Little Sense Of Suffering Self

lotusThe day before last, temperatures dropped considerably and the sky clouded up, preventing the bright high-altitude sun from shining through. Yesterday, as I returned home midday from my morning class, I noticed that every part of my body was in pain. When I got home, I curled up in bed and took a nap. A long nap.

When I came to, a few hours later, I was in so much pain that I was unable to move. All I wanted to do was roll over in order to take the weight off my left shoulder – which was in extreme pain – but I was unable to muster the energy to do so. I tried calling out for help, but I couldn’t even do that. (Yes, sometimes the pain gets so bad that I cannot even talk.)

So I laid there, eyes wide open, unable to move and unable to speak. All I could think was I that hoped someone decided to walk into the bedroom right at that moment. I realized that I was not panicking. I knew exactly what was going on, as I have been through this many times before.

Within 5-10 minutes of being awake, I was finally able to move. I rolled over, got out of bed, and went on with my day.

Right before I went to sleep last night, I looked back on my day, and begin to question my feelings about what had happened. Everything felt a little too “matter of fact” to me. Shouldn’t I be more upset about what I happened? Shouldn’t I be scared about this happening again?

I decided to listen to an excellent guided meditation that I often use in order to help me understand my emotional reactions to pain. (It is, in fact, called “Emotional Reactions to Pain” and is available on Break Through Pain – a resource that I highly recommend.)

I followed the cues to label my emotions moment by moment. Every time I’ve done this meditation before, my emotions were very easy to recognize and label: anger, fear, sadness, or helplessness. This time around, I honestly could not feel any emotion – and it wasn’t as if I was blocking my emotions, either.

What the heck is going on? What is wrong with me? Have I become emotionally numb to my pain?

And them, a few minutes towards the end of the meditation, I heard some words that I had never paid attention to before. (Even though I had listened to it hundreds of times, I was always too busy processing all of my emotions that were evoked by the first half of the guided meditation.)

“When there are no reactions to the discomfort, consciously enjoy the restfulness. No emotional reactions means little sense of a suffering self. It means the physical body can be left to its own resources. It knows what to do with pain.”

And with that, I realized that everything was indeed okay.

I rolled over and went to sleep.

I wasn’t sad. I wasn’t angry. I wasn’t scared.

I was at peace…and it felt good, no matter how much pain I was in.

Stay tuned…for the next adventure of Rheumatoid Arthritis Guy!

12 Comments
12 comments
  1. Alexis says:

    Amazing!

    I was just diagnosed with RA this week, and I’m so happy to have found your blog. I’ll be visiting often!

  2. Jose Velarde says:

    You know, RA Guy, I believe that we simply get used to the pain. It becomes a ppart of our “normal” & we live on… I rarely even comment on it anymore, I just don’t remember what it’s like to be pain-free… I never thought of it as “little sense of a suffering self.” I just thought it was denial… I like your take better…
    Be well…

  3. Jane says:

    What a great post! Haven’t used the guided meditation but have often used something from my faith that gets you to the same place. It’s the old “offer it up”. Giving the pain a purpose for someone else’s good. Always helps me through the pain. And you are right – once you reach that point there is a sense of peace. Thanks again for encouraging words!!

  4. Ldy says:

    im going to look for that cd now, thanks and good post, hope you feel better soon xxxxxxxx

  5. Jezzie says:

    Wow, that makes so much sense to me. It’s wonderful to see it verbalized.

    I’d flirted with Buddhism and meditation for many years before I experienced the onset of RA this past fall. As soon as my initial shock and depression began to wane, I decided it was time to get serious about my meditation practice.

    I will not even begin to pretend the meditation has made RA easy or made me able to be indifferent to the pain. However, I think it has consistently helped me cope with the panic, and in my better moments it has allowed me to be matter-of-fact about pain. For me it is exactly like you say — when I am centered and well, I can notice even fairly intense pain without getting caught up in the suffering that is my desire to be free from pain.

    Thank you for putting words to it.

  6. Wren says:

    It’s been many years since I’ve had the totally immobilizing pain you referred to in this post, RA Guy, and I’ll admit that the prospect of its return frightens me. Back in the bad old days I “just got on with things” during the less intense but still painful flares, though, and I was able to sort of compartmentalize the pain in favor of the more productive things I needed to do day-to-day. But the big, bad flares … well, memory does tend to exaggerate. Thanks for suggesting that meditation CD. It’s on my list now. And I hope that this flare will soon be over and you’ll have some relief. Even if we’re able to be unemotional about our pain, it’s still wonderful when it’s gone.

    Wishing you a lovely weekend and a great week to come.

  7. Cathy says:

    Perfect post for me to read today. Thank you. It gives me something powerful to think about today.

    As always, sending you healing thoughts and a big smile for a happy day.

  8. Elizabeth says:

    That happened to me for the first time the other morning. It was a bit scary, but as I lay there I decided if this was what lay before me, and occurred more and more frequently, then I could deal with it. I relaxed “into it” and said many “Jesus Prayers” (Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner) (An Eastern Orthodox prayer that helps one achieve a greater closeness with God) and in about 10 minutes I was much calmer, and was able to get up and make coffee. Reading your description and Jezzie’s comment makes it very clear that there are many ways of dealing with immobilizing pain. So I say – “whatever works – go with it!”

  9. Lana says:

    I am sorry to hear about that episode. Glad you got through it. I have those days where I am unable to move and the emotions start flowing. You are right that after awhile, we become emotionless. We have to or we won’t survive.

  10. Kelli says:

    Powerful stuff, RA Guy. But what else would we expect from a superhero?! This is the first time I’ve left a comment on your blog, but I have become a regular reader of your blog. My husband and I love your drawings too. Spot on, my friend. I’ve wanted to thank you for being such an incredible resource for me. I have found comfort and insight in your words and in your guest writers. I’ve recently begun a blog to connect with others and hopefully get some therapy out of putting it all down in writing. This post of yours really tugged at my heart. May you be blessed with strength on many levels. So glad you shared your experience with meditation. I believe it is a powerful resource. I am at http://rheumforgod.wordpress.com/ if you ever want to stop by.

    Kelli

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