I'm in pain. right now. and every day. I didn't used to be. About two years ago, chronic pain became a part of my life and it's never left. In December, I learned more about what was going on. I have more than of a few conditions that are encouraging my body to attack itself. Like rheumatoid arthritis and lupus.
I've hesitated in sharing this online for a while. I wasn't ready to be that vulnerable. I've accepted the pain but it's been much harder to accept how vulnerable I can feel when dealing with the chronic pain. I'm significantly limited in how I can use my hands, how I walk most days,and what I use my back and knees for. I don't like feeling limited in how I can use my body, especially in public. But, because I walk to the metro about to and from work everyday, I've had a lot of practicing accepting vulnerability in public. Most days it hurts to walk at least in the morning if not all day. I don't mind walking slowly because its less painful; it has been hard to accept that people you don't know can tell you are in pain, can tell you are limited, can tell tell you are vulnerable. Just by looking at you. That also happens when I'm at work and trying to hold things, or open a drawer. At this point, I'm ok with how I move alone in my home. I've learned new ways to brush my hair or use knives because of my hand and finger pain.
But in public, it's different. I can't change how I have to walk some days, but, I've learned to look at how I walk in public differently. Instead of it being a handicap, I'm learning to see it as opportunity, to slow down. And it is. It makes it easier to pick the empowering choice when you realize you don't have to see things in certain ways. Many other people in society might see how I have to use my body as a handicap. Bu to me, it's an opportunity. To listen and slow down. And, that way of looking at it is just as accurate.
But it wasn't until now I felt uncomfortable sharing this new experience with physical vulnerability online. I've shared other experiences of vulnerability on this blog. And in many ways, this blog was created as a way to share how experiences of pain and vulnerability can be transformed into opportunities for strength and growth. A place to share and encourage healing. And I'm ready to do that now with this new evolution of chronic pain in my healing journey.
Today, I was in the kitchen, trying to organize cabinets for the first time in months. Looking at my cabinets, I knew doing this work would be painful. There would be moving and shuffling and lots of use required from my fingers, my wrists, my shoulders and my knees. Those things were already aching, but I wanted to do it; it sounded both meditative and energizing. And the sun was out, shining in that crisp, cold almost-spring way. I'd rested most of yesterday because of pain and fatigue and wanted to do something productive. I wanted to organize my kitchen so when I looked around I felt a sense of peace seeing the space and organization.
There is something both meditative and energizing about things like organizing for me. Doing meditative and energizing things helps me listen and find balance between my heart, my head and my body.
I worked on part of the kitchen. Under the sink. And was happy with it when I as done. As I tried to get up, my knees felt tight. But, they also felt a bit bruised, like the bottoms of my feet do most mornings. Standing there, I felt the pain throughout my body in that moment and I saw a picture of my body, with all the areas in pain inflamed. Red was everywhere...hands, fingers, wrists, knees, feet, neck, shoulders.. I thought about the RA and the Lupus. And the mixed connective tissue disorder. About the thyroid stuff. About how after a day and a half of resting I still tire quickly. And, I became scared. I thought about how the pain has spread over the last few years. I worried about what would happen if it didn't stop. If these illnesses took over. Trying to reason with myself, I took a breath and said this just means you have to be careful. You have to take care of yourself. My body ached all over. I felt sad.
I took another breath, trying to keep positive and looked at where my plates and cups and things were. Then I looked at where I put my dry foods and had an idea that lit me up for a second. If I switched the contents of both cabinets, the pantry with the plates, it would make my kitchen easier to use while I was cooking. My knees surged with a tight pain in the next moment and looking down at my fingers they were swollen. I was exhausted. I'd barely worked thirty minutes and needed to rest. Even though I wanted to take on this project, I faced the pain and realized I couldn't do it.
I think at a different time in my life, I would have gotten upset by that. I would have felt more defeated. And at times, I do feel defeated with this pain. At times I cry, I feel like I've lost something. I get upset thinking about what I used to be able to do.
But I always stop. Because they are stories. It's ok to feel sad or upset over the loss of something. I let myself cry. Looking to the past at what I used to be able to do doesn't help me see what I can do now. Which is why I stop saying defeat. It's a challenge. To face something new and however challenging, however painful, empower and support myself as I work through it.
At a different time in my life, I wasn't telling myself these things. I was sinking into a different kind of pain. Of wound. It wasn't in my hands, or my feet. It was in my heart.
Leaving the kitchen, I sat down at my table. And realized, it's time to share. It's time to connect. We are all healing. We are all facing challenge. And so I wrote this post.
To myself and to those of you also experiencing pain and trying to heal: we are not our pain. We don't deserve this. There is nothing wrong with us inherently to invite this. Pain is not bad, it is an opportunity. To listen to our bodies, our hearts and our minds. And grow from it.
We are all working through something. We are all on journeys. Amazing journeys. And as we live, as we grow, we are challenged. We are traveling. The more we continue to connect with ourselves and others on this journey, the more we accept everything, including hardships, as opportunities to grow, the more we work to heal our wounds and have faith we are going somewhere amazing, the better. For us all. We aren't all practicing this. But we all can. We are all brilliant spirits traveling through space and time. We are all given opportunities to grow.