I’ve had chronic pain for over 5 years now. I’d love to say that it hasn’t changed me and that I’m still the old me, but this isn’t true. It’s not a bad thing that I’ve changed, but I know I’m different in some ways than before I started dealing with daily pain.
It’s bound to affect us, and we have to learn coping strategies to get by. In some ways I like how I’ve changed, but there are bits that I don’t like too. Everyone changes over time and as they get older, so I can’t pin this all on my pain. But I can identify some personality traits that I think are specifically linked to how my pain affects me.
I like to be in control
Not in an obsessive, over-bearing, control-freak kinda way. I have found over the years that chronic pain has controlled both big and little aspects of my life, and where I can I want to feel in control and not let it control me anymore.
The main aspect of my life where I didn’t feel in control because of my pain, was in connection with my job. I had worked hard to progress to a team leader but I had to take a step down, including dropping down a pay grade.
This hit my pride more than anything. I also felt like all the hard work that I had put in to my job had gone to waste. Fortunately, with hindsight, I can see that things have worked out for the best and I absolutely love the job I am in now.
Nowadays I have to at least feel in control, otherwise I start to feel anxious and this can make may pain worse. I also think that the feeling of being in control is a way of me not letting my pain defeat me, or take over.
I’m more organised than ever
I love being organised, and I make it fun wherever I can by using templates, notebooks, stationary, coloured pens and highlighters. I’m not organised in all areas of my life, but in work and with my blog I am super-organised.
I think I’m naturally an organised person, but I reckon I’m even more organised as a result of my pain. And this is probably linked to the above of being in control.
Sometimes though, you can do all the planning in the world, and things still don’t go to plan. This doesn’t always matter, as I know that I’ve done what I can beforehand, and for me this is key. If I don’t feel organised or prepared, then I can easily panic. This then affects my focus and concentration, causes anxiety and stress, which naturally makes my pain worse.
I soon get tired
I put a lot of my energy in to thinking about my pain and how I can manage it for the better. I didn’t realise how much time and energy I spent doing this until recently.
As a result of all this energy being used on my pain, I soon get tired. I’m generally ok if I’m motivated or determined to get something done. But when I stop I soon flake. This is one of the things I struggle with – I can overdo it on a good day but then struggle the next day. Sometimes I just have to give in to my tiredness and give my body that physical or mental rest that it needs.
I have to do One thing at a time
I’ve never been good at multi-tasking, but even more so these days I can only cope with doing one thing at a time. If I try and do too much then I generally don’t get anything done and I just get flustered. I write more on this in my blog post 10 ways to cope with chronic pain.
I need time to lie down
As part of my pain management I have to spend some of the day lying down. As you know I struggle to sit down due to my pain; and too much standing is not very good for our bodies anyway. It’s also extremely physically tiring standing all the time.
So I have to lie down whenever I can. This is usually when I’m watching tv, using a hot water bottle (to help my pain), or times when I can do stuff on my phone, such as reading, writing my blog or making phone calls. As long as I’m comfy and not causing any other aches and pains then this is all good stuff and means I’m still feeling productive and doing things I enjoy.
Sometimes though I just need a lie down and a sleep (linked to the above about soon getting tired).
I have learned to Appreciate the little things
I’ve learned more than ever to appreciate the little things in life. My partner has taught me this. Some days she’s seen me really struggle with my pain but she’s very good at reminding me about the positives of my life and helping me to focus on those rather than dwell and think about my pain. I write down something everyday that makes me happy and it’s good to read through when I’m having a bad day.
How has your pain changed you?