Living Beyond Your Pain

About half a year ago, I was in really bad shape. My rheumatoid arthritis was out of control, and I could barely move. Seemingly simple things, such as taking a bath or walking around the house, started to become almost impossible. Mentally, I struggled…but I continued to stay strong. I’ve learned from experience that losing hope, especially during the middle of a severe flare, makes coping with the pain and disability even much more difficult that it already is.

And no matter how many pills or shots I took, I experienced absolutely no pain relief. I started to get a little anxious…how could I possibly cope with this overwhelming pain, all on my own? So instead of getting scared, I decided to turn those words on their head, and do exactly that. Learn how to deal with the pain. All on my own.

Now don’t get me wrong, my aim was not to be some sadistic Stoic. I had previously tried many, many different options in an attempt to reduce my pain. And when the pain didn’t go away, I found myself experiencing more despair.

So part of my thinking, months ago, was to focus my thoughts and energy on full acceptance of my chronic pain. The more I thought about it, the more I realized that my stress and unhappiness were not related to actually dealing with the pain that was present, but were a result of the fact that this pain would just not go away.

LivingBeyondYourPainLiving Beyond Your Pain: Using Acceptance & Commitment Therapy to Ease Chronic Pain

A rich and rewarding life is possible for those of us who live with chronic pain. Based on acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT), one of the most promising and fastest growing psychotherapies being practiced today, this book breaks with conventional notions of pain management.

These “feel good” approaches—including the use of pain-killing medication—all work to prevent painful sensations. The ACT approach, however, begins with the assumption that pain is a normal part of living that teaches us a lot about the state of our bodies and minds. Attempts to avoid it often cause more harm than good.

By accepting and learning to live with pain, you limit the control it exerts over you. Mindfulness exercises, in particular, help you transform pain from a life-defining preoccupation to a simple experience. From this strong position, you can make choices that will lead to the life you’ve always wanted. Committed action is the way to make it happen.

More Info: Living Beyond Your Pain (

This morning as I was swimming (an hour in the pool gives me a lot of time to think), I realized just how far I’ve come in terms of accepting my chronic pain. While I know that acceptance is a process that never ends, just the fact that I was there exercising on a cold winter day showed me that I have indeed learned how to live beyond my pain.

A couple of weeks ago I pulled out my copy of Living Beyond Your Pain and quickly read through the chapters. As I moved through the book, which is structured as a self-help workbook, I was struck with how much sense there was in its text. Compare this with my first reading, years ago, when I was intrigued but still absolutely horrified that chronic pain is exactly that…chronic, and that one of the best coping mechanisms is to accept it, incorporate it, and live beyond it.

And the fact of the matter is that even though so many aspects of chronic pain remain outside my control, how I react to this pain is something that has and will always be within my control. By learning this, not just in my head as I did the first time I read this book, but in my entire being as I have come to do so over the past few months, I have realized that by accepting and learning to live with my chronic pain, I have been able to limit the control that it previously exerted over my life.

I live with chronic pain and disability, and I also feel great. These things are no longer mutually exclusive in my life, as they once were.

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


WHO World Report On Disability

New World Report Shows More Than 1 Billion People With Disabilities Face Substantial Barriers In Their Daily Lives

WHO Disability9 JUNE 2011 | NEW YORK – The World Health Organization (WHO) and the World Bank today revealed new global estimates that more than one billion people experience some form of disability. They urged governments to step up efforts to enable access to mainstream services and to invest in specialized programmes to unlock the vast potential of people with disabilities.

The first-ever World Report on Disability provides the first global estimates of persons with disabilities in 40 years and an overview of the status of disability in the world. New research shows that almost one-fifth of the estimated global total of persons living with disabilities, or between 110-190 million, encounter significant difficulties. The report stresses that few countries have adequate mechanisms in place to respond to the needs of people with disabilities. Barriers include stigma and discrimination, lack of adequate health care and rehabilitation services; and inaccessible transport, buildings and information and communication technologies. As a result, people with disabilities experience poorer health, lower educational achievements, fewer economic opportunities and higher rates of poverty than people without disabilities.

“Disability is part of the human condition,” says WHO Director-General Dr Margaret Chan. “Almost every one of us will be permanently or temporarily disabled at some point in life. We must do more to break the barriers which segregate people with disabilities, in many cases forcing them to the margins of society.”

“Addressing the health, education, employment, and other development needs of people living with disabilities is fundamental to achieving the Millennium Development Goals,” says Robert B. Zoellick, President of The World Bank Group. “We need to help people with disabilities to gain equitable access to opportunities to participate and contribute to their communities. They have much to offer if given a fair chance to do so.”

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RA: My Own Little Space

Trained as an architect, I have always been a visual thinker…so it should come as no surprise that I often think of my illness in terms of space.

During the first few years in which I lived with rheumatoid arthritis, I hated the space that this disease declared was mine. First of all, it was much smaller than I was normally accustomed to. I didn’t like the colors on the walls, which seemed to change constantly. There was a lot of disorder, and the dust seemed to build up more quickly than I could sweep it away. It was not as bright as I would have always wanted it to be. And my list of things that I hated about this space could just go on and on.

But I’ve come to not only find comfort in this space that is increasingly defined by my disability, I’ve actually come to really like my little niche. It’s cozy. I like the erratic, unexpected constantly changing colors on the walls. Yes, it is often sometimes just a little (or more) gritty…but it’s real. There are little cracks in the wall that once seemed so massive, and the light is streaming in. I many not be able to run out into that place beyond the wall, but I can still enjoy the view.

While this little space may resemble many others that are out there, it’s my very own. I know the nooks and crannies, all the oddities and strange things…all the seemingly unexplainable. And in a weird sort of way, it’s actually sort of cool.

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


More Rheumatoid Arthritis Blogs

Living With RA
My blog is a place for me to share my experiences with managing Rheumatoid Arthritis on a broad basis and how best to cope day to day with the realities of a progressive, chronic disease. Most importantly how to do it successfully and with a positive attitude.
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i am. not myself–Living with Rheumatoid Arthritis
I’m a 39 year old woman who just recently had to come to terms, yet again, with having rheumatoid arthritis. Although originally diagnosed some 25 years ago, I was blessed to have had 10 years with no symptoms whatsoever. That has now changed. Hopefully what we all will see with this blog is a woman change from being bitter about this resurgence to accepting and learning to cope and live a good life with rheumatoid. It can be done, of this I know. My biggest obstacle? Well, it’s mental. Some days i am. not myself.
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Negative Energy

NegativeOn many occasions during this past week, I experienced negative energy. No, I’m not referring to bad vibes or the opposite of positive thinking. What I mean is fatigue that was so strong, that my energy levels actually dipped down into the negative…sort of like the mercury, here in the southern hemisphere.

All of this was result of a nasty stomach bug that lasted a whopping five days. Never before have I been hit so strong by the stomach flu. And as if often the case whenever I get sick nowadays, my rheumatoid arthritis went absolutely haywire (or on a bender, as Charlie Sheen would say).

It’s funny, how during these episodes, I yearn to return to just having RA. Sure, living with rheumatoid arthritis is chaotic and unpredictable, but it’s amazing how familiar I am with those symptoms. Add anything new to the mix, and it can just seem a little bit…well…overwhelming at times. I had multiple breakdowns this past week, but I always managed to stay connected with my breath…and in a matter of fifteen minutes or so, usually returned to feeling just a little bit better.

I continue to grow used to not being able to move for certain periods of time, usually due to pain or inflammation. It was a new sensation, however, not being able to move because I didn’t even had absolutely no energy. Even the word fatigue didn’t seem like an appropriate descriptor of what I was feeling.

But it’s Friday afternoon, and I’m finally back to my “normal” self. I am once again, dealing with just RA…and for what I know probably won’t last a long time,  it feels like a great thing.

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