As a member of the human race, fear of the unknown may be one of the most anxiety provoking challenge to our emotional sense of well-being. Have you ever been in a circumstance where you suddenly wonder how you are going manage a challenge? There are elements which you may hear, as you possess no prior experience in dealing with this new circumstance. Also, as in the case of extreme or chronic physical pain, it clearly presents a potential threat to your physical and emotional health. It is natural to question your capacity to manage such challenges due to the fear of the unknown. I can remember when I was pregnant with our first son. At first, the experience was magical! However, as the abdomen kept growing to the point towards the end of the pregnancy, that I was able to rest a puppy on my belly, I started to get worried, how would I possibly get this baby out of my relatively small body? And then that thought came to me that the human population has managed the experience of giving birth and in many cases, more than once. Focusing on this idea did serve to calm my nerves down, if others could do this through the years, then I could do it too.
This may sound very simplistic, but an example on how it has provided me comfort for years has been with facing surgeries and two incurable conditions that bring on pain, isolation, losses and massive changes in life. Too many times, fear has begun to enter my soul and then I remind myself that so many have lived life before me, been brave and somehow have made it through their situations more challenging than mine, without becoming victims of their unfortunate circumstances.
As I observe the others around me dealing with chronic painful issues, I am in awe of the bravery and determination of many. The human soul can be amazing. If we dig deep enough, we can, with the necessary human support, find strength that we did not realize we possess. Too many times, the news we watch is about such negative events happening in society. I find when I hear something positive in the news, it fills me up with hope and feeds that determination to try to stay positive. Can you imagine how helpful and encouraging it would be for more awareness of the brave people who take seemingly overwhelming obstacles in life, yet have still found a way to accept their losses and still be grateful for the gifts life still offers them?
The same applies with raising children that arrive without directions! We take on all types of trials and tribulations. Sometimes our plans work out well and other times, we must redesign our plan of attack dealing with illness, personality issues, friendships that might be having a negative effect, etc. Again, I find comfort realizing all parents have had to experience issues like this and have somehow found a resolution.
And how about a loss in your life of someone you so adore and miss? This is yet another example of learning to somehow address the horrible emotions and find comfort in looking around you. One needs to remind themselves that man has always had to deal with loss and somehow many people have found their way back reducing disabling emotional damage in their lives
I only wish my parents were alive today to be able to commend them on their strength and courage they demonstrated in the process of aging. It is so hard to feel the gradual changes and the losses that come as one ages. Aging can bring on isolation, loneliness, and often dramatic life adjustments that have to be made, sometimes including the loss of control on situations you once could handle. Instead, we have to learn to lean on others. The erosion of our capacity to function independently naturally diminishers. And yet, each person that moves forward in age also has to go through this process.
Attitudes are such a huge element in our sense of well-being. I understand that it is truly easier to just give up and not fight when so much of your life experience may feel overwhelming. However, finding purpose and meaning is so helpful to learning to stop being just the victim and learning to live this new life, despite more complications and losses. And when you, too, wonder how you cope – remember – those before us have done it – so, so can we!
May life be kind to you,
Ellen Lenox Smith
Author of: It Hurts Like Hell!: I Live With Pain– And Have a Good Life, Anyway, and My Life as a Service Dog!
The information in this column should not be considered as professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It is for informational purposes only and represents the author’s opinions alone. It does not inherently express or reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of National Pain Report.
Ellen Lenox Smith and her husband Stuart live in Rhode Island. They are co-directors for medical cannabis advocacy for the U.S. Pain Foundation, along with Ellen on the board and they both also serve as board members for the Rhode Island Patient Advocacy Coalition. For more information about medical cannabis visit their website. https://ellenandstuartsmith.squarespace.com/