A Way Through the Clouds
It is exactly three years to the day since I penned my blog post Cloudy, reflecting upon my physical, mental, and emotional exhaustion. And here I am, three years later, finding myself in that similar state. Cloudy – all around and within me feels cloudy.
I feel scattered, anxious, and irritable; and I struggle to maintain focus, clarity, and patience. And, I ache. It is a constant radiating ache felt through the entire right side of my shoulder and chest; and if I move too quickly I am momentarily paralyzed from a searing pain that shoots down through my neck, shoulder, and across my chest, restricting my simple movements. It is difficult to perform my everyday tasks when I am feeling chronic pain. It is both physically and mentally challenging to push through; and I know this stokes the fires of my tumultuous emotions. How can it not?
Postmastectomy pain syndrome (PMPS) has long been recognized but often not openly discussed. I have written about it in my previous post Finding a Way Through, where I shared my chronic symptoms and what I do to manage the pain; but how does one cope when the physical pain clearly causes metal and emotional distress, and the coping strategies used to alleviate mental and emotional distress exasperate the physical pain?
Once again, one must find ways to adjust and find a way through the pain, to then find a way through the cloudiness. If you are struggling as I am, I do hope these tips will help you as they are gradually helping me.
1. Limit Activity. It does sound strange, but sometimes quietening the body can help alleviate the pain. Since I am very busy with parenting (cooking, cleaning, shopping, playing) and at my job (typing, moving, sweeping, mopping, wiping), I am engaging a lot of muscle activity throughout the day, which directly impacts and exasperates the pain I experience. Therefore, during my off-hours (do we have off-hours as parents?) I try to be quiet. My pilates routine, of late, has changed. I focus on short sessions of gentle stretches to relax the neck and shoulders, open the chest, and quiet the body. I lie on the floor multiple times a day practising deep-breathing as well as flossing the nerves in my right arm. It is all slow, deliberate, and gentle. It is helping, which I am grateful for, but it all takes time and patience.
2. Self Massage. In the days and weeks between my massage appointments I use simple massage techniques taught to me by my incredible physiotherapist; and I use tools – a massage ball and/or Dr. Ho’s Pain Therapy System, a heating pad, and an arnica-menthol organic balm. All of these techniques and tools provide me with some relief from the chronic pain. They do not heal it, but they do alleviate the tightness, pulling, and aching, allowing me to get through my everyday tasks with minimal discomfort until my next treatment.
3. Read. In these past few weeks I have found blogging (typing) and journalling (hand writing) to be a challenge. Partly because I am feeling cloudy, and partly because it aggravates my pain. If I type for too long I experience pain and fatigue in my neck, shoulder, and chest. If I am [hand] writing for too long I feel tingling, numbness, and pulling through my fingers, hand, arm, and chest. Both activities that I adore and depend on are causing me pain. I think this is what troubles me the most. How can I cope? Well, I escape. In the moments I would normally be writing I am instead, reading. I may not be committing my own thoughts, feelings, and ideas to paper but I am, for now, enjoying someone else’s. It takes me out of the moment, away from my pain and anxiety, and it provides me with an evocative escape from my reality.
4. Essential Oils. I use Lavender Oil, or a blend of essential oils (Ho Wood, Frankincense, Eucalyptus) in my diffuser to create an atmosphere of calm and serenity during the daylight hours; and at bedtime I apply an essential oil blend of Lavender, Lemon, Patchouli, Amyris, and Clove Oil [roller ball] to my feet, wrists, temples, and base of skull. The essential oils help me to relax and calm my mind and emotions, without causing physical demand on my body.
Healing, as well as managing chronic pain, is a slow process and because of that it can feel daunting. But, as we are often kind, patient, and gentle with others we must also be so with ourselves. And so, with patience, I will let the clouds pass over me and allow the sun to shine through.
A Way Through the Clouds. Published by Crystal Joy Hall
Featured Image by Adam Kontor