I work consciously to maintain a positive outlook. When I am optimistic, my pain drops ten to twenty percent. It helps me to pay special attention to where the pain lies, visualize my muscles opening up. I imagine the way a bird’s feathers separate one by one as she stretches her wings one at a time before giving a fluffy shake, but I do not shake. I don’t move fast at all. When I get out of bed, I will lurch for the first hour of the day, moving as though I have rusted during the night’s sleep.
I don’t take pain medicine unless I have no options. They all have their drawbacks. Ibuprofen has caused holes in my stomach from years of use. Acetaminophen works about as well for me as taking nothing at all. Low dose SSRI medications taken even once cause psychosis that lasts weeks. Opioids are constipating and I can’t tolerate that with pelvic floor dysfunction. Cyclobenzaprine is too relaxing and makes my bladder stop working. Diazepam takes away much of the pain, but it makes me not care about the world.
I am not free to refrain from helping the world, even if it can never be finished. When I can’t see the world, I do not know what needs healing, or where my voice can help. No one person can finish all the work that needs doing, but I know I have to be a part of it. I know I have to help, even if it’s just one person at a time.
It’s hard to maintain a positive outlook when your body is constantly on fire.
When I see other people’s adventure photos, I can’t help but feel a moment of mourning. Hiking, exploring the world, seeing the colors, the breadth of it all. I want that. I want to smell the air in places far from home. I try to process that mourning into gratitude. While others are seeing the beauty that lies in places I can’t go, I am forced to admire the beauty in the minutiae. The fine hairs on yarn that has been hand-spun. The way water beads on a leaf. The sound of my own breath – how like the ocean it is in a quiet room. The way the room is never empty – the way I fill it simply by existing.
I text a friend who has been lonely. I read and respond to another writer’s work, telling them I see them and they are appreciated. I help other people with chronic pain by talking to them, supporting them, letting them know I see them and they are loved. I tell people I love them every day. I teach my daughters all manner of things – compassion, leadership, how to bake, how to welcome the stranger. I imbue them with all the strength I have.
I am so very, very strong. I’ve had to become so. I remind myself of this, and I feel the gratitude I need to chase the mourning away. I know it will come back. It’s okay.
I am living the best life that I can live. I keep my positive outlook.
Most days, it even feels real.