For anyone who is struggling with long term medically unexplained chronic pain symptoms, the idea of recovery can seem preposterous. We are afraid of letting anything trigger our pain symptoms, or of being challenged to do anything out of the comfort zone that we have created.
Our worlds constrict as we become less sociable, less able to cope with the day to day – and one day we wake up and don’t recognise who we have become.
We feel overwhelmed, finding it difficult to make decisions. We withdraw, and feel afraid to speak up as we can’t cope with any potential fall out in our relationships. At work, our boundaries go out the window and we forget how to negotiate. So to cope, we follow the path of least resistance, and it accumulates resentment.
Our internal gremlins say things like: ‘Keep the peace’, ‘don’t be confrontational’ or ‘keep the ship running’. We are too ready to give up everything, including those times when we just want to say ‘no’. This makes us lose our authenticity, and our right to being treated with respect, consideration, and care.
So how do we make this turn around?
When we allow ourselves space to just be, we show up emotionally prepared for life, and allow a life that honours space for ourselves by creating daily rituals and actions. By committing to ourselves, we start to honour what we need, we honour what is right for us in our relationships, but most of all in the relationship we have with ourselves.
So rituals become important, as it puts a boundary around what is ‘ok’ with us, and what is not. Some non-negotiable boundaries for me are:
What is ‘ok’ with me
What is not 'ok' with me
Doing what feels right for me.
Not taking responsibility for everyday chores.
Owning my own 'stuff'.
Me providing financial support and taking responsibility for ensuring everything gets paid.
Hearing kind, encouraging and positive words.
When you criticise me, or making suggestions and stepping in when I am doing things.
Saying 'no' and meaning it.
Saying 'no' because I feel pressure to.
Calling people out when they are being rude and/or inconsiderate.
Drawing my attention to how much something costs that I have bought, either for me or to share with others.
Not always agreeing to do something, just to appease others.
You refuse to put others first, and expect me to fall in line with your decisions.
Not worrying about other people, when I am focusing on myself.
Saying 'yes' when I mean 'no'.
(You can add in anything you like here, and it may take a few weeks to notice what is really going on in your relationships or at work.)
I also put in place some non-negotiable rituals for myself, in the mornings and evenings.
I love my routines and rituals, and my morning one goes something like this:
I wake at the same time every day, 7:00am works for me and the first thing I do is a ten-minute meditation. It allows others to get in the bathroom first, but also sets up the day for me by putting myself first. I then do ten minutes of stretching, followed by my shower, and then it’s breakfast time.
I set the table, and sit looking at the birds in the garden, whilst eating my breakfast.
I am at my desk by 9:00am, and that is the first time that I look at my phone, emails or social media.
I have a colour coded calendar, and in it I have blocked out my downtime after every client, the time set aside to go for a walk, and any other self-care activities for the day. This allows me to have very clear boundaries between time for myself, and time for my clients and my work. It took me a long time to realise that by honouring my own time and putting my oxygen mask on first, then I have the time, compassion and kindness for others. This allows my resentments to fall away, along with my feelings of overwhelm.
My evening ritual goes something like this:
At 8:30pm, I start to wind down. This means no TV, I might listen to some calming music, journal or listen to a podcast.
By 9:00 pm, I go up to bed and read for a while. The lighting is low – I use a salt lamp. I write my gratitude list, and then visualise what I want my next day to look like.
10:00pm is lights out.
I am sure by now you can see how these changes have made space in my life for me to just be. I have had to use mantras such as:
‘Be fiercely in your own corner’
‘I am living the life I envision’
‘I am the creator of my own reality’
Kindness is one of my greatest values, but also my Achilles’ heel if I take acts of kindness too far. It is also being patient with myself, and reminding myself that I don’t have to be all things to all people
Another value of mine is reliability. I am reliable, but know that in order to be reliable I must first be reliable to myself, as I really only have myself to rely on, and if I get sick what then?
I am honest with myself, even when it feels uncomfortable. I know that it was me that got myself into the chronic pain hole, so it was up to me to get myself out of it.
And lastly, I am respectful of what I need, and ask myself these questions several times a day.
‘What do I want?’
‘What do I need?’
If I am being honest, this doesn’t always work. I get caught up, feel as if I need to complete things, and worry about what other people think about how I live my life. However, I have learnt the hard way that if I don’t do these things, I very quickly go into overwhelm and my symptoms return. So I have put in place accountability partners, our Practice Manager here at the clinic, the lovely Nicola, keeps me on track, checks in with me and is not afraid to speak up to let me know when my old habits are coming back.
If any of this resonates with you, or if you have any questions, then please do not hesitate to get in touch with us. You can do this in a couple of ways, either through social media, by visiting our website, or by emailing me at email@example.com