Borrowing from one person to pay another is a way of life most of us are either currently in, or have experienced before. Is there a more fitting metaphor when it comes to living with a broken body? I know that I’m constantly navigating between which symptom or body part that I’m willing to trigger in order to live a worthwhile existence.
Hiking (well, mostly sauntering upwardly in the wild) is one of my favorite pastimes. That activity comes with some steep physical consequences. Regardless of the distance and elevation, my damaged nerves are going to flair. I am going to be in pain with every step. Mitigating some of that aggravation with high-quality shoes and light clothing is part of my routine. Pain and symptom medications, more water than you think you need, snacks, and a change of clothes/shoes at the end of the hike are also helpful. After all, preparation is key.
But, nothing will really prevent my feet from feeling as though they are in a clamp while my legs and hands are being skinned with searing knives. That’s the price I am going to have to pay. I’ll probably be pretty nauseous and dizzy halfway through if I’m not going at a chill pace. POTS, migraines, and gastroparesis don’t mess around when you are intentionally raising your heart rate.
So, why go hiking or do whatever physical activity you love, at all? Because, the price we pay is simply the cost of existing. If we weren’t willing to push the boundaries of our pain and discomfort, we would end up spending each day in slightly less physical agony but immensely more metal anguish.
I’ll be navigating symptom management and the “pay later” issue, no matter what I do. My body has systemic problems. Medicine hasn’t provided me with effective treatments or cures yet. Holding out hope for relief while living in reality means that I choose my poison.
Sitting in front of a computer all day will leave me with a world-shaking migraine. Gardening hurts my nerves and makes me vomit. Watching a movie or reading an entire book causes a migraine. Cooking means aching hands and triggers my nerve pain. Swimming comes with dizziness. Hanging out with people is every type of draining. I could go on and on. We all could. Living freak’n hurts! This weird fallible meat suit that we have… it is our only vessel. We have to make due and find levels of pleasure that make the pain dim for even a moment.
Sitting in front of a computer all day will leave me with a sense of accomplishment and momentum towards personal goals. Gardening takes my mind to a quite space and puts a smile on my face. Watching a movie or reading an entire book causes my heart to swell with happiness. Cooking helps me express my love and caretaking nature. Swimming calms my nerve pain and makes me feel strong. Hanging out with people is emotionally satisfying and creates excitement.
I choose life. Some days I can’t. I don’t get a choice. On those days, my body decides that the pain and symptoms will not be outweighed by any amount of possible joy. I submit to that control because I know that there will be another day soon, maybe even a stretch of days, where I get to be in charge. I get to puppet my physical self. The payment is worth the pain. What do you decide to do that you know will cause pain? Where do you draw your lines for emotional happiness? Are you kind to yourself when you can’t maintain that routine? I hope so.