Everyone in my life now knows that when they ask me to do something that requires me to shower, get dressed, and then leave my home that the plans we make are tentative. They know this because of days like those that I’ve had for the past few days. On Saturday afternoon I was in so much pain I wanted to cry – of course, no tears would come. The reason I wanted to cry wasn’t solely the level of pain. It was also because there were things happening in my city this weekend and in the lives of some of my friends and family that I’d be able to participate in, if I were pain-free. Every time I have to say no to something because of my pain, it makes me feel sad.
As it is, now the only things I go to no matter how I feel are doctors’ appointments. Although, there are some exceptions when – like a few weeks ago for my dad’s retirement party and my friend J’s milestone birthday dinner – I force myself to go out despite my pain level. I went to both of those events feeling excruciating pain and knowing that I would be in even greater pain afterward. I also knew that it would take a few days to recover from that increased pain. Recover in the sense that my pain returns to levels where I can cope. In this instance, it took the better part of a week to get to “normal” after the party and birthday dinner, which took place within days of each other. The length of time it took to get to a pain level where I could cope was a reminder that I need to listen to my body and accept – and respect – what others may view as limitations, but I know are messages from my body I shouldn’t ignore.
I’ve learned, over the past two years, that when I start a day with above normal levels of pain, that I have to listen to my body. What my body is telling me – screaming at me – on these days is that I need to be still; I need to rest; and I need to find quiet. It’s not always easy, but I’m getting better at listening to my body. That means this weekend because of the high level of pain I was feeling, I missed spending time with J, an arts festival, and my cousin’s baby shower that would have required me to exert a lot of energy – and probably pay for it with more pain. I missed those events and I had to do so without any regret.
Unfortunately, missing the physical activity involved in fun events isn’t the only thing that requires mindfulness of my body’s messages. In recent weeks, I’ve been trying to support my cousin who’s been having a tough time in her personal life. I’ve spent a lot of time on the phone with her just listening and being a sounding board, and I think it’s starting to take its toll on me. Because I want to show my support and let her know I’m there for her, I’ve been ignoring my need for quiet time.
Quiet time is something I’ve always factored into my self-care; and I think it’s important for everyone, but of even greater importance for anyone recovering from an illness or living with chronic pain. Reducing the busyness of the mind helps to reduce stress, which can slow recovery or cause pain levels to increase. I believe the continuous activity of phone calls and text messages – and my increasing worry for my cousin – are affecting my pain levels. As much as I know she’s depending on me for advice and comfort, I also know that my body needs time for quiet. I know this probably means not answering every call or responding to every text message from my cousin, but I have to re-establish the necessary balance of self-care for my body, and that includes quiet time.
Depeche Mode – Enjoy The Silence