When you are sat down by a doctor and explained that you have an incurable medical condition that could become completely debilitating to you, cause you daily pain, and change every aspect of your life, you die. Your physical life has died, your career has died, your ability to care for your family has died, your ability to enjoy the intimacy between yourself and your partner has died. But your lungs still breath air, your heart still pumps, and you must create a completely new life in spite of your medical conditions. If you're lucky you have a good medical team to assist you with changes regarding your health and what you need to do to really take care of yourself, but many of us don't get that. And the fight begins, to find the right doctors, therapists, friends and family to make up our new support system.
A new life with chronic pain
This journey into this new, strange, and painful life is fraught with challenges. Trying to get our friends and family to understand what we are going through and trying to understand it ourselves. Trying to find doctors who will help us. Trying to work, take care of a home, be there for our family, still be a friend, hobbies, interests ... and let's try to do all of this while your body is literally spiraling out of control. This journey isn't easy, depression and anxiety set in. We turn in on ourselves. We stop doing all the things we used to love. We turn away from those who care about us and need us. Our pain grows. Each day is filled with challenges that we can't understand, we are tired of facing, and we just want it to stop. We lose everything from our old lives. We need to mourn our old self. That person no longer exists, and that person isn't going to come back. That person died the moment the symptoms started to affect your daily life.
Mourning the person you used to be
You need a way to mourn the lose of that person you used to be. Psychologists say there are steps in the grieving process. There are no rules to grief, no steps or stages except our personal journies which are unique to only ourselves. It will take us as long as it takes us. But at some point we need to let go. We need to live in the present and leave the past where it is...in the past.
We need to perform a memorial service for your old self, set up an alter, write a letter of everything you feel about your old self - and burn it. Give yourself permission to scream and cry; gut wrenching and messy. Do it, do something, just do it.
There has to be a life waiting for each of us after chronic pain. I honestly believe that the challenges and trials we face in our lives are for a reason. There is something that we must do. Research and find the perfect doctor, reach out to others, set up an organization that helps fundraise for research, work on education and public awareness or maybe just your friends or family. It doesn't necessarily have to reach a large nationwide audience, but there has to be something. We never know how we are going to really affect those that come into our lives through blood or choice.
Embracing our new normal
We need to embrace our new normality. Stop being afraid to ask for help. And be grateful for each and every little thing we have in our lives because there is always someone out there who has it worse. We are blessed for all of the things we have in our lives; we need to concentrate on those. Meditate on them. Find what you need to help put your body in a state of peace: cold/hot packs, aromatherapy, water therapy, acupuncture, medications, music, yoga, meditation, deep breathing. The options are truly limitless, we just need to find what fits us. What works for us.
We cannot allow chronic pain to become our identity. We are so much more than that. It's just one piece of our puzzle. Yes, we suffer from chronic pain, but we are also parents, children, grandchildren, partners, lovers, friends, co-workers, educators...chronic pain is not the end all, be all of our existence. We cannot let the pain run us over and take our lives away from us, we are not victims...we are the survivors of chronic pain. We need to remember this. Every day that we wake in the morning, put a note on your nightstand or on the bathroom mirror so you'll see it first thing in the morning I am a survivor!