The Journey of Pain…

Do you have any idea how many different ‘pain relief’ products there are in the drugstore? Clearly, everyone hurts… sometime, somewhere… none of us is or will be immune from the path of pain.

I happen to be one of thousands of people who live with chronic pain… I have pain medication readily available in my home, in my purse… I go nowhere without being sure I have something to take if pain strikes.  And, having written that last sentence, I realize that “strikes” is a good word.  Although for some, pain seems to be relentless and never ending, for others, pain seems to come out of nowhere and leave us frustrated and exhausted.  That lunch with a friend that I had planned?  Not going to happen now because pain has come.  That work deadline I was going to easily meet?  Not going to happen now because pain has come.  That time to just sit outdoors in the warm sun and relax?  Not going to happen now because pain has come.

So, is that your story?  It certainly has been and can be mine… most any day.  For me, however, I’m drawn to thoughts about how to ‘live’ with pain… how not to let this enemy attack and destroy… how to somehow find a way, maybe not always to ‘conquer’ the pain, but at least to not let it take total control of my life.

A reminder… for some, that relentless pain is not physical.  Many live with emotional pain that hurts far deeper than any physical pain.  Others live with spiritual pain… trying to find answers to what really matters in life.  And yet others live with social pain… loneliness and isolation are overwhelming.

Yikes, Leanne… how depressing is this topic?!  Yet I don’t mean it to be depressing.  I mean to have us consider, together, ways to deal with our own pain, and ways to be available for and aware of others who might need our support in their own pain journeys.   So, a few life lessons I learned or have gleaned from others…

  1. Pain is a necessary warning!  If it didn’t hurt when you touched the hot burner on the stove, you’d end up with a serious injury and much more pain.  Heed the messages of pain.  Yes, there are times when you have to push through the pain, but get to know those signals in your life when it’s just time to stop and get away or deal with the pain… no one wants to let an angry bee keep stinging over and over and over…
  2. Pain gives us an opportunity to step away from the ‘busyness’ of life and focus on ourselves… not in a selfish way but in a life-preserving way… resting is often essential to healing.  I remember with great clarity the day after a very serious automobile accident, when my pastor came to visit me in the hospital just before I went into what would be a lengthy surgery.  He wanted to share scripture with me, and opened his Bible to the 23rd Psalm… I promptly objected!  There’s a verse in that Psalm that talks about the ‘valley of the shadow of death’ and I didn’t want to hear those words during a very scary time.  He asked me to just listen and he read… “The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want; he maketh me lie down”… and then he stopped… “that’s it”, he said.  “Sometimes you need to be ‘made’ to slow down, ‘made’ to rest… fighting it is useless, relaxing into it is difficult, but essential.  I’ve never forgotten that lesson.
  3. Pain teaches us valuable lessons that we can use to encourage or support others on their pain journey.  The common thread of pain binds people together in countless ways.   The enormous number of groups on Facebook for people with many varying pain needs is testimony to the value that we find from having others to talk to, to be with, and to be a support for them as well. No one has more empathy than someone who has walked the same pain journey – be that physical or emotional.
  4. Know the value of interventions.  That bottle of pain medication in your cupboard is of no use to you unless you follow the directions and then let the medication help to ease your pain.  No one needs to be a ‘martyr’ to pain… share with others, let your doctors help, don’t walk the road alone.
  5. Pain doesn’t have to change your personality, or turn you into a person that is difficult to be around.  Yes, be honest with the reality of your pain, but allow the balm of help from others to wash over you and give your spirit, if not your body, the rest that it needs.

Okay, so those are some of the lessons I’ve learned… how about you… I’d love to hear from you… in closing, here are some quotes that you might find encouraging – whether you’re the one who is hurting or whether you’re walking a journey with someone else who is in pain… take care… be well…

From Oprah Winfrey… “Turn your wounds into wisdom.”

From Sarah McBride… “In my view, the best of humanity is in our exercise of empathy and compassion. It’s when we challenge ourselves to walk in the shoes of someone whose pain or plight might seem so different than yours that it’s almost incomprehensible.”

From Rumi… “Through love, all that is bitter will be sweet. All that is copper will be gold. Through love all pain will turn to medicine.”

From Drew Barrymore… “In the end, some of your greatest pains will become your greatest strengths.”

And one last thought from Leanne… “Step outside and listen to the songbirds for a few moments… guarantee to bring a smile to your face, even in the midst of pain.”


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