This blog introduces Brenda, TCC alumna, now a certified pain coach, Brenda’s painful snowboarding accident, and her struggle with fibromyalgia that led her to discover her path to recovery.
Have you ever faced a seemingly insurmountable task? It could be anything—a cross-country road trip, a colossal pile of dishes needing to be washed, holiday grocery shopping a report you have to write. You know it has to be done, but it feels so huge that you don’t even know where to start. And then someone reminds you: start with the basics: the first step. Get in the car and drive the first mile. Wash one dish, even if it’s a small one. Make a shopping list and put butter right at the top. Write the intro paragraph. And then, while you’ve been focusing on the basics, you suddenly find that you’ve made progress and the task isn’t so daunting anymore. Read on to learn more about Brenda’s Painful Snowboarding Accident…
Brenda’s Painful Snowboarding Accident
That’s how it was for Brenda, TCC alumna, and featured guest of “Courage for Pain” Podcast, Episode 5. Brenda broke her leg in five places in a snowboarding accident. After a painful two-year healing process, she was finally able to walk again, but she found that her severe chronic pain was not diminished, partly due to her fibromyalgia. She was depressed and hopeless. Her negative mindset significantly impacted her ability to live the life she wanted. She was willing to try anything to manage her pain and regain control of her life. So when she heard about Take Courage Coaching®, she enrolled in our pain coaching program.
Fibromyalgia Made Recovery Difficult
In addition to a really complex leg injury, Brenda had fibromyalgia, a condition the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) says nearly 4 Million US adults have, or 2% of the adult US population. What is fibromyalgia? According to the CDC: “Fibromyalgia (fi·bro·my·al·gi·a) is a condition that causes pain all over the body (also referred to as widespread pain), sleep problems, fatigue, and often emotional and mental distress. People with fibromyalgia may be more sensitive to pain than people without fibromyalgia.”
Read to learn about Brenda’s snowboarding accident and her painful recovery
Getting Back to Basics
Brenda didn’t know what to expect when she enrolled in pain coaching, but she decided it was worth a try. When she started attending pain coaching sessions, she and her coach worked together to address the small changes Brenda could make in her lifestyle and outlook. They started with the basics: practicing deep breathing and meditation exercises, listening to calming music, and processing feelings and solutions with her coach. Brenda attended group sessions with two other women, and together they were able to empathize with each other and support each other’s journey to live well despite their pain, a strategy that can be extremely beneficial to those living with chronic pain.
Little Steps Made A Difference
Though Brenda didn’t immediately see how these tools would help manage her pain, they effectively soothed the amygdala or the part of the brain that regulates emotions and “the emotional-affective dimensions of pain and pain modulation.” As Brenda began incorporating these practices into her daily life, she noticed she wasn’t paying as much attention to her pain.
Brenda Discovered 4 Keys To Reducing Her Pain
As Brenda consistently implemented the new tools she was using to retake control of her life and personal outlook, she noticed important and tangible changes taking place in her life.
1) A Positive Mindset
She began noticing her improved outlook and that it mitigated her anger and depression. She noticed that she started to sleep better. Sleep had been a daunting prospect since her accident because when she went to bed, her pain was the only thing she could focus on. She thought, “What’s the point?” Her frustration about sleep led her to go to bed later and later, usually around midnight or 1 a.m. Her lack of sleep made her groggy, agitated, and anxious; she felt like she wasn’t in control of her mind or her body.
2) Improving Her Sleep Routine
By working with her coach to periodically push her bedtime back by 10-minute increments, Brenda was able to work her way back up to the 8-9 hours of sleep she needed every night to function, rather than the 4-5 hours she had been getting since her accident. This was an important step because sleep is so essential to the brain’s recuperation, and both she and her husband noticed a significant improvement in both her physical and mental wellness. Brenda found that adjusting her bedtime was effective in improving her sleep, but there are lots of different techniques to fall and stay asleep.
3) Increasing Exercise
Brenda also noticed that her pain decreased when she began exercising regularly. She started small, committing to exercise for just 10 or 15 minutes per day, but she was able to work her way up to longer durations. Even after her aerobics teacher moved and she wasn’t able to attend classes, she regularly went on walks to stay active. As she exercised more, her body felt better and her mind felt clearer—not to mention, exercise can also aid in better sleep quality. As TCC founder Becky Curtis says, “Bodies are made to be active.”
4) Mindfulness Techniques
In addition to sleep and exercise, Brenda found that consistent practice of meditation and deep breathing has helped her manage pain flares. Focusing on her breath is calming and centering, she says: “The volume [of the pain] goes down.” She uses this technique so often that now she can calm her pain after just three or four meditative breaths. And this isn’t just some New Age practice or placebo effect—there’s substantial research that shows that meditation is very effective at managing pain.
Brenda learned all these strategies during her time in pain coaching, but she has continued practicing them even after she graduated from the program, and it was that consistency that made all the difference.
Helping Others Reach Their Full Potential
After experiencing such transformative change through her experience with pain coaching, Brenda decided that she wanted to help others achieve similar changes. Now she is a nationally certified health and wellness coach who finds joy and excitement watching her clients use different tools to “realize their potential.”
Pain coaching really can make a difference in clients’ lives, too; Becky Curtis, founder, and CEO of Take Courage Coaching, says that even she was initially skeptical about the efficacy of pain coaching, but “[seeing clients] implementing these things as we support them and giving them the tools they need to be self-managers instead of passive patients” has opened her eyes to the difference it can make. Brenda concurs, expressing that she loves to see clients “take hold of that [concept] and run with it.”
Got Chronic Pain? Brenda Says Give Pain Coaching a Try!
What is Brenda’s advice to someone who has lost hope about living with chronic pain? Don’t be afraid to give pain coaching a try— “give it a go and see how much it can help [you].” She hopes that when people hear about others’ experiences living with chronic pain, they know that change is possible and there is always hope.
Thank you for reading Brenda’s Painful Snowboarding Accident.
Listen to This Podcast on Apple, Spotify, or Google
You can listen to this story – Brenda’s Painful Snowboarding Accident – in Courage for Pain Podcast, Episode 5, Brenda. Find Courage for Pain on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts
In this podcast episode of “Courage for Pain,” Becky talks to TCC alumna Brenda about learning to live with pain after a snowboarding accident, getting back to lifestyle basics in pain management, and how Brenda’s experience with pain coaching inspired her to become a health and wellness coach.
Want to read another Courage for Pain success story? Read JoAnne’s Story here.