As I wrote about my disappointing Mt Evans Ascent the other day, I grappled with the grief I still sometimes feel surrounding my chronic pain. I realized that one of the most difficult aspects of a chronic medical condition is its on-going nature. Duh, right?
The problem is that the losses accumulate. When I was 21, my chronic pain meant that I was discharged from the military and could no longer be a pilot. Then it took me five extra years to finish my undergrad. The pain has affected my relationships, too, including my 8-year marriage. I ended my last full-time job in part because I could no longer cope with both its demands and my pain.
Etc. Etc. Etc.
So when I experience another loss, albeit trivial – this time the disappointing finish of a race up Mt. Evans – it can re-ignite that heap of accumulating grief.
I project the loss forward too. I worry about my August race up Pikes Peak. And then my September ultra in Montana. I worry about my professional goals and whether I will be able to meet them. I worry that the next time I have a brunch date with a friend my pain will keep me from connecting with her. I worry, and I worry, and I worry.
All that anxiety can’t be good for my headache, can it?
I suppose the only thing I can do – the only thing that any of us with a chronic medical condition can do – is, as they say, focus on the moment. Right now, I’m disappointed I couldn’t run up Mt. Evans in my goal time, in the time I know I’m capable. The trick is allowing myself to feel that loss without inviting the past, more-consequential grief to once again overtake me, and without catastrophizing my future goals either.
I’ll let you know when I master this type of mindfulness.