8 Strategies That Help Me Accept My Bad Days With Chronic Pain

When I categorize my daily life with chronic pain, I split days into three categories: good days, regular days and bad days.

Good days are when my pain is manageable. Good days mean that the little tasks of the day don’t cause intense pain. I get out of bed without a groan, the stairs in my split-level house are easy to navigate, and I may even go to the gym to work on strength training or a run. Some good days, I push myself. Good days are the days in which I get to challenge the chronic pain. I may deal with chronic pain, but I also refuse to let it keep me stagnant. I enjoy the gym and running, so when I can, I choose to push the limits — within reason of course.

Regular days are the norm. Where my body and pain levels are right now, about three out of the seven days in the week are “regular” days. This means simple tasks can be difficult but not overly so. These days I categorize my pain in terms of soreness or aches, not in stabbing or shooting pains. My hips feel sluggish and sore, like I ran some sort of marathon the day before and my body is fighting back.

Then there are the bad days. Days when getting out of bed feels almost impossible. Sitting up in my bed sends stabbing pain straight to my hips. Sitting too long, my legs will go numb, and, due to nerve damage, I won’t feel any sensation in my legs at all. Bad days, I still must go to work. I still have a job, which I need and love, where I am pretty much stuck at my desk from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. If you haven’t dealt with hip pain or injuries, you may be unaware that sitting can be a painful and difficult position. I live in Seattle, a city now plagued by traffic, and my commute is often somewhere around an hour. Sitting in traffic on bad days is one of the most painful things I have experienced. Trapped, alone and in pain.

I have worked tirelessly to radically accept my situation. Chronic pain, FAI (femoral acetabular impingement) and my other injuries are not easy to accept. I have learned that radical acceptance isn’t a one-and-done. Accepting something so painful and difficult, not to mention sometimes wildly unpredictable, is terrifying. There is a lot of fluctuation in my pain, between days, and weeks, and years. I’ve been relatively pain-free, I’ve been worse, and I’ve been OK.

Accepting something that isn’t a constant or predictable thing is scary. It means that often you must work to accept the situation not just once, or twice, not once a month, but every single day. The bad days are hard to accept. Acceptance does not mean complacency, or resignation, or defeat; acceptance means regaining the power the pain has taken from me. Acceptance means allowing myself to feel sad and move forward.

If you’re struggling to accept a bad pain day and are in a similar situation, here are some strategies I have found helpful:

1. Remind yourself that acceptance is not approval. Accepting the situation doesn’t mean saying your struggles are not valid or hard, it doesn’t mean resigning, it means reducing the amount of emotional pain.

2. Try therapy. I have seen a therapist for over the last three years, and while it may be for more than just my pain/injuries, my therapist has helped me navigate the difficult waters of living with chronic pain.

3. Don’t neglect self-care. Taking care of your body is vital! Drink water, take any medications you’re prescribed, feed yourself properly, etc.

4. Remind yourself that pain isn’t necessarily a constant. Pay attention to even the tiny fluctuations of pain within the day.

5. Seek the support of your inner circle. I have a few people I know I can talk to when I’m having an intense pain day. Talking about it helps.

6. Find a way to connect with others in similar situations. Read articles here on The Mighty! Find forums, seek support through any Facebook groups you may be a part of, etc.

7. Find a way to distract! Some days my pain is so intense that distraction is one of my only coping methods that can help. I highly recommend searching for funny videos, memes and browsing online to make yourself chuckle.

8. Remind yourself to take it one day at a time.

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