By Erin Margaret Joyce-VonBank
Editor’s Note: Erin lives in a Minneapolis suburb with her husband and daughter. She’s 30 years old and has suffered from arthritis since she was 5 years old. She advocated for those with chronic pain and Medical PTSD awareness.
My body is defined as my mind, body, and spirit.
My body is in an abusive relationship with pain.
(Abusive [uh-byoo-siv] - adjective: Treating badly or injuriously; mistreating, especially physically)
It has been give and take over the years – We have been through a lot together… and ultimately we are in it for the long haul. Though there are many parameters to my personal relationship with my body and with pain, lately my focus has been on being mindful of pains presence in my life.
The response to pain lately for me is to ignore. Life has been too busy to be in pain, so “pay no mind to the man behind the curtain” and pretend it isn’t there. The issue is, though the pain does not go away even if you pretend it doesn’t exist. There is no amount of will power, positive thinking, or ignorance that can simply make it disappear.
I was encouraged this past week to just sit with my pain. Give pain the Mic for a moment and listen to what it has to say. I didn’t have to respond, just listen. Though this did not make the pain leave- but it helped my mind address what I had been trying so hard to ignore.
Paired with knowledge of interpersonal relationships- I listened to what my body was screaming, and what I realized is that our communication is incredibly distorted. Have decades of neglect caused my body to act out to gather my attention?
I looked at my body’s relationship with pain and realized it has incredibly abusive lately. The pain- just like a child who is starved for attention, has been getting louder and more violent as my mind has tried harder and harder to mask it. Some serious mixed signals as a result of poor communication have been relayed. BOOM- Mic drop.
The realization the pain has been hyper-reactive lately; scared that it will not get the attention it is asking for. This past week I have been making time to listen to the pain, giving it about 90 seconds each day to say its peace. I am not surprised to say that the pain hasn’t gone away. However since I have started this, the fight to ignore it has. Asking my body to tell me, “Where does it hurt?” has been met with, “This is where it hurts”.
I am noticing the shift in intense full body ache and pain that could not be defined, to definable pain in my knees and low back. The pain is concentrated to the areas it has been trying to direct me. Perhaps the pain is even more so in these areas now that it has my attention, but it is different. I feel the difference from a full body tantrum versus the isolated areas.
The twisted mind game of questioning my body’s pain signals seems to be on hold as I practice this mindfulness technique. Practicing accepting what I can’t change, and asking to have my attention directed to where it is needed.
My response to this is to seek help for my structural abnormality. When I listen to my body, It makes sense what is going on, I can intellectualize its response. My right leg is about 3 inches shorter than my left- most likely as a result of 25 years of arthritis. As it goes my pelvis is extremely tilted, my spine is crooked and it is getting worse. Everything points to the short leg and how it is affecting me, not just physically- but mentally and spiritually also. I am 30 years old, yet my body feels like it is 80. It is weary, I am weary. It is asking for help, I am asking for help.