By

Is it possible to validate one’s pain and still live a life beyond bed when you’re chronic?

“Short and simple, Validating Your Pain is the First Step to Getting Stronger by Danielle LaPorte is astonishingly powerful in its approach to pain,” I wrote yesterday. My first instinct was to tell you it is an absolutely must-read article for anyone with chronic illness. I even wrote, “Read it now. Right now. Really.” Then I let the ideas simmer for a while and began to question how they could realistically apply given the constraints of chronic illness and pain.

Head on over and read the post. It’ll only take a couple minutes and the ideas are intriguing. Then come back to read what I’m thinking about it and share your impressions.

I love, love, love the thought that people with chronic migraine, including me, might stop denying the reality and severity of this illness to everyone around them, even themselves. Pushing through despite our debilitating symptoms, pretending we feel better than we do, brushing off others’ concerns. . . These strategies seem like the only way to survive, to have some semblance of a life while also having chronic migraine. But they also lock us in a battle against ourselves, where we’re constantly denying how we truly feel physically and emotionally.

“Validating your pain is the first step to sanity, strength, and healing,” LaPorte writes. My therapist has expressed a similar message. I’m listening. And I really want to buy into what they’re saying. Yet, I cannot help but wonder how to follow their lead and still get anything done. Three of LaPorte’s points tied my mind in contradicting thoughts of “That would be amazing” and “How is that possible?” They are:

Endurance can be a very unwise choice. As inevitable as emotional and physical suffering is, it doesn’t always serve to make us stronger — sometimes it just wears you right down. Sometimes, the test of strength is to say “This isn’t working,” the millisecond it’s not working.

Believe your pain. It’s not a friend you want to invite over, but when it does show up, it always — always — brings you precious information about what’s best for you.

Dare to be high maintenance. I bet you’re invincible in many areas of your life. But when you need it, ask for special treatment.

It is a good time to note that LaPorte does not have chronic pain, but extreme sensitivity to dental work. She’s talking about validating her pain a couple times a year. Applying her ideas to the daily life of chronic illness is so seductive. Imagine recognizing (and stopping) every time you’re wearing yourself down by trying to push through, listening to your body’s signals and resting accordingly, asking for special treatment. Sounds blissful. And utterly inconceivable, a life-sentence of confining yourself to bed.

Still, I want to believe that these concepts can apply to some degree and improve life with chronic migraine. I want to validate my pain and listen to my body, ask for help when I need it. For LaPorte, honoring her body and her needs leads to an effective treatment for her pain. Many chronic migraineurs don’t have the luxury of surefire way to manage their pain, nausea, dizziness, vomiting, photophobia, and numerous other migraine symptoms. Admitting our pain doesn’t get us a numbing agent, it just takes us away from living our lives.

By

A Banner Day

I woke up at 6:30 this morning and am writing this post at 9 p.m. In between those times, the only times I sat down were riding in the car and for a 10-minute phone call with Hart. And I felt good all day.

I’m visiting my sister and her family this week. She has been likened to a hurricane. This combined with her kids’ (who are seven, nine and 11) energy can be overwhelming even on the best days. Not only did I take it in stride today, I kept up with them.

My pain level has been so low and my energy so high today that I didn’t think to worry about overdoing it. Just now, looking at previous posts that have mentioned my sister, I came across this from last summer:

. . . I realized just how counterproductive it was to push myself. (OK, I’ve realized this a thousand times already, but it’s a revelation every time.) I had made myself feel worse than when I started and I had no energy for the rest of the day.

. . . And it reminded me again of the lesson I should have learned by now. Don’t push it. It always backfires. Always.

There it is in writing — I know I should know better. The temptation to squeeze a little bit more fun into a good day is irresistible.

Now I’m going to do my best to be sure I don’t pay interest on the time I took today. The kids don’t have school tomorrow so I can sleep in and take it easy in the morning. I even have a new pillow so maybe my neck won’t ache in the night.

I so desperately want to prove last summer’s proclamation wrong.