Just relax

Try to relax. I’ve heard it a lot of course. Maybe meditation would help. Try mindfulness. If you could relax, you wouldn’t hurt as much. This has come round fairly regularly over the last twenty years or so. As though I haven’t tried. As though I am so stupid that I let my body run away from me into a state of pain and misery that would disappear if only I made a bit of effort to relax. Sometimes, I’ve internalised this and added feelings of intense uselessness alongside the body pain. Oddly, that’s never helped me.

I’ve been meditating as best I can for the last twenty years. Pain makes it difficult to concentrate. Pain means that any body-focused meditation can turn into a very special sort of hell and mostly I don’t go there because it doesn’t actually help. The soreness and stiffness in my body is more complicated than can be fixed by just thoughtfully relaxing all those muscles. Also, when it’s pretty much all of the muscles, deliberately relaxing them isn’t that easy anyway. I know, because I’ve tried…  Repeatedly.

Yes, I have been told about the thing where you clench a muscle hard and then relax it. I have tried this. The odds are decent that the result of the deliberate tensing will be a rush of pain, maybe with a side-order of cramp. I am seldom persuaded that it’s worth the risk.

So here’s a radical notion. What if I, and people like me aren’t hurting because we’re doing it wrong. What if we have bodies that hurt, and cannot magically be fixed with that really easy thing you think we should be trying. What if that really easy thing, when tried, inflicts more pain? What if, living in our bodies as we do, we might be considered to have some tiny notion about what helps and what doesn’t? What if we are allowed to say no to quick fixes that don’t fix anything?

That would have scary implications, wouldn’t it? Because it might mean that your wellness is not entirely because of your reiki mindfulness yoga paleo-diet. It might be that you have been lucky so far. You might not always be lucky. Things might go wrong in your body that you can’t deal with by relaxing and being positive. Pain might be real after all and not all in my mind. Aging is out there as a possibility for all of us, with all the complicated gifts it brings. Bodies go wrong.

If the last twenty years have taught me anything, it’s that kindness is a good deal more helpful than ‘cures’. Accepting me as I am does far more to help me than yet another round of being told the one simple thing I should do to sort it all out. Being patient with my limitations helps me more than telling me why this is all my fault.

About Nimue Brown

Druid, author, dreamer, folk enthusiast, parent, polyamourous animist, ant-fash, anti-capitalist, bisexual steampunk. Drinker of coffee, maker of puddings. Exploring life as a Pagan, seeking good and meaningful ways to be, struggling with mental health issues and worried about many things. View all posts by Nimue Brown

6 responses to “Just relax

  • Yvonne Aburrow

    Amen to that!

    In my experience, people tell me to relax when I have just called out an injustice or a micro- or macro- aggression. As you can imagine, this has the opposite effect.

    So yes, I think people tell others to relax when they don’t want to really hear or understand. It’s yet another way of pretending your needs aren’t valid.

    I’ve found the best way of avoiding unsolicited advice of the “if only you did this…” variety was leaving Facebook. Such advice is no longer part of my life since I left Facebook. It’s bliss. I feel strangely relaxed…

  • Wrycrow

    This. So very much this. “Oh, you have depression? Have you tried [x]? I had a really bad week and it totally helped me.” Not. The. Same. Thing.

  • eberis

    the joke is apparently mensual pain and junpana is on a reset of the overuse of server on data centers . it makes a high setting ; that would be a weird one we call down round by the stone .. any thoughts ?

  • helgaleena

    Nobody is a greater authority upon your own pain than you yourself. Chronic pain, whether mental or physical in origin, is reality for you. Don’t discount it as an illusion you can just will away. Being your own ally and advocate is the first source of relief. I know absolutely nothing about your pain beyond my own, which has physical causes that were not diagnosed for decades. It happens. It contributes to depression, and depression contributes to it. Relaxing is not always an option when this world holds so many sources of irritation.

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