Having a chronic health condition gets dull. In my case, a combination of conditions means my bones and joints push me towards a seasonal approach to life.
I am full of ideas and joy in spring, as the sun brings my body out of hibernation. I am productive in the summer, and work outdoors in active roles that help me tone up and recover from a season of pain.
As autumn approaches, my body makes me slow down – giving me time to reap the fruits of my summer labours and tie up loose ends – if often from bed (luckily, I can work from bed).
Winter can be full of discontent as being bedbound bores thanks to ligaments that are stretched, and joints that make getting a cup of tea a mission that can require painkillers. After a few months, the pain dulls my brain as half my energy is focussed on not focussing on the pain (or trying to be mindful about the whole thing).
However, I am lucky in that I am naturally introverted, love crafting, enjoy my own company and find a break from ‘normal’ life a great chance to catch up, think – and do. I am also familiar enough with the pattern that I can prepare for being bedbound by creating boredom-busting activities while I’m well.
Some of my coping mechanisms include:
- Freezing tasty but healthy meals when I have energy to cook, to eat when pain makes noodles a challenge (a microwave is a huge bonus for me when I ache.)
- Having trays for crafting so that I can craft in bed but don’t get glitter in the sheets (valuable life lesson learned).
- Having basic craft boxes accumulated over the year for sewing, knitting, paper crafts, nature crafts and whatever other crafts appeal (mostly found items or presents as health affects income. The recycling box becomes so much more whem immobility pushes you towards creativity. All-purpose glue, a hot glue gun and glitter are all I need to create fairyland – though string and paint help too.) This means that I am never stuck for something to do (even when light sensitivity means the computer is unfeasible: associated health conditions can also get dull.)
- Exercising in bed so that my muscles can support my ligaments and I can help my body to help me get outside.
- Being honest with friends about my physical capabilities and having crafting sessions and item-trading parties (from clothes to crafting kit) at home so that I can stay social.
- Keeping nuts and fruit leather next to the bed for easy snacking (I find energy bursts can fight pain, and the – healthyish – sugar burst of fruit leather can make the difference between being able to get a cup of tea or not).
- Having lots of indoor plants, including edibles, so I can still tend a garden when I’m incapacitated (with fairy gardens for when I’m bedbound).
- Having a stash of aromatherapy oils and base oils so I can make my own blends which may or may not be healing according to science but make me feel better regardless. I feel like a child making potions, which is fun. Fun fights boredom.
- A foraging bag filled with tupperware, bags, bird seed and wildflower mix so that I can grab and go if I get a pain-free burst (or get frustrated with being stuck indoors and take painkillers to get through.)
This preparation means that instead of feeling low about being trapped in the house – which can be a risk – I enjoy it. It is time to make (and sleep).
However, it’s also only by being trapped indoors that I’ve really come to appreciate being outdoors. When I am rendered immobile by an inconveniently sulking joint (the sacro-illiac is a particularly fun one), every sunset brings a pang and sunny days can be frustrating. Taking pictures through the window isn’t the same.
But my indoor garden gives me lots to photograph.
Being unable to take ‘outdoors’ for granted also brings more joy to the times I can get out.
Today, my ankle was stable enough for a short walk so I went to see the ducks: always an education. I learned that ducks have communal baths (or at least did today in Loughborough). Around 20 ducks were splashing around together. The light was too dim to capture it properly on my phone but the shapes that they made were beautiful.
It really is the small things that make a difference: seeing the reflection of sunset on the canal; noticing a tree with a trunk that looks like a hug; checking in on the plants outside the house (Tim tomato is still thriving); and simply breathing the air along the canal.
Pain sucks. I am lucky that I am able to do so much – though there are days when even sleep is effort. However, bringing the outdoors inside helps make me feel better. And being able to get outdoors brings even more joy.