6 Things Chronic Pain Taught Me

. at . 15 comments

Is chronic pain/chronic illness a constant event in your life? Does this constancy wear you down? Do you blame it for your bad moods and general irritability? Has it swiped your joy?

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.

  1. 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).
  2. 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.
  3. 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..
  4. Experienced People.[1] 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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 . . .

  1. What has chronic pain/illness taught you?
  2. Can you identify with any of the things I wrote? What would you add to it?

Related Posts

[1] Books also played the role of experienced people.

Entry filed under: chronic pain, Gratitude List, Main. Tags: , , .

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15 Comments Add your own

  • 1. claudiawjohnson  |  . at .

    Yeah! I’ve been waiting for your post! Hope that you are not in a lot of pain too! Very interesting article. You give great practical advice! Blessings and welcome home again. I hope your trip was awesome.


    • 2. susan2009  |  . at .

      Hi Claudia,
      I have been in pain, on and off, because of back pain , tendinitis in the shoulder and and now a broken shoulder. I wrote this when I had sever tendinitis.
      My trip to NZ was awesome. One of these days I will post photos here.


  • 3. hiddenlives  |  . at .

    Excellent, excellent, excellent! You’ve spoken for me in this as well, thank you.

    Very thought provoking and honest. Positive, too, without that saccharin sweetness that always rings false.

    I don’t know that I have anything different to add to your list, but I’m going to give it some thought.


    • 4. susan2009  |  . at .

      Thanks for your affirmation, Hidden Lives. I look forward to seeing what you would add as it sounds like you’ve had a lot of experience with chronic pain.


    • 5. hiddenlives  |  . at .

      You’re so kind 🙂
      I can share something that happened not too long ago which taught me a new lesson after 20+ years of experience. I’d gotten into the habit of just handling it, saying little. It was a tactic that worked before my husband retired (and especially while we had kids at home) but I realized by having messed up that now that he is around more, I was doing him a great disservice by saying nothing. I’d actually hurt his feelings because he was bewildered by my behavior when a little while before I’d been doing ok (my version of normal) and suddenly was not.

      My silence, my “just handling it,” had given him the idea that he’d done something wrong. The next day when it occurred to me that I might have done that, talking to him brought a new understanding for our new situation.

      So, now I’ve learned that I do sometimes need to say “I’m suddenly getting hit hard – I’m not upset with you, just quiet because I’m getting slammed.”

      Even after decades of experience together, a new situation called for a new tactic. I even wrote about that one on my blog as I hoped to prevent anyone else from making my mistake. I’ve learned to take a deep breath and when in doubt – ask those affected how THEY want me to handle it.



    • 6. susan2009  |  . at .

      Thanks so much for sharing your story. It is a good reminder about how important communication is. when I am in pain, I often shut up and close down not thinking how that affects others. My closed in response has nothing to do with them, but that is how they sometimes perceive it. And I have percieved the same of others.


  • 7. Piglet in Portugal  |  . at .

    I only experienced chronic pain once and it went on for months. I twisted my lower back and I was in agony. Nothing I took or did made any difference. I became a grumpy introvert.

    This post is excellent because it makes me stop and think for a moment and consider the moods of those who are in cronic pain. My friends hubby is he has fibramyalga (sorry I can’t spell it) he laughs alot and is really jolly. It’s only in ungaurded moments you realise how much pain he is in. He explained his condition to me once, but he did no want my sympathy just my understanding.

    He is a great man with loads of courage!

    So I would add courage to your list…


    • 8. susan2009  |  . at .

      Courage is a great thing to add to this list, PiP. When you are in chronic pain you learn a lot about or self. And seeing whether or not you have courage can be a downer or encouraging.

      I have to admit that many times I am also a grumpy introvert. I have to remind myself that I can choose a different attitude (like courage).

      So glad you are not in pain now.


  • 9. bank accounts offshore  |  . at .

    Don t misunderstand however…Though your life may be going in a direction different from what you d planned it doesn t have to take you down a dark and lonely road. With thoughtful pain treatment and sometimes pain medications your chronic pain does not have to derail your life…What Does Pain Management Mean?The goal of pain management is not necessarily pain relief but improvement of your quality of life. ..But in order to better understand the ways in which you can control your chronic pain you must first have an understanding of the overall nature of pain.


    • 10. susan2009  |  . at .

      Good thoughts. I like that good pain management is more about improving quality of life. Because no one treatment works for everyone or even the same person all the time, it is a trial-and-error and refinement process. Thanks for stopping by.


  • 11. Kristina  |  . at .

    I have been battling chronic pain for 3 years now. I ended up pushing myself much too hard at work and have been off work since the end of January. I can’t get through the day without a nap or two and any social events have to be strategically planned so that I can leave when I need to and put myself into further distress. But I have also learned invaluable lessons I could not have learned any other way. My walk with God is the strongest it has ever been. He first used my pain to bring closer to him, now I am learning to trust him. This time at home is allowing me to learn more about myself and it has brought my husband and I closer together. I still get scared and frustrated, but I know in my hears this won’t be forever. My heart goes out to everyone suffering from this debilitating disorder.


    • 12. susan2009  |  . at .

      What a cool testimonial, Kristina. You certainly have learned some useful things. Lots of time I’ve seen chronic pain draw relationships apart. Awesome that some of your (with God and hubby) are closer than before.
      I’m glad to hear that your cp won’t be forever. There is great hope in that thought.


  • 13. DanDad  |  . at .

    Let’s not forget those younger people in chronic pain (have had degenerative knee issues since I was 13) where the greater majority of doctors thought I was trying to scam pain meds. Even though there was plenty of proof I was pretty much treated the same everywhere I went. I was SO tired of the condescending doctors who thought they ruled the world with their knowledge. This is an issue I deal with today, even at 43, after my knee has been replaced (the patella is last real piece existing). My knee was degenerating, had low bone density, arthritis etc and STILL I have been put through the ringer. I hate the fact that my wife of 14 years and son of 13 years have to continue to hear about all the nonsense that drives me each and every day. I am still waiting on the possibility of another surgery while dealing with a pain med doctor who is openly paranoid about the DEA. I wanted to go to another pain med doctor only to realize it would take 2 months and I would not get a complete ‘bridge’ prescription…13 surgeries later, including 4 major ones (pin put in knee, pin taken out, mosaicplasty and full knee replacement) I am still in chronic pain dealing with the same BS I’ve been dealing with since trying to take care of this as a young adult. The medical community cares less about you then your worst enemy, and without your own hard work and perseverance you will only move on successfully with luck, and nothing else. I do remain positive, however, chronic pain with partial acceptance is more torturous then most could imagine. Good luck to all of you who struggle and remain spiritual through it all…


  • 14. Kerry  |  . at .

    thank you for your words Susan! I grow so tired of it all! I have suffered for 13 years having had 20 neurological procedures and surgeries. I want a cure. I am tired of being treated and want to be made well. Surgeons need us to pad their pockets. Pain management specialists need us to pad their pockets. Pharmaseuticals need us to pad their pockets. Yet we need to be made whole. And I’m tired of contributing to their vacation homes without being made whole or getting to stay in them. something is wrong and we need to find a cure!


  • […] 6 Things Chronic Pain Taught Me   (written 2011 after I broke my left shoulder while hiking) […]



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