Posted in Journal, Conversation, Op-Ed

The Lady of the Rings: Pain Management is an Arduous Juggling Act

Photo by Berto Macario

As we are all different, we all process our pain and emotions in myriad ways. I have been struggling with debilitating pain for 18 years. Prior to that, in my youth and early twenties, I struggled with severe anxiety and depression. I have experienced the dark night of the soul. But through countless struggle, I have found my way into the light. The goal for me is balance: the only pathway I have found that has no dead end. It sounds so simple but it’s actually damned monotonous and bloody hard work to attempt to live a life in balance while in constant pain. The slightest swerve has the potential of a car crash. But if I do not strive for balance scores of times throughout each day, I literally cannot get out of bed on the following day.

I’ve become a juggler; slowly learning a talent I never really had much dexterity for achieving. But as this necessity has been foisted upon me, I have slowly developed somewhat of a skill in keeping several rings in the air, flying overhead in a constant flurry. Once in a very great while, the stars align and I am able to keep all of the rings flying and it is indeed glorious. Life is beautiful and exciting. Adventure awaits around the very next corner.

Sometimes I drop one or two of the rings but manage to keep the others aloft, painstakingly re-adding the lost rings to the twirling tapestry one slow movement at a time. Life still goes on and the refocusing upon the dropped rings often results in new breakthroughs and achievements that may not have otherwise been found.

In a perfect world, we would be able to keep all of the proverbial rings in the air and manage our chronic illnesses with, well, perhaps not ease, but at least with efficiency. Unfortunately, fibromyalgia and chronic illness merrily fucks with our rings.

I have come to learn that, according to the laws of physics, it is inevitable that, at some point, there will be several triggers, a massive flare will ensue, and all of the rings will fall to earth, one after the other, as we watch, seemingly in slow motion, our entire world falling apart. It is tragic. It is devastating. We think there is no possible way that we can go on. And then, slowly, we pick up one ring, and then another and another. And then it is time to start juggling all over again.

Most people have a juggling act: their rings are generally made up of something like career, relationships, family, health, and religion or spirituality. Those of us with chronic health conditions have an additional set of rings to juggle and discovering what those rings are is imperative to managing our pain and living a life with meaning.

These are the rings I must juggle daily, and in no particular order, to maintain a purposeful life: diet, exercise, family, reaching inward, reaching outward, pain management toolkit, home, sleep. Each of these requires regular attention and care. For me, my over-active neural pathways are just as affected by any dereliction of these rings as is my heightened awareness to sound and light and pain during a fibro flare.

This is my world, these eight rings that rule my life. Each is necessary for the others to survive. And so, as my constant focus is to each of these rings, so will be the focus of the posts within this blog.


Jayne is a happily married fifty-something who struggles daily with the challenges of living with debilitating pain, fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue / myalgic encephalomyelitis . With a career background in the Private Club industry, she was forced into early retirement following a spinal injury when she was in her thirties. Jayne and her husband, to whom she refers in her writing as My Guy or MG, are the proud parents of a small terrier, avid foodies, culinary entrepreneurs and binge watchers of a little too much Netflix . But all too often, the couch is the only comfy place to be!

18 thoughts on “The Lady of the Rings: Pain Management is an Arduous Juggling Act

  1. I couldn’t agree more! We have specific rings that although we didn’t choose to juggle, chronic pain has given them to us to keep in the air! Sounds like you have found your niche. I can’t wait to read about these rings, and learn how you keep them in the air. Maybe even how you pick up the ones that fall at times. No one can juggle forever… great post, my friend! 😊💜

    1. Keeping the rings spinning is one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, Kim. Sometimes I succeed; more often I do not. But, at the risk of sounding extremely melodramatic, the spinning is what’s keeping me sane.

      1. I think it’s a balance, not all rings need to be attended to but they must all be spinning. Somedays its the diet ring, sometimes the home ring… you attend to the one that has slowed, getting it spinning again so it does not fall. I think this is a very practicable approach! It resonates with me. What needs my attention? Are all of my rings spinning? Perfect sense.

        1. I don’t know if it’s because I’m in a bad cycle right now that’s been ongoing since April but it seems like I place one foot wrong and I’m flat out. I eat something I shouldn’t then I don’t sleep and when I don’t sleep I don’t exercise and when I can’t exercise the pain is worse and when the pain is worse it’s difficult to meditate and when I can’t meditate my head gets fuzzy and when my head gets fuzzy… do you see this crazy domino effect? I mean, I’m paraphrasing a bit, yeah, but that’s how it is.

          1. I am in total agreement. I honestly think we go through different stages, hormonal and mental. Ever since 50, it’s been a struggle, balance being the key. But it’s hard to find the right door to fit the key in! 🙄

  2. Yep, damn those laws of physics, they keep sending my rings tumbling to the floor! “Sometimes I drop one or two of the rings but manage to keep the others aloft, painstakingly re-adding the lost rings to the twirling tapestry one slow movement at a time” – I love how you’ve worded this, and how you’ve made the day to day juggling act come to life so those who don’t know what it’s like can get a far clearer picture of it. I find the difficult part (heck, all of it’s difficult) being when those rings drop and getting too frustrated and annoyed and rushing trying to add others. It’s a constant effort and learning curve, but you’re right about how there’s magic around the corner and good days ahead, that we need to try to live a life with meaning rather than getting too caught up in worrying about how well or not we’re doing with our juggling act. Just keeping going, as slowly as needed, is the name of the game. Loved this post!
    Caz xx

    1. Caz, I’m so glad this resonated with you. I feel the need to really expound on this as my rings have been slowly falling for months and I’ve been too exhausted and miserable to do anything about them except to watch their descent. Things WILL improve. They always do eventually. The key is patience and non-judgment; two things I’m not very adept at. But if we don’t judge the fall of the rings and don’t add a story to it, i.e.,Ohmygodmylifeisfallingapartandimnevergoingtofeelgoodagainwhymewhymewhyme and pull your hair out while flogging yourself, it’s just going to take longer to get the juggling act going again. (I’ve just figured out my next blog! Thanks Caz!) So why add to the misery? Right now my house is a mess, I’m eating crap again, haven’t exercised or meditated for weeks, screwed up my med’s rotation, losing needed sleep…but by not judging it, just kinda watching as if from afar, a spectator who has no dog in the hunt, it’s not sending me over the edge as it normally does. One ring at a time, darling. XO

  3. I could see the rings dancing above our heads when you were talking, I could also see many of mine lying at my feet right now….and that’s okay! They’ll get back up there and I’ll start balancing again, but I’m not sure I can ever quite balance all the rings I try to, I think perhaps I need to rotate them and not try to keep them all up there all the time?
    I’m sorry you have been in such a flare I hope it changes for the better soon,
    I really look forward to reading more about your rings.

    1. Thanks so much Wendy! I really appreciate you stopping by and taking the time to read and comment. I think the key is to keep as many rings spinning as is necessary for you to live a well balanced life. If that means regular ring rotation, so be it. Everyone’s juggling act will have a distinctive flow; no two will be alike. Your main ring right now is Headache Management. Once that’s aloft again, you’ll easily be able to pick up the rest when you are ready and able to do so. Cheers to Happy Ring Spinning!

    1. You’re very kind, da-Al. Thank you. I look forward to diving into Happiness Between Tails! It looks like a very interesting and enjoyable read. It’s a pleasure to meet you. Cheers!

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