There are only two certainties in life. Death. And, Oh Ya, that other thing, whatever it is. I think maybe it’s called extreme anxiety.
For a lot of us right now, one of the biggest anxieties is about whether or not you or someone you love is going to get the coronavirus and die a horrible painful death. Can you imagine if you carried that level of anxiety about your health with you every day of your life?
This is precisely how I and many other people with serious chronic illness or pain live every day.
Waking up to a good day, when I’m not in so much pain, or simply in less pain, would be a good reason to celebrate. Or so you would think, but it isn’t necessarily so. If I’m not in serious pain right now, I’m probably super anxious about when it will start up again, since it’s seldom very long until the next session. Can you imagine being so fearful of your next bout of pain that you can’t ever be rid of the sense of dread that hangs over you.
And people who come in contact with me try to cheer me up by saying something like, “Don’t worry it, it can’t last forever, can it?” “Just get over it, you’re too obsessed with it.” As if I, someone with serious chronic pain wouldn’t part with anything I have to make it go away. And, well, yes, it can bloody well last forever, well, at least until I die from it, or some other condition that doesn’t happen to hurt, right now.
If I seem focused on feeling sorry for myself, just leave me alone. If you just can’t provide some comfort to me, exactly as I need it right now, then please get out of my face. I hardly need you to tell me to cheer up. And if you can’t handle it to see me suffering in pain, then just don’t. Leave. Piss off.
For me, and a lot of people with chronic pain, the coronavirus is just more thing to worry about, and make me more anxious about everything I have to do, everybody I have to see, and also more fearful about being able to obtain the bare necessities of life.
As if there isn’t enough to stress out about already, without the Damned Tsunami Pandemic, sweeping over the whole world.
To someone with a serious disease and chronic pain, death isn’t the scariest thing, it’s just the most certain.
I was listening to a CBC podcast the other night, and there were a couple of people talking about their feelings about various famous authors and musicians. The conversation was really about whether or not our judgements about the behaviour of artists should influence how we feel about their art, and if we should decide to like or not like their art because we don’t agree with the conduct, opinions or morality of the artist.
My political opinions are progressive within the Canadian meaning of that word meaning that I tend to share and support the politics of liberal leaning parties, and instinctively tend to feel sympathetic and supportive of anyone who self identifies as an outsider, whether as result of ethnicity, race, gender, ethical, sexual and religious views, appearance, etcetera. Which generally means that I’m somewhat judgemental about other people who I perceive as judgemental against all those people I’ve previously mentioned. So I’m inclined to be pretty judgemental about myself, since I know perfectly well that my own behaviour over my life has failed at times to live up to my own ethical, moral and social standards.
So the questions being raised are important to me. Is it safe for me to listen to music I like or even love, if it has been created or performed by someone I judge to have behaved badly? Say, like Michael Jackson, who now appears to have been a pedophile. Should we erase all of our collective memories of his music and dance, and never moonwalk again? Should we ban any mentions about Sir John A. MacDonald, who, in addition to being a drunk, a racist about first nations peoples and their rights, an outright unapologetic sexist. The fact that our nation exists because this man, and other similarly flawed men founded it continues to be true, even if I don’t like it. History is made by flawed men and women. Music is sung by creepy assholes. Great classical art was drawn by perverts we wouldn’t allow in our living rooms.
Should we hide the Mona Lisa, because her painter was a narrow minded bigot who was probably gay but denied homesexuality over and over again to gain social acceptability, not to mention contracts that paid for his work and allowed him to survive in times we can barely imagine.
I found it fascinating that these two commentators came to the conclusion that excluding people from your life because they happen to have been flawed, made terrible mistakes in their relationships, or even committed heinous crimes, should not necessarily mean that you deny the value and beauty of their art as fruit of the poison tree. Doing so would deny human beings the ability to grow, to make amends and try to do and be better than their worst selves. Doing so could remove the incentive for people to change and reflect on their worst behaviours, and thereby learn something.
Should I forever hate my father because of what he inflicted on me as a child, even in the certainty that he committed himself to looking after my younger sister for most of his life after she became a quadriplegic in her early twenties. He did bad things when he was younger, but did amazing things that made her life possible when it had become impossible. So I try to hate the behaviour I judge offensive and admire his enormous contributions to my sister. So I will never forget either, but I judge him to have been a deeply flawed man who showed the capacity for love. I love my father, but see him clearly for all that he was in his life, not just those things that harmed others but also those things he did that contributed.
Which is how I think we should look at historical and living people alike. We should make every effort to be our better selves, no matter how damaged we are or have been in our pasts. We should be as transparent as we can be, without expecting it of others. Fight for equality, justice and freedom, but make allowance for human frailty, both for ourselves and for others.
Life is sometimes simply getting through the day. No matter how much I would like to face each day with hope or happiness, sometimes I struggle with everything that going on in my world, or not going on.
The past ten days it’s been hard to muster up the energy to write my blog. It’s not that I don’t have anything to say, but rather than I’ve always been of the belief that if I don’t have anything good to say, then it may be better not to say anything at all. Nobody wants to hear from a downer or a constant complainer.
Let’s face it. It hasn’t been a great week or two.
One of my favorite cousins died. He was one of my favorites because although we didn’t really know each other all that well, he was someone with similar interests to mine, particularly researching and growing the family tree. I’ll miss his quiet thoughtfulness and good ideas.
This past week has seen an explosion in the new coronavirus spreading out from Hunan, China. In a blog post I wrote last year about global warming, and why it isn’t the most important thing in the world, I didn’t mention pandemics, but this could just as easily become one, and it could kill millions around the world before it runs its course. Scary.
Trump was acquitted in Congress. This blog is not generally explicitly political about US politics or politics outside of Canada at all. To me his acquittal demonstrates with certainty that a person doesn’t have to be a quality human being to get ahead in life. He lies, lies and lies some more, and his followers, which include almost every Republican in the US, doesn’t care whatsoever.
Kobe died. Along with his daughter and eight others. In a helicopter crash. Being famous and mostly a good person is not guarantee of anything either. Certainly, Kobe is a inspiration to millions of kids, and this won’t change that. Still it sucks.
And to top it all off I’ve had this bloody flu all week and still feel the pits. My car broke down. And I’m still distressed about the state of my relationship with my NP. Life would have been so much simpler if I had been conventional, instead of not. My partner would have been so much happier. I don’t know if that would have been true for me, or not. But I’m still the man I have always been, and although I’ve followed the more difficult path, I’m not actually sure that there was any other possible path for me.
So, in summary. I hope the next week or two things improve, especially my attitude. I’m going to work a little harder at counting my blessings, and let go of my current miasma.
I have been afflicted with Type 2 Diabetes for more than twenty-five years. Perhaps even longer, since my partner reports that she saw symptoms of it even in my late twenties and early thirties. But despite diagnosis in the 1990’s by my doctors, and a referral to an endocrinologist who worked out of St. Paul’s hospital at the same time, the seriousness of the disease and its potential consequences were not really taken into account until relatively recently, when some of the symptoms started to become more pronounced.
Truthfully, until the summer of last year, I didn’t really feel like it was even possible to have any real impact on my diabetes. After being put on insulin, nearly fifteen years ago, with steady weight gain and gradually increasing problems related to my diabetes, I think I didn’t really believe there was anything I could do about the decline in my health, and probable premature death from diabetes related conditions and disease.
On my birthday last year, my middle son gave me a copy of a book by Dr. Jason Fung, on which I have written a lot in this blog in the past. Reading his book, The Diabetic Code, taught me that I need not be doomed to continual decline as a result of diabetes, but in fact could take control of my lifestyle, and thereby forestal future declines in my health, and even, perhaps, recaptures some of the vigor of my earlier years.
From July until the present I have been working towards a better life. I’ve lost a bit of weight, about 30 pounds down from my weight last summer, although I’m back up 10 pounds more or less since November, as a result of failing to maintain my lifestyle changes over the Christmas break.
Starting last night I am back to doing my intermittent fasting for three days a week, thirty-six hours for each day. During November I went from strictly obeying the fasting hours, and not eating anything, to eating Keto foods which are not supposed to break the fast. Whatever I thought I was doing, what was really happening was that my fasts became shorter and far less effective.
Fasting now until I reach my net goal of reaching 15 BMI during the current calendar years is my objective, for now, until I get my weight down from 222 pounds down to 167 pounds for a total weight loss of 55 pounds over the next 12 months. It doesn’t sound too daunting, having to lose between four and five pounds a month to reach my goal. But of course my goal isn’t really so much about losing weight as it is about gaining control over my blood glucose levels, and wrestling my metabolic syndrome to a point where my health doesn’t continue to decline, or lead to ever more serious consequences of my diabetes.
It is discouraging losing weight by changing your lifestyle, in many different ways, but intermittent fasting and eating a low carb diet is probably the least difficult method. All it requires of me is to pay attention to what I eat when I’m not fasting, and to fast long enough and for enough days, to ensure that my liver gets a reboot, during this process. Even when I reach my targeted goal it will not be the end of managing my carbohydrate and sugar intake. A healthy lifestyle for a diabetic (or former diabetic, which is what I’m trying to achieve) should be one that avoids carbohydrate and sugar in one’s diet, on a day to day basis.
Of course, all people need some carbohydrate and sugar in their diets, but it should always be extremely limited since it has proved to be so problematic to long term health. I’m recommitting to changing my lifestyle to a healthier and strong future. This recommitment includes reasserting my plan to get out and walk an average of 4,000 or more steps, at least four or five days out of the week. With serious neuropathy in my feet this isn’t always easy, but it is nonetheless critically important, to build and maintain a healthy cardiovascular system.
It’s currently two o’clock in the afternoon, and I haven’t eaten anything since about eight o’clock last night. My next meal will be tomorrow morning about eight o’clock, when I’ll have breakfast. My next fast will start tomorrow after dinner, at about eight o’clock tomorrow night, and will continue until 8:00 am on Thursday morning.
Hang in there with me, folks. I may not be changing the world, but I’m certainly changing my world.
Sometime today I had my 2000th reader Follow me on WordPress and 750th Follower on social media outside of WordPress. Wow! Thank you to everyone who has followed this blog, as well as to the many people who have responded to my blog with numerous “Likes” and even more views. 2750 Followers as of today’s date.
Blog Statistics January 1st, 2019 to January 15, 2020
TOTAL POSTS 60
TOTAL COMMENTS 472
AVG COMMENTS PER POST 8
TOTAL LIKES 4,194
AVG LIKES PER POST 70
TOTAL WORDS 44,081
AVG WORDS PER POST 734.68
When I first started writing this blog in 2011 I expect to have only a very few followers, likes and views, and didn’t really take blogging all that seriously until spring of last year, when I started to blog about the health challenges I am currently facing, as well as about various strategies related to a lot of different issues. Still, it is currently focussed around health issues, with a subtext running through about the story of my family and my romantic relationships.
So my blog is being read by a lot of you, and I really appreciate your genuine responses and comments over the past year. You’ve given me a lot to digest, and have made me feel both heartbroken, from time to time, and inspired, from other letters and comments. Your courage at facing real physical and emotional health problems inspires me to continue with this blog. If the information the blog conveyed gives anyone comfort knowing that they are not alone, or inspiration to take action to improve their situation, or simply education that allows them to understand someone with these problems, then I have done a service.
I am a true believer in the concept, “Tu Um Est”, which roughly means, It is Up to You! which is the motto of my undergraduate university, The University of British Columbia. I’m also a strong believer in lifelong learning, and acknowledge that while knowledge and information are purely temporary, changing moment by moment in ways we can’t even begin to anticipate, learning is an abiding, persistent process resulting in our constant evolution as human beings.
This blog celebrates these processes, and are in themselves evidence of constant change in my understanding of life today. Diseases thought to be incurable are now cured on an everyday basis. Things we thought were immutable truths have been proved false, or, if not totally false, incomplete. As I write into the future I will continue to seek out new ways to improve the quality of my life, through sharing the wisdom of others, passing on the things I’m learning as I go, and hopefully continue to illuminate and educate my followers, casual viewers, and fellow readers.
Once again. Thank You. It is humbling to realize that people appreciate what I’m writing, and are kind enough to say so.
People who have been abused as children have a really hard time as adults, especially as young adults trying to formulate romantic relationships. Without a solid foundation established early in life, emotions can feel like quicksand and you soon feel like you are drowning. People become desperate for love and accept all sorts of inappropriate behavior that seems like it must be some kind of love, or it wouldn’t be so intense. So this is the story of one such person, after an abusive and destructive marriage
Even after years of counseling, he still feels the desperate self-criticism of his youth, pulling him back into depression and suicidal thoughts. At the end of his first marriage, he actually tried to kill himself by sleepwalking in front of a bus
The transit bus driver drove his bus into the side of a building to avoid hitting the patient, most likely saving his life.
He went to see a doctor after this because he felt that he was in danger because of his actions. He consciously knew that he was a danger to himself and potentially others, but so deeply depressed about losing his wife that he was wandering around in a complete daze.
This was despite the fact that the relationship was fundamentally dysfunctional, and she used and abused him virtually every day from the very first moment he laid eyes on her. His self-worth was so low that he actually believed that everything that ever went wrong was his fault. He allowed himself to be her emotional and physical servant, charged with somehow making her feel good about herself.
Although she was highly intelligent and won many academic awards she required constant affirmations of her intellect, and couldn’t accept any opposition to her opinions on any subject at all. To whatever degree he differed from her point of view, she called him out and accused him of trying to undermine her and make her look like an idiot to their friends or families. He also took on responsibility for taking care of every aspect of her life, including paying all the bills, providing her with funds to pay for her advanced education, and a constant stream of extravagant gifts. Their life together was one of extraordinary social adventures, with a stream of her unusual friends variously moving into and out of their home and their lives together.
They were together for nearly ten years and had a daughter. Their divorce was highly acrimonious and as a result of an emotional breakdown, she intimidated him into giving into virtually all of her demands, including extremely restrictive access to their infant daughter, who is now almost forty years of age.
Because of his blindness to her faults and unwillingness to acknowledge her abusive behavior, He simply was not in any position to provide adequate co-parenting to their daughter, who ended up with her being physically, emotionally, and sexually abused by his ex-wife and her mother, who had previously done the same things to his ex-wife.
It wasn’t until their daughter ran away from her mother’s house to live on the streets that he became aware of all that she had gone through in her mother’s care.
The daughter suffers from multiple psychological disorders including acute anxiety disorder, bipolar disorder, PTSD as a result of multiple sexual assaults starting with her grandmother as early as five or six years old. After she ran away, at thirteen years old, from her mother’s home when she came to live with his current partner and him. It was only then that he heard her story and got her into counseling. The road was very difficult, and they were not very successful in helping the daughter overcome her many conditions.
Never in all the years he had been married to his ex-wife did he realize how destructive her constant personal attacks and total narcissistic behavior had been to him. After he more or less recovered from his breakdown and hospitalization after their marital breakdown, he still blamed himself for everything that had gone wrong in their marriage.
But no more. His daughter suffers from many psychiatric and emotional defects, some of which would have been there no matter who raised her as a young child. She also has many physical disabilities including muscular and skeletal problems that have resulted in her living life in chronic pain, and incapable of independent mobility. She also had two children, which he had to have taken from her because she is incapable of providing the minimum care level necessary for their physical and emotional health. He doesn’t blame his ex-wife or her mother for all of it, as it would unfair to do so.
But what is fair to say is that without the abuse by her narcissistic mother and a grandmother who barely survived Nazi rule in Holland as a young girl before abusing her own daughter and granddaughter, their daughter didn’t have a chance at any reasonable life. Despite years of counseling himself, He still knows that he has blinders on regarding his ex-wife and still has hard time understanding what he allowed to happen in his marriage, or what really took place in all the years she had total control over their daughter’s care and custody.
He had even blamed himself for that restricted access, and his lack of involvement in his daughter’s life. The extreme anger his ex-wife expressed towards him made a more normalized co-parenting arrangement impossible. Even spending thousands of dollar on legal fees trying to get better custodial arrangements failed.
If you are a survivor of an abusive relationship and have gotten out, don’t try to deal with this all on your own. Find a good counselor and make every effort to deal with your own demons before they drag you into yet another dangerous quagmire.
Unfortunately, you may find yourself repeating your mistakes, over and over again. Learn to recognise the cycle of abuse in your own life, and take action to change your circumstances. Leave.
I appreciate your feedback to my blog which is couched as a question, but by which you really mean as a statement of your convictions and societal beliefs.
First of all, polyamorous relationships may or may not be “open marriages” and in fact most people in poly marriages prefer to de-emphasize sexual aspects of poly life in favour of the “loving” aspects.
Polyamory means loving more
Polyamory means loving more than one person at a time but doesn’t automatically include sex. True, if often does, but the ideology of multiple relationships rests more on a person’s right to engage in intimate personal relationships outside of a formal hierarchical structure. In some respects it’s the social and familiar extension of the ideas of the Libertarian philosophy, which postulates that the free will of an individual is the highest freedom. Anything that impinges on individual freedom and the personal right to control her/her own life is contrary to this philosophy, and that includes the traditional marriage customs of almost all religions and legal systems.
“Free love” is the lowest expression of the idea of polyamory, included but hardly the point of it for most of us. Many in this community are part of the LGBTQIA community as well, with certain blurring of the lines of gender identity and sexuality as well. It also includes BDSM and other types of experimental behaviour for many followers. What Polyamory shares with this community is a conviction of many that they are “born this way” rather than this being a “choice” which is what was believed to be true about homosexuality and transgender issues until very recently.
Almost all of the women I know in this community contend that polyamory is the fundamental nature of women, only controlled and managed by organized religions and public policy. Men in this community are often less certain that it is so, I think, because they feel enormous guilt about their inability to exist in traditional relationships without “cheating” and being outlaws of a sort.
But Polyamory is also not necessarily kink.
A kinky person may be polyamorous or a traditionalist believing in the one man/one woman type of marriage. But he/she may also be extremely interested in maintaining their own independence of thought and action, regardless of choices made as to their sexual partners or co-parents of their children.
I respect that your concerns have more to do with maintaining a stable, loving home, both for the benefit of children having two parents in the home, as well as for the husband and wife, who can have the comfort of maintaining lifelong stable relationships.
However, families such as you describe are rapidly vanishing in contemporary society, and seldom, in history, were seldom more than a minority of the population. Single parent homes now out number two parent homes in many communities, especially in millennial families.
Families may be stronger in polyamorous relationships.
Recent social trends and statistics suggest that polyamorous relationships are on the rise, radically so. On a recent CBC TV special recently it is now believed by certain social scientists that more children have multiple parents (ie: more than two) than are being raised in two parent families.
There is strong historical precedence for this. If you take the issue of sexual fidelity out of the question, and simply look at the number of children raised in homes with only one adult or two parents in the historical past, the number was small.
Families often included the two parents, at least one grandparent, often a couple of aunts or uncles, and siblings of the partner. Even today, in Vancouver’s East Asian families, there are many many homes which house as many as twenty five people at once, including the children. The same is true of many families from China, where the one child rule pushed people together to collectively raise children for their welfare.
The nuclear family is inherently unstable, even in the best examples of western values. Do you have any idea of the number of these traditional families who break up over and over again, reforming into new arrangements and new parenting partners? It can scarcely be better for kids to go through repeated divorces and remarriages than to live in long term polyamorous families with multiple parents in constant attendance. My poly friends mostly have a number of children, and their children are raised in the wider family community.
Traditional marriage is a financial disaster for most, even for those it works for emotionally.
One last point. The nuclear family, and its necessary companion, the single parent family, are financially a disaster for most people. The addition of more than two people to help share the load makes all the difference in the quality of everybody’s lives, including the children. When there are multiple people earning incomes it is much easier to be able to afford a home, feed the family, have nice cars, and afford family vacations together every year.
So don’t be quite so quick to judge. Those quirky people who live in these weird situations may have it much, much better than you realise.
I’m lost on a road to “God knows where.” Feeling scared. Uncertain. It’s my story right now, and I’ve good reasons for my emotional state. It’s not the first time in my life I’ve been lost or overwhelmed by circumstance. There’s no doubt my situation is difficult, and solutions to my problems seem beyond my current […]
Two years ago I wrote the above blog entry in my other blog “Out Here in Paradise” and re-examining some of the issues with which I was ensnared at that time have shown that progress is possible, even given serious and intractable problems.
Mine isn’t a new story. My health is not good, and is deteriorating over time. It is responding to my focus on trying to find a solution to my worst problems, and a way to cope with the things I won’t be able to control. My financial situation is a disaster, brought about by a series of mistaken steps, all of which seemed to be the correct decisions at the time, but have left me in serious debt, absent an income on which I can rely, and quite uncertain as to the potential for even basic survival, under my current situation.
Two years ago my health was a lot worse than now. At least it seemed so at the time. I had just got out of the hospital where I was extremely ill with pneumonia, with a new diagnosis of COPD, to go alone with my diabetes and chronic arthritic and neuropathic pain. I didn’t know it then but I also had the classic symptoms of fibromyalgia at work. I had a lot of good reasons to be depressed, just based on my health, not to mention a lifetime of fighting with bipolar depression even since my twenties, more than forty years.
So that was where I started to fight against continuing to fall down the Rabbit Hole, and started this blog, where I’ve largely focussed on discussing my attempts to improve my health and the quality of my life by taking intentional control of those things I can control.
If you follow this blog you will have read about my struggles with my medications, and coming to an understanding of how they interact with each other, and have many side effects, some of which still plague me.
You have seen my excitement of discovery when I read Dr. Jason Fung and realized that I can take control of my diabetes by making significant lifestyle changes, including intermittent fasting and radical reduction in the amount of carbohydrate in my daily diet. I came to realize that exercise every day is important, just not exactly for the reasons that I thought. I’ve lost a lot of weight on this journey, with the result being an increase in energy, a renewed sense of hope for the future, and a continued plan to improve matters further.
I’ve written about my challenges with my marriage and how we have evolved to a new set of understandings that allow for the possibility of staying intimate friends, while perhaps moving to a new description of our relationship. In our new relationship as Nesting Partners, rather than Husband and Wife, we talk far more openly about just about everything, than we even did in the past. Which is a good thing.
I’ve written about Polyamory, the state of being committed to being open to romantically or sexually loving more than one person at a time, within ethical boundaries and with full disclosure of the partners to each other and to every new person brought into relationship. We’re both struggling with our new definition but have continued to be loving to each other while figuring out how to move forward into the future.
In that Blog from two years ago I was feeling completely defeated financially as well. Things in this regard haven’t resolved themselves entirely, but I have made strides in dealing with my debts by filing bankruptcy. It wasn’t fun and it isn’t over yet, but it will be soon, and I will be able to move on into some meaningful employment or business. I’ve also learned the outcome of my problems with the Securities Commission, and while I’m far from sanguine about the Decision made, and the sanctions against me, I am in a place where I have begun to see how I can move forward from here. I have accepted entirely that I am accountable for my current financial situation, and if I am to rise again, it will be because I make it so.
Here are a few random thoughts about how I will get out of this mess.
Make a list, detail the issues including both those which seem unsolvable and those which appear to have potential solutions, no matter how unpalatable.
Take concrete steps to begin to address some of the issues. Whether or not I can solve everything, or even most things, I can do something about most things. I desperately need to break the hold that my emotional condition has on me.
Start listening better to the people in my life who care about me. At the moment they seem to believe in me more than do I myself.
Creatively analyzing my situation with a view to possible improvements in it. A little improvement is better than none. Maybe everything isn’t quite as far gone as I currently believe, maybe I can still pull myself back from the brink. Of if not, figure out how to ride out the storm caused by going over the edge.
Let go of the past, embrace the future. What is, is. What has already happened is done, over and can’t be changed. But what has not yet happened, may never happen, or may result in outcomes totally different than anticipated by my fears.
I haven’t entirely let go of the past, and I continue to work on those things from the past that still cause havoc in my life. What can say, two short years later, is that there is hope, and things have actually improved, through hard work, a renewed practice of personal discipline in following my new lifestyle, and a willingness to be open and transparent to my partner, which means a lot less anxiety of both our parts, and a better, if not a little more complicated, redefinition of our lives, both together and apart.
How has pain been a complex problem in your life? How has pain interacted with your movement, energy, sleep, social life, finances, identity, memory, and mood?
Mastering Pain Institute
After listening to and reading the materials in the 1st leasson of the Pain Mastery Class it asks the student to answer the above questions.
How has pain interacted with my movement? As pain from various causes has increased over the past few years I have observed that my ability and willingness to move has undergone an uncomfortable metamorphosis. Simple tasks like walking, bending over, picking up items, getting dressed, doing my toe nails, making the bed… etc. have all become much more difficult.
Neuropathic pain has combined with arthritis to make steering the car for long periods increasingly painful. I alternate from my left to my right hand constantly as I drive, because the pain builds up in each as it is used. Eventually the pain is too great in both hands and I have to take a break. The pain in my legs and feet make driving hard as well, and certainly limited my pleasure from doing so. Driving a car is one of my great pleasures, or, it used to be one of my great pleasures and it represented a kind of freedom that is now gradually disappearing from my life.
The same can be said for a lot of routine physical tasks, all the way from making the bed to cleaning the mirrors in my bathroom. I didn’t used to mind housework or gardening but it is now so painful to mow the lawn that I’d rather let it grow twice as long as I used to. These type of restrictions have inevitably reduced my freedom of movement, and my interest in and willingness to do routine, simple life tasks.
How has pain affected my energy? Anybody who suffers from chronic pain will attest to the fact that constant, unrelenting pain is exhausting. There is almost no time when I’m not tired and so sore I feel like I really just want to lay down and sleep for a while. Even a nap would seem like a relief, if I can sleep, that is.
The net available energy is a function of pain in my body. The more severe the pain becomes, the less energy I have. And not only to do life in general, but in having the interest and energy to participate in the things of life. A lack of energy is behind so many other deficits experience by people with chronic pain that it tends to blind us to how serious it actually is. Without sufficient energy to function properly nothing actually works the way it is supposed to work. How the hell am I supposed to do my job at work, when I hardly have enough energy to get there in the first place every day?
How does pain affect my sleep? To most of us with chronic pain sleep is seldom deep or really very restful. Not a single night of sleep goes by without being disrupted, again and again by waking fully or partially because of pain in the body. For me it is all sorts of different parts of the body and different types of pain, but it all hurts, and it all makes me awaken at some point during sleep. If I wonder why I’m so damned tired all the time, I simply have to remind myself that I really haven’t had a decent night’s sleep in years.
I’ve been diagnosed with sleep apnea, but sleep apnea really isn’t the reason I’m awake half the night. It’s the pain, the pain. Snoring is a part of it. Blocked airways aggravates it. But pain causes sleep interruption, over and over again, every single time I go to sleep.
How does pain affect my social life? What social life? Who really has the energy to maintain a social group or friendships when you’re in constant pain? It takes energy I don’t have and mobility that is a constant struggle, simply to get out and visit with people. I’m no longer the happy go lucky guy I used to be. I try not to spread my pain around, or make my kids and grandkids suffer from my experience of pain. But I wonder if my increasing isolation from them is at least partly because I do longer know how to overcome my pain for long enough to actually properly engage with people.
And being socially isolated also increases my experience of pain, because lacking real human contact with others is not only uncomfortable, but it’s also actually harmful physically because it encourages inactivity and passiveness. Instead of getting out and doing things with the people I love, I stay at home, watching television, at least partly because it’s less painful than the alternatives of getting out of the house, and doing the things necessary to have a life.
How does being in pain affect my finances? This is one of the things that is most humiliating about being in pain. Instead of being vibrant and capable, I’m tentative and withdrawing from challenges. I used to love going to the office and taking on new challenges, meeting new people, creating new financial opportunities for myself, and for my staff. Now I have no staff, and I’ve been afraid for years of taking on jobs that I know I’m qualified to do because I’m afraid that I’m going to let them down, or worse, prove myself to be incapable of handling the physical and emotional demands of the work.
In addition, my increasing health problems cost a lot of money, which I am now having to pay with a lot less income, due to my reduced employment capabilities. I struggle to manage my prescription deductibles and copays. And that’s for the prescriptions, which doesn’t actually include any pain medications I can trust. Nothing the doctor has prescribed for pain has actually helped very much, if at all. I know that opioids would be more effective than OTC drugs but I also know that they are highly addictive, and have major other problems that I don’t need to add to my pain.
And being chronically short of money, as well as in pain, means that I can’t take advantage of one of the things I used to do a lot, which was going out to nice restaurants and have good meals with friends. Shortage of money means that I’m socially isolated by it, as well as by my resentment over finding myself in this situation. I never wanted to be dependant on anyone else but I find myself in a situation that make this every more a fact of life.
How does pain affect my sense of identity? Truthfully, I don’t really recognise myself any more. I no longer feel like the man I used to be, and I certainly don’t have the confidence I have always had. I’ve always thought of myself as a highly charged, somewhat hyperactive and oversexed Type A personality. If I had faults they were likely the faults of thinking that I could do anything, be anybody, accomplish anything. A little bit of humility probably wasn’t a bad thing for me to learn, but pain has driven me to distraction. The amount and persistence of pain has now reached proportions that are disabling my sense of self to a point of no return. I don’t actually know what it would look like for me to be me, the way I have always been. So damage to my sense of identity is a real cost of being a victim of chronic pain.
How does pain affect my memory? My partner says that I’ve become a lot more forgetful than previously. I’m not sharp anymore, and I don’t automatically pick up on things so quickly. I don’t think I’ve lost my marbles, but I get confused more easily and mix things up, despite my best efforts to not do so. It means I slow down, because I can no longer count on my memory for important information. I’m a lot more cautious than I used to be, if for no other reason than I hate being unable to remember even the simplest facts or common words.
I’ve always been a prodigious reader, at one point reading more than a book a day, not to mention newspaper and magazines. Now it takes me a week to read a novel, and a month to work through a non-fiction title, no matter how interested I am in the subject. I don’t remember names very well, I never did, but I’m also losing the ability to remember what books I’ve read or which ones I liked or didn’t like. I find myself half way through the first chapter of novels only to realize that I read the damned thing six month ago. So yes, memory is being affected negatively, if only because I’m so distracted by the constant pain interrupting the flow of my thoughts and feelings.
How does pain affect my mood? I was diagnosed as being bipolar when I was about thirty years old, after a major breakdown and depression. After being hospitalized for six months I came out of the hospital with somewhat better emotional management tools than I had previously. Relatively quickly I abandoned the prescriptions for bipolar I had been given, because they made me feel like I was living in a fog. And I reconciled myself to living with vivid emotional ups and downs. So depression and mania have long been a part of my nature, and my life. I’ve done well in managing to live a full life despite these problems, but now it feels like depression stalk me, without the accompanying manio to provide any balance to it.
There are two kinds of depression with which I struggle, one of which is a direct result of serious and chronic pain. It’s tough to get out of being depressed when you feel like you’re under a constant pressure cooker caused by physical and mental pain. This past weekend, in addition to chronic neuropathic pain in my hands and feet, arthritic pain in my shoulders, fingers, hands, I was also slayed by a serious migraine headache. I haven’t suffered from migraines on a regular basis for years, ever since I started practicing a form of self-hypnosis that seemed to be effective at shortening their duration, and eventually led me to being able to predict and prevent the worst of them.
Even that ability seems to be beyond my control these days, because it’s pretty hard to meditate when I’m in so much pain that I can hardly sit still.
I don’t know if this exercise in counting the ways that pain affects me is supposed to make me feel better, but it hasn’t yet. I also suppose that to defeat an enemy I first have to understand the enemy and all the territory it has staked out in my life. This is the exercise from Chapter 1 in my program to begin to manage my pain. I hope the next exercises don’t leave me here.
I’ve been bipolar all of my adult life. I equate being bipolar, in some ways, with being out in the weather. Some days it is sunny and bright, all things are possible, nothing can get me down. Some days are stormy, threatening lightning and thunder, and I’m afraid to get out of bed. So in addition to having to deal with diabetes, I also have to manage my emotional state. One of the best things about Intermittent Fasting is that it is another way I gain positive emotional feedback, by taking control of my health, as well as my emotional life.
Years ago, after several years of psychiatric medications, I decided that I couldn’t live with the “deadness” I felt while medicated. I felt like I was living in a fog, without any connection at all to the real me inside. I’d given up everything that made me “me” and was stuck inside a pseudo human being, without flavour, without emotions, without any reason to live at all. I don’t want to live that way, and so I’d rather live with my extreme emotional roller coaster than depend on meds to keep life in balance.
Before you decide to abandon your medications, and go it alone, consult with your doctor and make sure that you have a professional to provide you with ongoing care, just in case things don’t go the way you think they should.
Building mastery gives you a sense of accomplishment, Van Dijk said. What activity you choose “will just depend on where [you are in your] life and what will create that feeling of being productive.”
For instance, she said, this might mean volunteering, getting out of bed at 9 a.m. instead of noon or going to the gym three times a week. Or it might mean checking “the mail if that’s something you’ve been avoiding, … gardening or going for a 5-minute walk.”
Bipolar disorder is a serious illness. The illness itself along with treating it can feel overwhelming. But by taking small steps every day, you can effectively manage and minimize symptoms and lead a healthy, fulfilling life. If you’re not involved in treatment, contact a doctor or mental health practitioner. The strongest and healthiest step you can take is to seek professional support.
So, what then? I can’t rely on emotions to be an accurate guide, either for behaviour, or commitments. I can’t maintain relationships as an on-again, off-again basketcase. So I decided that my behaviour would be governed by my personal values instead of my feelings at any given moment. Whether I’m happy as a kite, manic and unstoppable, or in deep depression, I choose to respond to external input based on what I really want in the long run. This means that I’m always willing to be supportive and listen to others, whether I feel like it or not. It’s not about me, it’s about them and the kind of a man I really want to be. My actions are governed by my intentions, not my feelings.
That’s not to say that I don’t completely “fuck-up” everything sometimes, either in my personal or professional life. It’s especially true when I forget what’s really important to me, and don’t live up to my higher purposes.
But the other part of living is that I have to be completely accountable for my actions. That’s easier said than done, but I own my mistakes and forgive myself, rather than going over things again and again and again. Instead of being proud of myself only when manic and ashamed of myself the rest of the time, I accept myself, good and bad.
Neither be a God, (as I sometimes thought of myself when in a manic phase), no nobody, (
which is how I often saw myself during a serious bouts of depression. Instead, I’m just a human being striving to live my highest and best life. I no longer live in judgment, either of myself or others.
I feel for your pain, I really do. But live with it, and have a life worth living, regardless of temporary emotional states that come and go without any useful purpose. Ironically, over time you’ll come to be a lot happier with who you’ve become. Self respect and personal accountability trumps bipolar, at least, for me.