Being with others who truly understand what it’s like to live with chronic pain is an empowering experience. Doing so in an environment of support, healing, and celebrating our lives is even better. This Friday, the 7th Annual Women in Pain Conference will do just that and you can attend, both in person or via the live webcast.
I recently spoke to Cynthia Toussaint, founder and spokesperson of For Grace, a nonprofit organization for women in pain that organizes the conference. Cynthia has been busy since I last spoke to her, negotiating a reality show and speaking at the National Institutes of Health. “We left with so much hope,” she said. She’s also been working hard at this year’s Women in Pain conference.
The New Normal, Heroes, and More
Cynthia explained that all members of the conference planning committee live with chronic pain, saying “it’s created for women in pain, by women in pain.” She explained that as the group started discussing this year’s conference, the phrase the new normal kept coming up. The group decided it should be reflected in the theme for the 2014 conference, choosing “Accepting Pain: Our New Normal.” The presentations and events at the conference will reflect different aspects of this theme to help women in pain positively affect their pain control and overall wellness.
Another key concept for the 2014 conference is the Hero’s Journey. Cynthia explained that this was originally described by Joseph Campbell, an American writer in comparative mythology. “It’s a transformative journey.” It’s about finding “a mentor to help you come to a place of acceptance. To find a new self and make the world a better place.”
Why choose the hero’s journey? "Women taking on the everyday trauma of chronic pain are heroes”, Cynthia said. “Make no mistake; it’s a tough journey full of pitfalls and missteps. But so much of the battle is won, or not, depending on how we perceive our chronic pain experience. It certainly can be one of transformative triumph and growth.” This concept also addresses an important aspect of the language used about living with chronic pain. “I hate the idea of anyone in chronic pain being a victim,” Cynthia said. “The Hero’s Journey is empowering and gets rid of the word ‘victim.’”
The conference will include presentations about cognitive behavioral therapy and chronic pain treatment, sharing the results from a For Grace/National Pain Report sponsored women in pain survey, a panel discussion by women living with pain, creative art presentations, and play breaks. “Conferences are generally stuffy, but we laugh,” Cynthia said, explaining the play breaks.
There will also be a performance by Cynthia of her new song To Sir, With Love expressing thanks to all those who mentored women in pain and the 2014 “Patron of Women’s Rights” Award will be presented to former Los Angeles City Controller and Councilperson Wendy Greuel.
Attending the Conference
There are still spaces available to attend the 2014 Women in Pain conference in person at the California Endowment’s Center for Healthy Communities in downtown Los Angeles. Tickets are $25, but Cynthia explained that “if you can’t afford it, write to us for a scholarship.”
If you can’t go to Los Angeles, you can attend the conference through the webcast. “Last year, an international audience of 4000 attended via the webcast and some had Pain Parties, tweeting us comments and questions,” Cynthia remembered. “This year, we’d like to double that.” You can view the webcast on the For Grace website at 9 AM to 4 PM PT on September 12. If you can’t view it on Friday, the webcast will be posted on For Grace two weeks after the conference. You can also view webcasts of the second through sixth Women in Pain conferences in the For Grace archives.
One of the activities at the conference will be all the participants painting rocks. At the end of the conference, an artist will create a path that will be used for participants at the 2015 Women in Pain Conference. Cynthia said that this way, the conference will “turn ugliness into something beautiful, then put them all together to build strength.”
Lene writes the award-winning blog The Seated View. She’s the author of Your Life with Rheumatoid Arthritis: Tools for Managing Treatment, Side Effects and Pain and 7 Facets: A Meditation on Pain.
Published On: September 08, 2014