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    How To: Dating With Chronic Pain or Dating With Invisible Disabilities

    On a background of red and black hearts, image of two phones side by side illustrating dating, the left with a man and a heart and the right a woman with two smiley faces, looking towards each other. Text reads "dating with chronic pain and invisible disabilities, janetjay.com"

    Dating with chronic pain is tough, especially if there’s nothing visible about your condition. Finding someone using dating dating apps like Hinge or Tinder is hard to begin with, but dating with invisible disabilities adds a whole other level of difficulty.

    In some ways using those apps would be easier if I was visibly disabled and used a wheelchair or crutches. It would at least be simpler than trying to put together a profile when I’m dating with chronic pain and dating with invisible disabilities like fibromyalgia, migraine disease, back pain, joint pain, nerve pain, and mental health issues (that’s what I’m dealing with)! But it also applies to a wide range of other issues like EDS, POTS, arthritis, Crohn’s, lupus, other autoimmune disorders, and/or any disability where you look like everyone else.

    Most of the time you wouldn’t know I’m in pain, even though I always am. But it hugely affects my life, and it’s important that anybody I have as a partner be aware of it and OK with it. No, actually, it’s important that anybody I have as a partner be supportive, empathetic and caring about it.

    But how do you find that person through the hellscape that is modern dating apps? If you’re dating with chronic pain or dating with invisible disabilities, consider the following before writing your profile.

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  • Graphic Novels About Chronic Pain: “Pain Is Really Strange”

    On a background of neurons, the cover of a graphic novel called "pain is really strange" with a head, shown with brain with a little man on top with horns with sound waves coming from them. Text reads "Graphic novels about pain: "Pain is Really Strange," by steve haines, art by sophie standing, janetjay.com"

    Graphic novels about chronic pain are few and far between: “Pain Is Really Strange” is a welcome find

    I love books, especially graphic novels. I was at the library recently and stumbled on “Pain Is Really Strange,” one of the only graphic novels about chronic pain I’ve ever seen. (Thanks, Austin Public Library!)

    Drawing of a man sitting before a poster of the human body with red lines representing nerves/pain, with a speech bubble saying "pain is really strange"

    Explaining “What is pain? How do nerves work?”

    Above all, the book does a really good job of explaining important stuff simply. Without feeling overwhelming, it not only explains the difference between chronic and acute pain but also tackles fairly complicated concepts like neurotags and brain plasticity. Getting the combo of science and visuals right isn’t an easy trick. I was especially impressed at how well this team accomplished making a comic about pain that was accurate as well as visually pleasing.

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  • Acupuncture for Pain: Complementary Medicine That Works

    header with stick figures at bottom performing cupping, massage and acupuncture, text reads "complementary medicine that works: Acupuncture for pain, janetjay.com"

    This ancient complementary therapy may help chronic neck pain, lower back pain, joint pain, nerve pain, mental health, invisible illnesses and so much more

    Acupuncture for pain is one of the oldest forms of complementary medicine on earth. Read on for more about the history of acupuncture (and acupuncture for pain, specifically). I’ll dive into what it is, what we understand about how it works, and if it may help you.

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    Best Quotes About Chronic Pain, Disability, & Mental Health

    on an abstract background of mountains and sky, text reads "the best quotes about chronic pain, disability, mental health and life in general, janetjay.com"

    Quotes about chronic pain & disability that inspire without being saccharine are darn hard to find!

    Life with a chronic illness or disability is hard– hell, life alone is hard, and those of us with pain are carrying a heavier load than most. I think most wisdom comes from experience: the best quotes about chronic pain, disability and mental health come from those living with them day in and day out.

    Do I need inspiration and motivation as much as the next girl? Sure. But a lot of the “inspirational’ quotes about chronic pain and mental health challenges are too sweet or too sappy to be helpful for my sarcastic, sardonic self. So this year, when I see the rare quote about disability that really resonates with me, I’ve decided I’m going to make a graphic for it so I don’t forget. I’ll keep updating as I find more quotes about chronic pain (etc etc) that are encouraging without being… too much. I promise, no “live laugh love” posters.

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    Top 15 Around-the-House Gifts For Chronic Pain Patients

    on background of wrapped presents and snowflakes, text reads "top 15 gifts that help chronic pain patients around the house"

    Gifts for chronic pain patients that’ll be used and appreciated long after the holidays have passed.

    Gifts for chronic pain patients can be so dang hard to shop for! So I’ve thought about all the discoveries and doohickeys I’ve used over the years to put together the ultimate list of the top dozen around-the-house gifts for people like me. Everyone’s limitations are different, but as someone with invisible disabilities and chronic illnesses I’ve found all of these items to be relatively inexpensive ways of making my day-to-day life easier.

    Whether it’s cleaning, working, moving around, walking the dogs or just picking something up off the floor, these gifts for chronic pain patients will be used and appreciated long after the holidays have passed.

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    Keeping a medical log-with free printable & spreadsheet!

    Surface of a desk with a phone with a spreadsheet on it and a piece of paper with the free printable medical log. Text: Why you should keep a medical log-- free printable and spreadsheet

    This free printable medical log is the quickest and easiest way of staying on top of contact with your medical team, especially for patients with complex health conditions. I’ll explain why you should keep track, then you can download a free printable medical log and/or spreadsheet and learn how to adapt them to the specific needs of your chronic pain, invisible illnesses, or complicated medical issues.

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  • What Star Trek Got Wrong about Geordi’s Disabilities

    on a background of stars, an ink sketch of the VISOR, the adaptive device that lets Geordi participate on the level with peers who are not disabled. Text reads "what star trek got wrong about geordi's disabilities, janetjay.com"

    I love Star Trek. I love the character of Geordi La Forge, the Enterprise’s chief engineer, who had been blind since birth and used a device called a VISOR to see. And overall, I think his character was more positive than negative. In Star Trek: The Next Generation, La Forge’s disabilities were usually so well accommodated that they almost became non-issues. He could do the job just as well as anyone else, and better sometimes. As a result, a lot of the time his blindness never even came up. Which is awesome!

    However, I’ve been rewatching TNG recently and damn, for a show that was often so amazing, and so groundbreaking in many ways, there were also some pretty glaring missteps. So I went down a rabbit-hole to bring you a few ways that Star Trek really messed up when talking about Geordi La Forge’s disabilities.

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    Top Qs about Invisible Illnesses & Disability Pride Month

    On a teal background with red shapes and a picture of two men holding a banner that reads "disability pride lead on!" Headline reads "Invisible illnesses and disability pride month: your top questions answered,janetjay .com. Photo from 2017 Disability Pride Parade and Resource Fair and the National Constitution Center and Dilworth Plaza, on Saturday, June 17, 2017. Taken by Bill. Z. Foster https://flic.kr/p/VKTGTm

    Invisible illnesses are tough for a lot of reasons, one of which is never quite knowing where you belong. Too many people hear “disabled” and all that comes to mind is someone in a wheelchair who is paralyzed or has a visible disease that means they’re never going to walk again. It never occurs to them that 20% of the country, 50 million Americans, have some form of chronic pain, or that invisible disabilities such as CRPS, fibromyalgia and migraine disease make up a large portion of that number. It just never crosses their minds that someone in a wheelchair may well be able to stand up and walk around, looking completely ‘normal,’ but still truly need that chair!

    July is Disability Pride Month, but those of us with less visible issues can sometimes be hesitant to participate, unsure if we should use the “disabled” label or if it’s really our place. Scroll down for answers to some of the top questions people with invisible illnesses ask about disability pride, disability rights, and disability as a whole.

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  • 6 Disabled Inventors You’ve Never Heard Of

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    A selection of physically disabled inventors who changed the world we live in

    May is National Inventor’s Month! And that inspired me to learn about some of the many scientists and inventors with disabilities. Some are well-known — Steven Hawking, Temple Grandin– while others are famous names whose disabilities I’d never heard a dang thing about (Isaac Newton had epilepsy?!). I learned how many truly incredible scientists have suffered vision or hearing loss… but as someone with invisible chronic pain, I decided that that was a bit out of my lane to focus on. That’s why I’ve put together a selection of physically disabled inventors whose names were completely new to me, but have nonetheless shaped the world we live in.

    1. Ferida Bedwei: Software engineer, small business, author
    2. Hugh Herr: Mechanical engineer and biophysics/ biomechatronics
    3. Ralph Braun: Inventor and mechanical engineer
    4. Charles C. Price: Chemist
    5. Dr. Odette L Shotwell: Organic chemist
    6. Dr. Florence Seibert: Biochemist
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    Why I Didn’t Write About Medical Cannabis On 4/20

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    Happy 4/21! I didn’t write about medical cannabis yesterday, even though I wanted to. Why? Texas, mostly.

    Listen, I’m happy that my sister in Seattle can walk down the street and buy anything she wants. (Really! I am truly thrilled at the spread of legalization, not being sarcastic.). But even though I’ve been in constant joint and nerve pain since I was 15, I can’t. I’m so glad my colleague’s state has such a thriving medical cannabis program that she’s fighting over things like insurance coverage. But there is no medical cannabis program in my state whatsoever. (“Medical marijuana” with no THC doesn’t fucking count. CBD alone does zilch for some people.) This means that anyone with chronic pain who wants to use marijuana for pain relief has to chance telling their doctor about it, and possibly losing that doctor, or not telling their doctor, technically breaking their ‘pain contract,’ also potentially losing that doctor.

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    6 Qs People W/Disabilities Should Ask Before Getting a Dog

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    This post was also published in The Mighty in March 2023.

    For people with disabilities, getting a dog can be a life-changing experience. In addition to company and love, caring for a dog can get you out of your own head and off the couch at times when you wouldn’t or couldn’t otherwise. Owning a dog is a great way to meet new people and a great excuse to get out in the world (we’re talking pets here, not service dogs). But that doesn’t make dog “parenting” easy, cheap, or something you should get into without fully thinking through all aspects of the choice. For disabled people, getting a dog is even more of an undertaking!

    If you’ve got disabilities or chronic pain and are thinking about getting a dog, ask yourself these 6 crucial questions first:

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    Guilt-Free Self-Care Tips for Introverts

    Pink background with hand holding coffee cup reading "busy introverting," text: Guilt-free self care tips for introverts, janetjay.com

    Guest post by Melissa Howard of Stop Suicide

    There’s a wide range of self-care tips for introverts out there, from putting down devices and practicing mindfulness to learning how to say no without feeling guilty. For individuals who have social anxiety, chronic pain, or just need to have quiet alone time, there are several methods of care to choose from.

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Hopefully this site will help you avoid some of the BS I’ve experienced over the last 20 years seeking treatment for my chronic pain, invisible illnesses & mental health challenges. Maybe it’ll even help you think about disability in a new way! But at the very least, I hope you learn something, and I hope it helps you feel less alone.

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