Sunday, November 1, 2009

slowing down

If my Migraine disease has taught me anything - and continues to teach me anything - it's the value of slowing down.

We talk about slowing down all the time when we discuss chronic illness. Being chronically ill requires us to reserve our energy for those things that really matter, to evaluate what we can and cannot do based on how our bodies feel. While initially upon being diagnosed we can fool ourselves into thinking we can still operate our lives at "normal" speed (whatever that means), eventually our bodies demand us to make some hard decisions.

On an even more basic level than that, time slows down with pain. My Migraines and IIH together mean I'm in constant pain. Coping with that pain can slow down time - can you remember a time when a painful injury made it feel like an eternity until that pain was relieved? Chronic pain has a funny way of altering one's perception of time.

Slowing down also takes shape in the way we carefully consider choices where others might make snap decisions. Should I go out tonight, or stay in? If I get off the couch, will my symptoms feel better or worse? What is the best thing for me to eat tonight, based on how I'm feeling? If I take a shower in the morning, will that make it more difficult to get through a full day of work? Should I shower at night instead? How can I dress myself to go out so I'm comfortable but still feel stylish? Stopping to consider every little incidental action slows us down.

Since yesterday was Saturday, that meant a weekly trip to one of our local farmers' markets. DF and I buy the vast majority of our food directly from farmers. (There's quite a large backstory here, which I plan to post about in the future. The short version of our reasoning is that it's the cheapest way to get the quality of food I need to eat to help manage my multiple illnesses.) The seasonal market we used to go to ended at the beginning of October, so we're now going to a year-round one; since DF was working on Saturdays I got to go myself. Which was a nice change from our usual habits.

Yesterday I wasn't feeling very well because of some stormy weather that had passed through the night before. My body soon told me to slow down, a not-so-gentle reminder that even when I think I'm taking it slow, my body has ideas of its own. So I found myself in one of the farmers' stalls, surrounded by fresh produce, deeply breathing in the wonderful smells of earthy, spicy fall vegetables. Mmmm. And I found myself smiling despite how crappy I felt.

When illness and pain try to steal everything from my life - friends, family, health, happiness, fun - I find myself eventually refocusing on those things that are most important to me, and those simple things that bring me joy. In a world complicated by medications, symptoms, doctors, hospitals, treatments and bills, it is incredibly refreshing to enjoy the simple beauty of the first winter squash of the season. That joy doesn't make the pain and illness go away, but it does give me a way to step outside myself, even if just for a minute. And it gives me a moment of slowing down.

Be well,


Megan Oltman said...

Beautiful post, MJ! As frustrating as it may be to have to slow down, and slow down again, I don't think living at "normal speed" is all it's cracked up to be. I love your description of the squash.

Trisha said...

It's amazing how much more we appreciate the mundane when even that is taken from us. I used to detest cleaning the bathroom. Now, on the days I feel up to the whole chore, the smell of the cleaning products is akin to perfume and the rhythm of the cleaning rag is a kind of exercise, if not a dance...breathe in, breathe out...I believe I'll follow your blog.

Tina said...

Thank you for sharing this post! Although, I do not suffer from chronic pain, I was gently reminded by this post that I also need to slow down and focus on what matters most in life. The simple pleasures and the everyday beauty that is so often overlooked in my busy life.

I'm really looking forward to reading more of your posts!

KC said...

I found your blog today while researching IIH and it has brought me to tears. For the past 6 1/2 years I have been struggling with daily headaches and migraines that just get worse. I've had sleep studies and a tonsillectomy and taken just about every medicine I could tolerate with no change. This time around I've had a severe headache for the last six weeks straight and my neuro just wants to fill me full of drugs without finding the cause. I'm changing neuro's and asking for the LP test because I present with every symptom. It's nice to know that I'm NOT crazy and that I'm not alone - and my husband is going to read this too so he can understand.