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Embracing the Gift of Pain

embracing_the_gift_of_chronic_pain_smallThis title of this post may have surprised you. How on earth could pain be some kind of gift? As someone who came into this world in pain and lived with it for the first 22 years of life I can honestly say I have come to know the gift of pain.

Living with pain forced me to go on an exhaustive personal and spiritual journey as I sought the source of my chronic discomfort. I believe it has made me the person I am today; a natural health writer, consumer advocate, and Reiki healer.

My Story of Chronic Pain

According to my mother, I was born sick. I barely slept and I screamed and cried all the time. Apparently, I could barely digest the formula I was being fed. Though I was taken to the doctor over and over again, they couldn’t find anything wrong with me. By the time I was a toddler, not only did I have physical health problems, evidence of developmental problems surfaced as well. I talked too loud, walked up to random strangers and hugged them, and had the attention span of a fruit fly.

My behavioral problems didn’t help me any in school. I wasn’t only ostracized by my peers; I was shunned by some teachers, and beaten up when I walked home. My isolated upbringing with my grandparents made visiting with extended members of the family a confusing and terrifying experience for me.

Since no doctor was able to figure out what was causing my chronic stomach pain or behavioral problems, it was concluded my issues were simply made up. Not only was I in terrible pain at a tender young age, I was not understood or accepted by a large majority of the people around me. I mention this because though traumatizing at the time, it forced me to develop an incredibly deep and involved inner world and imagination.

An imagination I would use to escape both physical pain and emotional rejection. I devoured books and by the time I was 13 years old, I was using natural health books to research both mine and my grandmother’s illness. I had little interest in the things that most teenagers thought about and were concerned with as I was already starting my spiritual journey.

Ever the solitary soul, I moved out on my own at 17 and started my own life. Heaven help me I didn’t know a thing about the world or navigating its many confusing social corridors. The only thing I cared about or was focused on was getting to the bottom of my chronic pain.

After many fits and starts, rejections, arguments with doctors, and an interesting array of natural treatments, I finally got a diagnosis.

How Living with Pain Enhances Your Spiritual Growth

  • Rejection Breeds Tenacity

Nobody wants to live with chronic pain. It’s Hell on earth to watch everyone around you live normal, happy, healthy lives while you stay at home nursing whatever ache or pain you’re dealing with today. Healthy people don’t understand you.

Friends, family members, employers, and co-workers look at you as though you’ve grown a second head when you suddenly double over in pain or miss work yet again. Even medical professionals give you a cursory glance while you sit half-naked and shivering in their cold, sterile offices before dispensing another symptom-suppressing drug.

It’s so much more than physical pain. It’s a type of dismissal from ordinary society. You are told, in no uncertain terms, that you don’t belong and you’re not wanted. That doesn’t mean people will actually say this to your face but most are inherently afraid of what they don’t understand, especially when it forces them to come to terms with their own mortality. You can just sense it. It’s in the air almost as though everyone around you is waiting for you to leave so they can exhale.

I know, it my case, it wasn’t so much the wanting of acceptance as it was the wanting of belief and validation. I was bound and determined to figure out what was wrong with me no matter how many doctors told me it was “all in my head”.

I was tireless.

The more I was dismissed and told I was making it up or had a mental health problem, the more determined it made me to keep climbing that mountain. It took me on a type of journey few human beings go on simply by virtue of necessity.

I absolutely cannot stand being told I’m wrong when I know I’m right and I’ve never been much for submitting to authority (parents, doctors) because I learned very early on in life that just because someone is older than me or has a degree behind their name, it does not mean they know better. Plain and simple.

The rejection I felt made me strike out on my own, learning how to become self-sufficient and trust my instincts at a very early age.

  • Appreciation for the Moment

Another gift of pain I’ve come to notice over the years is appreciation for the moment. When you’re healthy and feel no pain, life is limitless, especially when you’re young. However, when you know you’re going to have good days and bad days, you have to learn to make the most out of every moment. Also, when you have so much pain in your body, you learn to escape it through imagination and observation of things outside yourself.

Stopping to appreciate a beautiful sunset or the way a parent is lovingly explaining something to a child is an incredible step to spiritual centering. I learned at an early age how to step back and observe the world around me as though it had slowed to a crawl.

The flight of a bird, the gentle alighting of a butterfly on a flower, the dew on an autumn leaf. When you learn to slow down like this, you regain control and stop the chaos and frenzy and, for just a moment, you forget the pain. You appreciate the beauty in little moments that others take for granted. For me, this has been a gift I have used to deepen my Reiki practice.

  • The Power of Compassion

Another gift of pain is the incredible power of compassion. Living with pain helps you to more clearly see and understand the pain of others. I may not be the most patient of people at times but I feel my own suffering has helped me to see the physical or emotional pain behind an insult, a crude remark or a dirty look from someone else.

Sometimes this person is a complete stranger and I have no idea what they’re going through but I try, whenever possible, to use that compassion to send them healing and love. As I’ve learned, people who are happy, healthy, and whole do not go around destroying other human beings and fighting anger or pain with more of it will only add fuel to the fire and perpetuate the cycle.

  •  The Acceptance of Death

This isn’t mean to be morbid. I think people who live with chronic pain and illness are forced to look at their own mortality a lot more often than healthy people. For me, the acceptance of death came early in life. No, I have no desire to exit the planet before my time but I do understand more clearly that death is a part of life.

That this human life is finite and only part of a journey that will continue long after I’m no longer flesh and blood. This feeling helps me to open up and accept the next life and the beauty of it in a way that enhances my healing and spiritual practice. It also deepens my certainty that there is a Higher Power and that I am part of it.

  • The Passion for Helping Others

To me, the ultimate gift of pain is the passion that I have developed for helping others. This started early in life with all that hugging of random strangers but has since developed into the more socially-appropriate writing and healing I’ve begun to do.

Three years ago, I started this website, which is dedicated to helping others who live with chronic pain and illness and, like me, have not been taken seriously.

I have found that chronic pain and illness are usually caused by five basic things:

1. Dietary Factors (Poor Diet, Food Allergies)
2. Environmental Toxins
3. Stress
4. Lack of Sleep
5. Medication Side Effects

Once you get these under control, you get to the bottom of your symptoms, which means instead of simply covering up the pain, you actually heal it. That’s the journey. It never is the destination. It’s the first step you take to say, “This will not beat me. This will not defeat me.”

I’m not going to tell you this road is an easy one. It’s filled with pitfalls, stumbles, pains, and setbacks but with each incident, you just get stronger.

Eventually, you heal yourself and accumulate enough knowledge and begin paying it forward. It’s the gift of chronic pain that makes me grateful that I wasn’t born healthy. If I was, I wouldn’t be the person I am today; a person I have grown to love.

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