How Chronic Pain has Improved my Life

How Chronic Pain has Improved My LIfeChronic pain has become a central theme to everything I do ever since receiving my ankylosing spondylitis diagnosis. When I wake up, it’s there. When I go to bed, it’s still with me. It’s a constant mental and emotional drain that, initially, threatened to ruin my life. Now, almost a decade later, I’ve managed to reframe my chronic pain from weakness to superpower. And so should you.

 

From Isolated Victim to Community Member

At first, the fact that strangers and loved ones alike didn’t understand my plight made me feel completely isolated. I felt stranded as an outsider who couldn’t take the stairs without straining. I felt like a failure who couldn’t jump out of bed and rush around the house when I forgot to set my alarm before work.

Then I found out there’s an entire community of sufferers like me out there who are all online, swapping horror stories and giving advice. The psychological effects of chronic pain can be staggering. Finding a community gave me hope. Fighting my everyday battle was no longer a numbers game that I was inevitably going to lose. I found just enough hope to carry on.

Reframing my Medical Treatment

Over the years, I’ve had terrible experiences with doctors and specialists. I’ve had nightmare medications prescribed to me that have caused hair loss, fatigue and left my immune system crippled against staving off even a small infection. Through it all, I’ve been able to experiment and track my progress. Gradually I acquired enough experience and knowledge of my prescription options to be able to carry on a more responsible conversation with my doctors. This has allowed me to find doctors in whom I am confident, erasing years of stressful interactions and failures.

Taking Responsibility for my Wellness

Another massive improvement in my life is the realization that my resilience is naturally higher than the ‘normal’ people I used to feel so jealous of. With every day that I’m able to get out of bed, go to work and play my part in society despite my chronic pain, I’m proving that I’m at least that much stronger than the next guy. I’m no longer an Average Joe. I’m a victim of chronic pain who doesn’t flinch in the eye of often insurmountable odds. While everyone else is shooting hoops in their daily lives, I’m tossing around the medicine ball and growing stronger.

I didn’t really grow up in a household that valued physical prowess. I grew up as a book worm (I still am!) and scoffed at the prospect of ever doing a single pull up or going to a yoga class. In countless studies, regular exercise has proven to not only improve physical health, but mental and emotional health as well. When the chronic pain hit, my physical well being took a nosedive and I had no inborn concept of what it takes to begin an exercise routine. In time, however, I began to learn from other sufferers and from better doctors that exercise is one of the greatest treatments for ankylosing spondylitis. Now I’m the guy who regularly invests in home gym equipment to test it out and determine if it helps fight the chronic pain.

Whether it’s as simple as having a reliable morning routine or hitting the gym, taking personal responsibility for my wellness has improved my outlook by leaps and bounds.

 

Becoming More In-Tune with my Diet

I also wasn’t properly introduced to what healthy eating habits were in my youth. Yeah, my parents understood the food pyramid and tried to make sure that there was one fruit, one vegetable and one meat with every meal, but that was as far as I ever got. Even as an adult, I just assumed that calories were calories and that was all there was to it. Through my research and interactions with other chronic pain sufferers, the phrase ‘you are what you eat’ has taken on enormous importance. Now I’m carefully tracking everything I consume and monitoring it alongside my flare ups. Over time, I’ve been able to establish what foods seem to correlate to my inflammation and what foods don’t.

 

Getting Involved in the Community of Chronic Pain Sufferers

Beyond these improvements to my life, I’m now writing this blog. I have a website that I regularly update and use to keep in touch with other sufferers. The things I’m writing about this struggle of mine are resonating with other chronic pain sufferers and, for that, I feel the biggest sense of pride. The chronic pain that once held me prisoner has now become something that actually connects me with other people and helps improve their everyday battle, too.

It occurs to me that maybe, as sufferers, we should remind ourselves on our worsts days all the different ways that chronic pain has actually changed us for the better. I think you’d be surprised to find that there is more strength to find in your suffering than you might think.

Try it now: leave a comment below telling me one way in which your chronic pain has improved your life!
  1. 43 years of pain and it tells me I’m still alive and undefeated. Nobody ever promised me life would be easy. To be honest I think A.S. has made me a better person. It provides me with a challenge to find innovative ways to accomplish my goals, compassion for other people’s pain and to be grateful for all of the good things I’ve been blessed with. As you’ve said, every day is a battle and I’ve come through them victorious.
    Next week I have an appointment with a new rheumatologist. The waiting time for new patients is 6 months. I think it will be worth the wait. He is the son of my last rheumatologist who died 25 years ago and was arguably the best doctor I’ve ever known. I don’t have much hope for new meds helping me at this point, however I’m hoping to get a handle on the vasospasms in my carotid artery which are caused by bone spurs growing on my C-1 thru C-7 vertebrae. I’ve been having seizures and have episodes of passing out in the middle of physical activities. Surgery was ruled out this past December as too risky.
    I don’t know if the rheumatologist can help, but I do know my life will go on and I will keep living everyday in the manner I choose. I spent yesterday preparing the ground for this year’s garden. Today I will work on adding more raised wooden garden beds and tomorrow I plan on building the new chicken coop.
    A.S. doesn’t mean I can not do what I love, it just means I have to work harder to succeed. Failure is not an option. Never kneel, never submit, never surrender.

  2. Having chronic pain has caused me to see that there are lots of people out there also dealing with different health problems that affects their lives. I hope to be part of the help, part of the solution, part of the comfort in the lives of others in pain.

    I also think I need to start something like what you’ve done here…this blog. Yes I think that I do, need to do that.

  3. Through the 40 some odd years of being in constant pain, working and raising four fabulous children I have found they my struggles make me a more empathetic person. I understand we all face struggles in our daily lives and it is amazing who you can support when you realize this concept. To keep life simple , speak kinder, look for the joy, listen intently,love hard, laugh easily and reach out to one another with a helping attitude.