Sharing the lessons along the way…

Honoring Pain or Not?

A few years into my primary lateral sclerosis, I realized it took less energy to work cooperatively with my body instead of fighting and resisting the symptoms.  In the early years, I felt betrayed by my body and was angry at it and my symptoms. 

I figured this out before really being able to understand what it could mean in terms of better managing a chronic, progressive illness.  I was doing it here and there, but didn’t quite grasp that this was something I could consciously do.

I also didn’t grasp that I could consciously apply this to fatigue, pain, fear, and other things in my life that were challenging to manage.

Today, I want to update you on my pain issues.  I would like to share with you what I am working on in terms of working cooperatively with the ongoing pain from the four pump surgeries.  My approach with pain is very similar to the approach I took with fear.

Most instances of pain, even emotional pain, serve a purpose.  Pain is a response from our body that is  designed to get our attention, so that we can address it.  The physical pain I continue to experience could be argued to fall into the category of chronic pain that does not serve a purpose. 

I am not sure that I can go along with that argument just yet, and feel pretty confident in my belief that it does serve a purpose even if there is nothing that can be done to alleviate it.  Right now, I am choosing not to take pain medications because of how those medications affect the rest of my body and my brain.  

It is almost easier to manage the pain than to manage the side effects of the medication.

Image credit: Solutions Recovery

My pain, right now, is relatively manageable without medications, but only if I am working cooperatively with it.  Working cooperatively with it means I honor it, slow down, meditate and rest when I need to. 

When I try to ignore it or otherwise try to delay the message it has for me, I pay for it.  It is worse in the evenings, when I am hot, when I have not taken the time to rest with ice packs, and when I am too tired. 

When I do not listen to it and honor it, it becomes unmanageable.  I get a few reminders before it gets to that point, so I have a choice to honor the reminders or not. 

Honoring it has meant that I do not get to do as much as I would like to do, however.  I can get most of what I need to do done while honoring it, which is far more than I could do for myself last year. 

Just the other day, I ignored the reminders, and as the pain went from almost manageable to unmanageable, I noticed I went from saying, “I hear you, I hear you, but I really need to get one more thing done…” to being angry with the source of the pain and the pain itself. 

As I allowed the pain to get worse because I wouldn’t listen and stop, I spiraled quickly into anger and tears (and really unmanageable pain.) 

Had I listened, as I had been doing consistently for a few weeks, I could have avoided all of that drama I created, as well as kept the intensity of the pain at a manageable level.  There were circumstances beyond my control that contributed to my decision not to listen to the reminders.  

As those situations arise, I am going to have to figure out how to adjust other activities I might have planned for later in the day.  I didn’t do that earlier in the week, and I did it consciously because I wanted to keep my plans.  This is where my body’s needs conflict with mine and others’ expectations.

I am sure there is a balance to be found somewhere in cooperating with my pain as it is right now, while also completing the daily chores and work I need to do,  and being able to spend some doing other things.  I haven’t found it quite yet, but I am working on it.

What do you do when your body sends you the message of pain—physical or emotional?  Do you honor the message?






Comments on: "Honoring Pain or Not?" (5)

  1. Our responses are so similar. I am now automatically adjusting my life to pain levels but am finding that I need to pay attention to the amount of adjusting I am doing. Lately, probably because of stressful events I can’t control, my pain levels have been higher. I was choosing to have lower levels of FM medication because I, too, don’t like the mind-numbing side effects. I realized with our camping trip last week that my pain is interfering too much with how I want to live my life. I have started to withdraw from social interactions with friends because entertaining and being entertained are too tiring. We are going to the Canadian Maritime Provinces next month and I really want to be a full participant. Deciding how to achieve the right balance between living with pain and living life fully is ongoing. I think I will talk to my doctor about increasing my meds for the next couple of months. I have some living I need to do! 🙂


    • I hear ya! It seems to require frequent re-evaluations and is a delicate balancing act!


    • I say live it up and use whatever tools work for you to make that happen! My body has developed sensitivies over the years to pain medications, which poses a particular challenge for me right now. It is pretty clear that pain is not only limiting my activity level, but is also making it a challenge to focus and stay centered. I am exploring some alternatives because I too have some living to continue!


  2. Well put and makes perfect sense – thanks for sharing with all of us!


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Kitt O'Malley

Bipolar Writer and Mental Health Advocate


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