All posts tagged: body image

Everybody Has Something Wrong With Them

Everybody has something wrong with them. I don’t care who you are or how many marathons you’ve run or how loud you are about it, but literally everybody on this planet, no matter how young or old, has something inside that is actively working against them. That young boy bicycling to school has Type I diabetes. The teacher shepherding students into the classroom has arthritis. The school bus driver has sciatica that runs down her right leg. The mailman has a limp because his hip gave out after twenty years of walking his route. The old woman shuffling down the sidewalk has cataracts, rheumatoid arthritis, and skin cancer from the days of tanning with baby oil. If something isn’t wrong with us when we’re born, something will go wrong. As soon as we are born we start to die, and little chips of us are broken away year after year by means of illnesses and sprains and accidents and cancers. Some people don’t even know anything is wrong yet. Two guys see their coworker struggling …

Why Do I Keep Waking Up at 4:30 AM Every Day?

Sleep has always been a passion of mine. I’m always a bit grumpy when I have to leave my pile of blankets and start the day. It’s the most comfortable, comforting place I know. Like comedian Jim Gaffigan said to his bed, “You were wonderful last night… I didn’t want it to end.” My high school friends knew not to call my parents’ house after 9 pm because we would be asleep. The weirdest part is that as children, my siblings and I would put ourselves to bed at a reasonable hour. My parents would have friends over, and instead of trying to stay up with the adults, we’d wander downstairs in our pajamas to bid everyone goodnight. My brother and sister have become night owls, but I’ve always needed more time in bed because of my chronic injuries. As such, I was never an early bird or a night owl. I guess I’m sort of a late-morning angry bird. Photo credit: challiyan via Visualhunt.com / CC BY-SA So imagine my surprise this week when I started waking …

Does Chronic Pain Need a Mascot? (My Answer? Yes.)

Readers, meet Rufus. I feel that a mascot is needed in my life. You know, a cheerleader who understands how hard life can be when feeling physically terrible and having your attention constantly split in half. Chronic pain is vague by definition; it can be widespread or localized in the body, stabbing or dull, intense or flat. We only have the unifying term of “spoonie,” which is derived from the Spoon Theory. While that does a great job of describing why we power down without warning (because we’ve “run out of spoons,” each spoon representing a daily activity), it doesn’t give me a good visual besides — well, cutlery. I wanted to show the chronic pain and illness experience, but I needed something that would also put a smile on my face. Like, “Yeah, chronic pain is exhausting and endless. Let me explain my day to you. Let me help you understand. I’ll try to make you laugh while I talk about it, because I know how depressing this topic is.”   I couldn’t design that …

Mindful Anger Management, Buddhism, and the Neck TENS Unit

More and more often, I am trying to figure out what this blog is to me. Is it just the tagline, “Using word therapy to work through chronic pain”? Is it an effort to reach out to people like myself and form a network? Is it a chronicle of my wayward pill-reducing efforts, or is it an examination of my transformation from a bitter young thing into a self-aware individual who can control her own anger? I can’t control anything. That’s the first bit of wisdom I would like to impart upon you, my dear reader(s). I’m sitting here at my desk with a neck TENS unit on (it’s pretty rad, and with it looking like a choker, I’m feeling very early ’90s). I can work the buttons on the device, but it only temporarily blocks the pain. It does not fix it. We manage. That’s why pain clinics are called “pain management.” They do not cure your pain; it is only managed. As I said in a previous entry, this current state might be the best it gets …

Names Have Power: a Discussion About Labels and Chronic Pain Patients

I have long believed in labels. If there is a name for what I am experiencing, I am better equipped to fight it. If I know what I am, I can deal with the world appropriately. Names have power. That’s what Neil Gaiman’s version of John Constantine said. He said it for different reasons and toward a different end, but the fact remains: Names have power. I have collected labels and names over the course of my life: allergic to food/has eosinophilic esophagitis/is a good student/played tennis/played the violin/writes novels/is a lawyer/is disabled/is a chronic pain patient. I define myself by what I do and what I experience. The names are like a shield. A medical ID bracelet naming my allergies makes me feel special and fragile like a unique little glass-winged butterfly, and more than that, it’s a story. I love to tell stories. A scar on my throat is a symbol that others recognize. I have been broken apart and welded back together. I have been remade. So now I face a dilemma because the …

Let’s Talk About The TENS Unit

I’m a huge advocate of clothing camouflage. Loose shirts and cardigans are great to hide a flabby stomach or that back-fat area around a tight bra strap; however, I’m wearing them to hide both a back brace and a TENS unit. (And the bra fat. Let’s be real.) Here’s me in my extremely stylish office bathroom: I usually only wear the TENS on occasions when my back pain is truly escalating and refuses to level off. This week has been particularly bad. The TENS is keeping me at a functioning level, considering I am backing off the Lyrica. The electrodes irritate my skin after more than one use, which is unfortunate, but the only cost-efficient way to use the device is to reuse the pads until the gel wears down and the pads electrocute you. Tiny shocks to be sure, but electrocutions nonetheless. Side note on the electrodes: Don’t go through the supplier from which you acquired the actual unit. My insurance company holds the very ridiculous philosophy that while they will cover the device, they will not cover the electrodes. Tufts, you silly company, …

Word War Won: “Victim” vs. “Survivor” vs. “Thriver”

I was going to talk about different words during this edition, but Alexis got me thinking. We had a very uncomfortable session the other day during which she asked me how things are going now that I’ve cut out sugar and alcohol. It started last week when we had a Skype session and she saw my face. She said I needed to do a detox. Immediately. I felt slow and inflamed, my brain was foggy, and even my face looked puffy. I’d gone to a small law school reunion/memorial for my friend Andy and saw surprise on my classmates’ faces; the last time they saw me was thirty pounds ago. (Granted, some of that weight gain was necessary at the time since I was an anthropomorphic coat hanger, but do you know how hard it was just now to type “thirty pounds ago”?) My pain was worsening. I’d been gaining weight despite exercising every day, thanks to my medication increasing my appetite to that of a starving boat wreck survivor. I’d binge in the evenings after work, thinking I deserve this as I snatched …

Word War Won: “Injured vs. Crippled”

This is the first of a weekly edition called “Word War Won,” which somehow hasn’t been used before in the entirety of the Internet, so I’m feeling fairly clever. Anyway, this weekly post will focus on the words used by chronic pain and illness patients, the words that reflect our warped self-perception. We define ourselves in such terrible ways. We treat ourselves like we would never treat another person; we say cruel things and we belittle our progress. The things I’ve said in my head to my hard-working body are things I would never say to Husband or my friends. I want to do what I can to drag this very private issue out into the sunlight. Our bodies are doing the best they can at any given moment. Each and every day upon waking up, we forget that our bodies have been working hard all night to keep us alive and breathing. Even if we feel like they constantly fail, they are trying so very hard… and yet we tear ourselves down and say that we are broken, that we are useless, and that we are burdens on those …

Let’s Talk About Wabi Sabi, Kintsugi, and Invisible Illness

I finally caught up with a couple fragments of thought for this edition of Wear, Tear, & Care. For weeks now I’ve been pondering two Japanese concepts: Wabi-Sabi and Kintsugi. Wabi-Sabi: “the Japanese art of finding beauty in imperfection“. Kintsugi: the art of repairing broken pottery with gold. These two Japanese practices can easily parallel the difficulties that arise when discussing self-acceptance of invisible illness. More often than not, I find myself saying that because I am not perfect — because I am not a fully-functioning human being, much less a movie-star-like specimen — that I am not worthy or deserving of… what, love? Life? Half the time I don’t even know. The most constant sense I have is that if I am a less-than-able person, then I am undeserving of happiness. That I won’t be happy unless I am whole. Then I started really thinking about these Japanese practices. With Wabi-Sabi, in terms of how something imperfect can still be beautiful — this is something that I feel like every child is taught in grade school. Even though we’re all …