Last night as I was falling to sleep, I decided to listen to Jon Kabat-Zinn’s Mindfulness Meditation for Pain Relief. I’ve listened to this audio book many times over the past few years, and I will admit that the first few times, I was quite dumbfounded with many of the concepts that I heard being discussed (primarily, the one about turning towards and embracing the pain, instead of hoping that it goes away). I continued to listen, however, and eventually reached the point where I figured that I’d give it a try, partly because it was right around this time when–years into living with rheumatoid arthritis–I started to realize that the pain just wasn’t going to go away.
Only recently have I realized just how far I’ve come, in this regard. A couple of weeks ago, I asked the following on my Facebook page:
Does anyone else feel a certain sense of “comfort” from the chronic pain? I mean, it hurts and all (no doubt), but as long as I feel the pain, it’s a reminder that I’m in my own body…and as long as I’m in my own body, it’s a reminder that I know exactly what to do, which ultimately leads me to the awareness that I’ll be okay (no matter how much it hurts).
On the day that I wrote these words, I had woken up with a stronger-than-usual morning flare, and what surprised me that most was what I wasn’t thinking. I was not feeling angry or sad, disappointed or frustrated. I wasn’t even wishing that I had woken up without this flare…I was just accepting my situation exactly as it was, and I was okay. Not only was I okay, but I was actually feeling a slight sense of comfort, as I realized that everything I was experiencing–including the intense pain–was normal.
As I sat there that morning, reading the responses that started coming in to the question that I posted (a majority of which said that they understood what I was trying to say, and often experience similar feelings/thoughts themselves), I went on to ask my sister (who has been one of the primary sources of support during my journey with RA, and who is also an experienced psychologist) if this new relationship that I’ve established with my pain and disability was a healthy one. After all, declarations of hate and anger towards pain and disability are so common, are such the societal norm, that it’s sometimes hard to imagine that one’s relationship with the pain and disability can instead be based upon the complete opposite of hate and anger: love and happiness.
Ultimately, I’m not sure if what I now feel is actually love and happiness for the pain and disability themselves, or is love and happiness for the life that I have…but since the pain and disability are such integral parts of my life, I don’t think it’s really necessary to make such a distinction.
I love my life, pain and disability included.
Any shreds of doubt that I may have previously associated with this statement have completely disappeared. This is my new mindset moving forward, and I feel like I’m on top of the world. The hope that I feel doesn’t deny my pain and disability; instead, it embraces them fully.
As I was listening to the audio book last night, I was struck by what the author said, a few minutes into the introduction. He said that if you were able to do one of the exercises that he had just walked readers through, then “you are already well on the way of developing a new and potentially healing relationship with your pain, and even more importantly, with your own mind and body.”
He could not have been more right.
Stay tuned…for the next adventure of Rheumatoid Arthritis Guy!