Living Well with Chronic Pain
Chronic pain is overwhelming and often starts suddenly and unexpectedly. People who suffer from chronic pain often feel helpless and hopeless. They may feel like they don’t have the coping skills that they need to manage the pain. They may also feel judged by people in their life who don’t understand what it is like to live with chronic pain. As a result, chronic pain often leads them to feel lonely and isolated. This often leads to increased pain and a withdrawal from the people who can support them.
I am a counsellor at Carizon Family and Community Services and I can relate to all of these experiences because I have lived with chronic pain now for over 23 years. From the time I developed chronic pain after a car crash, I began a search for how to best live my life and find a sense of joy and happiness in spite of the pain. Based on what I have learned, I wanted to share with you some simple things that you can try right now.
- Let go of control: Rather than think about how you can control the pain, think about the ways that you might be able to reduce it, even a little bit. For example, think about times you had less pain, notice what you did then, and see how you can do more of that now. Notice how you feel differently if you are able to lower your pain even slightly.
- Soothe your nervous system: Pain is a form of trauma. When we feel we can’t cope with the pain, our bodies become more stressed, which makes the pain worse. Anything that helps to soothe you can also calm your nervous system and reduce your stress such as calming scents, soothing music, a warm bath, watching something to make you laugh, guided meditations or self-hypnosis.
- Talk to someone: Often, we hold in our feelings because we do not want to burden other people or we feel we will be judged by them. However, pain can feel more intense when we feel we are carrying the burden of it by ourselves. Find someone that you trust, and share what you need from them. It can be helpful to let them know that you don’t need them to solve your pain, but just to listen to you.
- Notice the losses: In addition to the physical pain, chronic pain leads to many losses that cause emotional pain. These losses may include loss of a career, of an identity, of enjoyable activities, of important relationships (or changes to relationships), of hope. It is possible to find meaning and joy in life in spite of pain, but it is important to also let yourself grieve what you have lost. Holding in the emotional pain can make your physical pain worse.
I am really passionate about helping people to reduce their suffering from chronic pain, as well as find a way to live with the pain. Everyone deserves peace and happiness in life. You deserve to have your pain understood. Finding a way to live with chronic pain is incredibly challenging but it is possible. If you are interested in learning more strategies to cope with chronic pain, I invite you to come out to my two-hour workshop called “Adjusting to Life with Chronic Pain”.
Adjusting to Life with Chronic Pain: Monday, March 5, 1:00-3:00PM
Carizon Family and Community Services, 400 Queen Street South, Kitchener