33499080_sI recently had the pleasure to be on a telephone support call for people with pain. Since I also live with pain I know how it helps to talk directly to others who truly understand what a day is like in the life of someone fighting chronic pain.

The discussion was really great, the topic was how do we stay positive and what kinds of things can we do to help us stay positive. It can be really hard to find anything positive when you have spent the day in agony due to the pain. It can be really hard to hear someone tell you that staying positive can have an impact on how you deal with pain, after all we are the ones who live with pain, right?

Over the years of living with chronic pain I think I can safely say I have heard just about every possible suggestion known to man and womankind on how to be more positive. This advice commonly comes from folks who do not live with pain. You know the one’s I am talking about! For fun I am going to share a few “pearls” which I call my list of the top 5 funniest things said to me by others who do not live with pain.

Top 5 Funniest Statements by People Who Don’t Live with Pain

  1. If you move around more you will hurt less and you will not be so sad.
  2. I heard on a daytime television talk show that best way to stay positive for people like you, you know that ones who say they have pain all day. They said that if you get up each day and get dressed and start cleaning around your house, you will override the pain in your brain.
  3. All you need to do is get a job outside the home. Staying at home every day is not healthy, it is so negative, no wonder you do not have a positive outlook. I would go crazy if I had to look at the walls in my house all day.
  4. I could not sleep the other night and there was one of these TV infomercials on and the doctor on the show said the way to help chronic pain is to take multi-vitamins and lots and lots of movement, you know exercise.
  5. You don’t look like you are pain. You look just like me and I am not in pain. If you tell me you are having a bad pain day, I will tell you all the latest gossip and that will take your mind off of the pain.

When I read these out loud or see them in black in white, I have to admit it made me laugh out loud. Humor is healing…after all it is better to laugh then to cry.

Seriously though, how do we expect people to understand what our lives are like if we are always seem to be negative?

Who likes to be around a Debbie or Darrell Downer anyway?

How can we expect others to help us if we are not willing to help ourselves?

Is it fair to get angry when folks offer silly suggestions like the ones I shared? Sure, yet are there small truths between the lines when we fail to do the hard work and help ourselves be positive?

If we treat ourselves negatively and fail to try to find something positive in our lives then is it not our fault, not the pain, not family, not friends, not healthcare providers and not strangers??

As I see it, we have a choice in life: we can be miserable or we can find the good in each day and try to keep moving forward in life. It is up to us to find positive things in our lives. It can be done, I promise. It is a journey worth taking.

Try this for a moment. Stop reading this blog and look around where you are. If you are sitting at home and have pets, I know you can find a reason to smile and be positive. If you have children all it takes is a look at those wonderful little human beings that we created, if that is not a huge positive I don’t know what is. Like most of us, you may not be rich and perhaps live paycheck to paycheck. I bet you do have a place to call home, a warm bed, food in the pantry, clean clothes, clean water and so much more. We tend to take these things for granted because they have always been there—until they are not. By taking a brief moment to stop and look around, you can find many things in life that are positive.

Now before you close this page and stop reading this blog because you are getting really angry at me and think I don’t truly understand what you are going through please allow me to continue…

I do understand, you see I have lived with pain for 20+ years.

  • I do know how hard it is to get up each morning in pain and go to bed each night in pain.
  • I do know what it is like to lie in a bed or on the couch writhing in pain.
  • I do understand what it is like to have people not understand the pain and not believe that I could be in pain 24/7.
  • I do understand how emotionally draining the pain is.
  • I do understand how totally exhausting it is to just get dressed some days.
  • I do understand that this is not the life you signed up for, it wasn’t my first choice either.
  • I do understand how hard it is to stay one step ahead of full blown depression.
  • I do understand that a life with chronic pain is devastating, frustrating, overwhelming, maddening and depressing to name just a few.

Even with all that working against me, I can still find ways to be positive. You can too!

It doesn’t have to be over the top. It can as simple as buying a new dress or outfit and planning a date night with your special someone. It can be as simple as offering support to someone else who is having a hard time. It can be as simple as going on social media and talking with friends about everyday life, kids, spouses, food and so much more. It can be as simple as looking around and coming to the understanding that while life with pain is filled with so much negative – we do not have to let our pain know that.

We do not have to let the pain win! We have the ability to to tell the pain — not today pain…I have a date tonight and you will not ruin this. We have the ability to tell the pain — you will not win today!

A positive attitude is EVERYTHING when it comes to dealing with pain– it can mean the difference in going out with the friends for a girl’s night out or staying home and feeling alone.

A positive attitude is EVERYTHING when the strong grip of depression appears and tries to pull us under. We can give in to that monster (depression) or we can fight back!

A positive attitude helps us deal with pain each day and every day. It is our sword and our shield of protection.

Stop! Look! Listen!  How do you introduce yourself? Do you see yourself as a “chronic pain person” or a “chronic pain patient”? If you do—STOP!

The very first thing you must do is to identify ourselves in the way you want others to see you. Who are you really?  Think about this.

Are you:

  • A mother, a daughter, a wife, a sister, a brother, an aunt, a cousin?
  • A father, a son, a student, a grandpa, a grandma, an uncle, a best friend?
  • A professional a teacher, a lawyer, a nurse, a firefighter, a police officer, a domestic goddess?

Are you:

  • Smart, funny, sensitive
  • Loving, supportive, curious?

What I am trying to say here is that you are the same person you were before the pain. You may have misplaced the real you and may need to go search within, re-discover and find a new way to share your true self with others once again.

Pain wants you to be negative; it wants to own you; it wants to win. Pain wants you to be sad, depressed and hopeless in order to take control your mind, body and soul. Do NOT give in.

Take back your power to a positive life. Take all of that power away from pain. Tell the pain you are in charge now!

Join me in telling the pain this: “you will not take all the power from me!”

Join me in telling the pain also “you will not stop me from living my life”.

Most of all remember that you must STOP identifying yourself as a chronic pain person or patient. You are so much more than that!

Teresa Shaffer: a mother, grandmother, sister, daughter and friend; a volunteer, an advocate, a blogger and a person living with pain.

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