Image by Reavel via Flickr
I can honestly say I have tried every pain treatment recommended to me and yet I still have not gotten the measure of pain relief that I wanted. It has been disappointing to say the least. Early on in my journey with chronic pain, trying and failing to get relief took a toll on me. I found pain to be physically, emotionally and spiritually taxing. After a year and a half of failed attempts, I entered a period of crisis, where I was faced with a choice to continue to struggle against my pain or just accept it as part of my life. During this crisis, I rediscovered three powerful tools that help me get through each and every day. These tools are faith, hope and love.
I'm not a terribly religious person. I like to joke that I am still recovering from a childhood of Catholic grade school and all-girls Catholic high school. So while I acknowledge that faith in God or a higher power certainly can help, the faith I rediscovered was faith in myself. I have relearned to believe in myself and my ability to survive and thrive every day. Now I know that, no matter what life or pain throws my way, I will figure out a way to get through the day. The biggest boost to my self-belief was learning self-help techniques to manage my pain. Learning and applying skills like pacing, planning, pre-emptive rest, saying no and more help me gain a sense of control over my chronic pain and bolster my self-esteem.
The second tool that helps me live with chronic pain is hope. While faith helps me get through each day, hope helps me get to sleep every night. I used to go to sleep each night hoping that tomorrow my pain would be gone. But when I decided to accept that chronic pain was going to be part of my life for the foreseeable future, I stopped the wishful thinking and substituted it for something more realistic. Now I have hope that if I can apply my self-help pain management techniques today, I will achieve small improvements in my functioning and quality of life tomorrow. I haven't given up hope that maybe some day someone will figure out fibromyalgia and develop a treatment that works for me. But until then, my hopes for small and achievable change help me look forward to another day with chronic pain.
We all want love in our lives and we often look to others for it. But the third tool in my toolkit isn't love from others, but love for myself. I've found that I can't hate my pain without hating myself. After all, this is my body, and more specifically my dysfunctional nervous system, causing my pain symptoms. If I feel ongoing, constant hatred towards my pain, my life starts to revolve around hate. If I have compassion for my body, which I truly believe wants me to be healthy and happy, my life revolves around love. I know my body wants me to be happy and healthy because I can see how eagerly it responds to the self-help techniques I use to manage my pain symptoms. Yes, I love myself and I love my body, and through compassion and understanding, I am starting to love my pain.
As you can see, my chronic pain toolkit contains some unconventional items. While they can't take my pain away, they do something even more important: they help me live my best life despite chronic pain. Yes, each day I live with chronic pain becomes an act of faith, an act of hope and an act of love.