Friday, December 25, 2015

Pain vs Holiday Blues

Pain (Dolore, Prayer). Antoni Madeyski, marble, ca 1898, now in National Museum, Warsaw, photo via wikimedia commons. 

#1 Seek Social Support.  #2 Hit The Gym. #3 Stay Off Facebook. #4 Reframe Your Thinking. These are CNN's “Four simple steps to beating the holiday blues.” Not a bad article but for us spoonies, it requires a few edits and additions.  

Those four steps may be a good start to staving off holiday blues, for a lot of people, but if you are chronically ill it can be hard to do both #1 and #3 at the same time, as Facebook might be your only way to seek social support. So maybe go to Facebook, but confine yourself to groups where you can chill with your spoonies, and either completely ignore all those jolly and bright posts or share them with those who understand the limits that constrain your holiday jollies. 

That #4, “Reframe Your Thinking,” includes volunteering and that’s actually something I see a whole lot of disabled, chronically ill and otherwise in-need people doing. You might be blogging too, or posting, in support of others. Some medical advocacy and activism, sharing a meal, sharing a laugh: for those of us who can only make small and occasional contributions, we need to remember those count. From what I see, people in need seem to be always aware of the needs of others, too. So give yourself some credit when you go to reframe your thinking. 

#2, Hit the Gym, can sure be impossible for the chronically ill. I’d like to change that one to, Care For Your Body. Maybe you can go to the gym or take a run or a walk, or maybe it's going to be some restorative yoga postures in or beside your bed. Taking Care of Your Body could just be taking your meds and supplements, getting some acupuncture, eating a sustaining meal. Do what you are able, to support your best possible physical health, and don't stress about the things you can't do. 

But how not to stress when you’re stuck in a body full of pain? I like something my dear old dad always said when carrying a crying baby: "Look at the Wonders of Nature." It can help take you out of yourself. You may not be able to see much nature in the place where you're stuck, even out a window, but maybe you can watch some uplifting nature videos. Maybe you have a shell or rock you can marvel at, or maybe you can do this thing I enjoy on bedridden days: take a mental trip to a beautiful spot in nature, closing your eyes and recreating in the most exact detail you can, each feature of some beautiful natural spot. 

Okay, so let's make "Look at the Wonders of Nature" be #5, and also add #6: “Look at the Wonders of Art.” Art’s a lot like Nature – isn’t it an astonishing natural phenomenon, that humans create art? Also, art can take you out of yourself, or it can remind you that others share your feelings: pain, holiday blues, loss, have been depicted in various art forms in ways that can help us feel at least less alone, when we can’t transform or transcend the feelings we’re stuck with right now, just because it happens to be a holiday on the calendar. 

Then there's the financial thing. If your finances are like mine, you made that little "huh" sniffing sound, felt that hit to the center of your chest, when you read in CNN’s article that someone’s holiday season calendar includes, "a Broadway Play and a Knicks game." Hahaha, ho ho ho, must be nice, eh? Whatever we spoonies can imagine we would love to do to lift us out of the blues, may be out of reach. So here's my Lucky #7 Special for the chronically ill and impoverished: “Find Something You Can Reach.” Maybe you can't do it today but you can envision doing it by a year from now, or so.

For myself and my also-chronically-ill daughter, I’m working toward several goals. Some seem almost unreachable: a trained service dog, a van with a wheelchair lift, and a comfortable adjustable bed, are as far from my daughter’s current financial possibilities as the wish to be well enough to travel across the country to her well sister’s university graduation is far from her current physical possibilities.

But I’m working on earning and saving and raising the funds for those needs, in small increments. I’m setting up a charitable fund for my daughter. We are too ill to work or have a real business but I can read tarot as a thank you gift for donations, and raise a little money through selling these nontoxic biodegradable nail art wraps: My Own Little Business Startup,Pajamaberry Jamberry 

Perfect for a spoonie: business in bed. That helps me have some small but lucky #7 goals toward our larger goals. Even if all I can do is share some nail art online, I’m doing something. Plus nail art that I can do in bed and it doesn't make me sicker with toxic fumes! That’s a little fun that maybe even Ms Broadway Knicks doesn’t have! (Hm, I wonder if she’d like to buy some, to wear to the show?)

#8 is a variation on #1. Seek social support, but perhaps not human society. Humans are sometimes very unsupportive. Get together with Ms Knicks and she might say, “cheer up,” or “you don’t look sick.” We spoonies can benefit a lot from animal companionship. They don’t make those blunders. So our #8 strategy is, "Snuggle a Pet.” If you haven't got a pet, can you find a friend or a visiting pet service to bring you one on loan even for an hour? Allergic? Snuggle a plushie. Scatter wild bird seed and enjoy the company of birds. Or again, resort to videos: Cute Animals abound online.

Now because I like the number 9 I’ll add one more and end there. 

#9 is, “Get Creative.” Even if you can only be creative in a tiny way for a few seconds, do that. Even if your creative abilities aren’t what they once were, just play. Allow your creativity to be sucky. Make an ugly doodle. Write a bit of doggerel. Invent a new sandwich, take one bite and throw it away. Or think up your own creative new way to beat the blues and maybe some of those won't suck after all.

So to review, here are our new nine strategies: #1 Seek Social Support. #2 Care For Your Body. #3 Be Selective on Facebook. #4 Give Yourself Some Credit When Reframing Your Thinking. #5 Look at the Wonders of Nature. #6 Look at the Wonders of Art. #7 Go for Some Reachable Goal. #8 Snuggle a Pet. #9 Get Creative.

In conclusion, remember that this too shall pass. It’s just another day, just another season, so let’s not make more demands upon this day or season than on any other. Let’s not make demands on our own emotions, that we might not be able to meet. If we can’t be merry let’s be sorrowful, let’s be worried, let’s be stressed, let’s be kind and gentle, but let’s just be. Let it be, until it's something else once again.

P.S.: If you're looking to help in the fundraising effort for my daughter's needs for a service dog, a van with a wheelchair lift, and a comfortable adjustable bed, bless you! Please go here for a PayPal Donate button. Thank you!