spine twisting around a statue of a woman with the arms broken off

7 Mindset Shifts To Get Through A Flare-Up

I've been in the worst flare-up for the past week or so. My pain levels are steadily sitting between seven and 10, and it's not showing many signs of letting up. I think I know the trigger: I've been doing too much. Too much walking. Too many dance workouts. Too much HIIT (high-intensity interval training). Basically, I took a proverbial bat to my poor spine by shocking it with constant movement.

I’m literally unable to walk for more than five minutes, and my bedside table is covered in heat patches, lidocaine creams, anti-inflammatories, Tiger Balm, and CBD oil. It's been rough, sad, lonely, and frustrating.

However, I wanted to share a few things that I've learned, felt, and realized along the way. I've had ankylosing spondylitis for more than a decade, so here's my wisdom (learned the hard way, kicking and screaming).

Know that a body can be both beautiful and in pain

Your body can be broken and healing at once. We aren’t one thing, we are many things. We can be inspired and exhausted. We can be fatigued and stunning. We can be many things. We aren't reduced to our disease, even if sometimes it feels that way.Know that your body isn’t your enemyIt is NOT separate from you. It is you. Feed it, nourish it, be soft to it. Everything you do is holistic. If you rest, it's good for the body. If you stretch and drink more water, it's good for the body. It is easy to think of the disease as outside of yourself, but you are your body and your body just needs something else—something different from others'.Medicine can be many thingsMedicine is medicine, but it is also sunlight, dance, intentional movement, meditation, glamour, water, herbal tea, pop music, animal love, dog-eared books, conversations with friends, poetry spoken into the wind, and the sea. Medicine is the small pleasures that give our life worth and value and beauty.Find grace and patienceEveryone tells me this — so that grace is what I’m giving you. It is okay to be angry and to be sad, but know which feelings and energies serve you and which do not. Conserve your energy, focus on what fuels you, and find a way to work with the feelings, not against them. Oftentimes I journal these feelings so that I can process them and move forward.Embrace boundariesIn fact, saying no can feed your body. Sometimes you have to walk away from plans and people and projects — and that’s ok. You aren’t losing, you’re preserving."Waste" your timePaint your nails, watch YouTube tutorials, sleep, stare out the window, drink sleepytime tea at 2 pm, write half a blog post and then close your computer so you can do nothing at all. If you have to work, try to be gentle with yourself as often as you can.Pass the buckSo many people suffer. Show up to others who need it. Maybe send them a meal or give them an ear or help them find a babysitter when they’re sick. We need to be here for each other.

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