Does your pain stop you from doing everything you enjoy?
Supposing you are invited to a friend’s wedding or your five-year-old granddaughter’s birthday party, do you turn down the invitations?
Or perhaps you have a favourite hobby – painting or photography, for example, do you ignore your muse?
Even if your pain is on a fairly low or mid-level at the time, does it still control everything, because of the fear that you might feel worse?
You really want to go to that wedding. You know your granddaughter would be disappointed if you weren’t at her party. You haven’t painted for such a long time and you are feeling inspired. You have spotted a goldfinch at the birdfeeder and you’d like to capture it with your camera. You are having fairly low-level pain at the moment, but you know that doing those activities will worsen or trigger your pain. What do you do?
Do you always say no?
Should we say ‘no’ to absolutely everything?
I don’t really do a lot with my life. I’m not complaining about that. As I explained in an earlier post, I enjoy the small things. But sometimes I want to go somewhere or do something which I know will have an effect on my pain. Should I always say, “no”?
No – to absolutely everything?
I don’t think so. I still want to reach out for those little bits of normality. Actually, I shouldn’t use that word. I should say enjoyment, adventure or socialising instead. What on earth is normality anyway? (But that’s another post for another day.)
Can’t we just ignore the pain & fear and say yes?
It’s not always that simple, is it? I mean, when our pain is really bad, it would be silly, if not impossible, to attend a wedding. And if your pain is anything like mine, the levels can fluctuate from day to day (or even hour to hour). That means that making plans can be awkward.
But fear of it shouldn’t stop us from enjoying the ‘better’ days.
If your pain is on a level you can cope with, perhaps you could accept invitations instead of giving an outright no. Perhaps you could come to a compromise. Go to the wedding for an hour or so. Pop in to see your granddaughter blow out the candles on her birthday cake.
And those hobbies? Whether it’s painting, woodworking, baking, or jewellery making – hobbies are important. They’re a good pain distraction. Perhaps adapt things. Make sure you’re comfortable. Set time limits.
These are just examples. There are lots of things which we often give up because of our chronic pain. But we really shouldn’t allow it to steal everything we enjoy.
So, you went to that wedding. You were going to stay for an hour. But it was fun. You caught up with old friends. You stayed longer than planned.
You went to your granddaughter’s party. You saw her face light up when she saw you walk through the door. She giggled because you played musical statues with her.
You painted. You set an alarm for thirty minutes. The alarm went off but you continued to paint. Your painting was looking good – you couldn’t just stop after thirty minutes.
You sat in the garden trying to take a good photo of the little goldfinch. Eventually, after an hour, it appeared. You managed to get the perfect shot.
But now you are in pain.
Apart from the physical pain, how do you feel? Do you regret everything? Do you wish you hadn’t gone to the wedding or the party? Do you wish you hadn’t painted or taken that photo?
When I end up in more pain after doing something I enjoy, I don’t regret anything. I actually call it ‘good pain’.
How can there be such a thing as good pain?
I can think of many words to describe my chronic pain, like aching, agonising, burning, crushing, stabbing, stinging or thumping.
But after an activity I enjoy, I describe it as, ‘good pain’.
The normal reaction to that is: how can any pain possibly be good?
The Good Pain Theory
There are some things in life which I enjoy doing, despite knowing that they could make my pain worse. I think these things are worth the pain.
Things like seeing friends and family, going to a celebration, talking on the phone or occasional trips out, can leave me in agony. Even certain food and drinks leave me with torturous pain because of my trigeminal neuralgia.
Lots of activities will most likely give me more pain at the time and afterwards, sometimes for several days or longer.
When I have that extra pain, I think about how much I enjoyed myself. I can look back on the memories I made. I feel happy, despite my pain. The pain came about from doing something enjoyable. Something that I really wanted to do.
I don’t want to give up on everything in life. Pain has already taken enough from me. I won’t let it steal enjoyment from my life.
Just to add: I am not trying to imply that it’s good to have pain. I wish I didn’t live with mine and I wish you didn’t live with yours. My good pain theory is merely a way for me to be able to accept some of my pain. It allows me to enjoy the things that I think are worth it. Perhaps it could help someone else.
I’d love to hear what you think. Do you feel as though pain is stealing everything you enjoy? Do you ever have good pain?
What’s worth some extra pain?
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