Winter Thoughts

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I’m introspective by nature but even more so during the winter. It just seems the appropriate time to stay inside, so to speak. One of my favorite inside activities is reading. I’ve been enjoying Clive Cussler and Dirk Pitt’s adventures and now I’m reading the Lord of the Rings by Tolkien. I enjoy mystery, fantasy, sci fi, and adventure. For years, about 20 years, I limited my reading to non-fiction, there’s so much to learn in this world. But how much I’ve missed out and now is the time to make it up. Reading a good book feels like eating comfort food if you get my meaning.

Last year, at this time, was a very different story. I was struggling with pain. The pain was addressed through spending hours of time each week in my hot tub. And the hot tub was 20 years old and breaking down, I was over the top with anxiety over being without it. All that was resolved when the hot tub was replaced but it was a breathless time for a while. That’s what I tend to do under stress, hold my breath. But this year is different. The pain is minimal, still there, under the surface but not the nauseating breathless type.

It’s hard to explain chronic pain, I guess everyone is different but mine is not sharp like a knife or throbbing like a muscle spasm … it’s more like something internal. Like what happens when you injure an internal organ or break a bone and are still in shock … your body knows something is very wrong and tells you not to move. Theres danger if you do. And then like with regular shock, there is the sympathetic nervous system breathlessness and nausea and dis – ease … a type of generalized anxiety and fatigue.

In the rare time I left my novels this past week, I came across some interesting research on chronic fatigue syndrome. They took 2 groups of people, one diagnosed with chronic fatigue and the other without the diagnosis. They gave both groups a painful stimulus (hand in icewater type of thing) and then had them exercise and when they came back, they gave them the same painful stimulus again. (Who makes up these type of studies???)

I’m summarizing here but this is the gist of the results. The normal group of people reported a pain level of a 5 or 6 (1 being little pain and 10 being the highest pain) during the first pain part and then after the exercise they reported a decreased pain level (3 ish) with the second pain stimulus.  Exercise decreased their perception of pain and/or increased their tolerance of pain.

The chronic fatigue group reported a pain level of a 5 or 6 during the first pain part and then after exercise they reported an increased pain level (8 or 9) with the second pain stimulus. Exercise increased their pain. Do you know what decreased the pain in those with chronic fatigue? Warm water.

A light bulb moment for me! In most people, exercise is the answer, but not for those with the body physiology that goes along with chronic fatigue. For them hot water is the answer to healing. For so long I felt guilty over decreasing my activity level and spending so much time in the hot tub. But my body wisdom was shining through. Even though I’m not diagnosed with chronic fatigue, I don’t need a diagnosis to realize that has been part of my story. I’m sorry I put myself through so much guilt. It’s 2 degrees outside and I just came out of the hot tub, my hands stuck to the metal door knob as I came back in the house. But I feel good, really good. Relaxed. I think it’s time to curl up for a while with a book.

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