Saturday, September 11, 2010

Are You Defined by Pain?

Okay, the diagnosis is official: you have a chronic illness.

Living with chronic pain is an incredibly isolating experience. When you suffer 24/7, it is difficult to think about little else other than a quick exit off the hamster wheel of pain. It is hard to see past yourself. You forget there is an entire world out there going on with or without you. Your existence has shrunk down to bad days and 'badder' days.

So, my question is, does pain define you? I believe something happens[to us] on a subconscious level. For example, we begin to 'personalize' pain. Pain is no longer referred to as merely 'pain' but 'my pain' or 'my fibromyalgia.' Somehow, somewhere along the way, pain has become an extension of ourselves. When we personalize pain, we are no longer just a person but rather a person with chronic pain. Do we internalize this message? Do you see yourself as a sufferer of one syndrome or another? Has your illness hijacked your personality as well as your life, your mobility and your future? Should we , even more importantly, can we regard chronic illness as a neutral entity in our lives?

How much time do we spend talking, advocating, journalling about our experience with illness? Granted, these activities can be helpful in dealing productively with chronic illness. However, there is a blurry line that is all too easy to cross. Are you able and more importantly, keen to maintain some semblance of your life pre-illness? Can you still participate in a favourite hobby? Do you read for fun or is your reading material heavily slanted to your particular illness? Do you view yourself as an invalid or disabled? Your attitude, negative or postive can have a great impact on how you not only cope with pain, but also how you perceive pain? Yea, we may pass through the Valley of the Shadow of Illness but we do not want to linger.

We must be realistic in coping and living with chronic illness. We must educate ourselves, empower ourselves and sometimes advocate for ourselves. But we mustn't let ourselves be defined by pain - we should not lose ourselves or our identities in illness. I think it is a matter of mindfulness and keeping a check on our inner and outer dialogue.

Try to recognize the difference in the following statement. Pain may be a part of my daily existence but I am NOT my pain.

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