Seventeenth in a series
After we have taken our medication, followed our physician's instructions as to diet, exercise and other life style changes, researched (what did we do before the internet?) all the ins and outs of our painful condition, and listened patiently to all the well-meaning advice from others who do not suffer as we do ("Just take an Advil."), what if the pain is still there? What if everything we do has only minimal, if any, effect?
It's depressing, upsetting, frustrating and maddening to do everything right and still be in pain. We tend to feel like failures. We blame ourselves when we are not blaming modern medicine, our physicians, or the Fickle Finger of Fate. We turn to food, alcohol, drugs for relief. We mourn the loss of independence, careers, social lives.
All this is natural. In my own experience, I find that acknowledging and allowing those feelings is an necessary part of the process of coming to terms with a life of chronic pain. In a way, it's like the Elizabeth Kubler-Ross stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance. As a matter of fact, that's a great blog post: working with these stages of grief vis-a-vis our lives of chronic pain. But that will be for next time.
Today, I just want to refer to a sentence from my previous post:
"I bring my attention to [the pain]. I explore it, feel it. Somehow, that takes its power away. Not that the pain recedes automatically, but that I control how I relate to it."
"...I control how I relate to it." Really, what control do any of us -- pain-free or pain-full -- have in our lives, aside from what our delusional, wishful thinking tries to convince us we have? We have control over how we react and relate to the circumstances and situations that life brings us. For those of us with chronic pain, that means we only have control over how we relate to our pain.
I have blogged before about the practice of exploring pain as a pain management tool. This is one of the ways I control how I react to the pain. Granted, I often take time for a bit of whining before I get to the actual practice, although I feel better if I keep the whining to a minimum. But having exercised some authority over the situation of my pain by deliberately and consciously turning my attention to it rather than running away from it, I have rejected the victim role so easily assumed, I have taken control over myself, my Self: ultimately, as I said above, the only control any of us have.
Here is how Eckhart Tolle teaches us to be in the Now. These are suggestions and skills that apply to pain management as well, so I include this quote from page 63 of The Power of Now as a way to close this post:
"Use your senses fully. Be where you are. Look around. Just look, don't interpret. See the light, shape, colors textures. Be aware of the silent presence of each thing. Be aware of the space that allows everything to be."
In exploring your pain, use your senses fully. Be where you are - look around at the room you are in, feel the bed or chair beneath you, breathe slowly. Look around without allowing the irritation of the pain, the frustration of your situation, to take you into negative thinking. Let yourself see beyond the pain to the light, shapes, colors and textures. Let your body feel beyond the pain to its own silent, peaceful presence and let that feeling expand: this is the space within. That feeling of spaciousness is the context in which to explore and be present to your pain.
That feeling of spaciousness is your spirit's ability to relegate the pain to its proper place: not in control. That feeling of spaciousness is your doorway to allowing you to choose how you relate to the pain: in control of your Self.
You cannot do any better than that.
I would love to hear from you. Please use the Comment link below, or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you.
Carol D. Marsh
- With a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Nonfiction degree (Goucher College, August 2014), I am looking at a new phase in my life. From 1992 to 2009, I served as Founding Executive Director of Miriam's House, a residence for homeless women living with AIDS. I left this position when Chronic Migraine Disease overtook my ability to do my job. Now I hope that a writing career will both accommodate the migraines and give me a creative, productive outlet. And soon, September 4, I will launch my Inkshares author page in a bid to hit the 1,000 pre-order goal in 90 days. The book I want to publish is "Nowhere Else I Want to Be," a memoir of ten of my years at Miriam's House.