I cannot relax.
I do my best, I try to regularly scan my body for signs of tension and make my muscles relax but, quicker than a midnight cramp, they go back to their default state. My legs are so tense they almost stand proud of the chair and my toes are doubled over in my slippers. The muscles in my neck and shoulders are hard and resistant to massage and, as you can imagine, I get a LOT of headaches.
I do a body scan frequently throughout the day, assessing pain levels and locations, deciding whether I should take meds, a heat pad, change positions… Does the pain cause the tension or am I tense because I’m in pain? Who knows. I take far fewer meds now that I ever did because opioids.
Each night I go to bed I find myself as stiff as a board and take a few minutes before the muscles relax enough for me to let my spine melt into the fluffy mattress topper on top of the memory foam mattress. Is it any wonder I don’t sleep well? Most nights I drop off around 3am and wake close to 7am. If the pain isn’t horrendous, I’ll try to get another hour or two.
George suggested I should try meditation. I have tried it before, many times, and while I find it pleasant it never seems to have any lasting effect. He thought that even if I managed to relax my muscles for just the duration of the meditation, it would do me some good. So last night I found a twelve minute meditation to help one get to sleep.
Reader, I tried, I really did.
The guy’s voice was OK, deep but my first thought was that he was doing it for the paycheck, not because he necessarily believed in the guided meditation he was narrating. I had to imagine myself on a long, deserted beach so I pictured the beach at Machrihanish which curves round the bay for around 5km. It was supposed to be a warm day so I shifted in time to the first summer we lived down there. Listen to the gentle waves caressing the beach, he said, see the foam they leave on the sand. So far so good. It started to go wrong when he told me there were seagulls circling and calling out in the sky above. There’s no such thing as a seagull, I thought. Were they grey gulls or herring gulls? I used to see a lot of herring gulls down there, that’s probably what they were. Aren’t birds wonderful? What a feeling it must be to ride the thermals over the ocean and… I was so distracted by the gulls that I had started to tense up again and almost missed the narrator telling me I was in the shade under the palm leaves. Palm leaves? You might have told me that sooner. There are no palms on the beach at Machrihanish! There are palm trees in the gardens though, was there one in the house across from us, the one that used to have the pedophile in it or was it the one in the corner where the man made lobster creels… To paraphrase Vonnegut, so it goes.
It didn’t work.
I ended up putting my glasses back on and reading a while longer. It’d be funny if I wasn’t in so much bloody pain.
I’ve been doing a bit of reading about Dr Porges and the Polyvagal Theory. I’m not having a good enough day to fully explain what he says but I think it says that trauma can make the nervous system get stuck in an immobilised state – think deer in the headlights – and can be found to be the root cause of many illnesses such as depression and fibromyalgia. From what I’ve read so far, it makes a lot of sense. You can read a Guardian interview with him here. I need to do more reading and discover what steps I can take to retrain my parasympathetic systems to make life better. I may have used the wrong terminology. It’s mid afternoon, I haven’t slept well, I’m in pain and fibro fog is swirling so, please, forgive me.
In the meantime, what have you found that helps you to relax? Do you have a similar inability to mine and what did you do to overcome it? If you don’t want to leave a public comment you can always use my contact page to send an email.
Incidentally, 2020 has been shite and I have little hope for 2021 but I wish each and every one of you an easier year than this has been because damn.