7 Ways to Overcome the Chronic Pain Blues
What I learned about dealing with getting out of the funk this past week.
The past week has been a bit low for me. I still can't figure out what the trigger was, but I am thankful I am no longer in that depressed state of mind. I know chronic pain can lead to depression, especially during a flare-up or new diagnosis, but neither of those things was going on with me and yet I was having a rough time just doing my typical day to day routine. I was having an attitude of "why bother," "what difference does it make anyway." That type of mentality is not like me at all. I am usually very positive, look at the bright side, everything happens for a reason, kind of person. Not this past week—this past week, I was the exact opposite. Here's what I think triggered it, and what I learned to turn everything back to positive and productive.
So what triggered this negative attitude? Perhaps losing a "dream" job a few weeks ago and not having an income any longer, having to re-tell my lengthy medical history to a new physical therapist and naturopathic practitioner, feelings of loneliness since everything I do, whether it's going to the gym, shopping, walking, or to any events at the Shul are done on my own. I had no reason to get up in the morning, no place to be at a set time, and rather than be grateful and make the most of it, I started reflecting on how my life has been full of emotional and physical pain. I began to think about how my life is nothing like I had imagined it would be; it's so much worse! Now you can see how I ended up in a deep blue state of mind. I think I cried off and on for about three days. I am much better now, and here's what I did to turn it around in one day.
- I cried and talked to people. It's okay to cry, and crying can release those negative emotions and be cleansing. The important thing is not to cry ALL day. Only for one hour during the day (except Shabbat) should a person allow themselves to feel sad. Not despair, not feeling bad for what they don't have—feeling bad for not living up to their potential and letting opportunities pass them. Resolve to seize every opportunity and that you'll do whatever it takes to live up to your potential is one way to pull yourself out of that state of mind.
- Have your medical history written on a document that you can update as needed. Having a document that you can print out will keep you from having to re-tell all of the tragic events over and over at each new appointment. Add your medications list as well so that will be up to date and not something you will need to verbalize. Not having to re-tell the tale will keep the stress of having to relive any event that may catapult you into sadness.
- If you don't have the motivation to get to the gym, do a workout at home or go for a walk, take a cup of tea and sit outside in the sun. When I am in front of a computer for hours, even with the blue light filter on, I tend to feel depressed and cranky. I have to get up and walk around and also step outside for 5 minutes to reset myself. I stand or stretch to keep the blood moving. In Chinese Medicine, slow blood causes a lot of issues. Getting up and moving around will help keep the blood moving. Qigong is a great way to get the energy of your body moving in the correct direction. It's excellent for moods, focus, energy, and overall health. You can find many free videos on the internet. I highly recommend doing Qigong daily.
- Make a list of all the things you can still do and say thank you. As a former martial artist and fitness enthusiast, I can honestly say I was a bad-ass. Now when I am hobbling around and can hear my knees popping with every step, the term bad-ass does not come to mind. It's so easy to recall what one used to do and forget to be grateful for what one can still do. If you can see, be thankful. If you can hear, be thankful. If you can urinate and defecate without help, be thankful. Even if you can't do those things, be thankful that you have support, and if you don't have help, be thankful. We should wake up every day and be thankful that we can breathe, that our eyes opened, that our heart is pumping.
- Clean up the diet. I am not a big soda drinker, but I do love sugar, cheese, ice cream, and bread. All of which are very acidic to the body. It's not good for the body to be acidic. When the body is acidic, it tends to have more inflammation. Inflammation has been associated with a variety of illnesses, including chronic pain, depression, and fatigue. I know, when I feel low I want to eat ice cream to make me feel better, yet that's the worst thing I should do. I should go for a walk or eat a healthy Greek salad.
- Laugh. It's tough to laugh when you feel low. If laughing is not an option, smile. The simple act of smiling will release chemicals in the body that will help elevate your mood. Maybe you can watch a funny movie? I tend to watch British comedies. The sarcastic, dry humor makes me laugh. Find a comedian and watch one of their videos, or even funny animals online. Anything that will cause laughter will be good for the mood.
- Be thankful, for everything, even the problems. Without the rain, there are no flowers, food, etc. Looking at life that way, one can start to see how there is nothing terrible. All is good. All the things that happen to us are for a reason. If we can start living our lives by being thankful for every single item, one may begin to see miracles. If you lock your keys in the car, be thankful. If you burn dinner, be thankful. If you have a new ache, be thankful.
I left my last appointment feeling like all the negative energy in my body had been drained out by my tears. The woman was so encouraging and reminded me of my strength. She told me that being born a double Leo with a Taurus rising was a gift. I have the power I need to get through all of these difficulties. I have a fire and stubbornness that would push me through what I would be required to go through to live my purpose. It's not just me, though. It's you too—if I can do this, anyone can. Make sure to start anything slow and talk to your healthcare practitioner first before making any changes.
Well, that's all I got for today. I will say this; once I started thanking for the "bad" things I was dealing with or had gone through everything started to get brighter. I went out in public. I didn't see my life as one mistake after another, and I didn't hate the pain anymore. Worry even subsided. I had to realize that if I am going to believe that everything happens for a reason, then whatever I have been through is part of that reason, and I should be grateful because it was that hardship, that struggle, that heartbreak, that disappointment that is part of my life's purpose. Indeed, my bad choices are just that, my bad choices. I am referring to having Breast Cancer, Ehlers Danlos Syndrome, and everything that's connected to having a chronic illness and breast cancer. Choosing to be with the wrong person, not setting boundaries in my personal life are not the things that I am referring to here, but they are still experiences that have caused pain. We all have a choice, to wallow or elevate ourselves. I'm a double Leo with a Taurus rising, and I don't stay down for long, how about you? I bet you are like me and will not accept defeat. Get up, dust yourself off, hold your chin high, and live your best life, because you can!