has coped with her chronic pain all these years. Here is part 2 of our conversation.

[NOTE: After reading the interview notes, Juanda, who loves to write added a part three: talking about the more difficult parts of her journey and additional tools.] 

Juanda talked about the two most important pain management techniques along with a positive attitude and laughter.

Emotions and pain

Juanda stated that it is vitally important to realize how pain and emotions are connected, and suggests to rate pain and emotions at the same time, using a scale of 1 to 10.

After using pain scales for many years, 5 years ago she learned about rating her emotional state, such as irritation, when her pain gets worse (2). She found that when she notices and directly attends to her emotions, her pain usually diminishes to an acceptable level. She said that this gives her power: “I can either fall apart or I can take control of my situation”.

For Juanda the most helpful ways to work with her emotions have come from the HeartMath Institute. She has been following the institute for the last 15 years, ever since she first got the book The HeartMath Solution. She let me peek at her own copy, but her loaner copy was not available that day. Juanda continues to learn from the HeartMath’s e-mails and webinars. (1).

HeartMath is a well-researched biofeedback approach that teaches people how to attend to and soothe their emotions by focusing on their emotional hearts. One beginning simple technique is to simply put a hand on one’s heart, imagining breathing into the heart. Through focusing on “feelings of love, happiness, care, and appreciation while breathing, a physical effect of  balancing the heart rhythms is achieved. HearthMath research has demonstrated such positive emotions “not only change patterns of activity in the nervous system; they also reduce the production of the stress hormone cortisol… resulting in less stress, better brain function and a stronger immune system” (2), and “more vitality and clarity of thinking”.

This focus on heart qualities, and a spiritual approach to life have been important for Juanda, who said that she applies them to everyday living, “it’s not just a pain tool”.

Connection with and service to others

Despite ever-present pain Juanda has, and continues to have  a great interest in others. She told many stories in our time together: about acquaintances and friends that she admires, their trials, tribulations and triumphs.

Part of her reason for attending pain groups in the past few years has been to contribute: to share what works for her with the other participants, encouraging and supporting them.

It is important to her “to give back,” she said as she has “received much in her life”. I certainly have always experienced this quality in her. Once again, during our visits she told me how much she appreciates my web page, and encourages my art work.

Finally, Juanda has always found it important to set and work toward goals. She has worked through many physical and life challenges that way. In recent years she did all the planning to bring her family together for a cruise to celebrate her 90th birthday. She said with a smile, “I just did it one step at a time, one day at a time”. This is the same approach she is taking these days to expand her walking range after recent illness.

Clearly life for Juanda is full of challenge and her life is worth living wholeheartedly. She continues to be fully engaged in her life in many creative, caring ways, curious and always ready to learn something new, and to have a good belly laugh along the way.

Once again I walked away from our time together feeling invigorated and inspired. Juanda gifted me with this Brian Tracy quote, that she values:  “Make a game of finding something positive in every situation.  Ninety-five percent of your emotions are determined by how you interpret events to yourself.”

(1)HeartMath quote from the Amazon book page of The HeartMath Solution

(2) Website fro HeartMath: