Dear PainPal...

  1.  Anything positive in chronic pain?

  2.  Acceptance, depression, and more...

  3.  Narcotics and chronic pain.

  4.  Getting help...

  5.  "When bad things happen to good people..."

  6.  Sharing our truths.

  7.  About me.

  8.  Pacing...pacing...and more pacing.

  9.  Biting off more than I can chew?

  10.  Lessons      NEW  (7-31-00)

Anything positive in chronic pain?

October 3, 1999

Dear PainPal~

      You asked if anything positive has happened as a result of my chronic pain. Absolutely yes. I really believe that my injury gave me a whole different way of looking at life. I was forced to explore my new limitations (and I began to understand other people's better.) I took a new look at things I had maybe taken for granted, like family and friends and how important love and support is to all of us. I had to learn how to accept myself the way I am. I had to learn how to accept support from others which wasn't easy because I was so used to being the caregiver to so many people in my life.
      I learned a lot of new skills from dealing with chronic pain and illness. I wouldn't *choose* to learn them this way, but I went from being a person who was fearful and intimidated by authority figures and such to becoming a person who's fairly competent at taking control of her life and dealing with "the system"...doing things that should be simple (like finding the right doctor or getting copies of my medical records), but aren't. Bit by bit, I learned how to take charge of my healthcare and become an active and informed partner in my wellness.
      I learned a lot about the inequality in this society because of my "silent condition." This was positive because I can be more supportive of others who are having to deal with the same sorts of things and who may not have access to the resources (and medical background) that I have.
      I met the people who have become the closest and dearest of friends...the most genuine and sincere friends I've ever had in my life. And I've learned to be a friend to others in deeper and more meaningful ways than I used to be. I don't take friendship for granted (I never did), but it's doubly precious to me now. I realize that there are few people in this world who can be counted upon in bad times as well as good. I'm so fortunate to have found many such people. I would not have met them were it not for my injury/chronic pain condition and the "world" it opened up to me.
      I've learned to be *doubly* resourceful. This ol' Mainer was always a "yankee trader", but I didn't learn "resourceful" until I had to live on a disability income~!
      Chronic pain brought out the feelings side of me. Maybe because I realize so much more how fragile this life can be, how unpredictable the future, how much I hurt and how much the people around me hurt...and how we all just want to be validated and loved and accepted...and cared for and cared about even when we're in pain.
      I learned how to work *with* others, how to network...whereas before I was used to taking charge, working alone toward a goal, and getting it done by my own efforts. I also learned that "work" doesn't mean giving 110% all the time. One of the greatest positives the pain has given me is the awareness and ability to be caring toward myself. Even if I can't always care for and nurture myself, I've learned how to get what I need from others who are more than willing to provide help because I allow them to and because it makes them feel good to help another person. I learned not to be so proud and to let others into my life.
       Chronic pain has taught me how to be in relationship in healthier, more responsible and responsive ways. Interdependence has taken on new meaning for me. As you know, I met my life's companion in a chronic pain forum here on the internet a couple of years ago. After I became injured, there were some who couldn't cope with my changed life. They chose to move on because I couldn't meet their needs or expectations any longer. Loving during good times isn't so difficult, but some people just can't handle disability in others. It's not about us, it's about them. And gut-wrenching though our loss may feel at the time, we're better off in the long run. Now, sharing my life with another person who also experiences chronic pain has taught me a deeper appreciation of the spirit's strengths. We have a give-and-take relationship that is precious beyond imagining because it has its roots firmly planted in mutual regard and a willingness to try to understand and to accept and support one another "no matter what."
      Because of 15 years of chronic pain I've learned to celebrate the deeper meanings I've uncovered in my life because of it. Always considered strong, I've discovered that I have limits. I don't feel "less than" because of them. Quite the opposite, chronic pain has made me feel more capable.
      Sure, I hurt and I feel sick and tired and discouraged and even scared sometimes. And I'm acutely aware of what I've lost in terms of health and my ability to do things I used to take for granted. In my "other life" although I was surrounded by people, I sometimes felt terribly alone. Now, even though surrounded by pain, I know that I never have to be alone ever again.
      I love you for asking,

            Your PainPal

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Acceptance, Depression, and More...

February 15,2010

Dear PainPal~

      You asked about acceptance and talked about depression.
      The pain clinic was *very* costly, but fortunately my insurance paid for it. Otherwise I wouldn't have been able to afford what turned out to be an invaluable experience. I really learned a lot about how to do things differently, simple little things that I wouldn't have thought of on my own. It's been 15 years since my injury. I haven't been pain free since, but I've learned a lot about how to live with chronic pain and illness.
      I also learned about acceptance, but it took time. (That was and still is a hard one for me.) Be patient and gentle with yourself. It's so hard to let go of all the expectations we had for ourselves and our life and turn our efforts to learning to live with the changes that pain brings.
      You speak about depression. It's a big problem for me. I just started with a new counselor here. He's a psychologist who's familiar with chronic pain and illness. My doctor told me she would be surprised if I *wasn't* depressed, under the circumstances. I know there are some things I need to work on. One of the biggest is taking my own advice which is to be patient and gentle with myself. I think this counselor will be a big help to me. I know part of the depression is probably caused by the pain medications themselves, but the largest part of it is the natural result of living day in day out with a chronic condition. I can't take antidepressant medications because I have bad reactions to them.
      I'm glad you're seeing a counselor, too. She sounds wonderful. I think counseling is the greatest help there is and I admire you for realizing this, too. Beating depression can be one of our biggest challenges. It drains our quality of life and makes everything seem much worse.
      We can learn a lot from living with chronic pain. It makes us stronger, more compassionate, and I believe we can grow a lot from the experience.
      Sometimes we experience losses we didn't expect when we have a chronic condition. Relationships and friendships can suffer and even fall by the wayside. We have to remember that it's not because of us, it's because sometimes other people in our lives aren't capable of handling our situation for reasons of their own that have nothing to do with us. Accepting that, we can then fill our lives with people who are loving and supportive of us *just the way we are.* The dearest friends and best relationships in my entire life have been formed since my injury, and my family has learned to be accepting and supportive, too.
      As you've learned for yourself, we also lose many abilities we took for granted. You mention that you're working on getting aids to help you with the tasks of everyday living. That's wonderful~! There's practically nothing we can't do, we just have to learn different ways of doing many things. Sure, we have to give up some things. But we can replace them with things that are just as special and fulfilling. Life is good even with chronic pain and disABILITY.
      I think one of the reasons I get depressed is that I have been such a perfectionist all of my life. One of the most helpful things I've learned is how to pace myself. The single most helpful thing I've learned is how to say "no." Pacing means doing things when I'm able. It means breaking tasks down into smaller pieces that I can handle one at a time. It means asking for help. And it means saying "no" when I don't feel up to taking something on or doing something.
      Learning how to say "no" wasn't easy for me. You can't imagine the guilt I felt when I started using that small but powerful word~! I had always been the one people counted on to get things done. I was the one people came to for help and they expected me to make them feel better. I had to learn that the only person I can make feel better is myself.
      Managing a life of chronic pain and illness is a full time job and it should be our first priority. Sure, we have certain responsibilities to others in our lives. But we can't do much for others if we aren't doing everything we possibly can to help ourselves. There's not such a big difference between being selfish and being self caring. There's really only a fine line between the two and it's usually one of definition. If someone else wants me to do something and I don't want or feel able to do it, they may accuse me of being selfish. In that respect, it's okay and necessary to be "selfish." We're our own best care givers. Deep inside, we know what we need. When we don't take care of ourselves, we are lacking self acceptance and we become depressed.
      So, my friend, the best we can do is accept our lives just as they are now, in this moment. Tomorrow we may be better or we may be worse, but we can't know that now. What we do today and how we feel is what matters, and we do have a measure of control over that. :-)
      Thank you for writing to me. I wish you many joyous as-painfree-as-possible days.

            Your PainPal

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