Pain, Overwhelm and Anxiety - it gets busy and it gets blurry.

 Overwhelm. I feel it often. I feel it hard. 

I have written about it before here. But, it wasn’t until I recently read a passage from Sarah Wilson's book “First, We Make the Beast Beautiful” that I began to wonder if this experience was actually something else. Anxiety. 


“When I’m anxious all my rushing, competing, frenzied thoughts are either a) plans or b) contingencies for what could happen. This me, as I currently am, is not good enough. A good life and the “right” me and the answers I seek are ahead in the future ….and I rush like buggery to get there.”


Overwhelm shows up for me like this too. I thought it was fuelled by stress. The more I lean into the discomfort of this feeling, examining it from within as its happening, my predominant thoughts are overactive planning. Thinking ahead, “if I just do this then….” or “If this goes wrong I will do this”….and on it goes. Always trying to plan for the perfect moment, the perfect life, waiting to be happy. At the time, this made sense to me. Living with chronic pain these past 35 years, oftentimes I will get swept away by unpredictable flare ups. Reason or no reason. Trying and not trying. Wanted (hang on, are they ever wanted?) or unwanted. They happen. Once they show up, my planning brain (attempts) to takes over. 


I call her Planning Patricia. You may recall I got to know her better on my recent silent retreat. She can really get me moving or more accurately, she gets me rushing and frenzied. Oh yes, that’s Patricia alright. She races to plug up every uncertain hole, cater for every possibility Be sure, be certain. But she desperately tries to do this in an ever-changing, unpredictable and messy life (in the full catastrophe as Jon Kabat Zinn calls it!). In this surge, it doesn’t take long before Patricia becomes overactive. She is making lists of lists, she’s cruelly demanding, come on you lazy slug, move it, there is SO much to do. There is a stabbing urgency (mostly self-imposed) forcing me to strive and prove and push myself. Any pain early warning signs were ignored and rammed down, I must keep going – there’s all this stuff that MUST be done. I must do more, be more, be better – in a relentless drive to prove I can (even when my body is now screaming to stop and that it bloody well can not!). 


When I am able to observe what is happening, honestly there is an “icky-ness” and unease that arises. My values are being threatened, hijacked. Patience, kindness, awareness and love. The non-stop tasks suffocate these out from me. I don’t know where to begin, so often I get to the point of overwhelm. I freeze and procrastinate or I crash and cry. But when I read that quote above, I felt the need to explore a little deeper. I started by looking back a step. What is Patricia planning and why?? Is she seeking control, certainty? What is she trying to prove, to achieve?


Let me explain with a recent experience. I went for a job. It sounded interesting but there was some lingering doubt. I got an interview then offered the job. I baulked. I fretted. I wrote up a list of pros and cons. This new opportunity would definitely expand my skills, as it was in a field I had not worked in before. But I stopped and asked myself – why? Why do I need to do this? Why do I feel like I still need to be better, more, fixed, larger? Despite all the work I have been doing recently building self-awareness, self-love and I was surprised to realise it came back to this same thing. Boom, straight to this familiar space, a familiar old program loop.


“I am not good enough.” The quiet voice said. I still think this, deep down. 


So maybe that’s anxiety. 

Maybe that is stress.

Either way – the more important question is - what do I do when I get in one of these states?


Recognise. The work I do when I am calm helps me recognise the early warning signs of excessive planning. Just simple observing and labelling the emotional state. Oh, here is overwhelm. Oh, here is Patricia getting herself in a tizz again. 


Right here, right now. Planning flings me into future based thought so I need to get mindful, connect with the present moment. Here. Now. Accept my current state. She might be a bit weather-beaten but she is not broken, she is enough. Another few helpful ways I have found to snap myself back into the present are walking in nature, playing with my essential oils, having a bath, formal meditation. 


Dropping “and then…” Often, when Patricia is doing her gung-ho thing, I am on auto-pilot, oblivious to my present moment actions because I am so caught up planning the next thing. And the next thing. And the next thing. So, here is a recent hack that I have figured out to disrupt this process. I drop the additional thought of “and then...” I just decide on the next best thing and do it, and be aware I am doing it. As opposed to continuing to plan what will happen next, and then next. Simply dropping “and then…” is enough to give pause, and be aware of my experience. Don’t worry what I will do next, just be with the current activity. 


Let it go. So easy to say, so hard to do. In the past, when things get frazzled, I would often ask for help. Change my plans, adapt. But reflecting on it, this is just still Patricia trying to plan her way out of the pain. She is frantically rearranging the plans so I can still attempt to do it all. Handball a few jobs, rest for a bit but I always come back to the list. So, when I am feeling this way, I need to tell Patricia to sit down and shut the hell up. Let it go. Trust it will be okay.  Allow and let it be. 


In writing this blogpost, I became interested to know if there is a link between chronic pain and anxiety. It would make sense because if we can’t control pain then there’s a good chance we try to control everything else, right?

– And it only took a quick bit of googling to find that yes, anxiety (and depression which often occurs at the opposite end of the spectrum) frequently co-exist with pain.


What are your thoughts?

Two helpful insights from my silent retreat experience


A few weeks ago, I participated in my first ever 7-day silent retreat. It was an extraordinary journey of self-discovery. The space and time and freedom from daily commitments allowed me to lean into some challenging thoughts I had been actively pushing hard against (resisting!), reconnect with spaces from deep within my past and to release long-help beliefs that no longer serve (such as the relentless pursuit of achievement), and also loads of aching for my loved ones at home. 



‘sadness is here’

‘fear is hear’

‘overwhelm is here’


This is the technique of non-identifying with thoughts and experiences. When strong emotions are present, I may have told myself, “I am sad, I am scared, I am overwhelmed.” I had believed these phrases brought enough space between me (who I am as a person) and the feelings. I had already understood this to be a step up from thoughts from my past of this was a step up from previous thoughts of “I am a sad person…etc.”). On this retreat I was supported to identify how these thoughts can feel intensely real, often provoking a visceral response (churning stomach, frowning, headache). Sitting with these feelings for longer periods enabled me to eventually experience their impermanent nature. These are just feelings being experienced in the moment. Just a part of the ever-changing, always growing person I am. They do not solely define me. Knowing this offered a sense of relief, a little bit of hope, and even comfort. I am also more aware how these feelings can relate to past causes, conditions and experiences and the heaviness of past hurts and memories arising. Blending stories into my present moment experience can intensify the emotion. As I work to deepen my practice, I can feel myself become more attuned to identify these feelings, to take that step back and recognise them for what they are. I do not need to get carried away by them, I can just gently look beyond these feelings with some helpful guiding questions. 

‘What else is here right now?’ 

‘Can I experience this and not suffer?’ 

These questions helped me to uncover a sense that my suffering originated from wanting the situation to be different to what it is. For example, I noticed feeling fidgety in longer meditation sits. I began asking myself ‘can I feel restless without suffering?’ Yes, slowly I came to figure out how. I let go of the desire to be constantly still (a preconceived idea of “master meditator”) and listened to my body. I gave myself permission to move and find a sense of ease, relief. I let go of the struggle and accepted how I was feeling. I even opened my eyes and spent spacious and empowering moments noticing what else was also breathing around me. 

In discovering this, I also thought of my children. Oftentimes they can have low moments, when emotions are high. They might say they are sad, angry, feel like they don’t belong. Of course, I want to jump straight in and take away their suffering. But in that moment, just like me, they need to know (and I need to remember), this is a passing feeling, just a part of them. It does not define them. It is not their identify. Railing against their reality is only going to initiate my own threat system (argh, stress is here!) and perhaps intensify theirs. And it also gave me insight that what comes out of their mouth in the heat of the moment, is not to be taken personally. (Perhaps also another interesting reminder also for when my own critical mind is screaming to be heard. 

To think in terms of either pessimism or optimism 

oversimplifies the truth. 

The problem is to see reality as it is.

-Thích Nhất Hạnh


Getting familiar with the familiar

Did you know, on average people have 12,000 to 60,000 thoughts a day? And many of them we have had before. Many are filtered through our strong prehistoric protective negativity bias. Some thoughts sound like a broken record, repeating again and again. On retreat, in silence, I had an opportunity to notice some of these. I brought a playfulness to it giving some of my thoughts names and identities. Meet the gang:

Perfect Prue. This is the voice of my inner critic. She’s a real bitch with her icy, nasty comments about how I am inferior, don’t belong, not good enough. You get the idea. She sneaks into my mind unannounced, sets up camp, constantly poking with her hurtful barbs. 

Planning Patricia. She pops up with a notepad, pen poised to get things in order for possible future events. Often, I was sitting in meditation and planning what I would do once it had ended, or how I might guide a meditation in a possible future course, or what I might say on the oft chance I meet some famous wisdom guru. Patricia’s voice was the one that was loudest. And I realised this makes sense. Maybe she originated to counterbalance the uncertainty that pain can bring (desperately clinging to an element of control when things feel ferociously disorderly. She’s is trying to protect me from the unknown. To be prepared! On retreat, her voice would quieten if I actually gave myself space and time to rest, to feel, to listen. All the buzzing activity of day-to-day life has enabled this planning mind to become overactive. 

Playful Petuna. Well, this one I liked a lot. She was the whimsical one who liked to create mischief and remind me not to take the world too seriously. Her suggestions are the ones that might break with convention or allow me to step out of the shackles of worrying what people might think. She likes to get all Richard Branson and has the catch cry, “screw it, just do it”. 

Soothing Suzy. She’s quite a reluctant voice (maybe because of frequently being ignored or dismissed) but, on retreat, she found her voice. She would encourage me to place a hand over my heart. She suggested opting for self care and for being over doing. She has helped me calm Patricia and Prue with kindness. 

And I am sure there are many other common voices that I have not yet discovered. Getting to know some of these common thoughts also helped to bring a bit of non-identifying as well. I am not Patricia, or Prue or Petunia or Suzy. These are just parts of me, arising and passing away, always changing. Getting to know them, allowing them to be here has helped me soften towards them and maybe, just maybe, these voiced don’t need to shout so loud anymore. I don’t need to latch on and jump to their every command. When I chose to arrive, home, here, now, there’s room for all. 


“The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in. – Rumi


Around this time, about 14 years ago, I was stressed and nervous hovering over stacks of pages. I was submitting my PhD thesis. 


In the years since then, I have told myself a number of stories about the entire process:


·      Dr is just a fancy box you can tick for fun on forms (I only ever did it a handful of times in the census and once on a bank statement).

·      To include Dr in front of your name is cocky and embarrassing.

·      My PhD is not relevant to what I am doing now (I willingly gave up academia for a joyous immersion in motherhood).

·      I never “did anything” with my PhD so why bother mentioning it.

·      I am not smart enough anyway.

·      I don’t belong in the PhD tribe.


It is time I changed the story. Pick one, pick them all – all are worthy of respect. 


·      I undertook 4 years of hard work, perseverance while battling the imbalance of my gender.

·      I learnt an abundance of skills that are transferrable in all parts of my life from parenting to relationships, to work and being a decent human. Skills such as resilience, flexibility, negotiation, collaboration and advocacy.

·      I learnt other skills I may not use as often but demonstrated to me my ability to learn and grow – such as designing, implementing and analysing a long-term scientific study, publishing my research in peer-reviewed journals, OHSC skills, how to program an irrigation timer, and even, statistics (urgh, the mere mention of the word brings on heart palpitations).

·      I built a strong foundation in oral and written communication (and that’s not just fancy for my CV and future paid employment but in day to day life).

·      Pursuing study meant sacrificing years of wage contribution to our family household budget


So, in honour of all those who supported me through that time all those years ago, many who still stand beside me, and to tell myself a story I need to hear, I am proud of that commitment and that achievement. So today, I add two letters for all that work…with pride and confidence. And to show all those others out there, that we are all worthy of the PhD tribe. 

Sometimes - a poem for IDPWD2021

I have been grappling with a question for some time...

Is #disability a spectrum I can be on?

On this day, International Day of People with Disabilities, I offer a poem in salute to you all.

And, the answer, for me, is:


Sometimes I wish people knew how I feel,
Sometimes I wish the pain wasn’t so real.
Sometimes I push through, so hard I am crying,
Sometimes I breeze through without even trying.
Sometimes my actions are dictated by “I should…”
Sometimes my actions dampened, “I wish I could…”
Sometimes I seek compassion, understanding to be heard,
Sometimes I receive pity and hate every word.
Sometimes I make plans, confident I can hold back the tide
Sometimes I make excuses, am embarrassed and I hide
Sometimes people see the real me, I feel emboldened, aflame
Sometimes people see the real me and all I feel is the shame
Sometimes I pretend so I will be accepted, the same
Sometimes I pretend and, again, comes the shame
Sometimes I see hope, it is lights me up with its spark,
Sometimes I am hopeless, alone in the dark.
Sometimes I don’t know how I got to where I am - its chilling!
Sometimes I don’t know how to move forward - it’s thrilling!
Sometimes I advocate for those whose voices are soft
Sometimes I hold my strength determinedly aloft
Sometimes I am able, sometimes I am not
Sometimes I make do, happy with all that I’ve got
Sometimes I feel blessed when loved ones appear
Sometimes I am terrified it will all disappear
Sometimes I show up, oversharingly true
Sometimes I know there is so much more I can do
Sometimes I make mistakes and I grow, I learn
Sometimes the mistakes repeatedly churn
Sometimes I’m a row boat, madly paddling turbulent seas
Sometimes I’m the yacht, calmly following the breeze
Sometimes, to save other people’s feelings, I deceive
Sometimes, to save my own feelings, these stories I believe
Sometimes I am convinced I know just what they’re all thinking
Sometimes into despair and destruction I go sinking

Sometimes the bells are ringing
Then the pendulum is swinging
In this crazy pool of humanity all of us bathe
Sometimes drowning, sometimes saved
Sometimes on the edges, sometimes floating, adrift
Sometimes the grateful observer, sometimes embroiled in the rift
Labelling, change and confusion
Certainty, hope, careless delusion

There are a few, and they know who
For whom I am certain…
All of the time, you love and you care
And when I cannot, you will be there

To everyone else,
Look closely, please don’t judge or assume.
Just as the sun shines one day, dark clouds also loom.

Be compassionate and kind
Be honest, of open mind

Sometime is the one time we have to be free.
This one, precious moment, to just be.
Be Me.

Dear Achievement - We need to break up.

Dear Achievement,

We need to break up. 


I have spent much of my life chasing you, believing you to be the object of my desire. 

I was wrong. 


You are fools gold. 


And here’s why…


Motivation. I am often rushing to get things done, pushing myself beyond my limits to reach goals, over-extending and striving, straining for achievement. I am ashamed to admit it this next part. I am ashamed because it has taken me such a long time to figure this out – to see you for what you truly are. But, mostly, I am ashamed because I know that there is a large chunk of the self/ego lurking behind my motivation and desire for you. I want to appear “successful” to others. As a fifth child, adorned with praise and love, and as a Leo, I thrive on praise. A tiny thrill rushes through me when people tell me I am doing well or shake their head in amazement at one of my achievements. It’s a hit of dopamine, and it’s addictive. I really do love hearing the praise, even though, sometimes I am embarrassed and weirdly, my inner critic loves to choose such moments to pipe in with her caustic comments berating me that it is still not enough. Attaining this praise is probably what has kept me chasing you all this time. It is what motivates me to set the bar high, higher, and, screw it, why not set it even higher. It is what allows me to ignore all this reasons calling me to self compassion, to be still, to accept where I am, and to be happy with what I already have. 


Fear of abandonment. I recognise too (again, shamefully) that, at times my self-esteem is linked to my sense of achievement. And this is wrong. It hurts me, and I have had enough. As I get older, and as I continue to have a turbulent relationship with the management and acceptance of my chronic pain, I am often disappointed by my achievement. I don’t reach the lofty heights I aspire to, and I have failed to learn the lessons and adapt. 

“Researchers have discovered that achievement-dependant self-esteem makes us vulnerable to feelings of inadequacy and failure when things don’t unfold as expected” – (A fearless Heart – Why compassion is the key to greater wellbeing by Thupten Jinpa). 

Not only is my self-esteem tied to you but also my fear. What happens when I don’t achieve, when I don’t come first, fastest, best? I worry about the reaction of my closest friends and family. Irrational worry because I know, deep down, they love me, unconditionally because of my strengths and not because of my achievements. But still, the doubt and the fear niggle and force me to keep pushing. To keep getting tricked by your shimmer. 


Comparision. I have written before on how damaging comparison can be but it will often be lurking somewhere in my desire for achievement. All I tend to see are the people in front of me. I see what they have done, where they are going, and then I judge myself to be wanting, inadequate, barely lovable in my inadequacies. What I fail to see is the humanness in us all, the fact we all want to be free from suffering and happy and healthy in life. Sometimes the glossy Insta post is just a single snapshot in time. Comparing can be dangerous when we compare our worst self to someone else’s best self (their social media portrayal!). I do not need to enter into a dark dance with achievement for comparisons sake. 


Fake Fake Fake Fake. Classic line from Seinfeld and I still fall for fake hopes and false notions. Achievement, you have so many times, seen me grasping to an idea, a desire, a future that is not here. Buddhism says this is one of the key causes of suffering….and my experience affirms this. Achievement is often the cause of this desire. I want to achieve X and I won’t be happy until that happens. Often, pain and other life stressors mean achievement X cannot happen…so where does that leave my happiness? If I assign a condition to my happiness that cannot be achieved, what then? I do not need to be restricting myself in this way. By letting go of achievement, I let go of my attachment to results and can experience joy, awe and happiness, in this moment. 


This list may even seem like reasons to stay with you. To continue. But your toxic hold is why we need to break up. I am motivated by narcissistic (yet sometimes tantalising) reasons, the love of those important to me is not conditional on me continually pandering to you. My mindfulness practice is strengthening my ability to be equanimous. I can be present in this moment, as I am and that is fine. No need to search for better than or worse than, just me, here, now. 


Achievement, you are like the tinder profile with the fake photo. Your promises are empty and shallow. You focus my attention on things I cannot control, and this only leads to my hurt, shame and can be damaging to my self-worth. 

So, it is time. Time to say goodbye. 

Quick guides - Pacing V Overdoing and Doing V Being


I have recently made these two little quick guides...check them out!

This one is comparing Pacing v Overdoing. I often used to live by Good Days and Bad Days (sound familiar?) until I learned about pacing model or graduated exposure and it is now something I incorporate into my every day life!

Also, I have read recently widely about the different mind states we can be in and have made a quick comparison of the Doing v Being states. 

Here are some quick hacks to help you move towards the green zone:

  • Pause. Take 3 deep intentional breaths - with a long exhale through your mouth, sighing ....aaaahhhhhh.
  • Connect to your senses. What can you see? What can you hear? What can you smell? What can you taste? What can you feel?
  • Take a #3MinuteBreathingSpace. There are many available to download online, keep it on your phone for when you need some #EmergencyCalm

(and, quick credit to my awesome, techno savvy 13 year old son who help with the graphics ! xx)

Default thoughts – Is this the final puzzle piece?

You know that feeling you get when you are doing a jigsaw puzzle? At the start, it’s overwhelming. You look from the complete picture on the box’s cover to the 100s, 1000s of jumbled pieces and it looks impossible. But then you follow the process. Find the edges and corners, some distinctive pieces and slowly it comes together. Then more pieces are in place, suddenly you think “hang on, this is starting to look like something.” You see some fully formed parts. The number of unmatched pieces is decreasing. Then you get the smug realisation and joyful feeling - “Hey, I’m getting it, I’m so close!” Often, there is just a single piece that, once found, makes everything else just fall into place. Complete, whole, a masterpiece.


The first corner I found in my jigsaw was when I attended the pain management course in 2009. I learnt there are common reactions and thoughts around pain. I became aware of my thoughts. I was not yet able to change them, but I took notice. My thoughts were pretty similar to everyone else’s. They were thoughts like this:

·      I can’t handle this anymore

·      Why me?

·      I am letting everyone down

They might have started small, innocuous, but they could quickly snowball. Not nice, not helpful and most importantly, these thoughts contributed to and exacerbated my pain. 


More edge pieces have since clicked into place:


-       We are hard-wired to the negative and we have many of the same negative thoughts on repeat. This came through on my two Breathworks retreats and through attending a Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) course. I do wonder if knowing about negativity bias has, in some respects, given me permission to have these thoughts and kept me in the caustic hold of their repetitive loop. 

-       Being mindful works! Gaining knowledge is one thing; doing something about it is different. Any time I put effort into regular mindfulness practice, I would see the benefits in my daily life – reduction in stress, more present moment joyful experiences and better management of my pain. 


Then, in the past few days I have been on the edge of that exhilarating feeling - finding the crucial last pieces. 


These big ah-ha moments have come in two parts:



This week, I was listening to a podcast by Mike Robbins where he explains a process for dealing with emotions… 1. Recognise, 2. Acknowledge, 3. Forgive, 4. Change. It doesn’t make for an easy to remember acronym, but he went on to explain that he was okay with the first two steps, but then he would 3. Punish and 4. Repeat. Oof. Dagger to the heart. This is what I do. Often. Why? I beat myself up with criticism such as “I should know better”, “why am I here again in this hole?”, “You idiot.” I have some work to do. I must go beyond just recognising this pattern, to not just build up the self love, self compassion and other mindful tools to help with this process because awareness has not yet stopped it from happening. 



Ruminating on the “4. Repeat” part of this equation, I started listening to another podcast. It could not have come at a more opportune time. It was a quick one, full of nuggets from Joe Dispenza. Listening, I felt a zap of energy – time may have even stood still for a moment. Hang on, did I just hear that missing piece? 


I have identified I am in this looping cycle of negativity. Despite knowing about it, the cycle continues preventing me from reaching those final steps 3 and 4 (forgiveness and change). These thoughts are negative, repetitive and – they are a program. A program looping throughout my long history living with pain (and we are talking 30+ years!). It runs automatically. It is the default. In fact, my brain thinks it is being helpful. Let’s run her program, put her auto-pilot. It’s the path of least resistance, so let’s run it again. And again and again.


The program has been running successfully. Look, there she is, back in her bed. Ugly-crying and wishing things were different. Again. Back in familiar territory. She’s safe there in her cocoon of shame. That’s cool. The brain celebrates the win. Repeat. 


Each time I find more pieces of the puzzle, figure something out or try something new, notice my thoughts, maybe make new choices, my brain thinks “Hang on a minute. This ain’t the program. Abort. Stop her, this isn’t scripted! Danger, abort! So in comes doubt to knock me over. Fear joins in. Then, in comes the kicker – pain, my old friend! Result: It’s all too hard, I give up. Negative thoughts run through the program – I can’t handle this, I am letting everyone down, why me!?… Welcome home. Full circle. Back into the cocoon I go.


So, my current conundrum is how to stop the program. Surely it is based in the awareness, mindfulness, compassion – I know these tools. I can use these tools. And now, I have a much clearer understanding of the process. It’s time for me to dupe the loop!


I have another tool too, something recently grabbed from ‘Mindfulness on the Run: Quick, effective mindfulness techniques for busy people’ by Chantal Hofstee. When elements of the default program prop up, I plan to notice. I will respectfully acknowledge and say to myself: “Hello fear, Hello doubt. You are here. It makes sense that you are here because I am changing the default program that you have been running my whole life. Don’t worry, I’m running a new program now. That will feel hard for you at first but it’s okay, I can handle this.”


Do you know what your default program is? How long has it been running? Can you notice it? Change it? 

Bring in the light - the rollercoaster of "knowing" my pain

I have had some time to reflect on my very long history with my chronic pain. From diagnosis to the present, it is well over 30 years. Of course, there have been many ups and downs along the way. There have been times when I have known something for certain only to later form another viewpoint. Sometimes it comes with education, sometimes via support from my community and sometimes from looking internally. Learning, re-learning and starting over.

Building this knowledge has been a rollercoaster of emotions and lessons.

At the bottom of the rollercoaster (AKA Darkest Days): Pain was like being trapped in a dark tunnel. No light, no fresh air, no happiness, no escape. When I was in pain, I would withdraw to this dark place accompanied only by my disturbed headspace of negative thoughts, blaming myself for past mistakes or worrying about the future. I accepted these thoughts as facts and could see no path towards the light. I was drowning in this depressive blackness. I was so caught up in my own pain, physical and emotional, it was very hard to see anything beyond the darkness. I was blinded to the impact I was having on others, selfish and unaware of anyone but myself. But the problem was, even though I felt isolated and alone, looking back, I had taken my loved ones down into that dark place with me.  

Gaining momentum (AKA Welcome to Pain Science 101): Attending the self pain management course in 2009 was a big turning point for me. I learnt many tools and skills to change my approach to pain. I learnt pacing, was introduced to mindfulness and I became aware of how much my mindset influenced my experience. I put these learnings into action and, for the most part, proceeded to live well with chronic pain. 

Sharp dips (AKA Re-Learning): In early 2019, I completed a half marathon, but a few months later a flare up came and stayed. My ability to manage my pain shifted. I fell into past habits, I became trapped by fear again. Add in a global pandemic and last year felt very hard. I found myself snowballing once again. All that information I thought I "knew", it went out the window - I forgot it all. This was me, a person who had for many years professed live well and #SelfManageChronicPain. Was I though? Really? Managing? So, back to the drawing board I went. 

More realisations (AKA Feel to Heal): I knew I needed some help. A lifestyle based exercise and education program materialised just when I needed it. Through this process, I have recently been examining many parts of my inner world, asking myself questions about my pain, my future, examining my values and purpose.  Much of this work revolves around the question - how will I get through this? What changes do I need to make? I have been pausing, pulling back from distractions to turn inwards...I am getting closer to the answer. And these days, I am saying to myself less of the "I know..." and more of the "I feel...". 

The rush (AKA The Secret? Maybe?): When you are on a rollercoaster and it is grinding, clanking and slowly creeping towards the top, you know what is coming. Your pace quickens, a sharp intake of breath. It is equally scary and thrilling. The anticipation. I feel like I am right there, on the cusp. The exhilaration of the rush downwards is right there in my grasp. I feel like I am so close. 

What has made me feel this way?

  1. Working out what I want. I have always been very focused on pain. Pain as a measurement tool, Pain as a trigger, Pain as a reason. That feeling of being in that dark place - that was definitely to be avoided. So often my goals, my plans, my dreams involved some aspect of avoidance. I even used it as a motivating factor in the early days - my "WHY" was clear - "no more darkest days". No more being at the bottom of the rollercoaster - or falling in that hole in the road (this is a gloriously pertinent poem by Portia Nelson). Recently, my life coach (quick shout out to the amazing Anna Baylis) asked me to flip the wording - focus on what I DO want. And my answer came quickly. A while ago, we went on a family bushwalk to a local (secret!) waterfall. I was very mindful on the walk, stopping to examine with awe the wonders of the natural environment, totally engaged in the company of my husband and kids, revelling and lingering in the joy of the experience. Pain was there too, just a physical feeling in my body. This is it. This is what I want. More waterfall days!
  2. Working out who I am. My twisted, metal-shackled spine is a part of who I am. My challenges, my pain, all a part of what makes me uniquely and imperfectly perfect. While I understood the importance of acceptance, I have only recently come closer to this crucial realisation. To truly accept and love myself, means accepting and loving all parts of me. My pain is not something to be managed, tamed, compartmentalised. I need to finally, really listen to what my body is telling me. What is my pain trying to tell me? I am coming to realise, it is this -  Connection, Compassion - loving all of me, as I am, in this moment. 
  3. Working out what needs to go. A few more blog posts to follow on this topic. Just as a butterfly sheds its cocoon to transform, there are a few parts of the old me that need to go. Break up letters will need to be written. But, as a heads up, "achievement", "doing" and "control", you have been warned - you are in my cross hairs. To truly soar, I need to welcome in kindness, patience, love and awareness. 

So, there you have it, I have summarised my 30+ year history with pain into one rollercoaster of a ride!

And, I am not done yet - #AlwaysLearning

Getting ready to create - a guided meditation

 I have just uploaded a short meditation to my YouTube channel!

The idea came from a Twitter writer friend and it is a short guided breathing space for when you sit down and are getting ready to create. 

So, calling all writers, artisits, musicians...whatever your creative pursuit, start by grounding yourself to the present moment and tapping into your creative energy!

I hope you like it!