I have acceptance of my chronic pain and the life I live with it while perusing treatments that improve my well-being and quality of life.

Acceptance is not for me:

  1. Stagnant. It is not giving up. Like ‘Oh well, this sucks, so I guess I will just wallow in my pain-ness forever.’
  2. Believing pain is fine and dandy. Pain still sucks. A lot. And We have to constantly pace, adapt, and be flexible and adjust our day to our pain levels. Because it sucks. A lot.
Chronic pain acceptance for me

Check out this definition of acceptance:

Jon Kabat-Zinn (1990) echoed Carl Rogers (1995) by saying that self-acceptance is the pre-condition for healing, growth and change. We are urged to perceive experiences as they are, rather than judging them as good or bad. We are informed that acceptance has a hierarchical structure (Hayes, 1999), with its highest form being ‘radical acceptance’, defined as an ability to embrace the here-and-now fully with our mind, heart, body and soul (Linehan, 1993, 2015). Acceptance is also presented as a choice and something we should choose to alleviate the impact of chronic illness (Dougher, 1994).

The psychologist

Most of us have a healthy dose of skepticism and sort of an aversion to the concept

Because it is sort of minimizing the experience of pain, isn’t it? Sort of taking away from the massive impact and not letting us feel the emotional toll it has, which we have every right to Feel. It doesn’t factor in the life-altering experience, the loses, the compromises we have made. How small our lives have become. How limited we are. All the possibilities that are gone. What pain has taken from us. And then… oh, just accept it and it will totally be better, man. No, no it will not. That isn’t how chronic pain works.

… non-acceptance of chronic pain is, today, understood as a barrier to living well with pain (Cederberg et al., 2016) and a barrier to treatment. Hence chronic pain acceptance is offered to the pain-bearer as the required ‘bold step toward a valued life’ by pain-practitioners (Dahl & Lundgren, 2006, p.108). NHS pain services conceptualise pain-acceptance as the pain-bearer’s willingness to let go of pain control and to experience pain in the pursuit of an active and value-driven life-style (McCracken, 1998).

The psychologist

This is sort of what gets us. ‘let control and to experience pain in persuit of an active and value driven life-style’. So… if I let go control, then I am quite literally giving in. If I give in, I give up hope. If I give up hope, I sink into an all-consuming depression and lose my desire to even Exist Like This Forever.

And I sure don’t like someone Else telling me what to accept of this existence or how to do it. If they have no concept of my experience and the impact on my life and tell me that accepting This will make me cope better, well, sort of want to slap them.

However, I do have a concept of acceptance

However pain management for me is never about pain eradication and I certainly do not want to be consumed or succumb to the pain either. Acceptance seems to be acknowledgment it exists in my life and body. Accepting is knowing I have to find a way to live within its limitations, cope with it, utilize all pain management strategies I can and so forth. I want a life and I know that means a life with pain. So I find ways to have a modified, adapted, paced life within this pained existence.

 It is a lived responsive and relational style in which the pain-bearer is intimately familiar with how to sooth the pain’s impact. Over time, chronic pain is detached from the effect it has on the person’s life. This enables the pain-bearer to take back their life-agency. And to regain (some) control over the pain’s impact.

The psychologist

In other words, we know the impact pain has on our lives and we aim to minimize it. We know the things we love to do and we find ways we can still participate in those things, in different ways, with pacing, within our limits, in order to have fulfillment in our lives.

Here is the thing about a chronic pain life for me:

It impacts us severely. It seems to steal everything from us. Destroy ambitions and dreams and desires. It is soul-crushing in a lot of ways. And it really crushed me.

But we are human beings still. And the reason I often talk about life satisfaction, and fulfillment or even things like hobbies… is because we are Human and as humans we still strive for fulfillment. We still feel a keen lack when deprived of life satisfaction factors. As anyone does. But due to the impact of chronic pain this rather tanks quite a lot. Then it isn’t just the pain that sucks, it is our entire lives that suck. I often used to say ‘this isn’t a life, this is an existence’. Because that is what it was. Pain had consumed everything.

Accepting chronic pain is realizing, hey, this really, really sucks and I want some semblance of a life. Basically, I want some of that life satisfaction Back. And then figuring out ways that work for me, and the things that make me happy, that can bring some of that back and the Ways at which I am capable of doing that within my limitations. How can I make this suck Less knowing that pain is a factor that I cannot get rid of? Which is no easy feat for any of us.

And the answer to that is different for all of us but certainly it benefits our well-being overall when we gain just tiny bits of life satisfaction back. That can be a long and slow process but every little change we make that helps us this way is impactful to us. And that says nothing about the experience of pain, because, yeah, it still sucks. Yeah, it still limits a whole lot and we cannot function every day or do all the things we want. Choices and possibilities are limited. Which is why every gain we make is so meaningful. As long as we never compare this life with other people’s or our former selves… just day by day and better than it was when the pain seemed to swallow all that we were. Ever little bit we gain back is fundamentally important.

That is basically what I think about acceptance overall. I just have to accept where I am health wise but at the same time, when and if I can, take hold to any bits of living in the pain gaps I can get.

I do not think this has to be a universal definition or experience or journey. Maybe we all arrive at our own deeply personal level of acceptance that defines how we live and cope with chronic pain. I don’t think that is in any way wrong. Perhaps that is the only way it can be. Maybe this is a factor, or aspect to acceptance but not the entire picture, as well. Certainly, I didn’t arrive at this personal understanding quickly. Over time my idea and concept and coping evolved. And will continue to, I believe or hope.

See more related posts

Mood, happiness, and life satisfaction
Chronic illness: Self-identity
Our chronic pain story: Part I

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2 thoughts on “Chronic pain acceptance for me

  1. Hi Nikki
    Lovely to hear from you again. I find it hard to accept my new life. It’s not much of a life anyway. It’s a mere existence. I’m only focusing on keeping the pain under control so than I don’t start crying. I still have a glimmer of hope that things might just get better or that a new treatment might help. I just hope and hope. And I’m still chasing doctors, some of the best in the country although there’s a long waiting list. I’ve been waiting since September. It’s a joke. I can’t stay in this bed 24/7. I need to get out of the house. I feel so isolated and imprisoned.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I have been there myself. I have mentioned this to doctors before too. That acceptance is pretty damn hard when I am living in survival mode and just existing to get through moment by moment. That is just a fact. We need some basic pain management First. And then we can get to a level of acceptance. And I really hope that comes for you sooner rather than later.

      Like

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