Coping With Chronic Pain: What Is Beautiful About Your Life?

“No one wants to hear all of the time that I’m always in pain…least of all myself.”

I was somewhat surprised when this thought passed through my mind this morning, as I was stepping out of the shower.

You see, yesterday–as well as the past days and past weeks–there is one conversation that has been repeated over and over, as I visit with family members and friends who I haven’t seen in years. It goes somewhat like this:

Them: How are you doing with your rheumatoid arthritis?

Me: I’m doing really well. What I mean to say is that I am coping really well. My disease continues to progress, but I’ve finally figured out how to live with it, and  I think that I’m doing really well.

Them: That’s good. From the outside, you seem to be doing much better than the last time I saw you.

Me: Thank you. On the inside I’m actually doing a little worse…but like I said, I’ve learned how to live with it. I’ve had to make a lot of changes, but many of them have been for the better. I still live with a lot of pain all the time, but at least I’ve figured out how to once again be happy.

And as I’ve repeatedly gone through this conversation over the past couple of months, I’ve always told myself that it’s important to focus on the good while still mentioning the bad, when I talk about my rheumatoid arthritis. I used to think that I was doing this because it might be what “others” wanted to hear…but as I realized this morning, I’ve been responding as such because these are in fact the words that I want to hear.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m all about open and honest communication of the pain and disability with which I live, and I certainly don’t advocate for the denial of one’s feelings and emotions related to these issues (something which I experienced myself for all too long). But when it comes down to day-to-day thoughts and spoken words, I know the pain is always there. I know that it’s not going away, that it will only continue to fluctuate around the high end the pain scale, no matter what pain scale is being used.

But I also know that no matter how bad the pain might be, and no matter how permanent this pain might be, life is still good. Focusing on the good doesn’t take my pain away…but it does seem to make it a tad bit more bearable…and in the world of chronic pain, this counts for a lot.

So yes, I am in a lot of pain. All the time. But this is not what I want to tell myself on a continual basis, this is not what I want to hear like a broken record playing in my head. So I choose to tell myself that life is beautiful..and the trials and tribulations that it constantly presents makes life even more beautiful.

If you find yourself being overwhelmed by the pain, stop for a moment, and ask yourself: What is beautiful about my life? And when you come up with your answer, focus on it as much as possible. And while you’re focusing, don’t forget to smile!

And this, in a nutshell, is how I’ve learned to cope with the pain of rheumatoid arthritis.

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

10 Comments
10 comments
  1. Linda P. says:

    I had just been rereading the chapter in Toni’s book when she discusses how we talk to people about what is happening to us, so this came at a good time for me.

  2. Kris Helmuth says:

    Yup! I agree with you. The question I HATE most is when the Doctor walks in the room and ask “How are you doing?” I always want to answer I just came for shits and giggles today…. I enjoy sitting in this cold room full of germs praying none of them jump on me.

  3. Abigail Cashelle says:

    I love the way you put it. I look better because I’m coping better (yay!!) but the disease is still degenerating. People tell me all the time that I look better. Now I don’t have to be offended. It’s always a good thing to know that I’m coping better because that is one thing I have the most control over. :)

    Thank you!!

  4. Lene says:

    I’ve done the same. Focus on the beauty and joy in life and the pain becomes much easier to cope with. And a really great side effect of this approach is that as you notice the beauty, you open up and see much, much more of it. Life is amazing.

  5. Gillian Pidler says:

    This is so, very true. I’ve had several people in my life tell me that they admire the way I cope, they never hear me moan about having RA, even one of my doctors years ago who was also later dxn with RA, told me that the way I coped with it had been inspirational to her in her journey with RA.
    I just firmly believe that you can achieve far more in life with a smile on your face and a kind/cheerful word for others than you ever can by constantly complaining about ‘your lot’. I believe that just brings people down with you if you live your life that way and how can you possibly enjoy life feeling that way. Yes I’m in pain all day every day but I choose to take the beauty of each day & each days different blessings and run with that ‘metaphorically of course’ ;)

  6. Chris S. says:

    My kids and my husband, how supportive they all are even when I’m not at my best, is what’s beautiful about mine. Thanks for posting this as I needed the reminder. Been struggling with this illness lately.

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