Physical Pain Response

I’ve had a little health setback. With the Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome and my proprioception and balance problems, I fall all the time. Lately, some of the falls have been scary and resulted in significant injuries. Monday was one such fall, and so I’ve been achy and cranky for several days. The more physical pain I’m in, the more down or irritable my mood, which, I imagine is fairly normal, but I’d like to change this conditional statement from “if I’m in a lot of physical pain, then I’ll be upset” to “if I’m in a lot of physical pain, then I take care of myself until I’m better” (or some other clause that isn’t a “rule” about my mood.

Part of the challenge I face in breaking this pattern is distracting myself from the pain so I can still function happily. Outdoor time tends to be my best distractor, but depending on the nature or cause for my pain (especially certain injuries or illnesses), physical movement outside is ill-advised or impossible. I enjoy baking, but we try not to use the oven in the summer. Writing helps me feel better but I usually write for pleasure first thing in the morning only because later in the day, I write for my work, so I often need a different activity to shake things up.

Yesterday, I watched the rain while I set up a bunch of ice packs around my injured body parts. It was one of those July torrential showers, accompanied by crashing thunder and heat lightening, that sweeps in and out within a matter of twenty minutes, leaving no evidence aside from steaming puddles and a green-tinged sky. As the ice chilled my inflamed joints and heavy rain bounced off our splintering deck, I tried simply listening and watching. Comet, seemingly confused about the oddity of this behavior, paced around and then and sunk her body next to my splayed limbs with a heavy sigh. I pet her ears and whispered words of reassurance. When the storm tapered into pitter-pattering rain, I returned the ices to the freezer, and noticed how my pain had not subsided. It would be a stretch to say that I was no longer feeling down or lonely either, but I did feel calmer, less edgy, and ready to get back to work in a productive manner. Although I’d give most anything to have less frequent, severe, and incapacitating pain, because this is more of a “genie wish”-type pipe dream than a realistic hope, I need to get better at managing my emotional response and trying to create a larger separation between the two: physical and emotional. While not easy, I don’t think it’s impossible to confine physical pain to essentially just the physical response, rather than necessitating spillover into negative emotional consequences. Emotional pain does not have to be inevitable. With my chronic health issues, this has to become an important goal in my process of growth and something I continue to explore.

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