So, how do you feel?!
This is the question I get the most now. The source, I’ve concluded, is concern, interest, confusion – or perhaps even a combination of all three.
Unfortunately, the answer isn’t simple. Not one of the new behaviors I’m implementing boasts immediate results. I have, however, already noticed some movement in the right direction. My mental clarity and sleep improved almost immediately once I stopped taking meds. I’ve also seen a nice jump in my social life, stamina, and overall happiness. Interestingly enough, the last three changes aren’t due to a dramatic decrease in my level of discomfort. I hate to so blatantly take credit, but those changes come from me.
I now know* that I was
protecting numbing myself from painful experiences, both physical and emotional. I was also flooding my brain with chemicals that completely messed with its pleasure center [or nucleus accumbens, for anyone who prefers that terminology]. While I was somewhat successful in achieving my raison d’être, I inadvertently shut myself off from positive experiences and emotions, as well. So now, armed with this knowledge, I push myself to reverse these unfortunate side effects. I’ve set a slew of goals to keep myself from falling back into bad habits. I do this not because I already feel better, but because I know it’s the only way I’m going to feel better. And guess what…it has actually made a difference already.
You see, I had everything backward. I kept waiting for something to happen to me. I viewed myself as a powerless victim. Eventually, I became frustrated enough about how my life looked, and I wanted to change course. That’s a big piece of the puzzle right there – just wanting it badly enough. Because, if I’m being perfectly honest, this way of living is much harder! But I keep at it mostly because I know how big the payoff will be, and a little bit because I know there is no other option.
So, back to the original question. On average, my discomfort is markedly lower than it was before I went to Silver Hill. For the next year, I’ll continue watching my pain trend downward as I get stronger, become more mindful, hone my knowledge of modalities aside from taking pills, and better understand my pain triggers and how to pace myself. On my best days I get glimpses of this life with less pain. I meditate and actually feel my breath easing my discomfort. I notice strides I’m making in physical therapy, and I feel like I’m finally standing taller and walking straighter. On the bad days, though, I feel just as I did before I left. Incidentally, on those days I let my good behaviors sort of fall to the wayside. My food intake goes down, I barely get through one or two exercises, and I laugh at the idea of mindfulness. When I need my skills the most I abandon them.
Clearly, there’s a lot I’m still learning, not just about these behaviors but about myself and what I need. And while I wish I could say straight away that I’m all better, I’m already so far ahead of where I was at the beginning of the year. And for now, I’m thinking that that’s enough.
Ugh, okay, this is really sappy. Sorry, everyone. Bye!
*Thank you, Silver Hill Hospital!