Monday, December 5, 2011

Price tag of pain

"Everything has a price tag of pain," is a saying I like. The idea is that even if a situation is bad, we'll put up with it until we've reached out limit. That's our price tag of pain for that situation. It begs the question, "How much you gonna suffer before you decided to change things?" Often for me it's a mix of procrastination and down-right stubbornness. I can't tell you how many years I struggled with taking my medication on a schedule just because I did not want to have to take the stuff at all. I was a little kid throwing a temper-tantrum. Sure, acting properly felt better. But I didn't want to face it. Taking the pills was admitting my illness was real: that I'm broken. That was the hardest pill to swallow of all.

Thankfully, the consequences of my inaction were swift. Within a few hours of not taking my meds, I would feel terrible. The obvious thing to do was to take my pills. Within 30-45 minutes, I would feel better. It still took years to get disciplined enough to take them right when I woke up. It's so easily a part of my morning routine. Just one more step: swallow these, then brush your teeth. No biggie. But it is. I have medications now that can be seen as recreational drugs. I don't like taking them either. I'll wait for the pain to kick in before I medicate. That's actually not the right way to do things. It's bad for the nervous system to go on that roller-coaster ride. I resist anyway.

The answer, of course, is to pull up my Big Girl pants and deal. Since I'm acting like a child, I'll talk to myself as though I'm a child: "Now, Pamela... you know you don't feel good now, and that you're going to feel worse later if you don't take this. I'm sorry they can't all taste good like your vitamin. But you're strong, and you can make it look effortless... if you want to. Be strong now and stick to a schedule. I know you can do this. Let's take care of it together, and then we'll both feel better." (I'd like to thank my counselor, Carol Peters for teaching me how to do this kind of constructive dialogue with myself.) When I can approach the situation with firm kindness, I'm more successful at accomplishing it. I'm not perfect at it. This morning, I woke up very resistant. But I'm good enough. I took my medication before the price tag of pain kicked in too much.

Each time I do the right thing before that price tag comes into effect, I pat myself on the back. Sometimes literally. It doesn't matter that it's my own hand doing the pat. It feels good, so I use that as a reward to keep my spirits up. I'm on a pill schedule of every 4 hours, and that's no fun to keep track of. So I use a Facebook game as a timer. The crops come in every 4 hours, so I play my game and take my pills. A spoonful of sugar, so they say.... I put water bottles around the house on doctor's orders to stay more hydrated. Each time I pass a room with a water bottle, I have to stop and take 4 gulps of water. It may be silly, but it works. The goal is stable health, and I will do what it takes to get there.

I am willful. That sometimes works for me, and sometimes against me. I need to change my behavior in a nurturing so that it doesn't seem like a burden to do these things. I need to reward myself because, in truth, this is a burden I don't like. I need to acknowledge my efforts so that I'm more likely to put forth the effort in the future. Then I don't procrastinate as much and I'm able to feel more accomplished, building my self-esteem.

"Perfection is the enemy of good enough," so the Russian proverb goes. When I am feeling resistant, I can turn my attitude around in gentle, loving way. I'm already feeling bad, so getting angry at myself doesn't help the situation. I can take care of myself in a way that works for me. I don't have to pay the price tag of pain today if I don't want to.

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