I Officially Award Myself a Big Fat Gold Star for Today

By: Loolwa Khazzoom, Founder, Dancing with Pain

January 19th, 2011 • Mind-Body MedicinePrint Print

I woke up this morning feeling shitty again, but not as shitty as the day before or the day before that. Progress, my mom reminded me. But I was scared. When we’ve had injuries that have not healed for months or years, every new injury comes with apprehension: How bad will it be this time? How long will it last? How much work will I lose? How long before I can go out and play again? The list of uncertainties goes on.

I have had pain in just about every region of my body, and I can say this for certain: Nothing, not a damn thing, is as scary or earth-shattering as having cognitive dysfunction. I felt scared that I may have lost the essence of my being, because some dumb nurse decided to prescribe me a medication that has side effect funsies like peripheral neuropathy, meningitis, and central nervous system disease. I have said it before and I’ll say it again: WHAT THE FUCK IS A MEDICATION LIKE THAT DOING ON THE MARKET? I want names and addresses.

But I digress. Here’s the point of this here blog post today: I sludged through, trudged through, and otherwise hauled ass through the murky swamp formerly known as my brain. I spent a few hours doing public relations work for an awesome doctor whose book I’m promoting. I pitched a potential new client – an act which requires all kinds of quick thinking skills, identifying on the spot what kinds of work would benefit them and how I might apply that work.

What I discovered was this: It was the act of using my brain, of putting myself in situations where I would need the very capacities that seemed just out of my reach, that brought those capacities back to life. Which reminds me of that saying, “use it or lose it.” It’s almost as if I was in a largely darkened room, with light far off in the distance, and every time I engaged in a mentally challenging activity, there would be a spark of light in my room, then the light would stay on for a few minutes, then half an hour, then fade back into darkness, then come back on again, and so on throughout the day.

Then I decided to get back on the bike trails. I was apprehensive, because I was feeling quite wobbly. My balance was still off all day, and I felt as if I had a bowling ball for a head. But I decided that I had to get back on the bike trails, go where I was scared of going, so that I could reclaim and reactivate my mental capacities. I called my mom ahead of time, told her my route, and planned on calling her when I arrived at the one-mile point. If I didn’t call my mom within an hour, she was going to call for help.

I was deliriously excited to arrive at the one-mile mark. I felt good and wanted to continue. I first stopped to call Mama. But the damn phone didn’t work. So I waved down two bikers and one pedestrian, until I found someone who had a cell phone to lend me. (I have to say, people on the trail are especially friendly!) Since I didn’t have a working phone, I decided to play it safe and bike back. Still, that two mile round trip was enough to make me feel super accomplished and taking back my life.

Not long after my return, I felt a wave of nausea and numbness. I decided to dance it out. When I started dancing, I felt as if I would collapse. So I called my mom to ask her to call me in an hour, to make sure I hadn’t keeled over. By the half-hour mark, I was leaping and twirling – all traces of nausea, fainting, and numbness flat-out GONE.

Then about fifteen minutes later, it returned. So I chilled out the intensity and slowly brought my dance session to a close. After that I worked on another client’s media development. At first, I was battling growing nausea and difficulty concentrating. But I was able to power through, and in doing so, my mental capacities cleared up. Now it’s almost 2:00 am, and I am feeling about 75-80% me again. Most importantly, I recognize myself again internally.

So before I go to sleep, I’m giving myself a big fat fucking gold star.

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