Early in the pain recovery process, I read over and over that I should stop talking about the pain. It’s in multiple books and podcasts on the subject, so being the good little student that I am, I took that to heart and immediately stopped all pain discussions. I remember telling my husband that I was going to stop talking about symptoms but he was not to assume that I didn’t have any just because I wasn’t talking about them. LOL
But I learned some valuable lessons when I completely stopped talking about my pain. I’d like to share them below in the hopes of inspiring you to go on your own journey into self discovery.
I remember having to bite my tongue many many many times a day at first. I hadn’t realized just how often I was sending myself reinforcement that I was in pain until I stopped. Suffice it to say, between my family, friends, or random strangers, I was just in the habit of complaining about pain. “How are you?” “oh, you know, my back is killing me, but other than that….” OOPS! Nope.
It was eye opening and illuminating and not just a little embarrassing.
I also realized how often I used my pain as an excuse to get out of something. Whether it was additional work, a volunteer task, or babysitting the grandchild, my pain was my reason to say, “No.” Realizing how often I used this as an excuse was humbling. Previously, I had been offended at the idea that my pain served a purpose. I had to learn to set boundaries in healthy ways.
I was shocked at how I used my pain as social lubricant. It was a great conversation piece with acquaintances, co-workers, online community, etc. It was an instant connection. And I got sympathy, shared ideas on treatments, or just plain old understanding. I see this pretty often in the tms coaching world and I always try to gently point out to others that while the immediate connection feels validating, the long term reinforcement of pain signals as a path to acceptance is not going to help anyone get pain free.
I learned to talk about my emotions more. Because physical pain sensations were off the table, when someone inquired about how things were going with me, I was left with the option of either a short, curt “just fine” type of response, or an honest answer that included emotions, both joyous and sad. Plot twist. This helped all sorts of relationships. When we share ourselves emotionally, even just a tiny bit, we allow others to do the same. Win-win.
I took a much needed step away from monitoring the pain. When no longer able to discuss symptoms, why bother really looking at them all that much. It’s not that the pain wasn’t there, but I did get a needed step toward indifference. And that was HUGE!
Mostly though, I saw how self identified I was with my symptoms. I didn’t like admitting this to myself, but when I finally did, I started to heal rapidly. I am not a “fibro person,” scoliosis survivor” or a “migraine sufferer.” I am a feeling human who is three dimensional, experiences an array of emotions and offers self compassion for them all. This was my way out. This was my ultimate landing spot out of chronic pain. The pain could go away because it served absolutely no purpose any longer.