We are usually so immersed in the demands of our body pain, that we feel we don’t have the energy or capacity for dealing with our emotional hurts at the same time. These include: sadness, frustration, blame, shame, resentment, anger, hopelessness, isolation, and loneliness to name a few.
Sometimes we’re not dealing with them because we feel like acknowledging them will take us under. It’s just too much. Sometimes it’s because they seem like feelings we just have to live with while we’re living with pain. And sometimes, we simply don’t realize they’re there because they’ve become the ocean we swim in every day.
But if we don’t recognize and begin to work to relieve some of our sadness, loss, anger and shame about being in pain, we might find ourselves trapped inside the weight of our own grief and hopelessness. If ignored for too long, the emotions we don’t find a way to acknowledge and express can lead to depression, bitterness, and despair.
Let’s not go there. Let’s see what we can do to relieve the sadness and isolation of living with chronic pain and create a greater sense of ease and well being, even while we’re still living with pain.
Suggestions for overcoming the intense emotions of living with chronic pain
- Find someone to tell your pain story to –someone who will listen without trying to fix anything or assign blame. If there is no one you can trust to do that, talking to a pet is a surprisingly good second choice.
- Find creative ways to express your pain. Your physical and emotional pains can be expressed through art, writing, singing, dancing, or even howling.
- Find someone you can help, either through sharing your insights, becoming a companion, or being an understanding listener.
- Don’t isolate yourself. We all have days when we don’t want to go out. That’s understood. But human interaction is a basic need. Find ways to reach out and be with others, even if in brief amounts of time.
- Stay engaged with life. What did you used to love to do that you’re not doing now? How can you participate, if only for a short time or in the most minimal of ways? What new things can you learn about and participate in?
- Connect with the greater part of you that lives beyond this pain. This can be done through prayer, meditation, music, or other creative expressions with the intention of accessing the greater You.
- Re-connect with your dreams of the future. Create a dream that includes the person you are becoming through this journey with pain.
- Don’t stand still either on the inside or on the outside. This leads to a feeling of stagnation. Find a sense of movement, no matter how small: physical, emotional, creative, or spiritual.
- Be kind to yourself. Speak to yourself and to your body soothingly and with love.
Remember, as I often say, pain is a landscape we’re moving through. It is not the totality of who we are. We only lose our way if we sit down and give up.
As we travel along our path through chronic pain, let’s remember to be kinder and more compassionate toward our bodies and to our whole self, feeling what needs to be felt, expressing what needs to be expressed, and loving the parts of ourselves that are asking to be loved.
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 (New World Library June, 2018).