I’m from New England, so the first answer I came up with for living with chronic pain was to grit my teeth and stoically carry on. Just live through it from day to day with as much grace and as little sourness as I could manage.
This didn’t actually solve anything, but at least it didn’t make things worse. I learned how to do very little, to stop trying so hard, and to relax a little bit more around the pain.
After several years of that, I thought, okay, I’ve been a good girl. I’ve slogged through my days as positively as possible with hardly any complaining and I’ve done everything within my capacity to heal.
The Plan: Write Out The Pain
Not very scientific, I know, but I was desperate.
Very slowly and very painfully I started writing a few sentences at a time about what it feels like to live with pain. About how pain moves in and takes over your life. About how I hated the pain in my body. About all the things I was forced to give up and the time lost to pain. I wrote scathing letters to pain, demanding to know what it thought it was doing, taking up unpaid lodgings in my body.
After several months of this I noticed something. I noticed that I felt better. I couldn’t say I’d cured myself, or that pain had left my body, not at all, but I felt better. Despite the pain. Huh.
Seeing Myself in the Pages
First, I saw the terrible pain, the loss, the grief, and the hopelessness. I saw how TOS and chronic pain had robbed me of precious activities with my son, my work-related aspirations, and my avocations. And that was very, very difficult to acknowledge and very sad, but it was also important to see the whole story. To witness myself, in a sense.
But, along with the many challenges, I also saw phenomenal strength, and a growing wisdom. I saw an absolute love for myself and for my son and for life, and the incredible tenacity of spirit that kept me going day after day. And that was equally important to see and acknowledge and own.
What Pain Couldn't Take
The me of me was still intact. I had been through the fire, and what was left was pure me.
That was the beginning of healing - to write honestly and deeply about my experiences and to recognize that pain couldn't rob me of everything. It could rob me of a lot, but it couldn't rob me of myself.
Maybe that seems like a small jewel to dig out of the muck, but I really don’t think so. I know who I am. I know what I can go through. I know how strong I am and how much I can love. I know compassion and caring and softness and resilience.
And that’s a lot.
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