I wake up earlier than I’d like and wondering why my body won’t just sleep like it needs to. As consciousness takes hold, pain fills my arms, seeping through them like poison in the bloodstream. Minutes pass and the poison begins to fill my legs, pouring down and pooling at the bottom. I wriggle a little as the soreness settles into its constant burn, I smile at the morning light filtering into the room and I think…
Everything is OK.
Living with chronic pain is a little bit like waking up every day with a hangover. Pain and emotions are most powerful before reason starts functioning. Even after years of dealing with CRPS, some mornings I still find my brain accepting the pain as an alarm and panicking in the moments before my mind switches on.
Holy Hell, I’m on fire! Oh, shit! Shit! Shit! Everything hurts, am I dying? … … … Oh, yeah, that’s right, I have CRPS. Carry on, morning.
Lately, I have been extremely focused on improving my strength. I was so weak, for so long last year that my fragility was severely impacting on my ability to manage my chronic pain. For a while there, I lost hope that I could take control of my life, in spite of CRPS.
Hopelessness is a black jungle that I wish never to return to again. The only method that I know of that can change a thought/emotion cycle is to actually change thoughts and things. The only way that I know of to actually change thoughts and things is through mindfulness, realising that a mind can always be opened further, and sheer determination.
In order to keep improving my activity levels, which follows through to improving my strength, I need to take more control, first thing every morning. This is a part of dealing with CRPS that I haven’t been particularly great at in the past, at my worst I’ve spent entire days (weeks, months…) just waiting to feel better.
Thankfully, I’m human and as such, I can learn to do things that I haven’t been able to do before. I can learn to get on with something, anything, rather than letting a bad wake up ruin my day.
I don’t accept that I have to be rigid in anything that goes on in my head. I don’t accept that living with chronic pain means that I have to be depressed. Neither my physical skills, nor psychological habits are fixed and the path to understanding how to change something usually begins behind an option that a less openminded, past version of myself might have considered unfathomable.
I don’t accept so many things that I’ve grown up thinking were permanently ingrained parts of me, that I occasionally feel like I really don’t know myself at all anymore.
To reclaim my mornings from pain and confusion, I have been approaching how I think about CRPS differently. It’s not a weird monster that has invaded me and might flip out at any second. It feels like that sometimes, but that’s not what CRPS is. CRPS is just my nervous system misinterpreting stuff. It just means that I’ll feel physical pain and have some strange bodily reactions to pretty regular things. That’s all.
When trying to take back power over something that is overwhelming, it helps to throw in a “just”.
It’s just CRPS.
Waking up has been easier lately, even on those days that ache more than the others. Those aches are just CRPS. Those aches will feel different after some morning stretches. Those aches will change.
I don’t expect to feel better, I just expect to feel different and I’m starting to respond to difference as a positive and happy making experience. I’m creating this response by repeatedly forcing recognition of my thoughts and then thinking other thoughts instead.
It actually is that simple.
Everything that makes a thought seem inescapable is just smoke and mirrors. Keeping this idea with me helps me to keep searching for the trick, to keep uncovering the layers until I understand the illusion, no matter how devastating the emotions that I’m feeling seem to be in the moment.
Being mindful of what’s going on in my head has helped me to keep pushing my physical limits. I’m spending most of my time exercising, cleaning, running errands and cooking, followed by the pain managing stretching, Feldenkrais and soaking. It’s not glamourous at all, but it’s far more lively an existence than feeling sad and being scared to move off the couch.
I’m starting to feel like myself again, even if that self is in flux, because why must a self be a static thing anyway? I prefer myself malleable, it makes life far more interesting.
Love & Grins,