Tuesday, June 14, 2011

What did I do wrong?

I was watching a program on Pol Pot, and they were interviewing one of his few surviving prisoners. You could just tell by she sat, the way she talked: this was a broken woman. And she asked the same question any of us does when we suffer: "What did I do wrong?" And with tears rolling down my face I answered her, because I had to say it out loud: "Absolutely nothing..." I understood how she felt.

There's nothing I could have done to prevent my diseases. There are some thing I can do that manage or exacerbate my symptoms. That is, some time I can make it better, it's real easy to make thing worse with no warning.

It reminds me of a story my mother told me about my grandmother. She was sitting at her sewing desk and raised her arms above her to look at something in different light. Suddenly, she miscarried. "Well," came her reply later, "I'm never doing that again!"

She was joking, of course. But that's what out minds like to do when problem solving: our primal minds become superstitious to avoid horrible consequence. Anyone who has developed a food aversion following the stomach flu can recognize this one. Sure, the lime jello had nothing to do with it... But out minds are wired to not want to eat something we've seen as our own vomit. It's a survival mechanism saying: Possibly poison! Avoid!

It's the same thing with suffering. I want to fix it. I want to find a way to get better and never suffer like this again. And there goes the hamster wheel of my mind. Did I eat too little? Did I eat something that disagreed with me? Did I not get enough sleep? Did I displease the gods?

But always, always, always I have to come back to the realistic questions. Is it humid out? Is the pressure changing? Is there a storm coming in? What's that air quality today? That's where the culprit usually lives. However, it's always with relief when I hear the first few rain drops. "Oh thanks goodness, it's my disease. I'm sure glad I didn't just spontaneously become unreasonable. These mood swings are not my fault! *Whew!*"

Sometimes, I can cash a reality check on my mood: "Has anything changed since yesterday? Any events where we made a mistake? No? Then what's all this fuss about? The world does not go from 'fine' to 'everything is in ruins' in 8 hours without a damn good reason. Is this reason that legitimate? Enough for this level of emotion? Yeah, that's what I thought. I outta my head right now."

I've gotten good at holding it in, but I seriously have to laugh sometimes. "Really, Pam?? It is not the inanimate object's fault. The toaster does not have a vendetta. There's no 'kitchen jihad'... Breathe, woman.... Slow down."

It's days that I'm most frustrated from the word go that also happen the days when I seem to have the grace of a toddler. So here I am, already an emotional powder keg, and that's the time I seem to be able to get tangled in a pull-over turtleneck. Haven't I been dressing myself for decades now? What the hell?

It's times like these it would be so easy to lose my temper. But the second I feel that wave rise, I force myself to relax. Letting my body go all enraged is an easy way for me to adrenal crisis out. There have been situations where it's been necessary for safety, but I wreck almost instantly. When the consequences are quick, it's easy to learn.

And that's the thing... Most of us are wired to learn quickly from negative consequences. We don't have to burn our selves over and over again to learn 'hot.' Once is enough. But if symptoms are chronic or (seemingly) random, we get stuck on: "What am I don't wrong?"

For years, my headaches struck on the weekends, resolving themselves Sunday night just in time for work the next day. But it wasn't until years later when the migraine struck within seconds of some good news that I realized my migraine trigger was stress, but the ramp-down, not up!

I had just found out my father's emergency heart surgery had gone perfectly. And right after the wave of relief was the wave of pain that knocked me to my knees. The pattern was there all along... It just wasn't clear enough for me to notice.

But had I done anything wrong? No. There was no way to prevent his heart doing what it did and there was no way to stop my reaction to it. Find out he's okay and stay anxious? Um....right.

Sometimes ain't nobody's fault. Sometime I just need to white-knuckle perspective until my disease lets me from its grip. Sometimes we've done absolutely nothing wrong, and we still suffer anyway.

I got through today reminding myself that my mood was no one else's fault. I get to go to bed tonight knowing my rotten mood wasn't my fault either. I will sleep soundly. ^_^

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