Healer, Heal Thyself

Some of you may be familiar with “Spoon Theory“. In short, spoon theory says that when you live with a disability, you have a limited number of spoons, or energy to do things, each day. Some days, you have more, other days less. Some days you end up overextending and borrowing from the next day.

burning matchesThen I heard about matchstick theory. It resonated so much more with me than spoon theory. And lately, I’ve been burning my matches a lot. And fast.

It’s bringing up quite a conundrum for me. On the one hand, I was in a car accident when I was young, and I have lived with chronic pain ever since. A lot of the time, I can pretend like it never happened. As long as I don’t push myself too hard, that is. Even then, I don’t often know that I’ve pushed too hard until it is too late. Because when I am busy, and doing the work, I don’t notice the pain. Until I stop.

I’ve been told I’m going to have pain for the rest of my life. And when I’ve burned all my matches, and I’m in a lot of pain, that thought gets me down. I have trouble seeing past it.

On the other hand, I believe that I am capable of healing. Our bodies completely renew themselves every seven years. I believe that Jesus and Buddha and Muhammad were examples of our next stage of evolution, and that even in recent times there have been gifted individuals who have miraculous healing abilities.

I have tools like Reiki that I use regularly. I take supplements to rejuvenate my body. I stretch every day so that I can move (and I hurt more when I don’t stretch). I see a chiropractor regularly, and a massage therapist as often as I can afford one. I meditate. I clear my chakras, and envision myself healthy and whole.

And I haven’t found the magic fix yet.

There is so much societal shame around disability. We’re all supposed to be contributing members of society, working 40 hours a week to pay for food and shelter, working more to keep that shelter clean and tidy, volunteering our free time to a worthy cause, and make sure you go on dates to keep your romance alive! And if you can’t do all that, you’re lazy. For many, these standards are unattainable.

Even I can see it is unrealistic, yet I continue to push myself to do more and more, and get frustrated when I can’t do it all. There’s a part of me that is angry that I still experience pain, depressed that my body does not have the stamina it did when I was younger. I believe I can heal, so why haven’t I?

Because belief is hard to maintain in the face of pain. When my joints ache when I stand up, and it takes me a few steps to get steady on my feet; when the ache in my head has been there for days and I can’t turn my head without extra pain; when my body protests that 10,000 steps are too many; the idea of being pain-free seems like a pipe dream.

I won’t give up, though. I will keep stretching, and visualizing, and learning. And I WILL heal.



A Bad Pain Day

I hurt. Everywhere. If I focus on any part of my body, it aches. Some more than others.

chronic painPain eats away at my body, chaining my limbs with exhaustion and making the smallest movements a monumental effort. I get out of bed through sheer force of will. I eat only because I know my body needs the fuel, not because I’m really hungry. Nothing is appetizing, and nothing tastes good. Today, ibuprofen merely takes the edge off, making it possible for me to go watch my son take his test and receive his yellow belt in karate.

Thankfully, after going back to bed for four hours, I feel better. My pain level has decreased enough that I can be up and at least sitting at my computer. And also, very gratefully, I don’t have bad days like this too often. I have far too many friends for whom this is a daily, or almost daily, occurrence.

It is frustrating when my body hurts and I am not physically able to do the things I would like to be doing. It is frustrating that pain is virtually invisible to others, even my loved ones who know me the best. There’s no meter on face that shows my pain level. There’s no broken limb or bandages to indicate an injury. The only outward sign is how slowly I am moving, and the occasional grimace on my face.

As I said, most days aren’t this bad, thank goodness. However, because most days the pain level is manageable, when I do have a bad day, it’s harder for some to believe that I’m truly in pain. And it can be harder for me to accept my limitations on high pain days.

Chronic pain also makes recognizing and dealing with acute issues more challenging. Because I live with pain every day, I don’t always recognize when something is wrong. That’s how I didn’t realize I was having problems with my gall bladder for almost a year. On the other hand, sometimes the acute problems are more intense than for others, because the base level of pain makes the addition of anything worse.

I’m not sharing this for pity, or advice. I have strategies for dealing with pain. I share this so that those who have never dealt with chronic pain can have some understanding of what those who deal with it daily go through. And have compassion for those who say they are having a bad day.

In the words of Shane Koyczan:

…the most valuable thing I ever learned was to believe people when they say “Please.”

This is my voice, there are many like it, but this one is mine.

~Shane Koyczan, This is My Voice

And sometimes, your voice just needs to be heard.