Slowing Down with CRPS- How To Say No While Staying Happy
By Samantha Anderson
I’ve lived with CRPS for 11 out of my 24 years on this planet. I’ve always been a type-A personality that hates turning down a job or a favor for anyone. This has gotten me into a pickle. Why is slowing down important?
Based on personal experience, and observation of the CRPS community for over a decade, there is one thing that so many of us have in common. We all struggle with slowing down. What do I mean by slowing down? I mean leaving work or cutting back hours, not making cupcakes for your niece’s birthday party, staying home instead of going out, and the like.
Over the years, I have noticed that I have a problem with saying no. Whether it is taking on extra assignments, volunteering to help watch a younger family member, making extra pies and baked goods around the holidays- I just cannot seem to say no. Why do I have such a problem saying no? To me, for a long time, it was like I was letting CRPS win. By baking those cupcakes, making those pies, and working extra hard, I thought I was telling CRPS to “Take that!” I thought it would make me everyone else’s “normal.” But, my body was saying to CRPS: “I’m going to exhaust myself and let you come into my life a little more.” It led to more pain, stress, frustration, and depression than I would like to admit. I would get frustrated that people forgot I was living with CRPS while I was trying to forget it myself. Pushing too much was making me sick. That’s a problem. What was I thinking?
Here’s where things get complicated. A few months back, I was discussing limits with others. We have to push ourselves in order to get things done, but it is possible to push too hard. Where do we find the balance? How can we find the balance before we hit our frustration and depression points? That is what we should figure out. This is what I have come to… Pain changes daily. Some days my pain is way higher than other days. If I am having a bad pain day, I need to do what I can to try to make myself comfortable. That has to be the first priority. If I am able to get comfortable, maybe I can take on something I can do from my couch or my bed. But if not, I have to take that as a day for myself. On my lower pain days, I have to consider what my options are. Do I make 70 cupcakes now and chance the use of my hand for a few days and then go to the birthday party? Normally, I do that. But now, I can try to recruit someone to help me so it is not as taxing on my CRPS. But I’ll never miss a birthday party. Do I take on extra projects and stay awake through the night trying to figure out how to get them done? Not ideally.
So, how do my experiences help you out? We have to help each other slow down. There are always ways to still do things while slowing down. Whether you recruit someone to help you finish something, start saying no more, or plan out your time to make sure you have time to recover from any outing. You can do it. I know how much I hate saying no, likely like most of you. But we have to say no to doing too much and yes to helping ourselves and making sure that we are as happy as we can be. If we do not start saying no to some things, we will get overwhelmed and our CRPS pain can increase. We can live fulfilling lives without taking on everything that is offered to us. I keep a check list of daily activities I need to do including things to do for work, for myself, for my dog, for the house, etc. If the list gets too full, I see what I can move to tomorrow. I am only human, you are only human. We may be CRPS superheroes to many, but not saying no is our kryptonite.
To remember this, I have started to post messages to a chalk board/cork board every morning or before I go to bed so I see it in the morning. I write friendly reminders to myself and encourage my husband to help me with some of these memos. Today, I have on my board: “Family always comes first” on a sticky note on my laptop. On my chalk board, it says: “You are only one person. Strong, but one person.” Conveniently, I just received a text from my mom that reminded me that I have been pushing myself and that I need to remember to take care of myself and do what I can. So, now I will go about my day remembering all of that. I will go take care of my cousins after work, but for now I’m going to check some things off my check list and put on some Ed Sheeran to get me through this day. CRPS, I’m not letting you win in any way today.