Papercut and colored pencil art by Sheryl Aronson X 5

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Balance: The Difference Between Thinking and Dwelling

I ended my last post with the following thought:  What if I change my thinking from "I am not my illness" to "I am an artist, a writer, a wife, a stepmother, a friend..." and leave the illness part out of my definition entirely?  I have read that the brain does not comprehend the term 'not', and so focusses on the rest of the statement.  ie, if I say "I am not my illness", the brain understands it as "I am my illness".  (I searched online, and couldn't find a source- if anyone knows one, let me know).

If I were to apply this idea completely, that would require not thinking about my illnesses at all.  It sure would be nice if this 'out of sight, out of mind' really worked, but unfortunately, it doesn't.  Not thinking about my illnesses won't make them go away.  On the other hand, thinking about them too much gives them a bigger part of me than I want them to have. 

The key is finding the balance.  I need to think about my illnesses in order to manage them.  I need to go to doctor's appointments, take my medications, do the various and sundry tasks day by day that keep me healthy.  I need to think about illness and pain in order to write this blog.  I need to think about Sjogren's Syndrome, specifically, if I am to fulfill my role as education chairperson of our local support group. 

There is a difference between thinking about and dwelling upon.  I can write out the questions and symptoms I want to bring up at my doctor's appointment, without moaning about the symptoms.  I can do research and prepare for our upcoming support group meeting without ruminating on my issues.  I can acknowledge the pain, the dryness and the fatigue in order to take the appropriate medications and measures to manage them,  then go about my business doing other things.

Sometimes this is a real challenge.  I wrote in my last post that my pain had been so bad that I had let it define me. How do I 'go about  my business' when the pain is that insistent?  By reminding myself that the pain will be there no matter what I do, I can sit and focus on it, and let it get me angry and depressed, or I can keep busy, and maybe I can distract myself for awhile.  I try to keep my focus on what I can do, rather than on what I can't do.  I take the precautions I need to take in order to not make the pain worse, but I try not to let the pain stop me from doing what I want to do.  This is my life, the only one I get, and I plan to make the most of it.

About that pledge to not let the pain stop me from doing what I want to do- Sometimes I have to modify what it is I want to do.  Will I ever bowl again, or jump on a trampoline, or ride an upside-down rollercoaster?  No.  But that's okay.  Those things don't sound like that much fun to me anymore anyway.  (This is not sour grapes, this is maturing and  refining my tastes).  I can walk in a garden, pick wild blackberries, and enjoy adventures vicariously by reading books.  I can help other people by presenting ideas about coping, about manging well, and about living life.  I'm too busy to focus on my...What was it I wasn't going to focus on? 

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