feeling the love

I think the most difficult side effect of chronic pain is the one about which I talk the least. Isolation. I start each day hoping for no plans or forced social engagement and often dread these additions to my calendar because it’s under these conditions that my symptoms are managed best.* But, in spite of the fact that I have worked hard to convince myself that life is better this way, I know it’s not.

After years of responding with “no” or “I can’t” to kind invitations, the opportunities to be social have significantly decreased. And it really sucks. My body wants one thing, my heart wants another, and my mind is sick of watching TV.

The moments when I’m craving social interaction and can’t seem to get anyone on board are the most difficult. This is when I feel the heavy weight of chronic pain even more than when my pain is at its worst. The rational side of me knows that I am surrounded by the most caring people in the world, but on the bad days it can be a difficult, if not an impossible, thing to remember.

So, if I’m going to follow my own advice, I have to ask myself : when these times come around, what is the only variable I can control? The answer : my reaction. I have to override that voice that says I’m alone in all of this. To help me get there when I’m a(n) physical / emotional wreck, I made a little something to serve as a constant reminder of all that I have.

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The project started with four wire grid panels similar to what you might find in a freshman dorm room.  But instead of building a shelving unit that will topple over before the second semester, I hung them on the wall {using removable hooks} to make a square.

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With a mix of brass clips and mini wooden clothespins, I arranged some of my favorite cards and notes I’ve received over the years. It’s a collection of kind words that those around me have taken the time to send. The cards used to be tucked away in a box on a shelf, only resurfacing for a moment every six months or so. But now they are out in the open to remind me of what I have on the days when all I can remember is what I’ve lost.

And not only does it make me feel insanely popular, but also really fucking artsy! What a deal.

 


 

*How’s that for a run-on sentence?!

physical space

When we think about chronic pain we don’t necessarily consider how our environment contributes. Sure, an impeccably decorated home isn’t going to be your answer for breakthrough pain, but an unorganized / turbulent / messy living space may pile on your list of stressors, making those bad days even worse.

After I moved to my new home in October 2015 I quickly had a few unexpected repairs which required immediate attention. My focus on decorating turned into trying to make my house livable, and it took several months for things to shake out. While the work is far from complete, I feel that now I can finally start working on creating a space that fits me and my needs.

My day-to-day schedule might not be the best for my chronic pain, but I plan to do everything possible to make my home function while staying within my budget. For me, that means a place that is, above all else, clean and calm. On my wishlist is also (1) an outdoor space that gets enough sun so I can soak up Vitamin D, (2) a bit of grass for daily grounding, (3) space to grow a few herbs, and (4) a compost bin. Inside I would like organized and enclosed storage so that I can keep surfaces free from clutter and dust, adequate space where I can do my physical therapy exercises, and the most comfortable bed imaginable.

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My bedding is (so far) the most thought-through part of my home. I carefully selected the elements so that when I’m trying to go to sleep I’m as comfortable as my body will allow. There may be a few an embarrassing number of things I badly need (notice the lack of nightstands in the shot above because the ones I have are grossly out of scale), but at least the bedding is heavenly! The reason for my focus on this small section of my home is that there are many factors that are largely uncontrollable and unpredictable which keep me from sleeping at night. I don’t need scratchy sheets and flat pillows messing with this delicate balance.

Currently, I don’t actually have a bed, just a box-spring and a mattress. I have yet to select this piece of furniture, and for the moment what I have is working just fine. To hold me over I covered my box-spring with the same material out of which my bedding is made, so it all just blends together (or so is my hope). My duvet and shams are from the Restoration Hardware Stonewashed Belgian Linen Tipped collection, both in White/Fog. My sheets are from the plain Stonewashed Belgian Linen collection (White sheets, Graphite pillowcases).

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The comforter inside this cozy duvet is light enough for the toasty New Orleans climate but still keeps me warm in the winter. My pillows are gusseted (similar product here) and, like my comforter, feather-free. I always have two medium pillows and two that are firm on hand because I have different needs on different nights. Every piece of bedding, from the duvet to the pillowcases, gets washed regularly so that my bed is always clean.

The final element of my bed is that it is simple. Often the morning is the best I feel all day, and I do not want to waste that valued time fussing with throw pillows. So, I have an indigo linen throw and a single pillow which a wonderful friend gave me earlier in the year. (Unfortunately, I do not know who makes it, but it is pictured below.) Elephants are my spirit animal, so this pillow is absolute perfection.

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I can’t wait to share the changes around my home in the upcoming months. When you’re aiming for that minimalist-meets-Scandinavian decor there’s a fine line between sparse and cluttered, and I’m hoping to navigate these waters without too much professional assistance.