The Ministry of Lisa Copen

Lisa Copen, Founder of Rest Ministries which serves the chronically ill, shares about mothering, illness, ministry and more.

Archive for illness

Depression and Pain Linked

umbrellaA recent article on explained once again that the depression/chronic pain cycle is just that… a cycle–one that many of us cannot get out of.

The columnist writes:

While depression can generate and amplify pain due to an imbalance in neurotransmitters, extended pain, in turn, can cause a person to become depressed.

Over 75 percent of patients with depression complain of physical pains and most are unaware that its chemical effects can aggravate chronic physical conditions and increase pain. Depression can precede and even predispose a patient to developing chronic pain because of the chemical imbalance it creates along with its hindrance of the usual pain threshold and coping mechanisms.
> read more here, including treatement tips

So what exactly does this mean to you and I?

  1. Psalm 42:3 and 10 say, “My tears have been my food day and night… My bones suffer mortal agony as my foes taunt me, saying to me all day long, ‘Where is your God?'” Many places in the Bible it shares how people were suffering spiritually or emotionally, and their body ached. This “news” should no’t come as a surprise to us.
  2. When the doctor tells you that the pain is all in your head; you’re really just “sad,” that very likely may not be true. Your depression could actually be causing some pain, or at least increasing it. Be persistent about trying to treat both the depression and the chronic pain, to end the cycle.
  3. Depression is a serious issue. Don’t be ashamed if you seek out counseling, just be sure it’s a counselor who shares your Biblical beliefs. You aren’t a “bad” Christian or someone who “just doesn’t believe enough” just because you are coping with depression.

I know living with illness is difficult. It’s hard to get over depression when you don’t know if you will still be here next year to see your future. Be we’re in it together.

One of the reasons I am so excited about starting the Hope Endures radio podcasts is so that we have a chance to hear from real people who have truly suffered and try to discover exactly what is it that made them turn to God when they could have turned away.

Remember… 1 Corinthians 15:58 says, “Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain. (NIV).”

And around here just getting out of bed (or maybe calling a friend from bed) is the work of the Lord!


Even Sick Chicks Want to Feel Pretty

As we deal with chronic conditions, most of us have had to take the role of “I am woman hear me roar.” But during those middle-of-the-night-moments when we find “Sleepless in Seattle” on television we just want to be a girl again. Suddenly we remember how cute the young, awkward Tom Hanks was. It doesn’t get more girly than sobbing along with Meg Ryan, telling the T.V., “You aren’t crazy, honey. It really is true love even though you’ve never met the guy.”

Though most of us have read those lists of items that are wonderful little gifts to bring someone who has a chronic illness, few of us have been on the receiving end of them. People still find it easier to whip up a casserole than get creative. And that’s okay. You have to be able to laugh when someone drops off a stew to eat in an hour and you find that it’s still frozen

I’ve lived with rheumatoid arthritis since the age of twenty-four; fifteen years now. Though I am used to dealing with chronic pain, an intense wound on my right ankle this autumn brought along an entirely different set of issues, emotions, pain, and desire for comfort.

In November, I ended up in the hospital for seven days with the flesh eating bacteria in my ankle wound. Ironically, just the week before I had picked up an item at Bath and Body Works that wasn’t usually my style—Lambie slipper socks with the little pink nose and eye lashes. I wore one on my “good foot” every day and nearly ever nurse who helped me said “Where did you get those? They are so cute!”

More than nurse said they were heading straight to the store to stock up on them for gifts. Despite not showering for days because the doctor hadn’t given permission, a fuzzy sheep looking up from my foot somehow
made me want to burst into singing, “I feel pretty. Oh, so pretty.”

Another way to feel pretty (especially while hospitalized) is to watch three episodes of The Real Housewives of Orange County in a row (because you dropped the remote control and don’t dare beep the nurse again.) I’ll
confess, there is nothing like seeing how unhappy beautiful women can be.

And let’s hear it for PJs that are comfortable and cute! Because my wound was on my ankle, the hospital allowed me to wear my own pajamas. Each
night my husband took them home to wash and let me change into a fresh set. I sprayed so much stuff with my lavender linen spray I’m sure the nurses thought they’d been transported to a Renuzit commercial of lavender fields.

We gals have to force our self to go out of the way sometimes to just keep feeling human. My first venture out of the house about two weeks after being home was to get a bottle of hair coloring because I didn’t know the
color name, just the number.

I’ll admit that though this was the first time since I was thirteen that I’d gone three weeks without mascara, I didn’t think I looked that bad. When you carry around a bag that is attached to your arm with tubing (my I.V.)
you assume people may give some grace. But then my mom and I went to sign my son up for Tae Kwon Do and the instructor told Joshua to say something to his “two grandmothers.” Excuse me? “Uh. . . I would be his mother.” Out came the mascara the next day.

There is nothing wrong with attempting to do what you have to do to feel pretty while fighting chronic illness. And remember, humor is a beautiful thing. As I was lying in bed I overheard my mom on the phone talking to a friend telling her that I had the “MAN-eating virus.”

“Mom!” I hollered. “It’s not a MAN-eating virus! Don’t say that! My sister will never visit again!” There is nothing like a good laugh that can bring the glow back to your cheeks.

Celebrating Yourself in 2009

s the year began the television programs and magazines quickly spread themes of starting afresh. “Live Your Best Life!” “Eating Well in 2009” “Celebrate Yourself!” As someone with a chronic illness, these simple quotes can sometimes be more disheartening than helpful. We’d like to live our best life, eat well and even celebrate our self; instead if feels like our illness controls us, we crave foods we shouldn’t eat and can barely afford all that healthy food anyway. How on earth can we celebrate our self when it feels like our body is turning against us at every turn?

After the last four months of fighting an infection with the flesh eating virus, I’ve personally struggled with more fatigue and pain than ever before. The flu during the holidays followed by a deep cough turned into a major flare of my sides and back. My husband stayed home from work in order to help me stand up or get up from the bed. This does not mesh well with my strong independent side or how I imagined marriage this early in my life.

After being discharged from the wound care center a couple of weeks ago, however, I left with a sense of entitlement to go get something to eat to celebrate. I could justifiably eat something gooey, sticky, sweet, and not feel bad, right? As I drove towards home, however, I decided I would celebrate myself instead. I would start eating healthier right this moment. I made a right turn and went to my favorite coffee drive through that has two dozen sugar-free flavors. I celebrated with a large iced-decaf-raspberry truffle coffee—sugar-free and guilt-free.

That was nearly two weeks ago. I’ve hardly eaten anything I should not except a bit of Chinese food, and not a pound has been lost. But I am still celebrating because I no longer have food controlling me. I don’t think about it as much. I got out my lo-carb cookbooks and have actually bought more groceries in the produce section than other parts of the store.

How can we celebrate our self when life seems to be canceling any party we start to plan?

  • Choose just one area to work on. Don’t make a list of eight goals that will feel overwhelming.
  • Do your best. That means that you recognize that there will be set backs. You may get sick on top of being ill. You may need medication for a condition which will increase weight gain. It may snow the week you decide to start walking. Don’t be discouraged by things out of your control, but rather expect them to occur.
  • Think about what your real goal is. Don’t set a goal to be skinny. Instead, see weight loss or eating better as a way to spend a few more years here on earth with those you love. If you decide to have a stricter budget, don’t think of it as a punishment, but rather a way to only spend money on those things that are most needed or most important to you. Remember, money quickly shows us where our heart is.
  • Take one day at a time, sometimes one minute at a time. I’m clipping coupons and organizing them better so I actually can find them when I need them. Every time I go to the refrigerator looking for a snack I drink a huge glass of sparkling water first. Celebrate these little things you’ve accomplished.

Lastly, remember that you are already special and loved, regardless of the size of your pants or your pocketbook. 1 Samuel 16:7 says, “The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” And as you are thinking of ways to celebrate yourself, remember 2 Corinthians 3:5: “Not that we are competent in ourselves to claim anything for ourselves, but our competence comes from God.”

Sometimes it seems no matter how hard we try to accomplish something our efforts are thwarted. And then out of nowhere a surprise may occur. Perhaps a check shows up in the mail that was unexpected. A friend you lost touch with calls to get together. Maybe three pounds suddenly drops off that scale just as you were ready to give up.

Oftentimes God allows us to get right to the place where we know we cannot accomplish something on our own, so that when it does occur, we have to say, “I don’t know how this happened. I tried it on my own so long! It must be a God-thing!” So don’t give up. Celebrate yourself by celebrating every effort you make to be the person God designed you to be.

What is our responsibility to define “faith?” in the medical community?

Methodist puts faith in health © Copyright Morningstar, Inc. Hospital makes official its plans to research power of faith in medicine By Daniel Connolly April 25, 2007 Methodist Le Bonheur Health Care formally announced its plans to open its Center of Excellence in Faith and Health, but the hospital group is still looking for suggestions on how to form the new research and clinical center. Toward the end of a ceremony Tuesday afternoon, Methodist workers passed out business reply cards that asked people to write down what they believe the center should offer. "We want to understand what they think would be significant and powerful in terms of an experience that links spirituality and health," Methodist president and CEO Gary Shorb said. The broad outlines are already clear. The center will take up a physical space within Methodist University hospital and a nearby courtyard. It will serve as a location to train clergy and health care workers, as a multifaith place of worship, as a counseling center, and as a symbol of Methodist’s

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ARTICLE: Learning to be Assertive Despite the Fatigue of Illness


Learning to be Assertive Despite the Fatigue of Illness
By Lisa Copen

Chronic illness can leave you feeling exhausted and it can be difficult to be a good advocate for yourself. At the same time, the red tape can grow wearisome and give you a negative attitude. How can you learn to be assertive without getting a bad rap?

I had just received the third pink slip in two weeks from the lab that said my payment was passed due. Over three times I had called and my insurance company had assured me that the lab work was covered and that they would mail out a check that afternoon. This time, when I finally got a representative on the telephone, I was polite but firm. I said that I wanted the problem taken care of immediately, and I wrote down her name and the supervisor’s name. It was time to get even more assertive.

Has assertiveness gotten a bad rap, however, among the chronically ill? Is it assumed that we won’t have the energy or stamina to fight all of the battles that we will face? When we do talk to someone in customer service, we are rarely taken absolutely seriously. After all, isn’t it just the drugs that make us impatient and nit-picky about all of this insurance stuff? Has anyone ever brushed off your assertiveness simply by assuming, “She doesn’t have anything else to think about all day, so no wonder she’s upset!”? Or “She’s just taking her frustrations out on me because she has a chronic illness.”

When you imagine an assertive person, what comes to mind? Webster’s Dictionary says that assertiveness is “positive; affirming confidently; affirmative.” Too often we confuse assertiveness with aggression which is defined as “making assaults and unjustly attacking.” Most of us have had moments when we have slid into an aggressive mode, but assertiveness is based on one’s ability to confidently step forward. Rather than becoming aggressive, I believe that the chronically ill often become burnt out on fighting and we simply avoid any conflict. Who has the energy to fight for our rights? Next time a situation arises where you may need to be a bit assertive, here are some things in which to remember.

I have the right to say no without feeling guilty.

For those of us with chronic illness, this is a big one! We must say, “no, thanks,” or “I’ll pass,” much more often than we would prefer. Even when we master the ability to say no, the guilt continues to sit with us for days. Let it go! You know your abilities and limitations and what is best for your own health and your family’s well being.

I have the right to state my opinion, even if I change my mind.

Have you ever been on a jury and you had to state your decision up-front, but than as the deliberations continued, you changed your mind about the verdict? You have the right to say what you think, but it’s best to think before you speak. Is what you say going to hurt someone’s feelings? Are your comments going to help the situation?

I have the right to take risks and try new things.

Just because you have a chronic condition doesn’t mean you have to eat at the same restaurant the rest of your life. Try new things! You may find a new hobby or a new activity that you are able to easily do, in which you would have never thought about. “When I started taking photos it was on one of those cardboard cameras,” says Darcie. “But then I found that I really loved it and I wasn’t half bad. So I bought a real camera. It’s been fun. I’ve had an excuse to go to events that I couldn’t participate in before, like boat races, because I am ‘the photographer.’”

I have the right to be heard.

Whether you are having a conversation with a medical professional or your mother, you do have the right to be heard. Too many of us fall into the habit of talking all of the time, however, and forgetting that we also have the responsibility to listen. Know your boundaries and what you are willing to listen to and not. When a man approached me after a health fair and said, “I can cure you in 30 days,” I replied, “You have sixty seconds to tell me why I should talk with you further about your product.” I listened… and no, he didn’t convince me. He felt okay about it though, and I got out of an uncomfortable thirty-minute sales pitch.

So be assertive – practice in front of the mirror if you must. As you step out and share your opinion, it may feel awkward at first, but then you will gain more confidence and it will become simpler the next time the opportunity arises. Even studies have shown that assertive people are more likely to have personal and professional relationships that are based on honesty and mutual respect.


“No one understands!” If you have an illness and have said this, be sure to check out Lisa’s new book, “Why Can’t I Make People Understand” at . Lisa Copen is the founder of an organization that serves the chronically ill through a Christian environment. Dozens of programs, communities and publications are the web site, nearly all free! Visit .

ARTICLE: Celebrate Today Even if You Have a Chronic Illness


Celebrate Today Even if You Have a Chronic Illness
By Lisa Copen

Life is hard. Living with a chronic illness adds multiple challenges and frustrations. But finding joy is still possible. Find out some basic attitudes that can make celebrating life a bit easier!

A friend of mine is fond of saying, “Life is what happens when you’re making other plans.” This quaint little saying seems to be not only an outline of the recent turn of events in my life, but also words of wisdom. How much I like a plan, a clear set of expectations, something solid that I can look forward to. God, however, wants us to trust him, not our plans. And that should be enough. My struggle is often over letting go of searching “God’s will” (ie. my action plan approved by God) and rather just seeking God. For what God desires is not to be my consultant of my business partner, but my friend.

Celebrating today and being content with what we have been given is not only a wise suggestion but a commandment from God. “Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life?… Instead you ought to say, ‘If it is the Lord’s will we will live and do this or that'” (James 4: 14,15). My great-grandmother used to add the words “Lord-willing” to the end of every plan she made. She never said, “We’ll have a picnic” without adding the words “Lord-willing” to the end of the sentence. What a wonderful, comforting perspective for life, for it assures us if it does not happen it is because it was not in God’s will!

Living just for today can be difficult when we have an illness, because we are put in the position of trying to predict what a medication may do to us, positively or negatively. We must plan for our financial stability and we have concerns about who will care for our children or aging parents, if we are unable to assist. Chronic illness is often degenerative, which can throw us into a lifetime of going through the grief cycle every time that we lose another ability. Just as we must not look too far forward, however, we also must not dwell on the past. This is why we are told “Do not say, ‘Why were the old days better than these?’ For it is not wise to ask such questions'” (Ecc. 7:10).

God did not simply tell us not to worry about tomorrow and then let us be, however. He promised his strength for all of the days of our life. As the hymn says, “Because He lives, I can face tomorrow, because He lives, all fear is gone…” Although we may feel as though our bones are growing weak and the affliction is overwhelming (Psalms 31:10), “It is God who arms me with strength and makes my way perfect” (2 Samuel 22:33).

Lastly, we must remember that God is always in control. Everything we encounter in life has been “Father-filtered.” “When times are good, be happy; but when times are bad, consider: God has made the one as well as the other…” Therefore, a man cannot discover anything about his future” (Ecc. 7:13,14). When God is in control, we can surrender our plans and know that He has promised us his best for our lives.

Find lots of illness support at including daily devotionals and dozens of articles. Lisa Copen is the founder of National Invisible Chronic Illness Awareness Week. Find out how to participate annually each September at