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,