New Years Resolutions and Chronic Pain

Karen Lee Richards Health Guide
  • In yesterday's SharePost on New Year's Resolutions, I promised that today I would share my personal reflections on 2008 and resolutions for 2009 with you.  As a general rule, I don't make New Year's resolutions.  Although I tend to be a goal-oriented person, I prefer to set my goals whenever they are needed rather than doing it just because the calendar happens to change to a new year.  This year, however, recent changes to some circumstances in my life have coincided with the advent of a new year; so this seems like an ideal time to go ahead and make some New Year's resolutions.

    Looking Back...

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    I have always been a very spiritually-oriented person; my faith is the cornerstone of my life.  For a number of years, sometime around the first of each year, I've had the experience of having a Bible verse virtually pop out at me when I was reading.  (Sometimes I wasn't even reading the Bible – once I was reading a newspaper article that referred to a Bible verse.)  And no, they didn't literally pop off the page; they just strongly touched my heart and I couldn't get them off my mind.  I found that each time that happened, I spent much of the next year learning more about what that verse meant in my life.  For example, one year I learned how to leave the past behind and move forward onto a new, rewarding path; another year the verses encouraged me to write about my experiences and share them to help others.  (That was the year I co-founded the National Fibromyalgia Association.) 

    I tell you those experiences so you will understand what happened last year.  In January 2008 I was reading an article in a Christian magazine when these words from Deuteronomy 30:19 jumped out at me, “I have set before you life and death...choose life.”  Needless to say, I was a little shaken.  I couldn't help but wonder what might be ahead for me in the coming year that would require me to choose between life and death.  Was my life in jeopardy? 

    As I prayed about it, I felt that at least part of what I needed to do was change my eating habits.  No longer having a family at home for whom I had to cook well-balanced meals, I had fallen into the habit of eating whatever was quick and easy, though often not very nutritious.  And I'd always had quite a sweet tooth, which didn't help.  So I began trying to be more conscious of eating better.  I started buying organic produce, and I almost completely quit buying sweets. 

    It turned out to be a very good thing I had made those changes because in early October I was diagnosed with very severe type II diabetes.  Apparently my glucose levels were so high, I was on the verge of falling into a coma or having a heart attack.  I can't help but wonder what would have happened if I hadn't already made some significant changes to my diet.  Of course, in addition to taking medication, I had to make even more drastic dietary changes.  I can't say I've enjoyed it – almost everything I like is a no-no.  But the changes have been worth it.  By December, my hemoglobin A1c (a test that indicates glucose levels over a 2-3 month period) level had dropped from 13.5 to 7.5.  It still needs to come down to about a 6, but my doctor said that was the largest drop she had ever seen in just two months. 

  • I had indeed had to “choose life” by changing my eating habits.  Health issues were definitely the most dramatic aspect of last year for me.  Thankfully, my family is doing well and I have continued to thoroughly enjoy my work.  So, all in all, the positive things in my life last year far outweighed the negative. 

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    Looking ahead...

    In case you're wondering, I haven't received any new Bible verses for 2009 yet.  If I don't, I'll just continue learning from last year's – trying to make life-enhancing choices.  In addition to my newfound awareness of how the decisions I make can literally make the difference between life and death, as I get older (I'm facing one of those big decade birthdays this year) I also find myself thinking more about leaving something substantive behind that will live long after me – both for my children and for the chronic pain community. 

    With these things on my mind, here are my resolutions for 2009.

    • Physical:  (1) Find and/or develop new diabetes-friendly recipes so I can have a larger variety of foods that I like available.  (2) Pursue a lead on an inexpensive treadmill so I can increase my physical activity to help reduce my glucose levels. 
    • Mental:  Allow myself more time to read – for both work and personal pleasure. 
    • Spiritual:  Begin writing a spiritual heritage book for my children and grandchildren.  (I've been thinking and talking about doing this for more than 10 years.  It's time to stop thinking and start writing.)
    • Career:  Prepare a book proposal for a chronic pain-related book. 

    I've printed these out and taped them to the front of my computer to help keep me aware of them throughout the year.  Next year I'll let you know how I did.

    I'd love for you to share your own personal reflections and resolutions in the comments below or in your own SharePost.  As I mentioned yesterday, writing your resolutions down and sharing them with someone else helps implant them into your subconsconcious and makes you more likely to actually accomplish them. 

    May all your hopes, dreams and resolutions for the coming year be realized.

Published On: January 01, 2009