Friday, August 24, 2012

The pain drain

Ever noticed that things that you would normally not mind seem to bother you more when you're in pain?

I have.  I've been in pain - not severe, but pretty much constant - for the last few months now.  Just when I think I'm getting ahead and can do more, it hits again and I'm down for the count - and the simplest, stupidest things can set it off.  Like turning to look at something by twisting around instead of moving my feet. (OW!  ... Grr.)  

And the pain (as I was saying in my opening) wears at you.  Even when other things take your attention and you forget the pain is there, one move and it reminds you that it has you. You become more irritable, less patient.  Your tolerance for everyday annoyances becomes practically non-existent.  At least mine does.  

And that can lead to some pretty stinking thinking.  Negativity.  Snappishness.  Resentments.  Or acute (and by that I don't mean clinical) depression.  

Those things creep up behind you when you've been strong (or tried to be strong) for a long time, and they grab you by the throat, sometimes through the most innocent of circumstances.  It takes a lot of acceptance and courage to let it go and to trust God when there seems to be no end in sight.  Especially when the feeling that you're being targeted, singled out, and attacked seems so overwhelmingly real.  

It's precisely BECAUSE the pain is always there, like a slow leak in your gas tank...  that when the ups and downs of life happen (as they do to everyone) they seem to require more of you or leave you running on empty.  

And you feel guilty for taking time so often to fill up, to look after your own needs instead of everyone else's. So you don't ... and the cycle starts all over again.  

I can't stress it enough.  Self-care is so very important.  You are the only you that you have, and if you're not at 100%, guess what. You're going to need rest, recharging, refueling more often.  There's no shame in admitting that you need rest, help, quiet, a hot bath, a walk (or a saunter, or a waddle in my case) in the park, a movie, a night out, or whatever it is that rejuvenates you. 

It's not a luxury.  It's an essential.

It's essential because you're you.  Okay, if you want other reasons, it's also because you can't give away what you don't have... so if others are depending on you (for whatever reason) you won't have the resources to help them if you're not looking after yourself. 

I've put myself in last place for so long that the habit is really hard to break. You know the habit I mean.  Put the food on everyone else's plate first (after all, it's polite.) Put everyone else's schedule first and fit your stuff in (if at all) at the end when you're spent from looking after their comings and goings. Spend money on everyone else at the store but not you; after all, there's no money left to spend, right? 

Carving out time for yourself is HARD.  It feels awkward.  You feel kind of guilty, ashamed of even admitting that you have needs, let alone taking steps toward meeting them.  That's the old messages of manipulation from your childhood creeping in, things you heard at school, from relatives, in church.  Silencing those voices is difficult and at first, they will be loud.  Very loud.  Attune your internal sensors to pick up the wistful whispers from your inner child, the one that always had to wait, always got the leftovers, always was overlooked. 

It doesn't mean that you're selfish.  It means that you have your priorities in the right order.  Your relationship with God. Then your relationship with YOU. THEN your relationship with others.  

And one more thing.  (This was tough for me, and it still is.)  Embrace the word "No."

I think that tonight, I need to spend some time with a few close friends in an accepting atmosphere, and I know just where to find that.  :D

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