"I like living. I have sometimes been wildly, despairingly, acutely miserable, racked with sorrow, but through it all I still know quite certainly that just to be alive is a grand thing."
I, too, like living! Chronic pain isn't going to take this away from me. Over twenty years of on-again/off-again seasons lived with chronic pain have motivated me to seek healthy ways to cope. I still have much to learn. Though I have made progress, I haven't completely conquered the unhealthy ways I tend to react to it. I'm way too reclusive. I give in too easily and let it dictate my life. I allow worry to seep into my thoughts. I beat myself up for not being stronger. I throw my share of pity parties. I neglect relationships.
But I am getting better. Slowly, these counter-productive (sometimes destructive) patterns are being replaced with healthier approaches to managing pain and rising above it. The following list is based on my experience with fibromyalgia. Maybe it applies to other conditions that involve chronic pain. If you are the person I am writing this for, please know I am with you in spirit as you travel your own journey. This is for you ~
1. Find your sweet spot, your place of balance. Know when to push yourself and when to cut yourself slack. Respect it.
2. Eat healthy. I know, this doesn't seem like it has anything to do with pain management. All I can say is that I have seen a HUGE difference in how I feel when I eat the right foods. For two years I went on a strict diet I was given to treat fibromyalgia. It wasn't easy to follow! But I was completely symptom-free as a result. There are things I have removed from my diet that I will continue to avoid. Other things that have made their way back onto my plate are slowly being phased out again. Eating what I want isn't worth it.
3. I try to keep moving...even when it hurts. Walking is a must for me. Some days I only make it a few blocks, and at a slow pace. The good days, I walk for miles, and as fast as I can. Staying active helps.
4. Laughter really is the best medicine. I find things that tickle my funny bone. I have a stash of go-to movies that always make me laugh and smile.
5. Good restorative sleep is important. This is my one exception to my "no drugs" policy. I encourage you to do what you can to get a good night's sleep consistently.
6. Find someone that you can help. Getting my mind off of myself and onto someone else does a world of good. On days when I can't muster the energy to get moving, I try to focus on praying for others. "Time spent in prayer is time well-spent."
7. Get a blood test and see if you are deficient in any vitamins. I take high potency B-Complex, Vitamin D, and Omega-3. I also take a probiotic, which helps with other symptoms associated with fibromyalgia.
8. Find a hobby or something you are passionate about and immerse yourself in it. I like to write.
9. Nurture your relationships. Don't let the pain and fatigue rob you of time with these precious people.
10. Soap therapy. I know, it may sound a bit crazy, but I have found it works. I sleep with a bar of soap in my bed, tucked between the mattress cover and the fitted sheet, close to where my shins rest. I carry a hotel-size bar in my pocket. And I use a generous amount every morning in the shower. Though you may laugh at the idea, I recently read an article in the paper about a doctor who researched this theory and found it to be true. There is something in the soap oil that is an anti-inflammatory and pain reliever. What do you have to lose by trying it? Pain maybe?
11. Based on my own research, I made the decision to steer clear of chemicals and pesticides as much as possible. I don't allow anything on our property that is toxic. I try to buy only organic products.
12. Yoga. I am not talking about the intense workouts or the New Age philosophy. Yoga has some wonderful stretching exercises. I have a DVD I use at home.
13. Find ways to keep a positive outlook. Verses, quotes, whatever works for you can be placed strategically throughout your home and work environment as a gentle reminder that each day is a gift, and we CAN enjoy it.
14. Pamper yourself. Each day, find a way to do something nice for yourself. It can be different everyday. Or maybe it's the same treat you look forward to mid-afternoon. I like to think about this the night before as I nestle into bed. It gives me something to look forward to.
15. Put a stop to negative thinking. Negative thinking and pain seem to walk hand in hand. But we can control our thoughts. Train yourself to just say no to the negativity.
I may have chronic pain. But that doesn't mean I have to give it the power to dictate the quality of my days. Regardless of how I am feeling, I have learned I can still have a really good day. And that is my prayer for you.
"The world is full of suffering. It is also full of overcoming it."