Starting a Fresh New Year Despite the Same Old Chronic Pain
The start of a new year should be a positive time, full of hope for the coming year. But if you're living with the same chronic pain you've had for years, it can sometimes be hard to grab on to that spirit of hopefulness.
Over the past few days, I've been thinking about this upcoming new year and how I wanted to approach it. I knew I didn't want to make a bunch of stale resolutions that I'd never keep. Yet I couldn't shake the feeling that somehow this year needed to be different.
I was still mulling over these thoughts when my phone rang. It was Sharon, one of my oldest and dearest friends. We hadn't taked in several months, so we had a lot of catching up to do. I asked her what she had been doing and how her children and their families were. She was bubbling over with exciting stories of everything that was going on in all of their lives.
Then Sharon asked the inevitable question – “So what's new with you?” I was stumped. I really couldn't think of anything! I finally managed to come up with a couple of new work-related projects that I tried to make sound interesting.
After we hung up, it hit me – my life is in a rut. Over the past year, my world has gotten smaller and smaller as my rut has grown deeper and deeper. Each day is pretty much like the day before it. I rarely go anywhere or do anything different.
With that realization, I suddenly knew why I hadn't been able to shake the feeling that this year needed to be different. Somewhere deep down I knew it was time to climb out of my rut. I think I got into that rut by trying to protect myself from stress and increased pain levels. But while my pain levels are about the same, my world is significantly smaller.
My Personal New Year Challenge
In an effort to grow my world and get out of my rut, I've decided to challenge myself to take each aspect of my life (health, work, finances, etc.) and try to look at it from a different perspective. To borrow a cliché, I want to start “thinking outside the box.”
Since this personal challenge is still very new, I don't have a lot of examples to share with you yet. But one area I have been thinking about is my diet as it relates to both my fibromyalgia and my diabetes diagnoses. A low-carbohydrate diet is best for both illnesses. The problem is most of the foods I like are high in carbs. I've cut back quite a bit but I know I'm still eating more carbs than I should be.
One of my out-of-the-box thoughts is that instead of expecting eating to be a pleasurable experience, maybe I should try to think of eating more like taking medicine – something I need to do to survive and stay as healthy as possible. Instead of fixing meals based on what sounds good, maybe I should determine what my body needs then only eat that.
I have no idea whether I'll be able to do that or not. Remember, this is my first stab at out-of-the-box thinking about my diet. I'm open to any suggestions you may have. Actually, when you're trying to look at something in a new way, brainstorming with friends is a great way to get started.
My New Year Challenge to You
If you find that like me, some facets of your life are just not working as well as you'd like them to, or if your chronic pain treatment plan is not as effective as you'd like it to be, I'd like to challenge you to try approaching the problem from a different perspective. Maybe we can help each other with ideas.
One different approach to dealing with chronic pain that I personally want to explore more this year is mindfulness meditation. When I did the interview with Jennifer Grey a few months ago, she talked quite a bit about how much mindfulness meditation had helped her. I was fascinated by her description of how she learned to separate pain from suffering, explaining that although she would never get rid of all of the pain, she had gotten rid of the suffering. I feel like this approach could make a difference for me and probably for most of us. As I learn more about it, I'll share it with you.
May your new year be filled with love, hope and less pain!