One of the things I want to be doing this year, as part of my quest for EASE , is to try and reduce the amount of pain I experience on a daily basis. And after quite a lot of trial and error, I have discovered that the kind of pain I have at the moment is actually EASEd by movement.
I’m concluding that a main source may actually be the slow atrophy of my muscles over the last 17 years of ME/CFS. If you are too exhausted to move, your muscles degrade. Its a major issue for anyone with this illness. When I had influenza a couple of years ago, my daily yoga practise went by the wayside, and since then, apart from sporadic efforts at walking, I’ve been able to do very little. I hadn’t realised how much the yoga had been helping back then until I developed back problems, because all my core muscles have wasted so much. My body can’t hold itself up properly anymore. With shooting pains in my legs and hips as well, I’m having to face the fact that if I don’t haul myself off the sofa at least a little bit once a day, I am doomed to a painful existence.* And that’s not what I want.
But how to find something that motivates me to get off my bum without wrecking the delicate energy balance I’ve had to cultivate in order to function?
The answer came to me this morning:
Just look out of the window, Rebecca.
We have a nice, good-sized, south-facing garden that we have really done very little with since the first year we moved in. This autumn, it efectively got abandoned as a result of ongoing ill-health and wrinkly-wrangling commitments.
Which is a shame, because I made a lovely garden in the house where we lived before. It gave me a great deal of joy and healing, and is one of the things that the new owners still treasure. But when we moved here, I just didn’t connect with the garden in the same way.
Gardening gives me the opportunity to get out in the fresh air, get my fingers in the soil, and soak up all that good prana, even though I don’t like getting mucky, if I’m honest! It is enormously satisfying when you have finished to be able to sit back, and look at the work you have done. It is tangible evidence of your efforts. You can do a little at a time, and stop when you have had enough. Even a brief walk around outside, picking up a few stray leaves, or doing a bit of dead-heading can make someone in my situation feel so much better. A little bit of movement in the fresh air gets the blood going and the muscles moving, however gently.
And you get pretty flowers into the bargain.
Its a no-brainer really.
This afternoon, I’ve been out there, raking up leaves. I didn’t do much. Just enough to allow me to connect with the muscles in my arms, back and legs. Just enough to feel the blood in my veins. Just enough to get my cheeks pink in the nippy air, and the smell of wet earth in my nostrils. Now I’m inside, I can look out at what I’ve achieved. The garden is still a tip, overall, but I can see the newly flowering primroses in the bed by the gate. They were covered with big oak leaves like tanned hands before. Now they are winking at me, little creamy-yellow faces in the twilight. Hope that Spring will come.
And yes, my arms are wibbly from the effort, and I feel like I might need a lie down, but I also feel refreshed and loosened up. I have done something creative, something to nurture myself and the earth on which I live. That feels nice.
Maybe I’ll get some plant catalogues and start planning what bedding I’ll put in in the spring. Maybe I’ll work out what I can do with that disastrous centre bed that just isn’t working. Maybe I’ll work out a humane way to get rid of the moles. Maybe I’ll get some winter pansies to put in the hanging basket by the front door. Maybe my peony will flower this year.
With a garden, anything could happen.
*I feel like I need to add that this current pain is different from the pain I experience as part of my ME/CFS symptoms. Its different in character and location. It can be relieved by movement, which my ME pain cannot. That is why I conclude that its caused by muscle wastage, and not as a result of the disease itself. Exercise has been touted as a cure for ME, but its not. It can only help with the associated muscle loss. If you are experiencing serious pain yourself, I feel I should encourage you strongly to see a doctor or medical professional before you commence any kind of activity which might exacerbate the problem. Don’t make yourself worse!