Tomorrow my boyfriend arrives to visit me. He lives a 12-hour drive away from me and comes to visit every two to three weeks. Normally I would be very excited but I am in panic because I am having a major pain flare-up.
I am mad that my pain has flared right before he is coming. My mind races about how disappointed he will be that I am essentially immobile. I think about how I won’t feel well enough to go anywhere or do anything. It amazes me that even though I have been living with chronic pain for the past five years, I still immediately go into a negative panic mode when my pain has a major flare-up. The thoughts race so fast I don’t even realize they are happening…
“oh no, how long is this going to last?”
“am I getting worse?”
“I can’t take this any more?”
These panicky questions are then always followed by the never-ending attempt to figure out what exactly caused the flare-up…
“was it that I drove?”
“is it this damp weather we are having?”
“was it from picking up the cat?”
So my mind races through every single action I have done in the past two days trying to figure it out. I know from past experience that I am rarely ever able to pinpoint an exact cause, but nevertheless my brain desperately tries to make sense of what is happening in my body. My mind wants control. That is the thing when you live with chronic pain you lose control. For type-A people like me losing control is VERY hard.
I am learning, however, that if I want to stay calm, at peace and in a positive frame of mind, I need to relinquish my desire to control what is happening inside my body. I have to let go and become a neutral observer of the pain. Instead of worrying about why the pain is there and fearing it will last forever, I remind myself that the flare-up will pass and simply state “for right now this is how my body is feeling.”
Although this counteraction of “catastrophic thoughts”, as my therapist would call them, feels nearly impossible when my body is screaming in pain and my mind wants to continually yell “why me?”, I have learnt that the “why me?” question, along with all the others, don’t get me anywhere but depressed, anxious, and yes, even suicidal. Furthermore, stressing over the pain and analyzing every detail of it is not going to lessen the pain or make the flare-up end any sooner.
So tonight as I am faced with this surge of pain, I acknowledge that I may not have control over the pain but I can control my reaction to it.