Give yourself a pain break

Illness doesn't take vacations. You don't get to clock out for long weekends of R & R. There are no breaks, no furloughs, no specific date you can circle on the calendar, flipping the pages and counting the days. Dealing with Lyme is a full time gig, especially when your symptoms are acute or you're in the midst of a flaring herx.

Since nobody at Lyme Headquarters is going to pop their head out the door, shake your hand, and tell you to go home and put your feet up, we need to remind ourselves. Take the opportunity to take a break. The whole world celebrates at this time of the year. Being sick now feels a bit like being the kid at boarding school with no parents coming to pick her up for summer. So even if you feel lousy, you're in pain, you wish you could formulate a complete sentence without forgetting what you were talking about...take time out. I've done it, and you probably have too, so I know it's possible.

When I was in an acute stage, bedridden and miserable, pain-breaks were few and far between. I learned a couple of tricks, a little mental prestidigitation. One was to watch funny movies and laugh. Out loud. Belly laughter is more than physical, it's a state of mind. It takes complete control of your attitude. It's really hard to be miserable and laughing at the same time. And for those few precious moments, I didn't feel the pain. In fact I felt happy, normal, and like everything was going to be alright.

Another trick I discovered, which isn't a trick but really more of a visualization, is to imagine another person, someone you either know or don't know, who is suffering worse than you. Sadly, we don't have to look far. Hold a picture of that person in your mind, take a deep, relaxing breath, and as you breathe out imagine all the pain and sickness draining from them. Whenever I do this, I can vividly imagine that other person smiling and rosy-cheeked, and I instantly (even if only for a moment) feel better too.

A doctor friend of mine tells me these little tricks are very healthy. She says they can even help break the cycles of pain involved in many chronic illnesses, cycles known as the pain cascade.

So take a pain break. Get on the phone to a long-lost friend, or e-mail them if talking is too tiring. Send e-mail notes to all your loved ones wishing them a happy holiday -- e-mail is less expensive and less work. Cut and paste. Watch a comedy on TV or rent a funny movie and let yourself get caught up in the silliness. Find a kid and tell them a knock-knock joke. I bet they'll have one for you, and it just might make you feel better.

We'll be here after your break, to wish you well, as always.

Happy holidays, everybody. Cheerio.