The Pain Companion
Pain management has become quite the divisive argument in the US today. It’s accusatory against the pharmaceutical companies for making pain medication easily accessible. It’s accusatory against the doctors who prescribe pain medication and then later retract it if they feel the patient is dependent. Then those who rail against medications and urge their own holistic agenda.
It’s the sufferers who suffer and are desperate to live without pain for a few days, hours, moments.
I think because physical pain is acutely personal—there is no blood test or diagnostic measure to define a person’s pain level—and chronic pain so cumbersome on not only our abilities but our personality, it has become an extremely personal argument. Everyone is judged. You are judged if you have chronic pain; you are judged if you find relief in the medication; you are judged if you prescribe the medication; you are judged if you found a different solution for managing your pain; etc, etc.
I have lived in different levels of chronic pain for all sixteen years since “my elephant” (what I call my mystery illness), first started appearing in my life. I cannot remember or imagine what it is like to wake up without pain; to wake up with energy or a gung-ho attitude to the day.
But, after calibrating to my new reality, I do face the day and make the most of it within my capabilities. That’s been my mental choice every day for this journey. I don’t particularly have easy advice for how to cope with it, because in most respects for me it was the only choice I know how to do. If you live with chronic pain and have found the balance that works for you, bravo to you! It is so hard to do, well done! This post, however, is not for you.
As everyone experiences pain differently, and deals with it differently, it is not a topic I choose to explore at the moment in my blog. However, a recent read of The Pain Companion by Sarah Anne Shockley may be helpful to you, or someone you know adjusting to life with daily pain.
It is a refreshing, non judgmental, read. Her approach to dealing with pain articulates well many practices that I too have done. In fact, she explores all the angles in which chronic pain can affect our life, without it getting long winded. Her writing sounds like that of a friend skillfully articulating something we live, (and don’t necessarily describe).
What’s more, I find her attitude refreshing. While you can sense the loss or adjustment needed in her living with a terrible disease, there is no bitterness. Simply her strength and resolve to go forward with the pain, as an awareness that the solutions she had been offered by the doctors didn’t work for her.
I particularly agree with one of her first principles: you have to learn to make friends with the pain. It’s the truth. Pain is easier to deal with when you’re not bitter or angry against it. Acknowledging it doesn’t make you less of a person, nor does it allow it to take up any greater presence.
Life can be a challenge, and if you live with chronic pain, it can seem like an intimidating one. If you’re searching for help in adjusting to the new reality—needing new ideas, support, or just vindication that you’re not alone and your feelings are real—I would recommend you read The Pain Companion.