how are you doing???

I was recently catching up with a friend, and the topic of how I’m feeling came up. This question and I have a long, complicated history. For several reasons over the years, I’ve dreaded it, and even now it continues to baffle me. How do you tell someone that everything is still pretty much the same, medically-speaking, but that life is overall better? How do you express that you’re working towards accepting your health as it is yet you’re in pursuit of 1-3 treatment options at any given moment? If I don’t lose them with my contradictory responses, I most likely will when they ask what I’m doing to manage my symptoms and I answer with a strict diet, acupuncture, and meditation. Their eyes glaze over and/or they think I’m crazy…and that’s where the conversation usually ends.

So, this friend and I are going through things and I’m trying to excitedly explain what’s going on and what’s ahead, and she meets my eyes and earnestly expresses how sorry she is. It was a kind expression of sympathy, but I was a bit confused. I quickly answered, “Oh please, don’t be; I’m happier than I’ve been in years!” She agreed that I seemed that way, but it’s left me wondering how successful, or unsuccessful, I am in conveying how I’m doing at any given moment.

The New Year, a birthday, and the nearly one-year mark since I was admitted to Silver Hill Hospital’s Chronic Pain and Recovery Center have reminded me to examine now and compare it to how things used to be. When I do this, I realize that practically everything is different. I no longer dread making plans with people, I feel a sense of control over my body and chronic illness, and I can clearly see wonderful days ahead. When I get up in the morning I don’t drag myself out of bed wondering how I can still feel so tired. I wake up well-rested even before my alarm goes off, and I’m ready to greet the day.

Things are not different because I got a new job, am in a relationship, or won the lottery. I didn’t get some miracle surgery that cured me and allowed me to fully participate in life. I didn’t even realize that my pain was something I fabricated and have finally moved past it after years of wallowing. Nothing in my life changed, except for absolutely everything. And by everything, I’m pretty sure I just mean me.

So to all who know me (or don’t) and wonder how I am, the answer is short and simple. I am happy.

How are you???

putting down the gloves

I’ve been in a defensive stance for a long time. I used to fight to get to the end of each day, letting my symptoms dictate how I went about everything. Now, I fight to get better – to finally reach some sort of existence in which I’m not constantly uncomfortable.

Lately, however, I’ve been receiving messages that this is not the way I should go about managing my health and pain.

At first, I was incredulous. I may speak of acceptance and how that is my ultimate goal, but to actually achieve this has felt like a pipedream. Yes, it’s a beautiful idea, but my true mental state has been stuck in This life hurts, why would I stop fighting? To stop fighting means that I would wave a flag in surrender. Well, that would be crazy. I can do better than this. Additionally, after over a decade of living in this state, fighting became a part of my self-identity. The idea of stopping didn’t align with my worldview on so many levels.

The last time I found myself on the acupuncture table I was in the middle of a pain flare and a bit of a mess. After reading my pulse, my acupuncturist shared a thought with me. I feel like you’re trying really hard to get betterMy first reaction was, Yes, great! I am! But she continued, gently offering that perhaps acceptance was an approach worth considering.

Not long after this session, I picked up Anita Moorjani’s book Dying to be Me which is an account of her near-death experience while suffering from end-stage lymphoma, and how she quickly healed upon waking. Moorjani offers the reader many lessons she learned following this experience, but a couple stood out. First, she talks about learning to look inward for answers rather than outward, as the changes we make influence our entire universe. “If I’m at peace, all of creation is peaceful,” she writes. Okay, this is interesting and completely aligns with my pursuit of successfully managing my pain without outside intervention. Second, Moorjani writes that our bodies are a reflection of our inner state and that her realization of this during her near-death experience is what allowed her to heal.

It was hard to not actually nod along in agreement as I read this book, that’s how strongly it resonated. So many things she wrote are things I’ve thought before but never strung together or related to my health. Yet it all made perfect sense.

As my meditation practice progresses, I’m finding that occasionally I get the feeling I have truly left my physical body behind. It doesn’t happen each time I meditate and I can’t hold onto the feeling for too long, but when it happens I’m at ease mentally and physically. I don’t feel pain. As soon as I am pulled back down, however, I am greeted by this body that is uncomfortable and I am reminded of my reality.

I’ve wanted to tap into this feeling, to find a way to access a similar state as I go about life. I’ve had no idea how to do this, however, so I just kept practicing. In an oddly ironic way, I viewed the pursuit of this goal similarly to how I trained to run a marathon or master any other skill. I set smaller benchmark goals, I took it very seriously, and I had high expectations for how my hard work would one day pay off. Somehow I found a way to even turn meditation into a battle.

If everything I’m hearing, seeing, reading, learning, and even occasionally experiencing is correct, then I have the power to create my world and all that is in it, whether that is beauty and peace or sadness and pain. At one time this idea would have angered me or would have made me feel that my illness was somehow less real if I had the power to change it, but today I’m excited by this notion because I realize that this answer would mean that there is a way out.

I can work with this.

I apologize for today’s post lacking a certain light, holiday theme. I guess that’s just not where I am right now! Nevertheless, I hope you are all enjoying the Season and getting what you need.

 

a new look at self-care

 

Last year around this time I posted this:

gifts i'm giving myself this year - 29goingon92.com

 

Recently, I’ve spent a lot of time revisiting where I was one month ago…six months ago….a year ago….five years ago, even. It helps me gain perspective as to the progress I’ve made, or in some cases, haven’t made.

When I look at the above graphic it’s like I’m looking at a person I hardly recognize. I’m looking at someone who views herself completely separately from her health, not yet realizing that the two are intertwined to the point that they can never be severed. I’m looking at a person who views self-care not as taking care of her body or mind, but as indulging in the whims and desires that any given moment might bring.

Currently, my graphic looks very different. I now write from a place of understanding that what I do for myself today not only impacts that moment but has the potential to set me up for future success or struggle. Even in dark moments when I can’t find the words to express this, I know that I am progressing, and I want to do everything within my power to improve my life. Some days that means I need to be alone and binge-watch Netflix, and other times I need to step outside my comfort zone and experience something new. Every day it means I need to listen to my body and give it what it needs, which may not align with what I feel like doing.

Today my graphic looks like this:

 

stillmovingblog.com

 

These are the things I am giving myself this holiday, and they’re not very different than what I’ve been working to keep in mind. Unlike the Anne of one year ago, I am a person with a clear, defined goal which I am anxious to accomplish. While this way of thinking can be problematic [more on that later], today I’m just grateful to be in a place where I know a handful of ways to help me get there.