My heart breaks when I meet a young person sharing that they are confronting life with chronic pain. At the age of 74, and living with two progressive and incurable conditions, I find it emotionally upsetting to think of the future they must learn to adjust to. I can only hope that they, too, will find ways to find purpose and meaning in their lives, despite the added difficult challenges ahead.

I would like to share tips I have used through my many years of living with my forever pain. Maybe there will be something you read that could help you with your challenging journey as well.

  • First, be sure to allow yourself time to mourn your losses. It is heartbreaking to no longer be able to do things you once loved. We all need to take time to allow ourselves this process.
  • At some point, however, it is time to try to pick yourself up and remember this is the one life you get to live, and you now need to find a way to move forward and learn how to live with this pain.
  • Be sure to find what medications are compatible with your body so you can try to address your pain to the best of your ability. If one type of medication doesn’t work, don’t give up—be sure to share when something is not working with your doctor so you can try something different.
  • Consider starting your day by taking a moment to go through your thoughts to review and remember what you can be grateful for. Think about supportive family, friends, a pet always by your side, waking up to life each day, the beauty of nature, etc.
  • Try to get good nutrition into your diet—many of us are limited on what we can eat, but we can focus on what is on our “good list” to find nutritious choices that our body can metabolize.
  • Be sure to take your medications and supplements as needed to keep your body functioning as well as it is able.
  • Try to find moments in your day to relax and cleanse your mind. A short afternoon nap may help you feel more refreshed for the rest of the day.
  • Find creative ways to move your body in a way that your pain allows. Being stationary can be difficult, both physically and emotionally. 
  • When you are feeling overwhelmed and wondering how you can keep going on like this, remind yourself that tomorrow is a new day that just might be easier to take on.
  • Try to surround yourself with positive people. 
  • Consider finding a support group you can enjoy learning from and being with.
  • Try writing and expressing your feelings, even if no one else ever reads it.
  • Look for ways to experience laughter.
  • Many others could use your support and friendship who are also trying to cope with life’s challenges. Supporting and sharing can help you better cope with your challenges and will help you to bring more purpose and meaning into your life.
  • When I need to pump myself up and remember to keep fighting, I remind myself that my children are watching how I am dealing with these issues. This helps to give me strength, since I want them to remember that I didn’t give up and tried to live life to the fullest despite my medical issues. The people you care about can learn from you in the same way.

These are just a few suggestions to consider as you take on a condition that may be with you for the rest of your life. We need to feel we matter and are here today for purpose and meaning. Remember, you matter, and you are living the life you have been given.

May you in time find the strength to tackle your condition and still find ways to find value and appreciation in your life.

May life be kind to you… 

–by Ellen Lenox Smith

About the Author:

Ellen Lenox Smith has emerged as a leading voice for patients living with pain. Currently, Ellen serves as Co-Director of Medical Cannabis Advocacy for the U.S. Pain Foundation and is a member of its Board of Directors. She is also active with the EDS RI support group.

Prior to patient advocacy, Ellen was a longtime middle school social studies teacher. She has been married for 50 years and is the proud mother of four adult children and grandmother to five grandchildren. She also is the author of two books, an organic gardener, and was previously a master swimmer and high school swim coach.

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