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My Search for the 'One True Answer' to Chronic Pain

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I went in search of the holy grail for chronic pain, disability and chronic illness. And I found it.

Perhaps like you, I was put through years and years of school that taught me there is one correct answer for every question and all the rest are wrong, even if they’re really, really close. You get points if you can come up with the one right one and no points if you don’t. No in between.

So the answer to my chronic pain must be out there somewhere. I just hadn’t found it yet.

There had to be an answer. What was it? Where was it? Who had it? So I kept searching the pharmaceutical shelves, the internet, the medical community and within myself.

Where Have I Gone Wrong?

What have I done wrong? I asked myself over and over. What am I missing? Where haven’t I looked, because I don’t have that one answer yet, and I know there has to be a right answer out there somewhere.

I went from being determined to find it, to being frustrated with the last thing I tried that didn’t work, to panicking that I would never find the it I was looking for, to being despondent and, finally, defeated.

My doctors had failed me. Life had failed me. And I had failed at life. I had failed with myself, failed at being me in this life because this isn’t what I signed up for.

Where was the holy grail for ending pain, for healing my condition?

It was out there, somewhere, it had to be. Every day I put on my suit of armor and continued the quest. And I exhausted myself in the search.

The Answer Isn’t Singular

Until I figured out that there really isn’t one true answer for pain or disability or chronic illness, just like there isn’t only one valid path through life. The answer isn’t one pill, one procedure, one supplement, one alternative treatment, and it wasn’t going to happen all at once on one specific day.

And maybe that seems discouraging, that there might not be one right pill, or one right treatment for chronic pain. But I don’t think so. I found it to be a kind of relief.

Instead of making myself wrong for not having found the holy grail for pain, I finally understood that I was, in fact, already living the answer with every breath I took – that everything I do with an intention to heal is part of the answer. The answer does not, in fact, appear to be singular at all.

The answer is not a state of absolute correctness, a final knowing that will set everything right all at once. Instead, it is a messy, many-faceted, imperfect and ever-changing process made up of the best choices and responses I can manage from one day to the next, and which might include many approaches and many methods over time.

So, Do I Give Up the Search?

Does that mean I think everyone should stop looking for answers to chronic pain? Not at all. But I do believe that if we haven’t found the one true solution yet, it may be that it isn’t in just one place, that there is no one true holy grail. Instead, we are surrounded by pieces of it.

There isn’t a mythical shining chalice we have to keep believing in and that we need to keep questing for. Instead, that holy grail is closer than we thought, right here with us, not something elusive and unobtainable, but something we make for ourselves. Something we live.

Each of the pieces, taken together, can create a workable approach for us made up of daily choices – some of which may be choices we revisit that didn’t help before and now do, some of which may be from other disciplines and not strictly medical in flavor, and some of which are new medical developments.

Instead of being something we have to find, the grail is something we build for ourselves through our choices and through our quest for wholeness each and every day. We build our answer, our personal holy grail. And it’s a messy, piecemeal process that requires everything we’ve got inside ourselves, but it’s also beautiful, real, practical and custom-made. And it’s right here, right now.

Originally published: April 20, 2018
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