When people ask me what it’s like to have chronic pain, I often describe it as being like having a huge, flashing neon sign in your brain with the word PAIN on it. The sign is so big, so glaring, so alarming in how it is flashing that it is almost impossible to focus on anything else. No matter which road I take in the labyrinth of my mind, the pain is still there, flashing away and taking up almost all my brain power. The thing is, pain literally is a warning sign. It’s the way our body communicates danger, the way it lets the brain know there is something wrong. Pain is a signal that tissue has been damaged, and that we must take immediate action to prevent further damage. For example, the sharp sensation of burning tells us to move our hand away from a hot stove. Our body and brain wants us to be unable to ignore pain because it could mean life or death.
But what happens when there is no hot stove to pull away from? What happens when pain signals are screaming at us to take action but there is no clear action to take? Chronic pain is like a warning alarm constantly sounding and no easy way to turn it off. Yes, stress usually plays a part. Just like diet, movement, mindfulness, and a whole bunch of other factors. But even with all of these elements in perfect balance, there are no guarantees the chronic pain will go away. So does that mean chronic pain is simply a malfunctioning of the mind-body system and unlike acute pain, does not actually carry any important messages for us?
To me that’s like saying life itself is random and meaningless. Since chronic pain IS my life right now, I have to believe there is a purpose, a lesson, an important message hidden within it. I’m at the stage of my journey where I am taking very good care of myself physically. I am proud to say I have been sticking to my natural healing plan very well. I am eating anti-inflammatory foods, stretching my body daily, walking, resting, taking supplements, doing acupuncture, physio and massage… I’m setting boundaries and saying no to things that don’t feel right. As a result of all of this, I am regularly having days where I don’t need to take any painkillers (not even panadol) and that is HUGE progress. And yet recently I had such bad pain I had to take codeine again after six weeks of being off it.
So I’m at the stage in my journey where I’m digging even deeper. Yes, physical self-care is undeniably important. Obviously this illness is manifesting in my body and I must support my body to heal. But what part do my mind, my emotions, my heart and soul have to play? What is my true purpose in life? Am I living it? What are my true beliefs about myself, my life, and this illness? Do I believe I will get better? Do I believe I need to be sick, exhausted and in pain to receive help, to have full permission to rest, to listen to by intuition, to let go of anything that isn’t a “HELL YES!”?
My beautiful pelvic massage therapist recently said that if we are in pain and “pushing through” life, the pain feels all-consuming. But if we are living joyfully, authentically, passionately engaged in life, pain becomes far more manageable. I know this to be true and my heart tells me the pain would naturally lessen if I was feeling truly lit up each and every day. Yes, it is challenging to find joy while in pain, but I would much rather expend my limited energy on something that feels joyful than on something that feels like a chore. So, in full acceptance of my current situation, what would a truly joyful life look like, even if my physical symptoms did not change? What small (or big) steps can I take towards this life? That is the next layer to explore on the journey to finding my sparkle with endo.