Happy National Bed Month (yes - it really is!). In response to this, Without Wings wanted this month’s musings to focus on useful bits regarding sleep, fatigue and RA related conditions. Then, last Friday, disaster struck and it suddenly felt like the right time to kick start some personal blogging. This one’s by me, Jackie, Without Wing’s Chair, but we’ve also got some other guests lined up over the next few months, including one of the Island’s leading Mindfulness teachers, Mike Kewley. So stay tuned!
Last Friday I did something that seemed like a good idea at the time, but wasn’t. To put this into context, just over 14 months ago I suffered a probably RA related, suspected pelvic ligament collapse. Apparently due to some kind of hypersensitive connective tissue disorder, this has been neither fun nor helpful to having a volatile autoimmune illness. But last week, maybe because the sun finally came out, I started to feel the first real signs of actual improvement, and… did something I probably shouldn’t have. The result: three days and nights (plus!) with my back in complete spasm, and, thanks to the pain, I was unable to sleep! Which gave me lots of time to think! So here, I present: some personal nighttime musings…
Actually, not sleeping doesn’t (overly) bother me. As an ex professional insomniac, I learnt a long time ago that insomnia, anxiety, tinnitus and fatigue were all perpetuated by my dysfunctional relationship to them. In the end I discovered that starving these demons of attention, as opposed to constantly pandering to their needs, was all they needed to go away. I say ‘all.’ In fact it was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. However, unlike the hundreds of therapies I tried that insisted I engage with these problems, starving them worked. And so it occurred to me, as I lay there awake and in discomfort for yet another night, that I’ve never succeeded in applying this method to the pain cycle. Because surely this is similar?
I’m not talking about a major flare here or a broken limb - problems that require immediate medical attention, but I was wondering about everyday RA pain and discomfort - and all the constant piling up of associated problems that tend to affect people living with these illnesses. The question is semi hypothetical. RA related pain is complicated and dependent on many systems in the body - most notably our genes, gut health and fitness levels in general. However, when I really sat up and examined my relationship with pain, and, by default, my body, I discovered it to be really quite toxic. For example, I bitch about my body’s various failings regularly and have a thousand different terms to negatively describe it. In fact, when I thought harder about things, I realised that in relation to my body, I was a bit like a member of the SS - and this as someone who prides themselves on never treating others badly! So surely - just as people who bitch and complain constantly about others tend to have poor inter-personal relationships, it might suggest that I have, possibly, built up a poor relationship with my body. I wondered then whether or not breaking this habit could help my pain levels? After all, my earlier experiences with health issues really do echo the old adage, what we resist persists and I am certainly a genius in resisting pain!
So the end result of all this? I decided to make a firm commitment to two things.
One, I decided I was going to try a bit of acceptance therapy. If it works for sleep, then perhaps it could work on this too. If nothing else, perhaps it would reduce my stress levels! Because ultimately, our bodies don’t mean to fight us - not really. Pain is just the body’s clumsy way of communicating, and, unfortunately, from a very young age we are taught not to listen, but to react against it.
Secondly, I decided I was going to start focusing on the positives in my body - because really, it has done very well so far with this illness - compared to how sick I was initially. It’s doing OK, responding positively to good food, meditation, hydration. When I can move well and step up the aerobic exercise, the RA side of things responds spectacularly! In fact, my body has proved to me time and time again that it can, and wants to be in a state of balance — be it from anxiety, insomnia, or even RA.
So I sat quietly and meditated on what was going on and a striking image came to me almost immediately - of a subconscious mind smashing plates! And then I remembered something I had read about the subconscious mind being very simple and having no sense of humour and I thought, that’s it! Each time I tell my body it’s failing me, my subconscious smashes a plate - not to be horrible, but because it thinks that’s what I want it to do!
Anyway, who knows whether it was because of this or not, but I gave it a lot of love instead, and, thankfully, the back spasms have now almost completely vanished. So now I’m just left with the usual - a recovering pelvis and RA stuff. But I’ve been left with something else too - a decision to stop the fight and a firm commitment to finally give my body more of the respect it deserves. After all, what do they say, an eye for an eye and the whole world goes blind. Anyway, that’s all from me. Enjoy the sunshine everyone! We deserve it!