Living With Chronic Pain
A chronic pain experiencer
I suffer from chronic pain, which means that my pain has lasted a long time, and likely will not resolve on its own. I've tried many treatments, none with more than modest success. This hub is about my experiences coping with a chronic pain condition, trying to make the best of this situation for myself and those close to me. My pain is in the lower back, but this hub is for you no matter the source of your pain. It could also help you understand the experience of a loved one.
A good overview of life with pain
Pain changes your life
The onset of chronic pain brought dramatic changes. When my medical leave ran out with no improvement in my health, I lost my part time position working in a lab, and more importantly, I had to withdraw from the Nursing program I was about to begin. After Nursing School I had planned Midwifery School. I worked as a doula (that is like a labor coach for the delivering mother) and a midwife's assistant, and love the whole world of delivering babies and helping mothers. Chronic pain put an end to these dreams. Midwifery is a very physically demanding occupation, and I couldn't keep the long hours, nor the nighttime hours, to do the job.
Acceptance was hard for me - it was also hard for the people around me. Some of my friends seemed to have a harder time accepting that I had given up my Midwifery dreams than I did. This seems strange, but I've found it to be the case. I think people get used to thinking of you a certain way, and when you present a change they didn't expect, they may resist. They may think they can talk reason to you. Unlike a rash or even a stroke, pain is intangible to others, and some people find things they cannot see hard to believe.
Do all you can to find a solution for your pain
I really am a person who has tried everything. I've done chiropractic, massage, rolfing, injections for inflammation, chinese herbs, accupucture, cupping (a Chinese medicine technique), botox injections, mindfulness training, surgery, physical therapy, yoga, getting people to pray for me, praying for myself, have I missed anything? Aromatherapy. Graston technique. Gokhale method. I tried everything but lighting myself on fire, and some days that looked like a good option.
I tell you all of the above to say that I turned over every rock. If you are a chronic pain experiencer, feeling that you are taking action is invaluable. Despite never finding the magic bullet, I'm glad I tried everything I did. It gives a sense of peace with my limitations - I know they really are limitations, not just things I didn't try hard enough to overcome.
Manage what cannot be changed
Even when pain is a fact of your life, there are things that make it better and worse. This is individual, and it is a learning process. In life I always pushed myself hard, but I had to learn that would get me into a bad situation with the pain - I had to listen to my body or I might end up in bed with my heating pad for the rest of the day. Often there are better and worse times of day, and you learn to get the important things done during your "good time." My good time is morning, but some bodies work better in the afternoon, when they have had time to loosen up.
You will also have to learn to let go: let go of the bottom half of the to do list, let go of your previous expectations of yourself, let go of meeting other's expectations.
Connect with others
The same part of the brain that processes lonliness processes physical pain - which means that getting isolated can make your experience of pain worse. Just to make this more challenging, chronic pain makes connecting with others more difficult. You have less endurance than others, driving can present a challenge, and not feeling well doesn't lend itself to socializing.
But social connection is critical. Since my pain has gotten bad I've developed close friendships with several other people with serious health issues. We have common struggles, and can listen to each other vent without feeling overwhelmed. I need my friends more than ever, even though I'm less able to go out on the town with them, so I make connecting by phone a priority.
People who have gone through sorrow are more sympathetic than others, not so much because of what they know about sorrow, but because they know more about happiness. They appreciate its value and its fragility, and welcome it wherever it may be.
-Freya Stark, 1883-1983
Look on the bright side
When physical pain is a daily and even hourly experience, noticing the good things in your life can keep you sane.
Before I developed chronic pain I had a friend who had serious problems in many areas of her life, including health. I regret this now, but I became impatient with her habit of pausing to notice a beautiful sky, or a great hair color on a passerby. I saw it as pollyannaish, not facing reality. Now I understand that when daily life is a struggle a beautiful sight can help sustain you. Also, what people call "the little things," the moments, take on more meaning when you've suffered loss.
If I hadn't developed chronic pain, I would be in a educational program that demands 40 - 60 hours a week. My family would not have seen much of me. Now I spend most of my time at home, and my talkative 11 year old daughter is very happy about that. I also have more space to connect with my teenage son, to look over his essays and watch Stargate with him. My health problems present problems in my life as a Mom, but I see that right now I have the gift of time with them that I would not have had.
Me and my daughter
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Some helpful links
- Chronic Pain Blog: Life with Chronic Pain: A How-to Guide
Sue Falkner-Wood's Chronic Pain Blog: Life with Chronic Pain: A How-to Guide
- Living with Neuropathy & Other Chronic Pain Conditio...
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