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Anxiety and Chronic Pain

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I have yet to meet a person who has chronic pain but has no anxiety symptoms as seen above.  What came first: chronic pain or anxiety?  I believe for everyone this is different and I am not a huge fan of the: what came first: the chicken or the egg theory anyways.  In the end, who cares?  You have chronic pain and you are dealing with the dreaded invisible illnesses that hop on board with the relentless pain you are already facing.  I personally know that I have had anxiety problems since I was a child.  Even at the young age of six I worried about everything.  I remember nighttime being the worst because I was never able to turn my young mind off.  I worried about things that were in my reality and things that no child or adult should waste their time thinking about.  My dad once took me to my pediatrician because I had such problems with insomnia: I was nine!  My bike accident happened in my young teens which resulted in brain surgery and a life with chronic pain.  Chronic pain did not help my anxiety at all.  I have written this before but I fully believe this to be true: the fear of pain is often times worse than the pain itself.  I no longer look for a cure for chronic pain and manage pain totally naturally.  However, I still have some difficult days or nights but they do not rule my life by any means.  I over did things yesterday and was overly anxious and paid the price last night as I watched The Bachlorette and later read.   However, I do not fear pain but I do find myself fearing anxiety.

There is no doubt that anxiety increases my pain levels and this goes for everyone.  People without chronic pain get headaches, back aches, and stomach aches when overly stressed or filled with anxious thoughts and worries.  If you are already living with chronic pain, there is little doubt in me that anxiety, when heightened will lead to increased pain levels. I have been working on managing my anxiety for thirty years and the one good thing I have learned is that a lot of the techniques I use to manage chronic pain also help with my anxiety management: exercise, breathing exercises, yoga, meditation, yoga nidra, healthy diet etc.  I cannot believe I am writing this as I never thought I would be able to manage pain without a cure or medication but managing my anxiety is more difficult than managing chronic pain.  Wow, just writing that fact is shocking to me.

Anyone that has anxiety knows how difficult it is to live with this very real invisible illness.  Just like chronic pain or any other disease, one cannot understand the true feelings of anxiety unless on lives with this chronic condition.  I awake most mornings with a huge amount of anxiety and most days I can jump up and just start my routine but there are some days that it takes a ton of will power.  Anxiety, like chronic pain can truly take over one’s mind and then body if we allow it to.  People may say to you: “You worry too much, everything works out.  Just calm down.”  Most of us, myself included know that the things we worry about always work out however it is very difficult at times to talk reason to our minds and souls when they are in a heightened state of anxiety.  Logically, we know how blessed we are and that the past has taught us worrying will never change the outcome but just like a difficult day with chronic pain there are difficult days with anxiety.  I struggle the most with anxiety first thing in the morning and at times as I try and fall asleep.  I noticed lately the more I give in to my anxieties in the morning the easier it is for me to fall asleep because I am so tired from having battles in my mind that I am not only exhausted, but have stressed myself out to the point of having a difficult time with pain.

Where is the happy ending of this battle with anxiety?  Is there an ending?  I do not know.  I only know that if I can learn how to manage chronic pain without medications or finding a cure, I can better myself in more ways than I realize.  Life isn’t about the destination, it is through the journey of ups and downs that we learn and grow.  I find it ironic that having chronic pain because of a bike accident taught me (ten years later) how I can manage anxiety the same way I manage pain.  I also find it crazy that anxiety is more difficult for me to manage now than pain.  Fifteen years ago I would have given in to both chronic pain and fear in the morning and never have gotten out of bed.  Now, at the age of thirty five I feel as if I slept super late because it is my day off and I did not wake up until eight in the morning (thank you daughter!)  Our thoughts become our reality, I do believe this to be true.  However, once we accept it is our anxiety talking and not the rational part of our minds we can at least come to a great starting point in our journey with anxiety.  We are always works in progress and I have learned more from chronic pain than probably anything in my life.  I plan to do the same with anxiety and worrying.  We just never give up and no matter where any of you are with your personal invisible illness, I know from much life experience that you are truly doing the best you can.

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