(Today’s blog post is part of a continuing series of personal stories about living with Trigeminal Neuralgia – the most painful medical condition known to man.)
I just returned from an extended stay at my dad’s house in Florida. I went there for several reasons. I wanted to provide some company for my father, who is having difficulty getting around due to knee problems. I wanted a change of scenery. I wanted to find a place where maybe my pain would be a little better.
I was two out of three. My pain remained the same. Chicago may have blustery winds and sub-zero temperatures that are hard for someone with TN, but the ever-passing fronts of weather in Florida doesn’t do us any favors. However, it’s a lot nicer being in pain in seventy degrees than in seventeen.
I had a little trepidation about returning home. One thing I realized many years ago is that I don’t really get too attached to any particular place. I’m sort of a “wherever I hang my hat” kind of person. I quickly got acclimated to my dad’s place without feeling like it was some foreign locale. I was like that when I used to travel for business as well. Once my clothes are in the closet, my pillows are arranged how I like them and a quick coming up to speed on the TV channels is complete, I’m pretty much at home.
But this time was different. Returning to my little apartment wasn’t bad. I like my place, although it’s getting too expensive to live here. It has a good sized kitchen and more closet space than I’ll probably find when looking for a new home. And closet space is of paramount importance. My view is of a forest preserve, which is not only pretty but provides the safety of knowing no one can peer in my windows. I vacuum naked sometimes.
My anxiety about returning to my place is that I really don’t understand what my place is these days. Being unable to work has left me somewhat at sea with regard to who I am in the grand scheme of things. I think for me that’s one of the biggest challenges with having a chronic illness. What is there that provides me some personal sustenance? I know I’m a good daughter and a good sister but beyond that, what can I grab onto that makes me feel I’m a part of the world? That was a rhetorical question, please don’t send me recommendations. This is the question only I can answer and as we transition from winter to spring, it is my goal. I want to blossom forth with a new direction, a path, a plan to find my place. Maybe it will be volunteering or attempting a part-time job (although honestly, I wouldn’t hire me). Or maybe I’ll meet a special someone who will spark in me the momentum to move forward. Don’t get me wrong, I do not think a romantic interest should ever constitute someone’s whole world or identity. I’m just saying that finding someone supportive might influence me to be more assertive in my quest. I would want someone to be proud of me, and laying on the sofa all day isn’t too impressive.
See that picture up there? That is the closest representation I could find of my imaginary “happy place” – a type of calming image that therapists often recommend to help people deal with stress. It reminds me of when I was in nursery school where there was a big goldenrod field that we would run through during recess. I find myself thinking a lot about my happy place these days. Oh, not the goldenrod one, but a more personal one. One that brings me back to when I didn’t have constant pain. And one that I hope opens up in me the pathway to a happy place that is more steeped in reality than imagination. In the meantime, I’m just going to keep looking at that picture.