Sorry for not finding the time to put my thoughts out there into the internet recently. I have been so stupidly busy that time was something I didn’t have. Of course I will not complain as busy means financially viable, and in today’s world that is amazing. But yesterday I took an afternoon out of my hectic schedule to attend a meditation class for people who suffer from chronic pain.
I have made no secret of the fact that pain is part of my world, whether it’s the back ground pain of my spinal injury and the nerves trapped in the surrounding scar tissue, the various bone issues I have thanks to the decrease in density that goes with not using your legs, the ageing process that is hitting home in my shoulders or the neuralgia that strikes every now and again. It is the neuralgia that made me want to find a different coping mechanism, other than the usual pain medication. When it hits, the pain makes me a little crazy and can get too much to cope with. Pain killers won’t touch it so I thought I would search for another method of coping, and found a system called Mindfullness. I won’t explain it to you, mainly as I have only one session and am still trying to learn the method.
Instead, I wanted to explore my feelings on pain. I can’t mention any of the other people on my course but hearing their stories made me realise that pain is all relative. Some had obviously serious health issues that caused pain, other had conditions that led to pain that was unbearable for them but less than others. But everyone there was trying the class as they had reached a point where their pain had got too much. So whatever that cause or level of pain each member was going through, we were all in a similar place. Pain is like that. All relative. There is no level at which you can’t cope, as everyone has a different ability to handle pain. And there is no right way of coping either.
While we were discussing our stories one person stated that they hated the Nietzschean idea that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, as chronic pain is something that doesn’t kill you and doesn’t make you stronger. That funny thing is that I have always felt my pain does exactly that, makes you stronger. But maybe that is just the effect of my method of learning to cope with it. Treating it as an external force that needs to be beaten. I am the boss of my body, so it cannot be allowed to dictate to me how I live. It might be a typical masculine way of coping, but it does mean I have learned to beat a high level of day to day pain.
During our session we did a “mental body scan”, which involved meditating on our bodies and exploring them with our minds. This was a very unpleasant experience for me, as I had forgotten how many places on my body hurt. A great deal of my pain had become part of my background day to day life and I had stopped noticing it. So this exploration of body opened me up to a pain I had learned to cope with, and led me to spend the rest of the day in great discomfort… and I still am today. But it proved that you can learn to cope with pain and that ability does make you stronger. It also showed me that the reason why some of my pain still gets to me is that this that it is the straw that breaks the camel’s back, so to speak.
The thing that stuck me is that pain is something that is invisible but that can eat away at your day to day life. With the current obsession with getting people off sickness and incapacity benefits, those people who suffer chronic pain are among those most effected. Yet they really are entitled to support and assistance. While I may be able to cope with most of my pain, I have had it since birth. Even I have days where it effects me so much I can’t work, especially the “going off to work in an office or factory” type of work, so those who develop pain during their life cannot be expected to be able to carry on with a “normal” life. They need help to cope with the pain and support while they do.
So if you have pain in your life, don’t worry. You can learn to cope, and you can rebuild your life. For the rest of you, when you next hear all the rubbish the government is spouting about getting people off benefit remember that some people need and deserve those benefits. But more than that, remember that illness or disability could strike you tomorrow, or even later today, and that’s why the system exists. Make sure that if you ever need it, it still exists for you to call on.
Right, I’m off to relax and rebuild my coping strategies ready for another full day tomorrow. No rest for the self employed eh?