on finding purpose

Hello.

It’s been awhile.

For nice reasons.

I have been more or less absent from the blog because I have been very busy with endeavors that are migraine friendly, satisfying, and might even line my pockets with benjamins someday. Doing silly, mildly offensive, and pretty things to altered vintage plates is pretty random, but I’m working from home, making a mess, and being a tad political all wrapped up in one big art project. Picking up the odd freelance writing gig and working some retail was never part of the plan, and yet here I am, loving it. Although I’m still very much in a transition phase, knowing that I can do money-earning stuff that brings me joy and a sense of meaning despite living with chronic pain is incredible. In-cred-i-ble.

Lousong made altered vintage plates-4

I didn’t know if this would happen, because for many it doesn’t. Migraine is a demanding beast that can take over just like that. I know this now. And it has taught me not to take my abilities for granted. More than three years after the onset of chronic migraine, I still have limitations. I still have to cancel plans often; reserve oodles of time for self care; sit down with my Cefaly three times a day; avoid triggering environments; go to bed on time; avoid half the foods in the world; etc., etc, but I have NEW abilities, like writing, teaching writing, painting, mindfulness, being a cat, saying no, and feeling strong and proud in the face of doubters who don’t have a clue. These are things that make me who I am, just as much as being a music teacher ever did. (I think. At least I want to feel that way. I’m really close to feeling that way. Often.)

When severe attacks hit me these days, they happen without the added layer of catastrophizing icing. Without the added weight of thoughts that are full of mourning the past and big black holes representing the future, the pain is just pain, and I can thus detach from it a bit more easily. I think this detachment in turn reduces pain levels. I know from experience that things like fear, anxiety, and sadness can make pain worse. I also know that being aware of this fact doesn’t make bad feelings go away. (PSA: positive thinking and nice feelings can not be turned on like a tap.) But time, hope, perseverance, a wicked support system, and finding new, pain-friendly modes of expression can lighten the load.

I would like to tell my former self, and those at the starting line of a chronic pain marathon this:

finding purpose with chronic pain

I realize this is easy for me to say. I have been so lucky to get what I need in order to learn to live well with chronic pain. I’m doubly lucky to find new ways to work, and I know there’s no way I’d be where I am today if it wasn’t for the blessed union-won medical leave that has been afforded to me on and off over the past three years as well as the insurance coverage that gets me sustaining “alternative” healthcare.

Lots of people don’t have this cushioning, having to push through the pain to make ends meet, feed mouths, support others, and carry on in a whole lot of contexts that are so much different than my own.

We need to support our community members living with chronic pain. We need to believe them. We need to hand over our taxes to medicare and social services. We need better research, and better care to provide comprehensive pain treatment plans to everyone. We need to take issue with the fact that most doctors will graduate from medical school with less than one day’s training in treating chronic pain.

Less than one day.

Sometimes only four hours.

That’s bat-shit crazy.

In other things-that-give-my-life-meaning-and-maybe-money news, the 2016 Calendar for people with chronic pain, a project by myself and awe-inspiring artist Jamie Ashforth, is about to hit the virtual shelves. I’ll let you know as soon as it does.

Anna

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