How to cope with pain

We have all done it. Paper cuts. The thin slice makes you want to scream and for a day or two all you can do is keep feeling your fingertip bump into just about everything. You realize how directly you use your fingers and sort of wonder how you ever made it through life before the paper cut. This example is small but it is real.

Pain of the physical (and emotional for that matter) is real. It can be a long drawn out illness or a short burst of a sickness. Either way being in pain is hard. You physically ache and you feel overwhelmed by everything around you. The world seems harder to bare and you just want to stay under the covers.

Pain isn’t a solitary issue… it creeps in to our relationships. For those of us that live with, care for you, or want to avoid you during pain … your wellness level matters.  It is hard enough being sick or in pain without having to worry about everyone feelings but we are intricately connected and what we feel is shared with us even if we do not voice our discomfort directly.

So what happens when your pain threshold is reached by you and those around you? Well the truth is that you do your best to take care of yourself and ask for help when you need it. Sounds simple enough but these two things are hard for us. Sometimes we do not want to be sick or in pain and want to avoid the very idea of caring for ourselves. Of course we know this isn’t healthy and would never recommend it for another but for ourselves we try to “push on through”. The second can be even harder for some because you are showing your vulnerability. There is a risk in asking for help because it is very possible that the person will not want to help. Then you feel in pain and alone. We often will do whatever we can to avoid the idea of slowing down for health reasons and/or asking for another’s support.

And while the above reasons, and many others, are valid in nature they do not provide us with the core answer to the issue. When we are sick or in pain we need to rest, slow down, and take the necessary steps to recover. This just the truth of the matter and very little happens if we try to avoid it. Also, there are some pains that we simply can not tackle alone. Being in pain feels huge and so taking on the task of healing can appear even more overwhelming. True, you might ask for help and not receive it but at that point you have lost nothing. And even if the person you are asking doesn’t want/or can’t help they most likely will have an idea of someone that can help.

The thing about human nature is … we rarely want to see another suffer. There is something deep within each of us, even the most harshly selfish, that makes us want to help another in pain. This makes sense considering that we want to keep the species alive. Beyond the most basic levels of our nature we also want to be there because others have been there in our time of need. It is a cycle of giving back that makes sure that we move forward.

I’m not suggesting that pain is not isolating. It is. Pain can make you tired, upset, and fearful. It can push those away that you love most in your frustration in the healing process. However, if there is one thing I would suggest to those of you in pain currently, it would be to think about how grateful you will be when you are on the mend or in full recovery. Just like with the paper cut … you realize that you were taking your body for granted and now you have an opportunity to rejoice in being healthy.

This may all sound rather trite, but I assure you that when you take the time to reflect back on being healthy, strong, and without pain you will find yourself smiling. Not paying attention to not being sick is how we usually exist. It doesn’t make sense to focus solely on how we are without pain, yet when we have experienced pain we then find even more space and appreciation for the lack of it.

It boils down to this… take care of yourself and slow down when you are in pain, ask for the support of others, and look forward towards a time when you are healthier.


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