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I wrote this post for The Unchargeables website for Pain Awareness Month.
The Unchargeables is an online community for coping with invisible illness, chronic pain and mental illness.
I’ve had chronic pain for six years now, and I can honestly say that it has changed me. In some ways for the better – I’ve learnt new skills, I’ve learnt to be grateful for the little things in life, and more than ever I’m learning to put myself first by focussing on my pain management and wellbeing. In other ways it has changed me for reasons that I do not like. We all change over time, but when chronic pain is the driving force behind those changes, it can be even more frustrating and hard to accept life as it is now.
Here are just some of the ways my pain affects me in a negative way.
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It zaps my energy
Having chronic pain can be both physically and mentally draining. I put a lot of my energy into thinking about my pain and how I can manage it for the better. The added anxiety and stress of coping with pain can take this energy too. In the early days of my pain I didn’t fully understand this, but when I did it explained why I often had little energy to do anything.
As a result of all this energy being used on my pain, I soon get tired. I’m generally okay if I’m motivated or determined to get something done. But some days I have no drive, stamina, or energy to do anything. These days are usually taken over by my pain and are the ones I find the most frustrating. Sometimes I just have to give in to my tiredness and give my body the physical or mental rest that it needs.
It makes me grumpy
Who isn’t grumpy when they’re in pain? Pain is hard; it makes us moody, snappy, and miserable. I’m trying more than ever to stay positive and not let my pain dictate how I’m feeling and, to be fair, I’ve gotten a lot better at it. For me, the grumpiness kicks in when I can’t get comfy and no matter what I do the pain is just there; a constant reminder that I have it for the rest of my life. Distraction definitely helps me focus on something to try and change my mood, but at times it can be hard even when I’m reading, watching TV, or doing something else I enjoy.
It makes me need to be in control
Not in an obsessive, over-bearing, control-freak kind of way, though. I have found over the years that chronic pain has controlled both big and little aspects of my life. As such, where I can, I want to feel in control and not let the pain control me anymore. It’s hard but it is doable with the right frame of mind.
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. It 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. I absolutely love the job I am in now.
Nowadays I have to 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.
[click_to_tweet tweet=”Having chronic pain can be both physically and mentally draining. I put a lot of my energy into thinking about my pain and how I can manage it for the better. #PainAwarenessMonth #ChronicPain” quote=”Having chronic pain can be both physically and mentally draining. I put a lot of my energy into thinking about my pain and how I can manage it for the better. “]
It sometimes decreases my patience
I think this is a combination of all the above. When I’m tired, grumpy, and not in control, I have no patience and can easily snap, cry, or rant. Who can blame me?
As much as I prefer to focus on staying positive with my pain and to carry on living my life doing the things I enjoy, bad pain days are part-and-parcel of living with chronic pain. We are all allowed to have these days and just have to go with them. Don’t be harsh on yourself or beat yourself up if you’re struggling. It is much easier to cope when we talk to those who understand, when we focus on ourselves, and when we accept the situation for what it is.