One of the things I love about Brene Brown is this idea of permission slips. It seems like such a silly notion at first to write yourself a permission slip to do something or to be something. But I have found it helpful. Part of the reason it is helpful for me is because it helps me really articulate where my struggle is, and sometimes it comes down to I am looking outside of myself for authority or permission. I look outside myself the most when I am really scared and don’t want to put my skin in the game. I want to know that someone will stand with me, will believe me and that I won’t be abandoned. This feeling comes up a lot with doctor visits or even visits with other health professionals.
I begin with the disclaimer “it sounds crazy, but this is what I feel.” Or sometimes I minimize the pain and sensations, sometimes I sound very unsure of myself and every statement comes out as more of a question. Very slowly over these last few months, I have had to learn to be more honest, I have had to make things statements and not questions, I have had to accept that the only way through this is to share what I really feel, how it is really affecting me. I have had to refuse to back down when I am challenged “you don’t look like you are in that much pain.” I have had to educate doctors and nurses about the difference between chronic pain and acute pain. I have had to put the question out there: what would you do with your precious life if you lived with this pain? Would you act miserable and take it out on everyone? Or would you do your best to notice the joy and blessings around you?
All over you can find information about how chronic pain changes someone, how it can affect anatomy and physiology. The thing is, it never goes away. Sometimes it is minimized and becomes background noise, but it is never gone. My body, mind and spirit have this constant drain on energy and resources. Even with all of that, I want to have the best life possible. I used to fight when the pain got severe, I would push myself until my nervous system finally figured out a way to shut me down. It was an exhausting fight, always swimming against the current, fighting to be something I wasn’t. One day I finally gave myself permission to rest, to not tackle any chores, to not apologize for sleeping through the afternoon, to watch TV all day if I was enjoying it and to play video games.
It was the first day that I was able to be at peace with being in pain and being sick. I had to keep coming back to that permission slip. I had to put down all the stories that things would fall apart if I rested. I had to continue to put down those stories the next day, when dishes had piled up in the sink and when groceries were scarce. I had to tell that little voice that was saying “see now you are paying for resting, there is more work to do now;” to shut the fuck up. I had to learn to trust that everything would still be taken care of, even if it didn’t happen at that moment. I needed to become more creative and learn to do things in a different way, not planning and scheduling every moment of my day.
I needed to stop listening to all the voices I had internalized that kept telling me there was nothing wrong with me, that I was faking, that it isn’t possible. I needed to trust my own senses and experiences. For example, sometimes it feels like my leg is on fire, it is hot, there are sharp stabbing pain on the surface of the skin, jolts of electricity shooting up the legs and thankfully I can look down and see my leg is not on fire, it is not in any danger. But I still feel it, it is truly mind boggling, but I feel it. It is part of my experience in this one precious life. If I have learned one thing from years of physical, emotional and spiritual pain it is that life is precious, and I want to live the best one possible for me.
Question of the Day: What do you need to give yourself permission to do or to be?