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Health and self-metta

October 20, 2010

Sorry I haven’t been up to much interaction lately. I can read or write, but coordinating the two into commenting has been harder. Again, it’s not that I’m disinterested!

Yes, I’m still down with this weird virus. It’s proving to be quite the learning experience.

As you probably know by now, I’ve got some chronic health problems, which include pain and fatigue. Throwing the amazingly strong viral fatigue in on top of that has been making me look at and deal with some of the hurtful crap I’ve been telling myself all along.

It’s painfully obvious just how ridiculous these self-judgments are, when I am undeniably very sick. It’s also helped expose the perceived differences between a limited-term illness with its more understandable to a lot of people impairment (to go along with its clear beginning and end), and chronic problems.

For example, last night I tried to cook a “decent” supper, and had to go lie down before I could finish–much less eat–it; the exhausted, shaking limbs and trouble lifting so much as a glass of water once I’m worn out are built-in limiting factors here. It’s easier to admit to myself that this is a legitimate problem, and that it’s unreasonable to Just Try Harder. Not to mention that I will probably keel over in the floor if I do approach things that way, with no emergency reserves available ATM. This has brought home just how much I usually rely on those emergency reserves, and operate in my own personal red zone, just to show that I’m not lazy. Right now, I just can’t do that.

That incident also helped show what an absurd emphasis I’ve been putting on “if I can’t do anything else, at least I can do X”–and how much that’s been affecting my sense of worth on a daily basis. Sometimes you can’t reasonably make a simple tamale pie and bagged salad, and you’re still a worthwhile human being.

OTOH, my mind keeps repeating the same old tired, abusive scripts, including that I’m just malingering and making shit up to get out of doing what I should be doing (which other people can do, no problem). Under the circumstances, it’s easier to see just how little connection to reality they have, and how they keep intensifying to try to get my attention.

On Dreamwidth, firecat made a very relevant post a couple of days ago: How To Be Sick–check it out. The comment I made a little while ago:

Thanks for posting this. I would like to read How to Be Sick.

Toni Bernhard said at one point that this culture “worships at the altar of wellness.” I think that sums up an appropriate response to the “health is a choice” concept.

Exactly. This makes me think of a post from a while back, at Smiling Buddha Cabaret, What’s Happened to Original Sin? It’s Become Unhealthy. I had thought about some of this stuff in relation to the blame and shame; she also offers some excellent observations on the difference between approaches centered around redemption or enlightenment. “Redemption makes what was bad good. Enlightenment simply shows what is…They are completely different orders of experience.”

I realized that the reason I experience envy around this is that I don’t accept my social limitation. I think I should be able to fix it or get over it. If I can let go of that belief then I might not feel so conflicted around the issue.

Oh my, yes. I keep finding myself in a very similar position. (Extra fun with a combination of having chronic pain and fatigue, and being somewhere on the autistic spectrum.) I also find myself envying friends who are not dealing with the same things, and get mindboggling amounts of stuff “accomplished”; I tend to start feeling very inadequate and blaming myself for not being able (or willing) to do the same. In a way, it’s been easier to recognize the mental garbage, since I keep parroting exactly the same stuff at myself that I kept hearing from other people who did not understand (or care, in some cases) what was going on. But I still have trouble with the same ridiculous looping scripts; at least I’m usually able to see them for what they are and not identify with them now. The “stranger on the street” standard has been useful here, too: would I consider it reasonable to judge a total stranger this way, much less someone I care about more closely? Would I talk to someone else this way? I sure do hope not. And I have learned that it’s best just not to engage with other people who are emotionally abusive, so why continue to take the same crap seriously coming from myself? Some self-metta is in order here.

I wanted to comment on more, but have been wanting to write a post about some of this stuff anyway–good prod! 😉

More on self-metta (decent translation: loving-kindness), from Pema Chödrön: Unlimited Friendliness Rather good introduction: How Insight and Loving-kindness Free Us from Mental Parasites. (Also good, linked from that one: Taming Elephants-How To Transform Negative Habit Energies: “Negative habit energies are like ticking time bombs. These powerful imprints lie dormant in consciousness until triggered by our own or others words or actions.” A little different approach to PTSD-type stuff.) offers some observations on practice: Stage 1 – Cultivating metta toward yourself.

This acute illness has helped me understand on a deeper level that, as part of the instilled perfectionism, I really haven’t been accepting that the stuff I described in Culture, how we view human difference, and abuse also applies to me. Perceived caregiver burden, in dealing with your own chronic health problems? No better than laying it on other people. It’s just as likely to lead to abuse, not to mention imbalance and unhappiness. Peace within yourself? That can be the hardest part.

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. October 20, 2010 5:27 pm

    I listened to a CBC radio documentary about this woman who has lived with chronic pain for years. The Medical establishment had labeled it as in her own head. So for years she was in so much pain, but not taken very seriously. She was finally diagnosed with some ailment (I don’t recall what it is) and is living relatively well. She is a professor of law in Calgary. Many of her years lost to the medical establishment narrow vision. Can’t imagine how hard it is for people with chronic illness. Take care

  2. October 20, 2010 6:33 pm

    Yeah, please take care of yourself as much as possible.

    But seriously, I mentioned Mononucleosis before in a comment to one of your posts. But I aso call Mono “teacher” because it showed me how it felt to hit my Limits – to be legitimately fatigued and exhausted . And I realizd more and more that I felt this way all the time. That the only reason I was looking remotely normal was “emergency mode”. It was the first time I KNEW I was autistic, before I thought I “wasn’t REALLY”. I started doing all these wonderful feeling, “stimmy” things (which was a gift in and of itself, and I had been doing some before) and lost speech most of the time and comprehension too. The only reason I hadn’t been acting like that before was that I had SO MUCH YOUTHFUL ENERGY. I could keep doing things everyone else’s way, hitting a brick wall, crashing, dragging myself up again and doing it again.

    I also saw how people reacted to me when I wasn’t at my best. Glares, dirty looks, avoidance. And thought “oh wow, this is some people’s interaction wit other people all the time”.

    I now have chronic fatigue and post-exertion-malaise and some joint aches. Since the virus. But I actually feel less “impaired” now, because I know how to “be disabled” .

    If I’m making sense right now.

  3. October 20, 2010 6:41 pm

    “my body is working as hard as it can to protect me.”
    (from “How to Be Sick”)

    Oh yes!

    or “My body is doing many things that let me be alive”
    So that I can keep enjoying sight, smells, and doing the thing I need to.

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