The Mighty Logo

How I’m Changing My Mindset With Chronic Pain

The most helpful emails in health
Browse our free newsletters

I’ve been in pain for over 23 years. Chronic pain has really affected my well-being and quality of life for a long time.

Chronic pain is usually regarded as a syndrome that lasts for over six months to a year. During this time, a person’s pain is usually moderate to severe, making it hard to function.

I went to a lot of doctors and specialists over the years. But none of them could help me because my condition was chronic. In other words, there were no cures, and I could do nothing to ease my pain.

I also tried physiotherapy and massage treatments. However, nothing really helped for long. I was miserable and in pain, and I felt powerless to do anything about it.

Not Complaining and Carrying on Became a Way of Life

At the onset of my chronic pain, which was caused by fibromyalgia and osteoporosis, I was caring for an elder relative. She was in her 90s and still living in her own home. So, I felt like complaining would not do me any good. I felt powerless to say no to her, even when I often felt unwell. I mean, who was I to complain, right? Who was I to take some time for myself? Who was I to take care for myself? She had many more needs than I did, and I really wanted to take care of her. But it cost me a high price because I kept getting worse.

No one could tell that I was sick and tired all the time. No one could tell that I couldn’t sleep because of my pain levels. And no one could tell that I was struggling to live with my conditions because there were no outward signs of my illness.

So, I just kept pushing past the pain, fatigue, and brain fog. I pushed for over 14 years until I really hit a rough patch in my life. Suddenly, nothing really made sense. My life made little sense. How could I not take better care of myself? Who was I really kidding?

Then one day, something shifted in me. I knew I couldn’t go on living like this. I wasn’t taking care of myself, and I knew I had to. So, I changed my mindset from self-blame and guilt to one of self-compassion. I decided I had to take care of myself and only I could do that. No one else was going to do it for me.

Feeling Pain All the Time Is Miserable

No one wants to feel pain all the time. Yet, for people who live with fibromyalgia, feeling pain somewhere in their body is a way of life. It forms the backbone of everything that I did. I couldn’t sleep, wake up, eat, or walk without feeling pain and fatigue.

It doesn’t really matter what I did, either. It’s like fibro had a mind and rhythm of its own. There are usually trigger areas where my pain was worse. I’ve had shoulder and neck pain for over five years, and nothing has helped for long.

There are no triggers that are the same for everyone. We each must discover what they are for ourselves through trial and error. Otherwise, we could experience even more pain and discomfort.

I got onto the path of self-betterment through self-management. In other words, I took back my life and got into the driver’s seat instead of being a passive observer of my pain and fatigue and doing nothing about it. Finally, I discovered that there are things I can do to help myself feel better.

Tips for Self-Management of Chronic Pain

My self-management tools comprised ways I could lessen my pain and fatigue. Here are a few tools that helped me minimize my symptoms.

1. Manage your stress levels.

Emotional and physical pain are closely related. Persistent pain can lead to increased levels of stress. Learning how to deal with stress in healthy ways can position you to cope more effectively with your chronic pain.

2. Talk to yourself constructively.

Avoid negative self-talk. Try not to over-catastrophize your pain levels. Instead, try to take some time for yourself and rest during high pain days. Always listen to your body.

3. Become active and engaged.

Some of us who struggle with chronic pain believe that we should just quit living and lie in bed all day. However, nothing is furthest from the truth. Try a new hobby or engage in an activity that you enjoy. Get out of the house and go to a local park. Meet someone for a coffee.

4. Find support.

Going through the daily struggle of living with pain can be very hard. There are so many people who have different types of chronic illnesses. Reach out to those people. They are always there to help.

5. Accept your situation instead of fighting it all the time.

When you don’t accept where you are, you suffer even more. So, take the time to not push past your pain and fatigue levels. Instead, honor them and listen to your body. You deserve to take care of yourself.

6. Make time for yourself every day.

There is no need to overdo it all the time and to work or go to the point of exhaustion. Stop before you get exhausted. This is your life.

We must all remember that we deserve to live a good life. Our life isn’t over just because we are struggling with chronic pain. What our situation is telling us is that we must start to take care of ourselves. And we can do this, one day at a time.

Therefore, by becoming proactive about my health, I have discovered that I can lessen the symptoms of my chronic pain, making it easier to live with my condition. It isn’t always easy at first, but by tweaking my mindset and discovering that I can self-manage my pain, I discovered I don’t have to be defined by my pain. I can still do the things I love by pacing myself and discovering how to be my best.

By changing how I view pain, my life became a lot better. It wasn’t perfect. But that’s OK. I’ve come to accept pain and fatigue as my new reality. But I feel much more in control of my pain and fibromyalgia, resulting in a much better quality of life. I learned what I can control and change and what I can’t. I let go of the latter and started managing what I can control. And I discovered there’s a lot I can control. That was my turning point.

This story originally appeared on Irene’s blog.

Getty image by George Peters

Originally published: September 26, 2022
Want more of The Mighty?
You can find even more stories on our Home page. There, you’ll also find thoughts and questions by our community.
Take Me Home