“You’re going to have to learn to live with it.” The statement that sent chills down my spine. At 23 years old, I couldn’t imagine living with the seething pelvic pain that invaded my body. I felt out of control, scared, and hopeless.
These words led me down a path what would be years of chronic pain and depression. A path that I believed was my fate. That’s what the doctors told me. And doctors are always right, right? Wrong. It took me a long time to learn this; to learn that the power of my healing was not in a doctor’s hands, but in my own.
You see, my pain was real. It was not “all in my head.” I fought to validate my pain. Part of the way I did that was to hold onto my diagnosis of Interstitial Cystitis. By having a diagnosis, it made my pain REAL. I had ‘something’ wrong.
I also spoke about my pain and how much I hurt. A lot.
I fought daily with my pain. I hated it. Each increase in pain led my mind into a tornado of anxious and fearful thoughts. All I could think about was my pain. I was completely preoccupied with it day and night.
How is this be happening to me?!
I can’t live like this!
My pain is killing me!
I’m never going to get better.
It’s getting worse!
I later learned that it was this preoccupation and fear that prevented my pain from improving.
At one of my deepest and darkest hours, almost as if waking up from a dream, I said out loud, “This is NOT going to be my life.” From here on, I decided I would take my pain into my own hands and find out everything I could about how to heal myself.
This decision was my fork in the road.
I began reading. And reading. I read everything I could get my hands on about self-healing and the mind-body connection. Once I read Dr. John Sarno’s book “The MindBody Prescription,” it was as if he had written a book about me, and I knew I had found a way out. The constant pressure I put on myself to achieve, to do better…and better, to be perfect, and the amount of criticism my mind gave me about myself was creating enormous tension and pain in my body.
I realized that my pain was not only real, but a way my brain was distracting myself from…emotions…emotions I not only didn’t know I had, but apparently really didn’t want to feel.
My mind was resisting emotional pain by keeping me preoccupied with physical pain.
Anytime I felt the physical pain, I would practice turning toward feeling my emotions instead. This was no easy task. The pain was loud, PAINFUL, and extremely distracting. I would slip back into old thoughts and fears about my pain often. Doubt about this new path really working was fiercely strong at times. I would find myself fighting and resisting the pain. Until it became clear that resisting my pain created more of it.
The more I resisted my physical pain and the more preoccupied I was by it, the worse my pain became.
I learned to tune into my pain, to feel my emotions, and to allow the pain to be there. Because…it was. This wasn’t my accepting the pain as an invited, staying guest, but a way of freeing the pain and allowing it to go. The more I resisted the pain, the less likely it would ever leave.
Tuning into physical and emotional pain, and allowing it to be there, may sound hard.
But it gave me hope for healing. Instead of frantically searching the Internet, going to doctors, and feeling completely helpless, I became in charge. I became a mind-body master.
Pain became my teacher. I learned how to be kind to myself. I learned that the pain was there to teach me to love; to love myself and to connect with who I really am. My pain helped me to see parts of myself that I was resisting and situations in my life that needed to change.
Pain can wake us up to the divine within us, if we choose to listen. If you’re experiencing chronic pain, are you listening?
Schedule an appointment with me below and let's start listening together.
Jennifer Huggins, Psy.D is a licensed Clinical Psychologist in West Los Angeles, specializing in Trauma and Chronic Pain. In addition to these specializations, she helps her clients heal depression, anxiety, and reduce stress though the use of cutting-edge treatments and empowering them to thrive in their lives. Her passion is helping clients find hope when its been lost.
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