“I’ve learned that having a healthy mind and spirit cannot be separate from having a healthy body. For me, the pinnacle of my healing is having compassion for myself as a whole being.”
For several years, Jenny has been involved with two organizations that are close to her heart. With the Food Connection, she and her friends are building a sense of community in Mount Pleasant by offering food workshops and monthly potluck dinners for residents in the area. Jenny is also one of five peer leaders for DIY Dharma, a meditation group based in East Vancouver.
“By practicing food preparation with neighbours, and through group meditation, I’ve really been able to support my livelihood. These activities are helping to heal my body and my spirit. I’m aware that who I am as a person is about who I am in my community.”
Since March 2015, Jenny has been living with myofascial pain syndrome, a condition characterized by widespread pain from chronic muscle tension. For Jenny, this means that she experiences muscle pain on a daily basis in her feet, back, neck and shoulders, and “nearly everywhere in between.”
“It impacted my ability to feed myself, leave my home, and even buy groceries. It has taken me 10 months to learn how to manage my energy and develop strategic routines to live a functional and healthy life,” Jenny explained, “And I still have a long way to go.”
When I asked Jenny about the role that clothing has in her daily routines, she expressed that what is most important to her is finding clothes that are not constricting.
“I deal with weight fluctuations, inflammation, and frozen fascial tissue, so I don’t wear tight clothes that contribute to my discomfort. Another essential is wearing flat and supportive shoes because having stable, comfortable feet is important for my entire body. I’ve learned how to put comfort at the centre of what makes me feel beautiful.”
At the core of Jenny’s wardrobe is “trying on the ideology of body compassion.”
“When I think of body compassion, it has been an attitude I’ve cultivated in tandem with accepting myself, accepting my circumstances as they are, and allowing myself to feel what’s happening for me instead of hiding what I feel. My style starts from my inner self, not from outside projections. The more I practice body compassion, the more I develop a healthy body image. I’ve learned to let my body take up space and be thankful for all that it is.”
Jenny also explained that her smartphone, in many ways, is a key fashion accessory that helps her with the cognitive symptoms of her illness. She “offloads a lot of mental work” by storing information in her phone, such as names and important dates. Her phone is also her link to online support groups and social connections.
“It’s common for people to be criticized for being attached to their phone, but of course, phones can be used for pro-social reasons — not just to disconnect. It’s a tool for me to validate and celebrate my experiences while feeling connected to a safe space,” she elaborated.
Quick Questions with Jenny
When have you surprised yourself with something that you have accomplished?
I’ve surprised myself by developing self-awareness: to understand my own needs, to be honest with myself about which needs I cannot meet on my own, and to learn to ask for help. I have learned that asking for help is a skill that empowers my loved ones to help me effectively, and they are delighted to help when they can.
What would people be surprised to learn about you?
I’m super into pop culture zombie lore. I have a degree in English literature and film studies, and I’m fascinated by all the different versions of the zombie apocalypse. I love all zombies — from Night of the Living Dead to The Walking Dead.
Where do people stumble with their understanding of myofascial pain syndrome, and what changes would you like to see?
People often diminish their own suffering when they hear about my experience. But, I think it’s important for us to listen to each other and care about each other without comparing who is more worthy of compassion. I would love to live in a world where people don’t feel compelled to say, “what I’m going through is not as important as what you’re going through.” The way that I see it, all suffering is worthy of being met with respect.
What advice would you offer to someone who is going through a similar experience?
Don’t do it alone. It’s easier said than done. Try to cultivate the courage to ask even one person for help with the smallest thing…and you will find that you are not alone. That is my hope. Learn how to take the tiniest steps and create the simplest actions. Nobody does it all at once.
It was delightful to learn about Jenny’s vibrant style, moving story, and refreshing outlook on navigating adversity. We truly appreciated her authenticity in sharing her experiences!