To mark International Fibromyalgia & M.E Awareness Day I decided to write about chronic pain and learning how to live with it in the best way possible.
Pain and fatigue are draining conditions to live with on a long term basis, and because it leads you down a dark path with its isolating effect, it’s easy to succumb to negativity. When you’re at your lowest your weary mind accepts pessimism more readily, when in reality you’re in the least best place for any personal attack on yourself.
Depression is extremely common with chronic pain and must always be considered seriously. Inform your gp as soon as possible if you think you have depression, especially if you think suicidal thoughts. Medication and counselling really can help and it’s not a weakness or sign of failure to accept and partake in either.
Accept depression as a stage of your symptom cycle. Learn to recognise when you feel your lowest and the times you’re most vulnerable. This could be late in the evening, perhaps you’re on your own. Be aware of what’s happening and what isn’t when you feel your sense of being and mood shifting.
Feel how you feel. Allowing tears to fall is a release, and crying openly physically makes a resource of the low sensation. If you feel numb, close your eyes and lie in the quiet of this stillness. Go to bed and lie in the dark if you feel you need to. Pray if it’s the only lifeline you can hold onto. Letting the feeling go through the motion can help to clear you, and you’re in a safe place.
Pamper yourself. You may not feel you have the energy or desire to wash, but a warm bath with a soothing scent and candlelight helps to relax your body and clear your mind. Deep, warm baths are also good for relieving painful muscles and you just need to lie there.
Do something. The most condescending piece of advice ever said but actively do something however minor. Listen to music, go online on a message board or forum and read conversation, look through a catalogue, stroke and groom a pet. If you’re stuck bedridden, a tablet computer can be a life saver.
Consider a little light exercise: a walk round the garden if that’s all you can do or perhaps learn to hula hoop (I have!) No matter how slow you go, you’re overtaking the person sitting on the sofa! Five minutes is better than none.
Once you become aware of your mood triggers it helps to know when to switch up what you’re doing and have a breather. Doing something completely different is mentally stimulating. If I’m struggling with feeling lonely I like to spend time combing my rabbit and it helps me to shift my thoughts onto something else. A still mind is open to negativity and I try to do anything that will confuse the feeling.
Low mood and anxiety is naturally a part of chronic pain and to cope with it’s effect it helps to accept the fact it’s there. Learning to be consciously aware of your feelings and mood at all times empowers you. You regain the reigns when otherwise you’d be falling.
Try not to punish yourself when you’re having a day of stronger pain, when you can’t do as much as you could the day before, and when you’re feeling rubbish. It’s temporary and won’t last. It doesn’t matter if the washing machine doesn’t go on, or you didn’t clean the bathroom – again. Treat yourself like you would a friend, without blame or hurt. Be kind to yourself and do what little you can do until tomorrow. Because there’s always tomorrow.
Winning at Living with Chronic Pain | Part 1