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This one's tough to narrow down to just one thing for me. "What in nature are you grateful for?"
What goes around, goes around again.
This probably won't be a quick post (my apologies), but I want to direct this particular gratitude entry towards those dealing with chronic pain and chronic fatigue. I want you to know, I see you. I feel your struggle because I'm stuck right there alongside you.
First off, for those who think that chronic fatigue is "just like the day after I partied too much," you're so far from the truth that it aches. Maybe, on some level, it's just like that day you partied too much. Times 365. 366 some years.
You can't just sleep it off, and there are few things more frustrating than waking up after a 22-hour nap, only to need to go back to bed an hour later, because You. Can't. Stay. Awake.
And sometimes, after an exhausting day of just getting through it, you simply. Can't. Sleep. Nope. Your brain, your body - they don't want anything to do with the "S-word".
Chronic fatigue and chronic pain can stem from a variety of things, but as I am not a medical professional, I can't diagnose, treat or cure you. Please seek professional help immediately if you are having problems with this. Please.
Second - Chronic Pain is not "all in our heads." And it's not something you can just pop a couple Aleve, Tylenol or Motrin for and be done with it. I've been dealing with chronic pain due to a tidy collection of medical issues for almost 10 years now, ranging from arthritis in my spine to chronic (read: constant) migraines and fibromyalgia. On a 1-10 scale for pain, I average a 5-6 daily. Some days, even with prescription meds as needed (which I resort to rarely), I'm near a 10 and curled up on the bed crying because nothing helps. On the low-pain-scale days, I stretch and try to do a little strength training. That doesn't mean hours on a yoga mat or an hour on the treadmill. I might make it through a 12-minute cardio workout on a really good day.
For those of you with chronic pain conditions, you know where I'm coming from. For those blessed with a mostly-pain-free life, it's not something we can just recover from with rest.
Now that I'm done with my little soapbox speech, on with the gratitude article!
What I'm grateful for in nature? Hands down - cycles.
Cycles mean the world continues to turn. They mean that after a hot, dry summer the rains will return. After a chilly, wet winter, we'll have sunny weather again.
In terms of my pain and fatigue, cycles mean that those bad days won't last forever. I have some control (not total, but some) over where I'm at in my pain/fatigue cycle.
I've talked about the Spoon Theory before. (If you haven't read about this yet, you can find it here.) This factors into two cycles that I deal with in my pain and fatigue management planning.
Cycle 1: The downward cycle.
I don't recommend trying this at home, kids. It sucks. It hurts. It's destructive. And it looks something like this:
You're tired, so you sleep in. The workout can wait.
You sleep too long and wake up so sore that you can barely get out of bed.
You manage to get out of bed, but your legs won't support you to take a shower.
Because you hurt, you don't work out at all, and crash out in your comfiest chair.
Because you hurt, you don't get anything done, because you can't focus past the pain.
Because you spent the day curled up in your chair, you're too sore to cook dinner, which means fast food, or frozen processed food - both feed the pain and inflammation in your body.
By bedtime, you're exhausted, even though you haven't done anything. And because you haven't done anything, you can't sleep (despite being exhausted) because of all the things running through your head that you're now behind on. The depression you battle gets deeper.
Wake up, multiply all of this times 2 for every day the cycle continues. It's ugly and it's my life.
But we have a choice, and it's ours to make. Only we can make it (though Hubby does try to encourage me out of it when I've spent more than 2 or 3 days lost in the downward spiral).
I can choose cycle 2 - the upward cycle.
The upward spiral looks a bit like this:
I wake up, tired and sore when the alarm goes off, but I throw the covers off anyway and crawl out of bed, get dressed and meet myself on my yoga mat. I listen to my body and choose a workout that's appropriate for my tight spots and the really sore spots rather than just going with whatever is on the schedule for the day.
By the time I finish, I've added a spoon or two to my daily allotment, and I hit the shower. I wash my face and brush my teeth, and then put makeup on, even though I'm probably not going out. I don't wear makeup for anyone but myself, and there was a time when I couldn't wear anything at all because I develop nasty contact allergies that flare up when I'm in flare up. Makeup applied and dressed in nice clothes, I head for the office, where my pot of tea is already waiting.
Some days, this whole process puts me in the office by 8:30 a.m. Other mornings, I don't make it to my desk until 11 a.m. Both are fine because I"m listening to my body.
Because I've planned out my day the night before, or at least tagged the most important to-do items on my list, I get more done than I planned and feel a little peppier by the time I shut down and go downstairs to make dinner with healthy, whole foods.
We have a lovely dinner as a family, everyone talking about their day (not all at once, though), and when the kitchen is cleaned up, I come back upstairs to read for a couple hours.
I clean up before I head to bed at a decent time that will allow me to get at least 8 hours of sleep, and have no issue (usually) falling asleep, because I got today's tasks done, and I know what I'm dealing with tomorrow.
The cycle repeats itself until one of two things happens: A) I get lazy and let myself fall back into Cycle 1 or B) I overdo it at an event, working around the house, or in the garden, and end up in Cycle 2.
Cycle 1 is part of my life. It got easier to meet myself in Cycle 2 when I stopped seeing my body as the enemy and started working with it instead.
And just about the time I forget to be mindful of where I am in my own cycles, Mother Nature chimes in with a seasonal change, reminding me that I can't control the weather, and I can't make my chronic illnesses go away, but I can control which cycle I want to live with, just for today.
So, here's where you can chime in, and I want to know:
What choices can you make today, to improve your pain/fatigue cycle tomorrow?
Hop into the comments below, and tell me!