Thoughts about Balance when you have Chronic Pain
it brought up some challenging memories and thoughts, as well as a sense of accomplishment for what I've recently learned.
I think that, in general, balance isn't something American society does well. It's very easy to become obsessed with something, or to become so focussed that you miss the big picture. Sometimes that's good. If I'm focusing on this blog post, I'm not focusing on my pain, or what I'm supposed to eat for breakfast, or even the many concerns i have. I'm focusing on the words, the movement of my fingers (sometimes), and what I want or don't want to say. If I was focusing on everything going on in the world, I'd never get anything done. That's a recipe for being overwhelmed. But it's not the only way to breed feelings of anxiety, depression, being overwhelmed or trapped.
What has recently become chrystal clear to me is that I need more balance in my life. For so long, my goals have been to get through school and manage my health. I didn't go out and socialize, I didn't do anything other than worry about school and my health. Sure, sometimes I did, but when someone asked about hobbies, my first thought was "What're those?" Without going into details, chronic pain has a lot of horrible effects on life, and for me, one of those was that I was struggling. The more I struggled, the more pleasure I denied myself. That's not a healthy reality for anyone. It can happen with school, work, health, volunteer organizations, financial difficulties and any number of other aspects of our life.
So what's the solution? I don't know. Like me, you are all on a journey, if this rings true for you, you may want to keep reading, with the knowledge that I'm no expert. As I build more balance into my life, add more variety and start to reach out again, I am learning, but these are new behaviors for me. I'm also not a mental health professional, so if you need help with this, you might want to consider other resources.
Abundance, not deprivation
One of the mistakes I made was to deprive myself of pleasure. I'm not doing well enough, I don't deserve to have fun I'd think. But what I've found as I add more fun activities into my life is that I actually do better than when I punished myself. I discovered that I enjoy crafts such as jewelry making and others. I discovered that, with the right supports, I can go out and do things. And the more I do, the better I feel.
Thinking Outside the Box
One of the things which helped me the most and helped me regain confidence in my abilities was to try something I hadn't done in a while. As I've written before, the pain sometimes interferes with my writing ability. The more I struggled, the worse I felt. But when I used a different skill, I discovered I still have the power to create good things. That unlocked my words. It's a somewhat counter-intuitive thought, but it worked for me and it might for you too. Out of hardship can come small treasures.
One of the things I also had to learn is that balance doesn't mean doing a certain amount of one thing every day. Rather, it means being able to adjust to fit the circumstances. I'm reminded of the verses in
which says there's a time for everything. Sometimes that means it's time for school, sometimes it means it's time to have fun. Sometimes it's hard to know what we should be doing, and given that this whole balance thing is new to me, I can't always tell either. But it is important to look at the warning signs that maybe things aren't balanced. Those are different for everyone.
Imagine yourself on a balance beam as a kid. Maybe your parent or friend is walking near you, or maybe there's a safety net or mat under you. If you start to lose your balance, what's your first motion going to be? Most likely, it would be to reach out and get support. If no one is with you at the time, you may not be safe. Maybe, though, you have a safety net or something to break your fall.
So why is it so different for many of us. I know that as my life went out of balance, I reached inward, not outward. That wasn't effective for me. Instead, I needed to widen my base, add more joy and abundance to my life and reach out and make connections. I still struggle with this, thinking "I should do this myself", but the more I work at balance and the little things, the more I see the benefits. Whether it's laughing at a joke, feeling like dancing or finding meaning in the little things, my life is far better when it's in balance.
That's not to say the bad stuff went away. Rather, as I add those good things, the bad stuff, pain, anxiety or depression have less focus and less power. It didn't work to not focus on the ugly stuff, sometimes I need to do that, but having other parts of my life to focus on sure makes it easier not to focus on the bad stuff as much.
Like anything, this is a journey, and I'm certainly no expert. But I hope my thoughts are helpful to someone.
Note: The subject line of this entry is from a song by the Byrds as well as the verses quoted above.