Nickie Coby (puppybraille) wrote,
Nickie Coby

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CRPS and self-image

I started writing this entry in the van, listening to Ronnie Milsap's song "Smoky Mountain Rain". That song, by the way, is absolutely beautiful. It's one of the things I love about Ronnie Milsap's music, it acknowledges the sadness of life. I've never had a Relationship with a capital R, don't plan to, if I have my way. But I still love the song. Anyway, back to what I was thinking about... what was that? Oh, yes, how I've been thinking about body image and chronic illness, specifically CRPS (rsd doesn't contract well in braille and turns into rsaid).

One of the things I had given thought to, but hadn't addressed until recently was how being in pain and having a pretty ugly (in my eyes) foot changed the way I view my body. On the best of days, my foot is somewhat puffy, painful, discolored and a different temperature than the "normal" one. On normal days, it's full of swelling, very painful, can't be touched comfortably and may have a stocking (sock-shaped) distribution of color and cold temperature. Bad days, well, we won't talk about them. In a competition for good looking feet, I'd lose, hands and feet down. And, because I must take so much time to care for myself, do physical therapy exercises, manage pain and swelling, keep my foot warm and comfortable and do a lot of things. Coming into contact with my foot so frequently doesn't help much for my image of my body. I also noticed that, irrationally, my image of my body weight can sometimes be affected by the swelling in my foot. The more swelling I have, the more likely I am to say that I weigh too much. Interestingly, I always see the incorrect logic in this, but still sometimes think it. And, let's face it, a metal cane which sounds like a crutch but isn't, does not make one feel like a beautiful 20-year-old.

There's also the fact that my body feels like it deserted me. Nausea, sleep problems, general stiffness from overcompensating and just from using a cane and a dog make me feel less like a beautiful 20-year-old and more like a medical case. Because of the medications and home treatments, my mind is often filled with thoughts about health concerns generally reserved for the older adults. It is very easy to feel that my body has "deserted" me.

What I found recently was that there were ways to feel more healthy and happy about myself and have a more helpful self-image. First, I had to believe that I'm worth taking care of. While I never would have said I felt worthless, I felt I couldn't contribute much others would feel was useful. So first, I tackled the issue of what I could contribute. I can contribute blog posts and a book which shares some of my story. I can contribute friendship. I can contribute links in my Delicious account which might share something others would like and wouldn't have found if I hadn't linked. I can do many other things which have become routine. I also realized that sometimes I may not realize that what I'm doing contributes anything. I've never lived life thinking that everything I do contributes something to life, because thinking of it that way never worked for me.

The other part, contributing something that's useful, is hard to define. What is useful? And how does one define useful? Eventually, I decided that "useful" is defined differently to each person. Thus, I might never truly know what is useful. But most of the time, I feel what I'm doing does have a purpose. Writing, reading and sharing, for example have all had a purpose. Further, I won't always know that something has a purpose until much later, if at all.

Next, I realized that there are some ways in which I engage in creating beauty everyday. I consider writing to be a craft, and sometimes, it can create beauty. Taking care of myself and supporting my body so I can live a full and active life can be an act of beauty. In other words, beauty isn't always something which is considered physically aesthetically pleasing. I can do "acts of beauty" which are pleasing to the soul, for example.

Once I established that one can be beautiful, even without a body they particularly adore, I started to wonder if there were ways to enjoy my body more. Could there be a way to feel that my body had beautiful aspects? I decided that this could happen, but it took a while. It started by looking for ways to infuse joy into acts of physical care. I found a toothpaste that I liked using. I began making my own soap. Friends (not sure if they feel comfortable being linked in public entries or not) introduced me to Lush. Interestingly, this satisfied two aspects: one was the act of beauty. It's very nice knowing that animals aren't being tested on to make these products. It's also nice seeing the environmental protection aspect. But it also satisfied the need to feel physically beautiful. Using Bubble Bars makes my skin feel better (more moisturized) which has been a problem with CRPS. CRPS messes with skin too, which I don't totally understand, but anyway... One side bonus is that with more moisturized skin, LidoDerm seems to work better. Anyone understand that? I also found a better face care regimen,, so I felt much more pretty.

The act of specifically doing something to make myself feel more cared for, more beautiful makes it easier to see ways to feel more beautiful. I've set a goal for myself. The goal is to find ways to acknowledge my good, beautiful aspects (physical, emotional, social and spiritual). Instead of seeing ways in which my body makes me feel 40 years older than I actually am, I will see the good parts of how my body copes with the stress of CRPS, for example. When I see problems the question must be `how can I take care of this?". And in caring for myself, I will see beauty.

In the middle of writing this entry, I got my hair cut. It feels good. I wrote the middle third of the post outside with Baxter and Julio sipping mint tea to deal with some nausea. I did what I needed to do to try to feel better (the chairs used for hair cutting and washing aren't good for CRPS foot, so I had to deal with the pain in a healthy way). I'm now riding back toward home, listening to more Ronnie Milsap. Yes, it's a pretty beautiful day. And, for the record, I have no idea why I started writing about what I was doing during the post, but whatever.
Tags: chronic pain, disability related, health, my writing, rsd sucks, social work

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