Pain is such a pain!
Pain is such a pain. You can seethe, groan, swear at it, pray over it, even scream, and it is still there. You just want it to go away, but it doesn’t. Finally, you wonder if there is anything you can do to put balance back in your life. Yes. You can learn to adapt when you recognize some of the consequences of pain that can tilt you into unconstructive behavior. It’s like you are sitting on one end of a see saw with heavy pain on the other end, and you have to work hard to get your feet on the ground. How can you make adjustments to smooth out pain’s wrinkles in your life and get your feet back to earth?
The good news about pain is that your body is telling you what it needs. The bad news is you have to learn what to do about it and how to adapt. I live with pain much like you do. Doctors help with pain management that often means tweaking med combinations for best results, but the pain may not go away. After I thank my body for working for me as well as it can, I try to recognize the social effects pain has on me, so I can deal with the consequences and make adjustments. Yours may be different, but I want to share mine.
Pain intrudes into your everyday life, standing in the middle of people relationships and spiritual relationships. Doesn’t matter what kind of pain or how much, if it is yours, it intrudes on your social plans, and at the altar, enjoying communion, your shoulders stab you with pain when you lift the wafer to your mouth –intruding on your God connection. It also intrudes on mindful meditation and prayer experience. Try a thanksgiving prayer: Father, thank you for WHAM PAIN WHAM –now what was it that I am thankful for? When you put a name to the consequence of pain, it puts you on notice to be patient with yourself since the consequence is not your fault. Forgive yourself for wrinkles in a relationship or event. It helps to remember a loving God who doesn’t mind the intrusions on your conversations.
Pain is an interrupter. Pain hits while you are playing a Chopin etude, and perhaps concentration is broken for the split minute when there is a key change. If you go for morphine for the pain, mind fog may prevent even knowing who Chopin is or where you stashed the music. If pain prevents your opening the refrigerator door, it interrupts your cooking plan. If pain or the use of pain medication prevents your driving your car, your plan for getting to work is interrupted. Alternate transportation may be undependable, and your excellent punctuality record is interrupted. Soon the sum total of the small interruptions feels like an earthquake under your feet (or wheels). It helps me deal with the interruptions if I recognize pain as the culprit instead of blaming myself for lack of attention and trying to fix where I went wrong. Plan forward for what you CAN do in spite of the interruptions. It takes time and work.
Pain is an isolator. People do not want to see you wince or hear you groan; it makes them uneasy. When they are uneasy, you are uneasy, and both of you are at a loss for words. People find it difficult to express comfort for fear of saying the wrong thing, and they may find it easier to avoid you. And, in some cases, discomfort or mind-fog makes it easier to isolate yourself, so you may need to push yourself to “be” with other people. You may have to explain yourself or communicate to the other person that you suspect they are uncomfortable. Forgiving the persons you no longer see may relieve the anger you feel. Take the first step, and call someone you miss. Some people can express humor in the situation that offers relief for everyone.
Pain is grief. Mountains of failed treatment, interruption, isolation and intrusion pile up to assault your balance and you may be swathed in sadness. You didn’t see it coming. For example, the sight of someone wearing construction worker’s gear walking to the bus stop may remind you that you can no longer work. A musician who can no longer play may be brought to tears by a symphony. Grief for loss is authentic and healthy, and it takes time to reinvent yourself or your profession. It helps me to actually name the current grief, think about the effect, and then surrender the event to God while I seek His help to find a new event or activity. For me, this takes quiet thinking time with God. Sometimes there is no new activity, and you have to develop a physical ritual goodbye as you surrender the activity you are grieving. Snuff a candle, throw a rock, write a poem, sharpen a pencil until it is gone, or burn up a word on a piece of paper. It is okay to cry! It is good to seek a support group or professional help if the sadness persists.
Pain steals your perfection. Because pain saps your energy, it can cause you to skinny down non-essentials in your life, creating a cleaner focal point for daily living. You become blind to the car that needs washing and learn to avert your eyes instead of noticing the crumbs on the floor that you cannot pick up, and you thaw instead of cook. You can’t play ball, but learn to do a different activity with your child. When you agree to less than perfection, the blame game for yourself and others goes out the window, and you open the door to new ways of doing things.
Pain grinds guilt into almost everything you now cannot do or must do. You may feel guilty when you ask for help, when all money goes for medication, when pain forces you to bed instead of your child’s baseball game – any activity or non-activity can become guilt ridden, and excessive apologizing all the time becomes tedious. “What is, is,” and a loving family accepts the situation, so ditch the guilt and accept help without apology, and everyone will be more comfortable. Sometimes replacing the guilt with gratitude can smooth the guilt wrinkles. If you have previously been a helper, instead of feeling guilty about inaction, you may find joy in serving as you can. Helping may be just a phone call or sending a note, or you may be able to sing in the choir, work in a food bank or even go to work with a smile. It’s called reinvention, and you do it as pain allows.
Pain has parties and temptations. The first invitation is to a pity party, something that happens to each of us when we discover that the pain is not fleeting. Schedule a brief pity party and move on. If you aren’t careful, you can become a martyr seeking both pity for you in your condition and admiration for the aplomb with which you handle adversity. For this party, eat the dessert of humility and push pity into a corner when you feel it happening.
Pain can force you to call upon forces beyond what you can see when you discover that Jesus walks with you, and His teachings guide your life. Prayer may help you sift your desires and help you feel comfortable talking to God. Instead of asking, “Why is this happening?” you start asking, “How can I live with it in the future?” It may not make the pain go away, but you bask in God’s love and find new confidence that God is an important companion in your pain journey. God pauses with you when you say, “Father, thank you for…WHAM PAIN WHAM…now what was that I am thankful for?”