I have a unique relationship with pain.
As someone who is in pain nearly every second of every day, I’ve come to know it quite intimately.
For most people, pain is a temporary thing. It’s your brain’s way of alerting you that something is wrong.
For me, pain is just an everyday part of life. So much so, in fact, that I often don’t even realize how much it’s affecting me.
The other night I wasn’t able to sleep. I went to bed before 11pm, but didn’t end up falling asleep until at least 2:30am. I wasn’t quite sure why I was unable to sleep. I figured it was just my insomnia acting up. Fibromyalgia can cause bouts of insomnia, so that seemed like the practical answer.
It wasn’t until the next night, after again trying and failing to fall asleep, that I realized the real reason. You could probably call it insomnia, but the insomnia had a cause that could actually be pinpointed.
It was, of course, pain.
Laying on my back made my neck hurt. So I turned over to my side. Then my shoulder started hurting, so I turned over to my other side. Then my rib, which has been constantly coming out of place for nearly two years, started hurting. So I turned onto my other side again. The process repeated until I started to feel frustrated, in which case I knew I was definitely not going to be able to fall asleep. So I got up.
But just like the crickets chirping outside, and the fan in the living room window, I often don’t notice the pain. It’s there, and I know it’s there, but I don’t consciously recognize it; because when it’s always there, it becomes just another one of those background things that you don’t really think twice about.
Since receiving my diagnosis in 2015, I have – for the most part – been able to accept it. Sometimes when the thought crosses my mind that it will never go away, that I will be in pain for the rest of my life, something deep in my heart feels terribly broken. I hope that feeling goes away with time. But I try not to think that way, and to instead look at it objectively.
Laying in bed, knowing you won’t be able to sleep, and just feeling miserable about it doesn’t do any good. It’s counter-productive. It leads to a cycle of negative thoughts that just make the problem worse. So, despite the fact that the only thing I want is to sleep, I force myself to get out of bed. I do something else – like read, or write – until I again feel tired enough to try to sleep.
My experiences with chronic pain have taught me about so much more than just pain. It’s helped me realize how truly important it is to look at things like this objectively – to not let your emotions control your thoughts about it.
Getting to know pain on such an intimate level is nothing short of a learning experience. You learn how to accept the things you cannot change. You learn how to deal with them appropriately and objectively. You learn how to be more in-tune to the things that your body needs.
It’s not easy. Some days are easier than others, but it’s never just “easy.” You do what you have to do; you live, you experience, and you learn.
Pain has played a huge part in cementing my belief that even if things are bad, and even if they will never be good, they can always be better. There’s always something you can do to improve a difficult situation. Looking at things from an objective, factual approach might not suddenly make the situation become all rainbows and butterflies, but dealing with it in an appropriate manner will, if nothing else, make it more tolerable.
I believe that my chronic pain has been my greatest teacher; it has taught me things that many people spend decades of life experiences trying to learn. Some may never learn it.
So for that, in a strange and twisted way, I guess I should be thankful for the pain.