How to Cope With Chronic Back Pain–Successful MindSet
Eliminating self-destructive thoughts and replacing them with new and positive ones is essential if one is to learn how to cope with chronic back pain. Some so called “experts” like to use the word empowerment to explain how those who live with daily pain can handle their situation. They speak in generalities about the power of positive thinking. Well thank you very much, but that isn’t helpful in teaching people how to cope with chronic back pain.
Listen to Help, Not Reinvent
I ran into an old friend some months ago, but he wasn’t in the mood to celebrate. He was still searching for a job. We spent more than an hour talking in an underground garage.
“God damn it, I’m always tired,” said my friend. “It’s weary not being a provider. It drains you. It makes me hate Sundays. That’s the worst part of it.”
How to Give Back a Sunday (click for more)
I looked and I saw my friend. Yes, really saw him. His face was a mask of despair. Every fiber of my being wanted to comfort him, but I knew the best thing was to just let him talk.
“I’ve always liked Sundays,” he continued. “I’d wake up late and have brunch. Maybe read the paper, or watch football. Sometimes I’d take the kids to a movie or even let my wife drag me to the mall. Sundays were fun. Now I hate Sunday because that means the next day is Monday; then I have to start the ball-busting process again.”
Something connected us
My mom has being ill for a long time. She suffers from chronic back pain. I took over the house bills soon after I graduated from Hamilton College. My focus, for many years, was to keep her alive and out of a shelter for the homeless. The tradeoff was that my dreams would have to be put aside. So, I could understand the frustration my friend was feeling. Still, I had my Sundays. I didn’t dread Mondays. It’s not that I had become less ambitious—if anything, I’m pushing myself harder. It’s just that Sundays have always been important to me, even back home in South Africa.
Why I need my Sundays?
Even in the days of Apartheid South Africa, Sundays were special. For example, it was on a Sunday that a family friend, a white cop, came to dinner. It was on a Sunday when I sat on the porch with my grandfather and listened as he told me stories of warriors and chiefs. Yes, those were grand Sundays.
A tough question over coffee
Eventually we made our way to the local diner for some coffee. My friend, after a few minutes, asked me something that I wasn’t ready for: “are you happy with your life?”
“ Well, I’m not where I thought I’d be,” I said after a few sips of coffee. “ I gave up the woman I love because I didn’t think it was fair or reasonable to expect her to put her aspirations on hold until I straightened out my obligations. When I read about her success, I feel pride and regret.”
My friend nodded. “You’re happy at her success, but you wish you were there to share it with her,” said my friend.
I nodded back. “Things may not have turned out the way I visioned them, but I’m a better person. I’m tougher, wiser, smarter, and still have a lot of fight in me. My story is far from over, and your story is far from over.”
I saw my friend smile. Yes, I really saw him. His face wasn’t a mask of despair anymore. This wasn’t a Hollywood ending. I’m sure a part of him still felt like crap. Still, he was contemplating the possibility of having a happy Sunday. I could live with that.
Understanding the pain of others
We all hope to do great things in life. It’s important to write that ground-breaking novel; to make the movie that people will see for generations; to write that song or play that reminds people of their humanity; to make politics, technology, and medicine work for everyone’s benefit. But sometime it’s just as important to simply share our humanity with others—especially those who live with daily pain. A connection formed through a real understand of what they are going through and the willingness share your own pain and hard truths can be a big step in making them understand that they are not alone.
You got to do the hard stuff
It’s easy to say “go ahead and empower your self” to someone living with daily pain. It’s easy to say, ” you know, all those negative thoughts are making your back worse.” Oh please, just go away. Do you really think those in daily pain aren’t aware that negative thoughts are not good for them? If you really want to help you have to do the difficult stuff of listening, sometimes over and over again, until you get it. Until you have the courage to reach back to that moment of regret or pain and truly acknowledge what that person is going through. Sometimes it may start by giving back that special day. That’s the beginning of a successful mindset.
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