There are over 1 hundred million in the U.S. alone, living in intractable chronic pain. That’s one out of every three. I’m one of them.
Chronic pain has the capacity to destroy the quality of our lives, resulting in isolation, financial ruin, watching our careers tank, and plummeting into depression and despair.
After twenty-five years writing books and having an exciting and meaningful career as a Celebrity Ambassador for the NMSS, national spokesperson and motivational speaker, a random twist of fate, including a medical misdiagnosis, ten years on monthly IV steroids, and irreversible spinal demise which led to spinal fusion surgery, I have spent the past five years living in excruciating pain, trying to function on opiods (and its attendant side effects), all of which led to my coping in the one way that’s always worked for me: By finding a way to make peace with the New Me, writing about it, and sharing what I’m learnng through a new book: On A SCALE OF 1-10: When Chronic Pain Hijacks Your life.
People cope in different ways. I write. A mere six months ago, I was close to giving up. In my speaking I have always used the signature phrase: “What we’re given is our fate. What we do with it is our destiny.” But I was running out of steam. Having always been able to turn the “proverbial lemons into lemonade,” I had come to conclusion that there is nothing redemptive about living in pain.
And then something important happened; As I wrote, I began to see my way through the darkness. Mostly by seeing my part:
* How I was pushing away the very people I needed most in my life.
* How I had internatlized feelings of failure and self-loathing. I began learning to stop apologizing. And to stop pretending.
* I learned to ask for help. And to find the people in my life who not only could handle the “real me,” but allowed me to give as well as receive. Everyone needs to feel needed.
* I forced myself to discard the people in my life who made me feel “less than” and made the effort to repair relationships and cultive a new communty of, new, more compassionate friends (a difficult task when you’re not at the top of your game.)
As I immersed myself in writing, I began to find meaning and purpose again. The process of neworking with colleagues, feeling re-connected and manifesting creativity has made a huge difference in my life.
I also found ways to treat myself-because God know, if anyone needs an occasional reward or repleshment it’s those of us living in chronic pain. For me, the two most difficult challenges were trading a robust social life for hours alone binging on Netflix. The other toughest challenge was touch deprivation, finding myself alone after having always had a partner
Oprah says: “Luck is preparation meeting opportunity.” I say, “Luck is Preparation meeting Opportunity meeting Action. We didn’t cause it, we can’t cure it, and we wouldn’t wish it on our worst enemies (I’ll although I’m not proud to admit that I’ve had my moments). But ultimately its up to us to figure out how to live with it. Because the alternative is irrevocable. And truly not what anyone of us would choose.
And so I’ve learned that there is indeed something redemptive about living with chronic pain. We can’t necessarily make it go away. But it’s an opportunity to reclaim our lives. We do it putting into action the lessons shared in On a Scale of 1-10: When Chronic Pain Hijacks Our Lives: By finding new, more positive perspectives on how we see the totality of our lives, not just the pain, but all the ways we continue to have something to contribute: to our families, friends, and community. We do it by putting in place proven strategies that I can promise will work–because they’re working for me! Mostly, we do it by asking ourselves: How can I be my most absolute best self?
That’s how we stop being a victim and start being victorious in what are admittedly challenging circumstances that bring even the toughest, most resilient among us to our knees.
I won’t lie to you. It isn’t easy to live in constant pain, try to function on opiods with serious side effects, reconcile the gap between who we “used to be” and who we are today, while remaining hopeful and confident in this new venture, which is part of a more ambitious endeavor: THE CHRONIC PAIN PROJECT, which will ultimately include the book, website, and monthly interactive podcasts.
I still spend the majority of my time lying on ice packs, but am using the time to create a platform for the project including the soon to be released TALES FROM UNDER THE COVERS VIDEO series, participating in podcasts, blogging on the topic, adocating for better pain management strategies, sharing my experiences and offering keynotes and workshops at chronic pain conferences, and continuing to keep my eye on the prize: Which is hope.
If this resonates with you, consider yourself a superhero for just getting out of bed in the morning. It takes courage, resilience, and a huge leap of faith. My goal is to become part of this growing community. We need one-another. Stay posted as this project continues to grow.