Pain is Not a Lifestyle

I was nine months postpartum and my entire body ached. All. The. Time. Prior to having a baby, I was prone to back pain due to stress but this pain was something else. I found myself wincing at the simplest movements, my range of motion greatly limited. I would collapse every day in bed, wondering how the hell had I aged twenty years in just a few weeks. Finally, I decided to give myself a month of weekly deep tissue massages. It was at a considerable financial cost, but at the end of the month, the pain was all but completely gone. I was amazed at how quickly I got my body back. I shared my surprise with my talented masseuse, explaining that prior to beginning treatment, I had resigned myself to a lifetime of chronic pain. To which she replied, “Linah, pain is not a lifestyle.” I was stunned by that one sentence. How many times do we assume that there can be no possible end to our suffering, and so with little to no effort, we adopt our pain as our new lifestyle? Why do we do this?

I believe that it is because we constantly debate whether or not our pain or suffering is legitimate. Should we be in pain? Should we actually be stronger/better/healthier/happier instead? Are we just weak? Maybe we should just bear the pain and go on with our life . We deny, ignore or try to will away our suffering simply because we believe that it should not be there in the first place. But here is the zinger: our pain and suffering is FACT. It is a reality, whether we like it or not. No amount of denial will change that.

When my body ached constantly after having my baby, I spent months trying to convince myself that my suffering was illegitimate. I shouldn’t be in pain; I must be doing something wrong; I’m too weak to be a mother. Or at the other end, the pain was normal after child birth and I should quit whining. I bullied/pep talked/ignored my way through each day. Yet in the end, the suffering stubbornly stayed where it was. It was only after rereading a book on self-compassion that I asked myself, “Why can’t I just accept that I’m in pain?” The reasons of why, or whether or not I should be in pain, became moot. I was in pain. I was suffering. Something had to change.

Many people believe that by accepting their pain as their reality, they will become “too soft” or too self-indulgent. A pity party will ensue. But actually, the opposite is true. Once we acknowledge, and connect with our suffering, we are galvanized to do something to alleviate it. We realize that our well being is worth seeking proper remedy, not just Band-Aid solutions. This can translate to making lifestyle changes, maintaining clear boundaries, or choosing to invest time/money/energy into proper healing channels.

The results can be freeing: with the pain finally being properly addressed, it WILL ease. So the next time something hurts, be it your body, your heart, or your spirit, accept the pain with compassion and do something about it.

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