The longer my physical struggles go on the more energy I have to spend on managing my thoughts and feelings.
Just did a mood intervention because I was finding myself spiralling downwards fast.
Body crashing, pain creeping into my neck and head, soft tissue stiffening up all over.
Thoughts of the pointlessness of it all, thoughts of the countless times when its been like this before, thoughts of giving up and just withdrawing – into myself, away from all my difficulties, away to some other world where I don’t have to deal with my limitations.
Feelings of intense inadequacy, frustration with myself – frustration with anything really, losing motivation to try to do anything, sadness about all the things I can’t do, anxiety about all the things I need to do and don’t know when I’ll be able to…
When spiralling down it can draw me into a state of mental and physical lethargy. In glimpses of clarity and awareness I realise I have to step back and try to shift things. Sometimes these glimpses are so short that I’ve forgotten about it the next moment. Other times they are long enough for me to actually make a move.
I had a big cup of sweet, creamy coffee and a big bowl of dark cherries (anti-oxidants, muscle recovery and sleep), melon (hydration, fibre), vanilla ice cream (combination of cold and sweet seem to stimulate my brain and clear my thinking, smell and taste of vanilla calms me) and dark chocolate (flavanols). And some pain killers.
It can feel like a failure when I can’t manage my pain and I have to take pain killers during the day. I try to manage my pain through a mixture of activity, stretching, heat and distraction and then only take pain killers in the evening to help my muscles relax in the night so I’m not too stiff in the morning.
My back is really vulnerable at the moment and the pain is draining me. I want to participate in a ballet performance this coming weekend and have been trying to pace myself. I have been struggling with my feet as well lately and my calves have been tight. So I skipped ballet Monday evening in order to have the energy for a class Tuesday and for the weekend. Tuesday evening I try and do all I know to keep my muscles warm and subtle and not strain anything. I’ve got my ankle support bands on. The room is warm and its generally a gentle class. Yet I manage to strain my left calf… It happens so quickly that I can’t do anything about it.
So now my mobility is even more limited. Forget about intense exhaustion, soft tissue that stays stiff no matter how much I stretch and move it, in-explainable pain everywhere and tightness that gives me internal claustrophobia. This is just a plain, stupid injury and it seems so unfair.
I feel infuriated and hopeless. Even if I wanted to do gardening or walking I couldn’t. I can just about walk around the house and up and down the stairs. As long as I don’t stretch my leg it seems ok.
I’ve got my feet up and am resting my calf in the hope that it will get well enough for me to do the performance on Sunday. It’s naive and ambitious but I am not willing to accept that something I actually feel like doing – when I generally don’t feel like doing much of anything – might not be possible.
It’s incredibly demoralising to do everything you know to look after yourself and yet your body seems to keep deteriorating… My bouts of low mood come on quicker, go lower and are more tricky to disperse. Shifting my state of mind means I have to believe its worthwhile. My energy is so limited that I am continuously prioritising and hoping that what I am choosing to do will be helpful.
When I feel low my thoughts and feelings seem to circle around themes like
- me not feeling able to contribute to my community
- me not being able to do practical chores
- me not being able to relax
- me not being able to socialise
- me not being able to enjoy things I normally take pleasure in
- me not being able to be present and kind when with my partner
- me not being able to engage with things I feel passionate about
- me not being able to do physical exercise without feeling significantly worse
- me not feeling part of life around me
So overall feeling quite disabled and overwhelmed by internalised ableism… When I look at my feelings of inadequacy I find that there are certain areas (or needs) that I can focus on to help myself choose ways to shift my state of mind.
I feel disconnected and isolated so I try to think of things that can help me feel more connected without feeling overwhelmed. I feel purposeless so I can try and do things that are meaningful to me. I am experiencing so much pain and discomfort that actively creating pleasure for myself can bring temporary relief.
- doing small manageable bits of work like respond to one or two emails or messages
- talking through work with my partner and requesting he take more of a lead on specific tasks so that I still feel involved but not overwhelmed with responsibility
- set realistic standards for myself in work I have to do – simplify things
- finding meaning outside of work e.g. appreciating days when I am able to do some weeding and caring for my plants
- personal writing when I can even when it means postponing work writing
- treat myself – finding a balance between eating and drinking things that comfort me but also sustain me (nutrition dense, supporting steady blood sugar levels etc)
- check in with my body whether things I think are nice for me (to eat or do) are actually nice at the time. At the moment I can’t always rely on my previous experiences of pleasure. Being sensitised things I normally enjoy can feel very uncomfortable and overwhelming
- being pain-free is not the goal. Pleasure and comfort coexists with pain – I can experience pleasure and comfort at the same time as I experience pain. So I cannot measure how successful an intervention is by whether it relieves pain but rather by other effects it might have – like lifting my mood, giving me a bit of energy, clearing my mind, making me feel calmer or helping me laugh
- singing along to music I like. Most of the time I can’t cope with ‘the noise’ of music but when I can I find it helps me to sing
- watching some familiar tv series – familiarity is comforting and it saves me from the unpredictability of watching new stuff
- I am so grateful that the world cup is on at the moment. It gives structure to my day and I have something to watch that I don’t feel attached to so it doesn’t overstimulate me
- buying stuff… This one is tricky and I need to do it discerningly as my decision making is really poor at the moment which can lead to more frustration than pleasure
- accepting that socialising usually causes a minor crash but I have to believe it is worthwhile
- being discerning about social media because at the moment it can make me feel more disconnected
- forgive myself for not remembering or not having the head to respond to people I care about. Responding when I can and accepting that my responses are going to be short. Luckily most people I know don’t seem to take offence
- savouring the views where I live and try and focus on the joy of living here rather than the frustration that I can’t get out into it much
- connecting with myself and with parts of me that don’t get much space at the moment. Self-connecetion is tricky because it generally means connecting with uncomfortable feelings and sensations and then I have to spend a lot of energy on self-compassion. But I try and tune in and see if there is anything I can do to give space to parts of me – like my playful self – without it being too exhausting