I don’t cope with stress very well, in fact I am really bad at it and it literally makes me physically unwell, I have ME and Stress to a spoonie is like poison!
Okay first things first, I know that most of you will know what a ‘Spoonie’ is, it’s basically a label that many people who suffer chronic health give themselves and it is based on the Spoon Theory that Christine Miserandino used to explain her health situation to a friend, you can read it here.
Now I said I don’t cope with stress very well, that is a great understatement, stress and confrontation makes me so unwell, it also then causes a flare up of pain, fatigue and brain fog and this can last for days and in the past it has lasted for months. In fact we now think that stress is what caused all this in the first place, we can only take so much and then we break.
People think of people who break under stress as having a mental breakdown and whilst that is true, stress also makes many people physically unwell and when you think about the word ‘disease’ and break it down dis-ease, we then think about disease in a different way and that it can be caused by stress.
Of course it’s very hard to hear a doctor say ‘I think it’s all in your head’, its horrible and we get very defensive and so we should. They may be right that stress played a part in triggering this illness that now plagues us, but that is totally the wrong thing to say. I have just had another psychiatric assessment and I am totally okay (yay), I am not mentally unwell and yes stress was the tipping factor of me becoming a spoonie but once we have become ill it is a physical illness and will often stay with us for many ,many years.
Now I know that I am my own worst enemy, I do way over think things and I am like a sponge, I absorb all the things that life and people throw at me and it sits there eating away at me. This is especially true when I am laid awake at night when I can’t sleep because the pain levels are very high. I lay there in the dark and go over everything and it can be crap that happened years ago.
So now I am changing that or I should say that I’m trying to change that.
We cling to things and people even if they cause us harm, being chronically unwell can be mean a lonely life and so we try to keep what remains of a normal life. Social media is a great thing but it can also be poisonous and we open ourselves up to criticism and judgement from people that we have never even met.
Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and all the others can be a lifeline, for me it is the only social interaction outside of my immediate family and so I spend a lot of time on there. I have been subjected to criticism and unknowingly upset people and I have let it get to me and it has made me unwell, but what I don’t do enough is hit the unfollow or block button and I think I need to because after all, my health is more important than interaction with people on social media that I have never met and I think it’s something that we should all do more.
My first interaction with other people who are spoonies was on a forum called ‘Brainfog’, a forum for people who have ME and I still have some of them as friends on Facebook any years later and they are good friends who understand and don’t judge.
I have started meditating every afternoon, just taking time to sit in silence and clear my mind and even a short fifteen minute meditation leaves me feeling recharged and so calm. It is something that all of us should try to do, now I understand that some people don’t have the luxury of fifteen minutes peace but if you can it is very important and it will be a great tool in coping with chronic life.
Then there is mindfulness, which is basically paying more attention to the present moment – to your own thoughts and feelings, and to the world around you – it can improve your mental well-being. The psychologist at the pain management clinic suggest Mindfulness to me and I gave it my best shot but It’s not for me but it works for many people and it is worth trying.
Now by far the easiest is taking the time to concentrate on your breathing, I do this if I get stressed (so regularly) and it helps to just settle my pulse rate and bring my breathing back to a slower rhythm. Stress causes our body to release adrenalin, this is meant for situations of danger for us to have the burst of energy to either fight for our life or run like hell and get away. So when we are just sat there with adrenalin surging through our body, it is very unhelpful and our heart pounds and our minds go crazy. Just taking the time to concentrate on your breathing, letting our bodies absorb that adrenalin and letting everything return to normal is crucial. It is also something I try to do before responding to anyone that has upset me online.
There is nothing wrong in admitting that you don’t handle stress well, let people know that stress and confrontation makes you unwell. Tell them that what they are saying or doing is literally making you unwell, then either tell them that you don’t want to deal with this right now or not at all. This includes family and friends in the real world, if they are visiting or you are out with them and they cause you stress or upset explain that it’s unhelpful and if you have to, leave or ask them to leave because your health is important.
I am certainly adopting this as a way to protect myself, it may not be popular but anyone who truly cares about me will understand and know why. It may also be a good idea to explain this before a situation occurs to those around you so that if and when the problem occurs they understand that you are just trying to avoid a flare up and not being stroppy.
I am hoping to create a calmer life and I hope that you do as well, our brain is an incredibly powerful thing and we don’t fully understand it. Without a doubt it is capable of making us physically unwell and so we need to spend a little time on creating a calmer mind and a more peaceful body.