Social media can truly be a miracle sometimes. When asked a question you have time to think without your facial expression giving it away or making it awkward. It is a small thing but one I find very helpful. Recently I was talking with someone who had just gotten diagnosed with a chronic pain illness. It would be a matter of constantly managing it. She asked me, “What is it like? How do you do it? I just can’t imagine ever being okay with this. It is so distracting and I absolutely hate it.” I agreed. I still feel all of that. It hasn’t gone away, more like it is just simmering.
Simmering, yeah that is a good description. Let’s go with that. It is a lot like cooking a meal that will never ever be done but you know it will be worth it. It is a labor intensive meal like Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner. It is like you have four pots on the stove and something in the oven.
One pot is emotional/mental health. One pot is physical health. One pot is spiritual. One pot is work and in the oven is the family. Just like in cooking you have to keep adding ingredients and it can simmer on its own for a bit but it needs a stir now and then. Every so often, and often when you feel you have it the most under control, all the pots start boiling over. Sometimes some smoke even starts coming from the oven. Normally though the boiling over happens one at a time and you can handle it and move on. You take a taste every once in a while to check on it as a means to see how it is coming along. Sometimes tasting can tell you if there is a problem. Sometimes it tastes good but really something has started to go bad you just can’t taste it yet.
Then there is the other problem. Suddenly an ingredient is no longer working. It is no longer bonding with everything in the pot to make it one solid thing. It could be that self-care has fallen off your radar. It could be that you cut back on exercise. It could be that you thought it was self-care by sleeping in on Sunday, but really you hadn’t done anything else for spiritual health so it really wasn’t self-care. It could be that you cut back on exercise–physical health–for good reason, yet it negatively affected another part of physical health, vitamin D. Sometimes you find an ingredient you thought would work well actually doesn’t and you have to take it back out of the pot. Sometimes while you are disposing of that ingredient another pot starts to boil over. Don’t forget you changed the dynamics of that one pot you took the ingredient out of so you will need to adjust the temperature!
Yes, but that is essentially life isn’t it? You have to add the chronic pain as well. You are right about that, we are handling that as well. Hopefully each of the pots and the oven are helping that. Chronic pain though, that is the tricky element. That is the part that makes the ingredients suddenly stop working so well. That is the part that says, “that worked for a while, but now, not so much.”
On the really good days the chronic pain is like the background noise of the dishwasher going. You hear it, you know it’s going on. You just try not to pay too much attention to it until it dings. When it dings that is when you find out that suddenly the soap you were using didn’t work or something got gummed up in the hose and the rinse cycle didn’t go off. Sometimes there is not even running water to wash the dishes by hand while all the other stuff is happening. Chronic pain does that. You find something and your brain says, “hey, thanks this is really working,” so it starts focusing on something else more pressing.
So essential pain management just becomes part of your routine. I can’t tell you when it happens, just that it does. I can tell you that I am never okay with it. Chronic pain just adds to depression and anxiety because you are constantly longing for what you cannot have. Things you used to do are no longer an option. It took quite a bit of looking around trying to figure out what I wanted to do. It took even longer for me to realize that what I want to do will always be in flux. Some days I am overwhelmed that my health issues are only going to get worse as I age because they are degenerative. Degeneration is already an issue as you get older. It is just sped up in my case.
Some days though, I don’t care. I am enjoying the moment for all that it is. Those are the days that make all the above worth it. They balance out all the bad days where all the pots are boiling over there is smoke coming from the oven and the dishwasher just plain won’t work.
It takes a lot of self-analysis to make those good days happen. In the beginning, I fought that. Don’t look too closely. Don’t fix what isn’t broken. If it is hanging on by a thread and still working, it isn’t broken. There comes a time though that it just doesn’t work any more. Nothing about it works and self-analysis is forced on you. You have to sit down and look at it. You have to acknowledge the problem.
Slowly you realize that sometimes you could be a bit more proactive. For a time that is all it is. A thought. You don’t act on it. Then one day you do something proactive and you see it pan out that it fixed a problem you didn’t even realize was coming. I am not saying that before you know it you are doing this all the time. I am not. I know I am not. I know there is always room for improvement.
At the end of the day, that is what I tell myself. I think about the things I handled proactively and the things I didn’t respond to that I should have. Tomorrow. Tomorrow I tell myself, we will try again. We are not going to try harder because we are already trying our hardest. We will just simply try again. I can tell you that if you keep telling yourself this each night you will believe it. I can’t tell you how long that will take. It could take months. It’s harsh to think that, Months! I can’t take months! I need a fix now! So take a deep breath and remind yourself that slow and steady cooks the meal.