A Chronic Pain Patient Talks About What She’s Thankful For

A Chronic Pain Patient Talks About What She’s Thankful For

 by Jean Price

Editor’s Note—The National Pain Report asked its readers what they are thankful for. A long-time reader and frequent commentator, Jean Price shared her thoughts in the commentary section which we felt deserved a wider audience.

It’s hard to narrow down all that I’m thankful for…but you all most likely already know I’m not good at “short and sweet”… or even “short and to the point”!! I have so much, so many blessings both large and small that flood my mind when I think of this question! And truth is, I think of it quite often! Because thankfulness always pulls me through the pain and the overwhelming effort of living with pain…and lands me “standing tall”, right square in the middle of enjoying life and all that life holds—besides pain—AND despite pain!!

I’m most thankful for the all the things I learned about CHANGE and LOSS, both pre-pain and post-pain…or rather with pain and in pain…that help me accomplish LIVING JOYFULLY, and thankful too for the people who taught and mentored me and stood by me as I learned. And in this process, I found a loving God….who stayed at the edge of the black hole of pain and loss with me…long enough for me to decide that’s not where I wanted to live! And He has helped my faith grow by leaps and bounds! I’ve had desert times, do-over times, “you’ve got to be kidding” times, even times of revisiting that black hole when I realized in some new way how alone pain makes me…even though I am surrounded by a loving family. Yet I’m thankful those times are a rarity and only last a brief while. You see, one hint of thankfulness backs me away from the edge!

So, I’m thankful for thankfulness, I guess you could say! This last couple of years, I’ve also grudgingly accepted that “gifts” do grow out of this pain of mine! I’m thankful I can see those as gifts now…like all the special people I have met who also live with pain, the focus I have now of being more compassionate to others, and even my peace of mind within the chaos of pain that enables me to be more peaceful about the little and big upsets of “regular” life! No, I can’t say I’m thankful for pain as a teacher…I never would have voted for it! But I’m thankful I CAN LEARN from pain, and become more, not less!

So, what else am I thankful for? The opportunity right now to reflect on all this, and to know I am loved and lovable, regardless! And to realize no one can take this from me, no matter what happens in the world of medicine and government regarding pain! And it’s so precious, I will work hard to not give it away when difficulties arise! Because they will…and yet that’s not really any different for those who don’t live with physical pain. We all have unseen burdens, and we all can help each other along the way…I’m thankful for this also!

**Note: Just to define my black hole reference…it is about the horribly alone feeling we have when we realize no matter how much we are loved by others, we are still on our own…with only ourselves! We live with ourselves 24 hours a day, every minute…in pain…and no one can come in there with us. So, this place is dark and scary and sad! We find some hope or count our blessings and it helps steer us back to life. (It isn’t a reference to suicide, although I wonder if some who choose to step into the hole and stay there can then lose hope and turn to suicide at some point.) The black hole may also be the essence of self-pity, on a massively destructive scale. I knew a man who once said self-pity is a great coping tool! You use it for no longer than a couple of days maximum, and then get up and go on down the road! Because he said, it’s boring to be there very long, alone!! There is some truth in that, I suppose! I think the dark place is also where many people can realize God…truly realize there is a loving force bigger than themselves and they aren’t alone. For me, this hole is just my way of explaining a part of the journey of life with change and the resulting loss, the place we are when we start to grieve and heal.

Authored by: Jean Price

There are 10 comments for this article
  1. Jean Price at 12:53 pm

    Donna…I too worked in a service oriented job as a nurse. And thankfully learned about grief and loss as part of one of my last positions, which has helped me with the why’s and the WHY nots, also! I had a wonderful teacher who AFFIRMED the awfulness of pain, and wouldn’t let me count my blessings UNTIL I also had said this pain was awful and I hated it!! So I recommend “awfulizing” your pain BEFORE YOU EVEN COUNT ONE BLESSSING! Otherwise, it’s just feels like rationalization and isn’t really as helpful. Please rest assured I too struggle to reconcile my idea of a loving God, powerful enough to change anything…with my years of pain and more pain, and problems heaped on more problems!

    I don’t believe pain is a punishment! And I don’t believe God gives us trials…to test us or train us using “hard knocks”! Not ever! (The consequences of our decisions provide us enough of that!). Yet, I do believe anything that touches us has passed through Him first! So, how then do we hurt this bad if God is really a good guy!?! I remember the day, years ago I sat hurting and miserable and said, “God, if You came right here to my kitchen table to have coffee, and sat with me and told me ALL the reasons and all the outcomes of WHY I HAVE THIS PAIN…and WHY YOU OBVIOUSLY COULD CHANGE IT, BUT DON’T, well it just would NOT be good enough for me! No, it wouldn’t. In my humanness, I just wouldn’t understand or maybe even care!! Sorry, I really wouldn’t! It hurts too much and for too long! YET, I do trust You, and I trust Your love for me! I’ve felt it and seen it! So, the best I can do is work to believe that You have YOUR reasons, reasons I can’t see or know or even accept now…and that no matter what, You’ll be with me AND GRACE ME and bring good out of all this awfulness each day, and help me see beauty and joy even when I’m hurting, even in each moment of my need!! THAT I CAN ACCEPT.” And I still do.

    Some days I need to revisit this time. Some days it doesn’t matter so much to just allow the mystery. Please don’t think me saintly, I’m so not! I’m as human as the next person and my thankfulness comes harder some days. Yet it has never deserted me entirely, just like God. He always seems to know what I need most, when I need it. And He finds ways to enhance and enlarge my life…even with my health boundaries. That dear teacher who became a special friend and mentor once told me if we are going to ask WHY (which is always a question born of deep spiritual pain)…then don’t we also have to be fair and ask WHY NOT?. In other words, if I ask why about the bad stuff…in fairness, I have to ask WHY about the good stuff, the many blessings, too. And both are equal and unanswerable mysteries to me. Know I will keep you wrapped up in my prayers, Donna! As you see, it’s others who have helped me survive and avoid more trips to the black hole…and if I can somehow be a tiny beam of light in your dark place, I’d be honored. I’m reachable through Facebook and messenger and email. You’ve already helped me by giving me an opportunity to revisit that day in my kitchen and refresh what I most likely will cling to today too! So, thanks!.

  2. Jean Price at 11:56 am

    Maureen, thanks for your generous compliments and your honesty! You also have been a person I relate to and learn from with your comments! And yes, I also believe we EACH visit that scary place, or spend a great deal of energy and resources avoiding the truth of it’s existence! (Denial of the awfulness and the aloneness of pain is a hard job! And can make pain even more difficult to live with.). The man I referred to who told me self pity was a good coping tool IF only used for shortened lengths of times had Multiple Sclerosis, and was wheel chair bound. At the physical therapy unit, I would walk on the treadmill with every step hurting like wildfire…as he worked on his upper body strength because he couldn’t walk a single step! I remember wondering if I had the choice, would I choose such pain to be ABLE to walk OR choose the inability/impossibility to walk! I never did truly come up with an answer, I was just swayed temporarily… depending on how much pain I was in at the moment! And also knowing, as you said, we both would have times of being so tired of the aloneness of the struggle to endure, regardless of pain or lack of function! Likewise, I think most ALL people carry an invisible burden, a “pain” of some sort…and also have seen the black hole of aloneness in their type of pain. Life is just dang hard…but always good, too..lwhen you get right down to the basics! I’m so glad you have your faith and know that God’s strength can and does pull us back, time after time. Bless you, dear lady!

  3. Jean Price at 11:28 am

    Howard…I’m so very sorry you are having such a hard time with your pain and your body! It’s not fair and you don’t deserve to live like this!! Like so many of us, it sounds as if you have tried things and then had other issues arise, and that defeats the small amount of help a medication or therapy could be. My heart goes out to you. And I so wish I could shed some light on what might be helpful! Yet, I have no one-size-fits-all words of wisdom or answers from my experience to know what you might try next for relief. We each are so individual and unique in our situations of pain. However, I do know we usually have our OWN inner wisdom to help guide us…if we have just a little help uncovering it. I would ask you….if you have an understanding, compassionate doctor; if you feel your doctor is up to date on new therapies and would refer you to others if he/she felt something untried might help; if you have support at home or with friends who might help be a sounding board for you as you try to figure out what next; if you live in a state that allows Kratom or medical marijuana and might consider finding out more about these; if you have the “freedom” to rest when you can, or to use any special distractions that may help you; if you have told your doctor the pain is definitely worse and asked him to please research any options and be creative to help come up with something you might try; or if there are local chapters of support for your type of condition, where people who have this may have good suggestions. My guess is over the years you have pursued much of this, but I felt I could at least hold them up on the slight chance something might come to your mind. Perhaps someone will see your comment here and have similar issues, and offer their insight. The disturbed sleep creates its own problems, and is a major factor for those with pain. For myself, I have to get out of bed and “readjust” the pain, because each position has its own pain! And then I do some imaging to get back to sleep. Or I stay up and write or read or play solitaire, hoping I can sleep later. I also take a low dose of melatonin at bedtime…which I think gives me longer periods of sleep. The restfulness of sleep with pain is always in jeopardy, though. For me, short times are better because the pain intensifies the longer I stay in one position. I can tell you I WILL be praying for you, for clarity in finding what you need and for little bits of goodness to line your path each day. Bless you, Howard.
    (Just FYI, the imaging definitely helps me cope and I would be happy to teach it to you, or there are several books out on how to do this. I’m reachable on Facebook, and messaging if you should want to contact me. And there are many others who would extend a helping hand of compassion, too, in the various organizations. NONE of us survives or thrives alone, so reaching out is important, as you’ve done here.)

  4. Maureen at 6:49 am

    Hi Donna, It’s good to see you back.
    I understand what you wrote. I’ve been in that place. My only answer to why God allows such suffering is that He has an ultimate reason and perhaps it is simply that people keep their eyes on Him for comfort.
    I feel your emotional pain and will keep you in my prayers for inner strength. I know that it’s all so very hard to live with. So, hang in there and try try try to keep strong. Most days, that’s all we can do. Look in the mirror and give your beautiful self a big smile! lol
    Hugs to you…

  5. CP Sufferer at 12:41 pm

    I’m thankful for the opportunity to learn and grow through the experience of living with Chronic Pain, Fatigue, Anxiety etc.

    My compassion and love toward others has magnified and increased tremendously.

    I’ve become more compassionate, understanding and tolerant of others.
    It’s amazing that I didn’t know what I didn’t know. This has been an ongoing life learning experience.
    I get that it’s challenging to be understanding when the experience isn’t first hand.
    Given this, I’ve become more compassionate and understanding of those who judge me for what they don’t comprehend and understand.
    I realize others have fear, resentment and frustration over what they can’t fix, understand or control.

    I’m grateful for the precious times and experiences I enjoyed prior to pain, fatigue and anxiety. My memories are more precious than ever. I embraced life and joyful experiences and those experiences are more important than ever and I’m so grateful for what I’ve experienced prior to pain. Regret is sad. I do have some regrets which is part of life, yet I have so much to be grateful for.

    Now, I’ve learned to appreciate joy in simple pleasures.
    Although there are many things I can no longer do (daily things taken for granted and the more physical things such as skiing, dancing, kayaking, scuba, traveling the world etc.), I still find joy in watching others enjoy these life experiences and enjoy music as much as ever. I appreciate family time as much as ever, if not more.

    Enjoying many simple things I was too busy for prior to daily pain, is a gift.

    Much love to all,

  6. Maureen at 8:20 pm

    Hi Jean, as always, it is comforting to be able to relate to yet another of your writings.
    Knowing that I am not alone in this world in pain helps a lot.
    I am ‘thankful for you’ and the support you have given to me in the past.
    I completely understand your comments on ‘the edge of the black hole’.
    I weirdly find comfort in knowing that you know it, also.
    Although, I would imagine that all of us living in pain cannot help knowing that scary place, from time to time, regardless of how positive minded we may try to be in the midst of our sufferings. We are only human and become tired of the struggle.
    I despise the moments of feeling life on that edge. Unrelenting pain brings us there and for me…it is God given strength that always brings me away from it.
    Keep strong!

  7. Amner at 6:23 pm

    Beautifully written, and so very true. Many blessings pain warrior.

  8. Janet Mollica at 5:27 pm

    Thank you for describing the isolation that results from pain that never stops. It’s true, God reveals His goodness in that dark place. He illuminates my way as He draws me away from the black hole.
    This helps me so thank you again for taking the time & energy to share your journey!

  9. Howard J Tranter at 4:30 pm

    I have been suffering pain from Small Fibre Neuropathy for a number of years now. The pain is getting much worse, in fact it’s becoming unbearable. Not one night goes by where my sleep is not disturbed, once I am awake I find it most difficult to get back to sleep because of the intensity of the pain. I have tried the usual medication without success, I am currently taking Duloxotine 60mg per day. I can’t take pain killers because it induces Chronic Daily Migraine which is also unbearable. Can you please help me. H

  10. Donna Rubinetti at 3:02 pm

    This is a lovely statement on thankfulness. I wish that I shared your sentiment. I am struggling with loss of my spirituality because of my pain. My work was dedicated to helping others. This was my choice after working for many years in a high profile, high salaried career. So Im wrestling with my belief in God. I know I have things to be thankful for, and I am. But I don’t know how God can allow such suffering. I feel as though I am teetering on the edge of the black hole. I pray I can see the light.