Living with a chronic pain condition is the most frustrating thing that I have ever had to deal with. It can keep me from enjoying the things that other people take for granted. It is easy to fall into hopelessness in the fight to manage chronic pain. Knowing myself and setting my mindset have made the difference between wasting away and reclaiming my life.
Many people think nothing of doing housework, going on outings with the family, or even getting out of bed in the morning. People with chronic pain understand that these activities are not always possible or easy to do. Understanding my limitations has helped me to better manage chronic pain. Being able to assess myself, and be honest about what I find, is key to this process. What I am capable of may vary from one day to the next, or from one hour to the next. I had to learn that it is ok to be honest with myself and act accordingly. Taking care of myself is integral to trying to manage chronic pain. I constantly have to consider things that others never think of. “If I continue, I will be in bed all day tomorrow.” “If I take a break for a couple of hours, I will be able to do (fill in the blank) later.” Pushing myself to the point where I need to recover for several days is rare, but they happen. Far more common are the times when I have to say to myself that the activity is not worth it, or simply not possible at this time. Self assessment can make the difference between being in unbearable pain and being able to manage chronic pain.
Self assessment can also lead to guilt and being hard on myself. There are times when I feel guilty for letting my friends or family down. I don’t want them to be slowed down or hindered by me, and I don’t want to miss out on those memories with my loved ones. These thoughts were commonplace for me, but I eventually had to come to the realization that my loved ones care about me and my comfort more than they care about going to the fair or whatever. It is ok to be honest and plan accordingly without beating yourself up. There are times when it is necessary to ride the motorized cart or stay in the car. It is ok to be who you are, and to do what is necessary for you to be happy and manage chronic pain. Ultimately, the people who love you will understand, and they would rather see you happy than crumpled in pain.
The most important tool to manage chronic pain has been my mindset. It sucks that others don’t have to deal with this on a daily basis. “why me?” “why can’t I just be normal?” are thoughts used to dominate my mindset. As Theodore Roosevelt said, “Comparison is the thief of joy.” Comparing myself to what is “normal” for others only makes me depressed and feel sorry for myself. Normal is different for everyone, and I cannot be worried about my neighbor. Yes, it’s true, that stuff all sucks, but focusing on that will not serve me in any positive ways. Dealing with chronic pain is a fight. To stay in a positive mindset, I have to alternate between the fighter and the physician. I have to know when to grit my teeth and push through, and when to take it easy and give my body the rest and care needed. Both of these mindsets are focusing forward. These mindsets may seem selfish, but that is ok. If you do not take care of yourself, then it is not fair or realistic to expect that someone close to you will do it for you. The most positive thing that has come out of my quest to manage chronic pain is my intensely strong mindset. I am not going to pretend that there are not times where I despair, but it is much more difficult for my pain to get me down anymore.
Being honest with myself and my loved ones has made it much easier for me to manage chronic pain. Knowing my limitations and listening to my body are critical parts of my pain management. Keeping my mindset strong and focused on taking care of myself and fighting for myself allow me to not fall into the trap of hopelessness. It is up to you to create a mindset that can make the difference between being miserable or taking charge of your life.