Today I saw a post by Mainer74 about how he is dealing with his chronic pain and the lessons that it has provided him. I am very thankful for this thoughts on this subject. Information on this subject is needed now more than ever. I also have been writing my own posts about it in an attempt to put into words how I deal with my pain, why I think I have this pain and to find others like me who are striving to live in spite of it.
Too many people think that their lives are over after they are diagnosed with pain. Too many people go with what their physicians tell them, jump on the first support group website to see all of the agony and despair that others with chronic pain have and jump on the bandwagon of taking a daily dose of an opioid pain medication is their only choice to live anymore.
I’m here to say it isn’t. I think there is a lot to learn from from the chronic illnesses that we have to deal with in this lifetime, and I’m not just talking ones that cause chronic pain and fatigue. Mental illnesses, cancers, multiple sclerosis and many others can be teachers to show us more of who and what we are. Learning why the illness came into our life, learning how to live with the illness and learning how to move forward and thrive again are all things that make us more authentic to ourselves, and makes us closer to our Gods.
In Mainer’s post, he speaks with how he deals with his chronic pain. I do agree with a lot of what Mainer said, and I disagree with other pieces of it. But that’s OK; because what he is doing is working for him, and that is all that really matters. What I think he and I can both agree on is that we are no longer victims of these illnesses. We accept they have happened, and we are both determined to live our lives to the fullest.
So how do you live your life to the fullest with a chronic illness? First, as I talked about in my previous post, you need to remember that you did not cause this illness. There are way too many variables in this world that can cause any number of sicknesses. We eat food laced with chemicals, we breathe air full of different chemicals, and we cannot get away even more chemicals in the buildings, in the vehicles on the street and even in the clothes we wear. Whether it was a multitude of things that caused your illness or just a few things, it doesn’t matter.
Mainer talks about becoming submissive to the pain. I don’t know if I agree with the choice of word, but perhaps the sentiment is the same. I don’t submit to my pain and fatigue, but I do accept it. These things are a part of my life. But yet, they are not a part of me. My actions, not the pain, makes me who I am. The Gods give us obstacles to make us grow, and maladies affecting the body are no different. I’ll be the first to say that Chronic pain and fatigue, no matter the reason we have them, are hideous obstacles. But they can be overcome, and if you let them, they can transform you.
So how do we accept the pain? Mainer discussed was how he had a meditation for submitting to his pain and learning to move on in spite of it. Someone could look at the meditation he proposed and be overwhelmed with what he suggests to do. But his belief and the meditation he gave in his post isn’t very far from the truth. Psychologically, one could say that he is being mindful of his pain, and that mindfulness of pain can go a long way to understanding and helping deal with chronic pain. This is an area that is getting a lot of press in psychology and mindfulness circles. There are countless articles on the web about this very subject. Some of my favorites include how you can meet pain with awareness, much like Mainer’s meditation. Another is an article about how the brain can change the experience of pain. To go further, here are two published articles on meditating with pain and additional mindfulness exercises that can help someone learn to work with pain better. So what Mainer is essentially doing has been studied and proven to be effective. And what is even better is that he is showing the spiritual side of pain by modifying that concept based on your belief system to the same benefit.
From a physical standpoint, there are countless other things that can be done to deal with these illnesses. Those of us who have to deal with illness every day can learn what our limits are, and sense when we are starting to reach them. We need to learn when we can push beyond those limits, and when we cannot. We have to learn when we need extra self care, when we could use the various treatments that are available to us.
Metaphysically, with magic and the spiritual awareness that we as pagans have, along with messages from our guides are also a huge benefit. May times the pain, or pushing through that pain to complete a task, can become offerings to the Gods. In working with my chronic illnesses in this way, I have also recognized that I am more aware of my surroundings metaphysically. I truly have a foot in both worlds, and use that to my advantage. By working with these illnesses, you learn to see the hurt in the world through a different set of eyes, and recognize how many times there is a greater need for understanding when dealing with others, their thoughts and their emotions. This is what I mean by allowing the illness to transform you. You must learn to strip yourself of the things that you carry but are no longer needed. You learn to recognize what the true needs of your life are, and start to align yourself with those needs.
My biggest frustration is that there are people that I see with chronic illnesses who think that they have no choice but to depend on opioids to have a life. This past weekend I encountered a woman doing just that. She was so high that she was slurring her words, repeating half sentences (she never did get a full sentence out) and could could barely walk straight. I wish I could say that she was a rare case, but unfortunately it is not. But it’s not always the fault of the patient. The original treatment plan for chronic pain was to prescribe high dosages of pain medications. In time, higher and higher dosages are required as the body gets used to the lower dosages. Now in today’s day and age, we are realizing that this treatment plan wasn’t such a good idea. So some doctors are trying to take away painkillers, while others demean and demoralize those who were originally prescribed the painkillers in the first place. The entire situation has caused many in the chronic pain community to feel like victims – they cannot get the treatment they have been told is the only way to treat this disease, and if they do get it, they are treated like a junkie.
It is my hope that posts like Mainer’s and mine help to spur conversation on how we can reclaim our life and learn to grow in spite of these illnesses. They aren’t going away anytime soon, and the old ways of dealing with them are making things worse.