When I think of my chronic pain, I think of a time that my nephew was ill. We both handled our pain in the same way.
Let me paint a picture for you (trigger warning for sensitive stomachs):
My nephew has a sensory disorder and handles his senses differently than others. One day when he was younger, he was feeling sick. Really sick. He began vomiting while simultaneously trying to get away from his own discomfort. He ran passionately around the room, spewing chunks all over my poor sister’s house. He didn’t know what to do to get away from this dreaded, awful feeling. In his mind, running seemed like a viable option.
In the last few years, I have been dealing with chronic pain just like my nephew – I’ve been running away from the pain, hoping the dread of this thing would just go away.
If I just kept moving, perhaps I wouldn’t have to look at my own broken body and work toward a solution. Perhaps the solution to chronic pain was in the moving. Just keep running…
If I just don’t think about it, perhaps it will subside. Maybe it is part mental…
If I could just find the right doctor or treatment…
I watched my mom suffer through chronic pain for years. She had fourteen surgeries; some successful but mostly unsuccessful. Witnessing her experiences, I have tried to pretend my pain wasn’t there. If I could work out harder or longer. If only I could challenge my body more. Perhaps I wouldn’t have to make these same hard choices of surgery or medicine.
I ran cross-country in high school (a looooooooooong time ago), and the coach often gave a pep talk in an effort to motivate us to push through the pain and to run through it. If anyone has ever experienced a side stitch, you know that running through pain seems completely unreasonable.
And while I don’t think the solution is to run from our problems, physical activity can greatly benefit chronic pain. If nothing else, it can shift a suffering perspective to one of gratitude. If we are honest with ourselves there is almost always someone who has it worse than us. There is something about physical activity, no matter how small that fuels the soul.
We have to be willing to push through the pain. But how does one push through chronic pain that is always present?
I’ve only recently begun getting help, yet I will likely never get a concise diagnosis. Because chronic pain is easy to feel but extremely hard to detect or diagnose. They just don’t have answers for much of it.
While medical professionals and I work through details, I keep plugging away trying to figure out how to get through each day with a body that is failing me at the ripe age of forty-two. I write this blog to give hope. Doctors don’t always have the answers and while medicinal answers can be helpful, they aren’t foolproof. And ultimately you know your body better than anybody.
One thing I do know: chronic pain has no expiration date and extremely minimal answers outside of Ibuprofen and ice packs.
So, what is someone with chronic pain to do?
I have been working with my doctors and medical professionals, and I’ve become a closer friend to WebMD than I care to admit. Be forewarned- we all have cancer. At least that seems to be the diagnosis. But here are a few things I have picked up in my search for a pain-free life:
- Stop running in fear of it.
- Do run through the pain. It does not have to be a literal run, but stay active. I recognize how incredibly hard it is to engage in any physical activity when you are hurting, but our muscles need the movement. It certainly doesn’t hurt our spirits to get a bit more active. When I run, the aftermath is more severe than the traditional post-work-out pain. But while I am doing it, it is life-giving. I do feel better than when I do nothing at all.
- Change up your work out. I can’t do the things I could do before (like Cross Fit), but my body is still capable of minor victories. Pave the way for victory or you will live in constant defeat.
- When your body is failing you, everything is tighter. Even your jaw bone clinches in retreat, in a warring fight against you. Stretch and breathe.
- Practice mindful meditation. I am a Christian so I pray, read, and saturate my house in worship music, etc. Practice relaxation and mindfulness. This world is like a game of tug-o-war; it will pull at you hard and from every angle. Push back. You don’t have to busy yourself with every little thing that is asked of you. Take time for replenishment.
- Do not isolate. Get out of the house. It’s easy to retreat when you don’t feel as though you fit the mold of where you want to be or where your friends are in this stage of life. Misery loves company, and you will love your own misery.
- Deficiencies don’t mean you are deficient, although we may feel that way at times. Often chronic pain is a result of something our body lacks. Maybe it is proper nutrients, maybe it is hormones, etc. As best you can, fill your body up with good things. Craving that can of spinach? Do it up. Don’t think you should drink that cup of coffee? Then don’t. I love coffee but sometimes by body reacts negatively to it. Trust your knowledge of your body.
- Above all, don’t give up. You can get through this and you are not alone.
So to all my fellow chronic pain sufferers – I get it. And as much as I want to run from all of it, to distance myself from my pain, I know I cannot. I can only move through each day, facing this pain head-on, and hoping to find more answers and solutions. I hope you can find those same things, too.