Search This Blog

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Neighbor Needs - The Secret to Dealing With Chronic Pain and Related Depression - Part 6

Neighbor Needs

By Cheryle M. Touchton
The Pocket Full of Quarters Lady

The Sh’ma: Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind; and, Love your neighbor as yourself. Luke 10:27 NIV

Do you know what your neighbor needs? Do you care? Pain has a way of stealing our energy for anything or anyone else but ourselves, causing us to become so self absorbed and needy that people close to us feel trapped. Instead of taking the world “by storm,” we take the world one hostage at a time, as our own needs demand the care of those who are unfortunate enough to care for us. Instead of loving our neighbor as ourselves, we need and demand more than most of our neighbors are willing to give. We sense their resentment, and our own resentments grow as self-pity drives us further into a needy nightmare.

I lost the 1970’s. Seriously, I have little memory of them. They passed in a pain and pain medication induced fog. I married in 1971, began compulsively binge eating, and stopped living. Eventually, weight gain destroyed my health as my body cried foul to the continual abuse. By 1975, health problems were in full swing and my mother and husband despaired over the amount of care I needed. I slipped on the ice and nursed an injured knee. I had a breast biopsy, a difficult pregnancy, gall bladder surgery, and a radical hysterectomy. I couldn’t take hormones so I was 26, had a small baby, and in full menopause. I hurt everywhere from the atrophy of inactivity and the damage to my body. Need I say more? I was the needy neighbor everyone first tried to help and eventually avoided. In the end, I was left with a resentful husband and a mother committed to nursing me back to health while making sure I understood how to avoid this problem in the future.

In 1979, I took stock of my life, put unnecessary food and any pain medication down, joined a support group for food addiction, and got out of bed. It was over a year before anyone even realized I was better. When family members grew ill in 1980, and I began helping, people were naturally dubious. I had to insist they let me help. It startled me to realize how self absorbed I’d become and what a drain I’d been on those who loved me. I vowed to spend the rest of life making amends. I did much damage to my body during that time and still have lingering difficulties, but I fully realize that if I’d continued on the path I was on, I wouldn’t be here. Today, when I hurt, I use it as a reminder of how I was, count my blessings, try not to whine, and focus on someone else. It works. Jesus knew what He was talking about when He told us that the most important thing we could do is to love God and others.

Neighbor Need #1: Resist the urge to give into others constantly taking care of you.

For people who occasionally have health problems, accepting help can be hard. They have to learn how to let others help them. For people with chronic pain, being taken care of can be a trap that we relax into and never return from. I must confess to finding relief in shutting my door, taking a pill, and letting Mama take care of everything else. Being constantly cared for is eerily similar to an addiction and even today, years later, my instinct is to flee from it. Now, miracle of miracles, when I grow temporarily sick, I have to make myself let others care for me. No more “needy neighbor” for me.

Neighbor Need #2: Do what you can for yourself.

No matter how ill we are, there are always things we can do for ourselves. My husband has the spiritual gift of service and knows when I’m in pain. Now that he is not feeling hostage to my pain, he naturally volunteers to do things for me when I’m in pain.

When someone offers me help, I apply a spiritual exercise of asking myself a couple of questions.
Question 1: Could I do this myself?

If the answer is yes, I ask a second question.
Question 2: Would it damage my body to do it myself?

If the answer is no, I do it for myself. I want to save my husband’s generous nature for when I really need it and keep my body moving as much as possible.

Neighbor Need #3: Do a small secret service for someone every day.

There is nothing like doing something secretly for someone else to get me out of myself and my own problems. It can be as simple as picking up a sock and putting it away without complaining or as elaborate as sending money anonymous to someone in need. It doesn’t matter what we do. It only matters that we do it.

Someone assigned me that task in 1979 and I was surprised to learn that I’d stopped doing things for others simply for the sake of doing it. When I did something for others, I demanded credit. I may have gathered a few rewards for my actions on earth but there were surely none stored up for me in heaven. Through the years, Bob and I have made a game of doing secret things for each other without getting caught. It is quite the trick to get away with it when the other person is expecting it.

Neighbor Need #4: Pray for the needs of others

There are so many ways to pray for others. We can seek out prayer lists and use our seasons of pain to pray for others. We can offer to assist with a prayer hot line from our home or be a part of our church’s prayer committee. God will hear and answer our prayers and we avoid the trap of self-pity.

During that time I was so sickly, my prayers were all about healing for myself. I felt sorry for myself and my prayers reflected it. Again, I was surprised to learn how self absorbed my prayers had become. Now, it is one of the greatest delights of my life to have the privilege of praying for others. I take intercessory prayer seriously, constantly seeking and giving it.

Neighbor Need #5: Constantly speak your faith aloud to others.

Speaking our faith aloud, reminds us of it and suddenly we have more of it. By speaking our faith aloud, we become inspiration to others and that will encourages us. Speaking faith aloud beats being the Neighborhood Whiner King or Queen and people around us become more willing to help when we really need it.

In high school, I often spoke my faith aloud. I led my then boyfriend and now husband, Bob, to Christ. Somewhere along the line, I stopped speaking my faith aloud. When I started again, I was timid but the results gave me confidence. Now, I’m often introduced as an evangelist and people tell me I have the gift of evangelism. I always laugh because I know that without God, I’m just a poor sick person, stuck in bed, and draining the energy out of everyone around me. For me, speaking my faith aloud is as essential as breathing because it keeps me healthy.

Neighbor Need #6: Forgive others for not taking care of you the way you expected or needed.

People are not perfect and sometimes we just have to pray, “Father, forgive them they know not what they do.” They grow tired of taking care of us and that weariness turns into understandable resentment. I can remember being so angry with my husband when he left me alone with my mother to go on what I considered an unnecessary business trip. It felt like he didn’t care. I later realized that he cared but he had to find a way to keep living. When I forgave him and loved him unconditionally, he turned into the kind loving caring husband I craved. Resentment poisons us and keeps us sick. We must forgive if we want to get well.

The trick to loving our neighbor as ourselves is to love God with our entire minds, hearts, souls, and strengths. If we do that, our bodies begin healing and instead of being the needy neighbor, we become the person who meets neighbor needs. It is worth the trouble it takes to stop working on anything in life except loving God and others.

This is the final part in the 6 part series on dealing with chronic pain and related depression. I sincerely hope these words have helped you. Below is a summary of the tips offered in this series:
  • Mind Matters: Focus your mind on what is lovely about your life. Educate your mind about your condition and follow medical directions.
  • Heart Helps: Fire self pity and decide to be happy.
  • Soul Soothers: Deal with addictions or strongholds that are coming between God and you. Spend time every day in meditation, prayer, and Bible Study.
  • Strength Solutions: Get out of bed and start moving. Eat right, exercise to the level possible for your condition, and get the help you need.
  • Neighbor Needs: Stop thinking so much about your needs and begin meeting the needs of others. Do what you can for yourself and share your faith aloud.
================================================== Cheryle M. Touchton is the Director of Pocket Full of Change Ministries. For more information, to schedule a speaker for an event, or to make a donation, go to the website or call Gail Golden at 904 316-5462. Copyright: Pocket Full of Change Ministries

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Strength Solutions - The Secret to Dealing With Chronic Pain and Related Depression - Part 5

Strength Solutions

By Cheryle M. Touchton
The Pocket Full of Quarters Lady

The Sh’ma: Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind; and, Love your neighbor as yourself. Luke 10:27 NIV

Does your strength need solutions? If so, join the club – or should I say the gym? America is obsessed with strength and it seems like there are gyms on every street corner. Diet shows top television ratings, physical trainers have migrated from the west coast into Middle America, and dusty exercise equipment hides in the corners of many homes. Strength solutions are readily available. The trick is to apply them.

Our body is the temple of the Holy Spirit and our job is temple maintenance. God gave some Cathedrals to maintain while others have simple country churches with sagging walls and peeling paint. Many spend their life grumbling about the temple they’ve been assigned or coveting the temple of others instead of loving their own precious temples and keeping them in the best condition possible.

Temple maintenance is relatively simple and scientific. We’re to eat right, get plenty of sleep, exercise, and go to specialists when necessary. There is a plethora of information available to tell us how to do that. The difficulty is having the spiritual discipline to do what is right. Add chronic pain to the mix, and we feel like resigning from our maintenance job. Here, we must remember two things – temple maintenance is always our job and we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us.

Pain Leads to Decreased Energy Leads to Depression

Chronic pain drains energy like a thirsty bath tub drain sucks circling water into its wide mouth. We respond by slowing down, which lowers energy even more and weakens our body. Low energy mimics depression, causing us to seek medical remedies that have frustrating side effects and possibly might not be necessary. Synonyms for energy are vigor, force, or zeal. When we lose our zeal for life, we stop living. When we stop living, we stop moving. When we stop moving, our body weakens as our strength follows our energy right down that preverbal greedy drain. Resulting depression ensures that we stay in that lifeless state of misery and inactivity.

In my twenties, body aches from obesity, fibromyalgia, and other related chronic medical conditions lied by whispering I’d improve it I went to bed. I stayed in bed, believing I was doing the right thing, and the result was I grew weaker instead of stronger. The resulting weakness lessoned my chances of getting better. I wanted to live and felt sorry for myself because I was stuck in bed. Clinical depression followed, making it seem impossible to break the cycle. In 1979, I stomped my foot at pain, got out of bed, developed a close relationship with God, and did what He said. The results were that I begin living again.

This article is about loving God with your entire strength. The secret to building strength is to love God with the amount of strength you currently have and allow Him to replace your strength with His. As you serve Him, your ability to serve Him improves and you become stronger. When we stop focusing on our weakness and begin focusing on loving God with the strength we do have, we stop serving our poor battered body by giving in to the pain, and instead use what puny strength we have to live. We listen to God’s voice along with the voices of the medical community and are obedient to both because our motives are to serve God. We accept the pain we cannot change, gain the courage to change what we can, and the wisdom to know the difference. Below are some strength solutions I’ve found to work in my life.

Strength Solution #1: Daily, rate you pain between 1-10, with 10 being the highest, and react accordingly.

A nurse taught me to rate my pain level every day on a scale between 1-10. She asked me to think of a minor pain and make it my 1. I immediately thought of a paper cut. She then asked me what the worst pain I’d ever experienced. I struggled briefly, trying to decide between gall bladder attacks and child birth and finally made child birth a 9 and gall bladder attacks a 10. I’m told kidney stones are worse, but thankfully, I have not experienced them - yet.

I react to increasing pain levels by paying attention to what I did the day before and try to avoid it in the future. Now, most days, I stay somewhere between a 2-3, which is manageable. At a 4, I respond with alarm because I know that a 6 makes me what to go to bed.

Strength Solution #2: Seek legitimate medical help and do what they say.

Pain is actually our friend because it indicates that something needs attention. Studies show that 50% of Americans have experienced chronic pain. When our body is annoyed, it screams. Hopefully, those screams drive us to solutions. The advice of the medical community comes in various forms:


Before taking medicine, I ask if the medicine heals or masks the symptoms. Years ago, I was willing to take both but found pain relievers addictive and dangerous. They masked my symptoms and made it easier to do nothing. They made me sleepy, which drove me to more inactivity and increased pain levels. Today, I only accept medicine for pain relief, if my pain level is at 8 or higher.


For some reason, surgery frightens me. I kept a gall bladder way longer than safety demanded due to fear and the inevitable surgery was brutal because of the delay. I learned my lesson. When I injured my knee, I was quick to accept the doctor’s surgical advice and only suffered a few weeks. If I trust my doctor and he or she says surgery is my best option, I stomp my foot at the demon fear and run (if I can) not walk to the surgeon. If I don’t trust my doctor, I find a doctor I do trust. The Bible repeatedly combines strength and courage and I refuse to be in pain due to fear.

Diet and Weight

Diet and weight have an astounding impact on pain. A key aspect of temple maintenance is proper nutrition. As I mentioned in an earlier article, I discovered that eating white potatoes daily increased my pain. Extra weight also increases my pain. I don’t like hurting and am willing to reduce any food that increases pain. Find out what foods help or hurt and respond accordingly.

A special note– if you find out a food is increasing your pain level and you eat it anyway or if you weigh more than is healthy, you may be addicted to food and need the help of an organization like Overeaters Anonymous. It is impossible to love God with all your strength when you’re addicted to any substance.


I’m in favor of physical therapy, trainers, gyms, and any form of directed exercise. I have learned to be careful and seek the advice of the medical community before committing to an exercise plan. I’ve been to physical therapy for knee pain, fibromyalgia, and heal pain and the results were good – as long as I did what they said. A personal trainer helped me learn to move through pain and push to the level just before I do damage. I belong to a gym that has a program that works for my body. I’ve found nothing more beneficial for reducing pain than exercise. A note here is that exercise usually increases pain before it decreases it. Safely push through the pain to the results.

Talk Therapy or Other Mental Support

Stress and my reaction to stress increases my pain. Several times, I’ve used talk therapy to help through difficult situations. Those sessions were focused on single issues, were short in duration, and had good results. The trick with talk therapy is like anything else – take the medical advice offered.

Bed Rest

Rarely has a doctor actually suggested bed rest. The times that they did were brief and usually in response to an acute injury or procedure.
Pain lies by whispering, “Go to bed.” I’ve found that my doctor usually disagrees. I trust the doctors and do what they suggest.

Strength Solution #3: Get plenty of rest but not too much.

Our bodies need 7-8 hours of sleep. My body feels better if I get sleep the same time every night. I avoid work situations that require “all nighters” and the enticing cheaper “Red-eye” flights because they are not worth the cost to my body. There was a time in my life when I used sleep to avoid feelings. Now, I get enough rest but not too much. Too much rest reduces my energy and starts the pain cycle upward so I resist the urge to give into afternoon naps - except when sick or on the Sabbath.

Strength Solution #4: Recognize the difference between low energy and depression and respond accordingly.

There was a point in my life at which I still cared about things but my energy level wouldn’t power my aching body into action. Pain, low energy, and depression feel so eerily alike that it is hard to distinguish what is going on with our bodies. I’ve found it helpful to know the difference.
  • Depression and low energy make us unavailable to family, friends, and co-workers. When depressed, almost nothing matters. When energy is depleted by pain, we still care but feel powerless to respond.
  • Depression and low energy steel joy. When depressed, we have little or no memory of what joy feels like. With low energy, we recognize that we should be enjoying events and miss the experience.
  • Depression and low energy send us to bed. Depression makes us feel too heavy to get up and we feel stuck. With low energy, if something is a high enough priority, we may not like it but can push ourselves in the short term to do it.
Unfortunately, low energy and resulting weakness, can eventually cause depression as the prolonged grief of missed experiences changes us mentally and physically. Energy increases energy so if our energy is low, we need to move more, eat better, and follow medical advice. Depression is clinical and needs medical attention. Know the difference. God wants us to love Him with all our strength. Some of us are naturally stronger than others but all can grow stronger. To date, I have not found a way to be pain free but I have found a way to reduce my pain to minimal levels and have a happy and productive life. What works for my body and my medical conditions are as follows. Your solution may be similar but will also have many differences.
  • Nutrition – Years ago, I eliminated sugar, processed flour, high fat foods, and eating between meals. Recently, I have drastically reduced eating four legged animals. I average between 1400-1800 calories a day and take vitamin supplements recommended by my doctor.
  • Exercise - I stretch 10 minutes every morning. I do a 30-minute low impact cardio, strengthening, and stretching workout at a gym 3 days a week and make sure I walk at least 5000 steps every day.
  • Medical Advice – I get the recommended medical checkups and go to a doctor immediately when something new happens. I do what they say.
  • Energy – I distinguish between low energy and depression and react accordingly. After my son died in 1995, I grew clinically depressed and needed medication for a few months. When my energy is low, I move more, even though I don’t feel like it.
  • Rest – I sleep 7-8 hours a night and resist the temptation to sleep more – no matter how I feel.
I’m able to do all of this on the days I’m spiritually connected to God and able to listen and respond to His voice. On those days, I’m so good that I think I deserve the body of an Olympian athlete but alas, I’m just lumpy bumpy me stumbling through my days, some of them achy, and trying to be the best Cheryle I can be. What I will say is that I love my life and God and most days, pay no attention to pain. The next article will be about how you can reduce your pain by loving your neighbor as yourself. Until then:
  • Believe you can do all things through Christ who strengthens you.
  • Accept your temple maintenance job – eat right, exercise, get enough rest, and seek help when you need it.
  • Ask God for the serenity to accept the pain you cannot change, the courage to change the pain you can, and the wisdom to know the difference.
================================================== Cheryle M. Touchton is the Director of Pocket Full of Change Ministries. For more information, to schedule a speaker for an event, or to make a donation, go to the website or call Gail Golden at 904 316-5462. Copyright: Pocket Full of Change Ministries