The Welsh singer-songwriter Martyn Joseph sang at a music festival in our village last August. A song was about the conflict in Palestina and the fate of those innocent civilians living there. „Despair is a luxury,“ he sang. (There’s the link – check the song out!)
Those lyrics struck a chord with me. I remembered how a neighbour met me in a train last May. My hand and arm were bandaged with a dressing of anti-inflammatory cream. The medication that had transformed my life since Christmas 2015 had been working less well in the previous months. Now it had stopped working entirely, and alternately my wrists, arms, knees swelled up. I had backache and felt exhausted, drained of energy, not rested after sleep. We talked a little, and she said, „You are brave.“ I said, „I’m not. I have no choice.“
Inside I didn’t feel brave. I was frightened. Frightened that the joy of life, given back to me by the treatment, was lost. Frightened that I would go back to chronic pain, frightened that I might not be able to work, frightened that I would be too tired to go out into the world, and loose the social life that keeps my soul afloat.
Six months on, one of the alternatives that are currently available, does seem to be working. The swelling disappeared in June and the back ache that plagued July is gone too. Side effects are being controlled with another medication. I am energised again, able to get up early, go hiking, swim, go out in the evening and generally feel good about myself again. I’ve just been on holiday for two weeks of swimming, diving, reading, eating, fun with friends, and generally had an amazing time.
In retrospect, it‘s a shame that I allowed several months to be marred by feeling miserable. My doctors are caring and will do their best to find a treatment that will help me. I am incredibly lucky to live in a country where my treatment will be paid for, more or less whatever it costs. (Think of the people in poorer countries, where this is not the case; and for the Americans with disorders like mine, who told me that they will not get insurance cover, if President Trump’s health care reforms are enacted). I have a job and an understanding employer. I have a secure home, and a loving family. There are plenty of things I can still do, even if I have aching joints. Things could be so much worse.
“Despair is a luxury” sings Martyn Joseph. If you can‘t change anything, then despair has no use – it’s like a luxury. That’s how I understood the words of the song, So, if despair can galvanise me to go into action and change something, then it’s useful. If not, despair is only destructive and will never end. Acceptance and trust are the keys; enjoying every moment, when nothing is seriously wrong – and of course even during a flare-up, there are such moments.
Meditation is the greatest tool I know to instantly get into a mind-frame of acceptance, trust and happiness. But exactly when I’m in pain and feeling bad about myself, is the time when I don’t use it! If I have backache, or other aching joints, I find meditation most difficult….. Will I manage better next time? I’m working on it.