How to cope with emotions connected to limitations in eating and motion?
February 23, 2022 7:23 AM   Subscribe

I have joint issues which limit my movement (e.g., need to remember to reach toward things with one hand and not the other). I also have to follow a fairly restrictive diet (but, if I do, leaves me feeling healthy and well.) Both factors hinder spontaneity and I have a mess of emotions connected to this (resentment, frustration, etc.). I've tried just focusing on what I can do (e.g., enjoying limited sort of swimming) and feasting occasionally with no limits (not so healthy), but I wonder if there's any other outlets people could suggest?
posted by Jon44 to Health & Fitness (6 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
I have limited eating (can’t share food with people because I’m severely celiac and their food could have cross-contact issues), and honestly I’ve never quite gotten over the social aspect. However I do pack myself a pretty bento box at home for lunches and things, and if I’m at a restaurant that can’t accommodate me I’ve never had them refuse to let me eat my own food while I share a table with friends.

As far as outlets, when I’ve been ill or injured, I’ve diversified. When I couldn’t walk due to a compound fracture, I focused on group singing and on learning to knit. When COVID started and I couldn’t sing with people because it was suddenly dangerous, I focused intensely on technical scuba diving. When I got decompression sickness from a heart issue and couldn’t dive much for a year while that got sorted out, I focused on open water swimming. Currently I’m having some joint issues so walking hurts, but I can easily ride my electric bicycle and feel free. After surgeries and in quarantines I return to knitting. Etc.

The emotions are real, and limitations suck. I don’t have an answer for that, I still get upset about not being able to eat my friends’ food, and about the fact that I will have ankle problems forever. But I’m a very physical person; diversifying my interests to new activities that are still using my body (swimming, knitting, singing) but in ways that accommodate whatever injury or issue I’m having has really helped me.

Sounds like you’re already enjoying swimming! I definitely lean into that lovely weightlessness in hard times. Is there somewhere safe you could try open water swimming — float and watch the sky, look for animals, etc? I’m not sure where in the world you’re located. In Seattle open water is a year-round thing and has been incredibly comforting and helpful to me as a community and as a physical practice. Feel free PM me if this sounds interesting at all and I’m happy to talk about safety tips, info about cold tolerance, finding sites with safe and easy water entry, basic gear, etc.
posted by cnidaria at 7:41 AM on February 23, 2022 [11 favorites]

I would follow disability activists on social media. Learning about disability rights and accessibility movements, and having precise, analytical language to name disability-related feelings is really validating.

Some greats:
Imani Barbarin (TikTok, Twitter, Insta)
Nina Tame (TikTok, Insta)
Rebekah Taussig (Insta)
Carson Tuellers (Insta)
There are also a lot of people with ehlers-danlos joint issues that you might find relevant to your experience.
posted by nouvelle-personne at 8:19 AM on February 23, 2022 [11 favorites]

A perspective that's helped me is to move from the idea that I can live a normal life despite these limitations to how to live my best life with these limitations.
posted by 10ch at 8:32 AM on February 23, 2022 [3 favorites]

What helped me with transitioning to limited eating was gamifying helpful behaviors by establishing a tracking and rewards system. I also recast the choices process as embracing self-care rather than depriving myself. Oh and I made up a catchy little rhyme/affirmation to recite to my self as I chose the smarter option or otherwise did the thing. Now my habits are pretty much ingrained, but these tricks helped me become psyched about compliance.
posted by carmicha at 11:06 AM on February 23, 2022 [3 favorites]

A therapist who specializes in eating disorders will help a lot. I know you do not HAVE disordered eating, but they’re well acquainted with the emotional side and really can help. Even a session or two with someone who specializes in illness acceptance can help.
posted by Bottlecap at 9:05 PM on February 23, 2022

In addition to the sound and thoughtful guidance above, I have a dumb story: I'm allergic to mussels. I didn't know I was allergic to mussels, but I did know that every once in a while, I would get a scratchy throat and have trouble breathing, and ... let's say, digestive complaints. A couple benadryl usually had me back on my feet until the next time those symptoms surprised me. The flip side of "I feel like trash when I eat X or Y, or even smell Z" is "it's good that I know to avoid X, Y, and Z."

Like the Dread Pirate Roberts and Princess Buttercup in the Fire Swamp: you know about the lightning sand and the flame spurts, now, so you know how to stay safe. (People will no doubt make noises about the rodents of unusual size, but I don't think they exist.) Or the "assignable cause" idea in a manufacturing setting: we know what we have to do to make more consistent widgets; there's still some noise but we've isolated, and can control for, XYZ.
posted by adekllny at 5:33 AM on February 24, 2022

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