Jennifer Grey Reveals 'Dirty Dancing' Secrets
How She Does It: Jennifer Grey
What's the first step to getting control over chronic pain?
Communicating with your doctor and talking with people [who also suffer from chronic pain] can help you get out of the hole you are in. If you're having a problem, go to Partners Against Pain. There's help everywhere. But you have to be willing to say, "I'm worth it. My life is worth it. The quality of my life is worth it."
What tips can you give our readers to help them better communicate with their healthcare providers?
You and your doctor should have clear and open communication, and you should be able to articulate what your doctor needs to know. Communication can become very difficult. If you find a doctor that you're not communicating with well, or who doesn't seem to be responding to you, look for another doctor. Don't quit or decide there's no hope. It's trial-and-error, so keep going until you get relief because there is relief somewhere out there.
How do you manage your chronic pain?
My goal is not to be pain-free; it's to have tolerable pain. I really love the fact that my approach is multi-disciplinary (including exercises, meditation and hypnosis). It's not about ignoring my problems; it's about facing them and saying, "What can I do today?" My life is better—my life is available to me again in a way that I never thought it could be, because I didn't recognize I'd lost it. I believe it's everyone's right to enjoy their life. Pain is inevitable, but suffering is optional, so [it's a matter of doing] what we can to lessen the suffering.
How do you re-prioritize your life when your pain flares up?
I find that I'm overwhelmed a lot because I try to do too much; I feel like I'm doing six things at once all day, and I don't realize until I'm in bed how exhausted I am. So sometimes I ask myself, "How important is this?" If I can take it off the list, I take it off the list, so I can be more present and enjoy my day more. I'm really trying to reach out to people and [help them ask themselves], "How can I enjoy my day better?" instead of longing for the past when they didn't have pain—or for the future, when maybe they won't have pain.
How do you manage parenting with chronic pain?
I have one child, Stella, who's almost 10. My daughter knows I can't pick her up on my shoulders. She knows I can't pick the bike up and put it up on top of the car. She knows if we go horseback riding I shouldn't jump, although I do sometimes. It's really important to teach kids that we all have limits. We'd all love to feel fantastic all the time and get what we want all the time, but we don't. And it's OK to tolerate disappointment that things aren't perfect. It's OK to live your life with limitations. I think it teaches [Stella] compassion to know that her mom suffers…when I suffer, she sees that I'm taking care of myself and I think that's a great thing to model.
What is the secret to managing physical difficulties while being a mother?
Take care of yourself first. You have to make sure you're OK so you can be OK for your kids. Like on the airplane, when they say to put the oxygen mask on yourself first. I think it's very frightening for kids to see their mother crying or depressed. If you can take care of yourself first, then you can show up for your children in a much better way. Teach them executive function skills [such as prioritizing what needs to be done, like chores and homework, and making lists] and how to get things done…and recognize that no one is perfect. Everyone is learning and everyone is growing.
What are your go-to meals when you're in a rush?
I'm into baked chicken. I love pasta; I make really good marinara sauce. I love making Greek salad and lamb chops. My daughter is a great eater.
What ingredients do you always have on-hand in your kitchen?
I make a lot of banana bread, so I always have a lot of canola oil [in the pantry] and black bananas in the freezer. But I don't use too much sugar and no butter at all. Every time I had a surgery scheduled I would show up with a cake [at the hospital]. It's a great tool—bring goodies for your doctors!
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