And The Wind Will Blow

Yesterday, checking my email and finding the Chronic Babe newsletter. I happened upon an interesting book title. If you are not aware of it, Chronic Babe is a site ran by a chronically ill gal named Jenni Prokopy (sp??) who has started a site for chronically ill babes as a great internet support system, information site, and now also a forum.  She has created some pretty awesome stuff, and also brought a lot of attention to women with chronic illness.

Anyway, the book I found and looked up is titled How To Be Sick: A Buddhist-Inspired Guide For The Chronically Ill And Their Caregivers. The author, Toni Bernhard, uses her experiences with her own chronic illness, CFIDS among other things, and her study of Buddhism to bring together a mode of living well for the chronically ill. My description is surely lacking, but I plan on going into the details of what she talks about as I read the book.

So I did go out and purchase it almost immediately.  Somehow I KNEW that it was a book I would love, and only a few chapters in I am having all these exciting “Ahh ha’s” and taking notes (?) on what I read so I can remember to think about these ideas.

Right now, I am in this place of chronic pain limbo that I am sure most people go through…my issue is that I am not going through it, I am stuck in it.  It is a place where a part of me is mentally exhausted with dealing with pain, a place where I have no hope of really making it past this day of pain, and I go about not knowing how I will survive the next five minutes.  Then the other part of me, which is starting to fade (finally) has this insane hope that some POOF will come along and I will be magically healed!  I am stuck on this seesaw of near despair on one end, and Pollyanna thinking on the other.  As I am not so crazy optimistic anymore, the despair is starting to win out, and I really need to keep that from happening.  It would be so easy to give in.  I have started calling myself an optimistic cynic (my friend B coined the term)

So I picked up How To Be Sick, and now I feel like I have been struck by an amazing bolt of lightning. I have read the first few chapters, and I  have some new tools to work with.  She starts with the basic idea within Buddhism of Dukkha, which loosely translates to “Life is suffering.” Now Toni Bernhard wants the reader to know that this translation is a little too narrow, and stark for the true nuance that lies within the word Dukkha. She explains it like this: other possible translations of dukkha could be unsatisfactoriness, anguish, stress, discomfort, disease (for a few options).  The whole point is that every human can expect “suffering” out life, along with happiness. These two things are just part of existence.

Now, have I heard this before?  Absolutely, the Catholic girl that I am suffering is a huge part of that thinking.  However, the Buddhist perspective is so simple.  Bernhard goes on to break down how she uses this idea daily, and this is where the sense of it all came for me.  She talks about a method of coping called “Weather Practice.”  The basic idea is that the wind will always blow, and the weather will always change.  So any stress or anguish we might be experiencing will blow over eventually, and the opposite, of course, is true for happiness as well. We can count on the weather changing. And if you live in Colorado, you know this to be entirely true. 4″ of snow on the ground in the morning, and 65 and sunny by 2pm, and everyone is out at the park.  Basically, change is the only constant. 

How I find it easier to deal with the idea of the constant fluctuations of life, I am not sure, but it just makes so much sense.  If I can find a way to get through the present moment, whatever stresses it may bring, the wind will always change.

How can this be “traumatic” after 4 years?

Ok, so now I use this space as I said I would: to recount my day, and the pain within it (and hopefully sometimes the lack thereof). Today was a rough rough pain day.  I woke with a stabbing headache behind my eyes, my neck hurting.  This is one of those blinding headaches I do not get all the time.  It all starts at the back of my head, where it normally is, I can handle this normal pain after 3 years.   And normally does not bother me until the headache travels up and over my whole head.

I had these injections last week to help the pain in my head and my arms, and things have been better.  However, now when I am in pain, it is a much more  traumatic experience.  The fact that I call this traumatic is a horrible, but this is what it is doing to me emotionally, and the pain feels so much more intense.  So I stayed home from work, unfortunately, losing more money, but I need to not beat myself up for this.  My pain was at about a 9 all day, crying level at some points, and this leaves me in no shape to work.  I am lucky to have a lovie cat who sticks close when I am in pain (she knows) and a husband who does everything he can to help me.   The day is nearly done, loading up on PK’s for sleep and taking the extra muscle relaxer, in the hopes that I will be through with this blinding pain soon.  A girl can hope.

Pain blog or pain journal?

I have started blogs about dealing with pain before, however I never stick to it very strongly.  I seem to go in waves of writing and then forgetting to write at all.  But I think I have gone about it all the wrong way.  I tend to write when I am most upset about the whole thing, and I neglect to talk about the times when the pain is better, and what that means for me.

This is much like my participation in some of the forums that deal with pain, and headaches and other accompanying issues like anxiety.  I go there and write and read and respond for a while.  I do this especially when I am desperate to read something that I can relate to in my current dire situation.  I go look for some confirmation that I am just another human doing the dance with constant physical pain.  I want to know I am not alone, and I want to write about my experience.  But then I grow bored I guess.  I focus on the whole thing for a few days,  and then maybe my pain is not so intense and consuming; or maybe I feel like nothing helps…even talking about it all.

So, my new approach here is to view the whole pain and loathing blogging experience as a pain journal for myself.  My hubby and I were talking about the importance of keeping track of the pain, and I am also bad at this.  But I need to keep track of the pain and its progression, and I want to write about my impressions and observations being in this particular fallible human body.  I realize my experiences are not distinctive or unique.  However, my perspective regarding my pain, my ideas and thoughts on the process are particular to me, and therefore significant.  Does it sound like I am trying to be convincing here?  I think it is only for myself though, to help me find purpose in writing about pain.

I have belittled much of my experience thus far, and only now am I really ready to believe that what I have gone through is important to share, and to chronicle, if mostly for myself.  And it is chiefly for my benefit, to remind me that I was, and am here, and having this experience of being in pain on a daily basis, and how that influences my living and being each day.

So if you happen to read this, I hope you will follow along with me.  There may be days of incredible complaining, and whining,  questioning existence, and asking why.  But there will also be days of appreciation for being alive, and having this experience that helps me be more conscious of each day, and moment, and for the love I have around me.  So click away if you must, if this all seems self indulgent.  Truly it is to share, and to hopefully provide a word or two that someone might say “yes, I feel that!”to, and find some peace in finding the same humanity and struggles in another.  Welcome, and may all be well.