fibromyalgia

Meditation, Demonic Possession, and You!

5 Ways to Get Yourself Possessed by a Demon

I went to an Evangelical, Fundamentalist junior high and high school. We trended more Pentecostal through elementary school, but since I changed elementary schools 11 times, it was tough task to pin a solid doctrine to me then. One consistent thing throughout, though, was that my institutions were serious about demons. If there’s one thing you don’t want, children, it’s to get possessed by a demon. My 4th grade Sunday School teacher, Miss Kathy, was the first to share the truth bomb that there were demons in the room with us right at that second. She felt we were old enough to know the truth. But don’t worry, they were outnumbered by angels, so we cool. She also broke the news to us about the Persian Gulf War when other grown-ups didn’t think we needed to worry ourselves, so she’d established her reputation as a reliable adult. She was really nice and pretty, so I was gonna listen to whatever she was on about.

Lucky for us, Christians can’t become possessed, except under special circumstances. With regular Bible classes, chapels, and Bible studies beginning in 7th grade, I was given a solid curriculum about how to keep from letting my spiritual guard down, lest a demon slip in. There are a few ways that the demons can get into a Believer:

  1. Meditation. Best to stay away from yoga altogether. There are literal demons all around us, just waiting for us to do maximal breaths while we’re in Shavasana. Then, just when you’re like, “Is this what it feels like not to be freaked the fuck out?” — Bam! That’s when they get you.
  2. Drugs. Did you know that the Greek word used in the Bible to mean “witchcraft” is pharmakeia, the same word for drugs and pharmaceuticals? Drugs and witchcraft are interchangeable as far as Paul is concerned. (We don’t call him “Saint Paul,” because all believers who have accepted Jesus are saints. That’s why Catholicism might be a cult, whereas this particular strain on non-denominational Christianity is the nonsense-free path to salvation.) Anyway, don’t smoke pot if you don’t want to get possessed. And stay away from antidepressants, too. And if you’d prayed harder, you wouldn’t have cancer right now either, so get your shit together.
  3. Witchcraft. See above: It’s as bad as marijuana. So avoid hexes and spells and shit. Oh, and Dungeons and Dragons. You will legit get expelled if you’re caught playing Dungeons and Dragons. Lord help you if you get high and then play Dungeons and Dragons. It’s like you don’t even want to not be possessed.
  4. Method acting. You just gonna let those characters waltz into your body like that? How you gonna get them out when the director calls “cut?” That’s right, you’re not. We’re not saying to totally avoid the arts, because otherwise it’s going to be difficult to witness to the homosexuals. We’re just saying be careful out there, and just do line reads where you try putting emphasis on different words and see how it sounds.
  5. Hypnosis. What are you, dumb? This is the #1 way demons get into your body. You better believe that a hypnotist’s office is teeming with demons, waiting for some dumb Christian to come in to get help with smoking cessation. Demons also hang out at the Orange County Fair; they travel with the warm-up act. You know, the magician that makes audience members cluck like chickens before Steppenwolf comes on at 7. Those demons leap into you as soon as you close your eyes.

As a young person who took my faith very seriously, this was scary as shit. Goddamn demons trying to get into me? I’d better keep my guard all the way up. That hypervigilance, it turns out, is very difficult to unlearn. Now I’m an adult with fibromyalgia, the treatment for which can include a combination of drugs, meditation, yoga, hypnosis, and occasional witchcraft. Fuck method acting, though. Ain’t nobody got time for that much rehearsal.

The chronic pain I experience is the result of prolonged stress and trauma. If you look at brains of healthy people vs. brains of people with my diagnoses, the brains like mine are gonna have more gray matter… Almost as though I could never let my guard down, lest a fucking demon get me. Where there should be space for executive function and positive aspirations, there’s instead just a bunch of neural super-highways to the sensation of pain. My job now is to rewire it all through the curative powers of previously forbidden activities, and by avoiding things that cause undue stress. It’s hard.

IMG_5432I’ve got a new yoga studio I like. (One Down Dog in Eagle Rock and Silver Lake, if you wanna come try to get mellow with me. I’m in all the yin and restorative classes, and in nothing called anything like “Sweat,” “Sculpt,” or “Butt.”) I’m seeing a new, good rheumatologist at UCLA. I even embroider every once in a while. All of this is in an effort to unlearn the hypervigilance that makes me sick. But mostly I alternate between watching the news and watching my highly acrobatic and strong-willed four-year-old; I observe that my right eye hasn’t stopped twitching in at least three weeks; and I get stressed out that I’m not calm enough. And lately, I haven’t been sleeping well because of the prospect of nuclear war with North Korea, among other treats unique to our era.

But at least I’ve never yet been possessed by any demons, best I know. Unless they’re hiding in that excess gray matter.

Namaste, b-words.

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Greetings, from Fabulous Bed!

This is a post explicitly about my health. If you’d rather not know what goes on inside my skin, for, like HR reasons or your own personal comfort, maybe skip this one.

One of my biggest concerns about becoming a parent was the physical toll. I didn’t know if I was up for it, and, frankly, I might not be. I have what is known in the scientific community as “Health Stuff”:

All of these are invisible illnesses, or they would be if I hadn’t started rockin’ the cane a couple years back. The cane has been hugely useful in indicating that it’s not just laziness that keeps me from wanting to stand on the Metro or be the one to move the boxes full of anvils. Any of these things might be fine on their own, but they don’t play nicely with each other. The modified posture I’d taken on from years of pelvic pain is the likely trigger for the spine fracture, to which I apparently was already predisposed, but if I’d spent the last 15 years doing ab crunches instead of trying to avoid putting any unnecessary pressure around my bladder, the vertebrae would probably have stayed put. There’s no way to put the bones back where they belong; I can only keep it from getting worse. The fibromyalgia diagnosis was kind of a breakthrough, because it changed the way we were treating the interstitial cystitis, and now, thank fuck, the IC is in remission.

I overdid it with walking last week (while carrying a foolish choice of shoulder-bag), and then I further overdid it when I leapt to catch Charlie as he fell off the coffee table. I did mostly manage to keep him from hitting his head on the hardwood floor. To be on the safe side, I asked Andy to give Charlie his bath last night, because the inevitable catch of the slipping toddler who doesn’t listen to my commands of “No crazy-legs in the tub!” would have been an issue. Andy and I got Charlie in his jammies together, and then I laid down and Andy delivered Charlie to me to nurse to sleep, so that I didn’t have to do much lifting or bending. I took some Advil and had some wine, and when I woke up, I felt like my self-care combined with asking for help when I needed it had won the day. And then I leapt out of bed and after Charlie to close the bathroom door and the baby gate, lest Charlie beat me to either one and manage to fall down the stairs while drinking out of a bottle of bleach. As soon as my feet hit the floor: NOPE. Nope nope nope nope nope. Nope.

Greetings from fabulous Bed! Wish you were here.

Greetings from fabulous Bed! Wish you were here.

I did beat Charlie to the bathroom door, and Andy had already closed the baby gate. I am home from work, because my back is not participating in my life today. I’m very glad that I have live-in child-care in the form of Andy’s dad, because I would not have been able to get Charlie dressed and out the door if I had to take him to a daycare provider. Then, in between when Andy left for work and when his dad took over, Charlie fell off the nightstand, which yes, he was standing on, because that’s his whole thing. I caught him, because that’s my whole thing. (I initially thought my thing was to keep him from getting on top of the night stand to begin with, but that’s easier said than done. We’re working on it.) Catching him hurt. Now I’m in bed. I intend to stay here, except for when stretching or lying on the floor seems like a better course of action.

This is the part of having a kid I was worried about. When Charlie was an itty-bitty baby, except for when I was in early C-section recovery, there weren’t a lot of acrobatics or feats of strength involved in his care. When feats of strength did come into play, my challenge was in having the correct posture for slow, deliberate actions: Laying him in his crib, picking him up off the floor, carrying him in his carrier (which I did as seldom as possible, because shit, those things are heavy when they’re filled with baby), cleaning up baby barf, picking chokable items off the floor. That style of care was challenging, but manageable. Now Charlie has the strength and speed of a tornado, but with half the judgement. Because my medical conditions are all basically managed, I haven’t really missed work for them this decade, apart from scheduled doctor’s appointments and physical therapy to keep things managed. But I’ve been catching a lot of falling objects lately. Actually, just one falling object: my 26-pound toddler. Over and over again.

I would like a body that’s more participatory, but this is the one I’ve got until science allows me to have my brain transported into a mechanical suit, like Krang from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. I’m glad I have help. I need it.

Therapy Is For Rich People

I’m four sessions into the cognitive psychotherapy that, ideally, will help me to manage stress and anxiety in such a way as to no longer cause me to have fibromyalgia flair-ups. To see someone who is:

A) Not herself entirely loony
B) Located a reasonable distance from my office
C) Well-regarded by my OB/GYN (who’s managing my medication)
D) Currently taking new patients
E) … With appointments available in the very early evening, and
F) Qualified to handle my particular set of issues, which include but are not limited to:

  1. Postpartum stuff
  2. Emotional aspects of physical disability
  3. Neurological aspects of physical disability
  4. Generally being high-strung with a metric buttload of emotional issues to work through

… All requires me to go out-of-network. Even if my only requirements were to see a practitioner who is:

A) In-Network, and
B) Taking new patients
… I would be out of luck. At least I was out of luck the last time I placed a series of phone calls with only those two criteria in mind.

I have out-of-network mental health benefits, so I committed to six appointments to see how the financial stuff shakes out.

I just got my first explanation of benefits from my health insurance provider. The financial stuff is not shaking out.

The good news, though, is that my emergency in-patient mental health care is cheap as chips on this plan, so when I finally snap, I’ll only have to pay the ER co-pay on my way to my padded cell.

I think my therapist will understand when I inevitably break up with her. She used to work in my industry herself. I asked why she decided to change careers; turns out that the arts didn’t pay.

Therapy!

When I started walking with a cane, and started to come to terms with the fact that this would be A Thing for me for, like, ever, I started seeing a therapist. I talked to her about transitioning into a different kind of life for about four seconds before the conversations turned to “yeah my spine is fine or whatever. Let me tell you about my mom and my own complicated feelings about potentially becoming a mother. Please take all my money now.” She was wonderful. She and I had our babies six weeks apart. This meant that she was a great support through that time, serving as a willing glimpse into my not-too-distant future. Unfortunately, she seemed to get hit pretty hard by postpartum depression, and she did not maintain her private practice for long after we both came back from leave. Fortunately, I had graduated into non-therapist-needing life, and I was released into the wild.

A few months ago, my physical therapist released me into the wild as well. This was a major victory. I’d been going just about every week for over three years, and for a while it seemed there was no end in sight. But I came back from maternity leave to a new physical therapist, and between a new set of professional eyes and my body’s own postpartum reset, I started making measurable progress. I have fibromyalgia, in addition to spine stuff & other stuff, so improvement is complicated. We did everything we could do there, but all signs point to me having stressed-based pain flair-ups because of the neurological aspects of fibromyalgia. So I was released from physical therapy– on the condition that I get back into the Talk About Feelings kind of therapy. I dragged my feet on the matter, because I REALLY liked not having to keep a weekly appointment anywhere outside of work. And I REALLY liked not spending all my fun-time sandwich money on coinsurance and copays and deductibles. I was like a normal adult again. But if I really want to operate at my highest level, with as little physical pain as possible, I’ve got to be here. Here, in the waiting room, with several other young, professional-looking woman who probably want help with self-actualization and work-life balance, and one dude in a suit who’s ripping the pages out of the magazines in the waiting room and throwing them away with exasperation. Crap, now he’s looking at me. Crap, now he’s walking over here. Crap! Gotta go.

Wish us all luck.

UPDATE: It was good, and the magazine-ripping guy was a non-issue. And good health is going to cost all my fun-time sandwich money. Damn.