It might be a day where I have a lot of pain, or possibly a busy day including a few appointments with my “healing team.” I look around at my friends’ lives and see how different they are from mine. And I let out a big sigh.
Then I move on with my life, and do what I always do, which is focusing on the positive.
You may be saying there’s absolutely no positive aspect to living with chronic pain, and I promise you I can relate to that feeling too. On the other hand, I’ve found that living with chronic pain has helped me develop skills that others don’t yet have.
I’m appreciative of my client Christine, who helped me start thinking about this topic last night because of her own challenges. We started to think together about what we had gained because of our body-related challenges. Interestingly, she’s in her twenties and I’m in my late forties, so our perspectives are very different.
We still have commonalities that connect us, and knowing how to use that to benefit us both is the first skill we’ve learned.
Skill #1: Knowing how to get support in a healthy way
Like us, you may have also found that living with chronic pain helps you learn about your body in greater detail. Of course, this skill starts because you’re experiencing pain. But as the journey continues, the path often includes both pain and healing.
It’s the times of healing that help me understand my body more. No matter how lasting or temporary that healing time turns out to be, when I move from pain to healing I learn new things about my body.
Maybe you’ve been there too. If you’ve had to re-configure your eating routines to feel better, that’s learning what your body needs. Or when you realized that having a consistent sleep pattern makes a difference in your pain, you’ve gained that skill.
Skill #2: Knowing how your body works best
I’ve also learned the skills of gratitude and acceptance. Now, I don’t mean accepting that the situation is crappy and staying under the covers each day.
What acceptance means to me, and maybe to you too, is finding the peace with how chronic pain’s a part of my life. Since this is my reality, I’m going to make the best of it. I’ll find the joy in my opportunities to learn.
And what’s the thing I’m most grateful for about living with chronic pain? It’s that I’m ahead of the game compared to some friends and family members.
I’ve gained this critical skill: taking care of myself. I’ve learned it in my twenties, and been practicing it for decades.
In a way, I think it’s made me healthier at this age than I would’ve been without the experience. For example, making exercise a priority and actually scheduling it in my calendar began early for me. Quite different from folks I hear saying, “Now that I’m retired I can exercise regularly.” This isn’t a judgment of their path, because it’s their choice and I respect that. But I didn’t get to wait. I had to exercise to manage my pain. And’s it okay. I accept that and I’m grateful for what it’s taught me.
Skill #3: Gratitude and acceptance.
Bonus Skill: Taking care of myself.
Finding these skills is like the weeds I found the other day on my walk, pictured here. They may be growing wild, and not cultivated in a fancy garden space. But there’s so much beauty in them, isn’t there? I hope you’ll find the beauty in your own life too!
Would you share the skills you’ve learned from living with chronic pain in the comments? I’d love to hear more about your experiences.
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