Pain

I’ve been told I’m a bit philosophical . . . and I guess that’s a true statement. I’ve also decided that I’ve finally lived enough years and seen enough to have some opinions that may be worth listening to. For the last half hour or so I’ve been contemplating pain.

Perhaps you’ve read another post in my blog, and you know I have this autoimmune disease called Polymyalgia Rheumatica (at least that’s what the docs believe it is – I still have a bit more testing to go through). Whatever it is, it causes pain and muscle weakness. My shoulders ache, I have to lift my legs with my hands to get into my car. It seems to effect my throat and my eyes, and it makes me tired.

So, today as I was folding clothes with my shoulders starting to burn, I thought about pain in general. And it occurred to me that everyone has pain. Some is physical, some emotional. There’s psychological pain and even phantom pain. Many would like to think their pain is worse than another’s, but after watching many people who I know live in pain, and then living it myself, I believe that it’s not so much the degree of pain as the permission one gives the pain to control life.

Yes, pain can be debilitating. However, I know folks who’ve had and have pain, crippling pain (yes, literally crippling). But it never stopped them. I didn’t think too much about it when I was ten and watched my grandmother’s body turn on itself. I saw the physical effects the pain had on her body, the twisted fingers and the fragile bones. She never stopped, and she never complained. I was ten. I assumed it wasn’t that bad. In fact during the sixteen years I was privileged to know her before she died, I don’t know if I ever realized she had pain.  And in the past 50+ years I’ve met many like her, people whose pain caused visible disability yet were never stopped by it.

On the other hand I’ve also known people who every ache was a complaint. The pain was/is disabling. Their life completely stops because of the pain. I can’t say whether it’s worse pain than my grandmother and others like her have experienced. Even if these people sat next to my grandmother, there’s no way to know which pain is the worst . . . except perhaps a SED rate . . . that might be an interesting test.

What I do know is the pain for this second group of people has more power. And after years of watching people, I’m inclined to believe it’s power granted by the one who suffers.

Everything I’ve ever heard or read from a medical professional says that those who quit moving because of the pain will experience more pain. And more pain means even less movement for these folks. And this is my experience as well.

Those who dwell on the pain, those who allow the pain to be in control become more and more controlled by the pain. Those who refuse to stop because of the pain, still have pain, but it seems more bearable.

This is not to say we don’t need medicine for the pain. Whether it’s physical, emotional, psychological or other, often we need help. And there should never be any shame in doing everything we can to make it better. But God has created us with a great capacity to heal, and much of that healing seems to be taking authority over the pain. To not allow it to control us anymore than it needs to. (and even that will be different person to person)

There’s no way for me to tell if you are allowing your pain to control you more than it should. However, I have determined that those who talk about their pain more seem to be the ones who give the pain more power.

So in my situation, you’ll probably hear me talk about my pain from time to time because it hurts and I don’t like it. However, if you hear me say I can’t do something because of the pain, go ahead and question me . . . ask me if the activity will make it worse . . . ask me if I want to give the pain the authority to control me . . . because I intend to control my life even when I can’t control the pain.

 

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