Saturday, 25 July 2015

A Beautiful Life of Contradictions

“To be in physical pain is to find yourself in a different realm – a state of being unlike any other, a magic mountain as far removed from the familiar world as a dreamscape… Will you ever go home? You begin to wonder, home to your normal body, thoughts, life?” (Thernstrom, 2010, p.5).

Welcome to Reclaiming Life!

This blog comes from a series of discussions, tears and celebrations. Like you, we each had different paths of getting here. One was quick and sudden. Fine one day and not the next. The other was a more gradual process. Wondering what was going on, hoping it wasn't serious, tests and appointments. Figuring out that life wasn't exactly going where we thought it was, and that all our thoughts about the "future" were just that...thoughts. 

If you had asked us five years ago where we would be today, I don't think either of us would have answered that we would be excited to discuss what we're learning about pain. But here we are. We’ve been grateful to learn from each other, someone with the opposite perspective, who understands. We have also been amazingly fortunate to meet wonderful people who have inspired, taught and helped us along the way. This blog is a way to share what we've discussed, what we've learned, and to open up further discussion about pain. 

Through it all we've learned that pain throws you into a world unknown. It changes things, and brings up contradictions you would never have imagined before pain entered the picture. For instance, if you have pain, you might identify with one or more of the following dilemmas: 

·         Wanting to push through activities that are important, but also wanting to avoid things that make the pain worse.
·         Knowing the pain has changed you, but feeling like the same person inside.
·         Wanting the pain to be taken away, but not wanting to be an over-medicated zombie.
·         Feeling like your body is your worst enemy, but that it is the only one you have, so it is also your best friend.
·         Wanting to be understood, but not wanting anyone you love to ever feel how you feel.
·         Not wanting pity, but wanting support.
·         Craving movement, but knowing it’s become painful.
·         Wanting to do something fun, but knowing the things you used to enjoy are painful now.
·         Wanting to accept reality so you can cope with it, but also holding on to hope that things will get better.

If you are a family member or friend of someone with pain, you may also feel that you’ve been thrown into a confusing new world. You may be experiencing your own set of contradictions, such as:

·         Wishing less of the household tasks would fall to you, but also willing to do some extra work if you know it will help your loved one.
·         Hurting for the other person, but knowing you need to stay strong.
·         Wanting your loved one to remember that you have feelings too, but finding yourself putting aside your own feelings to be supportive.
·         Missing the way your loved one used to interact with you and the way life used to be, but loving him just the same.
·         Feeling frustrated because some days the other person just doesn’t make sense, but striving to understand.
·         Sometimes finding her irritability annoying, but at the same time knowing it’s coming from a place of pain, and you would probably act the same way.
·         Watching him suffer, and feeling incredibly helpless, but still wanting to find a way to help.
Some of these contradictions may apply to you and your life, and others may not. Every person with pain in her life is different, and every experience of pain is unique. Perhaps by reading this post, you have felt understood, or gained some understanding yourself. That’s what this post is all about. We want to not only give voice to experiences of contradiction in our own lives, but we hope to give a voice to others as well.

As we begin this blog, we want health care providers to understand that pain is not easy or simple, and we want those experiencing it to understand that we’re right here with you. We don’t have any magical answers, but we do have some insights. It’s crucial to acknowledge the pain, and how these contradictions have changed our lives. We don’t know what life with pain will look like for every person (or even what it will look like for ourselves in five years), but we do know that there is hope, and there is still beauty in life after the unexpected twists and bends in our paths. 

Thernstrom, M. (2010) The Pain Chronicles: Cures, Myths, Mysteries, Prayers, Diaries, Brain Scans, Healing, and the Science of Suffering. New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux.

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