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Living With Chronic Pain

Updated on August 2, 2013

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.

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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    • kathleenschwab profile image

      kathleenschwab 

      4 years ago

      Joey- I've had the same thoughts of ending things when the pain gets bad. Things can get better, and you will learn to cope. I have an entirely different life than i did before the pain. I lost a job, had to drop out of a degree program, and had to stop driving. Many of my friends dropped out of my life - i could no longer go places or do things. But what happened for me is the people who did stick with me became very close friends, and i found new friends, mostly other chronically ill people. We understand each other in a way others can't, and it forms a deep bond.

      This may be difficult to see now, but you are early in the journey. You said your baby is 3 months old and the pain is caused by childbirth. Just to give you a perspective, I have been in severe pain for 7 years, moderate pain for about 10 years before that. Severe pain will completely remake your life: settle in and see what happens. It is still very, very new. Finding supportive people is important, and they can be found on the internet. Web MD has boards for people suffering chronic pain.

      One more thing - your baby needs you. My mother attempted suicide and failed, and i am very glad i had my childhood with her. She was very sick and not able to do things the other mothers did, but i thought i had the best mother because she read to me so much. I grew up loving books, and became an English teacher. She gave me what she could, and it set me on my way in life.

      Blessings

      PS - You can reach my email through HP. I don't want to post it here. You can do that through my profile page.

    • profile image

      Joyjoey85 

      4 years ago

      Hi grace,

      Your post is very inspiring. I am a sufferer of pelvic pain and finds it very difficult to cope esp when my condition occur because of childbirth and my child is only 3 months old at present. There are alot of things i cannot do due to my pain-i need to be on a wheelchair currently and am really sad as i do not know how the future will be like...i have thoughts of ending everything recently as i do not know how can i go thru life with pain and a young baby at this point..do you have an email address for me to talk to u on how you cope? Everyone i know around me are healthy, happy parents having lots of fun with their babies

    • graceomalley profile imageAUTHOR

      graceomalley 

      5 years ago

      DIYmommy - Very unfortunately, chronic pain is becoming very common. The fact that you are educating yourself is GREAT - empathy from others goes a long way for the chronic pain experiencer.

    • DIYmommy profile image

      Julie 

      5 years ago

      Though I have never battled with chronic pain myself, I recently read a book written by someone who has. It was written by my neighbor. After an accident years ago, her fragile body has been through surgery after surgery. Since the beginning of this year, she has been through two separate surgeries, requiring the placement of pins in both sides of her hip. It's hard to see her go through what she has gone through. I recently made her a meal, and I've been visiting her frequently in an attempt to help her while she recovers (although, with chronic pain, it never seems like she will actually completely recover...) Your hub, combined with her book, has really shed light on a problem that at least appears to becoming very widespread. Thanks for the insightful hub and I wish you the very best!

    • graceomalley profile imageAUTHOR

      graceomalley 

      5 years ago

      Visionandfocus - thank you for the link! I will have to check out your hub.

    • visionandfocus profile image

      visionandfocus 

      5 years ago from North York, Canada

      Excellent hub! I'm linking to it from mine on chronic pain--what you need to know and have never been told.

      Voted up and awesome, beautiful and useful!

    • graceomalley profile imageAUTHOR

      graceomalley 

      6 years ago

      nancynurse - Lots of us push ourselves too hard - giving it up is hard! Some friendships that were based on being active, or on certain activities, disappeared for me. Over the past few years i've ended up friends with a number of other people with chronic health issues. I guess we "get' each other. I had a bad pain episode one day during the writing group that meets in my home - I stretched out on the couch with my heating pad, and said to please continue the meeting, i would like to listen even if unable to talk. I think they were comfortable because they all have serious health issues of their own - they know what it is like to suddenly have a bad episode, but also they know that life goes on.

    • nancynurse profile image

      Nancy McClintock 

      6 years ago from Southeast USA

      I too have chronic pain and you have eloquently put into words how to deal with some serious issues. I was much like you and always pushed myself too hard. I now have had to slow down and smell roses. Miss working as nurse and still struggling to find any way to visit friends. Do feel lonely often. Thanks for your writings.

    • graceomalley profile imageAUTHOR

      graceomalley 

      7 years ago

      aslanlight - The struggles of life can result in some of the best things, it is so true. Appreciating beauty is priceless. Glad you liked the hub, thanks for visiting.

    • aslanlight profile image

      aslanlight 

      7 years ago from England

      I don't suffer from chronic pain but I have a long term chronic health condition so I know that what you're saying is entirely true. I spend most of my time in bed but gazing out of the window at the trees, sky and birds lifts me so high! I sometimes feel that I have more than a lot of people because I'm so in love with the beautiful 'little things.' Thanks for your inspiring hub!

    • graceomalley profile imageAUTHOR

      graceomalley 

      7 years ago

      RTalloni - I hope that this can help others, or at least tell other sufferers of chronic pain that they are not alone.

      Thanks for the positive feedback.

    • RTalloni profile image

      RTalloni 

      7 years ago from the short journey

      Important and helpful hub for many people. Nothing like experience to teach one things that will help others. Voted up and useful.

      Beautiful mother/daughter photo! I miss my daughter so very much, but your happy photo makes me happy for you.

    • graceomalley profile imageAUTHOR

      graceomalley 

      7 years ago

      Glad you liked the hub, UrsulaRose. Thanks for your comments.

    • profile image

      UrsulaRose 

      7 years ago

      It was an absolute pleasure to read your hubpage on Chronic Pain.

      I could so relate to almost everything that you wrote and I especially liked the comments about life's regrets and doing things differently.

      I quit long ago trying to get other people to understand what it was like to be a Chronic Pain sufferer ... I now take each day in 'bite-size' chunks and deal with each situation as it comes and have learnt various coping methods to undertake for when the going gets tough.

      I look forward to reading other hubs that you write. :-)

    • graceomalley profile imageAUTHOR

      graceomalley 

      7 years ago

      Thanks, pk for that link.

    • profile image

      pk 

      7 years ago

      Anyone suffering from chronic pain and not getting relief should check out this organization and help out with your input. Doctors and Patients for Unrestricted Pain Management. http://www.facebook.com/home.php?#!/pages/Doctors-and-Patients-for-Unrestricted-Pain-Management/175643865791059

    • profile image

      Misa Leonessa Garavaglia 

      7 years ago

      Thanks for sharing this challenging piece of your life, Kathleen. There are many people with chronic health problems, like myself, who need to hear about others' journeys and the process of letting go of what we cannot control, and holding on to the hope that is always there in the midst of our suffering.

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