We usually think of side effects as the negative by-products of ingesting pharmaceuticals, but chronic pain produces its own side effects.
These side effects result from the many challenges of living with pain that go far beyond the experience of the pain itself.
Experiencing any of them can be distressing, especially if we don’t realize that other people are having them too.
All That From Pain?
Today, I want to talk about one of the side effects that can be hardest to explain to others and which can create the most self blame and misunderstanding: It Takes All Day To Do (Almost) Nothing.
When we’re in constant pain, it can literally take most of our day to get out of bed, wash up, get dressed, eat something, and make a cup of tea. If we’re having a good day, maybe we can make one important phone call or complete one page of a form before we’re done.
Why is this important to recognize? Because too often we think we are supposed to continue keeping everything together despite our pain. We think we’re supposed to buck up, be strong, and just keep going.
Why doesn’t it work that way? Because just being in pain takes most of our energy. End of story.
Today, I Made A Cup Of Tea
We don’t get much done in a day because being in chronic pain is what we’re doing all day.
When we’re in pain our experience of time is different. Our experience of energy and what we can do with it is different. Our entire consciousness is different. We are living in a different world with very different parameters, limitations and no meaningful timetable.
So what do we do about this? Take an online course for increasing productivity? NO! Read a bestseller on doing more with less? NO!
The very simple and important answer is: we live within our present limitations.
I know it’s very hard to not feel guilty about doing very, very little, especially if we are Type A individuals or are parenting in pain. Or both. We worry about losing ground or not being there for our kids, I know.
But chronic pain is something that can’t be muscled through. Persistent pain takes up most of who we.
Beating ourselves up emotionally because we can’t do as much as we used to do is not going to help us get through this faster or in a more healthful way. We’re only adding to the pain we’re already in.
Healing Is A Full Time Occupation
The reason we’re not doing much is not because we’re lazy, or we’re taking advantage of other people, or we’re letting pain take over, or we’re failing to heal. We’re doing very little because the body is putting most of its energy into healing.
Even though we may hate the fact that we’re unable to do much while in pain, our limitations are good for us. They force us to slow down, breathe, stop trying so hard, relax, and focus mostly on doing whatever we need to do to heal.
Even if it means that sometimes it takes all day to have a cup of tea.
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Sarah Anne Shockley has lived with nerve pain from Thoracic Outlet Syndrome since 2007. She is the author of The Pain Companion: Everyday Wisdom For Living With and Moving Beyond Chronic Pain and Living Better While Living With Pain. She is a staff columnist for Pain News Network.