Betta Tryptophan
Jun 17, 2017 · 4 min read
Image (cropped) by Porsche Brosseau via Flickr. License.

Yesterday was a day from Hell with regards to my body’s well-being. It stormed for much of the day, so the low pressure outside gave rise to low pressure in my joints and tissues, which might have made them swell slightly and impinge on my nerves. At least that’s the theory; surely you know someone whose ‘rheumatizz’ flares up when it’s going to rain. My sciatica, fibromyalgia, and other assorted flavors of chronic pain illnesses all flared up yesterday beyond the capability of my rather anemic pain medication’s ability to assuage.

So I could do very little, and even when I was resting, I was in agony. It was hard not to become frustrated. They say that your brain shrinks when you have chronic pain. Maybe that’s why I am no good at jigsaw puzzles anymore.

It is difficult for me to accept my growing physical limitations. I have had to cut back on the intensity of my yoga workouts, and I’ve even had to tone down the vigor with which I swim laps due to the worsening of my lower back pain over the last year or so. More and more I feel that it is becoming impossible for me to get an adequate workout, something that will keep my muscles toned and my aerobic capacity up. I think perhaps I am in a form of denial of my disability. (I didn’t even want to write that word down to refer to my own state, but it seems the proper word to use.)

Perhaps I should take a leaf from old wisdom:

“Blessed is he who expects nothing, for he will never be disappointed.” –Alexander Pope

How to accept my physical limitations by losing my expectations?

Do something. Today, I accepted my limitations by backing off on the amount and intensity of exercise. But I made the effort to do something; I did not sit at home fuming about my inability to do my normal workout. I swam 12 laps instead of 18. That’s more than zero. I count that a win.

Be present — Look around, not forward or back. I often indulge in daydreaming. I look at my messy house and dream of the cleaning projects I’ll do, or I’ll think why didn’t I move these suitcases or clear off this rocking chair? I don’t really see things as they are but rather what I wish them to be or fear they may become. That leads to inaction and frustration. Today, I took advantage of the fact that I felt better than I did yesterday by getting a workout, and I managed to do necessary household tasks. In Zen Buddhism, even doing the dishes can be a meditation as long as your mind is present in the task.

Rest when you need to rest, unapologetically. Everyone is always trying to go above and beyond, to do more, achieve more, squeeze more activities into every day. That’s fine if you’re not suffering from a chronic illness that makes it impossible to keep up a fast pace. Yesterday, the stormy weather practically enforced me to rest. Stupidly, I tried to stand up to do a couple of tasks (including a pleasant one — working a jigsaw puzzle). But I paid for it with pain so severe my right leg would no longer hold my body up. Live and learn. I hope I remember the lesson on the next stormy day.

I suppose these admonitions seem pretty obvious, don’t they? Often, when we’re in the situation, in the thick of life, we don’t pay attention and don’t think before we do something that works against our own best interests. So my last bit of advice to myself is: just pay attention. That’s good advice for anyone, isn’t it? Thanks for reading, and ‘night y’all!


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Pain Talks

Stories that share the lived experience of chronic pain opens up the dark space that people living with it experience. This is a collection of stories of resilient action, thoughtful questioning and defiant resistance to the daily challenges that pain brings.

Betta Tryptophan

Written by

Blue-haired middle-aged lady with a tendency to say socially and politically incorrect things and to make inappropriate jokes. Awkward and (sort of) proud of it

Pain Talks

Stories that share the lived experience of chronic pain opens up the dark space that people living with it experience. This is a collection of stories of resilient action, thoughtful questioning and defiant resistance to the daily challenges that pain brings.

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