One thing I know about chronic illness, whether it is a bad decade or a good decade, is that life goes on.
I know we all have different health conditions and are in different stages of health with those conditions. I would never make any judgments or assumptions on your life. But I can tell you a bit about mine.
There is something about pain and suffering that is linked to emotion, beliefs and thoughts. And that gives us our perspective on our reality.
Once again the pattern
- Pain is the stimulus we cannot be rid of. It happens. Period
- We have a psychological response. We can treat this a bit with medication. And we have all sorts of other methods to cope with pain at various levels that may or may not help depending on the level of pain.
- We have an emotional reaction to it. Again, our brain is Wired to have an emotional reaction to pain. -we can calm that reaction but react We Will.
- We have thoughts about that reaction and make beliefs- here is where we have some control
- We then create meaning and a story about our pain- again this is where we can change things.
- That story either a) works for us b) works against us
Beliefs are things that just happen. We have experiences that comes in through our senses. We convert that into language. We think about that experience and question it as to whether it is good or not and why. And when we question it we answer that question and that gives us Meaning. Then when things happen that we think fit into this meaning we reinforce this belief until it is ingrained in us. It is now a habit. It is A Belief. It is automatic.
Sometimes we think about those experiences we have, maybe a chronic pain experience, and the question that crops up is a sucky one and the answer that we create therefore also so sucks… so the meaning we create is a craptastic one. And that is how we get our worst limiting beliefs. For me; I am a failure. And. I am worthless.
Once you have it, it is always reinforced:
- I missed work due to a severe migraine
- Why do I do that instead of pushing through?
- Because I am a failure
- Why am I a failure?
- Because I am worthless as a person
Oh. Well then.
I am the author of this chronic pain story
So you can see that being Conscious of these beliefs can help you Break them down. Because I am the writer and author of this story. No belief is set in stone. Not every thought I have should be believed. Not every reaction I have to chronic pain should need to have a belief or thought or meaning attached to it. I can feel an emotion due to the pain, yes, and just Feel it. Just let it flow through me and know it is passing and know it is normal to have a response to a painful experience.
My mind made this story on autopilot. That doesn’t mean I have to Live with this Story on autopilot. No because I am the writer of every future chapter of this story.
And you have to ask yourself for Any belief You have that isn’t working for you:
- What evidence is there this is true. And maybe I would say things like missing work. Or ‘failing’ at work.
- But then you have to ask yourself what evidence is there that this is Not true? And well I have succeeded and done things I consider worthy in my life. I have my Masters. I have self-published several novels under my pen name. I have run this blog over a decade.
- Then ask is there any way you could be misinterpreting the evidence? And yeah there is. I am chronically ill and in a crapton of unmanaged pain. I wasn’t working within my limits and was working in a toxic work environment. Even my definition of ‘failure’ and ‘success’ was skewed by society.
- And I was making some assumptions here. That work is tied to Worth. That Worth is tied to my Worth to society. That Failure is defined by society and work.
- Now ask yourself if other people in your life might have a different interpretation of the same evidence you see. And in my case, yes. Co-workers often expressed to me how strong I was. And how toxic our work environment was for us ALL. Medical professionals and psychologists said I was doing exceptionally well when you consider my limitations.
- And then you have to wonder are you even looking at All the evidence or just that which supports your Belief? I am not even sure. I know these belief I am worthless warps my view of what I have achieved. But some evidence certainly is that for some time I did succeed at work, and my results showed that, but because I missed too many days I still felt worthless and like a failure. So yeah, I tend to look at what fits my mold for the belief.
- So could this belief be an exaggeration for the truth? Yeah. It is a skewed and warped view of reality.
- Is it even true? Am I a failure? No, no evidence suggests that. Am I worthless? Nothing ever said that at all except me.
- Feeling like a failure is a belief supported by faulty evidence… evidence I believe makes me feel a failure. Whereas feeling worthless is not supported by any evidence at all.. it is a habitual thought and belief from such a long time ago there isn’t any evidence to support it and yet I still believe it
- And ask yourself if anyone helped create this belief or helped reinforce it. Sure some people did for me. Ask yourself if they are Mr. or Mrs perfect. Or if they are reliable to take as evidence for this belief. Hell No.
- Now… does this belief work For you? Or Against you? Yeah both of them really work against me in pretty much all situations. They restrict my life rather than support it.
And when you go through that line of thought about this limiting belief it will change and challenge your perception of it. I for one believe mine are cruel to myself. Show no self-compassion and obviously I have to work on my self-worth.
And that is just what I did. I have been working on self-compassion and my sense of self, my identity, and my self-worth.
Knowing those limiting beliefs are There doesn’t poof them out of existence. It makes them Conscious and by being conscious it means I am in the role of the Author of my Story… not a character stuck in my plot without an awareness of my theme that things just happen to. I am aware so that I can slowly break the belief down. Partly by reinforcing the opposite. I am not a failure. (redefining success). I am worthy. And looking at what worth Means to me.
What astonishes some people is how much I can do (write books, blog) in the amount of pain I am in, with the vertigo symptoms sucking up the majority of the day.
I didn’t break the pattern I listed so much as alter my responses to it. I changed my perspective. I accepted what I could not change and changed what I could. I focused on what I Can do and I refuse to think about what I can No Longer do… but occasionally nudge those limits to see if my limits have changed at all.
What I found over time, a very long time, is that I can do very little about the pain itself. I do not respond to treatment. I have pain. It isn’t managed. It doesn’t seem like that is a thing that will happen any time soon. I have to do the things I can to manage it (ice therapy, meditation, slow and mild exercise when possible… things like that). But the rest of it- all the Suffering that comes with pain I could alter- I could change my thoughts (all my horrible negative thought patterns), I could alter my beliefs (these negative beliefs about the nature of my existence with pain), I could dampen and balance my emotional reaction (First, get treatment for my depression. And then manage my mood fluctuations as best I can. Some days I Slump though, especially bad pain days). And I could change the story I had developed around pain, the meaning, the perspective… and find acceptance.
I could do all those things. And I did all those things. Doesn’t break that Pattern by the way because Pain will always be Pain. So you always have the Pattern and Always have to watch your reaction to it. And always have to watch how you think about it and your beliefs about it. Always.
All it means is that more often than not I have acceptance. More often than not my perspective is more adaptive than maladaptive. More Often. Not Always. But I know I have some control over how I react to pain and therefore how I live with pain in my life. I have the capacity to improve my well-being, my life satisfaction and overall fulfillment… bit by bit. And for that read my post on: Chronic illness: Mood, Happiness, and Life Satisfaction
What I do every day
- Assess my level of pain and the vestibular symptoms when I get up
- Make a plan of action to deal with the level of pain I am experiencing. If it is High Pain that may be a self-care day. If it is moderate then I have room for things that give me fulfillment.
- Make a plan for the day for things with fulfill me (which manages my mood, makes me feel productive, fills a need in some way). This may be some blog writing. May be some fiction writing. It may be some drawing. I make a plan on What I Aim to Do.
- I start with one of those things in my plan early because with vestibular symptoms such as dizziness it is Best early in the morning. Peak functionality in the morning means it is best for intellectual fulfillment; my writing, blogging, reading, learning something.
- I will need to rest at this point. It is inevitable. Sitting up makes me dizzy and very tired.
- I then do one housekeeping task minimum 15 min. Something to make me feel like I accomplished something in the day to keep my self-worth up.
- I will again need to rest. Again this aggravates my vestibular symptoms. And pain symptoms. And fatigue.
- I can at this time do something like drawing, Netflix, mild stretches or exercise on a very good day.
- And that is all she wrote, man. Once we hit late afternoon functionality tanks. Dizziness increases. I can’t focus. I have a hard time thinking. Hard time doing much of anything. I may choose to do some very mellow socialization but I will need my cane and it had to be a short duration because it is all downhill from here. On a day where I choose to socialize I need to pre-rest More. Do less. Prepare. So I have more functionality. If I do Not, then I can get hit with sudden and abrupt violent vestibular symptoms that cut that short. And if that happens it may linger into the next day.
- The evenings are for chilling. I may be on social media… sort of just flitting about. I may be watching TV with my bf. But limited tasks. Because I am ‘not all there’ anymore.
- Sometimes before bed I will try some fiction writing. I have a real hard time at it. But it Used to be Prime writing time. And my brain still wants to write then… when it is quiet and chill. But I can’t seem to do it. I’m all zoned out. Spacey. Woozy. The more I try the worse I get because I am upright and when the vertigo is Peaked I need to be lying down. Unfortunately, not a time for this sort of thing. Or anything other then vegging out.
People tell me I do a lot… considering. It isn’t that. Not so much. I am just aware of my limitations. And I choose to when to do things, what things to do (those things I value and give me a sense of fulfillment). I pace aggressively because I need A LOT of rest. I make use of the time I have. On the days I have that time. Which is not every day, for sure. Bad vertigo days. Bad pain days. I do what I should do… I take care of myself, as I should. Some days are just bad days, and I do ONE thing that makes me feel good… and that is Fine.
It seems productive because it is… for me. Given when the vertigo first hit I could do nothing at all. And it is compared to when I worked full-time with chronic pain because I had nothing left to give for myself (No life satisfaction, no fulfillment- so no social time, no me time). It is productive considering my limitations because I am working within them as best I can. It isn’t productive if I compare it to what I Could be doing. It isn’t productive compared to the usable hours of a healthy person- they have 10-15 usable hours. I have the morning and early afternoon- with naps taking some of that away from me. It is Relative really.
And my perspective is to value the time I have. To value the things I can do. To value everything I can accomplish.
I also choose to do things to improve my well-being. I have the belief that I can improve my well-being in various ways. I have the belief I can get through pain better if I do all I can to improve all my pain management strategies and to find new and better strategies.
- I do relaxation breathing when I need to through the day
- I am exploring new types of meditation practices to find which suit me best and I practice them when I am in a ‘rest time’ of the day.
- I follow patterns in the day that I know relax me. Habits like Epsom Salt baths
- I do things I know manage my mood
- I do a visual journal and gratitude journal- one helps process things, the other helps with perspective
- I focus on exploring new hobbies and existing hobbies for my fulfillment
I want to experiment and try new things to improve my mental, emotional and physical well-being as a whole. Because I believe every inch I gain there helps me cope with pain and symptoms I cannot get rid of, and will be there regardless of what I do. Every bit helps me cope better. Accept better. And helps me with my depression.
It astonishes me that I am coping with this lower functionality better than I ever did with somewhat better functionality. So add in this vertigo crap that sucked away literally most of my day and I am still coping better because of the strategies I learned to use. And because of my perspective and acceptance.
I am quite aware that coping is a process. There will be days I suck balls at it. There will be emotional slumps (and there ARE emotional slumps). I just have resiliency to deal with the ebb and flow of this flux we have to deal with. And we have to because it is the Pattern the brain naturally follows. It is a tricky one too. Sneaky. All too easy for me to fall back into negative thought patterns and beliefs because that is how my brain has been wired for decades. But I know its tricks now. I know when I have one of those typical thoughts that I just have to challenge it. A few of them caught me off guard recently. Hit me Hard. And I had to really process them. Think about them. Talk about them. Work through them. I hadn’t even realized some of those negative thoughts still Lingered around making me feel crappy about myself in certain situations. But trust me, no matter how much acceptance you have, we can have negative thoughts, beliefs and strategies that just Stick around and catch us off guard. It is a process. Always a process.
I am worthless
Lingers. I have to work really hard on this one. When someone or a situation gives me any sort of evidence that fits with this belief I feel it all over again. And I am reminded I still need to work on this. And having those limiting belief is not good at all. It limits my capacity to Overcome things because I do not value myself enough.
I am a failure
Is a tricky beast too. I thought I had killed it but this one creates a whole lot of Fear. Fear of trying because, well, I will fail (because I am a failure). And as soon as I think that I am like Damn It… there you are you tricky beast. I Cannot be Afraid to Try. What if I get a bit better and I want to try some sort of work? Like work from home? I can’t allow this belief to prevent me from trying. Or hinder my attempt a trying such that I self-sabotage myself into not succeeding.
But you see I recognize them every time they rear their ugly heads up. And every time they do I think about why they are and what that means. And I think about the situation that caused it and I work through that thinking process of whether there is any evidence to support it all over again. Until I break it down.
I can tell you this. They are not as Loud anymore. And being conscious of them means I can crush them a lot easier. They are not the theme to my story anymore, man.