By definition, chronic pain is pain that persists for at least six months or more. For whatever reason, pain signals fired by nerves are constantly firing. As where acute pain will eventually subside, chronic pain does not. For many people diagnosed with chronic pain the pain has lasted or will last for years. And the pain will continue to persist until some medical miracle can either better contain the pain or fix the underlying issue. For this article specifically, the term chronic pain means debilitating, life altering pain.
If you are one of the 100 million Americans living with chronic pain then there is a good chance you have either had or do have problems coping. I guarantee that you are not alone. Just type up chronic pain support groups on a search engine and you will not believe how many hits you get. This is because chronic pain has an absolute detrimental affect on your psychological well-being. The disorder has a negative impact on your relationships, family, friends, social life, job, self-esteem, and your health as well as numerous other aspects of your life. Chronic pain suffers are usually very limited in what they can do. Sometimes those limitations make us feel as if we are weak and make us wonder if we have a purpose in this life. We feel as if our body is a prison and our mind is the prisoner. We want to do what “normal” people do, just the simple things in life. I myself would love to be able to work 40 hours a week or more as a homicide detective. I would love to go sit through an entire movie at the theatre. I want to go dancing, jet skiing, ride amusement park rides, take long walks, sit on furniture instead of the floor, exercise regularly, ride bikes, take long car rides through the country, and I want to have children. Maybe one day with the help of a medical miracle I will be able to do some of the above activities. But until then I just have to cope.
That is what all chronic pain suffers do, they just cope. Many of us want to live and not just exist. Those thoughts run through our minds usually on a daily basis. And some chronic pain suffers just want to die. Depression takes a hold of our entire thought process. Not just because we ourselves are disabled but because our disorder affects those around us. The stress is overwhelming and the frustration is devastating. The spouses, families, and friends of the people who suffer also have a feeling of guilt. They feel guilty because they are incapable of taking the pain away. The spouses especially may seem very frustrated. It is because they see us in our worst state and really can not help. Then of course there is the financial aspect of being disabled. Many of us can contribute very little if anything financially. The reason I wrote in depth about the struggles of chronic pain and depression is so that you know you are not alone. Many if not all of us have the same thoughts at one time or another. And although your pain is inescapable, there are several ways you can take back some control over your life or at the very least, you can learn to cope.
Before you can begin to cope, you need to acknowledge your feelings about the pain and how it affects you. Accept that your illness is now a part of your life and may always be a part of it. Understand that it is okay as well as normal to feel angry, frustrated, depressed and/or guilty. These feelings are very normal and common. Try to stay as healthy as one can expect for your condition. Eat right, drink plenty of water and rest for a minimum of six hours per night. By eating right you allow your body to feel better and stay healthier. Having the right diet will to some extent make you feel better physically, which in turn enables you to feel better mentally. Of course, you need your rest. That is how the body recharges and replenishes itself. When you get well needed rest you well generally feel better. Be active in your care and/or recovery. Do not allow the doctors to make all the decisions for you. You know your body the best and you also know what treatments work the best for you. Make sure you tell your doctor everything concerning your condition. If you object to something presented by you physician speak-up. Also, if you are feeling depressed, anxious, have not been getting enough sleep, or just feel different, tell the doctor. They may be able to prescribe a sleep aid or depression medication that can help correct the problem.
Know what triggers your pain and avoid it. If you are not sure what your triggers are keep a daily journal. Use the journal to write down your activities and how bad the pain was. Stay as physically active as possible and exercise. Talk with your physician and create a workout plan. Logically, do not overexert yourself and do not exercise while you’re in a great deal of pain. Set realistic goals for yourself. Whether you want to take the dog out for a fifteen minute walk three times a week or you want to visit a state park, make sure the activities are realistic. This way you have something to look forward to. Otherwise, you may become quite discouraged and possibly depressed. Talk to your family and friends about your condition and how it makes you feel. Then allow them to express their feelings. Tell them that it is okay to feel the way they do. Just be honest and open with them and allow them the same courtesy. However, remember that no one knows what you go through unless they have a similar condition. So just be prepared because not everyone will understand. Numerous chronic pain suffers find joy in getting a pet. Cats and dogs offer many therapeutic benefits. Another great coping method is by keeping a journal. Journals allow us to write down how we are feeling. Many times it really helps to just get things off our chest.
At times of pain, try and visualize something positive. As a matter of fact, if you are feeling depressed try and visualize something positive. Try your best to put positive spins of whatever you can. For example, for years I wondered why I was chosen to live in a great deal of pain everyday. I also wondered what my purpose on Earth was. It took me a few years but I now know why I have this disorder and what my purpose is. My purpose is to help others like me. I am an advocate for chronic pain suffers and I try my best to help them cope.
Professional counseling offers a tremendous amount of help in my opinion. Not only are counselors able to help change some of the negative thinking, they also are there to listen. And as I said before, getting things off your chest will relieve a lot of stress. Finally, join a support group. Modern technology has enabled us to participate in a support group from the comfort of our own homes, of course that is if you have access to a computer and internet access. Support groups are a wonderful tool to help cope with chronic pain disorders, I highly recommend joining one. The participants of the group are people just like us who have to live with what we live with. They are able to understand what we go through better than anyone else. The groups offer support, guidance, counseling, friendship, understanding, and everything else in between. I have provided several websites for online support groups so that everyone can check them out.
I guess I pretty much summed everything up. So I want to close this article by telling you a few things. First, you need to acknowledge your condition and how it makes you feel. Otherwise, you will never be able to overcome the many obstacles you face. Second, you need to accept that your illness is now a part of you and every part of your life. Third, it is common to feel anxious, depressed, guilty, and hopeless, so you are not alone. Last but not least, make the best of what you can do and do not dwell on what you can not do.