Practical Tips for Chronic Pain & Activities

“Hey Mama…will you take us bike riding tomorrow in Chattanooga? It is supposed to be beautiful and then rain is moving in for a few days and we need out of this house!” This is what my kiddos asked me Wednesday morning. And this is what I would love to do with them!

Bike riding along the river in downtown Chattanooga has become one of our favorite activities. I can cruise along in my power chair and the kids can ride! My chair will last 10 miles before it runs out of battery which gives us a full day. You can rent the bikes very affordably and we love to pack a picnic. It makes a wonderful day!

And then…I wake up feeling pretty cruddy. Pain and spasticity have taken over in the night and I am struggling just to get blankets off of me and to sit up. What to do?

This scenario happens more than I wish: Plans are made. Excitement is generated. Mom wakes up feeling awful. I have no control over my body and how it will feel, but the guilt over disappointing my family, and being the reason plans get cancelled is heavy.

Here is what I have learned over the years….

Try anyway. Start with one step and then take another. See how far you can get. That’s it.

When you are in a lot of pain, what you WANT to do, is to go curl up in a ball and stay in bed. The last thing you FEEL like doing is to go transfer over and over and be away from the comfort of your home. But what you NEED to do, is try.

I will always start with saying to my kids, “Let me go take a shower and see how I feel after that okay?” The hot water can calm my pain levels down and loosen my spasticity so that is my starting place.

After my shower, I get dressed. That takes energy…especially when you are fighting your body so. I need some energy for the rest of my day if I am even going to drive safely. Neurological fatigue is nothing to mess with and I am not joking when I say I have had to pull the car over before and take a nap from spiked pain levels.

After I get dressed, and don’t feel like I need a nap, I make my decision. If I am able, in any way, to push myself to be out for awhile, then I do.

Many times, this can depend on the activity. For example, a day of shopping is in and out of the car over and over and over. That is a LOT of transfers! That wipes me out very quickly and increases my pain levels. So, on days I feel really bad, and the kids are just wanting out of the house for awhile, I would suggest a short version of shopping (y’all, pick a couple stores), or go to the mall or a shopping center where I don’t have to load and unload so many times. Or, I will suggest we go to the park or something where they can get fresh air and a change of scenery, but I am not having to do as much work to be out.

A day of bike riding, is actually pretty therapeutic for me…especially on days I feel rough. It is fresh air, sunshine and miles of just rolling along. The kids are ahead of me riding their bikes and there is much time for me to just have the quiet time to think, pray, engage and smile and talk to other people out enjoying the day, take in the beautiful scenery and listen to the birds sing. Yesterday, a dear friend called and we were able to chat and it felt like we were on a walk together. The kids and I have our spots we like to stop at and just hang out at and enjoy.

I always know that a long day out typically means another rough day for me the next day; but, I also weigh that out and plan for it. A day out today absolutely means a low key day the next. I have learned that if I push myself for days in a row, I will pay for it by having to be in bed way too much for a couple weeks and that is no good for my family either. Balance is necessary.

I decided long ago that I cannot change this life I have been handed. And if this is my life, I don’t plan to stop living it. Rough days are rough…no doubt about it. But what would be even rougher on me, is to stop living life with my precious children.

Truly, there are still times when I have to say, “I’m sorry guys…maybe tomorrow”…because I just can’t get it together and need to be home. But I make myself be very honest, disciplined and challenged to make sure that is true. It is too easy to let my body be the boss so I keep myself in charge of those choices and don’t allow myself to take the easier way out. I owe that to my children!

Yesterday, I woke feeling awful. I showered. I got dressed. I decided I would take the kids bike riding. We went all day. It was so beautiful. So relaxing. Such a sweet day of memories, ice cream, people watching and Caleb was even able to join us after work since he was close by. I am so thankful that I was able to go. We came home. I made supper. I was in my bed by 8:00 exhausted, in pain, and very content with our day.

Today it is raining, I feel awful and I can stay home nice and cozy in my home…and very probably my pajamas…all day…and can rest from yesterday. The kids will be tired too and I expect us all to enjoy our “pajama rainy day” today. Oh the perks of homeschool!

I cannot speak for everyone that deals with chronic pain in their lives, but for me, this is what works. This is what enables me to not only live my life, but to enjoy it. That matters!

Try anyway. Start with one step and then take another. See how far you can get. That’s it. Find joy and challenge yourself to get there.

Ice Cream on the Bridge
Happy that big brother joined us!
Starbucks Patio…one of our happy spots.

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