By Jessica Martin
“Be careful of a destination addiction-a preoccupation with the idea that happiness is in the next place, the next job, and with the next partner. Until you give up that idea that happiness is somewhere else, it will never be where you are.” – Abraham Hicks
Finally I have found a term that describes the biggest thing I am working on within myself: I am a destination addict.
I have gotten a lot better about being grateful for what I have right now and try very hard to not project into the future but I am finding it very difficult. Logically, I am very aware that happiness can only come at first from within. If I am not happy with myself then no person, place, job, or dream will completely satisfy me. If you have followed my blog for long enough than you know my biggest dream above all is to have a family that is healthy and happy and to grant my daughter with a sibling. I never planned the miscarriages I had or how life has turned out the way it has but twenty years ago I thought I would never be a mother or be able to do anything because of chronic pain. We just do not know what the future holds.
It is very scary to think of the future especially when you feel part of you is a destination addict. When chronic pain was at it’s worst and I truly was at my rock bottom, I remember saying to myself: “If I could just read again without thinking about pain or write or even go for a walk, I would be happy.” Do not get me wrong, had I not learned how to manage chronic pain naturally and accept my condition I would not be where I am today: I do not even know if I would be here at all.
I read a lot, I write, I am a mother, I have a degree, I am working towards achieving my goal to help as many people as I can through my writing and yet I still worry about the future and this morning I was stuck (not literally) but I felt stuck in bed as a destination addict.
Two people yesterday asked me if I was pregnant, I miscarried months ago but did not feel the need to tell everyone I know I had a miscarriage. A girl from my high school saw me at the playground with my daughter and said: “Congrats Jess!” I had no idea what she was talking about and then realized she believed I was still pregnant. It is never easy when things you thought would turn out how you dreamed or planned but we find our way through and personally my dreams and goals seem to always come to fruition when I least expect them to.
The National Pain Report is a site that has been kind enough to publish some of my articles. The founder of this amazing platform asked me to read a piece written about catastrophizing. The definition found in Webster’s dictionary of catastrophizing is this: Verb: to view or talk about (an event or situation) as worse than it actually is.
When I first accepted chronic pain and learned how to manage pain naturally I learned how to stop catastrophizing, however I was using my own definition of the term catastrophize. My main goal when I left the Mayo Clinic was to practice the techniques I learned to manage pain naturally and one of the hardest things to do was to find distractions so that I stopped thinking about pain non stop.
Many, if not most people with chronic pain think about the future and worry (as I did) that their dreams and hopes for their future will never be achieved because of their invisible illness. I used to think/catastrophize: “I will never be a mom, never have a job, never have a family. My life is totally over because of chronic pain. Why should I even be alive??” Personally, catastrophizing for me meant thinking about pain non stop and projecting into the future to the point that I no longer wanted to live. I have found that when I catastrophize about pain, I have very adverse affects. I find/found that my pain levels increased, my depression increased, my anxiety increased and I thought about going back on medication more, and I started repeating in my mind the phrase: “I can’t do this!!!”
When I looked up the clear definition of catastrophizing this morning, I understood more why people with chronic pain do not want to hear that phrase.
If I was still looking for a cure or chronic pain was in total control of my life, I would feel so much worse as a patient if anyone especially a doctor told me I was catastrophizing my pain. My reality then and it was/is real was that I was in pain twenty-four seven. I wanted to take my own life and if my dad or anyone I cared for said I was making my situation worse than it was, I would have felt more defeated and alone than I already had. I see the term: catastrophizing differently now because I am in a very different place with my invisible illness than I was fifteen years ago.
I started thinking today about the problems I am facing in my life right now, none of them having to do with chronic pain and by definition I think I may be catastrophizing my problems. This is not to say that I am not allowed to be sad or have moments of worry but I do not give up even when I am forcing myself out of bed just to exercise when usually that is the best part of my day.
I do not want to project too far into the future because I have no idea what is going to happen within my life. All I have is today. All you have is today. Does that mean you are not allowed to feel the way you feel? No. I am asking all of us, myself included to just try and focus on the here and now. Things are going to fall into place for all of us. I do not know how or when but they will. We are all fighting battles the outside world knows nothing about.
None of us are alone.
Editor’s Note: Jessica Martin is a 34-year old stay at home mom with a three year old daughter and lives in New Jersey. She was severely injured in a bicycle accident 20 years ago when she was only 14 and has battled chronic pain since. She blogs on chronic pain and you can read more of her work at noonegetsflowersforchronicpain