After a long hiatus from blogging, I am starting to feel normal again, or as normal as I can possibly feel and to help acclimatise myself with blogging again, I once more am taking part in the February Linkup Party with Sheryl from ‘A Chronic Voice.’
The prompts for this month are:
Here we go…
After years of living with a neurological condition and its constant fluctuations, you would think I would be used to it and had fully adapted to a new reality of living with debilitating symptoms. But, even after many setbacks, or ‘flares’ as we in the chronic illness community like to call them, our new reality of like with illness is one we never fully adapt to or accept.
I thought I had accepted and adapted to a new reality of a life of symptoms including dizziness, vertigo as well as managing to continually walk on trembling legs which you can never trust not to collapse from under you. But after spending many miserable weeks, with these permanent and unrelenting symptoms at its worst, I again came to the realisation that acceptance is not the end of the journey of coming to terms with a diagnosis of a long-term health condition. Instead, it is a destination that we have to revisit again and again, especially when dealing with dealing with our personal storms.
In the meantime, I am exploring my toolbox of coping strategies that I’ve acquired over the years. Insights and advice gained from mental health professionals, friends and fellow ‘spoonie’ warriors, books and television programmes, all of which has helped me a great deal and helps to shelter me from the worst of the storms. I don’t know when the worst of these symptoms will pass, but until then I will do my best to find shelter until this particular storm dissipates.
In a weird twist of fate, just when I am experiencing a severe storm in regards to my health, I am enrolled in a course about Acceptance-Commitment Therapy. The aim of Acceptance-Commitment Therapy (ACT) is to help people accept what is out of their personal control and to commit to actions that improve and enriches their lives. Most of the course has been very much based on its theory, which has been very interesting but some of the course has been teaching us psychological skills to better deal with painful thoughts and feelings.
Through this, I have been practising meditation and mindfulness techniques to lessen the effects that pain and the negative thoughts have on my everyday life. It is not easy and requires much practice but I can start to see the benefits, and it had helped when the pain has been at it’s worst as well as keeping me calm when feeling stressed and overwhelmed.
Since starting the course, and seeing the benefits that the course has had on my well-being, I began realising that I can still have fun, have enjoyment and contentment while in pain. Recently, Mum and I went to the theatre to watch Flashdance (an unexpected Christmas present!), but while there I was experiencing significant pain in my legs as well as a myriad of other symptoms including vertigo and visual disturbances. When they suddenly came on, I felt a wave of great disappointment that my rare night out was spoilt because of my neurological condition. But, after practising some of the techniques we have been learning during the course in ACT, I managed to divert my attention away from the nuisance symptoms and to what was going in front of me and the fantastic music and dancing.
And it worked! Because of the severity of the symptoms that seemingly appeared from nowhere, I felt that I wanted to leave and go home to the safety and security of more familiar surroundings. But, I didn’t and made it through the entire show and had a great time (despite the incident when my legs gave way when we were leaving!). It was then that I realised that chronic pain and fun doesn’t have to be irreconcilable.
It is little victories like the theatre trip which I am celebrating this month. It may seem small and trivial, but they are monumental considering the effect that symptoms of chronic illness have on our lives. Not cancelling on invitations, pushing through symptoms to get our normal chores done or just doing something we thought we never thought we could do are all worthy of celebration. I know just how difficult living this chronic life can be and how it affects your entire life and what you are and aren’t able to do, so celebrate your victories as I know how hard you’ve worked to achieve them.
To end, I think I would like to invite more opportunity into my life. Perhaps, by expanding my writing beyond the blog. Writing is something that I enjoy immensely and something that I am passionate about so I would love to be able to do more of, so if anyone has any suggestions or offers, please let me know! Loneliness and isolation is again something that I have been struggling so am inviting more opportunities to meet new people, and expanding my social circle. Of course, it is difficult when considering that I am unable to get out of the house on my own or even that I am not invited to attend social occasions by those that I do know. But hopefully, by participating in more courses like the ACT course, I am able to meet new people and widen my social circle and find my own tribe.