All of these things at different times, yet none of them tells your whole story.
When pain moves in and takes over life, we become subject to its needs by default. Over time, it becomes harder and harder to find our private identity and the sense of our inner self as distinct from the experience of pain.
In a sense, pain is shaping us into someone else.
That's probably unavoidable, but I think it's important to remember that we are not only a person in pain. Pain puts many demands on us and limits who we can be and how we can participate, yes. At the same time, we are still here, the self, the "I" that is immutable and core to our sense of self, is still here.
Our lives include pain, but we are also greater than our pain. Our spirits, our sense of self, our connection to Life exist beyond the immediate physical realm of pain. They may feel distant and they may feel difficult to connect with, but they are still there, nonetheless.
Our lives also include the parts of us that are not experiencing pain.
Maybe we don't always feel stronger than our pain, and that's understandable. But if we let pain define us, if we begin to respond to life only as the labels we are given - in terms of our condition, our disability, the level of our pain - then we are losing ground.
To not become completely defined by pain and loss and limitation, we use an act of will, an act of rebellion, sovereignty, and self-respect, to claim our own definitions of self. We necessarily include pain in our lives, but we also include the greater aspects of who we are - our dreams, our talents, our wisdom, our experiences from our whole lives, our contributions, our perspectives, our spirituality, our connection with nature, earth, the cosmos, the divine.
We live with pain, but we don't have to be defined by it. We are more than that. You are more than that. You always were, and you always will be.
Sarah Anne Shockley has lived with nerve pain from Thoracic Outlet Syndrome since 2007. She co-produced and directed Dancing From the Inside Out, a multi-award winning documentary on AXIS Dance Company (integrating wheelchair and able-bodied dance). She has been a columnist for Pain News Network and is a regular contributor to The Mighty. Her book, The Pain Companion will be released from New World Library, June, 2018. She is also author of The Light at The Center of Pain, Living Better While Living With Pain, and 30 Days of Living Better While Living With Pain.