Learning to Manage Things that Suck

Sorry that I again have missed a day or two. I’ve had problems with my internet at home, plus since yesterday I’ve actually been sick! I know, weird right? This is the wellness quest blog right?

For the first few hours I was in denial. Then I went straight to blame. Then to bargaining. Then anger. Finally acceptance. Sound familiar? Those are the five stages of grief. And I experienced them all over the fact that I was actually getting sick.

The problem has so often been that (in the past) when I have gotten sick I have used that as an excuse to have the doctors put me back on pain medication. It has always been so easily justifiable. I feel pain. I am in the hospital so the doctors have control of the meds, not me. Even they tell me I have a legitimate reason to be using the drugs. But in the logical part of my brain I know that unless I am critically injured or have a serious complication like a broken rib or punctured lung, or a serious surgery, I can’t be on pain meds for longer than a day without becoming hopelessly addicted, dependent, whatever you want to call it. If, like prior to my bronchoscopy I take one dose when I’m really in pain, I walk out of the hospital ok. But still, the problem is that there is such a fine line for me between legitimate use and just plain old drug seeking that it is difficult for the doctors to distinguish which is which. And because of their oath to “do no harm” and because of increasing malpractice insurance suits and insurance costs, they can’t afford not to treat my pain if they even suspect it is legit.

So it is truly up to me. I have to act like an adult. If something hurts, I have to suck it up and deal with it, the same way I do when one of my classmates accidentally delivers a round-kick to my hip-bone during Karate. I don’t cry, whine, and go ask my instructor for pills. Instead I laugh, smile, and try to learn from the experience.

That is one of the reasons I am taking my martial arts classes. Because they are a way for me to learn, in a practical situation, how to deal with pain, stress, discomfort, and general frustration without losing my focus.

As a kid I used to read these serial novels about the “new generation” of young Jedi in the time period following the destruction of the Empire and the reinstatement of the Gallactic Republic. Sorry to those unfamiliar, but here’s a huge “nerd alert”. The main characters were the children of Princess Leia and Han Solo. Their names were Jacen and Jaina and they were in training at Luke Skywalker’s Jedi Academy in the temple where once was the much spoken of “rebel base”.

There’s a point here, so let me continue. Jacen and Jaina had a friend who was of a slightly different race – humanoid and almost identical in physical properties to humans – I believe (for the star wars initiated – she was a Twi’lek, like Jaba the Hutt’s major domo) she had what were essentially two extra limbs that grew from her head like large, tentacular pony tails. Their movement in conversation, for a Twi’lek were the equivalent of facial expressions for humans.

That meant that this woman (whose name, of course, I cannot remember) was almost inscrutable emotionally to her best friends and fellow jedi classmates Jacen and Jaina. But they were almost equally difficult for her to understand, because she was, not only by race, but by nature and personality, unflappable. She literally exuded calm so strongly that it affected those around her, one of her unintentional powers gained from her understanding and use of the force.

Now, the purpose of this Young-Adult Fiction Sci-Fi foray is this. I never aspired to be like Jacen – bold, brave, and reckless. Nor like Jaina, intuitive, loyal to a fault, and skilled in battle. I was inspired to be like this cold, calculating, unflappable, infuriatingly calm Twi’lek woman. Because she was literally everything I was not. At that age (11 or 12) I was somewhat brave. I was somewhat bold and reckless. I was certainly intuitive and loyal. But I was scatterbrained, illogical, focused extensively on my emotion, and easily thrown off by anything unexpected. To think of me as calm in any situation required a great deal of imagination. (aside from reading or listening to music – those were the only things that held my attention for any length of time from my childhood through my adolescence)

I so badly wanted to attain that inner peace and calm. I almost considered what the world might be like if “the force” was a real thing.

Of course, now I do believe it is. I don’t believe that certain initiates can levitate rocks or wield lightsabers in stunning aerial battles or see the future with its use. But I believe, in the words of Yoda: “a universal energy there is that binds us all – the trees, the rocks, the plants…and you, in all things, the force is.” In that, I do believe. What to call that force, I’m still a bit hazy on. But the point is, I wanted to tap into the power of this universal energy in order to try and achieve this ideal I had of being calm, peaceful and unflappable, rather than hyper, stressed, and easily discomfited.

At the time, the fundamental religious beliefs in which I was raised got in the way. I was incapable of seeing the world in a different way than what I was taught. But now, after years of atheism and agnosticism, I find that I truly do believe in a strong, binding, energetic force that binds all living and even non-living things together, to use an analogy from one of my other favorite science-fiction authors, Orson Scott Card, “in a web of light”.

And through meditation, healthy diet, exercise, and medication, I have finally had moments where I was truly unflappable.

Today in the hospital, although I was angry, somewhat depressed and discouraged, frustrated, and in pain, I didn’t take the easy way out. I made sure before hand that I would not be offered narcotics. Then, when both my doctors agreed that the only thing that would really help me get through the next few days would be a codeine-based cough syrup or tablet. So they offered it to me. And realistically, I probably could have said yes, used it as prescribed for a couple days, then stopped it just fine when I no longer needed it. At least, that’s what part of my brain said. But for once the logical part of my brain recognized that as a rationalization while the intuitive, emotional part of my brain decided it would rather be in some discomfort now instead of what might happen if I let it be OK for me to take opiates in this type of situations (or any type, really).

Temptation is a bitch. It’s especially  bitchy when it has a point. They totally could have given me a dose or two of pain meds in the ER without causing dependence. However, the risk is just too high. Just one single dose can trigger that part of my brain that just wants more and more of that feeling.

But today, for today, I was able to resist. Both my doctors told me that if I felt a lot worse in the next couple days, all I had to do was call and we could figure out something they could to help me get through it.

You see, I got a cold. Yeah. A freaking cold. As in a cough and the sniffles. But where for you that might just be annoying, for me it is crippling. Add clogged sinuses, a hacking, constant dry cough, extra mucous, and the horrible headache and chest pain associated with that sort of cough (for me anyway), it is a living hell.

Some people might just think I’m a wimp, That as soon as something goes wrong, I run to the doctors for a “quick fix”. And yeah, I agree, that’s one of my personal issues. I have difficulty staying in an uncomfortable situation (either physical or emotional) for any period of time without wanting to actively seek a way to “fix” it. But, as my Cifu (the Chinese word for instructor or teacher) says: whatever state you are in, you are practicing. So if I am practicing “escaping from reality”, what am I teaching myself?

Instead, I am trying to actually practice being in the state of discomfort. Practicing allowing myself to be in pain without trying to change it. Practicing being sad without seeking comfort. Practicing being lonely without seeking companionship.

I am also trying to practice that inner calm of which I know I am capable. That state where I actually bring positive, soothing energy to the people in my immediate vicinity.

The more I practice that, and the more I practice the state of staying calm despite pain or stress, the better I will be able to handle the challenges that arise in my life, like the last couple days of being truly sick for the first time in months.

State management is so important to everyday life – even if I never apply anything else I learn from martial arts to my life outside class, learning to actively be aware of my state and how it affects my perceptions and be able to manage it…that is invaluable.




2 responses to “Learning to Manage Things that Suck

  1. Beautifully honest… Thank you! I wish you well while you are being with what is.

    • Thank you Julie! So happy to have you as a reader and as a classmate, and most of all, as a friend!

      Peace to you.

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