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Pain & Joy

This is the face of someone who has just been discharged from hospital and narrowly avoided an operation. This is the face of someone who is loved and cared for by a lot of incredible friends. This is also the face of someone dealing with incurable excruciating pain without painkillers, it is the face of someone who misses their mum, it is the face of someone who is so close to being done.

Pain exists at the same time as joy. There is never one without the other. They sit side by side and sometimes they coincide and on difficult days they collide.

This is my face, and I find it remarkable how many marks it is missing, considering all those collisions.

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Chronic Pain Management

Mangement Strategies? Tips? Help?! For what? Strategies for how to explain to people that I can’t do today what I did yesterday? Tips for keeping calm when a doctor offers to chop off your leg (yes that actually happened) Help for not crying all the time over how much pain you’re in?! MANAGEMENT STRATEGIES?! What do you mean?! There is not one single strategy let alone plural that can manage all these terrible, difficult situations- oh wait. Yes there is.
Breathing.

The only management strategy for anything in life is working on the foundation that sustains us, our breath. It is also the only thing that gives me a chance to get on top of my pain. For the first five years, pre-diagnosis, I had no idea about breath work. Truth be told, I’ve only really become properly good at it since starting yoga this year. It’s a complete game changer. Our natural response when we are put in pain is to tense up, to freeze, but this does the opposite of what we want, rather than stopping the pain it makes it worse. Particularly for EDS, if I can feel a joint sublux, my reaction is what makes the difference between it being out of place several hours or several months. If I can focus on my breathing and relax the joint, I give it a better chance of shifting back in. If I tense up, it is more likely to get stuck and swollen. Equally, if I am to have any hope of not losing my temper in a doctor’s office, I need to rely on my calming breaths. If you have no idea what I’m on about or are curious and want to know more about breathing- do you know how to breathe, really? Do you?- listen to ‘Tranquili-tea’.

Management strategies for POTs and seizures include sprinkling salt on my tongue. It’s a blood pressure thing, I think?

A flare up is a term for chronic pain/ongoing symptoms becoming worse: flaring. My flare ups can look like me being silent (very unusual for me as I’m sure you can imagine!) because I’m so exhausted or not being able to move due to pain (but mentally I’m okay just frustrated-feeling-trapped-with-a-brain-that-wants-to-do-things-my-body-can’t!
On my worst days, it’s both.

Flare ups can be caused by me moving too quickly and subluxing something, or not moving at all and still subluxing something, or subluxing something by moving slightly! I sublux at least twice a day, if you’re not sure what subluxation is, it’s essentially a half dislocation, a joint moves out of place but not enough that you can slide it back in- instead it gets stuck and then swells up so it can’t move back! It’s excruciating! It can last from ten seconds to six weeks, sometimes even longer and it’s pretty annoying and agonising! Aside from subluxations, standing for too long, walking too quickly or for too long a distance, climbing stairs, a seizure, doing too much exercise, doing too little, going to a party for too long or going to a shop where the lighting is too bright- all these can cause a flare up. The one thing that is certain to cause a flare up? Periods. Due to higher levels of progesterone being released, joints become even more lax and thus prone to subluxation.

What does a flare up look like for me, you ask? It looks like nothing.

It looks like any healthy 19 year old girl. Because Ehlers Danlos Syndrome is invisible.

The one tool I wish I was better at using is kindness. Reminding myself I’m on a flare up and that I shouldn’t beat myself up for not doing enough. I usually forget this. My hip will sublux one day and at the end of that week I will think ‘My goodness! Look at how messy your room is! What on earth is wrong with you how lazy can you get-!’ and then, if I am sensible enough to tell them how I’m feeling, my mother or boyfriend or brother will remind me ‘Hey you spent the week in bed in tremendous pain- chill out!!’

Now you might be thinking ‘How can your room get so untidy if you have spent the week in bed, Blossom?’ Well, friend, it’s a skill, and I can’t let you in on all my secrets.

So, the tool I wish I would use more often in a flare up is kindness. If this resonates with you- struggling to be nice to yourself, having high expectations and standards, etc- I’d like to take this opportunity to recommend one of my favourite podcast episodes Relativi-tea I hope it’s helpful.

MY TOOL BOX
– Ice/heat packs
– @Lush Wiccy Magic Muscles Massage Bar (for headaches and muscle pain)
– Magnesium Salt Bath
– Body Pillows
– Comfort Food (hence the lemon meringue pie which I definitely am entirely allergic to but I like the photo, it goes with my theme, and it would be my favourite dessert hehe)
– Cuddles with pets/people
– Distractions

Feel Good TV: FRIENDS, Avatar the Last Airbender

Feel Good Movies: Any Rom-com- I recommend Easy A and Crazy, Stupid, Love. A Studio Ghibli Film, my favourite is Whisper of the Heart. A good Pixar like Ratatouille or Soul
– A good playlist of boppy songs with relatable lyrics
– Gentle, modified, slow Yoga with Adriene on Youtube
– (No caffeine) Tea!!!