Coping with pain

Meditation has become part of my daily routine. I have a room downstairs that I use, and I look outside while I try and focus on my body mapping routine. Today I was in the middle of my routine, looking at the trees, and suddenly my eyes became painful. Was this a shock, no. Was this common, yes. What happened? The sun decided to move and was no longer blocked by the window. I closed my eyes, and the pain reduced.

Why am I writing about this now?

In short, this is the life of someone who has a chronic illness. Usually, if I do something that is good for me it comes with a cost, and that cost is usually pain or fatigue. I love the sun, but it makes my eyes sore, and my headache worse. Walking is a joy, but it makes my fatigue worse. Various foods now increase pain and learning something new causes pain and fatigue. Nothing I enjoy can be done without some cost, and the cost is high, sometimes.
Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player,
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.
Macbeth – William Shakespeare

In my life I want my illness to be that poor player. This pain and suffering can only be a secondary role in my life. I don’t have time for it, and if it did become the main player, I would have no joy, no gratitude, no happiness. That is not a life. 

So how do I achieve this?

The first thing is that I accept that my illness is part of my life. Acceptance does not mean that I dwell on it. It takes real effort to acknowledge the suffering and then to push it back into a background role. There are various tools that I have to help me achieve this.

The first is willpower. I have learned to focus on the positive. For example, this morning when the sun caused me pain, I closed my eyes, breathed, and concentrated on my breathing, and then felt gratitude for its warm touch on my face. I reduced the pain, a little, and then actively concentrated on the positive sensation. Gradually the pain was no longer my focus, and the heat was.

I also have physical aids. Recently I purchased new glasses that really help. Transitions™ for walking outside on a cloudy day, and Drivewear™ lenses for in the car, and when I will be somewhere with LED or UV lights. I also wear a hat with a visor to keep the sun and light from my eyes. Willpower is part of the solution, and practical tools complete the picture. It takes time to find these ways of helping yourself, and the rules continually change. Adapting to the changing environment is crucial. Sometimes this fight gets too much, and so I have to reboot myself and start again.

The Future

As I have MS and chronic pain the future is uncertain, and things will change. Will I be better or worse, I do not know. So, for now, I have to think about now. This moment. In this moment I have to extract as much joy as I can, be grateful for what I have that is good, and consign everything that is bad in a very secondary place. It is tough, and only someone with a chronic illness can understand what it is like. At least I know that I have found a way that works for me that helps when adversity shows its ugly head.

How do you live with your illness? What do you do when it starts to dominate your life? Let me know in the comments below.

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 See my other posts on this topic

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