Chronic Disease Emotional Work

Day 560 and Unstuck

Yesterday was a particularly challenging day for me physically. I described how I was becoming stuck simply because the pain to change positions, even if I was uncomfortable sitting up, was such an obstacle.

I’m just stuck in the pain until an even worse pain develops. That’s probably a good metaphor for life. We will stay in an uncomfortable position until it’s so intolerable we simply must change.

Waxing philosophic about pain is clearly an ongoing theme of this daily writing exercise. I’ve got 108 mentions of the topic so yeah that’s chill. Considering it’s a daily accompaniment I’m relieved it’s not a larger number. Most days I am clearly able to become unstuck from the pain enough that other topics occupy my mind.

I am however not feeling great about how unstuck I feel in life this week. Perhaps it’s the combination of a symptom flare with the final countdown to the big move to Montana. It’s all waiting and anticipation and frantic preparations combined with physical struggle and fatigue. It does not make make for an environment where I feel I am best moving my life forward.

I am someone who very much relies on and feels embolden by willpower. The feeling that I can simply apply my intention to something and through that focus bring it into fruition is a super power. The American dream has been littered with manifesting energy. The Secret literally is our religion.

So I hope that, as I sit in this last waiting period before I confront massive change, I am able to let myself be. To not be obsessed with being stuck or unstuck. But just be in the moment I am in without judgement.

Emotional Work

Day 557 and Fixation

I’ve got a gift for generating momentum. If I can summon the energy and the willpower, I’ll put my total focus on unlocking whatever blocking issues hinder my goal.

The trouble is that this process doesn’t allow for multitasking. Once I turn my eye on a blocker, I’ll fixate on it until it is solved. I’m incredibly prone to tunnel vision.

I’m usually quite competent at prioritizing and ordering priorities correctly to take advantage of the is tendency toward focus. But sometimes I’ll get fixated on the wrong thing and I’ll stay stuck on a problem that shouldn’t be my first priority.

And it’s really hard for me to pull away from a problem if it’s an emotionally charged issue. Those typically involve my personal life. Problems with my friends, my family and my husband can easily hold my energy hostage. Even if it’s not a top priority, if it feels emotionally like it should be a top priority I’ll struggle to let it go.

Over the spring, one of my fixations was finding a stable living situation. In May when Alex and I went scouting for our second time in Montana I poured all my willpower and focus into removing blockers to purchasing a home. It was a grinding emotional process as where to live and when to make a major investment are hard questions.

Now that I’m less than a month out from the move, I can feel my focus shifting. The creative generative driving energy that secured us a homestead is now searching for its next home. It makes me shiver a little bit. Like I’ve got my own personal Eye of Sauron probing my reality for it’s next target. I know what it should be. But sometimes my focus isn’t well behaved.


Day 555 and Recovery

First off, today is a great number. I love this palindrome thing for me. It remains a surprise (at least to me) that I continue to hit these daily writing milestones but here I am just continuing this habit. I doubt I’ll stop anytime soon.

It’s always fun to have a “I did it” moment on a day where I’d rather not be writing. I’m jetlagged today after flying in from Heathrow last night. I did most of the transition just right but I still have a bit of that lingering sense of recovery one always has after travel.

I am always so hungry when I am jetlagged. I try not to eat at funny hours when adjusting for time zones but it’s not always possible. I’ve eaten at all the proper meal times this transit and it’s left me feeling massively over fed in addition to being hungry. Some of my body chemistry is clearly off.

I’m excited to be done with any planned travel for the foreseeable future. I’ve got my move to Montana in August but that’s not “travel” so much as it is a major life transition. Sure, it is an 8 hour drive from Boulder but at least I’m not getting on an airplane. I’d like to be done with the “back to travel” portion of my pandemic experience as it’s just not a ton of fun to fly anymore.

I’ll wrap it up here as I’d like to go to bed and see where day 556 takes me. But here at the end of 555 I am feeling good about this experiment and life in general.


Day 554 and Creature Comforts

You’d be surprised at what you can tolerate so long as you’ve got the little luxuries in life. I think I stole that quote from a Vin Diesel movie Pitch Black. And I’ve found it to be quite accurate. Travel is the sort of experience where misery can be overcome by a decent pillow and room service.

I am emerging from some time on the Ionian Sea that happens to be on the wrong side of some of modernity. And let me tell you my appreciation for capitalism has been rekindled a thousand fold.

I did a layover in Heathrow overnight and I’ve simply never been more relieved to be in a decent business hotel. I must have looked a wreck as I got upgraded into a king suite with a soaking tub. And I just say I feel much more human after an hour in the bathtub, a night of sleep with multiple decent pillows and room service.

A good long soak and a full English breakfast has done much to improve my overall spirits. And my general condition of itchiness has gone by the wayside. The blue bags under my eyes are merely visible as opposed to horrifying.

I’ve got another leg of the journey ahead of me but I’ll be in business class and that’s a luxury of the sort that I very much crave at the moment. A flat lay, endless hydration and a bunch of saved Netflix shows is a creature comfort of the highest order. If the empire is going to decay I’ve got to savor every last moment of little luxuries before they are gone.

Chronic Disease Emotional Work

Day 550 and Boundaries

I don’t maintain boundaries well. I am embarrassed by my needs. Ashamed even. I’m afraid if I maintain the boundaries I actually need I’ll doom myself to a life of loneliness. No one is going to go out of their way to hang out with someone who can’t do fun shit right?

And so I let my own needs slip. I agree to do things. I tell people sure I’ll meet up. I’ll agree to go to a meal together. I pretend to be excited about going somewhere. I yield to the expectations of a normal life. And then I hold myself together as long as I can. I’ll get some enjoyment out of my time with loved once. But after a few days if I don’t get rest and recovery I will be in a rough spot.

It always ends in a crash. When I know I could simply draw firmer boundaries and take time before it becomes a crisis. My loved ones are confused by how I continue this cycle. Why didn’t you say something? Why did I agree. And I honestly don’t know sometimes. Because I’d never agree to do anything ever if I had my way.

And I’ll admit I’m afraid that if I never do anything eventually I’ll be forgotten. That no one will go out of their way to be with me. I can tell myself that this isn’t logical. That this is just the scared inner child who experienced being left alone when she was small. That reality doesn’t reflect reality any more. But I’m not so sure. Maybe my nearest and dearest will still come out for me. But I do think we live in a harsh world where we mostly don’t care if others disappear into their homes forever.

Aesthetics Travel

Day 547 and Cruel Summer

The cruel summer is the season after silent spring. It’s hot out. Unnaturally and unseasonably so.

And people aren’t really prepared for it. Whole countries haven’t invested in air conditioning yet. I made the mistake of being outside during high noon. I was under shade and there were fans but I let my insides get simmered a bit while I ate lunch.

The exhaustion that overcame me was enough for ten siestas. A dozen forced naps would easily overcome even the most fervent consciousness. I’d simple done too much by existing and eating at the height of the day. What a foolish hubristic nature this mortal has.

What little defense the air conditioner has against the full force of noon will have to be enough. Sleep will find me if I can find an even small restorative space. One I know will disappear the second the key card is lifted from the auto electricity system.

Chronic Disease Emotional Work

Day 544 and Want of A Nail

I let something cascade over the past thirty six hours. I knew it would have an expensive energy budget but I wanted to try it anyway. I feel basically fine having made it through the entire experience, but now all I want is to sleep. And thank goodness as the consequences could have been worse than just needing more sleep. And I am reminded of the grief that comes from small consequences.

For want of a nail the shoe was lost.

For want of a shoe the horse was lost.

For want of a horse the rider was lost.

For want of a rider the message was lost.

For want of a message the battle was lost.

For want of a battle the kingdom was lost.

And all for the want of a horseshoe nail.

For want of a nail

I had a bout of perhaps food poisoning yesterday. It was unclear what the source might have been. Bad dairy seems likely. My whole body cascaded into responses. I was itchy and in pain and a range of histamine and emotional responses as the stress cleared through my system.

It’s always an exercise in frustration finding what little mistake or miscalculation sets off a disaster. Something so small can have massive consequences. I suspect it’s more about the power of the compounding effect. Or maybe it’s that giant domino meme. Sourcing backing to one silly little catalyst always shows you the fragility of your own life and circumstances.

I can’t tell if I find this reassuring and devastating. If the biggest life events always come from something small how can we event expect to impact an outcome. Or perhaps that is freeing. If everything comes from some unknown small then of events then we can simply life our lives unbothered by preparations and foresight. Something random is bound to knock life off track.

I think I’ll take the sanguine view. How could I possibly let myself worry when a little detail like a boot of nausea can set off a whole day. It’s a Franz Ferdinand approach to life. Sometimes a spot of political trouble in the Balkans sets off the whole world. It’s always going to be something.


Day 543 and Complicated Country

America has always been a complicated country. We’ve perpetrated some of history’s great evils. And at the same time we’ve achieved the greatest set of freedom ever known. Dickins didn’t fucking know best and worst of times. That’s always been the great American novel’s thing. The remix is better sometimes.

And I am feeling this tension in my body this week. To have always believed in the forward progress of this nation. Even when one grew up, perhaps most uniquely among generations, aware of the sins. We had Adbuster’s and Zinn’s People’s History and every politically aware piece of Hollywood awards bait.

You know how weird it feels to be optimistic about capitalism and the mess of democracy when you know it’s fucking blood magic that bought its riches? Everything has a cost. But who am I to know the cost. And would I bear it myself if I thought I could enjoy it’s fruits only? I doubt it. Everyone loves a fucking deal. And white people love the meritocracy. Because it means we’ve got merit by being winners. Whatever your ego needs.

It’s no wonder we love horror movies in America. We like a nightmare on Elm Street. And we love our monsters. What if racism was the monster all along we laugh. Our art has always recognized the victims in the system. It was only very occasionally that our laws did anything to protect anyone though. Amendments were hard fought and fiercely opposed. Reconstruction of what exactly? Did we even try?

So I’m not surprised that my body is on the line. Because someone in my lineage knew the cost. They came to America willingly. The freedoms we bought for ourselves as immigrants. We knew they weren’t free. But maybe we misunderstood the cost. Didn’t pay the bill in full.

But if the promise isn’t worth it. If the dream cannot be attained? Then what happens. Who pulls back from contributing our best. Who gives up a little on working harder. And how do we slowly decay just a little bit over time. Slowly at first. And how does that compound. What little failures add up to the final cynical calculation that anyone who has lived under an authoritarian can smell.

It dawns on me that we should have been fighting my entire lifetime to secure every inch of freedoms we could. That every single instance would matter because we’d be losing ground the moment we stopped. Because shame is unrelenting. And we must hold our ground against it every day. Ever vigilant.

Chronic Disease Emotional Work

Day 542 and Energy Budgets

I’m not much for active time off. Or being active at all really. I have a limited energy budget so I watch my energy expenditure carefully. Other people budget their money. I budget my energy.

I’ll often find myself jealous of other people who enjoy active hobbies. My husband plays tennis and shoots competitively. Every weekend he is off doing fun shit outside. He could easily play a sport, socialize afterwards and still have the energy to go out for dinner.

Meanwhile I’m probably in bed. I have plenty of fun, lower energy usage hobbies. I read a ton of fiction. I play games. I am working on my foreign language skills (be my friend in Duolingo), and of course I’m a notoriously active Twitter shitposter. All things that can be done while laying down!

And while I love all of those activities I wish that I didn’t have to run the math on how much a coffee with friends would set back my energy budget. I long for the opportunity to simply throw on clothing and head out the door without fear of how that might impact the rest of my day or even my week. But I run on the spoon theory just like your average disabled person.

My fear is that my energy poverty is isolating me. I struggle to explain that I’d love to spend more time with people but I need them to commit to cheaper energy expenditure options. But even the energy required to explain how friends and family can accommodate me is a challenge. It embarrasses me there I need everyone to work around my needs. And I’m often too scared to be demanding about what would work for me. So instead I just spend my time and energy alone.

If you are interested in learning how to make the effort to spend time with someone with energy poverty I hope this post helps. For instance instead of playing a round of tennis, perhaps you could come visit me at home and we could quietly chat on the couch. Instead of going out to dinner we could order in takeout. And no I don’t mean cook at home because then I’d need to plan, shop, cook and clean up afterwards. I very much mean order food on disposable plates so it’s minimal energy outlay. Disability accommodations are not very eco-friendly. It’s a different calculus of resources.

You may have to do a lot more work to be friends with someone managing a disability or a medical condition. If they don’t respond it’s not because they don’t want to see you necessarily. It could just be that you messaged on a bad day and it slipped through the cracks. We need you to actively work to be present for us. It’s a big ask but it is appreciated.

Chronic Disease

Day 540 and No Pain

I’ve come to accept an ambient level of pain as part of my daily existence. I’ve logged over fourteen hundred discrete pain measurements over a three year period. It’s likely one been in pain for a bit longer but those are the documented years since I had a diagnosis and began working to overcome it.

I’ve only had a handful of days where I’ve logged below a three. The pain scale most of the medial industry uses is from 1-10 with 4-6 being moderate pain and 10 being unbearable give me the opioids pain.

I typically log somewhere between four on a good day and seven by it’s end. I’ll usually have an eight or a nine a few times a month. Those knock me flat and I won’t be able to get out of bed. I can work and do basics when I’m at a five or six but it’s very tiring. And frankly it took a lot of mindfulness work to learn to work through pain.

Pain is actually exhausting. It’s hard to even begin to describe how much it reduces your total capacity. Articulating pain has eluded much finer writers than I. Just because one can live through it doesn’t mean one should.

To have had a morning of relief felt truly miraculous. It was sadly short lived. Some stresses hit my day and my pain is back up to a four. I can live with a four. I have been for sometime. But to finally have seen the light of having a pain free day after years of struggling will sustain me for a while. To know that it’s possible. It felt like a miracle.