The Problem is in the Positivity

Dear Audy,

I’ve had to put a lot of extra effort into simply coping with being alive this Spring. It’s been easy to get down about that, to feel like I’m taking unwanted tangents on a journey that never promised to be linear, or falling backwards through issues that I thought I’d overcome. It’s really easy to get caught up in the daily struggles and when that happens I can forget how life with CRPS has been much, much more difficult that it is right now.

Springtime brings brain fog and pain flares and both of those things make thinking seem like a really difficult task. It can feel like my mind can’t complete a thought. I get caught up in beginnings but don’t make it to the endings. Of my thoughts. Similarly, I can rarely even read a whole sentence without the start of it falling out the other side of my head.

The reading thing is so annoying. I struggle to find inspiration when I can’t spend time escaping in books or learning from blogs.

The thing about beginnings is that they are exciting things. They herald in the new and different. Beginnings are the only paths there are to change and change is a thrilling prospect when life has been feeling stale and forced.

20141027 Gandhi Quote


Just thinking about beginnings, though, that’s a whole other thing. When I’m having trouble seeing thoughts through, my mind likes to throw out more and more potential starting off points like some sort of stupidly helpful demon. These can get frustrating once I realise my inability to physically see through any of the pleasing plans that I’m thinking about.

Ooh, I can type today, maybe my hands are finally strong enough to get a job…
Next day: Hands full of lightning and fire.

Ooh, I typed a whole blog post today, maybe I can pursue more writing opportunities…
Next day: Hands dripping with pain and devil’s sweat.

Ooh, I managed to drive 5mins to the supermarket today, maybe I can go on longer adventures…
Next day: Can’t turn head or lift arms to shoulder height.

Ooh, I chatted for a couple of hours, maybe I can get a boring telemarketing job that would at least pay me money that I earned myself…
Next day: Jaw welded shut, can’t chat, can’t smile.

Ooh, I read a few chapters of this novel and understood the words, maybe I can handle some at home study…
Next day: What? Next Week: Huh? Next Month: HOW DID NOVEMBER HAPPEN?

Sitting back now and looking at what I just wrote is rather less frustrating than the experiences themselves. Look at that positivity, eh? I’m taking the tiniest bit of function and sprinting toward the wonderful developments that it might indicate, which is kind of nice, but it seems obvious that I’m suffering from some sort of misplaced attachment.

All you need to do to understand that attachment is a dirty word is mix up a handful of Mindfulness with some Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and throw in a dash of Buddhism (this recipe is my most effective coping concoction). I’ve done a lot of work towards detaching my emotions from my physical pain, detaching my self worth from career or the opinions of others and detaching my sense of well-being from a checklist of things that need to be achieved.

Learning to understand the negative ways in which my mind trips me up is only half the battle. I need to be able to function well in the positive places too. Attaching too much emotion or expectation to a positive experience can lead to as much disappointment as attaching them to a negative one. I want to get better at appreciating joy and all the good experiences without attaching so much of myself that the emotions will crush me back down once the reality of life with CRPS kicks back in.

My goal isn’t to become a robot who doesn’t feel, it’s to become a human being who isn’t ruled by emotion. It’s possible to feel excited without having an emotional attachment to an outcome that might never happen. It’s possible to feel accomplished without having an attachment to further goals that need to be achieved. It’s possible to have goals without a belief that any sort of backwards step is a detriment to everything that I am.

Human minds like to find patterns and stick to them. Certain emotions “mean” certain things. Certain happenings “mean” certain emotions. Repeated situations “mean” repeated visits to the same emotional landscape. It’s an evolutionary thing, there’s so much to perceive in this world that we can’t know it all, so we look for patterns and without any realisation that the patterns aren’t as meaningful as they seem, we can become trapped in those perceptions and unable to see things differently.

I want to keep examining the patterns that I fall into when good little things happen. One good day is not the start of a miraculously healed life, just as ten bad days are not definitive proof that life will always be terrible. Things don’t work like that. I need to let go of those assumptions for the future because they get in the way of me enjoying and maximising the present.

I guess I have this underlying belief that living involves uphill momentum towards a goal and then onwards and upwards to the next goal and the one after that.

It seems so silly when put into words. By upholding this unrealistic belief, I set myself up to waste much of my life feeling disappointed that reality isn’t the same as this expectation that I’ve built up in my head.

Dealing with attachment issues on the positive side of things is not all that different to dealing with attachment to thoughts and beliefs that get me down. I need to look at them. I need to observe when my mind starts getting carried away by what a wonderful day might mean for my future. Once I shine a light on that below-the-surface thought garbage, it will help the excess emotion to fade away so that I can just enjoy the wonderful day, or the wonderful moment, or the small achievement that has made me feel a little bit alright about my day.

It’s weird to go looking for a reason as to why I don’t feel as stable as I could and find that the answer is hiding behind positivity. It makes sense though, good and bad are just labels and sometimes there’s a nasty trigger tucked away with the good stuff. Good now doesn’t mean good later. Just ask any addict.

Love & Learning,
Caf

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  • 2 thoughts on “The Problem is in the Positivity

    1. Ross

      So well written and I can relate to everything on so many different levels. You brought a lot of insite to me with this post. Keep fighting and one day we will win our fights. Have a great weekend!

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