When the Path to Healing Doesn't Look How You Think It'll Look
I slept on the couch last night and didn’t wake up in writhing pain this morning.
This is new for me. A couple of months ago, a night on the couch would’ve meant an inability to move the next morning.
I’m not exactly sure what’s changed. Yes, I’ve been seeing a new chiropractor, and a new somatic therapist, but I’ve also been eating terribly and have been much more stressed at work lately. I haven’t strength-trained in over a year, and I’ve been dealing with an allergic reaction to my Lyme disease medication for the past four weeks.
So how? How was I not in pain this morning?
A couple of months ago, I attended a conference where the facilitator, Tyler Orr, said, “My wife and I woke up one day and realized that we no longer have ‘chronic pain.’” I felt this surge of hope that one day, I’d be able to say the same thing. That hopefulness lasted about three minutes before my judgment and doubtfulness set in.
I couldn’t wrap my head around what life without persistent, daily pain would feel like. I oscillated back and forth between believing or not believing that this statement could be mine for the taking.
But honestly, the belief itself doesn’t matter. I know, that’s a pretty contradictory statement to what we’ve all been told… that your thoughts create your reality. I don’t ascribe to that style of change. That’s why I don’t practice cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) in my work as a mental health therapist.
My beliefs have never aligned with my reality. Growing up, if I thought I was about to ace a test, I’d bomb it. If I thought I didn’t know anything, I’d get an A.
Point is… I decide to leave fortune-telling out of my day to day life. I don’t spend time deciphering between truth and non-truth. I spend time observing my thoughts, my bodily reactions and my current reality. That day during Tyler’s conference, I wanted to figure out how to do whatever work he and his wife had done to “get out of chronic pain.” But I was able to catch myself before plunging into a new treatment protocol geared toward “fixing my pain.” I grounded myself, sat with my fear and discomfort, and allowed myself the freedom to just see what happens.
More than any of the holistic treatments that I’ve tried, I think non-attachment has been my greatest healer. Through a willingness to experience whatever difficulties arise, I’ve been able to let go of crushing anxiety and fill my days with things that matter. I no longer have the need to control the narrative or outcome. What happens will happen. If I rest when I feel like resting and push when I feel like pushing, the rest always, eventually works itself out.
My pain experience has changed over the years, which is a hallmark of chronic pain. When you “fix” one area, another area pops to remind you “hey, I’m still here! Your trauma is still here! Don’t forget me.”
So I don’t forget it. I don’t forget, avoid or ignore my pain. Some days that looks like me complaining. Other days it looks like no complaining, but I’m mindfully aware that it’s there. Other days it looks like pushing past my limits but with the acute awareness that I’ll need extra rest over the next few days. Some days it means stopping well before I reach those limits.
Every day is different, and I’ve learned to live in this uncertainty, allowing for a space of healing to develop.
Waking up after a night on the couch without pain is hard not to get super excited about. Naturally, I want to feel like this is it — I’m cured. But that’s where the attachment starts up again. So I remind myself to be thankful for this morning without aches in my joints and to know that tomorrow might bring more pain, and that’s OK. That’s truly OK.
Healing is not a choice we make. It’s not something that’s supposed to be a fighting battle. Healing is something that happens through surrendering control to something greater than ourselves. Healing happens before the pain is gone, and it happens differently for everyone. My story might look completely different than yours, and that’s the beauty of sharing it.
To reiterate… I can’t believe I’m writing a post today about “healing.” It feels surreal to me. I tried “positive thinking” for years, and it never got me anywhere other than feeling like I had one more failed attempt under my belt.
What does get me somewhere is a willingness to feel each and every moment that arises, regardless of how painful it is. This, and this alone, is what helped me see the road to a pain-free life when that road started opening up to me. You can’t rush this process, but you can suffer less while you’re in it.
So if healing doesn’t come your way today, know that you can at least find moments of respite, which can go a long way in helping you heal. It’s about non-attachment to the outcome, and living life in accordance with your values.
Wishing you moments of peace today as you journey on in this chronically complex life.
This story originally appeared on Destiny’s blog.
Getty image by HolySource.