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Why I No Longer 'Fight Against' My Pain

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I’ve lived with pain for a long time. Since my teens, in fact, and I’m now 50. So I guess that is a fairly long time.

I used to be such a fighter. I was determined to live a normal life despite my pain. I fought against it all the time.

When I was 30, I was in hospital, and I met a woman who had arthritis in her shoulder. She told me that she would never let it beat her.

She was never going to let it beat her. She was going to fight against that terrible pain.

Her words changed something in me that day.

I had been fighting all my life – trying not to let the pain beat me. Constantly fighting against severe chronic back pain. Fighting against it day in and day out. The thing was, I never won the fight. Never.

When I was a teenager, I wouldn’t even admit that my back was hurting. I just wanted to be “normal,” whatever that is. I went through my teens and my 20’s struggling against pain most of the time, but I wasn’t going to “let it beat me.”

But it did beat me.

It made me faint. It made me cry in toilets. It made me lie in bed for weeks unable to move.

It beat me alright. But I kept trying again. I kept forcing myself to get back up and fight again. Then that woman said those words: “I’ll never let it beat me.”

I realized then that I was stuck in a boxing ring, fighting with every ounce of energy against my pain. It was my pain against me. But my pain was mine. My own. Therefore, I was fighting with myself. And my pain was so much stronger than me. I had never been able to win a fight against it and I never would be able to win a fight against it.

I think that was the point when I realized that I would have to learn to live alongside my pain rather than be in a constant battle against it. Fighting is negative and by nature, I am a positive person, so why should I have so much negativity in my life? And besides that, fighting uses up so much energy.

I had a lot to learn though.

I needed to learn that living with chronic pain would have to be part of my life.

I needed to learn to listen to my body so much more.

I needed to learn to trust what my body was telling me.

I needed to learn to do what my body was suggesting.

Doing this hasn’t taken my pain away, but it has made life easier. Definitely less exhausting. But it is an ongoing process. I make mistakes. I forget sometimes. I do too much and just like before, the pain wins. It gets worse and it steals my energy. My pain is always happy to remind me that we are supposed to work as a team. And once I come back to my senses, I’m happy to comply.

I’m glad I don’t venture into that boxing ring these days. I’m really not a “fighter” when it comes to living with my pain… but that doesn’t mean I’m weak. It just means I have found a way of living with my pain which suits me.

Everyone has to find their own way to live with a chronic pain. Some people might be fighters, but for me, life is so much easier when there is no fighting involved. Especially when the opposition would be myself.

Fighting uses up so much energy, and trust me – when you live with constant pain, you need every ounce of energy.

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Originally published: February 14, 2017
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