Whether I like it or not, chronic pain is part of my normal, daily existence.
When I was 25 years old, I started experiencing pain in my wrists, fingers, and arms. After two years of numerous doctor appointments, testing, and physical therapy, they finally performed a muscle biopsy and were able to diagnose me with a rare metabolic condition, Glycogen Storage Disease, Type VII (Tauri’s Disorder).
Thankfully, my condition is non-degenerative and while it will never fully go away, I can make things better by eating a high-protein/low carb diet, getting low/moderate exercise, taking my prescribed medication, and making smart choices with my lifestyle. This means that there are times when I may want to help out with a certain task, but I need to choose not to do it. Also, as a religious person, I pray often and use my faith to get me through the hard times. Finally, as a husband and father of two daughters, I’m extremely grateful that I had several good years when the kids were very young and I was able to help out with playtime, bedtime, and “cleaning up” time.
Chronic pain is typically seen as any pain that continues for more than six months and affects how a person lives his/her daily life. Because of this, it is understandable that those dealing with chronic pain eventually experience an increase in stress and depression. For myself, I never want to be treated differently or feel pitied by anyone, so I rarely talk about my condition or let people know about it, unless I have to. In fact, writing this blog has certainly caused me some anxiety!
Also, the last couple years have been more challenging as my condition has affected other parts of my body and I’m no longer driving at this time. I’d be lying if I said I never feel sad, however, I have a wonderful support system and I’m forever thankful to these people for making my life a little easier, especially since I’d rather be doing it myself. As a positive person, I continually count the awesome blessings that are in my life and while it would be great to no longer be dealing with my chronic pain issues, it helps if I reframe my situation in this light.
The American Chronic Pain Association states that, “the isolation and fear that can overwhelm a person with chronic pain grows over time and the return to a fuller, more rewarding life also takes time.” They describe the journey from patient to person using the following ten steps:
- Accept the pain
- Get involved
- Learn to set priorities
- Set realistic goals
- Know your basic rights
- Recognize emotions
- Learn to relax
- See the total picture
- Reach out
So what are some ways to cope? In addition to diet/exercise, medication, and having a support system in place, other tips include the following:
- Track your pain level and activities
- Look into biofeedback, relaxation techniques, deep tissue massage, and vitamins
- Don’t smoke or drink alcohol
- Reduce stress by finding ways to distract yourself
- Talk to yourself constructively and find the silver lining as often as possible
- Keep your doctor updated and consult other professionals, as you see fit
- Join a support group and/or see a counselor on a regular basis
If you have chronic pain and need any assistance whatsoever, you can always call your EAP to speak confidentially with a counselor anytime, day or night. You are not alone and you are worth something.
What are your thoughts? Do you have other suggestions? Do you have any personal stories you are willing to share? Please feel free to ask questions or share your experiences below.
Jeremy S. joined Empathia in 2007 as Manager, Client Care Services and currently serves as Account Manager/Sales Consultant. He is also a certified wellness and tobacco cessation coach. Jeremy has a bachelor’s degree in Psychology and a master’s degree in Organizational Development. Prior to joining Empathia, he spent 14 years in the EAP industry in a variety of managerial/leadership roles at another behavioral healthcare organization. Jeremy enjoys reading, photography, music and spending time with his wife and daughters.