I Love A New Beginning

Today marks the end of 2015. As I sum up the year in my mind I wonder, “How did I grow and develop this year?” This year saw me rise and fall and rise again with a new sense of self-love and commitment to living fully and with value.

Living with constant, often severe, pain over the last 5 years robbed me of a sense of my inherent value. I once felt vibrant and purposeful, I now felt only like a burden to those I loved.

In 2015 I found my way off of pain meds which had dulled my brain and my sense of aliveness. I truly hated having to take pain meds. I don’t know if I was more devastated by the back pain  or by the brain fog from the medications I took to cope with it. Just before the beginning of 2015 I discovered Kratom and transitioned to that instead of prescription pain meds. Kratom had fewer side effects and my brain worked much better. Then, in May, I found my massage therapist who got my pain down to a level so bearable that I was able to taper off Kratom.

And so, by the summer of this year, I was off the meds. Yay! But suddenly  I was face to face with my limits. There was no longer any fog or separateness from my experience. I realized I was very depressed, still hurting, and I had to make some changes. With this clear head I saw that I was spending too much time giving out my energy to others, but denying myself any pleasure or fulfillment. This pattern was making my pain worse and deepening my depression. Why was I doing this? Because chronic pain made me believe I was boring, useless, and had lost all value. All my (very limited) energy was going into proving to myself and others that I was relevant, worthy and valuable. I was constantly trying to redeem myself.  I was making less money so I had to spend much less money on myself. I asked for less and less from others because I didn’t want to be a burden on anyone, and didn’t feel like I deserved anything that wasn’t an absolute necessity. So, in my home office I went with out curtains or even a chair. I suffered every evening from lying on a too hard sofa. I made career decisions that didn’t account for my own self care. It took me a few months of trying and failing to live well before I got it that I have to rekindle my sense of self-worth. And all it takes is the decision to do so.

Chronic pain may be an obstacle in life but the idea that it robs one of their worth is an all too common, but truly absurd side effect. Self-worth can’t come from measuring productivity, financial success, or from compulsively giving of one’s energy and time. I remember Oprah saying “Fill up your own cup and give from the overflow.” I had forgotten how to do that. I even wonder if I ever really knew how. I have learned over the last few months that this belief has to be unconditional. You don’t have to earn it. You just live it.

And so, as we go into a new year, I give myself permission to make this the year of “Me.” A year in which I get to prioritize myself. I plan to continue to decorate and work on beautifying our home because I want to. I plan to do more fun things out of the house. I plan to buy some new clothes so that I feel proud of how I look. I will socialize for fun, not obligation. I will replace my sofa cushions with softer foam. And, yes, I already bought myself a chair and curtains for my home office!

My New Year’s wish for all of you with chronic pain is that you count yourself first. Find things that bring you joy and do them. You haven’t lost the right to be happy. Your value is unconditional.


One Moment to the Next

I never know what to do with myself from one moment to the next. Of course there are the usual commitments: go to work, do the dishes, put gas in the car, tidy up, return emails, texts and phone calls, call family members, eat, sleep, repeat. But in between those.

In the good ole days, before I had chronic pain, it was easy. I could dedicate  20 minutes to an hour a day to exercise, sit at my desk and work on a project, or meet a friend for lunch. Now, even 10 minutes of a walk or elliptical may flare me up. Mixing cookie dough may flare me up. Sitting at a desk or a restaurant definitely will flare me up. Driving more than 15 minutes at a time probably will flare me up. Carrying two quarts of chicken soup from the deli to the car did flare me up. And once a flare is up it takes both the chiropractor and the massage therapist to get my pain back down (not gone, mind you, but down).

This constant sense of limitation makes me feel like every day I fail just a little. Normal life’s activities can cause me so much physical pain that I never really know how much to try to do or how careful I should be. Being too sedentary is just as bad as doing too much. Everyday I start anew and find myself discouraged, and somehow disappointed in myself.

I was talking with Erin, my massage therapist, about this. I told her that part of the problem is my ego. Erin, paused. Then she said “Ego is a Dick.”

I was very successful in my career before chronic pain, and was motivated to continue to expand my abilities. I am still motivated, but there are so many obstacles. Mainly the fact that sitting is so painful has kept me from going back to school. I take webinars and online classes from time to time, but it is not the same as being there. Networking is harder, and I am only able to work short days anyway.

“Ego is a dick.” Suddenly it all became clear to me. Ego is a bully and a dick and something that tells you you are never good enough! Having chronic pain is a huge blow to my ego. And if I believe in spiritual growth, which I sometimes do and sometimes don’t, perhaps my ego needed to be knocked down for me to learn something, or to grow. I have no idea what the lesson is. I don’t think I have learned it yet. I will certainly let you know when and if I do! For now, I just have to decide what to do next. Work on my novel? Practice learning Spanish? Watch TV? Play Candy Crush Saga? Listen to an audiobook? Read a book? Do laundry? Take a walk? I guess I should be grateful that I still have choices.


Family and Pain

Oh, Thanksgiving. A time to see family and to be grateful. I have a wonderful family (though we have all been through very hard times) and I am grateful, but I have always had a difficult relationship with my sister. We have been the best of friends, but when we fight it is brutal. She has a great heart, but also has the ability to twist my words and hear something completely different from what I am saying. On my part, I get very emotional when I don’t feel heard. This impasse, like beating my head against a wall, wrecks me.

Growing up, it was just the two of us in a broken and abusive family. Being together in this sealed a bond for me. Because she was there, I wasn’t alone, and neither was she. She was a witness and fellow survivor of a difficult past. But we were also both wounded by this past.

I don’t doubt that the pain of the past and the difficult relationships that continue even to this day and get repeated in new relationships contribute to my body being in pain. I believe that when I can’t work through things with the people I love that the only place for the pain to go is into my body. This is not due to stuffing my emotions, or not dealing with my feelings, or even engaging in self destructive behavior, which I don’t do. But my body becomes a shock absorber. The things that I cannot change still hurt. Every time my heart breaks, my body breaks too.