But on a More Positive Note

I ended my thoughts on trying to NaNoWriMo while managing chronic pain on a rather bleak note.  It wasn’t my intention but so often my current moods will color my writing–especially the nonfiction–and I was feeling broody and pragmatic that day.  It goes against the spirit of why I even joined NaNoWriMo this year to end the month feeling pessimistic, so I’ve come back to add a final thought.

Some is better than none.*

I am reminded over and over again that writing a novel mostly lives in the editing portion. That is where you grow and that is where you shine.  Brilliant books go through several drafts.  But you know what you have to do before you can edit your manuscript Yup, you have to write the first draft. Physically. On paper. It has to exist in 3D, not just in your daydreamer brain.

So, while I may have only gotten 2,000 words out of the 50,000 word goal (I dunno, I stopped keeping track. It was probably less.) that is still 2,000 more words than I started with on November first.  It’s something.  It’s positive. It has value. It was the best I could do this year and that month and it was enough.

*Psssst. I borrowed that. Click the link.

 

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My Painful Past

If you haven’t been following along, I like to set my readers in a good place to start the story. I was recently diagnosed with fibromyalgia after a two year battle with daily pain and I have taken it upon myself to document my story of chronic illnesses here. When I think about it, when I really focus, I can remember a life-long relationship with pain.

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In elementary school, I sat out of a lot of P.E. activities. Mostly if they involved running. I have never been very sporty and grew to hate gym class but I don’t think avoidance was my issue. I distinctly recall that my ankles bothered me when I ran. I remember it as a sharp, jarring pain that was worse in one ankle than the other (which one I can’t be too sure of at the moment). I saw a doctor several times. I had X-rays done. I might have even worn a brace? But the most vivid memory I have of this time period is that a doctor eventually decided I had hurt my ankle and was now causing micro-fractures every time I ran on it. He put me in a cast (bright pink, waterproof) in the hopes that I would heal. It was very weird explaining to people that I had not broken anything really. I don’t remember what happened after that. I don’t know how long it took for my ankle problems to dissipate but they did. I don’t currently have problems with them and I haven’t had problems with them in a decade or more. It’s entirely possible that I grew out of whatever issue my ankle bones had with running.

In middle school, I graduated to back pain. I don’t remember if it took awhile for people to take me seriously or not. I do remember describing what I went through sometimes, as the muscles in my back gripping tight and refusing to let go (spasms). I remember I got pretty good care. I went through dozens of tests including five million scoliosis exams, XRays, an MRI, and a bone scan. A couple of those were damn near terrifying considering my phobia of needles and enclosed spaces.  The most frustrating part was that they couldn’t figure out what was wrong with me. I was diagnosed with chronic back problems. They thought maybe I had injured myself from carrying around a 25 pound french horn and a backpack that weighed even more as well as carrying my emotions in my back muscles. I went to a gifted and talented school and was pushed to be a high achiever. I was under too much stress for a thirteen year old.  They sent me to stress management counseling where I learned how to meditate (a skill that has been very useful to me over the years). In the end, my mom sought out chiropractic care and massage therapy. Both were considered way more alternative than they are now. But I actually found answers and relief. Although my situation would remain chronic.

Over the years I was able to achieve lower levels of pain and many, many pain-free days. I was able to remain moderately active. I didn’t need any prescriptions. I was never bed-bound. It became routine. Familiar. I was actually proud of my tolerance, considering it fairly high because I dealt with pain so often. It didn’t have a scientific name and I never wrote “back problems” down under medical issues. Life carried on.

At twenty nine I was pregnant. Along with many other issues including but not limited to debilitating fatigue, oily hair, burning acne on my chest, horrible depression and suicidal ideation, my old friend Severe Pain returned. It was most prominent in my tail bone, butt bones, and pubic bone and it started early. They liked to tell me that my body was preparing for labor and I would just stare at them like ,”Guys, I’m only two months in.” Exercising? Out of the question. Walking became ridiculous too. Rolling over in bed? Agony. It has come to my attention that I was probably suffering from Symphysis pubis dysfunction but even if I had gotten them to diagnose this, they still would have waved it off.

It set the precedent for the next two years: being in pain and being ignored.

 

Your Pain Is Valid

“We know you can write sad poems. Have you thought about writing a happy one?”

She said this to me at our group’s monthly meet-up and it was followed by murmurs of agreement and chuckling.  Someone else said, “Oh, she’s young.”

I was stung. Literally as if their words were a hive of bees and I sat frozen. I could feel my insides shriveling up, reversing the work that poetry does in opening my soul. I will forever be grateful to the person who whispered, “Ignore them,” because it dried my tears at least.

I believe that was the last time I made the trip. Other things factored in, such as winter coming and my anxiousness with driving in the dark.  But I’ve faced the fact that this moment successfully killed all desire to meet with these specific poets.  This was two years ago.

I was twenty-eight at the time, although I am often mistaken for ten years younger based on my face.  I don’t consider late-twenties to be a “young” designation.  I suppose in comparison to living until you re ninety, twenty-eight is youthful.  But I had nearly three decades of experience on this planet. I couldn’t believe how dismissive they were about the things I had to say based on my perceived age.  I had been through a lot. I have been through a lot.  But even if I hadn’t been twenty-eight, perhaps I had been eighteen, they had no right to dismiss my pain. All pain is valid. It doesn’t matter how much or the type, all pain is fucking valid.

At the time, I was clinically depressed. I was homesick and lonely. I was still processing trauma. Instead of turning to drugs or alcohol or any other destructive behaviors, I turned to writing. I’m sorry that I did not find catharsis in writing about rolling meadows and babbling brooks.

Just remember, your experiences are never less and pain is not a contest.

Surviving Pregnancy: Hydrotherapy

Hydrotherapy is just a fancy way to say I used water to survive pregnancy.

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Let me preface this by saying doctors do not recommend pregnant women sit in too hot of water (hot tubs are a no-go). I wasn’t high risk so please check with your OBGYN if you are. The goal is to not let your internal body temperature to rise too high. I always kept a glass of cold water with me to hydrate, the bathroom door stayed open, and my bathtub is really shallow so that the water barely made it over my thighs let alone my bump.

All precautions aside, I spent a lot of time in my bathroom. In the first trimester I was trying to control my anxiety. The sound of running water was better than a white noise machine. It also helped to ground me. Anxiety is about living in the future, a future you can’t predict but drive yourself crazy trying to do so anyway. It is helpful to center yourself in the here and now. And the warmth of the water relaxed my muscles, of course, helping to ease the physical symptoms of panic.

From the second trimester on, I was in a metric ton of pain that only increased with time. Sure, my lower back sometimes ached with the new way I was carrying myself, but mostly my bones hurt. My pubic bone, butt bones, and tail bone were a constant issue. By the end, I asked for pain killers because it felt like my pelvis was being slowly torn apart.

The only relief I found was the shower. I stopped taking baths and would sit in the tub with my back to the shower spray. Often, the pressure of the water itself would feel like a massage. I hated getting my hair damp all the time but eventually stopped caring. Sometimes I felt bad about running up our gas bill but eventually stopped caring about that too. The shower was my only luxury so I indulged.

Hydrotherapy is also helpful in early labor and postpartum.