Right now, I feel like my life has spun out of control. I am in the midst of a personal crisis, not completely related to my chronic pain, but a definite result of it to some extent. It is just one of the many things that are controlling me, silencing me. Other things I often feel control me are:
- My doctors control me. They have more control over me than anyone sometimes. When you see doctors for pain, basically whatever they say you have to do, you have to do it or else they won’t see you as a patient anymore. It doesn’t matter the cost, or the harm, or the stress, when you live with chronic pain, many doctors say jump and you have to say “I can’t jump, but if I could, how high?”
- My pain controls me. My body, not my mind, determines if I will go out, how long I will do my physical therapy, if I can eat, if I can sleep. Anyone living with chronic pain knows that you are forced to give up some control because your pain levels control the day.
- My medicine controls me. My medicine, if it is ineffective, controls what I will be doing because pain controls me.
- My emotions often times control me. Especially when you are going through a thorny time or a particularly difficult stressor, it often seems like my anger, sadness, anxiety and depression control me.
There are many other factors in our lives that control us. Some people have controlling families or spouses. The lives and needs of family members, especially children, also control our lives. There are bad things that happen by chance, like car accidents, death, loss, that are all out of our control. So, what do we have control of?
Alcoholics Anonymous often references the Serenity Prayer when speaking about the control that alcohol has over an alcoholic. “Grant me the serenity to ACCEPT the things I cannot change, the COURAGE to change the things I can and the WISDOM to know the difference.” Since our perception can often become skewed due to depression or anxiety over living with chronic pain, that third part is the one that trips us up.
I know, logically, that there are many things I cannot change, but I spin my wheels trying to change them, or I worry constantly. I also know there are things I can change and choose not to because it is easier (or less painful) not to change them. It is hard, when your life always feels like it is being turned upside down, to know the difference between what you can and can’t control.
Obviously we have control over our perception and how we handle things. The therapist in me knows that if I have a bad pain day and need to stay in bed that I can CHOOSE to see that as a day to relax, or my body telling me it needs to slow down. I can choose to see all the bad things that happen as learning experiences or fate. I can believe that when one proverbial door closes another one will open. But that’s easier said than done. I am trying though!
Life events, for the most part, are out of our control. We may contribute to the negative events, but in the end, the outcome is out of our hands.
Pain and medication is often out of our control, yet we can choose our doctors and be strong advocates for what we do or do not want to do. I CHOOSE to be on the medications I am on because I know that they help me. The one thing I can control about my pain is my health. I control what my body does (usually) and so I CHOOSE to go to the gym, pain or no pain, and try to get stronger.
Emotions, well, heck, I know that I have control over them and, despite what some people may think when they see me, I CHOOSE to control my emotions a LOT more than some would believe. I also CHOOSE to let them go. Sometimes the best way to release the grip of control that something has on you is to give in to it. I used to study Aikido, a form of martial arts that teaches you to go with your attacker instead of fighting against him. If you apply this to intense emotions, the result is the same. If I go with the anger or sadness or anxiety, let it go, process it and work through it, I come out with less battle scars.
Most importantly I CHOOSE to keep fighting. I don’t want to. There are many times where I want to throw in the towel, say uncle, give up, surrender, but I don’t. I put one foot in front of the other, take a breath, and take another one because despite the many reasons that I want to give up, I CHOOSE to live.