The chronic pain and the chronic illness are not things we can control. They are a fact of life. Our perceptions, our beliefs, and reactions though are things we have some control over. Although this is not by any means an easy feat and is part of the coping process. And we respond to chronic illness in different ways.
“Life is 10% of what happens to us and 90% how we respond to it” Charles Swindoll
Now quotes like this I always say the ratios are skewed but I like the point.
Clearly, chronic illness and chronic pain is more than 10%. It is a constant factor to us. And we also constantly respond to chronic illness.
We all have our broad response to our condition. Where our hope levels are. How we are coping. If our view of our situation is particularly negative or more optimistic. (I am overly cynical myself). Here we have an entire belief system that generally controls how we habitually respond to pain. Like my typically negative responses, which I constantly work on. How we habitually respond to pain. Our beliefs about pain. All broad views of chronic illness. And this area is harder to manage. It is ingrained from our early years of coping and from our personality type to how we manage stress.
Broad responses to continuous stresses are what we are usually working on with psychologists. For example my excessive negative thoughts due to my pain and depression. I may think… I am always going to be in pain, it is endless and soul-sucking so what is the point to life even? To suffer forever? Lovely thought. The best counter thought for that is that we can never know what treatment will bring or come in the future. We can never know if our pain will suddenly change. Therefore it is an exaggeration to assume it will last ‘forever’ when we cannot know that. So I confront the irrational thoughts with rational ones. Before they spiral down into an abyss of pain and depression.
I also believe optimistically that pain can be managed under the right conditions. If I do meditation, take my medications and exercise regularly. I might achieve some pain management. So there is a level of hope in my belief system.
How am I coping? This fluctuates but it important reflection of where you are. If you are coping poorly then your outlook on pain is not going to be positive. If you are coping well then your outlook is going to be looking much better. We respond to that by trying to figure out what is Not working for us and trying to change those things, or add things, to find the balance we lost.
Then we have our daily responses. I get a migraine for example and I get frustrated. depressed, angry, irritated and/or sad. This area is somewhat easier to manage, but in the moment of pain, I must say it is harder than people think. It is just that we have some control over our reaction to illness and pain.
This is where we have the potential to choose how we respond to it. The Broad response is something we work to change that helps us cope. The daily response is simply choosing how to respond to the level of pain we are in. We don’t need to but sometimes we want to because we are in public, like working. I choose to create a humourous, smiling, laughing facade to react to my pain because it helped me distance myself from it at work. I choose to react that way because functionally it works for me. I also choose at the higher levels to be silent, because of the high pain I fear if I am not silent just dealing with it I might come off as irritable or angry and I don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings over my pain.
Emotion though is a totally normal response to pain. The brain is wired that way with the emotion centers in the pain circuit. And some emotional responses for migraines anyway are actually part of the migraines attack such as depression and euphoria. We have a right to feel emotions during an attack.
My go-to response is humour to hide the pain from others. And then when it is really high I get really silent. I get depression bouts as well at night with painsomia. I chose these responses so many times they have become a habit for me. The flaw is when I am silent my spouse doesn’t know my level of pain or confuses it with anger… it lacks communication.