Productive Pain

We all experience pain. It’s one of the few givens in life. We’ll experience emotional and physical pain over and over throughout our lives to various degrees. For some of us, the pain is endless. We feel we never get a reprieve from the anguish. I’ve had Crohn’s disease since early childhood. It’s a very painful disease, emotionally as well as physically. Some days, even the smallest hill feels like Mount Everest. It’s so hard to get anything done when you’re in agony. It’s even harder when that physical pain is compounded by the emotional burden of a chronic illness.

When looking at someone with a chronic illness, many will only see the limitations. The things they can’t do or have. Often, the person with the disease also views their situation this way. All they see are the negatives. The struggles. We begin to tell ourselves about all the things we’ll never have or be in life because of our disease. And the people around us often agree. They might even discourage us from trying new things. “You shouldn’t eat that because of your illness.” “You’ll never be able to do that. You’re too sick.” We really start to believe that shit. Then, before we know it, we’re so far into the victim mentality that there seems no way out. We feel helpless. Hopeless. We start spending more days in the fetal position on the bathroom floor. More canceled plans. Eventually, there aren’t any more plans being made.

We’re in pain, emotionally and physically. We watch as the people around us go on living lives we can’t even imagine for ourselves. The darkness sets in. The loneliness is unbelievable. The emotional turmoil makes the physical pain unbearable. No one seems to understand. So we isolate ourselves even more. We lay in bed thinking about the things we wish we could be doing. The things we should be doing. The people we’re letting down. Despair.

And this is where many end up staying for the rest of their lives. Trapped in the cycle of pain and despair. What matters here is how we decide to respond to the pain. Do we let it defeat us? Or do we use that pain as a motivator for change? Just because one aspect of life sucks doesn’t mean it all has to. So many people told me I was too sick for this or that. “You’re too sick to live alone.” “How can you go to college when you’re always stuck in the bathroom?” I constantly doubted myself and the things I was capable of. Then I looked at the people telling me these things. None of them were people I admired. None of them were people I would model my life after. What the fuck did they know? I didn’t want to be like them … so why would I listen to a thing they had to say?

I did go to college AND lived alone. It was incredibly difficult but every morning I woke up and decided that I was going to do what needed to be done to have the life I wanted. So I did. I struggled. I wanted to give up so many times but I didn’t let any obstacle keep me from my goals. Not even when that obstacle was my own sickly body. I had so many days that I didn’t want to get out of bed. I felt awful. But I felt like shit every day … so that wasn’t a reason to not get up and get to work. Sure, I had a lot of days where I was laid out in the fetal position on the bathroom floor all day and I literally couldn’t do anything. But I didn’t let every day become those days. No matter how much I just wanted to throw in the towel and stay in bed, I got up and did something. Anything.

I graduated with a BS in animal biology and went on to get an MS in environmental policy and management. While in undergrad, I also began experimenting with lifestyle changes. Our pain is trying to send us a warning. Drawing our attention to something that needs to be dealt with. I started listening to my pain. Eventually, I found things that worked for me and my health has drastically improved. I’ve been off medication since 2004 and have been in remission for years. People often act as though these things came about by good fortune. “You’re just lucky.” There was nothing lucky about the hard work I put in every single day. I’ve accomplished the things I have because I decided I was going to. Period.

Trying to avoid our pain will only makes it hurt worse. When you’re in pain every day anyway, don’t let it hold you back. Be in productive pain. Change happens best through action. Even if all you have is five minutes of work in you … work as hard as you can for those five minutes. With a plan and determination, a whole lot can be accomplished in five minutes.

If you would like support working through your pain and despair, head over to my life coaching page and schedule your complimentary consultation today. You don’t have to face down the darkness alone.

If you have IBD and are looking for a supportive community, join my Facebook group LIVING WITH IBD!

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