Taking the pain in stride

I’ve talked about pain a lot, over the past years, but only recently have I actually developed a way to deal with it effectively. That way is a bit counter-intuitive, in my mind, but it’s actually helping.

This new approach? Take it in stride. Get my mind off it. Don’t dwell on it. Accept that it’s there, and it’s probably not going away anytime soon. And focus on other things that are so compelling and interesting to me, that the pain literally ceases to exist in my mind.

Now, this has some obvious drawbacks. First, it doesn’t really get me in the mindset to change things. If I’m in pain and I’m suffering, wouldn’t I want to do something to alleviate that, to make it worse? If there is any way on earth that I can keep the pain at bay and live my life without it intruding on my happiness and well-being, isn’t that something I should be doing?

Well, yes and no. I’ve been trying working like crazy to get the pain to stop — just stop — with all sorts of approaches. Exercise. Stretching. Acupressure. Massage. Chiropractic. Drugs. Mindfulness meditation. Focused breathing. Diet changes. You name it, I’ve probably done it (except for acupuncture, which I still want to try). And the results have been pretty limited. Thinking back on my childhood, I can remember very few times when I was not in pain. I was a pretty rough-and-tumble kid, and I was also very inflexible to begin with. So, I was usually banged up or bruised or stretched or strained in one way or another. I was usually pushing my limits, and when you do that, you end up in pain.

So, I’ve lived close to 5 decades in almost constant pain. And I’ve made some pretty good progress over the course of that time. I’ve done some amazing things, and I’ve had some amazing accomplishments. All of this while being in pain.

So why, oh why, am I do intent on making the pain go away?

Sure, it doesn’t feel that great. Sure, it’s a distraction. But is it really stopping me from doing anything? Is it really keeping my mind from being alert and active? Is it keeping me from having dreams and pursuing them? It’s a drag and a pain, yes. But is it stopping me?

No, not really. In fact, when I am intently focused on what is in front of me, everything else just goes away. The pain, the fear, the distractions, the anxiety… all of it goes away. When I’m 100% engaged, and I’m feeling that flow, nothing else matters, nothing else gets in my way. I’m fully present, absorbed, transformed by that engagement. And there is no pain.

That’s my new approach — to have other things in my life that are so compelling, so engaging, so uplifting, that the pain ceases to be an issue.

Now, sure, there will be times when it’s so bad that I can’t sit or stand or lie down or do anything without shrieking heat raging through my body. But that’s to be expected. And it either goes away after I get enough sleep, or I find something else to consume my attention. I know full well that when I’m exhausted and I have pushed myself too hard for too long without a good recovery, the pain will set in. So it’s a good reminder to do that. And it’s a good barometer of how I’m doing in general. So, I don’t need to get rid of it. I need to factor it in, expect it, and just live my life anyway.

Yeah, just live my life anyway. I’ve wasted a ton of time trying to get it to stop – just stop – and it’s not going to happen, as far as I can tell. I live too fully. I push too hard. I test myself too regularly, for the pain to stop anytime soon.

Just gotta keep going and keep focused on what matters most to me. A 100% pain-free life is not one of those things. What matters most is a life-filled life.

 

Author: brokenbrilliant

I am a long-term multiple (mild) Traumatic Brain Injury (mTBI or TBI) survivor who experienced assaults, falls, car accidents, sports-related injuries in the 1960s, '70s, '80s, and '90s. My last mild TBI was in 2004, but it was definitely the worst of the lot. I never received medical treatment for my injuries, some of which were sports injuries (and you have to get back in the game!), but I have been living very successfully with cognitive/behavioral (social, emotional, functional) symptoms and complications since I was a young kid. I’ve done it so well, in fact, that virtually nobody knows that I sustained those injuries… and the folks who do know, haven’t fully realized just how it’s impacted my life. It has impacted my life, however. In serious and debilitating ways. I’m coming out from behind the shields I’ve put up, in hopes of successfully addressing my own (invisible) challenges and helping others to see that sustaining a TBI is not the end of the world, and they can, in fact, live happy, fulfilled, productive lives in spite of it all.

2 thoughts on “Taking the pain in stride”

  1. Very true, and when you’re having an off day, recognize it and try to move up the ladder to get back to total engagement. It can be hard sometimes to go from pain to total engagement, so recognize the steps to take and direct your thoughts towards it. Check out my post on emotional set points it will help you gain mental posts to help you move away from the pain and somewhere higher. You remind me of my grandfather, before he passed away he, he was in constant in pain, but he had incredible mental strength that helped him and inspired me. I hope it helps. Good luck – you’re a true solider and an inspiration.

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