6 Things Chronic Pain Taught Me
I agree that chronic pain and/or illness does take a toll on your body, emotions, behaviours, and thoughts. But I am grateful that it can also be a good teacher. Below are 6 things I’ve learned and am striving to better implement into my life.
- Exhaustion. Chronic pain/ illness is physically exhausting. Do you feel you should be able to do more and handle the demands of life better? I did. But when a doctor told me this fact I felt relief. I felt like I had “permission” to get more rest and do things differently in my day in response to this exhaustion (like do less).
- Emotional. Chronic pain/ illness can wreck havoc with your emotions and you can become emotionally exhausted as well. In order to stay emotionally balanced, it is important to recognize and talk about your emotions with safe people. When experiencing chronic pain/ illness, it is normal for your emotions to see-saw from negative to positive to negative. Once I realized this was within the realm of normal, I stopped fearing that I was going crazy or was a bad Christian.
- Energy Boundaries. Everyone has a set amount of energy to spend each day. When you are ill, fatigued, stressed, or in constant pain, this amount of energy is lessened. Therefore, learn to use your energy wisely. Do the most important things while you are fresh (early in the day or after a nap or rest). And make doubly sure your to-do list is reasonable and doable for the amount of energy you have that day. Push yourself beyond your energy level and you’ll pay for it for several days (sometimes weeks) by being bed-ridden, having more pain and exhaustion, etc..
- Experienced People. Do you have a long association with chronic pain and/or illness? If like me you didn’t, then maybe you too were confused by the behavioural, cognitive, spiritual, and somatic changes you went through. I travelled through this confusion by talking with others who were more familiar with this new “landscape.” This included folks with chronic pain/illness and professionals. Not only did they give me information, they also gave understanding, advice, and encouragement to not let chronic pain/illness define who I am or control my thinking and actions. And they shared their experiences and feelings which showed me I wasn’t alone in this journey.
- Extra Care. Frankly I get tired of and bored with focusing on my needs (good nutrition, rest, exercise, thought control, reasonable to-do list, stress management, regular time with God, etc.). However, experiencing chronic pain has shown me how important it is that I take extra good care of myself. I want to live longer (for my kiddos and hopefully grandbabies some day) and have a better quality of life. Taking good care of me won’t guarantee a longer, better life, but not taking care will guarantee ill-health. Pain is a good motivator.
- Engage. How do you respond when you are in the depths of chronic pain and/or illness? I tend to isolate from activity, people, myself, and God. I did this even though I know isolation always makes me feel worse. On those super bad days I made sure I engaged with at least one of the four areas mentioned. My goal was to always touch base with all four. My constant was always my relationship with God.
Your Turn . . .
- What has chronic pain/illness taught you?
- Can you identify with any of the things I wrote? What would you add to it?
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 Books also played the role of experienced people.