Chronic pain, gratitude, and the secret to life?
No. Really. I am…
As a matter of fact, I’m in a group of 1,338 of people (at the writing of this) that either already do feel the same, or at least they’re trying to. (Update 3.11.17: we now have 1,665 members!)
“Attitude of Gratitude with Chronic Pain” is the name of the group I’m talking about and I started it back in 2014 as a way to send weekly meeting reminders to the members of my small little local Chronic Pain Anonymous group.
Our small group started posting articles and quotes about gratitude that encouraged us to keep on keeping on even on days when our bodies were saying ‘no’. And it started to morph into this happy place for people with chronic pain – very unlike many other chronic pain groups where people just seemed to enjoy wallowing in their own pity…..depressing.
So as members told friends and we started getting on people’s ‘suggested pages’ on Facebook, we have exploded into the much larger group it is today. We have our members read and agree to our strict ‘no complaining’ rules when they come in. Some leave after reading that, but others…I’m telling ya’….I cannot tell you how many people introduce themselves when they come in and say that they’ve been looking for a group like this for years. They want a place to learn to live with their pain happily, peacefully, and gratefully.
Gratefully? How is that possible? I’m stuck in a body that hurts the majority of the time. I don’t remember what it feels like to not be in pain. I’m sure it feels great….but guess what? Without my pain & illness I would be missing out on soooo much.
But do you know what the best part of it all is? It’s kind of amazing, and you’ll never believe it but it’s the truth. Are you ready?
……wait for it….
I am grateful for my pain because, as a result of it, I have found the secret to life!
It’s true! I have! Well…at least the secret to my life. I’ll tell you what it is in a minute!…(if you’re good…)
I am also grateful for my pain because I’ve learned what I’m made of.
Holy crap! I’m strong! I am! I truly had no idea what I was capable of. Let’s take a look…
I have survived a LOT of crap over the past 16 years since originally becoming sick: A year of numerous doctors just to get a diagnosis….raising my kiddos (and might I say…they are AWESOME adults today…just sayin’) throughout flares and all…
Then THE FLARE (cue the scary music)….the flare to end all flares that started in 2009 and didn’t end until 2013. The flare that kept me home and fused to the couch. The flare that kept this previously social butterfly and PTA President merely existing and not participating in life.
The pain became my obsession. Doctors and treatments and protocols and medications and books and that damn INTERNET!!! I was getting sucked in and the more I tried to control my pain, the more the pain beat me down.
The flare that took away me. I lost me. Slowly I saw me drifting further and further away.
Then during that final year of THE FLARE (cue the scary music) becoming a……….
wine connoisseur(ha! that’s what I would try to tell myself. but do wine connoisseurs drink wine from a box out of a coffee cup? I don’t think so…try again!), self-medicator(eh….getting closer but it’s still a little weak. one more try….)
- alcoholic (winner winner, chicken dinner!!!). Yeah….that wasn’t fun. Moving on…
Then ‘THE CRASH OF 2013’ (and no…I’m not talking stock market) – you guys can get more dets on all of this by visiting my ‘me’ page, btw….
Then there was ‘
Mommy’s special summer camp‘ rehab for 30 days and the beginning of a new life. A life I had to get to by digging myself out of this deep pit I had dug for myself. A pit of misery, despair, pain, confusion…I just had to get out! So I started digging…and digging…and digging…all while still hurting…but I had to dig because I had too much to live for and I hadn’t realized how bad I was until I was out of it.
And I dug so hard and with such fervor and desperation that I did get out (cue the happy music!) And I worked and worked and eventually, I became me again. I had lost me and I never thought I would ever see her again. Me. Beautiful me.
Now it is almost 4 years later and not a day goes by that I’m not dripping with gratitude. Why wouldn’t I be? I don’t have to live like that anymore! Ask anyone who knows me…especially my poor fellowship family at noon who day after day have to hear how grateful I am. It must get old. (But does gratitude get old? I don’t think so… Never mind about ‘my poor fellowship family’…suck it up, peeps!!!)
Because of all of this, I am the self-proclaimed ‘Queen of Badassery’ today. There is nothing…and I mean absolutely nothing that I cannot do after all of the b.s. I’ve gotten through until this point! These incredible people I have met from my fellowships…this life….me again….new and improved and stronger than ever.. My family…stronger than ever. All because of the pain! How crazy is that?
Today I try to help others with pain as much as I can. It brings me so much joy and I want others who struggle to know that they don’t need to suffer. We can be our own damned worst enemies if we are alone in our heads for too long. But if we all hang onto each other and share and inspire and cry and bitch and scream and laugh…we will get through this. I’ve tried it alone…it didn’t work out so well for me.
So all of this, my friends, is why I am grateful for my pain. I have no regrets. I look to the future without fear of how I’m going to be physically, but with excitement over what the next chapter holds. Although I will always hope for a cure for lupus, I cannot obsess about curing myself – it paralyzed me for way too long and took me away from living my life. Today I hold my head high and know that I’ve already accomplished some pretty amazing things….who knows what’s next?
Thanks for reading my blo……
What? What is that you say? Did I forget something?
OHHH!!!!! Right!!!! I promised you that I would tell you the secret to life!!! Silly me!
Okay….now listen carefully, because this is very important and just might change the way you look at everything….
Do you know the stories out there of when some people die for a few minutes and they walk into the light and they see heaven for a little bit then live to tell about it? Like that “Heaven is for Real” book?
Well I’ve got a unique perspective too, because I’ve seen the opposite of heaven. As a matter of fact, I lived there for awhile. So take what I say seriously, because you don’t have to go there like I did. It’s a place that I would never wish on anyone.
Are you ready?
The secret to life is…..BE HAPPY!!!
You might be thinking….”Gee…what a concept…(sarcastically)…like I can just snap my fingers and be happy…”
Life is sooooo hard. Nobody said it would be easy. But you can take those tough moments and use them to your benefit to show you how glorious the other side is! I did. It works. Life does not suck!
A daily gratitude practice such as my “Gratitude Project” has helped me to reset my default thinking to appreciating what I already have or what I already can do, vs focusing on what I don’t have or what I cannot do.
There are times in my illness where my abilities are worse than others. For instance, last year I started developing neurological symptoms when I am in a flare. One of them is tremors which prevents me from driving. Today, I do not have those tremors, so I express my gratitude for that and appreciate the fact that I can drive myself to the store. Tomorrow I may have them, but today I do not…and for that I am grateful.
See how that works?
Gratitude is where I have found true happiness…despite my pain. And I’m damn grateful for that pain because it sure makes me appreciate some of the mundane things in life so much more, and also helps me to not sweat the small stuff. No more toxic people. No more negativity (the ‘unfollow’ button on Facebook has recently become my bff.) No more wasting time.
God willing, I have so much to experience in this life. I used to think that I lost 4 years, but now I say that I ‘researched’ for 4 years (I guess I have a Bachelor’s Degree in ‘How Not to Live.’) Our lives can change in an instant with one phonecall, one accident, one diagnosis, or one bad decision….
Be happy. Nothing in life is promised.
Count those blessings, stop complaining, be kind and be grateful.
Later gators, Love L
ps. If you’re looking for a chronic pain/illness community that is uplifting, positive, and gratitude-based…..JOIN US at “Attitude of Gratitude with Chronic Pain” on Facebook.
**What’s the RETRO-COMMERCIAL of this blog post? LIFE, of course! (enjoy!)