How do I live a good life, not just bearable, but worth living? Yesterday, I reached a watershed. My steroid epidural failed – worse, it left me with greater pain and little hope. My doctor was distressed and apologetic. She had heard of this happening, but never seen it – and there was nothing else she could offer. Meds weren't holding me and I had tried every possible therapy. One by one, practitioners who were “sure we can help you” pronounced me palliative.
Making sense of it has been a strange journey, because paralleling the pain has been another path: the psychological. Like climbing stairs, I have learnt in steps.
Some have been dead ends. Often what I thought would work has been counterproductive. The obvious one is “Think positive.” The gurus all swear by it. Perhaps it is my inner Protestant, but it became another stick to beat myself with. It topped telling myself how bad things are, but it didn't make me upbeat, just slogging along trying to put on a good face. The fact I had to keep reinforcing it underlined my subterranean despair.
Take a step back: stop arguing with myself. Positive thinking wasn't helping, just exhausting me. It took huge psychic energy each day to try and force myself to be positive. So, could I catch myself before I started feeling down?
That meant watching thought patterns: what fed my despair? I started spotting the fork in the path and consciously deciding NOT to take the low road. Yes, it was hard work, but it did prevent negative energy from building.
But is there a further step – can I approach through the body? Neuro-linguistic programming teaches that moving your body resourcefully actually makes you feel confident. I used this when public speaking and it worked. So I tried moving as if I were not in pain. The message fed back in – the pain was still there but I felt more like a driver than an unwilling passenger.
Smiling can lift your spirits. Laugh with my eyes. Better, but have to keep remembering to do it. Can I go further back – get right to the start? How does my mind feel when I am happy? What state is my brain in? Sounds crazy, but I have done something similar to get to sleep. Just before dropping into sleep, I see pictures; whenever random images float through my head, I know sleep is almost there. So, if I clear the words out of my head and put my mind, so to speak, in picture mode, I go to sleep more easily.
Can that be used to set me for the day? What is the texture of my mind when I am joyful? How does it feel deep within? Warm, well-grounded, as if my whole core is smiling. Can I reproduce that?
Yesterday, the pain was at an 8 out of 10. It hurt to sit, lie, stand. I had canceled going out for coffee and been unable to go with Bill for his check up. Our grandchildren are coming to stay this summer. Every activity I thought of, I knew I couldn't do.
I was at the fork in the road: downhill for self pity clearly marked. But where do I get the energy to climb the positive path? So I tried – how do I feel in my brain when I am connected and joyful? , Not forced reconstructing, but catching the essence, like a whisp of cloud.
Something amazing happened. Suddenly, the pain didn't matter. It was there, grim and grinding, but my essential self was somewhere above. Not out of body or dissociated, but dwelling in my soul and at peace.
I repeated my mantra, “May I be safe, healthy and happy. May I live with ease and dwell in the Beloved.” A deep calm suffused me – a deep connection.
Now, several days later, the peace is still there, not non-stop, but as an underlying texture. I find myself approaching my trials with less internal noise and choosing to access this state rather than fight life. The feeling is more important than the irritant. Will it last? Who knows, but I can give it a good try.