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How I Manage the Stresses of Daily Life as a Person With Chronic Pain

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When I’m having good pain days (like a four or five), I get involved with life. It’s still happening at home, generally, since I can take breaks and ease the ache, but there are forays into the big wide world. I try to set boundaries for the bad pain days, but I’m so high-functioning, I pass by that fine line of “too much” on a fairly regular basis. Sometimes at a drift. How will I know if I can do something unless I do it? Maybe I’m strong enough now.

the author's artwork

The days pass, the stress builds. I’m not good at knowing where that (tiny, thin, moving) line lives day to day. Certainly not good at knowing I’ve crossed it too many times. On an almost bi-monthly basis, I break down in tears and need time off to get my head back on. It’s not healthy, and it’s not sustainable.

In an effort to shift this paradigm, I’m taking a sabbatical from the phone every week. I think the constant distractions are taxing. I’m involved in one thing, but ding! Now deal with this. Then the instant messenger: beep! Totally unrelated thing over there! Focus there now! No, here! Wait, what was I doing?

It’s impossible to focus when your days become a series of responses and reactions to dings, beeps and message alerts. There’s no time allowed for concentrated effort. I can’t remember anything, because I’m trying to remember everything. It’s like we’ve all acquiesced to being perpetual mothers of toddlers. Mom, mommy, mom, mama, mommy!

I’m going to start my days writing or doing collage instead of checking social media and email. Maybe if I start slow and easy, I can handle the stressors of the day a bit better. Creating helps me feel like I’m accomplishing something.

the author's artwork

I’ll keep personal messages to after work hours. Reduce the volume of interactions during the work day.

I’ll start meditating again. I know that works; I’ve been a steady meditator before, and it definitely kept me calmer.

I’m going to make an effort to go outside more. Get more exercise.

This lesson is about making little changes in my day to day, to avoid the breakdown altogether. Setting aside time to do the things I love, to live a life I enjoy instead of endure. It’s an unfortunate but weird little gift, that those of us dealing with pain have to constantly reassess, reimagine and rework our lives. Pain is a teacher, that’s for sure.

the author's artwork

(The images are from a series of curated collage Happy Boxes I make for friends going through difficult times. They saw me through three surgeries, it’s the least I can do.)

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Originally published: July 20, 2017
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