At age 22 while living in Mongolia I developed a severe chronic pain condition that effects every aspect of my life. Continuing this blog reminds me that life's challenges are stepping stones meant to lift us, not roadblocks meant to defeat us.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Living with the Point System.

"Imagine that you wake up each morning with a certain number of points. If you slept really well and did nothing to make you sore the day before, you might have 15-20 points. If you had a rough night and worked a lot yesterday you wake up with only 5 points. On the average day you have 10 points. Each movement and action costs something. Showering = 5 points. Getting dressed = 3. If you put your shirt on backwards or want to try on something different, the 3 points are wasted and you need to use 3 more. On an average day showering and getting dressed uses up most of your points before breakfast. You realize showers aren’t necessary daily.

Breakfast means lifting the gallon of milk out of the fridge (1 point), carrying it to the table (1 point), getting a bowl and the cereal (1 point), you get what I mean. Putting breakfast away is costly too. Sitting up strait in a chair costs a point every few minutes, so things like responding to e-mails or working on a computer become difficult. Not even talking is free. As you run out of points you get short of breath and need to stop talking.

Walking drains points too. Anything more active than walking is out of the question right now, you barely have enough points to shower every few days. Pain keeps very careful track of the points that you spend so there is no cheating the system. When the points run out you have no choice but to stop and rest. That might mean having a chair in the kitchen so you can rest while you stir a pot on the stove, or finding the closest bench in a store and waiting until you have enough points to get back to the car. Resting can earn you a few more points. You learn to save them up for what you really want and need, just like you would save money for that new bike you really want. You save points so you can call and talk to your friends on the phone, make it to a doctor’s appointment, or paint for an hour. But each day there are things you really want to do that you simply can’t pay for. You can’t overspend, because it physically hurts and makes you weaker and poorer for tomorrow. The worst is when you really need medicine but you don’t have enough points to go and get it. Thank goodness for close family and friends at this point, calling out loudly and asking for help costs points too.

When you are in public and around others you worry about seeming rude and standoff-ish. From the outside you look fine, others can’t see the painful point system you are tied to. They wonder why you won’t play volleyball or join in the conversation. It is hard to focus on others when pain keeps bringing you back to yourself, and all your points go towards staying standing and composed. What you want to do and what you can do become two very different things. It is hard to meet new people because their first impression of you is so different than who you really are. But you can’t stay out long anyways, your points are almost used up."

I was trying to describe to a doctor how I could only do a certain amount of things a day and how sometimes i'm just plain spent, and the idea of points came to mind. Those that suffer from rheumatoid arthritis, auto immune disorders, chronic back pain, clinical depression, foot or knee injuries, fibromyalgia, or aging in general, experience the limiting “point system”. It is invisible to others. It has definitely made me more aware of what others might be going through, and I have no place to judge anyone. Even when people look “fine” and “healthy”, they can be battling with pain or disease. I’m going to try starting college again in a few weeks and that is going to add a lot of physically costly things to my to-do list, but I’m already marking out where the good soft comfy chairs are around campus so I can earn more points during the day ;)

So to all of us that aren’t limited, ENJOY LIFE!!!! :D. We might not always be so lucky, do all you can while you can. And to those of us that are limited, I can promise that there will be relief. Christ conquered death, and has promised that all of us will be re-united with a perfect, healthy, pain free body for eternity. Sounds so wonderful, and it will be a free gift to all of us :) (see Alma 11:44-45 in the Book of Mormon. If you don't have a copy of one you can access the bible and book of mormon from our church website, Click the link on Alma 11:44-45 to read those scriptures, seriously they are so good! (and give hope to all us hurting people ;)

1 comment:

  1. You are wise beyond your years, Ashley. What a perfectly easy-to-understand way to describe a very small part of what you are going through. I have recently realized how blessed I am to have friends with strength and faith such as yours. Just this week a dear friend of mine's 22 yo son lost his courageous battle with cancer. Although my heart aches for his family, I have been strengthened by their faith, courage, and commitment to each other during his 1.5 year struggle with cancer.

    You, likewise, are a source of strength and inspiration. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and experiences—I know there is something for all of us to learn. Keeping you in our thoughts and prayers...

    Linda Shattuck