Read Our Chronic Pain Story: The Plot Part I

So in Part 1 I went over how I think I got about making the plot of my life story and it can be summed up by:

The plot and meaning of my story was this:

Life is suffering and that is all that it will ever be. Period.

Obviously that worked against me in many ways that I outlined. Whole lot of beliefs that fed into this belief that life was suffering.

But that isn’t what underlies my story. That isn’t how all this Manifested.

The Theme

The theme of my story corrupted the plot from the very get-go. The Theme, you see, was based on values that no longer worked for me and limiting beliefs that developed from those. The theme was already there, or grew from the experience of chronic pain and illness into its own beast that infected my story and plot… corrupting the Meaning I made from the pain experience.

But it isn’t so easy to see. It is beneath all those beliefs we have. All those thoughts we have. All those emotional reactions we have. (The guilt, blame, shame, hate, fear…) It is infusing all that the whole time… whispering in your ear in various ways why you should be and feel a certain way and stay that way.

It has nothing to do with your pain story. And everything to do with your pain story. You see, it infuses Your Life Story… so everything gets infected by it. It is the entire theme you have made about this grand old existence. So it has to do with chronic pain, yes, and every single other thing too.

Our chronic pain story: The theme Part II

Positive core values

First lets look at the values we live by. We all have values. You can Google Cor Values and make yourself a list of yours. And then narrow it down to the primary ones you Live By. Because these are where you make your actions, your rules, your principles… and how you judge yourself.

We all have positive core values we want to align ourselves to. But sometimes we find that we are Not aligned to them and when we are not… that creates a massive problem.

Because sometimes we have outgrown them. Or sometimes they do not suit our lives anymore. Or sometimes they are very traditional values we were raised with that we stuck onto that we no longer really hold to. Just sometimes we have values that do not serve us anymore.

And sometimes we have values that Do serve us, but we are not working Toward them at all.

And in both cases this causes internal friction. If you have a core value of Honesty and then lie your butt off all day you are not going to feel good about yourself. And what will you do to balance those scales? You will blame yourself in some way, someone else in some way, the external world in some way… you will assign blame somewhere to make yourself feel better.

But what if you lie every single day? Then it gets harder and harder to assign blame. Maybe you are just a crappy person? Maybe… Maybe… And emotions lead to thoughts and beliefs… and Meaning again. Without ever looking at the value that started it all. We look at the emotion… maybe anger. We look at the thoughts… maybe frustration with the workplace. We look at the beliefs… the belief our workplace is designed to make us the way we are. Whatever it may be. Without ever digging down. We don’t because we Feel like we are Still an Honest person… but we are not Living to that core belief and by not living that way it causes problems.

Some of my core beliefs back then, and many still now, are:

  • Knowledge/learning
  • Creativity
  • Loyalty
  • Respect
  • Dependability
  • Reliability
  • Open-minded
  • Empathy
  • Honesty
  • Growth
  • Balance

And some of the negative things I felt a lot all the time were:

  1. Sadness
  2. Worthless
  3. A failure
  4. Lonely

I have chronic pain and chronic illnesses and I was striving to work full-time in a stressful environment. I was not dependable. I was not reliable. AND therefore I was a failure as a person. That belief just arose from the fact I could not live up to values I had that I could no longer sustain due to my health. I needed to adjust my value system and lifestyle but I refused to because I believed they were fundamental and important values to me as a person.

How could I feel worth if I wasn’t couldn’t find any balance and had no growth?

I respected others but felt no one respected me because… I had no worth and was a failure.

I was not aligned with my values

And the more and pushed through the pain and was in denial of my situation. And in denial of my physical, mental, emotion health declining as I did… the more of all the negative values manifested. Until I was full-on depressed.

And that made two Massive Limiting Beliefs

  1. I am a failure as a person
  2. I am worthless as a person

Both of these existed to some extent for a very long time. Just the more Pressure I applied and the more my value system was skewed by not adjusting it to my current life and needs… the more I Fed them.

I mean, the whole ‘failure’ thing has been with me my whole life because I have ‘impostor syndrome’. Where no matter what you achieve, accomplish or your skills you feel like a fake that will be found out at any moment. I actually have a high IQ but you’d never know it because I always thought I was ‘smart-ish’ but not really, and it is just book smart. And any professor who pointed it out or said I should change my major to their subject… I assumed was just being nice. Or if I did well, it was an easy class… I rationalized it is Many, many ways. Any minor flaw or slightest sign of failure I would see as confirmation I was indeed a fake. And sucked at everything. So, yeah, that has been there forever. (And, man, I work Hard on breaking that these days.)

But it stems from feeling worthless. I have no worth… of course I suck. Of course I will fail. Of course I will never succeed. Of course I’m not good enough.

And there you go… my theme is:

I am worthless

Well, what a sucky theme that is. I don’t like that one bit.

And from there it feeds into everything else. It is pervasive this theme of my life. It invades my beliefs and thoughts.

If you look back at part 1 when we have emotions about pain, we have thoughts about it, we make beliefs about it… well, what do you think someone who at their very core is going to come up with?

To refresh you I came up with:

  • Self-blame
  • Self-hate
  • Low self-worth
  • Low self-esteem
  • Feeling like a failure
  • Feeling hopeless

*** keep in mind an emotional reaction to pain is perfectly normal. Any reaction to an experience is normal. And pain is definitely an experience but because it is chronic we can over time attach beliefs and thoughts to those emotions that they didn’t have before. I can be paingry, or frustrated, or sad, or any emotion from pain on day without attaching meaning to it- but it means I need to know what thoughts and belief I am attaching to my emotions. An emotional thought journal works great for this as does Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. (Had a long painsomnia night last night and trust me, I was not a happy camper not being able to sleep and in High Pain. But I did Not finally attach extra thoughts to that like I used to, as you can see I did in Part I. I try to just let myself feel what I am feeling. I own that feeling, know it is temporary, and deal with it depending on what it is. And that is tricky but important mood management to me because I am prone to depressive patterns of thinking)

Anyway… the beliefs I made why did I?

Why? Because I didn’t feel any worth in myself. And it got worse when I felt betrayed by my body and mind and spirit. It got worse with the stigma and discrimination that Confirmed, yes, you are indeed worthless. My own Values told me this. I valued being dependable, reliable, a hard worker… things I could Not BE. Worthless.

But it was there like an undercurrent. I didn’t notice it. I was immersed in the pain. It was the PAIN to blame for it ALL. That was the problem. Not how I thought about the pain, reacted to the pain, or the beliefs I made about the pain. It was the PAIN. There could be no progress because I believe there could be no progress. I made those beliefs already. Nothing changes. Nothing works. Nothing is worth trying. (Maybe because I am not even worth my own time?)

And until that day I started making that distinction between Pain Sensations and Suffering (thoughts, reactions, beliefs) I would be stuck there.

And until the day my psychologist pointed out to me that I did do things of value other than work and I brushed him off… those things didn’t mean the same thing (not to society and therefore they didn’t have value to me). That he then pointed out that I had a very low self-worth. It took me aback. Because I present myself with a healthy sense of self. With a good self-identity. Oh, but deep inside, I knew he was right. And the more I thought about it… the more I saw the depths of my own basically lack of self-worthiness. And the insidious way Impostor Syndrome has infected my life as well. If I have no worth… I must suck at everything, and of course everyone will see through that one day no matter what I accomplish…

Once you See that Theme that has been the undercurrent to your Plot (And helped, therefore, feed your Meaning) you can see how it has really helped write that chronic pain story. How it has Infused that Plot and Meaning you made from the pain.

Life is suffering and that is all it ever will be... because I am not worth anything anyway. I am not worth the effort. I am not worth doctors effort. I am not worth anyone’s time. I am worthless to society. I am stuck like this and Nothing can be done, ever.

And no one could change my mind because, like I said in Part I, you can’t argue with the fact CHRONIC PAIN EXITS. Therefore, every premise I make after Must be true? No. Beliefs and thoughts and emotions emit from us and are heavily influenced by the Theme we have, the Meaning we made, the Values we hold. We can alter them if we find the values and theme they are being fed by.

But I was…

STUCK

Stuck because, yeah, I felt worthless. But that second core negative belief of mine that I was a failure made me fear even trying. Because I am a failure… so I would inevitably fail… so why try? And that is where you find your main fear. What is holding you back from growth and change.

If you are worthless… then feel like you are not even worth it to yourself to change. And your fears will just confirm that.

It occurred to me one day that if I was so worthless and such a failure… then only one way to go was up, eh?

If that was true, and I had no evidence to suggest either was, but if they were then I was at the bottom and I could just move upward from there. Build my worth. Succeed at little things. Every day live up to my core values in some way that made me feel Good about Myself- being creative, learning new things, being loyal, open-minded, respectful, honest… being my authentic self. And adjusting the values that no longer worked for me in the life I currently lead.

But there are many ways I worked to break these ideas I had. One us to look for the evidence of them and there wasn’t any. One was to do the things I knew I should do with chronic pain that may help me along the way-

  • Work on acceptance (not giving up)
  • Work on improving well-being bit by bit- All my well-being. Entire Well-being
  • Work on some damned self-compassion
  • Work on Realistic goals and adjust my values
  • Look and adjust my self-identity and valuing those things I Can do
  • Developing pain management strategies outside of my medication

So every day I had to do things that MOVED AWAY FROM:

  1. Sadness
  2. Worthless
  3. A failure
  4. Lonely

And MOVE TOWARDS all my Positive Core Values

I could change this Plot. I could change my Theme. I could rewrite this whole damn story. In other words, I could begin to grow in overall well-being to help me manage the suffering that inevitably comes with chronic pain even though I can do little to do about the actual physical sensations of pain (sometimes I can modestly do something about that, but not much)

Easy to say, really hard to do. Especially with chronic pain since the pain is a signal that never stops. We are constantly immersed in that experience. The emotional toll, the beliefs we make, the habitual thoughts. You think you get a grip on it… but then it plays its old games. So it is a continuous work in progress. But with forward momentum and growth. It is just slow. And bad, bad days. All you have control over is the process, and trying to manage the pain as best you can… the pain signal we don’t have power over. Finding acceptance and coping in a way that mentally and emotionally works for you and pulls you towards betting well-being and life satisfaction is and we are getting in a better headspace as we go along. Bit by bit. Inch by inch. And damn that is worth the effort.

I still work on this Theme by the way. Because it is massively pervasive. And has been for such a long time. It is just a long weaker than it was and I work towards the things that make me feel a whole lot more Whole these days.

Now my Plot and meaning is different but I will chat about that when I talk about being the author of my story in Part III

See other posts

Chronic illness: our sense of self
Chronic pain: Emotional toll
Poem: Life story

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4 thoughts on “Our Chronic Pain Story: The Theme Part II

  1. I love how you said, “The theme was already there, or grew from the experience of chronic pain and illness into its own beast that infected my story and plot… corrupting the Meaning I made from the pain experience.” Speaking from one reader/writer to another, your use of ‘story theme’ really resounds with me and helps me view the thinking and narration I have as something that is other than me which I can rewrite. Just that reframing makes a huge difference.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I’ve always felt that while I do suffer physically with constant pain, that doesn’t mean I have to suffer in the rest of my life. I choose joy despite the suffering. I love your take on this though, I never thought about it that way before.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. All that matters I think is that we find some way to think about it that lets us have a life. I don’t think we can find acceptance without finding some way to wrap our head around the pain experience.

      Like

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