New Goal

I handled the hassle and stress of the appointments yesterday with more poise, maturity, and equanimity than I expected or even strived for. I think my new commitment to trying my best to keep an agreeable, level, and positive mindset and to be as proactive rather than reactive in terms of anticipating and preventing major mood, emotional, or physical nosedives has been working surprisingly well for me. I made no official resolution or verbalized goal in this regard recently, but it’s been a behavioral strategy that I’m trying to practice and cultivate into a habit for a couple of weeks now. The idea, though certainly not novel, was self-generated after I was considering how much more reactive I am to things than other people and how this sensitivity is often detrimental to my own happiness and comfort. Because I also have chronic physical illnesses and I’m so rarely free from severe pain, it’s easy to get caught up in a negative mindset, succumb to depression, and allow my anxiety disorder to take the reins in my brain and catastrophize every unknown or potentially stressful situation. I am working with doctors but we haven’t been able to control my disease manifestations with much potency yet. Therefore, chronic pain is essentially inevitable.

Several months ago, I started trying to work on separating the physical feelings from influencing my psychological ones. While I approached this goal with alacrity, it’s still a constant battle that is met with varying degrees of success. Although my emotional wellness is still more under the strong-wielding arm of my physical state than I’d like it to be, this goal helped prime me for my current, interrelated goal. This newer one is more practical and immediate though, which is what I believe to behind the improved results. Whereas before the goal was simply to “not let physical pain inextricably pollute my emotional state,” I now try to think through how I’m feeling or anticipate how I will likely feel given my history and self-understanding. Then I consider how I can prevent or change any negative emotions before they happen. Here’s where the practical comes in because sometimes there are concrete steps I can take to optimize the chances of feeling well without only relying on mind over matter.

For example, if there any projected sensory issues, I can strategize or pack a toolkit to minimize the assault. In situations like the medical appointments yesterday, which have notoriously been a high-stress, upsetting and often futile endeavor, bringing Ben was a smart and calming antecedent. After these logistics have been considered and planned for, the rest is choosing to control my emotional experience to the physical one as much as possible. This sounds airy-fairy and the type of thinking I would have scoffed at on all prior years of my life, but I’m finally starting to believe it and understand it. The difference between this adjusted goal and the broad initial one about physical pain is that this goal gets revisited with every endeavor I think through, giving me the opportunity to recommit and budget my efforts through a shorter, discrete event. It feels exhausting and unmotivating to always need to be “on” and doing this work. Since I’m chronically in pain, there’s little respite or a light at the end of a visualizeable tunnel if the goal is to never let the pain dictate my mood. In my revised strategy, I hold myself accountable to controlling my downward spiraling emotions for specific events or days. This makes the effort seem more reasonable in terms of duration, even if the specific activity or obstacle to navigate seems monstrous.

Yesterday was certainly trying. It was tiring to be in the car so long, wait at the appointments, feel hungry without having the possibility of eating in a contamination-free zone, and deal with the appointments themselves. Even Ben, who didn’t have the emotional fatigue of seeing the doctors and doesn’t carry the same stress I do for such, said he was beat. Nonetheless, he agreed that I kept my spirits high, laughed a lot (during the drives and waits), was fun to be around, and kept my anxiety and irritability to imperceptible levels–a glowing review! I’m a harsh critic with expectations that border on unrealistic, but even so, I think I did pretty well remaining relaxed, pleasant, and genial. We didn’t get everything accomplished at the appointments that I hoped for, though this wasn’t a product of my attitude or under our control; there were simply issues with some of the treatment plans. In my experience, medical appointments rarely go off without a hitch of some sort! Unfortunately, this means I have follow-ups scheduled to address the immediate loose ends.

I’m grateful that I had help going to the appointments yesterday. This technique worked to pacify my nerves and ensure I got good care through adequate advocacy and communication. Because of this, my mental energy was freed up to funnel into maintaining a positive attitude and not turning into a grumpy, upset ball of nerves. Coupled with my attentiveness to control my emotions, this led to the favorable outcome we experienced. Once we got home and ate some food, we were able to actually enjoy the remainder of the day off together instead of stewing in disgruntled moods (which was often the case previously, as my grumpiness would contaminate his disposition too). We are tackling a really difficult science jigsaw puzzle, and tapping in pieces together was a satisfying treat after the exhausting day!

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