How I generate vitality in the face of chronic painJan 20, 2022
Something you might not know about me is that I manage chronic pain and have for a lot of my life. The latest physical manifestation of pain in my body we believe to be endometriosis which is an inflammatory condition where the cells of the endometrium (the lining of the uterus) grow outside of the uterus causing severe pain. There is no 'cure'. In Australia, the average time it takes to diagnose this condition is 7 years. I was right on schedule.
At the time of writing, I estimate that I'm in pain 80-90% of the time. A pain-free day is a welcomed occurrence. I sometimes don't realise I'm not in pain until I notice how happy I am, how buoyant I feel, or how easily I'm getting things done. Then it hits me - ohhhh... I'm not in pain right now.
I've also had fibromyalgia, chronic IBS, and severe period pain.
Over the years, I've developed myself in living a great life, full of delight and satisfaction. I've also developed my ability to generate myself and generate vitality. Most people have no idea that I manage these levels of pain and I've gotten better and better at not having it be the focal point for myself and others.
Here's how I generate vitality:
1. Don't talk excessively about it
My well-being status used to be the first thing anyone would learn about me when we met. Eventually, I learned that when others related to me through my wellbeing issues first, it quickly became the topic of every conversation I had with them. This kept me constantly thinking about it which was exhausting. I do stay in communication about it, but only with a very small number of people.
2. Focus on what feels good
This means catching my thoughts when they are going from negative situation to negative situation. There is only one way that spiral goes and it's down. Sure, there are times when I just want to have a pity party for myself - and I do. But I don't stay there long. I find the next thing to focus on that makes me feel good. Sometimes I even write a list of things to focus on that are exciting, engaging, compelling, or inspiring to me.
3. Be well
I used to include my wellbeing issues in my identity, but all this did was reinforce a message to myself that I was unwell. Now, I identify as someone who is well and I deal with this set of symptoms. I removed any scaffolding I'd built into my life that reminded me that I was unwell and I relate to myself as someone who is well. This was a fundamental shift for me - and the universe has responded with gifts galore.
4. Get ahead of the pain
I'll admit I'm still practicing this one and haven't yet mastered it, but there's a difference between catching the pain early in the day and doing something about it, versus trying to contain it later in the day when it has built up. I'll take paracetamol in a pinch, but I've been committed to alternative approaches to wellbeing so I don't take anything else synthetic on a regular basis. One way I get ahead of the pain is to take daily clinical doses of turmeric/curcumin as an anti-inflammatory.
5. Rest when rest is needed
Sometimes it feels like if I stop to rest, I'll never be able to get back up again. But so far, that has never happened. I've discovered that if I surrender and relax into the resting, in a surprisingly short time, I'm ready to get up and do the next thing. It's amazing how much resistance causes exhaustion.
6. Give up force
Gone are the days when I forced myself and pushed through things. I've discovered that I can relax and allow, and things still work out all the time.
7. Seek out the pleasure
Finding pleasure both in life and in the body, whether that be through tending to my balcony garden, eating blueberries, raspberries, and raw organic vegan chocolate, or seeking sexual pleasure can sometimes shift the focus from being acutely aware of the pain and tip the scales towards experiencing pleasure. This can be a relief - even just in moments.
8. Participation gives vitality
Being in pain can make me want to retreat or hide. The opposite is sometimes needed - participating in life. I more often than not, choose yes to participate even when in pain as I have experienced time and time again that participation is the source of vitality.
9. Put nothing bad into the body
Nothing I consider bad for me goes into my body. I've been paleo since 2010 and it works for me. I don't put food that I know is not good for me or will likely cause me pain, into my mouth. End of story. I also don't keep it in my home environment.
10. Don't watch the news
Not only am I particular about what I put in my body, but I am also particular about the information I consume. While in pain, I've noticed the experience of pain is heightened if I'm hearing or seeing things that are distressing. This is not necessary in my world.
11. Be surrounded by people who uplift each other
I want to uplift people and I want to be surrounded by people who uplift me. There are over 7.4 billion people on the planet. I can choose who I spend my time with and which conversations to engage in. So I choose by noticing how I'm left after interacting with that person. Do they inspire me? Inspire means to breathe life into. Do they breathe life into me? Do I breathe life into them?
12. Breathe and be present
Breath is a now phenomenon and returning my attention to my breath keeps me grounded in the present moment. But isn't that where the pain is? Sure, but you can focus on sensations of pleasure in the body or sensations of pain. Breath can be a soothing sensation.
13. Forgive yourself
If I have a day where I can't move and can't get out of bed, I don't make myself wrong. I simply rest, listen to conversations I find inspiring, and nap until it passes. All is well.
Many people would not guess that I manage chronic pain. In fact, people often say that I am one of the most vital people they know. It has taken many years to become that person and I like myself so much better this way. I wanted to share this with you, my friend, as we get to know each other better and with the intention of contributing to your quality of life. As always, if something I've said empowers you, great then take it. If something I've said doesn't empower you, then throw it away. All is well.
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