Life saving distractions

You aren’t lazy. Nothing about coping with chronic illness and pain equates to slothfulness. Each moment that you decide to stay in the fight is brave and exhausting. Every second that you don’t give over to the ease of eternal sleep shows enormous strength and fortitude. You are amazing and your struggle is acknowledged by the millions of us who gear up to face each day.

It is difficult to find distractions from pain and other loud symptoms. I often have to use multiple techniques at once. This might look like someone with an attention problem to an outsider. If I’m watching a movie, I’m also doing a jigsaw puzzle. If I’m listening to a podcast, I’m also baking. There are very few activities that I can do to distract myself from my pain. Layering different things together provides a mini-overload. My brain can’t process a crossword puzzle, television show, burning incense, and jotting notes down at the same time as it registers my leg screaming. Occasionally, the nerves win out. But more often, those small moments of distraction offer me a respite from the pain.

There are more distractions associated with living a fast-paced lifestyle than that of a chronic sufferers existence. From a constantly buzzing cell phone to multiple commitments for the same timeframe, few people acknowledge the joy they get from attention-divided actions. Their distractions get labeled as important, necessary, and work while someone with a differently demanding life will face scrutiny over their distractions with labels like interruption, attention deficit, and intrusive. While attention deficit disorder is a real affliction, it shouldn’t be the standard diagnosis for everyone who needs or wants distractions with their activities.

I practice singular focus often. Sitting down and only reading a book or watching a long documentary from start to end challenge my wandering brain and sharpen my focus. However, my symptoms are most pronounced when I can’t distract myself. Are all attention dividers negative if they are helping me soften the obtrusiveness of my pain? Or lower the overtness of other physical symptoms? Finding a balance between stillness (something I’ve written about before) and mental gymnastics is difficult. There is a lot of trial and error involved. Maybe your distraction to focus ratio is different than most others. That is okay. As long as you are functioning to the best of your ability, rock that weirdness.

Most of this might sound like a practice in contradictions. It is. Our bodies are constantly at battle with our desires. Our thoughts ping pong between variations of pain, joy, anger, sadness, and love. Some days your body tricks you. Giving out moments of peace and painlessness like aloe on a burn, only to leave you bed-ridden the next day. The bent and broken existence is full of oxymoronic and incomprehensible words, actions, and feelings. Learning how to listen to your body and taking decisive steps to achieve a comfortable mental and physical environment is vital. You are the only one who knows what you need. Do what you must to grab those pieces of sanity.

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