How Do You Challenge Yourself? - Elegantly Dressed and Stylish
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How Do You Challenge Yourself?

Happy Friday!

Well, it has been raining non-stop here and weve had freezing temps. Someone tell Mother Nature it is still Fall! I often decide on topics for the blog, as I am thinking of things that relate to me personally. I have been thinking about things that “keep us young”, as I wrote about laughter and the importance of keeping things light, in this blog post- Why Laughter is the Best Medicine.  Lately, I have been thinking about how my life has changed in the last 10 years.

I wrote this post about 4 days ago or so, and since then, ironically, I have been having some higher pain days. It happens  from time to time that I have ” bad days” and have to let my body rest. I do take advantage of the “good days”

I think I still have many knots related to my trip that haven’t been taken care of yet in PT, so I need to take it easy until then.

10 years ago- A Diagnoses that changed my life

In 2008, we had a car accident, which was a catalyst for the Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome symptoms I began experiencing, rather severely.

I would soon find the internet my best friend, as I would research my physical symptoms, the stiffness, muscle aches and all over pain that would have me writhing in bed and unable to sleep. 10 years ago, I was on my couch, then only to walk the dogs to the end of the street to go to the bathroom and back. I would then, return to the couch to watch tv and tried to distract myself from the unwavering pain.  This became my day for quite a while, as I bought books, research and scheduled apts at the Mayo Clinic and other hospitals. To make a long story short, I was barely mobile, if only to go to one specialist after another, to find what was wrong.

Slowly, I was diagnosed with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, and given PT and Dry Needling, which has now, helped my life immensely. I had tried various cocktails of medications to help me with the pain. I would have to sit on a coccyx cushion no matter where I went, as my piriformis muscle caused pain to where I had difficulty sitting . Years later,  I had “managed” my pain, which enabled me to go out.  I now, take medication and exercise which has enabled me to manage the pain and focus on “life”. There is a difference between Living Life and Existing. I wanted to live life. 

When we would visit relatives, I was having to use a wheelchair at the airport, as it was hard for me to walk long distances. This didn’t feel like me, the athletic Jess I knew, but I did it, to be able to make the trip and do what was necessary.

How I challenge myself

It has taken me 10 years to be in a place where I feel more like my “:normal self.” I joke, like my normal self. I wake up and look forward to the day, like my normal self. I do “normal” things. Things I wasn’t sure I would do again. Go for a hike, Sitting at the movies, … Things that are easy to take for granted. Of course I would love to remember what a day without pain feels like, but I have built up a tolerance and am able to distract myself from it.

So, when I ask ” How Do I Challenge Myself”, 8 + years ago, it might have been to go to a restaurant and sit for 15 min with a coccyx cushion. ( this was a bum cushion, as I had severe hip, leg and buttock pain). Now, I can sit without restrictions. It may also have been to be able to distract myself much of the day doing something other than laying in bed.

Now, when I ask- “How Do I Challenge Myself”… I think about this now,  as being as a healthier person, with circumstances more under control. It really comes down to perspective. Challenging oneself can be set in smaller goals, it doesn’t need to be life changing exactly. Try doing something you thought you could never do, learn a new language, or perhaps run a 5k, when you just started to learn to run. Give yourself credit for trying.

Just going on the trip to SF, Napa and Sonoma was a challenge for me. I had not sat on a plane that long, and all of the walking and activity I had done on the trip, was something I did to challenge myself. Going to Alcatraz was a challenge, and quite difficult, as my hypermobility does not allow standing for long.

If I don’t challenge myself in life, I can stay in a rut. What is the worst that can happen from a challenge? That we fail, look foolish? However, not challenging ourselves can lead to stagnation and perhaps, not growing as a person. It really made me think, and I have been quite grateful for the fact I can do more things now, something 10 years ago, I didn’t think was possible.

How do you Challenge Yourself? 

Id love to hear your comments.

Have a wonderful weekend,

Jess xx


  • passion fruit, paws and peonies
    Posted at 03:47h, 27 November Reply

    Oh Jess, you are so brave and inspiring. You have faced so many challenges with your debilitating pain. I totally agree about living life to the full and challenging ourselves. I have nothing to compare. I have my collapses so I feel brave when I travel the world alone to meet my husband. But living with pain and keeping a beautiful smile on your face is really amazing Jess xx Maria

    • Jess Jannenga
      Posted at 09:52h, 27 November Reply

      Thanks Maria
      I do have down days and days that are difficult where I must lay in bed, but I try to do the best I can. I saw myself 10 years ago as having a choice of not having a very functioning life, and spending it more in bed, or getting it under control and doing what I can. I appreciate your input, it really does mean alot to me. xx

  • Neti
    Posted at 21:17h, 21 November Reply

    Pain is no joke and You are managing it very well. Kudos! I have to challenge myself to get out and do more, because I found that I was getting complacent. Now I walk to the grocery and take public buses instead of driving when the weather is good. Happy Holidays Jess!

    • Jess Jannenga
      Posted at 09:13h, 22 November Reply

      Hi Neti, thanks so much. It took a number of years to get it managed, so I struggled. It helps that I am in a better place now. I know what you mean about getting out and doing things, it does help. Sounds like you are on the right track too. Happy Holidays to you as well! xx

  • 50Sense
    Posted at 07:29h, 20 November Reply

    What an amazing post. I love your positive attitude and your desire to keep on pushing yourself despite your illness. It’s a lesson we could all learn from


    • Jess Jannenga
      Posted at 09:11h, 22 November Reply

      Thanks so much. I think a positive attitude helps with health. It isn’t easy some days, but it does help. x

  • This Main Line Life
    Posted at 13:38h, 18 November Reply

    Oh, my gosh. I never would have guessed. You always look so vibrant and healthy. I’m so glad that it’s gotten better at least. About 20 years ago I went through a period (of about 5 years) when I was having all sorts of allergy related issues, hives, stomach pains and bloating and almost constant headaches. It was enough that I would have to leave work sometimes. It was incredibly frustrating and disheartening. Luckily I eventually found someone who was able treat the whole related set of issues and I’m in good shape now. My situation wasn’t as bad as yours, but I know how difficult it can be to feel like “you” through times like that.
    x, Julie | This Main Line Life

    • Jess Jannenga
      Posted at 09:10h, 22 November Reply

      Hi Julie, that sounds difficult too and good to hear you have it managed. Part of EDS is gastroperesis, so I know what you mean about stomach problems. Thank you for your input and popping by. I have been fortunate to have the condition more managed. There are many invisible illnesses out there.

  • fiercefashion
    Posted at 13:43h, 17 November Reply

    It’s really discouraging to become physically limited at a young age. I have some pains that limit me, but nothing so severe as yours. I’m glad you’ve been able to accomplish things and challenge yourself and by and large been successful. God bless.

    • Jess Jannenga
      Posted at 11:02h, 18 November Reply

      Thank you Kim, that means alot. I do have bad days but they easier to deal with since I know what is wrong, and know it won’t last forever.

  • Angela
    Posted at 13:40h, 16 November Reply

    I love this post – I went through some hard times a couple years ago and fell in to exactly what you describe – just existing, not living. I realized the first thing to change had to come from within, and it’s always so hard to realize you can choose your thoughts, and pretty much make up your mind to be as happy as you want to be! Getting into blogging and putting myself out there without closing off from the world has been my challenge to myself recently! It’s so important to remember to challenge ourselves. Great post and reminder

    Angela |

    • Jess Jannenga
      Posted at 10:56h, 17 November Reply

      Thank you. I am so glad you enjoyed the post and it is so true that we have some control over the happiness in our lives and how we choose to live it. It sometimes needs to be a conscious effort, but just being aware of this can make a big difference.

  • Jess Jannenga
    Posted at 10:20h, 16 November Reply

    Thank you sweet friend. Yes, at the time, I really was not sure what I would be able to do in the future. I was very athletic, and biked, something I had to give up due to the hypermobility and muscle pain. It took a long time to find pain management with medications, that was part of the battle. I am so thankful I have a hubby that is understanding and patient. I understand what you are saying about your dad, yes, I have learned to appreciate the small things and try to enjoy each day. You too! xx

  • Jodie
    Posted at 09:41h, 16 November Reply

    You are so amazing Jess. We should all learn from you, and get out of our ruts. It’s not always easy, but it’s always worth it!

    • Jess Jannenga
      Posted at 10:14h, 16 November Reply

      Thank you Jodie. It was a hard road. I really wasn’t sure how I would get out of it, or get my health managed. It was dilligence, and being proactive myself. xx

  • Suzanne
    Posted at 07:37h, 16 November Reply

    I feel for you. I’m happy that you have found some solutions that make your life more enjoyable. Struggling like that for so long must have been so difficult. I’m sure your positive attitude helps you tremendously when you are having a bad day.


    • Jess Jannenga
      Posted at 10:16h, 16 November Reply

      Thank you Suzanne. It was difficult. It required alot of mental strength I didn’t know I had. I appreciate your thoughts. xx

  • thisblondesshoppingbag
    Posted at 07:20h, 16 November Reply

    Wow Jess, your journey has been a long and hard one and I am so happy you are able to live a more “normal” life and enjoy the things you thought you might not be able to do again. It always comes down to perspective and yours is a good one – your can do attitude has no doubt played a major role in your being able to live a full life despite your diagnosis. I hope the weather gets better for you soon and you are able to get out and enjoy life! We are struggling with a lot of the same types of issues with my dad – I told him he can’t make dying the focus of his life, regardless of the time line he needs to focus on living each day. It’s easy for me to say as I’m not in his shoes but I am rooting for him to live as long as he can in the best way possible!
    Have a wonderful weekend precious friend!

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