I know with chronic pain we can get tired. Damn exhausted. It seems like we are in a continuous battle.
Every day we wake up to a new battle. And sometimes we feel like we are not coping with the pain well. That we are not strong enough for this onslaught.
I get that. I feel it. Every day we wake up to some level of pain and start the day managing and coping with it the best we can. Trying to fit some sort of life in there. And that life seems pretty narrow, pretty small, pretty limited. Day in day out. Over and over.
However, it sort of is a matter of perspective for me
I look at my past journey to this point. I look at how far I have come. And when I look backwards I do Not look at the point when the pain was so low I had a much greater quality of life. That would make me feel crappy. And it is unrealistic… because I will never, ever be there again.
No, I look back on that Massive decade of completely unmanaged pain when I was in survival mode. The pain was unbearable. I struggled to get to work, often failing. I struggled at work, often failing. I was severely depressed and suicidal. The chronic pain could have killed me. Because I was in denial. I was exceeding my limits every single moment of every single day. And I cut every part of my life out, aside from work to just try and hold onto my career. And that wasn’t even working. That was hell. That is what I reflect back on. That hellish time in my life when life was unbearable such that death seemed blissful in comparison.
And I have come a long, long way since then in coping and well-being
My quality of life is not better. My pain is still poorly managed. I now have chronic vertigo which makes my life narrow indeed.
But I have resilience and perseverance and endurance. Yeah, those are just words. Sounds great but if you have them you know how important and fundamental they are to coping and perspective on living with chronic pain.
I think if you look back you will find the same. You will find that, damn, you learned some hard-earned lessons and in doing so you developed resilience, endurance and perseverance each time that happened. Slowly but surely we inch our way up in coping characteristics and traits. And those have helped us cope with those brutal high pain days better than we used to. In ways, we never used to. Mentally and emotionally in different ways than we used to.
We learned, man. Sure, I learned the hard way. And then the hard way again. And again. But each time I picked up some mental or emotional trick to deal with chronic pain during those bad streaks that gets me through better. And Better is BETTER. It isn’t Awesome or Perfect… but it is an improvement. And that matters. That MATTERS. And we should really focus on the importance of what we have done to improve our quality of life… even a little… because every inch we improve it feels like miles earned.
But those traits by themselves are not enough. We also learned our bag of tricks
We all have them. We all pick them up. This works. That doesn’t. I will keep doing meditation, relaxation breathing, journaling, ice for migraine attacks, certain specific pain creams, careful exercise, art… and so forth because for me they work. I will not do chiropractors, or acupuncture, or a Whole crapton of other things because for Me they do not work.
What you do will definitely be different than what I do. Or some of the same. Or a mix. Doesn’t matter. We all find the tricks that work for us. Ease the stress. Ease the emotional suffering. Distract us. Ease the pain a wee fraction. And all of these matter in the scheme of things. And we know that, so we keep doing them. All combined they help a little bit in overall well-being. And every inch helps in well-being.
We learn over time more and more to focus on our entire mental, emotional and physical well-being
We learn over time that chronic pain affects everything. It causes an emotional reaction and suffering. It causes thoughts and beliefs and sometimes negative thoughts and beliefs. It digs right into our brains. It is more than the physical sensation. So we have to battle it on all fronts.
We learn all these skills on how to manage our emotional well well-being, our mental health, and ways that work for us to help us physically the best we can with our medications. In ways we never knew in the past. In ways that helps us a little bit more year by year. This process and progress Matters.
We have travelled far. And our journey has been long. We have learned so much about how to survive in many ways.
This may be the road less travelled. And, yeah, we sure didn’t choose the road less travelled…. that sweet paved road sure looks nice. Our road has potholes, and construction, and Ups and Downs, and a few massive mountains to pass and then plummeting holes to climb out of… this road sucks really. You’d think someone would have fixed it by now, but nope. So travel it we do. Finding ways to get through it our own way.
The Road Not Taken
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood, And sorry I could not travel both And be one traveler, long I stood And looked down one as far as I could To where it bent in the undergrowth; Then took the other, as just as fair, And having perhaps the better claim, Because it was grassy and wanted wear; Though as for that the passing there Had worn them really about the same, And both that morning equally lay In leaves no step had trodden black. Oh, I kept the first for another day! Yet knowing how way leads on to way, I doubted if I should ever come back. I shall be telling this with a sigh Somewhere ages and ages hence: Two roads diverged in a wood, and I— I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference.
That is one of my favorite poems. In many ways, many times, I have taken the road less travelled and it has made a difference. With chronic pain it too is the road less travelled and it also has made a massive difference but I never chose this road… it is the road that chose me.
And so think about the journey you have made on the road. Not where you are on the road.Tweet
I think we should think of all those coping strategies we have learned and all those tips and tricks we do. And how much more we will do in the future. We should be amazed at our progress. It SEEMS so minor and Insignificant Now in the Present Moment of PAIN. But it isn’t. Because past you didn’t have all the knowledge and skill you have learned. Past you hadn’t built up resilience yet, or as much. We had to work hard at all we gained. It makes an impact. It is just when we have troubles managing our pain we forget that in the past we had unbearable pain and could not cope at all. We were drowning in it. And we needed the skill we had to find a way to swim.
Give yourself some credit. And have some self-compassion
You have developed a lot of coping strategies and will develop More. Have some compassion for yourself on those bad days. We are all laid out by them. They are rest days and self-care days. They do not mean we are failing to cope. They mean we need to rest, recover, do all the things we have learned for our self-care. And feel some compassion for ourselves that we cannot always be what we want because we need rest and we need to Take Care.
I’m not going to say you’re a fighter, a warrior, a bad-ass… but maybe you are. I am going to say we know chronic pain. We know it doesn’t go away. We know how not to cope. We learn that well. And we learn how to cope. And we learn what works for us. And we learn one million things that do not work for us. Bit by bit we learn. Over time, man, we Lean a Lot. More than our doctors know, More than our specialists and psychologists. We learn and apply it to our lives as best we can to squeeze out as much life in the pain gaps we can get, and to gain quality of life as much as we can, and to get better well-being as we go… and it is a process… we will keep learning.
So sometimes when I feel really sucky… I like to remind myself, hey, cope better than I ever have, with hard-earned skilled I never had, with a resilience I earned. And I will keep progressing towards better well-being in any way that I can.