“How do you run away from things that are in your head?”
You don’t run away: You change your thoughts
People ask me questions such as the one above quite frequently. I understand why, especially because my chronic pain is literally in my head because of brain surgery and the treatments for years after. I tried to run away from the things in my head: pain, sadness, loneliness, anxiety and every other symptom that comes with chronic pain. Running away to Colorado never changed the things in my head or the physical pain in my head but I will never regret that crazy decision I made on a whim. It brought me to my rock bottom and subsequently to the Mayo Clinic in MN. You cannot run away from anything that your mind or soul feel. However, you can use a ton of tools that literally change your thoughts, feelings, and pain. Just this morning I awoke and my first thought was of chronic pain. My second thought was about the things in my life I am sad about. My third thought was: “Get the hell up and put on some music and work out.” Forty minutes later I have a clearer mind and more positive thoughts, along with the song Riptide that is stuck in my head.
Two days ago, my most avid reader and the person I help (or hope I help) vented to me all the things that were going wrong in her world. She has a right to be very upset and her battle with chronic pain is quite validated. This is an eighteen year old girl who lives in the UK. She never gives herself enough credit and is so much stronger than I was at her age. She actually takes my advice on how to live with chronic pain naturally and be happy. I swear, at her age I would not have taken my advice. My way of managing chronic pain is very difficult and takes a huge amount of courage to do. At eighteen I was determined to find a cure and if I saw this blog back then I would have cried.
After she wrote out all the things that are truly affecting her happiness and well being, I asked her to do an exercise that just popped into my head. I wrote: “Get a piece of paper. On one side write each thing you are able to control and on the other side write the things that are totally out of your control. Ten minutes later she had it done and sent it to me. Lets say she had twenty problems and put each on this “in my control, out of my control” list. About fifteen of them were on the side of “cannot control” and five on the side “can control.” I asked her to hang it up somewhere she would be able to see each day to remind herself that she must let go of what she can not control. Why the hell have I not done this? Most things we are worried about or sad about are totally out of our control. We cannot control how others treat us; we can only control how we react to that treatment. We cannot control other’s views of our invisible illness; we can choose to either give those people information on chronic pain or we can choose to just ignore their opinions. Trust me, everyone has issues and no person has any right to judge you so I think you should choose the latter but that is up to you. Since I gave her this exercise it has helped her. I guess I should probably do the same exercise considering I need to practice what I preach, not to mention it was a really good idea. It is okay to compliment yourself. We should all do this exercise. Not only does it help to write things out but to visually see what we can control and what we cannot can give us a lot of peace. All readers who are daring enough to take my advice, there is some homework for the weekend, mine as well.
There are so many ways to run away from the thoughts that do not serve you. The best being distractions. When you are sitting in bed thinking and thinking you tend to create more problems that do not even exist. Please as hard as it is (I know) get up and do something you enjoy. I do not care what that is, Real World episode: go for it. My personal distractions are: exercise, yoga, writing, cleaning, organizing, cooking, being outside, (damn snow) listening to music, going for a drive with my daughter singing to Mumford and Sons, dancing, watching game shows, playing and teaching my daughter. Train your brain to not think about pain.
I truly encourage anyone reading this to do my random exercise: writing down what you can control and what you cannot.
“Yesterday is history, tomorrow a mystery, today is the present hence a gift”