June was Pride month, and as a member of the LGBTQ community, I was, of course, excited to participate in this year’s festivities. That being said, I do remember last year and the struggle it was to go out all day and all night. The big question was, am I going to let it stop me this year? If you haven’t guessed already, the answer is no. I wasn’t going to and I didn’t. That being said, like last year, though even more so this year, I was quite aware of my limitations given the physical pain and fatigue my illness causes me. But I’m a warrior. A chronic pain warrior, so off to the festivities I went.
Yes, I wore rainbow suspenders – June 25, 2017
Pride weekend is just an example of a time when I wanted very much to go out and have a good time with my friends, but for everyone there are many other times when you may need or want to push yourself without causing any more physical pain than normal. Want to run a marathon? Go on an adventurous vacation? Have children? The list goes on and on, depending on the person and their circumstances. So what do we do and what do we not do? That’s always the question when you’re dealing with chronic pain.
Photo from: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marathon
The first step is knowing your limitations. For me, on an average night I’m in bed by 9:45 or 10:00 and asleep by 10:15. Maybe 10:30 at the latest. I also get up early, usually around 6:00 or 6:30 so I can write, meditate, and exercise before work. Regardless, I’m usually exhausted by 8pm and like to take it easy in the evening. Also, the longer I’m on my feet, the more likely I am to experience increased hip, knee, ankle pain, etc. (and that’s ignoring all the pain that lingers around when I’m not doing anything special.). I also find that the more I drink alcohol, the more anxiety I have. Something I’m quite aware of, and as a result try not to drink too often. If you’re unsure of your limitations, make a quick mental list (or physical list if you’d prefer). It’s good to know what they are, whether or not you’re about to follow them to a tee.
Photo from: http://soberbastard.com/tips/a-drinking-alternative-list/
If I were to let my limitations control me this past weekend, I would’ve missed out on quite a lot of fun, and probably would’ve regretted it. The lucky thing is, I was able to sleep in every day to catch up on what I would have otherwise lacked. I managed to stay out until 2am on Friday, 1:30am on Saturday, and 10pm on Sunday. I was on my feet a lot (walking around the festival) but every opportunity I had to sit (usually on a patio) I took it. I knew I needed to, and as soon as someone brought up patio time I jumped at it. And I did drink. For me, it was worth the anxiety, which I managed to deal with pretty well by Sunday (that’s a whole other story that you can ask me about in person). Depending on your situation/medication, drinking may not be something you can do at all. I don’t usually drink to excess, though I definitely had more than I needed on the weekend. I found I also had more physical pain (though I avoided hangovers). I was also very conscious of drinking lots of water. If this weekend was me versus chronic pain, I think I won. This weekend at least.
Artist: Jonathan Pimentel
This is not to say that sometimes we should let our limitations control us. Or rather, advise us. It’s the one offs. The things we really want that may only happen a few times a year, where we have the opportunity to challenge ourselves. We should. Why not? Unless you’re planning something that is really going to hurt you physically, or take you out of the count for awhile (and who knows? To you that may be worth it), you should go for it. The other big resistance can be (unsolicited) advice from friends and family about whether or not your should do these things. The best advice would come from your health care providers. They can possibly help you achieve these things within your limitations even. If not, they should at least be kept in the loop about it. Friends and family can only see through a certain lens, and they don’t understand what you’re experiencing physically or emotionally, so take their advice with caution. They love you, but they don’t really understand.
Image from: http://www.drmendel.com/services/Family.html
Remember, doing more will help your mental health too. Isolation can lead to loneliness which can lead to depression and so forth. A ripple effect. Mental health is already so much affected by chronic pain. I personally don’t want to make it worse. Do what you can. Have fun. Know yourself. Those are the keys to unlocking your limitations.
You can also follow Jane Versus Pain on Twitter @janevspain and Instagram @ janeversuspain.