Do We Control Pain Or Does Pain Control Us?

Thank you so much to the lovely Bethany for writing this post for my site. It’s wonderful insight into life with a chronic illness and dealing with pain. If you want to write for me as well, then please get in touch!

When Sarah asked me to write a post about chronic illness there seemed to be an unlimited choice of things to write about and it was difficult to choose which one. I’ve had bouts of chronic, undiagnosed pain on and off for the last ten years. For the last four weeks I’ve been suffering from severe abdominal agony as well as everything that comes along with it.

After ten days in hospital and many more days curled up in bed drugged up to the eyeballs on oramorph and various other painkillers it gave me a lot of time to think about that pain. Although I’ve also been dealing with fevers, dizziness, loss of appetite and almost constant nausea at the end of the day every problem I’ve had comes down to pain.

What is Pain?
Pain is a strange thing as people can’t see it, they can’t measure it and no doctor can take one look at you and say what is causing it, hence the reason for my lack of diagnosis. Despite all of this, pain has been with me consistently; whether I’m curled up in a ball or chatting away over a cup of tea the pain is constantly there. After only a month, a few questions are almost constantly going through my mind. The most important of which is whether this pain is going to remain, or grow, and continue to control every aspect of my life.

When this question began to go through my mind it was regarding basic things – needing help to wash, to eat, to drink – and I assumed that it would eventually wear off. As it has continued, I’ve begun to realise just how much control this pain has over me. I can’t go to work and stand in front of a classroom and teach my students if I can’t even stand up for ten minute without feeling dizzy. I can’t make plans for this evening or tomorrow because I don’t know what the pain is going to do next. I can’t be there for my boyfriend as he has been incredible helping me with everything every single day since the pain began. I can’t pick up my niece at her second birthday party even though she wants a cuddle because of the pain. I can’t go for a swim or control my diet as my appetite fluctuates depending on the pain. As you can see there are a lot of ‘I can’ts’ here and numerous others that I think about every day.

‘I Can’

What I have had to slowly come to terms with is the fact that there is something that the pain can’t control. It might seem ridiculous and silly but it will never control who I am. At the end of every day, no matter how much pain I’ve been in, I can still be me. I can still force myself to talk to my friends, make plans for the future and attempt to go to work. No matter how much pain I’m in I can still smile at my boyfriend, thank him and try to make him laugh. These things are small, they’re smaller than what my life was made up of before this pain, however it’s a starting point.

Instead of focusing on what I can’t do every day I’m trying to focus on what I can still do, no matter how small. Today for instance, after pushing myself too hard at the weekend it is 1:42 in the afternoon and I still haven’t been able to get out of bed, however I can write this. I can attempt to put into words a feeling that is quite scary and big but something that is also important to me. I hope that each day, by focusing on something new that I can still do, something that the pain can’t take away, I will feel more positive and confident about winning the fight for control over my life.

I’m not foolish enough to believe that this is going to cure me or make dealing with this pain any easier. What I am hoping is that by focusing on the more positive aspects of my life at the moment it will give me more of a reason to stay positive and get out of bed. At the end of each day I want to feel that I am controlling the pain, not being controlled by it.

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