It sure is hot outside. Personally, I’ve had quite enough of Summer. I spent Winter wishing for warmer weather, only to discover that I can’t tolerate heat any more than cold. It would be particularly helpful if Mother Nature would agree to keep things at a pleasant temperature and stop throwing these tantrums. Melbourne has always been a little bipolar when it comes to weather, but these recent fluctuations have been ridiculously extreme and extremely painful for many of us who suffer from chronic pain. I am constantly looking forward to the day when I will live in a home with air-conditioning once more, however until then, all I can do is grin and bear it. Ok, the grinning part is all fallacy, more like groan and bear it.
Yesterday, my pain went through the roof. Sitting up was too painful and I was stuck in bed, twisting and turning, unable to spend too much time on any side of my body because the pressure between myself and the mattress caused pain.
The only thing that I can do to get through this amount of ouching is breathe. I try to engage the meditative skills I have learnt and relax my muscles. I scan my body, mentally, tune into the areas that are in the most pain and try to release it. Visualisation is a nifty tool, I find my mind automatically imagines the inflamed areas as red (rather like a Nurofen commercial) and so I try to picture a cool blue flooding these areas. It doesn’t always help, but the mere act of focusing on this process is a distraction from the intense heat of the pain. The best way I have ever heard meditation described is as a shift from thinking to sensing. Focusing your mind on physical sensations, such as sounds, temperature, pressure and even pain, immediately allows it less room to play around with the thought viruses that make enduring pain more difficult.
I’ve recently been playing around with visualising myself in another place, a better place. Pictures I’ve seen of The Maldives come in handy for this, but mostly I just want to go and sit by the river at a camping site I visited annually growing up. I had so much time to daydream there as a child and I like tapping back into that sense of nothing being impossible. I like remembering what it was like to feel inspired about the future and to plan all the wonderful things I would do. It can be a sad memory if I let it, however I try to channel that sense of childlike wonder and expectation into my current life and think about the things I can still achieve. Small things – my current crowning achievement is maintaining this blog. There have been times when I couldn’t blog through the really bad spells, I’m glad that I have learnt to try and focus on the positives and by sharing my methods of dealing it helps me to keep them in place.
Attempting to meditate on your own can be difficult. A couple of years ago I took a short course run by The Melbourne Meditation Centre that I found incredibly enlightening and helpful. Not enlightening in the spiritual sense – something that many people automatically associate with meditation – but enlightening to the fact that meditation doesn’t have to have anything to do with spirituality at all, it can be entirely physical. As I learnt in the course, it only takes five deep breaths to create a physiological change in the body and begin the process of relaxation. I find audio tracks really useful as guided meditation is easier to come back to when I find myself drifting back into thinking, which I will inevitably do continually as I try to relax. It can be frustrating to have to focus so much to relax, but the physical benefits are well worth the HEFfort.
The toughest part of getting through this flare is coping mentally. When I feel myself starting to lose the plot a little, or head down a destructive thought trail, I try to put the brakes on quickly and counter those thoughts by focusing on what I can do to make things a little better. Socialising with people who have similar problems can often be helpful because in the process of discussing their issues, we sometimes find the resolutions for our own. It’s always easier to tackle someone else’s problem, especially when their story is similar to ours. Lately, I have been thinking about this process and trying to ask myself, “What would I tell me?”. It’s not always easy to have the strength to follow my own advice, but the more I ask this question and the more honest I am with myself about how I can choose my responses to both thoughts and pain, the easier it is getting. I might not be coping in the best way possible yet, but let’s not forget that the human condition is never to reach nirvana, there’s always going to be a possibly better state of being, glinting at us from the horizon.
Love & Coping,