“Whatever you are talking about you’ve got. You have got to start telling the story the way you want it to be.”
My journey with chronic pain can be summed up in three phases:
- Spending every waking second talking, thinking, and focusing on pain. After my scars had healed from my bike accident, the pain seemed to get worse. I talked about my pain constantly. I went to a few doctors but back in the nineties chronic pain was not a well known disease. Not one doctor used the phrase ‘chronic pain’ and prescribed different medications in the hopes the pain would subside. I talked to my friends, family, and even people I hardly knew about pain. I wanted someone, anyone to hear my words and my pain despite the fact that it was invisible. My close friends and family were very empathetic and loving during the first few years of my journey with chronic pain. I was asked on a daily basis how I was feeling. At first, I welcomed questions regarding how I felt because I could tell that people cared and believed me. Fast forward some time and the questions became very frustrating and depressing. I did not feel better, the pain was only getting worse, and I felt that I was letting everyone down that cared because I was not only not getting better but the pain was completely taking over my body, mind, and spirit.
- After the first few years in my journey with chronic pain, I began to stop talking about pain. I only talked about my invisible illness with doctors, specialists, and at times my dad. I hid my chronic pain from everyone and when asked how I was feeling my response was always the same: “I’m fine.” I spent most of my life during this phase searching for a cure. Chronic pain had completely taken over my life despite the fact that I did not talk about my condition. I thought I was going crazy and I did not want to lose my friends and family. Slowly I began to isolate myself just so I did not have to bring anyone down and did not have to answer questions about pain. I got to a point of hopelessness and gave up on finding a cure, worse I gave up on my life.
- Fast forward ten or more years and I finally heard the words: chronic pain. I was in Minnesota at the Mayo Clinic seeing every doctor possible to find a cure to my invisible illness. I spent months there undergoing tests, taking medications, and seeing every specialist possible in the little city of Rochester, MN. After a few months, my main neurologist at this amazing hospital told me the ugly truth: I had/have chronic pain and there was no magic cure but there was a program right there in Rochester that taught people with chronic pain how to manage it naturally and live a happy life despite pain. I was hesitant, angry, and depressed at first but I finally gave in and entered the Pain Rehab Program where I did get my life back without finding that cure I swore I could not survive without. I stopped talking about pain all together at this point in my journey with chronic pain. However, I stopped talking about the pain for myself not for other people. I learned that for me, talking about pain only brought more pain into my life. The more I talked and thought about pain, the more pain I had. This was a very difficult thing to do at first and still is at times as when I am having a hard day with my invisible illness I come off as bratty or in a bad mood (which is a normal mood for someone who is having a difficult day with pain.) I did not want my loved ones to forget that I had chronic pain just because I no longer talked about or brought attention to my incurable disease. I now say: “I am having a difficult day” to my close friends and family when my pain is controlling my mind and body. These difficult days are infrequent but the term chronic pain literally means that the pain is chronic and will not just go away.
What controls our minds, controls our lives. What consumes our thoughts, consumes our lives. What we talk about on a consistent basis is what we will get in return. If we are consistently talking, thinking and dwelling about our pain the Universe has no choice but to bring more pain into our lives. Some parts of my days or nights I am unable to distract my mind from pain and must practice non-resistance. However, I am able to distract myself most of the time and I do whatever I can to train my brain to not think about pain. I used to not talk about pain because I was so miserable I literally wanted to die. I was tired of disappointing my family and friends with the same answer: “The pain is only worse and nothing is helping.” I now do not talk about pain for myself. I want to feel good and I do not want pain to control my life. It does not matter what other people think. I manage pain for me, not for anyone else. I found what works for me and talking about pain all the time is only going to increase my pain levels and bring me back to a place I never want to face again. I have a life now despite pain now and I would be a fool to do anything to change what has worked for me. Just because a person does not talk about pain does not mean their pain is not there. He or is she is just stronger than the pain they are managing on a daily basis.