I began to think of the things we do along the way with chronic pain. That process we go through on the way to coping. There are a few things that passed my mind that we try to do, sometimes succeeding and sometimes not, but always aware of them.
– Compare to others or self-
We often have this ideal self. This self that was never chronically ill and has no pain. This person that would have achieved Great Things and be Much More Productive. And we compare ourselves to this fictional character that in no way reflects our actual self in our reality. We learn to accept this real person is the one that needs to cope, adapt, change and deal with this reality. Comparing to others also happens because we all strive to improve and then we compare our improvement or lack thereof to others. When we should compare to our own Recent past performance.
– Accept limitations-
In the beginning, I had a hard time finding my limits. I would find a summer job to work and it would be simply one I could not do. So I would literally suffer through it. Each summer job teaching me what not to do and my limits. We know them by pushing them. Go for a walk? And then find that limit by when the pain starts going up exponentially. We figure them out and accept them.
– Learn to moderate-
I learned this one the hard way. Every time I would push myself too far and then pay the price. Then learning to do less housework at a time each day and spreading it through the week. Learning work days are nothing but work, because my reserves are empty after. Days off are moderately doing things I can paced throughout the day. We pace, we rest and moderate. And thus avoid that boom and bust; of doing too much, increase in pain, can’t do anything, have to recover, then feel a little better so do a lot… and all over again.
-Manage sleep issues-
We all know our sleep issues and disorders affect our health negatively. So we all know we have to address our sleep. And we all know it isn’t easy. Meditation, biofeedback, medications… on and on.
– Accept this life-
Never compare to our past self. Our past self is often seen as better than it likely was for one thing. But we are looking back like if only this never happened. Think of what I could have done and achieved… if not for this. We can’t compare ourselves to illness free past self. That person doesn’t exist and you have changed a great deal since then. But past self could whip through and clean the house in a day. So then I look at the fact I did a load of laundry and swept, and I feel guilty because I Used to be able to do more. We have to accept this life with its current abilities and limitations.
– Challenge negative thoughts-
Over time it is really easy to get cynical, dark and even depressed about the constant pain. It leads to some pretty repetitive negative thinking. Like ‘If I don’t work then I am a drain on society and worthless’ but we know we have more intrinsic value than what we do for a living. So we don’t have to be overtly positive but when our thinking is beginning to have an impact on us they we have to help inspect our thoughts to make them more Realistic. Just write down the thought and reason out what is unrealistic about thinking that way. It is one way to help maintain our moods which I have discovered is as important as anything else with my coping.
– Treat any comorbid mental health issues-
If we develop a mental illness like anxiety and depression it is important we have it effectively treated. They are always saying need to maintain our mood with chronic pain because it can lag. With mental illness it is a whole area itself that needs to be paid attention to. It is part of our wellbeing.
-Don’t stop doing-
Sometimes the pain intimidates us from doing things. We know a certain level will cause us pain. So it stops us from going out, from socializing, from exercising and more. But the most important thing about chronic pain is don’t stop doing and living. Always be prepared, but have that social life … in moderation. Go out, just be prepared and stay within your limits. We need to do the things that bring us happiness and joy, as these help us cope. And other things, like exercise are often important to treatment. And we learn we cannot let the fear of pain stop of from living our lives.