Living with chronic pain sucks. There, I said it. It just sucks.
For years I suffered from chronic headaches and multiple other forms of chronic pains.
I had my first headache in my early teens. From that point on I had frequent and extremely bad headaches (every three to six weeks) lasting for several days and often accompanied with nausea. I was told that I must be having migraines like my grandma did, but I never went to a doctor.
During my mid-twenties things became worse. The headaches became even stronger, lasted longer—up to seven days, or more—and got much more frequent. Eventually, I ended up with non-stop headaches, day and night and this lasted for four and a half years.
I also developed fibro-like symptoms—neck pain, muscle aches and joint pains. I couldn’t think and couldn’t even live with the pain anymore.
Even though I had to push through each day while traveling the world, working and volunteering, took pictures at amazing locations and looked normal from the outside, I was struggling with invisible chronic pain every minute of my life.
I was searching for the solutions.
First I went to doctors, then turned to nutrition, cleanses, an elimination diet, lifestyle changes, holistic practitioners, energy healers, holistic dentistry and, eventually, personal development and spirituality.
For a long time nothing seemed to help. It was challenging to live and even more trying to keep my spirit up.
I wanted to give up, but I never did.
Eventually, I healed.
It wasn’t a pill or a magical solution, but a combination of techniques—deep work on the mind-body-soul level. Small shifts that lead to a sudden but sustainable change, transformation and healing.
I knew it was possible. I just didn’t know how.
It was a slow process piecing the puzzle together, but in the end a pain-free day came and turned into a pain-free life.
And so can you.
If you are suffering from chronic pain now: don’t give up. I know you can heal. I know it is possible for you too.
However, I also know how difficult it is to exist with chronic pain. When I was in pain, I was searching for tips and resources on how to just live with it. Most articles came from those who either never had a chronic pain problem, or have healed and barely remembered their suffering anymore.
So I became my own cheerleader, my own resource and my own supporter. I wrote my own list to help me through life with chronic pain.
Now that I have healed, I only have the memory of life with the pain. But I have been there and I understand you. And I want to give you support. So, I’d like to share the tips I wrote for myself and other sufferers of chronic pain.
This message is coming from the old me—the girl who was living with non-stop pain, who was searching for solutions and who desperately wanted to heal. These tips helped me to survive. They helped me to get through, to not give up and to even enjoy my life while searching for my answers.
If this old me is where you are now, maybe they will help:
Keep things normal. When I was struggling with chronic pain, I tried to keep things as normal as possible. Of course, at time times I rejected social invites and I did have a difficult time focusing, being energetic or looking even remotely happy. But I tried to keep my life as normal as I could. I kept to my plans as much as I could. I did my best not to use the “I have a headache” excuse and did what I could. I am still amazed how, but I traveled the world with terrible chronic pain.
Keep a routine. Having a routine really helped me. My morning routine (waking up, oil pulling, journaling, drinking my lemon water, exercise, dry brushing and so on) was crucial. Keeping to a routine gave me a sense of power and a sense of accomplishment.
Journal. Journaling is still one of my most important tools of healing, self-discovery and fun. It allows me to be with my thoughts, express my deepest emotions and discover new layers of myself. And writing helps me to release emotions and to deal with problems. It feels liberating as well as relaxing.
Exercise. Running is extremely important to me—I just love it so much. Now that I am pain-free, I know for a fact that it is way more relaxing and much more fun without pain. Yet I love it so much that even with pain it felt amazing. It gave me a sense of freedom and happiness. It helped me through the days. It still does. But what if you are not a runner? Exercise is still important—working your muscles and your lymphatic system and releasing endorphins. Try to find something you love and are able to do. If exercising is not an option for you, or even when you do it you don’t get the ‘high’, look for something that helps you feel free and happy. It can be art, crafts, music, dance, cooking, writing, or anything else you are so passionate about that it makes you fly. Don’t ignore exercise, but find an activity that makes your heart smile.
Smile and laugh. Smiling and laughing can release tension. While it may not stop the pain, it improves my mood and state of mind. I know from experience that smiling and laughing can become a challenge when you are always in pain. It was for me at times—after all it was depressing to be in so much pain. But some cute kitten pictures and videos would instantly put a huge excited smile on my face (they still do). Google something cute and I bet you will smile.
Live in the moment. This was the most challenging for me. I often got so pissed at my headaches, I worried that they would never go away and I’d be upset that I couldn’t afford to hire a health coach or get a massage. I envied every healthy person on the planet. But I tried by best to turn my worry off for a moment. Instead of focusing on “what if” and the future, I did my best to just experience and be thankful for each moment. When I did, everything seemed better.
Hugs and kisses. Showing affection, giving or receiving a hug or a kiss won’t take your chronic pain away, but it will instantly elevate your mood. Feeling loved and safe is incredibly important to me. When I was struggling with chronic pains a little voice in my head always told me that I was not lovable because of the headaches. A hug or kiss or even a smile could instantly stop this voice and make me feel loved. Sure, finding love within self is crucial, but it doesn’t hurt to get it from elsewhere too.
Eat your fruits and veggies. When I gave up on Western Medicine I first turned to nutritional healing and a whole foods diet. I was sure food would heal me, because all the cool documentaries I saw said so. In the end food didn’t heal me though. Or at least it wasn’t only food. It was about the mind-body-soul connection—I had to approach everything from a holistic perspective. But food is important. Food provides nutrients and a good foundation for a healthy body, therefore for a healthy mind and soul. Increasing my fruit and vegetable intake was important. It also gave me hope. But most importantly it put a smile on my face—I just loved making my juices and salads, knowing that I was actively doing something to take care of my body. It was kind of an act of self-love.
Remember, you are not your chronic pain. Having headaches all the time and having my life wrapped around them, I couldn’t help but sometimes feel that I was actually my headaches. But I was not. I experienced headaches but I was not the headaches. I was—and am—a friend, a girlfriend, a runner, a traveler, a learner, a helper, an educator—and much more. But I was never my headaches. You are not your pain either.
Chick-flicks and youtube. When all else failed and when it was a particularly bad day, I turned to youtube, browsing motivational videos, listening to inspiring speakers, watching funny cartoons, looking at cat videos. And when it really became blah, I just reached for the most brainless chick-flick possible. I am not even a chick-flick person, yet sometimes it was needed to get through the pain. And you know what, sometimes it is just totally okay to turn to some mindless brainwash on Netflix.
I hope these tips help you to get through your days while you are searching for your answers.
Please, don’t give up. There is hope. There is healing. It is possible.
Author: Kat Gál
Assistant Editor: Hilda Carroll / Editor: Renee Picard
Photo: Steven Depolo/Flickr