The image that comes to mind when hearing the words “chronic pain,” is not a good one. Chronic pain comes with depression, disability, loneliness, addiction to drugs, the inability to have any fun anymore; people with chronic pain sure are sad saps…

Or so one would think. Reading, watching television and movies, and hearing statistics is not conducive to feeling good about your situation when you live with chronic pain.

Luckily for me, when my pain started I couldn’t read, I basically only watched cartoons, and statistics were Greek to me. I was two.

I had no idea I was supposed to be a sad sap so instead I did what kids do: I played with my buddies, went to school, and ALWAYS went to bed on time since I was exhausted every night. The fact that I was different from the people around me was starkly apparent, even at a young age, but since I’m a joiner, not a watcher, I did the best I could. When I walked to the store with my friends and it hurt too much to walk, my best friend Beth would lift me up on her shoulders and carry me.

It wasn’t until much later that I found out I was supposed to hate my pain. I spent years doing just that, and spending too much of my precious energy trying to eradicate, or at least subdue it. When I wasn’t successful I became angry, frustrated, and, yes, depressed. I became a sad sap.

Finally, I decided to forget how I was supposed to feel about my pain, and instead I remembered what I did as a kid. I didn’t think about it, or worry about it, I just DID. And pain came along for the ride.

Ironically, I am adventurous and athletic by nature. The pain holds me back, but rarely does it stop me entirely. So, despite dire warnings from others about “pushing too hard,” I move my body every day, pain or not, because I WANT to. It makes me happy, even in pain.

I let my pain teach me. It is very wise. Chronic pain has taught me compassion, kindness, resilience, inner strength, and genuine gratitude. These are skills I carry with me every day, along with my pain.

I am extremely discerning about how I spend my energy, because the chronic pain is very greedy and takes so much of it. But what I’ve found is that a lot if the busyness that people find themselves in is just a bunch of noise, so, I don’t honestly feel like I’m missing too much.

The truth is that chronic pain is a thief. It has taken much from me: the ability to work in my profession, physical prowess that I’ll never have no matter how much I try, hours, and hours of my life that I’ve had to spend in bed or on the couch due to my pain, the ability to have children and the experience of being a mother, a carefree childhood, going to the prom, the list goes on.

But here is a greater truth: Pain is never the enemy; only your response to it is. It will be there after you stop fighting it, and whether or not you are depressed. Your anger will do nothing but add fuel to the fire it creates.

So, with this knowledge, remember your power. The power to choose your attitude, and how you walk, or roll, or limp through your days. You won’t beat your pain, but you will live your life. YOUR life, one that is beautiful, filled with opportunity, and experiences, and wonder, with or without pain.

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