When Chronic Pain Makes You Cray Cray

Let me try to explain something about myself. I get bored very easily. In the past this was never a problem because there was always some way to fend off the boredom. Go for a run, spend hours cooking new recipes in the kitchen, find the best hiking trails, have jobs that had me on my feet all day long, etc.. and so on.

Now that I can’t do these things anymore, there just aren’t enough acceptable activities in the world that can be done lying down to keep me occupied. What do I mean by acceptable? I mean activities that don’t make me want to pull my hair out and scream. Things like knitting and sewing and crossword puzzles …things that no one should ever be forced to do for more than a few minutes.

When I start to feel better, I still have to be extremely careful and pace myself or I throw myself right into the next flare. My pain levels are down enough that I can concentrate and work on something for most of the day, as long as I am lying or sitting down, but there just are not enough non-active activities to keep me busy.

I like to be active. I used to be active ALL THE TIME. My childhood was spent running circles in the woods, my highschool years were spent on soccer and plays and musicals, my college years were spent playing on and leading groups on a ropes course as my job, and when I graduated college my first job was as an adventure based counselor for troubled youth. I was always doing something – backpacking, rock climbing, kayaking, hiking, running, cooking complicated recipes – and not one of these things had to be lying down.

I had literally no hobby base of non-active activities, which didn’t seem like a problem because I thought I would spend the rest of my days roaming the woods and doing some sort of job that would allow me to be active all day long.

Then….enter chronic pain.

Ok, chronic pain is torturous for anyone. But it feels like there is this extra edge of torture that comes when most everything you ever did with your time was active and outdoors and have absolutely nothing to do with lying around inside. Like nothing.

I have written about this phenomenon before, but when I start to feel a little bit better, I start to get a little bit crazy. Like, I look normal on the outside, but on the inside my mind is going a million miles a minute. I have a thousand thoughts that all want to happen at the same time, and since I can’t get up and do anything, the thoughts just run marathons in brain, which drives me even more crazy. It’s a vicious cycle.

Now, the thoughts can be stopped if I have something to focus on. For example – my book. But now, I am in more of a period of waiting with my book. I’m working on the book proposal and making various edits, but most of the creative process is over. My mind is craving something, anything that will make it think and work and do something that feels meaningful and purposeful.

During those times when my pain levels are hanging steady and I’m not going through a flare, I go through this cycle of craziness at least once a week. It’s like I NEEEEDDDDDD something to keep my occupied or I will go CRRRRAAAAZZZZZYYYYYYY. If I have to watch one more rerun of Friends or one more stupid Netflix movie to keep me occupied I will blow a fuse.

(somehow this seems to describe my life perfectly right now)

Ok, so when I go through these cycles, what happens? I either wait it out by binge watching Netflix or I find some way to push the crazy away. How do I push the crazy away? By doing something productive, something meaningful, something, anything in the world that will make me feel less bored, less crazy, less like I am just lying here wasting my whole life away. Ok, BREATHE. Seriously, it starts to get bad. One time it was my blog. That pushed the crazy out for awhile. Another time it was planning to write my book. That was a good six months or more of somewhere to put the crazy. On another occasion it led to my Change the World facebook group. Another time it led to the small support group on facebook I created.

So, what will it be this time?

Well, this time it’s another project. This week I signed up for National Novel Writing Month, also known as NaNoWriMo. It feels a little silly considering I am still doing edits and book proposals for my nonfiction book, but that just isn’t cutting it. I need something creative to work on, something that I am committed to that I will work on every day to push out the crazy.

How does NaNoWriMo work? Well, this will be my first time doing it, so I’m a little fuzzy on the details, but the basic gist is that you spend the month of November writing a novel with the goal of having a finished rough draft by the end of the month. I don’t have a great idea. I don’t even have a whole idea, just a partial idea that the main character will likely deal with chronic pain, but honestly, none of the details are there. And I wrote the first page the other idea. Yay!

I just know that while I am in this in-between stage where I can’t apply for another job (because that would be seriously crazy) and I can’t be up and doing things all day long (because that would lead to another flare, which would be crazy crazy to push myself into on purpose) and I can’t take one more day of watching TV all day long……I need to find something to occupy myself.

Is anyone else doing NaNoWriMo? Any advice for me???


  1. Ugh, I feel your pain! I’ve been feeling very bored lately, totally unmotivated to make jewelry (not good with Christmas season coming up!) or to do anything else productive. I can crochet up a storm when I am traveling in a car, but somehow I can’t do it at home as productively. Not sure what that’s about! Lately I’ve been resorting to playing Solitaire on an app on my phone…feeling like a total loser even admitting that! HA! All of this to say…just know that you’re not alone!

    1. Thanks for admitting your Solitaire problem to help me feel less alone 😉 lol jk. Yes, you totally described my life. I’m going to say this nasty dreary weather is the culprit!

  2. If you like crazy and have a few hours of free time, I definitely recommend NaNoWriMo. To get the most out of the experience, I suggest getting Chris Baty’s book “No Plot? No Problem!” where he gets into strategies for slogging– I mean skipping– through all 30 days of madness. He’s very big on crazy and his enthusiasm is catching.
    I’m hoping to do it this year if I can get a laptop or a tablet to write on so I can sit around in coffee shops listlessly. It’s been a few years since I last did Nanowrimo (way before chronic pain) and I’m going to get a copy of a book of carpal tunnel syndrome exercises to get me through this one.
    Be prepared with a lot of food and music or white noise or whatever you like to listen to while writing. Baty talks about strategies for getting family members and friends to be supportive, i.e. leave you alone, although you probably have some practice with this already. Boundaries.
    And you don’t need details; not really. Best not to start writing, except maybe little character sketches or plot points.
    I had another thing I was going to say, but I lost my train of thought when I realized that I’ve run out of chocolate. Although this wouldn’t be a problem with NaNoWriMo, where things can get as stream- of-conscious as you like.
    I should probably add that I was having a crummy day and your post really resonated with me. Although not quite enough to pour glitter on my head. Have fun with your novel!

    1. Thanks so much for all of the tips! Yeah, I was debating if I would try to lay out the plot before November or not. I feel like I want to at least have an idea of where the plot is headed, but other than that I think it will be more stream-of-conscious like you said. Thanks for the book suggestion – I’ll check it out.

  3. Since you mentioned your character will probably have chronic pain, I was wondering if you have read “The Cuckoo’s Calling.” The character Cormoran Strike is supposed to have chronic pain?

  4. I can totally relate. I am struggling right now with boredom. I too was a running, hiker, camper, anything that involved the outdoors. My husband use to say ” she has more done by 9;00 am than the marines”! I loved being an RN on my feet. Now I sit and go stir crazy. I sew, have made jewerly in the past but just can’t get into it right now. I have done a lot of scrapebooking also. I get very frustrated with my brain. I wish it would slow down to what my body speed is which is pretty much stop lol!, but it doesn’t it thinks, thinks, thinks all day. I know nothing about Nanowrimo but am going to google it. Hang in there you aren’t along. Pain sucks and so does having a crazy brain..

    1. Yes, you should definitely look into NanoWriMo and do it with me!!! Ugh, it is nice to know I’m not alone in this, but so hard to think of things to do that I actually enjoy but don’t feel useless.

    1. Yay! I’m excited you are doing it, and glad to hear you have had a great experience with it in the past. I’m excited!

  5. I relate deeply to every last word, and yes, it can drive a person bonkers. Only for the grace of God am I not actually cray cray by now!

    Best of luck with NaNoWriMo 🙂 I look forward to hearing about your experience with it.

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