Here is the thing about fear and pain. We learn it.
For me, it came from working a decade in a horrible workplace. The environment was horrible because the manager was. I don’t know if it was the stress or all the horrible things she said, but my migraines got worse and worse until they couldn’t humanly get worse. And this made me profoundly depressed. She, got worse, as a result, and made me feel worthless. I literally could not picture a worse place to be in mentally for chronic pain. And it has taken about three years to get back some stability in mood and chronic pain management. Not that I blame that manager entirely since my doctors were not helping much either. And I had exceeded my ability to cope with pain at that point. So I was just pushing through and pushing through. And trying to function with pain… and failing all the time? Yeah, it wears and tears through self-worth.
So self-worth? Gone. I blame her mostly for creating the worst conditions possible for someone with chronic pain to work under. Like she was following a guide of ‘How to treat people with chronic illnesses in the workforce’ and doing the exact opposite. Ultimatums, demotions, snide veiled threats and some really vicious conversations. I felt such shame for being ill. Such guilt. Such hatred of self.
So I have issues with self-worth now. Mostly from how I reacted to the situations, the sense of failure that I blamed entirely and utterly on myself, and the inability to cope with levels of pain. This idea that the pain will always win and I will fail at everything I try. That I am worthless because of the chronic pain to everyone. And it is my fault intrinsically.
That is where fear comes in for me. The low self-worth tells me I will fail. So I fear to try because failing to function and thrive makes me feel so much worse. Failing to try though? Seems even worse.
It affects everything from work to social lives… this fear. We anticipate pain so we do not go out. It will be worse as soon as we leave the house… so we don’t. A new job would be too hard to handle, so we don’t take it. We fail to poke and prod out limits for fear of exceeding them.
Not the way to live with chronic pain. The way to live with chronic pain is Always Be Prepared when doing anything… but to do things. I go out to a friend’s house to play cards and I am prepared when I do. I take precautions before I go out. Rest, ice, hydration and magnesium oil. And when I am there I have a painkiller and a triptan. If it gets beyond my capacity to cope we go home early. No harm no foul. And I enjoy myself. Migraines will come whether we want them to or not. Often will in my case. Often have them in my case. But I still have a life to live with them, within moderation and taking all the steps to keep the migraines tolerable as best that I can.
Yet that fear of failure due to this fear I cannot cope with the pain lingers due to past experiences with it. Doesn’t matter the situation is entirely different. That I have an awesome manager. That I am not depressed, like that anymore. That I do see the pain clinic and the migraine intensity is lower than it was. That I do a lot of things to manage the pain. Entirely different situation and yet due to the low self-worth I no longer feel I have the capacity to accomplish anything. I have the desire. The ambition. But I feel tentative, wary, and very fearful.
I shouldn’t fear the future based on the past. But pain, is something to fear. It is hard not to fear the place I was in and ending up there again. It was a terrible time. I should think of the present and moving forward with new skills and improvements. And managing the pain while at work in the various ways I manage it at home.
But then… the fear of getting worse again. Always present. And the fear of just being unable to function with pain and work in any long-term situation without serious consequences to my emotional state of being. I mean, I was fundamentally suicidal in thought and sometimes act in the past.
Screw fear, eh?
We do have to inch forward. Make tiny steps. Especially when we have no choice in the matter. Take a deep breath and just try again.