Calm Allows One to Weather the Storm

I had the opportunity to speak to a former colleague a few months about my 8 years as a law clerk for Judge Brenda Cole State Court of Fulton County, Georgia. The former colleague, now a judge herself, praised me for my professionalism both in the courtroom and outside of the courtroom. She spoke about my calm demeanor even when emotions were high, and the adrenaline was pumping through the courtroom. She also complimented me on my ability to navigate thousands of cases, keeping up with existing laws, understanding is a myriad of facts and subjects, reading hundreds of briefs, and tackling competing parties at the same time without breaking a sweat. She called me a class act.

A calm demeanor has helped me cope with lupus

I think it is my calm demeanor that helps me survive this disease. As you know from one of my previous articles I grew up with severe headaches. I believe these headaches were coined in some circles as the lupus headache, but that is not the focus of this article. My headaches started to evolve in my late 20s into cluster headaches. I get these cluster headaches for a week or two from time to time. The headaches are debilitating and paralyzing. I cannot drive a vehicle. I cannot lay down or stand up. There are instances in which I cry. I vomit, not from nausea but from extreme pain. These headaches only improve with the administration of a narcotic.

Coping with lupus headaches

In order to appropriately respond to these cluster headaches, I have learned that calm water tends to reduce the anxiety associated with these headaches. I will often soak in a very warm bathtub and place a cold icepack on the back of my neck. This experience helps numb the pain in my headache and the warm weather helps me relax. When I was in law school and I suffered a cluster headache flare, I would go swimming. The calm water, the mild exercise, and the breathing exercises really helped me relax and forget the pain. Many times the swim relieved my headache.

Lupus and fibromyalgia

When I realized I was suffering from fibromyalgia, I was at the beach. Gusts of wind from the ocean caused me so much pain that I could not walk along the beach or even sit on the patio of the house. The pain still occurred when I went into the house. The pain would worse every time the patio door opened. The pain prevented me from sleeping. The pain agitated me. NSAIDs did not help my pain. I drank alcohol as a numbing agent. The only thing that calmed me and reduced my pain for a short period of time was walking. So, I would walk through the house while everyone else slept. When I returned home, I would walk through the neighborhood in the middle of the night. I paced across the living room while watching television. I would take the dog on random walks.

Living with lupus

While the actions I took may be unusual ways to deal with pain, what is central to both of those exercises is the fact that swimming, lying in the water, and walk help the mind remain calm. I learned from Judge Cole, that a calm person gains more respect than one who is ruffled. I think that is why she continues to be a well-respected jurist. I remember my mentor and first support group leader once told me that people with lupus tend to calm, intelligent and type-A personalities. If I think of lupus warriors who I call my friends and family over the course of my lupus experience, I am not surprised by these characterizations. Many that I know do experience sad, angry, frustrated emotions like anyone with a chronic illness but in the end, they are able to find a way to release that emotion so that they remain calm.

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