Do Not Go Quiet into Chronic Pain
I’m fortunate in many ways. I’ve managed to cultivate a life where the pursuit of my personal passions holds the fore of my attention, where love has taken root in all its multi-colored forms, and where hope’s crab-grass grows despite the melancholic toxins of this modern age.
I also have a chronic illness and a host of secondary, comorbid chronic conditions.
In my constant struggle to seek my Maslowian fulfillment, I find myself running up against struggles which can barely be described to those who’ve never experienced this sort of thing. On days when the pain I shoulder would crush an unwary man to brittle dust, I soldier on.
For those of us with chronic conditions, life can often feel like a series of compromises and fallbacks. We feel, much like Star Trek’s Jean Luc Picard, as the Borg take the ship deck by deck, that we are being forced back time and time again without recourse. We shout, “this far, no farther!” only to realize that the fight cannot be won. And yet we fight anyway, standing our ground until that ground has turned to bloody muck beneath our shoes; and then, still, we soldier on.
There are times where this struggle seems too much to bear — where I raise my voice in pitiful despair at this trial I never asked to undertake. Who could blame me? And yet, too, when I have shouted my throat raw with prayers and petulant raging, I often look around within myself and find something which gives me pause.
Bearing these struggles has made me a better man.
Compassion is the root of all goodness grown, the seed from which the life we have becomes a home into which we settle, rest, repeat our daily rituals: for it is simply good to be alive; even pain can help us to this thought arrive. That it is good to be alive.
I have learned many things through this pain. I have learned how to prioritize myself — and learned that this prioritization deepens my appreciation for life rather than subtracts from it. I have learned a deeper compassion and empathy for those who suffer — in myriad ways, not simply those with ailments like mine; for any suffering we experience has the potential to increase our connection with others who have suffered. I have learned the ever-expanding limits of my own capacity to bear-up under great weight and strain, weathered the fractures this strain has caused and realized repeatedly that my own fears of failure have been unwarranted.
For those of you out there struggling through chronic pain, I will offer up some advice which I myself have taken solace in. We who bear obvious conditions are frequently provided advice (most of it well-intentioned, but also frequently useless). This advice is a little different.
If you suffer from a chronic illness, first, accept that it is part of your life. The more you fight it, the harder you struggle, the more its grip on you will tighten; if you squirm, it will suck the life out of you. Seek treatment, allow yourself to grieve when necessary, and offer your inner being all the compassion it requires: but do not give in to the tempting thoughts which suffering arouses in the best of us, thoughts such as “this should not be.”
The second part of my advice is this: Follow your bliss. Seek without hesitation, those things which deepen your fulfillment of existence. We, sufferers, run into the unfortunate circumstance of sometimes having passions which we can no longer fulfill because of our pain — but we must not see in this an end. Rather, this is merely a new opening for us, a new doorway into the future. Humanity exists to create art, use the circumstances of your life to dive head-first into that intimate essence of existence. Do this, and you’ll find that the pain subsides, evolves, and is experienced in vastly different ways.