I’m just reaching the end of the two-week period of acute immobility due to back spasms. These moments provide ample opportunity for thinking, perhaps a little too much. I spent part of the time wandering through guilt-induced thoughts, typically starting with the phrase “I should(n’t)”: I should have this better controlled by now; I should be pushing myself harder today; I should be more helpful to my significant other; I shouldn’t feel so sorry for myself; I shouldn’t be resting like this; it goes on and on…As my symptoms have lessened, the haze has started to clear, and these thoughts have revealed themselves for what they are: distorted.I am disproportionately hard on myself. It’s clear now that I would speak very differently to a friend in my shoes. When I can see more kindly, I can acknowledge that I’m doing my very best in a very trying situation.
With this kind of perspective in place, I’m able to see how much emotional and mental pain I create by pushing myself so hard. There is no perfect way to manage an Illness. Yet I try very hard every day to find new ways to improve my quality of life and work with(in) these challenges. I’ve often said, that when I have to push to do everything, it’s hard to draw the line where pushing becomes harmful. It takes a lot of determination to get up and accomplish anything when your body is screaming at you that it would rather not be moving. Yet, I know that listening and spending my entire day in bed will really only make me worse. The challenge becomes pushing without pushing too far, and I tend to kick it into overdrive and get into a place where I’m completely ignoring my body’s signals (In fact, I’m doing it right now…). What I’m realizing is that pushing at all may be the problem. Pushing entails working against something, fighting against something, resisting my body and denying its symptoms. What will happen if I just surrender, if I let my body be the driving voice? My fear is that my world and my body will shut
down, But my hope is that by working with my body and with my symptoms, we (my body and I) can embrace and create a new daily reality.
Patient practice: It’s frustrating to feel like your body is controlling you and it’s natural to push back against it. But it’s not sustainable. I’m going to start pretending my body is someone else’s and that’s my job to take care of them. I’m also setting reminders on my phone throughout the day to do a few minutes of deep breathing allowing me the opportunity to check in with my body and my brain. Are you being harder on yourself than you would on someone else? Can you find a little ways to treat yourself like you would a friend? Is there something you’re resisting on a regular basis, perhaps something that
gives you a false sense of control that really makes you more enslaved to your symptoms?