Dancing with the Kraken

You know that song that B.B. King performs with U2 “When
love comes to town, I’m gonna jump that train”
…? But what happens when pain comes to town?

When pain comes to
town, you dance with the Kraken.

Two years ago I started experiencing aches, pains and
fatigue that were somewhat different from your garden variety that paracetamol
or good night sleep can fix. These would linger around for days. Interestingly,
this happened at the time I was fittest and healthiest. I exercised for at
least an hour every day, I ran 12km races, I swam, practiced yoga &
pilates. I ate well.  At 40, I was the
same weight and fitness levels as in my 20s. Yet, emotionally I was a wreck. I
was swallowing grief (my father and grandmother passed away that year) and
emotions religiously (relationship with my mother was difficult). I’d go to a
boxing class and try and bash it all out. Unbeknown to me, this was like adding
fuel to fire. The amount of cortisol and adrenaline coursing through me was
causing havoc in my mind and body. Soon enough, they had enough and unleashed
my very own private Kraken –  an Auto-Immune
Disease. Tennyson obviously knew something about this

The Kraken

Below the thunders of the upper deep;
Far, far beneath in the abysmal sea,
His antient, dreamless, uninvaded sleep
The Kraken sleepeth:[…]

Until the latter fire shall heat the deep;
Then once by man and angels to be seen,
In roaring he shall rise and on the surface die.

Fighting the Kraken

But this Kraken of mine is a stubborn beastie and would not
budge. It truly enjoyed taking me on a wild ride on that Kubler-Ross
rollercoaster. I was riding it faster than you could say ‘sub-clinical

First, I pretended there was no Kraken. I pulled my proverbial
socks up and proverbially soldiered on. Pain? What pain? Fatigue? Nothing that
a gallon of coffee can’t fix. All because my pain didn’t matter. I was here to
serve others, my sacrifice would be rewarded someday.

Then I got pissed off, donned my armour of meds with list of
side effects longer than that of benefits and went to fight the Kraken. But
Kraken is a smart beastie too. Instead of howling and thrashing, it sent his
wearisome friends to keep me company.   There
are twins Fog & Fug. Miss Fog is oh-so-Dickensian, Miss Havisham incarnate.
She makes you slightly emotionally dead, mad and forgetful, all at the same

Poor, mad Miss Havisham

Fug, on the other hand, is the outright bully. He likes to
burn and hurt things, particularly enjoying torturing hands and fingers (just
what a writer needs!). He usually can’t make up his mind whether he likes hot
or cold, slow or fast, so he will play with the dial all day long.

Then there’s the sewer dwelling IBS. I don’t think I need to
tell you what he does.  But most annoying
of them all is Anxiety who calls herself Muniba. Just like her namesake (and my
mum’s real life cousin), she is annoying, always visits in most inopportune
times and situations, and is insensitive to the needs and wants of others.

I then tried a different strategy, jumped onto a bandwagon
of sauerkraut munching, Eckhart Tolle quoting, meditating woo-woo warriors. No
doubt, the Kraken would crack under this love-thy-enemy strategy. The Kraken
just laughed in its howling, grating, frightening kind of way. And sauerkraut made
IBS happy.

So I let the beast swallow me whole. I was on the verge of
depression. I could feel its darkness pressing on me. My writing mojo was gone.
I cried a lot, slept a lot, I isolated myself, barely able to hold a job, look
after my family and have some semblance of normality around me.

Luckily, I have friends too. A really great clinical
psychologist, a really fabulous naturopath who finally told me beast’s name (nice
to meet you Hashimoto), and even more fabulous yoga teacher, who herself had
suffered and had overcome chronic pain. And my husband and my daughter who are
so wonderfully understanding and patient. So with a little help from my
friends, I started the healing process. I learnt that the only way out was to
learn to speak Kraken (remember Dory in Finding Nemo speaking whale?).  At some point, I realized that the Kraken was
always on my side; the Kraken was my friend too. Its cries and howls were lost
in translation.  All along it was trying
to warn me to slow down, look after myself.

So these days, the Kraken and I dance often.  Sometimes it is a slow dance, other times it
is a tango, but most days we crank up Pharell Williams and sing Happy (this version by Alex Boye’ is my favourite).

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